Tuesday, September 30, 2008

GAO Report On Federal Actions On Carbon Capture & Storage

Sep 30: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Climate Change: Federal Actions Will Greatly Affect the Viability of Carbon Capture and Storage As a Key Mitigation Option (GAO-08-1080, September 30, 2008).

As requested by the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, GAO examined (1) key economic, legal, regulatory, and technological barriers impeding commercial-scale deployment of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and (2) actions the Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. EPA, and other agencies are taking to overcome barriers to commercial-scale deployment of CCS technology. Among other things, GAO examined key studies and contacted officials from pertinent agencies, companies, and environmental groups, as well as research and other organizations.

GAO said that nationally-recognized studies and its contacts with a diverse group of industry representatives, nongovernmental organizations, and academic researchers show that key barriers to CCS deployment include: (1) underdeveloped and costly CO2 capture technology and (2) regulatory and legal uncertainties over CO2 capture, injection, and storage. Key technological barriers include a lack of experience in capturing significant amounts of CO2 from commercial-scale power plants and the significant cost of retrofitting existing plants that are the single largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States.

Regulatory and legal uncertainties include questions about liability concerning CO2 leakage and ownership of CO2 once injected. According to the National Academy of Sciences and other knowledgeable authorities, another barrier is the absence of a national strategy to control CO2 emissions trading plan, CO2 emissions tax, or other mandatory control of CO2 emissions), without which the electric utility industry has little incentive to capture and store its CO2 emissions. Moreover, according to key agency officials, the absence of a national strategy to control CO2 emissions has also deterred their agencies from resolving other important practical issues, such as how sequestered CO2 will be transported from power plants to appropriate storage locations and how stored CO2 would be treated in a future CO2 emissions trading plan.

Among GAO’s recommendations are that (1) DOE continue to place greater emphasis on CO2 capture at existing power plants and (2) EPA examine how its statutory authorities can be used to address potential CCS barriers. DOE neither explicitly agreed nor disagreed with the first recommendation. EPA expressed general agreement with the second recommendation.

Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, who requested the study said, “If carbon sequestration technologies are going to get off -- and into -- the ground, we must have national limits on global warming pollution and an administration dedicated to promoting climate-friendly technologies. Solving coal’s climate conundrum is as vital as any challenge we face in battling global warming, and half-measures just won’t cut it.”

In a release Markey indicated that the GAO report says ". . .climate-fighting carbon sequestration technologies won’t significantly advance until a national strategy to regulate carbon emissions and interagency cooperation measures are established. The report shines a light on the lack of leadership from the Bush administration on global warming and climate-friendly technologies."

Access the complete 72-page GAO report (
click here). Access a release from Chairman Markey (click here). [*Climate, *Energy]

Monday, September 29, 2008

Back & Forth On Renewable Tax Incentives Continues

Sep 28: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) released a brief statement following the September 26 House vote of 257-166, mostly along party lines, approving its different version of the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Tax Act of 2008 (H.R. 7060), which would extend and expand tax incentives for renewable energy. Speaker Pelosi said, “With the American people pinched at the pump, and seriously concerned about the state of the economy, the House has taken action again today to cut taxes for millions of middle-class families, invest in renewable energy technologies to create high-paying green jobs, make America more energy independent, and remove incentives in the tax code that encourage shipping jobs and investment overseas.

“When I became Speaker, I made energy independence the top priority for the New Direction Congress. This legislation holds true to that commitment, investing in the future and the ingenuity of the American people to create and deploy cutting-edge renewable technologies that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This legislation also holds true to our commitment to fiscal responsibility. By closing loopholes that allow corporations and executives to avoid U.S. taxes by shipping jobs and investment overseas and curtailing unnecessary tax subsidies for big, multinational oil and gas companies, we are ensuring that future generations don’t foot the bill for the progress we can make today.

“I urge my colleagues in the Senate to seize the opportunity to enact this bill law, thus creating and saving jobs in a difficult economy, providing essential tax relief to families and businesses, and speeding our transition to a clean, renewable energy and energy efficient future.”

On the Senate side, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who successfully guided the Senate bipartisan "tax extenders" package including extensions of incentives for key renewable energy technologies to a 93-2 approval vote in the Senate [See WIMS 9/24/08], commented on the House passage of its alternate legislation which has now created a new impasse with little legislative time left.

Senator Baucus said, “This move in the House endangers tax relief that American businesses and families need right now. While I commend the House’s effort to fully offset the cost of this needed tax legislation, it is clear to me from discussions in the Senate that even this new package of bills will not pass in this body. Therefore, the tax relief agreed to in the Senate is the only legislation with any hope of providing energy tax incentives, protection from the alternative minimum tax, and business and family tax cuts this year. The tax relief passed by the Senate does what all of us want: it supports jobs, energy, and families at a time when our country is in financial crisis. The House needs to take a vote on the Senate package and pass these tax breaks for jobs, energy, and families, period, even at some cost. Americans need the sound energy future, the good-paying jobs, and the tax relief the Senate bill ensures. The House can provide it with one vote. I hope that vote will be scheduled soon.”

Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a more detailed release from House Democrats (click here). Access the brief statement from Senator Baucus (click here). Access legislative details for Senate Substitute for H.R. 6049 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 7060 including links to the roll call vote (click here). [*Energy]

Friday, September 26, 2008

RGGI Launches First-In-The-Nation Auction For CO2 Allowances

Sep 25: At a bell-ringing ceremony held at the New York Mercantile Exchange in lower Manhattan, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) marked the opening of the first-in-the-nation auction for carbon dioxide emission allowances [See WIMS 3/21/08]. The ceremony, which was attended by Governor David Paterson of New York and Governor Jon Corzine of New Jersey, served to mark what RGGI says is the "most serious effort yet in the United States to address climate change."

RGGI will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through a mandatory, market-based cap-and-trade program. Under RGGI, the ten participating states will stabilize power sector carbon emissions at their capped level, and then reduce the cap by 10 percent at a rate of 2.5 percent each year between 2015 and 2018. As promised in the 2005 RGGI Memorandum of Understanding, all participating states plan to have implementing regulations in place by January 1, 2009.

Jonathan Schrag, Executive Director of RGGI, Inc. said, “Today marks the culmination of more than five years of research, design and development of the nation’s first carbon market. It is fitting that our event took place on the shores of the river that Henry Hudson explored nearly 400 years ago. As with Hudson’s exploration then, these pioneering states are leading the way forward on the new, clean-energy economy that others will surely follow.”

CO2 allowances under RGGI will be distributed primarily via auctions rather than the free allocation methodology used in other emissions markets. By using an auction, participating states are able to provide benefits to consumers. Revenues from the carbon allowance auctions will be invested by the participating states in energy efficiency programs, renewable energy stimulus efforts and other programs to benefit consumers. As a result, RGGI will deliver economic and environmental benefits and improve energy security through reduced use of fossil fuels.

The RGGI auction offered 12,565,387 allowances, including CO2 allowances issued by Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. Other RGGI participating states (Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York)will offer allowances for sale in future auctions as they complete their necessary rulemaking proceedings. A second auction is scheduled for December 2008, with all RGGI participating states expected to offer allowances for sale in the first 2009 auction. The CO2 allowances purchased at this auction can be used by a regulated facility for compliance in any of the RGGI states, even if that state did not offer allowances in this auction.

Future sales of CO2 allowances are planned through a steady offering of allowances in quarterly auctions. States have committed to offer for sale before the end of 2011 all of the allowances they are putting into the auctions for the first three-year compliance period. Regulated power companies must hold enough allowances to match their CO2 emissions for the first compliance period by March 1, 2012. RGGI is serving as a model for other regional greenhouse gas initiatives including the Western Climate Initiative, the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord, a system being studied in Florida.

Dale Bryk, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, “Today is a bold step forward for our clean energy future and the fight against global warming. The new system is good for consumers, good for the economy and good for our climate. This new energy plan is straight-forward, highly cost-effective and creates a clean energy pathway for the rest of the country to follow. It is the shape of things to come.” Leading companies operating in the region that have backed the new system include Bank of America, Staples, National Grid, Pfizer, PSEG and the association of large energy users called The Energy Consortium.

World Resources Institute (WRI) President Jonathan Lash said, "Today, ten states are taking a major step forward in the fight against global warming as they begin operations of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the country’s first mandatory GHG emissions market. These Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states have been pioneers at a time when federal action has been egregiously lacking. Their accomplishments have proven that emissions markets are effective and politically possible. . . WRI is proud to have participated in the design of all three agreements, and congratulates the governors, state legislators, and stakeholders in the RGGI states on their outstanding accomplishment.”

Access a release from RGGI (
click here). Access the RGGI website for extensive information (click here). Access the Western Climate Initiative (click here). Access the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (click here). Access the Florida Climate Change website (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from WRI (click here). [*Climate]

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recent Activity On The Oil Commodity Market Speculation Issue

Sep 25: On September 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Commodity Markets Transparency and Accountability Act of 2008 (H.R. 6604) introduced by Representative Collin Peterson (D-MN), Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee [See WIMS 9/18/08]. The bill passed the House by a vote of 283 to 133, and was transmitted to the Senate on September 22. In July, Republican and Democratic Senators engaged in a heated debate on the issue of energy price speculation v. energy supply when Democrats put forth their Stop Excessive Energy Speculation Act (S. 3268) which failed to pass [See WIMS 7/24/08]. The legislation is now back in the hands of the Senate and it remains to be seen if Senators will deal with the issue in light of the Wall Street bailout concerns and limited legislative time.

On September 22, the same day the Senate received H.R. 6604, the Air Transport Association (ATA), the industry trade organization for the major U.S. airlines, reacted to oil's largest one-day price gain in NYMEX history, stating that "this record increase reaffirms that speculation is playing a significant role in driving up the price." On the 22nd, reversing recent price decreases, oil spiked at $130 per barrel, closing at $120.92 per barrel. ATA said, it "recognizes the impact of the financial crisis on Wall Street, the weak dollar and the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, the unprecedented 16 percent jump over the weekend -- from $104.55 per barrel last Friday to $120.92 per barrel today -- also reflects the impact of excessive energy speculation."

Also on the 22nd, as part of its ongoing national crude oil investigation, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued a statement regarding the oil market activity. CFTC Acting Chairman Walter Lukken said, “CFTC surveillance and enforcement staff are closely monitoring today’s large movement in the price of crude oil. We are working closely with NYMEX compliance staff to ensure that no one is taking advantage of the current stresses facing our financial marketplace for their own manipulative gain.”

Stephen J. Obie, Acting Director of the CFTC’s Division of Enforcement added, “CFTC enforcement staff will scour today’s trading activity to determine whether anyone engaged in illegal manipulative activity. No one should be trying to game our nation’s commodity futures markets.” CFTC said as part of its investigation, enforcement staff can compel testimony, under oath, and the production of information concerning the crude oil markets, including recent crude oil trading. On September 23, various media reports indicated that CFTC had "subpoenaed dozens of traders as it probes why a Nymex oil contract rose the most ever yesterday. . ."

Senate Republicans remain skeptical about the effects of speculation on oil prices. Retiring Senator Pete Domenici, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee and a key Republican leader on energy issues said at September 16, hearing on the speculation issue, “I have yet to see any credible reports that speculators are manipulating the markets to drive prices up in a substantial way. In fact, I would note that now that prices have come down, the rhetoric from Democrats seems to have quieted, too, except for this hearing. It is obvious to me—and most experts—that the rise in prices we have seen this summer is a direct result of a global supply and demand imbalance, and the way to correct it is by addressing that fundamental problem.”

The hearing was held to examine two separate and conflicting reports on the speculation issue. The first report, the CFTC’s staff report on swap dealers and index traders, represents an unprecedented effort to measure what is happening in our commodity markets revealed very little evidence of speculation, and Domenici said "certainly not enough to significantly affect the price of oil." Domenici continued saying, "The second report, from Mr. Masters, concludes that speculation is a significant influence on the price of oil. The accuracy of this claim has already been called into question, most notably by the man who generated the data used to construct it."

Access the release from the CFTC (click here). Access the ATA release on the oil market (click here). Access Senator Domenici's statement at the speculation hearing (click here). Access the ENR Sep. 16 Subcommittee hearing on oil speculation and link to all testimony and a webcast (click here). Access a release and link to the complete 48-page CFTC report (click here). Access the so-called "Masters" reports and related information from the Accidental Hunt Brothers Blog (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6604 (click here). Access legislative details for S. 3268 (click here). Access background information on the Energy and Commerce investigation of the Energy Speculation issue (click here). Access the Stop Oil Speculation Now blog for additional information (click here). [*Energy]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Renewable Energy Tax Extenders Bill (H.R. 6049) Passes Senate 93-2

Sep 23: With praise and support from both Democrats and Republicans, at about 6 PM on Tuesday, the Senate unanimously (93-2, 5 not voting) passed the so-called "tax extenders" package that includes extensions for key renewable energy technologies like wind, solar and biomass. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced the bipartisan agreement that also included an update of the alternative minimum tax rules and continued tax cuts for college tuition, state and local sales taxes, and research and development for U.S. businesses on September 16 [See WIMS 9/18/08].

The bill, H.R. 6049 (Senate Substitute, Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, [
See WIMS 9/22/08] extends the placed-in service date for the credit through December 31, 2009 in the case of wind and refined coal, and through December 31, 2010 in the case of other sources. The measure extends the 30 percent investment tax credit for solar energy property and qualified fuel cell property, as well as the 10 percent investment tax credit for micro-turbines, through 2016. The bill extends the credit for residential solar property through 2016, and removes the credit cap (currently $2,000) for solar electric investments. The bill increases the $500 per half kilowatt of capacity cap for qualified fuel cells to $1,500 per half kilowatt of capacity, and adds small commercial wind as a category of qualified investment. The bill adds residential small wind investment, capped at $4,000, and geothermal heat pumps, capped at $2,000, as qualifying property. With respect to vehicles, the bill establishes a new credit for plug-in electric drive vehicles and the credit for passenger vehicles and light trucks ranges from $2,500 to $7,500.

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “I am pleased that Senate Republicans have finally recognized -- after blocking nine Democratic efforts to invest in clean, renewable energy sources -- the importance of making America more energy independent, strengthening our national security and creating good-paying jobs here at home. This bill will help us harness the power of the wind, the sun, geothermal and other sources of clean, renewable energy. . . "

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “The taxpayer can claim a major accomplishment today. At a time of high economic anxiety, this tax relief extension bill encourages greater energy independence, delivers much-needed relief to job creators across the country, and it ensures a much smaller tax bill for millions of American families. The Senate had been deadlocked on the provisions contained in this bill for months. But in the end, senators on both sides of the aisle shut out the partisan rancor of the presidential election, hammered out a compromise, and delivered. And the result is a tribute to all the senators and the many staffers on both sides who worked so hard to get us here. . . "

At a press conference Democratic Senators Max Baucus (D-MT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Ken Salazar (D-CO) joined Greg Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association, Karl Gawell of the Geothermal Energy Association and Kateri Callahan of the Alliance to Save Energy all applauded the bill. Senator Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said, “I have long maintained that targeted tax incentives are an essential element of a bold new energy policy for our country. These incentives’ will play a critical role in promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and in turn reducing our reliance on conventional fuels, promoting a more secure energy supply and combating global warming. Equally important, these tax credits will create high-paying jobs and reduce energy costs for all Americans.”

U.S. Senator Pete Domenici, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, applauded passage of the bill. “At long last, both parties have joined together to extend the essential tax credits for renewable energy, which were set to expire at the end of the year. Renewables like wind, solar, biomass and geothermal will play an essential role in our energy future, and the renewable energy tax credits are necessary to help these industries continue to grow. I am pleased that the Senate has passed this extension, and I look forward to quick action in the House.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a release saying, "We are encouraged that the Senate is taking action to promote the creation of clean energy solutions that our country urgently needs, but it’s too bad they are tossing some of dirty fuels into the mix. This bill will spur increased energy efficiency and the production of renewable energy technologies, which are keys for creating new jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil. Unfortunately, the bill also supports increased subsidies for dirty fuels -- like oil shale, tar sands and liquid coal -- that can cause twice the global warming pollution as conventional oil. As the bill moves to the House, we ask Representatives to strip away the dirty energy provisions that won’t help people at the pump and won’t move America to a new clean energy future.”

Access legislative details for H.R. 6049 (
click here). Access a 7-page Senate Finance Committee staff summary of the energy aspects of the bill (click here). Access a release from Senator Reid (click here). Access a release from Senator McConnell (click here). Access a release from Senator Domenici (click here). Access a release from the Democratic Senators' press conference (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). [*Energy]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Financial Woes Spill Over To Climate Change Hearing

Sep 23: The Senate Environment and Pubic Works Committee, Chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) held a full Committee hearing entitled, “Regulation of Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act.” Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: Robert Meyers, Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator Office of Air and Radiation U.S. EPA; California Air Resources Board; Jason Burnett, Former Associate Deputy Administrator U.S. EPA; Sierra Club; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Chairman Boxer and Ranking Member James Inhofe both delivered opening statements.

Senator Boxer recounted the long history of EPA action since the April 2, 2007, Supreme Court decision [Massachusetts, et al. v. EPA, et al., No. 05-1120, See WIMS 4/2/07] that confirmed that EPA has authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution under the Clean Air Act (CAA). In July of last year that EPA was planning to issue final rules on regulating greenhouse gases by the end of 2008; however "after a long delay, the Bush Administration stopped progress on this rulemaking in its tracks. . .and instead took the weakest step possible in order to further delay action. This was EPA’s 'Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.'"

Senator Boxer said, "We need to consider all the tools available to us to avert the dangers of unchecked global warming. And I continue to believe that we need a comprehensive new law to reduce global warming emissions. But in the meantime there is much that can and should be considered under the Clean Air Act. This law has a proven track record over the last 40 years. It has been very effective in reducing pollution and saving lives. . . This hearing will provide a road map for the next Administration to finally take effective action on reducing global warming emissions. After this hearing, my Committee will prepare a report to the next President on the Clean Air Act’s potential role in combating global warming."

Senator Inhofe said, "I am hopeful that today’s hearing will focus less on political theatrics and more on the substantive matter before us today, which has very urgent and troubling implications for our already fragile economy. This matter is the very real possibility of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. . . As more and more analysis is done about the potential implications of regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, the more alarming the consequences become. . .

"We will also hear today from the United States Chamber of Commerce, who will voice their strong opposition over any proposed rules under the Act. They will discuss their new analysis that finds over one million mid-sized to large commercial-sector sources could become exposed to PSD permitting requirements, including 92,000 health care facilities and 100,000 schools and other educational facilities. In addition, almost 200,000 industrial manufacturing sector sources emit enough CO2 per year to become exposed to PSD permitting requirements, as well as over 17,000 large agricultural sector sources. . . In a time of record high energy prices, economic uncertainty, and dire financial news, and with Treasury Secretary Paulson testifying at this hour on the largest government bailout in history, the only positive economic data I can gather under those scenarios is for the legal profession as they will have a feeding frenzy of new Rules to challenge."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony, opening statements and a webcast (
click here). [*Climate]

Monday, September 22, 2008

Financial Crisis Delays Work On Energy Crisis

Sep 22: Following last week's unraveling of the financial fabric of the country and an emergency proposal for a near trillion dollar (and growing) bailout of Wall Street it appears the financial crisis will take precedent over the energy crisis which was "top dog" just a few days ago. Before the impact of the financial crisis was fully realized last week, the House managed to pass an energy bill [Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899), See WIMS 9/17/08] over the objections of Republicans and Presidential veto threat. On the Senate side key Senators had apparently worked out a bipartisan plan for clean energy tax incentives totaling approximately $17 billion [H.R. 6049 (Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, See WIMS 9/18/08]. While the legislation was expected to be debated and voted on Tuesday, September 23, it is now uncertain whether it will be considered or delayed.

Already, the "Gang of 10 (now 20)" has announced it will delay introducing its revised version of a comprehensive bipartisan energy legislation (New Energy Reform Act of 2008, better known as New Era) until after the election. According to a September 19, release from Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), leaders of the "Gang of 20", "Unfortunately, with the fiscal crisis unfolding, time to debate a comprehensive energy policy is not available. Instead, we will share our plan with our colleagues and ask that the New Era bill be among the first orders of business when Congress reconvenes.”

The bipartisan proposal includes what the coalition of Senators are calling an historic investment in research and development in an effort to transition new vehicles to non-petroleum based fuels by 2020. The new version of the proposal expands "responsible measures" to increase offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf and remains committed to expanding renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Additionally, the plan includes consumer tax credits to purchase advanced fuel vehicles and increases nuclear power generation. Finally, the new version of the plan is completely paid for with no net tax increase and no net spending increase.

Conrad and Chambliss said, “Our group is strong and committed. We have accomplished something positive on Capitol Hill. We have formed a bipartisan group of Senators that continues to put progress ahead of politics. The New Era proposal has dramatically advanced the energy debate in Congress. The reason our group formed and the reason we remain together is because we all want to see a serious, comprehensive energy policy that can be enacted into law. We are extremely proud of this Gang of 20 and remain committed to working together to lessen our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and strengthen America’s economy.”

The coalition of 20 senators -- 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats -- has worked for the past three months to develop New Energy Reform Act of 2008. The Senators, in addition to Conrad and Chambliss who developed the proposal include: Senators John Warner (R-VA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Susan Collins (R-ME) Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), John Sununu (R-NH), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Tom Carper (D-DE), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Ben Nelson (D-NE), John Thune (R-SD), Mark Pryor, (D-AR), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).

In anticipation of the Senate consideration of the clean energy tax incentives, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) delivered a statement on the Senate Floor and cheered the compromise and urged his colleagues to support it. Senator Bingaman said, "This compromise will enable us to become a more energy efficient nation and wean us off our dependence on fossil fuels. It extends the production tax credit by one year for wind energy and by two years for other qualified renewable resources -- a category that the bill expands to include marine renewable, such as waves and tides. I had hoped that we could achieve a longer-term extension of the PTC [production tax credit], but this is all we could afford within the package’s cost constraints. Undoubtedly, this bill’s extension of the PTC will enable our renewable industries to stay afloat. But today, I renew my commitment to a long-term extension of the PTC, which I hope we will be able to achieve in the next Congress." Bingaman continued with further explanation of the compromise (See link below).

Access a release from Senators Conrad and Chambliss (
click here). Access the complete floor statement from Senator Bingaman (click here). [Energy]

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hearing On "Science Under Siege" At U.S. EPA

Sep 18: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Chaired by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) held a hearing entitled, Science Under Siege: Scientific Integrity at the Environmental Protection Agency. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS); State of Maine Department of Environmental Protection; Glynn Environmental Coalition; Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC); American Chemistry Council; Marcus Peacock, Deputy Administrator U.S. EPA [Prepared testimony was not submitted]; and George Gray, Ph.D., Assistant Administrator U.S. EPA Office Research and Development.

Full Committee Chairman, Representative John Dingell (D-MI), delivered an opening statement saying, "Scientific integrity is an essential ingredient of nearly every decision the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) makes. Unfortunately, there is a substantial question as to whether that is always the case under the current Administration. There is growing evidence that Congress, State and local governments, the public, and even other countries cannot rely on EPA for honest science.

"The landmark survey of EPA scientists conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) confirms what many had feared -- the Bush Administration’s political interference with EPA scientists is pervasive and frequent. The UCS survey found that more than 500 EPA scientists knew of “many or some” cases where EPA political appointees had interfered with scientific decisions. Nearly 100 EPA scientists identified the White House Office of Management and Budget as the primary source of external interference. And more than 500 scientists said they feared retaliation for speaking candidly about EPA’s scientific work. Clearly, we are not talking about an isolated incident.

"The testimony we will hear today exposes a broad pattern of political meddling by the Bush Administration, directed at EPA scientists and science. A prime example is the Administration’s recent changes to the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) process, under which chemicals are evaluated to determine the extent to which they may be hazardous to human health. . . Under this new system, the two largest polluters in the United States -- the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy -- are permitted to provide secret comments to OMB, which then has the final say on what goes into the IRIS system. Even EPA is not permitted to see these comments. And, because all of this is now done in secrecy, it is not entirely clear who else may have a hand in the process. . ."

At the hearing GAO released a new report entitled, New Assessment Process Further Limits the Credibility and Timeliness of EPA's Assessments of Toxic Chemicals (GAO-08-1168T, September 18, 2008). In the report, GAO found, "In March 2008, GAO concluded that the IRIS database was at serious risk of becoming obsolete because EPA had not been able to complete timely, credible assessments or decrease its backlog of 70 ongoing assessments -- a total of 4 were completed in fiscal years 2006 and 2007. In addition, assessment process changes EPA had recently made, as well as other changes EPA was considering at the time of GAO’s review, would further reduce the credibility and timeliness of IRIS assessments."

GAO said, "EPA issued its revised IRIS assessment process in April 2008. The new process is largely the same as the draft GAO evaluated and does not respond to the recommendations in GAO’s March 2008 report. Moreover, some key changes are likely to further exacerbate the productivity and credibility concerns GAO identified. . . Instead of streamlining the process, as GAO recommended, EPA has institutionalized a process that from the outset is estimated to take 6 to 8 years. This is problematic because of the substantial rework such cases often require to take into account changing science and methodologies. . . Little or no progress has been made on assessments of chemicals highlighted in our report, including naphthalene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene (TCE)."

Access the hearing website for links to all testimony and a webcast (
click here). Access the complete statement from Chairman Dingell (click here). Access the GAO report (click here). Access multiple WIMS-eNewsUSA blog postings on the IRIS issue (click here). [*Toxics]

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bipartisan Senate Agreement On Clean Energy Tax Incentives

Sep 16: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced an agreement with the Senate’s Democratic and Republican leadership to move legislation accomplishing the Finance panel’s remaining major objectives for the year: passage of clean energy tax incentives, the protection of millions of Americans from the alternative minimum tax (AMT), and extensions of expiring family and business tax cuts. Last week, Baucus and Grassley unveiled a $40 billion package of clean energy tax incentives for Senate consideration this month. The Finance leaders combined key objectives of that legislation with an agreement to update alternative minimum tax rules and continue tax cuts for college tuition, state and local sales taxes, and research and development for U.S. businesses.

Senators will be debating the amendments on the Senate Floor to replace the current text of H.R. 6049 (Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008), energy tax legislation approved in the House of Representatives earlier this year and which failed to obtain the 60 votes necessary in the Senate on June 17 [
See WIMS 6/18/08]. Along with other non-energy related elements, the bipartisan agreement includes clean energy tax incentives totaling approximately $17 billion, paid for by freezing the tax deduction for the domestic manufacturing activities of American oil and gas companies, by tightening the rules by which oil and gas companies pay taxes on income earned overseas, by freeing general fund monies with increased payments into the oil spill liability trust fund as new drilling is considered, by a one-year extension of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act surtax at the current level, and by increasing reporting requirements for brokers on sales of stock.

Senator Baucus said, “This month, the Senate can act to create jobs, break America’s dependence on foreign oil, support working families and help businesses thrive.This agreement will lead America toward clean, homegrown energy and the good-paying jobs that come with it. . . The Senate and the House should take up the elements of this agreement and pass them without delay. Americans are ready now for good-paying jobs, tax relief, economic growth, and a brighter energy future.” Senator Grassley said, “This legislation will be a huge shot in the arm to the economy, and the timing couldn’t be better. . . This package is a major victory and was worth fighting for in Congress because these provisions have proven their value. . ."

Access a release from the Senate Finance Committee (click here). Access a 7-page Senate Finance Committee staff summary of the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008 (click here). Access an 18-page Staff Summary of the Senate Finance Committee Summary Amendment to the Substitute Amendment to H.R. 6049 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6049 (click here). Access current Senate Floor activity (click here). [*Energy]

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

House Passes Energy Bill (H.R. 6899); Republicans Outraged

Sep 16: The House passed the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 6899) by a vote of 236-189 (9 not voting, 8 Republicans & 1 Democrat), at about 10 PM (September 16) [See WIMS 9/16/08]. Republicans voting for the Democratic bill included Representatives Buchanan, Castle, Gilchrest, LoBiondo, LaHood, Knollenberg, Kirk, Jones (NC), Inglis (SC), Hayes, Porter, Ramstad, Reichert, Shays, and Smith (NJ). Democrats voting against the measure included Representatives Barrow, Capps, Cazayoux, Farr, Filner, Pallone, Marshall, Holt, Payne, Rothman, Taylor, Thompson (CA), and Woolsey.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, "The legislation is a bold step forward, helping end our dependence on foreign oil and increase our national security. It launches a clean renewable energy future that creates new American jobs, expands domestic energy supply -- including new offshore drilling, and invents and builds more efficient vehicles, buildings, homes, and infrastructure. It will lower costs to consumers and protect the interests of taxpayers. It is a comprehensive strategy, and the product of bipartisan compromise. It offers Republicans who want a comprehensive approach the choice to make sure Big Oil pays its fair share."

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) issued a release on September 17, saying, "House Democrats say they want to 'stimulate' the economy, but last night nearly every single one of them voted against the bipartisan energy bill authored by Representatives John Peterson (R-PA) and Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) to lower gas prices on behalf of working families and small businesses -- including 24 Democrats who are cosponsors of the Peterson-Abercrombie bill. That’s correct, 24 Democrats flip-flopped, repudiated their past statements of support and cosponsorship for the bipartisan Peterson-Abercrombie bill by voting against it [i.e. voting for H.R. 6899]. And by rejecting the Peterson-Abercrombie bipartisan plan, Democrats proved once and for all that yesterday’s debate was about nothing more than providing political cover for vulnerable Democrats on the eve of an election -- and not about passing 'all of the above' energy reforms to make a real difference in lowering gas prices."

Boehner's release continues, "House Democratic leaders denied Republicans the opportunity to have a full debate and honest vote on the American Energy Act [See WIMS 8/13/08, (H.R. 6566)], the Republican bill that does 'all of the above' to help working families and small businesses struggling with record fuel costs. This fight is not over. House Republicans will continue to fight for an honest debate and vote on the American Energy Act -- legislation that increases American energy production off our coasts, in the Inter-Mountain West, and on Alaska’s remote North Slope to help lower gas prices, encourages more efficiency and conservation, and accelerates the development of more alternative and renewable fuels through additional funding from increased drilling royalties. This is the bill the American people support and expect. How much longer will Speaker Pelosi block it?"

In an earlier release on September 16, Boehner said, "Written behind closed doors, with their special interest allies who are on the record in support of higher gas prices, and finally released to the public in the dark of night, the Democrats’ latest ‘no energy’ bill once again defies the will of the American people who support a comprehensive approach to lower gas prices. This Democratic bill permanently locks away some 88 percent of the best American oil resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. It blocks valuable and job-creating energy production on Alaska’s North Slope and Inter-Mountain West. And it stops efforts to produce more and cheaper energy through emissions-free nuclear and coal-to-liquids technologies. Rather than an ‘all of the above’ approach, this bill is very nearly ‘none of the above.’ The American people have been waiting for months for this Democratic Congress to give them a meaningful, honest vote on more American energy production, but instead, Speaker Pelosi has served-up a legislative hoax and a debate rigged to once again defy their will.”

The American Petroleum Institute (API) issued a release saying, "The House energy bill is a dry hole for American consumers. The bill does little to increase U.S. oil and natural gas supplies and, in fact, may well result in less domestic production, which would make America more dependent on foreign energy. The plan guarantees $18 billion in new taxes on the industry, which would discourage new energy production. At the same time, it offers the illusion of increased offshore access but with no guarantee that energy would ever be produced in new areas on the Outer Continental Shelf. The bill all but guarantees that states will not agree to allow drilling off their coasts since the legislation does not permit states to share revenue derived from lease bids and production royalties. The arbitrary 50-mile buffer puts offlimits some of the most potentially promising areas for oil and natural gas production. In fact, under this bill, 15 billion barrels, or more than 80 percent of the OCS oil resources under current moratoria, would remain off-limits."

The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) issued a release saying, "IPAA commends Congress for its bipartisan recognition that expanded offshore development in the United States is essential to America’s energy future. This is a good first step that will yield benefits to the American people. However, the sum of the provisions outlined in H.R. 6899 would hamper our continued efforts to increase the supply of American energy resources to help secure the future of America’s economy and our national security. We believe that all of America’s oil and natural gas resources can be developed in an environmentally safe manner. For far too long, America’s offshore development has been unnecessarily prohibited. Finally, Congress appears to be ready to address this key issue. While IPAA commends the Congress for recognizing the importance of developing America’s offshore resources, H.R. 6899 falls short of an effective program and presents new, inappropriate burdens."

Sierra Club issued a release saying, "Today, House Republicans were given a chance to vote on a true "all-of-the-above" energy package that includes both clean energy and expanded offshore drilling. But despite significant offshore drilling provisions in the bill, an overwhelming number of House Republicans attempted to reject the bill and force a substitute to the House Leadership’s energy package, complaining that it did not go far enough to help oil companies -- fortunately they failed. . . Congress should take this opportunity to help pull us out of our energy crisis by creating a true, comprehensive, 'all of the above' energy compromise. While far from ideal, the energy package offered by Democratic leadership in the House at least included significant investment in clean energy through a Renewable Energy Standard, improved public transit and green building measures, and an extension of clean energy tax credits. Congress should protect consumers through a crackdown on oil speculation and drilling royalty loopholes, and offers low-income energy assistance. Of course the House package also included compromise provisions for expanded offshore drilling but a package of clean energy measures would help solve our energy crisis and protect consumers--a stark contrast to a drill-only policy, which will do nothing but endanger our coasts and add to Big Oil's profits. "

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said, "The House energy bill falls short of what Americans really need to meet our energy challenges. Big Oil is playing off the fears Americans faced with rising gas prices and is distorting the facts. Unfortunately, the politics of Big Oil and its allies have resulted in bad policies that will not provide real solutions. We want Congress to make sure that Big Oil doesn’t continue to load us up with dirty energy that overshadows the clean, renewable, homegrown solutions Americans need.”

Audubon issued a release saying, "We are deeply disappointed with the House energy bill due for a vote today. Instead of adopting forward-looking policies that will address our long-term energy needs, Congress is intent on playing politics. . . This bill does too little to bring about America's clean energy future. When the political season is over we will urge Congress to quickly adopt measures we know will help permanently end our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce global warming pollution, and create thousands of clean energy jobs to restore America's position as an energy leader."

National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said, “While the House bill takes positive steps on renewable energy and energy efficient buildings, those provisions are outweighed by a last-minute change lifting a longstanding prohibition on commercial oil shale leasing. Much of the public attention around Congressional energy bills has been focused on offshore oil leasing provisions, but oil shale is an unconscionable environmental threat. “Oil shale is a disaster not only for America's western wilderness and water supply but for our climate. . . America is on the verge of an explosion of clean energy jobs. It’s time for Congress to light the fuse.”

Access details of the roll call vote (
click here). Access a release from Speaker Pelosi with a video of floor remarks (click here). Access a release from Minority Leader Boehner (click here). Access a previous release from Boehner (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6899 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6566 (click here). Access a release from API (click here). Access a release from IPAA (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from Audubon (click here). Access a release from NWF (click here). [*Energy]

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

House Debates Democrats' Energy Bill (H.R. 6899)

Sep 16: The U.S. House began heated debate on the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R.6899), sponsored by Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) with cosponsors John Dingell (D-MI), George Miller (D-CA) and Gene Green (D-TX). The bill, according to its description is: To advance the national security interests of the United States by reducing its dependency on oil through renewable and clean, alternative fuel technologies while building a bridge to the future through expanded access to Federal oil and natural gas resources, revising the relationship between the oil and gas industry and the consumers who own those resources and deserve a fair return from the development of publicly owned oil and gas, ending tax subsidies for large oil and gas companies, and facilitating energy efficiencies in the building, housing, and transportation sectors, and for other purposes.

Much of the early debate was on a point of order over a provision that would provide $1.2 billion non-energy related benefit solely to New York City. Republicans argued that the provision was clearly an "earmark" benefiting only on location. Republicans also complained that the bill was not available until late last evening and has not been reviewed by any House Committee. Republicans said "no body expects this bill to become law." Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said "enough is enough. . . We have no opportunity to bring forth our alternative American Energy Act. . . " He said the Democrats' bill is "nothing but a hoax on the American people."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) issued a release entitled, "America - It's Time For An Oil Change." Pelosi said, "Today, the House will consider the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act, H.R. 6899. The legislation is a bold step forward, helping end our dependence on foreign oil and increase our national security. It launches a clean renewable energy future that creates new American jobs, expands domestic energy supply--including new offshore drilling, and invents and builds more efficient vehicles, buildings, homes, and infrastructure. It will lower costs to consumers and protect the interests of taxpayers. It is a comprehensive strategy, and the product of bipartisan compromise. It offers Republicans who want a comprehensive approach the choice to make sure Big Oil pays its fair share."

According to Pelosi's release and explanation of the bill it would provide for: Royalty Reform: Making Oil Companies Pay Their Fair Share for Drilling on Public Lands; Repeal of Tax Subsidies for the Big 5; Releasing Oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve; Mineral Management Service Ethics Reform; Investing in Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency and Home Heating Assistance (LIHEAP), Paid for by Making Oil Companies Pay their Fair Share for Drilling on Public Lands (98/99 leases); Electricity from Clean Renewable Sources; Renewable Biomass; Responsible Compromise on Drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf; Require Oil Companies to Drill on the 68 Million Acres of Federal Lands They Already Control; Increase Domestic Oil Production in Alaska; Promote Natural Gas, E-85 Infrastructure; Carbon Capture & Sequestration; Oil Shale Development With State Approval; Strengthen Energy Efficiency in Buildings to Bring Down Costs; Incentives for Energy Efficient Homes; and Saving Energy Through Public Transportation Act.

Access legislative details for H.R. 6899, including a link to the text of the legislation (
click here). Access the House Floor votes as they occur (click here). Access a lengthy release from Speaker Pelosi including further explanation of the above highlights and a graphic to explain the offshore drilling provision (click here). [*Energy]

Monday, September 15, 2008

Senate Leaders Speak Out At Energy Summit

Sep 12: At the Senate-Wide Energy Summit [See WIMS 9/11/08, & 9/12/08], both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) expressed their views on energy issues which will guide their parties in upcoming votes on energy bills expected very soon, perhaps this week.

Senate Majority Leader Reid said, “We have seen two diverging trends in the energy debate – one very encouraging, one less helpful. On one side, as the fall campaign heats up, we have seen energy move into a more partisan realm, with candidates looking to score points with sound bites that solve nothing. But on the other side, we are seeing an increasing consensus that when all the political dust settles, our energy challenges cannot fall victim to partisan bickering. “We see this encouraging trend toward bipartisanship in the Gang of 22 [outgrowth of the Gang of 10]. . .

"I think it’s important we all agree that a problem as big as this requires comprehensive solutions. In all the places where truth counts more than slogans, it is agreed that there is no single ‘magic bullet.’ We need to decrease our consumption of fossil fuels. We can conserve energy painlessly and cost-effectively by improving efficiency in household appliances and the ways we build new buildings. We also need to demand and expect better fuel efficiency from our automobiles. . . one part of the solution is the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Incentives Program.

“We need to hasten our transition away from oil. That means incentivizing the production of home-grown renewable alternatives. We also need to bring prices down for the oil we use. That means going after any speculator, price gouger or oil-producing nation who game or cheat the system and leave American consumers paying the bill. . . The transition from the fossil fuels of old to the renewable fuels of tomorrow can create jobs, protect our national security and cleanse our environment. . . "

Minority Leader McConnell said, "Republicans, I assure you, are open to any reasonable suggestion that will lead to a concrete, meaningful result. And it is with this in mind that Republicans have already coalesced around a simple and straightforward principle that we believe could and should form the basis of bipartisan legislation on this issue: we need to both find more American energy and use less.

“We know that we can ' find more ' domestic energy by means of deep sea exploration off our coasts and by developing Western oil shale deposits which, according to conservative estimates, represent at least 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. . . But it must be said at the outset that conservation alone is clearly insufficient. While all of us may envision a future in which America does not run on fossil fuels, this is not today’s reality. Nor will it be for many years to come. We need to be realistic and recognize that -- in the near term -- we will still need more oil and gas. And I believe that this oil and gas should come from America’s own ample domestic reserves -- not from the Middle East. We cannot, and should not, ask people like rural Kentuckians to assume the burden of this transition when we have enormous energy reserves under our own feet, reserves that the government has made increasingly difficult to tap. . .

“The American people are demanding that Congress do something to alleviate high gas prices, and to do something significant. Some of the proposals we have heard from the other side make an effort. But, by and large, they fall seriously short. They either ignore the need for increased domestic supply, or they’re disproportionally meager in light of the severity of the crisis. . . We have the resources. Americans want us to use them. And they are exactly right. . ."

Access the complete statement from Senator Reid (click here). Access the complete statement from Senator McConnell (click here). Access the Summit meeting website for links to all testimony and link to a 5 hour and 20 minute webcast (click here, testimony should be posted soon). [*Energy]

Friday, September 12, 2008

EDF Launches Carbon Offset Purchase Website

Sep 10: Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced the launch of CarbonOffsetList.org, which they say will help bring transparency to the fast-growing voluntary carbon offset market to combat climate change. The website is a first-of-its-kind online resource that will help businesses and consumers identify and purchase carbon offsets that represent real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Carbon offsets allow buyers to offset, or neutralize, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) produced from their own activities by funding projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere.

Developed through a rigorous review process in collaboration with a committee of external experts in the fields of science and policy, the website identifies 11 pre-screened, independently verified offset projects that meet EDF's criteria for high-quality carbon offsets. EDF's evaluation focused on the environmental integrity of the projects and whether projects could show verifiable and measurable proof of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The approach focused on finding high-quality emissions reductions regardless of project type, technology or supplier.

Thomas Murray, managing director of corporate partnerships for EDF said, “Companies increasingly see the value in incorporating carbon offsets into their overall climate action strategies, but until now, buyers had to do their own homework to determine which projects were most credible. CarbonOffsetList.org eliminates the guesswork and offers buyers direct access to a list of thoroughly vetted projects that meet EDF's high-quality criteria.” In response to numerous inquiries from companies seeking guidance on using carbon offsets as part of a comprehensive sustainability strategy, EDF developed the current list through a request-for-proposal and project-by-project review process. In order to be considered for inclusion, providers submitted project documentation for review, including project design documents and third-party verification reports. CarbonOffsetList.org features 11 emissions reduction projects ranging from capturing and destroying methane from landfills and dairy farms to reducing emissions at truck stops across the country.

They EDF-approved projects and their sponsors include: (1) Greater New Bedford LFG Utilization, Dartmouth, MA, offered by CommonWealth Resource Management Corp. and Carbonfund.org; (2) North Country LFG Utilization, Bethlehem, NH, offered by CommonWealth Resource Management Corp.; (3) Development Authority of the North Country Solid Waste Management Facility, Rodman, NY, offered by Carbonfund.org; (4) Upper Rock Island Landfill, East Moline, IL, offered by Renewable Choice Energy (5) Newton-McDonald landfill, Neosho, MO, offered by 3Degrees; (6) Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority Landfill, Lebanon, PA, offered by Terrapass; (7) Greenville County Landfill, Greer, SC, offered by Sterling Planet; (8) Inland Empire Dairy Methane, Chino, CA, offered by Carbonfund.org; (9) IdleAire Technologies Corporation Advanced Truckstop Electrification, Nationwide, offered by Carbonfund.org; (10) IGRS landfill, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada, offered by GreenLife; and (11) Irani Wastewater Methane, Santa Catarina, Brazil, offered by EcoSecurities.

EDF said it expects this list to continue to grow as additional information about the projects under consideration is received. EDF received more than 70 project proposals from dozens of suppliers, with a wide ranging diversity of project types and approaches. EDF said it has no financial interest in any of the featured projects on CarbonOffsetList.org, gets no benefit from transactions initiated at the site and accepts no funding from corporate partners.

Access a release from EDF with links to further details (
click here). Access the CarbonOffsetList.org website (click here) [*Climate]

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Senate-Wide Energy Summit & Upcoming Vote

Sep 11: As the House prepares for an energy vote showdown between Republicans and Democrats [See WIMS 9/10/08], the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), will host an all-day summit (Friday, September 12) to facilitate the development of comprehensive legislation to address America’s many energy challenges. The "Senate-wide meeting," from 9:30 AM until 3:30 PM, will feature two panels of witnesses that include energy analysts, academics and corporate leaders, all of whom will offer recommendations on how our country can achieve a more secure, reliable, sustainable and affordable energy future. All 100 Senators will be invited to participate. The discussion, in Dirksen G50, also is open to the public and the press. [Note: The House has now decided to put off the energy vote until next week, as many members are leaving to deal with Hurricane Ike].

Senator Bingaman said, “This critical discussion will provide a broad spectrum of views on how to tackle the difficult energy challenges confronting our nation, including economic security, national security, global warming and ending our addiction to oil. It will be an excellent opportunity for Senators to listen, learn and contribute firsthand to this important and timely conversation.”

Committee Ranking Member, Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) said, “I’m pleased to join Senator Bingaman in welcoming our fellow Senators as well as experts from the private sector to provide their views on how best to address our many energy challenges. We have assembled a diverse panel that will bring many different perspectives to this debate. I look forward to a free-wheeling discussion that will bring about greater understanding of the issues confronting us and the best ways to address them.”

In advance of the meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying, “We will continue our efforts to pass comprehensive legislation to address our energy challenges. I am encouraged by the work of what started as the Gang of 10 [See WIMS 8/1/08], and has now expanded to the Gang of 16, and perhaps a gang of many more by the time this process has concluded. Next week, following Friday’s energy summit, we expect to vote on several comprehensive energy bills. . ." Senator Reid listed the: (1) The Bingaman-Baucus amendment, which opens up new areas of the Outer Continental shelf to drilling, including parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico; (2) The Gang of 16 bill, which, similar to the Bingaman/Baucus amendment, opens up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling, as well as other areas off the coasts of the Southeastern states at those states request; and, (3) Reid said, "we are open to a vote on the Republican amendment -- S.amdt 5108 -- that Senator McConnell filed to the speculation bill. This amendment opens up all coastal areas to drilling at the states’ requests, except for the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which stays closed until 2022. It also closes the London loophole and requires index trader and swaps dealers to report their energy-commodity transactions."

Reid concluded his discussion of the energy issue saying, "It should be clear to all that we are offering Republicans multiple opportunities to vote for increased drilling, which they have chosen to make their marquee legislative priority and campaign issue. We offered votes on drilling before the August recess, and Republicans rejected our offers. This time, I hope Republicans will put their votes where their mouths are to pass comprehensive legislation that includes drilling."

In the meantime, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced further details on the Democrats energy bill which will be voted on next week. The bill reportedly includes major new concessions on offshore oil drilling (See link below). Reportedly, the bill would give states control over drilling between 50 and 100 miles offshore and open lift the Federal ban on areas more than 100 miles from the coast for oil exploration.

Access a release from Senator Bingaman listing the Panel members for the Energy Summit (
click here). Access the statement from Senator Reid (click here). Access a transcript of a lengthy interview with Majority Leader Hoyer on the House energy bill (click here). Access a Reuters report on the House energy bill (click here). [*Energy]

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

House Dems Set Stage For Energy Bill Showdown This Week

Sep 9: Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democratic leaders held a news conference to discuss the comprehensive energy bill to be introduced this week. While details are sparse, it seems that the bill would draw on previous Democratic proposals contained in various bills. One "compromise" appears to be drawn from early efforts of Representative Gene Green (D-TX), leader of an informal group of some 15 Democrats representing energy-producing districts, who proposed the Long-term Energy Assurance and Security Enhancement Act of 2008 (LEASE Act) at the end of July. Some of the legislation would also come from the energy legislation, The National Conservation, Environment and Energy Independence Act (H.R. 6709), led by Representatives Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) and John Peterson (R-PA) with 109 cosponsors proposed in early August [See WIMS 8/8/08]. That bill provided for offshore and onshore leasing and other energy provisions.

Reportedly the new proposal would allow "environmentally responsible oil and gas drilling," with state approval in nearshore areas off some East Coast states and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Additionally, the package is expected to include the repeal of tax breaks for oil companies, incentives for natural-gas vehicles, a national renewable portfolio standard and renewable energy incentives.

Speaker Pelosi said, “This week, the House will vote on comprehensive energy legislation that is a result of a reasonable compromise. I am very proud of our Caucus and how we are coming together on this. It will put us on the path toward energy independence by expanding domestic supply. It will protect consumers and taxpayers with strong action to lower the price of the pump and end taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil. It will ensure a clean green future through energy efficiency and conservation, and it will commit America to renewable energy and help create millions of good paying green jobs. It will put us on that path to make America energy independent of foreign oil within a decade. That was a goal of President Nixon in 1970. It wasn’t fulfilled then; it will be fulfilled now.

“This comprehensive energy legislation is the result of serious compromising among Democrats to bring down gas prices now and invest in a renewable future. Republicans must set aside their ‘drill only’ policy; even their own supporters have said we cannot drill ourselves out of this emergency situation. It will come down to this when it comes to energy. Whose side are you on? The side of the American consumer and the taxpayer, or Big Oil?

“If they want to drill offshore we say, ‘Okay, if you want to drill on the outer continental shelf, let’s have a discussion and a change of the relationship between our oil, which is owned by the American people, the desire of Big Oil for us to subsidize their drilling, and us not to, the American people not getting the benefit of the profits.’ So more drilling, no subsidies, and we want our royalties, in order to pay for investments in renewable energy resources, make a strong commitment to LIHEAP and the land and conservation fund, something like that.

“And if you oppose that, what are you saying? ‘I’m for drilling and for subsidized Big Oil and I want all of the profits to go to Big Oil, and I don’t want to visit this relationship of getting the funds that we are owed from the royalties of holidays in the late 90s.’ “It’s pretty exciting because we’re at a crucial place in our energy future and this decision will be an important one, and we want the American people to see the distinction between the Democrats and the Republicans on this. Do you want to drill now on the continental shelf? We want our royalties. No more subsidies for you. We want those subsidies and those royalties for LIHEAP, for renewable energy resources, for a better energy future for our country.”

House Republicans responded immediately. House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) issued a statement saying "published reports indicated that Democrats’ latest “energy” plan will attempt to offer up a sliver of America’s deep-ocean energy supply in exchange for imposing billions in new taxes, new mandates designed to push electricity rates to historic highs, and permanently locking away nearly 80 percent of our Outer Continental Shelf."

He said, “Having failed to earn support for their previous four energy bills this year, many of us had hoped that Democrats would return from their five-week-long recess ready to work on meaningful energy legislation, and willing to consider an ‘all of the above’ approach to lowering prices at the pump. Unfortunately, what we know of the plan right now suggests it’s just more of the same from this Democratic majority -- written for the specific purpose of allowing those who oppose responsible energy development a chance to say that they support it, confident that no such development will ever take place. In fact, this package would permanently put 80 percent of our offshore resources under lock and key. That’s hardly the kind of comprehensive approach to crafting real energy solutions that the American people are demanding.

"Add in the prospect of billions in new taxes, the resurrection of their discredited ‘Use It or Lose It’ bill, and an unfunded mandate that will cost millions of American families billions in higher electricity rates, and it’s clear this majority’s position on energy remains ‘less is more.’ Regrettably, very little of it will do very much to bring down the price of gas, diesel or electricity – today, tomorrow or in the future.”

Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) in a speech on the House Floor said, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you can turn off the lights on the House floor and shut off the mics, but you cannot silence the voice of millions of Americans who say with increasing clarity, ‘Give us all of the above: conservation, alternative energy, fuel efficiency, and drill more, drill here, drill now!’ House Democrats should heed the overwhelming majority of the American people who want this Congress to take immediate action to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, come together and allow the pro-drilling bipartisan majority a fair and open debate on the American Energy Act." [See WIMS 8/13/08, (H.R. 6566)].

Access a release from Speaker Pelosi (click here). Access a release from Representative Blunt (click here). Access a release from Representative Pence (click here). Access an earlier release on the LEASE Act (click here). Access links to various media reports (click here). [*Energy]

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Yucca Mountain Application Docketed - Triggers 3-Year+ Review

Sep 8: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has formally docketed the Department of Energy’s license application for the proposed high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, NV. The Agency staff has also recommended that the Commission adopt, with further supplementation, DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement for the repository project. The decision to docket the application follows the NRC staff’s determination that the application, submitted June 3 [See WIMS 6/3/08], is sufficiently complete for the staff to begin its full technical review. Docketing the application does not indicate whether the Commission will approve or reject the construction authorization for the repository, nor does it preclude the Commission or the agency staff from requesting additional information from DOE during the course of its comprehensive technical review.

Docketing the application triggers a three-year deadline, with a possible one-year extension, set by Congress for the NRC to decide whether to grant a construction authorization. NRC officials have stated that meeting this deadline is contingent on the agency receiving sufficient resources from Congress. After reviewing DOE’s Environmental Impact Statement and its supplements, the NRC staff determined that it would be practicable for the Agency to adopt the DOE report. However, the staff is requesting that DOE supplement some aspects of its groundwater analyses. A notice of docketing will be published soon in the Federal Register. A subsequent Federal Register notice will provide an opportunity for interested parties to seek an adjudicatory hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board regarding the NRC’s adoption of the Environmental Impact Statement or the substance of the license application.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman said, “This is a significant step forward in solving the nation’s problem of disposing of spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste currently sitting at 121 temporary locations in 39 states across the country. I am confident the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s rigorous review process will validate that the Yucca Mountain repository will safely store this waste in a manner that is most protective of human health and the environment. As energy demand in the United States grows, the expansion of commercial nuclear power will be the key to providing the large amounts of emissions-free base load power we need, and the establishment of the Yucca Mountain repository is an important step toward enabling that expansion to occur.”

Access a release from NRC (
click here). Access a release from DOE (click here). Access complete information on the Yucca application including links to all detailed documents (click here). [*Energy/Nuclear]

Monday, September 08, 2008

Everyone Blames Everyone Else For Highway Trust Fund Shortfall

Sep 5: U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters directed the Federal Highway Administration to take immediate steps to protect the solvency of the highway account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) and called on Congress to act quickly to finally address this long-predicted problem. The Administration said that the HTF "fix" was needed because "Congress ignored three years' worth of warnings." Secretary Peters said, “Time and again, the President has warned Congress of the pending shortfall and submitted fiscally prudent budgets to close the gap. Americans cannot afford to have Congress play ‘kick the can’ with highway funding for another year, another month, or frankly, another week.”

Peters called on Congress to provide immediate short-term relief by passing pending legislation, already approved by the House of Representatives, that would make an additional $8 billion available for the highway trust fund. She urged Congress, however, to avoid adding pet projects, new earmarks or unrelated provisions on the “must pass” legislation and to get the bill done by the end of next week (week of September 8). She added that the recent and sudden decline in American driving and the resulting decline in gas tax revenue during the summer had accelerated the predicted shortfall.

The Secretary said that, in order to allow for continued highway payments to states while Congress acts, the Federal government would begin making reimbursements to states on a weekly basis starting this week. In addition, she said the agency would make funds available on a pro-rated basis. For example, if there are only enough funds to cover 80 percent of requests, the highway agency will pay only 80 percent of each.

In July, the Administration opposed the House Trust Fund legislation, in part because the $8 billion would come from the government’s general fund. However, the recent decline in Federal gas tax revenue requires immediate action on legislation that has already passed the House to ensure states are not adversely affected. Peters said, “Taking money from other pressing national priorities to plug a hole caused by poor fiscal discipline sets a dangerous and disturbing precedent." She added, though, that “states are working hard to keep the nation’s bridges and roads in good repair and deserve better than IOUs from Congress.”

The Secretary said it was time to fundamentally reform the nation’s "scattered approach to transportation." She said, "Congress should do away with billions in annual earmarks and consolidate the over 100 special niche programs that require states to slice and dice federal transportation funds to do things like build museums and restore lighthouses." She noted that the Administration issued a comprehensive transportation reform proposal along those lines several weeks ago. To avoid future shortfalls, the Secretary said it was time to "embrace new funding mechanisms that respond to today’s transportation challenges and are in keeping with national energy policies." She said, "The current approach may have made sense 50 years ago, but it is ineffective and unsustainable when we are trying to reduce congestion and encouraging Americans to embrace more fuel-efficient cars.”

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, issued a brief statement regarding the Bush Administration's announcement that the Highway Trust Fund could begin to run out of money as early as this week. Senator Boxer said, "Today the Bush Administration has finally stopped denying there is a dangerous shortfall in the federal fund that helps states pay for critical highway construction. Three times the Senate has brought up legislation to restore money to the Highway Trust Fund and protect millions of construction jobs, but Republicans have put up roadblocks and filibusters over and over again. It's time that Republican opponents to action move out of the way so we can solve this transportation crisis now."

During the week of September 2, Senator Boxer held a series of field hearing to discuss the next authorization of the Federal highway, transit, and highway safety programs. This legislation will impact all Americans because it sets the policy and provides funding for surface transportation nationwide. She said the current authorization bill will expire on September 30, 2009, and she is leading the effort to develop the new transportation bill. The Committee has already begun the authorization process by holding several hearings in Washington, DC and will continue to hold hearings, meetings, and listening sessions to make sure all points of view are considered.

She said she has been working to develop a set of principles for the next bill including: Maintaining the National character of the interstate and federal highway system; Efficient movement of people and goods (including intermodal); Safety (including condition and design of infrastructure); Reducing congestion and its impacts; Sustainable funding (Trust Fund Including Alternatives); Consolidating programs substantially to refocus the program; and Establishing funding and performance criteria. She said the principals are reflected in the title for the bill, "MAP 21" (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century). She said, "One of my primary goals for this bill is to improve air quality." Another challenge, she indicated that must be addressed in the next bill is that the Highway Trust Fund, which funds the legislation primarily through gas tax receipts, and which is expected to run out of funding before the end of the 2009.

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, also commented on the announcement by the Department of Transportation that the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is not going to be able to fully meet its obligations to the states. Previously, DOT had estimated it would remain solvent until next summer. Tax receipts have been dropping precipitously in recent months due largely to high gas prices. Senator Inhofe said, "Gas receipts have been declining because the Democratic opposition to drilling for more oil has caused prices to rise." The Administration indicated their support for quick passage of legislation to restore $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund.

Senator Inhofe indicated, "Today the Department of Transportation announced that the HTF will be unable to fully meet its obligations beginning this month. While this announcement came well before anyone expected, we have been working on a solution to this problem for the quite some time. The solution I have been advocating for, an immediate restoration of $8 billion transfer that had been taken from the Highway Trust Fund in 1998, will ensure the states receive the money promised to them. This short term fix enjoys overwhelming support in the Senate, has already passed the House, and now has the support of the White House. With just three weeks left until Congress adjourns, we need to make this fix happen next week (week of September 8). I will continue to lead the effort in the Senate to make that happen.”

House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Chaired by Representative James Oberstar (D-MN) issued a statement saying, "In July, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6532, the Highway Trust Fund Restoration Act, to address the impending shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, by a bipartisan vote of 387-37. The bill restores $8.017 billion in motor vehicle user-fee revenues to the Trust Fund. Despite the overwhelming House vote in support of this legislation, the Administration threatened to veto it. Today [September 5], the Secretary of Transportation recognized the dire circumstances of the Highway Trust Fund, and reversed the Administration’s irresponsible opposition to restoring these user fee revenues. The Trust Fund is approaching a zero balance and, beginning next week, the Federal Government will be unable to pay all of the bills submitted by the States for reimbursement under the Federal-aid highway program. The Federal Government will be required to begin paying interest on unpaid bills."

Access a lengthy release from DOT that outlines immediate steps to address the shortfall (
click here). Access two releases from Senator Boxer (click here); and (click here). Access the statement from Senator Inhofe (click here). Access the statement from Representative Oberstar (click here). Access Chairman Oberstar's Floor Statement on passage of H.R. 6532 (click here). Access the Dear Colleague letter on H.R. 6532 from Oberstar, et al (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 6532 (click here). [*Transport]