Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reactions To President's Energy Policy Plan

Mar 30: Interest groups are reacting to President Obama speech at Georgetown University which outlined and clarified the President called the "Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future" -- a comprehensive national energy policy, "one that we've been pursuing since the day I took office." [See WIMS 3/30/11]. As we reported yesterday, Senate Republicans generally oppose the President's strategy and instead offered a two part plan: "First, let's increase American energy production by cutting the red tape and opening up areas that the administration has either temporarily blocked, stalled, or closed off to production. And let's block any new regulations that will drive up production costs for energy --including the administration's proposed new EPA regulations on carbon emissions. . ."

    In a blog post the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) said it agreed with President Obama on the need to increase domestic oil and gas production. They said, "Domestic energy producers want new exploration and drilling and to resume projects that were forced to shut down under the moratorium imposed last spring. While the Administration is advocating for greater domestic production, it simultaneously is preventing the permit process from operating in a timely and efficient manner. The Administration bears the responsibility to grant leases and permits for exploration and production to begin. Implicating domestic energy producers for lack of action, shortage or delay is irresponsible and inaccurate. It is time this Administration follow the policies it proposes. Action is required, not additional oratory.

    "The National Association of Manufacturers supports an 'all of the above' approach to energy supply. To successfully compete in a global marketplace, American manufacturers must have reliable, affordable and secure energy sources. By increasing domestic production and incorporating renewables into a larger energy portfolio, manufacturers will be protected from the unpredictable price swings that come along with foreign energy sources, providing the stability needed for manufacturers to grow, create high-paying jobs and invest in the future."
    NAM's Senior VP for Policy and Government Relations Aric Newhouse also released a statement on the DOI report on drilling leases released the day before and which the President referred to in his speech. He said the report "undercuts manufacturers and domestic energy producers and fundamentally mischaracterizes the leasing process. Companies are investing billions of dollars in these leases to explore for resources, which the Department has long understood to be part of the exploration process. . . Shifting blame and slowing the permitting process poses a serious threat to domestic energy exploration, which fuels the manufacturing industry, the backbone of our nation's research, innovation and job creation. . ."
    Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) said, "President Obama is right to say our nation needs to safely and responsibly develop and produce oil and natural gas in the United States while protecting our environment, and right to say we need to develop a wide range of energy sources for the future. However, he is wrong to believe that the best way to achieve these goals is to impose costly mandates and taxpayer-funded subsidies to pick energy winners and losers. American taxpayers can't afford to be burdened with billions upon billions of dollars in taxes to subsidize ethanol, electric cars, and other energy ideas that can't survive in the free market. These endless subsidies only increase the economic pain Americans are suffering, as do the greenhouse gas regulations and similar mandates the Environmental Protection Agency is imposing on our economy that drive up energy costs without improving our environment.

    "Instead of adopting a government-led model of command and control, President Obama should let American consumers and the free market determine the energy sources that best meet our economic and national security needs. This is the historic source of America's economic strength. America is rich in energy resources, and President Obama and Congress should move to make more of them available to serve the American people. This means allowing more exploration and production of oil and natural gas within our nation and offshore. President Obama should also allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that will enable us to get more oil to serve the American people from our good friend and neighbor Canada."
    The American Petroleum Institute (API) did not comment directly on the President's speech, but in two separate releases said it supports legislation introduced by Representative Doc Hastings (R-WA) that would increase access to domestic energy supplies and indicated that the DOI Report on idle leases "whitewashes government inaction." API said, "Our economy will still need oil and natural gas for decades to come. America must pursue policies that encourage responsible development of our resources instead of relying on imported energy from unstable parts of the world." They also said the DOI report, "completely whitewashes the fact that in many cases, the reason these leases have no exploration plans is that BOEMRE is sitting on those plans."
    The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) President and CEO Bob Dinneen said, "We are encouraged by President Obama's recognition of the important role domestic biofuels must play in America's energy future. When it comes to replacing imported oil, no other energy technology can match ethanol today. The productivity of American farmers is allowing us to replace 10 percent of the nation's gasoline demand with cleaner-burning ethanol today and new technologies and increased productivity will allow for even greater replacement of petroleum-based fuels in the future. America's ethanol industry stands ready to work with the Obama Administration and Congress to transform current biofuel policies to reflect the evolving nature of the industry and the fiscal concerns voiced by many on Capitol Hill. . ."
    T. Boone Pickens, oil man, wind and natural gas-powered vehicle advocate said, "Today the President articulated the national security and economic threats associated with our escalating dependence on foreign oil. With the increasing price of gasoline, natural gas is an important domestic fuel at our disposal that can replace foreign oil to power heavy-duty fleet vehicles. Converting heavy-duty trucks and high-fuel use commercial fleet vehicles to natural gas can reduce our OPEC dependence now while we wait for technology to power the vehicles of tomorrow. It is clear President Obama is committed to weaning America off Middle Eastern oil, securing our own energy future and recognizes the role natural gas can play as a domestic transportation fuel. Recent unrest in the Middle East underscores the need to take action now and I'm encouraged by the President's promise to secure America's energy future and national security by reducing our dependence on OPEC oil."
    Environmental and public policy organizations including the Sierra Club, Center for American Progress and the League of Conservation Voters released their "Cleaner Cars, Less Foreign Oil" plan, "calling for President Obama and Congress to set firm targets for ending Big Oil's stranglehold on our economy." They said, "We join the President in his call for American ingenuity and innovation and we share his vision for a safer, healthier and more prosperous nation. However, the Sierra Club is firmly opposed to the misconception that coal or nuclear power can ever be clean. Instead of perpetuating our dependence on dirty energy, we urge the President and Congress to take meaningful action to move America into a clean energy economy."
    Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said, "We need a partnership between government and business to harness our most extraordinary natural resource—American ingenuity—to develop clean, alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, hydrogen, and biofuels. The best way to reduce our dependence on oil is to make cars go farther on a gallon of gas and to invest in clean, renewable forms of energy. The president's plan outlines some important steps toward that goal. But some elements of the plan are flawed and signal a lingering attachment to outdated ways of thinking. For one, offshore oil drilling in America's Arctic Ocean is simply a bad idea. . . "And before we talk about boosting domestic gas drilling, we need to require companies to take responsibility for their actions by closing the loopholes that allow them to pump secret chemicals into the earth. . . Just like with an old clunker, at a certain point we need to stop throwing good money after bad."
    Greenpeace USA Executive Director Phil Radford said, "President Obama's energy policy has already been riddled with disasters, so it's astounding that he would encourage even greater dependence on dangerous energy sources like oil drilling and nuclear power at a time when the risks have been made all too clear. For the millions of Americans put at risk by the inherent dangers of nuclear power, or those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the Gulf oil disaster, more of the same is hardly the path toward 'Energy Security.' True leadership in the face of these disasters would mean setting out an energy plan that would move us away from our dependence on fossil fuels and dangerous nuclear power and instead harnessing abundant, safe and clean renewable energy."
   David Friedman, deputy director of the Clean Vehicles Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said, "Making our cars cleaner and more fuel efficient is the most important step we can take to cut America's oil dependence. You don't have to look further than $4 a gallon gas or turmoil in the oil markets to see why we need strong vehicle standards." UCS indicated that "To reach the President's goal of reducing oil imports by a third by 2025, U.S. petroleum imports would need to drop by at least 3.7 million barrels per day (mbd) by 2025 compared with 2008 imports of 11 mbd." They issued a plan to meet or exceed the president's 2025 savings goal, delivering total savings of more than 5 mbd.
    Access the NAM blog post (click here). Access the NAM statement on the leasing report (click here). Access the API statements (click here); and (click here). Access a release from NPRA (click here). Access a release from RFA (click here). Access the statement from T. Boone Pickens (click here). Access the release from Sierra Club et al and link to the their Cleaner Cars plan (click here). Access the statement from Earthjustice (click here). Access the statement from Greenpeace USA (click here). Access a release from UCS with more information on their analysis and proposals (click here).
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  • EPA & FDA Joint Statement On Radiation Monitoring
  • OIG Report On EPA Additional SBIR Certifications
  • Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. U.S.
  • Natural Resources Defense Council v. U.S. EPA

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

President's National Energy Policy; Republicans Object

Mar 30: President Obama delivered a lengthy speech at Georgetown University today outlining and clarifying the Administration's national energy policy. The President said in part:
    The President outlined what he called "a tumultuous time for the world" and said "the situation in the Middle East implicates our energy security.  The situation in Japan leads us to ask questions about our energy sources. . . In an economy that relies so heavily on oil, rising prices at the pump affect everybody -– workers, farmers, truck drivers, restaurant owners, students who are lucky enough to have a car.  (Laughter.)  Businesses see rising prices at the pump hurt their bottom line.  Families feel the pinch when they fill up their tank.  And for Americans that are already struggling to get by, a hike in gas prices really makes their lives that much harder.  It hurts. . .
    ". . .we have been down this road before. Remember, it was just three years ago that gas prices topped $4 a gallon.  I remember because I was in the middle of a presidential campaign. Working folks certainly remember because it hit a lot of people pretty hard.  And because we were at the height of political season, you had all kinds of slogans and gimmicks and outraged politicians -- they were waving their three-point plans for $2 a gallon gas. You remember that -- 'drill, baby, drill' -- and we were going through all that. And none of it was really going to do anything to solve the problem. There was a lot of hue and cry, a lot of fulminating and hand-wringing, but nothing actually happened. . .
    "So here's the bottom line:  There are no quick fixes.  Anybody who tells you otherwise isn't telling you the truth. . . I'm proud of the historic progress that we've made over the last two years towards that goal, and we'll talk about that a little bit.  But I've got to be honest.  We've run into the same political gridlock, the same inertia that has held us back for decades. That has to change.  That has to change.  We cannot keep going from shock when gas prices go up to trance when they go back down -- we go back to doing the same things we've been doing until the next time there's a price spike, and then we're shocked again.  We can't rush to propose action when gas prices are high and then hit the snooze button when they fall again.  We can't keep on doing that. . .
    ". . .today, my administration is releasing a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that outlines a comprehensive national energy policy, one that we've been pursuing since the day I took office. And cutting our oil dependence by a third is part of that plan. . . I understand we've got a tight fiscal situation, so it's fair to ask how do we pay for government's investment in energy. And as we debate our national priorities and our budget in Congress, we're going to have to make some tough choices.  We're going to have to cut what we don't need to invest in what we do need. Unfortunately, some folks want to cut critical investments in clean energy.  They want to cut our research and development into new technologies.  They're shortchanging the resources necessary even to promptly issue new permits for offshore drilling. These cuts would eliminate thousands of private sector jobs. . .
    "So at moments like these, sacrificing these investments in research and development, in supporting clean energy technologies, that would weaken our energy economy and make us more dependent on oil.  That's not a game plan to win the future. That's a vision to keep us mired in the past.  I will not accept that outcome for the United States of America.  We are not going to do that. . .
    A White House fact sheet summarizing some of the key points in the President's speech indicates that in 2008, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day and the President's goal is that by 2025 -- a little over a decade from now -- we will have cut that by one-third. The strategy will include: (1) Expanding Safe and Responsible Domestic Oil and Gas Development and Production by Implementing critical safety reforms; Identifying underdeveloped resources; and Developing incentives for expedited development and production. (2) Securing Access to Diverse and Reliable Sources of Energy (3) Developing Alternatives to Oil, Including Biofuels and Natural Gas. (4) Cutting Costs at the Pump with More Efficient Cars and Trucks. (5) Leading by Example With the Federal Fleet.
    Additionally, the strategy calls for charting a path  towards cleaner sources of electricity and greater energy efficiency, and remaining on the cutting edge of clean energy technology by: (1) Creating Markets for Clean Energy (i.e. Clean Energy Standard (CES) of 80% by 2035); (2) Cutting Energy Bills through More Efficient Homes and Buildings; and (3) Staying on the Cutting Edge through Clean Energy Research and Development.
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) issued a statement in response to President speech saying, "President Obama knows that the best formula for America's energy security is to subtract foreign oil from our energy mix and add better alternatives like fuel efficiency and clean energy technologies. In contrast to the know-nothing attitudes permeating Congress on climate change and clean energy, the President believes in American know-how to move our country away from dangerous and expensive sources of energy. Oil companies shouldn't be allowed to sit on drilling rights without producing, while drooling over the public land they don't yet lease. That's why the President is right to push the oil industry to drill on the tens of millions of acres they already possess, but aren't using, just as legislation I have introduced would do. I look forward to working with the Obama administration and my colleagues in Congress to enact the president's forward-looking energy policies."
    Even before the President delivered his speech on a national energy policy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was delivering a speech on the Senate floor saying, "Americans Want a Sensible Approach to Energy." He said, ". . .as we've frequently seen with this administration, what it says and what it does are often two very different things. So this morning, I'd like to discuss some of the things the administration has actually done when it comes to energy. Then I'd like to propose some things Republicans would do differently. It should go without saying that Americans are ready for action on this issue. With average gas prices approaching $4 a gallon in most parts of the country, growing uncertainty and unrest in the Middle East, and a jobs crisis here at home, Americans want the President to outline a serious plan today that will make us less dependent, not more, on foreign sources of oil, and which stimulates job creation here.
    "Unfortunately, what they've gotten instead are more of the same half-hearted proposals Democrats have trotted out every other time Americans get squeezed at the pump. Instead of facing the problem of higher energy prices head on, Democrats are once again paying lip service to these concerns with fake solutions that only aim to distract people from what they're really up to. . .
    "Tell a Democrat in Washington that gas prices are too high, and, as if on cue, they'll throw together a speech or a press conference to suggest that we open an underground oil reserve that was created to deal with calamities, not market pressures; they'll take you on a tour of some alternative car plant that promises to have one of its $100,000 prototypes to market 25 years down the road; or they'll quietly release some report to the media about how energy companies aren't working hard enough to extract oil -- while schizophrenically claiming American reserves are minuscule and that more production isn't the solution. . .
    "The idea here is to somehow blame energy companies for not producing enough energy on their own. What Democrats don't mention, however, is that a drilling lease is nothing more than an agreement with the government that a company has a right to explore for oil or gas in a certain area, not a guarantee that they'll find it. And they never see fit to mention that most of the area that could be leased is effectively off limits — thanks to the red tape factory Democrats operate here in Washington. And, honestly, are we really supposed to believe that the same administration that declared a blanket moratorium on all offshore drilling off the Gulf Coast, which chased away rigs and jobs to other countries, and which established new regulations that make getting a new drilling permit virtually impossible, now believes that energy companies aren't drilling enough?. . .
    "Initial news reports about the President's speech today mention that the administration is determined to derive 80% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources — in the year 2035. And I'm sure we could generate a great deal of bipartisan support for much of what the President will call for, assuming it doesn't involve federal mandates. But what does any of this have to do with the crisis at hand? The guy who's trying to make ends meet wants to know what you're going to do for him today, not 24 years from now. But, of course, the administration doesn't have anything to say to that guy, because the administration's energy policy isn't really aimed at him. . .
    "Consider this: just three of the areas we could tap in Alaska are thought to hold enough oil to replace our crude imports from the Persian Gulf for nearly 65 years. So the problem isn't that we need to look elsewhere for our energy. The problem is that Democrats don't want us to use the energy we have. . . the crisis we face is immediate, and it requires immediate action. And that's why Republicans have come up with two concrete proposals that will have a positive practical effect, two things we can do to give Americans relief, job creators a reason to hire, and make all of us less dependent on foreign sources of oil. First, let's increase American energy production by cutting the red tape and opening up areas that the administration has either temporarily blocked, stalled, or closed off to production. And let's block any new regulations that will drive up production costs for energy --including the administration's proposed new EPA regulations on carbon emissions. . ."
    Access the full text of the President's speech (click here). Access a White House fact sheet on America's Energy Security (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the floor speech and video from Senator McConnell (click here).
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Enviros Oppose EPA's New Proposed Cooling Water Intake Rule

Mar 28: As required by the Clean Water Act (CWA) and pursuant to a settlement agreement, U.S. EPA is proposing for public comment standards to protect billions of fish and other aquatic organisms drawn each year into cooling water systems at large power plants and factories. The proposal, based on Section 316(b) of CWA, would establish a common sense framework, putting a premium on public input and flexibility. 
    The proposed rule is one of the Republican designated, high profile EPA rulemakings which have been targeted for extensive oversight. Late last year, Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) and Chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee called on EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to provide greater transparency as the Agency considers rules for cooling water intake structures at existing electric generation and manufacturing facilities. He said, "Given that this rulemaking has the potential to affect more than 400 power plants throughout the country and could impact energy supply and reliability, I am concerned about the direction of the proposal and its timing. The potential retrofit costs could be substantial ($200-300 million per unit for coal and $700 million to $1 billion for nuclear power plants) and some coal steam generators may not have the space necessary for the installation of cooling towers and other associated equipment. This could result in the retirement of some of these generators." He called on EPA to allow 180 days at minimum for the public to digest and prepare comments for a rule of this magnitude [See WIMS 12/8/10]. 

    Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Water said, "This proposal establishes a strong baseline level of protection and then allows additional safeguards for aquatic life to be developed through a rigorous site-specific analysis, an approach that ensures the most up to date technology available is being used. It puts implementation analysis in the hands of the permit writers, where requirements can be tailored to the particular facility. The public's comments will be instrumental in shaping safeguards for aquatic life and to build a commonsense path forward. The input we receive will make certain that we end up with a flexible and effective rule to protect the health of our waters and ecosystems."

    Safeguards against impingement will be required for all facilities above a minimum size; closed-cycle cooling systems may also be required on a case by case basis when, based on thorough site-specific analysis by permitting authorities, such requirements are determined to be appropriate. EPA is proposing the regulation as a result of a settlement agreement with Riverkeeper, Inc. and other environmental groups [See WIMS 1/26/07, WIMS 4/2/09].

    EPA indicates that for "fish impingement"
(i.e. being pinned against screens or other parts of a cooling water intake structure), existing facilities that withdraw at least 25 percent of their water exclusively for cooling purposes and have a design intake flow of greater than 2 million gallons per day (MGD) would be required to reduce fish impingement under the proposed regulations. To ensure flexibility, the owner or operator of the facility will be able to choose one of two options for meeting best technology available requirements for reducing impingement. They may conduct monitoring to show the specified performance standards for impingement mortality of fish and shellfish have been met, or they may demonstrate to the permitting authority that the intake velocity meets the specified design criteria. EPA estimates that more than half of the facilities that could be impacted by this proposed rule already employ readily available technologies that are likely to put them into compliance with the proposed standard.

    For "fish entrainment"
(i.e. being drawn into cooling water systems and affected by heat, chemicals or physical stress), EPA is proposing a site-specific determination to be made based on local concerns and on the unique circumstances of each facility. The proposed rule establishes requirements for the facility owner to conduct comprehensive studies and develop other information as part of the permit application, and then establishes a public process, with opportunity for public input, by which the appropriate technology to reduce entrainment mortality would be implemented at each facility after considering site-specific factors.

    EPA indicates that because new units can incorporate the most efficient, best-performing technology directly into the design stage of the project, thus lowering costs and avoiding constraints associated with technology that has already been locked in, the proposed rule would require closed-cycle cooling (cooling towers) for new units at existing facilities, as is already required for new facilities. The public will be able to comment on the proposal upon its publication in the Federal Register. EPA will conduct a 90 day comment period, and will carefully consider those comments before taking final action on the proposal. The administrator must take final action by July 27, 2012.
    The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Riverkeeper issued a release saying, "The proposed rule, released this evening (March 28), was supposed to modernize the way power plants take in and release water used for cooling. Instead, EPA will leave it up to state agencies to figure out requirements for plants, but decades of experience have shown that states lack the resources and expertise to make these decisions on a case-by-case basis and have complained to EPA of the extreme burden of having to do so.

    Riverkeeper's Executive Director, Paul Gallay said, "We expected more out of the EPA to protect the country's waterways from power plants' destructive impacts. A case-by-case approach will simply not work. Instead, it will continue an endless cycle of paperwork and litigation that will leave water bodies across the country unprotected and countless species at risk." The groups said, "In the absence of a national cooling water rule for nearly 40 years, the country's waterways have been subjected to case-by-case determinations by individual permit writers, typically state agencies, exercising 'best professional judgment' when deciding what cooling system a plant can use." In 2001, EPA identified closed-cycle recirculating cooling systems as the best technology available for new power plants to use, but this did not extend to existing plants.

    The groups said, with nearly 500 U.S. power plants still relying on the "antiquated and destructive, once-through cooling system," each plant can withdraw at least 50 million (and often, more than a billion) gallons of cooling water. This water goes through a condenser where it absorbs heat from the boiler steam, and then is discharged back into the water at higher temperatures. Not only does this super-heated water kill marine life but billions of fish are sucked in with the water and killed with this system. Environmental groups want all power and manufacturing plants, new or old, to use closed-cycle cooling systems. This would generally reduce that amount of water taken in by 95 percent when compared with once-through cooling, leaving trillions of gallons of water untouched every year and fish out of cooling systems. Some plants have voluntarily moved to this system but other still refuse to make the move.

    Reed Super, an attorney representing Riverkeeper and others, who has worked on the cooling water rule since 2000 said, "EPA has the ability to set national standards that would protect the environment with readily-available and affordable technology, but has instead abdicated the responsibility to state agencies who are simply not equipped to make these decisions alone. Unfortunately, EPA's proposal will perpetuate the unacceptable status quo that has allowed antiquated plants to withdraw nearly 100 trillion gallons from our waters each year and indiscriminately kill fish and wildlife, instead of recycling their cooling water as modern plants have for the last three decades."

    Access a release from EPA (click here). Access EPA's Cooling Water Intake Structure website for additional information (click here). Access a release from the environmental organizations (click here).
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  • BOEMRE Issues Guidance For Offshore Deepwater Drilling
  • U.S. Climate Change Negotiator Position Announcement
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Energy Debate Begins To Heat Up With Same Old Arguments

Mar 24: Calls by President Obama in his March 11 press conference for the Department of Interior to report on the number of unused oil and gas leases on public lands, as well as proposals to end oil company subsidies; and recent Republican proposals for the Administration to stop getting in the way of more drilling have resurrected the "Use It Or Lose It" debate of a couple of years ago.
    On March 10, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) issued a statement on rising gas prices saying, "American oil production reached an 8-year high in 2010, and yet prices continue to climb. We need to finally enact clean energy solutions that will tell Gaddafi and the Saudis that we don't need their oil any more than we need their sand. Despite the Republican rhetoric, the oil and gas industry has more leases to drill for oil in the U.S. then they can even make use of.  Last year the Bureau of Land Management issued 4,090 drilling permits, but industry drilled only 1,480 new wells, or just a little over a third of what they own. And of the 79 million acres of public lands the oil companies hold under lease, they are only actually producing oil on 18.5 million acres, only under a quarter of what they hold."
    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) released the following statement on Congressional Democrats and the White House's "use it or lose it" claims regarding energy leases. Rep. Hastings said, "In an attempt to shift blame for rising gasoline prices, President Obama and Congressional Democrats are desperately attempting to resurrect an old, discredited myth. But their story doesn't match reality. Federal regulations and laws, especially those imposed by the Obama Administration, are the greatest factors affecting the pace of developing leases. The Administration has imposed regulation after regulation, roadblock after roadblock, and now wants to turn around and say production is not moving fast enough. The Obama Administration can't have it both ways. The truth is that 'use it or lose it' is already law. The moment a lease is issued the clock starts ticking and rent is paid every year to taxpayers. Instead of recycling old myths, the Obama Administration should examine their own polices that block American energy production and cost American jobs."
    House Speaker John Boehner also indicated in a blog posting entitled Deja Vu: Dems Push 'Use It or Lose It' Hoax to Distract From Policies Driving Up Gas Prices, Costing U.S. Jobs saying, President Obama and Senate Democrats recently claimed American job creators are essentially 'sitting' on energy leases and doing nothing with them. The Speaker said, "We won't reduce our dependence on foreign oil if politicians in Washington remain dependent on hollow talking points like 'use it or lose it.'   Americans are looking for real solutions and a sustained commitment to expanding American energy production that will lower gas prices and create more jobs, which is what our American Energy Initiative is all about."
    Meanwhile, 48 Senate Democrats issued a release last week and letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) calling on Republicans to abandon a proposal they say would make excessive speculation in the oil markets even worse. They said, "Republicans' reckless spending bill, H.R. 1, would reduce funding for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) by one-third, forcing layoffs to the watchdog agency that polices market manipulation that drives up oil prices. Experts say that with demand fairly stable and supply at an all-time high, speculation is a factor driving up gas prices. One expert said speculation may add as much as $1.50 a gallon to the price consumers pay at the pump for gasoline."
    The Senators said, "We find it equally troubling that your preferred budget would cut billions of dollars in investments in critical programs focused on developing new alternative fuels and clean energy technologies, undermining our competitiveness and increasing our trade deficit with oil producing nations. We urge you to reverse these policies that will only set our nation backward, and put America's independence from foreign oil even further out of reach. . ."
    In a blog posting by the Wilderness Society on March 22, they said, "With summer driving season just a few months off, the oil companies and their allies in Congress have begun to beat the drum about 'more drilling.' They say that it will lower the price at the pump, although that simply isn't so. In fact, the United States on an annual basis drills more oil and gas wells than any other country on earth. We're even producing more oil today than we were in any of the Bush years – but that production has had zero impact on reducing prices.  Why? Because the world oil price determines the price of our gasoline at the pump, and that is affected by issues unrelated to our production, such as protests in the oil-rich middle east and rising demand from China.

    While the oil companies loudly push for more drilling, there is something else they are happy to keep quiet. The oil companies are sitting on more than 29 million acres of onshore federal oil and gas leases that they are not even using – an area bigger than the state of Ohio, locked up by oil companies. And they are not only sitting on tens of millions of acres of federal leases they aren't using, they also aren't using  thousands of drilling permits that were issued to them last year by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management. . ."

    Erik Milito, upstream director for American Petroleum Institute (API) , called the "use-it-or-lose-it" argument "a convenient way to detract attention from policies that undermine the mission of supplying Americans with the energy they need." He said, ". . . we'd like to set record straight – again – regarding charges by administration officials and members of Congress that American oil and natural gas companies are sitting on oil leases granted by the government, stubbornly refusing to turn them into producing leases. . . So to set the record straight, we are making available to you two fact sheets – one for offshore and one for onshore – that explain exploration and production timelines. We believe they offer a thorough explanation of just what is involved, and how long it takes to turn a lease into a producing field – as much as 10 years. . . It is ridiculous for anyone to imply that these companies would be willing to spend billions of dollars to acquire leases, and then simply sit on them while their competitors around the world are busy producing oil and natural gas. . ."

    Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Hastings (click here). Access the blog posting from Speaker Boehner (click here). Access the Republican's American Energy Initiative Facebook page (click here). Access a release from Senate Democrats (click here). Access the blog post from the Wilderness Society (click here). Access a release from API and link to the fact sheets and the complete statement (click here).
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  • EPA Advisors To Review Report To Congress On Black Carbon
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Friday, March 25, 2011

New International Effort To Tackle "Trash In Our Oceans"

Mar 25:  With vast amounts of marine litter posing multiple threats, from harming wildlife to damaging tourism to loading the human food chain with potentially cancer-causing toxins, a United Nations conference issued a call for concerted action against "an evil present in all the world's seas." In a commitment statement issued at the end of week-long meeting in Honolulu, experts from governments, research bodies, businesses and trade associations stressed the urgent need to improve global waste management, voicing concern at the growing presence of plastic debris among other rubbish discarded into the oceans, on shore, or brought indirectly to the sea by rivers, sewage, storm water or winds. The conference included delegates from some 35 countries, governments, scientific bodies, and corporations such as Coca-Cola Company and trade associations such as Plastics Europe.

    UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner, whose agency organized the meeting in cooperation with the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said, "Marine debris -- trash in our oceans -- is a symptom of our throw-away society and our approach to how we use our natural resources. It affects every country and every ocean, and shows us in highly visible terms the urgency of shifting towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy."

    Monica Medina, NOAA's Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere said, "This conference comes at a critical time for our world. The oceans and coasts are facing a multitude of stressors, including marine debris, that lead to consequences that have both ecosystem and economic impacts. It is vitally important to bring together people committed to these issues to share ideas, develop partnerships and move us all a step closer to the changes that are badly needed for our oceans and coasts."

    The "Honolulu Commitment" issued at the end of the meeting, the 5th International Marine Debris Conference, calls on "international organizations, governments at national and sub-national levels, industry, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), citizens and other stakeholders" to halt and reverse the occurrence of marine debris by minimizing waste and turning it into a resource in an environmentally sustainable manner. Citing the harmful impact of marine debris, UNEP said some 270 species worldwide are affected by entanglement in or ingestion of the trash marine, including 86 per cent of all sea turtles species, 44 per cent of all seabird species and 43 per cent of all marine mammal species.

    Waste management is one of 10 economic sectors highlighted in UNEP's Green Economy Report launched last month, highlighting enormous opportunities for turning land-based waste, the major contributor to marine debris, into a more economically valuable resource [See WIMS 2/22/11]. The value of the waste-to-energy market, for example, was estimated at $20 billion in 2008 and is projected to grow by 30 per cent by 2014.

    Also, in a major report issued two years ago -- Marine Litter: A Global Challenge -- UNEP detailed the human actions, accidental or intentional, that are the sources of marine litter. Ocean-based sources include merchant shipping, cruise liners, fishing vessels and military as well as offshore oil and gas platforms and drilling rigs, and aquaculture. On land, the culprits include beaches, piers, harbors, marinas, docks and riverbanks, and municipal landfills located on the coast, as well as rivers, lakes and ponds that are used as illegal dump sites, discharges of untreated municipal sewage and storm water, industrial facilities, and medical waste.

    Access a release from the UN with links to more information and the Honolulu Commitment (click here). Access a more detailed release from UNEP with further links to related information (click here).

  • American Chemistry Council CEO Discusses TSCA & REACH
  • Changes Proposed For 2011 TSCA Inventory Update Reporting
  • NOAA, FDA Continue To Re-Test Gulf Seafood & Post Results
  • Roundtable For Sustainable Biofuels Certification System
  • Laboratory Guidelines For Working With Hazardous Chemicals
  • EPA Seeks Applicants For RE-Powering America's Land
  • Study Compares Polystyrene Foam To Paper- Or Corn-Based Products
  • Earth Hour 2011: Saturday March 26, 8.30 PM

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Detailed Forensic Report On BP Oil Spill Blowout Preventer

Mar 23: The Department of Interior (DOI), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Joint Investigation Team (JIT), which is examining the Deepwater Horizon explosion and resulting oil spill, announced that it will hold a seventh session of public hearings the week of April 4, 2011. The hearings, which will focus specifically on the forensic examination of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout preventer (BOP), are scheduled to take place at the Holiday Inn Metairie at the New Orleans Airport. 
    BOEMRE and the Coast Guard have made the extensive, detailed forensic examination report available. The report was prepared by U.S. Det Norske Veritas (DNV) Columbus, the contractor that performed the examination and has now been released to the parties-in-interest in the investigation, members of the Technical Working Group who witnessed the examination at NASA's Michoud Facility in New Orleans, and the public. 
    The forensic examination is one aspect of the much broader comprehensive investigation into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, loss of life, casualty loss, and the subsequent oil spill. Over the course of its investigation, the JIT heard testimony from more than 70 witnesses and examined a broad range of material including photographs, video, data, documents, and physical evidence. Although the full investigation report is not expected to be released until sometime this summer, a report on the BOP and other matters is scheduled to be issued within the next month.
    In brief summary the report recounts that, "On the evening of April 20, 2010 control of the well was lost, allowing hydrocarbons to enter the drilling riser and reach the Deepwater Horizon, resulting in explosions and subsequent fires. The fires continued to burn for approximately 36 hours. The rig sank on April 22, 2010. From shortly before the explosions until May 20, 2010, when all ROV intervention ceased, several efforts were made to seal the well. The well was permanently plugged with cement and "killed" on September 19, 2010."
    One of the conclusions regarding the BOP which is designed to shear and seal the drill pipe should an accident occur, is that, "The drill pipe within the BOP stack was under a compressive load that elastically buckled the pipe between the Upper VBRs and the Upper Annular. This elastic buckling condition forced the drill pipe toward the sidewall of the wellbore and outside of the cutting blade surfaces of the BSRs. When the ram blocks closed they were not able to overcome the
buckling forces holding the drill pipe against the sidewall of the wellbore. The blocks could not reposition the entire circumference of the drill pipe to within the shearing surfaces of the BSRs."
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) the current top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, and whose Subcommittee in the last Congressional session conducted many hearings on the BP oils spill, issued a statement on the release of the report. The Markey release summarizes the conclusion of the study saying, ". . .multiple mechanisms deployed as designed inside of the BOP, including the so-called 'blind shear rams.' However, since the drilling pipe inside of the large, multi-ton safety device had buckled, the cutting devices hit the pipe off-center, failing to fully sever the drilling pipe and allowing oil to continue to flow."
    Rep. Markey said, "A blowout preventer is like a car's airbag. It can't prevent the car accident, but it is supposed to deploy and prevent fatalities. This report calls into question whether oil industry claims about the effectiveness of blowout preventers are just a bunch of hot air. It isn't clear from this report that blowout preventers can actually prevent major blowouts once they've started. We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the blind shear rams did not seem to work. The spill commission's report said that the problems within the oil industry that led to the BP spill were systemic, and not unique to this disaster. Now we know there could also be systemic design issues with blowout preventers that could cause them to be ineffective, even when deployed as intended. We need a full review of every single blowout preventer used in United States waters, and revisit the designs of these supposed machines of last resort."
    Access a release from BOEMRE (click here). Access the two volume report is available online (click here); and (click here). Access a release from Rep. Markey and link to the full exchange of correspondence between Markey and DOI on the investigation into the BOP (click here).
  • EPA Provides State "Dashboards" To Compare Water Quality Trends
  • EPA Promoted Coal Ash Use With Incomplete Risk Information
  • New Wiki Site Spotlights FOIA Violations By Obama Administration
  • DOE/NREL RFP For Wind Industry Companies
  • Nominations For Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

EPA & DOE Updates On Radiation Levels Here & In Japan

Mar 22: During a detailed analysis of four west coast RadNet air monitor filters, U.S. EPA identified trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium, and tellurium consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. EPA said, "These levels are consistent with the levels found by a Department of Energy monitor last week and are to be expected in the coming days." The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also released data recorded from its Aerial Monitoring System as well as ground detectors deployed along with its Consequence Management Response Teams. DOE said the information has also been shared with the government of Japan as part of the United States' ongoing efforts to support Japan with the recovery and response effort.
    EPA's samples were captured by three monitors in California and one in Washington State on Friday, March 18 and sent to EPA scientists for detailed laboratory analysis. The data was reviewed over the weekend and the analysis was completed Monday night (March 21). The radiation levels detected on the filters from California and Washington monitors are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern. In addition, last night preliminary monitor results in Hawaii detected minuscule levels of an isotope that is also consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. This detection varies from background and historical data in Hawaii. This isotope was detected at a fixed monitor in Hawaii, and it is far below any level of concern for human health. The sampling filter from this monitor is being sent to EPA's national radiation lab for further analysis.

    EPA said that in a typical day, Americans receive doses of radiation from natural sources like rocks, bricks and the sun that are about 100,000 times higher than what we have detected coming from Japan. EPA said, ". . .the levels we're seeing coming from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what you get from taking a roundtrip international flight." EPA is in the process of conducting detailed filter analyses for fixed monitors located in Oregon. EPA's RadNet filter results for San Francisco, Seattle, Riverside and Anaheim, California detected minuscule quantities of iodine isotopes and other radioactive particles that pose no health concern at the detected levels.
    DOE indicated in a release that on March 15, 33 experts from the Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) arrived in Japan along with more than 17,200 pounds of equipment. After initial deployments at U.S. consulates and military installations in Japan, these teams have utilized their unique skills, expertise and equipment to help assess, survey, monitor and sample areas for radiation. The 33 team members joined another six DOE personnel already in Japan. Since arriving in Japan, NNSA teams have collected and analyzed data gathered from more than 40 hours of flights aboard Department of Defense aircraft and thousands of ground monitoring points. The DOE data has been collected, analyzed and posted on the Department's website. Consistent with the President's commitment to share important information related to health and safety with the public, the Department will seek to update the data posted on its website daily.
    A release from Greenpeace citing information available from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) and the Ministry of Food Safety indicates that, "Tests carried by the Tokyo metropolitan government found 210 becquerels of iodine-131 per 1 liter of tap water in the city, more than twice the limit of 100 becquerels considered safe for: babies. [And,] the Japanese authorities have started reporting on the contamination levels found in 11 different vegetables. In many vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, from the Fukushima prefecture - the most contaminated area, the radioactivity levels exceeded safety limits set by the Ministry of Food and Safety. In Motomiya, 50 km East of the plant, the Ceasium-137 concentration in 'kukitachina' leaves was detected to be 82,000 becquerels per kilogram, 164 times the limit. Government called on consumers not to eat the 11 vegetables and food exports from the contaminated areas have been banned."
    In the release, Greenpeace said, "This alarming rise in reports of radioactive contamination in Japan's food chain and water supply once again demonstrates that the government's constant reassurances and downplaying of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and risks public health are at best unreliable. A few days ago, Tokyo Metropolitan Government stated that radiation levels had decreased in the city, yet today (March 23) warns that babies should not be given Tokyo tap water. The authorities may be trying to brave about the current crisis by trying to avoid causing panic, but are they risking people's health in the process?"

    "The Fukushima disaster once more demonstrates that it is impossible to guarantee public safety in the event of nuclear accident. Over the last two weeks, we've had inconsistent and unclear information from Japanese authorities, and often contradictory advice from international nuclear regulators. Any attempt to throw the nuclear industry a climate change lifeline in the wake of the Fukushima crisis is a dangerous deceit. The only smart response to this nuclear wake up call would be for governments around the world would be to heavily invest in energy efficiency and to redouble their efforts to harness safe and secure renewable energy sources."

    Environment America issued a release saying in part, "We must learn from this moment and never allow this fate for our children. More than 108 million Americans live within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant, and Tokyo is 150 miles from the Fukushima plant. We should be ensuring the relative safety of existing plants, putting a moratorium on any new plants, and beginning to phase out our use of nuclear power. In all cases the process should start, but not end, with plants on fault lines, near coasts or large bodies of water, in the hurricane zone or of the same design as the reactors in Japan. We can and must move away from energy technologies that put our environment and families' health at massive risk and repower our country with clean, renewable energy, like wind and solar power."

    A national opinion survey conducted by ORC International for the nonprofit and nonpartisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) of 814 Americans on March 15-16, 2011, indicates a widespread concern about nuclear power. In a release, the groups indicate, "While a drop in public support for nuclear power would be expected after an incident like the Fukushima reactor crisis, the nuclear disaster in Japan has triggered a much stronger response among Americans, a majority of whom would freeze new nuclear power construction, stop additional federal loan guarantees for reactors, shift away from nuclear power to wind and solar power, and eliminate the indemnification of the nuclear power industry from most post-disaster clean up costs." The poll found that 53% of Americans support a moratorium on new nuclear construction, and more than three in four Americans (76%) are more supportive now of making a transition from nuclear power to renewable energy, like wind and solar, than they were a month ago.
    Beyond major nuclear power policy questions, the survey also found a majority of Americans living near nuclear power plants ill equipped to deal with a major disaster. According to the survey, over half (52 percent) of Americans living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor do not know "what to do in the event of nuclear reactor emergency," such as "the evacuation route and what other steps to take." The poll indicates that nearly one in four (24 percent) of Americans say they live within 50 miles of a nuclear power reactor.   

    Access a release from EPA including the data (click here). Access more information and updates from EPA's Japanese Nuclear Emergency: Radiation Monitoring website (click here). Access a release from DOE and link to the data (click here). Access DOE's Situation in Japan website for more information (click here). Access more information about NNSA's emergency response capabilities (click here). Access a release from Greenpeace with links to the cited information, a briefing on radiation and health, and more information on Greenpeace activities in Japan (click here). Access a release from Environment America (click here). Access a release from CSI on the opinion survey with details (click here). Access the March 23 update from the UN-IAEA with more information on the food and water contamination (click here). Access the IAEA website for more information (click here).
  • Bingaman & Murkowski Release CES White Paper For Comment
  • CEQ Launches NEPA Pilot Project Program; Solicits Proposals
  • U.S. To Assist Developing Countries On Water Issues
  • EDF Reports On International Developments With EU REACH Program
  • Groups Sue Re: USDA's GE "Roundup Ready" Alfalfa Decision
  • Enviros Challenge NPDES Permit For Allegheny Energy
  • Nationwide 2010 Census Data Releases Nearly Completed

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

UN Secretary-General Issues World Water Day Message

Mar 22: Today, on International World Water Day, a day to focus attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued the following message. World Water Day, held annually on March 22, was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating March 22, 1993 as the first World Water Day. Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific aspect of freshwater. This year's theme, Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge, aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the defy of urban water management.
    In his message, the Secretary-General said, "As the world charts a more sustainable future, the crucial interplay among water, food and energy is one of the most formidable challenges we face. Without water there is no dignity and no escape from poverty. Yet the Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation is among those on which many countries lag the most. In little over a generation, 60 per cent of the global population will be living in towns and cities, with much of the increase taking place in the inner city slums and squatter settlements of the developing world. The theme of this year's observance of World Water Day -- "Water for Cities" -- highlights some of the main challenges of this increasingly urban future.
    "Urbanization brings opportunities for more efficient water management and improved access to drinking water and sanitation. At the same time, problems are often magnified in cities, and are currently outpacing our ability to devise solutions. Over the past decade, the number of urban dwellers who lack access to a water tap in their home or immediate vicinity has risen by an estimated 114 million, and the number of those who lack access to the most basic sanitation facilities has risen by 134 million. This 20 per cent increase has had a hugely detrimental impact on human health and on economic productivity: people are sick and unable to work.
    "Water challenges go beyond questions of access. In many countries, girls are forced to drop out of school owing to a lack of sanitation facilities, and women are harassed or assaulted when carrying water or visiting a public toilet. Moreover, the poorest and most vulnerable members of society often have little choice but to buy water from informal vendors at prices estimated to be 20 to 100 per cent higher than that of their richer neighbors, who receive piped city water in their homes. This is not just unsustainable; it is unacceptable.
    "Water problems will figure prominently at the forthcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, in 2012 – Rio + 20. My High-level Panel on Global Sustainability and UN-Water are examining ways in which we can connect the dots among water, energy and food security, with the aim of reducing poverty and inequality, generating jobs, and minimizing the risks of climate change and environmental stress.
    "On World Water Day, I urge governments to recognize the urban water crisis for what it is -- a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management, rather than one of scarcity. Let us also pledge to reverse the alarming decline in pro poor investment in water and sanitation. And let us reaffirm our commitment to ending the plight of the more than 800 million people who, in a world of plenty, still do not have the safe drinking water or sanitation they need for a life in dignity and good health."
    Access the Secretary-General message (click here). Access a release from the UN (click here). Access the World Water Day website for extensive information and background (click here). Access the UN WWD 2011 website (click here). Access a listing of 2011 International events (click here).
  • UN-IAEA Reports "Some Improvements" In Japanese Nuclear Crisis
  • DOE Announces Second RFI On Rare Earth Metals
  • GOP Governors Tell President About "Hostile" EPA Regulations
  • DOI Approves First New Deepwater Exploration Plan Since BP Spill
  • Finding The Blue Path For A Sustainable Economy
  • Industrial Enterprises, Inc. v. Penn America Insurance Co.
  • Huber v. New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection

Monday, March 21, 2011

EPA & DOE Report On Air Radiation Monitoring From Japan

Mar 18: In a joint statement from U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that the United States Government has an extensive network of radiation monitors around the country and no radiation levels of concern have been detected. EPA's RadNet system is designed to protect the public by notifying scientists, in near real time, of elevated levels of radiation so they can determine whether protective action is required. EPA's system has not detected any radiation levels of concern. Additionally, DOE has radiation monitoring equipment at research facilities around the country, which also have not detected any radiation levels of concern. As part of the Federal government's continuing effort to make activities and science transparent and available to the public,  EPA said it will continue to keep all RadNet data available in the current online database. 

    According to a release, as part of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization's International Monitoring System (IMS), DOE also maintains the capability to detect tiny quantities of radioisotopes that might indicate an underground nuclear test on the other side of the world. These detectors are extremely sensitive and can detect minute amounts of radioactive materials.

    The release indicates that on March 18, one of the monitoring stations in Sacramento, California that feeds into the IMS detected "miniscule quantities" of iodine isotopes and other radioactive particles that "pose no health concern at the detected levels." Collectively, the agencies said the levels amount to a level of approximately 0.0002 disintegrations per second per cubic meter of air (0.2 mBq/m3). Specifically, the level of Iodine-131 was 0.165 mBq/m3, the level of Iodine-132 was measured at 0.03 mBq/m3, the level of Tellurium-132 was measured at 0.04 mBq/m3, and the level of Cesium-137 was measured at 0.002 mBq/m3.

    Similarly, between March 16 and 17, a detector at DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State detected trace amounts of Xenon-133, which is a radioactive noble gas produced during nuclear fission that poses no concern at the detected level. The levels detected were approximately 0.1 disintegrations per second per cubic meter of air (100 mBq/m3).

    The doses received by people per day from natural sources of radiation -- such as rocks, bricks, the sun and other background sources -- are 100,000 times the dose rates from the particles and gas detected in California or Washington State. These types of readings remain consistent with our expectations since the onset of this tragedy, and are to be expected in the coming days. The release indicates that following the explosion of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine in 1986 -- the worst nuclear accident in world history -- air monitoring in the United States also picked up trace amounts of radioactive particles, less than one thousandth of the estimated annual dose from natural sources for a typical person.
    Access a release from EPA and link to a special Japanese Nuclear Emergency: Radiation Monitoring (click here).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

House Committee Approves H.R. 910; Senate Offers It As Amendment

Mar 15: The House Energy & Commerce Committee, Chaired by Chaired by Representative Fred Upton (R-MI) with Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) approved the controversial Energy Tax Prevention Act (H.R. 910) sponsored by Chairman Upton [See WIMS 3/4/11]. The final vote on the amended bill was 34-19, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting for the approval. The three Democrats voting for the bill included: Representative Mike Ross (D-AR), Jim Matheson (D-UT) and John Barrow (D-GA). Chairman Upton said, "The bill will stop "EPA's controversial backdoor climate change agenda" which "would further drive up the price of energy for American consumers and job creators at a time when gas prices are already spiking and job creation remains weak."
    Despite the defeat of several amendments offered by Democrats regarding U.S. EPA's findings on the science, causes and impacts of climate change, an amendment offered by Rep. Matheson on "the sense of the Congress" was adopted by a voice vote. The amendment indicates:
 "It is the sense of the Congress that— (1) there is established scientific concern over warming of the climate system based upon evidence from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level; (2) addressing climate change is an international issue, involving complex scientific and economic considerations; (3) the United States has a role to play in resolving global climate change matters on an international basis; and (4) [Congress should fulfill that role by developing policies that do not adversely affect the American economy, energy supplies, and employment.]" [brackets indicate an amendment to the Matheson amendment].
    On the Senate side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced an amendment Tuesday to a pending small business bill being considered by the Senate that he said is "identical to a bill, sponsored by Reps. Fred Upton, R-MI, and Ed Whitfield, R-KY, that is being considered in the House Energy and Commerce Committee." According to Sen. McConnell, the bill would stop the Environmental Protection Agency's back-door national energy tax from taking effect." The amendment was originally introduced as a stand-alone bill (S.482) by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee [See WIMS 3/4/11]. That bill has 43 co-sponsors including one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). In addition to Inhofe, McConnell was joined by two other senators who he said have taken a leadership role in the issue -- Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), ranking Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and John Barrasso (R-WY), Vice Chairman of the Republican Conference.
    Sen. McConnell indicated that the "unprecedented EPA regulations, designed to regulate carbon emissions from farmers, manufacturers and power plants, will lead to higher gasoline, grocery, electricity and natural gas prices, while stalling economic and job growth." He said, "These new regulations would destroy jobs at a time when Americans need them most. And they'd be especially devastating for states like Kentucky and other coal states. They're attempting to do through regulation what they couldn't do through legislation -- regardless of whether the American people want it or not. This is an insult to the millions of Americans who are already struggling to make ends meet or find a job."
    According to Capitol Hill reporters, "Reid attacked the block-EPA plan but said he would allow the amendment to come up for a vote." Reportedly he told reporters in the Capitol, "The Senate [small-business] bill creates jobs, and I don't know why they would want to divert attention from that. We will debate it, we will have a vote on it in due time. It is something that I don't favor, I think his amendment is very, very misguided."
    Sen. Inhofe commented on the Senate amendment and said, "The Energy Tax Prevention Act would end EPA's backdoor cap-and-trade agenda. That agenda is designed to make gasoline and electricity more expensive for consumers, families, farmers, truckers-essentially anyone who fills up or flips a switch.  It's also designed to restrict the supply and block the production of America's vast energy resources, which are the largest on Earth. Today was a wake-up call to my colleagues: we have legislation before us to help keep energy prices affordable.  Now they have a choice: to support the Obama Administration's attack on affordable energy, which will bring fewer jobs, a less competitive manufacturing sector, and a chronically sluggish economy, or vote for the Energy Tax Prevention Act to grow the economy and protect small businesses, manufacturers, and consumers from higher energy prices."
    Access the Republican markup website for amendments, votes, webcasts and statements (click here). Access the Democrats markup website for similar information and submitted opposition letters (click here). Access a release and comments on the amendment from Sen. McConnell (click here). Access a release and comments on the amendment from Sen. Inhofe (click here). Access The Hill report on Senator Reid's comments about the amendment (click here). Access legislative details of H.R. 910 (click here). Access legislative details of S.482 (click here).
  • EPA Proposes First-Ever Power Plant Rules For Mercury, Arsenic, Etc.
  • House Passes Another Short-Term Budget CR
  • USDA Study Indicates Success Of Agriculture Conservation Practices
  • Great Waters Coalition Urges Senate To Reject Budget Cuts
  • National Pork Producers, et al v. U.S. EPA