The House and Senate Western Caucuses will hold a hearing on Tuesday, April 24, titled “The Western Economy: Perspectives of Job Creators in the West.” The hearing will take testimony from members of the Western Energy Alliance, an industry trade association representing more than 400 companies involved in oil and natural gas exploration and production in the Western States. Much of the testimony will focus on how Obama Administration permitting delays and proposed new environmental regulations are harming job creation in the energy sector. The roundtable will start at 3:00 PM in 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
In the News
Coal Ash Regulation: Latest Front in EPA’s War on Coal
Lance Brown, Master Resource, 16 April 2012
News You Can Use
Karakorum Glaciers Growing
In a study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, a team of French scientists from the National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Grenoble used satellite data to calculate that the glaciers in the Karakorum range—an important source of drinking water along the India-Pakistan border—increased in mass from 1999 to 2008.
Inside the Beltway
FOIA Reveals EPA’s Intentions on Coal Power
Politico reported this week that documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request reveal that the Environmental Protection Agency’s original plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fired power plants went much farther than the proposed rule released on March 27th. According to Erica Martinson’s story, “‘At a future date, EPA intends to promulgate emission guidelines for states to develop plans reducing [carbon dioxide] emissions from existing fossil-fuel-fired [electric generating units],’ the draft says in the first of many references to future regulations for existing power plants.”
Politico obtained EPA’s original draft rule, which was submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget on November 7th for review. OMB apparently over-ruled EPA. As it is, the rule would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. EPA claims that this will have no costs because the low price of natural gas means that utilities will only want to build new natural gas-fired plants. But if EPA had proposed to regulate existing coal and gas-fired power plants at some point in the near future, the enormous costs of replacing existing capital stock could not be concealed.
EPA may have had plans to regulate existing power plants in November, but they are singing a different tune now. EPA Assistant Administrator for Air Gina McCarthy testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee after the proposed rule was released. In reply to persistent questioning from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), McCarthy said, “We just indicated that we have no plans right now.” It should be noted that McCarthy was a top official in the administration of Mitt Romney when he was Governor of Massachusetts.
As I noted in the Digest on March 30th, EPA’s protestation that they have no plans to regulate existing power plants doesn’t mean anything. By setting New Source Performance Standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, EPA will trigger section 111d of the Clean Air Act, which will require States to develop plans to regulate emissions from existing plants. And if EPA drags its feet, environmental pressure groups will file suit to compel EPA to regulate.
One remarkable aspect of Politico’s story is how quickly EPA responded to the paper’s FOIA request and turned over the requested documents. My CEI colleague Chris Horner has been waiting for years for EPA and other federal agencies to respond to similar requests and currently has several lawsuits pending to force compliance with the law. My only thought is that at least some officials at EPA must think that letting their intentions become public will further their agenda.
House Presses President on Keystone
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly this week for a bill, H. R. 4348, to extend the highway bill for another ninety days after the current extension expires at the end of June. The final vote was 293 to 127, with 69 Democrats voting for passage. The extension includes three energy and environmental riders, including Rep. Lee Terry’s (R-Neb.) provision to require permitting the Keystone XL pipeline. Also included are Rep. David McKinley’s (R-WV) amendment to prevent EPA from regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste and Rep. Reid Ribble’s (R-Wisc.) amendment that would expedite environmental reviews of highway construction projects.
The House bill will now be conferenced with the highway bill passed earlier by the Senate. White House press secretary Jay Carney made some extraordinary statements about the Keystone provision on Friday. According to the Hill, Carney said that permitting the 1700-mile pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf coast would be “preemptively sacrificing American sovereignty” and that it would be “a foreign pipeline built by a foreign company emanating from foreign territory to cross U. S. borders.”
Carney also said that Rep. Terry’s amendment had been added to the highway bill in a “highly politicized, highly partisan way.” That is odd, considering that increasing numbers of Democrats in the House support overriding President Obama’s opposition to permitting the pipeline. One supporter is Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the Democratic Whip. The Senate narrowly defeated an amendment to permit the pipeline last month on a 56 to 42 vote (with 60 required for passage). Eleven Democrats voted for the amendment. That’s about as bi-partisan as the Senate gets these days.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reacted to the House vote by saying that the Senate had clearly rejected permitting the Keystone pipeline and would not agree to the House language in conference committee. But the New York Times noticed in a news article that Democratic support for President Obama’s obstructionism was clearly crumbling in the face of public support for the pipeline and the November elections.
Among Energy Voters, Romney and Obama Virtually Tied
A major poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has found that 61% of the 2,400 registered voters interviewed rate energy as a very important issue in determining whether they will vote for President Barack Obama or the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in November. Of those who rate energy a top issue, 47% would now vote for Obama and 49% for Romney.
Across the States
Twenty-four States File Challenge against EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule
On Monday, twenty-four States filed a legal challenge to EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) Rule, which is also known as the Utility MACT. They are Texas, Florida, Alabama, Alaska, Nebraska, Arizona, Michigan, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma, South Carolina, West Virginia, Idaho, Virginia, Iowa and Wyoming. It is the largest number of States to challenge an EPA regulation.
MATS would be potentially the most expensive regulation ever. EPA estimates it would cost $10 billion annually; industry estimates are much, much higher.
EPA’s absurd justification for the regulation is to protect America’s supposed population of pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen, who consume more than 300 pounds of self caught fish annually, from only the 99th percentile most polluted inland, freshwater bodies. Notably, EPA has not identified a single purported victim; rather, they are modeled to exist. According to Inside EPA (subscription required), the States will argue that EPA failed to address adequately the impact of MATS on electric reliability.
Around the World
Kyoto Leads to UK Emissions Outsourcing
The United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released a new report estimating carbon leakage in the United Kingdom. Carbon leakage is the extent to which carbon dioxide emissions are “outsourced” to other countries after policies are implemented to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. As the report notes, there have been large increases in imported goods from countries like China which have not adopted limits on carbon dioxide emissions. The study concludes that when these outsourced emissions are taken into account, total U. K. emissions have actually increased 35% from the 1990 baseline year, while the U.K.’s goal was to reduce emissions by 12.5% by 2010. CEI’s Marlo Lewis has more on the study here.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.