Cooler Heads Digest 26 April 2013

26 April 2013

In the News

The Climate Circus Leaves Town
Steven Hayward, Weekly Standard, 26 April 2013

Debunking the Gasland Sequel
Steve Everley, Energy in Depth, 25 April 2013

Fisker = Solyndra
Ronald Bailey, Hit & Run, 24 April 2013

Obama Administration Missed Clues on Fisker
Matthew Daly, AP, 24 April 2013

Reform the Wind PTC in 2013!
Lisa Linowes, Master Resource, 24 April 2013

Boxer’s Claims on Behalf of EPA Nominee Don’t Hold Water
Brian McNicoll, Daily Caller, 23 April 2013

Explaining Energy Gridlock
Marlo Lewis, National Journal, 22 April 2013

Dysfunction Rampant at Energy Department
Paul Chesser, National Legal & Policy Center, 22 April 2013

Europe Is Becoming a Green Energy Basket Case
Washington Post editorial, 21 April 2013

News You Can Use
Is Tesla Next?

Fisker Automotive, a luxury electric car manufacturer that benefited from almost $200 million in stimulus benefits, is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Meanwhile, informed opinion on Wall Street predicts a similar fate for Tesla Motors, another luxury electric car manufacturer that benefited from almost $460 million in stimulus benefits. According to CNN, more than 40% of the company's available shares were being held by investors who are betting the stock will go down.

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

D.C. Circuit Backs EPA's War on Coal (Although There Is a Silver Lining)

The federal D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week overturned a lower court decision that the Environmental Protection Agency could not use its veto over Clean Water Act dredge and fill permits retroactively after the Army Corps of Engineers had issued the permit. This means that the EPA acted legally in yanking the permit of Arch Coal’s Spruce Number One surface coal mine in Logan County, West Virginia, several years after the investment was made and the mine started producing coal.

“The unambiguous language of subsection 404(c) manifests the Congress’s intent to confer on EPA a broad veto power extending beyond the permit issuance,” wrote Appeals Judge Karen Henderson. The two other judges on the panel, Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Griffith, agreed with Henderson’s opinion. 

If upheld on further appeal, this means that investing in surface mining projects will be a gamble. Hundreds of millions of dollars could be lost if the EPA decides that it doesn’t like the looks of someone and cancels the permit years after it has been issued. West Virginia's congressional delegation have introduced a bill, H. R. 524, to prohibit retroactive vetoes of section 404 permits.

William Yeatman, my CEI colleague, noted in a press release that the Appeals Court sent the case back to the federal district court to determine whether the EPA's scientific case for vetoing the permit was sound.  According to William, "When all the hyperbole is stripped away, EPA’s only ‘evidence’ to justify its actions is a putative threat posed by saline effluent from the mine to an order of short-lived insects, which aren’t even an endangered species. This is plainly unreasonable: EPA shouldn’t be trading jobs for bugs absent a Congressional mandate to do so." See William's 2011 study that shows why the EPA's science is shoddy here.

EPA Critiques State Department on Keystone XL

The Environmental Protection Agency this week filed a lengthy comment on the State Department's draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the long-delayed Keystone XL Pipeline. The EPA challenges the SEIS, which finds no major environmental problems, as being based on "insufficient information in regard to alternative routes, additional greenhouse gas emissions, and the impacts of spills.” 

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline would carry oil from Alberta's oil sands and North Dakota's Bakken field to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The pipeline requires a presidential permit because it crosses the international boundary with Canada. President Barack Obama has denied issuing the permit twice on specious grounds. The new application addresses the President's objections.

The EPA's official comments are largely repeated in stronger terms in many public comments filed by opponents of the pipeline. The EPA's comments do not constitute a formal objection. That could come later, which would mean that the SEIS had become an inter-agency dispute. Such disputes under the National Environmental Policy Act are resolved by the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  At the end of the day, President Obama will make the decision. EPA's intervention gives him grounds to once again deny the Keystone permit.

Across the States
William Yeatman

Green Mandate Freeze Fails in North Carolina

By a 13-18 vote, the North Carolina House Public Utilities and Energy committee voted down SB 298, legislation that would have prevented the state’s green energy mandate increase from 3% to 12% of electricity sales. The bill had previously been passed out of the House Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Energy and Emerging Markets. Although North Carolina’s renewable energy mandate is small relative to similar production quotas in 28 other states, professional environmentalists and the green energy lobby reacted strongly in opposition to the bill, out of fear that it would engender a domino effect leading to the repeal of green energy mandates in other states.

L.A.’s Decision To Kick Coal Will Cost Ratepayers Big Time

During the 2000-2001 electricity crisis in California, Los Angelinos were spared the energy price spike that afflicted other Californians because the city-owned utility received almost 40% of its power from coal. This arrangement changed last month, when the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the city-run utility, succumbed to a long-term campaign waged by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to divest from coal. This week, the L.A. City Council added teeth to the utility’s announcement, by approving a plan to pay for a fuel switch from coal to gas at a 600 megawatt power plant in Utah with which the utility has a contract to purchase power. The City Council passed the measure unanimously (12 to 0) despite a warning from a ratepayer advocate, employed by the city, that the switch would carry a $500 capital cost, and an additional $150 million in added fuel costs.

Around the World
William Yeatman

Japan Turns To Coal, Because It’s Cheaper

Among the many harmful impacts of the Fukushima Daitchi disaster was the loss of almost 4,500 megawatts of nuclear-powered electricity generation. This is the equivalent of almost 9 average-sized power plants, and it represented a significant strain to the nation’s electricity grid. Initially, Japan relied on imported oil and gas to make up the difference in electricity generation, but this proved to be exorbitantly expensive. As a result, the country is turning to coal. Tokyo Electric, the largest state-regulated electric utility in Japan, recently added 26,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity generation. And earlier in the month, the utility negotiated unusually aggressively in securing a historically low price on coal imported from Australia. Finally, Japan's environmental regulators this month announced that they would accelerate permitting for new coal-fired power plants from 3 years (on average) to 1 year.

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,