Cooler Heads Digest 17 July 2015

17 July 2015

In the News

Is Carbon Capture a “System of Emissions Reduction”?
Marlo Lewis,, 16 July 2015

PRC Should Fight EPA on Haze Rules
William Yeatman, Albuquerque Journal, 16 July 2015

EPA Distorts Health Benefits of Mega-Costly Clean Air Rule
George Russell, Fox News, 16 July 2015

Renewable Energy Standards Reconsidered as States Question Mandates
Valerie Richardson, Washington Times, 16 July 2015

The Inconvenient Truth about Climate Policy
Benjamin Zycher, U.S. News & World Report, 16 July 2015

Lawmaker Grills EPA Chief for Claiming .01 Degree of Averted Global Warming is “Enormously Beneficial”
Michael Bastasch, Daily Caller, 16 July 2015

Colorado Environmental Group Caught Misleadingly Listing Companies as Supporters
Jillian Kay Melchior, National Review, 16 July 2015

Infograph: How Rocky Mountains Are Becoming Major Energy Supplier, 15 July 2015

James Hansen: Revisiting His False Alarms (10 Year Warning Coming Due!)
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 14 July 2015

Have Faith in the Shale Gale
Kathleen Hartnett White, The Hill, 14 July 2015

Federal Court Slams Ethanol and EPA in One Ruling
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner, 14 July 2015

News You Can Use
Study: Utica Play Bigger Than Expected

RigZone this week reported on a study by West Virginia University that estimates the technically recoverable fossil fuel resources in the Utica shale formation (covering much of eastern Ohio) to be far larger than previously thought. According to the paper, the Utica play contains technically recoverable resources of 782 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas and around 1.9 billion barrels of oil. That’s higher than the U.S. Geological Survey’s 2012 estimate of technically recoverable resources at 38 Tcf of gas and 940 million barrels of oil.

Inside the Beltway
William Yeatman

Stream Buffer Zone Rule: Worse Than Expected

On Thursday, 16th July, the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining released its proposed “stream buffer” rule. The rule is a big new front in the administration’s war on coal, and it’s even worse than expected.

Section 515(b) of the 1977 Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) requires that surface coal mining companies minimize disturbances to streams, and environmentalists long have been pushing the Obama administration to interpret this provision by banning coal mining within 100 feet of streams. Greens prefer this interpretation because it would effectively ban surface coal mining in Appalachia. There, the steep terrain necessitates the disposal of mining debris at the base of mountains, where rainwater collects into ephemeral streams. By prohibiting mining activity within 100 feet of ephemeral streams, the environemtalists recommended stream buffer rule would ban disposal of mining debris in “valley fills,” which would effectively ban mining.

As such, the fear has been that Interior's proposal would target (and eliminate) surface coal mining in Appalachia. Alas, the proposed rule has the potential to do this and much more.

Although the rule doesn’t explicitly adopt a rigid stream “buffer,” it has the potential to ban “valley fills” and, therefore, to ban surface coal mining in Appalachia. By requiring “similarity” between “post mining drainage patterns” for ephemeral streams and “pre-mining drainage patterns,” the rule could effectively preclude the use of valley fills, due to the fact that they (valley fills) irrevocably change the drainage patterns of ephemeral at the base of mountains. The severity of this aspect of the proposal will depend on how the administration defines “similarity.” And this is but one of many new proposed requirements for valley fills.

Equally alarming is the expansive scope of the proposal, which bootstraps entirely unexpected and novel regulatory regimes into the SMCRA program. For example, Interior proposes to condition surface mining permits on controls for conductivity, or salinity. Currently, EPA’s conductivity regulations are limited to Appalachian States, and they are extremely controversial. By requiring conductivity controls for SMCRA permits, EPA would achieve a gross expansion of this existing Clean Water Act program. This is a scary proposition, as saline effluent (i.e., conductivity) is ubiquitous. An engineer once told me that you couldn’t wash a parking lot without violating EPA’s conductivity standards.

In sum, we thought that the rule would unreasonably target surface coal mining in Appalachia. But it seems that Interior's expansive interpretation poses a danger to coal production in the west, too.

Across the States
Myron Ebell

San Francisco Catholic Group Spends Millions To Promote Pope Francis’s Climate Encyclical

The Knights of Saint Francis of Assisi, a non-profit organization based appropriately in San Francisco, has taken out a number of full-page color ads in major newspapers in the last two weeks that promote Pope Francis’s climate encyclical, Laudato Si’.  I have seen multiple ads in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, and have heard that the ads also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.  They may be running in other papers as well.

The newspaper ads have short quotes from the encyclical.  One reads: “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”  Another: “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”  These two could be bumper stickers: “People occasionally forgive, but nature never does;” and “It is man who has slapped nature in the face.”

In addition, the group has been running radio ads promoting the encyclical frequently on at least two radio stations—WTOP and WMAL in Washington.  The voice is provided by Morgan Freeman, who played God in two movies.  And there are at least several bus stops in Washington with Knights’ ads. 

The Knights of Saint Francis of Assisi was founded and is chaired by Angela Alioto, a prominent Democrat who was president of the San Francisco board of supervisors for eight years in the 1990s.  Her father, Joseph Alioto, was mayor of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Alioto founded the Knights in 2008 to build and maintain a replica of the chapel known as Porziuncola built by Saint Francis in 1206.  The replica, the Porziuncola Nuova, is in the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is a landmark on Columbus Ave. in San Francisco’s North Beach.  The group’s most recent IRS 990 form for 2013 reports income of $88,629.

There isn’t much information about the media campaign on the Knights’ web site.  There is little more on the group’s Facebook page.   But I have found no information that explains how a group that received $88,629 in donations in 2013 is paying for a multi-million dollar campaign to promote the Pope’s climate encyclical.  Clearly, the organization is being used as a pass-through by some very wealthy individual(s) or group.  Did anyone say Tom Steyer or the TomKat Foundation?

Around the World
Marlo Lewis

Dueling Opinion Polls: Is Climate Change the Top Global Concern – or Lowest?

A Pew Research Center survey of 45,435 respondents finds that “publics in 19 of 40 nations surveyed cite climate change as their biggest worry, making it the most widespread concern of any issue included in the survey.” Climate change ranks particularly high “in Latin America and Africa, where majorities in most countries say they are very concerned about this issue.”

But this just in, reported today on WattsUpWithThat. The United Nations “My World” Initiative, a global survey of citizens from all countries with votes currently totaling 7,679,273, finds that climate change “is dead last in the list of concerns queried.”

In the my world survey, action on climate change ranks behind a good education, better health care, better job opportunities, an honest and responsive government, affordable and nutritious food, protection against crime and violence, access to clean water and sanitation, support for people who can’t work, better transportation and roads, equality between men and women, reliable energy at home, freedom from discrimination and persecution, political freedoms, protecting forests, rivers, and oceans, and phone and internet access.

How can these surveys get such different results? The Pew survey results are skewed by the form of the question posed. The survey does not ask people which health and welfare issues they care about most. Rather, it asks them to rank their concerns about seven “global” issues. 

Four of the “global” issues are predominantly regional (ISIS, Iran’s nuclear program, tensions between Russia and its neighbors, territorial disputes between China and its neighbors). So unless respondents happen to live in the Mideast, Ukraine, or South China Sea, they are unlikely to be “very concerned.”

The UN survey reveals that, for most people, the biggest challenges to their health and welfare are not global but national, local, and familial. Of 16 issues considered, climate change places last.

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,