Friday, May 8, 2009

Inhofe, Barrasso Show Green Group Wants to Regulate Schools, Farms, Hospitals, Nursing Homes, and Other Small Sources

Senators James Inhofe and John Barrasso responded today to statements made by the Center for Biological Diversity concerning the group's intent to force the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from schools, hospitals, nursing homes, farms, and thousands of other small sources.

As reported recently by the Dow Jones newswire, Kassie Siegel, director of CBD's Climate Law Institute, said that, "her group is prepared to sue for regulation of smaller emitters if the EPA stops at simply large emitters."  However, the following day, Siegel retracted her statement in Greenwire: ""The Center for Biological Diversity is not going to sue the EPA to regulate small sources of carbon dioxide, nor is anyone else. Characterizing it that way is an incredibly cynical ploy by Barrasso and [Sen. James] Inhofe to block solutions to the climate crisis and create a distraction from the real issues."

But Greenwire also reported that the group wants EPA to regulate "big hospitals." "In order to stave off the effects of climate change," Greenwire reported, "EPA may eventually have to regulate sources like big hospitals that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, said William Snape, senior counsel with the center..."   This raises several questions: Does the CBD also want to regulate big schools, big nursing homes, and big farms?  How do they define ‘big'?

"The Center for Biological Diversity seems to be confused about its position," Sen. Inhofe said.  "But one thing is clear: this group likes to file lawsuits, and lots of them, and they've made clear that the only way to avert global warming is to regulate every school, hospital, farm, nursing home, and any other source that emits more than a specified amount of carbon dioxide."

“I appreciate the CBD’s original honesty,” Sen. Barrasso said, “But this is just more Washington doubletalk.  In Wyoming we take people at their word.  If the CBD says they will sue, I assume they mean it.  The CBD has stated on the record that they intend to sue small emitters such as schools and hospitals.  The real losers here will be small business owners, farmers, patients, and students.”

On November 28, 2008, the CBD filed comments on EPA's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.  The following excerpts show clearly that CBD believes small sources such as schools and hospitals should be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and that EPA cannot exercise legal flexibility to exempt them.  As the CBD makes clear, EPA cannot circumvent the 100-250 ton threshold of the Clean Air Act's Prevention of Significant Deterioration program:

- "The EPA should comply with its statutory mandate to enact the regulations that are necessary in order to avert climate disaster."

- "The EPA estimates that the number of permits issued each year would increase from 200-300 per year to 2,000-3,000 per year.106 The EPA asserts, without any support, that regulating smaller sources through the NSR will be inefficient and would create a problematic administrative burden. Then the EPA proposes a number of creative yet legally unsupportable proposals to ‘solve' the asserted problems. As a threshold matter, the asserted belief of EPA officials that the statutory requirements are burdensome or not ‘efficient' as they should be simply does not excuse the agency from following the law. The EPA has no authority to weaken the requirements of the statute simply because its political appointees don't like the law's requirements."

- Several of the suggestions that the EPA has advanced are outside the scope of its authority. The EPA has no authority to set higher GHG major source cutoffs and significance levels. The EPA may not "calculate the costs and benefits of a PSD program for that universe of affected sources, and select a cutoff that optimizes the benefit cost ratio."

- This is not the statutory standard, and such a system is subject to manipulation and abuse, as demonstrated by the CAFÉ system, in which NHTSA manipulates inputs into a cost-benefit model in order to keep "optimal" fuel economy levels suppressed. The EPA has no authority to implement a "scaling approach," nor to designate a "de minimis" level of GHG emissions that is higher than the 250 ton per year threshold.108 And the EPA's proposal to increase the 250 ton limit by a factor of 3.6 by using a carbon equivalent measure instead of CO2 is certainly creative, but highly legally questionable. The PSD threshold requirements do not present one of "those rare cases in which congressional intent differs" from the plain meaning of the statutory language. And there is no legal support for EPA's proposal to interpret "major emitting facility" in a way that is "more narrow" than the plain statutory language."

- "Such administrative issues are not legally cognizable reasons to ignore the statute's requirements, and should not be allowed to stand in the way of achieving the emissions reductions necessary to avert climate catastrophe. The reality of the climate crisis is that we must ultimately reduce emissions from all pollution sources. The strength of the CAA is that it provides an existing regulatory structure with a proven track record of success to do just that. The EPA should comply with its statutory mandate to enact the regulations that are necessary in order to avert climate disaster."

Also, the ANPR, on page 479, contains discussion of the possibility that small sources could face regulation: "Currently, EPA estimates that EPA, state, and local permitting authorities issue approximately 200-300 PSD permits nationally each year for construction of new major sources and major modifications at existing major sources. Under existing major source thresholds, we estimate that if CO2 becomes a regulated NSR pollutant (either as an individual GHG or as a group of GHGs), the number of PSD permits required to be issued each year would increase by more than a factor of 10 (i.e. more than 2000-3000 permits per year), unless action were taken to limit the scope of the PSD program under one or more of the legal theories described below. The additional permits would generally be issued to smaller industrial sources, as well as large office and residential buildings, hotels, large retail establishments, and similar facilities. These facilities consist primarily of equipment that combusts fuels of various kinds and release their exhaust gases through a stack or vent."

EPW Leaders Introduce Major Legislation to Protect and Maintain Water Infrastrucure

Senator Inhofe, together with U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD),Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), along with and subcommittee ranking member Mike Crapo (R-ID), joined together to introduce The Water Infrastructure Financing Act, which provides the foundation for our nation’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.  This bipartisan agreement makes important reforms and increases investment in the Clean Water State Revolving fund, which has not been reauthorized in 22 years, and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which has not been reauthorized since 1996.

 

The bill contains authorizations for Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, expands eligibility for funding for projects including storm water management, water conservation, or efficiency projects, reuse and recycling projects.   

 

“I am pleased to join Senators Cardin, Crapo, and Boxer in introducing bipartisan legislation today that will help address many of our nation’s most pressing water needs,” Senator Inhofe said. “Through my leadership position on the EPW Committee, I have made reauthorization of the SRF one of my top priorities—and we have come together to put forward a bill that balances the needs of all states, especially rural states like Oklahoma.  We simply cannot afford to shortchange our nation’s water needs; in fact, investments in water infrastructure prior to disasters can even save us money. Yet for nearly twenty years, the federal government has burdened state and local government with unfunded mandates.  While this bill faces a tough road ahead, I believe our bipartisan agreement represents the best opportunity in two decades to get a SFR bill signed into law.”

 

Link to Text of Bill

 

ESA not a Climate Law - Interior Makes Right Call

Senator Inhofe issued the following statement today in response to the decision by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to retain a special rule issued in December for protecting the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act.  

“I applaud the Secretary of Interior for making the right call and applying a common-sense approach to the Endangered Species Act,” Senator Inhofe said. “Secretary Salazar is absolutely correct: ‘The Endangered Species Act is not the proper mechanism for controlling our nation’s carbon emissions.’ The same is also true of the Clean Air Act or any other federal law.” 

 

Inhofe Statement on Obama EPA Budget Proposal

Senator Inhofe issued the following statement yesterday in response to the Obama Administration’s release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed budget.

“I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the justification for EPA’s budget with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at next week’s EPW Committee hearing,” Senator Inhofe said. “I would note that EPA’s dramatic budget increase comes at a time when many other federal agencies are being forced to make drastic cuts. The EPW Committee will question whether EPA has set the right priorities and properly balanced environmental protection with economic growth.”  

 

Democrats Mission to Kill Yucca Mountain

Yesterday, Senator Inhofe criticized Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s announcement this week that Yucca Mountain is “history.”  

“The Democrats’ approach to Yucca Mountain is clear – politics trumps science,” Senator Inhofe said. “As of today, over $7.7 billion has been spent researching Yucca Mountain as a potential repository site, and neither the National Academy of Sciences, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, nor any of our National Labs involved in conducting studies and evaluating data have concluded that there is any evidence to disqualify Yucca Mountain as a repository. Taxpayers face up to $11 billion in liability costs for the Department of Energy’s failure to begin accepting used fuel in 1998.  Unless the Department begins accepting used fuel by 2020, that liability will grow an additional $500 million with each passing year.   

“It is particularly interesting that Majority Leader Reid would choose to make this announcement before the League of Conservation Voters. The eco-liberal agenda – and apparently the Democrats’ agenda - is to kill nuclear energy, period.   By attempting to kill Yucca Mountain, Democrats will significantly slow the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States, and, as a result, kill thousands of jobs and a chance to strengthen America’s energy security.”  

Back on Janunary 14, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared, "Yucca Mountain is not a jobs program."  According to a report from the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the Yucca Mountain Project accounted for 3,650 jobs and contributed $195.7 million to the state's economy in the year 2000 alone.  However, due to Sen. Reid’s continued efforts to starve the project of its needed funding, 1,860 jobs have been cut since 2007.  Historically, 80-90% of those jobs have been in Nevada.  Sen. Reid’s answer seems to be: “Hold on, green jobs are coming.”  Not much comfort for former employees of the Yucca Mountain Project who are now struggling to provide for their families.

 

The Obama Administration’s approach to Yucca Mountain led Senator Inhofe and sixteen of his Republicans colleagues to send a letter on April 29, 2009, to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking about his comment that Yucca Mountain is “not an option” for disposing nuclear waste.  Specifically, in the letter, the Senators raised several questions about the legal, scientific, and technical justifications for the Obama Administration’s decision to derail the Yucca Mountain project, which has been studied for decades and supported by the National Academy of Sciences and other leading scientific organizations as a viable storage site for nuclear waste. 

 

 

Inhofe Statement on EPA Draft RFS 2 Rule

Senator Inhofe issued the following statement Tuesday in response to an Environment Protection Agency (EPA) draft rule for increasing the supply of renewable fuels, as mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

"EPA's proposed rule clearly reinforces the concerns I raised during debate on the 2007 energy bill," Senator Inhofe said. "I opposed that bill because I thought it would harm consumers and fail to strengthen our energy security. The reason is clear: A year and a half later few dispute that Congress erred in pushing too much ethanol too fast. Now we're stuck with a proposed EPA rule that magnifies the bill's flaws. Notable among the bill's many flaws is EPA's requirement to measure the immeasurable - the increases in CO2 emissions from indirect land use changes due to bio-fuel mandates. A farmer plants a new acre of corn in Iowa? Well, EPA will somehow quantify the effect that has on increased carbon emissions in Uruguay, Malaysia, or maybe India.

"In light of ethanol's blend wall, its economic feasibility, and its transportation and infrastructure needs, Congress should reassess the achievability of these mandates and their potential ramifications on consumers, America's energy security, and the environment."

 

 

IF A TREE FALLS IN THE FOREST…

“If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”  The philosopher George Berkeley once pondered this question.  Today, we wonder the same about Al Gore’s ambitious, 3-year, $300 million media blitz to convince the public that climate change is something they should care about.  As Gore explained with all his might to the Washington Post:

“This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public's sense of urgency in addressing this crisis.  I've tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it.” 

The $300 million effort, dubbed the ‘We Campaign,’ was spearheaded by Gore’s new climate outfit, the Alliance for Climate Protection.  It features, among other tidbits, heartwarming commercials of Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi, sitting side-by-side on a couch, calling for climate action.  Another ad, narrated by actor William Macy, makes parallels to America’s historical challenges. “We didn't wait for someone else to storm the beaches of Normandy,” Macy said in the ad. With all of this fancy ad-making, one wonders: since Gore’s highfalutin campaign commenced, has the public noticed?  Does the public care?  Has the public bought into Gore’s apocalyptic predictions?

FACT: According to Frank Newport, editor of the Gallup Poll, the answer is a resounding, unequivocal ‘no.’ As Paul Bedard reported in his Washington Whispers column, Newport “sees no evidence that Al Gore's campaign against global warming is winning.  ‘It's just not caught on,’ says Newport. ‘They have failed.’”  But that’s not all: “Any measure that we look at shows Al Gore's losing at the moment. The public is just not that concerned.” 

So what does the public care about? 

Yes, the economy. 

“Newport says the economy trumps the environment right now,” Bedard reports, “a strong indicator that President Obama’s bid to put a cap-and-trade pollution regime into operation isn't likely to be politically popular.” 

There’s more: Newport found that 41 percent believe global warming claims are exaggerated, and “that's the highest we've seen.”  

When asked to name their biggest concerns, just 1 percent to 2 percent of respondents cite the environment.  “The environment doesn't show up at all,” said Newport. 

Now, for the coup de grace: “It's Al Gore's greatest frustration,” says Newport. “We seem less concerned than more about global warming over the years. . . . Despite the movies and publicity and all that, we're just not seeing it take off with the American public. And that was occurring even before the latest economic recession.  As Al Gore I think would say, the greatest challenge facing humanity…has failed to show up in our data.” 

Samuelson: The Bias Against Oil and Gas

The following article, "The Bias Against Oil and Gas" by Robert J. Samuelson will appear in the May 18, 2009 print edition of Newsweek Magazine:  

 

Link to Article

 

Considering the brutal recession and the widespread warnings of a feeble recovery, you'd expect the Obama administration to be obsessed with job creation. And so it is, say the president and his supporters. The trouble is that there's at least one glaring exception to their claims: the oil and natural-gas industries. The Obama administration is biased against them—a bias that makes no sense on either economic or energy grounds. Almost everyone loves to hate Big Oil (the Exxons and Chevrons), and even small oil, but promoting domestic drilling is simply common sense.

 

Contrary to popular wisdom, the United States still has huge oil and natural-gas resources. The outer continental shelf (OCS), including parts that have been off limits to drilling since the early 1980s, may contain much natural gas and 86 billion barrels of oil, about four times today's "proven" U.S. reserves. The U.S. Geological Survey recently estimated that the Bakken Formation in North Dakota and Montana may hold 3.65 billion barrels, about 22 times a 1995 estimate. And then there's upwards of 2 trillion barrels of oil shale, concentrated in Colorado. If 800 billion barrels were recoverable, that's triple Saudi Arabia's proven reserves.

 

None of these sources, of course, will quickly provide much oil or natural gas. Projects take 5, 10, 15 years. The OCS estimates are just that. The oil and gas must still be located—a costly, chancy and time-consuming process. Extracting oil from shale (in effect, a rock) requires heating the shale and poses major environmental problems. Its economic viability remains uncertain. But added oil from any of these sources could ultimately diminish dependence on imports, now almost 60 percent of U.S. consumption, while the exploration and development process would immediately boost high-wage jobs (geologists, petroleum engineers, roustabouts, steelworkers).

 

Though straightforward, this logic mostly eludes the Obama administration, which is fixated on "green jobs," and wind and solar energy. Championing clean fuels has become a political set piece. On Earth Day (April 22), the president visited an Iowa factory that builds towers for wind turbines. "It's time for us to [begin] a new era of energy exploration in America," he said. "We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy."

 

The president is lauded as a great educator; in this case, he provided much miseducation. He implied that there's a choice between promoting renewables and relying on oil. Actually, the two are mostly disconnected. Wind and solar mainly produce electricity. About 70 percent of our oil goes for transportation (cars, trucks, planes); almost none—about 1.5 percent—generates electricity. So expanding wind and solar won't displace much oil, though there might be some small effect on natural gas for heating. Someday, electric cars may change this. But at best, that's decades away.

 

For now, the only ways to reduce oil imports are to use less or produce more. Obama has paid some attention to the first with higher fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles. But his administration is undermining the second. At the Department of the Interior, which oversees public lands and the OCS, Secretary Ken Salazar has taken steps that dampen exploration and development: canceled 77 leases in Utah because they were too close to national parkland, extended a comment period for OCS exploration to evaluate possible environmental effects and signaled a more cautious policy toward shale for similar reasons.

 

Any one of these alone might seem a reasonable review of inherited policies, and it's true—as Interior officials say—that Salazar has maintained a regular schedule of oil and gas leases. Still, the anti-oil bias seems unmistakable. Salazar didn't just double the normal comment period on OCS from two months to four; he quadrupled it to eight months. Conceivably, he may reinstate administratively most of the restrictions on OCS drilling that Congress lifted last year. Meanwhile, he's encouraging wind and solar by announcing new procedures for locating them on public lands, including the OCS. "We are," he says, "setting the department on a new path"—emphasizing renewables.

 

It may disappoint. In 2007 wind and solar generated less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity. Their share of total U.S. energy use was still lower. Even a five- or tenfold expansion of these industries will leave their contribution small. By contrast, oil and natural gas now provide two thirds of Americans' energy. Rise or fall, they will dominate our consumption for decades. Any oil produced here will mostly reduce imports; added natural gas will tend to displace coal in electricity generation. Neither weakens any anti–global-warming program that Congress might adopt.

 

It's insane not to encourage U.S. production. The same is true on economic grounds because the promise of green jobs is wildly exaggerated. Look at the numbers. In 2008 the oil and gas industries employed 1.8 million people. Jobs in the solar and wind industries are reckoned (by their trade associations) to be 35,000 and 85,000, respectively. Now do the arithmetic: a 5 percent rise in oil jobs (90,000) almost equals a doubling for wind and solar (120,000). Modest movements, up or down, in oil and natural gas will swamp plausible changes in green jobs. They won't save the economy.

 

Improved exploration and production techniques—drilling in deeper waters, horizontal drilling, hydraulic "fracturing" (pumping liquids into fields to open up seams)—have increased America's recoverable amounts of oil and natural gas. The resistance to availing ourselves of these resources is mostly political and psychological. Among many environmentalists, the idea of expanding fossil-fuel production is a cardinal sin. It offends their religion. The Obama administration too often caters to this reflexive hostility. The resulting policies aim more to satisfy popular prejudice—through reassuring photo ops and sound bites—than meet the country's needs.