Friday, February 18, 2011

Bipartisan Group Seeks to Work with EPA on Boiler MACT

Senator Inhofe signed a letter today with Republicans and Democrats expressing concern about the Environmental Protection Agency's "Boiler MACT" rule covering commercial and industrial boilers. Below is coverage of the letter as reported by The Hill:

The Hill

Key senators signal willingness to take action on EPA boiler rules in Congress

By Andrew Restuccia

A bipartisan group of senators signaled Friday that they are willing to take action in Congress to give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more wiggle room on its air pollution regulations for industrial boilers amid concerns that the agency is running up against a tight deadline for issuing the rules.

Having said they will make significant changes to a draft version of the rule, the EPA asked for a lengthy extension of the deadline to issue final boiler regulations. But a court ordered the agency to issue the regulations by Monday.In a letter Friday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, the senators expressed concern that the agency has not had enough time to adequately re-evaluate the regulations.

"[G]iven that the court granted the agency a mere 30 days to finalize the rule, we are seriously concerned about whether EPA has sufficient time to complete the necessary improvements to the rule," the senators said. The senators offered to take action in Congress to give the agency more leeway in crafting the rules.

"We stand ready to assist you in finding a reasonable solution, one that allows EPA to craft new rules that are achievable and protective of public health without sacrificing economic recovery and manufacturing jobs," the senators said in the letter.

Matt Dempsey, spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), told The Hill on Friday that the senators would not be able to take action until after next week's recess, so the agency will still have to issue its final regulations on Monday.But he said the letter shows that lawmakers "appreciate that the EPA is in a difficult spot" and are willing to help. Dempsey said lawmakers could craft legislation to change the timeline of the rule's implementation or make changes to the regulations.

So far, Jackson has stressed that she does not need lawmakers' help. Asked by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) earlier this month if she would like Congress to work to push back the deadline for issuing the final regulations, Jackson said there was no need.

Industry groups and many lawmakers railed against draft boiler regulations issued by the EPA in April, arguing they were unrealistic. Amid the widespread industry opposition to the rules, the agency promised to issue "significantly different" final regulations.

The letter was signed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Inhofe, Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Boxer-Inhofe Announce Subcommittees for the 112th Congress

Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator Inhofe this week announced the membership for the Environment and Public Works subcommittees for the 112th Congress:

Senator Inhofe said:  "I am pleased to welcome several new members to the EPW Committee.  With jurisdiction over federal agencies covering environment, energy and transportation, our committee will play a key role in shaping policies that impact environmental protection, energy production, and our nation's infrastructure.

"With that in mind, there are many issues of national significance before this committee. I am hopeful that we can address these issues together.  Consider that the EPW Committee, both Democrat and Republican members, helped pass several significant pieces of environmental legislation into law late last year.  By working across the aisle, we passed legislation to strengthen protection for drinking water and reduce air pollution.  We were also able to pass legislation to eliminate unfunded mandates on local communities. This is a model that I hope we can follow over the next two years." 

Click Here to See the Subcommittee Memberships

VIDEO: Inhofe Responds to White House Budget/EPA Climate Regs

Senator Inhofe was pleased to welcome Hot Air's Ed Morrissey to Washington this week. Inhofe spoke with Morrissey about Obama's budget as well as his efforts to stop EPA's backdoor energy tax. Click here to watch video

Hot Air  

Video: Inhofe on EPA battle, WH budget (February 15, 2011)

By Ed Morrissey 

Yesterday, I sat down with Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to discuss the latest developments in his battle to rein in the EPA and Lisa Jackson. Inhofe says that Barack Obama may have failed to succeed in getting cap-and-trade passed, but Inhofe says that Obama has been attempting to get the same result through EPA regulatory expansion. The Senator has a remarkable depth of expertise in the energy sector, which he puts to good use in this conversation. If we were allowed to get to our own resources, we would have enough oil and natural gas to supply American power for the next century, Inhofe says.

Of course, with the White House releasing its budget proposal, we also spoke about the surprisingly weak effort from Obama to contain spending. Inhofe predicts that the Senate Democrats will split from the President on this budget, especially those who are running in red states in 2012 - a number Inhofe puts at 11. "There are trillions in increases," Inhofe says, "but [defense cuts] are the only cuts I can find in this," and says that Obama's foreign policy and defense policy seems to rest on the notion that nations will hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

To see full post at Hot Air, click here  

Inhofe Hearing Statement: National Leaders Call to Action on Transportation

At a full EPW Committee hearing entitled,  "National Leaders' Call to Action on Transportation" on February 16, Senator Inhofe spoke about his concerns with the President's budget proposal for the highway bill, which was released on Monday (Click Here to Watch Inhofe's Remarks):

This is the first transportation hearing we've held since Senator Vitter became ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.  I'd like to welcome him in this role and I look forward to working with him on the highway bill. 

Today's hearing highlights how important transportation infrastructure is to our economy.  We have one of the leading voices from the business community sitting next to one of most high profile labor leaders and remarkably they are both saying the same thing: without robust and strategic investments in our roads and bridges, the US economy will not achieve the growth necessary to get us out of our current economic crisis and we will have trouble competing with other countries. 

Without the investments and vision needed to build the interstate system, our country would not be the economic power it has been for the last 50 years.  Much of our interstate is at the end of its useful life and needs to be rebuilt.  On top of this, truck traffic will double over the next 30 years and car traffic will increase by 70% over the next 45 years.  To accommodate this demand and begin to address our current levels of congestion, hundreds of billions of dollars are needed to build new roads and expand existing roads. 

I'd like to end with some comments on the President's budget proposal for the highway bill, which was released on Monday.  I was hoping for some positive leadership by the Administration after only paying lip service to our crumbling roads and bridges.  Sadly, the President failed to step up and show any leadership.  He failed to specify how he would pay for his mammoth $556 billion proposal.  Instead he punts, saying his higher trust fund revenue is "a placeholder and do not assume an increase in gas taxes or any specific proposal to offset surface transportation spending. Rather, they are intended to initiate a discussion about how the Administration and Congress could work together on a bipartisan basis to pass a surface transportation reauthorization...." 

This puts us back in the hole former House Democrats dug last Congress: proposing a huge bill with no way to pay for it.  This is flat out irresponsible.  If he were serious about getting a bill done, he would have either cut spending or said how he is going to pay for it.  I can only call this a setback.  It gives false hope to transportation advocates and leaves Congress in the same box as before the budget was released.  This comes almost exactly 2 years after the failed, so-called stimulus bill, which was sold as having primarily an infrastructure focus, but ended up with only 3 percent of the total going to roads and bridges.  Here we go again.

On top of all this, the President proposes destroying the Highway Trust Fund.  He wants to open it up to pay for a number of things currently not eligible for funding, including Amtrak, high speed rail, and a greater share of transit (which currently receives 20 percent of its funding from the general fund).  The whole point of a trust fund is that users pay for the services they are getting.  Not a single penny is paid into the trust fund by users of transit or Amtrak, nor does any high speed rail proposal include user fees deposited into the trust fund. 

The current problem with the Highway Trust Fund is that we have gotten away from the user pays, user benefits concept and are providing a free lunch to too many unrelated activities.  The Highway Trust Fund needs to focus its spending, not broaden it.  I can't blame the President on this; he has been very clear about where his priorities lie.  He is less interested in rebuilding our roads and bridges than in building street cars and bullet trains.

I think this budget proposal will make it harder for Congress to get a bill done.  But as we are discussing today, it is imperative that we get a good bill done soon.  So I am going to treat this budget as yet another obstacle we have to overcome to enact a responsible, budget neutral bill this year.  

Inhofe Hearing Statement: Green Jobs and Trade

On February 15, at a Subcommittee on Green Jobs and the New Economy hearing entitled, "Green Jobs and Trade," Senator Inhofe gave the following opening statement:

I want to welcome all the witnesses today, particularly Paul Cicio, Executive Director of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America, and David Montgomery of Charles River Associates. I look forward to your testimony.

Today's hearing is about "green jobs" and "trade", though I suspect we will hear some discussion of a "clean energy standard."  This concept has a long pedigree, and it is now considered, at least by some, as the compromise approach in the wake of cap-and-trade legislation's demise.  Some have asked me whether I support a clean energy standard.  Of course, I readily respond by asking, among other things, "How do you define ‘clean'?" and "What do you mean by ‘standard'?"    

Also, what is the motivation behind a national clean energy standard?  Is it to reduce carbon emissions?  If so, then, if you have a clean energy standard, what is the need for EPA's greenhouse gas regulatory regime under the Clean Air Act?  For that matter, what is the need for each and every component of EPA's aggressive regulatory regime designed to shut down coal-fired power plants?  It would seem to me that one couldn't begin to have a rational discussion of a clean energy standard unless all of these regulations are "on the table," so to speak.  

When "standard" is mentioned, I think first of "mandate."  Is that what proponents of a clean energy standard mean?  I, for one, question the need for a new federal energy mandate.  If there is a mandate, what are the targets, what are the timetables?  From what I've seen thus far, the targets and timetables proposed would bring about the same result as cap-and-trade: higher energy costs, fewer jobs, and lower productivity.

Now on to what is "clean."  Wind, solar, and geothermal are generally considered clean.  But I also believe, for example, that ultra-supercritical coal plants are clean: these plants can reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides considerably relative to a traditional coal plant; and if you're concerned about CO2, they emit almost 40 percent less.  But we can't build these plants in good measure because activist groups are blocking their construction.

These are the same groups that call for clean energy, yet in the same breath ridicule clean coal as an oxy-moron; denounce hydropower because of dam construction; oppose emissions-free nuclear because of waste issues; worry that tidal energy harms marshes and mud flats; stop solar power because of concerns over endangered species; and block offshore wind farms because they are aesthetically distasteful.  They also claim to support clean-burning natural gas, but want to stop domestic gas production.  

In short, they have a rather cramped definition of "clean".  What I am thinking of includes clean coal-and here I'm not talking about coal with carbon capture and sequestration, or CCS, a technology whose commercialization depends on the construction of a massive infrastructure of storage sites and pipelines that is orders of magnitude larger than what supports oil and gas production.  Activist groups, through lawsuits and other forms of obstruction, will never allow it to be built. 

Along with new modern coal plants, I want nuclear, natural gas, as well as the array of existing technologies that make up the rest of our energy economy.  This ensemble is reasonable and also far broader and more congenial to energy security, jobs, a growing economy, and the environment than what we will hear about today. 

Today we will hear about "green jobs" defined as those largely in the business of supporting wind and solar power industries.  These jobs are part of the so-called "clean energy economy" envisioned by the Obama Administration, in which government will supposedly transform the energy market by taxing the energy we use and then subsidizing technologies that can't stand on their own.  This bureaucratic-driven energy market will, so the logic goes, reinvigorate America's global leadership in technological innovation. 

But this is faulty logic, impaled on the sharp edge of experience.   Consider Evergreen Solar, which at one time was all the rage in Massachusetts.  Evergreen Solar was making the breakthrough technology that would supposedly transform the energy economy.   State officials were so smitten that they forked over $60 million in taxpayer funds to build a plant in Devens, Massachusetts.  But the plan, and the plant, failed.  Michael El-Hillow, Evergreen Solar's chief executive, explained the plant's demise in stark terms: "While the United States and other Western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint." [Emphasis added]

What he means is that Evergreen's operating costs in the state were simply too high, even with the $60 million hand out.  Evergreen Solar has shuttered the plant, has fired 800 workers, and is now moving the operation to China.   As Massachusetts State Sen. Jamie Eldridge asked, "Should Massachusetts state government offer massive subsidies to large corporations as part of its economic development strategy to create jobs for residents?" 

I think we know the answer.  But this is exactly what the Obama Administration is proposing on a grander scale.  Massive subsidies, more taxes, and more regulations-all imposed on the economy, on taxpayers, and all based on the fanciful notion that new jobs and industries will follow.  Surely some will, but as David Montgomery, one of the nation's foremost energy economists explained in his testimony, the Administration forgets or ignores the other side of the equation: those taxes, mandates, and subsidies will destroy jobs in other industries, raise energy prices, reduce wages, lower productivity, and displace investment.  In short, we are worse off than when we started.  Put another way, the Administration's "green economy" entails a net loss for America.  

Regulations now being imposed by this Administration are making businesses here-including solar and wind manufacturing businesses-less competitive, unable to compete with those operating in China and India.  Just take EPA's Boiler MACT rule, which affects thousands of industrial boilers.  It puts nearly 800,000 jobs at risk in this country.  According to the United Steel Workers Union, whose president is testifying today, "Tens of thousands of these jobs will be imperiled. In addition, many more tens of thousands of jobs in the supply chains and in the communities where these plants are located also will be at risk." 

This is no way to make energy and environmental policy, let alone run a country.  Let's put aside talk of "transformation"-the green economy as defined by the Administration is a failure.  It's time to get back to basics: supporting and encouraging domestic energy production, onshore and offshore; removing tax and regulatory barriers to innovative clean energy technologies; and allowing all forms of clean energy to power the American economy.  By the same token, we need to balance our regulatory policies so they protect the environment without sacrificing the jobs and businesses that make our economy grow and expand. 

These are the essentials and we know they work; without them, America will lose ground to other nations, and the promise of a brighter future will be in doubt.  It's time to turn the ship, and return course back to growth, production, innovation, and leadership.

NYT/Greenwire: Inhofe Seeks Preservation of EPA Records in Agencys Dispute with Texas

NYT/Greenwire 

Inhofe seeks preservation of EPA records in agency's dispute with Texas

(02/15/2011)

Mike Soraghan, E&E reporter

Link to Article

Link to Letter  

A key Republican senator is taking an interest in a regional U.S. EPA administrator's fight with Texas officials about natural gas drilling.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a letter yesterday to EPA Inspector General Arthur Elkins Jr., asking him to preserve all records of communications connected to an emergency order issued late last year by EPA Region 6 Administrator Al Amendariz.

The order accused Range Resources Corp. of contaminating water wells near Fort Worth. Armendariz bypassed state officials to issue the order and accused them of not acting to help homeowners victimized by drilling (Greenwire, Feb. 11).

EPA officials have defended Armendariz's handling of the situation. But industry officials have criticized him, saying his communications with activists and EPA headquarters officials show he was more interested in publicity than in finding proof that violations existed. Range Resources has said there is little or no proof that the gas that contaminated the water wells came from its drilling operations.

Inhofe's letter, obtained by E&E Daily, asks Elkins to "secure" communications from EPA headquarters officials and regional officials "both intra-agency and with outside entities."

Inhofe is the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, an ally of the oil and gas industry and a staunch defender of a drilling practice called "hydraulic fracturing." Also, Oklahoma is part of EPA's Region 6, giving Armendariz oversight of issues in Inhofe's territory.

Armendariz issued the order Dec. 7. Records obtained by E&E Daily show that he quickly announced the order to an environmental activist and another ally.

"We're about to make a lot of news," Armendariz wrote in an e-mail. "Time to Tivo Channel 8."

A story about EPA's action, quoting Armendariz, had appeared on the website of a local television station about a minute before an aide notified a top state regulator on Armendariz's behalf, the records show. That regulator, then-Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Victor Carrillo (R), replied that his agency was still investigating and called the federal action "premature."

Armendariz forwarded Carrillo's reply to EPA headquarters officials with a single-word message: "Stunning."

EPA officials have stressed that Armendariz was in frequent contact with state officials in the weeks before the emergency order was issued and dispute the idea that Armendariz was chasing publicity at the expense of proper procedures. An agency spokeswoman said EPA had discussed the emergency order with the state and gas company "for some time" before the order was issued.

"State agencies and the gas production company knew about the order before we announced it publicly," the spokeswoman said last week. "As we've done in the past, EPA is committed to open communication with all affected parties, including industry, environmental and conservation groups, and local, state and federal elected officials about significant agency actions."

The spokeswoman said Armendariz's "stunning" comment reflected surprise at the Railroad Commission's reluctance, "given that there were at least two families whose homes were in immediate danger of explosion and who had no safe household water from the aquifer."

EPA released the text of a Dec. 3 e-mail from Armendariz to Carrillo that went over the situation and discussed EPA's legal authority to issue an order like the one it did four days later. Armendariz also stressed that his agency was open to sharing information

"We will continue this policy and ensure that any and all data that we collect in the future that we can share is distributed," Armendariz wrote.

Armendariz's order charged that Range's drilling in the Barnett Shale contaminated at least two water wells with methane and benzene. The order gave Range 48 hours to provide clean drinking water to affected residents and begin taking steps to resolve the problem.

The order was a slap at regulators at the Texas Railroad Commission, whom he accused of not doing enough to help the people living near the drilling operations in the Fort Worth area. The allegations inflamed an ongoing fight between Armendariz and Texas officials, including Gov. Rick Perry (R), about whether the state has done enough to regulate air pollution that has grown into a fight over states' rights.

Armendariz's move also turned up the heat on a long-simmering debate about whether states adequately protect their residents against the dangers of drilling.

The company and the Texas regulators have countered that their investigations, ongoing since last August, have failed to show any link between the drilling and water contamination. Range said the well water in the area has long contained methane. Texas officials accused EPA of grandstanding and making "false claims" about its actions.

EPA's order mentions "hydraulic fracturing" but does not charge that fracturing fluid contaminated the wells. Instead, it is alleging that methane contaminated the wells.

The industry has long maintained that state regulators have done a good job of regulating fracturing, noting that after hundreds of thousands of fracturing jobs over six decades, state regulators have never documented groundwater contamination from fracturing fluid.

Environmentalists have pointed to the Texas case as an example of the failure of state regulation. Environmentalists, joined by some congressional Democrats, have pushed to reverse fracturing's exemption from EPA regulation. Inhofe has opposed such efforts.

Watch: Inhofe Turns Tables on Global Warming Ambushers - and Gets it on Tape (Daily Caller)

Daily Caller

Sen. Inhofe turns tables on global warming ambushers - and gets it on tape [VIDEO]

By Caroline May

Link to Full Article  

Click here to Watch Video 

Click Here for Pictures 

Ambush journalism tactics are often effective, unless, of course, the target is as on his game as Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe. In recently released footage, a pack of global warming alarmists, led by journalist Mark Hertsgaard, attempt to surprise Inhofe after waiting an hour and a half outside a hearing of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

In late January Hertsgaard explained his big scheme to "confront the climate cranks" in an article in The Nation."Our plan is to confront the climate cranks face to face, on camera, and call them to account for the dangers they have set in motion. We will highlight the ludicrousness of their antiscientific views, which alone should discredit them from further influence over US climate policies," he wrote.

The tables were turned, however, when instead of making Inhofe - whose cause celeb has been questioning the global warming agenda - look foolish, the senator made mince meat of his would-be ambusher. Fortunately, Matt Dempsey, Inhofe's communication's director, was there to catch it all on camera. Mark Hertsgaard later posted his own, highly edited version on his website. Not surprisingly, the full version tells a much different story than the edited version.

In the unedited footage, Inhofe goes back and forth with Hertsgaard about the veracity of climate science, refuting Hertsgaard's claim that all scientists agree that global warming is man-made by citing the scads of scientists who have come out in opposition to that claim...

Click Here for Full Daily Caller Article 

 

The Failure of #Climatecrank

"How to Fail at an Ambush" - "Who are you Calling a Climate Crank, Nut Job" -- "Efforts to Fight Spin with Spin Seem to Have Spun out of Control"

Fox: Global Warming Nuts Try to Ambush Sen. Inhofe...Fail: Global warming alarmists led by Mark Hertsgaard attempted to ambush Senator Inhofe following a hearing this morning. See for yourself who ended up winning the argument.

The Economist: Who are you calling a climate crank, nut job?:  "Environmentalists efforts to fight spin with spin seem to have spun out of control. The Twitter hashtag created to publicize Tuesday's event, #climatecranks, was used in nearly equal measure by both Mark Hertsgaard, the environmental correspondent for the Nation who coined the phrase and led the action, and an opponent of greenhouse-gas regulations, who co-opted it to heckle him."

Leo Hickman (Guardian): "I worry they will easily dismiss your valid efforts because you call them ‘cranks'".  "But guess who wins the war for the public's hearts and minds? Give them a crumb and, as we both know, they will quickly fashion it into a mountain with the result that your main message is drowned out in the noise they have whipped up. I sincerely hope you do manage to get these people with obvious vested interests defending their anti-science stance on camera, but, as I argue in the article above, I worry they will easily dismiss your valid efforts because you call them "cranks". Why give them a free hit when your argument is already so compelling?"

David Appell: Quark Soup: "A Real Turn-Off": For some reason Mark Hertsgaard has decided he must confront climate change denialists, on camera. Do you find these as uncomfortable to watch as I do? What does Hertsgaard think he is going to accomplish by such guerrilla journalism? I know he's trying to sell a new book, and has decided his daughter should help him do that....But these kind of tactics won't convince anyone who isn't already in the choir. Most people, I suspect, find it a real turn-off. I do.

Guardian: The need for caution when 'calling out the climate cranks': ‎ Just what the climate debate doesn't need: a new moniker for those who do not accept the mainstream scientific view of anthropogenic climate change. According to environmental activists planning a day of protests across the US tomorrow, "climate crank" is set to be the latest name added to the growing list - self-appointed, or otherwise - which already includes sceptic, denier, contrarian, realist, dissenter, flat-earther, misinformer, and confusionist... It will be interesting to see who they manage to confront on camera. I certainly endorse any effort to expose and challenge those with a vested interest in ignoring the science - one only has to witness Senator James Inhofe's performance last week to see why this is so necessary - but, if I'm honest, I'm left wondering whether this new exercise in name-calling will only serve to distract from the important task at hand.

Reuters: "Tuesday's event to confront ‘climate cranks' - coordinated by partners including the Sierra Club, 350.org, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and The Nation - offered a lesson to budding activists on staking out politicians and a chance for Hertsgaard to vent. Throughout the day, the energetic author was trailed by four young local organizers, a couple of communications specialists and three videographers."

RedState: Open Thread: Inhofe's Green Ambush: As reported this afternoon at RedState by diarist russellc, and in light of my earlier post featuring Ann McElhinney, here is Senator Inhofe in a similar green ambush from yesterday. Nicely done.

American Spectator: How to Fail at an Ambush:  Ambush Sen. Inhofe about something he knows more about than you.This fellow (who rather persistently e-pursued me for a spell a couple of years back) actually tried the '98% of scientists' thing! Dude. That's the problem with passing along talking points cranked out by others. You've no idea what you're saying. Read a little more.If you can take it, listen to the palliatives coming out of (particularly) the youg lady insisting that she is too here to speaking "on behalf of all young people". Imagine the gasps back at the Mother Ship when the population nuts see the greenie congratulate the senator on his fecundity.