December 10 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Fracking ban faces CO Supremes; fracktivist compares technology to slavery; House GOP calls Interior EPA spill report a “whitewash”
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legal, Legislation, regulations, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Yesterday, the Colorado Supreme Court heard arguments over Longmont’s fracking ban:
On Wednesday, the state’s highest court will consider Longmont’s voter-approved ban on hydraulic fracturing within city limits.
Longmont voters added the ban to the drilling method, also called fracking, to the City Charter in 2012, convinced that a city-negotiated set of regulations on oil and gas drilling didn’t go far enough.
Both the regulations and the ban brought lawsuits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group. The oil and gas regulations lawsuit was dismissed as part of a compromise brokered by Gov. John Hickenlooper before the 2014 election.
The suit on the charter ban, however, has progressed through district court and the Colorado Court of Appeals and is now before the Colorado Supreme Court.
The city has argued that the state allows for local control, that Longmont voters should be able prohibit a type of drilling in city limits.
It is not known when a ruling can be expected.
Speaking of local fracking bans, Colorado Peak Politics found this gem from “fractivist Maria Orms, head of North Metro Neighbors for Safe Energy, at an Adams County Communities for Drilling Accountability Now (ACCDAN) meeting”:
“If you accept anything like an MOU [memorandum of understanding], that’s your terms of surrender…signing an MOU is collusion with the oil and gas industry. We need to talk to our county commissioners and tell them not to agree to any of this.
“Apartheid was legal at one point. Would you agree with that? Slavery was legal. Didn’t make it right. Well, maybe that doesn’t apply here to an environmental issue, this is not right, do not agree to this.”
Adding more time and uncertainty to drilling operations in Colorado as a result of Gov. John Hickenlooper’s fracking task force recommendations has operators weighing risks and reconsidering Colorado operations:
“The risk [to operate] in Colorado has gone up because of this potential rule or potential application of this on a case-by-case basis,” Wonstolen said.
The COGCC on Monday held its third day of hearings on controversial proposed rules to implement two recommendations from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s oil and gas task force in February.
The recommendations, No. 17 and 20, focused on increasing the communications between local governments and energy companies about where new oil and gas wells would be located in and around neighborhoods. It also called for the impacts of those new wells to be mitigated through best management practices.
But where the proposed rules would be enforced, and how the impacts would be mitigated, has spawned a months-long battle that’s expected to drag into next year. Another day of hearings is expected to be scheduled in late January.
Oil and gas industry representatives said the COGCC’s rules go too far. Citizen groups and representatives from local governments said they don’t go far enough.
And one other recommendation from the Governor’s task force calling for a complaint line on oil and gas operations has begun collecting said complaints:
A new state-run program created to field and respond to health concerns related to oil and gas operations has started to receive complaints.
As of Thursday evening, the new Oil and Gas Health Information and Response Program had fielded 20 complaints, according to Dr. Daniel Vigil, who is heading the program within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The program began Oct. 15, allowing people to file a health concern and access information. Information includes “unbiased” staff reviews of existing research on the health impacts related to oil and gas development, said Vigil.
In addition, a mobile air monitoring program is being designed and is expected to be completed in the spring.
The health response program, which Vigil said is the first of its kind in the country, was one of nine approved recommendations from a task force created by Gov. John Hickenlooper as part of a compromise to avoid multiple oil- and gas-related ballot issues in 2014.
It will remain to be seen how “unbiased” those review remain, and whether or not a concerted effort by anti-energy forces moves to overwhelm the complaint system in an effort to draw attention.
Carbondale is implementing government carbon fees based on energy consumption as state and federal subsidies for renewable energy disappear:
“Carbon fees harness market forces to encourage local investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy,” Michael Hassig, former Carbondale mayor, said in a prepared statement. “We have to take what steps we can, now, right here in our own community, to reduce fossil fuel consumption.”
In 2010, Carbondale set the goals of increasing energy efficiency by 20 percent; reducing petroleum consumption 25 percent; and obtaining 35 percent of energy from renewable sources all by 2020. These figures are measured off of a 2009 baseline.
One scenario calculates that by installing energy-saving measures in 1,200 homes and in 60 businesses, combined with doubling the amount of solar electric systems (or the equivalent of 800 kilowatts of power-generating capacity), Carbondale could meet its targets, according to CLEER’s website. These energy improvements could be achieved by investing $1.1 million per year over the next five years.
The Carbondale trustees adopted a resolution in 2014 that dedicates 20 percent of the town’s state severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues to help reach clean-energy goals. Traditionally, funding from federal and state government grants, the town’s general fund, the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (generated through building fees in Pitkin County and Aspen) and utilities have been used toward energy efficiency.
But the federal and state grants have since dried up, necessitating another path forward to raise revenue.
Carbon “fees” are not a harnessing or channeling of voluntary market decisions, they are an example of government force, picking energy behavior winners and losers.
A battle over a Department of the Interior inspector general report on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gold King Mine spill has prompted Republican calls that the effort was “whitewash” of EPA efforts and lacked independent review:
The accident prompted harsh criticism of the EPA for failing to take adequate precautions despite warnings a blowout could occur. Yet Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said a review by her agency showed the spill was “clearly unintentional.”
“I don’t believe there’s anything in there to suggest criminal activity,” Jewell testified during an appearance before the House Natural Resources Committee.
Republicans were dissatisfied. They pointed to earlier statements in which Jewell and other agency officials said the Interior review focused on technical mining issues — not the potential culpability of those involved in the spill.
Immediately after Wednesday’s hearing, committee Chairman Rob Bishop asked Congress’s non-partisan Government Accountability Office to investigate the Interior Department’s evaluation. The Utah Republican accused Jewell and other agency officials of stonewalling his repeated efforts to obtain documents relevant to the spill.
The clean up bill for the EPA spill is around $8 million, according to the 2015 “Wastebook” issued by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R), and summarized here by Colorado Peak Politics:
An Orange River Runs Through It: The Animas River. Perhaps you’ve heard of this disaster? The EPA contaminated it, and then, denied responsibility. To date, the EPA has spent $8 million cleaning up its own mess, and that figure is expected to grow.
It wouldn’t be a Cheat Sheet without a Clean Power Plan update, so here’s one from the National Federation of Independent Business:
But NFIB believes that the Administration is once more overstepping with the Clean Power Plan. For one it imposes quotas on each state, mandating that they achieve targets for emission reductions—targets that, in some cases, are wholly unrealistic. The plan rewards states that have already taken action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but would penalize states that fail to meet their federally mandated reduction targets. To avoid those penalties the rule allows states that are missing their targets to enter into cap-and-trade compacts, which would require those states to essentially purchase credits (at great cost) from states that are meeting their targets. Thus the rule penalizes states that have chosen—for the same policy reasons as Congress—to reject such regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Accordingly, the rule raises serious federalism problems because the federal government cannot force the states to enact law that they do not wish to enact. But as we argue—first and foremost—there is a separation of powers problem with the EPA rewriting the Clean Air Act. Once again, we’re fighting in court to enforce the basic principle that only Congress can make law. And once more, we’re defending small businesses against extreme energy-rate hikes.
We are currently asking a federal court to issue an injunction preventing EPA from enforcing the rule against the states. Our hope is that we will ultimately strike-down the rule as another example of executive overreach. For further explanation as to how this rule will affect ordinary small business owners, check out Randi Thompson’s recent editorial in the Reno-Gazette Journal.
It’s trees vs. bugs in the forests near Colorado Springs, and the U.S. Forest Service is giving the nod to the bugs, according to this Gazette editorial:
If our plush green backdrop becomes an ugly brown wasteland, tourists will avoid us. Home and business values may drop. And, of course, dead trees greatly increase the likelihood of more deadly, costly forest fires.
Because of diligence by the governor and mayor, we could have a good chance of saving thousands of acres of trees. There is one big problem: The Obama administration’s U.S. Forest Service. Federal forest officials seem to think tree-killing bugs have a right to life.
Forest-managing entities working cooperatively on a contract to exterminate the bugs include: Colorado Parks and Wildlife, responsible for the 1,260-acre Cheyenne Mountain State Park; Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation, responsible for 2,132 acres of city-owned forest; NORAD, which manages 400 acres; Broadmoor Bluffs Subdivision, with 291 acres; Broadmoor Resort, 146 acres; Broadmoor Expanse, 1,677 acres; Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, 81 acres, and El Pomar with 140 acres.
“The only party I know of that is not interested is the U.S. Forest Service,” said Dan Prenzlow, southeast regional manager of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “They have 1,300 acres touching all the rest of us.”
The Forest Service remains adamantly against spraying, saying that nature should take its course:
Oscar Martinez, district manager for the Pikes Peak District of the U.S. Forest Service, said there is no chance the federal agency will join the eight other entities killing bugs. Even if federal officials could be convinced to change their minds, Martinez said, the federal government would require so much environmental assessment that nothing could be done in time to make a difference.
“If you bought a house up there with big trees, and you moved here for those big trees, I understand the concern,” Martinez said. “But there is a natural cycle of forest disturbance that must be allowed to occur as part of responsible forestry management.”
By letting nature run its course, Martinez said, dead and dying trees can “release the vegetation that was suppressed by the tree cover. If you look at butterflies, they are tied to flowering plants that are suppressed by trees.”
Martinez said a naturally occurring bacteria detected by federal foresters stands to kill many of the bugs over the coming year, which should save a lot of trees. But Prenzlow said federal officials told state officials two years ago the bugs would begin dying naturally. They remain alive and well.
“We’re going into our third year and the bugs have not died. The trees are struggling and dying, so we’re going to spray,” Prenzlow told The Gazette.
Attendees learned that Xcel Energy, which serves most of urban Colorado, sells some 300 gigawatt hours of electricity to pot growers per year, or enough to power some 35,000 homes. The U.S. marijuana-growing industry could soon buy as much as $11 billion per year in electricity.
One study estimates that it takes as much energy to produce 18 pints of beer as it does just one joint. The data are alarming, and will only get more so as legalization spreads. But legalization, if approached correctly, also opens doors of opportunity. The biggest guzzlers of electricity also hold the most potential for realizing gains via efficiency.
Back in 2011, a California energy and environmental systems analyst, Evan Mills, published a paper quantifying the carbon footprint of indoor cannabis production. That footprint, he discovered, was huge. His findings included:
While the U.S. pharmaceutical sector uses $1 billion/year in energy, indoor cannabis cultivation uses $6 billion.
Indoor cannabis production consumes 3 percent of California’s total electricity, 9 percent of its household electricity and 1 percent of total U.S. electricity (equivalent to 2 million U.S. homes per year).
U.S. cannabis production results in 15 million tons of greenhouse-gas emissions per year, or the same as emitted by 3 million cars.
Cannabis production uses eight times as much energy per square foot as other commercial buildings, and 18 times more than an average home.
Time to stop before I write any more doobie-us puns. Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Legislation, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, regulations, solar energy, wind energy
The cost of electricity for Colorado residents skyrocketed 63 percent between 2001 and 2014, far outpacing median income in the state at just 24 percent over the same time period, according to Independence Institute analysis of electricity rates provided by the Energy Information Administration and census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Retail residential electricity rates increased from 7.47 cents per kilowatthour in 2001 to 12.18 cents per kilowatthour by 2014, a 63.1 percent hike. Coloradans’ median income, however, went up just 24.1 percent, from $49,397 to $61,303. Median income in Colorado actually declined between 2008 and 2012.
In comparison, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ CPI inflation calculator returned an inflation measurement of 34 percent between 2001 and 2014.
It’s clear from the data that Coloradans’ income is not keeping pace with almost continuous electricity price increases over the past 15 years, consistently outpacing the rate of inflation. Colorado’s ratepayers have had to endure two economic recessions over that period, while feeling no relief from escalating energy prices driven by onerous regulations driving energy costs ever higher.
From fuel-switching and renewable mandates to other costly regulations imposed by state and federal agencies, Colorado’s ratepayers and taxpayers alike have been subject to policies that do not consider energy affordability or reliability as a primary concern. The most vulnerable communities–elderly, minorities, and the poor–are the most sensitive to even the smallest increases in energy costs.
Not to mention the state’s many business owners, including small business owners, who face the same hikes in energy costs that could force decisions like layoffs or relocation to nearby states, where energy costs are lower. This reduces job growth and harms the state’s economy twice, with increased business costs passed on to consumers–the same ratepayers who already are paying more at the meter.
“Colorado is an outlier in front of an unfortunate nationwide trend. According to federal data, average U.S. electricity prices in 2016 are projected to be about 4.5 percent greater than 2013 levels, despite decreasing overall demand, historically low natural gas prices, and plummeting oil,” said William Yeatman, senior fellow of environmental policy and energy markets at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and author of the Independence Institute’s 2012 Cost Analysis of the New Energy Economy.
“The best explanation for this confounding upward trend in utility bills nationwide is the Obama’s administration’s war on coal. Colorado, alas, was well ahead of the curve on the war on coal, which explains much of why the state’s rate increases are presently so much greater than the nationwide average,” he continued. “Governor Ritter and PUC Chairman Ron Binz were the primary players responsible for the creation of the so-called New Energy Economy, which is perhaps better labeled the Expensive Energy Economy. Theirs was a two-part policy. First, they shuttered a number of coal-fired power plants that were already paid for and that enjoyed among the lowest fuel costs on the state’s grid. To be clear: they shut down the cheapest sources of power. Second, they replaced this cheap power with expensive power. Instead of having power plants that were paid for, they required the construction of brand new gas power plants. And they required wind, much of which was “locked in” for long periods at exorbitant rates set on the price of natural gas 8 years ago. And they required solar, a program on which all ratepayers have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the installation of solar panels for the relatively few. Ritter and Binz are well out of office, but Coloradans now shoulder the burden of their misguided policies,” Yeatman concluded.
Yeatman’s analysis of 57 legislative items guided by Governor Ritter’s New Energy Economy push yielded $484 million in additional costs by 2012 to the state’s Xcel customers alone, or an additional $345 for every ratepayer.
But even these costs might not be all that’s in store for Colorado’s pressured electricity consumer.
“The saddest part of all is that it’s as yet uncertain whether any of Colorado’s rateshock would help stave off the worst of the Obama administration’s climate initiative, were that regulation to survive judicial review. That means that it could get much worse,” Yeatman said.
Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, regulations, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Or so it would seem based on a photo taken this past Monday at the Environmental Protection Agency’s hearing on the federal implementation and model trading rules portions of the Clean Power Plan:
Independence Institute’s Mike Krause analyzes how even the mere appearance of preferential treatment really calls into question the impartiality of the agency when it comes to hearings on a finalized rule that endangers coal-fired energy use, by putting an organization whose stated goals are to move “Beyond Coal” and whose Rocky Mountain chapter wants to move Colorado to 100% renewable energy, starting with Denver:
November 20 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Sierra Club to push for 100% renewables in Colorado; EPA Clean Power Plan hearing draws opposing sides; COGCC discusses new regs
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legal, Legislation, New Energy Economy, regulations, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
(Image Credit: Michael Sandoval)
The Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Analyst Michael Sandoval delivered this statement to the Environmental Protection Agency’s November 16 hearing in Denver, Colorado on the agency’s proposed federal plan and model trading rules for the Clean Power Plan:
In its December 2014 comments, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and the Colorado Energy Office all maintained that ‘In Colorado, the PUC has exclusive statutory authority to regulate the IOUs and associated electric resource decisions’ and that ‘depending upon the plan elements proposed by Colorado, legislation may be needed to clarify or direct state agencies on their respective roles and authorities’.
In a proposed mass-based emissions allocation trading market to trade eligible resource credits (ERCs), who is the market maker? It would appear to require institutional apparatus of some sort–what enabling legislation in Colorado is required? In other states? If no legislation at this level is required, why not?
Markets are complex and difficulty in trading–what are the rules? how are the rules established? Who handles disputes and is the ultimate arbiter? How are the credits created in the trading mechanism?
The Independence Institute is a free market think tank interested in promoting the free market in energy resources, but as nice or well-intentioned a trading market for ERCs sounds at first glance, it becomes evident that government-created “markets” are simply picking energy winners and losers, often arbitrarily, often without actual considerations of cost or impact, but rather to self-serving goals contained within a given policy, such as the Clean Power Plan. When those transactional costs of trading ERCs rise, who will pay them? The inefficiencies won’t be borne at the administrative or even generating level, but by the ratepayers and taxpayers, not all of whom will be prepared for the rising costs of the Clean Power Plan itself, much less in terms of wealth transfers from state to state as the trading scheme expands.
So far, as with much else from the rollout of the Clean Power Plan, the timeline for market creation is heavily compacted. Information from CDPHE in September on question of trading was light and unhelpful. As it appear now it is a scribbling of generalities, and it is difficult to comment because it appears to be more like a make-up-as-you-go, details to be sketched in later program that will prove harder, more expensive, and more nuanced than any central planning or federal trading scheme could possibly account for ahead of time.
These comments, of course, fall into the requisite acknowledgement of the ongoing legal, technical, and other shortcomings of the overall Clean Power Plan. Proposing a FIP and trading scheme would appear to be adopting a one-size-fits-all scheme to hasty environmental and electric generation planning at federal and state levels, and an expansion of EPA control over generation, distribution, and energy choice at the state level.
Compressing the timeline in 2016 will leave states scrambling without guidance ahead of their initial state plan submissions in 2016. Complicated mechanisms like a credit trading scheme, besides being legally or technically burdensome, surely deserve a measured approach. Concerns about the CPP or a credit trading system will continue with retards to electric reliability and electricity prices, something the state of Colorado has indicated is a foremost consideration, should we be able to take the state’s agencies and political establishment at their word.
Finally, all portions of the CPP must and should address the regressive nature of raising electricity prices on the nations’ poor, minority, elderly, and other vulnerable communities.
The Denver Business Journal captured some other responses at Monday’s EPA Clean Power Plan hearing:
Kim Stevens, Environment Colorado:
“We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change here in Colorado, from drought to floods, and these extreme weather events will only get worse without bold action to slash carbon pollution.”
Laura Comer, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign:
“The Clean Power Plan shows that the United States has a real, enforceable plan to curb dangerous carbon pollution and that we are truly to committed to combating climate disruption. We cannot let attacks from big polluters and their allies lessen our chances of a strong international agreement and undermine the safety of our communities.”
More reaction in the Denver Post:
“The EPA regulations will cost Colorado jobs, will cause electricity prices to soar and threaten the reliability of the electrical grid by mandating a wholesale restructuring of our electricity system for no appreciable benefit to the climate,” Colorado Mining Association president Stuart Sanderson said.
Sanderson and National Mining Association officials pointed to industry-backed studies saying power costs for residents of Colorado and other states would increase by around 30 percent between 2022 and 2030.
The plan leaves it to states to implement changes subject to EPA approval. EPA officials have said they will take into account each state’s current energy mix. If a state fails to act, federal officials would impose “an implementation plan” on that state.
The feds held the hearings on implementing the plan in Pittsburgh last week and, after Denver, will hear from residents in Atlanta and Washington D.C. A second day of comments are scheduled to continue Tuesday morning in Denver.
Sanderson called the Clean Power Plan a “stealth energy tax” for Coloradans.***
Many folks who push for clean energy or regulations like the EPA’s Clean Power Plan say that these programs will create jobs–but they never seem to remember the jobs these anti-energy choice mandates end up killing, like the more than 200 jobs Union Pacific will likely slash due to decreases in coal transportation in Colorado:
Union Pacific this week notified workers it will shutter its Burnham Shop repair yard in central Denver, putting more than 200 jobs on the line and darkening a piece of Colorado history.
Operations at Burnham will halt Feb. 14, the Omaha-based railroad said.
“The well-documented decline in the coal carloadings in Colorado — a result of natural gas prices and regulatory pressure — has diminished the need for locomotive repairs and overhauls in the Denver area,” Calli B. Hite, a Union Pacific spokeswoman, said in an e-mail to The Denver Post.
Loaded coal trains originating in Colorado have decreased 80 percent since 2005, Hite wrote.
Earlier this week, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission held hearings on new fracking rules, including limiting hours for fracking operations and setbacks for development:
The Bureau of Land Management has stirred up controversy over 65 existing oil and gas leases with a new environmental impact statement that puts nearly half at risk:
The Bureau of Land Management released a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) Wednesday that put 65 existing oil and gas leases on White River National Forest land under the microscope. The agency found that 25 leases in the controversial Thompson Divide area must be either wholly or partially cancelled.
This long-awaited decision was embraced by conservation groups, and panned by the oil and gas industry.
The rub was over the legality of these leases, which are owned by Houston-based energy companies SG Interests and Ursa Resources, and have been scrutinized for years. Many conservation groups have said that the leases were issued without undergoing the proper environmental evaluations.
The BLM draft EIS backs that position, and now a 49-day public comment period will begin on Nov. 20 and will run through Jan. 8, 2016.
“We appreciate the effort of the local community in this discussion,” said BLM Colorado State Director Ruth Welch in a prepared statement. “We will continue to work toward finding a path forward that balances energy development and conservation, while recognizing the White River National Forest’s planning efforts.”
The Sierra Club Rocky Mountain Chapter would like the entire state of Colorado to be 100% renewable, beginning with Denver. Becky English, the executive committee chair for the Sierra Club, responded to an email about a sustainability summit scheduled for early December in Denver:
I would have liked to share that the Sierra Club national board has declared a goal of powering the electric sector by 100% renewable energy nationwide, and that the Rocky Mountain Chapter has adopted the goal for Colorado. I will approach you offline about how best to work toward this goal in Denver.
The “Sustainable Denver Summit” on December 3rd will feature Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:
Sustainable Denver Summit Program
8:00 – 9:00 a.m. – Registration, Continential Breakfast, and Exhibition Space
9:00 – 10:00 a.m. – Opening plenary session – Remarks from Keynote Speaker and Mayor Michael B. Hancock
10:00 a.m. – Breakout Sessions –
• Energy – Focusing on issues of energy efficiency, renewable energy, use of energy in mobility, and air quality and greenhouse gas reduction
• Water – Focusing on both water quantity and water quality, including climate change resilience
• Materials – Focusing on cradle-to-cradle materials management issues, including environmentally preferable purchasing, recycling, composting and by-product synergy
• Mobility – Focusing on providing multiple interconnected mobility modes that are cleaner, safer, cheaper and more efficient than the current system
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. – Luncheon and Sustainability Awards – Awards will be presented to the 2015 Sustainable Denver Award winners
1:45 – 3:45 p.m. – Breakout Sessions Reconvene
4:00 – 5:00 p.m. – Closing Plenary Session – Report out on commitments
They should probably also feature a breakout session on how these programs will make the city of Denver–not to mention the entire state of Colorado under the Sierra Club’s plan–less affordable for low income and minority populations.
November 12 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Colorado hit hard by CPP; Bennet defends pro-Keystone stance; CSU report rejects “sky-is-falling” contamination claims
Filed under: Archive, CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legislation, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Energy Economy, regulations
Colorado would be the 18th hardest hit state, and fourth most expensive for the cost of carbon reduction under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, according to a new report from Fitch Ratings:
Wide-ranging voices—in politics; in business; consumer advocates like our coalition—have been warning of the potentially crippling costs of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s soon-to-be-implemented Clean Power Plan. Its ripple effects will be felt nationwide, and Colorado is by all indications squarely in harm’s way.
As we have contended for some time now, the proposed federal mandate for air standards will impact every type of consumer—residential, small business, agricultural and industrial—in every community in Colorado. That includes consumers served by public utilities, municipal providers and rural cooperatives. And the changes to Colorado’s statewide power generation contemplated by the EPA’s mandates may ultimately cost many billions of dollars.
Rather than heed or, at least, consider some of these urgent concerns, however, defenders of the oncoming Juggernaut have sought in many cases to dismiss the criticism as coming from interests that are supposedly too close to the debate. Stakeholders involved in energy development of fossil fuels, for example, or power generation, are accused of having a vested interest and thus, presumably, are less than objective. Fairly or not, policy debates often turn on such considerations.
Well, now, another authoritative voice has entered the fray, and this time it is one without a discernible horse in the race. It is the voice of a truly neutral arbiter—one of the financial world’s “big three” credit-rating agencies—and it is sounding the alarm on the Clean Power Plan.
Fitch Ratings’ new report, “The Carbon Effect 2.0,” released just weeks ago, raises troubling concerns about the impact of the Clean Power Plan on the financial stability of the nation’s electric utilities. More troubling still, in the report’s state-by-state assessment, Colorado is among those facing the most formidable challenges, and potentially steepest costs, in complying with the Draconian EPA rules.
Governor John Hickenlooper continues to maintain his position that Attorney General Cynthia Coffman should defer to the governor on the matter of the AG’s lawsuit over the Clean Power Plan:
On his petition to the state Supreme Court to review Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s authority to sue over the federal Clean Power Plan:
“I think the way the system’s meant, was designed, is that the governor and the attorney general should be consulting together on legal issues facing the state. But ultimately, the attorney general needs a client, and I think the governor was intended to be that voice, to speak for the agencies, the departments, to speak for the people. And I think if the attorney general and the governor don’t agree, my reading and [that of] the lawyers in our office is that this was intended ultimately to be the governor’s decision.”
Hickenlooper filed the petition to the Colorado Supreme Court last week.
The eco-inquisition is here, and the practice of selling environmental indulgences won’t be far behind:
Executives at publicly traded companies like Exxon Mobil may soon be talking more about climate change. Financial regulators are taking a closer look at how these companies disclose the impacts of climate change.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Monday that Peabody Energy didn’t tell its investors all the financial risks from climate change and potential regulation. Peabody Energy, which owns a mine in Colorado, admits no wrongdoing, but it says it will now make disclosures that accurately and objectively represent climate impacts.
Methane regulations touted as saving money for companies, say regulators and companies hired to find methane leaks:
“What that means to the industry is substantial lost revenues,” he said.
He estimated that loss at about $1.2 billion a year even at today’s low natural gas prices.
Methane also is a potent greenhouse gas, and typically leaks in combination with volatile organic compounds and other pollutants. With that in mind, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission last year passed what’s known as Regulation 7, imposing the nation’s first rules specifically targeting methane emissions by the industry. Now the Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management are considering rules targeting methane at the national level.
“Colorado … is the leader in the country on this issue by passing and enacting Regulation 7. We’re paying real close attention to how that’s going because there are several rulemakings on the federal level,” Von Bargen said.
U.S. Senator Michael Bennet defended his pro-Keystone XL stance even as his party’s leader, President Barack Obama, went the other way on the project last week:
Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet stood behind his vote earlier this year in favor of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline after the Obama administration rejected it on Friday after seven years of study and contentious debate.
“For years, the Keystone XL pipeline has been overhyped on both sides of the debate,” Bennet said in a statement to The Colorado Statesman. “The number of jobs it would create and the amount of carbon emissions it would facilitate have both been exaggerated.”
The proposed 1,200-mile pipeline would have transported 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska and ultimately on to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. Bennet voted for a Senate bill approving the project in January.
“Based on scientific analyses that showed building Keystone XL would have little or no bearing on whether our nation will materially address climate change, I voted to move forward with the pipeline,” Bennet added. “The president vetoed the bill that Congress passed and has now administratively rejected the project. This is an issue on which the president and I disagree.”
A new CSU report concludes that, contrary to the popular line put forward by anti-fracking activists and other environmentalists, water-based contaminants from the fossil fuel industry aren’t seeping into wells in northern Colorado:
A new Colorado State University report says there is no evidence water-based contaminants are seeping into drinking-water wells over a vast oil and gas field in northeast Colorado.
A series of studies, led by CSU civil and environmental engineer professor Ken Carlson, analyzed the impact of oil and gas drilling on groundwater in the 6,700-square-mile Denver-Julesburg Basin, which extends between Greeley and Colorado Springs and between Limon and the foothills.
The studies were done under the auspices of the Colorado Water Watch, a state-funded effort started last year for real-time groundwater monitoring in the DJ Basin. The basin shares space with more than 30,000 active or abandoned oil and natural gas wells, say CSU researchers.
They primarily looked at the 24,000 producing and 7,500 abandoned wells in the Wattenberg Field, which sits mainly in Weld County.
“We feel that our results add to our database of knowledge,” Carlson said. “There isn’t a chronic, the-sky-is-falling type of problem with water contamination.”
Methane contamination was found in a small percentage of older wells, but according to the story, “it’s not toxic and isn’t a huge factor in terms of drinking-water safety.”
Many of the most well-known National Parks in the western United States would violate the new 70 ppb ozone regulation finalized last month, with the most egregious violator located along the Colorado-Utah border:
But national parks are among the worst offenders, with one maintaining levels of more than 100 ppb.
The 26 offenders are mainly in the West, with only a handful in the East, where coal-fired power plants dot the landscape.
The biggest violator is Dinosaur National Monument, home to 1,500 dinosaur fossils and a popular white-water rafting destination on the Colorado-Utah border. Its ozone level is 114 ppb. The runner-up at 90 ppb is the 631-square-mile Sequoia National Park in Northern California, a pristine forest boasting 3,200-year-old trees that are among the tallest in the world.
The Grand Canyon? It barely squeaks by at 69 ppb.
In all, 11 states have national parks that are in non-compliance with the new ozone standard: Arizona, 3; California, 9; Colorado, 2; Connecticut, 3; Illinois, 1; Maine, 1; Massachusetts, 1; Nevada, 1; New Jersey, 2; Pennsylvania, 1; and Utah, 2. Ozone levels are calculated over a three-year period.
The Grand Canyon narrowly missed violating the rule when the EPA went with the 70 ppb level instead of the lower end of the 65-70 range suggested in earlier drafts of the rule.
November 5 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Hickenlooper seeks CO Supreme guidance on Coffman EPA lawsuit; divestment movement is back at CU; WOTUS opposition in U.S. Senate
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, PUC, regulations
Governor John Hickenlooper finally filed his request with the Colorado Supreme Court to determine which office–governor or attorney general–has the final say in Colorado’s lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, joined the lawsuit with approximately two dozen other states in October.
Gov. John Hickenlooper today filed a petition asking the Colorado Supreme Court to issue a legal rule that the governor, not the attorney general, has the ultimate authority to decide on behalf of the state when to sue the federal government in federal court.
“The attorney general has filed an unprecedented number of lawsuits without support of or collaboration with her clients,” said Jacki Cooper Melmed, chief legal counsel to the governor. “This raises serious questions about the use of state dollars and the attorney-client relationship between the governor, state agencies and the attorney general.”
Governor Hickenlooper petitions this Court under Colorado Constitution art. VI, § 3, and C.A.R. 21 for a rule requiring Attorney General Coffman to show cause regarding her legal authority to sue the United States without the Governor’s authorization. In this Petition, he requests a ruling on the Governor’s and Attorney General’s respective authority under the Constitution and laws of Colorado to determine whether the State of Colorado should sue the United States. The Governor asks this Court to issue a legal declaration that (1) the Governor, not the Attorney General, has ultimate authority to decide on behalf of the State of Colorado whether to sue the federal government, and (2) the Attorney General’s lawsuits against the federal government without the Governor’s authorization must be withdrawn.
No doubt this request will remain at the top of the news between the Democratic Governor and the Republican Attorney General as the hotly contested and controversial Clean Power Plan moves forward despite pending lawsuits. The EPA has already schedule a series of public hearings on the CPP implementation at four locations over the next two weeks in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, DC, and Denver.
How contested is the rule? At least twenty-six states have filed lawsuits–24 in a joint lawsuit, with two other states filing separately–while 18 states have filed a motion on behalf of the EPA and the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan has split the country in half. More to come.
Earnest but misguided students at the University of Colorado have resurrected their divestment push and will harangue the CU Board of Regents with the usual mix of ideology and theater today, even after being voted down 7-2 back in April:
Also on Thursday, the student group Fossil Fuel CU is planning an “action” toward the end of the board’s meeting, complete with banners, signs, posters and singing. That’s likely to be a recurring theme again this year.
“The folks who don’t stand with us anticipated that that block in process would dishearten student leaders or stifle the campaign we’ve been building for two years, but it actually did quite the opposite,” said P.D. Gantert, who is taking time off from CU classes to organize divestment movements across the southwestern United States. “It emboldened us to take even more risky and loud actions to stand up for what we know is the change that needed to happen at our university.”
Here’s what I had to say back in April during a board meeting and hearing on the divestment question, as quoted by the Daily Camera:
“The anti-fossil fuel campaign is really a national campaign run by far-left environmental activists,” said Michael Sandoval of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Denver, during a board meeting in April. “To be blunt, this is a national campaign using college students to shut down one of Colorado’s leading job creators.”
Schools from Swarthmore to Harvard, hardly conservative bastions, have rejected the arguments in favor of divestment. Our own spring intern, Lexi Osborn, took down the divestment arguments in an op-ed for the Greeley Tribune back in February:
Divestment activists appear willing to jeopardize university assets in the name of saving the planet. Yet they may not realize how ineffective their project would be.
A new report by the American Security Project found that university divestment from fossil fuels will have no mitigating effects on carbon emissions. Divestment does not decrease the demand for fossil fuels; it merely moves the money around. The campaign additionally ignores the complexities of transitioning to a “renewable and emission-neutral economy.”
Another study by University of Oxford found that, even if all capital were divested from university endowments and public pension funds, it would be such a small percentage of the market capitalization of traded fossil fuel companies that the divestment would barely impact the fossil fuel industry.
But the divestment of fossil fuel assets might not be the real goal of the campaign. In a video interview, Klein states that they are using the movement to create a space where it is easier to tax, nationalize and undermine oil companies. She claims that the people have a right to the oil industry’s “illegitimate” profits to make up for the crisis created by this sector.
The U.S. Senate moved beyond court injunctions on the EPA’s stalled Waters of the United States rule this week, with Republicans pushing forward on a repeal measure and another calling for revisions, with the former facing a veto from the Democratic administration, and the latter falling to Democratic opposition in the Senate itself:
“Coloradans know when they’re getting soaked,” Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, said following votes on Tuesday. “This rule is so poorly written and ill-conceived that multiple federal judges have put halts on its implementation.”
The resolution that passed in an effort to essentially repeal the rule fell under the Congressional Review Act, which allows for a simple majority to disapprove of any regulation. It passed Wednesday 53-44. The White House has already issued a veto threat.
The measure calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite the water rule required a procedural vote to advance. But it fell three short of the 60 votes needed, with Democrats leading the effort to stop the bill.
Gardner supported a rewrite in order to enact stronger state and agricultural protections with more input from local communities. He also supported the resolution eliminating the rule.
“The WOTUS rule is a classic example of federal overreach, giving the EPA authority to regulate ponds, ditches and tiny streams across Colorado and the West,” Gardner said.
Sen. Michael Bennet helped quash the rewrite measure.
The ongoing battle between the city of Boulder and Xcel Energy received clarification from the Public Utilities Commission this week.
Despite production records, Noble Energy sees losses in the third quarter due to lower commodity prices, and will likely trim staff numbers later this month.
October 29 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Hickenlooper vs. Coffman over EPA lawsuit; EPA spill report short on info says New Mexico; Frack or Treat
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, PUC, regulations, solar energy, wind energy
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s decision to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to implement the Clean Power Plan has initiated a constitutional battle in the eyes of Governor John Hickenlooper:
Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he will seek the state Supreme Court’s opinion on the legality of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s lawsuit to stop implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
“This notion of everyone suing all the time every time you disagree with a specific remedy, a specific statute, is part of what makes people so frustrated with government,” Hickenlooper, who supports the plan, said in a meeting with The Denver Post’s editorial board.
“Except in very rare circumstances, generally the governor is supposed to make that decision in concert with the attorney general,” Hickenlooper said of the lawsuit. “But the governor should have that final say.”
Hickenlooper’s office pushed the issue further, saying the AG’s actions “just gets in the way” of state plans to cooperate with the CPP:
“The statute that we’re looking at speaks of prosecuting and defending on the request of the governor,” said Jacki Cooper Melmed, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, citing Colorado’s revised statutes, title 24, article 31, part 1.
Cooper Melmed said she is worried about conflicts as some Coffman deputies work with Hickenlooper’s administration to implement the plan while others in the attorney general’s office try to quash it.
“This just gets in the way,” Cooper Melmed said of the lawsuit. “There’s no wall really high enough to allow these two things to happen out of the same office.”
Coffman, for her part, said she was “disappointed” in the Governor’s decision.
Former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton called Hickenlooper’s stance “unusual” when it comes to the relationship between AG and Governor, even when representing opposing parties:
“For the governor to try to challenge in this way is unusual,” Norton said.
In almost all cases where a governor challenges an attorney general, Norton said, rulings are in the attorney general’s favor.
“The attorney general represents the state and not the governor,” Norton said. “The attorney general is elected to provide independent representation of the state’s interest.”
Steamboat Today has a great roundup of other reactions for and against the lawsuit.
It’s not just states suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan–at least 26 states filed almost immediately after the ruling was published last Friday–but other lawsuits are on their way from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and National Association of Manufacturers.
The EPA, meanwhile, is touting its flexibility–a “wide range of choices”–in allowing states to file extensions:
Taking another crack at busting the CPP progress, this time using pre-existing Congressional review legislation:
Lawmakers opposed to the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants are moving to block the regulations from taking effect.
Several senators will offer Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions Monday that seek to stop the Clean Power Plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a longtime opponent of carbon regulations for the power sector, will schedule a vote on the resolutions soon after they come out.
“I have vowed to do all I can to fight back against this administration on behalf of the thousands of Kentucky coal miners and their families, and this CRA is another tool in that battle,” McConnell said in a statement.
The Congressional Review Act gives lawmakers the ability to end an executive branch regulation through an act of Congress.
Communities around Colorado continue to struggle with mine runoff, the August EPA spill in southwest Colorado not withstanding:
Toxic mines hang over this haven for wildflowers, contaminating water and driving residents — like counterparts statewide — to press for better protection.
A local group went to federal court this month seeking long-term assurances that a water-treatment plant will always remain open as the collapsed tunnels and heaps of tailings leak an acid mix of heavy metals: arsenic, cadmium, zinc and others.
State data show these contaminants reaching Coal Creek — the primary water source for Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley’s green pastures — at levels exceeding health standards.
“A lot of people are nervous,” said Alli Melton of High Country Conservation Advocates. “We’d like to get it as clean as possible.”
But the EPA isn’t being all the helpful, as the Interior Department inspector general report on the Gold King Mine/Animas River spill concluded, as the U.S. Chamber points out:
These two quotes from the report illustrate just how careless EPA was:
EPA has “little appreciation for the engineering complexity.”
“[T]here appears to be a general absence of knowledge of the risks associated with these [abandoned mining] facilities.”
Even EPA’s internal investigators didn’t hold back on the agencies irresponsibility. Its initial review concluded the spill was “likely inevitable,” but the agency wasn’t prepared to contain a spill before digging into the mine.
That isn’t much consolation for the folks in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation affected by the spill, as New Mexico’s top environmental watchdog Ryan Flynn said, quoted again by the Chamber:
While the report reveals that an EPA decision was made to refrain from validating the flawed water level estimates with a previously used successful procedure (using a drill rig to bore into the mine from above to directly determine the water level of the mine pool prior to excavating the backfill at the portal); the report says absolutely nothing about who made the decision to fly by the seat of their pants, by digging out the closed Gold King Mine tunnel based on un-validated estimates of what volume and pressure of contaminated water would be violently released.
Here in New Mexico, we are already quite clear on the fact that EPA made a mistake, as the DOI’s report underwhelmingly reveals. What we were wondering, and hoped the report could tell us, is why EPA made the mistake, and who at EPA made the decisions that authorized dangerous work to proceed based on un-validated estimates. It is shocking to read the DOI’s “independent investigation” only to find that it overlooks the who, the how, and the why. [emphasis added]
How big are subsidies for electric cars? Without the $5,000 tax credit in Georgia, the state saw sales of electric vehicles plummet nearly 90% in just two months:
According to Georgia car registrations, sales shot up as electric car buyers rushed to take advantage of the tax credit before it expired. But the numbers declined sharply in July and took a swan dive in August — the most recent month tabulated:
The decline from 1,338 in June to 148 in August represents a drop of 88.9 percent.
Read the rest of this excellent Watchdog article here.
It’s almost Halloween, so we’ll end on a spooky anti-energy note from Energy in Depth:
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been waging an extreme campaign to ban fracking through so called “Community Bill of Rights” ballot initiatives, especially targeting communities in Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The group has already forced taxpayers to pay tens of thousands of dollars to defend their illegal ordinances and it is now planning to hit communities in California, Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington State. In fact, as Energy In Depth’s new video shows, this Halloween, CELDF’s extreme (and expensive) campaign could be coming to a ballot box near you.
October 8 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Ozone rule and Colorado; ‘ban fracking’ resurfaces in Denver; ‘Fossil Fuel Free Week’ proves a challenge
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legal, Legislation, New Energy Economy, regulations, renewable energy
Be sure to check out and like our Energy Cheat Sheet page on Facebook for daily, up-to-the minute updates that compliment our weekly “best of” on the I2I Energy Blog.
Let’s open with a great piece from Lachlan Markay at the Free Beacon on the ways proponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s raft of new policies, especially the Clean Power Plan, went on the offensive before the regulation was even finalized:
Supporters of a controversial Environmental Protection Agency regulation commissioned Democratic pollsters to plot ways to attack the motives and credibility of the regulation’s critics, documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon reveal.
Aides to a dozen Democratic governors and the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial advocacy arm circulated talking points and political messaging memos on EPA’s new power plant regulations that laid out ways to “sow doubts about our opponents [sic] motives,” in the words of one of those memos.
The previously unreported documents, obtained by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute through an open records request and shared exclusively with the Free Beacon, provide a window into the Democratic messaging machine’s approach to an issue that its own pollsters acknowledge is a hard sell among its target voter demographics.
In what was certainly intended as a launching point for
local national anti-energy, “ban fracking” advocates, last weekend’s confab in Denver–no doubt brought to us in no small part by fossil fuels–ramped up their efforts, as Energy In Depth’s Randy Hildreth writes:
National “ban fracking” groups descended on Denver this afternoon to protest oil and gas development as part of the “Stop the Frack Attack National Summit.”
For anyone still wondering if this was a Colorado effort, EID was on hand to note that when a speaker asked the crowd, “How many of you are from out of state?” attendees erupted into cheers. And while the group managed to draw roughly 100 participants, judging from the cheers of out of state folks, we’re guessing the showing was pretty sparse from Colorado (which, of course means they all got into planes and cars burning fossil fuels to get here).
Plenty of photos of the protestors at the link.
So what are they amping/ramping up?
Although Colorado-based environment groups such as Conservation Colorado didn’t participate; the demonstrations drew support from national groups, such as the Sierra Club, and impassioned “fractivist” residents. A group called Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development has declared the COGCC illegitimate and is developing ballot initiatives including a statewide fracking ban.
“Local control” just means “ban fracking” and all other oil and gas development, using a few local fractivists for cover, a pattern of political posturing since at least the 2013 off-year election cycle, when national anti-fracking groups enlisted or created local branches to push ballot measures at the municipal level.
How big an economic driver is oil and gas development? Energy In Depth took a national look:
While these cities lie in different geological regions, they do have one thing in common: shale development. Oil and gas development in these cities was the biggest economic driver throughout 2014. For instance, take a look at the Greeley, Colorado metropolitan area, which encompasses Weld County, where a large percentage of shale development is taking place. It grew its GDP by 9.9 percent in 2014 and ranks fourth in the nation in terms of percent growth. According to a BizWest.com article:
“Greeley’s 2014 growth was dominated by the mining sector, which includes oil and gas extraction, growing by 24.6 percent from the previous year.”
Some early analysis on the EPA’s recently announced ozone rule, set at 70 ppb. Colorado’s unique geographical and topographical situation mean that even at a higher level (original discussions for the ozone rule included possibly lowering the target to 60 ppb from 75), the state will face plenty of difficulties, including some entirely out of the state’s control:
“We don’t expect that the non-attainment areas will expand geographically,” said Will Allison, the director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s air pollution control division.
But state officials do have concerns about the new standard’s impact on the state, and they will be talking to the EPA about issues unique to Colorado and other western states, such as the fact that the Rocky Mountains can act as a trap for air pollution flowing across the Pacific Ocean from Asia, Allison said.
The state’s high altitude and pattern of lightning storms also contribute to ozone levels — but there’s very little Colorado officials can do to interfere with Mother Nature.
Heritage Foundation–4 Reasons Congress Needs to Review the EPA’s Ozone Standard
Institute for Energy Research–EPA Finalizes Costly, Unnecessary Ozone Rule
In 2010, EPA reconsidered the 2008 standard and EPA’s delay means that implementation of the 2008 standard is now behind schedule. But instead of waiting until localities are complying with the 2008 regulation, EPA is imposing a newer, stricter standard that puts more counties out of attainment even though ozone levels are decreasing. Below is a map depicting the areas that are projected to be out of compliance under a 70 ppb standard.
National Association of Manufacturers–New Ozone Rule Will Inflict Pain on Manufacturers, Finalized Regulation Still Feels Like a Punch in the Gut
“Today, the Obama Administration finalized a rule that is overly burdensome, costly and misguided,” said Timmons. “For months, the Administration threatened to impose on manufacturers an even harsher rule, with even more devastating consequences. After an unprecedented level of outreach by manufacturers and other stakeholders, the worst-case scenario was avoided. However, make no mistake: The new ozone standard will inflict pain on companies that build things in America—and destroy job opportunities for American workers. Now it’s time for Congress to step up and take a stand for working families.”
According to the National Journal, the new ozone rule has pretty much ticked off everyone concerned, including those on the side of the current administration:
After a banner second term that has seen the most aggressive action on climate change from any administration, the Obama administration just opened up a new fault line with environmentalists.
The Environmental Protection Agency today released its new air-quality standards for ground-level ozone, lowering the allowable level from 75 parts per billion to 70 ppb. That’s well short of what environmentalists and public-health groups had been pushing and a level they say wouldn’t do enough to protect public health.
Industry groups and Republicans, meanwhile, are not likely to be any happier—they have been long opposed to any standard lower than the status quo because of the potential cost of compliance.
The EPA’s shady procedural efforts appear to have killed natural resource development in Alaska, using hypotheticals and possibly in collusion with environmentalists, according to a new report, writes the Daily Caller’s Michael Bastasch:
The EPA may have rigged the permitting process in the Alaskan copper mining project, possibly hand-in-hand with environmentalists, to defeat the Pebble Mine before it even had a chance, a new report by an independent investigator suggests.
“The statements and actions of EPA personnel observed during this review raise serious concerns as to whether EPA orchestrated the process to reach a predetermined outcome; had inappropriately close relationships with anti-mine advocates,” reads a report by former defense secretary William Cohen, who now runs his own consulting firm.
The Pebble Partnership hired Cohen to review the EPA’s decision not to allow the Pebble Mine to seek a permit for mining copper near Alaska’s Bristol Bay. Cohen’s report only looked at the process the EPA used to pre-emptively veto the Pebble Mine. He did not make any conclusions on the EPA’s legal authority to do so or whether or not the mine should even be built.
Cohen found that the EPA’s “unprecedented, preemptive” use of the Clean Water Act to kill the Pebble Mine relied on a hypothetical mining project that “may or may not accurately or fairly represent an actual project.”
“It is by now beyond dispute that the Environmental Protection Agency went rogue when it halted Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine project. And yet, there’s more.
The more comes via an independent report that criticizes the agency for its pre-emptive 2014 veto of Pebble, a proposal to create the country’s largest copper and gold mine in southwest Alaska. Under the Clean Water Act, the Army Corps of Engineers evaluates permit applications for new projects. The EPA has a secondary role of reviewing and potentially vetoing Corps approval. Here, the EPA issued a veto before [emphasis in original] either Pebble could file for permits or the Corps could take a look.”
Mountain States Legal Foundation’s William Perry Pendley on the latest private property battle vs. federal land managers–”The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday is scheduled to consider whether to take up a case from Utah that could determine whether federal land managers can steal a citizen’s private property.”
Native American energy production faces Democrat opposition:
House Democrats are expected to oppose legislation this week that would remove regulatory burdens for energy production on Native American land that tribes say have cost them tens of millions of dollars.
The Native American Energy Act would vest more regulatory authority over tribal energy production with the tribes themselves, rather federal regulators that have recently sought more stringent regulations on oil and gas production on federal land.
The bill passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee last month with just a single Democratic vote. Among its provisions is language that would exempt tribal land from new Interior Department regulations on hydraulic fracturing, an innovative oil and gas extraction technique commonly known as fracking.
Last but not least, the Western Energy Alliance’s “Fossil Fuel Free Week” concluded last week, and it was a tough challenge (if you’re reading this right now, you’ve failed:
Fossil Fuel Free Week, organized by Western Energy Alliance, has concluded and succeeded in getting people to think about the role of oil and natural gas in their daily lives. The campaign was designed in response to numerous anti-fossil fuel protests in recent months, such as the Keep It In The Ground Coalition, various anti-fracking rallies, demonstrations against Keystone XL and other pipelines and rail transport, the divestiture movement, and kayaktivists against arctic drilling.
The key lesson from the campaign is environmental groups, when directly challenged, fail to provide workable alternatives that replace the full spectrum of products provided by fossil fuels. Instead they respond by being predictably dismissive and offer vague visions for the future, as President Tim Wigley of the Alliance explains:
“As we’ve seen with recent protests, environmental groups incite anger amongst their supporters while dangling fossil fuels in effigy. Yet not accustomed to being poked fun of themselves, environmentalists reacted reflexively to the Challenge, offering weak observations by calling it ridiculous, snarky and a ploy. Well…yes!
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, New Energy Economy, PUC, preferred energy, regulations, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Thanks to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for holding this event.
A few comments for the agency to consider.
First, in your December 2014 comments, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and the Colorado Energy Office all maintained that ‘In Colorado, the PUC has exclusive statutory authority to regulate the IOUs and associated electric resource decisions’ and that ‘depending upon the plan elements proposed by Colorado, legislation may be needed to clarify or direct state agencies on their respective roles and authorities’–and since no legislation appears to have clarified this point, how do you expect to proceed?
Second, the state’s top law enforcement official Attorney General Cynthia Coffman believes the CPP to be overreach and has joined more than one dozen other states suing the EPA to stop the CPP. The EPA has even said in its brief in response to petitions for extraordinary writ in the D.C. Circuit:
“…if a state believes it appropriate to do so, it could defer much of the planning effort until judicial review is complete. The initial submittal requires substantially less than a state plan.”
We are pleased to hear today that this advisement has been acknowledged and that CDPHE will take the maximum time allowed.
Third, we hope that you include more input from citizens and ratepayers, the most important stakeholders in the state. A recent Magellan poll revealed 59% of Colorado voters want to WAIT for all legal challenges to be completed BEFORE Colorado complies and the EPA says that’s okay. So it seems prudent to wait for legal challenges to be completed. In the meantime we shouldn’t be planning compliance but rather studying what the CPP’s impact on the economy and Colorado’s working family, low income and minorities in a fair and open way. We need to know the full impact of the estimated $600 additional cost per year per Colorado family for no measurable impact on emissions.
In that light, we wonder how Colorado will remain committed to ensuring reliable and affordable electricity if it pushes forward with a plan without allowing legal challenges to be resolved?
Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of Colorado citizens and ratepayers. We appreciate CDPHE’s process and support an open, transparent stakeholder process subject to relevant legislation.
September 10 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Colowyo Mine survives WildEarth legal challenge; EPA stumbles in Congressional hearing
Filed under: Archive, Environmental Protection Agency, regulations, renewable energy, wind energy
First up, the first of 4 free panels in September and October designed to highlight the impacts of EPA regulations–Clean Power Plan, ozone rule, and the Waters of the United States:
“The Coming Storm of Federal Energy and Environmental Regulations and their impact on Colorado families, business and economy”
Southwest Weld County Services Center
4209 WCR 24 1/2
Longmont, CO 80504
Wednesday, September 23, 2015 from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM (MDT)
Are you concerned about all the new regulations coming out of Washington, D.C.? Want to know more about how EPA regs on carbon, ozone, and water will impact you, your family, and your community? Want to know what you can do about them?
Then join us for a free panel event featuring:
Dan Byers, Institute for 21st Century Energy U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Amy Cooke, Independence Institute, Executive Vice President and Director of the Energy Policy Center
Tony Gagliardi, Nations Federation of Independent Business, Colorado State Director
Senator Kevin Lundberg, Colorado State Senate Republicans
Moderator: Michael Sandoval
We provide the lunch and experts. You provide the questions.
Questions: Cherish@i2i.org or 303-279-6536 x 118
Independence Institute, Americans for Prosperity, NFIB–The National Federation of Independent Business, and Colorado State Senate Republicans
For folks in northwest Colorado, some much-needed resolution in the Colowyo mine legal challenge initiated by the WildEarth Guardians earlier this year:
A Colorado coal mine slated for closure due to a technicality has gotten a reprieve from the federal government in a move that could save hundreds of jobs.
The Colowyo coal mine, which has provided hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars to the economy of the city of Craig and the northwestern region of the state since 1977 was in danger of being closed because a renewal permit drafted eight years ago did not take into account the mine’s impact on climate change. An environmental group sued in a bid to invalidate the permit. A court-ordered review by the Department of the Interior and an environmental assessment by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) found there was no significant environmental impact and validated the permit.
“We are grateful to the staff at the Office of Surface Mining and the other cooperating agencies for their diligence and hard work to complete the environmental review within the short timeframe ordered by the judge,” Mike McInnes, chief executive officer of Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, which owns Colowyo Mine, said in a released statement provided to FoxNews.com.
But if you think the WildEarth Guardians are content to settle with this outcome, you’d be wrong:
WildEarth Guardians was satisfied with the new assessment, said Jeremy Nichols, the group’s climate and energy program director. They are not planning any further legal challenges to Colowyo.
“That said, we do see some room for improvement,” he said.
Nichols noted the new assessment estimates the mine could emit nearly 10 million tons of greenhouse gases every year. He said that doesn’t square with the federal government’s plan to fight climate change.
“If the Interior Department continues to give short shrift to carbon emissions and climate consequences of coal mining,” Nichols said, “There will be mines shut down. We’re not going to be so generous moving forward.”
The ultimate goal of Nichols’ group is to kill coal. They were simply unsuccessful here, trying to move forward on a technicality or improper paperwork. Make no mistake, this wasn’t about the agencies or the mine doing things by the book–this was an attempt to throw the book at the mine and hoping it would stick. It did not for Colowyo, but it might for Trapper, another mine in WildEarth Guardians’s path.
Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid posted this short statement to Facebook following the decision:
I just got a personal phone call from Sen. Michael Bennet. He wanted to let me know that largely due to my efforts, Colowyo miners will be able to keep working and get on with their lives. He told me that I did a great job in advocating for northwest Colorado and getting the Secretary of Interior’s interest and help.
What a great complement.
However, you and I both know that many people worked very hard and effectively to achieve a positive outcome. Too many people to mention. And there was so much Divine intervention, as well. You know as well as I, that I’m not that smart and not that talented.
I’m so grateful for all of the assistance that we received. And yes, it was nice to get a complement from Michael Bennet. It just needs to be kept in perspective.
And of course the war on coal continues.
Video from yesterday’s House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency and the Gold King mine spill:
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did not appear at hearing.
Cleanup projected to cost at least a buck per gallon spilled, or $3 million.
During the hearing, the EPA commitment to transparency was called into question almost immediately, due to what appeared to be selective editing of a video of the initial moments of the spill, when a worker at the mine exclaims, “What do we do now?”:
The Environmental Protection Agency replaced a doctored video from the Gold King mine spill with the original Wednesday after being called on the discrepancy during a House committee hearing.
Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican, showed both versions during the hearing before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, pointing out that the version posted on the EPA website covers up the voice of a worker as contaminated water spills from the mine saying, “What do we do now?”
EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen said the redacted video was “posted by mistake.”
“The unredacted version was meant to be shared on the EPA website,” Ms. Allen said in an email. “We’ve since removed the redacted version and replaced it with the unredacted version, as was originally intended.”
The quick change is admirable but the question remains–has other information released, including the videos and other documentation, been similarly redacted, edited, or manipulated? Even if it has not, the EPA’s misstep in “bleeping” the comment in the video surely doesn’t endear it to folks already suspicious of the agency’s own review of its conduct and handling of the August spill.
The Gold King mine’s owner was also not impressed by the EPA’s testimony, alleging the agency was, at the very least, misleading:
An Environmental Protection Agency official lied during a congressional hearing Wednesday when he said the agency responded to a Gold King Mine “cave-in” when in fact EPA contractors created the disaster by barricading the mine last summer, the owner of the mine has charged.
“This was a result of cave-ins and water buildup. That’s why we were there at the time,” said Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. His boss, Administrator Gina McCarthy, did not attend the first congressional hearing into the Animas River Spill, held by the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
Although Stanislaus was grilled on other issues such as transparency and double standards pertaining to non-government spills, none of the representatives drilled into Stanislaus’ claim that the Colorado spill was a result of natural forces.
But his comments weren’t lost on Todd Hennis, Gold King’s owner.
“It’s absolute baloney of the worst sort,” Hennis said immediately after the hearing. “They blocked off the flow of water out of the drain pipes and they created the huge wall of water in the Gold King by their actions last year.”
Two more hearings in different Congressional committees are scheduled for next week.
Speaking of the EPA in the limelight, Hollywood’s toxic avenger Erin Brockovich visited Navajo Nation in the wake of the Animas River spill:
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous from the Oscar-winning movie bearing her name, on Tuesday accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled from a Colorado mine and fouled rivers in three Western states.
Her allegation came during a visit to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, where she saw the damage and met with Navajo Nation leaders and farmers affected by last month’s spill, which was triggered by an EPA crew during excavation work.
Brockovich said she was shocked by the agency’s actions leading up to the release of waste tainted with heavy metals and its response afterward.
“They did not tell the truth about the amount. There were millions and millions of gallons,” she said while speaking to a crowd of high school students in Shiprock, New Mexico.
Lack of communication by the EPA and its employees in the aftermath of the spill is a consistent theme, and this Durango Herald piece is no different:
In the wake of the Gold King Mine spill, many questions have been asked and fingers have been pointed at the EPA, the agency tasked with remediating the Silverton Caldera, when it underestimated the pressure behind the abandoned mine, triggering the spill.
One issue the event did expose is the EPA’s lack of protocols for notifying downstream communities in the event of a massive blowout – a point the agency has admitted it was not prepared for.
In a prepared statement, the federal agency said a crew of EPA personnel and hired contractors accidently caused the spill at 10:51 a.m., who were then trapped without cellphone coverage or satellite radios.
It wasn’t until 12:40 p.m., after a mad rush to find the correct personnel and reach an area with phone reception that the EPA contacted by two-way radio a state worker who was inspecting a mine in another area.
The EPA’s protocols mandate it must first notify state agencies in the event of an emergency situation. The EPA’s same statement said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment contacted local agencies by 1:39 p.m.
Weld County, the state’s top oil and gas producer, continues to thrive. This includes the county’s more rural parts, bucking a nationwide trend away from rural areas:
Grover and New Raymer are both surviving because of the energy industry, which is a justifiable reason for the residents to live farther out because there are different types of jobs available in the areas. Atop of oil and gas and wind, both towns have people living in their communities who work as ranchers and farmers.
“I think one of the things that’s unique about Weld County is there are multiple industries,” said Julie Cozad, Weld County commissioner and Milliken resident. “Agriculture, oil and gas, and a lot of other companies. The availability of the railway and land helps have any industry here.”
Even for communities like Grover, which is a lengthy distance away and has no gas station in town, the town’s people are not deterred from living there because to them the drive to Greeley or Cheyenne is a reasonable distance and worth the drive.
“There’s enough of a benefit here,” Beerman said. “They see many pros, then cons. People here realize they’re going to have to drive for amenities. We don’t have a gas station in town, but people understand that when you live out here.”
And as for the state’s second largest oil and gas area, Garfield County:
RIFLE — Garfield County has hit another milestone in oil and gas production, with its tally of active wells now topping 11,000, more than one-fifth of the statewide total.
At current drilling rates, though, it could take several years before that number exceeds 12,000. Drilling activity in the county hasn’t been this low in 15 years, and the total number of rigs punching new wells in the region is down to just five — three in Garfield County and two in Mesa County.
Garfield County still remains the second-busiest county in the state for oil and gas activity. Weld County leads the state in well starts this year, at 798. Mesa County is third among counties, with 52 well starts, and Rio Blanco County fifth, with 16.
Coloradans think a greater sage-grouse listing as “endangered” is unnecessary, with local efforts sufficient to maintain the species without precipitating more lawsuits:
The federal government will decide whether to list the greater sage grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act later this month.
Another species of the bird, the Gunnison sage grouse, was listed as threatened last November. That experience may offer some lessons about what type of public response the feds can expect.
The Gunnison grouse listing isn’t the strictest classification under the Endangered Species Act. Instead, the listing represented an attempt by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize efforts in Gunnison to protect the bird. But in the end the decision seemed to please no one.
The state of Colorado and Gunnison County sued the federal government because they thought the listing went too far. Some environmental groups sued because they said it didn’t go far enough. Similar lawsuits are expected after the greater sage grouse decision.
What makes Denver’s eco-bike B-cycle successful? Apparently, fossil fuels (compressed natural gas):
The flood of red bikes begins shortly after 7 a.m. As the sun climbs, the tide of work-ready riders rolls into downtown, a pedaling wave threatening to overwhelm a handful of Denver B-cycle stations. But somehow, there are always empty docks. Even as the deluge peaks before 9 a.m., riders find spots for their bikes and everyone is in the office on time.
No one seems to notice the white trucks shuttling bikes away from the stations at the top of 16th Street at Broadway. The drivers swiftly load their trailers and pickup beds with as many as 24 bikes and move them up the hill to B-cycle stations around Capitol Hill.
This perpetual bike-shuffling is an essential balancing act that races against riders to keep Denver’s nonprofit first-mile, last-mile transit system flowing.
Without the efficient, technology-assisted redistribution of the fleet of 709 B-cycles across 87 stations, bikes will clog the wrong places at the wrong time, the system will falter, customers will drop off and sponsors will bail.
Rearranging B-cycles is a mix of art, science, craft and intuition. One bike is shuffled for every seven B-cycle rides.
This week’s “you can’t make this stuff up” entry:
Waste from animals and visitors “has to go somewhere,” Lopez said. “It’s very ingenious to be able to convert it into energy. This is safe. And it is not going to stink up anything.”
But the Sierra Club and neighbors are ramping up opposition, wary of increased noise, pollution, odor and other disruption of park serenity.
“The Sierra Club strongly opposes combustion of municipal solid waste. It has proven impossible for industry to develop a combustion process, even with a large biomass proportion, that does not produce unacceptable toxic and hazardous air emissions,” said Joan Seeman, toxic issues chairperson for the club. “The zoo should recycle their paper, cardboard and plastics, as well as compost, instead of destroying these valuable resources.”
Alternate headline: ‘Sierra Club opposes alternative energy’.