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.
Filed under: Abound Solar, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
More reaction from the ongoing Colowyo Mine saga in northwest Colorado, as Colorado Public Radio profiled residents from the community on what the possible mine closure would mean:
It’s been nearly two months since a judge required the federal government to take another look at a 2007 mining plan it approved for the Colowyo Mine outside Craig. Reaction in the small town of 9,000 was swift with much of the frustration directed at WildEarth Guardians, an environmental group that initiated the lawsuit.
Brent Malley moved from Phoenix, Arizona, to Craig 10 years ago to work at the mine, which supplies fuel to the nearby Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association power plant. Tri-State also owns Colowyo.
“It’s a much cleaner coal, low sulfur. I deal with that on a daily basis,” said Malley, who analyzes the coal at Colowyo. “There’s a bias against coal and I think it comes from pre-World War II where you saw really dirty conditions and miners getting hurt.”
Another resident, Rev. Jason Wunsch, called the actions against the Colowyo Mine–and the community–by WildEarth Guardians an “abuse.”
“The way it went about things through litigation and not through organic community dialogue I think was both an abuse to the public, but I think it will be a loss for authentic environmentalists,” Wunsch told CPR.
In a week filled with blockbuster Supreme Court decisions, the court’s ruling on the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury rule flew somewhat under the radar, but the agency’s illegal rule had already done the damage intended, and even offered the EPA an “out” in future rulemaking:
A measure of the Environmental Protection Agency’s radicalism is that on Monday even this Supreme Court shot down one of its regulatory abuses. The agency’s extraconstitutional law-writing was too much even for the Court willing last week to tolerate the rewriting of laws for ObamaCare subsidies and housing discrimination.
In Michigan v. EPA, several states and industry groups challenged a 2012 EPA rule related to mercury emissions, which was really a pretext to force most coal-fired power plants to shut down as part of the Administration’s climate agenda. Though the rule was then the most expensive the federal government had ever issued, the EPA said it had no obligation even to consider costs when deciding whether it was “appropriate and necessary” to regulate.
“One would not say that it is even rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” Justice Antonin Scalia writes. “EPA’s interpretation precludes the agency from considering any type of cost—including, for instance, harms that regulation might do to human health or the environment.”
But imposing those economic costs and forcing the closure of coal-fired power plants in the process of the rule’s implementation had already occurred in between the 2012 promulgation of the rule and the Supreme Court’s finding this week. Too little, too late.
But while the initial reaction appeared to have a silver lining in forcing the EPA to consider costs, the agency got a reprieve from not only the minority who sided with the rule, but from the majority as well:
But here’s the, er, catch. Justice Scalia’s opinion says the agency can’t regulate without considering costs, but his decision also says the EPA can still decide what counts as a cost. Uh-oh.
And sure enough, Justice Elena Kagan’s dissent offers the EPA a soft-landing path for future law-writing. She does not say EPA can ignore costs altogether. But she and the three other liberals would have blessed the mercury rule because the EPA would allegedly scrutinize costs at some indeterminate point, eventually, down the line.
So while Michigan is a welcome rebuke to EPA arrogance, presumably the agency can still do most of what it wants as long as it claims to have considered costs. In any case, most of the utilities targeted by the EPA rule have already shut down those coal plants or spent billions to comply. They won the legal battle but lost the climate war.
In other words, the make-it-up-as-you-go agency’s agenda in bringing forth coal-killing regulations received the green light to conjure up any cost methodology it wanted to justify the rule, and to do so whenever it pleased.
That doesn’t bode well for future rule implementation of the EPA’s upcoming Clean Power Plan (carbon reduction) or ground-level ozone targets.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), in an op-ed at Forbes, illustrated the EPA’s attitude toward the Supreme Court’s ruling, and their attitude in general when it comes to their role in the rulemaking process:
To make matters worse, the EPA sees no problem in a regulatory process that forces electricity companies to comply with an illegal regulation. “EPA is disappointed that the Court did not uphold the rule, but this rule was issued more than three years ago, investments have been made and most plants are already well on their way to compliance,” an EPA spokesperson said in a statement.
As long as the rule did what was intended, even when dinged by the Supreme Court, the agency’s mission was accomplished.
New Belgium Brewing appears to be doubling down on its environmental commitment even as it is still contending with pushback on its support of WildEarth Guardians, the activist group responsible for threatening the Colowyo Mine (see above) through its litigation:
The beer industry is booming, but water resources are becoming scarce while warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are hurting hop production.
“They do say whiskey’s for drinking and waters for fighting out here. And there’s a reason they say that,” said New Belgium’s Bryan Simpson.
Now, brewers are finding ways to integrate green business practices and they want others to do the same. Three Colorado breweries are joining a national call-to-action, signing the “Brewer’s Climate Declaration.”
The declaration signed by New Belgium, along with a couple dozen other companies, sees climate change as a threat to its basic ingredients–water and hops:
Warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are harming the production of hops, a critical ingredient of beer that grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Rising demand and lower yields have driven the price of hops up by more than 250 percent over the past decade. Clean water resources, another key ingredient, are also becoming scarcer in the West as a result of climate-related droughts and reduced snow pack.
That’s why leading breweries are finding innovative ways to integrate sustainability into their business practices and finding economic opportunity through investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture, and sustainable sourcing. To highlight the steps they are taking and issue a call to action to others, brewers are signing the Climate Declaration.
A Colorado thin-film solar supplier company goes belly-up due to flagging sales:
Faced with slumping sales in its solar inverter business, and no suitors willing to step in to buy it, Advanced Energy Industries, Inc., announced Monday it was getting out of the business.
The move will cost the company millions of dollars and likely hundreds of jobs.
The impact on jobs at the Fort Collins-based business is unknown, but the company said in a statement it expects to spend $260 million to $290 million to wind down the company, including $15 million in employee termination costs and $30 million to $45 million in severance and other expenses related to the decision.
As of Dec. 31, AE, which develops power and control technologies for thin-film manufacturing and solar-power generation, employed 1,583 people globally. Founded in Fort Collins in 1980, AE manufactures inverters in Fort Collins, Canada and China.
Abound Solar, a thin-film solar panel manufacturer, filed for bankruptcy in 2012 despite a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Tracking the declining global share of thin-film solar and difficulties seen in other companies in places like China, it’s easy to see that the once highly touted technology hasn’t caught fire the way proponents once envisioned.
Despite top rankings as a manufacturer of wind technology and employment of wind-related workers, Colorado must increase its wind energy efforts, according to a new report from Environmental Entrepreneurs:
But the state needs to do more, according to the report.
The state needs to implement the federal Clean Power Plan, which would cut carbon emissions from “dirty” power plants in Colorado by 35 percent in part by increasing clean renewable energy.
Secondly, the state needs “new policy direction … to expand the state’s renewable energy portfolio.”
“Colorado’s leaders need to take action with policy opportunities that are good for its economy and good for its environment,” the 16-page report concludes.
Many people will uncritically blame fossil fuel use for recent warm weather. But they are blind to how fossil fuels have reduced climate-related deaths since the 1920s. Since then, climate-related death rates have decreased by 98 percent, explains a Reason Foundation study by Indur Goklany. During this time, carbon dioxide emissions increased significantly.
Thanks to the fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and farm machinery enabled by fossil fuels, increased global food production has made droughts less deadly. Where extreme weather leaves people hungry and injured, fossil-fuel based transportation enables fast delivery of food, medical supplies, and disaster response units.
Wealth is a population’s best protection from climate risks, and wealth creation requires affordable, reliable energy. But billions of people in poor under-developed countries are still very vulnerable to climate risks. They need affordable and reliable energy — now. Obstructing their use of fossil fuels endangers their lives.
And droughts? Two recent studies published this year challenge the notion that global warming contributes to them. In the Journal of Climate, CU-Boulder and NOAA researchers “conclude that projections of acute and chronic [increases in severe droughts] … are likely an exaggerated indicator for future Great Plains drought severity.” In the journal Nature, Princeton University researchers find that “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.” In the same issue of Nature, a lead IPCC author wrote that “the findings imply that there is no necessary correlation between temperature changes and long-term drought variations.”
* * *
“The Industrial Manifesto,” by Alex Epstein
Those were critiques of ozone projections. This year is the first year that we have a data set against which to judge the accuracy of CDPHE ozone modeling during the New Energy Economy era. Unfortunately for Coloradans, the results are even worse than I’d feared. See for yourself:
|2010 Ozone Air Concentrations: CDPHE vs. Reality|
CDPHE Projections (Ozone ppb)
Actual Projections (Ozone ppb)
|S. Boulder Creek||
|Chatfield State Park||
|Rocky Flats North||
|Fort Collins West||
Primer on the Many Implementation Plans that the PUC Is Considering
Primer on HB 1365
Timeline of Implementation Plans
Study on the Dubious Foundations of HB 1365
Archive of HB 1365 Posts
Oped Last Week in Denver Daily News: Ritter’s Phantom Carbon Tax
As of this post [10:08 AM], the PUC has yet to post a written copy of the Department of Public Health and Environment’s determination whether Xcel’s two new fuel switching plans meet “reasonably foreseeable” federal and state air regulations. Yesterday, Chairman Ron Binz said that the CDPHE’s filing was due last evening at 5 PM. If the CDPHE finds that the two fuel switching plans do not meet “readily foreseeable” air quality regulations, then they must be discarded. The CDPHE ruling will likely be the first topic of discussion at the hearing this morning.
After the PUC considers the CDPHE determination, Chairman Binz has promised to revisit his “tentative” decision to allow Xcel to put forth an accelerated version of its preferred plan, despite strong opposition from the PUC Staff. The two fuel switching plans and the accelerated version of the preferred plan were proposed by the utility last week.
William Yeatman is an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute
On GQ’s blog, there’s an interesting interview with two acclaimed sports writers, about the Bowl Championship Series. As millions of Americans know well, the BCS is the complicated system that chooses a national champion in the billion dollar college football industry. There are more than 100 schools vying for the crystal football awarded to the BCS champion, so it’s not surprising that every year, more than 100 schools are dissatisfied with a system didn’t crown them #1. That is, the BCS is universally reviled.
So we all know and hate the BCS, yet even college football enthusiasts like me don’t know how it works. Somewhat paradoxically, this might be the very reason it persists, according to these two sports reporters,
GQ: What was the thing your reporting that surprised you the most or caught you off guard?
2 Sports Reporters: How little even the people in college sports know how this [BCS] works. It’s less of a conspiracy as much as it’s people just too uninterested or incapable of figuring out what the real deal is.
No one likes the BCS, but it fumbles on, because it’s too arcane to be bothered with. I think this dynamic is represented well by Kaiser Soce’s famous admission in the Usual Suspects that the devil’s best trick is to make people think he doesn’t exist.
Something very similar is going on with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s New Energy Economy. Coloradans don’t like energy taxes—especially ones they didn’t vote for—but they can’t be unhappy when they are oblivious. After all, ignorance is bliss. Undoubtedly, Ritter’s energy policies will make energy more expensive (see here and here and here), yet it is achieved primarily through the impossibly convoluted procedures of the regulatory state with which virtually no one is familiar. As a result, Ritter’s anti-energy policies proceed apace.
Here’s an ultra-brief rundown of just a few of Ritter’s most insidious energy policies
- In 2007-2008, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) changed the rules so that its lodestar changed from lowest-cost electricity to protecting the climate
- The PUC interpreted the legislature’s 2% rate cap for 2010 HB 1001, a renewable energy production quota, to mean “incremental” costs instead of “total” costs; as such, the rate cap became a sham
- The PUC allows Xcel to incorporate a $20 per ton carbon tax into its resource acquisition models;