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.”
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“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;