May 21 Colorado Energy Roundup: capitulating to the EPA, sage-grouse protections, and lazy fracktivists
Filed under: Archive, CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, PUC
Gov. John Hickenlooper intends to capitulate to the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan,” rejecting a suggestion by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to avoid implementing the new federal rules:
Gov. John Hickenlooper rejected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for states to defy new federal pollution controls on coal-burning power plants, saying Colorado has a long history of protecting its environment — despite its heavy reliance on coal.
In a letter to McConnell dated Thursday, Hickenlooper also disputed McConnell’s contention that the rules would cause electric rates to soar. Hickenlooper said Colorado is cutting pollution while keeping energy affordable.
In a letter dated May 14, Hickenlooper told McConnell that compliance with the EPA’s proposal would be “a challenge,” but said “states tackle problems of this magnitude on a regular basis.”
“We think it would be irresponsible to ignore federal law, and that is why we intend to develop a compliant Clean Power Plan,” Hickenlooper said in his letter.
About 64 percent of Colorado’s electricity was generated by coal in 2013; when the state ranked 11th nationwide in overall coal production, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
Hickenlooper said the state has “a long-standing history of investing in our natural environment, with the engagement of local business and civic leaders.”
“We have made immense strides in eliminating the ‘brown cloud’ for which Denver and the front range of the Rockies were once famous; stunning, clear views of the Rocky Mountains have been restored to our residents and the tens of millions of visitors who come here annually,” he said.
The Colorado Assembly entertained SB 258–the Electric Consumers’ Protection Act–this past legislative session, passing the State Senate in a bipartisan vote, but ultimately dying in a Democratic House kill committee late in the session. The bill would have called for any state implementation plan for the EPA Clean Power Plan to be reviewed by the Public Utilities Commission in a public, transparent manner with heavy input from the public as well as agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, with a final review and vote by the full state legislature, instead of a policy written behind closed doors by CDPHE and implemented unilaterally at the executive agency level, with input offered only after the fact.
Opponents of the bill called the transparency measure “red tape.”
Appealing for broad inclusion and procedural transparency, the Colorado Mining Association’s Dianna Orf hopes that CDPHE and the Governor’s administration will ensure that Colorado’s plan include those most affected by the rule–energy producers and consumers:
“We ask that it be as inclusive and transparent a process as possible,” Orf said. “The magnitude and significance of the plan, and how it’s implemented, is so far reaching that we’d ask that they not only include utilities, but consumers and fuel suppliers as well as the larger business community.”
On the other hand, late last week, Gov. Hickenlooper issued an executive order on behalf of the greater sage-grouse that is designed to shield the state from expanded federal efforts to list the animal as threatened or endangered, which would have a devastating economic impact on the western part of the state, and many surrounding states as well:
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an Executive Order on Friday (May 15) directing state agencies to take additional conservation measures for the greater sage-grouse.
“Our actions, in conjunction with the efforts of our local governments, landowners and many others to protect the greater sage-grouse, have been extensive,” Hickenlooper said in a press release that accompanied the order. “With this Executive Order we are directing our state agencies and our partners to do even more to protect this treasured species.”
Hickenlooper directed state agencies to take a number of actions designed to reduce impacts to the greater sage-grouse and its habitat, including taking inventory of — and improving habitat within — state lands with grouse populations.
“We firmly believe that state-led efforts are the most effective way to protect and conserve the greater sage grouse and its habitat,” said Gov. Hickenlooper in the release. “Conversely, a decision by the federal government to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act would have a significant and detrimental economic impact to the state, as well as threaten the very state-led partnerships that are working to protect the species.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has until September 30, 2015 to render its decision on any listing action for the greater sage-grouse. Full text of Gov. Hickenlooper’s executive order can be read here.
Outgoing Colorado Oil and Gas Association President and CEO Tisha Schuller had some thoughts on anti-energy fracktivists in Colorado:
On what she sees as a hypocrisy by those who want to ban fracking
“Communities that use oil and gas can’t ban it and say someone else has to produce it for them… We are consumers demanding a product and demanding it at a very affordable price. We know how sensitive consumers are to changes in their heating bill and their gasoline bill… I think a better paradigm is we are totally interdependent on oil and gas, and vilifying it is simply silly and a very lazy way of trying to address climate change.”
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Energy In Depth’s Simon Lomax pokes holes in the American Lung Association’s report on ozone–and the Denver Post’s reporting on it–with input from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
Citing its own April 29 “report card” on the region’s air quality, the ALA told the Denver Post that levels of ground-level ozone – sometimes called smog – are deteriorating rather than improving. But the ALA went much further, claiming that while the air above the Denver metro area “looks cleaner than in the 1970s,” the region actually has “higher ozone” and the gains made since the 1970s “are going away.”
In the same news story – authored by the Post’s environmental writer Bruce Finley – the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) warned the ALA’s report card was “both inaccurate and misrepresents air quality in Colorado.” But Finley’s story didn’t detail what those inaccuracies and misrepresentations actually were.
In a follow-up interview with Energy In Depth, CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) Director Will Allison revealed that the ALA report card ignored a full year of air quality data from 2014, which shows ozone levels getting better, not worse. To claim there’s higher ozone now than back in the 1970s also ignores decades of air quality data that show “it’s gotten a lot better,” Allison said.
To say the ALA took a liberal look at its own conclusions to bolster an argument for increased ozone regulation appears correct.
“If you look at 2011-2013 averages, we had 10 monitors in the Denver North Front Range that exceeded the ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. But if you look at the 2012-2014 averages, only four monitors exceeded the federal standards. So there was a significant drop from 10 noncompliant monitors to four,” Allison told EID.
Colorado’s 21-member oil and gas task force, which concluded its meetings in February, received modest support (about $2 million) in the Colorado legislature for a handful of its recommendations:
The budget includes:
$1,364,713 to pay for 12 new employees for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with overseeing the state’s multibillion-dollar oil and gas sector.
$360,910 for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to create a hot line and website with information about the industry, and a chance to raise concerns about its operations.
$402,859 for the CDPHE to create a mobile air monitoring unit to watch for air pollution from industry operations and a person to operate it.
These small changes stand in contrast to some of the more pointed and disruptive resolutions the committee considered, and to the ballot measures that tripped off the Governor’s “compromise” move last August.
Fracking opponents, of course, decried the legislative session’s activity on oil and gas issues, while the industry hailed the results, according to Valerie Richardson at The Colorado Statesman.
Kicking the can down the road to 2016 on fracking issues–with Democrats sidestepping a fractious debate, as Richardson put it–may still not prove advantageous to Democrats split over the issue. With eco-left activists vowing to work hard again next November and having felt betrayed by maneuvering in 2014, Sen. Michael Bennet’s re-election efforts might not get the smooth ride his party was hoping to craft. It certainly didn’t help former Sen. Mark Udall, who carved a more eco-friendly niche in his term, but ultimately suffered defeat last year.
Speaking of Sen. Bennet–an attempt to bolster his green credibility with new legislation aimed at a national renewable energy standard:
The bill unveiled Tuesday that would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, starting with an 8 percent requirement by 2016 followed by gradual increases.
Sen. Tom Udall has introduced this legislation in every session of Congress since 2008. The bill is based on his bipartisan initiative that passed the House in 2007. Co-sponsors this time around include Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii).
“A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico — all while combating climate change,” Udall said in a news release. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES.”
Colorado’s western slope counties may avoid economic devastation if the Fish and Wildlife Service decides not to tap the greater sage-grouse with a designation as threatened or endangered:
The Interior Department has said it wants to reach the point that the Fish and Wildlife Service can find that no listing is warranted. Much of that decision lies with the way the BLM manages its lands and both agencies report to Jewell.
“We are very, very close to avoiding a listing altogether,” Hickenlooper said, noting that he spoke to [Secretary of Interior Sally] Jewell 10 days ago.
Finding that the bird should not be listed is Jewell’s goal, Hickenlooper said.
“I believe her. I don’t think she’s posturing.”
A listing by the FWS would be a critical blow to Colorado’s western counties, along with 10 other states, as one county commissioner told Gov. Hickenlooper.
“All of Moffat County is out of business,” Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe concluded, should the listing move forward contrary to Hickenlooper’s claims.
By Lexi Osborn
In an eye-popping column in the Denver Post last week, editorial page editor Vincent Carroll exposes the serious problems surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s controversial Clean Power Plan.
This past summer, everyone from former Gov. Bill Ritter to two of the state’s top regulators, Dr. Larry Wolk of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Joshua Epel of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), assured the public that Colorado easily would be in compliance with this new plan; the proposal would have little impact on the lives of Colorado residents because Colorado is, “a long way down the road in being able to meet the [EPA's] 2030 goal way ahead of time.”
Apparently, they spoke too soon.
As it turns out, the EPA did not give full credit to Colorado ratepayers for their significant investment in renewable energy and efficiency. Furthermore, the carbon mandate timeline is, by all reasonable assessment, impossible to meet. In an interview with Carroll, Wolk bluntly said “I don’t have a problem with saying I think it’s nearly impossible for us to meet the interim standard.”
The EPA’s failure to give full credit to Colorado ignited some panic among public officials. In December, Wolk, Epel and Jeff Ackerman, the director of the Colorado Energy Office, wrote a letter to the EPA criticizing in detail the mandate for Colorado, Carroll wrote. He breaks down their objections into five main points:
1) The EPA plan in effect punishes Colorado for being ahead of the game
2) The plan is technically naïve
3) The plan is oblivious to the momentum of efforts underway
4) The plan is absurdly frontloaded
5) The deadline of June 2016 for submitting a state plan is literally impossible
Not only is this previously touted pro-environment plan riddled with issues, but it has also created a power struggle between the PUC and the CDPHE. For the mandates of the Clean Power Plan to be implemented, regulatory authority needs to be designated. Currently, the PUC and CDPHE are both vying to take on this initiative.
The CDPHE believes it has the authority to create and impose the new energy standard, even though the PUC regulates resource planning, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs at investor-owned utilities, while the CDPHE only has authority over air quality. The CDPHE also lacks the infrastructure to hold public and open hearings and testimonies, which the PUC has. When directly asked by Carroll, “So you’ll give the marching orders to all of the utilities in the state?” Wolk, despite these many factors, said, “Yes, in consultation with the EPA, the PUC and others.”
As a way to settle the issue, Rep. John Cooke (R-Greeley) proposed legislation that would make the CDPHE the lead agency in developing and enforcing air quality issues, and would require all state plans be approved by the PUC and the legislature.
But, the issue has yet to be settled.
Carroll hopes this messy situation will be rectified through similar open and transparent legislation. And let us all hope that this regulatory authority, which impacts the cost and reliability of our energy, will have at least some democratic oversight.
Otherwise Colorado electric consumers are left with the bill for plans made in the dark.
Lexi Osborn is a Future Leaders intern. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in political science.
By Syndi Nettles Anderson, guest writer for the Independence Institute Energy Policy Center
Earlier this week Todd Shepherd of Complete Colorado reported that before thin-filmed cadmium-telluride solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar declared bankruptcy it was the subject of a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) investigation after an anonymous tip raised concerns about cadmium contamination.
Shepherd provided documents showing that the now abandoned Weld County plant produced monthly 630 pounds of highly toxic cadmium waste that was shipped to Deer Trail in Arapahoe County for storage.
Because of the recent interest in cadmium, below is a primer on the rare earth element used in so many products besides solar panels.
Cadmium, one of the 17 rare earth elements (REE), is a soft silver-grey metal, commonly found in ores containing zinc. Products that use significant cadmium include rechargeable batteries, solar cells and protective steel coatings. Recently cadmium has been priced about a dollar per pound.
Cadmium is a byproduct when zinc is refined from zinc ore, or recycled from nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries. The largest producers of cadmium are China, South Korea, Japan and North America. The concentration of cadmium in the earth’s crust is between 0.1 and 0.5 parts per million (ppm). This is about one hundred times more common than gold.
Cadmium is very useful in rechargeable batteries and solar cells. In the U.S., about 27 percent of cadmium-nickel batteries are recycled, which requires batteries to be taken apart.
However, cadmium is also very poisonous. Exposure is most dangerous when breathing in dust or vapors containing cadmium. Other methods of exposure are also dangerous, as cadmium can be absorbed through the skin or by ingestion.
People can absorb cadmium through inhalation, absorption or by eating it. The cadmium is transported through the body by blood cells and plasma. Cadmium goes into the kidneys, resulting in kidney failure. Before toxic levels are reached, kidney function will start to deteriorate. Generally a third to half of the cadmium that is in a body will be found in the kidneys. Cadmium will also move to the liver and muscles. In the liver, the half-life of the cadmium is 5-15 years, in the muscles-30 years and in the kidneys 10-30 years.
During ore smelting processes, cadmium is released into the air. It may also be released into the atmosphere by burning cadmium-containing garbage. Cadmium exposure can cause throat and lung irritation. Lower levels of exposure also cause shortness of breath, and with prolonged exposure resulting in bronchiolitis and emphysema with lung damage, bloody coughing, and accumulation of fluids in the body. One highly concentrated exposure can cause lifetime damage to lungs. 
Metal fume fever can be caused by inhaling cadmium during the welding and metal heating processes of older silver solder. Metal fume fever can cause flu like symptoms with fainting, sore throats, coughs, and headaches. Working with cadmium requires extremely well ventilated areas, respirators, and extreme care. Regular blood and urine checks are required to monitor the amount of cadmium that can get into the body. 
Phosphate fertilizers, sewage sludge and contaminated water can deposit cadmium into food sources. Growing rice and wheat can absorb Cadmium. Large ocean fish can also take up a lot of cadmium. Smokers also intake cadmium into their bodies and have about double the cadmium levels that non-smokers have. Cadmium is associated with breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, and kidney dysfunction. 
As a result of the increased awareness of the danger of cadmium to humans, the EPA released a new report December 3, 2012, expanding the regulations and proposing new regulations regarding cadmium.
This final rule requires manufacturers (including importers) of cadmium or cadmium compounds, including as part of an article, that have been, or are reasonably likely to be, incorporated into consumer products to report certain unpublished health and safety studies to EPA. 
Occupational Safety Health Association (OSHA) also highly regulates workers contact with cadmium stating,
Cadmium and its compounds are highly toxic and exposure to this metal is known to cause cancer and targets the body’s cardiovascular, renal, gastrointestinal, neurological, reproductive, and respiratory systems.
Requirements to protect workers from cadmium exposure are addressed in specific OSHA cadmium standards covering general industry (1910.1027), shipyards (1915.1027), construction (1926.1127) and agriculture (1928.1027).
In conclusion, Cadmium is critical to the solar cell and rechargeable battery industry but extreme care must be taken to prevent cadmium from getting into the air, water or plant life. Cancer, lung damage and kidney failure are real risks for cadmium exposure.
 Wilburn, D.R., 2007, Flow of cadmium from rechargeable batteries in the United States, 1996-2007: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5198, 26 p., available at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2007/5198/.
 Common environmental contaminant, cadmium, linked to rapid breast cancer cell growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2012/04/120423184203.htm
American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) (2012, March 15). Dietary cadmium may be linked with breast cancer risk. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2012/03/120315094506.htm
Cell Press (2012, September 12). Studies shed light on how to reduce the amount of toxins in plant-derived foods. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 14, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2012/09/120912125517.htm
President Barack Obama put a halt to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed air-quality standards just before the Labor Day weekend. The Wall Street Journal opined that the president cited the struggling economy as his main reason for not wanting to tighten ozone regulations at this time:
Come January 2010, the Obama EPA said it wanted to lower the ozone standard more, to between 0.060 and O.070 ppm. Problem is, this would have put 85% of monitored U.S. counties (628 out of 736) into “non-attainment” status. And the problem with that is that under current law, non-compliance effectively forces many utilities, businesses and agricultural operations in those counties to shelve expansion plans.
Translation: no new jobs.
WSJ called the president’s decision a “rebuke” of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson:
whose decision to tighten the standard was based on an advisory-board recommendation that the Bush administration had rejected. In a statement, Ms. Jackson said the agency would “revisit the ozone standard,” but she pointedly stopped short of endorsing the president’s decision.
But the president’s decision is also be a rebuke of Governor Bill Ritter, Colorado lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, environmental special interest groups, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Xcel Energy, Public Utilities Commission and industry that all employed the EPA regulation scare tactic as a reason to pass HB 1365, the fuel switching bill, and HB 1291, the State Implementation Plan (SIP). And this isn’t the first time that the federal government has blown the justification that Colorado lawmakers used to ram through the disastrous energy legislation.
Energy policy analyst William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and contributor to this blog, pulled no punches in this exclusive interview on the Amy Oliver Show on News Talk 1310 KFKA. Yeatman says lawmakers got duped. Obama cites economic reality of the job killing regulations while Colorado lawmakers and the CDHPE cite the bogus excuse of “reasonably foreseeable” air-quality standards that never materialized. Other points from the Yeatman interview:
- The PUC cited bogus deadlines due to “reasonably foreseeable” regulations and compressed the “accelerated Electric Resource Plan” from 18 to 30 months into 3 months.
- Rush was also to ensure Ritter’s environmental legacy
- The “big lie” was “obvious” and not the first for CDPHE
- Xcel ratepayers are the big losers because they will pay $1 billion for an unnecessary energy plans.
- Ritter won’t be hurt by any of this because he isn’t “encumbered by the truth.”
Basically Colorado lawmakers bought into these phony deadlines and threats of EPA usurping state authority, while Xcel ratepayers got stuck with bill. We’d like to say we enjoy the annoying chorus of “we told you so, we told you so!” But vindication is bittersweet because some of us are Xcel ratepayers.
Filed under: Archive, CDPHE, HB 1365, New Energy Economy
The Politics Colorado Blog today reports great news:
“Tuesday, Senate Republicans sent a letter to Senate President Shaffer asking Legislative Council to hold a public hearing to review the changes made to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for implementing regulations for “regional haze”…
…”We think it’s important that Legislative Council hold a public hearing on this effort to give the General Assembly and public more time to consider the impact this plan will have on Colorado,” said Senator Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley.
“Serious questions and concerns have risen about the timing of the information and the data used in the plan,” concluded Renfroe.
As readers of this blog know well, I’ve long railed against the CDPHE’s manipulations of the regional haze rule. In short, the Department has used this regulation to push an anti-coal agenda.
On January 15, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) submitted to the General Assembly a State Implementation Plan (SIP) to comply with the Regional Haze provision of the Clean Air Act. The General Assembly must approve the SIP before it can be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final review. The CDPHE will seek a rubber stamp, but the General Assembly must reject the proposed SIP, because costs far exceed benefits.
Opposition to the Regional Haze SIP is merited by the CDPHE’s treatment of Hayden Units 1 and 2 in Northwest Colorado. The SIP calls for almost than $140 million in nitrogen oxides (NOx) controls known as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR). Here’s why this is a bad deal for Coloradans:
- Costs exceed benefits by a 40:1 ratio
Regional haze is an aesthetic regulation. That is, it has nothing to do with health, and is meant only to improve visibility at national parks. In 2006, EPA Region 8 made a “ballpark” estimate that the value to Colorado residents of reducing a ton of NOx in order to comply with Regional Haze is $95. The CDPHE is mandating pollution controls that cost $3,385/ton NOx reduced at Hayden 1, and $4,064/ton NOx reduced at Hayden
- Even the EPA concedes that SCR is not cost effective
In the Regional Haze guidance document, the EPA stated, “we have not determined that SCR is generally cost-effective.”
- Neighboring states determined that SCR is not cost-effective
In Utah, the Department of Environmental Quality deemed that SCR was too costly, and instead proposed low NOx burners in its Regional Haze SIP. This technology is 95% less expensive than SCR.
- Evidence Suggests the CDPHE grossly overestimated visibility benefits
During the CDPHE deliberations on the Regional Haze SIP, Joseph S Scire, an environmental consultant, testified that the CDPHE’s overly simplistic visibility model “significantly overestimated…the predicted visibility benefits associated with SCR controls.” Such an overestimation would mean that the CDPHE’s preferred pollution controls are even less cost-effective.
Earlier this month, I asked whether CDPHE (a.k.a., “the Department”) is cooking the books on Colorado ozone. In particular, it struck me as suspicious that the Department used data from 2006, an anomalously active wildfire season, as inputs for models used to project ambient air concentrations of ozone through 2020. You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell, wildfires inflate ozone, so the CDPHE’s use of the second-most active wildfire season on record as a constant in an ozone model is inappropriate…unless, of course, it was trying to exaggerate the threat of a federal crackdown on air quality in order to, say, pass legislation that mandates fuel switching, like HB 1365. Remember, the Denver-area’s non-attainment for federal ozone regulations was a major reason put forth by the Ritter administration in support of Clean Air Clean Jobs Act.
**Here’s the Wikipedia entry on ozone; for this post, all you need to know is that nitrogen oxides (NOx) are a primary precursor for the creation of ozone
In the two weeks since I wrote that post, I’ve become even more suspicious of the CDPHE’s ozone practices. Here’s why. On page 1-4 of the “2015 and 2020 Ozone Projections for the Denver Area,” ENVIRON (the modeling company) explains that input data for NOx emissions was provided by the Department. On page 2-24, EVIRON states that NOx emissions from point sources were projected to increase 23% by 2015 and 46% by 2020. So CDPHE told the modelers that NOx was expected to increase in Colorado.
Is the Department of Public Health and Environment cooking the books on Colorado ozone? Without explanation, CDPHE plugged 2006 meteorological data into the models it used to project ambient air concentrations of ozone. That’s suspicious, because 2006 just so happens to be the second worst year of Colorado wildfires on record.
According to the 2015 and 2020 Ozone Projections for the Denver Area (p1-4), “For the 2015 and 2020 modeling, both biogenic and fire emissions were held constant at 2006 levels, and were the same as what was used for Denver ozone state implementation plan 2006 and 2010 modeling.” Yet the report doesn’t note that 2006 was an anomalous year for wildfires. I wonder why not? It’s certainly germane, because the scientific literature demonstrates that more wildfires mean more ozone and more ozone precursors.