January 6 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: fracking foes awaken; legislative session promises energy battles; EPA and Gold King Mine saga
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legislation, preferred energy, regulations, renewable energy
Let’s start with the obvious–the anti-fracking forces have reignited their campaign to ban hydraulic fracturing, and want to do away with property rights too, according to this Gazette editorial:
CREED, an umbrella of sorts for anti-energy activists, wants an outright ban on fracking with a proposal known as Initiative 62. In addition to banning all fracking, the measure would prevent compensation of mineral owners for financial losses incurred by the elimination of fracking.
The measure states, in part: “The prohibition of hydraulic fracturing is not a taking of private property and does not require the payment of compensation pursuant to sections 14 and 15 of Article II of the Colorado Constitution.”
In other words, they want eminent- domain-by-mob without due process or just compensation. The U.S. Constitution, thankfully, prohibits voters from taking private property or negating its value. Voters have no more authority to eliminate mineral rights than to end same-sex marriage. Federal law will prevail.
Initiative 63 would establish an “Environmental Bill of Rights,” suggesting local governments have all sorts of newfound authority to ban energy production on private property. Initiative 65 would impose 4,000-foot fracking setbacks from buildings and homes.
As the editorial correctly point out, these anti-energy measures will drive a wedge between leftwing activists and mainstream Democrats, just as they threatened to do in 2014, before Gov. John Hickenlooper threw his policy Hail Mary to halt any chance of a Dem split.
The Denver Business Journal has a quick rundown of the 11 proposed initiatives.
Which brings us to billionaire activist Tom Steyer. From our new energy policy analyst, Simon Lomax:
Steyer’s track record further suggests he won’t be limited to the presidential contest in Colorado or the effort to reelect Bennet, who served as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee two years ago. Before holding talks with Colorado’s anti-fracking groups about statewide ballot measures in 2014, Steyer called for a fracking ban in his home state of California, which could only be lifted on a county-by-county basis with a two-thirds popular vote. Steyer’s views are very close to those of anti-fracking groups in Colorado, who have proposed a mix of statewide and local bans for the 2016 ballot. Steyer and Rep. Polis – who championed the 2014 anti-fracking measures before they were pulled – are “kindred spirits,” according to a top adviser to the California billionaire. Steyer has a long history with ballot initiatives in California, and is already backing a 2016 measure in Washington state to impose a carbon tax.
Along with ballot measures, Steyer also has a history of throwing his money into state legislative races. In 2014, for example, he poured money into Washington and Oregon trying to win seats for Democrats. In some cases, NextGen Climate did not spend the money directly – it was given to environmental groups like Washington Conservation Voters and the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. NextGen Climate also gave generously to the national League of Conservation Voters for campaigning in Oregon, Washington and several other states, with the group’s president telling The Washington Post, “There’s not a day that goes by that someone on our team doesn’t talk to someone on the Steyer team.”
Which brings us back to Conservation Colorado. If swaying state legislative races is part of Steyer’s plan, he could not find a better partner than Conservation Colorado. The group spent more than $950,000 on Colorado elections in 2014, and appears to have hit the ground running in 2016. In a little-noticed move, Conservation Colorado gave $10,000 to Fairness for Colorado, a 527 political organization, in September 2015. According to state records, Fairness for Colorado – which focuses on economic issues and social welfare, not the environment – has already spent almost $11,000 with a Denver direct-mail firm.
Simon’s article has tons of links for all the relevant information, plus plenty more on Steyer and Democratic efforts in Colorado in 2015 and 2016.
The fracking battle will also continue in the legislature with liability for earthquakes laid at the feet of resource developers:
Democratic state Rep. Joe Salazar wants to hold drillers responsible for any earthquakes they trigger that cause property damage or physical injury.
Salazar says residents in his Adams County district are worried about a fracking group’s plans to place 20 oil and gas wells in neighborhoods there.
“These were people who were concerned for their children,” Salazar said. “They were concerned for their community. They were concerned about the environment. They’re concerned about their clean water and clean air.”
But state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, says liability would be difficult to prove. He also says that Colorado already has strict environmental guidelines – and he cautions against targeting an industry that provides a great deal of revenue to the state.
“How much longer do you want to stand on the throat of the oil and gas industry to limit that amount of money that’s being generated by the state of Colorado?” Scott said.
But even Rep. Salazar doesn’t think an outright ban on fracking–as some on his side have demanded, will work, and responses to any proposed ban are also in the works:
State Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Thornton says he doesn’t think increased oil and gas regulation should be handled with constitutional amendments. Nor does he think an outright ban on fracking will fly. But he believes that the Legislature can do more to protect residents from the impacts of drilling.
“An outright ban, that’s just not going to work,” Salazar told The Statesman. “I understand that mineral rights owners have property rights, and that’s a taking. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be safe about it by studying the effects and implementing good safety measures to ensure that when people want to exercise their mineral rights that they’re not adversely affecting their neighbors.”
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, said he’s ready to sponsor his own initiative similar to one he backed in 2014 that would prevent any local government that bans oil and gas production from receiving state tax revenues generated by the industry.
“I pushed pretty hard for us not to cave on that for fear that we’d be going down this same path in 2016 that we were in 2014,” Sonnenberg said, referring to the decision to pull two industry-backed ballot questions as part of the 2014 Hickenlooper-Polis compromise. “Rest assured, I will not be silent on this issue. Whatever I need to do, I will be out front.”
Other legislative efforts will be focused on the fallout of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gold King Mine spill:
She [Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango] is also working on bills in the wake of the inactive Gold King Mine spill, in which an error by the Environmental Protection Agency caused an estimated 3 million gallons of mining sludge to pour into the Animas River on Aug. 5.
One proposal comes out of an interim water resources committee that has suggested a resolution that would encourage Congress to pass “good samaritan” legislation, which would reduce the liability associated with private entities conducting mine reclamation work.
Roberts would also like to address jurisdictional issues between states in the wake of Gold King. The incident impacted several states, including neighboring New Mexico. State agencies found it difficult to work with one another because of legal roadblocks. Roberts has proposed legislation that would eliminate some of those barriers through intergovernmental agreements.
“When minutes matter, you need a clearer pathway,” she said.
But deciding anything with regards to the EPA Gold King Mine spill might be difficult, as The Daily Caller explains:
A definitive explanation for what caused the Gold King Mine disaster may never be known if the Environmental Protection Agency is not investigated just as a private company responsible for the calamitous spill would be, according to a former enforcement agent.
The EPA accepted blame for the Aug. 5, 2015, leak that poisoned drinking water in three western states and the Navajo Nation with three million gallons of toxic mining waste, but no officials have been named as responsible or punished. Similar previous environmental disasters, however, were subjects of criminal investigations that led to severe public penalties for those responsible.
“You may not learn about it unless you engage in a criminal investigation,” Heritage Foundation senior legal research fellow and former EPA criminal enforcement special agent Paul Larkin told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
And the EPA isn’t done with mining either, with backing from the usual anti-energy suspects:
The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing toughening its requirements for measuring methane emissions from underground coal mines, a move that would result in some added expenses for testing and could bolster calls for regulating the emissions.
The agency recently unveiled a proposal it says will streamline — and improve the data quality of — its greenhouse gas reporting rule, which applies to a number of industries.
In the case of underground coal mines, it would no longer let them use data from quarterly Mine Safety and Health Administration reports for reporting the volumes of methane vented from mines.
Ted Zukoski, an attorney with the Earthjustice conservation group, praised the proposal as one that will provide better information on Colorado coal mines and address a major source of climate pollution.
“Methane is a greenhouse gas on steroids — it’s up to 80 times more potent than (carbon dioxide) as a heat-trapping gas over the short term. And coal mine methane is a big issue in Colorado because coal mines in the North Fork Valley are some of the gassiest in the U.S. It’s important for EPA — and the public — to have an accurate picture of this pollution, particularly after the climate accord in Paris, which put a major emphasis on transparency around climate pollution,” he said.
Another piece from Simon, this time on the Paris climate deal and our own Sen. Michael Bennet:
Of the 26 Senate Democrats who voted with Republicans in 2009 to put the brakes on cap-and-trade, nine are still serving.
Avoiding a debate over the Paris climate agreement and its impact on energy prices, jobs and the economy is a great deal for them—especially U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who are running for re-election in November 2016. As things stand, they can just hunker down and let the EPA do its thing.
But it’s a lousy deal for the blue-collar and rural constituents who voted for these senators. Their concerns about the economy, energy prices, and jobs were front and center during the cap-and-trade debate, and they should be front and center again after the Paris climate agreement. Instead, these voters have been left in the cold while environmental groups toast themselves and whatever they think was achieved in Paris.
Finally, your poop may be keeping the lights on:
The wastewater treatment plant in Grand Junction, Colo., takes in 8 million gallons of raw sewage — what’s flushed down the toilet and sinks.
Processing this sewage produces a lot of methane, which the plant used to just burn off into the air.
The process was “not good for the environment and a waste of a wonderful resource,” says Dan Tonello, manager of the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Now, using more infrastructure, the facility refines the methane further to produce natural gas chemically identical to what’s drilled from underground.
The biogas–a delicate term–is renewable.
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
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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!