December 17 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Environmental ‘Propaganda’ Agency; electric rate hikes called ‘discrimination’; anti-energy activists promise to ‘ratchet up’ efforts
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, New Energy Economy, regulations, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Some commodity pricing is giving Colorado Xcel ratepayers a temporary reprieve from escalating energy costs:
Xcel said the new rates will result in “significantly lower bills, particularly for natural gas customers, for the second half of the current winter heating season.
“Compared on a year-to-year basis to better gauge the seasonal impacts of weather, both residential and small-business customers’ (natural gas) bills will be approximately 21 percent lower next quarter, when compared to the first quarter of 2015,” Xcel said.
Electricity bills are expected to drop about 5 percent compared to the current quarter, the utility said.
For the most part, Xcel passes changes in commodity prices, and the change in costs associated with supplying power and natural gas, along to customers on a dollar-per-dollar basis.
Commodity prices fluctuate, but the downward trend will be welcome for as long as it sticks around, or until it is offset by higher energy costs elsewhere, due to expensive replacement of baseload power with exotic, renewable energy sources.
The next legislative session should feature quite a few oil and gas battles, with one Democratic State Representative queueing up a bill to attack natural resource producers:
State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would force oil and gas companies to compensate residents for any loss in property value tied to drilling activities, including damage done by earthquakes linked to deep-earth wastewater injection wells. But state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, has vowed to block the measure in the Senate.
“If it comes to my committee, I’d do everything I can to make it go away,” Sonnenberg said. “Quite frankly, it’s another serious attempt to run oil and gas companies out of business in Colorado… Everyone knows the pro- oil-and-gas bills go to the House to die and that the anti- oil-and-gas bills go to die in the Senate.”
That’s the response Salazar said he expected.
“This shouldn’t be a politicized fight,” he said last Saturday at a Thornton town hall he convened on the issue. “I believe we (in state government) need to give up some of the power to local governments. They need to be able to police these industries in their area.”
The benefit of a divided legislature is that extreme bills like this will likely not make it too far in the opposing chamber. But the bill will still be heard, and we expect some rhetorical fireworks over legislation similar to this.
Anti-energy activists in our state plan to “ratchet up” their efforts beyond legal means in the near future:
The leader of a national activist organization behind ban-fracking campaigns in Colorado, Ohio and elsewhere is calling on activists to “ratchet up” civil disobedience and begin “filling up jails.”
The comments are from Thomas Linzey, founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) in an interview he did with Chris Hedges’ Days of Revolt. From the interview:
HEDGES: “Well, you have talked about it as a kind of military operation. Explain what it would look like.”
LINZEY: “Well, I think it means thinking about civil disobedience differently than we’ve thought about it before. So it’s not just to make a moral or ethical statement; it’s actually aimed at stopping the project itself. And that means, I think, successive days. It means rotating people through. It means bringing people in from other places. It means filling up jails.” (emphasis added)
Linzey went on to suggest that the law isn’t really important here:
“I mean, our resistance has to ratchet up, the opposition has to ratchet up our stuff to a point where it’s actually actively interfering with these projects, because if you don’t do that and you rely entirely on the legal process and the legal process is so stacked against you in terms of what municipalities can and can’t do, that at that point you have no other option but to engage in that type of action.” (emphasis added)
Growing frustration on the part of anti-energy activists seems to be fueling (pun intended) a sense of urgency. We hope this amounts to nothing more than bravado, but hope that Colorado’s natural resource developers–our neighbors–stay out of harm’s way.
The Environmental Protection Agency? How about the Environmental Propaganda Agency–says the Government Accountability Office:
Yesterday the Government Accountability Office issued a report concluding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated federal law in its use of social media to promote its controversial “WOTUS rule,” redefining the scope of the “waters of the United States” subject to federal regulation under the Clean Water Act. Specifically, the GAO concluded that the EPA violated express limits on the use of appropriations for indirect or grassroots lobbying, and that in doing so, the agency violated the Antideficiency Act.
According to the GAO, the EPA used various social media platforms, including Thunderclap, to develop support for its proposal to expand and clarify the scope of its own regulatory jurisdiction and combat opposition to the rule. The EPA also used social media communications to promote materials supporting the WOTUS rule by environmentalist advocacy groups, including materials that were clearly designed to oppose legislative efforts to limit or block the rule. The GAO labeled these efforts “covert propaganda.” The New York Times had previously documented some of the EPA’s actions.
Good legislation is often larded with bad–pork, paybacks, and wheeling-dealing that makes the whole thing a whole lot less palatable–and the proposed extension of the wind production tax credit and the investment tax credit for solar has the renewable industry singing the praises of the proposed lifting of the oil export ban:
Michael Zarin — head of external communications for Vestas — said via email that the company is “pleased” by the proposed extension.
“As currently structured, the extension and phase-out plan would give the industry the longer-term certainty that we’ve been seeking,” Zarin said. “Together with wind energy’s natural competitiveness against other power generation sources, the PTC extension agreement would help ensure a solid future for wind energy in the U.S.”
The solar industry’s investment tax credit, currently a 30 percent credit for commercial, residential and utility-scale solar power systems, also would be extended and phased down through 2022 under the proposal.
The credit, as proposed, would stay at 30 percent through 2019, and then fall to 26 percent in 2020. It would drop to 22 percent in 2021 and 10 percent in 2022. The bill also offers a commence-construction clause that would extend the credit to any project in development started before the end of 2021 and be finished before the end of 2023.
“We are delighted a five-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit has been included in the omnibus bill,” said Rebecca Cantwell, executive director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “We worked hard to get it included, and are working hard to make sure it passes.”
Mining for a photo-op to discuss the fallout of the EPA’s Gold King Mine spill:
IDAHO SPRINGS – The first-ever congressional hearing inside a mine was held Monday, offering a dramatic image of the impact the Gold King Mine spill has had on policy talks.
The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held its field hearing inside the Edgar Mine in Idaho Springs, where the panel discussed legislation aimed at training and recruiting engineers to work on mining reclamation efforts.
“This is weird,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, who made his remarks while wearing a hard hat and looking up at rock formations inside the mine, which is used for training by the Colorado School of Mines.
Discussions around mining reform gained momentum after the August Gold King Mine spill, in which an estimated 3 million gallons of old mining sludge poured into the Animas River, turning it a mustard-yellow. The river tested for initial spikes in heavy metals.
Efforts to increase electricity rates in the southwest part of the state were sustained, as a measure to push back failed, with opponents of the rate hike calling the residential-focused increases “discrimination”:
An effort to reverse a decision last month to increase residential electric base rates failed at the La Plata Electric Association’s meeting on Tuesday with a split 6-6 vote.
In November, the board approved on a 6-5 vote a new rate structure that will cost local residents about $5.25 more per month on their electric bills, based on usage. Commercial and industrial users will see an estimated 4 percent decrease on next year’s bills.
However, Tuesday’s main point of contention was last month’s decision to raise the residential base rate from $20.50 to $21.50 a month, which had several board members concerned that the increase would “exacerbate inequality” in the region.
“If we continue to do this, we are harming and discriminating more and more against our members,” said board member Jeff Berman in reference to the 60 percent increase in base charges over the last five years. “I cannot support a base charge increase that exacerbates inequality and discrimination.”
Delivered April 16:
· Thank you for the opportunity to speak today on the issue of fossil fuel divestment. My name is Michael Sandoval. I am a proud graduate of CU Boulder and CU Denver. I graduated with degrees in history and marketing. I am here today speaking as both a proud alumnus as well as for the Independence Institute, a free market think tank based in Denver.
· First, let me emphasize that Colorado is a proud energy producing state. In fact, many of our friends, family and neighbors have jobs in this industry. Many of the men and women in these fields earned their degree from this institution. To stigmatize and demonize energy workers is both shameful and downright ignorant. I think Lisa Hamil’s op-ed in the Boulder Daily Camera earlier this year says it best, “Banning investment in fossil fuel companies makes no more sense than banning entire fields of study like geology and petroleum engineering, or classes like the Global Energy Management Program’s Lifecycle of Oil and Natural Gas Certificate Course that I teach at CU Denver Business School. But that’s where the divestment argument leads: If it’s bad to invest in energy companies that produce fossil fuels, then it must be even worse to educate the professionals who would run those companies.”
· A July 2013 study from the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business found more than 110,000 jobs in our state are supported by the oil and gas industry. Likewise, the industry spurs almost $30 billion in economic activity and generates $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenues. In other words, oil and gas is one of Colorado’s foundational industries – just as important as agriculture and tourism. To suddenly wipe out the oil and gas industry would cause tremendous harm to every Colorado family, not just the tens of thousands of Colorado families whose livelihoods depend on this vital economic sector.
· Given the importance to Colorado’s economy, let me next point out that the anti-fossil fuel campaign is really a national campaign run by far-left environmental activists. Well-funded national organizations like 350.org that have no real interest in our state are the ones pouring millions of dollars into this campaign. They oppose all fossil fuels. They are currently running campaigns against the Keystone XL pipeline and attempting to ban natural gas production here in Colorado and across the country. Just this week, members of 350.org were protesting outside of Hillary Clinton’s campaign office saying that she was too moderate for them. To be blunt, this is a national campaign using college students to shut down one of Colorado’s leading job creators. These groups are simply too extreme for Colorado.
· Let me also note that the divestment campaign would be all economic pain for no climate gain. As Dr. Daniel Fischel from the University of Chicago School of Law found in a study he conducted, wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Every bit of economic and quantitative evidence available to us today shows that the only entities punished under a fossil-fuel divestment regime are the schools actually doing the divesting—with virtually no discernible impact on the targeted companies. Students and universities may nevertheless wish to make a symbolic or political statement, but they should know it will come at a high price. Talk is cheap, but divestiture is not.”
· Numerous professors from across the country agree. A letter signed by leading professors from the University of California Berkeley, UCLA, Yale and Duke wrote, “In our view, continued engagement with the energy sector on these critical issues represents a far better and more practical approach than a policy of exclusion and isolation. Plainly put, the challenge of combating climate change is too great, and the costs associated with divestment are too considerable, for us to pursue these worthwhile objectives in any other way.” I should note that this letter was also signed by professors from CU.
· Vincent Carroll of the Denver Post agrees, writing earlier this year that “Any institution facing a decision on divestment should welcome students and faculty urging divestment, and then respond with a forceful “no.” Carroll explains, “Every governmental projection of the world’s energy portfolio in the coming decades foresees still massive reliance on fossil fuels, however seriously we invest in alternatives. As the climate scientist James Hansen said a few years ago, “suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”
· Let me end by saying that I appreciate the students who are here today making their voices heard. As a CU alum who was politically active myself when I was on campus I know particularly well the power of student voices. It is noteworthy that the couple of dozen activists speaking in favor divestment pales in comparison to previous efforts on this campus. But I am pleased that there has been a good, constructive dialogue.
· As an alumnus of CU, I urge the CU Board of Regents to reject the politically motivated divestment campaign and stand with the thousands of hard working CU grads who work all over the world to ensure we have access to abundant, affordable, and reliable energy resources.
Following testimony, CU Regents voted 7-2 to continue current investment strategies and reject #divestment:
Carson's resolution passed 7-2 to reaffirm #CU's current investment strategy. Two Dems voted no — LInda Shoemaker, Irene Griego.
— Sarah Kuta (@SarahKuta) April 16, 2015
Growing transmission costs for wind-generated electricity have prompted Xcel Energy to seek approval for rate hikes to smaller utilities using Xcel’s transmission lines to reach their consumers:
Xcel wants the utilities to pay for its costs associated with having supplies of reserve power ready to go in case the wind suddenly dies, said Terri Eaton, Xcel’s director of federal regulatory and compliance efforts.
Currently, those costs are paid by Xcel’s business and residential customers, Eaton said.
If the transmission lines customers can supply their own back-up power supplies, they wouldn’t be charged under the proposed rates, she said.
Readily available, back-up power supplies are critical to keep the transmission grid in balance and avoid blackouts that can occur when a big source of power suddenly disappears, Eaton said.
Xcel’s hikes would hit rural cooperatives and other utilities should the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approve the rate hike at the beginning of 2015.
But what, exactly, does Eaton mean when she refers to “reserve power ready to go in case the wind suddenly dies”?
“We’ve seen some dramatic wind fall-offs in really short periods of time,” Eaton said.
Xcel has already experienced such falls offs, when “several hundreds of megawatts of wind” drops dramatically — and swiftly — due to changes in the wind, she said.
“Sometimes the wind is just howling, and an hour later the wind has calmed — and it’s in those circumstances that we need to have reserves available to pick up the load,” Eaton said.
In such cases, backup power supplies typically come from natural gas-fueled power plants, she said.
The tariff proposed by Xcel would help cover the costs when the wind “suddenly dies.”
The intermittency of wind has been widely discussed, and no amount of forecasting or improved efficiency will spin a wind turbine’s blades if the wind isn’t blowing.
In 2012, a study examined wind generation in Illinois at the height of a summer heat wave, when energy demands rise to yearly highs. The author found that just 5 percent of installed wind capacity was available during that outbreak of record temperatures, and at times, “virtually nonexistent.”
Earlier this year, wind energy proponents touted the example provided in Texas–wind had saved the day. But a closer examination of the figures from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) demonstrated that contrary to claims that wind had bailed out conventional sources of electricity by ensuring grid reliability, wind had actually fallen so substantially that Texas turned to other sources to meet the extra 1,000 megawatts of demand on January 6. Both scheduled and unscheduled plant closure elsewhere had left Texas with a gap during a record cold snap, a gap that wind was unable to fill.
As the Institute for Energy Research wrote in January, only 3.2 percent of the energy needs of the Texas grid operated by ERCOT came from wind, while 83 percent of Texas wind turbines “were unavailable during peak demand.”
ERCOT itself continues to rate its “wind power at 8.7 percent of its installed capacity” for 2014 during the periods of highest demands, which typically occur in mid-to-late summer. For nearly 12,000 megawatts of installed wind capacity, only 990 megawatts are considered reliable for forecasts computed by ERCOT for 2014. That’s like having the equivalent of 12 1,000 megawatt power plants built and only 1 online when summer energy demand spikes.
As a percentage, ERCOT figures wind to provide just 1.3 percent of the total amount of energy it needs this summer, rising to 2.2 percent by 2017 according to its own projections.
As for Colorado, under Senate Bill 252, rural cooperatives must reach 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association spokesman Lee Boughey acknowledged the rising costs of integrating ever-greater amounts of intermittent energy supplies like wind.
“As more intermittent resources are added in the region, we understand the need to address the higher costs of integrating and balancing power,” Boughey told the Denver Business Journal.
Those costs were highlighted in a March post that examined the integration of wind and other intermittent energy sources to the reliability of the grid operated by Public Service and regulated by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), under the state’s preferred energy mandate:
The concern over infrastructure costs and the cost to ratepayers, as well as the challenge of incorporating ever-larger amounts of intermittent generation sources like solar and wind, is not a new topic at the PUC.
In June 2012 comments by PUC staff engineer Inez Dominguez indicated that off-peak load and wind generation in particular was “alarming.”
The integration of intermittent sources like wind would overwhelm the system, either with higher costs or decreased reliability. Bringing in wind and curtailing conventional, coal-fired generation during off-peak periods would result “in an economic penalty to the Public Service customers because more expensive wind generation would be supplying their load.”
Cutting off the wind, however, would also penalize ratepayers, as the “take or pay” agreements give wind first priority.
But the Public Service engineer also highlighted reliability concerns. “In its simplest terms as it concerns the customers, reliability deals with keeping the lights on. This reliability issue may occur when the wind suddenly stops blowing and a significant amount of wind generation is lost to the balancing authority,” Dominguez said.
“When this event happens, the balancing authority needs to replace the lost generation quickly enough to keep from tripping off the load. This means that the generation in reserve to cover such an event has to be quick enough in its response to cover the lost generation,” Dominguez continued.
For Colorado ratepayers, this backup generation comes from “gas fired combustion turbine generation reserves” that displace “more economic base load coal fired generation,” only adding to the cost, and “complexity” of the load balancing requirements.
According to Dominguez, these examples suggested a “flag that Public Service may have too much wind generation.”
The Ivanpah solar plant went online last week, but the cost to wildlife–particularly birds–won’t be known for at least two more years.
Reports that the giant solar thermal array featuring more than 300,000 reflective panels and steam-driven turbine towers have been “killing and singeing” birds by heating the air to around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit near the towers, according to reports.
You can view pictures of the deceased birds here.
All power sources involve tradeoffs, but to date, wind and solar have generally avoided discussing the topic, often quickly shifting to pointing out the costs of other energy sources in defending their own environmental impacts.
Policy directives aimed to support the technologies often override such environmental concerns, as they did with Ivanpah:
Ivanpah can be seen as a success story and a cautionary tale, highlighting the inevitable trade-offs between the need for cleaner power and the loss of fragile, open land. The California Energy Commission concluded that while the solar plant would impose “significant impacts on the environment … the benefits the project would provide override those impacts.”
The plant’s effects on birds is the subject of a current two-year study.
But the cost of electricity from solar sources is and will remain higher than other natural resources, like coal, for the foreseeable future, according to the Energy Information Administration:
The Energy Information Administration says that it will cost new solar thermal plants 161 percent more to generate one megawatt hour of power than it costs a coal plant to do in 2018 — despite the costs of solar power being driven downward.
On average, conventional coal plants cost $100 to make one megawatt hour, while solar thermal plants cost $261 for the same amount of power. This data, however, does not take into account the impact of federal, state or local subsidies and mandates on power costs.
The solar thermal installation built by BrightSource Energy received at $1.6 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy in 2011. That loan was secured in no small part due to political connections, according to The Heritage Foundation.
Higher electricity costs as a result of policy directives and crony capitalism, something the Solar Energy Industries Association was readily willing to admit:
Resch said a key issue for the industry will be maintaining government policies that encourage development, including tax credits for solar projects that are set to expire in 2016 and government loan guarantees. “The direct result of these policies is projects like Ivanpah,” he said.
Once again, however, the claim that solar energy is a “free” or “no cost” energy source has been upended. Another BrightSource project is receiving similar concerns:
In response to BrightSource’s blueprint for its second big solar farm in Riverside County, near Joshua Tree National Park, biologists working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told state regulators that they were concerned that heat produced by the project could kill golden eagles and other protected species.
“We’re trying to figure out how big the problem is and what we can do to minimize bird mortalities,” said Eric Davis, assistant regional director for migratory birds at the federal agency’s Sacramento office. “When you have new technologies, you don’t know what the impacts are going to be.”
Ivanpah may be the first large utility-scale solar thermal installation in California, and also the last:
Though Ivanpah is an engineering marvel, experts doubt more plants like it will be built in California. Other solar technologies are now far cheaper than solar thermal, federal guarantees for renewable energy projects have dried up, and natural gas-fired plants are much cheaper to build.
That means the private sector must fill the gap at a time when building a natural-gas fired power plant costs about $1,000 per megawatt, a fraction of the $5,500 per megawatt that Ivanpah cost.
“Our job was to kickstart the demonstration of these different technologies,” Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in an interview high up on one of the plant’s three towers.
The plant is projected to produce approximately 380 megawatts “during the peak hours of the day,” according to BrightSource.
A technology that costs 5.5 times more to build and that delivers electricity that is 161 percent more expensive than coal, and that secures it’s funding through political connections is not the job of the Department of Energy–or taxpayers’ dollars–nor to “kickstart the demonstration of these different technologies.”
Not when it produces just 0.24 percent of the electricity in the United States in November 2013, according to the EIA.
Filed under: Archive, Hydraulic Fracturing, renewable energy
Periodically, the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center will take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly in energy stories from around the United States and abroad, and bring the best (and worst) of those stories to your attention.
1. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell may have violated Colorado Open Meetings Law under its sunshine statutes by shutting out members of the press while visiting Moffat County on Tuesday. The meeting in Colorado centered on the status of the sage-grouse, a species whose designation could affect energy projects in the northwest portion of the state:
As she was leaving, Leavitt Riley said she saw Jewell in a car in the parking lot and the driver-side door was open, so she approached Jewell “and she said the press was not allowed at this meeting,” Leavitt Riley recalled.
“I said, do you realize more than a dozen elected officials were in it? She said the tour was open to the press but this was a closed meeting” and then drove away, Leavitt Riley said.
She said the newspaper is pursuing the matter with the Colorado Press Association. No one with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s office was available for comment Tuesday night.
2. From Lachlan Markay at the Washington Free Beacon–a Politico column riddled with inaccuracies from anti-fracking activists:
A pair of prominent environmentalists penned a column Tuesday for Politico Magazine attacking hydraulic fracturing littered with dishonest and incorrect claims.
“If you calculate the greenhouse gas pollution emitted at every stage of the production process—drilling, piping, compression—it’s essentially just coal by another name,” McKibben and Tidwell wrote.
The claim is frequently sourced to Cornell scientists Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea, who have found significantly higher life cycle emissions than are found in other studies.
Numerous government agencies, environmentalist groups, and academics have panned Howarth and Ingraffea’s work on the issue and produced their own studies showing relatively low life cycle emissions from natural gas.
“Their analysis is seriously flawed,” according to three Cornell colleagues, professors in the university’s departments of earth and atmospheric sciences and chemical and biological engineering.
3. Michael Bastasch at The Daily Caller highlights a report on the social benefits of fossil fuels:
Burning off carbon dioxide into the atmosphere to provide cheap electricity may have affected the climate, but the benefits of a carbonized economy far outweigh the costs, according to a new study.
The pro-coal American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) released a study showing that the benefits of carbonized fuel, like coal, to society are 50 to 500 times greater than the costs. Over the past two-and-a-half centuries increased fossil fuel energy production has helped more than double global life expectancy and increase global incomes 11-fold.
4. North Carolina State University issued a study finding that increasing the use of electric vehicles “is not an effective way to produce large emissions reductions”:
“We wanted to see how important EDVs may be over the next 40 years in terms of their ability to reduce emissions,” says Dr. Joseph DeCarolis, an assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper on the new model. “We found that increasing the use of EDVs is not an effective way to produce large emissions reductions.”
The researchers ran 108 different scenarios in a powerful energy systems model to determine the impact of EDV use on emissions between now and 2050. They found that, even if EDVs made up 42 percent of passenger vehicles in the U.S., there would be little or no reduction in the emission of key air pollutants.
Emails Show EPA’s Denver “Listening Tour” Stop A Collaboration Between Agency, Environmentalist Orgs
Emails published this week by the Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay illustrate a pattern of coordination and cooperation between the Environmental Protection Agency and external environmentalist groups, including the use of at least one agency event to “pressure” an Xcel Energy executive at the Denver stop of a 2013 “listening tour”:
The emails, obtained by the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (EELI) through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, could fuel an ongoing controversy over EPA policies that critics say are biased against traditional sources of energy.
Emails show EPA used official events to help environmentalist groups gather signatures for petitions on agency rulemaking, incorporated advance copies of letters drafted by those groups into official statements, and worked with environmentalists to publicly pressure executives of at least one energy company.
In October, the EPA launched an 11-city “listening tour” to gather commentary and input on carbon pollution regulations, and scheduled a stop in Denver. While Colorado houses the EPA Region 8 office, critics then questioned why the tour skipped states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Colorado’s neighbor to the north, Wyoming–all states that produce more coal, with Wyoming the number one coal producing state in the country.
The documents shed light on part of the deliberation process, with Markay revealing how the “EPA decided on the locations for those hearings after consulting with leading environmentalist groups.”
According to emails written by EPA Region 8 administrator James Martin, the selection of “listening tour” stops had more to do with applying pressure to a related industry–natural gas–and singled out one industry executive in particular, while bypassing “friendlier forums” in California and Washington.
“San Fran and Seattle would be friendlier forums but CA has no coal plants and WA is phasing out its one plant,” Martin wrote. The recipient was Vicki Patton, general counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
“Choosing either may create opportunities for the industry to claim EPA is tilting the playing field,” Martin told Patton. “Denver would not have that problem.”
Martin continued on the choice of Denver. “The gas industry has way more presence here, too. One last point in its favor–it will make Roy Palmer nervous!” wrote Martin.
As Markay points out, Palmer is an executive at Xcel Energy, the state’s largest utility.
Markay also noted that Martin used a personal email address for official EPA business, a claim the EPA had first denied but that the released documents later substantiated.
Among other findings revealed by the internal emails, demonstrating a pattern of cooperation:
Nancy Grantham, director of public affairs for EPA Region 1, which covers New England, asked an organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Hampshire chapter to share the group’s agenda so EPA could adjust its messaging accordingly in an email dated March 12, 2012.
By Amy Oliver Cooke and Robert Applegate
As Ron Binz campaigns to be confirmed as the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, much of the emphasis has been on his position as an activist for what he considers to be low or no carbon energy sources, predominantly Big Wind. (Forget the fact that wind requires an enormous amount of carbon emissions in the manufacturing of gigantic wind turbine.)
But Binz’s no carbon advocacy is hypocritical.
While Binz now advocates for lowering carbon emissions, he was instrumental in shutting down Colorado’s lowest carbon emitting power source, the Fort St. Vrain nuclear plant, which eventually converted to natural gas – a technology he now calls “dead end” when it comes to carbon emissions.
As head of the Office of Consumer Council (OCC), Binz successfully argued before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that the power plant did not work correctly and that the shareholders of the company running the plant must pay for the capital costs rather than customers using the electricity. (This is when Binz cared about ratepayers)
More stringent regulations and the burden of the extra cost upon the shareholders ultimately forced the plant to close as a carbon free, nuclear power source. This “regulating to death,” as stated by previously employees of the plant ultimately came at the cost detriment of electricity customers who paid for the decommissioning and subsequent recommissioning as a carbon emitting natural gas plant.
His position on natural gas has flipped too. In 2010, as chair of the PUC Binz took a lead role in negotiating the terms of the controversial fuel switching bill HB 1365 titled “Clean Air; Clean Jobs Act.” At that time, Binz championed a mandated fuel switch from coal to natural gas. Apparently Binz thought natural gas was a clean fuel in 2010 but isn’t now. Too bad ratepayers didn’t know that in 2010. It would have saved them more than $1 billion dollars, but then Binz’s concerns for consumer costs have flipped too.
According to the most recent Form 10-K that Xcel Energy, Colorado’s largest investor owned utility (IOU), filed with the Security and Exchange Commission dated December 31, 2011, electricity generation from natural gas was more than double the price of electricity generated from coal in Colorado.
A table on page 18 of the report shows that in 2011, Xcel produced 76 percent of its electricity from coal at a cost of $1.77 per MMBtu while natural gas cost $4.98 per MMBtu while providing 24 percent of Xcel’s electricity.
As more and more of Xcel’s electricity is mandated to come from natural gas thanks to HB 1365, the fuel switching bill and the cornerstone of what former Governor Bill Ritter coined the “new energy economy,” along with additional regulations and out right bans on hydraulic fracturing, Xcel ratepayers should get used to spending more and more on their electricity bills.
Energy Policy Center Director Amy Oliver Cooke has fun talking energy, especially when wearing a hot pink “Mothers In Love with Fracking” t-shirt. Thanks to Tom Barry of The Villager for this photograph and his article on the American For Prosperity (AFP) event that featured Dick Morris. AFP invited Amy to be the warm up act to discuss Obama’s energy policy.
The disgraced former EPA regional official forced out after Senator James Inhoff (R-Oklahoma) posted a video of his enforcement philosophy for fossil fuel companies has found a home with the Sierra Club and its anti-coal campaign.
Al Armendariz will take over leadership of the group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign office for Austin, Texas, on July 15.
He’ll coordinate efforts to move the Lone Star State away from coal-fired electric generation and toward wind, solar and other low-carbon alternatives, said Beyond Coal director Bruce Nilles in an interview.
Armendariz, former administrator of EPA Region 6, resigned last spring after a video surfaced revealing his “enforcement philosophy” for oil and gas developers to be analogous to the Roman crucifixion of the “first five villagers” in a conquered territory.
Just two years ago, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club was instrumental in getting the Colorado General Assembly to pass HB10-1365 mandatory fuel switching away from coal to natural gas. That love affair ended abruptly last month when the national headquarters announced that it no longer supported natural gas as a “bridge fuel” for electricity generation.
Senator Inhoff told EENews that Armendariz’s new position was no surprise to him, “At least at the Sierra Club, he won’t get into so much trouble for telling the truth that their agenda is to kill oil, gas and coal.”