February 18 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Costly Clean Power Plan event video; EPA Animas River spill gets Congressional scrutiny; fracking ban off 2016 ballot
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Hydraulic Fracturing, Legal, Legislation, regulations
The Independence Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute joined forces on February 16 in Denver to provide an update on the Environmental Protection Agency’s costly Clean Power Plan, including where the rule stands with regard to the U.S. Supreme Court stay issued earlier in February, as well as the impact of the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia on the ongoing legal proceedings.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan rules will slow the Colorado economy, raise electricity rates and barely make a dent in carbon dioxide emissions, opponents and experts on the plan told an audience at the Independence Institute on Tuesday.
“Clean power alone will add billions if not tens of billions of costs to individual consumers and the American economy,” said Gregory Conko, executive director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Myron Ebell, CEI’s director of the Center for Energy and Enviroment released a state-by-state comparison showing Colorado’s 9.49 cents per kilowatt hour is lower than the national average of 10.11 cents. But he said California, which has extensive power plant regulation and has consumers paying 15.11 cents, is a warning for the rest of the country if the Clean Power Plan is instituted.
“This is about keeping the lights on for America’s economy, for Colorado’s economy,” he said, adding any additional costs for energy will take away consumer purchasing power for other goods.
Keeping the lights on and the cost of electricity–the energy that drives our economy.
What happens when costs of electricity go up? It hurts the average Coloradan; the ratepayers and taxpayers already pressured by an economy that has never fully recovered from the recession that have seen their electricity bills skyrocket 63 percent between 2001 and 2014, and Colorado overall, across all sectors from residential to commercial, industrial, and transportation, of 67 percent:
Those cost increases are being felt, not the least by folks in southern Colorado.
Regulations impact economies, and officials at a hearing in New Mexico on proposed Bureau of Land Management rules got an earful:
“The implementation of these proposed rules will kill revenue to state and federal government,” said Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts. “And it will kill jobs at the local level.”
To find the source of Farmington and San Juan County, New Mexico, residents’ frustration, one doesn’t need to look far. Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report that showed the area ranked first in the nation in the rate of unemployment growth – from 5.2 percent in 2014 to 7.3 percent in 2015. Since 2009, the region has lost an estimated 6,000 jobs, mainly as a result of a declining oil and gas industry.
“I’ve seen the affects in my community,” said Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein. “This will be a knock-out blow to an already-crippled community.”
In January, the BLM proposed an update to 30-year old regulations on methane and natural gas leaks on BLM and Native American lands. BLM officials estimate the tougher regulations would reduce emissions of the potent methane by about 169,00 tons per year, and decrease volatile organic compound releases by 410,000 tons per year. That reduction would be in keeping with an earlier Obama Administration goal of reducing methane emissions by 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2015.
In March of last year, I had the privilege of traveling to northwest Colorado to film AEA’s “Eye of the Storm” video which chronicled the threats radical environment activists were making against the communities of Craig and Meeker. Thankfully, with your help, we were able to convince the federal government that the Colowyo mine should stay open. Unfortunately, the mine and these communities are under threat yet again.
While in Craig and Meeker, Colorado, I was blown away by the people that I met. Every person knew just how important energy is to their community. From the mayor to the hotel concierge, every single person I spoke with had a personal story about how the energy their community produces and responsibly utilizes makes their lives better. And as many miners pointed out to me, their work provides affordable, reliable energy to the entire region.
Visiting the Colowyo mine was a surreal experience. At first, you drive up a winding dirt road through checkpoints, until you finally reach the mining area. Colowyo is a surface mine situated between the towns of Craig and Meeker. Cresting the ridge and looking down on the pit, you see these bright yellow trucks scurrying around with dirt and coal, but from that distance you can’t tell how massive they are. Realizing the immense scale of this project and the work these men and women do every day is profound—and in a way, beautiful.
One real surprise to me is that soon after stepping out of the truck at the mine, I noticed wildlife. You do not expect to visit a mine and see elk, antelope, deer, and even an owl, but I saw all four within the first hour of our time there. The staff pointed with pride to the areas that had been previously been mined, but were now restored and how well the land and wildlife were thriving
The literal ban on fracking is out, but 10 more state constitutional amendments remain, including a “right to a healthy environment”:
“We’re going to pull the one that’s the ban, not the other ones,” Dyke told the Denver Business Journal on Friday. “We’re down to 10, but we still have plenty to work with.”
But while a proposal to ban fracking statewide may be off the table, the other initiatives backed by CREED are just as bad, said Karen Crummy, a spokeswoman for Protecting Colorado’s Environment, Economy and Energy Independence, an issues committee formed by the industry in 2014 to oppose anti-fracking initiatives.
“They withdrew it (the fracking ban proposal) because they know the vast majority of Coloradans support responsible oil and natural gas development and are against banning an entire industry,” Crummy said via email.
“However, their remaining proposals are just as irresponsible and extreme because they would still effectively ban development,” she said.
The other amendments, calling for 4,000 foot setbacks away from “special concern” areas along with the healthy environment proposal remain de facto fracking bans, and in most cases, include all oil and gas development not just the controversial hydraulic fracturing method.
For example, proposal #67:
Section 1. Purposes and findings. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF COLORADO FIND AND DECLARE:
(a) THAT OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE USE OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, HAS DETRIMENTAL IMPACTS ON PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, WELFARE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT;
(b) THAT SUCH IMPACTS ARE REDUCED BY LOCATING OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT FACILITIES AWAY FROM OCCUPIED STRUCTURES AND AREAS OF SPECIAL CONCERN; AND
(c) THAT TO PRESERVE PUBLIC HEALTH, SAFETY, WELFARE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT, THE PEOPLE DESIRE TO ESTABLISH A SETBACK REQUIRING ALL NEW OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT FACILITIES IN THE STATE OF COLORADO TO BE LOCATED AWAY FROM OCCUPIED STRUCTURES, INCLUDING HOMES, SCHOOLS AND HOSPITALS; AS WELL AS AREAS OF SPECIAL CONCERN.
Section 2. Definitions.
(a) FOR PURPOSES OF THIS ARTICLE, “OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT” MEANS EXPLORATION FOR AND DRILLING, PRODUCTION, AND PROCESSING OF OIL, GAS, OTHER GASEOUS AND LIQUID HYDROCARBONS, AND CARBON DIOXIDE, AS WELL AS THE TREATMENT AND DISPOSAL OF WASTE ASSOCIATED WITH SUCH EXPLORATION, DRILLING, PRODUCTION, AND PROCESSING. “OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT” INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO, HYDRAULIC FRACTURING AND ASSOCIATED COMPONENTS.
Judge the activists by their words–they want bans or regulations so onerous as to yield the same results. This isn’t just about a fracking ban, although the most explicit amendment calling for a statewide ban has just been pulled. Make no mistake–this is about the wholesale removal of responsible natural resource extraction that gives Coloradans affordable and reliable energy.
Windsor High School junior Kamille Hocking worried a dozen oil wells on her family’s 132-acre Colorado homestead might sicken them. Then, Rebecca Johnson, an Anadarko Petroleum Corp. engineer, used a blender in her chemistry class to show the interaction of swirling frack sand, city water and friction reducer.
“We heard a lot of stories about how it could get into the water and pollute the land,” said Hocking, who is 16. “I’m going to tell my parents that fracking fluid only makes cracks in the rock the size of a hair that the sand gets into and holds open.”
Facing 10 possible ballot initiatives restricting fracking, Anadarko has deployed 160 landmen, geologists and engineers such as Johnson to Rotary clubs, high schools and mothers groups. They demonstrate how drilling works and try to convince people that the technique and the accompanying chemicals and geological effects don’t harm the environment or public health.
The wide-ranging outreach in Colorado, the nation’s seventh-biggest oil producer and sixth-largest gas provider, represents a policy shift. The energy industry that has been known for insisting on confidentiality from employees about fracking practices now allows geologists, landmen and colleagues in 40 Anadarko job categories to divulge details of what they do to their churches, neighbors and golfing buddies.
Johnson, who’s personal motto is “faith, family and fracking,” told students in Windsor that she’s supervised 1,000 fracks in the course of her 24-year career without harm to the environment.
“I live right here,” Johnson said when she visited the school 60 miles (97 kilometers) north of Denver this month. “My family is here. My mother-in-law graduated from your high school. She turns 80 this year. We would know if something’s wrong.”
Real facts from the folks who live and work in the communities in question.
More rulemaking on the way, regardless of which amendments make the 2016 ballot:
Fresh off some recent rulemaking, Colorado’s oil and gas regulatory agency is turning its attention to one of the most persistent complaints from people living near extraction operations: noise.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is in the process of gathering technical data from state health experts, industry officials and third party consultants regarding noise, its health impacts and mitigation measures, said Dave Kulmann, COGCC deputy director.
Since discussions are still in the early stages, no date is set for when formal rulemaking might start, although it will likely be some time late in 2016. Kulmann said the agency wants to gather the technical data before speculating on which specific aspects of the current regulations might be beefed up, but it is clear, he said, that noise is an issue.
In 2015, after implementing a new complaint process on Jan. 9 of that year, the COGCC received a total of 330 complaints on issues ranging from odors to traffic problems to property damage, according to a detailed complaint report compiled by COGCC. Of the total complaints, 123 were due to noise.
The Gold King Mine and Animas River spill–and the EPA–are still under scrutiny, even if the prominent news coverage has waned:
If a private company dumped three million gallons of toxic sludge into Colorado waterways, we’d be flooded with daily media updates for months. Yet the press has by now forgotten the disaster unleashed in August when EPA contractors punctured an abandoned mine. New evidence suggests the government isn’t coming clean about what happened.
EPA planned its disastrous investigation of the mine for years, not that you’d know: The agency assumed a layout of the area that contradicted public records, including the remarkable conclusion that a drain ran near the ceiling of the mine’s entrance. This led EPA to believe that water backed up only about half the tunnel. The agency didn’t test the water pressure, a precaution that would have prevented the gusher. EPA hasn’t explained this decision, and emails obtained by the committee show the on-site coordinator knew there was “some pressure.”
The crew made more bad decisions than characters in a horror movie. About a week before the blowout, the on-site coordinator went on vacation and left instructions that his replacement seems to have ditched. For example: Don’t dig toward the tunnel floor unless you have a pump handy. The crew pressed downward without a pump and intentionally unearthed the mine’s plug. “What exactly they expected to happen remains unclear,” the report concludes. The Interior Department now euphemistically calls this series of events an “excavation induced failure.”
EPA is so far suggesting that no one committed crimes, and maybe so. But consider: EPA cranked out a report three weeks after the disaster and said the Interior Department would conduct an independent review that the Army Corps of Engineers would sign off on. EPA testified to the committee that Interior would look for wrongdoing, though Interior said the department was only offering technical support.
January 20 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Billionaire Steyer plays CO politics; NM files intent to sue EPA over mine spill
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, New Energy Economy, PUC, solar energy, wind energy
Independence Institute associate energy policy analyst Simon Lomax has the latest on green billionaire Tom Steyer’s efforts to tilt the legislative balance in Colorado in 2016:
San Francisco billionaire activist Tom Steyer is getting more deeply involved in Colorado politics than ever before. After spending more than $350,000 on research and polling in the Centennial State last year, two groups aligned with Steyer are now funding political attacks on State Senator Laura Woods (R). Republicans control the Colorado State Senate by a single vote, so unseating Woods could return control of the state legislature to Democrats and reinstate one-party rule under Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) until early 2019 at least.
Read all of his latest piece here.
Our neighbors to the south, New Mexico, has filed an intent to sue notice over the Animas River/Gold King Mine spill last year triggered by the Environmental Protection Agency:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico plans to sue the federal government and the owners of two Colorado mines that were the source of a massive spill last year that contaminated rivers in three Western states, officials said Thursday.
The New Mexico Environment Department said it filed a notice of its intention to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the spill, becoming the first to do so. The lawsuit also would target the state of Colorado and the owners of the Gold King and Sunnyside Mines.
The New Mexico regulators said they will sue if the EPA does not begin to take meaningful measures to clean up the affected areas and agree to a long-term plan that will research and monitor the effects of the spill.
“From the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business,” said Ryan Flynn, state Environment Department cabinet secretary.
While the Navajo Nation is considering its options for legal action, the state of Colorado’s Attorney General had no comment at this time.
Drilling on the Western Slope dropped in 2015:
Garfield County last year held onto the No. 2 spot statewide in terms of oil and gas drilling activity, despite the lowest level of activity since the 1990s.
Mesa County bucked the statewide trend in 2015, however, seeing a sharp increase in drilling and ranking third among Colorado counties.
Falling oil and gas prices resulted in drilling beginning on just 1,437 wells statewide last year, down from 2,239 the prior year, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data. Much of the decrease occurred in Weld County as companies slowed oil drilling there thanks to falling prices. But the county still continued to see the bulk of activity last year, with drilling begun on 1,084 wells.
Garfield County had just 173 well starts last year, down from 362 in 2014. The last time the county saw less drilling, with 94 well starts, it wasn’t Jeb Bush but his brother, George, who was harboring presidential aspirations, in the year 1999.
Lower commodity prices have given Coloradans a bit of temporary relief, offsetting the region’s cost of living increases:
Two conflicting consumer price trends are pushing around the Denver area’s cost of living like a rag doll.
A new federal report Wednesday says that the cost of shelter in the Denver, Boulder and Greeley area jumped 5.8 percent in the second half of 2015 from a year earlier.
And yet, over the same period, energy costs fell 19 percent.
The result: a 1.4 percent year-over-year rise in the area’s overall consumer prices, the cost of a basket of typical goods and services, according to the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Kansas City office.
Shelter costs outweigh energy costs for most consumers, so shelter plays a bigger role in driving overall consumer prices.
The problem is that commodity prices fluctuate (due to market forces but also to environmental factors like government policies), and this small, offsetting bump for Colorado electricity ratepayers will provide only temporary relief. According to the Denver Business Journal, gasoline is down nearly 26 percent in 2015, with natural gas down nearly 19 percent. Household electricity was off 2.9 percent
On the other hand, gasoline cost 25.9 percent less in late 2015 than it did a year earlier, BLS said, while household natural gas cost 18.9 percent less and household electricity was down 2.9 percent. That’s hardly a dent in the 63 percent increase in residential electricity costs measured through 2014.
Job counters will see in a few years if the solar industry’s employment numbers are real (this time, and not an ephemeral mirage like so many other “green jobs”) and not temporary construction jobs and inferred “indirect jobs,” but for now they admit what is giving the solar folks a bump:
A few key developments are driving the job surge in solar.
Businesses and homeowners are eligible for a 30% tax credit if they install solar panels on their property. That’s been in place since 2006 but in December Congress renewed the tax credit for another six years. That lowers installation costs considerably.
The climate change agreement in Paris and the global action plan to limit global warming is also a positive for the clean energy industry.
And the Environmental Protection Agency released plans last year to force states to lower their carbon output.
Not much in the way of actual demand from consumers without government force (EPA’s Clean Power Plan) or government incentive (tax credit), or public pressure (Paris).
The article notes that lower commodity prices for oil and gasoline, and natural gas, are giving solar a “headwind.” Free market effects will do that.
Despite all the supply-side incentives (tax credits, subsidies, and mandates) and the demand-side disincentives (killing coal through the Clean Power Plan) the Energy Information Administration reports that solar was at 4.4 percent of all renewables in 2014 (last full year of data available), and a mere 0.4 percent of total U.S. energy consumption that year.
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 29 Colorado Energy Cheat Sheet: Hickenlooper vs. Coffman over EPA lawsuit; EPA spill report short on info says New Mexico; Frack or Treat
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, Legislation, PUC, regulations, solar energy, wind energy
Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s decision to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to implement the Clean Power Plan has initiated a constitutional battle in the eyes of Governor John Hickenlooper:
Gov. John Hickenlooper said Monday he will seek the state Supreme Court’s opinion on the legality of Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s lawsuit to stop implementation of the Clean Power Plan.
“This notion of everyone suing all the time every time you disagree with a specific remedy, a specific statute, is part of what makes people so frustrated with government,” Hickenlooper, who supports the plan, said in a meeting with The Denver Post’s editorial board.
“Except in very rare circumstances, generally the governor is supposed to make that decision in concert with the attorney general,” Hickenlooper said of the lawsuit. “But the governor should have that final say.”
Hickenlooper’s office pushed the issue further, saying the AG’s actions “just gets in the way” of state plans to cooperate with the CPP:
“The statute that we’re looking at speaks of prosecuting and defending on the request of the governor,” said Jacki Cooper Melmed, Hickenlooper’s chief legal counsel, citing Colorado’s revised statutes, title 24, article 31, part 1.
Cooper Melmed said she is worried about conflicts as some Coffman deputies work with Hickenlooper’s administration to implement the plan while others in the attorney general’s office try to quash it.
“This just gets in the way,” Cooper Melmed said of the lawsuit. “There’s no wall really high enough to allow these two things to happen out of the same office.”
Coffman, for her part, said she was “disappointed” in the Governor’s decision.
Former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton called Hickenlooper’s stance “unusual” when it comes to the relationship between AG and Governor, even when representing opposing parties:
“For the governor to try to challenge in this way is unusual,” Norton said.
In almost all cases where a governor challenges an attorney general, Norton said, rulings are in the attorney general’s favor.
“The attorney general represents the state and not the governor,” Norton said. “The attorney general is elected to provide independent representation of the state’s interest.”
Steamboat Today has a great roundup of other reactions for and against the lawsuit.
It’s not just states suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan–at least 26 states filed almost immediately after the ruling was published last Friday–but other lawsuits are on their way from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and National Association of Manufacturers.
The EPA, meanwhile, is touting its flexibility–a “wide range of choices”–in allowing states to file extensions:
Taking another crack at busting the CPP progress, this time using pre-existing Congressional review legislation:
Lawmakers opposed to the Obama administration’s climate rule for power plants are moving to block the regulations from taking effect.
Several senators will offer Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions Monday that seek to stop the Clean Power Plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a longtime opponent of carbon regulations for the power sector, will schedule a vote on the resolutions soon after they come out.
“I have vowed to do all I can to fight back against this administration on behalf of the thousands of Kentucky coal miners and their families, and this CRA is another tool in that battle,” McConnell said in a statement.
The Congressional Review Act gives lawmakers the ability to end an executive branch regulation through an act of Congress.
Communities around Colorado continue to struggle with mine runoff, the August EPA spill in southwest Colorado not withstanding:
Toxic mines hang over this haven for wildflowers, contaminating water and driving residents — like counterparts statewide — to press for better protection.
A local group went to federal court this month seeking long-term assurances that a water-treatment plant will always remain open as the collapsed tunnels and heaps of tailings leak an acid mix of heavy metals: arsenic, cadmium, zinc and others.
State data show these contaminants reaching Coal Creek — the primary water source for Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley’s green pastures — at levels exceeding health standards.
“A lot of people are nervous,” said Alli Melton of High Country Conservation Advocates. “We’d like to get it as clean as possible.”
But the EPA isn’t being all the helpful, as the Interior Department inspector general report on the Gold King Mine/Animas River spill concluded, as the U.S. Chamber points out:
These two quotes from the report illustrate just how careless EPA was:
EPA has “little appreciation for the engineering complexity.”
“[T]here appears to be a general absence of knowledge of the risks associated with these [abandoned mining] facilities.”
Even EPA’s internal investigators didn’t hold back on the agencies irresponsibility. Its initial review concluded the spill was “likely inevitable,” but the agency wasn’t prepared to contain a spill before digging into the mine.
That isn’t much consolation for the folks in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation affected by the spill, as New Mexico’s top environmental watchdog Ryan Flynn said, quoted again by the Chamber:
While the report reveals that an EPA decision was made to refrain from validating the flawed water level estimates with a previously used successful procedure (using a drill rig to bore into the mine from above to directly determine the water level of the mine pool prior to excavating the backfill at the portal); the report says absolutely nothing about who made the decision to fly by the seat of their pants, by digging out the closed Gold King Mine tunnel based on un-validated estimates of what volume and pressure of contaminated water would be violently released.
Here in New Mexico, we are already quite clear on the fact that EPA made a mistake, as the DOI’s report underwhelmingly reveals. What we were wondering, and hoped the report could tell us, is why EPA made the mistake, and who at EPA made the decisions that authorized dangerous work to proceed based on un-validated estimates. It is shocking to read the DOI’s “independent investigation” only to find that it overlooks the who, the how, and the why. [emphasis added]
How big are subsidies for electric cars? Without the $5,000 tax credit in Georgia, the state saw sales of electric vehicles plummet nearly 90% in just two months:
According to Georgia car registrations, sales shot up as electric car buyers rushed to take advantage of the tax credit before it expired. But the numbers declined sharply in July and took a swan dive in August — the most recent month tabulated:
The decline from 1,338 in June to 148 in August represents a drop of 88.9 percent.
Read the rest of this excellent Watchdog article here.
It’s almost Halloween, so we’ll end on a spooky anti-energy note from Energy in Depth:
The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been waging an extreme campaign to ban fracking through so called “Community Bill of Rights” ballot initiatives, especially targeting communities in Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The group has already forced taxpayers to pay tens of thousands of dollars to defend their illegal ordinances and it is now planning to hit communities in California, Oregon, New Hampshire and Washington State. In fact, as Energy In Depth’s new video shows, this Halloween, CELDF’s extreme (and expensive) campaign could be coming to a ballot box near you.
August 20 Colorado Energy Roundup: Poll shows Coloradans not impressed by Clean Power Plan, fracking ballot measures expected, #greenjobsfail, and EPA/Animas River saga continues
Filed under: Environmental Protection Agency, Legal, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
This week the Independence Institute released the results of poll concerning the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and who Coloradans feel does a better job when it comes to guarding the state’s environmental quality–folks here prefer Colorado oversight to meddlesome DC regulations:
The poll was conducted August 9-10th and found those surveyed more likely to oppose the EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan if the rule resulted in electricity bill hikes, 59 to 33 percent.
Fifty-five percent said they would oppose the plan if it meant spiking poverty rates in black and Hispanic communities by 23 and 26 percent, as a recent study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce concluded.
Respondents also opposed the plan when it came to the core environmental impacts projected by the agency—a 0.02 degrees Celsius reduction in global temperatures and no notable impact on carbon emissions. Fifty-one percent said the promised temperature reduction would make them more likely to oppose the finalized rule, while 58 percent said that the Clean Power Plan’s non-existent impact on carbon emissions would do the same.
You can read the rest of the topline results here.
Colorado’s registered voters put their trust in the state to manage the environment, and not federal regulators from the EPA or DC in general:
While Colorado’s Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman, has not weighed in on whether the state could join a multi-state lawsuit against the EPA over the Clean Power Plan (she has said it is on the table), a 53 to 37 percent majority favored the state joining at least 16 other states in the suit.
Nearly 6 in 10 said the state should wait to comply—not move forward as Governor John Hickenlooper has directed—on drawing up a state implementation plan for the Clean Power Plan.
Nearly half said that they would be more likely to support a plan if the state of Colorado determined the cost of compliance before that plan became law.
When it comes to environmental regulation and quality, Coloradans clearly preferred the regulators in Denver to those in Washington, D.C.
The State of Colorado does a better job regulating for a clean environment 37 to 5 percent over federal regulators. Twenty-seven percent said both state and federal agencies handled the job equally well, with nearly one in five saying that neither has done particularly well in this area.
How did the results breakdown along partisan and demographic lines?
Only Democrats (64 percent) and those earning between $100-$124K per year (51 percent) were more likely to support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan even if it meant an increase in electricity bills as a result of implementing the regulations. Overall, 59 percent of Coloradans were more likely to oppose the plan, with men and women showing no gender gap and nearly identical opposition to costly rate hikes.
A National Black Chamber of Commerce study found that poverty rates in black and Hispanic communities were likely to increase significantly—23 percent and 26 percent—under the Clean Power Plan. Fifty-five percent of Colorado voters said they would be more likely to oppose the federal regulations under those circumstances, with women edging out men (57 percent to 53 percent, respectively) in opposition. Majorities of Republicans, independents, and all age and income groups offered the same negative responses when it came to impacts on minority community poverty rates, as did the respondents when viewed across all seven congressional districts.
Democrats were still more likely to support the EPA’s carbon reduction plan by a slim 42 to 37 percent margin. The party was split, however, along gender lines, with Democratic women in opposition, 44 to 36 percent. Their male party counterparts gave the Clean Power Plan a large boost, saying 48 to 27 percent that they were more likely to back the EPA’s measure despite minority community concerns.
More results from the poll’s crosstabs can be perused here.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy even admitted explicitly that the Clean Power Plan would adversely harm minority and low-income families the hardest:
The chief environmental regulator in the United States had some blunt words of reality regarding the administration’s climate change regulations.
The Clean Power Plan that will require drastic cuts in 47 states’ carbon dioxide emissions – consequently shifting America’s energy economy away from affordable, reliable coal – will adversely impact poor, minority families the most.
When speaking about the higher energy prices caused by the administration’s climate regulations on power plants, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said, “We know that low-income minority communities would be hardest hit.”
McCarthy downplayed that fact by saying any minimal higher prices would be offset by implementing energy efficiency measures that would save consumers money in the long run.
Cato shows how “carbon dioxide emissions” have turned into “carbon pollution” when it comes to EPA messaging over the years.
Another new EPA rule? Yep:
With the Environmental Protection Agency expected to release a rule this month on methane regulations, proponents are gearing up for a messaging war.
Federal regulators aim at reducing oil-and-gas methane emissions by as much as 45 percent by 2025. The idea is that companies can use new technology to better capture methane emissions from operations.
The EPA estimates that 7 million tons of methane are emitted every year, though environmentalists suggests that it could be much higher.
The issue is relevant in Southwest Colorado, where researchers identified a significant methane “hot spot” in the Four Corners. A team of scientists is currently investigating the cause of the concentration, which could stem from a combination of natural-gas exploration and natural occurrences.
But industry efforts have already cut methane emissions significantly, making the rule seemingly superfluous:
This is going to go down in the books as one of the most curious moves ever taken by the Obama EPA, not because the reduction of methane emissions is a bad idea, but because it’s already been taking place in gangbuster fashion. The Institute for Energy Research put out a statement as soon as the new proposal was announced which put the question in context.
“Since 2007, methane emissions fell by 35 percent from natural gas operations, while natural gas production increased by 22 percent. According to EPA, voluntary implementation of new technologies by the oil and natural gas industry is a major reason for the decline in emissions.”
And where is the IER getting these figures about reductions in emissions? Are they coming from some big oil loving, pro-drilling think tank? No. It’s data taken from the EPA’s own studies which were cited in generating these rules. But just in case any of them don’t read their own promotional material, here are the numbers in graph form.
Anti-frack is BAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!
After failing to gather enough signatures last summer, Coloradans for Community Rights said Monday it will try again to get a statewide initiative giving communities control over oil and gas exploration on the ballot.
Spokesman Anthony Maine said the group will begin circulating petitions early next year to get the Colorado Community Rights Amendment to the state Constitution on the November 2016 ballot.
“This is about communities being allowed to decide for themselves,” Maine said at a press conference in Denver.
He said the oil and gas industry and their supporters are expected to pump in millions of dollars to fight the proposed amendment.
“This radical measure would allow city councilors and county commissioners to ban any business or industry for any reason even if those reasons violate federal or state law,” Karen Crummy, spokeswoman for Protect Colorado, said in a statement. Protect Colorado is an issue committee organized to fight anti-energy ballot measures.
Unlike other observers who felt that this issue might recede into next year’s political battles or be left up to the current court battles, it’s been clear to me from my work on this issue that activists are gearing up for the long game, announcing their efforts more than a year from the 2016 ballot, banking on possible favorable wins in a presidential cycle rather than the 2014 midterm. Many anti-fracking activists felt burned by Governor John Hickenlooper’s “compromise” last year that appeared to be an effort to provide fellow Democrats political cover in what was shaping up to be a costly and election-determining fight at the ballot box. Hickenlooper’s commission did not assuage the resentment of activists, Democrats lost a U.S. Senate seat, and the issues remained unresolved, just kicking the can down the road.
We’ve caught up to the can once again.
At the Independence Institute, we’ve been taking a look at the failed promises of “green” jobs since 2011, and a California initiative passed with the help of billionaire Tom Steyer appears to have fallen, uh, short of its job creation goals in the green sector–by about 90 percent:
The California ballot measure funded by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer that raised taxes on corporations to create clean energy jobs has generated less than a tenth of the promised jobs.
The Associated Press reported that the Clean Energy Jobs Act (Prop. 39) has only created 1,700 clean energy jobs, despite initial predictions it would generate more than 11,000 each year beginning in fiscal year 2013-14.
Prop. 39, which voters approved in 2012 after Steyer poured $30 million into the campaign supporting it, closed a tax loophole for multi-state corporations in order to fund energy efficient projects in schools that would in turn create clean energy jobs.
More than half of the $297 million given to schools for the projects has been funneled to consultants and energy auditors.
As we noted in late 2013, the current administration pushed for changes it hoped would bolster the long term outlook for wind energy by attempting to deal with one of the unfortunate tradeoffs of giant wind turbines–bird deaths:
But a move to extend the life of one renewable energy source–in this case, wind–by granting a six-fold extension to ‘takings’ permits issued to wind farms that allow the accidental killing of bald and golden eagles has united opponents normally at odds: Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and groups like the National Audubon Society and Natural Resources Defense Council.
A sampling, from Politico:
It’s baldly un-American, Vitter said Friday.
“Permits to kill eagles just seem unpatriotic, and 30 years is a long time for some of these projects to accrue a high death rate,” said the Louisiana senator, who is the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and one of Congress’s most outspoken critics of wind.
Sounding a similar theme, National Audubon Society CEO David Yarnold said it’s “outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the bald eagle.” He indicated his group may sue the administration.
The rule also drew criticism from Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, who said it “sets up a false choice that we intend to fight to reverse.”
“This rule could lead to many unnecessary deaths of eagles. And that’s a wrong-headed approach,” she said. “We can, and must, protect wildlife as we promote clean, renewable energy. The Fish and Wildlife Service missed an opportunity to issue a rule that would do just that.”
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell defended the rule change.
“Renewable energy development is vitally important to our nation’s future, but it has to be done in the right way. The changes in this permitting program will help the renewable energy industry and others develop projects that can operate in the longer term, while ensuring bald and golden eagles continue to thrive for future generations,” Jewell said.
Well, the so-called “takings” extension to 30 years has had its wings clipped by the court:
The express purpose of the 30-Year Rule was to facilitate the development of renewable wind energy, since renewable developers had voiced a need for longer-term permits to provide more certainty for project financing.
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued the 30-Year Rule without preparing either an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); instead, the FWS determined that the 30-Year Rule was categorically exempt. In overturning the rule, the court found that the FWS had not shown an adequate basis in the administrative record for its decision not to prepare an EIS or EA and therefore failed to comply with NEPA’s procedural requirements.
Finally, to the EPA induced toxic spill saga of the Animas River . . .
Congressman Scott Tipton (R-3rd CD) and colleagues are asking the EPA questions:
We remain completely unsatisfied with the delay in notifying the impacted communities and elected officials responsible for preparing and responding to a disaster such as this one.
What was the reason for the over 24 hour delay between the time of the incident and official notification and acknowledgment by your agency that a blowout had occurred?
Who in the EPA’s regional office was first notified of the blowout and when?
What steps has the EPA taken, or does it plan on taking in the very near future, to ensure that this type of delay in acknowledgment and notification of the appropriate parties does not happen again? What additional steps will the EPA take to create and implement an emergency response plan for EPA projects such as this?
That’s just a sample of a raft of questions from the House members.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) and a bipartisan group of colleagues sent their own questions to the EPA:
We, therefore, respectfully request the following be included in a report on the events surrounding the Gold King Mine spill:
1. Details on the work EPA was conducting at the Gold King Mine prior to the spill on August 5, 2015;
2. Details of the expertise of the EPA employees and contractors carrying out that work;
3. Criteria EPA would apply before approving a contractor for a similar cleanup performed by a private party and whether EPA applied the same criteria to itself;
4. EPA’s legal obligations and current policies and guidelines on reporting a release of a hazardous substance;
5. EPA’s legal obligations and current policies and guidelines on contacting tribal, state and local government agencies when the agency creates a release of a hazardous substance;
Again, just a sampling of what members of Congress–and the public both down in southwest Colorado, northern New Mexico, and Utah–would like to know, demanding a full accounting of the EPA spill as soon as possible.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez wasn’t drinking the EPA
tang koolaid, or its official responses so far, and is asking for her state to investigate as well:
Today, I ordered the New Mexico Environment Department to investigate the circumstances surrounding the EPA-caused toxic waste spill into the Animas River.
New Mexicans deserve answers as to why this catastrophe happened and why the EPA failed to notify us about it — the first we heard about it was from the Southern Ute Tribe nearly 24 hours later.
The EPA should not be held to a lower standard than they hold private citizens and businesses.
Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman feels that she is not getting the whole picture either, and is still considering a lawsuit against the EPA for the spill:
The attorneys general of Colorado and Utah visited this still-festering site on a fact-finding mission Wednesday and left feeling the Environmental Protection Agency had not provided them with the whole picture.
“There’s a list, honestly,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said of her questions.
Coffman and her Utah counterpart, Attorney General Sean Reyes, are among a group that have said legal action against the EPA is being weighed after the agency’s Aug. 5 wastewater spill in the San Juan County mountains above Silverton.
The spill sent 3 million gallons of contaminated water surging into the Animas and San Juan rivers.
New Mexico’s attorney general said last week he is considering a lawsuit, and Navajo Nation leaders, whose community arguably has been most impacted by the disaster, said they will sue.
That lack of information–or, indeed, a coverup–has been the focus of much attention, and Colorado Peak Politics believes the EPA hasn’t been forthcoming from the beginning.
The inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Monday that it is beginning an investigation into the agency’s role in triggering a massive toxic waste spill in southwest Colorado.
The IG alerted a number of senior EPA officials to the investigation in a memo released on Monday. “We will request documents, and interview relevant managers and staff in these locations and elsewhere as necessary,” the IG said.
The announcement comes amid controversy over EPA’s role in the spill. Agency chief Gina McCarthy admitted last week that EPA inspectors had triggered the incident while inspecting cleanup efforts at the Gold King Mine near Durango, Colo.
What are the cleanup costs estimated to be? The Daily Caller’s examination of potential burdens to the taxpayer due to EPA negligence are big:
The right-leaning American Action Forum estimates the total cost for responding to the Gold King Mine Spill could range from $338 million to $27.7 billion based on the federal government’s own cost-benefit analyses for cleaning up toxic waste and oil spills.
“There is no direct precedent for the toxic Animas River spill in Colorado and past regulatory actions from agencies, but we can learn from previous benefit-cost estimates,” writes Sam Batkins, AAF’s director of regulatory policy, adding that he “evaluated four recent regulations’ benefit figures to approximate the cost of the current spill in the Mountain West.”
That’s not good news, considering the mine owner’s allegations that the EPA has dumped toxic waste as far back as 2005, or that billions of gallons might be poised to spill in the future.
And that future is unclear due to what still lies beneath:
State and federal officials have offered assurances that the river is returning to “pre-event conditions,” but uncertainty remains over the residue that still lurks beneath the surface flow.
Those remaining metals on the river bottom still could affect aquatic life, agriculture and other aspects of life along the water in ways that are difficult to predict.
“The long-term effects are the concern that every time we have some sort of a high-water event, whether a good rain in the mountains or spring runoff next year, that’s going to stir up sediments and remobilize those contaminants that are sitting at the bottom of the river right now,” said Ty Churchwell, Colorado backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited.
CBS4Denver had the opportunity to get an early look at the mine itself, post-spill.
Perhaps the only thing quite as toxic as the spill itself is the messaging cover both local and regional environmental groups and pro-administration activists are providing the EPA, casting blame on private mismanagement and pollution and offering only an “aw shucks, only trying to help” defense of the agency:
Only the NRDC offered a response.
Earth Justice and several other environmental groups have made no public comment on the Animas River spill at all. In their public statements, neither the NRDC nor the Sierra Club pointed the finger at the EPA.
Though the Sierra Club did not respond to our inquiries, it did offer this public statement on August 11:
The Animas River was sadly already contaminated due to the legacy of toxic mining practices. The company that owns this mine has apparently allowed dangerous conditions to fester for years, and the mishandling of clean-up efforts by the EPA have only made a bad situation much worse. As we continue to learn what exactly happened, it’s time that the mine owners be held accountable for creating this toxic mess and we urge the EPA to act quickly to take all the steps necessary to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again.
In a recent statement, the NRDC’s President Rhea Suh said only that the EPA “inadvertently triggered the mine waste spill last week,” while casting mining companies and Republicans in the House of Representatives as the responsible parties.
They probably wouldn’t like the Colorado Springs Gazette’s suggestion that mine clean up be privatized:
Critics have recoiled at the thought of putting the government’s environmental work into private hands.
No longer should they perceive or argue a level of federal competence that exceeds what the private sector might provide. The EPA unleashed a toxic sludge of arsenic, lead and other harmful toxins without bothering to warn people downstream, including tribal leaders and governors of neighboring states. They botched the inspection that led to the spill and bungled the response.
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Unlike Colorado’s failed attempt to provide state oversight to proposed Environmental Protection Agency’s “Clean Power Plan” regulations, Kansas’ legislature has passed requirements for any CPP state implementation plan, including no plan at all, should it conflict with ongoing litigation against the EPA’s power to bring forth the CPP:
Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) signed a bill setting parameters for how the state complies with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan.
The bill, HB 2233, requires state agencies responsible for drafting a state implementation plan (SIP) to examine potential electricity rate impacts that may arise from complying with the EPA rule to address CO2 emissions from existing power plants. The law mandates that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment identify ways to avoid unreasonable costs under a best system of emissions reductions, which may include emissions trading or emissions averaging across the generation fleet. Brownback signed the bill into law on 28 May.
The law creates an oversight committee of state lawmakers that will track the progress of and vote on the SIP. The Clean Power Plan Implementation Study Committee will run from 1 July 2015 to 30 June 2017.
Like other states such as New Mexico, Kansas state agencies have called the EPA’s CPP into question, “citing concerns over its legality, federal overreach into grid reliability and a limited timeline for implementation.”
Those concerns have prompted Kansas to join other state attorneys general in legal challenges targeting EPA’s ability to bring forth regulations like those under the CPP:
Attorney general Derek Schmidt (R) is among 19 state attorneys general who have called on EPA to withdraw its proposed CO2 standards for new power plants, and the state is participating in two lawsuits challenging the Clean Power Plan proposal.
The new law allows state regulators to not submit a plan if the attorney general determines that such a plan would conflict with Kansas’ legal position in current or pending legal challenges against the rule.
In testifying for Colorado’s Electricity Consumers’ Protection Act (SB 258), attorney Mike Nasi outlined possible legal objections to the EPA’s proposed rules.
Colorado’s SB 258 would have tasked the Public Utilities Commission, with input from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as approval from the state legislative body, with creating a CPP SIP for the state that considered costs and required a full, public, and deliberative process rather than unilateral executive agency rulemaking from CDPHE under the Governor John Hickenlooper’s direction.
With the defeat of the bill, Governor Hickenlooper announced that, unlike Kansas’ measured approach, Colorado would capitulate to the EPA’s CPP and push forward with state implementation.
Colorado environmentalists and renewable energy advocates enjoy touting other states’ efforts on issues including renewable energy standards and renewable subsidies.
But this year, Kansas modified its RES, making the mandate a “voluntary goal”:
Kansas governor Sam Brownback (R) yesterday signed into law a bill converting the state’s renewable energy standard to a voluntary goal.
The bill, SB 91, replaces the state’s standard, which required 20pc renewable energy use by 2020, with a voluntary target on the same timetable. SB 91 also exempts existing renewable energy facilities in the state, mostly wind farms, from property taxes and gives new renewable energy facilities a 10-year property tax exemption.
Wind accounted for 21.7pc of Kansas’ generation mix in 2014, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
While the bill was supported by some state wind industry and business groups, environmentalists have criticized it, saying it should have at least called for a higher voluntary goal to give utilities “something to aspire to.”
In a free market, utilities and others involved with energy production will voluntarily move to where the market leads–they will “aspire to” serve their customers with an energy fuel mix that best suits the state’s and individual utility’s needs and consumer’s wants.
Government should not be picking energy or electricity winners and losers, and moving from a legal mandate to voluntary guidelines is a step in the right direction for free market energy, as is limiting a property tax exemption from permanent to a sunset at 10 years.
Today I posted the first annual “Energy Policy: Top 5 Worst Governors” list. Click here, to see for yourself who’s the worst. (Hint: He coined the term “New Energy Economy.”)