June 4 Energy Roundup: Hickenlooper vs. EPA, New Mexico enviro officials cast doubt on Clean Power Plan, and the return of ‘green’ billionaire Tom Steyer
Filed under: Archive, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, New Energy Economy, PUC
“The Coming Storm of Federal Energy Regulations and Their Impact on Colorado Business”
Are you concerned about the future of the Colowyo Coal Mine? Want to know more about costly new EPA regs on carbon and ozone??
Join our panel of experts to get the facts and get your questions answered.
WHEN: 5:30 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 17 (doors open at 5 p.m.; cash bar)
WHERE: Strings Music Pavilion, Steamboat Springs, Colorado
**FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC**
Questions? email@example.com or (970) 846-6013
Moderator: Amy Oliver Cooke
Director, Energy Policy Center Independence Institute
RAYMOND L. GIFFORD
Attorney/Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP; former Chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission
Senior Director of Policy, Institute for 21st Century Energy – U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Senior Manager of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs – Tri-State Generation & Transmission Assoc.
One of New Mexico’s leading environmental officials calls the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan’s scope–and legality–into question:
New Mexico environmental officials are among others in two dozen states pushing back against proposed federal restrictions on emissions from existing power plants. Without state support, the proposed Clean Power Plan won’t reduce carbon dioxide emissions the way the Obama administration hopes it will, according to a new report released by the nonprofit Brookings Institute.
When it comes to clean air, the federal government can set standards, but states decide how to enforce them. New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn, an attorney, is one of many environment officials across the country who think the rule has problems and may be illegal.
“We agree with the overall goal of the proposed Clean Power Plan,” said department spokeswoman Allison Majure in a statement. “However, we are also extremely concerned about the unprecedented breadth of the proposal.”
New Mexico’s comments on the CPP revealed a pattern of failing by the EPA to communicate with other agencies and states in crafting the proposed clean air regulations:
Majure added in her statement, “The Environmental Protection Agency is using the Clean Air Act, which was designed to control air pollution at the source, to dictate America’s energy policy for the next 20 years,” reflecting comments the department filed with the EPA regarding the rule months ago.
She also said the EPA failed to consult with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, energy producers and the Department of Energy in crafting the plan.
The full Brookings report in the article above can be viewed and downloaded here.
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-SD1) examines Gov. Hickenlooper’s capitulation to the EPA over implementing the Clean Power Plan:
While the letter between US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was the focus of the media, it’s a third letter dated December 1, 2014, from the heads of Colorado’s three environmental agencies to the EPA, which will impact Colorado’s three million business and residential utility customers. After 2017, those customers will likely be paying much higher prices as a result of mistakes and miscalculations made over the past year by state and federal officials.
icon_op_edSen. McConnell’s March 19 letter called on all 50 state governors to delay compliance with an EPA carbon-cutting plan until the legality of the plan has been settled in court. Thirteen states are suing to block the EPA plan on legal and constitutional grounds. Hickenlooper’s response, which some climate crusaders cheered as a brush-off of McConnell, indicated that Colorado intends to comply with EPA mandates, which the governor believes are legal.
The bottom line here is that Gov. Hickenlooper has been consistently inconsistent when dealing with recent regulatory onslaughts from Washington. For example, he’s been reasonably proactive in opposing a threatened species listing for the Sage Grouse, and he’s also been forceful in responding to the potential shut-down of the Colowyo coal mine near Craig. But on the EPA’s “climate change” agenda – and the new EPA rules further restricting the state’s control of small bodies of water — that healthy skepticism has been missing.
Finally, former fossil fuel and hedge fund billionaire turned green crusader, Tom Steyer, appears to be doubling down on Colorado after a failed 2014 election cycle, as the folks from Energy In Depth report:
San Francisco billionaire and environmental activist Tom Steyer, who spent more than $7 million in a failed campaign to defeat U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) last year, is keeping his Colorado political operation in place. Campaign finance reports show Steyer’s campaign arm, NextGen Climate Action Committee, has spent more than $80,000 on polling and research in Colorado this year.
Steyer, whose foundation is known for writing large checks to green groups, is also strengthening his ties with environmental organizations in Colorado. This week, he will be in Denver to accept an award from Conservation Colorado. Dubbed “Colorado’s largest political event for the environment,” other attendees will include elected officials and leaders from the state’s environmental movement.
Last year, Steyer held talks with millionaire Boulder Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) about splitting the cost of putting anti-fracking measures on the statewide ballot. Ultimately, those measures were pulled before they could reach the ballot, and Steyer chose instead to put his money behind a failed campaign against Gardner. Through it all, Steyer worked with “ban fracking” groups and national environmental organizations to effectively campaign against Colorado’s energy industry, its supporters, and tens of thousands of men, women and families whose livelihoods depend on the oil and natural gas sector. He lost badly, but Steyer is coming back for more.
We’ll have an update next week on Steyer’s visit, and if any of his comments during the Denver trip are made public.
Filed under: CDPHE, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, New Energy Economy, preferred energy, renewable energy, solar energy, wind energy
Energy In Depth’s Simon Lomax pokes holes in the American Lung Association’s report on ozone–and the Denver Post’s reporting on it–with input from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment:
Citing its own April 29 “report card” on the region’s air quality, the ALA told the Denver Post that levels of ground-level ozone – sometimes called smog – are deteriorating rather than improving. But the ALA went much further, claiming that while the air above the Denver metro area “looks cleaner than in the 1970s,” the region actually has “higher ozone” and the gains made since the 1970s “are going away.”
In the same news story – authored by the Post’s environmental writer Bruce Finley – the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) warned the ALA’s report card was “both inaccurate and misrepresents air quality in Colorado.” But Finley’s story didn’t detail what those inaccuracies and misrepresentations actually were.
In a follow-up interview with Energy In Depth, CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division (APCD) Director Will Allison revealed that the ALA report card ignored a full year of air quality data from 2014, which shows ozone levels getting better, not worse. To claim there’s higher ozone now than back in the 1970s also ignores decades of air quality data that show “it’s gotten a lot better,” Allison said.
To say the ALA took a liberal look at its own conclusions to bolster an argument for increased ozone regulation appears correct.
“If you look at 2011-2013 averages, we had 10 monitors in the Denver North Front Range that exceeded the ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. But if you look at the 2012-2014 averages, only four monitors exceeded the federal standards. So there was a significant drop from 10 noncompliant monitors to four,” Allison told EID.
Colorado’s 21-member oil and gas task force, which concluded its meetings in February, received modest support (about $2 million) in the Colorado legislature for a handful of its recommendations:
The budget includes:
$1,364,713 to pay for 12 new employees for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency charged with overseeing the state’s multibillion-dollar oil and gas sector.
$360,910 for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to create a hot line and website with information about the industry, and a chance to raise concerns about its operations.
$402,859 for the CDPHE to create a mobile air monitoring unit to watch for air pollution from industry operations and a person to operate it.
These small changes stand in contrast to some of the more pointed and disruptive resolutions the committee considered, and to the ballot measures that tripped off the Governor’s “compromise” move last August.
Fracking opponents, of course, decried the legislative session’s activity on oil and gas issues, while the industry hailed the results, according to Valerie Richardson at The Colorado Statesman.
Kicking the can down the road to 2016 on fracking issues–with Democrats sidestepping a fractious debate, as Richardson put it–may still not prove advantageous to Democrats split over the issue. With eco-left activists vowing to work hard again next November and having felt betrayed by maneuvering in 2014, Sen. Michael Bennet’s re-election efforts might not get the smooth ride his party was hoping to craft. It certainly didn’t help former Sen. Mark Udall, who carved a more eco-friendly niche in his term, but ultimately suffered defeat last year.
Speaking of Sen. Bennet–an attempt to bolster his green credibility with new legislation aimed at a national renewable energy standard:
The bill unveiled Tuesday that would require utilities to generate 30 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, starting with an 8 percent requirement by 2016 followed by gradual increases.
Sen. Tom Udall has introduced this legislation in every session of Congress since 2008. The bill is based on his bipartisan initiative that passed the House in 2007. Co-sponsors this time around include Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii).
“A national Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) will help slow utility rate increases and boost private investment in states like New Mexico — all while combating climate change,” Udall said in a news release. “Investing in homegrown clean energy jobs just makes sense, and that’s why I’m continuing my fight for a national RES.”
Colorado’s western slope counties may avoid economic devastation if the Fish and Wildlife Service decides not to tap the greater sage-grouse with a designation as threatened or endangered:
The Interior Department has said it wants to reach the point that the Fish and Wildlife Service can find that no listing is warranted. Much of that decision lies with the way the BLM manages its lands and both agencies report to Jewell.
“We are very, very close to avoiding a listing altogether,” Hickenlooper said, noting that he spoke to [Secretary of Interior Sally] Jewell 10 days ago.
Finding that the bird should not be listed is Jewell’s goal, Hickenlooper said.
“I believe her. I don’t think she’s posturing.”
A listing by the FWS would be a critical blow to Colorado’s western counties, along with 10 other states, as one county commissioner told Gov. Hickenlooper.
“All of Moffat County is out of business,” Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe concluded, should the listing move forward contrary to Hickenlooper’s claims.
- Regarding HB 1365 (a.k.a. the Clean Air Clean Jobs Act), the big news is that Xcel has yet to make up its mind. As I noted here, the Minneapolis-based utility has the authority under HB 1365 to veto the fuel switching implementation plan chosen by the PUC on December 10. So far, Xcel has kept mum on its intentions, save for a request to clarify the PUC’s written decision. In particular, the utility asked the PUC what sort of flexibility it has in scheduling the retirement of the 152 megawatt Cherokee 3 coal fired power plant in Adams County north of Denver. If Xcel were to veto the PUC’s preferred plan, then HB 1365 and its attendant proceedings would have been for naught.
- At the conclusion of HB 1365 hearings before the PUC, I predicted confidently that coal interests would litigate whatever was decided. As well they should: HB 1365 was proposed by coal’s competitors, in order to tilt the electricity market away from coal, and towards themselves. In light of the fact that coal’s competitors chose to compete in the legal arena, rather than the market, coal interests in Colorado have every right to defend themselves using the legal process. Here’s a litigation roundup.
Those were critiques of ozone projections. This year is the first year that we have a data set against which to judge the accuracy of CDPHE ozone modeling during the New Energy Economy era. Unfortunately for Coloradans, the results are even worse than I’d feared. See for yourself:
|2010 Ozone Air Concentrations: CDPHE vs. Reality|
CDPHE Projections (Ozone ppb)
Actual Projections (Ozone ppb)
|S. Boulder Creek||
|Chatfield State Park||
|Rocky Flats North||
|Fort Collins West||
The putative mission of HB 1365 is for Colorado to address “reasonably foreseeable” federal air quality regulations in a holistic fashion, which is supposedly more cost-effective than a piece-meal approach. When it rolled out the legislation, the Ritter administration told the PUC that there were eleven “current and foreseeable air quality requirements (see slides 13 and 14).” As is explained here, this was a gross misrepresentation; in fact, there were in fact only two such regulations in the federal pipeline: “regional haze” and ozone.
Make that one. Yesterday, the EPA again delayed a decision on whether to tighten the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone. A rulemaking was expected this month, but the EPA said it needs more time to ensure that they are relying on the best science possible, and it suggested that it won’t act until July. This is the third time that the EPA has delayed this determination since HB 1365 was enacted.
The prevailing interpretation of the delay is that President Obama is tacking right economically in the wake of last month’s shellacking at the polls. As such, it is almost inconceivable that the EPA won’t kick the ozone can further down the road, at least through the next election cycle, unless the President decides against running for reelection in 2012.
Earlier this month, I asked whether CDPHE (a.k.a., “the Department”) is cooking the books on Colorado ozone. In particular, it struck me as suspicious that the Department used data from 2006, an anomalously active wildfire season, as inputs for models used to project ambient air concentrations of ozone through 2020. You can read all about it here, but in a nutshell, wildfires inflate ozone, so the CDPHE’s use of the second-most active wildfire season on record as a constant in an ozone model is inappropriate…unless, of course, it was trying to exaggerate the threat of a federal crackdown on air quality in order to, say, pass legislation that mandates fuel switching, like HB 1365. Remember, the Denver-area’s non-attainment for federal ozone regulations was a major reason put forth by the Ritter administration in support of Clean Air Clean Jobs Act.
**Here’s the Wikipedia entry on ozone; for this post, all you need to know is that nitrogen oxides (NOx) are a primary precursor for the creation of ozone
In the two weeks since I wrote that post, I’ve become even more suspicious of the CDPHE’s ozone practices. Here’s why. On page 1-4 of the “2015 and 2020 Ozone Projections for the Denver Area,” ENVIRON (the modeling company) explains that input data for NOx emissions was provided by the Department. On page 2-24, EVIRON states that NOx emissions from point sources were projected to increase 23% by 2015 and 46% by 2020. So CDPHE told the modelers that NOx was expected to increase in Colorado.
Is the Department of Public Health and Environment cooking the books on Colorado ozone? Without explanation, CDPHE plugged 2006 meteorological data into the models it used to project ambient air concentrations of ozone. That’s suspicious, because 2006 just so happens to be the second worst year of Colorado wildfires on record.
According to the 2015 and 2020 Ozone Projections for the Denver Area (p1-4), “For the 2015 and 2020 modeling, both biogenic and fire emissions were held constant at 2006 levels, and were the same as what was used for Denver ozone state implementation plan 2006 and 2010 modeling.” Yet the report doesn’t note that 2006 was an anomalous year for wildfires. I wonder why not? It’s certainly germane, because the scientific literature demonstrates that more wildfires mean more ozone and more ozone precursors.