Senators renew efforts to rein in EPA on regulating greenhouse gases
Photo courtesy Studio8Denver via FlickrWell, that didn’t take long. Congress is barely back in town and already there’s talk of another attempt to rein in the EPA. So, first the Senate punts on controlling greenhouse gas emissions itself; now it wants to take the ball away from anyone else.
We have ways of making you weak: Speculation is that later this week someone will introduce an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee to undercut the EPA’s authority to enforce regulations on carbon dioxide pollution. It’s not clear who that someone will be, but one likely candidate is Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who has co-sponsored a similar proposal to throttle back the EPA in the past. No matter who pushes it, the amendment has a good chance of being approved by the committee because at least two other Democrats seem likely to support it — Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and North Dakota’s Bryan Dorgan. Darren Samuelsohn, writing in Politico, has the dirty details.
Fuel on the Hill: Enviros aren’t taking this EPA stuff lying down. As Anne C. Mulkern writes for Greenwire, Clean Energy Works (CEW) is gearing up to frame the latest gambit as another example of fossil fuel lobbyists muscling their way around Capitol Hill. CEW, an alliance of 80 environmental, labor, religious, and veterans groups, is planning TV ads and a series of town hall meetings. The group, reported to be closing shop after its lobbying efforts failed to push through climate legislation in the Senate, is instead shifting to a more local focus. That would include a door-to-door campaign to get signatures on a petition stating:
For too long big polluters and their lobbyists have delayed action on clean energy to protect their profits. Now some in Congress want to give polluters free rein to dump carbon pollution into our air by delaying enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Congress should not be cutting a special deal for big polluters.
No matter what happens in Congress, the EPA’s role in regulating greenhouse gas emissions still faces a mountain of legal challenges. So far more than 150 businesses, advocacy groups, and trade associations have joined lawsuits fighting its authority.
Who’d have thunk it?: It’s been almost two months since oil stopped gushing into the Gulf, but plenty of news is still percolating there. For starters, the “missing” oil has been spotted. And guess where? The bottom of the ocean, that’s where. Samantha Joye, a marine scientist from the University of Georgia who’s been out with a team searching for the crude, describes an oily layer as much as two inches thick stretching for miles on the sea floor. As Richard Harris, of NPR, reports:
… the ecological impacts of oil on the seafloor depend on the depth of the ocean where it lies. Joye’s findings so far have found oil in depths ranging from 300 to 4,000 feet. Shallower waters, in particular, are potentially important not just for life on the bottom but for the entire marine ecosystem.
Better safe than tarry: While the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf applies only to deepwater rigs, oil companies are complaining that the federal government’s new safety and inspection rules — including one requiring plans for worst case scenarios — are dramatically slowing down projects in shallow water, too. Since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, only five of 13 applications for shallow-water wells in the Gulf have been approved. So about a third of the 46 available drilling rigs are sitting idle. Jim Noe, a vice president of Hercules Offshore and a member of the oil industry coalition that met yesterday with Michael Bromwich, head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), expressed frustration with the new sheriff in town:
We are clearly at an impasse with the regulators. While we share Director Bromwich’s commitment to safety, BOEM must recognize that it cannot continue to shove a square peg in a round hole by treating all offshore drilling operations the same …
So far, Bromwich is sticking to his guns. Jennifer A. Dlouhy has more in the Houston Chronicle.
Meanwhile, more bad news for Big Oil from the White House. President Obama is asking Congress to double the fees the government charges oil and gas companies to inspect their off-shore operations. That would raise the amount collected to $45 million. This year it was $20 million.
Aging bull: Enviros have been called socialists, extremists, wackos. George Shultz is none of the above. He’s an old (89) loyal Republican, nothing less than a former secretary of state in the Reagan administration. Which makes it that much more remarkable that he’s leading the charge to protect California’s landmark greenhouse gas law. He’s been under attack by the Big Oil-financed groups trying to deep-six the legislation. They’ve accused Shultz of supporting higher gas prices for the unemployed in California. He’s responded by saying his critics “retreat from honest discourse to malicious misinformation.” He also wrote an op-ed piece in the Sacramento Bee. Here’s a slice of what Shultz had to say:
In the United States, we face three major energy issues. Our economy is disrupted by periodically spiking oil prices. Our national security is threatened by dependence on uncertain sources of oil and by the flow of funds to oil-providing countries that do not wish us well. Indirectly, potential terrorist groups are also funded and strengthened. Our climate is threatened by the destructive impact of global warming caused by the accumulation of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels. These ongoing problems are real, important and potentially severe. Yes, severe.
Job appeal: At first, California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina dodged taking a position on the state’s greenhouse gas legislation. But recently she sent out a release parroting the party line: the law, she says, is “undoubtedly a job killer and should be suspended.” Au contraire, says a study by the Center for Law, Energy, and the Environment at the University of California Berkley Law school, which concludes that dumping the law would actually cost jobs. The report also finds that the legislation isn’t responsible for the high unemployment rate in California, countering the incessant claims by the oil companies trying to scrap the law.
It’s a wind win:
;Nothing like owning your own wind farms to build green cred. So a shout-out to Ikea, which just bought six German wind farms, capable of producing enough power to operate 17 stores. The company now owns 52 wind turbines, which it says is all part of its effort to one day operate on 100 percent renewable energy. BusinessGreen has more.
For once, no assembly required.
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