Primer: President Obama’s War on Domestic Energy Production

by William Yeatman on March 7, 2011

in Blog, Features

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Coal

Clean Water Act: The EPA has invented a “pollutant”— salinity—in order to stop surface coal mining in Appalachia.  It claims that this “pollutant” harms an order of short-lived insect, the Mayfly, which has not been proposed for listing as an endangered species.  The EPA has set a numeric water quality standard for salinity which effectively bars new surface coal mining permits.

Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act: Despite the fact that the 1977 SMCRA explicitly authorizes “valley fills” (a necessary byproduct of surface coal mining in the steep terrain of Appalachia), the Department of the Interior is working on a re-interpretation of the so-called “100 feet buffer rule,” a regulation derivative of SMCRA, which would effectively outlaw valley fills, and, as a result, Appalachian surface coal mining.

Oil and gas

Red Tape: The de jure moratorium on deepwater drilling permits in the Western Gulf ended on 22 October 2011, but the de facto moratorium remains.  Two weeks ago, a federal judge in eastern Louisiana (the same one who overturned the first moratorium, and who then found the Department of the Interior in contempt for issuing an identical, second moratorium), ordered the Interior Department to act on 5 pending permits within 30 days.  Interior is also slow-walking shallow water permits.

Breaking the 2008 deal: President Obama has reneged on the deal made with the American people in 2008 when gas prices reached $4 a gallon.  He has re-instituted the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf, the Atlantic, the Pacific, and most of the Alaska coast.  The Department of the Interior has cancelled or delayed exploration leases on federal land in the West.   And he is adamantly opposed to opening ANWR.

Wild Lands policy: It is as yet unclear what will be the effect of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recent directive to take an inventory of BLM lands to discern which ones are “wild lands” unsuitable for oil and gas development.

Natural Gas

Safe Drinking Water Act: The 2005 Energy Policy Act exempted hydraulic fracturing (the drilling technological revolution that has vastly expanded North American recoverable gas reserves in the last decade), but environmentalists allege, without any evidence, that the practice harms water aquifers.  The EPA is conducting an investigation into the impact of “fracking” on drinking water.  It is due to be published sometime in 2012.

Clean Water Act: Although the EPA is trying to limit the application of its pending numeric water quality standard for salinity to the Appalachian coal industry, there is no legal basis for such a limitation, and environmentalists already are trying to expand the scope of the new standard to natural gas operations in the Marcellus Shale formations in the Northeast.

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