In the News
EPA’s Utility MACT Proposal: Negative Economics for What?
Scott Segal, MasterResource.org, 17 March 2011
Waxman, Markey, Inslee Put Greenhouse Agenda Ahead of Constitutional Principle
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 14 March 2011
News You Can Use
Wind Turbines: A National Security Threat
According to the Industrial Wind Action Group, wind farms degrade performance of 39 percent of radar stations operated by the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
Inside the Beltway
EPA Pre-Emption Bill Heads to House Floor
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday marked up and passed H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, by a 34 to 19 vote. All 31 Republicans on the committee supported Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill. They were joined by three Democrats—Representatives John Barrow (D-Ga.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and Mike Ross (D-Ark.).
The mark-up started on Monday afternoon with opening statements from members of the committee and then lasted most of Tuesday. A number of amendments offered by Democrats were variations on the theme that the Congress accepts that global warming science is settled and that it’s a crisis. All these amendments were defeated easily, but, as my CEI colleague Marlo Lewis points out, Republican supporters of the bill for the most part didn’t defend the bill very well against the Democrats’ attacks.
What the proponents should argue, but did not in committee mark-up, is that H. R. 910 is not about the science or what we should do about potential global warming. The bill simply says that the EPA cannot use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions until the Congress authorizes it to do so. Chairman Upton’s bill is designed to re-assert congressional authority to make laws (which the Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to do) and rein in an out-of-control executive branch.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said that passing the Upton bill is a priority. It is now expected that the bill could be debated on the House floor as soon as the week of 27th March. On 26th June 2009, the House Democratic leadership railroaded the mammoth Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill through the House in a single day of debate with only one Republican amendment allowed to be offered. The Republican leadership under Boehner is doing things differently, so there will probably be several days of debate with numerous amendments considered. The bill should pass easily, with almost unanimous Republican and significant Democratic support.
Senator McConnell’s Surprise
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) surprised everyone on Tuesday by going to the Senate floor and offering the EPA pre-emption bill sponsored by Senator James M. Inhofe, S. 482, as an amendment to S. 493, the Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer Programs Re-Authorization Act. Inhofe’s bill is identical to H. R. 910, which the House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up this week. The Energy Tax Prevention Act (S. 482/H. R. 910) would block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions until authorized to do so by Congress.
House Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially indicated that there would be a vote on McConnell’s amendment later on Tuesday. And Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) initially indicated that he would not offer his bill to delay EPA regulations for two years as a counter-amendment. Rockefeller’s bill is intended to provide cover for Democrats, so is trotted out whenever it looks like the Senate might pass a permanent pre-emption.
But as votes were counted behind the scenes, the Democratic leadership realized that McConnell’s amendment might pass. Rockefeller then introduced his amendment, and votes were delayed until Wednesday. On Wednesday, it became clear that Rockefeller’s ploy was not gaining much support, so Reid then had Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduce an amendment that would codify EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by major sources, but exempt sources emitting less than 75,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide or its equivalent. That would cut out small businesses, farms, and ranches from direct regulation, although they would still have to pay the higher energy prices resulting from EPA’s regulations.
Votes on all three amendments were then postponed until Thursday, and on Thursday they were postponed again until the week of 27th March when the Senate returns from a week-long recess. At this point, everything is to be decided. The Senate may vote on McConnell’s amendment when it returns, or Reid may postpone it again, or Reid and McConnell may work out a larger deal on how to proceed on all the amendments that have been offered to the underlying bill.
EPA Marches on
While the Congress is moving to block EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, EPA’s campaign against affordable electricity marches on by a different route. On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson released a proposed rule for reducing mercury, lead, arsenic, chromium, and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants.
Once finally implemented, electric utilities will have four years to comply. Total mercury emissions from power plants should decline by 91%. Estimates of compliance costs vary widely. The EPA’s own estimate is at the low end of predictions at $10 billion per year, but EPA claims that the health and economic benefits will be $140 billion a year. The latter figure is ludicrous.
The effect of the rule will be to force utilities to put expensive control equipment on many coal-fired power plants and to close many other coal plants and invest in new gas turbines to replace them. This will raise electric rates for consumers, who will thus have less money to spend on other things, including health care. It will also raise rates for manufacturers and thereby reduce industrial production and put people out of jobs. The negative economic and health effects of these consequences are not estimated or considered by EPA.
Across the States
In an interview this week with the Albany Times Union, New York’s state geologist, Dr. Taury Smith, a self-described liberal Democrat, called the state’s natural gas deposits “a huge gift.” Over the last decade, the natural gas industry has been revolutionized by the rapid development of a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing. In that time, economically recoverable reserves in the U.S. roughly doubled. New York could be among the biggest beneficiaries, as it sits upon huge deposits of gas that are now recoverable. Environmentalists, however, oppose hydraulic fracturing because they oppose all fossil fuels, and they have waged a misinformation campaign against the practice. They allege, without evidence, that it threatens to contaminate water supplies. On the basis of these unsubstantiated claims, environmentalists frightened New York lawmakers into enacting a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. Dr. Smith dismisses the environmentalists’ allegations as being “exaggerated,” and “the worst spin.”
Around the World
The State Department this week ordered a supplemental environmental impact analysis of the 1,600 mile Keystone Pipeline, which, if built, would transport more than 500,000 barrels a day of Canadian tar sands oil to Gulf-region refineries. The supplemental review is not required by law and would delay the proposed project. The State Department ordered the additional study to placate environmentalists, who have opposed the project vehemently, due in large part to the fact that Canadian tar sand oil has a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil. At the behest of these special interests, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has publicly questioned the project. This has put the EPA at odds with the State Department, which supports the pipeline.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, construction and operation of the Keystone Pipeline would create 360,000 jobs. In January, a study commissioned by the Department of Energy found that the pipeline would “essentially eliminate” imports of oil from the Middle East within two decades.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org