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Upon noticing that it was raining this morning, I checked The Weather Channel’s website. Lo and behold, there’s a banner ad atop the TWC’s front page, reading: “The dark secret behind low oil and gas prices.” And at the bottom left of the page, there’s a thumbnail, which reads, “The Dark Side to Your Cheap Gas.”

I’ve reposted a screenshot of the website, so you can see for yourself:

weather channel

Of course I clicked through, and the result was remarkable. It’s a TWC story titled, “Boom: North America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem.” It features a video, whose opening image—a derailed oil train—is frozen across much of the screen. Because The Weather Channel evidently knows no subtlety, this video with its arresting still representation is only the foreground to an enormous, screen-wide background composed of a looping GIF depicting an oil train aflame at night. Tucked away at the very bottom of the page—you have to scroll down past yellow titles and pictures of derailed/burning trains for some time—there’s a breathless investigative report matching the attendant imagery in tone.

[click to continue…]

On November 24th, EPA Region 6 issued a pre-publication version of a proposed federal implementation plan that would seize Regional Haze programs run by Texas and Oklahoma pursuant to the Clean Air Act. A final proposal will be published in the Federal register any day now.

I’ve only started acquainting myself with the document, but media reports indicate that the costs of these FIPs would be $2 billion. When I’m up to speed on the rule, I’ll post a summary. Given EPA’s history of Regional Haze FIPs, about which I wrote a study, there’s a high probability that this rule would achieve literally invisible “benefits” in exchange for the billions it would cost.

Globalwarming.org has been keeping a running tally of Obama-era Clean Air Act FIPs (below). The president is up to 54, which is almost 11 times the sum of his three predecessor administrations!

ALEC FIP Chart

Living green

Living green

It’s been an uncomfortable news-cycle for sustainable living, as both the New York Times and Wired have penned reports in the last 24 hours on the practical difficulties of the eco-lifestyle. Below, I’ve posted the titles and key pull quotes from both stories.

  • New York Times, “Exhausted by a House That Saves Energy,” 12/3/2014
    Key quote: “I was an idiot and built a house that was way too complicated and labor-intensive. Only a masochist could enjoy it.”

Opponents of EPA’s Clean Power Plan have made a powerful legal argument that the agency lacks authority to issue the rule. It turns out that EPA used to make the same case. Talk about your all time flip flops!

Read the section immediately below for the background; it’s been formatted in a long block quote in order to isolate what is a complex line of reasoning:

The Clean Air Act establishes two regulatory regimes for industrial categories of existing sources of air pollution: §111(d), for “designated pollutants” and §112 for “hazardous air pollutants.” “Designated pollutants” are defined as any harmful pollutant that isn’t a “criteria” pollutant (i.e., subject to nation-wide National Ambient Air Quality Standards regulations under §§108-110) nor a hazardous air pollutant.

 As originally enacted in 1970, §111(d) included an exclusion that prohibited EPA from prescribing §111(d) regulations for any hazardous air pollutant already regulated under §112 of the Clean Air Act. The idea behind this “§112 Exclusion” was to avoid duplicative regulation.

In 1990, Congress amended the Clean Air Act. If you’ll recall the ‘how a bill becomes a law’ jingle, the House and Senate each pass a version of the bill. Often, the texts of these bills are different. Any differences between the House and Senate versions are then reconciled in a Conference Committee.

The House of Representatives passed a bill that fundamentally changed the nature of the §112 exclusion. Before the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the exclusion from 111(d) applied to hazardous air pollutants regulated under §112; under the House bill, this exclusion applied to §112 source categories (rather than §112 pollutants).

Unlike the House bill, the Senate bill left unchanged the pre-1990 §112 Exclusion. That is, the Senate version maintained a prohibition on EPA’s issuance of 111(d) regulations for §112 hazardous air pollutants. However, in order to harmonize the pre-1990 §112 Exclusion with the language of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, the Senate passed a “conforming” amendment to 111(d). Thus, the Senate’s amendment was a ministerial change meant to keep continuity with the existing §112 Exclusion (dating from 1970).

Ultimately, the Conference Committee adopted the House’s substantive amendment rather than the Senate’s version. Logically, the adoption of the House language rendered moot the Senate clerical language. However, the Conference Committee failed to remove the Senate’s conforming amendment. As a result, the Statutes at Large contain both the House’s substantive amendment and the Senate’s conforming amendment.

For obvious reasons, proponents and opponents of the Clean Power Plan disagree on whether the House or Senate amendment is controlling.

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan want to give effect to the House amendment because it would outlaw EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This is due to the fact that the agency, in February, 2012, published a regulation (the ridiculous Utility MACT) that subjects power plants to §112 requirements. Therefore, pursuant to the House version of the 1990 Clean Air Amendments, power plants are a “source category” excluded from §111(d) regulations.

EPA, on the other hand, wants to give effect to the Senate version, because this would allow the agency to regulate power plants under §111(d).

In a previous post, I summarized a persuasive analysis that originated in the office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, which argues that the Senate amendment is, in fact, a drafting error (also known as a “scrivener’s error”) of a common sort that has never been accorded interpretative force by reviewing courts. The House amendment, by contrast, is a substantive amendment, and therefore controls. And if the House amendment controls, then the Clean Power Plan is an impermissible exercise.

All of this brings me to the point of this post: namely, that EPA previously made the same argument that the West Virginia AG’s office is now making! [click to continue…]

Today Is the Rare Day…

by William Yeatman on December 4, 2014

in Blog

…On which EPA did not publish a single regulation in the Federal Register. It happens about once a year, from what I can tell. Below, I re-posted the section from today’s FR where EPA isn’t.

000no regs

Post image for EPA Climate Rule’s Hypothetical Impact: Too Small to Detect

Dan Simmons of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) today posts a stinging rebuke to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council and the “Reliable, Safe and Affordable Power (RASP) Act.”

Quick background: RASP is a model bill for state lawmakers. It is likely to be considered this week at ALEC’s annual Washington, D.C. meeting. ALEC is the non-partisan association of state lawmakers dedicated to limited government, free markets, and federalism.

RASP instructs state agencies (1) not to prepare to implement EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) until the rule’s legality has been fully resolved in courts, and (2) not to expend funds to execute a CPP implementation plan until committees of jurisdiction in the state legislature approve the plan.

The first of those restrictions is protection against government waste. The CPP is a legal mess, so it makes no sense for states to develop implementation plans until the judicial system resolves the many predictable legal controversies. The second restriction safeguards democracy by ensuring that state elected officials, not bureaucrats, have the final say in how the state implements the CPP in the unlikely event courts uphold the rule.

Yesterday, NRDC hosted a press conference call in which spokespersons for the group asserted that RASP would “paint states into a corner” and make it harder for them to shape their own policies, according to E&E News. NRDC’s point seems to be that if a state refuses to submit its own implementation plan, EPA will impose a federal plan without input from state officials.

That threat is an empty suit. Unlike all previous EPA rules requiring states to adopt emission performance standards for “existing” stationary sources under §111(d) of the Clean Air Act, CPP performance standards cannot be achieved by requiring installation of specific control technologies at “designated facilities” — a power clearly within EPA’s jurisdiction.

Rather, the standards can be achieved only by enacting or amending state electricity laws and regulations. Only state lawmakers and agencies acting pursuant to state statutes have such authority. If states ‘just say no,’ EPA is out of luck. EPA cannot impose its own plan, because the agency has no authority to enact or amend state renewable energy requirements, generation fleet dispatch policies, or demand-reduction incentives like rebates for programmable thermostats.

What’s more, as attorney Peter Glaser points out, EPA can’t even threaten to punish the state with loss of highway funding, because the Clean Air Act does not authorize sanctions for failure to comply with §111(d).

Wonderful news, though it’s not the main point of this post. Simmons provides new evidence (new to me, anyway) that the CPP’s hypothetical climate impact is too tiny measure or verify.

[click to continue…]

Yesterday, the Natural Resources Defense Council hosted a press conference call to discuss the group’s opposition to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public. This week, ALEC is having its annual Washington, D.C. meeting, which occasioned NRDC’s conference call. Full disclosure: I participate in ALEC on behalf of CEI and I’m very much looking forward to this week’s conference.

Formerly at NRDC

Formerly at NRDC

NRDC aired all of its grievances in a press release; see that for the full story. In a nutshell, NRDC disagrees with ALEC’s efforts to organize opposition to the Obama administration’s illegal and illegitimate climate policy. (The modifiers to “climate policy” aptly impart how I feel about the President’s regulatory regime for climate change mitigation). In fact, NRDC’s argument is all boilerplate stuff, including all the familiar shibboleths (“climate-science denying,” “pro-pollution,” etc.), but I nonetheless was struck by the extent to which NRDC stressed that ALEC received membership fees from corporations (in addition to its public and non-profit sector members).

That got me thinking: Does NRDC accept corporate donations? As it turns out, the answer to this inquiry is absurd.

According to NRDC’s webpage,

NRDC will not seek or accept contributions from corporations in the following categories: utilities, oil industry, forest products industry, automobiles, agribusiness, chemical industry, waste industry, appliance manufacturers, mining and minerals companies, tobacco industry and the defense industry.

This is quite silly. The list of businesses NRDC opposes includes raw materials, energy, chemicals, and manufacturing which are, of course, the four “building blocks” (pun intended) of every corporation whose money NRDC deigns to take. This being capitalism, profits of all industries—even the ones condoned by NRDC—are reinvested into growing the business, which, of course, necessitates more raw materials, energy, manufacturing, and chemicals. ​Alas, NRDC’s take on EPA’s Clean Power Plan is as convoluted and backwards as its take on philanthropy, as I explain here.

Post image for NYT: Unidentified “Scientists” Predict “Human Extinction” Absent Climate Treaty

Yesterday, the top right fold of the Grey Lady was given to ongoing efforts by jet-setting (and, therefore, carbon spewing) diplomats to craft a global climate change mitigation treaty. According to the Times, “scientists” agree that the doomsday clock is ticking, as is imparted in the article excerpts below:

  • “Without a deal, they [“scientists”] say, the world could eventually become uninhabitable for humans.”
  • “While a breach of the 3.6 degree threshold appears inevitable, scientists say that United Nations negotiators should not give up on their efforts to cut emissions. At stake now, they say, is the difference between a newly unpleasant world and an uninhabitable one.”
  •  ”Without a deal, scientists say, eventual human extinction is possible.”

Remarkably, the Times failed to identify the “scientists” who’ve warned of global warming- induced “human extinction,” absent a legally binding treaty to control global greenhouse gas emissions. The only scientist interviewed in the article was Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton professor of geosciences and international affairs, and who previously spent two decades working for the green advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund. Below, I’ve reposted his full reported comments.

“I was encouraged by the U.S.-China agreement. [However] What’s already baked in are substantial changes to ecosystems, large scale transformations. [Still, absent a deal] Things could get a lot worse. [Beyond the 3.6 degree threshold, the aggregate cost] to the global economy—rich countries as well as poor countries—rises rapidly.”

Professor Oppenheimer’s reported comments make no mention of human extinction. Moreover, he’s the sole scientist identified in the piece, which would seem to contradict the plural use of “scientists” who supposedly agree that human extinction is likely absent a climate change mitigation treaty.

So who are these “scientists”? Undoubtedly, alarmism is the “newsiest” element of the story; that’s why its title reads: “Optimism Faces Grim Realities as Climate Talks.” As such, one would think that identifying the “scientists” warning of climate-caused “human extinction” would qualify as being among “all the news that’s fit to print.” [click to continue…]

Post image for EU Climate Policy Boomerangs: Subsidizes Coal, Gas

As I write, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a hearing on climate policy. In his testimony, Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the UK-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, argues that the European Union (EU) badly miscalculated when it decided, in the early 2000s, that development of a low-carbon economy based on renewable sources would make Europe the world’s most dynamic, competitive marketplace.

As a result of Europe’s climate policies, energy prices have risen sharply, putting European manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage in global markets.

Peiser Price Shock

 

 

 

 

 

European energy prices are now more than double those in the USA.

Peiser EU vs US Energy Prices

 

 

 

 

Peiser discuss the effects of EU climate policy on two industries, chemical manufacturing and steel production. “While Europe’s high cost policies have become an existential threat to the long-term survival of the chemical industry, cheap energy is reviving the fortunes of the industry in the US,” he contends.

Peiser U.S. Chemical Industry Cost Advantage

 

 

 

 

 

 

High energy costs contribute to Europe’s declining share of global steel production.

Peiser Steel Shares 2007 vs 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

EU climate policies also inflate consumer energy costs, transfer wealth from low-income households to special interests, and intensify the problem of fuel poverty:

As wealthy homeowners and business owners install wind turbines on their land and solar panels on their homes and commercial buildings, low-income families all over Europe have had to foot the skyrocketing electric bills. Many can no longer afford to pay, so the utilities are cutting off their power. The German Association of Energy Consumers estimates that up to 800,000 Germans have had their power cut off because they were unable to pay the country’s rising electricity bills.

But at least EU policymakers are saving the planet, right? Nope. Energy-intensive goods EU countries can no longer afford to produce at home they increasingly import from overseas. When we factor in emissions ‘embedded’ in imported goods, EU climate policy has achieved no net reduction in CO2 emissions.

Peiser EU CO2 Emissions Embodied in Domestic Consumption

 

 

 

 

 

And now the best part of Peiser’s testimony. Peiser reveals that EU subsidies for renewable energy have led — via the iron law of unintended consequences – to subsidies for coal- and gas-generation.

[click to continue…]

Post image for How the Clean Power Plan Harms Public Health by Sucking up EPA’s Time & Energy

Earlier today, I posted CEI’s comments on EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Ours were but a drop in a sea of arguments. According to NRDC, there are 8 million submissions in support of the rule. Many millions more have been submitted in opposition to what the agency is trying to do (including ours).

For EPA, now comes the hard part. In order to render a reasoned (and, therefore, a permissible) final regulation, the agency must sift through each of these comments and respond to all unique and salient arguments. Of course, millions of these comments are “form emails,” circulated by advocacy groups. These won’t take much time at all to process. However, millions of comments will be of the detailed and technical sort that my colleague Marlo Lewis and I submitted last evening. These comments amount to scores of millions of pages—perhaps hundreds of millions—and each one is filled with complex language. Reviewing this mountain of information will require hundreds of thousands of hours of labor. This is a major reason why EPA made its regulatory regime for climate change mitigation its top budget priority.

Thus, the Clean Power Plan will dominate EPA’s attention for the foreseeable future. In the words of EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, this is an “all hands on deck” effort.

In this context, it is notable that this is a discretionary rule. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy is to issue §111(d) standards (i.e., the provision that authorizes the Clean Power Plan) only when doing so is appropriate. As such, there is no statutory requirement to issue this rule. There are, however, hundreds of non-discretionary duties that the Congress required EPA to perform. Regrettably, the agency has done a terrible job of meeting its non-discretionary obligations. Since 1994, for example, EPA missed 98 percent of its date-certain deadlines (196 of 200) in three core Clean Air Act programs, by an average of more than 5 years. For all administrator McCarthy’s talk about the need to protect children from asthma, she has done a poor job of walking the walk. In fact, the agency has shown little interest in timely meeting its responsibilities to control conventional pollutants.

In light of the fact that EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has conceded that the agency’s climate change mitigation rules won’t actually mitigate climate change (because the preponderance of emissions originate outside U.S. borders), EPA’s Clean Power Plan poses a distinct threat to public health, by sucking up all the agency’s time and energy that could be spent addressing conventional pollutants.