June 22, 2010

All Eyes on TheHonorable Martin Feldman. Federal Judge, Appointed by the Gipper, Could Rule asEarly as Tomorrow on Deepwater Drilling Ban. The LATimes (6/22) reports, "Inside New Orleans’ federal courthouse Monday,a judge was deliberating the points of law that could determine the fate of theObama administration’s six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling. Outside,Lucy Lailhengue was marching up and down Poydras Street with a sign thatoffered a more blunt line of reasoning: "If you support the moratorium,stop using oil and gas!" "I just think it’s ridiculous to shut down awhole industry and ruin thousands of lives to punish one company," shesaid. "We’ve had a lot of fatalities on the bridges. You don’t see themshutting down the bridges." That argument, echoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal(R-La.), the oil industry and a multitude of regular folks living close to thedisaster, is at the heart of a lawsuit challenging the moratorium, which wasfiled this month by companies that provide ships and supplies to the offshorerigs. In a two-hour hearing Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldmanweighed those arguments as well as rebuttals from environmental groups. He isexpected to decide by Wednesday morning whether to issue an injunctionoverturning the moratorium. Whatever Feldman’s decision, it will likely makewaves far beyond Louisiana. Overturning the moratorium would be an embarrassingsetback for the Obama administration, which has been criticized for not movingaggressively enough to solve the oil spill, and hammered by conservative criticsfor what they say are bullying, anti-business tactics across a range ofindustries. Upholding the moratorium could mean even more economic pain forstates like Louisiana already reeling from the blow to their seafood andtourism industries."

Pres. Obama:"The days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over," ExceptWhen it Comes to Offshore Drilling.The WallStreet Journal (6/22) editorializes, "The President has appointed aseven-person commission to take what he says will be an objective look at whatcaused the Gulf spill and the steps to make offshore drilling safe. But judgingfrom the pedigree of his commissioners, we’re beginning to wonder if his realgoal is to turn drilling into a partisan election issue. Mr. Obama filled outhis commission last week, and the news is that there’s neither an oil nordrilling expert in the bunch. Instead, he’s loaded up on politicians and environmentalactivists. The choice of men and women who are long opposed to more drillingsuggests not a fair technical inquiry but an antidrilling political agenda.With the elections approaching and Democrats down in the polls, the White Houseis looking to change the subject from health care, the lack of jobs and runawaydeficits. Could the plan be to try to wrap drilling around the necks ofRepublicans, arguing that it was years of GOP coziness with Big Oil that led tothe spill? Even as this commission moves forward, engineering experts acrossthe country have agreed that there is no scientific reason for a blanketdrilling ban. The Interior Department invited experts to consult on drillingpractices, but as we wrote last week eight of them have since said their advicewas distorted to justify the Administration’s six-month drilling moratorium.Judging from that decision and now from Mr. Obama’s drilling commission, thedays of "science taking a back seat to ideology" are very much withus."

Anti-DrillingCommission to have "Organizational" Meeting Today in Washington, First "Real"Meeting Not Until Mid-July – Which Means Deepwater Ban May Last Well into 2011.The WallStreet Journal (6/21) reports, "The presidential commission charged withinvestigating the Deepwater Horizon accident has picked a staff director and isholding its first organizational meeting in Washington Tuesday. But oneco-chairman says he’s not sure how quickly policy recommendations will beissued. William K. Reilly, a former Environmental Protection Agencyadministrator, said in an interview that "it’s not inconceivable" the panelwill recommend that President Barack Obama lift his six-month moratorium ondeepwater drilling before the commission finishes its report. But he said thepanel would first need to decide whether the government and industry haveapplied new safeguards to prevent another disaster. "There are about four or five[safety-related] things you’d have to satisfy yourself on before you made sucha recommendation," Reilly said. "It will take us a certain amount of time to[verify] that those things are changed." The pace of the commission’s work hasgenerated intense interest among energy companies as well as members ofCongress worried about the impact of the administration’s six-month halt ondrilling in depths greater than 500 feet. Obama has set a six-month deadlinefor the panel to report back on the cause of the accident. But the clock doesn’tstart ticking until the group’s first official meeting, which Reilly said won’tbe until mid-July at the earliest. That would put the panel’s report – andpotentially the lifting of the moratorium – into 2011."

Facts on Fracking:States Require Disclosure of Fracking Fluids. Accept it and Move on to NextAnti-Energy Campaign. Greenwire/NewYork Times (6/21) reports, "In the intense but inscrutable debate about thechemicals that drillers inject underground to flush out natural gas, this muchcan be said: Everyone is for disclosure. Fracturing — vital to extracting gasfrom shale formations — involves injecting tanker-loads of water and sand intoa gas well to blow apart the rock and release the gas. A small fraction of thatconcoction is a mixture of chemicals as mundane as ice cream thickener and astoxic as benzene."Disclosure would shine a light and encourage companiesto use less toxic chemicals," said Amy Mall, an analyst who works onfracturing issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It givesindividuals the ability to know what’s being used." Companies say they,too, are for full disclosure of the ingredients, but only to state regulatorsand medical personnel willing to sign confidentiality agreements. Making publicdetailed lists of chemical constituents, they say, gives away valuable tradesecrets. And they see the drive for disclosure as a stalking horse for harshnew restrictions on drilling that would bog down gas production in the UnitedStates. "Our position is, ‘We do support it.’ It’s a question of whatlegal channel you’re using to get disclosure," said Chris Tucker, aspokesman for Energy in Depth, an industry group formed to fight federalregulation of fracturing. "But we believe there’s a lot more informationout there than you think right now."

Sen. LugarDraws Early Line in the Sand Prior to WH Meeting on Global Warming: NoCap-and-Trade. TheHill (6/21) reports, "A centrist Republican that President BarackObama is courting on energy legislation on Monday rejected the idea ofgreenhouse gas limits applied only to electric utilities, just days after asenior White House official floated the concept. "No. I said no cap-and-trade,"said Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), speaking to reporters in the Capitol. Lugar -who is among the bipartisan group of senators slated to meet with Obama at theWhite House Wednesday – said he opposed the utility-focused idea for a "greatnumber" of reasons. This month Lugar floated a bill to curb oil use that doesnot include any carbon regulation. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel toldthe Wall Street Journal on Friday that "The idea of a ‘utilities only'[approach] will also be welcomed" as a topic for discussion at the Wednesdaymeeting. Emanuel floated the trial balloon at a time when advocates ofgreenhouse gas limits are struggling to keep any carbon provisions in the mixas the Senate prepares to debate energy legislation this summer."

DebunkingGasland: Fella From Trucksville, Pa. on Crusade to Get the Facts out AboutFracking, Natural Gas. WTAE-TV(Pittsburgh) (6/21) reports, "A documentary called "Gasland" thatpremieres Monday night on HBO is a critical look at the natural gas drillingboom that’s happening across the country, including western Pennsylvania. Team4 investigator Jim Parsons said the film is airing in the midst of a politicalfirestorm in Pennsylvania that was sparked by two recent natural gas drillingaccidents in the region. The HBO documentary throws gas on the fire of thedebate over gas well drilling. "Gasland" tells the stories ofeveryday Americans who say gas well drilling has ruined their lives, includinga Colorado homeowner who said nearby gas drilling contaminated his well withmethane and allowed him to light tap water on fire at his home. Chris Tucker,an advocate for the natural gas drilling industry, said "Gasland"director Josh Fox ignored a scientific report that showed the gas in the waterin the Colorado example was naturally occurring and had nothing to do withdrilling. "The film director has that report. He had access to the reportbefore he went there, but obviously that doesn’t make for as good a story, andso he decided to exclude that," Tucker said. An industry group calledEnergy In Depth gave Team 4 the following web links as a rebuttal to claimsmade in the "GasLand" movie: DebunkingGasLand."

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