June 23, 2010

Federal Judge Does Right By theLaw, Right By His Neighbors, in Striking Down Obama Offshore Ban – WithinMinutes, WH Dispatches Pressure Groups to Attack the Judge.  LATimes (6/22) reports, "Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said she would urge theObama administration not to appeal the ruling but to find a way to achieve itsgoal of ensuring safety without harming her state’s fragile economy. Theadministration has said it would appeal. Landrieu warned that the moratoriumwould drive rigs from the gulf to other countries, not only costing the gulf regionjobs but making the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil. "If you owned oneof these rigs, would you allow your rig to sit there and lose $500,000 aday?" she said. "You have no obligation as a rig owner to produce oilfor America." Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) called the decision "welcomenews for thousands of Louisiana welders, pipe fitters, engineers androustabouts whose jobs were threatened by a political decision." Thomas J.Pyle, president of the Institute forEnergy Research, said in a statement that the moratorium was "never about safety — it was about politics."Landrieu said that the Obama administration could do more to address safetyconcerns, short of shutting down the rigs. The Interior Department, she said,could deploy inspectors to every deep-water rig.  Clickhere to view IER’s statement on the decision.

Captain Ken Prepared to Go Downwith the Ship: Issues Half-Hearted Statement Indicating Interior Will Appealthe Decision, Seek to Extend Hardship Into the Future. EnergyGuardian (6/23) reports, "In his statement, Salazar sounded many of thethemes that could be expected in an appeal." The decision to impose amoratorium on deepwater drilling was and is the right decision. The moratoriumis needed to protect the communities and the environment of the Gulf Coast, andDOJ is therefore appealing today’s court ruling. We see clear evidence everyday, as oil spills from BP’s well, of the need for a pause on deepwaterdrilling. That evidence mounts as BP continues to be unable to stop itsblowout, notwithstanding the huge efforts and help from the federal scientificteam and most major oil companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico," thesecretary said. The administration’s environmental allies are taking a morepersonal approach, pointing out that Judge Feldman owned stock in the oil anddrilling industry and questioning whether that could have influenced hisdecision. The oil industry’s allies, including Sen. Mary Landrieu and Gov.Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, are pleading with the White House to drop the appealand let oil rig workers go back to their jobs. Neither side appears ready tobudge, and that means a long, hot summer of battle remains ahead.

A Nobel Experiment: EnergySecretary Struggles to Keep Head Above Water in Dealing with the Spill; Tellsthe LA Times "Look, We’re Not Oil People. We’re Mostly Physicists." LATimes (6/22) reports, "Engineers working to plug BP’s massive oil gusher inthe Gulf of Mexico should have acted sooner to attempt the so-called top killmethod to overpower and seal the well to boost its chances for success, EnergySecretary Steven Chu said in a recent interview. His team of government scientistshas struggled since soon after the Deepwater Horizon accident to persuade BP toincrease its estimates of how much oil was pouring out of the well – to up to60,000 barrels a day now, from about 19,000 barrels previously – and to deploymore skimming ships and oil booms accordingly. Last month, Chu flew to a BPcommand center in Houston to oversee diagnostics for the top-kill effort, whichengineers scuttled after several days of pumping drilling fluid and bits ofdebris into the blown-out well in hopes of stopping the flow of oil."Look, we’re not oil people. We’re mostly physicists, a mechanicalengineer or two. But on the other hand, there’s a bunch of smart people here,and what we’ve found is that having a bunch of smart people with a differentset of eyes actually see things that other people don’t see and actually helpimprove things," he said.

Most Extreme Elements of EnviroCommunity Circulate Memo Laying Out Attack Strategy on Lindsey Graham; Hey,Frank O’Donnell: Count Us In. E&E News (6/23,subs. req’d) reports, "After nearly a year of treating Sen. Lindsey Graham asperhaps their closest ally on the Republican side of the aisle, environmentalgroups are ready to turn their fire on the South Carolina lawmaker. Athree-page memo acquired by E&E Daily that has been circulating around theenvironmental community indicates that advocacy groups are poised to launch anaggressive campaign against their one-time ally that will paint him as a"flip-flopper" on climate and energy policy. "We’ve watched asSenator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has gone from being a supporter ofcomprehensive climate and energy plan to vocal critic," states the memo."Now Graham is working overtime with his Republican colleagues to kill anymeaningful legislation. "We are tired of Graham saying one thing and doinganother," the memo adds. "It is imperative we hold his feet to thefire and showcase his many flip-flops to the media, Beltway pundits, congressionalstaffers, and our key allies working to pass a bill." "We encourageyou to actively use and promote these points to go on the offensive and damagehis credibility," the memo states.

You Know How Important theMarcellus Shale Is to PA? Folks Who Don’t Even Live in Areas Where theMarcellus is Located Are Demanding Its Exploration. U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) writes in the PottstownMercury, "By now, you’ve probably heard about the Marcellus Shale, a layerof rock running thousands of feet below the ground. We’ve known for years thatthe shale held natural gas, however, standard drilling only yielded smallamounts of this gas. By combining the decades old hydraulic fracturing processwith newer methods of horizontal drilling, energy exploration companies areable to extract shale gas in significant quantities for the first time.Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a water-based mixture into the rock,creating tiny cracks in the shale and releasing gas. The process was first usedin Texas to release gas from wells that were considered dry. A Penn StateUniversity estimate shows that there is now enough gas in the Marcellus Shaleto supply the entire U.S. for more than 14 years. Obviously, the Shale is notgoing to be tapped all at once and will not be the sole source of gas in theU.S., meaning that wells in Pennsylvania will provide a source of natural fordecades. It is estimated that natural gas exploration could lead to more than100,000 jobs statewide. While Pennsylvania’s 16th Congressional District is notlocated above the shale, local companies will certainly benefit.

NYT Not Happy to Report that EPAOfficials Grudgingly Admit the Dispersants Are Working – You Know, the StuffLisa Jackson Spent 3 Weeks Trying to Curtail. NYTimes (6/22) reports, "A continuing question in the spill has been whetherthe injection of a dispersant, itself mildly toxic, to break up the oil ishelping or hurting. The official said that indications were that it washelping. The number of small droplets measured in water nearby was 20 to 40percent higher when dispersant was being applied than when it wasn’t, theofficial said. Early indications are that naturally occurring bacteria aredoing their work on the spilled oil. Government scientists are measuring thisindirectly by monitoring oxygen levels in the gulf. The bacteria consume oxygenas they eat oil, and oxygen levels are normal or slightly depressed, theofficial said. "What we’re finding are conditions that would be consistent andconducive for biological degradation of the oil,” the official said. "We’re notfinding any conditions that show toxicity around the wellhead increasing suchthat we’re concerned we’re making conditions worse instead of better.” And thedispersant has not shown up in near-shore monitoring, the official said.

Group of Corn-Fed GOP SenatorsAsk Obama to Lift the 10% "Blend Wall" on Ethanol – Declare that Clean-Running,Efficient, Operable Engines Are Wildly Overrated. E&E News (6/23,subs. req’d) reports, "Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Thune (R-S.D.), MikeJohanns (R-Neb.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) criticized the delay of a waiver forethanol in a letter to Obama yesterday. "While your commitments in supportof biofuels are encouraging, they are not matched by the actions of youradministration, specifically by the Environmental Protection Agency," theletter states. "The fact is, simple steps could be taken in the very nearterm that would have a real impact on our dependence on foreign oil.Inexcusably, the EPA continues to delay and obstruct those efforts." Thelawmakers — all from states with a heavy economic interest in ethanol — areangry over the recent announcement that EPA’s decision on whether to approvethe higher ethanol blends would come at least several months later thanexpected. Biofuels trade group Growth Energy petitioned EPA for the waiver inMarch 2009. The agency officially had 270 days to decide, but EPA officialssaid in December the decision would have to wait until this summer in order tocomplete more tests.

Massey Lawsuit Alleges FederalMine Regulator’s Decision to Not Approve Critical Ventilation Efforts CouldHave Led to, and Then Exacerbated, Tragedy in W.Va.  WallStreet Journal (6/22) reports, "Massey Energy Co. sued the federal MineSafety and Health Administration and three of its officials Tuesday, arguingthat the agency wouldn’t approve ventilation practices in its mines that Masseysays would have benefited the safety and health of miners. The company, whichis being investigated by the MSHA following an April explosion that killed 29miners at its Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal, W.Va., said it couldn’tchallenge the MSHA’s ventilation-plan requirements under federal mine law.Massey said that violated its constitutional rights. In particular, Massey saidthe MSHA prevented the company from using dust scrubbers in its mines thatwould filter out dust that is dangerous for miners to breathe. The lawsuit wasfiled in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by six Massey subsidiariesbased in West Virginia and Kentucky. "The goal of the lawsuit is prettysimple. It’s to retain some control of the ventilation plans our mines operateunder," said Shane Harvey, Massey’s general counsel.

Live It Up While You Can,Comrades: Latest Move by Russia to Deny Its Neighbors Natural Gas Set Against aBackdrop of Massive Expansion of Shale Gas All Across Europe. AssociatedPress (6/23) reports, "Russia on Wednesday further reduced natural gassupplies to ex-Soviet neighbor Belarus over what it claims is a debt of nearly$200 million, but said the transit of its deliveries to European customers hascontinued unimpeded. Supplies to Belarus from Russia’s state-controlled naturalgas monopoly Gazprom were reduced by 60 percent as of Wednesday, the company’schief executive Alexei Miller said in televised remarks. Gazprom initiallyreduced supplies by 15 percent on Monday and cut them by another 15 percentTuesday. It warned Belarus it would eventually cut the deliveries by 85 percentif it refuses to pay off its debt. Belarus’ Energy Ministry has warned in aletter to the European Commission that cuts of more than 15 percent could leadto transit shortages. But the transit of Russian gas to European customers hasso far continued uninterrupted despite the Belarusian threat, Miller saidWednesday.

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