July 1, 2010

Rebuke:Democrats and Republicans Come Together in the Senate to Establish REALCommission on Deepwater Horizon – Will Compete Directly with Obama’s PotemkinPanel. Energy Guardian (7/1, subs.req’d) reports, "After unanimously approving legislation to overhaul the nation’soffshore drilling laws, members of the Senate Energy Committee did somethingunexpected. They voted to approve their own independent commission toinvestigate the BP accident that would compete with one that Obama createdseveral weeks ago. Five Democrats joined all 10 Republicans in voting to createa dueling panel with 10 members. The vote was a rebuke of Obama’s decision toname the head of an anti-drilling advocacy group-Natural Resources DefenseCouncil President Frances Beinecke-to the commission he created back in May.Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo., introduced the surprise legislation, sayinglawmakers like himself felt Obama had stacked his own commission withanti-drilling critics who would tarnish the credibility of any of itsfindings.  Sen. Mary Landrieu, aDemocrat from Louisiana, challenged her own party members to consider how theywould have reacted if former President George W. Bush had stacked thecommission with pro-oil members. "We would say this is not fair. And I’m sayingto my colleagues this is not fair," she argued. The committee ultimatelydecided there were enough questions about the independence of Obama’scommission that it was — in the words of New Hampshire Sen. Jean Shaheen –prudent to get a second opinion.

A Tale of Two Panels: Senate Offshore Commissionwill be Populated by Scientists, Engineers; Whereas Obama Panel is Staffed byAdvocates and Hacks.  The Houston Chronicle (7/1) reports, "TheSenate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 15-8 to add thecongressional commission proposal to a broader offshore drilling bill, afterSen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., insisted that the nation needs an "unbiased"examination of the April 20 BP well blowout that triggered the spill. Heblasted a seven-member panel created by President Barack Obama as "stackedwith people who philosophically oppose offshore drilling." Obama launchedthe commission last month and tasked it with conducting a six-month probe ofthe Deepwater Horizon disaster and a rigorous review of drilling safety. Itsfindings could dictate the future of offshore drilling and lead to majorchanges in the way the government polices oil and gas production along thenation’s coasts. But its membership has come under fire in recent days becausewhile its roster includes science and engineering experts, none are drillingexperts. Instead, the membership includes a renewable energy advocate who has complainedabout America’s oil addiction and a marine science professor who recentlyappeared to endorse a delay of planned drilling along the East Coast.

Sassy Waxy: House Energy Chairman Warns that CarbonRationing Will Be Added in Conference Even if It’s Dropped from SenateLegislation.The Hill (7/1) reports, "HouseEnergy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said he would "absolutely"seek to keep greenhouse gas limits alive in a House-Senate conference if theSenate approves energy legislation this summer that omits carbon provisions. "Itwould be open in conference to consider because our bill has it," Waxman toldThe Hill Wednesday. Waxman authored a sweeping climate and energy bill that theHouse narrowly approved last year that merges an "economy-wide" cap-and-tradesystem with other provisions to boost alternative energy and energy efficiency.Greenhouse gas caps face large hurdles in the Senate, and may be left on thecutting-room floor when the Senate debates an energy package that MajorityLeader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to bring up next month. But Waxman, an ally ofHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said the climate issue would remainalive in conference, noting he would "absolutely" press for measures thatcreate a cost for emitting greenhouse gases. "I would hope we can put a priceon carbon," Waxman said, arguing it would give the private sector the "rightmarket signal" to develop low-emissions technologies.

George Miller Says His New Bill Seeks to Prevent BPfrom Acquiring an Offshore OCS Lease for the Next 7 Years; The Reality? ItSeeks to Shut Down Offshore Energy In General. The Hill (6/30) reports, "Rep.George Miller (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that he’s drafting legislation to denyBP new offshore oil-and-gas leases for up to seven years due to the oil giant’spattern of safety and environmental problems. "British Petroleum has a flagranthistory of taking risks to boost profits that has resulted in deaths ofworkers, destruction of the environment, and economic chaos in localcommunities," Miller said in a prepared statement about BP, which is strugglingto contain oil from its blown-out Gulf of Mexico well. Miller, a top ally ofHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), hopes to offer his plan as an amendmentto drilling safety legislation under construction in the House NaturalResources Committee. He once headed that panel and currently chairs theEducation and Labor Committee. Miller’s plan is not limited to BP. His officedescribes the upcoming bill this way: "Under Miller’s draft legislation, theSecretary of Interior could not issue offshore oil and gas leases to a companythe Secretary determines is a danger to workers and natural resources," theirsummary states.

Henry Waxman Says His "Blowout Prevention Act" IsJust Making Sure Rigs Are Kept Safe; The Reality? It Defines Every On- andOffshore Well in America As "High-Risk," and Then Blows ‘Em Up. Marlo Lewis writes(6/30) on MasterResource.org, "The draftlegislation that Chairmen Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) willpromote at today’s hearing could shut down all offshore drilling in the UnitedStates. The draft text says the federal government "shall not issue a permit todrill for a high-risk well unless the applicant for such permit demonstrates .. . and the appropriate federal official determines that . . . the applicanthas an oil spill response plan that ensures that the applicant has the capacityto promptly stop a blowout in the event the blowout preventer and other wellcontrol measures fail." Sounds innocent enough. However, the bill defines as "high-risk"any "offshore oil or gas exploration or production well," not justultra-deepwater rigs. The implication is obvious: The federal government "shallnot" issue any more permits for offshore drilling, because nobody knows how to "promptlystop a blowout in the event that the blowout preventer and other well controlmeasures fail." Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) put it this way: "BP ignored avery simple rule. If you can’t plug the hole, don’t drill the well." But, asthe BP disaster shows, some holes cannot be plugged, at least not in time toprevent gigantic spills. Logically, the bill implies that no permits to drillshould be granted and that existing permits should be revoked.

Big AP Story This Week Informed Readers that ShaleProducers in PA Use Benzene, Toluene and Other Nasty Stuff in Frac Fluids -Falsely, As It Turns Out.  Scranton Times-Tribune (7/1) reports, "Anearlier version of the list, provided by DEP to the Associated Press andpublished in newspapers throughout the state this week, purportedly includedall of the chemicals used in Pennsylvania during the gas extraction processcalled hydraulic fracturing. Instead, it included not just the chemicals pumpeddeep underground but also those stored or used on a well site, including fuelfor vehicles and brake fluid. "You can blame it on me," Scott Perry,the director of DEP’s Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, said on Wednesday. Theoriginal list was a compilation of the chemicals identified on safety documentscalled material safety data sheets that hydraulic fracturing contractors mustsubmit to the department, but he did not realize that it included substancesthe contractors use both above and below ground on a well site, he said. Thesecond list was winnowed by a DEP chemist, who recognized that some of thechemicals on the initial list are not among those injected underground duringthe fracturing process. Three compounds specifically addressed in the AParticle because of the risks they can pose to human health – naphthalene,toluene and xylene – are not on the list of hydraulic fracturing chemicals DEPposted on its website on Wednesday.

Steely Determination: Steel Producers Join theScrum in Challenging EPA’s Attempt to Re-Write the Clean Air Act with the Help ofCongress on "Tailoring" Rule.E&E News (6/30, subs. req’d) reports, "The steel industryhas filed a pair of court challenges to U.S. EPA’s "tailoring" rule,putting the trade group in the unusual position of challenging a rulemakingthat would limit the scope of the agency’s greenhouse gas regulations. AfterEPA announced earlier this year that it plans to begin regulating largestationary sources of greenhouse gases next January, the agency proposed ascaled-back approach for the regulations, initially limiting them to newsources producing more than 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases and to existingsources that increase their emissions by more than 75,000 tons. Petitions filedyesterday with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbiaby Gerdau Ameristeel US Inc. and the American Iron and Steel Institute ask thecourt to review the tailoring rule, which multiplied the threshold forregulation by about 750 times. Groups have until Aug. 2 to challenge the rule,which was finalized earlier this month, and two industry-backed advocacy groups– the Coalition for Responsible Regulation and the Southeastern LegalFoundation — have already filed petitions for review. "It’s simply a planto pick winners and losers arbitrarily as to who will be subject to regulationand who will not," he said. "It’s not in keeping with thestatute."

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