August 2, 2010

Senateor Bust: Melancon Amendment to CLEAR Act Wouldn’t Do a Thing to End Obama Banin the Gulf, Notwithstanding His Press Release – Which Is Why 215 DemocratsVoted For It. Energy Guardian (8/2, subs.req’d) reports, "The Democratic-led House surprised a lot of people followingthe offshore oil debate Friday when it voted to ease the Obama administration’sban on deepwater drilling. But one needs to look no further than the text ofthe amendment to understand why 215 Democrats and only five Republicans votedfor it. "Nothing herein affects the [Interior] Secretary’s authority to suspendoffshore drilling permitting and drilling operations based on the threat ofsignificance, irreparable or immediate harm or damage to life, property, or themarine, coastal or human environment," the bill says. Interior Secretary KenSalazar continues to argue that a "pause" on offshore drilling is necessarybecause the BP oil spill has strained the federal government’s resources anddeepwater rigs pose a threat because the cause of the spill is unknown. Ineffect, it appears that the moratorium can and will likely stay in place eventhough the House passed legislation to lift it. And that is exactly whatsparked an intrastate squabble that played out on the House floor Fridaybetween Louisiana Reps. Steve Scalise, a Republican, and Charlie Melancon, aDemocrat who authored the amendment. "There were a few sections that got addedin that allows the secretary to have statutory authority, that he doesn’t havenow, to issue more moratoriums even if this current one is stopped," Scalisesaid.

Geta Room: Lois Capps Seeks Out Melancon Ahead of Amendment Vote to Give Him a BigHug on the House Floor – Thanks, Charlie, for the Political Cover.  E&E News (8/2, subs.req’d), reports, "I’m concerned about the breadth of the bill," Rep.Zack Space, a moderate Democrat from Ohio, said before Friday’s vote. "Ithink we all agree we need to do something to prevent mistakes like theDeepwater Horizon from happening again, but not at the expense of compromisingour energy policy altogether." Space voted against the measure. HouseSpeaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders were able to drumup enough support from other moderate Democrats to achieve the narrow victory.Pelosi, who often serves as her own chief whip on key votes, stalked the Housefloor Friday afternoon with tally sheet in hand, approaching Blue Dog andcentrist Democrats, many of whom later voted in support of the measure.Democratic leaders also attempted to sway support with an amendment that wouldlift the Obama administration’s deepwater drilling moratorium. That measurefrom Reps. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) and Travis Childers (D-Miss.) would end thedrilling ban for companies that are able to show they are meeting strictersafety requirements. In the minutes before the final vote, Melancon stoodtalking with Pelosi when Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a primary opponent ofoffshore drilling, threw her arm aroundMelancon’s shoulder and gave him a hug. Melancon hugged her back. Roll callvote available here.

America’sGot More Shale Gas than the Entire World Can Use in 150 Years – and ThoseEstimates Will Continue to Grow, Says Colorado School of Mines. Robert Samuelson writes (8/2) in the WashingtonPost, "How much shale gas exists is unknown, but estimates are huge. ThePotential Gas Committee is a group of geologists who regularly estimate futureU.S. gas supplies. In 2000, the group’s estimate equaled about 54 years ofpresent annual consumption; by 2008, it was almost 90 years. "This isn’tthe end," says Colorado School of Mines geologist John Curtis. Globally,one study estimated the recoverable supply at 16,200 trillion cubic feet, morethan 150 times today’s annual world gas use. Some standard drilling techniques,applied imaginatively, liberated shale gas. The first was "fracturing":injecting liquids into reservoirs to create openings that allow the gas to flowup the drill pipe. For years, Mitchell’s engineers experimented with different"fracing fluids." All were expensive, and the resulting gas flowsweren’t profitable. In 1997, engineers tried a less costly mix of sand andwater. The economics of shale gas improved dramatically, says Dan Steward, aformer geologist for Mitchell. Devon Energy, which bought Mitchell’s company in2002, improved the economics further by emphasizing "horizontaldrilling." In conventional wells, the drill goes straight down andcollects gas or oil near the well bore. With horizontal drilling, the pipe isturned sideways when it hits the reservoir and collects gas or oil for hundredsor thousands of feet. Gas flows increase. Fewer wells are needed. Costs drop.

ClotureVote on Senate Anti-Energy Gotcha Bill Slated for Wednesday Evening – No OneBelieves It’ll Pass, Which Suits Unserious Senate Leadership Just Fine. DowJones (7/30) reports, "The most contentious part of the legislationinvolves eliminating the cap on economic damages paid to residents and businessesharmed by oil spills. Democrats want to discard liability caps, currently setat $75 million, in order to avoid putting taxpayers on the hook for damagesthat go beyond the costs of cleanup. On Thursday, the White House called liability limits an "implicitsubsidy" for the oil and gas industry, and said it "stronglysupports" repealing the limit on economic damages claims. Independent oiland gas producers fear being put out of business. Insurers have indicated theywill not offer offshore-drilling insurance without a cap on damage claims. Theresult would be to leave offshore drilling to state-owned and giant corporateoil companies, which can self-insure against damages. "While trying topunish ‘Big Oil,’ Congress is actually harming small, independent companies whoproduce the majority of America’s natural gas and oil," said BarryRussell, the president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, ina statement. "Members of Congress who vote for this bill will have a lotto explain when they leave Washington this weekend for the congressional Augustrecess."

Meanwhile,EPA’s Pell-Mell Rush to Regulate Every Backyard Bar-b-que in America Has Somein the Enviro Crowd Scared that the Public Will Turn Against Them. Politico (8/2)reports, "The EPA took its first big step in the spring when it unveiled newclimate-themed standards for motor vehicles, the byproduct of several years oflegal wrangling and closed-door negotiations with industry, states andenvironmentalists. More rules will come in January for power plants and othermajor stationary sources. And the EPA is also trying to limit the reach of itsfuture rules on smaller industrial sources by issuing a so-called tailoringrule that sets minimum emission thresholds before any standards would kick in.The legality of the tailoring rule is under scrutiny in court, butconservatives want to drive home their point that the agency – unless orderedotherwise – is obligated under the law to start setting new restrictions onchurches, schools and, maybe someday, lawn mowers. "I don’t know if itsbackyard barbeque grills or hitting small business," said Robert Stavins, aHarvard University economist who has been working on climate rules for severaldecades. "But there will be some regulation that looks silly that just becomesa poster child for the right. And it could lead to less, rather than more,national enthusiasm on climate policy. And people on the right recognize that."

Useof Dispersants Is a Big Reason Why There’s No More Oil Sheen on the Surface inthe Gulf – Which Is Absolutely Infuriating Ed Markey, Who’s Feeling CheatedRight Now. USAToday (8/1) reports, "BP inched closer to cementing the busted oil well asretired Adm. Thad Allen rejected assertions Sunday that federal officialsallowed the energy giant too much leeway to use chemical dispersants in the Gulfof Mexico. Allen told reporters during a conference call that federalregulators did not ignore environmental guidelines. He says some commanders onthe scene had authority to allow more dispersants when needed. "I’msatisfied we only use them when they are needed," Allen said. Documentsreleased by a congressional subcommittee found that Coast Guard officialsallowed BP to use hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical dispersants inthe Gulf despite a federal directive to use them rarely. On May 26, theEnvironmental Protection Agency ordered BP not to use the chemicals to break upsurface oil except in rare cases, but the Coast Guard routinely grantedexemptions, the documents show, according to CNN. The dispersants contributedto "a toxic stew of chemicals, oil and gas, with impacts that are not wellunderstood," Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., chairman of the House Subcommitteeon Energy and Environment, wrote in a letter sent late Friday to Allen, wholeads the U.S. response to the oil spill.

Centerfor Biological Diversity – Setting a New Bar for Litigiousness – Sues to Stop$3 Billion Pipeline Project Slated to Deliver Clean-Burning Natural Gas toOregon.  E&E News (7/30, subs.req’d) reports, "Environmentalists sued today to stop construction of aproposed $3 billion natural gas pipeline that would stretch from Wyoming toOregon. The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in the U.S. Court ofAppeals for the 9th Circuit in an attempt to block El Paso Corp.’s RubyPipeline, which would transport gas from the Rocky Mountains to Oregon andCalifornia through 675 miles of mountainous terrain. El Paso has secured mostof the major permits necessary to break ground but is still waiting for the finalgo-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Once operational, ElPaso says the pipe could deliver 1.5 billion cubic feet of gas to a hub insouthern Oregon that feeds into the California market. But the center in itssuit argued that federal permits from the Bureau of Land Management and anendangered species analysis from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are flawed.Noah Greenwald, director of endangered species programs at the center, said thepipeline would jeopardize a number of endangered fish, including the Lahontancutthroat trout, Warner Creek sucker, Lost River sucker and Colorado pikeminnow."Instead of creating an entirely new path of destruction, an existingpipeline route should have been utilized," Greenwald said from his officein Portland, Ore.

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