November 15, 2010

Recipe for an Offshore Ban:One Part Delay, One Part Denial, One Part Ennui – Any If All Else Fails,Simply Refuse to Hold Lease Sales. Houston Chronicle (11/12) reports, “Although the Bureau ofOcean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement has not announced any delayin the planned lease sale covering offshore tracts in the central Gulf ofMexico, oil industry lobbyists and analysts said it is unlikely to go forward.Analysts at FBR Capital Markets predicted the March lease sale “is likely to becanceled” as a result of the study and the offshore energy bureau’s workvetting new drilling permits and drafting new safety rules. “The agency facessignificant workload on other offshore regulation, including permitting andpublic comment period requirements,” FBR Capital Markets analysts said. MichaelOlsen, a lawyer with Bracewell & Giuliani who previously spent five yearsworking for the Interior Department, noted that “normally, these things takeseveral months to do.” “It would be pretty tough to get it done in (time),”Olsen added. Bromwich said in an interview Tuesday that an upcoming “filing”would shed light on the future of the sales. But the government may have tippedits hand with its formal announcement of the environmental impact study, whichlays the groundwork for the upcoming sales.



There’s Gotta Be a BetterName Than “ReportGate,” Right? Well, Until We Think of One – U.S. Senate Wantsto Know Why Browner Re-Wrote Report on Offshore Ban. The Hill (11/12) reports, “Several members of the Senate Environmentand Public Works Committee are calling for a hearing on the Interior Departmentinspector general’s findings about White House edits of a controversial reporton offshore drilling safety. The Interior Department’s acting inspector generalthis week said changes by energy czar Carol Browner’s staff to Interior’s lateMay report left the impression that outside experts who reviewed the study hadendorsed a six-month ban on deepwater drilling. They hadn’t.

Ranking member James Inhofe (R-Okla.), andSens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and David Vitter (R-La.) called on CommitteeChairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to conduct a hearing on the matter.“Under Carol Browner’s watch, politics istrumping science. Congress must investigate the editing of scientific reportsand secret meetings where nothing was put into writing. As the Ranking Memberon the Subcommittee on Oversight, I will demand that hearings be heldimmediately. This ‘Czar’ should be accountable to the people, not the other wayaround,” Barrasso said in a prepared statement Friday.

The senators are among GOP lawmakers on bothsides of the Capitol who are using the report as political ammunition againstthe White House.



Lesley Stahl’s Not ExactlyEdward R. Murrow, Right? But Hey: She Did a Half Decent Job Last NightExplaining Enormous Potential of Shale.CBS News (11/14) reports, "In the last few years, we’ve discoveredthe equivalent of two Saudi Arabias of oil in the form of natural gas in theUnited States. Not one, but two," Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of ChesapeakeEnergy, told "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl. "Wait, wehave twice as much natural gas in this country, is that what you’re saying,than they have oil in Saudi Arabia?" Stahl asked. "I’m trying tovery clearly say exactly that," he replied. There are shale formationsacross large parts of the country, and there is production or exploration inover 30 states. It’s an American energy renaissance. Some 10,000 wells will bedrilled in northwest Louisiana, in some of the poorest communities in thecountry, where impoverished farmers are becoming overnight millionaires as theylease their land for drilling. "I never dreamed of money like this,"C.B. Leatherwood told Stahl. " Leatherwood, a retired oil field worker,got a bundle to drill under his farm: $434,000. His cousin, Mike Smith, alsoprofited: he was paid nearly $2 million. "So what’d you do that day?"Stahl asked Smith. "I sat back and thought about it for a, all day. And Isaid, ‘I’m a millionaire.’ And that didn’t sound right," he replied. Theyactually call them "shaleionaires."



Unfortunately, 60 MinutesDidn’t Get Everything Right – Completely Swung and Miss with Ham-HandedExplanation of HF’s Regulatory History. Wilkes-Barre Times Leader (11/15) reports, “A primetime network newsshow’s look at the pros and cons of the natural gas drilling phenomenon in theUnited States that aired on Sunday left people on both sides of the issuesatisfied with fair coverage but concerned that comments from those who wereinterviewed were misleading or inaccurate. Chris Tucker, of,an organization that promotes the benefits of natural gas drilling, said thesegment was “fairly balanced,” although the show didn’t get everything right.“I think they did a great job of telling the story of real people, everydaypeople, all across the country whose lives have changed for the better thanksto the development of this clean, American resource,” Tucker said. “They didn’tquite get it right when they attempted to venture into the regulatory historyof hydraulic fracturing. The reality is that fracturing technology is among themost thoroughly regulated procedures that takes place at the wellsite, which isa big reason why it’s been able to compile such a solid record of safety andperformance over the past 60 years of commercial use. ”Travis Windle,representing the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said “having ‘60 Minutes’underscore the enormously positive benefits of this revolution … speaks to howtransformational this development is for our nation.”



Bingaman Would Like to SeeLame Duck Goosed Up for Vote on Expansive Electricity Mandate – But EvenHis Own Spokesman Predicts That Won’t Happen. E&E News(11/15, subs. req’d) reports, “The renewable electricity standard (RES) measure(S. 3813), which was originally included in the broad energy bill that passedout of the Energy Committee last summer on a bipartisan basis, was onceconsidered a shoo-in as part of a Senate climate bill this year. But thosetalks failed, so Bingaman and Kansas GOP Sen. Sam Brownback, who is leaving theSenate at the end of this year to become governor, introduced the RES measureas a stand-alone bill this summer. Since then, they have been working to drumup the 60 votes needed to move it to the floor. So far, 31 additionalco-sponsors have signed on, including three Republicans besides Brownback:Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Ensign of Nevada and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.A handful of other senators have said they would support the measure withoutsigning on as co-sponsors. But other Republicans, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham ofSouth Carolina, have floated a clean energy standard bill (S. 20) that wouldextend the mandate to energy sources like nuclear and "clean coal."The measure could draw supporters away from Bingaman and Brownback’s plan,which only allows renewable energy sources under the mandate. Even if Bingamanand Brownback find 60 supporters, politics of the lame-duck legislative sessionmay keep the measure off the floor. "We do know energy does not top theto-do list," Wicker said.



Right, and Bingaman WantsOne More Thing from Lame Duck Too: A Massive Public Land-Grab Bill –“Dozens and Dozens” of Horrible Bills Wrapped Into One.E&E News(11/12, subs. req’d) reports, “Senate Energy and Natural Resources CommitteeChairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is hoping to pass a package of public lands andwilderness bills during the lame-duck session of Congress. Bingaman’s panel hassent more than 60 bills to the floor this session that would create newnational parks, monuments, wilderness areas and wildlife sanctuaries. Now he’shoping to bundle them into an omnibus measure for Senate passage before the111th Congress adjourns, spokesman Bill Wicker confirmed today. Wicker declinedto release the specific bills included in the draft omnibus, but he said itwould include most of the bills that have been cleared through committee andfew — or none — of the measures that haven’t. The Energy and NaturalResources Committee traditionally approves public lands bills only withunanimous support. "It’s dozens and dozens of bills," Wicker said."Time allowing, [Bingaman] does support it, and it is something he’ll pushfor." Time may not allow for much. The package’s quickest road to passageis by unanimous consent, but there are several voices in the Senate that couldkeep that from happening, Wicker said.



Enviros Horrified that Prop26 Passed in CA – Fear That Securing Two-Thirds of Public’s Support forTax, Fee Increases on Energy Producers Will Be Too Tough.LA Times (11/15) reports, “Proposition 26 reclassifies most regulatoryfees on industry as "taxes" requiring a two-thirds vote in governmentbodies or in public referendums, rather than a simple majority. Approved byvoters 53% to 47% on Nov. 2, it is aimed at multibillion-dollar statewideissues such as a per-barrel severance fee on oil and a cap-and-trade system forgreenhouse gases. It’s also aimed at local ordinances that add fees oncigarettes to pay for trash pickup and on alcohol to fund education and lawenforcement programs. Last week, the American Chemistry Council warned LosAngeles County supervisors that a proposed ordinance banning plastic grocerysacks and imposing a 10-cent fee on paper bags falls under the votingrequirements of Proposition 26. But environmentalists and health advocates saidthe initiative makes it nearly impossible in the current political climate toboost industry fees for cleaning up air, water and toxic waste pollution; forcurbing smoking and alcohol abuse; or for enacting new programs."California just got a lot harder to govern," said Bill Magavern,California director of the Sierra Club. Environmentalists, unions and theDemocratic Party scrambled to raise $6.6 million to fight Proposition 26, butproponents outspent them by 3 to 1. In addition to its fee-to-tax redefinition,Proposition 26 contains a provision imposing a two-thirds vote on"revenue-neutral" tax swaps — a complex legislative maneuverthat balances a tax increase with a tax decrease.



Your Very Own Soccer Star:Solar Companies Benefiting from Subsidies in US Turn Around and Use That Moneyfor Big-Time Endorsement Deals in Europe. NY Times (11/14) reports, “Sprucing up your company profile by hiring apopular soccer player and a former international television celebrity to starin advertisements may be run of the mill marketing for some. For a solarcompany, it may give the edge needed to survive in a fiercely competitive andfast-changing environment. SolarWorld of Germany, a maker of solar modules,throws a lot of resources at building its brand when selling its productsoutside of its domestic market, where television ads have helped it to become amajor market player. After running ads this year with Lukas Podolski — amember of the German national soccer team — the company started acampaign in the United States with an unlikely figure: Larry Hagman —whose fictional character in the television show “Dallas” was the epitome of agreedy, scheming oil tycoon — is singing the praises of green energy forSolarWorld. Such efforts lie at the heart of a bigger battle as SolarWorld,and German peers like Q-Cells, take on fierce international competition. “Thisis one way of fighting back the brutal Asian competition,” said Philipp Bumm, ananalyst at Cheuvreux in Frankfurt. The $39 billion solar industry is noexception to a broad trend in which lower cost Asian rivals eat away at themarket shares of European and U.S. companies that usually operate with higherlabor costs.



Re-Useable Grocery BagsHave Lead In Them, Enviros Scream – Only Answer Left is to Stop GroceryShopping and Retire to Caves – Immediately.NY Times (11/14) reports, “They dangle from the arms of many NewYorkers, a nearly ubiquitous emblem of empathy with the environment: synthetic,reusable grocery bags, another must-have accessory for the socially conscious. But the bags, hot items at upscale markets, may be on the verge of aglacier-size public relations problem: similar bags outside the city have beenfound to contain lead. “They say plastic bags are bad; now they say these arebad. What’s worse?” asked Jen Bluestein, who was walking out of Trader Joe’s onthe Upper West Side with a reusable bag under her arm on Sunday. “Green is atrend and people go with trends,” Ms. Bluestein said. “People get them asfashion statements and they have, like, 50 of them. I don’t think people knowthe real facts.” Reports from around the country have trickled in recentlyabout reusable bags, mostly made in China, that contained potentially unsafelevels of lead. The offending bags were identified at several stores, includingsome CVS pharmacies; the Rochester-based Wegman’s grocery chain recalledthousands of its bags, made of recycled plastic, in September. Concerns haveproliferated so much that Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, senta letter on Sunday to the Food and Drug Administration, urging the agency toinvestigate the issue.


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