December 20, 2010

Land Shark: Locking AwayMillions of Energy-Rich Acres Out West a “Top Priority” for Few Hours thatRemain in Lame Duck Session, Sen. Reid Declares.E&E News(12/20, subs. req’d) reports, “Republican leaders over the weekend urged defeatof the omnibus package of 110 public lands, water and wildlife bills thatSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced Friday and hopes to passin the final days of this Congress. House Natural Resources Chairman-elect DocHastings (R-Wash.) called the package of 110 bills (S. 303) "bloated"and said it authorizes more than $18 billion in spending over 10 years."Instead of haphazardly approving billions in new spending, we have anobligation to ask if spending money on these programs is so critical that weshould further indebt ourselves to foreign countries and put our economicsecurity at risk," Hastings said in a statement. "This monster billmust be defeated." Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican onEPW — also slammed the bill. Inhofe said through a spokesman that the package,unlike certain individual measures included, had no chance of passing andshowed that Democrats would rather "play politics than ensure passage ofenvironmental legislation." "What is truly unfortunate is that withinthis massive package there are a number of bills that have broad bipartisansupport," Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said in an e-mail. "Thesebills, if considered separately from this massive omnibus package, may verywell be able to pass the Senate."



Unfortunately for Reid, the“Top Priority” for Everyone Else in His Caucus Looks to Be Passing the CR andGetting the Hell Home for the Holidays. Enviro Blotter (12/20) reports, “Harry Reid has introduceda massive public lands and water omnibus and maintains that the package is oneof his lame-duck priorities. But given Republican opposition – on top of analready crowded schedule – it is uncertain whether it will make it to the floorbefore Christmas. Reid pitched the package late last week as a bipartisancollection of non-controversial bills and claimed he had the votes to beat aRepublican filibuster – but GOP leaders were quick to counter with accusationsof political gamesmanship and said the window has closed for the year. "Iam perfectly willing to work with my colleagues to advance some of these billsindividually, but we need time to examine the changes that have been made sincethey emerged from the EPW committee, and we must consider their effect on thedeficit," said Jim Inhofe. House Republicans aren’t too pleased withReid’s effort either. "There will be plenty of time in the next Congressto individually consider the measures piled into this omnibus," DocHastings said in a statement Friday night, one in an ongoing string his officehas released since word of the package first surfaced."They shouldn’t bejammed through in the last days of a lame-duck session."



Do You Hear What I Hear? ASong, A Song, Low Beneath the Sea, that Sings of U.S. Pros-per-i-ty! Can’t HearIt? Seismic Work in Atlantic OCS Will Confirm It. Houston Chronicle (12/17) reports, “The Obama administrationtoday said it is taking the first steps to allowing new seismic research infederal waters along the Atlantic Coast that could help identify hidden pocketsof oil and gas — even though drilling in the area will be off limitsuntil at least 2017. The initial move is coming in the form of a requiredenvironmental impact statement that will assess the potential effects ofgeological and geophysical research on the outer continental shelf in the mid-and south-Atlantic. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation andEnforcement announced it had launched work on that programmatic environmentalimpact statement today. “This work will enable us to carefully and responsiblyidentify the resources that meet our nation’s energy needs while protecting theAtlantic and its coastal communities,” said Michael Bromwich, the bureaudirector. “It is an important part of our comprehensive approach to energydevelopment that relates to oil and gas, as well as offshore wind.” Thedecision keeps the country on a path to eventually leasing federal Atlanticwaters for oil and gas development. But it won’t be happening any time soon,under a new five-year leasing plan being developed by the Obama administration.



Cape Wind’s Survived 10Years of Enviro Assault, and 10 Years of Gov’t Incompetence – Only OneProblem Left: The Energy It Generates Is Really Expensive.Associated Press (12/19) reports, “Cape Wind has outlasted adecade of government review, a slew of court brawls and fierce opposition frommariners, fishermen, Indian tribes and Kennedys just to win the right to sellits wind-fueled electricity. Now, all it needs are customers. Last month, thenation’s first offshore wind farm nailed down its first buyer when theMassachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a deal that sees CapeWind selling half its power to National Grid, the state’s largest electricutility. But the other half of the Cape Wind project’s electricity remainsavailable with no obvious takers, raising the possibility of a smaller project withpricier power. The top prospect for Cape Wind is the state’s second-largestelectric utility, NStar. But NStar is uninterested and says it can find cheaperrenewable power elsewhere. "It’s not that we’re for or against Cape Windat all," said NStar spokeswoman Caroline Allen. "We just want to makesure that we are promoting renewables in the region … but also being mindfulof costs for our customers." Price is always an issue with offshore wind,which costs more partly because it’s expensive to build and maintain massiveturbines at sea. The 468-megawatt Cape Wind, which is expected to produceenough power for 200,000 homes in average winds, is estimated to cost at least$2 billion to construct.



Speaking of Big Pinwheel:Must Read Editorial in WSJ Takes AWEA Annual Report at Its Word –Highlights Failure of Wind in 2010 to Deliver on Its Promises. Wall Street Journal (12/20) editorializes, “Ethanol isn’t the onlyheavily subsidized energy source that won a multibillion dollar jackpot in lastweek’s tax deal. The other big winner was the wind industry, which received aone year extension of a $3 billion grant program for renewable energy projects.Despite more than $30 billion in subsidies for "clean energy" in the2009 stimulus bill, Big Wind still can’t make it in the marketplace. DeniseBode, AWEA’s CEO, had warned that without last week’s extension of the federal1603 investment credit, the outlook for the wind industry would be"flatline or down." Some 20,000 wind energy jobs, about one-quarterof the industry’s total, could have been lost, the wind lobby concedes. Formost industries that would be an admission of failure, but in Washington this kindof forecast is used to justify more subsidies. But what have these subsidiesbought taxpayers? According to AWEA, in the first half of 2010 wind powerinstallations "dropped by 57% and 71% from 2008 and 2009 levels." Inthe third quarter, the industry says it "added just 395 megawatts (MW) ofwind-powered electric generating capacity," making it the lowest quartersince 2007. New wind installations are down 72% from last year to their lowestlevel since 2006. And this is supposed to be the miracle electricity source ofthe future? The coal industry, which Mr. Obama’s Environmental ProtectionAgency and Interior Department have done everything possible to curtail, addedalmost three times more to the nation’s electric power capacity in the firstnine months of 2010 (39%) than did wind (14%), according to the U.S. EnergyInformation Administration.



With Death of RockefellerAmdt, Last Hurdle for EPA Carbon Regs Appear to Be Removed – And AsUsual, J-Rock Doesn’t Seem Too Concerned About It.The Hill (12/19) reports, “Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) believes thenew Congress will be “much more likely” to approve his legislation that wouldhalt looming Environmental Protection Agency climate change rules. Rockefellerwants to delay rules – which will begin phasing-in next month – tocurb emissions from power plants, refineries and other industrial plants, but nevergot a vote on his measure this year. “The House will be that way and the Senatewill be more inclined to be that way,” Rockefeller told The Hill in the CapitolSaturday, a reference to gains by GOP lawmakers hostile to climate rules.Rockefeller plans to immediately reintroduce the bill when the new Congressstarts, he said. Ascendant House Republicans are also vowing to block EPAclimate rules and other pollution regulations they call “job-killing.”Rockefeller, however, said he’s concerned about overreach, noting he supportsemissions standards for vehicles. “The thing I have to look at is to make surethat it doesn’t go too far,” he said. “I don’t think you get rid of EPA. I justdon’t know what the Tea Party-types are going to do, but I know they are goingto try and abolish a lot of agencies.”



U.S. Trial Lawyers PushingCase Against Chevron Basically Fired by Ecuadorian Government for Fraud –Now It’s Patton Boggs’ Turn to Line Up at the Trough. Wall Street Journal (12/18) reports, “Court documents filed infederal court in Philadelphia show the rift began in 2009, when Mr. Kohn andMr. Donziger feuded over control of the case. In November 2009, Mr. Kohn wrotea letter to the plaintiffs’ Ecuador-based legal team arguing that they shouldseek an immediate settlement of about $1 billion, far less than the $27 billionthat a court-appointed expert said Chevron should pay. The plaintiffs rejectedthe idea of a settlement, saying that seeking a deal would demonstrateweakness, according to a letter from the Ecuadorian attorneys to Mr. Kohn thatwas reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. In response, Mr. Kohn cut off furtherfunding, and in July, the plaintiffs formally terminated its dealings with Mr.Kohn. Mr. Kohn’s attorney, Jim Rohn, said his client had become increasinglyuncomfortable with Mr. Donziger’s handling of the case. He said Mr. Kohn leftthe case before Chevron’s fraud accusations became public. Chevron, meanwhile,zeroed in on Mr. Donziger, accusing him and his team of improperly influencingthe work of Richard Cabrera, the Ecuadorian expert who came up with the $27billion price tag. Mr. Cabrera has previously defended his work.



“Game Theorist” RunsSophisticated Modeling Program to Predict Whether Climate Conferences WillYield Success – You Won’t Believe It: His Computer Says They Failed.ClimateWire(12/20, subs. req’d) reports, “A modestly successful outcome from the latestround of international climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, hasproponents breathing a huge sigh of relief. After last year’s raucous sessionin Copenhagen, Denmark, most governments and activists were put on thedefensive to prove that multilateral action on global warming was evenpossible. They now feel vindicated. But even as optimism strengthens ahead ofthe next year’s major conference in South Africa, one famous prognosticatorsays it’s still more likely that we’ll see a repeat of Copenhagen’s performancetoward the end of 2011. Last year, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, a New YorkUniversity professor and partner in a Manhattan consultancy, famously predictedthe flat outcome at Copenhagen in an article he penned for Foreign Policymagazine, one month before that conference began. Confidence in the computermodel he designed that led to that conclusion informs his views on where thetalks are headed next: Namely, multilateral negotiations will not fix the climatechange problem, regardless of what U.N. officials and others claim. "It’sdepressing, it is what it is, but unfortunately it was right," Bueno deMesquita said in an interview. "We got nothing out of Copenhagen."


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