December 7, 2010

Under Locke and Key:Lawmakers Ask Admin. to Release Internal Commerce Dept. Reports Showing TrueImpacts Expected from EPA’s Risible Boiler Rule. E&E News(12/7, subs. req’d) reports, “Lawmakers worried about the job impacts of finalair pollution standards for industrial boilers are still seeking informationabout the controversial proposal that was released in April, though U.S. EPAhas signaled that the final rule will be less aggressive. Based on discussionswith Commerce officials, businesses believe the department’s study"dramatically contradicts" EPA’s prediction that the rules would leadto about 8,000 job losses, according to an industry source. The existence ofthe Commerce study "reinforces concerns that this rule may significantlyundercut economic recovery in key affected industries," says the letter,which was sent Friday to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Commerce SecretaryGary Locke. The four senators who sent the letter are among the 40-plussenators who raised concerns this summer about the stringency of the draftlimits on mercury, dioxins and other toxic emissions from boilers. Theregulations, which are supposed to be finalized by next month, have drawnintense criticism from paper mills, chemical plants and other businesses thatuse the boilers to power their facilities. Some companies using the boilers saytheir plants would not be able to achieve the pollution cuts that the draftstandards demanded.



Is the Reliable Delivery ofUtilities to Customers a “Nuisance” For Which Utilities Should Be Sued? SupremeCourt Says It’ll Weigh In Next Year.Associated Press (12/6) reports, “In a new case aboutclimate change, the Supreme Court will hear an appeal from electric utilitiesthat are trying to short-circuit an effort by states to force cuts in powerplant emissions. The court agreed Monday to consider ending a federal lawsuitby eight states, New York City and others that accuse the power companies ofbeing among the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. The suit asksa federal judge to order reductions in the emissions in plants in 20 states. Afederal judge initially threw out the case, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court ofAppeals in New York said it could continue. The lawsuit says carbon dioxide isone of the chief causes of global warming. The greenhouse gas is produced whencoal, gasoline and other fossil fuels burn. The American Electric Power Co. andthe other utilities do not want courts getting involved in the issue. Thecompanies argue that only the Environmental Protection Agency can set emissionsstandards. The Obama administration, representing the TVA, urged a middlecourse that would have avoided a full-blown hearing at the high court.



Fair Weather Friends: CarolBrowner’s Reign as “Energy Czar” Might Not Survive the Holidays – ButWaxman, Rahall, and Friends Aren’t Exactly Rushing to Her Defense. Politico (12/7) reports, “The “energy czar” position may not be thatappealing next year given the shrunken role for the president’s legislativeagenda and prospects of Republican investigations. GOP lawmakers havecomplained from Day 1 that Browner and similar White House officials have toomuch authority over established agencies that Congress can more easily keeptabs on. "Are the Senate-confirmed individuals allowed to do their job, ordo they find an emissary without a constitutional portfolio telling them how tospend money?" said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman ofthe House Government Reform and Oversight Committee. Even key Democrats, suchas co-author of the House cap-and-trade bill, outgoing Energy and CommerceChairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), aren’t lining up to save the office. "Idon’t have any feelings about it one way or another,” Waxman said, noting thepresence of other sources for energy and climate advice, including the WhiteHouse Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency."Abolish that office," said Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), the outgoingchairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, who said it duplicates thework of existing agencies. "We’ll survive as a nation without it.”



Follow This Logic: Levelingthe Playing Field by Removing $0.45 Tariff on Importation of Ethanol WouldSomehow Hurt American Consumers – That’s What Big Corny Says.E&E News(12/6, subs. req’d) reports, “Ethanol boosters and bashers have conflictingpredictions for how fuel pump prices could change if tax credits and otherindustry supports are allowed to expire at the end of this year, with somepredicting a price drop, while others see it going up. Last week, Sen. ChuckGrassley (R-Iowa) declared in floor testimony, "A lapse in the ethanol taxincentive is a gas tax increase of over 5 cents a gallon at the pump." Inan address aimed at shoring up support for extending the 45-cent-a-gallonvolumetric ethanol excise tax credit, or VEETC, for blenders, Grassley said,"I just don’t see the logic in arguing for a gas tax increase when we haveso many Americans unemployed or underemployed and struggling just to get by.The ethanol industry is pushing hard to extend that and a 54-cent-a-gallontariff on imported ethanol that mainly serves to keep out cheaper,Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol. In a paper published in July and updated inNovember, an economist from Iowa State University’s Center for Agricultural andRural Development projected that an expiration of the VEETC and a54-cent-per-gallon tariff on ethanol, taken together, could lower pump pricesfor drivers. That study, by Center for Agricultural and Rural DevelopmentDirector Bruce Babcock, is favored by groups including the National ResourcesDefense Council and Friends of the Earth.



Cancun Climate Talks Goinga Lot More Smoothly than the Ones in Copenhagen Last Year – One Reason:“No Expectations” of Anything Getting Done, Says EDF.Washington Post (12/6) reports, “The U.N.-sponsored climatetalks, which began here a week ago, entered a new phase Monday, as delegatesand high-ranking ministers from nearly 200 countries settled into vast, sunlessmeeting rooms, intent on restoring the credibility of a process aimed atslowing global warming. While last year’s climate talks in Copenhagen producedlittle despite attracting more than 100 heads of state, some experts suggestedthis wonkish two-week meeting in a resort better known for college undergrads’drunken excesses could end up laying the groundwork for a future climateagreement. "In stark contrast to Copenhagen, there’s less acrimony, andless ambition and less expectations," said Jennifer Haverkamp, managingdirector for international climate policy at the Environmental Defense Fund.Patricia Espinosa, who is the conference’s president, vowed there would be nosecret negotiations on her watch. And Sunday she paired a minister from anindustrialized and a developing nation to head working groups on each of thekey elements of a final agreement.



The Eagle Has Landed:Unfortunately, Just Not In One Piece – Wind Producer Forced to Pay $2.5Min Legal Settlement for Killing Lots and Lots of Birds.Contra Costa Times (12/6) reports, “The largest wind energyproducer in the Altamont Pass area of eastern Alameda and Contra Costa countieshas agreed to replace 2,400 wind turbines within four years and pay $2.5million in a legal settlement to reduce deaths of eagles, hawks and otherraptors hacked by turbine blades. The settlement between NextEra EnergyResources, the state, and several environmental groups was announced Monday bythe state Attorney General Jerry Brown. One environmental leader praised thedeal as a model for producing wind energy while minimizing the heavy toll thewhirling turbine blades take on hundreds of raptors each year. "We thinkthat is a landmark agreement that balances the need for clean energy withprotections for wildlife," said Michael Lynes, conservation director forthe Golden Gate Audubon Society. "This is an aggressive schedule forreplacing turbines with new ones. It will go a long way toward reducing thekills in the Altamont area." The settlement resolves a debate about whetherthe company was making sufficient progress toward a previous legal pledge toreduce bird kills by 50 percent from 2007 to 2010.



Say What You Want AboutFred Upton, But You Gotta Hand It to the Guy: Dude Has Spent the Past 3 WeeksChurning Out a Ton of Great Material.The Hill (12/6) reports, “Drilling in ANWR has long been a bone ofcontention between Democrats and Republicans, and the letter could be seen as alast-minute attempt to win support from his GOP colleagues. Many Democrats arestaunchly opposed to drilling in the 19-million-acre parcel of land in Alaska,while Republicans argue that new drilling technology will make it safe to extractoil reserves from the wildlife refuge. “As ranking Republican on the Energy andEnvironment Subcommittee, I understand the politics of ANWR very well, andacknowledge that the base of your party is uncomfortable with lifting themoratorium on exploration and production in ANWR,” Upton said in a Dec. 6letter to Obama. “Nevertheless, I urge you to put our nation’s needs ahead ofpolitics, and implore you not to make it impossible to ever explore for naturalresources in ANWR.” Though Upton noted in the letter that it could take up to10 years from the time ANWR is opened for drilling in the refuge to becomeoperational, he nonetheless said the time frame “is not an excuse forcontinuing to kick the can down the road.”


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