This fall, EPA held 11 “listening sessions” on greenhouse gas regulations expected to be released next year, but none of them took place in the states that rely the most on coal for electricity.
Now, we must ask if EPA was actually listening. Members of the House Science and Technology Committee sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asking why "EPA did not transcribe, webcast, or otherwise record the comments presentated at the 11 listening sessions."
Since it's clear that EPA only paid lip-service to outreach, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took matters into his own hands and held a listening session on future greenhouse gas regulations at the University of Pikeville’s Coal Building (fitting). Sen. McConnell told attendees:
I organized this session because the EPA claimed it wanted citizen input on the future carbon regulations it intends to impose on existing power plants. However, its listening sessions were only scheduled for cities like New York, Boston, Seattle, and San Francisco—cities far away from coal country.
There were 11 listening sessions in all, but the closest one to eastern Kentucky was all the way in Atlanta, Georgia—requiring Kentuckians to make a 14-hour round trip drive to attend. Clearly, the EPA only wanted to hear applause for their efforts.
I don’t think it’s right that the EPA would consider taking such drastic steps without listening to the people who would be most affected—Kentucky’s coal miners, their families, and the many people throughout the state whose jobs and well-being depend on coal.
At the session, elected officials and industry leaders discussed how critical coal is to affordable electricity generation and good-paying jobs, but the most compelling stories came from workers feel the effects of EPA's attacks on coal. Local television news channel, WSAZ reports:
Howard Abshire is a laid off miner who brought his coal helmet and a broken heart because he can't support his family.
Abshire says he doesn't want help, he wants to work for his family and keep the lights on for others, “I have something with me, this is coal; this is what keeps the lights on. They will light the national Christmas tree with this coal; this is what keeps the lights on."
Sen. McConnell said he’ll take the stories told to Washington. EPA must hear “firsthand how this War on Coal is hurting Kentucky miners and their families,” said McConnell.Post by Count on Coal.
Offshore energy production has been declining for years. Bad policies have made 86% of the U.S. coast off-limits to safe development. That has inhibited job creation and economic growth, but better policies can reverse this.
A new study, produced by Quest Offshore for the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), finds that opening the Atlantic outer continental shelf (OCS) to oil and natural gas exploration will add $23.5 billion annually to the economy by 2035 and create 280,000 jobs.
The study finds that the Atlantic OCS could produce 1.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent daily by 2035 resulting in:
Not surprisingly, much of the positive economic impact would hit Atlantic coast states.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that 3.3 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and 31.28 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas are beneath the Atlantic OCS. The Interior Department is about to begin work on a new five year offshore leasing plan. Allowing seismic surveying and including the Atlantic OCS in the next leasing plan will begin the process of generating those jobs and economic growth.
Offshore energy development has strong public support nationally, and in Virginia, both U.S. Senators and the governor-elect (all Democrats) back exploration off their state’s coast.
The opportunity to create thousands of new jobs is right in front of us. All that’s needed is for the administration to act and open the Atlantic OCS to exploration.
In hydraulic fracturing, water, sand, and additives are pumped into a well under great pressure to create tiny cracks in shale rock. Sand grains prop open the cracks from whcih oil and natural gas to flow into the well.
According to Geology.com, the sand that’s best for hydraulic fracturing should be high-purity silica, have a “spherical shape that enables it to be carried in hydraulic fracturing fluid with minimal turbulence,” and be able to “resist crushing forces of closing fractures.”
Wisconsin has an abundance of this type of sand, and in a few short years, the shale energy boom has created another boom, the Wall Street Journal reports [subscription required]:
Energy companies are expected to use 56.3 billion pounds of sand this year, blasting it down oil and natural gas wells to help crack rocks and allow fuel to flow out. Sand use has increased 25% since 2011, according to the consulting firm PacWest, which expects a further 20% rise over the next two years.
In Wisconsin, the source of white sand perfectly suited for hydraulic fracturing, state officials now estimate more than 100 sand mines, loading, and processing facilities have received permits, up from just five sand mines and five processing plants operating in 2010.
The demand for sand has stimulated local economic development:
Canadian National Railway Co. is spending $68 million over three years to upgrade and restore more than 100 miles of track in Wisconsin so it can boost sand shipments out of state.
At the end of 2011, [shale-oil company EOG Resources Inc.] opened a plant in Chippewa Falls, Wis., about 100 miles east of Minneapolis, Minn., to process sand from mines it operates.
This sand boom has also enriched local residents. A 2012 Minneapolis Federal Reserve report found that farmers were “offered six-figure mineral rights fees” plus royalties for sand on their land. This has created “sand millionaires” whose wealth “percolates through local economies, benefiting enterprises with little connection to mining.”
The jobs and economic impact from sand mining are one example of the prosperity that shale energy production is generating. A study by economic research firm IHS found that shale energy supports over 2 million jobs. Barring new unnecessary federal regulations, shale energy development will continue to produce economic benefits.
There’s no doubt that BP should be held responsible for the 2010 Gulf oil spill. Yet despite BP pleading guilty and receiving a $4.5 billion fine and despite reorganizing its business structure and leadership, in November 2012, EPA declared that because of a Clean Water Act violation at one facility—the Deepwater Horizon oil platform--every branch of the company was barred from getting new federal government contracts and prevented from working with any company doing federal government work, even if it was in an unrelated industry.
Divisions with little connection to the oil spill, like the ones that produce jet and marine fuels, motor oil, and asphalt fall under EPA’s heavy-handed decision. What motor oil and asphalt have to do with the Deepwater Horizon is beyond me.
This past August, BP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas challenging EPA’s blanket decision. On Monday, the U.S. Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Ocean Industries Association, the Organization for International Investment, and TechAmerica filed a brief with the court arguing that EPA went too far by adopting “sweeping punishments based on mere affiliation” and failing to act “in a reasonable manner, demonstrating some connection between the violation the agency is addressing and the remedy it adopts.”
The business groups maintain that:
An agency must abide by the terms of the statutes and regulations that govern the exclusion of entities that have committed such violation. And an agency must exercise its discretion in a reasonable manner, demonstrating some connection between the violation the agency is addressing and the remedy it adopts. The EPA followed neither of those dictates in this case. And the implications of that approach, should it be accepted by this court, are disturbing.
Those implications include significant economic effects:
If an entire corporate family is suspended or disqualified from federal programs, a cascade of impacts will follow. First will come the layoffs of hundreds or even thousands of employees whose performed jobs with any relation to federal programs. Second will come the impact on the economy from the loss of corporate value resulting from the entire company’s exclusion from all federal contracting. Third will come the ripple effect: the broader impact on the economy as the industries involved in government programs struggle with the uncertainties introduced by the threat of suspension or disqualification of an entire corporate structure stemming from the improper conduct of a few employees of one corporate affiliate. It is irresponsible for a single agency like EPA to take these actions without considering their consequences for U.S. industry.
Anyone violating the law must to be held accountable, but that doesn’t allow an agency like EPA to run roughshod and abuse its authority.
An avalanche of environmental regulations has made it increasingly difficult to build and develop in the United States. Rules to protect air quality and critical habitat areas; restrictions on energy production, mining, grazing, and forestry on federal lands; and an expansion of the Clean Water Act that will impose new permitting requirements and restrictions on virtually all U.S. lands and watersheds have conspired against development, growth, jobs creation, and prosperity.
Says Bill Kovacs, U.S. Chamber senior vice president for Environment, Technology, and Regulatory Affairs: "It's become a question of where can we build instead of where should we build." He explains in the video above.