Chukchi Lease Sale Goes Forward; Still No Polar Bear Decision from FWS

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 06 Feb 2008 16:46:00 GMT

Despite opposition from environmental organizations and Democrats in Congress, the Minerals Management Service is proceeding with its scheduled sale of offshore drilling leases in the Chukchi Sea at 9 AM Alaska time (1 PM EST). FWS chief Dale Hall failed to make the February 6 deadline despite his testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week that he was “pushing to get there.”

A Los Angeles Times op-ed penned last weekend by MMS director Randall Luthi, The Bear Necessities, defends the lease sale, claiming that “under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, the bear currently receives regulatory protections even stricter than those available under the Endangered Species Act.” This statement ignores the critical habitat provisions of the ESA which could prevent such actions as the lease sale.

Last week MMS officials sent a cease-and-desist order to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who earlier published “a series of internal e-mails from current and former Interior scientists raising troubling questions about how badly environmental assessments of Arctic offshore oil development were skewed.”

The Alaska Wilderness League plans to live-blog the sale.

Update The sale has been completed, the 488 blocks selling for a total of over $2.6 billion.

Estimated reserves include 77 trillion cubic feet of conventionally recoverable natural gas (worth about $635 billion at $8/MMBtU) and 15 billion barrels of oil ($1.5 trillion at $100/barrel).

The winning bidders:
  • Shell (Netherlands, $2.1 billion)
  • ConocoPhilips (US, $506 million)
  • Repsol (Spain, $14.4 million)
  • Eni (Italy, $8.9 million)
  • StatoilHydro (Norway, $14.4 million – most Statoil & Eni bids were joint bids)

As StatoilHydro noted in its press release, “The area is considered a frontier area with no production or infrastructure as of today.”

Boucher Releases White Paper on Emissions from Developing Countries

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Feb 2008 15:46:00 GMT

In the middle of September 2007, Rick Boucher (D-W.Va.), chair of the the the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee of John Dingell’s Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he would be releasing a series of white papers “over the next six weeks” on issues related to the development of climate change legislation.

October saw the first such paper, Scope of a Cap-and-Trade Program.

16 weeks later, he has released the second, Competitiveness Concerns/Engaging Developing Countries.

Since the U.S. cannot unilaterally bind other countries, our goal will be to craft legislation limiting U.S. carbon emissions that also induces developing countries to limit their emissions growth (1) on a timetable that meets both environmental and trade competitiveness concerns; (2) in a manner that is reasonably certain to withstand challenge before the World Trade Organization (WTO); and (3) on terms that pose acceptable risks to U.S. interests in the event of a negative WTO determination.

The white paper, which draws from a March 27 subcommittee hearing on international issues, discusses the IBEW/American Electric Power proposal of applying a “greenhouse gas intensity tariff” (which was included in Bingaman-Specter and Lieberman-Warner); the “carbon intensive” performance standard proposal; and the Environmental Defense “carrots and sticks” proposal for carbon market design.

The “questions for further discussion” are listed after the jump.

Boxer, NRDC, ED Attack Friends of the Earth Campaign: "Defeatist", "Small", "Isolated"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Feb 2008 15:32:00 GMT

Last Thursday, Darren Samuelson of E&E News interviewed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and an NRDC representative in response to the Friends of the Earth campaign to “fix or ditch” the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191). In its campaign, Friends of the Earth challenged Boxer for supporting Lieberman-Warner’s high degree of emitter giveaways and subsidies and its target of 60% reductions from 1990 levels of greenhouses by 2050, although the Democratic presidential candidates are calling for 100% auction and 80% by 2050.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):
Their logic doesn’t hold up. What we need to do is not waste time. If we can get a strong bill signed into law, we should get it. And if we can’t, we shouldn’t. . . . They’re sort of the defeatist group out there. They’ve been defeatists from day one. And it’s unfortunate. They’re isolated among the environmental groups.
Boxer went on to emphasize the importance of holding senators accountable on global warming through test votes.

Julia Bovey, NRDC:

We do not agree with Friends of the Earth. We are not willing to give up the fight. We believe the Lieberman-Warner bill as passed out of committee is a very strong start. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

NRDC had previously described the bill as “a strong start”.

Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth president, responded:

Far from being defeatists, we’re being realists. We’re focusing on what the scientists tell us has to be done to solve global warming. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that falls short of the science. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that gives $1 trillion to polluters.

On Monday, Environmental Defense Climate & Air director Mark McLeod sent an email to several Senate offices excoriating Friends of the Earth for placing L-W and Boxer “under attack”, claiming that opposition in the “liberal blogosphere” to Lieberman-Warner or the passage of any climate bill in this session “will become orthodoxy if we do not present a counterview from respected pro-environment voices.”

He characterized Friends of the Earth as “small and fairly isolated” in contrast to ED and “many other major environmental groups” who “are in favor of moving forward to get a strong bill like Lieberman-Warner,” saying also that Friends of the Earth is calling for “unrealistic dramatic changes.”

The full text of McLeod’s email is after the jump.

Florida and Iowa Join EPA Lawsuit; California Seeks to Expedite Hearing

Posted by Warming Law Mon, 04 Feb 2008 19:05:00 GMT

Last week, California’s lawsuit to overturn EPA’s waiver decision continued to gain support despite the automobile industry’s best efforts to prevent more states from stepping up to the plate on global warming emissions. While this preemptive lobbying campaign did temporarily stop a California legislative proposal to limit emissions through a “feebate” program, it has failed to convince states to hold back on supporting the Pavley clean cars program. Late Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state of Iowa joined the lawsuit, filing a 24-page motion to intervene in the case:

The motion presented by Iowa and Florida on Friday stated that the two states "recognize that motor vehicles are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Global warming is already seriously and negatively impacting the public health, economies, and environments of (the two states), and its effects are expected to worsen in the absence of effective abatement prompted by immediate governmental action.”

The Iowa Office of Energy Independence recommended in December that Iowa join with other states considering the adoption of California’s vehicle emissions standards.

Warming Law has written previously just how important it is that states that haven’t yet moved to adopt the California standards are getting involved here, and its likewise critical that states in the process of enacting regulations – such as Florida and Arizona—are still moving forward in every way that they can. It does, however, continue to bear highlighting that Florida’s environmental regulators had to bring its case rather than the state itself, a likely product of state AG Bill McCollum’s well-documented climate-change skepticism.

Polar Bear Fate Heats Up

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Jan 2008 23:05:00 GMT

Senate Hearing

In today’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s now-illegal delay in ruling whether polar bears are an endangered species, Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) sharply rebuked the FWS director Dale Hall. She noted that the Alaska field office sent a recommended decision to Hall on December 14th of last year. Hall refused to discuss the recommendation, saying it would be “inappropriate” to discuss internal deliberations.

Hall gave as his only reason for the delay past the January 8 deadline the need to present a “high-quality” decision that responds in full to the voluminous public comments received. He stated that there was no significant scientific uncertainty in the endangerment posed by global warming to polar bears, the only reason for delay the Endangered Species Act permits. Under repeated questioning from Sens. Boxer and Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Hall said he wanted to present a decision, if possible, by February 6th.

Hall noted that in many ways the Marine Mammals Protection Act provides stronger protection than the Endangered Species Act for polar bears even if a finding of endangerment were made – a claim criticized by Andrew Wetzler of NRDC, who noted that the MMPA does nothing to protect critical habitat, the matter which would affect the planned sale of drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea.

MMS Speaks

On that front, Ben Gemen reports for E&E News that Minerals Managment Service director Randall Luthi said any delay of the scheduled February 6 sale of Chukchi Sea leases would prevent any oil-and-gas exploration in 2008. However, he also stated that the agency position is that:
there is no need for a delay, regardless of what FWS decides. He said that even in the absence of a listing, energy development is accompanied by several layers of environmental review and safeguards, including collaboration with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Kerry Moves to Block

Meanwhile, Sen. Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation yesterday that would block lease sales in the Arctic until Endangered Species Act decisions are made on the polar bear and its critical habitat, mirroring Rep. Markey’s (D-Mass.) proposed legislation in the House.

Internal Emails Show MMS Staff Outcry

Finally, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has released over the past week communications from MMS scientists pleading with the political appointees to delay the lease sale (contrary to Luthi’s January 17th testimony) and DOI directives forbidding MMS scientists to consider the possible threat of invasive species from opening the seas to drilling.

Friends of the Earth Launches Campaign Against Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Jan 2008 22:31:00 GMT


This advertisement is running on environmental and progressive blogs.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth, who had endorsed John Edwards’s campaign for president, today launched an ambitious campaign criticizing the Lieberman-Warner climate bill (S. 2191) and Senate Democrats supporting it, noting that Edwards, Clinton, and Obama had all released climate plans that distinctly differ from the bill in economics and emissions targets. At Lieberman-Warner.org:
After years of ignoring global warming, the U.S. Senate is finally considering legislation to cap greenhouse gas pollution. Unfortunately, the Lieberman-Warner bill being advanced by Senate Democrats lavishes up to $1 trillion on industries responsible for global warming, and in return asks for reduction targets well below what scientists say are necessary. If this is the best Senate Democrats can do, the world is in trouble.

Friends of the Earth Action is leading the fight to either fix, or ditch, Lieberman-Warner, and we need your help.

The good news is that we already have some key allies: the Democratic presidential candidates. They all have plans that make polluters pay for emissions and that seek the carbon reductions called for by science. We think the Senate needs to build on their plans rather than the weak Lieberman-Warner bill, which is modeled on legislation by Senator John McCain.

Senate Finance Committee Includes Green Jobs, Renewables In Stimulus Package

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Jan 2008 21:39:00 GMT

In today’s executive session on the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, the Senate Finance Committee passed by a 14-7 vote a package that includes $5.6 billion in “green” incentives, including $400 million in new “clean renewable energy bonds”, a one-year extensions for:
  • the renewable electricity production credit
  • solar, fuel cell, and microturbine credits
  • energy-efficient building deductions and credits;
and two-year extensions for:
  • the high-efficiency appliances manufacturing credit
  • stripper well depreciation credit
  • energy-efficient home retrofitting credit

Full details are available here.

Last Friday, 33 senators sent a letter to the Committee leadership urging support for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and green jobs incentives.

According to the Sierra Club, by today the number of Senators was up to forty:
Senators who have expressed support for the inclusion of the renewable energy incentives include: Cantwell, Snowe, Wyden, Smith, Klobuchar, Kerry, Sununu, Sanders, Dole, Boxer, Johnson, Allard, Salazar, Mikulski, Stabenow, Murray, Dorgan, Brown, Bayh, Clinton, Collins, Specter, Menendez, Thune, Feingold, Dodd, Levin, Obama, Brownback, Coleman, Murkowski, Feinstein, Schumer, Stevens, Lautenberg, Leahy, Akaka, Kohl, Roberts, Grassley, Bingaman, and Domenici.

SOTU Excerpts on Energy Security and Climate Change

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 28 Jan 2008 21:42:00 GMT

Some pre-release excerpts from President Bush’s State of the Union speech, as prepared for delivery:
To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil.
Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases. This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride.

Translate as you will.

Senators Push For Renewable Tax Credits in Stimulus

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 28 Jan 2008 15:35:00 GMT

Thirty-three senators, including several Republicans, sent a letter Friday urging leadership to include the renewable tax incentives set to expire this year in the economic stimulus package. Inclusion of the production tax credits in the 2007 energy bill failed by one vote.

We strongly support current bipartisan efforts to mitigate an economic downturn by providing direct financial relief to American families. At the same time, we believe that we must be cognizant that energy prices have been a leading cause of our current economic environment. Accordingly, we strongly believe that we must provide a timely long-term extension of clean energy and energy efficiency tax incentives that expire at the end of this year. Given record energy prices and growing demand, postponing action on these critical energy incentives will only exacerbate the problems afflicting our economy. In fact, these renewable energy and energy efficiency investments have a verifiable record of stimulating capital outlays and promoting job growth. We must ensure that this impressive record is maintained in 2008 and extend these tax credits expeditiously.

Nine of the signatories are members of the Finance Committee.

Full text of the letter is available here.

Are 1990 Levels by 2020 a Sufficient Cut?

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 25 Jan 2008 17:47:00 GMT

The Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191), which Sen. Boxer said may come to the floor before June, sets a cap of 15% below 2005 emissions levels by 2020 for covered sectors, reducing allowed emissions to the amount last seen in 1990.

Is that near-term target sufficient, in terms of the science?

As Holmes Hummel points out, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) paints a much different picture.

At Bali, all of the Annex I signatories to the Kyoto Protocol (every industrialized country other than the US and Turkey) agreed to this roadmap, which states in convoluted language that the Annex I countries “noted” that the AR4 indicates that global emissions “need to peak in the next 10-15 years” and be reduced “well below half of levels in 2000” by 2050 “in order to stabilize their concentrations in the atmosphere at the lowest levels assessed by the IPCC to date in its scenarios.” The countries also “recognized” that the AR4 indicates that to achieve those levels “would require Annex I Parties as a group to reduce emissions in a range of 25–40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.”

25-40% below 1990 levels is dramatically below the Lieberman-Warner target. From AR4, these “lowest levels” of concentrations are 350-400ppm CO2.

What’s the value of achieving concentrations “at the lowest levels”? The report says that using the “best estimate” for climate sensitivity (the temperature response to greenhouse gas concentrations), reaching a stable concentration of 350-400ppm CO2 leads to 2.0-2.4 degrees C warming above pre-industrial levels. But Hummel notes that the “best estimate” is just one for which half the estimates are higher and half are lower.

Thus:

To have a 50% chance of making the 2°C stabilization target, global emissions need to peak by 2015 and Annex I countries need to be 25-40% below 1990 by 2020.

As AAAS president John Holdren argued in his speech Meeting the Climate Challenge (at 38:29; see also the slide presentation):
The chance of a tipping point into truly catastrophic change grows rapidly for increases in the global average surface temperature more than about 2°C above the pre-industrial level, and again we’re already committed basically to one and a half. For a better than even chance of not exceeding 2°C above the pre-industrial level, CO2 emissions must peak globally no later than 2025 and they need to be falling steadily after that. That is a great task.
From the UN Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, an international panel of 18 top scientists (including John Holdren):
In our judgment and that of a growing number of other analysts and groups, however, increases beyond 2°C to 2.5°C above the 1750 level will entail sharply rising risks of crossing a climate “tipping point” that could lead to intolerable impacts on human well-being, in spite of all feasible attempts at adaptation.

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