The Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management auctioned a major tract of Wyoming coal to Peabody Energy at a bargain-basement price of $1.10 per ton today. The North Porcupine coal tract in the Powder River Basin went to the single bidder, Peabody subsidiary BPU Western Resources, for $793,270,310.80 for 721 million tons, BLM representative Beverly Gorny stated in a telephone interview. This sale, made under the provisions of the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, represents a massive fossil-fuel subsidy based on the assumption that the use of the coal benefits the American public. However, it is likely this coal is intended for the Asian market, where sub-bituminous coal fetches a much higher price. The non-competitive leasing program is under federal investigation.
Moreover, the costs of the carbon pollution from mining and burning this coal were not taken into consideration. The 721 million short tons of sub-bituminous coal in the lease sale will generate approximately 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide when burned. With a modest estimated social cost of carbon at $65 per ton of CO2, the global-warming impacts to society of this lease sale exceed $70 billion—90 times the price paid for the lease. More than 27,000 people signed a Credo Action petition opposing the fire sale of Wyoming’s sub-prime carbon reserves.
The lease sale still has to be approved by the BLM post-sale panel, which rejected Peabody’s original offer of $0.90 a ton for the coal.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to finalize an NSR rule before the end of the administration that would essentially exempt all existing power plants from having to install new pollution control technology when these plants are updated.
- In a separate NSR rule, EPA plans to exempt so-called “fugitive” emissions – meaning emissions that don’t come out of the end of a stack such as volatile organic compounds emitted from leaking pipes and fittings at petroleum refineries – from consideration in determining whether NSR is triggered.
- EPA is also set to finalize a third rule weakening the NSR program, by allowing so-called “batch process facilities” – like oil refineries and chemical plants – to artificially ignore certain emissions when determining when NSR is triggered.
- EPA is also working towards weakening air pollution regulations on power plants and other emissions sources adjacent to national parks and other pristine, so-called “Class I” areas. By changing the modeling of new power plants’ impact on air quality in national parks – using annual emissions averages as opposed to shorter daily or monthly periods – the EPA rule will make it easier for such plants to be built close to parks.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued proposed regulations to implement the EISA fuel economy standards (increase by the maximum feasible amount each year, such that it reaches at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020) in April 2008, and final regulations are expected soon. If NHTSA used EIA’s higher gasoline price scenario—a range of $3.14/gallon in 2016 to $3.74/gallon in 2030—the technology is available to cost-effectively achieve a much higher fleet wide fuel economy of nearly 35 mpg in 2015 – instead of the 31.6 mpg in 2015 under the lower gas prices used in NHTSA’s proposed rule.
- EPA is expected to issue proposed regulations soon on the renewable fuels provisions passed in EISA that required America’s fuel supply to include 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 – together with more specific volumetric requirements and lifecycle greenhouse gas benchmarks for “advanced” renewable fuels, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel.
- The Department of the Interior (DOI) has already telegraphed its intention to gut the Endangered Species Act by rushing through 300,000 comments on proposed rules in 32 hours, then providing a mere 10-day public comment period on the Environmental Assessment of the proposed rules change. The proposed rules would take expert scientific review out of many Endangered Species Act (ESA) processes, and could exempt the effects of global warming pollution on threatened or endangered species.
- DOI intends to finalize new regulations governing commercial development of oil shale on more than 2 million acres of public lands in the West.
- DOI’s Office of Surface Mining is expected before the end of the administration to issue a final rule that would extend the current rule (which requires a 100-foot buffer zone around streams to protect them from mining practices) so that it also applies to all other bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds and wetlands. But the rule would also exempt many harmful practices – such as permanent coal waste disposal facilities – and could even allow for changing a waterway’s flow.
- EPA has already missed several deadlines to finalize a rule addressing whether concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are required to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act.
- EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers may issue a revised guidance memo on how to interpret the phrase “waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act, which determines what water bodies are subject to regulation under the Act.
- Under the Omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2008, EPA was directed to establish a mandatory reporting rule for greenhouse gas emissions, using its existing authority under the Clean Air Act, by September 2008. EPA has been working on a proposed rule, which may or may not be issued before the end of the Bush administration. EPA will not issue a final rule before the end of the administration.
From the Wonk Room.
The Bush Administration is rushing forward with plans to mine the Grand Canyon for uranium, ignoring a command from Congress to cease such operations. Since 2003, mining interests have staked out over 800 uranium claims within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park. As Mineweb reports, “The Bureau of Land Management has published a proposed rule which rejects the House Natural Resources Emergency House Resolution enacted in June that bans uranium mining and exploration near the Grand Canyon National Park.” The Arizona Republic explains what’s at stake:
Never mind that the drinking water of more than 25 million people, served by the Colorado River, is at risk.
Or that Arizona Game and Fish warns about the impact on wildlife.
Or that Grand Canyon National Park is still dealing with the toxic mess from past mines.
The proposed BLM rule would not only reject the House’s emergency withdrawal of over one million acres of federal land near Grand Canyon National Park from new uranium mining, but also eliminate the provisions that allow Congress to make such withdrawals in the future. The proposed rule, published on Friday, has a remarkably short comment period, closing in less than two weeks on October 27. House Parks Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) blasted BLM’s action, saying, “This last-minute move by this ‘see if we can get it under the clock’ administration is cowardly.”Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been strangely silent on this issue, despite his claimed commitment to protecting the Grand Canyon from drilling:
But McCain’s claim to Roosevelt-style environmentalism has been badly bruised by his silence on uranium mining near the park and on the Navajo Nation.
“McCain gave us hope that he might be a Teddy Roosevelt type of Republican,” said Roger Clark, air and water director for The Grand Canyon Trust, a Flagstaff, Ariz., environmental group. “Since the beginning of his run for president, including 2000, that has kind of crumbled.”
Surely President Bush doesn’t want his to include tainted water and a contaminated landscape. We must keep the temporary ban on uranium mining near Grand Canyon.
Written comments should be submitted online or sent to Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, 1620 L St., NW, Room 401, Washington, DC 20036, Attention: RIN 1004-AEO5.