Kansas, Bleeding Carbon Emissions, Looks to the Outback-Bound EPA 7

Posted by Warming Law Fri, 04 Apr 2008 16:32:00 GMT

Reports from Kansas this morning indicated that today, state legislators would attempt to overturn October’s denial of construction permits for two coal-fired power plants by the administration of Governor Kathleen Sebelius—which has cited concern over global warming impacts and a desire to move instead toward clean energy solutions. (UPDATE: Literally just as we were publishing this post, the bill fell short of a veto-proof majority by a single vote.) Sebelius recently vetoed similar legislation, which would also significantly amend state anti-pollution law to strip regulators of the ability to factor in CO2 emissions, instead tethering their authority to the federal government’s position on GHG-related harm. Legislative supporters have laden their efforts with a handful of green-friendly provisions in order to greenwash their intentions dub the bill a "compromise," and claimed to have finally lined up enough support to override the governor, "unless someone lied to [House Speaker Melvin Neufeld]."

It’s painfully ironic that Kansas might move the ball into the EPA’s court, given the past week’s news, and considering that state officials recently told Congress that the Bush administration’s intransigence has helped bring about this fiasco. Our earlier favorable comparison between KS environmental honcho Roderick Bremby and EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is also amplified by their divergent reactions to the hot seat: the former has publicly defended his decision, while the latter has infamously decided to dodge congressional testimony and subpoenas in Australia.

Finally, it bears mention that the full might of the anti-climate-regulation/denialist machine has been brought to bear on this issue (who can forget the infamous Ahmadiejad/Chavez/Putin ads?). An overwrought editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal—not that there’s any other kind from them on this topic, as Solve Climate has assiduously documented—accuses Sebelius of acting as though she were opposing "crimes against humanity" for daring to mention the moral implications of climate change (much in the same way the Supreme Court has). The current legislation was also greeted by an onslaught of Washington lobbyists testifying on its behalf, including former EPA official turned "Dirty Rotten Scoundrel" Bill Wehrum and born-again consumer-safety advocate Grover Norquist.

Enviros Criticize, Fete Ken Lewis of Bank of America For Climate Influence 6

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 04 Apr 2008 11:04:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

bofaBank of America CEO Kenneth D. Lewis received two utterly different awards from environmental groups on Tuesday, April 1—the Energy Action Coalition and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) voted him the “Fossil Fool of the Year,” while the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) honored him at their annual fundraising gala as a “Force for Nature.”

Rebecca Tarbotton of RAN said, “Ken Lewis faced a who’s who list of polluters, but voters deemed him the worst of a very deserving crop.”

Frances Beinecke of NRDC said, “We have the know-how to beat global warming. What we need is the leadership to make it happen, and Ken Lewis is providing that leadership.”

Climate and environmental activists celebrated “Fossil Fools Day” yesterday, April 1, with actions across the globe protesting the fossil fuel industry. Heeding Al Gore’s call for “young people to engage in peaceful protests to block major new carbon sources,” they blockaded coal mines, coal plants, and energy company headquarters.

As part of the day of action, the Energy Action Coalition dedicated the Fossil Fools Awards to “the world’s biggest contributors to our global addiction to fossil fuels.” Kenneth Lewis won top honors for facilitating “nearly $1 billion in loans to Massey Energy and Arch Coal, two of the largest companies involved in the environmentally devastating process of mountaintop removal coal mining” in the last few years. Bank of America also made several billion dollars in loans and facilitated stock offerings in 2006 for Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company.

NRDC’s tenth annual “Forces for Nature” $1000-a-plate fundraising gala feted Ken Lewis and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg at Cipriani 42nd Street.

NRDC honored Lewis for Bank of America’s ten-year, $20 billion environmental initiative which “addresses climate change by championing sustainable business practices through innovative lending and investing strategies, new financial products and services and operations.” The initiative was launched last year. The new Bank of America Tower in New York City, when completed in 2009, will be one of the most environmentally friendly and efficient office buildings in the world.

At the NRDC gala, Lewis made the major announcement that Bank of America would adopt the Carbon Principles, “a set of guidelines that help advisors and lenders to power companies evaluate and address carbon risks in the financing of projects” drafted in January by Citigroup Inc., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Morgan Stanley. According to the Wall Street Journal, “the ‘Principles’ push utilities to explore other alternatives to regular coal plants . . . Still, the banks make clear they won’t stop funding all conventional coal plants—they’ll simply want assurances higher rates will cover likely costs of carbon.”

Making Carbon Capture & Sequestration Work 3

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 31 Mar 2008 17:00:00 GMT

Recognizing the heightened interest in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as a way to enable continued use of fossil fuels in emissions-intensive sectors of the economy, we invite you to a conversation on economic and other issues related to emissions-free energy and carbon mitigation technologies. The discussion, open to the public and press, is organized by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, along with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the British Foreign Office and the U.S. Mission to the European Union. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will open the conference, which will feature energy experts from the international community, the private sector and academia. CSIS is a non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in 1962 and headquartered in Washington. It seeks to advance global security and prosperity by providing strategic insights and practical policy solutions to decision makers.

Welcome 1:00 – 1:15 p.m.

  • Frank Verrastro, director and senior fellow, CSIS Energy and National Security Program
  • Bob Simon, staff director, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee
  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman, Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

The Business Case for CCS 1:15 – 2:00 p.m.

  • Gardiner Hill, manager for Group Environmental Technology, BP (moderator)
  • Bruce Braine, vice president of Strategic Policy Analysis, American Electric Power Service
  • Craig Hansen, vice president, Washington Operations, Babcock and Wilcox
  • Stephen Kaufman, chair, Integrated CO2 Network (ICO2N) and director for business development, Suncor Energy

Sequencing the Deployment 2:05 – 2:50 p.m.

  • David Pumphrey, deputy director and senior fellow, CSIS Energy and National Security Program (moderator)
  • Jan Panek, head, Coal & Oil Unit, Directorate-General for Energy & Transport, European Commission
  • Jon Gibbins, Energy Technology for Sustainable Development Group, Imperial College, London
  • Jim Dooley, senior staff scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Economics, Infrastructure and Scale Issues 2:55 – 3:40 p.m.

  • Shirley Neff, president and chief executive officer, Association of Oil Pipelines (moderator)
  • Kevin Book, senior analyst, Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group, Inc.
  • Rachel Crisp, deputy director, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, United Kingdom
  • Vince Hahn, principal and vice president, Global Asset Consulting, R.W. Beck, Inc.

Closing and Summary 3:45 – 4:00 p.m.

Report Vindicates Sebelius: Coal’s Cost Puts Kansans 'At Significant Risk' 7

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 26 Mar 2008 23:04:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

In October of last year, the administration of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) denied permits for two new coal-fired plants in her state because the greenhouse gases such coal plants would emit constitute a threat to the environment and public health. Last Friday, she vetoed a legislative attempt to allow the plants to be built. Opponents of the veto claimed “the decision is costing the state jobs and economic investment” and warned of “higher electric bills for Western Kansas,” where the plants were proposed.

But a landmark report released yesterday by an esteemed financial research firm finds that, in fact, Sebelius has been acting in her state’s best economic interests.

Innovest Strategic Value Advisors finds that Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, the company whose proposal was denied, failed to account for the effects of the likely regulation of carbon dioxide on the cost of coal-fired electricity when it sought to build two 700 MW coal plants in Holcomb, Kansas:

Innovest examined the economics of the transaction and determined that under the most plausible regulatory scenarios the decision to build new coal generating capacity will put Sunflower Electric’s ratepayers – who in this particular case are the actual owners – at significant risk. The report concludes that Sunflower’s management has not adequately addressed the competitive and financial risks associated with climate change in deciding to pursue the expansion of its Holcomb Station power plant.

Sunflower was remiss in not considering that federal legislation that places a price on carbon emissions is extremely likely, considering the bipartisan support and strong international pressure for such action.

The report compares the economics of coal plants versus natural gas plants, which have a considerably smaller carbon footprint, and concludes:
In general, this analysis demonstrate that gas is the more financially sound choice for the construction of baseload generating capacity in all scenarios except 100% free allocation [to power companies] of carbon allowances.

It is thus unsurprising that the coal lobby attacked the natural gas industry when the decision was made.

The report also notes that western Kansas has “among the nation’s most abundant wind resources” and that the cost of wind power has plummeted 80% in the last 20 years.

Kansas Governor Vetoes Attempt to Override Denial of Coal Plants 4

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 21 Mar 2008 23:48:00 GMT

Originally posted at the Think Progress Wonk Room.

coal-smokestacks.jpgLast October, the Kansas Department of Health denied air quality permits to a proposed coal plant expansion near Holcomb, KS, because of the danger greenhouse gas emissions pose to the climate.

Today, Sebelius issued a long-expected veto of the legislature’s plan to not only approve the plant but also strip the Department of Health of its regulatory capacity. From her veto statement:

This decision not only preserves Kansans’ health and upholds our moral obligation to be good stewards of this beautiful land, but will also enhance our prospects for strong and sustainable economic growth throughout our state. Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives.

Industry opposition to the Sebelius administration has been intense. Following the air permit denial, Peabody Energy, one of the largest coal companies in the world, funded newspaper ads attacking the natural gas industry. Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, the rate-payer-owned company making the bid for the new plants – offered a quid pro quo to Kansas State University, promising millions of dollars to fund energy research if the coal plants were approved.

Waxman-Markey Bill to Halt Coal Plant Construction 3

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 12 Mar 2008 01:18:00 GMT

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chair of the Oversight Committee, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the global warming committee, today jointly introduced the Moratorium on Uncontrolled Power Plants Act of 2008 (H.R. 5575).

The bill, if enacted, would require any new coal plant constructed before the U.S. implemented a strong greenhouse gas emissions reduction program to have state-of-the-art carbon-capture-and-sequestration (CCS) technology.

From the bill text, the CCS technology would have to capture “not less than 85 percent of the total carbon dioxide produced by the unit on an annual average basis and permanently sequesters that carbon dioxide” and the emissions reduction program would have to require requires “immediate and significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across the economy and increases the reductions over time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.”

This target is considerably more stringent than that of Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191), which calls for an approximately 60% reduction below 1990 levels by 2050, though at the minimum of the IPCC-recommended 80-95% reduction (Box 13.7 in the Fourth Assessment Report, p. 776).

Update: This bill would implement one of Al Gore’s legislative recommendations.

ABEC Campaigning in Ohio

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 29 Feb 2008 16:06:00 GMT

The coal-industry lobbying entity Americans for Better Energy Choices has launched a full campaign in the primary battleground state of Ohio as part of its $40 million-plus election-year PR effort, castigated by a recent NBC report for “trying to cloak itself in green”.

The Ohio effort includes a series of print and radio advertisements, one of which asks:
It’s no secret – access to affordable energy is one of the leading reasons why businesses come to Ohio. In fact, a recent university study shows that there are more than 700,000 jobs here in Ohio because of access to affordable, reliable electricity produced by coal. . . Green collar jobs might sound good to some people, but what does that mean for Ohio jobs … what does it mean for your job?

The “recent university study” is one paid for by ABEC’s parent organization, the industry trade group Center for Energy and Economic Development.

Green Energy Ohio has a series of studies and reports that attempt to answer that very question, looking at both the present and the future impact of the renewable energy/energy efficiency (RE/EE) industry in Ohio.

ABEC Ohio outreach also includes on-site visits to campaign rallies where they give out promotional material and the targeted URL EnergyForOhio.org. A WHOIS review shows that ABEC registered the “EnergyFor” domains for all fifty states in November 2007. DeSmogBlog has posted ABEC’s call for public relations work in Pennsylvania, another significant coal state whose primary is April 22.

The “America’s Power” website (which includes an Ask the Experts section and the “Behind the Plug” blog) lists the ABEC tour locations and the radio spot run in Ohio. Full text of the “jobs” ad, a transcript of the radio spot, and the tour locations are listed after the jump.

Tour schedule
  • February 23 – Columbus
  • February 24 – Columbus, Cincinnatti, Dayton
  • February 26 – Cincinnati – McCain rally
  • February 26 – Lorain, OH – Clinton rally
  • February 26 – Cleveland State University for Democratic Debate
  • February 27 – The Ohio State University – Obama rally
  • February 27 – Zanesville, OH – Clinton Economic Summit
Full text of “jobs” ad:
It’s no secret – access to affordable energy is one of the leading reasons why businesses come to Ohio. In fact, a recent university study shows that there are more than 700,000 jobs here in Ohio because of access to affordable, reliable electricity produced by coal. More than 85 percent of the electricity we use each day in our homes and in our businesses comes from coal, and using coal to generate electricity is one-third the cost of other fuels – which means our state has attracted industry and created jobs for our workers.

So when the candidates talk about changes in energy policies that will result in creating so-called green collar jobs, what will that mean to the jobs we depend on each day here in Ohio? Green collar jobs might sound good to some people, but what does that mean for Ohio jobs … what does it mean for your job?

As the presidential candidates visit our state, we need to make sure they know that using coal to generate electricity is a big plus when it comes to creating jobs for Ohio workers.

Add it up for yourself at energyforohio.org.

Clean Coal. EnergyForOhio.org

Paid for by Americans for Balanced Energy Choices. To learn more visit EnergyForOhio.org or call 877-358-6699.

Radio spot:
OHIO RADIO SPOT: “Straight Talk.”

Straight Talk. You hear the term a lot from the candidates. But are they talking about energy? It’s important to Ohio, because coal is important to Ohio.

here’s some straight talk. Coal generates more than 85% of Ohio’s electricity. And since it’s abundant and affordable, your electric rates have stayed affordable too.

It’s a big reason many businesses come to Ohio, along with thousands of jobs.

What about the environment? Today, America’s coal-based electric plants are 70% cleaner per unit of energy produced. And we’re producing technology to capture and store greenhouse gases.

Coal is the fuel that keeps Ohio working. And any presidential energy plan that doesn’t include it doesn’t make sense here.

Those are the facts. The candidates should know them. For more, visit energyforohio.org.

Clean coal – it’s America’s power.

Suboleski Nomination Withdrawn 4

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 21:27:00 GMT

Former Massey Energy executive Stanley Suboleski, who was nominated by the president to be the Department of Energy assistant secretary for fossil energy, was scheduled for his nomination hearing before the Senate today. The Office of Fossil Energy funds advanced coal technology efforts and recently received fire for discontinuing the FutureGen coal-tech initiative.

E&E News reports that the White House withdrew his nomination last night, saying that Suboleski asked to be withdrawn “for personal reasons” Monday afternoon.

JW Randolph, Appalachian Voices Legislative Associate, made the following statement before his withdrawal was made public:
In 2000 in Martin County Kentucky, despite repeated warnings about the serious violations where the impoudment broke, Massey Energy was responsible for a slurry spill that was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster. The EPA called it the “worst environmental disaster in the history of the Southeast.” Massey called it “an Act of God.”

Now, President Bush wants to promote a Massey Executive to “Assistant Secretary of Energy (fossil energy).” While we are extremely disappointed, we can’t act as though we are surprised. The promotion of Stanley Suboeski is consistent with the Bush Administration’s vigorous efforts to remove every shred of responsibility and decency from the process of extracting coal, ignoring the human cost at every turn.

By promoting mountaintop removal mining, the Bush Administration and Massey Energy have transferred the dangers inherent in coal-mining from the professional miners doing the work onto the surrounding civilian communnities who now have to deal daily with fly rock, poisoned water, and toxic coal waste. Putting Stan Suboleski at the top of the fossil energy food chain is yet another reckless example of the President rewarding his friends and contributors in the fossil fuel industry, and ignoring the true cost of coal to the people in the Appalachian region.

The nominations of Stanley C. Suboleski, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), and J. Gregory Copeland, of Texas, to be General Counsel, both of the Department of Energy 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 27 Feb 2008 14:45:00 GMT

The White House withdrew Stanley Suboleski’s nomination the night before the hearing, saying that Suboleski asked for his nomination to be withdrawn “for personal reasons” Monday afternoon.

Investment Banks Set Coal Plant Carbon Guidelines 6

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 06 Feb 2008 20:18:00 GMT

On Monday Citi Group, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase announced the establishment of an “enhanced diligence” framework for judging proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.

The framework, according to the joint press release, sets principles for energy efficiency (including “regulatory and legislative changes that increase efficiency in electricity consumption”), renewable energy and low-carbon distributed energy technologies, and assessing the “financial, regulatory and certain environmental liability risks” of CO2-emitting fossil fuel power generation. The group intends to “encourage regulatory and legislative changes that facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS) to further reduce CO2 emissions from the electric sector.”

The group, which as the Rainforest Action Network’s Understory blog notes does not include major investor Bank of America, consulted the power companies American Electric Power, CMS Energy, DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG, Sempra and Southern Company and the environmental organizations Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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