At this week’s subcommittee markup of Lieberman-Warner (S 2191), Senators Sanders (I-Vt.) and Barrasso (R-Wyo.) introduced several amendments, some of which were adopted. The full list gives a good sense of the ideological, political, and economic battles to come as the full Environment and Public Works Committee holds hearings on the bill.
Thanks to the responsive communications staff of each senator, Hill Heat has summaries of all the amendments. See the Sanders amendments in the previous post.
Amendments were defeated unless otherwise noted.
- Withdrawn after promise from Baucus to work on idea Rocky Mountain Center for the Study of Coal Utilization The amendment would designate the University of Wyoming and authorize a dollar amount. The State of Wyoming and the University of Wyoming have aggressively moved forward with establishing a School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming. From their Website: The School of Energy Resources seeks to advance the state of the art in energy-related science, technology, and economics through world-class research, attracting premier scholars and teachers to Wyoming.
- Withdrawn after promise from Baucus to work on idea Promote high-altitude coal gasification It would provide funds for demonstration projects at 4,000 feet above sea level to mirror guidelines in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Developing technology that works at altitude benefits the United States, as well as other nations that operate coal power generation facilities at higher altitudes.
- Adopted, with change to floor of 10,000 btu/lb Provide a definition for what coal is eligible under section 4403 Coal eligible must provide an energy content of 9,000 btu per pound. It attaches a definition to the term “lower rank” coal in the bill. It only mentions sub-bituminous and lignite.
- Adopted Restore States’ allocation to 5% percent under the General Allocation in Title III by reducing the allocation for International Forest Protection The amendment retains the states’ money, even after an allocation for tribes is made.
- Withdrawn Provide achievable carbon sequestration standard for new coal powered plants in Title III The carbon sequestration standard would be a gradually increasing one, to allow improvements in our ability to sequester carbon over time. 45% through 2020; 65% from 2021-2040; and 85% by 2041. There is currently no known technology that can capture and sequester 85%. If we want to begin addressing the impacts, we must be realistic in what can be accomplished and build on what we can achieve today.
- Cap biofuels Expand the definition of covered facilities to include any facility that in a year produces or imports transportation fuel which will emit more than 10,000 carbon dioxide equivalents of greenhouse gas assuming no capture and permanent sequestration of that gas. (It previously singled out only petroleum and coal-based fuels)
- American Jobs and Family Budget Security Commission The amendment adds a new title to the bill to establish the American Jobs and Family Budget Security Commission, which will study the economic impact to Federal and State budgets of the underlying bill before implementation
- Sunset The amendment creates a new title under the bill to sunset the bill in five years to review emission goals. We must revisit emission caps to determine whether we are able to achieve the standards set out by the bill.
At today’s markup of Lieberman Warner (S 2191), changes were made to win the support of Sen. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), ensuring passage by a 4-3 vote (Sanders, Isakson, and Barrasso voting no) to send the bill to the full Committee on Environment and Public Works.The changes, according to CQ:
- Extending the scope of the bill to cover all emissions from the use of natural gas. The introduced bill covered natural gas burned in power plants and industrial processes but not in commercial and residential buildings.
- Requiring the EPA to make recommendations to Congress based on periodic reports from the National Academy of Sciences. The bill already would direct the academy to evaluate whether changes in the law are necessary, based on the state of the environment and available technology.
These were two of the four specific changes called for by NRDC at the initial hearing on the bill.Amendments were introduced by Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Changes made by amendments adopted at the markup:
- Advanced tech auto funding limited to vehicles with minimum of 35 mpg (Sanders 3)
- More allocations given to states, taken from international forest protection (Barrasso 4)
- Definition of lower-rank coal eligible for 25% of CCS funding changed from “for example, bituminous and lignite” to coal with a heat content below 10000 BTU/lb (Barrasso 3)
Sen. Isakson reiterated his passion for nuclear power, and Barrasso argued for stronger coal subsidies, a sentiment supported by Sen. Baucus. Lautenberg compared their role to that of doctors faced with a sick patient who could become terminal, asking why anyone would withhold the necessary medicine. The Senators often laughed about their needs to compromise and balance each others’ parochial interests.
Sanders and Barrasso introduced several other amendments which were not adopted. Here are some:Sanders Update: See this post for more on the Sanders amendments
- Amendment 1 would have designated most of the funds in the zero/low-carbon emissions fund for solar, wind, and geothermal energy. Sanders pointed out that the bill has explicit funding for coal, cellulosic ethanol, and the auto industry but none for renewables.
- Amendment 2 would have replaced the advanced tech auto funding with funding for local and state energy efficiency grants. Sanders argued that the auto language was too weak to ensure any benefits, saying “If we do not act aggressively Detroit will be shutting down and moving to China.”
- Amendment 4 would give EPA authority to revise targets. Withdrawn after suggestion to work on issue by Lautenberg to have EPA action with Congressional veto
- Amendment 5 would have moved to full auction of allowances by 2026
- Amendment 6 would have put a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants that do not capture and sequester at least 85% of their emissions.
- Amendment 8 would have replaced the 15% offset allowance for companies with a system-wide cap on total offsets purchased. The amendment was supported by U.S. PIRG, UCS, and NRDC.
- Amendment 9 would have required economy-wide cuts by 15% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Lieberman voted no, arguing that the 63% cuts would keep concentrations below 550 PPM by 2100 and saying “Your amendment would break the coalition and have possible other negative impacts.”
- Amendment 1 would have set up the Rocky Mountain Center of Coal Studies at the University of Wyoming.
- Amendment 2 would have supported high-altitude Western state (Wyoming) coal gasification demonstration projects.
- Amendment 5 would have pushed back coal capture and sequestration targets.
- Amendment 8 would have sunset the bill in five years. Barrasso said that China and India need to implement cap-and-trade programs in that time period.
The Lieberman-Warner bill will reward corporate polluters by handing them pollution permits worth almost half a trillion dollars. And that’s just one part of this bill. The bill also includes hundreds of billions of dollars of other mind-boggling giveaways. The levels of pollution-rewarding giveaways in this bill are truly obscene.
In calculating the value of emissions allowances, FoE follows the estimates of EPA’s analysis of McCain-Lieberman (Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007, S. 280) which estimated that between 2015 and 2050, the price of emissions permits would increase from an average of $14 to $78 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.Friends of the Earth’s analysis found that the bill:
- Provides the coal industry and other fossil fuel industries pollution permits worth $436 billion over the life of the legislation; 58 percent of this amount goes to coal (sec. 3901)
- Returns revenue raised through auctions directly to polluters—for example, an additional $324 billion would subsidize the coal industry’s efforts to develop carbon capture and storage mechanisms (sec. 3601)
- Directs another $522 billion of auction revenue to low or zero-emissions technologies, which could result in handouts to the nuclear power, big hydro and coal industries, which are not clean (these funds could also be directed toward important clean technologies, such as wind and solar—the legislation is not specific) (sec. 4401)
Following the precedent of Massachusetts vs. EPA, Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, announced today that he is denying air quality permits to the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation for the construction of two 700-megawatt coal-fired electric generation plants.
I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.
The Sunflower project was projected to release an estimated 11 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Timeline below the jump.
- Aug. 11, 2005: Sunflower Electric Power Corporation announces plans to build two new, 600-megawatt coal-fired power plants next to its existing 360-megawatt plant outside Holcomb. Its partner is Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Inc. of Westminster, Colo. The project has been five years in development.
- Feb. 6, 2006: Sunflower submits a preliminary application to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for an air-quality permit for three 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants outside Holcomb. The project also includes a bioenergy center to capture carbon dioxide and use it to grow algae that can be converted into biofuels.
- June 1, 2006: After discussions with KDHE staff, Sunflower finalizes its permit application.
- Sept. 26, 2006: The Sierra Club’s Kansas chapter asks Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to impose a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired plants and appoint a commission to study their potential environmental effects.
- Oct. 24, 2006: KDHE has a hearing on a proposed permit for Sunflower in Garden City, drawing almost 100 people.
- Oct. 26, 2006: The Sierra Club’s attorney in Kansas predicts KDHE will grant the air-quality permit because Sunflower’s project is seen as important economic development. KDHE has a hearing in Topeka, drawing about 120 people, including many critics of the project.
- Nov. 16, 2006: KDHE holds the last of three hearings on the project in Lawrence, where opponents have been vocal. It draws about 270 people.
- Dec. 15, 2006: The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin protest the project. In a letter to KDHE, they say allowing the plants will undermine their states’ efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also protests, saying the project could affect visibility around Wichita Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma, fears later allayed.
- Feb. 2, 2007: The Kansas House’s Energy and Utilities Committee tables a bill that would impose a two-year moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired plants. The move prevents the bill from being considered further.
- April 2, 2007: The Sierra Club sues KDHE in Shawnee County District Court, trying to force it to hold another hearing on Sunflower’s project.
- April 5, 2007: Tri-State, Sunflower’s partner in the project, announces that it is putting plans for the third, 700-megawatt coal plant at Holcomb on hold. Tri-State says its projections show it won’t need as much new power as quickly as previously thought.
- May 17, 2007: Raymond and Sarah Dean, environmentalists from Lawrence, file a lawsuit against KDHE in Shawnee County District Court, hoping to force it to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
- June 18, 2007: Sunflower notifies KDHE that it is dropping its request to build the third new coal plant outside Holcomb.
- Aug. 30, 2007: Sebelius tells The Wichita Eagle’s editorial board that she personally opposes Sunflower’s project but will leave the decision on the permit to KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby.
- Sept. 24, 2007: Attorney General Paul Morrison advises Bremby that state law gives him the authority to declare CO2 a hazard to the environment and public health and deny Sunflower’s permit based on its potential carbon dioxide emissions. Morrison issues his legal opinion at Bremby’s request.
- Oct. 3, 2007: Republican legislative leaders, frustrated by what they see as delays in Bremby issuing Sunflower’s permit, form a special committee to examine the permitting process.
- Oct. 9, 2007: The legislative committee has its first hearing and members question Bremby. He acknowledges that his staff recommended approving Sunflower’s permit, but the department later says that advice reflected technical issues.
- Oct. 18, 2007: Bremby announces that he has rejected Sunflower’s permit, citing concerns about CO2 emissions.
Here are two takes on the issue, from two sources that couldn’t be more deeply at odds with each other. Both suggest coal may yet see its heyday.
The first comes from Michael Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, who testified at the hearing. He supports, in the same tepid way that many energy companies now do, an economy-wide cap-and-trade program with carbon credits allocated freely. (His justification for this might just represent one of the great moments in the history of inadvertent honesty: “We believe that credits ought to be allocated to those who will invest the capital to make a difference in the environment, rather than an auction so that those who buy them can make money by the positions they have taken.” In other words, give energy companies the allocations because we’re already rich and don’t award the innovators for beating us to the punch.) One of Moore’s other main points was that coal companies won’t begin installing CCS equipment until CCS “has been demonstrated to be effective, and the costs have significantly dropped so that it becomes commercially available on a widespread basis.”
He’s certainly not the only person who thinks it’s politically infeasible to impose drastic, costly policies on the coal industry—and that therefore carbon-based energy companies have the world by the political balls. Robert Sussman, an environmental expert testifying on behalf of the Center for American Progress, said, “unfortunately, our analysis indicates that the initial stages of cap-and-trade programs [do not] not make carbon prices high enough to eliminate cost differentials” between clean and dirty coal plants.
That points toward two possibilities: We could ratchet up the regulatory impact of climate-change legislation, or we could subsidize the hell out of CCS.
At the end of the hearing, Sussman suggested that the Congress set a date (specifically the year 2016) by which CCS technology be standardized, saying the cost of such a hasty transition would require $35 billion to $40 billion in research subsidies.
As a consolation prize, David Hawkins, director of the Climate Center at NRDC, proposed that the marginal costs of outfitting coal plants with CCS technology should be paid directly by consumers (a green incentive) and not by direct tax subsidies. Woot?
Architecture 2030 is an initiative started by architect Edward Mazria (The Passive Solar Energy Book) with two components: the 2030 Challenge, which calls for all new buildings and development to be carbon-neutral by 2030, starting at 50% of the regional energy consumption; and the 2010 Imperative, which calls on all design schools to be carbon neutral by 2010 and achieve complete ecological literacy in design education.
Architecture 2030 is also running ads with the message of no more coal, stating:
Without coal, all the positive efforts underway can make a difference.
Over an 11-year period (1973-1983), the US built approx. 30 billion square feet of new buildings, added approx. 35 million new vehicles and increased real GDP by one trillion dollars while decreasing its energy consumption and CO2 emissions. We don’t need coal, we have what we need: efficient design and proven technologies.
Today, buildings use 76% of all the energy produced at coal plants.
By implementing The 2030 Challenge to reduce building energy use by a minimum of 50%, we negate the need for new coal plants.
Sen. Reid, Senate Majority Leader from Nevada, detailed his position on America’s energy and global warming policy. He called for a moratorium on coal-fired plants and a restructuring of tax policy away from gas and oil and toward renewable energy.
At a community meeting he said:
Let us spend a few billion developing what we have a lot of. We have a lot of sun, we have a lot of wind and we are the Saudi Arabia of geothermal energy. The sooner we move toward the sun, the wind, geothermal, biomass, the better off we’ll be, and we will never do it until we have a tax policy that gives people an incentive to invest in these industries because the big oil companies have controlled America.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the threat of global warming should preclude the construction of new coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world.
The Nevada Democrat last month came out against three proposed major coal-fired plants in his home state, but on Saturday extended that opposition to any such new plants worldwide.
He said each coal-fired plant burns 7 million tons of coal every year, spewing out pollutants that contribute to global warming.
“There’s not a coal-fired plant in America that’s clean. They’re all dirty,” Reid told reporters after speaking at a conference on renewable energy. “Unless we do something quickly about global warming, we’re in trouble.”
Opening statement from Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.): In today’s hearing in the new Finance Subcommittee on Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure, we look forward to hearing testimony on advanced coal technologies. As we discuss energy policy and how to best use coal, a natural resource that we have in abundance, to enhance our energy security, it is important that we learn more about the feasibility of various advanced clean coal technologies that feature clean emissions and allow carbon sequestration and storage.In our current tax code, we have several tax incentives for these technologies, including investment tax credits for investments in advanced coal technologies and accelerated depreciation to address the capital costs involved in these technologies. We hope during this hearing to collect testimony regarding the response of the market in general, and of coal producers and utilities in particular, to these incentives. We are also interested in hearing your views on new incentives that might be more effective in helping us achieve our energy policy goals. In particular, we sought testimony from experts on:
- Clean coal and gasification projects, including the newly announced Wyoming Coal Gasification Project, a private-public partnership formed to develop an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant.
- Coal to liquids, the process of making liquid fuels from coal
- Refined coal production tax credits
- The costs of establishing new facilities as well as retrofitting existing coal-fired power plants.
We also look forward to hearing these experts’ views on the feasibility and future of carbon capture and sequestration as well as the market for sequestered carbon. Sequestered carbon can be used in many useful technologies, including enhanced oil recovery. A primary focus of energy policy discussions is the abundance of coal in the U.S. This hearing represents our first examination of the possibilities of that endowment.Witnesses
- Steve Waddington, Executive Director, Wyoming Infrastructure Authority
- Dr. Nina French, ADA-ES, Director, Clean Coal Combustion
- John Diesch, President, Rentech Energy Midwest Corporation
- Dr. Brian McPherson, Research Scientist, Petroleum Recovery Research Center, NM Tech and Manager, Carbon Engineering Group Energy and Geoscience Institute, University of Utah
- Bill Townsend, CEO, Blue Source