The Green New Deal (read it for yourself; its not long), floating around Congress on a cloud of cow farts, is quite a grand and far-reaching manifesto.  Here are differing views from the media, think tanks, and other interested parties. They describe it better than I.

Even though the GND is “impossible”, reliably left Slate opines that‘s why some people like it. Impossible plans are good for thinking and thinking leads to dreaming, and dreaming is the only way that change occurs.

But the journey from dreams to reality is perilous.  According to Big Think, the GND is a “catalyst to radically restructure the US economy and social structure”. Speaking of peril, among the goals the sponsors want to achieve through government action are:

  • Universal health care
  • Universal basic income
  • Right to affordable housing
  • Restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act
  • Revoking corporate personhood
  • Abolishing the Electoral College
  • Repealing the Patriot Act
  • Re-establishing strong labor unions
  • Breaking up too-big-to-fail banks
  • Relieving debt for students and homeowners
  • Reducing military funding
  • Overhauling the military-industrial complex.

Continue Reading The Green New Deal: It’s Not Just About Energy

Co-author Niloufar Hafizi

The Colorado oil and gas industry breathed a collective sigh of relief when the state Supreme Court announced its unanimous decision in Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission v. Martinez. The court sided with the Commission in rejecting a proposed rule by a group of teenage plaintiffs that would have precluded the Commission from issuing oil and gas drilling permits “unless the best available science demonstrates, and an independent, third-party conforms, that drilling can occur in a manner that does not cumulatively … impair Colorado’s atmosphere, water, wildlife, and water resources, does not adversely impact human health, and does not contribute to climate change” (Notice the skillful use of “and” and not “or”).

After denying the request the Commission prevailed at the district court. The plaintiffs won a split court of appeals decision in which the majority concluded that the enabling statute – the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act – authorized the Commission to condition a drilling permit on a finding of no adverse cumulative impacts to public health and the environment, and that the Commission had improperly refused to make a rule that was within its power.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court upheld the Commission’s ruling, focusing on the Commission’s primary reason for refusing the proposal: It did not have the statutory authority to impose the condition of “no cumulative adverse impacts” on a drilling permit application. The enabling statute identified multiple policy goals for the agency and contained a declaration of purpose stating how it was “in the public interest to…[f]oster the responsible, balanced development, production, and utilization of the natural resources of oil and gas in the state of Colorado in a manner consistent with protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including protection of the environment and wildlife resources.” [emphasis added] The Commission interpreted that language as a requirement to balance oil and gas production with the other concerns. The plaintiffs argued that “in a manner consistent with” is the equivalent of “subject to”.

The Court looked at legislative history, legislators’ comments, and the entire statute to conclude that the Commission “is required…to foster the development of oil and gas resources, protecting and enforcing the rights of owners and producers” while taking steps to, as the statue puts it, “ … to prevent and mitigate significant adverse environmental impacts to the extent necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare, but only after taking into consideration cost-effectiveness and technical feasibility.”

After analyzing the Act, the court found that the Commission had been correct in determining that the proposed rule was outside its statutory authority.

Takeaways

  • In light of this suit and Proposition 112, one can conclude that a large and dedicated group of environmentalists is out to put an end to the Colorado oil and gas industry.
  • This was a statutory construction case, not a referendum on what the Supreme Court thinks about oil and gas drilling.
  • The battle at the Commission isn’t over. One reason for denying the proposed rule was that the commission is working with the Colorado Department of Health to address the plaintiffs’ concerns.
  • The youthful antagonists were represented by the same group of actors who are behind Juliana v. U. S., now on an appeal by the government in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s the case asserting that the federal government’s failure to reduce carbon emissions violates plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and the government’s obligations as a public trustee.

We will have a more in-depth report on Martinez soon.

In the meantime, let us despair over the Debacle in the Dome.

Co-author Nikki Niloufar Hafizi

From the state of Washington to the streets of Paris, proposed taxes on carbon have been making headlines. Why a carbon tax, and what are the arguments for and against it?

Pricing carbon

A progressive carbon tax is a climate-change mitigation policy preferred by many economists. Their reasoning goes like this: Carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions contribute to collective problems such as air pollution and climate change, but the entities emitting the GHGs don’t pay for the damage to the “atmospheric commons”. The price of GHG-emitting activities is lower than its theoretical market price should be, and humans consume more than they otherwise would of these GHG-intensive products and services (think gasoline). A tax on carbon content would correct this market failure and incentivize market participants (consumers and producers … such as yourself?) to emit less carbon by changing their behavior and using different technologies. Continue Reading Carbon Taxes: Wrong Price, Wrong Time?

Any semblance of objectivity on the subject of the day is expressly disclaimed. This post contains distressing words, such as “oil and gas”, “fracking” and “jobs” that could cause severe emotional reactions in sensitive readers. If this post is contrary to your firmly held beliefs, proceed promptly to your downward facing dog.

As a thoughtful reader you might ask, Why should I vote against Proposition 112? Here are a few reasons: Continue Reading Colorado Proposition 112 – More Fuss

Referred to as the Setback Requirement for Oil and Gas Development, here is what Colorado voters will be asked to consider on November 6:

Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning a statewide minimum distance requirement for new oil and gas development, and, in connection therewith, changing existing distance requirements to require that any new oil and gas development be located at least 2,500 feet from any occupied structure in any area designated for additional protection and authorizing a state or a local government to increase the minimum distance requirement?

“Any area designated for additional protection” has been described as “sensitive areas”, such as “streams, intermittent streams, canals, and open spaces”. Current setbacks are 500 feet from homes and 1,000 feet from schools. Continue Reading Colorado Proposition 112: What’s the Fuss About?

Are you “woke”* vis-vis-vis global warming and the coming-any-day-now destruction of the coral reefs, the arctic ice pack, polar bears, coastlines, the flora, the fauna, you, me, and the entire natural world as we know it? Me neither. That’s because I elect to look past the first dozen or so results from a Google search of “global warming”, “climate change”, and related topics. Continue Reading There is Another Way to Report on Global Warming

Occasionally we visit issues larger than one-off courthouse decisions. Here are a few selected stories on the extent to which fracking contributes to rising levels of methane and, maybe, to climate change. There are conflicting facts and opinions, so decide for yourself. If you find a tilt in one direction, we’re just levelling the field. See the last entry. Continue Reading What’s New in the Methane Debate?

Co-author Chance Decker

You’ve seen the headlines.  The portrait is complete; the verdict is in; the clock has run down to zero. The devastation of Harvey is “unprecedented” and it’s all because of climate change. That’s not necessarily so, thanks to Powerline and Dr. Roy Spencer.  Read it and reach your own conclusion.

And now, on to the the law

Apache Deepwater, LLC v. Double Eagle Development, LLC asked whether a retained acreage clause provided for “rolling terminations” after the primary term or “snapshot termination”. As you might expect, the result depended on the language of the lease. Continue Reading Harvey and Climate Change, and Consideration of a Retained Acreage Clause

hysteriaThe climate change debate is too complex, agenda-driven, and politicized to be addressed adequately in these pages. But the hysteria and faux outrage over President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord is enough to incite a bad case of the red-keister. So, if you are in need of ammo to repel those who are experiencing intense displeasure from the decision, here are a few well-considered reasons why the result just might be the correct one. You should read the articles themselves, and you aren’t being asked to agree.

It wasn’t such a big deal to begin with. Foreign Affairs

The US’s pledge is more burdensome relative to baseline projections then the pledges of the other major emitters. Three of the six can increase their emissions. This article is not one-sided, and suggests the best policy would have been to remain in the PCA but revise it so our goals are more consistent with other major emitters. American Action Forum

The agreement would have burdened the US with huge costs and no economic benefits. Americans for Tax Reform Continue Reading Why Leaving the Paris Climate Accord Could Be a Good Thing

wolfEffective this past August 3, the EPA has new regulations for methane and volatile organic compound emissions from oil and gas operations  As you know, reducing methane emissions is a key component of the President‘s climate change agenda.

Why should I care?

Because if you own or operate an oil and gas production, processing, transmission or storage facility, you will be required to comply with the new rule by no later than June 3, 2017. Other than that, don’t worry, be happy, and continue to go about your daily business in blissful ignorance of the impending regulatory burden.

What does it mean?

More expenses for operators of the aforesaid facilities, more demand for good inspectors, more operations for the EPA to meddle in oversee, and a risk of fines for a substantial failure to comply, whether willfully or by inadvertence.

Last weekend I heard Keith Kottrill of Innovative Ventures present a synopsis of the new standards.

The summary is an attempt in 22 pages to capture the spirit and effect of the new rule. It was not prepared by a lawyer and is not intended as a legal analysis. It is the product of Keith and his colleagues who will be implementing and conducting the on-site testing required by the rule. It should be viewed, relatively speaking if you aren’t an engineer, as a good place to begin to understand the rules.

Highlights

  • Get familiar with the term “Quad Oa”, an informal reference to the new rule.
  • There are two main parts of the rule: Control devices or practices must reduce methane and VOC emissions from certain equipment by 95%, and fugitive emission leak detection and repair (LDAR) applies only to well sites and compressor stations.
  • The rule applies to “affected facilities”, specific types of equipment or facilities that are new, modified, or reconstructed after September 18, 2015. Beware, those terms have certain, definite meanings under the rule.
  •  There will be a reporting and paperwork burden.
  • Look forward to quarterly inspections of some midstream facilities.
  • Generally, repairs must be made within 60 days.
  • See pages 13 and 14 for the EPA’s estimated industry-wide costs of compliance, including projected economic benefits. Honk if you believe the costs will be far higher.
  • The rule is based partially on a model called the the “Social Cost of Methane”, and the “methane-related monetized climate benefits” of the rule. Honk twice if you believe those models are based more on ideology than on science.

Time will tell how this rule will work. Among other things, supporters and detractors alike will learn the true extent of methane leakage in our oil and gas infrastructure.

A musical interlude

Today, girl singers you might not have heard of: