TJ Scolnick

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Upton’s Efforts To Scuttle Climate Change Action Not As Popular As He Thought

A recent survey from Public Policy Polling (PPP), commissioned by the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund (NRDC), finds that a majority of voters in House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-MI) home district do not support his attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and its use of the Clean Air Act to reduce global warming pollution.

In February, the American Lung Association released the results of a bipartisan national survey showing that 68% of Americans think that “Congress should not stop the EPA from updating Clean Air Act standards,” while 69% “think the EPA should update Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution.”

In Rep. Fred Upton’s 6th District, where he easily won 62% of the vote in 2010, 59% of his constituents feel that Congress should “let EPA do its job,” and 53% favor the EPA setting tougher controls for air pollution.

Former Bush EPA Official Confirms 2004 EPA Fracking Study Was Misused

Ben Grumbles, former assistant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator and head of the agency’s Office of Water, revealed last week that the conclusions from a 2004 EPA report [pdf] discussing the safety of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) have been exaggerated for years.

A Less Dirty Energy Reliant Development Pathway In Alberta’s Future?

In July 2009, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach created the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy. This 12-member council of various global experts was convened to provide guidance on how the province should maintain its prosperity through 2040. Earlier this month, after nearly two years of research, public meetings and private debate, the experts released their long-awaited scoping report, Shaping Alberta’s Future: Report of the Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy [pdf].

Together they sought to answer [pdf]: “What intentional choices should Albertans be making now to shape our future, the future of our grandchildren and the future of our province?”

According to council Chair David Emerson, a business executive and former federal cabinet minister, the council took a distinctive approach when evaluating Alberta’s future: “Our starting place was a strong conviction that “business-as-usual” is not an option for Alberta.”

New Brunswick Energy Commission Recommends Expanding Unconventional Gas Development Despite Fracking Threat To Climate

The New Brunswick Energy Commission released its Public Feedback Document on the province’s 10-year energy policy plan earlier this week. Despite recent public outcry and growing scientific concern about threats to drinking water, health and the global climate posed by fracked unconventional gas, the Energy Commission recommends continuing to develop heavily polluting dirty gas, contradicting both renewable energy and carbon emission reduction goals.

The province’s Premier asked the Energy Commission’s co-Chairs William Thompson and Jeannot Volpé to engage with the public on the province’s energy future beginning in October 2010. Today’s document was developed from more than 1,400 completed surveys submitted online, over 200 public dialogue attendee surveys, more than 60 stakeholder group meetings and some 75 public presentations.

The health risks and environmental degradation (like pollution and overuse of freshwater) that comes with unconventional shale gas extracted through hydraulic fracturing (fracking) are increasingly well known. The Commissioners, regrettably, are still fully supportive of rapidly expanding this dirty gas drilling boom as an economic asset and development tool, stating:

New Brunswick Is Canada's Next Shale Gas Fracking Battle Front

On Canada’s east coast, American oil and gas companies are doubling down and betting that the small maritime province of New Brunswick is the next shale gas hot spot.

How has New Brunswick become a primary destination for oil and gas companies? Two reasons in particular stand out: 1) The government does not know how it will manage shale gas exploration (having only just released its “framework for a long-term action plan to manage the exploration, development and utilization of domestic natural gas” last Thursday evening) - which means companies that invest early will have a say in developing gas exploitation policies; 2) In terms of gas concentrations per square kilometer, New Brunswick may hold North America’s largest shale bed [PDF].

New Brunswick was not on the gas industry’s radar a couple of years ago but things are changing rapidly as American gas developers are rushing across the border to snap up exploration rights in order to win big in the destructive shale boom.

Gas Industry Spent Record Amount Of Money Lobbying To End New York Fracking Moratorium

New York is a hot spot to watch in the controversy over  gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), which the state placed a temporary ban on last year. A new report [PDF] from Common Cause/New York shows the historic levels of money dirty energy companies are spending to promote gas drilling and to overturn New York state’s ban on fracking.

In the state’s last legislative session, more than thirty gas-related bills aiming to create panels, commissions and task forces were proposed in order to investigate a wide range issues ranging from environmental impacts to economics, as well as two fracking moratorium proposals.

Notably, last August, the state Senate voted 48-9 in favour of S8129B which prevents the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) from issuing fracking permits until the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) evaluating shale gas drilling has been finalized. The bill easily passed the Assembly 93-43 late November 2010. However, on December 13, 2010, Governor David Paterson vetoed the legislation, instead issuing an Executive Order prohibiting fracking of horizontally drilled wells until about July 1, 2011. In February, the state announced plans to put fracking rules in place by June in order to green-light the controversial practice just as the ban runs out.

In terms of lobbyist spending, the Common Cause/NY report shows that the dirty energy companies and industry front groups fighting against the moratorium on fracking outspend environmental organizations and others supporting the ban by a margin of 4:1.

Strike Three for Shale Gas Fracking In Québec, Is A Moratorium Imminent?

Shale Gas: No Thank You!

Once again, Québec’s government is under fire for shoddy management of its shale gas (gaz de schiste in French) reserves.

Last week, as part of Auditor General’s 2010-2011 report to the Québec National Assembly, Sustainable Development Commissioner Jean Cinq-Mars presented a scathing audit of provincial management of shale gas, “Government Management of Shale Gas Exploration and Production” [PDF].

Cinq-Mars assessed whether or not the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife (Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune, MRNF) and the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs, MDDEP) are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that shale gas resources are developed according to the Sustainable Development Act and related principles, as well as public interest, government objectives and regional development priorities.

Shale gas development in the province fails on all measures in the audit, demonstrating just how poorly the government is overseeing the gas industry.

U.S. Congress Votes On Republican Bill To Kill The EPA’s Authority To Control Climate Change Pollution

The Senate and House have cast important votes to determine the future of carbon emissions regulations in the U.S. Thankfully the news is good.

Advocates for strong action on climate change and the nearly 3/4 Americans who believe the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should protect public health, are celebrating an important victory. Yesterday the Senate rejected multiple proposals to end the EPA climate authority. Now climate deniers and big polluters (including the Koch brothers) are mourning a significant defeat and blow to their dirty energy agenda.
Notably, four amendments to small business legislation, entirely for the purpose of limiting the EPA’s role in regulating carbon emissions, were defeated. Three were from Democrats, mainly Max Baucus (MT), Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Jay Rockefeller (WV), whose amendment to halt EPA use of the Clean Air Act for two years fell 88-12. The final blow (or fail) for polluter-friendly legislators came when Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) proposed an amendment to exempt power plants, refineries and other carbon polluters from oversight. His amendment was a precursor to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and House colleague Fred Upton’s (R-MIbill to end the EPA’s power to protect public health and the environment from the effects of climate change, known as H.R. 910 the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011”. Needing 60 votes to pass and securing only 50 votes in support.

There Goes The Neighbourhood: China Rushes To Develop Shale Gas At Home And Abroad

To satisfy its thirst for energy, China is very quickly becoming a big player in the shale gas industry. Unfortunately, whether at home or abroad, there also seems to be little concern from Chinese leadership for the destructive environmental impact of drilling for heavily polluting shale gas – which is often drilled for using the controversial hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) method.

Domestically: Investing in shale gas in China
China’s National Energy Administration is quickly working to draft a plan to develop the country’s shale gas reserves, which are estimated at more than 10 times its conventional gas reserves.

Early in 2010, China’s Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR) set a target for the country to identify 50-80 shale gas areas and 20-30 exploration and development blocks by 2020. Moreover, the MLR’s Strategic Research Centre for Oil and Gas wants to produce 8-12% of China’s gas from shale wells by 2020.

State-controlled PetroChina (a.k.a. China National Petroleum Corporation) announced its intention to produce 500 million cubic meters of shale gas by 2015 and Sinopec Corporation also wants to exploit some 2.5 billion cubic meters of shale gas and coalbed methane in that time. Already, Royal Dutch Shell is drilling 17 gas wells, for both tight gas and shale gas, and plans to spend $1 billion a year over the next five years on shale gas in China.

Maryland House Votes For Moratorium On Shale Gas Development And Fracking

Maryland’s House of Representatives voted 98-40 for HB 852, a de-facto moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and Marcellus Shale drilling in the western part of the state. The bill passed the House after five amendments attempting to block it were handily rejected.

Known as the Maryland Shale Safe Drilling Act of 2011, the legislation seeks to restrict shale gas development and the dangerous drilling method of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. fracking) until 2013 and the completion of a major two-year drinking water and environmental impact assessment.

Jessie Thomas-Blate of American Rivers, an environmental conservation group, notes that the risky fracking process creates a very briny wastewater that could potentially contaminate nearby drinking water supplies permanently.

As Thomas-Blate points out, “If you contaminate people’s water, you can’t go back.”