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  • EPA Changing the Rules as They Go

    Congress isn’t the only entity that knows how to pick winners and losers for energy sources and technologies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing its best to follow suit by imposing new rules on the natural gas industry and providing exemptions to the biomass industry.

    For natural gas, the EPA evasively posted a new rule on hydraulic fracturing, requiring a company to obtain permits if the company uses diesel when fracking. Hydraulic fracturing, a long-proven process by which pressurized water and other substances are injected into wells to extract natural gas, has been the subject of much debate between environmentalists and industry because of those “other substances.”

    An exemption in the 2005 Safe Drinking Water Act protects natural gas companies from disclosing proprietary information regarding the chemicals they use to when fracking. Environmentalists are pushing for full disclosure because of the concern that hydraulic fracturing is a threat to America’s drinking water. But in this instance, with the EPA’s new rule on diesel disclosure, perhaps more unsettling than the new rule is the way in which the EPA issued the rule. Mike Soraghan of Greenwire reports:

    Federal agencies usually change policies with a multistep process that begins with the Federal Register and does not end for a year or more. But the fracturing permit change happened without so much as a press release. It was quietly posted amid an increasingly noisy debate about fracturing, a process in which chemical-laced water is injected underground at high pressure to crack rock formations and release oil or gas.

    EPA has launched a multiyear study of the safety of fracturing. Hundreds of people showed up last summer at EPA hearings about the practice in New York and Pennsylvania. It has been the subject of a piece on “60 Minutes,” an HBO documentary called “Gasland” and even an episode of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”

    The casual nature of the posting, and the lack of any date, left oil and gas industry attorneys puzzling over what the change applied to and whether it applied only for the future, or retroactively. Of particular concern was that companies had been ordered to give documentation to Congress about their fracturing practices, and EPA was ordering disclosure, as well.

    If they had disclosed that they had used diesel—legally—but did not get a specific permit, could they be penalized? Was there any way to get such a permit? What should states, who administer the program, do about regulating fracturing?

    The story gets more complicated from there, mostly because of a series of loopholes with regards to the EPA regulating the use of diesel for fracking. Having the EPA close the loophole and create a clear definition with regards to diesel use isn’t necessarily bad, but it sets a dangerous precedent for the EPA quickly changing the rules of the game for industry with no consideration for debate and public comment.

    Reining in the EPA’s regulatory overreach and unilateral decision making should be a priority for the 112th Congress. Congress should thoroughly evaluate and question the EPA’s newly implemented rules and have EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson justify her agency’s decision not just when it comes to hydraulic fracturing but other rules as well, most notably the regulation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

    Speaking of which, Congress should ask Jackson why the EPA exempted biofuel refineries from obtaining permit requirements for CO2 emissions. This year the EPA will start regulating emissions from new power plants and major expansions of large greenhouse-gas-emitting plants (more than 25,000 tons of CO2 per year) and will finalize regulations for existing refineries and fossil fuel electric utilities by November 2012. But not biofuel plants. The reason given is that the science clearly shows that biofuel production is net neutral when it comes to CO2 emissions.

    Right. Just like the science clearly shows increased CO2 emissions will result in sea level rises, stressed water resources, increased size and quantity of wildfires, insect outbreaks, threats to ecosystems and national security, and other catastrophic events.

    New studies, however, are showing that biofuel production is not carbon-neutral. A report from Rice University notes that when you account for land use conversion, the use of fertilizers, insecticides, and pesticides (which emit much more potent methane and nitrous oxide), as well as the fossil fuels used for production and distribution, biofuel production becomes quite carbon-intensive. For an industry that built its business model around subsidies, tariffs, and federal protection, it’s no surprise that the EPA threw the biofuel industry another bone. Now it’s time for Congress to put the EPA on the stand and ask why.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    13 Responses to EPA Changing the Rules as They Go

    1. Bobbie says:

      No kidding! Authority is digging their own whole and dragging us all into it. Using any science to fit their agenda. ANOTHER CORRUPT ENTITY TO REMOVE! Tax payers expect their money is being used in good faith! Of course the slap in the face to show it's not, sure needs honest (productive) reform or actually removal…

    2. Bobbie says:

      oops, I meant "hole."

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    7. A.B. says:

      There is wiggle room on both sides of this issue. As a person trained in the geo-sciences, I can support regulation of the oil and gas industry to a point. There has been much harm done in the last 100 years to the environment of several states in the western US from careless handling and sequestration of contaminants in groundwater and air. However, this should not become an all-out war on those companies producing our vital resources. No matter how we slice it, our country must depend upon its own resources, even oil and gas. Water and air can be purified easily, although it is expensive. The amount of damage to our environment is nothing quite as serious as another depression. The Great Depression was caused not by natural disasters, it was man-made. Let's not cause another one with our lack of attention and poor application of knowledge. Both sides must come together on this one, my friends, or we all lose.

    8. jimofguilfordct says:

      Lrgislative leadership is losing more and more of their ability to share in the intended divisions of authority envisioned by our constitutional form of government.

      The executive branch has taken what President Bush's administration was accused by the democrats of illegally advancing i.e. executive authority– to a new reckless high. Czar appointments and clearly stated objectives and guidelines that specifically call for avoiding legislative oversite or participation is now the accepted process for this Presidents administration to advance its agenda.

      The newly elected House of Representative with a Republican majority must make reigning in trhis EPA and other Executive Branch Departments. The Senate while strill under a Democrat majority is less so than prior congress and must have an equally concerted effort to ensure there is appropriatye constraints maintained over this very anti business or more broadly anti capitalist adminiswtrationn's INTENDED ADVANCEMENT OF FEDERAL CONTROL OF THE ECONOMY, THE STATES AND ITS CITIZENS.

      Failure to do so will allow for the "TRANSFORMATION" which while never explained or defind by Obama is clearly recognizable now as a march toward a socialist society as surely as Cuba and Venezuela have established in our part of the world.

      More freightening still is the apparent bias toward muslim and communist countries in our foreign policy. This also needs congressional oversite attention.

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    10. Jax Tico Jacksonvill says:

      GOP Leadership, please get rid of the menace of an agency. EPA is not an elected body and must be torn down; department by department. Like unions, they have completed their purpose in our society. It is now time for them to exit rather than continue to find ways to make themselves relevant.

      Their regulations will cause us to de-evolve technologically. Each state should determine what happens and what doesn't happen within it's own borders or along it shores.

      Had this agency been around when the United States was growing and moving west while building railroads, tunnels, dams, and skyscrapers, roads, bridges, and so much more, we would have not advanced at all. EPA and OSHA would have regulated all of our achievements out of the realm of possibility.

      All these statist bureacrats don't realize how our advances provide them and their families with benefits unmatched in history. None of which would have been possible had the EPA existed prior to nixon.

    11. RJ Michigan says:

      I hope Congress disbands all of these agencies being used by the Communists in power to take down our country. They are no longer useful to the Capitalist system. It's time outright get rid of the FCC, EPA, TSA, Dept's of Interior, Energy, Education, etc. Save us all a lot of money! But, as some people are just unethical and greedy, there still needs to be controls on what they do to the environment with their businesses. I wonder if it's time to make most of these types of laws at the state level where citizens can bring the law to bear on bad firms – at least once some laws are on the state books to protect people. But it is time to focus on HUMANS and stop all these crazed environmentalists from destroying our culture to protect fish, bugs, and little animals. This is insanity and always has been. Time to end control by the lunatics.

    12. Gabriel says:

      Bobbie,

      why do you not care about our environment? Do you truly believe that it is 100% impossible for human beings to have the slightest effect on the climate? Why do you hate our world?

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