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February 07 2012

15:28

Fracking Is Not a 'Fait Accompli' for 2012, N.Y. Official Says

The state's top environmental official says his staff faces months of work on revised rules governing the controversial gas drilling process.

July 29 2011

17:13

GOP Congressman Warns That EPA Could Be On The Chopping Block After 2012 Elections

Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL) told an internet-based radio program earlier this week that if the GOP is able to sweep the 2012 elections, government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could be on the chopping block. Citing the erroneous fact that the EPA didn’t exist until after the Carter Administration, Rogers said that a new Republican administration would “look closely” at whether or not certain government programs were necessary, and if not, they would be “discontinued.”

Think Progress provided a transcript of Rogers’ statement:

ROGERS: You know the fact is, if in fact I think the American people do next November what they started last November, that is, cleaning house, and we do get a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican president, I think you going to see some dramatic structural changes in this country because we can’t continue to support this infrastructure we have. And I’m not talking about just changes to the trust funds and the entitlement programs. You know, we gotta look at what we really need to be doing, and what we don’t need to be doing. For example, we didn’t have an EPA under Jimmy Carter. Who says the federal government has to have an EPA. Every state has their own environmental protection agency. Why does the federal government need to be doing that? Department of Education: I’m a big believer that education is a state and local matter, why do we need a federal department of education? I think we’ll have to look at a lot of things that we’re doing at the federal level and ask ourselves, ‘is this really what the federal role?’ And if not, discontinue it.


Think Progress reporter Lee Fang pointed out that Rogers’ statement about Carter not having an EPA was entirely false, as the agency had been started by the Nixon administration and was never discontinued during the Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush Jr. years. Fang also points out in his article that, when questioned by the interviewer about toxic substances being found in Alabama soil and waterways as a result of energy company dumping, Rogers responded by saying that he was disgusted by “the EPA sticking its oppressive…tentacles into the lives of businesses and individuals, making it next to impossible for companies to survive in this country.”

Rogers has pulled in more than $400,000 from the Energy and Natural Resources sector during his 9 years in federal office, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This includes $190,000 from electric utilities and another $115,000 from the oil and gas industry. His single largest contributor was energy giant Southern Co., which has given Rogers more than $140,000 over the course of his political career.

Rogers also has a history of voting in favor of energy companies: He has supported increased offshore oil drilling; he voted against allowing the EPA to regulate CO2 emissions; and he voted against the offshore oil drilling moratorium.

While Rogers’ idea of doing away with the EPA hinges on the Republican Party sweeping the 2012 elections, his recent statements are just the latest in a long line of Republican-led attacks on the EPA. In the midst of the debt ceiling debacle currently gripping Washington, D.C., the EPA has taken a severe hit by receiving an 18% cut in their funding. Additionally, House Republicans are actively working to make sure the EPA does not have the authority or the money to rule on issues like coal ash toxicity, mercury, and various air pollutants.

If the current trends continue, there might not be an EPA left to dismantle after the 2012 elections.

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June 20 2011

16:57

Paul Ryan Lies About Ending Oil Subsidies To Protect His Family’s Cash Bonanza

Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been all over the place when it comes to ending the multi-billion dollar subsidies that the oil industry receives every year. While he has publicly admitted that he is in favor of ending this “corporate welfare,” and his staff has claimed that his budget plan actually calls for an end to oil subsidies, the truth is that Rep. Ryan would never end oil subsidies because he makes a lot of money keeping the welfare spigot open.

The oil industry currently receives $4 billion in subsidies from the federal government, and receives more than $4.4 billion in tax breaks every year, bringing their total government handouts to more than $8 billion every year. Some estimates actually put the total number closer to $35 billion a year.

According to a new report by Joe Romm at Climate Progress, Paul Ryan and his family have a financial stake in some of the companies that receive these oil subsidies.

From Romm:

“What we have only just learned from Ryan’s financial disclosure forms for Congress that were made public this week is “he and his wife, Janna, own stakes in four family companies that lease land in Texas and Oklahoma to the very energy companies that benefit from the tax subsidies in Ryan’s budget plan.”

You can view Ryan’s financial disclosure forms here.

The Daily Beast has more:

Ryan's father-in-law, Daniel Little, who runs the companies, told Newsweek and The Daily Beast that the family companies are currently leasing the land for mining and drilling to energy giants such as Chesapeake Energy, Devon, and XTO Energy, a recently acquired subsidiary of ExxonMobil.

Some of these firms would be eligible for portions of the $45 billion in energy tax breaks and subsidies over 10 years protected in the Wisconsin lawmaker’s proposed budget. “Those [energy developing companies] benefit a lot from these subsidies,” explained Russ Harding, an energy policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, when presented with the situation, without reference to Ryan. “Without those, they’re going to be less profitable.”

To ethics watchdogs, Ryan’s effort to extend the tax breaks creates the potential appearance of a conflict of interest.

Over the course of his career, Ryan has raked in more than a quarter million dollars from polluters in the oil and gas industries and the coal industry. As a whole, the oil and gas industry has spent more than $1 billion on lobbying and political donations since 1998.

Even if his family wealth wasn’t directly tied to dirty energy welfare, his campaign cash from polluters ensures that fossil fuel interests can count on Ryan to protect their subsidies through his power position as the Chairman of the House Budget Committee.

March 01 2011

19:47

Are U.S. House Republicans confusing "Americans" with the "American Petroleum Institute" by cutting pollution protections?

Recent polls confirm that Americans across the country and political spectrum actually do agree on at least one thing: that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should keep doing its job – and even do more – to set limits on air pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, two influential groups feel differently than nearly seven in ten Americans on this issue: Republicans in the House of Representatives and the American Petroleum Institute, a powerful lobbying group representing the oil and gas industry.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the National Lung Association, who represent environmentalists and American lungs, respectively, each released public polls asking whether EPA scientists or Congress should make decisions about pollution limits. A key finding of the National Lung Association poll was that "voters overwhelmingly oppose Congressional action that impedes EPA from updating clean air standards [PPT].

At the same time, Congressional Republicans are claiming a mandate to cut funding for government programs like the EPA. House Republicans almost unanimously voted to prevent the EPA from doing its job – and specifically from enacting regulations on carbon emissions this year - by cutting EPA's 2011 budget by $3 billion in the spending bill which passed the U.S. House on February 19, 2011. 

"This is about listening to our country, listening to the people who just elected this Congress to restore discipline with respect to our spending," Frank Guinta (R-New Hampshire) said during the debate on the budget legislation. But to whom Republicans are listening should perhaps be up for debate.<!--break-->

Last week, the American Petroleum Institute (API), which spent $6.7 million lobbying the federal government in the past year alone, announced its plans to go the extra mile and start donating directly to Congressional candidates as well in the second quarter of 2011. Oil and gas companies and groups similar to the API are well-documented financial fans of Republican politicians. And who does API feel should be regulating air pollutants and carbon dioxide in particular? Congress, of course.

Ironically, the last question in NRDC's poll [PDF] even quotes Jack Gerard, president of the API, on this topic:

Some special interests say Congress should step in and prevent the EPA from limiting carbon dioxide pollution. For example, the head of the America Petroleum Institute says Congress should decide when and how greenhouse gases should be regulated. But other public interest groups say Congress should let EPA do its job. The head of the American Public Health Association says that blocking the EPA’s work to reduce carbon pollution could mean the difference between a healthy life for many Americans or battling chronic debilitating illness. Which view do you support?

Sixty-four percent of Americans (and 57 percent of Republicans polled) disagreed with the American Petroleum Institute on this question. All but three Republicans in the U.S. House, on the other hand, seem to be voting on the side of API. Is it any wonder, then, that these polls also revealed the EPA and the Clean Air Act are much more popular than Congress [PDF]?

Photo: Sean Suddes/Sierra Club, Creative Commons

February 15 2011

17:46

Top EIA Energy Trends Watcher: No Definitive Count on Dirty Energy Welfare

The national conversation about wasteful welfare for highly profitable dirty energy corporations has gone from the dramatic statement by the Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency that fossil fuel subsidies are one of the biggest impediments to global economic recovery (“the appendicitis of the global energy system which needs to be removed for a healthy, sustainable development future”), to a speech by Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch (in which he called the fossil fuel industry “grotesquely oversubsidized”), to a call by President Obama to cut oil company welfare by $4 billion. Not to be outdone, House Democrats are now calling for a $40 billion cut.

Dirty energy welfare defenders have, predictably, responded with ridiculous, Palin-esque denials of reality, but the voter demands that wasteful spending be cut begs the question: just how much of our tax money is going to ExxonMobil, Massey, etc.? With the new deficit hawks in Congress going after insignificant items like bottled water expenses, you’d think they’d want to know the size of the really wasteful stuff, right?<!--break-->

The problem is, we’ve long suspected that no one really knows how much of our money goes to dirty oil executives like Rex Tillerson and Gregory Boyce. There have been counts, ranging from $10 billion a year by the Environmental Law Institute, to the more comprehensive, $52 billion a years by Doug Koplow of EarthTrack.  But, do taxpayers even have a widely accepted, comprehensive inventory of how of our money is being handed to the dirty energy lobby by politicians?  That includes state-level subsidies, by the way, such as the $45 million that Virginia gives to the coal industry.

Energy trends analyst Chris Namovicz of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) was the latest speaker in our “Communicating Energy” lecture series. We took the opportunity to ask one of the top, neutral energy trends analysts in the country the question, “Do you know if someone has actually done a credible, comprehensive, definitive count of how much taxpayers underwrite fossil fuels in this country?” We added the thought that “there's no one really widely available number where average citizens can say, yeah, this much of my money goes to pay ExxonMobil.

According to Namovicz, there really isn’t such a widely available, definitive, comprehensive number.

Right…we're not accounting for the nuclear insurance subsidy, we're not accounting for military oil shipping, we're not even accounting for the tax depreciation benefits that some resources get over others...

 

The fact is, there is a wide array of government subsidies, both implicit and explicit, that are doled out every year to fossil fuel companies. One estimate, by the Environmental Law Institute, finds that dirty energy companies in the United States alone have run up a $72 billion tab at the taxpayer’s bar from 2002 to 2008. Worldwide, it’s far worse; as this study by the OECD explains:

The [International Energy Agency] estimates that direct subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption by artificially lowering end-user prices for fossil fuels amounted to $312 billion in 2009. In addition, a number of mechanisms can be identified, also in advanced economies, which effectively support fossil-fuel production or consumption, such as tax expenditures, under-priced access to scarce resources under government control (e.g., land) and the transfer of risks to governments (e.g., via concessional loans or guarantees). These subsidies are more difficult to identify and estimate compared with direct consumer subsidies.

As I pointed out in a recent post, these subsidies aren’t just reckless and stupid, they aren’t even what people want. In fact, only 8 percent of Americans prefer their tax money be given to highly profitable, mature industries such as ExxonMobil and Massey Energy.

Shouldn’t there be a definitive count of energy subsidies? As we’re looking at cutting waste from our federal (and states’) budgets, shouldn’t there be a credible accounting of all the ways we pay to grease the way for these mature, highly profitable industries? We’re not talking about one done by dirty energy lobbyists or their hired “experts,” by the way, but a real inventory done by those who wouldn’t profit by a lower or incomplete count. Such an accounting should include:

  • Tax breaks
  • Dirty subsidies
  • The costs of government agencies that are set up to perform functions that these industries should pay full cost for doing – such as figuring out how to stuff their pollution underground instead of wasting it on exorbitant, fantasy projects like “FutureGen.”
  • Military expenditures to protect oil shipping lanes.
  • Pollution forgiveness or remediation
  • Rock-bottom priced access to public property – mountains, subsurface property, aquifers, ocean waters -- which fossil energy companies routinely wreck and pay comparatively little to fix.

We need to force politicians to be aggressively honest about how much of our money is going to TillersonBoyceBlankenshipO’ReillyLesar, etc. Until they do, the anti-clean energy bigmouths in Congress who are bashing clean energy policy support need to back way off. And, the dirty energy lobby mouthpieces who propagandize how “cheap” dirty energy is, should do the same. Directly or indirectly, we’re paying their salaries.

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