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CORBIN: EPA’s New Methane Rule Stands in the Way of Environmental Progress in PA

For many of us, the new year is synonymous with resolutions to become more active. However, in the case of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and some of its proposed regulations for the energy industry, we should all hope that Agency officials restrain themselves.

This is especially true when it comes to the EPA’s methane emissions reduction rule, a far-reaching, but controversial, regulation whose final version was published this past December. To prevent unnecessary damage to Pennsylvania’s energy sector and its significant economic impact, considerable changes are necessary to ensure the rule is flexible enough to accommodate the dynamic needs of energy producers in the Keystone State and beyond.

At first glance, the rule appears to have a simple and sensible goal – strengthening detection standards that identify the sources of methane leaks so that energy producers can prevent and control them. This is important for those concerned about climate change because the greenhouse effect of methane is approximately 28 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. It is also critical for energy production because methane leaks left unchecked result in a reduction of energy supply in the market. In other words, the detection and mitigation of fugitive methane emissions benefits both the environment and the energy sector’s bottom line.

Most importantly, the rule effectively would allow for the EPA to ‘delegate’ its statutory authority under a new Super Emitter Response Program to third parties who would monitor and collect data on potential methane leaks and notify the suspected offenders. The companies would be required to investigate these third-party notifications, adding another layer of oversight and response to data of questionable accuracy and objectivity This should be left to the regulatory authorities at the state and federal (EPA) level.

To the EPA’s credit, the flood of comments it received and the serious discussion following the rule’s publication led to several improvements in the final version. However, the rule still needs considerable refinement as it enters a robust compliance review period. In general, the EPA should ensure its new rule is crafted in a way that reflects the realities of energy production and current methane detection in the Commonwealth.

Pennsylvania, like other major energy-producing states, hasn’t needed federal regulation to make tremendous strides in reducing methane emissions. Proactive leadership in the energy sector and astute policymaking by state regulators has resulted in a 16 percent reduction in methane emissions in the United States from 1990 to 2021.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has taken laudable measures to reduce methane leakage from oil and gas wells and transmission infrastructure by updating permits for oil and gas well sites and implementing effective, common-sense regulations for existing infrastructure. Our state’s energy sector has similarly worked hand in hand with local officials to effectuate change. For example, Peoples Gas pledged as far back as 2019 to “cut methane emissions from its Pittsburgh distribution system by 50 percent using advanced leak detection methods.”

As a result of these broad-ranging, cooperative efforts, the Appalachian Basin’s greenhouse gas emissions intensity dropped by 22 percent this past year, according to findings from the Marcellus Shale Coalition. The coalition similarly asserted that the increased use of natural gas will benefit the environment, but that policymakers have been hindering the infrastructure development needed to meet consumer demand.

Working alongside Pennsylvania’s energy sector rather than competing with it is a smart move. As PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reported earlier this year, the oil and gas industry supports nearly 500,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, or about one in eighteen family sustaining jobs in the Keystone State. As the nation’s second largest natural gas producer, just behind Texas, energy contributed $75 billion to Pennsylvania’s total gross domestic product.

As EPA undertakes the final revision and review of its methane emissions reduction rule, it must continue to collaborate with the energy sector and address concerns about its proposed Super Emitter Response Program. This is a duplication of the EPA’s existing responsibilities and could grant excessive and undue authority to third parties at an additional cost to the industry.

Pennsylvania’s energy sector is already working towards a cleaner future and the EPA must ensure it doesn’t create roadblocks that impede the progress of the industry’s efforts. Allowing them to innovate and invest in advanced technologies without unwarranted restrictions or penalties will help to maintain the momentum already created in reducing methane emissions.

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LONG: EPA Has Not Been Good to Manufacturers

The Biden administration has proven to be the gang that can’t shoot straight.

The president’s signature economic policy has led to a perfect storm of spending, debt and inflation. Other misguided policies have undermined U.S. energy security, created immigration chaos and a more porous border, and weakened our standing abroad while emboldening our enemies. 

Meanwhile, one of the few areas of bipartisan consensus, supporting and repatriating American manufacturing, has been undermined by regulators within the administration.

Although the White House touts the massive sums of money allocated to support innovation and manufacturing in major legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act, its Environmental Protection Agency has simultaneously proven itself to be an obstacle to such efforts. The experience of the steel industry, in particular, exemplifies the contradiction that is being perpetrated.

While a series of provisions in these bills requires domestically produced steel to be used for the public projects they fund and proposed changes to Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act would tighten trade regulations and impose tariffs on imported foreign steel products, the EPA’s recent decisions have hindered steel makers’ ability to supply domestically produced steel for industry and infrastructure.

In June, the agency proposed rules for steel mills that require them to cut emissions by 79 tons per year, a 15 percent reduction. While there is nothing wrong with commonsense and cost-effective steps to improve the air quality of domestic manufacturing operations, such drastic requirements are penny-wise and pound-foolish, and they will hurt companies’ ability to supply other domestic industries with much-needed steel.

For example, in the face of import restrictions and a steady growth in consumer demand, auto manufacturers have increasingly turned to domestically manufactured steel to keep their assembly lines moving. The story is the same for countless other consumer products. Additional operating costs and overbearing regulations for steel companies would cause a trickle-down effect along the supply chain and raise prices. With the average price of a new automobile skyrocketing to $48,000 and a slew of other pressures confronting families, regulators should be doing what they can to keep prices in check.

Not only are these actions economically damaging but they may also run against the law. American manufacturers, and the steel industry in particular, have alleged that the EPA is failing to act with scientific backing and that the policies it is pushing exceed the authority granted to the agency by the Clean Air Act.

Specifically, the EPA’s “Good Neighbor Plan” and its “test and set” provisions have been criticized in a recent court filing as “legally, technically, factually, and procedurally flawed.” An “illegal work-around of requiring owners and operators to install controls,” the provisions were instituted only after the initial emissions limits for steel furnaces proposed as part of the Good Neighbor Plan had no legal basis.

Since the EPA has not specified what emissions levels would constitute a violation of this rule after their first set of guidelines were scrapped, these new “test and set” policies would make compliance subjective to the whims of regulators. Not only would these rules force manufacturers to spend millions to install compliance equipment at facilities that may or may not violate emissions standards, but they would also allow the EPA to set specific limits after the fact without testing for the infractions themselves.

In essence, this would create a new regulatory regime where steel mills would have no way to know whether they are operating within the law and where companies would be faced with the threat of fines and violations until such time as the EPA decides to set a new round of arbitrary and capricious emissions standards.

It is unfair and, frankly, a little crazy to ask any business to operate under such an inconsistent and inequitable patchwork of regulations. If the administration wants to institute an actual good neighbor policy and bolster its “Buy American” efforts, it will instead find ways to better partner with manufacturers and temper such hasty actions against manufacturers more generally. 

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EPA Is Blocking Biden’s Push for US-Made Microchips

President Biden says making high-tech microchips in the United States is a national security priority instead of buying them from abroad. In August 2022, he signed the CHIPS and Science Act, making $280 billion available to domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing operations — a response to growing concerns about U.S. reliance on China’s production facilities.

“We went from producing 40 percent of the world’s chips to just doing 10 percent. But not anymore,” Biden said in a November 27 speech. “All over the country, semiconductor companies are investing hundreds of billions of dollars to bring chip production back home to the United States.”

But the same day Biden was making that speech, the Environmental Protection Agency was continuing its push to practically ban the production of chemicals like methylene chloride, perchloroethylene (PCE), and carbon tetrachloride (CTC) — all vital to the production of those chips.

Which leaves the U.S. microchip industry and its suppliers caught in the middle.

The EPA wants to curtail the chemicals used to make polysilicon, the basic material of computer chips — an obvious obstacle to domestic production. For example, semiconductor manufacturing requires massive amounts of PFA resins, made with chloroform — a co-product of methylene chloride and CTC – for tubing that pipes liquids, slurries and gases around facilities.

The EPA’s rule would also override current workplace regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, adding a redundant layer of bureaucracy and a roadblock to America’s path to tech independence, industry sources say.

A $40 billion, taxpayer-subsidized chip-making plant (known as a “fab”) in Arizona is useless if the chemicals needed to make the chips are either banned or become so costly that manufacturing is no longer realistic. Members of the administration have acknowledged the dilemma.

“We can have as many fabs as we want, but the reality is, we also need the supply chain — the chemicals, the material, the tools that go into those fabs,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at a briefing earlier this year.

In a lengthy comment on the EPA’s proposed rule changes, the Semiconductor Industry Association said its members “are aware of numerous chemical substances in use at their facilities that are absolutely essential to the continued production of reliable semiconductors and to the expansion of production facilities and capabilities in the U.S. under the CHIPS and Science Act.”

The EPA has proposed another rule change that could further hamstring semiconductor research and development. It would eliminate low volume exemptions (LVEs) for new formulations of PCE, which chipmakers continually develop as part of their product-innovation process.

If the LVE exemptions are eliminated, every new chemical formulation would be subject to EPA reviews called premanufacture notices (PMNs). According to David B. Fischer, an attorney and former deputy assistant administrator at the EPA, completing those reviews can often take over a year. That is yet another obstacle to the stated goal of the CHIPS Act.

“The PMN process has been a significant frustration for scores of industries who rely on innovation to stay competitive,” Fischer said. “If a PMN gets bogged down for years, then companies opt to go offshore.”

Beyond the conflicting goals of CHIPS to foster domestic production on the one hand and the determination of EPA to restrict the use of PCEs through various schemes on the other, the realities of today’s global economy could render the entire issue moot, leaving the United States further reliant on foreign suppliers of semiconductors.

Large manufacturers with deep pockets won’t wait forever for U.S. policymakers to settle their conflicts before the chipmakers decide to just pull up stakes and build production facilities overseas.

Charles Wessner, an adjunct professor of science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior adviser at the Centers for Strategic and International Studies, conceded that semiconductor manufacturing requires “some nasty products that have to be treated carefully.”

Nevertheless, he said, for decades, the industry has demonstrated a positive commitment to environmental safety. “These aren’t people who dump toxic waste into pristine streams,” says Wessner, who previously founded and directed the National Academy of Sciences’ Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Program.

“If we’re going to compete and protect ourselves against hostile powers and create wealth, we need to adjust the balance between environmental protections and supporting new growth.”

According to Wessner, the average salary of workers in the industry is $95,000. A typical semiconductor plant creates thousands of well-paying jobs directly and indirectly, serving as a major catalyst for regional economic revivals.

“Some want sensible rules, but we need to get past the obstructionists,” he said. “People are deeply attached to their smartphones without acknowledging the toxic materials required to produce them. They want clean energy but don’t want any windmills in their backyards. They don’t want any fields nearby covered with solar panels or transmission lines anywhere in sight.”

“It doesn’t just fall from heaven,” he added.

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YAW: EPA Further Threatens Grid Reliability

If the Biden Administration has its way, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will soon implement a dangerous rule that will further threaten Pennsylvania’s severely strained electric grid. The Biden Clean Power Plan would set unachievable limits using technology that is unavailable in the United States for new and existing gas-fired combustion turbines and existing coal plants, which currently generate two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s electricity. The new mandates will impose an effective moratorium on new natural gas plants and force existing natural gas and coal plants to shutter prematurely. Meanwhile, electric ratepayers, mostly families, will bear the brunt of this dual attack on electric reliability and affordability.

Further, if finalized in current form, the federal proposal would have a detrimental effect across all regions of the United States’ power grid. Pennsylvania, the second-largest net supplier of total energy to other states after Texas, would be particularly devastated by this mandate.

Pennsylvania is a member of the PJM power grid, which consists of 13 states and the District of Columbia. Pennsylvania itself supplies 25% of the installed capacity in the PJM grid. As chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, I have held multiple hearings to review grid reliability. Overwhelmingly, the testimonies stated that a rush to shutter our fossil fuel-fired power plants would directly impact our bulk power supply.

During a joint hearing with the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee, and the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee in February 2023, and in subsequent hearings with the standing committees in the House of Representatives, prior to the rollout of the proposed Biden Clean Power Plan 2.0, PJM warned that Pennsylvania (and other PJM states) could face energy rationing by 2026 and rolling blackouts as early as 2028. PJM referred to state and federal policies as forcing the premature closure of reliable thermal generation, which is increasingly being replaced by unreliable, intermittent sources of weather dependent power.

In June 2023, Rob Bair, president of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades, illustrated his concern about the impact of the plan:

“Under the recently proposed Biden Clean Power Plan, the rest of the country is about to experience what Pennsylvania lived through over the past 4 years under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) threat…an effective moratorium on the construction of new natural gas plants throughout the country. Why? Because the technology doesn’t exist for natural gas plants to co-fire with hydrogen at 30% by 2032 and 96% by 2038, let alone achieve 90% carbon capture by 2035. Obviously, Congress and the courts may have something to say about the plan, but as long as this threat remains, no banking institution in the world will risk billions to finance plants – all of which are likely to be built with union labor – that could become obsolete within just a few years of operation.”

Natural gas, nuclear and coal plants are on-demand energy sources and not dependent on weather or time of day, which are essential for electric reliability. These are the facilities that can provide electricity at 3 a.m. on an extremely cold or extremely hot night.  This EPA proposal, coupled with the threat of RGGI hanging over Pennsylvanians’ heads, would be a travesty if we want Pennsylvania to remain a global leader in energy production.

When looking at the big picture, we have to examine the ramifications of what happened with Europe. Germany, for example, ignored warnings and closed many of its nuclear and coal generation facilities in an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Unfortunately, Germany now finds itself facing a very serious energy crisis as renewable energy sources came up substantially short of production needs. Germany isn’t alone in its shortsightedness. Democratic leaders in western nations have failed to see the big picture time and time again and portions of Europe are now returning to coal use in record amounts.

In May, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro wrote to PJM and expressed significant concerns about grid reliability in the wake of the “narrowly averted prospect of rolling blackouts throughout bitterly cold days and nights” during Winter Storm Elliott. In a changing federal energy landscape, we must ensure we can keep the lights on for Pennsylvanians. I am hopeful that Gov. Shapiro will weigh in personally with the Biden Administration and the EPA and urge them to reconsider this dangerous rule.

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WISSMAN: ‘Bidenomics’ Has an EPA Problem

President Biden has been dispatching officials far and wide to tout his economic agenda, which has been rebranded as ‘Bidenomics.’ Ironically, the President’s own regulators might be the biggest obstacle to achieving the agenda’s stated goals of smart public investment, supporting the middle class, and helping small businesses thrive.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed stricter limits for a pollutant called fine particulate matter (PM2.5) under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). This proposal was issued despite concluding merely three years ago that current PM standards continue to be protective of public health and the environment, and since then, no new health or scientific information has emerged that suggests otherwise. While this initiative may sound arcane, it could have serious consequences for Pennsylvania’s economy.

Under the new standards, hundreds of counties across the U.S.— including dozens in Pennsylvania— would be in non-attainment of the PM2.5 NAAQS regulations. This means onerous permitting and regulatory requirements, expensive equipment upgrades and retrofits, and restricted funding for federal highway and transit projects, i.e., the smart public investments that constitute a pillar of the Biden agenda. To put numbers to it, the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that this new regulation threatens more than 23,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic activity in Pennsylvania. All of these consequences throw cold water on President Biden’s economic blueprint.

Safe and responsible development of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural gas resources has helped lower residential and commercial energy prices, created tens of thousands of jobs, and reduced our dependence on foreign nations for our energy needs. Meanwhile, revenues from the Act 13 impact fee have provided our state and local governments with billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, emergency services, and conservation programs, among other purposes. Last year alone, impact fee revenues totaled $279 million.

However, all of these immense benefits have been put at risk as EPA floods the zone with burdensome regulations designed to restrict natural gas production and limit consumers’ access to affordable and reliable energy. Unfortunately, low-income Pennsylvania residents are the ones who bear the brunt of these unnecessary policies.

But while consumers stand to lose out if the EPA gets its way, building and construction trades workers won’t fare much better. Earlier this month, Vice President Kamala Harris and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su were in Philadelphia to sell the President’s agenda to a crowd of union laborers. Their pitch boils down to yet another example of the gap between rhetoric and policies.

On the one hand, the administration is talking up the importance of creating good-paying union jobs, while on the other, proposing new regulations that risk leaving union steelworkers, pipefitters, boilermakers, electricians, welders, and operating engineers out of work. These are the middle-class jobs that President Biden wants to multiply, and they happen to be the backbone of our state’s energy infrastructure.

Importantly, it’s not just those directly employed by the energy sector and the trades that should be concerned. Pennsylvania’s natural gas is used in an array of manufacturing, transportation, and agricultural applications. From fertilizer for our farms, plastic for our consumer products, and fuel for our city buses, the natural resources we develop in our state power our nation’s—and our world’s—economy.

This should be a wake-up call to the EPA and the White House. While many analysts are praising the latest inflation data, some have correctly noted that prices for energy and food have started to tick back up. Efforts to restrict the supply of natural gas and oil could rekindle the inflationary pressures that eat into Americans’ paychecks.

One must ask if these economic and political consequences are worth it. Consider the tremendous progress our nation has made on air quality over the last 50 years. According to the EPA, our nation has reduced the concentration of NAAQS pollutants by 78% between 1970 and 2020, and PM2.5 levels have declined over 40 percent since 2000. Much of this improvement is thanks to technologies and efficiencies championed by our industries. Imposing crippling compliance costs on businesses for minimal environmental benefit is not a winning strategy.

Pennsylvania’s energy renaissance has unlocked billions of dollars for local projects, bolstered our state’s middle class, and improved the competitiveness of our manufacturing sector—all while reducing air pollution. This sounds exactly like what President Biden is trying to pitch to voters across the country. Unfortunately, his EPA’s regulatory assault could threaten these goals.

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Biden EPA’s New Rule Puts Reliable Electricity at Risk, Experts Say

A new rule from the Biden Environmental Protection Agency is pushing America’s power grid to become greener, but energy experts say they are worried the results will be brown. It could produce a lack of available electricity leading to brownouts for businesses and households across the U.S.

The EPA’s new rule, announced last week, requires most gas and coal-fired power plants currently in operation to cut their carbon-dioxide emissions by 90 percent by 2040 or shut down. It also discourages the construction of new gas-fired plants by imposing expensive new standards on them, too.

The EPA’s method for achieving those cuts from the plants that provide most of America’s electricity is “carbon capture,” preventing carbon emissions from reaching the atmosphere. The problem, experts say, is the technology doesn’t exist yet.

The National Mining Association, for example, has been an outspoken advocate for carbon capture. But in the wake of the rule, NMA’s spokesperson Conor Bernstein said the EPA’s proposal just isn’t realistic.

“Cost, technological maturity, and extraordinary infrastructure and permitting challenges all stand in the way,” Bernstein said. “Mandating the use of this technology at this stage is nothing more than another attempt to drive the coal fleet off the grid with immense ramifications for mining communities, consumers and …. the reliability of the nation’s power supply.”

And that reliability is in real danger, according to Glen Thomas, president of the industry group PJM Power Providers. It is one of the nation’s largest grid operators, providing electricity to 13 states and the District of Columbia. During a Pennsylvania state Senate hearing earlier this month, Thomas warned lawmakers that energy shortfalls were on the horizon, particularly on the Eastern seaboard.

“Demand is increasing, supply is retiring, and it’s not being replaced by the quantity of assets necessary to sustain reliability,” Thomas said.

The risk is very real, grid operators warn. On Christmas Eve last year, PJM asked its customers to “reduce their use of electricity” and “conserve as much as possible” in order to “help ensure adequate power supplies” as an Arctic air blast drove temperatures down. Two months later, PJM issued a report warning about 20 percent of its power generation could be retired by 2030. The new Biden EPA rule will only accelerate that process.

And it’s not just PJM. U.S. Rep. Cathy Rodgers (R-Wash.) pointed out in a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month that “blackouts, brownouts, and energy rationing have become far too common in the past few years.”

The primary cause of those disruptions, Rodgers wrote, is “a lack of generation capacity” due to “the premature retirement of dispatchable generation resources, like coal, nuclear, and natural gas, and the rapid expansion of intermittent resources, like wind and solar, onto the bulk power system.”

The Biden administration touts renewables like wind and solar as the solution. But even after years of subsidies, wind and solar combined provided just 15 percent of America’s electricity in 2022, less than the 18 percent from nuclear power. Fossil fuel continues to provide more than 60 percent of electricity on the grid.

Eliminating coal and natural gas without a reliable alternative puts the U.S. at risk of severe energy shortages. But according to Marlo Lewis, Jr. of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, that appears to be the Biden administration’s goal.

The new rule “will empower the EPA to regulate coal and natural gas generation out of the power sector,” Lewis said. “This is the government sending a very strong political signal: Don’t bother investing in new coal or combined cycle natural gas, and don’t spend a lot of money keeping older plants going.”

A spokesperson for the EPA told DCJournal, “EPA’s analysis found that power companies can implement the standards with a negligible impact on electricity prices.” Price fluctuations, she said, would remain “well within the range of historical fluctuations.”

And Andres Restrepo, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program, told DCJournal concerns about increased blackouts “don’t necessarily pencil out.” He believes the costs to consumers of the plan will be minimal.

“The biggest requirements, the really substantial emission reduction requirements for these sources, are not going to kick in until the 2030s,” Restrepo said. “At least for existing coal plants, those units are already running less and less often. They’ve been really substantially reducing their utilization. Requirements that those be carbon-neutral will drive significant retirements, but that’s happening anyway. It will just accelerate the pace of it.”

Opponents of the Biden rule say the U.S. Supreme Court is almost certain to shoot it down, as it did the EPA’s Obama-era “Clean Power Plan.” But the messaging to the energy industry to stay out of the fossil fuel space could result in more power plant retirements, even as demand for electricity rises. And that, said Craig Stevens with the pro-business group Grow America’s Infrastructure Now, would mean higher prices.

“The EPA’s proposed rules threaten the energy security power grid and will raise utility costs for Americans,” Stevens said. “The Biden administration is simultaneously pushing Americans to adopt electric everything – cars, stoves, trucks – but then announces rules that could cripple our already-strained power grid.

“They are learning an important lesson the hard way – American oil and gas fuels almost every aspect of our lives, including the electricity running through EVs.”

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Biden’s New Carbon Rules: ‘Massive Unemployment, General Misery’

Cheap energy drives the modern economy. Expensive energy could destroy it.

That is the concern of energy-sector experts in the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to impose strict new carbon emissions regulations on thousands of power plants nationwide.

According to a report from Reuters, the Biden administration plans to force natural gas-fired power plants to “install technology to capture carbon emissions.” The goal is to decarbonize the entire energy sector in 12 years.

“These standards could level the playing field between new gas plants and new renewable energy,” said Thomas Schuster, head of the Sierra Club’s Pennsylvania chapter, by raising the price of power generated by natural gas. Nobody is arguing the new rule will lower costs for consumers.

Gordon Tomb, a senior fellow at the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, said the White House “ignores physical realities that make both green energy technologies and CO2-reduction methods prohibitively expensive and, at best, technologically questionable.”

“Being weather-dependent and inefficient, solar panels and wind turbines are useless for supplying large populations and industry with electricity,” Tomb said, adding that “large-scale carbon capture technology is unproven and unnecessary.”

According to the Energy Information Administration, about 60 percent of “utility-scale electricity generation” in the United States is produced from fossil fuels.

The EIA notes Pennsylvania is “the third-largest coal-producing state in the nation,” while “over half of Pennsylvania households use natural gas as their primary home heating fuel.”

The state sits upon huge reserves of natural gas, with the Marcellus Shale that runs partially through Pennsylvania “estimated to be the second largest natural gas find in the world,” according to the American Petroleum Institute.

The shale contains “approximately 410 trillion cubic feet of shale gas” that “could supply U.S. consumers’ energy needs for hundreds of years.”

The gas would likely be subject to the new EPA regulations as a fossil fuel.

“EPA cannot comment because the proposals are under interagency review and subject to change,” the agency told DVJournal in a statement. “But we have been clear from the start that we will use all of our legally-upheld tools, grounded in decades-old bipartisan laws, to address dangerous air pollution and protect the air our children breathe today and for generations to come.”

Kenny Stein, the policy director at the Institute for Energy Research, said the rules are “unlikely to survive a court challenge,” but they could “still do significant economic damage” before they are struck down.

“The rule would increase electricity costs and result in the premature retirement of dispatchable electricity sources, leaving a less reliable grid in its wake,” Stein said,

“Coal plants are unlikely to be able to comply at all, and it will be very expensive for natural gas plants to attempt to comply,” he added.

As a result, the cost of electricity for businesses and homeowners will almost certainly rise.

Daren Bakst, the deputy director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted that while the public does not yet have specifics on the new rule proposals, “we have a pretty good idea of what to expect.”

“The idea will effectively necessitate the use of technology that’s not feasible at this point,” Bakst said. “Any way you look at it, you’re going to be driving up energy prices. Very possibly, as a result of this rule, you’ll likely lead to the closure of power plants that may otherwise not have been closed.”

The EPA’s proposal is reportedly still being reviewed by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. EPA spokeswoman Maria Michalos told media outlets this week that the White House is “moving urgently to advance standards that protect people and the planet … including proposals to address carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.”

Experts were not shy with dire predictions regarding the effect of the rules.

Tomb predicted the regulations would result in “massive unemployment, shortened lives, and general misery” with “no benefit.”

The AEA’s Stein added that “less reliable electricity will leave the economy at risk of blackouts or weather events” The result, he said, would be “both economic harm and lost lives.”

“This rule is charting a really reckless path that only the most blinkered ideologue could be looking forward to.”

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PA Energy Sector Hopes to Work With EPA on Methane Emission Rules

An announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could hurt fossil fuel producers and consumers. EPA wants to expand a 2021 proposal that would secure what the agency calls “major climate and health benefits for all Americans” by reducing emissions of methane and other “harmful air pollution” from new and existing oil and gas operations.

The Biden EPA considers methane a major environmental problem. At the same time, methane is a byproduct of natural gas production, which has drastically lowered U.S. greenhouse gas emissions compared to generating power with coal and oil.

In terms of the fossil fuel industry, this could mean fewer wells drilled, which means fewer wells developed, fewer rigs running, and fewer people running those rigs. Previous EPA regulations have focused only on new wells, so what EPA wants to do here goes beyond the norm. EPA is also planning to look at all drilling sites, not just large operations.

Industry groups say they are already taking action.

“Industry-led innovation to detect and mitigate methane emissions in operations has contributed to significant reductions relative to production in the Appalachia region and every major basin in the U.S.,” said Stephanie Catarino Wissman, executive director of American Petroleum Institute (API) Pennsylvania. “Our industry in Pennsylvania implements new technologies to accelerate methane emissions reductions while providing consumers with affordable, reliable natural gas, (and) we will continue to advance climate solutions and work with the EPA in support of a final rulemaking that is cost-efficient and fosters innovation and provides regulatory certainty.”

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study commissioned by API found Pennsylvania’s natural gas and oil industry supported 102,500 direct and 377,800 indirect jobs across the state’s economy in 2019. It also found the industry generated $78.4 billion toward the state’s gross domestic product.

Dan Weaver, president and executive director of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA), said Pennsylvania maintains one of the most rigorous environmental regulatory programs in the country.

“EPA and the Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s data shows that total methane emissions in the U.S. have fallen by seven percent since 2005, while natural gas production has increased 118 percent,” said Weaver. “Electricity production from natural gas has increased by 113 percent in that same period, providing significant public health and environmental benefits in the process.”

And because his industry makes money selling methane, Weaver said it makes no sense to allow it to dissipate into the atmosphere.

“That is why our producers maintain and update equipment, detect and repair leaks and use advanced technology to identify and control emissions,” said Weaver.

Still, the EPA believes more should be done to combat what President Joe Biden considers to be one of the greatest threats facing our nation today. “We are racing forward to do our part to avert the ‘climate hell’ that the U.N. Secretary-General so passionately warned about, Biden said in a speech to the COP27 global warming summit in Egypt last month.

“Natural gas is the very product our members produce and transport, and we have every environmental and economic incentive to ensure the product safely and efficiency reaches the market,” Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan told Delaware Valley Journal. “This is America’s largest natural gas producing basin and it has the lowest methane intensity because companies here are monitoring and taking actions to minimize unwanted leaks.”

Like API and PIOGA, Marcellus Shale Coalition maintains that industry-led innovation and continuous improvement will drive further emission reduction gains.

“We look forward to engaging with EPA on a workable, commonsense final rule.”


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Local Congress Members Ask EPA for More Action on PFAS Forever Chemicals

Several members of Congress are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to do more to address the problem of PFAS — man-made “forever chemicals” that pollute parts of Montgomery and Bucks Counties.

The letter to EPA Director Michael Regan was signed by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks), Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery), and Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh).

While the EPA issued guidance on the chemicals in April, the letter urged the agency to update it to include “important safeguards” because the regulations in place now do not cover most of those discharging the chemicals since they operate in 47 states with their own rules.

The letter asks EPA to “clarify” which entities “have an ongoing obligation to disclose PFAS pollution” as part of an existing permit and not wait for the permit to be renewed.

It also asks that “clear requirements” be specified for “Technology-Based Effluent Limits (TBELs) on a case-by-case basis. That would “help permitting agencies across the country and dramatically reduce PFAS pollution.”

The lawmakers also request that PFAS polluters clean up their wastewater and not depend on local treatment plants.

Manufacturers and the Department of Defense should bear the cost of treating the polluted water, not local, publicly owned water systems, the legislators say.

“The EPA has an opportunity to help permitting agencies across the country and dramatically reduce PFAS pollution,” the letter said.

“PFAS pollution is a serious threat to the communities we represent. We thank you for taking this crisis seriously and urge you to use your existing authorities under the Clean Water Act to make meaningful reductions in PFAS exposure in the near term,” the letter stated.

In March, the Bucks County commissioners and District Attorney Matt Weintraub filed suit against various PFAS manufacturers to try to get compensation for cleaning up the dangerous chemicals that were used in firefighting.

The PFAS chemicals are linked to kidney cancer, developmental disorders, and high cholesterol.  PFAS chemicals in firefighting foam used at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove (both now closed) are considered the principal source of PFAS contamination in nearby communities.

PFAS chemicals are carbon-chain compounds useful for their indestructible and non-slip qualities. They repel water and grease and resist heat degradation. Therefore, those substances are used in many industrial and consumer product applications and are present in many products, including clothing, carpeting, cooking pots, and food liners. There are more than 4,700 PFAS compounds in existence.

“PFAS describes not just one chemical, but a whole array of different chemicals that have certain similar chemical structures and properties,” said David Savitz, Ph.D., an investigator with the Multi-site Health Study and a Brown University professor of epidemiology.

State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomeryville) has been working on the PFAS problem for years.

“These chemicals, once they’re in the ground, they don’t stay put. They travel in the aquifer. It’s not isolated to just one community. There’s a lot of remediation that’s been underway in the surrounding communities as well,” he said.

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The Minority Exploitation Game Called Environmental Justice

It should be no surprise that the monumentally misnamed Inflation Reduction Act is filled with provisions likely to accomplish something other than the advertised purpose. Perhaps phoniest of all are the environmental justice measures that, in truth, will inflict injustice on the very people and communities the statute’s proponents claim to be helping.

Building on some Biden administration outlays for environmental justice, the Inflation Reduction Act allocates $60 billion to address the purportedly disproportionate effects of pollution on the least fortunate. This includes an extra helping of handouts based on the assumption that climate change harms the poor and minorities more than everyone else. To put a little context around this, $60 billion is roughly the market capitalization of Ford Motor Co. — a global corporation employing 200,000 employees worldwide. You can be sure that Ford, through job creation alone, is far more effective at uplifting minorities and the less fortunate than the Inflation Reduction Act.

The statute contains a long list of environmental programs and outlays specifically for “low-income and disadvantaged communities,” but apparently, nobody bothered to visit any such communities and ask the residents what they need. It’s practically the stuff of a Dave Chappelle skit that people living in neighborhoods struggling with rampant poverty, crime, homelessness, drugs and failing schools would want their government to spend copiously on “solar and wind facilities,” “tree canopy coverage,” “zero-emission technologies,” “climate resilience of affordable housing” and “home energy efficiency retrofits.”

Practically, the only fashionably green cause not in the bill is funding to build electric vehicle charging stations in low-income communities. Of course, these are communities where hardly anyone has an EV — few can afford them, and ownership of such high-value assets can disqualify you from certain public assistance programs — but don’t think the omission is due to a rare moment of sanity. It’s only because last year’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package is already lavishing billions on such charging stations, including in underserved communities.

Environmental justice is what happens when rich white liberals are setting the priorities. It doesn’t get any more out of touch than this. And don’t be fooled by all the noise from minority activists, government officials, lawyers and academics who are cashing in on the environmental justice gravy train. There is scant support among people who see more pressing concerns all around them.

Of course, the worst injustices come not from climate change but from climate change policies. This includes Green New Deal-style measures that jack up the cost of fossil fuels. Low-income households and minority-owned small businesses struggle the most when gasoline prices are as high as they were earlier this year.

The same is true of heating costs, and we are heading into what may be the costliest winter ever, given sky-high natural gas and electricity prices. But rather than reconsidering the administration’s regulatory war on affordable fossil fuels, the Inflation Reduction Act adds to the red tape while squandering billions on wishful thinking that wind and solar can power the neighborhood.

The effect on jobs is as harmful as the impact on energy prices. Consider businesses thinking about locating in disadvantaged communities and providing much-needed jobs while supporting many minority-owned small businesses that partner with such companies. Now, they’ll probably steer clear, knowing that they’ll face an army of well-financed environmental justice warriors who see the private sector not as potential job creators but as potential polluters to be targeted. Indeed, other than the make-work jobs created by the billions in government grants to be doled out, the Inflation Reduction Act will likely be a jobs killer in struggling communities.

Or consider low-income families. Their biggest challenge is not that their homes lack solar panels and other politically correct gadgets but that far too many rent rather than own.

The Inflation Reduction Act does nothing to facilitate home ownership and the accumulation of intergenerational wealth and may put it further out of reach.

Overall, there is nothing in the Inflation Reduction Act to dispel the longstanding concerns that the left wants a permanent underclass dependent on the government. The only thing new is that the exploitation has a green tinge.

For those genuinely concerned about lifting up people and communities, we can debate the best policies and the proper role of government. But there is no real debate that the environmental justice provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act are, at best, a colossal waste of money. Compare the $60 billion for environmental justice with the inflation-adjusted $29 million damage done in the 1922 Tulsa race riots that devastated the black business community known as Black Wall Street. Realizing that this allocation equals more than 2,000 Black Wall Streets gives you a sense of how many wrongs can be righted if these resources were more sensibly allocated.

And, at worst, this “investment” in environmental justice won’t just waste money but will actually do more harm than good.

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