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Point: Record Production Means Energy and Economic Security

For another point of view, see: “Counterpoint: A Fossil Fuel Export Society is Wrong for America”

America’s oil and natural gas producers are innovating to produce more oil and gas than ever while generating less emissions and bringing reliable, affordable energy to Americans and our global allies. In its latest short-term energy outlook, the Energy Information Administration estimated that U.S. crude oil production reached “an all-time high in December of more than 13.3 million barrels per day.”

That production helps stabilize prices for consumers. Oil and natural gas are sold on global markets, and prices can be affected by events or decisions (frequently by bad actors) on the other side of the world. However, having strong U.S. output helps reduce the shock of those actions for Americans.

Our record level of energy production does face threats — specifically by the U.S. government, whose leaders have sought to shut down oil and gas producers with an all-of-government approach, but the industry pushes forward.

Last year, the oil and natural gas sectors continued to innovate and reach record-breaking levels of production. After becoming a net energy exporter in 2019, the United States has emerged as a behemoth in the global energy market, hitting prolific levels of oil and natural gas production and exports in the past year. U.S. liquified natural gas had a tremendous 2023, with the United States becoming the top LNG exporter in the world.

These record-breaking levels of production have not come at the expense of Americans, as some claim. On the contrary, record energy production levels have successfully met domestic and international demand, providing crucial energy security at home and abroad, all while keeping prices stable.

The American oil and natural gas industry continues to prioritize environmental progress. The workers producing the energy we use daily live in homes surrounded by the oilfield, breathing the air and drinking the water from aquifers above the oil reservoirs where they produce; thus, they are highly motivated to preserve and protect the environment for today and for future generations.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency showed stunning drops in methane emissions across the board in oil- and natural gas-producing basins. The Arkoma Basin (Arkansas and Oklahoma) had a 77 percent decrease over the last five years. Anadarko (Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas) had a 44 percent decrease. And the Permian (Texas and New Mexico) had 32 percent less emissions. All show that even with record production, U.S. operators continue to produce oil and gas responsibly and with an eye toward methane reduction.

Voluntary initiatives like the Environmental Partnership, representing nearly 70 percent of U.S. onshore oil and gas operations, showcase the industry’s commitment to responsible operations through innovation and collaboration. In their 2023 report, the Environmental Partnership highlighted an additional 14 percent reduction in total flare volumes and a 2.4 percent reduction in flare intensity from the previous year — building on the work to cut flaring intensity nearly in half in 2022 — even as U.S. oil and gas production grew.

Considering the uncertain regulatory environment, these accomplishments and innovations are even more impressive. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the Biden administration’s illegal actions regarding onshore and offshore leasing.

In the Gulf of Mexico, offshore production provides the lowest carbon barrels of oil, generates millions of dollars in funding for parks and recreation programs, and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across every state. Yet the administration released an offshore plan 450 days late that only offered three lease sales over the next five years — the fewest in history.

Onshore, it’s a similar story. There are widespread administrative efforts to limit access for development despite disagreement from local groups, including tribes. The president and leaders who control the Senate want to limit capital access for producers, add new taxes and increase federal regulations.

Yes, our members are achieving record production NOW. But you can find a timeline on the Independent Petroleum Association of America website that shows how the exploration and production process — from identifying potential acreage and seismic testing to production and development — can take up to 15 years. There are many rounds of environmental analysis and permitting before a well starts producing. Much investment and planning goes into the process. Policies that stall energy production through delayed permitting, infrastructure or regulatory barriers diminish producers’ ability to operate.

The bottom line is a thriving American oil and gas industry means increased energy and economic security at home and abroad and progress toward global emission reduction goals. While administration regulatory hurdles add challenges, U.S. oil and natural gas producers continue to produce record-setting, responsible oil and natural gas.

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Counterpoint: A Fossil Fuel Export Economy Is Wrong for America

For a different point of view see: “Point: Record Production Means Energy and Economic Security”

America is producing more oil and gas than any nation at any point in history, and it’s an accomplishment that fails to give U.S. families energy security or lower prices. At the same time, U.S. exports of oil and gas have surpassed every other country on earth, enriching oil and gas executives while leaving families in the cold.

At the end of last year, more than 13 million barrels of crude oil were pumped daily from American lands and offshore waters, a record. Domestic methane gas production also set a record of more than 105 billion cubic feet daily.

America’s fossil fuel boom has resulted in massive profits for Big Oil giants, as companies pay out huge sums to shareholders and export fossil fuels worldwide while leaving American households, businesses and low-income communities in the lurch.

In recent years, the United States has followed the Qatari economic development model, latching our economy to finite natural resources with highly volatile prices. This move spells disaster for the global climate.

The surge of oil and methane gas exports is not only lethal for the planet, it means that we put American consumers at risk of paying higher — and more volatile — prices. Two years ago, the outbreak of war in Ukraine made clear that the boom in U.S. fossil fuel production and exports did nothing to remove Americans from the wild swings of energy markets.

Historically, what has set the American economy apart is not our aptitude for exporting raw natural resources but the value provided by manufacturing and innovation — the very sectors threatened by the higher fuel prices that will result from exports.

Instead of a raw material-extraction economy, we should build a sustainable, decarbonized 21st-century clean energy economy, which requires swiftly phasing out the fuels of the 19th century.

The U.S. economy is more tightly interlinked with global energy markets, so U.S. consumers are even more vulnerable to international supply shocks and punishing price swings.

This volatility is partly a consequence of the oil and gas industry’s push to make more money by exporting fuel, including an industry lobbying blitz that led to a 2015 decision by Congress to end a ban on crude oil exports that dated back to the energy crisis of the mid-1970s.

At the time, television ads paid for by the American Petroleum Institute claimed that lifting the export ban would push down gasoline prices and diminish Russia’s and Iran’s influence over gasoline prices. These claims proved untrue.

Oil billionaire Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, was more forthright about the true goal: more profit.  “We’re out here trying to compete at a discounted price,” Hamm told CNBC then. “I need to be able to deliver my oil to my partners in South Korea, but I can’t do it.”

But what’s good for the profits of Big Oil barons like Hamm is terrible for American families and businesses.

Fossil fuel industry talking points regarding exports of liquified methane, or LNG, are even more misleading. Exports of this fuel were nonexistent before 2016. But in just a few short years, the United States has become the world’s largest LNG exporter.

We should not make our residential and business gas customers compete with Berlin and Beijing for LNG produced in the United States. One energy model found that approving pending LNG terminals would increase spending on gas by $11 billion to $18 billion annually, with the most significant burden falling on low-income families. The trade group representing industrial businesses that are large consumers of gas and electricity is warning about the increased costs to its members.

Thankfully, the Biden administration is starting to take these issues seriously. President Biden’s wise decision last month to pause new approvals of LNG export terminals and establish a more robust public interest evaluation of those projects is a welcome sign.

Under federal law, the Department of Energy is required to evaluate whether LNG export projects are in the public interest. Yet, the agency has done a poor job of considering the negative effects on the climate, on vulnerable communities near LNG plants and on prices paid by consumers. The deck has been stacked in favor of export terminal developers.

Big Oil executives have pursued an “America Last” policy, price gouging consumers and pushing harmful export policies, a myopic vision that puts profit above everything. In the long run, we must wean ourselves from a dangerous dependence on fossil fuels that have sowed turmoil and chaos.

Reconsidering the effect fossil fuel exports have on our economy and climate is a vital step toward protecting American households and businesses from the impact that fuel exports have on our economy.

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Natural Gas Pays Off for PA Taxpayers With $3.2B in State, Local Revenues

According to a new analysis, Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry kept booming last year to the tune of more than $41 billion in economic activity.

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) released details of the study conducted by FTI Consulting this week. It found Pennsylvania’s energy sector supported 123,000 jobs, roughly the size of Allentown, the state’s third-largest city. Industry workers earned an average salary of $97,000. The median annual wage for Pennsylvania is $45,790, according to Pennsylvania’s Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.

“Energy is the lifeblood of Pennsylvania’s economy, and our sector works hard daily to safely deliver affordable, clean, and reliable energy for our country and the world,” MSC president David Callahan said. “This new economic data, focused specifically on the natural gas sector within Pennsylvania’s borders, not only demonstrates the essential role of the natural gas industry but also the urgency to prioritize infrastructure development and permitting reform to maximize these job-creating benefits.”

That meant big bucks for Pennsylvania’s tax coffers, too.

State and local governments received a total of $3.2 billion, including the $279 million Impact Fee split between the state’s 67 counties. By comparison, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro asked for $1.6 billion for the state police and $46 million for the state Department of Agriculture.

The federal government also received $2.6 billion in taxes from Pennsylvania natural gas companies.

Green energy advocates still aren’t convinced. PennFuture argues that the natural gas industry’s promises don’t match what has been delivered.

“According to data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, 123,000 jobs is more than 2 percent of all the jobs in Pennsylvania in 2021,” said Rob Altenburg, Senior Director of Energy and Policy. “There are less than 4,000 jobs in oil and gas production in the state, so the coalition would have to claim lots of other jobs are “supported” by gas in other industries…The Marcellus Shale Coalition is clearly not considering the jobs we have lost in clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other industries because of opposition from the gas industry.”

PennFuture wants the state to transition to “cleaner and more sustainable alternatives” even though the gas industry is performing well by all accounts. “This means more clean energy, but it also means more investment in energy efficiency and new technologies,” said Altenburg.

Advocates for natural gas respond the U.S. isn’t technically or economically ready for an immediate transition and that every coal power plant replaced with natural gas cuts emissions by about 50 percent. And Pennsylvania is in a unique position to benefit. The Marcellus Shale is America’s largest natural gas field – located mostly in Pennsylvania. The state’s gas reserves have quadrupled since 2011, when large-scale development started.

The state’s natural gas production is 13 times greater than it was in 2010, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics. Industry advocates say that is great news for a region that the gas industry considered a desiccated corpse just two decades ago.

“This study tells us what we already know and don’t hear enough: Pennsylvania natural gas is a force for good and provides the reliable, affordable energy our families and small businesses need,” Consumer Energy Alliance Mid-Atlantic Director Mike Butler told DVJournal. The money, jobs, and positive impacts speak louder than the shouting of activists whose narrow interests are not in Pennsylvania’s interest.”

MSC hosted its Shale Insight 2023 Conference this week in Erie. It looked at what the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania might look like through 2050.

“The only thing surprising about [the MSC] report is how a few select vocal opponents still simply refuse to acknowledge how much natural gas development powers our economy,” said Kurt Knaus, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance, a statewide coalition that works to advance pipeline projects.

“Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources continue to be a blessing, not just with the jobs they create, but with the savings they bring to consumers and revenue they generate for government at every level.”

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OPINION: Congress Should Pass the ‘Building American Energy Security Act of 2023’ to Help Pennsylvanians

Pennsylvania’s central location long ago earned it the nickname “The Keystone State,” but it turns out our state is arguably America’s most critical nexus for energy production. With the nation’s largest natural gas reserves, a product of the massive Marcellus Shale formation with its estimated 410.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Pennsylvania has become our country’s second-largest natural gas producer and the third-largest producer of electricity.

The energy we produce here matters, supplying families and businesses with energy in northeastern states such as Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

Our state also ranks fifth highest in the number of adults 65 and older, with one estimate projecting that soon one in five Pennsylvania residents will be 65 or older. Many in this age group live on fixed incomes, meaning they are vulnerable to high energy prices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Pennsylvania has the capacity to produce more energy – both renewables and fossil fuels – to help bring down energy prices, but a string of clumsy and outdated regulations stands in the way.

To take advantage of our energy opportunities, Pennsylvania badly needs permitting reform at the federal level, which is why U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin’s recent proposal to cut and streamline federal red tape is so timely.

Measures in the bill, many of which are aimed at the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), would help get energy infrastructure projects online faster, pumping homegrown energy into markets nationwide and helping lower prices for seniors and all consumers.

Congress should make adopting this bill, called the Building American Energy Security Act of 2023, a top priority.

Although NEPA was created in the 1970s with the good intention of safeguarding our environment, it has since turned into a major roadblock for critical American energy projects. Excessive regulations prevent states like Pennsylvania from fully contributing to our domestic energy supply, with the Constitution Pipeline serving as a perfect example.

Approved in 2014, the project was scheduled to be operational by 2015, but was derailed by a slew of regulatory setbacks and activist opposition. New York denied the project’s water permit in 2016 and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant an appeal, causing the project’s builder to officially cancel the pipeline in 2020.

Pipelines aren’t the projects being stalled. Renewable projects are also seeing serious delays because of NEPA, including the Rock Run Recreation Area wind farm that should have been under construction long ago, but has been held back by lengthy approval processes and reviews.

A problem nationwide, Pennsylvania alone has an estimated 443 solar projects awaiting approval, projects that could power 1.4 million homes. This includes the Swiftwater Solar farm in Monroe County, what could be the state’s largest solar farm, potentially generating enough power to serve 14,000 homes if not for NEPA rules allowing Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future and the Brodhead Watershed Association to bury it in red tape. The Brookfield Solar Energy Center has met a similar fate, with activists weaponizing regulations to delay it.

The bottom line? The permitting approval process now in place under outdated NEPA regulations holds back Pennsylvania and other energy-rich areas from increasing America’s energy supply. Not only are ongoing projects delayed and discouraged, but potential developers hesitate to invest in projects when they see the complications others experience from burdensome federal regulations. This holds back job growth and pumps the brakes on an energy sector that is a major driver for Pennsylvania’s economy.

This threat should worry all policy makers. According to an analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers, natural gas and oil supported over 423,000 Pennsylvania jobs. Jeopardizing a fossil fuel sector that in 2021 contributed more than $75 billion to the state’s economy is troubling enough, but permitting problems also holds back all types of energy projects. Permitting reform like the kind being pushed by Sen. Manchin (D-W.Va.) will help Pennsylvania’s oil and gas sector and will also boost the state’s ambitious plan to transition from fossil fuels in the future.

With the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Department’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050, we’ll need all the energy infrastructure we can get to succeed.

Getting more energy to market by reforming federal permitting processes will not only offer much-needed relief for senior citizens, but will provide the kind of energy security that America deserves and that our allies sorely need. Hopefully our lawmakers in Washington will follow Sen. Manchin’s lead and take the steps necessary to unleash America’s energy potential.

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Spotted Owl, Meet the Sagebrush Lizard

he Biden administration opened up a new front in the oil and gas wars over the July 4 weekend by advancing a rule through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard on the Endangered Species List.

The lizard’s habitat runs through the Permian Basin, where nearly 40 percent of oil and 15 percent of natural gas is produced in the U.S. 

The action joins a long list of executive orders and proposed agency rules by the administration that critics say are designed to kill the fossil fuel industry. President Joe Biden has made no secret of his goal to push the country to alternative energy sources in pursuit of what one expert calls “overly ambitious climate targets.” 

“The problem is we don’t have the infrastructure in place both in terms of the generation and transmission of electricity,” said Marc Scribner, senior transportation policy analyst at the Reason Foundation. 

Even as the administration heavily subsidizes electric vehicles, Scribner pointed out the charging infrastructure remains sketchy. He said that most people can upgrade their home’s electrical panel, but that’s another added cost. 

At the same time, electric vehicles add to the stress of the nation’s electric grid, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to make it less stable. 

A new rule announced in May would require most fossil fuel power plants to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent between 2023 and 2040 or shut down. According to an agency analysis, approximately 120 natural gas and 200 coal-fired plants would be affected. 

“Powerplant shutdowns due to the rule could mean electricity grid failures in cities and communities across the country,” says Guy F. Caruso, a former U.S. Energy Information Administration administrator. “This could not come at a worse time, as our electrical grid is already strained with more electric household appliances and cars pulling power from the grid. In other words, if plants are forced to close prematurely, Americans will be paying more for a less stable grid.”

The administration has never disguised its negative view of fossil fuels, but its aggressive actions are at odds with most Americans, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. While 67 percent of U.S. adults support prioritizing the development of alternative energy sources over fossil fuels, just 31 percent support phasing out fossil fuels entirely, and another 32 percent don’t believe the country is ready to begin a phase-out. 

“Emotional rhetoric can only carry you so far,” Scribner said. “We’re not seeing reality align with some of the most aggressive calls to action.” 

Two high-ranking Senate Republicans want the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to look at the administration’s aggressive clean power plan – Proposed Clean Power Plan 2.0 – through a series of conferences to analyze the negative impact on grid reliability. 

“The proposal presents unjustifiable claims about the future availability of technologies – including carbon capture, clean hydrogen, and the related infrastructure – used to power our electric grids,” Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) wrote in a letter to FECR Chairman Willie L. Phillips and Commissioners James Danly, Allison Clements, and Mark C. Christie.

The letter highlights statements from several commissioners, warning of an “impending, but avoidable, reliability crisis [caused by] public policies that are otherwise designed to promote the deployment of non-dispatchable wind and solar assets or to drive fossil-fuel generators out of business as quickly as possible.” 

The proposed designation of the sagebrush lizard as an endangered species is likely to spark a similar reaction as people after the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggested outlawing gas stoves. 

“Anti-energy activists have been desperate to shut down drilling in the Permian Basin for years,” said Tim Stewart, president of the U.S. Oil & Gas Association, according to reports in Forbes. “Texas oil and gas operators spent tens of millions of dollars in voluntary conservation efforts to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard. Environmental groups meanwhile added nothing to the conservation efforts but petitions and lawsuits.”

More than 3 million acres of lizard habitat in Texas and New Mexico are enrolled in a conservation agreement that has helped protect the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard for more than a decade, according to Ben Shepherd, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. 

Such efforts, though, are met with scorn and derision from environmental activists who cheer damage to priceless works of art while middle-class families struggle to pay rising utility bills. 

 “It’s no surprise that Americans continue to support the reliability and affordability of traditional energy sources to power their homes and automobiles,” said Craig Stevens, a spokesman for GAIN, an energy coalition group that promotes sound policies that safeguard economic and national security. “Policymakers should embrace a true ‘all of the above’ energy policy that strengthens our nation’s energy security while ensuring access to the power Americans need.”

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After Two Months, Delco Natural Gas Facility Still On Hold

An appeals court ruling has left the construction of a new Delaware County natural gas facility in limbo for months, with no clear sign as to when the project is expected to resume.

PECO Energy Company originally set out to build a natural gas “reliability station” in Marple Township several years ago. The company describes the facility as one that will “enable PECO to distribute more natural gas into Delaware County through 11.5 miles of new natural gas main.”

Company officials argued the station will play a key role in ensuring ample gas supply to Delaware County as demand grows for the key fossil fuel energy source.

Township officials in November 2020 rejected PECO’s application to build the plant, after which PECO filed a petition with the state Public Utility Commission asking for the PUC to exempt the company from township zoning rules.

The PUC subsequently ruled in PECO’s favor. Town officials then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which halted station construction in March, claiming the commission overlooked several key regulatory considerations when ruling for the energy company.

The court said the commission must “incorporate the results of a constitutionally sound environmental impact review” into a new project analysis.

PECO spokesman Greg Smore confirmed to DVJournal that the case is still waiting to be resolved, having been sent back to the PUC for re-evaluation.

“We are disappointed with the decision,” Smore said. “However, we are evaluating our next steps to complete this project, which is critical to meeting the growing need and demand for safe, reliable, and affordable natural gas for our customers in Marple Township and across Delaware County.”

David Hixson, a spokesman for the PUC, said the case “has been reopened and assigned to the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge for further consideration.”

“If further hearings are scheduled by OALJ, notices will be posted to the public docket,” he added, “but to date, no hearings have been scheduled.”

Officials with Marple Township did not respond to queries asking about the case and the township’s opposition to it. In March, after the appeals court decision, the town said in a statement that it was “pleased and encouraged” by the ruling.

“The township continues to believe that the subject property is not an appropriate site for these facilities,” the town said, “and that this will be borne out by a constitutionally sound environmental impact review by the Commission as required by the Commonwealth Court’s decision.”

For years, a citizen-created initiative, the Marple Safety Coalition, has worked against the plant’s construction. The initiative’s website was last updated shortly after the court decision in early March.

“Probably, [the ruling] means that PECO will not begin building anything soon,” one message reads. “However, they can continue to work at the site; over the winter, there was a lot of activity due to their testing of the pipeline, and that testing will probably continue.” The Marple Safety Coalition did not respond to a query from DVJournal.

Only Texas produces more natural gas than Pennsylvania, which is sitting on billions upon billions of cubic feet of the critical energy source. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Pennsylvania has 48 underground gas storage sites, “the most for any state.”

PECO says Delaware County’s natural gas consumption is projected to surge in the coming years, necessitating more infrastructure like the reliability plant to ensure demand is met.

“PECO anticipates a 20 percent increase in natural gas usage in Delaware County and a 10 percent increase in Marple Township over the next decade,” the company says on its website.

“Without this project,” the company says, “the natural gas system in this area will be constrained, resulting in inadequate natural gas supply and pressure to help customers run their appliances, like heaters, during the coldest days of the year.”

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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After Close Call at Christmas, Senators Discuss Strengthening PA Power Grid

Residents of Pennsylvania came close to facing rolling blackouts when winter storm Elliott hit the week of Christmas last year.

The effects of the storm, a “bomb cyclone,” were bad enough. Strong winds and temperatures dropping to 30 below with wind chill resulted in some 108,000 Pennsylvania households losing power.

In response, the state Senate held a hearing Monday to examine what can be done to improve the electric grid and power generation so consumers don’t suffer future blackouts. Representatives from the Public Utilities Commission, industry groups, and the power transmission utility PJM spoke.

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford) said some witnesses were using “politically correct” language. “I probably won’t be,” Yaw said. Society needs energy to build an economy, and after that, “you can deal with the environment.”

“We’ve been tinkering with the environmental side without considering the economics and operational side,” Yaw argued. Five years ago, the state had a “perfect mix” of natural gas, coal, and nuclear electricity generation. “We did not have reliability issues at all.”

But now there are political pressures to go to green energy. “I think we’re dealing with a lousy deck,” said Yaw.

Asim Haque with PJM, the region’s transmission utility, said a report that came out Friday found older power plants are not being replaced quickly enough with new sources, despite all the focus on green energy generation. As a result, customers face a very real possibility there won’t be enough electricity supply to meet demand.

“Keeping the lights on is PJM’s most important priority,” said Haque. But the mix of power generation is shifting, raising concerns about reliability. The state’s supply is moving from reliable generation sources like gas, coal, and nuclear power to less reliable solar and wind power.

He also sees the demand for electricity increasing with more data centers coming to Pennsylvania and more electric vehicles hitting the roads.

Gladys Brown Dutrieulle with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) said, “Reliability is the key to replacing aging infrastructure.”

Natural gas provides 53 percent of the power to generate electricity in the state, nuclear energy provides 33 percent, and coal provides 12 percent. Wind and solar make up the remainder.

Diane Holder, vice president of Reliability First, said they work with agencies in 13 states and Washington, D.C. She noted wind and solar are “weather dependent” and better battery storage is needed to make power output from those sources less variable.

She said the country needs more time to transform its energy generation from current methods to renewable energy. There are also “challenges to integrating renewables onto the grid.”

Yaw said the witnesses mentioned 94 percent of new energy coming online was from wind and solar, with only 6 percent natural gas, which is more reliable.

He asked why more natural gas and nuclear plants aren’t being built. “The more we bring (renewables) online, the more we have a problem (with reliability).” More natural gas plants “would help,” he said.

Dutrieulle noted gas plants are more expensive to build and new nuclear plants are even more costly.

Yaw said that while nuclear plants don’t produce emissions, they require “tons of concrete and plastic (to build). There is a carbon footprint to everything.”

“The projections in this study indicate that the current pace of new entry (of power plants) would be insufficient to keep up with expected retirements and demand growth by 2030,” the PJM report said.

Over the past decade, Pennsylvania has benefitted from the supply of natural gas via the Marcellus Shale source. But in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting increased reliance on natural gas around the world, there is more volatility in the market.

Haque added another obstacle to constructing new natural gas power plants: The ESG movement.

“ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) requirements, impact whether financing can be obtained,” Haque said. Some large financial institutions, such as BlackRock, have adopted ESG stipulations for their investments and won’t fund fossil fuels.

However, “we do assume we will receive new megawatts from natural gas,” he added.

Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester) picked up on Holder’s mention of a “great transition” to clean energy, noting that fossil fuels would still be needed during that time.

“Things are happening very quickly,” she said.

Haque said fossil fuels are “still essential.”

Rachel Gleason, executive director of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, said coal-powered plants stepped into the breach and saved the state from blackouts last winter.

“During winter storm Elliott, it was coal that came to the rescue again,” she said. And “unreliable wind and solar” are being subsidized and they are not required to pay fines if they do not provide the power they’ve promised. Those subsidies distort the energy market, she said.

But Andrew Williams with SolSystems said solar is part of a “comprehensive energy plan.”

“Solar works any time the sun is up,” he said. “Solar performed as needed during Elliott.” And many new data centers have solar panels on their rooftops, he said. But he admitted it will be unlikely that Pennsylvania will rely totally on renewable energy by 2035 as some people would like.

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Consumer Safety Agency Says It’s Not Coming After Your Gas Stove — Yet.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) chair has a message for America: No, we are not coming for your gas stoves. At least, not yet.

A news report from Bloomberg quoting CPSC commissioner Richard Trumka saying a ban on gas stoves and ranges is “on the table” sparked an immediate backlash. Even President Joe Biden felt the need to disavow his appointee’s statement.

“The president does not support banning gas stoves — and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is independent, is not banning gas stoves,” a White House spokesperson said Wednesday.

At issue are a handful of studies claiming gas stoves are a health risk. For example, a report published in the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” claims more than 12 percent of current childhood asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to gas stove use.

Trumka now says gas stovetops are “a hidden hazard” adding, “Products that can’t be made safe can be banned.”

Now the head of the CPSC is seeking to assure American consumers that their gas appliances are safe. “The CPSC has no proceeding to do so,” said Chairman Alexander Hoehn-Saric in a Wednesday statement. But he added, “CPSC is researching gas emissions in stoves and exploring new ways to address any health risks.” And the CPSC is asking for public comment “about gas stoves and potential solutions for reducing any associated risks.”

In other words, the issue is far from settled. But if the CSPC intends to move forward, it should be prepared for a bipartisan fight.

“This is a recipe for disaster. The federal government has no business telling American families how to cook their dinner,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.). “I can tell you the last thing that would never leave my house is the gas stove that we cook on.”

Supporters of consumer choice and free markets dismissed the science as thin -and the response as heavy-handed.

“This debate to me seems to be totally out of proportion from the benefits that Americans have because of fuels like natural gas for cooking and the health benefits from it —  especially in relation to other options out there,” said Katie Tubb, Research Fellow at the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment at The Heritage Foundation. “A lot of people from Africa, China, and India would love access to natural gas as a cooking fuel because the alternatives there are quite poor.”

And the American Gas Association (AGA) called the claims in the International Journal report cited by CPSC “not substantiated by sound science.”

“Any discussion or perpetuation of the allegations in this report which is funded by non-governmental organizations to advance their agenda to remove consumer energy choice and the option of natural gas is reckless,” the AGA said. The industry group also accused the authors of the study in question of “ignoring literature, including one study of data collected from more than 500,000 children in 47 countries that ‘detected no evidence of an association between the use of gas as a cooking fuel and either asthma symptoms or asthma diagnosis.’

“Any allegation that gas stoves exceed standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization is patently false.”

Climate activists have been targeting natural gas use in homes and businesses for years, in part by banning natural gas hookups in new construction. New York City has already passed such a ban, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul hopes to do the same statewide. In California, nearly 70 communities have imposed restrictions on natural gas. In response, some 20 states have passed “consumer choice” bills preventing local governments from banning natural gas.

Cooking with hydrocarbons like gas has been common in U.S. and European households since the late 19th century. There has never been a serious concern about air quality before. Why now?

Marc Morano of Climate Depot, a project of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), said fear is what often drives a lot of government or unelected bureaucratic board efforts to find ways to reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“When it comes to cooking anything, there’s all sorts of emissions, particulate matter in your home and it comes down to ventilation, but gas stoves have not been shown to be causing any kind of health crisis,” said Morano. “This is a political decision, knowing that climate is not going to scare people, so now they are going after ‘this is going to hurt your kids so we have to ban.’”

Marc Brown, vice president of state affairs at Consumer Energy Alliance said a gas stove ban is one of the last things that families in places such as New England need at a time of high energy prices and unstable electricity. Based on that, Brown said one would think Washington would focus on making it easier to secure reliable, affordable energy.

“Instead, D.C. bureaucrats want to declare a misguided war on your kitchen by embracing fear-mongering over families—all based on a ‘study’ that is all style and no substance,” Brown said.

And far from ending the debate, the CSPC released a statement on Wednesday that explicitly left the door open for future action.

“Agency staff plans to start gathering data and perspectives from the public on potential hazards associated with gas stoves, and proposed solutions to those hazards later this year,” the commission said. “Commission staff also continues to work with voluntary standards organizations to examine gas stove emissions and address potential hazards.”

If gas stoves are banned, would gas grills at backyard barbecues follow? And where would the electricity to power these new appliances come from? More than 60 percent of U.S. electricity production is from fossil fuels, with natural gas as the number one source — and growing.

“Natural gas utilities have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 69 percent since 1990, and they help homeowners reduce their carbon emissions 1.2 percent every year,” the AGA said. “Any efforts to ban highly efficient natural gas stoves should raise alarm bells for the 187 million Americans who depend on this essential fuel every day.”

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TOMB: Latest RGGI Lawsuit Highlights Increases in Electricity Prices

Already struggling to cope with higher energy bills, Pennsylvanians are now experiencing double-digit rate hikes this fall. In September, some suppliers increased electricity prices another 19 percent, citing inflation and energy costs. Pennsylvanians need relief, but Gov. Tom Wolf’s unilateral action will drive energy bills even higher. Worse yet, a new lawsuit highlights how Wolf’s plan—while claiming to help the environment—will, in reality, increase emissions.

Despite a majority opposition from the state legislature, Wolf is forcing Pennsylvania to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)—a compact in which member states impose a carbon tax on energy production. By discouraging energy production in Pennsylvania, the carbon tax would shut down some of the most efficient coal and natural gas operations in the world, and a new lawsuit argues that the governor’s plan will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions.

The petitioners, all of whom operate gas-fired power plants in Bucks, York, and Westmoreland Counties, are among the dozens of businesses, labor unions, trade organizations, and politicians asking the court to stop Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI.

Pennsylvania natural gas producers are among the cleanest in the world, as measured by methane emissions from their operations. Of the top nine hydrocarbon-producing basins in the United States, the Appalachian Basin, which includes Pennsylvania, emits the least methane per unit of energy produced.

And while U.S. coal-fired plants are among the least polluting worldwide, Pennsylvania operators have invested billions of dollars in equipment to further reduce water and air pollution. The Homer City power plant, for example, spent $750 million over the past decade on reducing pollutants.

But RGGI would undo our progress toward cleaner energy by imposing prohibitive costs on Pennsylvania energy producers.

RGGI requires power plants to purchase carbon allowances, and those have more than quadrupled in recent months. For just a portion of 2022, estimated allowance costs have risen to $847 million from the Wolf administration’s original forecast of $198 million.

“The (administration’s) modeling of the price of CO2 allowances…was wildly off base,” wrote the petitioners. “Among other failures, the (administration) did not adequately consider the impact of speculative traders, like hedge funds, purchasing CO2 allowances as an investment.”

Costs imposed by RGGI will force Pennsylvania plants to decrease energy production, opening the door for less efficient plants in non-RGGI states to replace them. Overall emissions will increase because less efficient plants must burn more fuel to produce the same amount of electricity—generating higher emissions of carbon dioxide and pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

The petitioners note that “most of the benefits…arising from Pennsylvania joining RGGI will be lost or shifted to other areas due to increased emissions in other states.”

Prior studies have confirmed that transfer of emissions from RGGI states to non-RGGI states.

Quadrupling carbon allowance prices also means that RGGI will further inflate electricity costs. Energy producers will have to pass the increase in costs to consumers.

Moderate estimates see RGGI increasing consumer electricity prices by roughly $2 billion over nine years. This is a “best-case” scenario that Pennsylvanian families cannot afford.

RGGI is currently on hold thanks to a preliminary injunction, and the petitioners are integrating their lawsuit with other cases aimed at stopping the state’s participation. Due to pending court action, it is unlikely that companies will need to purchase carbon allowances until the next governor’s term.

But Pennsylvania’s participation in RGGI—with its far-reaching consequences—shouldn’t rely on lone-wolf tactics. The state legislature has taken the first step toward introducing a constitutional amendment that would prevent any governor from unilaterally imposing regulations, like RGGI, despite legislative disapproval.

If approved by the legislature and a majority of Pennsylvania voters, this constitutional amendment could safeguard families from ineffective and expensive regulations like RGGI.

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