Enron Bankruptcy Plan Approved
July 2004 -- U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur J. Gonzalez approved Enron Corporation's bankruptcy plan, which repays creditors approximately 20 cents on the dollar in stock and cash. Enron, which employed 32,000 workers in 2001, now has about 9,000 employees. Enron will rename the company and dispose of the crooked E logo as part of the agreement. Claims against Enron are about $63 billion while it has about $12 billion in cash and equity in it new incarnation, Prisma Energy International, Inc.
Enviros Sue To Stop Natl Petroleum Reserve Drilling
Feb 2004 -- A coalition of environmental groups, including the National Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, Alaska Wilderness League and Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit in federal district court to block the Bush administration from opening millions of acres in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling. The 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve was created in 1923 to provide a source of energy for the U.S. military. The reserve holds an estimated 6-13 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The U.S. consumes about 20 million barrels of oil a day.
The groups accused the administration of ignoring several federal laws intended to protect key wildlife areas in the reserve for polar bears, caribou, wolves, grizzly bears and migrating birds, and did not adequately study the likely harm that drilling will cause. The Interior Department said it intends to restrict drilling in some areas of the reserve to protect water quality, wetlands, and fish and wildlife habitat. Some land use restrictions will also apply to coastal areas, near lakes and along rivers.
The Interior Department finalized a plan in January 2004 to make most of a 9 million-acre portion in the northwest area of the reserve available for drilling. Of the 9 million acres, leasing will be barred for a decade on 1.57 million acres, or about 17 percent of the area. The Interior Department plans to lease tracts in the reserve on June 2 to oil companies for exploration. It is located in the northwest corner of Alaska, near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Senate rejected a plan by the Bush Administration to drill in ANWR in 2003.
There has never been commercial oil development in the National Petroleum Reserve. The Clinton administration opened 4 million acres in the eastern portion of the reserve to oil drilling.
Richard Pombo, Chairman, House Resources Committee Responds
Most Americans know that environmental organizations operate outside the realm of common sense and accountability, but this time Americans will see just how radical they have become. Suing to stop petroleum production in a petroleum reserve is like suing farmers to stop producing milk from cows. If we can't get petroleum from the National Petroleum Reserve, where can we get it?
These groups say they are pro-environment, but it is clear that they are just anti-energy, anti-American jobs, and anti-economic growth. The more they halt production at home, the more we send American jobs and money overseas to make up the difference. Last year alone, the United States sent over $100 billion worth of American jobs to foreign nations for energy that could have been produced here at home. As demand grows and so-called environmentalists continue to file lawsuits, Americans will lose more jobs and pay more for their energy. Given the choice, what taxpayer wouldn't want to spend $100 billion here on jobs, safe energy development, and a stronger economy?
There is a big difference between active environmentalism and environmental activism. Most Americans today fall into the first category, taking part in community conservation efforts and recognizing that balance must exist between man and the environment. The very shrill, vocal minority that fall into the latter category, such as those who filed this absurd lawsuit, do not believe in balance, nor can they claim to work on behalf of the environment. Their focus is on fundraising, politics, and obstruction. (Committee Press Release)
EPA Backs Off Ban On MTBE
February 2004 -- The Bush administration withdrew a proposal by EPA to ban MBTE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether), a gasoline additive that contaminates drinking water. Unlike other components of gasoline, MTBE dissolves and spreads readily in ground water, resists biodegradation and is more difficult and costly to remove. The Clinton administration initiated the ban when it found that the environmental harm of the additive leaching into ground water overshadowed its beneficial effects to the air. MTBE was first used as an octane-enhancing replacement for lead, primarily in gasoline at concentrations as high as 7%. MTBE is now used as a fuel oxygenate at higher concentrations (11% to 15) as part of the Federal RFG and Wintertime Oxyfuel programs. The Oxyfuel and RFG Programs were initiated by the U.S. EPA in 1992 and 1995, respectively, to meet requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.
The environmental dilemma of MTBE is that it has achieved exactly what it was designed to accomplish: improve air quality; but because of its uniques polluting qualities from leaking underground storage tanks and other sources, policy-makers moved to ban its use. One of the worst groundwater contamination cases is in Santa Monica, California where the oil industry will pay hundreds of millions of dollars because the additive contaminated the city's water supply. It will be interesting to see how the states react to the withdrawal of the proposed federal ban. For instance, the California ban on MTBE went into effect in Calfironia at the beginning of 2004. On March 25, 1999, Governor Gray Davis released Executive Order D-5-99 that ordered the removal of MTBE from California gasoline at the earliest possible date, but no later than December 31, 2002. On March 15, 2002, the Governor issued a new Executive Order and announced a one-year extension to the phase out of MTBE. Under the newly announced timeline, the MTBE phaseout was to have been accomplished no later than December 31, 2003. Individual refineries were supposed to be making the transition to ethanol if they determined that was feasible without risking supply shortages or price spikes.
Congress is considering a ban on MTBE in the energy bill, but a liability waiver for MTBE manufacturers being pushed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) was one of the main provisions that killed the bill in 2003. The energy bill is being reconsidered in 2004, possibly without the MTBE waiver. Three MTBE producers account for half the additive's daily output: Texas-based Lyondell Chemical and Valero Energy and the Huntsman companies of Salt Lake City.
Feb 2, 2004 -- Rep. Billy Tauzin, 60, resigned (effective Feb. 16) as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and will not seek re-election. The 12-term Republican congressman from Louisiana is considering working for the pharmaceutical industry. Tauzin was first elected to the House in 1980 as a Democrat and switched to the Republican Party in 1995, seven months after the GOP took control of the House. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, will seek the job. Barton is Chairman of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee.
EPA Issues 2005 Budget
Feb 2, 2004 --President Bush's 2005 budget provides $7.76 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency, $133 million increase over the 2004 budget request. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt (at right), joined by key Agency officials, announced the budget at a Washington, D.C. news briefing. Admistrator Leavitt also briefed stakeholders.
Congress appropriated $8.1 billion for EPA in fiscal 2005, a $278 million reduction from 2004 ($8.4 billion)
AAEA President Norris McDonald attended the announcement and questioned EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt about EPA's budget ($8 billion) compared to the aggregate budget of the environmental movement ($6 billion). McDonald also asked Administrator Leavitt if the 2005 budget included money to address the recently publicized lead problems in Washington, D.C. drinking water.
To build on the progress in protecting children's health and the successful national partnership to reduce emissions from school buses, the President's budget provides an increase in funding, from $5 million to $65 million, for the Clean School Bus USA program. To ensure cleaner, safer water, the President's budget provides:
- $45 million for the Great Lakes Legacy Program, almost five times the 2004 level of $10million, for sediment remediation located at as many as six sites, helping to keep toxics such as PCBs and heavy metals from entering the food chain, where they may cause adverse effects on human health and the environment.
- $25 million for the Targeted Watersheds Program, a $10 million - 67 percent increase over the 2004 Consolidated Appropriations legislation level, allowing for competitive grants to communities to implement watershed protection and restoration plans and funding a $10 million regional pilot program to help publicly-owned treatment works implement nonpoint source projects to comply with nutrient discharge limits in the Chesapeake Bay.
- $20 million for a new water-quality monitoring initiative to provide $17 million in grants and $3 million in technical assistance to help States and Tribes develop and implement statistically representative water quality monitoring programs.
To ensure cleaner lands through waste site clean-ups and continuous monitoring, the President's budget provides:
- A total of $210 million for Brownfields cleanup, a $40 million - 24 percent increase over the 2004 Consolidated Appropriations legislation level. The funding includes an increase for grants and loans to fund clean up of lightly contaminated sites.
- $1.4 billion for the Superfund, a $124 million -10 percent increase over the 2004 Consolidated Appropriations legislation level. This increase reflects a 48 percent boost targeted for the Superfund's remedial program, which will allow for 8-12 additional construction starts in 2005 and for a similar number of additional completions by 2006.
- A $26 million - 217 percent increase over the 2004 Consolidated Appropriations legislation level to strengthen EPA's partnership with the States to monitor underground storage tanks. Recognizing that States have primary responsibility for monitoring tanks, issuing permits and enforcing regulations, the additional grant money will provide funds for States to inspect a larger universe of federally regulated underground storage tanks on a more frequent basis as they continue to administer the Underground Storage Tank Program under delegated authority from EPA.
To ensure strong and efficient regulatory, research and enforcement activities, and improved collaboration with states through grant programs, the President's budget provides:
- $4.4 billion the highest level in EPA history $33 million, or one percent, above the 2004 budget. The Operating Program consists of EPA's core regulatory, research and enforcement activities and state program grants.
- $1.25 billion for EPA categorical State grants, the highest level in EPA history. This $84 million- 7 percent increase will provide additional resources to States and tribes to run their core environmental programs. Included within this total is a new $23 million State and Tribal Performance Fund which will award competitive grants for projects that can demonstrate environmental and public health outcomes.
For more information visit: http://www.epa.gov/ocfo and follow the link to the FY 2005 Budget.
Court Overturns Bush On HVAC Energy Efficiency
Jan 2004 -- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York ruled that the April 2001 decision by the Bush administration's Department of Energy to weaken new energy-efficiency standards to 20 percent instead of 30 percent for central air conditioners and heat pumps, violated federal energy and environmental laws. The rule requires manufacturers to increase residential air conditioner efficiency by 2006. The court ruling was in response to a challenge by the Natural Resources Defense Council and attorneys general from 10 states. They estimate that the larger reduction could replace the need for about 14 large power plants and save consumers $1 billion a year in utility bills.
Bush Proposes To End Federal Gas Tax
Jan 2004 -- Federal Highway Administration (FHA) Administrator Mary E. Peters wants to replace the 18.4 cent per gallon gasoline tax with interstate highway tolls or some other public utility revenue raising model. The current federal gas tax goes into the dedicated Highway Trust Fund for building highways. Of course, Congress would have to pass such a modification of the fuel tax.
Senate Fails To End Filibuster On Energy Bill
Nov 21 The U.S. Senate refused to "Invoke Cloture," which ends a filibuster and cuts off debate, so that members could vote on the energy bill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist wanted another cloture vote but could not get at least two senators to change their votes. Evidently, the deals that were offered did not work. The bill will not be brought up for another vote. The energy bill is dead for 2003. The vote was 58 to 40. It takes 60 votes to stop a filibuster.
It will not be easy to pass a bill in 2004. The conference committee that wrote the final measure was dissolved after the House passed the energy legislation. Tthe Senate has to pass the 2003 bill or start fresh and potentially renew a full-scale energy debate in Congress. That is too bad because many good energy provisions, such as measures for energy conservation, energy assistance, electric grid reliability, nuclear power, wind energy tax credits, among others, went down with the failure of the bill. Although working to pass separate energy titles would probably be the best prospect for getting legislation passed, Congressional leadership is not inclined to do that because of the deals they want on MTBE and ethanol.
Specifically, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and HouseEnergy and Commerce Committee Chairman. Billy Tauzin (at left), among others, pushed for immunity for refineries that produce the MTBE additive from product liability lawsuits as well as $2 billion for those companies to convert to production of other fuels. In exchange, they accepted an expansion in the use of corn-based ethanol as an additive. If the MTBE producers lose out, House Republicans are less inclined to help the ethanol industry, which is crucial to Midwestern support for the measure. The bill's future is also complicated by 2004 being an election year, because the Democrats are unwilling to hand the Republicans a big success. The last comprehensive energy bill to pass was in 1992 and was signed by President George Bush during his re-election campaign.
CBC Opposes Energy Bill Conference Report
CBC Chairman Elijah Cummings
The Congressional Black Caucus opposed the Conference Report to the Energy Bill (H.R. 6) by a vote of 8 Yeas and 29 Nays. Seventy-two (72) percent of the CBC opposed the report. Voting for the bill: 1) Artur Davis (7 AL), 2) William Jefferson (2 LA), 3) Kendrick Meek (17 FL), 4) Edolphus Towns (10 NY), 5) Sanford Bishop (2 GA), 6) Bennie Thompson (2 MS), 7) David Scott (13 GA), and 8) Albert Wynn (4 MD). There are 39 members of the CBC. Norton and Christensen are nonvoting members. The vote took place on Nov 18, 2003 at 4:47 p.m. and there were 246 Yeas to 180 Nays.
At 10:55 PM on Monday, November 17, Conferees to the Energy Policy Act of 2003 passed a Conference Report. This report is available in Adobe PDF format and is available at the link below:
Conference Report on the Energy Policy Act of 2003
Enter the Committees website