January 26 News: Federal Agencies Say GOP Push to Force Keystone XL Raises “Serious Questions”

Other stories below: Climate change set to hit UK poorest hardest; Vermont considers banning fracking

U.S. Agencies Cast Doubt on Republican Bill to Push Keystone XL

A Republican-backed bill to advance TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which was delayed by the Obama administration, poses jurisdictional and legal issues, representatives of two U.S. agencies said.

The bill requiring the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, an independent agency, to issue a permit raises “serious questions,” Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, said today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel hearing in Washington.

FERC, which oversees interstate transport of electricity, oil and natural gas, lacks authority to locate oil pipelines, Jeffrey Wright, the agency’s director of the Office of Energy Projects, said today at the hearing. The bill doesn’t give FERC enough time to adequately assess the project, Wright said.

Climate Change set to hit UK Hard and Poorest Hardest

If you thought global warming would bring little more to the British Isles than the inviting prospect of passing long, hot summers sipping chilled English wine, then the gargantuan catalogue of climate change impacts revealed on Thursday flattens that myth.

It also reveals — inadvertantly — a buried but fundamental injustice. Those Britons with outsize carbon footprints, inflated by jet-setting and SUV-driving, will suffer far less than those with daintier environmental treads.

The idea of climate injustice is more familiar in the context of the African subsistence farmer whose livelihood is trodden down by the polluting effects of heavy western consumption. But the long list of damages that climate change threatens to wreak on the UK shows climate injustice exists from the poor flood-prone neighbourhoods by the Humber to the concrete jungles of London, set to become ovens on baking-hot days.

The government’s exhaustive report shows that, unless preventative action is taken, we can expect a tenfold increase in the devasting impacts of flooding, while searing heatwaves will lead to deaths. But the report does not examine who will bear the brunt of this.

Shift to Natural Gas Coming for US, Kinder Morgan CEO Says

Kinder Morgan, the largest independent transporter of petroleum products in the U.S., is planning its pipeline growth around an inevitable shift to natural gas in the U.S., CEO Richard Kinder said Wednesday.

Kinder, who spoke at the company’s annual analyst conference, said despite low natural gas prices, a tremendous amount of transportation infrastructure needs to be put in place, making additional investment in natural gas pipelines inevitable.

Vermont Legislature Considers banning Hydrofracking

Nobody has applied to Vermont for permission to drill for oil or gas using hydraulic fracturing.

No one is sure it would even be worthwhile to do so.

Still, the Legislature and Gov. Peter Shumlin are considering banning the practice, commonly called hydrofracking. Vermont would become the first state to do so.

“This is kind of saying, ‘Don’t bother. Close the door on the issue,’” said Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, sponsor of a bill the House Fish & Wildlife Committee is preparing to vote on this week. “It’s about protecting our most precious resource — our groundwater.”

A look at what’s going on in neighboring New York state, across the border in Quebec, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere is all that some lawmakers and state officials needed to conclude they want no part of the procedure. Stories abound of possible links between drilling and contamination of well water, earthquakes and more.

TransCanada Lobbying Tops $1.3 Million as it Pushes Keystone

TransCanada Corp., the Calgary-based company pushing a $7 billion pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast, spent $1.33 million on Washington lobbyists last year.

The company hired two firms to help advance its Keystone XL pipeline project on Capitol Hill, according to public records filed with the Senate. Bryan Cave LLP and McKenna, Long & Aldridge LLP reported lobbying on the pipeline and other energy issues.

“One of the dirty little secrets of lobbying, is that for a relatively small amount of money in the scope of finance, you can get a pretty good return on investment,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington-based group that monitors political and campaign spending. “It doesn’t mean you always win. It does mean you are always in the game, and the game continues.”

EPA Delay on Milk Rule no Joke to GOP

President Barack Obama tried for a little humor during his State of the Union speech with a crack about the Environmental Protection Agency regulating milk as if it were crude oil, but Republicans weren’t laughing.

Obama was touting his administration’s work at getting rid of pointless regulations that create billions of dollars in costs to businesses and individuals.

“We got rid of one rule from 40 years ago that could have forced some dairy farmers to spend $10,000 a year proving that they could contain a spill — because milk was somehow classified as an oil,” Obama said. “With a rule like that, I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.”

Republicans reacted to the line by saying that Obama’s record of cutting regulations is weak and that they had to push and prod his administration even to address the milk issue.

Study: Drilling could hurt Tourism

Stakeholders concerned about the economic and environmental impact of gas and oil drilling in state waters met at Ship Island Excursions in Gulfport on Wednesday to discuss their thoughts and a study they commissioned.

Last month, the Mississippi Development Authority released a draft of rules for leasing state waters for offshore drilling. Public comment for the proposed rules ends Tuesday at 5 p.m.

“The opening of state waters to oil and gas drilling could have a huge negative impact on billion-dollar industries like coastal tourism, and the public should be given the time and the information they need to (review) this complex proposal,” said Raleigh Hoke, Mississippi organizer of the Gulf Restoration Network.

A coalition of conservationists, business owners and concerned citizens released a study Wednesday on the economic impact of offshore drilling. One argument against drilling is the effect on tourism.

“A drop in tourism as little as 2 to 3 percent could swap any and all gains from drilling over the 20-year period, leaving the state with a net loss of revenue,” said Louie Miller, state director of Mississippi Sierra Club.

More Retail Centers Installing Electric Vehicle Charging stations

“Charge it” may soon have new meaning at shopping malls and retail centers across the country.As sales of electric cars begin to pick up, retailers nationwide are installing electric vehicle charging stations in their parking lots so customers can plug in and juice up their vehicles while browsing inside.

Leading the way is drugstore chain Walgreen Co., which is installing chargers at about 800 stores nationwide, including about 100 Southland locations.

Macy’s Inc. is installing chargers at a handful of department stores in San Diego. Kohl’s Corp. is undertaking a pilot program to equip 33 stores nationwide with charging stations, and Best Buy said it will test them at 12 locations, including San Diego and Los Angeles.