Energy & Environment

Rep. McKinley - We live here with the coal ash

As constituents living in Congressman David McKinley's district, we'd like to make ourselves clear: jobs are important, and Congress needs to do all it can to help Americans get back to work. However, the need for jobs does not mean that power companies should put arsenic and other toxins from coal ash and scrubber sludge into our rivers, streams, and drinking water supplies. Polluters that donate to politicians’ campaigns should not get a free pass to pollute; and the Transportation Bill should be about creating American jobs, not poisoning American communities.
Congressman McKinley made grossly misinformed claims in his article that appeared in The Hill on May 7.  Mr. McKinley needs to check his facts: his amendment does not set federal minimum safeguards for coal ash and even worse, it would forever prohibit the EPA from ever providing such protections – even if the threat to public health increases.

We are long-time residents of West Virginia who want something done to clean up coal ash dumps, not an industry bill that would keep the EPA from even investigating our complaints.


Following Pentagon's lead on clean energy

In a statement late last week, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) criticized Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for his efforts to strengthen the Department of Defense through clean, alternative sources of energy. As a Republican, a State Senator, and United States Marine, I couldn’t disagree more.

Secretary Panetta joins our nation’s military and security leaders in understanding the clear connection between our energy policy and our national security. We send a billion dollars a day overseas for oil, much of that to unfriendly nations who do not share our values. America’s addiction to oil helps buy the very bullets that are shot back at our troops on the front lines.

And the Department of Defense is already feeling the impact of climate change at home and abroad. The DoD calls climate change an “accelerant of instability or conflict,” meaning it takes a bad situation and makes it worse. Drought, famine, rising sea levels, and more frequent and devastating natural disasters pose a threat to military installations and raise demand for military assistance.


Unleash our domestic energy

As we approach the peak driving months of summer, gasoline prices are nearly $4 a gallon – double the cost when President Obama took office. It’s no coincidence that American workers and families are still struggling through the weakest economic recovery and highest sustained joblessness since the Great Depression. High energy costs are keeping our country in the economic doldrums.
The president likes to remind us that he doesn’t control the price of gasoline. He blames the Japanese earthquake, Middle East unrest, and conspiracies by wily speculators and greedy oil companies. The American people don’t expect their President to halt earthquakes. They simply ask that he try to protect our families and businesses from price spikes and supply disruptions with the opportunities he does have. Unfortunately, the president is unwilling to do so.


Coal ash bill protects environment, preserves jobs

Today our nation faces an economic climate in which our national debt is headed toward a record $17 trillion dollars. If we continue on this path, America will meet the fate countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal are now facing.

Let’s put this into terms to which we all can relate:  $17 trillion is a debt that exceeds all the worth of our country’s production. If our government’s spending were like that of a family, the collection calls and overdue bills would have long ago caused families to cut spending. The country’s financial woes are severe and we don’t need to make it worse.

Consequently, the last thing we need is to add hundreds of thousands of workers to the unemployment lines and an increase in road, bridge and infrastructure costs. That’s what is being predicted to happen if coal ash is designated as a hazardous material by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


National Ocean Policy makes smart business sense

At this moment, thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars are on the line. The United States’ offshore wind sector has the potential to employ tens of thousands of workers. But if some lawmakers have their way – blocking implementation of the National Ocean Policy – it would hamper the ability to fulfill the tremendous potential that offshore wind energy has for our country.
Deepwater Wind is working to develop this new and sustainable ocean use by building utility-scale offshore wind projects in the Northeast, delivering clean, renewable energy at cost-effective prices.  Building these projects creates not just clean power for markets that need it, but also a new marine industry and jobs for an entire region.


Increasing our national security with new technology

The United States military is the single largest purchaser of petroleum fuel in the world, burning through about 325,000 barrels of fuel per day. Almost all of that fuel is derived from oil. This is important not because of the vast carbon footprint (or boot print) that the military has – a separate, and important problem. It is actually the dependence on oil that presents the military with a long-term strategic risk.
Although today the military is able to buy fuel for operations anywhere around the world, access to oil is not guaranteed in the future. Finite global reserves of oil means that some time in the future, oil may become physically more difficult to acquire, no matter the price. Related to that risk, the military, like all consumers in the U.S., relies on oil from countries that do not align with our interests. This affects our foreign policy and undermines our national security. It also means that, in a shooting war, when our fighting men and women need access to fuel to effectively fight, we may not be able to guarantee access to the fuel we need. We can no longer afford totake it as a given that oil will always be available.


Why National Ocean Policy is flawed

Missing from much of the debate regarding President Obama’s executive order for a National Ocean Policy (NOP) is the fact that legislative attempts to create this new bureaucracy were regularly defeated by the House going back to the 108th Congress. No companion bill was every debated before the Senate or Senate committee, and the House version of this overreaching national policy never made it to the floor.

Mind you, this was not partisan gridlock which stymied this big government policy directive, but a coalition of Democrats and Republicans alike who would not support movement of this flawed legislation. In member debate before the bipartisan House Natural Resources Committee, the original NOP bill (known as “Oceans 21”) was called “bad legislation” being pushed by “an overzealous group of people” opposed to fishing. Committee members criticized the legislation for "creating a new bureaucracy and potentially costing taxpayers more money,” while one of the longest tenured Democrats on the committee even expressed concern for “unintended consequences for fisheries management” should the bill move forward.


Balancing on a tight resource rope

Conventional wisdom tells us that the U.S. oil-and-gas boom is a welcomed turn of events — especially in the Midwest’s heavily industrialized and economically struggling Rust Belt states, tight shale oil and gas appear to be new varieties of precious black gold.

In Ohio and its neighboring states, residents have suffered through decades of downturn. The region’s specialization in processing raw materials for manufacturing had faded away. Prosperity is now returning, though slowly, to the Midwest economy in the form of resources buried deeply in the disconnected fissures of the Utica, Marcellus and Devonian shale. Conventional thinking is unlikely to question the wisdom of this energy windfall.

Unconventional thinking, however, raises red flags in the conventional wisdom. Will the U.S. oil-and-gas boom bolster energy and economic security? Maybe. But there are risks.


Embracing the shale revolution

If there is one conclusion that should be drawn from the boom in U.S. natural gas production, it is that supplies are so abundant that it makes economic sense to export some of our gas to countries overseas. No one could have imagined that possibility even a few years ago when the United States was actually importing natural gas, with much of it arriving on LNG tanker ships.
Today America is completely self-sufficient in natural gas. In fact, we produce more gas than we can use, and soon we will not have enough room to store the surplus gas.  Even now, some of the gas produced as a byproduct of oil drilling must be burned off or “flared” as a waste product until customers can be found to buy it.


Keystone XL: Against our national security

The House of Representatives once again is trying to force the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline down our throats and through the heart of our country - this time by attaching approval for it to a federal transportation bill and claiming the Canadian pipeline will help our national security.
Don’t buy it.
Truth is, the longer the United States remains dependent on fossil fuels – no matter where it comes from– the longer our nation’s security will be vulnerable.