Discussion of the relevance of methane.

Today’s comments about the EPA’s proposal sheds light on the methane issue. The editors said in substance (some quotation marks removed and formatting changed):

Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed,
and Modified Sources Reconsideration
ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0483-0005
We are writing, both as editors of InternationalMosaic.com and individually, to provide
comments on and objections to the proposal to allow increased pollution (emissions) in
the oil and natural gas sector.
In addition to the Black Friday report referenced in our December 9, 2018 submission on
this matter, there is a wealth of published scientific evidence that methane leaks
associated with oil and natural gas production present a major climate change danger.
For example, one UN article states in part:
“The Problem with Methane
“Methane is a greenhouse gas as is carbon dioxide. Human activity has increased the amount of methane in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Methane is particularly problematic as its impact is 34 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period, according to the latest IPCC Assessment Report. A significant source of human-made methane emissions is fossil fuel production. For example, methane is a key by-product of the rapidly rising global extraction and processing of natural gas. Other top sources of methane come from the digestive process of livestock and from landfills, which emit it as waste decomposes.
“The Growing Response to Climate Change
“The current level of response remains inadequate to keep the average global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius, beyond which expected climate change impacts become significantly worse. But action to curb human-generated greenhouse gas emissions is rapidly increasing at every level of government, business, cities and civil society as the many economic, social and environmental benefits of taking climate action become clear.“
UN Article, “Why Methane Matters”, Aug. 7, 2014. For the full article, please see:
https://unfccc.int/news/new-methane-signs-underline-urgency-to-reverse-emissions
“In addition, [as we stated in our December 9, 2018 comments] because the proposed
increased pollution most notably will include the release of methane, the short-term
impact will even be greater. Using a twenty-year time frame, methane has a 84 to 87
times greater impact than a similar carbon dioxide release.
See:  https://unfccc.int/news/new-methane-signs-underline-urgency-to-reverse-emissions
2
A twenty year time window is very conservative given the accelerating pace of climate
change related disasters.”
By itself, the UN article constitutes legally sufficient evidence to compel the conclusion
that the proposed regulation should be rejected as bad for the environment.
Also, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the preparation of a proper
Environmental Impact Statement before the regulation can be adopted because the
regulation constitutes a major federal action almost certain to tragically harm the
environment.
Sincerely,
InternationalMosaic.com
Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq., Editor
Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor

 

Another Problem with Oil and Gas Drilling Inflamed by the Trump Administration

Methane leaks in Oil and Gas wells exacerbate climate change problems by rele4asing methane into the environment. Methane is a potent climate change pollutant causing perhaps 84 to 87 times more damage than carbon dioxide over the next 20 years.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Trump Administration has proposed to allow oil and gas producers increase methane pollution

This evening, the editors of InternationalMosaic.com, their opening round of objections to the “gassy” proposal. The editors said:

Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration

ID: EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0483-0005

We are writing, both as editors of InternationalMosaic.com and individually, to provide comments on and objections to the proposal to allow increased pollution (emissions) in the oil and natural gas sector.

As acknowledged by a flock of federal agencies, including the EPA, the climate change problem is urgent. The report released on November 23, 2018 (“Black Friday”) states in part:

“Climate change is projected to significantly affect human health, the economy, and the environment in the United States, particularly in futures with high greenhouse gas emissions and limited or no adaptation. Recent findings reinforce the fact that without substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emis­sions and regional adaptation efforts, there will be substantial and far-reaching changes over the course of the 21st century with negative consequences for a large majority of sectors, particularly towards the end of the century.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming (see CSSR, Ch. 3). Impacts associated with human health, such as premature deaths due to extreme tempera­tures and poor air quality, are some of the most substantial (Ch. 13: Air Quality, KM 1; Ch. 14: Human Health, KM 1 and 4; Ch 29: Mitigation, KM 2).“

Fourth National Climate Assessment, pages 58-59. For the full report please see: https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/downloads/.

In addition, because the proposed increased pollution most notably will include the release of methane, the short-term impact will even be greater. Using a twenty-year time frame, methane has a 84 to 87 times greater impact than a similar carbon dioxide release. See:https://unfccc.int/news/new-methane-signs-underline-urgency-to-reverse-emissions A twenty year time window is very conservative given the accelerating pace of climate change related disasters.

By itself, the Black Friday study constitutes legally sufficient evidence to compel the conclusion that the proposed regulation should be rejected as bad for the environment.

In addition, the National Environmental Policy Act requires the preparation of a proper Environmental Impact Statement before the regulation can be adopted.

Sincerely,

InternationalMosaic.com

 

Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq, Editor

Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor

 

 

 

Open Letter Opposing Imminent Nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be E.P.A. Head

The editors of InternationalMosaic.com have sent an open letter to United States senators Diane Feinstein and Kamala D. Harris asking them to oppose the imminent nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be the new head of the United States Environmental Agency. The letter is below.

 

Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq.
Scott D. Pinsky, Esq.
InternationalMosaic.com
10866 Washington Blvd. #444
Culver City, CA 90232
BlueHOH2018@gmail.com
424.253.8839

Senator Dianne Feinstein
United States Senate
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Kamala D. Harris
United States Senate
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

November 20, 2018

Open Letter to Senators Feinstein and Harris
Dear Senators Feinstein and Harris:
We are two of your constituents who are deeply alarmed by President Trump’s proposed nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be the administrator of the E.P.A. See https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/climate/trump-andrew-wheeler-epa.html We ask that you both vigorously oppose the nomination.

It is bad enough that Mr. Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist. Worse yet, he is personally committed to wreaking environmental havoc. He told the Times:
“At this point, yes, I would like to be nominated to be the administrator,” Mr. Wheeler said in the interview, before Mr. Trump’s announcement. “I think I’m making a difference. This is a transitional time for the agency. We’ve started a number of initiatives that I’d like to see through to conclusion.”

Both personally and as the editors of InternationalMosaic.com, we have submitted about a dozen formal objections to the Trump E.P.A.’s consistent efforts to roll back environmental protections. See, e.g.:
https://wordpress.com/post/internationalmosaic.com/310; https://wordpress.com/post/internationalmosaic.com/318; https://wordpress.com/post/internationalmosaic.com/342; https://wordpress.com/post/internationalmosaic.com/346; and https://wordpress.com/post/internationalmosaic.com/350.

We believe that Mr. Wheeler’s elevation to be E.P.A. administrator would be very bad for the environment.

If you or your respective staffs have any questions, please have them call 424.253.8839 or email BlueHOH2018@gmail.com.

Respectfully Submitted,

Sincerely,
Andrew J. Yamamoto, Editor
InternationalMosaic.com

Scott D. Pinsky, Environmental Law Editor
InternationalMosaic.com

More comments on the attempt to roll back mileage requirements.

Comments on NHTSA’s DEIS Oct 23, 2018
Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq., Editor, Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor, and Manvir Dhaliwal, intern, InternationalMosaic.com
Re: Draft EIS for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for MY 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2017-0069-0178)
Both individually and as editors or intern of InternationalMosaic.com, we object to the Draft EIS for the proposed degradation of future mileage standards (Proposed Repeal) for many reasons.
The first seven reasons for our objections are set forth in an attachment hereto (and were also attached to the second set of comments submitted on September 16, 2018: Comment Tracking Number: 1k2-95gl-ekit). Additional bases for objection are:
(8) The mountain of scientific evidence that supports that Obama-era mileage standards are necessary has grown. Since InternationalMosaic.com submitted its last comments, United Nation officials have provided alarming evidence that the world, and the USA in particular, must dramatically accelerate efforts to reduce fossil fuel use far more than contemplated under existing laws. On October 8, 2018, The Guardian reported:
“The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people.
“The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.
“The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report (PDF copy submitted with these comments).
The Guardian continued: “Even half degree of extra warming will affect hundreds of millions of people, decimate corals and intensify heat extremes, report shows”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/world-leaders-have-moral-obligation-to-act-after-un-climate-report (PDF copy submitted with these comments). Cf. https://www.npr.org/2018/10/08/655360909/grim-forecast-from-u-n-on-global-climate-change (PDF copy submitted with these comments).

The recent UN conclusions add to the overwhelming evidence that urgent action is needed. See, e.g., IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basics, http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/ ; IPCC, Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report, http://ar5-syr.ipcc.ch/.
NEPA requires that NHTSA “fess up” to the cataclysmic environmental consequences of the Proposed Repeal. In short, NHTSA cannot approve the Proposed Repeal without a new DEIS that fully discloses the adverse environmental impacts of the Proposed Repeal.
(9) The ongoing production of important scientific information shows that the consideration of any DEIS for the Proposed Repeal be delayed until June 30, 2019. That will be approximately 6 months after an international conference on the issue (to be held in Katowice, Poland). https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/conferences/katowice-climate-change-conference-december-2018/katowice-climate-change-conference-december-2018 A PDF copy of information about the conference is attached
(10) The cumulative effects of the Proposed Repeal when coupled with other known major federal actions was not disclosed in the DEIS and must be. Such other actions include, but are not limited to, the EPA’s plan to allow drillers to release much more methane (a potent climate changing chemical) and the Proposal to Limit Use of Scientific Evidence in Rulemakings, 83 Fed. Reg. 18,768 (April 30, 2018) – Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OA-2018-0259. Articles about the methane issues include: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-epa-methane/trumps-epa-proposes-weaker-methane-rules-for-oil-and-gas-wells-idUSKCN1LR2BK, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/climate/methane-emissions-epa.html, (PDF copies of the articles are being submitted with these comments) . The NHTSA should withdraw its DEIS and acknowledge it is invalid.

(11) The DEIS fails to recognize that the Proposed Repeal will cost consumers billions of dollars. The Trump administration concedes the inefficiency of car engines will cost consumers $133 billion just to keep their gas tanks full (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-02/u-s-proposes-easing-auto-mileage-rules-california-s-authority). Moreover, according to an analysis done by the Consumers Union, new vehicle consumers would save about $3,200 per car and $4,800 per truck or SUV if President Obama’s standards are met by 2025 https://consumersunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Fueling-Savings-Consumer-Savings-from-CAFE-2025-Final-1.pdf (copy attached)
(12) The DEIS fails to recognize that the Obama era mileage rules will create jobs and fails to recognize that the Proposed Repeal will cause America to forego the creation of thousands of jobs. 43,000 out of the 484,000 new jobs opened in the U.S. by 2030, would be full time in the auto sector and 49 states will obtain net job gains as proven in the “More Jobs per Gallon” report done by the independent research firm Management Information Services Inc. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericagies/2011/08/05/obamas-stricter-fuel-efficiency-standards-will-save-money-create-jobs-say-report/#3d6065267f8b). (PDF copy attached)

(13) The DEIS is fatally flawed because it fails to acknowledge that the EPA has underestimated methane gas emissions by energy companies. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-methane/u-s-oil-gas-system-methane-leaks-larger-than-epa-estimates-study-idUSKBN1JH2TP (PDF copy attached). This error undercuts and invalidates DEIS because DEIS understates the climate change impacts of the Proposed Repeal by ignoring the repeal’s climate change impact by increasing fossil fuel extraction (the consequences of which are in addition to those of increased vehicle emissions).
(14) Hurricane Michael’s destruction this fall shows the dramatic impact of climate change. A PDF copy Wikipedia’s report on Michael is attached. Michael is just the latest of a long series climatic disasters that show that America must immediately reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. As Professor Kim Cobb, the link between climate change and a long series of hurricanes is clear. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/10/14/hurricanes-like-michael-show-why-we-cant-ignore-climate-change/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.091a0ba3eb6b (PDF copy attached).
The DEIS should be re-written to acknowledge that the vast majority of scientists have concluded that the Proposed Repeal and similar federal actions will cause an increase in hurricanes hitting America The continued news about hurricanes underscores the irresponsible nature of the DEIS’s repeated irresponsible efforts to downplay the patent significance

New Topic: Draft EIS for Rolling Back Vehicle MPG Standards

Andrew J. Yamamoto, Esq., Editor, Scott D. Pinsky, Esq., Environmental Law Editor, InternationalMosaic.com have submitted comments on the “Draft EIS for the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for MY 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks” (https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NHTSA-2017-0069-0178)

[Although there were  some technical problems  submitting today’s comments, they were in  substance as follows.]

Both individually and as editors, the editors of InternationalMosaic.com object to the Draft EIS for proposed degradation of future mileage standards (Proposed Repeal) for, inter alia, the following reasons.
(1) The DEIS systematically understates the risks of the Proposed Repeal. At a minimum, the DEIS should concede that the action will increase emissions of climate changing gases and cumulative effect of the repeal may be the increase in catastrophic weather events like Hurricanes, Florence, Harvey and Maria. With respect to Harvey, Wikipedia says: “Warmer air can hold more water vapor, in accordance with the Clausius–Clapeyron relation, and there has been a global increase of daily rainfall records. Regional sea surface temperatures around Houston have risen around 0.5 °C (0.9 °F) in recent decades, which caused a 3–5% increase in moisture in the atmosphere. This had the effect of allowing Harvey to strengthen more than expected.[172] The water temperature of the Gulf of Mexico was above average for this time of the year, and likely to be a factor in Harvey’s impact.[173] Within a week of Harvey, Hurricane Irma formed in the eastern Atlantic, due to the similar conditions involving unusually warm seawater. Some scientists fear this may be becoming a ‘new normal’. Also higher sea-water temperatures can make hurricanes more devastating.
“The slow movement of Harvey over Texas allowed the storm to drop prolonged heavy rains on the state, as has also happened with earlier storms.[ Harvey’s stalled position was due to weak prevailing winds linked to a greatly expanded subtropical high pressure system over much of the US at the time, which had pushed the jet stream to the north. Research and model simulations have indicated an association between this pattern and human-caused climate change (internal links omitted).” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Harvey#Climate_change

(2) The DEIS is fatally flawed (and must be replaced with a new draft EIS) because it does not consider any alternatives that improve vehicle gas mileage more than the present set of standards. Instead, the DEIS only considers the “no project option” and seven alternatives that ratchet up the production of climate changing gases. The attached July 2012 final EIS for the current system expressly considered a reasonable pro-climate option. See page 2-14. In view of last year’s hurricanes Harvey and Maria and today’s Florence, both the NEPA and common sense require NHTSA to fully and publicly consider a few options that require at least a seven annual percent improvement in vehicle fleet mileage.

(3) The DEIS is fatally flawed (and must be replaced with a new draft EIS) because it does not consider any market-based alternatives (e.g., a “cap and trade” type option). See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emissions_trading (discussing “cap and trade” systems).

(4) The ongoing Hurricane (now storm) Florence also provides new evidence that must be considered in a new draft EIS. On September 13, 2018, the Washington Post reported: “In the case of Hurricane Florence and the Carolinas, some six inches of the coming storm surge is attributable to climate change because sea levels have risen in the past 100 years or so.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/09/13/no-brainer-climate-change-has-made-hurricane-florence-worse/?for-guid=4264d5f5-26bb-e511-8a53-90b11c3d639b&utm_campaign=narrative&utm_medium=email&utm_source=usatoday-Climate%20Point&utm_term=.16474520865a

(5) The EPA plans to allow well owners to increase their release of methane, a potent climate change chemical. See EPA Announces Proposal to Roll Back Obama-Era Rules on Methane Emissions, Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2018. https://www.wsj.com/articles/epa-announces-proposal-to-rollback-obama-era-rules-on-methane-emissions-1536702464  Given that the methane decision will impact the climate in a manner similar to vehicle emissions, the new DEIS must consider the cumulative effects of the vehicle emission and methane rules. Truth be told, the DEIS, and the EIS for every major federal action that will increase the production or release of climate changing elements or compounds, must fully analyze and disclose the cumulative effect of the action when aggregated with the effect of all other human activities

(6) The DEIS improperly fails to disclose the serious cost to American consumers that will result from worsened fuel mileage. EPA estimates that, if its preferred plan is adopted, an extra 206 billion gallons of fuel will be used from 2010 to 2050. DEIS, page S-6. While fuel costs vary, and assuming each gallon costs 4 dollars and assuming zero climate impact, the proposed action would cost 824 billion dollars.
Cf. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices, https://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_pri_gnd_dcus_y05la_w.htm (survey L.A. prices).

(7) The DEIS should disclose that EPA’s proposed regulatory rollback will not improve vehicle safety. Washington Post, August 15, 2018, “The Trump administration said weaker fuel standards would save lives. EPA experts disagree” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/energy-environment/2018/08/15/trump-administration-said-weaker-fuel-standards-would-save-lives-epa-experts-disagree/?utm_term=.ad4d6c40a73a) ‘ To quote “EPA’s internal analysis[,] …freezing the Obama-era rules would lead to slightly more fatalities (seven for every trillion miles driven), cost jobs, and in economic terms, have a net negative impact of $83 billion.” Obviously, both the proposed Regulatory Rollback and the DEIS should be withdrawn.

The proposed regulation will undercut the ability of EPA (including future EPA administrators) to protect the public pursuant to the SDWA and TSCA.

Less than thirty minutes before the “witching hour” when the comment period ended, InternationalMosaic.com submitted it’s last set of comments. As in  the past, the substance of the comments is below, but we apologize for some glitches in formatting and any missing quotation marks.

“The proposed regulation will undercut the ability of EPA (including future EPA administrators) to protect the public pursuant to the SDWA and TSCA. The breadth of the proposed regulation is is shown in part by reviewing the chemicals covered by the two acts. See, e.g., The non-confidential list of 67951 TSCA chemicals, https://www.epa.gov/tsca-inventory/how-access-tsca-inventory , the list of hazardous wastes, https://www.epa.gov/hw/defining-hazardous-waste-listed-characteristic-and-mixed-radiological-wastes

, SDWA Regulations, https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations, PDF copy of list, https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/npwdr_complete_table.pdf

“Moreover, in addition to being bad for the environment, SDWA and TSCA lists mark the starting points for the required EIS that EPA must prepare, as required by NEPA, before the regulation is approved.”

EPA’s most obvious violation of NEPA may be the EPA’s failure to meaningfully discuss reasonable alternatives to the proposed action

The substance of this morning’s comment is below.

In general, before approving the proposed regulation, NEPA requires EPA to prepare a thorough EIS for the project. In a discussion entitled: “What is included in an EIS?”, EPA outlines the EIS requirements. https://www.epa.gov/nepa/national-environmental-policy-act-review-process#EIS The requirements include: “Alternatives: Consideration of a reasonable range of alternatives that can accomplish the purpose and need of the proposed action.”

Although the documents that EPA presented in support of the proposed regulation fall far short of what NEPA requires in many ways, the most obvious deficit may be the EPA’s failure to meaningfully discuss reasonable alternatives to the proposed action. In the present case, as a consequence of “Anti-Environment” regulation’s extraordinary breadth, NEPA requires EPA to prepare an EIS which reviews and discusses the many reasonable (and often patently superior) alternatives to the proposed regulatory action.

While courts sometimes differ on the necessary scope of alternatives, it is clear that even a minimal EIS should discuss several alternatives. The proposed regulation lists 8 different statutes
(i.e., CAA, CWA, SDWA, RCRA, CERCLA, EPCRTKA, FIFRA, and TSCA ) it will impact. See proposed regulation Federal Register, Vol. 83, No. 83 pg. 18769. Clearly, a reasonable discussion of alternatives would compare the proposed action’s impacts with an alternative that impacts only 1 statute. Another alternative would apply to two of the listed statutes. Put simply each permutation of these statutes less than 8 statutes ought to be fully discussed in the EIS as a reasonable alternative. The EPA only has itself to blame for the complexity of the requisite EIS because it alone proposed a regulation that would affect 8 important statutes in one regulation.
Another alternative would be to authorize the EPA inspector general to expeditiously review any claims of bias.

Still another alternative that could be examined is to (at the regulated industries’ expense) have a shadow agency do an independent investigation of all proposed regulations. Depending on how the shadow agency was constructed it could be like shadow cabinets in Britain.

Given that the ostensible purpose of the proposed regulation is to increase the “transparency” in EPA decision making, a reasonable alternative would be to require each person expressing a position on a EPA action to disclose her or his salary and/or compensation for that statement and for any supporting study. This could be similar to what a party may discover about an expert witness offered in federal court. This would allow the public to act as more informed participants in any debate.