Climate change ‘Plan B’ gives oil-and-gas industry the jitters

While uncertainty swirling over a meaningful climate change agreement coming out of Copenhagen, and the U.S. Senate far from passing anything close to last summer’s House climate change bill, the Obama administration’s Plan B – the threat of stepped-up EPA regulation – is making Colorado’s oil and gas industry increasingly nervous.

EPA HQ in DC
EPA HQ in DC

Environmental groups are lauding EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s recent declaration that greenhouse gas emissions pose a public health threat, and in Colorado, the natural gas industry is nervously eyeing the federal agency’s move to review how it regulates emissions from drilling and production operations.

The Obama administration has made it clear it would rather legislate than regulate – wary no doubt of the O&G industry’s proclivity to litigate – but getting a climate change bill out of the Senate that comes close to the House version will be tough.

There was some movement late last week with the tri-partisan plan floated by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass), co-sponsor of Boxer-Kerry, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), but it was viewed by some critics are short on specifics and long on posturing to show Copenhagen the Senate is serious. Mostly it differed from the House bill by promising more breaks for coal, nuclear and offshore drilling.

Developing nations seemed less than impressed Monday, threatening to walk out on Copenhagen unless wealthier nations producing the most greenhouse gas emissions make more substantive concessions. This despite energy secretary Steven Chu’s announcement that industrialized nations will commit to spending $350 million over five years ($85 million from the U.S.) to increase access to clean energy technology in the developing world.

Meanwhile, Danish police continue to crack down on massive protests estimated at up to 60,000 strong on Saturday.

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