Last Friday's Bloomberg BNA brings Michigan-related and national news
that addresses the adverse consequences of past Sierra Club
Michigan Chapter and Sierra Club national decisions that
failed to defend the regulation of air pollution from oil and gas facilities
under the Federal Clean Air Act in an important case in
Michigan that now has national visibility.
This is news of a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case
in which the oil/gas extraction industry is using a
case that started in Michigan to argue a point that would
lead to massive deregulation of oil and gas industry facilities
across the United States from the requirement to aggregate major source emissions from oil/gas well process equipment for purposes of Title V operating
permit requirements under the Clean Air Act.
That news story references the case of Summit Petroleum Corporation
which you can read here with a 2-1 split decision of the U.S. Sixth
Circuit Federal Court of Appeals.
The Summit Petroleum facility is one that should be well known
to some Michigan Sierra Club members. It had a past history of causing odor
problems. It is a sour gas sweetening plant and a network of sour gas wells
and condensate tanks located directly
adjacent to the US-127 freeway at Rosebush, MI.
Neither the Michigan Chapter nor the SC national were aware of, tracked or were
involved in the Summit Petroleum case. Not being aware of the most
major case affecting oil and gas industry air emissions and permitting is not
acceptable diligence and attention on the part of SC. At the very least,
the national SC office should be tracking all litigation appeals under CAA, CWA
and other environmental statutes that appear in any Federal court of appeals.
As a result, there was no Sierra Club involvement at all in this case, which is the most important and most damaging litigation case addressing Clean Air Act operating permit
requirements for oil and gas facilities to control air pollution in
the last 24 years. It also negatively affects air quality permitting
decisions for mining industry facilities. The Summit Petroleum case
is the most damaging case to CAA authority on Title V permitting over oil/gas facilities
since the first enactment of the Title V operating permit provisions of the CAA
Because the Summit Petroleum case focused on the meaning of the
word "adjacent" and denying EPA's interpretations of how it considered the meaning of the word "adjacent" the litigation may also indirectly affect new source review
permitting and major stationary source aggregation for major sources as well,
or at least the prospect of appealing those issues at the Sixth Circuit.
Filing of the case at the Sixth Circuit should have
triggered a SC motion for either full party intervention or, at the very
least amicus brief filings in the Summit Petroleum case.
However, because SC was missing from the action, Honigman attorneys and
attorneys for the American Petroleum Institute and American Exploration
and Production Council were opposed only by EPA/DOJ counsel with no
efforts at all by either Sierra Club or any other environmental organization.
As a result the oil/gas industry win at the Sixth Circuit (with no
opposition at all by Sierra Club) the Summit Petroleum decision did massive damage to
Clean Air Act regulation of the oil and gas industry in the Sixth Circuit by overturning
decades of settled EPA policy addressing elements of how air emission sources are aggregated for purposes of Clean Air Act title V operating permits for air dischargers.
The practical effect of the Summit Petroleum decision was the effective immediate relaxation of the requirement for oil and gas extraction/processing facilities to have a Title V permit under the Clean Air Act in the states of Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
In the present D.C. Circuit Case, the oil and gas industry is trying to extend
that relaxation of the Title V permitting requirements dependent on the
"adjacent" definition issue to all oil and gas extraction industry facilities in
the United States.....and there is still no sign of Sierra Club involvement
at the D.C. Circuit in this case to defend the Federal Clean Air Act against
this attack by Summit Petroleum and the American Petroleum Institute.
I wrote to Joanne Spalding, SC Beyond Natural Gas attorney, about
a month ago informing her of the Summit Petroleum case and Sierra Club's
damaging BREATHE Act proposal about month ago with no reply at all to
my communication from that office. The Michigan Chapter is still promoting the BREATHE Act, by the way, on the Chapter web site.
Instead of defending the environmental and public health protection
heritage of Senator Edmund Muskie with the Federal Clean Air Act
from attacks by the oil and gas industry, both the national and Michigan Sierra Club
spend time, energy, money, PR visibility, communications and volunteer
time promoting the scientific misconduct of Josh Fox/Gasland video
entertainment workproducts. Gasland is emotional storytelling,
drama, performance art, conflation and fabrication that does not have
much to do with scientific and engineering reality and which is mostly scientific misconduct and garbage.
However, because SC sponsors Gasland showings, SC is also
responsible for propagating and extending
the present outstanding widespread erroneous public misconception
from Gasland that the oil and gas industry is exempted from the Clean Air Act.
Sierra Club has a conflicting interest between its John Muir-related
responsibilities to practice conservation science, the requirements for
leadership and natural resoures and environmental protection
stewardship, its obligations for proper legislative stewardship and public
trust advocacy of the Federal Clean Air Act......and its public embrace of
Gasland conflation, fabrication and scientific misconduct.
If Sierra Club is giving deference to Josh Fox claims that the oil and gas
industry is exempt from the Clean Air Act, then the organization can
hardly be effective in any judicial forum where actual reality should rule
the day when defending the existing authority to regulate the oil
and gas industry under the Clean Air Act that is denied by Josh Fox.
If the Sierra Club spends its time using Gasland to tell SC members and
the public false information that the oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, then SC is choosing to deliberately
evade responsibility for dealing with real-world oil/gas industry attacks
on the Clean Air Act and is deliberately choosing to portray to the
world false Gasland claims instead of addressing scientific reality and
practicing effective environmental enforcement in all available
forums, including in federal circuit courts of appeal.
5:12 PM PT: The other interesting fact about Summit Petroleum is that it is regulated by EPA and not the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality because it is located on a Native American reservation in central Michigan.