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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.

http://www.bna.com/...

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.

http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/...

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
in 1990.

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.

Originally posted to LakeSuperior on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 03:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Hawks and Michigan, My Michigan.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Oh, they have been MIA fo so long. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093

    My moment with them came when they gave up on ZPG in America.  Or, perhaps it was when service outings became such a cash cow that prices rose above what interested beginners and younger people could pay.

    They decided that maintaining a constituency for a wild America just did not fit into their goals anymore.

    •  Actually, the national Sierra Club is one of a (4+ / 0-)

      handful of national organizations that carries a substantial burden of plaintiff's litigation on environmental matters in the United States.   The principle problem with SC right now
      is that the national board of directors employed someone who isn't competent to head a large national organization and does not have a working background in environmental science, law and policy like former SC executive directors, such as Carl Pope.

  •  The Summit Petroleum case also (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FishOutofWater, eagleray, LinSea

    illustrates the problem of not getting on with
    President Obama's judicial appointments leaving many of the Federalist Society judicial clones to deliberate on public matters in the Sixth Circuit.

  •  Do you have any evidence what so ever (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    divineorder, 6412093

    of a connection between Sierra Club screenings of Gasland and the Sierra Club's lack of participation in the EPA's lawsuit?

    If not, you are making stuff up, something you accuse Josh Fox of doing.

    This was a good diary until you went off track over Gasland, which, as far as I can tell, has nothing to do with lack of involvement by environmental organizations in the lawsuit.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

    by FishOutofWater on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 05:01:41 PM PST

    •  The connection is this..... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LinSea, 6412093

      It is a matter of non-profit organization management, priority setting, messaging and leadership failure brought on by both distraction and by cognitive dissonance as a result of SC's involvement with Gasland and the use of Gasland messaging.

      When you have Sierra Club staff members from Michael Brune on down repeated mouthing Gasland nonsense about the oil and gas industry being exempt from the Clean Air Act, and Sierra Club staffers readily cite Gasland for making such claims....then you have a situation where SC staff are blind to reality and thus are incapable of recognizing the reality of an attack like the Summit Petroleum case.  

      If SC spends its time, staff and resources propagating erroneous information from Gasland about the Clean Air Act, this is a non-reality-based endeavor which both distracts from a replaces effective and reality-based organizational activity.  

      If you have staff members that believe and tell the public that the oil and gas industry is exempt from the Clean Air Act, then there isn't any reason to expect effective environmental enforcement analysis from the same staff members.   When SC distracts itself with Gasland nonsense and embraces GL publicly with showings,  it is then a conflicting interest for SC to then have to admit it was irresponsible for doing so prior to altering their public statements to address actual reality.

      Sierra Club in Michigan didn't even know about the Summit Petroleum case until I told them about it after the fact of the decision.   Neither the Michigan chapter nor SC national was engaged enough to actually know what was happening with the Summit Petroleum case which means they were not alert to litigation directly pertinent to the entire organization's past advocacy and litigation history.....and that is a fail.

      I learned about the case doing work down in Ohio.

      •  Gasland simplifies issues, no COI (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        6412093

        It's a stretch to claim that the Sierra Club makes policy decisions based on what's in a film it screens. Obviously the experts in environmental organizations make decisions based on much deeper knowledge than is contained in a film produced for the general public. Moreover, screening a film does not mean that they agree with everything in the film.

        I think you need to put more effort into educating people about the Summit Petroleum case and let Gasland go. Your dislike of Gasland is keeping you from communicating effectively on more important matters than the content of a movie.

        look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

        by FishOutofWater on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 06:46:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You said: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LinSea
          Obviously the experts in environmental organizations make decisions based on much deeper knowledge than is contained in a film produced for the general public.
          Not really, since Michael Brune did a whole recent discussion at the Economist that was mostly Gasland talking points.

          A file purported as a 'documentary' for the general public would not countenance propagation of deliberately erroneous information.

          Your dislike of Gasland is keeping you from communicating effectively on more important matters than the content of a movie.
          You may be correct for those people who put any faith or credit in Gasland declarations.   It is pretty difficult to dislodge a strongly held false notion or ideological belief implanted by Gasland.   A lot of people who are taken in Gasland don't want to be unplugged from the strong feelings that Gasland is designed to evoke.   However, no person or organization that traffics in Gasland nonsense will ever be effective at either getting environmental protection and practicing environmental enforcement if they rely on Gasland content.....since the videos contain deliberate false statements and erroneous claims of causation.
  •  There are many environmental organizations (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, 6412093

    and not every one gets involved in every lawsuit. I don't think of the Sierra Club as big litigators, compared to say Natural Resources Defense Council and some of the other groups. The Sierra Club is one of the named plaintiffs in the case that just came out of the 9th Circuit blocking oil drilling in the Arctic, which I consider a pretty BFD.

    I don't know much about the Michigan situation. But I've been involved in enough organizations to know that there is never enough people-power or money to get involved in every single possible fight. So you pick and choose, and sometimes let other organizations handle a particular one while you go off and deal with something different.

    Here in RI the Sierra Club does not litigate at all. They are doing a lot of other good work, supporting wind turbines, public transit, bicycle lanes, and fossil fuel divestment campaigns.

    •  You said: (0+ / 0-)
      The Sierra Club is one of the named plaintiffs in the case that just came out of the 9th Circuit blocking oil drilling in the Arctic, which I consider a pretty BFD.
      If memory serves me correctly, that lawsuit has not won anything yet but an appeal to the 9th circuit.   It was dismissed at the federal district court level and the Plaintiffs won an appeal from that dismissal.   Now they are free to prosecute the case back in district court, but they're just starting and have not yet won on any substantial issues yet, except for the right to prosecute the litigation in district court.
  •  To me--someone who is completely ignorant (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093

    of both the science and the politics involved here--it appears that you are aggrieved on two counts: the lack of SC involvement in this particular case, and the recent interest of SC leadership in this documentary (with which I am not familiar, either).

    Re the former, is it that you think that the SC has a particular responsibility that other environmental organizations don't? I'm just so uninformed about the back story, I have no way of knowing why they would or wouldn't be involved.

    Re the latter, I can appreciate your frustration in having something made for popular consumption displace more serious and substantive discussions.

    Is there a charge that the SC nationally or locally has accepted with respect to enforcement of the Clean Air Act that they are failing? A moral charge, perhaps.

    I wish I knew more, but the learning curve is steep.

    Support Small Business: Shop Kos Katalogue If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 08:34:42 PM PST

    •  Sierra Club and a handful of other important (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate, 6412093

      organizations are the most active organizations in the United States for the defense of environmental statutes through litigation.   These organizations have a responsibility to advocate for the public trust and environmental responsibility as it relates to actions, litigation and environmental enforcement under the Clean Air Act.

      However, it appears that SC has a blind spot in their Beyond Natural Gas program that means SC was not present and engaged on the single most important litigation case addressing how oil and gas facilities are regulated under the Clean Air Act.   There isn't any evidence they are even yet engaged at all at this late date in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on the case mentioned in the diary.

      The same blind spot also leads the Sierra Club, and most of the rest of the environmental movement in the United States, to advocate for the BREATHE Act.   The Sierra Club portrays the BREATHE Act as beneficial legislation, but it would actually cause great damage by deregulating all of the existing technology-based hydrogen sulfide emission limitations contained in all pulp and paper mills, petroleum refineries, oil and gas plants, coke ovens and other sources of hydrogen sulfide without replacing any of these legal limitations for an extended period of time (multiple years).  

      My fundamental complaint is that SC is not presently doing a proper and competent job addressing these issues.  

      And, with the BREATHE Act, Sierra Club would actually cause damage to the Clean Air Act and public health because they are promoting legislation while being indifferent to the damage is would cause when they are responsible for public assurances that their proposed legislative action was actually a benefit to the public (when it is not).  

  •  Hi LakeS (0+ / 0-)

    Here's my understanding of the Summit case.

    Summit has a bunch of natural gas drilling sites, each of which produces air pollution from the diesel-fired pump engines and other equipment.

    Each of those dozen or so wells pumps natural gas to a gas processing plant, which itself has equipment that produces air pollution, while it removes trace contaminants from the gas.

    If all the wells' and the gas plants' air pollution were lumped together, the amount of air pollution would exceed "significance" thresh holds and all of these facilities would be required to obey onerous regulations.

    But the Summit case allows the agency to look at each different well site and the gas plant as "separate" facilities, each of which is insignificant and essentially unregulated, even though the wells and the gas plant are commonly owned, adjacent, and physically connected.

    “The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” ― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    by 6412093 on Wed Jan 29, 2014 at 11:15:33 PM PST

    •  You said: (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate
      Summit has a bunch of natural gas drilling sites, each of which produces air pollution from the diesel-fired pump engines and other equipment.
      I have no idea whether or not there are presently any well construction and drilling activities going on or not.   There are several sour gas wells that are producing wells.   There
      are no diesel fired pump engines at these producing sour gas wells.   There is the casing wellhead which may have some minor fugitive emissions, there will be condensate tanks with seals which can leak if not maintained, and there are flares to control methane and hydrogen sulfide emissions from the condensate tanks.   There may be some emissions from other ancillary equipment.
      Each of those dozen or so wells pumps natural gas to a gas processing plant, which itself has equipment that produces air pollution, while it removes trace contaminants from the gas.
      I think there are more than a dozen.   The field is expanding according to a note I got from a nearby citizen.  The sour gas plant will likely have a claus suflur recovery unit, flare, liquids separation and storage, dehydration, etc.   This is a conventional sour gas field so contaminants are not at trace levels in the gas...meaning the field gas from the wells has high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan.
      If all the wells' and the gas plants' air pollution were lumped together, the amount of air pollution would exceed "significance" thresh holds and all of these facilities would be required to obey onerous regulations.
      A major source for Title V purposes is usually 100 tons of any criteria air pollutant.   Significance levels are not used in Title V, but in new source review permitting.   Before Summit Petroleum, the 'onerous regulation' of requiring a Title V permit for aggregated major sources was the law of the land in the Sixth Circuit, but not afterwards.
      But the Summit case allows the agency to look at each different well site and the gas plant as "separate" facilities, each of which is insignificant and essentially unregulated, even though the wells and the gas plant are commonly owned, adjacent, and physically connected.
      Whether a minor source is regulated or not is a matter that is up to the state to adopt, but which is subject to federal approval.  Further, the issue in the Summit case was EPA policy on the definition of 'adjacent' and what that word means in these circumstances with star/cluster group emission sources.

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