Friday, December 21, 2007

Everyone should read this New York Times editorial on the wretched Bush administration decision about California


Arrogance and Warming

Published: December 21, 2007

The Bush administration’s decision to deny California permission to regulate and reduce global warming emissions from cars and trucks is an indefensible act of executive arrogance that can only be explained as the product of ideological blindness and as a political payoff to the automobile industry.

The decision, announced Wednesday by Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, overrode the advice of his legal and technical staffs, misconstrued the law and defied both Congress and the federal courts. It also stuck a thumb in the eyes of 17 other state governors who have grown impatient with the federal government’s failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and wanted to move aggressively on their own.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave California authority to set its own clean air standards if it first received a federal waiver. The law also said that other states could then adopt California’s standards. In 2004, California asked permission to move ahead with a law requiring automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent by 2016. That would require improvements in fuel economy far beyond those called for in the energy bill signed this week.

Over the years, California has made 50 waiver requests to regulate smog-forming pollutants and other gases and has never been denied. This was the first request involving emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which the Bush administration has steadfastly refused to regulate.

For three years, the E.P.A. also hid behind the argument that it had no authority over carbon dioxide emissions because carbon dioxide was not specifically identified as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court demolished that argument last April. Subsequent court decisions have upheld the states’ authority to set their own standards while refuting the auto industry’s assertions that meeting the California standards would be technologically and economically impossible.

Undeterred, industry tried to insert language in the energy bill that would have gutted E.P.A.’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and, thus, its authority to grant California its waiver. Congress refused. The automakers also sought relief from the White House and Vice President Cheney. The result of all these machinations was Mr. Johnson’s decision on Wednesday and the ludicrous reasoning that accompanied it.

One of Mr. Johnson’s arguments was that a “national solution” to carbon dioxide emissions was preferable to a “confusing patchwork of state rules.” A national solution is precisely what the administration has refused to offer. And the California rule — once in force there and in 17 other states — would in fact constitute a uniform standard covering nearly half the car market. That is why the automakers lobbied so fiercely against it.

It has been hard enough to trust Mr. Bush’s recent assertions that he has finally gotten religion on climate change. It all seems like posturing now.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Rep. Waxman to EPA: don't shred those files!

For the sake of good government, we ought to be grateful someone at this level in Congress is trying to delve beneath the surface on an important issue. (You may recall, Rep. Waxman’s immediate predecessor as chair of that government oversight committee, Rep. Tom Davis, was more interested in such matters as trying to keep Terri Schaivo hooked up to her apparatus: )

In response to several inquiries, no, we do not have the power point presentation described in today’s excellent Washington Post story. But we don’t doubt the authenticity of the story, and we hope Waxman uncovers the truth.

The EPA decision was a sickening example of bad government at work. As the Post noted, Johnson took action that his own legal experts said was probably illegal!

And, friends, we taxpayers will be footing the bill for his defense when California sues and ultimately prevails.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some of the misleading material this evening by Bush EPA chief Steve Johnson

From this evening's conference call with reporters:

--Johnson: “confusing patchwork of state rules” -- This is baloney, of course. Johnson is implying (as the car companies have in their misleading rhetoric) that there are lots of different state standards. This is false. There is only the California standard, which other states by law can adopt.

--“the few states” that have adopted or considering adopting. “Few” !!! Phrased as he did, the total is 16 or 17, I believe. It’s about half the population! More at

--Some drivel about 33.8 mpg: I’ve never heard this statistic before. The car companies wanted to kill the California standard because its impact would be tougher!

But most important, California is planning to make its current standards even tougher in the future under its climate action plan. (The current standards only run through about 2016.) So this claim is absolute and utter nonsense.

--our “world class professional staff” -- pants on fire!
As the Waxman material in an earlier posting notes, the professional staff were left in the dark while this political deal was cut.

Bush EPA takes a dive for car companies; nixes California on greenhouse gases

Well, friends, just when you thought you had heard it all, brace yourself. EPA Administrator Steve Johnson had a rushed conference call this evening to announce he has rejected California’s request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. He’s moving fast because the truth is starting to squirt out.

This is an unprecedented Christmas gift to the car industry. It is a disgraceful attack on states’ rights. And it is a triumph of special interest politics over science, the law, and good government.

I hope you all saw Congressman Waxman’s material earlier this evening: and

What Waxman has uncovered is the truth – that EPA’s professional staff has NOT prepared any material to support this decision. Indeed, we have heard the opposite: that EPA’s professional staff concluded that California both legally and technically should receive the waiver.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quick hits: after the energy bill, the clock is ticking for California, and more...

As the House of Representatives prepares to pass the slimmed-down energy bill, the White House is now claiming credit!

This is pretty remarkable, given the veto threats and the Bush administration’s alignment with:

--oil companies seeking to preserve tax breaks (oil won that one);

--coal-burning power companies determined to block renewable energy requirements (coal won that one); and

--car companies seeking to kill California’s effort to enforce its greenhouse gas vehicle standards (still in play – see below).

But it does lead us to wonder what’s next? More on that below, as well as a few things that may have been overlooked amid the congressional energy fight and the Bali negotiations.


For Whom The Bell Tolls: The clock is ticking on California’s vehicle request. The Bush administration had promised a decision by the end of the year, and we know a lot of the feds are already packing their bags for Christmas vacations. So what’s likely to happen? Even though we believe California has met all the requisite legal and technical tests, bookmakers are giving the Dolphins better odds against the Patriots than California has with the Bush administration.

Though no “official” decision has been made, the signals have been pretty clear in recent weeks that – barring a last-minute change of heart -- the White House plans to side with the car companies (for instance, the veto threat and the lobbying campaign against California, obviously sanctioned by the White House, which didn’t fire anyone for this misbehavior).

We’re surprised the White House hasn’t put up a billboard at Hollywood and Vine: “Governor Schwarzenegger, your request is terminated!” (In reality, EPA Administrator “Scientist” Steve Johnson will probably be forced to make the call to Schwarzenegger. Unless Johnson finally summons up some courage and takes early retirement.)

Meanwhile, Rep. Henry Waxman is asking very appropriate questions about the status of EPA legal and technical analyses of this issue

Stay tuned for more, but be mindful this fight is very likely to continue into the next administration.


Experts analyze: As you may know, some of our friends plan a teleconference briefing tomorrow at 1 pm Eastern time to look at this and other decisions on carbon dioxide pending at the EPA. The call-in coordinates are 888.228.9795 Conference ID: 28754698. For more information, contact Sierra Club’s Josh Dorner, 202-675-2384


Secure future: So often groups go to the White House to try to weaken pending standards. So it was refreshing to see the group Securing America’s Energy Future argue to the Office of Management and Budget that new technologies such as advanced diesels and hybrids would enable the vehicle fleet to improve gas mileage by more than four percent a year: and


Congress and diesel: Efforts to clean up existing diesel engines would receive a boost under the “omnibus” spending bill that cleared the House of Representatives yesterday. The lawmakers also boosted funding for state and local clean-air agencies. (The Bush administration wanted to go cheap on both, despite a lot of rhetoric about how they love to clean up diesel and work with the states.) The bill would also block the administration from moving forward with a plan to roll back toxic pollution requirements.


Speaking of diesel, whatever happened to the EPA plan to clean up diesel trains and medium-sized diesel ships? EPA had promised it would issue final standards by the end of this year.
Is General Electric still hypocritically protesting against better train standards? Don’t worry – we are on top of this one!


Smog story: Another big pending decision involves new national air pollution standards for ozone, or smog. EPA is under a court order to make a final decision by March, but we are told this whole issue has been put on the back burner. Meanwhile, industry lobbying continues. Eleven governors (Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina and Texas -- obviously prompted by industry) have written to EPA and urged no change in the current standards. Please let us know if you want this. We also have a rundown of states that favor better standards. (Note these include the people who actually know about air pollution, including the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the Ozone Transport Commission and the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management.)


Lead balloon: EPA’s science advisers, who unanimously have endorsed much tougher smog standards, are also disappointed in the agency’s so-far pretty vague plan regarding an update in national air pollution standards for lead. EPA has suggested it might keep the current standards (set way back in the 70s) even though science is clear that much tougher standards are appropriate to prevent kids from losing IQ points. Of course, consider the source: this is the administration that twice vetoed the children’s health insurance program…

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sen. Feinstein eats crow, seeks to fix earlier goof she made in Levin deal; confirms that energy bill permits EPA, California to limit ghgs

Feinstein obviously felt she needed to cover herself after the earlier agreement, which California officials feared could have given ammo to the car companies.

(On Capitol Hill, wags are referring to Feinstein’s earlier colloquy with Levin as an “unsupervised Senator moment.”)

This version makes it clear that the landmark energy bill would not limit efforts by the EPA or California to reduce greenhouse gases from motor vehicles.
From: Gerber, Scott (Feinstein) [] Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 6:00 PMSubject: Feinstein-Inouye Colloquy
This was inserted into the record this afternoon by Senators Feinstein and Inouye. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, Scott

Colloquy Between Senator Inouye and Senator Feinstein on HR 6

Inouye: Mr. President, I have worked for many months with the Senior Senator from California and the original sponsor of this legislation, Mrs. Feinstein, to draft a sound policy to increase fuel economy standards in our country. I stated earlier today that “all federal regulations in this area be consistent.” I wholly agree with that notion, in that these agencies have two different missions.

The Department of Transportation has the responsibility for regulating fuel economy, and should enforce the Ten-in Ten Fuel Economy Act fully and vigorously to save oil in the automobile fleet. The Environmental Protection Agency has the responsibility to protect public health. These two missions can and should co-exist without one undermining the other.

There are numerous examples in the Executive Branch where two or more agencies share responsibility over a particular issue. The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission both oversee telemarketing practices and the Do-Not-Call list. The FTC also shares jurisdiction over antitrust enforcement with the Department of Justice.

Under the current CAFE system, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency work together. DOT enforces the CAFE standards, and the EPA tests vehicles for compliance and fuel economy labels on cars. The President himself foresaw these agencies working together and issued an Executive Order on May 14, 2007 to coordinate the agencies on reducing automotive greenhouse gas emissions.

The DOT and the EPA have separate missions that should be executed fully and responsibly. I believe it is important that we ensure that the agencies are properly managed by the Executive Branch, as has been done with several agencies with shared jurisdiction for decades. I plan on holding hearings next session to examine this issue fully.

Feinstein: I would like to thank the Chairman of the Commerce Committee, and I would like to clarify what I believe to be the intent of the legislation I sponsored to increase fuel economy standards in the United States.

The legislation increasing the fuel economy standards of vehicles by 10 miles per gallon over 10 years does not impact the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of the EPA, California, or other states, under the Clean Air Act.

The intent was to give NHTSA the ability to regulate fuel efficiency standards of vehicles, and increase the fleetwide average to at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

There was no intent in any way, shape, or form to negatively affect, or otherwise restrain, California or any other State’s existing or future tailpipe emissions laws, or any future EPA authority on tailpipe emissions.

The two issues are separate and distinct.

As the Supreme Court correctly observed in Massachusetts v. EPA, the fact "that DOT sets mileage standards in no way licenses EPA to shirk its environmental responsibilities. EPA has been charged with protecting the public’s health and welfare, a statutory obligation wholly independent of DOT’s mandate to promote energy efficiency. The two obligations may overlap, but there is no reason to think the two agencies cannot both administer their obligations and yet avoid inconsistency.”

I agree with the Supreme Court’s view of consistency. There is no reason to think the two agencies cannot both administer their obligations and yet avoid inconsistency.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Central Valley Chrysler-Jeep v. Goldstone has reiterated this point in finding that if approved by EPA, California’s standards are not preempted by the Energy Policy Conservation Act.

Title I of the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007, H.R. 6, provides clear direction to the Department of Transportation, in consultation with the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, to raise fuel economy standards.

By taking this action, Congress is continuing DOT’s existing authority to set vehicle fuel economy standards. Importantly, the separate authority and responsibility of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act is in no manner affected by this legislation as plainly provided for in Section 3 of the bill addressing the relationship of H.R. 6 to other laws.

I fought for Section 3. I have resisted all efforts to add legislative language requiring "harmonization" of these EPA and NHTSA standards. This language could have required that EPA standards adopted under section 202 of the Clean Air Act reduce only the air pollution emissions that would already result from NHTSA fuel economy standards, effectively making the NHTSA fuel economy standards a national ceiling for the reduction of pollution. Our legislation does not establish a NHTSA ceiling. It does not mention the Clean Air Act, so we certainly do not intend to strip EPA of its wholly separate mandate to protect the public health and welfare from air pollution.

To be clear, federal standards can avoid inconsistency according to the Supreme Court, while still fulfilling their separate mandates.

____________________________Scott GerberDirector of CommunicationsOffice of Senator Dianne Feinsteinscott_gerber@feinstein.senate.gov202-224-9629

Car companies win concession (sort of) in the pending Senate energy bill -- but will it mean anything but more lawsuits?

For those of you following the energy bill, please note the “colloquy” this morning between Senators Levin, Feinstein and Inouye.

You will recall that Senator Levin was shopping an amendment on behalf of the car companies to torpedo efforts by the US EPA and states, led by California, to limit greenhouse gases.

That amendment was not adopted in the bill, but an arcane compromise was cooked up.

These senators had a “colloquy” explaining their interpretation of the Senate fuel economy provisions. In that staged discussion, Feinstein and Inouye agree with Levin that any EPA greenhouse gas rules should be "consistent" with the Department of Transportation fuel economy requirements included in the Senate energy bill.

At first glance, it seems pretty disappointing. What the heck was Feinstein thinking? This staged discussion doesn’t exactly bolster California’s position in seeking to enforce its greenhouse gas standards. The legal experts will be arguing over this stuff for years!

It could be just a face-saving move for Levin.

But it probably gives the car companies a hook to browbeat EPA and to continue lawsuits against tougher limits on greenhouse gases. They probably won’t have a winning case – look at all the suits on this issue they’ve already lost, including yesterday in California.

In this case, the car companies probably will lose again. The court will probably say that if you wanted to prevent the states from acting you should have said so in the bill itself.

But it’s obviously not the last we’re going to hear about this issue. We expect other lawmakers to state things a little differently -- that this law does not eliminate existing EPA or state authority, which is literally the truth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Car industry makes its move! -- Sen. Levin floats energy language to kneecap EPA, California and other states

For the past week, many reporters have asked me, “what the heck is going on with all these efforts” (the White House, the car companies, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.) with regard to the energy bill and possible “coordination” of the efforts of EPA and DOT

Well now the truth (at least part of it) can be told.

All these letters apparently were an attempt to soften up the Senate leadership – the airstrikes before the ground invasion. But now the ground attack is on.

Language undoubtedly drafted by car company lobbyists is now floating around the US Senate. (See below.) It reportedly is being shopped not just by car companies, but by senators including Michigan’s Carl Levin. (See story below.) We understand that the staff of Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is making similar noises.

The language would require that any move made by the US EPA that could “affect the fuel economy of new motor vehicle engines or new motor vehicle engines” would have to be “consistent” with fuel economy requirements set by the federal Department of Transportation.

In other words, this is a bid to kneecap EPA and states led by California that seek to enforce tougher greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. EPA would become subordinate to the Transportation Department. And states like California would be left out in the cold.

The timing is most ironic, given the federal court decision today in California which shot down the very arguments being made by the car companies and their proponents in the Senate.

Look for California and other states to start pushing back against this ground attack.

On page 21, insert after line 4, at the end of section 102 (of the soon to be filed Reid substitute):
"(d) APPLICATION WITH CLEAN AIR ACT. – Chapter 329 of title 49, United States Code, is amended by inserting after section 32919 the following:
"Section 32920. Consistent Standards.
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law or regulation, should the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency promulgate carbon dioxide emissions regulations under section 202 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7521) that affect the fuel economy of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, the Administrator shall adopt regulations that are fully consistent with chapter 329 of this title and any standards or regulations promulgated or enforced thereunder.".
"(e) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION – Nothing in the amendments made by this title to chapter 329 of title 49 shall be construed to conflict with the authority provided by section 209 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7543)."

Levin Presses CAFE Authority in Energy Debate By: Geof KossCongressNow StaffWednesday, December 12, 2007 2:23 PM Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is continuing to press for the insertion of language in the Senate energy bill that would clarify the role of two key federal agencies in setting corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards."I'm trying to clarify it to make sure there's no conflict," Levin told reporters this afternoon, of the role of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, or NHTSA.The Senate is poised to pass a fleetwide CAFE increase of 35 miles per gallon - the first such increase in 30 years - in the Senate energy bill.However, lawmakers whose home states are heavy in automobile manufacturing, including Levin and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), as well as the White House, have raised concerns that future EPA rules regulating greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles could cause a conflict with NHTSA, which has historically overseen the CAFE program."We've got to try to make it clear that what the EPA is authorized to do is consistent with what everyone agrees should be the number," Levin said of the 35 mpg mandate.The issue emerged after the Supreme Court earlier this year ruled that EPA has authority under the federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide.That landmark ruling has been backed by similar rulings in other federal courts. For instance, a federal judge in California today upheld that state's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act in a lawsuit brought by automakers.The rulings have sparked concerns by the auto industry that they will face conflicting federal CAFE rules as EPA moves to control greenhouse gas emissions from auto tailpipes.Levin declined to say whether he would withhold support for the larger energy bill over the matter. "For me, it's an important issue," he said.The White House also raised the issue last week in a Statement of Administration Policy on the energy bill (H.R. 6)."Unfortunately, H.R. 6 leaves ambiguous the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in regulating vehicle fuel economy, and as a result would likely create substantial regulatory uncertainty, confusion, and duplication of efforts," the statement reads.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Coal industry front group brags about access to Obama/Oprah event

We thought that Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s flirtation with coal had cooled in recent months.

But now a coal industry front group is actually bragging about its access to the big Obama/Oprah event this week in South Carolina.

See the blog posting below from “American’s for Balanced Energy Choices,” which includes a who’s who of some of the biggest and dirtiest polluters in America. (Including Peabody Energy, Southern Co., American Electric Power, Duke Power and the Edison Electric Institute.)

You may recall this crowd recently sponsored one of the Democratic presidential debates on CNN. Folks in Iowa keep seeing their billboards noting how much coal is used in that state:

Some of the players in this group are rumored to be planning a multi-million dollar ad campaign attacking the so-called Lieberman-Warner global warming bill as it comes to the Senate floor next year.

For now, the group appears delighted to hand out flyers and tee shirts at events like the one described below.

Clean coal turnout at Obama/Oprah event 12/10/2007 09:46 am Posted by: Tim Kelly

South Carolina's largest political rally in decades featured Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey today, and America's Power Van and our volunteers were on hand with the crowd of nearly 30,000.

A steady stream of voters from across South Carolina visited the Power Van near the entrance to Williams-Brice Stadium. While understandably eager to get inside to see Obama and Oprah, thousands of those in attendance took the time to stop and learn more about our commitment to continued reduction of regulated emissions, the development of technology to capture and storage greenhouse gases, providing reliable, affordable electricity and protecting America's security.

In addition to speaking with the throng of state and national media on hand, we distributed several thousand brochures, flyers, t-shirts and other materials to those in attendance.

Car company front group linked to latest attack on EPA/California authority for greenhouse gases

Former DOT Secretaries Rodney Slater and Norm Mineta yesterday joined the car industry/Bush White House/polluter alliance effort to take away EPA authority to limit greenhouse gases – in effect, to overturn the big Supreme Court case. (They sent a letter to Senate leaders.)

This is also a direct attack on California, which is seeking permission to enforce its own vehicle greenhouse gas standards, and those numerous states that have adopted the California standards.

Of course, it’s not surprising that Slater would lend his name to this effort. He is, after all, chairman of a car industry front group called Driving America’s Future, whose most prominent member happens to be General Motors:

We are not clear at this point if Mineta has a specific angle (as you know, he is now with the big Hill & Knowlton pr firm where he “provides counsel and strategic advice to Hill & Knowlton clients on a wide range of business and political issues including expertise in transportation” We wouldn’t be surprised if there is a GM connection here as well, given how often GM is cited favorably on various Hill & Knowlton blogs.

You’d think the former California Congressman would be embarrassed that he has joined an effort that could harm his home state.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New investigation details Bush manipulation of climate science

This morning, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, released results of a lengthy investigation of the Bush administration and climate science.

The results aren’t shocking – since much of this has come out previously in dribs and drabs. Even so, it’s a painful read. And the new investigation does include information that wasn’t previously made public. Here’s how the committee summed up the investigation results:

The evidence before the Committee leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Bush Administration has engaged in a systematic effort to manipulate climate change science and mislead policymakers and the public about the dangers of global warming.

Among the interesting new revelations: that James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (and, sad to say, alumnus of the same high school I attended) personally edited the EPA legal opinion disavowing the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases. You will recall the Supreme Court rejected this political maneuver. The White House and its polluter allies are still trying to undo the effect of that decision.

At a time when the rest of the civilized world is trying to come up with an answer to global warming (at the Bali talks), this report is a sickening reminder that the Bush administration priority has been to protect its polluter friends, at the expense of science and the climate.

More at

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Coal and coal power stocks UP after big Senate global warming vote

Some of us have been cautioning for awhile that giving free carbon permits away to coal burning companies could bring windfall profits to those merchants of soot.

And it appears as if Wall Street may just agree with us.

As you will recall, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the so-called Lieberman Warner climate bill late on December 5th.

If this bill had been as bad for coal as some of the panel’s Republicans gloomily predicted, you would have expected share prices to plummet, both for companies that burn coal and those that sell it.

Instead, the exact opposite happened.

The next trading day on Wall Street (December 6), the stocks of the three biggest coal-polluting power companies went up. So did the stocks of the three biggest coal producers.

In fact, the stock price of the biggest coal company, Peabody Energy, hit a year-long high on December 6. So did Southern Company, which reportedly has eclipsed American Electric Power as the biggest carbon polluter.

And all of them closed up for the week.

So it seems that investors either shrugged off the global warming vote as inconsequential – perhaps aware there’s little likelihood of enactment of such a law in this Congress – or they agreed that the Lieberman-Warner bill actually makes coal and coal utility stocks more attractive by giving away many billions of dollars worth of free carbon permits to the worst polluters.


For the record, here’s what happened for the week for the top three coal-burning power company sources of carbon emissions:

Southern Company – up $1.28 a share for the week, to close at $38.90
American Electric Power – up $1.50 to close at $49.17
Duke Energy – up $.77 to close at $20.56

And the three top coal mining firms:

Peabody Energy –up $3.25 for the week, to close at $58.89
Rio Tinto – up $.52 to close at $468
Arch Coal – up $2.30 to close at $40.16

Friday, December 07, 2007

Industry coalition urges Senate to reverse Supreme Court decision, take away EPA authority on global warming

Well, friends, trouble in DC often comes boiling up late on a Friday. And here we are yet again.

We have just received a copy of a rather remarkable letter sent to the US Senate today by a coalition of industry groups (see below). The coalition includes the oil industry, the US Chamber of Commerce and other polluter groups.

This industry coalition wants the Senate to reverse the big Supreme Court decision, which said the US EPA had authority under the Clean Air Act to limit vehicle emissions linked to global warming.

This letter is nothing if not brazen. It advocates a position (previously advanced by the car industry and the White House) that EPA’s authority be stolen away and given to the far more industry friendly Transportation Department.

It is pretty obvious that this industry group is working in cahoots with the White House. (Note the plug for President Bush and his energy proposals.) The Senate would be well advised to send this missive directly to the circular file. It has had enough energy bill trouble with the dirty-air lobbying by the coal-burning power industry!

December 7, 2007

The complexity and broad scope of the energy legislation now under consideration raises several important issues with regard to overlapping regulatory authorities under the Clean Air Act. These issues must be addressed now in order to prevent the unintended triggering of an expansive and costly stationary source control program.

Any effort to establish a low-carbon fuel standard or to control carbon or any other greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles or fuels under the Clean Air Act could cause these substances to be regarded as pollutants subject to regulation more broadly under the Act.

Under the provisions of the Act, this in turn would trigger a pre-construction permit program that will affect hundreds of thousands of very small stationary sources that have hitherto not been subject to requirements under the Act. Initial estimates suggest that the majority of small, mid-sized, and large manufacturing businesses-over 300,000 facilities-would potentially become regulated stationary sources. In addition, hundreds of thousands of commercial buildings as well as over a hundred thousand farm operations could be impacted.

The expected transaction and administrative costs of the program for individual sources, states, and the federal government would be unprecedented. Thousands of determinations as to whether the Clean Air Act's regulatory requirements are triggered would be required. Given the potential number of permits and the resulting delay in permit issuance, the construction and modification of plants would likely come to a standstill, causing significant harm to the economy. Even the ability to produce renewable fuels could be hampered through the imposition of lengthy pre-construction permitting requirements.

To address this problem and the broader problem of conflicting and overlapping regulatory authorities, the energy bill now under consideration must do two things. First, the energy legislation must contain explicit language clarifying that nothing in this bill can be construed as triggering the regulation of CO2 or any other greenhouse gas under the Clean Air Act. This will prevent the unintended and costly regulatory program described above from being triggered.

Second, the legislation must address the potential for duplicating and conflicting regulatory requirements by clarifying that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases cannot be regulated under Title II of the Clean Air Act. Title II of the Clean Air Act addresses emissions from fuels and vehicles which are the same sources that are subject to requirements under the energy bill.

Directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish new fuel economy standards could be undermined if those same sources are required to achieve conflicting standards under the Clean Air Act. Given the extraordinary challenge industry may be asked to address, it is only fair that there be one regulatory body and one set of regulatory requirements.

Creating duplicative and potentially conflicting regulatory requirements would almost certainly delay the very technology advances sought by the legislation. The vehicle efficiency improvement standard and the alternative fuels provisions in the President Bush's energy proposals and in the energy legislation are preferred approaches to achieving substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions while reducing U.S. reliance on foreign energy sources.


American Forest & Paper AssociationAmerican Gas AssociationAssociation of American RailroadsNational Association of ManufacturersNational Mining AssociationNational Petrochemical and Refiners AssociationU.S. Chamber of Commerce

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Why John Edwards isn't thrilled about the Lieberman Warner bill

Hillary Clinton, very shrewdly, had an amendment put up during yesterday’s committee battle that would have fixed the problem that Edwards notes about giving away pollution permits for free to industry.

Her amendment was defeated because of opposition led by Boxer and Lieberman (who called it a “poison pill.”)

Several senators – including Cardin of Maryland and Lautenberg of New Jersey – sat on the fence until it was clear the amendment would lose – then voted on Hillary’s side. That’s politics for you!


December 6, 2007

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Senator John Edwards released the following statement on the Lieberman-Warner bill that was approved yesterday by the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works:

"Addressing global warming is one of the great moral tests of our generation, and it’s time for bold action and leadership to address this crisis that threatens the globe. While I’m glad to see that global warming legislation is finally moving in the Senate, unfortunately the Lieberman-Warner bill doesn’t go far enough to address the crisis of global warming. We cannot be limited in our approach by the armies of lobbyists from big oil companies and other special interests.

This bill gives away pollution permits to industry for free – a massive corporate windfall – instead of doing what is right and selling them so that we can use these resources to invest in clean energy research, create a new economy of green jobs, and help regular families and business go green.

“I believe it is our moral obligation to do everything climate science says is needed to save our planet. Ending global warming won't be easy, but it is time to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. If we start taking the bold action I have recommended, we can emerge from the crisis of global warming with an economy built on clean, renewable energy and more than one million new jobs.”

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

EPA -- shockingly -- solicits comments on keeping current lead air pollution standard

In recent years, there has been increasing scientific evidence that exposure to lead reduces the IQ of children. The current national air pollution standard for lead was adopted in 1978, when we knew a lot less about the issue.

EPA is under a court directive to take a new look at the standard, and issued an “advanced notice” today.

Shockingly, EPA is considering the option of keeping the current standard!

The “advanced notice” also includes some painful gibberish on the theme of how big a drop in IQ is acceptable in children.

That is outrageous. The science is very clear that the current standard needs to be made much tougher. EPA itself concedes that no level of lead exposure is safe.

EPA is supposed to make a final call on this by September 2008.

Why is the White House asking Congress to take away EPA authority on greenhouse gas emissions?

A shocking letter was sent this week to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi by Allan B. Hubbard, director of the White House Economic Policy Council.

In that letter, Hubbard threatened a White House veto of pending energy legislation, unless Congress made various changes.

One change sought by Hubbard was asking that Congress "clarify" the relationship between the US EPA (which has been charged by the President under an executive order to set new greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles) and the Department of Transportation (which traditionally sets fuel economy standards and which is greatly influenced by the car companies).

Hubbard, in effect, was asking Congress to limit the EPA's ability not only to do its job -- but to follow President Bush's own executive order!

Given that the head of EPA serves at the pleasure of the President, why the need for this request? The Bush administration is being pushed by the car companies, which fear not only that the EPA might set tough greenhouse gas standards, but also that it would like to approve California's request to enforce its own greenhouse gas standards.

The Bush political crowd obviously would like to shift the blame to Congress for tampering with EPA. It would also like to tie the hands of the EPA in a future (and likely more progressive) administration.

Industry begins to mobilize against Lieberman Warner climate bill

They haven’t even voted yet in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but industry is already mobilizing against the Lieberman Warner Climate bill.

The US Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association, and some front group called the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth declared their opposition in letters this week. These include the usual hyperbole -- the sky will fall, etc.

(The Chamber of Commerce is running a "Harry & Louise" style attack ad on its website at )

As you probably know, there are going to be a boatload of amendments offered to the bill in the committee. (The action is on C-Span right now, if you are interested.)

But the reality is that it’s been greased – the committee will vote in favor of the bill either today or tomorrow.

But the growing industry resistance suggests the legislation will face an uncertain road ahead.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Clean Air Watch report: free carbon credits would extend life of old coal-burning power plants

As Congress continues to debate what to do about global warming, we have published a new report on one of the biggest political roadblocks -- coal-burning electric power companies.

The results are pretty sobering:

--nearly three-quarters of existing coal-burning power plants (72%) were built in the 1970s or earlier.
--the average age of existing coal-burning plants is nearly 35 – and would be close to 40 before any controls were required under the legislation under investigation.
--giving away free carbon emission permits or “allocations” to coal-burning power plants would not only boost the profits of plant owners, but would extend the life of the coal-burning plants themselves.

It’s almost as if we would be creating some sort of reverse Social Security program for big polluters: instead of encouraging them to retire, we’d be encouraging them to keep working – and polluting.

The entire report is on our main website at

NIH: Smog hurts overweight people more

An interesting report today from the National Institutes of Health. It found that overweight people suffer more from smog.

It comes as EPA Administrator Steve Johnson prepares to make a critical decision about national smog standards. (EPA is under a court order to issue final standards by March, but Johnson is expected to make an internal decision well before then, to give his staff time to write up an explanation.)

Business groups, led by the National Association of Manufacturers, are aggressively lobbying against tighter new standards.

This study is further evidence that current smog standards are too weak to protect peoples' health.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is Peabody Coal secretly an ally of Hugo Chavez?

See at

EPA head sounds like one of the Nixon Watergate conspirators

In case you missed it, there was a remarkable exchange the other day, as the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee put EPA Administrator Steve Johnson under oath.

The main purpose of the hearing was to examine EPA’s failure to consider the need to limit carbon dioxide from electric power plants.

But it veered into the California car question – and the efforts by the federal Transportation Department to lobby against California’s effort to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.

A key question at the Nov. 8 hearing was – to paraphrase the Watergate story (sorry, I am dating myself, but I did help with a book on that topic many moons ago) who in the administration know about this lobbying effort, and when did they know it. (It became widely known after Rep. Henry Waxman blew the whistle.)

The exchange starts on page 51 of the transcript as Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) asks Johnson if he discussed the issue directly with Transportation Secretary Mary Peters.

“…I do not recall any specific discussion,” said Johnson.

“…I don’t recall any discussion of lobbying,” Johnson added when Waxman noted the EPA chief appeared to be dodging the question.

…”I don’t recall having any discussion on that topic with anyone at the White House,” Johnson insisted.

A few moments later (page 64 of the transcript), Waxman noted that Johnson appeared to be reading a canned answer in response to the barrage of questions.

“Were you briefed by your lawyer how to say things so that you wouldn’t be committing perjury?” asked Waxman.

Johnson dodged that one also. Not even a modified limited hangout.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chrysler to White House: rein in EPA attempts to set greenhouse gas standards for cars

Well, I guess this was inevitable. Now Chrysler lobbyists have joined the ranks of those going to the White House and seeking to influence upcoming EPA rules designed to reduce oil use and greenhouse gas emissions. See below.

Perhaps not a shock, but Chrysler would like to limit EPA’s authority. It suggests that EPA “abstain” from attempting to set carbon dioxide standards for passenger vehicles (“abstain!?” – curious wording, don’t you think? As if EPA were some hormone-crazed teenager), or at least make sure EPA standards would require nothing more than Transportation Department fuel economy standards.

Though we expect the Bush administration is planning to issue effusive press releases about its upcoming proposal – despite its thumping defeat last week in federal court over fuel economy standards -- I’d argue that the recent lobbying by car and oil companies shows just how much we need Congress to step in and set unequivocally tougher standards.

Meeting Record Regarding: "20-in-10"
Date: 11/15/2007
Client (if applicable) -->
Art Fraas

Kevin Neyland

Rich Theroux

Amy Farrell

Paul Argyropoulos

Barry Felrice

Kathleen Hennessey

John Bozzella

Friday, November 16, 2007

Was the acid rain cleanup program really a success?

AIR POLLUTION: Acid rain program hits low-emission milestone -- EPA

Katherine Boyle, E&ENews PM reporter

A U.S. EPA program aimed at reducing power plant emissions of acid rain-forming air pollutants had its most successful year ever in 2006, the agency said in a report released today.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from electric power generators dipped below 10 million tons for the first time ever, the report says, attributing the drop to early compliance with the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), high fuel prices, and federal and state actions.

Meanwhile, nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions have fallen more than 3 million tons since 1990, the report says.

Electric power generation accounts for about 70 percent of nationwide SO2 emissions and more than 20 percent of NOx emissions. Both pollutants help the formation of fine particles that negatively affect human health and build up regional haze. NOx also joins other compounds to form ground-level ozone. Both contribute to the acidification of lakes and streams.

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, lauded the power sector's progress but said more needs to be done. "The one actual most significant thing they never mention is that we didn't solve the acid rain problem," he said. "Literally, we're making progress, emissions are less and the cost is less than anyone thought [it would be], but they didn't solve the problem."

The Acid Rain Program was established through the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and uses a market-based, cap-and-trade system to reduce SO2 emissions. The Clean Air Act assigns companies an SO2 emissions allowance based on their historical fuel consumption and emissions prior to the start of the program. Businesses that use less than their allotment are allowed to bank unused credits for another year. NOx is regulated through rate-based limits.

EPA allocated more than 9.5 million SO2 allowances during 2006, along with more than 6.1 million banked allowances. Although companies could legally emit 15.7 million tons of SO2, they emitted 9.4 million tons, a 40 percent drop from 1990 levels.

The power sector reduced its SO2 emissions by 830,000 tons compared with 2005. It achieved many of those cuts by reducing heat input through fueling plants with natural gas instead of oil and installing scrubbers, the study says.

Ohio cut its emissions the most, slicing more than 123,000 tons from the state's 2005 levels, the report says. The study also notes the agency has had nearly 100 percent compliance from power plants.

'Cautionary tale'

Strict emission requirements under CAIR, which addresses transport of fine particles and ozone, will keep companies on track in terms of emission reductions despite their stockpiled allowances, O'Donnell said. "If the interstate rule is having an effect, logically you would see a further drop," he added.

In 2010, the number of allowances will be fixed at 8.95 million under Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments.

That number may need to fall even further, O'Donnell said. "I'd leave it up to scientists to tell us exactly, but clearly [we need] lower levels than were set in the 1990 acid rain program," he said.

"That was to a large extent a political compromise that ultimately didn't solve the acid rain problem."

While he acknowledged the success of the market system, O'Donnell described the acid rain program as a "cautionary tale to those in Congress who are debating global warming."

"If they compromise too much," he said, "it won't solve that problem either."

Although EPA's report hails the decreased acidification and improved water quality in U.S. lakes and streams, O'Donnell said sometimes regulators can get "balled up in talking about the wonders of the market."

You can't "forget the ultimate goal is to solve environmental problems," he said. "You can have the best market in the world and still have dead lakes. Does that mean it was successful? I'd say not quite."

China's Environmental Protection Administration also announced this week that the country reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 1.8 percent in the first three quarters of 2007 by installing pollution-cutting technology at its coal-fired power plants.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oil industy visits White House on fuel rule; enviros fight back

Yes, they’ve done it again. As the US EPA gets closer to proposing new rules aimed at reducing oil use, the oil industry is ramping up its lobbying efforts at the White House. The most recent oil industry meeting took place on Nov. 8 (see below). It appears the oil industry is particularly upset at the notion that companies might have to pay penalties for failure to meet a new low-carbon fuel standard. The nerve of those environmental radicals in the Bush administration!

Environmental groups, of course, are ready to battle on these issues also. We sent a letter late yesterday to EPA Administrator Steve Johnson.

We want EPA to grant California’s waiver to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. We also want EPA to make sure that new carbon standards achieve real emission reductions. And we think it is high time that EPA factored in carbon emissions when considering permits for new coal-burning electric power plants.

Meeting Record Regarding: "20-in-10"
Date: 11/ 8/2007
Client (if applicable) -->
Kevin Neyland

Paul Argyropoulos

Elizabeth Stolpe

Khary Cauthen

John Medley

Nathan Frey

Michael Leister
Marathon Petroleum

Jennifer Brosnahan

Arthur Rypinski

Jerry McPhee
Occidental Petroleum

Tome White

Brian McCormack

Karen St.John
BP America

Alfonse Mannato

Job Serebrov
USDA-Office of General Counsel

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

It's Wicked Wednesday in the heartland, and more

Wicked Wednesday: We all know coal is a dirty business, but this item may touch new dirty depths:

Peabody Energy, the nation’s biggest coal producer, is gagging (as if on coal dust) to explain how and why it tried to covertly underwrite sleazy ads that have appeared this week in Kansas newspapers.

As noted in today’s Washington Post (too bad the editors buried the piece ) and a New York Times blog yesterday Peabody is the main money behind “Kansans for Affordable Energy” – official sponsor of the ad, which shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and asks: “Why are these men smiling?”

The ad claims it’s because Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius blocked air pollution permits for two coal-fired electricity plants. It alleged this would mean “Kansas will import more natural gas from countries like Russia, Venezuela and Iran.”

The claim, of course, is utter bs. But it shows just how dirty the politics are getting as the nation wrestles with the global warming problem. By the way, our friend and Gristmill blogger Dave Roberts may have been the first one to flag this outrage, on Monday Thank you, Dave!


Covert Co-op? Another co-sponsor of the ad was the Sunflower Electric Power Corp., which is owned by six rural electric cooperatives. Sunflower, of course, is the outfit whose permit application was rejected. But on the company’s web site , Sunflower does tout the dirty ad campaign – while not ‘fessing up to its role in the matter. Geez!

Could it be that the Kansas co-ops are also smarting at the special deal that rural electric co-ops in Montana and Virginia got in the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill? (You may recall that co-ops in those states received a special “pilot program” deal that we calculate will be worth more than four billion dollars in free emission credits.) The special deals were cut, apparently, to make it easier for Senators John Warner and Max Baucus to support the controversial legislation.

The full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold its first hearing on the bill tomorrow morning, starting at 9:30. A second hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13.

We can’t wait to see the reaction of several senators – including Tom Carper (who wants the legislation, appropriately, we believe, to cover other power plants pollutants in addition to carbon dioxide) and Hillary Clinton, who announced her support for a 100% carbon auction program this week (in contrast to the multi-billion dollar free credit giveaway in the Lieberman-Warner bill.)


O-boy: As you know, presidential candidate John Edwards took a shot at the Lieberman-Warner bill last week because of the credit giveaway. And now a key energy adviser to rival Barack Obama is reiterating his candidate’s support for a 100% auction program. (Dave Roberts flagged this also.)

“Obama’s proposal requires all polluters to pay. If you’re a polluter in this country you can no longer pollute for free. You have to pay,” noted Obama adviser Madhuri Kommareddi.“This is where the auction comes in. The government isn’t going to say, ‘this is how much you have to pay.’ Instead, we’ll let the market decide the price by allowing companies to purchase credits in an auction….

“What’s important to note is that we’re implementing a 100% auction of cap-and-trade credits. This has the same effect as carbon tax—because it raises the costs of polluting and everyone has to pay. The benefit of this is that it’s more flexible and market driven."


Clean cars: In cased you missed it, this week Colorado announced a new climate action plan, including a clean-car program that will mirror the California greenhouse gas vehicle standards. That marks the 17th state to move forward with the California plan, whose fate rests in the hands of the Bush Administration.

At the White House, car-company lobbying continues, with the most recent documented visit coming from the folks at Porsche. Their zippy cars aren’t exactly known for superior gas mileage or low greenhouse gas emissions.

Even though this was apparently a meeting to discuss upcoming US EPA standards, the White House blundered and described it as a meeting about “fuel efficiency” – perhaps a tip-off to the legally careless Bush attitude about these matters.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Hillary Clinton calls for 100% carbon auction

For those of you who are following the greenhouse gas battle closely, please note that Senator Hillary Clinton unveiled her energy plan today – and called for a 100% auction of carbon permits, as well as an 80% greenhouse gas reduction by 2050.

Clinton noted the 100% auction was necessary to make sure that “utilities and other companies do not obtain a windfall.” (Yes, we have been saying this for many months.)

In doing this, Senator Clinton basically matched the ideas put forth by her top Democratic rivals. But it puts her in an interesting situation as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee races to take action on the compromise Lieberman-Warner plan before the upcoming U.N. meeting in Bali.

Does Clinton ignore her own plan and go along with the compromise, which would give many billions of windfall dollars away to the biggest polluters? (The bill also includes those special deals for Senators Max Baucus and John Warner – you remember, the rural electric co-op deal that was quietly slipped into the latest version of the bill). Or does she stick to her guns?

This is an interesting development in the plot along the bumpy Road to Bali.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Congressional Budget Office: free carbon credits=windfall polluter profits, and pain for consumers

Very perceptive testimony to Congress yesterday by the Congressional Budget Office.

It makes for very interesting reading given it was presented at the very time the Senate Lieberman subcommittee was racing to adopt a plan that would give many billions of dollars away to the biggest polluters. (Perhaps the appropriate response to the latter should be the sound of one hand clapping.)

The CBO confirms what we have been saying: that giving free emission credits to coal-burning companies or other industries could result in “windfall profits” – and added pain for consumers, especially those “at the lower end of the income scale.”

In other words, giving away free emission credits helps big business and hurts the hapless consumer.

The macroeconomic costs of giving emissions away could be more than double the cost of auctioning them, according to the CBO.

CBO also noted that a carbon tax would likely be a more efficient way to deal with the global warming problem (and CBO does believe it is a very large problem that should be dealt with) than the more politically fashionable cap-and-trade approach.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Edwards slams Lieberman-Warner bill, "massive corporate windfall"


November 1, 2007

CONTACT:Colleen Murray919-636-3203


Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Senator John Edwards released the following statement on the Lieberman-Warner bill that was passed earlier today by a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works:

“Global warming is a crisis. Every month, the evidence mounts that decisive action is urgently needed. At long last, global warming legislation is moving in the Senate.

“But we cannot be limited in our approach by the armies of lobbyists from big oil companies and other special interests. The critical question is simple: are we going to do everything climate science says is needed to save our planet? The Lieberman-Warner bill says no. Worst of all, it gives away pollution permits to industry for free – a massive corporate windfall – instead of doing what is right and selling them so that we can use these resources to invest in clean energy research and help regular families go green.

“Ending global warming won't be easy, but it is time to ask Americans to be patriotic about something other than war. If we take the necessary steps, we can emerge from the crisis of global warming with an economy built on clean, renewable energy and more than 1 million new jobs.”

EPA inspector general: agency clueless about toxic pollutants

EPA’s Office of Inspector General is out with a tough report about the agency’s approach toward toxic air pollutants – particularly the urgent need to obtain better information about actual public exposure to cancer-causing contaminants.

The inspector’s office verified something that we have noted before: The public is often not aware of the true risk it faces from chemicals in the air. That’s because the government does not always have accurate information.

The inspector’s office earlier had urged EPA to require that states actually report toxic emission data. EPA blew off this recommendation. “EPA’s planned actions do not sufficiently address the problems identified and we consider the issues unresolved,” the report notes.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Foreign car makers visit White House -- urge go-slow approach to better fuel economy

It is clearly open season at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Last week not only did public power utilities come calling , but now it can be revealed that so did foreign car makers. See below.

The purpose of this visit is pretty clear – to influence an upcoming Bush administration proposal aimed at reducing oil use.

We don’t know everything they said, but the leave-behind materials strongly suggest they urged a go-slow approach to possible carbon dioxide tailpipe standards or better fuel economy. Citing experiences in Europe and Japan, they caution against “pushing beyond about 2% a year.” (See )

Keep your eye out for visits by the Big Three and by more oil companies. (Several have already checked in:


The record of the foreign auto makers visit is documented at:

Meeting Record Regarding: Automobile Manufactures
Date: 10/25/2007
Client (if applicable) -->
Kevin Neyland

Richard A. Penna
Van Ness Feldman
Toyota N.A.
Ellen Gleberman

Nathan Frey

Scott Lane
Sal and Assoc.
G. William Macleod

Tracy Woodard
Nissan North American Inc.

Jackie Glassman
Hogan & Hartson
Nissan NA
Edward B. Cohen

John German

Tom Stricker

Thomas White

Job Serebrov
USDA/Office of General Counsel

Mike Stanton

Salo Zelermye

Amy Farrell

Rich Theroux

Art Fraas

Friday, October 26, 2007

NPR's "Living on Earth" show examines Lieberman-Warner climate bill

An excellent story about this controversial plan:

Public power utilities urge go-slow approach on global warming, preemption of state authority

Something new today popped up on the White House web site – the outline of a meeting held yesterday between public power utilities and various White House staffers (including OVP, that is, Office of the Vice President). See below and

It’s not clear why the public power lobbyists, many of them from Nebraska, wanted to meet now with government officials from agencies including OMB, EPA, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Energy Department, the Agriculture Department and the Transportation Department. It is pretty unusual to have the Vice President’s office represented.

But they did leave behind the document which outlines a go-slow approach to dealing with global warming, including such controversial elements as “reform” of the Clean Air Act’s new source review program and the preemption of state CO2 programs. (By the way, one of their first “asks” is changing NSR – way before talk of any cap and trade effort. Don’t they realize the Bush administration has already been working for almost seven years to gut NSR?)

Perhaps the goal was to influence the upcoming Bush administration’s upcoming “20-in-10 rules” designed to reduce fuel use. You’ve got to assume these folks have been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, too, since they were basically pedaling a legislative proposal. Perhaps they are hoping to enlist the administration in their cause.

Their message seems to be “don’t push us to do much very quickly – and get rid of some of these pesky rules we don’t like while you are at it.”

We will continue to monitor developments in the coming weeks.

Meeting Record Regarding: Climate Policy Group
Date: 10/25/2007
Client (if applicable)
Kevin Neyland

John Knepper

Bill Irving

Rob Talley
Talley Associates
Hilary Sills
Sills Associates
John C. McClure
Nebraska Public Power District

Frank Crane
MEAG Power
Tim Grove
Omaha Public Power District
Kelly Fleming
Omaha Public Power District
Chase Hutto

Leo Sommaripa

Job Serebrov
USDA General Counsel's Office

Salo Zelermyer

Charles Griffiths

Rich Theroux

Art Fraas

Bob De Haan

Biofuels backlash?

Biofuels is supposed to be good, right?

Well, that depends. See more at

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Groups to Congress: make sure EPA has adequate power to prevent problems from more ethanol

American Lung Association ∙ Clean Air Task Force ∙ Clean Air Watch
Earth Justice ∙ National Association of Clean Air Agencies
Natural Resources Defense Council ∙ Sierra Club

October 23, 20007

The Honorable Jeff Bingaman The Honorable Pete Domenici
Chairman Ranking Member
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Committee Committee
703 Hart Senate Office Building 328 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable John D. Dingell The Honorable Joe Barton
Chairman Ranking Member
House Energy and Commerce Committee House Energy and Commerce Committee
2328 Rayburn House Office Building 2109 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Members of Congress:

As House and Senate leaders begin efforts to resolve the differences between the House energy bill, H.R. 3221, and the Senate energy bill, H.R. 6, the undersigned public health, environmental, and state and local air pollution control organizations urge your strong support for Sections 9305 (“Study of Ethanol-Blended Gasoline with Greater Levels of Ethanol”) and 9310 (“Review of New Renewable Fuels or New Renewable Fuel Additives”) of the House energy bill.

EPA Must Study the Effects of Mid-Level Ethanol Use

Congress should enact Section 9305 of H.R. 3221, which directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation, to study the safety, emissions, and performance impacts of gasoline blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol (so-called “mid-level ethanol blends”). As you may know, 10-percent ethanol is the maximum percentage of ethanol allowed for general use today. (E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol with gasoline is limited to use in “flexi-fueled” vehicles). Such a study would require an analysis of mid-level ethanol blends for both on- and off-road gasoline engines, including those used in automobiles; boats and jet skis; lawn, garden, and other equipment; and ski mobiles.

There is little available data regarding the impact of mid-level ethanol blends on emission, air quality, public health, or safety. Some existing evidence indicates that the use of mid-level ethanol blends in these engines, especially small off-road engines, may result in operability problems, safety concerns, increased emissions, and reduced performance. Clearly, prudence dictates that before the use of mid-level ethanol blends is authorized, a comprehensive study should be undertaken to evaluate the use of mid-level ethanol blends in all gasoline-powered engines.

While Sections 142 and 149 of the Senate bill require studies of mid-level ethanol, we support Section 9305 of the House bill because it would require that the study be led by EPA, the federal agency best equipped to address the emissions, safety, and operability issues associated with mid-level ethanol blends. In addition, the study required by the House bill is more comprehensive.

EPA Approval of Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Should be Conducted Like Other Clean Air Act Rules

The House energy bill includes specific provisions related to EPA’s role in reviewing and approving applications under Section 211(f)(4) for new renewable fuels and renewable fuel additives; the Senate bill contains no such provisions.
We support the provisions of Section 9310 of H.R. 3221, which would require that EPA provide public notice and comment prior to approving or denying an application to introduce a new renewable fuel or new renewable fuel additive blend into commerce. Currently, under Section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act, if EPA receives an application to approve the sale of mid-level ethanol blends, it is not required to provide public notice of the fact that it received such an application and it is not required to request and evaluate public comment on such an application. Further, current law does not require EPA to affirmatively grant or deny such an application by a date certain. However, Section 211(f)(4) does provide that if EPA does not act on an application for approval within 180 days of its submission, the application is deemed granted, even in the absence of EPA action, public comment, or consideration of the application’s merits.

We support Section 9310 of H.R. 3221 because it would require EPA to subject applications for approval of a new renewable fuel or new renewable fuel additive under Section 211(f)(4) to public notice and comment to assure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to submit their views to EPA for consideration. Section 9310 would further require EPA to take final action on an application within nine months of its submission after applying the evaluation criteria of existing law to the use of a new renewable fuel or renewable fuel additive in on-road and off-road engines.

Section 9310 of H.R. 3221 does not amend Clean Air Act Section 211(f)(4). Rather, it imposes additional requirements on EPA when considering application for approval of new renewable fuels or renewable fuel additives under Section 211(f) (4). We urge you revise Section 9310 to amend Section 211(f)(4) of the Clean Air Act to ensure that EPA’s consideration and decision-making regarding new renewable fuels and new renewable fuel additive applications for approval are subject to the same enforcement and judicial review requirements as all other provisions of the Clean Air Act.
The use of mid-level ethanol blends across our nation could have significant impacts on engine emissions, air quality, engine performance, and safety. The approval of mid-level ethanol use in the nation’s fuel supply must be subject to significant analysis and full public scrutiny. Sections 9305 and 9310 of the House bill, as described above, would accomplish this and, therefore, we urge you to support these provisions.
Paul G. Billings Conrad Schneider
Vice President, National Policy & Advocacy Advocacy Director
American Lung Association Clean Air Task Force

Frank O’Donnell Marty Hayden
President Legislative Director
Clean Air Watch Earth Justice

S. William Becker Karen Wayland
Executive Director Legislative Director
National Association of Clean Air Agencies Natural Resources Defense Council

Debbie Sease
National Campaigns Director
Sierra Club

Cc: The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hartford Courant editorial cartoon on Lieberman-Warner climate bill

I suspect this will probably not be mounted in Senator Lieberman's office. The cartoon depicts Lieberman hugging a smokestack while saying "Don't worry, darling, the giveaways in my climate bill will protect you."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Climate bill has sticking point

An excellent piece in today's Hartford Courant:

Critics: Industry Might See Big Windfall With Lieberman Legislation

By RINKER BUCK Courant Staff Writer

October 19, 2007

When Sen. Joseph Lieberman introduced his America's Climate Security Act on Thursday, many called it the most ambitious global warming initiative in U.S. history.And that should have made the Connecticut independent a hero to environmentalists.But a number of environmental groups are less than enthusiastic about of one of the most important aspects of the measure."This is a political concession to coal-burning companies," said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch. "We are not among those gushing about this bill."

[The full story at:,0,509413.story ]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Power companies lobby to weaken already compromised climate bill

From BNA Daily Environment Report
Oct. 16, 2007

12 Electric Utilities Ask SenatorsFor Price Cap on Carbon Allowances

A group of 12 electric utilities called Generators for Clean Air wrote to Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Oct. 12 asking them to put a price cap on any emissions allowances that would be allocated under climate change legislation.

According to the letter, if technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not readily available, "a safety valve would protect our customers and the economy by ensuring that allowance prices remain stable."

"A safety valve would not be a disincentive to invest in carbon capture and sequestration and other cost-effective measures if it is set at a level that maintains an economic incentive for research, development and deployment of new technologies," the letter said. The letter was signed by signed by Paul Bailey, director of Generators for Clean Air.

Members of the coalition include Allegheny Energy, American Electric Power, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Edison International, MidAmerican Energy Holdings Co., PNM Resources, PPL Corp., Reliant Energy, Salt River Project, Wisconsin Energy, and Xcel Energy.

The letter comes as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, of which Boxer is the chairman and Inhofe the ranking Republican, prepares to consider legislation being introduced this week by committee members Joseph Lieberman (I/D-Conn.) and John Warner (R-Va.). That legislation would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from covered sources by 70 percent by 2050 using emissions trading (149 DEN A-9, 8/3/07 )....

A Lieberman aide responded to the Generators for Clean Air letter, saying, "Yes, we continue to be aware that there are electric utility companies who want a price cap. Just as we continue to be aware that there are environmentalists who want emissions to be cut to 80 percent below 1990 levels from 100 percent of the U.S. economy, with no price cap."

Boxer has stated support for the cost-containment approach in the Lieberman-Warner plan and opposes a safety valve (134 DEN A-3, 7/13/07 ).

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, responded to the letter, saying, "It's an attempt to weaken a plan that's already a political compromise. It is a hint of the sort of battles to come if and when the Lieberman-Warner plan comes to the Senate floor."

Clean Air Watch released a report in September criticizing the Lieberman-Warner plan as a windfall for utilities because it would give them allowances during the first years when it is in effect, allowances they could sell on the open market. Also, according to O'Donnell, because the plan would not cover the entire economy, it actually would reduce nationwide emissions by about 51 percent by 2050, not 70 percent (192 DEN A-8, 10/4/07 )

Monday, October 15, 2007

The ugly politics of global warming in Congress

Compromising Our Planet's Future
Congress May Pass Inadequate Global Warming Bill To Claim Hollow Victory

Oct. 15, 2007

This column was written by Mark Hertsgaard.

Now that Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, will the U.S. Congress take the IPCC's scientific advice on how to fight global warming? The IPCC holds that the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 80 percent by the year 2050. Few in Congress seem prepared to go that far, however. And judging from the discussion at a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill last week, even lawmakers who personally embrace the "gold standard" of 80 percent reductions are prepared to endorse a weaker measure in the name of getting some form of climate legislation moving in Congress.

more from The Nation magazine, at:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Business opportunities in a low-carbon economy

One of the enduring myths propagated by opponents to new controls on global warming pollution is that it will cause economic mayhem. (See, for example, the recent Washington Post Outlook piece by Bjorn Lomborg.)

We rarely hear the flip side of the issue—that new limits on heat-trapping emissions not only are needed to protect the planet, but actually could become an economic boon for companies smart enough to develop cleaner products.

[more at: ]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

As anticipation builds on Senate climate bill, key health and environmental groups say it should include other power plant pollutants

Anticipation is building about next week’s expected formal introduction of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill (we are scouring the globe for intelligence about it, and may have more tomorrow), three key health and environmental groups are urging the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to make sure that climate legislation incorporates pollution limits for other electric power plant emissions – sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

In a letter today to Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bernard Sanders (I-VT) – who have all introduced multi-pollutant legislation in this Congress -- the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Task Force and the National Parks Conservation Association said “Addressing all four pollutants in your legislation will provide enormous benefits for the environment and for public health. It will also provide clarity to the power sector to help drive cost-effective ways of meeting its obligations to address climate change and protect public health and the environment simultaneously.”

The groups added that “Climate legislation alone will not necessarily result in reductions in power sector NOx, SO2, and mercury…If economy-wide legislation is enacted that reduces global warming emissions without addressing the electric utility sector’s other major pollutants, it may be invoked as a roadblock to prevent enactment of such legislation in the future.”

So things are going to get mighty interesting as the Senate panel tries to fast-track a climate bill before the United Nations climate change conference begins in Bali in early December.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

AEP is brought to justice...and related matters

One of America’s biggest environmental outlaws has finally been brought to justice.

Unfortunately, breathers have waited far too long for justice. Lawsuits were brought against Ohio-based American Electric Power by the Clinton administration, various state attorneys general and environmental groups way back in 1999.

AEP was guilty as sin, and agreed to settle the case only because it knew it was going down. AEP’s claim of no wrongdoing is reminiscent of the infamous nolo contendere plea of Vice President Spiro Agnew, who was caught taking bribes.

A footnote: Despite this settlement, AEP remains the biggest global warming polluter in the U.S. It has now turned its lobbying attention towards making sure it cushions any cleanup requirement by demanding free carbon credits – a bad idea that may be endorsed by Senators including Joe Lieberman, John Warner and literally dozens of other lawmakers that have received recent AEP campaign contributions. (See at .)


Other news: More positive news about global warming – or at least the potential for cleanup – at a hearing tomorrow by Rep. Ed Markey’s (D-MA) Select global warming committee. Among featured witnesses – PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo, who has endorsed the idea of carbon auctions (as opposed to the AEP giveaway strategy), and Neil Carson, CEO of the UK-based Johnson Matthey, who will be representing the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change and is expected to discuss business opportunities in a low-carbon future. The hearing begins tomorrow at 9:30 am in room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Finally, today is the close of the official public comment period on the US EPA’s proposal to update national air quality standards for smog. Tens of thousands of citizens have joined health and environmental groups to urge EPA to set standards based on real science, not political science.

Friday, October 05, 2007

California to Boxer: giving away emission credits to polluters would penalize consumers, reward polluters with "windfall profits"

With the new Lieberman-Warner global warming bill introduction on the horizon, California has weighed in with its climate policy recommendations to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

And California has objected in strong language against the notion of giving away free emission credits to polluters based on past emissions.

“Free distribution based solely on historic emissions will only serve to reward the biggest polluters at the expense of consumers and penalize early leadership,” notes the policy, transmitted yesterday to Boxer’s staff by California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols. “Freely allocating allowances can lead to large windfall profits.”

Clean Air Watch raised similar concerns in recent reports (both available at ) which noted the problems with giving away free credits to the biggest polluters and cautioning that the draft Lieberman-Warner bill could lead to windfall profits for the dirtiest companies.

Reports are that there’s been many a meeting behind the scenes since the draft was floated in August – and many of us are watching to see if Lieberman and Warner keep the same polluter-friendly formula when they unveil the official bill, possibly on October 15. (If they make no changes to this aspect of the bill, it would suggest that the big coal-burning companies have a heck of a lot of political clout. We noted their widespread use of campaign contributions in a separate report yesterday.)

Something to look for: how will Boxer react in the face of the recommendations by her own state?

Among its other recommendations, California also called on Boxer to preserve states’ rights on motor vehicle standards and related issues.

“States have led the way in developing climate policy and the Federal Government should preserve the ability for states to innovate and implement new and creative policies into the future.”

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Big polluters use campaign cash to shape global warming bills

It's the way Washington, D.C. often really works. Big polluters are using campaign cash to shape bills being drafted in Congress to deal with global warming.

More at

The full report is at

Friday, September 28, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Some thoughts on today's US EPA announcement about smog trends

A couple of quick thoughts below on today’s announcement by the US EPA on smog trends in the eastern half of the nation.

As we understand it, the EPA will report that because of the so-called NOx SIP call (the summertime pollution controls for electric power plants in the Eastern U.S. adopted by the Clinton Administration), ozone or smog in the East has dropped since 2004. This is an annual report. EPA came up with similar findings last year – see at

There are a couple of things to put this into context:

We have definitely seen improvements in air quality in the Eastern U.S. because of this Clinton administration initiative, which – by the way – was vehemently opposed by the Edison Electric Institute and many of the big power companies like American Electric Power, as well as by some states including West Virginia and Michigan. (Isn’t it interesting to note how these companies now like to brag about how much they’ve cleaned up under a program they fought against?)

This shows quite dramatically that if we clean up pollution at the source, breathers will reap the benefits of cleaner air.

However, we have not solved the smog problem – not by a long shot. Our unofficial statistics for this year show that no fewer than 39 states plus the District of Columbia have still experienced pollution levels above the current national smog standard, set in 1997. See list below.

In other words, we need to do more even to meet the current standards. The Bush administration’s so-called Clean Air Interstate Rule is a step towards progress, but its targets and deadlines will still leave millions of breathers stuck with dirty air for far too long.

The power plant legislation introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) would promote cleaner air by calling for tougher controls. We expect to see this legislation thrown into the mix as the Senate wrestles with the global warming issue.

The other thing to keep top of mind is that modern science shows the current smog standards are too weak to protect people’s health. That’s the unanimous conclusion of EPA’s independent science advisers and virtually every credible scientist who knows anything about these matters.

So let’s not pop open too many champagne bottles. But also consider the lesson of this report is that if we push the big polluters to clean up, we’ll have cleaner air.


Here is the list of states with smog problems in 2007 through September 26:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia