Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Snow dampens Bush warming expectation; Feinstein and Carper weigh in, and more

It is becoming nearly a full-time job just tracking various global warming plans in our nation’s capital. Please note a few updates, below.

Snow dampener: There has been quite a buzz in recent days that President Bush might announce some dramatic new initiative on global warming in next week’s State of the Union Address. White House Press Secretary Tony Snow poured icy water on such talk yesterday. Though he said the President would “lay out our policy on global warming” during the address, Snow added “if you're talking about enforceable carbon caps, in terms of industry wide and nationwide, we knocked that down. That's not something we're talking about.”

Something to watch for: see if the President calls for new discussions of the topic by the so-called “G8” club of industrial nations. That would probably be an effort to shift the focus away from the existing U.N. framework for dealing with climate change. That would actually be a rollback of sorts, no matter how Snow tries to spin it.

If the President really wanted to take steps to deal with global warming, among other things he would direct EPA to approve California’s request to enforce its global warming standards for motor vehicles (see more, below) and permit EPA to consider carbon emission-trapping technologies when determining “best available” technologies for new coal-burning power plants. Bush political appointee William Wehrum has nixed such efforts at the EPA.

Feinstein-Carper: This morning (10:30 am, Room 301 of the Russell Senate Office Building), Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Tom Carper (D-DE) throw a new global warming plan into the proverbial hopper. It follows other initiatives by such senators as Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), John McCain (R-AZ) and one floated by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

At this stage of the game, it is often hard to distinguish bills introduced solely to make a statement, and those that actually could form the basis of something that could be enacted. There are a couple of interesting wrinkles to the Feinstein-Carper bill: 1) it deals solely with the electric power industry, the biggest source of global warming emissions in the USA, and 2) it actually is being endorsed by a half dozen electric power companies, including PG&E (whose CEO, Peter Darbee, is getting an award today from NRDC at the National Press Club) Entergy, Exelon, Public Service Enterprise Group, Florida Power & Light and Calpine. This bill would make both short-term and long-term reductions in carbon emissions from the power sector.

Something to watch for: Carper is a key member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and would be a position to try to move something like this through the panel. This bill might be more than just something that makes a statement.

California court: A federal judge in California has postponed a car company law suit against California’s global warming vehicle standards until the Supreme Court rules on the pending global warming case. See release, below, from NRDC.

NAM null and void: The National Association of Manufacturers, one of DC’s most vile anti-clean air lobbies, has come out in support of Susan Dudley, the anti-regulatory zealot brought in to head the White House regulatory office. NAM uses a type of pig Latin to attack Clean Air Watch and some of our friends. It’s something we’ll wear with pride.


Here is the NRDC release noted above:
Federal Court in Fresno Stays Automakers’ Lawsuit Against California Global Warming Law
Judge Says Decision in Related U.S. Supreme Court Case Likely to Affect California Outcome
(January 16, 2007) – A federal judge in Fresno, Calif. today postponed trial of the auto industry’s lawsuit against California’s landmark clean cars global warming standards until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in a closely related case later this spring.
In a victory for the state and its environmental allies, Judge Anthony Ishii decided to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA before holding a lengthy and costly trial on the auto industry’s lawsuit.
“Judge Ishii has rebuffed the auto industry’s latest effort to block California’s landmark global warming law,” said David Doniger, NRDC’s attorney in both the California and Supreme Court cases. “He has decided to wait for the Supreme Court’s word on whether the federal Clean Air Act covers the pollution that causes global warming.”
In the Massachusetts case, NRDC joined California, 11 other states, and environmental organizations to challenge the Bush administration’s claim that the Clean Air Act gives it no power to curb global warming pollution. Judge Ishii ruled today that the two cases pose such similar issues that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Massachusetts case is likely to control the outcome of the California case. The high court is expected to rule by June.
The car companies claim California’s global warming pollution standards conflict with the federal fuel economy law. Judge Ishii found that’s essentially the same argument the Bush administration and the auto industry are making in the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court rebuffs their argument and decides the federal Clean Air Act covers global warming pollution, then California’s authority will be clear.
The state of California and all other parties – including both plaintiffs and defendants – agree that California cannot enforce its standards until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants it a “waiver” under the Clean Air Act.
“For four decades EPA has almost always approved California’s vehicle emission standards,” said Doniger. “We’re confident that after the Supreme Court rules, EPA will follow the law and allow California’s historic standards to go forward.”
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted the nation’s first ever regulation to reduce global warming pollution from cars in compliance with a 2002 state law (AB 1493, Pavley). The standard requires automakers to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants by 22 percent by the 2012 model year and 30 percent by the 2016 model year.

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