Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ex-Rep. Pombo returns...but he hasn't changed

Defeated members of Congress never die, though often, like controversial ex-Rep. Richard Pombo, they go to work for pretty odious outfits.

Pombo appears to have found a pretty good fit for his drill and burn philosophy. This name of this group – “The Partnership for America” – appears to have been created in a focus group!

Another seeming focus group touch: they’re using an eagle as part of their logo – surely they don’t mean to imply they intend to shoot them down? (Note they appear pretty worked up about the horror that the Polar Bear could be listed as an endangered species.)

There’s an interesting cast of characters working for this outfit, one of them being Jim Sims, former pr guy for the Dick Cheney energy task force.

Here's what Pombo has to say:

A Letter From Chairman Richard Pombo

Dear --
If you are as sick and tired as I am of being forced to pay more than $3 a gallon for gasoline,
I hope you will help me force the politicians in Washington, D.C. to take some common sense steps to solve this problem.

And get the bureaucrats to solve some other problems solved, too.

For 14 years, I served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Member of Congress fighting for what I believed in and was always committed to doing what I knew was right. For much of that time, I served as Chairman of the House Resources committee, which handles issues such as American energy production, access to public lands, and environmental regulation.

I fought hard when I was in Congress against radical environmental groups that wanted to expand government's reach into every corner of our lives.

In return, those radical groups made me their number-one target for defeat in last year's elections. They moved into my Congressional district by the hundreds and spent millions of dollars in a highly negative TV campaign distorting my record to defeat me. And they won.
But I am not easily defeated.
I am continuing my fight against these radical groups and their misguided supporters in Congress.

I'm proud now to serve as the National Chairman of the Partnership for America. And I hope you will join with me in continuing this fight to America's future.

The Partnership for America is a broad-based alliance of people who support a common sense balance between environmental conservation and a healthy, growing economy.

They believe in some pretty simple but powerful ideas. They believe that all American citizens:
Like reducing our nation's dangerous dependence on foreign oil from nations that hate America.
Protecting the American people's right to access our public lands.

Making the Endangered Species Act for better to protect species that are in trouble.
Restoring some common sense to our Nation's environmental laws.

And many others.

The Partnership is a highly successful grassroots organization that runs public education and government action campaigns on wide range of issues.

For example, the Partnership led the national campaign to prevent radical environmental groups from adding the Greater Sage Grouse to the Endangered Species Act list. Not only would this have been a tragic mistake for the Greater Sage Grouse, but it would have allowed lawyers for those groups to sue for control of millions of acres of our land.

Now, more than ever, Americans must work to prevent these radical groups from taking control of our land, our government, our jobs, and our lives.

I hope you will join me in this effort.

President Bush's global warming gambit...and some positive signs on the environment

President Bush today came up with a new global warming gambit, calling for a new international summit to work on the issue.

The context?

For 6 years the administration has sent people to international climate talks with a terse message: no.

So in a way, this is like an iceberg cracking.

Unfortunately, the iceberg will probably keep melting under the President's strategy.

There is already a process established by the UN to deal with climate. The President appears to be trying to reinvent the wheel -- something that seems guaranteed to cause further delays.

In addition, he's still balking at actual attempts to require emission limits. So it's hard to take this too seriously.

Elsewhere, however, there are some positive signs for environmental policy -- all of them because of the last election or the prospect of the next one. For more, see

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Right-wing media critics assail Clean Air Watch over CNN piece

An interesting shot fired by right-wing media critics over a piece that aired several times yesterday on CNN.

For the record, Andrea Koppel is a terrific reporter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Smog struggle: science versus politics

A special report

Last Thursday the White House officially began reviewing one of the most crucial decisions the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will propose this year – national air quality standards for ozone (commonly known as smog).

EPA is under a court order to propose action by June 20, and the battle lines have already formed.

This has become a struggle between science and politics. More specifically, it is becoming a battle between health science – which unequivocally shows that existing standards are too weak to protect people’s health – and political pressure generated by special-interest polluters that want to cling to the status quo.

Prodded by the polluters (we believe the oil and coal-burning electric power industries are among the most active players) already a dozen governors have contacted the EPA to oppose tougher new standards. So have numerous mayors and state lawmakers as well as such groups as the Texas Conference of Black Mayors and the National Indian Business Association. The language used in their letters is so similar that the correspondence must be the product of an organized dirty-air campaign.

We believe the science is crystal clear that EPA must propose considerably tougher new standards. The big polluters want EPA to at least consider keeping the current standard, set in 1997, as one option for public comment.

Details follow below.


Who’s arguing for tougher standards?

EPA’s independent science advisers: In a March 26, 2007 letter, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee unanimously called on EPA to set tougher standards: “Ozone Panel members were unanimous in recommending that the level of the current primary ozone standard should be lowered from 0.08 ppm to no greater than 0.070 ppm.” The panel cited “overwhelming scientific evidence.”

EPA’s staff scientists: They argued (in their so-called “staff paper”)
that EPA should consider a new standard “within the range of somewhat below 0.080 ppm to 0.060 ppm.”

EPA Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee: EPA’s top children’s health advisers urged that “in order to be more protective of the respiratory health of susceptible children, the committee recommends that the EPA choose a standard of 0.060 ppm, the low end of the range offered in the staff paper.”

More than 100 distinguished air researchers and physicians: This group reiterated the call by EPA’s science advisers.

More than 20 health and environmental groups (including Clean Air Watch): This group, led by the American Lung Association, said We urge you to propose an eight-hour ozone standard at the lower end of this range—at 0.060 ppm—to protect against known and anticipated adverse health effects and to provide a margin of safety to protect sensitive populations as required by the Clean Air Act.”

Who’s balking at tougher standards?

A dozen mainly Southern governors: These include Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, South Dakota Gov. Michael Rounds, and Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons. Most of these urged EPA to consider keeping the current standard as an option.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: In one of the more illogical comments I’ve ever seen on an air quality issue, TCEQ Chair Kathleen Hartnett White asserted that “our ozone nonattainment areas are in attainment for particulate matter. Thus, lower the standard [for ozone] will not result in an improvement in public health.” White also argued that a tougher ozone standard would result in “a significant negative consequence to the economy of our state” – in effect, suggesting that EPA should consider economic impacts of the standard, something the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled was illegal.

Local officials: These include Little Rock Arkansas Mayor Mark Stodala, Charlestown Indiana Mayor Michael D. Hall, Shively Kentucky Mayor Sherry Conner, Cocke County Tennessee Mayor Iliff McMahan Jr., Fort Coffee, Oklahoma Mayor Denny Burris, President Oklahoma Conference of Black Mayors, Texas Conference of Black Mayors, Knox County Tennessee Mayor Mike Ragsdale, Knoxville Tennessee Councilman Joe Bailey, Roane County Tennessee Mayor Mike Farmer, Mississippi State Senator Bob Darling, Illinois State Representative Thomas Holbrook, Missouri State Senators, and North Dakota State Senators.

Minority business groups: These include the National Black Chamber of Commerce and the National Indian Business Association.

An alliance of big polluters:
These include
• Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
• American Chemistry Council
• American Coke & Coal Chemicals Institute
• American Forest & Paper Association
• American Iron and Steel Institute
• American Petroleum Institute
• American Trucking Associations
• Corn Refiners Association
• Council of Industrial Boiler Owners
• Edison Electric Institute
• Engine Manufacturers Associatio n
• National Association of Manufacturers
• National Cotton Council
• National Mining Association
• National Oilseed Producers Association
• National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
• National Petrochemical & Refiners Association
• Portland Cement Association
• U.S. Chamber of Commerce
• Utility Air Regulatory Group

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Smog rolls in for Memorial Day weekend

If you are among the millions hitting the roads for the Memorial Day holiday, I wish you safe driving.

In much of the country, this is considered the start of the “summer smog season,” though the truth is, much of the country has already been beset by unhealthful levels of smog this year.

By the end of April, breathers in seven states were already plagued by dirty air – California, Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Michigan, Maine and Massachusetts.

The smog situation has intensified this week, particularly in the Midwest and Southeast. EPA’s “airnow” service

warns of particular ozone problems today in such cities as Buffalo, Cincinnati, Columbus, Evansville (IN), Grand Rapids (MI) Louisville, Pittsburgh, Niagara Falls and other areas.

And, keep in mind, these are warning about the current smog standards. EPA’s science advisers and EPA’s professional staff believe those standards are too weak to protect people’s health – that people are being harmed by breathing smog at lower levels.

We will soon have a more comprehensive report on the smog problem – with details about the struggle behind the scenes, as EPA considers the scientific recommendations to set a tougher smog standard.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jerry Brown: EPA can be "hero" or "villian" on global warming decision

An interesting piece by Copley News Service:

Some excerpts:

By Dana Wilkie


May 22, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. – Saying the nation's top environmental officer will be “a hero or a villain” depending on how he rules, California Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday laid out his state's case for strict vehicle emission standards during the federal government's first public forum on the matter.

In a hearing packed with charts, graphics, statistics and photos of melting Icelandic ice sheets, Brown argued that his state and 11 others need permission to enact tough tailpipe emission standards if they hope to curb the greenhouse gases believed to be a culprit in increasing floods, wildfires and other climate-related changes.

“Together we represent one-third of the population of the United States, and the people of our 12 states want to act now to combat global warming,” Brown told a panel of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staffers.

He later told reporters that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, a Bush appointee and 26-year veteran of the agency, should focus on the facts of California's case rather than on his political connections.

"He (Johnson) is the one man in the country who can do the most to attack global warming,” Brown said. “He can be a hero or a villain.” ...

Tuesday's hearing marked the state's first opportunity to present its case to the federal government in a public forum. A second hearing is planned in Sacramento for May 30.

“It gives them an opportunity to at last say, 'The science and the law are on our side, now what are you going to do about it?' “ said Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, which supports the tougher standards.

EPA spokesman John Millett said the agency is “moving forward expeditiously and responsibly with – reviewing California's request.”

“EPA will review the public's comments in order to make a sound decision on the waiver request,” Millett said.

O'Donnell, like others, predicted that because President Bush opposes mandatory caps on gas emissions, the EPA is unlikely to approve California's request, which would set the stage for a near-certain lawsuit from the state.

Monday, May 21, 2007

An excellent piece in US News & World Report on battle over California greenhouse gas standards

The full story is at

Here are some excerpts:

California Goes to D.C. to Push for Tailpipe Law
By Bret Schulte
Posted 5/21/07

As has been the case for decades, California is again leading the pack for new environmental laws.

This time, however, the federal government is standing in its way. On Tuesday, leaders from California and as many as 11 other states will meet with Environmental Protection Agency officials to ask the government to grant them permission to pass their own restrictions on greenhouse emissions from automobiles in the absence of federal standards. Despite increasing pressure, the Bush administration has refused to regulate carbon dioxide, from cars or other sources, for fear it will stall the economy.

The waiver request from the EPA has become a cause célèbre among environmental groups as well as a bipartisan coalition of governors, who argue that states have routinely exercised the right to implement environmental standards tougher than those required by federal law. The debate has become vitriolic, including an unusually sharp attack on Bush leading into the EPA hearing in Monday's Washington Post by two Republican governors involved in the dispute, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Jodi Rell of Connecticut.

"It's bad enough that the federal government has yet to take the threat of global warming seriously; but it borders on malfeasance for it to block the efforts of states such as California and Connecticut that are trying to protect the public's health and welfare," they write....

Tuesday's hearing, which will feature state attorneys general, cabinet officials, and state lawmakers, marks the first breakthrough for the coalition.

"This is an absolutely critical decision," says Frank O'Donnell, director of Clean Air Watch. "States want a show of force and unity."

Friday, May 18, 2007

EcoTalk and the NY Times: why is Bush stalling on global warming?

Frank O'Donnell on Bush's slooow turn towards the light

Clean Air Watch President (and EcoTalk favorite) Frank O'Donnell weighs in on the President Bush's pledge to abide by the Clean Air Act (or at least mouth words to that effect). "I think that the president has come up with a strategy to stall off any kind of action, and essentially put the US EPA into a straitjacket of bureaucratic process," Frank tells Betsy. Does this have to be "a long process", as the President says? LISTEN (10 min)
A New York Times editorial:

May 18, 2007

Rose Garden Charade

Confronted with soaring gasoline prices, a Congress growing more restless by the day about oil dependency and a Supreme Court demanding executive action on global warming emissions, President Bush stepped before the cameras in the Rose Garden the other day and said, essentially, nothing.

He announced that he had ordered four federal agencies to “work together” to devise regulations reducing greenhouse gases. He also renewed his call for greater investments in alternative fuels. But neither he nor the cadre of designated briefers who followed him provided any detail, so nobody knows whether he will in fact end up asking for more efficient cars or what sort of alternative fuels he has in mind or, more broadly, what sort of reduction in greenhouse gas emissions he hopes to achieve.

What we did learn was that he has chosen to make the process as cumbersome and time-consuming as possible. We also learned that nothing concrete will happen until the regulatory process is completed at the end of 2008 — a mere three weeks before Mr. Bush walks out the White House door. As Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, aptly noted, this “will leave motor vehicle fuel economy stuck in neutral until Bush’s successor takes office.”

This is, in short, yet another of Mr. Bush’s faith-based energy strategies, in which the operative words are “trust me.” The White House says that good regulations need time to develop. That is true, but we would be more inclined to cut Mr. Bush some slack if not for the fact that speedier routes are readily available.

For one thing, he could have simplified matters by letting the Environmental Protection Agency run the whole regulatory show, which is what the Supreme Court had in mind. He could also have ordered the E.P.A. to grant California the permission it has been seeking for more than two years to impose its own emissions standards on cars and light trucks, which it can do under the Clean Air Act once it gets a federal waiver. But the automakers desperately do not want California or the 11 other states that plan to imitate California to get that authority, and Mr.

Bush is obviously in no hurry to grant it.

What we are seeing is the obligatory response of a president who finds himself boxed into a corner by Congress and the court and forced to appear to be doing something. At bottom, his administration doubts the urgency of the climate change issue and remains deeply averse to mandates and regulatory timetables.

Nowhere has this been more clear than in Germany, where administration officials have spent the last few weeks trying to water down commitments for next month’s Group of 8 meeting.

Specifically, it has objected to any treatment of global warming as an urgent problem and rejected long-term emissions targets backed by other nations and, increasingly, by many of Mr. Bush’s natural allies in the business community. For a clear view of administration policy, one must turn not to the Rose Garden but to Europe.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The double-dribbler in chief, and thoughts on "the quality of American life"

A couple of items of possible interest, including a look at how the Double Dribbler In Chief hopes to run out the clock on global warming:

Also, a fascinating front-page story in today's Houston Chronicle on the lobbying activities of Rudy Giuliani's law firm, with an explanation that big polluters are important because
"The industrial companies we represent produce goods and services that are essential to the American quality of life."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Bush tries to sideswipe California greenhouse gas standards

By now you may have seen the new Bush administration Executive Order regarding greenhouse gas emissions.

This appears to be an attempt to sideswipe the greenhouse gas standards developed by the state of California and adopted by 11 other states. The Bush administration apparently wants to knock those standards off the road.

As you may know, California is seeking US EPA permission to put those greenhouse gas standards into effect. (For background, see ) EPA has scheduled two hearings on the matter – one of them next week in the DC area.

Why do I say this looks like a sideswipe? Under the new Bush plan, EPA would have to gain the “concurrence” of other federal agencies such as the Energy and Transportation Departments before moving ahead with any plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Council on Environmental Quality would oversee the effort.

In other words, the White House has just wrapped the EPA in a straitjacket of bureaucratic process.

A simple decision on the California request – “yes” would be the simple and correct answer – has just been made a LOT more complicated.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Controversy over plans to convert coal to liquid fuel

from the Los Angeles Times:

WASHINGTON — For years, coal-country lawmakers have talked about turning the abundant natural resource into a fuel for motor vehicles.

The idea went nowhere.

But now it has taken on momentum, oddly enough, just as Congress appears ready to pass legislation to fight global warming.

Even though coal has been attacked as a major culprit in climate change, lawmakers say a coal-derived fuel could solve another problem: U.S. dependence on foreign oil.A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including one presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), is pushing to provide federal loan guarantees, tax breaks and other subsidies to spur the production of fuel from coal.But the process of turning coal into a liquid emits carbon dioxide, so much that each gallon of the fuel would create more greenhouse gases than gasoline — unless the carbon dioxide released in production could be captured and stored.The idea of using the nation's coal reserves, the largest in the world, has drawn new attention as President Bush has pushed for domestically produced alternative fuels, citing national security concerns...

Coal interests remain a powerful force on Capitol Hill, with significant deposits in about 15 states. And congressional action involving coal could prove vexing for presidential candidates when they are stumping for votes in key producing states, such as Pennsylvania and Ohio, while also trying to win the support of environmentalists.

Strange bedfellows

The issue has created unusual alliances."What unites President Bush and Barack Obama?" Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch asked in a recent e-mail update on energy legislation. "Why, support for plans to subsidize conversion of coal to liquid fuel."

Does Tony Soprano have a seat in the Senate?

From CNN's Anderson Cooper report:

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Bush pathogen policy

The Bush administration seeks to leave a legacy -- but it's not one aimed at helping breathers.

More on this at:

Global warming may be spurring asthma, allergies

from today's Wall Street Journal:

There's growing scientific evidence that global climate change is linked to the dramatic rise in allergies and asthma in the Western world.

Studies have found that a higher level of carbon dioxide turbocharges the growth of plants whose pollen triggers allergies. In 2001 Lewis Ziska planted ragweed -- the main cause of hay fever in the fall -- at urban, suburban and rural sites near Baltimore. The plots had the same seeds and soil and were watered in the same way. Yet the downtown plants soon exploded in size, flowering earlier and producing five times the pollen of rural plants. The city pollen was a lot more toxic, too. The likely cause? The city plants experienced warmer temperatures and 20% more carbon dioxide, the effect of more cars and pollution.

"We can see the changes now, and they already have implications for public health," says Dr. Ziska, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Allergies and asthma are closely linked; more than 70% of asthma sufferers also have allergies.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of the world's leading climate researchers, will address the issue in its August report. According to Bettina Menne, a doctor at the World Health Organization and a lead author of the chapter on climate change and health, the report will say that higher temperatures and carbon-dioxide levels have increased the abundance of pollen, known to trigger allergies and worsen asthma. It will also conclude that spring, when allergy-causing tree pollen is at peak levels, has been arriving 10 to 15 days earlier over the past three decades, a trend expected to continue in coming years.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Curb Your Intelligence: a look at some industry whoppers

It’s time to Curb Your Intelligence – a periodic opportunity to pretend your IQ is half of what it really is, in order to better appreciate some of the more bizarre words and deeds of those who might not be quite as zealous towards clean air as we would wish.

Let’s start with a look at some of our favorites from the electric power industry.

Consider, for example, the Edison Electric Institute, the trade association and lobby for much of the electric power industry. Last week, when the US EPA proposed a big break for industry – in effect, trying to sidestep a recent Supreme Court ruling on new source review – Steve Lomax, EEI manager of air quality programs, told BNA’s Daily Environment Report that the EPA plan was good for the environment because it would prompt companies to shut down older, less efficient power plants.

Now if someone would actually identify a power plant in the nation that would shut down if this proposal becomes final…

On the same topic, we were in awe at the comments of Scott Segal, director of the industry Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, quoted by Associated Press as saying that the EPA proposal "allows us to make efficiency improvements that reduce carbon emissions" and help address global warming.

Now Scott, to be sure, is without peer as a debater and phrase-maker for his clients. Indeed, he is a modern-day Protagoras. (To adapt an old Cole Porter song, Brush up your Plato, start quoting him now. )

We were thrown by the comment, since ERCC sometimes seems associated with efforts to poke fun at the idea of reducing CO2

But let’s not forget the company in the middle of that mess – the Duke Energy Corporation. Duke CEO Jim Rogers likes to rub elbows with some environmentalists (did I call them gullible?) and talk about the need to deal with global warming.

But did you know that Duke is also leading an industry effort to overturn EPA’s so-called “clean air interstate rule” – the one halfway decent thing the Bush team has done on power plants.

In a recent legal brief in federal court, Duke’s attorneys called the EPA cleanup plan “unreasonable” and said it should be thrown into the trash can. EPA, if you will recall, said these rules would prevent 17,000 premature deaths a year.

That’s a lot of deaths if Rogers’ company wins.

Finally, to look at another pollution controversy. You may recall that for a number of years, pollution controls for lawn mowers and other small engines were put on the shelf because of aggressive lobbying by one company, the Briggs & Stratton Corporation. B&S contended that cleaning up lawn mowers would force it to close its Missouri factories and send the jobs to China – a cry taken up by its Senate champion, Senator Kit Bond.

Well, an excellent report in today’s Washington Post points out that EPA standards are still in the distant future – but that B&S has ALREADY announced that it’s closing a Missouri factory – and shifting some jobs to China, where it’s already built a factory.

Isn’t it great that companies like this are so patriotic?