Friday, June 29, 2007

Industry, environmentalists square off at hearing on Bush sweetheart deal for power plants

WASHINGTON (AP) - Environmentalists and electric utilities face off Friday at a hearing on an industry-favored proposal to change how the government decides when pollution controls are needed at older power plants.

The proposal, released by the Environmental Protection Agency in April, is the latest twist in a long debate about requirements that utilities install expensive pollution control equipment. The hearing is at 9 a.m. Friday at the EPA's office in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Industry officials say the EPA's proposal would give utilities such as Southern Co. and Duke Energy Corp. needed flexibility to make improvements to their plants.

Environmentalists, who accuse the Bush Administration environmental regulators of being too close to industry, say the proposed pollution standard flouts the spirit of a recent Supreme Court ruling on clean air enforcement and would make it easier for utilities to produce more electricity without installing new pollution controls.

The EPA proposal would allow the use of average hourly smokestack emissions when determining whether a plant's expansion or efficiency improvements require additional pollution controls. Environmentalists long have contended the EPA should continue using annual emissions to determine whether new pollution controls are needed under the Clean Air Act.

"It's essentially an attempt to create a giant new loophole that could lead to more pollution," Frank O'Donnell, president of the nonprofit Clean Air Watch.

more at

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mid-week excitement: Senators Lieberman, Warner to work together on climate initiative

A couple of quick mid-week items: This afternoon, Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) announced their intention to work together to craft climate legislation. See their press release below.

This could be a real breakthrough. Both are members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, but Warner hasn’t backed specific global warming legislation before. He could provide the crucial margin for moving legislation forward. In their release, they note they hope to structure an economy-wide bill. Stay tuned.

The Senate committee plans a hearing tomorrow.

Across the Capitol, we are expecting some possible fireworks this afternoon as the House Energy and Commerce Committee tries to craft energy legislation.

In one filed amendment, Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) would seek to delay any EPA standards on global warming pollution. Our latest understanding is that Green may not offer the amendment, or may withdraw it. It would throw a curveball into EPA plans set in motion by the Supreme Court decision on global warming.

In another amendment, Reps. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Charles Melancon (D-LA) seek to require that EPA make an official notice and permit public comment before permitting new renewable fuels or renewable fuel additives into the marketplace. This idea makes a lot of sense and has been put forward because of concerns that the EPA will roll over and permit higher-level ethanol blends (15-20%) into commerce without fully evaluating the consequences.


From: Masonhall, Erika (Lieberman)
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 12:24 PM


June 27, 2007
Contact: Erika Masonhall (Lieberman), 202-224-4041 John Ullyot (Warner), 202-224-2023

SENATORS LIEBERMAN, WARNER DRAFTING NEW, BIPARTISAN BILL ON CLIMATE CHANGE Senior Senate Environment Committee Members Seek to Reach Agreement on Comprehensive Legislation

WASHINGTON - Senators Joe Lieberman, I-D, Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., the Chairman and Ranking Member of a key subcommittee on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, today announced that they have begun drawing upon existing proposals and new ideas, including those from the private sector, to draft a comprehensive bill to address global climate change.

The new bill will aim to structure an economy-wide cap and trade program that provides maximum flexibility to the marketplace to meet a level of attainable emission reductions that are environmentally credible. It will provide federal investment in new technologies, include cost-containment provisions, and ensure international participation by developing nations.

The two senior members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who are the chair and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection, are working to bring a bipartisan accord to their subcommittee in the near future.

"Senator Warner and I are now in the process of agreeing on the broad goals and basic structure of a climate bill," Senator Lieberman said.
"We will spend the next several weeks filling in the essential details.
We will draw upon existing bills, involve colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and listen carefully to important private-sector stakeholders. I am confident Senator Warner and I can bring a strong bill before our subcommittee before the August recess."

Senator Warner said, "In my 28 years in the Senate, I have focused above all on issues of national security, and I see the problem of climate change as fitting within that focus. It is the responsibility of the Executive and Legislative Branches to join in taking a leadership role to address this national and international problem. This duty was made clear by the Supreme Court's ruling earlier this year that confirmed the federal government's obligation under the law to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. I look forward to working with Senator Lieberman and my Senate colleagues to craft a comprehensive climate bill."

In February and May of this year, Senators Lieberman and Warner held two climate policy hearings in the subcommittee that they lead within the Senate Environment Committee. In April, Warner announced his support for a mandatory, economy-wide, market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Lieberman is the author, along with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), of the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act, of which Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are co-sponsors

Monday, June 25, 2007

Should Big Polluters Own the Sky?

The nation's biggest polluters say they might do something about global warming -- if we give them windfall profits!

For more on this, see our release at

and our white paper at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Clean Air Watch: Why Does EPA Dither Over Smog?

(Washington, D.C., June 21, 2007) -- The following is a statement by Frank O’Donnell, president of the non-profit Clean Air Watch on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed new standards for ozone, or smog:

EPA’s smog proposal sends a mixed message:

The good news is that EPA agrees that current smog standards are too weak to protect people’s health. Its proposal would be a step in the right direction, though weaker than the standards recommended by EPA’s science advisers.

But EPA is also inviting comments on keeping the existing standards.

That’s an outrageous idea, driven by politics instead of science.

Why is EPA dithering? Evidence points to the secret hand of the White House.

We know that industry has aggressively lobbied the White House to force EPA to consider keeping the current standards. And we also know that in a separate, related rule, the White House forced EPA to pretend that smog doesn’t kill.

The science is crystal-clear that we need better standards to protect kids with asthma and millions of other breathers. Every credible scientist says so.

But EPA seems to be hedging its bets. It has suggested a range of possibilities. Most disturbingly, it has left open the door to keeping the current standards, which are outdated and don’t reflect recent science.

This suggests that recent polluter visits to the White House helped shape this decision. It raises huge concerns about what EPA will do with its final decision. Why leave the door open to doing something you know is wrong -- unless that came from political pressure?

It’s time for the White House to stop promoting the interests of its polluter friends, and permit EPA to do its job – to protect people’s health.


Smog saga continues...the revenge of the White House red pen

We’ve only seen the first skirmish in the battle over the EPA’s new smog standards. Brace yourself for a long campaign.

We don’t want to belabor every twist and turn in the plot. But we do want to make you aware of the next mini-battle, as EPA tries to preserve its integrity in the face of continuing pressure from the White House, which has shown its proclivity to promote industry’s position.

The next battle is likely to involve the so-called “regulatory impact analysis” to be released by the EPA. This analysis will try to quantify the various costs and benefits associated with EPA’s proposal and alternatives. EPA has promised to release this document in the next few weeks.

What to look for, and why does this matter?

EPA, as you may know, is prohibited by law from considering costs in setting these standards. (The Supreme Court unanimously ruled so.) But, under an executive order, EPA still has to do this assessment. And industry opponents of tougher standards are chomping at the bit to seize on anything that could help their plan – to stop better standards dead in their tracks.

The big issue to watch for is how EPA treats the topic of exposure to ozone and premature death. In any kind of assessment of this type, avoiding premature death equates to the single biggest monetary benefit of cleaner air. (Leave aside for the moment the moral question of putting a value on someone’s life. The bean counters do it all the time.)

Science has shown that exposure to ozone is associated with premature death.

But we are concerned that the White House Office of Management and Budget may take out its red pen and cross out monetary benefits associated with avoiding death. If that happens, OMB may force EPA to produce a document that suggests high costs, and lower-than-anticipated benefits. And that could help whip up industry opposition to better standards.

OMB recently pulled a similar stunt in EPA’s proposed new standards for lawn mowers and other small engines. In its draft regulatory impact analysis, EPA calculated that cleaner small engines would prevent “between 60 and 360 ozone-related premature deaths” each year. EPA calculated the total benefits of those standards as “between $3.9 billion and $6.1 billion” annually. (These and the documents we will note in a second come from EPA’s official docket. Thanks to our ever-vigilant friends at Environmental Defense for spotting these.)

But OMB took out the red pen. It ordered EPA to eliminate references to premature death from ozone, and to reduce the projected benefits accordingly.

That left EPA with a rule that has considerably lower projected benefits. Total projected annual benefits were reduced to $3.1 billion to $3.4 billion.

OMB Watch on EPA smog proposal

OMB Watch is a vigilant defender of the need for transparency in government decisions. It raised some very important issues here:

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Manufacturers appear to have leak of EPA smog plan

The National Association of Manufacturers appears to have a source within the Bush administration regarding EPA's upcoming smog decision.

The EPA proposal is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

On its blog, NAM reports that "According to Administration sources, the current draft includes discussion of a more stringent range from 0.075 ppm to 0.070 ppm."

NAM notes that it "continues to educate key Administration officials about the necessity of offering the current standard as a regulatory option on which to comment during the upcoming rulemaking."

NAM also posted a mini-debate between its spokesman and Clean Air Watch on CNBC:

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dingell and Boucher appear to drop attack on California greenhouse gas standards

June 18, 2007
TO: Members, Committee on Energy and Commerce
FROM: John D. Dingell, ChairmanRick Boucher, Chairman, Subcommittee onEnergy and Air Quality
SUBJECT: Consideration of Energy Legislation
We will circulate shortly a set of Committee prints addressing energyefficiency standards, a smart electricity grid, loan guarantees forinnovative energy technologies, renewable fuels infrastructure incentives,and advanced battery and plug-in hybrid vehicle promotion.

These will formthe basis for markup of energy legislation in the Subcommittee on Energyand Air Quality this week and in the full Committee next week.

Almost one month ago, we began circulating a series of staff discussiondrafts of energy legislation that generated, as we had hoped, considerabledebate. Based on two legislative hearings and other very useful responseswe received to those drafts, we have decided to proceed with provisionsthat represent consensus.

You will note that a number of the morecontroversial issues we raised, such as coal-to-liquids, fuel economystandards, a low carbon fuel standard, various mandates, and the role ofFederal and State programs, are not included in the set of prints that wewill distribute. These issues are important, and we are committed toaddressing them and others when we take up comprehensive climate changelegislation in the fall. This will also give us the needed time to achieveconsensus on these issues if at all possible.

This procedure for considering energy legislation at this time wasdiscussed with the Speaker, and she understands the rationale forproceeding this way so that we can rapidly complete work on a bipartisanbill that can be signed into law. As we see in Senate consideration ofenergy legislation, many of these issues are complex and difficult, and itis our desire to avoid unnecessary delays in passing legislation that canaccomplish much good.

For example, the energy efficiency provisions of theCommittee prints, when fully enacted, will remove from the atmospherecarbon dioxide emissions equivalent to those emitted from all carscurrently on the road, according to an analysis by the American Council foran Energy Efficient Economy and the Alliance to Save Energy.

This does not even count any savings from the smart grid or other provisions included inthe prints.We look forward to working with you to report legislation within the next two weeks.

With DC wheezing under smog attack, EPA considers tougher smog standards, and more..

With dirty air plaguing much of the East and Midwest – including the DC area – the moment of truth is coming for the US EPA and its review of national health standards for ozone.

EPA must issue a proposed decision by Wednesday June 20. Every credible scientist says the current standards need to be made better. But industry is revving up its campaign against tougher standards. Please see more below.

Smog showdown: As you know, EPA’s science advisers have unanimously called on the EPA to set significantly tougher smog standards to protect kids with asthma and others. Industry groups have argued that EPA should consider a “range” of options, including that of keeping the current standard. Keep watching this space for more…

Industry mobilizes: We’ve noted earlier that the car, oil, electric power, chemical and other industry groups have taken their plea directly to the White House. We believe industry has also motivated a number of governors and local elected officials to protest to EPA as well. (Funny how the governors use the same language as the industry lobbyists…) Tomorrow, industry groups will begin their effort to shape public opinion. The National Association of Manufacturers has scheduled a “roundtable” tomorrow to talk about the horrors it claims would ensue if EPA actually set tougher standards. Apparently NAM plans to argue that tougher standards would amount to a “hidden tax” on energy prices. (After all, it is trendy to link things to high energy costs.)

We’d counter that dirty air is a hidden tax on breathers.

Café clash: The Senate may begin voting tomorrow again on provisions of the pending energy bill. One certain battle will involve fuel economy standards. Senators sympathetic to the auto industry (led by Carl Levin and Kit Bond) will try to sideswipe proposed tougher standards and replace them with the equivalent of a clunker.

Hot seat: EPA Administrator Steve Johnson may be on the hot seat Thursday, as he appears before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The committee wants to examine the status of California’s pending request to enforce its greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. (Last week Johnson told California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that he would reveal his timetable for a decision this Friday.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Car gate! DOT employee urges members of Congress to oppose California global warming standards

This has the scent of a genuine scandal. And it is unfortunate evidence that at least some within the Bush administration are scheming against the efforts by California – and other states – to limit global warming emissions from cars.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has just written to the Secretary of Transportation, alerting her that a Department of Transportation employee has urged members of Congress to oppose efforts by California and other states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

“Such an effort by the Department appears to be highly inappropriate and would be considered by some to be illegal. I am writing to request your assistance in providing the Oversight Committee with information regarding this matter,” Waxman noted in his letter.

He noted that “the staff of a member of Congress recently received a voicemail message from Heideh Shahmoradi, special assistant for governmental affairs in the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, suggesting that the member (1) submit comments to EPA opposing California's request and (2) reach out to your governor's office for them to submit comments since this would greatly impact auto facilities within your district." The voicemail stated:

Hi ... this is Heideh Shahmoradi out here with the Department of Transportation. I'm not sure if you're aware but EPA is currently considering a petition from the State of Califomia to set its own CO2 standards. We just wanted to let you know that if Califomia were to receive this waiver it could lead to a patchwork of regulations on vehicle emissions which could have significant impacts on the light truck and car industry. EPA is currently receiving the comments and the docket is open until June 15th, however tomorrow the EPA Administrator will decide whether or not to extend that deadline. We're gauging to see if your boss would be interested in submitting comments or reaching out to your governor's office for them to submit comments to the docket, since this would greatly impact the auto facilities within your district. ... If you could just call me and see if you guys have any interest, or, if you guys are going, or, would like to submit comments, or need any further information, I could get that to you. ... Thanks a lot, appreciate it, bye-bye.”

Waxman noted “It is not an appropriate use of federal resources to lobby members of Congress to oppose state efforts to protect the environment. It is especially problematic on an issue that is pending for decision before the Administration and that is supposed to be decided based on an independent assessment of the merits. At the very least, Ms. Shamoradi's call suggests the presence of an improper hidden agenda.”

I request that you explain the purpose of Ms. Shahmoradi's message, whether similar communications were made to other congtessional offices, whether other Department of Transportation employees were involved in such communications, and who at the Department
authorized these communications. In addition, I request that you provide to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform all documents relating to (1) communications with members of Congress or their staffs regarding the California waiver request or (2) communications with EPA or other federal entities, including the White House, regarding the California waiver request.

Finally, I request that the Department make Ms. Shahmoradi available for a transcribed interview or deposition by Committee staff.”

Monday, June 11, 2007

Big polluter lobbyists again visit White House on impending smog decision

For the second time in a week, lobbyists for big polluters visited the White House last Friday in an effort to influence the US EPA’s upcoming proposed standards for smog (ozone).

It looks like a full-court industry press.

In this latest meeting, representatives of the Edison Electric Institute and the American Chemistry Council met with representatives of the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Council of Economic Advisers. See link below. Industry groups likely repeated their argument that EPA should consider the option of keeping the current standard, set in 1997.

Earlier last week, lobbyists for the electric power, oil, automobile, and diesel engine industries met with OMB. Also sitting in on that meeting was a representative of Vice President Dick Cheney, long considered the go-to guy for big industries opposed to tougher environmental standards. See link below. It’s pretty rare for someone with the Vice President to sit in on a meeting like this. It suggests that industry has really sought to elevate this politically.

EPA is under a court directive to make a proposed decision on the national smog standards no later than June 20. EPA’s independent science advisers, the agency’s children’s health advisory panel, numerous other independent scientists – and EPA’s own staff scientists – have all declared that the current standards are too weak to protect kids with asthma and others from the effects of breathing smog

Friday, June 08, 2007

Big polluters take their case on smog to White House, Cheney's office

With a proposed decision on national health standards from the EPA imminent, an alliance of big industry lobbyists went to the White House this week to plea their case. Among those present was a representative of "OVP" -- the Office of Vice President Dick Cheney, known in DC as the big polluters' biggest friend in the White House.

You can bet they weren’t urging the White House to support tougher standards!

The group – including lobbyists for automobile, electric power, diesel engine and other industries – met with Susan Dudley, the White House regulatory czar, and other members of her staff within the Office of Management and Budget’s regulatory office.

EPA is under a court order to propose a decision on the national smog standards by June 20. EPA’s independent science advisers, the agency’s own scientists, the agency’s children’s health advisory panel and many other scientists have all urged the EPA to set much tougher standards to protect kids with asthma and others.

The industry groups have argued previously that EPA should consider keeping the current standard, set in 1997.

Science versus politics.

Big polluters versus the need to protect kids with asthma.

We’ll be monitoring this situation closely. Here’s a record of the meeting from thee OMB web site.

Meeting Record Regarding: National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone
Date: 6/ 4/2007
Client (if applicable) -->
Robert Johansson

Art Fraas

Tim Hunt

Claudia OBrien
Latham & Watkins

Tom Hesterberg
Intl Truck & Engine

Amy Farrell

Susan Dudley

Joseph Starko
Hunter & Willimas

Gregory Dana
Auto Alliance

Ryan Connolly

Kneecapping California: an editorial in the Washington Post

Kneecapping California

Guess who's trying to kill the Golden State's emissions standards.

Friday, June 8, 2007

THERE IS a bald attempt in Congress to short-circuit California's effort to regulate tailpipe emissions -- with Democrats leading the charge. A bill from the chairman of the House energy and air quality subcommittee, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va. -- or is that D-Big Coal?), would halt recent moves by states to limit the emission of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. He insists, "This is not an attack on California." Color us unconvinced.

The Supreme Court ruled in April that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, California has asked the EPA to do something it has done more than 40 times over the past 30 years: waive the agency's emissions rules to allow the state's more stringent regulations to take effect. That would mean a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from car and light truck tailpipes by 2016, starting with the 2009 model year. Eleven other states have signed on to California's bold new standards. The only thing standing in the way is the EPA. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) asked for the waiver in December 2005; he has threatened to sue if it is not granted within six months.

Because California's tough air pollution laws predate those of the federal government, the Clean Air Act allowed the state to devise its own laws, as long as they are not arbitrary and are at least as stringent as national regulations. Now comes Mr. Boucher's bill to bar any waiver if the EPA administrator finds that "such State standards are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Regulating carbon dioxide emissions from tailpipes "is the functional equivalent" of regulating fuel economy, a domain of the Transportation Department, Mr. Boucher told us. As a result, "We have gone from one regulatory agency to two or three when it comes to regulating fuel economy," he said, referring to the EPA, the Transportation Department and California. By making DOT the sole regulator, Mr. Boucher told us, "We are making order out of confusion."

He's right in saying that strong federal leadership would be ideal. What California is seeking permission to do wouldn't be necessary if the federal government had been serious about air pollution (initially) and global warming (now). But from President Bush to industry-beholden members of Congress, there has been little stomach for facing down the automakers or the coal and electricity industries, which together account for 60 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California vowed Tuesday to oppose any legislation coming to the floor that undermines California's emissions plan and strips the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Ms. Pelosi should gird for battle.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The myth of the "50 different state standards"

The opponents of effective controls on global warming emissions from motor vehicles have spun a myth – repeated most recently by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) a few minutes ago -- that somehow there could be “50 different state standards” for motor vehicle emissions. This seems to be the big argument being advanced in the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee by those who want to kneecap California’s greenhouse gas vehicle standards, which have been adopted already by 11 other states.

Just to clarify, the Clean Air Act permits California to adopt tougher emission standards for motor vehicles if California can show the standards are needed and aren’t arbitrary. The Clean Air Act ALSO permits other states to adopt the California standards. It does NOT permit them to create some other type of vehicle emission standard.

The states have a choice – federal standards, or the California standards. There is no third possibility, much less 50. As the NESCAUM states noted in their letter to the committee, this system has worked very well for decades.

And this matter has been debated extensively before in the Congress – and people like Joe Barton and John Dingell were big players in those debates and know the truth.

Maybe they are just grasping at straws in their attempt to kill off the right of states to protect their citizens. But it’s not very becoming for them to continue repeating this phony argument.

Schwarzenegger, Bill Richardson among governors opposed to Boucher-Dingell car company plan

Governors of Eight States Oppose Legislation that Preempts Efforts to Combat Climate Change

The Governors of Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington sent the following letter to Congressman Rick Boucher today opposing his legislation that would preempt the states' efforts to combat climate change by enacting regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

June 7, 2007

The Honorable Rick Boucher
U.S. House of Representatives
2187 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Boucher,

We are writing to express our strong opposition to the June 1, 2007, discussion draft of Alternative Fuels, Infrastructure and Vehicles. This legislation preempts our states' critical efforts to combat climate change by enacting regulations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. While federal action is necessary and long overdue on climate change, Congress must not deny states the right to pursue solutions in the absence of federal policy.

Specifically, this bill will preempt California's passenger vehicles and light duty truck emission standards, which will reduce greenhouse emissions by 30 percent. Our states, which collectively represent more than one-third of the automobile market, have either adopted or will adopt California's standards. Not only does this bill deny our right to adopt California's vehicle emissions standards - a right granted by the federal Clean Air Act - but it eliminates the Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory authority over greenhouse gasses as a pollutant. This amounts to an about-face reversal of the Supreme Court decision identifying CO2 as a pollutant within the scope of the Clean Air Act (Massachusetts v. EPA). Finally, we are opposed to the bill's delegation of regulatory authority to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Our states are at the forefront of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our nation's dependence on carbon-based fuels. Climate change is real, and it impacts the public health and welfare of every American. Congress must preserve states' ability to fight greenhouse gas emissions now. Going forward, states and the federal government must collaborate to take even stronger actions against the continuing threat of climate change.

We urge you to pursue legislation that instead enhances and complements the efforts already underway in our states.


Arnold Schwarzenegger Deval Patrick
California Massachusetts

Eliot Spitzer Christine Gregoire
New York Washington

Bill Richardson Ted Kulongoski
New Mexico Oregon

Edward Rendell

Janet Napolitano

Boucher plans legislative writing session Wed June 13 on controversial car/fuel legislation

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) announced this morning that he has scheduled a legislative drafting session next Wednesday, June 13, on his controversial energy legislation that would kneecap California’s greenhouse gas standards and overturn the recent Supreme Court decision that clarified that the EPA has authority to limit greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

Boucher, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, defended his auto industry-friendly plan as a response to what he called “regulatory confusion” stemming from the Supreme Court case. [Note to Chairman Boucher: please don’t insult our intelligence! There is no “regulatory confusion.” The car companies know exactly what they would have to do under the California standards, which have already been adopted by 11 other states. The real issue here is that the car companies don’t want to take the innovative steps needed to meet the standards.]

On the car issue, Boucher is generally considered to be fronting for full Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-MI), who called the draft bill “well balanced” and “a superb starting point.”

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) observed that Democrats campaigned last year on the theme that they weren’t tied to special interests. “This bill does none of that,” he said, noting he would offer a substitute plan.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), chair of the special select global warming committee, noted that state attorneys general who oppose the Boucher special-interest fix, “are not allowed to testify.” (Markey plans his own hearing tomorrow to offer the state officers the chance that Boucher refused to give them.)

“We have an historic debate about to break out,” noted Markey. Indeed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Smog Watch 2007: the trouble continues

States with smog problems in 2007 through May (29 states plus DC)

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

Factoids: Each state listed has recorded at least one monitor with ozone levels worse than current EPA standards. As usual, California had the most dirty-air days: 20 altogether. The highest daily ozone levels have been recorded in Houston (112 parts per billion, May 15) and Bucks County, PA (109 on May 31). The highest one-hour level (166) was recorded in the Houston area May 14. The most dirty-air days (8) at a single monitor have been recorded at Crestline in San Bernadino, CA. Vermont experienced a relatively rare problem May 25. The first monitored problem of the year took place March 16 in the Livingston Parish, LA.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Boucher launches attack on states' rights & global warming efforts in his new energy plan, which would help car companies

It was a typical Friday maneuver – except this time it was done by an industry-friendly Democrat rather than by the Bush administration.

On Friday, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), chairman of the House subcommittee on energy and air quality, released “discussion draft” legislation that looks as if it could have written in the boardroom of General Motors.

The bill notes that “The Administrator [of EPA] shall not grant states the necessary Clean Air Act waiver to exceed federal motor vehicle pollution standards if “such standards are designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

In other words, this is a blatant and direct assault on the efforts by California and other states to adopt greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles.

Boucher is best known in this Congress for receiving big campaign contributions from coal mining companies and coal-burning electric power companies such as American Electric Power and Southern Company. (We can show you where to read the finance forms if you need that.) In return he has sidelined quick efforts to deal with global warming emissions from coal burning and is promoting the regressive idea of converting coal to liquid fuel.

Now it looks as if Boucher has decided to carry the motor oil of the car companies as well. At the very least, it is a little surprising to see such an attack on states’ rights.

One wonders why. There are no records of Boucher’s receiving any contributions this year from GM (though he has received a little money from DaimlerChrysler).

But perhaps he is working as an agent for Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the full House Energy and Commerce Committee and a well-known auto industry supporter. Dingell is noted for getting other Democrats to act as proxies for his interests in key battles. (Some of us remember, for example, how ex-Rep. Ron Klink fronted for him a decade ago in a failed effort to overturn EPA air standards for smog.)

A hearing is scheduled on the Boucher draft Thursday. Expect opposition from members of Congress from California and the 11 other states that have adopted the California vehicle standards.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Fred Thompson – how on earth did he find time to lobby the Senate on asbestos while shooting “Law and Order?”

Who would’ve thought a man synonymous with “Law and Order” would find time to try changing federal law to limit legal claims for asbestos-related disease?

We stumbled on this factoid in yesterday’s Political Moneyline which notes that likely presidential candidate Fred Thompson earned more than three quarters of a million dollars from a British company during the past three years lobbying for asbestos “reform.” (The publication Politico spotted this earlier as did Bill Theobald of the Nashville Tennessean.)

Even while starring as District Attorney Arthur Branch, Thompson was lobbying his former Senate colleagues on behalf of Equitas Limited, a London-based insurance firm.

(This factoid is not mentioned on Thompson’s NBC biography )

Equitas paid the Office of Fred Thompson $280,000 in 2004; $300,000 in 2005 and $180,000 in 2006. Thompson himself is the only listed lobbyist on this issue for his firm.

Equitas noted in testimony to the Senate that it was seeking to cut down on costly asbestos-related claims.

Our friends with Environmental Working Group have some good background on asbestos. and

Is it fair that some states emit so much more global warming pollution?

A fascinating story by Associated Press.

Some excerpts below:

States vary greatly in greenhouse gases

By The Associated PressFriday, June 1, 2007

WASHINGTON — As America struggles with its embarrassing title as world's leader in greenhouse gases, some states spew far more than their share and show no signs of slowing down.

• Wyoming's coal-fired power plants produce more carbon dioxide in just eight hours than the power generators of more populous Vermont do in a year.

• Texas, the leader in emitting this greenhouse gas, cranks out more than the next two biggest producers combined, California and Pennsylvania, which together have twice Texas' population.

• In sparsely populated Alaska, the carbon dioxide produced per person by all the flying and driving is six times the per capita amount generated by travelers in New York state.

In their daily lives, many Americans unwittingly contribute far more to global warming than their neighbors purely because of where they live. The Associated Press analyzed state-by-state emissions of carbon dioxide from 2003, the latest U.S. Energy Department numbers available. The review shows startling differences in states' contribution to climate change. The biggest reason is the burning of high-carbon coal to produce cheap electricity....

The disparity in carbon dioxide emissions is one of the reasons there is no strong national effort to reduce global warming gases, some experts say. National emissions dipped ever so slightly last year, but that was mostly because of mild weather, according to the Energy Department.

"Some states are benefiting from both cheap electricity while polluting the planet and make all the rest of us suffer the consequences of global warming," said Frank O'Donnell, director of the Washington environmental group Clean Air Watch. "I don't think that's fair at all."

He noted that the states putting out the most carbon dioxide are doing the least to control it, except for California.