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.