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! http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/bush-dems-jockeying-over-energy-bill-laurels-2007-12-18.html

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.

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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 http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1664

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

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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

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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: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2000/meetings/683.html and http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/oira/2000/meetings/683.pdf

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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.

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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. http://www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/nonroad/420f07015.htm
Is General Electric still hypocritically protesting against better train standards? Don’t worry – we are on top of this one!

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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.)

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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…

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