Monday, June 30, 2008

Having trashed Boxer, Duke's Jim Rogers turns his attention to Obama


Yes, it was only eight days ago that the ever-glib Jim Rogers, chairman and CEO of Duke Energy, was trashing Senator Barbara Boxer --

insinuating in the New York Times Sunday Magazine that Boxer was smoking dope. (Unclear if he meant weed, or crack.)

Having burned that bridge, it's on to the next mark.

Sun The Chicago imes reports that Rogers was among the corporate CEOs who met privately last week with Senator Barack Obama. In fact, he was the only reported exec from the electric power industry. See below.

It's unknown what Rogers said (he was probably arguing against Obama's position of requiring that all greenhouse gas reductions be done through an auction, rather than a polluter-paying windfall profit giveaway of the sort Rogers favors in an effort to boost his company's sagging stock price.)

We rather doubt he was touting Duke's lawsuit against EPA's clean-air interstate rules. (A federal appeals court decision could come as soon as tomorrow.) If Rogers wins, tens of thousands of Americans could have their lives shortened by dirty air. No, we rather doubt that Duke brought up that issue.

ttp://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/06/whos_who_in_meetings_with_obam.html

http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/06/whos_who_in_meetings_with_obam.html

Who's Who: In meetings with Obama


WEDNESDAY OBAMA PRIVATE MEETING IN CHICAGO WITH BUSINESS LEADERS.
(guess it's hard to find current female CEO's.)
1. James Bell, CFO of Boeing, aerospace, IL
2. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, financial services, NY
3. Ann Fudge, former CEO of Young & Rubicam, public relations, IL
4. Mark Gallogly, Centerbridge Partners, NY
5. Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, auto manufacturer, MI
6. Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, energy/alternative, NC
7. Ronald Williams, CEO of Aetna, healthcare, CT
8. Brian L. Roberts, President and CEO of Comcast Corporation, PA
9. Robert Glaser, CEO of Real Networks, CA

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Markey: EPA found global warming a danger, vehicle emissions should be limited


Congressman Ed Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, has fired a preemptive shot at the Bush administration.

While the White House Office of Management and Budget continues to apply the red pen to EPA's "advanced notice" on possible greenhouse gas reduction strategies, Markey noted today that EPA had ALREADY recommended action before its initiative was shut down by the White House late last year.

And now the White House is busy gutting the new EPA strategy. As Yogi Berra once put it, "This is like deja vu all over again."

Monday, June 23, 2008

EPA to serve up greenhouse gas questions, quote of the week, and more...

With the start of the Wimbledon tennis championship this morning, there are many questions in the air:

Will Nadal finally dethrone Federer?
Will Maria Sharapova start a new fashion trend?
Will the US EPA serve up any surprises in its “advanced notice” on greenhouse gas emissions?

OK, I think we know the answer at least to the last question. Please read on.


**

Bush bagel on climate? The White House Office of Management and Budget “officially” began reviewing the lengthy EPA “advanced notice” last week, and it reportedly will be released later today.

If you’ve seen the drafts, you know this “advanced notice” raises many more questions than it answers.

But two things are abundantly clear:

--It is graphic evidence of the stall-ball approach of the Bush administration. Indeed, it may be partly motivated by a desire to bog down the incoming administration will reams of red tape.

--However, it also shows that a new president could have many new tools to take action to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, given the ugly demise of the Lieberman Warner legislation, it seems likely that initiatives on global warming will come from the next administration before Congress gets its act together.

Perhaps most interesting is the section noting that consumers could save a great deal of money with tougher car emission standards because of reduced gasoline costs. And that was at $3.50 a gallon, now a distant memory. [Environmental advocates have been pointing this out for quite some time, by the way.]

**

Foot fault: BNA Daily Environment Report today corroborates our concern that

The Environmental Protection Agency will lose its vote at October negotiations to revise international emissions standards for oceangoing ships unless Congress enacts legislation (H.R. 802) to implement a treaty setting emissions standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from ships and banning ships' use of ozone-depleting substances.


So why does the U.S. Senate continue to drag its feet on this important legislation? Action is needed this week.

**

Tax-free topspin: We are still waiting to see if the U.S. Treasury Department responds to a request by New York City’s Comptroller to investigate the use of tax-free bonds to finance new coal-fired electric power plants. http://blogforcleanair.blogspot.com/2008/06/nyc-comptroller-to-treasury-dept-why.html

We know of at least six planned power plants that fall under this category, and obviously there could be more. Keep your eye on this issue.

**

Backhanded compliment? Duke Energy CEO, profiled in yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Magazine, on the topic of Senator Barbara Boxer:
In conversations with me, he expressed special disdain for Barbara Boxer, the California senator who shepherded the bill through the Senate environment committee.
“Politicians have visions of sugarplums dancing in their head with all the money they can get from auctions,” Rogers told me last month. “It’s all about treating me as the tax collector and the government as the good guy. I’m the evil corporation that’s passing through the carbon tax so Senator Boxer can be the Santa Claus!” If the government was going to collect cash from carbon auctions, Rogers figured, at least it ought to invest that money in green-tech research. “A billion dollars for deficit reduction,” he vented. “A billion dollars! What is [Boxer] smoking? I thought we were solving carbon here.”
[Note to Jim: that’s not exactly how to win friends and influence people.]

**

Quote of the week: from NY Times columnist Tom Friedman, in discussing President Bush:

“who has so neutered the Environmental Protection Agency that the head of the E.P.A. today seems to be in a witness-protection program. I bet there aren’t 12 readers of this newspaper who could tell you his name or identify him in a police lineup.”

I only wish we could have something from the late, wonderful comic George Carlin on this topic.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Why is US Senate delaying on ship pollution legislation?


It’s understandable that there would be an aggressive Democratic response to the calls by President Bush and John McCain to drill off the coasts.

But inaction on a separate coastal pollution issue seems harder to explain:

I’m referring to a delay by the U.S. Senate in taking up legislation – already passed by the House of Representatives and a Senate committee – to ratify an international treaty aimed at reducing air pollution from ocean-going ships.

And the clock is ticking.

If this bill doesn’t become law by July 6, the U.S. would lose its vote in an upcoming October meeting of the International Maritime Commission, the UN body that oversees international ship pollution. http://www.imo.org/Newsroom/mainframe.asp?topic_id=1709&doc_id=9093

This is a rare instance in which the Bush administration has actually tried to do something pretty positive. It came up with the proposal last year and submitted it to the international body. The plan would dramatically reduce air pollution from ships by requiring cleaner diesel fuel and establishing a new tier of performance-based standards for marine diesel engines on all vessels. It will also establish stringent emission requirements for ships that operate in coastal areas where air quality problems are acute. (We have more details on this if you need them.)
The House of Representatives passed the plan (H.R. 802) overwhelmingly in March of 2007. And the Senate Commerce Committee followed suit in April of this year after receiving letters of support for the measure by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as well as the governors of Oregon and Washington. http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/9411/


But since then, the bill has inexplicably languished.

Surely partisan politics is not a factor. (At the behest of Senator Barbara Boxer, the Senate Environment Committee passed a somewhat tougher plan last month by a voice vote, but it’s unclear if this was a “message” bill, that is, one designed principally for purposes of press statements. In any event, it hasn’t been taken up by the full Senate either.)

It would be ironic if the Bush administration, which has rightly been flayed for its intransigence in dealing with global warming in the international arena, would be denied a voice in an international agreement to clean up air pollution from ocean-going ships.

Monday, June 16, 2008

NYC Comptroller to Treasury Dept: why permit tax-exempt bonds for risky coal power plants?

A fascinating letter today from the New York City Comptroller.

http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov/

New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr. has called on the Department of the Treasury to urgently review the financial and environmental risks associated with the use of tax-exempt financing for the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

In a letter to Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, Eric Solomon, Thompson pointed to recent research that found the construction of new coal-fired power plants to be poor candidates for federal financing and problematic for investors, because of the high financial and environmental risks associated with such projects. He cautioned that while the energy sector constitutes a relatively small percentage of the tax-exempt program, coal-fired power plants, however, are clearly among the most costly on a project-by-project basis, and are fast becoming more expensive.

In his letter, which can be viewed at www.comptroller.nyc.gov, Comptroller Thompson provided additional reasons why the Department of the Treasury should urgently conduct the review: “Regulatory uncertainty over CO2 emissions further clouds the investment horizon. Plants constructed under current rules will incur new financial obligations to curb greenhouse gases. Other recent reports on the price of coal suggest a new higher price floor is altering cost assumptions for coal plants.”

Thompson noted that because of the financial and environmental risks associated with the construction of coal-fired power plants, the USDA’s Rural Utility Services has instituted an effective moratorium on new coal plants through at least 2009. Despite this prudent and cautionary action, several high-profile coal-fired power plants are moving forward with tax-exempt support, assuming that ratepayers will simply pay any price increases without question.

Thompson further cautioned: “Also likely is that near and long term cost increases unacknowledged by project proponents will place pressure on plant costs and begin to undermine the payment of debt service obligations. At minimum, premature refinancing and other forms of disruptive debt restructuring are increasingly likely over the life of these bonds given the current economic climate.”

“I firmly believe that an immediate review and timely action by the Treasury Department might spare the nation’s taxpayers a series of expensive losses,” Thompson wrote.

The New York City Comptroller is the Chief Financial Officer of the City of New York. New York City sells tax-exempt bonds to borrow the money needed to pay for construction and repair of capital projects such as roads, bridges and schools.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Rep. Waxman schedules contempt vote over Bush dirty-air stonewalling

Friday, June 13, 2008Environment

Chairman Waxman Schedules Contempt Vote

In letters to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and White House official Susan Dudley, Chairman Waxman announces that the Committee will consider holding them in contempt for their repeated refusal to provide subpoenaed documents to the Committee. The subpoenaed documents involve the White House role in EPA’s ozone standards and rejection of California’s motor vehicle emission standards.

AND IT'S ABOUT TIME THESE PEOPLE WERE MADE ACCOUNTABLE!

More at http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=2012

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Clean Air Watch to EPA: get the lead out!

Below is testimony that Clean Air Watch presented today at a U.S. EPA hearing on proposed new national lead standards:

Statement on EPA proposed NAAQS standards lead

Docket number EPA-HQ-OAR-2006-0735

June 12, 2008


My name is Frank O’Donnell and I am president of Clean Air Watch, a non-profit, non-partisan clean air watchdog organization.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I will be very brief.

I am here to urge you to strengthen your proposal. Unless you make this proposal better, children will remain at risk of seeing their IQs stolen away -- just so some polluting companies can save a little money.

Before I go into details, let me point out that your scientific review of this pollutant has already achieved some positive results. Several years ago, Clean Air Watch led an effort to eliminate a prime source of lead emissions – from the leaded fuel used in NASCAR races.

EPA’s so-called criteria document noted that race car drivers, fans and even nearby residents faced a risk from lead exposure. We pointed out this document to the head of EPA, Stephen Johnson, and in a letter called on him to monitor pollution levels at NASCAR tracks. The day after our letter became public, NASCAR abruptly stopped years of stonewalling, and announced it would eliminate use of leaded gasoline.

So one step towards cleaner air. But there are other lead threats out there.

When the U.S. EPA set the current lead standard – almost 30 years ago – we knew a lot less about this toxin than we do today.

We know now that even very tiny amounts of lead on children’s blood can cause neurological problems – making it harder for children to learn.

And even though EPA has proposed to make the old standard stronger, once again the Administrator has proposed a range that includes levels weaker than those recommended by EPA’s independent science advisers.

We saw this with EPA’s standards for fine particle soot. We saw this with EPA’s standards for ozone. We hope this won’t happen yet again.

The upper bound of the range suggested by your science advisers was 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter. Yet EPA has proposed a range that could permit at least 50 percent more lead in the air.

Your proposal seems both illogical and at odds with the science. In theory, you are seeking to make sure that levels of lead in children’s blood are not harming them – that there is no “neurological deficit.”

But your proposal would permit levels of lead in the air that by your own analysis would permit unhealthful levels of lead in the blood. Both your own scientists and the independent scientists reported that 0.2 was absolutely the upper limit – and your own scientists even recommended a range that considered an order of magnitude lower.

The upper end of your proposal has no margin of safety. It would not adequately protect children.

So we urge you not even to consider a standard higher than 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, averaged on a monthly basis.

And because of the scientific evidence for enhanced effects at lower levels of exposure, and the need to ensure that all children have a safe blood lead level, with an adequate margin of safety, we recommend that EPA set a final standard below 0.1 microgram per cubic meter.

Thank you.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Climate kidnappers

A commentary on the Campaign for America's Future:

http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/climate-kidnappers

White House: Prez would veto climate bill!

As the U.S. Senate settled down to debate the so-called Lieberman-Warner climate bill, the White House wasted no time announcing that the President "would veto this bill" if it passed (which, it won't, thanks to the opposition of rascals such as Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers).

http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/legislative/sap/110-2/saps3036-s.pdf

When in doubt, the White House pulls out the old "tax and spend" line -- and so they did it again here. The Bush administration's clear approach is to hype projected costs --taking some of the worst-case projections made of earlier versions of this legislation -- and try to scare the senators into thinking that passing this bill would be all harm, no gain.

But, as Chris Holly astutely notes in today's The Energy Daily:

"Ironically, the White House last week issued a congressionally mandated report—four years late and under a court order—that concludes global warming will exacerbate water shortages for agriculture and urban use across the United States; sharply increase heat-related deaths in metro areas; cause billions of dollars in damages from hurricanes, storms and wildfires; and increase the spread of disease from insect infestations and food- and waterborne microbes."

Monday, June 02, 2008

Craven Duke CEO likens global warming bill to "Mafia" activity


As you know, the historic debate on the so-called Lieberman-Warner climate bill is about to begin later today. Even though we really need Congress to get moving on this issue, few people predict legislative success in this session.

(We think passage of this bill is about as likely as Big Brown running dead last in the Belmont Stakes.)

One reason is the often duplicitous opposition by some industry figures, most prominently Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers.

We’ve pointed out some of the Duke Double-Speak at http://www.cleanairwatch.org/Documents%20&%20Reports/DukeDoubleSpeak.pdf

More recently, in an excellent Washington Post story by Juliet Eilperin and Steve Mufson, Rogers seemed to lose his marbles. He likened the Lieberman-Warner bill to a Mafia creation! See link and quote below.

We all know that Rogers is really just trying to boost his company’s sputtering stock price.

Maybe we need to bring in James Gandolfini or Robert De Niro to straighten this guy out…

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/31/AR2008053102471.html?hpid=moreheadlines

…But it has run into opposition from some energy titans who say they favor a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions but argue that this version is the wrong one and will cost consumers too much.

"This is just a money grab," said James E. Rogers, the chief executive of Duke Energy. Rogers says he supports a cap-and-trade system but argues that this bill raises too much revenue from coal users while diverting too much of it to other purposes. "Only the mafia could create an organization that would skim money off the top the way this legislation would skim money off the top," he said. Duke, with customers in Ohio, Indiana and the Carolinas, relies heavily on coal-fired plants.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Stonewall Steve Johnson


An innovative look at the evasive head of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has put loyalty to the president above all: