Congress

Tue, 2011-11-01 14:21Farron Cousins
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New Lake Michigan Coal Ash Spill Raises Old Concerns

On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.

As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.

As we have reported extensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.

The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal standards.

Sun, 2011-10-02 12:06Farron Cousins
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Oil Lobbyists Targeting “Super Committee”

As the so-called “Super Committee” works to figure out how to trim $1.2 trillion from the U.S. government’s federal deficit, the dirty energy industry has their lobbyists working overtime to make sure that their billions of dollars in annual subsidies aren’t among the items on the chopping block.

The Super Committee only has until Thanksgiving to submit their proposals to President Obama. And not being ones to miss an opportunity, members on the committee have scheduled dozens of personal fundraisers for their campaigns before that deadline hits. And many of the companies who fear that their subsidies could be cut will be in attendance. After all, the lobbyist blitz contains more than 180 former staffers of members of the Super Committee, so access is not an issue, and no introductions will be necessary.

The New York Times lays out the issue as follows:
  

Hundreds of lobbyists, including many former Congressional officials and frequent campaign contributors, are making their cases to the committee members.

Ethanol fuel producers, oil companies, corporate jet owners and many other businesses want the committee to guard their own special tax breaks.

“Everybody’s at risk,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, “and so everyone’s going to be out there lobbying.”

With the lobbying, of course, come valuable campaign contributions. Despite calls from watchdog groups to suspend their fund-raising, most committee members are continuing to raise money from many of the same industries affected by their work.
 
Tue, 2011-08-02 10:30Farron Cousins
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EPA Proposes First-Ever Federal Fracking Rules

The U.S. EPA is poised to enact the first ever rules on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) with a proposal that would allow the agency to regulate the practice under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air route was chosen by the agency, as the U.S. Congress prohibited their attempts to regulate the practice of fracking under the Clean Water Act in 2005.

From Raw Story:

Tue, 2011-06-07 10:14Farron Cousins
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Top Republican Wants To Weaken EPA, Fast Track Environmental Destruction

Republican Congressman Ed Whitfield from Kentucky, who serves as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, has made it clear that he will do everything in his power to push several bills that will strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its ability to protect the public from pollution spewing from utility plants. Whitfield joins the chorus of Republicans and industry leaders who claim that emission standards are too costly for businesses and, as a result, will cost the economy desperately needed jobs.

The specific rule that Whitfield is working to repeal involves standards that would require utilities to install devices to capture as much CO2 as possible from industrial boilers and waste incinerators, a move the EPA estimates would prevent thousands of premature deaths from heart attacks and respiratory illnesses every year. The American Petroleum Institute successfully lobbied the EPA in April to postpone the rule until the public and industry leaders had a chance to air their concerns, which the EPA will be receiving until July 15th. Whitfield is hoping that new legislation will kill the proposal once and for all.

Tue, 2011-05-31 05:15Farron Cousins
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House Republicans Distort Reality To Blame Obama For High Gas Prices

Never ones to let facts get in the way of a good political smear, House Republicans released a report blaming President Obama and the Democrats for high gas prices in America. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Republican Representative Darrell Issa, claims that the president has launched a concerted effort within the government to keep energy prices high in order to force “green technology” on the public.

The new report says that onerous environmental policies put in place by the administration and enforced by the EPA are causing domestic energy prices to rise dramatically, effectively killing jobs and hurting every American who drives a car. They also say that Obama is limiting oil companies’ ability to drill for “American” oil in places like the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and that the President is not allowing them to exploit the natural resources of our country by imposing limits on hydraulic fracturing.

Tue, 2011-05-17 17:32Laurel Whitney
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WPI Students Protest ExxonMobil Speaker at Graduation

After four grueling years of late nights studying and more Ramen noodles than any one person should ever consume, most students don’t find themselves protesting their own graduation. Yet on Saturday, a group of graduates from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) did just that as a row of seats towards the back were left empty for them. No, they weren’t protesting the abhorrent prices of graduation gowns they would never wear again or the absence of top-shelf champagne at the ceremony: they were protesting its speaker.

As soon as WPI announced Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, would be this year’s graduation speaker, many students suddenly were “left confused, even betrayed,” graduating senior Katrina Crocker told DeSmogBlog. It didn’t make sense that WPI, a school recognized as one of the greenest universities in the nation, would invite the CEO of one of the largest dirty energy companies on the planet to address the class of 2011. In contrast to WPI’s green priorities, ExxonMobil reaps billions in dirty energy profits while polluting the environment and contributing to global climate change, all while simultaneously funding front groups to attack climate scientists and confuse the public.

Wed, 2011-03-09 11:05Farron Cousins
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Congress Seeks to End Billions in Subsidies for Oil Companies

As both oil industry profits and gas prices continue to rise, Congressman Bruce Braley (D – IA) believes that it is time to end the billions of dollars worth of subsidies that the United States hands out to oil companies on an annual basis. In his proposed Clean Energy Jobs bill, Braley would end the tax breaks and other subsidies that flow to the oil industry, and use that money instead to create clean energy jobs, invest in biofuel production, and pay down the national debt.

These oil industry subsidies are nothing to scoff at. In 2005, then-President George W. Bush authorized a total of $32.9 billion worth of new subsidies for the industry over five years, bringing the annual total of their subsidies to a staggering $39 billion. The new subsidies were put in place at a time when Americans were paying the highest price for gasoline at the pump in history, which coincided with the largest oil company profits to date.

Tue, 2011-03-08 16:13Laurel Whitney
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House Climate Hearings: Old Dogs, Old Tricks

Hearings conducted today by the House Energy and Commerce committee showcased a battle of the scientists as members heard from a panel of both reputable climate researchers as well as some notable climate skeptics. Climate Progress listed the credentials of those who were called upon to weigh in on Committee Chair Fred Upton’s (R-MI) HR 910 - the bill that if passed on Thursday, will not only strip the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases now and in the future, but will also completely obliterate its Supreme-Court-endorsed endangerment finding. Recall back in December of 2009, the EPA officially declared that emissions of greenhouse gases effectively “endanger public health or welfare”, and therefore fall under the Clean Air Act allowing them to potentially be regulated by the EPA.

Yet the hearing made no progress on discussing the EPA’s role on regulation; it only proved that politicians are running on hamster wheels to nowhere. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) repeated the “no consensus amongst scientists” mantra (bet he didn’t read the memo in front of him signed by 2,505 endorsers of EPA’s Clean Air Act responsibilities either) and played the Republican’s favorite hit tune, ClimateGate. Poor Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) lamented lying awake at night worrying about such subjects as sunspots (are we still on sunspots?) and warming on Mars, while Rep. Ed Whitefield (R-KY) robotically reiterated “we don’t know the answer [as to why the planet is warming]” (no, really we do!). Over several hours, there was also the usual IPCC-bashing, debating the costs of inaction versus action, blaming land-use change corrupting temperature records, cautioning jobs at stake, warning of crushing developing-world economies, and seemingly every other denier excuse in the book (even DDT!). If this were a drinking game, players would likely be en route to get their stomach pumped after three hours of broken record climate denier logic.

Tue, 2011-02-15 09:46Mike Casey
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Top EIA Energy Trends Watcher: No Definitive Count on Dirty Energy Welfare

The national conversation about wasteful welfare for highly profitable dirty energy corporations has gone from the dramatic statement by the Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency that fossil fuel subsidies are one of the biggest impediments to global economic recovery (“the appendicitis of the global energy system which needs to be removed for a healthy, sustainable development future”), to a speech by Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch (in which he called the fossil fuel industry “grotesquely oversubsidized”), to a call by President Obama to cut oil company welfare by $4 billion. Not to be outdone, House Democrats are now calling for a $40 billion cut.

Dirty energy welfare defenders have, predictably, responded with ridiculous, Palin-esque denials of reality, but the voter demands that wasteful spending be cut begs the question: just how much of our tax money is going to ExxonMobil, Massey, etc.? With the new deficit hawks in Congress going after insignificant items like bottled water expenses, you’d think they’d want to know the size of the really wasteful stuff, right?

Wed, 2009-04-01 10:40Leslie Berliant
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The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009; Draft One

Nancy PelosiIs 2009 the year of climate and energy legislation?

It is if you believe Speaker Nancy Pelosi who called the passage of such legislation “an inevitability” on a conference call this morning regarding a discussion draft (pdf) of The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) released today by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA).

Pelosi promised to support a process that would help “remove misconceptions”, i.e. combat big oil’s PR campaign against any meaningful cap on emissions, and at the same time, promising that legislation “won’t go as slow as the slowest ship”,  i.e. Congress won’t wait around for Republicans like John Shimkus (R-IL) who absurdly claim that limiting CO2 will kills plants, to get on board.

The draft legislation could also be called a jobs bill, an economic stimulus package, an energy independence act and a public health bill. Brad Johnson over at the Wonk Room calls it Green Economy legislation, pointing out that investments in renewable energy will help restore American economic leadership at a time when only 6 of the top 30 solar firms globally are U.S. companies.

The only way to grow the economy is to invest in new technologies and create new green jobs,” Speaker Pelosi said this morning, repeating President Obama’s refrain. One might also add that the only way to save the economy is to stop climate change, which will cost us untold trillions in mitigation, adaptation, health and security costs if it continues unchecked. Perhaps it’s time to call out those opposing clean energy and emissions reductions (and lying about the costs, too) as anti-growth, weak on security and actively working against maintaining public health.

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