Government

Tue, 2014-11-11 06:00Farron Cousins
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Republicans in Congress Seek to Crush the Environmental Protection Agency

A week after their electoral victories in the 2014 midterms, Senate Republicans have already set their sights on one of their all-time favorite targets: the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become the Senate majority leader when the 2015 Congress convenes, announced last week that one of his main goals was to “rein in” the EPA. One of the main items that McConnell has problems with is the agency’s power plant emissions standards that would cut down on the amount of allowable air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

McConnell said that he feels a “deep responsibility” to stop these power plant rules.

McConnell ran his campaign on an anti-environment, pro-coal platform, playing up Kentucky’s fears that the EPA’s policies would kill jobs in the coal-dependent state. McConnell’s challenger, Democratic candidate Alison Grimes, could have easily challenged those talking points, but failed to do so.

Nevertheless, the facts are there, and the coal industry has had a devastating effect on Kentucky, as I previously reported:

Tue, 2014-09-16 08:01Farron Cousins
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Republican Senators Push Manhattan Institute's Dirty Energy Propaganda Paper

Two Republican members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will be releasing a white paper later this week that will allegedly make the case that “regulations” and legislation that “raises energy costs” is damaging America’s underclass. 

Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Tim Scott (SC) have teamed up with the conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research to once again push the bogus theory that government regulations and environmental safeguards are costing American consumers too much money and destroying jobs. The paper will officially be released at a Manhattan Institute event on September 18.

According to The Hill, a representative from Murkowski’s office said that the Senators will be speaking about “the economic, political, and social consequences of allowing energy insecurity to rise in America.”

Both Murkowski and Scott have been notorious opponents of many of the Obama administration’s environmental protection initiatives and have also been on the receiving end of the dirty energy industry’s largesse. Murkowski’s two largest donor industries are electric utilities and the oil and gas industries, receiving a combined $1,490,257 over the course of her career in the Senate.  Scott, a freshman Senator, has received $411,701 from the two industries during his short time in office.

Wed, 2014-08-06 16:56Farron Cousins
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NRDC Action Fund Working To Hold Climate Change Deniers Accountable

Before members of Congress departed Washington, D.C. for their month-long August recess, senators attempted one final vote on a resolution that did nothing more than state that the Senate accepts the science on climate change.  Noted science-denying Republican James Inhofe blocked the resolution, which required a unanimous vote by Senators in order to pass.

Thus, the resolution failed, but not before Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse issued a stirring rebuttal to Inhofe’s claims of climate change being a hoax:

While a few people like Senator Whitehouse are fighting the good fight from inside the system itself, they still need help from the outside in order to hold climate change deniers and environmental polluters accountable.  The NRDC Action Fund has stepped in to back them up this summer.

While members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are out campaigning during their recess, the NRDC Action Fund has launched a “Dirty Denier$” campaign that will feature a different member of Congress every day. 

Sat, 2014-07-26 08:00Farron Cousins
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Just In Time For Midterms, Congress Kissing Up To Dirty Energy

Congress has less than a week left to finish delivering promises for their donors before they head out for a month-long August recess undoubtedly filled with campaigning, and members aren’t wasting any time in their attempts to suck up to the dirty energy industry.

It is simple math: Congress currently has a 15% approval rating, and every single seat in the House of Representatives is up for election this year (as it is every two years). Reports show that the candidate with the most money wins 91% of the time

When 80% of the public disapproves of the job that you’re doing, the only way to counter that negativity is with a massive advertising blitz, and that costs a lot of money. In order to satisfy the equation, Republicans in Congress are hoping to secure money from electric utilities.

They know what they need, and they also know how to deliver. Republicans in Congress have launched relentless attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), specifically targeting the agency’s power plant pollution rules that require a 30% reduction in emissions by the year 2030.  

Leading the charge is the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Republican Hal Rogers. The committee’s Republicans were able to push through a spending bill that cuts deeply into EPA funding, and also takes aim at some of the agency’s most aggressive climate change initiatives.

As mentioned above, the main target of the committee was the EPA’s power plant rule, but it also tries to defang the EPA’s proposed rules on corporate dumping in waterways.  The ranking Democrat on the committee, Jim Duran, said that there were at least 24 measures in the Republican budget that were designed as “veto bait” for President Obama, which would give the campaigning Republicans an edge when it comes to vying for dirty energy funds.

Thu, 2014-06-26 14:22Farron Cousins
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Obama Administration Secretly Weakening EPA Rules

One of highest hopes that environmentally-minded Americans had for President Obama when he first entered office was that he would finally put an end to the secrecy that marred the former Bush administration when it came to environmental policy. 

The image of then-Vice President Dick Cheney meeting in secret with dirty energy industry leaders was still fresh in our heads as we went to the polls in 2008, and we were all but certain that the country chose a leader that would leave those dark days in the past.

Sadly, those hopes for a policy change were dashed before the end of Obama’s first year.  He talked a big game on the campaign trail, but when it came to acting on those promises, that rhetoric proved to be just as hollow as his predecessor’s. 

Obama doubled down on coal, oil, and fracking, while allowing renewable energy investments to fall.  But the most disturbing part of the story is that Obama and his officials have been working in secret to weaken environmental standards that his administration has been patting themselves on the back for in public.

Recently, a federal judge expanded a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that was filed against the Small Business Administration (SBA), which claims that officials within the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been working to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power plant pollution standards.  The administration has been dragging its feet in providing the information requested, even after the court ruling, which has led environmental groups to file a complaint against the White House.

At issue is the EPA’s failure to update standards for existing power plants as required by the Clean Air Act — a move that the U.S. Supreme Court had previously said was required of the agency.  The current rules have not been updated since 1982, and environmental groups say that the lack of updating is due to influence from the White House itself.

Mon, 2014-06-23 05:00Farron Cousins
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House Spending Bill Contains Huge Giveaways To Dirty Energy

The House Appropriations Committee is currently debating a spending bill that would set America back decades when it comes to energy policy and environmental protection.  The 2015 Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill will designate money to everything from nuclear waste cleanup to renewable energy investments, and the Appropriations Committee has made sure that neither of those particular items get the funding they need.

The bill, if passed by the full House, will cut $113 million from renewable energy projects, dropping the yearly total to $1.8 billion.  This comes only a year after the Treasury Department was forced to cut renewable energy grants by more than 8% following last year’s sequester cuts.  And while the current incarnation of the spending bill provides $150 million for nuclear waste disposal at the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site, it also presses the Obama administration to approve the project immediately.

While the bill itself is a slap in the face to renewable energy, the riders that some industry-funded politicians have added are a complete assault on environmental protections.

Fri, 2014-05-30 15:35Farron Cousins
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Life Saving Regulations Stalled In Bureaucratic Abyss

There is an unspoken rule in American politics: when you have bad news to deliver, do it on a Friday afternoon.  This helps to ensure that fewer people will see it, fewer will have time to analyze it, and the media will forget all about it over the weekend.  If you really want the issue to die, release it on a Friday before a holiday weekend, and that’s exactly what the Obama administration did last week when they released their bi-annual Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions.

The Unified Agenda reads like a laundry list of proposed safety regulations from nearly all the major regulatory agencies.  Digging into the Department of the Interior section of that list, you will find countless stalled regulations pertaining to the dirty energy industry, some of which have been in limbo since the days of the former Bush administration

Ben Geman at National Journal explains:

Wed, 2014-05-14 09:18Farron Cousins
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Marco Rubio Wants To Let The Planet Burn

Republican Senator Marco Rubio isn’t convinced that human beings are responsible for climate change.  But don’t get him wrong. Marco Rubio firmly believes that climate change is happening.  In fact, as he said in two separate interviews this past week, the climate “is always changing.” 

Rubio, who represents the climate change-imperiled state of Florida in the U.S. Senate, has taken a lot of heat for denying the role that humans are playing in climate change, but at the same time, he has received partial credit for acknowledging that the climate is changing.  Rubio’s semantic trickery is not an admission that he believes in climate change.  It is simply a tool that allows him to play both sides.  He can construe his statement to “prove” that he accepts the reality of climate change, or he can downplay its meaning and say that he was referring to something as simple as weather patterns. 

In either scenario, Rubio comes out the winner.  His denial of the role of human beings will be forgotten quickly, and all that will remain on the record is his statement that the climate is always changing. 

Rubio’s assertion that human beings don’t play a role in climate change has already been thoroughly debunked.  But what’s even more alarming is the fact that Rubio’s denial is putting his constituents at risk.

Reports show that Florida, the state Rubio represents in the Senate, is going to experience the impacts of climate change, possibly more so than any other state in the country.  As the NRDC points out, everything from real estate, health, and tourism will be destroyed as climate change becomes worse:

Sat, 2014-04-26 08:00Farron Cousins
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Favorable Court Ruling Lets Americans Breathe Easier

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scored a huge court victory recently, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that the agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) is within the EPA’s realm of enforcement.

The rule, which was put in place in 2012 and would take effect later this year, would tighten the reins on coal-fired power plant pollution.  The legal challenge was brought by the dirty energy industry along with several states that contended that the new standards would cost the industry too much money.

The three-judge panel found that the rule did not overstep the EPA’s authority, although one of the justices did dissent on part of the ruling.  Judge Brett Kavanaugh said that he believed that the EPA did not consider the overall costs to the industry when they made the rule, even if the agency did conclude that the benefits outweigh the costs (that they allegedly didn’t consider).  

It is worth noting that Kavanaugh was appointed to the bench by former president George W. Bush after helping Bush craft a plan to pack the courts with conservative justices.  Prior to his position within the Bush administration, Kavanaugh worked for the corporate defense firm of Kirkland & Ellis, the firm currently representing BP for their negligence in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. 

The specific language that was targeted was the phrase “appropriate and necessary,” which appears in the Clean Air Act and is the phrase that gives the EPA the authority to enact new standards.  The court found that the industry’s challenge that the rule was neither appropriate nor necessary was flawed.

The real issue in the case is that the industry does not want to pay to clean up their operations.  However, some companies have already installed the necessary equipment to capture mercury and other toxic pollution. 

Thu, 2014-04-24 13:21Raphael Lopoukhine
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Alberta Ramps Up “Responsible Energy Development” Sales Pitch in Wake of New Keystone XL Delay

Alberta oilsands tar sands julia kilpatrick

Days after another delay by the Obama administration on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, members of the Alberta government are hitting the U.S. circuit to promote the oilsands and boost their “green” credentials.

Three government officials are heading to key regions in the U.S. to push for continued market access and advertise what Albertan energy minister Diana McQueen calls “our commitment to clean energy development.”

Alberta hopes to showcase investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of a successful emissions reduction plan.

Critics say the Alberta government’s talk about “sustainability” and “clean energy” is not in line with reality.

If you’ve been following the Canadian government’s sales pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline, you’ve probably heard this claim before: ‘Emissions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011,’” writes P.J. Partington, senior federal policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.

However, the reality, Partington writes, is that “since 1990, oilsands production has quintupled, while GHG emissions from production and upgrading have quadrupled.”

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