Earthjustice has challenged the Department of Transportation’s denial of a petition by Sierra Club and Forest Ethics to ban the transportation of Bakken crude oil in DOT-111 tank cars.
“Most of the explosive crude oil on U.S. rails is moving in tanker cars that are almost guaranteed to fail in an accident,” explained Patti Goldman of Earthjustice.
“The risks are too great to keep shipping explosive Bakken crude in defective DOT-111s. The National Transportation Safety Board called them unsafe two decades ago, and by the Department of Transportation’s own estimates, the U.S. could see 15 rail accidents every year involving these cars until we get them off the tracks.”
At the same time Earthjustice was bringing this challenge, the Canadian government was announcing that it will ban 3,000 of the riskiest DOT-111s from carrying materials like Bakken crude.
“Sometimes you can't convince people, you just have to defeat them.” That was Washington state governor Jay Inslee's message about dealing with climate deniers today at Climate Solutions' 6th annual breakfast in Seattle.
“We're not going to wait until the last person in Washington understands physics and chemistry in order to confront climate change,” Inslee said, describing his view that the climate policy debate essentially pits optimists against pessimists. Those who understand the urgent need to address climate change are the optimists who see climate solutions as beneficial for our health and economic prosperity, while those who deny the problem or think there's nothing we can do about it are the pessimists. Nobody likes a pessimist.
Governor Inslee was joined on stage today by David Gelber, the executive producer of the must-watch Showtime climate change series, Years of Living Dangerously. These two optimists were both in agreement that “climate deniers are really back on their heels,” as Gelber said about the increasing public pressure for politicians to stop waffling and move ahead with climate solutions.
Pacific Northwest coal export proposals were a hot topic of conversation, as usual whenever Governor Inslee makes a public appearance these days. Gelber noted that the potential climate impacts of coal expansion are “every bit as important” as the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and urged the media to be more aggressive in covering climate threats since we face “civilizational suicide” if we fail to act.
Gelber shared several stories about the success of the Years series in its first season, and revealed plans for wider distrubtion once the Showtime run concludes. The series will be released on DVD approximately three months after the final episode of season one airs, and the producers are getting closer to securing international distribution agreements. That will be welcome news to fans outside the U.S., along with the many schools and universities that want to screen the series for their students, Gelber said.
Governor Inslee was featured in episode 5 for his leadership as a climate-focused governor who won election on a platform of climate action promises. That episode also looked at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's refusal to acknowledge the role that climate change played in amplifying the impacts of Superstorm Sandy. The highlight of the episode is the conversion of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), a former climate skeptic who accepts the scientific consensus by the end of the episode in an interview with host Chris Hayes.
If you happen to have Showtime or know someone who does, tune in tonight at 8pm for episode 6, which looks at two important story lines that will be familiar to DeSmog readers.
Mark Bittman hosts the “Chasing Methane” segment looking at the climate impacts of natural gas development, while America Ferrera hosts “Against the Wind,” a segment looking at the anti-science attacks on renewable energy by the Heartland Institute and other fossil fuel front groups. That segment features an interview with yours truly as well as Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves examining the history and tactics of James Taylor and Heartland with America Ferrera.
In a classic instance of the revolving door between government and industry, Governor Inslee has decided to hire Matt Steuerwalt as the director of his policy office effective May 1. In recent years, Steuerwalt has acted as a lead lobbyist for coal-fired power in Washington, as well as for a now-defunct coal export proposal. The news was first announced by Steuerwalt in a mass email sent last night.
The state is now wrestling with two major policy issues connected to coal: whether to permitlarge-scale coal export terminals and whether to phase out coal-fired electricity imported from other states. Given that Steuerwalt has recently been a paid lobbyist in support of coal in Washington, the move raises question about whether he will use his influence in the Inslee administration to advance an agenda more favorable to the coal industry.
Steuerwalt was formerly Gov. Gregoire’s top advisor on energy and climate issues, but he left the Gregoire administration to go to work for Strategies 360, a well-connected lobbying and PR shop. He then led negotiations against his former employer on behalf of TransAlta, a giant Canadian energy company that was wrangling with the Gregoire administration over plans to ramp down coal-burning at its power plant in Centralia. He also lobbied on behalf of TransAlta in both the House and Senate.
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.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.