clean air act

People Power: How We Can Fight Back and Win Against Powerful Polluter Interests

Guest post by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, originally published at AlterNet.

Not for forty years has there been such a stretch of bad news for environmentalists in Washington.
         
Last month in the House, the newly empowered GOP majority voted down a resolution stating simply that global warming was real: they’ve apparently decided to go with their own versions of physics and chemistry.
         
This week in the Senate, the biggest environmental groups were reduced to a noble, bare-knuckles fight merely to keep the body from gutting the Clean Air Act, the proudest achievement of the green movement. The outcome is still unclear; even several prominent Democrats are trying to keep the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.
         
And at the White House? The president who boasted that his election marked the moment when ‘the oceans begin to recede’ instead introduced an energy plan heavy on precisely the carbon fuels driving global warming. He focused on ‘energy independence,’ a theme underscored by his decision to open 750 million tons of Wyoming coal to new mining leases. That’s the equivalent of running 3,000 new power plants for a year.

U.S. Congress Votes On Republican Bill To Kill The EPA’s Authority To Control Climate Change Pollution


The Senate and House have cast important votes to determine the future of carbon emissions regulations in the U.S. Thankfully the news is good.

Advocates for strong action on climate change and the nearly 3/4 Americans who believe the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should protect public health, are celebrating an important victory. Yesterday the Senate rejected multiple proposals to end the EPA climate authority. Now climate deniers and big polluters (including the Koch brothers) are mourning a significant defeat and blow to their dirty energy agenda.
 
Notably, four amendments to small business legislation, entirely for the purpose of limiting the EPA’s role in regulating carbon emissions, were defeated. Three were from Democrats, mainly Max Baucus (MT), Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Jay Rockefeller (WV), whose amendment to halt EPA use of the Clean Air Act for two years fell 88-12. The final blow (or fail) for polluter-friendly legislators came when Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) proposed an amendment to exempt power plants, refineries and other carbon polluters from oversight. His amendment was a precursor to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) and House colleague Fred Upton’s (R-MIbill to end the EPA’s power to protect public health and the environment from the effects of climate change, known as H.R. 910 the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011”. Needing 60 votes to pass and securing only 50 votes in support.

Industry Already Protesting EPA's First-Ever Limits on Mercury Pollution

Coal power plant pollution

After more than 20 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finally set federal limits on how much mercury pollution power plants can release into the atmosphere. The fact that the power industry has been able to dump unlimited amounts of mercury and other toxics into the skies (and eventually into the ocean and tuna) without penalty for so long is mind-boggling.

Unless, that is, you ask industry groups and their friends in Congress, who are already parroting the same talking points they bring out every time a new pollution control appears – despite the fact that the Clean Air Act turns out to be a bargain for America over and over again.

Bill to Block EPA Climate Regulations Moves Forward in Congress

On Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives moved one step closer to passing a bill to permanently prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating global warming pollution. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill, H.R. 910 or the “Energy Tax Prevention Act,” in a vote that fell mostly along party lines.

Under the guise of lowering gas prices, the bill would deliver several very lethal blows to EPA efforts to address climate change – and to President Obama’s energy agenda – by:

Coal Power Plants Are Number One ... Source of Toxic Air Pollutants in U.S.

We're number one!

King Coal once again takes the crown for title of dirtiest polluter in the land – or in this case, the air. Coal-burning power plants cough up more hazardous air pollutants than any other source of industrial pollution in the U.S., but it doesn’t have to be that way, says a new report from the American Lung Association (ALA). The report, released March 8, anticipates the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expected proposal to reign in this kind of noxious air pollution with a new set of rules for electric utilities, which include coal and oil-fired power plants.

Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act way back in 1990 to limit the release of these air pollutants, but for twenty years, the electric utility industry has taken advantage of various loopholes and extensions to avoid cleaning up all facilities in the way other industries have been doing so across the country for years.

“It’s time that we end the ‘toxic loophole’ that has allowed coal-burning power plants to operate without any federal limits on emissions of mercury, arsenic, dioxin, acid gases such as hydrogen chloride and other dangerous pollutants,” said ALA president Charles D. Connor in a press release.

EPA Study Again Shows The Benefits Of The Clean Air Act To U.S. Economy

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) yesterday released its Second Prospective Report examining the benefits of the Clean Air Act amendments from 1990 up to 2020. The study confirms that the EPA’s clean air protections are not only vital for safeguarding the physical health and longevity of Americans, they are also extremely good for our economy.  While the cost of implementing the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments was just $65 billion, the direct benefits from these protections are projected to reach almost $2 trillion for the year 2020.

In 2020, the study projects the Clean Air Act will prevent more than 230,000 cases of premature mortality, 200,000 heart attacks,
 17 million lost work days
 and 2.4 million asthma attacks.

Senator Rockefeller Takes A Turn At Subverting EPA Authority To Use The Clean Air Act

Advocates of congressional action on global warming had a “case of the Mondays” this week. Not to be outdone by his Republican colleaguesSenator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced his own legislation to freeze federal efforts to curb carbon emissions.

If enacted, bill S.231 will not be as disastrous as Senator John Barrasso’s (R-WY) Defending Affordable Energy and Jobs Act, but it will nonetheless prevent (or suspend) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from using the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from stationary sources like power plants and refineries, for two years.

While Rockefeller has described the perils of global warming pollution: “Greenhouse gas emissions are not healthy for our Earth or for her people, and we must take serious action to reduce them,” he has also led the charge amongst centrist and dirty energy funded Democrats to prevent the EPA from using clean air laws to protect public health and the environment from global warming pollution. Indeed, for his efforts, Rolling Stone named him no.9 on its list of 12 politicians and executives blocking progress on climate action.

Since 1999, he has received some $368,850 from coal and oil interests, and during the 2005-2010 period $130,300 from the Mining industry and $107,550 from Electric Utilities He has also received close to $40,000 from Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly held coal company, and whose CEO Gregory Boyce ranked no.4 on the Rolling Stone list.

Minister of Environmental Destruction Says He Will Not Let Emissions Rules Hamper Tar Sands Development

Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is off to a great start convincing Canadians that he is concerned about the environment.  After just than two days in office, he has already tried to persuade Canadians that Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil are “ethical oil” and unworthy of the negative reputation that countless citizens, politicians, and environmental organizations have given them.  Today, he’s promising that the Harper government will not impose any greenhouse gas reductions on the oil patch that will discourage investment. 

Curbing regulation in favour of profits doesn’t really sound like the work of the Minister of the Environment.  This suggests, rather troublingly, that the profits of the oil and gas sector, and in particular Alberta’s tar sands, are more important to the Harper government than their environmental impact.  Let’s get something clear: is Kent the Minister of Environment, or the Minister of Environmental Destruction? And who is he working for? Corporate interests, or Canadians?

Canada's New Environment Minister Promises More of the Same: Climate Inaction and Disappointment

Another day, another Minister of the Environment, it seems.  On Tuesday, Harper’s mini-shuffle installed Peter Kent, a former journalist with the CBC and Conservative MP from Thornhill to the post.  What could embody the lack of leadership on the climate any more clearly than the fact that Kent is the fifth to hold the position in five years?

Kent’s appointement comes at a time when Canada’s reputation on fighting climate change is in the toilet. Ottawa’s watered-down leadership on the environment, well, stinks.  Already commentators and opposition leaders are openly concerned that Kent will do little more than his predecessors. Well, unless you count political spin as action. 

Murkowski Amendment To Protect Polluters Was Written By Dirty Polluter Lobbyists

Sen Lisa Murkowski (Photo credit: Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire)

The Washington Post is reporting that Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s amendment to gut EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act was written by two Washington lobbyists known for representing some of the worst polluters in the nation.

Surprise, surprise!

Juliet Eilperin writes on the Post Carbon blog:
 “The Washington Post has confirmed that two Washington lobbyists, Jeffrey R. Holmstead and Roger R. Martella, Jr., helped craft the original amendment Murkowski planned to offer on the floor last fall. Both Holmstead, who heads the Environmental Strategies Group and Bracewell & Guiliani, and Martella, a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, held senior posts at EPA under the Bush administration and represents multiple clients with an interest in climate legislation pending before Congress.”

The Post notes that Sen. Murkowski is now likely to postpone offering the amendment next week when Congress returns to tackle the subject of climate change anew. 

 “This Mukowski rider should be called the Protect Dirty Polluters amendment, especially since we now know that it was written by polluter lobbyists,” Kert Davies, Director of the new PolluterWatch project at Greenpeace, told me today.

“If this amendment passed, it would be a get out of jail free card for the worst polluters from Big Oil and Big Coal,” Davies said.

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