Sierra Club Takes McCain to Task for "Lie" about Clean-Energy Non-Vote

Posted by Brad Johnson Sat, 09 Feb 2008 21:56:00 GMT

Following the one-vote failure on Wednesday of S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140, the Senate stimulus package that contained $5.6 billion in “green” incentives, various environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, called Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for missing the vote.

On Thursday, the Sierra Club asked its members to call McCain’s office to ask “why he failed to show up for a vote that could have determined the future of green energy in America.”

Today, Executive Director Carl Pope blistered the office response to member calls in a blog post entitled John McCain Should Be Ashamed.

Immediately, people begin calling and emailing me, saying, “The Senator’s office says he voted for clean energy, and that your alert is wrong.” We check. He didn’t. We call his office. Stunningly, his staff has been coached to mislead callers. “That’s not true at all,” they say, “he voted for the bill yesterday.” Well, he voted, yesterday, but for a different bill. However we phrase the question, we get a lie. “No, if he had voted for the bill, it would not have passed. That was purely procedural.” But McCain’s staff knows that if cloture had been invoked, passage of the bill would then only require 51 votes, and the bill with clean energy would have passed. [Ed.- emphasis added.]

Friends of the Earth Airs DC-Area "Fix or Ditch" Ads Before Primaries

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 08 Feb 2008 19:38:00 GMT

Friends of the Earth announced today that it is expanding its web and print “Fix or Ditch” campaign with a local network and cable ad buy before the February 12 Virginia, Maryland, and DC primaries.

The campaign, which challenges Senate Democrats to change Lieberman-Warner’s emissions targets and allowance distribution provisions (S. 2191) to reflect the platforms of the presidential candidates of their party, has drawn fire from Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) and Environmental Defense as well as a passionate letter of support from Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, American Prospect correspondent (and Tapped co-founder) Chris Mooney challenges the Democratic platforms of 100% auction and 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 in This Will Mean the World to Us (sub. req.):
Many Democratic campaigns, responding to their environmental base, are currently outlining cap-and-trade regimes featuring a highly ambitious 100 percent auction process for the initial pollution allowances or permits, with the proceeds going to other needed public policies, such as investment in the clean-energy technologies that must ultimately supplant fossil fuels. When it comes to specifying precise reductions, meanwhile, the campaigns generally seem to agree that we need something like bringing emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020 and decreasing them by 80 percent by 2050, through a cap that becomes progressively more stringent.

An 80 percent reduction by 2050 does indeed square with what scientists think would be necessary to avoid the worst climate impacts—most notably, the loss of large bodies of land-based ice currently perched atop Greenland and West Antarctica, which, upon sliding into the ocean, would drive catastrophic sea-level rise. It’s one thing to outline a policy in the abstract, however, and quite another to get it through the next Congress. As one climate policy insider says, “The environmental community has a tendency to run their leaders off a plank; that’s what they’re setting up right now with this 80 percent reduction by 2050.”

The more moderate approach of the Lieberman-Warner bill is to reduce capped emissions (and not all emissions are included) by 70 percent by 2050. Lieberman-Warner is also pragmatic in another way: It does not set up a 100 percent auction for emissions allowances, a system that major emitters oppose. They think they should be granted allowances gratis at the outset (or as climate experts say, there should be “grandfathering”). Under Lieberman-Warner, just 24 percent of allowances would be auctioned off initially, though the percentage would increase over time. It’s far easier to get buy-in from industry in this way, and although Lieberman-Warner may have a tough time passing both houses of Congress before the election (or surviving a possible presidential veto), it may be precisely the type of bill that can sail through in 2009.

What’s achievable in climate policy seems to be changing all the time, but still we mustn’t shoot the moon. Consider the perspective of Tim Profeta, current director of Duke’s Nicholas Institute, who previously served as a chief architect of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, which failed by a 55-to-43 Senate vote in 2003. “As somebody who fought for a freeze of emissions in the 2003 Congress and was told it was too aggressive, it is hard for me to believe where we are now,” Profeta says. “The current movement to require 100 percent auctions and even deeper cuts faces strong political opposition from emitters, many of whom have good arguments about what is economically feasible for their companies. I fear that we might pass up the opportunity for real action now—when it is essential to have the U.S. begin to reduce its emissions—because someadvocatescontinue to shift the objectives to stricter and stricter limits as the debate proceeds.” It’s fine for Democratic candidates, at the moment, to answer the call of environmental groups—the Sierra Club, for instance, has criticized Lieberman-Warner—and present highly ambitious cap-and-trade proposals. But after the election, the new president will need to be flexible and focus on getting a workable bill passed. It can be strengthened later as more science comes in—2050 is, after all, still far away—but we must at least begin ratcheting down emissions now.

Senate Stimulus Package Filibustered by One Vote 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 06 Feb 2008 23:28:00 GMT

By a roll call vote of 58-41, Senate Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster threatened by Republicans of the Senate’s version of the stimulus package (S. Amdt 3983 to H.R. 5140). The package differed from the House version by including:
  • expanded tax-rebate eligibility for low-income seniors, disabled veterans and married couples
  • a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits
  • additional LI-HEAP funding
  • $5.6 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency incentives
  • tax breaks for coal companies

This is the second time a renewal of the renewable production tax credits has failed by one vote in the Senate.

All Democrats, including Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who voted against the production-tax-credit package in the 2007 Energy Bill, voted for the Senate version (except for Sen. Reid, who cast a procedural vote against the package when it was evident cloture would fail).

Republican senators Collins, Snowe, Smith, Coleman, Grassley, Dole, and Domenici voted in favor of the package. All but Snowe (Maine) and Grassley (Iowa) are up for reelection this year, although Domenici has announced his intention to retire.

Sen. John McCain was the one senator not in attendance.

Friends of the Earth and David Roberts at Grist have singled out John McCain for the failure.

Investment Banks Set Coal Plant Carbon Guidelines

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 06 Feb 2008 20:18:00 GMT

On Monday Citi Group, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase announced the establishment of an “enhanced diligence” framework for judging proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.

The framework, according to the joint press release, sets principles for energy efficiency (including “regulatory and legislative changes that increase efficiency in electricity consumption”), renewable energy and low-carbon distributed energy technologies, and assessing the “financial, regulatory and certain environmental liability risks” of CO2-emitting fossil fuel power generation. The group intends to “encourage regulatory and legislative changes that facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS) to further reduce CO2 emissions from the electric sector.”

The group, which as the Rainforest Action Network’s Understory blog notes does not include major investor Bank of America, consulted the power companies American Electric Power, CMS Energy, DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG, Sempra and Southern Company and the environmental organizations Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Chukchi Lease Sale Goes Forward; Still No Polar Bear Decision from FWS

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 06 Feb 2008 16:46:00 GMT

Despite opposition from environmental organizations and Democrats in Congress, the Minerals Management Service is proceeding with its scheduled sale of offshore drilling leases in the Chukchi Sea at 9 AM Alaska time (1 PM EST). FWS chief Dale Hall failed to make the February 6 deadline despite his testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last week that he was “pushing to get there.”

A Los Angeles Times op-ed penned last weekend by MMS director Randall Luthi, The Bear Necessities, defends the lease sale, claiming that “under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, the bear currently receives regulatory protections even stricter than those available under the Endangered Species Act.” This statement ignores the critical habitat provisions of the ESA which could prevent such actions as the lease sale.

Last week MMS officials sent a cease-and-desist order to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, who earlier published “a series of internal e-mails from current and former Interior scientists raising troubling questions about how badly environmental assessments of Arctic offshore oil development were skewed.”

The Alaska Wilderness League plans to live-blog the sale.

Update The sale has been completed, the 488 blocks selling for a total of over $2.6 billion.

Estimated reserves include 77 trillion cubic feet of conventionally recoverable natural gas (worth about $635 billion at $8/MMBtU) and 15 billion barrels of oil ($1.5 trillion at $100/barrel).

The winning bidders:
  • Shell (Netherlands, $2.1 billion)
  • ConocoPhilips (US, $506 million)
  • Repsol (Spain, $14.4 million)
  • Eni (Italy, $8.9 million)
  • StatoilHydro (Norway, $14.4 million – most Statoil & Eni bids were joint bids)

As StatoilHydro noted in its press release, “The area is considered a frontier area with no production or infrastructure as of today.”

Boucher Releases White Paper on Emissions from Developing Countries

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Feb 2008 15:46:00 GMT

In the middle of September 2007, Rick Boucher (D-W.Va.), chair of the the the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee of John Dingell’s Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he would be releasing a series of white papers “over the next six weeks” on issues related to the development of climate change legislation.

October saw the first such paper, Scope of a Cap-and-Trade Program.

16 weeks later, he has released the second, Competitiveness Concerns/Engaging Developing Countries.

Since the U.S. cannot unilaterally bind other countries, our goal will be to craft legislation limiting U.S. carbon emissions that also induces developing countries to limit their emissions growth (1) on a timetable that meets both environmental and trade competitiveness concerns; (2) in a manner that is reasonably certain to withstand challenge before the World Trade Organization (WTO); and (3) on terms that pose acceptable risks to U.S. interests in the event of a negative WTO determination.

The white paper, which draws from a March 27 subcommittee hearing on international issues, discusses the IBEW/American Electric Power proposal of applying a “greenhouse gas intensity tariff” (which was included in Bingaman-Specter and Lieberman-Warner); the “carbon intensive” performance standard proposal; and the Environmental Defense “carrots and sticks” proposal for carbon market design.

The “questions for further discussion” are listed after the jump.

Boxer, NRDC, ED Attack Friends of the Earth Campaign: "Defeatist", "Small", "Isolated"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Feb 2008 15:32:00 GMT

Last Thursday, Darren Samuelson of E&E News interviewed Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and an NRDC representative in response to the Friends of the Earth campaign to “fix or ditch” the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (S. 2191). In its campaign, Friends of the Earth challenged Boxer for supporting Lieberman-Warner’s high degree of emitter giveaways and subsidies and its target of 60% reductions from 1990 levels of greenhouses by 2050, although the Democratic presidential candidates are calling for 100% auction and 80% by 2050.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.):
Their logic doesn’t hold up. What we need to do is not waste time. If we can get a strong bill signed into law, we should get it. And if we can’t, we shouldn’t. . . . They’re sort of the defeatist group out there. They’ve been defeatists from day one. And it’s unfortunate. They’re isolated among the environmental groups.
Boxer went on to emphasize the importance of holding senators accountable on global warming through test votes.

Julia Bovey, NRDC:

We do not agree with Friends of the Earth. We are not willing to give up the fight. We believe the Lieberman-Warner bill as passed out of committee is a very strong start. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

NRDC had previously described the bill as “a strong start”.

Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth president, responded:

Far from being defeatists, we’re being realists. We’re focusing on what the scientists tell us has to be done to solve global warming. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that falls short of the science. It’s not acceptable to pass a bill that gives $1 trillion to polluters.

On Monday, Environmental Defense Climate & Air director Mark McLeod sent an email to several Senate offices excoriating Friends of the Earth for placing L-W and Boxer “under attack”, claiming that opposition in the “liberal blogosphere” to Lieberman-Warner or the passage of any climate bill in this session “will become orthodoxy if we do not present a counterview from respected pro-environment voices.”

He characterized Friends of the Earth as “small and fairly isolated” in contrast to ED and “many other major environmental groups” who “are in favor of moving forward to get a strong bill like Lieberman-Warner,” saying also that Friends of the Earth is calling for “unrealistic dramatic changes.”

The full text of McLeod’s email is after the jump.

Florida and Iowa Join EPA Lawsuit; California Seeks to Expedite Hearing

Posted by Warming Law Mon, 04 Feb 2008 19:05:00 GMT

Last week, California’s lawsuit to overturn EPA’s waiver decision continued to gain support despite the automobile industry’s best efforts to prevent more states from stepping up to the plate on global warming emissions. While this preemptive lobbying campaign did temporarily stop a California legislative proposal to limit emissions through a “feebate” program, it has failed to convince states to hold back on supporting the Pavley clean cars program. Late Friday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state of Iowa joined the lawsuit, filing a 24-page motion to intervene in the case:

The motion presented by Iowa and Florida on Friday stated that the two states "recognize that motor vehicles are one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Global warming is already seriously and negatively impacting the public health, economies, and environments of (the two states), and its effects are expected to worsen in the absence of effective abatement prompted by immediate governmental action.”

The Iowa Office of Energy Independence recommended in December that Iowa join with other states considering the adoption of California’s vehicle emissions standards.

Warming Law has written previously just how important it is that states that haven’t yet moved to adopt the California standards are getting involved here, and its likewise critical that states in the process of enacting regulations – such as Florida and Arizona—are still moving forward in every way that they can. It does, however, continue to bear highlighting that Florida’s environmental regulators had to bring its case rather than the state itself, a likely product of state AG Bill McCollum’s well-documented climate-change skepticism.

Polar Bear Fate Heats Up

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Jan 2008 23:05:00 GMT

Senate Hearing

In today’s Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s now-illegal delay in ruling whether polar bears are an endangered species, Sen. Boxer (D-Calif.) sharply rebuked the FWS director Dale Hall. She noted that the Alaska field office sent a recommended decision to Hall on December 14th of last year. Hall refused to discuss the recommendation, saying it would be “inappropriate” to discuss internal deliberations.

Hall gave as his only reason for the delay past the January 8 deadline the need to present a “high-quality” decision that responds in full to the voluminous public comments received. He stated that there was no significant scientific uncertainty in the endangerment posed by global warming to polar bears, the only reason for delay the Endangered Species Act permits. Under repeated questioning from Sens. Boxer and Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Hall said he wanted to present a decision, if possible, by February 6th.

Hall noted that in many ways the Marine Mammals Protection Act provides stronger protection than the Endangered Species Act for polar bears even if a finding of endangerment were made – a claim criticized by Andrew Wetzler of NRDC, who noted that the MMPA does nothing to protect critical habitat, the matter which would affect the planned sale of drilling rights in the Chukchi Sea.

MMS Speaks

On that front, Ben Gemen reports for E&E News that Minerals Managment Service director Randall Luthi said any delay of the scheduled February 6 sale of Chukchi Sea leases would prevent any oil-and-gas exploration in 2008. However, he also stated that the agency position is that:
there is no need for a delay, regardless of what FWS decides. He said that even in the absence of a listing, energy development is accompanied by several layers of environmental review and safeguards, including collaboration with FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Kerry Moves to Block

Meanwhile, Sen. Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced legislation yesterday that would block lease sales in the Arctic until Endangered Species Act decisions are made on the polar bear and its critical habitat, mirroring Rep. Markey’s (D-Mass.) proposed legislation in the House.

Internal Emails Show MMS Staff Outcry

Finally, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has released over the past week communications from MMS scientists pleading with the political appointees to delay the lease sale (contrary to Luthi’s January 17th testimony) and DOI directives forbidding MMS scientists to consider the possible threat of invasive species from opening the seas to drilling.

Friends of the Earth Launches Campaign Against Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 30 Jan 2008 22:31:00 GMT


This advertisement is running on environmental and progressive blogs.
Environmental group Friends of the Earth, who had endorsed John Edwards’s campaign for president, today launched an ambitious campaign criticizing the Lieberman-Warner climate bill (S. 2191) and Senate Democrats supporting it, noting that Edwards, Clinton, and Obama had all released climate plans that distinctly differ from the bill in economics and emissions targets. At Lieberman-Warner.org:
After years of ignoring global warming, the U.S. Senate is finally considering legislation to cap greenhouse gas pollution. Unfortunately, the Lieberman-Warner bill being advanced by Senate Democrats lavishes up to $1 trillion on industries responsible for global warming, and in return asks for reduction targets well below what scientists say are necessary. If this is the best Senate Democrats can do, the world is in trouble.

Friends of the Earth Action is leading the fight to either fix, or ditch, Lieberman-Warner, and we need your help.

The good news is that we already have some key allies: the Democratic presidential candidates. They all have plans that make polluters pay for emissions and that seek the carbon reductions called for by science. We think the Senate needs to build on their plans rather than the weak Lieberman-Warner bill, which is modeled on legislation by Senator John McCain.

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