California Democrat and House Oversight Committee chair Henry Waxman has turned up the heat in his investigation into EPA’s denial of the California waiver request to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gases, calling for depositions of numerous EPA officials and criticizing the delay in document production. He expects a mutual schedule for production and interviews to be worked out by January 16. Waxman noted that althought EPA counsel had accompanied officials in previous interviews, because EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s “own conduct is being examined, this accommodation would not be appropriate.”
When he opened the investigation in December, Waxman set deadlines of January 10th, 17th, and 23rd for various EPA offices to deliver responsive documents.
The EPA’s associate administrator Christopher Bliley sent a letter on January 4 saying the EPA would try to deliver documents by January 11, a day after Waxman had requested. On the 11th he wrote that the first documents might be ready by January 18.
Waxman’s full response is after the jump.
(Cross-posted from Warming Law)Anticipation has been high that Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) would use her platform running the Senate Environment and Public Works Commitee to pressure the EPA regarding its denial of California’s waiver application, and a committee field hearing yesterday did not disappoint. Responding to Administrator Stephen Johnson’s no-show and failure to provide documentation of how he reached his decision, Boxer threatened to use the committee’s subpoena power and generally pledged to step up congressional pressure:
“This outrageous decision . . . is completely contrary to the law and science,” Boxer said in a briefing with state officials at Los Angeles City Hall. She held up an empty cardboard box as a symbol of the Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal so far to provide the hefty technical and legal backup that normally accompanies air pollution waiver decisions and are usually published in the Federal Register.
Johnson is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee in Washington on Jan. 24. An EPA spokesman said, “The official decision documents are being prepared, and they will be released soon.”
California Attorney General Jerry Brown praised Boxer’s subpoena threat, at one point calling Johnson a “stooge in a really pathetic drama that hopefully will not play out much longer.” Brown used his written testimony to document the state’s legal case against the waiver decision, and specifically honed in on EPA’s central assertion that the waiver request did not meet “compelling and extraordinary” conditions due to global warming’s wide-ranging impact.In addition to reiterating this logic’s departure from the text of the law and the Supreme Court’s rejection of a similar argument in Mass. v. EPA, various testimony directly cited the way in which past waiver decisions have interpreted the law. Former Assembleywoman Fran Pavley—who authored the clean cars law—pointed to a 1984 waiver determination by then-EPA-Administrator William Ruckelshaus deeming that California’s plight need not be “unique” in order to be "compelling and extraordinary." Brown, meanwhile, cited a 1975 waiver determination’s assessment of the Clean Air Act, which noted that:
[I]n the light of their unusually detailed and explicit legislative history. . .Congress meant to ensure by the language it adopted that the Federal government would not second-guess the wisdom of state policy here. . . . Sponsors of the language eventually adopted referred repeatedly to their intent to make sure that no “Federal bureaucrat” would be able to tell the people of California what auto emission standards were good for them, as long as they were stricter than Federal standards.
© 2006 by Yukon White Light
This would be the second lawsuit filed over FWS delays; in 2005 the Center for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne lawsuit to compel the FWS to respond to the request to start the polar bear listing process (the FWS ended up taking two years instead of the Endangered Species Act-mandated 90 days).
The Sierra Club has an interesting interview on global warming with four pundits of very different persuasions (though joined by their white Ivy League maleness): progressive blogger Matt Stoller, Democratic consultant Michael Bocian, Oberlin professor David Orr, and former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich.Stoller usually gives the most original answers to the questions, as typified by the responses to the first:
Q: How will global warming figure in the 2008 presidential election?
Newt Gingrich: Whoever wins will have a sound and realistic approach to climate change. Democrats have an advantage in developing solutions because their primary voters care more about the issue and because they are more comfortable dealing with environmental issues, which have been largely a liberal area of dialogue for the past generation. Republicans have to play catch-up in developing answers other than no. Our research at American Solutions indicates that, by a very substantial margin, Americans prefer entrepreneurship to bureaucracy and innovation to litigation. The Republican nominee should be able to develop strong solutions to climate change that emphasize science, technology, innovation, and incentives. These will prove surprisingly popular compared with the tax increase-government control-bureaucracy and litigation model that has dominated for the past 30 years.
Michael Bocian: Mr. Gingrich is correct that the public clamors for innovation. Our polling shows that Americans feel our country is failing to lead on energy and global-warming solutions, yet they believe we have the technological know-how to lead, and we must harness it. Mr. Gingrich is also correct on the importance of incentives. But any purely voluntary solution fails to address the seriousness of the problem. Americans believe we need strong standards if we are to succeed. Setting strong standards and enforcing them require real accountability.
David Orr: The Republican Party has not done its homework on the biggest issue of our time and has persistently chosen ideology over science, even going along with the Bush administration’s crude attempts to quash the evidence. The time to avert the worst is very short. To do so, we will have to create something akin to the government-business-public partnership in WWII. This will necessarily include lots of things Mr. Gingrich has opposed in the past: government regulation, taxation to change market incentives, and lots of R&D on renewables and efficiency. It will also require attention and money—so no more wars fought for phony reasons.
Matt Stoller: Global warming may not figure directly in the 2008 race. Consider that Al Gore received only a small bump in approval ratings for his Nobel prize and continues to have high disapproval ratings. He is the political figure most closely associated with climate change, yet according to some polls, almost half of Democrats don’t want him to run for president. I’m using Gore as a proxy, but there are other obvious signposts. There was no climate-change backlash from Katrina in 2005, and no candidates are making the issue the centerpiece of their campaign. Even with wildfires in the West and drought in the Southeast, I’m seeing most action take place at the local level disconnected from the federal government.
Global warming is one in a bucket of issues, along with Iraq, civil liberties, executive overreach, economic inequality, global financial instability, and corporate corruption. They are all of deep concern to a newly energized progressive movement and must be solved together. Climate change isn’t a major political issue yet, but it will hit the national radar in a few years, ferociously.
The U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) will hold its first federal Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas lease sale since 1991 on February 6. It is leasing nearly 46,000 square miles in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska, with estimated conventional reserves of 15 billion barrels of oil. Waters within 25 miles of the coast are excluded from the lease area. This announcement comes just six days before the January 9 deadline for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to decide whether to list the polar bear as endangered because of the global-warming induced decline of Arctic sea ice, some of which covers the Chukchi Sea.The MMS believes that environmental concerns will be sufficiently addressed by its stipulations, which do not consider the effects of climate change:
The sale area will not include nearshore waters ranging from about 25 to 50 miles from the coast, which includes the near-shore “polynya” through which the bowhead and beluga whales, other marine mammals, and marine birds migrate north in the spring, and in which local communities subsistence hunt. Leases issued from the sale will include stipulations to address environmental effects that may occur because of exploration and development of the area’s oil and gas resources. These stipulations call for protection of biological resources, including protected marine mammals and birds and methods to minimize interference with subsistence hunting and other subsistence harvesting activities.
Environmental organizations are livid. The World Wildlife Fund published a series of statements from Alaska Wilderness League, Center for Biological Diversity, Audubon, and indigenous activists condemning the threat to the polar bear and other marine life from the planned sale.In the fine print of its final notice of sale, the MMS does note:
Lessees are advised that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and has initiated a comprehensive scientific review to assess the current status and future of the species. The FWS anticipates making a decision in early 2008 on whether to list polar bears under the ESA. Please refer to http://alaska.fws.gov/fisheries/mmm/polarbear/issues.htm for additional information. If the polar bears are ultimately listed under the ESA, then MMS will consult with FWS under Section 7 of the ESA, and may be required to apply additional mitigation measures on OCS activities to ensure appropriate protection.
Update: Sierra Club has launched a letter-writing campaign to “chill the drills” in what it calls the “Polar Bear Seas”.
As California Attorney General Jerry Brown announced upon the EPA denial of the California waiver request to regulate tailpipe greenhouse emissions, California has filed a petition for review of the decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Fifteen other states – Massachusetts, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington – joined the suit.
Warming Law notes:
One interesting legal wrinkle is that the case has been filed in the 9th Circuit—not in the DC Circuit, as many (including ourselves) had suggested. In the wake of EPA’s decision, LA Times writer David Savage presciently noted that the DC Circuit might not be naturally inclined to California’s arguments. While the state’s case for a waiver was undoubtedly strengthened by the Supreme Court’s decision on standing in Massachusetts v EPA, it was the DC Circuit that had previously sided with the EPA’s position (this rationale is strongly mirrored in the EPA’s current claim that global warming doesn’t pose a unique threat to California). The state’s arguments based on statutory text and the weight of Supreme Court precedent would probably have held up in any court, but its tactical filing move certainly seems, on the surface, to bolster its odds.
Underneath a plot of farmland used to raise cattle, hay and timber in south central Virginia lies what is thought to be the largest deposit of uranium in the United States.
Now, three decades after the deposit was found, landowner Walter Coles has set his sights on mining the 200-acre site despite concerns of environmental groups and residents about unearthed radioactive material that could contaminate the area’s land, air and source of drinking water.
Coles is attempting to convince the Virginia General Assembly to approve a $1 million safety study in advance of reversing the 25-year ban on uranium mining in the state. Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) supports the study. Others lobbying for approval include Coles’s brother-in-law Whitt Clement, a former legislator, and investor Henry Hurt, whose son is a state senator.
The National Environmental Trust released a report earlier this month in conjunction with the Bali Conference entitled Taking Responsibility: Why the United States Must Lead the World in Reducing Global Warming Pollution.
The report puts into graphic terms the U.S. share of global warming pollution: 42 states individually emit more C02 than 100 developing countries. Even Wyoming, the most sparsely populated state in the U.S., with only 510,000 people, emits more carbon dioxide than 69 developing countries that are home to 357 million. The report includes profiles for every state and the District of Columbia.
A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.
By way of contrast, the Friends of the Earth analysis finds that Lieberman-Warner (S. 2191) allocates approximately $800 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, with about $350 billion to subsidize carbon capture and sequestration specifically. About $350 billion is allocated to all sustainable technologies (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal).