Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
January 18, 2011
Photo: Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson has pledged to focus on core issues of protecting air and water quality, preventing exposure to toxic contamination in our communities, and reducing greenhouse gases. Courtesy of the EPA.
Last year tied with 2005 as the warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Wednesday. The agency keeps temperature records that date back to 1880. “For the contiguous United States alone, the 2010 average annual temperature was above normal, resulting in the 23rd warmest year on record,” NOAA reported.
Congress returned to work on Wednesday, after the deadly shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that took the lives of six people and left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in critical but stable condition. It’s first order of business was a vote on a resolution, drafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), honoring the victims, hailing the heroes and committing itself to the principles of democracy that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) upheld by meeting with her constituents before she was shot and gravely wounded.
Though the U.S. congress is unlikely to put a price on carbon this session, China’s government revealed its interest in building a domestic carbon market in its proposed development plan for the next five years. China was spurred to action because carbon trading tightens a valve on China’s greenhouse gas emissions, goes hand in hand with another primary concern — energy efficiency, and would help keep its high-tech businesses competitive if its currency rises against others.
While Congress may not be acting, the EPA is. EPA’s new greenhouse gas emissions will take effect in Texas, after a federal court denied Texas’ request to stop U.S. EPA from issuing greenhouse gas permits in the Lone Star State. In other good news, the EPA announced the veto today of a federal permit for one of the largest mountaintop-removal projects ever proposed in Appalachia, a clear signal of the Obama administration’s opposition to the controversial coal-mining practice.
Unfortunately, the EPA also announced last week that the use of biomass will be exempt from the Obama administration’s new greenhouse gas regulations for three years, giving the agency more time to address concerns that permitting requirements could chill investment in an emerging form of renewable energy.
The Obama administration is undecided on an interim step ahead of its long-awaited decision on the controversial, multibillion-dollar Keystone XL oil pipeline, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). The State Department has denied a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by from Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law seeking data on contacts between the agency and a former campaign aide to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who now lobbies for the company behind the controversial oil pipeline Clinton’s team is reviewing.
In other court related matters, environmentalists vowed Friday to file a lawsuit blocking New Mexico’s new governor from overturning state greenhouse gas rules. New Energy Economy, which spearheaded passage of the state rule by the Environmental Improvement board, said it would appeal New Mexico Gov. Martinez’s action to the state Supreme Court. The group will make the case that the rule already had been completed by the board in December, and therefore does not fit under a Martinez executive order this month freezing “pending and proposed” regulations.