Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
February 14th, 2011
Gina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. Image courtesy of the EPA.
Most Want More Not Less
On Friday House Republicans unveiled their continuing resolution and as expected it contains a number of significant budget cuts to dozens of federal programs. In addition to deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget it would completely stop any funding for EPA to set standards for dangerous carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.
NSPS Listening Sessions
Last Friday, February 4th, kicked off the first of five sessions scheduled by EPA to get advice and hear comment on a new round of rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and refineries. In a time of regulation inventories and ongoing reviews, it came as no surprise that Gina McCarthy, the head of EPA’s air office, faced heavy criticism for the new regulations. Officials from major utilities and trade associations warned of “wealth transfers” and “windfalls”, alluding to scenarios when companies in coal-heavy states must buy clean energy credits from utilities in other parts of the country that have ample hydropower or renewable supplies. McCarthy replied by saying the agency is “open” to many different design tools to ease the burden on existing facilities, suggesting the EPA may consider tools such as trading, offsets and averaging. But she squashed the notion that cap-and-trade was back in disguise: McCarthy declared that the agency would not replicate the legislation that stalled in Congress last year. And those clean energy credits utility companies keep complaining about? Under the current proposal, they would only be needed if a utility failed to meet the standard’s minimum threshold for clean fuel. Utilities could also reap rewards, by selling credits that represent a surplus of clean power. The next listening session, focused on environmental and environmental justice concerns, will take place in Atlanta on Tuesday, February 15th.
New USA Today/Gallup Poll
A new survey released this week found that most Americans want EPA to do more, not less. Nearly two thirds (63%) said “the EPA needs to do more to hold polluters accountable and protect the air and water,” while only 29% say it “does too much and places too many costly restrictions on businesses and individuals.” The survey also found that Americans place a high priority on developing alternative energy sources such as solar and wind, right in line with President Obama’s call for a “Sputnik moment” in the State of the Union address. Of eight different actions Congress could take this year, Americans most favored an energy bill providing alternative power incentives (83%) over issues such as overhauling the federal tax code (76%) or speeding up the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan (72%). To see more, click here.
Showdown at the O.K. Corral
New Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) called to order his first Energy and Commerce hearing to assert that climate science is a hoax, question the EPA’s reliance on a Supreme Court decision giving the agency power to regulate carbon dioxide and accuse the Obama administration of sacrificing American jobs to address climate change.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson defended the ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA and reminded the Committee that both the George W. Bush administration and the Obama administration had reached the same conclusion. Jackson strenuously objected to the bill introduced by Fred Upton (R-MI) and Edward Whitfield (R-KY) that seeks to overturn that court decision and thwart the agency’s efforts to carry it out. “Chairman Upton’s bill would, in its own words, repeal the scientific finding regarding greenhouse gas emissions. Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question — that would become part of this committee’s legacy.” She also reminded lawmakers that over its forty-year span, the benefits of the Clean Air Act has outweighed the costs by more than 30 to 1, that clean air regulations are estimated to save 160,000 lives in 2010 alone and that while there is now 60% less pollution in our air, electric production has continued to rise while consumer prices have declined.
While some Republican lawmakers leaned on the “regulation kills jobs” argument, others continued to claim that climate science is inclusive and assert that scientists have no consensus on the matter. Notably, Republicans neither invited nor quoted any actual scientists to defend this assertion.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) had his own concerns about the way EPA regulations could impact his home state’s manufacturers, but stating that bills like Upton’s are part of an ongoing “anti-science agenda” dictated by powerful lobby groups that fund the Republican base. “The purpose of them is to deny climate change exists, which has become the new Republican [requirement]. To run for president you’ve got to deny climate change exists,” he said.
This week we say goodbye to one-term Senator Webb (D-VA), Senate whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and the unforgettable Representative Chris Lee (R-NY).
Southeast Regional Coordinator