|Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
August 1, 2011
Takin’ the Good with the Bad
Early last week, despite earlier expressions of concern on the adverse effects of climate change impacts on international peace and security, the House released an authorization bill with an amendment from Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) that would reduce the budget set aside to support international action on climate change. H.R. 2583 – passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee by a vote of 23-20, with resounding support from House Republicans. The $39.6 billion in current funding is 18 percent lower compared to last year. H.R. 2583 prohibits any funding that goes towards supporting the Global Climate Change Initiative, which in turn will block additional funding for the Climate Investment Funds, a multilateral fund put in place during President George W. Bush’s term to invest in clean energy, reduce deforestation, and help developing countries adapt to climate related changes. Furthermore, the bill would prevent any investment to further the scientific studies of climate change, avert involvement in international climate change efforts to combat climate change, and cut efforts to reduce carbon pollution. In a statement, Rep. Norm Dick (D-WA) points out many egregious policy riders tacked on to the FY2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriation Bill: “In addition to the irresponsibly low subcommittee allocation, the bill is also loaded down with short-sighted and ideologically driven riders that would…continue to deny the impacts of global climate change.”
Equally troubling is the House Appropriations Bill , H.R.2584 debated on the floor last week. This bill is an assault to America’s air, water, lands and public health. A joint group of health organizations wrote a letter to Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, urging them not to give in to amendments, policy riders and/or funding restrictions that prevent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from updating emission standards for life-threatening pollution. Citizens are starting to wonder whether House Representatives are taking into consideration what is best for their constituents or simply submitting to the demands of big businesses and polluting lobbyists.
In spite of the constant attacks there has been positive news too. Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) is ready with an amendment to H.R. 2584 that will protect Americans from life threatening toxic pollutants emitted from power plants by striking down the rider delaying the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. According to a letter by Rep. Capps, “blocking the Mercury and Air Toxics standards for even two additional years would result in tens of thousands of lives lost; more heart attacks; more asthma attacks; 38,000 more hospital and emergency room visits; and millions of days missed from work or school.” EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe noted that “since March, the EPA has received over 800,000 comments from across the country in support of regulating mercury emissions from power plants.” Also this week, Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) released a statement urging the EPA to press forward on the ozone ruling. “I do not believe that we can continue to delay on this matter. I urge the EPA to move quickly to finalize its plans for the new ozone air quality standard so that our nation can finally move forward to make the ozone reductions we need to achieve cleaner, healthier air.” For the latest updates, materials and resources on Clean Air and Water Act threats and EPA rule-making, please see our FY12 Appropriations and Cleaning Up Power Plants & Big Polluters pages.
In other news the House has passed legislation that would force a November 1 deadline for the Obama administration to determine whether or not to accept the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. The State Department is currently reviewing the project that would allow the 1,900-mile pipeline to carry crude oil extracted from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries to Texas gulf coast. Supporters, such as Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), claim that the pipeline will produce new jobs and reduce oil imports from Middle Eastern countries. In reality the pipeline is not energy efficient will increase carbon emissions and could potentially cause an ecological disaster, which is evident by the July 1 spill in Montana’s Yellowstone River.
The White House has been facing tremendous pressure from polluters to prevent EPA from setting stricter standards on ground-level ozone. The EPA has analyzed information on the ozone rule since 2007. As always, costs play a major role in passing of the stricter ozone standard. Janice Nolen, director of national policy at the American Lung Association, states, “the estimate of what [a standard] will cost is just about always higher than what it actually does cost. This argument comes up every single time we have this debate about where the standards should be.” The EPA has decided to delay the ozone ruling for the fourth time within the past year. The current ozone standard set by the Clinton administration in 1997 is 84 parts per billion (ppb). Last year, the EPA has proposed a ruling within the range between 60 and 70 ppb, a standard set by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The final ozone ruling is currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget and should swiftly be set to protect the health of the American people.
Finally, to close out the week, climate and clean air advocates have an additional reason to celebrate. On July 29, after forming an agreement with the state of California and major automakers, the White House has set forth new fuel efficiency and auto pollution. Automakers’ vehicle fleets must now average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. According to an analysis done by Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the new fuel economy standards would cut oil consumption by as much as 1.5 million barrels per day, or 23 billion gallons of gasoline annually, by 2030. League of Conservation Voters’ President Gene Karpinski released the following statement: “While two miles down the road the House of Representatives is waging the biggest assault ever on vital environmental safeguards, this historic announcement reminds us of the valuable role that the federal government can play in helping consumers save money, strengthening the economy and protecting the planet.”
Michaella Song, Communications Intern