Peter Bahouth, Executive Director
January 10, 2011
Welcome to the 112th
Republicans took the helm in the House of Representatives on Wednesday with promises to roll back, cut back and scale back. Rhetoric from Democrats focused on defense, ranging from highlighting the benefits Americans already experience from recently passed legislation, to fact checking and publically countering Republican assertions. One area sure to become a focus this year is the investigation into the “quality” of climate science, as Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) put it this week. The incoming House Science and Technology Committee chairman has his doubts and he’s not alone. A whole host of other Republican leaders, not at least Fred Upton (R-MI) new Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, are out to put science on trial. The shooting in Arizona that killed 6 and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has muted partisan rhetoric in Washington and altered the House schedule this week. Instead of voting to repeal the health care law House members will attend a memorial service and take part in security briefings. Our condolences to all the people effected by this senseless tragedy.
There is good news this week as the EPA started the new year with a one-two punch to rein-in greenhouse gas emissions. First, a new timeline to regulate and monitor new stationary sources went into effect January 2nd. State clean air agencies are now required to issue permits for all new coal plants, factories and other large industrial polluters under the Clean Air Act, though admittedly, seven states are dragging their feet. In the case of Texas, the courts are currently determining whether the EPA itself will issue the permits instead of defiant state authorities there. These regulations require plants to use best available technology to control emissions, while monitoring and reporting progress made back to the EPA. Notably, January 2nd also saw the kick-off of the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks.
Second, the EPA announced a timeline to implement new standards for existing power plants and oil refineries, sources that contribute up about 40% of GHG pollution in this country, according to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The first wave of standards for the nation’s oldest, dirtiest plants will be announced in July of this year.
This week, the presidential panel designated to investigate the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill concluded that a long string of mistakes and failures lead to the offshore oil crises in the Gulf last year. They called the disaster “unreasonably large and avoidable” holding several entities, including BP, Transocean and Halliburton, to blame. Additionally, the panel called for regulatory change citing, “The blowout was not the product of a series of aberrational decisions made by rogue industry or government officials that could not have been anticipated or expected to occur again… Rather, the root causes are systemic and, absent significant reform in both industry practices and government policies, might well recur.” More information on the findings can be found at www.oilspillcommission.gov
Even before the deluge in Australia began, coal prices were rising steadily due to a number of factors. Now, the extraordinary floods in Queensland threaten to cripple the production of this fossil fuel. Australia is a huge supplier of coal, especially to booming China, whose coal use doubles every decade. So, what if the extraordinary becomes, well, ordinary? It won’t just be China’s interests at stake, but the rest of the developing world that depends on coal and developed countries now shifting away from costly oil. The following article asks the question: “How frequently in the future will energy extraction be impaired by global warming?”
Southeast Regional Coordinator