Obama: New Energy for America

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 05 Aug 2008 02:54:00 GMT

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama—as prepared for delivery Lansing, Michigan

We meet at a moment when this country is facing a set of challenges greater than any we’ve seen in generations. Right now, our brave men and women in uniform are fighting two different wars while terrorists plot their next attack. Our changing climate is placing our planet in peril. Our economy is in turmoil and our families are struggling with rising costs and falling incomes; with lost jobs and lost homes and lost faith in the American Dream. And for too long, our leaders in Washington have been unwilling or unable to do anything about it.

That is why this election could be the most important of our lifetime. When it comes to our economy, our security, and the very future of our planet, the choices we make in November and over the next few years will shape the next decade, if not the century. And central to all of these major challenges is the question of what we will do about our addiction to foreign oil.

Without a doubt, this addiction is one of the most dangerous and urgent threats this nation has ever faced – from the gas prices that are wiping out your paychecks and straining businesses to the jobs that are disappearing from this state; from the instability and terror bred in the Middle East to the rising oceans and record drought and spreading famine that could engulf our planet.

It’s also a threat that goes to the very heart of who we are as a nation, and who we will be. Will we be the generation that leaves our children a planet in decline, or a world that is clean, and safe, and thriving? Will we allow ourselves to be held hostage to the whims of tyrants and dictators who control the world’s oil wells? Or will we control our own energy and our own destiny? Will America watch as the clean energy jobs and industries of the future flourish in countries like Spain, Japan, or Germany? Or will we create them here, in the greatest country on Earth, with the most talented, productive workers in the world?

As Americans, we know the answers to these questions. We know that we cannot sustain a future powered by a fuel that is rapidly disappearing. Not when we purchase $700 million worth of oil every single day from some the world’s most unstable and hostile nations – Middle Eastern regimes that will control nearly all of the world’s oil by 2030. Not when the rapid growth of countries like China and India mean that we’re consuming more of this dwindling resource faster than we ever imagined. We know that we can’t sustain this kind of future.

But we also know that we’ve been talking about this issue for decades. We’ve heard promises about energy independence from every single President since Richard Nixon. We’ve heard talk about curbing the use of fossil fuels in State of the Union addresses since the oil embargo of 1973.

Back then, we imported about a third of our oil. Now, we import more than half. Back then, global warming was the theory of a few scientists. Now, it is a fact that is melting our glaciers and setting off dangerous weather patterns as we speak. Then, the technology and innovation to create new sources of clean, affordable, renewable energy was a generation away. Today, you can find it in the research labs of this university and in the design centers of this state’s legendary auto industry. It’s in the chemistry labs that are laying the building blocks for cheaper, more efficient solar panels, and it’s in the re-born factories that are churning out more wind turbines every day all across this country.

Despite all this, here we are, in another election, still talking about our oil addiction; still more dependent than ever. Why?

You won’t hear me say this too often, but I couldn’t agree more with the explanation that Senator McCain offered a few weeks ago. He said, “Our dangerous dependence on foreign oil has been thirty years in the making, and was caused by the failure of politicians in Washington to think long-term about the future of the country.”

What Senator McCain neglected to mention was that during those thirty years, he was in Washington for twenty-six of them. And in all that time, he did little to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. He voted against increased fuel efficiency standards and opposed legislation that included tax credits for more efficient cars. He voted against renewable sources of energy. Against clean biofuels. Against solar power. Against wind power. Against an energy bill that – while far from perfect – represented the largest investment in renewable sources of energy in the history of this country. So when Senator McCain talks about the failure of politicians in Washington to do anything about our energy crisis, it’s important to remember that he’s been a part of that failure. Now, after years of inaction, and in the face of public frustration over rising gas prices, the only energy proposal he’s really promoting is more offshore drilling – a position he recently adopted that has become the centerpiece of his plan, and one that will not make a real dent in current gas prices or meet the long-term challenge of energy independence.

George Bush’s own Energy Department has said that if we opened up new areas to drilling today, we wouldn’t see a single drop of oil for seven years. Seven years. And Senator McCain knows that, which is why he admitted that his plan would only provide “psychological” relief to consumers. He also knows that if we opened up and drilled on every single square inch of our land and our shores, we would still find only three percent of the world’s oil reserves. Three percent for a country that uses 25% of the world’s oil. Even Texas oilman Boone Pickens, who’s calling for major new investments in alternative energy, has said, “this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.”

Now, increased domestic oil exploration certainly has its place as we make our economy more fuel-efficient and transition to other, renewable, American-made sources of energy. But it is not the solution. It is a political answer of the sort Washington has given us for three decades.

There are genuine ways in which we can provide some short-term relief from high gas prices – relief to the mother who’s cutting down on groceries because of gas prices, or the man I met in Pennsylvania who lost his job and can’t even afford to drive around and look for a new one. I believe we should immediately give every working family in America a $1,000 energy rebate, and we should pay for it with part of the record profits that the oil companies are making right now.

I also believe that in the short-term, as we transition to renewable energy, we can and should increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas. But we should start by telling the oil companies to drill on the 68 million acres they currently have access to but haven’t touched. And if they don’t, we should require them to give up their leases to someone who will. We should invest in the technology that can help us recover more from existing oil fields, and speed up the process of recovering oil and gas resources in shale formations in Montana and North Dakota; Texas and Arkansas and in parts of the West and Central Gulf of Mexico. We should sell 70 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks. Over the next five years, we should also lease more of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska for oil and gas production. And we should also tap more of our substantial natural gas reserves and work with the Canadian government to finally build the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline, delivering clean natural gas and creating good jobs in the process.

But the truth is, none of these steps will come close to seriously reducing our energy dependence in the long-term. We simply cannot pretend, as Senator McCain does, that we can drill our way out of this problem. We need a much bolder and much bigger set of solutions. We have to make a serious, nationwide commitment to developing new sources of energy and we have to do it right away.

Last week, Washington finally made some progress on this. A group of Democrat and Republican Senators sat down and came up with a compromise on energy that includes many of the proposals I’ve worked on as a Senator and many of the steps I’ve been calling for on this campaign. It’s a plan that would invest in renewable fuels and batteries for fuel-efficient cars, help automakers re-tool, and make a real investment in renewable sources of energy.

Like all compromises, this one has its drawbacks. It includes a limited amount of new offshore drilling, and while I still don’t believe that’s a particularly meaningful short-term or long-term solution, I am willing to consider it if it’s necessary to actually pass a comprehensive plan. I am not interested in making the perfect the enemy of the good – particularly since there is so much good in this compromise that would actually reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

And yet, while the compromise is a good first step and a good faith effort, I believe that we must go even further, and here’s why – breaking our oil addiction is one of the greatest challenges our generation will ever face. It will take nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy. This transformation will be costly, and given the fiscal disaster we will inherit from the last Administration, it will likely require us to defer some other priorities.

It is also a transformation that will require more than just a few government programs. Energy independence will require an all-hands-on-deck effort from America – effort from our scientists and entrepreneurs; from businesses and from every American citizen. Factories will have to re-tool and re-design. Businesses will need to find ways to emit less carbon dioxide. All of us will need to buy more of the fuel-efficient cars built by this state, and find new ways to improve efficiency and save energy in our own homes and businesses.

This will not be easy. And it will not happen overnight. And if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they are either fooling themselves or trying to fool you.

But I know we can do this. We can do this because we are Americans. We do the improbable. We beat great odds. We rally together to meet whatever challenge stands in our way. That’s what we’ve always done – and it’s what we must do now. For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, we must end the age of oil in our time.

Creating a new energy economy isn’t just a challenge to meet, it’s an opportunity to seize – an opportunity that will create new businesses, new industries, and millions of new jobs. Jobs that pay well. Jobs that can’t be outsourced. Good, union jobs. For a state that has lost so many and struggled so much in recent years, this is an opportunity to rebuild and revive your economy. As your wonderful Governor has said, “Any time you pick up a newspaper and see the terms ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming,’ just think: ‘jobs for Michigan.’” You are seeing the potential already. Already, there are 50,000 jobs in your clean energy sector and 300 companies. But now is the time to accelerate that growth, both here and across the nation.

If I am President, I will immediately direct the full resources of the federal government and the full energy of the private sector to a single, overarching goal – in ten years, we will eliminate the need for oil from the entire Middle East and Venezuela. To do this, we will invest $150 billion over the next ten years and leverage billions more in private capital to build a new energy economy that harnesses American energy and creates five million new American jobs.

There are three major steps I will take to achieve this goal – steps that will yield real results by the end of my first term in office.

First, we will help states like Michigan build the fuel-efficient cars we need, and we will get one million 150 mile-per-gallon plug-in hybrids on our roads within six years.

I know how much the auto industry and the auto workers of this state have struggled over the last decade or so. But I also know where I want the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow to be built – not in Japan, not in China, but right here in the United States of America. Right here in the state of Michigan.

We can do this. When I arrived in Washington, I reached across the aisle to come up with a plan to raise the mileage standards in our cars for the first time in thirty years – a plan that won support from Democrats and Republicans who had never supported raising fuel standards before. I also led the bipartisan effort to invest in the technology necessary to build plug-in hybrid cars.

As President, I will accelerate those efforts to meet our urgent need. With technology we have on the shelf today, we will raise our fuel mileage standards four percent every year. We’ll invest more in the research and development of those plug-in hybrids, specifically focusing on the battery technology. We’ll leverage private sector funding to bring these cars directly to American consumers, and we’ll give consumers a $7,000 tax credit to buy these vehicles. But most importantly, I’ll provide $4 billion in loans and tax credits to American auto plants and manufacturers so that they can re-tool their factories and build these cars. That’s how we’ll not only protect our auto industry and our auto workers, but help them thrive in a 21st century economy.

What’s more, these efforts will lead to an explosion of innovation here in Michigan. At the turn of the 20th century, there were literally hundreds of car companies offering a wide choice of steam vehicles and gas engines. I believe we are entering a similar era of expanding consumer choices, from higher mileage cars, to new electric entrants like GM’s Volt, to flex fuel cars and trucks powered by biofuels and driven by Michigan innovation.

The second step I’ll take is to require that 10% of our energy comes from renewable sources by the end of my first term – more than double what we have now. To meet these goals, we will invest more in the clean technology research and development that’s occurring in labs and research facilities all across the country and right here at MSU, where you’re working with farm owners to develop this state’s wind potential and developing nanotechnology that will make solar cells cheaper.

I’ll also extend the Production Tax Credit for five years to encourage the production of renewable energy like wind power, solar power, and geothermal energy. It was because of this credit that wind power grew 45% last year, the largest growth in history. Experts have said that Michigan has the second best potential for wind generation and production in the entire country. And as the world’s largest producer of the material that makes solar panels work, this tax credit would also help states like Michigan grow solar industries that are already creating hundreds of new jobs.

We’ll also invest federal resources, including tax incentives and government contracts, into developing next generation biofuels. By 2022, I will make it a goal to have 6 billion gallons of our fuel come from sustainable, affordable biofuels and we’ll make sure that we have the infrastructure to deliver that fuel in place. Here in Michigan, you’re actually a step ahead of the game with your first-ever commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, which will lead the way by turning wood into clean-burning fuel. It’s estimated that each new advanced biofuels plant can add up to 120 jobs, expand a local town’s tax base by $70 million per year, and boost local household income by $6.7 million annually.

In addition, we’ll find safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste. And we’ll invest in the technology that will allow us to use more coal, America’s most abundant energy source, with the goal of creating five “first-of-a-kind” coal-fired demonstration plants with carbon capture and sequestration.

Of course, too often, the problem is that all of this new energy technology never makes it out of the lab and onto the market because there’s too much risk and too much cost involved in starting commercial-scale clean energy businesses. So we will remove some of this cost and this risk by directing billions in loans and capital to entrepreneurs who are willing to create clean energy businesses and clean energy jobs right here in America.

As we develop new sources of energy and electricity, we will also need to modernize our national utility grid so that it’s accommodating to new sources of power, more efficient, and more reliable. That’s an investment that will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and one that I will make as President.

Finally, the third step I will take is to call on businesses, government, and the American people to meet the goal of reducing our demand for electricity 15% by the end of the next decade. This is by far the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to reduce our energy consumption – and it will save us $130 billion on our energy bills.

Since DuPont implemented an energy efficiency program in 1990, the company has significantly reduced its pollution and cut its energy bills by $3 billion. The state of California has implemented such a successful efficiency strategy that while electricity consumption grew 60% in this country over the last three decades, it didn’t grow at all in California.

There is no reason America can’t do the same thing. We will set a goal of making our new buildings 50% more efficient over the next four years. And we’ll follow the lead of California and change the way utilities make money so that their profits aren’t tied to how much energy we use, but how much energy we save.

In just ten years, these steps will produce enough renewable energy to replace all the oil we import from the Middle East. Along with the cap-and-trade program I’ve proposed, we will reduce our dangerous carbon emissions 80% by 2050 and slow the warming of our planet. And we will create five million new jobs in the process.

If these sound like far-off goals, just think about what we can do in the next few years. One million plug-in hybrid cars on the road. Doubling our energy from clean, renewable sources like wind power or solar power and 2 billion gallons of affordable biofuels. New buildings that 50% more energy efficient.

So there is a real choice in this election – a choice about what kind of future we want for this country and this planet.

Senator McCain would not take the steps or achieve the goals that I outlined today. His plan invests very little in renewable sources of energy and he’s opposed helping the auto industry re-tool. Like George Bush and Dick Cheney before him, he sees more drilling as the answer to all of our energy problems, and like them, he’s found a receptive audience in the very same oil companies that have blocked our progress for so long. In fact, he raised more than one million dollars from big oil just last month, most of which came after he announced his plan for offshore drilling in a room full of cheering oil executives. His initial reaction to the bipartisan energy compromise was to reject it because it took away tax breaks for oil companies. And even though he doesn’t want to spend much on renewable energy, he’s actually proposed giving $4 billion more in tax breaks to the biggest oil companies in America – including $1.2 billion to Exxon-Mobil.

This is a corporation that just recorded the largest profit in the history of the United States. . This is the company that, last quarter, made $1,500 every second. That’s more than $300,000 in the time it takes you to fill up a tank with gas that’s costing you more than $4-a-gallon. And Senator McCain not only wants them to keep every dime of that money, he wants to give them more.

So make no mistake – the oil companies have placed their bet on Senator McCain, and if he wins, they will continue to cash in while our families and our economy suffer and our future is put in jeopardy.

Well that’s not the future I see for America. I will not pretend the goals I laid out today aren’t ambitious. They are. I will not pretend we can achieve them without cost, or without sacrifice, or without the contribution of almost every American citizen.

But I will say that these goals are possible. And I will say that achieving them is absolutely necessary if we want to keep America safe and prosperous in the 21st century.

I want you all to think for a minute about the next four years, and even the next ten years. We can continue down the path we’ve been traveling. We can keep making small, piece-meal investments in renewable energy and keep sending billions of our hard-earned dollars to oil company executives and Middle Eastern dictators. We can watch helplessly as the price of gas rises and falls because of some foreign crisis we have no control over, and uncover every single barrel of oil buried beneath this country only to realize that we don’t have enough for a few years, let alone a century. We can watch other countries create the industries and the jobs that will fuel our future, and leave our children a planet that grows more dangerous and unlivable by the day.

Or we can choose another future. We can decide that we will face the realities of the 21st century by building a 21st century economy. In just a few years, we can watch cars that run on a plug-in battery come off the same assembly lines that once produced the first Ford and the first Chrysler. We can see shuttered factories open their doors to manufacturers that sell wind turbines and solar panels that will power our homes and our businesses. We can watch as millions of new jobs with good pay and good benefits are created for American workers, and we can take pride as the technologies, and discoveries, and industries of the future flourish in the United States of America. We can lead the world, secure our nation, and meet our moral obligations to future generations.

This is the choice that we face in the months ahead. This is the challenge we must meet. This is the opportunity we must seize – and this may be our last chance to seize it.

And if it seems too difficult or improbable, I ask you to think about the struggles and the challenges that past generations have overcome. Think about how World War II forced us to transform a peacetime economy still climbing out of Depression into an Arsenal of Democracy that could wage war across three continents. And when President Roosevelt’s advisors informed him that his goals for wartime production were impossible to meet, he waved them off and said “believe me, the production people can do it if they really try.” And they did.

Think about when the scientists and engineers told John F. Kennedy that they had no idea how to put a man on the moon, he told them they would find a way. And we found one. Remember how we trained a generation for a new, industrial economy by building a nationwide system of public high schools; how we laid down railroad tracks and highways across an entire continent; how we pushed the boundaries of science and technology to unlock the very building blocks of human life.

I ask you to draw hope from the improbable progress this nation has made and look to the future with confidence that we too can meet the great test of our time. I ask you to join me, in November and in the years to come, to ensure that we will not only control our own energy, but once again control our own destiny, and forge a new and better future for the country that we love. Thank you.

States and Environmental Groups to Sue EPA to Get Emissions Rules

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 01 Aug 2008 11:20:00 GMT

From the Progress Report.

A coalition of states and environmental groups intends to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) “if it does not act soon to reduce pollution from ships, aircraft and off-road vehicles.” California Attorney General Jerry Brown is set to send a letter to the EPA in which he will “accuse the Bush administration of ignoring their requests to set restrictions” on greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA will have 180 days to respond. Under the Clean Air Act, “a U.S. district court can compel the EPA to take action to protect the public’s welfare if the agency delays doing so for an unreasonably long time.”

“It’s a necessary pressure to get the job done,” Brown said of the lawsuit. “The issue of reducing our energy dependence and greenhouse gas emissions is so challenging and so important that we have to follow this judicial pathway.”

In the last year, states have also sued the EPA for dragging its heels in regulating carbon dioxide and for having lax smog standards.

This week, lawmakers called on EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to resign because he has become “a secretive and dangerous ally of polluters.”

Sen. Whitehouse: 'I Call On Administrator Johnson To Resign' 1

Posted by Wonk Room Wed, 30 Jul 2008 12:04:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Following a press conference with senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) formally announced on the Senate floor their request for a Department of Justice investigation into the potential criminal conduct of EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, whom he called “a man after Spiro Agnew’s own heart.”

Whitehouse listed five charges of “putting the interests of corporate polluters before science and the law” in ozone, lead, soot, tailpipe emissions, and global warming pollution; and four charges of degrading “the procedures and institutional safeguards that sustain the agency;” before discussing his apparent dishonesty in testimony before Congress>

And in what is perhaps the gravest matter of all, I believe the Administrator deliberately and repeatedly lied to Congress, creating a false picture of the process that led to EPA’s denial of the California waiver, in order to obscure the role of the White House in influencing his decision.

Today, Senator Boxer and I have sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey, asking him to investigate whether Administrator Johnson gave false and misleading statements, whether he lied to Congress, whether he committed perjury, and whether he obstructed Congress’s investigation into the process that led to the denial of the California waiver request.

Watch it:

After listing yet more “signs of an agency corrupted in every place the shadowy influence of the Bush White House can reach,” Sen. Whitehouse concluded:

Administrator Johnson suggests a man who has every intention of driving his agency onto the rocks, of undermining and despoiling it, of leaving America’s environment and America’s people without an honest advocate in their federal government.

This behavior not only degrades his once-great agency – it drives the dagger of dishonesty deep in the very vitals of American democracy.

The American people cannot accept such a person in a position of such great responsibility. I am sorry it has come to this, but I call on Administrator Johnson to resign his position.

I yield the floor.

Watch it:

Join Sen. Whitehouse in calling for Johnson’s resignation here.

Full text of Sen. Whitehouse’s speech:

Mr. WHITEHOUSE. Madam President, for most of its nearly four-decade history, Americans could look to the Environmental Protection Agency for independent leadership, grounded in science and the rule of law. It was an agency whose sole mission was to protect our environment and our health.

At its founding, EPA’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, stated unequivocally, and I quote: “EPA is an independent agency. It has no obligation to promote agriculture or commerce; only the critical obligation to protect and enhance the environment.”

During the tenure of Administrator Stephen Johnson, we have seen that clear mission darkened by the shadowy handiwork of the Bush White House, trampling on science, ignoring the facts, flouting the law, kneeling before industry polluters, defying Congress and the courts, and all in the service of rank and venal purposes.

Under Administrator Johnson, EPA is an agency in distress, in dishonor, and in bad hands. Events last week have shed new light on the extent of the damage done to this great agency, but the evidence of Mr. Johnson’s dismal record has been growing for many months.

The charges are serious, and fall in three separate categories: his repeated decisions putting the interests of corporate polluters before science and the law, on questions critical to the protection of our environment and the health of the American people; his deliberate actions to degrade the procedures and institutional safeguards that sustain the agency; and his apparent dishonesty in testimony before Congress.

The particulars, Madam President, are these:

Count one: on pollution from ozone. The EPA under Administrator Johnson departed from the consistent recommendations of agency scientists, public health officials, and the agency’s own scientific advisory committees, and instead set an ozone standard that favored polluters.

The standard he set was inadequate to protect the public, especially children and the elderly, from the harmful effects of ozone pollution, from asthma and lung disease.

Indeed it was so inadequate that EPA’s own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) took the unique step of writing to the Administrator to state that they “do not endorse the new primary ozone standard as being sufficiently protective of the public health” and that the EPA’s decision “fail[ed] to satisfy the explicit stipulations of the Clean Air Act that you ensure an adequate margin of safety for all individuals, including sensitive populations.”

Setting this inadequate standard, against the evidence, was a dereliction of Administrator Johnson’s duty to the agency he leads, and of EPA’s duty to protect the health of the American people.

Count two: on pollution from lead. Administrator Johnson has proposed a standard that fails to sufficiently strengthen the regulation aimed at limiting exposure to lead pollution.

Lead has poisoned tens of thousands of children in Rhode Island, and many more all over the country. Both an independent scientific review panel and EPA’s own scientific staff recommended a lead standard of no greater than 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter, yet Administrator Johnson proposed a range of 0.1 to 0.5 micrograms.

Mr. Johnson further diluted even that lax standard by using what public health advocates have labeled “statistical trickery,” allowing polluters a longer period of time over which to average the amount of lead they discharge into the air.

Again, by not adequately protecting children from lead, Administrator Johnson was derelict in his duty to his agency.

Count three: on pollution from soot, technically called “particulate matter,” Administrator Johnson bowed to pressure from industry and failed to strengthen a decade-old standard limiting particulate matter pollution from smokestacks.

Again, the agency’s own scientific advisory committees had called for a tougher standard to protect public health. Again, Administrator Johnson yielded to polluters. Again, Administrator Johnson failed in his duty to the agency he leads.

Count four: on vehicle tailpipe emissions, Administrator Johnson denied a waiver that would have allowed the state of California, my state of Rhode Island, and many other states to enact strict restrictions on global warming pollution from automobiles.

EPA staff indicated in briefing materials that “we don’t believe there are any good arguments against granting the waiver.” EPA lawyers cautioned that all of the arguments against granting the waiver were “likely to lose in court.” Yet Administrator Johnson issued an unprecedented denial of the waiver.

I will separately discuss my grave concerns about the Administrator’s testimony on this matter (I believe he has lied to us), but for this purpose now, looking only at the substantive outcome, in ignoring the law, the dictates of science, the recommendations of his regulatory and legal staff, the role of Congress, the wishes of the states, and the welfare of the American people, Administrator Johnson failed again in his duty to the agency he leads.

Count five: on global warming pollution, in defiance of the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. E.P.A., Administrator Johnson has failed to take action after the Court’s ruling that EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that pollute our air.

It is now nearly 18 months since the Court’s decision, and the EPA has shown no indication it will act before President Bush leaves office. In ignoring a ruling of this nation’s highest court empowering him to act on a matter important to the public health of Americans, Administrator Johnson again failed in his duty to the agency he leads.

But it was not enough for Administrator Johnson to rule for the polluters on pollutant after pollutant.

Administrator Johnson has also systematically dismantled institutional safeguards and processes that protect his agency’s integrity and guide its mission.

Jonathan Cannon, who served at EPA during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton administrations, warns of “extreme friction within the agency and institutional damage … demoralizing the legal staff, and … further separating staff from the political leadership at the agency.” We saw similar sabotage of institutional safeguards in the Gonzales Department of Justice, and this institutional damage raises four further charges:

Count six: on the question of the Agency’s legal integrity, under Administrator Johnson, the EPA offered legal arguments for its insufficient standards so shallow they provoked ridicule by the courts that heard them. When EPA tried to defend its weak mercury “cap and trade” system, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals – hardly a liberal bench – accused the agency of employing the “logic of the Queen of Hearts” in attempting to evade the intent of Congress and the clear meaning of the Clean Air Act.

The same court said EPA’s argument under the Clean Air Act allowing power companies to avoid upgrading their pollution control technologies made sense only in “a Humpty Dumpty world.” In adopting Wonderland legal analysis that contravenes the clear will of Congress and embarrasses his agency before the courts, Administrator Johnson failed in his duty to uphold the mission of the agency he leads.

Count seven: on the integrity of EPA’s scientific advisory boards, Administrator Johnson did not just ignore their recommendations. He willingly allowed those panels to be infiltrated by the very industries they are meant to regulate and control.

For example, an employee of Exxon Mobil served on the panel to assess the carcinogenicity of ethyl oxide – a chemical manufactured by Exxon Mobil.

Another scientist received research support from Dow Agro and served on that panel, even though ethyl oxide is also manufactured by Dow Agro.

A scientist whose research was funded by American Cyanamid and CYTEC sits on the EPA panel on acrylamide – which is manufactured by American Cyanamid and marketed by CYTEC. EPA didn’t see any conflict of interest.

By way of contrast, at the beck and call of the American Chemistry Council, an industry lobby group, Administrator Johnson removed Dr. Deborah Rice, a prominent toxicologist, from a scientific review board investigating chemicals used in common plastic goods.

The industry argued that she had a conflict of interest. Incredibly, the conflict of interest was that, at a public hearing in Maine as a representative of the state’s government, she had stated her professional opinion regarding the dangers associated with these chemicals, and the industry didn’t like her professional opinion.

Not only was Dr. Rice removed, but in a particularly Orwellian maneuver, the fact that she had ever been on the panel was stricken from the advisory committee’s records.

In packing EPA’s scientific panels to please industry polluters, Administrator Johnson is guilty of a particularly chilling dereliction of his duty to the agency he leads.

Count eight: a report issued on April 23 by the Union of Concerned Scientists, entitled “Interference at the EPA,” uncovered widespread political influence in EPA decisions. The report found that 60 percent of EPA career scientists surveyed had personally experienced at least one incident of political interference during the past five years.

The report documented, among other things, that many EPA scientists have been directed to inappropriately exclude or alter information from EPA science documents, or have had their work edited in a manner that resulted in changes to their scientific findings.

The survey also revealed that EPA scientists have often objected to, or resigned or removed themselves from, EPA projects because of pressure to change scientific findings.

Allowing this corrosive political influence to persist among the career scientists at EPA is yet another dereliction of Administrator Johnson’s duty to the agency he leads.

Count nine: Administrator Johnson has twisted the very administrative procedures of EPA, to allow the White House Office of Management and Budget secret influence over agency decisionmaking.

For example, the IRIS process for determining the toxicity of chemicals allows OMB three separate chances to exert its dark influence, at the beginning, in the middle, and again at the end. In the words of the GAO, this process is “inconsistent with the principle of sound science that relies on, among other things, transparency.”

This is not just a potential concern. The current chair of EPA’s clean air scientific advisory panel has testified that the ozone standard was “[set]…by fiat behind closed doors,” that the entire agency scientific process was “for naught,” that “the OMB and the White House set the standard, even though theoretically it was set by the EPA Administrator,” and that as a result, “Willful ignorance triumphed over sound science.” That is her testimony.

In manipulating his agency processes to let willful ignorance triumph over sound science, Administrator Johnson has again been derelict in his duties to this once-proud agency.

The third and final category of charges relates to Johnson’s relationship to Congress. In defiance of his charge under the Constitution of the United States, Administrator Johnson has personally and repeatedly refused to cooperate with Congress in our efforts to conduct proper oversight of the executive branch.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has repeatedly requested documents in connection with EPA’s denial of the California waiver and its failure adequately to regulate ozone pollution, in an effort to determine whether the White House improperly influenced these decisions.

Administrator Johnson has rebuffed these requests. He has repeatedly declined to appear before the EPW Committee to explain his agency’s policies, and when he has appeared, he has resorted to canned, stock, evasive answers in response to legitimate questions about political influence infiltrating his agency.

Just last week, he refused to appear before the Judiciary Committee, on which I also serve, for a hearing to look further into his failure to cooperate with Congress and provide documents and other information we have sought.

And in what is perhaps the gravest matter of all, I believe the Administrator deliberately and repeatedly lied to Congress, creating a false picture of the process that led to EPA’s denial of the California waiver, in order to obscure the role of the White House in influencing his decision.

Today, Senator Boxer and I have sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey, asking him to investigate whether Administrator Johnson gave false and misleading statements, whether he lied to Congress, whether he committed perjury, and whether he obstructed Congress’s investigation into the process that led to the denial of the California waiver request. I ask unanimous consent that the letter and its attached recitation be made part of the record as an exhibit to these remarks.

Madam President, there is more. These are not isolated counts, but signs of an agency corrupted in every place the shadowy influence of the Bush White House can reach.

Administrator Johnson forced the resignation of EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Midwest, Mary Gade, who was locked in a struggle with corporate polluter Dow Chemical Co. The circumstances are highly suspicious. Now, Administrator Johnson has replaced Ms. Gade with a former attorney for the automobile industry, whose record on behalf of the environment has been described as “horrible.”

The EPA under Administrator Johnson has reduced the reporting burdens on industries that release toxic chemicals into our land, sea and air.

It has weakened enforcement and monitoring by opening fewer criminal investigations, filing fewer lawsuits, and levying fewer fines against corporate polluters.

It has failed to protect agency employees who pointed out problems, reported legal violations, or attempted to correct factual misrepresentations made by their superiors, and has fostered an atmosphere where agency scientists fear reprisals.

And in the face of widespread criticism that his agency is in crisis, and that he is a pawn of the White House and its allies in polluting industries, Administrator Johnson’s only response is to label those concerned – many of whom are dedicated career employees of his agency – as “yammering critics.” A man after Spiro Agnew’s own heart.

The EPA has a vital mission. When this great agency is weakened and its work subverted by political interference, there is a great cost to this country.

When EPA scientists and career employees become discouraged as their voices go unheard, there is a great cost to our country.

When the people of America lose faith that the Environmental Protection Agency can live up to its name, there is a great cost to our country.

And when those who were chosen to serve this country instead serve themselves, their political allies, and their patrons, there is a great and lasting cost to this country. It is a failure of integrity, and that is a failure we can no longer afford.

We demand integrity – democracy demands integrity – of our public officials, not just because integrity is an abstract moral good, but because democracy fails without it.

Integrity sustains our democracy in at least three ways.

The first is integrity to the truth. In government, when the facts are clear enough for responsible people to act, it is a failure of integrity to fail to confront those facts. As the late Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, famously said, “You are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.”

America has traditionally been characterized by candid and practical assessment of the facts, a can-do attitude about responding to those facts, and bold decision-making to find our way through those facts. Practical, can-do, optimistic, realistic – that’s the American way.

When government doesn’t face the truth about the facts, it will almost certainly fail to meet the demands of the moment and fail to serve the interests of our people. That is what is happening now at EPA. They simply won’t face facts plain to any responsible person.

But facts are stubborn things. They do not yield to ideology or influence. They do not care about your politics. Unanswered, they stand, getting worse, and eventually the piper must be paid.

If facts aren’t candidly, realistically, and responsibly faced, not only will the problem get worse, but the very capacity of government to address problems candidly, realistically, and responsibly will itself degrade when not put to use. So there are ugly, lasting consequences when government officials fail at their obligation to meet the truth head on.

Another integrity is to honesty. As failures of truth have a harsh cost in government, so do failures in honesty.

I have sworn in new Assistant United States Attorneys. I have sworn in new state Assistant Attorneys General. I have presided at nomination hearings.

Every time, I have seen the same thing – a little spark of fire; a moral fire sparked when someone makes a choice to earn less money than they could otherwise, to work a lot harder than they would otherwise, to dare greater challenges than they might otherwise, all in order to serve a larger purpose, to serve an ideal, to serve America.

This spark of fire inspires young men and women to tackle problems that may seem unmanageable. This spark of fire keeps people at their desks late into the night when others have gone home to their families. This spark of fire brings idealism and principle to decisions, and illuminates a moral path in the complexities of government.

The value in government of that spark of fire, burning in the hearts of a thousand men and women – our real thousand points of light – is immeasurable. EPA is sustained by that spark of fire.

But this spark of fire is quenched in the toxic atmosphere of dishonesty when guiding principles are “help your friends,” “please your patron,” “dodge your responsibilities,” and “fudge the truth.” Dishonesty and idealism do not cohabit.

The third integrity is competence. This is a vital integrity. If we are to address the present and looming problems a new administration will have to solve—a war without end in Iraq, an economy in a sickening slide, a broken health care system, a country divided into two increasingly separate Americas, a public education system that is failing, the dangerous weight of an alarming national debt, foreign policies that have unhinged us from responsible world opinion, bickering and irresolution on problems like immigration and global warming – we must see competence as a core integrity.

We must demand competence of government officials as a bare minimum, a core necessity. Unfortunately, as one discouraged official has complained, “In the Bush administration, loyalty is the new competence.”

Madam President, Administrator Stephen Johnson is a failure in all these dimensions.

From everything we have seen, Administrator Johnson has done the bidding of the Bush Administration and its political allies without hesitation or question.

He has tried to cover up his dereliction of duty with evasive and discreditable testimony; he has acted without regard for the law or the determinations of the courts; he has damaged the mission, the morale, and the integrity of his great department; and he has betrayed his solemn duty to Americans who depend on him to protect their health, particularly our very youngest and our very oldest, those whose vulnerability is greatest.

Administrator Johnson suggests a man who has every intention of driving his agency onto the rocks, of undermining and despoiling it, of leaving America’s environment and America’s people without an honest advocate in their federal government.

This behavior not only degrades his once-great agency – it drives the dagger of dishonesty deep in the very vitals of American democracy.

The American people cannot accept such a person in a position of such great responsibility. I am sorry it has come to this, but I call on Administrator Johnson to resign his position.

I yield the floor.

Climate Obstructionist Nominated For Federal Judiciary

Posted by Warming Law Tue, 29 Jul 2008 14:34:00 GMT

Last Tuesday, EPA whistleblower Jason Burnett testified before a Senate committee about the Bush administration’s efforts to influence EPA’s decision-making process in 2007—interference that ended with Administrator Stephen Johnson being ordered, contrary to the Clean Air Act, to delay regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and block California’s landmark efforts to fight global warming. Burnett’s most noteworthy new revelations came through several detailed anecdotes of White House interference. One of the most laughable, as related by the Washington Independent:
While Burnett charitably described it as a “robust interagency process” he was taken aback by OMB general counsel Jeff Rosen’s ignorance about global warming-causing carbon dioxide molecules. Rosen requested that EPA only count carbon dioxide molecules in the air that came from automobiles, not ones from power plants. “It was sometimes embarrassing,” Burnett said, “For me to return to EPA and say that I had to explain to OMB that carbon dioxide is a molecule and you can’t differentiate in the air where a molecule came from.”

Burnett’s exasperation with Rosen was, unsurprisingly, not shared at the White House. In fact, the exact opposite seems to be the case. It turns out that about a month ago, President Bush nominated Rosen for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Rosen was also recently involved OMB’s efforts to resist a subpoena from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, ending with the invocation of executive privilege in order to avoid a contempt of Congress vote for Deputy Administrator Susan Dudley. Prior to joining OMB in June 2006, he served as General Counsel for the Department of Transportation. During that time, DOT promulgated fuel economy standards for light trucks that were later invalidated by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that their biases toward the auto industry and failure to account for climate-change impacts represented an “arbitrary and capricious” violation of the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) and National Environmental Policy Act (EPCA).

This nomination is particularly noteworthy given the D.C. District Court’s special powers to hear environmental cases—including some cases brought under the Clean Air Act. But with mere months to go in President Bush’s term and the obvious, serious concerns that Rosen would need to address before meriting confirmation, it’s somehow doubtful that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hasten to act on his nomination.

Global Warming Effects on Extreme Weather

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 10 Jul 2008 17:30:00 GMT

n the aftermath of severe storms across America and throughout the world, and with Bertha strengthening to the first hurricane of the season, extreme weather is on the minds of people around the globe. And while storms, floods and droughts have always occurred, science points to our changing climate as having a real effect on the severity and frequency of extreme weather events. Extreme precipitation events have increased over North America over the past 50 years. For the past decade, the West and Southwest regions have experienced drought conditions which are impacting agriculture, and contributing to the wildfire epidemic in the Western United States.

On Thursday, Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing examining the links between global warming, extreme weather events, and how these events affect the world now and will in the future.

Witnesses
  • Jimmy O. Adegoke, Ph.D, Associate Professor, University of Missouri – Kansas City
  • Heather Cooley, Senior Research Associate, Pacific Institute
  • Dr. Jay S. Golden, Director, National Center of Excellence, SMART Innovations for Urban Climate & Energy, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University
  • Angela Licata, Deputy Commissioner, New York City Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis
  • Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance

National Conference Call with Sen. Jim DeMint on Cap and Trade, Energy Issues

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 09 Jul 2008 23:10:00 GMT

On Wednesday evening, July 9, Americans for Prosperity will host a national Tele Town Hall meeting with U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina—one of the top free-market leaders in America.

As everybody knows, gas prices are out of control, yet some in Congress continue to push legislation like a $1.2 trillion global warming carbon tax hike that will only make matters worse. At the same time, Congress is blocking legislation that would allow us to increase energy production and supplies here at home.

During Wednesday’s Telephone Town Hall meeting, Senator DeMint and AFP President Tim Phillips will discuss with participants how Al Gore and his environmental extremist policies are driving up the price of gasoline, increasing home energy costs, and killing jobs.

They’ll be discussing what is at stake, and what we can all do to help Senator DeMint fight the good fight in Washington. Callers will also have the opportunity to ask Senator DeMint a question.

The Telephone Town Hall meeting begin on Wednesday beginning at 7:10 p.m. Eastern time. That’s 6:10 in the Central time zone, 5:10 Mountain time and 4:10 p.m. on the West Coast.

To join, you can simply dial in at 7:10 p.m. Eastern time by calling toll-free to 1-877-229-8493 and entering the PIN code 13896.

Water distribution and safety legislation

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 08 Jul 2008 18:30:00 GMT

The purpose of the hearing is to receive testimony on the following bills:
  • S. 2842, to require the Secretary of the Interior to carry out annual inspections of canals, levees, tunnels, dikes, pumping plants, dams, and reservoirs under the jurisdiction of the Secretary, and for other purposes
  • S. 2974, to provide for the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit in the State of Colorado
  • H.R. 3323, to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to convey a water distribution system to the Goleta Water District, and for other purposes
  • S. 3189, to amend Public Law 106–392 to require the Administrator of the Western Area Power Administration and the Commissioner of Reclamation to maintain sufficient revenues in the Upper Colorado River Basin Fund, and for other purposes.

Environmental Organizations Call For Response To Extreme Weather

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 08 Jul 2008 02:01:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

We Campaign: Extreme Weather
The We Campaign’s action alert sent yesterday to activists about the U.S. Climate Change Science Program report on global warming’s effects on extreme weather.
As the Wonk Room has reported in our Global Boiling series, scientists have warned for well over a decade that global warming will make extreme weather events like the Midwest floods and California wildfires that are ravaging the nation commonplace. However, the Bush administration has failed to mobilize the nation, instead suppressing the research and letting polluters control policymaking. Now, spurred by activists, major environmental organizations are calling for action. On June 19, Friends of the Earth led the clarion call:
The warming climate has made more extreme precipitation inevitable, and in response, the U.S. must dramatically refashion its failed flood control policies.

The world’s largest grassroots environmental organization noted that U.S. flood control policy has been misguided for decades, pointing to government panels from 1966 and 1973 that recommended “more attention be paid to relocation out of flood zones and called for greater emphasis on non-engineering solutions.” Instead, due to pork barrel spending “totally unnecessary and often environmentally destructive projects are built while those of higher priority go unaddressed,” destroying up to 95% of the wetlands of Iowa and Illinois. With global warming, policies that were once problematic are now disastrous.

On July 1, National Wildlife Federation head Larry Schweiger called on Congress to hold immediate hearings to revise the National Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act. The accompanying report from the largest environmental organization in the United States, “Heavy Rainfall and Increased Flooding Risk: Global Warming’s Wake-Up Call for the Central United States,” recommends the U.S. stop its levee-larded strategy for flood control and begin aggressive reductions in global warming pollution. Offering her thoughts and prayers to those grappling with the “catastrophic flooding in the central United States,” NWF climate scientist Amanda Staudt connected the dots:
The big picture is that global warming is making tragedies like these more frequent and more intense. Global warming is happening now. Our dependency on fossil fuels like oil and coal is causing the problem, and people and wildlife are witnessing the effects.

The We Campaign alerted its million-person list about last month’s U.S. Climate Change Science Program report on global warming’s effects on extreme weather.

Unfortunately, not all leaders are recognizing the severity of this crisis. Major news networks employ global warming deniers and industry apologists in senior positions, The Wall Street Journal publishes right-wing extremists who think climate science is a “sick-souled religion,” and the New York Times publishes stories on the future of the Everglades and the effects of extreme floods on Midwest agriculture without even mentioning climate change once.

Virginia Approves Major New Coal Plant and Electricity Rate Hikes

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 27 Jun 2008 20:11:00 GMT

The Guardian reports:
The No 2 utility owner in America yesterday won the right to build a $1.8bn power plant in the heart of the Appalachian mountains. The move almost certainly will increase Virginia’s use of the mining practice known as mountaintop removal, in which peaks are sheared off to reach the coal inside.

After an emotional two-day hearing that drew hundreds of witnesses, the Virginia state air pollution control board cleared Dominion Power to break ground on a 585-megawatt plant deep in the heart of coal country.

The vote was unanimous, with even board members who favor a carbon tax calling for more coal to burn.

Today:

Dominion Virginia Power will raise its electricity rates starting Tuesday by 18 percent, the largest one-time rate increase in three decades, to pay for soaring fuel costs. The three-member Virginia State Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulator, approved the increase in a ruling issued Friday.

It’s Getting Hot in Here has commentary:

Today was the final day of the Air Board Hearing concerning the Wise County coal plant. The room was full of hope after yesterday’s comment period, and the board acknowledged the powerful citizen outcry over the plant’s health and environmental impacts. But ultimately, they approved the plant. While they significantly strengthened the emissions regulations, they did nothing to address mountain top removal mining or CO2 emissions.

They went as far as they could, without doing more harm than good. Fearing litigation from Dominion, they made no strong statement about regulating CO2—without the regulatory framework from the EPA, the Board felt it wasn’t able to take a strong stand. “My hope is,” stated one Air Board member, “that strong, forceful legislation will come at a federal level and that Governor Kaine will take state-specific actions to address CO2.”

It was because of the “loud public clamor” that the Air Board decided to take up this permit and make it as strong as it is now. Dominion will have to make a considerable effort to meet these demands, including cleaning up their mercury emissions. Dominion walked in the door expecting that their permit would get rubber-stamped approved with a 72 lb mercury emissions regulation. The Air Board demanded that they reduce that to 4.45 lbs per year. That’s a 120% reduction, made possible only by the strong grassroots outcry about this plant.

It was clear to me and other members of our coalition that this was a courageous move by the Air Board. They are going to take hits from both sides of the debate, neither of which got what they wanted. As Kathy Selvage said, “They gave no consideration for the mountains that will be the fuel for this plant.” MTR wasn’t mentioned by the Air Board at all. Also, the “out clause,” which allows Dominion to get a new permit if they cannot achieve the mercury standards, was also left in.

“There you go. We didn’t do it.,” said one Air Board member in his final comments. They didn’t take a strong stand on MTR, on CO2, or on the plant. But they did create a strong regulatory hurdle for Dominion, and they made an attempt to protect our air based on the Clean Air Act. The vote was unanimous.

Live Green Launch Party

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 18 Jun 2008 22:00:00 GMT

In partnership with DC Gives, we are unveiling our new membership program that will make greener lifestyles more affordable and accessible for everyday living in DC and beyond.

Sponsors include: Local 16, Center for a New American Dream’s Conscious Consumer Marketplace, Green Drinks DC, Going Green DC, and Stacey Vaeth Photography.

Local 16 1602 U Street, NW Washington, DC

$15 at the door benefiting Live Green (RSVP required at: contactlivegreen@gmail.com) or $13 right here (your name will be added to our door list.)

Cover includes: light fare, an optional one-year membership with Live Green, and live music from:

THE BLACK AND TAN FANTASY BAND

Featuring Ashish Vyas of Thievery Corporation, Jerry Busher of Fugazi and Will Rast of Funk Arc

In partnership with DC Gives, we are unveiling our new membership program that will make greener lifestyles more affordable and accessible for everyday living in DC and beyond.

ABOUT LIVE GREEN: Live Green is a DC-based membership organization providing discounts on everyday green products and services, and programs supporting sustainable living communities.

ABOUT DC GIVES: DC Gives is a network of individuals who organize fundraisers for DC-based community groups and progressive organizations. Its goals are to throw distinctive, creative events and foster collaboration between DC’s artistic and progressive communities. It believes the best networking happens when people are having a really good time.

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