WonkLine: May 8, 2009

Posted by Wonk Room Fri, 08 May 2009 14:31:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

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“Thousands more people have been forced to flee their homes as strong winds drive fierce wildfires” fueled by “temperatures in the 90s, dry air and wind gusts as high as 40 miles per hour” in California, now in a state of emergency.

“Climate change is the greatest strategic risk facing property and casualty insurers”: Studies conducted in the last few years have demonstrated that “global warming is causing wildfires in the Western U.S. to occur more frequently, last longer, and cover more ground than they did in the past,” and “more and more severe wildfires will raise insurance rates, too.”

An unusually warm spring thaw in Alaska is causing some of the state’s worst flooding in decades, with rising rivers wiping out an entire village,” forcing Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) to declare a disaster for the flooded areas and to cancel her attendance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Schwarzenegger: In California, It's 'Fire Season All Year Round'

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 18 Nov 2008 23:45:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

In a weekend interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) talks of the impact of global warming on California’s wildfires. Climate change is lowering snowpack in the Rockies and increasing droughts, heat waves and lightning strikes, stoking more intense fires over a longer season:

Through global warming, we have now fire season all year round. We used to have fire seasons only in the fall, but now the fire seasons start in February already, so this means that we have to really upgrade, have more resources, more fire engines, more manpower and all of this, which does cost extra money.
Watch it:

By May of this year wildfires were raging at levels traditionally seen only in July. After California’s driest spring in 114 years of recordkeeping, 1700 wildfires set a record 840,000 acres ablaze from June to July, costing the state more than $200 million. Fires in the past month, the worst in the Los Angeles area in four decades, have destroyed over 1000 homes. “Through last week, 1.24 million acres burned in California, the most since 1970, when consistent, modern records were first kept.”

Last month, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called for the Bush administration to end delays in assistance, saying, “As the climate warms and wildland fires become bigger and more intense, a rapid response is critical to prevent the spread of fires.”

Study: California's Green Economy Has Created 1.5 Million Jobs, $45 Billion

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 21 Oct 2008 23:45:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

A major new study of the success of California’s green economy by economist David Roland-Holst finds that “California’s energy-efficiency policies created nearly 1.5 million jobs from 1977 to 2007, while eliminating fewer than 25,000.” Today, California’s per-capita electricity demand is 40 percent below the national average:

Total electricity use, per capita, 1960-2001
U.S. vs. California energy consumption, 1960-2001

Instead of household income being lost to the capital intensive energy sector, Californians have enjoyed the benefits of their wages being plowed into job creating sectors, such that “induced job growth has contributed approximately $45 billion to the California economy since 1972.”

Energy Efficiency, Innovation, and Job Creation in California, by David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first study of how the savings from California’s energy efficiency standards affected its economy through “expenditure shifting” away from the energy sector. The author explains:
When consumers shift one dollar of demand from electricity to groceries, for example, one dollar is removed from a relatively simple, capital intensive supply chain dominated by electric power generation and carbon fuel delivery. When the dollar goes to groceries, it animates much more job intensive expenditure chains including retailers, wholesalers, food processors, transport, and farming. Moreover, a larger proportion of these supply chains (and particularly services that are the dominant part of expenditure) resides within the state, capturing more job creation from Californians for California. Moreover, the state reduced its energy import dependence, while directing a greater percent of its consumption to in-state economic activities.

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.

CA Waiver Lawsuit Transferred to DC Circuit

Posted by Warming Law Sat, 26 Jul 2008 21:21:00 GMT

In a terse, two-page order issued yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the EPA’s motion to reconsider its earlier denial of a motion to dismiss California’s waiver-denial lawsuit. A three-judge panel agreed that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson’s December, 19 2007 letter to CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger—which was the basis for the January 2008 lawsuit—does not constitute a reviewable “final action” under the Clean Air Act.

The court’s decision means that the case will now move to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, and will be based on the 47-page denial document that EPA placed in the Federal Register this February (complete with its utterly contradictory logic). Unless the DC Circuit sets an aggressive briefing schedule, the case may end up not being argued by year’s end—in which case, the petition would hopefully become moot as the result of a new President overturning the waiver decision.

House Republicans Ask Waxman to Investigate EPA (Staff)

Posted by Warming Law Wed, 09 Apr 2008 16:14:00 GMT

The WSJ’s Dana Mattioli reported yesterday afternoon on the latest development in congressional oversight of the EPA’s California waiver decision:

In a letter today, two senior Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform asked the panel’s chairman, Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), to investigate whether top EPA staffers either violated federal rules that restrict regulators from lobbying, or “misused their positions to surreptitiously influence” EPA’s decision on whether to allow California to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from vehicles.

Reps. Tom Davis (R-VA) and Darrell Issa (R-CA) are mad at Margo Oge and Christopher Grundler, the senior EPA officials tasked with evaluating California’s waiver request and (unsuccessfully) telling Administrator Stephen Johnson that he had no choice but to grant it. Congressional oversight of that decision revealed that the pair subsequently provided former EPA Administrator William Reilly—at Reilly’s request—talking points with which to argue the waiver’s merits to Johnson.

Davis and Issa argue that this deserves the same level of scrutiny that Waxman devoted to a surreptitious plan to lobby Congress and governors against the waiver—Johnson may have also been a target, but he could not recall whether that was the case—deployed last summer by Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, White House officials, and industry lobbyists.

This actually isn’t the first time that congressional Republicans have gone after Oge and Grundler. During a hearing that followed the revelation of the Reilly memo and other EPA documents, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) asked Administrator Johnson whether his employees had violated the Hatch Act. Johnson defended their actions, saying that he has "always encouraged my staff to give me candid and open advice" (he just reserves the right to ignore it, even when phrased as a clear mandate and not simply advice, and the resulting fallout severely alienates staff unions).

Rep. Waxman responded to the letter by pledging to give it "careful consideration," while noting that the Committee had "found no evidence that EPA career staff lobbied members of Congress with respect to [California’s request]" (translation: the Davis-Issa analogy to his previous investigation is bunk). For his part, Reilly, who ran EPA under the first President Bush and granted California several waivers, has said that his communications with career staff who served under him were not unprecedented, let alone improper or illegal.

California Energy Policy: a Cautionary Tale for the Nation

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 04 Apr 2008 16:00:00 GMT

Key lawmakers are now promoting California’s energy and global warming policies as a model for the federal government and other States to follow. Thomas Tanton’s talk will review California’s policies and show that they have had significant costs as well as other detrimental effects and are likely to have even higher costs and even worse effects in the future. California’s policies have led to the highest electricity and gasoline prices in the continental U. S. and contributed to the de-industrialization of California.

Mr. Tanton’s talk is based on his new White Paper for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, California Energy Policy: a Cautionary Tale for the Nation. Copies will be available at the event and online at www.cei.org.

Please RSVP by e-mail to Julie Walsh at jwalsh@cei.org. Please give your name and office or organization.

For more information, please call Myron Ebell at (202) 331-2256

Environmental Justice Coalition Opposes Carbon Markets

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 20 Feb 2008 19:44:00 GMT

Citing the American Enterprise Institute, the Economist, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, a group of environmental justice organizations including the California Environmental Rights Alliance (CERA) have come out in opposition to carbon trading schemes, in particular the European Union cap-and-trade system (the European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme or EU ETS) and the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism for investing in emissions reductions in developing countries. Major signatories include the Rainforest Action Network and the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The declaration cites the windfall profits generated by the initial phase of EU ETS and argues that carbon trading “stands in the way of the transition to clean renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency strategies.” CDM is criticized for encouraging “carbon dumps” and financing “private industrial tree plantations and large hydro-electric facilities that appropriate land and water resources”.

The California Environmental Justice Movement will oppose efforts by our state government to create a carbon trading and offset program, because such a program will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the pace called for by the international scientific community, it will not result in a shift to clean sustainable energy sources, it will support and enrich the state’s worst polluters, it will fail to address the existing and future inequitable burden of pollution, it will deprive communities of the ability to protect and enhance their communities, and because if our state joins regional or international trading schemes it will further create incentives for carbon offset programs that harm communities in California, the region, the country, and developing nations around the world.

Signatories are below the jump.

Signatories:
  • Asian-Pacific Environmental Network
  • Association of Irritated Residents
  • California Communities Against Toxics
  • California Environmental Rights Alliance
  • Carbon Trade Watch
  • Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
  • Clean New York
  • Coalition For A Safe Environment
  • Communities for a Better Environment
  • Del Amo Action Committee
  • Desert Citizens Against Pollution
  • Environmental Health Coalition
  • Fresno Metro Ministry
  • Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
  • People Organized in Defense of the Earth and Her Resources
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA
  • Rainforest Action Network
  • San Joaquin Valley Latino
  • Environmental Advance Project
  • Society for Positive Action
  • The Corner House
  • West County Toxics Coalition