June 12th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Hmm. Where have I heard this before?
A Republican legislator from Alaska, who happens to be female, wants to restrict the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The only surprise?
I’m not talking about Sarah Palin, who’s consistently two dogs short of a full sled.
From somewhere within the bowels of Bizarro World, Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a resolution Jan. 21 to tie the EPA’s hands.
“The Clean Air Act was written by Congress to regulate criteria pollutants, not greenhouse gases,” she said, apparently splitting hairs over the specific particles in our crappy air.
OK, let’s see if we can connect the dots: Murkowski, ranking Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received $433,989 from the oil and gas industry between 2002 and 2010, as well as $473,563 from the electricity industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Her five top contributors this year included:
- Exxon Mobil (oil company)
- Constellation Energy (natural gas/electricity provider)
- Van Ness Feldman (law firm representing energy/transportation industry)
Do I detect a pattern here?
“You betcha,” as Palin might say.
Now, for the Good News
Murkowski’s resolution was defeated Thursday by a vote of 53–47.
EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson estimated its passage would increase our dependence on oil by 455 million barrels.
But some Republican lawmakers, like Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, will continue to fight “the Obama EPA’s job-killing, global warming agenda.”
FYI: Over the last 5 years, Inhofe has received $564,700 from the oil and gas industry, as well as $398,390 from electric utilities. His top 20 contributors over the last 5 years include Koch Industries (petroleum refining), Murray Energy, Devon Energy, OGE Energy, Anadarko Petroleum—and the far-from-green list goes on.
Read More:Senate Thwarts Effort to Weaken Clean Air Act
May 2nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The April 22 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is shaping up to be the worst environmental disaster in decades—a crisis Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says is a stark reminder of the “high human, environmental and economic costs associated with the extraction of fossil fuels.”
The spill occurred after an April 20 explosion on a BP rig, which killed 11 workers. The rig capsized and sank 2 days later, and oil began to seep into coastal waters.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 210,000 gallons of oil (5,000 barrels) are leaking into the Gulf each day, endangering marine life and Louisiana’s seafood industry. Oil may now drift toward the Atlantic Ocean.
“We are taking every possible step to protect the health of the residents and mitigate the environmental impacts of this spill,” says Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
Louisiana’s Way of Life Threatened
“This incident is not just about our coast,” says Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. “It is fundamentally about our way of life in Louisiana. Our shrimpers, our fishermen, the coasts that make Louisiana [a] sportsmen’s paradise—this all makes up Louisiana, and this is our way of life. We have to do absolutely everything we can to protect our land, our businesses and our communities.”
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has issued recreational and commercial fishery closures. Biologists are monitoring activities and conducting daily field assessments for signs of oiled areas and wildlife.
Because 2,500 sea turtles may be affected by the spill, scientists are also surveying and reporting on oil-tainted animals and other marine life.
Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, expects the spill to reach two wildlife areas: the Delta National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, designated as a wilderness area in 1903 by eco-conscious President Theodore Roosevelt. Both sites are critically important to numerous species, including the brown pelican (recently removed from the endangered species list).
“Crucial That We Address Our Dependence on Oil”
Sen. Leahy doesn’t mince words in his assessment of the disaster.
“The evidence is clear that we cannot drill or mine our way to long-term energy security,” he says.
“We need to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy that addresses the challenges of the 21st century and does not simply rely on the energy sources of the past,” he adds. “We need to be more creative and in ways that strengthen our economy, our security and our environment. Our long-term energy security depends on promoting energy efficiency and supporting domestic sources of clean, renewable power, such as biomass, solar and wind energy.
“Instead of focusing so much on securing more fossil fuels,” he concludes, “it is crucial that we address our dependence on oil, invest in renewable energy, and offer incentives for utility companies and others to use these clean, domestic forms of energy.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Over a Barrel: The Costs of U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence
Image courtesy of the NASA Earth Observatory
Read More:BP Oil Spill: Worst Environmental Disaster in Decades?
March 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The Hip Hop Caucus, an organization that encourages urban youth to become active in elections, policymaking and service projects, recently traveled more than 2,000 miles, through nine states, to promote clean energy.
The Hip Hop Caucus’ Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour closed on the Capitol’s steps after hosting events at churches, nightclubs, job training centers and five college campuses, including three historically black colleges and universities. Organizers distributed energy efficiency kits to attendees.
“The clean energy choices we make today will have a profound impact on the environment of our young people and communities of color—the very people this tour is bringing together and the voices we need to hear,” said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re going out and meeting people where they live, work and learn, to talk about how we create clean energy jobs, protect our planet and break our dependence on foreign oil.”
The tour “helped amplify and unite the voices of young people, African Americans, the hip hop community and the faith community around the critical need for clean energy jobs now and a clean energy future for our country,” said Caucus President Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. “People around this country are hurting because our economy has failed them. Comprehensive clean energy policies will help our communities create a brighter future through solutions that will fight poverty and pollution at the same time.”
Studies show comprehensive clean energy and climate policies could create up to 1.9 million new entry-level, professional and entrepreneurial jobs nationwide.
Such policies would also save households up to $1,175 per year by 2020 through investments in building insulation and other efficiency improvements, while also reducing medical bills and protecting communities from environmental threats.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Urban Meltdown: Cities, Climate Change and Politics-as-Usual
Photo: Tracy Russo/Flickr
Read More:Reaching Out to Communities of Color
December 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed Monday what most of us have suspected for quite some time: “science overwhelmingly shows greenhouse gas concentrations at unprecedented levels due to human activity.”
The report, delivered by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, proves that greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten Americans’ health and welfare, and emissions from on-road vehicles contribute to this threat.
Greenhouse gases are the primary driver of climate change, which can lead to hotter, longer heat waves that:
- Threaten the health of the sick, poor and elderly
- Increase ground-level ozone pollution that’s linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses
- Pose other threats to Americans’ health and welfare
“These long-overdue findings cement 2009’s place in history as the year when the United States government began addressing the challenge of greenhouse-gas pollution and seizing the opportunity of clean-energy reform,” Jackson says. “Business leaders, security experts, government officials, concerned citizens and the United States Supreme Court have called for enduring, pragmatic solutions to reduce the greenhouse-gas pollution that is causing climate change. This continues our work toward clean-energy reform that will cut GHGs and reduce the dependence on foreign oil that threatens our national security and our economy.”
EPA’s final findings respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that GHGs fit within the Clean Air Act definition of air pollutants. The findings do not, in and of themselves, impose any emission reduction requirements, but they allow the EPA to finalize the GHG standards proposed earlier this year for new light-duty vehicles, as part of a joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation.
On-road vehicles contribute more than 23% of total U.S. GHG emissions. EPA’s proposed GHG standards for light-duty vehicles (a subset of on-road vehicles) would reduce GHG emissions by nearly 950 million metric tons and conserve 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of model year 2012–2016 vehicles.
EPA’s endangerment finding covers emissions of six key greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride—that have been the subject of scrutiny and intense analysis for decades by U.S. and international scientists.
Scientific consensus shows that as a result of human activities, GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are at record-high levels, and data show the Earth has been warming over the past 100 years, with the steepest increase in warming in recent decades. The evidence of human-induced climate change goes beyond observed increases in average surface temperatures; it includes melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans due to excess carbon dioxide, changing precipitation patterns and changing patterns of ecosystems and wildlife.
Jackson and President Obama have publicly stated that they support a legislative solution to the problem of climate change and Congress’ efforts to pass comprehensive climate legislation. However, climate change is threatening public health and welfare, and it is critical that EPA fulfill its obligation to respond to the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
EPA issued the proposed findings in April and held a 60-day public comment period. The agency received more than 380,000 comments, which were carefully reviewed and considered during the development of its final findings.
Read More:EPA Reaffirms Human Role in Climate Change
January 5th, 2009 - Leslie Billera
Barack Obama’s pick for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, worked on cleaning up New Jersey, one of the most polluted states in the nation, from Feb ’06 to Dec ’08 as the state’s head of Environmental Protection.
But is she ready to go the distance nationally? The super-smart folks at Grist delve into her record in NJ for a rundown of successes and failures during her tenure.
Nutshell: feedback from those who worked with Jackson at the state level on energy and climate policy are favorable. The people who worked in the trenches of toxic clean-ups on the local level? Not so much…
See both sides here.
Read More:Pros and Cons of Lisa Jackson, New EPA Nominee