7 Deadly Amendments That Would’ve Protected Dirty Energy And Trashed The Climate

— by Ryan Koronowski, Tiffany Germain, Guest Blogger, Dan Weiss, Guest Blogger and Jessica Goad

Over the weekend, Senate Democrats passed a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2014. In order to do so, Senate rules allow for consideration of any amendment that is brought to the floor. Senators introduced hundreds of amendments, which resulted in a “vote-o-rama.”

Many conservatives offered amendments to undermine existing and potential public health safeguards, particularly those that would attempt to reduce climate pollution. Below are seven deadly amendments to curtail protection for our children’s health and heritage. As usual, these conservatives are focused on protecting dirty energy companies profits at the expense of public health.

  • Blunt #261: This amendment would have blocked future legislation to impose a carbon tax or fee to reduce industrial carbon pollution and raise revenue. Specifically, the amendment would create a “point-of-order” against any carbon tax measure that could only be overcome with a three-fifths vote of legislators. While it would have been a mostly symbolic move, the fossil fuel industry’s friends in the Senate are reiterating their opposition to government action on climate pollution. However, the impacts of climate change have already been felt across the country — in 2011 and 2012, the United States suffered from 25 climate related storms, floods, heat waves, drought, and wildfires that each caused at least $1 billion in damages, with a total price tag of $188 billion. The Blunt amendment would allow these damages and costs to grow unchecked. Result: FAILED 53-46
  • Coats #514: This amendment would have struck down key Clean Air Act protections by authorizing the President to exempt any industrial facility from complying with air toxics standards for two-year periods. Essentially, the amendment would have given a free pass to coal-burning power plants from EPA’s 2011 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which were put in place due to the well-documented health risks of mercuryarsenic, and the millions of pounds of additional hazardous chemicals. Methylmercury from coal pollution accumulates in fish, poisoning pregnant women and small children. Mercury can harm children’s developing brains, including effects on memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills. Upgrades to the aged and dirty coal plants will also significantly reduce harmful particle pollution, preventing hundreds of thousands of illnesses and up to 17,000 premature deaths each year. “The ‘monetized’ value of these and certain other health benefits would amount to $37–90 billion per year,” the Environmental Protection Agency determined. Republicans are once again trying to protect the dirty energy industry over our children’s health. Result: FAILED 46-53
  • Alexander #516: This would “repeal … the wind production tax credit.” The PTC provides a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity to encourage investment in clean wind energy. A CAP analysis determined that “wind power helps lower electricity prices.” Along with state renewable portfolio or electricity standards, the PTC has enabled “the wind industry … to lower the cost of wind power by more than 90% [and] provide power to the equivalent of over 12 million American homes.” A Navigant Consulting analysis predicted that eliminating the PTC would cost 37,000 jobs. Some argue that we should end tax provisions for clean technologies, including wind. However, this ignores the fact that the oil and gas industries have received $80 in support for every $1 for wind and other renewable energy sources over the past 95 years. In addition, the Alexander amendment would ignore the annual $4 billion in special tax breaks for big oil companies. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Inhofe #359: This amendment would “[prohibit] further greenhouse gas regulations for the purpose of addressing climate change.” This would have prevented the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air Act as interpreted by the Supreme Court, which ruled that EPA is required to regulate carbon and other climate change pollutants that endanger public health and welfare. EPA proposed the first carbon pollution standard for new power plants in 2012. After it is finalized, EPA must set limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — responsible for two-fifths of U.S. carbon pollution. Such reductions are essential to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. Result: FAILED 47-52
  • Cruz #470: This radical amendment would have limited the amount of land owned by the federal government in each state. It is yet another attempt by Republicans to give federal public lands over to states or private companies so as to better exploit them, and is in line with recent efforts of House Republicans to sell off “millions of acres” of public lands to private companies. Despite what this amendment implies, public lands provide tremendous economic benefits to local communities. For example, recreation and other uses of the 500 million acres of public lands managed by the Interior Department contributed two million jobs and $385 billion in economic activity in 2011. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Vitter #544: This amendment would have dismantled the president’s authority to protect America’s historical and natural treasures under the Antiquities Act. Since it was passed in 1906, 16 out of 19 presidents have used the act to protect places like the Statue of Liberty, Muir Woods, the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Acadia. Just this week it was reported that President Obama would create five new national monuments including Delaware’s first-ever national park. The Vitter amendment would have kept the president from answering local communities’ calls to protect such places for future generations. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.
  • Murkowski #370: This amendment states that it would “increase oil and natural gas production on Federal lands and waters,” despite the fact that oil production is at its highest level in 20 years. Additionally, the Congressional Research Service noted that over the last four years oil production from federally-owned areas was higher than in 2008, despite the fact that companies are choosing to “follow the oil” to shale plays on non-federal lands. Murkowski’s amendment isn’t the only one that would have sought to fulfill the wish list of the oil and gas industry — Sessions #204 would have opened the economically and environmentally vibrant coasts of Virginia and North Carolina to dangerous oil and gas exploration. Result: Did not come to the floor for a vote.

On Monday March 18, the GOP released its “Growth and Opportunity Project” or “autopsy” report that tried to determine why Republicans lost in 2012, and how to prevent future defeats. While the report did not mention climate or energy — or deal with much policy — it did talk demographics and messaging. The report urged that the Republican Party should change its tone, “… especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters.” They need to “promote forward-looking, positive policy proposals that unite young voters,” and “be conscious of developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women.” And finally, they stress the importance of “addressing the concerns of minority communities.”

In their effort to do the bidding of big oil and other major polluters, the authors of these seven deadly amendments blithely ignore the findings and recommendations of this autopsy. The groups most harmed by and concerned about climate change are most supportive of addressing the problem: young people, women, and minority groups.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center forAmerican Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

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A Key Proposal for the Administration’s Second Term

It’s up to Obama to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

By Andrew Korfhage

Andrew Korfhage

After avoiding the topic of climate change throughout his second presidential bid, Barack Obama renewed his commitment to the climate in his first news conference following his re-election.

“I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions,” he said. “And as a consequence, I think we’ve got an obligation to future generations to do something about it.”

If Obama believes what he said, he’s got a clear choice in front of him at the very beginning of his second term. He needs to reject — once and for all — the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, designed to carry viscous tar sands petroleum from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s up to Obama to stop the pipeline.

And it’s not a terribly difficult decision. Releasing the carbon from the Canadian tar sands into our atmosphere is a climate disaster waiting to happen. But even beyond the climate argument, it should be hard for the president to argue that it’s important to allow a foreign corporation — TransCanada — to bisect our country with the longest oil pipeline in the Western Hemisphere. This project puts Americans’ land and water at risk of damaging oil spills, while gaining very little for the American people in benefits like jobs and energy security.

The pipeline’s proponents tend to exaggerate its meager benefits.

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For example, estimates of jobs this project would create range only from a high of about 20,000 (TransCanada’s estimate) to as low as 5,000 (the State Department). Even TransCanada acknowledges that its figure includes 13,000 temporary jobs, according to a formula that counts one person working for two years as two jobs. By comparison, the low-impact extension of the wind-energy Production Tax Credit passed as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations is projected to create and maintain far more clean-energy jobs — up to 54,000 of them.

The pipeline would advance U.S. energy security even less than job creation.

TransCanada can sell its oil — a global commodity — into the global market as it sees fit, which is why the pipeline terminates at a port in the Gulf of Mexico. This oil won’t necessarily stay in the United States. Even if it did, Canadian tar sands petroleum can’t “reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” It is foreign oil. Meanwhile, with both U.S. renewable energy production and oil drilling on the rise under Obama, we’ve already reduced our oil imports by around 1 million gallons a day (or 10 percent) between 2010 and 2011. We can continue lowering oil imports and increasing energy security without the risks of the Keystone pipeline.

In that first post-election press conference, as the East Coast began its recovery from Superstorm Sandy, Obama acknowledged “an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America,” as well as the acceleration of polar ice caps melting and global temperature rise. He took pride in the rise in fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks during his first term, and also acknowledged that “we haven’t done as much as we need to.”

This is Obama’s chance to do much, much more.

Tar sands oil is so much dirtier than conventional crude that Obama’s own EPA calculated that a full-capacity Keystone XL pipeline will add as much as 27 million metric tons of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere annually. That’s the equivalent of adding 6.2 million more cars to our roads. So much for those new fuel-economy standards.

The damages of the Keystone pipeline will far outweigh its benefits. Obama should reject the Keystone pipeline at the start of his second term.


Andrew Korfhage is Green America’s online and special projects editor. GreenAmerica.org.  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Bayer’s Toxic Clothianidin is Killing the Bees

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Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists’ red flags! It’s not just the State and Defense departments that are reeling this month from leaked documents. The Environmental Protection Agency now has some explaining to do, too. In place of dodgy dealings with foreign leaders, this case involves the German agrichemical giant Bayer; a pesticide with an unpronounceable name, clothianidin; and an insect species crucial to food production (as well as a food producer itself), the honeybee.

There’s a great article on “Grist” that walks you through the significance of using genetically modified seeds to grow genetically hostile crops that are potentially at the root of colony collapse disorder.  Here’s an excerpt:

Suppliers sell seeds pre-treated with it. Like other members of the neonicotinoid family of pesticides, clothianidin gets “taken up by a plant’s vascular system and expressed through pollen and nectar,” according to Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA), which leaked the document along with Beyond Pesticides. That effect makes it highly toxic to a crop’s pests — and also harmful to pollen-hoarding honeybees, which have experienced mysterious annual massive die-offs (known as “colony collapse disorder”) here in the United States at least since 2006. The colony-collapse phenomenon is complex and still not completely understood. While there appears to be no single cause for the annual die-offs, mounting evidence points to pesticides, and specifically neonicotinoids (derived from nicotine), as a key factor.”

“The document [PDF], leaked to Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald, reveals that EPA scientists have essentially rejected the findings of a study conducted on behalf of Bayer that the agency had used to justify the registration of clothianidin … asked l if the scientists’ opinion would inspire the agency to remove clothianidin from the market … [a spokesman] who asked not to be named but who communicated on the record on behalf of the agency, replied that clothianidin would retain its registration and be available for use in the spring.”

 

Think about that a minute and let it sink in.  What are we going to do when the bees are no more, they no longer pollinate our crops, and food supplies begin to dwindle?  Learn more and read Tom Philpott’s full article at Grist: http://grist.org/article/food-2010-12-10-leaked-documents-show-epa-allowed-bee-toxic-pesticide/

Cleaner Air Isn’t Just Good For Our Lungs; It’s Good For Our Economy

Earth Justice
May 9, 2012
Miles Grant, National Wildlife Federation, (202) 797-6855
Jared Saylor, Earthjustice, (202) 745-5213

If politicians in Washington know that protecting the air we breathe not only protects people and wildlife, but also helps spur our economy, then why are they trying to gut Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean air standards? On Thursday, May 10, the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund (NWF Action Fund) and Earthjustice are launching a seven-figure TV ad buy that highlights the economic and health benefits associated with a transition to a greener economy, while also raising public awareness and support for EPA’s new clean air standards to limit industrial air pollution from power plants.

Watch the ad:

“Clean air protects health and enhances our economy,” said Martin Hayden, vice president of policy and legislation at Earthjustice. “According to a Brookings Institute study, between 2003 and 2010, the clean tech sector outperformed the national economy as a whole, expanding 3.4 percent annually. Letting the EPA enforce the Clean Air Act and limit dangerous air pollution spewing from smokestacks will not only make it easier for Americans to breathe, it will also boost the clean technology sector and help create more jobs.”The ad focuses attention on a recent Department of Labor study showing that transitioning away from dirty sources of energy to clean technology development and innovation in turn creates jobs. In fact, the Labor Department study concludes that the transition to cleaner energy and technology has already created 3.1 million jobs (Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2012).

“Whether aimed at toxic air pollutants like mercury or dangerous carbon pollution, there are multiple benefits from job-creating clean air standards,” said Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director at the National Wildlife Federation, the sister organization of NWF Action Fund. “EPA air standards that clean up power plants are good for our economy, the health of our families and communities, addressing climate change and for protecting wildlife and their habitat.”

Congress is currently considering several legislative proposals to prevent the EPA from protecting public health with new clean air standards that would reduce air pollution from toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, soot, smog, carbon and other pollutants. Many of these new standards would save thousands of lives each year.

The ad campaign, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund and Earthjustice will appear in 12 major media markets in three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (including Washington, D.C. cable only). NWF Action Fund ads will appear in Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland, OH; Columbus, OH; Toledo, OH; and Pittsburgh, PA. Earthjustice ads will appear in Harrisburg, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Wilkes-Barre, PA; Norfolk, VA; Richmond, VA; and Roanoke, VA. See the ad at: http://earthjustice.org/greener