Climate Capsule: Clean Air Act Under Siege

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: Clean Air Act Faces More Attacks
  2. Quote: Former EPA heads Bill Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman
  3. Economic Story of the Week: Treasury grants spur clean energy
  4. Editorial of the Week: No compromises on clean air and water
  5. NWF tracking new Gulf oil spill incidents
  6. Exxon Valdez Disaster, 22 Years Later
  7. NWF Report Preview: Extreme Weather Impacting Energy Infrastructure
  8. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

Clean Air Act Faces More Attacks

The fate of the Clean Air Act still hangs in the balance this week as the Senate is slated to vote on Sen. Inhofe’s (R-OK) companion effort to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But several other senators have also offered additional roadblocks to prevent the EPA from reducing carbon pollution.

via NWF

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to add the Upton-Inhofe Dirty Air Act language to an unrelated small business bill. Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) has proposed a two-year ban on EPA taking any action to limit carbon and methane pollution from stationary sources. Because a two-year delay could easily become permanent Senator Rockefeller’s proposed ban is not being taken lightly.

And Sen. Baucus (D-MT) is proposing an amendment to permanently exempt some of the largest carbon pollution sources from emissions standard. This amendment would also block the EPA from regulating carbon pollution resulting from land use changes. The Senate is expected to vote on all three of these measures this week as they reconvene.

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William D. Ruckelshaus & Christine Todd Whitman

“Amid the virulent attacks on the EPA driven by concern about over-regulation, it is easy to forget how far we have come in the past 40 years. We should take heart from all this progress and not, as some in Congress have suggested, seek to tear down the agency that the president and Congress created to protect America’s health and environment…The American public will not long stand for an end to regulations that have protected their health and quality of life.”

-William D. Ruckelshaus and Christine Todd Whitman, former heads of EPA during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations, Washington Post.

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Economic Story of the Week

Treasury grants spur clean energy

According to a recently released study from the Bipartisan Policy Center, solar and wind subsidies distributed through treasury grants support renewable energy projects at about half the cost of tax credits. These grants are a product of recovery funding and are known as 1603, in reference to their section number.

These 1603 grants are promoted as one of the most effective incentives for industry expansion because they allow developers to claim cash grants amounting to 30 percent of their project. When using tax credits, project developers have to pay investment banks a significant premium or financing fee, which consumes a large portion of the subsidy and makes the incentive less efficient.

The 1603 grants were set to expire at the end of 2010 but were extended in the December tax break package. The study suggests that renewable energy development would benefit from a 5-10 year extension of the program, as it is has indicated tremendous returns in the creation of new jobs, new businesses, and new product development in both the solar and wind industries.

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Editorial of the Week

No compromises on clean air and water

(Providence Journal)

Paul Beaudette, Region I director for the National Wildlife Federation’s board of directors

Narragansett Bay, RI, via NOAA on Flickr

I am outraged to learn that the budget deficit is being used as cover to mount a reckless and irresponsible direct attack on the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. This assault by House leaders using a budget “continuing resolution” procedure will endanger the air we breathe, the water we drink and the wildlife and cherished places we enjoy around Rhode Island…. This legislation exploits the current budget crisis — a real concern to everyone — to pursue a hidden agenda long sought by polluter industries, at the expense of the American people. The attack on proven science and effective, worthy pollution controls is for wanton profits. It is not cheaper for society to allow pollution in any form when the victims of that pollution suffer from health problems we all pay for…. We all have a fundamental right to clean air and clean water. We should not return to the days of burning lakes and toxic dump sites. (More…)

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NWF Tracking Reports of Three Separate Incidents in Gulf

The National Wildlife Federation is tracking reports about what are likely three different incidents of oil and sediment in the Gulf. Oil coming ashore west of the mouth of the Mississippi River near Grand Isle is reportedly due to the discharge of a dormant well operated by a Houston-based oil company. New swaths of what could be oil have also appeared on the east side of the Mississippi River in the open water of the Chandeleur Sound. And Coast Guards have indicated that the sediment near the mouth of the Mississippi contains only a small amount of oil stirred up by dredging.

David Muth, coastal Louisiana state director for the National Wildlife Federation, expressed his frustration over the lack of solid information about the incidents. “Do we know for sure how many separate incidents we’re dealing with? Do we have a handle on how much oil is involved?” he asked. “If several simultaneous events are taking place, are they freak occurrences or are they routine? And is this indicative of the fact that we are a long way from having an effective response capability for offshore drilling?”

Congress still hasn’t acted on the National Commission’s recommendations. Until we strengthen and fully fund drilling safety and oversight programs, lift the liability cap on oil companies, and dedicate civil and criminal Clean Water Act penalties to Gulf Coast ecological restoration, the Gulf will suffer the consequences.

More on this story: The Times-Picayune, NWF Media Center

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Exxon Valdez Disaster, 22 Years Later

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill (via Flickr's Arlis Reference)

Twenty two years ago, the Exxon Valdez hit a reef in the Alaska’s Prince William Sound, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into a beautiful and incredibly diverse ecosystem. The estimated direct wildlife death toll included 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, billions of salmon and herring eggs, and much more.

The people and wildlife of Alaska continue to feel the effects of the spill today. Local fishing communities were devastated by the spill. Permits sold from generation to generation were rendered worthless. But despite a $2.5 billion cleanup effort, the federal government estimates only 15 percent of the oil was recovered through oil skimming and beach cleanup.

The year after the disaster, Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act placing new regulations on oil shipping and requiring oil companies to have cleanup plans. However, last year’s Gulf oil disaster showed that much more needs to be done. BP consistently underplayed the size of the spill, and now there’s no guarantee fines or penalties will go to restoring the damaged ecosystem. Congress needs to act to close the regulatory loopholes.

More on this story…

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NWF Report Preview: Extreme Weather Impacting Energy Infrastructure

A new report to be released next week from National Wildlife Federation finds that extreme weather events brought on by climate change will increase the vulnerability of energy infrastructure across the United States. The combination of reliance upon hazardous sources of energy like deepwater drilling with extreme weather brought about by climate is filled with risk. In the wake of the recent tragic events in Japan, it is crucial to investigate potential risks and more climate-resilient energy options. Weather-related disruptions, such as power outages and flooding, cost the U.S. billions, the report will say.

Contact: Tony Iallonardo,, 202-797-6612

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Happening this Week

Thursday, March 31st

Hearings to examine S.629, to improve hydropower, S.630, to promote marine and hydrokinetic renewable energy research and development, and Title I, subtitle D of the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, Energy and Natural Resources, 9:30 AM, Energy Committee Hearing Room – SD-366.

“Climate Change: Examining the Processes Used to Create Science and Policy,” Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 10:00AM – 12:00PM, 2318 Rayburn.

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