Climate Capsule: Clean Air Act, EPA escape sneak attacks

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: Clean Air Act in the Clear…For Now
  2. Quote: Jeremy Symons, NWF Senior VP of Conservation & Education
  3. Economic Story of the Week: Wyden calls for FTC investigation of Pipeline
  4. Editorial of the Week: A year after Gulf oil spill, Congress is sitting on its hands
  5. New NWF Report Forecasts Extreme Weather Impacts
  6. Winners of 2011 Chill Out Competition Broadcast
  7. NWF Gives Status Update, Gulf’s Wildlife & Wetlands
  8. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

Clean Air Act in the Clear…For Now

Last week was a tipping point against Big Oil’s political assault on EPA. The Senate rejected four attempts to rollback parts of the Clean Air Act that would have blocked the EPA’s ability to control carbon pollution. Varying polluter interests attempted to highjack a small business bill (S. 493) that reauthorizes innovation and technology research programs. It was a stealthy attempt to amend the bill to prevent the EPA from limiting the vast amount of carbon pollution spewing everyday from our power plants, oil refineries, and factories. The attempted high-jacking exposed confusion among the different interests, and each of the four failed as they squabbled over their own polluting interests.

Coal by-products not regulated by the CAA (photo via Seth Anderson, Flickr)

Simultaneously, the Senate’s polluter compatriots in the House continued their own assault by passing Congressman Upton’s H.R. 910, a bill that even overturns the scientific finding that carbon pollution causes climate change and strips EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Luckily, 34 senators and 155 representatives stood up for the majority of Americans, sending a strong letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner advising him of the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of the Clean Air Act and the EPA.  These numbers ensure that if the polluter dollars somehow are successful in an attempt to roll the Clean Air Act on another bill or during the upcoming budget battles a Presidential veto would be upheld.

The White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also managed to closely avert a government shutdown in the eleventh hour with a budget deal that fended off GOP attempts to cripple EPA climate regulations.

After the deal was brokered, a senior aide to Reid acknowledged that the agreement includes “no climate change or EPA language.”

A new CNN poll by Opinion Research Corporation found that 71 percent of Americans support funding for the EPA to “enforce regulations on greenhouse gases and environmental issues” and oppose legislation that blocks the EPA.

Republican leadership was attempting to use their budget leverage to strip EPA of its climate authority, as well as to attack regulations on mountaintop removal mining, coal ash waste from power plants and a host of other environmental initiatives. But the GOP dropped its anti-EPA provision after using it to leverage billions in spending cuts. The battle is not over: polluter allies on Capitol Hill will continue their quest to upend EPA’s climate rules, and they have plenty of upcoming opportunities, including votes on the debt ceiling and on spending bills for fiscal 2012.

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Jeremy Symons

“The biggest losers: oil companies and other polluters lost their bid to hijack the budget to weaken the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. The biggest winners: Our kids and everyone who likes to breathe clean air and drink clean water.

Sixteen riders in the House-passed budget bill would have handcuffed the EPA, added more toxic pollution to the air, left 20 million acres of wetlands unprotected, and erased scientific findings on climate change. The assault backfired, provoking a strong public backlash as the public learned about the sneak attacks.”

-Jeremy Symons, NWF Senior Vice President, Conservation & Education, on the winners and losers of the averted government shutdown.

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Economic Story of the Week

Wyden calls for FTC investigation of Pipeline

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) a senior congressman on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel, sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz, asking for an investigation into whether seven Canadian oil companies have illegal agreements to use the Keystone XL pipeline to drive up oil prices in the Midwest.

“It has been brought to my attention that documents and testimony indicate that at least seven Canadian oil shippers have agreed to incur increased near-term shipping costs on the new pipeline in order to impact market supply in the existing markets so as to drive up the overall price of their product for U.S. refiners,” Senator Wyden said in the letter. “According to TransCanada, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline can be used by Canadian oil shippers to add up to $4 billion to U.S. fuel costs.”

President Obama spoke for the first time publicly on the Keystone XL, the controversial project that would carry tar sludge from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the U.S. Midwest, which is currently under U.S. State Department supplemental environmental review. He affirmed the importance of Canadian oil to the U.S. economy and national security, but simultaneously used the pejorative term “tarsands” to refer to the project, calling the mining techniques “destructive.”

More on this story: Wildlife Promise, Alaska Beat, NY Times

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Editorial of the Week

A year after Gulf oil spill, Congress is sitting on its hands


A year after the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Congress has done virtually nothing to address the issues raised by the oil spill — from industry liability limits, to regulatory reform, to coastal restoration, to broader issues of energy policy…. Alarm about an oil spill that spewed day after day, month after month, in an emotionally draining public drama, has given way to the more mundane but politically potent public panic about rising gas prices that once again puts a premium on boosting domestic production.

Rep. Edward Markey, (D-MA) marvels that, “Nearly a year after the BP blowout, and months after House Democrats passed spill safety legislation, Republicans in the House and Senate are acting as if the accident never happened. Amazingly, House Republicans are trying to pass legislation that would speed up drilling, lessen safety, and give new subsidies to oil companies while preserving billions of dollars in existing tax breaks. We should be reviewing the lessons of the BP disaster, not lessening safety review.” (More….)

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New NWF Report Forecasts Extreme Weather Impacts

Photo courtesy of Bob McMillan/FEMA

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation entitled More Extreme Weather and the U.S. Energy Infrastructure examines how climate change is increasing the incidence of extreme weather and threatening the nation’s energy infrastructure, economy, and national security.  Extreme weather events already cost the country $17 billion a year on average, the report says, and those costs are likely to rise as the nation faces more severe hurricanes, drought, heat waves and storms.

“Our hospitals, homes, and economy depend on an energy infrastructure that will be increasingly disrupted by extreme weather events related to climate change,” said Amanda Staudt, Ph.D., NWF climate scientist and author of the report.  “Now is the time for American innovation to rethink how we produce and distribute energy in a more resilient way.”

The nation can avoid the worst consequences of climate change by reducing carbon pollution and taking steps recommended in the report to prepare for anticipated impacts.

For more information, contact:

Tony Iallonardo, 202-797-6612,

More on this story: NWF Media Center

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Winners of 2011 Chill Out Competition Broadcast

Five colleges and universities and one high school from across the United States have been awarded national recognition as winners of National Wildlife Federation’s annual Chill Out: Climate Action on Campus competition. Representing about two percent of the nation’s carbon footprint (as large as an average state) and educating 19 million future world leaders each year, the nation’s colleges and universities are hotbeds for innovation to spark a clean energy revolution and produce green jobs for the U.S.

“America’s institutions of higher learning are vital in fostering leadership and innovation in new technologies and management systems for lowering greenhouse gas emissions on campuses and in their surrounding communities across the nation,” adds Kevin Coyle, Vice President for Education and Training for National Wildlife Federation. “As our society’s youth will face the harsh realities of climate change over their lifetimes, they must have a voice in tackling the challenges of their future.”

The innovative environmental thinking and leadership of the six winning teams will be celebrated this Wednesday, April 13, in NWF’s fifth annual awards webcast that can be viewed at Co-hosted by Tara Platt (voice and live-action actress) and Yuri Lowenthal (voice of Superman on CW’s Legion of Superheroes), the free program will celebrate this year’s award winners and showcase initiatives occurring on campuses across the nation.

Contact Jennifer Fournelle at 703-438-6002 or

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NWF Gives Status Update, Gulf’s Wildlife & Wetlands

As the one-year mark of the Deepwater Horizon blowout approaches, the National Wildlife Federation issued a new report today examining the health of the Gulf’s wildlife and wetlands. While some species hit hard by the Gulf oil disaster show signs of recovery, others will need the combined efforts of scientists, policymakers and regulators to recover.

“While the disaster response has focused on removing oil, little action has been taken to address the long-term species threats and wetlands habitat degradation exacerbated by the oil disaster. Much more needs to be done to ensure a complete recovery,” said NWF’s Dr. Doug Inkley. “It’s also important to remember what we don’t yet know. Previous catastrophes like the Exxon Valdez have shown that impacts of oil disasters last many years, or even decades.”

Learn more about the report at

Contact: Miles Grant, 202-797-6855 or

More on this story: NWF Media Center

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Happening this Week

Tuesday, April 12

Joint hearings to examine natural gas drilling, focusing on public health and environmental impacts, Environment and Public Works: Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, EPW Hearing Room – 406 Dirksen, 10AM

Wednesday, April 13

Environmental Impacts of Natural Disasters (an InterAction/UNA-NCA sponsored discussion), InterAction, 1616 P Street NW, Suite 210, 11 AM – 12:30 PM

April 15-18

Power Shift 2011, Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. To learn more, check out:

Back to topFor more global warming news on Wildlife Promise click here.