Climate Capsule: Kids Sue While Congress Squabbles

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: Showdown: Drill Bills vs. Billions in Tax Perks
  2. Quote: Ken Salazar, Interior Secretary
  3. Economic Story of the Week: Pain at the Pump, Who’s to Blame?
  4. Editorial of the Week: The Return of ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’
  5. Kids Sue Govt for Failing to Win the Future
  6. Climate Crisis Fuels Historic Floods
  7. MD To Sue Over Fracking Spill
  8. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

Showdown: Drill Bills vs. Billions in Tax Perks

Oil rig, Cromarty Firth,

After weeks of debate over high gas prices, and just a year after the Gulf oil disaster, the House passed the first of a series of pro-offshore drilling bills that would drastically expand offshore drilling. H.R. 1230  forces the Department of the Interior to offer four new lease sales and removes basic environmental protections.

Additional votes are expected this week on HR 1229, which would give DOI no more than 60 days to review offshore drilling permits, and HR 1231 which would open waters off California, Alaska and much of the Atlantic Coast to drilling.

Senate leadership, however, are working to bring legislation to the floor that would eliminate billions in tax subsidies for the world’s five largest Big Oil companies.

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via Flickr, DOI

I don’t have amnesia, and neither does the president. And much of the legislation that I have seen being bandied around…is almost as if the Deepwater Horizon Macondo well incident never happened.”

-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, on amnesia about the BP oil disaster.

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Economic Story of the Week

Pain at the Pump, Who’s to Blame?

Ohio is set to build the first offshore wind farm in the Great Lakes

A Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll released new data on where Americans feeling pain at the pump are pointing their finger. The nationwide average price of regular gasoline rose to within a penny and half of $4 a gallon, the highest it’s been this time of year since 1990.

About one in three blame the combination of greed, speculation and oil companies. One in five say prices have increased as a result of wars and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Nearly one in eight thinks it’s something political or policy-related. A similar proportion think it’s related to economic factors.

Clean energy initiatives across the country could reduce our dependence on gasoline. Cleveland-based Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) is ready to start construction on the first offshore wind farm in the Great Lakes. LEEDCo is hopeful that the demonstration will jump-start a freshwater wind industry across the Midwest while also bringing wind turbine manufacturing jobs to Ohio. The New York Power Authority is looking to follow their lead.

More on this story: Washington Post

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Editorial of the Week

The Return of ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’

(NY Times)

With the country again facing $4-a-gallon gasoline, the time would seem ripe for a grown-up conversation on energy. What we are getting instead is a mindless rerun of the drill-baby-drill operatics of the 2008 campaign….Then, as now, opportunistic politicians insisted that vastly expanded oil drilling would bring relief at the pump and reduced dependence on foreign oil. Then, as now, these arguments were bogus.

As President Obama observed in a March 30 address on energy issues, drilling alone cannot possibly ensure energy independence in a country that uses one-quarter of the world’s oil while owning only 2 percent of its reserves….Only coordinated measures — greater auto efficiency, alternative fuels, improved mass transit — can address these issues. (More…)

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Kids Sue Government for Failing to Win the Future

via iMatter March

Though they may be too young to vote, young climate activists are using their right to legal action to force federal and state governments to curb carbon pollution. In 52 lawsuits and petitions filed by attorneys representing children and teens across the country, a youth coalition called Our Children’s Trust invoke the public trust doctrine, which dates back to Roman times, claiming that key agencies failed in their duty to protect the earth’s atmosphere as a public trust for future generations.

The youth are also conducting a series of marches and demonstrations across the U.S. and internationally. The iMatter March and the folks behind it, make the point that today’s generation of leaders should act as trustees for future generations instead of largely ignoring the problem and simply passing it on to those who will have to live with the consequences.

These new suits are analogous to a current Supreme Court case that’s being revisited. Several states and land trusts filed ‘nuisance’ lawsuits against the five largest utility companies in the country, claiming the pollution generated are causing harm to people’s health and the environment. In both cases the plaintiffs are “trying to use all the available options in view of the failure of Congress” to act on carbon pollution, according to Columbia University’s Center for Climate Change Law director, Michael B. Gerrard.

More on this story: NY Times, Wildlife Promise

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Climate Crisis Fuels Historic Floods

via Flickr, Natalie Maynor

The Mississippi River is experiencing its second “500-year flood” since 1993. That’s no freak occurrence – it’s a result of man-made carbon pollution changing our climate. “All extreme weather events are now subject to human influence,” said Dr. Peter Gleick, a climate & water scientist and president of the Pacific Institute, at a Capitol Hill briefing on Monday organized by the American Meteorological Society.

Flooding like the Mississippi River is seeing in 2011 used to be considered extremely unusual. But thanks to the climate crisis, floods are becoming more frequent and more severe over much of the Mississippi River basin. Just this week it the river rose to its highest level in nearly 75 years, inundating neighborhoods and acres of farmland and evacuating about 1,350 homes.

Dr. Gleick told the AMS briefing that increasing temperatures aren’t necessarily leading to more frequent rainfall events, but the climate crisis IS leading to more intense rainfall events. We’re seeing the same number of storms, but the ones we do see are more likely to be the kind that cause severe flooding. And that’s pushing our flood control system to a breaking point.

More on this story: WSJ, Wildlife Promise

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MD To Sue Over Fracking Spill

Maryland State Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced plans to sue the company whose gas well ruptured in Pennsylvania, spilling fracking fluids into a fresh water tributary that feeds the Susquehanna River and eventually the Chesapeake Bay.

While a company spokesman claims the April 19 spill had limited environmental impact, Gansler plans to sue Chesapeake Energy Corp for violating federal anti-pollution laws.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has appointed a panel to study hydraulic fracturing, the fast-growing method of natural gas extraction to make recommendations on how it can be done more cleanly and safely.

More on this story: CBS Baltimore, NY Times

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Happening this Week

Tuesday, May 10

Hearing: “to receive testimony on new developments in upstream oil and gas technologies,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, SD-366

Wednesday, May 11

Hearing: Hydraulic Fracturing Technology, House Science Committee, 10AM-2PM, 2318 Rayburn

Thursday, May 12

“Oil and Gas Tax Incentives and Rising Energy Prices”, Senate Committee on Finance, 10AM, 215 Dirksen

Hearing: to receive testimony on carbon capture and sequestration, Senate Energy and Natural Resources, 9:30 AM Dirksen 366

Hearing on Hydropower, House Subcommittee on Water and Power, 10AM, 1334 Longworth

Friday, May 13

The House Energy and Commerce Committee meets to review legislation that would streamline Clean Air Act permitting for offshore drilling operations. Rayburn 2322 at 9 a.m.

The House Natural Resources Committee questions Interior Department officials on “roadblocks” to wind and solar development on federal lands and waters. Longworth 1324 at 10 a.m.

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