Climate Capsule: Clean Air Act, Tool to Tackle Climate

Happy Summer Solstice from the Climate Capsule!

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week:  Supreme Court Rules on Climate Science
  2. Quote: Jeremy Symons, NWF Senior VP, Conservation & Education
  3. Economic Story of the Week: Regional cap-and-trade systems to thrive
  4. Editorial of the Week: A.E.P. Protests Too Much
  5. Business Solutions for Climate Resilience
  6. ALA Poll shows support for EPA and Stronger Smog Standards
  7. Senate says No to Ethanol Subsidies
  8. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

Supreme Court Rules on Climate Science

via wallyg/Flickr

The Supreme Court has ruled in American Electric Power v. Connecticut that six states cannot, for now, try to limit carbon pollution from some of our nation’s dirtiest coal power plants under federal common law. But the decision “also revealed a significant shift in the views of the Court’s conservative justices on climate science and potential solutions for how the U.S. can tackle the problem,” said Joe Mendelson, global warming policy director for the National Wildlife Federation.

The new ruling strongly reiterates the 2007 ruling of Massachusetts v. EPA that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act and adds that “Congress delegated to EPA the decision whether and how to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants.” The Court focuses on this as the rationale for foreclosing Connecticut’s attempted use of federal common law to abate the carbon nuisance created by AEP’s coal-fired power plants. In joining the Court’s reasoning, “Roberts and Scalia have flipped over to a confirmation that the Clean Air Act is a tool to tackle climate,” said Mendelson.

The new opinion also reaffirms the EPA’s scientific findings that climate change is real and has significant impacts on the country. Justice Ginsburg recalled that after the ruling in Massachusetts the EPA went back and made its determination that man-made carbon pollution contributes to climate change impacts including increases in heat-related deaths, coastal inundation and erosion from melting ice caps, more frequent and intense hurricanes, and shifts in drought and rain patterns.

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Jeremy Symons

“The first thing to know about this dangerous and unnecessary tar sludge pipeline is that it’s more than just a disaster for wildlife or a disaster for clean water…It’s about climate change… It’s also a disaster for consumers who are already paying high gas prices at the pump. At a time where our gas prices are already high, you have oil companies cooking up a new scheme that will raise gas prices in the Midwest.”

Jeremy Symons, NWF Senior VP, Conservation & Education on E&E TV regarding the proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline.

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Economic Story of the Week

Regional cap-and-trade systems to thrive

via NWF

Carbon market experts and emissions trading proponents are confidently predicting that regional cap-and-trade systems will continue to grow in the U.S. and Canada. In spite of the recent announcement of New Jersey’s departure from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the nine other member states still remain strongly committed to the program’s success.

Additional trends in the western United States and Canada suggest that RGGI is encouraging a move toward mandatory cap-and-trade programs in several states and provinces, experts say. The emissions trading program in California, for example, is set to become the next government-regulated carbon market in North America. Once in place, it will ease the transition for other states and provinces.

Observers recognize RGGI for demonstrating a model other systems can follow, through the efficient allocation of emissions allowances by auction, with transparent system oversight and minimal disruption to the power markets. Regionally based approaches may continue to emerge throughout North America and maybe eventually unify as a comprehensive framework.

“I am increasingly a believer that what will happen in the U.S. is that we will have a bottom-up development of a series of regional programs which will eventually form a significant and nationwide” cap-and-trade program, says David Hunter, U.S. director of the International Emissions Trading Association.

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Editorial of the Week

A.E.P. Protests Too Much

(NY Times)

American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest utilities, warned last week that new air quality rules could force it to “prematurely” shut down about two dozen big coal-fired units and fire hundreds of workers. This is a deceptive and particularly cynical claim. The utility is making a business decision that has little to do with the rules…Blaming the rules is a transparent scare tactic designed to weaken the administration’s resolve while playing to industry supporters on Capitol Hill.

Fortunately, Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, which proposed the rules, refuses to be bullied. Ms. Jackson called the A.E.P. charges “misleading at best” and made clear she would not retreat from her statutory duty to protect public health. (More…)

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Business Solutions for Climate Resilience

According to a new report, Adapting for a Green Economy: Companies, Communities and Climate Change, jointly released by the UN Global Compact, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Oxfam and the World Resources Institute businesses worldwide can achieve competitive advantages through climate adaptation strategies.

According to the report, more than 4 out of 5 companies believe climate change poses a risk to their business. The global survey reported that 86 percent of businesses described responding the climate risks as a business opportunity.

“Businesses are facing increasing challenges from the rise in extreme weather events — such as droughts, heat waves and floods,” said Manish Bapna, managing director, WRI. “In this changing environment, companies that move first to address the risks and develop innovative strategies to adapt to climate change are likely to be the winners and gain a competitive advantage moving forward.”

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ALA Poll shows support for EPA and Stronger Smog Standards

LA Smog circa 1965 via Metro Transportation/Flickr

New data released from a bipartisan survey conducted by the American Lung Association indicates that Americans are greatly supportive of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and their efforts to update and strengthen rules on life-threatening air pollutants such as smog.

The poll reports that 75 percent of voters support the EPA setting stricter limits on smog, rather than Congress. A significant majority of voters reject the idea that stronger standards will hinder economic recovery, while most agree that updated standards will spur innovation and investment in new technologies that will also lead to job creation.

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Senate says No to Ethanol Subsidies

via Brave Heart/Flickr

In a landmark 73-23 vote, the Senate passed an amendment to end the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and remove the protectionist tariff for corn ethanol. Because oil companies are already mandated under the Renewable Fuels Standard to blend ethanol, this funding is duplicative and no longer needed to support ethanol production.

The decision indicates that farm-state support for corn ethanol has conflicted with efforts to balance the budget. At an estimated annual cost to taxpayers of $4-6 billion a year, disposing of this tax credit will help control deficit spending without hindering the development of advanced biofuels as a renewable energy source. The House also voted to prohibit federal funding of expensive blender pumps and storage tanks for ethanol.

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Happening this Week

Tuesday, June 21

Briefing: Transatlantic Perspectives on Shale Gas Development, 2PM – 3:30 PM, 334 Cannon House Office Building

Wednesday, June 22

Hearing: Examining NOAA’s Climate Service Proposal, House Science, Space, and Technology, 10 AM, 2318 Rayburn

Thursday, June 23

Hearing on hydropower and electricity bills H.R.461, H.R.795, H.R.2060, House Natural Resources Committee, 10 AM, 1324 Longworth

Hearing on renewable energy bills H.R.2170, H.R.2171, H.R.2172, and H.R.2173, House Natural Resources Committee , 10 AM, 1334 Longworth

Hearings on regional energy and water bills, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, 2:30 PM, 366 Dirksen

Saturday, June 25

Hands Across the Sand, a demonstration against offshore drilling and for clean energy. 11:30AM, The White House, Washington, DC (Pennsylvania Ave side)

Great American Backyard Campout, Anytime on June 25th or another convenient day, your backyard or favorite campsite.

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