Climate Capsule: When the House Attacks

This week’s stories:

  1. Highlight of the Week: House Spending Bill Attacks Endangered Species, Clean Water and Clean Air
  2. Quote: Jeremy Symons, senior VP, Conservation & Education, NWF
  3. Economic Story of the Week: Light it Up
  4. Editorial of the Week: Climate Change and Disaster in Montana
  5. Yellowstone River Oil Spill Doesn’t Bode Well for Keystone XL
  6. Study: Mountaintop Removal Neighbors Risk Birth Defects
  7. BLM Exempts Acres from New Mining Claims, Promotes Solar
  8. Happening this Week

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Highlight of the Week

House Spending Bill Attacks Endangered Species, Clean Water and Clean Air

via Norbert Rossing

Leaders of the House Appropriations Committee are working to pass the fiscal year 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. According to NWF’s Adam Kolton, the bill is “riddled with special interest policy riders, pet provisions and unprecedented cuts to virtually every program that protects the air we breathe, the water we drink and the public lands and wildlife that we cherish.

Some especially concerning provisions would block the Environmental Protection Agency from curbing dangerous carbon pollution, similar to the attacks we saw in the continuing resolution legislation. Other harmful provisions would endanger the survival of countless species of wildlife, fish and plants by eliminating investments to list endangered species, block regulations of mountaintop-removal coal mining, and endanger public health by allowing coal ash to pollute groundwater.

To learn more about how appropriators are sacrificing public lands, wildlife conservation, and our health in favor of subsidizing Big Oil, click here.

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Jeremy Symons

Clearly, the legislation to rush the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline should be postponed until we know the cause of the Yellowstone River oil spill and deal with pipeline safety issues. Instead, we’re seeing Congress rush to build America’s next great oil disaster.”

Jeremy Symons, senior VP, Conservation & Education, National Wildlife Federation.

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Economic Story of the Week

Light it Up

via p. Gordon/Flickr

The House is slated to vote on H.R. 2417 this week, a measure to repeal efficiency standards for light bulbs that were enacted in 2007 with strong bipartisan support. The standards require new bulbs to use 25 to 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and are likely to encourage more energy-efficient technology.

Contrary to criticisms, the standard is not a ban on incandescent light bulbs (and would not affect consumer freedom), but rather one of many energy efficiency measures that are the cheapest and quickest ways to reduce carbon pollution. The light bulb efficiency standards will reduce pollution that harms our public health and prevent more 100 million tons of carbon pollution per year.

The lighting industry has already made significant investments to develop and produce more efficient bulbs and repealing this standard would create uncertainty and threaten jobs. The New York Times called the measure “daft and destructive” and “utterly without merit.”

Stephen Chu, secretary of Energy, has said that consumer choice will be maintained and households will see savings in their electric bills.

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Editorial of the Week

Climate Change and Disaster in Montana

(Los Angeles Times)

Everyone agrees that the two disasters — the flooding of the Yellowstone River and the oil spill in the riverbed — are connected. According to Exxon officials, the high and fast-moving river has four times its usual flow this year, which has hampered cleanup and prevented their workers from reaching the exact source of the spill….Government and company officials have also speculated that the flooding may even have caused the spill in the first place….

But here is the really uncomfortable question: Did the pipeline cause the flooding? Not this one particular pipeline, of course, but all the pipelines, and all the coal trains, and all the refineries and the power plants they supply? Was the flooding that has made the oil spill so much worse caused by the burning of oil and other fossil fuels? (More…)

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Yellowstone River Oil Spill Doesn’t Bode Well for Keystone XL

via NWF

Last week hundreds of barrels of crude oil spilled into Montana’s Yellowstone River after an Exxon Mobil pipeline beneath the riverbed ruptured. Officials are still scrambling to protect the health and safety of local communities and wildlife.

While Exxon Mobil had claimed the rupture of its Silvertip oil pipeline had only released oil for 30 minutes, federal documents now show it took 56 minutes to completely close the pipeline. And although Exxon Mobil originally estimated the oil would travel just 10 miles downstream, pools of oil have now been reported 80 miles down the Yellowstone River.

Including the Gulf oil disaster and Michigan’s Kalamazoo River oil spill, the Yellowstone River spill becomes America’s third major oil disaster in just the last 15 months. Now the oil industry wants to build a new pipeline cutting right through America’s heartland. The Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t carry just any oil – it would carry tar sands, one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) has introduced legislation (H.R. 1938) to force regulators to rush their decision on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The bill has already cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee and could reach the House floor as soon as this week.

But according to a recent report, the potential frequency and magnitude of oil spills from the tar sands oil project, as well as the consequences of worst-case spills into the Yellowstone, Missouri and Platte Rivers and atop the Ogallala Aquifer, are far worse than the Canadians are letting on. Analysis of the report indicates that, “A worst-case scenario spill from the proposed Keystone XL pipeline into the Platte River in Nebraska would form a plume of oil that could extend more than 450 miles, contaminating drinking water for people as far away as Kansas City, MO and threatening wildlife habitat.”

You can take action and tell the Obama Administration to reject Keystone XL.

More on this story: NY Times, Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Star Journal, Huffington Post

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Study: Mountaintop Removal Neighbors Risk Birth Defects

Mountaintop Removal in Kentucky,

Folks living near mountaintop removal mining operations may be at greater risk for birth defects according to a new study by West Virginia University (WVU) researchers. Co-author Michael Hendryx said, “Research related to infants has found that mothers residing in coal mining areas are more likely to have a low birth weight infant. This study extends that research, showing that mountaintop mining areas are associated with elevated levels of birth defect prevalence rates.”

Mountaintop removal mining is a destructive technique for extracting coal that destroys mountains, forests, wildlife, water and the way of life for people who live near the operation. As the WVU study reveals, the process can also have a terrible impact on babies, the next generation of West Virginians who will see the Mountain State with fewer mountains, greater pollution and potentially more health problems.

H.R. 2018, the Dirty Waters Bill, could make mountaintop removal mining even dirtier by gutting the Clean Water Act. Click here to tell lawmakers to protect our future, our health and our precious natural resources from pollution.

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BLM Exempts Acres from New Mining Claims, Promotes Solar

Desert Solar Panels, via Winam/Flickr

The Bureau of Land Management announced it is setting aside 677,000 acres of lands in the Southwest from future mining claims to promote renewable solar power development.

The temporary two-year segmentation is working to prevent new speculative mining claims from derailing proposed solar farm applications in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

According to BLM spokeswoman Megan Crandall they are “trying to facilitate renewable energy generation.” BLM said it is identifying which lands are most suitable for commercial-scale solar development and have limited conflicts with wildlife or other resources and land uses.

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Happening this Week

Tuesday, July 12

Markup of EPA and Interior appropriations bill, Appropriations Committee, 9AM, 2359 Rayburn
Hearing on renewable energy legislation, Energy and Natural Resources, 10 AM, 366 Dirksen
Markup of TRAIN Act and coal ash bill, Pt. 2, House Energy and Commerce, 10AM, 2123 Rayburn

Wednesday, July 13

Markup of bills to accelerate development of renewable energy, oil and gas and minerals, Natural Resources, 10AM, 1324 Longworth

Thursday, July 14

Hearing on regulations and job creation, Energy and Commerce, 9 AM, 2322 Rayburn
Markup of energy bills, Energy and Natural Resources, 10 AM, 366 Dirksen
Hearing on pipeline safety, Transportation and Infrastructure, 10 AM, 2167 Rayburn
Hearing on Appalachian mining permits, Oversight Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, 1:30 PM, 2154 Rayburn

Friday, July 15

Hearing on the American Energy Initiative, Energy and Commerce, 9:30 AM, 2322 Rayburn

Coming Soon…
Wednesday, July 19

Farm Bill Energy Title: Rural Energy for America Program, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, 10-11:30 AM & 2 – 3:30 PM, 188 Russell Senate Office Building

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For more global warming news on Wildlife Promise click here.