The Dernogalizer

September 21, 2009

Why EPA Authority is Overblown

The Washington Post’s editorial today titled “Regulating Carbon” is actually spot on.  I’ve lamented before that maintaining EPA Authority to regulate CO2 is an overblown priority of environmental organizations which would be better replaced with increased advocacy for stronger emissions reductions targets.  The reality is that it isn’t worth trying to keep EPA Authority in Federal Climate Legislation if you end up killing the bill because of it.  In my opinion, it’s all but impossible to keep it in the final bill because Congress will want the ball in its court, and it will play the game of checks and balances and take regulating CO2 out of the hands of the executive branch as much as it can.  Far more effective for the climate would be to pass a bill similar to, but preferably stronger than the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House in June.  EPA Authority is a useful bargaining chip to use for concessions, so it will be good if the draft version of the Senate bill restores it(whereas the House bill eliminated it).  However, it’s not the be all end all, and Democratic leaders will sacrifice it on the Senate floor or in conference committee between the House and the Senate over the final version of the bill.    Best excerpt from the editorial is below.

“The Clean Air Act, in other words, is breathtakingly unsuited to the great task of battling global warming. It would provide no economy-wide and declining cap on carbon, no market signal to industry or clean-energy investors that could spark innovation and greater efficiencies. There would be a thicket of red tape and regulations but nowhere near the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of the Waxman-Markey bill, let alone those called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

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September 15, 2009

Youth Poll: Intense Support for Climate Legislation

Not that it should be any surprise that young people want climate action.

New National Youth Poll Shows Strong Support for

Comprehensive Clean Energy & Climate Plan

Youth Show Intense Interest in Senate Action on Climate, Clean Energy

(Washington, D.C.)— The Clean Energy Works campaign today released a new national poll of American youth that underscores their strong support for comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation.  The poll also reveals that youth are demanding a voice on energy and environmental issues and are paying attention to what Washington is doing on issues they view as top priorities requiring urgent action.

“The results of this poll are crystal clear,” said Joel Benenson, President of Benenson Strategy Group and pollster for the Clean Energy Works campaign.  “Younger voters are intensely passionate about energy and environmental issues, very strongly support the comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation now working its way through Congress, and are ready and willing to hold our leaders accountable for their votes on the plan.”

“Poll after poll shows that the American public strongly backs comprehensive clean energy legislation,” said Maura Cowley, Clean Energy Works campaign youth coordinator.  “This latest poll shows that America’s youth—regardless of their party affiliation—stand strongly behind the president’s clean energy agenda and are now looking to Congress for urgent action.  It’s time for the Senate to act on a clean energy and climate plan that delivers more jobs, less pollution, and greater security.”

A summary of the poll’s key findings appears below.  A full memo on the poll’s findings is available online at: http://www.bsgco.com/releases/ACES_Release.pdf

Energy Independence & Environmental Issues A Top Priority

  • After education, investing in renewable energy and protecting our environment emerge as the most important issues for youth when deciding whether or not to reelect their Senator.
  • Similarly, 68% say “investing in renewable energy to create new jobs” should be an important priority for their Senator to address and 63% say “reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil” should be (both 6+7 on 7-point scale).

Extremely Strong Support for Comprehensive Clean Energy & Climate Legislation

  • Youth show intense and widespread support for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), with 75% saying they support the bill and only 14% opposing it.
  • Support for this bill largely transcends party lines:
    • Democrats: 87% support/3% oppose
    • Independents: 76% support/14% oppose
    • Republicans: 58% support/30% oppose

Senator’s Vote on ACES Would Be Meaningful Factor in Re-election

  • About two-thirds will reward Senators who vote in favor of the bill and make Senators pay for a “no” vote.
    • 69% say they would be more likely to re-elect their Senator if he or she votes for the bill (just 19% would be less likely to re-elect).
    • 65% say they would be less likely to re-elect a Senator who votes against it (just 22% would be more likely).
  • Independents and even Republicans would punish a “no” vote:
    • 75% of Democrats would be less likely to re-elect a Senator who voted against the bill.
    • 66% of Independents would be less likely to re-elect.
    • 48% of Republicans would be less likely to re-elect.
  • Youth are vehement about holding their Senators accountable for campaign promises they made to support Obama’s plan to pass clean energy legislation, with 89% agreeing that “if a U.S. Senator promised in last year’s election to support President Obama’s plan to pass clean energy laws that create jobs and address climate change, he or she should be held to that promise now.”

The Benenson Strategy Group conducted 601 interviews nationwide with registered voters age 18-29 who are likely to vote in the 2010 U.S. Congressional elections.  All interviews were conducted between August 25-29, 2009 by telephone, using a sample of registered voters.  The total data set has a margin of error of ± 4.00% at the 95% confidence level, and it is larger among subgroups.

A full memo on the poll’s findings is available online at:
http://www.bsgco.com/releases/ACES_Release.pdf
About Clean Energy Works

Clean Energy Works is an unprecedented grassroots coalition of more than 65 faith, labor, veterans, environmental, sportsmen, farm, business, youth, community, and other groups representing more than 12 million Americans.  The campaign is mobilizing the voices of the millions of Americans who want urgent action on a comprehensive clean energy and climate plan that delivers more jobs, less pollution, and greater security.

For more information, please visit: www.cleanenergyworks.us

# # #

September 4, 2009

UMD for Clean Energy Media Hits

My student group had quite a few hits in the media recently, all of which I’m linking and excerpting from below.

Letter in the Washington Post:  here

“On Aug. 28, The Post and ABC News released a poll showing that proponents of a climate bill are winning. Americans support the proposed changes to U.S. energy policy by Congress and the Obama administration 57 percent to 29 percent. That’s almost a 2-to-1 margin.”

Letter in the Gazette:  here

“Right now, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin is playing a key role on the Environment and Public Works Committee in drafting the Senate legislation. I urge residents who want our country to produce more clean energy and less pollution to call Sen. Cardin and demand he support a strong bill.”

Media Director’s Op-Ed in the Diamondback:  here

“There will be a lot of politicking and lobbying by special interests in the coming months on the Senate legislation.  It’s important that state residents and students make their voices heard by contacting our two senators, Ben Cardin (D) and Barbara Mikulski (D). We need to demand a stronger bill that reduces emissions faster, produces more clean energy, and invests more in developing clean energy technologies in America, not China.  Better, faster, stronger.”

Joint-written article on Green for College Park Campaign:  here

“This upcoming fall, we’ve decided to get involved in the College Park City Council elections, which take place November 3rd. Why now? At the state level, policies and programs such as the Maryland global warming bill, Empower Maryland, the Renewable Electricity Standard, and renewable energy tax credits are underway or will be soon. At the same time, the federal government is spending record amounts of money on clean energy and energy efficiency, and could soon pass a global warming bill that will drive hundreds of billions of dollars worth of public and private investment into clean energy and energy efficiency over the next decade. In the next 10 years, expect to see money, business investment, and the jobs that come with it raining down on Maryland. Where is it all going to land? We think the areas that benefit the most will be the ones out in front and in the lead on clean energy and low carbon technology policy. Unfortunately, neither Prince George’s County nor College Park is leading. We think we’re way behind, especially compared to Montgomery County. We want College Park to step up and be the gold standard in the county on this front. We’re aiming to not only improve our town, but set an example for other municipalities, and ultimately the county. We want to push low-carbon investment in College Park, and create green jobs in Prince George’s County.”

Green for College Park mentioned in Washington Post blog:  here(see bottom)

U of M Students Vow to Shake Up College Park City Council Race
The politically astute UMD for Clean Energy says it plans to form a dedicated voting bloc of hundreds of students — a reasonable goal for a campus of 30,000 and a powerful number in a city where 1,000 votes elected council members in the last election.
We’ve decided to get involved in the College Park City Council elections,” write students Matt Dernoga and Kenny Frankel in a letter to Maryland Politics Watch.
“Why now? At the state level, policies and programs such as the Maryland global warming bill, Empower Maryland, the Renewable Electricity Standard and renewable energy tax credits are underway or will be soon. At the same time, the federal government is spending record amounts of money on clean energy. … We think we’re way behind, especially compared to Montgomery County. We want College Park to step up and be the gold standard in the county. … We want to push low-carbon investment in College Park, and create green jobs in Prince George’s County.”
For the record, the group says it’s not out for a “students versus the residents” race. “If there are student candidates, we’ll make them earn our vote…”

Our Letter to Ben Cardin was linked to in the Washington Post blog: here

ENERGY ON CLEAN ENERGY
UMD for Clean Energy, a highly-motivated group of college students working to influence state and federal energy policy, says it delivered a letter to U.S. Sen Benjamin L. Cardin, with new ideas about clean energy investment.”

EPA Reminds Senate to Move it

Now, I actually think the EPA’s ability to regulate CO2 from it’s endangerment finding is overblown and years off at best, but a lot of people, activists, and politicians disagree and think the EPA will regulate if Congress doesn’t pass cap and trade legislation.  So, from that standpoint the Obama Administration should continue giving off signs like this that the Senate and it’s swing vote Senators better get moving on this.

EPA Climate Rules Gain Significance Given Doubts Over Senate Action

CarbonControlNews.com, September 2, 2009 — EPA’s effort to quickly finalize first-time Clean Air Act greenhouse gas (GHG) rules for vehicles and stationary sources are gaining greater significance given efforts by industry and some activists to block Senate consideration of the House-passed climate cap-and-trade bill, which if successful would ensure an EPA climate regulatory regime.

While the climate debate has previously centered on congressional efforts, the agency’s recent submission for White House review of its proposed vehicle GHG rules and a separate proposal to require GHG limits in some air permits is attracting growing attention. The focus on the agency’s work is due largely to rising doubts about the Democrats’ ability to reach an agreement on a climate measure before the end of the year.

Industry groups and opponents of climate regulations are already stepping up their push against EPA’s two recent proposals. For example, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is warning that the agency’s plan to issue GHG permit limits only for those sources that emit 25,000 tons per year (tpy) or more of GHGs would be illegal under the Clean Air Act, which requires the pollutant limit to be set at 250 tpy.

Industry interests have already led efforts to insert provisions in the climate legislation to bar EPA from regulating GHGs, while environmentalists and state officials are urging Congress to strip such provisions from the bill, with some saying that if lawmakers keep the measures then they should abandon the bill.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said the agency will regulate GHGs if Congress fails to pass a bill, but that she would prefer legislative action. That has been seen by climate bill backers as a possible boost for their efforts due to the belief that oil and coal companies that previously opposed climate legislation would endorse a cap-and-trade measure rather than endure mandatory GHG limits through a Clean Air Act regulatory regime.

Alternatively, the fact that EPA is aggressively pursuing its GHG regulatory proposals could weaken the urgency for congressional action because it shows there will be climate controls even if Congress fails to act.

Delays in the Senate schedule combined with strong opposition from some industrial sectors and tepid support from environmentalists, who oppose many of the industry-friendly provisions in the House-passed bill, are enhancing the visibility and importance of the EPA rulemaking actions.

EPA, unlike Congress, has a relatively clear and straightforward path to regulating GHGs, absent the political speed bumps and feuding factions that so far have marked the floundering effort to get a cap-and-trade bill introduced in the Senate—though any final EPA climate rules would likely be challenged in lawsuits brought by industry opponents of climate limits, or activists if they think the rules are too weak.

EPA is expected to take a “command and control” approach to limiting GHGs because the agency is unable to implement a cap-and-trade program without new legislation. The agency’s ability to establish trading programs for air pollutants is also in doubt following U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rulings vacating the Bush EPA’s trading rule for cutting mercury emissions and remanding its clean air interstate rule designed to cut nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution from power plants in Eastern states.

The agency has submitted to the White House Office of Management & Budget its proposal to regulate vehicle GHGs under the Clean Air Act and is expected to finalize its climate endangerment finding that would trigger such rules within the next month or so. Both of those actions were prompted by a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that EPA has the authority and obligation under the existing air act to address GHG emissions.

The agency has also sent over to the White House for review its proposal expected to establish a 25,000 tpy threshold for requiring GHG limits in some air act permits for stationary sources.

Regulation A ‘Virtual Certainty’

Former Bush EPA General Counsel Roger Martella—now a lawyer with the firm Sidley Austin—said in a recent presentation that EPA efforts to regulate GHGs are a “virtual certainty,” unlike congressional action. EPA likely will have its vehicle GHG rule finalized by March 2010, triggering rules for virtually every other sector of the economy under various air act provisions.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is attempting to slow progress on at least the agency’s finding that GHGs endanger public health and welfare with a petition filed earlier this summer calling for EPA to hold an “on-the-record hearing” on the science supporting the endangerment finding, a move that further demonstrates industry’s growing concerns about an EPA-only strategy to federal climate policies.

EPA has signaled that it will deny the request, likely concurrent with issuing the final endangerment finding, and that rejection is expected to draw a lawsuit from the Chamber, although legal experts say that effort is unlikely to significantly slow the agency’s efforts because the agency can proceed with the notice and comment period on the vehicle rules while any court case proceeds.

Environmentalists and industry interests generally prefer cap-and-trade for addressing climate change because experts believe it would allow emissions reductions to be achieved at lower costs, as companies can purchase excess carbon credits or emission offsets on a regulated market.

However, efforts to craft a cap-and-trade bill seem to have stalled in the Senate, and observers are generally unable to identify a clear path to the 60 votes necessary for such legislation to overcome procedural hurdles.

While some big companies joined the push for a climate bill, through their participation in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the largest industry organizations—such as the chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity—are loudly criticizing the House-passed legislation with studies arguing it would damage the economy, rallies intended to demonstrate public opposition and other lobbying efforts.

No Consensus From Environmentalists

Meanwhile, environmental organizations have struggled to find consensus on the best legislative approach, with a split emerging before the House vote earlier this summer between groups that were content to back a bill despite the compromises that were necessary to pass it through the industry-friendly energy committee, and those that felt it was too compromised by giveaways to be effective.

A coalition of left-leaning environmental, social-justice and faith-based organizations Sept. 1 unveiled a new effort to defeat a Senate bill if it hews too closely to the House’s American Clean Energy and Security Act. The organizations—which include the Eco-Justice Collaborative, Carbon Tax Center and Progressive Democrats of America—say enacting the House bill would be worse than doing nothing at all.

Larger environmental groups remain generally supportive of the House climate bill overall, but they are pushing for modifications in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Among their top priorities are restoring EPA authority under the Clean Air Act to consider GHG emissions in new source review and other proceedings. Environmentalists have said they are optimistic that Boxer will restore those provisions, although other observers say such modifications could act as poison pills that would lead too many industry-friendly lawmakers to oppose the measure on the Senate floor.

There are growing doubts that the Senate will vote on a cap-and-trade bill this year. Boxer and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) announced Aug. 31 they would be further delaying release of their legislation, which had been expected next week but now is not expected to be unveiled until the end of the month. The senators cited the longer-than-expected debate over health care reform and the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, among other reasons for the delay.

Some observers still expect the upcoming EPA action will reshape the Senate debate and motivate lawmakers to commit to finding a compromise, although the dwindling number of legislative days remaining in the year—especially in light of the latest delay—have raised doubts that a floor vote is possible this year. Climate bill supporters have said they want to see a vote before December, when the Obama administration will join representatives from nearly 200 countries in Copenhagen to negotiate a new climate treaty.

September 3, 2009

Steady Support for Clean Energy Bill

I think this poll by Politico which looks at how the public in swing states feels about the American Clean Energy and Security Act is very revealing in how much popular support the measure has.  Notable excerpts below.

“In a poll obtained by POLITICO of likely 2010 voters in 16 states, many of them home to targeted senators, 63 percent of those sampled said they supported the energy bill while only 30 percent said they opposed the measure.

Further, 60 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for their senator if he or she supported the bill while just 26 percent said they’d be less inclined to re-elect their senator for backing the “American Clean Energy and Security Act.”

“Respondents were best persuaded by an America-first national security argument – the notion that “over-reliance on oil from hostile nations hurts economy, helps enemies, and puts security at risk.”

Also effective in selling the bill was portraying the opposition as villains — special interests like “big oil” who are making the country less secure by opposing energy reform.”

“It was conducted in Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Nevada, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia”


August 26, 2009

Swedish Clean Tech Company Comes to Maryland

While the Chamber of Commerce is busy trying to put global warming on trial (also see here), today is a day of good news when it comes to clean energy companies setting up shop in the US because of our increasingly favorable green business climate.  I already wrote earlier today about the NY Times story where wind jobs were outsourced to the US for a change that not only can transitioning to a clean energy economy address global warming, but it does in fact mean a lot of green jobs.

Now I have a story that hits a little closer to home in Maryland, where a Swedish bioenergy company called Swebo Bioenergy International is setting up an office in Annapolis in the fall, and will move production operations there soon thereafter.

“Swebo Bioenergy International, which develops equipment for heating and electricity production using waste fuels, plans to open a Maryland office in the fall and hire three people to begin operations here, said Mattias Lindgren, a Swebo managing director who will head U.S. operations.   Production operations will follow shortly and will result in hiring 15 to 20 more people, Lindgren said in a phone interview fromSweden.”

Those are real green jobs benefiting my state.  Why might they be coming here?

“During the visit, Johansson and the governor met with Sweden’s top clean-tech companies, whose goals are aligned with the state’s pro-environmental policies. O’Malley invited the firms to visit Maryland, and Swebo toured Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore earlier this month”

‘Swebo also considered Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Massachusetts, Lindgren said.”

I wouldn’t call all of our policies pro-environment, we’re pretty terrible when it comes to smart growth, but at least regarding energy we have a strong renewable electricity standard, a recently passed a global warming bill, and the Empower Maryland energy efficiency initiative.  If you’re a clean energy business, Maryland is one of the better states to go to because our these commitments  amongst others.

Interestingly, this business investment and these green jobs are landing in Congressman Frank Kratovil’s district.  Frank Kratovil was one of the blue dog democrats who voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and has been catching a lot of fire for it.  If a Federal climate bill like ACES(preferably stronger) is passed into law, Kratovil’s district is going to see more companies like Swebo provide jobs and add to the tax base.  I think the Kratovil office would be smart to highlight Swebo next election when they have to defend their ACES vote.

I’ll close where I started, with the US Chamber of Commerce thinking they know what’s best for business.  A letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun said it all.

“Instead of creating hot air over the science of global warming, American businesses need to discover the many benefits of transitioning to a clean energy economy (“U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants public trial before EPA statement on climate change,” Aug. 25). Businesses all around the country should be fighting for incentives for clean energy and energy efficiency in the Senate’s upcoming energy bill, not threatening suit over well-established scientific consensus.

There’s never been a more important time to repower America with clean energy. Businesses can put us back to work manufacturing, selling, installing and servicing wind turbines, solar panels and other sources of clean power. Transitioning to clean energy would not only create jobs, it would help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save businesses and consumers money. A recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists found that transitioning to clean energy would cut costs in the Mid-Atlantic region by $1,120 per household annually and save consumers and businesses a total of $36 billion annually in 2030.

In Maryland, investment in renewables can lead the charge toward a revitalized economy and a great monetary savings for businesses and consumers, not to mention reduced carbon emissions. Rather than grasping onto today’s failing energy agenda, businesses should work to pass a strong Senate energy bill that helps them transition to smart, clean energy policies.Shea Kinser, Baltimore The writer is Clean Energy Associate for Environment Maryland”

August 20, 2009

UMD for Clean Energy Letter to Ben Cardin

The University of Maryland student activist group I am currently campaign director of is called UMD for Clean Energy.  In the past year we’ve worked on getting thousands of Powervote pledges, collaborated with state environmental groups to pass a state global warming bill with the strongest short term greenhouse emissions target in the country, and our most recent accomplishments were organizing(with other groups) a 300 person clean energy Town Hall meeting for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer(whose floor debate remarks are incredible), and bringing together students statewide to help turn Maryland Congressman Frank Kratovil’s swing vote on ACES into a yes vote.  Our close proximity to DC gives us plenty of opportunities to lobby and have a strong presence on Federal legislation.

This past Tuesday, we delivered a letter to our Senator Ben Cardin’s office in a visit a couple of our members made to DC to meet with Cardin’s office as well as Senator Barbara Mikulski’s. The letter outlined what our group feels should be prioritized regarding improvements in the drafting of Senate legislation over the House climate bill .  Although we know we have Ben Cardin’s vote, he is playing a important role on the Environment and Public Works Committee in drafting the Senate bill, and in marking it up.  We would like to see the part of the bill that comes out of the EPW committee be as strong as possible, and feel that there can be improvements since the make up of the committee is fairly progressive and full of East and West coast Democrats who states are not particularly coal dependent.  Letter is below, and was signed by our elected officers.

The Honorable Ben Cardin

United States Senate

509 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington DC 20510

Dear Senator Cardin,

Our student group UMD for Clean Energy has met with you and your office multiple times.  Every time we have discussed climate legislation and clean energy, we’ve been impressed with your commitment to a strong climate bill.  As you know, in June the House passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and now it is up for the Senate to act.  Although the bill does some good things and we supported its passage in the House, there are several areas that we feel can be improved.  Your position on the Environment and Public Works Committee in drafting the Senate bill is an opportunity to get stronger legislation onto the Senate floor.  There are four main priorities we urge you to advocate for in the committee and in the floor debate.

The short term emissions target of a 17% reduction below 2005 levels by 2020 is the weakest part of the bill.  The science tells us that 25-40% below 1990 levels is needed to avert catastrophic climate change.  Additionally, a 17% target makes agreeing on a global treaty in Copenhagen quite difficult, and getting a strong treaty all but impossible.  The 2020 target must move in the direction of the science to make America a leader so that we have the leverage we need to pressure other countries to do more.

Before compromises were made, the House legislation had a 25% Renewable Electricity Standard(RES), and a 15% energy efficiency standard.  This was watered down to a 20% RES.  We know there is a much greater potential in renewable sources to meet our energy supply, especially regarding efficiency improvements.  Please push for a more ambitious RES that matches our capability and ingenuity.

Another compromise reached in the House was that the USDA was made responsible for overseeing domestic agricultural offsets, instead of the EPA.  Unfortunately, the USDA may care more about rewarding farmers than reducing greenhouse emissions.  By not having the EPA overseeing this part of the program, the integrity and verifiability of these offsets is threatened, along with some emissions reductions.   Pushing for EPA authority over agricultural offsets would avoid this potential flaw.

Lastly, excluding investments in “clean coal” technology, the House bill commits around $10 billion a year to clean energy development and deployment.  This pales in comparison to the investment from the economic stimulus.  Although we recognize the bill will drive private sector investment, other countries such as China are spending much larger amounts by comparison.  Increasing clean energy spending in the bill is imperative for accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy.

Thank you for taking the time to consider our recommendations for passing a stronger climate bill out of the Senate.  We truly appreciate your continued leadership on this issue.

Sincerely,

UMD for Clean Energy



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