Major Court Ruling Against NHTSA on SUV CAFE Standards

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 20 Nov 2007 19:39:00 GMT

Last week the 9th Court of Appeals issued a 90-page decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. National Highway Transportation Safety Administration/California v. NHTSA in favor of the plaintiffs. The suit was brought against NHTSA’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for light trucks – i.e., SUVs – issued in April 2006, in part for NHTSA claiming that the value of reduced greenhouse gases would be zero. NRDC, ED, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and 11 states and the District of the Columbia joined as plaintiffs.

The NHTSA is tasked by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) to set CAFE standards. Its April 2006 ruling raised the light truck standard from 22 to 23.5 miles per gallon by 2010.

The court agreed with the states that NHTSA must take into account greenhouse gases, as required by the National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) following the Massachusetts v EPA Supreme Court decision: “There is no evidence to support NHTSA’s conclusion that the apppropriate course was not to monetize or quantify the value of carbon emissions reduction at all.”

In addition to agreeing that the agency conducted an inadequate environmental assessment under NEPA, the court found that NHTSA’s regulations violated EPCA in four key areas, including the “SUV loophole” (“failure to revise the passenger automobile/light truck classifications”):
NHTSA’s failure to monetize the value of carbon emissions in its determination of the MY 2008-2011 light truck CAFE standards, failure to set a backstop, failure to revise the passenger automobile/light truck classifications, and failure to set fuel economy standards for all vehicles in the 8,500 to 10,000 lb. GWR class, was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the EPCA. We therefore remand to NHTSA to promulgate new standards consistent with this opinion as expeditiously as possible and for the earliest model year practicable.
Warming Law’s comprehensive coverage:

Cyclone Sidr Devastates Bangladesh 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Fri, 16 Nov 2007 19:48:00 GMT

The Daily Star:
Bangladesh dated with a nightmare as cyclone Sidr ripped through the southwestern coast late Thursday, killing over 700 people and demolishing houses, crops, vegetables and trees alike along its trail of devastation over an area of thousands of square kilometers.

Packing winds over 220km an hour, the fierce tropical storm roared across the shoreline after it hit landfall at the Khulna-Barisal coast at 7:30pm Thursday, cutting off all communications and utility services across the country.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 47 years life,” Khalilur Rahman, a government official in Patuakhali, told The Daily Star over telephone last night. “It was a panic beyond description. People found no way but to keep on screaming as long as the cyclone ran rampage here.”

Dr. Jeff Masters, Wunderground:
Storm surge is usually the biggest killer in Bangladesh cyclones, and was responsible for the vast majority of the 140,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh Cyclone. This storm struck eastern Bangladesh as a Category 5 cyclone—the only Category 5 cyclone on record to hit the country. The triangular shape of Bengal Bay funnels high surges into the apex of the triangle where Bangladesh sits, and the shallow bottom of the bay allows extraordinarily high storm surges to pile up. The maximum storm surge from Sidr was probably 20-25 feet, and affected the regions near and to the right of where the eye made landfall. The eye fortunately came ashore in the Sundarbans Forest, the world’s largest forest of mangrove trees. This region is the least populated coastal area in the country. Storm surge levels of 10-20 feet probably affected the provinces of Barguna and Paruakhali, which are more heavily populated. Undoubtedly, the storm surge killed many more people in these provinces, and Sidr’s death toll will go much higher. However, Bangladesh has done a much better job providing shelters and evacuating people during cyclones since the 1991 storm. Over 650,000 people did evacuate from Sidr, and it is unlikely the death toll will put the storm on the list of the world’s deadliest cyclones of all time.

The International Federation of Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal for support.

Finance Companies Gear Up for Coal Finance Direct Action

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 15 Nov 2007 21:58:00 GMT

This memo is being circulated among target companies:
Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is organizing what it calls a National Day of Action Against Coal Finance on Nov. 16 and 17. They have distributed flyers and are planning a rally at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, at Kiener Plaza. Another rally is being planned at Washington University on Friday, Nov. 16.

They are targeting Peabody as well as Bank of America and Citigroup, Inc. At a recent rally in Charlotte, N.C., four protesters were arrested for trespassing while hanging a giant banner from a crane at a nearby construction project.

Please exercise caution when entering and leaving the office on Friday and Saturday.

Ed.—links added.

Notes from the Latest EPW Lieberman-Warner Hearing

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 15 Nov 2007 19:29:00 GMT

Sen. Boxer convened the third full Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on Lieberman-Warner (S 2191) this morning.

Some highlights:

Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense strongly praised Lieberman-Warner as having “the right framework to address the challenge of climate change in a way that makes sense for the environment, entrepreneurs, and the economy.” He emphasized the heavy potential costs of delay. Krupp said that early reductions can take place primarily with energy efficiency and terrestrial sequestration. He called for three specific changes to the bill:
  • 80% target by 2050
  • an “Ocean Trust” of ocean and coastal adaptation funds as proposed by Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
  • increased support for international adaptation

ED opposes amendments to weaken the emissions cap by changing targets or establishing a price cap, and opposes limits on offsets.

Krupp’s written testimony did not mention allocation at all.

Eileen Claussen of the Pew Center on Climate Change also strongly praised Lieberman-Warner. Her written testimony defends the giveaways to the coal industry in the bill:
While the use of a well-designed cap-and-trade program ensures the lowest overall cost, many important sectors of the economy will face real transition costs that can and should be dealt with through the allowance allocation process. Allocation, contrary to the impression some stakeholders may be creating, has no effect on the greenhouse gas reductions mandated by the cap. Given this, we should use the allocation process, in the early years of the program, to address the legitimate transition costs some sectors will face as we move to a low- greenhouse gas economy. . . The best hope, at the moment, lies with carbon capture and sequestration, which most experts believe will take at least a decade to deploy throughout the power sector. While we need not wait until then to begin cost-effective reductions, it would be appropriate to allocate initially a significant amount of allowances to this sector to help with transition. The bill does this and also appropriately uses bonus allowances and a clean coal technology program funded out of auction proceeds to accelerate CCS deployment and speed and smooth the transition. There is is a similar need for transition assistance in other sectors of the economy, most particularly energy-intensive industries that face significant foreign competition. As the need for transition assistance diminishes, the allocation of free allowances should phase out, which the bill does as well.

The Pew report she references calls for a total investment in CCS of 8 to 30 billion dollars, far lower than what is in Lieberman-Warner (about $400 billion explicitly for CCS, with another $100 billion to coal power, plus another $500 billion in research money that could go to coal, nuclear, renewables, and efficiency R&D.)

Coal Lobby Websites 3

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 15 Nov 2007 00:31:00 GMT

Following the GoogleAds on this site may lead to these coal industry websites:

From SourceWatch:
Formed in 2000 to develop astroturf support for coal-based electricity, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) promotes the interests of mining companies, coal transporters, and electricity producers. ABEC’s website is registered to the coal industry trade organization Center for Energy and Economic Development.

Clean Coal USA is an openly industry-funded site. The members are the following trade groups: The Association of American Railroads, the coal industry lobby group Center for Energy and Economic Development, the electric power industry lobby group Edison Electric Institute, the National Mining Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

NOAA Arctic Report Card

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 15 Nov 2007 00:15:00 GMT

  red square   Atmosphere
red square   Sea Ice
yellow square   Greenland
yellow square   Biology
yellow square   Ocean
yellow square   Land
Warming and mixed signals

NOAA has recently debuted a new website, Arctic Report Card 2007, summarizing the state of environmental changes in the arctic, linking each section with the detailed reports from NOAA researchers. Their summary:

Collectively, the observations indicate that the overall warming of the Arctic system continued in 2007. There are some elements that are stabilizing or returning to climatological norms. These mixed tendencies illustrate the sensitivity and complexity of the Arctic System.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Comes Out Against Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 14 Nov 2007 14:58:00 GMT

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the first lobbying groups to come out strongly against Lieberman-Warner (America’s Climate Security Act, S 2191). Using figures from CRA International’s Anne Smith, a fossil-fuel industry lobbyist, the Chamber claims:
If this bill becomes law, 3.4 million Americans will lose their jobs. American GDP will decline by $1 trillion. And American consumers will be forced to pay as much as $6 trillion to cope with carbon constraints.

The Chamber also released the following commercial:

Other groups, such as Environmental Defense, are supporting its passage and asking their members to lobby in support of the bill.

NWF Campaign Targets 50 House Lawmakers 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Nov 2007 21:38:00 GMT

The National Wildlife Federation has launched a campaign to get a total of 218 sponsors for the Waxman (HR 1590, equivalent to Boxer-Sanders) or the Olver-Gilchrest (HR 620, equivalent to McCain-Lieberman) cap-and-trade climate bills. The two bills combined have 170 co-sponsors. NWF is targeting what they call The Final Fifty, fifty legislators who have not co-sponsored either bill.

Mass. v. EPA and Coal: Johnson Gets Grilled

Posted by Warming Law Mon, 12 Nov 2007 21:32:00 GMT

(Cross-posted from Warming Law, which focuses on covering and analyzing the fight against global warming from a legal perspective. My name is Sean Siperstein, and I run Warming Law as part of my work for Community Rights Counsel, a non-profit, public interest law firm that assists communities in protecting their health and welfare. Follow the links for more info. about Warming Law; about CRC’s work and history; and for those truly curious, about me. Thanks for the opportunity to join the discussion; I really look forward to it!)

On Thursday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) convened the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to delve into whether the EPA acted properly in approving a permit for a coal-fired power on tribal land in Utah—its first such decision since the Supreme Court’s determination that CO2 is an air pollutant—despite the continued opposition of several environmental groups. Readers can check out the committee’s website for complete video of the fireworks-filled hearing and all testimony.

The hearing’s central witness was EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, who testified that because EPA is still in the process of formulating regulations in response to Mass. v. EPA, CO2 is, for the time being, still not a "regulated pollutant" under the Clean Air Act—and thus, EPA "simply lacks the legal authority…to impose emissions limitations for greenhouse gas emissions on power plants."

Under intense questioning, Johnson continued to stand by his basic talking points, arguing again that EPA’s failure to regulate CO2 keeps it from even beginning to consider it in assessing proposed power plants. Reporting on the hearing, Ryan Grim of the Politico parses Johnson’s testimony and sees something beyond legal reasoning possibly at play here:

Johnson has a tight line to walk: He has to show that he’s in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling while not committing to doing too much. “I have to abide by the law as it’s written today,” Johnson says.

He also thinks that “we must continue to improve our knowledge of the science,” but promises that the EPA is “developing regulations to pursue it from a regulatory standpoint” using a “deliberative and thoughtful process.”

Democrats aren’t buying. “No, you’re not,” Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) tells him flatly. “You’re looking for any avenue you can to avoid doing it.” Several Democrats bring up the EPA’s long-running refusal to approve a waiver for California to enact its own carbon regulation scheme.

The primary argument against Johnson’s take was provided by David Doniger of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who asserted that EPA does have a mandate to move forward, and in doing so should have quickly concluded that new coal-fired plants ought not be approved without significant mitigation strategies. In doing so, Doniger cites several decisions by businesses and state regulators  indicating that concrete action is possible, and summarizes the four main arguments of environmental organizations’ latest formal comments objecting to EPA’s decision:   

AFL-CIO Letter Lists Concerns With Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 08 Nov 2007 21:56:00 GMT

In a letter to Sen. Boxer, the AFL-CIO lists its concerns with Lieberman-Warner (S 2191), referring back to testimony at the July 24 hearing on the draft legislation.

The AFL-CIO letter criticizes the adoption of the Sanders amendment to limit advanced-vehicle moneys to 35 MPG or higher and the Barrasso amendment clarifying the types of coal eligible for R&D subsidy.

The other delineated criticisms:
  • An overly aggressive Phase I emission reduction target, now increased from a 10 percent to a 15 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2020, before the anticipated commercial availability of carbon capture and storage technologies;
  • An unequivocal commitment to achieving a 70 perscent national emision reduction below 2005 levels by 2050, regardless of the degree of subsequent participation of major developing nations like China and India in a global climate protection framework;
  • The failure to identify “domestic economic development” as a finding of Congress, a purpose of the legislation, and the failure to require that funding from this legislation be dedicated to domestic investments for new technology and the creation of jobs – from production to construction and exports.
  • The absense of an effective safety valve price for carbon dioxide allowances, which will have an adverse impact upon investment decisions and consumer and inducstry pricing.
  • The need for a restricted and regulated market system that does not fall prey to predatory trading practices, hoarding of allowances, and the creation of carbon billionaires, which an open market and unlimited banking of allowances can lead to.
  • The extent of the use of international allowances combined with offsets, and he possibility of double dipping with offsets by providing allowances for activities that would have been done anyway.
  • Inappropriate allocations of emissions allowances, such as the 10 percent allocation to “wires companies” to encourage energy efficiency – a goal that may be better accomplished through direct legislation on energy efficiency standards, now incorporated in other provisions of the bill.

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