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.

Boucher Says Bush Open to Coal-Friendly Cap-and-Trade Legislation 1

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 08 Nov 2007 21:32:00 GMT

From E&E News (subs. req.): Boucher told a business forum that he has been in talks with the Bush’s environmental advisors, including Jim Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, about crafting cap-and-trade legislation Bush would sign.

According to the E&E report, Boucher did not think that having a bill that largely preempted state efforts would be problematic. He went on to say that there need to be more protections for the coal industry, and a minimal cap on emissions for the next twenty years.

Boucher said any measure that forces coal-fired power plants to curb emissions too fast – before carbon capture and sequestration can be widely deployed – would cause major shifts to natural gas and drive up prices.

Boucher said the upcoming climate bill will provide a “somewhat forgiving, a gentle introduction to controls” until carbon capture and storage is ready, which he said would be around 2025. Before that, he said, coal-fired utilities will need other options available to meet obligations, such as purchase of offsets.

“The schedule prior to 2025 has got to be more forgiving,” he told reporters. “The schedule after 2025 can be very rigorous.”

Boucher said Senate proposals would impose major limits too fast. “I don’t think the Senate bills adequately address that need because the control schedule is quite severe in the early years, before we have carbon capture and storage available,” he said. “If they default to natural gas, real harm to the economy occurs.”

Notes from the First Full Committee Hearing on Lieberman-Warner

Posted by Brad Johnson Thu, 08 Nov 2007 20:22:00 GMT

This morning the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held its first hearing on Lieberman-Warner (S 2191).

Sens. Warner, Isakson, and Clinton were not in attendance.

Republican senators Voinovich, Inhofe, Vitter, and Craig protested the speed with which the bill is being considered, and called for more hearings and for an analysis from the DOE’s Energy Information Administration and the EPA before markup of the bill. Boxer responded indignantly to the “slow dance” approach, noting that twenty hearings were held this year on global warming and reading a statement from Sen. Warner: “This committee had the chance to hold hearings on Lieberman-McCain and it did not.”

Democratic senators Sanders, Cardin, Lautenberg, and Carper criticized the free allocation of permits to polluters, calling for 100% auction or greater allocation to clean and renewable energy producers.

Sen. Whitehouse (D-R.I.) focused on the lack of jurisdiction and oversight over the market entities created by the bill as a problem area.

Sen. Lieberman favorably noted that entities like electricity company PG&E get both free allocations and proceeds from the auctions.

The witnesses from WRI and the Environmental Resources Trust noted that the basic economic arguments for greater auction of permits: greater economic efficiency and a lower likelihood of market distortion in the form of windfall profits for polluters. They also noted that some degree of free allocation is likely a political necessity. The PG&E witness said he would probably not support the bill without free allocations to his company, and proposed several schemes that would increase subsidies and lower risk for his company at the expense of coal-intensive energy providers. The PG&E witness also made the observation, under questioning from Sen. Sanders, that concentrated solar plants are already competitive with new nuclear plants without government support and would be competitive with current coal/hydro plants if the kinds of subsidies the bill is planning for advanced coal technology were put instead into the renewable sector.

The minority witnesses argued for greater efforts to protect against foreign competition and argued that the short-term caps were too strict. Boxer noted their strong connections to the fossil fuel lobby.

Much more in the live-blog digest transcript.

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