The Skywriter

Weekly Round-Up 7/02/10: Climate loses a potential champ in Byrd


Weekly Round-Up 7/02/10: Climate loses a potential champ in Byrd


Earlier this week, legendary West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away. It is unlikely that an environmental organization would have written positively about a pro-coal senator, but in recent years the late Senator Byrd realized the toll that the coal industry was taking on the environment and his beloved West Virginia. Robert C. Byrd, who once fought hard for coal mining and against regulating it in his early years, had an epiphany:

The industry of coal must also respect the land that yields the coal, as well as the people who live on the land. If the process of mining destroys nearby wells and foundations, if blasting and digging and relocating streams unearths harmful elements and releases them into the environment causing illness and death, that process should be halted and the resulting hazards to the community abated.

If other senators could be as open minded as Senator Byrd became to be, passing a comprehensive climate bill would be a piece of cake! You never know, he could have possibly revolutionized the coal industry.

While Senator Byrd began to see the light, others flip-flopped. Recently, we battled Senator Murkowski's "Dirty Air Act" that would have gutted the Clean Air Act. Surprisingly, she sung a different tune two years ago:

I do support the cap-and-trade concept because I believe it offers the opportunity to reduce carbon, at the least cost to society. The signal about future prices sent to electric power-plant operators will hopefully stimulate spending on low- and zero-carbon renewable energy plants now.

That's one impressive flip-flop, Senator.

This past Tuesday, Senators Kerry and Lieberman announced that they are willing to scale back their bill in order to have a bipartisan compromise. Even though President Obama is firm in his belief that a price on carbon needs to be included in the bill, some senators still oppose this. Some Republicans even went as far as to call it a "national energy tax" or a "cap and tax," which sound like scare tactics, if you ask me. Some senators now are considering a cap on carbon for utility companies only. Will this be the compromise the Senate is looking for, and more importantly, is it worth it? Senator Mark Begich makes a good point:

If we spend our time always worrying about that 60th vote, we never get to do anything in a strong position.

Meanwhile, Kerry and Lieberman presented a hard-hitting video at the recent Democratic senators' caucus meeting to emphasize the need for a comprehensive climate and energy bill. Check it out below:

The Senate has begun improving the oil spill bill, making it more demanding and just. With this new and improved bill, penalties for an oil spill will increase, require improvement in drilling safety equipment, stricter requirements for deep water drilling permits and more federal inspectors. Improvements in this bill have been set to obviously to impose better safeguards on drilling and to prevent future oil spills. This bill has had bipartisan support, although some Senators were reluctant. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey was reluctant to sign the bill because he felt the bill was too weak, while Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, ironically feared the bill would interfere with off oil development. This bill also bans Interior Department employees from working for the petroleum industry for a year and vice versa. That's a big step for cutting down on the corruption and favoritism going on between regulators and industry.

This week, EPA reviewed the waste management methods BP is using and EPA also tested the toxicity of the dispersant that BP had be pouring into the ocean. There has been a lot of speculation that the dispersant Corexit BP is spreading in the Gulf is very toxic and making people ill. According to the EPA, Corexit has been found to be "practically nontoxic" to "slightly toxic". However, for some illogical reason, the labs have yet to test the effects of the dispersant mixed with the oil.

Finally, our friends at Green for All are running a great campaign riffing off the 4th of July holiday called the Dirty Energy Independence Week of Action. You can pledge to do something to reduce your energy consumption, such as walking more, using less hot water, or telling your senators to pass a climate/energy bill; then you can share your solidarity with friends via Facebook, Twitter and email. Check it out. Happy 4th!

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