EPA

Murkowski's donors already trying to collect

5
Nov
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We probably won't know for a while who won the U.S. Senate race up in Alaska (somebody named "Write-in Votes" is ahead right now...is it me or are names getting weirder?), but apparently Lisa Murkowski's loan sharks campaign contributors are sure enough of her eventual victory that they've already called in her debt.

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Why voting matters for the climate movement

28
Oct
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Who owns our democracy: Big Business or We the People?

Corporations -- led by Big Oil and Dirty Coal -- are trying to buy this election in plain sight. Their front groups are on target to spend more than $300 million to buy the election -- and this is after big polluters have already spent a fortune lobbying Congress, mounting a PR offensive after the BP oil spill, and trying to kill California's Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) with Propositions 23 and 26.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there's been an unprecedented amount of outside spending during the 2010 mid-term elections, with a far greater increase in funds from conservative-leaning outside groups. Right-wing groups have spent $169.2 million so far -- up from $19.6 million in the last midterm (increased by a factor of 8.5). Analysis from Center for American Progress notes that more than $68 million of outside political spending is coming from dirty energy industries like Big Oil and coal-heavy electric utilities.

It’s impossible to look past the corporate influence in this election cycle -- brought on by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling -- from big polluters and climate science deniers. It's glaring even at the state level: Out of eight Northeast states with contested governor's races, only Vermont has a race where both candidates affirm climate science. Anti-climate candidates in these key states could roll back the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or state renewable energy standards.

There’s no sugarcoating the chances for future comprehensive climate policy in the next two years. In fact, we anticipate an all-out attack on the EPA and the Clean Air Act by several House and Senate members.

But anger and despair can’t lead to inaction or apathy. Voting still matters for the climate movement. Why?

  • Recent polling consistently shows an 11-point spread against California Proposition 23. Getting the vote out in California is crucial to defeating both Prop 23 and Prop 26 at the polls and widening a margin that only a month ago favored Big Oil.
  • Climate champions like Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA) are all committed to pushing for climate-related legislation next year. Waxman told Politico: "I think the issue is becoming more and more serious and people are realizing it, which I hope will increase the pressure on the Congress to take the actions we need to.”
  • Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room outlines 15 House races and six Senate races where climate heroes are running against climate deniers. These are races in which candidates need to hear that climate is still an issue.

More importantly, voting is a right that gives voice to your concern about climate change. People in the climate movement -- or anyone who believes in what we’re doing to avert a climate crisis and bring about an energy revolution -- can push back on Big Oil and Dirty Coal by exercising their right to vote. See you at the polls on Tuesday!

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Policy update 10/26/10: One more week

26
Oct
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Next Tuesday's midterm election has major implications for federal climate and energy policy. Many key races will be decide by narrow margins. Polling suggests that the Republicans will pick up seats in both houses, but that only the House of Representatives is likely to change hands. Election Day is next Tuesday, November 2nd.

Climate in the Elections

A number of tightly contested races involve incumbents who support climate legislation and challengers who are emphatically opposed to climate action, or publicly cast doubt on climate science:

  • Climate champion Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA) is defending his clean energy record in a district that historically favors conservative candidates. Perriello urges voters to look past short-term payoffs to the big picture of economic growth;
  • Arizona long-shot House candidate Jon Hulburd (D) is leading with a clean energy jobs message and catching up in the polls in the conservative 3rd district just north of Phoenix;
  • Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias has been criticizing Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) for flip-flopping on his climate vote. Kirk supported the climate bill in the House, but then signed a pledge promising to oppose future climate legislation in order to win over an endorsement from Sarah Palin;
  • Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) is using Ken Buck's (R) statements about the uncertainty of climate science to illustrate how far from the mainstream his opposition is.

In every Senate race but one, Republican challengers are self-identified climate science deniers (all except Rep. Kirk in IL). Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room has compiled a list of key climate House and Senate races to watch.

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Making Sausage of Climate Policy

8
Oct
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By 1Sky blogger Andy Silber. See Andy's bio at the end of this post. -- Luis

Andy Silber is a astrophysicist, engineer, project manager, husband, father, and energy activist living in Seattle. Visit Andy's blog on Sustainable West Seattle. The author's opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the 1Sky campaign.

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Policy Update 10/6/2010 - EPA/DOT Propose Stronger Auto Efficiency Standards (VIDEO)

4
Oct
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Last week, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) announced their intent to set progressively stronger efficiency standards for new cars: 47-62 mpg by 2025. Congress wrapped up its pre-election business promptly to allow members to return home and campaign.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Beginning of Senate Lame Duck session (tentative)

Obama Administration proposes another strong cars rule

In spring of 2009, President Obama worked with automakers to push for 35.5 mpg standards by 2016, and is now beginning a second rulemaking process that will set even stronger standards for new vehicles: 47-62 mpg by 2025, which represents a 3-6% annual improvement beyond the existing 2016 standards. This announcement represents a stage of administrative rulemaking called a "Notice of Intent" (NOI), essentially a draft rule made public to allow stakeholders to weigh in. The final rule will not be finalized until July of 2012.

Our allies at Environment America, Sierra Club, and other groups are advocating for a 60 mpg standard. According to the EPA, a 62 mpg standard is doable if much of the new fleet is made up of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

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1Sky speaks out against gutting the Clean Air Act

14
Sep
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You probably read in Jason's post earlier today that the Senate Appropriations Committee might vote this week on an amendment to gut the Clean Air Act's ability to crack down on big climate polluters like oil refineries and coal power plants. Our new Campaign Director Liz Butler issued this press statement a few minutes ago speaking out strongly against this vote:

As the EPA celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act this week, it is absurd that oil and coal companies and their allies in Congress want us to take a giant step backwards by gutting this landmark environmental law. The Senate must hold fossil fuel interests accountable by protecting the Clean Air Act as a critical tool to reduce global warming pollution and jumpstart investment in a clean energy economy.

Read the rest of Liz's statement in our Press Room. If you have a senator in this committee, please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell your senator to oppose this crazy amendment. This is no way to celebrate the Clean Air Act's 40th birthday!

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Policy update 9/14/10: Congress resumes

14
Sep
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Both chambers of Congress will resumed after a five-week recess. With Labor Day behind them, and football season underway, both parties are in election mode, and no major legislation is expected to be considered. Addressing the expired Bush tax cuts will take up most of the air time, but there's a chance we could see movement on some smaller energy packages, namely Home Star.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 9/13: Congress returns from recess
  • 10/8: Target adjournment for the House and Senate
  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Beginning of Senate lame duck session (tentative)

Congressional Priorities

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) suggested that a narrow energy bill could be considered in the next few weeks, including Home Star and a package of incentives for natural gas trucks. Senator Reid does not plan on bringing up a broader energy bill before the elections, but has been saying that both a "spill bill" and a federal RES are still in play. Reid has also been more and more blunt in saying that a cap on carbon will not be considered this year. The big agenda item for both houses of Congress will be to address the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at the end of the year.

Retiring Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) has agreed to provide the 60th vote needed to push through a package of small-business incentives, including a $30 billion loan fund to improve access to credit. The bill would then bounce to the House, where it is expected to pass quickly. House Democratic leaders also plan to advance their "Make it in America" slate of smaller incentives aimed at reviving the U.S. manufacturing sector.

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Policy Update 9/8/2010: Another oil disaster strikes the Gulf

8
Sep
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The midterm elections continue to dominate the August congressional recess. Members of Congress will go on campaigning for one more week before returning to Washington, D.C. for their final session before the midterms. This week another explosion on a Gulf oil rig entered the news cycle, increasing support for the Obama Administration's drilling moratorium.

Congressional Timeline:

  • 9/13: Congress returns from recess
  • 10/8: Target adjournment for the House and Senate
  • 11/2: Election Day
  • 11/15: Beginning of Senate "lame duck" session (tentative)

Another Gulf Oil Rig Explodes

Another oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico suffered a major explosion last Thursday, forcing all 13 crew members to dive off the burning rig. Luckily there were no fatalities or major oil spills. A small firm called Mariner energy based out of Houston, TX owns the the platform. The rig was built in shallow water, so repairs will be much easier than on the Deepwater Horizon Rig, which blew out just 135 miles away. The rig was in active production at the time of the explosion, but so far Mariner and the Coast Guard are saying that the explosion did not result in a substantial oil spill.

Industry representatives are working to minimize Thursday's incident and distance it from the well blowout in April. "We have on these platforms on any given year roughly 100 fires," said one representative. Nonetheless, the disaster has increased support for the Obama Administration's drilling moratorium.

Oil companies have been battling the Obama Administration in federal court to lift the moratorium, which they claim hurts Gulf Coast workers. Workers from Mariner were among 5,000 oil company employees who were bussed to the Houston convention center last Wednesday to protest the moratorium, claiming that "Obama is trying to break us."

Senate RES is Back on the Table

Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that the Renewable Energy Standard (RES) would be back on the table when the Senate returns this fall. Reid noted that two Republicans have expressed interest in the bill, but that he still needed to "tie them down a little more closely.”

One of these Republicans could be Senator Brownback (R-KS), who recently endorsed the RES passed through the energy committee last year. Senator Reid noted that his energy package is more likely to be passed during the "lame duck" session, held after the midterm elections. This final session of the Senate is expected to begin on November 15th, and continue as late as the December holidays.

A major renewable energy developer NextEra Energy has promised to invest $2.5 billion in solar and wind energy if an RES passes, enough to create 40,000 jobs in five years. A 2009 UCS analysis of the Senate Energy Committee's RES (.pdf) suggests that the 15% standard being proposed would not necessarily guarantee renewable energy deployment beyond business as usual levels.

EPA Holds Field Hearings to Discuss Toxic Coal Ash

Last week the second hearing on toxic coal ash regulation was held in Denver, Colorado. The Obama Administration's EPA is considering stronger regulations for toxic coal ash dumps, but their efforts are being met by major pushback from industry. 1Sky and our allies are calling on the Obama Administration to crack down on toxic coal ash.

State of the Movement:

1Sky Board Member and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wants to focus more on movement building and less on Washington, D.C., while Grist's David Roberts gives blunt predictions for what the coming years have in store for climate advocates.

Prepared by 1Sky Policy Coordinator Jason Kowalski. Please direct questions or comments to jason@1sky.org.

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Follow the money at DirtyEnergyMoney.com

3
Sep
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By Janelle Corn, Ph.D. See bio at the end of this post. -- Luis

What happened to climate change and clean energy legislation in the U.S. Senate last month? Why did legislation that would have ensured Big Oil pays when it screws up disappear? Steve Kretzmann , director of organization  Oil Change International, wondered too:

As Congress begins August recess, those of us who care about America’s addiction to oil, climate change, and a clean energy future have been scratching our heads, wondering why, after historic levels of pressure we can’t even pass an oil spill response bill, not to mention a real clean energy or climate bill.

Kretzmann proposed we follow the money, and thus the website DirtyEnergyMoney.com  was developed, with the help of some of the nation’s top climate advocacy groups, including 1Sky. For example, you can search Clean Up the Senate  (also known as Bobbing In Petroleum) to see Big Oil contributions to U.S. Senators. As last week’s policy update noted, the site caught the attention of The Hill and Politico's Morning Energy. Recently, 1Sky’s Adi Nochur was interviewed by the Wyoming Tribune about the site as well.

The site’s objective is to increase awareness (and outrage) of the massive amounts of influence-buying money pouring into the U.S. Senate. The Hill ran this quote from Krutzmann at the site launch on August 10:

If you’re wondering why Congress can’t do anything meaningful to end our oil addiction or stop climate change, the enormous amounts of money revealed on DirtyEnergyMoney.com provide some of the answer.”

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Policy update 8/9/2010: Senate goes on recess, punts on spill bill

10
Aug
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This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) canceled a vote on the oil spill response package, punting consideration until after the August recess. Without bipartisan support, the bill did not have the votes necessary for passage. BP's "static kill" finally plugged the deepwater well that has been spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for over 3 months. Both houses of Congress are out on recess until September 13th. 1Sky’s board reflects on the state of affairs regarding climate action. During the recess, 1Sky will be "shadowing" members of Congress wearing giant "oily hands" to represent the dirty money from oil and coal companies that is holding our energy policy hostage in Congress.

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