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March 14, 2008
DOT Downplays Transportation Report on Climate Change Impacts and Prevents Press from Interviewing the Author
HT to Lance Olson Climate Change Yahoo group:
The Government Accountability Project reported today on a major study on climate change impacts released on Wednesday by U.S.
Department of Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Climate Change Science
Program.Gulf Coast Transportation study This study reported on the likely
impacts of global climate disruption on transportation
infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region. GAP indicates that the report release was
buried by the DOT, and officials have been blocking journalists from
speaking with the report's lead author.
Specifically the report, Impacts of Climate Change and Variability on
Transportation Systems and Infrastructure: Gulf Coast Study, analyzes
how Gulf Coast roads and highways, transit services, oil and gas
pipelines, freight handling ports, transcontinental railroad networks,
waterway systems, and airports are likely to be harmed by heat waves,
extreme precipitation events, sea level rise, increased hurricane
intensity, and storm surge damage associated with climate change. The
report outlines why changes must be incorporated in transportation
planning now in order to avoid serious future problems.
Three hours after
the report was posted online Wednesday, DOT issued an uninformative
and misleading press release on a separate Web site. The press release
lists only one contact - a DOT press official. Reporters who have
tried to interview the report's lead author, Federal Highway
Administration official Michael Savonis, have been explicitly told by
DOT officials that the author and the press cannot communicate with
each other. As lead author, Savonis should be allowed to brief and
respond to press inquiries.
March 14, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink
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EPA Sets Primary Ozone Standard at 75 ppb Ignoring Scientific Advice; Sets Unlawful Secondary Standard Based on Bush's Personal Order
EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended a primary health standard no higher than 70 ppb and EPA's Children's Health
Protection Advisory Committee recommended the standard be set at 60 ppb because children are more vulnerable to air pollution. EPA estimates that excess deaths of 1700 - 5700 will occur from the new standard as opposed to a 65 ppb standard.
In addition, EPA set the secondary standard identical to the primary standard, not based on science, but based on an order from the President.
Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post reported yesterday
Documents obtained by The Washington Post indicate that White House
officials chafed at the idea that they could not factor costs into the
ozone rule, which requires setting one standard for protecting health
and a separate one for protecting public welfare, and that the
president himself intervened in the process Monday. In a March 6 memo
to the EPA, Susan E. Dudley of the Office of Management and Budget
questioned the need for two different ozone limits, noting that the
Clean Air Act's definition of public welfare includes "effects on
environmental values." The EPA's Marcus C. Peacock replied the next day
that it is important to keep in mind that "EPA cannot consider costs in
setting a secondary standard."... The rule's preamble indicates Bush settled the dispute March 11,
saying the president concluded the secondary standard should be set "to
be identical to the new primary standard, the approach adopted when
ozone standards were last promulgated."
Apparently industry has actively lobbied to
keep the standard at 84 ppb to avoid the estimated cost
to industry of $7.6 - $ 8.8 billion a year. EPA estimates that the new standard will yield $2 billion to $19 billion in
health benefits. For many years, I've maintained that having the government prepare these estimates under EO 12866 (or allowing industry to provide agency decision-makers with its estimates) skews the process towards an illegal cost-benefit analysis.
It is no surprise that faced with numbers, President Bush interfered in what should have been a legal/scientific decision. Legal because the secondary standard must be set to protect public welfare and there is no basis for assuming that the secondary NAAQS should be the same as the primary NAAQS. Scientific because only the science should matter: cost and benefit numbers are not what EPA is supposed to consider under the CAA. Bush had no business making any decision about this. Bush should not have those cost-benefit numbers in front of him because it leads to bad choices. Don't put cookies in front of a starving child unless you want them to eat. Don't put a stack of million dollar bills in front of a thief unless you want to part with them.
It was the Attorney General's responsibility to tell EPA to set the primary and secondary standards according to science, not cost-benefit estimates. Period. End of discussion. Apparently, some officials at the Justice Department attempted to tell the President just that.
Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post
officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to
protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While
their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific
advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday
ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents. "It
is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the
president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act
leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John
Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council....The
president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to
rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on
the harm caused by ozone....Solicitor General Paul D. Clement
warned administration officials late Tuesday night that the rules
contradicted the EPA's past submissions to the Supreme Court... As a consequence,
administration lawyers hustled to craft new legal justifications for
the weakened standard.
I don't envy my former colleagues at the Justice Department who get to defend this embarrassingly illegal action.
March 14, 2008 in Air Quality, Biodiversity, Cases, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, US | Permalink
March 10, 2008
The Buzz on Climate Legislation
According to E & E, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will send House Speaker Pelosi a report from the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming with legislative proposals to address climate
change on or before the House Energy and Commerce Committee
holds a markup on a major piece of climate legislation. Markey was selected by Pelosi as chair of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and
Global Warming, which Pelosi created when the Democrats took
control of Congress last year. Markey's committee lacks
legislative authority, but has held more than 30 hearings on climate change and energy issues.
Markey's staff reportedly has been meeting with alternative energy firms, labor groups, finance specialists, and others seeking legislative ideas. Markey's report is expected after House Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell
releases his draft climate legislation in mid-April. Dingell (D-Mich), of course, has been protective of the automobile industry -- for example, he attempted last summer to preempt California's GHG emission standards for motor vehicles. If displeased with the bill ultimately reported by Dingell, Pelosi could seek a special rule making Markey's legislative proposal(s) the basis of floor debate, in lieu of Dingell's bill. If Dingell bill's is overly protective of narrow interests or insufficiently stringent, that sort of end run just might happen.
March 10, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink
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Crude oil surpasses $ 108
Crude-oil futures surpassed $108 for the first time, before
closing above $107 a barrel. The gloomy economic outlook in the United States increases the prospect that the Fed will cut interest rates again, creating an even weaker dollar. The euro was trading at
$1.5358, near its record high. A
weaker dollar pushes oil prices up as it makes
dollar-denominated oil less expensive to buyers holding other
March 10, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management | Permalink