Monday, December 8, 2008

Bush Administration strikes again

The Bush Administration eliminated protection of rivers in coal mining regions by changing the mountaintop mining rule last week.

Pro Publica reported:

Ignoring its own scientific study, the Environmental Protection Agency said on Tuesday that dumping debris from coal mining into mountain streams doesn't conflict with the Clean Water Act -- a reversal that clears the way for a new Bush administration rule that critics call a gift to mining interests.

In its waning days, the administration is rushing to approve scores of rule changes to leave its stamp on government. The controversy over environmental damage from mountaintop mining -- blasting off the tops of mountains to more easily get at coal -- has raged for years, with environmentalists and the EPA at odds with the industry about the dangers to water quality from dumping debris nearby.

The new rule would make it easier for mining companies to dispose leftover rock and dirt near or on top of streams. EPA approval was needed before the Department of the Interior, under Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, could finalize the rule before Bush leaves office next month.

Why EPA changed its stance remains a mystery. The agency declined to explain beyond releasing a letter (PDF) from Administrator Stephen Johnson to Kempthorne asserting that "nothing in the regulation is inconsistent with the provisions of the Clean Water Act."

"With this about-face, the Bush administration has hammered one more nail into the coffin of a lot of these Appalachian communities," said Vernon Haltom, a co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, a West Virginia-based environmental group. "The water here is already polluted, homes are threatened by flooding and we have regulatory agencies that look the other way and pretend we don't exist."

At least twice previously, EPA has said discarding debris into streams can violate the Clean Water Act or kill wildlife. It came to this conclusion once in a 2006 study and again in a legal filing. The study and the brief were cited in comments (PDF) opposing the Interior rule that were submitted to EPA by a group of environmental lawyers.

The EPA study says water tested downstream from mining debris had high levels of hazardous chemicals constituting a "violation of water quality standards" in the Clean Water Act.

EPA's legal brief, submitted in conjunction with several other federal agencies as part of a 2001 lawsuit, said that "valley fill," a term used to describe the mining debris, can cause "adverse environmental effects, as it eliminates aquatic life that inhabits those stream segments."

An EPA spokeswoman declined to address the contradiction, instead pointing to a portion of Johnson's letter stating that the agency worked with Interior to include requirements that "no mining activities may occur in or near streams that would violate Federal or State water quality standards."

But the agency has not released those requirements, nor has it responded to questions about whether it will release enforcement guidelines. Johnson's letter went on to suggest that the rule will help meet President Bush's goal of promoting "the increased use of clean coal technology in order to reduce our reliance on foreign oil."

For its part, the Interior Department claims the new rule will help protect streams because it asks companies to "minimize" the environmental impacts of waste disposal. But environmentalists said that nothing in the rule specifies how mining operations can achieve that goal.

In October, a coalition of environmental groups met with the White House Office of Management and Budget and DOI officials and urged them to consider the government's own research before finalizing the rule, warning that the proposed change was "inappropriate, unwise and illegal" (PDF).

Five days later, OMB met with members of the National Mining Association, a trade group that lobbies on behalf of mining companies.

A spokesperson for OMB did not respond to questions about the meetings.

Carol Raulston, spokeswoman for the National Mining Association, said she could not provide details about the OMB meeting. She said the association strongly supports the rule because mountaintop removal is an important way to supply America's energy needs and preserve safe jobs for Appalachian states where mountaintop mining takes place.

"You cannot access that coal by going underground in a traditional way. It's not safe for miners; it's not a safe mining practice," said Raulston. "Proper engineering of valley fills can be done in a way that does not harm water."

Previously, mining companies had to obtain a permit to dump mining waste into streams. But the coal-mining industry and the Bush administration have waged a years-long campaign to eliminate the permits. The permit rule wasn't always enforced: One government study shows that 535 miles of streams were buried between 2001 and 2005.

Environmental groups that were successfully using the rule to challenge mountaintop removal in court were also hoping that the Obama administration would actually enforce permitting. Now, they are scrambling to determine their next steps.

"The simplest thing I can say is that we are going to work with local, state, regional and national government groups and look at what we can do in the courthouse," said Vivian Stockman, of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, which lobbied against the rule change. "We are going to try to influence the incoming administration and look at our legal options. It just seems that EPA can't concur with this rule change and follow its own duties."

The Obama transition team had no comment. Previously, Obama has called for "more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing off the tops of mountains."

The rule change will be in effect by the time he takes office. Overturning it would require starting the rulemaking process all over again, which could take years and prompt legal challenges.

"The Obama people could propose to rescind or modify the rule," said David Vladeck, an administrative law professor at Georgetown University. "But every coal company is going to fight it tooth and nail. It's going to be a huge rumble."

What is  mountaintop mining?  -- according to EPA Region III, mountaintop coal mining is a surface mining practice involving the:  

  • removal of mountaintops to expose coal seams, and
  • disposing of the associated mining overburden in adjacent valleys -- "valley fills"
 

Valley fills occur in steep terrain where there are limited disposal alternatives. Mountaintop coal mining operations are concentrated in eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia, western Virginia, and scattered areas of eastern Tennessee. In 1998, the US Department of Energy estimated that 28.5 billion tons of high quality coal remain in the Appalachia coal mining region. Restricting mountaintop mining to small watersheds could substantially impact the amount of extraction that takes place.

 

There are 5 basic steps to this method of mining:

                                                                                                                                                                  
                                   
 
   
   

Step 1. Layers of rock and dirt above the coal (called overburden) are removed

 
an example
 
   
   

Step 2. The upper seams of coal are removed with spoils placed in an adjacent valley

 
an example
 
 
   
   

Step 3. Draglines excavate lower layers of coal with spoils placed in spoil piles

 
an example
 
 
   
   

Step 4. Regrading begins as coal excavation continues

 
an example
 
  
   
   

Step 5. Once coal removal is complete, final regrading takes place and the area is revegetated

 
an example

Continue reading

December 8, 2008 in Mining | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CGD Contribution to Development Index - Environment

 
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page.  Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate.  Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9.  Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index   

CGD reports:

Norway tops this year’s environment standings. Its net greenhouse gas emissions fell during 1995–2005, the last ten years for which data are available, thanks to steady expansion in its forests, which absorb carbon dioxide. Also high is Ireland, whose economy grew 6.6 percent per year faster in the same period than its greenhouse gas emissions; and the U.K., which has steadily increased gasoline taxes and supported wind and other renewable energy sources. Spain finishes low as a heavy subsidizer of its fishing industry while Japan is hurt by its high tropical timber imports. The U.S. has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the most serious international effort yet to deal with climate change. That gap, along with high greenhouse emissions and low gas taxes, puts the U.S. last. Two notches up, Australia cuts a similar profile, with the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the group.      

 

The environment component of the CDI compares rich countries on policies that affect shared global resources such as the atmosphere and oceans. Rich countries use these resources disproportionately while poor ones are less equipped to adapt to the consequences, such as global warming. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.

A healthy environment is sometimes dismissed as a luxury for the rich. But people cannot live without a healthy environment. And poor nations have weaker infrastructures and fewer social services than rich countries, making the results of climate change all the more damaging. A study co-authored by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler predicts that a two-meter sea level rise would flood 90 million people out of their homes, many of them in the river deltas of Bangladesh, Egypt, and Vietnam.

The environment component looks at what rich countries are doing to reduce their disproportionate exploitation of the global commons. Are they reining in greenhouse gas emissions? How complicit are they in environmental destruction in developing countries, for example by importing commodities such as tropical timber? Do they subsidize fishing fleets that deplete fisheries off the coasts of such countries as Senegal and India?

December 2, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Bush Administration Land Mines the Interior Department, EPA, and Other Environmental Agencies

The Washington Post reports that the Solicitor of the Interior Department has shifted half a dozen key political appointees – including Robert Comer known for his opposition to the roadless rule and a questionable grazing agreement as well as Matthew McKeown, a mining industry darling – into senior civil service posts. These transfers, called "burrowing," allows political appointees to stay in the government and create obstacles to changing policy direction.  Perhaps the practice should be called "land-mining," given its potential for derailing the peaceful transfer of power:

Between March 1 and Nov. 3, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Bush administration allowed 20 political appointees to become career civil servants. Six political appointees to the Senior Executive Service, the government's most prestigious and highly paid employees, have received approval to take career jobs at the same level. Fourteen other political, or "Schedule C," appointees have also been approved to take career jobs. One candidate was turned down by OPM and two were withdrawn by the submitting agency. The personnel moves come as Bush administration officials are scrambling to cement in place policy and regulatory initiatives that touch on issues such as federal drinking-water standards, air quality at national parks, mountaintop mining and fisheries limits.


Continue reading

November 18, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, Law, Mining, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cabinet Speculation

 Here are some predictions/picks on the Cabinet positions of most significance to environmental matters according to Politico's semi-official leaks.  My picks and comments are in green.

Attorney general: Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine; Eric Holder, who was deputy AG under Clinton and is now with Covington & Burling and led Obama’s vice presidential search; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. Odds on favorite is Holder

Supreme Court nominee: Washington superlawyer Robert Barnett; legal scholar Cass Sunstein; Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York; Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School. Consensus is it would most likely be a woman. First nominee has got to be a woman - Kagan is smart and has credibility, but this is a much shorter list than Obama will look at.

Secretary of State: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.); Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind)  State is too important to give to a Republican, Kerry's too valuable in the Senate, and Richardson was UN Ambassador so he knows  international diplomacy

Environmental Protection Agency administrator: Former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.); Kathleen McGinty, former head of the Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Agency Again, McGinty is an odds on favorite who knows her stuff

Commerce secretary: Penny Pritzker, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)  Need some Republicans and Olympia Snowe is a liberal one; although she's more valuable in the Senate.  So maybe one of the non-environmental positions will go to a Republican and Obama will stick with a Democrat.  I'd take Sebelius -- she's articulate and mid-Western.

Secretary of the Interior: Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), Robert F. Kennedy Jr.  This is the position most likely to go to someone who hasn't been in the running.

Secretary of Energy: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.); My pick would be Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican who understands environmental issues as well as energy issues.  Again, Bingaman's too valuable in the Senate. 

Secretary of Agriculture: Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)  Vilsack is odds on favorite.

 

 


 

 

 

November 4, 2008 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Mining, North America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Linking the Global Financial Crisis and the Environment: Respite for Resources or Increased Pressure?

Admittedly, it is guesswork, but last week in Geneva, I raised the global financial crisis as a challenge and an opportunity for those of us committed to bringing clean drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene education to everyone.  It is a challenge, of course, to find funding in such times.  But it is an opportunity because finally the mesmerizing power of the myths about unfettered free enterprise has been broken.


Although I was not in Barcelona for the IUCN World Congress, apparently everyone there was considering the same question.  Here is one of the reports that came out of Barcelona:


ENVIRONMENT:
Global Financial Crisis a Bad Sign for Andean Biodiversity

by Julio Godoy* - Tierramérica

BARCELONA, Oct 16 (IPS) - The crisis affecting the financial sector and stock markets around the world could fuel the expansion of extractive industries in South America's Andean region, warn experts.

Investors from the industrialised world may feel pressure to seek alternative means for financial liquidity, forced by divestment from stocks in recent weeks, Stewart Maginnis, director of forest conservation for the World Conservation Union (IUCN), told Tierramérica.

Debate on the environmental repercussions of the financial crisis overtook much of the World Conservation Congress held by the IUCN Oct. 5-14 in Barcelona, Spain, which drew some 8,000 experts.


But the uncertainty is such that others predict reduced pressure on natural resources as a result of the economic crisis.

Maginnis pointed to the current high prices of fuels, noting that investment in the expansion of mining and oil company activities now is attractive -- and constitutes a threat to protection efforts in areas like the Amazon jungle region in Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

The phenomenon could be intensified by the existing policies of the Andean Community trade bloc, made up of Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, that favour extractive industries and clash with the interests and development ideas of local indigenous communities. That contradiction was evident in Barcelona during a debate among environmental experts, government delegates and representatives of indigenous groups from the four Andean Community nations.

Continue reading

November 3, 2008 in Biodiversity, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Mining, South America, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Strategic Trade - An Opening for Sustainability

Yesterday the Guardian published an opinion piece by Kevin Gallagher (Washington Consensus Dead?) on Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman's work on strategic trade policy, pointing out that his Nobel Prize is the nail in the coffin of the free trade "Washington consensus."  Krugman explains why it is rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies in order to create a niche industry.  The same sort of strategic trade policy makes it rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies to support ecological sustainability and social well-being.  Perhaps the pendulum will swing against the free traders enough so that we can protect the global environment through trade and other economic sanctions against nations unwilling to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Gallagher's opinion:
Last Friday the New York Times quoted the World Bank as saying "There's no question the Washington consensus is dead," indeed it "died at the time of the $700bn bail-out." If the bail-out is death, then awarding Paul Krugman the Nobel prize for economics is the nail in the coffin.

Paul Krugman did not win the Nobel for his popular critiques of Bush-era economic policy in his New York Times column, though the column no doubt helped raise his profile outside the economics profession. The Nobel committee cited Krugman's theoretical contributions to the economics of international trade, the policy implications of which fly in the face of the Washington consensus ( where the mantra is to free up trade every chance you get).

Among Krugman's achievements in the field of international trade is "strategic trade policy". In this work Krugman (and others) showed that tariffs and subsidies to domestic industries can divert profits away from highly concentrated foreign firms and increase a nation's income. Though Krugman himself shies away from prescribing such policy, the textbook example of strategic trade theory is the choice by the Brazilian government to subsidise and develop the aircraft company Embraer. The free-trade theories espoused by the Washington consensus would warn Brazil of the high cost of subsidisation. To free traders, Brazil should focus on its advantage in agricultural products and forget about climbing the manufacturing ladder. Strategic trade theory helps explain why Brazil was willing to gamble in the short term to become one of the finest aircraft manufactures over the long term. They squeezed foreign firms out of the market and carved out a global niche for themselves.

In another classic book, Development, Geography, and Economic Theory, Krugman argued that the government should also play a role in connecting beneficiaries of strategic trade policy to the overall economy. Evoking the work of economists such as Albert O Hirschman and Paul Rosenstein Rodan, Krugman argued that developing countries often needed a "big push" of coordinated government investments to help strategic industries get off the ground and to link the growth of such industry to the economy as a whole.

Problem is, today's trading system is out of whack with these frontier issues in economic thought. In a study published by Boston University's Pardee Centre for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, trade lawyer Rachel Denae Thrasher and I examined the extent to which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, European Union trade agreements, and United States trade agreements bit into a nation's ability to deploy strategic trade and other industrial policies to benefit from the globalisation process.

We find that in general the world's trading system makes it much more difficult for nations to craft strategic trade and industrial policies for growth and development. Indeed, enshrined in virtually all trade agreements is the "national treatment" idea that says a nation may not treat its domestic industries any differently than foreign ones. That may make sense when rich nations compete against each other, but in a world where 57.6% of the population lives on less than $2.50 per day, one size can't fit all. This restriction is accentuated in provisions for foreign investment, intellectual property, and subsidies.

Interestingly however, we find that there is more "policy space" for innovative growth strategies under the WTO than under most regional trade agreements – especially those pushed by the US. In fact, we find that US-style trade agreements are the most severe in constraining the ability of developing countries to deploy such policy. EU agreements, interestingly, tend to have the same policy space as the WTO.

It doesn't make sense that the World Bank and (implicitly) the Nobel committee are declaring the death of the Washington consensus when the US is choking the ability of nations to use policies that are gaining increasing legitimacy in theory and practice. Change is in the air. As we know in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the US has justified – like never before – a strong role for government in economic affairs. And, of the two presidential candidates, Obama has expressed concern over the direction of US trade policy and has pledged to rethink it. Perhaps these events will make strategic trade and industrial policy rise again.

October 15, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Mining, North America, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

SCOTUS grants cert -- June 27, 2008

Coeur Alaska Inc. v. Southeast Alaska Conservation, No. 07-984, consolidated with Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation, No. 07-990. Are process wastewater discharges from mining operations governed by the drege-and-fill permit scheme operated by the Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act or are they covered by effluent limitations under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, which are within the Environmental Protection Agency's jurisdiction? 

June 28, 2008 in Governance/Management, Mining, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Proposed Revision of Forest Service Mining Regulations

Yesterday, the U.S. Forest Service proposed revision of the bonding and environmental requirements for hard-rock mines operating within national forests or grasslands.  Those regulations can be found at 73 FR 25694-01.  The summary and proposed provisions are provided below.  Comments are due May 27, 2008.

They purport to be based on the 1999 NRC recommendations.  It sure took them awhile -- the entirety of the Bush administration!

Continue reading

March 26, 2008 in Governance/Management, Mining, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Drink Water for Life

This article is written by Denise Olivera, Columbia School of Journalism, about the Drink Water for Life Challenge originated by 1st Congregational Church, U.C.C. of Salem, Oregon.  The article was covered by the Great Reporter newsservice link The congregation pledges to give up some of its lattes, sodas, etc. during Lent and give the money to our Pure Water Fund.  In celebration of Lent, spring, or World Water Day, please chose to follow this lead.

March 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Plug in to NRDC's Blog

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pulitzer Prize Anyone??? Only if you write by March 12th

Well, no prize, but...You can become a Pulitzer Center Citizen Journalist!!! 

 

  • Read the corresponding coverage at Pulitzer’s website. Your article should draw on information from the Pulitzer Center articles; but you may also include include original reporting of your own or firsthand experiences. The goal is to provide fresh insight in a compellingly written article.
  • Share your perspective on the issue and write your best article at Helium by March 12th.

March 5, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Election 2008 -- The Candidates Speak in Their Own Words -- Part II:Hillary Clinton

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewed was Barack Obama. Today's post is Hillary Clinton.

Here's the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton with respect to the environment (especially global warming) in her own words:

The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military....At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism:..Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing....At a moment in history when the world's most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted....

We need more than vision, however, to achieve the world we want. We must face up to an unprecedented array of challenges in the twenty-first century, threats from states, nonstate actors, and nature itself...Finally, the next president will have to address the looming long-term threats of climate change and a new wave of global health epidemics....

But China's rise is also creating new challenges. The Chinese have finally begun to realize that their rapid economic growth is coming at a tremendous environmental price. The United States should undertake a joint program with China and Japan to develop new clean-energy sources, promote greater energy efficiency, and combat climate change. This program would be part of an overall energy policy that would require a dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil....

We must find additional ways for Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including combating terrorism, cooperating on global climate control, protecting global energy supplies, and deepening global economic development...

As president, I will make the fight against global warming a priority. We cannot solve the climate crisis alone, and the rest of the world cannot solve it without us. The United States must reengage in international climate change negotiations and provide the leadership needed to reach a binding global climate agreement. But we must first restore our own credibility on the issue. Rapidly emerging countries, such as China, will not curb their own carbon emissions until the United States has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing its own through a market-based cap-and-trade approach.

We must also help developing nations build efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures. Two-thirds of the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years will come from countries with little existing infrastructure. Many opportunities exist here as well: Mali is electrifying rural communities with solar power, Malawi is developing a biomass energy strategy, and all of Africa can provide carbon credits to the West.

Finally, we must create formal links between the International Energy Agency and China and India and create an "E-8" international forum modeled on the G-8. This group would be comprised of the world's major carbon-emitting nations and hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues.

February 23, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 18, 2008

ExxonMobil Deliberately Misled Blogosphere About Funding Global Warming Denialists

Yesterday's post on ExxonMobil (2/17/08)  highlighted that it had funded the Frontiers of Freedom and its Center for Science and Public Policy (CSPP link ) during 2006, contrary to its claim that it was not funding global warming denialists.  You may wonder about the context in which ExxonMobil made this claim.


Remember last year when the IPCC 4th Assessment report came out – the Guardian wrote a story about American Enterprise Institute soliciting result-oriented denialist analyses of the IPCC report and that report included information about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI. Guardian 2/2/07 Report.  During conversations in late January and early February, 2007 with me and other bloggers, Maria Surma Manka from Green Options [Giant Part I Post; Giant Part II Post], Jesse Jenkins from Watthead [ExxonMobil Posts], Tom Yulsman from Prometheus [Post on earlier conversations -- I can't recall whether Tom participated in the February call, but I believe he did], Stuart Staniford from The Oil Drum [ExxonMobil AEI Post], Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s Vice President for Public Affairs had assured us that ExxonMobil was no longer funding controversial denialist groups like Competitive Enterprise Institute and it did not fund AEI with the intent that they engage in denialist analyses.  The first conference call occurred in late January and the second on the same day that the Guardian story and the IPCC report came out.

 

Cohen spent considerable time before the IPCC report came out in January 2007 trying to convince us that ExxonMobil was changing its Neanderthal stripes, truly accepted that anthropogenic global warming was a serious problem, and was ready to take a responsible role in the future discussions of how to reduce GHG emissions. Admittedly Cohen did that in the truly diplomatic way of saying that ExxonMobil had not effectively communicated its position that anthropogenic global warming is real and that GHG emissions need to be reduced.

 

During the February call, Cohen knew that the Guardian’s report about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI and AEI’s alleged solicitation of result-oriented denialist analyses threatened to undercut public perception of ExxonMobil as a responsible actor. Indeed, those reports ended up on CNN. So, Cohen went out of his way to schedule this call about the Guardian’s allegations.

 

As Maria recounted that discussion:

“We had no knowledge that this was going on,” insisted Cohen. He explained that Exxon funds a lot of different groups, and “when we fund them, we want good analysis." Exxon does not condone what AEI did, but Cohen confirmed that it does continues to fund AEI, although other groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute are not funded by them anymore.

Cohen assured us that Exxon is “trying to be a constructive player in the policy discussion and not associate [themselves] with those that are marginalized and are not welcome in that discussion.” The IPCC report “is what it is,” and Exxon does not believe in engaging in scientific research that preordains an answer. Cohen:

…that's the issue with AEI: Are they preordaining an answer?…I can understand taking a market approach or a government interventionist approach, but this is not a question of trying to find who’s right or who’s wrong. Let’s let the process work.

But, I asked, how can you grant AEI nearly two million dollars (n.b. slsmith -over the entirety of AEI operations, not annually) and not know what they’re doing with the money? Turns out that Exxon conveniently funds the “general operations” of AEI, not specific programs that would allow them to track how the money is being used. Perhaps Exxon needs to think hard next time before it funds an organization so clearly disinterested in constructive solutions.

Cohen was consistently explicit in Exxon's position that global warming is happening and mainly caused by human activities. If that is true, then how will Exxon fight the huge misperception that it’s still the planet's largest naysayer? Cohen conceded that the company needed to do a better job of communicating its position on global warming, rather than allowing a fact sheet or news release on their website to do the work.

 

Cohen kept telling us that the 2006 contribution report was coming out, but declined to give us any specifics about ExxonMobil’s contributions to AEI or other groups, but he said Competitive Enterprise Institute was no longer funded.  Cohen continued to defend AEI as a responsible, albeit very conservative, think tank doing legitimate policy research. And frankly, I supported him on that score during the calls because at least some of the work done by AEI is just that. And I was not nearly as skeptical as others about ExxonMobil's protestations of innocence.  See my post on the AEI matter ELP Blog Post on AEI

 

Here’s why yesterday I called ExxonMobil’s behavior in early 2007 deliberately misleading. Initial Post on 2006 Funding Report  

 

As the quoted material above indicates, Cohen in early February 2007 led us to believe that ExxonMobil was no longer in the denialist camp and did not condone AEI soliciting denialist analysis (if indeed that’s what they had done). He claimed that ExxonMobil no longer associated with marginalized denialist groups. He suggested that the 2006 report would indicate that ExxonMobily had disassociated itself from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which brought us the classic, sadly humorous “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life!” TV commercials. You tube link to CEI Energy commercial.

 

From this discussion, it seems clear that Cohen knew precisely which “public information and policy research” organizations that were funded by ExxonMobil during 2006. Yet, while he perhaps sat with the 2006 report in front of him and refused to release its contents, the 2006 contribution report later showed that in 2006 ExxonMobil provided $ 180,000 to Frontiers of Freedom and the CSPP, the policy center it created with ExxonMobil's funding several years ago. P.S. Cohen denied funding CSPP in an e-mail today, but unless my sight is failing: CSPP is reported as the Science and Policy Center under Frontiers of Freedom Download 2006 ExxonMobil's "public information and policy research" contributions If that’s not supporting denialists and associating with marginalized denialist groups, I don’t know what is!


Take a good look at the high quality analysis of global warming that CSPP provides:

 

(1) the amicus curiae brief filed in Mass. v. EPA by lawyers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute

(2) Dr. Ball's The Science Isn't Settled powerpoint presentation - Dr. Ball is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project which describes its first project on understanding climate change as "a proactive grassroots campaign to counter the Kyoto Protocol and other greenhouse gas reduction schemes." NRSP describes Dr. Ball as the "lead participant in a number of recent made-for-TV climate change videos, The Great Global Warming Swindle."

(3) Joe Daleo's Congressional Seminar on global warming in March 2007 devoted to disputing the IPCC's report and arguing that anthropogenic global warming from greenhouse gas emissions are not a real problem.

(4) CSPP's May 2007 rebuttal of Al Gore's testimony, which suggests there is no scientific consensus that CO2 emissions are causing global warming

(5) a nonsensical piece on "Gore's Guru," positing that because Dr. Revelle, who died in 1991, had cautioned in 1988 and 1991 against drawing rash conclusions about global warming might still take that position.  I call it nonsensical because Dr. Revelle suggested that we wait 10-20 years to see if the trends continued.  We've waited and now we've answered that question: between 1998 and 2008 we witnessed incredibly dramatic global warming and the scientific community has spent the last 10-20 years studying whether indeed human-caused GHG emissions are responsible for much of that warming.  We and ExxonMobil know its answer to that question.


Obviously, the blogosphere is not the only group worried about ExxonMobil's funding choices.  Britain's national academy of scientists, The Royal Society,  in September 2006 took ExxonMobil to task about its funding of denialist groups.  Royal Society letter

Well, maybe ExxonMobil finally pulled the plug on FF and its “Science and Policy” center in 2007 (and so Cohen was just tap-dancing around the embarrassing, but not on-going, reality of funding denialists). Although, FF's CSPP might survive: it apparently does have funding from two major tobacco companies!

Maybe ExxonMobil has rethought its policy on funding organizations whose primary contribution to the climate change discussion is to distribute continued attacks on those who conclude that the current state of climate science supports an effective policy to reduce GHG emissions.  I’d like to think so – but we won’t know until ExxonMobil releases its 2007 contributions report. I requested that Cohen release it to me; he declined.

However, even if it had defunded FF and CSPP (and other denialist groups), I’m not sure I’d believe that ExxonMobil hadn’t found new denialist outlets to fund.

 

If the Guardian and other media or the blogosphere produce a big enough stir on this story, perhaps it will. But I am astonished that, just as it was selling itself as a responsible player on global warming, ExxonMobil would act so irresponsibly and so deceptively. And I am deeply embarrassed at my naievete in believing what Ken Cohen and ExxonMobil were selling about ExxonMobil’s born again conversion to a responsible position on anthropogenic global warming.

 

Watch out, though, ExxonMobil knows that the question is no longer whether global warming is real, but what to do about it. You can bet it is smart enough and devious enough to fund a lot of “public information and policy research” that will muddle policy discussions about global warming legislation and may assure that not much is done to regulate GHG emissions from oil and gas and that what is done doesn’t cut hardly at all into ExxonMobil’s astounding profits: $41 billion for 2007 and almost $ 12 billion in the 4th quarter of 2007 alone. ExxonMobil profits post


I have a modest suggestion for ExxonMobil: do not fund organizations whose published information, analysis, and research on global warming or climate change has primarily sought to undercut the conclusions reached by the joint statement published in 2005 by 11 national academies of science, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and China .  That statement is linked here:   Joint Science Academies' Statement: Global Response to Climate Change


Unless and until ExxonMobil stops funding the sort of stuff that Center for Science and Public Policy is peddling, I hope that the new President and Congress will not believe a single word that is said about global warming policy by ExxonMobil or any of denialist and anti-regulatory "public information and policy research" organizations it funds.

 

 

Continue reading

February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Foreign Affairs - The Candidates in Their Own Words --

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008  I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewing is Barack Obama.  I chose Obama first in part because I am torn between Clinton and Obama.  Although I respect John McCain's leadership on climate change, I could not vote for a Republican after the 1994 - 2006 Republican congressional legacy and the debacle of Bush's presidency for virtually every freedom and human need.  I also disagree with McCain's position on Iraq.

In his own words, Barack Obama primarily addresses climate change as a matter of global policy.  He ties the US response to global warming to his overall foreign policy in this way:

Strengthened institutions and invigorated alliances and partnerships are especially crucial if we are to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world, including much of the eastern seaboard. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.

As the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, America has the responsibility to lead. While many of our industrial partners are working hard to reduce their emissions, we are increasing ours at a steady clip -- by more than ten percent per decade. As president, I intend to enact a cap-and-trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil -- by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels.

Getting our own house in order is only a first step. China will soon replace America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. I will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia. This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.

February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Candidates Compete for Green Title

After the Bush administration legacy, it is refreshing to see both Democratic and some Republican candidates competing for the title of Mr. or Ms. Green. See the comparison in Grist.

February 6, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ruth Norton Smith (Nov 27, 1921 - Oct 14, 2007)

Ruth Norton Smith died peacefully in Boulder, Colorado  on Sunday, October 14, 2007 after enjoying her full measure of life. 

Ruth was born in Oklahoma on November 27, 1921 in a tent in Oklahoma.  She was raised during the Depression years, moving frequently as her family farmed and followed the tunneling, mining, and other work available to her father.  Ultimately, her family settled in southern California.  There Ruth met the love of her life, Herbert Frank Smith, a carpenter and union organizer, whom she married on June 4, 1941. 

In WW II, while her husband served in the Navy in the South Pacific, Ruth became a Rosie the Riveter, building bombers, and then joined the Women’s Army Corps, serving as a nurse.  After the war, they settled in the Los Angeles area, where she became a real estate broker and the mom of two children, Greg in 1948 and Susan in 1953.

In 1955, her family moved to Colorado where she worked side by side with her husband to build two of the largest home-building companies in Colorado, Happy Homes and Fireside Homes, and a prominent real estate firm.  When she left real estate and home-building in the late 1960s, Ruth became a political and market researcher for Research Services, Inc. and later became a researcher for the U.S. Census Bureau, from which she retired in 1989.

Ruth was a life-long Democratic political activist with a passion for peace, civil rights, and all aspects of social justice.  She served in every capacity: running political campaigns, serving as a precinct committee woman, county, congressional district, and state delegate, pollwatcher, and election judge.  She worked with Metro Denver Fair Housing center as a realtor, helping the first African-American families in Jefferson County to find housing.  She volunteered with youth mentoring programs in Four Points and with Metro Denver Urban Coalition, Another Mother for Peace, Meals on Wheels, and countless other organizations. 

Ruth was too busy with her family, volunteer work and career for many hobbies.  She thrived on the stimulating conversations born by inviting friends and guests from all over the world and from every walk of life to dinner.  She also found great pleasure in reading, traveling and attending theatre and opera performances.

Ruth was a warm, intelligent, extroverted vibrant woman who loved and was loved by virtually everyone she met.   Her loss will be sorely missed by the many friends and family she has left behind, including her sister Lorene, her brother Fred, her son Greg, her daughter Susan, and her grandchildren Clint Smith, Brent Smith, Nathanial Smith-Tripp and Sarah Smith-Tripp.  Her family and friends will gather at Mt. Vernon Country Club on Sunday, October 21, 2007 at 10:30 am for a celebration of her life.  The family requests that no flowers be sent and suggests donations to Meals on Wheel or a charity of your choice.

October 18, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Thank you to Read/Write Web

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vote for Children's Safe Drinking Water

Welcome, SusanSmithDrinkWaterforLife
Our Money. Your Ideas. Your Decision.
My Current Vote
Children's Safe Drinking Water
Votes this round: 512  |  Send to a Friend

Project ID: 01250
Date Posted: 7/02

Supporting Organization
US Fund for UNICEF

Project Description:
For Two Cents We Can Change the World. Four thousand children die needlessly every day from drinking contaminated water. It's a tragedy that hundreds of millions of people obtain their drinking water from polluted sources such as muddy rivers, ponds, and streams. This public health crisis can be addressed today through an innovative and low-cost technology that effectively purifies and cleans water while removing bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Right now millions of people in Africa, Asia, and the Americas are being reached by a not-for-profit project, but millions more are in need. Help us reach a goal of providing 2 billion liters of safe drinking water. For only two pennies a day a child can have safe drinking water. We'd love to hear your thoughts. In fact, Give Us Your Two Cents Worth. Thank you.

Member: gsallgood


About Me:
My mission is to prevent the sickness and death that occur in the developing world from drinking unsafe water. I'm lucky to spend much of my life building partnerships to provide a low-cost technology to purify water. I never get tired of seeing filthy and highly contaminated water miraculously turn into clear and safe water. And, what's most satisfying is to provide children with their first drink of truly clean and purified water. Now we've developed a way for everyone to get involved. We can make, transport, and deliver the technology on a sustainable basis for only pennies per person. In fact, for just two cents we can provide purified drinking water for a person for a day. Two Cents to Change a Life. Please consider joining our project: "Give Your Two Cents Worth.


Hear From The Fulfilling Organization

1.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean water. As a result, 5,000 children die needlessly every day. In poor, rural communities, the only source of water is often miles away and the grueling task of collecting it often falls to young girls.

In the mountain village of La Horca, Nicaragua, Rosibel Gonzalez, 12, traveled 7.5 miles each day to fetch water for her parents and five siblings. Waking up before dawn, she walked to the creek before school and carried back a bucket of water on her head. She repeated the task after school and again before bed. But because the water she fetched came from the same source used by village livestock, it was dangerous to drink. When Rosibel's little brother, Wilber, was only eight months old, he and other villagers contracted cholera. That's where UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, came in. UNICEF provided a new solar-powered water pump and filtration system to bring clean water directly into La Horca's 35 homes. Now, Rosibel and her entire village have safe water to drink and Rosibel is left with plenty of time to study and play with her little brother.

With a presence in 156 countries, UNICEF is striving to duplicate this success worldwide. By voting for this project, you can help UNICEF save millions of children's lives. We know what needs to be done, we just need your help to do it. Only 2 cents will purchase one water purification tablet to clean 5 liters of water, $48 can purchase a portable latrine and $5,000 can buy a solar water pump, like the one installed in Rosibel's village. UNICEF partners with communities to provide these and other innovative, low-cost and life-saving solutions for the world's most vulnerable children and their families.

July 6, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Zoellick becomes World Bank president

The Executive Directors of the World Bank yesterday unanimously selected Robert Zoellick as the 11th President of the bank for a five-year term.

The President of the bank is ex-officio President of the International Development Association (IDA) and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the Administrative Council of the International Centre of Investment Disputes (ICSID).

This announcement affects every aspect of environmental, energy, and resources law, of course, due to the Bank's pivotal role in financing development -- and thereby setting development policy throughout the world.  So, who is this masked man?

Here's the Bank's bio:

Professional History of Mr. Robert B. Zoellick

Mr. Zoellick, a U.S. national, is currently Vice Chairman, International, of Goldman Sachs Group, and a Managing Director and Chairman of Goldman Sach’s Board of International Advisors. He has served in a number of senior positions in successive US administrations, including as Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of State, and as U.S. Trade Representative (2001-05). He also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Policy, US Department of Treasury, and Undersecretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and Counselor in the U.S. State Department. He was Executive Vice President of Fannie Mae (1993-1997), the large U.S. mortgage finance corporation, as well as Vice President and Assistant to the Chairman and CEO. In addition, he served as Olin Visiting Professor, U.S. Naval Academy, as Senior Advisor, Goldman Sachs, as Research Scholar, Belfer Center, Harvard University, and previously on three corporate boards, as well as numerous research and non-profit boards.

Mr. Zoellick has a J.D., magna cum laude, Harvard Law School, and a M.P.P. (in public management and international issues) from the Kennedy School of Government. In addition, Mr. Zoellick has received numerous distinguished service awards.

Read between the lines: Zoellick is a Bush loyalist and true believer in globalization for the benefit of corporate interests and the wealthy.  Wouldn't it be refreshing sometime for the World Bank to be led by someone who is committed to reducing international poverty and who has on the ground development experience -- rather than ideological theorizing and strategizing experience.

Unfortunately, and I say this as an alumna of both, Zoellick's Kennedy School and HLS credentials just mean he's smart, not moral or committed to the public he is supposed to serve.

June 26, 2007 in Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spirit of the Eagle

This blog is devoted principally to the professional or academic aspects of environmental law, policy, science, and ethics.  But like any blogger, I do have a life.  Anyone interested in the slightly less academic side of me is welcome to visit Spirit of the Eagle, my personal blog.

February 26, 2007 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)