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Archive for September 23rd, 2009

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has circulated a draft amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill—the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual spending bill—calling to prevent the Agency from regulating stationary sources of greenhouse gases, despite a mandate from the US Supreme Court two years ago to do just that.

The amendment would ignore worldwide scientific consensus that indicates carbon dioxide emissions from both stationary and mobile sources as a major threat to public health and welfare.  Logic, science, and the law agree!  Global warming pollution from power plants and oil refineries is just as harmful as that from cars and other passenger vehicles.  According to major scientific bodies, such as the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, carbon dioxide emissions—no matter what its source may be—are warming the planet, as well as threatening public health and the welfare of our citizens.

Furthermore, the Murkowski amendment would severely undermine the Clean Air Act’s provisions to protect public health and the environment.  Oil refineries and coal plants are among the biggest global warming polluters in the nation.  The amendment would let these big players off the hook, delaying any momentum our nation has in transitioning to sources of clean energy.  If the amendment is rejected, our ongoing shift toward solar and wind energy will drastically benefit our nation, providing a continuous and cleaner supply of energy that will only get cheaper over time, while creating millions of clean energy jobs.

The United States is the single largest producer of harmful gases, with China and India following closely behind. China has even surpassed the US at times in CO2 emissions, although with the current economic recession it’s tough to know who is winning, or should we say losing, the carbon pollution race. Our nation alone contributes nearly 25 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions each year. It is feared that the amendment would make a loud statement heard across the world; one that says the U.S. is not serious about reducing and controlling its global warming pollution, giving developing countries a ‘get out of jail free’ card when it comes to reducing their own carbon emissions.  This could be devastating to international negotiations slated to take place in Copenhagen in December to create a framework to follow up to the Kyoto Protocol.

Lastly, the Murkowski amendment could inevitably prevent the EPA from preparing to implement climate legislation.  The Agency would be prohibited from collecting information and expertise it may need to effectively implement climate change legislation, such as the carbon-capture-and-sequestration bonus allowance program, free allowances for energy-intensive manufacturers, or early-offset programs.

If Murkowski gets her way, we could see a vote this week.  This is the wrong message for our Senators to send, who should not be trying to overturn a Supreme Court ruling and impede international climate negotiations through dirty tricks playing with the budgets of federal agencies.

Click here to see a general action alert by the Sierra Club and more reporting on this by the New York Times.

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Public Citizen Texas and the Sierra Club just closed out their first week on the Texas State-Wide Coal Plant Tour. After a quick break, the tour’s fight against grandfathering will continue next Monday, September 28 in College Station.

So far, the media tour has brought awareness to communities in Waco, Dallas, and Abilene in regards to nearby coal plants that are flying under the legal radar.  These districts have been negatively impacted by the failure of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality(TCEQ) to enforce the law and control pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) recently rejected key aspects of the TCEQ’s air permitting plan, and called for proper enforcement of the Clean Air Act in Texas.  The goal of Public Citizen Texas and the Sierra Club has been to stop the development of any new coal plants in Texas, as well as those that are currently being constructed.  The proposed moratorium would last at least until the TCEQ cracks the whip and strictly enforces Clean Air regulations.

According to a clause under the American Clean Energy and Security Act, plants that are already under construction, near construction or were permitted before January 1, 2009, may escape new regulations.  Around 43 new coal plants will be built on American soil within the next five years, with about a dozen of those in Texas alone.  These provisions—which have come to be called ‘grandfathering’ clauses—and others like it, could allow all of these plants to escape recently set performance standards.

To put things into perspective, let’s take a minute to reflect on the original grandfather clauses.  Birthed during the segregationist Jim Crow period that followed the Civil War, grandfather clauses restricted voting rights in several southern states.  It stated that men, or descendents of men, who had voted before 1866 did not have to meet the educational, property, or tax requirements for voting then in existence; however, slaves could not legally vote before or during the Civil War.  Therefore, most individuals were deemed ineligible.  The Jim Crow laws were inevitably struck down, but the idea of the grandfather clause remained.

What’s the phrase?  Oh, yes.  It’s merely history repeating itself.

Congress’ initial decision to exempt existing coal plants from the stipulations listed under the Clean Air Act was to avoid causing any economic disruption.  They assumed the older plants would be replaced with newer, cleaner ones; but instead, the grandfathering clause has encouraged utilities to just extend the lives of the old, high-polluting plants.

There is no reason why plants being permitted and built today should not be held to the new emission standards. The first step to combat this problem should begin at the state level.  If you live in College Station, Corpus Christi, Bay City, or Houston, our clean energy trailer is coming to a venue near you.  The remaining dates and times of the Texas State-Wide Coal Plant Tour are listed in a blog below.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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