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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

If you live in the Waco, Sweetwater, Corpus Christi, or Victoria area, you may have seen this op-ed run in your local newspaper under a variety of titles such as “Stop the Dirty Dozen”, “New generation of grandfathered polluters?”, and “Don’t create another generation of grandfathered power plants.” If not, you should give it a read.

smitty-mug2In the early 1970s, when it looked like the passage of the federal Clean Air Act was inevitable, power companies in Texas went on a building boom to construct 12 dirty, old-technology power plants before legislation went into effect. It was more than 30 years before the Texas Legislature addressed pollution from these “grandfathered” plants. Today, just as Congress and the Obama administration are poised to pass a series of tougher air pollution laws and cap global warming gasses, a dozen applications for additional coal fired power plants in Texas have been permitted or are pending. If built, this dirty dozen of coal plants would add an astounding 77 million tons a year of global warming gases to our already overheated air, 55,000 tons of acid rain forming gases, 29,000 tons of ozone forming chemicals and 3,800 lbs of brain damaging mercury. Your call to your state senator this week can help stop another generation of coal plants from being built.

Two years ago, 19 new coal plants were proposed for the state of Texas. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief when TXU withdrew applications for eight of those plants. But other companies are still building their proposed plants, and the cumulative impacts will make it harder to breathe in the DFW, Houston, Tyler- Longview, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Victoria and Corpus Christi areas. Seven of the plants have already been permitted, but five more are still in the permitting stages and can be more easily stopped.

Sen. Kip Averitt took a strong stand on this issue by adding a provision in his aggressive air qualtity bill, SB 16, to require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to look at the cumulative impacts of any proposed new plant along with any others that have already been permitted or are being proposed. This amendment would have gone a long way to protect our air and climate.

Unfortunately the electric companies out-lobbied him and took a red pen to that provision of the bill. What’s left is too little and too late. (more…)

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And so it begins….

We knew as soon as there was a draft climate bill that it would be falsely attacked and derided disingenuously as “an energy tax.”  But we had no idea to what extent the truth-stretchers would go to make their rhetorical points.

Did I say stretch the truth?  I meant break, beat, spit upon and then toss it into a cesspool to be feasted upon by worms and vermin, for as little as truth means to these lying liars.

Wednesday, Keith Olbermann named John Boehner his “Worst Person in the World” for his exaggeration lie about the costs of tackling carbon.  Watch this video for yourself:

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  At least some people are willing to check their facts and talk about climate in a rational manner.  Look, a Press Release! (emphasis added is mine, not in original)

‘Energy Tax’ Rhetoric Ill Serves Debate on Climate Legislation

Republican members of Congress have taken to calling cap-and-trade legislation an “energy tax” or a “light switch tax” on American families and businesses.

Most recently, congressional Republicans misrepresented a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study analyzing cap-and-trade proposals. They distorted the study’s conclusions to exaggerate the costs of cap-and-trade legislation on individual households, by making faulty calculations based on erroneous assumptions and by ignoring a basic principle of economics – the time value of money.

Conservatives, of all people, should not ignore basic principles of economics. (more…)

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In the fight for a greener future, America’s youth has and is continuing to be one of the strongest forces. Recently, I participated in Powershift 2009–the largest summit on climate and energy in United States’ history. Roughly 12,000 attended the conference, and the overwhelming majority of participants were students from high schools and colleges spanning across the nation!

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The conference began Friday, and provided endless opportunities for attendees to experience environmentally-geared panels, workshops, movies, speakers, and state breakouts until Sunday. The amalgamation of these informative and inspirational activities worked as a preface that ultimately led to Powershift’s climax that Monday–lobby day. Despite the untimely blizzard-like weather that stormed DC right before that Monday, thousands of youth still trudged through snow and sleet to capitol hill. That day, March 2nd, proved the be the largest lobby day for climate and energy in US history. Senators and representatives from all fifty states were successfully lobbied, with a total of 350 lobby visits! For any of you who are glad that some federal lobbying was completed for your interests, here is the platform that Powershifters presented to US senators and representatives:

1. Cut Carbon Emissions

  • Reduce global warming pollution by the targets science tells us are necessary: 25%-40% below 1990 levels by 2020; and 80%-95% below 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Set an aggressive cap on carbon immediately. If a cap-and-auction mechanism is chosen, 100% of pollution allowances must be auctioned. Any revenue generated from this cap must be used to address the climate crisis in a just and equitable way; none of this money should go to polluting industries.
  • Conserve and restore the world’s forest, ecosystems, and carbon sinks, which are the best natural defense in a warming world.

2. Invest in a Green Economy

  • Create 5 million new jobs through investments in clean energy.
  • Develop a “Clean Energy Corps” to create service, training, and job opportunities in the clean energy economy (1).
  • Train a generation of workers and volunteers to build our clean energy future and help communities adapt to the already changing climate.

3. Power Our Future with Clean Energy, not Dirty Fuels

  • We see a future powered by clean, renewable energy like wind, solar, and geothermal; 100% of our electricity should come from these sources, and we should invest in sustainable transit and energy efficiency.
  • End our dependence on dirty energy by enacting a moratorium on financing and development of new coal and nuclear plants, and oil shale and tar sands infrastructure.
  • Immediately begin phasing out dirty and dangerous energy sources and methods of extraction, while also ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities.

4. Lead the World to a Clean and Equitable Energy Future

  • Work with other nations to reach a strong new global climate treaty in Copenhagen that puts us on track to reduce carbon below 350 parts per million.
  • Assist vulnerable communities and developing countries in the transition to low-carbon economies and with adaptation to the changing climate.

_________________

This was the type of rhetoric left at the nation’s capitol a week ago, and such requests likely still serve as hot topic points in DC. As a voice of Powershift, and the young environmentalists of this nation, this is the direction we want to see our federal government take now, and in the future. And let me assure you, the overwhelming feeling in Washington experienced by many of the Powershifters is that this direction is highly achievable, at least, more so than ever before in our nation’s history!

(1) The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP15 in Copenhagen.

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A ruptured pipeline has just spilled 4,000 gallons of toxic coal ash into the north Potomac River, reports Pete Altman at NRDC’s Switchboard blog:

The Maryland Department of the Environment just reported that a ruptured pipeline carrying wet coal ash has spilled 4,000 gallons of the toxic-laden stuff into the North Branch of the Potomac River, in Luke, MD.

I don’t know how long it’ll take for the spill to reach DC proper, but its a hell of a way to send a message about how much we need to regulate the handling of this stuff. All the more reason to thank the Obama Administration for announcing plans to propose federal regulations for coal waste.

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Google Earth image of the North Branch of the Potomac and site of the spill

I hate to see this happen, but hopefully it will provide the kick in the pants Congress needs to regulate coal combustion waste.  Please take this timely opportunity to visit 1Sky’s Skywriter blog and tell Congress to prevent the next coal waste disaster by passing a moratorium on new coal plants.

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Just last night the House and Senate came to agreement: a $789 billion Stimulus Package with no traces of nuclear pork! The $50 billion in federal loan guarantees that could have been used by nuclear and coal industries have been carved out.No Nuclear Pork

Thank you, Legislators, for finally seeing that the nuclear sector will not contribute to jobs, nor is it a better alternative for the environment!

Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear says:

This monumental waste of money had to end. The nuclear energy industry cannot solve the climate crisis and fattening the nuclear calf has deprived real energy solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency programs from essential support for decades.

And a double fist pump for all of the 243 environmental, consumer, and religious organizations that rallied together and sent a joint letter to Senators stating their “dismay and anger over the inclusion by the Senate Appropriations Committee of a provision in the economic stimulus bill to provide up to $50 billion in additional taxpayer loan guarantees that could be used for construction of new nuclear reactors and ‘clean coal’ plants.”

No more nuclear pork!

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A message from our director, Tom “Smitty” Smith:

efficient-homeToday the House and Senate are working to reconcile their different versions of the long-awaited economic stimulus package. The stakes are now higher than ever for Texans, who stand to gain from billions that could go toward developing renewable energy and efficiency in the state, reducing pollution from diesel engines, and cleaning up abandoned nuclear waste sites.

But as much as the state needs that massive investment in our energy future, there is a troubling side to the senate version of the stimulus package: Senators amended the stimulus bill to include $50 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear plants in Texas and elsewhere in the nation.

If Congress needs a reminder why this is a bad deal, it should just ask Wall Street why it doesn’t loan money for nuclear reactors. According to the Congressional Budget Office, nuclear loans default at a rate of 50%. Banks learned long ago that these plants simply can’t be built on budget and aren’t viable without massive taxpayer subsidies. Texans are still paying for the last generation of over-budget nuclear plants each month in a hidden charge on their electric bills. (more…)

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UPDATE: With the passage of the stimulus bill through the Senate, now the joint conference committee will have to iron out the differences between the House and Senate bills. This is the last chance for Congress to strip this out of the bill.  Does your Congressman know how you feel about nuclear pork?

Environmentalists are screaming but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s listening. So many articles are debating $50 million for this or that in the economic stimulus bill, but almost all of them seem to be ignoring the huge $50 BILLION slab of glowing pork, in the form of loan guarantees, for the nuclear industry slipped into the stimulus bill last Tuesday by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah).

Sen. Bennett (R- UT) and Fictional Supervillain / Nuclear Power enthusiast C. Montgomery Burns

Sen. Bennett (R- UT) and Fictional Supervillain / Nuclear Power enthusiast C. Montgomery Burns

(A Washington Post article yesterday has some interesting background information. What they left out is why Bennett would be supporting nuclear pork. Anyone want to guess?)

Said Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder in a Press Release last Wednesday,

Senators are supposed to be fixing the economy but instead they’re offering the nuclear industry a $50 billion gift that will create virtually no near-term jobs. It’s unconscionable. Lobbyists are probably popping champagne corks as we speak.

With a long licensing and regulatory process, nuclear reactors are simply not shovel-ready.

Stressed Michael Mariotte, executive director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), in a January 30th Press Release,

This is nothing more than a pre-emptive bailout of the nuclear power industry. It would have no stimulative effect on the economy and would create no new jobs, since no reactors will be licensed or can even be started in the two-year period the bill addresses.

Even if this were not the case, the “Nuclear Energy Institute-infamous for overstating nuclear power’s alleged benefits-acknowledges it costs about $1.5 million per job created by nuclear power.” (more…)

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choirThe Texas Observer just ran an article on the top ten issues the Texas Legislature should address this session. Anybody want to guess what number two was?

If you guessed climate change… you’ve probably been reading this blog.  And you’d be right!

The Observer expects for Texas leaders to more amenable to climate change action than they have been in years past. Their reasoning?

Congress and the Obama administration have signaled that major federal climate change legislation is in the works. The Obama package will give Texas a choice: lead or get left behind,” says state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso. “Luddites need to move away and let leadership take the day.”

The article continues:

As the nation’s top emitter of carbon dioxide, Texas arguably has the most to lose and the most to gain from federal action, says Bea Moorehead, executive director of Texas Impact, an interfaith advocacy group. States that move sooner to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions will have an easier time adapting to a carbon-restrained world. Advocates like Moorehead want to build on the successes Texas has had with wind power and energy conservation by pushing incentives for the solar industry and expanding efficiency standards. Such measures, they say, will create jobs and cut air pollution while replacing sources of greenhouse gas.

I was particularly excited about this article because we’ve been singing the same tune in informational handouts to all your legislative members.

If you agree that this is the message your legislators need to hear, loud and clear… TELL THEM SO.  We can print out brochures and hand them to legislative staffers, and the Observer can print articles on what they think the legislature ought to be doing, but ultimately, politicians respond to what their constituents want.

This is a novel idea, I know.  You’re thinking; “But Sarah, I’ve been wanting politicians to pursue a whole host of progressive policies for years, and they haven’t happened.”

Well, have you every straight up asked?  Politicians aren’t mind readers, you know.  Sometimes we’ve got to count ourselves lucky if they are readers at all.  So if you want them to know what you want, you’ve got to tell them.  When you contact your legislators, they take it much more seriously than a small record of your personal opinion.  As few as five personal letters can key a legislator in that an issue is important.  Just ten letters can lead them to think they’ve got “constituent trouble” and cause them to support or vote against a particular bill.

Visit the website Who Represents Me? If you know your address, it will only take about 30 seconds to know who your legislators are as well.  Write them a letter.  Or pick up the phone and give them a call.  You probably won’t get to speak with your rep directly, but you can definitely ask for the staffer that works on energy and give them your two cents.  Make your voice be heard!

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urgentCongress is voting on Obama’s much anticipated stimulus package today. If you want this package to include measures to promote renewable energy and a public works project to make public buildings more energy-efficient — and if you read this blog, I bet you do — tell your legislator now! It will only take a minute, and could make a HUGE difference for America’s energy future.

Act Now!

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Today’s Dallas Morning News editorializes about banning phthalates, (pronounced THAL-ates), a chemical made from petroleum that makes plastics bendable and has already been banned in Europe, California, Washington, and even Mexico. Among the top products that use phthalates in their plastics? Children’s toys. As a father of two children under the age of 3 whose toys invariably end up in their mouths, whether these post a health risk is of obvious concern to me.

Both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed legislation to reform the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees product safety and consumer protection, but the Senate’s version included a phtalate ban- the House’s version did not. Now, while in the conference committee designed to reconcile the two versions of the bill, special interests are attempting to keep the phthalate ban out of the final bill.

(more…)

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