Friday, May 28, 2010

Senate Sends Clear Message on EPAs Lead Rule

Sen. Inhofe said that the overwhelming bipartisan vote last night in support of the Collins-Inhofe amendment, S. 4253, to the supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4899), highlights growing concern with the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's new Lead-Based Paint Rule (Lead RRP).

(Read Coverage in the Tulsa World: Senate moves to put off lead paint violation fines)  

The amendment, which was passed by a vote of 60 to 37, and cosponsored by several senators, will block funds in the supplemental from being used to "levy against any person any fine, or to hold any person liable for construction or renovation work performed by the person."

Following the vote, Senator Inhofe called for the EPW Committee to conduct an oversight hearing to help the public understand the requirements of the rule, as well as problems associated with the rule's implementation.

"The passage of our amendment clearly shows there is bipartisan concern about the disastrous implementation of EPA's lead-based paint rule," Senator Inhofe said. "To help clear up the widespread confusion with the rule's implementation, I am calling on Chairman Boxer to conduct an EPW oversight hearing.  I believe we should do everything possible to ensure there are enough classes available in every state and to help get as many trainers certified as needed."


The Environmental Protection Agency's Lead RRP went into effect on April 22, 2010.  The rule is designed to help reduce lead exposure to pregnant women and children from dust caused by renovations. Unfortunately, the implementation of the rule has been confusing and unclear to constituents--including homeowners, landlords, renovators, and contractors--throughout Oklahoma and nation.    

The new rule applies to renovations in homes built before 1978 and that disturb more than six square feet of paint. These renovations must be supervised by a certified renovator and conducted by a certified renovation firm. In order to become certified, contractors must submit an application - with a fee - to EPA, and complete a training course for instruction on lead-safe work practices. 

Learn more about Senator Inhofe's attempt to bring more attention the Rule

Inhofe Comments on Obama Press Conference on Gulf Disaster

Senator Inhofe commented on President Obama's press conference yesterday on the Gulf spill.

"I appreciate the President holding a press conference today to provide the American people with the latest on the Federal response to the Gulf spill," Senator Inhofe said. "It is critical that President Obama remain focused on stopping the leak, containing and mitigating the environmental damage, providing assistance to those affected in the Gulf, and completing a thorough investigation of the spill's causes. I was encouraged that President Obama reiterated his support for offshore oil production as a necessary component of America's energy mix.  This is essential for our national security, and I support revisiting existing policies to ensure we do this in an environmentally responsible manner."

Policy Beat: Murkowski Resolution Would Not Overturn National Fuel Economy Standards

President Obama's announcement last Friday that his Administration is contemplating fuel economy standards beyond 2016 resurrected a familiar canard in the debate on the Murkowski disapproval resolution.  To wit: the resolution would overturn the "historic" auto emissions deal struck last May between the Obama Administration (EPA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, and Carol Browner), auto executives, and the state of California.  By overturning EPA's endangerment finding, Murkowski's detractors say, the administration's new fuel economy standards will vanish into thin air. 

The one problem with this view is that it's wrong.  Just ask the Obama Administration.  "As a strictly legal matter," according to a February 19 letter by Kevin Vincent, NHTSA's general counsel, "the Murkowski resolution does not directly impact NHTSA's statutory authority to set fuel economy standards under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007(EISA)."  [Emphasis added]  We recognize the varied opinions on increasing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, but we need not delve into them here.  Congress gave explicit authority to NHTSA to regulate fuel economy under the EPCA and that authority was amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The main point is that, as Vincent conceded, if Murkowski became law, NHTSA's work would continue unimpeded because the resolution would only affect EPA's new administratively-created GHG authority, and not NHTSA's CAFE authority rooted in statute.

And NHTSA's work represents the lion's share of the auto deal.  As EPA explained, "The CAFE standards address most, but not all, of the real world CO2 emissions."  In the end, EPA's rule amounts to about 4 percent of the program's emissions reductions.  Also of note is the fact that EPA and NHTSA established a "single national program" for cars and light duty trucks.  In other words, there is little difference between the respective agencies' rules.  As EPA explained:

[EPA and NHTSA] have harmonized many elements of program design, such as the form of the standard (the footprint-based attribute curves), and the definitions used for cars and trucks. They have developed the same or similar compliance flexibilities, to the extent allowed and appropriate under their respective statutes, such as averaging, banking, and trading of credits, and have harmonized the compliance testing and test protocols used for purposes of the fleet average standards each agency is finalizing. Finally, under their respective statutes, each agency is called upon to exercise its judgment and determine standards that are an appropriate balance of various relevant statutory factors. Given the common technical issues before each agency, the similarity of the factors each agency is to consider and balance, and the authority of each agency to take into consideration the standards of the other agency, both EPA and NHTSA are establishing standards that result in a harmonized National Program.

Not only is there little difference between the two rules, but when it comes to reducing global warming, EPA's rule is utterly meaningless.  EPA has disputed the view that the rule's climate impacts "are small and therefore not meaningful."  Yet EPA shortly thereafter quantifies what the impact of the rule will be. To put it mildly, it is less than impressive: "Based on the reanalysis the results for projected atmospheric CO2 concentrations are estimated to be reduced by an average of 2.9 ppm (previously 3.0 ppm), global mean temperature is estimated to be reduced by 0.006 to 0.0015 °C by 2100."  This amount is so miniscule it can't even be measured by a ground-based thermometer.  Oh, and for good measure, EPA says that sea level rise is "projected to be reduced by approximately 0.06-0.14 cm by 2100." 

What the foregoing shows is that the "auto deal" defense fails to measure up.  What does measure up is the Murkowski resolution overturning the endangerment finding fiasco along with EPA's costly and environmentally futile greenhouse gas regulatory regime. 

In the News... Democrats Send Mixed Messages on Liability

Congress Daily  

Taking A Spill

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

by Darren Goode, with Amy Harder contributing

Link to Article

Democrats on the Record Expressing Concern with Menendez Liability Bill

Earlier this month, Interior Secretary Salazar told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee the White House and Congress need to work in bipartisan harmony to determine how much more companies should pay for damages linked to a major oil spill like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. The same day, President Obama sent a more pointedly partisan message to Senate Republicans.

Obama released a statement while Salazar was still testifying accusing Republicans of engaging in "special-interest politics" in rejecting attempts by some Senate Democrats to increase a $75 million liability cap to $10 billion. Salazar had reminded two Senate panels just hours earlier that Obama had sent legislation to lawmakers the prior week, saying more work was needed to specify how much liability limits should be raised.

The events of May 18 were merely one example of how the administration's rhetoric regarding the Gulf spill has not always kept officials on the same page.

"It's not consistent," Senate Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Lisa Murkowski said. "I don't know if they're consulting one another before they speak."

"I am quite frankly baffled by the lack of coordination in the administration's response," said the Brookings Institution's Bill Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton and an adviser to former vice presidents Al Gore and Walter Mondale when they ran for president. "I would have thought that given the impact this can have on the reputation and standing of an administration, that the White House would have moved quite early in the process to establish some coordinated message and policy in the White House." He added, "Either that was not done or was done but not done correctly. Suffice it to say, this has not been the administration's finest hour."

The mixed rhetoric continued this week. After meeting with BP officials in Houston Sunday, Salazar said he was "angry and frustrated that BP has been unable to stop this well from leaking and to stop the pollution from spreading," and threatened to "push them out of the way" if necessary to address the spill.

That led White House senior adviser David Axelrod to defend BP's response the next morning and to signal the company in fact should not be pushed aside.

"Does anybody really believe that BP is dragging their feet in solving this problem?" Axelrod said in an interview on MSNBC.

Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen -- who is heading the administration's spill response effort -- said at the White House briefing Monday that, "To push BP out of the way, it would raise the question, to replace them with what?"

Salazar issued a clarification Monday as well, including that administration officials have "been very clear that there are areas where BP and the private sector are the ones who must continue to lead the efforts, with government oversight, such as in the deployment of private sector technology 5,000 feet below the ocean surface to kill the well."

Asked for comment, a White House spokesman would only add in an e-mail that this particular column was "lame/ridiculous/inaccurate/dated and unworthy of a response."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said the administration's messaging -- while mixed earlier this week -- is improving. "When the secretary of the Interior says one thing and the commandant of the Coast Guard says another thing, yes that's a mixed message. But they're getting their message together," he said.

The administration has other defenders.

"This big an operation, with so many different departments of government in it -- and I think at long last we have a government that actually wants to get the job done right rather than just message consistently as the Bush administration was fond of doing -- that it doesn't seem surprising to me that one may find discrepancies between what people are saying," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. Whitehouse toured the spill area Monday with Salazar and several other senators. He added, "But I haven't really noticed it."

There is enormous pressure not just on BP to address the spill but also on Obama and his administration, who do not want any excuse for critics to link the administration's response effort to the botched Bush administration response to Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the Gulf spill -- while drawing comparisons to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster -- is bigger and more complicated, the least of which includes a response effort in far deeper waters and a fragile ecosystem.

"I think they're reacting to a crisis that's unfolding minute by minute," said Dan Weiss, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. "When that happens, sometimes they don't have the opportunity to get everybody on the same page before they start talking in public."

The White House announced Tuesday that Obama would be traveling to Louisiana's Gulf Coast Friday to survey the spill and the response effort. "My guess is that wasn't on his schedule two days ago," Weiss said.

In the News... NYT: Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons

The New York Times 

Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons


May 24, 2010

Link to Article

LONDON - Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?

Nowhere has this shift in public opinion been more striking than in Britain, where climate change was until this year such a popular priority that in 2008 Parliament enshrined targets for emissions cuts as national law. But since then, the country has evolved into a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated.

A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that "climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade," down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.

And London's Science Museum recently announced that a permanent exhibit scheduled to open later this year would be called the Climate Science Gallery - not the Climate Change Gallery as had previously been planned.

"Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,' " said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. "But now I have my doubts, and I'm wondering if it's been overhyped."

Perhaps sensing that climate is now a political nonstarter, David Cameron, Britain's new Conservative prime minister, was "strangely muted" on the issue in a recent pre-election debate, as The Daily Telegraph put it, though it had previously been one of his passions.

And a poll in January of the personal priorities of 141 Conservative Party candidates deemed capable of victory in the recent election found that "reducing Britain's carbon footprint" was the least important of the 19 issues presented to them.

Politicians and activists say such attitudes will make it harder to pass legislation like a fuel tax increase and to persuade people to make sacrifices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"Legitimacy has shifted to the side of the climate skeptics, and that is a big, big problem," Ben Stewart, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said at the meeting of environmentalists here. "This is happening in the context of overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and a threat. But the poll figures are going through the floor."

The lack of fervor about climate change is also true of the United States, where action on climate and emissions reduction is still very much a work in progress, and concern about global warming was never as strong as in Europe. A March Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was "generally exaggerated," up from 41 percent a year ago.

Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media's intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.

Two independent reviews later found no evidence that the East Anglia researchers had actively distorted climate data, but heavy press coverage had already left an impression that the scientists had schemed to repress data. Then there was the unusually cold winter in Northern Europe and the United States, which may have reinforced a perception that the Earth was not warming. (Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a United States agency, show that globally, this winter was the fifth warmest in history.)

Asked about his views on global warming on a recent evening, Brian George, a 30-year-old builder from southeast London, mused, "It was extremely cold in January, wasn't it?"

In a telephone interview, Nicholas Stern, a former chief economist at the World Bank and a climate change expert, said that the shift in opinion "hadn't helped" efforts to come up with strong policy in a number of countries. But he predicted that it would be overcome, not least because the science was so clear on the warming trend.

"I don't think it will be problematic in the long run," he said, adding that in Britain, at least, politicians "are ahead of the public anyway." Indeed, once Mr. Cameron became prime minister, he vowed to run "the greenest government in our history" and proposed projects like a more efficient national electricity grid.

Scientists have meanwhile awakened to the public's misgivings and are increasingly fighting back. An editorial in the prestigious journal Nature said climate deniers were using "every means at their disposal to undermine science and scientists" and urged scientists to counterattack. Scientists in France, the Netherlands and the United States have signed open letters affirming their trust in climate change evidence, including one published on May 7 in the journal Science.

In March, Simon L. Lewis, an expert on rain forests at the University of Leeds in Britain, filed a 30-page complaint with the nation's Press Complaints Commission against The Times of London, accusing it of publishing "inaccurate, misleading or distorted information" about climate change, his own research and remarks he had made to a reporter.

"I was most annoyed that there seemed to be a pattern of pushing the idea that there were a number of serious mistakes in the I.P.C.C. report, when most were fairly innocuous, or not mistakes at all," said Dr. Lewis, referring to the report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Meanwhile, groups like the wildlife organization WWF have posted articles like "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic," providing stock answers to doubting friends and relatives, on their Web sites.

It is unclear whether such actions are enough to win back a segment of the public that has eagerly consumed a series of revelations that were published prominently in right-leaning newspapers like The Times of London and The Telegraph and then repeated around the world.

In January, for example, The Times chastised the United Nations climate panel for an errant and unsupported projection that glaciers in the Himalayas could disappear by 2035. The United Nations ultimately apologized for including the estimate, which was mentioned in passing within a 3,000-page report in 2007.

Then came articles contending that the 2007 report was inaccurate on a host of other issues, including African drought, the portion of the Netherlands below sea level, and the economic impact of severe storms. Officials from the climate panel said the articles' claims either were false or reflected minor errors like faulty citations that in no way diluted the evidence that climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, successfully demanded in February that some German newspapers remove misleading articles from their Web sites. But such reports have become so common that he "wouldn't bother" to pursue most cases now, he added.

The public is left to struggle with the salvos between the two sides. "I'm still concerned about climate change, but it's become very confusing," said Sandra Lawson, 32, as she ran errands near Hyde Park.