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Climate Politics/Capitol Light Vol 1 Issue 11

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Climate, Politics/Capitol Light©, is a service of The JBS Group and Civil Notion.com                    

The Republicans have left the building. Oregon Republican senators have left the Capitol and scattered in various directions outside the state to avoid being rounded up by troopers for a high-profile climate bill vote.

“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., of Grants Pass, said in a written statement Thursday morning. “We have endured threats of arrest, fines, and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president, and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer."

What’s happened to democracy? While Oregon Democrats have a rare 18 to 12 super-majority in the House and Senate, they cannot approve the bill without at least two Republicans present. After several days of heated debate between the two sides, eleven GOP members mutually agreed to boycott the vote.

“The Senate Democrats have requested the assistance of the Oregon State Police to bring back their colleagues to finish the work they committed to push forward,” Governor Kate Brown said, adding “As the executive of the agency, I am authorizing the State Police to fulfill the Senate Democrats’ request.”

Sen. Brian Boquist (R) didn’t take too kindly to Brown’s threat – telling a reporter he was prepared for a bloody standoff if state troopers show up for him. Boquist had previously told Brown that “hell is coming to visit you personally” if she went forward with the threat.

“Send bachelors, and come heavily armed; I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon, it’s just that simple,”

When did they start respecting the law? Billed by the Trump administration as an alternative to the Obama era Clean Power Plan that "respects the rule of law," the regulation would cut about 11 million short tons of CO2 from existing coal-fired generators by 2030, according to the EPA. In comparison, when the EPA finalized the Clean Power Plan in 2015, it projected the rule would cut about 870 million short tons of CO2 by 2030. To give a scope of potential reductions under the ACE rule, just two coal-fired boilers at plants in Ohio — the Gen J M Gavin and W.H. Zimmer plants — emit about 16.5 million short tons of CO2 annually, according to EPA data. The two-unit Gavin plant alone emitted 15.8 million short tons during 2018.  (S&P Global)

  • With the release of the ACE rule, the Clean Power Plan (CPP) has been canceled. Before the release, the CPP was technically the governing rule.
  • Should ACE be found legally wanting—we already know it misses on the science—it is arguable that the CPP would then be the default standard.
  • The problem with the CPP being recognized as the official fall back option is its age and the movement of the utility sector away from coal. The CPP was inadequate in terms of reducing CO2 emissions enough to impact a temperature rise below the 1.5-2.0 Celsius threshold.
  • The power sector is already on a pace to exceed the CPP reductions by virtue of market economics.
  • Should the Democrats take the White House in 2020, they will be faced—under any circumstance—with having to begin a new rulemaking, which as everyone should know by now, will take years to come into force.

 

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Hardly ever meets a chemical it dislikes. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved 80 percent of the new chemicals it has reviewed in the past year - the same rate of approval before Congress passed legislation in 2016 intended to increase scrutiny over substances entering the market, according to environmental group Environmental Defense Fund. The American Chemistry Council disputed the group's findings, and an EPA spokesman said the agency is "ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace." (Houston Chronicle)

Cold CAFE? Three key U.S. House of Representatives Democrats are asking Marathon Petroleum Corp to disclose any communications between the White House and federal agencies on the Trump administration's proposal to freeze fuel efficiency standards at 2020 levels through 2026. (Finance Yahoo)

  • Letters have also been sent to American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, American Legislative Exchange Council, Energy4Us and Americans for Prosperity seeking documents regarding their involvement in the rule.
  • For the most part, the only support the Trump administration has for freezing the vehicle fuel efficiency standards at the 2020 levels comes from the oil industry—for obvious reasons.
  • The auto industry has been trying to convince Trump that they can and want to do better. All the industry was asking for from the administration was flexibility in meeting the Obama rule.

Liar, liar? An ex-EPA engineer says EPA administrator is misleading Congress about the car rule when he claims career staff weren’t shut out of developing the administration’s fuel efficiency standards.

  • Expect to hear a lot more from the engineer in the coming weeks and months. He’ll be a prime witness in court—no doubt.

Something they can agree on. Lawmakers gave initial approval to bipartisan measures to bar offshore drilling across the U.S. in a meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee.

The committee advanced bills that would bar drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the eastern Gulf of Mexico near Florida shorelines.

"The limited economic benefit oil and gas exploration might have is dwarfed by the ongoing importance of our sustainable economies that depend on clean beaches," said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), who campaigned on barring offshore drilling. (MSN)

Trying to in-fox him. The National Corn Growers Association launched an advertising campaign on President Donald Trump's favorite television news source to step up pressure on the administration to pull back on granting waivers to oil refineries exempting them from biofuel requirements. (Yahoo News)

  • The solar industry tried the same maneuver to convince The Donald not to levy tariffs on solar PV cells—going so far as to pay Trump’s favorite apologist Hannity for the appeal.
  • It will be interesting to see how the administration deals with this as they are feeling pressure from the oil industry to grant the waivers.

No mas. Tesla Inc. dropped to third place in U.S. residential solar installations, and Sunrun Inc. gained market share and kept its lead, according to a report Wednesday by consultants at Wood Mackenzie.

“Tesla has essentially thrown in the towel on pursuing growth in the residential solar space because it has concluded that acquiring customers is simply too expensive,” analysts at Wood Mackenzie said. “Rather, Tesla will rely on its brand power and low-cost referral methods to keep the solar business afloat until it stabilizes.” (MarketWatch)

Europe’s Trumplicans. A trio of central European countries has blocked the EU from inching closer to a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050.

European leaders meeting in Brussels sparred over the EU’s role in tackling the unfolding climate emergency, which threatens to significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat, poverty and destruction of wildlife around the world.

Dashing earlier hopes of a compromise, Poland and the Czech Republic refused to sign up to a text that referred to a climate-neutral EU by 2050 – a target that was already seen as too vague by green activists.

In a further blow, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, joined his neighbors in opposing the EU text, despite earlier signs the country was ready to compromise. (Guardian)

  • Central European nations are using much the same arguments as Trump to continue supporting their coal industries—What can we do, as long as China and other nations continue to emit such large quantities of CO2.

Walls of a different sort are needed. New research from environmental advocacy group Center for Climate Integrity suggests building sea walls for all coastal cities that have more than 25,000 residents by 2040 will take at least $42 billion, the New York Times reports. If you want to include all coastal communities, including those with fewer than 25,000 residents, that shoots up to more than $400 billion. The research brings up a question of how to determine which communities to save first if both time and money are limited, the Times adds: “There is also a growing realization that some communities, even sizable ones, will be left behind.” (Washington Post)

Never mind. The administration has reversed a plan to end a U.S. Forest Service job training program for disadvantaged young people after bipartisan opposition in Congress, including from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The agency planned to begin laying off 1,110 employees by September, in what would be the largest cuts to a federal workforce in a decade. “Nine Job Corps centers in Montana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Virginia, Washington state, North Carolina, Oregon, and Kentucky were scheduled to close, and an additional 16 were to be taken over by private companies or states.” (Washington Post)

No more spam.  An ethical investment operation by the UK’s largest asset manager, Legal and General, has seen five companies – the oil giant ExxonMobil, the insurer Metlife, the Spam-maker Hormel Foods, the US retailer Kroger and the Korean Electric Power Corporation – cut out from an umbrella of funds worth £5bn. Meryam Omi, head of responsible investment, said investor engagement with companies could be a powerful tool if there are consequences; and although it retained shareholdings in the blacklisted companies within other much larger funds, it will vote against board appointments.

Already on the list of slow-movers are China Construction Bank, carmaker Subaru, Japan Post Holdings, Canadian retailer Loblaw, US food and service conglomerate Sysco Corporation and Russian oil giant Rosneft, which is part-owned by BP. (Guardian)

X-ing Exxon. One of ExxonMobil’s largest shareholders, Legal & General Group Plc, has divested 19 of its funds from the company and will ask its clients if it can withdraw more money, saying the oil and gas producer isn’t adequately addressing climate change.

Exxon is the only oil major Legal & General is divesting, as competitors including Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell meet or exceed the insurer’s basic standards on climate change action. (Gulf News)

Tax cuts. A U.S. House committee approved a package of bills that provide tax breaks for a variety of select industries and constituencies, kicking off what’s likely to be a protracted negotiation with Senate Republicans over whether and how to pay for them. The bills include dozens of breaks for specific industries, including biodiesel producers, wind-energy farmers, and beer and wine distillers. (MSN)

The bills now move to the full U.S. House of Representatives.

Steel in the crosshairs. The aim is to clean up the centuries-old process. In traditional blast furnaces, carbon in the form of coal or carbon monoxide is pumped in along with the ore, creating pure liquid iron. (Trib Live/Bloomberg)

  • It’s past the time that the debate on what’s needed to defend against rising temperatures prominently include sectors beyond electric generation.

Chained in. The Zug, Switzerland-based Energy Web Foundation (EWF) this week said its blockchain, EW Chain, was up and running with validator nodes hosted by ten companies within its affiliate ecosystem, which includes utilities such as Centrica, Duke Energy and E.ON. (Green Tech Media)

No nuclear-no coal. Bloomberg's New Energy Outlook 2019 concludes that US coal and nuclear resources are expected to have "almost disappeared from the electricity mix" by 2050, largely as a result of "age and economics," while renewables penetration reaches 43 percent.

However, Gary Ackerman, president of Foothill Services Nevada and former executive director of the Western Power Trading Forum, questioned the NEO 2019 generation mix conclusions.

"[The] unbridled enthusiasm for renewable growth echoes a previous time in our industry when the very same statements were being made in the 1970s regarding nuclear power," Ackerman said Wednesday. "Funny, none of those forecasts turned out to be correct. The same will be said about the much anticipated renewable and battery storage explosion. I am always amazed by the substitution of intelligent reasoning with straight-edge rulers plotting lines on log-linear paper."

Would’ve never guessed. A new poll, provided exclusively to The Atlantic, suggests that Americans may prefer a Green New Deal-style policy of climate-targeted investment and regulation to a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

  • You’ll be hearing a lot more of this from me in the coming days.

 

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