Did Environmentalists Kill Climate Legislation?

by Frank Ackerman | May 06, 2011

Cross-posted from Triple Crisis.

Climate legislation, even in its most modest and repeatedly compromised variety, failed last year. And there won’t be a second chance with anything like the current Congress. What caused this momentous failure?

Broadly speaking, there are two rival stories. It could be due to the strength of opposing or inertial forces: well-funded lobbying by fossil fuel industries, biased coverage by increasingly right-wing media, the growth of the “Tea Party” subculture and its rejection of science, dysfunctional institutions such as the U.S. Senate with its filibuster rules, and the low priority given to climate legislation by the Obama administration.

Or it could be because environmentalists screwed up and shot themselves in the foot.

If you had to guess, which of these stories sounds to you like it would get more media attention? You’re right, that’s what everyone else thought, too. Gridlock in U.S. politics, and its effects on the fate of the earth, is such boring old news; the notion that misguided liberals have only themselves to blame sounds so clever and different.

This ecological niche has not gone unfilled. The Breakthrough Institute, whose motto could be “clever and different since 2005,” has repeatedly informed us that the death of environmentalism is the fault of environmentalists. Now “Climate Shift,” by American University political scientist Matthew Nisbet, claims that there was no media bias on climate issues in the last few ...

States' Proposal for Meeting Federal Climate Change Rules an Opportunity to Think Seriously about Regional RPS

by Kirsten Engel | May 05, 2011
States are seeking EPA approval to meet climate change-related standards through programs that the states themselves have pioneered. Greenwire reported last month that California, New York and Minnesota, as well as about a dozen power companies and advocacy groups, are urging U.S. EPA to let states meet the forthcoming New Source Performance Standards under the Clean Air Act through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, California’s forthcoming greenhouse gas cap and trade plan, as well as through clean or renewable portfolio ...

The Delays Get Delayier: The Sad First Year of EPA's Coal Ash Proposal

by James Goodwin | May 04, 2011
Before the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and before the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, there was the TVA coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. It was at Kingston, during the early morning hours on December 22, 2008, that an earthen dam holding back a 40-acre surface impoundment burst, releasing one billion gallons of inky sludge. The Kingston coal ash spill taught the American public about the catastrophic costs that can accompany so ...

Olympia Snowe, Deregulation, and Her 'Small' Business Cover

by Rena Steinzor | May 03, 2011
This great country of ours is quite fond of its enduring myths: poor kids are able to become rich kids by working hard, the family farm feeds us a nutritious bounty, and small business is the engine that makes our economy sing. When most of us hear that musical phrase—smaaaall business—we think of the local florist, ice cream shop, or shoemaker. How startling, then, to discover that according to the Small Business Administration (SBA) a petroleum refinery employing 1,500 workers is also ...

EPA and the Corps of Engineers Deserve Praise for Their Draft Guidance on the Jurisdictional Scope of the Clean Water Act

by William Andreen | May 02, 2011
During the past decade, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down two decisions that greatly reduced the extent of waters protected by the Clean Water Act (CWA). These cases upset the clearly articulated regulatory definition of “waters of the United States” that had been consistently applied and widely accepted as valid for many years.   Not only did the decisions threaten millions of acres of wetlands and thousands of headwaters with destruction and unregulated pollutant discharges, but the most significant of the two ...

SBA Official Changes Tune on OSHA Noise Initiative; Says His Office Was 'Unable to Evaluate' Possible Safety Benefits

by Ben Somberg | April 29, 2011
We noted earlier this month that a U.S. Small Business Administration official had claimed that the danger of workplace noise was solved just as well with earplugs as it is with reducing the noise at its source -- despite extensive research to the contrary ("Presidential Appointee at SBA Maligns OSHA's Industrial Noise Proposal; Claims Ear Plugs 'Solve' the Problem"). The official, Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the SBA, has since given a slightly different line. From BNA's Occupational ...

Disaster Planning and Recovery: Verchick Op-Eds in Christian Science Monitor and New Orleans Times-Picayune

by Matthew Freeman | April 29, 2011
Robert R.M. Verchick recently completed a two-year stint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and returned to his work at Loyola University in New Orleans, and, happily, to the rolls of active CPR Member Scholars. While at EPA, he published Facing Catastrophe: Environmental Action for a Post-Katrina World, and just a few days after returning to CPR, he's published two op-eds on disaster preparedness and recovery. In the Christian Science Monitor on April 13, he asked whether Japan's recovery from the ...

New Congressional Research Service Report Finds Major Trouble in SBA's Regulatory Costs Study

by Ben Somberg | April 22, 2011
It's their favorite figure: $1.75 Trillion. Repeated ad nauseam in congressional hearings by members of congress and expert witnesses alike, it is the supposed annual cost of regulations, this according to a study from last year commissioned by the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy. Sponsors of anti-regulatory legislation like the number: Olympia Snowe and Tom Coburn included it in the 'findings' of their bill, while Geoff Davis, chief sponsor of the REINS Act, cites it regularly. It's been used ...

Steinzor BP Spill Op-Ed in Baltimore Sun: Learning and Acting Slowly

by Matthew Freeman | April 21, 2011
Right about this time a year ago, Americans were learning about a massive explosion aboard an oil rig in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico called the Deepwater Horizon that had occurred the day before. Video footage of the flame-engulfed rig began splashing across television screens, and we were told that 11 workers on the rig were “missing.” (In fact, those workers had been killed.) Also unclear or unrevealed was the extent of the environmental harm that was being ...

Parsing the AEP v. Connecticut Argument: Did the Court Ask the Right Questions?

by Alice Kaswan | April 21, 2011
The Supreme Court arguments in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut on Tuesday raised profound issues about the respective role of the courts and administrative agencies in controlling greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, emissions that remain uncontrolled notwithstanding their significant climate impacts. As my CPR colleague Doug Kysar has noted, at times the Court appeared reluctant to embrace industry’s political question and prudential standing arguments, arguments that would undermine the courts’ traditional common law powers. If the Court rejects these ...

American Electric Power v. Connecticut: The Good News

by Douglas Kysar | April 20, 2011
Cross-posted from ACSblog. In one of the most, er, hotly anticipated cases of its term, the Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in the climate change nuisance suit of Connecticut v. American Electric Power. From the beginning of this litigation, pundits have questioned the plaintiffs’ decision to seek injunctive relief gradually abating the defendants’ greenhouse gas emissions. To critics, this form of relief – as opposed to, say, monetary damages – seems to highlight the complex and value-laden aspects of climate ...

Mr. President, Finish These Rules: CPR Report Identifies 12 Key Environmental, Health, and Safety Initiatives Administration Must Complete

by Ben Somberg | April 20, 2011
So far as regulatory safeguards are concerned, we've come a long way in 27 months. The Obama Administration started with federal agencies that had been devastated by eight years of an explicitly anti-regulatory president. Turning that around is not easy, and no President could do it in a day. So, as much as you see a lot of criticism in this space, you also see praise, because we've seen this Administration make important progress. From new rules on lead paint ...

SBA Office of Advocacy Official Gives New Defense of Regulations Study: Data are on the Website (Somewhere)

by Ben Somberg | April 19, 2011
Claudia Rodgers, Deputy Chief Council for the Office of Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration, testified earlier this month at a hearing conducted by a House Oversight and Government Reform sub-committee. The session ("Assessing The Impact of Greenhouse Gas Regulations on Small Business") was a sparsely attended affair on all sides of the room. But something important happened. Rep. Jackie Speier asked Rodgers a series of questions (at 1:03:30 in the video) about the Office of Advocacy’s oft-cited report ...

Six Myths About Climate Change and the Clean Air Act

by Amy Sinden | April 18, 2011
In politics, repeating something over and over again can sometimes make it stick, whether it's true or not. From Reagan’s welfare queens, to the specter of “socialized” medicine leading to imminent communist takeover, these sorts of myths often start on the far right but then move surprisingly far to the center. And as the EPA has begun to move forward with regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, we've seen one of these myths begin to take shape. This ...

Presidential Appointee at SBA Maligns OSHA's Industrial Noise Proposal; Claims Ear Plugs "Solve" the Problem

by Sidney Shapiro | April 15, 2011
Congress charged the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) with the job of representing the interests of small business before regulatory agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As an agency of the federal government, it has an obligation to taxpayers to get its facts straight before it speaks. Lately, it has ignored this basic obligation, most notably sponsoring a study that used flawed methodology to claim that regulations impose $1.75 trillion in costs every ...

Echeverria Testifies on Eminent Domain Bill

by Matthew Freeman | April 13, 2011
CPR Member Scholar John Echeverria was on Capitol Hill yesterday, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution. His topic was a proposed bill from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to impose federal limits on state and local use of eminent domain – the authority to condemn private property so that it can be used for public purposes. The subject became particularly controversial in 2005 when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kelo vs. City of New London, ...

White House Transparency Doesn't Apply to Industry Meetings on Worker Safety Rules

by Celeste Monforton | April 13, 2011
Cross-posted from The Pump Handle. President Obama received an award last week for his efforts to improve openness in federal agencies. Jon Stewart poked fun at it (see clip) and I actually thought it might have been an April Fool's joke because of what I'd learned earlier in the week. The President's own Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) has hosted two meetings with industry representatives who are opposed to an OSHA regulation on crystalline silica, but OIRA fails ...

Making Good Use of Adaptive Management

by Yee Huang | April 12, 2011
Today CPR releases Making Good Use of Adaptive Management, a white paper explaining the basic principles of adaptive management and highlighting best practices for implementing and applying it to natural resources management.  Over the last two decades, natural resource scientists, managers, and policymakers have employed adaptive management of land and natural resources. The approach calls for resource managers to design management actions as structured and iterative scientific experiments. Resource managers monitor the results of a particular experiment and then adjust future management ...

Farm Bill 2018: Down Payment on an Effective Conservation Title

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A Final 2017 Dose of Op-Eds

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