Climate Change and Environmental Impact Statements

by Daniel Farber | April 17, 2009

As ClimateWire reported (available via nytimes.com) the other week, government agencies are struggling with how to fit climate change into the process of environmental review (such as for licensing energy facilities or expanding offshore oil drilling). At one level, this is a no-brainer. Greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, and climate change is the biggest environmental impact of all.

But as always, the devil is in the details. The direct use of fossil fuels resulting from a project should usually be easy to figure out. Adding the "embodied carbon" in construction materials is a bit trickier. Going beyond that, there are indirect carbon impacts. For instance, a federal action that decreases soybean acreage in the United States could raise the price of soybeans and encourage farmers in Brazil to cut down rain forest in order to plant more beans.

There's also the question of when a climate impact becomes "significant," which is the trigger under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for a full-scale environmental impact statement. From one perspective, almost nothing is significant when measured against total global greenhouse gas emissions. But that's the wrong perspective.

Think of this from an economic perspective. A relatively conservative estimate of the harm done by a ton of carbon is $50. Many of us have qualms about whether this economic analysis really captures the dangers of climate change, but at least it sets a floor. By this measure, licensing a single ...

A Long-Overdue Step: EPA Adresses Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | April 17, 2009
Today, EPA gave notice that it intends to regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act. Technically, the notice is a proposed finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health. When it becomes final after EPA has had a chance to consider public comments, this finding will trigger other regulatory requirements that will move the U.S. in the right direction. EPA's announcement is an important landmark, because it is an unambiguous acknowledgment -- finally -- that the federal government must ...

An Attack on Waxman-Markey That's a False Alarm

by Nina Mendelson | April 16, 2009
On Friday, the Washington Times went A1 above-the-fold with "Climate bill could trigger lawsuit landslide." Environmentalists say the measure was narrowly crafted to give citizens the unusual standing to sue the U.S. government as a way to force action on curbing emissions. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sees a new cottage industry for lawyers. "You could be spawning lawsuits at almost any place [climate-change modeling] computers place at harm's risk," said Bill Kovacs, energy lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber ...

New CPR Paper: Regulatory Preemption and Its Impact on Public Health

by Matt Shudtz | April 15, 2009
Avery DeGroh, a three-year old from Illinois, had a defibrillator implanted in her heart to deal with a congenital condition called “long QT syndrome.” It was a brand-new model with a specially designed wire (or “lead”) that is thinner and easier for doctors to install. Unfortunately, due to a problem with the new lead, one day the defibrillator shocked Avery unnecessarily nine times, sending jolts of electricity through her young heart. She was rushed to the hospital and had the ...

The People's Agents: Rewarding Polluters with a Plaque on the Wall

by Rena Steinzor | April 14, 2009
Say you live in an urban neighborhood where crime is worrisome but not overwhelming. The police are chronically understaffed, with no money to walk the beat, and instead depend on what we might call a “deterrence-based enforcement system” – making high-profile arrests, prosecuting the worst violators, and relying on the resulting publicity to frighten others from taking up a life of crime. Now suppose a group of trade associations representing local “businesses,” that is to say drug dealers and thieves, ...

Water Buffaloes Ready to Charge... Over the Rain?

by Yee Huang | April 13, 2009
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times described the latest absurdity in the never-ending search to quench the thirst for water: ownership of rainwater and, more precisely, the illegality of rainwater harvesting.  Residents and communities in parts of Colorado are turning to this ancient practice of collecting and storing rain to fulfill their domestic water needs, including flushing toilets and watering lawns.  Using this “grey” water, as it is called, relieves pressure on water resources and can be extremely ...

Waxman-Markey: Federalism Battles

by William Buzbee | April 10, 2009
On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a "discussion draft" of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 -- a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world's most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey bill. This entry, by William Buzbee, examines if ...

Climate Change: Endangering Our Future, Destroying Our Past

by James Goodwin | April 08, 2009
The large earthquake that struck central Italy on Monday is devastating not only for the immense human suffering—people killed and injured, and communities disrupted—but also for the priceless losses of Italian cultural heritage.  The Italian Ministry of culture has reported that the earthquake damaged a number of buildings of immeasurable historical significance, including the Basilica di Santa Maria di Collemaggio—the site of a papal coronation in 1294—and  an archway built in the 16th century to honor Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. ...

Waxman-Markey: Adaptation

by Ben Somberg | April 07, 2009
On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a "discussion draft" of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 -- a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world's most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey bill. This entry, by Alex Camacho and Holly ...

EPA Asserts Itself on Mountaintop Removal Mining

by Holly Doremus | April 06, 2009
This item is cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. EPA is finally flexing its muscle on mountaintop removal mining, taking on the Corps of Engineers and stepping in for states that have been reluctant to attack the practice. Mountaintop removal mining involves blasting the tops off of mountains, typically in Appalachia, to get at coal. The ecological problems are less about removal of the mountaintops than about the filling of valley streams with the excess spoils. The practice has been ...

One More Thought on the Entergy Case and Cost-Benefit

by Thomas McGarity | April 03, 2009
On Wednesday, April 1, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Entergy vs. EPA, holding that it was permissible for EPA to use cost-benefit analysis as its method of regulatory analysis in devising a regulation on power plant water intake structures.  Member Scholar Amy Sinden blogged on the decision that day, here.  Member Scholar Thomas McGarity adds a thought: One of the most significant problems with cost-benefit analysis is its tendency to "dwarf soft variables." These "soft variables" are things ...

What Barack Obama Can Do to Rescue Science from Politics

by Matthew Freeman | April 03, 2009
The Bush Administration earned its reputation for being contemptuous of science. From suppressing an EPA global warming report so as not to put the federal government’s imprimatur on the scientific consensus that climate change was real and human-caused, to simply refusing to open an email containing formal scientific findings inconvenient to its policy objectives, the Bush crowd took manipulation of science to previously unknown extremes. But as CPR President Rena Steinzor points out, the Bush Administration didn’t invent the practice. ...

Waxman-Markey: Citizen Enforcement Suits

by Nina Mendelson | April 02, 2009
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a “discussion draft” of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world’s most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page ...

Waxman-Markey: Carbon Offsets

by Victor Flatt | April 02, 2009
On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a “discussion draft” of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world’s most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey bill. This entry, by Victor Flatt, looks at ...

Waxman-Markey: State and Regional Cap-and-Trade Regimes

by Kirsten Engel | April 02, 2009
On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a “discussion draft” of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world’s most pressing environmental program.  CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey bill.  This entry, by Kirsten Engel, looks at ...

Waxman-Markey: Environmental Justice

by Alice Kaswan | April 02, 2009
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a "discussion draft" of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world’s most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey ...

Waxman-Markey: Renewables, Transportation, and EPA and State Regulation

by Alice Kaswan | April 02, 2009
On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a “discussion draft” of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world’s most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey bill. This entry, by Alice Kaswan, examines several ...

Waxman-Markey: CPR Member Scholars Weigh In

by Matthew Freeman | April 02, 2009
On Tuesday, March 31, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) released a “discussion draft” of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 – a climate change bill that will serve as the starting point for long-delayed congressional action on the world’s most pressing environmental program. CPRBlog asked several Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholars to examine different aspects of the 648-page Waxman-Markey bill. Their detailed responses are posted individually on ...
Recommended Resources:
Clean Energy
Renewable Energy Instead of Fossil Fuels

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015