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August 23 2012

10:00

US Chamber Rejoices As Courts Rule For Polluters

Earlier this week, an appellate court in Washington, D.C. ruled that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had overstepped their authority with their Transport Rule that was put in place to reduce the amount of air pollution being spewed from coal burning plants. The rule would have put stringent limits on the amount of pollution that was being emitted and carried across state lines by weather.

The Courier-Journal has more:

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found in a 2-1 ruling that the EPA, in its so-called “Transport Rule,” had required too much pollution cutting when regulating power plants in 27 upwind states.

In looking at the rule’s “good neighbor” provisions under the Clean Air Act, the court found the EPA did not allow states time to reduce pollution on their own before taking its own action.

The EPA’s own estimates show that the rule could have prevented as many as 15,000 heart attacks a year, 19,000 emergency room visits, and would have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 73% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 54%. Both of those are known lung irritants.

Wasting no time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent their astroturf division out to tout the court’s ruling as a victory for businesses, and for America. The Institute for 21st Century Energy, the Chamber’s energy front group, released the following statement from their president, Karen Harbert:

“Today’s decision is good news for consumers and for the reliability of our electricity grid. It is notable that for the second time in two weeks, federal circuit courts have affirmed the primary responsibility of states—not the EPA—in determining how to meet air quality standards under the Clean Air Act.”

“It has always been the contention of the Chamber that EPA regulations should be supported by sound science and accurate analysis. The EPA has habitually inflated the benefits and underestimated the costs of its regulations.”
 

The EPA was granted the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions by the U.S. Supreme Court back in 2007, but the recently struck down rule did not apply to carbon dioxide, only sulfur and nitrogen. However, if the case makes its way up to the Supreme Court, it is likely that the 2007 ruling could be broadened to include emissions in addition to carbon dioxide.

And while the Chamber was quick to jump on the side of industry claiming that the costs of the regulations were too lofty, they completely ignored all of the available evidence that these new air pollution standards would have actually saved our economy trillions of dollars.

An analysis by the Environmental Protection Agency [PDF] shows that the cost of fully implementing the Clean Air Act – which included the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide regulations of the Transport Rule – would have cost $65 billion. However, they would have saved a grand total of $2 trillion for the economy as a whole, which includes the healthcare burdens shifted to American taxpayers for pollution-related illnesses, giving us a net gain of $1.935 trillion.

So now, we have an industry and their corporate lackeys at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce who aren’t just putting their profits above the health of American citizens, but they are putting those profits ahead of the health of the already-fragile U.S. economy. The American taxpayers will continue to foot the bill for those who get sick from the pollution the dirty energy industry continues to pump into our atmosphere.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a long history of being on the wrong side of environmental issues. A few years ago, they were the target of enormous corporate backlash when they continued to ignore climate change, leading numerous high-profile companies like Nike and Apple to leave the group because of their backwards-thinking, science-denying operations.

The U.S. Chamber and their “Institute for 21st Century Energy” have also been strong proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, as Ben Jervey pointed out for DeSmogBlog last year.

But the U.S. Chamber isn’t the only villain – state and local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce have been on the forefront of climate change denial and polluter defense for years. Think Progress reported that the state branches of the Chamber of Commerce in Kansas, Michigan, West Virginia, and Indiana have done their best to either completely deny climate change, host speakers that deny climate change, or to confuse the public about this issue. In the state of Michigan, the Chamber is actually lobbying against efforts to invest in renewable energy, which would create much-needed jobs.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is consistently referred to as the country’s most powerful business group and lobbying organization, and they have worked hard to earn that title. So far in 2012, the group has already spent close to $60 million on lobbying and political spending, which already matches the entire amount that the group spent during the 2007 – 2008 presidential election cycle in the U.S.

One of the main reasons the U.S. Chamber has been so successful with their lobbying efforts is that they have a very broad focus. While most companies or interest groups focus solely on elected representatives, the U.S. Chamber has spent an enormous amount of time, money, and energy lobbying the Judicial Branch. And as this week’s ruling shows, that has been a wildly successful venture for the group.

And this week wasn’t a fluke, either. According to reports, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce emerged as the clear victor in this year’s Supreme Court session, allegedly remaining “undefeated” in the issues that they became involved in.

The court that issued this week’s ruling, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has a very conservative majority sitting on the bench. Only three of the appellate judges in the Circuit were appointed by a Democratic president, and those were from Bill Clinton. The Court currently has three vacant seats, which leaves President Obama as little as 4 months to fill those vacancies, if Mitt Romney wins this year’s elections.

Americans tend to forget about our Judicial Branch of government, and of the three branches, the Judiciary gets away with a lot more than our Executive or Legislative branches. It is also a branch that is dangerously susceptible to dirty money, and the lack of public attention allows activist, anti-environmental judges to receive powerful, often lifetime appointments that are nearly impossible to undo. The recent anti-environmental court rulings should serve as a wakeup call to American citizens.

April 04 2012

21:11

Young Americans Sue Government to Stop Global Warming, Polluter Interests Granted Intervention To Defend

Last May, a group of young Americans, fed up with government inaction on climate change, decided to sue to protect their future. The group, led by 16-year old Alec Loorz, founder of Kids vs. Global Warming and the iMatter campaign, filed legal actions against the federal government and 49 states, seeking to force the states and federal government to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to levels deemed necessary by the best available science.

Earlier today, a D.C. District Court judge ruled that the National Association of Manufacturers and other polluter interests can intervene on the government's behalf to argue that they have the right to keep on dumping carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

So the case is sure to prove controversial and the world will be watching to see how the courts handle the matter in the weeks and months to come.

As Loorz, now 17, explained to me last week, the decision to sue the government came only after seeing the failures of the Executive and Legislative branches in addressing the problem.

read more

August 24 2011

17:49

Giant Xstrata Coal Mine Challenged Over Climate Change Impacts

A GIANT mine planned in Queensland, Australia, is facing a court challenge over the impacts that burning its coal will have on rising sea-levels, global temperatures and ocean acidification.

The Swiss-owned mining company Xstrata wants to extract about 30 million tonnes of coal a year for the next 30 years from the mine next to the small township of Wandoan.

According to figures from Xstrata, once all emissions are counted for the life of the mine - including the burning of the coal - some 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere.

The mine would be the state's largest and one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere in a country which is already the world's leading coal exporter. The mining lease covers 32,000 hectares (123 sq miles).

Environment group Friends of the Earth Brisbane is challenging the mine's lease and environmental authority, already granted conditionally by the Queensland State Government, in the state's land court.

As the case started, FoE spokesperson Bradley Smith said the case was one of "David v Goliath". 

Taking on a billion dollar monolith like Xstrata is no mean feat, however it’s a fight worth having.  The slow creeping impacts from climate change will have a significant impact on Australia’s future; establishing new mines and burning more fossil fuels is a backward step for our country.

Ten local landholders are also objecting to the mine on several grounds, including the effects of dust, vibration, potential water contamination, effects on cattle and health.

Xstrata is defending it's applications to mine the site, saying it takes its responsibility to reduce it's climate chnage footprint "seriously".

Several high-profile key witnesses are scheduled to appear on behalf of FoE, who will argue the mine's impact will be measurable on a global scale.

A statement already filed to the court comes from Dr Malte Meinhausen, a leading climate researcher from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne.

The statement says emissions from the single mine will be enough to flood an additional 23,000 homes around the world by the year 2080. 

Because the mine is focussed on exporting the coal to burn in power stations in Asia, FoE points out the emissions are not counted against Australia's greenhouse accounts.

Dr Meinhausen's statement says the emissions from the mine are equal to about three years of emissions from the entire country.

Another expert witness, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, is currently a co-ordinating lead author for a chapter on the impacts of climate change on oceans for the next Inter-government Panel on Climate Change assessment report.

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg's statement to the court says the mine's emissions will impact the Great Barrier Reef, in terms of raising global temperatures and increasing ocean acidification.

The environment group wants the court to recommend the state Government refuse the mine's lease and the environmental authority, which have already been conditionally granted.

The FoE climate change arguments are set to be heard in court on week two of the hearing, which is scheduled to conclude on 2 September.

Pic: Xstrata media library.

 

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