ISO Happy Ending: Comment by 10/31 on Emissions Standards for Power Plants

Once upon a time, there was an administration that protected its people from dangerous modern fire-breathing dragons. Then in August 2018, the big bad wolf-ogre-gremlin-current administration announced plans to undo Obama rules limiting harmful emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The plot: to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and put in its place a wicked changeling, a watered down alternative dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

But as in all good stories, there’s time for a dramatic rescue! The law requires that the public can comment on this proposed change until Oct 31, 2018.

How to comment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept comment on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule through October 31, 2018.  Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the following methods.

Some things you can say in your comments:

  • The bottom line: oppose repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, because it’s imperative to reduce fossil fuel emissions and the ACE is much weaker than the CPP.
  • EPA evidence in the record shows the CPP would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • The EPA’s own calculations show that the proposed ACE would result in an additional 1,400 deaths and 48,000 new asthma attacks yearly compared to the CPP
  • Under the CPP the federal government sets emission targets for states, but the ACE allows states to set the targets themselves, which promotes a “race to the bottom”
  • The goal of the CPP (backed by evidence in EPA’s regulatory record) was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The EPA’s own calculations indicate the proposed ACE would only reduce emissions by somewhere between 0.7 and 1.5%
  • EPA’s proposed ACE uses deceptive accounting gimmicks to artificially inflate the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to minimize the health benefits of the original CPP. This means its cost-benefit analysis is flawed and unreliable
  • The Regulatory Impact Analysis shows that under every illustrative scenario EPA analyzed, the ACE would result in more CO2, SO2, and NOx than the CPP
  • The EPA’s analysis radically under-counts the deaths, illnesses, and climate damages from power plants’ soot, smog, and carbon pollution. This is contrary to sound science and economics
  • The ACE proposal drastically undercounts the real costs of climate pollution for all Americans by ignoring global impacts. Climate pollution has worldwide impacts, but the proposal counts only those impacts that are expected to occur within U.S. borders.
  • The EPA’s own estimates show that, compared to the Clean Power Plan, the ACE plan would impose up to $10.8 billion in annual net costs on Americans in 2030, when accounting for compliance costs and the loss of the CPP’s benefits for climate and public health. By contrast, the CPP was designed to save consumers hard-earned money on electric bills
  • We cannot afford further delay in confronting the threat of climate change by repealing the CPP and replacing it with the much weaker ACE. Even the current administration’s reports contain overwhelming evidence that we need to cut fossil fuel emissions, including:
    • The 11/17 Climate Science Special Report – the combined work of 13 federal agencies including the EPA – which contains overwhelming evidence that human-generated carbon emissions are the dominant cause of global warming with all of its effects on the U.S. and the world, including floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, hurricanes and storms
    • The 8/18 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks showing that with our present rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is expected to experience a disastrous warming of 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century

More info:

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015.  Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to regulate carbon dioxide from major sources in the United States. That’s why, in 2015, the EPA released its first standard aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The power sector is second only to the transportation sector as a source of emissions in the US.

The CPP aimed to cut emissions from the electricity sector by an estimated 32% below 2005 levels by 2030—a modest but important first step.  Cost-benefit analysis consistently showed a net economic gain from the CPP. It was adopted after a robust, years-long regulatory process in which the EPA held numerous hearings and received millions of comments.

The Trump Administration was hostile to the CPP from the beginning and solicitous of the coal industry and fossil fuel sectors generally. Trump directed the EPA to begin the process of repealing the CPP and replacing it with what EPA dubbed the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. That regulatory process is now pending and, as required by federal law, EPA is now accepting public comments on this proposed repeal and replace. The deadline for commenting on the proposed ACE is October 31, 2018.

Keep California Air Clean

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – October 2, 2018

Back in 2012, the Obama administration (remember them? Sniff…) set an ambitious target for emissions standards: Cars and trucks would achieve a standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

There are so many obvious reasons this is a good idea that it seems pointless to even mention them, but here are a few anyway:

Unfortunately, the current administration hates the environment. On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration released its long-threatened proposal to weaken antipollution and fuel efficiency standards, revoking the 54.5 MPG goal and freezing standards at about 37 MPG after 2021. But wait, it gets worse: the 1970 Clean Air Act grants a waiver to California allowing us to set our pollution standards at a tougher level than the federal government; 13 other states now follow our lead. Currently, 40% of all car sales in the United States take place in California and the thirteen other states operating under waiver — and California’s tougher standard is now the de facto national standard. Big Oil’s Friend in the White House wants to revoke this waiver, meaning that the new, lower federal standard will be the law of the entire land. This is a direct hit at California.

Here’s a great video from Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) explaining the whole story.

What you can do:

Submit a comment at Regulations.gov:  

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are taking comments on this ill-advised rollback until end of day (Eastern time) October 2, 2018; and you can write to them here.  Include these points in your comment:

  • Climate change is real. We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
  • The automobile industry needs a goal to work toward. It’s in no one’s interest to move the goalposts.
  • Clean air is important for public health.

Take action in California:

Governor Jerry Brown said, “California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 16 other states and the District of Columbia already sued the EPA in May in anticipation of this recent action, and now Attorney General Becerra is planning to lead 19 attorneys general in a new lawsuit against the actual proposal.

Write to Brown and Becerra and thank them for taking action to preserve our state and our nation’s clean car emissions standards:

Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Or by email

Attorney General Xavier Becerra
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

Phone: (800) 952-5225
Fax: (916) 323-5341
Or by email

Let your Members of Congress know your thoughts about the need for strong emission standards for automobiles, and the need for California to set its own standards. Include the same points as above:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Stop Republican Resolution Condemning Carbon Pricing

The House is poised to vote on House Concurrent Resolution 119, which expresses the belief by Congress that carbon pricing would be “detrimental to the US economy.” This inane resolution, reintroduced by Majority Whip Steve Scalise, is a symbolic attempt by Republicans to suck up to their donors in the fossil fuel industry by petulantly refusing to do anything meaningful to address climate change.

A growing body of economic literature indicates that putting a price on carbon could be the most effective way to quickly and decisively reduce carbon emissions. In uniformly declaring carbon taxation economically harmful, Congress would tie our hands in the fight against climate change.

For more background, check out this rebuttal to H.Con.Res.119 from our friends at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Representative ____ to vote NO on the anti-carbon tax resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 119.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

As of this writing, Rep. Barbara Lee, for one, has indicated that she intends to vote no. When calling her office, thank her for signaling her intention and urge her to follow through with a no vote.

The top 6 things revealed at our May Sen. Feinstein staff meeting

A smaller-than-usual but dedicated band of Indivisible East Bay members met with Sean Elsbernd, Senator Feinstein’s State Director, on May 7, 2018, for the latest in our periodic meetings. Sean, gracious as ever, responded to our questions covering a wide range of topics.

The refugee caravan

Despite media hoopla that warned of a recent caravan of thousands of people heading north across the border, Sean told us that the group turned out to be only 287 people, almost all from Central America and with legitimate claims to refugee status. The good news is that they have now all entered the U.S.

Rather than fuel anti-immigration flames by unnecessarily turning such incidents into a controversy, Feinstein would rather focus on addressing the “credible dangers” that lead these people to seek asylum in the first place — as well as to make sure that they’re treated fairly when they arrive at our border. Sean said that the Senator is especially concerned about ensuring that detainees get proper legal representation.

Climate change

The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act (S. 2352), a greenhouse gas emissions cap and dividend bill, currently has no sponsors in the Senate. We wondered why Feinstein was not actively supporting this. Sean’s answer: because the bill has zero chance of reaching the floor. No one wants to sponsor a bill that is a certain loser.

Homelessness

Senator Feinstein believes the ultimate answer to the problems of homelessness will require multiple approaches. Government funds alone will not be sufficient; it will also require philanthropic private money. Sean cited the Monarch School as one example of how this can work.

FISA Reauthorization bill

Senator Feinstein sponsored an amendment to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Reauthorization bill that would have “required probable cause warrants” for domestic surveillance on American citizens. The amendment did not pass, yet she voted the bill out of committee. Why? Sean told us last November that this was because “she felt that there was a better chance of the amendment passing in a floor vote.”

Yet, when the bill came up for a vote on the floor — still without the amendment — she again voted in favor of passage. In this case, her vote prevented a filibuster that would have defeated the bill. Why didn’t she vote no? Sean replied that the amendment had no chance of passage. In the end, Feinstein decided that it was better to retain at least some protections, as included in the bill, than to have the bill fail and be left with nothing at all.

Puerto Rico disaster recovery

Puerto Rico remains in crisis mode following the disastrous hurricanes last year. It is critical that FEMA continue to provide emergency housing vouchers for the thousands still displaced. Many homes are still without power; the electrical infrastructure requires major rebuilding. Yet we hear almost nothing from Congress about any of this. Why? Sean offered a simple explanation: There is almost no public pressure on this matter, so it gets a lower priority. If we want this to change, he urges us to write or call our Congresspeople and let them know.

Judicial nominations

Everyone at the table agreed that Mitch McConnell views his greatest legacy as the appointments of conservative judges to the federal courts. The Senate continues to work to accomplish this. One way for Democrats to resist is via “blue slips” — a long standing Senate tradition. We want to make sure this procedure remains in force. Currently, it can be used to block Ryan Bounds, nominee for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, who lacks blue slips from both his Oregon senators. Sean confirmed that preserving blue slips is a “high priority” for Feinstein.

A Conversation with Steve Haro, Senator Feinstein’s Chief of Staff in DC

By Catherine de Neergaard

Things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to improvise. Such was the case when Steve Haro, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Chief of Staff, met with Indivisible representatives on February 21, 2018.

As Chief of Staff, Mr Haro occupies the most prestigious position on Feinstein’s staff. Previously, he has had been Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in the U.S. Department Commerce under President Obama.

Because Mr. Haro remained in Washington, the Indivisible group arranged for a video conference at WeWork in the Oakland Civic Center. Unfortunately, there was an Internet outage at the Center that day. So, we instead opted for an audio-only call. Not an optimal solution, but it sufficed to get the job done.

Once we were connected, and introductions were given, we proceeded to work our way through a list of agreed-upon topics.

DACA:

We thanked Senator Feinstein for holding out for a clean DREAM ACT for the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA).

Haro said that Senator Feinstein was disappointed not to get a “Clean Dream” rider on the Continuing Resolution for funding. Mr. Haro related at considerable length the inside drama and difficulties of getting the twelve Republican votes needed to pass a compromise bipartisan Immigration (DACA) Bill. The Democrats conceded much just to get the bill to the floor. Unfortunately, after the GOP leadership lobbied against it, even the most bipartisan immigration deal the Senate considered only got eight Republican votes and the bill failed.

Regarding the brief shutdown of the government that resulted from the immigration policies dispute, Mr. Haro gave us some new insight into how the senator thought it went down. In spite of strong reservations about the negative effects of a government shutdown, the senator voted against both the continuing resolution (CR) that would have kept it open and the CR that opened it back up. And she thought that Democrats didn’t allow enough time for it to work.

GUN SAFETY:

We thanked the Senator for her outspoken support of stricter gun control, including her bills banning bump stocks and all assault weapons.

Haro noted that Feinstein introduced a bill, together with Senator Flake, to increase the legal age to buy weapons to 21. But Democrats cannot get a single Senate Republican to co-sponsor a bill banning bumpstocks.

The key question for all such bills remains: How do we get to 60 votes in the Senate to support the bill? The answer, for now, is “We can’t.”

CLIMATE CHANGE:

Haro said that Senator Feinstein is working with colleagues to preserve current CAFE standards and prohibit waivers. The Senator also believes we must protect the jobs of scientists in government positions from politically-motivated firings—although it was not clear how she intends to accomplish this.

As to the Senator’s support for the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act and a timeline for a federal climate bill similar to California’s carbon auction model, Haro said he would have to “get back to us.”

We also asked Feinstein to support HJ 48, a constitutional amendment introduced in the House, to state that corporations are not people with the argument that corporate money drives harmful environmental policy.

FUNDING FOR THE 2020 CENSUS:

IEB remains concerned that continued underfunding of the 2020 census will prevent an orderly and fair redistricting of the House. Similarly, use of untried methodologies threaten to endanger an accurate count and leave out harder-to-reach people.

We asked: “What is Senator Feinstein’s plan to get more money for the census?” The answer was not encouraging. Haro said House Republicans hate census appropriations bills and fund them at the last minute. The Senate isn’t directly impacted by the census, so it is hard to get the Senators excited about this. Feinstein is pushing to prevent the census from asking about citizenship which, in her opinion, is as important as funding.

ELECTION SECURITY:

We asked: “What can Congress/Senate do in the absence of executive support to ensure fair elections?” and “What has the Senator done to advance the Secure Elections Act or similar legislation?”

Haro observed that when voter turnout is high, Democrats generally win. That’s why Democrats want people to vote and Republicans do not. He is concerned that a low voter turnout, encouraged by Republican voting restrictions, will negatively impact Democrats. Obviously, the GOP has no interest in taking on this issue.

Other than noting Feinstein’s support for paper ballots, his answers did not directly address our questions. He did say that he was unfamiliar with some of the specifics we raised and would look into them further.

NATIONAL SECURITY AND NUCLEAR WAR:

We thanked Senator Feinstein for her deep concerns about U.S. relations with North Korea. She is already a co-sponsor of S. 200 which restricts the first use of nuclear weapons. However, we asked that her concerns about U.S. involvement in the Middle East be stronger than they appear.

Feinstein supports repealing the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). However, Haro expects no action on this matter any time soon. The issue has gone quiet, apparently because the GOP views any change as an attack against Trump. He told us that he personally feels some regret that Democrats didn’t work with President Obama on some of these issues regarding curtainling executive power; he might have been open to it, and it wouldn’t have had the appearance of a partisan attack.

JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS:

The Republican-dominated Senate Judiciary Committee continues to nominate untried, inexperienced, and young conservative Republicans for lifetime judgeships. The “blue slip” process, whereby the senators of a state are consulted and partisan input is preserved, continues to be bypassed or ignored. In other words, the GOP is rapidly stacking the courts. We asked: “What can we and the Senator do to stop this travesty?”

Haro replied that, other than delaying tactics, there is little the Democrats can do. The key is to “Take back the Senate.” He specifically suggested we (Indivisible nationally) focus on helping vulnerable blue senators in states where Trump won in 2016 and trying to pick up seats in Nevada and Arizona.

WE WANT A TOWN HALL

For the past several meetings with Feinstein’s staff, we have asked about the Senator’s reluctance to hold town hall meetings where the public can ask questions. We did so again at this meeting.

Haro responded that town halls take a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources to produce.

 

Catherine de Neergaard is a gardener, artist, and environmental Activist working within a variety of organizations including Quaker Earthcare Witness, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Kensington Green, and, of course, Indivisible.

Photograph by Catherine de Neergaard

Fight for the Clean Power Plan

By Christina Tarr

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) represents one of the strongest actions to combat global warming taken by the United States federal government. So likely you’re not surprised to hear that the Trump administration, playfellow of Big Oil, Gas, Coal, and Global Warming Deniers, wants to “suspend, revise or rescind” it. We have until January 16, 2018 to submit our comments and say “hell, no!”

What you need to know: The CPP works by reducing climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing coal- and gas-fired electric power plants. CO2 is the most widespread of the greenhouse gases fueling climate change. Existing coal and gas-fired power plants together emit more CO2 than any other category of emissions sources in the U.S.—roughly one-third of America’s emissions—so reducing those emissions goes a long way to reducing our total CO2 output.  The CPP effectively reduces power plant CO2 emissions in 2030 by 32% from 2005 levels.

Under the CPP, the EPA assigned each state a goal to limit emissions from existing power plants, and gave the states broad latitude to meet those goals, such as switching from coal to natural gas or building new wind or solar farms—thus encouraging innovation.

Under the CPP, $20 billion in climate-related benefits alone would occur in 2030, as well as health benefits of $14 to $34 billion. The net benefits of the CPP, including the value of total health, environmental and other economic benefits, minus the cost to comply, were estimated to range from between $26 to $45 billion in 2030.

Trump’s EPA—headed by Scott Pruitt, who says “the war on coal is over”—is now reviewing the CPP with the intent to “suspend, revise or rescind.” The Trump administration challenges both the legal basis of the CPP and its economic analysis. (Of course, the administration is also full of people who deny climate change …)

What you need to do: Comment by January 16, 2018 to urge the EPA to keep the CPP. We need to move toward the future; instead of clinging to old, dirty technologies we need to move beyond them. The jobs are in clean power. We don’t want to cede the field on newer, cleaner power industries to other countries while we grow sicker and poorer. Please make your voice heard by submitting comments to EPA, and then by sending a copy of your comments to your Representative and Senators. 

Trump’s revised proposal is here.

Submit comments to the docket here by January 16, 2018

Read more about the CPP and Trump’s assault on it, and find talking points. Read our previous article.

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.