Year 4, Month 12, Day 25: Stop Making My Head Hurt.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. The LA Times:

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to substantially reduce inspections and civil enforcement cases against industry over the next five years, arguing that focusing on the biggest polluters would be the most effective way to clean up air and water.

In a draft strategic plan, the EPA proposes to cut federal inspections by one-third from the 20,000 inspections it conducted in the last fiscal year, ended Sept. 30.

Moreover, it plans to initiate about 2,320 civil enforcement cases a year, compared with the 3,000 cases initiated last fiscal year, a 23% reduction.

The EPA said the shift for fiscal years 2014 to 2018 is not a retreat from enforcement but a more effective allocation of resources.

“From our work on the biggest enforcement cases, such as the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, to aggressively pursuing smaller cases that can reduce harmful health impacts and have the greatest environmental benefit, our enforcement work will continue to save lives and protect our environment,” said Alisha Johnson, an agency spokeswoman.

Representatives from industry organizations that frequently criticize the EPA, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Mining Assn., had no comment on the proposed changes.

Well, they wouldn’t, would they? Sheesh. December 11:

It’s hard to find a positive spin on the news that the EPA will be cutting back on its inspections of climate polluters. “More efficient use of resources” is pretty weak tea, at a time when the urgency of the climate crisis is no longer disputed by any reasonable person. What we need is more inspections, not fewer. What we need is more funding for the EPA, and policies in place that will enable the Agency to actually fulfill its mandate to protect our environment.

The history of medicine has shown over and over that intelligent early diagnosis saves both money and lives, and this is equally true for the planet’s health. Environmental inspections are essential for tracking pollution output, and are necessary both for predicting future outcomes and mitigating their impacts on society. Such superficially plausible thrift is a virtual guarantee of far costlier outcomes in the coming years.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 9, Day 4: Unlike The Rest Of You Squares

Gina McCarthy went to Alaska, and the Anchorage Daily News was on the case:

“The climate is changing and we need to adapt to that change and make sure communities are prepared,” she said.

A trip to Iowa two weeks ago highlighted the issues, she said.

“There was no question in discussions with both farmers and ranchers the climate change impacts we’re seeing right now are severe,” she said. “We’re having drought and floods in the same state at the same time.”

McCarthy’s path to the EPA’s top job was rocky. Senate Republicans held up her nomination for more than four months before she was confirmed July 18. They used Obama’s choice of McCarthy to highlight complaints about the agency’s environmental regulations and the president’s agenda. McCarthy was previously head of the EPA’s air pollution office.

Alaska’s senators were divided over her confirmation. Democratic Sen. Mark Begich voted for McCarthy, while Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski opposed her, although she did not support a filibuster attempt. Murkowski, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate energy committee, did not return a message Monday about the new EPA leader.

“Sen. Murkowski agrees that climate change should be addressed, but remains concerned about the administration circumventing Congress to impose costly and unpopular regulations,” her spokesman, Robert Dillon, said in an email.

Sigh. August 31:

So Senator Lisa Murkowski thinks “climate change should be addressed,” but is unhappy that President Obama is “circumventing Congress to impose costly and unpopular regulations.” In other words, she’d be happy to confront a profound threat to our civilization, as long as she’s not actually required to do anything. That’s an easy game, but a deeply cynical one. If Sen. Murkowski isn’t just mouthing platitudes, perhaps she could work to persuade her colleagues in the halls of government to stop denying basic science in the service of short-term political gamesmanship.

Here’s a tip for the Senator and her colleagues in the GOP: failure to move strongly and swiftly on the climate crisis is going to bring results more costly and unpopular than anything you’ve ever imagined. The costs of inaction on this civilizational threat are conservatively reckoned in the trillions; the health of the entire planet is at stake.

Perhaps House and Senate Republicans think Earth should just go to the Emergency Room.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 9: Just One Small Burp.

The Wall Street Journal notes Gina McCarthy’s confirmation, and includes some words from Yertle the Turtle:

Ms. McCarthy is generally well-respected by both environmental groups and industry leaders. Several senators, however, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) faulted Ms. McCarthy for her role in crafting greenhouse-gas standards. Ms. McCarthy has led the EPA’s clean-air office since 2009.

“I don’t blame Ms. McCarthy personally for all of the administration’s policies,” Mr. McConnell said Thursday. “But I believe the EPA needs an administrator who is ready to step up and challenge the idea that the livelihoods of particular groups of Americans can simply be sacrificed in pursuit of some Ivory Tower fantasy.”

Hey, Mitch? Fuck you. July 20:

When Mitch McConnell describes the science of climate change as an “ivory-tower fantasy,” he’s tapping into a long tradition of Republican anti-intellectualism, an epistemological faux populism that had its first contemporary triumph during the administration of President Truman. Those with long memories may recall the purge of “old China hands” from the State Department on suspicions of communist sympathies — a decimation of expertise that laid the groundwork for the USA’s most spectacular foreign policy debacle, our ignorance-propelled misadventure in Vietnam.

History offers plenty of examples of the GOP’s hostility to expertise, but the one which will have the profoundest consequences is undoubtedly the stubborn refusal of Republican lawmakers to recognize the validity of scientific findings on the climate crisis. Long after Vietnam and Iraq have been forgotten, our descendants will still be grappling with the appalling consequences of our refusal to act on a genuinely clear and present danger.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 9: IT’S NOT FAIR!!!!!!

The Detroit News reports that the National Association of Manufacturers HAZ A MAJOR SAD about the EPA ruling:

The National Association of Manufacturers – which filed suit to block the rules, as did the Michigan Manufacturers Association, expressed disappointment with the ruling.

“The EPA’s decision to move forward with these regulations is one of the most costly, complex and burdensome regulations facing manufacturers. These regulations will harm their ability to hire, invest and grow,” said NAM president and CEO Jay Timmons. “By moving forward, the EPA is adding to the mounting uncertainty facing manufacturers of all sizes.”

Coming from the Party of Individual Responsibility, this should be a surprise. But Individual Responsibility only applies to Individuals, don’cha know. Corporate Responsibility is a Blow Against Freedom! Sent June 28:

The National Association of Manufacturers’ response to the Appeals Court ruling upholding EPA authority to regulate greenhouse emissions demonstrates an extraordinary lack of confidence in American initiative and ingenuity. Repetitively claiming that regulations hurt industry’s ability to “hire, invest, and grow,” they sound like a child whining about having to clean up his room.

The core of the ruling is extremely simple: the Environmental Protection Agency has the right to, well, protect the environment. And at the moment, one of the biggest threats to the planetary environment is climate change, a very slow natural process that’s been accelerated drastically by human emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. To be sure, EPA regulation of GHGs will make it harder for industries to be wasteful polluters. Good. I’m pretty sure American manufacturers can figure out how to be clean and efficient; those which cannot should be allowed to fail.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 7, Day 8: Gonna Build A Big Fence Around Texas….

The Nashua Telegraph (Nashua, NH) is one of many papers reporting on the decision of the Federal Appeals Court’s decision upholding the EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions. Note the huge floater left in the bowl by Texas’ AG Greg Abbott:

WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court here ruled unanimously to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, dealing a setback to fossil-fuel industries, states and lobbying groups that have fought for years to delay action on climate change.


Led by the conservative Chief Judge David B. Sentelle, the three-member appeals panel found that the EPA’s approach to regulating greenhouse gases has been “unambiguously correct.”

Continually facing litigation from environmentalists and industry alike on a multitude of issues, the EPA welcomed the court’s decision. “I am pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the EPA followed both the science and the law in taking common-sense, reasonable actions to address the very real threat of climate change by limiting greenhouse gas pollution from the largest sources,” said agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Plaintiffs decried the decision and warned the economy could be hurt if the EPA continued to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said the ruling “failed to rein in the unelected bureaucrats at the agency who are holding our country’s energy independence and fragile economy hostage to a radical environmental agenda.”

Of course, if it was a Republican administration’s EPA, they’d be given free rein to regulate environmentalists, don’cha know. Sent June 27:

It’s as predictable as a disco hit: any legal victory for environmentalists cues a chorus of faux outrage from Republican officials. Today, it’s the US Court of Appeals upholding the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse emissions, followed by some righteous trumpeting from Texas’ Attorney General Greg Abbott about a “radical environmental agenda.”

Only in Conservastan is a sensible legal decision aimed at holding back the accelerating catastrophe of global climate change “radical” in any sense of the word. The real radicals are the corporate “persons” whose profits depend on a consumer economy entirely dependent on fossil fuels, who continue to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in clear disregard of the overwhelming consensus of climatologists everywhere around the world. No, there is nothing radical about protecting the environment, despite the steady drumbeat of derision from politicians and pundits whose allegiance to their paymasters trumps their responsibility to the common good.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 16: The Winnah!

The San Antonio Chronicle notes the recent release of EPA data on GHG emissions. Texas, of course, is number one:

As the nation’s light switch and gas pump, Texas releases far more greenhouse gases into the air than any other state, according to federal data released Wednesday.

Texas’ coal-fired power plants and oil refineries generated 294 million tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in 2010, more than the next two states — Pennsylvania and Florida — combined, the data shows.

The Environmental Protection Agency released the data by industrial facility for the first time as part of a broader effort to reduce emissions linked to global warming.


The American Petroleum Institute, a leading industry trade group, said the federal data proves that there is no reason to include oil refineries in any new rules because they generate a small fraction of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, compared to coal-fired power plants.

“Air quality continues to improve, and we’re doing our part,” said Howard Feldman, API’s director of regulatory and scientific affairs. “The last thing we need now are more burdensome or unnecessary regulations that will create a drag on business efforts to invest, expand and put people back to work.”

The American Petroleum Institute should go f**k itself. Sent January 12:

In a macro-scale version of the “My carbon footprint is bigger than your carbon footprint” bumper sticker, Texan exceptionalists will surely savor the news that their state ranks highest in the country in greenhouse emissions. American exceptionalists, meanwhile, must comfort themselves over our country’s loss of first place in global CO2 output with the knowledge that we are still number one in per capita releases of greenhouse gases.

Obviously, this is a foolish straw-man argument. But the American Petroleum Institute’s response to the EPA is pretty silly, too; they’re basically saying, “Since we’re not as bad as coal, let’s end all those burdensome regulations!” Once freed from regulation, of course, they’ll be free to pollute more comprehensively.

Ultimately, however, the ultimate absurdity is that in order to maintain our growth-driven economy, we’re prepared to trigger a greenhouse effect of a magnitude unprecedented in human history. That’s not silly. That’s suicidal.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 9, Day 13: The Hunting Of The Snark

The Wednesday 7 San Francisco Chronicle discusses the Republican antipathy for environmental regulations:

The Republican prescription for job growth, shared by tonight’s presidential debaters and Republicans in Congress, is to dismantle regulations proposed by the Obama administration, especially the Environmental Protection Agency, claiming these are a key culprit in widespread unemployment.

The antiregulation campaign joins deficit reduction as the foundation of the Republican economic program.

The campaign is heavily backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and small business groups that contend regulations are destroying jobs. It follows more than a year of intense verbal attacks launched by Republicans in the House against everything from the Endangered Species Act to new rules on light bulbs.

I enjoyed writing this letter. Sent Sept. 9 (2nd one today, putting me currently 4 days ahead of the game):

Our Republican friends have it exactly right: those pesky EPA regulations are definitely a drag on the economy. It’s just mindboggling to think of all they jobs they kill.

Preventing irresponsible corporations from releasing carcinogens into the environment in the first place is certain to trigger massive private sector unemployment. For example, pulmonary care doctors and respiratory specialists will have fewer opportunities if air pollution is more heavily regulated — and waste abatement experts would be out of work if there were sufficiently robust penalties for illegally dumping toxic chemicals. And think of how many jobs will be lost in the insurance industry alone!

It seems clear enough to me. If those regulations are lifted, America’s employment crisis will end almost immediately. After all, there’s nothing that spells “jobs” like cancer, asthma, and ecological devastation.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 9, Day 12: Who?

The President gave his September 8 speech on jobs, and it was a good one. There were even some en passant words about environmental regulation, as Daily Kos diarist roubs makes clear in this piece.

The Boston Globe ran an article on the speech, and I used that as the hook for a LTE as suggested in the DK piece (which it turns out was partially inspired by a diary I wrote a little while back). Cool.

Sent September 9:

President Obama’s jobs speech to Congress was noteworthy in many respects. Particularly noteworthy was his statement that America “shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards.” Implicit in this sentence is the notion that short-term economic gains must not come at the expense of the environment; trading jobs for environmental degradation is unacceptable.

Well said, Mr. President! Respect for the planetary ecosystems that support us all is essential to a sustainable Ameican future — a vision that is impossible if polluters are given free rein.

Last week’s suspension of new EPA regulations on air pollution, and the possibility of administration approval for the environmentally devastating Keystone XL project, are indicators of an unfortunate disconnect within the administration when it comes to environmental issues. President Obama should heed his own words, and block the tar sands pipeline.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 3: Hey! I’m-a-talkin’ to YOU!

The July 17 Poughkeepsie Journal runs an interview with their area’s Regional EPA director, prefacing it with some pointed words of criticism:

Nevertheless, it is on that second subject, global warming, that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has been far too tepid in its response. Both the agency and federal elected officials still have to find common ground — and viable solutions.

Judith Enck, the EPA regional administrator, defended the agency’s decision not to press forward more forcibly without congressional support, despite various court rulings that would seem to give the EPA more latitude here.

I think I’m going to start writing to the multinationals directly. Yeah, that’ll work. The Poughkeepsie Journal has a 250-word limit, and I didn’t feel like cutting this one down from 195, so it’s a little longer than the default 150. Sent July 17:

It is irrefutable that the EPA should push harder to limit carbon emissions and give more attention to educating the public on the extremely dangerous future that awaits us if global climate change is not controlled. Sadly, it’s also irrefutable that the current political climate is a dreadful one for progress on environmental issues. With an ideologically constricted Republican party chock-full of anti-science zealots who appear to believe that they can create their own reality if they don’t like this one, meaningful legislative initiatives on what is arguably the most pressing issue of our time are entirely out of the question. Yes, the EPA should do its job more zealously, with special attention to aspects of the environment which transcend national boundaries and affect all the world’s people. But the other side of the equation is that the corporate forces controlling our politics must realize that if their customer base were to experience what biologists delicately call an “evolutionary bottleneck,” it would hurt their future profit margins more than a worldwide shift to renewable energy. Let the world’s multinationals figure this out, and we’ll see Republicans publicly embracing wind turbines and solar panels.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 7, Day 14: Sustainable Exploitation Is The Way To Go!

The June 28 Times-Record (ME) has a good editorial, titled “What About High Cost Of Unhealthy Air?”

Yeah? What about it?

Actually, it isn’t “we, the people” who get stuck on the cost of keeping our air clean and healthy. Polls consistently show strong public support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to impose and enforce strict limits on air pollution. A new nationwide bipartisan survey, released on June 16 by the American Lung Association, includes these findings:

— 75 percent of voters support EPA setting stricter limits on smog.

— 65 percent said stricter limits on air pollution will not damage our economic recovery; in fact, 54 percent believe upgraded standards will create more, not fewer, jobs.

— 66 percent said the EPA should set pollution standards, not Congress.

And not only that, but:

In the House, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, successfully pushed through H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, in a 255-172 vote. Opponents renamed it the “Dirty Air Act,” which seems fair enough considering the bill would:

— Block EPA from cutting carbon dioxide and other pollutants from coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other industries. Opponents rightly point out that coal-fired plants are the largest single-source of global warming pollution in the U.S.

— Override the determination by EPA scientists that global warming pollution poses threats to public health and welfare. Opponents rightly challenge the notion that members of Congress are better informed about climate science than the EPA’s climate scientists.

— Block both the EPA and states from issuing new standards for cleaner vehicles after 2017. Opponents point out that these standards, as well as the 2012-2016 standards, help reduce our reliance on foreign oil and save motorists money at the gas pump.

In the Senate, Upton’s bill fell 10 votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster, but many of its provisions turned up in four amendments to an unrelated small business bill (S.493).

It’s a good piece, and triggered these rather testy words, sent June 28:

The ongoing struggle against environmental regulation by giant corporations and their captive politicians is positively surreal in its disregard for the best interests of America and the world. Representative Upton’s attempt to hobble the EPA is based on specious rationalizations, poor science, and a mindset that exalts maximum immediate return on investment and nothing else. But a healthy environment cannot be exploited endlessly; Earth is large, but finite, and the waste products of our industrialized culture have begun to overwhelm the planet’s handling capacity. “The Environment” is not a fictional construct respected only by hippies and scientists; it’s where all of us live. All of us, that is, except multinational corporations, which explains why they find environmental regulations so annoying. It’s not their air that’s unbreathable, or their water that’s increasingly befouled; it’s ours. And other than as a source of short-term profits, what use have they for us?

Warren Senders