June 2012

Post image for Sen. Inhofe Seeks to Rein in EPA’s All Pain and No Gain Utility MACT

Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has announced that he will bring a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval of the EPA’s Utility MACT (for Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rule to the Senate floor for a vote on or before Monday, 18th May.  Since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is trying to hold as few votes on tough issues as possible before the November elections, this could be the most important vote on an energy or regulatory issue that the Senate takes this year.

Under the Congressional Review Act, the resolution of disapproval, S. J. Res. 37, is a privileged motion.  A vote cannot be blocked by the Majority Leader or filibustered and requires only a simple majority to pass.

The Utility MACT Rule would regulate mercury and some other emissions from coal-fired power plants.  The proposed limits are so stringent that utilities will be forced to close many coal-fired power plants.  This will raise electric rates and threaten electric reliability in many States.

CEI this week published a paper by Marlo Lewis, William Yeatman, and David Bier titled, All Pain and No Gain: the Illusory Benefits of the Utility MACT.  It shows that the health benefits claimed by the EPA are non-existent, while the costs to consumers and manufacturers are huge.

The vote on the resolution is likely to be very close.  Right now, it looks like it will lose narrowly.  Senator Inhofe appears to have the support of forty fellow Republicans and four Democrats.  The Democrats are Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

Five Republicans oppose the resolution or are leaning no.  They are Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (whose opposition has been outspoken), Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Susan Collins of Maine, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.  A number of Democrats are not publicly committed.  They include: Jon Tester of Montana, Max Baucus of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Jim Webb of Virginia, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is still recovering from a stroke, so is not expected to vote.  That means that if all other Senators vote, the resolution will need fifty votes to pass.  As I see it, Senator Inhofe needs to gain the support of at least two more Republicans and then focus on getting three Democrats who are in tough re-election races in States that mine or use a lot of coal.

Post image for Union of Concerned Scientists Not Very Concerned With Accuracy

Ron Bailey of Reason took a closer look at one of the many reports out there written to discredit those organizations (and corporations) that remain skeptical of plans to dramatically scale back the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. What the report intended to insinuate was that corporations were hypocritical: they claimed to publicly support policies to combat climate change but privately gave money to those organizations whose aims were to undermine support for such policies. While I can certainly believe that some corporations will want to present a happy face to the public while also being more privately concerned with the impact new legislation has on their profitability, upon closer inspection the report wasn’t quite what it seemed:

In line with the findings of the UCS, the L.A. Times specifically declared, “General Electric has backed six environmental and non-partisan research groups that accept the scientific consensus on climate change, including the Brookings Institution and the Nature Conservancy. At the same time, it has funded four organizations that reject or question the consensus, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Heritage Foundation.” Based on the UCS report, The Guardian (U.K.) stated, “Some of America’s top companies are spending heavily to block action on climate change or discredit climate science, despite public commitments to sustainable and green values.” The Guardian specifically mentioned that UCS had identified General Electric as being two-faced about climate change. According to the UCS report, among the four GE-supported organizations that “misrepresent” climate-change science is the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.

So what vast sums of money did the duplicitous executives at General Electric lavish on the Reason Foundation in 2008 and 2009 to support an implied campaign to traduce climate science? Exactly $325. How much did GE spend on matching and direct grants on the six think tanks identified by the UCS as being pro-climate consensus? That would be $497,744. At least with regard to General Electric’s contributions, it appears that the Union of Concerned Scientists has salted a follow-the-money trail with pieces of fool’s gold, which certain unwary news outlets obligingly picked up and reported as real bullion.

You can read the entire report here. It’s mostly documentation of various corporations and their perceived support or opposition towards climate change legislation. It separates groups into what seems to be “good” and “bad,” with most of the fossil fuel energy making the bad group.

The noteworthy part is the way in which the media swallowed the conclusions without doing any work of their own. Bailey points out that the only funding Reason received from General Electric was to the tune of roughly $300, and only because G.E. has a company wide policy that matches donations made by employees to groups like the Reason Foundation or the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The report didn’t mention that GE’s support was not actually corporate funding, but rather a very small match towards employee contributions. Keith Kloor offers sympathetic commentary.

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