William Yeatman

In a word, New York University School of Law Professor Richard Revesz is brilliant.

Indeed, this blog is a big fan of the Professor’s seminal 1992 law review, “Rehabilitating Interstate Competition,” which persuasively puts the lie to the theoretical foundations of the “Race to the Bottom” thesis of environmental regulation.

Nonetheless, no jurist–no matter how brilliant–can cure EPA’s Clean Power Plan of its legal infirmities. So when Professor Revesz testified in support of the rule a week ago before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, he was necessarily in a bind because he had to try to defend the indefensible.

In this post, my purpose is to respectfully rebut one of Professor Revesz’s most consequential claims made during his testimony. The claim at issue regards the ongoing debate over whether the plain terms of the Clean Air Act forbids EPA from promulgating the Clean Power Plan. [click to continue…]

Debate Obama didn't care about AGW

Debate Obama didn’t care about AGW and loved coal

VICE News, which is somehow valued at $2.5 billion (10 times the 2013 price of the Washington Post), recently conducted a sycophantic interview with President Obama. As I understand it, VICE News reporters are supposed to be too-cool-for-school iconoclasts. However, instead of suspicion of “the man,” VICE News founder Shane Smith performed the interview with an evident thrill up his leg.

The first segment addressed environmental policy. Smith started by asking the president, “How do you deal with the negativity? Are you a masochist?” Then he complemented President Obama for having a “rational, sane” plan for dealing with climate change. Finally, after referencing Senate Republicans, he asked why “we’re not acting in a sane and rational way” on global warming (presumably like the President is). Hard hitting stuff.

Today, my purpose is to shatter VICE’s naivety by introducing them to 2012 debate Obama. Debate Obama—the guy trying to get elected by the American people—staked out a position to the right of Republican Mitt Romney on environmental and energy policy. This guy didn’t say a word about climate change. Rather, Debate Obama was all about oil, gas, and even (gasp!) *dirty* coal. Indeed, Obama never once mentioned AGW in any of the 2012 debates. During the VICE interview, by contrast, the President claimed that global warming was among his top priorities.

I humbly submit that Debate Obama demonstrates that the President doesn’t give a hoot about AGW, aside from its legacy-building potential or value in terms of partisan positioning. In short: He’s pulling the wool over your eyes, Mr. Smith.

Debate transcript here; debate video below; writeup here[click to continue…]

The worst

The worst

…EPA’s use of a Clean Air Act provision regarding the ozone layer in an effort to advance the President’s international climate goals.

This ongoing regulatory regime is known as the Significant New Alternatives Policy program, and it represents the worst of all worlds: it’s a naked power grab; it’s bolstered by rent-seeking; and it actually endangers public health. On account of all of these factors, it’s the pound-for-pound worst regulation promulgated yet by Obama’s EPA.

Bullet-point background: [click to continue…]

For a couple months now, there’s been a battle brewing among critics of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. While we all agree the rule is illegal and illegitimate, there’s much disagreement on strategy.

On the one side are arrayed various politicians and non-profits, who argue that the rule is such an unacceptable affront to cooperative federalism, that States should simply refuse to play ball. That is, they recommend that States should refuse to submit compliance plans, and instead place the onus on EPA to impose a federal plan. This side’s take is purely principle.

On the other side are arrayed state regulators and the business community, and their concerns are more practical. By and large, they agree that the Clean Power Plan is an unacceptable affront to cooperative federalism. However, they also believe that a “just say no” strategy is too risky to pursue, albeit for different reasons:

  • For industry, it’s essentially a fiduciary responsibility to oppose the do-nothing camp. That’s for two reasons: First, businesses generally hold more sway with local officials, so they’d have less input under a federal plan. Second, and more importantly, utilities are ultimately on the hook for compliance. They’re the ones who would face daily fines that can measure well into the scores of thousands of dollars. So they’re not as keen on the whole non-compliance idea.
  • For state regulators, it’s somewhat similar. Ultimately, they’re on the hook for implementing the regulation. If a State refuses to comply altogether, then it arguably makes the regulators’ job more difficult.

The “just say no” camp won a major victory this week when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed their position in an oped. Subsequently, it was reported that McConnell’s oped was seconded by several influential Members of Congress, including Senate EPW chairman James Inhofe and Energy & Power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield. This set off a flurry of media reports, about how congressional republicans were urging States to defy EPA’s climate regulations.

All of this brings me to the point of this post–the distinct possibility that none of this matters much. And that’s because the likelihood that the regulation will be stayed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is better than not, I believe. And if the rule is stayed, then there will be a great deal more wiggle room for States to act or demur. Below, I briefly explain why I believe why the odds for a stay are strong. [click to continue…]

Cooler Heads Digest 6 March 2015

"Did you hear about Walter Peck?"

“Did you hear about Walter Peck?”

In January 2014, EPA proposed the Carbon Pollution Standards, a regulation that would require new coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. Because CCS is not yet commercially viable, it is prohibitively expensive. As a result, EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards rule effectively bans the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Needless to say, the regulation is very controversial. It is expected to be finalized this summer.

However, for months in D.C. there’s been circulating a rumor, to the effect that EPA is second-guessing the wisdom of its CCS mandate. Per these whispers, EPA is thinking of dropping a CCS requirement because the agency recognized that the Carbon Pollution Standards’ precarious legality jeopardized the Obama administration’s #1 climate change priority—the Clean Power Plan. The two regulations share a sequentially consequential relationship under the Clean Air Act, such that the Carbon Pollution Standard (a *new* source standard) must precede the Clean Power Plan (an *existing* source standard). If the former gets struck down in court, then it undercuts the latter. By dropping the CCS, EPA also drops a legal liability for the Clean Power Plan.

Yesterday, the rumor finally went public, in an InsideEPA article ($) by the always reliable Dawn Reeves, the opening of which I’ve excerpted immediately below [click to continue…]

 

EPA-approved, consumer-rejected

EPA-approved, consumer-rejected

During a hearing last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claimed that the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards [a.k.a. “CAFE standards”] are evidently successful, because “you can’t a see a car commercial where they don’t talk about energy efficiency, because the car companies now know that everyone wants fuel efficient vehicles.”

At the time, I disputed her contention that “everyone wants fuel efficient vehicles,” with regard to American consumers. In fact, the recent drop in gas prices precipitated a big increase in the purchase of fuel inefficient cars and trucks in the U.S. The consumer rush to gas guzzlers in America was such that President Obama found it necessary to admonish his constituents for doing so.

Administrator McCarthy’s claim was further belied by a report in yesterday’s Financial Times ($), “Off Roaders Reach New Peaks as Market Shifts,” by Andy Sharman. According to Mr. Sharman, it’s not just ugly Americans flocking to SUVs, because the same holds true for supposedly super-climate-conscientious western Europeans: [click to continue…]

There are four primary components to your electricity bill: Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and Retail*.

GTDR

When the wealthy greens among us install a solar panel system on their roofs, this power production represents only one of four components of your electricity bill: Generation.

GS

Under “net-metering” billing regimes, solar power producers can sell their excess electricity (i.e., that which exceeds their demand) back to the utility, for which they [the rooftop solar owners] usually are credited the full-retail rate of electricity. So the value of the credit received by the solar panel owner is based on: [click to continue…]

The big story of the day is the news, broken last night by the New York Times, that Hilary Clinton exclusively used private email accounts to conduct official business while she was Secretary of State. This apparent gross violation of federal recordkeeping laws provides the perfect segue to….The Top Five Transparency Abuses at Obama’s EPA. I’d be remiss if I failed to note that all of these outrages were unearthed by my colleague Chris Horner, who literally wrote the book on how to use the Freedom of Information Act.

#5: EPA’s Routine Egregious Censorship

The Freedom of Information Act allows citizens to petition federal agencies for information. However, not all information is subject to these requests; the statute stipulates a number of exemptions. And of these exemptions, the broadest (and, therefore, most vulnerable to abuse) is known as the “b(5)” exemption, after its statutory provision (5 U.S.C. §552(b)(5)). Indeed, Obama’s EPA has broken new ground in the application of “b(5),” such that the censor’s pen renders entire FOIA productions black. I wish I were kidding—we post the evidence here. It’s a Kafkaesque. [click to continue…]

The Emptiness of EPA’s “Scientific Integrity” Program Is Laid Bare; Silly Story on Alleged AGW Roots of Syrian Civil War; Yet Again Climate Change Gets No Questions on Sunday Political Talkies, and Much More

  • EPA’s Scientific Integrity Officer Francesca Grifo yesterday took to EPA Connect (“The Official Blog of EPA Leadership”) in order to announce the rollout of EPA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report. By my cursory count, there are 22 sentences in the blog, and 21 total mentions of the phrase “scientific integrity.” And yet, despite this prevalence of the term in the blog, I was as ignorant of what “scientific integrity” means after reading Grifo’s piece as I was before having read her post. To my eyes, this suggests that “scientific integrity” is an empty shibboleth (akin to “environmental justice”), for which an office is maintained for no purpose other than the cause of appealing optics.  My intuition was confirmed when I read the first sentence of the Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report, which states that “this report is part of the Agency’s ongoing commitment to transparency.” In reality, of course, EPA has demonstrated antipathy for the principles of transparency. It follows that “scientific integrity”—a function of the agency’s supposed commitment to transparency—is a sham.
  • Yesterday the media went nuts [see screenshot immediately below] with a study linking climate change to civil war in Syria, by way of AGW-induced drought. Of the scores of articles on the subject, I read only one, by Slate’s Eric Holthaus, and it was as ridiculous as one might think. It featured a George Washington professor Marcus King, who reportedly said that climate change was the “dominant factor” leading to the 4 million emigrants fleeing the conflict—a.k.a., “climate refugees” in the mumbo jumbo jargon of the academic. Imagine that! Climate change, rather than humankind’s unfortunate nature, is the “dominant” cause of the Syrian civil war. Incredibly, that wasn’t even the silliest thing in the article. That dubious honor goes to Colin Kelley, a climate scientist at the University of California–Santa Barbara and the study’s lead author, who reportedly suggested that the U.S. should be “proactive” about this issue because a western U.S. State is at risk of suffering Syria’s fate (i.e., climate change induced civil war). [click to continue…]