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The Republican National Convention on 18th July officially adopted their 2016 party platform.  Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) chaired the platform committee; and the co-chairs were Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

Notably, the GOP platform states that the Paris Climate Treaty cannot bind the United States unless it is ratified by the Senate.  The party also demands immediate defunding of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with Public Law 103-236.  It opposes a carbon tax and subsidies for politically-favored types of energy.

On regulations, the platform says Republicans will prohibit EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and repeal the “Clean Power” Plan.  It also vows to block the hydraulic fracturing rules, end the misuse of the Endangered Species Act to stop resource production, and reform the National Environmental Policy Act permitting process.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Republican Party now officially supports dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency: “We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation to the states and to transform the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with structural safeguards against politicized science.”  In addition: “ We will strictly limit congressional delegation of rule-making authority, and require that citizens be compensated for regulatory takings.”

On energy production, the platform contrasts its support for more domestic production of all types of energy (that don’t require subsidies) with the Democrats’ call to “keep it in the ground.”  It states that the “Democratic Party’s campaign to smother the U. S. energy industry takes many forms, but the permitting process may be its most dangerous weapon.”  Permitting delays for oil and gas production on federal lands are cited as the prime example.

Further in regard to federal lands, for the first time, the Republican Party supports transferring federal lands (which comprise over 640 million acres or nearly 30% of the country) to the states.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that President Rodrigo Duterte announced on 18th July that the Philippines would not ratify the Paris Climate Treaty.  According to the story by Marlon Ramos, “the president said a foreign ambassador recently reminded him of the country’s commitment to limit its carbon emissions.”  Duterte continued that he was angry and wanted to kick the ambassador.

President Duterte explained why: “We have not reached the age of industrialization. We’re now going into it. But you are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement that says you can only go up to here.  That’s stupid. I will not honor that.”

He continued: “Now that we’re developing, you will impose a limit?  That’s absurd.  That’s how very competitive and constricted our lives [are] now.  It’s being controlled by the world, it’s being imposed upon us by the industrialized countries. They think that they can dictate the destiny of the rest of the [world].”

The Philippines’ Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Treaty is to reduce emissions by up to 70% by 2030.  That commitment was made by the previous administration, which also approved building 29 new coal-fired power plants over the next decade.  Duterte was elected president on 9th May 2016 by an overwhelming majority and took office on 30th June.

Fifteen Republican state attorneys general led by West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey sent a letter to House and Senate leadership on 11th July that calls on Congress to eliminate “burdensome and illegal regulations by strengthening the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).”  The letter received very little attention in the press when it was sent, but on 19th July there was an article in the West Virginia Record and another by Michael Bastasch in the Daily Caller.

The first paragraph summarizes the AG’s objections to federal regulatory overreach:

“As the chief legal officers of our States, we are concerned about the mounting costs that unlawful federal regulations—advanced in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act—impose on citizens, businesses, and state and local governments.  With seemingly increasing frequency, federal agencies are: (1) issuing guidance documents as a way to circumvent the notice and comment process; (2) regulating without statutory authority; (3) failing to consider regulatory costs; and (4) failing to fully consider the effect of their regulations on States and state law.”

The letter continues with a summary of their request:

“We are encouraged that the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate recently have considered legislation directed toward resolving some of these concerns.  We write today to urge Congress to go further and take concrete action to ensure that federal agencies are in fact providing opportunity for notice and comment for all binding agency requirements, acting within their delegated authority, and always rigorously assessing the costs of their regulations.”

The letter notes that guidance documents, interpretive rules, and policy statements are not subject to the APA because in theory they are not binding.  But in practice, many of these quasi-rules are binding.  Wayne Crews, my CEI colleague, wrote a significant study, Mapping Washington’s Lawlessness, published last December that catalogues the extent of these binding non-rules.  And here is a recent interview with Wayne on what he has named “regulatory dark matter.”

By Jennifer Montazzoli

Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Natural Resources oversight and investigations subcommittee, charged in a hearing on 14th June that the Ivanpah solar facility in California’s Mojave Desert has received special treatment from the government.  While Gohmert and others at the hearing pointed out legal and financial disparities, the witness from the Bureau of Land Management, Mike Nedd, Assistant Director of Energy, Minerals, and Realty Management, showed his lack of knowledge through his inability to answer most questions.

Chairman Gohmert pointed out that the Ivanpah plant was intended to create electricity from solar energy in order to replace natural gas plants and thereby reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But Dr. David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation in his testimony showed that a large percentage of the electricity produced by Ivanpah comes from supplemental burning of natural gas.  Kreutzer estimated that if the gas used at Ivanpah were instead used to run a combined-cycle gas plant, it would provide over 25% of the electricity being produced by Ivanpah.

Mr. Daniel Simmons of the Institute for Energy Research in his testimony stated that the owners of Ivanpah—Google, NRG Energy, and BrightSource Energy—have a market capitalization of over $500 billion and could easily have paid for the $2.2 billion project themselves.  Instead, $1.6 billion came from federal loan guarantees.  Thus the owners risked little of their own money, but stand to make huge profits.  PG&E is paying Ivanpah up to $200 per kilowatt hour, which is far above the national average for solar of $57 (which is higher than conventional sources).

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) asked Mr. Nedd whether BLM would have issued permits for the project if they were not aware of the federal loan guarantees. He hesitantly responded that he did not know the answer to the hypothetical question—even though it had everything to do with his department. Nevertheless, other companies that request funding from the Department of Energy must pay for their projects themselves if they have the ability to do so.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Colo.) pointed out that Exxon violated the migratory bird treaty act and paid a fine of $600,000 for 85 birds killed on its property. Meanwhile, 1,000 migratory birds have been killed at the Ivanpah facility and a fine was not charged. When asked why there were no consequences for the Ivanpah bird deaths, Nedd claimed he did not know enough about the program to talk about it and had no specifics. When asked if he knew why solar companies were getting preferential treatment, he brusquely responded, “I don’t know if they’re getting preferential treatment, so therefore I cannot respond to that.”

By Jennifer Montazzoli

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified for over two hours at a House Science Committee hearing June 22 on Ensuring Sound Science at EPA. Not much has changed since the last hearing on this topic in July 2015.  The committee revisited the scientific unreliability of the EPA’s views of climate change, while McCarthy stuttered in response to the committee members’ demonstration of the facts.

Several members of the committee offered convincing evidence against the EPA’s claims, which often left Administrator McCarthy looking as foolish as the EPA’s scientifically unsupportable proposals. Throughout the intense questioning about climate change issues, the “Clean Power” Plan, and the Waters of the U.S. rule, McCarthy repeatedly stressed the importance of protecting the health of American children and the wellbeing of future generations.

After being questioned by Representative Ami Bera (D-Calif.) on the effects of climate on human health, McCarthy claimed that the EPA saves children from asthma and that EPA programs have reduced air pollution by 70%. Nevertheless, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) explained that while ozone levels may contribute to the occurrence of asthma, there are other factors that cause asthma including dust, mold, eggs, preservatives in foods, and pollen. He also noted that while ozone levels have gone down, asthma has continued to go up. Mr. Abraham cast serious doubt on McCarthy’s theory that reducing ozone levels will decrease childhood asthma. He finally asked McCarthy to be honest to families through accurately reporting what will cause and prevent asthma. Perhaps the EPA should do some scientific research before assuming their regulations will guarantee health improvement.

In response to McCarthy’s assertion that EPA regulations do not kill jobs, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) showed a video in which several coal-mining families told their stories of what they suffered when the Obama administration’s war on coal destroyed their jobs. Losing your job poses major health risks for families.  Mr. Palmer also explained that higher utility bills as a result of the EPA’s rules means that “households are forced to make choices that carry serious health risks” such as foregoing medical and dental care.

Speaking to a much friendlier audience at the annual Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, DC the next day, Administrator McCarthy returned to her claim that EPA rules do not cost jobs or harm the economy.  She said, “If someone’s making that old, tired argument that what’s good for the environment is bad for the economy, can you remind them that that’s so yesterday?”  Environment and Energy News PM reported that the audience reacted with laughter to her sarcastic question.

Post image for EPA’s PM2.5 Co-Benefits PR Trick Exposed

Summary

  • If we consider just the hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) targeted by EPA’s Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, costs exceed quantifiable benefits by 1,600 times to 2,400 times–a potential PR disaster for the agency.
  • To sell the rule to Congress and the public, EPA touted the “co-benefits” of the rule’s coincidental reductions in fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution.
  • In fact, EPA attributes more than 99 percent of the rule’s monetized health benefits to collateral reductions in PM2.5-related emissions.
  • But about 99 percent of those co-benefits occur in areas projected to be in attainment with the National Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM2.5.
  • To calculate the MATS rule’s PM2.5-related health benefits, EPA ascribes equal value to PM2.5 reductions in areas below and above the NAAQS.
  • That is inconsistent with the basic concept of the NAAQS program, which is to set concentration standards at a level “requisite to protect public health . . . allowing an adequate margin of safety.”
  • Once we factor in the lower probability of PM2.5 health effects in areas where exposures are already below the NAAQS, the value of the MATS rule’s co-benefits falls nearly to zero.
  • The lion’s share of EPA-estimated Clean Power Plan health benefits also disappears.
  • Unless EPA makes its impact assessments consistent with its NAAQS determinations, the agency’s benefit estimates will become increasingly overstated and less credible over time.

MATS Back in the News

EPA’s 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, which established maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants, is again in the news. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a petition by Michigan and 26 other states to freeze the rule.

Petitioners complained that EPA continued to implement MATS even though the Court last year deemed the rule to be unlawful. The Court held that EPA “strayed well beyond the bounds of reasonable interpretation in concluding that cost is not a factor relevant to the appropriateness of regulating [HAP emissions from] power plants.”

Although EPA did not compare costs and benefits when deciding whether to regulate power plant HAP emissions, it did compare costs and benefits when promoting the rule to Congress and the public. EPA boasted that although MATS would cost utilities $9.6 billion to implement in 2016, it would generate $37 billion to $90 billion in health benefits in the same year (77 FR 9306).

However, EPA attributed more than 99 percent of the quantified benefits to coincidental reductions in fine particulate matter (PM2.5)–a pollutant not directly targeted by the rule and not classified as a HAP in the Clean Air Act. Specifically, EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis (p. 5-93) claimed that reductions in PM2.5-related emissions would avert 4,200 to 11,000 premature deaths in 2016–annual “co-benefits” valued by the agency at $36 billion to $89 billion.

A study by economist Anne Smith of NERA Economic Consulting finds that even if we accept the epidemiological literature supporting an association between mortality and PM2.5 at today’s historically-low levels (skepticism is justified), the MATS rule’s co-benefit estimates are flimflam. [click to continue…]

Post image for More Good News on Climate

Worse than we thought? Not lately. Consider some recent studies and data on hurricanes, rainfall trends, climate sensitivity, Atlantic Ocean circulation, and Antarctic temperature trends.

Major Hurricane Drought Continues

Not since Hurricane Wilma struck the Florida near Everglades City in October 2005 has a major (category 3 and larger) hurricane made landfall in the United States.

Hall and Hereid (2015), a study published last year in Geophysical Research Letters, reported that the nine-year “drought” in major U.S. hurricane landfalls from 2006 to the end of the 2014 hurricane season was “unprecedented” in the historical record, which extends back to 1851. The two scientists estimated that nine-year periods with no major U.S. hurricane strikes happen, on average, only once every 177 years.

There were also no major U.S. hurricane landfalls in 2015, extending the drought to a full ten years. “According to NASA, a stretch like this is only likely to happen once in 270 years,” CNN reports.

To be sure, our string of good luck is bound to run out eventually. The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially opens today, and NOAA says 1 to 4 major hurricanes are possible this year. Nonetheless, a 10-year hiatus in major U.S. hurricane landfalls with a probability of once every 270 years was not what Al Gore told us to expect in An Inconvenient Truth.

No Large Change in Rainfall during Past 150 Years

The most comprehensive study of global rainfall trends ever, based on 1000 weather stations in 114 countries, with each station having at least 100 years of observations, finds that “most trends over a century or longer are consistent with little precipitation change.”

Contrary to popular climate fears, over periods of a century or longer, dry areas are not becoming drier, wet areas are not becoming wetter, and deserts/jungles are not expanding or shrinking due to changes in precipitation patterns. The study, published in the Journal of Hydrology, concludes that “some caution is warranted about claiming that large changes in global precipitation have occurred during the last 150 years.” [click to continue…]

Post image for House Panel Asks McCarthy: How Is EPA’s Continuing Implementation of the Clean Power Plan Legal under the Stay?

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) today sent an oversight letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy questioning the legality of EPA’s ongoing implementation of the so-called Clean Power Plan despite the Supreme Court’s stay of the rule.

The congressmen note that the Court’s order “expressly and categorically stays the promulgated rule” and was intended to “save states and other stakeholders from taking actions, expending resources and incurring costs in response to a rule that may not be legal.” Yet in the ensuing weeks and months, “EPA has been taking steps to circumvent the Court’s stay and potentially undermine the relief provided by the stay in the first place.”

For example, on April 27, EPA sent a detailed proposal for the Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP), a component of the Power Plan, to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review. “This new rulemaking proposal arises directly from the Clean Power Plan and, but for this rule, the new proposal would have no basis.”

“In addition,” the congressmen write, “the agency has confirmed it is moving forward with its proposed ‘Model Trading Rules’ and other regulatory guidance for implementing the Clean Power Plan. These rules and guidance similarly have no basis independent of the Clean Power Plan. To the extent EPA proceeds with any such actions to implement the stayed rule, it deprives states and other stakeholders the benefits of the stay by compelling participation in regulatory processes that inappropriately assume the validity of a rule that may ultimately be struck down.”*

Of particular concern, “EPA officials have also stated that certain compliance deadlines in the Clean Power Plan may not be tolled [delayed] should the stay be lifted—the thrust of which is that states and other stakeholders would be prudent to begin voluntarily preparing now for rule implementation in case its legality is upheld. This ‘take action or else’ messaging underscores indications that EPA, despite the stay, is seeking to coerce additional action to lock in compliance with the mandates of its rule—even if the rule is found to be unlawful.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds

“Carbon Dioxide Fertilization Greening Earth, Study Finds.” Says who? Some ‘denier’ group? Nope. The NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

From the agency’s Web site:

From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25.

An international team of 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries led the effort, which involved using satellite data from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer instruments to help determine the leaf area index, or amount of leaf cover, over the planet’s vegetated regions. The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees equivalent in area to two times the continental United States.

That last sentence bears repeating. Satellite records show an increase in leafy vegetation equal to twice the area of the continental United States. The scientists, Zhu et al. (2016), estimate that about 70% of the increase is due to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. You know, the same emissions climate activists call “carbon pollution.”

Check out NASA’s composite image of changes in “leaf area index” (LAI) based on three long-term satellite records:

change_in_leaf_area

 

 

 

 

 

The new study may be the most accurate of its kind to date, but previous studies reveal the same big picture: a planet becoming greener, chiefly due to CO2 emissions.

Yet the Obama administration purports to estimate the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) — the alleged net damage of an incremental ton of CO2 emissions — using three computer models of which two, known as DICE and PAGE, have no significant CO2 fertilization benefit.

[click to continue…]

Post image for What Every Conservative in Congress Needs to Know about the Paris Agreement

Today, at least 155 governments are expected to sign the Paris Agreement at U.N. headquarters in New York. A visitor to a prominent skeptic blog posted the following comment:

“But Obama’s negotiators in Paris negotiated with the leader of the summit, another socialist, for a non binding deal. Essentially making the whole thing meaningless in order for him to attempt to bypass congress.”

That dismissive comment expresses an opinion held by many conservatives and skeptics. It is incorrect.

Beguiled by Obama’s claims that the agreement is “non-binding,” “unenforceable,” hence “not a treaty,” many conservatives assume it’s harmless, a global feel-good exercise they can safely ignore. Not so.

Bypassing Congress is not meaningless. It undermines and, unless forthrightly opposed, can destroy constitutional checks and balances.

Moreover, the agreement is inherently dangerous to America’s economic future and capacity for self-government. Here’s why.

The guts of the agreement are a detailed collection of reporting, monitoring, and verification requirements which, flagged by the word “shall,” are understood to be legally binding. Those procedural “commitments” are the framework for a global, multi-decadal campaign of political pressure. It’s chief function is to overcome U.S. political resistance to climate alarm, EPA’s power plant rules, cap-and-trade, wealth transfers from the poor in rich countries to the rich in poor countries (a.k.a. “climate finance”), and “keep it in the ground” restrictions on domestic energy production.

Granted, our specific emission reduction and climate finance commitments are non-binding in the sense of self-chosen rather than specified by the agreement itself, but for the United States, that is a distinction without a difference. Americans expect their leaders to keep all solemn promises, whether or not there are legal penalties for breaking them. As a GEICO ad might put it, “When you’re the United States, you keep your promises; it’s what you do.” The way nations honor their non-binding promises under the Paris Agreement is to turn them into legally binding appropriations and regulations.

Some conservatives assume that if President Obama can make America a party to the agreement with the stroke of a pen, a Republican president could withdraw from it just as easily. That too is incorrect.

The agreement “enters into force” when at least 55 countries representing 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions ratify it (an outcome expected soon). After the agreement enters into force, a party may not notify its intent to withdraw until three years later, and withdrawal does not become effective until one year after notification.

So by the terms of the agreement, a Republican administration would be bound for four years to participate in the annual climate summits and endless rounds of specialized committee meetings, providing countless media opportunities for foreign leaders, U.N. officials, and green pressure groups to “name and shame” U.S. officials who question climate orthodoxy, fail to pony up billions in climate finance, or oppose EPA’s power plant rules and other greenhouse gas regulations that would be dead on arrival if proposed as legislation in Congress.

Congressional leaders can foil this scheme, but only if they challenge rather than repeat Obama’s core premise that the Paris Agreement is not a treaty, hence does not require Senate approval to enter into force with respect to the United States.

The good news is Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) completely get it and today issued a statement challenging the constitutional bona fides of Obama’s climate diplomacy. [click to continue…]