April 21 news: GOP mercury; DOE to grant up to $130M for renewables; Carol Browner joins CAP

GOP Begins New Push to Delay EPA Rules on Toxic Power Plant Emissions

Under pressure from industry, Congressional Republicans are urging the U.S. EPA to further delay long-overdue rules that would limit more than 80 air toxics emitted by coal-burning power plants, barely a month after the agency announced them.

At least one lawmaker, Rep. Edward Whitfield of Kentucky “” a state which gets more than 90 percent of its power from coal “” has said he will soon introduce legislation to postpone implementation of the regulations.

The rules in question are EPA’s air toxics standards to control mercury and other poisonous substances from power plants, as well as the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) standards that govern hazardous emissions from boilers and cement plants.

EPA released the nation’s first regulations for toxic power plant emissions on March 16. The boiler rules were announced in February 2011 and the cement standards in August 2010. All of the policies are mandated by the 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act and originally set to be finalized in 2000.

According to EPA, the mercury and air toxics standards alone would prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks each year.

DOE to grant up to $130M for renewable energy projects

The U.S. Department of Energy said today it will grant up to $130 million to renewable energy projects that can’t find funding from private investors.

The projects the DOE plans to fund are riskier than their solar and wind power counterparts, focusing on the research and development of technologies that are not yet commercially viable.

The funding will come from the Advanced Research Programs Agency “” Energy (ARPA-E). President Barack Obama created the agency in 2009 as part of the stimulus package. The agency has so far received $363 million in federal funding, with an additional $650 million requested by the President in his budget proposal for next fiscal year.

So far, six projects funded by ARPA-E have received around $100 million in funding from private investors.

In U.S. Race to Reap Offshore Wind, Ambitions for Maryland Remain High

Massachusetts is officially poised to have America’s first offshore wind farm, now that Cape Wind has won federal approval to begin construction. The news knocks Delaware, Rhode Island and New Jersey out of that heated title competition for now.

Maryland, for its part, took itself out of the Northeast wind war this month when lawmakers shelved a bill expected to unleash the state’s offshore wind industry over cost concerns. It is likely a temporary setback.

Supporters insist that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s wind bill will pass next year and offshore turbines will be added to the grid in due time.

In interviews with SolveClimate News, industry officials, environmental groups and the O’Malley administration all said they will work closely with lawmakers over the summer interim to address the uncertainties that held up the bill this session.

O’Malley, who was recently elected to his second term, has lobbied intensely to bring offshore wind to Maryland’s eastern coast in an effort to boost the state’s renewable energy profile and attract green manufacturing jobs.

NY to build solar power plants on capped landfills

New York City plans to build solar power plants on capped landfills and launch a loan program to help property owners pay for green energy efficiency upgrades.

The initiatives are part of an update to the city’s 4-year-old PlaNYC environmental road map.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to announce the update Thursday. His office released details Wednesday night.

The plan was launched Earth Day 2007. It aims to reduce the city’s greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2030. The city says emissions already have dropped 13 percent from 2005 levels.

Bloomberg’s administration says building solar plants on the surfaces of landfills could generate up to 50 megawatts of power.

The city also plans to use $40 million in federal stimulus funds to launch the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation to help property owners get financing for green improvements.

How much could climate change cost your state?

No idea why they got someone’s dad to narrate this video, but the information in it is pretty startling. According to this group, the American Security Project, costs racked up by climate change could include:

$9.3 billion a year in lost agriculture revenues in the Plains states

$3.6-$6.1 billion over 20 years in infrastructure costs in Alaska

$60 billion by 2100 in increased energy costs in the Southeast

$2.3-$12.1 million in lost revenue in the Northeast just from losses to the maple syrup trade

$200 billion in repairs if a catastrophic hurricane flooded lower Manhattan

Now, a lot of this is worst-case scenario, but this much is clear: Spending a little to address the impacts of climate change now could let us avoid costs, potentially enormous costs, down the line.

ASP also has a map on their site that lets you download a report (warning, it’s a PDF) on how much each state could save by addressing climate change — i.e. how much they stand to lose if they don’t.

Carol Browner heads to think tank

Former White House climate and energy adviser Carol Browner is rejoining the Center for American Progress.

Browner was on the board of directors for the think tank before becoming President Barack Obama’s top environmental lieutenant during his unsuccessful push to enact climate change legislation. She left the White House last month.

Think Progress, operated by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, tweeted the news about Browner’s decision Tuesday afternoon. But they declined to provide further details until Wednesday.

“Carol Browner is an extraordinarily accomplished and talented advocate and with her years of experience in government and business, she will add a fresh perspective to all of CAP’s endeavors,” Daniel Weiss, a senior fellow and head of CAP’s climate program, told POLITICO.

Browner’s arrival adds to the roster of Democratic Party power players at the group.

CAP is headed by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is a senior fellow.

Browner, the EPA administrator during the Clinton administration, promised POLITICO in late March that she would soon be heard from again after a brief hiatus upon leaving the White House about a month ago.

“You’ll see,” she said. “I’ll reemerge.”

Here is the full CAP release:

Carol M. Browner Joins the Center for American Progress as Distinguished Senior Fellow

WASHINGTON, D.C.””John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, announced today that Carol M. Browner will join the Center as a Distinguished Senior Fellow.

Browner’s work for American Progress will focus on domestic and international policy development. She will also serve on CAP’s Executive Committee, which oversees strategic planning and management of the institution.

“Carol Browner is an extraordinary public servant and CAP will benefit tremendously from her vision and experience,” said John Podesta. He continued, “She understands the intersections of how policy interacts with politics and how government helps shape strong markets for investment and innovation. Having that sense of integration is key to understanding how to improve the lives of the American people, which is central to the mission of CAP.”

Most recently Browner served as an assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, overseeing the coordination of environmental, energy, climate, transport, and related policy across the federal government. During her tenure the White House secured the largest investment ever in clean energy and established the national car policy that included both new automobile fuel efficiency standards and first ever greenhouse gas reductions.

In 1993, she was confirmed as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency where she served for eight years. As administrator she adopted the most stringent air pollution standards in our nation’s history, set for the first time, a fine particle clean air standard, spearheaded the reauthorization of the Safe Drinking Water Act as well as the Food Quality Protection Act. She was known for working with both environmentalists and industry to set scientific-based public health protections while providing businesses important flexibilities in how to meet those standards. She worked across the agency to ensure a focus on protecting the most vulnerable, particularly children. These efforts earned her various accolades including being named “Mother of the Year” in 1997 by the National Mother’s Day Committee and Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year in 1998.

From 2001-2008 she was a founding partner in the The Albright Group (now Albright Stonebridge Group), a global strategy firm. From 2003-2008 she served as a founding Board Member of CAP.

Browner received a B.A. and a law degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville. She headed the Department of Environmental Regulation in Florida from 1991-1993 where she launched the largest ecological restoration project ever attempted in the United States to restore the natural flow of water to the Everglades.

Founded in 2003, the Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all.

23 Responses to April 21 news: GOP mercury; DOE to grant up to $130M for renewables; Carol Browner joins CAP

  1. paulm says:
    A new study from Michigan State University shows that Democrats and Republicans have become increasingly divided on the subject of climate change.
    The first of its kind research, led by Aaron McCright, an associate professor of Sociology, showed that the gap between Democrats and Republicans who believe global warming is happening increased 30 percent between 2001 and 2010.
    McCright used data from Gallup’s annual environmental poll to show this growing gap.
    Back in 2001, 49% of republicans polled believed that the effects of global warming had already began. By 2010, that figure dropped to 29%.
    Back in 2001, 60% of democrats polled believed that the effects of global warming had already began. By 2010, that figure increased to 70%.

  2. catman306 says:

    UGA tests hair to find toxin levels
    University of Georgia scientists are testing hair samples from across the country to identify people who have dangerous levels of a toxic metal in their bloodstream and help them find ways to reduce that exposure.

    They are doing it for the Sierra Club who are testing at risk people downwind from coal fired power plants.

  3. BillD says:

    It seems that the Repubicans, such as Burton, have never heard of Bioaccumulation, also known as biomagification is something that our conservative legislatures seem to completely ignore. Mercury is one of those toxins that is greatly concentrated at each trophic level (or step in the food chain).

    Mercury is already at dangerous levels in certain large open ocean/continental shelf fish such as swordfish. I love sea food and eat quite a lot, but I have given up on swordfish due to high mercury levels. I will be including data on mercury biomagnification in my lecture tomorrow for a nonmajors biology class. It would be nice if the conservatives knew even a little about how food chains work.

  4. Raindog says:

    Another good post for those interested in the comparison of the GHG emissions for shale gas and coal

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks, BillD, mercury has always been under reported.

    Conservatives don’t much care about the food chain. Go to a barbeque in Texas sometime- you won’t find any fish or organic produce. It’s all about steaks, fries, ice cream, beer, and Dr. Pepper. They figure these items are all safe from whatever is going on everywhere else.

  6. Mike Roddy says:

    Raindog, the Clean Skies Initiative that you quoted in #3 is a utility and gas company industry group. They tossed off the Howarth study without addressing his specific concerns about methane fracking emissions, and repeated without real evidence their own claims about relative gas GHG emissions.

    Why would you post fossil fuel industry greenwashing here on Climate Progress? That material is more welcome on WUWT, Climate Audit, and Climate Depot. We don’t pay much attention to oil and gas industry bullshit here.

  7. Sasparilla says:

    Interesting article over on the Guardian:

    Fossil fuel firms use ‘biased’ study in massive gas lobbying push

    Basically the big fossil fuel energy companies are getting into gas and bringing all their power and bad habits on their target of clean energy.

    Small quote “Senior executives in the fossil fuel industry have launched an all-out assault on renewable energy, lobbying governments and business groups to reject wind and solar power in favour of gas,”

    This article included the US. On a related point, during an analysis of GE’s earnings this morning the person doing the analysis said that “Wind in the U.S. is dead” – presumably few new installations are being drawn up, just building out existing ones that were started previously.

  8. sault says:

    This fits right in with the extreme Paul Ryan Budget and the resurgence of the “Culture War” issues that the Republican House has focused on. It’s not about jobs, the economy or the budget, it’s about ideology and winning the next election. Whoever is running against Whitfield is probably going to lose, but they should still be a firebrand and let the voters know that Whitfield authored a bill to put more mercury in the air and water.

  9. DaveE says:

    Mercury–it worked for the mad hatter–although I’m not sure the symptoms were as benign as depicted in “Alice in Wonderland” (if even those symptoms could be described as benign). As far as I know, we are no longer using mercury for curing hat bands.

  10. Jeff Huggins says:

    To Joe (and others at CAP, as well as the broader audience):

    I’ve been somewhat inactive on CP in recent weeks, trying to get some stuff done here. But upon seeing this (on Carol Browner), I wanted to raise a point and question for consideration.

    First I’d like to say that I applaud CAP’s efforts, and your efforts, Joe, and I admire what you folks are doing and trying to do. But as an outsider to Washington, and as someone who lives on the opposite coast, I feel a nagging question, and I think (or assume) that many others must be feeling it too.

    It boils down to this, perhaps: With so many brilliant and previously-influential Dems at CAP, why are Obama and his Administration not listening well to CAP — at least, that’s the way it seems from here — and why is the Administration stumbling and failing so?? To a Washington insider, perhaps the answer to that question is apparent and not-very-surprising. To a Washington insider, perhaps the answer to that question is not even concerning? But to people who aren’t Washington insiders — and the vast majority of Americans aren’t — to those of us who are deeply concerned about climate change and other stuff, the question is a nagging one, at least to me.

    If CAP consists of brilliant and influential Demo and Progressive thought-leaders, and if CAP is right there in Washington, a walk or short cab ride away from the White House and other centers of power, then what the [heck] is going on? I mean really.

    On some days I think that CAP is fighting the good fight. And almost always, I admire the efforts. But I must admit, on some days, sometimes, I wonder if, or imagine that, all (or nearly all, including CAP) Democratic think-tanks and leaders are actually part of some unconscious or subconscious ‘conspiracy’ together aimed at not being as effective as we claim we want to be. I know this sounds silly and ridiculous, and I quickly dismiss the notion whenever it comes up, but the INeffectiveness of Obama, the Administration, and the Dems and Progressives these days is striking, frustrating, demotivating, and nearly debilitating. And CAP is right there, in the middle (at least geographically, in Washington) of it.

    Is it possible — or would it be impossible, politically — for CAP to speak to all of us candidly and honestly about why the Administration is blowing it and why CAP is (apparently) ineffective at fixing that problem? To some of us, I think, the time is approaching when we’ll either need to hear that answer, candidly, or CAP itself will start losing credibility.

    I realize, of course, that (to an insider) the answer may seem obvious: ‘Although we are CAP, the Administration doesn’t listen to us, and we can’t influence it much.’ But you are full of brilliant and (presumably) influential people. How can influential people not have influence, in their own party?

    This is a problem. Maybe I’m the only one feeling it or beginning to feel it, but I doubt it. If and as more and more people feel it, there are large things at stake, including votes (in the next election) and also CAP’s own credibility. The question is, Why isn’t CAP having much more influence, and why can’t it?

    I’m a fan — but a confused and frustrated one. What can you tell me that will both be true and ring true?



  11. Colorado Bob says:

    (CNN) — Torrential rain and massive floods that have been pounding Colombia this year have not let up, and dozens of people are dead amid widespread destruction, the Colombian Red Cross said Wednesday.

  12. Colorado Bob says:

    New study links ozone hole to climate change all the way to the equator

    The ozone hole is now widely believed to have been the dominant agent of atmospheric circulation changes in the Southern Hemisphere in the last half century. This means, according to Polvani and Kang, that international agreements about mitigating climate change cannot be confined to dealing with carbon alone— ozone needs to be considered, too. “This could be a real game-changer,” Polvani added.

  13. sault says:

    Jeff H., you have to realize that while Obama is a progressive, he is also a pragmatist. I’d ask you the question, “Who would you rather have in office, an Obama or an ineffective idealist that fights battles they cannot win, squanders political capital with needlessly partisan speeches and generally discredits their cause by appearing like a loser?” The alternative to Obama in my question is George W Bush, and although a lot of people want to see Obama pull some ideas from the GWB playbook, you do remember how badly those 8 years turned out, right?

    With congress the way it is, there is NO WAY a climate bill is even going to be marked up before the election and even with a much more climate-friendly congress back in 09, a climate bill failed to pass. Obama will drop some hints on his climate agenda through the campaign but it will never become a big issue unless the Greenland Ice Sheet disintegrates or they have to invent a Category 6 to describe the massive hurricanes that might develop that summer.

    Our job is to twofold:

    1. Get as many democrats elected to congress as possible while making sure they are GOOD ones and not “Manchins”

    2. Build awareness of climate and energy issues locally and nationally as much as possible to produce a sustained public pressure for climate action that will overwhelm the fossil fuel and corporate media noise machine.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    “Climate science has basically been at the receiving end of the best-funded, best-organized smear campaign by the wealthiest industry that the Earth has ever known—that’s the bottom line,” Mann told me when I visited him at his Penn State office last November. Near his desk, Mann keeps an actual hockey stick, signed by Middlebury College’s championship hockey team to show the school’s support for his work.

  15. Colorado Bob says:

    Haiti’s charcoal trade – in pictures

    Haiti’s chief source of fuel spawns a harsh trade that causes deforestation and courts environmental disaster. New ways of providing fuel are now being explored

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    Swiss officials began moving trout from a river this week to save them from plunging water levels, amid one of the worst droughts to hit the country in 150 years.

  17. Peter Sergienko says:

    @Jeff. I hope this isn’t too cynical, but the short answer to your question about CAP’s seeming lack of influence is surely, “Money.”

    While there are many opinion leaders at presitigous institutions, if, as one important example, one looks objectively at Harvard’s internal governance and external influences over the last few decades, the economic and financial theories that have left humanity essentially at the mercy of Wall Street and the global monied elite have been dominant. Harvard’s world-leading endowment has tracked the rise, fall and re-birth of these theories. Harvard’s ability to fund all the other good and important work that it does is subservient to this system of wealth creation. Everything else, even environmental issues that threaten human civilization, are secondary. Because wealth creation solves all problems it has absolute primacy over all other human endeavors.

    A very large percentage of our best and brightest in both politics and the private sector hold MBA’s or JD’s and have been trained to serve and be served by this system. It would be a miracle for altruistic NGOs such as CAP and to drastically change this because it is fundamental to our dominant culture. However, without question, these organizations can and do influence both culture and policy. Selfless leaders (including you, by the way), and others holding degrees from prestigious institutions such as Bill McKibben (Harvard) and Dr. Romm (MIT) can and do shape opinion in critical ways through the persuasive power of their arguments and ideas. However (and I think Bill and have this absolutely right), it will take people power (literally tens or hundreds of millions of people worldwide) to move the entrenched DC/Wall Street culture enough to matter in the fight against climate change.

    CAP has always had the truth and good policy on its side. That has been enough to be influential, but not enough to achieve the cultural shift we need to put humanity back on track.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Cost of climate change by state seems like a good strategy for those that measure everything by $ but I wonder if it may have more impact if it used real costs so far rather than speculative ones that people can ignore until they happen, ME

  19. Scott says:

    What did Carol Browner do and say during the BP/Cameron/Transocean Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill? I seem to remember her making a few comments.

  20. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear sault (Comment 13),

    President Obama’s so-called “pragmatism” isn’t being effective: it’s not working. Haven’t you noticed that? The comparison I’m making is not some sort of idealism vs. some sort of effective pragmatism. Not at all. Instead, I do not agree with HOW President Obama is treating climate change, talking (or mainly not talking) about it, letting the deniers get away with ‘murder’, figuratively speaking, and so forth.

    “Pragmatism” is supposed to be what’s effective, i.e., what gets the job done effectively. Do you think we’re getting the job done effectively? Do you think we’re even anywhere close to getting the job done effectively? What are the signs? We’re getting trounced, and part of the reason (a big part) is President Obama’s approach. The sooner we realize that, the better, and the sooner he’ll change, if he has it in him to change. If he doesn’t, he shouldn’t be President for another term, in my view.

    I hope he’ll get his act together. But I won’t vote for him again unless he demonstrates a completely new approach to climate change in THIS term.



  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Jeff #20 re sault #13. Please understand how representative democracy works.

    There is no point in tilting at windmills. The time is not yet right to appeal to the people on the immediacy of the threat.

    But it will be soon, hang on in there, ME

  22. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Merrelyn Emery (Comment 21),

    Merrelyn, thanks for your comment, and I hope you are having a nice Earth Day.

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with you, if I understand your comment correctly. The point I’m making has nothing to do with “tilting at windmills”. Climate change is not a “windmill”, imaginary or otherwise. And we should be doing much, much more than “tilting” at it by now. You’re correct that the “time is not … right”: We should have been doing much, much more than we’re doing now ten or fifteen years ago. We are WAY behind schedule, as I’m sure you can appreciate, and so is our “political discourse” on all this stuff.

    Thus, my way of “hanging in there” at this point will be to expect and indeed demand a much better strategy, and more vigor, from President Obama on climate change — and to require that he exhibit his change in strategy THIS TERM if he wants my vote for a new term. If I hear another mere “promise” from him about what he’ll do NEXT term, if elected, before I see real action from him THIS term (e.g., using the bully pulpit rigorously and effectively, and so forth), he’ll lose me as a supporter. He needs to understand this sort of message, because many, many other people are feeling this way.

    Today is Earth Day, and I’m embarrassed by the incredible lack of progress we’ve achieved in the last two years and more.

    I wish the situation were different, but we need to do much more than wish. We need to DO, and we need to demand and expect more. At least that’s my feeling.

    Cheers for now, and Be Well,


  23. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Jeff #22. I have endured years of frustration and anger at the inaction of our political system to do anything effective about CC but finally, finally, we have movement on this although as any Aussie who posts here will tell you, it is too little, too late and hedged about with all sorts of trade-offs and uncertainties that may render it useless.

    The point is that rep dems work on the numbers and no PM or President is going to take on a fight he or she knows they can’t win at this point in time. They wait for the right moment.

    In Oz at the moment we have a gathering recognition that all is not well and now is exactly the right moment to capitalize on that. So we hear more from our PM and Minister for CC and Energy.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of your President in this matter and I am sure that at soon as he has the ammo to start a real war which he knows he can win, he will go for it.

    You can help him by supporting him in his clean energy campaign and organizing as much visible support from the voting public as possible. Quite frankly, I don’t want to wake up one morning to a future where the USA has another Republican President, particularly given your recent political history.

    PS. I had a lovely Earth day and won a couple of arguments about CC as well as how the human body works, in concert with my daughter, ME