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August 25 News: CARB Reaffirms Cap-and-Trade Plan; Coloradans Are Fed Up With Big Oil, Want More Renewables

A round-up of recent climate and energy news. Please post other stories below.California panel reaffirms carbon trading program

The California Air Resources Board voted to reaffirm its cap-and-trade plan Wednesday, a decision that puts the nation’s first-ever state carbon trading program back on track, for now.

The on-again, off-again rules have been years in the making and are meant to complement AB 32, California’s landmark climate change law that mandates a reduction in carbon pollution to 1990 levels by 2020. The air board adopted a preliminary carbon trading plan in late 2008 but was sued by environmental justice groups in 2009.

A San Francisco judge in March ordered the air board to more comprehensively analyze alternatives to the market-based trading system, such as a carbon tax or fee. In a unanimous vote in Sacramento on Wednesday, the board adopted the revised environmental analysis while still affirming its original decision.

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But the board’s vote may not forestall another legal challenge. The original plaintiffs argued in Wednesday’s hearing that the revised analysis still failed to adequately consider other options. UCLA law professor Cara Horowitz said “most assuredly” the matter would be back before the court.

Survey says Coloradans are fed up with oil companies, want more renewables

Coloradans blame market speculation and oil companies for high gas prices, and the vast majority say the best way to bring prices down is to crackdown on market manipulation, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The Checks and Balances Project commissioned Colorado pollster Chris Keating to conduct research that shows that 79 percent of Coloradans favor a crackdown on oil price speculation and market manipulation to reduce gas prices. The survey showed 77 percent of Colorado voters think reducing oil consumption through efficiency would also be an effective way to reduce prices.

“Coloradans are tired of paying for their gas twice: once at the pump and again through their taxes,” said Matt Garrington, deputy director of the Checks and Balances Project. “It’s clear car and truck drivers in this state want solutions to this problem now, including a crackdown on market manipulation, a balanced approach to energy development and an end to taxpayer handouts for oil companies.”

Garrington told The Colorado Independent that the surveyors asked open ended questions along the lines of “Why do you think oil prices are so high? and What could be done to bring prices down?”

“We didn’t lay out policy options to choose from. We just asked people what they thought,” he said.

According to Garrington, Coloradans strongly favor ending taxpayer subsidies for oil companies. Seventy-two percent of Coloradans say ending oil company subsidies and transferring those subsidies to companies that are developing wind and solar power would be an effective strategy for the nation.

Michigan Lawmaker Decries ‘Clean Coal’ Technology, W.Va. Industry

House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) today said “clean coal” doesn’t exist and that West Virginia coal miners should switch to other jobs during a speech at the opening session of U.S. EPA’s 2011 Environmental Justice Conference.

“From my limited understanding, there is no such thing as clean coal,” said Conyers, filling in for EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who had been invited to give this morning’s keynote address.

The American public continues to be bombarded by the idea that coal has a future in this country due to powerful special interest groups and regional advocates, Conyers said.

“There’s a big campaign going on about how you clean coal and we want to examine that as critically and fairly as we can, but here’s the problem: I’ve been to West Virginia, and that’s about all they’ve got there,” Conyers said.

Conyers — who over his nearly 50 years in Congress has been a leader on the Democratic side of the aisle in the fight against large fossil fuel producers, particularly big oil — said the history of coal mining in West Virginia “is one of the sorriest reports you’ll ever see.”

He called for the industry to be shut down in the state and for those who rely on coal jobs there to find alternative employment.

“We’ve got to work out a situation in one state of the union, there may be others, in which we come up with alternative ways of creating full employment without just putting everybody out of work,” he said.

U.N. chief to NREL: Think bold and we will support your work

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon broke from immediate concerns about political upheaval in Libya to rally efforts to bring electricity to the one in five people worldwide who live without access to artificial light.

An hour-long tour here in the government’s National Renewable Energy Lab is aimed at developing a new partnership — to be formalized later this year, NREL officials said — for reaching a UN goal of ensuring universal access to electricity and doubling reliance on renewable energy by 2030.

Today about 1.4 billion of the planet’s nearly 7 billion people lack electricity, most of them in rural parts of south Asia and Africa. By 2030, the population is expected to top 8 billion.

“Sustainable energy is cutting across nearly every major challenge humanity faces,” said Ban, 67, a Korean diplomat who was recently re-appointed by the UN General Assembly for a second term.

Ban has described the implications of widespread energy poverty as enormous, but a condition that does not have to continue. “Try to think big and bold,” he told NREL researchers. “The United Nations will fully support your work.”

EPA meets with Pa. residents over drilling fears

Residents and activists met Wednesday with officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies to urge the government to step in and keep watch over the rapidly expanding natural gas drilling industry.

More than a dozen people met with a contingent of federal officials in a private home in Susquehanna County, near the spot where a pipeline company was forced to halt work this month after repeated spills of nontoxic drilling mud into one of the state’s most pristine streams.

State environmental regulators said they have detected no impact on aquatic life. But residents told the EPA that Pennsylvania’s environmental agency has looked the other way while energy companies operating in the vast Marcellus Shale formation underlying New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia are ruining their quality of life.

Craig Stevens, who hosted the daylong meeting at his home in Silver Creek Township, told The Associated Press during a break that water contamination, air pollution and health problems that residents blame on drilling were among the topics discussed with the federal team, which, he said, also included representatives of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.