Climate 411

Hansen was right: Marking an anniversary by misleading the public

Dr. James Hansen testifying before Congress in 1988

With the thirtieth anniversary of former NASA scientist Jim Hansen’s landmark testimony to Congress on the urgent need to address climate change, numerous articles marked the occasion by demonstrating that his 1988 predictions have proven to be accurate.

Inevitably, some writers seized the opportunity to revive long-debunked arguments in an attempt to cast doubt and confusion on the threat.

Perhaps the most misleading – and certainly the highest profile – was a June 21st op-ed in the Wall Street Journal written by Pat Michaels and Ryan Maue. Michaels is director of the Center for the Study of Science at the Cato Institute, a think tank financially linked to the fossil fuel industry. And Michaels has been found to have previously misled Congress by presenting a doctored graph of Hansen’s projections during public testimony before the House Small Business Committee.

Four decades of climate model projections have fared well

Their latest effort implies that U.S. climate policy is based on Hansen’s forecasts in 1988, and therefore we must “reconsider environmental policy” according to an evaluation of “how well his forecasts have done.”

In reality, climate policy is based on hundreds of years of collective research and an overwhelming amount of observational evidence gathered from all over the world.

Climate model development began as early as the 1950s, and projections from 1973 to 2013 (including Hansen’s 1988 paper) have been compared to observed temperatures by multiple institutions. All showed reasonably accurate surface temperature increases between 1970 and 2016, Hansen’s 1988 study included.

The largest uncertainties come not from lack of understanding of the climate system, but from unknown future human decisions. For example, if Hansen’s 1988 study had included the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that followed the Montreal Protocol Treaty – which took effect in 1989 and phased out ozone-depleting chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – the results from his “most likely” scenario would have matched projections by today’s more sophisticated models. Considering the lack of available data and computing power in 1988, this is incredibly impressive.

Predicting exactly what emissions path we’ll take is therefore a policy, and not science, question. Climate scientists work towards understanding how the climate will respond to a range of future emissions scenarios, and unless a particular emissions pathway comes to fruition, it is never expected that the climate model results will be exactly right even if the science is perfect.

However, even without accounting for the Montreal Protocol Treaty adjustment, Hansen predicted in his “most likely” scenario nearly 1 degree (C) of warming by 2016 with respect to a 1964-1983 average, and observations from the standard datasets by NASA and Cowtan and Way both show this amount of warming. On the other hand, Michaels and Maue’s piece misleads readers by inaccurately claiming that Hansen’s lowest projection was most accurate; a quick look at the data shows that this is not so.

The article goes a step further, inaccurately claiming that “Models devised by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have, on average, predicted about twice as much warming as has been observed since global satellite temperature monitoring began 40 years ago.” First, IPCC does not devise models themselves, but it collates, synthesizes, and standardizes model results from dozens of independent climate models worldwide. But the main problem with this claim is that it is based on comparisons of model results with satellite data that has since been found to have major calibration errors that underestimated temperature measurements. Correcting for the errors reveals that the models are very much in line with what we observe.

Another major flaw in the piece is that Hansen’s and the “IPCC’s” models “don’t consider more-precise measures of how aerosol emissions counter warming caused by greenhouse gases. Several newer climate models account for this trend and routinely project about half the warming predicted by U.N. models, placing their numbers much closer to observed temperatures. The most recent of these was published in April by Nic Lewis and Judith Curry in the Journal of Climate, a reliably mainstream journal.” Sophisticated climate models have long considered effects of aerosols, both directly and via cloud modifications. Lewis and Curry estimated a lower than average climate sensitivity not because of aerosols but because they selected a very low ocean heat uptake rate – a controversial choice among climate scientists; accounting for the latest ocean heat content data would have increased the climate sensitivity value to be on par with other model estimates. Further, their study used a version of a temperature dataset that didn’t include adjustments due to lack of coverage of the Arctic.

Temperature IS rising…

The authors of the opinion piece write that “Global surface temperature has not increased significantly since 2000, discounting the larger-than-usual El Niño of 2015-16.”

This is a tired canard that has been fully debunked elsewhere. This argument is based on flawed and cherry-picked data, and ignores the latest scientific understanding. First, when the flawed, underlying satellite data was corrected, it showed 140% faster warming since 1998 that was consistent with other datasets. Second, the data is cherry-picked to fit the authors’ argument; it is clearly unscientific to discount the El Niño of 2015-16, but not the common La Niñas that masked some of the warming, and not the El Niño of 1997-98 that makes the warming thereafter appear to “slow down.” Third, El Niño was found to play a very minor role in global temperature rise in 2015, which shattered previous records. While it played a relatively larger role in 2016, it is certainly not the cause of a century-long global temperature rise trend, and just amplifies warming when it occurs – in contrast to the La Niñas that mask warming when they occur.

Overall, five ground-based temperature datasets and two satellite datasets all from different scientific groups show rapid warming over the past 30 years that continues into the 21st century. The 2010s have been warmer than the 2000s, the 2000s were warmer than the 1990s, the 1990s were warmer than the 1980s, and the 1980s were warmer than the 1970s. And temperature changes are hardly the only indicator of a changing climate.

So the article’s central question – “Why should people world-wide pay drastic costs to cut emissions when the global temperature is acting as if those cuts have already been made?” is specious. Global temperature is not acting as if those cuts have been made. And basic physics known since the 1800s shows that the global temperature will continue on this path unless we cut emissions of greenhouse gases drastically.

In the U.S., we have also observed considerable warming. However, Michaels and Maue further tried to discredit Hansen by saying, without any evidence or source, “No such spike has been measured” in greater than average temperatures in the late ‘80s and ‘90s in the southeast U.S. and Midwest, as Hansen suggested in his 1988 paper. First, several states in these areas have seen higher than average temperature rise, including Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Second, reading Hansen’s actual paper shows caveated language that there will be regional variations, and that there is a “tendency” for the southeast and central U.S. to be warmer than average. Hansen also fully acknowledges that major improvements are needed in our understanding of the climate system and our ability to predict change, especially the urgent need for more global measurements. For example, we didn’t know in 1988 important variability dynamics that have governed temperature change in these regions.

and the planet IS reacting

The excess warmth has touched every continent and every ocean.

We’ve observed considerable melting of land ice, something that Hansen highlighted in a testimony during a 2007 case on auto emissions. However, the opinion piece didn’t quite accurately depict his sentiments, paraphrasing his words as “most of Greenland’s ice would soon melt, raising sea levels 23 feet over the course of 100 years.”

Rather, Hansen was referring to ice melt in Greenland and Antarctica, stated that “it is nearly certain that West Antarctica and/or Greenland would disintegrate at some point if global warming approaches 3°C,” and caveated his estimation of sea level rise as “his opinion” (and therefore implying this as not a scientifically robust finding). The authors cite “a Nature study that found only modest ice loss after 6,000 years of much warmer temperatures than human activity could ever sustain.” But the same study acknowledges a major rise in sea level during that time, which if not from Greenland, was from Antarctica.

As for climate-related extreme events that have been on the rise over the past 30 years, the opinion article claims that hurricanes have not gotten stronger, but observational evidence shows they have. The article claims that tornadoes have not gotten stronger, but that was never a mainstream theory, and observations have shown that tornadoes are clumping together causing more severe outbreaks.

Michaels and Maue finally conclude that the list of what has been predicted and didn’t happen “is long and tedious.” I’d like to see that list, because the sampling they provided is filled with inaccuracies and easily refuted.

Jim Hansen’s 1988 testimony is a landmark moment. No matter how the opponents of climate action try to sow doubt and confusion, the judgement of history is clear: Hansen was right.

Also posted in Basic Science of Global Warming, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Science, Setting the Facts Straight / Leave a comment

Climate change and severe storms in Europe – new science shows we need a lower temperature target

Great Britain during the Big Freeze of 2010. Photo courtesy: NASA

As experts around the world consider ways to stabilize global temperatures at either 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, scientists are meticulously analyzing the risks of a world that warms by that additional half a degree.

A growing number of studies have found that a 2 degree Celsius world is far worse than a 1.5 degree Celsius world.

One of those new studies, published in Earth System Dynamics, shows how severe winter storms in Europe will become even more severe.

Analyzing risks of warming from 1.5 degrees to 2 degrees Celsius

Scientists recently launched a cutting-edge research initiative designed to quantify risks at the levels of warming specified by the Paris Agreement (1.5 degrees and 2 degrees Celsius).

The effort runs numerous model simulations with conditions at both of these global average temperatures, and provides high resolution data in space and time. This is crucial for understanding changes in extreme events such as storms.

Why we care about severe European winter storms

Severe storms over the northwestern parts of Europe are currently a major winter hazard.

The storms are often accompanied by high wind speeds and intense precipitation. They may lead to flooding and coastal erosion. They cause serious risks to health, transportation and infrastructure, along with costly damages.

Severe European winter storms will get worse

Investigating the changes in winter weather extremes over the Euro-Atlantic region (such as British Isles and Scandinavia) associated with the two temperature levels revealed that an additional half a degree of warming makes a significant difference for the region’s weather.

Severe European winter storms may include even more precipitation (rain, freezing rain, and snow) and higher wind speeds as the world warms from 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius – making the already severe storms even more severe.

The severity of stormy weather is expected to intensify, largely because of the intensification and northeastward shift of large-scale atmospheric circulation and the associated mid-latitude westerly winds over the North Atlantic.

These mid-latitude westerly winds are responsible for transporting storms towards Europe. As they shift to the northeast, they transport storms further towards the northeastern parts of Europe. This manifests in the increase of stormy weather and extreme wind and precipitation, concentrated between the British Isles and Iceland, over the Norwegian Sea, and in Scandinavia.

Increases in the intensity of extremes will impact the northwestern coasts of northern Europe most severely, as they are mostly exposed to the North Atlantic storms. The severity of extreme precipitation events may increase up to 25 percent over the coasts of the British Isles and Scandinavia.

The intensity of wind extremes will also increase over the northeast Atlantic and northern Europe, which may impact inland and coastal infrastructures as well as offshore wind farms.

Increasing ambition for temperature targets

This study is part of a growing body of literature in support of efforts to increase the ambition of climate change mitigation efforts, with the goal of stabilizing temperatures at 1.5 degrees rather than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. A 1.5 degree increase appears much safer for humanity.

We must act on climate change, and act quickly, to prevent catastrophic damages such as the ones outlined in this study.

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Five things you need to know about the U.S. Clean Car Standards

Cars on a dealer lot, waiting to be sold. Photo: Every Car Listed

America’s Clean Car Standards are one of our biggest success stories, yet the Trump Administration is preparing to dramatically weaken them.

News reports say the Trump Administration is also taking aim at state leadership on clean cars, by preparing to challenge California’s and 12 other states’ authority to maintain more protective standards.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. The Clean Car Standards protect our health and our climate

The transportation sector is now America’s largest contributor of climate pollution. It is also a significant source of harmful soot and smog-causing pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the Clean Car Standards would reduce climate pollution by six billion tons over its lifetime and cut other dangerous air pollutants as well. Six billion tons is how much climate pollution America emits in a year – from all sources and all sectors.

EDF’s own recent analysis shows that more than two billion tons of climate pollution reductions are at risk under the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of the U.S. standards.

The American Lung Association and twelve other public health organizations have all underscored the importance of maintaining protective clean cars standards.

2. State leadership is under attack

California’s and 12 other states’ vehicle standards are firmly rooted in the fabric of the Clean Air Act, apply to a third of U.S. car sales, and have long provided effective protections for millions of Americans.

For more than half a century, the Clean Air Act has contained express authority for California to set more protective standards to meet its compelling air pollution problems. The Clean Air Act also allows other states to adopt and enforce California’s standards – currently, twelve other states and the District of Columbia have done so.

State leadership has long played a key role in spurring the development and deployment of clean car solutions, like smog-fighting catalytic converters, and has resulted in enormous health benefits for Americans across the country.

Today a third of U.S. new car sales are covered by the coalition of states that have committed to protective clean car standards.

Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testified to Congress that these states’ clean car standards were not in imminent danger. Pruitt was asked if EPA intends to begin proceedings to revoke California’s authority to set its own clean cars standards. He replied, “not at present.” (See C-SPAN video at 1:49:56)

But one day later, news reports said the Trump Administration would begin challenging California’s standards “within days.”

Such an attack by the Trump Administration is contrary to law and would result in substantial harm to Americans through increased air pollution and lost financial savings from decreased fuel use.

3. Millions of Americans save money because of the Clean Car Standards

The Clean Car Standards are a win-win – in addition to reducing pollution, they save people money at the gas pump.

Over the lifetime of the standards, American families and businesses will save more than a trillion dollars.

Drivers are already benefiting from our existing Clean Car Standards. For example, each Ford F-150 truck bought in 2015 uses about 180 fewer gallons of gas a year than earlier models. That saves its owner eight trips to the gas station and up to $700 per year, depending on the price of fuel.

In my state – Colorado – rolling back the clean car standards would deprive the average Coloradan of up to $5,000 in fuel savings over the life of their car or truck, depending on oil prices. We’d also lose the tremendous climate and health benefits associated with these protections.

For the 86 percent of Americans who finance their car or truck with a five-year loan, the Clean Car Standards provide immediate real world cost savings from cleaner, more efficient vehicles. This is true even if gas prices start going down.

4. Many automakers and suppliers don’t want this rollback and have urged the Trump administration to work with California

A rollback of our Clean Car Standards would create discord to no one’s benefit.

For example, Ford and Honda have urged the Trump administration not to dismantle the effective partnership between EPA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and California that has given automakers a single national standard to meet.

Honda stated “we do not support their rollback,” and noted the importance of “maintain[ing] consistency between federal standards and those adopted by California.”

Ford also publicly disavowed the rollback and the attack on California, saying “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” Ford also stated “we want one set of standards nationally.”

James Verrier, the CEO of Borg Warner – a leading component supplier based in Michigan – noted that his company wants to maintain and build on America’s protective Clean Car Standards, saying “do not slow down the pace on CAFE standards” and “we’ve come a long way as an industry and we need to keep going forward. Don’t go backwards and don’t slow down.”

The Automotive Technology Leadership Group, a coalition of five automotive trade associations, recently issued a set of principles that included their position on this issue. They said “it is very important that there be a coordinated national light duty vehicle program setting fuel economy and greenhouse gas standards that continue to make progress on reducing emissions and oil consumption while saving consumers money at the gas pump.” The group also urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EPA to work with California.

5. We have the know-how to exceed these standards

Improvements under our existing Clean Car Standards are both technically feasible and affordable. Automakers and suppliers are developing and deploying innovative technologies faster than anticipated when the standards were finalized.

EPA, the Department of Transportation, and the California Air Resources Board conducted an exhaustive technical review of the auto industry’s ability to meet the 2022 to 2025 model year standards. They found extensive evidence that the automotive industry can meet those standards at lower costs than predicted when the standards were initially finalized in 2012.

Since the Clean Cars Standards began in 2012, we have roughly doubled the number of SUVs that get 25 miles per gallon or more, the number of cars that get 30 miles per gallon or more, and the number of cars that get 40 miles per gallon or more.

Today there are already more than 100 car, SUV, and pickup models on the market that meet standards set for 2020 and beyond.

If any changes are made, the standards should be strengthened.

Also posted in Cars and Pollution, Clean Air Act, Economics, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

Pruitt admits lying, blames others, and leaves behind a cloud of questions: 3 takeaways from today's hearings

After a month of revelations and allegations about his tenure in EPA and in Oklahoma, Scott Pruitt finally had a chance to provide straight answers to Congress about his mounting ethics problems.  The results were not encouraging:

  1. Caught:

    The top story coming out of today’s hearings is that Scott Pruitt admitted that he lied.

    He told Members of Congress that he knew about his employee raises, despite having told Fox News on April 4 that “I found out this yesterday.”

    CNN reports:

    "Several senior EPA officials reacted in shock Thursday. One EPA official told CNN that a sense of 'a collective "Oh sh**" came out of EPA HQ' when Pruitt admitted he knew of the raises.

    Aides for weeks knew that Pruitt had lied in his Fox News interview, but were stunned that he contradicted himself so publicly on Thursday."

    Added John Roberts from Fox News: “This may be the end of the line.”

  2. Says it not his fault:

    Asked about multiple accusations of ethical problems, Pruitt shifted blame to everyone else: Milan Hupp, Ryan Jackson, Kell Kelly, and anyone else carrying out his orders, and at one point, “the process.”

  3. Dodges the Questions:

     

    Many big questions were left unanswered, including:

    • $43,000 Phone Booth: Pruitt insisted that he asked for a “secure line” because of a single telephone call. What was so important about that incident? And Pruitt went on to admit that such calls are “rare”—if so, why can’t he go to one of EPA’s two other secure phones, as his predecessors did?
    • Illegal Use of Government staff: Pruitt said that he was “not aware” of Millan Hupp spending government time looking for his apartment. Unanswered: Did he ask Millan Hupp—or anyone else on his staff — to look for an apartment for him?
    • Demoting Staff: Did Pruitt tell his chief of staff not to come to travel planning meetings after he raised concerns about Pruitt’s travel?
    • Kell Kelly: Did Pruitt ever inquire why Kell Kelly was banned for life from banking by the FDIC when he hired him?
    • Condo: On the condo lease, why was Stephen Hart’s name originally typed in as “landlord,” but then scratched out and the name of his wife scribbled in?
    • Private Jet: Was it Pruitt who sought to have the EPA pay $100,000 per month to rent a private jet, as Trump campaign staffer and EPA employee Kevin Chmielewski claims?
    • Morocco Trip: Before traveling to Morocco, why was Pruitt’s only briefing before the trip conducted by political staff, not career staff in the agency’s international affairs office, which typically coordinates foreign trips?
    • Oklahoma Travel: As Oklahoma Attorney General, in January 2016 Pruitt traveled to Washington, D.C., costing taxpayers more than $1,000 to meet with the Federalist Society and Club for Growth. Did Pruitt reimburse taxpayers? Did he use taxpayer money for political or personal trips?
    • Enforcement: Why did Pruitt try to end EPA funding for Justice Department Superfund enforcement efforts, and cut EPA enforcement against criminal polluters?
    • Super-polluting trucks: EPA proposed a loophole for super-polluting glider trucks, citing an industry-funded study now being investigated for research misconduct. Will it withdraw the proposal?

There are many more unanswered questions .

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Proof that the Clean Power Plan’s strategy for cutting carbon pollution is the industry standard

The public comment period is just about to close on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s reckless attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan, and thousands of Americans — including mayors, CEOs, energy experts, and citizens concerned about the threats Pruitt’s actions pose to our children’s health and future — have already spoken out in vigorous opposition to the misguided repeal effort.

There is a lot at stake. The Clean Power Plan would prevent 4,500 early deaths and 90,000 childhood asthma attacks each year. It would cut carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels, and would substantially reduce other harmful air pollutants from power plants.

By slashing air pollution and helping mitigate the threats of climate change, the Clean Power Plan would secure significant benefits to public health while growing the clean energy economy.

Yet, as Pruitt continues his misguided effort to turn back the clock on lifesaving climate protections, momentum is growing in states and the power sector to slash carbon pollution and usher in a clean energy future.

States and companies are moving away from carbon-intensive sources of electricity generation, and are increasing their use of cleaner technologies — deploying the same cost-effective strategies to cut carbon pollution that EPA relied upon when establishing emission reduction targets under the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt’s attempt to repeal the Clean Power Plan is putting this flexible approach to ambitious and low-cost emission reductions under attack.

Meaningful federal actions to reduce carbon pollution, such as the Clean Power Plan, remain essential to mitigate climate change. But in the meantime, states and companies – by making continued progress toward emission reductions through time-tested methods – are providing solid evidence that the Clean Power Plan’s approach is not only reasonable, but is the industry-standard for reducing carbon pollution from the power sector. 

The clean energy transformation is accelerating

Carbon pollution from the power sector fell to 27 percent below 2005 levels in 2017, continuing a clear downward trend since the mid-2000’s even as the U.S. economy continues to grow. Carbon pollution levels from the power sector in the U.S. have now fallen below emissions from transportation, demonstrating remarkable progress in cleaning up our electric grid.

The rapid decarbonization of the U.S. power sector continues to be driven by a shift toward clean energy technologies. Renewable energy including solar, wind, and hydropower generated a record 18 percent of U.S. electricity in 2017, and new renewables comprised nearly half of utility-scale generating capacity installed in 2017. As more and more high-polluting coal plants become scheduled for retirement, power companies and regulators from Colorado to New Mexico to Wisconsin are increasingly replacing them directly with renewables.

A precipitous drop in costs has made the outlook for clean energy increasingly bullish in recent years. The cost of utility-scale solar power fell by more than 77 percent from 2010 to 2017. Worldwide, the cost of solar and onshore wind power declined by 18 percent in the last year alone.

As of 2017, the lifetime cost of unsubsidized wind and utility-scale solar is now below that of coal and on par with the cost of natural gas combined cycle technology.

Low-cost projections for clean energy are increasingly becoming a reality on the ground. In Colorado, for example, a recent solicitation for new renewables resulted in bid prices for wind and solar plus energy storage that are cheaper than the operating cost of nearly all coal plants in the state.

States and power companies continue to lead

Across the country, state governors and major power companies have continued to ramp up forward-looking commitments to cut carbon pollution and deploy clean energy — recognizing these clear power sector trends and driving increasingly ambitious climate progress.

Here are some recent examples:

Power companies

  • American Electric Power, the nation’s largest generator of electricity from coal, laid out a strategy in February to reduce carbon pollution by 60 percent below 2000 levels by 2030, and 80 percent by 2050. “There is no question the electrification of our economy is accelerating,” said CEO Nick Akins. “Today, we are taking a longer-term view of carbon by setting new goals for carbon dioxide emission reductions for the future based upon resource plans that account for economics, customer preferences, reliability and regulation.”
  • Southern Company, the nation’s third largest power producer, announced a goal this month to reduce carbon pollution by 50 percent below 2007 levels by 2030 and to achieve “low- to no-carbon operations by 2050.” The commitment comes in the wake of a rapidly changing generation mix for Southern, with its share of generation from coal declining to 28 percent in 2017 from 70 percent in 2010.
  • In March, Oregon’s Portland General Electric committed to reducing carbon pollution by more than 80 percent by 2050, in part by achieving Oregon’s target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2040 and transitioning away from coal by 2035.
  • PacifiCorp subsidiary Rocky Mountain Power plans to add more than 1,300 megawatts of wind power by 2020 — a $1.5 billion investment.

Across the Midwest, a slate of electric utilities recently committed to slash carbon emissions and transition away from coal:

  • PPL Corporation plans to reduce emissions by 2050 to 70 percent below 2010 levels, including retiring the bulk of the company’s coal plants in Kentucky.
  • Wisconsin’s largest utility, WEC Energy Group, plans to reduce carbon pollution by 40% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • In Indiana, Vectren announced plans to reduce carbon pollution by 60 percent by shuttering three coal-fired power plants.
  • Ameren Missouri committed to reducing emissions to 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, and plans to invest $1 billion to add at least 700 megawatts of wind power by 2020.
  • In February 2018, Michigan utility Consumers Energy announced plans to reduce emissions by 80 percent and phase out coal by 2040.

States

  • This month, New Jersey lawmakers passed a sweeping clean energy bill that will put the state on a path to becoming a national clean energy leader. Governor Phil Murphy directed the state to begin negotiations to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – a multi-state program to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector. Governor Murphy also signed an order adding New Jersey to the U.S. Climate Alliance of states committed to upholding the Paris Agreement goals, and has outlined a goal of powering the state with 100 percent clean energy by mid-century.
  • In a show of bipartisan commitment to ambitious climate action, Maryland also joined the U.S. Climate Alliance this January, and participated in a multi-state process to strengthen RGGI.
  • Alaska Governor Bill Walker — an Independent — signed an order in October 2017 establishing an advisory team to propose actions, including “statutory and regulatory changes,” for the state to reduce carbon pollution and support the goals of the Paris Agreement.
  • Just last week, environmental and energy regulators from thirteen states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington delivered a letter to Administrator Pruitt opposing repeal of the Clean Power Plan and highlighting important progress across states to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector. “Low natural gas prices, declining costs of renewable energy technologies, and low demand growth are all existing power sector trends that have allowed our states to reap positive economic benefits from reducing emissions. The CPP would amplify these trends and make emissions reductions easier and more cost-effective,” the states write in the letter.

Shared prosperity under a stable climate

As the impacts of climate change — from wildfires to hurricanescontinue to threaten vulnerable communities across the U.S. and around the world, concerted actions to cut climate pollution are more important than ever.

At the same time, efforts to transition to a clean energy economy are delivering myriad benefits — from millions of good-paying clean energy jobs, to critical public health protections, to more affordable and more reliable electricity.

The leadership demonstrated by a growing group of states and major power companies to advance climate progress is critical to securing the benefits of a stable climate and clean energy future for millions of Americans. With continued leadership, and a return to meaningful federal action, America will see a global clean energy transformation and secure shared prosperity for all.

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Economics, Energy, EPA litgation, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy, Pruitt / Comments are closed

86 Questions and Counting for Scott Pruitt

By Elgie Holstein

Spring has been EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s season of scandal, with each day bringing fresh allegations of the EPA Administrator’s reckless disregard for his boss’s promises to “drain the swamp.”

Worse for the country, he has adopted a sense of entitlement, which appears to have long pre-dated his arrival in Washington.  In so doing, he has broken laws, flouted ethics rules, ignored congressional intent and requests, and sought the trappings of power and prestige.

A maelstrom of scandals throughout the first year of Pruitt’s tenure surfaced questions regarding his first-class flights, a sweetheart condo deal from the wife of an energy lobbyist, unauthorized pay raises for close associates, his penchant for secrecy and love of perks, and the demotion of EPA employees who questioned his spending.

Since then, another flood of stories has generated even more questions:  An EPA inspector general report showing that Pruitt didn’t tell the truth when he said he knew nothing in advance about  the raises. A string of allegations by former deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski.  An OMB investigation of his $43,000 phone booth (which the GAO says was illegally paid for, and which, in any case, was unneeded). A meeting with a lobbyist who co-owned the condo he rented.  Questionable insider dealings during Pruitt’s days in Oklahoma.

It is regrettable that each new story brings little surprise at how naturally Pruitt navigates and takes advantage of the swamp. But he has proven himself to be a man who shamelessly advances his own political ambitions and the desires of polluters at the expense of Americans who must watch a public official thumb his nose at ethical behavior while pursuing an agenda that makes our air, water, and land dirtier, and climate change worse.

In all, we now count at least 86 questions that need answering, with more seeming to emerge every day.  As Pruitt prepares to face two Congressional committees Thursday, lawmakers are noticing the scandals unfolding before them.

“If the allegations are true,” notes Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), “they are troubling, and we should expect higher of any person in public office."

Representative Flores is right—we should expect better. We should also expect that an individual tasked to lead EPA will prioritize the well-being of families and the environment over the wishes of close friends and industry. Pruitt fails on both accounts.

Two hearings may not be enough to cover all the questions.  But here are ten of the biggest questions to which Americans deserve answers:

  1. Why did Mr. Pruitt tell Fox News he had no prior knowledge of raises given to two staffers he brought from Oklahoma when an EPA Inspector General report now shows that Pruitt signed off on them?
  2. Did Pruitt sometimes pick travel destinations based on his personal desires, and ask his staff to “find me something to do” to justify the use of taxpayer funds, as a former EPA staffer alleges?  How many taxpayer-funded trips home to Oklahoma or elsewhere were justified on the basis of a single hurriedly scheduled meeting?
  3. If Pruitt needs to fly first class for security reasons, why did he fly coachon personal trips home to see Oklahoma football games—when he could not concoct a reason for the taxpayers to pay his way?
  4. Did Pruitt really text his chief of staff to tell him not to come to travel planning meetings after he raised concerns about the Administrator’s travel?
  5. Why were at least five EPA officials (four of them senior)reassigned or demoted, or asking for new jobs after questioning Pruitt’s spending priorities?
  6. Will EPA’s new #2 official, former coal and energy lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, be granted any waivers from his ethics pledge or other restrictions on helping former clients?
  7. Did one of Pruitt’s staffers spend weekshelping Pruitt search for an apartment, contacting agents and touring properties?  For what other personal chores did Mr. Pruitt enlist government workers?
  8. During Pruitt’s December 2017 trip to Morocco to promote natural gas — which is not part of the EPA’s mission — did he discuss Cheniere Energy Inc., which is partly owned by Donald Trump’s friend Carl Icahn?  (Icahn helped promote Pruitt for the EPA job.)
  9. Does Pruitt agree with EPA air chief William Wehrum that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which protect children from serious harm, “may not be necessary?”
  10. What is the full story behind the lavish home of a lobbyist eventually making its way to a shell company of which Pruitt was a stakeholder? That same lobbyist’s client would receive favorable treatment from Pruitt in the future—were any backroom deals made during the transfer of the property?

As a cabinet-level official, Scott Pruitt is supposed to set an example for public servants.  Instead, he has created a growing cloud of questions about his ethics, his honesty and his fitness for public life.  On behalf of America’s taxpayers, Congress needs to start asking Scott Pruitt questions — a lot of them.

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