Portrait of a Flip Flopper: Mitt Flips on Mercury

Yesterday, Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney waded into the “current” Congressional battle to clean up power plants, taking the side of industry over public health.

It is a sad day on a number of levels.  Not only is a Presidential candidate turning his back on millions of children in favor of his dirty air backers, but he is also turning his back on his legacy as an environmental leader during his tenure as Massachusetts’s governor from 2003 to 2007.  

In 2003, then-Governor Mitt Romney stood in the shadow of a power plant and chastised the industry for their toxic emissions that were killing people.  He stated in 2003, “Massachusetts has been a national leader in the effort to clean up our oldest and dirtiest power plants. The implementation of these new mercury standards, coupled with major reductions in other air pollutants now underway, will ensure that the citizens of the Commonwealth will breathe the cleanest air possible.”

His campaign’s statement shows that candidate Romney is willing to say anything, do anything, and promise anything to please his dirty air backers.

 

 

Come Clean Dirty Thirty

Most people are familiar with the slogan “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.” Well…this may come as a surprise to you, but it seems that this mantra is also taking a hold on some of the Senators you send to Washington. NRDC Action Fund is here to shed a bright light under the cloak of secrecy on the latest group of elected officials, who we’ve dubbed, the “Dirty Thirty.” They may think what happens in Washington, stays in Washington, but you deserve to know better.

With Congressional approval ratings at an all time low, it’s no wonder the “Dirty Thirty” are playing games with Senate rules to keep their support for repealing clean air safeguards which protect our kids. This secret group is being lead and kept hidden by Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma.

These critical safeguards protect our families from mercury and dozens of other toxins spewed by U.S. power plants. Wouldn’t you want to know if your Senator was supporting this type of attack on the air we breathe? That’s why we sent a letter to Senator Inhofe demanding that he release the names. Thus far, he has not done so.

We think it’s time for Senator Inhofe and his “Dirty Thirty” to come clean with their constituents and explain why they are willing to legislate Vegas style by rolling the dice with our public health protections. Join us in asking Senator Inhofe to release the “Dirty Thirty” by visiting www.thedirtythirty.org and by tweeting: @inhofepress: come clean on #thedirty30 senators who oppose life-saving clean air protections: http://www.thedirtythirty.org

What happens in Washington directly impacts the health of you and your family. Together we can tell our representatives to stop gambling with our health and to come clean about their stances on these issues.

 

 

Senator Brown Tries to Distract From the Real Issue

Last week, the League of Women Voters launched an ad campaign to let the public know that Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MI) both voted in April to undermine the Clean Air Act.  The proposal didn’t pass the Senate, but if it had, it would have endangered people’s health. That’s why the American Lung Association, the American Academy of Pediatricians, the American Thoracic Society, and many other medical groups opposed it.

But Senator Brown doesn’t like being confronted with the consequences of his vote.  Ever since the ads appeared, he has deployed a classic political tactic: when you are held accountable, don’t provide answers. Attack the messenger instead. Rather than address the fact that his vote would have made kids sick, Brown has accused the League of Women Voters of “demagoguery,” said the League has “gone into the gutter,” and challenged the nonprofit to reveal its funders.

The name of this game is distraction, and too often, we let politicians lure us into playing along. But remember, the issue here isn’t where the League gets its funding. It is a nonpartisan voter education organization that has been around since 1920 and has been working on Clean Air Act issues for decades.  And it is acting in full compliance with the law.

The issue here is why Brown was willing to undermine a major public health protection. He’s invoked his fatherhood as a sort of shield of credibility. “As a father,” he wrote in a recent Boston Herald op-ed, “I would never put my two daughters or anyone else’s children in harm’s way.”

I don’t judge Brown’s parenting skills; that’s none of my business. But whether he acknowledges it or not, blocking the EPA from updating clean air standards would make some kids sicker.  There is no arguing that point. The medical evidence is clear.

Even if Brown tries to distract us with the shiny ball of funding sources, the facts still matter. We must return our eyes to the truth presented in the League’s ads.  And Brown is in no position, by the way, to cast aspersions about donors.  He has opposed measures to require disclosure of donors. And from what he has had to reveal, we know of at least $133,000 that Brown received from big polluters and their corporate front groups.

Think Progress has a tape of Brown thanking David Koch for supporting has last Senate campaign and hitting him up for the next one – in 2012. – Koch is co-owner of one of the ten most toxic air polluters in the US and a key backer of efforts to gut the Clean Air Act. So Brown was elected thanks in part to money from one of America’s dirtiest polluters; and he’s on tape making it clear he’s coming back for more, explaining that “We’re already banging away.” Is it any wonder he wants to block the safeguards that would make Koch and other polluters clean up their messes?

I would have more respect for Brown if he stood by his vote and said "yes, it will make some children sick, but the corporations who support me think it’s worth it." I would still find that morally reprehensible, but at least it would be honest.

Instead, he is taking the easiest and the weakest way out: shoot the messenger.

Weekly Mulch: Cost-Cutting at the Environment's Peril

 

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

In Washington, the environment is under attack. The cost-cutting deal that the House passed yesterday stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of $1.6 billion, which made up 16% of the agency’s budget. Funds for clean energy were cut. Republicans put in a provision that would keep the Department of the Interior from putting aside public lands for conservation and one thatkilled the nascent climate center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These choices represent a deeper antipathy toward nature and environmental health than the run-of-the-mill climate denialism that’s become au courant among congressional Republicans. They show that plenty of leaders in Congress do not care about basic protections that ensure clean air and clean water or that keep even small stretches of the planet safe from mining, drilling and other human interventions.

Greenlining

One idea driving these decisions is that, economically, the country can’t afford to protect the environment right now. But as Monica Potts argues at The American Prospect, in a review of two new books that cover the economy and the environment, green policies are good for business. In reviewing Climate Capitalism by L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen, Potts notes that “$2.8 billion a year is wasted because employees don’t turn off their computers when they leave work; comprehensive clean-energy and climate legislation could create 1.9 million jobs; improving indoor air quality could save businesses $200 billion annually in energy costs.”

Almost 2 million jobs! The country could use that boost right now. But those jobs depend, of course, on government action. As Potts points out, businesses won’t necessarily adopt these solutions on their own. The other book she reviews, Seth Fletcher’s Bottled Lightning, explains why electric cars weren’t developed sooner.

In short, “oil has stayed so remarkably cheap,” Potts writes. And, as she says, “The market doesn’t capture all of the costs that fossil fuels and other industrial-era processes impose on society.” Environmentally friendly policies might be good for business, but sometimes business doesn’t know it. The private sector won’t learn that lesson, either, if Washington is willing to sacrifice its administrative infrastructure for handling environmental issues.

New energy, new decisions

The country’s going to want its government to have some environmental experts left around for another reason, too. As oil and gas get more expensive, alternative energy sources are going to look more appealing. But while they might have lower carbon emissions, they raise new issues about clean air and water and about their impact on ecosystems. The EPA, for example, is currently studying the water and air impacts of natural gas, which has been widely touted as a fuel source that emits less carbon than coal.

But that may not be accurate, either. In a study obtained this week by The Hill, Robert Howarth, a Cornell University scientist, found that the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions related to natural gas production may actually far outstrip the amount coal produces. Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard explains:

While burning natural gas may emit less carbon dioxide, its extraction releases quite a bit of methane, a more potent greenhouse gas. Gas from shale—a fine-grained layer of rock below the earth’s surface—is also responsible for 30 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas. The study found that up to 7.9 percent of the methane escapes directly from the wells, leaks from pipelines, or is released in venting and flaring. While the leaks may be relatively small, methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that those leaks have a major impact, Howarth tells Mother Jones.

Fighting back against fracking

If Howarth’s study is correct, that means even worse news for communities in the gas fields that have been fighting against new natural gas drilling, only to be told that it’s for the greater good. For instance, in New York this week, Public News Service’s Mike Clifford reports that “Dozens of environmental and health groups are asking [Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers] to put the longer-term issues of air and water quality ahead of any short-term gas profits.”

The Sierra Club’s Roger Downs tells Clifford, “We’ve seen in places like Wyoming, where the oil and gas industry has been booming, children on certain days cannot go out and play; they get nosebleeds from the air quality. It’s serious stuff, and we don’t want that in New York.”

Just over in Pennsylvania, natural gas drilling has been going ahead, and Nina Berman reports for AlterNet on its impact on families:

The Spencers’ house, once valued at $150,000, is now worth $29,000. They have a methane monitor in their basement, a methane water filtration system in a backyard shed. They leave the door open when they take showers because with no bathroom windows they are afraid the house could blow up. Their neighbors were forced to evacuate once already because of high methane levels. In the middle of their yard, a shaft resembling a shrunken flagpole vents gas from their wellhead.

Right now, the EPA is studying the effects that natural gas drilling have on public health. Their findings could, at the very least, strengthen the case for putting restrictions on drilling companies to prevent pollution. But if anti-environmentalists in Washington keep cutting into the bottom line of environmental programs, families like the Spencers will have an even harder time fighting against the conditions they’re facing now.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

Weekly Mulch: Cost-Cutting at the Environment's Peril

 

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

In Washington, the environment is under attack. The cost-cutting deal that the House passed yesterday stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of $1.6 billion, which made up 16% of the agency’s budget. Funds for clean energy were cut. Republicans put in a provision that would keep the Department of the Interior from putting aside public lands for conservation and one thatkilled the nascent climate center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

These choices represent a deeper antipathy toward nature and environmental health than the run-of-the-mill climate denialism that’s become au courant among congressional Republicans. They show that plenty of leaders in Congress do not care about basic protections that ensure clean air and clean water or that keep even small stretches of the planet safe from mining, drilling and other human interventions.

Greenlining

One idea driving these decisions is that, economically, the country can’t afford to protect the environment right now. But as Monica Potts argues at The American Prospect, in a review of two new books that cover the economy and the environment, green policies are good for business. In reviewing Climate Capitalism by L. Hunter Lovins and Boyd Cohen, Potts notes that “$2.8 billion a year is wasted because employees don’t turn off their computers when they leave work; comprehensive clean-energy and climate legislation could create 1.9 million jobs; improving indoor air quality could save businesses $200 billion annually in energy costs.”

Almost 2 million jobs! The country could use that boost right now. But those jobs depend, of course, on government action. As Potts points out, businesses won’t necessarily adopt these solutions on their own. The other book she reviews, Seth Fletcher’s Bottled Lightning, explains why electric cars weren’t developed sooner.

In short, “oil has stayed so remarkably cheap,” Potts writes. And, as she says, “The market doesn’t capture all of the costs that fossil fuels and other industrial-era processes impose on society.” Environmentally friendly policies might be good for business, but sometimes business doesn’t know it. The private sector won’t learn that lesson, either, if Washington is willing to sacrifice its administrative infrastructure for handling environmental issues.

New energy, new decisions

The country’s going to want its government to have some environmental experts left around for another reason, too. As oil and gas get more expensive, alternative energy sources are going to look more appealing. But while they might have lower carbon emissions, they raise new issues about clean air and water and about their impact on ecosystems. The EPA, for example, is currently studying the water and air impacts of natural gas, which has been widely touted as a fuel source that emits less carbon than coal.

But that may not be accurate, either. In a study obtained this week by The Hill, Robert Howarth, a Cornell University scientist, found that the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions related to natural gas production may actually far outstrip the amount coal produces. Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard explains:

While burning natural gas may emit less carbon dioxide, its extraction releases quite a bit of methane, a more potent greenhouse gas. Gas from shale—a fine-grained layer of rock below the earth’s surface—is also responsible for 30 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional natural gas. The study found that up to 7.9 percent of the methane escapes directly from the wells, leaks from pipelines, or is released in venting and flaring. While the leaks may be relatively small, methane is such a potent greenhouse gas that those leaks have a major impact, Howarth tells Mother Jones.

Fighting back against fracking

If Howarth’s study is correct, that means even worse news for communities in the gas fields that have been fighting against new natural gas drilling, only to be told that it’s for the greater good. For instance, in New York this week, Public News Service’s Mike Clifford reports that “Dozens of environmental and health groups are asking [Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers] to put the longer-term issues of air and water quality ahead of any short-term gas profits.”

The Sierra Club’s Roger Downs tells Clifford, “We’ve seen in places like Wyoming, where the oil and gas industry has been booming, children on certain days cannot go out and play; they get nosebleeds from the air quality. It’s serious stuff, and we don’t want that in New York.”

Just over in Pennsylvania, natural gas drilling has been going ahead, and Nina Berman reports for AlterNet on its impact on families:

The Spencers’ house, once valued at $150,000, is now worth $29,000. They have a methane monitor in their basement, a methane water filtration system in a backyard shed. They leave the door open when they take showers because with no bathroom windows they are afraid the house could blow up. Their neighbors were forced to evacuate once already because of high methane levels. In the middle of their yard, a shaft resembling a shrunken flagpole vents gas from their wellhead.

Right now, the EPA is studying the effects that natural gas drilling have on public health. Their findings could, at the very least, strengthen the case for putting restrictions on drilling companies to prevent pollution. But if anti-environmentalists in Washington keep cutting into the bottom line of environmental programs, families like the Spencers will have an even harder time fighting against the conditions they’re facing now.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

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