ESA Policy News: January 13

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN TO REFOCUS PRIORITIES, PROBE CLIMATE SCIENCE Among the new priorities of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in the 112th Congress will be an  investigation of climate science. Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) opposes cap-and-trade policies and the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Hall has repeatedly suggested that so-called “Climategate” e-mails between climate scientists posted on the Internet in 2009 raise doubts about the overall quality of climate science, a stance that landed him on the liberal Center for American Progress’ list of “climate zombie” lawmakers who question the scientific consensus on global climate change. Hall said his committee’s vice chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), an outspoken climate skeptic and former committee chairman, will take the lead on the issue. Sensenbrenner also served as the top Republican on the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was abolished this year when his party took control of the House. EPA: HOUSE AND SENATE LEADERS SPAR OVER CLIMATE RULES Committee leaders within the House and Senate have already begun sparing over legislative attempts to block the Obama administration’s global climate change and air pollution rules. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) criticized the House GOP majority for targeting rules covering healthcare and the environment. Chairwoman Boxer asserted that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is following the will of Congress in implementing its carbon regulations, she said, pointing to a 2007 Supreme Court decision that found that the Clean Air Act grants the agency the authority to do so. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is planning an early series of hearings on the Obama EPA rules that target power plants, petroleum refiners and other major stationary industrial sources. He’s also said that he’s considering legislation that would stop the agency’s efforts until a series of lawsuits have been resolved. PUBLIC LANDS: HOUSE CHAIRMAN TO TARGET BLM ‘WILD LANDS’ POLICY Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee,  plans to contest whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has the authority to impose temporary wilderness restrictions on federal lands in the West. GULF SPILL: PANEL RELEASES RECOMMENDATION REPORT ON OFFSHORE DRILLING The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, tasked by President Obama to investigate the causes and effects of the disaster in the Gulf, released its final report Jan. 11. The commission report concludes that the...

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ESA Policy News: December 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.

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The price tag of climate change

The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming met one last time December 1, 2010 for a hearing entitled, “Not Going Away: America’s Energy Security, Jobs and Climate Challenges.” Committee Chairman Edward Markey described it as a “fitting title for issues that will be central to the health and survival of our planet and our economy for decades and centuries to follow.” The final hearing of the Committee, formed under the direction of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early 2007, consisted of testimony both familiar and unique to the ongoing debate over the direction of climate policy.

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ESA Policy News: November 23

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Terence Houston.

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ESA Policy News: Post-Election Special Edition

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Terence Houston.

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ESA Policy News: August 10

Here are some highlights from the final ESA Policy News by Piper Corp, ESA’s outgoing Science Policy Analyst. Thanks, Piper, for keeping EcoTone readers informed about policy for the last couple of years and for your many other insightful posts. We will miss you! Read the full Policy News here.

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The oil spill comes to Washington

Last month, Obama surprised conservationists when he added plans to expand off-shore drilling to his energy policy in an effort to sway votes in Congress. Then—just as both sides rose to debate the issue—the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded. This morning several democratic senators joined a Capitol Hill press conference.

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Coal state senator says coal industry must adapt

 This post was contributed by Piper Corp, ESA Science Policy Analyst. In a recent op-ed, West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd recently astonished the coal industry by criticizing its lack of flexibility and unwillingness to work constructively with the federal government. The following excerpt summarizes much of the senator’s message: Most people understand that America cannot meet its current energy needs without coal, but there is strong bi-partisan opposition in Congress to the mountaintop removal method of mining it. We have our work cut out for us in finding a prudent and profitable middle ground – but we will not reach it by using fear mongering, grandstanding and outrage as a strategy. As your United States Senator, I must represent the opinions and the best interests of the entire Mountain State, not just those of coal operators and southern coalfield residents who may be strident supporters of mountaintop removal mining. Coming from a longtime coal supporter whose autobiography was entitled Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields, the remarks have generated no shortage of concern among industry groups and other coal state lawmakers, particularly given the uncertainty generated by the climate and energy proposals in Congress and the regulatory actions being weighed by the Environmental Protection Agency.  But is Byrd truly taking an anti-coal stance? Coal is of tremendous importance to West Virginia, where it provides 30,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in gross annual product. Although critics of the op-ed have in many cases assumed a tone of betrayal, Byrd’s hopes for the state are not so different from theirs. His main priority, it appears, is ensuring that West Virginia has a say in shaping climate and energy policy. Although he is clear that coal will continue to have a place in America’s energy portfolio, he sees its competitiveness as a function of how well it adapts to current demands. And the demand now is for cleaner energy: The truth is that some form of climate legislation will likely become public policy because most American voters want a healthier environment.  Major coal-fired power plants and coal operators operating in West Virginia have wisely already embraced this reality and are making significant investments to prepare.   In this context, the biggest threat to coal is not decisions made in Washington, but the unwillingness of the industry to make the changes necessary for it to compete with biomass and natural gas as a cleaner source of energy.  Further, Byrd argues that the industry’s resistance to regulatory action (e.g. restrictions on mountaintop mining) is hurting, rather than protecting, coal interests. A better strategy, he says, would be to cooperate with federal regulatory agencies, a...

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