World Resources Institute

Environmental Experts Say New EPA Head Can't Stop Clean Energy Revolution

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — The World Resources Institute (WRI) has held a press call to discuss the confirmation of Scott Pruitt as the EPA Administrator for the Trump administration. Pruitt’s nomination has been quite controversial given that in his previous job as Oklahoma’s state attorney general he had sued the EPA on numerous occasions, particularly over regulations dealing with the electric power industry. Pruitt has been a leading opponent of Obama’s Clean Power Plan which gave the EPA the authority to regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act.

On hand for the call were several authorities in the area of environmental and energy policy, including:

  • Sue Tierney, Managing Principal, Analysis Group, and former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy (and a WRI Board Director)
  • Ralph Becker, former Mayor of Salt Lake City
  • Anne L. Kelly, Senior Program Director, Policy and BICEP Program at CERES
  • Sam Adams, WRI US Director and former mayor of Portland, OR
  • Martha Roberts, EDF, Attorney, U.S. Climate Legal and Regulatory Program

Adams opened by saying that “scrutiny is warranted, considering the responsibility that EPA bears in ensuring public and environmental health of our nation.” Thoughtful analysis is also called for, he said, considering the urgency of issues like climate change.

Recounting some testimony from Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, which, somewhat ironically, fell on the same day that NASA announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record, for the third consecutive year, Pruitt did say that he acknowledged that climate change is real (moderating his prior position) and that there is a human aspect to it. However, he questioned the scientific consensus as to the severity of the problem and the need for action. In his testimony, he conveyed no sense of urgency about the issue. Pruitt, according to Adams, also overstated the significance of the Supreme Court’s temporary suspension of the clean power rule on procedural grounds, and played down his ties with the fossil fuel industry

Pruitt has said, on the record, in reference to his repeated use of his role as the state’s chief enforcement officer to file lawsuits on behalf of companies that have supported his political career, to challenge regulations put in place to protect the health and safety of the people he was sworn to protect, "That's actually called representative government, in my view of the world....” Others might call it political patronage. In one case, it was discovered that Pruitt had copied a  letter from an oil and gas company, nearly verbatim, onto his stationary as Attorney General, before submitting it to the EPA.

Mr. Pruitt also refused to commit to recusing himself as EPA administrator, when confronted with lawsuits against the EPA that he personally filed when Attorney General of Oklahoma.

Martha Roberts shared EDF’s view of Scott Pruitt. Describing him as someone who “has spent his entire professional life attempting to dismantle environmental protections, working hand-in-glove with some of our nation’s biggest polluters, who have bankrolled his political career, that nominee becomes an unacceptable risk to the American people.”

Pruitt is the first EPA nominee that EDF has opposed in its 50-year history. Roberts went on to quote Christine Todd Whitman, EPA administrator under George W. Bush, who said of Pruitt’s record, “I don’t recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does.”

A Carbon Tax Would Get Us a Lot Closer to Where We Need to Be

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — We have seen impressive growth in renewables over the past several years, but much of that growth is based on the somewhat shaky foundation of continuing subsidies. So argues Eduardo Porter in the New York Times. Porter points out that while wind power added 13 GW of new capacity in 2012, only one additional GW was added in 2013. The reason why: expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC).

Referring to the rapid expansion in the market, Letha Tawney of World Resources Institute says, “any time there is uncertainty about the production tax credit, it all stops.”

According to the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives report, their “annual progress report on global efforts to engineer a clean-energy transformation,” says that despite best efforts in many areas, “the carbon intensity of our energy supply is stuck.” Gains in renewables are being offset by added fossil fuel capacity. Furthermore, even where wind and solar PV are thriving, some of the other technologies, like offshore wind, geothermal, and biofuels have been lagging.

According to IEA Executive Director, Maria van der Hoeven, we have the technology and it is cost effective, but the political will is still lacking. How do we get people and governments in particular, to spend the money?

Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you just moved into a house that was built 30 years ago. The furnace in that house is very inefficient but it is still working. If you replaced the furnace today, you’d begin saving the money (and helping the planet) immediately. But how many of you, despite the fact that the investment can be shown to be cost effective in terms of payback, would still wait until the furnace breaks down before replacing it. That’s exactly where we are today on the clean energy journey. Even though these technologies can be shown to be cost-effective without incentives, it seems to take that extra push to move people to action.

With New Commitments, Walmart Shines as Renewable Energy Leader

Walmart Senior Vice President Larry Mahoney and Operations Manager Marc Sorce discuss logistics and sustainability at the 2011 Walmart Sustainability Milestone Meeting.

This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is Our Land: How Private Landownwers Can Help Save America’s Forests

"The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." -- John Muir (1838-1914), founder of Sierra Club

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