Atlantic Northeast

October 17th, 2017 No comments

What a long strange trip its been

South Bay, between Eastport and Lubec Maine, most northeastern point on continental US

South Bay, between Eastport and Lubec Maine, most northeastern point on continental US

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel,
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me,
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been. ~~~ Truckin’ (Grateful Dead, 1970)

After 6 months, 36 states, scores of National Parks and National Forests, and 17,000 miles, today’s post serves as a bookend to our August 27, 2017 post “Pacific Northwest”, where we posted lovely photos of Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point on the mainland US.

Today, we post from the most northeastern town (Eastport, Maine) and city (Lubec, Maine) in the US.

Lubec Maine, very cool little town

Lubec Maine, very cool little town

But before we get to the pretty Maine coast photos, I must share the depression of northern Maine, where the tourists fear to roam.

And by northern Maine, I don’t mean Mt. Katahdin (northern terminus of the AT and nearby AT Cafe in otherwise devastated Millinocket, perhaps my favorite cafe on the whole trip) or Baxter State Park, where they make the out of state tourists shell out a minimum of $31, for just one night ($10 entrance fee and $21 for a campsite – I turned around at the gate).

Call it a “Dispatch from the Domain of Double Wides and Deaths of Despair”:

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The above was maybe one of the nicer places in this part of the state, where Trump support and displays are widespread. As I took this photo, the homeowner ran out after me in a very menacing way. I got back in the van and the hell out of there before he could get his rifle.

This forgotten economic wasteland is Trumpland. I thought northern New Hampshire was bad, but northern Maine was even bleaker.

But here’s the pretty side of Maine, where the tourists go – see the captions for locations:

Roosevelt Campobello International Park

Campobello, Canada. Summer home of FDR

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Acadia National Park

Schoodic Point, Acadia NP

Schoodic Point, Acadia NP

view from Cadillac Mt. - Sentimental value: I have the same shot over 20 years ago with my 5 year old son sitting on that rock.

view from Cadillac Mt. – Sentimental value: I have the same shot over 20 years ago with my 5 year old son sitting on that rock.

Bar Harbor, from Cadillac Mt. There were 2 large cruise ships in the Harbor

Bar Harbor, from Cadillac Mt. There were 2 large cruise ships in the Harbor

Sand Beach - hardly California, but...

Sand Beach – hardly California, but…

Pemaquid Pond

Bouy lounges on the dock. We camped in boat launch lot - this was the only place on the whole trip where I got a knock on the van at 3 am by local Sheriff. He let us stay, but only after I lied about being there to fish.

Bouy lounges on the dock. We camped in boat launch lot – this was the only place on the whole trip where I got a knock on the van at 3 am by local Sheriff. He let us stay, but only after I lied about being there to fish.

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“Enduring Splendor”

October 8th, 2017 No comments
Redwood National Forest

Redwood National Forest

People will tell you where they’ve gone
They’ll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Oh, Amelia it was just a false alarm. ~~~ Amelia – (Joni Mitchell, 1976)

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May those who come here find inspiration and peace in the enduring splendor of these magnificent trees

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Early 20th century oligarchs (the Robber Barons) at least gave back something –

But there will be no Trump Grove – just enduring greed.

We close with more Joni:

I’ve got road maps
From two dozen states
I’ve gone coast to coast just to contemplate
Will you still love me
When I get back to town
It’s funny how these old feelings hang around
You think they’re gone
No, no
They just go underground. ~~~~Blue Motel Room (from same Hejira album)

and more:

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn’t see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn’t see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads.  Refuge of the road

and more, from what might be her best album:

No regrets Coyote
I’ll just get off up aways
You just picked up a hitcher
A prisoner of the white lines on the freeway.  Coyote

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Fake Prices: Trump’s Attack on Economics

September 27th, 2017 No comments

Trump Executive Order Blocks Consideration of the “Social Cost of Carbon”

NJ climate careerists now support SCC

Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” ~~~  Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

[Update: 10/10/17 – these are the lies you can tell, based on Fake Prices:

A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule. ~~~ EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule (NY Times) – end update]

There’s been an avalanche of reporting on “fake news” and it’s also been widely reported by the mainstream corporate media that President Trump considers the scientific consensus on climate change (global warming) a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to undermine US economic growth.

So, I guess it logically follows in Trump’s mind – but has been virtually ignored by the media – that if global warming is a hoax then it couldn’t possibly impose costs on the economy – and that what economists call the “social cost of carbon” also must be a hoax – perhaps a campaign scheme by Russian hackers?

So, in case you haven’t heard: President Trump’s wrecking ball, the: Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth among other even more significant horrors, abolished consideration of the “social cost of carbon” and prohibited implementation by federal agencies, disbanded all federal workgroups, and withdrew all prior documents including:

(i)    Technical Support Document:  Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866 (February 2010);

(ii)   Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (May 2013);

(iii)  Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (November 2013);

(iv)   Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (July 2015);

(v)    Addendum to the Technical Support Document for Social Cost of Carbon:  Application of the Methodology to Estimate the Social Cost of Methane and the Social Cost of Nitrous Oxide (August 2016); and

(vi)   Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis (August 2016).

Luckily, all those documents have been preserved, despite Trump’s Orwellian effort to scrub federal websites and send them “down the memory hole”.

Ironically, the Trump promotion of “fake prices” (which ignore what economists call “externalities”) and “fake economics” comes at a time when even corporate polluters and fossil energy giants have reluctantly agreed to support some form of carbon tax, see:

My take on corporations supporting a carbon tax, my sense of the fossil strategy is:

1. A tax is a market mechanism that derails stronger “keep it in the ground” bans and regulatory alternatives;

2. The tax can be passed on to consumers and have little impact on corporate profits (kind of like a bottle deposit law).

3. The relative inelasticity of demand for fossil fuels means that small price increase of a small carbon tax that could gain political support in Congress would have little effect on demand or profits.

Some economic criticisms I’ve read on carbon tax note that it would have to be very high – $300 – $400 or more per ton and double current gas prices – to reflect the true external social costs of carbon and to provide an effective market price signal to investors in renewables. Such a high tax is politically infeasible.

4. Politically they can blame the Democrats when the backlash hits.

Finally, after years of failing to report on the social cost of carbon – other than to mention it as a “zero carbon emissions credit”, benefit of and reason to bailout nuclear energy – I guess that corporate support now makes it safe for NJ Spotlight and their “climate dignitaries” to report on and support inclusion of the social costs of carbon in State level policy and regulation.

Oh the cruel irony!

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Profiles In Climate Courage

September 23rd, 2017 No comments

[Update: 10/11/17 – I just received a curious email, and was the sole recipient of it. It was anonymous (i.e. from no specific named individual) and lacked any text or introductory explanation about who sent it and why it was sent, titledRecent Climate Change Releases for New Jersey”. So, it appears that the folks at the Rutgers Climate Institute have fired back in response to the criticism below.

Ironically, I guess Rutgers missed the meaning of my post, which had to do with courage – if they think I mistakenly portrayed their work, they should have said so, not sent me that kind of email.

The email sent the following climate work. I have not reviewed it, but provide it here in fairness to Rutgers:

“Fall 2017 – New Jersey Climate Resources
New Videos

 

After a decade of silence about the abject failure to plan for and implement the greenhouse gas emission reduction goals of the 2007 Global Warming Response Act, Rutgers University has finally issued a Report on the State of NJ’s efforts to achieve the goals of the GWRA.

That Rutgers Report got favorable media coverage by NJ Spotlight, which prompted my effort to set the context and history straight.

In addition to the climate policy history, I have been critical of the Rutgers academics’ repeated failures to engage the climate policy debate. I find that irresponsible, a violation of scientific ethics, and cowardly. I’ve written:

That is a “perspective” that is devoid of context and climate science.

David Robinson, NJ State Climatologist (...on one hand ...) (8/25/10)

I blame the State Climatologist David Robinson of Rutgers as well.

A recent presentation to the Pinelands Commission science series, provided another example of that.

Robinson, in an apparent effort to “temper” his “official” statements, actually mis-stated the science and the degree of scientific consensus.

Look at his powerpoint – note how Robinson poses the question and how he uses an erroneous and equivocal “preponderance of the evidence suggests” standard: […..]

During his Pinelands remarks, Robinson explicitly said that his public statements on climate change do not reflect his views as a scientist or as a tenured university professor or as an individual, but are more conservative and tempered because he is speaking in an official capacity as The State Climatologist.

Virtually everyone in the room knew what he meant: that he is intimidated by the political and/or economic implications of what he says.

NJ is ground zero for climate chaos, whether the issue is sea level rise; more frequent and intense storms; lurching from drought to flooding; or the ecological damage , such as southern pine beetles on Pinelands forests or the emerald ash borer on ash trees in NJ’s northern hardwood forests.

We need forceful and accurate statements by the scientists and media.

So, with that context in mind, in beginning to read the Rutgers Report this morning, this profile in courage jumped right off the page:

Although the authors do not make recommendations or advocate for any particular policy option or suite of options for New Jersey, we hope that the information in the report will be helpful in furthering dialogue and discussion about greenhouse gas emissions policy options for New Jersey.

Now that’s a real profile of Climate Courage and scientific integrity!

More to follow.

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A Decade After Passage of The NJ Global Warming Response Act: From “Toothless” to a “Dead Letter”

September 22nd, 2017 No comments

Cheerleaders and careerists emerge from a decade of hiding under their desks

[Update below]

This July marked the 10th anniversary of the highly touted 2007 NJ Global Warming Response Act.

Signed by Gov. Corzine, the legislature declared:

The Legislature therefore finds and declares that it is in the public interest to establish a greenhouse gas emissions reduction program to limit the level of Statewide greenhouse gas emissions, and greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generated outside the State but consumed in the State, to the 1990 level or below, of those emissions by the year 2020, and to reduce those emissions to 80% below the 2006 level by the year 2050.

Shortly thereafter, in an October 7, 2007 Sunday Star Ledger Op-Ed, we explained why the law was designed to fail (see: No teeth in ‘tough’ pollution law):

The law — contrary to widespread media coverage — does not legally cap greenhouse gas emissions or mandate emissions reductions on any major pollution sources. As a result, the law’s theoretically “mandatory” goals are unenforceable and therefore a fiction. They amount to the same voluntary approach backed by the Bush administration.

Specifically, the law provides no regulatory authority, funding or staff for the DEP to take the necessary steps to implement and enforce the emission reduction goals. Instead, the DEP is kept on a tight leash and merely directed to develop a set of recommendations on how to meet the goals and to submit that proposed plan to the Legislature by June 2008. In passing the law, the Legislature merely kicked the can down the road, postponing hard choices for well over a year.

Perhaps even worse, any DEP powers to implement the goals of the law were explicitly narrowed. DEP’s role is limited to emissions monitoring and reporting progress in achieving the goals.

Then DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson and the Corzine administration knowingly supported this “toothless” law and went right along with the castration of DEP and the legislative limits on their regulatory authority.

[*Update: While ignoring the legislative history and how the GWRA was revised during the legislative process, the Rutgers Report relies on this boilerplate – a thin reed – from section 42 of the GWRA to argue that the legislature did not limit DEP’s regulatory authority:

e. Nothing in this act shall impose any limit on the existing authority of the department, the Board of Public Utilities, or any other State department or agency to limit or regulate greenhouse gas emissions pursuant to law. ~~~ end update]

Not surprisingly, the Corzine DEP failed to meet even the initial deadline to submit a Report and and make recommendations required by the Act, a failure we were the only ones to note (NEW JERSEY MISSES FIRST GLOBAL WARMING TARGET):

Trenton — The Corzine Administration has failed to meet its first major statutory milestone in implementing the emission reduction goals of the highly touted Global Warming Response Act, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A June 30th legal deadline for producing a plan identifying the legislative and regulatory “measures necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions” will not be met until September at the earliest.

The Corzine administration’s first program to attempt to meet the emission reduction goals of the Act – the so called “cap and trade” program called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) – also was designed to fail, an inconvenient truth we noted at the time (NEW JERSEY TO SET CARBON CAPS ABOVE CURRENT EMISSION LEVELS):

Trenton — The Corzine Administration has unveiled a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that may do little to combat global warming, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The proposed trading program sets emissions caps above current levels and contains numerous complex offsets and loopholes that undercut its effectiveness.

And again, in another failure, the DEP failed to meet the first deadline under RGGI, another inconvenient truth that we were the only ones to note (NEW JERSEY WILL MISS FIRST GREENHOUSE GAS ALLOWANCES AUCTION):

Trenton — The state of New Jersey will be on the sidelines watching the historic first auction of greenhouse gas pollution allowances under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI scheduled for this Thursday, September 25, 2008. New Jersey will also likely miss the next auction, slated for this December, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

And when DEP finally did release the Report and recommendations mandated by the Act – a Report they still stamp as “Draft” – it was a weak effort (NEW JERSEY GREENHOUSE GAS PLAN FULL OF HOLES):

Washington, DC — A new plan for reducing greenhouses gases unveiled last week by the State of New Jersey raises far more questions than it resolves, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Since the report was prepared under the supervision of the designated nominee for the next Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the plan may foreshadow how the Obama administration addresses the challenge of global warming.

Following the election of Gov. Christie, things got even worse .

The GWR Act shifted from “toothless” to a “dead letter” (CHRISTIE SHREDS NEW JERSEY CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAMS):

Trenton — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has taken a wrecking ball to the state’s touted Global Warming Response Act, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In recent weeks, the Christie administration has blocked required reporting from greenhouse gas sources, diverted $300 million in Clean Energy Funds dedicated to energy efficiency and proposed to zero out the state’s Office of Climate Change and Energy.

“New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act is now a dead letter,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, referring to 2007 legislation regarded as the crowning environmental achievement of the Corzine administration. “Whatever progress on climate change we can expect will have to come from Washington, because Trenton has gone AWOL.”

We were the only environmental organization that had the expertise and integrity to tell the inconvenient truth about the Global Warming Response Act (and RGGI) and the Corzine and Christie DEP failures.

Virtually everyone else was cheerleading and misleading the public – or worse – hiding under their desks in fear of losing Foundation or DEP funding.

So, we obviously get very pissed off when NJ Spotlight – a GWRA and RGGI cheerleader – publishes a story today on a Report released by Rutgers that shockingly finds – drumroll, a la Claude Rains – with a blaring headline announcing that:

Wow! No shit, Sherlock.

The Rutgers Report –  provided as a link that I still can’t open – was written by *Ms. Jeanne Herb, the former head of the DEP’s Office of Policy, Planning and Science under the McGreevey and Corzine Administrations.

Ms. Herb oversaw DEP’s failed implementation of the GWRA, so it is a cruel irony that she now has the stones to write a Report about her own failure – and somehow that history is completely ignored by NJ Spotlight, including a decade of hiding under her desk up at Rutgers collecting a nice paycheck and health and pension benefits.

(I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rutgers Report was timed, in addition to what Spotlight describes as providing “a blueprint to the next administration” is also part of an effort to troll for a job with the “next administration”, which is very likely to be Democratic. In this regard, the Rutgers/Herb tactic is part of a much larger scheme where all the “moderate” environmental “leaders” who cowardly kept their powder dry or collaborated for the last 8 years of Christie rollbacks, are all out self promoting: suddenly appearing in the press and doing lavish events (e.g.: Mike Catania, Duke Farms, and the Rutgers climate conference and the NJ Spotlight Delaware River conference are just 2 recent examples of this self promotion).

Meanwhile, those that had the courage and integrity to tell the truth were marginalized, ignored, smeared, blacklisted, and defunded.

At least – after history has validated our criticism and projections – we can look ourselves in the mirror and sleep well at night.

*Full disclosure: I worked with Ms. Herb at DEP from 2002 – 2005.

[Update: Just now able to open the Rutgers Report (Saturday morning). We’ll do a separate post on it – but for now, right up front, get a kick out of this:

This report does not constitute legal advice. Consultation with a NJ attorney is recommended for further evaluation of state authorities and options.

The question of DEP’s legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases is very interesting. Here’s the thumbnail, which we will expand upon in a future post:

1. In 2005, DEP Commissioner Brad Campbell adopted regulations that defined GHG’s as “air contaminants” pursuant to the NJ Air Pollution Control Act. This legal basis anticipated the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Massachusetts case.

However, even Rutgers’ Report noted that these rules did not regulate GHG emissions – just the opposite, contrary to media and public understanding, DEP exempted them from regulation!

NJDEP has affirmed that “air pollution” as it is defined under the APCA is broad enough to encompass GHGs.872 In 2005, NJDEP promulgated a regulation that revised existing regulatory definitions to clarify that CO2—as a GHG—met the definition of an air pollutant under the Act.873. The agency exempted CO2 from existing regulatory requirements, but did require that stationary sources report emissions of CO2 and methane as an air pollutant.874 (see page 165)

Thanks Brad Campbell!

2. Subsequently, in 2007, the Legislature passed the Global Warming Response Act. The introduced version of the GWRA (A3301) included a provision that provided legal authority to DEP to regulate GHG emissions in order to achieve the goals of the Act (i.e. “enforceable limits”, see Section 4.a.(4)) and 5.a(2) (emphasis mine):

The rules and regulations shall also establish a series of enforceable limits that gradually reduce greenhouse gas emissions levels to the 2020 limit set by the department pursuant to section 4 of this act, and requirements on sources of greenhouse gas emissions to achieve these reductions. The first of these limits shall take effect on January 1, 2012, with additional limits taking effect on January 1 of subsequent years as determined by the department.

b. In developing these rules and regulations, the department shall take into account projected reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and other emissions reductions required pursuant to State emissions control programs otherwise established by law. The greenhouse gas emissions limits shall be expressed in total tons of allowable greenhouse gas emissions, expressed in carbon dioxide equivalents, and shall include, but shall not be limited to, all greenhouse gas emissions from the generation of electricity delivered by utilities and consumed in the State, whether generated in the State or imported into the State.

That regulatory power was stripped and the final version did not authorize DEP regulation of GHG and strictly limited DEP’s role to monitoring, reporting and recommendations to the Legislature. DEP was prohibited from regulating specific emission sources and setting “enforceable limits” to attain the numeric goals of the GWRA.

3. Subsequently, the legislature passed the RGGI “cap & trade” law – the Global Warming Solutions Fund Act.

This law established the RGGI program, and it strictly limited DEP’s regulatory authority to an emissions allowance program.

It did NOT authorize DEP regulation of GHG emissions to achieve the goals of the GWRA and effectively replaced DEP GHG emissions regulation with a market based “cap & trade” program.

I’m no lawyer, but my understanding of statutory interpretation (which I did learn in a Cornell law school class), suggests that if an administrative agency asserts novel authority to regulate and then the legislature subsequently introduces legislation to provide that authority but then strips that power upon passage of the law, and then acts to replace DEP regulation with a market based alternative, then a strong case can be made that the agency’s assertion of legal authority was not valid and that the legislature decided not to authorize DEP regulation.

By way of comparison, keep in mind that the Obama administration and Democratic Congress’ failed “cap and trade” bill (sponsored by Congressman Markey) explicitly stripped EPA of power to regulate GHG and established an alternative to regulation in the emissions trading program. I previously wrote about that in:

DISSONANCE ALERT: That bill also would have revoked EPA authority to regulate GHG under the Clean Air Act (Title VIII, Part C) (see NY Times for implications  “Greenhouse Gases Imperil Health, E.P.A. Announces“. Industry strongly opposes EPA regulation, and the ENGO backers of cap & trade conceded to this demand:

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Waxman-Markey climate change bill — the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454)– by a narrow vote of 219-212. As voted on by the House, this bill would amend the Clean Air Act to enact a cap-and-trade program (see Part VI.B.3) to reduce emissions of multiple greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, sulfur hexafluoride, some hydrofluorocarbon emissions, perfluorocarbons, and nitrogen tetrafluoride. Each gas would be given a carbon dioxide equivalent value, and the emissions trading program would apply to electricity-generating and other industrial sources that emit more than 25,000 tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalent. The program would seek a reduction of 17% from 2005 emissions levels by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050. Until 2025, electric and natural gas utilities and home heating oil suppliers would receive 55% of the emissions allowances for free, to protect consumers from energy price increases.

In addition, the bill would repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act’s existing programs. (link – scroll down)

So the effort to strip EPA of authority to regulate GHG, described as a “right wing radical” Legislative proposal, was in the same Democratic sponsored cap/trade bill the environmentalists supported!

The claim that DEP has authority to regulate GHG is certainly no slam dunk –

More to follow.  ~~~~ end update]

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