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Archive for September, 2008

$ymbols of $truggle

September 26th, 2008 No comments
Treasury Building, Washington DC
White House
White House
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A commitment to PR over policy

September 26th, 2008 3 comments

Corzine joins New York press conference after bad news in NJ
[Update: 11/23/08: On November 17, 2008, DEP adopted final rules to implement the RGGI program, enabling them to particiapte in the December auction. See:
http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/adoptions/adopt_081117a.pdf
This kind of stuff makes it virtually impossible to hold politicians accountable.

Governor Jon Corzine

Yesterday, Governor Corzine avoided facing in state critics and a knowledgeable NJ media, by joining NY Governor Paterson at a NY City Press conference. I guess Corzine saw no irony in holding the event at the Mercantile Exchange, Wall Street not being a place that inspires confidence or public support right now.
The NY & NJ Governors touted the historic first auction of global warming pollutants. The Associated Press – apparently unaware of NJ’s auction program – gave both Corzine and the program favorable coverage.
The problem is, NJ was not allowed to participate in the auction because it failed to meet deadlines to adopt rules for the program. Guess that AP reporter didn’t do his homework. Follow the story below.
On Wednesday, the Star Ledger reported that New Jersey would miss the historic first auction of green house pollution allowances in the 10 northeastern states. The highly touted and closely watched regional plan had been in the works for more than 5 years. Corzine signed implementing legislation last January, after his deeply flawed bill was quickly rammed through the lame duck session of the Legislature.
State sitting out first emission-credit auction
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
BY TOM JOHNSON
Star-Ledger Staff
http://www.nj.com/business/ledger/index.ssf?/base/business-10/122223212837630.xml&coll=1
A regional program designed to curb greenhouse gas emissions gets under way tomorrow with New Jersey, one of the prime advocates of the plan, sitting on the sideline.

But New Jersey and three other Northeast states will not participate in the first auction because they have failed to adopt the necessary regulations allowing them to do so, a lapse environmentalists say sends the wrong signal about their commitment to reduce global warming.”
One would think that the Governor and the DEP Commisisoner would be at the least humble, or even embarrassed by this failure by DEP to adopt regulations on time.
This is especially the case, given that just last week, a private sector Task Force issued a Report that criticized, among other things, delays in DEP rule-making and lack of trained scientists. http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1101
One would be wrong.
DEP Commissioner Jackson downplayed the significance of missing the first auction by telling NJN TV news this Sarah Palin caliber excuse (her remarks were made from an Atlantic City conference – sponsored by PSEG – with builders and developers. Again, no sense of irony):

DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson

“It’s not a sign of our commitment… Our … rule making just hasn’t caught up to our commitment yet.”
view NJN News video – segment runs from time 9:56 – 12:06 -
http://www.njn.net/television/webcast/njnnewstuesday.html
Read in the below AP story how Governor Corzine was given a pass by the AP reporter, who apparently was unaware that Cozine was touting a regional auction program that his own state could not participate in due to executive branch delays. The reporter did seem to understand the criticism that the RGGI program will not reduce but actually will allow an increase in pollution emissions. Although 6 of 10 states participated in the first auction, less than 10% of the 188 million tons of pollution allowances were actually auctioned. Neither inspires confidence in the performance of the program in terms meeting global warming emission reduction goals (especially NJ’s).
Carbon goes on the auction block in Northeast
http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hjn2nTv5FL2iEzbyIev3nuTHX-fAD93E08O82
[...]
New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who joined [NY Gov.] Paterson at a news conference at the Mercantile Exchange, noted that both John McCain and Barack Obama support cap-and-trade programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Corzine said “there is building momentum” to enact federal legislation.
In response to critics who have argued that the limit is too high, Corzine said, “I think we need to make sure that the mechanics of the auction process and the system work.” He said the limit could be lowered at subsequent auctions if the initiative’s member states determine it’s too high to have the intended effect.”
For more information on RGGI and NJ global warming programs, see:
NEW JERSEY WILL MISS FIRST GREENHOUSE GAS ALLOWANCES AUCTION — Corzine Global Warming Program behind Schedule, Blowing Second Major Deadline
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1111

Capitol, Trenton, NJ
Categories: Hot topics, Policy watch, Politics Tags:

New Jersey Will Miss First Greenhouse Gas Allowances Auction

September 23rd, 2008 3 comments

Corzine Global Warming Program behind Schedule, Blowing Second Major Deadline

[Update: 11/23/08: On November 17, 2008, DEP adopted final rules to implement the RGGI program, enabling them to particiapte in the December auction. See:
http://www.nj.gov/dep/rules/adoptions/adopt_081117a.pdf
[Update (9/25/08): looks like my message finally got picked up by NJ environmentalists and Bergen Record:
“But David Pringle, campaign director for the New Jersey Environmental Federation, said Corzine has done little to attack global warming since he signed the state’s Global Warming Response Act in 2007 amid much fanfare in Giants Stadium and with former Vice President Al Gore at his side.”
Corzine nothing but hot air, enviro groups say http://www.northjersey.com/environment/Corzines_got_nothing_but_hot_air_enviro_groups_say.html
For anyone who forgets that Giants Stadium July 2007 bill signing ceremony, here’s the picture posted on the Governor’s Office website:

Governor Corzine signs Global Warming Response Act at Giants Stadium with Al Gore and NJ legislators and environmentalists

[end update]
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 cannot participate in the auction because the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has yet to adopt regulations to implement the much touted and closely watched pollution trading program.
New Jersey’s RGGI rule proposal recently closed its public comment period on September 5, 2008 and adoption of final rules is not expected for several months.
Delays also means that New Jersey will miss an opportunity to generate the $40 to $70 million from auction proceeds authorized by RGGI implementing legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Corzine. Auction revenues are to be deposited in the “Global Warming Solutions Fund” and used for the following purposes: 60% to subsidize private commercial and industrial energy facilities; 20% to the BPU for energy demand programs; and 20% to DEP for emission reduction and carbon sequestration programs.
The lost opportunity to generate revenue comes after last week’s DEP Task Force Report that criticized deep cuts in DEP funding at the same time major new responsibilities were added:
“During the past two decades, despite an increasing number of rules and regulations, with a corresponding increase in responsibilities and workload, DEP staff levels have been reduced by more than 1,000 employees – about 25 percent. Further reductions are continuing to take place as of this writing.”
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1101

Governor Jon Corzine and DEP Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson

On June 30th, the DEP missed another major milestone by failing to release the comprehensive emissions reduction plan mandated by the highly touted Global Warming Response Act (GWRA). This required plan has still not been unveiled. These delays raise questions about the commitment and ability of the Corzine administration to the steep greenhouse gas emission reductions promised under the GWRA.
“New Jersey cannot claim to be a leader in the race against global warming when it does not even show up at the starting gate,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “The Governor’s bold rhetoric has been followed thus far by timidity and tardiness.”
RGGI is a regional compact among ten Northeast states. It is a market based “cap and trade” system to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals. This regional auction, the first in the United States, is being closely watched and will affect Congressional deliberations on how to fashion a national global warming strategy.
PEER has criticized the RGGI program because, by design, it can not meet its publicly stated emission reduction goal. The RGGI agreement does not address greenhouse gas emissions from out-of-state coal power (roughly 30% of New Jersey’s electric consumption) and would allow a nearly 10% increase in current instate power sector emissions. Moreover, market-driven cap and trade systems have a history of vulnerability to manipulation and enforcement problems.
“Given the current national financial crisis which was fueled by unregulated financial schemes, perhaps policy-makers should rethink the wisdom and effectiveness of so called ‘market based solutions,’” added Wolfe, noting that the New Jersey RGGI law provides subsidies to major polluters and does little to directly bring about deep emissions reductions. “As we are seeing, the market alone is no magic elixir, especially for the type of fundamental restructuring needed to meet the challenge of global warming.”
###
States offering allowances for sale on 9/25/08:
Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont
http://www.rggi.org/auctions/documents/Questions_and_Answers-Part_1_August_1_2008.pdf
Learn more about the RGGI auction
http://www.rggi.org/home
Look at blown deadline on New Jersey global warming plan
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1072
See the weak New Jersey cap and trade plan
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1079
Revisit the vulnerabilities of cap and trade plans
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1045

States Aim to Cut Gases by Making Polluters Pay
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/us/16carbon.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=rggi&st=cse&oref=slogin

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A question of credibility – Governor’s do get caught in lies

September 22nd, 2008 3 comments

Like Palin, Whitman’s false statements contradicted DEP scientists

[Update: 12.04.08 – in addition to the DEP memo below, for those interested in reading press coverage that documents the Whitman false and misleading statements, including an attempt to coverup the problem of mercury pollution, click on and see:
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My prior post documented that Alaska Governor Palin misrepresented the science on global warming and polar bear impacts for political reasons, and her Administration took steps to cover that up when she was called on it. http://blog.nj.com/njv_bill_wolfe/2008/09/palin_misrepresented_global_wa.html

For that, my credibility was questioned. Do people really think politicians don’t lie?

Well, here’s another example – right here in NJ – where Governor Whitman did virtually the same thing as Palin. And just like Palin’s Wikipedia profile was scrubbed, so too was Whitman’s.

Read the smoking gun “confidential” DEP memo below that corrects Whitman’s false statements.

This memo is included in the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee transcript of Whitman’s confirmation hearing for EPA Administrator. But you won’t find it on Whitman’s Wiki profile! See page 127-128 @ http://bulk.resource.org/gpo.gov/hearings/107s/69822.pdf

Following the release of a scientific study that documented widespread unsafe levels of toxic mercury in NJ freshwater fish, Whitman falsely claimed that the kind of mercury found in the fish was unknown and therefore required further research before taking any action. She did not make honest minor misstatements. In contrast, her statements were part of a strategy to falsely inject scientific uncertainty and minimize health risks in order to avoid taking regulatory enforcement against specific pollution sources of mercury (garbage incinerators and coal fired power plants). When this scientific research was leaked and a coverup strategy memo were disclosed to the public by the press, Whitman not only repeated the lies but also retaliated against a career DEP employee who called her on those lies -

STATE OF NEW JERSEY,
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND ENERGY,
March 28, 1994.
CONFIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM

TO: Commissioner Robert Shinn.
THROUGH: Robert Tucker, Ph.D., Director.
FROM: Leslie McGeorge, Assistant Director.
SUBJECT: Information on Mercury in Fish.

Over the past several weeks, it has been observed that information attributed by the press to the Governor’s Office on the issue of mercury in fish has contained some technical inaccuracies. We offer the information in this memorandum for your consideration in providing the Governor’s Office with further clarification of this issue.

As was stated by the Governor’s Office, there are three forms of mercury:
* Elemental Mercury (metallic mercury). This is the type of mercury used in thermometers.
* Inorganic Mercury (mercury salts). An example is mercuric chloride.
* Organic Mercury. Methylmercury is the most important organic mercury
compound in terms of environmental exposure.

Contrary to the statements reported in the press, all three forms of mercury are toxic to humans. Elemental mercury is volatile, and it is toxic when breathed from the air; exposure to elemental mercury can cause effects on the central nervous system.

The toxicity of the other two types of mercury (inorganic and organic) can occur through ingestion, which is the exposure route relevant to mercury in fish. Inorganic mercury is toxic to the kidney. Methylmercury, the organic mercury of primary concern, is toxic to the central nervous system. The most sensitive toxic effect of Methylmercury in non-pregnant adults is paresthesia (abnormal sensations in the skin). Methylmercury is also toxic to the developing fetus, and causes defects in the development of the nervous system. This developmental toxicity is the most sensitive effect of exposure to methylmercury.

Of the different forms of mercury, all scientific data indicate that essentially all of the mercury in fish is methylmercury. The most recent and reliable investigation into the occurrence of methylmercury in fish conducted under ultraclean laboratory conditions (Bloom, 1992) showed that almost all of the mercury in the edible portion of fish and shellfish (muscle tissue) is in the form of methylmercury. This study included multiple samples (at least 3) of 15 species. For all species, the average percentage of methylmercury was at least 91 percent of total mercury, and for all freshwater fish species, methylmercury was 96 percent or more of total mercury. These results are generalizable to all marine and freshwater fish.

Information attributed to the Governor by the press indicated that there may be a marked difference in the ease of metabolism of different forms of mercury, and that the toxicity of mercury is-dependent on whether it is released naturally or by man-made processes. Actually, the time required for the body to rid itself of a dose of mercury is generally similar for all three forms of mercury. Additionally, the toxicity of a given form of mercury is not dependent on whether it originated from natural or man-made processes. Any type of mercury released may undergo changes from one form to the other in the environment. The mercury in fish may have come from either source, but the origin of the mercury in the tissue is not relevant to the potential for toxicity to humans.

In summary, there are three forms of mercury. For all intents and purposes the only form of mercury found in fish is methylmercury. Exposure to methylmercury through fish ingestion can pose a significant potential for adverse human health effects.

Mercury in fish may originate from human or natural processes, but this distinction is not relevant from a human health perspective.

The Division of Science and Research has additional information on all of the points mentioned above. We would be happy to discuss these issues further with you at your convenience if you so desire. (1)”

[Update 2: for a similarly disturbing episode by Whitman, see this NY Times 12/21//00 story – which again shows Whitman as – at best – ignorant and incapable of admitting a serious mistake: : http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E3D61E39F932A15751C1A9669C8B63

“But when asked to discuss her views on the science behind global warming on Tuesday, Governor Whitman responded by citing her doubts about the causes of the hole in the protective ozone layer high in the atmosphere.

She was asked: ”Global warming, what is your thought on what the state of science is and what can be done to address it?”

Mrs. Whitman said: ”Still somewhat uncertain. Clearly there’s a hole in the ozone, that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that that was closing. It’s not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it to be.”

When some experts on the atmosphere and pollution read a transcript of Mrs. Whitman’s statements, they said the governor had clearly confused two distinct, important global environmental problems: global warming and the ozone hole.

Today, asked to clarify her views, the governor said she might have misunderstood the question, but added that she did not think the two issues were ”not interrelated.”

”In both of those instances, I’m not sure that there’s a scientific consensus on how to deal with them,” Governor Whitman said today. ”There seems to be good enough evidence that both are occurring. But I am not aware of a uniformly agreed to scientific response, on either the causes or the solutions here.”
Others have written about this as follows:

“Consider the Dec. 21 New York Times article detailing what happened when a reporter asked for her assessment of global warming.

“Still somewhat uncertain,” she told the reporter. “Clearly there’s a hole in the ozone–that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that that was closing. It’s not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it.” Later, Whitman added that global warming and ozone depletion were “interrelated” and that she wasn’t “sure that there’s a scientific consensus on how to deal with them.”

For environmentalists, Whitman’s answer is extremely unsettling. Not only did she confuse ozone depletion with global warming–two very different and distinct problems–but she also grossly understated scientists’ current understanding of both phenomena.”
http://www.mapcruzin.com/news/news011801c.htm

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Palin Misrepresented global warming science on Endangered Polar Bears…and Tried to Cover It Up

September 22nd, 2008 2 comments

Just like “Bridge to Nowhere”, the facts contradict the campaign ads

[Update: 10.05.08] This post makes the point far better than I do:
Sarah Palin puts polar bears on thin ice
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/10/5/1902/72063/35/616261

I recently listened to an extraordinary interview with University of Alaska marine sciences professor Rick Steiner, a world recognized expert. Professor Steiner tried to uncover the scientific basis for Alaska Governor Palin’s opposition to federal protections for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act, due to global warming and melting of the bear’s polar ice habitat. Palin sued the federal government to block those protections and wrote an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times that basically echoes the oil industry’s arguments: Bearing Up http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/opinion/05palin.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

According to Professor Steiner’s interview -Listen to the full interview on mp3 here: http://www.democracynow.org/2008/9/17/sarah_palin_and_global_warming_alaska

“First of all, a little context: Alaska–big business here is producing hydrocarbons, and so Alaska is in the business of producing carbon that ultimately winds up into the global atmosphere. So there’s this inherent political tension between the big business in Alaska–oil and gas–and the notion that carbon emissions are causing climate change that’s ground zero impacts right here in Alaska.

Anybody who runs for office in Alaska has to embrace totally the oil and gas business in order to have a chance of getting elected. That’s sort of the politic here. When Governor Palin was running for the governor’s mansion, she supported more oil and gas development and never mentioned a thing about the threat of climate change here in Alaska.
As soon as she took office is when Dirk Kempthorne, the Secretary of the Interior, announced that indeed polar bears were endangered. They were proposing to list them under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. Immediately after that, Governor Palin, then-Governor Palin–this is in December of ’06 or January of ’07–called him and opposed the listing, before they had ever looked at the science.
Subsequent to that, the state’s marine mammal experts–and there’s only three or four of them on the state payroll–looked at the federal proposed rule to list polar bears, sent a nice long memo that basically concluded that, yes, the federal science behind the listing, you know, documenting that polar bears are indeed threatened, was solid science, and they agreed with it.

Later in the year, the USGS, which does most of the research on polar bears, United States Geological Survey, put out nine studies. This was in September of ’07. And again, the state’s marine mammal scientists were asked to comment, to review that science, comment on it. They did, and they found that the conclusions were solid. That was the scientific work that predicted that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears would be gone by mid-century, and all of the polar bears off of Alaska would be gone. And then they had a caveat about that, saying they thought that was a conservative estimate and that it would probably happen faster than that.

So, here you have the state’s marine mammal experts, three or four of them, very reputable scientists, agreeing with the federal proposed rule to list polar bears and with the USGS studies showing that polar bears are in serious trouble, yet the governor maintaining her political position that polar bears are not threatened by anything, and they’re opposing the listing.

So what you had, essentially, was a situation where the governor made a political decision, not a scientific-based one, to oppose the listing. Secondly, she misrepresented the basis of her decision to the public, saying it was based on science, when indeed it really wasn’t, and then, thirdly, tried to conceal all of that, when I was simply asking for that scientific review to be released. So there’s three red flags there for the public.

Adding further outrageous detail, a quick Google discloses that Alaska had eliminated its own scientists and Palin’s decision was based on the analysis of a hired gun – a private consultant who had denied global warming.

According to the Alaska Daily News and many other scientists:
Political science – Lacking studies, state still disputes polar bear ‘doom’ By TOM KIZZIA
http://www.adn.com/polarbears/story/295420.html

[...]
The state’s own scientific credibility hasn’t been helped by the fact that the Fish and Game Department no longer has any polar bear experts of its own.

[...]
The Palin administration’s effort to block action by raising uncertainty has moved the state to the dubious margins of scientific credibility, according to environmentalists.

“They’re not presenting a fair picture of the science,” said Deborah Williams, a former Interior Department official who now heads the climate nonprofit Alaska Conservation Solutions. “It’s a terrible disservice, to release something so irresponsibly biased.”



ALASKA AGAINST EVERYONE ELSE

Biologists who contributed to the federal endangered-species process have been told not to respond publicly to the state’s comments, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Their response will be incorporated in the final decision, the agency said.

But Andrew Derocher, one of Canada’s two top polar bear biologists, says the state is presenting a “bizarre” view of wildlife conservation.
There’s a very clear consensus that the population in the Beaufort Sea is not doing well,” said Derocher, the current chairman of the international Polar Bear Specialist Group. “Polar bear scientists without exception are very concerned about the long-term preservation of the species.”

The state’s critique was based on the work of a consultant, J. Scott Armstrong, a University of Pennsylvania expert on mathematical forecasting who has elsewhere challenged former vice president Al Gore to a $10,000 bet on whether the globe is truly warming.
[...]
“They’ve done a clever thing,” said Jack Lentfer, a retired polar bear biologist who managed the last state polar bear program, switching to the feds after 1972. Lentfer thinks the state is ignoring the consensus of active researchers. “They’ve got someone who can write in a scientific way. But if you look at it, it doesn’t have any substance. They’re speaking in generalities.”

This story highlights many red flags and abuses we’ve seen by the Bush Administration:

1) misrepresentation and suppression of science for political objectives
2) slash budgets and replace public sector science with private consultants
3) gag scientists from communicating their findings to the public
4) allow oil industry to control government policy and science

Sarah Palin is a slick and dangerous threat – she carries the oil industry’s water, which, just like the “bridge to nowhere” is exactly the opposite of the claims she has made that she has taken on the oil industry in Alaska.

For additional reading, see:
Progressive Alaska
http://progressivealaska.blogspot.com/2008/05/conference-to-nowhere.html

Alaska editorial: Palin administration ignores bear science
Juneau Empire
http://www.juneauempire.com/stories/061308/opi_290344577.shtml