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Another Obama EPA Backtrack On Greenhouse Gas Regulation

[Update – 3/18/11 – on the positive side of the regulatory ledger, EPA finally proposed new mercury rules yesterday. More to follow on that.]

We have written that the Obama administration is in full retreat on the EPA regulatory front (see: Browner Departure Just Another Sign That Obama Is In Full Retreat).

The reteat posture is a compex combination of response to republican attacks, as well as Obama’s own pro-corporate policies.

In contrast to all the favorable press coverage, the timidity and backtracking have been particularly acute on the issue of global warming and EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Today, EPA further confirmed that assessment. According to EPA’s press release:

EPA Issues Extension to Greenhouse Gas Reporting Deadline

Release date: 03/17/2011

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule that extends the deadline for reporting 2010 data under the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reporting Program to September 30, 2011. The original deadline was March 31, 2011. EPA previously announced its intent to extend the deadline on March 1, 2011.

The Obama move is similar to prior polluter friendly NJ rollbacks on greenhouse gas monitoring. 

Last year, we critized Governor Christie for killing NJ DEP’s proposed greenhouse gas reporting requirments (see: CHRISTIE SHREDS NEW JERSEY CLIMATE CHANGE PROGRAMS — Kills Emission Reporting, Diverts Green Energy Fund & Defunds Climate Office

So while I’m on this topic of showing similarities between Obama and Christie, I need to clarify the recent criticism of Governor Christie for withdrawing from a global warming lawsuit before the US Supreme Court (see: Environmentalist faults Christie for leaving lawsuit).

The fact of the mattter is that the Obama Justice Department – last summer – took the side of the polluters in that case. Filing legal briefs in support of the polluters’ position is far worse than merely withdrawing from the case.

As reported by the August 25, 2010 NY Times:

Obama Admin Urges Supreme Court to Vacate Greenhouse Gas ‘Nuisance’ Ruling

By GABRIEL NELSON of Greenwire
Published: August 25, 2010

The Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to toss out an appeals court decision that would allow lawsuits against major emitters for their contributions to global warming, stunning environmentalists who see the case as a powerful prod on climate change.

In the case, AEP v. Connecticut, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a coalition of states, environmental groups and New York City. The decision, handed down last year, said they could proceed with a lawsuit that seeks to force several of the nation’s largest coal-fired utilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The defendants — American Electric Power Co. Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Southern Co. and Xcel Energy Inc. — filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court earlier this month, asking the court to reject the argument that greenhouse gas emissions can be addressed through “public nuisance” lawsuits (Greenwire, Aug. 4).

In a brief (pdf) filed yesterday on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal agreed with the defendants, saying that U.S. EPA’s newly finalized regulations on greenhouse gases have displaced that type of common-law claim.

Here is the larger context, from our friends at PEER:

Anti-regulatory zeal

  • Obama’s plan to boost the economy by “eliminating red tape” bears a troubling similarity to the Bush era’s zeal for deregulation

Climate Change

  • The Obama administration sided with major polluters in filing a brief with the U.S. Supreme court seeking to block environmental lawsuits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps the most stunning claim is that EPA’s announced intent to curb carbon emissions “displaces” citizen suits seeking direct reductions.
  • At the Copenhagen Climate Conference, President Obama put forth greenhouse gas reduction targets that are far less stringent than scientists say is necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change; 
  • Obama has embraced a watered-down climate change bill that Dr. Jim Hansen and other experts warn will do too little too late;
  • Central to the Obama effort is embrace of a cap-and-trade approach that is unworkable and unenforceable.

Coal Embrace

  • Central to the Obama energy program is an embrace of more coal and developing “Clean Coal Technology” – a process that does not yet exist. In the interim, the administration is funding schemes to pump sequestered carbon into the ocean floor;
  • The Obama team has backed away from promises to restrain the environmental damage wreaked by mountaintop removal coal mining;
  • In a huge and dangerous hidden subsidy to the coal industry, the Obama administration delays taking action to address toxic coal combustion wastes.

  Oil & Gas
The Obama plan seeks to reduce reliance on foreign oil by increasing production of domestic oil – with no limits:

  • Adopted much of the offshore drilling plan formulated by Bush. Brushing aside NOAA’s concerns, the Interior Department has placed energy exploration above protection of sensitive marine resources. Significantly, the Obama administration green-lighted offshore drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic and eastern Gulf before it developed a promised coherent oceans policy.
  • Drill, Baby, Drill – No part of the Outer Continental Shelf or the domestic U.S. has been put off-limits to petroleum production. Some lease sales have been slowed for further review – but they will be back;
  • The Obama administration has approved a pipeline to bring Canadian oil sands, one of the most environmentally destructive petroleum extraction sources, to U.S. refineries (so much for ending dependence on foreign oil);
  • Obama’s Interior department has defended a Bush plan to lease western Colorado’s beautiful Roan Plateau for oil and gas drilling; and
  • A key priority is to back the construction of the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline championed by Alaskan ex-Gov. Sarah Palin;
  • Washington Post, Oct. 20: The Interior Department has approved permits for Shell to drill exploratory oil wells on two leaseholds in the Beaufort Sea off the north coast of Alaska.
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