The owner of a West Virginia coal mine where 25 miners died in the industry’s deadliest U.S. disaster in a quarter century had been warned repeatedly of safety concerns there.
Federal records show that this year alone, investigators from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cited or issued safety orders for the Upper Big Branch mine 123 times. That followed 517 MSHA citations and safety orders for the same mine in 2009 that resulted in fines of close to $900,000 that year.
That’s just one Massey Energy coal mine, and the numbers aren’t unusual.
In the launch yesterday of their Earth Day Revolution for climate action, the Sierra Club and more than 40 other groups talked about the need for “Congress to finally push aside the obstruction of the polluter lobby.”
The Sunlight Foundation shed some light this week on that anti-climate action lobby and just how tightly it is woven into the fabric of Capitol Hill.
The foundation used Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln as an example.
The real action on climate change isn’t in Congress or UN meetings.
It’s in places like Chula Vista, Calif., where the city’s offer to provide free energy evaluations identified over 5 million kWh in savings in municipal and private buildings over two years — and saw about 3.8 million kWh of savings implemented.
And Denver, where a decision to replace more than 48,000 traffic light bulbs and pedestrian signals with LEDs is saving more than $800,000 per year in energy, labor and material costs.
And Boston, the first major U.S. city to change its zoning code to require all construction of large private buildings to meet high LEED standards for energy efficiency. By one projection, the first 48 building projects under review could eventually see $4 billion a year in energy savings.
The key selling point in all of these cities — for the mayors and residents alike — is just how much money they can save with innovative energy and resource efficiency steps that limit their impact on climate change at the same time.
U.S. President Barack Obama proposed a federal budget today that would begin to tip the scales away from fossil fuels and toward greater government investment in clean energy.
It would eliminate several fossil fuel subsidies, a move expected to generate about $36 billion for the federal government over the next 10 years, and increase clean energy research and development spending by about $6 billion.
To sweeten the deal for Republicans and fossil fuel-state Democrats, the president piled on loan guarantees for nuclear power and reiterated his support for a nuclear revival, more off-shore drilling, and “clean coal” technology, which was heavily funded through the recovery act last year. In addition, the new budget offers only a passing reference to a future cap-and-trade program, describing it as carbon neutral rather than assuming it would generate revenue.
Whether Congress can carry through on the president's recommendations remains to be seen, however.
President Obama gives his State of the Union address tonight, and some supporters of the shift to clean energy worry that the troubled U.S. economy and high unemployment will overwhelm any attention he might want to give climate change.
Sen. John Kerry, who has been leading the Senate drive for climate legislation, urged the president to underscore that climate and energy reform remain priorities for 2010.
"The president has a good story to tell, having personally gone to Copenhagen last month and negotiated an agreement with all the major countries of the world to address climate change," Kerry told E&E. "He can remind Congress that he's invested."
But even if the U.S. president eases off his public drive for climate-protective efforts, the nation’s governors are not.
Deep-pocketed industries and polluters, already basking in this morning's Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for more corporate political influence, got more to smile about when Sen. Lisa Murkowski took the Senate floor this afternoon.
The Alaska Republican introduced a “resolution of disapproval” under the Congressional Review Act to prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Three Democrats — Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) — joined her as co-sponsors.
Over the next few weeks, leading nations will be deciding the fate of the Copenhagen Accord, the three-page climate change agreement recognized at last month’s international summit but never adopted.
If they embrace it, they’ll also be embracing a process that sidestepped one the highest procedural hurdles of the UN system, unanimous consent.
As California writes the details of a statewide cap-and-trade plan for greenhouse gas emissions, it is considering a different approach for divvying up the proceeds, one that would put state residents — rather than polluters — first in line for payouts.
Billions of dollars will be at stake once the state's carbon trading system gets going in 2012.
The U.S. got its first glimpse of the future Senate climate bill today as Democrat John Kerry and Republican Lindsey Graham outlined a compromise plan that fully embraces nuclear power, off-shore drilling, "clean coal" and cap-and-trade.
The framework echoes the House's 17 percent mid-term emissions cut, rather than the tougher 20 percent cut approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It also seeks to shield agriculture from the impact of a price on emissions.
Right now, the framework is still just that, a sparse framework. The details will come later as various Senate committees combine their bills with those already passed by the Environment and Public Works and Energy and Natural Resources committees.
What the framework does, Kerry said, is lead the way toward “comprehensive climate change and energy legislation that will pass the Senate early next year.”
The U.S. government officially declared greenhouse gases a danger to public health and welfare today, showing the world and Congress that even if national climate legislation is delayed, the United States can still take action to limit global warming.
Sen. John Kerry, a key negotiator at international climate talks in Copenhagen, called the EPA's finalizing of its endangerment finding “a clear message to Copenhagen of the Obama Administration’s commitment to address global climate change.”
As for lawmakers in Washington, Kerry said,
“The message to Congress is crystal clear: Get moving.