Samantha Page, Climate Reporter at @ThinkProgress. April 25, 2017
The Kochs have already spent over $3 million lobbying for Trump’s anti-environmental agenda
Fossil fuel spending swamps environmental efforts.
New filings indicate that Koch Industries, the primary company of petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch, spent $3.1 million on congressional lobbying efforts in the first quarter of 2017, according to its disclosure report. Much of that money went towards anti-environmental initiatives, where the Kochs have found an ally in the new president.
Lobbyists for Koch Industries worked on convincing congress to repeal the renewable fuel standard; to repeal requirements for vehicle efficiency, known as the CAFE standards; to repeal a Clean Air Act provision to decrease the risk of chemical accidents; to stymie the Clean Power Plan, an EPA rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants; and on various budgetary allocations.
In addition, the company lobbied senators to confirm former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is just one of several cabinet members with ties to fossil fuels.
“The dirtiest corporate polluters in the country spent big to get a cabinet that puts their profits before the health of the public, and they are getting what they paid for,” the Sierra Club’s Adam Beitman told ThinkProgress.
The Koch brothers declined to back now-President Trump during the election, but it seems that now they are finding significant overlap between Trump’s anti-environmental agenda, including getting rid of the Clean Power Plan and rolling back regulations, and the Koch brothers’ top agenda items.
Koch Industries wasn’t the only fossil fuel company to spend significantly on lobbyists in the first quarter of the year. The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the oil and natural gas industries, spent an additional $2.7 million in the first quarter of the year. ExxonMobil spent $3.4 million; Shell Oil Company spent $2.3 million; Chevron spent $3.3 million; and BP spent $1.7 million. In contrast, the Sierra Club spent $290,000, the most out of any of the “Big Green” groups.
See: 6 times Trump’s EPA head did exactly what industry told him to do, The Environmental Protection Agency has gone pro-business. thinkprogress.org
Overall, the interests of the environment are significantly less represented than the interests of the fossil fuel industries. The Outdoor Industry Association, whose members depend on a healthy environment, spent only $80,000, while the American Wind Energy Association spent $170,000 during the same time period. SolarCity, the biggest residential solar installer in the United States, spent $190,000.
But the fossil fuel industry is notorious for its outsized — and effective — lobbying efforts. According to analysis by Oil Change International, the oil and gas industry gets $119 in tax breaks and other benefits for every $1 it spends on Congress.
“Influence is a tricky thing to measure,” the group writes. “It is obvious to anyone that pays attention to U.S. politics that the oil and gas industry is one of the most influential industries on Capitol Hill. But quantifying that influence is not always straightforward.”
It’s not surprising that now-EPA Administrator Pruitt’s nomination got the attention major fossil fuel interests. Pruitt has longstanding ties to the fossil fuel industry and, prior to his appointment to the agency, was a well-known opponent of the EPA. As attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA numerous times, including over the Clean Power Plan and other Clean Air Act provisions. He was on the same side as oil, gas, and coal companies for many of those lawsuits.
One of the companies Pruitt has been closely entwined with is Devon Energy, an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company. In the first quarter, Devon spent $390,000 towards lobbying on a few specific issues, all related to the environment. The company filed lobbying disclosures on methane emissions regulations, “limitation guidelines” on fracking wastewater disposal, air quality standards, and endangered species protection measures. The company did not directly lobby for Pruitt’s confirmation.
Since taking a position in the Trump administration, Devon and the rest of the fossil fuel companies have seen a good return on their investment. Pruitt has — at the admitted behest of industry — repealed and delayed numerous rules intended to protect the nation’s environment, including some of the regulations specifically targeted in Devon’s lobbying efforts.
Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate by a narrow margin: a vote of 52-46, with 51 votes needed for confirmation. It’s impossible to say — without direct confirmation from a senator — whether the activities of the Koch brothers affected any of those votes or not.
Other groups that lobbied on the Pruitt confirmation included the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Wildlife Association, the Michigan Farm Bureau, the League of Conservation Voter, and the American Coalition for Ethanol, to name a few.
Thanks to Kiley Kroh.
Samantha Page, Climate Reporter at @ ThinkProgress
Chicago Sun Times
Big oil spill a silent threat to Lake Michigan, Great Lakes
Sun Times Editorial Board, April 25, 2017
A study released Tuesday has ratcheted up worries that a 64-year-old mussel-encrusted oil pipeline in northern Lake Michigan threatens an ecological catastrophe.
The study by the National Wildlife Federation said the Enbridge Energy Line 5 pipeline has had nearly double the number of spills that were previously known. Nor were most of the leaks discovered by Enbridge’s remote pipeline detection system, the federation said.
Environmentalists are concerned because 4½ miles of the pipeline lies mostly exposed on the bed of the Straits of Mackinac, at the northern tip of Lake Michigan, where it joins Lake Huron. Over the years, pressure inside the pipeline, which is split into two separate pipes as it goes under the straits, has been increased so that it can move more oil.
If the pipeline starts leaking large amounts of petroleum, hundreds of miles of shorelines would be fouled and drinking water for thousands of people would be at risk. So would the commercial fishing, tourism and boating industries. Strong currents could spread the oil over a great distance.
Environmentalists warn that the damage could linger for decades in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. In 2014, University of Michigan hydrodynamics expert David Schwab said the Straits of Mackinac is “the worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.”
That’s a huge concern in a region that depends on its lakes. Regional officials should accelerate an existing investigation into the safety of the pipeline, and local authorities should start planning now — while they have time — for how they will ensure the safety of their communities if closure of the pipeline means more oil must be piped or transported by rail through the Chicago area, which already is home to major pipelines.
The Great Lakes region is an important North American hub for transporting and refining oil. The Enbridge pipeline is part of a 16,000-mile network that transports oil to 21 refineries, as well as natural gas and propane. If the line across the Straits of Mackinac is shut down, the nearly 23 million gallons of oil it moves each day — more than that planned for the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline — would have to be transported by other pipelines or by rail. Environmentalists say that can be managed with existing infrastructure.
A sign is posted on a bridge to indicate water contamination after an oil spill of approximately 800,000 gallons of crude in the Kalamazoo River July 28, 2010 in Marshall, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Enbridge and the Illinois Petroleum Council say oil pipelines have an excellent safety record, and Enbridge says new safety measures it has put into place guard against a disastrous spill. But that’s what Enbridge said before one of its pipelines ruptured in 2010 in Michigan, dumping more than a million of gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Even after three years of cleanup, oil remained in the river. Forgive us if we are skeptical.
An advisory board in Michigan, which has regulatory authority over the pipeline, is assessing the risks of the pipeline and weighing alternatives. A draft report is scheduled to be released this summer.
Clean energy may be America’s future. But transporting oil will remain an important part of the region’s economy in the foreseeable future. Officials should make the safety of the lakes paramount.
Dr. Joe Romm is Founding Editor of Climate Progress, “the indispensable blog,” as NY Times columnist Tom Friedman describes it. April 24, 2017
Climate change poses ‘nightmare scenario’ for Florida coast, Bloomberg warns
America’s trillion-dollar coastal property bubble could burst ‘before the sea consumes a single house’. Here’s why.
Donald Trump’s presidency may make this future for South Florida and “Miami Island” unstoppable.
“Pessimists selling to optimists.” That’s how one former Florida coastal property owner describes the current state of the market in a must-read Bloomberg story.
Right now, science and politics don’t favor the optimists. The disintegration of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is speeding up, providing increasing evidence we are headed for the worst-case scenario of sea level rise — three to six feet (or more) by 2100.
The impacts are already visible in South Florida. “Tidal flooding now predictably drenches inland streets, even when the sun is out, thanks to the region’s porous limestone bedrock,” explains Bloomberg. “Saltwater is creeping into the drinking water supply.”
See: Rapid warming and disintegrating polar ice set the stage for ‘societal collapse’ Carbon pollution is destabilizing both the Arctic and Antarctic. thinkprogress.org
At the same time, President Trump is working to thwart both domestic and international climate action while slashing funding for coastal adaptation and monitoring. E&E News reported earlier this month that the EPA has already “disbanded its climate change adaptation program” and reassigned all the workers.
Faster sea level rise and less adaptation means the day of reckoning is nigh. Dan Kipnis, chair of Miami Beach’s Marine and Waterfront Protection Authority — who has failed to find a buyer for his Miami Beach home for nearly a year — told Bloomberg, “Nobody thinks it’s coming as fast as it is.”
See: Florida’s Climate Denial Could Cause Catastrophic Resession. thinkprogress.org
But this is not just South Florida’s problem. The entire country is facing a trillion-dollar bubble in coastal property values. This Hindenburg has been held aloft by U.S. taxpayers in the form of the National Flood Insurance Program.
A 2014 Reuters analysis of this “slow-motion disaster” calculated there’s almost $1.25 trillion in coastal property being covered at below-market rates.
When will the bubble burst? As I’ve written for years, property values will crash when a large fraction of the financial community — mortgage bankers and opinion-makers, along with a smaller but substantial fraction of the public — realize that it is too late for us to stop catastrophic sea level rise.
When sellers outnumber buyers, and banks become reluctant to write 30-year mortgages for doomed property, and insurance rates soar, then the coastal property bubble will slow, peak, and crash.
The devaluation process had begun even before Trump’s election reduced the chances we would act in time to prevent catastrophic climate change. The New York Times reported last fall that “nationally, median home prices in areas at high risk for flooding are still 4.4 percent below what they were 10 years ago, while home prices in low-risk areas are up 29.7 percent over the same period.”
Sean Becketti, the chief economist for mortgage giant Freddie Mac, warned a year ago that values could plunge if sellers start a stampede. “Some residents will cash out early and suffer minimal losses,” he said. “Others will not be so lucky.”
As this week’s Bloomberg piece puts it, “Demand and financing could collapse before the sea consumes a single house.”
So here’s a question for owners of coastal property — and the financial institutions that back them — as they watch team Trump keep his coastal-destroying promises: Who will be the smart money that gets out early — and who will be the other kind of money?
Arctic thaw quickening threatens trillion-dollar costs – report
Reuters By Alister and Doyle
OSLO, April 25 (Reuters) – The Arctic’s quickening thaw is melting the permafrost under buildings and roads from Siberia to Alaska, raising world sea levels and disrupting temperature patterns further south, an international study said on Tuesday.
The frigid region’s shift to warmer and wetter conditions, resulting in melting ice around the region, may cost the world economy trillions of dollars this century, it estimated.
The report by 90 scientists, including United States experts, urged governments with interests in the Arctic to cut greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. President Donald Trump doubts that human activities, led by use of fossil fuels, are the main driver of climate change.
“The Arctic is warming faster than any other region on Earth, and rapidly becoming a warmer, wetter and more variable environment,” according to the study, which updates scientific findings from 2011.
“Increasing greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are the primary underlying cause,” they wrote in the study commissioned by the Arctic Council grouping the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland.
Arctic warming could have cumulative net costs from 2010-2100 of between $7 trillion and $90 trillion, it said, with harm exceeding benefits such as easier access for oil and gas exploration and shipping, it said.
The period 2011-2015 was the warmest since records began in 1900. Sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, which shrank to a record low in 2012, could disappear in summers by the 2030s, earlier than many earlier projections, it said.
“The Arctic is continuing to melt, and it’s going faster than expected in 2011,” Lars-Otto Reiersen, head of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) which prepared the report, told Reuters.
Among signs of harm, thawing permafrost has triggered more landslides at Russia’s Bovanenkovo gas field in Siberia. Rare warmth and spring floods closed the highway to Alaska’s North Slope oilfields for three weeks in 2015.
Further inland in Alaska, though, there have been drier conditions, meaning wildfires were worse there now than at any time in the past 10,000 years, it said.
Rising temperatures are threatening livelihoods of indigenous hunters and thinning sea ice vital to wildlife such as polar bears and seals.
The Arctic is warming fast partly because snow and ice reflect the sun’s faint heat into space. The thaw exposes ever more party-coloured sea water and ground that absorb more of the sun’s heat, in turn accelerating the melt.
Walt Meier, a NASA scientist who was among the authors, said there was also new evidence since 2011 that the thickest Arctic sea ice, which survives multiple summers, was breaking up.
“Multi-year ice used to be a big consolidated pack. It’s almost like a big thick ice cube versus a bunch of crushed ice. When you warm the water, the crushed ice melts a lot quicker,” he told Reuters.
Among recommendations, the report said Arctic states and those interested in the region “should lead … global efforts for an early, ambitious and full implementation” of a Paris Agreement in 2015 among almost 200 nations to limit warming.
Reiersen at AMAP said that appeal for action was similar to ones issued in the past by Arctic governments. The eight Arctic Council nations are due to hold a meeting of foreign ministers in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 11.
But it is unclear if the scientists’ advice will be heeded in the conclusions of the U.S.-led meeting.
Trump threatened in his campaign to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and has sometimes tweeted that global warming is a hoax, preferring to bolster the U.S. fossil fuel industry.
(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Tom Heneghan)