Wednesday, January 25, 2017
EPA transition team announced
Typical "ad hominem" Green/Left rant below. No argument about facts or policy. Just paranoia about "funding". The Left are themselves funding slurpers so think that everyone else is too. They think everybody else is as buyable as they are
US President Donald Trump's administration has drawn heavily from the energy industry lobby and pro-drilling think tanks to build its landing team for the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a list of the newly introduced 10-member team seen by Reuters.
The email lists at least three former researchers from think-tanks funded by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch and at least one former lobbyist for the mining industry. Several members of the team have also publicly argued against US efforts to combat climate change, a key function of the EPA under former president Barack Obama.
The team's make-up has reinforced expectations that Trump will follow through on his promise to slash US environmental regulation as a way to promote drilling and mining.
The team, charged with preparing the agency for new leadership, replaces the initial EPA transition group picked by Trump after the November 8 election but before his swearing-in.
Trump's nominee to run the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is awaiting Senate confirmation.
"We are looking forward to working with the career professionals at the EPA to make this transition work as well as possible, and to carry out the Agency's mission to protect public health and the environment," according to the email.
"While transitions are always hard, straight forward honest communication combined with respect for each other will make the process work much better."
Charles Munoz was named in the email as White House liaison on the new EPA team. He was a top organiser for Trump in Nevada during his campaign for the White House and helped set up the state's chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a political advocacy group funded by the Kochs.
Another team member, David Schnare, is a lawyer and environmental scientist who spent 33 years as a staffer at the EPA. More recently, Schnare was legal counsel at The Energy & Environment Legal Institute, which has received funding from the Koch brothers-linked Donors Trust fund. The institute describes itself as seeking to correct "onerous federal and state governmental actions that negatively impact energy and the environment".
Schnare has also worked at the Center for Environmental Stewardship at the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, which has been funded partially by the Charles Koch Foundation.
George Sugiyama, who was part of the initial EPA transition team, is also listed part of the new team. He was chief counsel for Republican senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a vocal climate change doubter. Before working for Inhofe, Sugiyama lobbied on behalf of the National Mining Association.
David Kreutzer is also staying on from the initial team. Kreutzer was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a group funded by foundations controlled by Koch Industries and other energy firms. He has called Obama's efforts to combat climate change costly and unfair to certain industries, and has advocated for more Arctic drilling.
The new EPA team's communications director is Doug Ericksen, a current Washington state senator who has served as Trump's deputy campaign director for the northwestern state. Ericksen has a degree in environmental science and serves as chair of the state senate's energy and environment committee. He opposes the climate policies of Washington state's Democratic Governor Jay Inslee, including targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Holly Greaves will oversee budget issues on the landing team. She was a senior audit manager at KPMG, and previously worked at Ernst & Young in the firm's advisory services position.
Other team members include Justin Schwab, the EPA team's legal adviser, who used to work at law firm Baker Hostetler.
Washington State senator Don Benton, a Republican who ran a county environmental department, was also listed, along with Patrick Davis, a Republican political consultant, and Layne Bangerter, an Idaho rancher who worked with Republican US senator Mike Crapo on wilderness management bills.
EPA’s Top Priority Should Be to Eliminate Bogus Global Warming Models
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s confirmation hearing to head up the Environmental Protection Agency provided a glimpse into how the agency would operate under new leadership.
Critical reforms should rein in regulations that have little scientific backing and environmental benefit. A top priority for the EPA and the new administration should be eliminating the use of the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has relied on a metric known as the social cost of carbon to justify many of its global warming regulations. In addition, the administration recently began to consider similar metrics regarding methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
The social cost of carbon is a monetary value measuring the alleged climate change damages from each ton of emitted carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The EPA also assigns monetary values to other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide.
In this framework, adding the alleged benefits of abated carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions increases the benefits in the agency’s cost-benefit analyses.
As a result, the EPA and other agencies exaggerate the benefits of global warming regulations or deciding on whether or not to build energy projects, whether it is the Keystone XL pipeline or a coal export terminal.
The social cost has nothing to do with spewing pollutants into the atmosphere that are potentially hazardous to public health, but instead has everything to do with politicizing man-made global warming.
At The Heritage Foundation, we have found that these models measuring the social cost of carbon, social cost of methane, and social cost of nitrous oxide might be interesting academic exercises—but they are nowhere near reliable enough to be useful for devising energy and environmental policy.
The social cost of carbon, social cost of methane, and social cost of nitrous oxide are based on three statistical models.
At Heritage, we rigorously looked at two of these models and found that they use outdated assumptions regarding climate sensitivity, ignore the Office of Management and Budget’s recommendations regarding discount rates, and are based on economic forecasts 300 years into the future.
Upon making very reasonable changes to these assumptions, we found that the estimates of the social cost of carbon, and more recently the social cost of methane and social cost of nitrous oxide, drop considerably (in some cases by 60-90 percent).
In fact, under some very reasonable assumptions, the social cost of carbon can even be negative, suggesting some benefits of carbon dioxide emissions.
Moreover, at Heritage we found that if the EPA and other agencies continue to use these models and cost estimates to justify their regulations, it would impose devastating effects on the economy.
The Paris Agreement is one example of the damaging regulations that result from current EPA models.
Ordinary families would suffer as electricity prices would increase all across the country, disproportionately impacting lower-income households. Economic prosperity would decline, as would job opportunities.
Importantly, these regulations would have little to no climate benefit. Our research has also consistently found that reducing the emissions of these greenhouse gases would have a negligible effect on global temperatures and sea level rise.
The Trump administration should ban the use of these integrated assessment models and the social cost of greenhouse gases for EPA regulations and policymaking.
Enabling markets and entrepreneurs to meet America’s energy demands, not the whims of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., will be one of the first steps toward making American energy even better.
Conservation – not more control
Collusive lawsuits helped control more US lands. Congress must repeal and replace the ESA
President Obama’s parting edicts betrayed Israel and commuted prison sentences for terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera and traitor Bradley/Chelsea Manning. Another abused the Antiquities Act yet again, by banning economic use on an additional 1.7 million acres in Utah, where the federal government controls 61% of the state’s land. (This one new lock-up is nearly equal to Delaware and Rhode Island combined.)
The withdrawal was on top of 320 million acres in national park, preserve, wildlife refuge, wilderness and other restrictive land use categories – plus “buffer zones” around many of those areas – nearly all of it in the eleven westernmost states and Alaska. That’s equivalent to virtually all the land in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Folks in Eastern and Midwestern states have no idea what it is like to have federal bureaucrats controlling 30-87% of lands within their borders, and affecting vast additional acreage – questioning, studying, delaying, blocking and escalating costs for every proposal and project. They’re about to get an inkling.
With yet another last-minute regulation, the Obama Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) designated the rusty patched bumblebee (RPB) an endangered species, because its populations have declined significantly in recent years. It did so in response to a petition and a sue-and-settle lawsuit by the activist Xerces Society, which originally claimed the decline was due to “low population dynamics,” habitat loss, and a nasty parasitic fungal infection that spread to RPBs from commercially raised bees imported from Europe.
Then, out of the blue, Xerces and the FWS suddenly and inexplicably revised their rationales, to argue that most of the blame should be attributed to pesticides, specifically neonicotinoids – the advanced technology, reduced-risk pesticides that farmers love and radical environmentalists have been trying to ban for years. In another nod to green extremists, the agency also blamed herbicides like RoundUp, saying the weeds they kill in farmers’ fields and along highways are important food sources for RPBs.
(Friendly sue-and-settle lawsuits between pressure groups and regulators have been a hallmark of the Obama Administration, and there is good reason to suspect carefully plotted collusion in this case.)
These always rare bumblebees make their nests in the ground. That means any activities that disturb the soil could impact them: road, pipeline, transmission line (for wind, solar or conventional power), housing and other construction projects, and even plowing fields for crops. Ironically, RoundUp-ready crops largely eliminate plowing, which would seemingly increase RPB habitats and populations.
In its rush to beat the January 20 noon deadline, the FWS failed to publish any “survey protocols” for finding RPB nests and avoiding damage to them. All of this means farmers, developers and even homeowners are in murky legal waters and could face fines if they inadvertently harm any nests or bees.
Vast areas are affected. Rusty patched bumblebees were once found from the Dakotas through the Midwest, down to Kentucky and the Carolinas and northward to Maine. Xerces claims the bees have been “sighted” since 2000 in 13 states – including many major corn and soybean producing states, as well as the Upper- and Mid-Atlantic seaboard states.
Having that huge swath of the USA in legal jeopardy – and subject to review, control, delay and penalty by the FWS – is bad enough. But the agency is also pondering endangered status for two more bee species.
The yellow-banded bumblebee has been found all the way from Montana east to New England, and down the Atlantic coast to Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. The western bumblebee’s range includes the entire block of eleven western states plus Alaska: more than a billion acres – nearly half of the entire United States! Just to protect a bumblebee species and its potential habitat.
Put them together, and the Fish & Wildlife Service would regulate nearly three-fourths of the USA. The bumblebee listings would be the highest impact designations in Endangered Species Act (ESA) history – and would rival the EPA’s CO2 endangerment rule, Clean Power Plan and Waters of the US power grab.
Most Americans associate the ESA with prominent conservation achievements, such as reversing the near-extinction of iconic national emblems like the bald eagle, alligator and bison. However, the ESA has increasingly been invoked to “protect” small, obscure creatures like beetles, other bugs and the snail darter of Tellico Dam fame – and often to block energy and economic development.
Three invented spotted owl subspecies ended timber cutting in many states – often resulting in super-hot conflagrations that incinerate forests, soil organisms and endangered species alike. The delta smelt’s 2010 endangered species designation is being used to deny water to farmers and communities in California’s Central Valley, costing thousands of jobs, millions in agricultural damage and numerous bankruptcies – while regulators flushed billions of gallons of water into the sea in unsuccessful efforts to help the fish.
Indeed, it seems only wind turbines are exempted from the ESA’s draconian rules and penalties. Worse, threatened or endangered designation has only rarely been used as a foundation for proactive efforts to restore species populations. In some cases, environmentalists have opposed human intervention: hatching California condors and releasing the grown adults into the wild, or employing fish hatcheries for smelts.
The real activist and regulator goal of ESA designations – and actual result – seems to be land use control.
With regard to neonicotinoid seed treatments, which account for over 90% of neonic usage, even EPA recently concluded that these insecticides pose no threat to honeybees, and careful practices can easily mitigate potential risks from spraying them. In fact, growing scientific evidence is so overwhelming that neonics are safe for domesticated bees and wild bees (native bees) alike that anti-pesticide groups are now focusing on bumblebees, which have declined in numbers and about which much less is known.
The real threats to all bee species continue to be natural and imported mites, fungi and other diseases. There is little evidence that government-mandated efforts to “restore” lost habitat for bumblebees (or other “endangered” species) will actually bring them back.
Many suspect that these last-ditch DC diktats have little to do with conservation – and are primarily designed to expand government control over land use and development. That’s why a 2016 FWS decision to expand its definition of “critical habitat” caused 18 state attorneys general to sue the agency over its asserted authority to “protect” areas where endangered species do not currently live, calling it an unconstitutional “taking” of private property without compensation.
This and countless other Obama Administration actions also help explain why 98% of all US counties voted for Donald Trump, and why Republicans now control the House and Senate, 33 governorships and 68 state legislative chambers. Hillary Clinton won only in coastal cities, academic enclaves and very poor areas; in fact, without her margins in just five New York City and LA counties, she would have lost both the popular and Electoral College votes, notes John Steele Gordon.
All of this suggests that most of America is tired of being governed by unelected, unaccountable, elitist, illegitimate Washington bureaucrats who don’t understand or care about citizens’ concerns and needs.
The endangered species actions raise vital questions for the new Congress and Trump Administration:
Amid all the other high-priority items, how can we block and defund this last-ditch RPB overreach?
How can we repeal, replace, repair and improve the Endangered Species Act, to prevent future abuses, balance human and wildlife needs, and find ways to recover populations of threatened and endangered species without controlling or shutting down thousands of human activities on hundreds of millions of acres? It’s an essential component of restoring power from Washington to the people.
How About Those Record Temperatures?
This week, just in time for Donald Trump’s inauguration, the federal government ostentatiously revealed a trifecta in annual global temperature records. It began in 2014, when Earth’s average temperature reached new heights. The trend continued in 2015. But 2016 outpaced even that year, coming in at 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0.04 Celsius) warmer by NOAA’s calculations and 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit (or 0.12 Celsius) by NASA’s estimates (the difference can be attributed to NASA’s taking into account a broader portion of the Arctic). The AP says that “scientists mostly blam[e] man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino that’s now gone.”
“Help” is a very bereft way of putting it. El Nino, in fact, played the biggest role. Without it, global temperatures almost certainly would not have broken records. But there’s even more to consider, as laid out in a Wall Street Journal editorial: “The underreported news here is that the warming is not nearly as great as the climate-change computer models have predicted.” Nor have temperature trends dating back to the early 1990s directly corresponded with the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. For example, “[M]ore than 40% of the temperature increase since 1900 happened between 1910 and 1945, which accounts for only 10% of the increase in carbon emissions.”
“These nuances are important,” the Journal points out, “because phrases such as ‘hottest year ever’ are waved around as a pretext for political action that usually involves giving more control over the economy to governments.” Which explains why The New York Times didn’t even bother to publish the actual measurements and relied on rhetoric instead. There is more than meets the eye here. So-called skeptics acknowledge global warming but question the underlying reasons. But most climate alarmists can’t even comprehend that something other than man could be the primary driver. They should spend some time in cool reflection, perhaps in the Arctic, which still isn’t ice-free, by the way.
Australia: Greenie policies make Sydney housing world’s second most unaffordable
The "urban containment policies" mentioned below are what American Greenies call "smart growth". It has for some time now become widely recognized as stunted growth
SYDNEY is Australia’s most unaffordable housing market and the second most expensive city in the world, second only to Hong Kong, according to research firm Demographia.
For the 13th time, each of Australia’s five major housing markets have won the dubious honour of being rated “severely unaffordable” in Demographia’s annual index.
Melbourne came in at six in the study, while Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth were all ranked in the top 20 most expensive cities in the world.
Demographia, which ranks housing affordability in 406 cities with a population over one million, said urban containment policies were the cause of Australia’s affordability crisis.
Urban containment policies aim to curb the growth of the urban sprawl by encouraging greater density in existing housing areas rather than opening up new sites, commonly called “greenfields”.
“Consistent with the basics of economics, this is associated with higher land prices and, in consequence, higher house prices,” the report said.
Sydney’s “median multiple”, or the median house price ($1.077 million) divided by the median household income ($88,000) is 12.2 — the same rating as last year — meaning a typical home costs more than 12 years’ wages.
Hong Kong’s median multiple, by comparison, is 18.1, down from 19 last year. A typical home in Hong Kong costs $HK5.422 million ($920,000), compared to the median household income of $HK300,000 ($51,000).
The overall median multiple for Australia’s major housing markets is 6.6. It comes after UBS ranked Sydney’s property market the fourth riskiest in the world in its global bubble index, behind Vancouver, London and Stockholm.
Overall, Australia’s 54 housing markets have a “severely unaffordable” median multiple of 5.5 — four housing markets are “affordable”, three are “moderately unaffordable”, 14 are “seriously unaffordable” and 33 are “severely unaffordable”.
The four smaller housing markets deemed “affordable” are in former mining boom areas: Karratha (2.1), Port Hedland (2.3) and Kalgoorlie (2.6) in Western Australia, and Gladstone (2.8) in Queensland.
“Australia’s generally unfavourable housing affordability is in significant contrast to the broad affordability that existed before implementation of urban containment policies,” the report said.
“The price-to-income ratio in Australia was below 3.0 in the late 1980s. All of Australia’s major housing markets have severely unaffordable housing and all have urban containment policy.”
The news comes after new NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced she would address the NSW housing crisis, declaring it “the biggest issue people have across the state”.
Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison, meanwhile, is looking to the UK’s affordable housing initiatives for inspiration. One of the initiatives he will investigate is the Housing Finance Corporation, an independent body that makes low-interest loans to regulated housing associations through the issue of bonds to private investors.
Oliver Hartwich, director of the New Zealand Initiative, said it was a “social imperative” to make housing more affordable “especially at a time when there is a growing threat of populism to Western democracies”.
“We should not accept extreme price levels in our housing markets. High house prices are not a sign of city’s success but a sign of failure to deliver the housing that its citizens need,” he wrote in the report.
“Of course, if you are an investment banker, a media personality or a sports star, you will always be able to live a decent life, no matter how expensive your city is. And if you are within this group, you will also benefit most from the amenities that global cities provide.
“If, however, you are teacher, a nurse, or shop assistant your experience of city life would be very different. You would then have to put up with all the downsides of extreme price levels without being able to participate in metropolitan life.
“But is this the kind of society we want to live in? And isn’t this kind of social polarisation exactly the breeding ground for populism and resentment we are witnessing?”
Economist Alan Moran wrote that the costs were due to excessive regulation. “A fully finished new house (three bedrooms, two garages) costs as little as $150,000,” he wrote.
“Preparation of the land with sewerage, local roads, water and other utilities costs around $70,000 per block. The land itself is mainly used for agriculture and is intrinsically worth maybe $2,000 a block. Yet that new house in western Sydney costs upward of $700,000.
“The fact is that governments have agreed to an ever-growing set of regulations covering everything from phony endangered species to requirements for set-asides for child care, community centres and so on.
“These compound the shortage of land created by refusals to allow development outside of some designated growth corridors, which means rationing of land available for housing. That rationing’s end product is housing that is increasingly out of the budget reach of younger buyers.”
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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Posted by JR at 1:27 AM