Monday, March 30, 2015

Australia: Infantile Greenies and the "threatened" future of a pretty Tasmanian parrot

The article below is from the environmental writer at the Australian far-Left "New Matilda" magazine so its truthfulness cannot be assumed  -- but the interesting thing is the approach of the article. It is typical of "stop everything" environmentalism.  It offers no compromise and no middle way.  Instead of assisting informed decision-making it just does its best to build a roadblock to action.

In those circumstances, if there are foolish decisions made about environmental matters the Greens are partly responsible for that.  Most of Tasmmania is locked up under environmental regulations so there has been no balance at all so far.  The voters have clearly grown tired of that and gave Tasmania's conservatives an unprecedented clear victory in the last State election.  The conservatives are now doing what they were elected to do -- unlock some of the locked-off areas.  It would be so much better if they could do it in a consultative way with all parties -- but compromise is unknown to Greenies.  "We want it all" is their juvenile cry.

A more mature Greenie response to what the voters have clearly asked for would be to suggest alternative areas that could be opened up that did not threaten environmental harm.  But in a long article (only partially excerpted below) there was no whisper of that.  They are emotional toddlers

Concerns over the Abbott government’s plans to “deregulate” the environment and give up much of its environmental powers to the states found a compelling voice this week, as revelations emerged that the Tasmanian government approved logging in contravention of expert advice, knowingly pushing an endangered bird much closer to extinction.

It’s the sort of industry-first approach that environmental lawyers and conservationists are concerned could become far more common under the federal government’s so-called ‘One Stop Shop’ reforms.

The policy would drastically diminish the federal environment minister’s portfolio and see state governments - which stand to gain much more from big developments, mining, and forestry - vested with assessment and approval powers over matters of national environmental significance.

The government says the ‘One Stop Shop’ will cut red tape without a drop in environmental standards but documents obtained by Environment Tasmania under freedom of information laws, released earlier week, have raised serious questions over the state’s commitment to conservation.

The Hodgman government has approved the logging of at least three out of five areas of forest which provide key breeding habitat for the endangered Swift Parrot, it was revealed, despite repeated advice from experts that it will hasten the species’ already steep decline to extinction.

“Conservation objectives for the species at the [local] and regional scales will not be met” if the areas are logged, scientists within Tasmania’s environment department warned.

Less than 1,000 breeding pairs of Swift Parrot remain. Each year the bird undertakes the longest known migration of any parrot, to breed on the east coast of Tasmania.

The areas the Tasmanian government has now approved for logging are high-quality nesting habitat that are known to host large numbers of the just 2,000 remaining individuals during breeding season.

Cutting down forests in this breeding habitat, scientists within the department warn in one email, “will result in the continued loss of breeding habitat that has been identified as being of very high importance for the species with the further fragmentation of foraging habitat”.

“This cannot contribute to the long term survival of the species.”

Put simply, “there is no scientific evidence to support the position that continued harvesting of breeding habitat will support conservation objectives for the species”.

Ordinarily, where matters of national environmental significance such as threatened species are involved, the federal Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act would be triggered and the Commonwealth government would be tasked with ensuring conservation outcomes are met.

For the Swift Parrot, though, there was no federal safeguard.

The Tasmanian government was allowed to issue the approvals, and ignore the expert advice, because of a deal with the federal government, known as the Regional Forestry Agreement (RFA).

It’s a deal that is remarkably similar to the wholesale hand-over of powers the Abbott government is pursuing through its One Stop Shop reform.


New Federal Regulations Threaten Fracking Boom

The Department of Interior missed an opportunity for real reform recently when it released new regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands.

Since the onset of the Obama administration, the U.S. has undergone both an energy boom that was the bright spot in the great recession and a heated political battle over the Department of Interior’s lack of transparency that significantly slowed oil and gas production on federal lands. It also likely is not the last rule coming from the Obama administration to regulate fracking.

In typical “If it keeps moving, regulate it” fashion, Interior started a rule-making process in November 2010 in response to increased fracking activity and public concerns that were exacerbated by fallacious films such as Gasland and Matt Damon’s Promised Land.

The rule updates and expands regulation and will be revisited again in seven years. It is largely duplicative of what states already do to regulate fracking—adjusting construction standards to protect water resources and requiring disclosure of chemicals and advance public notice of fracking activity. Regulations apply to federal and Indian lands as well as private or state lands where the underground mineral rights belong to the federal government. States otherwise would regulate fracking on state and private lands as they have been. Unsurprisingly, extremist environmental groups did not think the Interior Department went far enough.

The Department of Interior should have taken the fracking boom as an opportunity to pivot away from one-size-fits-all regulation and turn management of fracking activity to the states. Regulation at the state and local level—as opposed to from Washington—has been a chief reason for the impressive economic results and environmental record of the new technology. Even the White House Council of Economic Adviser’s noted in its annual report to Congress that the regulatory structure that met local concerns regarding fracking was at the state and local level.

Instead, it has taken Interior five years to develop these new regulations, and politically driven management of federal lands has played a significant role in the loss of productivity on those lands. Meanwhile, states have effectively and efficiently managed the energy boom on state and private lands even as demand to develop oil and gas resources has increased. In fact, states have been regulating fracking for decades. While federal regulators lose even more time putting these new regulations into practice, states already have policies in place that reflect the unique conditions of the state.

Federal management of energy resources also has had a chilling effect on productivity. According to the Congressional Research Service, roughly 43 percent of all proven crude oil reserves in the U.S. are on federal lands. And yet, since 2009, oil production on federal lands has fallen by 9 percent even as production on state and private lands has increased by 61 percent over the same period. In 2010, 36 percent of all domestic oil production came from federal lands; now only 23 percent does. A similar story can be told of coal and natural gas. This activity translated into more jobs and higher incomes.

States have also been more responsive to the unique interests and concerns of their communities, in contrast to Interior’s approach of stalling on granting permits to drill for oil and gas. Not a single case of water contamination has been caused by the process of fracking, and although there are best practices that must be followed, fracking has withstood the many myths demonizing the technology.

Some communities have elected to ban the use of fracking technology. Unfortunate and misguided as that is, good environmental policy puts the freedom to make decisions in the hands of the people who are affected most by management choices. Nevertheless, Interior’s rule prevents this local decision-making.

Congress and energy producers already have responded in kind. In recent days, 27 senators introduced legislation to block the regulation and the Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance filed a lawsuit against the Department of Interior, calling the rule “a reaction to unsubstantiated concerns” that “lacks the factual, scientific or engineering evidence necessary to sustain the agency’s action.” Ultimately states, not Washington, should regulate fracking activities on federal lands. They are more knowledgeable and adaptable to the conditions of each region.


Gallup: Concern About Environment Down – Americans Worry Least About Global Warming

Americans’ concern over environmental issues such as water and air pollution and extinction of species is down from last year, and the data show that of all green issues, Americans worry the least about global warming (or climate change), according to Gallup.

As part of its annual Environmental survey, which Gallup has done for more than two decades, the surveyors on March 5-8 asked, “I’m going to read you a list of environmental problems. As I read each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all.”

The results showed that when it came to “pollution of drinking water,”  60% worried about it a “great deal” in 2014 but only 55% worried about it a “great deal” in 2015.

For “global warming or climate change,” some 34% worried about it a “great deal” in 2014 but that went down to 32% in 2015.

Commenting on the results, Gallup said,  “Americans' concern about several major environmental threats has eased after increasing last year. As in the past, Americans express the greatest worry about pollution of drinking water, and the least about global warming or climate change.”

“[T]he nature of the environmental agenda may indirectly be influencing Americans' concern,” said Gallup.  “The primary focus of the environmental movement has shifted toward long-term threats like global warming -- issues about which Americans tend to worry less than about more immediate threats like pollution.”

“Importantly,” said the surveyors, “even as global warming has received greater attention as an environmental problem from politicians and the media in recent years, Americans' worry about it is no higher now than when Gallup first asked about it in 1989.”

When Gallup broke the data down by political party, Republican versus Democrat, it found that only 13% of Republicans worry a “great deal” about global warming in 2015 while 52% of Democrats worry a “great deal” about the issue.

“Democrats worry more than Republicans about all of the issues,” said Gallup.  “Notably, Democrats are more worried about global warming now than they were in 2000, perhaps reflecting the shift in the focus of the environmental agenda toward this issue.”

In its survey, Gallup interviewed by telephone a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.


Thanks to the EPA, Even If You Like Your Shower, You Can't Keep It

A good shower is one of life's simple pleasures. Until it gets interrupted by government.

If you like your shower, you probably can't keep it once the bureaucrats are done. The War on Women and Men Taking Showers began with a 1992 law that restricts how much water can flow through each nozzle. In 2010, the feds cracked down against multiple-nozzle showerheads. Now the EPA wants to limit how long we can stay in the shower.

The Environmental Protection Agency is subsidizing development by the University of Tulsa of a shower-timing system that allows people to be billed according to their time in the shower. The concept starts by providing hotels with real-time reports on each guest. With normal bureaucratic progression, this could soon become a requirement that everybody is metered in their showers at home.

This is government pushing us around. It is part of the “nudge” philosophy pushed by President Barack Obama's former regulations czar, Cass Sunstein. He co-authored the book, Nudge, which describes how laws and regulations can push us to behave the way that government desires. We pay more for light bulbs, pay more for automobiles, pay more for electricity, and get less in the shower, all because government denies us any other choice. Indeed, the EPA grant on timing shower-taking states that behavior modification is the goal.

What difference does it make when our showering is regulated?

Surveys by soapmakers reveal that two-thirds of us shower (or bathe) daily, with the average being 5 showers per week. For American men, we shower 10 minutes at a time, with 15 minutes for women. Those who sing in the shower usually take longer—and evidently that's a majority of us.

The exact times differ in various studies. According to the EPA, the average shower is eight minutes, which they say is still too long. EPA brochures encourage us to drop down by a minute, to what would be a 7-minute norm. That's barely enough time to sing two songs!

Multiple environmental groups want more; they promote a 5-minute max. Many of these advocate taking an even-briefer “Navy shower”: 1) turn on water to rinse your hair and body; 2) turn off the water while you apply shampoo, use soap, and scrub; 3) turn on the water for a quick rinse-off, then turn it off and dry yourself.

That's hardly enough time to sing a single verse.

It's easy to imagine an EPA-run system that shuts off our water automatically when we reach their time limit. The agency claims it has no such plan; it is only making suggestions for shorter showers. But the bureaucratic practice is that suggestions become guidelines, which become policies, which become legally-binding regulations.

Bit-by-bit and drop-by-drop, the feds are stifling our showering.

The original restrictions were enacted by Congress in 1992, signed by President George H.W. Bush. That Clean Water Act dictated low-flow showerheads (2.5 gallons-per-minute max), along with 1.6 gallons-per-flush toilets. Many people turned to multi-nozzle showers to get as one workaround. Then came President Barack Obama. His bureaucrats in 2010 re-interpreted the law and declared that all nozzles combined cannot exceed 2.5 gpm. They filed lawsuits against fixture manufacturers to enforce this.

EPA keeps pushing the envelope even farther. They seek to lower the norm to 2.0 gpm or less, via a series of “WaterSense” incentive awards. Innkeepers, manufacturers, homebuilders, contractors and others are asked to sign a written agreement with the EPA to voluntarily lower their allowed legal limit of water use. Those groups are then allowed to use the “WaterSense” logo on their products and advertising; they benefit from EPA's marketing campaign that supports the label.

Is all this restriction on water usage really necessary? There is no shortage of water, not even what can be made available for drought-stricken California. The problem is that moving, processing and reclaiming water all require energy. And the constant environmentalist crackdown on energy sources keeps making it too expensive to get the water everyplace where it is needed.

The federal restrictions, however, apply equally to all parts of the country, whether local water problems exist there or not.

The law of supply and demand still works. Those who choose to use more H2O can pay higher water bills for the privilege. But green advocates complain that it's unfair to let people consume more of a product simply because they can afford to do so.

What goes unmentioned is that low-flow showerheads cost more for everyone. Manufacturers must add extra internal features to enhance the water velocity, otherwise the low-flow might dribble out and fail to wash away the suds. For decent quality, the lower the flow, the higher the price.

Meanwhile, Americans are engaged in massive civil disobedience about showering. Many purchasers of new showerheads—the majority, according to reports—soon remove the flow restrictor or drill a larger hole in the shower fitting so they can enjoy more than just 2.5 gallons per minute.

Perhaps someday this will lead to a modern-day Boston Tea Party. But this time it would be the low-flow nozzles and toilets that get dumped in the harbor.


Challenging the EPA Steamroller

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week in Michigan v. EPA, a case that has the potential to either check the Environmental Protection Agency’s runaway abuse of power or give it unchecked authority to bankrupt any industry it sees fit.

At issue is the agency’s duty to adhere to the Clean Air Act’s “appropriate and necessary” standard when issuing and enforcing regulations. The EPA published mercury and air toxin standards in 2012 that, by the agency’s own estimates, would cost the economy close to $10 billion annually. The public health benefits supposedly to be gained from the rules would amount to $6 million annually at the most, meaning that every $20,000 of regulatory fees that the energy industry pays would lead to only $1 in public benefit. What a deal.

The EPA argues economic cost is not a factor when considering whether regulations are appropriate and necessary, claiming environmental benefits alone are what concern the agency.

When the case was before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent took the EPA to task: “Your only statutory direction is to decide whether it is ‘appropriate’ to go forward with the regulation. Before making that decision, what information would you want to know? You would certainly want to understand the benefits from the regulations. And you would surely ask how much the regulations would cost. You would no doubt take both of those considerations – benefits and costs – into account in making your decision. That’s just common sense and sound government practice.”

The EPA, though, is not concerned with common sense or legality. Its goal with the mercury regulations, among the costliest in history, is to drive coal-fired power plants out of business. And it’s all part of Barack Obama’s strategy to make sure electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket.”

During oral arguments before the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the Obama administration’s most loyal water carriers, tried to justify the EPA’s position. He suggested that the agency would consider the appropriateness of costs at some later point when enforcing the mercury rule since, under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has the power to apply rules in an “appropriate and necessary” manner.

It’s hoped that the legal minds of at least five Supreme Court justices will be sharp enough to recognize the contradiction of such an argument. If the EPA wasn’t concerned about whether its measures were appropriate at the regulatory rulemaking phase, then where’s the incentive to revisit the appropriate cost later on? Furthermore, if the EPA has the ability to decide whether the regulatory cost was appropriate at a later date, then it’s engaging in an action that it has stated in this case it need not do.

In Michigan v. EPA, the agency argues Rule of Law is irrelevant. If the Supreme Court rightly disagrees, then it will rule against this rogue EPA.




“Sustainability” is a key idea on college campuses in the United States and the rest of the Western world. To the unsuspecting, sustainability is just a new name for environmentalism. But the word really marks out a new and larger ideological territory in which curtailing economic, political, and intellectual liberty is the price that must be paid now to ensure the welfare of future generations.

This report is the first in-depth critical study of the sustainability movement in higher education. The movement, of course, extends well beyond the college campus. It affects party politics, government bureaucracy, the energy industry, Hollywood, schools, and consumers.

But the college campus is where the movement gets its voice of authority, and where it molds the views and commands the attention of young people.

While we take no position in the climate change debate, we focus in this study on how the sustainability movement has distorted higher education. We examine the harm it has done to college curricula and the limits it has imposed on the freedom of students to inquire and to make their own decisions.

Our report also offers an anatomy of the campus sustainability movement in the United States. We explain how it came to prominence and how it is organized. We also examine the financial costs to colleges and universities in their efforts to achieve some of the movement’s goals.

Often the movement presents its program as saving these institutions money. But we have found that American colleges and universities currently spend more than $3.4 billion per year pursuing their dreams of “sustainability” at a time when college tuitions are soaring and 7.5 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed and another 46 percent underemployed.

In addition to the direct costs of the movement, we examine the growing demands by sustainability advocates that colleges and universities divest their holdings in carbon-based energy companies without regard to forgone income or growth in their endowments.

What makes “sustainability” so important that institutions facing financial distress are willing to prioritize spending on it? In this report, we examine that question. Because the idea of “anthropogenic global warming”—or “climate change”—is so closely interwoven with the sustainability movement, we devote a chapter early in the report to laying out the arguments on both sides of the debate.

The appeal of the sustainability movement depends to a great extent on the belief that the world is experiencing catastrophic warming as a result of human activities that are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Is this belief warranted?

We are neutral on this proposition, but we stand by the principle that all important ideas ought to be open to reasoned debate and careful examination of the evidence. This puts us and others at odds with many in the sustainability movement whose declared position is that the time for debate is over and that those who persist in raising basic questions are “climate deniers.”

The “debate-isover” position is itself at odds with intellectual freedom and is why the campus sustainability movement should be examined skeptically.

We support good stewardship of natural resources, but we see in the sustainability movement a hardening of irrational demands to suspend free inquiry in favor of unproven theories of imminent catastrophe.

And we see, under the aegis of sustainability, a movement that often takes its bearings from its hostility towards material prosperity, consumerism, free markets, and even democratic self-government.

Full report here (PDF)


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.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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