Monday, September 24, 2018

EPA Takes Steps to Ensure Regulatory Reforms Advance

A political appointee will become the No. 2 lawyer at the Environmental Protection Agency, in a change announced Thursday aimed at ensuring that someone committed to President Donald Trump’s agenda is in charge.

This change puts the EPA in line with several other federal departments and agencies.

The move comes as news reports indicate parts of the federal bureaucracy—including some who had key jobs during the previous administration—have rebelled against the elected president.

The change in who serves as EPA’s deputy general counsel also comes as the agency seeks more uniformity in legal interpretations from its regional offices across the country, The Daily Signal has learned.

In a memo Thursday to all EPA staff, General Counsel Matthew Leopold announced he had named David Fotouhi as principal deputy general counsel.

Fotouhi, a political appointee, will replace Kevin Minoli, a career EPA employee who was at the agency during the Obama administration.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July amid questions about his ethics raised by Trump’s political opponents and the media even as Pruitt followed through on the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda.

Minoli, who called for independent investigations of Pruitt, announced Aug. 21 that he would leave the EPA in late September to join a Washington law firm. E&E News identified the law firm as Alston & Bird LLP.

The Senate has been slow to confirm Trump’s executive branch appointments ever since his inauguration in January 2017.

The Senate didn’t confirm Leopold as the EPA’s general counsel for nearly a year. If he were to vacate the top legal position, the presence of Fotouhi would ensure that the acting general counsel would be someone else who is committed to the goals Trump was elected to carry out.

Some politicized career bureaucrats with a different agenda have rebelled against the Trump administration’s goals across government agencies, as has been widely reported.

The EPA has been the site of some of the administration’s biggest reforms.

Historically, the second spot in the EPA general counsel’s office has gone to a career employee, although that’s not the case among other federal government departments.

In his memo to all EPA employees, Leopold said:

While new within OGC [the Office of the General Counsel], having a political appointee serve as the principal deputy is consistent with the structure used by the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Water (at times), as well as the Department of Justice, Department of Interior, Department of Commerce, and Department of Agriculture.

The change advances Trump policies and the goals of acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, EPA spokesman John Konkus told The Daily Signal in a statement.

“Today’s announcement will make EPA’s Office of General Counsel leadership structure consistent with other EPA program offices as well as the Department of Justice, Department of Interior, and other federal agencies,” Konkus said, adding:

We are advancing the president’s agenda, while at the same time strengthening the senior career leadership ranks. This move is in line with acting Administrator Wheeler’s efforts to establish a standard regional office structure that aligns with headquarters, as the new career deputy position being created will coordinate with and manage the regional counsels to ensure legal consistency in the agency’s actions across the nation.

Political appointees in the U.S. government serve at the pleasure of the president, or under the politically appointed agency head or Cabinet secretary. These employees may be fired at will.

Conversely, career federal employees have civil service protections that make it more difficult to fire them, and typically serve under multiple administrations.

Fotouhi already worked in the EPA general counsel’s office, and will continue in his previous roles, Leopold wrote to employees:

As you know, David has been a deputy general counsel for a year and a half. In this new role, he will continue to oversee issues managed by the Water Law Office and Solid Waste and Emergency Response Law Office and also take on new supervisory roles related to all the deputy general counsels and political staff.

Fotouhi, a graduate of Harvard Law School and Vanderbilt University, began working for the general counsel’s office in March 2017.

He previously was in private practice at the Washington law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher beginning in 2011. He clerked for Judge Raymond Gruender of the Missouri-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

On a second front, Leopold’s memo addressed the decentralized nature of the EPA’s regional offices.

An office in Seattle, Washington, for example, could have a different legal interpretation of a dispute than an office in Kansas City, Missouri, had regarding the same matter.

The EPA seeks to implement more uniform standards, and Leopold announced that Dave Cozad, counsel for the agency’s Region 7 in the Midwest, would fill a new career position of deputy general counsel to “coordinate with and manage the regional counsels, among other duties.”

Cozad will serve on an acting basis, he said.

Cozad is a 29-year EPA veteran who began work in the counsel’s office in 1989 under President George H. W. Bush. A graduate of the College of William and Mary Law School, he previously served as an environmental lawyer for the Justice Department.


Climate Policy and the Case for Humility

The Global Climate Action Summit was September 12-14 in San Francisco. One purpose is to “ratchet up the ambition of national climate action plans.” Another is to “provide the confidence to governments to ‘step up’ and trigger this next level of ambition sooner rather than later.”

If you attended the Action Summit, you heard arguments that go much like this: The “science is settled,” 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is real and that humans are the main cause, and the planet will suffer irreparable harm if something is not done immediately. If you do not agree with these claims, you must be a tool of energy companies or of funders of right-wing political causes. The easy default position to take in the face of such claims is to trust the Global Climate Action folks.

But, is the science settled and do 97 percent of climate scientists agree? It is useful to know where there are agreements and where there are disagreements. There is, in fact, consensus among climate scientists that:

global temperatures have increased overall since 1880

humans are contributing to a rise in atmospheric CO2 concentrations

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have a warming effect on the planet

There is a great deal of debate about the following:

whether the warming since 1950 has been dominated by human causes

how much the planet will warm in the 21st century

whether warming is ‘dangerous’

whether radically reducing CO2 emissions will improve the climate and human well being

Many confuse the consensus over the first three points as covering all climate change science. Yes, there is a consensus about those three points, but the claim of consensus falls apart once the next four are considered. Furthermore, even if there were consensus about all final four points, that consensus does not tell what ought to be done.

In thinking about climate policy it may be useful to remember H. L. Mencken’s claim that “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Humility in policy arenas is not nearly as attractive as making bold claims and public pronouncements. But, before spending trillions of dollars to fight climate change, a little humility might be a good place to start. Frankly, we do not know nearly as much about many things as is widely supposed. Climate scientists, like macroeconomists, are very good at predicting the past. But, human systems and the systems that create climate changes are nonlinear and dynamic and, therefore, quite unpredictable.

I doubt that speakers at the Global Climate Change Summit talked about what I think is our best bet, which is to adapt and mitigate, rather than spend billions to prevent change. But that would be an unpopular position among the climate change activists and it is not popular with politicians or reporters. Proposals to adapt and mitigate are poorly received when talking about climate change. The poor reception might be because risk is something that people in general evaluate poorly. There is a lot of pressure on politicians to “do something.” Pick up any newspaper and there are letters to the editor from the old, young, informed, uninformed, frightened, and optimistic that something must be done. And so on.

Even local politicians face electoral pressures to do something, to adopt more climate friendly policies, to choose electricity produced by wind or solar, and to subsidize supposedly green projects. Voters reward politicians who appear to solve problems. Waiting to adapt is easily characterized as doing nothing. Few politicians like being called a “do nothing” politician. Choosing to wait to adapt is difficult to explain in public meetings or the press. Reporters like talking to the “do something” folks because stories about new policies and their consequences are easier to write, especially if the reporter is a “do something” reporter.


California's Fuel Economy Power Grab is Hijacking the American Car

There are many reasons why residents are choosing to flee California. But imagine leaving the state only to find that the socialists in Sacramento have successfully imposed their will nationwide. That is exactly what is happening with vehicle fuel economy standards. Thankfully, the Trump administration is slamming on the brakes.

California’s air pollution standards are more rigorous than the rest of the country, thanks to special authority to grant the state via waiver under the Clean Air Act (CAA). You might ask yourself, what does air pollution in California have to do with the fuel economy of cars manufactured in places like Michigan and Ohio and sold across the country? Thanks to this special waiver and help from the Obama administration, California now exerts outsized influence on the entire American automobile market.

In 2009 and again in 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency granted California CAA waivers allowing the state to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from vehicles at levels more stringent than those set by EPA. It’s not an explicit regulation on vehicle fuel economy. But since the only practical way for automakers to achieve greater GHG reductions is by boosting fuel economy, the effect is the same. The root problem is a separate federal law that already regulates fuel economy.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) was created to reduce American dependence on foreign oil by enforcing policies such as the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Unlike California’s special power to impose requirements in excess of the CAA, California is explicitly preempted from regulating fuel economy under EPCA. Here’s where the power grab comes in.

The population of California is huge, almost 40 million, which means automakers can’t afford to bypass the entire market. In addition, while no other states enjos the authority to craft their own CAA standards, they can choose to adopt those of California — and some have. Thus, the American automarket is now subject to multiple sets of standards.

To mitigate the obvious chaos of multiple fuel economy standards, the Obama administration brokered a three-way deal between EPA, California, and the automakers, effectively establishing California’s seat at the table as a national regulator. Through its CAA power grab, the progressives in Sacramento have, in effect, imposed stricter fuel economy standards on the rest of the country. Moreover, they have the power to hold the national market hostage to push for even more stringent regulations.

Both the Supremacy Clause and the Commerce Clause outlined in the U.S. Constitution make it clear that the federal government’s fuel economy standards should trump California’s special fuel economy standards. While California’s regulations are not explicit fuel economy standards, EPCA preempts any regulation “related to fuel economy standards.” Not only is greater fuel economy the only practical way for automakers to comply with higher GHG standards, the structure of GHG regulations is based on fleet average, which is unlike other CAA emission regulations — yet identical to the existing CAFE standards.

California’s misused CAA waiver is a classic example of the slippery slope that comes with picking winners and losers in the regulatory space. By granting California exclusive authority under one law to regulate one thing (air pollution), the federal government has given the state an opening to impose its political agenda on something else (fuel economy).

Thankfully, the Trump administration has proposed more realistic national fuel economy standards and moved to revoke California’s waiver. This would disarm Sacramento, ending its bullying of the auto industry and drivers in other states. California was given special authority under the CAA to regulate emissions due to its unique geography, weather, and rapid growth and gridlock that produced localized smog. But GHG regulations are aimed at global climate change, not problems unique to California. There’s simply no reason for the state to have special powers above and beyond national GHG standards.

One-time special privileges are not, it turns out, just a one-time thing. As in the childhood classic “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” if you give a regulator a cookie, he’ll ask for a glass of milk. And then a straw … and so on.

In addition to being bad policy, California’s CAA waiver sets an irresponsible precedent. It must be revoked to prevent future abuses of regulatory power. States should not be allowed to wield their consumer market as a weapon to impose a progressive political agenda on the rest of the country.


British tidal power project in trouble

Industrial heavyweights have turned their back on the Swansea Tidal Power project as the countdown begins on a one-year stay of execution for its embattled developer.

Tidal Lagoon Power has lost three of its high-profile backers from the board, including billionaire industrialist Sanjeev Gupta who is pursuing a rival tidal project with Simec Atlantis.

The boardroom exodus took place over the summer amid a make-or-break debt deal which sets the clock ticking on a bid to keep the company afloat.

Gareth Roberts, of KRE Corporate Recovery, said his firm was tasked with setting up a company voluntary ­agreement (CVA) to “mothball” the beleaguered scheme and help buy time to continue fundraising.

The “holding mechanism” grants the developer a maximum of two years before creditors could opt to take action, but if there is no appetite to fund the project within the next year the company may choose to liquidate.

Rajeev Gandhi, chief financial officer of Simec, owned by Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance, has also left, along with Keith Clarke, an industry veteran who sits on the board of Sirius Minerals.


Australia set to run on 100% renewable energy within 15 years (?)

How the Green/Left can blind themselves to the obvious is a wonder. Do they seriously think that any population would settle for an electricity supply that only worked when the sun shone and the wind blew?  Yet that is what we would have with 100% renewable energy.  "Renewables" will always need to be backed to 100% of demand by conventional generators

Australia is set to reach its target of 100% renewable energy by the early 2030’s, provided current uptake of renewable energy options in the residential and commercial sectors remains strong.

The Australian renewables energy industry will install more than 10 gigawatts of new solar and wind power before the end of 2019 and if that rate is maintained, Australia would reach 50% of its renewables target in 2025.

The reduction target, set under the famed Paris Agreement into global climate change, forms part of a commitment made by Australia in 2015 to cut carbon emissions nationwide by up to 28% of 2005 levels by the year 2030.

It represents reductions of around 52% in emissions per capita and around 65% in the emissions intensity of the economy between 2005 and 2030.

Homeowners and industry have embraced the renewables challenge so well that it now seems possible the nation will reach the equivalent of 100% renewables for its electricity supply well before then.

A report by the Energy Exchange Institute at Australian National University, says merely keeping up the current rate of renewable energy deployment – roughly divided between solar photovoltaics (PVs), wind farms and rooftop solar PVs – would meet the country’s entire emissions reduction task for the whole economy by 2025.
New global energy capacity additions 2015 2017 solar wind
Net new global generation capacity additions in 2015 and 2017.

That doesn’t take into account recent announcements at State level to make solar a more attractive option to consumers.




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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