Sunday, September 02, 2018

When Environmental Regulations Become a Tax on the Poor

All too often, government regulation results in death by a thousand cuts for American businesses and consumers alike. The poor are disproportionately harmed by these rules, which cost trillions of dollars per year to administer, thus raising the prices of goods and services across the economy. In spite of this, many seek to downplay these issues, criticizing the Trump Administration’s deregulatory drive as protecting the interests of the “donor class.”

Chief amongst the critics of deregulation is University of California professor and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Earlier this month in the Baltimore Sun, Reich accused the President of nixing rules that “protect consumers, workers, investors, students and children.” This all too common understanding of the modern regulatory state completely ignores the negative impact of federal rules.

Specifically, Mr. Reich cites the administration’s push to neuter tough environmental laws, which are supposedly the “last bulwarks against climate change.” On the surface, lowering Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards may appear to increase emissions. As it happens, the exact opposite is true.

CAFE standards raise the price of vehicles by several thousands of dollars, effectively pricing the poor out of the market for new vehicles, and ensuring that low-income households will hold onto older, less efficient, vehicles for a longer amount of time. As economists Arthur van Benthem and Mark Jacobsen explain in the American Economic Review, higher CAFE standards may result in “a growing volume of greenhouse gas emissions from the fleet of used vehicles, many of which have been on the road for 10 years or more.”

Notice how this works: higher costs result in fewer options for low-income households, simultaneously making life more difficult for families and undermining environmental policy. This a common problem encountered by regulators: the poor bear the brunt of ill-conceived rules. Take, for instance, the biofuels mandate pushed by the Bush Administration and supported by President Obama.

Four years after the Energy Policy Act of 2005 kick-started the American biofuel frenzy, the Federal Reserve found that “the increase in U.S. biofuels production (ethanol and biodiesel) pushed up corn prices by more than 22 percentage points and soybean prices (soybeans and soybean oil) by more than 15 percentage points.”

Meanwhile, studies taking into account the land clearing required for growing biofuels find that removing tree and related plant life can actually increase greenhouse gas emissions net of any environmental benefits. Setting aside crops and acreage for fuel means less resources for food production, resulting in rising food prices, and had a negligible impact on the environment.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all environmental rules are counterproductive.

But while regulators should celebrate these successes, they must also remain vigilant in identifying regulations whose costs are simply too high. Even Mr. Reich understands this problem, noting that “Some regulations should be eliminated because they're just too costly relative to the protections they provide.”

Take, for instance, the Clean Air Act, which relies on some questionable accounting from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for support. The EPA assumes that, without their intervention, pollution would have increased “steadily from 1990 through 2000, 2010, and 2020,” despite their own data showing major decreases in emissions beginning before 1990.

These questionable benefits don’t stack up compared to the known cost of tens of millions of dollars each year borne, for instance, by paint and coating suppliers to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOC) emulating from their products. These costs are inevitably passed onto consumers, and borne especially by low-income households.

When regulators rely on questionable assumptions to justify flashy yet ineffective rules, they are doing a disservice to consumers, who feel the impact of these policies in their wallet instead of the environment. If Reich and others were really interested in helping the poor, they would address these issues, rather than mounting the usual attacks against deregulation.

Ross Marchand is the director of policy for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

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Bloomberg accused of hijacking justice system with donor-funded climate-change prosecutors

Critic: Plan raises alarm over special interests setting policy, law enforcement agendas, without accountability

Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor, bankrolled a year-long effort to place privately funded lawyers as "special assistant attorneys general" in at least six states with specific instructions to work on "clean energy, climate change, and environmental interests."

With their busy schedules and tight state budgets, Democratic attorneys general have little in the way of time and resources to advance climate-change policies, which is where billionaire Michael Bloomberg comes in.

The former New York City mayor’s fortune has bankrolled a year-long effort to place privately funded lawyers as “special assistant attorneys general” in at least six states with specific instructions to work on “clean energy, climate change, and environmental interests.”

The program, run through the New York University School of Law, comes as the most disturbing example of the “billion-dollar per year climate industry” gaining access to law-enforcement authority in pursuit of a political agenda, according to a report released Wednesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The scheme raises serious questions about special interests setting states’ policy and law enforcement agendas, without accountability to the taxpayers and voters whom these law enforcement officials supposedly serve,” said CEI senior fellow Chris Horner, who authored the report, “Law Enforcement for Rent: How Special Interests Fund Climate Policy Through State Attorneys General.”

Mr. Horner, who spent two-and-a-half years collecting emails and documents through the open-records requests and court orders, called for “prompt and serious legislative oversight” into the off-the-books infiltration of state law-enforcement offices by lawyers dedicated to the climate agenda.

“It represents private interests commandeering the state’s police powers to target opponents of their policy agenda and to hijack the justice system as a way to overturn the democratic process’s rejection of a political agenda,” the report said.

State attorneys general have increasingly become political foils for the White House — Republican prosecutors challenged Obamacare and the Clean Power Plan, while Democrats have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the Trump administration — but critics say the specter of donor-funded prosecutors rises to a new level.

The State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at NYU, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, formed in response to the Trump administration to help attorneys general “fight regulatory roll-backs and other actions that undermine clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections.”

The center accepts applications from state attorneys general who demonstrate “a need and a commitment to advancing clean energy matters.” Salaries for the “special assistant attorneys general,” or SAAGs, range from $75,000 to $149,483 annually for a two-year commitment, the report said.

Among the states that have taken on SAAGs is New York, but Amy Spitalnick, spokeswoman and senior policy adviser for New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, described the partnership as unexceptional.

“Climate deniers continue to find new and creative ways to distract from reality. All OAG employees are accountable to the AG, period — and we’re proud of the talented team of lawyers and staff members that are part of the AG’s successful fight to protect clean water, clean air, and New Yorkers’ health,” she said in an email.

Christopher Gray, SEEIC spokesman, pointed to application language affirming that “the SAAGs’ sole duty of loyalty is to the attorney general who hired them” and that noted that the program details are spelled out on the website.

“At no point has there been a concerted effort by the State Impact Center to hide anything that we have been working on,” Mr. Gray said.

As part of the application process, he said, attorneys general must demonstrate the need for additional legal resources, and that “having an NYU fellow is consistent with any applicable state law.”

Every attorney general was invited to apply for legal fellows, he said, although no Republican AG has done so.

Meanwhile, critics of the alliance have argued it would be akin to, for example, Republican attorneys general bringing on prosecutors funded by Americans United for Life to work on Planned Parenthood issues.

Zack Roday, spokesman for the Republican Attorneys General Association, said the report “sheds necessary light on how powerful special interests operate on the left.”

“Democrats have sold out their voters; instead, they are allowing activist lawyers directed by New York University Law School — paid for by Michael Bloomberg — to go after anyone opposing their extreme political agenda,” Mr. Roday said. “It’s wrong and these shameless AGs should be called out for deceiving the public.”

Educational institutions and other non-profits may partner with prosecutors on placing interns or providing grants, but “not for litigation,” Mr. Roday said.

“That’s why this is so unprecedented,” said Mr. Roday, adding that nothing of its kind exists on the GOP side.

The roots of the climate-prosecutorial nexus date back to a 2012 meeting of activist groups in La Jolla, California, followed by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s 2015 lawsuit against ExxonMobil and AGs United for Clean Power, the 17-state coalition launched in 2016 to pursue the fossil-fuel industry.

The coalition has since all but disbanded, although lawsuits against Exxon filed by the Massachusetts and New York attorneys general are ongoing, despite Mr. Schneiderman’s abrupt resignation in May over allegations of physical abuse made by four women.

Cities and counties have since picked up the legal mantle. A dozen localities, as well as the state of Rhode Island, have sued oil-and-gas companies seeking compensation for damages allegedly caused by climate change, although federal judges recently threw out cases filed by New York City, San Francisco and Oakland.


In the deep blue of New England, a Trump appointee gains respect for protecting the environment

She’s among the few high-profile representatives of the Trump administration in deep blue New England, appointed by Scott Pruitt, the scandal-ridden former chief of the Environmental Protection Agency who was akin to Public Enemy No. 1 among local environmental groups.

She won’t say whether global warming is primarily caused by human activity — as nearly all climate scientists assert — and supported Pruitt’s efforts to dismantle scientific advisory boards, restrict the type of studies that can be used to craft public policy, and end the Obama administration’s signature plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Despite it all, Alexandra Dunn, a proud Republican who leads the EPA’s New England office, has won widespread accolades from the region’s environmental leaders, who have described her as “empathetic,” “apolitical,” and “smart,” and an advocate for science-based environmental policies.

Many local environmental activists had braced for a regional administrator who would be more beholden to industry and were stunned when Pruitt appointed Dunn in November.

“There was a sigh of collective relief,” said Elizabeth Turnbull Henry, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Unlike Pruitt, who sought to roll back dozens of regulations governing clean air and water, and the acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the coal industry, Dunn “does not appear bent on destroying the agency she was tasked to lead,” she added.

Some local advocates worried there could be a backlash from Washington if they offered too much praise.

“I’m leery of calling any public attention to her successes, lest it cause her trouble,” said Jack Clarke, director of public policy at Mass Audubon, the largest and oldest conservation group in New England.

Even Dunn’s predecessor during the Obama administration, Curt Spalding, gave her high marks.

“I feared the next person wouldn’t honor and respect the people working there,” said Spalding, who now teaches at Brown University. “But now, strangely and fortuitously, we have a highly respected person filling that position who appears to be staying the course.”

In her nine months as administrator, Dunn has walked a fine line, careful not to cross her superiors in Washington while working with environmental groups and local officials to clean up toxic waste sites, protect the region’s air and water, and address the impact of climate change.

In a recent interview near her office in downtown Boston, Dunn cited several accomplishments since she assumed the post: implementing long-delayed, controversial plans to reduce stormwater runoff; hosting a national summit to curb harmful chemicals in drinking water; and issuing a report that outlined the agency’s efforts to clean up rivers, promote recycling, and improve the environment in economically depressed areas.

“There’s just so much opportunity in New England to revitalize communities,” she said.

An attorney who has taught environmental justice at several law schools, Dunn, 50, spent years as the director and general counsel of the Environmental Council of States and the Association of Clean Water Administrators, both national nonprofit organizations, where she earned a reputation as a nonpartisan advocate for the environment.

When Pruitt appointed Dunn to be one of the agency’s 10 regional administrators, he called her “exceptionally qualified.”

“Her service to others will be key to helping implement this administration’s positive environmental agenda,” he said in a statement.

At the time, the Trump administration had proposed cutting the EPA’s budget by about one-third — more than any other agency’s — and vowed to roll back a host of major environmental regulations. But Dunn had no qualms about taking the job, and she still has no regrets.

“To be honest, it’s a privilege to represent the federal government,” she said.

After Pruitt resigned in July, amid a pall of ethics scandals, EPA officials asked the agency’s regional administrators to attend meetings in Washington that emphasized the need for political appointees to act ethically and cooperate with the agency’s inspector general, Dunn said.

Asked if she has disagreed with any of Pruitt’s policies, often decried by environmental advocates, she said: “As a member of his team, I did not.”

Dunn compared her position to a “field general” whose job is to implement the law and the administration’s policies. Ideology hasn’t played a role in her work, she said. “What I try to do is be outcomes- and solutions-oriented,” she said. “So, party affiliation has a role, but it’s not the defining role in environmental policy.”

Asked if she has received chilly receptions as a representative of the Trump administration, she said: “I believe and feel like a representative of the administration in every room that I enter.” But she added: “I’ve found every audience to be extremely welcoming.”

Still, there has been some friction, particularly with the union that represents many of the nearly 500 full-time employees in the region. Their anger has grown as the Trump administration has sought to reduce the agency’s workforce and curb the union’s power.

Since 2010, as its budget has been cut by more than 10 percent, the region’s number of full-time employees has dropped by one-quarter, placing more of a burden on the remaining workers, said Steve Calder, president of the local branch of the American Federation of Government Employees.

In May, the union filed a federal lawsuit against Trump, arguing that an executive order he issued last spring violates union contracts.

“We feel the union is under attack,” said Calder, a clean air inspector, adding that local union officials have been told they will have to pay rent to use the space where they previously managed union affairs at the agency’s Boston headquarters.

Despite the union’s frustrations with Washington, Calder praised Dunn. “While she has to toe the administration’s line, she’s an environmentalist, not someone from industry,” he said. “We lucked out. . . . She’s the cream of the crop, compared to what could be expected from this administration.”

Last month, Dunn’s careful diplomacy was again on display at an event in New Bedford to promote efforts to clean up Superfund sites. Dunn introduced Wheeler, who was on his first trip outside Washington since taking the agency’s top job.

Environmental advocates have criticized Wheeler for the years he spent lobbying on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, which they say sought to block efforts to curb carbon emissions. Dunn called him a “passionate steward of the agency’s mission” and said she was “thrilled” to introduce him to the local officials who have spent years trying to remove cancer-causing chemicals from parts of New Bedford Harbor.

Afterward, Dunn declined to criticize the administration’s policies, such as its proposal to slash the EPA’s budget and its decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. “I have no opinion on that,” she said, referring to the Paris agreement. “That was the president’s decision, and there’s no sign that that is going to be revisited.”

She prefers to focus on areas of common ground, such as preparing the region to deal with climate change. “There’s so much that we can do in New England to make a difference on the environment,” she said.

For many advocates, Dunn’s environmentally friendly actions have spoken louder than her carefully chosen words.

Bradley Campbell, a former EPA regional administrator and president of the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston, has vehemently opposed EPA pronouncements from Washington since Trump took power. But he couldn’t say nicer things about Dunn, lauding her “commitment to environmental justice.”

“She’s a terrific choice, an appointment I’d applaud under any administration,” he said.


Climate Change Is No Joke: UN Nixes Video After Complaints From Greenies

The United Nations has been forced to pull a video about climate change because greenies violently objected to its attempts to be funny about a subject they considered far too serious for levity.

According to Climate Home News: Viewers complained the advert for its Climate Neutral Now scheme appeared to mock green lifestyle choices and downplay the urgency of the climate challenge.

Published on Facebook and Twitter, the video struck a jokey tone, showing a man trying to give up his car, flights, steak and even breathing to cut his carbon footprint.

“OK, we know that’s slightly impractical, so here’s the real solution,” said the narrator, directing viewers to a revamped website where they can pay to cancel emission reduction credits issued through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

But the greenies hated it:

This is not, of course, the first time climate alarmists have tried to make a funny video and failed horribly.

The most memorable example was the infamous ‘No Pressure’ video in which schoolchildren who failed to show sufficient zeal about climate change were executed by their teacher – played by the X-Files’ Gillian Anderson – who pressed a button on her desk and caused their heads graphically to explode.

That video too had to be withdrawn after the green activists who made it belatedly became aware that it was sending out the wrong signals about the nature of the environmentalist cause.


German ARD Public TV: Big Oil, Heartland Institute, And CFACT Funding ‘Climate Denial’

CCD Editor’s Note: Same song, different channel. Germany’s ARD public TV wants its viewers to think America’s oil and gas companies are funding German’s climate skepticism using various heretofore secret backchannels. Pierre Gosselin destroys their alarmist scare tactics with actual facts and shows the ‘debate’ is far from settled

German ARD public television wishes to believe climate skepticism in the country is fueled by American Big Oil dollars. The reality is that German skepticism is a far broader phenomenon.

I didn’t become aware of this recent German ARD Monitor investigative report until yesterday. The ARD Monitor public television report, aired earlier this month in the wake of Europe’s hot and dry summer, looks into the German climate denial movement, and pretends to have uncovered that it is shadowy and all clandestinely fueled by the American gas and oil industry.

One hot German summer is climate change!

First, the report begins by focusing on the "amazingly crazy” hot and dry summer Germany just experienced, as if to say how could anyone possibly deny this is not climate change.

And to drive the point home to viewers that climate change is real and extreme, ARD Monitor interviews "one of the most renowned climate scientists of our time, Professor Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research,” who comments that the planet is on the way to becoming uninhabitable unless we stop using fossil fuels immediately.

Bjorn Stevens: Having to debate the facts "is enraging”

To add more gravitas to the claim that man-made climate change is real and the debate is over, Monitor also interviews "renowned climate researcher” Prof. Bjorn Stevens of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, who tells Monitor:

That we have to debate the facts to me is enraging, or disappointing in any case because there’s no question about it. There are many questions, but that CO2 is heating the climate is not one of them.”

ARD Monitor set up: Anyone disagreeing simply has to be some sort of a misfit. So where’s could all the climate skepticism be coming from? (SEE ALSO: Three Notable Times The Media Actually Silenced Global Warming Dissenters)

Monitor uncovers nothing new, only rehashes old stories

So with the two distinguished scientists saying the science is settled, the ARD Monitor report next moves on to find out where all the "denial” in Germany is coming from.

The answer: from the Jena, Germany-based European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), funded by the freedom-obsessed Heartland Institute and CFACT. These two organizations are supposedly funneling money from Big Oil and a hedge fund millionaire named Robert Mercer.

Big Oil money

According to Monitor, the Mercer Foundation has funded the Heartland Institute to the tune of "millions of dollars” over the years.

Another big provider of funding is the ExxonMobil Foundation, which according to the German documentary supplied funding to the Heartland Institute and other organizations, among them CFACT, as shown by filed Form 990-PF documents (5:50 mark)

Documents presented by ARD Monitor, however, show donations were made more than 10 years ago, in 2005.

2005? That’s pretty long ago.

Surely there has to be more funding after that, ARD Monitor tells the audience, and so brings in climate activist Naomi Oreskes (6:05), "an expert on the climate skepticism scene” to provide the proof.

Oreskes tells ARD Monitor (translated from the German):

In terms of funding, it’s really hard to make statements on this because many of the organizations have taken steps to hide the channels. But we have clear evidence that organizations like CFACT and The Heartland Institute are being massively funded by the oil, gas and coal industry, and from other industries, especially chemicals and pesticides.”

However, none of that "clear evidence” gets shown by Oreskes, yet with her seal of approval, it’s good enough for ARD Monitor to present it as established fact.

Big Oil’s trail to Germany?

ARD Monitor next reports how the Big Oil money trail leads to Germany to fund skepticism: through The Heartland Institute and CFACT and ending up at the European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), which this blog here occasionally links to.

Shown by ARD Monitor are images of an EIKE climate conference with the Heartland Institute and CFACT logos in the background.

The conferences take place annually and anyone can visit them and so it has never been a secret that the organizations are linked, yet ARD Monitor tries to appear as if they’ve succeeded in exposing something big and shadowy, when in fact it has always been out in the open for years.

EIKE is, in fact, glad for every media outlet that shows up at the conferences it sponsors.

EIKE spokesman’s strange denial:  So it’s all the more mysterious that EIKE spokesman physicist Prof. Horst-Joachim Lüdecke denied knowing CFACT and The Heartland Institute before an ARD Monitor camera.

For whatever misguided reason, Lüdecke tried to deny the very obvious EIKE link to CFACT and Heartland, although it’s no secret at all. That was a huge gaffe by EIKE and so the organization ended up looking suspicious to German viewers.

I contacted EIKE to inquire why spokesman Lüdecke would say such a thing. EIKE blamed it on "confusion.”

German Skepticism Movement Far More Than EIKE

Monitor’s one-sided hit piece was designed to make German climate skepticism appear as if it were something entirely funded by American Big Oil and gas when in reality this is not the case at all.

Rather, German climate skepticism is much more a growing grassroots movement and ARD Monitor totally overstates EIKE’s role in German climate skepticism and totally ignores the array of other powerful forces casting doubt on the science in Germany.

Critical scientists, journalists

The reality is that a large part of climate skepticism spreading in Germany arises from a number of other sources, like books and blog posts by lukewarmists Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning, from publicists such as Dirk Maxieiner, and Michael Miersch,, critical journalists like Daniel Wetzel of Die Welt or warmist journalist Axel Bojanowski of Spiegel. There are others in Switzerland and across Europe.

Spiegel’s Bojanowski has repeatedly criticized the highly exaggerated and often hysterical climate claims often heard from Germany’s institutes and media.

These cooler heads have warned that all the hysterical claims are hurting efforts to deal with the climate much more than they are helping.

Media has lost credibility

More skepticism in Germany also arises from meteorology experts who on social media platforms often feel compelled to publicly point out and correct the often outlandish climate and weather claims that get communicated to the public.

All the horribly exaggerated communication between the scientists, politicians, and media have led to a significant credibility loss.

And when the media deceive and tell half-truths on other issues, people tend not to believe anything they are told. Media has gotten so poor in Germany that the joke today is that the only news one can trust from the major networks is the weather forecast and the lottery numbers.

At ARD television, the news is said not to begin at 8:00 pm, rather at 8:13 pm (lottery numbers and weather report).

Hundreds of citizens’ groups against wind power

Moreover, there’s growing resistance from the more than 1000 citizens’ initiatives opposing the wind energy industrialization of Germany’s landscape and forests. These concerned citizens have banded together and increasingly view climate protection as forest and natural habitat destruction.

So it’s only natural for these concerned people to become more open to climate science criticism.

Broken promises

Also, a number of leading engineers and industry experts and trade associations have been warning for years that a power grid relying heavily on volatile wind and sun would never be able to meet Germany’s energy needs.

The Energiewende (transition to renewable energies) was sold to the public some 20 years ago as something that would make energy cleaner, cheaper and better. The reality, however, has turned out to be very different.

Little wonder so many are growing skeptical.




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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