Republicans Revive EPA Tractor Dust Conspiracy Theory to Gut Environmental Protections

WillinoisThe EPA wants to regulate tractor dust. Can you believe that? It’s getting to the point where a man can’t even drive his tractor down a dirt road without big government getting in the way!

That’s what Congressman Rodney Davis wants you to believe anyway. It’s a good soundbite and the fact that it’s complete nonsense hasn’t stopped some politicians from peddling this conspiracy theory no matter how many times it’s debunked.

Davis sponsored an amendment to let the Department of Agriculture comment on EPA regulation. In speeches and press statements, he argued that EPA is out of touch with rural America by reviving the old yarn that they want to regulate tractor dust on dirt roads.

Congressman John Shimkus was telling this dusty story back when Rodney Davis was still on his staff. Since then, the EPA administrator has said several times that there’s no plan to consider regulating tractor dust, and multiple news organizations have debunked the talking point. At this point it should be absolutely clear to everyone that it simply isn’t true.

Undeterred by reality, there’s even a bill called the “Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act.” What it actually does is prevent EPA from enacting regulations of soot and particulate matter that are only applied to major sources of industrial pollution, not farms. These are pollutants, often from coal power plants, that cause lung disease, heart attacks, asthma attacks, and other deadly health problems.

In other words, this has nothing to do with protecting rural America. Politicians who talk about tractor dust regulation want rural Americans to fight for the coal industry’s right to kill them a little faster. Continue reading Republicans Revive EPA Tractor Dust Conspiracy Theory to Gut Environmental Protections

Stormy Monday, 5/13/13

Benghazi memo underwent multiple revisions by Jay-Z and William Ayers! IRS scrutiny was merely groundwork for tossing Teabaggers into secret FEMA concentration camps! They’re gonna confiscate and melt down all privately owned guns for a statue of Obama taller than the Washington Monument! The Tsarnaev brothers smoked crack on the Truman Balcony and slept in the Lincoln Bedroom! For Congressional Republicans, the Obama Administration is just one scandal after another, and – by God and the Founding Fathers! – they’re going to get to the bottom of every last fictional one of them.

Turning to more rational events, the Senate Environment Committee will vote Thursday on Gina McCarthy, the President’s nominee for EPA head. The nomination has been held up for a month by Senate Republicans, whose rationale for opposing McCarthy apparently boils down to the fact that she was nominated by Barack Obama.

In any even bigger surprise, the full Senate may vote as early as Tuesday on another stalled nominee, Ernest Moniz, who has been put forward for Secretary of Energy.

It’s National Women’s Health Week, which was part of the rationale for a White House event last Friday underscoring Obamacare’s measures to improve women’s health. The President noted on Friday:

… there are times when I just want people to step back and say, are you really prepared to say that 30 million Americans out there shouldn’t have health insurance?  Are you really prepared to say that’s not a worthy goal?  Because of politics?

Strangely enough, this Thursday a majority of the House of Representatives will essentially say (for approximately the 7,148th time) that 30 million Americans out there shouldn’t have health insurance, that it’s not a worthy goal. And they’ll say that because of politics. Continue reading Stormy Monday, 5/13/13

Help me, EPA, you're my only hope!

I was disappointed during the election when many environmental writers downplayed the role of Environmental Protection Agency regulation on coal. It was a timid response to the “war on coal” hype.

Sure, there’s not exactly a war on coal. There’s a war to save modern civilization as we know it from climate change disasters. The coal industry just happens to be on the pro-ending-modern-civilization side.

The argument downplaying EPA action bothered me. First, because I think it was somewhat disingenuous. You can’t honestly go from bragging one week about how many proposed coal plants activists have stopped, often by using EPA regulation as a tool, and the next week pretending the movement doesn’t exist. It’s the kind of defensive, weak-kneed messaging that gives tree-huggers and liberals a bad reputation. The low price of natural gas may be the bigger factor in determining the future of coal, but compliance with regulation is an important part of the cost/benefit analysis companies do when making decisions about building or retiring coal plants.

That rhetorical retreat was troubling because EPA may be our last best hope of dealing with carbon pollution during the next 2-4 years. The climate change movement will be forced to rediscover their conviction to cheer EPA action as a positive.

It’s not hard to see why. The House is still controlled by a Republican majority in the pockets of oil and coal. Even though most of them campaigned on being bipartisan, they made similar promises in 2008. We saw how that turned out.

The Senate has a small Democratic majority, but the Democratic caucus still includes fossil fuel Senators like Mary Landrieu and Joe Manchin. Plus, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seems uninterested in exposing oil and coal Democrats to controversial votes. He refused to bring cap-and-trade to the floor two years ago because it didn’t have 60 votes to pass, but then allowed three failed votes on stripping EPA authority to limit carbon emissions.

So, a big legislative solution like cap-and-trade is about as realistic as “clean coal.” I’ve seen suggestions about a carbon tax. As much as Congressional Republicans hate the idea of any tax increase, I can only imagine the category 5 hissy fit they would throw over a tax increase to deal with a problem they won’t even admit exists. I’d be happy to see someone try, but I won’t hold my breath.

What I’ll hold out small hope for in Congress is another jobs bill focused on energy efficiency, improving the grid, and promoting renewables. That was the best part of the stimulus bill, and we need another big round of green jobs spending in term II. Preferably, they should target spending in coal regions to offset job losses.

Help Me EPAThat leaves us with the authority a previous, more functional Congress already granted EPA to limit air pollutants. Obama moved forward with expanded EPA protections after Congress failed to act during his first two years in office. Some regulations have been stalled, like CSAPR. That needs to be completed along with better rules on mountaintop removal, coal ash, and air emissions like carbon.

My number one hope for Obama’s second term is that he moves forward much more aggressively with EPA limits on deadly coal pollution. Continue reading Help me, EPA, you’re my only hope!

Prairie State Coal Plant Investors Hit with Sticker Shock. Will They Stop Making Bad Bets on Coal?

Peabody sold investors on the Prairie State Energy Campus with the lure of coal as a cheap energy source. Reality hit . . . → Read More: Prairie State Coal Plant Investors Hit with Sticker Shock. Will They Stop Making Bad Bets on Coal?

Secret Video of Republican Planning Session against EPA

As you have probably noticed, House Republicans are on a crusade against public health protections administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

It might have something to do with the half dozen or . . . → Read More: Secret Video of Republican Planning Session against EPA

Shazam! Sierra Club and Bloomberg showed us the future of the climate change movement

Mayor Michael Bloomberg just gave $50 million to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. It was already the biggest, baddest thing happening in the grassroots movement to confront climate change. Now it’s going to explode. This is what Biden would call a BFD.

The coal industry may soon wish it had supported the failed cap-and-trade bill which was loaded with coal subsidies. The alternative will be something they like even less.

Here’s how I see Americans dealing with the largest source of man-made global warming emissions as long as Congress fails to act:

1) A series of EPA regulations being introduced now will increase the cost of running the oldest, dirtiest coal plants. The industry will be forced to either internalize the true cost of their pollution, or shut their oldest plants down. They will no longer be allowed to act like a bad neighbor who throws their polluting trash in your yard instead of paying for their own garbage pickup.

2) The stimulus bill made huge investments in renewable energy. There needs to be another round of investment, such as Obama’s proposal to divert oil industry tax breaks into clean energy.

3) Utility companies will face a grassroots movement pushing them to speed up the transition to modern, clean sources of power.

The fossil fuel Senate’s failure to vote on a cap-and-trade bill during Obama’s first two years in office was deeply disappointing. But, plan B may prove to be even more effective and it won’t involve big giveaways to coal operators. Continue reading Shazam! Sierra Club and Bloomberg show us the future of the climate change movement

Illinois Congressmen, Farm Bureau, Spread EPA Conspiracy Theories

I enjoyed Kate Sheppard’s article at Mother Jones, “The Right’s Top 5 EPA Conspiracy Theories.” It was less enjoyable to remember that I’ve heard several of these conspiracy theories spread by . . . → Read More: Illinois Congressmen, Farm Bureau, Spread EPA Conspiracy Theories

John Shimkus impostor wages war on science!

I’m concerned that there’s an impostor posing as Congressman John Shimkus in Washington. I don’t know how else to explain the dramatic contradiction between what he tells newspapers back in the district and what he actually does when Congress is in session.

Two articles will illustrate my concern. In January, a paper back in his district interviewed Shimkus about his new role as chairman of the subcommittee on Environment and Economy. He expresses a concern for defending real science.

“I’ll mostly deal with the EPA, making sure that what they claim is real science actually is real science, and that their restrictions are focused on the health and welfare of the public, not just a political agenda,” Shimkus said.

That sounds good! We need environmental policy based on science and public health and not written by those with just a political agenda.

But then something odd happened when Shimkus’ committee held hearings in Washington about the Clean Air Act. Continue reading John Shimkus impostor wages war on science!