Flat-Out Lie or Scandalous Incompetence?

Fred Upton (Chair of House Energy & Commerce Committee) continued his campaign to gut the EPA with a particular attack that we hope was an intentional lie and act of grotesque political demagoguery. Because the prospect of it being an honest mistake is even scarier, indicating a scandalous level of incompetence coming from someone who heads such a huge (54 members) and hugely important legislative committee.

The short version: Upton and the chairs of three subcommittees issued a report blasting the Obama administration for EPA grants to foreign governments and organizations, claiming that millions of dollars are being wasted as the EPA has ramped up overseas handouts since the 2009 stimulus package.

The Upton report and the accompanying press release asserts that the EPA has awarded $27 million to other countries in 2009-2010.  The truth turns out to be that $21 million of that $27 million was initiated under the Bush administration. Could it be that one of the most powerful committees in Congress (its staff, its members, etc.) are unable to read a budget sheet and understand when agency grants are awarded and renewed (as in, who was President, who was EPA Administrator, etc.?).

In a letter from ranking democrat Henry Waxman to Upton on Monday (July 11), the details are explained, and a retraction of the report is requested. Some excerpts:

“Your report concludes that EPA has “intensified its foreign grants program, doling out over $27 million overseas” since February 17, 2009, which is the day the stimulus was signed into law” [Memorandum to Members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce from Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Majority Staff (June 27, 2011) (online at http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/PDFs/062711MajMem…].

“In a press release accompanying the release of the report, you state that EPA has “ramped up” foreign grants and done so “at an alarming rate.” [Committee on Energy and Commerce, Report Reveals EPA has Ramped Up Foreign Handouts, Sending Millions to China, Russia, and the United Nations Despite Record Deficits, Looming Debt Ceiling, and Soaring Unemployment (June 27, 2011)].

Your report asserts that EPA awarded $27 million in 65 foreign grants in 2009 and 2010.  In fact, the 38 grants initiated under the Bush administration account for $21 million of the $27 million obligated for these 65 grants.

“Far from “ramping up” grants to foreign governments, the Obama administration in most cases appears to be fulfilling grant commitments originally made during the previous administration. ”

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A sign of how congress is working: The website of the official Committee on Energy and Commerce has been run in such a partisan manner by the GOP majority, it has led the democrats to launch their own, parallel website. Click here to visit it.

Compare this to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, run by the democratic majority.

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In this earlier FOX News coverage of “EPA’s Shady Foreign Grants” during the past 10 years, no mention is made of who was President for (and therefore appointed the Administrator of the EPA, or which party controlled the congressional purse strings at which points):

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Stephen Colbert Reviews the Same Coloring Book

And, of course, Colbert does a much better job than Say What? But there are some definite similarities in our post and the one I happened to catch on The Colbert Report last night.

Ours (June 27):

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Stephen Colbert’s (July 11):

click here and go to the 3:00 mark. Embedding the video is a copyright violation. Ironic under the circumstances.

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Get Well, Blog Man!

We interrupt our usual attitude to send sincere best wishes to Andrew Revkin for a speedy and full recovery.

 

Media Coverage of Climate Science

While I am on vacation until next week, I wanted to thank everyone who has sent helpful suggestions about this new blog. I am reading through the AEP v . Conn decision and will have lots to say about its legal and political ramifications when I return. In the meanwhile, here an a re-post from a guest blogger on ClimateProgress about media coverage of climate science, a topic I will continue to cover:

How the Media Gets It Wrong on Climate Change: The False, the Confused and the Mendacious

 

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Who Has the Youth, Has the Future (Part III: Atmospheric Trust Litigation)

More on Alec Loorz and the young people who have taken to the courts. When Loorz was 13, he founded a grassroots movement of young people called Kids vs. Global Warming, a very successful effort through which he has spoken to tens of thousands of his peers and has earned the respect of adult environmental activists. (They appear to be much too busy to keep their website updated.) Having catalyzed a growing youth movement under the umbrella of its “iMatter” campaign, Kids vs. Global Warming is now focusing on the courts.

The federal agencies named as defendants in the federal iMatter lawsuit include the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, and Defense. (Download a PDF the complaint here.)

Environmental lawyer Julia A. Olson and her colleagues at Our Children’s Trust and Wild Earth Advocates are among those spearheading a campaign of “Atmospheric Trust Litigation,” for which they have also filed suits against the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.  (click here to download the state complaints)

The legal basis for these lawsuits is to include the atmosphere under Public Trust Doctrine, a new application of an old concept. Our Children’s Trust describes the core concept of the Public Trust Doctrine this way:

“The government has a legal obligation to preserve these trust resources and to manage them for the equal benefit of everyone, not just for the benefit of the wealthy and politically-connected corporations. The government cannot allow the privatization of the atmosphere. The Public Trust Doctrine is well-established in American law and in many other legal traditions throughout the world. The doctrine stretches all the way back to the Roman times, long before anyone understood how important and fragile the atmosphere truly is. Fifteen hundred years ago the Emperor Justininan wrote, “The things which are naturally everybody’s are: the air, flowing water, the sea, and the seashore.” The legal actions apply this deep-rooted doctrine to our modern understanding of the atmosphere, demanding that the government recognize and protect our collective right to a stable, livable climate.” (click here for more)

Question in need of analysis: What effect will the unanimous Supreme Court Decision handed down in late June in American Electric Power v. Connecticut have on these cases and on the stormy relationship between congress and the EPA? Comments encouraged!

Who Has the Youth, Has The Future, Part II (Kids vs. Global Warming Goes to Court)

17 year-old Alec Loorz and a handful of other young people are suing the government. A whole bunch of federal agencies and many states. The legal theory behind the cases is at once common-sense and quite novel: The atmosphere is a “public trust” for future generations, and protecting it is an obligation to future generations.

“The legislative and executive branches of our government have failed us,” Alec said in a recent interview with the New York Times. People have been trying to push for real change at the legislative level for a long time, and nothing has worked. That’s why we’re going after it through the judicial branch of government.”

Before diving my take on how these suits are are connected to the two Supreme Court cases that address emissions of greenhouse gasses, the EPA’s authority over regulating this under the Clean Air Act, and the calls for eviscerating the EPA by GOP leaders in Congress, and politicians seeking the GOP presidential nomination, here are two videos introducing Alec — one when he was 13, and the other last year, when he was 16. (The first is 9 minutes long, and the second one almost 8 minutes. Stay with them if you have the time; it’s worth it.)

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Alec Loorz at 13:

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Alec Loorz at 16, being introduced by James Hansen:

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