President Obama has vetoed a pair of measures by congressional Republicans that would have overturned the main pillars of his landmark climate change rules for power plants.
The decision was widely expected, and Obama and his staff had repeatedly threatened the action as a way to protect a top priority and major part of his legacy.
The White House announced early Saturday morning, as Obama was flying to Hawaii for Christmas vacation, that he is formally not taking action on the congressional measures, which counts as a “pocket veto” under the law. “Climate change poses a profound threat to our future and future generations,” the president said in a statement about Republicans’ attempt to kill the carbon dioxide limits for existing power plants.
“The Clean Power Plan is a tremendously important step in the fight against global climate change,” Obama wrote, adding that “because the resolution would overturn the Clean Power Plan, which is critical to protecting against climate change and ensuring the health and well-being of our nation, I cannot support it.”
That rule from the Environmental Protection Agency mandates a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon output by 2030.
He had a similar argument in support of his regulation setting carbon limits for newly-built fossil fuel power plants, saying the legislation against it “would delay our transition to cleaner electricity generating technologies by enabling continued build-out of outdated, high-polluting infrastructure.”
Congress passed the resolutions in November and December under the Congressional Review Act, a little-used law that gives lawmakers a streamlined way to quickly challenge regulations from the executive branch.
Obama had made clear his intent to veto the measures early on, so the passage by both GOP-led chambers of Congress was only symbolic.
The votes came before and during the United Nations’ major climate change conference in Paris, as an attempt to undermine Obama’s negotiating position toward an international climate pact.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee and a vocal climate change doubter, said it’s important to send a message about congressional disapproval, even with Obama’s veto.
“While I fully expect these CRA resolutions to be vetoed, without the backing of the American people and the Congress, there will be no possibility of legislative resurrection once the courts render the final judgments on the president’s carbon mandates,” he said on the Senate floor shortly before the Senate’s action on the resolutions.
Twenty-seven states and various energy and business interests are suing the Obama administration to stop the existing plant rule, saying it violates the Clean Air Act and states’ constitutional rights.
They are seeking an immediate halt to the rule while it is litigated, something the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could decide on later this month.
All Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential election want to overturn the rules.
In addition to the veto, Obama is formally sending the resolutions back to the Senate to make clear his intent to disapprove of them.
Obama has now vetoed seven pieces of legislation, including five this year, the first year of his presidency with the GOP controlling both chambers of Congress.
As World Leaders Craft Climate-Change Plan, ALEC Plots Its Downfall
By Mark Richardson | December 8, 2015
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – At the same time world leaders gathered in Paris to find a solution for global climate change, another group has been meeting in Arizona to formulate a plan to scuttle their efforts.
Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council met behind closed doors for three days in Scottsdale, in part to develop a game plan to undermine any agreements to limit carbon pollution. According to Mary Bottari, deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC’s members, which include global oil and gas companies and giant utility firms, are planning a full-court press at state legislatures in 2016.
“They actually have model bills rolling back renewable energy. They have model bills rolling back wages, by pre-empting prevailing wages for construction workers, or living wages for other folks,” she said. “So, it’s a very interesting, very ‘retrograde’ agenda.”
Bottari, whose group tracks ALEC and its activities, said ALEC normally pushes its agenda by promoting model legislation to states. However, she said, the group now has moved beyond that to a direct campaign against President Obama’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which calls for a 32 percent cut in carbon emissions across the United States by 2030.
ALEC has organized the attorneys general in 24 states to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in the name of states’ rights. Bottari said they want to block the administration from implementing any plan to limit the types of pollution that most scientists say are man-made contributors to climate change. She said ALEC has some heavyweight players in its corner.
“Giants like Exxon-Mobil and Chevron, and also energy traders like Koch Industries and those kinds of folks,” she said. “These people do not want to see a global climate agreement; they want to continue burning fossil fuels ’til the end of time.”
Even if ALEC can’t stop plans to halt climate change, Bottari said, it hopes to cast doubt on the validity of the science behind them, or delay action on any treaties until after the presidential election.
Repost from The Guardian [Editor: Significant quote: “…investment in oil and gas creates fewer jobs than practically any other industry. Investment in the clean energy sector, on the other hand, creates 7 to 8 times more work. The oil barons aren’t essential “job creators”; they’re economic suppressers.” – RS
Don’t cheer Alberta’s premier yet. Demand she break the oil barons’ vice-grip
Alberta’s climate plan falls far short of what’s possible: unleashing a green economy that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and transitions off the tar sands
By Martin Lukacs, 24 November 2015 14.12 EST, updated 25 November 2015 10.28 EST
Alberta’s new climate plan is drawing praise from sources that have rarely got on with the oil-exporter – Al Gore, labour unions and some of North America’s biggest green groups. At first glance, it’s not hard to see why: Alberta is promising an accelerated phase-out of coal, increased funds for renewable energy and impacted workers, and a price on carbon. It’s a major step hard to imagine scarcely a year ago, when the province was still under a multi-decade Conservative reign.
So why then are the oil barons celebrating? Beaming with pride, the heads of Canada’s biggest tar sands companies flanked Premier Rachel Notley during Sunday’s announcement.
Their hope: that Alberta’s globally tarred reputation will suddenly be scrubbed clean. Despite the lofty rhetoric, the government has committed only to bringing emissions below today’s levels by 2030 – making it even less ambitious than what Stephen Harper’s federal petro-state offered. This might be what the Premier meant when she promised that new pipelines – which companies desperately need to export tar sands – would soon benefit from “creative lobbying and advocacy efforts.”
The tar sands now has a glossy new sheen. Alberta’s plan sets a cap on their emissions – an acknowledgement that tar sands will no longer grow infinitely. Except it’s so high as to allow a staggering forty percent increase over the next fifteen years. And if a Conservative government returns to power, could it abandon the policy and ensure nothing is accomplished? In other words, this is a cap big enough to drive a three-story tar sands truck through.
Here’s the other reason the oil barons are cheering: they know they could be getting squeezed a hell of a lot more. After all, Alberta’s New Democratic Party got elected with a mandate for bold change. Albertans were tired of oil-soaked politicians who let companies vacuum up billions in profit amidst skyrocketing inequality and deteriorating public services. And the oil price crash made clearer than ever before the cost of a boom-and-bust economy built on a single volatile commodity.
Climate science backs that mandate for rapidly transforming our economy: it tells us that since we’ve delayed for so long, small reforms will no longer suffice. And Albertans understand the scientific reports that the vast majority of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to avert dangerous climate change – the impacts of which they’ve already experienced in flooded Calgary and a drought-parched countryside. But while good times fueled denial, the ecologically suicidal politics of the establishment could be ignored. When the oil shock hit, they also started looking economically reckless.
As the oil barons thrash about in a self-induced crisis, this should be the time to part ways with them. Exxon is being investigated in the United States for having discovered the lethal consequences of climate change in the 1970s, then lied about it for decades while doing everything to make this catastrophe a reality. Low oil prices – which don’t look to be going away – have already forced the cancellation of extraction projects and created a thaw in investment throughout Alberta’s oil patch. The cost of renewable energy has dropped at incredible and unexpected speed. And just weeks ago, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. It was not, as Premier Notley put it, a “kick in [Alberta’s] teeth.” But you couldn’t pick a better moment to kick the oil barons to the curb.
None other than the Economist – not exactly a radical menace to big business – has argued that the oil price collapse offers a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to transform a dysfunctional energy system.
The Alberta government could start by vanquishing the myth that the oil barons are economically indispensable. As the oil industry has thrown almost forty thousand people out of work, they have proved their interests never aligned with Albertans. The facts always told a different story: investment in oil and gas creates fewer jobs than practically any other industry. Investment in the clean energy sector, on the other hand, creates 7 to 8 times more work. The oil barons aren’t essential “job creators”; they’re economic suppressers.
So why – and this applies equally to Prime Minister Trudeau – fixate on building cross-country pipelines, when you could create more jobs in clean energy? Tackling climate change could be not just a public relations strategy to finesse the exporting of Alberta’s bitumen. It could be a chance to massively boost and transform the economy – making it more healthy, just and humane.
Look at what Germany – a similar, industrialized nation – has accomplished. In just over a decade, Germany has generated 30 percent of their electricity through renewables and created 400,000 good jobs in clean energy, much of it community-controlled and run by energy cooperatives. Using the right policies, Alberta could make this transition happen even more quickly, with greater benefits for First Nations, workers, and those getting the worst deal in the current economy.
It’s not too late to seize the historic opportunity. The NDP could still put forward a plan to create 200,000 good, green jobs over the next several years. Reports have laid out how this could happen with targeted investment: in accessible public transit, in energy-saving housing retrofits, in eco-system restoration, and by taking advantage of Alberta’s incredible potential for renewable energy. Nature didn’t make Alberta an oil province. Erect new signs: welcome to solar, wind and geothermal country.
How should Alberta pay for this transition? By putting their hands on the enormous profits of the industry that created the crisis in the first place. The new carbon tax – and the royalty hike the government must vigorously pursue – should be raised to send a stronger message to the market to jump-start a transition off oil.
Economists have shown a fair and effective tax would look more like $200 a tonne. $20 or $30 a tonne will not cut it – especially when half of the revenue generated will return as subsidies to oil and gas companies and dirty electricity generators. At this rate, most oil companies will be spending barely $1 more per barrel of oil. Polluters should be paying, not being paid off. The only message this will send the market is to “dig, baby, dig.”
Rolling out a plan to create a new, cleaner economy that’s more just and prosperous would convince voters there is an alternative to the oil economy. At that point the NDP could initiate a debate on a moratorium on tar sands development that has been called for by a hundred of North America’s top scientists. Scientific studies show we could get all of our electricity from renewables by 2030, not just 30 percent as Alberta now promises; and an economy entirely run by renewables by 2050. When popular movements can build pressure for such a transition, one thing will be sure: oil barons won’t be hand-clasping on the stage – they’ll be howling from the sidelines.
These movements, with Indigenous communities leading the way, have pushed the Alberta government this far. Now they must push them farther, and faster. It’s not time yet to cheer Alberta’s premier. Demand instead she break the oil barons’ vice-grip on our future.