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“We can’t wait” … President stands up to Big Oil and Big Coal

December 13th, 2011 · No Comments

President Barack Obama might finally have crystalized to a core message that, honestly, should have been core from the election through today.

We cannot wait …

– To address the health care inequities, costs, and shortfalls
– To foster a more honest engagement between the financial community (Wall Street) and the citizenry (Main Street)
– To develop a path toward sensible government fiscal policy enabling sound government not paid for by loans from the Chinese and the future
– To return to investing in infrastructure (physical, intellectual, and otherwise) to foster a better future
– To address mounting energy and other critical resource issues
– To take meaningful action to avert the worst of catastrophic climate chaos
– To stand up to those who are profiteering off damaging the American social contract and endangering our future prospects.

We can’t wait …

And, beyond rhetoric, are we beginning to see slogan transforming to political substance?

The President issued a veto threat to the extension of payroll tax giveahootdue to Republican efforts to force in riders in support of fossil foolish interests (supported by fossil-foolish “Democrats”). There are two key poison pills at issue that are driving the veto threat, both in service of fossil fuel interests whose motto — when it comes to the health, security, and prosperity of America — seems to be: “Don’t give a hoot, POLLUTE.” (If you are unaware, some House Republicans sought to eliminate Woodsy Owl’s funding line. Woodsy funding saga satire here …)

  • A rider to override the EPA’s long-delayed boiler rules that would reduce mercury pollution, drive out some of the worst polluting systems in America, improve American’s health, and boost economic prospects.
  • A rider to move the Keystone XL pipeline decision out of the President’s hands (via the State Department) into the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with language that would almost certainly drive approval of this reckless project.

As the President’s veto threat puts it.

H.R. 3630 seeks to put the burden of paying for the bill on working families, while giving a free pass to the wealthiest and to big corporations by protecting their loopholes and subsidies.

Again, while this should have been true from the first second in office, it is simply a truth that “We can’t wait” any longer to put Americans and American interest before polluting special interests. And, with this veto threat, President Obama is asserting that he recognizes this.

With the decision to return the Keystone XL pipeline for additional review, due whether to irregularities in the State Department review process or information gathered in public hearings or increasing evidence about misrepresentations of the project’s economic value or whether to increasing public protests or due to political calculus or due to some mixture of all of these, proponents — and their legislative lackeys — looked for paths to undermine the Obama Administration’s effort to use the rule of law as a basis for decision-making about such a major project. A part of that end run effort, Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) attached language to the ‘must pass’ payroll tax cut legislation (extending the reduction in payroll taxes) that would strip the President’s authority over Keystone.

An additional rider would establish a five-year delay in Boiler Maximum Available Control Technology (MACT) rules. This language would continue a Clean Air Act loophole that has exempted coal-fired “utility boilers” from regulations of their hazardous air pollutants (mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel, etc …) for decades. As James Wells put it

20+ years of delay!

The only reason that an affected industry could be take by “surprise” by a MACT rule coming out now, would be if they assumed that the law of the land would not be followed. That is, that 20+ years of delay, deny, obstruct and confuse would continue indefinitely.

Old news that bears repeating: The law that REQUIRES (non-negotiable) the MACT standards was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, and was not only signed by George HW Bush, but was in fact requested by his office.

For EPA not to put out the required regulation would be an egregious failure to follow a 20 year old federal law.

As the U.S. Climate Action Network succinctly put it

For each year of delay, thousands of people will die.

Sadly, the “EPA regulatory relief” legislation has universal Republican and too significant Democratic political support. As Brad Johnson outlined,

However, both Griffith’s bill and its Senate counterpart, S. 1392, enjoy broad support in Congress. The legislation passed the House by a vote of 275-142, with no Republican opposition and 41 Democrats in support. The Senate bill, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), has 40 co-sponsors in total, including twelve Democrats: Wyden, Mark Begich (AK), Kay Hagan (NC), Herb Kohl (WI), Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Bill Nelson (FL), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), and Jim Webb (VA).

Let us be clear: ‘Don’t give a hoot, POLLUTE’ has consequences. Very direct consequences for people’s health. Very direct consequences for the quality of our air, water, and food supplies. Very serious negative consequences for negative economic performance (sick people don’t work well, sick students don’t learn as much, sick land doesn’t produce as much, …). Very serious consequences for the potential to avert catastrophic climate chaos.

It is well past time to pay attention to these consequences and taking legislation / regulatory / and other steps to reduce these impacts. As President Obama puts it, “We can’t wait.” And, this veto threat puts meat behind those words.

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Tags: Congress · Obama Administration · pollution · President Barack Obama · republican party