Election Results - Environment Foes Ousted
11/9/2006

Pombo's defeat recharges environmental movement

By: Douglas Fischer

Inside Bay Area

November 8, 2006

 

___

 

Finally the environment has a voice in Congress.

 

Activists,
emboldened by Democratic gains across the nation Tuesday, savored what
Carl Pope of the Sierra Club called "the most successful mid-term
election for the environmental movement" since at least 1974.

 

And
the "sweetest victory of the night" was the toppling of Republican Rep.
Richard Pombo by wind-energy consultant Jerry McNerney.

 

McNerney
captured "Pombo country" by 10,350 votes, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent
with all precincts reporting. Pombo, a once-and-future rancher and real
estate developer, chairman of House Resources Committee and easily
Public Enemy No. 1 of Sierra Club & Co., goes home after 14 years
in Congress.

 

The
environmental movement campaigned heavily for McNerney, almost
single-handedly putting in play a district that most media and
political consultants had written off as unwinnable.

 

A
Democratic win in California's District 11 was a sign that even some of
Northern California's most conservative voters had had enough of the
Bush administration's and the Republican Congress' efforts to undo
environmental protections and exploit natural resources, said Pope, the
Sierra Club's executive director.

 

"This
sends a clear message to those who might share (Pombo's) ideology: When
it comes to elections, the environment is a giant killer."

 

And not just in California.
Environmental groups targeted more than 30 "top of the ticket"
elections across the nation and came up winners in almost all cases,
Pope said.

 

The
green movement can now count 20 new environmental votes in the U.S.
House of Representatives, five new votes in the U.S. Senate and at
least four new governorships. Those include:

 

-- McNerney in California's District 11 race, a wind-energy consultant who presents almost a polar opposite of Pombo.

 

-- Former National Football League quarterback Heath Shuler in North Carolina, who defeated Rep. Charles Taylor, a reliable pro-timber industry vote on forest issues.

 

-- Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, who toppled Sen. Rick Santorum, perhaps the Senate's most right-wing voice on many issues, including resource protection.

 

-- Sherrod Brown and Ted Strickland in Ohio,
the state's newest senator and governor, respectively, both members of
the Sierra Club's "renewable energy hall of fame." Their opponents were
both in the organization's energy "hall of shame."

 

-- Democrat governor-elect Bill Ritter of Colorado, who promises to add Colorado to a growing list of western states pushing for stronger environmental protections.

 

But
the undoing of President Bush's environmental record will not come from
the Congress, where analysts see great potential for gridlock after so
many years of bitter partisan bickering. Rather, said Pope, it will
come from states and cities, where much of the push for renewable
energy and environmental protection is ongoing.

 

Six states, for instance, have called for the development of renewable energy -- though California,
after Tuesday's defeat of Proposition 87, is not among them.
Twenty-five have rejected the Bush administration's changes on mercury
regulations. The federal courts have rejected the administration's
efforts to open roadless areas of national forests to logging and
mining.

 

And California
leads the nation in its effort to curb greenhouse gases, and
environmentalists hope soon to see a version of the bill Gov.
Schwarzenegger signed earlier this year on the floor of a
Democrat-controlled House.

 

"We
have new leadership," Pope said. "We can only hope the administration's
head-in-the-sand approach to global warming is no longer operative."

 

________

 

[more]

 

[ed:
the election of Jerry Brown as Attorney General of California will no
doubt act to invigorate California's nation-leading efforts to advance
clean air/global climate change initiatives...

 

>Brown says one of his biggest challenges will be implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006,
a landmark state law passed this year that seeks to reduce
greenhouse-gas emissions. He added that it will likely draw "massive
litigation" and resistance from affected industries. http://jerrybrown.org/home]

 

_________ 

 

 

High court dips its toe into global warming

COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

November 29, 2006

 

In a
national TV interview Sunday, Schwarzenegger reiterated his commitment
to addressing global warming. The governor was sharply critical of Sen.
Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who helped scuttle efforts to regulate greenhouse
gases.

 

“There's
always, in history, been people that are back with their thinking in
the Stone Age. . . . The science is in. We know the facts,”
Schwarzenegger said.

 

___

 

SACRAMENTO – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a landmark case that could complicate California's campaign to slow global warming by dramatically curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Depending
on the court's decision and its reach, the ruling could hand automakers
powerful ammunition in their legal challenge to California's 2002 law that requires a reduction in emissions starting with the 2009 model year.

 

In turn, that could push California
to pressure industries such as refineries and utilities to cut
pollution faster than what's being called for in separate legislation
signed into law this year.

 

The
Supreme Court case also is expected to spur the incoming,
Democratic-controlled Congress to pass legislation that would force
polluters to cut greenhouse gases.

 

“If
the Supreme Court case goes well, it will make Congress and other
states recognize that what California is doing is clearly the wave of
the future,” said Dan Kamman, an energy policy expert at the University
of California Berkeley. “If the Supreme Court goes badly, it will give
the auto industry another excuse to go slow, which is exactly what we
don't need.”

 

California
is part of a coalition of 12 states and environmental groups imploring
the court to tell the Bush administration that its Environmental
Protection Agency has the authority and responsibility to regulate
greenhouse gases emitted by new cars.

 

The
EPA has balked for years, saying the Clean Air Act does not allow it to
step in. The hands-off policy has pushed a growing number of states,
including California, to develop initiatives to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

 

The
EPA's approach has frustrated environmentalists and the majority of
climate scientists, who say rising levels of greenhouse gases are the
driving force behind global warming. “Increases in greenhouse gases
will almost certainly affect global climate and pose risks to human
societies,” a group of climate scientists, including UC San Diego
researcher Mario Molina, wrote in a brief to the Supreme Court.

 

“Earth's climate is changing in ways that risk significant adverse impacts on public welfare,” the brief states.

 

Climate
shifts caused by continued warming could raise sea levels and endanger
coastal properties, squeeze supplies of fresh water, intensify droughts
and heat waves, create tinderboxes in forests and reduce crop yields,
most researchers agree.

 

Petitioners
in the case want the EPA to set national regulations that limit the
release of four greenhouse gases from new vehicles: carbon dioxide,
methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons. They argue that the
Clean Air Act enables the agency to regulate the gases and requires it
to take steps to reduce air pollutants that “may reasonably be
anticipated to endanger public health and welfare.”

 

The
Bush administration contends that it does not have the power to
regulate greenhouse gases, and that even if it did, it would not
exercise it. The government says carbon dioxide and other greenhouse
gases are not “air pollutants” as the Clean Air Act defines them.

 

The
government also argues that the court should dismiss the case because
the petitioners do not have standing to sue. In other words, they
cannot show that greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles in the United States – and not other sources worldwide – are responsible for the potential “injuries” caused by global warming.

 

David
Doniger, who oversees climate policies for the Natural Resources
Defense Council, said the administration was picking and choosing where
it wanted to have domain.

 

“In other cases, it acts like Superman. Here, it acts like the 97-pound weakling,” Doniger said.

 

Carbon-dioxide emissions from motor vehicles in the United States
account for 6 percent to 7 percent of worldwide emissions of greenhouse
gases, so reducing the gases that come out of tailpipes would matter,
said David Bookbinder, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club, which is
a plaintiff in the case. The proportion is much higher in California, petitioners have said.

 

In the absence of federal actions to set emissions standards for greenhouse gases, California has taken the lead among the states.

 

Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers have embarked on a campaign
to roll back greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, a 25 percent
reduction by 2020.

 

In a
national TV interview Sunday, Schwarzenegger reiterated his commitment
to addressing global warming. The governor was sharply critical of Sen.
Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who helped scuttle efforts to regulate greenhouse
gases.

 

“There's
always, in history, been people that are back with their thinking in
the Stone Age. . . . The science is in. We know the facts,”
Schwarzenegger said.

 

The governor's course relies on the full implementation of California's auto-emissions law, which was signed by then-Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. Automakers are challenging that legislation in a separate lawsuit.

 

If
California cannot win the auto-emissions case, it might have to clamp
down harder or faster on stationary sources of air pollution, said
Linda Adams, secretary of the state's Environmental Protection Agency.

 

But
first, she said, the state does have other pollution-reducing measures
aimed at vehicles. For example, it could step up its campaign for
alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, to reduce carbon
dioxide emissions.

 

Outgoing
Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said she had no intention of
punishing other industries if automakers escape tougher regulations.
She wrote the 2002 auto-emissions law.

 

“We
carefully put into (the bill) flexible compliance strategies.
(Automakers) will still have to do their fair share,” Pavley said.

 

Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch in Washington,
said he expected the upcoming session of Congress to address regulation
of greenhouse gases regardless of how the Supreme Court rules.

 

“It's a go signal,” O'Donnell said.

 

State
Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the stage was set for national
regulations even if President Bush blocked Congress from acting over
the next two years.

 

“It would clear the deck so the next president can be more proactive,” Lockyer said.

 

However,
a Supreme Court victory for the petitioners could make congressional
action less necessary. It would be likely to sap the strength of the
automakers' lawsuit against California and boost the momentum for other states to toughen their own emission standards for vehicles.

 

“If they rule for us, the car companies' case will be gravely wounded and will probably collapse,” Doniger said.

 

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said its court challenge centered on what it viewed as California's end-run bid to impose fuel economy standards – the purview of the federal government.

 

The
industry supports efforts to encourage cleaner alternative fuels rather
than changing engine systems, said Gloria Bergquist, a spokeswoman for
the alliance.

 

“Then
we can continue to give consumers the vehicles they want and continue
to address the need for alternative fuels and clean the air,” she said.

 

The automakers' case is scheduled to be heard in January in federal court in Fresno.

 

A ruling in the broader U.S. Supreme Court case is not anticipated until spring, at the earliest.

 

“This could very well be a turning point for how we deal with climate change,” said Joe Mendelson, legal director for the International Center for Technological Assessment, one of the petitioners.

 

“We
certainly look forward to the time when mandatory reductions in
greenhouse gases will become the law of the land, because we can't wait
any longer,” he said.