Baldwin as Trump Tells Laid Off Coal Miner: 'As of Today Your Coal Mines Will Have Absolutely No Regulations, None'
By Jenny Pierson
Saturday Night Live returned this week with guest Alec Baldwin reprising his role as an openly insecure President Donald Trump.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
For better or worse, corporations have a major influence on climate change policy. Just look at Koch Industries, a multinational conglomerate owned by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch that has contributed hundreds of millions to federal candidates and lobbying over the last 25 years.
The "Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint," a new analysis from U.K. nonprofit InfluenceMap, now ranks Koch Industries as the company with the strongest opposition to the Paris climate agreement and most intensely lobbies against policies in line with the landmark global accord.
By Danielle Corcione
I thought I knew what garbage looked like. Then I arrived in Bangalore, the third-largest city in India.
There was trash almost everywhere you looked. Plastic bottles, food packaging and other waste that could've potentially been recycled contaminated the landscape, even in people's front- and backyards. When I'd ride into the city from the ashram where I was staying in the countryside, I'd inhale toxic fumes of garbage piles burning and observe wild animals rummaging through fields of trash.
This week, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) made national headlines by dramatically announcing his retirement on the U.S. Senate floor. Flake focused his speech on the erratic behavior of President Donald Trump and the nationalistic, anti-immigration turn taken by some Republican Party politicians in recent years.
"I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles," said Flake. "To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019."
By Elliott Negin
Thursday, the company released its annual list of its "public information and policy research" grantees, which shows that it spent $1.65 million in 2016 on a dozen think tanks, advocacy groups and associations that contest climate science and oppose both the Paris accord and a carbon tax—the very policies the company professes to endorse. Last year's outlay boosted the total of the company's expenditures on climate disinformation over the last two decades to $34.6 million.
Two American solar manufacturers squared off with solar executives, state officials, foreign diplomats, conservative groups and ALEC in a hearing before the International Trade Commission Tuesday to halt possible imposing tariffs on the import of solar cells and modules.
Georgia-based Suniva and Oregon-based SolarWorld argued that competition from foreign manufacturers, particular Chinese manufacturers, poses an unlawful threat to domestic manufacturers and are calling for relief under an obscure U.S. trade law as their "last hope."
Defenders of Wildlife recently obtained a copy of Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's "Top 10 Priorities" for his department (text version). These priorities are reflected in the department's recently leaked draft 2018–2022 Strategic Plan, but the priorities themselves are noteworthy for their strikingly euphemistic tone.
They are written to evoke a responsive, progressive Interior Department serving the country by protecting our natural heritage and ensuring sensible use of our natural resources. And there's the problem. All ten priorities are entirely disconnected from Interior's actions to date. Following is our take on the doublespeak nature of the secretary's Top 10 Priorities.
By Ben Jervey
As federal support for electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to wither under the Trump administration, state-level policies will play the biggest political role in how quickly battery powered motors replace the internal combustion engine.
Yet, at this critical moment when state governments should be supporting zero-emission vehicles, many states are cutting their incentives, while others are penalizing EV drivers outright.
A new briefing paper details how Dominion Energy's proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would involve the blasting, excavation and removal of mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of the construction.
By Alex Kotch
"Today, the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats," Gaetz told fellow GOP lawmakers in an email reported by the Huffington Post "and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender."
Rep. Gaetz's bill came the day after a Senate committee voted in favor of confirming Scott Pruitt, the fossil fuel-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma who has sued the EPA 14 times, to head the agency.
HUGE NEWS! Judge Orders Trump's #EPA Pick to Release Emails by Tuesday https://t.co/hDgp8Iuqzx @SierraClub @greenpeaceusa @cmd @prwatch @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487338451.0
And like Pruitt, Rep. Gaetz and his three fellow sponsors of H.R. 861 have all benefited from campaign donations from oil, gas and coal companies and large electric utilities.
The four GOP representatives have raked in campaign cash from some of the biggest corporations peddling fossil fuels, including Koch Industries, Duke Energy, Chevron and ExxonMobil. What's more, an independent political spending group funded by an oil and gas company stepped in with ad buys to aid in Gaetz's recent U.S. House race.
The Koch Brothers and Trump's EPA Beachhead Team https://t.co/ZvRjWOUgjO @KOCHexposed @DeSmogBlog— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1486167006.0
Over their careers, these legislators appear to have responded in kind, pushing legislation favored by the industries reliant on fossil fuels. Here's who they are, how much they've received from the industry and what they've been up to in recent years.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)
Since 2010, Gaetz's political campaigns have received $28,000 directly from fossil fuel companies and energy utilities, according to data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. These donors include the corporate PACs of utilities including Duke Energy, Gulf Power, NextEra Energy, Progress Energy, Southern Company and Teco Energy; oil and gas companies Chevron, Exxon and Koch Industries; and individual donors including the CEO of Gulf Power and the CEO of Global Industries and Dore Energy.
In 2016, as Gaetz ran for his first term in Congress, a super PAC supporting him received a $100,000 donation from Harness Oil and Gas, a Texas-based company reportedly run by family friends. This super PAC, North Florida Neighbors, spent more than $460,000, the bulk of its total expenditures during that election cycle, supporting Gaetz.
As a Florida state legislator, Gaetz successfully fought the requirement that gas sold in the state contain a minimum percentage of ethanol, something he called "a feel-good attempt to use alternative energy."
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)
Massie, a U.S. representative since 2012, was first elected with the backing of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, which heavily opposes environmental regulations and regularly questions whether humans are affecting the climate.
In his three congressional campaigns, Massie took in nearly $155,000 from companies working in various parts of the oil, gas and coal industries, including Alpha Natural Resources, Chevron, Duke Energy, Exxon, Halliburton and Koch Industries, as well as from CSX Corporation, a transportation company that operates trains carrying coal, oil, natural gas and frac sand, an essential material used in shale drilling.
From his position in Congress, Massie has attacked and attempted to weaken the EPA repeatedly. He co-sponsored a 2016 bill to shift how the EPA analyzes greenhouse gas emissions in favor of fossil fuel companies—a bill lobbied for by Marathon Petroleum (which has given him $20,000) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (which raises doubt about human-caused climate change). Before that, he co-sponsored a 2015 resolution weakening an EPA rule under the Clean Air Act and a 2014 bill lowering EPA ambient air quality standards.
The Liberty for All Super PAC, funded mostly by the young, Texas-based millionaire investor John Ramsey, spent nearly $630,000 backing Massie for Congress in 2012. Unsurprisingly, Ramsey has "oil and gas ventures," according to his biography on the super PAC's website.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)
Loudermilk's state and federal campaigns have received more than $60,000 from fossil fuel companies and trade associations, including Duke Energy, Exxon, Georgia Mining Association, Georgia Power, Koch Industries and Valero Energy.
In Congress, Loudermilk has co-sponsored several energy-related bills: a nuclear energy bill for which Duke Energy and Southern Company lobbied; a repeal of the U.S. crude oil export ban, which numerous fossil fuel companies, including BP, Chevron, Exxon, Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips, lobbied in support of; and a bill challenging EPA greenhouse gas regulations, another piece of legislation oil and gas companies and utilities favored.
Both Loudermilk and Massie sit on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology—which has jurisdiction over the EPA, the Department of Energy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—and its subcommittee on oversight, key positions that would naturally attract the attention of fossil fuel companies.
Loudermilk's 2015 financial disclosure statement reveals that he received state funding to attend and speak at a "conservative policy summit" hosted by the climate change-denying Heritage Foundation, which has reportedly received $780,000 from ExxonMobil and nearly $6 million from Koch family foundations. Another speaker at the conference was Myron Ebell, the notorious climate change denier who led Trump's EPA transition team. Ebell crafted Trump's plan to hobble the EPA.
As a Georgia state senator, Loudermilk was on the communications and technology task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative bill mill that unites state legislators and big business representatives. ALEC has a history of producing templates for anti-environmental legislation involving climate change denial, promoting gas pipelines and attacking residential solar energy. In addition, ALEC is funded by many of the same fossil fuel corporations that donated to the campaigns of Loudermilk and his fellow legislators hoping to abolish the EPA: Chevron, CSX, Dominion, Duke Energy, Exxon and Koch Industries, to name a few.
Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS)
PACs and employees of companies in the energy and natural resources sector have given more than $265,000 to Palazzo's four federal election campaigns, which includes $168,000 from oil and gas companies. The fourth-largest donor is Mississippi Power, an electric utility owned by Southern Company that burns coal and natural gas and has given Palazzo's campaigns more than $34,000. Palazzo has also taken in $24,000 from Chevron, nearly $20,000 from Koch Industries and $19,000 from General Electric.
In 2015 Palazzo voted to oppose an EPA rule that increased emissions standards for coal-fired power plants and the year prior, he voted to halt defense spending on climate change initiatives and cut all funding for the Department of Energy's energy efficiency and renewable energy program. In previous years, Palazzo voted to speed up natural gas pipeline permits, allow state laws to supersede federal EPA laws regarding hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") and cut funding to the EPA, among other measures.
While serving as Mississippi state representative, Palazzo was also a member of ALEC.
Rep. Gaetz's office declined to offer comment, while the other three representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
While their bill to kill the EPA has been receiving little support from either political party and is unlikely to pass, its mere existence marks the extent to which fossil fuel funding has the potential to influence elected officials. This bill joins an effort already underway among the GOP-controlled House, Senate and White House to roll back regulations to protect the environment and public health.
Congressional observers likely can expect to see more of the same from these four representatives in the future.
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
Last night, Vladimir Putin visited Donald Trump—played by Alec Baldwin—at Trump Tower during the opening skit on Saturday Night Live. While Trump and Putin where discussing whether it's a good idea for the two of them to be seen together, SNL's Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway announces that Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, is there to see him.
Once Tillerson sees that Putin is in Trump's apartment, he becomes elated to see his old-time friend.
Watch here to see what happens when Tillerson and Putin get down to business:
In the final hours of Ohio's lame-duck session, lawmakers passed House Bill 554 late Thursday night, which will freeze clean energy mandates for another two years if Gov. John Kasich signs the bill. More than 25,000 jobs could be at risk.
The state's original Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), SB 221, was passed in 2008. It set a target for the state to get 25 percent of its electricity from "advanced energy sources" by 2025, with a requirement that at least half (12.5 percent or more) would be generated from "renewable energy resources," including one-half of one percent from solar and 50 percent of the energy to be generated within the state.
A two-year freeze was enacted when Gov. Kasich signed SB 310 on June 13, 2014. HB 554 now seeks to extend that freeze, making renewable energy targets voluntary for utilities. Ohio is the only state in the nation that has frozen its RPS. To date, 38 states have adopted RPS targets.
Wake Up Ohio Lawmakers and Unfreeze Your Renewable Energy Standards https://t.co/B5xPMrIVzU @BusinessGreen @GreenCollarGuy— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1477613710.0
"Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency standards have been frozen for the past two years, costing the state its place as a national leader in the clean energy economy by hampering energy innovation, investment, and jobs," said Dick Munson, Midwest clean energy director for Environmental Defense Fund. "Before the freeze, these standards saved families money and brought huge investments into the state, supporting more than 25,000 jobs, saving Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills, and slashing the Buckeye State's air pollution."
A 2015 survey by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national, nonpartisan group of business owners and investors, showed that job growth in the clean energy sector in Ohio slowed to just 1.5 percent following implementation of the freeze in 2014. Moreover, those firms that did grow had to find business out of state.
"Investments in renewable energy in Ohio have dried up," stated the E2 report. "Solar development has ground to a halt, with new solar resources dropping below 100 kW per month when industry averages for the six months prior stood at 1 MW or more per month."
One example is First Solar. The company employs 1,200 people in Ohio and spends $100 million a month on its production and research labs in the Toledo area, according to testimony by its director of regulatory affairs Colin Meehan. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the company would "take a hard look at staying in Ohio" if HB 554 were enacted.
A manufacturing associate at work in First Solar's Perrysburg, Ohio plant.Source: First Solar
Nationally, renewable energy grew to 16.4 percent of total installed capacity in 2015. Job creation in the solar sector grew 12 times faster than overall job creation. The green workforce in the U.S. now numbers 2.5 million.
"The Ohio House of Representatives did a great disservice to the people of Ohio," said Trish Demeter at the Ohio Environmental Council. "This rushed and sloppy legislation will have untold impacts on electric bills, result in dirtier air, and stifle economic innovation and job growth."
"Newly published emails confirm the influence of utility and industry lobbyists on 2015's controversial Energy Mandates Study Committee report, which recommended an extension of the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards," said Dave Anderson, policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. The emails were obtained from state legislators by the Energy and Policy Institute via a public information request, and were not available publicly before now.
"In one August 18, 2015 email addressed to several Republican state policymakers and 10 industry lobbyists, Ohio Senator Bill Seitz suggested that 'we should be meeting as a small group to figure out what that report is going to say.' The following month, the Energy Mandates Study Committee that Seitz referenced in his email issued a contentious report that recommended extending the freeze on Ohio's clean energy standards indefinitely.
"Seitz's email went to lobbyists for American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy, as well to Samuel Randazzo, a lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio and anti-wind attorney."
Source: Energy and Policy Institute
Seitz is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers-backed group that supplies corporate-friendly model bills to state legislators. In 2012, ALEC joined with the Heartland Institute, a think tank described by DeSmogBlog as "at the forefront of denying the scientific evidence for man-made climate change," to write model legislation aimed at repealing renewable energy standards across the country.
Prior to the 2014 freeze on Ohio's renewable energy portfolio standard, emails show a trail of energy industry lobbyists working with Seitz.
The question now is whether Gov. Kasich will sign or veto HB 554.
Changes to HB 554 are accepted 55-34. It now goes to Gov. Kasich for approval #OhioHouseSession https://t.co/qwP3P1TP8D— Ohio House GOP (@Ohio House GOP)1481266001.0
In response to a reporter's question on Nov. 30, Kasich said, "I just would hope the legislature will not have a headline that Ohio went backward on the environment." But he did not say that he would veto the bill.
During the governor's aborted presidential campaign, he took an "all sources" approach to energy supply and said that he would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He also touted his job creation in Ohio without mentioning that many of those came from the clean energy sector. The Environmental Entrepreneurs report numbers Ohio clean energy jobs at 89,000 from 7,200 businesses.
If he does veto HB 554, it's questionable whether the legislators could override it. Most, but not all, Republicans voted for the bill.
"Today, Ohio lawmakers decided to significantly stall the state's clean energy efforts, putting politics over economic growth. The governor should continue the leadership he has demonstrated and reject this harmful legislation, so Ohio can get back to work building its clean energy economy, opening the door to well-paying jobs and millions in investment," Munson said.
"Governor Kasich has an opportunity to show that Ohio's energy policy is not for sale to utility lobbyists by vetoing HB 554 and unfreezing clean energy in the Buckeye State," Anderson concluded.