Friday, June 28, 2013

Enviros Outline Case For Reopening Keystone XL Environmental Review

Jun 27: This week (June 24), environmentalists called on the State Department to reopen the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline environmental review process. They said new information from the Department of Energy (DOE), the International Energy Agency (IEA), industry analysts, and refining executives offers new evidence that Keystone XL will, in fact, directly contribute to increased tar sands development, U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and pollution at U.S. refineries, calling into question the original State Department findings. Groups signing the letter include Bold Nebraska, Center for Biological Diversity, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International, and the Sierra Club.

    On June 25, one day after the group letter, President Obama said in his speech announcing his Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/26/13], "Now, I know there's been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That's how it's always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It's relevant."

    Doug Hayes, Sierra Club attorney said, "Since the close of the comment period, evidence of inaccuracies and bias in the State Department's review of Keystone XL has been steadily mounting. This new information demonstrates that the review relies on an overly-simplistic, outdated view of a rapidly-changing oil market." The groups said the new data contradicts three primary conclusions by the State Department: that increased rail shipments of crude oil have the potential to completely replace the capacity of Keystone XL if the pipeline were rejected; that increasing domestic production of oil will not affect the demand for heavy Canadian crude oil in Gulf Coast refineries; and that Canadian crude will not be exported from the Gulf Coast if the pipeline is built.

    Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International and coauthor of the letter said, "The State Department is alone in its conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline is not fundamental to the prospects of the dirty tar sands industry. State needs to take a careful look at the new evidence that we've compiled in the past several weeks and they will reach the same conclusion that we do: that the Keystone XL pipeline is crucial to the expansion of the tar sands, and that expansion is not in the public interest."

    The groups cited evidence that Keystone XL is the lynchpin for tar sands development which they detailed in the letter including: A Goldman Sachs report that says that rail shipments of tar sands could not replace the proposed pipeline logistically and economically [See WIMS 6/11/13]; Royal Bank of Canada's estimate that denial of Keystone XL would jeopardize $9.4 billion in tar sand development; and U.S. EPA estimates that Keystone XL will add 18.7 million metric tons of carbon pollution per year. And a new U.S. government report increases the estimated social cost of this pollution -- related to human health, sea level rise and other natural disasters -- by as much as double.

    Anthony Swift, NRDC attorney said, "This recent information paints a clear picture. The Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline would significantly increase climate emissions while providing few benefits to the United States -- it really is an all risk and no reward proposition for the American people." According to the groups, the State Department is obliged by federal law to analyze and respond to this new data.

    The groups' 54-page communication to the State Department resembles a legal brief and includes multiple linked citations to extensive referenced information and documentation. The communication concludes, "The significant new information highlighted in this letter is directly relevant to the environmental impacts of Keystone XL, because it casts further doubt on the DSEIS's  [Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement] conclusion that Keystone XL will have no impact on the rate of tar sands development. The North American oil market is undergoing massive changes at a very rapid pace, and evidence contradicting the analysis contained in the DSEIS is becoming available on near-weekly basis. It is crucial that the Department of State consider this new information if it is to make an accurate assessment Keystone XL's impacts. Therefore, we respectfully request that the Department of State prepare a supplement to its DSEIS based on significant new information pursuant to 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9."

    Access a release from the groups (click here). Access the 54-page communication to DOS (click here). [#Energy/KXL]

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Gray Wolf Lost A Popularity Contest Among Wildlife Managers"

Jun 27: According to documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  lawsuit, the organization says, the federal government's plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [See WIMS 6/7/13] was "hammered out through political bargaining with affected states," contrary to requirements of the ESA that listing decisions must be governed by the best available science. PEER says the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS or Service) presided over a process in which "political and economic considerations were at the forefront."
    PEER indicates in a release that the 52 documents produced by Fish & Wildlife Service detail how the "National Wolf Strategy" was developed in a series of closed-door Federal-state meetings called "Structured Decision Making" or SDM beginning in August 2010. The meetings involved officials from every region of the Service and representatives from the game and fish agencies of 13 states.
    PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch who had been seeking the records since April 2012 said, "These documents confirm our worst suspicions that the fate of the wolf was decided at a political bazaar. The meeting notes certainly explain why no outside scientists were welcome. From what we can see, Structured Decision Making was structured primarily to deal out the lower-48 population of gray wolves. The Obama administration keeps preaching integrity of science and transparency but seems to practice neither on any matter of consequence. In simplest terms, these documents detail how the gray wolf lost a popularity contest among wildlife managers."
    In addition to the release, PEER released a number of documents including: View the SDM overview and flowchart; Look at the political matrix for assessing alternatives; See the "New Fantastic Alternative"; Read scientists' critique of de-listing plan; Examine state litigation threats; Scan background on Structured Decision Making for the gray wolf; and Revisit politics pervading Mexican wolf decisions.
    A release from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) indicates that the documents show that the Fish and Wildlife Service "constrained the possible geographic scope of wolf recovery based on perceptions of 'what can the public tolerate' and 'where should wolves exist' rather than where suitable habitat for wolves exists or what is scientifically necessary for recovery. The meetings left state agencies in a position to dictate the fate of gray wolves across most of the lower 48 states." Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at CBD said, "This process made a mockery of the spirit of the Endangered Species Act. These documents show that years ago the Fish and Wildlife Service effectively handed over the reins on wolf recovery to state fish and game agencies, many of which are openly hostile to wolves. In order to ensure this politically contrived outcome, the Fish and Wildlife Service has spent the past three years cherry-picking scientific research that justifies the predetermined outcome that wolves don't need protection anymore."
    CBD said, "In August 2010 officials from a select group of state fish and game agencies were invited to a week-long workshop at the Fish and Wildlife training center in West Virginia to effectively decide the future of gray wolf recovery in the United States. The decisions made at the meeting were largely adopted in the agency's June 2013 proposal to end federal protections for gray wolves across most of the lower 48."
    Hartl said, "The Fish and Wildlife Service's actions demonstrate a near total lack of transparency and scientific integrity," said Hartl. "If the Service had followed this same logic 20 years ago, there would be no wolves in Yellowstone National Park today -- and no wolves roaming across the northern Rocky Mountains. The Service needs to go back to the drawing board and let the scientific facts guide how to recover wolves across the millions of acres of suitable wolf habitat remaining in the western United States and the Northeast."
    A number of scientists sent a joint letter to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on May 21, in advance of the proposal and said, "As scientists with expertise in carnivore taxonomy and conservation biology, we are writing to express serious concerns with a recent draft rule leaked to the press that proposes to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 States, excluding the range of the Mexican gray wolf. Collectively, we represent many of the scientists responsible for the research referenced in the draft rule. Based on a careful review of the rule, we do not believe that the rule reflects the conclusions of our work or the best available science concerning the recovery of wolves, or is in accordance with the fundamental purpose of the Endangered Species Act to conserve endangered species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.
    "The Service's draft rule proposes to: 1) 'remove the gray wolf from the List of Threatened and Endangered Wildlife'; 2) 'maintain endangered status for the Mexican wolf by listing it as a subspecies (Canis lupus baileyi)'; 3) 'recognize a new species of wolf known as Canis lycaon [that] occurs in southeastern Canada and historically occurred in the northeastern United States and portions of the upper Midwest (eastern and western Great Lakes regions)'; and 4) deny protection to wolves in the Pacific Northwest because they do not qualify as a distinct population segment for lack of discreteness from wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. We find these proposals problematic both in terms of their scientific support and their consistency with the intent of the statute. . ."
    On June 7, the Service proposed to remove the gray wolf (Canis lupus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. According to a release, the proposal comes after a comprehensive review confirmed its successful recovery following management actions undertaken by Federal, state and local partners following the wolf's listing under the Endangered Species Act over three decades ago. FWS said, "The proposed rule is based on the best science available and incorporates new information about the gray wolf's current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States and Mexico." FWS Director Dan Ashe said, "From the moment a species requires the protection of the Endangered Species Act, our goal is to work with our partners to address the threats it faces and ensure its recovery. An exhaustive review of the latest scientific and taxonomic information shows that we have accomplished that goal with the gray wolf, allowing us to focus our work under the ESA on recovery of the Mexican wolf subspecies in the Southwest." On June 13, FWS published its proposed rule for the gray wolves in the Federal Register and the proposal is now under a 90-day comment period extending until September 11, 2013.
    Access a release from PEER and link to the documents including the letter from scientists (click here). Access a release from CBD and link to related information (click here). Access the FR notice (click here). Access a release from FWS with links to more information on gray and Mexican wolves, supporting comments, including the proposed rules and commenting procedures (click here). [#Wildlife]
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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

President's Climate Speech Addresses Keystone XL & Fracking

Jun 25: In yesterday's speech announcing the Climate Action Plan [See WIMS 6/25/13], President Obama briefly addressed the Keystone XL pipeline, and indirectly fracking, even though neither was mentioned directly in the plan itself. Neither the actual Plan or the speech mentioned the controversial subject of natural gas exports.
    The President said, "I put forward in the past an all-of-the-above energy strategy, but our energy strategy must be about more than just producing more oil.  And, by the way, it's certainly got to be about more than just building one pipeline. 

    "Now, I know there's been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That's how it's always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It's relevant."

    The President also addressed the increasing production of natural gas much of which is possible through the highly controversial use of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. Although he did not mention fracking directly he said, "Now, even as we're producing more domestic oil, we're also producing more cleaner-burning natural gas than any other country on Earth. And, again, sometimes there are disputes about natural gas, but let me say this: We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions. 

    "Federally supported technology has helped our businesses drill more effectively and extract more gas. And now, we'll keep working with the industry to make drilling safer and cleaner, to make sure that we're not seeing methane emissions, and to put people to work modernizing our natural gas infrastructure so that we can power more homes and businesses with cleaner energy. The bottom line is natural gas is creating jobs. It's lowering many families' heat and power bills. And it's the transition fuel that can power our economy with less carbon pollution even as our businesses work to develop and then deploy more of the technology required for the even cleaner energy economy of the future."

    The actual Climate Action Plan addressed the natural gas issue saying, "Burning natural gas is about one-half as carbon-intensive as coal, which can make it a critical "bridge fuel" for many countries as the world transitions to even cleaner sources of energy. Toward that end, the Obama Administration is partnering with states and private companies to exchange lessons learned with our international partners on responsible development of natural gas resources. We have launched the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program to share best practices on issues such as water management, methane emissions, air quality, permitting, contracting, and pricing to help increase global gas supplies and facilitate development of the associated infrastructure that brings them to market. Going forward, we will promote fuel-switching from coal to gas for electricity production and encourage the development of a global market for gas. Since heavy-duty vehicles are expected to account for 40 percent of increased oil use through 2030, we will encourage the adoption of heavy duty natural gas vehicles as well." (page 19)

    Access the full text of President's climate speech  (click here). Access a video of the President's speech (click here). Access the complete 21-page Climate Action Plan (click here). Access the Presidential Memo on Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards (click here). Access a fact sheet from the White House (click here). Access a visual presentation of the President's Plan (click here). Access the White House climate change website for additional information (click here). [#Climate]

More Comments On The President's Climate Action Plan - Jun 26: The following are some additional comments in reaction to President Obama's Climate Action Plan [See also WIMS 6/25/13]:
    The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Research Council (NRC) issued a release indicating that, "President Obama unveiled a plan today that aims to cut carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to combat climate change.  The National Research Council has produced a number of consensus reports on these and related issues that may be of use to policymakers, researchers, business owners, and the public as they consider ways to address climate change and develop innovative solutions." The release provides a listing and direct links to various NAS reports related to climate change.

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres said: "President Obama's climate action plan is a necessary next step to meet an immediate, worrying shortfall in action to deal with climate change and can be a critical move forward on the path towards a new, global climate agreement. It remains vital that the United States as the world's largest developed economy is seen to be leading serious action to deal with climate change, both at home and abroad. These new steps will help to meet those goals, if they are implemented to the fullest extent to which they are intended. It is significant that the new plan aims to start up rapidly and covers the full menu of solutions to climate change: clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and the many actions that all countries need to take to adapt to accelerating climate change. This climate action plan should be positive for the US economy and the economies of other countries, as the US shifts faster towards a sustainable, low carbon model, including addressing directly the heaviest sources of emissions from unmodified coal and gas plants.

    "When the United States leads action, it also encourages more rapid international efforts to combat climate change by strengthening political trust, building business momentum and driving new technology solutions. . . I applaud the fact that the US intends to play a leading role by helping to forge a truly global solution to climate change that galvanizes international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepares for climate impacts, and drives progress through the international negotiations. This US climate action plan must also be leveraged into fresh, high-level political consensus among countries that will smooth the way for faster progress in the international climate change negotiations under the United Nations."

    Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said: "President Obama's plan to address climate change is welcome news that deserves widespread support. Continuing to fill our atmosphere with carbon pollution is immoral. We have a responsibility to current and future generations to hand down a livable planet. We must begin now to fulfill our obligation. . . Two of the actions in the president's plan are likely to be particularly effective. The first is reducing carbon pollution from our dirtiest power plants, which is long overdue. These plants, some of which date all the way back to the 1940's, are responsible for the lion's share of the nation's carbon pollution and currently operate without any carbon pollution controls. Secondly, the president's plan to increase efficiency of the appliances we use every day will reduce our carbon pollution while saving consumers money by lowering operating costs. . ."
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said: "The president's plan runs a serious risk of punishing Americans with higher energy bills, fewer jobs, and a weaker economy, while delivering negligible benefits to the environment. The administration must fully, transparently, and continually evaluate the impact of its proposed rules on jobs and the economy--just as the law requires. American consumers, workers, and businesses simply cannot afford another smothering layer of new regulations whose benefits are unproven and whose true costs are hidden. It is unfortunate that on a matter of such importance to all Americans that the administration has chosen to bypass our elected representatives in favor of unilateral actions and go-it-alone tactics. . ."
    House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said: "Years after a Democrat-controlled Congress rejected the President's plan to impose a new national energy tax, President Obama is now trying to go at it alone and take unilateral action to push through job-destroying taxes and red tape. This is the latest example of President Obama's long-running war on coal, which a White House advisor now openly admits 'is exactly what's needed.' However, this is not only a war on coal. It's a war on jobs, our economy, affordable energy, American families and small businesses. While the President is calling for new energy taxes and regulations, which will cost jobs and increase energy prices, House Republicans this week will vote to expand American energy production in order to create jobs and lower energy prices. The difference couldn't be starker. The President's plan will cost tens of thousands of American jobs and impede economic growth. The Republican plan will create over a million jobs and generate $1.5 billion in new revenue."
    Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) said: "We welcome the fact that President Obama seems to be finally acknowledging the value of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, actions speak louder than words. We hope his statement means the State Department will immediately approve the pipeline, since several environmental reviews have concluded that building Keystone XL will lead to fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than if we did not build it. Moving ahead on this project is critical for creating thousands of jobs, as well as maintaining and strengthening America's national and economic security.

    "Unfortunately, the overall plan is poised to once again pick winners and losers among energy producers, but at the end of the day, the biggest loser will be the U.S. economy. If world action is dependent on the 'United States taking the lead,' as advocates of fossil fuel energy rationing have claimed, then why haven't nations with poor environmental standards followed our lead in reducing GHGs and other emissions over the last twelve years?. . . Ironically, the President's proposal ignores his own regulatory contradictions and also makes claims with little basis in fact. He claims to have a goal of reducing GHG emissions, but is moving forward with Tier 3 gasoline and other stationary source regulations that will increase such emissions. He also expresses support for the RFS, despite data from EPA and the National Academy of Sciences showing that the broken ethanol mandate will increase GHG and other criteria pollutant emissions. . ."

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee said: "Today the President has shown he is willing to use the powers granted under existing law to accelerate efforts to contain dangerous carbon pollution. By focusing on the remedies under the Clean Air Act, the potential of using government lands to develop clean energy, and continuing efforts on fuel economy and energy efficiency, the President is using all of the tools in his toolbox, and I applaud him for that. The President's commitment today to only approve the tar sands pipeline if there is no net increase in carbon pollution is promising, but tar sands are one of the dirtiest fuels on the planet and the devil is in the details. We also need a price on carbon pollution, and I intend to work with my colleagues on this issue as part of a comprehensive plan to address climate change."

    Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said: "Today, President Obama has shown he is keeping his word to future generations.  His inspiring call to action is a testament to the vibrancy of the grassroots climate movement and the work of millions of activists to make tackling climate disruption a key part of the President's legacy. The Sierra Club's 2.1 million members and supporters issued a collective cheer as they heard the President declare that the most effective defense against climate disruption will be by tackling the biggest single source of carbon pollution: coal plants. . . The President's strong commitment to using climate pollution as the standard by which Keystone XL will be decided means his decision to reject it should now be easy.  Any fair and unbiased analysis of the tar sands pipeline shows that the climate effects of this disastrous project would be significant. . . There is still more work to be done. The President's climate commitment and his speech today gives us great hope that he will finally address some of the remaining, worst abuses of the fossil fuel industry, including dirty and dangerous fracking, ending the devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, halting destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, and overhauling the sweetheart deal on public lands that pads the bottom line of coal companies at public expense"
    Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee said: "The central feature of the president's climate agenda is command-and-control regulations that will drive up energy costs for all Americans. This is exactly the opposite of what we should be seeking from our energy and environmental policies. In the past several years, we've already seen substantial decreases in greenhouse gas emissions thanks to low natural gas prices, improved vehicle efficiency and other trends. Unfortunately, economic stagnation contributed to those emission decreases as well, and that is an experience we should avoid repeating. Addressing climate change will require continued American innovation, but the president does not have the power to will technologies into existence through sheer force or scope of regulation. That will require a longer-term commitment to basic, scientific research that enables genuine breakthroughs. Instead, the president is again putting us on a path where government dictates circumvent elected representatives in Congress. . ."

    Access the NAS release (click here). Access the UNFCCC release (click here). Access the Earrthjustice release (click here). Access the U.S. Chamber release (click here). Access a release from Rep. Hastings (click here). Access a release from AFPM (click here). Access a release from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access a release from Sierra Club (click here). Access a release from Sen. Murkowski (click here). [#Climate}
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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

President Obama Releases Climate Action Plan

Jun 25: President Obama delivered a speech at Georgetown University today outlining his Climate Action Plan. He also released the Plan and issued a Presidential Memorandum on Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards (see links below).
The President's Plan begins by stating, "While no single step can reverse the effects of climate change, we have a moral obligation to future generations to leave them a planet that is not polluted and damaged. Through steady, responsible action to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our children's health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so that we leave behind a cleaner, more stable environment. Outlining the progress that has been made to date, the President's Climate Action Plan says:
While this progress is encouraging, climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world. Last year was the warmest year ever in the contiguous United States and about one-third of all Americans experienced 10 days or more of 100-degree heat. The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15 years. Asthma rates have doubled in the past 30 years and our children will suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution gets worse. And increasing floods, heat waves, and droughts have put farmers out of business, which is already raising food prices dramatically.
These changes come with far-reaching consequences and real economic costs. Last year alone, there were 11 different weather and climate disaster events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Taken together, these 11 events resulted in over $110 billion in estimated damages, which would make it the second-costliest year on record.
In short, America stands at a critical juncture. Today, President Obama is putting forward a broad-based plan to cut the carbon pollution that causes climate change and affects public health. Cutting carbon pollution will help spark business innovation to modernize our power plants, resulting in cleaner forms of American-made energy that will create good jobs and cut our dependence on foreign oil. Combined with the Administration's other actions to increase the efficiency of our cars and household appliances, the President's plan will reduce the amount of energy consumed by American families, cutting down on their gas and utility bills. The plan, which consists of a wide variety of executive actions, has three key pillars:
1) Cut Carbon Pollution in America: In 2012, U.S. carbon emissions fell to the lowest level in two decades even as the economy continued to grow. To build on this progress, the Obama Administration is putting in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution – just like we have for other toxins like mercury and arsenic -- so we protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills.

2) Prepare the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change: Even as we take new steps to reduce carbon pollution, we must also prepare for the impacts of a changing climate that are already being felt across the country. Moving forward, the Obama Administration will help state and local governments strengthen our roads, bridges, and shorelines so we can better protect people's homes, businesses and way of life from severe weather.

3) Lead International Efforts to Combat Global Climate Change and Prepare for its Impacts: Just as no country is immune from the impacts of climate change, no country can
meet this challenge alone. That is why it is imperative for the United States to couple action at home with leadership internationally. America must help forge a truly global solution to this global challenge by galvanizing international action to significantly reduce emissions (particularly among the major emitting countries), prepare for climate impacts, and drive progress through the international negotiations.
    At the top of the President's agenda is "Cutting Carbon Pollution from Power Plants." The President is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the U.S. EPA to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. In developing the standards, the President has asked EPA to "build on state
leadership, provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies including many actions in this plan."
    The Administration is announcing a number of new efforts leading to: Accelerating Clean Energy Permitting; and Expanding and Modernizing the Electric Grid. Additionally, by: Unlocking Long-Term Investment in Clean Energy Innovation; Increasing Fuel Economy Standards; Developing and Deploying Advanced Transportation Technologies; Establishing a New Goal for Energy Efficiency Standards; Reducing Barriers to Investment in Energy Efficiency; Expanding the President's Better Buildings Challenge; Reducing Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions such as Hydrofluorocarbons and Methane; and Preserving the Role of Forests in Mitigating Climate Change.
    The Plan calls for the Federal government to be a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency. Under the Obama Administration, federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent. The Plan calls for establishing a new goal: The Federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 -- more than double the current goal of 7.5 percent. In addition, the Federal government will continue to pursue greater energy efficiency that reduces greenhouse gas
emissions and saves taxpayer dollars.
    To prepare the country for the inevitable impacts of climate change the Plan calls for: Directing Agencies to Support Climate-Resilient Investment; Establishing a State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness; Supporting Communities as they Prepare for Climate Impacts; Boosting the Resilience of Buildings and Infrastructure; Rebuilding and Learning from Hurricane Sandy; Identifying Vulnerabilities of Key Sectors to Climate Change; Promoting Resilience in the Health Sector; Promoting Insurance Leadership for Climate Safety; Conserving Land and Water Resources; Maintaining Agricultural Sustainability; Managing Drought; Reducing Wildfire Risks; Preparing for Future Floods; and Using Sound Science to Manage Climate Impacts.
    On the international front, the Plan indicates that major international initiatives focused on spurring concrete action, including bilateral initiatives with China, India, and other major emitting countries will be continued and undertaken. The Plan proposes that the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (17 countries with 75% of GHG emissions) build on these efforts by launching a major initiative this year focused on further accelerating efficiency gains in the buildings sector; Intensifying bilateral climate cooperation with China, India and Brazil; Combating Short-Lived Climate Pollutant like methane, black carbon, and many HFCs; Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation; Expanding Clean Energy Use and Cut Energy Waste; Negotiating Global Free Trade in Environmental Goods and Services; Phasing Out Subsidies that Encourage Wasteful Consumption of Fossil Fuels; Strengthening Global Resilience to Climate Change; Mobilizing Climate Finance; and Leading Efforts to Address Climate Change through International Negotiations.
    Access a link to the President's speech on his climate action plan which should be posted soon (click here). Access a video of the President's speech (click here). Access the complete 21-page Climate Action Plan (click here). Access the Presidential Memo on Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards (click here). Access a fact sheet from the White House (click here). Access a visual presentation of the President's Plan (click here). Access the White House climate change website for additional information (click here). [#Climate]

Some Initial Reaction To The President's Climate Plan - Jul 25: The following is some of the initial reaction to President Obama's Climate Change Action Plan:
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said, "At a time when millions of Americans remain out of work and the cost of groceries, gas, and health care continues to rise, it is astonishing that President Obama is unilaterally imposing new regulations that will cost jobs and increase energy prices. The president has always been hostile to affordable sources of American energy that power most of our economy, but this program – which amounts to a National Energy Tax – only escalates his attack.  The president's advisor calls it a 'War on Coal,' but it's even more than that. These policies, rejected even by the last Democratic-controlled Congress, will shutter power plants, destroy good-paying American jobs, and raise electricity bills for families that can scarcely afford it. The last thing our economy needs right now is another layer of government red tape that will make it harder to grow businesses and hire more workers.  America needs more affordable energy options, not fewer.  That's why House Republicans are committed to a true all-of-the-above energy approach that will lower energy prices and create good American jobs.  And it's why we continue to call on the president to approve the Keystone pipeline and the tens of thousands of jobs that will come along with it."
U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, "In advance of the President's big speech today, I read this morning that one of the White House's climate advisors finally admitted something most of us have long suspected anyway. He said 'a War on Coal is exactly what's needed' in this country. Exactly what's needed -- that's really what he said. It's an astonishing bit of honesty from someone that close to the White House. But it really encapsulates the attitude this Administration holds in regard to states like mine, where coal is such an important part of the economic well-being of so many middle-class families. And it captures the attitude it holds in regard to middle-class Americans across the country, where affordable energy is critical to the operation of so many companies and small businesses -- and to those businesses' ability to hire Americans and help build a ladder to the middle class for their families. Declaring a 'War on Coal' is tantamount to declaring a war on jobs. It's tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many Americans struggling in today's economy. And I will be raising this issue with the President at the White House today. . ."
House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change said, "The President is absolutely right to act now. We have a moral imperative to protect the environment for our children and future generations. We are at a crossroads.  Every year we delay, the impacts will worsen and the costs will rise.  But if we act now, we can lead the world in developing the clean energy technologies of the future." Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the other Co-Chair of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change said, "For too long, the barricade of special interests in Washington has stopped Congress from acting against carbon pollution. President Obama knows that we can't wait to address this issue. We're already paying the costs of climate change.  Our oceans are warmer, more acidic, and rising; our seasons are shifting; and the dice are loaded for more frequent and more severe extreme weather events.  I applaud President Obama for taking action today to protect the planet for future generations."
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): "The president nailed it: this can't wait. We will cut this carbon pollution today so our children don't inherit climate chaos tomorrow. We owe that to future generations, and we owe it to ourselves. That's the single most important thing we can do, as a nation, to confront this widening scourge. Climate change is the central environmental crisis of our time. It is taking a grievous and growing toll on our country, threatening our people and imperiling our future. The president promised to do something about it. Today he turned that promise into action."
Bill Snape, Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) senior counsel, reiterated CBD's call to halt Keystone XL immediately and establish a national pollution cap for carbon dioxide. He said, "We're happy to see the President finally addressing climate change but the plain truth is that what he's proposing isn't big enough, and doesn't move fast enough, to match the terrifying magnitude of the climate crisis. The president, like all of us, needs to be able to look across the dinner table at his children and know he's doing all he can to ensure they inherit a planet that's healthy and livable. This plan is a small step in the right direction but certainly begs for something bigger and bolder. Strong rhetoric and politically comfortable half-measures won't achieve what scientists tell us must be done to address the climate problem. The White House can't punt on hard climate questions, from the carbon cap to Keystone XL, Arctic drilling and fracking on public lands. It's time for strong action and strong leadership."
American Petroleum Institute (API) President and CEO Jack Gerard said, "The President recognizes the important role natural gas has played in reducing CO2 levels to near 20 year lows, thanks to private investments in energy exploration, production and refining. Those investments in America's energy potential have led us to the point of being the world's largest producer of natural gas, and flipped plans to import LNG into plans to export it. But by recycling his plans to raise taxes on U.S. oil and natural gas companies, President Obama runs the risk of unwinding the significant environmental benefits from natural gas, threatens our economic recovery and dampens our ability to create millions of jobs for Americans. Ironically, the President's plan to raise taxes by eliminating cost recovery for U.S. oil and natural gas companies would jeopardize his own climate goals by making some of those investments uneconomic. After a handful of years, we would see less domestic energy production -- particularly of natural gas -- more imports, fewer new jobs, and, eventually, depressed tax, royalty and other revenues to governments at all levels."
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons said, "President Obama today revealed his most ambitious regulatory agenda yet, one that would remake the entire U.S. economy. During the campaign, the President regularly touted increasing manufacturing jobs, and he rightly recognized that a strong and vibrant manufacturing sector is key to robust and sustained economic growth and job creation. Unfortunately, under his watch, he seems intent on taking actions that would put manufacturing in the United States out of business. The President's plan puts our country on a path toward the elimination of fossil fuels from our energy mix that is wholly inconsistent with his promotion of an 'all-of-the-above' energy plan just a few months ago. . ." 
Eileen Claussen, President, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) said, "President Obama is laying out a credible, comprehensive strategy to use the tools at his disposal to strengthen the U.S. response to climate change. His plan recognizes that the costs of climate change are real and rising, and that to minimize them we must both cut our carbon output and strengthen our climate resilience. Putting these critical issues before the American public is itself a step forward. But it will require continued presidential leadership to translate the plan's good intentions into concrete policy. The most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is for Congress to enact an economy-wide price on carbon. As long as Congress is unwilling to act, the president is right to use his powers under the Clean Air Act to curb emissions from power plants, by far the largest unregulated source of U.S. carbon emissions. Many companies are prepared to work with the administration on pragmatic approaches that cut emissions while keeping U.S. electricity affordable and reliable. Companies want regulatory certainty and know that continued inaction exposes them to increasing climate risks. In crafting the power plant rules, EPA should consult widely with utilities and with the states, which ultimately must implement them. We strongly encourage EPA to devise a flexible strategy that allows a variety of state-level policies, including market-based approaches, and allows utilities to cut emissions at the lowest possible cost. . ."
    Access a release from Speaker Boehner (click here). Access a lengthy statement from Sen. McConnell (click here). Access a release from the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change (click here). Access a release from NRDC (click here). Access a release from CBD (click here). Access a release from API (click here). Access a release from NAM (click here). Access a release from C2ES (click here). [#Climate]
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Monday, June 24, 2013

Report & Legislation On Climate Change Adaptation Efforts

Jun 21: The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled, Climate Change: Various Adaptation Efforts Are Under Way at Key Natural Resource Management Agencies (GAO-13-253, May 31, 2013). The report was requested by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) Chairman Committee on Finance and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Chairman Subcommittee on Oversight on the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW).
    In background information, GAO indicates that climate change poses a variety of threats to Federally managed natural resources, such as forests and wildlife, including possibly more frequent and severe droughts and wildfires. Adaptation -- adjustments in natural or human systems to a new or changing environment that exploits beneficial opportunities or moderates negative effects -- can be used to help manage the risks to vulnerable natural resources. GAO was asked to review Federal agencies' efforts to incorporate climate change adaptation into their natural resource planning and management since GAO last reported on this issue in 2007.

    The report examines: (1) steps key Federal natural resource management agencies -- Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management -- have taken since 2007 to address adaptation; and (2) how these agencies have collaborated at the national level on adaptation since 2007. GAO analyzed the agencies' climate change adaptation guidance and planning documents and interviewed agency officials. GAO also visited one field location for each agency, selected using a "non-probability approach, so the results are not generalizable to all of the agencies' field locations."

    GAO found that since 2007, the Forest Service, NOAA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service have taken steps to establish strategic directions for addressing climate change adaptation. For example, the Forest Service developed a strategic framework document that established climate change adaptation as a central agency priority and another document, known as "the roadmap," which identified actions that national forest managers were taking or could take to implement the direction outlined in the framework, including re-vegetating ecosystems that had been affected by fire with plant species that are better adapted to current and future climates. These four agencies have also developed guidance, training, and other tools for managers to use in adapting to climate change. For example, the National Park Service is developing guidance for park-based climate change adaptation plans that includes steps such as identifying conservation targets and conducting vulnerability assessments. The Bureau of Land Management has not established a strategic direction for addressing climate change impacts but is planning to develop a high-level climate change adaptation strategy by the end of the summer 2013. In addition, GAO visited one field location within each agency and found that managers at four of the five locations have taken steps to address climate change adaptation. For example:

  • Chugach National Forest managers have begun an assessment of the vulnerability to climate change of key resources to help set priorities and identify adaptation actions. For example, the vulnerability assessment will include information on how changes in climate are likely to affect snow cover and salmon populations, as well as an analysis of how these projected changes may affect residents in the region who rely on snow-based tourism and salmon for their livelihoods.
  • Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary managers are beginning to assess whether parts of their management plan should be revised to address climate change adaptation and have taken actions to protect marine resources, such as coral reefs, from climate change impacts. For example, the sanctuary is collaborating with local stakeholders to develop systems and techniques to grow coral and other reef species for replanting in depleted reef systems.
  • However, GAO indicated that managers at the Bureau of Land Management's Kingman Resource Area, which manages its lands for livestock grazing and other uses, have not taken steps to address climate change adaptation and are awaiting agency direction.

    The Federal natural resource management agencies GAO reviewed are collaborating on climate change adaptation. For example, agencies are collaborating through landscape conservation cooperatives, comprising public and private organizations working to define shared goals and provide science for conservation planning, among other things. In addition, agencies have collaborated in developing national strategies for addressing climate change adaptation in the federal government. For example, the Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, and others collaborated on a strategy, released in March 2013, for addressing climate change adaptation in managing fish, wildlife, and plants.

    As Senators Baucus and Whitehouse released the GAO report, they also introduced legislation to provide local communities with better tools to prepare for extreme weather and require Federal agencies to work more efficiently by implementing a single coordinated strategy for protecting, restoring, and conserving the natural resources that American tourism and recreation jobs and local economies depend on. The bill, the Safeguarding America's Future and the Environment (SAFE) Act (S.1202), comes on the heels of GAO report that notes, "recreation and tourism generate billions of dollars for regional economies through activities such as fishing, hunting, skiing, hiking, and diving and some of these economic benefits could be reduced or lost as a result of the impacts from climate change."  The report highlights the need for additional tools provided in Baucus' and Whitehouse' SAFE Act, including grant funding for local communities and "a central clearinghouse for climate science, so communities and agencies don't have to reinvent the wheel and have access to a single source for good science."

    Sen. Baucus said, "Outdoor heritage is part of who we are in Montana, and taking smart steps to protect our outdoor way of life from increased wildfires, prolonged drought and reduced snowpack is just plain commonsense. Outdoor recreation supports 64,000 Montana jobs each year, one in five Montana jobs is tied to agriculture, and our timber industry is critical to western communities – every single one of those jobs depends on maintaining our healthy wide open spaces, forests and waterways. This bill gives local communities the tools they need to protect Montana's outdoor jobs and streamlines federal bureaucracy to make sure we have a smart, coordinated plan in place moving forward."

    Sen. Whitehouse said, "America's natural resources are the pride of our country and we should be actively protecting them in the face of a changing climate. Rhode Island is already seeing warmer waters in Narragansett Bay, more severe coastal storms, and beach erosion worsened by rising sea levels. This bill will help Rhode Island and other states by requiring the federal government to wake up to the consequences of climate change and take action to protect vulnerable and valuable resources."

    The SAFE Act would specifically require federal agencies that manage natural resources to adopt climate change adaptation plans that are consistent with the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, released by the Administration this year.  This coordinated approach will reduce costs by preventing redundancies and by directing investment toward the most effective resiliency measures.

Natural resource management options can include promoting resistance, encouraging resilience and even facilitating transformation of one ecosystem to another.  Yet managers are often constrained by their agency's mission, laws and regulations. The SAFE Act seeks to put all climate adaptation tools and approaches, including state, local, and stakeholder participation on the table by making it a requirement of the federal agencies.

    Access the complete 74-page report (click here). Access a release from Sens. Baucus and Whitehouse (click here). Access legislative details for S.1202 (click here). [#Climate]

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Friday, June 21, 2013

House Farm Bill Voted Down 234 - 195

Jun 20: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) failed to secure enough votes to pass the House version of the 2013 Farm Bill. The bill -- H.R.1947, Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act -- failed on a vote of 195 - 234; with 174 Republican and 24 Democrats voting for the measure; and 62 Republicans and 172 Democrats voting against it. On Jun 10, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill -- S. 954 (Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 ) -- by a wide bipartisan margin, 66-27 [See WIMS 6/11/13]. 
    House Agricultural Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) issued a brief statement saying, "On this day, on this vote, the House worked its will.  I'm obviously disappointed, but the reforms in H.R.1947 -- $40 billion in deficit reduction, elimination of direct payments and the first reforms to SNAP since 1996 -- are so important that we must continue to pursue them.  We are assessing all of our options, but I have no doubt that we will finish our work in the near future and provide the certainty that our farmers, ranchers, and rural constituents need." The Senate Bill included cuts of $24 billion dollars in spending in agriculture programs by eliminating unnecessary direct payment subsidies, consolidating programs to end duplication, and cracking down on food assistance abuse.
    House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) commented saying, "The farm bill failed to pass the House today because the House Republicans could not control the extreme right wing of their party. From day one I cautioned my colleagues that to pass a farm bill we would have to work together. Instead, the House adopted a partisan amendment process, playing political games with extreme policies that have no chance of becoming law. This flies in the face of nearly four years of bipartisan work done by the Agriculture Committee. I'll continue to do everything I can to get a farm bill passed but I have a hard time seeing where we go from here."

    Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) said in a release, "The House farm bill failed commonsense conservation standards, and it failed to get enough votes to pass. Reasonable measures to protect taxpayers and natural resources must be included a farm bill. The National Wildlife Federation will continue to fight for a farm bill that includes a link between conservation compliance and crop insurance, and a National Sodsaver program." Most significantly, NWF indicated that the House bill would have created a new loophole in a longstanding requirement that farmers who receive taxpayer subsidies refrain from draining wetlands or farming erosion-prone soils without a conservation plan -- because the bill failed to extend these protections to crop insurance premium subsidies, the largest subsidy farmers receive. This could lead to the draining of 1.5 to 3.3 million acres of wetlands and greatly increased soil erosion and nutrient pollution into our lakes, streams, rivers and coastal waters.
    NWF said major agricultural groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers, along with fiscal groups, including Americans for Tax Reform and the National Taxpayers Union supported closing this damaging loophole. Schweiger said, "It is outrageous that the House Agriculture Committee leaders opposed this wholly reasonable, basic conservation provision to protect the public good."

    Bob Stallman, President, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) issued a statement saying, "The American Farm Bureau Federation is highly disappointed the House did not complete work on the 2013 farm bill. . . It was a balanced bill that would have provided much needed risk management tools and a viable economic safety net for America's farmers and ranchers. We commend House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) for their commitment and hard work in bringing the bill to the floor and working toward its passage. We look forward to working with them as we regroup and move forward. We also appreciate House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for working with the Agriculture Committee leadership to bring the bill to the floor. A completed farm bill is much needed to provide farmers and ranchers certainty for the coming years and to allow the Agriculture Department to plan for an orderly implementation of the bill's provisions."
    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) released a statement saying, "I'm extremely disappointed that Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership have at the last minute chosen to derail years of bipartisan work on the Farm Bill and related reforms. This bill was far from perfect, but the only way to achieve meaningful reform, such as Congressman Southerland's amendment reforming the food stamp program, was in conference. I strongly supported the Southerland amendment which built on successful welfare reforms that have worked in the past to give states more flexibility and encourage self-sufficiency by increasing workforce participation among those enrolled in the SNAP program. I commend Chairman Frank Lucas and the House Agriculture Committee for their efforts, and am sorry that Democrats shamefully chose politics over progress and meaningful reform."

    Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD.) expressed his opposition to the significant SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cuts included in the bill in a June 18, Floor statement. He said, "First of all, the farm bill is an important piece of legislation. It sets federal policy in a range of areas that deeply affect the lives of farmers, their communities, and consumers. But it also makes a huge difference in the lives of those who rely on food assistance to avoid hunger, especially children. It's a shame that we could not consider the farm bill on its merits without undermining its credibility with what we clearly believe are not reforms and not the elimination of waste, fraud, and abuse. . . cutting out assistance for hungry people is neither fraud, nor waste, nor abuse. Well, it may be abuse. . . SNAP as it's called, protects over 46 million Americans who are at risk of going without sufficient food. Nearly half of those are children. Are there some reforms that are needed? Perhaps. And the Senate has made those reforms in a moderate, considered way. The average monthly benefit per participant last year, according to the USDA, was $133.41. I challenge any Member of this House to live on $133.41 for food – $4.45 a day. . ." He said the bill would slash $20.5 billion from the supplemental nutrition program and put 2 million Americans at risk. Reps. Cantor and Hoyer had a "spirited" exchange following the vote on the bill (see link to video below).
Access legislative details for H.R.1947 including amendments and roll call votes (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Lucas (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Peterson (click here). Access background information and summaries of the H.R.1947 (click here). Access the statement from NWF (click here). Access the statement from the AFBF (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Cantor (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Hoyer (click here). Access video of Cantor & Hoyer (click here). Access legislative details for S.954 including amendments and roll call votes (click here). [#Agriculture, #MIAgriculture, #Land, #Water, #Energy]
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Thursday, June 20, 2013

$76 Billion Needed To Fix Backlog Of Troubled Bridges

Jun 19: An updated analysis of Federal data released by Transportation for America (T4A) indicates that one in nine of the bridges and overpasses American drivers cross each day is rated in poor enough condition that some could become dangerous or be closed without near-term repair.

    The report -- The Fix We're In For: The State of the Nation's Bridges 2013 -- indicates that nearly 67,000 of the nation's 605,000 bridges are rated "structurally deficient" and are in need of substantial repair or replacement. Nearly 8,000 are both structurally deficient and "fracture critical", meaning they are designed with no redundancy in their key structural components, so that if one fails the bridge could collapse. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the backlog of troubled bridges would cost $76 billion to eliminate.

    The report ranks states and the District of Columbia in terms of the overall condition of the their bridges, with one having the largest share of deficient bridges, 51 the lowest. Twenty-one states have a higher percentage of deficient bridges than the national average of 11 percent. The five states with the worst bridge conditions have a share over 20 percent: Pennsylvania has the largest share of deteriorating bridges (24.5%), followed by Oklahoma (22.0%), Iowa (21.7%), Rhode Island (21.6%), and South Dakota (20.3%). At the other end of the spectrum, five states have less than 5 percent of their bridges rated structurally deficient: Nevada and Florida lead the rankings with 2.2%, followed by Texas (2.6%), Arizona (3.2%), and Utah (4.3%).

    James Corless, T4A director said, "With the collapse of the I-5 bridge in Washington State last month, coming just six years after an interstate collapse in Minnesota, Americans are acutely aware of the critical need to invest in our bridges as our system shows its age. Today, though, there more deficient bridges in our 100 largest metropolitan areas than there are McDonald's locations nationwide." Put another way, laid end to end, all the deficient bridges would span from Washington, DC to Denver, CO or from Tijuana, Mexico to Seattle -- more than 1500 miles.

    The need is growing rapidly, the report notes. While most bridges are designed to last 50 years before major overhaul or replacement, American bridges average 43 years old. Age is a major factor in bridge conditions. Roughly half of the structurally deficient bridges are 65 or older. Today there are nearly 107,000 bridges 65 or older, and in just 10 years, one in four will be over 65.

    T4A indicates that Congress has repeatedly declared the condition and safety of our bridges to be of national significance. However, the money to fix them is getting harder to come by with declining gas tax revenues and a fiscal squeeze at all levels of government. At the same time, Congress made the prospects for bridges even more uncertain last year by eliminating a dedicated fund for them in its update of the Federal transportation program. The new law also reduces access to funds for 90 percent of structurally deficient bridges, most of which are owned by cash-strapped local governments. Corless said, "Unfortunately, the changes Congress made last year left the health and safety of our bridges to compete with every other priority. When it updates the law again next year, Congress should ensure that we have both adequate funding and accountability for fixing all our bridges, regardless of which level of government owns them."

    T4A said some in Congress have recognized the issues and are moving to address them, among them U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Rahall said, "Congress simply cannot keep hitting the snooze button when it comes to needed investment in our Nation's bridges or think that these aging structures can be rehabilitated with rhetoric. That is why I am introducing legislation that provides needed federal funding to start to address the startling backlog of structural deficient and functional obsolete bridges."

    The funding uncertainty comes as the rate of bridge repair has slowed dramatically in recent years. Investments from the stimulus and ongoing transportation programs helped reduce the share of deficient bridges from 11.5 percent to 11 percent since T4A's last report. But the overall repair rate has dropped significantly over the last 20 years. From 1992-1996 the number of deficient bridges declined by 17,000. However, from 2008-2012 the number dropped by only 4,966 -- more than three times slower. The report authors suggest several recommendations to ensure that there is both funding for safe and well-maintained bridges and accountability for getting the job done, including:

  • Increase investment: Current spending levels are precarious and inadequate. In order to bring our rapidly aging infrastructure up to a state of good repair, Congress should raise new, dedicated revenues for surface transportation programs, including bridge repair.
  • Restore funding for the 180,000-plus bridges that lost eligibility under the new federal transportation program: Under MAP-21, all of the money previously set aside for bridge repair was rolled into the new National Highway Performance Program, and only 10 percent of deficient bridges – and 23 percent of all bridges – are eligible. Congress must restore funding access for all previously eligible bridges.
  • Prioritize Repair: Congress should require states to set aside a share of their NHPP funds for bridge repair unless the state's bridges are certified as being in a state of good repair.
    Access a release from T4A (click here). Access the report, full data, interactive map and infographic (click here). [#Transport]
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