Thursday, August 6, 2015

Last Call For Good News, Bad News On Climate Change

Politico environmental reporter Michael Grunwald finds President Obama's clean power plant plan to be both better -- and worse -- than he expected it to be.

Environmentalists, journalists, administration officials and industry flacks have all hyped the Clean Power Plan as the strongest climate action in history, but the 1560-page text provides plenty of evidence for my case that it’s merely the fourth-strongest climate action of the Obama era. I found a few nuggets that were even weaker than I expected, including a remarkable footnote suggesting that states can do nothing to reduce emissions for nine years and still comply with the rule. 
Still, I have to admit the overall plan is actually stronger than I expected yesterday, and much stronger than the toothless draft plan I ridiculed in May. So before I resume harping about the plan’s unambitious goals for the grid, and the various ways its defenders and critics are exaggerating its impact, let me discuss how the EPA fixed the draft’s most glaring absurdities, because these changes have been largely overlooked. The media have focused on modest tweaks to non-binding national goals—emissions are now expected to drop 32 percent by 2030, versus 30 percent in the draft, and coal is expected to provide 27 percent of our power instead of 31 percent—but those aren’t the changes that matter. 
What matters are the changes to binding state targets, and those changes are not modest. They also have serious political implications. The original draft took it easiest on states with the heaviest reliance on dirty fossil fuels—states that nevertheless complained the most about Obama’s supposedly draconian plan. The final rule cracks down much harder on those states, while taking it much easier on states that are already moving toward cleaner sources of electricity. 
Check out this excellent chart compiled by my colleague Alex Guillen. North Dakota would have been required to cut emissions just 10.6 percent to comply with the draft rule, the least of any state; it will have to cut emissions 44.9 percent to comply with the final rule, the most of any state except for similarly fossil-fueled Montana and South Dakota. Coal-rich Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia and Indiana were also among the biggest losers in the revised plan. Meanwhile, the states that are already greening their grid—led by Washington, Oregon and New York—were the biggest winners in the final rule. 
That is a radical change. The EPA acknowledged in the plan that it “rectifies what would have been an inefficient, unintended outcome of putting the greater reduction burden on lower-emitting sources and states.” As EPA air quality chief Janet McCabe explained to me in an interview: “We got a lot of comments making the same point you did.” But it hasn’t gotten attention, perhaps because coal-state politicians cried wolf so loudly about the draft. It’s the result of a decision to calculate emissions according to a uniform measurement for every power plant rather than a weirdly calibrated analysis of what’s reasonable for individual states. 
But whether or not the new approach is more technically or legally defensible, getting tougher on dirtier states could have a dramatic effect on results, because states like Kentucky and West Virginia were always unlikely to do any more than the legal minimum, while states like California and Massachusetts are unlikely to stop their transitions to cleaner energy once they achieve compliance.

So yes, when Mitch McConnell is calling on states to refuse compliance with the plan, they don't have to do anything until 2024 at the earliest anyway.  And that means AG Jack Conway here in Kentucky, who is fighting the plan hard, really isn't fighting anything because Kentucky doesn't have to actually do anything for nine years.

That's kind of the dirty secret of the EPA plan, it doesn't actually do anything as far as forcing compliance for nearly a decade.

And another decade of carbon pollution is certainly not going to help things.

Last Call For Following Jindal Down The Drain

On Monday Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal (who spent this afternoon at the Clown Car Kids' Table) ended that state's Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood, not even bothering to wait for the results of the investigation he demanded.

Gov. Robert Bentley announced today he was terminating an agreement between the Alabama Medicaid Agency and Planned Parenthood. 
Bentley's office sent out copies of the termination letter to Planned Parenthood Southeast in Atlanta. 
The letter does not say what services Planned Parenthood provides for the Medicaid Agency. That information was not immediately available. 
The governor's office released a statement from the governor. 
"The deplorable practices at Planned Parenthood have been exposed to Americans, and I have decided to stop any association with the organization in Alabama," Bentley said. 
"As a doctor and Alabama's governor, the issue of human life, from conception to birth and beyond, is extremely important. I respect human life and do not want Alabama to be associated with an organization that does not." 
The letter says that the Alabama Medicaid Agency is exercising its ability to terminate its provider contract with Planned Parenthood with a 15-day notice. 
The letter says that if Planned Parenthood opposes the decision it has 60 days to apply for a fair hearing.

That 15-day notice means that Alabama will actually cut off their agreement before Louisiana does, as it has a 30-day cutoff agreement.  Go figure.

Anyhow, it's not like Louisiana and Alabama have high teen pregnancy rates or anything.  Oh wait, they do: Alabama is just ahead of Kentucky at #15, and Louisiana is #5, so naturally cutting off funding for poor women from affordable contraception services will totally improve that ranking.

For comparison, Louisiana has the same teen pregnancy rate as Costa Rica and Jamaica with 69 pregnancies per 1,000 teens and at 62 per 1,000, Alabama has the same rate as our happy neighbors to the south, Mexico.

So sure, this seems like a good way to reduce the instance of possibly unwanted pregnancies that might end in abortion or something.

Good job!

The Turtle's White Flag

Looks like my state's senior Senator is killing talk of "shutting down the government" early, but what happens when Mitch McConnell loses control of his caucus again?

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would begin negotiations with Democrats to prevent a government shutdown in September. 
The majority leader vowed there would not be another shutdown on his watch — but it could be difficult to avoid, given the long list of thorny issues he will have to tackle this fall.

Funding for the government is set to run out at the end of September, and Democrats and the White House want to increase defense and nondefense spending. 
Some Republicans are also demanding new defense spending, and many GOP lawmakers and Republicans running for president want to defund Planned Parenthood. The debt ceiling is also going to have to be lifted later this year. 
As usual, McConnell has been playing his cards close to the vest. But his main goal is to minimize drama and maintain the Senate Republican majority in 2016. Messy fiscal fights could increase the chances Democrats win back the upper chamber. 
The Kentucky Republican hasn’t told colleagues of his endgame plans, but they suspect he is angling for a yearlong spending measure that would allow him to sidestep a fight over busting the caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act. 
“Whatever minimizes the drama, because Mitch is not a big fan of drama,” said a Republican senator who requested anonymity.

Mitch wants this battle out of his hair.  I'm betting the four GOP senators running for the White House aren't going to be much help in the new Trump Party.  BooMan calls it what it is: capitulation.

He’ll need the Democrats to go along with his plan, in both the Senate and the House. And he’ll have to let his own caucus vote on a bunch of riders to do things like ban spending on Planned Parenthood, kill Obamacare (again), declare Iran the second coming of the Third Reich, and obliterate the Environmental Protection Agency. But, since the only way the Republicans could conceivably prevail on any of those issues is to shut down the government and pray for a miracle, McConnell doesn’t really give a shit about them. He’s not interested in another government shutdown that yields nothing but aggravated voters and higher disapproval numbers for his party. 
However, he’s going to have to contend with 17 presidential contenders braying at him to fight, fight, fight, as well as constant bellowing about what a sellout he is and how Washington Republicans never keep their promises. The only thing he has going for him, besides reality, is that he’s not Speaker Boehner. He can hide behind Democratic filibusters, for example, and he doesn’t have 150 members who make Michele Bachmann look statesmanlike. Boehner will deliver a conservative heat-fever wish list of a budget and then have to turn around and sell McConnell’s nothing burger to his caucus.
And, of course, the House Republicans won’t go for it. At all. So, Boehner will have to go hat in hand (again) to Nancy Pelosi and beg her to deliver her caucus. 
Pelosi, of course, wants nothing more than another government shutdown, provided that she can avoid taking much blame for it. So, her inclination to give Boehner some kind of fig leaf to disguise his humiliation will be limited. And, yet, with all these presidential candidates claiming that if we just elect them things will magically get done the way that conservatives want them done, Boehner will have a tough sell to explain why a Republican-led House and a Republican-led Senate cannot accomplish even one item on their insane wish list. 
What McConnell’s trying to do is preemptively accept a harsh reality, but he’s going to have very few supporters and they’ll be quieter than church mice.

We all know where the game ends: the budget passes that President Obama and Nancy Pelosi want. The question is how much damage is done to the place on the way through bat country.

The Fight To Vote, Con't

President Obama is using the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act today to call on Republicans who control Congress to act to restore it.  The GOP Congress won't.  The great part is the people who are losing their vote because of Congress's inaction have no recourse to remove the lawmakers who continue to disenfranchise them, too.

President Obama will call for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act on its 50th anniversary Thursday, the White House said.

Obama will hold a teleconference to commemorate the landmark legislation and call for its renewal, following a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that voided one of its central provisions. 
Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who rose to prominence in the 1960s as a civil rights leader, will participate.

The event will allow Obama to draw a sharp contrast with Republicans, many of whom argue some provisions of the 1965 law went too far. It will take place on the same day as the first GOP presidential primary debate.

Asked about the timing of the event, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that “one person’s irony is another person’s serendipity.”

“Maybe there will be an opportunity for Republican candidates to discuss the right for every American to cast a vote,” he added.

As we learned in this week's Sunday Long Read, the Republican battle to destroy the Voting Rights Act has been a fifty year battle, and at this point they have won the right to disenfranchise millions. Unless the legislation's provision for keeping tabs on the 150 year effort to steal the vote from black voters over the years, it will only happen again and again.

Good for President Obama and AG Lynch to fight for this publicly, and call the Republicans out on this.


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