Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Fate of Pavley’s Global Warming Bill Marks the Test of Our Generation

Editor's Note: Today's blog entry was submitted by SFVYD Member Mike Young. Thanks, Mike!

The climate crisis is the single greatest challenge in human history, but there’s a blatant dichotomy between how important the issue is with how much of a priority our parent generation places on it. It’s only now that the baby boomers are beginning to retire that we’re beginning to see a precursor to what our generation will need to face. Widespread drought, increasingly intense hurricanes, and the polar ice caps disappearing just after our parents retire are only a few of the consequences our generation will inherit. While there are courageous leaders addressing the issue like Former Vice President Al Gore and Former California Assembly Member Fran Pavley, their voices tend to be drowned out by the skeptics and reactionaries in office who have been essentially bought by the big oil lobby.

The problem has been exacerbated by President Bush, whose entire cabinet has direct ties to big oil. They have radically changed the purpose of government regulation from working for the public good the way Franklin Roosevelt used it during the 1930s to solely benefiting the special interests that helped elect Bush in the first place. This has had severe consequences for federally run institutions like the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA was created for the purpose of benefiting the masses and protecting the commons, and now the only environment it’s “protecting” is one favoring big business.

Sadly, the most recent casualty of the Bush Administration’s unspoken war on nature is none other than Pavley's 2002 Tailpipe Emissions Reduction bill, the landmark bill recognized as being the first in U.S. history directly combating the climate crisis. Despite its popularity, the bill has essentially been trapped in legal and bureaucratic limbo since the day it was passed.

The legality of the bill passed its first challenge in April 2007 when the State of Massachusetts successfully argued to the Supreme Court that greenhouse gases were a pollutant and were thus, contrary to what the EPA argued, able to be regulated by the institution. In other words, the Supreme Court told the EPA that it had the ability but was not required to do its actual job.

Naturally, (which is probably not the best word to use in this case) Stephen Johnson, the Bush-appointed head of the EPA, stalled on a decision about whether or not the EPA would act on greenhouse gas regulations, which meant he refused to decide whether states could pass laws that required stricter greenhouse gas regulations than federal guidelines. Early last month a federal district court upheld California's right to regulate greenhouse gases as long as a waiver was approved by the EPA, but in an upsetting yet unsurprising turn of events the EPA denied California's waiver –on the same day Bush signed a bi-partisan bill to increase CAFE standards from 25mpg to 35mpg by 2020:

“The Bush administration blocked California's plan to put tighter limits on automobile tailpipe emissions, handing a victory to the auto industry on the same day the president signed an energy bill that mandates the biggest boost in federal fuel-efficiency standards in more than 30 years.

Late yesterday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson blocked California from going further than the federal government does in curbing auto emissions that contribute to global warming, setting up a clash with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

It's poetic injustice at its best. Sign a bill to raise federal fuel efficiency standards while denying states their right to reduce tailpipe emissions. To Bush it's all about control -he and his special interest buddies have it, and they're doing their best to make sure nobody else does.

Fortunately, there are still those in Congress who refuse to allow such corruption to go unanswered. Following Stephen Johnson’s announcement Congressman Henry Waxman, a long-time Valley representative who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has begun a probe into how the administration came to its decision and what legal justification it could possibly have for going against the mission of the EPA.

We’re encouraging everyone to contact Congressman Waxman to support his probe and thank him for the immediacy he has placed on this very big problem.

Congressman Henry Waxman 2204 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515 (202) 225-3976 (phone) (202) 225-4099 (fax)

This issue will not go away in our lifetimes, and it’s looking more and more likely that our generation will be paying for our parent generation’s mistakes. So now is the time when we should start getting active and show why we are a generation that represents hope.