Energy & Environment

Weakening enforcement of energy-efficient lighting is a losing strategy

As the House again proposes barring enforcement of the current energy efficiency standards for lighting products, it puts American manufacturers and the public at risk of wasting money and losing jobs, while also tacitly encouraging the illegal import of noncompliant, energy-hogging products.
The law to phase in energy-saving lighting options, enacted in 2007, began taking effect this past January with standards requiring a minimum 27% increase in the efficiency of 100-watt bulbs. In the process of investing millions of dollars in producing a variety of such bulbs, American manufacturers have also been creating jobs for their design and production in Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California and other states.


Insecurity in unconventional oil

With North American oil production ramping up, many have rushed to the conclusion that the United States has newfound oil security. The dark days of dependence on the Middle East will soon be gone as new types of oil are found in abundance close to home. But these claims are more hype than reality.
The deeper we drill down, the more apparent it becomes that new domestic oil supplies cannot guarantee U.S. geopolitical and economic security. What’s more, the heterogeneous assortment of oils, if pursued absent cautious, deliberate guidelines, could cause collateral damage.


The cost of being number one in mountaintop removal

As a retired underground coal miner from southeastern Kentucky, I have watched as many of my old retired coal mining friends have had to move away to places like Florida for their health.  Instead of relocating to Florida, I have traveled to Washington D.C. this week to try to protect the health of my grandchildren.

I live in Harlan County, Kentucky, which is represented by the chairman of the Appropriations Committee; Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.)  During his time in office, he has helped us get a number one rating. The Kentucky 5th Congressional District ranks first for mountaintop removal – more than 60% of mountaintop removal is here. But we remain last in nearly everything else.


Responsible forest management is imperative

For two weeks, a massive fire has burned nearly 200,000 acres in the Gila Wilderness and National Forest. This blaze, known as the Whitewater-Baldy Complex Fire, began by a lightning strike, and is well on its way to becoming the worst fire in our state’s history.
We appreciate the heroic efforts of the more than 1,000 personnel battling this inferno. These heroes put their lives on the line to help others, and show us what it truly means to be a public servant.


Preparing for the hurricane season

We once again find ourselves at the start of the Atlantic Hurricane season. Last year, Americans spanning the eastern seaboard experienced the impacts of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Many communities in the northeast are still working to recover from those storms.
While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a “near normal” hurricane season this year, with a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms, we have already seen two named storms before the season has even started. The time to prepare for hurricanes, or any natural disasters, is now.


Confirm Allison Macfarlane to NRC

Last week was bleak for public health and the environment: Gregory Jaczko, who has presided as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission since the Fukushima Daiichi reactor disaster began in March 2011, has resigned. Dr. Jaczko, alone among his fellow commissioners, has insisted no new nuclear power plant should be licensed unless and until the operator has committed to making safety upgrades needed to protect against the risk of severe accidents such as occurred at Fukushima. His resignation throws into question whether the NRC will have the fortitude to complete advances commenced under his leadership. 
As attorneys who represent environmental groups, civic groups, and neighbors of proposed nuclear power plants in NRC licensing cases, we have watched the NRC’s response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident with concern. From the outset of the accident, Dr. Jaczko took actions that were unpopular with the nuclear industry and his fellow commissioners but showed a strong commitment to protecting public health and safety. In the first hours of the accident, he prudently recommended the evacuation of all U.S. citizens living within 50 miles of Fukushima, even though U.S. regulations call for evacuation within only ten miles. His judgment later proved sound.


The path to common sense energy solutions

With the presidential and congressional races approaching full swing, the American people are being bombarded with one campaign slogan after another. The problem is that peppering voters with clever catchphrases in stump speeches and television ads does nothing to secure America’s energy or economic future.

With outrageous gasoline prices being matched only by the nation’s troubling unemployment rate, it is time for Republicans and Democrats to dispense with the political jockeying and get serious about an energy policy that can improve the lives of all American families.

The good news is that there is plenty of common ground on which to build a principled compromise.


Why does Rep. Mike Turner want nuke lab?

There are few things that have real bipartisan consensus in Congress nowadays. So, when both parties agree to cancel a billion dollar boondoggle, it is clear that there was something very wrong with the project.

This past month, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed with the Pentagon’s and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) decision to cancel a $6 billion plutonium laboratory in New Mexico—the  Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Despite this consensus, one member of Congress is leading the charge to put money for  the CMRR-NF back into the budget.


Mining policies threaten national security and economy

Here we are again: at the mercy of a foreign government for a natural resource essential to our economic and national security. President Obama’s recent announcement that the United States plans to file a case with the World Trade Organization against China’s export restrictions on rare earth minerals highlights the under-reported fact that our nation’s reliance on foreign minerals is even more pronounced than our dependence on foreign oil.

Indeed, in 2009, the United States imported oil or oil products from 90 different countries all around the world. By comparison with rare earth elements, the U.S. relies almost exclusively on one supplier and there is no other country to turn to should China decide to withdraw them from the market. Once the world’s primary producer of rare earths, the United States is now completely reliant on imports for the minerals, with 91 percent of our supply coming from China. The Pentagon reports that that rare earths—found in night vision equipment, satellites and other defense technologies—are vital to sustaining and building U.S. military efforts. Beyond that, they’re used every day in petroleum refining, in green energy technologies like wind turbines and hybrid cars and in the production of medical technologies.


Rep. McKinley - We live here with the coal ash

As constituents living in Congressman David McKinley's district, we'd like to make ourselves clear: jobs are important, and Congress needs to do all it can to help Americans get back to work. However, the need for jobs does not mean that power companies should put arsenic and other toxins from coal ash and scrubber sludge into our rivers, streams, and drinking water supplies. Polluters that donate to politicians’ campaigns should not get a free pass to pollute; and the Transportation Bill should be about creating American jobs, not poisoning American communities.
Congressman McKinley made grossly misinformed claims in his article that appeared in The Hill on May 7.  Mr. McKinley needs to check his facts: his amendment does not set federal minimum safeguards for coal ash and even worse, it would forever prohibit the EPA from ever providing such protections – even if the threat to public health increases.

We are long-time residents of West Virginia who want something done to clean up coal ash dumps, not an industry bill that would keep the EPA from even investigating our complaints.