Janet Wilson

Janet Wilson is a senior fellow at USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism, and a veteran environmental reporter based in California.

Opening Pandora's box office

James Cameron: I’m the greenest director of all time!

Photo: Official Avatar Movie photostream via FlickrHe’s made the highest grossing film on the planet, but Hollywood mega-director James Cameron is now promoting “Avatar” as the most successful environmental film of all time, too.  Really. “There is no studio anywhere in the world who would say an environmental message would make $3 billion … I can’t think of any other really commercially successful ones, can you?” he said during an interview at a Santa Monica fundraiser last Monday for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council. “‘WALL-E’, maybe?” replied his wife, actress Suzy Amis Cameron. It was Amis Cameron who …

Ahnold promises ‘action’ at California climate summit

Photo: Peter GrigsbyGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his best buddies from around the world flexed their muscles at the second annual Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles this week. Actor Harrison Ford, chimp expert Jane Goodall, and a slate of A-list dignitaries from 70 countries packed a Century City luxury hotel to debate how best to fend off the end of the world as we know it. “We need a lot of muscle to beat this climate change,” said Schwarzenegger in his opening remarks. “That’s why I’m here today, to pump you up … Because while all those national governments are …

DOLLARS TO DOUGHNUTS

At Governator’s climate party, EPA chief aims to calm small business worries

LOS ANGELES — EPA administrator Lisa Jackson unveiled a modest proposal on Wednesday: If a company wants to build a new power plant or refinery, or fix up a smoky old belcher, it will have to use the best available technology to control greenhouse gases. That’s it. Oh, and the Dunkin Donuts of the country will be spared. Depending on who you ask, the proposed regulation is either a bone-headed move that will land her agency back in court, or a shrewd maneuver to quash industry scare tactics and quell rising panic on Main Street about the potential costs of …

Get the lead out, chapter 3

EPA to review 2008 Bush action on lead emissions

Are we there yet? EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has decided she’ll take another look at monitoring of car battery recyclers, concrete kilns and power plants that spew dangerous lead emissions. She did not say she’d toughen up the monitoring, but clean air advocates are hopeful. “It’s a step in the right direction for public health, and children’s health in particular,” said Avi Kar, staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. His group and several others petitioned the agency in January to reconsider — and tighten — proposed monitoring requirements on lead emitting facilities. On Thursday, Jackson …

Cap, Trade and Skeletons

Did Waxman-Markey’s ancestors really deliver on their promises?

President Obama is betting that a cap-and-trade program can help solve the climate crisis. Southern California leaders hoped the same thing when they set up a cap-and-trade program to clean up the region’s air. The results? See above. Photo: jordansmall via Flickr Nearly 20 years ago, a novel program called “cap and trade” was rolled out by Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The aim was to keep rural Northeastern lakes from being tainted by corrosive “acid rain” created by power plant emissions hundreds of miles to the west. Under the cap and trade, everybody would win. A whopping …

Wheeler Dealers

Auto industry’s litigation strategy may have backfired in showrooms

Telling it like it is: President Obama meets with auto industry executives Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House before moving to the Rose Garden to announce new fuel and emission standards for cars and trucks.Official White House Photo by Pete Souza None of the employees at Turlock Auto Plaza in California’s smoggy Central Valley could be reached for comment Tuesday on President Obama’s historic deal with automakers to make cars cleaner and more efficient. The plaza’s Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Subaru dealerships all shut in December, victims of declining sales. Forty-two people lost their jobs, a big …

You Can Go Your Own Way

California plans no exit from hydrogen highway

California is planning to invest millions to support the rollout of new hydrogen fueling stations. Pictured here is a station near Los Angeles Int’l Airport that was built by a partnership that included BP, Praxair and LAX.Courtesy Hydrogen Assn. Energy Secretary Steven Chu may want to slam the brakes on future hydrogen funding, but California will continue to pay its own way down the Hydrogen Highway, infuriating electric vehicle advocates in particular. Obama’s top energy official cut more than $100 million slated for hydrogen fuel-cell research from next year’s federal budget, arguing that in tough times, tough choices had to …

Waiver goodbye?

States left wondering about EPA’s greenhouse gas ruling

Eighteen months ago, I watched the head of the Environmental Protection Administration shake hands with Mickey Mouse after the two had hoisted a compact fluorescent light bulb for a Disneyland photo op. I’d been promised a sit-down interview with Stephen Johnson, the career EPA staffer tapped by George W. Bush in 2005 to run the agency, but his handlers evidently thought better of it, and reneged. Instead, they gave me a few minutes to sprint alongside Johnson as he headed out of the Magic Kingdom. I asked him when he would respond to an April 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling …

Laboring for change

Obama's Labor pick expected to champion green jobs

President-elect Obama's Labor Secretary nominee, Congresswoman Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), will face a Senate confirmation panel on Friday morning headed by one of her most ardent fans, the ailing but powerful Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. Hilda Solis. Photo: Ron Edmonds / AP Longtime GOP lions Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) could also be on hand to grill her, but the presence of Kennedy at the gavel, who presented Solis with the "Profile in Courage" award in 2000, is tangible proof that after a career spent battling Republican governors, presidents, industry lobbyists and even moderate Democrats, she could now be in the cat bird's seat. [UPDATE: News from the hearing.] "No one else was even going to fight for the stuff that she's fought for her whole career. Now it's not about fighting, it's about governing, and I've seen Hilda Solis, she's effective at governing," said Ian Kim, director of the Green Collar Jobs Campaign at the Ella Baker Center in Oakland. As Labor Secretary, Solis would in fact be in charge of implementing the Green Jobs Act she fought to "smuggle through" a hostile Congress and Bush administration in 2007, said green jobs guru and best-selling author Van Jones. The act authorized $125 million annually to train 30,000 workers in environment-friendly jobs such as installing solar panels or weatherizing homes. But it went unfunded in 2008, due to opposition from manufacturers and other industry groups angered by its mandate to include organized labor. Fast forward to a year later, with a tanking economy and a new president, and matters look decidedly more green. Obama made clear in his economic policy speech Thursday that such jobs will be a key component of his massive stimulus package. And no one is better qualified to make that happen than Solis, say her fans. "She is the 21st century, Hilda Solis represents the future of this country both demographically, and in terms of her vision," said Jones, who shrugged off criticism by some that the appointment was minor compared to other Cabinet posts. "We need new, clean, green jobs for the 21st century, and in her we've got somebody who connects both those things."