Darth Vader and his Sith apprentice -- a.k.a. Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz -- are totally in synch about climate change. Here's how they responded to a question on the topic during a conversation with Politico's Mike Allen on Monday:
We told you recently that Eden Foods, a widely distributed organic brand, has sued the Obama administration over the requirement that companies cover contraception as part of employee health-care plans. As word has spread, outrage has spread.
More than 112,000 people have a signed a petition organized by progressive group CREDO Action:
Tell CEO of Eden Foods, Michael Potter:
"I won’t buy Eden products until you stop playing politics with women’s health and drop your attacks on birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act."
Just because a company is organic doesn't mean it's progressive. Exhibit A: Eden Foods.
Like Hobby Lobby, Eden Foods sued the Obama administration to try to get out of providing contraceptive coverage for its employees. Eden Foods is a Michigan-based business that bills itself as "the oldest natural and organic food company in North America." It is solely owned by Michael Potter, a Catholic who refers to birth control pills as "lifestyle drugs" and likes to whine about "unconstitutional government overreach." (More crazy quotes from him below.)
In Eden Foods Inc. v. Kathleen Sebelius, filed in federal court in March of 2013, the company claimed its religious freedom was being violated by the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employee health insurance cover birth control. The suit argued that "contraception or abortifacients ... almost always involve immoral and unnatural practices.” In October, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided against Eden Foods, ruling that a for-profit company cannot exercise religion.
But then, on June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that family-owned, "closely held" companies can use religion as an excuse to flout the birth control mandate. Eden Foods is one of a few dozen "closely held" for-profit companies that have filed suit over the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate. On July 1, the Supreme Court ordered the 6th Circuit Court to reconsider its decision against Eden Foods and another plaintiff with a similar case.
President Obama is about to launch what may be the biggest climate change initiative of his presidency, and the biggest in U.S. history -- and it's not because he's a tree-hugging hippie. As he lays the groundwork for introducing landmark regulations on power-plant CO2 emissions on Monday, he "wants to shift the conversation from polar bears and melting glaciers to droughts in Iowa and more childhood asthma across the nation," as Bloomberg reports.
I’m here at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., visiting with some kids being treated here all the time for asthma and other breathing problems. Often, these illnesses are aggravated by air pollution -- pollution from the same sources that release carbon and contribute to climate change. And for the sake of all our kids, we’ve got to do more to reduce it. ...
This week, we’re unveiling ... proposed guidelines [that] will cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot that threaten the health of the most vulnerable Americans, including children and the elderly. In just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided -- and those numbers will go up from there.
In a live chat on Monday with Grist, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz suggested that fracking companies might need to be more forthcoming about their chemical cocktails.
The fracking process involves high-pressure injection of a mixture of fluids into shale seams to force up oil and gas. Many fracking companies and chemical manufacturers say the makeup of their chemical mixtures is a trade secret and shouldn't have to be divulged, but environmental activists and some community leaders say the public has a right to know, and at the very least first responders need to know when coping with fracking-related exposures and emergencies.
Earlier this month, the EPA announced that it would accept public comments on the issue, responding to a petition filed by environmental law firm Earthjustice, but the agency didn't commit to crafting any federal disclosure rules. Some states require some level of disclosure about chemicals, but enforcement of and compliance with those rules has been spotty at best.
When Grist's Ben Adler asked McCarthy about the issue, she said the EPA wants to find out what states are already doing and what information companies are offering up voluntarily, to make sure any federal rules wouldn't be duplicative.
But she emphasized that the information does need to be accessible:
Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before: The Obama administration is delaying a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
But this is different from all those past delays. This is a brand new delay -- and it might push the final determination past the midterm elections. As Politico notes, "A delay past November would spare Obama a politically difficult choice on whether to approve the pipeline, angering his green base and environmentally minded campaign donors — or reject it, endangering pro-pipeline Democrats such as [Sen. Mary] Landrieu, who represents oil-rich Louisiana."
Thirty U.S. senators pulled an all-nighter on Monday. They did not, sadly, wear PJs, paint toenails, or fight with pillows.
Instead, they talked about climate change -- and talked and talked and talked. They cited studies and stats. They showed photos and graphs. They warned about climate impacts in their home states. They promoted the economic benefits of clean energy and the job-creating potential of innovation. They made strained analogies about baseball and the rise of the Nazi regime. Altogether, they talked for nearly 15 hours, right through to 8:55 a.m. Tuesday morning.
There aren't enough votes in Congress right now to pass strong climate legislation, or any climate legislation (though an energy-efficiency bill might squeeze through). But at least nearly a third of senators care enough about the problem to stage the 35th all-nighter in Senate history.
Most people don’t realize it, but the tank cars that carry crude oil are not owned by the railroads that run them and are only rarely owned by the shippers who use them. In fact, roughly 80 percent of all the tank cars registered in North America are owned by companies that lease the tank cars to shippers. ... These lessors ... are the ones ultimately responsible for the fact that that the vast majority of oil trains today are largely composed of older models so riddled with obvious flaws that federal safety investigators have for years urged the entire fleet be retrofitted. ...
Not only have they avoided pulling the hazardous DOT-111 tank cars out of service to retrofit them, but they have opposed and delayed meaningful federal regulation at every turn.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment group is the biggest player in the tank car leasing business with around 40 percent of the market ... The next biggest player, GATX Corp, is scarcely more than half the size. ...
Environmental Resources Management, the consulting firm hired by the State Department to review the potential environmental effects of the Keystone XL pipeline, did all sorts of dodgy and deceptive stuff, but none of it amounted to serious rule breaking -- at least according to the State Department's inspector general.
The Office of Inspector General today published a report that found ERM did not violate the State Department's conflict-of-interest rules as it bid for the Keystone contract and wrote its study. Climate activists and environmentalists had requested the investigation by the inspector general, and now they're none too pleased with the results.
Last month, the State Department released the environmental impact study written by ERM. It found that Keystone would not have significant climate impacts, even though sections of the study actually contradict that top-level finding. Grist's Ben Adler recently highlighted the top three flaws with the study.
• to disclose a possible conflict of interest to the State Department until two months after it won the contract, as reported by ... Jim Snyder at Bloomberg News;
• to reconcile why ERM listed TransCanada as a client in its marketing materials the year before it began the Keystone contract, even though ERM and TransCanada had both told State that they had not worked together for at least five years;
This post has been updated below with news that Podesta will recuse himself from the Keystone XL decision.
President Obama is getting a new high-level adviser who cares a lot about climate change and doesn't care much at all for the Keystone XL pipeline.
John Podesta is no stranger to the White House; he served as chief of staff to President Clinton. And he's no stranger to the Obama team; he led the president's transition into office after the 2008 election. Since then, he's served as an "outside adviser," The New York Times reports, and "has occasionally criticized the administration, if gently, from his perch as the founder and former president of the Center for American Progress, a center-left public policy research group that has provided personnel and policy ideas to the administration."
For the coming year, he'll be advising from the inside. He will help out on health care and "will focus in particular on climate change issues, a personal priority of Mr. Podesta’s," according to the Times. Podesta is expected to encourage Obama to take action through his executive authority, as Congress is unwilling and unable to pass legislation on climate change or much else. "Podesta has been urging Obama for three years to use the full extent of his authority as president to go around Congress," Politico reports.
Podesta is also an outspoken opponent of Keystone, and his move to the White House is making some Keystone boosters nervous, National Journal reports.