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Michael A. Livermore's Posts


fair shake

Obama's regulatory reform will focus on fairness

Obama's executive order adds "human dignity" and "fairness" to the list of considerations.Photo: The White HouseThe recent Obama executive order on regulation encourages agencies to examine "values that are difficult or impossible to quantify, including equity, human dignity, fairness, and distributive impacts." This is a significantly positive element in a move that has been derided as an "unforced fumble" for its concession of rhetorical ground to industry. The Obama order, as has been noted, is one in a long line of executive orders requiring review of agency action using cost-benefit analysis. Initiated under Reagan, the process initially looked only at …

Read more: Politics


Off discourse

Obama’s executive order could actually be a win for the environment

Some progressive voices have weighed in on the executive order President Obama signed on Tuesday with harsh criticism. The president's move, which lays out new ground rules for regulations issued by government agencies, was lambasted as a betrayal of progressive values and a gift to industry.  But a closer look reveals that much of the focus has been on the rhetoric surrounding the order's release, and not on the actual substance. There, you won't find much for progressives to complain about. In practice, the new order makes several significant changes to the current regulatory process that will favor stronger protections …


in heinz sight

Who can fill Lisa Heinzerling's shoes?

Lisa Heinzerling.Photo: Select CommitteeNews of Lisa Heinzerling's departure from her position as head of the EPA's Office of Policy and Planning doesn't need to mean the winding-down of aggressive action at the EPA. While Heinzerling, whose role put her in charge of the agency's economic unit, has no doubt been an important voice within the administration in favor of deeper and faster cuts in carbon, the EPA can and should continue on the path that she helped set. Heinzerling saw historic progress on greenhouse gases during her tenure: Delinquent for two years under George W. Bush, the agency finally responded …


Lewd conduct

Senator blocks budget director nominee over offshore drilling ban

Sen. Mary Landrieu.Yesterday, the White House lambasted Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) for her hold on their nominee to head up the Office of Management and Budget. Her goal: to force the president to lift the offshore drilling moratorium put in place in the wake of the largest oil spill in U.S. history so that the regulations governing offshore drilling could be examined and overhauled. Calling the move "sad" and "outrageous," the administration is clearly frustrated by the latest example of Beltway hostage-holding.   It should be obvious that the practice of grinding unrelated business in the Senate to a halt …


Power-plant play

EPA announces proposal to cut power-plant pollution

The EPA announced a proposal today that will cut power-plant pollution in 31 states, replacing a Bush administration cap-and-trade system overturned by the courts.  The announcement comes as the chatter on Capitol Hill has turned to a utility-only approach to cap-and-trade.  The targets of EPA's proposed rule are not greenhouse gases, but two unhealthy toxins released into air when coal is burned -- sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The substances are dangerous thanks in part to the tiny particles that can wreak havoc on our respiratory systems. The consequences: asthma, heart disease, and cancer.  Adding to the drama …


keeping score

Will the EPA score the true costs AND benefits of the climate bill?

This afternoon, the EPA is said to be sending its economic analysis of the climate bill proposed by Kerry and Lieberman to the Senators' offices. It's a scoring of how the legislation would affect the American economy. Hopefully that analysis will include the benefits, not just the costs of the measure. The agency has not incorporated benefits into its past economic analysis of climate legislation. Usually it looks exclusively at the price tag, giving legislators nervously poised to vote on the controversial proposal a clear view of the downsides but none of the upshots. It's like telling someone in the …


Google climate change chief wants price on carbon

Dan Reicher, Google's director of climate changePhoto: Steve Rhodes via FlickrGoogle wants a price on carbon and wants it now -- both for lofty reasons like combating global warming, but also because it could be good for business.  As the Senate inches closer to climate legislation that could give the Internet giant what it wants, I checked in with Dan Reicher, the director of climate change and energy initiatives at Google to see what surfing the web had to do with reining in greenhouse gases.  Turns out, the answer is technology. Reicher -- a former Department of Energy assistant secretary …


The EPA weighs the hidden costs of carbon

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency will do more than set new fuel efficiency standards for cars. It will put a price on carbon. Within this historic climate change regulation is a powerful new way of thinking about greenhouse gas emissions: as costs that will borne by society. Burning oil in cars imposes a steep price tag, from dirtier air now, to more expensive flood insurance in a decade, to potential climate catastrophe for our grandchildren. The federal government has taken note of these hidden costs and is now using them to weigh the benefits of curbing our emissions. It's …


stick a never in their cap

Can EPA run a cap-and-trade program?

The Obama administration has made very clear that they want Congress, rather than EPA, to take the lead in creating a national response to climate change. Despite their oft-repeated preference for congressional action, recently, EPA head Lisa Jackson had to once again reiterate that the agency had no plans to do a carbon cap. There is some irony in members of Congress worrying about what EPA is up to when their time might be better spent putting a law together themselves. Under existing law, it is possible for EPA to create an economy-wide price on carbon. The Clean Air Act …


Is it a problem that more industry groups are meeting with key regulatory officials than enviros?

Some small hope has been renewed for a climate change bill out of Congress this year. But if the legislative process fails to produce a law, Obama's regulatory levers will become more and more important -- and how they evaluate new rules will come under scrutiny. So is it a problem that industry groups are meeting with key regulatory officials in the White House in much bigger numbers than environmentalists? The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is the powerful behind-the-scenes agency that review cost-benefit analyses of major environmental regulations like CAFE standards or coal ash regulation. Before rules …