Climate

Environmentalists React to U.S. EPA Proposal On Carbon Emissions

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed strict limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants this week, environmentalists remained cautious. The proposal sets a standard of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour, which is expected to end construction of new coal power stations.

Yet, it will not apply to existing power plants and does nothing to impact the attractiveness of natural gas for companies looking to build.

Overbrook Environment grantee Environment Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the EPA's efforts but not without caution. EDF's President Fred Krupp stated, "For what they're doing today, I think they deserve a standing ovation," but warned, "we can't address the threat that climate change poses to American communities without addressing carbon from existing plants."

Other environmental and public health groups remain mostly supportive of the rule, but believe that the EPA still has an obligation to address the largest single source of greenhouse gases - existing coal power plants.

The proposal is now open to public comments.

Overbrook Grantee Applauds Major Healthcare Nonprofit's GHG Reduction Plan

Kaiser Permanente has been praised by Overbrook environment grantee Health Care Without Harm for its latest announcement to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2020.

“Kaiser Permanente is demonstrating how hospitals can reduce their climate change impact as part of their core mission to support healthy people in healthy communities,” stated Gary Cohen, president and founder of Health Care Without Harm.

By targeting greenhouse gases, Kaiser Permanente aims to reduce its environmental footprint and lead the health care sector in reducing the health effects associated with climate change. Both Kaiser Permanente and Health Care Without Harm are founding sponsors of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI), a variety of programs designed for hospitals to implement sustainable measures and create more sustainable products for hospitals. In April, HHI will launch a new program to accelerate the adoption of energy efficiency and other sustainability improvements across the health care sector.

Bill McKibben Continues His Keystone XL Campaign

Bill McKibben, founder of Overbrook grantee 350.org and a central rallying voice behind the Keystone protesters, appeared on The Colbert Report last night to discuss his latest efforts to stop the Senate from approving legislation to resurrect Keystone XL.

Yesterday, 350.org led a charge to send 500,000 emails to the Senate asking elected leaders to “block any efforts to revive the dangerous Keystone XL pipeline.” The push ends today, and as of this morning, the pile of emails was closing in on 700,000.

If you want more information on the trajectory of this movement and commentary from Bill McKibben, please watch 350.org's video on the fight against Keystone XL.

Bill McKibben and the Keystone Decision

For those of you following the progress (or glorious lack thereof) of the Keystone XL Pipeline, blogged about here last Wednesday after President Obama's statement, you may have felt the sweetness of victory tempered by the President's lukewarm reasoning for denying the application. Without explicitly mentioning the devastating environmental impacts of tar sands oil extraction, without mentioning the millions of industry dollars lining the pockets (and weighting the opinions) of Republican representatives pushing for the Keystone deal, without mentioning the vulnerable habitats that would have been affected by the positioning of the pipeline, the President's statement placed the blame squarely on timing. From a reading of the statement, with no background on the issue, a novice would chalk the application denial up to bad scheduling rather than bad practice.

"This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline," says Obama's statement, "but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people."

While happy with the end result, many environmentalists remain trepidatious, worrying that the real reasons thousands circled the White House in protest last November have been glossed over.

Meanwhile Bill McKibben, founder of Overbrook grantee 350.org and a central rallying voice behind the Keystone protesters, is not resting on his laurels. A great profile by writer Barbara Moran in yesterday's Boston Globe goes behind the scenes with McKibben, and a piece in the Huffington Post by McKibben himself from earlier this month portray a soft-spoken, inadvertent leader who has his facts straight. In the Huffington Post piece, McKibben expertly links oil industry subsidies, campaign finance and the Chamber of Commerce to the climate crisis.

NRDC's Extreme Weather and Health-related Costs Maps

The Natural Resources Defense Council, an Overbrook grantee, has released an interactive "Extreme Weather Map" of the United States detailing thousands of events including floods, record-breaking temperatures, unprecedented snowfalls and more since the start of 2011. The map can be frozen at a specific time in the year, or it can play through the ebb and flow of extreme weather from January through October 2011. As the saying goes, a picture's worth a thousand words, so with luck this fast-forward meteorological view of the United States will impress upon Americans that climate change has come home, and mitigation and adaptation are not to be postponed.

Take a look and press PLAY to see the year's activity in motion: NRDC's Extreme Weather Map

NRDC also released a map tracking the health issues related to extreme weather events, resulting in some extreme costs for the United States. Click here to view the health map.

Updates on the Keystone XL Pipeline

To continue our coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline, we want to share some new developments:

1) This past Sunday, thousands of Americans gathered outside of the White House to protest the Keystone XL pipeline and to demand that President Obama halt the plans for its construction. Overbrook supported groups such as 350.org and the NRDC successfully organized this mass protest to show the President and the country that many Americans do not want this project to go forward. With the hard work of these leaders and organizations, Washington and the American public can see the emergence of a strong group that opposes this plan and want to hold President Obama accountable for his campaign promises to protect the environment. Learn more and see footage from the protest from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/thousands-protest-at-white-house-over-oil-pipeline/2011/11/07/gIQAnAjCvM_video.html

2) Major news outlets have also reported the launch of a state department inquiry that will investigate potentially unethical relationships between policymakers and governmental agencies and those promoting the pipeline. Environmental groups and more than a dozen congress members have called for this investigation before the President makes his final decision on the Keystone XL project. For more information, The New York Times writes http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/science/earth/inquiry-into-keystone-xl-pipeline-permit-process.html?hp