The House Republican “oil above all” agenda has a new home in the fiscal year 2013 appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Today the House Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill that would slash funds to enforce pollution laws and protect public lands, oceans, and wildlife. It also contains a number of policy provisions that have nothing to do with spending that would block enforcement of existing environmental laws, threaten our health, and harm our lands.
Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) raised grave concerns about the bill yesterday:
Literally, the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink depends on programs funded by this bill. Millions of Americans make their vacation plans based on their ability to enjoy the natural, scenic, recreational, and cultural resources whose protection is funded by this bill?. The deep funding cuts necessitated ? as well as the various special interest riders and funding limitations that were included in the subcommittee bill, would cause real harm to the environment and to efforts to preserve America’s natural and cultural heritage.
The biggest issues revolve around the levels of funding that various agencies will be facing under this bill. For example, it would slash EPA?s budget by nearly 20 percent, including a 10 percent cut to clean air and climate programs. Additionally, EPA would see a 9 percent cut in enforcement under this bill, which is like taking 1 of every 10 cops off the beat when it comes to enforcing air, water, and toxics safeguards. And state enforcement of pollution reduction laws in the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act will be more difficult, because 28 percent of this funding compared to 2012 will be slashed ? more than $1 billion.
Critical conservation programs managed by the Department of Interior also face severe funding reductions. Most surprisingly, the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund Program that enjoys bipartisan support was cut by nearly 80 percent compared to the current year to only $66 million — the lowest levels in its nearly 50-year history. This program does not require any new federal spending; rather, it uses receipts from offshore oil and gas development to fund repairs and other projects in our national parks, wildlife refuges, and local parks.
In addition to these crippling funding cuts, the bill includes a number of harmful policy riders that would block implementation and enforcement of existing laws and programs. The bill would:
- Prevent implementation of the Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which would reduce smog and acid rain pollution from upwind states that plague downwind states
- Block the new greenhouse gas New Source Performance Standards rule, designed to clean up carbon pollution at new power plants
- Strip states of their ability to manage their ocean space the way they see fit by blocking the National Ocean Policy
During debate over the bill yesterday and today, members rejected a number of opportunities to make the bill less egregious. Instead, they attached additional provisions to further roll back pollution reductions, land protection, and job creation. Amendments included:
- Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA): Strike all anti-environment policy riders and funding limitations (failed 19-28)
- Moran: Increase oil and gas inspection fees and increase funding for national wildlife refuges (failed 20-27)
- Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA): Strike the provision that cuts off funding for the National Ocean Policy (failed 20-27)
- Rep. Steven Austria (R-OH): Block EPA from setting new carbon pollution reduction standards for motor vehicles built after 2016, which would double fuel economy, slash pollution, and reduce gasoline purchases by $8,000 over the life of a 2025 vehicle (passed 26-18)
- Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY): Prohibition on funds to establish industrial carbon pollution standards for stationary sources, including existing power plants and oil refineries (passed 27-18)
Taken together, slashing vital programs and blocking implementation of others would allow more air pollution, land desecration, and ocean contamination. These provisions would harm children, seniors, wild places, and clean water. But they would benefit Big Oil and coal by reducing enforcement and blocking new pollution reductions.
Jessica Goad is the Manager of Research and Outreach and the Public Lands Project, Daniel J. Weiss is Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy, and Michael Conathan is Director of Ocean Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
by Brendan DeMelle, via DeSmogBlog
Documents obtained by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show that bureaucrats within the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NY DEC) granted the oil and gas industry premature access to highly controversial draft regulations for shale gas fracking in the state. New York placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for gas in order to evaluate the science on the risks posed to drinking water, air quality and the health of New York’s citizens and the environment.
The documents, obtained by EWG through New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the fracking industry received an unfair advantage thanks to DEC officials who provided detailed summaries of their proposed rules exclusively to oil and gas industry representatives. This allowed industry a six-week head start to lobby state officials to weaken the proposed standards before the public was granted access to the plan.
Of particular concern, a lobbyist for scandal-ridden gas giant Chesapeake Energy used the exclusive access to the draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) to attempt to weaken the proposed rules restricting discharges of radioactive wastewater.
Thomas West, a prominent oil and gas industry lobbyist representing Chesapeake and other industry clients, made “one last pitch” ? in an email to DEC Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel Steven Russo ? to “reduce or eliminate radionuclide testing” of fluids that could migrate from drilling sites during storms, according to the documents.
NY DEC has previously found concentrations of cancer-causing radioactive pollution at shale gas drilling sites that exceeded safe drinking water standards by hundreds of times or more, according to EWG’s report “Inside Track: Cuomo Team Gives Drillers Jump Start to Influence Fracking Rules.”
“This is like giving the drilling industry three laps around the track while everyone else was left waiting on the starting block,” said Thomas Cluderay, EWG assistant general counsel. “The public needs to know whether New York regulators compromised the integrity of the state’s drilling plan months ago, despite promises of keeping the process fair and transparent.”
This latest tale of special interests receiving special treatment from the agencies that are supposed to referee their activities was first revealed today in the Albany Times Union.
New York DEC attempted to justify its actions by claiming that “selective advance sharing by DEC was neither required nor prohibited” by state statutes, according to the Times Union article.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to make a decision “shortly” on the fate of fracking in New York, a proposition that has drawn fierce grassroots resistance and strained relations in communities across the state. The DEC is reviewing nearly 70,000 public comments submitted after its plan was published last September.
This will be one of the highest profile decisions ever made on fracking, since it could put at risk the drinking water and public health of New York City’s eight million residents and millions more in affected areas of the state.
If adopted, the NY DEC’s proposed regulations could allow 50,000 gas wells in New York’s portion of the Marcellus Shale. EWG and the New York-based Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy released a report earlier this summer documenting the serious flaws in New York’s proposed drilling plan.
This new evidence demonstrates that the NY DEC has compromised the integrity of the environmental review process by working behind the scenes to give advanced access to industry officials on rules that should be seen by all stakeholders for an equal amount of time during a standard public comment period.
It certainly seems unfair ? and potentially improper ? for the NY DEC to grant special access to polluters ahead of public access to the proposed rules.
The Chesapeake representative, Thomas West, appears to enjoy a cozy relationship with regulators charged with protecting New Yorkers’ environment and public health. In his biography on his law firm’s website, Thomas West boasts about being “at the forefront of the 2008 amendments to New York law to accommodate the development of the shale resources in New York State.”
Noting his heavy involvement in the New York fracking review process, West continues,
“Since the passage of that law, he has been actively involved with the environmental review process being conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) to prepare a Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (“SGEIS”) relative to high-volume hydraulic fracturing. He has been working closely with industry on their comments to the DEC relative to the SGEIS and recently represented an industry working group in responding to technical comments from the DEC. He is also currently counseling several clients concerning the steps that must be taken to defend against the highly anticipated litigation that will be brought challenging the SGEIS?” [emphasis added]
West also mentions that he “currently represents one major operator before the New York State Legislature and the Governor’s office relative to oil and gas issues.”
Presumably he’s referring to his client Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest natural gas company behind ExxonMobil. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson recently admitted that his company is currently making ”no money” on U.S. natural gas due to the stale economics of the industry. Tillerson told the Wall Street Journal that ExxonMobil’s shale gas bet is a bust, at least to date.
“We are losing our shirts,” Tillerson told the Wall Street Journal.
All eyes are on NY Governor Cuomo now, who must reign in the DEC’s inappropriate dealings with the fracking industry and rely on the best science available to protect New Yorkers from the dangers of fracking seen elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world.
To view the internal documents and learn more about the NY DEC’s contact with industry on this controversial subject, head over to EWG’s report: Inside Track: Cuomo Team Gives Drillers Jump Start to Influence Fracking Rules.
Brendan DeMelle is Executive Director and Managing Editor of DeSmogBlog.com. Full disclosure, he used to worked at EWG from 2000-2004. This piece was originally published at DeSmogBlog and was reprinted with permission.
The new U.S. sanctions against Iran that kick in today — along with an E.U. oil embargo set to take effect Sunday — are expected to put significant pressure on an already faltering Iranian economy. The new U.S. sanctions, signed into law by President Obama, will penalize any foreign financial institution that works a deal through Iran’s Central Bank that deals with Iran’s petroleum sector, whether purchasing Iranian oil exports or selling petroleum industry-related products to Iran.
As the sanctions came into effect, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that she was granting exemptions to China and Singapore — bringing the total number of countries exempted up to 20. The Obama administration granted the waivers because they have, by the State Department’s designation, “significantly reduced their volume of crude oil purchases from Iran.” China got the exemption after reporting that its year-to-year Iranian oil imports between January and May were down by a quarter when comparing 2011 and 2012. Clinton went on:
Their cumulative actions are a clear demonstration to Iran?s government that Iran?s continued violation of its international nuclear obligations carries an enormous economic cost.
When the European Union oil embargo goes into effect July 1, Iran?s leaders will understand even more fully the urgency of the choice they face and the unity of the international community.
In a background briefing for reporters, a senior administration official added that the exemptions went to “major importers of Iranian oil.” The official said:
In pursuing the sanctions regime we’ve had the strong support of a broad coalition of countries all over the world who’ve stood united in sending the signal to Iran that its got to limit its nuclear program and address international concerns.
The official added: “It’s noteworthy that these are all the significant purchasers of Iranian oil. This is a diverse group of countries, some are U.S. allies and some are in the non-aligned movement.”
The reductions in exports — an Iranian official admitted Wednesday that export figures were down 20 to 30 percent — is likely to continue to depress an already hurting Iranian economy. “Iran’s currency, the Rial, has lost about 40 percent of its value since November 2011, and employment figures are increasing,” said the official. “Things will only go from bad to worse until Iran gets serious about addressing intelational concerns about its nuclear program.”
A potential Iranian nuclear weapon is widely considered a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of pressure and diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the ?best and most permanent way? to resolve the crisis.
Responding to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, Congressional Republicans have scheduled a vote in the House to repeal the law and Mitt Romney pledged to undo the measure if he’s elected president in November. But unless the GOP wins a super majority in the Senate — a scenario no one thinks is plausible — it can do little more than weaken Obamacare’s regulations and defund some of its provisions. Here is why:
1) Romney has no authority to issue waivers. Romney has promised to expand a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allows states to opt out of certain sections of the law to permit states to ignore it entirely. But the executive branch and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) likely don?t have the authority to grant such broad waivers. According to the law, HHS (together with the IRS) have waiver authority, but only if the states meet very specific requirements. Neither have blanket waiver authority, which would have to come from Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — the author of the waiver provision — has challenged Romney’s claims, saying, “Anybody who tries to move outside the standards of the bill ? which is the coverage and costs and the like ? well I?ll certainly fight that. But I think lots of other people will too.”
2) Congress can’t repeal the full law through reconciliation. Without the necessary 60 votes in the Senate for full repeal, Republicans are pledging to use a budget reconciliation bill to undo the ACA. But this process would only apply to the budget-related elements of the law and would thus leave many portions — including the mandate — intact. As health care expert Robert Laszewski put it, ?Romney could end up creating a chaotic environment driven by enormous uncertainty over just which parts of the new health care law would be implemented?for consumers, health care providers, and insurers.”
3) Republicans have nothing to replace it with. David Frum explains that since the expansion of coverage provisions go into effect in 2014, Romney would have just one year to both repeal and replace the law. Republicans haven’t even coalesced around a single plan — and many in the party believe that the federal government should leave health care alone and want to leave the entire reform process to the states. Thus, “if replacement does not happen in the first 100 days, it won’t happen at all?that is, it won’t happen as a single measure, but rather will take the form of dozens of small incremental changes adopted episodically over the next 20 years.”
4) Americans support Obamacare’s provisions. While Americans may not like “Obamacare” — and the political process of passing it — they do support its major provisions and are likely to resist any effort by Republicans to take away their benefits. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that while 56 percent of Americans oppose the law as a whole, 61 percent of respondents favored allowing young adults to stay on their parents? insurance plans until age 26, 72 percent wish to maintain the requirement that companies with more than 50 workers provide health insurance for their employees, and 82 percent of respondents favored banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. As more benefits roll out in 2014, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to argue for their repeal.
Attorney General Eric Holder.
After several hours of often acid-tongued debate Thursday, the House of Representatives approved by a vote of 255 to 67 a resolution to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over the release of documents related to the "Fast and Furious" operation. Only
one two Republicans voted no; 17 Democrats voted yes, and 65 Democrats voted no.
Scores of Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, joined the Congressional Black Caucus in walking out rather than vote on the resolution that several considered outrageous, outlandish and out-of-line. It was the first time an attorney general has ever been held in contempt by the House.
The CBC had issued a statement ahead of time on the walk-out:
?We adamantly oppose this partisan attack and refuse to participate in any vote that would tarnish the image of Congress or of an attorney general who has done nothing but work tirelessly to protect the rights of the American people. We must reflect upon why we are elected to this body and choose now to stand up for justice. We call upon all members of Congress to stand with us during a press conference on the Capitol Building steps during this appalling series of votes to discuss our nation's most significant priority?creating jobs. At this critically important time in our nation, we must work as colleagues rather than political enemies.
The roster of Democratic shame (updated thanks to David Nir; asterisks denote members of Blue Dog coalition):
Jason Altmire (PA-04, lost primary in PA-12) *
John Barrow (GA-12) *
Dan Boren (OK-02, retiring) *
Leonard Boswell (IA-03) *
Ben Chandler (KY-06) *
Mark Critz (PA-12)
Joe Donnelly (IN-02, running for IN-Sen) *
Kathy Hochul (NY-26)
Ron Kind (WI-03)
Larry Kissell (NC-08) *
Jim Matheson (UT-02, running in UT-04) *
Mike McIntyre (NC-07) *
Bill Owens (NY-23, running in NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07) *
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Mike Ross (AR-04, retiring) *
Tim Walz (MN-01)
Here is the White House statement on the vote.
Right-wing media have reacted to the Supreme Court's ruling upholding President Obama's health care law by claiming it is "a dark day for freedom" and "the end of America as we know it." But the decision allows the health care law to implement reforms that will protect and extend affordable insurance coverage to millions of Americans.
Breitbart.com's Pollak: "The Supreme Court Has Made A Wrong Decision, For The Wrong Reasons, In Defense Of A Wrong Policy." In a June 28 post on Breitbart.com, editor-in-chief Joel Pollak claimed that if the health care law is not repealed following the Supreme Court's decision, "our health care system will be ruined, our Treasury bankrupted, and our Republic endangered." From Breitbart.com:
More broadly, Americans' confidence in the judiciary will be damaged by this decision--as much as by Bush v. Gore. Liberals have long believed the Court is merely a political institution. For conservatives, it will be difficult not to see the Court a political institution whose rules and culture are hostile. It is now customary for Republican appointees to become more left-wing over time; the reverse almost never happens. The answer cannot be to win more elections. A bigger shift, in the legal academy perhaps, will be necessary to restore what conservatives consider the Framers' constitutional vision. And that could take generations.
The Supreme Court has made a wrong decision, for the wrong reasons, in defense of a wrong policy. If citizens do not rush to the polls to undo what has happened--and after today, I am not certain that they will--our health care system will be ruined, our Treasury bankrupted, and our Republic endangered. [Breitbart.com, 6/28/12]
Fox's Starnes: "A Dark Day For Freedom." During the June 28 edition of his "Fox News and Commentary" radio segment, Fox News Radio's Todd Starnes reacted to the Supreme Court's decision by claiming that "we are now living in occupied America" and telling "freedom-loving Americans to mobilize and reclaim our nation." Starnes headlined a post accompanying audio of the segment "A Dark Day for Freedom." From Starnes' "Fox News and Commentary" radio segment:
We are now living in occupied America. The supreme court ruled today that the federal government has the right to force you to buy health insurance. A ruling that jeopardizes religious liberty, and will force a massive new tax on the American people. Sixty percent of the nation believes that mandate is a violation of individual rights. It's time now for freedom-loving Americans to mobilize and reclaim our nation. [Fox News Radio, 6/28/12]
Breitbart.com's Shapiro: "This Is The End Of America As We Know It." In a June 28 post to his Twitter feed, Breitbart.com editor Ben Shapiro wrote that the decision to uphold the health care law "is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration." From Shapiro's Twitter feed:
Fox's Palin: "Obama Lies; Freedom Dies." Fox News contributor Sarah Palin reacted to the Supreme Court's decision by claiming "freedom die[d]." From Twitter:
HHS: Health Care Law Ends Lifetime Limits For 105 Million Americans. According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Affordable Care Act will end lifetime benefit limits for 105 million health care consumers. From Health and Human Services:
The Affordable Care Act prohibits health plans from imposing a lifetime dollar limit on most benefits received by Americans in any health plan renewing on or after September 23, 2010. While some plans already provided coverage with no limits on lifetime benefits, millions of Americans were previously in health plans that did not.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's Employer Health Benefits Survey, 59 percent of all workers covered by their employer's health plan in 2009 had some lifetime limit placed on their benefits. In addition, 89 percent of people with individually purchased coverage had a lifetime limit on their benefits.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated the number of Americans receiving these new protections, combining results from the 2009 Kaiser employer survey and 2009 America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) report with data from the 2009 to 2011 versions of the Current Population Survey (covering calendar years 2008-2010).
Overall, we estimated that 70 million persons in large employer plans, 25 million persons in small employer plans, and 10 million persons with individually purchased health insurance had lifetime limits on their health benefits prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. These 105 million Americans now enjoy improved coverage without lifetime limits.
Among the 105 million Americans for whom lifetime limits have been eliminated as a result of the Affordable Care Act, 75.3 million are non-Latino White, 11.8 million are Latino, 10.4 million are African-American, 5.5 million are Asian, and approximately 500,000 are American Indian or Alaska Native (Figure 2). Approximately 28 million of those benefiting are children, with the remainder of the 105 million split almost equally between adult men and adult women. Approximately 15.9 million individuals lived in rural areas, with the remainder in urban areas. [HHS, March 2012]
The Hill: "About 86 Million People Took Advantage Of The Healthcare Reform Law's Prevention Benefits For Medicare Beneficiaries." A February 15 post on The Hill's Healthwatch blog reported that 86 million people have already benefitted from the Affordable Care Act's preventive care measures, citing reports from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services. From The Hill:
About 86 million Americans took advantage of the healthcare reform law's prevention benefits for Medicare beneficiaries and people with private insurance last year, the Obama administration said in two reports released Wednesday.
One report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that an estimated 32.5 million -- almost three out of four -- Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of the law's coverage of prevention with no cost sharing last year. These include 6 million mammography screenings, 2.8 million bone mass measurements and 1.2 million pap tests -- all of which were previously subject to deductibles or co-payments.
Another 54 million people in private insurance are estimated to have taken advantage of the law's expanded coverage of at least some preventive services, according to a report from the assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These include pediatrician visits, cancer screenings and immunizations. [The Hill, 2/15/12]
USA Today: "More Than 3.1 Million Americans Ages 19 Through 25 Are Covered" Because Of Health Care Law. A June 19 USA Today article cited a HHS report that found that "3.1 million Americans ages 19 through 25 are covered by their parents' medical insurance policies because of a provision in the 2010 health care law." From USA Today:
More than 3.1 million Americans ages 19 through 25 are covered by their parents' medical insurance policies because of a provision in the 2010 health care law, the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to announce today.
That's up from 2.5 million in December. About 75% of people in that age group now have insurance, up from 64% in 2010, records show.
It also adds healthy people to the insurance pool should the court strike down just the part of the law that requires people to buy health insurance, said Ron Pollack, founding executive director of Families USA, which supports the law. [USA Today, 6/19/12]
Families USA: "The Affordable Care Act ... Will Provide Tangible And Measurable Relief To American Families." In an October 2011 report, Families USA found that the Affordable Care Act "when fully implemented, will provide tangible and measurable relief to American families" and will "slow the growth of underlying health care costs." [Families USA, October 2011]
Huffington Post: The Affordable Care Act Is "Already Providing Widespread Relief To Some Americans." An April 3 Huffington Post article pointed out several "consumer benefits that would disappear if the whole law were to be ruled unconstitutional":
Many provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect when it was signed into law in 2010, and a full repeal would eliminate reforms that are already providing widespread relief to some Americans. Here are some consumer benefits that would disappear if the whole law were to be ruled unconstitutional:
Increased coverage of preventive services
Many health insurance plans are now subject to new rules that require them to cover recommended preventive services without charging a co-payment. As a result, consumers pay nothing for services like routine screenings, vaccines, counseling, flu shots and well-baby and well-child visits from birth to age 21.
Coverage for children with pre-existing conditions
Under the new law, insurance companies cannot deny coverage or limit benefits to children under age 19 because of a pre-existing condition or disability. Starting in 2014, people of all ages with pre-existing conditions will be protected.
Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan
Adults who have been refused insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions and who have remained uninsured for at least six months are eligible for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. The program covers primary and specialty care, prescription drugs and hospital visits without requesting higher premiums for pre-existing conditions. [The Huffington Post, 4/3/12, emphasis original]
Mother Jones' Serwer: As A Result Of Health Care Reform, Children "Cannot Be Denied Coverage Because Of A Pre-Existing Condition." In an April 12 Mother Jones article, Adam Serwer noted that "[m]illions could be hurt if the Supreme Court scraps health care reform." Serwer used the case of Marla Tipping, whose 14-year old son has a pre-existing condition, to point out the impact repeal of the health care law could have on Americans:
Tipping says her family has had "to be absolutely vigilant in never having a lapse in coverage ... because many carriers would never carry you with a preexisting condition again."
That was the case before the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Now, children like Cam cannot be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. (Similar protections for adults are set to start in 2014.) While Tipping says she and her husband still pay between $20-25,000 out of pocket every year for costs their insurance won't cover, the ACA at least guarantees that they'll be able to find some kind of policy for Cam, even if they are forced to leave their current plan.
Most of the speculation over the fate of the Affordable Care Act has focused on the individual mandate and what the decision could mean for the 2012 presidential election. However, if the Supreme Court decides to throw out large parts of the law along with the mandate, Tipping's family is one of millions that could lose the benefit of provisions that are already in place. [Mother Jones, 4/12/12]
NY Times: Health Care Repeal Could Jeopardize Funding For Several Beneficial Health Programs. A June 21 New York Times article noted that the health care law included funding for several health care programs and health care delivery center improvements that would be in jeopardy if the full bill were repealed. From the Times article:
By the end of June, the court is expected to decide whether some or all of the Obama administration's health care law is constitutional. While speculation has focused on how the decision would affect the future of the nation's health insurance market, little attention has been paid to the tens of billions of dollars in federal money appropriated for a host of other provisions in the law.
If the court strikes down the entire law, many experts are skeptical that lawmakers will go ahead with funds for programs like the new Prevention and Public Health Fund, even if they are completely distinct from the controversial aspects of the law seeking to overhaul the insurance markets.
"I have no confidence that Congress will turn around and adequately fund the public health system," said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, which represents people working in public health. The federal law sought to remedy years of underinvestment, he said.
The fate of programs like the federally financed state pools for people who cannot get private insurance that were expected to end as soon as the full law went into effect in 2014, when insurers would be required to cover everyone, is also unclear.
About 70,000 people have enrolled in these programs. About $1 billion has been spent so far to help subsidize their coverage and an additional $4 billion has been authorized under the law to keep the programs until 2014. [The New York Times, 6/21/12]
Health Care Expert Kevin Pho: If Health Reform Is Struck Down "Not Only Would The Uninsured Lose, So Would Other Constituents With Health Insurance." In a June 17 post on The New York Times' Room for Debate blog, health care blogger and primary care physician Dr. Kevin Pho noted:
If the individual mandate is struck down, health insurers cannot feasibly offer insurance to all patients unless they charge patients with pre-existing medical conditions significantly more than healthy patients. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the number of Americans remaining uninsured would be 40 percent higher -- 16 million people -- without the mandate than with it, and insurance premiums would be 15 percent to 20 percent more.
If health reform is struck down in its entirety, however, not only would the uninsured lose, so would other constituents with health insurance, like the elderly. One of the unsung benefits of the Affordable Care Act is Medicare's Annual Well Visit exam, which has been offered since 2011. Thanks to these visits, which I perform every day in my primary care clinic, I have the opportunity to evaluate seniors for their risk of falling, screen for depression and ensure preventive services like vaccines and cancer screening are adhered to.
Furthermore, health reform has already helped seniors save money. In 2011 alone, nearly 3.6 million Medicare beneficiaries saved $2.1 billion in prescription drug costs. A total repeal of law would not only hurt the uninsured, but would deny seniors benefits they already receive. [The New York Times, 6/17/12]
CBO: Health Care Reform Lowers The Deficit By More Than $100 Billion. In March 2011, the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation issued a joint report saying that "[o]n net, CBO and JCT's latest comprehensive estimate is that the effects of the two laws on direct spending and revenues related to health care will reduce federal deficits by $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period." The CBO subsequently determined that the Obama administration's decision to indefinitely suspend implementation of the portion of the Affordable Care Act that enacted the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act lowered the deficit savings of the Affordable Care Act by $83 billion. [Congressional Budget Office, 3/30/11, 10/31/11]
It seems almost every day there are new presidential polls of swing states showing the race is tight but with the advantage for President Obama, today is no different.[...]
Read The Full Article:
After hosting claims that the EPA acted "lawless[ly]" by regulating greenhouse gas emissions, Fox News' flagship "straight news" program Special Report has ignored an important court ruling that undermines Fox's narrative.
Special Report Has Not Covered DC Circuit Court Ruling. Special Report has not covered the ruling by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel of judges that includes a conservative Reagan appointee, in favor of EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. [Fox News, Special Report, 6/26/12 and 6/27/12, via Nexis]
Krauthammer Suggested On Special Report That EPA Rule Is "Outright Lawlessness." After the Obama administration announced changes to immigration enforcement in June last year, regular Special Report contributor Charles Krauthammer said that it was "outright lawlessness" and that "It's exactly as Obama is doing with the EPA. Cap and Trade is rejected so it will regulate the carbon emissions again through executive action." [Fox News, Special Report, 6/23/11, via Nexis]
Fox Correspondent Suggested CO2 May Not Be A Pollutant Under The Clean Air Act. On February 9, 2011, Fox News correspondent Jim Angle delivered a he-said/she-said report on whether carbon dioxide can be regulated under the Clean Air Act:
JIM ANGLE, FOX NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Republicans want to make sure the EPA doesn't use the Clean Air Act to do by regulation what Congress refused to do in legislation, passed a cap and trade law aimed at reducing carbon emissions by taxing them.
ANGLE: Democrats accused Republicans of trying to weaken the Clean Air Act and endanger health, but Republicans struck back, noting none of the six pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act would be affected. They include lead, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and others, but not carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas the EPA wants to regulate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Clean Air Act does not give you that authority.
LISA JACKSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: The Supreme Court says it does.
WAXMAN: The Supreme Court, by 5-4, said the EPA must regulate if they have endangerment finding.
ANGLE: But Republican Joe Barton told Administrator Jackson that is not the case.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: CO2 is not mentioned in the Clean Air Act. It's a 5-4 that it might be. It is your administration's position that it should be. But that doesn't mean that it has to be. [Fox News, Special Report, 2/9/11, via Nexis]
Fox Correspondent: EPA Is "Circumventing Congress." On the January 6 edition of Special Report, Fox News correspondent Claudia Cowen reported: "Circumventing Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency is ordering heavy trucks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." [Fox News, Special Report, 1/6/12, via Nexis]
Special Report Previously Highlighted Legal Challenges To EPA. The September 29, 2011, edition of Special Report highlighted an Inspector General's report requested by Republicans which found that the EPA missed some obscure technical steps in its greenhouse gas endangerment finding, and said the report would "provid[e] ammunition to Republicans and industry lawyers battling the Obama administration over the decision to use the Clean Air Act to fight global warming." [Fox News, Special Report, 9/29/11, via Nexis]
Unanimous Court Ruling: EPA Was "Unambiguously Correct," "Greenhouse Gases Are Indisputably An 'Air Pollutant.'" From the text of the recent ruling by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals:
Petitioners, various states and industry groups, challenge all these rules, arguing that they are based on improper constructions of the CAA [Clean Air Act] and are otherwise arbitrary and capricious. But for the reasons set forth below, we conclude: 1) the Endangerment Finding and Tailpipe Rule are neither arbitrary nor capricious; 2) EPA's interpretation of the governing CAA provisions is unambiguously correct; and 3) no petitioner has standing to challenge the Timing and Tailoring Rules. We thus dismiss for lack of jurisdiction all petitions for review of the Timing and Tailoring Rules, and deny the remainder of the petitions.
We begin our analysis, as we must, with the statute's plain language. CAA Section 169(1) requires PSD permits for stationary sources emitting major amounts of "any air pollutant." (emphasis added). On its face, "the word 'any' has an expansive meaning, that is, 'one or some indiscriminately of whatever kind.'" Greenhouse gases are indisputably an "air pollutant." See Massachusetts v. EPA. Congress's use of the broad, indiscriminate modifier "any" thus strongly suggests that the phrase "any air pollutant" encompasses greenhouse gases. [U.S. Court of Appeals, Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, 6/26/12, emphasis added]
The Clean Air Act Identified Six Known Pollutants, But Also Required That EPA Regulate Pollutants That Pose A Danger To Public Health And Welfare. Science magazine reported:
The Clean Air Act named six known pollutants, including lead and soot. But it also set up a process called the "endangerment finding" that EPA would use to decide whether additional pollutants should be regulated under the act or adjust its standards for allowable pollution.
"Congress said to the EPA: We want you to be watching the science. You're supposed to be on guard. When the science shows there's a danger, then you need to act. Don't come to us for instructions," says David Doniger, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.
There's evidence that during the drafting of the act and its subsequent amendments that climate was one of the dangers Congress was thinking about. In 1970, as mentioned here, Senator Caleb Boggs (R-DE) said during debate on the law that "Air pollution alters climate and may produce global changes in temperature." As laid out here, in 1977 a report by the House that accompanied an update to the law mentioned "possible weather and climate modifications" among the risks to particulate matter it was seeking to regulate. [Science magazine, 2/7/11]
Court Ruling: Clean Air Act "Mandates That EPA Promulgate New Emission Standards" If A Pollutant "'May Reasonably Be Anticipated To Endanger Public Health Or Welfare.'" From the text of the recent ruling by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals:
Congress did not restrict EPA to remedial regulation when it enacted CAA § 202(a). That section mandates that EPA promulgate new emission standards if it determines that the air pollution at issue "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." This language requires a precautionary, forward-looking scientific judgment about the risks of a particular air pollutant, consistent with the CAA's "precautionary and preventive orientation." Requiring that EPA find "certain" endangerment of public health or welfare before regulating greenhouse gases would effectively prevent EPA from doing the job Congress gave it in § 202(a)--utilizing emission standards to prevent reasonably anticipated endangerment from maturing into concrete harm. [U.S. Court of Appeals, Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, 6/26/12]
Expert: Ruling Entirely In Favor Of The EPA Was Important And Unexpected. The Associated Press quoted Michael Gerrard of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University who said that the "complete slam dunk" for EPA was unexpected:
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said that the Environmental Protection Agency was "unambiguously correct" in using existing federal law to address global warming, denying two of the challenges to four separate regulations and dismissing the others.
Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, said no one expected the "complete slam dunk" issued by the court Tuesday, and said the decision was exceeded in importance only by the Supreme Court ruling five years ago. [Associated Press, 6/26/12, via Washington Post]
It's rare in a presidential campaign to have the opportunity to witness both major candidates reacting to news over which they have no control, but with the statements of President Obama and Mitt Romney to today's Supreme Court decision upholding Obamacare, this was one of those days. And as you can see in this video, the stark contrast between Obama's empathetic leadership and Romney's heartless political calculation couldn't have been more clear:
If you were watching cable news when the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, you were probably confused at first. Initially, both CNN and Fox News announced that the individual mandate had been struck down, only to come back a few minutes later and correct themselves, after their screaming chyrons and web site headlines had already gone up announcing the administration's defeat. Let's forget about Fox, since they're just a bunch of nincompoops anyway. The more interesting question concerns CNN. The most common explanation for this screwup is that they have come to value being first over being right, which is true enough. But I think it also suggests that they don't really understand their audience. And by trying to be just as fast as MSNBC or Fox, they lost an opportunity to differentiate themselves.
My guess is that the people who work at CNN have in their heads an imagined audience made up of people like them, people who think it matters if a particular piece of news is delivered at 10:20 and 30 seconds instead of 10:20 and 50 seconds. They're terrified that someone might glance away from their broadcast to look at Twitter, so they desperately try to keep up, which means running with information before they have it locked down.
But is that really a game they can win? Let's say they were right, and they announced the news a whole 10 seconds before their competitors. Were any viewers going to say, "Gee, those folks at CNN are really on the ball. I'm going to tune in there for my news from now on"? Of course not. But what if they had tried something different? They had plenty of notice, and a mistake like the one they made was easily foreseeable.What if they had started saying, days ago, something like the following:
"On Thursday, the Supreme Court is going to issue its decision on the Affordable Care Act. When court decisions like this one come down, there's an initial period of confusion and a mad dash to figure out what it means. The language of these decisions is often very complex, and it can take a while to sort through it. So we're going to make you a promise: We'll tell you everything we know as quickly as we can, but we won't give you any screaming headlines about who won or lost until we're absolutely sure. Our competitors can deliver those headlines a few seconds before us, and that's fine. But we care enough about our viewers to make sure we get it right, so you understand the news instead of just having it shouted at you."
If they had said that over and over, starting back on Monday or so, media reporters everywhere would have written stories about CNN's renewed commitment to accuracy and how they're upholding the finest journalistic traditions. And maybe they would have gained a few viewers.