Virginia Governor Bypassing Legislature to Join State-Based Climate Scheme

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is poised to implement a new regulation without legislative approval to join 10 other states in a climate change agreement based on restricting carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

But lawmakers, policy analysts, and tea party activists in Virginia who oppose what they consider costly regulations of industry are raising questions about the economic and scientific arguments underpinning the proposed rule.

They say the Virginia General Assembly should have a straight up-or-down vote on Northam’s plan, in part to ensure that any revenue the Democratic governor raises from “carbon trading” is collected and dispersed in a manner consistent with the state Constitution.

The  Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, is a multistate agreement that currently includes Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. In addition to Virginia, New Jersey may rejoin the pact.

The public comment period for a draft version of Northam’s proposed regulation ended in April. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is expected to introduce a final version in November.

The seven-member Air Pollution Control Board then will be responsible for making a decision. Board members, appointed by the governor, operate independently from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Northam, a physician from the state’s Eastern Shore who previously was a state senator and lieutenant governor, took office in January after being elected governor last November.

Michael Dowd, director of the environmental agency’s Air and Renewable Energy Division, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that the Air Pollution Control Board “has a lot of authority with respect to promulgating regulations.”

A board majority may “reject, accept, or modify” the proposed rule as it sees fit, Dowd said.

If the board decides in favor of the regulation, he said, it could go into effect by December.

The Virginia General Assembly does not go back into session until January, however. With Democrat gains in the state’s November 2017 elections,  Republicans have a 51-49 edge in the House of Delegates and a 21-19 margin in the state Senate.

Officials of states that entered the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative argue that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are responsible for dangerous levels of climate change, also known as global warming. These gases enter the atmosphere during the industrial burning of fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil.

However, a growing number of scientists question theories that link human activity to significant climate change, and instead point to natural forces.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, signed an executive order earlier this year directing his agencies to re-enter RGGI. Murphy’s Republican predecessor, Chris Christie, had withdrawn from the climate change agreement.

Participating states are required to impose a “cap and trade” arrangement. Government officials set an upper limit on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel plants. But “allowances” may be traded back and forth among the companies subjected to the caps.

“Joining RGGI now is like joining a football team that’s trailing 40-3 in the 4th quarter,” Nick Loris, an energy policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, said in an email to The Daily Signal. ‘There’s no real upside. No impact on climate. Higher electricity bills for families. Lost business opportunities.”

Questioning the Governor’s Plan

The problem with the development in Virginia is that “unelected regulators” have been granted too much authority over major policy decisions that will have significant statewide impact, Craig Rucker, executive director and co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, told The Daily Signal.

“The RGGI system has been very damaging to those states that are participating,” Rucker said in a phone interview. “You see much higher electricity rates on average in those areas where RGGI is in effect, and you also see those states losing ground economically in comparison to other states that are not part of this agreement. And it should be noted that the RGGI states are not achieving anything in terms of lower global temperatures.”

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, known as CFACT, is a Washington-based group that supports free market solutions in energy policy.

Virginia lawmakers should have the opportunity to weigh in on a regulatory change that could have “long-term ramifications,” Rucker said, adding:

Because the effects of these regulations are not always immediately evident and often materialize over time, I don’t think it’s healthy for our democracy to have this change implemented administratively by individuals who do not have to stand before the voters. We are talking about rising energy costs that will impact future generations and impact Virginia’s ability to compete economically with other states.

But Dowd, the state Department of Environmental Quality official, said the Northam administration disagrees with critics who say the governor is making an end-run around the General Assembly to join the multistate climate change pact.

“We’ve heard that argument and we disagree with it,” Dowd said in the interview with The Daily Signal. “Our position is, and it always has been, that the state air pollution law vests the state air board with broad authority to control air pollution, and that linking to RGGI in a carbon trade or carbon cap-and-trade program is well within the statutory, regulatory authority of the air board.”

While there will be “some expense” to energy consumers, the proposal has been carefully crafted to limit the impact, Dowd told The Daily Signal:

We have heard the concerns about [rising energy] costs and our response is that we have taken this into consideration in the economic modeling we have done, and the modeling indicates that the impact to ratepayers is relatively minimal. In fact, the impact to ratepayers should be a little over 1 percent between now and 2030. We think we have constructed a rule with the right approach and that this is the most cost-effective way to control carbon in Virginia.

In April, Northam vetoed a bill from Delegate Charles Poindexter, a Republican, that would have prohibited the governor or any state agency, including the Air Pollution Control Board, from entering into RGGI or creating any other cap-and-trade program without legislative approval.

In a press statement, Northam explained why he vetoed Poindexter’s bill.

“Climate change affects all citizens and business entities in the Commonwealth, especially those located in coastal regions,” the governor said, adding:

The Commonwealth must have all the tools available to combat climate change and protect its residents. These tools include the ability to adopt regulations, and rules and guidance that mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing carbon pollution in the Commonwealth. The governor and state agencies should not be limited in their ability to protect the environment and in turn, the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Tea Party Activists Challenge Green Regulations

Virginia residents who oppose Northam’s plan to enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative were expected to show up in force Saturday for theVirginia Tea Party’s Fall Summit Meeting in Richmond.

Randy Randol, who analyzes energy and environmental issues for  the Virginia Tea Party, said in a phone interview that the governor already has tacitly acknowledged limits to his authority over finances, and that these limits could affect implementation of RGGI.

“As predicted, Northam has requested that he be allowed to spend permit fee collections, confirming that he lacks authority to fully implement the program,” Randol said.

Virginia Natural Resources Secretary Matthew Strickler informed a legislative commission earlier this month that Northam would ask the General Assembly “to keep and spend the proceeds of a new electricity carbon tax, rather than find a way to return it to ratepayers,” according to news reports.

Strickler estimates that under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Virginia utilities would have to purchase carbon credits that would generate $200 million in revenue.

Under the cap-and-trade plan, companies buy carbon credits from state governments, typically during “carbon auctions” consistent with RGGI regulations. State governments collect revenue as a result.

How this money is collected, distributed, and appropriated remains an open question and a major sticking point.

The carbon credits that energy companies would be required to purchase under such a plan would generate between $175 million and $208 million for Virginia government, according to a fiscal note attached to legislation from Democratic lawmakers to authorize a cap-and-trade plan. Lawmakers defeated that plan in a party-line vote.

“The Department of Environmental Quality originally sold RGGI as a recycling program to get the money back to the consumer,” Randol said. “The RGGI fee will be a direct pass-through to every class of electricity consumer—residential, business, and industry.”

The tea party activist added:

Utilities are immune because they will pass the tax along to the consumers. What the governor is calling a fee is really tax, and there are reasons why he doesn’t want to call it tax.

The Virginia Tea Party has opposed every ration and tax and cap-and-tax scheme that has been proposed. There was, for example, a proposal to tax power plant emissions to fund flood mitigation that we strongly opposed.

This proposal to move us into RGGI would impact the poorest residents of Virginia the most.

‘Where the Money Goes’

Poindexter, the state delegate who pushed the bill requiring the General Assembly to approve any move into RGGI, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview that he opposes the governor’s plan both legally and substantively.

Although the Virginia Constitution may give the governor latitude to join RGGI, it doesn’t provide him with the authority to control the appropriation and spending of funds derived from the multistate agreement, Poindexter said.

“Where the money goes and who controls how it’s spent is still up in the air, and therein lies the problem with the governor doing this on his own,” Poindexter said. “Under the Virginia Constitution and state law, money cannot be spent without appropriation from the General Assembly. What’s happening now is an attempt to work around constitutional requirements and the requirements of state law, to allow the governor to have control of the estimated $200 million in revenue from the sale of these carbon credits.”

Poindexter, who represents Patrick County and parts of Franklin and Henry counties, also is a member of the state Commission on Energy and Environment.

As a matter of policy, Poindexter said, he views the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as detrimental to Virginia’s best interests. He anticipates that it will discourage energy production from inside the state and undermine future job opportunities.

“Virginia would not be putting itself in good company by joining RGGI,” the lawmaker said. “When you look at where the electricity rates are in those states that are now in RGGI versus what we have now in Virginia, my concern is that entering into this agreement would lead to electricity rates rising to some level that is equivalent or even higher than they are in those other RGGI states.”

“Also,” Poindexter said, “my understanding is that in RGGI states, electricity generation typically moves out of those states and the power is then imported. That would not be a healthy development for our state, should we start to lose those jobs related to energy generation.”

Rucker and others at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow also challenged the scientific premise underpinning RGGI and similar state-level agreements. They point to updated research that shows natural forces, as opposed to human activity, are primarily responsible for climate change.

EPA’s Proposed Rule

In the run-up to Saturday’s Virginia Tea Party Summit, another question was on the mind of participants.

Since the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration has proposed a rule replacing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan with guidelines giving states more flexibility to determine how to address greenhouse gas emissions, isn’t RGGI now superfluous?

Why not just embrace the EPA’s proposed Affordable Clean Energy Rule?

Related: EPA Moves to Scrap Obama Mandates for Power Plant Emissions

“Our concern with what the EPA has proposed is that it is not very stringent and that it’s really not going to move the ball forward in terms of regulating carbon emissions,” Dowd of the state Department of Environmental Quality said. “RGGI represents a far more stringent and more realistic approach, and I don’t think the ACE rule as proposed is strong enough to control carbon.”

But Heritage’s Loris said he views the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative as a losing proposition for Virginia.

“Interestingly, the United States isn’t leading the developed world in greenhouse gas reduction because of a regional cap-and-trade program,” Loris said. “The private sector’s investment in cheap, abundant, and affordable natural gas is the reason.”

Report by Kevin Mooney. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

4 Ways the New ‘Climate Change Report’ Fakes Science

If you’re like me, you’re happy the White House released the latest version of the National Climate Assessment on Black Friday. Publishing the 1,700-page report the day after Thanksgiving saved me from unwanted dinner conversations about our planet’s impending climate doom.

But if your aunt calls you up this week spouting claims of mass deaths, global food shortages, economic destruction, and national security risks resulting from climate change, here’s what you need to know about this report.

1. It wildly exaggerates economic costs.

One statistic that media outlets have seized upon is that the worst climate scenario could cost the U.S. 10 percent of its gross domestic product by 2100.  The 10 percent loss projection is more than twice the percentage that was lost during the Great Recession.

The study, funded in part by climate warrior Tom Steyer’s organization, calculates these costs on the assumption that the world will be 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. That temperature projection is even higher than the worst-case scenario predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In other words, it is completely unrealistic.

2. It assumes the most extreme (and least likely)climate scenario.

The scary projections in the National Climate Assessment rely on a theoretical climate trajectory that is known as Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5. In estimating impacts on climate change, climatologists use four representative such trajectories to project different greenhouse gas concentrations.

To put it plainly, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 assumes a combination of bad factors that are not likely to all coincide. It assumes “the fastest population growth (a doubling of Earth’s population to 12 billion), the lowest rate of technology development, slow GDP growth, a massive increase in world poverty, plus high energy use and emissions.”

Despite what the National Climate Assessment says, Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 is not a likely scenario. It estimates nearly impossible levels of coal consumption, fails to take into account the massive increase in natural gas production from the shale revolution, and ignores technological innovations that continue to occur in nuclear and renewable technologies.

When taking a more realistic view of the future of conventional fuel use and increased greenhouse gas emissions, the doomsday scenarios vanish. Climatologist Judith Curry recently wrote, “Many ‘catastrophic’ impacts of climate change don’t really kick at the lower CO2 concentrations, and [Representative Concentration Pathway] then becomes useful as a ‘scare’ tactic.”

3. It cherry-picks science on extreme weather and misrepresents timelines and causality.

A central feature of the National Climate Assessment is that the costs of climate are here now, and they are only going to get worse. We’re going to see more hurricanes and floods. Global warming has worsened heat waves and wildfires.

But last year’s National Climate Assessment on extreme weather tells a different story. As University of Colorado Boulder professor Roger Pielke Jr. pointed out in a Twitter thread in August 2017, there were no increases in drought, no increases in frequency or magnitude of floods, no trends in frequency or intensity of hurricanes, and “low confidence for a detectable human climate change contribution in the Western United States based on existing studies.”

It’s hard to imagine all of that could be flipped on its head in a matter of a year.

Another sleight of hand in the National Climate Assessment is where certain graph timelines begin and end. For example, the framing of heat wave data from the 1960s to today makes it appear that there have been more heat wavesin recent years. Framing wildfire data from 1985 until today makes it appear as though wildfires have been increasing in number.

But going back further tells a different story on both counts, as Pielke Jr. has explained in testimony.

Moreover, correlation is not causality. Western wildfires have been particularly bad over the past decade, but it’s hard to say to what extent these are directly owing to hotter and drier temperatures. It’s even more difficult to pin down how much man-made warming is to blame.

Yet the narrative of the National Climate Assessment is that climate change is directly responsible for the increase in economic and environmental destruction of western wildfires. Dismissing the complexity of factors that contribute to a changing climate and how they affect certain areas of the country is irresponsible.

4. Energy taxes are a costly non-solution.

The National Climate Assessment stresses that this report “was created to inform policy-makers and makes no specific recommendations on how to remedy the problem.” Yet the takeaway was clear: The costs pf action (10 percent of America’s GDP) dwarf the costs of any climate policy.

The reality, however, is that policies endorsed to combat climate change would carry significant costs and would do nothing to mitigate warming, even if there were a looming catastrophe like the National Climate Association says.

Just last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposed a carbon tax of between $135 and $5,500 by the year 2030. An energy tax of that magnitude would bankrupt families and businesses, and undoubtedly catapult the world into economic despair.

These policies would simply divert resources away from more valuable use, such as investing in more robust infrastructure to protect against natural disasters or investing in new technologies that make Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 even more of an afterthought than it already should be.

The Trump administration is coming under criticism for publishing the report on Black Friday. To the extent that was a conscious strategy, it certainly isn’t a new tactic. The Obama administration had frequent Friday night document dumps in responding to congressional inquiries about Solyndra and the Department of Energy’s taxpayer-funded failures in the loan portfolio. The Environmental Protection Agency even released its Tier 3 gas regulations, which increased the price at the pump, on Good Friday.

No matter what party is in charge, the opposite party will complain about their burying the story. Regardless, the American public would be better served by enjoying the holiday season and shopping, rather than worrying about an alarmist report.

Commentary by Nicolas Loris. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Why the skeptics reject ‘human-induced’ climate change

As the new school year gets underway, here’s some reflection on what may be the current atmosphere of the academic scientific community.

Certain campus professors and theoreticians have cast their lofty claims of climate catastrophe out of the comfort of the credulous classroom and faculty lounge and on to the critical community of the wary general public. The result: substantial resistance.

Many campus scientists are dismayed at what they see as unreasonable skepticism of the scientific establishment and the denial of the edifice of scientific facts that include disastrous global warming resulting from excessive human carbon emissions. In the coming decades, such emissions will apparently doom the planet, according to some high-level sources…

Read more at The Washington Times.

Calls to punish skeptics rise with links to climate change, hurricanes

…“Climate change denial should be a crime,” declared the Sept. 1 headline in the Outline. Mark Hertsgaard argued in a Sept. 7 article in the Nation, titled “Climate Denialism Is Literally Killing Us,” that “murder is murder” and “we should punish it as such.”

The suggestion that those who run afoul of the climate change consensus, in particular government officials, should face charges comes with temperatures flaring over the link between hurricanes and greenhouse gas emissions.

“In the wake of Harvey, it’s time to treat science denial as gross negligence — and hold those who do the denying accountable,” said the subhead in the Outline article, written by Brian Merchant.

Brad Johnson, executive director of Climate Hawks Vote, posted last week on Twitter a set of “climate disaster response rules,” the third of which was to “put officials who reject science in jail.”…

Read more at The Washington Times.

Climate scientist rebuts Hollywood hurricane hype: ‘This is what weather looks like’

Sparring with celebrities and Al Gore over global warming may not be what Roy Spencer had in mind when he earned his Ph.D., but it’s certainly become a bustling sideline for the University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologist.

A month after rebutting Mr. Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel,” Mr. Spencer has published another short e-book, this one challenging statements by Jennifer Lawrence, Bill Nye, Stevie Wonder and others linking global warming to this year’s active hurricane season.

Read more at The Washington Times.

Exposing the climate crowd’s sick hurricane lies

Flooding in homes and businesses across Houston was still on the rise when Politico ran a provocative article, titled “Harvey Is What Climate Change Looks Like.”

Politico was not alone, as another news outlet called the one-two punch of Harvey and Irma the potential “new normal.” Brad Johnson, executive director of the advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote, says Harvey and Irma are reason to finally jail officials who “reject science.”

Rather than focus on the victims and offer solutions for speedy recovery, pundits and politicians in the wake of Harvey focused on saying, “I told you so.”

Except they’re not telling the full story.

Consider this data from a 2012 article in the Journal of Climate, authored by climatologists Roger Pielke Jr. and Jessica Weinkle. Pielke tweeted a graph from the paper that shows no trends in global tropical cyclone landfalls over the past 46 years.

 

Statistician and Danish author Bjorn Lomborg also tweeted a graph showing major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. trending downward for well over a century. 

Before anyone starts claiming that Pielke and Lomborg’s charts rely on denier data, mainstream science published similar findings.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in its most recent scientific assessment that “[n]o robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes … have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin,” and that there are “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency.”

Further, “confidence in large-scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones [such as ‘Superstorm’ Sandy] since 1900 is low.”

Other media outlets tying Harvey to climate change took a more measured approach.

For instance, Vox wrote that man-made global warming did not actually cause Harvey, but simply exacerbated the natural disaster by creating heavier rainfalls.

But this claim is discredited by University of Washington climatologist Cliff Mass, who after examining precipitation levels in the Gulf found that “[t]here is no evidence that global warming is influencing Texas coastal precipitation in the long term and little evidence that warmer than normal temperatures had any real impact on the precipitation intensity from this storm.”

Mass went on to explicitly refute those who attribute Hurricane Harvey to climate change:

The bottom line in this analysis is that both observations of the past decades and models looking forward to the future do not suggest that one can explain the heavy rains of Harvey by global warming, and folks that are suggesting it are poorly informing the public and decision makers.

Politicians seeking to exploit Harvey and Irma as reasons to act on climate change would only make a bad situation worse. Climate policies and regulations designed to prevent natural disasters and slow the earth’s warming simply will not do so.

Such policies aim to limit access to affordable, reliable conventional energy sources that power 80 percent of the country. Restricting their use through regulations or taxes will drive energy prices through the roof and make unemployment lines longer.

Further, these policies will destroy economic wealth, meaning fewer resources would be available to strengthen infrastructure to contain the future effects of natural disasters and to afterward.

Instead of blaming man-made greenhouse gas emissions, climate catastrophists should see natural disasters for what they really are: natural.

If policymakers want to take a page out of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s “never let a crisis go to waste” playbook, they should worry less about costly nonsolutions to climate change and focus on natural disaster response, resilience, and preparedness.

Commentary by Nicolas Loris. Originally published at The Daily Signal.

Soros caught paying Al Gore to spread climate hoax

Click here to STOP AGENDA 21!

I guess Al Gore already spent all his Qatari oil money.

That’s because new documents reveal Gore’s multi-million dollar campaign to spread Fake Science is being funded by creepy billionaire George Soros.

The Daily Caller reports:

A document published by DC Leaks shows Soros, a Hungarian-born liberal financier, wanted his nonprofit Open Society Institute (OSI) to do more to support global warming policies in the U.S. That included budgeting $10 million in annual support to Gore’s climate group over three years.

“U.S. Programs Global Warming Grants U.S. Programs became engaged on the global warming issue about four years ago, at George Soros’s suggestion,” reads a leaked OSI memo.

“There has been a budget of $11 million for global warming grants in the U.S. Programs budget for the last several years,” the memo reads. “This budget item captures George Soros’s commitment of $10 million per year for three years to Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, which conducts public education on the climate issue in pursuit of creating political space for aggressive U.S. action in line with what scientists say is necessary to put our nation on a path to reducing its outsize carbon dioxide emissions.”

So who’s funding Fake Science and globalist anti-American economic policies? George Soros, who stands to make billions off the phony “carbon credits” market and by reducing the size of the U.S. economy to give his foreign companies less competition.