Thursday, August 11, 2011

Obama Announces New Fuel Efficiency Standards for Trucks & Buses

Jeff Goodell writes about the new standards in Rolling Stone, elaborating on their importance:
For one thing, it's the first time there have ever been fuel efficiency standards for trucks.  The new rules, which apply to model years 2014 to 2018, will force big rigs to slash fuel consumption by up to 23 percent. Gasoline-powered heavy-duty pickups and vans will have to cut consumption by 10 percent, or by 15 percent if the vehicles run on diesel fuel.  The White House projects savings of 530 million barrels of oil and $50 billion in fuel costs over the expected lives of the vehicles covered by the new standards. 

And the new rules are not just about saving fuel.  The air will be cleaner, and the planet a little cooler.  Vickie Patton, general counsel for the advocacy group Environmental Defense Fund, says the regulation would cut climate pollution by 270 million metric tons between 2014 and 2018.
Goodell also provides broader context on just how much progress the Obama administration has made in getting the trucking and auto industries on board with regulation:
But what's really important about this latest announcement is that it shows how far the truck and auto industry have come in moving into the 21st century.  Just last month, Obama announced a deal with automakers to double vehicle-efficiency standards to 54.5 MPG by 2025.  If the agreement gets finalized, it will be, as David Friedman, deputy director of the Clean Vehicles program at the Union of Concerned Scientists put it to me, "a historic deal."
In the world of energy politics, the fact that automakers have agreed to these ambitious new standards is mind-boggling.  After all, for decades Detroit fought hard for decades against tougher fuel efficiency standards, arguing that the engineering challenges were huge and expensive to implement and would likely kill the U.S. auto industry.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Western Grey Wolves Recieve No Court Protection

In a shocking turn of events District Court Judge Molloy has ruled that Congress acted within its power when the grey wolf was removed from the Endangered Specie List. Dennis Bragg of Kpax news writes:
Molloy agreed somewhat with the conservation groups, saying the rider was a "debatable policy change", writing that "inserting environmental policy changes into appropriations bills may be politically expedient" but that it "transgressed" constitutional process.

However, he [Molloy] goes on to write in the 18-page brief, "If I were not constrained by what I believe is binding precedence from the Ninth Circuit," that he would say the rider is "unconstitutional because it violates the Separation of Powers Doctrine."
As a result of the court's decision on Wednesday the wolves will remain unprotected. In the meantime the Alliance for the Wild Rockies will continue their fight, taking the battle to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Executive Director Mike Garrity says:

"This is about protecting wildlife but also standing up for citizens' rights to make Congress follow the Constitution. So, we think if Congress can do it to the environment, they can do it to any issue. If Congress doesn't like a particular issue they can just step on the Constitution and tell the courts that what they did was wrong."

Unfortunately the court of appeals decision will only affect next season's hunt, and thus this season's hunt will go forward as planned. Here is an overview, by state, of this season's hunting rules and regulations:

The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department is allowing the killing of 220 wolves, the season begins with archery licenses going on sale August 8th. The plan requires hunters to call in a kill within 12 hours, and they claim they will monitor the numbers very closely. Closing the season as soon as the numbers get close to 220 to ensure no over killing. Here is a more detailed look at the 2011 wolf program, the 2011 wolf management fact list, and the Environmental Impact Statement (which was written in 2003.)

The Idaho Fish and Game Department has established numbers per zone for the 2011-2012 hunting season, previously the total number was 220, the same as Montana. However, Idaho hunters must purchase tags, max of 2 per person (3 tags if using traps), one tag per wolf. They must call in a kill with 72 hours, and present the skull and hide within 10 days of the kill.

If either state allows the wolf population to fall under 150 wolves or 15 breeding pairs per state then the wolf will be automatically relisted according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.