Environment Forum

from Tales from the Trail:

White House commission wades into “Deep Water”

OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSIONThe great thing about presidential commissions is that they can soberly consider complicated matters and then offer unvarnished reports on what to do. The tough part is when that information rockets around Washington, as occurred after a White House commission issued its final report on the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The "Deep Water" report, apparently titled in reference to the doomed BP Deepwater Horizon rig, blames the deadly blowout and oil spill on government and industry complacency, and recommends more regulation of offshore drilling and a new independent safety agency. But as my colleague Ayesha Rascoe reports, the commission lacks the authority to establish drilling policies or punish companies.

Within minutes of the report's release, and even as commission co-chair William Reilly was bragging about bringing the report in on time and under budget, interest groups started the PR barrage, with industry critical and environmental outfits largely complimentary. Two Democratic members of Congress said they'd introduce legislation to implement the commission's recommendations.

Will that legislation go anywhere? Industry analysts are doubtful. To get an idea of how much action can be prompted by White House panels, it's useful to take a look at two previous ones.

OILSPILL-BP/COMMISSIONThe 911 Commission (formally called "The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States") was perhaps the ultimate in gracefully delivering its hard findings: "... on that September day we were unprepared.  We did not grasp the magnitude of a threat that had been gathering over time. As we detail in our report, this was a failure of policy, management, capability, and – above all – a failure of imagination."

Made Green in California (TM)?

California’s environmental and other regulations are helping to send manufacturers running, but the state can capitalize on its green image (and should streamline regulations) a new study by the Milken Institute says.

The study found that Golden State manufacturing was already contracting at an astounding rate even before the latest meltdown, and that it was lagging some other Western U.S. states which had seen small upticks in jobs for people who make stuff.

In particular, high-tech manufacturing fell to 485,900 jobs in 2007 in California from 629,400 in 2000, the report said.

A bad week for U.S. coal projects

It was a bad week to be planning a coal-fired power plant in the United States.

The industry suffered its second blow of the week on Friday with the cancellation of a plant in Michigan. The move by power plant developer LS Power marks the ninth such plant to be dropped in the United States so far this year, according to a count by environmental group the Sierra Club.

The company blamed regulatory uncertainty and the weak economy for the cancellation, which environmentalists cheered because coal-fired power plants are responsible for more than 30 percent of the United States’ global warming emissions.

The Michigan plant cancellation wasn’t the first blow to coal this week, either. On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency withdrew a permit for a massive coal-fired plant in New Mexico that would have been built on an Indian reservation.

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