NRDC Archives - Shopfloor

Costs, Regulations and Hidden Agendas at California Ports

By | Infrastructure, Regulations | No Comments

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, is holding a hearing at 10 a.m. this morning, “Assessing the Implementation and Impacts of the Clean Truck Programs at the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach“:

The Subcommittee will hear from the Deputy Executive Directors of the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach; as well as affected parties at the ports including a licensed motor carrier, an independent drayage driver, and representatives from the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (Teamsters), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), and the Coalition for Responsible Transportation.

This is the program that the unions (Teamsters) and environmental groups (NRDC) have formed an alliance on, wanting to use it to drive small, independent truckers out of business. Larger operations are more easily unionized. The committee staff memo does not put the issue in those terms.

The National Association of Manufacturers sent a letter to the committee commenting on the issues being considered today. Manufacturers object to the attempt to impose more burdensome, expensive and unnecessary regulations over interstate commerce.


NAM compliments the effort to improve air quality at the nation’s busiest port complex. It is noteworthy that both ports have dramatically reduced emissions by 80% without any changes to federal regulations and have made great strides in introducing thousands of cleaner trucks to their facilities. Further, the ports achieved this success two years ahead of schedule without implementing a controversial and unconstitutional truck concession plan that would prohibit independent owner operator truck drivers from operating harbor drayage trucks at either of the port facilities.

While the Clean Trucks Program is assessed by Congress and contemplated by other port facilities in the nation, we urge you to recognize the importance of maintaining uniform and consistent regulation of interstate commerce. Altering longstanding trucking rules that govern pricing, routes, and services as codified in the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) as some are proposing, would have dramatic consequences beyond the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach and would impact other public-private facilities responsible for moving freight in the supply chain by introducing economic regulation and limiting competition for transportation services. Such a change would create a patchwork of state and local trucking rules that would disadvantage U.S.-based manufacturers and exporters who rely on the efficiency of the entire transportation network. These rules have benefited manufacturers and helped keep transportation costs affordable and competitive, especially in a challenging economic climate.

The letter was signed by Robyn M. Boerstling, NAM’s director for transportation and infrastructure policy.

The Market is Too Timid, Therefore…Green Socialism!

By | Energy, General, Global Warming | No Comments

He’s addressing the British economy in a British political landscape, but the Guardian’s columnist Neal Lawson sure comes up with familiar arguments in his piece, “How green socialism can save the UK“:

Two years into the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, with more than 2.4 million already without work, the official closure earlier this month of Britain’s only wind turbine blade manufacturing plant, Vestas, is a sharp reminder of the failure of blind reliance on free markets to solve the economic and climate change crises. The plant’s closure, with the loss of 400 jobs, was blamed on the slow pace of growth in the UK’s wind turbine market and the drawn out local planning process to agree projects.

It has brought home the reality that the changes needed to protect us from catastrophic climate change are exactly the opportunities that can catalyse an upturn in our economy. Clean, fuel-free renewable energy is a huge international growth sector – allowing countries to achieve energy security, protect themselves against volatile fossil fuel prices and stimulate economic development without the consequence of dangerous carbon emissions that are the primary cause of climate change.

Bottom line, says Mr. Lawson, “The stakes are too high to left to anonymous free market forces driven by fossil fuel and nuclear interests.”

In related news, the Blue Green Alliance tour rallies today in Dayton and gathers tomorrow for an event in Gary, Ind., where EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson speaks on the same stage with Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council and Foster Stephens, President of the Gary Teachers Union.

Health Care, Lobbying and Contributions — Try a New Angle

By | Briefly Legal, Health Care | No Comments

USA Today’s lead page one story today is “Industry donates to drug plan foes” focusing on the pharmaceutical industry. The sidebar looks at a related issue of generic pharmaceuticals competing with “biologic” drugs, “Industry donates to drug plan foes.”

Meanwhile, at The Examiner, columnist Tim Carney submits yet another dispatch about big business running the country, “How industry kidnapped Obama’s health ‘reform’.”

Well, good. Report those stories. The same stories…over and over…ad nauseum…refreshing them every quarter when new lobbying or campaign contribution reports are out.

But maybe there’s a different and equally important story to tell. Yes, it’s the one we’ve been harping on for three weeks now, but it’s valid and woefully underreported: the role of the trial attorneys in blocking medical malpractice reform or federal liability limits.

To repeat ourselves (over and over), we’ve yet to see any major newspaper or wire service or broadcast outlet report on the gathering of thousands of trial lawyers in San Francisco at the American Association for Justice’s summer convention, which ends today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a key player in the Congressional health care debate, addressed a powerful special interest and political constituency, and no mainstream media cared. (With apologies to LegalNewsline.) The peripatetic Tim Kaine lights down in San Francisco for political purposes and nada.

So here’s a new angle. On September 24-25 the AAJ is holding a seminar and Continuing Legal Education session at The Venetian in Las Vegas, “Litigating Toxic Tort, Pharmaceutical, and Medical Device Cases Seminar.” It’s two days in which attorneys will be trained how to make the U.S. health care system more expensive. And they get CLE credit for it!

Just consider the morning session, 8:30 a.m. to noon, as listed on the agenda, which includes sessions on the hot new topic of Chinese drywall, discovery in the post-Levine world — that is, the opportunity for more lawsuits against drugmakers in state instead of federal courts — and being prepared when lawyers try to dismiss personal injury suits because of statutes of limitation or assumed risk.

The two-day schedule also includes sessions on how to more effectively sue the manufacturers of drugs and devices.

The list of faculty is revealing too, including an attorney who sued pharmaceutical companies on behalf of the attorney general of West Virginia, and a university research fellow, litigator and former staff attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Indeed, there’s a list of 13 attorneys who, if they succeed in their efforts and inculcating the session’s students, will drive up the costs of health care in America.

There’s big money being spent, political influence being wielded, and our nation’s health care costs being driven through the roof while medical innovation is inhibited. So here’s a story idea: “Personal injury lawyers work to drive up health care costs.”

It’s a reasonable expection, that journalists covering the health care beat should apply the same kind of scrutiny to the plaintiffs’ bar as they do to the pharmaceutical, hospital and insurance industries. How about it, USA Today? Page one, above the fold…

Card Check: Unions and Greens, Divvying the Spoils

By | Economy, Energy, General, Labor Unions | No Comments

It always seemed strange that organized labor has solicited the support of the environmental left in pushing for passage of the undemocratic Employee Free Choice Act. (See earlier posts.) Why make common cause with groups that oppose the kind of human activities that keeps union members employed — construction, transportation, mining and manufacturing? Especially when history tells you the environmental groups will agree on a consensus, a compromise, or a modus vivendi on an issue and then a month later file a lawsuit in federal court. (Think Northwest timber harvests.

Perhaps the tactics themselves unite these groups. Developments in California suggest as much, as recounted in Walter Olson’s post at Point of Law, “California unions’ environmental extortion“:

Today’s Times:

As California moves to license dozens of huge solar power plants to meet the state’s renewable energy goals, some developers contend they are being pressured to sign agreements pledging to use union labor. If they refuse, they say, they can count on the union group to demand costly environmental studies and deliver hostile testimony at public hearings.

If they commit at the outset to use union labor, they say, the environmental objections never materialize.

“This does stress the limits of credibility to some extent,” the California energy commissioner, Jeffrey Byron, said at one contentious hearing, “when an attorney representing a labor union is so focused on the potential impact of a solar power plant on birds.”

It seems Bob Balgenorth, chairman of the labor group accused of exploiting the environmental laws this way, “has cultivated strong ties with conservation groups”. I wonder whether there’s a tie-in with the Sierra Club’s and NRDC’s endorsement of EFCA?

So jobs or the environmenta are not at issue, just the raw use of power to accrue more power.

Eventually, of course, one side will betray the other. It’s in their nature.


Cap-and-Trade: Out of Committee, Jumble or Jubilee?

By | Energy, Global Warming, Regulations | No Comments

Celebration from the leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on committee passage of Waxman-Markey, i.e., H.R. 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act.

The Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 2454, “The American Clean Energy and Security Act,” by a vote of 33 to 25.  This legislation is a comprehensive approach to America’s energy policy that charts a new course towards a clean energy economy.

“Today the Committee took decisive and historic action to promote America’s energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth,” said Chairman Waxman.  “This bill, when enacted into law this year, will break our dependence on foreign oil, make our nation the world leader in clean energy jobs and technology, and cut global warming pollution.  I am grateful to my colleagues who supported this legislation and to President Obama for his outstanding leadership on these critical issues.” 

“With this plan, we will shape a new energy destiny for our country, where we innovate more and pollute less,” said Subcommittee Chairman Markey.  “Today we have chosen bold action to preserve good paying jobs here in America and preserve our planet.   In just eight weeks, Chairman Waxman and I, working with our entire committee, have moved us farther down the path toward energy independence than our country had moved in the past eight years.”

Ambitious claims.

The commitee website has the bill and markups. The House Republican caucus liveblogged the markup sessions with good detail on the amendments submitted and rejected, but not on exclusively partyline votes. Water vapor will still be subject to Clean Air Act regulation, we see. Well, it is, after all, the No. 1 greenhouse gas by far.

Looking for something beyond the predicted views from the expected sides, we see today’s column by Steven Pearlstein, the Washington Post’s business columnist, whose opining is reliably critical of corporate America, mostly from a liberal perspective. From “Climate-Change Bill Hits Some of the Right Notes but Botches the Refrain“:

The other thing to say about it is that it is a badly flawed piece of public policy. It is so broad in its reach and complex in its details that it would be difficult to implement even in Sweden, let alone in a diverse and contentious country like the United States. It would create dozens of new government agencies with broad powers to set standards, dole out rebates and tax subsidies, and pick winning and losing technologies, even as it relies on newly created markets with newly created regulators to set prices and allocate resources. Its elaborate allocation of pollution allowances and offsets reads like a parody of industrial policy authored by the editorial page writers of the Wall Street Journal. The opportunities for waste, fraud and regulatory screwup look enormous.

But let’s end on a more optimistic note from someone who really understands the market and the power of individual freedom and choice, Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and her statement, “Committee Passage Clears Path for Historic Energy and Climate Bill“:

While some in Congress have tried to block this bill, they are only keeping America tied to the failed policies of the past. As the bill moves to the House floor, we need to build on the progress made in the Energy and Commerce Committee and enact this important legislation.

By making investments in clean energy, we will create whole new industries, millions of good-paying American jobs, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in energy savings and benefits to low-income families.

Call it the energy eschaton.

Membership Renewal Letter from the Union of Concerned Scientists

By | Global Warming | No Comments

It’s just interesting how low key this dues reminder is from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Most direct mail from environmentalist groups we get — and we get a lot — tends toward the POLAR BEARS ARE CRYING FOR THEIR DEAD CUBS ilk of propaganda. This letter is restrained in comparison (and that respect, quite dissimilar from the unrestrained jobs-killing UCS policy agenda).

Why the modest rhetoric? Our guess:

You don’t need a strong sales pitch targeting people who have already associated themselves with your efforts, i.e., members and former members.

The Obama Administration is new and generally seen as sympatico, and there’s no point at railing against the Bush Administration any longer. Besides, there will be enemies to raise money from by demonizing soon enough. Whenever the cap-and-trade debate in Congress gets under way.

No Carbon: Why Limit Reporting to Manufacturers?

By | Economy, Energy, Global Warming | No Comments

Below we note Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s vision of a new American agriculture, based on a centralized system of distributing government benefits to farmers based on their not producing carbon.

Which leaves an obvious question after contemplating this latest government dictate, “E.P.A. Proposes Reporting of Greenhouse Gas Emissions“:

The Environmental Protection Agency today proposed a rule that would require a broad range of industries to tally and report their greenhouse gas emissions. [See EPA news release, here.]

The move was hailed by environmentalists as an important precursor to regulating greenhouse gas emissions, as the Obama administration is expected to do.

“This is the foundation of any serious program to cap and reduce global warming pollution,” said David Doniger, the policy director for the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You have to have source-by-source data on how much of global warming pollution is emitted and from where.”

The rule, if enacted, would require some 13,000 facilities across the United States to report their emissions, and would cover manufacturers of chemicals, oil, cement, iron and steel, and automobiles, among other industries.

Why just manufacturers? Secretary Vilsack suggests that reduction of carbon dioxide emissions will be the central tenet of U.S. farm policy. Logically, then, we will need a system of command and control based on the C02 emissions per farm. Reporting is the first step.

And why stop at farms? “You have to have source-by-source data on how much of global warming pollution is emitted and from where…” Hospitals, schools, individuals, etc. Logically, this leads to:

Leadership, California Style

By | Economy, Global Warming, Taxation | One Comment

Inspirational quote from Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a Jan. 14 NRDC news release:

California leads the nation in legislative initiatives to fight global warming and it’s vital we build on that success to provide a lasting recovery for our economy and a clean energy future.

US News, Tuesday, “In Deepening Recession, California Begins Laying Off 20,000 State Employees“:

In the latest sign of the recession—and of its consequences for state and local governments—California began laying off 20,000 government workers today.

California, the world’s-eighth largest economy, has a projected deficit of $41 billion through 2010. It’s been trying for months to come up with a budget that can close that gap, but to no avail. Currently stalled in the legislature, the budget is now 15 weeks overdue.

CPSIA Update: The NRDC Endangers Your Children

By | Briefly Legal, Regulations | No Comments

From Overlawyered, “NRDC’s non-compliant onesie“:

Presumably the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the successful lawsuit under CPSIA to make unlawful the sale of large existing inventories of children’s goods, will yank from its online store its own infant offering before next Tuesday. On Twitter, an NRDC person said the group didn’t think its use of the garment as a premium was covered by the law because only manufacturers have to worry about testing, right? (Wrong.) Common Room and Patrick @ Popehat have the story.

Do as we sue, not as we do, or something like that.

Incidently, it has been suggested to us that  U.S. District Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the Southern District of New York, who agreed yesterday with the NRDC and Public Citizen’s lawsuit that children’s products with phthalates must be removed from the shelves, was following the clear language of the statute. We don’t doubt that. For now, the law is the real problem, and the fix must come from Congress.

Card Check: AFL-CIO Decides No Enemies on the Green Left

By | Energy, Global Warming, Labor Unions | No Comments

From the AFL-CIO blog:

At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, one of the largest environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council, announced its support of the bill, which would level the playing field by allowing workers to choose how to join a union. Also at the conference, the Sierra Club reiterated its support.

It’s baffling why the AFL-CIO would tout the endorsement of its legislative priority by a group that fights economic growth tooth and nail and fang and claw. The radical NRDC hates domestic oil production, despises the coal industry, regards the chemical industry as dangerous and depraved, and accuses the productive sectors of the economy of racism.

In short, the NRDC wants to close down vast sectors of the manufacturing economy, in the process putting millions of AFL-CIO members out of work.

So why in the world would the unions make common cause with the environmentalist left on card check? The AFL-CIO’s leadership must have decided that actually representing their current membership’s interests is not a priority. Better to force unwilling employees into union membership to extract dues from them.

Strange that the rank and file would acquiesce to their leadership’s alliance with the jobs-destroyers.