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 Colby Marshall
Eastern Oregon Office Director 
Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02)

Environmental groups send detailed wish list to Obama

Hello everyone – thought you would be interested in receiving a copy of a 391-page report environmental groups have sent President-elect Barack Obama suggesting numerous policy recommendations for nearly every federal land management and regulatory agency.  Attached is a copy of the report and below is a lengthy Energy and Environment Daily story about the report.  After a quick search below are just a couple of points pulled from the report:    

·       Reduce the Forest Products and KV Fund - Reduce the Forest Products program to FY 2000 funding, and do not invest in the KV fund in the FY 2010 Budget Justification. Projects funded through the Forest Products and KV fund consistently lead to great environmental, ecological, and economic damage. The agency's constrained budget cannot afford to subsidize timber companies at the expense of forest health. (Section 4-31)

·       Forest Service Timber Roads Program - Cut all funding for the construction, planning and design of logging roads for new timber sale contracts.  The timber program pays to construct logging roads that assist timber companies in cutting and removing trees from our national forests. (Section 4-31)

·       Halting Projects that are Costly and Environmental Damaging - Direct the Corps to identify and cease work on projects that are outside of the Corps’ main mission areas (for example, projects that would focus on irrigation, which is not a traditional Corps mission). (Section 3-5)

·       Review existing contracts - The new Administration should direct Reclamation to review existing and proposed irrigation contracts in the context of best available technology to ensure beneficial use of water. (Section 9-19)

·       Improve Conservation Compliance - The Government Accountability Office has determined that conservation compliance is poorly enforced and that 80% of violations are waived. A more effective compliance regimen can ensure fairness to all agricultural producers, produce budget savings and improve protection of our soil, water and wildlife resources. (Section 4-11)

<<Transition to Green (Nov 2008).pdf>>

Environmentalists send detailed wish list to Obama

Nov 25, 2008

Greenwire staff

Environmental groups have sent President-elect Barack Obama a lengthy set of policy recommendations reflecting the hope of activists that major portions of their agenda will be enacted after spending nearly a decade in a defensive battle against the Bush administration.

The 391-page report delivered to the Obama transition team yesterday provides agency-by-agency proposals, as well as overarching recommendations, such as crafting a new White House-led climate and energy strategy and multi-agency Arctic conservation measures.

The report also repeats a call for swift action on cap-and-trade legislation to curb greenhouse gases and the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate the heat-trapping emissions (Greenwire, Nov. 13).

While white papers are flying all over Washington as the new administration and Congress prepare to take office, the new report is notable for carrying the endorsement from a broad spectrum of environmental groups.

The 29 groups that crafted the report include Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth -- generally seen as the left flank of the major environmental groups -- as well as the Environmental Defense Fund, which is known for working in collaboration with industries. Other backers include the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Audubon Society, Oceana, the World Wildlife Fund and the National Parks Conservation Association.

"We welcome this opportunity to work with the transition team, and we are encouraged that President-elect Obama has signaled that he is ready to move America forward and to re-engage with the international community to reverse eight years of environmental neglect," the groups said in a joint statement.

The wish list includes a mix of new initiatives and rolling back Bush administration policies the groups oppose. Some of the report's recommendations can be accomplished by administrative action, while others require Congress to step in. Like Obama, the document argues that investments in low-carbon energy can play a major role in helping shore up the economy and creating jobs.

Priorities include greater funding for renewable energy and conservation programs, increased automobile efficiency, reimposing some restrictions on offshore oil and gas drilling and halting new lease sales in Arctic waters.

The report calls for new actions at various agencies to address climate change and its effects, such as increased Department of Health and Human Services research and preparation for the public health effects of global warming.

Other recommendations address areas such as curbing exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, greater cooperation with China on energy and "green" supply chain issues and a more expansive view of Clean Water Act protections.

The report also includes recommendations aimed at overhauling what the groups say is a broken regulatory review process at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Environmentalists allege that the Bush OMB has wrongly discarded the views of agency experts and employed an "inherently anti-regulatory" bias.

Some of the major recommendations follow. Click here to read the full agency-by-agency blueprint.

U.S. EPA, Bureau of Reclamation

The groups highlighted several proposals for revamping U.S. EPA. As a first step, they recommend that the agency complete the review of greenhouse gas emissions ordered by the Supreme Court in the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision. The agency should take action to curb the emissions if they are found to be harmful, the court ruled.

Power plant cleanup should be high on the next administration's agenda, the groups said. They are urging Obama to reverse expected changes by the Bush administration to the Clean Air Act's New Source Review provisions and to develop rules to control sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and mercury.

The report also emphasizes the importance of resolving the legal limbo that regulations for wetlands, headwater streams and other waters were left in following the Supreme Court's muddled 2001 Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision and the 2006 Rapanos-Carabell decision. Additionally, they are asking the Obama administration to restore a regulatory prohibition discarded by the Bush administration on discharging solid waste into water bodies.

EPA also should restore reporting requirements for chemical releases reported to the Toxics Release Inventory that were weakened during the Bush administration, the groups said. Keeping perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel, out of drinking water and strengthening pesticide protections also should be high on the agency's agenda.

Another key item on EPA's agenda should be environmental justice, the groups said. The White House should reaffirm its commitment to environmental justice and ensure that EPA acts to protect low-income and minority communities from toxic pollution.

Revising the Bureau of Reclamation's mandate and requiring the agency to coordinate with EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers also is a high priority for the groups. They are pushing for Reclamation to include language recognizing the scarcity of freshwater resources in the West in order to promote efficient water use and to work with the corps and EPA on setting flow standards for rivers and creating a bipartisan water commission to evaluate national water policy.

The report is also asking the bureau to address climate considerations in its water management plans. Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with water systems and help local communities and water-dependent ecosystems cope with the effects of global warming would be a key part of that initiative.

Interior Department, Forest Service

The groups call for the new president to use his executive authority to reinstate moratoriums on offshore drilling that the White House rescinded this summer. They want the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the possible effects of development on the areas, after which a new decision could be made on the drilling bans. They also call for more research on marine ecosystems and for reform of the Minerals Management Service, which has come under harsh criticism in recent years from the Interior inspector general and the Government Accountability Office.

For onshore oil and gas drilling, the groups want the new administration to take a series of steps they see as restoring balance from the Bush administration's push to expedite development on public lands, including additional review of all areas to be leased and of some areas that already have been leased. They also want the administration to convene a task force to review regulations being put in place before President Bush leaves office to allow commercial oil shale development.

The new administration should issue guidelines to all land management agencies to incorporate climate change in planning and management decisions, the report says.

The groups want the new administration to fully reinstate the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which gave blanket protection to about 58 million forest acres and has been mired in legal fights since President Clinton put it in place just before leaving office. They call for reform of the Forest Service budget, about half of which now goes for firefighting, and for revision of the agency's planning regulations and of certain forest plans.

The National Park Service should receive more funding -- including money in the economic stimulus bill for parks infrastructure projects -- and help for parks to adapt to the effects of climate change, the groups said. They call for the creation of a National Parks Service Corps that would be similar to Americorps, for an Everglades restoration czar and for preventing mining near the Grand Canyon.

The report also calls for gradually increasing funding over five years for the Land and Water Conservation Fund up to its authorized level of $900 million, starting with $450 million in FY 2010.

Environmental groups are counting on the incoming Obama administration to reverse several Bush administration policies on endangered species.

Recommendations for the Fish and Wildlife Service include withdrawing guidance from the solicitor's office and freezing or withdrawing endangered species regulations the Bush administration is advancing. The regulations, which have not yet been finalized, would weaken longstanding rules that currently require federal agencies to consult with wildlife experts on potential harm to species for all government projects, like roads or dams. The rules would make the consultations optional.

Beyond blockading those rules, the groups want the new Obama administration to put its long-term focus on responding to climate change and its potential effects on endangered species, wildlife refuges and other habitats. Climate change "strikes to the very core of the FWS mission," according to the report -- and the agency should step up as a leader in response.

The report calls on the new Interior and FWS appointees to finalize a strategic plan on climate change, to work to understand climate change's potential effects on species and wildlife refuges and to work on recovery and adaptation strategies.

The groups also want more committed funding for endangered species, wildlife refuges and adaption planning.

Energy Department

The groups call for stronger programs at the Energy Department that address appliance and building energy efficiency -- which is often seen as the "low-hanging fruit" for curbing emissions -- while low-carbon energy technologies are brought online.

The report's recommendations range from speeding up the notoriously slow program for setting new appliance efficiency standards to a new program to help manufacturers and retailers speed deployment of highly efficient products.

The report requests a doubling of current DOE spending on energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development. But it calls for scrapping a Bush administration nuclear waste reprocessing program called the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and for limiting nuclear power subsidies.

"There is no need and little political support on Capitol Hill for categorically excluding nuclear power technology as a future energy option, but by the same token there is no compelling justification for subsidizing it either," the report says.

"Just devise grid access and connection policies that ensure nuclear new-build is compelled to compete on a level playing field with cleaner, more cost-effective energy options, including distributed generation, and let the cards fall where they may," it adds. It also calls for suspending work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Other recommendations focus on removing what the report calls barriers to regional transmission for renewable energy.


The report's recommendations for the transportation sector focus on increasing auto fuel economy, aligning the nation's transportation strategy with efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and ensuring that any forthcoming economic stimulus injected into the sector is used on low-carbon transportation alternatives.

The group wants stricter corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards that would push automakers to a fleetwide average of 35 miles per gallon by 2015 and 42 mpg by 2020. Under the current rule, carmakers will have until 2020 to reach the 35-mpg mark. The report also asks that any financial bailout extended to the ailing auto industry be tied heavily to carmakers' efforts to exceed fuel economy standards.

Next year's scheduled reauthorization of the highway bill should seek to align the nation's transportation and climate policies, the report says. The forthcoming authorization should incorporate mandatory performance greenhouse gas reduction targets into the planning process and increase investment in public transit and emissions-free alternatives like biking and walking.

If Congress proceeds with an economic stimulus package, the group wants cash devoted to transportation to be used mainly on low-carbon infrastructure projects as opposed to road construction. "Building new road capacity in the name of job creation is a short-sighted strategy that could move us in the wrong direction on climate and other goals," the report says.

There are also recommendations for creating a number of new Transportation Department posts, including an infrastructure czar to oversee planning and funding with an eye towards greenhouse gas reduction, and an assistant secretary for climate change.


The report calls on the new Agriculture Department appointees to revive a major land conservation effort, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which has floundered, and to put a greater focus on environmental and wildlife benefits in other farmland conservation programs.

Many of the recommendations for USDA's Farm Services Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service could be completed without new regulations or laws, the report says. But the incoming Obama administration would have to direct more cash toward conservation, it says. The groups want to see full funding for conservation programs at the levels set in the 2008 farm bill.

The groups are emphasizing a revival of the CRP, the nation's largest private-lands conservation program. The Bush administration has not held a general sign-up for the program for the past two years. Environmentalists want the new administration to allow farmers nationwide to enroll in the program and to increase the rental rates farmers get for participating in the program.

The farm bill authorizes USDA to enroll up to 32 million acres in the conservation program. Less than 34 million acres are currently enrolled in the program, and 8.4 million acres of contracts are set to expire in the next two years.

The report recommends new guidance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to shift other conservation programs to focus on environmental priorities. The groups also want USDA to strengthen regulation of genetically modified crops, issue new rules to make recently plowed-up grasslands ineligible for crop subsidies and increase enforcement of existing rules that require subsidy recipients to meet basic conservation standards.

Click here to read the report.


Colby Marshall
Eastern Oregon Office Director 
Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02)
1211 Washington Avenue
La Grande, OR 97850  
541-624-2400 (phone)
541-624-2402 (fax)

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