Cap-and-Trade Math Not Adding Up

Air pollutionAs California accelerates its efforts to reduce greenhouses gases over the next decade, experts are pointing to vulnerabilities in its celebrated cap-and-trade system, weaknesses that could make the state’s goals difficult — even impossible — to reach.

Cap and trade, featuring a market where permission to pollute is bought and sold, is a key mechanism California uses to lower the volume of harmful discharges by industries that are subject to state emissions caps. But as the California Air Resources Board ponders a major retrofitting of the highly complex program, state analysts say that in a little over a decade emissions could soar much higher than the legally binding level.

Checking the math on cap and trade has taken on urgency this year because the state is leaning more heavily on the system to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The air board projects the program will account for about 46 percent of annual reductions in coming years, a figure that has surprised many experts.

One calculation is out of California’s control: a possible political shift in Ontario, Canada, after provincial elections there next month. One leading candidate has vowed to dismantle the province’s cap-and-trade system, which participates in California’s emissions-trading market. A Canadian withdrawal could undermine California officials’ message about its stability and growth as they recruit other states and nations to join.

Far more troubling are red flags highlighted in reports from academia, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, independent market experts and other major carbon markets, all concluding that California has a serious problem with too many unused pollution credits.

In the cap-and-trade system, major polluters must either produce fewer greenhouse gases to comply with California’s emissions caps or buy credits to offset their excess emissions from companies that pollute less. Credits are traded at state-sanctioned auctions and on secondary markets. And the state gives some free to utilities, natural-gas suppliers and industries that are vulnerable to out-of-state competition.

Some companies have not yet needed to use up the allowances to stay within state emissions limits and probably won’t have to in the next couple of years, according to some analysts, who estimate there are hundreds of millions of unused credits in the system.

The result is a glut of credits that could allow businesses to keep polluting past state limits in later years, after the overall cap becomes more restrictive. Unless the oversupply is addressed, experts say, polluters will have no incentive to cut emissions to required levels by 2030; instead, industries could continue polluting and use banked allowances to offset their emissions and technically keep them under the cap.

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office foresees a reckoning, estimating that because of excess allowances, actual emissions could be as much as 30 percent over the statewide target by 2030.

One analyst likened the problem to a game of musical chairs that starts with too many chairs and allows participants to save seats for later. The issue has plagued both the European Union’s carbon-trading system and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of nine eastern U.S. states that sells credits for the electricity sector. Both markets have put policies in place to limit surpluses.

In California, lawmakers instructed the air board to examine the issue last year, and the agency has  steadfastly maintained that the surplus of credits will not imperil California’s fight against climate change.

Rajinder Sahota, who oversees much of the cap-and-trade program for the air board, has testified numerous times before the Legislature on this topic. On each occasion she has assured lawmakers that the system is working.

“We do not believe that there are unused allowances in the system that will hinder our goals for 2020,” she told CALmatters.

She didn’t address how allowances might play out in subsequent years. But the agency forecasts that the state will also meet its 2030 target, when emissions limits will tighten dramatically, the number of free allowances will come down and the cap-and-trade program will expire.

Among the skeptics is Ontario’s environmental oversight agency. The commission’s annual report in January stated flatly that California has an oversupply of allowances that could last for the life of the program.

“We understand that the board believes…they don’t have an oversupply problem,” said Dianne Saxe, the environmental commissioner of Ontario. “Frankly, we don’t understand it.”

The disconnect will be addressed this week in a hearing before the newly formed Joint Legislative Committee on Climate Change Policies. The committee chairman, Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, a Democrat from Coachella, said the air board will be grilled on how it intends to manage allowances.

“Our numbers don’t pencil out to be the same numbers they propose,” Garcia said. “We will go back and reexamine the numbers they are projecting. We have some questions about how they got there.”

Danny Cullenward is an energy economist with the climate-change think tank Near Zero and teaches environmental law at Stanford University. He’s also a member of the newly established Independent Emissions Market Advisory Committee that is charged with reviewing the mechanics of cap and trade. He says the air board not only got its projections wrong but also used an incorrect model for its calculations.  The board’s most recent estimates are off by 10 percent and used a model that the agency identified in 2010 as problematic, he said in an interview.

“I can’t emphasize enough, this is a basic question of scientific integrity,” Cullenward said. The board has been reluctant to engage outside experts on the issue of allowances, “in a rush to justify that this is not a problem,” he said.

Sahota said external studies have not taken into account that allowances are set aside if they have gone unsold for 24 months—a “self-ratcheting mechanism,” she said, that prevents a glut on the market. The Canadian study, she said, relied on a flawed analysis conducted by Chris Busch, research director at Energy Innovation, a San Francisco-based climate-change and clean-energy think tank.

Saxe, the environment commissioner, stood behind the report’s conclusions, saying, “We did our own analysis.”

Busch, who was among the first researchers to identify the oversupply problem, is a longtime supporter of California’s cap-and-trade system, which he calls the best designed in the world. Busch said he used the air board’s own data to reach his conclusions about allowances, which he said were conservative.

“I sought to engage the air board to evaluate what they thought of the numbers,” he said. “They didn’t want to engage.”

Sahota said she had not read all of the recent reports, but the air board is taking all the research and criticisms seriously.

eporter for CALmatters

EPA Could Limit California’s Unique Role in Shaping Air Pollution Rules

Air pollutionThe Trump administration is on the brink of what could prove its most consequential legal battle with the state of California, with EPA chief Scott Pruitt expected this week to take aim at the autonomy that state leaders were given in the 1970 Clean Air Act to establish pollution standards for vehicles that are more far-reaching than the federal government’s. This autonomy is widely credited with the Golden State’s emergence as a world leader in environmental regulation.

Last week saw confirmation of months of White House and EPA leaks that President Donald Trump would throw out a 2012 Obama administration edict that required average miles per gallon to nearly double to 54.5 for automakers’ fleets of new cars and trucks by 2025. Trump’s skepticism about climate change made him particularly open to the argument from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler that out-of-touch regulators under the previous president were trying to force them to sell vehicles that U.S. consumers didn’t want to buy.

But as The New York Times reported over the weekend, Trump and Pruitt went further than automakers wanted both by rolling back mileage standards more than expected and by signalling their readiness for a court fight over the deference that federal regulators have traditionally shown to the California Air Resources Board.

The Golden State’s problems with smog in the Los Angeles Basin – visible in the 1973 EPA photo shown above – led to the first state law in the U.S. targeting air pollution being adopted in 1947, among many other precedent-setting regulations. The air board continued California’s role as a pioneer in setting vehicle emission standards after it was launched in 1968 under then-Gov. Ronald Reagan. Its vehicle emission and safety rules often end up being copied by Congress and federal regulators and by nations around the world. The state’s present rules are followed by 12 other states, including New York and Pennsylvania – meaning the Golden State dictates what automakers must provide in about one-third of all new cars sold in the U.S. each year.

California’s special status may be only state carve-out in federal law

But with California’s pollution problems beginning to look more like the rest of the nation’s in recent decades, Republicans have increasingly chafed at the idea that CARB and not the EPA should have the dominant policy-making role on vehicle fuel and emissions standards.

An analysis in The Atlantic laid out how unusual the state’s status is:

“California is written into the Clean Air Act by name: At any time, it can ask the EPA administrator for a waiver to restrict tailpipe pollution more stringently than the federal government. If its proposed rules are ‘at least as protective of public health and welfare’ as the EPA’s, then the administrator must grant the waiver.

“This power is reserved alone for California, and it only covers pollution from cars. No other state can ask for a waiver. (In all of federal law, this might be the only time that a specific state is given special authority under such a major statute.)”

The administration of President George W. Bush became the first to challenge California’s special status when it rejected the state’s request to expand its definition of what substances in the atmosphere it could regulate to include non-polluting greenhouse gases. That prompted the filing of a lawsuit in January 2008 by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown that was backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But it became moot after Barack Obama succeeded Bush in the White House and the EPA resumed treating California’s proposals with deference.

Over the past 14 months, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed 28 lawsuits against the Trump administration, according to a tally kept by the Washington Post. But even before Becerra began his litigation, Gov. Brown anticipated the upcoming CARB-EPA fight and emphasized its importance. In comments made in December 2016 – a month after Trump’s election – Brown framed the dispute as having consequences for the “survivability of our world” because of the threat posed by global warming.

At an American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco, according to a Sacramento Bee account, the governor said, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers and we’re ready to fight. We’re ready to defend. …. And, if Trump turns off the satellites, California will launch its own damn satellite. We’re going to collect that data.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Wants to Ban the Internal Combustion Engine

Engine CarCalifornia’s relentless crusade against emissions effectively camouflages its voracious need for revenues.

AB32, the original landmark bill was signed into law in 2006 when California contributed one percent to the world’s greenhouse gases. While the cap and trade program has been a cost effective method of reducing CA’s greenhouse gas emissions, the program does next to nothing to reducing global emissions. A decade later, in 2016, the California Energy Commission said we still contributed a minuscule one percent to the world’s greenhouse gases, but it has successfully extracted more than $7 billion dollars of revenue from our citizens to fund a multitude of governmental pet projects.

California’s elected officials must be in La La Land when they state that California’s economy is thriving in large part because of its emphasis on enacting sweeping environmental legislation. California’s economy, like the rest of the nation, has been booming ever since the recession, but California is ranking up where the state is not proud of. The California go-it-alone crusade to reduce emissions regressively impacts consumers.  Today the California energy portfolio, the environment, and climate change are always discussed together. Here’s what’s really up – energy costs, poverty, homelessness, welfare and unfunded pension liabilities.

  • California taxes and cost of living are higher than most other states.
  • California’s energy costs are as much as 50 percent higher than the national average.
  • Nearly 20 percent of California’s 38 million residents live below the poverty line.
  • California has more than 33 percent of the nation’s welfare recipients.
  • California is home to 12 percent of the nation’s population, but startlingly 22 percent of the nation’s homeless population.
  • Roughly 1.5 million households pay more than 50 percent of their income toward rent.
  • Unfunded pension liabilities.

Now compounding these problems is a bill currently under consideration in the Legislature, Assembly Bill 1745, that would outlaw the sale and registration of new light-duty vehicles powered by internal combustion engines beginning in 2040. The unintended consequence for those existing internal combustion engines after 2040 would be that people would drive their internal combustion engines for 50 years, like they did in Cuba, and adversely affect air pollution, and not take advantage of technology improvements. The sheer scope of the proposed mandate is staggering. According to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, of the 35 million registered vehicles in CA there are over 26 million passenger vehicles registered in California. Of these, only about three percent are personal electric vehicles.  Limiting the types of new cars Californians could buy would disproportionately punish working families already struggling to make ends meet.

It appears that governments, worldwide, in pursuit of the current EV crusade, may be overlooking the fact that an essential ingredient that lithium-ion batteries are dependent on is cobalt which is already in limited supply worldwide to manufacture IPhones, IPads, and car batteries. Without the element’s energy density, batteries without cobalt tend to perform worse.  Currently about a quarter of global production of cobalt winds up in smartphones. In the expected event that cobalt supply does not meet the EV needs in the decades ahead, the impact on the local and international economies could be devastating. Environmentally, it’s also harder to recycle lithium-ion batteries with cobalt than lead-acid batteries used in gasoline powered vehicles.

Finally, AB1745 fails the cost-benefit test. California accounts for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, so even if every gasoline-powered car in our state were taken off the road tomorrow there would be zero impact on climate change.

Our elected leaders need to address the very real challenges facing California, rather than touting misguided new policies like AB 1745 that will only make our problems worse.

ounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

After $1 Billion in Govt. Subsidies ‘Green’ Tesla Fined $139K for Air Pollution

teslaTesla’s factory was fined $139,000 for emitting the same type of toxic NOx into the atmosphere that their electric-vehicles are supposed to eliminate.

Tesla has been fined $139,500 by Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) for emitting nitrogen oxides (NOx) air pollution inside its factory. Although Tesla told the San Francisco Chronicle that the sanction was due to a malfunctioning furnace, the company was fined $1,000 for the same issue in 2013.

Nitrogen oxides known as NOx, are poisonous gases often emitted by fossil-fuel burning cars, trucks, tractors and boats or industrial processes like power generation. NOx human health impacts include breathing problems, headaches, chronically reduced lung function, eye irritation, loss of appetite, and corroded teeth.

To supposedly reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, California-based Tesla receives government subsidies of $2,500 Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) tax credit for every all-electric Model S, Model X and Model 3 purchased in the state. Combined with federal ZEV subsidies of $7,500 per vehicle, Tesla has received about $1 billion in ZEV credits.

Tesla has tried to blame the issue on the NUMMI, a joint venture between General Motors and Toyota Motor Corp. The joint-venture sold their Fremont plant and equipment to Tesla for $42 million in 2010.

A Tesla spokesman emailed reporters claiming the company inherited the problems from GM: “The majority of these violations were resolved by Tesla four years ago when we proactively brought the issue to the attention of the District.” But despite a complete rehabilitation, Tesla was fined $1,000 for the same NOx issue in 2013.

But the BAAQMD release claims the $139,500 fine and settlement covers a series of violations from 2013 through 2016. Tesla also agreed to install about $93,000 worth of solar panels at the Silicon Valley Boys and Girls Club in San Jose.

“Although Tesla develops electric vehicles and related technologies that California needs to address global climate change, the company still must comply with all their permit conditions,” said Jack Broadbent, executive officer of the Air District. “Air quality improves when industries abide by their emissions limits and the public does their part to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.”

Tesla has long been under fire by conservatives for mining government subsidies for the rich that can afford the $90,000 price tag for a new Model S sedan or Model X SUV.

But progressives are increasingly complaining that its vehicle’s so-called embodied carbon, which is a measure of the energy needed to build its vehicles, is too high.

Salon argued last year that Tesla’s still has significant carbon emissions with its “extraction and processing of raw materials, and shipping parts and vehicles across oceans in filthy bunker-fuel burning cargo ships. Every time you roll off the dealer’s lot in a new set of wheels — electrified or not — your personal carbon footprint grows immensely.”

It is estimated that the manufacture of a U.S. standard midsize sedan generates 17 metric tons of carbon dioxide, about the equivalent of 3-years of electricity consumed per household. But the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that it takes about 15 percent more embodied carbon to produce an electric vehicle, due to the materials and fabrication processes used to make very large battery packs.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Let’s Pump the Brakes on Cap-and-Trade

cap-and-trade-mindscanner-sstockIn 2006, elected officials gave the California Air Resources Board virtually unchecked authority to implement AB32, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The legislation, including the controversial cap-and-trade program, expires in four years.

Some lawmakers have already introduced legislation, such as SB32, to extend CARB’s authority. However, instead of rushing to renew this controversial and expensive program, we should slow down and come up with a more affordable solution that benefits all of California.

Cap-and-trade limits carbon emissions by energy producers and raises money through the sale of carbon credits. It’s supposed to fight global warming by making it more expensive to use carbon-based fuels. But that’s not the only thing it does.

It turns out the program has made life more expensive for Californians as well.

Since being given the authority, CARB has implemented a steady stream of costly regulations, such as the “hidden gas tax.” Experts agree that this hidden tax costs California drivers at least 10 cents more in added cost per gallon of gasoline. They also acknowledge CARB’s “low-carbon fuel standard” could add another 13 cents per gallon by 2020.

Motorists might be open to paying these costs if the money actually went towards repairing our crumbling roads. Instead it seems the cap-and-trade program has become a multi-billion dollar slush fund for politicians’ pet projects.

Perhaps intentionally, CARB still hasn’t come up with a systematic way to determine if cap-and-trade dollars are really doing anything to help lower emissions levels.

There is little consensus on what constitutes a “green project.” When pushed for answers, CARB officials deflect. This obscurity allows the governor to direct cap-and-trade funds towards his $71 billion high-speed rail project, which is actually increasing the state’s carbon emissions.

Some cap-and-trade funds were supposed to go towards programs for low-income communities that want to invest in renewable energy. Because CARB is largely free to do as it wishes, there’s no real way of knowing if these grants are reaching their intended targets. That’s a kick in a gut to the less fortunate who supported AB32.

Like you, I want breathable air and clean parks for our children and grandchildren. But do CARB’s unelected bureaucrats really need this much power? Government mandates can be very expensive and inevitably the costs are passed down to consumers. Not everyone can afford a Tesla.

Why can’t we use cap-and-trade funds to solve real problems like emission-causing traffic congestion? Think about it: What pollutes more, a car that reaches its destination quickly or one that’s stuck idling on a freeway for an extra 20 minutes?

A state appeals court has already put the future of cap-and-trade in doubt. And many questions remain, such as how to spend the billions collected and whether or not the program is really an illegal tax. Some doubt CARB has the right to collect the money at all.

There’s also a fierce debate over whether or not regulators can extend the program without the Legislature’s permission. The Legislature’s chief counsel doesn’t think so.

California is already a leader on climate change, and our current law doesn’t expire until 2020. Perhaps we should leave lawmaking to our elected officials, not abdicate power to unelected regulators. Rather than rush an extension, let’s invite the public to join the discussion. Californians deserve clean air, but they also deserve affordable energy—and to know how their dollars are being spent.

George Runner is an elected member of the California State Board of Equalization.

CA’s cap-and-trade program faces daunting hurdles to avoid collapse

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

The linchpin of California’s climate change agenda, a program known as cap and trade, has become mired in legal, financial and political troubles that threaten to derail the state’s plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The program has been a symbol of the state’s leadership in the fight against global warming and a key source of funding, most notably for the high-speed rail project connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But the legality of cap and trade is being challenged in court by a business group, and questions are growing about whether state law allows it to operate past 2020. With the end of the legislative session in August, Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and interest groups of all stripes are laying the groundwork for what could become a battle royal over the future of California’s climate change programs. …

Click here to read the full article

Paris Climate Conference a Chance for Jerry and Arnold to Blow Hot Air

It is axiomatic that California’s liberal political leaders would gather in Paris at this sensitive time – to discuss climate change.   And their assertions in Paris about their actual achievements in climate change in California will surely border on bombast.

News reports being put out by the governor’s office tout that California’s “hot” emissions have dropped 7 percent in the last 11 years. But that has nothing to do with Jerry and Arnold’s costly pee-wee war on climate change. The improvement has much more to do with increases in numbers of vehicles on the road that are meeting ever higher federal auto clean air standards, coupled with California’s decades-long stringent requirements on vehicle and fuel emissions. The fact is the air in Los Angeles today is 99 percent cleaner than it was in 1990 and there hasn’t been a smog alert in over 20 years. (The cleaner air today logically even calls into question whether California should continue to regulate the smell of baking bread, for example, under its current and dated clean air regulations.)

Yet none of the accomplishment in the Los Angeles basin will be touted, or has much of anything to do with the additional costly regulations that Jerry Brown will be talking about in Paris on the climate change issue. Jerry and Arnold and the other liberal California politicians will push their climate change policies as “taking a firehose” to the problem. The truth is more like a phrase attributed to William F. Buckley – California’s efforts here are like an “ant farting into a windstorm.” If there is a windstorm.

th-3If there is global carbon to be reduced, it comes from China, not so much California, and the Paris conferees would do a lot better for themselves to browbeat the Chinese communist leaders during the entire event, to adopt significant industrial pollution standards, than listen to what Jerry and Arnold have to say about California’s tiny contribution to the world global carbon “footprint” in comparison to China. It is hard to get reliable statistics about Chinese pollution, however, in 2007, the New York Times wrote, “Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party.” The article asserted that according to the Chinese Ministry of Health, industrial pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, that 500 million people in China were without safe and clean drinking water, and that only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union, because all of its major cities are constantly covered in a “toxic gray shroud.”

The Chinese pollution, according to the article, has spread internationally: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides fall as acid rain on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo; and according to the Journal of Geophysical Research, the pollution even reaches Los Angeles. But even with the Chinese pollution coming our way, California’s environment has greatly improved over the last decades and it has little to do with Jerry Brown’s new intentions to levy even more consumption taxes on working and poor families, raising their cost of living, their utility bills, and the cost of basic necessities, for some sketchy sort of de minimus attack on global carbon. In the meantime Chinese pollution has certainly gotten worse.

Finally, it is simply a lie for Jerry and Arnold to say in Paris, as they will, that the new California carbon regulations have been implemented without hurting the state’s economy. In the same period these new carbon taxes have come online, California has seen significant increases in the cost of living, reduction in disposable income for average families, and the highest poverty rate in the nation for what looks to be three years running. California’s carbon taxes are making our poor, poorer. And that deserves much more focus than falsely premised victory laps in Paris.

New Carbon Rules Press Aggressive Environmental Agenda

car exhaust1In the wake of a big legislative setback, Gov. Jerry Brown’s wish to use regulations to cut fuel emissions is swiftly coming true.

This month, Democratic lawmakers couldn’t muster enough votes to slash gasoline use by half within 15 years. Now, the state Air Resources Board has taken action widely seen as compensatory. “The action, coming two weeks after a stinging defeat for Gov. Jerry Brown’s planned 50 percent cut in petroleum use by 2030, signaled his administration’s determination to press forward with an aggressive environmental agenda through the regulatory process rather than by legislation,” noted the New York Times.

Resurgent regulations

In a unanimous, 9-0 vote, the board chose to reactivate California’s standards on low-carbon fuel, created years ago but recently held in legal limbo. The regime constituted “the first regulation of its kind in the U.S. when it was established in a 2007 executive order by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger,” as the Wall Street Journal reported. “It had been frozen since 2013, as the state made revisions to the law following a court challenge.”

“The California regulation further tightens the state’s emissions regulations, already the most stringent in the U.S. It requires fuel makers to reduce emissions by developing cleaner fuels or adopting greater use of biofuels. It also requires fuel producers to take into account all emissions for delivering gasoline, diesel or biofuels to California customers.”

Tweaks to the rules made in the wake of the court challenge included “streamlining the application process for alternative fuel producers seeking a carbon intensity score,” according to Ethanol Producer Magazine.

The interventions quickly drew howls from the oil and gas industry, which views the rules’ requirements as unattainable. Tiffany Roberts, director for fuels and climate policy at the Western States Petroleum Association, told the Sacramento Business Journal they weren’t feasible, suggesting that “even if oil businesses are able to incorporate those pollution-cutting methods, they still cannot meet the program’s aggressive standards.” Defenders of the plan, meanwhile, focused on its perceived benefits. “It will drive new technologies, not only in transportation fuel but in hybrid cars, electric cars and other means of transportation,” Pacific Ethanol spokesman Paul Koehler told the Business Journal.

Political heat

Industry interests haven’t fueled the only criticism of Brown’s regulatory approach, however. Earlier this month, the administration heard out the complaints of a gaggle of state lawmakers — including Democrats — frustrated by the activism and assertiveness of the Air Resources Board. Their debate with Brown “turns on questions of how the state can meet its environmental goals with the right balance between the executive branch, which prizes the ability to act independently, and state lawmakers, who want their own stamp on government programs,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

That disagreement came to a head amid the collapse of the Senate’s planned 50 percent cut in statewide petroleum use. “If the board made decisions adversely impacting constituents, many of whom have already been struggling economically, the consequences could be dire,” uneasy Democrats feared, as CalWatchdog previously noted. “What’s more, angry voters would have little way to respond but at the ballot box.”

While state Senate pro Tem Kevin de Leon portrayed the cut’s failure as the consequence of a massive industry campaign, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, instead focused on the Air Resources Board’s “tremendous arrogance,” the Times reported, “noting that he’s never taken campaign money from the oil industry but remains skeptical about the measure.”

But the board’s recent successes at advancing its agenda suggested its influence was set to grow. Tipped by concerned scientists, it launched the investigation into the Volkswagen Group of America that revealed the auto company’s secret years-long use of “a defeat device to circumvent CARB and […] EPA emission test procedures,” as emissions compliance chief Annette Hebert revealed.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Prison Time For ‘Environmental Crimes’ Has Doubled In 4 Years

In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency charged 187 defendants with environmental crimes and sentenced offenders to a combined 155 years of jail time. That’s more than double the amount of jail time eco-offenders were sentenced to in 2010, according agency data.

The EPA, however, charged significantly fewer people for environmental crimes in 2014 compared to 2010, reflecting the agency’s strategy of going after larger, more lucrative criminal and civil cases.

“By taking on large, high impact enforcement cases, EPA is helping to level the playing field for companies that play by the rules, while maximizing our ability to protect the communities we serve across the country,” Cynthia Giles, head of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, said in a statement.

EPA data shows the agency raked forced companies and other offenders to pay $9.7 billion in actions and to pay for “equipment to control pollution and clean up contaminated sites” as well as $163 million in civil penalties and criminal fines. The agency also got offenders to pay $453.7 million to clean up Superfund sites.

EPA enforcement actions resulted in 141 million pound reduction in of air pollutants and a 337 million pound reduction in water pollutants, according to agency data. Enforcement actions also cleaned up 856 million cubic yards of contaminated aquifers.

“Despite challenges posed by budget cuts and a government shutdown, we secured major settlements in key industry sectors and brought criminal violators to justice,” Giles said. “This work resulted in critical investments in advanced technologies and innovative approaches to reduce pollution and improve compliance.”

But probably EPA’s most startling statistic is its more than doubling of prison sentencing for environmental criminals in the last four years. In 2010, the EPA successfully charged 289 defendants, garnering 72 years in prison sentences.

Jail time for offenders has now doubled to 155 years among a successfully convicted group of only 187 defendants.

So who were some of the top environmental criminals of 2014?

Mark Kamholz, the environment control manager at the Tonawanda Coke Corporation, was convicted of violating the Clean Air Act and other federal laws and sentenced to one year in prison, 100 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.

All this for “releasing coke oven gas containing benzene into the air through an unreported pressure relief valve” and because a coke-quenching tower did not have federally mandated pollution control technology, says EPA. Kamholz order another employee to conceal the fact a pressure valve was releasing pollutants into the air.

The Tonawanda Coke Corporation was hit with fines as well. The company was forced to pay a $12.5 million penalty and pay $12.2 million in community service payments for violating federal environmental laws. The EPA says this is “one of the largest fines ever levied in an air pollution case involving a federal criminal trial.”

Ohio waste disposal company owner Benedict Lupo was sentenced to two years in prison and a $25,000 fine for ordering his employees to dump waste from hydraulic fracturing operations into a tributary of the Mahoning River. Lupo illegally dumped fracking waste into the tributary 30 times in 2012 and 2013, having his employees dump the waste at night when nobody else was around.

Robert Lewis, a hazardous waste transporter, was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for illegally storing hazardous waste in a self-storage facility in Macon, Georgia. He also illegally stored waste in Rex, Georgia and at his home in Albany.

And finally, Benjamin Pass, the owner of a recycling business, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and forced to pay $21 million in fines for “mishandling of used oil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) that led to widespread contamination and millions of dollars in clean-up costs.” Pass also fined $539,000 for not paying incomes between 2002 and 2011.

This article was originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation