House Republicans and Department of Interior Appropriations

A number of House Republicans have added numerous amendments to the DOI appropriations bill.

From Earthjustice (sorry about the clever titles):

Among today’s (Wednesday, July 27, 2011) amendments filed are:

•The Killing Our Oceans Rider: Amendment by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX): Last year, following the recommendations of two bipartisan ocean commissions, President Obama established our National Ocean Policy to protect, maintain, and restore our ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes natural resources for present and future generations. This National Ocean Policy makes sense of the work of 20 federal agencies, local and state governments, and more than 140 different laws and regulations overseeing our waterways and coasts. It set up a coherent, streamlined way for all these agencies and governing bodies to work together to implement the law, and now, Rep. Flores is proposing to block this government efficiency and return our country to the state of disorder that characterized business before this policy. Rep. Flores’ sweeping amendment would prevent all agencies covered by this Act from implementing any research, program or activity related to the National Ocean Policy. It is backwards-looking, absent of logic, and will cost our economy and coastal communities greatly.
•The Sad End to Manatees Rider: Amendment No. 42 by Rep. Rich Nugent (R-FL): America’s endangered manatee, an extremely vulnerable species, is facing a desperate fight for survival in Florida. The Florida manatee is hyper-sensitive to cold and faces high risk of death in cold waters. Because of this, many of the manatee population that remains have flocked to rare areas of Florida coastline that provide safe haven for them because of warm-water springs and abundant sea grass coves. One of these such places is King’s Bay in Citrus County Florida, a wondrous and rare place that has long provided safe shelter for manatees and attracted hordes of tourists to swim with and view the famously gentle and social manatees. For year, King’s Bay has acted as a de facto refuge for them, but now, big developers in Florida are threatening this special place with their plans for building a marina and boating center nearby. Boating collisions with manatees are the leading cause of death for the species, and despite strong public support for the proposed refuge, House politicians now seem willing to do the developers’ bidding through this disappointing policy rider, which would block the proposed refuge and put the endangered manatees directly in harm’s way. If the House passes this rider, future generations may never know the magic of swimming with these incredible creatures.
•Lawless Borders Rider: Amendment No. 55 by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ): This amendment completely waives 23 federal laws for any border patrol activities on federal lands, including the Clean Water Act, The Bald Eagle Protection Act, The Coastal Zone Management Act, the Wilderness Act, and the American Indian Religous Freedom and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. This sweeping amendment would create a lawless zone in many National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges National Forests and National Seashores.
•Curtailing Federal Land Management Efficiency Riders: Amendments Nos. 60 by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) and 63 by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK): The Rigell amendment prohibits acquisition of lands by the federal government without first selling and equal number of federally owned lands. The Lankford amendment is similar in requiring no net increase in federal land ownership. Both amendments tie the hands of land managers by making it harder improve management with the acquistion of inholdings and will keep managers from being able to take advantage of oportunities, such when bargain-priced parcels become available.
•The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing Rider: Amendment No. 62 by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK). This amendment is a sneaky attempt to prevent the kinds of protections that Interior Secretary Salazar implemented when he withdrew a million acres of federal land adjacent to the Grand Canyon from new uranium mining. However, unlike the Grand Canyon rider (Sec. 445) this amendment applies to all National Park Service and Department of Interior lands, and the threats could be far more wide-ranging.
•The Bring On the Polluted Haze Rider: Amendment No. 61 filed by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK): This amendment guts the EPA regulations that protect our air visibility standards and would bring on widespread haze from a multitude of sources and impair our visibility in every direction over a large area.
•The Fish-Kill Rider: Amendment No. 64 filed by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK): This rider would prevent the more than 1,500 industrial facilities from having to implement fish saving measures in their cooling water intake structures. Power plants, pulp and paper makers, chemical manufacturers, petroleum refiners, and metal manufactures use such structures to pull large volumes of cooling water from our lakes, rivers, and estuaries, which suck in and kill large numbers of fish and shellfish, along with some larger marine species that get trapped against screens at the front of intake structures.
•The Petty The Let’s Stop EPA From Having Any New Office Space Rider: Amendment No. 70 filed by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX): This rider hopes to make EPA staff “homeless” as it bans EPA from entering into any new contracts that would allow it to construct, purchase, or lease any facility, land, or space.
•King Coal Rider for Blowing Up Mountains: by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV): This rider seeks to stop the federal government from protecting the American public from the environmental destruction and pollution of mountaintop removal mining. Communities across Appalachia are facing severe environmental and health harms as a result of this devastating coal mining practice. Specifically, this amendment aims to take away the EPA’s authority to stop permits which allow unacceptable impacts on waters of the United States, including from coal mining practices.
•Dooming the Endangered Mexican Wolf Rider: by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM): This rider would prohibit funding for the recovery of the endangered Mexican wolf in southwestern states. In the U.S., only a 50 Mexican wolves remain in the wild.
•Trample Our National Heritage & History Rider: by Rep Denny Rehberg (R-MT): This rider would prohibit presidents from creating National Monuments under current authority granted them by the Antiquities Act as it seeks to inject the partisan gridlock into the process.
•Threatening Salmon Restoration in the San Joaquin River: Amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA): This rider would prohibit the federal government from spending any money to restore runs of salmon to the San Joaquin River in California. Although the San Joaquin once supported the biggest salmon run in California, these salmon were largely wiped out years ago by the construction of the Friant Dam, which stopped the river’s natural flow. A protracted lawsuit was settled with an agreement to re-water the river and bring the salmon back. Rep. Denham claims the river isn’t ready to receive the salmon even though plentiful rains this year have put more water in the river than it has seen for years.
Among today’s (Tuesday, July 26, 2011) amendments filed are:

•The Dirty Fuel Rider: Amendment No. 8 filed by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX): This amendment seeks to limit funds to enforce a provision of law that prohibits the federal government from entering into contracts to purchase fuels that pollute more than conventional fuels. The current policy has broad support, including from the Department of Defense, which has opposed similar funding limitations.
•The Invisible National Parks Rider: Amendment No. 15 filed by Rep. Rick Berg (R-ND): Rep. Berg (R-ND) wants to perform a magic trick that would have made even the Great Houdini balk: make our national parks disappear. Berg’s amendment to prohibit funding for the EPA’s regional haze program would obscure jaw-dropping vistas and landscapes in special places across the country. To add insult to injury, that hazy pollution will also be bad for the lungs of the soon-to-be-dejected visitors who arrive only to find their long-awaited views wrapped in a brownish cloak of dirty air.
•The Factory Farm Filth Rider: Amendment No. 16 filed by Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA): This rider would ban the EPA from even studying the impacts of pollution from industrial livestock facilities (factory farms, or concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)) on our waters. It would prohibit the EPA from collecting water pollution info from these huge sources of harmful pollution, which are known to jeopardize and degrade our drinking water supplies.
•The Welcome to Frackistan Rider: Amendment No. 25 filed by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX): This amendment seeks to limit federal agency oversight of a controversial drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Agencies like the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency are tasked with protecting our air, water, and public lands, and make sure that drilling is done safely, but instead, this amendment seeks to remove their expertise from the drilling process.
•The Rider for Repeating Tragic Oil Spills: Amendment No. 26 filed by Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA): This amendment exempts companies engaged in the offshore oil drilling business from accountability or regulation. This ignorant rider spites everything we learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster and everything the President’s National Oil Spill Commission told us about the culpability of contractors like Halliburton and Transocean in the Gulf spill. It weakens oversight of offshore drilling contractors and lets them off the hook for any safety failures of their equipment – and it would prohibit government oversight of these players and block the federal government from ensuring that drilling contractors are meeting safety requirements and following the law, along with the primary holder of the drilling lease.
•The Pro-Flooding and Pro-Fire Rider: Amendment No. 33 filed by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA): This year, the nation has experienced record floods, record droughts, and record fires. This irresponsible and wide-sweeping amendment blocks the Interior Department and the Forest Service from implementing its programs that prepare for the record-breaking floods, fires, and droughts to come due to climate change. This amendment also blocks all environment-related agencies from climate change research, science, and preparation. While the private sector is busy preparing and planning for climate change and extreme weather patterns, this amendment flies in the face of common sense and good planning by insisting that the government turn a blind eye to the costly changes and impacts facing our communities, lands, and economy. It will cost our country and economy gravely.
•The Justice Blocker Rider: Amendment No. 34 filed by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE): This rider seeks to curtail citizens access to courts if the injured party is seeking non-monetary relieve, such as those seeking to enforce their Constitutional rights to religious freedom and free speech, or statutory rights to clean water and clean air.
•The Carbon Polluter Bail-Out Rider: Amendment No. 38 filed by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS): This rider wipes out all carbon pollution reporting requirements under the Clean Air Act. It allows the nation’s biggest and worst climate change polluters to get out of even reporting their pollution, let alone being accountable for it.
•The Stop Clean Fuels Rider: Amendment No 40 filed by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS): This rider gets polluting refineries, which already enjoy a host of regulatory loopholes and other flexibilities from pollution controls, out of requirements to produce cleaner forms of energy.

A Slow Start for Forest Carbon Markets

But such carbon credits have found demand only in a small, thinly traded voluntary carbon market, as countries struggle to agree on new, binding emissions cuts under U.N. climate talks.

“There is growing impatience with the multilateral process, not only from practitioners such as myself, but more importantly, from many forest countries,” said Christian del Valle, environmental markets and forestry director at BNP Paribas in London.

“Thus far the multilateral process has not delivered meaningful on-the-ground results, and forests continue to be lost because the only accessible price signal today indicates they are worth more cut down than standing,” he said.

A full U.N. climate deal could create a market through which rich, polluting countries could buy carbon credits, paying for forest protection in the process, just as they pay for clean energy projects now under the Kyoto Protocol’s existing carbon offset market, the Clean Development Mechanism.

So far, the only demand for forest carbon credits has been in the voluntary carbon market, worth $424 million last year, which lacks the binding rules of the Clean Development Mechanism.

Governments like those of Norway, Germany, Britain and the United States have pledged $6.5 billion to help poorer countries develop systems to reduce emissions from deforestation, but that is seen as only a halfway measure. Private-sector involvement will be essential.

Recent studies suggest that between $17 billion and $33 billion per year is needed to achieve a U.N. Environment Program recommendation to halve global emissions from deforestation by 2030.

“We are not going to get the scale of what we need without participation by the private sector,” said Donna Lee, who was the lead U.N. negotiator on REDD for the United States and is now a consultant for the advisory group Climate Focus.

“There is a disconnect between the understanding by countries and negotiators and the private sector of what the private sector needs in order to participate in REDD,” she said.

The Article

2011 Corn

A number of factors combine each year to determine the U.S. average corn yield. Among those factors, temperature and precipitation during July are the most important. Crop yield models have long confirmed the large yield impact of July weather. The most favorable weather conditions in July in the heart of the corn belt consist of temperatures that are modestly below average and precipitation that is about 25 percent above average. These are the kind of conditions that were experienced in 2009 and contributed to the record high U.S. average yield that year. Historically, such conditions over large areas have been rare.

Weather conditions in July (and earlier) in 2011 have been far from ideal in many areas. Planting was late in portions of the eastern and northern corn belt. Southern portions of the U.S. have experienced hot and generally dry conditions for an extended period. The central and northern growing areas have experienced widely varying weather conditions during planting and the early part of the growing season. These widely varying conditions have been reflected in the USDA’s weekly Crop Progress reports which report crop condition ratings. As of July 10, the lowest crop ratings were reported in Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, and Ohio. The highest crop ratings were in Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Tennessee.

The continuation of high temperatures in southern areas and the expansion of hot weather to much of the corn belt this week raises additional concerns about corn yield. The high temperatures in the corn belt are occurring during the reproductive stage for a large portion of the crop. There is some indication that the intense heat will begin to moderate in many areas by the upcoming weekend. Still, average July temperatures in the corn belt may rank among the highest since 1960. In addition to the high temperatures, corn yield potential may be threatened by the expanding area of dryness over the last few weeks. For the first half of July, precipitation was well below average in large portions of Illinois and Indiana. Portions of southeastern Iowa, northwest Ohio, and eastern Michigan have also been relatively dry. Precipitation over the past 30 days was below normal in large portions of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and southern Wisconsin.

Less than favorable July weather in many areas has reduced corn yield potential in those areas. The overall impact on the likely U.S. average corn yield will be influenced by weather conditions in the last week of July and in August. Some indication of the impact will be revealed in the weekly crop condition ratings. Overall ratings for the week ended July 17 may not decline substantially, but declines could be reported for the week ending July 24 as a result of high temperatures and the lack of widespread precipitation.

The importance of the 2011 U.S. corn yield is underscored by the USDA’s projection of record consumption of U.S. corn during the 2011-12 marketing year. The most recent projection, released on July 12, forecasts consumption at 13.5 billion bushels, 195 million bushels above expected consumption during the current marketing year. Stocks at the end of the 2011-12 marketing year are projected at 870 million bushels, or 6.4 percent of projected use. Based on the forecast of 84.9 million acres to be harvested, a yield below 156.5 bushels would force a reduction in the projected level of consumption. A continuation of relatively high livestock and ethanol prices, along with growing Chinese demand, suggests that high corn prices would be required to curtail consumption.

For now, the corn market is reflecting modest concerns about the size of the 2011 crop. December 2011 futures recovered by more than $1.00 from the low on July 1, but are currently about $.50 below the high reached on June 9. Prices will continue to reflect weather conditions, weather forecasts, and crop condition ratings. As indicated last week, the nature of the 2011 planting and growing season creates a large amount of uncertainty about the size of the 2011 corn crop. Small inventories and strong demand increase the importance of crop size. As always, the USDA’s August production forecast will be highly anticipated as it will establish a benchmark for forming production expectations. That report may have added impact this year due to the possibility of adjustments to the harvested acreage forecast.

It almost goes without saying that corn prices will continue to trade in a wide range. All of the uncertainty makes it difficult to judge the overall price direction, but it appears there is more production risk than currently reflected by the corn market.

Issued by Darrel Good
Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics
University of Illinois

Corporate Climate Change Action

Franco Fusignani, CEO of New Holland Agriculture and CNH International, commented, “Climate change is the biggest global challenge of our age, and it has particular resonance in the emerging and high potential economies that we serve. Through this sponsorship we aim to contribute to Climate Action’s objective of providing a platform for an ongoing dialogue between business and governments, where international corporations such as ours can highlight solutions they are able to provide for tackling climate change.”