Email #279: “dangers are only increasing”

President Trump said on Saturday: “We’ve never seen anything like this,” describing Hurricane Irma as “a storm of enormous destructive power,” one following only a week after the destruction of Hurricane Harvey, and with Hurricane Jose following immediately in Irma’s wake.

Why are these hurricanes increasing in number and intensity?

Time magazine reported last week that the increase can be explained with one fact: “the air can hold 7% more water with every degree Celsius that the temperature rises.” As a result, the “high temperatures during Hurricane Harvey’s formation and along its path” are to blame “for the more than 50 inches of rain dropped on Houston,” a new record for rain from a storm on the continental U.S.  Looking to future storms, “scientists just need to convince the policymakers … the dangers are only increasing.”

Those policymakers include you and the climate-change deniers in the Trump administration. The President withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord over the summer, saying its effects would be negligible. But according to MIT researcher John Sterman, the Paris agreement would reduce the planet’s warming by roughly a full degree by the end of the century. That one degree would also significantly reduce the number and destructiveness of hurricanes hitting the U.S. coast.

You have repeatedly placed immediate economic needs ahead of long-term environmental concerns. The financial destruction caused by hurricanes Harvey and Irma reveals the short-sightedness of that policy.

Oddly, the President is using Irma as a reason to speed along legislation—but not climate legislation. He said on Saturday: “I think now, with what’s happened with the hurricane, I’m gonna ask for a speed up. I wanted a speed up anyway, but now we need it even more so. So we need to simplify the tax code, reduce taxes very substantially on the middle class, and make our business tax more globally competitive. We’re the highest anywhere in the world right now.”

Do you agree with the President’s that the best way to respond to hurricanes is to change the tax code?

Email #212: “Most troublesome of all”?

Just as there is a process for creating laws, there is a process for creating the rules and regulations that enforce those laws. This week a court struck down the EPA’s two-year stay on enforcing a methane regulation, deciding that it is “an order delaying the rule’s effective date, and this court has held that such orders are tantamount to amending or revoking a rule.”

As you know, the EPA must first write a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and list it in the Federal Register for others to comment on. Only after considering those comments can the EPA issue a final rule, list it on the Federal Register, and codify it by adding it to the Code of Federal Regulations. The EPA ignored that process by effectively revoking a current rule created to enforce the Clean Air Act.

In the past you have argued that the process for developing regulations is essential and that rules that did not follow it were illegitimate. You said in March that you opposed the Stream Protection Rule because the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) did not follow the process:

“Most troublesome of all, OSM did not comply with the requirement to engage in meaningful consultation with the impacted state governments during the yearlong development of this rule. In fact, several states dropped out of the rule development process altogether due to frustration with OSM.”

Why then are you not objecting to the EPA’s actions now? They too are not complying with the requirement to engage in meaningful consultation. Worse, they have eliminated the rule development process altogether.

Do you not care about the process and were only using it as an excuse to oppose the Stream Protection Rule? Is this yet another example of your evoking a principle in one situation and then ignoring that same principle in a different situation? Do you have any guiding principle other than political convenience?

Bob Goodlatte replies about global warming

Dear Mr. Gavaler:

Thank you for contacting me regarding global warming.  It is good to hear from you.

I want you to know that I agree with you on the need for protecting our environment.  While the debate over global warming reminds us that we should be good stewards of our planet, our nation has made great strides toward preserving our environment and has arguably the most comprehensive and protective environmental standards in the world. I believe we can and should do more, but we must carefully review any legislation in this area to ensure there are no unintended consequences.

As you know, Congress has considered several legislative proposals that dealt with global warming. I have great concerns that many of these proposals called for dramatic mandatory emissions reductions that would hamper the ability of companies to operate competitively in the United States, and thus be forced to move those jobs overseas. This would hurt not only our economy, but also the global environment, as most countries do not have the environmental protections that we benefit from in the United States. Instead of government mandates and bureaucracy we should focus on policies that support technological advances and consumer choices.

As we debate climate change, I believe it is important for our nation to reevaluate our energy policies. However, we cannot ignore that America’s economy is intrinsically linked to the availability and affordability of energy. In order to build a strong economy and create more jobs, we need reliable and affordable energy supplies. The bottom line is that we need policies which encourage investment in environmentally sound, cost-effective practices without stifling innovation and setting our economy back. While Washington may develop the guidelines, we need to get the government out of the way and let local people get the job done. Rest assured I will keep your views in mind as Congress continues to debate global warming.

I appreciate your taking the time to share your views with me. I believe it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of the 6th district. In addition, I hope you will be in touch as the 115th Congress considers legislation or addresses additional issues of importance to the United States.

Again, thank you for the benefit of your comments. Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

Bob Goodlatte replies about climate change

Dear Mr. Gavaler:

Thank you for contacting me about the issue of climate change and the recent decision by President Trump to formally withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.  I share your desire for a healthy planet and appreciate you sharing your concerns.

As you may know, on December 12, 2015, the participating nations of the twenty-first session of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change announced a new international agreement. The Paris Agreement included a single “transparency framework” and timeline that applies to all parties with the intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit the average global temperature increase.  Under this agreement, the Obama Administration pledged to reduce U.S. emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and pledged $3 billion to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund.  On April 22, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the Paris Agreement, and on September 3, 2016, President Obama submitted an instrument of acceptance to the United Nations.

On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that he was formally withdrawing the United States from this voluntary agreement.  The President also announced that he would attempt to renegotiate a better agreement in order to address the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, while limiting negative economic impacts on the American economy and our nation’s workers.

This decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement was the right move. I have had concerns from the beginning that this agreement was never ratified by the Senate, failing to get the scrutiny of the People’s elected representatives and flouting our constitutionally enumerated treaty approval process.  Quite simply, President Obama should have submitted this agreement to the United States Senate for approval, and his decision to avoid this check and balance contained in our constitutional system was irresponsible. Additionally, the agreement puts significant burdens on the United States while we have already taken substantial steps in reducing CO2 emissions in our country.  We all want a healthy environment to pass down to the next generation, and we should continue to work toward this goal on the international front in a way that preserves both the American economy and the environment.

As we consider how to best fulfill our role as responsible stewards of our environment, I believe it is important to continuously evaluate our energy policies. However, we cannot ignore that America’s economy is intrinsically linked to the availability and affordability of energy.  Folks in Virginia’s Sixth District and others in our nation and around the world will not be able to continue to move forward economically to better their lives without the assurance of affordable and efficient energy.

I believe our nation can develop environmentally sound, cost-effective practices that will not stifle innovation or hamper economic growth.  In many cases, those involved in innovative technologies or those in state and local governments know best how to address issues such as a need for new energy sources, or environmental and climate adaptability concerns. Rest assured I will keep your views in mind as Congress continues to debate how to best protect our environment and promote economic growth.

I appreciate you taking the time to share your views with me and hope you will stay in touch as the 115th Congress continues to debate issues important to our country. I believe it is vital to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance to you and your family.

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

Email #182: “a healthy environment”?

You wrote in your June 1 press release supporting the President’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement:

“We all want a healthy environment to pass down to the next generation, and we should continue to work toward this goal on the international front in a way that preserves both the American economy and the environment.”

This is reasonable position expressed in a reasonable tone, which I appreciate. However, I’m not sure how it aligns with your voting record.

In 2016, 38 environment-related bills came before the House and you voted against “a healthy environment” each time. You voted the same way on all of the 35 bills in 2015 too. The League of Conservation Voters give you a lifetime score of 6%, meaning you voted for legislation that failed to preserve the environment 94% of the time. If my math is right, that’s 416 out of 336 bills in your quarter century in the House.

I agree that preserving “both the American economy and the environment” are important. But in what sense are you continuing “to work toward this goal” given your extremely lopsided record? If you really “want a healthy environment to pass down to the next generation,” what exactly are you doing to achieve it?

You said you opposed the Paris Agreement because it “puts significant burdens on the U.S. while we have already taken substantial steps in reducing CO2 emissions in our country.” But you opposed those very steps. In 2009, you voted against enforcing limits on CO2 global warming pollution. When the American Clean Energy and Security Act came before the House, you said its consequences would be

“devastating for the future of the economy of this country. It’s a fantasy that this legislation will turn down the thermostat of the world by reducing CO2 gas emissions when China & India & other nations are pumping more CO2 gas into the atmosphere all the time. We would be far better served with legislation that devotes itself to developing new technologies before we slam the door on our traditional sources of energy like coal and oil and nuclear power. We support the effort for energy efficiency. We do not support this kind of suicide for the American economy.”

The act passed, and the economy did not commit “suicide.” You were verifiably wrong eight years ago. Why do you believe you’re right now? You also said that reducing CO2 emissions was hopeless without getting countries like China and India on board. The Paris agreement did exactly that. Withdrawing from it now undermines the progress that’s been made and returns us to “fantasy.”

It’s also inaccurate to argue that preserving the environment and preserving business interests are opposing goals. Top American business executives, including even former Exxon CEO, Secretary of State Tillerson, support the Paris Climate Agreement. They want America to be globally competitive on new energy technologies.

How then is the President’s decision “the right move”?

Email #116, Subject: “We can have both”?

Thank you for your letter about the Stream Protection Rule. You wrote earlier in your e-newsletter: “the flawed Stream Protection Rule … would annihilate America’s coal industry and threaten thousands of good paying jobs.” You included the statement under the banner “Rolling Back Red Tape” and implied that the only issue was over-regulation.

I wrote to you about the rule on February 14th and received your response last weekend. You now write:

“It is good to hear from you and we agree on the importance of clean water and a healthy environment.” You stated your claim that the rule was “too broad and too costly” and citied evidence: “In a report compiled by the National Mining Association, it was estimated that the proposed rule would eliminate 40,000-78,000 coal mining jobs.” I don’t know if the industry’s association is adequately objective, but giving them the benefit of the doubt, that figure is troubling. You also argued that the agency that produced the rule “did not comply with the requirement to engage in meaningful consultation with the impacted state governments during the yearlong development of this rule.” The adjective “meaningful” is intentionally vague but implies that the OSM did consult, but not in a sincere manner, which, if true, is also troubling. You concluded that “regulations should be carefully crafted to protect public health, safety, and the environment.  However, they must not be allowed to decimate entire industries. We can have both a healthy economy and a healthy environment, but such a balance will not be achieved with costly, overly broad regulations that do not take into account the real-world impacts of their implementation.”

Although I may disagree with it, your letter presents a reasonable argument crafted in a thoughtful manner. Your newsletter, however, does not. Why do you use such different forms of communication for your different constituents? I understand that my concern about stream protection triggered your form letter, but why don’t your newsletter readers deserve the same, thoughtful treatment?

You have stated repeatedly that you prioritize communication with constituents. But your newsletter does not communicate — it exploits. It assumes that readers hold certain positions and plays to those prejudices. Rather than acknowledging how extremely difficult it is to balance protecting jobs in an already-decimated industry over the long-term needs of the environment and the fairness of requiring companies to repair the damage they do, you just dismissed the rule as “red tape.” You played to the conservative stereotype that all regulations are bad regulations.

This is a disservice to your conservative constituents. Instead of educating them about complex issues, you reduce their knowledge to slogans. All of your constituents deserve and need better from you. We are in a profoundly divisive political moment. You can help to repair the damage that has already been done or you can continue to exploit that damage and make our political environment even worse.

Bob Goodlatte replies about stream protection

Dear Mr. Gavaler:

Thank you for contacting me with your thoughts regarding H. J. Res. 38, a resolution to disapprove of the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior known as the “Stream Protection Rule.” It is good to hear from you and we agree on the importance of clean water and a healthy environment.

As you may know, on July 27, 2015, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) released its proposed Stream Protection Rule, which revised current regulations governing the impact of surface mining on surface water and natural resources. After more than a year of discussion, on December 19, 2016, OSM released its final version of this rule.

Unfortunately, both the proposed rule and the final rule were too broad and too costly. In a report compiled by the National Mining Association, it was estimated that the proposed rule would eliminate 40,000-78,000 coal mining jobs. Most troublesome of all, OSM did not comply with the requirement to engage in meaningful consultation with the impacted state governments during the yearlong development of this rule. In fact, several states dropped out of the rule development process altogether due to frustration with OSM.

It is my belief that regulations should be carefully crafted to protect public health, safety, and the environment.  However, they must not be allowed to decimate entire industries. We can have both a healthy economy and a healthy environment, but such a balance will not be achieved with costly, overly broad regulations that do not take into account the real-world impacts of their implementation.

In response to this final rule, Representative Bill Johnson of Ohio introduced H. J. Res. 38, which would annul the Stream Protection Rule. On February 1, 2017, the House of Representatives passed this legislation, with my support, by a bipartisan vote of 228-194. Subsequently, the United States Senate passed the bill by a vote of 54-45 on February 2, 2017. The President signed H. J. Res. 38 into law on February 16, 2017.

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I feel it is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. I hope you will be in touch as the 115th Congress debates issues of importance to the United States.

Again, thanks for the benefit of your comments. Please feel free to contact me whenever I may be of assistance

Sincerely,

Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

Email #70, Subject: “flawed” stream protection?

I understand that balancing environmental protection with economic needs is very difficult. The coal industry has been in decline for years, and environmental regulations make that decline even harder. The more coal companies can legally pollute, the lower their costs and so the longer they can stay in business. I get that. You are prioritizing a failing industry and its remaining employees over the long-term protection of the environment.

That’s why you voted against what you called “the flawed Stream Protection Rule,” which you said “would annihilate America’s coal industry and threaten thousands of good paying jobs.” Your choice of “annihilate” is misleading, since the coal industry is already in very serious trouble. Preventing coal companies from burying streams will not save it. Sadly, the pollution of those waterways also affects those very same employees you are trying to help. The rule also allowed temporary burying, as long as companies restored damaged streams after mining was complete. Why is that “flawed”?  You break something, you fix it. It seems like common sense.

But while I see that reasonable people can disagree about how exactly to balance industry and environmental needs, your justification for your vote against the Stream Protection Rule is not reasonable. You bragged about it in a recent newsletter under the banner “Rolling Back Red Tape.” You implied that the only issue was over-regulation: “The way Washington makes regulations must change so that smarter, more efficient regulations become the norm, not the exception.”

Obviously it would be more “efficient” for coal companies to ignore the damage they cause. But it’s not red tape burying our streams. Its mining waste. While this is a difficult issue, your summary suggests that either you have an implausibly simple-minded understanding of it, or that you are manipulating your voters with intentionally simple-minded explanations. If you are going to vote for pollution, be honest about your reasons. The issue is not “red tape.” It’s prioritizing short-term jobs over the environment.

Chris Gavaler