Trump executive memoranda seek to expedite permits for GHG-intensive Keystone XL, Dakota Access pipelines

President Donald J. Trump has issued several executive memoranda aimed at speeding up consideration by federal agencies of the greenhouse gas-intensive Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Two executive memoranda released late Tuesday relate to the controversial projects.

According to a report in the Washington Post, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said Tuesday that Trump acted because he is “very, very keen on making sure that we maximize our use of natural resources to America’s benefit.”

Because they aim to aid completion of two projects that would facilitate the burning of more than 1.2 million barrels of oil per day and raise the risks of serious environmental damage from spills and leaks, the directives are likely to reignite intense arguments over both pipelines.

The Trump memorandum related to the Keystone XL pipeline invites that project’s developer, the foreign firm TransCanada Keystone Pipeline L.P., to “to promptly re-submit its application to the Department of State for a Presidential permit for [its] construction and operation.”

The permit is necessary because the Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Canada-United States border.

It also imposes a 60-day deadline on the State Department’s consideration of any permit application, suggests that a 2014 environmental impact statement prepared for the project be considered sufficient to comply with applicable federal environmental laws including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and waives all requirements to notify other agencies of the permit application and to wait for their responses before proceeding to a decision.

Trump used language designed to preserve discretion granted to the secretary of state to approve or deny any application TransCanada files.

“Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect . . . the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof,” the memorandum says.

At present there is no pending application for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the Canada-U.S.  border. The Obama administration State Department rejected such an application on Nov. 6, 2015.

Arguments about the economic and environmental impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline raged, and were considered by the Obama administration, for years after it was first proposed by TransCanada in 2008.

The  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected an initial environmental impact statement in July 2010 because it failed to adequately evaluate plans to respond to oil spills, pipeline safety issues, or potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with the project.

After a second EIS was prepared in 2011, the State Department delayed consideration of a permit to consider impacts on the Sand Hills region of Nebraska.

The Obama administration then rejected the pipeline construction application in January 2012.

TransCanada re-applied for the permit later that year. The 2014 EIS referred to in Trump’s memorandum was prepared after that second application.

keystone-xl-route
Three phases of the Keystone XL pipeline are complete. Only the fourth phase, which is planned to run from a point near Hardisty, Alberta, to Steele City, Nebraska, is not yet complete. That portion of the project was blocked by the Obama administration. Graphic courtesy TransCanada L.P. and Wikimedia.

The 1,204 mile-long Keystone XL pipeline would run from a terminal near Hardisty, Alberta to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to both a second pipeline that would carry crude to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and to a third that would move oil to collection points in Illinois.

With a maximum carrying capacity of more than 800,000 barrels per day of crude oil extracted from Alberta’s tar sands – a process that has caused extensive destruction to Canada’s 1.3 billion acre, wildlife-rich boreal forests – and the Bakken basin of eastern Montana and western North Dakota, Keystone XL would cause an annual increase in carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere of 147 million to 168 million metric tons.

Greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the burning of tar sands oil, which is extracted from a highly toxic mix of bitumen, clay and sand, would be equivalent to the GHG emissions of 7.8 coal fired power plants, according to a State Department document explaining the Obama administration’s 2015 rejection of the pipeline permit application.

Keystone XL would also open up foreign markets to tar sands crude for the first time.

“Keystone actually is really driving an expansion of tar sands oil extraction,” Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, chief program officer at Natural Resources Defense Council, said. “You have to look not only at the emission of what goes through the pipeline, but also opening up a market that would not otherwise exist.”

Climatologist James Hansen, the former NASA scientist who first drew significant attention to anthropogenic climate change in the late 1980s, has warned of the consequences of encouraging combustion of the Alberta tar sands crude. He wrote in May 2012 that facilitation of its use by construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would mean “game over” for the planet’s equable climate:

“The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon – 240 gigatons – to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. – a level that would, as Earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.”

In addition to the climate impacts of the project, then-secretary of state John F. Kerry also explained that the Obama administration had concluded that few jobs would be created by its construction or operation and that the project would not significantly lower the cost of fossil fuel energy.

Most legislators on Capitol Hill have favored the Keystone XL pipeline despite the climate and other environmental objections, including possible impacts on water supplies, that have been raised against it. The 114th Congress passed a bill that would have forced approval of the Keystone XL permit in Jan. 2015. Obama vetoed it the next month.

Earlier Congresses had considered measures aimed at speeding up consideration of the project.

Trump also issued another executive memorandum aimed at expediting consideration by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of an alternative route for the Dakota Access pipeline.

In that memorandum, Trump commanded the secretary of the Army to

“instruct the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), including the Commanding General and Chief of Engineers, to take all actions necessary and appropriate to:

“(i) review and approve in an expedited manner, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate, requests for approvals to construct and operate the DAPL, including easements or rights-of-way to cross Federal areas under section 28 of the Mineral Leasing Act, as amended, 30 U.S.C. 185; permits or approvals under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344; permits or approvals under section 14 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, 33 U.S.C. 408; and such other Federal approvals as may be necessary;

“(ii) consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, whether to rescind or modify the memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works dated December 4, 2016 (Proposed Dakota Access Pipeline Crossing at Lake Oahe, North Dakota), and whether to withdraw the Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement in Connection with Dakota Access, LLC’s Request for an Easement to Cross Lake Oahe, North Dakota, dated January 18, 2017, and published at 82 Fed. Reg. 5543;

“(iii) consider, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, prior reviews and determinations, including the Environmental Assessment issued in July of 2016 for the DAPL, as satisfying all applicable requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., and any other provision of law that requires executive agency consultation or review (including the consultation or review required under section 7(a) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, 16 U.S.C. 1536(a));

“(iv) review and grant, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, requests for waivers of notice periods arising from or related to USACE real estate policies and regulations; and

“(v) issue, to the extent permitted by law and as warranted, any approved easements or rights-of-way immediately after notice is provided to the Congress pursuant to section 28(w) of the Mineral Leasing Act, as amended, 30 U.S.C. 185(w).”

The President’s repeated use of the phrase “to the extent permitted by law and as warranted” indicates that the Army Corps of Engineers may retain its authority to complete the preparation of an environmental impact statement that examines alternative routes for the Dakota Access pipeline, as ordered by the Obama administration in Dec. 2016.

On the other hand, the language in Trump’s Dakota Access memorandum requires the Army Corps of Engineers to decide quickly whether to proceed with the EIS and grant the developer, Energy Transfer Partners L.P., permission required to build underneath Lake Oahe.

A Sept. 2016 opinion by a federal district judge may reinforce any determination by the  Trump administration to reverse a decision by the Obama administration three months later to proceed with an environmental impact statement. The Army Corps of Engineers said that it would complete the EIS on alternative routes because of the objections against the project lodged by native American nations in the Dakotas.

“Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it’s clear that there’s more work to do,” Jo-Ellen Darcy, the then-assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, said. “The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing.”

The Dakota Access project is considered by many native Americans to raise the risk that an oil spill would contaminate their water supply or flood tribal burial sites and other sites of cultural importance.

The September ruling by Judge James E. Boasberg  rejected arguments that the tribes had not been adequately consulted about the possible impacts on cultural resources during the permit review process, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act:

“[T]his Court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux. Aware of the indignities visited upon the Tribe over the last centuries, the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here.”

Native American nations opposed to the Dakota Access did not argue that the Army Corps of Engineers had violated NEPA or any other applicable federal law in the extent of communication and discussion with them that had occurred or by initially proposing to apply a nationwide permit under the Clean Water Act to the project.

The Obama administration’s Dec. 2016 determination to undertake a full environmental impact analysis necessitated the denial of the permission to cross Lake Oahe needed by Energy Transfer Partners L.P., which is what likely drove Trump’s decision to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider whether to complete the EIS.

Planned to wind from its origin in North Dakota and through South Dakota and Iowa to an oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois, Dakota Access would abut lands of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation and the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

dakota-access-pipeline-route-courtesy-wikimedia
This graphic shows the route of the proposed Dakota Access pipeline, which is complete except for the portion that crosses Lake Oahe in North Dakota. Image by NittyG (own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52776844).

The developer’s proposal to bury the pipeline beneath the bed of Lake Oahe in North Dakota has raised fears of water pollution and other environmental damage from pipeline leaks and other mishaps.

Dakota Access would permit the consumption of at least 470,000 more barrels of crude per day.

Most, or even all, of the oil carried by the two pipelines could be exported. Congress enacted legislation in 2015 that ended a longstanding prohibition on transport of American crude overseas.

A spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners L.P. refused to say, when asked by a reporter for The Intercept in Sept. 2016, that the company would remain committed to prior claims that all of the oil transported in it would be supplied to the U.S. market.

Environmental conservation community leaders vowed Tuesday to continue their opposition to both projects.

“The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral,” Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, said in a statement. “In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to serve the oil industry. It’s a dark day for a reason, but we will continue to fight.”

Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh vowed an all-out battle, saying that the two pipelines “pose a grave threat to our water, communities, and climate.”

“We will use every tool available to help ensure that they are not built,” she said.

One legal academic who specializes in the application of federal environmental law said that he is not convinced that a court would defer to Trump’s executive orders.

“Some people think it’s a matter of snapping fingers, but the courts don’t work that way,” Professor Patrick Parenteau of Vermont Law School told Inside Climate News Tuesday, referring to the Dakota Access project. “There has to be a bona fide, legitimate reason why not proceeding with the assessment that just a month ago the United States government said in court was necessary in order to comply with the law. Why all of the sudden it is not?”

Trump’s precipitous actions on the fourth full day of his presidency overturns decisions taken after years of deliberation and study by his predecessor’s administration and follows a pattern of dishonest rhetoric about the validity of scientists’ understanding that fossil fuel consumption is driving climate change.

In Nov. 2012 businessman Trump labeled climate change a “Chinese hoax” aimed at destroying U.S. manufacturing capability. In Nov. 2016, the regime’s incoming White House chief of staff, lawyer Reinhold R. Priebus, publicly said that the 45th President regards climate change as a “bunch of bunk.”

NOTE: This post was updated on Jan. 25 to reflect that President Trump issued executive memoranda, not executive orders, and that the content of those memoranda allows some agency discretion in handling the pipeline projects.

.

Kazakhstan, Zambia, Cuba, Kenya join Paris Agreement

Four more nations ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change in December, bringing the number that have done so to 121.

Kazhakstan notified the United Nations of its formal adoption of the accord on Dec. 6.

Zambia was next, formally agreeing to the Paris Agreement on Dec. 9.

Cuba and Kenya ratified the landmark Dec. 2015 international agreement on Dec. 28.

The Paris Agreement took effect Nov. 4, 2016. Adopting nations agree to prepare Nationally Determined Contributions to the reduction of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

International Energy Agency: Paris Agreement warming goal not likely to be achieved

An international agency that tracks energy policy developments around the world warned Wednesday that national commitments to execute the Paris Agreement on climate change will fail to limit atmospheric warming to a level below 2 degrees Celsius, the agreement’s overall objective.

The International Energy Agency’s 2016 World Energy Report concludes instead that existing Nationally Determined Contributions, the formal term for promises to lower greenhouse gas emissions provided for in the Paris Agreement, would lead to a warming of 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

“[T]he goals of the Paris Agreement require not just a slowdown in growth, but an early peak and decline in emissions,” the agency said in a fact sheet that accompanied the report. “In our main scenario, the entire carbon budget for a 2°C future is used up by the early 2040s.”

The IEA further explained that a limitation of warming to 2 degrees Celsius is “tough,” but that “it can be achieved if policies to accelerate further low carbon technologies and energy efficiency are put in place across all sectors. It would require that carbon emissions peak in the next few years and that the global economy becomes carbon neutral by the end of the century.”

The rate of growth in greenhouse gas emissions will slow, falling from a mean of about 2.4 percent since 2000 to about 0.5 percent per year by 2040.

IEA found that a boom in renewable energy investment is underway. The report concluded that expansion of renewable energy infrastructure in 2015 exceeded that added for electricity generated from coal, oil, and natural gas combustion and nuclear energy during the year.

Wind and solar energy production will account for at least 37 percent of all electricity generated in 2040, the report said.

Meanwhile, development of coal and oil facilities is beginning to show signs of falling off.

While production of oil from sources in the Middle East reached its highest proportion of worldwide output of the fossil fuel in the past 40 years, the number of new oil projects approved by governments around the world has fallen to the lowest level since the 1950s. Meanwhile, demand for oil from the electric power industry and for operation of motor vehicles has begun to fall. Utilities used about 3 million barrels per day less in 2015 than in 2014, while motor vehicle consumption fell by about half a million barrels per day.

On the other hand, oil consumption by freight shippers, airlines, the maritime industry, and petrochemical plants rose last year. In the case of petrochemical plants, demand increased by about 5 million barrels per day, while airlines and freight shippers burned in excess of 3 million barrels per day more than they had in 2014. The maritime industry increased oil used by nearly 2 million barrels per da

None of those industries that experienced increases in oil consumption last year have readily available alternatives to the fossil fuel.

Coal, according to IEA, is on a marked downward trajectory. The report concluded that coal consumption is declining in China, the European Union, and the United States, though India and southeast Asian nations are increasing their reliance on the substance.

Worldwide, coal demand is expected to decline by more than two-thirds from its 1990 level before 2040.

Among fossil fuels, natural gas is the only energy source that is being used more. The report concluded that liquid natural gas is the primary driver of this trend and is the result of greater integration of the fuel into world markets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerry speaks to COP22, says Obama’s progress on U.S. climate policy will endure

kerry-signs-paris-agreement-apr-22-2016-photo-courtesy-un-photo-by-amanda-voisard-cc-by-ny-flickr
U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry, with his grand-daughter in his arms, signs the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016.
Photo courtesy United Nations, photo by Amanda Voisard/CC BY-ND (Flickr).

John F. Kerry, the chief diplomat of the United States, reassured world leaders Wednesday that the American commitment to greenhouse gas emission cutbacks would survive the presidency of climate science denier Donald J. Trump.

Kerry’s remarks to an annual gathering of representatives of the nations that have signed the planet’s principal treaty governing climate policy were set against a backdrop of nervousness that, under Trump, the U.S. would renege on its Paris Agreement obligations.

The secretary of state pointed to market trends as the likely bulwark of the country’s progress in rolling back atmospheric pollution by carbon dioxide and other warming gases.

“I’ve met with leaders and innovators in the energy industry all across our nation, and I am excited about the path that they are on,” Kerry said. “America’s wind generation has tripled since 2008 and that will continue, and solar generation has increased 30 times over. And the reason both of those will continue is that the marketplace will dictate that, not the government.”

Kerry also argued that the political momentum for an enduring program of GHG emission cuts is too powerful to stop, pointing out that the evidence of human impacts on the atmosphere and oceans is too great to be ignored:

“Now, I want to acknowledge that since this COP started, obviously, an election took place in my country,” Kerry said. “And I know it has left some here and elsewhere feeling uncertain about the future. I obviously understand that uncertainty. And while I can’t stand here and speculate about what policies our president-elect will pursue, I will tell you this: In the time that I have spent in public life, one of the things I have learned is that some issues look a little bit different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail.”

The secretary of state, who is due to leave office when President Barack Obama’s second term in the White House ends on Jan. 20, 2017, also spoke at length about visits to Greenland and Antarctica and urged Trump, without naming him, to learn from climate scientists.

“[A]bove all, consult with the scientists who have dedicated their entire lives to expanding our understanding of this challenge, and whose work will be in vain unless we sound the alarm loud enough for everyone to hear. No one has a right to make decisions that affect billions of people based on solely ideology or without proper input.

“Anyone who has these conversations, who takes the time to learn from these experts, who gets the full picture of what we’re facing – I believe they can only come to one legitimate decision, and that is to act boldly on climate change and encourage others to do the same.”

Delegates from nearly 200 nations are gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco for the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

 

Secretary of State Kerry visits Antarctica, highest U.S. official ever to make the trip

kerry-at-mcmurdo-courtesy-us-state-dept
U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry and his party encountered a curious Adele penguin at McMurdo Station in Antarctica during a visit there on Friday, Nov. 11.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of State.

U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry arrived in Antarctica Friday for a two-day visit, becoming the most senior American official ever to visit the vast continent.

Kerry flew to McMurdo Station aboard a C-17 Globemaster cargo aircraft. The five hour-long flight ended when the huge airplane landed on an ice patch that serves the U.S. installation there.

The nation’s chief diplomat spoke to American scientists at McMurdo Station and encouraged them to remain hopeful about the U.S. commitment to fight climate change in the aftermath of a divisive election that saw a climate science denier, Donald J. Trump, win enough Electoral College votes to become the country’s president-elect.

“The rest of the world is not going to abide by scofflaws,” Kerry said. “They’re not going to tolerate people walking away from responsibility, because every country has to be part of this. No one country can solve this problem. And every other country that I know of is starting to try to figure out how they’re going to be able to do it.”

Kerry has led an effort to significantly raise the United States’ diplomatic focus on climate change.

In 2016 he played a key role in achieving international agreements to limit emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners, and of carbon dioxide by aircraft.

The HFC agreement, reached during meetings held in Kigali, Rwanda in October, will lead to the phase-out of the compound within about two decades.

Kerry also spearheaded the American effort to conclude the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2015.

blood-falls-and-taylor-glacier-antarctica-courtesy-us-dept-of-state
Blood Falls and Taylor Glacier, both located near McMurdo Station, are among the examples of Antarctic geographic features observed by U.S. secretary of state John F. Kerry during his visit to the continent Nov. 11-12.
Image courtesy U.S. Department of State.

Washington voters reject historic carbon tax proposal

Anacortes Refinery
This refinery, operated by Texas-based Tesoro Corp., is one of Washington’s major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Image courtesy Wikimedia.

Voters in Washington state defeated last week the nation’s first proposal to enact a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

The tax was expected to raise about $2 billion per year from levies on gasoline and fossil fuel-generated electricity. It would have assessed a $15 per metric ton levy on carbon dioxide emissions beginning in July, a rate that would have risen steadily, taking into account inflation, until it reached $100 per metric ton in 40 years.

Gasoline importers and power plant operators would have been the principal payers of the new tax.

To offset the revenues generated by the carbon emissions tax, the measure specified that Washington’s sales tax would be cut by one percent over a period of about 18 months and that a tax on businesses would be reduced by a fraction of a percent.

That provision proved to be controversial among advocates for the poor and even many environmental groups, who wanted revenue gained from the carbon tax to support programs aimed at reducing the state’s climate impact.

“The only way to combat climate change fast enough is to both cut pollution and invest in clean energy solutions like wind and solar power,” a statement released by the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy said. “And doing it right includes investing in communities and workers hardest hit by pollution and the transition off dirty fossil fuels.”

Not every environmental organization opposed the initiative. Audubon Washington, a coordinating entity for 25 local National Audubon Society chapters in Washington, backed it.

Gail Gatton, the organization’s executive director, said that Audubon members were mostly concerned about whether I-732 would help to combat anthropogenic climate change, not about its fiscal implications.

“That’s not our issue,” she said. “We really look at it through the lens of whether it will reduce carbon emissions. Even a small step in the right direction is something we’ll support.”

I-732 also called for a tax credit of up to $1,500 for about 460,000 low-income households.

A number of climate scientists supported the initiative. James Hansen, a former NASA climatologist now with Columbia University’s Earth Institute, wrote an editorial for the Seattle Times that urged Washington’s electorate to vote for the proposal.

“The most efficient way to phase out fossil fuels is a steadily rising carbon fee collected from fossil-fuel companies and distributed uniformly to the public,” Hansen wrote. He stressed that the initiative would lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions and improve the state’s economy:

“The public should support this “carbon fee and dividend.” Wealthy people will pay more in increased prices than they receive in the dividend. However, economic studies show that carbon fee-and-dividend spurs the economy, increases the gross national product, creates millions of jobs and rapidly reduces fossil-fuel use. Most people would come out ahead.”

Dr. Cecilia M. Bitz, a climatologist at the University of Washington, stressed that  lower carbon emissions is crucial if humanity is to keep the extent of atmospheric warming to a manageable and possibly safe amount.

“Roughly, what we have emitted today would reach about 1.5 degrees [Celsius],” she said.

Bitz explained that it will be difficult to keep the change in the planet’s average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, a goal that underlies the Paris Agreement on climate change and which scientists have suggested is a reasonable objective, without stronger measures to encourage emission reduction.

“If we want to achieve those thresholds, we need to start reducing emissions immediately and think of ways to draw down those levels of C02 in the atmosphere,” she said.

More than four dozen scientists affiliated with the University of Washington also spoke in favor of I-732 by publishing an open letter in support of the measure.

“This revenue-neutral measure offers the most progressive change in our tax code in decades and represents a bipartisan effort that rejects ideology,” the letter argued. “While many interrelated social and environmental needs demand out attention, complex problems are best solved one step at a time.”

Bitz, who signed the letter, said that she recognizes that the measure did not address the equity concerns of some environmental advocates and organizations dedicated working to assist low income families.

“I feel the urgency was so great that I was willing to overlook deficiencies and I think strongly the way it was written was intended to reach conservative and progressive people alike by making it revenue neutral,” she said. “I think that was a strength.”

Revenue neutrality may not have been as obvious of a strength as advocates of the initiative believed, though. An analysis by the Washington Department of Revenue concluded that the measure would reduce state tax receipts by more than $670 million between fiscal years 2017-2021.

The state, which has no income tax, relies heavily on sales taxes to support government services and operations. Moreover, Washington is under a Dec. 2012 state supreme court order to increase funding for its public schools and was held in contempt in 2014 because it has failed to abide by that mandate.

Gatton said that she thinks the controversy over the measure’s revenue neutrality may have been a key factor in its defeat.

“With the complicated funding structure, and with our government under court orders about funding education and funding  mental health issues, people didn’t tend to believe it was revenue neutral,” she said. “The I-732 camp was never able to get over that perception in people’s minds even though there were a number of independent studies done that found that it was as about as revenue neutral as you’re going to get.”

On Tuesday I-732 failed when 59 percent of Evergreen  State voters  said “no”to the new carbon tax.

Bitz said that she believes that proponents of a carbon tax will re-visit the issue in the future.

“If the richest country in the world is not doing its part, how can the rest of the world justify any kind of economic hardship they may incur by adding a cost to energy?,” she said. “It’s not free.”

UPDATE, Nov. 15, 2016, 9:15 am MST: Comments of Dr. Cecilia Bitz were added.

UPDATE, Nov. 18, 2016, 9:41 am MST: Comments of Gail Gatton were added.

Paris Agreement takes effect; American presidential winner casts shadow over international effort to fight climate change

The Paris Agreement on climate change took effect on Nov. 4, days before American voters elected as their President a candidate who has promised to abandon the nation’s commitment to fighting climate change.

According to a press release issued by the United Nations on Nov. 5, the accord has become operative faster than any other recent international agreement.

“The speed at which countries have made the Paris’s Agreement’s entry into force possible is unprecedented in recent experience of international agreements and is a powerful confirmation of the importance nations attach to combating climate change and realizing the multitude of opportunities inherent in the Paris Agreement,” Patricia Espinosa, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a statement.

The agreement, which was reached last December, could not begin to bind the nations that developed it until thirty days from the date on which the number of countries to ratify it reached 55 and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions accounted for by the ratifying countries reached 55 percent of the worldwide total.

unfccc-22-nov-2016
Nations that are parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change are meeting this month in Morocco.

Parties to the UNFCCC are now gathered for their 22nd annual meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco to establish a governing body that will oversee implementation of the Paris Agreement and rules to guide nations in their compliance with it.

The Paris Agreement does not limit national greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it requires signatory nations to specify Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. INDCs are used to detail each country’s effort to limit the atmospheric temperature increase caused by human activities to less than 2 degrees Celsius. Nations that do not meet their INDC obligation are not penalized.

Since the accord took effect, uncertainty about its future has increased around the world in the aftermath of the U.S. election. Although he did not win the majority of votes cast by Americans, New York real estate developer and reality TV star Donald J. Trump will become the nation’s chief executive because he carried a majority of the state-based votes that will be cast in the country’s archaic Electoral College.

Trump defeated former secretary of state and senator Hillary Clinton, along with a slew of minor party candidates including Libertarian former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein, to capture the presidency.

Trump’s comments during the long political campaign leading up to the election indicated that the United States may abandon the Paris Agreement. Trump said in May that he would “cancel” the American commitment to it.

Earlier statements by the Republican businessman, who has no political experience, also indicate that there is a risk that the country which emits the most greenhouse gases might quit the effort to limit them. Trump has said, for example, that he believes climate change is a “hoax” developed and encouraged by China.

Since his election on Nov. 8 Trump has made no public comments about his plans for continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. However, he has chosen a well-known climate science denier, Myron Ebell of the libertarian advocacy group Competitive Enterprise Institute, to manage the transition of personnel and policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump has also indicated that he is considering several oil executives and at least one politician who is adamantly in favor of increasing American fossil fuel production to lead the U.S. Department of Interior, which regulates energy exploration and extraction on public lands and on the continental shelf.

The United States cannot formally leave the Paris Agreement for four years, according to its terms. However, Trump has a number of options for limiting or preventing its impact on the country’s fossil fuel extraction and use. He could, for example, re-characterize the deal as a treaty and submit it to the U.S. Senate, controlled by Republicans, for ratification. Ratification would be unlikely. Trump could, if he desired to land a stronger blow against international climate change diplomacy, pull the United States out of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. He could also simply ignore the INDCs agreed to by the administration of President Barack Obama, a path that would result in little tangible consequence for the U.S. other than international condemnation.

A Reuters report published Saturday indicates that Trump has not backed down from his stated desire to abandon the Paris Agreement. The article, citing anonymous sources close to the president-elect, said that Trump will move quickly to terminate any American commitment to international climate change policy and programs.

Other nations have continued to act in support of the Paris Agreement since its Nov. 4 effective date.

Australia announced Thursday that it had ratified the accord, joining 108 other nations that have done so.

The country’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said at a press conference that Australia expects to meet its commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent by 2030.

“Almost a year from the Paris Conference, it is clear the agreement was a watershed, a turning point,” he said. “The adoption of a comprehensive strategy has galvanised the international community and spurred on global action.”

“As you know, we are playing our part with ambitious targets. We are on track to meet and indeed beat our 2020 targets. We will review our climate and energy policies next year to ensure that we meet, as we believe we will and are committed to do, to meet our 2030 targets under the agreement.”

Botswana, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, and Italy ratified the Paris Agreement on Nov. 11, Pakistan ratified it on Nov. 10, Japan on Nov. 8, and Gambia on Nov. 7.

Those national decisions followed a string of other ratifications earlier in November: Denmark, Estonia, Gabon, Ireland, Jordan,  Luxembourg, South Korea, Sao Tome and Princepe, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Vietnam all adopted it during the first week of the month.

Eighty-eight countries that are parties to the December 2015 agreement have not yet decided whether to formally adopt it.