Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to EPA Global Warming Rules;
Perry Heads to London, Israel; Wallace Hall, Jeff Sandefer Team Up;
Dewhurst Calls for Obama’s Impeachment
Good afternoon from Austin.
Here’s the brief:
SUPREME COURT TO HEAR CHALLENGE TO EPA’s GLOBAL WARMING RULES
AP’s Mark Sherma and Dina Cappiello report:
The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to decide whether to block key aspects of the Obama administration’s plan aimed at cutting power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming.
The justices said they will review a unanimous federal appeals court ruling that upheld the government’s unprecedented regulation of carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases.
The question in the case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate automobile emissions of greenhouses gases as air pollutants, which stemmed from a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, also applies to power plants and factories.
The court’s decision essentially puts on trial a small but critical piece of President Barack Obama’s toolbox to tackle global warming — a requirement that companies expanding existing industrial facilities or building new ones that would increase overall pollution must evaluate ways to reduce the carbon they release, as well. For many industrial facilities, this is the only way heat-trapping gases will be regulated, until the EPA sets national standards.
That’s because the administration’s plans hinge on the high court’s 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA which said the EPA has the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to limit emissions of greenhouse gases from vehicles. Two years later, Obama’s EPA concluded that the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases endangered human health and welfare, a finding the administration has used to extend its authority beyond automobiles to develop national standards for large stationary sources.
The administration currently is at work setting first-time national standards for new and existing power plants, and will move on to other large stationary sources. But in the meantime, the only way companies are addressing global warming pollution is through a permitting program that requires them to analyze the best available technologies to reduce carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas.
The president gave the EPA until next summer to propose regulations for existing power plants, the largest unregulated source of global warming pollution.
“From an environmental standpoint, it is bad, but not catastrophic,” said Michael Gerrard, a law professor at Columbia University and director of its Center for Climate Change Law. Gerrard said it would have been far worse if the court decided to question the EPA’s conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.
Environmental groups generally breathed a sigh of relief that the court rejected calls to overrule its 2007 decision or review the EPA’s conclusion about the health effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
“It’s a green light for EPA to go ahead with its carbon pollution standards for power plants because the court has left standing EPA’s endangerment finding,” said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club’s senior managing attorney.
But a lawyer for some of the business groups involved in the case said the court issued a more sweeping ruling.
“Read in its broadest sense, it arguably opens the door to whether EPA can regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources at all,” said Roger Martella, a partner with the Sidley, Austin law firm in Washington.
The regulations have been in the works since 2011 and stem from the landmark Clean Air Act that was passed by Congress and signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970 to control air pollution.
The administration has come under fierce criticism from Republicans for pushing ahead with the regulations after Congress failed to pass climate legislation, and after the administration of President George W. Bush resisted such steps.
In 2012, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia concluded that the EPA was “unambiguously correct” in using existing federal law to address global warming.
The judges on that panel were: Then-Chief Judge David Sentelle, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan, and David Tatel and Judith Rogers, both appointed by Democrat Bill Clinton.
GOV.PERRY, FIRST LADY ANITA HEADED TO LONDON, ISRAEL
Gov. Rick Perry, who earlier disclosed plans for an Israel trip, will stop in London on his way.
Perry and his wife, Anita, are traveling to London Tuesday and Israel Sunday “for an economic development mission and as guests of Americans for Economic Freedom,” according to a statement from his office. They will return on Oct. 25.
Perry will speak at the Water Technology and Environmental Control Exhibition and Conference in Israel, according to his office. The statement from his office also said he will meet with leaders and take part in an announcement on higher education.
The trip will be paid by TexasOne, a nonprofit corporation under Perry’s auspices, and Americans for Economic Freedom, a tax-exempt, nonprofit group that is headed by a Perry strategist.
Perry’s office said in its statement that no tax money will be used for the Perrys’ travel and accommodations.
Taxpayers do, however, pick up the bill for the security detail that accompanies Perry. The governor has said he sees no reason to change this, pointing out that the practice was the same under previous governors (I’m checking to make sure there’s no change in this).
Particularly because of Perry’s bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nod — and also because of his longer service — the cost for his security has been higher than that of previous governors. He has lately been traveling to other states to lure jobs and for political events as he considers another run for the White House.
The Texas Department of Public Safety releases the cost of the security detail quarterly. The latest quarter, for the fiscal period ending Aug. 31, shows $35,002.37 for security costs for out-of-state travel for Perry. It included trips to San Diego, San Jose, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Washington, Aspen, New Orleans, Bristol, Tennessee and Stamford, Connecticut. That brings the grand total for security costs on his out-of-state trips to nearly $2.7 million since his 2010 re-election.
EMBATTLED UT REGENT, SANDEFER CONTRIBUTE TO NEW “ACCOUNTABILITY FIRST’ PAC
The Chron reports:
University of Texas regent Wallace Hall, who is being investigated by a Texas House Select Committee for possible impeachment, contributed $100,000 to a new political action committee on September 27 — the same day higher ed reform advocate and Gov. Rick Perry adviser Jeff Sandefer contributed $200,000.
Hall has been embroiled in political controversy since his appointment by Perry in 2011 to the UT board for conducting what some lawmakers have called a “witch hunt” against UT President William C. Powers. Perry has pressured his university regents to adopt ideas advocated by Sandefer, who authored what he calls “Seven Solutions” for higher education reform that many believe undermine university research in an effort to produce cost savings.
Next week, the Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations will hear testimony on complaints that Hall abused his power as a regent in demanding excessive access to university records, including private employee and student information.
According to records filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, Accountability First was started in February, 2013. Sandefer was an early contributor, along with Rex Gore, the founder of an online Austin college, Peloton U. This spring, the PAC’s only political contributions were made in opposition to local school bond elections in Tyler, Huntsville and Weatherford.
But on September 27, Hall and Sandefer upped the pac’s account balance tenfold: previously, it has never received more than $30,000 in a single reporting period.
We’ve reached out to Hall and Sandefer to find out the purpose of the pac and will update as information becomes available.
Meanwhile, Sandefer has a DMN op ed this morning:
UT slips to No. 52 in US News rankings amid faux prestige
By Jeff Sandefer
October 15, 2013
Dallas Morning News
“We’re No. 52!”
Can you imagine a Texan proudly chanting this?
Yet the chancellor, administrators and regents at the University of Texas at Austin seem more focused on public relations campaigns, political sideshows and defending the status quo than the university’s slouch to 52nd place in the latest US News & World Report rankings.
That’s a shame, because UT — my alma mater and where I was an award-winning professor for more than a decade — is a world-class institution. It’s time it performed like one.
Appeals to faux prestige are never a substitute for hard data. Not only is UT 52nd in the US News rankings, it’s fallen from 46th back in 2007. Furthermore, according to The Washington Post, the university is in the bottom 23 percent among peer institutions in critical thinking skills delivered to students. Meanwhile, in the last seven years, costs per student have risen 41 percent. As Texans have gotten less from their flagship higher-learning institution, they’ve paid more.
It need not be this way. There’s an educational tsunami sweeping America, offering more effective and less costly ways to learn. Embracing these methods and rewarding our best teachers and researchers would deliver more learning to students and save hundreds of millions of dollars annually. We could invest these savings in lowering tuition and attracting great researchers from ailing states like California.
Why such opposition to reform? Some of it is misplaced pride, and some of it is plain institutional defensiveness. It’s a phenomenon familiar to anyone who has ever had to rescue a business, revitalize an organization or shake a venerable enterprise out of a longstanding slump. More troubling, however, are suggestions of corruption in a university system with too little public accountability.
Investigations have revealed that the UT Law School Foundation, controlled by wealthy donors, funneled $5.5 million in secret loans to deans and professors who had control over law school admissions. Recently, the powerful head of the Texas House Appropriations Committee announced his retirement amid allegations he had used undue influence to have his son admitted to the UT law school.
If there’s a tie between donations, political influence and special deals to admit unqualified students, then you have a Lone Star-size scandal in the making. A similar scandal at the University of Illinois in 2009 led to the resignations of the university president, powerful politicians and most of the board of regents. The University of Georgia recently had a similar kerfuffle over influencing legislators with free football tickets.
There are obviously powerful interests who like the way things are at UT-Austin — and they’ve resorted to vicious personal attacks on whistle-blowers such as regent Wallace Hall, who for only the third time in Texas history is being threatened with impeachment for asking too many questions. The Texas news media, normally watchdogs, seem unwilling to seriously investigate political corruption involving one of their largest advertisers. Politicians seem more interested in campaign contributions than pushing for a real investigation.
It’s time to get to the bottom of what’s driving the defense of the status quo in American higher education and start truly transforming our universities. Across America, students, parents and taxpayers are increasingly tired of faux prestige — it doesn’t spend very well in the unemployment line and can’t be used to pay down a mountain of unpaid college loans.
My alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, might just be a good place to start. The second president of the Republic of Texas, Mirabeau Lamar, justified public universities on the grounds that “the cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.”
He was right. That’s a better slogan than, “We’re No. 52!”
DEWHURST CALLS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA’S IMPEACHMENT
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called for President Barack Obama’s impeachment during a Tarrant County Tea Party candidate forum, The Texas Observer reported first.
Dewhurst’s spokesman confirmed to the Texas Tribune that the lieutenant governor said Congress should impeached the president for taking his role too far on issues like immigration and Obamacare, as well as mistakes following the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
“He feels very strongly about the tragedy in Benghazi and has said that Congress should consider impeaching the President over the tragedy,” the spokesman told the Tribune. “David Dewhurst also believes that President Obama should be held accountable for Washington’s failure to secure the border and the gross overreach of the federal government under Obamacare.”
Other Republican politicians have sung similar refrains, including U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, who at a town hall meeting in August said if Congress wanted to impeach the president, they’d have the votes.
SAVE THE DATE OR AVOID THE AREA
Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington will speak at a luncheon in Austin on the UT campus on Thursday.
More info here.
– A coalition of Texas school districts are planning school rankings with STAAR test results.
2013 / 2014 / 2016:
– Chron’s Matthew Tresague reports (behind paywall) on grassroots opposition to the water fund proposition on this November’s ballot.
Other stories of interest:
– NBC News reports that former President George W. Bush’s blocked artery a few months ago was much more serious that originally reported.
– U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) held a private meeting with House conservatives last night on Capitol Hill.
– Wise County Judge Bill McElhaney collapsed and died yesterday.
– 11 hidden messages in company logos.
– A great moment with Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock. (Watch to the end)
– A smattering of Houston Texan fans disgustingly cheered when their quarterback, Matt Schaub, got hurt on Sunday.
– LeBron James offers Andrew Wiggins advice.
– An absolute outrage.
Your Daily Source of Inspiration:
– Imagine how this made Bryan Cranston feel.
BLOGS (from the left)
BLOGS (from the right)