Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why Cynthia Lummis Hates the Environment, Wildlife and Americans!

The Top 10 Anti-Environmental Things Congress Did in 2011 Or 

("Why Cynthia Lummis Hates the Environment, Wildlife and Americans!")

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 08:00 AM PST

By Miles Grant, cross-posted from the National Wildlife Federation

How bad was 2011 for America's wildlife, air, water, land and public health? After taking 191 anti-conservation votes, even the House of Representatives' own members called it "the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress."

That's not to say the last year hasn't been without progress in Washington. The Environmental Protection Agency set long-overdue limits on mercury pollution that will prevent 11,000 premature deaths a year. The EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks that will cut our oil addiction by billions of barrels. And the EPA is ready to establish landmark global warming pollution limits on power plants.

But those actions represent the Obama administration implementing past acts of Congress, often in the face of opposition from one or both parties in the current Congress. Inside the Capitol, many members of Congress spent 2011 attacking wildlife, trying to roll back public health protections, and doing the bidding of its Big Oil donors.

10. The Dirty Water Act

Yes, 2011 will be remembered as the year Congress decided America's water was just too darn clean, attacking the Clean Water Act and investment in clean water programs. The Dirty Water Act passed the House and now Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and John Barasso (R-WY)  (Barrasshole has excepted more dirty oil & energy money then any senator. He truly is a money grubbing whore with NO morals whatsoever, and with everyday he further validates he has reserved his spot in HELL next to the likes of Dick Cheney, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.) have been working to sneak it through the Senate by trying to attach it as a political rider to must-pass budget legislation. Get Smart: Tell Congress to protect river otters' streams from pollution.

9. Banning Imaginary Regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency has no plans to regulate farm dust, but that didn't stop a bipartisan majority in the House from passing the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. "Since I am sure that many little girls all over America care about this deeply, can you commit to me that EPA will never try to regulate fairy dust?" Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) jokingly asked EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy. The Senate has no plans to take up the bill and President Obama has promised to veto it. Get Smart: Learn what pollutants are real threats to America's wildlife and public health.

8. Lunch Special: Meat Loaf with Styrene Oligomers

When she served as House Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led an effort to green the Capitol that cut energy use 23%, water use 32% and used some of the savings to convert Congressional cafeterias to composting.  But when Republicans took charge of the House in 2011, they eliminated the composting program, diverted cafeteria waste back to a landfill, and brought back petroleum-based Styrofoam that can leech toxic styrene oligomers into the food it holds, increasing thyroid hormone levels. Get Smart: Use your own reusable container.

7. Politics Superseding Wildlife Biology

Just two of many examples: The U.S. Forest Service had closed much of Idaho's Payette National Forest to domestic sheep grazing where conflicts with bighorns exist, hoping to protect bighorns from disease, but the budget bill that cleared Congress in December included a political rider reversing that decision. And the House GOP budget (H.R. 1) included language aimed at blocking implementation of two biological opinions intended to ensure the recovery of threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead, green sturgeon, and other species in the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystem. Get Smart: Support wildlife protections through NWF's Choose Your Cause.

6. Targeting Smokey Bear

Who could want to kill Smokey Bear? Answer: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), who included the U.S. Forest Service's conservation education program in its list of possible targets for the House GOP's YouCut voting. Voters spared Smokey, but the incident spoke volumes about how little this Congress valued investments in conservation education. Get Smart: Take Smokey's pledge to be smart whenever you go outdoors.

5. Gulf Coast: Still Not Made Whole

We're just a few months from the 2nd anniversary of start of the Gulf oil disaster, yet Congress still has not acted on legislation to make sure BP's fines and penalties are reinvested in Mississippi River Delta restoration. Get Smart: Ask your members of Congress to support the RESTORE Act.

4. War on Next-Generation Light Bulbs

(This alone shows how fucked up the right is, especially our own WY Delegation of Congressional "Lame-Asses" & "Money Grubbing Whores.)

Just a few years ago, President George W. Bush signed bipartisan legislation to encourage energy-efficient light bulbs. Industry gets certainty, consumers save money, America cuts its carbon footprint: Everybody wins! But extremists attacked the standards and when they couldn't win votes, they snuck the Dim Bulb Act into must-pass budget legislation. "Big companies like General Electric, Philips and Osram Sylvania spent big bucks preparing for the standards, and the industry is fuming over the GOP bid to undercut them," reported Politico. Everybody loses! Get Smart: Check out NWF's Cool It! tips for greening your home, office and garden.

3. Push Pipeline First, Ask Safety Questions Later

Facing concerns from conservationists concerned about protecting critical wildlife habitat, landowners concerned about getting their land seized, and public health advocates worried about water supplies, the Obama administration delayed a decision on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from the Canadian border to Texas. But before a revised route could even be drawn up, Big Oil's Congressional allies tacked a political rider onto the payroll tax cut extension moving through Congress right now that would force a decision on the pipeline within 60 days. Get Smart: Ask our elected officials to keep dirty oil out of whooping crane habitat.

2. Protecting Tax Giveaways for Big Oil

Big Oil has already banked a staggering $101 billion in profits in 2011,  and as NWF detailed in Conservation Works, Congress can save more than $100 billion by closing tax loopholes for special interests like the oil and gas industries. But time after time, purported Congressional concern about the deficit came in a distant second to catering to Big Oil donors and lobbyists. Get Smart: Stand up for new vehicle fuel efficiency standards to reduce America's dependence on dirty oil.

1. Fiddling While Our Climate Burns

Our world has now seen 321 consecutive months with a global temperature above the 20th century average, meaning we haven't seen a below-average temperature month since before The Goonies came out in 1985. Extreme weather records fell, with NOAA reporting 12 disasters of at least $1 billion in damage here in the U.S. Through November, 2011 has been the 11th-hottest year on record. If the pace keeps up, it will mean each of the last 11 years (2001–2011) will have been one of the 12 hottest on record. The Arctic continues to warm, melting sea ice and pushing several polar bear populations to the brink.

How has Congress reacted? Sen. John Barasso introduced legislation to not only prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon pollution, but ban the federal government even from observing what is happening with our climate. The House GOP's H.R. 1 tried to cut programs to invest in clean energy innovation and to help people and wildlife adapt to our warming climate. Get Smart: Tell your members of Congress you support limits on carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

Do you have any dishonorable mentions to add to the list? Leave your comments below.

With your help, the National Wildlife Federation worked to keep many of these dumb ideas from becoming law. But with the same Congress returning in 2012, you can bet we'll see even more attacks on our wildlife, air, land, water and public health in the year ahead.

Miles Grant is the online communications manager for the National Wildlife Fund. This piece was originally published at the NWF website.  (Stuff in parenthesis's are my thoughts.)

Cartoon of the Week

Posted: 31 Dec 2011 05:00 AM PST

A cyber-penny for your thoughts.

Something about this New Yorker cartoon seems strangely apt….




Top 10 States Hit by Extreme Weather in 2011

Posted: 30 Dec 2011 10:12 AM PST

by Andrew Freedman, Alyson Kenward and Mike Lemonick, cross-posted from Climate Central

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 set a record for the most billion dollar disasters in a single year. There were 12, breaking the old record of nine set in 2009. The aggregate damage from these 12 events totals at least $52 billion, NOAA found.

While extreme weather knows no boundaries, and the impact of those events was felt coast to coast, Climate Central looked at the number of extreme events that affected each state to determine the 10 states that were clobbered the worst. According to Climate Central's analysis, Texas tops that list of hardest hit, with a costly — and deadly — combination of intense drought, a punishing heat wave, the worst wildfires in state history, and plenty of tornadoes. Rounding out the top 10 was Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kansas, Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey.

Climate Central's analysis factored the death toll in each state, damage costs, the disruption caused to daily life, and how unusual the events were compared with what transpires in an average year.

But for these 10 states, little of what transpired was average as extreme weather rewrote the record books in 2011.

1. Texas

Texas was hit by eight of the nation's billion dollar disasters — the most of any state in the country. Of the eight, the three most devastating were drought, heat, and wildfires. The drought still grips the state, and it is the most intense one-year drought on record. Unlike past dry periods, the damage to the state has been aggravated by record-breaking heat. Groundwater levels in much of the state have fallen to their lowest levels in more than 60 years, according to observations from NASA satellites.

The heat during the summer of 2011 was relentless, with many cities smashing records for the longest stretch of 100-degree days, including Dallas with a record 70 straight days with 100-degree heat, and San Angelo with a whopping 98 days above 100. July 2011 was the hottest month ever recorded statewide, and Amarillo, Texas, reached 111 degrees F on June 26, an all-time record high for that location where records date back to 1892.

The combination of drought and unusually hot conditions during this summer helped fuel massive wildfires, and the 2011 wildfire season was the worst in Texas' history, with about 4 million acres burned from November 2010 through November 2011, causing $750 million in damage and killing 10 people, including four firefighters.

Lake and reservoir levels have fallen so low that they are revealing entire towns flooded decades ago at the bottom of lakes and reservoirs. Ranchers have been forced to sell off large portions of their herds early, which is likely to raise beef prices by reducing future beef supplies.

2. Alabama

Alabama was ground zero for the largest tornado outbreak in American history, when more than 100 twisters gouged paths across the state in late April, killing 240 people.

Some of the most intense tornadoes flattened heavily populated areas. One twister, shown nationally on live TV, tore through downtown Tuscaloosa and went on to destroy parts of Birmingham. Another monster EF-5 twister, with winds stronger than 200 mph, tracked across northern Alabama, killing 78 people, becoming one of the deadliest single tornadoes in modern American history.

According to the Storm Prediction Center, Alabama saw the most tornadoes of any state this year, with 170. The staggering death toll and damage these storms caused led to a wave of Alabama state pride, with the mantra "We are Alabama" spreading throughout social media networks in the storms' wake.

3. Missouri

Missouri was the site of America's worst tornado disaster since 1950, when a massive tornado, nearly a mile wide, wiped large portions of the city of Joplin off the map on May 22. With winds greater than 200 mph, that tornado killed nearly 160 people, making it the seventh deadliest in U.S. history.

Tornadoes were just one prong of the deadly onslaught of extreme weather in Missouri, as a combination of heavy spring rains and upstream snowmelt sent the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers surging over their banks. According to NOAA, in an average year, the Missouri River channels 24.8 million acre feet of water. This year, it carried 24.3 million acre feet in May and June alone. When the Army Corps of Engineers essentially blew up the levees to save the small town of Cairo, Ill., floodwaters inundated around 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland.

4. North Carolina

April 2011 was the most active tornado month in U.S. history with 753 tornadoes. North Carolina was among the states worst hit. On April 16, multiple tornadoes ripped through Raleigh and nearby towns, leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Thirty-eight people died in a two-day April tornado outbreak that spread through 10 states; 22 were in North Carolina.

North Carolina was also one of the first states walloped by Hurricane Irene in August. With its immense 450-mile span, the storm battered the North Carolina coast with rain and driving 60-80 mph winds for nearly 12 hours. Half a million people lost power during the storm, and the gusting winds generated waves high enough to demolish piers and damage homes along the coastline. All told, the cost to North Carolina from tornadoes and Irene is estimated at $3.2 billion.

5. Oklahoma

In 2011, Oklahomans suffered through a brutal combination of severe drought and intense heat, the likes of which have not been seen since the infamous Dust Bowl era of the 1930s. The Sooner State had the hottest summer of any state in U.S. history, narrowly beating neighboring Texas, and eclipsing a record that dated to 1934. Oklahoma's average day and nighttime temperature during July was a scorching 88.9 degrees F, the warmest in any state during any month on record.

For an idea of how hot it was in Oklahoma last summer, consider this: In Grandfield, the temperature reached or exceeded 100 degrees on a record-setting 97 days from mid-April to Sept. 1.

On top of record heat, last February, the state froze its way through the coldest temperature on record: -31 degrees F, and the state's heaviest 24-hour snowfall on record, when 27 inches fell in the town of Spavinaw.

And if that wasn't enough, Oklahomans also struggled with other weather hazards, including the largest hailstone in state history, some of which measured half a foot in diameter.

6. Tennessee

The good news for Tennessee this year was that the drought that plagued states to the southwest — Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas — didn't make it up this far. But for the Volunteer State, a little more drought might have been a good thing. On April 30, Nashville was drenched with more than six inches of rain, followed the next day by more than seven inches — the third heaviest and worst single-day rainfall, and the worst two-day rainfall, in the city's history. It was even worse in Camden and Brownsville, Tenn., with more than 17 inches of rain over the same period. By May 2, it was already the rainiest May on record.

Not surprisingly, the record rains led to massive flooding on the Cumberland, Harpeth, and Duck rivers, killing 23 people. The estimated property damage in Nashville alone topped $1.5 billion.

Deadly as they were, the floods weren't the only lethal weather to strike Tennessee during the spring. Just a week or so before the deluge came, the state was hit with an EF-5 tornado — the most powerful rating there is — smashing through Apison, killing 13. It was part of a wider outbreak that killed more than 300 people across the southeast. When you add in the heat wave that blasted most of the eastern half of the U.S. in July, the total damage from weather and climate-related disasters added up to nearly $4 billion.

7. Kansas

The massive heat wave and drought that devastated Texas and Oklahoma didn't hit Kansas quite as hard, but it was bad enough to help push the Jayhawk State into the top 10 this year. By midsummer, much of the southwestern part of the state was suffering under "exceptional drought" conditions — it ended up being the ninth driest year ever recorded — and by year's end, there was still no relief in sight. Wichita had more 100-degree-plus days than any year on record, beating out even the Dust Bowl summer of 1936.

As of May, the state had seen unusually few tornadoes, but that didn't last: powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes, and punishing hail swept the state in June, July, and August. To top it all off, a 5.6-intensity earthquake struck on Nov. 5. The quake didn't cause much damage, but combined agricultural losses from the heat and drought topped $4 billion.

8. Connecticut

Snowstorms aren't usually news in Connecticut — but 2011 was hardly usual. Hartford was buried under a record-setting 57 inches of snow in January, making it the all-time snowiest month in state history. Then, nearly two months before the next winter began, Connecticut was blasted by the worst October snowstorm in 200 years. The heavy wet snow, which cost the state more than $500 million, sent trees and tree limbs falling onto power lines, leaving more than 700,000 people without heat or lights. In the worst power failure in state history, many didn't get their electricity back for more than a week.

In August, tropical storm Irene pummeled the state with heavy rains and gale-force winds that caused devastating floods and turned the lights out on more than 650,000 people. Some areas were pounded with as much as eight inches of rain in just 24 hours.

9. Vermont

Just as most of the Northeast thought they had escaped the worst of Irene's wrath, the super-saturated tropical storm ravaged Vermont. The furious rains battered more than 2,000 roads spanning 500 miles in the state, paralyzing commerce, stranding people, and demolishing thousands of homes and businesses. More than 175 roads were completely destroyed and have only been rebuilt months later in what has been described as a model of fast-paced recovery from a disaster.

This all came after one of the snowiest winters on record, which produced record snowmelt. In May, heavy rain and all that melting snow drove Lake Champlain to its highest level on record, flooding several nearby towns. Record-setting rains helped set the stage for Irene's damage by saturating the ground and putting streams and rivers at unusually high levels when the storm arrived.

Vermont officials say the total damage costs from Irene will be between $175 and $250 million.

10. New Jersey

Hurricane Irene roared into New Jersey to become one of the state's deadliest and costliest storms, as well as the state's wettest storm in more than a century. Tropical downpours sent rivers and streams overflowing, with nine rivers rising to their highest level ever. The flooding closed 300 roads and highways and interrupted train service for days.

The bill for hurricane damage in New Jersey stands at $1.4 billion already, and at least seven people died during the storm. Then, two weeks later, a second round of drenching rain — the remains of Tropical Storm Lee — swept across the state, triggering even more flooding. All told, it was the wettest August and September New Jersey has seen in 117 years.

Just as the Garden State began to dry out, a freak autumn snowstorm hit over the Halloween weekend. The wet, heavy snow stuck to leaves that hadn't fallen from the trees. The result: falling branches that blocked roads and downed power lines, leaving half a million people without electricity, some of them for a week.

Climate Central is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is comprised of journalists and climate scientists dedicated to communicating accurate and compelling climate science information.

This piece was originally published at Climate Central, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is comprised of journalists and climate scientists dedicated to communicating accurate and compelling climate science information.

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