Research into the melting of Arctic ice was the top Energy and Climate Report story for the week ending March 27. Other top stories covered a potential conflict over the selection of a White House adviser, a letter from scientists to museums over climate deniers, and a court case and controversy over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.
1. Arctic Melt Leading to Weakest Gulf Stream in Up to 1,000 Years, May Shift Weather
Gulf Stream water currents in the Atlantic Ocean have slowed to the weakest in as long as 1,000 years, threatening shifts in U.S. and European weather, as well as coastal sea levels including in New York and Boston, according to a study in the journal Nature Climate Change, which is covered in this story.
The currents are probably affected by changes in ocean density as freshwater melts from Arctic ice sheets, according to the study led by scientists for the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
The Gulf Stream, one of the world's most important flows, pumps warm water north and cold water south and is responsible for the mild climate in northwestern Europe. Recent changes are unprecedented since the year 900, the Potsdam Institute said, adding that man-made climate change appeared to be to blame.
2. Inhofe Questions Whether White House Adviser Has Climate Policy Ethics Conflict
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)—whose remarks are covered in this story—questioned whether a former Environmental Defense Fund attorney hired by the White House would have a conflict of interest in pushing the administration's Clean Power Pan.
Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, asked the White House for copies of any ethics agreements or conflict of interest waivers Megan Ceronsky signed when she was hired in January as a senior adviser to the Office of Energy and Climate Change.
Inhofe argued that Ceronsky's work at the Environmental Defense Fund, where she led litigation seeking to force the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, ran afoul of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch at 5 C.F.R. 2635, which bars federal employees from participating in any matters in which they previously represented a party.
3. Scientists Urge Museums to Sever Ties With Board Members Denying Climate Change
As covered in this story, dozens of scientists have signed an open letter to museums urging them to cut ties with donors and board members who deny climate change, singling out billionaire political donor David Koch, who sits on the boards of the two of the nation's largest natural history museums.
“We are deeply concerned by the links between museums of science and natural history with those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science,” says the letter, published at thenaturalhistorymuseum.org.
“David Koch's oil and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.”
4. EPA Refines Interpretation of Its Authority as It Prepares to Defend Clean Power Rule
As detailed in this story, the EPA has refined its interpretation of a problematic amendment added to the Clean Air Act in 1990 as it prepares to defend the proposed Clean Power Plan from a lawsuit filed by Murray Energy seeking to block the rule before it is finalized.
In its lawsuit, Murray Energy is challenging the EPA's Clean Air Act authority to issue the Clean Power Plan, arguing the rule is barred by the plain meaning of Section 111(d) of the act. The company argues the law bars the EPA from regulating under Section 111(d) sources that already have been regulated under Section 112, such as power plants.
In advance of oral arguments, the EPA said in a court brief that Section 111(d) is ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations, including those allowing regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants.
5. Obama Adviser Blasts McConnell for Denigrating Power Plant Rule
President Barack Obama's top environmental adviser—whose remarks are covered in this story—chastised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for attempts to persuade states not to comply with the administration's Clean Power Plan, which is a proposed rule.
On March 19, McConnell stepped up his campaign to have states essentially ignore EPA carbon pollution limits for power plants by urging all 50 states to “carefully review the consequences before signing up for this deeply misguided plan.”
In a letter to the National Governors Association, McConnell wrote that he has “serious legal and policy concerns” regarding the EPA's proposal, which is set to be finalized this summer.
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