Excellent Last Week Tonight episode, where John Oliver addresses our ongoing lead problem. MCEA has pushed for lower health action levels for lead. As we all know from Flint, there are issues throughout the country with lead contamination in water pipes, but the more serious problem remains ingestion of lead paint. He points out the hypocrisy of members of Congress expressing "concern" about lead in Flint, while they vote to cut spending on lead abatement every year.
Earthjustice report on the Cevron Molycorp mine in New Mexico, which closed in 2014. The "broken record," where policy makers keep making the same mistake over and over, is the inadequacy of the financial assurance package intended to protect taxpayers. The cleanup cost of this mine will be between $500 and 800 million; the financial assurance is $167 million, and you know who will foot the bill for the difference.
Big win for MCEA, big win for Minnesota today. Today, Administrative Law Judge LauraSue Schlatter, after months and months of hearings, briefs, and expert reports, recommended to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission that it adopt the federal "social cost of carbon" as the binding external cost of carbon emissions for all electric utility decision making. That means that the PUC (and the utilities who need the PUC to bless their plans) will have to include those negative external costs in their calculations, and it will make carbon-intensive forms of electricity generation much more difficult to justify on economic terms.
Too often, environmentalists get derided as blissed-out flower children who don't understand hard economic realities. Well, not so much. When a power plant puts a ton of carbon in the air, we all pay a real economic price that ought to be borne by the utility. Internalizing negative external costs through public policy is something even free-market conservatives endorse, and today Minnesota took another step toward getting that right, at least for electricity generation.
Next stop for this is the PUC. Next step from a policy perspective should be a more serious discussion about shifting toward a carbon tax, based on this kind of economic analysis.
At long last, the report from the Center for Climate Strategies on Minnesota's possible climate initiatives under the EQB CSEO process is available. Perhaps this will help kick-start this process after the legislature adjourns.
Excellent piece last week in the Wall Street Journal on tailings basin collapses, with a terrific explanation of the engineering challenges. With the pressure on commodity prices, the temptation for operators to cut corners will be immense.