Climate Science Watch update - October 18, 2010

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Updating a few items on issues we’ve been tracking and writing about: EPA takes a step in the right direction on mountaintop removal coal mining; Cuccinelli's radical right-wing star keeps rising at Virginia tea party convention; Chris Mooney on communicating about climate science; AAAS panel on “Overcoming Skepticism after ‘Climategate’”; and the latest on ‘monkey wrench’ Utah oil lease activist Tim DeChristopher.EPA takes a step in the right direction on mountaintop removal coal mining

Earlier post: Hansen joins Appalachia Rising mountaintop removal coal protest, 100 arrested at White House

The New York Times reported on October 15:

E.P.A. Official Seeks to Block West Virginia Mine

WASHINGTON — A top federal regulator has recommended revoking the permit for one of the nation’s largest planned mountaintop removal mining projects, saying it would be devastating to miles of West Virginia streams and the plant and animal life they support.

In a report submitted last month and made public on Friday, Shawn M. Garvin, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator for the Mid-Atlantic, said that Arch Coal’s proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County should be stopped because it “would likely have unacceptable adverse effects on wildlife.”

In 2007, the Bush administration approved the project, which would involve dynamiting the tops off mountains over 2,278 acres to get at the coal beneath while dumping the resulting rubble, known as spoil, into nearby valleys and streams. The Obama administration announced last year that it would review the decision, prompting the mine owner, Arch Coal, based in St. Louis, to sue.

In its review, the E.P.A. found that the project would bury more than seven miles of the Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch streams under 110 million cubic yards of spoil, killing everything in them and sending downstream a flood of contaminants, toxic substances and life-choking algae.

Kim Link, a spokeswoman for Arch Coal, said in a statement that the company intended to “vigorously” challenge the recommendation….

An E.P.A. spokesman said that Mr. Garvin’s recommendation was a step in a long process and that the agency’s Office of Water and the E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, would review his report and thousands of public comments before making the final decision, likely before the end of the year.

The Sierra Club applauded the E.P.A. for “staring down Big Coal and industry lobbyists.”

“This mother of all mountaintop removal coal mines would destroy thousands of acres of land, bury seven miles of streams and end a way of life for too many Appalachian families,” the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune, said in a statement.

Cuccinelli, rising Tea Party star

Earlier posts: Cuccinelli denialist witch-hunt is about political ambition, not climate science (Part 2 of 2)

Cuccinelli denialist witch-hunt is about political ambition, not climate science (Part 1 of 2)

The Washington Post reported on October 9:

Attorney General Cuccinelli's star keeps rising at Va. tea party gathering

RICHMOND - Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II emerged as a clear favorite of the first Virginia Tea Party Convention Saturday, drawing lusty cheers as he told more than 2,000 activists that the tea party would not exist if not for Republican Party failures.

Cuccinelli (R), whose supporters waved the yellow "Don't Tread on Me" flag as they helped nominate him for office at last year's state Republican convention, drew a sustained ovation when he took the microphone at an afternoon panel on federalism.

Since taking office in January, Cuccinelli has sued the Environmental Protection Agency over regulations designed to prevent global warming and has subpoenaed the University of Virginia in search of documents that he hopes would show that a leading climate scientist is a fraud.

Most notably for the crowd, Cuccinelli filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the federal health-care law. His suit is separate from one filed jointly by 20 states in Florida and will be heard first - a federal judge will hear oral arguments on Oct. 18.

"Quite frankly, if they could switch him today with the governor, they would," said Robert Jeffery, an activist from Reston. "In a heartbeat."…

Another report, from Virginia blogger Peter Galuszka:

Cuccinelli: The Scary Winner at the Tea Party

One fact coming out of the Tea Party convention hasn't really come out on these blog postings, but it is probably the most important one: Kenneth Cuccinelli is the big beneficiary.

Any political ambitions that the highly ambitious attorney general might have had got a huge boost when the Cooch got a standing ovation at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Everywhere, along with "Guns Save Lives" paste-on paper slogans, there were Cuccinelli stick-ons. Cars in the parking lot across the street were slathered in pro-Cooch propaganda.

It may not be so hard to understand why the Tea Partiers like him. Fairly affluent with incomes of from $50,000 to $100,000, white, and middle aged the Tea Partiers project the resentment of outsiders not unlike the 1960s' "Silent Majority" angry with civil rights, the sex revolution and underclass "welfare" that Richard M. Nixon so skillfully tapped.

Cooch is perfect for them. He's a loose cannon, bows to no larger power and is unabashedly hard right whether he's taking on imagined fraud in global warming research, peddling questionable legal opinions on police power on stopping suspected immigrants or making certain that gays and lesbians have no legal right to protection against discrimination on public college campuses.

Given the groundswell of support for him by the masses at the convention center, it is clear where they are really coming from….[W]hat you are really seeing is a big move to the far right among the conservative movement….

When an Albemarle County judge kissed off his "civil investigative demands" against the University of Virginia and a former professor who is an expert on global warming, Cuccinelli charged back with a scaled down attack. This one involves a state global warming research grant whose state funding totaled less than the $350,000 or so that U.Va.'s alumni and other community members have coughed up to fight off Cuccinelli's first attacks.

Its this kind of single mindedness that would make Cuccinelli downright dangerous if he were to attain higher office such as governor or in Congress…

Chris Mooney on communicating about climate science

Our September 27 interview post with climate scientist Ben Santer and author Chris Mooney (Dr. Ben Santer and Chris Mooney on communicating climate science) prompted Chris to do a series of four follow-up posts on this topic on his Intersection blog (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

AAAS panel on “Overcoming Skepticism after ‘Climategate’”

Earlier posts: Debunking ‘Climategate’

Letter from 255 National Academy members on Climate Change and the Integrity of Science

Bud Ward at the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media posted a good summary of a discussion with Chris Mooney, Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Brenda Ekwurzel of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Prof. Ed Maibach of George Mason University. The post, worth reading in its entirely, includes this:

[A]sked the impact of the nearly year-old hacked e-mails brouhaha, [Gavin Schmidt] points to adverse effects on public perceptions of climate scientists while insisting their science itself remains unscathed.

“It’s not what is ordinarily seen in text books,”… Schmidt acknowledged of scientists seen behaving “like people.” Author Chris Mooney was perhaps a bit more targeted in his judgment, saying the experience and its aftermath amount to “a case study in failed communications.” Mooney said the whole ensuing string of unproven accusations showed the climate science community and its defenders utterly unprepared to deal with the resulting blogospheric uproar. “A real black eye,” Mooney said, with perhaps a tad of 20/20 hind vision, of those who should have been better prepared.

A ‘Hinterland’ Devoid of Scientific Excellence

“A big information gap between soundbites and real scientific undertaking,” is how Schmidt, a principal in realclimate.org, characterized the current climate change communications landscape. With an unspoken analogy to what many see as a pervasive polarization of domestic politics generally — with a collapse of the political “middle” or mainstream — Schmidt characterized the information gap he sees as “this whole hinterland.” He said it is populated primarily by those with little technical knowledge on climate science but nonetheless with big Web-empowered megaphones able to make their voices and views, however flawed, heard far and wide. A challenge now, Schmidt and the other panelists on the AAAS weblog agreed, involves how to fill that “hinterland” with knowledgeable science communicators well-versed not only in the underlying science but also in the art of careful and credible communication.

It’s a challenge further complicated, Mooney emphasized, because science journalists are “losing their jobs right now” and the scientific establishment still fails to reward scientists who reach out to non-science audiences. Schmidt agreed, saying science communications somehow needs to be more highly valued by the scientific establishment. As things stand now, “There’s no incentive for scientists to get involved,” he said….

Last time we checked, this webinar does not appear readily identifiable and accessible on the AAAS website. Why would the AAAS record a valuable interaction like this, then appear to bury it without promoting it?

Update on Tim DeChristopher nonviolent ‘monkey wrench’ action against oil leases near Utah national parks

We met Tim DeChristopher at the Appalachia Rising rally and demonstration against mountaintop removal coal mining held in Washington, DC, on September 27. Tim spoke at the rally, linking the grassroots batle against mountaintop removal to his earlier nonviolent ‘monkey wrench’ action in opposition to oil drilling on lands near national parks in Utah. He told us his trial is now set for December 13 in Salt Lake City and called our attention to his ‘climate trial’ website Peaceful Uprising – Defending a Livable Future Through Empowering Nonviolent Action, the action resource site for his trial.

Earlier CSW posts: Should Utah student activist Tim DeChristopher go to jail for nonviolent monkey-wrench tactics? (April 15, 2009)

Jim Hansen rallies for monkey-wrench activist Tim DeChristopher at his arraignment today in Utah (April 28, 2009)

Update on defense strategy in the Tim DeChristopher monkey-wrench BLM oil lease case (May 21, 2009)

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