This week I was contacted by an environmental reporter who wanted my assessment of how well President Obama was performing on environmental issues just seven weeks after his inauguration. I gave him high marks for mentioning the environment in his Inaugural Address (see January 23, 2009 entry) and for moving quickly to undo many of the Bush administration’s last-minute efforts to weaken environmental regulations. These efforts include canceling oil leases near national parks, reconsidering efforts to cut back on consultation under the Endangered Species Act, reconsidering EPA’s denial of a Clean Air Act waiver for California’s program to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from motor vehicles.
I noted that President Obama so far had not suffered the kind of early stumble or unpleasant environmental surprise that afflicted the early days of the last three administrations. Shortly after taking office in 1989 President George H.W. Bush had to confront both controversy over Alar residues on apples and the Exxon/Valdez oil spill in Alaska. President Clinton stumbled early in 1993 by proposing to abolish the Council on Environmental Quality in order to fulfill a campaign pledge to cut the size of the White House staff by 20%. In early 2001 President George W. Bush quickly abandoned any effort to earn environmental credentials when he repudiated his campaign pledge to control emissions of carbon dioxide to combat climate change. This destroyed the credibility of new EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman who had just returned from assuring environmental ministers from other countries that the Bush administration would control CO2 emissions.
Given the global economic crisis, the fact that President Obama also is launching significant new environmental initiatives is a highly positive sign. These include EPA’s recent announcements that it will regulate coal ash as hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and EPA’s proposal this week of regulations to require comprehensive reporting of emissions of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The latter is designed to facilitate the administration’s cap-and-trade program for controlling GHG emissions. While there are somesigns of resistance in Congress to a cap-and-trade plan, the dire warning from scientists this week that climate change may have much more damaging consequences than previously thought is sobering. The fact that EPA has the authority to regulate GHG emissions under the Clean Air Act, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, certainly added a new dimension to the political dynamics of this issue.
My daughter Marita and I are in San Diego to attend Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic. After Round 1 was held last week in Tokyo, Toronto, San Juan and Mexico City, teams from eight countries remain in competition. Cuba, Japan, Korea, and Mexico are competing here in San Diego while the Netherlands (the surprise team who eliminated the heavily favored team from the Dominican Republic), Puerto Rico, the United States and Venezuela are competing in Miami. Teams from China, Taiwan, Italy, Australia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Canada and South Africa were eliminated in the first round. Two teams each from the San Diego and Miami pools will advance to the semifinals and finals to be played at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles next weekend. Today we saw a replay of the championship game from three years ago when Cuba played Japan. Defending champion Japan once again prevailed over Cuba, this time by a score of 6-0. While Cuba has some of the best hitters in world baseball, the key to Japan’s victory today was its spectacular pitching, including 6 innings of shutout pitching from Daisuke (“Dice K”) Matsuzaka, the Boston Red Sox star. The Japanese fans, among the most vociferous in baseball, greatly outnumbered the Cuban fans, which is not surprising given the extreme difficulty Cubans face in getting permission to travel outside of their country. A gallery of my photos from the game is available online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci#100419. Tomorrow night we will attend a game between Cuba and the loser of tonight’s game between Korea and Mexico.
This morning we had brunch with Lesley McAllister, an environmental law professor from UC San Diego, and her husband Andrew. It was wonderful to get to see them. Prior to meeting while in graduate school in Berkeley, they both had worked as Peace Corps volunteers in South America, Lesley in Brazil and Andrew in Bolivia. Andrew works on alternative energy issues in California. Lesley, who has written a great book about environmental enforcement in Brazil, will be teaching a short course on comparative environmental law at the Sorbonne in Paris in December.
On Thursday afternoon our family dog Maggie, a vizsla, died suddenly. She apparently suffered a massive stroke and died peacefully in my wife’s arms less than an hour after collapsing. Maggie had been a vital of our family for all twelve years of her life, the usual life expectancy for a vizsla, and we dearly miss her.