Climate of Capitulation: An Insider's Account of State Power in a Coal Nation

Climate of Capitulation: An Insider's Account of State Power in a Coal Nation

by Vivian E. Thomson

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Overview

How power is wielded in environmental policy making at the state level, and how to redress the ingrained favoritism toward coal and electric utilities.

The United States has pledged to the world community a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 percent below 2005 levels in 2025. Because much of this reduction must come from electric utilities, especially coal-fired power plants, coal states will make or break the U. S. commitment to emissions reduction. In Climate of Capitulation, Vivian Thomson offers an insider's account of how power is wielded in environmental policy making at the state level. Thomson, a former member of Virginia's State Air Pollution Control Board, identifies a “climate of capitulation” in state government—a deeply rooted favoritism toward coal and electric utilities in states' air pollution policies.

Thomson narrates three cases involving coal and air pollution from her time on the Air Board. She illuminates the overt and covert power struggles surrounding air pollution limits for a coal-fired power plant just across the Potomac from Washington, for a controversial new coal-fired electrical generation plant in coal country, and for coal dust pollution from truck traffic in a country hollow. Thomson links Virginia's climate of capitulation with campaign donations that make legislators politically indebted to coal and electric utility interests, a traditionalistic political culture tending to inertia, and a part-time legislature that depended on outside groups for information and bill drafting. Extending her analysis to fifteen other coal-dependent states, Thomson offers policy reforms aimed at mitigating the ingrained biases toward coal and electric utilities in states' air pollution policy making.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262036344
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 04/21/2017
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Environmental policy expert Vivian E. Thomson is former Professor in the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Politics at the University of Virginia, where she was on the faculty from 1997 to 2017 and where she directed the Environmental Thought and Practice BA Program. She has been an air pollution policymaker at the national and state levels in the USA and she has been Distinguished Fulbright Professor of American Studies in Denmark.  http://www. evsc. virginia. edu/thomson-vivian/

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Mirant: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished 23

Prelude: Ozone and Shenandoah National Park 24

Mirant Before the Air Board's Direct Oversight 25

The Air Board Joins the Mirant Fray 33

Backlash in Richmond 39

2 Wise: "Rogue Board" 45

Waiting for Godot 48

The Process Matters 56

"Strictest Permit Limits Ever Written" 61

3 Roda: Coal, Dust, and Inequality 69

Why Worry About Dust? 72

Air Quality Typical of Industrializing Countries 75

"Them That's Got Shall Get, Them That's Not Shall Lose" 79

4 A Climate of Capitulation 85

The Law Does Not Speak for Itself 88

Regulatory Capture vs. Climate of Capitulation 90

Origins of Virginia's Climate of Capitulation 95

5 Shotgun Marriage Federalism 105

Federal-State Collaborations Under the Clean Air Act 106

Coal and the Three Faces of Power 109

Partisanship Does Not Explain Action or Inaction of State Policy Makers 112

Public Opinion and Policy Makers' Decisions Are Not Necessarily Linked 115

6 Six Crucial Coal States and the South 121

Campaign Finance 121

Political Culture 129

State Legislative Professionalism 134

The South 138

7 "Thus Always to Tyrants": Lessons and Reforms 145

Strengths in How the Virginia Cases Unfolded 147

Weaknesses in How the Virginia Cases Unfolded 149

Implications for Other States 151

The Clean Air Act as the Nation's Climate-Change Law 152

New Opportunities for Meaningful Citizen Engagement 155

"You've Cot to Dance with Them What Brung You": Campaign Finance Reform 160

Increase State Legislators' Independence 163

Encourage Decentralized Power Generation and Address Longstanding Inequalities 167

"Intervening on Behalf of National Values" 170

Appendix 173

Notes 175

Bibliography 221

Index 237

What People are Saying About This

Endorsement

Voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Convention will only be implemented if they are in the self-interest of the parties involved. It would seem, for now, that national authorities in the United States fail to perceive their strong self-interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, emission reductions in the United States may depend mostly on action at the state and local levels. Vivian Thomson shows, in this book, how these problems are considered at the state level and what can be done to facilitate state-level action.

José Goldemberg, former President, University of São Paulo; former Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Brazil; Time magazine “Hero of the Environment”

From the Publisher

Vivian Thomson kicks ash and names names in this no-holds-barred exposé on the coal industry and its efforts to seize control of the environmental policy apparatus. Climate of Capitulation is a must-read at a time when entrenched fossil fuel interests have strengthened their hand and pose a heightened threat to efforts to avert dangerous climate change.

Michael Mann , Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Penn State University; coauthor, with Washington Post cartoonist Tom Toles, of The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy

Voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Climate Convention will only be implemented if they are in the self-interest of the parties involved. It would seem, for now, that national authorities in the United States fail to perceive their strong self-interest in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, emission reductions in the United States may depend mostly on action at the state and local levels. Vivian Thomson shows, in this book, how these problems are considered at the state level and what can be done to facilitate state-level action.

José Goldemberg , former President, University of São Paulo; former Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Brazil; Time magazine “Hero of the Environment”

Michael Mann

Vivian Thomson kicks ash and names names in this no-holds-barred exposé on the coal industry and its efforts to seize control of the environmental policy apparatus. Climate of Capitulation is a must-read at a time when entrenched fossil fuel interests have strengthened their hand and pose a heightened threat to efforts to avert dangerous climate change.

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