Domestic Policy

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  U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Weak Bush-Era Mercury RuleFebruary 24, 2009 16:50 The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to consider a Bush-era rule that would have allowed a cap-and-trade approach to mercury, a toxic heavy metal emitted by power plants that burn coal and oil. Power plants are the largest source of mercury in the nation.
The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the case invalidates the U.S. EPA's so-called Clean Air Mercury Rule, which would have allowed dangerous levels of mercury pollution to persist under a weak cap-and-trade program that would not have taken full effect until after 2020.

The Supreme Court in effect denied an appeal, filed last year by a coalition of utilities, seeking reversal of a federal court decision vacating the mercury rule.

The original lawsuit that resulted in the February 2008 U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the states and environmental groups maintained that EPA illegally removed coal and oil-fired power plants from the list of regulated source categories under a section of the Clean Air Act that requires strict regulation of hazardous air pollutants, including mercury.

Left standing is the ruling by the appeals court that upheld the lower court ruling and rebuked the Bush-era EPA for attempting to create an illegal loophole for the power generating industry, rather than applying the Clean Air Act's "maximum achievable control technology" standard for mercury emissions.

The Supreme Court also granted the Obama administration's request, made two weeks ago, to drop the Bush administration appeal.

"Today's good news is due in no small part to the leadership of the Obama administration, in renouncing the harmful Bush administration actions and embracing EPA's responsibilities to protect the American people against mercury and other toxic pollution," said John Walke, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
  Going Green Can Lead to Tax Credits, Better HealthFebruary 17, 2009 09:59

On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed the The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law. The majority of people probably wouldn’t take the time to read all 1,588 pages of the act, but there are some tax credits they could be missing out on. The economic stimulus package lengthens the Energy Efficiency Tax Incentives first enacted in 2005 and even creates some new ones for those who remodel their homes using more energy efficient and eco-friendly materials.

Existing homes are eligible for a series of efficiency measures that pertain to the home shell (Insulation, Windows, Sealing) worth 30% of the installed cost (materials only, labor is not included in the credit basis).

Homeowners can get tax credits for:

· Adding insulation to walls, ceilings, or other part of the building envelope that meets the 2009 IECC (& supplements) specifications.

· Replacing windows and skylights, and exterior doors which are equal to or below a 0.30 U factor and a Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) of 0.30.

· Sealing cracks in the building shell and ducts to reduce infiltration and heat loss - these should be sealed so as to be consistent with the 2009 IECC.

· Window films certified by the manufacturer that the product meets the requirements of a "qualifying insulation system."

· Pigmented metal roofs, or an asphalt roof with cooling granules must meet Energy Star requirements.

In addition to the tax credits, making these types of modifications to your home could be better for your health and safety as well. Asbestos, for example, was widely used as insulation in homes for most of the 20th century. Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of an aggressive type of lung cancer known as pleural mesothelioma. Unfortunately, this type of cancer is hard to treat effectively as mesothelioma symptoms do not usually show up until about 15 to 25 years after exposure. By the time a diagnosis is finally made, the cancer is usually in its advanced stages.

Most people are unaware of the fact that eco-friendly products can cut energy costs by 25 to 35% per year. Rather than expensive and mal-treated wood, interior walls can be made from steel and concrete, avoiding many of the problems associated with asbestos and other insulation methods. There are a number of alternative types of insulation that can be used that are more eco-friendly than asbestos and don’t pose any danger to your health. The United States Department of Energy has a list of insulation “Energy Savers” you can use when making plans to remodel your home.

  Obama Sets Executive Pay LimitsFebruary 04, 2009 12:47 AMEN. OK... I'm 100% Obama fan now.

Pledging to take "the air out of golden parachutes," President Obama announced Wednesday that executives of companies receiving federal bailout money will have their pay capped at $500,000 under a revised financial compensation plan.

Last year's "shameful" handout of $18 billion in Wall Street bonuses "is exactly the kind of disregard for the costs and consequences of their actions that brought about this crisis: a culture of narrow self-interest and short-term gain at the expense of everything else," Obama said to reporters at the White House.

"For top executives to award themselves these kinds of compensation packages in the midst of this economic crisis isn't just bad taste -- it's a bad strategy -- and I will not tolerate it. We're going to be demanding some restraint in exchange for federal aid -- so that when firms seek new federal dollars, we won't find them up to the same old tricks," the president added.

Under Obama's plan, companies that want to pay their executives more than $500,000 will have to do so through stocks that cannot be sold until the companies pay back the money they borrow from the government.