Weekend Reading 4/18/14

Inequalities, oligarchies, requiems, and more.
Original illustration by Nina Montenegro of ghosttide.com.

Alan

A better way to measure inequality: focus on the 1 percenters.

“It’s time to step up to the plate,” are the final words of this promising trailer for a documentary on people taking action against climate change.

RIP Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of the best opening line of a novel ever.

Clark

A tax week reminder: by some estimates, 45 percent of federal outlays go to the military, past and present. That figure includes current spending  …  read more »

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Washington Board Upholds Stormwater Rules

Stringent regs withstand a challenge by Puget Sound cities and counties.
Seattle rain garden during a downpour.

Seattle rain garden during a downpour. Image by Lisa Stiffler (Used with permission)

The Pollution Control Hearings Board—the legal body presiding over state environmental regulations—has upheld the stormwater permits governing Western Washington cities and counties. The decision was issued this spring by the three-person board after permittees challenged the rules.

The state Department of Ecology in August last year approved the municipal stormwater permits, which aim to clean up and control polluted runoff that fouls Puget Sound and local lakes, rivers, and streams.

The permits require cities and counties to update their  …  read more »

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Gov. Inslee Hires Coal Lobbyist to Direct Policy Office

Controversial hire raises questions about coal export plans in Washington.

In a classic instance of the revolving door between government and industry, Governor Inslee has decided to hire Matt Steuerwalt as the director of his policy office effective May 1. In recent years, Steuerwalt has acted as a lead lobbyist for coal-fired power in Washington, as well as for a now-defunct coal export proposal. The news was first announced by Steuerwalt in a mass email sent last night.

The state is now wrestling with two major policy issues connected to coal: whether to permit large-scale coal export terminals and whether to phase out coal-fired electricity imported from other states. Given that Steuerwalt has recently been a paid lobbyist in support of coal in Washington, the move raises question about whether he will use his influence in the Inslee administration to advance an agenda more favorable to the coal industry. read more »

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Industry to Feds: “We Will Not Remove Any Unsafe Oil Rail Cars from Service”

What the oil industry's own numbers say about their commitment to safety.
Crude oil tank car chart

Image by US Surface Transportation Board (Slide 13 of the linked PowerPoint. It is in the public domain because it is an image published by the US government.)

“We will not remove any unsafe oil rail cars from service.” That was the upshot of oil industry testimony at a recent rail safety hearing before the US Senate.

To be fair, that isn’t a direct quote. But it is a direct consequence of the math.

Under questioning from Senators about the wisdom of continuing to use older unsafe tank cars to haul crude oil—especially the very volatile crude coming out of North Dakota—the American Petroleum Institute representative testified that  …  read more »

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New Video: The Pacific Rim Coal Bubble

Coal prices have collapsed...leaving Northwest export projects hanging by a thread.

Weekend Reading 4/11/14

Radioactive socks, the violence of climate change, and more.

Oil Trainspotting, Part 2

What we're learning by looking for oil trains.

Users’ Guide: Climate messaging

13 guiding principles from ecoAmerica.

Another Look at Declining Seattle Traffic

Slow-moving trends add up to a big shift in how we get around.

What Does 17% Mean?

Proposed King County bus cuts would run deep.