U.S.: Environment & energy 2018

Written by  //  January 18, 2018  //  Environment & Energy, U.S.  //  No comments

U.S.: Environment & energy 2017

18 January
Trump’s Pick For DOJ Enviro Chief Clears Senate Committee
(Law360) — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday voted to advance President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Justice’s environmental division, Kirkland & Ellis LLP partner Jeffrey Bossert Clark, over strong objections from Democrats.

Trump Names BP Oil Spill Lawyer, Climate Policy Foe as Top DOJ Environment Attorney
Jeffrey Bossert Clark repeatedly challenged the scientific underpinnings of U.S. climate policy while representing the Chamber of Commerce.
(Inside Climate News) Clark, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis, has represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in lawsuits challenging the federal government’s authority to regulate carbon emissions. In court he has repeatedly argued that it is inappropriate to base government policymaking on the scientific consensus presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“When did America risk coming to be ruled by foreign scientists and apparatchiks at the United Nations?” Clark demanded in a 2010 blog posting on the EPA’s endangerment finding.
Clark was prominently involved in industry challenges to the EPA’s “endangerment finding” that set the scientific basis for all subsequent attempts to regulate greenhouse gases, including from autos and industrial sources. It was a demonstration of opposition to the underpinnings of the whole Obama administration regulatory approach to carbon dioxide, which were consistently upheld by the Supreme Court. (June 2017)

Trump Administration Deserts Science Advisory Boards Across Agencies
While top-level science positions remain vacant, scientific advisory panels have been quietly diminished, disbanded or stacked with industry scientists.
(Inside Climate News) Shortly after President Donald Trump took office, Paul Beier, a professor at Northern Arizona University and a member of a little known government science panel that advised the Interior Department on climate change, got an email.
“It basically said, ‘Thank you very much,'” Beier recalled. “I said, ‘Is this a goodbye letter?’ They said, ‘Yeah, you’re done’.”
Beier was one of 25 people on the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science, a panel that advised the Department of Interior on ways to minimize the impacts of climate change at natural and culturally important sites. Like dozens of panels and boards formed to advise government agencies on science-related challenges, the committee met regularly and offered recommendations.

17 January
Nearly all members of National Park Service advisory panel resign in frustration
More than three-quarters of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service have quit out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year.
The resignation of 10 out of 12 National Park System Advisory Board members leaves the federal government without a functioning body to designate national historic or natural landmarks. It also underscores the extent to which federal advisory bodies have become marginalized under the Trump administration. In May 2017, Zinke suspended all outside committees while his staff reviewed their composition and work.

11 January
(NYT) This week, the National Centers for Environmental Information — a federal agency that bills itself as the nation’s scorekeeper for extreme weather — released a ranking of the worst years for damaging storms since 1980. At the top of the list was 2017, and it wasn’t even close.
Major weather events caused $306 billion of damage in the United States last year, with floods, wildfires, tornadoes and, of course, three big hurricanes all contributing to the toll. The previous record-holder had been 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, when the combined cost was slightly above $200 billion (inflation adjusted). The only other year with a toll above $100 billion was 2012. The chart here — which you’ll find just below the map — is striking.
Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Overview
(NCEI) 2017 in Context In 2017, there were 16 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included 1 drought event, 2 flooding events, 1 freeze event, 8 severe storm events, 3 tropical cyclone events, and 1 wildfire event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 362 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted. The 1980–2017 annual average is 5.8 events (CPI-adjusted); the annual average for the most recent 5 years (2013–2017) is 11.6 events (CPI-adjusted).

10 January
Decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling prompts bipartisan uproar
(WaPost) The Trump administration’s decision to exempt Florida from expanded offshore drilling kicked off a frenzy Wednesday in other coastal states, with governors from both political parties asking: Why not us?
“We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who backed President Trump in his state’s competitive 2016 primary, said in a statement.
“Not Off Our Coast,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) wrote in a tweet. “We’ve been clear: this would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities.”
The Florida carve-out, announced Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, created new doubts about the fate of the entire offshore drilling decision — and immediately became another challenge for Republicans as they work to hold off Democrats in the midterm elections. Nine of the 11 states that opposed the drilling order have gubernatorial races this year, and many of the most competitive contests for the House of Representatives will unfold in districts that touch coastline.

4 January
How Trump could vastly expand offshore drilling
In a newly released five-year plan, the Trump administration has proposed opening up vast new areas to oil and gas exploration, including federal waters off the California coast and off the East Coast, from Georgia to Maine. Amy Harder, who covers energy and climate change issues for Axios, describes what this all means.
(PBS Newshour)Judy Woodruff: The Trump administration said today it would allow energy companies to drill for oil in nearly all the waters surrounding the continental United States.
As William Brangham reports, it’s a big shift to roll back even more of the Obama administration’s environmental policies and to increase U.S. energy production.
Amy Harder: Well, it’s a really big deal for the amount of the offshore waters that they’re proposing to possibly allow the oil and gas industry to lease. It’s about 90 percent of the offshore waters that the federal government owns. … That said, it’s also important to remember and to understand the bureaucratic process that goes into something like this. This is what I would call the opening wager of a very long process. … it could be at least a decade before something like this, before drilling is actually put in place. The process works as a funnel. The first phase is the widest, and then over a public comment period, it gets narrower. At least, that’s how the law states it.
So, this is the opening wager. It will take a year or so to go through public comments. And I anticipate that at least some of these leases will be taken off the table.

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