U.S.: Environment & energy 2018

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U.S.: Environment & energy 2017

19 December
78 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
(NYT) Since his first days in office, President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has targeted environmental rules it sees as overly burdensome to the fossil fuel industry, including major Obama-era policies aimed at fighting climate change.
A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts nearly 80 environmental rules on the way out under Mr. Trump. Our list represents two types of policy changes: rules that were officially reversed and rollbacks still in progress. Nearly a dozen more rules – summarized at the bottom of this page – were rolled back and then later reinstated, often following legal challenges.
All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could lead to at least 80,000 extra deaths per decade and cause respiratory problems for more than one million people, according to a separate analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard. That number, however, is likely to be “a major underestimate of the global public health impact,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Note: This list does not include new rules proposed by the Trump administration that do not roll back previous policies, nor does it include court actions that have affected environmental policies independent of executive or legislative action.
Sources: Harvard Law School’s Environmental Regulation Rollback Tracker; Columbia Law School’s Climate Deregulation Tracker; Brookings Institution; Federal Register; Environmental Protection Agency; U.S. Chamber of Commerce; White House.

15 December
Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former lobbyist for the oil, gas and water industries that rely on Interior’s decisions, is poised to become acting secretary. That’s already alarming environmentalists.
Zinke’s likely replacement has been ‘the man behind the curtain’
(Politico) David Bernhardt, who is set to become acting Interior secretary, has pleased President Donald Trump but is drawing attacks from environmental groups.
Like former EPA chief Scott Pruitt before him, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has an experienced deputy steeped in the world of bureaucratic infighting ready to fill his shoes — one with longstanding ties to the energy industry he now regulates.

10 December
A devastating report details a ‘monumental’ assault on science at the Department of the Interior
(LATimes) Among the up-is-down, night-is-day practices of the Trump administration, one of the most dangerous and disturbing is its habit of turning America’s leading science agencies into hives of anti-science policymaking.
A new report lays out how this has produced a “monumental disaster” for science at the Department of the Interior. The report by the Union of Concerned Scientists details how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his minions have in the space of two years turned Interior from a steward of public lands and natural resources into a front for the mining and oil and gas industries.
“The intent in rolling back the consideration of science in decision-making is always to progress the development of fossil fuel interests,” Jacob Carter of the union’s center for science and democracy and lead author of the report told me.
… Interior’s website used to be a clearing house for public information about climate change. Its climate page no longer exists at all.
Union of Concerned Scientists: Science under Siege at the Department of the Interior, America’s Health, Parks, and Wildlife at Risk

7 December
‘Complete Wiping Away of Clean Water Act’: Trump EPA Rule Would Free Corporations to Pollute Nation’s Water as Much as They Please
“As a result of the change, an estimated 60-90 percent of U.S. waterways could lose federal protections that currently shield them from pollution and development.”
(Common Dreams) The Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which the Trump administration has long been aiming to roll back, was designed to limit pollution in most of the nation’s large bodies of water in an effort to protect drinking water from contamination.
The Trump EPA is attempting to reinterpret the WOTUS rule in a way that allows oil giants, real estate developers, and golf course owners to freely pollute rivers and streams. Critics have pointed out that Trump’s businesses may stand to profit from any weakening of the WOTUS rule.

3 December
Paul Krugman: Climate Denial Was the Crucible for Trumpism
It’s where the conspiracy theorizing and menacing of critics began.
The G.O.P. wasn’t always an anti-environment, anti-science party. George H.W. Bush introduced the cap-and-trade program that largely controlled the problem of acid rain. As late as 2008, John McCain called for a similar program to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.
But McCain’s party was already well along in the process of becoming what it is today — a party that is not only completely dominated by climate deniers, but is hostile to science in general, that demonizes and tries to destroy scientists who challenge its dogma.
Take Trump’s dismissal of all negative information about his actions and their consequences as either fake news invented by hostile media or the products of a sinister “deep state.” That kind of conspiracy theorizing has long been standard practice among climate deniers, who began calling the evidence for global warming — evidence that has convinced 97 percent of climate scientists — a “gigantic hoax” 15 years ago.
…  if we fail to meet the challenge of climate change, with catastrophic results — which seems all too likely — it won’t be the result of an innocent failure to understand what was at stake. It will, instead, be a disaster brought on by corruption, willful ignorance, conspiracy theorizing and intimidation.

27 November
President Trump Says He’s Too Intelligent To Believe In Climate Change
The government’s own climate report predicts the planet will warm dramatically by 2100 without urgent efforts to rein in emissions. Trump responds, “I don’t see it.”
Trump’s statements, his latest in a long history of climate change denial, go against the vast majority of scientists who say the planet has rapidly warmed since the Industrial Revolution and will continue to do so unless humanity is able to dramatically scale back greenhouse gas emissions. Without such action, the planet faces a slew of devastating effects, including a mass die-off of coral reefs; an increase in the severity of natural disasters, such as wildfires; and a global economic hit in the trillions of dollars, according to a recent United Nations study.

23 November
Federal Climate Report Predicts At Least 3 Degrees Of Warming By 2100
The White House’s decision to release the report over the holiday weekend is likely to bury the sobering new findings.
The United States already warmed on average 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century and will warm at least 3 more degrees by 2100 unless fossil fuel use is dramatically curtailed, scientists from more than a dozen federal agencies concluded in their latest in-depth assessment.
The 13-agency consensus, authored by more than 300 researchers, found in the second volume of the Fourth National Climate Assessment makes it clear the world is barreling toward catastrophic ― perhaps irreversible ― climate change. The report concluded that warming “could increase by 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century” without significant emissions reductions.
It’s the sort of staggering reality the Trump administration seems eager to minimize. Ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump antagonized climate scientists by tweeting, once again, that he believes cold weather disproves long-term trends of a warming climate.

5 November
High stakes for Dems’ green agenda in midterms
(The Hill) … The committee is also exploring other issues it could address in hearings that Democrats say have been suppressed under Republican leadership, such as the environmental impacts of President Trump’s promised U.S.-Mexico border wall and other issues involving Native American land management, according to staff.
At the EPA, Democrats want to relentlessly scrutinize the Trump administration’s aggressive deregulatory agenda. Thus far, the EPA has worked to repeal rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, fuel efficiency rules for cars, methane pollution rules for oil and natural gas drillers, water pollution rules for coal-fired power plants and a wide array of other policies.
If Democrats take the House they could be in a prime position to push Congress to pass bills that aim to remedy the causes and effects of climate change. There has not been a concerted environmental push on Capitol Hill even as the Trump administration pushes ahead on efforts to weaken Obama-era EPA regulations ranging from rules on carbon, methane and vehicle emissions to clean water policies.
Top Democrats who would be in a prime position to push new environmental legislation, though, are signaling that climate change may not be a top priority for them, despite a growing body of evidence suggesting time is running out to address the issue.
The decision, would be a shift in strategy from when House Democrats last controlled the chamber. In 2009, they passed cap-and-trade legislation, which subsequently died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The game plan for next year, House Democrats say, is more incremental steps and hearings.

22 October
Trump thinks scientists are split on climate change. So do most Americans
There’s a 97% expert consensus on human-caused global warming, but most Americans are unaware
When queried about the most recent IPCC report, Republican lawmakers delivered a consistent, false message – that climate scientists are still debating whether humans are responsible. The previous IPCC report was quite clear on this, attributing 100% of the global warming since 1950 to human activities. As Nasa atmospheric scientist Kate Marvel recently put it, “We are more sure that greenhouse gas is causing climate change than we are that smoking causes cancer.”
Donald Trump articulated the incorrect Republican position in an interview on 60 Minutes:
We have scientists that disagree with [human-caused global warming] … You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda
To paraphrase, ‘I know scientists. I have the best scientists.’ And of course Trump thinks he has “a natural instinct for science” which, as astrophysicist Katie Mack noted, is not a thing….

1 October

The Grand Staircase-Escalante national monument -Photo by Kane County Office of Tourism
Why Two Chefs in Small-Town Utah Are Battling President Trump
The owners of an improbably successful restaurant at the gate of a vast wilderness are fighting to keep it unspoiled.
By Kathryn Schulz
there is a reason that Trump cut monuments only in Utah. Among other Western politicians, shifting economies and demographics have begun to change attitudes toward public lands, but Utah’s governing class remains intensely hostile to federal authority.
(The New Yorker) In south-central Utah, where the topography is spectacular, desolate, and extreme, the pessimistic tradition in place-names runs strong. Head south from Poverty Flat and you’ll end up in Death Hollow. Head east from Dead Mare Wash and you’ll end up on Deadman Ridge, looking out toward Last Chance Creek and down into Carcass Canyon. During the Great Depression, when the whole state turned into a kind of Poverty Flat, the Civilian Conservation Corps sent a group of men to the region to carve a byway out of a virtually impassable landscape of cliffs and chasms. The men nicknamed the project Poison Road: so steep that a single drop would kill them. Midway up, the ridge they were following gaped open and plunged fifteen hundred feet to the canyon floor. They laid a span across it, and called it Hell’s Backbone Bridge.
… Nowhere else in the country, outside of Alaska, was so large a tract of land so relatively unspoiled—so ecologically close to the condition it had been in before Europeans arrived in North America. Paradoxically, that is a large part of why President Clinton had protected it: because, for millennia, it had done such an excellent job of protecting itself.
… On December 4, 2017, the day the proclamations became public, Covington & Burling, acting on behalf of Grand Staircase Escalante Partners and two other nonprofit organizations, sued Ryan Zinke and Donald Trump.
That lawsuit was one of five filed that day against the President. Two of the suits concerned Grand Staircase and three concerned Bears Ears; they have since been consolidated, so that the cases about each monument will be heard together. In the meantime, Covington & Burling has filed a motion for summary judgment, while the Department of Justice has requested a venue change, from Washington, D.C., to Utah, a move that all the plaintiffs oppose. Those requests are presently awaiting rulings by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Since the monument cases raise a previously unlitigated question concerning the separation of powers, they are, in all likelihood, headed for the Supreme Court.

Data For Progress: What is a Green New Deal
A Green New Deal is more than just renewable energy or job programs. It is a transition to the 21st century economy. It is a holistic combination of solutions at every level—federal, state, and local—and addresses many problems simultaneously. It does this because it must.
A Green New Deal is a broad and ambitious package of new policies and investments in communities, infrastructure, and technology to help the United States achieve environmental sustainability and economic stability.
The original New Deal was a series of financial reforms, farmer relief programs, public works projects, and other social programs enacted by President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930’s. The New Deal was an economic and job stimulus to meet the needs of the time, designed to put Americans back to work, restore dignity, and bring stability during the Great Depression. Even with its mixed effectiveness, the New Deal was not perfect and displayed an exclusionary racial bias whose effects are still felt today.
America faces different challenges today that are unsustainable and existential.
Despite the achievements in environment regulation over the past 50 years, incremental policy changes and small shifts in market trends are no longer sufficient to meet the scale and urgency of the problems facing Americans and the world today. American lives and livelihoods rely upon clean air and water; healthy forests, farms, and fisheries; and communities resilient to the worst effects of climate change—such as extreme weather, drought, and sea-level rise. The effects of pollution and exposure to toxins persist, and climate change worsens. On top of it all, these all affect low-income communities and communities of color disproportionately.
We need to shift to a new sustainable environment and economy.
A Green New Deal recognizes that economic stability is not independent of environmental sustainability.
The trade-off between the environment or the economy is a false one. The goal of a Green New Deal is to build the 21st century economy, which by design will mitigate the causes of climate change while building resilience to its effects, restore the American landscape, and improve access to clean air and water—all in ways that prioritize justice and equity, and grow the economy and jobs.

Environmental regulation and climate action often receive less attention because they are perceived to compete with other local priorities–such as crime, schools, jobs, and potholes. A Green New Deal is not a distraction from local priorities but works to solve many of them.
Sustainability is about utilizing and preserving resources in ways that meet the needs of today’s generation without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
The popularity of progressive policies has been rising steadily since the 2016 Presidential Election season and has increasingly moved the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction. Mounting concern over economic inequality, injustice, and the threats of climate change are leading an increasing number of progressive candidates to call for more dramatic action. They propose an equitable transition to a 21st century economy and clean energy revolution that guarantees clean air and water,modernizes national infrastructure, and creates high-quality jobs.
— A Green New Deal is necessary to meet the scale and urgency of environmental challenges facing the United States, based on the best available research.
— A Green New Deal can bring job growth and economic opportunity, with particular focus on historically disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
— A Green New Deal is popular among American voters and can mobilize them in 2018.
— A Green New Deal can be executed in a way that is environmentally just and distributes benefits equitably.
— A Green New Deal is financially feasible and necessary
Link to full report (PDF)

30 August
Trump set to tap centrist to head EPA’s chemical safety office
(WaPost) EPA Region 1 Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, who was appointed to her current post in November, has deep roots working at nonpartisan environmental organizations and academia. Before becoming the agency’s top official for New England, Dunn served as executive director and general counsel for the Environmental Council of States. Before then, she occupied the same role at the Association of Clean Water Administrators, which represents state water officials across the country.
Dunn has taught environmental law at Pace University, where she served as its dean of environmental law programs, and as an adjunct professor at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law and American University’s Washington College of Law.

28 August
Interior official involved in shrinking national monuments quits to join oil giant BP
Fossil fuels and mining were key factors in cutting the size of two Utah monuments
(Think Progress) During her time at the Department for the Interior (DOI), [Downey] Magallanes worked on policy and operations, including a push to open up public lands and federal waters to more fossil fuel extraction. Specifically, she led the review which resulted in Zinke’s plan to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah last December.
As documents released in March and July confirm, accessing oil, gas, and coal reserves were key factors in the decisions made by DOI to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante by 85 and 46 percent, respectively. Allowing mining companies greater access has also been a factor.

16 August
Florida’s water crisis collides with closely watched elections
(Axios) The algae outbreaks are the largest and longest-lasting in years. Weather patterns coupled with pressures on land use are stoking long-held tensions over natural resources between two of the state’s biggest industries — agriculture and tourism. And it’s happening at a time when Florida is also seeing massive population growth. Residents have held town halls and organized rallies to put pressure on elected officials to do more. As a result, candidates are making environmental issues a central part of their campaigns leading up to the August 28 Florida primaries. In states like Florida that are experiencing more extreme weather events, voters may coalesce around climate and environmental issues heading into the next election cycles.
Stalling Trump’s ‘Illegal Rubber-Stamp’ of Keystone XL, Federal Court Orders Full Environmental Review
“This is a huge win for the landowners and Tribal Nation members whose water and environment would be forever threatened by this dangerous tar sands project.”
(Common Dreams) After President Donald Trump reversed the Obama administration’s decision to block the TransCanada pipeline—which would run through Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada as well as Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska—regulators in Nebraska approved a path that was not part of the federal government’s 2014 environmental impact statement. Last month, the Trump State Department issued a draft assessment (pdf) for the Mainline Alternative Route (MAR) through Nebraska, but U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday ordered a full review.

9 August
At ‘America First Energy Conference’, solar power is dumb, climate change is fake
(Reuters) – Pumping carbon dioxide into the air makes the planet greener; the United Nations puts out fake science about climate change to control the global energy market; and wind and solar energy are simply “dumb”.
The second annual conference, organized by the conservative think tank the Heartland Institute, pulled together speakers from JunkScience, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and the Center For Industrial Progress, along with officials from the U.S. Department of Interior and the White House for panels that included: “Carbon Taxes, Cap & Trade, and Other Bad Ideas,” “Fiduciary Malpractice: The Sustainable Investment Movement,” and “Why CO2 Emissions Are Not Creating A Climate Crisis.”
The day-long conference reflected the political rise of global warming skeptics in Donald Trump’s America that is occurring despite mounting scientific evidence – including from U.S. government agencies – that burning oil, coal, and natural gas is heating the planet and leading to drought, floods, wildfires, and more frequent powerful storms.

5 July
Robinson Meyer: So Did Scott Pruitt Remake the EPA?
The agency is smaller, poorer, and less driven by science. But “I don’t think there is a big Pruitt legacy,” one legal scholar said. Since taking office last year, Pruitt has waged a campaign to remake key tenets of U.S. environmental law. He began rolling back key Obama-era climate programs, including the landmark Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions from the electricity sector. He proposed freezing fuel-economy rules for cars and light trucks, and he suspended an Obama-era rule to define the EPA’s jurisdiction over small streams and rivers.
Recently, Pruitt’s scope has widened. In April, he proposed a new policy that would block the EPA from citing most medical research when crafting clean air or water regulations.
There’s no doubt that Trump and Pruitt have already altered the EPA. More than 700 agency employees, including 200 scientists, resigned from the agency during 2017 alone, according to The New York Times. The agency is referring record-low numbers of environmental crime to the Department of Justice. And its science-advisory board was also shuffled to include more industry-friendly researchers.
Clearly there have been near-term consequences of Pruitt’s EPA. But outside experts told me that they were less sure that his legal work would result in long-term policy change. Sure, they said, Pruitt has generated lots of news stories by canceling Obama-era climate programs—but he has actually done this too quickly, with too little bureaucratic process, to secure their permanent scuttling.

2 June
A Courtside View of Scott Pruitt’s Cozy Ties With a Billionaire Coal Baron
(NYT) Mr. Pruitt’s mostly behind-the-scenes relationship with Mr. Craft is emblematic of his unorthodox approach to leading the E.P.A., where he often blurs the lines between personal and official relationships and has created the impression at times that he does the bidding of the industries the agency regulates. As administrator, he has become the subject of a dozen ethical and other investigations, including several focused on his ties to lobbyists and others with business before his agency.

27 April
(The Atlantic) Scott Pruitt admitted before Congress on Thursday that he had sidestepped White House instructions [in order] to give raises to two favored aides, as The Atlantic first reported. Pruitt had initially denied knowing about the raises, and his changes to his story parallel other cover-up scandals from the Trump administration. Pruitt also defended a proposed rule that would require the EPA to publish all the data behind the studies that guide its regulations, expressing an attitude toward science that might be described as DIY analysis.

12 April
Trump Loyalist: Scott Pruitt Is an Even Bigger Monster Than You Thought
Fresh accusations from Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff paint him in a very, very bad light.
(Vanity Fair) In a six-page letter addressed to Pruitt but circulated much more widely than his pair of very fancy desks, two senators and three House representatives detailed allegations that were brought to their attention this week by Kevin Chmielewski, who served as the president’s body man during the campaign—Trump called him a “star” and a “gem”—before going on to work as the E.P.A.’s deputy chief of staff. (Chmielewski was placed on administrative leave without pay after objecting to Pruitt’s spending policies,

2 – 3 April
On the one hand, Pruitt is a huge ethical headache. On the other, he’s doing exactly what Trump wants.
(WaPost) There were two competing news stories centered on Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday morning.
One of those stories was an extension of an ongoing scandal involving Pruitt’s allocation of federal money. As first reported by The Atlantic, Pruitt leveraged a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act to reappoint two longtime allies so that he could give them raises that had been rejected by the White House. … At an event in the morning, Pruitt announced that the EPA would be scaling back fuel-efficiency standards enacted under the Obama administration.
The point is that Pruitt is doing exactly what Trump wants, as he has since he came to Washington. …  Since assuming the role of EPA administrator, he’s been effective at scaling back the agency’s regulatory efforts in a slew of ways.
Among them:

  • Scaling back the Clean Power Plan which would have mandated lower greenhouse gas emissions at existing power plants.
  • Released talking points on climate change aimed at downplaying the role of human activity.
  • Postponing a rule mandating that chemical plants warn the public about possible safety issues.
  • Rejecting a ban on a pesticide linked to nervous system damage in children.
  • Pushed to repeal emission standards for truck components.
  • Repealed a rule aimed at giving the EPA broader authority over water pollution.
  • Removed objective scientists from an EPA advisory board.

A long and -deeply discouraging profile for anyone concerned with the issues that EPA should be dealing with
Scott Pruitt’s Dirty Politics
How the Environmental Protection Agency became the fossil-fuel industry’s best friend.
By Margaret Talbot
(The New Yorker) One of the engineers said that it might take a while to “rebuild capacity” after Pruitt. But it would be done. The public, he reminded everyone, “is expecting us to protect the planet.” He said, “Pruitt is a temporary interloper. We are the real agency.”

15 March
Weathering Trump’s skepticism, U.S. officials still fighting global warming
(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has bashed international efforts to combat climate change and questioned the scientific consensus that global warming is dangerous and driven by human consumption of fossil fuels.
But there is a disconnect between what Trump says at home and what his government does abroad. While attention has been focused on Trump’s rhetoric, State Department envoys, federal agencies, and government scientists remain active participants in international efforts to both research and fight climate change, according to U.S. and foreign representatives involved in those efforts.
The U.S. efforts abroad to tackle climate change have been counter-balanced by Trump’s aggressive push at home to increase production of the fossil fuels scientists blame for global warming. He has also ordered a wide-ranging rollback of Obama-era climate regulations and appointed a self-described climate skeptic, Scott Pruitt, as the nation’s chief environmental regulator.
FEMA Drops ‘Climate Change’ From Its Strategic Plan
(NPR) The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the federal government’s first responder to floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, has eliminated references to climate change from its strategic planning document for the next four years.
That document, released by FEMA on Thursday, outlines plans for building preparedness and reducing the complexity of the agency. … under a section about “Emerging Threats,” the document cites cybersecurity and terrorism. There are no references to global warming, rising sea levels, extreme weather events or any other term related to the potential impact of rising surface temperatures.

1 February
Valley of the Gods in Utah, one of the places President Donald Trump removed from the Bears Ears National Monument in a proclamation on December 4, 2017. Photo by Tim Peterson
‘Outrageous’ Gold Rush-Style Grab of Public Lands to Begin Friday
(EcoWatch) Despite protests from conservationists, local tribe leaders, Democratic lawmakers and even the United Nations’ expert on Indigenous rights, at 6 a.m. on Friday the Trump administration will allow citizens and companies to start staking claims on sections of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah so the new stakeholders can conduct hard rock mining on the formerly protected lands.
“It is outrageous to witness the dismantling of the Bears Ears national monument, in what constitutes a serious attack on Indigenous peoples’ rights in the United States,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Tauli-Corpuz noted that the previous administration’s decision to create the monument “protected thousands of sacred sites which are central to the preservation of regional Native culture.” He warned that Trump’s decision to reduce Bears Ears by about 85 percent “exposes thousands of acres of sacred lands and archaeological sites to the threats of desecration, contamination and permanent destruction.

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 policy making 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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