U.S.: Environment & energy 2019

Written by  //  March 20, 2019  //  Environment & Energy, U.S.  //  No comments

The Democratic Party Wants to Make Climate Policy Exciting
After years of infighting, the Democrats may finally have found
an environmental consensus in the Green New Deal

78 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump
(December 2018)

The Real Reason They Hate Nuclear Is Because It Means We Don’t Need Renewables
(Forbes) After all, the two greatest successes when it comes to nuclear energy are Sweden and France, two nations held up by democratic socialists for decades as models of the kind of societies they want.
It is only nuclear energy, not solar and wind, that has radically and rapidly decarbonized energy supplies while increasing wages and growing societal wealth.
And it is only nuclear that has, by powering high-speed trains everywhere from France to Japan to China, decarbonized transportation, which is the source of about one-third of the emissions humankind creates.
For many people the answer is obvious: ignorance. Few people know that nuclear is the safest source of electricity. Or that low levels of radiation are harmless. Or that nuclear waste is the best kind of waste.
In reality, solar farms require hundreds of times more land, an order of magnitude more mining for materials, and create hundreds of times more waste, than do nuclear plants.
And wind farms kill hundreds of thousands of threatened and endangered birds, may make the hoary bat go extinct, and kill more people than nuclear plants.
But because of our positive feelings toward sunlight, water and wind, which we view as more natural than uranium, many people unconsciously assume renewables are better for the environment. (14 February 2019)

Federal judge demands Trump administration reveal how its drilling plans will fuel climate change
The ruling temporarily halts drilling on 300,000 acres of leases in Wyoming.
A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington marks the first time the Trump administration has been held to account for the climate impact of its energy-dominance agenda, and it could have sweeping implications for the president’s plan to boost fossil fuel production across the country.

7 March
Despite What Trump Says, Climate Change Threatens Our National Security
The president is trying to subvert the science that informs the intelligence community.
(NYT Opinion) Once again, the Trump White House is publicly crossing swords with the intelligence community in ways that are likely to harm American security.
The latest salvo is an effort taking shape over the next few weeks to “red team” the science of climate change — in effect, to challenge it and investigate it for uncertainties. The backdrop for the scheme is President Trump publicly questioning the accuracy of the nation’s most extensive and scientifically robust assessment by 13 federal agencies that showed how stronger storms, higher sea levels, more heat waves and sundry other effects of climate change will harm the nation. This same science has also informed a new intelligence community report that identifies climate change as a significant threat to national security.
About the authors:
John R. Allen, president of the Brookings Institution, is a retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (now ISIS) from 2014 to 2015. David G. Victor is a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California at San Diego, and is a co-chairman of the Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate.

21 February
Report: Climate Denier to Lead White House Climate Panel
The move is in line with Trump’s larger agenda of appointing agency and panel heads to undermine the exact policies and purpose laid out by those very agencies.
(New York) The White House is reportedly forming a panel to determine if climate change is a threat to national security, a question National Intelligence director Dan Coats answered for the president just last month. In his January report, Coats described the erosion of our current environment as a threat multiplier, stating that climate change is “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” Despite that very clear message from the head of the intelligence community, Trump reportedly plans to investigate the matter himself by creating the Presidential Committee on Climate Security to find out “how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States.”
Suspicions that this is just a bad-faith ploy to jam the consensus on climate change with mixed messages were quickly confirmed: Trump has pegged a climate denier, William Happer, to “spearhead” the new panel, according to the Washington Post. … According to a document obtained by the Washington Post, the 12-person panel intends to provide a “rigorous independent and adversarial scientific peer review” to academic reports that have already passed peer review.

20 February
Trump’s environmental policies are putting the health of American children at risk.
(New York) On August 2, the Trump administration announced its intention to delay emissions standards for cars and light trucks, in effect sanctioning continued high levels of traffic-related air pollution; a growing body of evidence links exposure to it to respiratory problems, early signs of neurodegenerative disease, and even autism-spectrum disorder. On August 21, the Trump EPA opened the door to increased amounts of black carbon and small particulate matter in the air with a planned rollback of restrictions on pollution from coal-burning power plants; even the EPA’s own analysis predicts 1,400 more deaths annually due to the increased pollution that will result. And on August 29, the Trump administration took the first step in dismantling Obama-era regulations governing mercury emissions from power plants; scientists have known for decades that developing fetuses are especially susceptible to mercury poisoning. “What became crystal clear to me is that EPA knew full well, because of the robust scientific literature, that chlorpyrifos and mercury and lead were harming the next generation,” Etzel says. “And despite that full knowledge, they refused to take action.”

18 February
Trump EPA OKs ‘Emergency’ to Dump Bee-Killing Pesticide on 16 Million Acres
(EcoWatch) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported last week that in 2018 it issued so-called “emergency” approvals to spray sulfoxaflor—an insecticide the agency considers “very highly toxic” to bees—on more than 16 million acres of crops known to attract bees.
Of the 18 states where the approvals were granted for sorghum and cotton crops, 12 have been given the approvals for at least four consecutive years for the same “emergency.”
“Spraying 16 million acres of bee-attractive crops with a bee-killing pesticide in a time of global insect decline is beyond the pale, even for the Trump administration,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA is routinely misusing the ’emergency’ process to get sulfoxaflor approved because it’s too toxic to make it through normal pesticide reviews.”

14 February
The Green New Deal Is What Realistic Environmental Policy Looks Like
In the 21st century, environmental policy is economic policy.
By Jedediah Britton-Purdy
(NYT Opinion) Everyone is lining up to endorse the Green New Deal — or to mock it. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand have all endorsed the resolution sponsored by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts.
Conservative critics predictably call it “a shocking document” and “a call for enviro-socialism in America,” but liberal condescension has cut deeper. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, essentially dismissed it as branding, saying, “The green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?” Others have criticized it for leaving out any mention of a carbon tax, a cornerstone of mainstream climate-policy proposals, while embracing a left-populist agenda that includes universal health care, stronger labor rights and a jobs guarantee.
What do these goals have to do with stabilizing atmospheric carbon levels before climate change makes large parts of the world uninhabitable? What has taken liberal critics aback is that the Green New Deal strays so far from the traditional environmental emphasis on controlling pollution, which the carbon tax aims to do, and tries to solve the problems of economic inequality, poverty and even corporate concentration (there’s an antimonopoly clause).

12 February
U.S. Senate Does Rare Good Thing
The public lands package might be a rare, bright spot in an otherwise grim era for American politics.
(New York) Major environmental groups like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Wilderness Society, and the National Wildlife Federation praised the bill, which the Post called the “most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade.”
Environmental victories have been rare during Donald Trump’s presidency. The president steadfastly denies the reality of climate change and maintains close alliances with fossil-fuel industries; he recently nominated a former coal lobbyist and a former oil lobbyist to head the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, respectively. He’s also hostile to public lands: He drastically shrank the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah last January, and according to the National Resources Defense Council, the Bureau of Land Management has opened 90 percent of its 248 million acres of public land to leasing by the oil and gas industry.
Perhaps the most significant change the legislation would make is permanently authorizing a federal program that funnels offshore drilling revenue to conserve everything from major national parks and wildlife preserves to local baseball diamonds and basketball courts.
The package also increases the size of the Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks; the latter made headlines during the government shutdown, after vandals created illegal roads, marked rocks with graffiti, and damaged at least one of its famous Joshua trees. In addition, the package expands hunting and fishing rights on federal land and reauthorizes the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act.
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, New Mexico Photo: Bob Wick (BLM)
Senate Passes a Sweeping Land Conservation Bill
(NYT)  … a rare victory for environmentalists at a time when the Trump administration is working aggressively to strip away protections on public lands and open them to mining and drilling.
“It touches every state, features the input of a wide coalition of our colleagues, and has earned the support of a broad, diverse coalition of many advocates for public lands, economic development, and conservation,” said Senator Mitch McConnell.
“This package gives our country a million acres of new wilderness, protects a million acres of public lands from future mining, permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund and balances conservation and recreation for the long term,” said Representative Raúl Grijalva, the Arizona Democrat who heads the House Natural Resources Committee. “It’s one of the biggest bipartisan wins for this country I’ve ever seen in Congress.”
Among the most consequential provisions is the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a federal program established in 1964 that uses fees and royalties paid by oil and gas companies drilling in federal waters to pay for onshore conservation programs.
Although the program has long enjoyed bipartisan support, Congress typically renews it for only a few years at a time, and it expired on Sept. 30 and has not been renewed. The new public lands package would authorize the program permanently, ending its long cycle of nearing or passing expiration and awaiting Congressional renewal.
Huge win: Wilderness set to be protected, LWCF renewed in sweeping lands bill
“It’s encouraging to see the new Congress immediately moving bipartisan legislation that conserves our land and water for the good of all Americans and future generations,” said Jamie Williams, the president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement. “Today marks an overdue but critical victory for America’s most important conservation funding program and for protecting our wild lands, from Utah’s red rock canyons to the heart of Washington’s North Cascades.“

5 February
Trump Quietly Put a Koch Official in Charge of America’s Drinking Water
How much cancer is too much cancer? Let Koch’s expert on water and chemical regulations decide.
Of all the federal agencies that fall under Donald Trump’s purview, none embodies the administration’s unofficial mandate to do the exact opposite of its stated mission quite like the Environmental Protection Agency. For the last two years, the E.P.A.—which, as a reminder, is supposed to be protecting human health and the environment—has done everything in its power to turn the planet into an ashtray and convince Americans that toxic chemicals are actually totally fine to drink, breathe, and otherwise ingest, all in an effort to help companies secreting those chemicals maximize their profits.
David Dunlap, a deputy in E.P.A.’s Office of Research and Development, is playing a key role as the agency decides how to protect people from the pollution left behind at hundreds of military bases and factories across the country. . .He spent the previous eight years as Koch Industries’ lead expert on water and chemical regulations, a position that typically includes helping companies to limit regulatory restrictions and liability for cleanups.

4 February
Trump Chooses David Bernhardt, a Former Oil Lobbyist, to Head the Interior Dept.
(NYT) While Mr. Zinke had been the public face of some of the largest rollbacks of public-land protections in the nation’s history, Mr. Bernhardt was the one quietly pulling the levers to carry them out, opening millions of acres of land and water to oil, gas and coal companies. He is described by allies and opponents alike as having played a crucial role in advancing what Mr. Trump has described as an “energy dominance” agenda for the country.
This year, Mr. Bernhardt oversaw the revision of a program to protect tens of millions of acres of habitat of the imperiled sage grouse, a puffy-chested, chickenlike bird that roams over 10 oil-rich Western states. His proposal to change that plan, made public in December, would strip protections from about nine million acres of the sage grouse habitat, a move that would open more land to oil and gas drilling than any other single policy action by the Trump administration.
Mr. Bernhardt has also helped shepherd policies such as loosening the standards of the Endangered Species Act, speeding the path to opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to new oil and gas drilling, and reducing the boundaries of national monuments to open the land to mining and drilling.

1 February
John Christy Was Just Named An EPA Science Adviser. His Climate Studies Have Been Repeatedly Corrected.
(BuzzFeed) Under President Donald Trump, the EPA has overhauled its advisers, shortened the term limits for advisers, and mandated that participating members refuse EPA grant money. Environmental and science advocacy groups, as well as past EPA officials, criticized the latter change as favoring industry members and forcing some prominent scientists to choose between being an adviser and keeping their research funding.

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