U.S.: Environment & energy 2019

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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)

U.S. Democratic lawmakers declare climate emergency
(Reuters) – Democratic lawmakers, including six presidential candidates, on Tuesday unveiled a Congressional resolution declaring a climate change emergency to spur “sweeping reforms” to stem a dangerous rise in global temperatures. A day earlier, President Donald Trump made a speech touting his administration’s environmental record. His speech did not mention climate change, and it criticized the Green New Deal platform, co-sponsored by Ocasio-Cortez and embraced by many Democrats, which calls for rapid restructuring of the fossil-fuel dependent U.S. economy.
Sixteen of the 20 leading Democratic contenders have endorsed or co-sponsored the Green New Deal

8 July
Trump defends environmental record that critics call disastrous
(WaPo) President Trump delivered a full-throated defense of his administration’s environmental record Monday, despite relaxing nationwide limits on air and water pollution and reversing course on U.S. climate policy. Trump’s address, covering policies ranging from marine debris to hunting on public lands, comes as environmental issues are gaining traction in the 2020 presidential campaign. Facing Cabinet members including his Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department chiefs, the president said he had urged his deputies to tackle environmental challenges “so we can provide the highest quality of life to all Americans.”
“We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clear water. And that’s what we’re doing,” he said. But Trump’s recounting of his accomplishments prompted howls of incredulity from environmentalists, who noted that he had systematically dismantled dozens of policies over the past two and-a-half years aimed at safeguarding human health and the planet. Last month the EPA eased curbs on carbon emissions from power plants; next month it is slated to finalize a rule freezing tougher mileage standards for cars and pickup trucks. These moves come as federal data suggests that U.S. air quality is worsening and its overall greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise.
Donald Trump’s five most dangerous attacks on the environment
Trump’s administration has pursued cuts in environmental protections that are critical to the health of all Americans
(The Guardian) …since taking office two and a half years ago, the US president has been at the helm of an administration that has pursued numerous cuts in environmental protections and last year saw a rise in greenhouse gases of 3.4% – the biggest rise in emissions since 2010.
He has also regularly publicly aired his doubts over the existence of climate change – previously calling it a “hoax”, suggesting that the climate could “change back again” and falsely claiming it was a phenomenon invented by China.
A report by the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University’s school of law published in March said the Trump administration had “set its sights on watering down or outright repealing a half-dozen health and environmental rules critical to the health and welfare of all Americans as well as the planet”.

7 June
83 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump
All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of extra deaths from poor air quality every year, according to a recent report prepared by New York University Law School’s State Energy and Environmental Impact Center
(NYT) President Trump has made eliminating federal regulations a priority. His administration, with help from Republicans in Congress, has often targeted environmental rules it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses.
A New York Times analysis, based on research from Harvard Law School, Columbia Law School and other sources, counts more than 80 environmental rules and regulations 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. The Trump administration has released an aggressive schedule to try to finalize many of these rollbacks this year.
But the process of rolling back regulations has not always been smooth. In some cases, the administration has failed to provide a strong legal argument in favor of proposed changes or agencies have skipped key steps in the rulemaking process, like notifying the public and asking for comment. In several cases, courts have ordered agencies to enforce their own rules.
Several environmental rules were rolled back and then later reinstated, often following legal challenges. Other rollbacks remain mired in court.

6 June
Michael Bloomberg Promises $500 Million to Help End Coal
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, will donate $500 million to a new campaign to close every coal-fired power plant in the United States and halt the growth of natural gas, his foundation said Thursday.
The new campaign, called Beyond Carbon, is designed to help eliminate coal by focusing on state and local governments.
The campaign will be based on the need to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change, but will also emphasize the economic benefits of switching to clean energy.

27 May
Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science
parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.
(NYT) …after two years spent unraveling the policies of his predecessors, Mr. Trump and his political appointees are launching a new assault.
In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.
… The administration’s prime target has been the National Climate Assessment, produced by an interagency task force roughly every four years since 2000. Government scientists used computer-generated models in their most recent report to project that if fossil fuel emissions continue unchecked, the earth’s atmosphere could warm by as much as eight degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That would lead to drastically higher sea levels, more devastating storms and droughts, crop failures, food losses and severe health consequences.
Work on the next report, which is expected to be released in 2021 or 2022, has already begun. But from now on, officials said, such worst-case scenario projections will not automatically be included in the National Climate Assessment or in some other scientific reports produced by the government.
…  the goal of political appointees in the Trump administration is not just to change the climate assessment’s methodology, which has broad scientific consensus, but also to question its conclusions by creating a new climate review panel. That effort is led by a 79-year-old physicist who had a respected career at Princeton but has become better known in recent years for attacking the science of man-made climate change and for defending the virtues of carbon dioxide — sometimes to an awkward degree. “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler,” the physicist, William Happer, who serves on the National Security Council as the president’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies, said in 2014 in an interview with CNBC.
Mr. Happer’s proposed panel is backed by John R. Bolton, the president’s national security adviser, who brought Mr. Happer into the N.S.C. after an earlier effort to recruit him during the transition. Mr. Happer and Mr. Bolton are both beneficiaries of Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the far-right billionaire and his daughter who have funded efforts to debunk climate science.

7 May
U.S. Pressure Blocks Declaration on Climate Change at Arctic Talks
(NYT) Under pressure from the United States, the Arctic Council issued a short joint statement on Tuesday that excluded any mention of climate change.
It was the first time since its formation in 1996 that the council had been unable to issue a joint declaration spelling out its priorities. As an international organization made up of eight Arctic countries and representatives of indigenous groups in the region, its stated mission is cooperation on Arctic issues, particularly the protection of the region’s fragile environment.
According to diplomats involved in the negotiations, at issue was the United States’ insistence not to mention the latest science on climate change or the Paris Agreement aimed at averting its worst effects. The omission is especially notable because scientists have warned that the Arctic is heating up far faster than the world average because of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

30 March
Judge throws out Trump order and restores Obama-era drilling ban in Arctic
(LATimes) A federal judge in Alaska has declared that President Trump’s order revoking a sweeping ban on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is illegal, putting 128 million acres of federal waters off limits to energy exploration. The decision late Friday by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason is the third legal setback this week to Trump’s energy and environmental policies. The judge, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama in 2012, also on Friday blocked a land swap the Interior Department had arranged that would pave the way for constructing a road through wilderness in a major national wildlife refuge in Alaska.
The decision late Friday by U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason is the third legal setback this week to Trump’s energy and environmental policies. The judge, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Obama in 2012, also on Friday blocked a land swap the Interior Department had arranged that would pave the way for constructing a road through wilderness in a major national wildlife refuge in Alaska.
Earlier in the week, U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock, who was appointed by President Reagan, ruled that Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service illegally approved two gas drilling plans in western Colorado

20 March
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 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.

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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