U.S.: Environment & energy 2019 – August 2020

Written by  //  August 24, 2020  //  Environment & Energy, U.S.  //  Comments Off on U.S.: Environment & energy 2019 – August 2020

How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing
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

95 Environmental Rules Being Rolled Back Under Trump (December 2019)

California’s Disaster Overload: Wildfires, Hazardous Air, and COVID-19
(New York) More than 1.1 million acres of the State of California have been burned by wildfires since a “lightning siege” started hundreds of fires throughout the state a little more than a week ago. To the north and south of the Bay Area, two complexes, or groups of fires, are now the second and third biggest fires in the state’s recorded history — and they and several other large wildfires, which grew at an unprecedented pace and remain largely uncontained, will continue to expand in the coming days.
Every Bay Area county except San Francisco has been struck by the fires, and the smoke they’ve produced has enveloped much of the state and the western half of the country, promoting widespread air-quality warnings.

17 August
Trump Administration Finalizes Plan to Open Arctic Refuge to Drilling
The decision sets up a fierce legal battle over the fate of a vast, remote area that is home to polar bears, caribou and the promise of oil wealth.
The Trump administration on Monday finalized its plan to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States.
Environmentalists, who have battled for decades to keep energy companies out of the refuge, say the Interior Department failed to adequately consider the effects that oil and gas development could have on climate change and wildlife. They and other opponents, including some Alaska Native groups, are expected to file lawsuits to try to block lease sales.
15 August
Trump administration to withdraw controversial nominee for Bureau of Land Management
(CNN) Pendley, who currently serves as the agency’s acting director, has repeatedly denied the existence of climate change and once falsely claimed that there was no credible evidence of a hole in the ozone layer. … Sen. Tom Udall, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the Department of the Interior, called for his removal as acting director after news of the withdrawal of Pendley’s nomination became public.

10 August
E.P.A. to Lift Obama-Era Controls on Methane, a Potent Greenhouse Gas
The reversal is the latest move in the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to weaken environmental rules, but it could be quickly undone after the November election.
The E.P.A.’s new methane rule eliminates federal requirements that oil and gas companies must install technology to detect and fix methane leaks from wells, pipelines and storage sites.
In April, the E.P.A. weakened rules on the release of toxic chemicals from coal-fired power plants, loosened curbs on climate-warming tailpipe pollution and opted not to strengthen a regulation on industrial soot emissions that have been linked to respiratory diseases, including Covid-19.
…this and any other regulatory changes put forth by the Trump administration in the latter half of 2020 could be quickly undone in the first half of 2021, if Democrats take control of the White House and Senate. That’s because of a Senate procedure known as the Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers 60 legislative days to overturn major new regulations  issued by federal agencies.

4 August
Trump Signs Landmark Land Conservation Bill
The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act guarantees funding for federal land use efforts. The president claimed credit for Republicans.
President Trump on Tuesday signed into law the Great American Outdoors Act, a measure with broad bipartisan support that guarantees maximum annual funding for a federal program to acquire and preserve land for public use.
Mr. Trump … heralded the new law as a groundbreaking environmental achievement that he deserved credit for.
The act, which allocates $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provides up to $9.5 billion over five years to begin clearing up a maintenance backlog at national parks … was introduced last year by Representative John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and civil rights leader who passed away last month.
But no Democrats were invited to the signing ceremony, which was attended by six Republican senators and three Republican congressmen, in addition to senior administration officials. Mr. Trump did not mention Mr. Lewis or any of his Democratic colleagues in his remarks.

24 July
The Great American Outdoors Act passes with bipartisan support
The sweeping conservation legislation, recently passed by Congress, now awaits President Trump’s signature.
(The Hill) This Wednesday marked the passing of the Great American Outdoors Act, which garnered a rare, sweeping bipartisan support when it made its way through Congress. … Approval of the bill represents a rare victory for environmentalists during the president’s time in office, who is known for attempting to roll back more than 100 environmental rules and protections such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The legislation is being hailed as one of the most important environmental bills to pass in decades — securing definitive funding for both the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Restore Our Parks Act. The LWCF is the likely most important source of federal funding to create and develop things like local parks, trails, boat launches, sports fields, other recreation areas and park infrastructure. Under the act, LWCF will receive $900 million annually by way of offshore oil and gas revenues, meaning the money will not be coming out of the taxpayer’s pocket.
Since the program was signed into law back in 1965, more than 42 thousand state and local park projects in every state have been funded through LWCF.
The Great American Outdoors Act will also help fund the repair of deteriorating infrastructure in public lands, hopefully allowing more Americans to access and enjoy them.

14 July
Biden Outlines $2 Trillion Climate Plan
(NPR) Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday outlined an updated climate plan, seeking to invest $2 trillion to boost clean energy and rebuild infrastructure.
The proposal is the second plank of his new economic agenda called “Build Back Better,” which he first detailed last week in Pennsylvania.
Biden’s climate initiative calls to chart the United States on “an irreversible path” to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
To do that, the plan would aim to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. It would also upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over four years to increase energy efficiency. And the proposal, Biden’s campaign said, would seek to shift major cities toward public transportation and “create millions of good, union jobs rebuilding America’s crumbling infrastructure.”
The former vice president’s plan comes with a $2 trillion price tag, with plans to deploy those resources at an accelerated pace during his first term.
The proposal also includes environmental justice components, such as creating an Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the Department of Justice.

4 June
Trump signs order removing environmental review of major projects
President Trump signed an executive order Thursday evening that would waive requirements under a suite of environmental laws, a move the administration says will boost the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
(The Hill)The new order expedites the permitting of construction projects and energy projects overseen by several federal agencies, using emergency authorities to skirt environmental regulations with little public notice.
The order would slash the requirements in a number of landmark environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires rigorous environmental review before building new infrastructure like highways or pipelines.
Trump, Citing Pandemic, Plans Two Moves to Weaken Key Environmental Protections
Twin environmental actions set for Thursday underscored the president’s push to roll back regulations as the coronavirus crisis continues.
(NYT) President Trump plans to sign an executive order that calls on agencies to waive required environmental reviews of infrastructure projects to be built during the pandemic-driven economic crisis. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new rule that changes the way the agency uses cost-benefit analyses to enact Clean Air Act regulations, effectively limiting the strength of future air pollution controls.
Together, the actions signal that Mr. Trump intends to speed up his efforts to dismantle environmental regulations as the nation battles the coronavirus and a wave of unrest protesting the deaths of black Americans in Georgia, Minnesota and Kentucky. They will also help define the stakes in the 2020 presidential election, since neither effort would likely survive a Democratic victory.
By changing the way the government weighs the value of the public health benefits, Andrew Wheeler, the E.P.A. administrator, would allow the agency to justify weakening clean air and climate change regulations with economic arguments.

26 May
Court strikes down 440 oil and gas leases across the West
(The Hill) A federal court in Montana invalidated 440 oil and gas leases sold across the West, ruling Friday the Trump administration did not properly follow a plan to protect sage grouse habitat.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) under the Trump administration “undercut” the 2015 plan the agency created under the previous administration that set aside land for the threatened bird.
The decision strikes down a 2018 memo that sought to change that plan, meaning the government will have to return millions of dollars for oil and gas contracts spread over some 336,000 acres.

1 May
Rural Landowners, Farmers, and Conservation Groups Celebrate Court Victory Halting Risky Oil and Gas Giveaway of 150,000 Acres of Montana Public Lands
Victory: Federal judge rules BLM failed to consider risks to Montana’s environment and water supply before issuing 287 oil and gas leases
(Earth Justice) Today, Montana landowners, farmers, and conservation groups won an important victory to protect local groundwater and the climate when a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to consider risks to Montana’s environment and water supply before issuing 287 oil and gas leases covering 145,063 acres in December 2017 and March 2018 lease sales. The court’s decision will protect Montanans, their livelihoods, clean water, public lands, and our climate by reversing the Bureau of Land Management’s recent approval of oil and gas leases across staggering swaths of Montana’s public lands.
BLM’s lease sale would have paved the way for the destructive fracking boom to spread onto 145,063 acres of Montana public lands. Rural landowners and conservation groups, including WildEarth Guardians and Montana Environmental Information Center, banded together to fight BLM’s lease sale because of the agency’s failure to take a hard look at the impacts of fracking on Montana’s water quality, water quantity and our climate.

31 March
The EPA Is Another Coronavirus Casualty
(New York) The announcement was, nominally, a response to the economic crisis produced by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was broadly in line with the agency’s deregulatory, indeed self-defanging, program under Trump: “a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules,” as the Times put it, “allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.” The agency won’t issue fines or monitor pollution itself, but simply invite all those companies whose supervision and regulation is the agency’s mission to do what they can and report what they like.
As policy, this is bad enough, which is to say practically criminal, even putting aside the research suggesting that the air pollution is a contributor to COVID lethality. But it is perhaps more distressing as a rebuttal to a wave of measured, uncomfortable “silver lining” optimism emerging recently among climate advocates and activists about the possibility that the pandemic crisis might open up new opportunities for rapid decarbonization — or at least that it could give us some hope that change of the scale required by the climate crisis is not beyond the capacity of contemporary society to enact.

That was then.
20 September 2019
Meet the Lawyers Beating Back Trump’s Reckless Environmental Policies — and Winning
On the front lines of the David-and-Goliath battle to thwart Trump’s planet-wrecking agenda
(RollingStone) Trump and company have had some notable successes, but two and a half years in, they have failed a lot more than they have succeeded. Waiting for them at every turn has been a network of lawyers who work for the nation’s leading environmental groups. These lawyers have sued the administration at a breathtaking clip. And in the cases that have been decided, they’ve won almost every time. It’s a David-and-Goliath story that doesn’t dominate the headlines or send the Twittersphere into frenzy. But measured in lives saved and planet-wrecking policies thwarted, it’s one of the most consequential stories of the Trump era.
Consider the raw numbers: Since Trump took office, the Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the administration — including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commerce and Interior and Energy departments, and yes the president himself —more than 90 times. That’s one lawsuit every 10.8 days. Of the 53 cases that have been resolved, NRDC has won 49 of them. That’s a 92 percent win rate.
Earthjustice, for its part, sued the administration 120 times in the first two years of the Trump presidency. In the 17 cases where there’s been a major decision, Earthjustice has won 16 times and the administration just once.

25 February
White House effort to roll back bedrock environmental law spurs strong opposition
(The Hill) The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in January proposed a massive rewriting of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) eliminating the requirement that the government consider climate change when evaluating projects and in some cases even allowing companies to assess the impacts of their own projects.
At a hearing Tuesday, the second of just two that accepted public comment, speakers accused the Trump administration of gutting the law to fast-track polluting projects for industry at the expense of human health.
“When the NEPA process is cut short or weakened, ill-conceived projects advance that can have devastating public health and environmental consequences for all Americans,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) at the hearings. The representative highlighted a consequence of the rollback that will be worse for low income communities, areas where polluting industries often house their projects.

13 February
As Economic Concerns Recede, Environmental Protection Rises on the Public’s Policy Agenda
Partisan gap on dealing with climate change gets even wider
(Pew Research Center) Reflecting a strong U.S. economy, Americans’ policy priorities have changed in recent years. The public now places less priority on economic and job concerns than it did just a few years ago. At the same time, environmental protection and global climate change are rising on the public’s agenda for the president and Congress.

6 February
Trump Opens National Monument Land to Energy Exploration
(NYT) The Trump administration on Thursday finalized plans to allow mining and energy drilling on nearly a million acres of land in southern Utah that had once been protected as part of a major national monument.
The Interior Department’s release of a formal land-use blueprint for the approximately 861,974 acres of land will allow oil, gas and coal companies to complete the legal process for leasing mines and wells on land that had once been part of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, established by President Bill Clinton.

25 January
Trump’s dismantling of environmental regulations unwinds 50 years of protections
(CNN) President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to “ensure” that the United States has the “cleanest air” and the “cleanest water,” but his administration’s efforts to slash environmental regulations have been extensive.
In Trump’s first two years in office, the Environmental Protection Agency’s rate of deregulation was so high that an internal watchdog has said the agency “exceeded” its self-established goals. And in the third year of his presidency, agencies, not just the EPA, have continued the environmental regulation rollbacks. His administration has even moved to rollback some protections established under the 50-year-old Clean Air Act.

23 January
Trump erodes water protections: 6 things to know
The Trump administration on Thursday signed its long-promised regulation to remove millions of miles of streams and roughly half the country’s wetlands from federal protection, the largest rollback of the Clean Water Act since the modern law was passed in 1972.
The move delivers a major win for the agriculture, homebuilding, mining, and oil and gas industries, which have for decades sought to shrink the scope of the water law that requires them to obtain permits to discharge pollution into waterways or fill in wetlands, and imposes fines for oil spills into protected waterways.
Those industries had fiercely fought an Obama-era regulation that cemented broad protections for headwater streams, which are at the beginning of the river network, as well as certain wetlands. President Donald Trump, whose golf courses and other businesses had fought with regulators over Clean Water Act permits, has lambasted that rule as “disastrous” and his administration repealed it last year.
1) It goes beyond overturning Obama to erase protections that have been in place for decades
2) It drew complaints from EPA’s own advisers
3) Half the country’s wetlands could lose protection
4) Dry, Western states will see the biggest impact
5) Après WOTUS, the deluge of lawsuits
6) Expect confusion on the ground
Legal experts say the Trump rule is likely to be placed on hold by federal courts in at least some states, if not nationwide, as the litigation works its way through the courts. In the meantime. developers and other industries will have to decide how much of a risk they’re willing to take.
Trump administration rolling back protections on streams and wetlands
(The Hill) Trump’s Waters of the United States regulation was released today, limiting federal protections and giving states more control over development.

21 January
(Reuters report from Davos) Trump later told reporters: “I’m a very big believer in the environment. I want the cleanest water and the cleanest air”.

6 January
Trump to dismiss climate impacts in overhaul of environmental reviews: sources
(Reuters) – Major new U.S. projects like highways and pipelines will no longer require federal reviews of their environmental climate impact under new rules that the Trump administration will propose on Wednesday, sources familiar with the plan said. The proposed overhaul would update how federal agencies implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a law aimed at ensuring the government protects the environment when reviewing or making decisions about projects that include building roads and bridges, cutting forests, expanding broadband to approving interstate pipelines like the Keystone XL.
The regulatory change would be the first in 40 years by the White House Council on Environmental Quality which coordinates U.S. environmental efforts by federal agencies and other White House offices.


4 December
With Nation Transfixed by Impeachment, Trump Admin Quietly Serves Offshore Drilling Companies a ‘Sweetheart Giveaway’
(EcoWatch) The new extraction-encouraging proposal was announced last month in a report by the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), two agencies within the Interior Department and occurred, according to transparency group Western Values Project, “under the cloud of impeachment.”
[Interior Secretary David] Bernhardt’s announcement followed longstanding fears that the former lobbyist would use his position in the federal government to serve the interests of the fossil fuel lobby above those of the American people and public lands. The recommendations laid out in the report pertain to royalties for offshore leasing and drilling.
“Federal officials,” as Louisiana’s Houma Today reported, “are offering oil and gas companies a discount on the fees they pay the government to drill in the Gulf of Mexico’s shallow waters.” If enacted, the policy to “ensure maximum resource recovery” would benefit the oil and gas industry National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), on whose behalf Bernhardt previously lobbied, said Western Values Project.

2 December
A Grave Climate Warning, Buried on Black Friday
In a massive new report, federal scientists contradict President Trump and assert that climate change is an intensifying danger to the United States. Too bad it came out on a holiday.
(The Atlantic) The report warns, repeatedly and directly, that climate change could soon imperil the American way of life, transforming every region of the country, imposing frustrating costs on the economy, and harming the health of virtually every citizen.
Most significantly, the National Climate Assessment—which is endorsed by NASA, NOAA, the Department of Defense, and 10 other federal scientific agencies—contradicts nearly every position taken on the issue by President Donald Trump. Where the president has insisted that fighting global warming will harm the economy, the report responds: Climate change, if left unchecked, could eventually cost the economy hundreds of billions of dollars per year, and kill thousands of Americans to boot. Where the president has said that the climate will “probably” “change back,” the report replies: Many consequences of climate change will last for millennia, and some (such as the extinction of plant and animal species) will be permanent.
The report is a huge achievement for American science. It represents cumulative decades of work from more than 300 authors. Since 2015, scientists from across the U.S. government, state universities, and businesses have read thousands of studies, summarizing and collating them into this document. By law, a National Climate Assessment like this must be published every four years.

24 October
Paris Agreement: Trump confirms US will leave climate accord
(BBC) The US will definitely withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, President Trump has confirmed.
He made the announcement at an energy conference in Pittsburgh on a stage flanked by men in hard hats.
He described the accord as a bad deal and said his pro fossil fuel policies had made the US an energy superpower.
The earliest he can formally start the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris accord is 4 November.
The pull-out will take effect a year later – the day after the 2020 US presidential election – assuming that Mr Trump is re-elected.
In the meantime, the president’s staff have conducted what critics call a seek-and-destroy mission through US environmental legislation.
Mr Trump promised that he’d turn the US into an energy superpower, and he’s attempting to sweep away a raft of pollution legislation to reduce the cost of producing gas, oil and coal.

19 September
Senate Democrats release list of climate studies buried by Trump administration
(Politico) Senate Democrats released on Thursday a report outlining dozens of times the Trump administration has censored or minimized climate science across the federal government at agencies including the EPA and the Department of Homeland Security.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, also publicly released a list of more than 1,400 climate studies that Department of Agriculture researchers have published during the current administration after POLITICO reported that USDA buried its own research and failed to release its plan to study the issue. The matter is increasingly urgent for farmers and ranchers dealing with erratic and extreme weather.
The trove of studies by USDA researchers carry warnings about climate change that the government is largely not communicating to farmers and ranchers or the public. The list published includes research showing that climate change is likely to drive down yields for some crops, harm milk production, and lead to a drop in nutrient density for key crops like rice and wheat.
Trump administration officially revokes California tailpipe emissions waiver
(The Hill) The Trump administration on Thursday officially revoked California’s tailpipe waiver under the Clean Air Act, a decision likely to face quick legal challenges.
The Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled the “One National Program Rule,” giving the federal government sole authority to set emission standards for cars.
The rule is part of the administration’s Safer, Affordable, Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule, a draft of which was submitted to the White House in August.
“The second part of the rule will include a final decision over what fuel efficiency levels to set emissions at starting in 2025.
Revoking California’s waiver will also affect 13 other states that adopt California’s tougher emissions standards.
NOTE: This comes from the Department of Transportation, headed by Secretary Elaine Chao, wife of Mitch McConnell

12 September
Trump administration rolls back landmark water protections
That 2015 regulation, also known as the Clean Water Rule, had cemented federal protections for headwater streams, Western rivers and nearby wetlands
(Politico) The Trump administration on Thursday announced the repeal of one of the Obama era’s most sweeping environmental rules — a set of pollution protections for small streams and wetlands that had riled up opposition from coal miners, home developers, farmers and oil and gas drillers.
The action creates instant doubts about the legal status of myriad seasonal or isolated wetlands and thousands of miles of waterways, including vast swaths of the arid West. And it clears the way for the Environmental Protection Agency to finish a follow-up regulation in the coming months that could leave most of the nation’s wetlands without any federal safeguards.

31 August
Trump to Miners, Loggers and Drillers: This Land Is Your Land
From Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, the Trump administration wants to despoil, not preserve, America’s resources.
(NYT Editorial Board) The tug-of-war over America’s public lands between those who would protect them for future generations and those who would exploit them for immediate commercial gain has a long history. The two Roosevelts, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were mostly sympathetic to the cause of conservation, Ronald Reagan and the second George Bush decidedly less so. But for sheer hostility to environmental values, Donald Trump has no equal.
Mr. Trump arrived in the White House with little interest in conservation, his idea of nature framed largely by his golf courses. He was, to boot, almost pathologically dedicated to obliterating anything President Obama had done to reduce global warming gases, preserve open space and help endangered species.
This translated into a simple operating strategy: Get rid of things the fossil fuel industry didn’t like and rubber-stamp the stuff it wanted.

28 August
A step too far for the Appalachian Trail
The Trump administration wants to allow a pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail on federal lands. Congress should say no.
By Jonathan Jarvis, director of the National Park Service 2009-2017
(Politico) Dominion Energy wants to run a massive pipeline across America’s treasured Appalachian National Scenic Trail and some of the least developed wildlands remaining in the East. This isn’t just a bad idea, it’s an unprecedented one. Dominion, the Virginia-based power giant that serves customers in 18 states, wants to do something that has never been done in the half century since the iconic hiking path was enshrined in law: force a pipeline across the Appalachian Trail on federal land managed by the Forest Service. Dominion’s irresponsible route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline … would carve its way across the Appalachian Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway and two national forests.
To get its way, the company must persuade lawmakers to overturn a federal court decision and change a law that has protected important parts of the trail for almost 50 years.
Trump Pushes to Open the World’s Largest Remaining Temperate Rainforest to Logging and Mining
(Slate) “Politicians have tussled for years over the fate of the Tongass, a massive stretch of southeastern Alaska replete with old-growth spruce, hemlock and cedar, rivers running with salmon, and dramatic fjords,” according to the Post. “President Bill Clinton put more than half of it off limits to logging just days before leaving office in 2001, when he barred the construction of roads in 58.5 million acres of undeveloped national forest across the country. President George W. Bush sought to reverse that policy, holding a handful of timber sales in the Tongass before a federal judge reinstated the Clinton rule.”
15 August
Trump administration reverses decision to use ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wild animals
The poison-filled traps are used by the federal government to kill coyotes, foxes and other animals for farmers and ranchers
(The Guardian) After sustained public outcry, the Trump administration has voided its decision to reauthorize controversial cyanide traps for killing wildlife.
The traps, which are known as M-44s and dubbed “cyanide bombs” by critics, are spring-loaded devices that emit a spray of sodium cyanide to kill their targets. The traps are most frequently used by Wildlife Services, a little-known federal agency inside the United States Department of Agriculture, to kill coyotes, foxes and other animals at the behest of private agriculture operators.
Last year, Wildlife Services killed more than 1.5 million native wild animals across the country, including bears, wolves, birds and more. Roughly 6,500 of these deaths were caused by M-44 traps. In an announcement last week, the EPA said that it had authorized government officials to continue using M-44s on an interim basis. The decision sparked fury among wildlife advocates and others, who decried the decision as a reckless threat to humans and the environment. M-44s, which are deployed on public and private land across the US, have led in the past to the inadvertent deaths of endangered species and domestic pets. They have even harmed humans, including a teenage boy who was poisoned by an M-44 in Pocatello, Idaho, in 2017.

13 August
29 states and cities sue Trump administration over weakening of climate rules
(Axios) The litigation, led by New York Attorney General Letitia James, sets the stage for a new federal court battle over the scope of regulators’ authority and duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.
It’s a dispute that could affect how aggressively a future president can impose emissions-cutting rules on power plants, and perhaps other facilities like oil refineries.

12 August
U.S. Significantly Weakens Endangered Species Act
(NYT) The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would change the way the Endangered Species Act is applied, significantly weakening the nation’s bedrock conservation law and making it harder to protect wildlife from the multiple threats posed by climate change.
The new rules would make it easier to remove a species from the endangered list and weaken protections for threatened species, the classification one step below endangered. And, for the first time, regulators would be allowed to conduct economic assessments — for instance, estimating lost revenue from a prohibition on logging in a critical habitat — when deciding whether a species warrants protection.
…  Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees the Interior Department’s budget, said Democrats were considering invoking the Congressional Review Act, a 1996 law that gives Congress broad authority to invalidate rules established by federal agencies, to block the changes.
Trump Just Rewrote The Endangered Species Act: Here’s What’s Changing
(Forbes) The Trump administration has been working for the past few years to revise the landmark legislation that has protected threatened plants and wildlife since it was signed into law by Richard Nixon.
Now the final draft of a significantly weakened Endangered Species Act has been released with changes set to go in effect as soon as mid-September.
The changes center around a few key sections and even individual word choices that may seem minor at first, but can actually have far-reaching implications. Here’s a simple list of what, exactly, the changes to the federal government’s regulations governing endangered species will actually do.
Ease the regulatory burden of the Endangered Species Act: This has been the stated goal of the Trump administration and the revisions will most certainly achieve this. The changes will also clear the way for more resource extraction and land development.
Massachusetts [and California] To Sue Trump Administration Over Rollback Of Endangered Species Act
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday that they planned to sue. It came hours after the administration announced broad changes to the way the government would enforce endangered species protections.

9 July
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”.

25 June
Trump EPA OKs ‘Emergency’ Use of Bee-Killing Pesticide on 13.9 Million Acres
(EcoWatch) More than 40 percent of insects could go extinct globally in the next few decades. So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week OK the ’emergency’ use of the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor on 13.9 million acres?
EcoWatch teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity via EcoWatch Live on Facebook to find out why. Environmental Health Director and Senior Attorney Lori Ann Burd explained how there is a loophole in the The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act under section 18, “that allows for entities and states to request emergency exemptions to spraying pesticides where they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to spray.”

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.

30 January
How the geography of climate damage could make the politics less polarizing
By Mark Muro, David G. Victor, and Jacob Whiton
(Brookings) The standard story is that the high-tech “blue” states are pushing a green wave of massive investment to cut emissions of gases that cause climate change. Meanwhile, the GOP-leaning “red” states are assumed to be part of what Ron Brownstein calls a “brown blockade” of fossil-fuel producers that are drilling and burning and don’t want to stop. The upshot: Emissions divides appear to guarantee a future of climate policy gridlock, even as scientific consensus signals an emergency and new data shows the rate of planetary warming is accelerating.
And yet, what if we look at the geography of climate change from a different angle? Specifically, what if we flip the frame from emissions to impacts? From that perspective, the current gridlock might not be as permanent as it now seems, as many of the jurisdictions that have selected political leaders opposed to climate policy are the most exposed to the harms of climate change.
To get this kind of granular look at the politics of climate impacts we turned to the county-based assessments emerging from the Climate Impact Lab. These quantifications offer the most detailed calculations available on the economic costs of future climate change through the end of the century in the United States. Behind the data lies a collaboration of more than 20 climate scientists, economists, computation experts, researchers, analysts, and students from several institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, Rhodium Group, and Rutgers University.
Map the Lab’s county-by-county statistics and it becomes possible to paint a unique overview of climate-change vulnerabilities, which adds up the distinct geographies of multiple types of climate-change impact (such as agricultural yields, mortality, coastal damage, and risk to labor) to produce a single national picture of how the future could look.

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