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POLICY

The Trump administration continues to aggressively roll back energy and environmental policies set by the Obama administration. The efforts aim to increase energy production and advance energy independence. The thinking is that keeping prices low translates into “improving the quality of life for all Americans.”

Among the numerous deregulation targets are:

The Clean Power Plan – enacted in 2015, which limits carbon emissions from power plants with a goal of reducing the ozone rate from 75 to 70 parts per billion. Ozone forms when carbon emissions from cars and factories react with volatile compounds, making the air hard to breathe and harmful to plants and animals. In Earth’s upper atmosphere, the colorless gas acts as a critical shield to space radiation.

The Stream Protection Rule – which regulates the restoration of water flows effected by mining operations. Trump signed H.J.Res.38 which blocked the Stream Protection Rule. The administration’s contention is coal mines have no off-site impacts and that lands are being safely restored. They claim that removing the rule reduces clean up expenses, keeps electricity costs down, and maintains $6 billion in state and federal tax revenue annually.

The Keystone XL pipeline – which would carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. Local supporters say the pipeline could more than double property tax receipts. On October 29, the Keystone pipeline spilled 383,000 gallons of crude oil across a quarter-mile area of northeastern North Dakota.

ANALYSIS

As the U. S. has experienced record heat, flooding, and fires, President Trump has stuck to his commitment to pull this country out of the Paris Climate Accord, which committed the U. S. to cutting greenhouse gases up to 28% by 2025 based on 2005 levels. According to the agreement, no country can officially withdraw until three years from the date on which it entered into the pact. The United States can and will formally submit its notice of withdrawal on Nov. 4.

The Trump administration is deeply connected and sympathetic to the energy industry and their lobbying efforts who tend to manipulate scientific uncertainties and emphasize the extremes in order to argue for their personal interests.

Examples include Robert Murray, head of Murray Energy, the country’s largest underground coal mining company whose policy wish list included withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord. Another Murray alum, Andrew Wheeler, was appointed director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Long time corporate energy lobbyist, Mike McKenna, was recently appointed deputy assistant to the President, and is expected to work on further dismantling energy and environmental rules and “improving the quality of life for all Americans.”

Trump’s senior science advisor, Kelvin Droegemeier, has stated: “Climate change is happening. There’s no question about it. The question is what are we doing about it…A strong economy is critical. We can’t upend the economy and expect to arrest climate change.”

Economics are at work though. The natural gas industry has become larger than coal in terms of employment and investment. As natural gas prices have fallen, coal is being pushed out of the market. Natural gas power plants emit 50 percent less CO2 than comparable coal-based power plants. During the production process though, methane gas is released – a potent greenhouse gas.

Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican, and Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat, are introducing the first-ever bipartisan Senate Climate Solutions Caucus. This group aims to work on improving energy efficiency and investment in R&D, as well as provide a forum through which proposals can be turned into meaningful legislation.

Meanwhile, the comment period for the State Department’s environmental draft of the Keystone Pipeline ends Nov.18. This draft is an update of the 2014 Statement; it analyzes the impacts related to changes since that time and incorporates new studies. Three law suits against the Pipeline, including one filed by the Native American Tribes, are being heard by a federal judge in Great Falls, Montana.

Resistance Resources

  • https://www.wilderness.org/  Their mission and passion has been to protect our nation’s shared wildlands.
  • https://www.postcarbon.org/  Their mission is to lead the transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world by providing individuals and communities.
  • https://www.nrdc.org/keystone-xl-pipeline The National Resources Defense Council’s “stop the pipeline” campaign.
  • Public comment on Keystone Pipeline can be made to: Ross Alliston, Keystone XL Program Manager, Office of Environmental Quality and Transboundary Issues, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520 – or electronically:
  • https://www.regulations.gov  and enter docket number: DOS-2019-0033
  • https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/   Their mission is to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction.

Photo by unsplash-logoMarkus Spiske

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