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ENVIRONMENT POLICIES, ANALYSIS, AND RESOURCES

The Environment Domain tracks and reports on policies that deal with the use of natural resources, climate change, energy emissions, pollution, and the protection of endangered species. This domain tracks policies emanating from the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department, and the Interior Department. Our Principal Analyst is Megan Toney who can be reached at megan@usresistnews.org.

Latest Environment Posts

 

What is Happening to the Environmental Protection Agency?

Brief #44---Environment Policy Summary The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is changing shape. In the last week, the EPA has decided to change its rules on how it uses scientific studies, effectively deregulating public exposure to harmful toxins. Meanwhile, the...

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Bad News

Policy Summary The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met this past week in order to discuss the global effects of climate change. According to the new reports, gathered from over 6,000 scientific papers with almost 100 authors from 40 different...

read more

Methane Cutbacks and What it Means

Rollbacks appear to be the defining characteristic of the Trump administration, particularly with relation to environmental oversight. Last week, the Department of the Interior in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management decided to ease restrictions on leaking, venting and flaring methane from fossil fuel drilling on public lands, ostensibly saving the fossil fuel industry approximately $1.01 billion over the next 10 years. By contrast, the Obama era regulations, which have since been nixed, would have reduced methane emissions by 35%.

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Can’t Take the Heat?

Summer in the northern hemisphere was brutal this year, and the indian summer continues to be so. Deadly heat waves struck Quebec, Sacramento and Tokyo between June to August of this year, all of which combined killed nearly 80 people and hospitalized thousands.

read more

California Wildfires Contend With Environmental Politics

Northern California is on fire. Throughout the summer, over 500,000 acres of Northern California has been up in flames, and has so far amounted in at least eight fatalities. One of the three massive fires has since been contained, but two are still burning, and the smoke generated is looming even as far as Oregon and Ohio. Many homes, schools and other structures are also reported to have been destroyed and it is unclear when the fires will die down.

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SCOTUS Nominee Could Be A Scorcher for the Environment

On June 27th Justice Anthony Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court announced his retirement, and on July 9th President Donald Trump announced his candidate for replacement. Trump’s pick, former Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh, has an unkind track record towards environmental regulations.

read more

Pruitt Resigns, Becoming Trump’s Fifth Cabinet Member to Call It Quits

Amid months of investigation for as many as 19 scandals, Scott Pruitt resigned his post as the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, July 5th. Many rejoiced that this enabler of deregulation had finally given up his position, but the administration has a very different story. Trump announced Pruitt’s resignation in a tweet where he thanked Pruitt for his service and congratulated him on an “outstanding job

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What is Happening to the Environmental Protection Agency?

What is Happening to the Environmental Protection Agency?

Brief #44—Environment

Policy Summary
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is changing shape. In the last week, the EPA has decided to change its rules on how it uses scientific studies, effectively deregulating public exposure to harmful toxins. Meanwhile, the Agency has announced that it will liquidate a key scientific review panel of 20 experts, in order to make room for a Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). The panel of experts previously advised on particulate matter in the atmosphere, and out of the five new nominees to the CASAC, only one is a scientist. And the rest of the nominees are reported to have fairly anti-science perspectives. More still, the EPA’s director of the Office of Children’s Health Protection was suspended last month for reasons that have yet to be disclosed to her. The director views her suspension as an attack on children’s health, saying, “my sense is that the government has absolutely no intention of taking any action toward seriously changing lead in children’s environments…It basically means that our kids will continue to be poisoned. It basically means that kids are disposable, they don’t matter.”

Analysis
In the wake of Hurricane Michael, one of the most devastating hurricanes to have pummeled the Florida coastline thus far, President Trump went on 60 Minutes to discuss climate change. In the interview the president said that he no longer thinks of climate change as a “hoax” but is unsure if it is manmade and alleged that scientists “have a very big political agenda.” The magnitude of such allegations is large, given the disarray and anti-science bureaucratic changes taking place within the EPA. And the GOP is now positioning itself as aggressively anti-environment, recently coming down on an EPA provision that protects water, arguing that it makes it too easy to “stop fossil fuel production in some states.” The warning signs are now blaring louder for many Americans, as the GOP dismissed the recent IPCC report regarding the fate of the planet, with Trunp even going so far as to say that the climate is currently “fabulous.” It is unclear how much restructuring the EPA will face under the supervision of former coal-lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, but given the GOP’s environmental record, the fate of the EPA looks grim.

Engagement Resources

  • Save the US EPA: National campaign that was started by the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238 in order to stop the dissolution of the EPA.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

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Bad News

Bad News

Policy Summary
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) met this past week in order to discuss the global effects of climate change. According to the new reports, gathered from over 6,000 scientific papers with almost 100 authors from 40 different countries, new evidence suggests that the impacts of climate change at a 2 degree Celcius temperature change will be far worse than previously expected. As of now,  climate change has warmed the planet at about 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels, and according to the IPCC, the climate cannot increase any more than 1.5 degree Celsius if we want to avoid catastrophe. The IPCC has made it specifically clear that the real challenge put forward by the report is to hold politicians, political systems and corporations accountable for their efforts to address climate change.

Analysis
Experts say that as of now, without drastic changes in corporate and political management, the climate will warm to 2 degrees Celcius, which would be far worse than what was previously predicted.  With a 2 degree increase, scientists predicted that 99% of the world’s corals could wane, the Arctic could have ice-free summers at least once per decade (as opposed to once per century). Should it be possible to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the numbers of those at risk would still remain at several hundred million by 2050, but is a far better scenario than how many would be affected at a 2 degree rate of change. As a result, the IPCC, which is overseen by the UN, called for a $2.4 trillion fossil fuel shift, and requested putting high prices on carbon via high taxes or cap-and-trade programs. At the same time, US Economist William Nordhaus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for his research on the link between the economy and climate change, and his estimates of the costs and benefits of cutting emissions. Nordhaus has been outspoken about how the Trump administration has impaired the process to fight climate change, saying that, “It’s hard to be optimistic. And we’re actually going backward in the United States with the disastrous policies of the Trump administration.” This comes as deadly hurricanes like the ones that have just hit North Carolina and Florida have gotten extensive media attention, and the subject of climate change been overwhelmingly absent from its coverage.

Engagement Resources

  • Climate Defense Project: Helps assign lawyers and legal aid to communities and campaigns fighting against climate change.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

Methane Cutbacks and What it Means

Brief #41—Environment

Policy Summary
Rollbacks appear to be the defining characteristic of the Trump administration, particularly with relation to environmental oversight. Last week, the Department of the Interior in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management decided to ease restrictions on leaking, venting and flaring methane from fossil fuel drilling on public lands, ostensibly saving the fossil fuel industry approximately $1.01 billion over the next 10 years. By contrast, the Obama era regulations, which have since been nixed, would have reduced methane emissions by 35%. The new policy put forth by the Department of the Interior revokes mandates for companies to reduce gas pollution.  Energy companies have alleged that the Obama-era regulations were, “too intrusive.” “We’re for clean air and water, but at the same time, we’re for reasonable regulations,” the Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told reporters shortly after the decision was passed. The decision also comes at the heels of another methane-related restriction put forward by the EPA, that would cut leak inspections to once per year for most wells, and twice per year for less potent ones.

Analysis
Methane contributes more to climate change than even Carbon Dioxide by even 100-fold. Immediately after the decision was made public, California and New Mexico both sued the Trump administration, claiming that they did not properly justify their reasons for the repeal. Such bureaucratic advocacy is much needed, as climate scientists are terrified by the implications of the new regulation, explaining that, “reducing methane emissions is an exceptionally cost effective way to slow climate change.”  In a surprise move, a coalition of big oil companies, such as ExxonMobil and Chevron have responded to Trump’s move to roll back emissions by pledging efforts to reduce methane emissions 20% by 2025. However, many fear that this may be far too little too late. Within the last few days, methane lakes in Alaska have been bubbling to the surface with permafrost, and researchers worry that this demonstrates geologic thawing of previously-unidentified fossil fuels.

Engagement Resources

  • CREDO Action: Activist organization that creates advocacy opportunities for progressive issues.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

Can’t Take the Heat?

Can’t Take the Heat?

Brief #40—Environment


Policy Summary
Summer in the northern hemisphere was brutal this year, and the indian summer continues to be so. Deadly heat waves struck Quebec, Sacramento and Tokyo between June to August of this year, all of which combined killed nearly 80 people and hospitalized thousands. More still, heat waves of unprecedented proportion were seen nearly globally. Climate experts say it is indisputable that the uptick in summer temperatures correlate with climate change, as temperatures this high haven’t been seen globally since the early 20th century, and before that the early 18th. And the fires that raged in Northern California this summer, which destroyed over half a million acres of land, is just another consequence of amped-up heat, too. The effects also devastate many disenfranchised communities in the United States, specifically, as elderly people–homeless and housed–struggle to combat elevated temperatures. Yet, the heat increase is just beginning, research suggests. A study released in Nature Communications anticipates that the planet will be at its “peak warm” over the next four years (at least), based on new evidence collected.

Analysis
It seems that stopping the escalating rise in heat is a nearly impossible task at this point, so the real analysis can be found in how societies will mitigate the change. Already, the effects are wide-sweeping. Schools in the Northeastern United States have started having “heat days,” an alternative to “snow days” in a climate-changed world. Many school districts throughout the Northeast are sad to have “inadequate cooling” or no air conditioning whatsoever, prompting classroom temperatures to be as high as 100 degrees. The unmanageable heat has made for impossible working conditions for both teachers and students, which has led to school closures. This, too, gives rise to the greater issue that millions of people worldwide still need air conditioning, and other cooling products, but that the use of these very tools can (and probably will) create huge problems for the planet. Because these products rely on electricity to be generated, and that energy often comes from fossil fuel, there is significant concern that the short term use of commodities like, air conditioning, will only perpetuate climate-addled issues further.

Still, civilians are imagining, and working hard to envision a less burdened future. Some are envisioning a “heat-proof city” which would be filled with vertical gardens, reflective roofs, water (misters) and architecture that utilizes dynamic shades. This sort of visionary thinking is also what has generated so much social justice activism. Last week, San Francisco hosted a Global Climate Action Summit, to raise awareness and generate change with regard to how climate change is affecting communities worldwide. And within that same week, tens of thousands of people in over 90 countries protested over the weekend, demanding an equitable transition to 100% clean energy. All movements were heavily focused in advocating for racial and economic justice. Nonetheless, Maeve Boeman of 350.org elucidated that, “We are up against huge obstacles and Donald Trump is a massive one. This is about being clear what we are asking for when the opportunity presents itself.”

Engagement Resources

  • Sustainable Energy for All: A nonprofit launched by a former United Nations secretary general in 2011, which aims to provide information about global access to energy.
  • 350.org: A global grassroots organization that is trying to hold government leaders accountable for climate change.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

Photo by Andrew Stutesman

California Wildfires Contend With Environmental Politics

California Wildfires Contend With Environmental Politics

Brief #39—Environment

Policy Summary
Northern California is on fire. Throughout the summer, over 500,000 acres of Northern California has been up in flames, and has so far amounted in at least eight fatalities. One of the three massive fires has since been contained, but two are still burning, and the smoke generated is looming even as far as Oregon and Ohio. Many homes, schools and other structures are also reported to have been destroyed and it is unclear when the fires will die down. Though, it is certain that wildfires are becoming a pattern in California; the state which still has not fully recovered from the 2017 wildfires that ripped apart Santa Rosa and wine country. And while the current fires may be contained soon, it is also uncertain whether or not this can be of any consolation to California residents and Americans at large, as more wildfires are predicted to hit the state in the coming years.

Analysis
Democratic governor Jerry Brown has begrudgingly called the growing intensity and frequency of California wildfires the state’s “new normal,” while president Trump has refused to acknowledge climate change as a factor in the wildfires, instead naming “bad environmental laws” the culprit. The President alleged that these laws “diverted” water to the Pacific ocean rather than to firefighters giving assistance. Firefighters have not reported any lack of water on the ground, rather “fire tornadoes.”

The scientific evidence put forth by various fire analysts and fire scientists argue that the warmer it gets, the more fires there are to be seen. Rising temperatures and prolonged heat waves are also a factor, scientists say. A signal of a shifting climate, they help set up the conditions that lead to more devastating fire seasons.

While California is currently experiencing some of the most devastating fires, with the one in Mendocino considered the fourth-worst in the state’s history, many other wildfires will strike other states in the United States and beyond should climate change worsen. And research suggests that as Republican community members begin to see more consequences in their own lives at the behest of climate change, their views on the issue will, too, follow. Whereas, Republican politicians do still appear beholden to fossil fuels, with the Trump administration just enforcing a clean energy rollback.

Hopefully right wing America will change their stance on climate change and what incites such wildfires to occur, because by NASA’s estimation, warmer temperatures are on the horizon, and it will scorch everyone.

Engagement Resources

  • United Way of the Bay Area – Helps fire victims by creating funds for long-term needs, such as rebuilding homes.
  • Direct Relief – Non-profit organization that dispatches medical aid of all kinds to disaster-stricken areas.

This Brief was developed by USRESIST NEWS Analyst Zoe Stricker. Contact: zoe@usresistnews.org

Trump Rolls Back Endangered Species Act

Trump Rolls Back Endangered Species Act

Brief #38—Environment

Policy Summary
The Trump administration has rolled back the Endangered Species Act, a policy that has been in place for the last 45 years having been put in place by Richard Nixon. In the past, the Act has protected a laundry list of endangered species, such as the Pacific walrus, Mexican gray wolf, finback whale, and many others from ranching, oil drilling and logging in their natural habitats so that any at-risk species would not be further threatened. Now, the White House has put forward over a dozen petitions, some of which that have been voted on in congress, which would, in essence, undermine or delegitimize pre-existing threats to threatened species. The policy decision come as a great attack on both environmental conservation efforts and animals.

Analysis
This policy decision only further re-affirms the current Administration’s commitment to deregulation in the name of fossil fuels. Department of the Interior Chief of Staff, David Bernhardt, announced to the public that he expects both, “crazy” and grateful responses for the newest changes. The thanks he anticipates is undoubtedly from the oil and gas lobby, for whom he previously worked. And already the decisions are causing calamity, as the Department of the Interior has already requested an expedited review to renew their lease of part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The reason? Oil and gas drilling, of course, as the government hopes to acquire the land for lease now that the regulations are being scaled back without intervention.

Engagement Resources:

  • World Wildlife Fund — a conservation organization that protects endangered species all over the world.
  • Defenders of Wildlife – Another organization that works to preserve and protect endangered species worldwide.

This brief was compiled by Zoe Stricker. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact zoe@USResistnews.org.

Photo by Marek Szturc

SCOTUS Nominee Could Be A Scorcher for the Environment

SCOTUS Nominee Could Be A Scorcher for the Environment

Brief #36—Environment

Summary
On June 27th Justice Anthony Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court announced his retirement, and on July 9th President Donald Trump announced his candidate for replacement. Trump’s pick, former Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Brett Kavanaugh, has an unkind track record towards environmental regulations. While serving as a Judge on the United States Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh notoriously promoted industry over the environment, particularly with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. Judge Kavanaugh frequently heard cases regarding the Environmental Protection Agency, and he, was rarely an advocate of the organization, often debating that Congress’s authority should supersede that of the Agency’s. This also summarizes Kavanaugh’s general political philosophy—that Congress should wield more power than that of an agency–but Congress has not contributed to the passage of a major environmental law since the Clean Air Act of 1990. More still, Kavanaugh has dissented multiple times on matters relating to The Clean Air Act, favoring industry regulation over the EPA’s.

Analysis
Kavanaugh’s proposed appointment comes at a time when matters of the environment have become more visible to communities around the country, as there have never been so many Americans who believe that climate change exists and is caused by human activity. In Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois, the gas station empire belonging to Vice President Pence’s family has cost taxpayers millions of dollars in oil spill cleanups across the three states.  And after 4 years, the town of Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water. And in Pennsylvania, 2 protesters with the group “Mama Bear Brigade” were arrested for demonstrating the construction of a pipeline project that would close a local elementary school. Each of these incidents lay the groundwork for cases that may one day appear before the Supreme Court, one in which Kavanaugh might one day serve.

Should an anti-environment court be in the works, states and local governments will need to do more to prevent judicial oversight. So perhaps a pinch of optimism can be sprinkled over the decision of the hyper-industrial city of Pueblo, Colorado to become more green, and for the fact that California met its 2020 emissions goal 2 years ahead of schedule. In the meantime, let’s keep our eyes on the outcome of the lawsuit filed by former-allies of David Schnare, who had sued climate scientists over their work. And hope Kavanaugh reads The Onion if he takes the bench.

Engagement Resources:

  • Friends of the Earth – A non-profit activist group that organizes activists to fight against environmental injustices. Their petitions and campaigns have had large impacts on corporate responsibility and legal outcomes.
  • Judging the Environment – a non-profit watchgroup which tracks federal judicial nominations of supreme courts.

This brief was compiled by Zoe Stricker. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact zoe@USResistnews.org.

Pruitt Resigns, Becoming Trump’s Fifth Cabinet Member to Call It Quits

Pruitt Resigns, Becoming Trump’s Fifth Cabinet Member to Call It Quits

Brief #34—Environment

Policy Summary
Amid months of investigation for as many as 19 scandals, Scott Pruitt resigned his post as the Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, July 5th. Many rejoiced that this enabler of deregulation had finally given up his position, but the administration has a very different story. Trump announced Pruitt’s resignation in a tweet where he thanked Pruitt for his service and congratulated him on an “outstanding job.” Trump made no mention of the various scandals, and said that Pruitt himself decided to resign so as not to be a distraction. Pruitt also cited the “unrelenting attacks” that had “taken a toll” on his family in his letter of resignation. Other aides have stepped down in support of Pruitt. However, Pruitt’s resignation comes in the midst of 13 federal inquiries into his spending and management decisions, including security and travel expenses, a $43,000 soundproof phone booth, barring certain scientists from applying for grants, a $50 a night condo deal from a lobbyist, firing of personnel for questioning these practices, and pay raises for those deemed loyal. These investigations will continue despite his resignation.  Andrew Wheeler, the recently Senate confirmed deputy to Scott Pruitt, will take on the role of EPA Secretary.

Analysis
While Pruitt’s exit has been celebrated, he left behind quite a mess and has lost the trust of taxpayers and personnel alike. His exorbitant spending showed a complete disregard for the taxpayer, and this will continue due to all the investigations and court proceedings pending. Perhaps even more troubling, is the lack of support for whistleblowers within the EPA. Watchdog agencies and journalists have worked hard to keep tabs on all of Pruitt’s actions, but received little reaction from the powers that be. In addition, Pruitt has managed to roll back significant amounts of legislation to protect our country and curb the toxins that may be our demise. Pruitt’s acting replacement, Andrew Wheeler, has a history as an energy industry lobbyist with Murray Energy and connections with other coal and energy lobbyists like Xcel Energy and Energy Fuel Resources, Inc. Many fear that his years in the industry will make him a more effective implementer of Trump’s environmental agenda, and that it will occur more quietly than under Pruitt. He will serve as the acting secretary until Trump nominates a new Secretary that must be confirmed by the Senate.

Resistance Resources

    • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – a charity collective of lawyers and scientists who defend and protect the environment from pollution and corporate greedContact
      This brief was compiled by Megan Toney. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact Megan@USResistnews.org

Photo by: Thomas Richter

Making a Splash in Trumpland

Making a Splash in Trumpland

Brief #34—Environment

Summary
In 2010, after the deadliest and most expensive offshore oil spill in U.S. history, the “Deepwater Horizon” spill, former U.S. president, Barack Obama, implemented a policy to ensure that a conservation council would advocate conservation and sustainable use of US waters. The Bureau of Ocean management called Obama’s policy, “the most aggressive and comprehensive reforms to offshore oil and gas regulation and oversight in U.S. history,” as the policy sought to effectively protect large bodies of water from environmental hazard such as oil spills. President Trump is now rolling back that plan with an executive order in order to “[roll] back excessive bureaucracy created by the previous administration.” In the new policy, states will be given much more authority on how to manage offshore oil and gas drilling, while also being able to prioritize regional business interests first and foremost. This comes as a massive rollback to the Obama-era plan, which had sought to limit where and how energy companies could drill for offshore energy.

Analysis
The impact of the Trump administration’s decision to rollback Obama-era ocean protections are as significant as they are dangerous. The policy allows states to prioritize business interests in natural resource extraction over conservation, which makes it likely for states to engage in this practice in order to bolster their individual economies, which too will widen pathways to further destruction. As climate scientists have proven, damage to the ocean—otherwise known as the world’s largest ecosystem—only reduces its possibility to remove carbon from the atmosphere and generate oxygen for living organisms, the supply of which is vital to human survival. The rollback, too, comes on the heels of FEMA ending funding for more than 1,700 Puerto Ricans and Americans displaced by Hurricane Maria, a disaster which occurred as a consequence of climate change, and made catastrophic by insufficient policy provisions. More still, a recent book put forward by climate reporter, Elizabeth Rush, suggests that as sea levels rise, Florida is at risk being flooded, a scenario which would wipe out and/or force its population to migrate outside of the state. The potential scenario in Southern California’s coastal communities does not fare much better, as scientists anticipate losing 130 feet of sea-cliffs as water levels rise. Despite this, it does not appear that the Trump administration intends to prioritize the environment in future policy-making decisions, already proposing to rollback another Obama-era policy protecting smaller enclaves of water from pollution. Let’s hope that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort club in Florida won’t have to flood in order for his administration to review its environmental priorities.

Engagement Resources:

  • Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – a charity collective of lawyers and scientists who defend and protect the environment from pollution and corporate greed.
  • Marine Megafauna Foundation – a marine research group that brings scientific discovery to the government and the public in order to create effective environmental protections.

This brief was compiled by Zoe Stricker. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief, please contact zoe@USResistnews.org

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