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QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“I would be embarrassed to get on a plane, sit down in first class and have my constituents pass me by and see me in first class. I just think all Cabinet secretaries and all of us ought to fly coach.”
— Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel
“I find it pretty hard to understand how Administrator Pruitt can spend millions of dollars on things for himself, like a soundproof phone booth and luxury travel perks, while slashing the budget for programs that keep the air and water clean for America’s kids.”
— Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
“We don’t have to choose between fixing our crumbling infrastructure and having clean air and water, yet Trump’s infrastructure plan is nothing more than another scam that would destroy our environment, privatize our public works, increase taxes on the middle class, and bulldoze communities’ ability to have a say in the projects happening in their own backyard. Trump’s dangerous agenda shows yet again that he’s doing whatever he can to sell out our children’s future to the highest bidder and reveals his true priorities – polluters over people.”
— LCV’s SVP for Government Affairs Tiernan Sittenfeld’s response to the disastrous Trump budget proposal and infrastructure plan unveiled Monday
LCV IN THE NEWS:
New York Times: Saving Winter Is More Than About Snow. It’s About Jobs.
Cape Cod Times: Not off our coast
Las Vegas Sun: Heller has broken promise
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
LCV’s state affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:
NJ Spotlight (NJ): Can stormwater utilities help NJ reduce runoff pollution?
Florida Politics (FL): Florida Democrats congratulate Margaret Good on HD 72 win
Columbia Regional Business Report (SC): McMaster signs bill shielding companies from nuisance lawsuits
THE JET-SET LIFESTYLE OF SCOTT PRUITT: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took heat this week for his luxurious travel on the taxpayer dime. The Washington Post painted a detailed portrait of Pruitt’s time in office so far — a tenure distinguished by first-class air travel that is financed by everyday taxpayers. During just a few weeks, Pruitt racked up over $90,000 in travel charges, and claimed he has acquired a blanket waiver to travel first or business class on any work-related flight. The EPA walked back that justification after Politico pointed out that it violated federal rules on agency travel. Pruitt’s extravagant travel is an absurd waste of taxpayer dollars that should be spent on protecting our health and environment.
CUE EYE ROLL: Congressional Republicans don’t buy the blanket waiver — and they’re quickly losing their patience with the EPA chief. And Capitan Sully, who famously landed a plane in the Hudson River and is now an aviation safety expert, said that “first class is not safer than economy.”
TOLD YOU SO: Trump’s recently released infrastructure plan, as the New York Times notes, puts the administration in a bit of a bind: it is foolish to build new infrastructure without planning for the impacts of climate change. Nevertheless, the administration insists on continually ignoring the risks climate change poses to our infrastructure, and instead is attempting yet again to gut safeguards for our public health and environment, this time under the false guise of rebuilding our infrastructure.
OUR TAKE: It is a no-brainer to us, and a large majority of people, that we don’t have to choose between strong environmental protections and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. Continuing to ignore climate change in infrastructure planning will leave our roads, bridges and railways vulnerable at best — or rendered entirely useless at worst. And that’s just one of a long list of problems with Trump’s infrastructure scam, which is less of an infrastructure plan and more of a guise to gut bedrock environmental laws, and is already meeting strong resistance in Congress.
CUTS CUTS CUTS: Trump proposed a budget, and it is concerning – to say the least. Trump’s initial recommendation for EPA funding is even worse than last year’s draconian cuts – he proposed cutting the agency by 34 percent. Adding to the confusion, the administration released an “addendum” saying how they would spend recent funding allocated by Congress, but even that cash infusion would still slash the agency by a quarter. Trump’s plan specifically targets funding for certain clean air and water initiatives, funding that, if removed, would benefit only the big polluters that seek to harm the environment with impunity. With the agency already operating at record-low staffing levels, it’s hard to see this proposal as anything other than an attempt to starve the agency and render it useless.
SOMETHING’S MISSING: The administration traditionally presents their budget proposals to Congress, but Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry are so far refusing to defend their attempts to gut their own agencies to lawmakers.
HOUSE CHAMPS PUSH BACK: Trump’s budget received a chilly reception from environmental champs in the House. Five members took to the floor Thursday afternoon to highlight how gutting programs that protect our air, water and land will hurt their communities. Kudos to Reps. McCollum, Beyer, McNerney, Huffman and Gomez for standing up to Trump’s dirty budget.
DREAMERS STILL IN LIMBO: The Senate this week failed to pass a bill to protect Dreamers. LCV has condemned Trump’s shameful attacks on immigrant families and rejected his attempts to use Dreamers as political pawns to exchange for the construction of a xenophobic and anti-environmental border wall or other anti-immigrant proposals. We’ll continue to stand with immigrant communities in fighting for a solution, including some of our members, staff and supporters who are Dreamers themselves.
DEEPER ISSUES ABOUND: Pruitt can’t roll back all of our environmental protections and serve industry all on his own, which is why he found himself some help. ThinkProgress reports that Pruitt installed regional EPA chiefs who are onboard with his radical deregulatory agenda and who mirror his fervent climate denial. With allies overseeing the Midwest, South, and Southwest regions, Pruitt has gutted much of President Obama’s strong environmental record.
THE POINT: The battle for our environment can’t just be waged on the national level; we have to fight at the regional, state, and local levels as well.
TERMINATED: Former California Governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger recently spoke out against Pruitt, claiming he should be “removed immediately.” Schwarzenegger raised the valid point that Pruitt stands only for special interests — doing the bidding of coal, oil and gas industries rather than representing the people he serves. Republicans have started to turn against Pruitt, so keep an eye out for any trouble in paradise that may arise.
LET ‘EM HEAR IT: Snaps to the Huffington Post, which called out mainstream TV networks for failing to effectively report on climate change last year. The analysis, released this week by Media Matters, found that only 260 minutes of 2017 airtime was dedicated to climate change — and nearly 80 percent of the coverage focused on regulatory rollbacks rather than the impacts that climate change fueled extreme weather has had on communities. The bottom line — it is irresponsible not to cover this administration’s threat to our environment and our future.
STICK IT TO THE MAN: In their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, U.S. intelligence agencies have named climate change as a significant threat to global stability. In the report, they discuss the link between climate change and social distress and upheaval — putting American personnel and interests in danger. It’s reassuring to hear that the corruption of the Trump administration hasn’t pervaded the intelligence community and that there are some who still recognize the risk that environmental degradation poses.
CAUGHT ON TAPE: Sea levels are rising rapidly and climate change is to blame, according to satellite data captured over the last 25 years. Analysis shows that melting ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica have accelerated the rate of sea level rise in recent years, and experts project that we could see 60 millimeters of sea level rise by the turn of the next century. For context, that’s nearly two feet — more than enough to introduce havoc for coastal cities.
HOT TAKE: Someone should tell Trump that Mar-a-Lago may be quick to go if this plays out.
FALLING SHORT: A recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that nearly 21 million people in this country were exposed to unsafe drinking water in 2015 — and between 3 and 10 percent of water systems have failed to meet safety standards. An infographic in the New York Times shows that this problem appears to disproportionately harm low-income, rural populations who live near the center of the country, and these populations often suffer from systemic sanitation problems. Discussion of unsafe tap water peaked in 2015 during the Flint water crisis but has since receded despite the alarming scope of the on-going problem.
PRESIDENTIAL PUSHBACK: Trump is fighting the release of legal documents from previous administrations regarding the national monuments in Utah that he has shrunk outside his legal authority. Arguing that the communications are protected by executive privilege, Trump appears content to suppress this information from the public, which may deprive us of key facts needed to fight Trump’s order to reduce the size of the monuments. This is another blatant example of this administration inexplicably ignoring legal principles and precedent for private gain — at the expense of our nation’s land.
HAPPENING OUT WEST: Our state affiliate Oregon League of Conservation Voters had a busy week as hundreds of advocates gathered at the state capitol to urge lawmakers to approve a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and support clean energy jobs. As reported by KATU, that included eighth-grader Jeremey Clark who joined a group of supporters traveling to Salem by electric bus. “It’s time for Oregon to become a leader again in climate solutions,” Jeremy explained. According to the bus company, the trip from Portland to Salem cost just $5.50 – drastically lower than the $67 in fuel it would cost a diesel bus to make the journey.
February 19 – House and Senate begin weeklong recess
March 1 – Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao testifies in front of the Environment and Public Works Committee on the administration’s infrastructure proposal
STAY TUNED – The 2017 National Environmental Scorecard will be released in the coming weeks