QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“For the first time we have an administrator where people have serious doubts about whether [he] is really focused on the mission of the agency.”
— Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy slams EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt for his reckless and repeated attacks on the environment, public lands, air and water
“Clearly, federal regulations prohibit a blanket waiver to fly first class except to accommodate disabilities or special needs.”
— Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) on Pruitt’s exorbitant travel expenses
“If the administration nominates van der Vaart after the failed nomination of Kathleen Hartnett White, it will show their continued disregard for our health and our environment and their continued bad judgment in tapping unfit individuals for key environmental positions.”
— LCV’s Legislative Representative Sara Jordan on Trump’s rumored pick for CEQ
LCV IN THE NEWS:
E&E News: Fla. Republican calls it quits
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:
Chesapeake Bay Times (VA): Will Virginia Lawmakers Agree to Menhaden Catch Limits?
Pagosa Daily Post (CO): Senate Reauthorizes Lottery Funding for Great Outdoors Colorado
The Baltimore Sun (MD): Md. should pave the way for clean transportation in the region
SIREN: We’re hearing that Donald van der Vaart is under consideration to be the next leader of the White House Council on Environmental Quality — an appointment that would be disastrous for our environment. This former secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is a climate skeptic with a long track record of anti-environmental actions — including filing a lawsuit against the EPA over the Clean Power Plan. Van der Vaart is just another in a long line of big polluter allies that has been considered or nominated for critical environmental leadership positions.
LOCALS WEIGH IN: “Donald van der Vaart is an anti-environmental ideologue who consistently stood with polluters over people,” said Dan Crawford, the Director of Government Relations for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters. “In 2016 the voters of North Carolina rejected the McCrory-Van der Vaart pro-polluter agenda, and the rest of the country should too.”
PRUITT’S PLANE PROBLEM, VOLUME 26: House Democrats are demanding the details of Pruitt’s extensive and expensive first-class travel. Last week, he made headlines for frequently misusing taxpayer dollars to pay for luxurious travel accommodations, and this isn’t the first time Pruitt has been caught potentially misusing taxpayer resources — far from it. But after news broke of his frequent first class and private travel last week, there were resounding calls for an explanation from both sides of the aisle, and Congress is now looking into the matter.
UNDER PRESSURE: Pruitt bowed to increased pressure earlier this week, cancelling a nearly week-long trip to Israel while still under scrutiny for his lavish spending on luxury travel.
BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR: A new analysis from Mother Jones emphasizes that one of the most damaging impacts of Pruitt’s tenure at the EPA has been replacing scientists with industry allies and longtime friends. Pruitt’s corrupt staffing choices have drastically decreased the penalties polluters have paid for violating laws, while illegal pollution levels are on the rise. Experts argue that this is a clear sign of the current EPA’s bias toward industry, especially when it comes to enforcing rules. This is just another example of Pruitt helping out his buddies while risking the quality of air and water in our communities.
RECESS HIGHLIGHTS: With members of Congress home on recess, LCV’s Climate Action teams were hard at work. In Montana, volunteers delivered handmade valentines to Senator Jon Tester, thanking him for being an environmental champion and urging him to support full funding for the EPA. The Nevada team got in the Olympics spirit by holding the Climate Champion awards, honoring Congresswoman Dina Titus and other state officials for their work to protect Nevada’s clean air, clean water and public lands. In New Hampshire, the team held a panel discussion on climate change’s impact on New Hampshire’s iconic moose and loon populations.
MAYORS, UNITE! A press release from Climate Mayors declared that 236 mayors from 47 states and territories, representing over 51 million people, strongly oppose EPA’s proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan — a signature clean air safeguard designed by the Obama Administration. In October 2017, Trump announced he would gut the critical provisions of the plan, leaving our cities and coastal regions vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change. Now, local leaders are fighting back, condemning the repeal and pursuing the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement within their own municipalities.
ON THE SAME PAGE: The Kansas City Star also ran an op-ed this week arguing that the economic hit from repealing the Clean Power Plan could be very high. It notes, “Clean energy jobs in both Missouri and Kansas are growing at much faster rates than other job sectors in each state: three times faster in Missouri and nine times faster in Kansas.” A sudden change of direction would be very damaging for a rapidly expanding industry and would put many in our communities out of work.
MURPHY COMMITS: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ran his campaign on a platform of clean energy and environmental advocacy, and this week he continued a string of pro-environment actions by joining the U.S. Climate Alliance, committing to cut carbon dioxide emissions and fulfill the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
EDUCATING WITH THE FACTS: After a three-year battle, the Education Committee of the Idaho Senate voted to keep all references to man-made climate change in its K-12 curriculum, thanks in part to advocacy by our state partner. While the House committee cut expanded references to climate change in its version of the bill, it’s reassuring to see the Senate stand up for climate change education. Looking forward, it looks like a standoff between chambers may emerge if they aren’t able to reconcile both proposals — so keep your eye on Idaho!
LENDING A HAND: The EPA, under Trump’s direction, is prying open a pollution loophole to benefit an ally in the automotive industry. According to Vox, Trump is attempting to repeal specific standards that apply to glider kits — trucks built without an engine or transmission — and therefore skirt normal regulations despite glider kits emitting nearly 50 times as much pollution as a normal truck. Wondering why? The manufacturer, Fitzgerald Glider Kits, is a big Trump supporter and hosted campaign events for him during the 2016 cycle. Go figure.
BEARING THE BURDEN: BuzzFeed reported that in 46 states “people of color face more air pollution than white people,” underscoring the necessity of the fight for environmental justice. Decades of poor water and air quality in neighborhoods near high-emission areas — typically communities of color — has had a devastating impact on health and quality of life. The pollution in these neighborhoods will only worsen with Trump and Pruitt’s all-out assault on environmental regulation, and again, the burden will be felt disproportionately by the same communities. This just goes to show that environmental justice is a key piece to a long-term plan for environmental sustainability.
DAILY HOT TAKE: Linda J. Bilmes, a member of the U.S. National Parks Advisory Board, submitted a scathing piece to the Boston Globe, criticizing Trump on his active dismantling of environmental protections. From shrinking monuments to rolling back regulations to proposing budget cuts for environmental programs and agencies, Bilmes argues that Trump has been alarmingly effective at dismantling environmental measures that keep us safe. She concludes with a rousing call to action, with which we wholeheartedly agree — Trump’s assault on our environment must be a top issue in years ahead if we are to reverse the damage done and keep our families safe from environmental disaster.
BRANCHING OUT: In defiance of Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, three activists in New Zealand created “Trump Forest” — crowdfunding trees to counteract Trump’s damage to the environment. The goal is to plant one million trees in the hopes that the forest’s recycling of carbon dioxide will slow the pace of climate change. While leaders like Trump seem content to continue ignoring the reality of climate change, others are taking up the mantle.
WEEKEND READ: The New York Times explored the driving forces around the fluctuating public sentiment on climate change in this weekend’s suggested read. They found that when the effects of climate change hit closer to home, people were more likely to believe it is a real and present danger. Check out the six people they profiled and how they came to understand the reality of climate change.
TIPPING POINT: The next five years will be pivotal in the fight against climate change, according to new research published in the journal Nature. While progress in reducing emissions were made in recent years, that fragile progress has been at put at risk by the Trump administration among others, and research suggests that continuing to put off bold, effective measures to combat climate change will result in an eight-inch rise in sea levels by 2300 — which would dramatically alter the world as we know it.
TEMPERATURES SOAR: And in more concerning climate news, the northernmost weather station in the world experienced more than a full day above freezing this week, in the middle of Arctic winter.
February 27 – Release date for LCV’s 2017 National Environmental Scorecard
March 1 – Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao testifies in front of the Environment and Public Works Committee on the administration’s infrastructure proposal