QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“All told, there are more than a dozen open ethics investigations into his actions. Worse than Pruitt’s lack of ethics, though, is the list of anti-regulatory actions he’s taken to try to roll back necessary environmental protections, from rules to protect waterways to limits on the toxins emitted from smokestacks. We hope that he exits the office soon, whether President Trump fires him or he decides he wants to, um, pursue other options.”
— The Columbus Dispatch fires a bold shot at Pruitt
“It cut $16 million out of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Period, end of sentence.”
— Senator Richard Burr explaining his vote against Trump’s rescission package, which failed 48-50
“Declaring June National Ocean Month is a nice sheen on Trump’s ocean policy, but between opening up 90% of our coasts to offshore drilling and now repealing the #NationalOceanPolicy, his admin is doing everything it can to allow another BP oil spill.”
— Senator Ed Markey unleashes a fireball on Twitter, calling out Trump for repealing protections for ocean health and sustainability
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Steamboat Pilot & Today: Anita Merrigan: Endangered species are not impediments to economic progress
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:
Ashbury Park Press (NJ): Tested solution addresses flooding, polluted runoff
MyEasternShore (MD): ShoreRivers honored with environmental award
FAMILIES BELONG TOGETHER: This week, a crisis of the Trump administration’s making unfolded right in front of us. Families who have fled their home countries due to violence, unrest, and countless other reasons were torn apart, leaving young children separated from their parents thanks to Trump’s heartless policies. People around the world saw the Trump administration detain children in holding cells that resemble chain-link cages. The images are unforgettable and unforgiveable. We cannot allow this to continue, which is why LCV is standing up with so many others to say firmly that #FamiliesBelongTogether.
OUR STAND: LCV’s own Jennifer Allen, Senior Vice President for Community and Civic Engagement said: “We’ve opposed xenophobic efforts to deport ‘Dreamers’ and build a border wall, and we will continue to speak out against the depths of inhumanity that this administration is willing to stoop to as we fight for the communities they refuse to protect.”
OUR ACTION: We sent an email to LCV members, urging them to tell Congress to reject two dangerous immigration bills that would exacerbate the harm to immigrant communities and advance the xenophobic and environmentally destructive border wall. The response was heartening, with more than 12,000 members taking action. We also joined hundreds of other groups in a letter to Congress.
PRUITT STILL UNDER SCRUTINY: Last week, we learned about a number of new scandals involving EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. This week, Trump stepped up to defend his embattled EPA chief, remarking that Pruitt has done a “fantastic job.”
THE SWAMP GETS SWAMPIER: We aren’t sure what Trump could possibly mean by “fantastic.” If he means that Pruitt has gutted critical environmental protections, lived lavishly on taxpayer dollars, sold his soul to industry and made our communities less safe — then yes, Pruitt’s been fantastic.
WALKING IT BACK: Also reversing his position on Pruitt this week is Senator Jim Inhofe — notorious climate skeptic and close ally of the EPA administrator. Inhofe’s private meeting with Pruitt supposedly “assuaged his doubts” about the EPA chief’s intentions and activities, and he has decided to relieve pressure on the scandal-ridden administrator. So much for oversight.
QUESTION FOR YOU: Despite the media cyclone that Pruitt’s activities have caused, how does he still have a job?!
ANSWER: The Washington Post dove deep into the relationship between Pruitt and Trump, discovering how Pruitt has stuck around: “ingratiating himself personally, extolling the president’s abilities and strongly backing him on policy in meetings and in regular one-on-one conversations.” Through a unique combination of extremely conservative policy-making and sucking up to the boss, Pruitt has kept himself afloat — for now. We’ll see how long this lasts.
A BIT OF HISTORY: Thirty-five years ago, Reagan-era EPA Administrator Anne Gorsuch resigned after a string of scandals — not a situation dissimilar to our good friend Pruitt’s. We’ll see if he goes the same way anytime soon.
PRUITT TO TESTIFY: Senator John Barrasso has promised us that Pruitt will appear before the Environment and Public Works Committee in August to answer for his wasteful spending and corrupt practices while leading the EPA. But why wait so long? Dozens more Pruitt scandals have come to light since his last appearance before Congress, and we shouldn’t have to wait two months for answers. Are Senate Republicans serious about holding Pruitt accountable, or just looking for something to tell their constituents back home?
QUESTIONABLE CONTRACT: Why would Pruitt award a $120,000 contract to a Republican, politically-connected, “war room” communications firm without even soliciting any other bids? No clue… and the EPA can’t really explain it either — leading lawmakers like Senators Kamala Harris and Sheldon Whitehouse to imply that there was some form of pay to play involved.
WHAT ARE THOSE?? New reports show that Pruitt spent nearly $3,000 on — and we aren’t kidding — “tactical pants” and “tactical polos.” We, too, have no idea what those are or, more importantly, why they’re a smart use of taxpayer dollars. What’s more stunning, however, is that despite all of the negative coverage of his wasteful spending, Pruitt still insists on wasting our money — and faces absolutely no consequences.
WOTUS WOES: Pruitt’s back at it with his attempt to roll back the drinking water protections that our families and communities depend on. This week, in a pathetic attempt to save his job, Pruitt announced that he was sending a replacement for the Clean Water Rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review– a typically boring procedural step that usually goes without fanfare. This proposal, which he announced via a “happy birthday” tweet to Trump, will likely decimate the Clean Water Act, one our bedrock environmental laws. It’s incredibly disturbing that he, and presumably Trump, would celebrate threatening the clean water of millions of people.
HOW LOW CAN YOU GO? Turns out that threshold for the allowable levels of toxic PFAS chemicals in water should be seven to ten times lower than EPA’s current health advisory limits. PFAS chemicals, linked to numerous cancers, reproductive issues, and learning and behavioral issues, are showing up pretty much everywhere they test for them. Safe drinking water is a basic right for everyone, and we have to demand that our government take both short term and long term actions to protect our communities from these dangerous chemicals.
SIDE NOTE: We learned of this through the report that Pruitt and the White House tried to block for fear of a media nightmare — a big scandal from last May. Now we can say that we’re very glad that this report finally saw daylight.
COVERING HIS TRACKS: Pruitt wants to change the cost-benefit analysis process for EPA regulations — which Harvard public policy expert Joseph Aldy believes may be a ploy to justify rolling back even more safeguards. Through this framework, Pruitt would be able to get away with striking rules that provide boons to dirty energy industries while putting tens of thousands of lives at risk. This is an astute observation that raises an important point: we can’t let Pruitt ignore the costs to his regulation-slashing ways.
DO NOT FORGET ZINKE: Secretary Ryan Zinke has found himself embroiled in a huge real estate scandal connected to Big Oil executive David Lesar of Halliburton. A foundation established by Zinke and now run by his wife has played an important role in a deal bringing significant commercial development to his hometown of Whitefish, Montana. The kicker: part of the development will include a microbrewery, which “would be set aside for Ryan and Lola Zinke to own and operate.”
HMMMM: This certainly raises some ethical questions about Zinke’s interests while running the Interior Department. As the person who is supposed to protect our public lands, it’s concerning that he is linked so closely to one of the biggest oil executives in the country — and receiving favors, no less.
STAY TUNED: Details on this scandal continue to emerge, with Politico reporting that Zinke met with Lesar and the other developers in his Interior Department office. Yet another reason this is a major of a conflict of interest.
GLOBAL WARMING IN ACTION: In a pointed piece from the AP this week, Seth Borenstein notes that there are signs of climate change are all around us: glaciers receding, hurricanes brewing, and allergies worsening. All of these are starting to impact us on a regular basis, demanding action immediately to try to turn the tide. As we know, global warming is not just something we talk about, it is not theoretical, you can see it every day, crystal clear.
CANARY IN THE COAL MINE: Thirty years ago tomorrow, NASA climate scientist James Hansen testified before Congress that, with 99 percent confidence, global warming had begun and was the result of human activity. This week, he doubled down on that testimony — but added that the world is failing “miserably” to meet the climate change challenge. He points out that greenhouse gas emissions have skyrocketed since his warning and that we haven’t taken many meaningful steps to address this crisis. Shame on us for not heeding the warning sooner.
SWING STATE ALERT: If you want to get your finger on the pulse of the country, check out this piece from the Columbus Dispatch — revealing Ohio’s feelings about Pruitt’s tenure. The editorial board argues that Pruitt’s probable successor, former lobbyist for the coal industry Andrew Wheeler, may be even worse for our environment. Our fight to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe and clean has really only just begun.
THERE GO THE OCEANS: Trump this week repealed the 2010 National Ocean Policy, yet another move to ignore the impacts of climate change and promote sustainability. The movealso, unsurprisingly, reduces the role of climate, stewardship, and resilience in decision-making. These new policies align with Zinke’s efforts to increase offshore drilling and Pruitt’s utter disregard of climate change — and has the potential to have catastrophic impacts on marine life and ocean health.
OUR TAKE: From LCV Legislative Associate Arian Rubio: “In another attempt to reverse progress made under President Obama, the Trump administration is recklessly tossing aside responsible ocean management and stewardship — once again ignoring the biggest threats to our oceans and the Great Lakes, including climate change and rising sea levels. Alongside his deeply unpopular offshore drilling expansion, Trump’s disregard for environmental protections continues to put our coastal communities at risk.”
LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE, DON: A Canadian company is looking to mine copper and other minerals from a site that was protected as the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument — until Trump shrunk that site late last year, an effort outside his authority. This is the first, but certainly not the last, of the companies that will now try to encroach on previously-protected federal land. We’re frustrated that Trump and Zinke are so quick to sell out our public lands — our national parks and monuments are to be treasured, not exploited.
COUNTDOWN TO SAVE LWCF: On Wednesday, Senator Maria Cantwell led a bipartisan press event marking the looming deadline to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has protected parks and other public lands in nearly every county in the country. We are now 100 days away from LWCF’s expiration. Congress must act now to permanently reauthorize one of our best conservation programs with full funding before the clock runs out.
BURR TAKES A STAND: Hours after the LWCF press conference, the Senate voted on Trump’s rescission plan — which included a $16 million cut to LWCF. Senator Richard Burr opposed the plan, voting no after Republican leadership would not guarantee him a vote on an amendment to restore the LWCF cuts. That deserves kudos, and the bill failed 48-50. Unfortunately not every Senate Republican who said they supported LWCF that morning came through — Senators Cory Gardner and Steve Daines voted for the LWCF cuts.
THREE CHEERS: Big shout-out to Governor Hickenlooper of Colorado, who this week declared that his state will join California and 13 other states by adopting a low vehicle emission standard. This is critical in protecting our clean air and will put pressure on automakers and the administration to ensure that cars continue to get cleaner every year. This also deals a blow to Pruitt and Trump, who now face 14 states aligned to thwart his attempt to roll back the emissions regulation.
JULY 2 – 6 — Congress on recess
AUGUST — Scott Pruitt to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
SEPTEMBER 30 — Expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the nation’s best parks program