THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – October 20, 2017
QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“Building bipartisan support for fighting climate change is a worthy cause — but we need real action, not just rhetoric. Some of these members may be using the caucus to seem more moderate than they actually are.”
“If you go up to Flint, you find out how important water is. How important clean and pure water are. And how people die when the water is not clean, of all kinds of diseases, and bugs, and poisons. And we still haven’t gotten that straightened out.”
“Republican leaders are eager to sell out one of our nation’s most iconic landscapes while pushing tax cuts for the wealthy – a win-win for Big Oil. There’s been 30 years of bipartisan opposition to drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and people across the country are standing together once again to say we won’t let Congress sell out our environment, our health, and our communities.”
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Inside Philanthropy: As Bloomberg Hammers Away at Coal, What Might Be Next for His Climate Giving?
High Country News: In Congress, an effort to curtail national monuments
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:
The Journal (CO): Enviros and San Miguel County sue to protect sage grouse
The Hartford Courant (CT): Conservation Group Gives General Assembly Low Environmental Marks
Maryland Reporter (MD): More renewable energy will help the climate, health and economy
Merced Sun-Star (WI): Conservationists urge lawmakers to drop mining bill
DRILLING IN THE ARCTIC: The Senate passed a budget resolution yesterday that includes language that paves the way for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Arctic Refuge is one of the largest remaining intact ecosystems in the world, and Republican leaders in Congress want to sell it out to Big Oil through an abridged, explicitly partisan process. As LCV’s Tiernan Sittenfeld told NBC News, “It’s clearly so unpopular that they’re trying to sneak it through. Our opponents have been trying to drill in this iconic place for more than 30 years. They always fall short.”
LCV FIGHTS BACK: On Tuesday, the League of Conservation Voters announced a new $200,000 push to protect the Arctic Refuge as part of the “Our Lands, Our Vote” campaign. The campaign is urging five members of the House of Representatives who can play a major role to keep the Refuge’s existing protections in place: Reps. Brian Mast (R-FL-18), Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3), Dan Donovan (R-NY-11), John Faso (R-NY-19), and Dave Reichert (R-WA-8).
SENATE DEMOCRATS STAND UP: On Tuesday morning, Senate Democrats gathered outside the Capitol building, along with LCV, Defenders of Wildlife and Alaska Wilderness League, to speak up against the Republican proposal to drill in the Arctic Refuge. As Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said, “We have now reached a point where we are exporting oil. So we would be drilling in the Arctic Refuge in order to find more oil to export to other countries in the world. We would despoil our own sacred land in order to help oil companies sell oil to China.”
SCOTT PRUITT’S SHADY POWER PLAN: On Tuesday, Vox took an in-depth look at the legal questions surrounding Scott Pruitt’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan. In short: unsurprisingly, Shady Scott Pruitt is up to his usual shady tricks. The legal maneuvering and redefinitions that will be required to repeal the Clean Power Plan may make it easier for Pruitt to circumvent meaningful regulation of coal fired power plants, but ultimately, it won’t solve the EPA’s legal responsibility to regulate carbon with the “best system of emission reduction.” Until Pruitt does that, his proposed repeal will face legal challenges.
EPA ATROPHY: This week, the EPA’s acting science advisor, Robert Kavlock, told CNN that he’ll be retiring in November. Back in August, Kavlock was forced to tell 38 EPA science advisers that their terms would not be renewed. While Kavlock’s reason for leaving isn’t entirely clear, his departure is concerning – Scott Pruitt’s EPA has been slowly cutting staff and forcing out career employees, many of whom believe in the widely accepted science of climate change. As EPA staff continues to be replaced with climate deniers and industry insiders, it seems unlikely that Kavlock’s replacement will satisfy the scientific demands of the position.
EVEN LESS SCIENCE IN THE WHITE HOUSE: The Washington Post reported this week that President Trump has taken longer than any modern president to name a science adviser. This is par for the course with Trump – the most anti-science president in modern times continues to ignore the desperate and necessary advice of scientific experts. And while Trump’s appointees who run the EPA and other agencies are gutting those places from the inside out, shrinking scientific expertise across the executive branch, Trump’s lack of a primary science advisor in the White House makes it clear that scientific leadership is not welcome.
AND EVEN LESS SCIENCE IN THE EPA: On Tuesday, Scott Pruitt announced that he intends to issue a directive next week that prohibits scientists who receive federal grants from serving as an advisor to the EPA. This undermines the important role science plays in the EPA’s work even further than it already has been under this administration – scientists who receive federal grants are some of the most widely respected experts in their fields, and to remove them from the advisory process is to reject science in favor of partisan and self-interested falsehoods.
PENCE’S INDUSTRY TIES: In an extensive profile on Mike Pence, the New Yorker detailed the vice president’s myriad of close ties to polluters and other oil industry figures – most notably, the Koch brothers. The piece highlights Pence’s advocacy against proposals for a carbon tax and cap-and-trade in 2009 and 2010. Pence became one of the leaders of the climate denial movement in the hopes of getting into the Koch brothers’ good graces. He’s been the leading choice for industry donors, which sheds some light on why the Trump-Pence administration seems hell bent on carrying water for corporate polluters and risking the health and safety of our communities and families in the process.
POLLUTER-FRIENDLY DOURSON JOINS THE EPA: Despite the Senate still not confirming Michael Dourson to lead the EPA’s chemicals office, he has begun working at the EPA as an advisor to Scott Pruitt. While past administrations’ nominees have begun advising before they were confirmed by the Senate, very few nominees are as abjectly terrible for the environment as Michael Dourson. He’s spent his career with an organization that took money from major polluters and producing pseudoscience to support the sale of harmful chemicals. With support for his nomination rapidly deteriorating, he should not be working at the EPA.
POISONOUS WATER IN PUERTO RICO: Reports surfaced last week that some Puerto Ricans have resorted to drinking water from toxic Superfund sites in the wake of Hurricane Maria’s devastation. This week, Rep. Bennie Thompson sent a letter to the acting homeland security secretary, asking for an investigation into the federal government’s failure to protect people in Puerto Rico from the dangerous water. On Saturday, he said, “Reports of Puerto Ricans waiting hours to receive potentially contaminated water that could have long-term health consequences is beyond disturbing. That it happened on days after EPA warned the people of Puerto Rico to refrain from breaking into Superfund sites to access water suggests a troubling breakdown in coordination among the federal entities playing a role in federal disaster response activities.”
LONG RECOVERY FROM CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES: A New York Times report on the aftermath of the wildfires in California exposed the startling long-term risks of poisonous ash in the rebuilding effort. In the massive fires that tore through whole communities, the household chemicals from burned garages and kitchens now reside in the ash and are massive health risks. To further complicate the situation, it is unclear who bears responsibility for the cleanup process – FEMA usually only cleans up public land, and counties and cities may not have the resources to handle a disaster of this scale.
LET’S TALK ABOUT CLEAN WATER: For the Clean Water Act’s 45th anniversary, LCV sat down with former Congressman John Dingell, who was one of the original authors of the legislation that continues to protect our waters today. He recounted the original bi-partisan support for the Clean Water Act and commented, “but now the Republicans are doing their level-best to kill the legislation.” And, he calls on the EPA to “do what they’re supposed to do” so our drinking water doesn’t “taste like hell.”
WORTH A READ: We mentioned President Trump’s unacceptable selection of Kathleen Hartnett White to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality last week. This week, both the Dallas News and the New York Times published editorials decrying her selection and highlighting her uniquely disqualifying past.
October 25 – Senate Environment and Public Works hearing on the Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017
October 25 – Deadline for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross to submit a report to the White House recommending changes to 11 marine national monuments and sanctuaries under review