Week 14

The Headlines

Republican Cracks Emerge in Trump’s Coal-Heavy Energy Plan

April 23, 2017 | Bloomberg

Still, there are enough members of Trump’s cabinet who deny the basic science of global warming that there is little, if any, chance the administration will enthusiastically support clean energy. Instead, the debate is likely to hinge on whether the president will try to actively reverse market forces allowing wind and solar to flourish.

Trump’s Climate Cuts Could Result in Half-Billion Extra Tons of CO2 in the Air

April 25, 2017 | InsideClimate News

The Clean Power Plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants, methane rules covering the oil and gas industry and a handful of efficiency regulations are “highly vulnerable” in the consulting firm’s view, either because they’re high profile or because they haven’t been fully implemented. If these are the only rules the Trump administration is able to repeal, it would erase 332 million metric tons of carbon pollution cuts, Climate Advisers projected.

Tech and oil giants want Trump to keep the Paris Climate Agreement

April 26, 2017 | Mashable

In a letter sent to President Donald Trump by business leaders, oil giants BP and Shell, along with tech firms such as Microsoft, Google, and Intel, tell the administration that the treaty presents both risks and opportunities for their businesses.

April 27, 2017 | Reuters

“It’s not a fair situation because they are paying virtually nothing and we are paying massive amounts of money,” [Trump] said.

Asked for a hint of what his decision might be, he said: “I can say this, we want to be treated fairly.”

U.S. Participation in Paris Agreement ‘Still Under Consideration,’ Tillerson Says

April 28, 2017 | InsideClimate News

“I’m not going to tell the president of the United States to walk away from the Paris accord,” Perry said at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on Tuesday. “I will say that we need to renegotiate it.” But that is not a compromise that is likely to mollify allies. A spokesman for Germany’s environment ministry called Perry’s position “absurd.”

East coast braces for fresh climate fight as Trump eyes more offshore drilling

April 28, 2017 | The Guardian

The economics of opening up a new frontier for oil is currently unfavorable, with a barrel of crude currently trading for under $50. The strong currents and crashing waves of the Atlantic provide a further logistical hurdle. “Compared to the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico is a lake,” said Cahoon. “Yes, you can engineer your way around that but the question would be ‘is it worth it?’”

Court Gives Trump Small Victory in Push Against Clean Power Plan

April 28, 2017 | The New York Times

The regulation was a major target for Mr. Trump, who called it “stupid” and a “job killer” on the campaign trail and has begun taking steps to repeal it. In an executive order last month, Mr. Trump directed his E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, to begin the lengthy legal process of dismantling it, and at the same time requested that the court put the lawsuit on hold while the agency came up with a new plan.

Had the court rejected Mr. Trump’s request and upheld the Clean Power Plan, it would have made it far more difficult for Mr. Pruitt to roll back the rule.

EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades

April 29, 2017 | The Washington Post

“The EPA’s climate site includes important summaries of climate science and indicators that clearly and unmistakably explain and document the impacts we are having on our planet,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University, in response to the website change.

“It’s hard to understand why facts require revision,” she continued.


In Other Congressional News…

The Republicans who care about climate change: ‘They are done with the denial’

April 27, 2017 | The Guardian

“The vast majority of Republicans in private buy the science – the likes of Inhofe are in the minority,” said Danny Richter, legislative director of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a non-profit group that painstakingly helped put together the caucus.

“What Republicans needed was safe passage to talk about climate action in public, to not be the the first one to walk down that rickety bridge. There’s now a group who can see their constituents are genuinely concerned about climate change.”


State Response 

California’s landmark climate-change program would also fight air pollution under proposal

April 24, 2017 | The (San Jose) Mercury News

Cap and trade is generally seen as the most flexible and cost-effective way for industries to comply with California’s strict carbon emissions standards, which by 2030 will be 40 percent below 1990 levels. The regulatory program allows industries to pay to pollute by buying and trading carbon-emission permits.


A New Hope?

One Big Legal Obstacle Keeps Trump from Undoing Greenhouse Gas Regulation

April 26, 2017 | Scientific American

This agency [‘endangerment finding’] rule, supported by two Supreme Court decisions, legally compels the government to do exactly what its new leaders want to avoid: regulate greenhouse gases. Although EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt publicly doubts a connection between human-produced carbon emissions and global warming, any attempt to undo this rule “would be walking into a legal buzz saw,” says Michael Gerrard, faculty director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University. Endangerment is “the linchpin for everything—all of the carbon regulation under the Clean Air Act,” says Patrick Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at Vermont Law School.

Week 13

The Headlines

Ozone Review Could Be Part of Larger Energy Policy Overhaul

April 12, 2017 | Bloomberg BNA

The EPA in its court filing seeking the delay had indicated that it is taking a look at the ozone standards to determine whether the regulation is subject to a March 28 executive order that instructed the agency to review any existing rules that could “potentially burden” domestic energy production ( Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA, D.C. Cir., No. 15-1385, 4/11/17 ).

EPA emerges as major target after Trump solicits policy advice from industry

April 16, 2017 | The Washington Post

The NFIB has suggested a raft of changes, including one that would designate the Commerce Department — instead of the State Department — as the agency in charge of approving pipelines and other projects that cross borders. The federation says the lead agency should have “commercial expertise and an interest in encouraging business.”

White House cancels meeting to decide stance on climate pact

April 18, 2017 | ABC News

Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders blamed the postponement of the meeting on scheduling conflicts among advisers who were expected to attend. Some of them, she said, wanted to accompany the president on his trip to Wisconsin on Tuesday, and the White House decided to reschedule its internal climate talks.

EPA seeks delay over rule curbing coal plants’ toxic pollution

April 18, 2017 | The Washington Post

The rule on mercury and other air toxins, known as the MATS rule, has been the subject of litigation for years. While the Supreme Court initially required EPA to do a more thorough cost-benefit analysis of the measure, it allowed the new standards to take effect in 2012. Under the rule, coal and oil-fired utilities had to install pollution controls that put them on par with the 12 percent cleanest facilities in their sector.

EPA plans to offer buyouts as part of Trump push to shrink workforce

April 19, 2017 | The Washington Post

O’Grady said for the Trump administration to try to get rid of thousands of employees using the same approach would prove “exorbitantly expensive.” In addition, he said it would amount to “the utter destruction of the U.S. EPA.”

Trump wants to make it easier to drill in national parks. We mapped the 42 parks at risk.

April 20, 2017 | Vox

But now, under the Trump administration, those safeguards are at risk of being watered down or repealed, shifting the burden to protect national parks to environmental watchdogs. And 30 additional national parks with split estate situations could be opened for drilling in the future.

Changes to Energy Dept. websites downplay renewables as a replacement for fossil fuels

April 21, 2017 | The Washington Post

Together, the changes collectively downplay the climate benefits of each form of technology and distance the agency from the idea that they might be used to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, instead emphasizing their economic advantages. It’s a move that’s well in line with the Trump administration’s generally dismissive attitude toward the issue of climate change.


In Other Congressional News…

This Time Congress Is Not Helping Trump Destroy the Planet

April 10, 2017 | Mother Jones

The bill to overturn a methane regulation for public lands that has been long disliked by the oil and gas industry has stalled in the Senate. A number of moderate and Western state Republican senators have worried about the implications of permanently restricting the Interior Department’s ability to regulate methane emissions.


State Response 

Northwest EPA worker blasts new boss in resignation

April 10, 2017 | Seattle Pi

“You will continue to undermine your credibility and integrity with EPA staff, and the majority of the public, if you continue to question this basic science on climate change.”


A Look Back

What Trump’s Surprise Victory Could Mean for Science

November 9, 2016 | Scientific American

The biggest issue is that scientists simply don’t know what Trump is going to do. Trump has changed his mind on plenty of matters; he’s maintained few constants besides wanting to cut spending, keep out immigrants and burn fossil fuels. We don’t know if he’ll cut science spending, and we know he’s interested in a stronger private company presence in some fields, like space exploration.  Scientists have already begun tweeting about their worry that these budget cuts will hit their fields of research via the NIH or NSF.

Analysis 6

This week was a rough one, so far as environmental-climate policy in America goes.

At a time when our international allies are urging us in the U.S. to keep true to our Paris Climate promises — which is starting to look altogether unclear — the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt visited a coal mine in Pennsylvania and basically said: “Your jobs are coming back.”

What’s more, President Trump and his environmental-climate wonks are ‘reconsidering’ an Obama-era rule that impacts regulating toxic wastewater emissions from coal-fired power plants (coal power plants detrimentally impact climate change, not to mention public health) while also backing off from a city-smog rule.

What else is at stake here with this administration and its ‘War on Climate’ anyhow?

I introduced Christopher McGrory Klyza’s and David J. Sousa’s book on “American Environmental Politics: Beyond Gridlock” (2012) in the second week’s analysis — all the way back when the Congressional Review Act was just starting to wreck havoc on late-term Obama rules and regulations.

The latest reprint of the book — 2012 — takes an overly optimistic tone, to say the very least. Convinced that Obama’s presidency would somehow further establish more progressive environmental building blocks in his second term, the authors end their second-edition analysis with a chapter titled: “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same.”

In this epilogue of a chapter, Klyza and Sousa re-examine all of the case studies presented throughout their analysis, namely the contentious ‘Roadless Rule’, the Reagan-Bush/Clinton-to-Clinton/Bush transfers of ‘environmental protection’ powers, and project how the path of environmental policy will extend in the foreseeable future. Klyza and Sousa contend that, despite consistent and increasing gridlock in the U.S. Congress, American environmental policy will still find itself moving towards this (arguably true) ‘green shift’ in favor of greater conservation, a framework that the authors charted from the ‘golden era’ of American environmental politics in the 1960s and 70s.

“When it comes to U.S. environmental policy, however,” the authors write in their ending chapter, drama over the last six years has been “largely lacking” (p. 285).

I wonder what — or if — the authors would publish in 2018, another six years after the second edition hit the shelves, full of Obama-inspired climate optimism.

Are they still as hopeful as they were five years ago, now that we’re almost five months in Trump’s climate change is a ‘waste of your money’ term? Could Klyza and Sousa have predicted such a shift in tone from Obama’s to Trump’s climate agenda? Will they offer any ideas for future mitigation and adaptation — not of climate change, merely, but of Trump’s butchering of recent environmental policy gains?

In 2012, the 2011 House of Representatives was quoted as “the most anti-environmental in our nation’s history” by the League of Conservation Voters (p. 294). Newt Gingrich, Republican presidential candidate during Obama’s re-election year, quite candidly proposed abolishing the EPA, while Herman Cain called the EPA “out of control. The EPA has gone wild.” (p. 288).

Was all this hatred for the EPA manifested in the last election? Have ultra-conservative, right-wing Republicans really sat on their heels and waited to unleash their angst against an agency that, with its slim-pickings budget, will now include 24/7 security for its controversial leader?

Klyza and Sousa (2012) are right to point out that “environmental policy in many areas has been remarkably unstable despite the stability of the basic statutory frameworks governing pollution, conservation, and natural resources” (p. 281) — just look through the last week’s headlines and you’ll get the idea.

As alarming as recent trends have been, not all of these ideas (e.g., fossil fuels in the White House, EPA is unnecessary and a horrible burden) are new.

What I’m finding, with all this historical literature I’m reading, is that our current ‘manifest destiny’ is just a bigger, better re-hash of old Republican moves, used in the presidencies before the Obama era.

President Bush put a few controversial picks in open natural resources slots, namely Mark Rey, “once a leading lobbyist for the timber industry, in charge of forest policy at the Agriculture Department, and Steven Griles, a lobbyist for coal and oil interests, in charge of BLM [Bureau of Land Management] lands, wildlife refuges, national monuments, and national parks at the Department of the Interior” (p. 268).

Why do all the industry lobbyists get a leg in with recent Republican presidents? Surely, there has to be more qualified scientists in this country, who have actually studied natural resource conservation in a rigorous and balance-bias academic setting, and who could more justly serve in these positions of great federal power, over their fossil-fuel counterparts?

Perhaps, the overhead question I keep coming back to is: What will it take to give climate change issues more salience with this country’s citizens? The authors write about the lack of environmental policy questions in the 2006 election debates (p. 263) — and we arguably had the same issue 10 years later!

The notion that “few politician will risk proclaiming they are anti-green” I believe is a false one in today’s anti-regulatory environment — or at least an unfounded one, given current trends in Congress and in policy advancements overall in the last three months.

We’re a nation divided. Divided by cities and countryside. Divided by pocket change and empty pockets. Divided by race. Divided by gender. Divided by ‘progressive’ green thinking and the coal ‘lords of yesterday’.

The contours of our common environment is what unites us all. How can we, the United States of America, find common ground on our common ground?

Week 12

The Headlines

What’s at Stake in Trump’s Proposed E.P.A. Cuts

April 10, 2017 | The New York Times

The exact science behind, and health consequences of, a class of chemicals called endocrine disrupters remains unsettled. With the proposed cuts to research at the E.P.A., it could stay that way.

The budget eliminates a $6 million research and screening effort targeting the chemicals, which are found widely in pesticides, plastics, shampoos and cosmetics, cash register receipts, food can linings and other products. The chemicals have been linked to breast cancer in women and hypospadias, a birth defect in boys.

Ending the program, which would result in the loss of nine jobs, would curtail the agency’s ability to review medical data and work with environmental lawyers to fashion an agency response.

Emerging nations urge rich countries to honour climate finance pledges – statement

April 11, 2017 | Reuters

At a media briefing after the Tuesday meeting, South Africa’s deputy minister of environmental affairs, Barbara Thompson, said recent changes in U.S. policy were “of major concern”.

But “the position of the U.S. is still very unclear to us”, she said, adding “we believe there are different views within the U.S. administration” on this issue.

Trump’s climate demands roil U.S. allies

April 11, 2017 | Politico

After a tense back-and-forth at the meeting in Rome on Monday, the G-7 energy ministers — including representatives from Canada, Great Britain and several European Union countries — wound up scuttling the statement altogether.

April 11, 2017 | The Washington Post

“We are thankful to the court for granting our motion to postpone oral argument,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said in an email. “In light of President Trump’s pro-growth agenda, EPA continues to carefully review the broad implications of the 2015 ozone standard and ensure that we are supporting American jobs and protecting human health and the environment.”

Trump’s EPA is seeking a 24/7 security detail for its new leader

April 12, 2017 | The Washington Post

“I think it’s prudent given the continuing activities by the left to foment hatred and the reported hostility within the agency from some unprofessional activists,” Ebell said at the time.

Scott Pruitt Faces Anger From Right Over E.P.A. Finding He Won’t Fight

April 12, 2017 | The New York Times

But now a growing chorus of critics on the other end of the political spectrum say Mr. Pruitt has not gone far enough. In particular, they are angry that he has refused to challenge a landmark agency determination known as the endangerment finding, which provides the legal basis for Mr. Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other global warming policies.

These critics say that Mr. Pruitt is hacking only at the branches of current climate policy. They want him to pull it out by the roots.

Trump administration halts Obama-era rule aimed at curbing toxic wastewater from coal plants

April 13, 2017 | The Washington Post

That group [Sierra Club] and others noted that power plants represent the largest industrial source of toxic wastewater pollution in the country and that more than a third of coal plants discharge wastewater within five miles of a downstream community’s drinking water intake. They also argued that the Obama administration’s rule was based on years of peer-reviewed studies, input from health experts and a mountain of public comments.

EPA head tells coal miners ‘regulatory assault is over’

April 13, 2017 | The Sentinel [Pennsylvania]

[But] Even coal company executives have publicly expressed doubts that rolling back regulations will stem the coal industry’s decline. Coal mining now accounts for fewer than 75,000 U.S. jobs.

EPA Chief Pruitt: U.S. Should ‘Exit’ Paris Climate Agreement

April 13, 2017 | InsideClimate News

“Paris is something we need to look at closely. It’s something we need to exit in my opinion,” Pruitt said in an interview on the Fox & Friends morning news program.

“It’s a bad deal for America,” he said. “It’s an ‘America second, third or fourth’ kind of approach.”


State Response

Trump’s attacks on environment unites 4 ex-N.J. governors | Editorial

April 8, 2017 | NJ.Com

Whitman has joined forces with Brendan Byrne (governor from 1974 to 1982), Thomas Kean (1982 to 1990) and James Florio (1990 to 1994) to urge the state’s congressional delegation to stand firm against the proposed EPA cuts and layoffs.

Chicago Is Pledging To Lead The Nation In Renewable Energy

April 9, 2017 | The Chicagoist

All buildings operated by the city—including government buildings, Chicago Public Schools, park district buildings, Chicago Housing Authority spaces, and community colleges—will be powered 100 percent through renewable energy, the mayor and other city officials announced on Sunday. Emanuel made the announcement on the roof of Shedd Aquarium, which right now sports more than 900 solar panels.

Solar hits big, brief milestone in California

April 10, 2017 | The San Francisco Chronicle

Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 11, almost 40 percent of the electricity flowing across the ISO grid came from large-scale solar power plants, a record. California has enough big solar facilities to generate up to 9.8 gigawatts of electricity, nearly the output of 10 nuclear reactors.

Portland commits to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050

April 10, 2017 | The Register-Guard [Oregon]

Monday’s announcement from Mayor Ted Wheeler and County Chair Deborah Kafoury places the Portland-metro region alongside 25 other cities that have committed to 100-percent renewables. Nearly 90 major U.S. companies also have committed.

Fla. makes case for climate research at Mar-a-Lago’s doorstep

April 11, 2017 | E&E News

“What do we do about it?” [Nelson] asked. “Well, first, we need to be clear about the facts that are presented to the public and fight against the political censorship of our climate scientists and their data,” Nelson said. “If a doctor were barred from using the word cancer, he or she can’t do his job. And the same is true of the scientists and the work that they do to understand and educate the public about the Earth’s increasing fever.”

CT, NY Petition EPA To Limit Air Pollution From Rust Belt Coal Plants

April 13, 2017 | WSHU Public Radio

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says the state has the highest level of ozone in the Northeast, due in large part to interstate pollution that comes from coal-fired power plants in states likes Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Okla. bill targets ‘existing scientific theories’

April 13, 2017 | E&E News

The legislation comes amid a national climate change education controversy. Earlier this year, the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that denies mainstream climate science, shipped 25,000 books and DVDs rejecting the human role in global warming to public schools across the country. The institute aims to send about 200,000 copies of the book, titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” with the goal of getting the materials into the hands of every science teacher in the country.


A Look Back

Trump Preparing Order to Expand Offshore Oil Drilling

 April 6, 2017 | Bloomberg

“The administration can stare all day at the statute Obama used to protect large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic, but they won’t find a syllable allowing Trump to revoke those protections. Neither will the courts,” said Niel Lawrence, Alaska director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Week 11

The Headlines

Energy Department climate office bans use of phrase ‘climate change’

March 29, 2017 | Politico

A supervisor at the Energy Department’s international climate office told staff this week not to use the phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction” or “Paris Agreement” in written memos, briefings or other written communication, sources have told POLITICO.

EPA chief says Paris climate agreement ‘bad deal’ for U.S.

April 2, 2017 | Reuters

“To demonstrate the leadership that we have shown on this issue with China and India and other nations is very important and discussions should ensue,” Pruitt said on Fox News Sunday, “but what Paris represents is a bad deal for this country.”

Trump Plan to Slash EPA Budget Goes Even Deeper, New Memo Shows

April 3, 2017 | InsideClimate News

The memo repeatedly portrays climate as outside the agency’s “core statutory requirements.” That’s a radical change from the Obama administration’s last EPA budget proposal, which called greenhouse gas mitigation and climate change adaptation “the issue of highest importance facing the agency.”

U.S. coal companies ask Trump to stick with Paris climate deal

April 4, 2017 | Reuters

In Cloud Peak’s view, staying in the agreement and trying to encourage “a more balanced, reasonable and appropriate path forward” on fossil fuel technologies among signatories to the accord seems like a reasonable stance, said Cloud Peak’s vice president of government affairs, Richard Reavey.

U.S. would slash EPA vehicle testing budget under Trump plan

April 4, 2017 | Reuters

The proposal, which would also cut 168 out of 304 full-time jobs, seeks to partially fund current operations by boosting fees automakers and engine manufacturers pay for testing. An EPA official confirmed the document’s authenticity.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s claim that ‘clean coal’ helped reduce carbon emissions

April 5, 2017 | The Washington Post

Pruitt said additional regulation is unnecessary because carbon emissions have already been reduced to pre-1994 levels. He attributed the decline to a host of nonregulatory efforts, including the ability for factories to use technology to “burn coal in clean fashion.”

Trump declares end to ‘war on coal,’ but utilities aren’t listening

April 5, 2017 | Reuters

The utilities gave many reasons, mainly economic: Natural gas – coal’s top competitor – is cheap and abundant; solar and wind power costs are falling; state environmental laws remain in place; and Trump’s regulatory rollback may not survive legal challenges.

U.S. land agency website drops hiking photo to give coal top billing

April 6, 2017 | Reuters

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, an avid hunter and angler from coal-producing Montana, who rode to his first day of work on a horse named Tonto, approved a $22 million coal lease in central Utah last month.


In Other News…

Even Fox News slams EPA chief’s climate denial: ‘All kinds of studies contradict you’

April 2, 2017 | ThinkProgress [with Fox News video]

“What if, in fact, the earth is warming, what if it is causing dramatic climate change and we as humans through carbon emissions are contributing to it? Simple question, what if you are wrong?”


State Response

New York, other states take on Trump over energy efficiency

April 3, 2017 | Reuters

Ten Democratic attorneys general, plus New York City and a Pennsylvania regulator, on Monday notified Energy Secretary Rick Perry of their plan to sue in 60 days for stalling proposed standards for air compressors, commercial boilers, portable air conditioners, power supplies, and walk-in coolers and freezers.

EPA Should Not Be Allowed to Dodge Clean Power Plan Ruling, Cities and States Tell Court

April 6, 2017 | InsideClimate News

The brief even made a veiled threat that if the courts ultimately rule that states have no recourse under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2, they might fall back on a tactic that worked for them in the past: suing polluters under common law for the “nuisance” of intense storms, rising seas and damage to public health.


NEW SECTION: Indigenous Response

Tribes That Live Off Coal Hold Tight to Trump’s Promises

April 1, 2017 | The New York Times

But some of the largest tribes in the United States derive their budgets from the very fossil fuels that Mr. Trump has pledged to promote, including the Navajo in the Southwest and the Osage in Oklahoma, as well as smaller tribes like the Southern Ute in Colorado. And the Crow are among several Indian nations looking to the president’s promises to nix Obama-era coal rules, pull back on regulations, or approve new oil and gas wells to help them lift their economies and wrest control from a federal bureaucracy they have often seen as burdensome.


A Look Back

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

March 28, 2017 | The Guardian Opinion

From Philadelphia to Toronto, hackers raced against the clock to protect crucial datasets before they disappeared. Volunteers tried tirelessly to save what they could, but the federal government is a massive warehouse of information. Some data was bound to get left behind.

Analysis 5

It’s getting more and more difficult to remain optimistic for the future of American climate policy under Trump in these bi-weekly analyses.

After the debacle that emerged as our nation’s future for federal funding — science in general saw significant cuts, global climate change research was gutted completely — President Trump made moves to eradicate any shred of President Obama’s climate legacy, as it has come to be known. Probably just for the sake of it being Obama’s.

How can the pendulum swing this far away from all the ‘progress’ on climate consensus in just 74 days?

We went from having a president who protected the most square kilometers of ocean ecosystem EVER, to a president who has just promised to bring back coal jobs to miners in the Appalachian states — and who has had deleted the words ‘climate change mitigation’ from the State Department website.

President Obama pledged to bring renewable energy technologies up to speed, to compete with other global markets like China and India, on the quest for reduced emissions, improved air quality, and combating increasingly concerning climate change. President Trump proclaimed the revival of clean coal just 5 days ago, and I can scarcely breathe.

I imagine the coal miners, if they aren’t suffering from medical complications already, will scarcely be able to breathe in a few short years, too.

That’s a morbid thought, I know, but it’s true.

Public health officials (and laymen alike) already know the disastrous effects of coal mining on the human body — and that’s completely discounting the impacts of mountaintop removal and underground, by-hand mining on the surrounding ecosystems. There’s that saying ‘the canary in the coal mine’ for a good reason.

But it’s more than just coal mining, Clean Power Plan erasure, public health and ecosystem impacts … it’s the fact that the rest of America’s legislative power is on Trump’s ‘side’ — when there shouldn’t even be sides in the first place.

This is about the future live-ability of our beloved, shared planet, and we’ve turned it into a congressional shouting match, not to mention a presidential prerogative when really it should be up to the people whose lives are going to (have to) change.

The “social cost” of carbon has also been silenced by Trump in the past week. As with the budget cuts of last month, government spending and inflation, I guess, is to blame for America’s current abhorrence to Obama’s terms as president. Deregulation of the fossil-fuel industry, in the form of relaxed fracking and methane-capture rules, and an elimination of federal funding for scientific research has been Trump’s legacy on climate policy, thus far. Moving away from government to corporate, industry interests seems to be the way of Trump; as a businessman himself, this trend makes sense.

But he’s also taking the American people with him on this decry of government as ‘problem only.’ Sounds like the state of affairs a few decades prior: “By the late 1970s, most of America was convinced that government was the issue. It was effective simple politics and bad analysis [emphasis added]” (Madrick, p. 5).

Jeff Madrick, author of “The Case for Big Government” (2009), which I introduced as a text to examine in the last analysis, argues that it’s government’s “management of change is what is critical” to winning over the hearts and minds of its citizens — not the complete defunding and defacing of it.

“Without an active government, a nation cannot respond adequately to its times. If it does not respond to new conditions, both economic growth and the ability to retain the nation’s values will suffer. … The lesson is that pragmatic government should prevail over any categorical or typically ideological dismissal of the uses of government … If what we think of as big government is necessary to manage change, and in a complex society it may well be, then we should pursue it actively and positively, and make it function well [emphasis added]” (p. 8)

I definitely see truth to this analysis. Times are a’changing, especially in regards to energy policies and state diplomacy in the wake of increasing threats to livelihood from climate change all around the world.

As a nation that emits its (more than, I would forcefully argue) fair share of greenhouse gas emissions, we as the United States of America must be diligent in our quest to lead the rest of the world in clean(er) technologies for energy capture/storage, as well as build resilience in our communities for projected changes — or someone else will replace us in the starting line-up.

China has already come out in dismay against Trump’s proposed budget cuts to climate change resilience and associated research. We risk our legitimacy as a ‘freedom flung’ nation, and as a mover-and-shaker of the world for good if we let these issues go down the drain (like all that rising sea water on the East Coast…).

But, maybe that’s not what ‘America’ wants. Maybe America just wants to better itself, make itself ‘great again’.

But what if that’s not all we all want to do?

Week 10

The Headlines

The State Dept. Rewrote Its Climate Change Page

March 23, 2017 | Climate Central

“Deleted from the text was: “The United States is taking a leading role by advancing an ever-expanding suite of measures at home and abroad.” Also stricken were references to mitigation efforts and other mentions of leading on climate change.”

Trump moves decisively to wipe out Obama’s climate-change record

March 28, 2017 | The Washington Post

“So, for the president, even if he would like to revoke the Clean Power Plan, he doesn’t have legal authority to do that,” said Jeffrey Holmstead, a partner at the Bracewell law firm who opposes the Obama-era rule. Holmstead, who headed the EPA’s air and radiation office under President George W. Bush, said he thinks the agency can justify reversing the regulation. But “they have to justify why they have changed,” he added.

Trump promised to bring back coal jobs. That promise ‘will not be kept,’ experts say.

March 29, 2017 | The Washington Post

“In this shaky financial environment, coal companies are struggling. Two of the largest, Contura and Arch Coal, emerged from bankruptcy only recently, and another giant, Peabody Energy, recently filed a reorganization plan for its path out of bankruptcy, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.”

Trump’s war on climate policy is also a war on public health

March 29, 2017 | Vox

“The Clean Power Plan, in other words, has been a big win for health. According to the EPA, cutting exposure to particle pollution in the order the CPP does would have averted up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year.”

Climate change: China calls US ‘selfish’ after Trump seeks to bring back coal

March 30, 2017 | The Guardian

“No matter how hard Beijing tries, it won’t be able to take on all the responsibilities that Washington refuses to take. …Washington is supposed to take the lead in the global fight against climate change but the Trump administration could be the first to ditch the agreement, which is disappointing.”


In Other Congressional News…

Republican sceptics call climate change hearing that massively backfires as expert witness calls for carbon tax

March 30, 2017 | The Independent

“The witness panel does not really represent the vast majority of climate scientists,” she said. “We’d need 96 more Dr Manns.”


State Response

California Upholds Auto Emissions Standards, Setting Up Face-Off With Trump

March 24, 2017 | The New York Times

“California can write its own standards because of a longstanding waiver granted under the Clean Air Act, giving the state — the country’s biggest auto market — major sway over the auto industry. Twelve other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., follow California’s standards, a coalition that covers more than 130 million residents and more than a third of the vehicle market in the United States.”

March 27, 2017 | The Guardian

“New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has said warming temperatures are costing the state “not only in dollars but already in lives”, his Florida counterpart, Rick Scott, will be forever saddled by reports that he banned public servants from uttering the words “climate change”.”

A building boom and climate change create an even hotter, drier Phoenix

March 27, 2017 | The Los Angeles Times

“Last month, amid reports that Trump may attempt to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris climate accord, the city moved in the opposite direction: It adopted a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 from 2005 levels — after exceeding its previous goal of 15%.”

What President Trump’s emissions order means for SoCal

March 28, 2017 | KPCC

“It’s a blue state phenomenon,” said Dr. David Victor, a professor of international relations and director of UC San Diego’s Laboratory on International Law and Regulation. “The coasts have been moving into lower emissions, more renewable energy, more expensive energy for a long time.”


A Look (To The Side)

‘Climate change is real’: companies challenge Trump’s reversal of policy

March 29, 2017 | The Guardian

“We’re disappointed the administration has decided to roll back climate regulations such as the clean power plan and others,” Edward Hoover, senior manager of Corporate Communications for Mars, told the Guardian. “Corporations can’t do it alone. Governments play a critical role in mitigating the effects of climate change on our economy.”

Vatican says Trump risks losing climate change leadership to China

March 30, 2017 | Reuters

“We as a Church, are full of hope that (Trump’s positions) will change,” Turkson said, adding that he hoped “the president realizes that there sometimes can be dissonance between reality and things said during a campaign”.

Week 9

The Headlines

Interior Department to withdraw Obama-era fracking rule, filings reveal

March 15, 2017 | The Washington Post

“Under the proposal, companies that drill on federal and tribal lands would be subject to stricter design standards for wells and for holding tanks and ponds where liquid wastes are stored. They also would be forced to report which chemicals they were pumping into the ground.”

Trump Budget Blueprint Eviscerates Energy Programs

March 16, 2017 | Climate Central

“The proposal fully embraces fossil fuels development while deeply cutting popular environmental cleanup programs such as EPA’s Superfund program, which helps to clean up hazardous waste leftover from abandoned industrial and energy facilities.”

Trump Repeal of Climate Rules Means U.S. Paris Target Now Out of Reach

March 20, 2017 | InsideClimate News

“There were people at the [EPA] hard at work on 2.0 [of climate policy], and they were going to ratchet it up, and it was going to be justified by Paris. It all would have worked, except for that whole election thing,” Bookbinder said. “Now, it’s all over…We’re at square zero.”

Trump Lays Plans to Reverse Obama’s Climate Change Legacy

March 21, 2017 | The New York Times

“The moves are intended to send an unmistakable signal to the nation and the world that Mr. Trump intends to follow through on his campaign vows to rip apart every element of what the president has called Mr. Obama’s “stupid” policies to address climate change. The timing and exact form of the announcement remain unsettled, however.”

The White House calls climate change research a ‘waste.’ Actually, it’s required by law

March 21, 2017 | The Washington Post

“For each of these programs, real people live on the other side of the budget line item,” said Ali Zaidi, a Stanford energy researcher who previously served in a key role in Obama’s Office of Management and Budget overseeing funding for climate and environmental programs. “Students, small business, and sources of economic growth for communities count on this data. Now you’ve got folks waiting by the phone to learn whether they’ll be going to work tomorrow or whether the data that informs their livelihoods will still be available.”

The Hidden Risks of Trump’s EPA Cuts: Birth Defects, Bad Air

March 23, 2017 | Bloomberg

“Calling themselves the Environmental Protection Network, they worked through both Republican and Democratic administrations. The group’s members are putting aside their differences over policies and programs to stop what they say “appears to be nothing less than a full-throttle attack on the principle underlying all U.S. environmental laws—that protecting the health and environment of all Americans is a national priority.””

Trump administration grants approval for Keystone XL pipeline

March 24, 2017 | The Washington Post

“Five years ago, the Keystone XL project faced stiff opposition from Nebraska landowners and environmentalists, many of them worried about potential damage to the state’s massive Ogallala water aquifer and fragile Sand Hills region. In response, the company moved the pipeline’s path farther east. But even that route is sure to face resistance.”


In Other Congressional News…

Republican green groups seek to temper Trump on climate change

March 20, 2017 | Reuters

“Conservative green groups such as ConservAmerica and republicEn, along with politically neutral religious groups such as Catholic Climate Covenant and bipartisan groups such as the Citizens Climate Lobby, have ramped up efforts to recruit more congressional Republicans to work on addressing climate change since Trump’s election.”

Congress grumbles as White House limits spending details

March 22, 2017 | E&E News

“Cantwell was also unaware of the administration’s hesitation to send witnesses up to testify before the full budget is submitted in May but noted that fiscal 2017 appropriations will have to be wrapped up by the end of April, when the current funding resolution expires.”


State Response

Ohio environmentalists alarmed by US budget proposal’s big cuts to EPA

March 12, 2017 | The Columbus Dispatch

“Among the proposals by the Trump administration is one to slash Great Lakes restoration funding by 97 percent — from $300 million to $10 million.”

Green energy in a coal state: the struggle to bring solar jobs to West Virginia

March 19, 2017 | The Guardian

“I really feel like we’re in a race against time, that it’s important we diversify quickly so young folks don’t have to move away,” says Conant. “It’s been really frustrating over the years to see all of my friends leave – pretty much everyone I went to high school with. The state is experiencing a serious brain drain.”

California adopts strictest methane rule in the nation

March 23, 2017 | The San Diego Union-Tribune

“The Trump administration has backed away from efforts to develop a federal rule to curb methane leaks from existing facilities — the nation’s largest source of methane pollution,” Mary Nichols, CARB chair, said in a statement immediately after the vote. “California’s regulations continue our leadership in fighting air pollutants and help meet our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.”

Colorado appeals court says state must protect health and environment before allowing oil and gas drilling

March 23, 2017 | The Denver Post

“The ruling does not mean the COGCC [Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission] now must adopt the teenagers’ proposal to restrict new drilling. It means the COGCC illegally rejected it and sends the case back to district court.”

Vulnerable to climate change, New Mexicans understand its risks

March 23, 2017 | The NM Political Report

“Most New Mexicans know climate change is happening and understand it is human-caused. According to recently-released data, New Mexicans are also more likely than people in about half the country to talk not just about the weather, but climate.”


A Look Back

In race to curb climate change, cities outpace governments

March 13, 2017 | Thomas Reuters Foundation News

“If Trump relaxes standards for clean air, power plants or vehicles “there would be a greater burden on cities to implement programs to fill the gaps,” said Amy Petri of the office of sustainability in the Texas city of Austin.”

Analysis 4

A big budget leads to big spending, and a big government’s to blame.

That’s essentially what President Trump has decreed with this week’s unveiling of the 2018 budget blueprint.

What’s that got to do with climate policy under Trump? Unfortunately, there’s a whole host of programs slated for the shredder, including an astonishing (at least to me) number of environmentally oriented services — services I didn’t even know were up for grabs until I saw the writing on the (Internet) wall.

  • Thinking about cleaning up wastewater in your community? Better luck via the private sector. [Water and Wastewater loan and grant program ($498 million)]
  • Interested in researching ‘alternative’ energy options? Again, look to the private sector. [Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy ($382 million)]
  • What about abandoned mine land grants for clean-up purposes? Look to the so-called ‘permanent fund’ instead. [Abandoned Mine Land grants ($160 million)]
  • Don’t care for state-federal partnerships to “preserve natural, historic, scenic, and cultural resources”? Again, don’t worry anymore about those. [National Heritage Areas ($20 million)]
  • How do you feel about global climate change and the United States’ responsibility? Forget about it! [Global Climate Change Initiative ($1.3 billion)]
  • Would you like to keep the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay clean? Harken back to the States with your concerns, instead. [Geographic watershed programs ($427 million) including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative ($40 million) and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Initiative ($14 million)]
  • Those Appalachian voters swearing by Trump’s promises of economic prosperity? Swear no more. [Appalachian Regional Commission ($119 million)]
  • Chemical accidents? What chemical accidents? [Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board ($11 million)]

I’m writing all this in tongue-and-cheek, but there’s a real (potentially irreversible) environmental protection crisis on our hands with all the million-dollar slashings riddled in this ‘stream-lined’ (but not stream-protecting) budget.

So, Trump: You’re telling me that acid mine drainage, global climate change, and pursuing alternative (ahem, not fossil fuel) energies is a waste of my time, and the country’s economic resources? What about the (real!) notion economic prosperity and curbing climate change? Didn’t you know it’s risky business to bet on a future without mitigation or adaptation to impending climate changes?

Perhaps I’m just a naive undergraduate college student, worried about all those eroding sands and coastal seashores while you and your cabinet crew’s got your heads stuck under the sand. How I wish, sometimes, I could solve my crunched class-time woes as easily as you’re starting to ignore the call to curb global warming!

But I digress.

This week, I’m going to make a case for big government — actually, I’m going to read Jeff Madrick’s ‘The Case for Big Government’ instead.

Because what you’re telling me, Trump, is that a smaller government, a downsized (read bare-bones) budget, and less bureaucrats on the federal dime are going to keep my waters clean, new renewable technologies booming, and our natural resources respected. Forgive me if I’m skeptical, I’m still new to all of this ‘making it all great’ and everything for everybody. (What about Flint, MI and environmental justice?)

So like I said: I’m going to read Madrick(a “noted economist”) to see his point of view, now that I clearly know yours. Published in 2009, Madrick’s book argues that a big government of “high taxes and wise regulations” is not recommended but actually necessary “for the social and economic answers that Americans desperately need” today.

Big government’s been avoided like the plague on both popular party accounts. It’s become “a matter of belief” (p. 2) to minimize taxes and increased government spending, partly to earn electorals but also because it’s been the norm since President Reagan in the 1980s.

But Madrick’s quick to forgo sweeping statements.

“I am not arguing here that there is evidence that big government and high taxes are always and everywhere good. If government is managed poorly, it can have damaging effects. … What I am arguing is that judging by the careful assessment of economic achievements by nations with high taxes and large governments, and judging by American history itself, active and sizable government has been essential to growth and prosperity among the world’s rich nations, including America [emphasis added]” (p. 7).

For the remainder of the 100 days (we’re currently on Day 59, over halfway!!), I’ll be following Madrick’s arguments for big government, since the issue of small government for Trump is affecting his climate policy initiatives big time.

Until then, enjoy your National Parks and public lands now. Who knows how long they’re going to last around here.