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FEMA said it was ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico, but now it isn’t.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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FEMA said it was ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico, but now it isn’t.

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New Jersey’s new governor is bringing back cap-and-trade.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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New Jersey’s new governor is bringing back cap-and-trade.

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Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

Now that one of the strongest nor’easters on record has swirled off to Canada, it’s time to talk about what everyone was thinking during the storm: Is this just what happens now?

Short answer: yes. Get used to it. Wild storms like this week’s massive coastal cyclone will be part of winters in the Anthropocene.

This storm’s frightening name — the “bomb cyclone” — was derived from an obscure meteorological term and caught on after President Donald Trump’s terrifying tweet about nuclear weapons. The storm wasn’t as scary as all that, obviously, but it still spread havoc.

The storm ravaged a swath of the country from Florida to Maine. In South Carolina, rare snow blanketed downtown Charleston. In South Florida, stunned iguanas fell from the trees.

Boston also witnessed its largest coastal flood in history. Amid the usual scenes of buried cars and cute dogs playing in the snow, we also saw waves crashing through a seawall into homes and fire trucks plowing through flooded streets on their way to high-water rescues. At one point, the National Weather Service in Boston warned people not to ride the icebergs that were floating in on the high tide. That’s … unusual.

Storms like this one have always threatened to flood coasts. Seven of New York City’s 10 worst coastal floods on record have been from nor’easters. With rising seas and warming wintertime oceans juicing the power of cyclones, there’s good reason to expect that huge winter storms will pose an increasingly severe risk to coastal communities in the Northeast. In fact, it’s exactly what we expect will happen with climate change.

It’s normal for winter storms to gather strength in a hurry — dozens of them do so every year around the world. But the “bomb cyclone” intensified at a rate far exceeding any storm to come close to the East Coast since the advent of weather satellites in the 1970s. After a day of searching, the National Weather Service found a similar storm from 1989 about 600 miles off the coast that didn’t affect land.

Meteorologists and weather geeks spent the storm marveling at the view from space, but as with every big storm of our new era, this one felt like a harbinger.

Atlantic Ocean temperatures right offshore were as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal for early January, causing hurricane-force winds and snow squalls so intense they fired off lightning bolts over parts of New York and Rhode Island. Forecasters dispatched a Hurricane Hunter airplane to investigate the storm.

All this atmospheric drama overshadowed two other storms underway at the same time. A sprawling cyclone even stronger than the “bomb cyclone” plowed past Alaska, where the ocean should be covered in ice this time of year. In Europe, a powerful ocean storm made landfall in the British Isles. It arrived with a cold front whose strong winds fanned midwinter wildfires on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica and closed down ski slopes in the Alps for fear of avalanches.

For some, all this evidence of an overheating world is too much to accept.

In comments on the Senate floor this week, Senator James Inhofe of snowball fame, riffed on another recent presidential tweet in the context of the current cold snap. “Where is global warming when we need it?” he said. “We sure needed it this last week.”

Increasingly, it seems like the only time you hear a climate denier talk about climate change is when a snowstorm hits. Hey, look! It’s really cold outside. This snowball sure isn’t warm; therefore the world isn’t warming.

Winter may be the last refuge of climate deniers, so it makes sense that they’ll work harder to seize on cold-weather storms. It’s a window into their view of the world. Appearance is enough evidence. It’s all that really matters. Given what’s at stake in the oceans and on land, such views should be seen for what they are: a threat to our safety, just as real as any bomb.

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Get used to saying ‘bomb cyclone.’ This is our climate now.

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Trump and Zinke go all in on offshore drilling.

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Trump and Zinke go all in on offshore drilling.

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A Book of Bees – Sue Hubbell

READ GREEN WITH E-BOOKS

A Book of Bees
Sue Hubbell

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: January 24, 2017

Publisher: Open Road Media

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC


A New York Times Notable Book: “A melodious mix of memoir, nature journal, and beekeeping manual” ( Kirkus Reviews ). Weaving a vivid portrait of her own life and her bees’ lives, author Sue Hubbell lovingly describes the ins and outs of beekeeping on her small Missouri farm, where the end of one honey season is the start of the next. With three hundred hives, Hubbell stays busy year-round tending to the bees and harvesting their honey, a process that is as personally demanding as it is rewarding.   Exploring the progression of both the author and the hive through the seasons, this is “a book about bees to be sure, but it is also about other things: the important difference between loneliness and solitude; the seasonal rhythms inherent in rural living; the achievement of independence; the accommodating of oneself to nature” ( The Philadelphia Inquirer ). Beautifully written and full of exquisitely rendered details, it is a tribute to Hubbell’s wild hilltop in the Ozarks and of the joys of living a complex life in a simple place. “The real masterwork that Sue Hubbell has created is her life.” — The New York Times   “Beautifully written.” — The Philadelphia Inquirer   “A latter-day Henry Thoreau with a sense of the absurd.” — Chicago Sun-Times   “Engaging . . . Satisfying . . . Ms. Hubbell’s piquant style is as enticing as blackberry blossoms to her bees.” — Winston-Salem Journal Sue Hubbell is the author of eight books, including A Country Year and New York Times Notable Book A Book of Bees . She has written for the New Yorker , the St. Louis Post-Dispatch , Smithsonian , and Time , and was a frequent contributor to the “Hers” column of the New York Times . Hubbell lives in Maine and Washington, DC.

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A Book of Bees – Sue Hubbell

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After farmed salmon break-out, Washington state says: “Please, go fishing.”

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced yesterday that it plans to curb power plant emissions by 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

The participating states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — will finalize the agreement on Sept. 25. According to the Washington Post, Massachusetts wanted to set the bar higher by “reducing carbon emissions 5 percent a year. But Maryland balked and threatened to pull out of the pact, saying it would lead to higher energy costs for consumers.”

The agreement caps the emissions from the power generation only (unlike California’s system, it does not include other industry, transportation, or agriculture), and allows those electricity generators to buy and sell emissions rights. This latest move simply lowers the cap.

Even though Washington, D.C., tends to suck up all the oxygen in the conversation, local and regional leaders are trying different approaches to suck all the carbon out of the economy. In these statehouses, it’s a lot less hot air, and a lot more action.

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After farmed salmon break-out, Washington state says: “Please, go fishing.”

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This tiny program keeps our coasts safe. Trump’s gutting it, of course.

The semi-annual meeting of the Sea Grant Association in Washington, D.C., is usually a straightforward affair. It’s typically a time for administrators from around the country to discuss coastal research and hash out the association’s business.

But as members gather to start their meeting on Tuesday, there’s plenty of drama. The Trump administration reportedly plans to slash the budget of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and gut federal funding for NOAA’s Sea Grant program.

This time, Sea Grant’s very existence is at stake.

“My initial reaction [to the news] was horror and disgust,” says Jim Eckman, director at California Sea Grant. “I think we’re facing a much graver crisis that we’re going to have to deal with.”

Though hardly a household name, Sea Grant funds important work, supporting over 3,000 scientists and paying for coastal research through 33 university programs. Sea Grant projects shed light on sea-level rise, ocean acidification, the effect of melting glaciers on kelp beds, and much, much else.

Congress created the Sea Grant program in 1966 in part to improve scientific understanding for the fishing industry. Since then, it has helped pay for projects that encourage commercial fishers to adopt sustainable practices off the coast of Ventura, California. It has backed efforts to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and to forecast the loss of wetlands from hurricanes hitting Louisiana.

Sea Grant directors get federal money and hustle to match it with private and state investment for research. Sometimes they manage to double what the government gives them. But without a federal commitment, the program would be finished, says MaryAnn Wagner, a spokesperson for Washington Sea Grant.

Coming to grips with the reality of climate change is scary enough. Dealing with its assault on coasts without the extensive research to understand the consequences? Downright devastating, administrators say.

In coming days, directors will start mapping out plans to defend the program. “Big fights are a-brewin’,” Eckman says.

The Trump administration reportedly wants to use the cuts to NOAA and its $73 million Sea Grant program to help pay for a $54 billion boost in military spending.

Eckman and other directors doubt Sea Grant’s bipartisan support in Congress will erode so quickly for a program it has supported for decades. They hope Congress will have their backs.

“I have to assume there are some wise people in our Congress who see the flaw” of prioritizing defense over science, says Paul Anderson, who directs Maine Sea Grant. “Mr. Trump is setting up for a political battle.”

Sea Grant’s managers say Trump’s proposal underscores the administration’s disrespect for science. They suspect similar cuts will come to programs at the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Forest Service — at a cost to scientific understanding.

Slashing funding for scientific research would be “a disservice to everybody in the nation and the world,” Anderson says. “It’s like flying blind. Why would we fly blind if we don’t have to?”

Though the cuts seem drastic, it’s not the first time a president has threatened to obliterate the Sea Grant program. In 1981, the Reagan administration proposed pulling federal funding. A task force assembled to defend Sea Grant. An analysis of 57 examples from the program found the $270 million the government spent on Sea Grant during its first 14 years yielded $227 million in economic benefits each year. Congress was ultimately swayed to protect it.

A similar political dance could happen this time. According to Wagner from Washington Sea Grant, every federal dollar spent returns about $8 in economic benefits. A NOAA analysis shows the program helped support $575 million in economic development and more than 20,000 jobs in 2015. “This is a small but mighty program,” Wagner says.

Knowing Sea Grant has survived a challenge before buoys hope that maybe the Trump administration won’t succeed in scrapping it. “It makes me less worried,” says Linda Duguay, a Sea Grant director at the University of Southern California. “But then, I thought the election was going to go in a different direction.”

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This tiny program keeps our coasts safe. Trump’s gutting it, of course.

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Betsy DeVos’ Confirmation As Education Secretary Is in Trouble

Mother Jones

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Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) told colleagues Wednesday that they will not vote for GOP billionaire megadonor Betsy DeVos for education secretary, throwing her nomination in doubt just a day after a committee voted to advance DeVos’ bid to the full Senate.

With the GOP-Democrat split in the Senate at 52-48, “no” votes from Collins and Murkowski—and a party-line vote from Democrats—would tie the count at 50, leaving Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote. With one more dissenting Republican, however, Democrats would have officially defeated a Cabinet nominee for the first time since defense secretary nominee John Tower was voted down in 1989.

The two senators’ statements came as somewhat of a surprise given that both had voted in committee Tuesday to move DeVos’ nomination to the full Senate. But each had expressed reservations about DeVos’ support for school choice and voucher programs and her commitment to public education. “I have serious concerns about a nominee who has been so involved in one side of the equation,” Murkowski said on the Senate floor Wednesday, adding that her office had received thousands of calls from constituents concerned about DeVos.

DeVos has been the subject of criticism from teachers’ unions, Senate Democrats, and others for her defense of expanding charter schools and voucher programs, her inexperience in public education, and questions about her commitment to upholding federal civil rights laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. As my colleague Kristina Rizga recently pointed out in an in-depth investigation, DeVos and her family have donated millions of dollars to right-wing causes and conservative Christian groups.

DeVos’ vote before the full Senate has not yet been scheduled, though there was speculation Wednesday afternoon that the GOP would move quickly. Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters he had “100 percent confidence” that DeVos would be confirmed, adding, “I think that the games being played with Betsy DeVos are sad.”

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Betsy DeVos’ Confirmation As Education Secretary Is in Trouble

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Trump’s CIA Pick Doesn’t Seem to Understand the President-Elect’s View on Torture

Mother Jones

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The man picked by Donald Trump to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency apparently is in the dark on an important intelligence matter: Trump’s view on torture.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) has been tapped by Trump to lead the spy service, and on Thursday morning he came before the Senate Intelligence Committee for his confirmation hearing. He addressed the matters in the headlines. He said he accepted the intelligence community’s assessment that Russian intelligence hacked Democratic targets during the 2016 campaign and then leaked material to benefit Trump. “It is pretty clear,” Pompeo said, noting the Russian motive was “to have an impact on American democracy.” Unlike Trump, Pompeo was fully embracing the intelligence community’s findings.

But Pompeo was also caught in a hack-related contradiction. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the committee, pointed to a tweet Pompeo sent out in July declaring, “Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC Leaked by Wikileaks.” King didn’t say this, but his point was obvious: With this tweet, the incoming CIA chief had helped a secret Russian intelligence operation to change the outcome of the presidential election. King did ask Pompeo, “Do you think WikiLeaks is a reliable source of information?” Pompeo replied, “I do not.” So, King inquired, why did he post this tweet and cite WikiLeaks as “proof”? Pompeo was busted. Pompeo repeated that he had never considered WikiLeaks a “credible source.” King pushed on and asked Pompeo how he could explain his tweet. Pompeo stammered and remarked, “I’d have to go back and take a look at that.” Uh, right.

Another awkward moment came when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) questioned Pompeo about the use of torture. “If you were ordered by the president,” she asked, “to restart the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques that fall outside the Army field manual”—meaning waterboarding and other methods now banned by law—”would you comply?”

“Absolutely not,” Pompeo said. He pointed out that he had voted for the law that banned waterboarding and other acts of torture that the CIA had used during the Bush-Cheney years. “I will always comply with the law,” Pompeo declared. (In 2014, however, he claimed that the interrogation techniques in use during the Bush administration were not torture.)

But Pompeo also said this: “I can’t imagine I would be asked by the president-elect or then president” to have the CIA engage in torture.

His imagination, then, is rather limited. During the presidential contest, Trump made headlines with his promise to revive waterboarding and to use other means of torture. During one of the Republican primary debates, Trump was quite firm on this point. He was asked about former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s remark that the military could defy orders from the president to torture or kill civilians, and Trump went on a roll:

They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse, believe me. You look at the Middle East, they’re chopping off heads, they’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way, they’re drowning people in steel cages, and now we’re talking about waterboarding…It’s fine, and if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger too. Because frankly, that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine these people, these animals, over in the Middle East that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding.

Trump was indicating that he didn’t give a damn about laws restricting the use of torture and that he would expect officials to follow any presidential orders to engage in such conduct. So how hard is it to envision that Trump, once in office, might order intelligence services and the military to use waterboarding and acts of torture that are “tougher than waterboarding”?

Pompeo was clear that his view on the use of torture is not in sync with Trump’s. He was clear that he would not follow an order to employ such methods. But he indicated that he didn’t understand his soon-to-be boss’ attitude toward torture. After all, it doesn’t take that much creativity to imagine Trump trying to follow through on his vow to bring back waterboading and much worse.

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Trump’s CIA Pick Doesn’t Seem to Understand the President-Elect’s View on Torture

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Gun Control Advocates Have Something to Smile About Today

Mother Jones

Even as the National Rifle Association celebrates Donald Trump’s victory, gun control advocates have something to smile about today. Of the four gun-related measures on state ballots this year, three passed.

Maine’s Question 3

The only gun-related ballot measure not to win, Question 3 asked voters whether background checks should be required for private gun sales. If neither the buyer nor the seller is a licensed gun dealer, they’d have to go to a licensed dealer who would run a background check. The measure would have also required a background check for loaning guns, with exceptions for gun transfers between family members, emergency self-defense, and temporary transfers for hunting and sport shooting. Supporters, including Maine Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense Fund and Mainers for Responsible Gun Ownership Fund, have spent $5.2 million to get the measure passed. Approximately $1 million was spent against it, the vast majority by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action.

California’s Proposition 63

Prop 63 passed easily, garnering 63 percent of the vote. It will ban certain types of semi-automatic assault rifles, require background checks for ammunition sales, outlaw magazines that carry more than 10 bullets, create a system for confiscating guns from felons, and require gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms. Major components of the initiative already became law earlier this year, and gun rights groups say they will challenge the overlapping laws in court. Opponents spent nearly $1 million against the measure to the nearly $4.5 million spent by supporters.

Nevada’s Question 1

Similar to Maine’s ballot initiative, Question 1 will require most gun sales, including private sales, to be subject to a background check. However, it narrowly passed by less than 10,000 votes. The same exemptions that Maine allows also apply here. Supporters spent more than $18 million and received significant financial backing from Everytown For Gun Safety. The NRA Nevadans for Gun Freedom and Nevadans for State Gun Rights spent nearly $6.5 million to sink the initiative. The NRA stuck to its usual script in opposing the measure, writing, “Question 1 does nothing to prevent criminals from obtaining firearms.”

Washington’s Initiative 1491

Initiative 1491 allows family, household members, and police to petition a judge to temporarily prohibit a person’s access to guns if that person is found to be a risk to himself or others. Petitions for an “extreme risk protection order” will last one year. Those under order can request a hearing to argue against the order. The NRA opposed the measure, saying that “if a person is truly dangerous, existing law already provides a variety of mechanisms to deal with the individual.” Nonetheless, it passed with 71 percent of the vote.

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Gun Control Advocates Have Something to Smile About Today

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