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Ryan Zinke wants Trump to downsize even more national monuments.

Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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Ryan Zinke wants Trump to downsize even more national monuments.

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Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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Let’s check in on some of the brands increasingly running your life.

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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Today, the president signed two proclamations drastically cutting land from two federal monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, by 80 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

When President Obama designated Bears Ears a national monument last year, it was a huge victory for five Utah tribes — the Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Ute Indian Tribe, Hopi, and the Pueblo of Zuni — who came together in 2015 to push for the preservation of what they estimate are 100,000 cultural and ancestral sites, some dating back to 1300 AD, in the region.

“More than 150 years ago, the federal government removed our ancestors from Bears Ears at gunpoint and sent them on the Long Walk,” Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred said in statement. “But we came back.”

The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to establish national monuments, largely to thwart looting of archaeological sites. Trump is the first president to shrink a monument in decades.

The five tribes have said they will bring a legal case against the administration — the outcome could redefine the president’s powers to use the Antiquities Act. “We know how to fight and we will fight to defend Bears Ears,” Filfred said.

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Energy Transfer Partners has until April to develop an oil-spill response plan for the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Syria is joining the Paris Agreement, leaving the U.S. alone in rejecting it.

At a hearing on the federal response to the 2017 hurricane season, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler questioned the EPA’s decision to declare water drawn from the Dorado Superfund site OK to drink.

In 2016, the agency found that water at Dorado contained solvents that pose serious health risks, including liver damage and cancer. Yet after CNN reported that Hurricane Maria survivors were pulling water from the site’s two wells, the EPA conducted an analysis and found the water fit for consumption.

When Nadler asked Pete Lopez, administrator for Region 2 of the EPA, why his agency changed its position, Lopez responded that the chemicals are present in the water, but are within drinking water tolerance levels.

The EPA’s standards for drinking water are typically higher than international norms, John Mutter, a Columbia University professor and international disaster relief expert, told Grist. Nonetheless, he believes it is unusual for the EPA to declare water safe to drink just one year after naming it a Superfund site.

At the hearing, Nadler said the situation was “eerily similar” to the EPA’s response after 9/11 in New York. One week after the attacks, the agency said the air in the neighborhood was safe to breathe. But since then, 602 people who initially survived the attack have died from cancer or aerodigestive issues like asthma, and thousands more have become sick.

“The [EPA’s] history of making mistakes makes you feel like perhaps they should be challenged,” says Mutter, citing the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.

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Syria is joining the Paris Agreement, leaving the U.S. alone in rejecting it.

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Harvey’s record rains just triggered Houston dams to overflow

In 1935, a storm swept through Houston, turning parts of the city into a lake. It was a wake-up call to city officials; they needed to get serious about flood control. About a decade later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished building two massive reservoirs west and upstream of the city. For the better part of a century, the Addicks and Barker dams have held back water that would have otherwise surged through Buffalo Bayou, the flood-prone waterway that snakes through downtown Houston before dumping into the Ship Channel.

This week, for the second time in as many years, a storm has pushed the Addicks and Barker dams to their limit. Early Monday morning, as Tropical Storm Harvey lingered over Houston and drowned whole swaths of the city, the Army Corps of Engineers began controlled releases from the dams, the first time they’ve done so during a major storm. By Monday afternoon, several neighborhoods near the reservoirs were under voluntary or mandatory evacuation as officials announced that releases from Addicks and Barker would continue for the foreseeable future. By early Tuesday morning, Addicks had topped the dam’s 108-foot spillway, leading to what officials call “uncontrolled releases” from the reservoir. Some homes could be inundated for a month.

Harris County Flood Control District meteorologist Jeff Linder called the releases the least-worst decision officials could make in light of floodwaters that continue to fill the reservoirs faster than they can safely drain. “If you are upstream of the reservoir, the worst is not over,” Linder said at a Monday afternoon press conference, warning that “water is going to be inundating areas that have currently not been inundated.” When someone asked him, via Twitter, whether the dams could break and trigger a Katrina-like disaster, Linder offered a one-word response: “No.”

That assurance comes despite the Corps of Engineers labeling the dams an “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure” after a 2009 storm that saw only a fraction of the rain Harvey poured on Houston this week. Officials insist that the hair-raising label has more to do with the breathtaking consequences of any major dam failure upstream of the country’s fourth-largest city than the actual likelihood of such a breach. In 2012, they detailed how a dam failure during a major storm would cause a multi-billion dollar disaster that turns the city into Waterworld.

Still, the Corps in recent years has implemented only piecemeal fixes to the earthen dams, including a $75 million upgrade that was underway before Harvey hit this weekend. Officials are barely even discussing how to fund a third reservoir that some experts say the region desperately needs.

This is the second year in a row that severe floodwaters have tested Addicks and Barker. Just last year, during 2016’s so-called Tax Day Flood, for the first time, the reservoirs hit and surpassed the level of a 100-year flood. That happened again this weekend, meaning the dams have seen two extremely rare flood events (at least one-in-a-100-year events) in just as many years. Last year was also the first time the National Weather Service ever issued a flood warning for the Addicks and Barker watersheds.

The dams are in some ways emblematic of how flood planning in the Bayou City hasn’t kept up with the region’s booming population and development, even as experts predict that climate change will dump increasingly severe storms on Houston’s doorstep with greater frequency. They were built in a region of water-absorbing prairie grasses that have in recent years been paved over by water-impermeable parking lots, driveways and suburban streets. The Sierra Club even sued the Corps in a failed attempt to stop construction on a nearby stretch of the Grand Parkway, a major toll road project that some opposed fearing it would coax development in an area that’s critical to the region’s flood control efforts.

Still, as the Texas Tribune and ProPublica pointed out in this 2016 investigation, Houston-area flood officials refuse to connect the region’s flooding problems to poorly planned development. As a result, every year people will keep building hundreds, if not thousands, of additional structures in Harris County’s 100-year floodplains, even as those “rare” storms start to hit year after year.

In a Monday press conference, Edmond Russo, an engineer with the Corps’ Galveston district, said officials wanted to keep high water from building up and going over the Addicks and Barker spillways, “because in that case, we do not have control over the water.” He’d hoped releases would stay low enough so that the already overtaxed Buffalo Bayou stays at the same level in the short term. In the long term, officials say it could take one to three months to totally drain the reservoirs.

Of course, that all depends on what happens in the coming days. Updating reporters on the reservoirs’ status Monday evening, Linder said more heavy rainfall or levee breaches upstream could change how fast the dams must release water downstream.

“Our infrastructure is certainly being tested to its limits,” Linder said.

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Harvey’s record rains just triggered Houston dams to overflow

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Hurricane Harvey brings some of the heaviest downpours anyone has ever seen

This story has been updated. 

Hurricane Harvey made landfall late Friday night on the Texas coast as one of the most intense hurricanes in U.S. history, spawning as many as 50 tornado warnings in the Houston area alone.

But its worst feature is still unfolding: several days of what could be some of the most intense rainfall this nation has ever recorded, a clear signal of climate change.

After a destructive storm surge washed away homes, and winds as strong as 132 mph blew away roofs and left hundreds of thousands without power, Harvey is expected to stall, drastically worsening the risk of catastrophic inland flooding from relentless rains.

The dire National Weather Service forecast for catastrophic flooding appears to have come true. Overnight, parts of Houston received as much as two feet of rain, causing widespread devastation. Another two feet of rain is on the way, according to the latest forecasts.

Through mid-week, Harvey is expected to move at an exceedingly slow 1 mph, pushing its rainfall forecast off the charts. For the first time in its history, the National Weather Service is forecasting seven-day rainfall totals as high as 40 inches in isolated pockets — equal to what’s normally a year’s worth or rain for coastal Texas.

Some high-resolution models predict even more. (For reference, the estimated 1-in-100-year seven-day rainfall total for the region is just 18 inches.) Meteorologist Ryan Maue estimated that 20 trillion gallons of water will fall on Texas over the next seven days, which is equal to about one-sixth of Lake Erie.

Virtually every river and stream between San Antonio and Houston is expected to experience record or near-record flooding over the next few days. Forecasters racked their brains to recall a scenario so dire anywhere in the world; a 2015 typhoon hitting the Philippines produced a similar amount of rain, but over a much smaller area.

Although the exact impact of global warming on the strength and frequency of hurricanes remains undetermined, there’s a clear climate connection when it comes to higher rainfall. All thunderstorms, including hurricanes, can produce more rain in a warmer atmosphere, which boosts the rate of evaporation and the water-holding capacity of clouds.

Heavy downpours have increased by 167 percent in Houston since the 1950s, and flooding there has been heightened by unfettered development and urban expansion. Some of the worst flooding in the region’s history has come from slow-moving storms like Harvey.

We don’t yet know if climate change will bring more slow-moving, rapidly intensifying tropical storms like Harvey. But flooding is what kills most people in hurricanes, and that will only get worse.

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Hurricane Harvey brings some of the heaviest downpours anyone has ever seen

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A climate research expedition was halted by … climate change.

There’s been much high-profile gushing over the spaceship-in-Eden–themed campus that Apple spent six years and $5 billion building in Silicon Valley, but it turns out techno-utopias don’t make great neighbors.

“Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general,” writes Adam Rogers at Wired, in an indictment of the company’s approach to transportation, housing, and economics in the Bay Area.

The Ring — well, they can’t call it The Circle — is a solar-powered, passively cooled marvel of engineering, sure. But when it opens, it will house 12,000 Apple employees, 90 percent of whom will be making lengthy commutes to Cupertino and back every day. (San Francisco is 45 miles away.)

To accommodate that, Apple Park features a whopping 9,000 parking spots (presumably the other 3,000 employees will use the private shuttle bus instead). Those 9,000 cars will be an added burden on the region’s traffic problems, as Wired reports, not to mention that whole global carbon pollution thing.

You can read Roger’s full piece here, but the takeaway is simple: With so much money, Apple could have made meaningful improvements to the community — building state-of-the-art mass transit, for example — but chose to make a sparkly, exclusionary statement instead.

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A climate research expedition was halted by … climate change.

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Actually, Apple’s shiny new office park isn’t that cool.

There’s been much high-profile gushing over the spaceship-in-Eden–themed campus that Apple spent six years and $5 billion building in Silicon Valley, but it turns out techno-utopias don’t make great neighbors.

“Apple’s new HQ is a retrograde, literally inward-looking building with contempt for the city where it lives and cities in general,” writes Adam Rogers at Wired, in an indictment of the company’s approach to transportation, housing, and economics in the Bay Area.

The Ring — well, they can’t call it The Circle — is a solar-powered, passively cooled marvel of engineering, sure. But when it opens, it will house 12,000 Apple employees, 90 percent of whom will be making lengthy commutes to Cupertino and back every day. (San Francisco is 45 miles away.)

To accommodate that, Apple Park features a whopping 9,000 parking spots (presumably the other 3,000 employees will use the private shuttle bus instead). Those 9,000 cars will be an added burden on the region’s traffic problems, as Wired reports, not to mention that whole global carbon pollution thing.

You can read Roger’s full piece here, but the takeaway is simple: With so much money, Apple could have made meaningful improvements to the community — building state-of-the-art mass transit, for example — but chose to make a sparkly, exclusionary statement instead.

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Actually, Apple’s shiny new office park isn’t that cool.

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Should Trump Eliminate These Beautiful National Monuments? Here’s Your Chance to Weigh In.

Mother Jones

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Up to 27 national monuments could be at risk as the Trump administration embarks on an unprecedented endeavor to roll back protections for public lands. President Donald Trump signed an executive order in late April asking the Department of Interior to give him recommendations for which monuments he should target. All of the monuments potentially on the chopping block are larger than 100,000 acres and were created after 1996—a date chosen to include the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument that’s unpopular among some Utah residents.

It’s unclear exactly what Trump intends to do with those recommendations, which are due in August. The 1906 Antiquities Act gives the president broad powers to create new national monuments, which typically protects the land or water from new mining leases. The law has never been used to roll back a predecessor’s monument. If Trump decides to eliminate or shrink any of these monuments via executive order, they would likely remain federal lands managed, but more acreage could be opened to activities such as logging, mining, and grazing. Any attempt by Trump to do this would certainly face legal challenges.

But those lawsuits are still months away. In the meantime, the public can tell the administration how it really feels about these monuments during the Interior’s comment period, which opened Thursday and runs until July 10 (with the exception of comments for Utah’s Bears Ears, which runs through May 26).

Many early commenters have spelled out the economic, historic, and environmental importance of these monuments. A small fraction of the comments call on Trump to reverse one of President Barack Obama’s final monument designations: Bears Ears National Monument. Bears Ears protects sacred Native American land and was also one of Obama’s most controversial monuments, given Republican opposition in Utah (and the area’s oil and gas deposits). But Bears Ears has many supporters, too. “Bears Ears is exactly the kind of place the Antiquities Act intended to protect,” one comment argues. “It is rich in cultural history which inspired a historic coalition of tribes to band together to push for its designation.”

Check out a few of the monuments below. (A full list of the land and marine monuments under review is available here.)

Bears Ears in Utah, designated in late 2016 at 1.4 million acres Bob Wick, BLM/Flickr

Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, designated in 2001 at 377,000 acres Bob Wick, BLM/Flickr

Carrizo Plain in California, famous for its superbloom and designated in 2001, at 200,000 acres BLM/Flickr

Mojave Trails in California, designated in 2016 at 1.6 million acres Bob Wick, BLM/Flickr

Pacific Remote Islands, a marine monument designated in 2009 at 55.6 million acres USFWS-Pacific Region/Flickr

Papahanaumokuakea, a marine monument near Hawaii designated in 2006 and expanded in 2016, at 89.6 million acres Dan Polhemus, USFWS/Flickr

Grand Canyon-Parashant in Arizona, designated in 2000 at 1 million acres T. Miller/NPS

Rio Grande del Norte in New Mexico, designated in 2013 at 243,000 acres Bob Wick, BLM/Flickr

Vermilion Cliffs in Arizona, designated in 2000 at 280,000 acres Bob Wick, BLM/Flickr

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Should Trump Eliminate These Beautiful National Monuments? Here’s Your Chance to Weigh In.

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Army Halts Construction of Dakota Access Pipeline

Mother Jones

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not grant a permit for the controversial Dakota Access pipeline to cross under Lake Oahu in South Dakota, a decision that could halt construction of the last link of the controversial pipeline that has been the subject of protests for the better part of this year. The water protectors, as they refer to themselves, have set up camps in the path of the pipeline in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, which opposes the project. This weekend, veterans from around the country converged on the region to show their support.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement commending “the courage that it took for Barack Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and do the right thing.” Tribal chairman David Archambault also expressed hope that the incoming Trump administration would “respect this decision.”

In its statement, the Army said it believes the pipeline route should be subject to a full environmental impact statement “with full public input and analysis.” That process typically takes multiple months, often years.

Mother Jones’ Wes Enzinna is currently enroute to the area and will continue covering this developing story.

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Army Halts Construction of Dakota Access Pipeline

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