Tag Archives: trump nation

Scott Pruitt just blocked expert scientists from EPA advisory boards.

Citing the risk of conflicts of interest, the EPA administrator instituted a sweeping change to the agency’s core system of advisory panels on Tuesday, restricting membership to scientists who don’t receive EPA grants.

In practice, the move represents “a major purge of independent scientists,” Terry F. Yosie, chair of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board during the Reagan administration, told the Washington Post. Their removal paves the way for a fresh influx of industry experts and state government officials pushing for lax regulations.

The advisory boards are meant to ensure that health regulations are based on sound science, but that role may be changing. As of Tuesday, the new chair of the Clean Air Safety Advisory Committee is Tony Cox, an independent consultant, who has argued that reductions in ozone pollution have “no causal relation” to public health.

The new head of the Science Advisory Board is Michael Honeycutt, the head toxicologist at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who has said that air pollution doesn’t matter because “most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors.”

The figureheads of science denial were on hand to celebrate Pruitt’s announcement. Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, called the move a “special occasion.”

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Scott Pruitt just blocked expert scientists from EPA advisory boards.

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A tiny energy company got in a big feud with San Juan’s mayor.

A new Chicago Tribune investigation found that residents in black and Latino communities are charged water rates up to 20-percent higher than those in predominantly white neighborhoods.

The Tribune examined 162 Chicagoland communities with publicly managed systems using water from Lake Michigan. While only 13 percent of the cohorts surveyed are majority-black, those groups included five of the 10 areas with the highest water rates.

Water bills are soaring across the country. A recent USA Today report of 100 municipalities found that over the past 12 years, the monthly cost of water doubled in nearly a third of cities. In Atlanta, San Francisco, and Wilmington, Delaware, the price of water tripled or more.

Low-income residents and communities of color are bearing the brunt of surging water rates, which have buried families in debt, causing some to lose their homes. In Flint, Michigan, more than 8,000 residents faced foreclosure because of unpaid water and sewage bills.

This year, Philadelphia launched an income-based, tiered assistance program to aid low-income residents. City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez spearheaded the bill because residents in her district — which includes some of Philly’s largest Puerto Rican communities — bore 20 percent of the city’s unpaid water debt despite only being a tenth of its population.

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A tiny energy company got in a big feud with San Juan’s mayor.

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This was a bad weekend if you’re worried about the Environmental Protection Agency.

Toward the end of the last ice age, about 19,000 years ago, the sea rose in several large spurts, according to a new study of coral reefs that grew during this period.

This contradicts assumptions that sea level rises gradually. Instead, coral fossils show sudden inundations followed by quieter periods. This offers new information that supports the theory that glaciers and ice sheets have “tipping points” that cause their sudden collapse along with a sudden increase in sea level.

Researchers at Rice University surveyed deep-sea coral fossils in the Gulf of Mexico, scanning their 3D structures to analyze them for growth patterns. Coral likes to live close to the surface, so it grows slowly when sea level is constant. But when sea level rises quickly, the coral grows vertically to try to stay near the surface, forming terraces.

“The coral reefs’ evolution and demise have been preserved,” lead author of the study, Pankaj Khanna, said in a press release. “Their history is written in their morphology — the shapes and forms in which they grew.”

Whether the future is written in these forms, too, remains to be seen.

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This was a bad weekend if you’re worried about the Environmental Protection Agency.

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Nearly half of the country thinks Donald Trump is handling hurricane season well.

Those trips — 49 to 61 percent of all rides in metro areas — would otherwise have been made on foot, bike, or public transit, according to new analysis from UC Davis.

Sustainability-inclined urbanists — including us — often credit car- and ride-sharing services for reducing the overall number of cars in cities. After all, if people know they can get a ride when they need one, they will presumably be less likely to invest in a car of their own.

But the UC Davis study shows that the vast majority of ride-sharing users — 91 percent — have not made a change in their personal vehicle ownership as a result of Uber or Lyft. Meanwhile, these ride-share users took public transit 6 percent less.

That means that ride-hailing services aren’t necessarily taking people out of their cars — they’re taking them off of buses and subways.

There’s still lots of evidence that shows car ownership is an increasingly unappealing prospect for young people in America’s cities (after all, a big chunk of that 91 percent may not own a car in the first place).

Taxi apps may help kill the private car, but they won’t fix all our traffic and transit problems, either. That will take more work.

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Nearly half of the country thinks Donald Trump is handling hurricane season well.

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Zinke doesn’t want to eliminate our beautiful national monuments, so he’s shrinking them

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday delivered his long-awaited recommendations on the fate of 27 national monuments that the Trump administration is considering opening up for mining and drilling. Zinke’s verdict, it turns out, is a confusing one.

The Associated Press was first with the story, with a headline that originally read, “Zinke Won’t Eliminate Any National Monuments.” That seems to suggest good news, but the story goes on to note that Zinke said he is recommending that President Donald Trump make changes to a “handful” of monuments. Conservationists say this is exactly what they feared: They don’t know what those changes mean or which monuments will be targeted, because Zinke has been vague on what’s in his report to Trump. But the administration may intend to shrink monuments in New Mexico, California, and Utah — including Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, monuments that are important to Native Americans.

“First and foremost I think this news shows how arbitrary the process has been,” says Dan Hartinger, the Wilderness Society’s deputy director for Parks and Public Lands Defense. “Talking about them as a ‘handful’ of monuments is something that’s neither acceptable or respectful of the critical cultural and sacred sites.” Hartinger noted that Zinke’s phrasing seemed to try to frame the decision “as some generous gift or compromise,” when the threat of shrinking protected lands is actually a major blow to conservation. Aaron Weiss, a spokesperson for the Center for Western Priorities, agreed. “A handful could be two; a handful could be eight or 10,” he said. “An attack on one monument is an attack on all of them.”

Conservationists predict Trump intends to shrink some existing monuments to open up lands for new mining and drilling operations, a potential move that Friends of the Earth’s Ben Schreiber described as a “blatant handouts to the oil and gas industry.” Any such land would still be federally managed, but losing monument status would strip it of national park-like protections, which forbid new leases for grazing, oil, gas, and mining.

If Trump does attempt to shrink any monuments, he will invite the first constitutional test of the 1906 Antiquities Act, a law signed by Teddy Roosevelt giving presidents the power to create land and marine monuments. In over a century, no president has attempted to reshape national monuments in the way Trump is attempting to do. In 1938, the Department of Justice opined that the president has the power to create monuments but not revoke them. While a few presidents have shrunk predecessors’ monuments — Woodrow Wilson did, for example — those moves weren’t challenged in the courts. Trump’s decisions will almost certainly be challenged both by Native American tribes and environmental groups.

In late April, Trump directed Zinke to review 27 large land and marine monuments created since 1996, a date that was meant to include two controversial monuments in southern Utah: the 1.7 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante, created by Bill Clinton in 1996, and the 1.4 million-acre Bears Ears, created by Barack Obama. Native American tribes were among the leading supporters of the Bears Ears monument, which Utah Republican officials fiercely opposed.

Environmentalists have been particularly dismayed by the Trump administration’s bizarre process for reviewing the monuments. “Secretary Zinke’s so-called review of parks and monuments has been a complete sham, with arbitrary criteria for ‘pardoning’ some national monuments while attacking others,” League of Conservation Voters’ President Gene Karpinski said in a statement.

Zinke’s review often seemed to be more focused on pageantry than on preparing for the inevitable lawsuits that would come his way if his recommendations are implemented. The former Montana congressman and self-styled Roosevelt conservationist often came under fire for tightly controlling his public appearances while he spent four months visiting some of the country’s most beautiful monuments. Interior’s social media feeds are filled with photos of him kayaking, flying on a helicopter, and hiking. He surveyed Bears Ears on horseback.

“This exercise was nothing more than a pretext for selling out our public lands and waters as a political favor to Big Oil and other special interests who want to pad their profits,” said Karpinski.

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Zinke doesn’t want to eliminate our beautiful national monuments, so he’s shrinking them

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West Virginia’s governor wants a new subsidy for coal.

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West Virginia’s governor wants a new subsidy for coal.

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Apparently, all it takes to fix strained relations in Washington is beer.

That’s the conclusion of a study led by Helen Harwatt, an environmental nutrition researcher at Loma Linda University.

You may feel paralyzed and powerless to save the human race from climate doom in the face of Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement. As our favorite doctor-turned-journalist James Hamblin writes in The Atlantic: “The remedy … is knowing what can be done to mitigate environmental degradation, from within in a country singularly committed to it.”

This switch is a relatively easy suggestion!

Okay, one caveat before you start feeling too good. Making the transition from beef to beans could reduce carbon-equivalent emissions by 334 million metric tons — but the United States releases over 6 billion metric tons each year. It gets us closer to the goal Obama set at the 2009 Copenhagen talks, but it doesn’t solve the problem.

Still, it’s worth noting that the trend line on that big ugly graph is moving in the right direction and getting closer to the Copenhagen goal. Much of that can be attributed to (potentially threatened) EPA regulations and a switch from coal to natural gas, but small lifestyle changes on a large scale can nudge it further.

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Apparently, all it takes to fix strained relations in Washington is beer.

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After a threatening call from Trump admin, Lisa Murkowski’s got backup.

The Eternal City’s water utility, Acea, had proposed cutting off water to 1.5 million residents for eight hours a day starting on Monday. The city avoided that fate on Friday when the central government allowed the city to keep drawing from a drought-ravaged lake.

The summer heat is partly to blame for the water shortage. Much of Western Europe has been sweltering, with heatwaves stoking fires in Portugal and setting record temperatures in France. Italy is suffering through one of its hottest, driest, wildfiriest times in history. Several regions have declared a state of emergency or asked for relief from the climate change–fueled drought, which has already taken a $2.3 billion toll on the country’s farming industry.

Rome’s other problems are making things worse. The city’s aqueducts are chronically leaking. Diminished snowpack on nearby mountains means less meltwater to replenish its aquifers. Rome had planned to stop drawing from one of its big sources of fresh water, Lake Bracciano, which has sunk nearly six feet in the last two years.

City officials have switched off iconic fountains and lowered water pressure, causing residents to lug buckets up the stairs to their apartments. Nearby small towns have already resorted to rationing, the New York Times reports.

Minus a drought in the Dark Ages, clean drinking water has been constantly flowing through Rome for millennia. Now, it looks like things are changing (the climate certainly is).

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After a threatening call from Trump admin, Lisa Murkowski’s got backup.

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That French plan to attract climate scientists? It’s working.

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That French plan to attract climate scientists? It’s working.

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We’re about to name a sad swirling sack of clouds Tropical Storm Don, which is apt.

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We’re about to name a sad swirling sack of clouds Tropical Storm Don, which is apt.

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