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WATCH LIVE NOW: People's Climate March in DC

EcoWatch will be covering the People's Climate March all day in Washington, DC, starting with interviews around 9:15 a.m. EST of climate leaders, spokespeople and influencers. From 10:30 - 11 a.m., 10 powerful speakers will tell their stories about why they are marching. At 11 a.m., hundreds of thousands of people will start to line up for the march. There are also hundreds of sister marches around the world.

Led by frontline and Indigenous communities, the march will begin up Pennsylvania Avenue at 12:30 p.m. towards the White House. At 2 p.m., marches will begin to surround the White House grounds, sit-down, take a moment of silence and join in a heartbeat action for 100 seconds to signify our collective stake in this fight.

"On the 100th day of the Trump presidency, the Peoples Climate March will show that our movements are ready to fight for our climate, jobs and justice," 350.org's Executive Director May Boeve said.

"While Trump and his crony cabinet rollback hard-won protections of our communities and our climate, we are mobilizing to fight for the bold solutions we need. We will present our vision to replace the fossil fuel industry with a 100% clean energy economy that works for all. Today, we march. Tomorrow, we rise united across our communities to make our vision of a just and equitable world a reality."

Watch below or click here to watch on Facebook:

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100 Days: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Eric Pooley

President Trump said recently that the tradition of rating a new president's first 100 days is "ridiculous." The White House then created a web page devoted to rating his first 100 days.

It's further proof, if anyone needed it, that the defining feature of this president's first 100 days is noise. Every day brings some piercing new alarm, making it hard to separate the momentarily disturbing from the truly damaging. But this is essential—especially for the environment.

While the president has flip-flopped on some signature issues, he's been totally consistent about dismantling protections for public health, clean air and clean water. So let's take a closer look at what he's done so far, and what it will mean for our health and our world.

Here are the four worst actions Trump took during his first 100 days—and one that's very good:

1. Hired Scott Pruitt

Trump's choice of leader for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) built his career by attacking the agency and its clean air and water rules.

Pruitt is beginning to staff the EPA with Beltway insiders who have made their living lobbying for weaker pollution rules on behalf of industry.

For example, it has been widely reported that Andrew Wheeler may be named as Pruitt's top deputy. Wheeler is now a lobbyist for Murray Energy, a coal mining conglomerate that is demanding an end to the rule that limits mercury pollution.

In fact, a recent analysis by Columbia University Law School showed that more than one quarter of the administration's appointees so far to environmental, energy and natural resource agencies have close ties to the fossil fuel industry. The likely result: Thousands of decisions over the next four years made by those more interested in protecting polluters than public health.

That will leave a toxic legacy of more disease and premature death.

2. Undermined Chemical Safety

Last year, a bipartisan Congress overwhelmingly passed the Lautenberg Act, a new chemical safety law that, after four decades of a broken system that flooded our stores and homes with dangerous or untested chemicals, finally constructed a strong chemical safety net.

But now the EPA has to finish writing the rules to implement it. For that, Pruitt has chosen Nancy Beck, an insider straight from the main chemical industry trade association who even within the last few weeks lobbied the agency on these very rules.

If those new rules give industry everything it wants, we'll have blown a historic chance to restore public trust and market confidence in the products consumers buy for household use. Our health would continue to be at risk—and undoing the damage would take years.

3. Asked to Slash the Federal Budget

The administration's budget proposal would cut the EPA by almost a third—more than any other agency—even though its budget is tiny to begin with.

Out of every $10 the federal government spends, only two cents go to the EPA. These cuts aren't being done to save money. They're part of an ideological crusade the public doesn't support.

If the EPA budget is cut this way, the loss of experts and institutional knowledge will reverberate for years. Detailed plans obtained by the Washington Post show that Trump and Pruitt want to cut a quarter of the workforce and abolish 56 programs with impacts from the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound.

Together, this will lead to more asthma attacks, more health problems for the elderly and a more dangerous future.

4. Moved to Roll Back Protections from Dirty Energy

Pruitt is now trying to gut many of the same the rules and safeguards he sued to stop as Oklahoma's attorney general. They limit the amount of arsenic and acid gases power plants can emit, reduce smog that causes respiratory problems and cut carbon pollution that causes climate change.

He has signaled hostility to the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, despite the fact that virtually all power plants are already in compliance. The EPA chief and Trump have also taken aim at the Clean Power Plan, America's first limits on carbon pollution from power plants, without any strategy to replace it.

The energy market is moving toward cleaner energy, but slowing that process means losing clean tech jobs to other countries and a bigger cleanup for our children's generation.

5. Fueled Environmental Activism

This is the positive legacy of the Trump administration: Americans who used to take clean air and water for granted are waking up to the danger.

Membership in environmental groups is skyrocketing—the biggest question we get these days is, "What can I do?" as women and men from all walks of life are reclaiming environmentalism as a mainstream American value.

Thousands will take to the streets in Washington and other cities on Saturday for the People's Climate March. Just as a blossoming environmental awareness in the early 1970s led to some of the bedrock laws we rely on today, I believe the great awakening of 2017 will echo for years to come.

If we work together and make our voices heard, we can limit the worst of the damage Trump intends to inflict.

Eric Pooley is a senior vice president at Environmental Defense Fund and author of The Climate War.

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The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline

Atlantic Coast Pipeline Would Require Extensive Mountaintop Removal

A new briefing paper details how Dominion Energy's proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would involve the blasting, excavation and removal of mountaintops along 38 miles of Appalachian ridgelines as part of the construction.

The planned 600-mile interstate pipeline will carry 1.44 billion cubic feet per day of fracked gas from West Virginia to North Carolina, cutting through forests, critical animal habitats and pristine mountains that Dominion would be required to "reduce" between 10 to 60 feet, according to the paper released Thursday by the non-profit Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

The paper cites data from the draft environmental impact statement prepared by the Federal Energy Regulatory Council (FERC) as well as information supplied to FERC by Dominion. It also compiles information from Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping software and independent reports prepared by engineers and soil scientists.

"In light of the discovery that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will cause 10 to 60 feet of mountaintops to be removed from 38 miles of Appalachian ridges, there is nothing left to debate," said Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

"Dominion's pipeline will cause irrevocable harm to the region's environmental resources. With Clean Water Act certifications pending in both Virginia and West Virginia, we call on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to reject this destructive pipeline."

The paper was released in coordination with the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, Friends of Nelson County, Appalachian Mountain Advocates and the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition.

Dominion, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy. The developer promises that the Atlantic Coast Pipeline will have "minimal environmental impact" and that "best-in-class restoration and mitigation techniques will be used to protect native species, preserve wetland and water resources, control erosion and minimize emissions." Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Southern Company Gas also have a stake in the project.

As DeSmog reported, President Trump's team has listed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline among the White House's top priorities for infrastructure projects.

Environmentalists and other opponents argue that the pipeline will have adverse effects on sensitive habitats, reduce property values and introduce dangerous precedents for the seizure of private property through eminent domain.

Joyce Burton, a board member of Friends of Nelson County, expressed fears that Dominion's plan to build the pipeline on steep and landslide-prone Appalachian slopes could be catastrophic.

"Many of the slopes along the right of way are significantly steeper than a black diamond ski slope," Burton said.

"Both FERC and Dominion concede that constructing pipelines on these steep slopes can increase the potential for landslides, yet they still have not demonstrated how they propose to protect us from this risk. With all of this, it is clear that this pipeline is a recipe for disaster."

Opponents of the pipeline are demanding more transparency from the company.

Ben Luckett, a staff attorney at Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said it was "astounding" that FERC has not required Dominion to produce a plan for dealing with the millions of cubic yards of excess rock and soil that will result from cutting down the 38 miles of ridgetop for the pipeline.

"We know from experience with mountaintop removal coal mining that the disposal of this material has devastating impacts on the headwater streams that are the lifeblood our rivers and lakes," Luckett added.

"FERC and Dominion's complete failure to address this issue creates a significant risk that the excess material will ultimately end up in our waterways, smothering aquatic life and otherwise degrading water quality. Without an in-depth analysis of exactly how much spoil will be created and how it can be safely disposed of, the states cannot possibly certify that this pipeline project will comply with the Clean Water Act."

Dan Shaffer, a spatial analyst with the Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition, said there are too many risks involved with the project.

"Even with Dominion's refusal to provide the public with adequate information, the situation is clear: The proposed construction plan will have massive impacts to scenic vistas, terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and potentially to worker and resident safety," Shaffer said.

"There is no way around it. It's a bad route, a bad plan and should never have been seriously considered."

Here are some of the new paper's key findings:

• Approximately 38 miles of mountains in West Virginia and Virginia will see 10 feet or more of their ridgetops removed in order to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

• This figure includes 19 miles in West Virginia and 19 miles in Virginia.

• The majority of these mountains would be flattened by 10 to 20 feet, with some places along the route requiring the removal of 60 feet or more of ridgetop.

• Building the ACP on top of these mountains will result in a tremendous quantity of excess material, known to those familiar with mountaintop removal as "overburden."

• Dominion would likely need to dispose of 2.47 million cubic yards of overburden, from just these 38 miles alone.

• Standard-size, fully loaded dump trucks would need to take at least 247,000 trips to haul this material away from the construction site.

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Trump Plans to Aggressively Expand Offshore Drilling in Protected Areas

President Trump plans to sign an executive order today intended to aggressively expand drilling in protected waters off the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The new EO will direct U.S. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke to review the current offshore drilling plans, which limits most drilling to parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska's Cook Inlet, and reexamine opening parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans to drilling. The EO will also roll back President Obama's permanent ban on drilling in the Arctic, issued in the last full month of his presidency. Zinke cautioned reporters that implementation of the EO will be "a multi-year effort," and several groups have pledged lawsuits to further slow down the process.

"Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke is dead wrong," said Greenpeace USA senior climate and energy campaigner Diana Best.

"Renewable energy already has us on the right track to energy independence, and opening new areas to offshore oil and gas drilling will lock us into decades of harmful pollution, devastating spills like the Deepwater Horizon tragedy and a fossil fuel economy with no future. Scientific consensus is that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves—including the oil and gas off U.S. coasts—must remain undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change."

Best added that Trump's latest executive order does not have popular support, and instead caters to "Trump's inner circle of desperate fossil fuel executives."

"Holing up at Mar-a-lago may protect Trump from an oil spill," she said, "but it will not protect him and his cabinet of one percenters from the millions of people in this country—from California to North Carolina—who will resist his disastrous policies."

Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi agrees. "This attempt to greatly expand offshore drilling into the Arctic and Atlantic is a blatant prioritization of fossil fuel profits over the health of our climate and coastal communities," he said. "President Trump is ignoring the cries of citizens who have said offshore drilling poses too great a threat to their economies and ways of life."

For a deeper dive:

New York Times, AP, Axios, Politico, NPR, LA Times, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, ThinkProgress

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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NOAA Launches Investigation Into Unusually High Humpback Whale Die-Offs

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Thursday it is investigating the unusually high number of humpback whale deaths off the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

A total of 41 humpback whales died in the waters off Maine to North Carolina since January 2016, including 15 that washed up dead this year. That's about three times more than the region's annual average of just 14 humpback deaths.

"The increased numbers of mortalities have triggered the declaration of an unusual mortality event, or UME, for humpback whales along the Atlantic Coast," said Mendy Garron, stranding coordinator at the NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, on Thursday.

A UME is issued whenever there is an "unexpected, involves a significant dieoff of any marine mammal population, and demands immediate response," she added.

So far, NOAA has examined 20 of the whales that died last year and determined that 10 of the mammals "had evidence of blunt force trauma or pre-mortem propeller wounds" likely from marine vessels, the agency said.

The whales may be moving around in search of prey, exposing themselves to shipping traffic, researchers suggested.

"It's probably linked to resources," Greg Silber, the large-whale recovery coordinator for NOAA fisheries, told reporters. "Humpback whales follow where the prey is."

The other half of the whales that were examined had no obvious signs of what caused their demise.

"Whales tested to date have had no evidence of infectious disease," Garron said.

The scientists stressed that they are unsure about what is causing the spike in humpback deaths.

"The answer is really unknown," Silber said.

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Rick Perry: Trump Might Seize States' Renewable Energy Goals

By Dave Anderson

Rick Perry said Tuesday that the Trump administration is having "very classified" conversations about preempting state and local support for renewable energy under the pretense of national security.

Perry's remarks came during an on-stage interview at the 2017 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit.

As Bloomberg reported:

During an on-stage interview, Perry was asked if the administration would interfere with state policies requiring utilities to get power from renewable sources. Such a move would potentially destroy efforts by California, New York and other states to fight climate change by encouraging the growth of clean power.

Perry didn't rule it out, saying the reliability of the grid was a matter of national security.

"That's a conversation that will occur over the next few years," Perry said. "There may be issues that are so important that the federal government can intervene."

And according to Time's Justin Worland:

During a question and answer period, Perry also suggested that increased reliance on renewable energy sources like wind and solar might make the grid unreliable given they only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, creating national security concerns. The Trump administration might try to preempt state and local governments that use policy to encourage clean energy to address those concerns, Perry said.

"There's a discussion, some of it very classified that will be occurring as we go further," Perry said. "The conversation needs to happen so the local governors and legislators, mayors and city council understand what's at stake here in making sure that our energy security is substantial."

Saqib Rahim of E&E News provided a slightly different quote from Perry:

"There's a conversation, there's a discussion, some of it obviously very classified, that will be occurring as we go forward, to make sure that we have the decisions made by Congress, in a lot of these cases, to protect the security interests of America," he said at BNEF's The Future of Energy Summit, "and that states and local entities do in fact get preempted with some of those decisions."

Perry's remarks re-sparked earlier concerns that the Trump administration could seek to preempt renewable energy standard policies that are now in place in 29 states, as well as renewable energy goals adopted by another nine states. The growing number of local communities that have committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy could also come under fire from the Trump administration.

Renewable Energy Is Reliable and Makes America Safer—Just Ask the Department of Energy

Rick Perry is also facing scrutiny for ordering a study examining "electricity markets and reliability" that was tasked to his Chief of Staff Brian McCormack, who previously played a central role in attacks against rooftop solar for the Edison Electric Institute. Also named to lead work on the study is political appointee Travis Fisher. Fisher previously worked for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and American Energy Alliance (AEA), which have received ample funding from the Koch brothers and coal industry. IER and AEA have long sought to undermine renewable energy standards in states like North Carolina, a national leader in solar energy.

Christian Roselund of PV Magazine responded to Perry's study order by pointing out that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)—one of the Dept. of Energy's 17 National Laboratories—has already written studies that show we can rely on renewable energy to provide much more of our electricity than it does today. In fact, one 2012 NREL study found that we could get 80 percent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2050 using existing technologies. Other studies by states and grid operators confirm that renewable energy is reliable.

Another NREL study documented the significant health and environmental benefits generated by the state renewable energy standards that the Trump administration could try to preempt. In short, these policies make Americans safer by reducing harmful pollution emitted when we burn fossil fuels—especially coal—to produce electricity.

Other reports by clean energy experts have documented the economic security benefits of these state renewable energy standards, which have supported the growth of jobs in the booming solar and wind power industries.

Real world experience also shows that renewable energy is working just fine. Texas, the state where Rick Perry was governor, actually leads the nation in wind energy generation. In fact, nearly a quarter of the electricity generated in Texas during the first quarter of 2017 came from wind.

Ask the Department of Defense, Too

The Dept. of Defense does not appear to share the Trump administration's concerns about renewable energy. In fact, the military has made significant investments in renewable energy in order to enhance national security—an investment that continues with Trump in the White House. The U.S. Navy just recently refuted misleading claims that a new wind farm could interfere with a radar system made by some Republican lawmakers in North Carolina who wrote a letter to the Trump administration.

Climate Change Is a Real Threat to Energy and National Security

In 2015, the Dept. of Energy released a report that documented the threat climate change poses to energy security—and by extension national security—in every region of the U.S.

The Dept. of Defense has also documented the national security risks posed by climate change— risks James Mattis acknowledged during his confirmation as Trump's Secretary of Defense.

Trump's efforts to rollback limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants and his embrace of the so-called "clean coal" put the nation's energy and national security at further risk from climate change. Preempting state and local support for renewables would only increase those risks.

Rick Perry Could Support Renewable Energy by Working for a Smart Grid

Greentech Media reported that Perry made only "sparse" mention of renewable energy at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, but did say he wants to "help renewable energy make its way to the grid … "

Preempting local and state support for renewable energy would only ensure that less renewable energy makes its way to the grid. Perry could instead take positive steps to support integration of renewable energy by working to build a smart grid, the topic of a Dept. of Energy website. He could also support the energy storage revolution that is now underway, thanks in part to earlier investments by the Dept. of Energy.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration's energy policy seems to more squarely align with fossil fuel and utility interests who seek to undermine state and local support for renewable energy.

The Trump Team Is Full of Opponents of State and Local Support for Renewable Energy

Travis Fisher is not the only political pick by the Trump administration that comes with a history of attacking state and local policies that have fueled the growth of renewable energy to benefit funders in the fossil fuel or utility industry.

Trump tapped Thomas Pyle, also of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and American Energy Alliance (AEA), to run his Dept. of Energy transition team. IER and AEA have targeted state renewable energy standard policies with misleading attacks for years. During the 2016 election, Trump responded to an AEA questionnaire with pledges to "review" key U.S. clean energy and climate change policies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan and science-based endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has already fulfilled part of that pledge by beginning the process of rolling back the Clean Power Plan.

Trump similarly chose climate denier Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute to lead his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. Like Fisher and Pyle, Ebell has attacked renewable energy standards in states like Ohio. Greentech Media recently took a rather revealing look at the backgrounds of some other members of Trump's energy beachhead team.

No Uncertainty About State and Local Support for Renewable Energy

At this point, it remains unclear how exactly the Trump administration would use the pretense of reliability concerns to preempt state and local support for renewable energy. If it does seek to preempt state and local control, it will certainly face significant opposition from states and local communities—including those led by Republicans—that are already leading the way on renewable energy.

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Judge to Exxon: Pay $20 Million for Violating Clean Air Act More Than 16,000 Times

ExxonMobil must pay $20 million for violating the Clean Air Act more than 16,000 times at a Texas plant, a district judge ruled this week.

The ruling against Exxon in a suit brought by Environment Texas and the Sierra Club found that the oil giant failed to update emissions-reductions technology at its Baytown, Texas refining and chemical plant.

In their suit, the groups alleged the plant illegally released more than 10 million pounds of pollutants between 2005 and 2013, while Exxon gained more than $14 million in economic benefits.

"Today's decision sends a resounding message that it will not pay to pollute Texas," Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, said in a statement. "We will not stand idly by when polluters put our health and safety at risk."

For a deeper dive:

AP, CNN, Houston Chronicle

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for daily Hot News.

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100% Clean Energy Bill Launched by Senators to Phase Out Fossil Fuels by 2050

Ahead of the People's Climate March, Senators Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey stood beside movement leaders to introduce legislation that will completely phase out fossil fuel use by 2050. The "100 by '50 Act" outlines a bold plan to support workers and to prioritize low-income communities while replacing oil, coal and gas with clean energy sources like wind and solar.

"100 is an important number," said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. "Instead of making changes around the margins, this bill would finally commit America to the wholesale energy transformation that technology has made possible and affordable, and that an eroding climate makes utterly essential. This bill won't pass Congress immediately—the fossil fuel industry will see to that—but it will change the debate in fundamental ways."

The "100 by '50 Act" would put a halt to new fossil fuel infrastructure projects like Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline, and fracked gas pipelines facing opposition from tribes and landowners. Instead of new fossil fuel infrastructure, the bill invests hundreds of billions of dollars per year in clean energy—enough to create four million jobs. These large-scale clean energy investments prioritize black, brown and low-income communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

"While fossil fuel billionaires supporting Trump's administration put profits before people, we now have a legislative roadmap to phase out this dirty industry once and for all," said 350.org Executive Director May Boeve. "This bill deploys clean energy in communities that need it most and keeps fossil fuels in the ground. From Standing Rock to the Peoples Climate March, movement leaders have been calling for these solutions for years. This bill is proof that organizing works, and it's the beginning of an important conversation."

The issues covered by the bill reflect the demands of the climate movement, from Standing Rock to the fossil fuel divestment campaign, to the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground. The content stands in bright contrast to Trump's vision of a more polluted America where fossil fuel billionaires profit at the public's expense. While this precedent setting bill is unlikely to pass during the Trump administration, similar bills are being considered at the state and local level in California, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere across the country.

At a press conference held by Senators Merkley and Sanders, speakers included representatives from climate and environmental justice groups, progressive organizations and more. A crowd of supporters carried banners and signs reading "100% Clean Energy For All," and, "Keep Fossil Fuels In The Ground." The event was part of an ongoing week of action leading up to the People's Climate March on April 29, when thousands of people are converging in DC and around the country to march for jobs, justice and the climate.

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