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Senate Republicans Rig System, Trigger 'Nuclear Option' to Push Through Gorsuch

Senate Republicans rushed through a confirmation vote Thursday on President Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch has been met with widespread criticism both across the country and from the Senate before, during and after his confirmation process.

For more than 200 years, the Senate has honored a 60 vote margin for Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed. Gorsuch only received 55. According to existing Senate procedure, Gorsuch's nomination would be defeated and the Senate would move forward without confirming him to the court. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed the rules and triggered the so-called "nuclear option" for what had been deemed the "greatest deliberative body" to force Gorsuch's nomination through.

The Senate rightfully rejected Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is their duty to advise and consent on judicial nominees and with this vote, they refused their consent and advised President Donald Trump that Gorsuch is not fit to be granted a lifetime appointment to America's highest court.

We live in a representative democracy, where the people are to be the ones in charge. Yet, Senate Republicans have rigged the system to appease their leader, President Donald Trump, in order to put a man on the Supreme Court that has been backed by $10 million in shadowy money from big corporations. This is not how democracy works and Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans should be ashamed of themselves.

Senate Republicans have made their choice to serve President Donald Trump instead of serving the American people.

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Trump's Unprecedented Attack on Clean Air and Climate Action

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to begin the process of repealing several Obama-era actions tackling the climate crisis and protecting clean air and water, including steps to begin the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, roll back Oil and Gas New Source Performance Standards, rescind National Environmental Policy Act guidance that directs agencies to account for the climate crisis and end efforts to reform the broken federal coal leasing program.

A new Sierra Club analysis of Department of Energy 2017 jobs data across the energy sector makes it clear that the sector Scott Pruitt and Trump will be attacking—clean energy—employs far more American workers than the fossil fuel industry. Coal is declining so rapidly—thanks to grassroots activism and market forces in the U.S. and abroad—and clean energy is growing at such a fast pace that the U.S. is on track to meet its Clean Power Plan goals and the U.S. has a path to meet its goals under the Paris climate agreement.

Pruitt's own agency confirmed that the Clean Power Plan will lower electricity rates while saving billions of dollars and thousands of lives every year. Meanwhile, there are legions of obstacles Trump must overcome to actually dismantle the Clean Power Plan—he can't do it with the stroke of a pen.

Donald Trump's executive order would let dirty power plants spew unlimited pollution into our air while ignoring the climate crisis, unraveling protections that are designed to save billions of dollars and thousands of lives. In fact, Trump's sweeping order is the single biggest attack on climate action in U.S. history, period.

The safeguards Trump is trying to throw out protect all families in America by curbing dangerous carbon pollution and reducing other dangerous pollutants like mercury, methane and sulfur dioxide—but unfortunately Trump would rather pad the fossil fuel industry's profits. But it's not just padding their profits with threats to our health, it's also being done with our wallets. Ending the coal leasing moratorium does nothing but sell-out our publicly-owned lands for pennies on the dollar to coal companies.

Worse, Trump's attack ignores reality—not just the reality of the climate crisis, but the reality that the clean energy economy is rapidly growing in both red and blue states, creating jobs and safeguarding our air and water. The best way to protect workers and the environment is to invest in growing the clean energy economy that is already outpacing fossil fuels and ensuring no one is left behind at a time when we can declare independence from dirty fuels by embracing clean energy, this action could only deepen our dependence on fuels that pollute our air, water and climate while making our kids sicker.

Meanwhile, grassroots advocates have helped push coal to its lowest level in history by retiring nearly 250 plants nationwide and cities ranging from Salt Lake City, Utah to Georgetown, Texas are committing to 100 percent clean energy.

Because of strong local action to replace coal and gas with clean energy we are on track to meet the Clean Power Plan's 2030 emissions targets as soon as next year and clean energy growth nationwide will continue unabated. However, the Clean Power Plan is a critical tool that helps every state benefit from the clean energy economy and plan for an orderly and effective transition away from fossil fuels. Sadly, Trump's aggressive pro-polluter action means residents living downwind of the remaining coal- and gas-powered power plants will suffer from dirtier air while missing out on many of the benefits of the fair and just clean energy economy the Clean Power Plan would help create. And kids everywhere face a deeply uncertain future, with a president content to let the climate crisis spiral out of control.

The good news is that the safeguards Trump wants to shred—like the Clean Power Plan—are on a strong legal footing and the public will have the chance to voice its objections as the Trump administration tries to roll them back. Trump can't reverse our clean energy and climate progress with the stroke of a pen and we'll fight Trump in the courts, in the streets and at the state and local level across America to protect the health of every community.

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Trump Lied: Keystone XL Now Allowed to Be Built Using Imported Steel

Late Thursday evening, news broke that TransCanada, the company behind the formerly rejected Keystone XL pipeline, will not be required to use U.S. steel to construct the dirty tar sands pipeline from Alberta, Canada through the U.S. to refineries in the Houston area. This is in spite of the repeated pledges by President Trump—including at Tuesday's speech before a joint session of Congress—that it will be built with "American steel."

Earlier this week, TransCanada delayed its $15 billion Investor State Dispute Settlement suit under NAFTA over President Barack Obama's rejection of the pipeline until March 27, the same day that the final permitting decision for Keystone XL is due. It has been speculated that the lawsuit was suspended rather that dropped to ensure that TransCanada was not required to use U.S. steel despite Trump's public statements that it would be.

President Trump has sought to portray himself as some sort of master negotiator, but he clearly needs to spend more time in an apprenticeship. Just days ago, Trump pledged before the country and Congress that the Keystone XL pipeline that he was forcing on this country would be made with American steel, but instead, he was outmaneuvered by a foreign company that wants to use imported steel.

The only winner of this "deal" is TransCanada, which is using a $15 billion threat under NAFTA's deeply flawed corporate tribunal system to outmaneuver Trump and push a dirty and dangerous pipeline across our country.

TransCanada's success over Trump is what happens when you have an administration stacked with fossil fuel billionaires and a trade deal that enables corporate polluters to push their agenda at will. Keystone XL is a disaster waiting to happen for our economy, our health and our climate, which is why it was rejected and must remain so.

Zinke Confirmation Threatens Our Public Lands

The Senate voted today to confirm Rep. Ryan Zinke as Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

His confirmation will be followed by a rally today at noon outside the Department of the Interior in Washington, DC. The rally will demonstrate people's love of the outdoors and the fierce expectation that Sec. Zinke stand firm against those seeking to undermine the new Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

The confirmation of Rep. Zinke as Interior Secretary jeopardizes the future of our great outdoors and the people, wildlife, and economies that depend on them.

The majority of Americans want to see our public lands protected for future generations to enjoy, not sold off or plundered for the financial benefit of the few. Yet as a Congressman, Zinke repeatedly sold out to corporate polluters.

The Secretary of the Interior must stand behind our public lands and stand up for tribal sovereignty, not consider rolling back protections for places like Bears Ears National Monument. We will continue to push Secretary Zinke to defend our public lands. We will resist all efforts to dismantle, degrade, and dispose of our outdoor legacy, even as we fight to make these places more accessible and welcoming for everyone.

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Trump to Sign Two Executive Actions to Advance Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines

Today, President Donald Trump will scrap key aspects of former-President Obama's climate leadership, as he reportedly plans to sign Executive Orders to move the the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines forward.

TransCanada, the foreign company behind the Keystone XL project, will attempt to use eminent domain to sue American landowners and seize their private property in order to pipe this dirty fuel across the U.S. for export. After Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015, TransCanada sued the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) for $15 billion. Despite his previous remarks concerning NAFTA, Trump did not address the company and its lawsuit before approving the project.

Following months of national opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Department of the Army ordered an environmental review of the project in December of 2016. The pipeline was originally proposed to cross the Missouri River just above Bismarck, North Dakota, but after complaints, it was rerouted to cross the river along sacred Tribal grounds, less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Trump had invested in Energy Transfer, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. His spokespeople have claimed that he has since divested, but no proof has been presented.

Donald Trump has been in office for four days and he's already proving to be the dangerous threat to our climate we feared he would be. But, these pipelines are far from being in the clear. The millions of Americans and hundreds of Tribes that stood up to block them in the first place will not be silenced and will continue fighting these dirty and dangerous projects.

Trump claims he's a good businessman, yet he's encouraging dirty, dangerous tar sands development when clean energy is growing faster, producing more jobs and has a real future. Trump claims he cares about the American people, but he's allowing oil companies to steal and threaten their land by constructing dirty and dangerous pipelines through it. Trump claims he wants to protect people's clean air and water, but he's permitting a tar sand superhighway that will endanger both and hasten the climate crisis.

The Keystone pipeline was rejected because it was not in the country's interest and the environmental review of the Dakota Access Pipeline was ordered because of the threats it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux. Nothing has changed. These pipelines were a bad idea then and they're a bad idea now.

Simply put, Donald Trump is who we thought he is: a person who will sell off Americans' property and Tribal rights, clean air and safe water to corporate polluters.

America—Don't Be Fooled, Trump's Cabinet Picks Can Be Stopped

I'm not sure how many things you'd get Michael Bloomberg, Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney to agree on, but they did all say the same thing about Donald Trump: He's a con man. As the chaotic disaster of his presidency begins to play itself out on the national stage, though, we need to take that assessment a step further: Donald Trump is a master of deception and distraction, and our biggest mistake would be to underestimate him. He knows exactly what he's doing. He misdirects and misrepresents to compensate for his weakness as a leader.

Trump often distracts people by saying one thing while doing exactly the opposite. For example, he will praise President Obama and publically declare, as he did in Time magazine this week, that erasing his predecessor's legacy is the furthest thing from his mind. Meanwhile, he is making the farthest-right cabinet appointments in history, choosing men and women who will not only strive to erase President Obama's legacy, but do so with relish.

On no issue is this more obvious than climate change. When pressed on climate change during a meeting with the New York Times, Trump said he intended to keep "an open mind" on the Paris climate accord. Meanwhile, his daughter Ivanka supposedly let it be known that she wanted to make climate change her "signature issue." Might a Trump administration actually work with climate activists to find common ground? Who wouldn't want to believe that? And yet it all turned out to be misdirection.

One after another, every important climate position in Trump's cabinet has gotten an extreme anti-environmental, climate-denying nominee. It started with the most radical anti–climate-progress administrator imaginable for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a sworn enemy of the same agency he would run.

Then came Rex Tillerson as secretary of state—which would put an oil executive with no experience in international diplomacy and a king-sized conflict of interest in charge of our international climate policy.

Next, Trump picked former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once pledged to eliminate the Department of Energy, to run that very department.

And finally, for the Interior Department, he selected Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, who during his short time in Congress has earned a 3 percent score from the League of Conservation voters.

This is a Koch brothers dream team: Not one of these men accepts the scientific consensus behind climate change. To a man, they are boosters of polluting fossil fuels.

And yet, in the real world, most Americans want their government to do something about climate change—not sabotage our progress. Even more Americans—majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, Trump voters and Clinton voters—want to see their government invest in renewables and a clean-energy economy. If Trump gets away with this clean sweep of dirty energy champions, Americans will end up with exactly the opposite of what we really want and desperately need.

You can argue about whether such tactics served Trump well in his long and checkered business career, but for a U.S. president this kind of behavior is a political time bomb. As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." Every piece of data shows that Trump is the least popular U.S. president to enter office in recent history. Despite the unprecedented intervention of a foreign government in the election, he lost the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Treating the American public like suckers while ignoring their real needs and wishes (and hoping they won't notice) is a loser's strategy. It's habitual deception masking a desperate, thin-skinned insecurity. And sooner or later, it will fail spectacularly.

In the meantime, though, a lot of damage can be done. That's why we must see past the distractions of tweets and soundbites and shine a fierce light on the reality of what Trump and his corporate cronies want to do to our government. Nominating someone like a Rex Tillerson to the highest position in the cabinet is a brazen overreach that must be stopped. Putting the EPA and the Department of Energy in the hands of men who want to destroy those institutions is outrageous.

Don't be fooled. We can stop this from happening. If everyone who believes it's important to protect our climate and environment speaks up, Trump will be forced to back down. Start now by telling your senators to oppose the Tillerson and Pruitt nominations, and stay tuned for more actions and ways to get involved.

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'Signed, Sealed and Delivered': Paris Climate Agreement Reaches Major Milestone

The European Union formally joined the Paris climate agreement today, tipping the global agreement over the much-anticipated 55 percent emissions threshold needed for entry into force. The agreement crossed the 55 country threshold in September at a UN event hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The agreement will enter into force in 30 days, just ahead of the upcoming climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco.

After years of tireless dedication and work toward an international climate deal, the Paris agreement has finally jumped off the page and into reality. This step forward means that the Paris agreement will enter into force this year, and that's not a moment too soon.

In Paris, fossil fuels received their expiration date, and today's announcement marks a global turning point that unites the world to finally take action to tackle the climate crisis while unquestionably putting us on a path toward a modern clean energy economy.

The Sierra Club applauds the unprecedented global leadership that brought us to this historic moment and recognizes that it would not have been possible without the collective action of activists around the world working to protect our families, our communities, our air, our water and our climate.

Now that the agreement is a reality, we must finally align our global energy and economic policies to meet these goals and end subsidies for outdated fossil fuels, transition to 100 percent clean energy and stop harmful trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership that run counter to the goals of the Paris agreement.

Goldman Prize Winner Reportedly Attacked at Her Home by Mining Industry Hitmen

Early Sunday morning, Máxima Acuña, a 2016 recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, was reportedly attacked at her home in Peru when hitmen illegally entered the property. Máxima was awarded the 2016 Goldman Prize for her fight against the expansion of the Yanacocha Mine, a subsidiary of Colorado-based mining giant Newmont and Peruvian-based mining company Buenaventura. The hitmen that attacked Máxima and her partner, Jaime Chaupe, were reportedly hired by the mining companies.

Máxima Acuña, 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for South and Central America, stood up for her right to peacefully live off her own land.Goldman Environmental Prize

It is with healing thoughts and a heavy heart we wish Máxima and her partner a quick recovery from this outrageous attack. Máxima has been an inspiration in the fight to protect her land, her livelihood and her community from the greed and destruction of the mining companies operating in Peru. Her bravery and persistence have helped shape the world in untold ways, and we are intensely disturbed by Sunday's events.

The continued attacks and assassinations of the brave environmental and indigenous rights activists around the world is a clear indication that we still have a long way to go to ensure a world that is truly safe, equitable and inclusive for all.

We stand with our friends and allies in Peru and around the world in demanding that those responsible for this atrocity be brought to justice.

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