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Montana Senator Introduces Bill to Ban Gold Mining Near Yellowstone National Park

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation on Tuesday to protect more than 30,000 acres of public land bordering Yellowstone National Park. These public lands in Montana's Park County are the targets of two industrial scale gold mine proposals, which would threaten the national park, the clean water of the Yellowstone River, wildlife and the local economy. The legislation does not affect any recreational use of the land, including hunting or fishing.

Sen. Tester's legislation followed actions made in the fall of 2016, when U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture began a two-year time-out on gold exploration and mining, on the public land near Yellowstone National Park.

"The people in Park County are standing together and saying industrial gold mining doesn't make sense on the doorsteps of Yellowstone. Our river, our wild lands and our wildlife are too valuable to gamble," said Michelle Uberuaga, executive director of the Park County Environmental Council.

"Our local elected officials and the county commission are standing with us and we're grateful to have Sen. Tester's leadership in Washington, DC. Now we need to see this to the finish line," she added.

More than 300 local businesses of the bipartisan Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition asked for the action, citing risks to their livelihoods and to the strong regional economy. The local calls for action were echoed on a national level, for the potential impacts to the world's first national park and surrounding wildlife habitat, as well the Yellowstone River and its world-famous fishery.

"National Parks Conservation Association applauds Sen. Tester for taking the next step in opposing industrial gold mines next to Yellowstone," commented Stephanie Adams, Yellowstone program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.

"Concerns over the threats to Yellowstone and its nearby communities and waterways have been echoed by Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Steve Daines. It is time for our elected officials at all levels to stand together in forever protecting these priceless lands."

Sen. Tester's legislation protects private property rights while enacting a permanent withdrawal on the public lands.

"Legislation is needed to permanently prevent private corporations from industrializing public lands in the heart of the Yellowstone ecosystem," said Jenny Harbine, attorney for Earthjustice.

"The introduction of legislation is a crucial first step and now we must all fight for Congressional approval of this critical protection for some of our nation's most-prized wild lands."

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Cedar Mesa Valley of the Gods in the Bears Ears National Monument in southeastern Utah. Bob Wick, BLM

Trump Signs Executive Order Targeting National Monuments, Could Open Up Lands for Oil and Gas Development

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ordering a review of the Antiquities Act and national monuments on more than 100,000 acres.

The review enables the Department of Interior to examine whether any of the monument designations have led to a "loss of jobs, reduced wages and reduced public access."

"The Antiquities Act does not give the federal government unlimited power to lock up millions of acres of land and water," President Donald Trump said during a brief ceremony today flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke. He added that it was "time to end this abusive practice."

The 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is one of the first targets for review. The monument was created by President Obama last year and has sparked major controversy between Republican lawmakers and conservationists. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's congressional delegation led by Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz and Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee have launched a campaign to abolish national monument. More than 270 million acres of American land and waters are potentially at risk—an area two and a half times the size of California.

GOP lawmakers have accused President Obama, who designated more monuments than any other president, of abusing the Antiquities Act to protect land from fossil fuel development.

"By potentially rolling back safeguards for lands and waters that are currently protected from destructive development for generations to come, Trump is carving up this beautiful country into as many corporate giveaways for the oil and gas industry as possible," said Diana Best of Greenpeace USA. "People in this country who cannot afford the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago want safe water they can drink and public lands for their communities to enjoy."

National monument designations have protected some of the most iconic places in the country. Dozens of the nation's most treasured national parks were first protected as monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia and Olympic national parks, explained the Center for Biological Diversity.

Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, emphasized that the NRDC will fight the review, and said the president is not authorized to reverse monument designations.

"These public lands belong to all of us," she said. "The U.S. holds them in trust for the benefit of this and future generations. These monuments have been deemed worthy of permanent conservation because of their unique resources and wildlife, ecological importance, and vulnerability to encroachment and destruction. President Trump and Secretary Zinke should not strip away their protection and subject them to industrial exploitation by polluters or other corporate interests."

The Center for Biological Diversity noted that more than 50 national monuments are at risk, including vast marine areas in the Pacific and Caribbean. Congress gave the president the authority to designate national monuments on federally owned land under the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was signed into law by President Teddy Roosevelt, for the express purpose of protecting important objects of historic and scientific importance.

"This is a frightening step toward dismantling the protection of some of America's most important and iconic places: our national parks and monuments," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump's tapping into the right-wing, anti-public-lands zealotry that will take us down a very dangerous path—a place where Americans no longer have control over public lands and corporations are left to mine, frack, clear-cut and bulldoze them into oblivion. It starts with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase and only gets worse from there."

National monuments are cherished by Americans for their natural beauty and cultural significance.

"There is no need for a review to demonstrate what families across the country already know first-hand—national monuments provide tangible health, natural, and economic benefits," said Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director. "Protected outdoor spaces drive the outdoor recreation economy which supports 7.6 million jobs and generates $887 billion in consumer spending each year. National monuments and public lands are vital both for the history they preserve and the future they offer.

"Contrary to the Trump administration's thinly veiled hopes," he added, "this review will reveal what studies, surveys and polls have consistently found across the country—a deep, widespread appreciation for our parks, monuments and other public lands, and a popular belief that they should continue to exist."

As thousands of people across the country and in Washington, DC are expected to join the People's Climate March on Saturday, indigenous leaders and climate activists will, as 350.org Executive Director May Boeve points out, "now have to defend our parks and monuments from Big Oil as well."

Tom Goldtooth, executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, put it this way. "This is another Trump action that is another act of aggression against the inherent sovereign rights of our Native Nations to protect the traditional cultural areas and sacred places of American Indian and Alaska Native people," he said.

"There are many areas in this country, outside of our reserved lands that are of vital importance to our Indigenous peoples' identity and rich cultural and spiritual history. The 1906 Antiquities Act cannot be stripped on its important historical mandates to designate national monuments to protect areas that have cultural, historical and environmental significance. The act is paramount to all the tribes in this country; for our cultural preservation now and into the future. The frontline Indigenous communities in our network see Trump's actions as a way to open up fossil fuel and extractive mineral development within these national monuments designated under the 1906 Antiquities Act. Trump's action must be stopped."

Companies are also outraged at Trump's latest executive order. "Less than 24 hours after joining with our industry to celebrate the economic power of outdoor recreation, in a hypocritical move, the Trump administration took unprecedented steps that could result in the removal of protections for treasured public lands," Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said.

"We take this as a sign that Trump and his team prefer to cater to fossil fuel interests and state land grabs for unsustainable development, rather than preserve a vital part of our nation's heritage for future generations by protecting federal lands owned by every citizen."

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Trump to Launch Unprecedented Attack on National Monuments

President Trump is poised to threaten more than 1 billion acres of national monument protection in a devastating and unprecedented attack on America's public lands and oceans.

Trump is expected to issue an executive order April 26 calling for a review of every national monument that's been protected by presidential proclamation since 1996. His goal is to turn these natural and cultural wonders over to special interests, including mining and logging industries. Trump reportedly has the stunning Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah at the top of his hit list.

"This is a frightening step toward dismantling the protection of some of America's most important and iconic places: our national parks and monuments," said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump's tapping into the right-wing, anti-public-lands zealotry that will take us down a very dangerous path—a place where Americans no longer have control over public lands and corporations are left to mine, frack, clear-cut and bulldoze them into oblivion. It starts with Bears Ears and Grand Staircase and only gets worse from there."

More than 50 national monuments are at risk, including vast marine areas in the Pacific and Caribbean. Congress gave the president the authority to designate national monuments on federally owned land under the Antiquities Act of 1906 for the express purpose of protecting important objects of historic and scientific importance.

"President Trump is clearly doing the bidding of the Utah congressional delegation, who are without question the most aggressive federal lawmakers seeking to seize, dismantle and privatize America's public lands," Suckling added.

National monument designations have protected some of the most iconic places in the country. Dozens of the nation's most treasured national parks were first protected as monuments, including Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia and Olympic national parks.

"With this review, Trump is declaring war on America's public lands," Suckling said. "The president is satiating the greed of industry and blatantly dismissing the wishes of the vast majority of Americans, who overwhelmingly want to see these areas protected for future generations."

The monuments under attack are cherished by Americans for their natural beauty as well as their huge cultural significance.

Congress gave the president authority to designate national monuments on federally owned land under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features. No president has ever attempted to withdraw a monument named by a predecessor.

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Play-by-Play: Trump's First 100 Days

Since taking office, President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress have unleashed the worst-ever assault on our right to breathe clean air, drink safe water and enjoy healthy lands, moving to undo the historic progress of recent years to address climate change.

Rolling back a half century of bipartisan advances in protecting our health and our environment is not a plan that puts America first. It's a brazen payoff that puts polluters first and the rest of us at risk.

As we approach the 100-day mark, here are the highlights or lowlights, of what Trump and the GOP Congress have accomplished so far―and what they have not.

Spoiler alert: Much of Trump's orders cannot be pushed through simply by fiat; there's often an extensive administrative process, public engagement period and rulemaking required, all of which takes months, even years, to complete. Much can also be slowed, stopped and reversed, as illustrated through some key legal challenges that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and our allies have already taken to thwart this dangerous agenda.

Trump's Assaults

April 19: EPA asks court to stop work on a power plant pollution case.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to ask a federal court to delay an oral argument challenging federal standards limiting mercury, lead and other toxic air pollution, although the power sector has largely complied with the rule advanced in 2012. John Walke, director of NRDC's Clean Air Project, said, "This disgraceful move is the first step toward weakening or reversing health standards limiting toxic air pollution from the nation's power plants."

April 13: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calls for exiting international climate agreement.

Pruitt incorrectly calls the landmark Paris accord, which the U.S. helped broker, a "bad deal" and falsely asserts that China and India won't do anything to curb climate change until 2030. In fact, both countries are acting now to curb dangerous carbon pollution and dramatically expand renewable power from the wind and sun. Trump and Pruitt would damage the air Americans breathe, the water we drink and the planet we inhabit, just to let polluters get away scot-free, said Han Chen, NRDC's international climate advocate, who analyzed China's and India's climate commitments.

April 7: Pruitt moves to kill smog protections.

As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt sided with polluters challenging federal limits on ozone pollution. Now, at the EPA, Pruitt has backed away from defending the standards for ground-level ozone—a byproduct of fossil fuel pollution that produces smog and is linked to respiratory and heart ailments. The EPA asked a federal court to delay oral arguments in the lawsuit, saying it needs time to "fully review" the rule. "President Trump is aiding baseless litigation mounted by Scott Pruitt before he was put in charge of EPA over the consensus of doctors and scientists," NRDC's Walke said.

March 30: EPA skirts banning dangerous pesticide.

Pruitt gave a green light to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide sprayed on crops including apples, almonds, broccoli, strawberries and citrus fruits, giving new meaning to the notion of the poisoned apple in the Garden of Eden. The pesticide is linked to learning disabilities in children. Pruitt rejected his agency's own analysis in declining to ban chlorpyrifos.

March 28: Trump signs Climate Destruction Order.

The most egregious step in Trump's first 100 days of his presidency is the signing of a "climate destruction plan" couched in a pro-pollution "energy independence" order.

The far-reaching order:

• Calls for "review" of the Clean Power Plan, the landmark Obama administration clean air standards. These would clean up existing dirty plants, reduce climate change, save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of respiratory ailments and asthma attacks. But presidents don't get to reverse federal rules by fiat; they have to go through a public process and demonstrate that their actions are consistent with law and science. Trump has a long, hard road ahead of him in his effort to reverse the Clean Power Plan and NRDC and its allies will fight for it every step of the way. More here.

• Calls for "review" of new plant carbon pollution standards. In contrast to the Clean Power Plan, the rules for new power plants have not been stayed by the courts. So for this rule, EPA Administrator Pruitt cannot give his industry allies relief except by going through the rulemaking process. That's why Pruitt has asked the federal courts to stop work on a case addressing this rule, an inappropriate stalling tactic aimed at scrapping the rule by stealth, said NRDC's David Doniger, head of the Climate & Clean Air program.

• Eliminates estimating costs of climate change. The order withdraws documents that lay out the social cost of carbon estimate and disbands the interagency working group that calculated it. Why? Because it reveals something polluters don't want widely known—carbon pollution imposes real costs on Americans' health and the economy.

• Ends a moratorium on new coal mining on public lands. This derails the effort to promote development of clean energy and to overhaul a broken federal leasing program that's shortchanged taxpayers to the tune of more than $30 billion, according to Theo Spencer, a senior advocate at NRDC.

• Repeals protections against methane pollution. If Trump succeeds, the oil and gas industry will continue leaking hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of this potent climate change pollutant into the air every year, harming public health and our climate.

• Ends a methane pollution reporting requirement. This measure affects pollution from oil and gas wells on national wildlife refuges. Nixing the reporting requirement favors the fossil fuel industry, allowing toxic pollution that threatens human and wildlife health to continue, noted NRDC's Bobby McEnaney, senior deputy director of the Western Renewable Energy Project.

• Embraces fracking. It begins the process to repeal standards for hydraulic fracturing or fracking, on public lands and methane limits for new oil and gas fracking anywhere. This endangers public lands and neighboring communities, worsens climate change and shows "where Trump's loyalties lie—with polluters, not the people," said NRDC President Rhea Suh.

• Eliminates climate guidance. The White House Council on Environmental Quality had issued guidance to federal agencies on how they could analyze the climate impacts of their proposed actions before deciding on how to proceed. Trump wants to revoke guidance from this council. More here.

• Promises to bring back coal jobs. Trump signed the order surrounded by coal miners. But coal has been declining for years as natural gas has steadily replaced coal-fired power, renewable energy has boomed and machines have displaced miners, with jobs plunging from about 170,000 in 1985 to 50,000 today. Miners need help making the transition away from coal, not empty promises.

March 28: The administration stops work on Clean Power Plan.

Trump urged a federal court to stop work on the Clean Power Plan case. His intent is eminently clear: to keep the judiciary from ruling on the legality of the Clean Power Plan. A 10-judge panel heard the case six months ago and the argument didn't go well for critics, so Trump wants to head off a ruling, which could affirm that the climate plan is legal. NRDC's Doniger calls it a stealth plan to kill the Clean Power Plan.

March 24: Keystone XL resurrected from the dead.

Trump signed a cross-border permit approving construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would imperil water, lands and the climate. Six days later, NRDC joined Friends of the Earth, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Northern Plains Resource Council and the Sierra Club in suing the administration for illegally granting the permit.

March 22: Republicans tout smog.

On Capitol Hill, congressional Republicans held a hearing to shine a spotlight on their bill to weaken health protections against ozone pollution. Critics call the measure the "Smoggy Skies Act." The GOP legislation would block ozone standards that the EPA updated under former president Obama; it would also delay updates on other pollutants, such as lead and carbon monoxide. Improving ozone standards, according to the EPA, can help avoid up to 660 premature deaths, 230,000 childhood asthma attacks and 160,000 days when kids miss school.

March 16: Trump to EPA experts: "You're fired."

Trump's proposed budget for 2018 calls for a 31 percent cut in EPA funding, the largest percentage cut of any agency. The stakes for public health are enormous. The budget would eliminate as many as 3,200 of the agency's 15,000 employees. Programs to be slashed include those for criminal enforcement, Energy Star certification, Superfund sites, air-quality monitoring, climate protection and cleanup of America's most iconic bodies of water, including the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and Chesapeake Bay. But Congress determines federal spending and already there's resistance, including from some Republicans, suggesting that Trump's budget for EPA is D.O.A.

March 16: Trump overlooks national parks.

Trump envisions a 12 percent cut to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which even its secretary, Ryan Zinke, thinks is too much. Sharon Buccino, head of NRDC's Land & Wildlife program, pointed out that our national parks are huge generators for the economy, with more than 300 million visitors last year, yet have a $12 billion backlog in maintenance. And instead of investing in conservation, funding cuts pave the way for dirty energy development.

March 15: Trump retracts decision to keep strong clean car standards.

The president moved to weaken carbon pollution standards for light-duty vehicles for model years 2022–2025. Mileage standards save consumers money at the gas pump, make Americans less dependent on oil, reduce carbon pollution and advance innovation. If the rollback succeeds, thousands of manufacturing jobs could be lost in Michigan alone, where nearly 70,000 workers are building clean vehicle components. The current standards helped auto companies move from bankruptcy to profitability and there is no reason they cannot be met, said NRDC President Suh.

March 14: Trump's EPA "reconsiders" chemical plant safety rule.

EPA granted a request by chemical manufacturers to sideline implementation of a rule developed over three years to improve emergency coordination and remove hazards. The rule came in response to a 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in Texas that killed 15 workers. That wasn't the only tragedy. There were 1,500 similar incidents from 2004 to 2013 that killed 58 people and injured 17,000.

March 2: EPA Administrator Pruitt caves in to polluters on methane pollution.

Pruitt signed a directive canceling a November 2016 information-gathering request that oil and gas operations report their emissions of methane, a potent climate pollutant. NRDC's Meleah Geertsma, an attorney in NRDC's Midwest program, called out Pruitt for dancing with the "fossil energy AGs," referring to Pruitt's now-infamous Oklahoma e-mails obtained by a court order.

Feb. 28: Trump supports water pollution.

The president signed an executive order directing the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to begin repealing the Clean Water Rule, a landmark measure many years in the making. Likewise, EPA Administrator Pruitt recently told Fox News that he plans to go "full speed ahead" to attack the rule. Their happy obedience to Trump insults all Americans―especially the 117 million of us who get drinking water drawn from streams that the rule would help protect from pollution, said NRDC water expert Jon Devine.

Feb. 24: Trump adds roadblocks to new standards.

He signed an anti-regulatory executive order directing each federal administrative agency and department to designate a "regulatory reform officer" and to establish a "regulatory reform task force," implementing the administration's plan to attack the process by which safety, health and environmental standards are set.

Feb. 17: Trump and Republicans make bribes easier.

They killed an SEC requirement that oil, gas and coal firms report gifts to foreign governments for developing natural resources on their lands.

Jan. 30: Trump signs measure getting rid of rules without justification.

He signed a two-for-one executive order, opposed by more than 130 groups representing small business, labor, good government, financial protection, community, health, environmental, civil rights and public interest advocates. "If implemented," they wrote in a letter to Trump, "its flawed reasoning and vague drafting would leave Americans more vulnerable to financial, safety, health and environmental hazards."

Jan. 24: Trump signs order requiring pipelines be made of U.S. steel.

Notably, just days before, Trump had repeated a false statement that the pipeline would be built with U.S. steel, notes Josh Axelrod, a policy analyst in NRDC's Canada Project. And soon after, the White House said the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, for which the steel had already been purchased―including from non-U.S. sources―would be exempt.

Jan. 24: Trump signs orders paving way for quick approval of Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

He abruptly reversed a determination by former president Obama that those projects are not in the national interest and reignited the debate over pipelines carrying dirty fuel that threaten land, water and the climate. His order calls for the Army Corps of Engineers to "review and approve in an expedited manner" the projects, over vehement objections by landowners and indigenous people in their path. "It's appalling that Trump wants to throw open our borders and fragile lands to big polluters," said NRDC President Suh, who vowed to use every tool available to "help ensure that they are not built."

Jan. 24: Trump signs executive order short-circuiting public engagement.

This order, aimed at green-lighting big projects, cuts the national interest determination period for projects like the Keystone XL pipeline to just 60 days. This stifles public engagement and makes it all but impossible for the government to adequately study the merits and drawbacks of major infrastructure projects.

Congressional GOP Assaults

Since early January, the GOP-led Congress has voted 42 times against the environment, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress. Key votes include:

Feb. 3: House backs increased methane pollution.

The House voted on a Congressional Review Act measure to do away with a Bureau of Land Management rule limiting the venting, flaring and leaking of methane from oil and gas operations on public lands. The rule aimed to reduce harmful methane emissions, prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars and curb a potent climate-change polluter. Congressional leaders "doing the bidding of oil and gas industry lobbyists are hell-bent to block these safeguards," NRDC's Doniger wrote in an analysis of the measure.

Feb. 1: Streams put at risk from coal waste.

At the behest of polluters, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to overturn the Obama-era Stream Protection Rule, safeguarding waterways from toxic coal mining waste. Appalachian Voices, an environmental group, estimates that coal companies have buried more than 2,000 miles of streams in the region by mountaintop-removal mining.

Jan. 11: House okays broad assault on federal regulations.

In approving the Regulatory Accountability Act, the House allowed well-financed special interests to interminably delay needed health and safety protections and undermined laws requiring that health standards be based on science, not cost. Thirteen national groups including NRDC voiced opposition in a letter to House members, saying the legislation would, if passed, "leave Americans unprotected, giving industry an opportunity to pollute, damage health and engage in financial disruption." The bill is pending before the Senate.

Jan. 5: House limits new standards.

It approved, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) bill would make it harder for the executive branch to issue new health standards, such as air quality protections. "The public expects the government to be able to protect it from toxins in food, consumer products, air and water. The REINS Act would make that virtually impossible," a coalition of groups wrote in a letter to senators in March. The bill is pending before the Senate.

Jan. 4: House sweeps away public health safeguards.

By passing the so-called Midnight Rules Relief Act, Congress is moving to be able to eviscerate public health, environmental, safety, consumer and financial safeguards with little consideration, NRDC and allies wrote in a letter sent in March to senators. The bill is pending before the Senate.

Going to Court Against Trump's Anti-Environmental Agenda

NRDC and allies have fought back to try to stop the rollbacks, repeals and eliminations of safeguards sought by team Trump and their Capitol Hill allies. Highlights include:

April 5: Defending the Clean Power Plan.

NRDC, joined by Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, filed a response opposing Trump's request that the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington stop work on the Clean Power Plan case before the court. NRDC's Doniger likened Trump's move to trying to kill the landmark plan by stealth; he called on the court to finish its work and issue its ruling.

April 5: Protecting children.

NRDC and Pesticide Action Network filed a motion to enforce a previous court order and require the EPA to make a decision on a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children. Earlier, on Jan. 17, more than 45 doctors, scientists, nurses and public health professionals sent a letter urging the EPA to cancel remaining agricultural uses of the dangerous neurotoxic pesticide. An EPA assessment in 2016 found that chlorpyrifos residues in foods can be 140 times higher than EPA's acceptable exposure limit.

April 3: Pushing for delayed energy efficiency standards.

Legal challenges were filed charging the Department of Energy with dragging its feet on six energy efficiency standards that could save Americans as much as $23 billion. Kit Kennedy, head of NRDC's Energy & Transportation program, labeled the delay illegal and warned it was hurting families and businesses.

March 30: Stopping Keystone XL pipeline—again.

NRDC joined Friends of the Earth, Bold Alliance, Center for Biological Diversity, Northern Plains Resource Council and the Sierra Club in suing the administration for illegally granting a construction permit for the tar sands pipeline. If ever built, Keystone XL could carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil through the U.S., imperiling our water, land and climate.

March 21: Challenging EPA's botched weed-killer review.

Another dangerous chemical hit the spotlight when NRDC filed a petition for review in federal court of the EPA's illegal approval of Enlist Duo, a weed killer that poses a risk to human health and monarch butterflies.

March 15: Protecting clean water.

NRDC and the National Wildlife Federation opposed the Trump administration's effort to delay litigation over the Clean Water Rule and thus delay the rule's implementation indefinitely while the White House moves to kill it. "Rolling back the rule's safeguards endangers critical bodies of water―including the streams that feed the drinking water supplies of more than 117 million Americans," said NRDC's Devine.

Feb. 8: Fighting senseless rollbacks of safeguards.

NRDC filed suit seeking to block Trump's two-for-one order. NRDC President Suh likened the executive order to a doctor declaring that we can't find a cure for cancer unless we abandon vaccines for polio and smallpox. "New efforts to stop pollution don't automatically make old ones unnecessary. When you make policy by tweet, it yields irrational rules. This order imposes a false choice between clean air, clean water, safe food and other environmental safeguards," she said.

Feb. 1: Opposing EPA's rollback of mercury safeguards.

NRDC sued the agency for illegally rescinding, on Jan. 20, safeguards that would protect the public from tons of mercury discharges each year. Mercury, which can disrupt brain function and nervous system development, is especially harmful to pregnant women, babies and young children. "EPA's withdrawal of the mercury rule is not just illegal, but senseless. The rule imposes minimal burden, drew widespread praise from dental providers and benefits public health and the environment," said Aaron Colangelo, litigation director at NRDC.

NRDC President Suh recently penned a blog post, "100 Days of Harm." In it she addressed the first days of Trump's presidency and the Republican-led congressional assault on health and environment, discussed how out of step with public opinion they are and ended with a call to arms:

"A hundred days into Trump's presidency, we've already seen more than enough. It's time to gather as one and speak out against his senseless campaign to turn back the clock on 50 years of environmental gains and stanch the promise of more progress to come ... Let's put Donald Trump on notice. Let's show him what we believe. We won't back down from this challenge. We won't back down from this fight. We'll defend our health and environment. We'll hold fast to the values we share. We'll stand up for our children's future and their right to a livable world."

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

100,000 Acres of Public Land in Colorado at Risk From Fracking, Groups File Administrative Protest

Conservation groups have filed Tuesday an administrative protest challenging a federal decision to offer for leasing in June more than 100,000 acres of federal public land in northern Colorado for oil and gas industry fracking. The leasing decision, being pushed by the Trump administration's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over local community opposition, threatens some of Colorado's most treasured and scenic landscapes and wildlife species.

"Fracking these pristine public lands would come at the cost of imperiled wildlife, clean air and clean water, meanwhile worsening climate change," said Michael Saul, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This is classic Trump corporate cronyism that sacrifices public values for oil industry profits."

The decision paves the way for thousands of new fracked oil and gas wells in the Piceance Basin, increasing the strain on the already overdrawn Upper Colorado River with water withdrawals and the threat of new oil spills. It would pave the way for fracking in largely untouched Grand County, the headwaters of the Colorado River and a world-famous destination for fishing, hiking and tourism.

"The water quality of the Colorado River headwaters is at an all-time low and water demand is at an all-time high. Awarding leases that allow fossil fuel extraction in the headwaters will not improve the looming water crisis," said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper with Living Rivers. "Restraint on all forms of consumptive use is the best and wisest solution for improving a damaged watershed. Public land management decisions must be based on this reality and BLM must take the lead in restraining those uses, not open the door to more."

This massive plan, casually dismissed by the BLM as having "no significant environmental impact," will harm a host of sensitive and listed species including Colorado River and greenback cutthroat trout, greater sage grouse, Canada lynx, black-footed ferrets, white-tailed prairie dogs, rare wildflowers, deer, elk and moose. Resulting greenhouse gas pollution would worsen climate change, whose impacts the region is already feeling with reduced Colorado River flows.

"Protecting the quantity and quality of Colorado River flows, which face overwhelming challenges from increased demand and reduced supply, is inextricably linked to management decisions on public lands that cut back on water use and protect water quality," said Kate Hudson, western U.S. advocacy coordinator with Waterkeeper Alliance.

"BLM's pending decision to open over 100,000 acres of public lands in the headwaters of the Colorado River to oil and gas leasing and the inevitable impacts that fossil fuel extraction will have on the river, its tributaries and our climate, heads us in exactly the wrong direction. It will only hasten the collapse of this critical and fragile resource."

The giant sale threatens to industrialize lands and pollute air and water at the doorsteps of Rocky Mountain National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. Groups filing the protest include the Center for Biological Diversity, Living Rivers, Waterkeeper Alliance and Sierra Club.

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Arch Coal's Black Thunder Mine, Powder River Basin, Wyoming. Photo credit: EcoFlight

Leaked 'Priority List' Shows Massive Focus on Fossil Fuel Extraction on Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is readying a new "priority list" for the agency with a heavy focus on fossil fuel development on public lands, new documents leaked to E&E News reveal.

The documents, including a "BLM Priority Work" list accompanying talking points memo, were drafted by BLM administrators and have been reviewed by Trump transition team members, but have not yet been circulated to staff.

While wind and solar development earn small mentions, the documents emphasize main goals of making more federal lands available for energy development and streamlining leases and permits for oil, gas, coal and hardrock mining projects.

The draft priority work list under the "Making America Safe through Energy Independence" includes:

  • Make additional lands available for "all of the above" energy development
  • Address backlog of Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs) and Expressions of Interest (EOIs)
  • Streamline Federal coal leasing and permitting, and address backlog
  • Streamline oil and gas leasing and permitting
  • Streamline rights-of-way processing for pipelines, transmission lines and solar/wind projects
  • Streamline leasing and permitting for hardrock mining

The priority list was "assembled by the team at the BLM to clearly lay out our continued commitment to ensure opportunities for commercial, recreation and conservation activities on BLM-managed lands," Megan Crandall, an agency spokeswoman, told E&E News in an email.

"No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business," Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said after Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke ordered the lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing. A coalition of groups, including Earthjustice, are suing the Trump administration over the order, which opens tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry.

For a deeper dive:

E&E, Politico Pro

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Arch Coal's Black Thunder Mine, Powder River Basin, Wyoming. More than 80 percent of the federal coal applied for under paused leases is in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana. Mining operations often occur at the expense of agricultural producers. Photo credit: EcoFlight

Trump Sued for Catering to Big Coal at Expense of Taxpayers

A coalition is suing the Trump administration this week over an order opening tens of thousands of acres of public lands to the coal industry. Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's order lifting a moratorium on federal coal leasing comes a day after President Trump's executive order rolling back protections for public health, climate and the environment.

The pause in leasing was ordered last year under the Obama administration to allow time to reform the federal program to protect the climate and American taxpayers. In just the first stage of that review, completed this January, the Interior Department found that coal mining fouls the air, pollutes streams and destroys wildlife habitat on public land. More than one-tenth of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the pollution driving climate change, come from federal coal.

In addition to studying these impacts, the Interior Department previously committed to evaluate options for improving returns to taxpayers before resuming leasing. Internal Interior Department and independent Government Accountability Office audits have recently concluded that the current leasing system shortchanges taxpayers while subsidizing coal mining. The Trump administration's decision to resume federal coal leasing will lock in these subsidies—in addition to harmful environmental impacts—before they are fully studied.

"The Trump administration has basically announced a fire sale to revive the coal industry," said Art Hayes, a southeastern Montana rancher who lives downstream from the Decker and Spring Creek mines, which both have pending lease applications that will move forward when the moratorium is lifted. "But in the process, they are leaving us ranchers that rely on clean water and a healthy climate in the dust. Putting business before people is just wrong."

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Earthjustice on behalf of a coalition of local, regional and national groups working to protect public lands, air and water quality and the health of the planet, including: Citizens for Clean Energy, Montana Environmental Information Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians and Defenders of Wildlife. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe is also suing to challenge the decision.

"No one voted to pollute our public lands, air or drinking water in the last election, yet the Trump administration is doing the bidding of powerful polluters as nearly its first order of business," said Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine, who is leading the effort to challenge the president's actions. "Our legal system remains an important backstop against the abuses of power we've witnessed over the course of the past two months. That's why we're going to court to defend our public lands, clean air and water and a healthy climate for all."

When the moratorium was put in place, the Interior Department estimated then-current federal leases produced enough coal to supply the country's needs for 20 years. Further, Goldman Sachs analysts last year issued a report concluding that the "decline in long-term demand [for coal] appears to be irreversible."

Coal mined from public lands contributes more than 40 percent of the U.S.' coal and approximately 10 percent of its greenhouse gas pollution. Coal mining and combustion also impose heavy air-quality and public-health costs through emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and mercury. Scientists have called on the U.S. to stop new coal leasing to help prevent the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.

"Trump has upended a public process intended to stop taxpayer losses on coal mined from our public lands," said Bill Corcoran, Western regional campaign director for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "Today's irrational action does nothing to reverse the coal industry's market-driven decline. This isn't putting Americans first, this is putting corporate polluters first."

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Trump to Strike Biggest Blow Against Obama Climate Legacy

President Trump will travel to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today at 2 p.m. to sign a broad executive order that will take aim at key Obama-era climate policies, setting the stage for several extended energy fights in the months and years to come.

Ordering a review and rewrite of the Clean Power Plan is the main target in the executive order's crosshairs, but the order will also highlight several other policies in jeopardy, including the social cost of carbon figure, regulations on coal plants and methane emissions and the moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands.

"The Trump Administration continues to fulfill its campaign promise to trample on environmental protections and prioritize the jobs of fossil fuel executives under the guise of protecting American workers," said Ken Berlin, president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project.

While the move to scrap the Clean Power Plan raises questions on the efficacy of the U.S. involvement in the Paris agreement, a White House official said on a Tuesday night press call to review the order that staying in Paris is "still under discussion."

"Trump is sacrificing our future for fossil fuel profits—and leaving our kids to pay the price," said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This would do lasting damage to our environment and public lands, threaten our homes and health, hurt our pocketbooks and slow the clean energy progress that has already generated millions of good-paying jobs."

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club agrees. "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," Brune said. "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."

For a deeper dive:

General Executive Order: Washington Post, AP, WSJ, Reuters, ABC, USA Today, FT, Bloomberg, LA Times, The Guardian, Vox, CNBC, Fox News, Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Washington Examiner, The Hill, Huffington Post, Grist

Clean Power Plan: NPR, Vox Paris: NPR, Bloomberg, Mashable Planning: Bloomberg FAQs: New York Times Backgrounders: Climate Nexus

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