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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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Politics

Bernie Sanders: 'This Is Exactly What We Mean When We Talk About Oligarchy'

Despite the numerous controversies and vocal opposition swirling around President Donald Trump's pick to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Senators voted 52 to 46, largely along party lines, in February to confirm Oklahoma Republican Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator.

It now appears that Koch Industries—the oil and gas conglomerate owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch—directly lobbied Congress to confirm Pruitt and spent millions to influence anti-environmental initiatives, a disclosure report shows.

As The Intercept reported:

"The firm's latest disclosure form reports that its in-house corporate lobbying team spent $3.1 million to influence lawmakers over the first three months of the year on a variety of issues affecting its bottom line, including the EPA's Clean Power Rule on carbon emissions, carbon pricing, the Clean Air Act and 'nominations for various positions at the Department of Energy.'"

"This is exactly what we mean when we talk about oligarchy. Multi-billionaires and corporations should not have the power to pick and choose who is in charge of our federal agencies," Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said in response to The Intercept's report. "But that is exactly what happened—Koch Industries spent millions on lobbying Congress to confirm Scott Pruitt, our head of the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn't believe in environmental protection."

Koch Industries has contributed $38.5 million to federal candidates over the last 25 years and spent another $117 million since 1998 on lobbying. DeSmog reported in February that the company's deep pockets are contributing campaign funds to four GOP representatives who have introduced legislation to completely abolish the EPA.

Sanders, who grilled Pruitt during the confirmation hearings, has been outspoken in his criticism of Pruitt as well as the Trump administration's generally dismissive attitude towards climate change.

"It's clear that Trump doesn't represent working families. His agenda benefits the Koch brothers and their billionaire [friends]. Our job is to stand together to defeat the drift toward oligarchy and create a vibrant democracy—not one controlled by corporate interests," Sanders said.

Pruitt has reported ties to the fossil fuel industry and he repeatedly sued the EPA when he was Oklahoma Attorney General. In 2014, he was caught sending letters on state government letterheads to President Obama and federal agency heads asserting that the EPA was overestimating the air pollution from drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. As it turns out, the letter was written by lawyers for one of the state's largest oil and gas companies, Devon Energy.

Following Trump's executive order, Pruitt plans to kill the Clean Power Plan, an Obama-era regulation designed to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Pruitt also challenged the plan when he was Oklahoma AG.

Pruitt said in March that he does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change.

The Intercept also detailed how Pruitt's nomination as EPA head was strongly backed by industry groups:

"The American Energy Alliance, an advocacy group founded by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle, issued a letter in support of Pruitt along with other Koch-backed conservative nonprofits. America Rising Squared, a political research outfit that has harassed environmental activists, formed a special website—now deleted—to respond to criticism of Pruitt's record."

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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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Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris with President-elect Donald Trump at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Dow Chemical Pushes Trump Administration to Scrap Pesticide Study

Dow Chemical, whose CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump, is pressuring the administration to throw out a government risk study on several popular pesticides, the Associated Press reported.

The 10,000-page study found that the three pesticides under review—chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion—pose a risk to roughly 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act. The evaluations were compiled by federal scientists over the last four years and were expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

But lawyers representing Dow and two other makers of the organophosphates sent letters to the heads of three cabinet agencies last week, asking that the study be "set aside" and saying that the results are flawed.

"Our government's own scientists have already documented the grave danger these chemicals pose to people and endangered species," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unable to win on the facts, Dow is now adopting the same disgraceful tactics honed by the tobacco industry and the climate deniers to try to discredit science and scrap reasonable conservation measures that will protect our most endangered animals and plants."

Last month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt scrapped his own agency's proposal to ban chlorpyrifos—an insecticide that at small doses can harm children's brains and nervous systems—from use on food crops. The AP noted that chlorpyrifos originates from a nerve gas developed by Nazi Germany, and Dow sells about 5 million pounds of the chemical in the U.S. each year.

"Public health experts, pediatricians and EPA scientists all agree that chlorpyrifos is unsafe for children at any level," Environmental Working Group Senior VP for government affairs Scott Faber said after Pruitt announcement. "That overwhelming and uniform agreement among experts should have been all the information Administrator Pruitt needed to protect kids from this notorious neurotoxin. Yet, he decided instead to side with Croplife, Dow and the rest of chemical agriculture and allow chlorpyrifos to remain in use."

The government scientists found that chlorpyrifos is "likely to adversely affect" 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants in its study. Diazinon and malathion, which the World Health Organization announced as probable carcinogens in 2015, were similarly found to threaten vulnerable species.

But lawyers for the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos called for the research to be withdrawn because its "scientific basis was not reliable."

Malathion maker FMC Corp. said the withdrawal of the study will allow the necessary time for the "best available" scientific data to be compiled. Diazinon maker Makhteshim Agan of North America Inc. did not comment.

Dow donated $1 million to the presidential inauguration and the company's CEO, Liveris, leads Trump's advisory council on manufacturing. In February, Liveris received the signing pen after the president signed the "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda," an executive order aimed at eliminating regulations that Trump claims are damaging to the U.S. economy, but some worry that the measure will roll back critical environmental protections.

Dow's director of public affairs Rachelle Schikorra told the AP that any suggestion that the company is trying to influence the new administration's regulatory decisions is "completely off the mark."

"Dow actively participates in policymaking and political processes, including political contributions to candidates, parties and causes, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws," Schikorra said.

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Trump's 100 Days of Harm: Enough Is Enough

Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president's term normally tells us only so much about what's to come. In the case of President Trump's all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we've already seen more than enough.

In his first three months on the job, Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air and lands. He's moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he's betrayed the covenant we've forged with our children to leave them a livable world.

That's not a plan to put America first. It's about putting industrial polluter profits first―and putting the rest of us at risk.

Presidents don't get to roll back generations of hard-won gains with the stroke of a pen. Working with his fellow Republicans in Congress, Trump has already killed rules to protect coal communities from mountaintop demolition that destroys forests and streams. And he may expose more public lands to the ravages of coal mining.

Much of what he's ordered, though, can be halted, slowed or turned back around―in the court of public opinion or in a court of law. To do that, we'll have to stand together and give real voice to truth against a president intent on using the full powers of his high office to try to eliminate the tools we need to protect our families and communities from ongoing harm.

From his first week in office, Trump and congressional Republicans have attacked the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the lands that grow our food and the wild places we share. He's put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the thumb of Scott Pruitt, an avowed foe of the agency's mission, while proposing to gut the EPA budget and staff.

He's taken on the very notion of responsible public oversight with an unlawful and baseless order to scrap two existing regulations for every new one put in place―as though we can cope with emerging threats only if we pretend the old ones no longer exist.

And he's sounded an ignominious retreat from the essential progress we're making in the fight against global climate change.

Any one of these tacks would be cause for national alarm and public rebuke. Taken as a whole, the Trump broadside attack on the nation's environment and health demands the united and concerted opposition of every American, from red state and blue, who cares about our common future.

Whatever our political leanings, we all should be shocked at this radical campaign to roll back environmental safeguards, abandon important national goals and hobble our environmental steward, the EPA. Trump's reckless attempts to do just that run wildly at odds with the will of the people, as a raft of recent polling proves.

A solid 61 percent of the country disapproves of Trump's big polluter agenda, an April poll by Quinnipiac University found. Just 19 percent want the EPA weakened or eliminated, according to a January Reuters poll, with 61 percent saying the agency should be strengthened, expanded or kept at its current strength. Trump, though, has proposed slashing the agency's budget by 31 percent, taking it back to 1990 funding levels and cutting staff by 20 percent.

In one policy area after another, in fact, the disparity between Trump's actions and public opinion is striking:

Protecting Our Waterways

  • Drinking Water: Nationally, fears over water pollution hit a 16-year high in March, with 63 percent of Americans telling the Gallup polling organization they worry "a great deal" about drinking water pollution. Who could blame them? Trump has directed Pruitt to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, put in place to protect wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans.
  • Great Lakes: Trump's cuts would end federal funding to reduce industrial and municipal waste, toxic contaminants and other pollution in the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. Who's with Trump on that one? Not the people who understand it the most. In Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and nearby states, 86 percent of the public supports the federal effort to clean up the Great Lakes.
  • Chesapeake Bay: Trump has proposed killing, also, a multi-state plan to clean up the nation's largest natural estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, which is being strangled by the toxic runoff from a 64,000-square-mile watershed that reaches nearly to Canada. That flies directly against the interests of those who live at the mouth of the bay: 94 percent of Virginians support the federal bay cleanup program, according to an April poll by Christopher Newport University.

Energy Development

  • Dirty Energy: Fully 59 percent of survey respondents say environmental protection should come ahead of fossil fuel development, with just 23 percent preferring dirty energy to clean water and air. The 26-point gap between the two, by the way, is the largest margin since Gallup began asking the question 15 years ago.

Fuel Economy

Trump has directed the EPA to weaken or eliminate standards to clean up the cars and dirty power plants that together account for 60 percent of the U.S. carbon pollution that's driving global climate change. That's a stone-cold loser in the public mind. Drivers like saving billions of dollars a year at the pump, and an April poll by Quinnipiac found that 76 percent of the public is "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about climate change, with 62 percent saying Trump should not backtrack on standards and rules put in place to fight it.

Climate

  • Climate Action: Far from supporting Trump's retreat from the climate fight, 59 percent of poll respondents say the country needs to be doing even more to fight the carbon pollution that's causing seas to rise, turning croplands to deserts, and contributing to raging wildfires, flooding, droughts and storms.
  • Jobs: Fully 68 percent of Americans understand that we can fight climate change and support economic growth, like the gains that have put three million Americans to work helping us to become more efficient, building all-electric and hybrid cars and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.
  • Research: The Quinnipiac poll found that 72 percent of Americans say it's a "bad idea" for Trump to slash funding for the scientific research we need to better understand climate change and other threats to our environment.

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.

On Saturday, April 29, I'll travel, along with thousands of others, to Washington, DC, to march with the People's Climate Movement. I hope you'll join us, in the nation's capital or in any of dozens of sister marches across the country, to show Trump just how far out of step his policies are with the will of the people he serves.

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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Politics

Trump Team Sharply Divided Over Paris Climate Agreement

President Donald Trump's top advisors and cabinet officials will debate whether the U.S. should pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

The landmark accord, which aims to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, was agreed upon by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

The Hill reported that the meeting is aimed at hammering out a growing divide in the administration between those in favor of the deal and those opposed to it. The meeting was originally scheduled for Tuesday but had to be postponed as some participants are traveling with the president to Milwaukee.

During the presidential campaign, Trump vowed to " cancel" the Paris climate agreement. The president, who once said climate change is a "hoax" and is working to dismantle environmental regulations, has surrounded himself with like-minded advisors and cabinet appointees such as senior adviser Steve Bannon and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, who said last week "we need to exit" the deal.

POLITICO's sources said that the EPA chief is concerned that the Paris agreement could harm his legal position as he works to repeal President Obama's Clean Power Plan that regulates emissions from power plants.

On the other hand, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House special adviser, have are urged the president to stay in the deal, as Bloomberg reported.

Trump's current position on the Paris deal is unclear, but the New York Times reported that the pro-Paris view is gaining favor.

"We do not currently believe the Trump administration plans to withdraw from either Paris agreement," wrote Kevin Book, an analyst at DC-based ClearView Energy Partners in a memo to clients on Monday.

Incidentally, some major oil and coal producers have voiced support of the climate agreement, including Cheniere Energy Inc., ExxonMobil Corp., which was previously led by Tillerson, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc.

Coal baron Robert E. Murray, however, has opposed the deal as "just a way for other countries to get American money."

And Joseph Bast, the president of the climate change-denying Heartland Institute, commented that "President Trump should run, not walk, away from the Paris climate treaty."

"Most scientists do not believe global warming is a crisis that merits current efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, much less the draconian cuts envisioned by the Paris climate treaty," Bast said.

As Trump mulls the decision, other world leaders are prepared to ramp action in case the U.S. pulls out.

"No matter how other countries' policies on climate change, as a responsible large developing country China's resolve, aims and policy moves in dealing with climate change will not change," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang.

Similarly, Piyush Goyal, the Indian Minister for power and coal said that India is "pursuing religiously" its goal of developing 225 gigawatts of clean energy by 2022, adding "it's not subject to some other country's decision."

Environmental groups have also weighed in on the deliberations. As the world's largest economy, the United States' withdrawal from the accord could significantly weaken the global pact.

"The United States is the world's largest historic climate polluter," said Friends of the Earth senior political director Ben Schreiber. "Our country has a moral imperative to take action proportionate to our responsibility for this crisis."

"Our commitments under the Paris Agreement were already woefully inadequate given our responsibility and the severity of the problem," Schreiber added. "By holding this meeting, Trump has communicated to the rest of the world that the U.S. is a climate pariah. We call on world leaders to use every political and economic means available to compel Trump to act in accordance with what climate science and justice demand."

The White House meeting comes as activists gear up for the April 29 Peoples Climate March in the nation's capitol and in sister marches around the country.

"An overwhelming majority of people in the United States support staying in the Paris agreement," 350.org executive director May Boeve. "It's one of the animating reasons why so many people are joining the Peoples Climate March this April 29th in Washington, DC and across the country."

"As the Trump administration deliberates isolating the U.S. from the rest of the world, movements for climate, jobs and justice are mobilizing to continue to build bold solutions that protect our communities and tackle climate change," Boeve said. "We know this deal is critical to defending our climate and communities—this is about our very survival."

White House Press Sec. Sean Spicer said last month that Trump will make a decision about the Paris agreement ahead of the Group of 7 leaders' meeting in late May.

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Sponsored

4 Former EPA Chiefs Speak Out Against Trump Administration

It's simple. Clear air, drinkable water and a livable climate should not be partisan issues.

Four former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators were appointed by four different presidents—two Democrats and two Republicans. So, what could they have in common?

All of them have spoken out against the current administration's environmental policies—as new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt repeats fossil fuel talking points, the president signs extreme executive orders that roll back environmental progress and a new federal budget proposes to cut EPA funding by 31 percent.

But here's just some of what these former administrators had to say:

1. William K. Reilly

EPA administrator under President George H. W. Bush (1989 - 1993)

"For a prospective EPA administrator to doubt or even contest a conclusion that 11 national academies of science have embraced is willful political obstruction."

2. Carol Browner

EPA administrator under President Bill Clinton (1993 - 2001)

"This budget makes significant cuts to programs that protect our air, our water, our land, which is not an American value. Eviscerating resources for scientific research on climate change and pollution is not an American value."

3. Christine Todd Whitman

EPA administrator under President George W. Bush (2001-2003)

"I don't recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does … [Scott Pruitt] obviously doesn't care much for the agency or any of the regulations it has promulgated. He doesn't believe in climate change; he wants to roll back the Clean Power Plan."

4. Gina McCarthy

EPA administrator under President Barack Obama (2013 - 2017)

"This budget … really represents an all-out assault on clean air, water and land. You just can't put America first when you put the health of its people and its country last and that's what this budget really represents."

Science Has No Party Affiliation

It's clear from the words of these former EPA chiefs—Democrats and Republicans alike—that climate science and the mission of the EPA shouldn't be political footballs. But while what's going on in Washington, DC is discouraging at best, we don't have time to waste on despair and cynicism.

As Climate Reality founder, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, has said, "We must, we can and we will solve the climate crisis. No one man or group can stop the encouraging and escalating momentum we are experiencing in the fight to protect our planet." No matter what's going on in DC, you can take action.

Here are four things you can do right now to be part of the movement to solve the climate crisis:

1. Join us at the People's Climate March on April 29 (in DC and around the country). Like we saw at the Women's March in January, regular people like us can send a powerful message to policymakers when we come together in massive numbers and speak with one voice. On April 29, we're coming together again and marching to demand climate action.

2. Subscribe to email alerts to be notified when the next Climate Reality Leadership Corps training will take place. You'll be the first to know when and where you can attend our next event with hundreds of other committed activists.

3. Take one action every day to stop climate change, organized by our friends at Years of Living Dangerously. Because every action you take can make a difference.

4. Pledge to #StandWithReality. According to a recent Gallup poll, seven in 10 Americans want to emphasize alternative energy over oil, gas and coal. Existing renewable technologies like wind and solar are creating millions of jobs around the world and will help us solve the climate crisis. But we have to make sure our leaders insist on truth, accept reality and listen to science.

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EPA Chief: U.S. Should 'Exit' Paris Climate Deal

By Nadia Prupis

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt on Thursday explicitly called for the U.S. to remove itself from the Paris climate agreement, one of his strongest remarks yet expressing his opposition to the landmark deal to keep global warming below 2°C.

"Paris is something we need to look at closely. It's something we need to exit in my opinion," Pruitt said in an interview on Fox & Friends.

"It's a bad deal for America," he said. "It's an 'America second, third or fourth' kind of approach."

The Trump administration has already taken steps to undo landmark climate regulations, such as the executive order President Donald Trump signed last month that called for repealing former President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, which requires states to slash emissions and was a central component of the U.S.'s plan to meet its Paris goals.

Pruitt said adhering to the global climate treaty would cost American jobs, a claim which environmentalists—and, increasingly, even fossil fuel companies—say is wrong.

Nathaniel Keohane, the Environmental Defense Fund's vice president on global climate, told InsideClimate News that "[p]ulling out of the Paris climate accord would damage the U.S. more than it damages the Paris agreement or climate action globally."

"American leadership on climate is the key to attracting jobs and investment in the industries and sectors that will define the 21st century," Keohane said.

Tiernen Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs for the League of Conservation Voters, added, "Even for Scott Pruitt, this is outrageous and beyond the pale."

"The U.S. helped to lead the world on this treaty and it's clear that other countries are moving ahead because they see the incredible opportunities it offers," Sittenfeld said.

Kim Glas, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, also said Thursday, "Administrator Pruitt's statements are unsurprising. He just can't seem to grasp what the vast majority of Americans and scientists have already figured out: climate change is real, it is happening now and human activities are causing it."

The Paris agreement "is a good deal for America," Glas said. "It will help ensure that America leads the way globally in creating quality jobs designing, manufacturing, and installing the clean energy technologies needed to reduce the carbon pollution that is driving climate change."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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