‘This Is Political Retribution:’ Trump Admin Attacks California’s Environmental Record
First, on Monday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to the state warning that the federal government would hold back highway funds if it did not address a backlog of air pollution control plans, according to The New York Times. Then, on Thursday, Wheeler sent another letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom giving the state 30 days to respond to a series of concerns about its implementation of water quality regulations, The New York Times reported further.
"[T]he EPA is concerned that California's implementation of federal environmental laws is failing to meet its obligations required under delegated federal programs. The cost of this failure will be paid by those Californians exposed to unhealthy air and degraded water," Wheeler wrote in Thursday's letter.
The letters come about a week after the administration formally moved to withdraw California's power to set its own vehicle emission standards under the Clean Air Act, a power the state has argued is essential to protecting its air quality.
"We need the extra clean cars to meet the standards set by the federal government," California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a press conference last week reported by The New York Times. "If this prevails, millions of people in California will breathe dirty air. There will be more pollution, more asthma, more hospitalizations, more premature deaths."
California officials say this week's letters are not about the state's environment at all, but are rather further retaliation for the state's opposition to the administration's agenda on issues like immigration and environmental deregulation. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the Trump administration 62 times in federal court, according to The Washington Post. The state has 30 lawsuits pending against the administration over environmental issues alone, according to The New York Times.
"There's a common theme in the news coming out of this White House this week. The president is abusing the powers of the presidency and weaponizing government to attack his political opponents," Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said in an email reported by The Washington Post. "This is not about clean air, clean water or helping our state with homelessness. This is political retribution against California, plain and simple."
Click's remarks were a clear response to a whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President and Democratic primary candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the 2020 election, which has prompted 220 House members to support an impeachment inquiry, according to TIME.
An overarching theme coming out of the White House:— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 26, 2019
Trump persistently weaponizing our government to attack political opponents.
The Director of Natl Intelligence, the DOJ, the EPA...all being used to attack those that stand in his way.
This is about retaliation. Nothing more. https://t.co/eF0adb1qt1
In Thursday's letter, Wheeler echoed remarks made by Trump last week that homelessness in California was threatening its environment.
"If these Democrat liberal politicians don't straighten it out, the federal government will have to come in. We're not going to lose cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and others that are great cities. We're not going to allow that to happen to our cities," Trump said, as NPR reported.
Wheeler's letter cites reports of human feces piled on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"The EPA is concerned about the potential water quality impacts from pathogens and other contaminants from untreated human waste entering nearby waters," Wheeler wrote. "San Francisco, Los Angeles and the state do not appear to be acting with urgency to mitigate the risks to human health and the environment that may result from the homelessness crisis."
But environmental and homeless advocates have criticized the president for treating homelessness as a threat primarily to the environment or appearance of certain cities, instead of to the well-being of homeless people themselves.
"The way to reduce the impacts from homeless encampments is to reduce homelessness," Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis told NPR.
Our ED @DavidLewis speaks out: "@realDonaldTrump has less standing to complain about #pollution and #homelessness than pretty much anybody since his administration is actively gutting the #CleanWaterAct and other environmental laws that protect us all from pollution.” https://t.co/zCNRgabRDq— Save The Bay (SF) (@saveSFbay) September 19, 2019
Wheeler also accused California of other water quality problems. The Washington Post highlighted two, and explained California's response:
His examples include a "years-long practice" in San Francisco of discharging more than a billion gallons of combined sewage and storm water annually into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean without treating it fully for all biological contaminants.
San Francisco officials said this discharge is being done under a federally approved permit, and 99 percent of it is storm water.
San Francisco is one of the few major American cities that combine storm water and sewage flows that is not operating under a federal consent decree. It is spending billions to upgrade its aging infrastructure, including $4.8 billion to improve regional and local water systems used by 2.7 million people. It has also launched a 20-year, multibillion-dollar sewer system upgrade.
Thursday's letter also called out high amounts of lead and arsenic in California water, but former Obama-era regional EPA head Judith Enck said that other states, like Texas and Louisiana, had more violations.
"I'm not going to say that enforcement isn't a problem, but there are other states that are far worse than California," Enck told The New York Times. "This an obvious attempt at political intimidation."
Our take on @realDonaldTrump's attack on #cleanercars: "Trump has married his administration-wide hostility to the environment to his personal vendetta against California." @EcoWatch https://t.co/ssv5x2qeDf— Safe Climate Campaign (@safe_climate) September 22, 2019
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.