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Trump Administration Sued for Suspension of Clean Water Rule
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put a two-year suspension on the rule, also known as Waters of the United States (WOTUS), which protects large water bodies like lakes and rivers but also listed smaller waterways such as streams, ponds and wetlands for federal protection.
The decision to withdraw and replace WOTUS was advocated by industry groups like the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Petroleum Institute, as well as Republican politicians and farmers, ranchers and real estate developers who viewed the rule as an infringement on property rights.
WOTUS was supposed to take effect in the coming weeks after the Supreme Court decided last month that cases regarding the matter should be heard by district courts. However, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's action halted the rule from implementation to come up with a more industry-friendly alternative.
But environmentalists say the suspension will allow uncontrolled pollution and destruction of our nation's rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is leading a coalition of 11 Democratic attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia to block the move.
In their suit filed in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, the attorneys general charge that in suspending the Clean Water Rule the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by taking action "with inadequate public notice, insufficient record support and outside their statutory authority."
"Clean water is fundamental to New Yorkers' health, environment and economy," Schneiderman said. "The Trump Administration's suspension of the Clean Water Rule is clearly illegal, threatening New York's decades-long efforts to ensure our residents have access to safe, healthy water. We will fight back against this reckless rollback and the Trump administration's continued assault on our nation's core public health and environmental protections."
The Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Wildlife Federation filed in the New York southern district, contending that the Trump administration's attempt to prevent the enforcement of needed protections for lakes, rivers and wetlands, including streams that feed into the drinking water supplies of 117 million Americans.
Jon Devine, director of federal water policy and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "These safeguards should be working to protect our nation's drinking water and recreation resources, but the Trump administration has instead pursued a rushed and illegitimate process to try and stop them."
"The administration's attack on clean water violates the law and runs roughshod over public concern about their waterways. It's dangerous and that's why we're going to court," Devine said.
Jan Goldman-Carter, director for wetlands and water resources for the National Wildlife Federation, added, "The American people have made it crystal clear they want to see our rivers and streams protected. They want to be able to fish in the local stream, swim in a nearby lake and turn on the tap and get a glass of safe, clean water to drink. The Clean Water Rule provides that protection and the Trump administration is working to take it away. We have no choice but to defend America's waterways in court."
The Southern Environmental Law Center also filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina.
"Clean water is a way of life we take for granted in this nation thanks to bipartisan laws passed almost 50 years ago, but large polluters now want to dismantle it all," said managing attorney Blan Holman. "The administration is pretending that pollution dumped upstream doesn't flow downstream, but their plan puts the water used by hundreds of millions of Americans for drinking, bathing, cooking and recreation at risk. We are going to court to protect clean water across the country."
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the challenge on behalf of American Rivers, Clean Water Action, Defenders of Wildlife, Charleston Riverkeeper, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Coastal Conservation League, North Carolina Coastal Federation, North Carolina Wildlife Federation and One Hundred Miles.
In response to the lawsuits, the EPA said the 2015 rule never went into effect.
"It's worth noting that these lawsuits are over an embattled regulation that's been put on hold by the courts to prevent it from taking effect," EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told The Hill. "Our delay rule will keep in place that status quo."
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.