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Pruitt Wants to Make the EPA Less Accountable to the Public

When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks the law by missing deadlines, allowing polluters to violate regulations that protect our health and environment, one way the public holds it accountable is by taking the agency to court. Scott Pruitt and his corporate polluter allies see this as a problem, so Monday, the administrator moved to curtail the agency's practice of settling lawsuits with outside groups, making it easier to skirt the law.

"Pruitt's doing nothing more than posturing about a nonexistent problem and political fiction," John Walke, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air program said in reaction. "His targeting of legal settlements, especially where EPA has no defense to breaking the law, will just allow violations to persist, along with harms to Americans."

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The European Parliament's debating chamber. CC BY-SA 3.0

EU to Livestream Public Hearing on Monsanto Papers

By Jennifer Sass

Without much fanfare on this side of the Atlantic, the European Union is actively and effectively pushing back on one of the biggest bullies in the corporate sandbox, Monsanto.

This week in Brussels the European Parliament's Environment and Agriculture committees will hold a public hearing on The Monsanto Papers, documents released through lawsuits in the U.S. brought against Monsanto by over 250 people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide is responsible for their cancers.

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Animals
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UK Takes Significant Step Towards Ivory Ban

By Elly Pepper

The last few years have seen a number of countries close their ivory markets as a way to help curb the current poaching crisis, which is driving elephants towards extinction. Indeed, the U.S. placed a near-total ban on its ivory market between 2014 and 2016 and China will close its market—the biggest in the world—by the end of this year.

Friday, the United Kingdom—one of the world's largest domestic ivory markets—joined these countries in combating the illegal ivory trade by releasing an impressive proposed ivory ban and requesting public comments.

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Will the EPA Weaken Landmark Clean Car Standards?

By Luke Tonachel

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is reconsidering landmark clean car standards that were poised to provide deep reductions in carbon pollution and save consumers $92 billion at the pump. The agency determined in January that the standards for model years 2022 to 2025—originally set in 2012—are achievable and should remain in place. Now, at the urging of automakers, the EPA is shifting into reverse.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) strongly opposes reopening and weakening the clean car standards, a point we made clear in recent testimony to the EPA. The automakers can meet the current standards with known technologies at reasonable cost. They have no excuses. Rolling them back, however, would increase pollution, raise costs for drivers, slow innovation and put jobs at risk.

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Animals
A young black bear in Bozeman, Montana. James Hager / Media Bakery

Resolving a Real-Life Rivalry Between Bears and Honeybees

By Corey Binns

Dressed in a white beekeeping suit, Zack Strong tried to ignore the honeybees buzzing around his hood as he pounded fence posts into late summer's rock-hard ground about 20 miles southwest of Columbus, Montana. The native Montanan and advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council's (NRDC) Land and Wildlife program had made the trip from his home in Bozeman to these endless, rolling plains stretching north and east of the towering Beartooth Mountains to resolve a conflict between a storied pair of rivals, bees and bears. Black bears had recently bothered bee yards in this area, jeopardizing business for local apiarists in the nation's second-largest honey-producing state.

As anyone familiar with Winnie the Pooh will know—and as Dr. Alex Few, a biologist with U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, will attest to—conflicts between honeybees and bears are not new. Both black and grizzly bears love honey and will also eat bees and their larvae. But now that bear populations are expanding, conflicts are cropping up in new areas, Few noted.

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Zinke’s Monument Review: Another Gift to Oil, Gas and Coal

By Jacob Eisenberg

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that his boss, President Trump, do what no President has done before: fundamentally change and substantially diminish America's national monuments. "Energy dominance" is a theme that has permeated Zinke's statements and acts as Interior Secretary. But its conspicuous scarcity in his rhetoric around the monument review should not fool anyone into thinking that increasing the availability of fossil fuel is not a significant motivation for the administration's attack on our monuments.

Rather, fossil fuel boosters played a key role in placing the monuments in the Secretary's crosshairs. The Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, in particular, have faced a concerted campaign for their elimination by, among others, fossil fuel-linked advocates who want to open access to the oil, gas and coal resources within and around their boundaries. If the president or Congress accept Zinke's recommendations, it would be against the will and interest of the American public—a capitulation of American treasures to pad the profits of the world's richest industries.

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American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

States Lead the Way on Energy Efficiency as Feds Falter

By Lara Ettenson

A recent report card of state energy efficiency policies and programs shows that even in this era of partisan divide, blue and red states alike are embracing smarter energy use as a key strategy for reducing harmful pollution, saving consumers money, creating jobs and driving economic growth.

The annual ranking of states by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) highlights how many states are stepping up efficiency efforts despite the lack of federal leadership. Utilities nationwide spent more than $7 billion on energy efficiency programs in 2016, saving more than 25 thousand gigawatt-hours of electricity. How much is that? It's enough to power almost 3 million homes and avoid the equivalent amount of emissions spewed from nearly 4 million cars over one year.

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DOE Proposes Outrageous, Massive Coal and Nuclear Bailout

By Miles Farmer

Department of Energy (DOE) Sec. Rick Perry just proposed a massive bailout for coal and nuclear power plants. The radical and unprecedented move is couched under a false premise that power plants with fuel located on site are needed to guarantee the reliability of the electricity system. The proposal relies on a mischaracterization of DOE's own recent study of electricity markets and reliability (discussed here), which if anything demonstrated that this kind of proposed action is not justified.

If adopted, the proposal would essentially ensure that coal and nuclear plants in regions encompassing most of the country continue to run even where they are too expensive to compete in the energy market. It would saddle utility customers with higher costs, while posing obstacles to the electricity system integration of cleaner and less risky energy sources such as solar and wind.

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National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

​North Atlantic Right Whales In Dangerous Decline, Study Confirms

By Giulia C.S. Good Stefani

A new study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution confirms that the North Atlantic right whale—one of the world's most endangered whales—has reversed course and is no longer recovering, but rather, is in perilous decline. The authors estimate the probability that the population is declining at 99.99 percent and found a strong divergence between male and female survival rates, leaving the population with a troubling imbalance. There are substantially more males left than females.

How can the authors (two of whom are from the government's own National Marine Fisheries Service) be 99.99 percent certain that they are correct? Because there are so few whales we can count them. North Atlantic right whales are individually identifiable by the unique, white, callosity patterns on their lower jaw. And, sadly, there aren't that many to count. The estimated population of North Atlantic right whales is fewer than 500.

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