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Food
USDA

Thanksgiving Dinner Is Cheapest in Years, But Are Family Farms Paying the Price?

By Sarah Reinhardt

Last week, the Farm Bureau released the results of its annual price survey on the cost of a typical Thanksgiving dinner. The grand total for a "feast" for 10 people, according to this year's shoppers? About 50 dollars ($49.87, if you want to be exact). That includes a 16-pound turkey at $1.40 per pound, and a good number of your favorite sides: stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk.

After adjusting for inflation, the Farm Bureau concluded that the cost of Thanksgiving dinner was at its lowest level since 2013. Let's talk about what that means for farmers, and for all of us.

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Energy
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Seven States Take Big Next Step on Climate: Here’s the What, Why and How

By Ken Kimmell

On Monday, Nov. 13, a bi-partisan group of seven states (New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Vermont), and the District of Columbia announced that they will seek public input on how to craft a regional solution to greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, now the largest source of CO2 emissions in the region. An announcement to conduct listening sessions may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Here's why:

First, this region has been successful at reducing emissions from the electric sector, but transportation is lagging behind, as this graph shows:

Energy Information Administration Data

All of these states have committed to economy-wide goals that will be impossible to reach without ambitious policies to reduce pollution from transportation. Monday's statement demonstrates that policy leaders understand that transportation is the next major frontier in the fight against global warming in the Northeast.

Second, a public conversation is necessary. For several years, these states have talked internally through their departments of energy, environment and transportation, about how to cut transportation emissions. When I served as a commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, I was part of those conversations, and they have yielded a number of promising ideas.

But policies that are truly worthy and lasting can't be hatched in isolation from the public. Public engagement is needed to get the best ideas out on the table, test assumptions, gauge political support and persuade the skeptical. The states' announcement shows that the states are serious, and that they are going about this in the right way.

Third, once the states announce a goal (as they have done here), and encourage the public to provide input to it, they create the expectation that action will follow: doing nothing becomes a much harder option. Once these listening sessions begin region wide, as they already have in Massachusetts, state leaders will see that their constituents want clean, affordable transportation, and that they are prepared to invest in that. Thus, the conversation will change from "whether" to implement a regional solution to "how" to do so.

In this regard, it is intriguing that on the day of the announcement, the states also released a white paper on one particularly promising approach—a regional "cap and invest" program. A cap and invest program would build upon this region's success with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which has helped to dramatically lower emissions from the electric sector while creating jobs and reducing consumer costs.

The program would set an overall cap on regional transportation emissions, require fuel distributors to purchase "allowances" for the right to sell polluting fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel, and re-invest the proceeds in improved mass transit, electric cars and buses, affordable housing located near transportation centers, and other proven ways to make clean transportation available to all. The white paper does an excellent job of identifying how such a scheme would work under our existing fuel distribution network. (For more information on this approach, read my op-ed and the blog by my colleague Dan Gatti).

I encourage Union of Concerned Scientists members and the public to attend these listening sessions and publicly support a bold regional solution. And I applaud the leaders of these states for taking a critical next step. State leadership, particularly when it is bi-partisan, is the way that the U.S. can best stay on track to meet its climate goals and assure an anxious world that we are still in the fight, notwithstanding the Trump administration's abdication of leadership.

Ken Kimmell is president of the Union of Concerned Scientists and has more than 30 years of experience in government, environmental policy, and advocacy.

Climate
Rennett Stowe / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

One Simple Trick to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

By Anna Scott

Want to save the planet? Are you, like me, a young professional struggling to reduce your carbon footprint? Then join me in taking the train to your next professional conference.

Most of my low-carbon lifestyle is admittedly enforced on me by my student budget. I have no kids, bicycle to work and share a house with roommates. What dominates my carbon footprint is the flights I take—I'll be hitting frequent flyer status this year thanks to traveling for conferences, talks and workshops (not to mention those flights to see my family during the holidays—even being unmarried doesn't get me out of visiting in-laws overseas). This is a bittersweet moment for a climate scientist—my professional success gives me an opportunity to impact the world with my science, but is hurting the planet and leaving future generations with a mess that will outlive me.

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Trump Watch

Trump Nominee Kathleen Hartnett White Ignores Climate Change In Her Own Backyard

By Elliott Negin

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Trump's pick to chair the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), testified at her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday and, like many Trump nominees to date, showed herself to be an unqualified, polluter-friendly ideologue who rejects mainstream climate science.

"Your positions are so far out of the mainstream, they are not just outliers, they are outrageous," Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey exclaimed at one point in clear exasperation. "You have a fringe voice that denies science, economics and reality."

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Climate
Gage Skidmore

EPA Chief Pruitt’s Halloween Trick Will Scare the Health Out of You

By Elliott Negin

On Halloween, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt gave Americans the equivalent of an apple filled with razor blades.

Instead of picking the best experts for his agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) to protect public health, Pruitt appointed candidates who oppose the very laws the EPA is supposed to enforce.

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Food
School Within School / Facebook

Every Month Is Farm to School Month at This DC School

By Sarah Reinhardt

It's the end of October, which means National Farm to School Month is drawing to a close. But that doesn't matter to the students at School Within School in northeast Washington, DC—for them, it's always farm to school month.

Thanks to a farm to school tour hosted by DC Greens and the National Farm to School Network, I was lucky enough to visit a handful of the cutest (and smartest) gardeners in the district as they cooked up some ratatouille with their fall harvest. At School Within School, kids from three years old through fifth grade get to participate in FoodPrints, a gardening, cooking, and nutrition education program that integrates science, math and social studies into hands-on lessons about local food.

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Science
Rita Schoeny (top, middle) attending a march with friends

I Am a 30-Year Veteran Scientist From the U.S. EPA: I Can’t Afford to Be Discouraged

By Rita Schoeny

. . . And neither can you.

Since January, we have seen a continual assault on our environmental protections. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put a political operative with no scientific experience in charge of vetting EPA grants, and the agency is reconsidering an Obama-era regulation on coal ash. The well-established legal processes for promulgating environmental regulations, and—very pointedly—the science underlying environmental regulation are being jettisoned by the Trump administration. As scientists, we must stand up for science and ensure that it is not tossed aside in public policy and decision-making.

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The flooded Arkema Chemicals plant in Crosby, TX after Hurrican Harvey. Arkema / Facebook

Hurricane Harvey Arkema Disaster: Scientists Say Chemical Safety Risks Were Preventable

By Charise Johnson

Halloween is right around the corner, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been a perpetual nightmare to public safety since Administrator Scott Pruitt arrived, sending long-awaited chemical safety amendments to an early grave this year.

The Risk Management Plan (RMP) is a vital EPA chemical safety rule that "requires certain facilities to develop plans that identify potential effects of a chemical accident, and take certain actions to prevent harm to the public or the environment"—but delays to the effective date of the long-awaited updates are putting communities, workers and first responders directly in the way of harm, as we have witnessed from recent events following Hurricane Harvey.

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Energy
Victoria Pickering / Flickr

Memo to EPA Chief Pruitt: Let’s End Subsidies For Fossil Fuels, Not Renewables

By Elliott Negin

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt recently proposed eliminating federal tax credits for wind and solar power, arguing that they should "stand on their own and compete against coal and natural gas and other sources" as opposed to "being propped up by tax incentives and other types of credits...."

Stand on their own?

Pruitt surely must be aware that fossil fuels have been feasting at the government trough for at least 100 years. Renewables, by comparison, have received support only since the mid-1990s and, until recently, have had to subsist on scraps.

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