The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
On Environmental Record, Did Kavanaugh Lie to Senate?
By Scott Faber
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh grossly misrepresented his record on the environment.
Kavanaugh, President Trump's nominee to fill the court's critical swing seat, cited four cases as evidence of his willingness to rule against industry to protect the environment.
But in one of those cases, Kavanaugh actually ruled in favor of weakening air quality rules for cement plants. In another, Kavanaugh doubled down on his position that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lacks the legal authority to regulate the greenhouse gases that cause climate change. In a third case, Kavanaugh's concurring opinion laid the groundwork for challenges of EPA regulations by polluting industries.
What's more important are the cases he failed to mention. The fact is that in 16 of 18 cases, Kavanaugh has ruled in favor of more air and water pollution, and in 17 of 18 cases, he has ruled to weaken protection for endangered species.
So, when it comes to the environment, Judge Kavanaugh has ruled for industry 32 out of 35 times. That's good news for industry, but really bad news for the rest of us.
Kavanaugh has ruled that the EPA lacks the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. He ruled against regulating cross-state air pollution. He ruled in favor of dumping coal waste and dumping hazardous waste. He ruled that it's okay for factory farms to foul the air of their neighbors.
When the Trump administration sought to delay rules designed to reduce climate-changing emissions of methane, Kavanaugh sided with polluters. When the EPA sought to replace fluorinated chemicals known as HFCs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, he complained that the proposed rule pulled the rug out from under polluters—even though replacement chemicals are readily available. Kavanaugh also supported giving large plants and factories more time to comply with greenhouse gas rules.
In some cases, Kavanaugh has adopted the view that the EPA must always weigh the costs to polluters against the benefits to public health, regardless of Congressional direction. When the EPA was proposing to regulate mercury emissions, Kavanaugh argued that the EPA was obligated to consider the costs of regulatory compliance to polluters.
Likewise, when the EPA proposed to apportion cross-state pollution, Kavanaugh sided with industry by advocating for the regulation that is least costly to industry, not most protective of public health.
In another case, Kavanaugh argued that the EPA had failed to consider the costs to a coal company dumping mine waste into streams, even though the agency had no obligation to consider cost. In one case, Kavanaugh sought to underestimate the public health benefits of reducing mercury pollution by discounting other benefits, like reducing particulate matter.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.
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.