By Jessica Corbett
An U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) history exhibit that opened just before President Donald Trump took office is expected to lose some of its Obama-era climate displays, which could be replaced with a presentation on coal to reflect the policies of the current administration.
As the Trump administration has rolled back environmental regulations, and controversial EPA chief Scott Pruitt has publicly defended the deregulation and spread doubt about climate science, EPA staff members who worked on the exhibit tipped off Trump officials that some of its content conflicts with the administration's environmental policies, according to the Washington Post.
The one-room exhibit, The Story of the Environmental Protection Agency: Protecting Public Health and the Environment, located at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, is free and open to the public on weekdays. The exhibit documents the EPA's history since it was established in 1970 and, according to the agency's webpage, "explores how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency protects public health and the environment by safeguarding the air we breathe, water we drink, and land on which we live."
Ahead of the proposed changes to remove panels that celebrate climate achievements from the Obama years, those charged with overseeing the exhibit have already added some pro-coal propaganda, the Post reported:
In the meantime, to make sure the current administration is represented, EPA officials have installed a large poster board in the museum, highlighting the agency's new "back to basics" agenda. It features a picture of Pruitt shaking hands with coal miners at a Pennsylvania mine and promises "sensible regulations for economic growth."
What better way to launch EPA's Back to Basics agenda than visiting the hard-working coal miners who help power America. The coal industry was nearly devastated by years of regulatory overreach, but with new direction from President Trump, we are helping to turn things around.
Yet according to the EPA—at least, pre-Pruitt—burning coal, gas and oil is the single-greatest contributor to greenhouse gas emission. The panels that are slated for removal include documented efforts to curb emissions. One details the 2009 endangerment finding, in which then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson concluded "that greenhouse gases in the atmosphere endanger both the public health and the environment for current and future generations"—and therefore, the agency had a legal obligation to control emission.
Another panel describes the Paris climate agreement, a December 2015 treaty signed by nearly 200 nations that pledged to curb their emissions. The Post reported that the Paris treaty panel claims the "EPA is leading global efforts to address climate change." Trump provoked condemnation from world leaders, green groups and the American public when he announced the U.S. would withdraw from the historic climate accord the last month.
A spokesperson for the EPA also told the Post they would add a contentious former agency administrator to the exhibit:
Every past EPA administrator is mentioned in the museum, with one exception: Anne Gorsuch, mother of Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, whose short and tumultuous tenure as President Ronald Reagan's first EPA administrator was marked by sharp budget cuts, rifts with career EPA employees and a scandal over the mismanagement of the Superfund cleanup program. She resigned in 1983.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.