The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Pruitt Appears in Big Beef Video Urging Farmers to Kill Clean Water Rule
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt appears in a video sponsored by the beef industry calling on farmers and ranchers to file official comments on a proposal to withdraw and rewrite the Obama-era "Waters of the United States" rule (or WOTUS) before the Aug. 28 deadline.
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) video was produced by the beef lobbying organization's policy division, Beltway Beef and was released last week. Notably, NCBA spent $117,375 in lobbying last year.
"When comments are made a part of a record—as rule-making—we have an obligation to review them," Pruitt says. "It helps inform our decision-making process; it helps us make better decisions. And so we want farmers and ranchers across this country to provide comments."
The video, filmed in Colorado during Pruitt's cross-country State Action Tour, directs viewers to a BeefUSA.org link to submit comments on the proposed repeal. The site includes sample text to submit to the Federal Register.
"We're trying to fix the challenges from the 2015 rule," Pruitt says in the NCBA clip, "where the Obama Administration re-imagined their authority under the Clean Water Act and defined a Water of the United States as being a puddle, a dry creek bed, and ephemeral drainage ditches across this country, which created great uncertainty ... and we are fixing that, and then we're hearing from stakeholders about how to get it right as we go forward."
But law experts told E&E News that Pruitt's interpretation of the 2015 rule—which extends Clean Water Act protections to streams, wetlands and any water body that shares a "significant nexus" with clearly navigable waters—as "misleading" and "inappropriate."
For one, WOTUS specifically states that puddles are not considered waters of the U.S. E&E News also pointed out that the rule also excludes dry creek beds that do not have a bed, bank and high-water mark and ephemeral ditches that "flow only after precipitation."
Incidentally, as Oklahoma's former attorney general, Pruitt had sued the EPA over WOTUS, alleging that it amounted to executive overreach and a regulatory burden.
Environmental groups worry that nixing the Obama rule puts the country's waterways at risk. Waterkeeper Alliance warned in June: "Adopting a narrow definition of 'waters of the United States' (WOTUS) long sought by industry [will] allow uncontrolled pollution and destruction of our nation's rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands."
The EPA has since issued a response to its administrator's video appearance.
"As administrator Pruitt says in the video, receiving public comments from across the country helps EPA make informed decisions on proposed rules," an EPA spokeswoman said. "Just like the administrator's countless other interviews, there was no script and no cost to EPA to accommodate the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's request for a brief interview regarding EPA's State Action Tour and WOTUS."
When E&E News asked if the EPA's ethics office approved Pruitt's interview, the spokesperson responded: "It's absurd that E&E thinks we need their permission on what media outlets we can accept interview requests from."
NCBA spokesman Ed Frank told the publication that the video was an innocuous request for public comments.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.
gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images
Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.
The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland
By Johnny Wood
The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.
The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.
Here are some of the challenges the river faces.
By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.