Pruitt Gives Himself Final Say on Water Protections, But for How Long?
In a March 30 memo obtained by CNN and reported Wednesday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt told agency staff to give him the final say on whether transportation, development or industry projects threaten wetlands, ponds or streams.
The new policy would shift Clean Water Act deliberations away from regional EPA officials and scientists and towards Pruitt.
"With this revised delegation, authority previously delegated to regional administrators to make final determinations of geographic jurisdiction shall be retained by the Administrator," the memo read in part.
However, it is possible Pruitt won't have much of a chance to use his self-assigned powers as ethics scandals pile up.
Also on Wednesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that President Donald Trump was "Not [OK]" with Pruitt's arrangement with an energy lobbyist and his wife to rent a D.C. condo at below-market rates, CNN reported.
Sanders' statement came a day after The Atlantic dug up fresh dirt on Pruitt: he had apparently used a provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act, which allows the EPA administrator to hire as many as 30 people without presidential or congressional approval, in order to give massive raises to two staffers who had traveled with Pruitt from Oklahoma. According to The Atlantic, Pruitt had first sought Trump's approval for the raises and been refused.
"I found out about that yesterday and I changed it," Pruitt told Fox News.
The Independent reported Thursday that sources within the administration, who on Tuesday said Pruitt's position was safe, were saying on Wednesday that the current situation was "unsustainable."
However, in Sanders' statement to the press on Wednesday, she did continue to offer praise for the work Pruitt has done at the EPA to further Trump's agenda.
"The President thinks he is doing a good job, particularly on the deregulation front. But again, we take this seriously and we are looking into it," Sanders said.
In an analysis piece published Wednesday, CNN-editor-at-large Chris Cillizza predicted that Trump was likely to fire Pruitt. He wrote that Trump's approval for Pruitt's deregulatory performance would be counterbalanced by the fact that "there's nothing Trump hates more than negative press that he himself doesn't cause."
If U.S. waterways had fingers, they'd be crossing them for Cillizza to be right. If Pruitt survives his various scandals and holds on to his new Clean Water Act powers, it would allow him to give the go-ahead to polluting projects.
Kyla Bennett, the New England director of the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility that shared the Clean Water Act memo with CNN, laid out its implications in stark terms.
"This action subjects safeguards for clean water across the U.S. to filtration through one politician's hands," Bennett told CNN. "Every corporation that wants a pass on Clean Water Act compliance is invited to privately meet with the most user-friendly EPA administrator in history."
Bennett said the move is a way to bypass legal scrutiny over Pruitt's plan, announced last year, to restrict the definition of "waters of the United States" to be more favorable to industry.
"This latest move by Pruitt is his Plan B, as it is becoming increasingly clear that his Clean Water rewrite plan is illegal and will be tossed out in court," Bennett told CNN.
A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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