Pipeline Backed by Pruitt’s Oil Lobbyist Landlord Approved While EPA Chief Was Receiving Sweetheart Rent
By Jake Johnson
As U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief and reigning number one seed in the "worst Trump cabinet member" bracket Scott Pruitt attempts to beat back accusations that he violated ethics rules by renting a room from the wife of powerful energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart, the New York Times revealed late Monday that Pruitt approved a massive pipeline project supported by Hart's firm at the same time he had access to what critics argue was an unusually low-priced rental.
"A giant pipeline that rips up a vast swath of America and wrecks the climate in exchange for a cheap condo," 350.org founder Bill McKibben tweeted in response to the new report. "Seems the perfect emblem of the Trump years."
While EPA officials immediately pushed back against the notion that Pruitt approved the project as a favor in exchange for the cheap condo, government ethics experts argued that the pipeline approval at the very least gives off the appearance of a conflict of interest.
"Entering into this arrangement causes a reasonable person to question the integrity of the EPA decision," Don Fox, who served as general counsel of the Office of Government Ethics during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, told the Times.
During an appearance on MSNBC on Monday, former White House ethics official and vice-chairman at Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington Richard Painter called Pruitt's room rental "disgusting" and argued it is a clear "violation of the gift rule."
Pruitt's decision to sign off on the project—an expansion of Enbridge's Alberta Clipper pipeline, which runs from Alberta, Canada to Wisconsin—came in March of last year, when his lease with the Washington, DC condo was still in effect.
"The signoff by the EPA came even though the agency, at the end of the Obama administration, had moved to fine Enbridge $61 million in connection with a 2010 pipeline episode that sent hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and other waterways," the Times reported. "The fine was the second-largest in the history of the Clean Water Act, behind the penalty imposed after the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico."
In response to the new revelations, government watchdogs immediately demanded a probe into the project's approval process.
The Times report comes as Pruitt is currently under investigation by the White House over what critics have denounced as a "sweetheart" living arrangement. Pruitt, like other members of President Donald Trump's cabinet, has also come under fire for his expensive first-class flying habits.
According to a Politico report late Monday, White House chief of staff John Kelly has floated the possibility of firing Pruitt in the coming months.
One possible reason Kelly hasn't followed through, some White House officials and lobbyists told Politico, is because Pruitt has been extremely effective in carrying out Trump's aggressive anti-environment agenda.
"I think he's an A student ... He's always working. He's always focused on the agenda. He's always trying to figure out ways to make the boss look good," energy lobbyist Mike McKenna said in an interview with Politico on Monday.
An example of Pruitt's dedication to dismantling even the most basic planetary protections came Monday afternoon, when the EPA chief officially announced that he is rolling back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards.
"This is what happens when you put an oil industry shill in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency," CREDO Action co-director Josh Nelson said in a statement on Monday. "No one should be surprised that Scott Pruitt, who literally rented his condo from an energy industry lobbyist, habitually puts corporate polluters ahead of the American people."
Scott Pruitt Voted Worst Trump Minion, Ryan Zinke Runner-Up https://t.co/Z9jC5eJWkb @NRDC @UCSUSA @foe_us @greenpeaceusa— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519924257.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
Earth's ice is melting 57 percent faster than in the 1990s and the world has lost more than 28 trillion tons of ice since 1994, research published Monday in The Cryosphere shows.
By Jewel Fraser
Noreen Nunez lives in a middle-class neighborhood that rises up a hillside in Trinidad's Tunapuna-Piarco region.