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Pruitt Demoted Staffers Who Raised Concerns About His Conduct
Several U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees who raised concerns about Scott Pruitt's leadership tactics, including his spending habits, were reassigned or demoted, according to a New York Times report.
The five officials in question, including one Trump administration political appointee and one member of Pruitt's security detail, were a key part of the approval process for certain requests, and directly raised concerns over demands for items like a $70,000 desk upgrade, expanded security detail and the use of sirens and flashing lights on occasions when Pruitt was running late for dinner.
The Times report capped off another day of Pruitt-related scandals, including a report from the Washington Post that he endorsed raises for his aides despite denying knowledge of the pay changes earlier this week. One of Pruitt's top aides, Samantha Dravis, handed in her resignation Wednesday.
In a scathing op-ed published in The Hill, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) said Pruitt "has done more to damage the economy, our environment, public safety and American global competitiveness than any Trump Cabinet member.
"Since taking office, Mr. Pruitt has questioned man-made climate change, scrubbed the EPA website of references to climate change, disputed settled scientific findings, and removed scientific experts from advisory boards, replacing them with industry representatives. He has withdrawn and reversed important environmental protections, including the Clean Power Plan and coal ash disposal requirements. Lest we forget, it was Mr. Pruitt who was the loudest cheerleader for pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. The administrator has even advocated slashing his agency's budget by a third. All of these decisions jeopardize the American public.
Under the Obama administration, we were making investments in the 21st century clean energy economy and leading the global community in taking historic action on climate change. Mr. Pruitt, however, seems hell-bent on reversing that progress, and would rather pretend climate change doesn't exist. Knowing he speaks to an audience of one, he has calculated that pushing these backward policies may be enough to protect his job."
For a deeper dive:
Employees: New York Times, CNN. Traffic: CBS, Raises: Washington Post. Pruitt in crisis: New York Times, Axios, Huffington Post, LA Times, Politico. Dravis: CNN. Commentary: Washington Post, Philip Bump analysis, Washington Post, Aaron Blake analysis, The Hill, Rep. Gerry Connolly op-ed, The Hill, Mike Carr op-ed, GQ, Jack Holmes analysis, Wall Street Journal editorial, Fox, Steve Milloy op-ed
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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."
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