Construction can continue on most of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled Friday.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
President Donald Trump’s Climate Change Record Has Been a Boon for Oil Companies, and a Threat to the Planet
By Vernon Loeb, Marianne Lavelle and Stacy Feldman
In the middle of his 44th month in office, two weeks before the start of the Republican convention in late August, President Trump rolled back Barack Obama's last major environmental regulation, restricting methane leaks.
Trump's Long Focus on 'American Energy Dominance'<p>When Trump delivered his <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27052016/donald-trump-republican-party-election-fossil-fuels-coal-oil-gas-fracking-climate-change-paris" target="_blank">first major energy speech in the fracking fields of North Dakota</a> as a candidate in May 2016, he called for American domination of global energy supplies.</p><p>"We are going to turn everything around," Trump declared. "And quickly, very quickly."</p><p>Once in office, Trump pursued a policy of unfettered support for fossil fuel development. He immediately signed memorandums to <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24012017/keystone-xl-dakota-pipeline-donald-trump-executive-order" target="_blank">revive the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines</a>, projects blocked by Obama. </p><p>In early March 2017, his administration ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03032017/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency-methane-greenhouse-gas-climate-change" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stop gathering data from oil and gas companies</a> needed to rein in leaks of methane, a potent short-lived climate pollutant. Fossil fuel infrastructure adds to greenhouse gas emissions, in part by leaking methane into the atmosphere. </p><p>He followed up, at the end of March, by issuing <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28032017/trump-executive-order-climate-change-paris-climate-agreement-clean-power-plan-pruitt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a sweeping executive order</a> directing all federal agencies to target for elimination any rules that restrict U.S. production of energy. He set guidance to make it more difficult to put future regulations on fossil fuel industries and he moved to discard the use of a rigorous "social cost of carbon," a regulatory measurement that puts a price on the future damage society will pay for every ton of carbon dioxide emitted. </p><p>As his first year in office came to a close, Trump and Alaska's Republican senators inserted a provision into his signature tax cut legislation that called for opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling.</p><p>In 2018, domestic oil production hit a record high. The result of this, among other things, was the <a href="https://rhg.com/research/preliminary-us-emissions-estimates-for-2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reversal of three consecutive years of declining U.S. carbon emissions</a>.</p><p>Many of Trump's regulations have also been tailored to favor the coal industry, often at the expense of cheaper, cleaner energy. <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/11102017/climate-denial-coal-industry-global-warming-robert-murray-energy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Robert Murray</a>, founder of the <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/29102019/coal-bankruptcy-bob-murray-energy-chapter-11-trump-regulations-rollback" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">now-bankrupt coal company Murray Energy</a> and one of Trump's closest industry allies, gave the president a "wish list" early on that became a virtual template for the administration's rollback of regulations. </p><p>The administration swiftly lifted an Obama moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands, to no real benefit. The decline of coal continued unabated, but Trump remained an unapologetic champion of the dirtiest fossil fuel. </p>
Trump's War on Science<p>When U.S. government scientists released their latest volume of the <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">National Climate Assessment in November 2018, </a>it revealed much about the robust, sobering scientific consensus on climate change.</p><p>It also revealed the striking disconnect between Trump and essentially every authoritative institution on the threat of global warming.</p><p>The president rejected the assessment's central findings—based on thousands of climate studies and involving 13 federal agencies—that emissions of carbon dioxide are caused by human activities, are already causing lasting economic damage and have to be brought rapidly to zero.</p><p>"I don't believe it. No, no, I don't believe it," Trump told a reporter after the assessment's release. </p><p>In almost every agency overseeing energy, the environment and health, people with little scientific background, or strong ties to industries they would be regulating, were appointed to scientific leadership positions. </p><p>One of the administration's first actions was to order scientists and other employees at EPA and other agencies to halt public communications. Several federal scientists working on climate change have said they were silenced, sidelined or demoted. The words "climate change" have been purged from government reports and other reports have been buried. </p><p>The administration's mistrust of scientists and its tendency toward science denialism would also become a prominent feature of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, when the president <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/20/politics/coronavirus-travel-alert-cdc-white-house-tensions-invs/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">muzzled scientists at the Centers for Disease Control </a>and chafed at the dire predictions of many epidemiological models for Covid-19 deaths. </p><p>With the nation in a state of emergency over the pandemic, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist who serves as Trump's administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23032020/trump-epa-health-secret-science-coronavirus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">moved in late March</a> to fast-track the "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science" rule. Wheeler replaced Scott Pruitt, an Oklahoma Republican who served as Trump's first EPA administrator before resigning in 2018 amid an ethics scandal. </p><p>Critics call Wheeler's transparency proposal Orwellian and say it would actually <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07042020/epa-secret-science-coronavirus-covid" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">limit the use of human health science</a> in environmental decision-making, by eliminating studies that rely on patients' anonymous medical data.</p><p>While Trump and his conservative allies contend that the reliance on such studies amounts to "secret science," scientists and leading medical authorities respond that it is standard practice to honor patient confidentiality in peer-reviewed studies. </p><p>Numerous studies, including one based on health data from 60 million Medicare recipients, have shown that one of the signature pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, microscopic particles less than 2.5 microns in width—known as PM 2.5—kill as many as 52,100 Americans prematurely each year.</p><p>Less than a month later, as much of the nation remained locked down to halt the spread of Covid-19, a respiratory disease, the Trump administration rejected a recommendation from government scientists to strengthen the national air quality standard for particulate matter. Trump chose instead to maintain the current PM 2.5 standard, handing the fossil fuel industry a major victory.</p>
A 'Concerted Attack' on Alaska, Public Lands<p>The Trump administration knew no bounds for its fossil fuel agenda, pursuing drilling from the outset on pristine public lands in Alaska and the lower 48 states, where oil companies have long sought access. </p><p>Less than four months after taking office, Trump moved <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28042017/doanld-trump-arctic-offshore-drilling-ban-obama-executive-order" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">to lift Obama's offshore Arctic drilling ban</a> and, then, in July 2017, gave Italian oil company Eni a quick green light to drill exploratory wells. </p><p>In March 2018, the Trump administration proposed a resumption of leasing in Alaska's Beaufort Sea. President Obama, shortly before leaving office, had "permanently" withdrawn from drilling there. </p><p>By then, Trump had also carved 2 million acres of land from the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments in southern Utah in what amounted to the most sweeping reductions in protections for public land in U.S. history. </p><p>In September 2018, the Interior Department finalized a <a href="https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/Final%20Rule%20-1004-AE53%20-%20%20Ready%20for%20OFR%209.18.18_508%20%281%29.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rule</a> that loosens methane requirements for oil and gas operations on federal lands. A month later, the administration proposed a regulation to streamline and expedite oil and gas permits on national forest lands. </p><p>The following summer, the administration proposed weakening protections under the Endangered Species Act for threatened species and critical habitat. Shortly thereafter, the Interior Department commenced the public comment period on its plan for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that had been included in the 2017 tax bill. </p><p>In early August 2020, the president signed the Great American Outdoors Act appropriating $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and $9.5 billion over five years to reduce maintenance backlogs in the national parks. </p><p>The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by a House Democrat, but Trump extolled its passage as the most significant act in support of parklands since Teddy Roosevelt.</p><p>Still, the administration was preparing, on the eve of the Republican convention, to start selling leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The sale was <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26082020/trump-administration-alaska-oil-drilling-mining-projects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">one of six pending projects</a> in which Trump was pursuing more drilling, logging and mining in Alaska.</p><p>One environmentalist called it the most "concerted attack" in 30 years on Alaska's natural resources. </p><p>All six of the Trump initiatives could still be blocked or rolled back in the courts, or undone by a new Biden administration working with a Democratic Congress. But for now, they are proceeding, with enormous consequences for Alaska's environment, and global climate change.</p>
One by One, Obama's Main Climate Accomplishments Fell<p>The same could be said for President Obama's environment and climate legacy: Trump's relentless attacks could be wholly or partially undone by a new administration and Congress. But for now, Trump has accomplished his mission: a near total elimination of his predecessor's most significant measures.</p><p>After countless piecemeal rollbacks during Trump's first two and a half years in office, the administration in June 2019 launched its long-awaited attack on Obama's signature plan to tackle climate change. Designed to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants, Obama called it the Clean Power Plan.</p><p>While the plan was challenged by industry and 27 states and blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court before Obama even left office, it encouraged many states to begin a process of planning for a transition away from coal-fired electricity at a time when cheaper natural gas and renewable energy already were forcing coal plants to shut down. </p><p>Next came Trump's rollback of Obama's 2012 automobile fuel efficiency standards, the single largest step any nation had taken to address global warming by cutting carbon emissions from cars and trucks. The weakened Trump plan will allow automakers to deploy fleets that average just 40 miles per gallon by 2025, instead of 54 mpg.</p><p>If Trump's standard ultimately survives legal challenges, cars and trucks in the United States would emit nearly a billion tons more carbon dioxide during their lifetimes than they would have under the Obama standards. </p><p>Finally, in mid-August, Trump <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13082020/trump-epa-methane-emission-rollbacks" target="_blank">proposed the rollback</a> of the methane rules, the last major Obama environmental regulation still standing. Methane, a super-pollutant, is 86 times more potent in warming the planet than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.</p><p>The Obama rule required oil and gas companies to monitor methane leaks and fix them. The Trump replacement weakens those requirements, allowing companies<a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13082020/trump-epa-methane-emission-rollbacks" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> to release 4.5 million metric tons more pollution each year. </a></p><p>In the climate realm, Obama is best known, of course, as the driving force behind the 2015 Paris climate accord. </p><p>Trump first announced in a Rose Garden speech in June 2017 that the U.S. would withdraw from the accord in three years, as soon as the treaty allowed. </p><p>So, right on cue, two years later, on Nov. 4, 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified the United Nations of the formal exit of the United States, activating the final one-year waiting period. </p><p>The actual U.S. withdrawal is set for Nov. 4, 2020, one day after the presidential election.</p>
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By Hannah Murphy
When he talks about the Trump administration, David Doniger likes to say: "Imagine where we'd be if they knew what they were doing." The climate lawyer and senior advisor to the NRDC Action Fund spends his days defending the environment from the U.S. government, and for the past three and a half years, that's meant a front-row seat to the Trump administration's relentless attacks on any regulation that's meant to slow the climate crisis.
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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>
By Julia Conley
Climate scientists were aghast Monday at the news that David Legates, a University of Delaware professor who has repeatedly questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is causing the climate crisis and has claimed that carbon dioxide emissions are beneficial, has been named by the Trump administration to a top leadership role at the federal government's climate research agency.
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By Jazmin Murphy
Whenever you talk about race relations here in so-called "America," Indigenous communities [are] always the last ones on the rung," says Wanbli Wiyan Ka'win (Eagle Feather Woman), also known as Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network who fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In defending the land so deeply beloved and cherished by her people, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Braun recounts how actively her community is excluded from environmental work and how she and her colleagues are blatantly silenced, even when working alongside allies. "We've had to really fight … to even have a seat at the table," she says.
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By Brett Wilkins
In the nearly six months since President Donald Trump declared a public health emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, he has rolled back at least 30 public protections, while proposing changes to at least 20 others, according to a report published Thursday by Public Citizen's Coalition on Sensible Safeguards.
The report—Pandemic Rollbacks: Slashing Safeguards During the Coronavirus—tracks dozens of regulatory rollbacks enacted or proposed by the Trump administration since March.
<div id="4dd61" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbdc0a617c3c5d28cd82b3c2021679d0"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1304042392274771969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">SCOOP: Six months after his emergency declaration, Trump has repealed more than 30 public protections that have not… https://t.co/19r1AuV5Pp</div> — Sensible Safeguards (@Sensible Safeguards)<a href="https://twitter.com/goodregs/statuses/1304042392274771969">1599742908.0</a></blockquote></div>
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By Tara Lohan
In 1999 a cheering crowd watched as a backhoe breached a hydroelectric dam on Maine's Kennebec River. The effort to help restore native fish populations and the river's health was hailed as a success and ignited a nationwide movement that spurred 1,200 dam removals in two decades.
Transmission lines from the Churchill Falls generating station in Labrador. Douglas Spott / CC BY-NC 2.0
Atlantic sturgeon were brought to the brink of extension in the 20th century and are now are listed as an endangered species. NOAA
Near Happy Valley-Goose Bay on the Churchill (Grand) River downstream from Muskrat Falls. Douglas Sprott / CC BY-NC 2.0
Construction of the Site C dam in British Columbia in 2017. Jason Woodhead / CC BY 2.0
The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is the first U.S. offshore wind farm. Dennis Schroeder / NREL / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
By Eoin Higgins
Environmental groups on Friday condemned the announcement of a new rule proposed by President Donald Trump that would further weaken the Endangered Species Act by making it easier to destroy habitats vulnerable species rely on for survival.
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Carol Kwiatkowski
Like many inventions, the discovery of Teflon happened by accident. In 1938, chemists from Dupont (now Chemours) were studying refrigerant gases when, much to their surprise, one concoction solidified. Upon investigation, they found it was not only the slipperiest substance they'd ever seen – it was also noncorrosive and extremely stable and had a high melting point.
As PFAS are produced and used, they can migrate into soil and water. MI DEQ
Toxic Chemicals<p>A <a href="https://cen.acs.org/articles/83/i30/DuPont-Faces-Class-Action-Lawsuits.html" target="_blank">class-action lawsuit</a> brought this issue to national attention in 2005. Workers at a Parkersburg, West Virginia, DuPont plant joined with local residents to sue the company for releasing millions of pounds of one of these chemicals, known as PFOA, into the air and the Ohio River. Lawyers discovered that the company <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/magazine/the-lawyer-who-became-duponts-worst-nightmare.html" target="_blank">had known as far back as 1961</a> that PFOA could harm the liver.</p><p>The suit was ultimately <a href="https://www.levinlaw.com/dupont-c8-litigation" target="_blank">settled in 2017</a> for $670 million, after <a href="http://www.c8sciencepanel.org/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an eight-year study</a> of tens of thousands of people who had been exposed. Based on <a href="http://www.c8sciencepanel.org/publications.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple scientific studies</a>, this review concluded that there was a probable link between exposure to PFOA and six categories of diseases: diagnosed high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.</p><p>Over the past two decades, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0405-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers</a> have shown that many PFAS are not only toxic – they also <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pfas/basic-information-pfas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">don't fully break down in the environment</a> and have accumulated in the bodies of people and animals around the world. Some studies have <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijheh.2019.10.008" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">detected PFAS in 99% of people tested</a>. Others have <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.emcon.2019.06.002" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">found PFAS in wildlife</a>, including polar bears, dolphins and seals.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e62ff1326c2d51afc5f0856eb1ec3795"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JbHeE3YzeRA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Widespread and Persistent<p>PFAS are often called "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/these-toxic-chemicals-are-everywhere-and-they-wont-ever-go-away/2018/01/02/82e7e48a-e4ee-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html" target="_blank">forever chemicals</a>" because they don't fully degrade. They move easily through air and water, can quickly travel long distances and accumulate in sediment, soil and plants. They have also been found in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2018.06.009" target="_blank">dust</a> <a href="https://www.fda.gov/food/chemicals/and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas" target="_blank">and food</a>, including eggs, meat, milk, fish, fruits and vegetables.</p><p>In the bodies of humans and animals, PFAS <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2013.06.004" target="_blank">concentrate in various organs, tissues and cells</a>. The <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/assessments/noncancer/completed/pfoa/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">U.S. National Toxicology Program</a> and <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp.asp?id=1117&tid=237" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Centers for Disease Control and Prevention</a> have confirmed a long list of health risks, including immunotoxicity, testicular and kidney cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility and thyroid disease.</p><p>Children are even more vulnerable than adults because they can ingest more PFAS relative to their body weight from food and water and through the air. Children also put their hands in their mouths more often, and their metabolic and immune systems are less developed. Studies show that these chemicals <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14070691" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">harm children</a> by causing kidney dysfunction, delayed puberty, asthma and <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/assessments/noncancer/completed/pfoa/index.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">altered immune function</a>.</p><p>Researchers have also documented that PFAS exposure <a href="https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2011.2034" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reduces the effectiveness of vaccines</a>, which is particularly concerning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p>
<div id="2f489" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc8947d6f28cecd61b99688c8e1f751a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1291831257790402560" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">PFAS, a class of chemicals that have been associated with health hazards including liver damage, birth defects, can… https://t.co/NtnVkmMQs0</div> — WIRED (@WIRED)<a href="https://twitter.com/WIRED/statuses/1291831257790402560">1596831547.0</a></blockquote></div>
Regulation Is Lagging<p>PFAS have become so ubiquitous in the environment that health experts say it is <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/pfas/health-effects/exposure.html" target="_blank">probably impossible to completely prevent exposure</a>. These substances are released throughout their life cycles, from chemical production to product use and disposal. Up to 80% of environmental pollution from common PFAS, such as PFOA, comes from <a href="https://doi.org/10.1021/es0512475" target="_blank">production of fluoropolymers</a> that use toxic PFAS as processing aids to make products like Teflon.</p><p>In 2009 the EPA established a health advisory level for PFOA in drinking water of 400 parts per trillion. Health advisories are not binding regulations – they are <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sdwa/drinking-water-contaminant-human-health-effects-information#dw-standards" target="_blank">technical guidelines</a> for state, local and tribal governments, which are primarily responsible for regulating public water systems.</p><p>In 2016 the agency <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/drinkingwaterhealthadvisories_pfoa_pfos_updated_5.31.16.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dramatically lowered</a> this recommendation to 70 parts per trillion. Some states have set <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/etc.4863" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">far more protective levels</a> – as low as 8 parts per trillion.</p><p>According to a recent estimate by the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/about-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Working Group</a>, a public health advocacy organization, up to 110 million Americans could be <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/map/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking PFAS-contaminated water</a>. Even with the most advanced treatment processes, it is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2013.10.045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">extremely difficult and costly</a> to remove these chemicals from drinking water. And it's impossible to clean up lakes, river systems or oceans. Nonetheless, PFAS are <a href="https://oversight.house.gov/legislation/hearings/toxic-forever-chemicals-a-call-for-immediate-federal-action-on-pfas" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">largely unregulated by the federal government</a>, although they are <a href="https://www.inquirer.com/news/pfas-action-act-congress-bill-house-pass-trump-epa-20200110.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">gaining increased attention from Congress</a>.</p>
Reducing PFAS Risks at the Source<p>Given that PFAS pollution is so ubiquitous and hard to remove, many health experts assert that the only way to address it is by <a href="https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2016/12/21/reducing-human-exposure-to-highly-fluorinated-chemicals" target="_blank">reducing PFAS production and use as much as possible</a>.</p><p><a href="https://pfascentral.org/" target="_blank">Educational campaigns</a> and <a href="https://toxicfreefuture.org/toxic-free-future-action-center/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">consumer pressure</a> are making a difference. Many forward-thinking companies, including grocers, clothing manufacturers and furniture stores, have <a href="https://pfascentral.org/pfas-basics/pfas-free-products/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed PFAS</a> from products they use and sell.</p><p>State governments have also stepped in. California recently <a href="https://news.bloomberglaw.com/environment-and-energy/ban-on-firefighting-foam-with-pfas-signed-by-california-governor" target="_blank">banned PFAS in firefighting foams</a>. Maine and Washington have <a href="https://www.natlawreview.com/article/attack-pfass-extends-to-food-packaging" target="_blank">banned PFAS in food packaging</a>. Other states are <a href="https://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/per-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfas-state-laws.aspx" target="_blank">considering similar measures</a>.<br></p><p>I am part of a group of scientists from universities, nonprofit organizations and government agencies in the U.S. and Europe that has argued for managing the entire class of PFAS chemicals as a group, instead of one by one. We also support an "<a href="https://doi.org/10.1039/C9EM00163H" target="_blank">essential uses" approach</a> that would restrict their production and use only to products that are critical for health and proper functioning of society, such as medical devices and safety equipment. And we have recommended developing safer non-PFAS alternatives.</p><p>As the EPA acknowledges, there is an <a href="https://www.epa.gov/innovation/innovative-ways-destroy-pfas-challenge" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">urgent need for innovative solutions</a> to PFAS pollution. Guided by good science, I believe we can effectively manage PFAS to reduce further harm, while researchers find ways to clean up what has already been released.</p>
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By Jacob Wallace
This story is published as part of StudentNation's "Vision 2020: Election Stories From the Next Generation" reports from young journalists that center the concerns of diverse young voters. In this project, working with Dr. Sherri Williams, we recruited young journalists from different backgrounds to develop story ideas and reporting about their peers' concerns ahead of the most important election of our lives. We'll continue publishing two stories each week over the course of September.
In the speech she gave at the People's Climate March in Washington in 2017, Jansikwe Medina-Tayac, then 15, told a crowd of thousands, "This [climate change] is not just an environmental issue. This is a race issue, this is an immigration issue, this is a feminist issue."
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By Shaun Brooks and Julia Jabour
Australia wants to build a 2.7-kilometre concrete runway in Antarctica, the world's biggest natural reserve. The plan, if approved, would have the largest footprint of any project in the continent's history.
The runway is part of an aerodrome to be constructed near Davis Station, one of Australia's three permanent bases in Antarctica. It would be the first concrete runway on the continent.
Year-Round Access<p>The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), a federal government agency, <a href="https://www.antarctica.gov.au/living-and-working/travel-and-logistics/aviation/davis-aerodrome/about-the-project/" target="_blank">argues</a> the runway would allow year-round aviation access between Hobart and Antarctica.</p><p>Presently, the only Australian flights to Antarctica take place at the beginning and end of summer. Aircraft land at an aerodrome near the Casey research station, with interconnecting flights to other stations and sites on the continent. The stations are inaccessible by both air and ship in winter.</p><p>The AAD says year-round access to Antarctica would provide significant science benefits, including:</p><ul><li>better understanding sea level rise and other climate change impacts</li><li>opportunities to study wildlife across the annual lifecycle of key species including krill, penguins, seals and seabirds</li><li>allowing scientists to research through winter.</li></ul><p><span></span>Leading international scientists <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antarctic-science/article/delivering-21st-century-antarctic-and-southern-ocean-science/A5E6D29C34AA2794140C6B4966E63048" target="_blank">had called for</a> improved, environmentally responsible access to Antarctica to support 21st-century science. However, the aerodrome project is likely to reduce access for scientists to Antarctica for years, due to the need to house construction workers.</p>
Australia says the runway would have significant science benefits. Australian Antarctic Division
Australia: An Environmental Leader?<p>Australia has traditionally been considered an environmental leader in Antarctica. For example, in 1989 under the Hawke government, it urged the world to abandon a mining convention in favour of a new deal to ban mining on the continent.</p><p>Australia's <a href="https://www.antarctica.gov.au/about-us/antarctic-strategy-and-action-plan/20-year-action-plan/" target="_blank">20 Year Action Plan</a> promotes "leadership in environmental stewardship in Antarctica", pledging to "minimise the environmental impact of Australia's activities".</p><p>But the aerodrome proposal appears at odds with that goal. It would cover 2.2 square kilometres, increasing the total "<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/antarctic-science/article/what-is-footprint-in-antarctica-proposing-a-set-of-definitions/7FBDB26F3AF2F5A6C157FCB2E6A2D996" target="_blank">disturbance footprint</a>" of all nations on the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41893-019-0237-y" target="_blank">continent</a> by 40%. It would also mean Australia has the biggest footprint of any nation, overtaking the United States.</p>
The contribution of disturbance footprint from countries in Antarctica measured from Brooks et al. 2019, with Australia's share increasing to 35% including the aerodrome proposal. Shaun Brooks<p>Within this footprint, environmental effects will also be intense. <a href="http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/174a3e6b-4f42-ea11-b0a8-00505684324c/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1594857491287" target="_blank">Construction</a> will require more than three million cubic metres of earthworks - levelling 60 vertical metres of hills and valleys along the length of the runway. This will inevitably cause dust emissions – on the windiest continent on Earth - and the effect of this on plants and animals in Antarctica is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1017/S0954102019000440" target="_blank">poorly understood</a>.</p><p>Wilson's storm petrels that nest at the site will be displaced. Native lichens, fungi and algae will be destroyed, and irreparable damage is expected at adjacent lakes.</p><p>Weddell seals breed within 500 metres of the proposed runway site. Federal environment officials <a href="http://epbcnotices.environment.gov.au/_entity/annotation/174a3e6b-4f42-ea11-b0a8-00505684324c/a71d58ad-4cba-48b6-8dab-f3091fc31cd5?t=1594857491287" target="_blank">recognise</a> the dust from construction and subsequent noise from low flying aircraft have the potential to disturb these breeding colonies.</p>