By Jessica Corbett
Indigenous and environmental activists fighting against the Line 3 tar sands pipeline were outraged Thursday after the Biden administration filed a legal brief backing the federal government's 2020 approval of the project under former President Donald Trump.
Critics of the project — which Canadian energy giant Enbridge has undertaken to replace an aging oil pipeline — blasted the U.S. Department of Justice's late Wednesday filing as a betrayal of President Joe Biden's pledges to address the climate emergency and respect tribal rights.
"A White House that is serious about protecting communities needs to start by listening to communities when they say they don't want an oil pipeline threatening their water and land," said Janet Redman, Greenpeace USA climate campaign director. "Backing Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline is a massive failure for a president that campaigned on tackling the climate crisis. And it's a betrayal of what he promised the American people."
Benjamin Goloff, a campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, accused Biden of "siding with a handful of corrupt corporate elites over honoring treaty rights, climate, water, and the future of life on Earth."
Horrible and unconscionable betrayal, @POTUS. You are siding with a handful of corrupt corporate elites over honori… https://t.co/5JJxkD4ybb— Ben Goloff (@Ben Goloff)1624555720.0
"This is a racist pipeline project forced down the throats of our people, an ecological time bomb and a giveaway to a Canadian multinational oil interest," said Winona LaDuke, executive director of the Indigenous environmental group Honor the Earth, in a statement Thursday.
"If the president is genuine in his pledge to take climate justice and tribal rights seriously, his administration must stop defending the Trump administration's decision and undertake a genuine analysis of Line 3's environmental and human impacts," she asserted.
The route of Enbridge's new, larger pipeline crosses Anishinaabe treaty lands. Native American and climate groups have challenged it with actions on the ground — which have sometimes halted construction — and lawsuits at the state and federal level.
WOW. This is a huge slap in the face to Anishinaabe people fighting the Line 3 pipeline. Don’t let the infrastruct… https://t.co/AJWmPQS3E5— Jackie Fielder (@Jackie Fielder)1624553516.0
The Biden DOJ's brief is for a case filed in the federal district court in Washington, DC by Earthjustice on behalf of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, Honor the Earth, and the Sierra Club.
Those groups challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' November 2020 decision to grant a key water permit and permission for specific work related to Line 3. They argue that the corps violated several federal laws — the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act (CWA), the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), and Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The Biden Administration has just signaled that it does not intend to meet its commitments to climate justice or ra… https://t.co/40lsT0ES4Y— Resist Line 3 (@Resist Line 3)1624553383.0
The DOJ brief claims that the federal government met its legal obligations for the review and approval process through various actions, which included analyzing alternatives and preparing environmental assessments that considered "the impacts from the corps' authorizations, including to wetlands, the climate, low-income and minority populations, tribal rights to hunt, fish, and gather, and all of the issues to which plaintiffs draw special attention."
The brief notes that the corps considered a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement prepared by Minnesota state authorities, and incorporated "important protections for wetlands, wild rice, and cultural resources as enforceable conditions of the permit and permission."
Since even before taking office in January, Biden has faced pressure to reverse the polluter-friendly policies of his predecessor — including by directing the corps to reconsider its approval of Line 3, fully accounting for its impacts on the global climate and tribal resources.
This reads like a copy/paste from the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle — dismissing tribal cultural resources & inad… https://t.co/ZZyP1AnGnd— tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ (@tara houska ᔖᐳᐌᑴ)1624555975.0
"We are extremely disappointed that the Biden administration continues the Trump administration's policy of ignoring tribal, environmental justice, and climate concerns in favor of fossil fuel industry profits," Earthjustice attorney Moneen Nasmith said Thursday.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune called the DOJ's filing "a massive, tar sands pipeline-sized missed opportunity to break with the Trump administration's pro-polluter agenda and stand on the side of Indigenous rights and climate justice."
"Allowing Line 3 to move forward is, at best, inconsistent with the bold promises on climate and environmental justice President Biden campaigned and was elected on," he continued. "As Enbridge barrels ahead with construction, time is running out for Biden to stop them from doing permanent damage to critical water resources, trampling on tribal sovereignty, and polluting our climate."
"The president must listen to frontline communities, defend the right of all people to clean water and a healthy climate, and act immediately to shut down this dirty tar sands pipeline," Brune added.
Seems @POTUS wants another DAPL on its watch. They’ve sent out @nUSAHomeland helicopters, surveil Indigenous people… https://t.co/dcIyB3UDxV— giniw collective (@giniw collective)1624553312.0
In a statement about the development Thursday, leaders at the Minnesota arm of 350.org, which is among the groups organizing against Line 3, emphasized expert warnings about the need to rapidly phase out fossil fuels to prevent climate catastrophe on a global scale.
MN350 communications director Brett Benson said that "at a time when the world is getting hotter and the scientific community is sounding the alarm on the climate crisis, it is time for President Biden to step up and lead by ending this Trump-era expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Protecting our planet will take bold action, and bold action requires bold leadership. All eyes are on President Biden to do the right thing."
Warning about the dangers of inaction on the climate crisis, Andy Pearson, a Midwest tar sands organizer at 350, called the corps' approval "indefensible" and said that "Biden needs to take every opportunity to undo Trump's damage, and that means taking away Line 3's inadequate water permits."
"Line 3 would have the climate impact of 50 coal plants and violate treaties with the Anishinaabe," the campaigner noted. "Biden can stop Line 3 immediately by revoking Trump's water permits, and we call on him to act now to honor the treaties and protect our climate."
This, quite simply, is pure cowardice from the @POTUS. We need to #StopLine3 (and ALL other fossil-fuel infrastru… https://t.co/MCMitwuvlA— Generation Green New Deal (@Generation Green New Deal)1624553433.0
The Hill reported Thursday that "a White House spokesperson declined to comment, but it has said in the past that it will try to keep its judicial branch independent."
Despite the disappointment in court, Line 3's critics vow that this fight is far from over.
"We intend to keep opposing this pipeline," LaDuke told The New York Times. "We will file more legal challenges. Expect more resistance."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Trump Again Claims Coronavirus Less Deadly Than Flu, Prompting Facebook and Twitter to Block His Post
"Flu season is coming up!," Trump said in the post, as CNBC reported. "Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!"
This is not true. COVID-19 has killed 210,909 U.S. residents so far, according to the most recent figures from Johns Hopkins University. That's almost 10 times more than the 22,000 estimated deaths during the 2019-2020 flu season, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures. The 2017-2018 flu season, which was the deadliest since 2010, saw around 61,000 deaths, CNBC reported.
The coronavirus also has a much higher mortality rate, NPR pointed out. The seasonal flu usually has a mortality rate of less than 0.1 percent, while the coronavirus in the U.S. has had an estimated mortality rate of between 0.5 percent and slightly more than one percent.
Facebook removed the post altogether around 11 a.m. Eastern Time, CNBC reported.
"We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid-19, and have now removed this post," a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.
Twitter did not remove the post altogether, but instead covered it with a warning that users had to click past in order to view the tweet and also prevented it from being shared. It posted the warning more than three hours after Trump wrote the tweet.
"This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19," the social media company wrote. "However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."
This isn't the first time that the social media companies have had to remove Trump posts for sharing false information about the coronavirus. In August, Facebook and Twitter removed posts that included a link to a video clip in which Trump claimed that children were "almost immune" to the disease. The Facebook post was from Trump's own account, while the Twitter post was from his campaign's account.
It is also not the first time that Trump has attempted to downplay the risks of the coronavirus by comparing it to the flu, CBS News pointed out.
"So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year," Trump tweeted March 9. "Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"
However, in the time between the tweets, two key things have happened. First, journalist Bob Woodward released tapes of interviews in which Trump admitted to understanding the severity of the coronavirus more than he had revealed to the public.
"It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus," he told Woodward Feb. 7.
Second, Trump himself tested positive for the virus late last week and spent the weekend in Walter Reed Medical Center. He left the hospital to return to the White House Monday, but is still sick with COVID-19, CBS News reported.
But neither the Woodward revelations nor his own experience of the disease have stopped Trump from downplaying the virus in public."Don't be afraid of Covid," he tweeted before leaving the hospital Monday. "Don't let it dominate your life."
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For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.
So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.
While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.
In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.
Solar Roadways: The Original Concept
Solar roadways are complex in execution, but in concept, they're as simple as they sound. They're roads "paved" with extremely strong solar panels that are covered in glass that can withstand environmental stressors and the weight of vehicles driving over them on a consistent basis.
The idea was something that got people really excited when the initial Solar Roadways, Inc. project (which is still seeking funding) burst onto the scene in 2014:
More advanced designs included solar roadways outfitted with LED lights that could be used to illuminate lane lines, communicate to drivers and more. Other iterations included weight sensors that would detect when obstructions were on the road or could alert homeowners if unexpected vehicles were approaching their driveway. Embedding these kinds of technology into the solar roadways renderings only added to their appeal and the initial hype around the concept.
Key Selling Points of Solar Roadways
Early innovators of solar roadways touted the numerous benefits of their ideas. These included:
- Sunlight shines down on roads at no cost, making the energy not only readily available, but also free (aside from installation and maintenance).
- The ability to power street lights with solar roadways eliminated the need to pull extra energy from the grid.
- Having electronics embedded into the roadway opened up a world of possibilities for communicating with drivers in ways that didn't require painting and repainting of roads.
- The ingenuity to attach weight sensors on the solar panels could be used to alert drivers about potential obstructions, such as animals, disabled vehicles or rocks on the road.
- In a future of electric vehicles, the possibilities were seen as even more beneficial, as solar roadways could be used to power electric vehicle charging stations or to charge the cars while they're driving.
While some early thinkers may also have envisioned these roadways sending solar energy to the local power grid, the most impactful way solar roadways could utilize the energy they generated is right around the road itself: lighting street lights, heating mechanisms to melt snow on the roadway, or powering small emergency equipment on road shoulders.
Using the energy for on-road applications would mean that the power didn't have to be sent long distances before being used, which results in energy loss. However, in more rural or remote locations, having the solar roadway energy available for nearby homes and businesses could be a huge benefit, especially if there's an outage in the overall grid.
Why Solar Roadway Tests Have Failed
To much of the general public — and especially to people who weren't well versed in the intricacies of solar panels or road structures — solar roadways seemed like a slam-dunk solution that both looked futuristic and had benefits that went far beyond electricity generation. It was the kind of innovation that had people exclaiming: "How has no one done this yet?!" But in reality, the execution of solar roadways was much more complex than the idea.
Here are a few reasons solar roadway tests have failed:
Cost of Manufacturing and Maintenance
The cost of the energy from the sun may be free, but the investment to install and maintain the solar roadways was undeniably prohibitive. The reason asphalt is used by default to pave roadways is because it is immensely affordable and low-maintenance, which is especially critical on vast, expansive roadways and interstates.
In 2010, Scott Brusaw, co-founder of Solar Roadways, Inc., estimated a square foot of solar roadway would cost about $70. However, when the first solar roadway was built in France by a company called Colas, it measured 1 kilometer and cost $5.2 million to build — or about $1,585 per foot of roadway. Of course, this was a small iteration and bulk manufacturing would cost less, but either way, it's hard to believe the cost of a solar roadway would ever be competitive with the price of asphalt, which is about $3 to $15 per square foot.
Further, the cost and complexity to send a crew to repair individual panels that fail would far outweigh those to maintain asphalt. So, while one of the presumed benefits of solar roadways is the cost savings associated with self-generated energy, even back-of-the-envelope math highlights how the numbers would simply not add up to be more cost-effective in the long run.
Energy Required to Produce the Panels
Another limiting factor appears when considering the energy it takes to make asphalt versus high-durability glass and solar panels. Most asphalt used on roads today is a byproduct of distilling petroleum crude oil for products such as gasoline, which means it makes use of a substance that would otherwise be discarded as waste.
The solar roadway panels, although intended to save energy in the long run, take much more to produce. Typical rooftop solar panels can easily make up for the extra energy used in production because the glass doesn't need to withstand the weight of vehicles driving over them, but solar roadways have that added complexity.
Power Output of the Panels
When estimating power output, early optimists seemed to perform calculations based on the raw surface area they could cover — and not much else. However, beyond the stunted energy generation that any solar panels face on cloudy days or at night, solar roadways presented unique new performance challenges.
For example, vehicles constantly driving over solar roadways would interrupt sun exposure. Plus, they'd leave behind trails of fluid, dirt and dust that can dramatically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Being installed on the ground is a challenge in itself because of how readily shade would find the roads; that's the reason you find most solar panels on rooftops or elevated off the ground and angled toward the sun.
Issues With Glass Roadways
Lastly, driving on glass surfaces is simply not what modern cars are designed to do. Asphalt and tires grip each other well, being particularly resilient in wet conditions. If the asphalt is replaced with glass — even the textured glass that's used for solar roadways — tire traction could be reduced dramatically. Wet or icy conditions could lead to catastrophic situations on solar roadways.
Could Recent Advances in Solar Technology Bring Solar Roadways Closer to Reality?
For all of these challenges and even more roadblocks that early solar roadway projects have run into in the past, the reality is that solar technology continues to improve. In the seven years since the first Solar Roadways, Inc. video went viral, solar panels have developed to be more durable, more cost-effective and more efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. To put some numbers behind these trends:
- The average solar PV panel cost has dropped about 70% since 2014.
- In 2015, FirstSolar made news with panels that were 18.2% efficient. Today, the most advanced prototypes are able to exceed 45% efficiency.
- Total solar energy capacity in 2021 is nearly six times greater than in 2014, and with that explosion has come advances to flatten the learning curve and increase the general public's acceptance of the benefits of solar.
- Solar jobs have increased 167% in the last decade, giving the industry more capable workers able to take the reins of a solar roadway project and more professionals who know how to affordably install solar.
The question to ask is whether these advances are enough to bring solar roadways from failure to success.
Despite the improvements, many of the original challenges with solar roadways remain, and the scale of execution is immense. Even with decreasing solar PV costs, outfitting long stretches of roadway with such complex technologies will require tremendous capital.
Rather than a future where solar roadways cover the country from coast to coast, a more likely outcome is that these advances will bring solar roadways to viability in narrow, niche applications.
Just like tidal energy is a great opportunity for small coastal communities but can't be scaled to solve the energy crisis across the world, it's conceivable that limited-scope solar roadways could be constructed around the world. However, large-scale solar roadways may never be more than a pipe dream.
During Wisconsin's first public wolf hunt in February, hunters killed 218 wolves, according to new research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The hunt was not supposed to be legal until November 2021, but a pro-hunting group sued and won, allowing the hunt to take place in February. Wildlife officials were forced to end the legal hunt after only three days, according to HuffPost.
Gray wolves were dropped from the endangered list by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 48 states, just this January before Donald Trump left the White House. Ex-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said that, at the time, the wolves "exceeded all conservation goals for recovery," according to HuffPost.
Since the gray wolf's removal from the Endangered Species Act, conservation goals are generally at the discretion of individual states, although they must submit five-year monitoring plans to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to HuffPost.
Adrain Treves, the lead author of the study and an environmental studies professor at the University of Wisconsin, said that the study's findings should raise concerns for future hunting seasons in the state, according to HuffPost.
In the Spring of 2020, there were at least 1,034 wolves in Wisconsin. The deaths brought the total number of wolves between 695 and 751, according to The Associated Press.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, 313 to 323 gray wolves were killed by humans — a majority of them killed during the February public hunt. The targeted amount of wolves to kill for population control was 119.
More than half of the non-hunting deaths are from "cryptic poaching," according to Treves and his co-authors. These deaths include illegal killing where the poachers leave behind no evidence. Other deaths may be from "automobile strikes and government-approved lethal controls for wolves harassing livestock," according to The Associated Press.
"Although the [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources] is aiming for a stable population, we estimate the population actually dropped significantly," Treves said in a statement, according to HuffPost.
Treves and the co-authors of the study believe the wolf populations could recover in a couple of years if hunting is ceased, according to The Associated Press.
Daniel MacNulty, an associate professor of wildlife ecology at Utah State University, questioned the research, specifically the methods for calculating cryptic poaching.
"I would interpret the findings cautiously," he said, according to The Associated Press.
Other states, including Michigan and Minnesota, are considering wolf hunts this year. Republican legislators in Western states are also pushing for aggressive hunting methods, according to The Associated Press.
While Ed Bangs, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf recovery coordinator, described the events as a "killing spree," he said that wildlife managers can healthily preserve wolf populations using science, if authorities let them, according to The Associated Press.
"I have a lot of faith in wolves," Bangs said in an interview with The Associated Press. "They're very resilient and can bounce back."
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"The Company will continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the Project," the company wrote.
The news was met with jubilation from environmental and Indigenous groups who had spent years battling the project over concerns it would worsen the climate crisis and harm the ecosystems and communities along its route.
"After more than 10 years -- we have finally defeated an oil and gas giant! Keystone XL is DEAD!" the Indigenous Environmental Network tweeted in response to the news. "We are dancing in our hearts for this victory!"
The defeated pipeline would have extended 1,179 miles and transported 800,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, The New York Times explained. It would have ended in Nebraska, but connected to other pipelines that would help the oil complete its journey, as The AP reported.
However, environmental activists have long argued that now was the wrong time to lock in more fossil fuel infrastructure. For them, Wednesday's victory was a long time coming. Protests against the pipeline first persuaded President Barack Obama to cancel a key permit for the project in 2015. Obama's decision was then reversed two years later, when President Donald Trump restored the permit early into his term. This was not a clear victory for the project, however, because a federal judge blocked further construction in 2018, arguing that the Trump administration had not carried out full environmental reviews, according to The New York Times.
When President Joe Biden took office, he dealt another blow to the project by canceling its permit again, on his first day. TC Energy had halted construction on the project following Biden's decision, and finally decided to cancel the project altogether after reviewing its options.
The Canadian government opposed Biden's decision, and the regional government of Alberta, which invested more than $1 billion to speed construction last year, expressed disappointment in the outcome, according to The AP.
"We remain disappointed and frustrated with the circumstances surrounding the Keystone XL project, including the cancellation of the presidential permit for the pipeline's border crossing," Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement reported by The AP.
Some U.S. Republicans also criticized the Biden administration for effectively killing the project.
"President Biden killed the Keystone XL Pipeline and with it, thousands of good-paying American jobs," Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, who is also the leading Republican on the Senate energy committee, told The AP.
Pipeline opponents, meanwhile, noted that there are still other controversial pipelines under construction. Earlier this week, hundreds of people were arrested for protesting the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which would carry oil across the Canadian border into Minnesota, The New York Times noted.
"The termination of this zombie pipeline sets precedent for President Biden and polluters to stop Line 3, Dakota Access, and all fossil fuel projects," 350.org campaign manager Kendall Mackey told The New York Times. "This victory puts polluters and their financiers on notice: Terminate your fossil fuel projects now — or a relentless mass movement will stop them for you."
The Indigenous Environmental Network, meanwhile, pointed out that some Keystone XL opponents still face charges for their activism.
"Let's also not forget that there are water protectors like Jasilyn Charger and Oscar High Elk who are still facing charges for putting their bodies on the frontline for us all," the group tweeted.
Let's also not forget that there are water protectors like Jasilyn Charger and Oscar High Elk who are still facing… https://t.co/aIST4e2VX6— Indigenous Environmental Network (@Indigenous Environmental Network)1623275479.0
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President Trump told a crowd in Jupiter, Florida Tuesday that he is an environmental president, claiming that "it's true: number one since Teddy Roosevelt. Who would have thought Trump is the great environmentalist?" according to the White House transcript of the speech. He added, "And I am. I am. I believe strongly in it."
The dubious claim was made as he vowed to sign a 10-year moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling off the Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina coast. Essentially, he is signing a moratorium that is already in place that his own administration proposed lifting, according to The New York Times.
The New York Times also noted how dubious the claim Trump made is when he called himself a great environmentalist after he has abandoned the Paris agreement, rolled back clean air and clean water initiatives, lowered emissions standards on vehicles, allowed toxic pollution to spew into the atmosphere, and warmly embraced a toxic pesticide known to cause brain damage in children.
When he signed the measure Tuesday at the campaign stop near the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, he said, "This protects your beautiful gulf and your beautiful ocean, and it will for a long time to come," as ABC News reported. And yet, at no time during the speech did he note that he tried to expand offshore drilling coast-to-coast, but only dialed it back after then Florida Governor Rick Scott asked the President not to lift the moratorium for his state.
In the speech, Trump tried to cast himself as a great protector of the environment in a state that is crucial to his reelection. While he and Joe Biden are in a statistical dead heat in Florida, the climate crisis is an issue that weighs on the minds of both Republicans and Democrats in the state. Florida, which is mostly at sea level, is often battered by hurricanes, susceptible to heat waves, and vulnerable to rising oceans, according to The New York Times.
Trying to claim the mantle of environmentalism, Trump said, "My administration is proving every day that we can improve our environment while creating millions of high-paying jobs. This is a really sharp contrast to the extreme, radical left that you've had to deal with." Without citing any evidence, he added, "Joe Biden's plan would destroy America's middle class while giving a free pass to the world's worst foreign polluters like China, Russia, India, and many others. They don't have to clean up their lands, but we have to clean up ours. The left's agenda isn't about protecting the environment, it's about punishing America."
Trump also failed to mention his recent consideration of opening up the Gulf of Mexico to expanded drilling, as POLITICO reported. Nor did he mention that signing a moratorium for oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast is purely theater since any declaration would have to go through Congress, which is extremely unlikely to take up the issue prior to Election Day, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Trump's bizarre claims of environmentalism after a track record of reducing protections stunned environmentalists who often see Trump as the president with one of the worst environmental legacies in history.
"He's ignoring science, he's ignoring experts and now he's even ignoring his own record," said Pete Maysmith, a senior vice president for the League of Conservation Voters, a nonprofit group, to the Los Angeles Times. "Florida is ground zero for climate change with extreme weather and hurricanes in particular. Donald Trump has attempted to roll back over 100 environmental protections, including dozens related to climate change and clean water. He's an environmental disaster and Florida's paying the price."
The Sierra Club zeroed in what Trump has done to the environment in Florida.
"Failing to adequately fund Everglades restoration, attempting to sell off our waters to corporate polluters and rolling back more than 100 environmental protections doesn't make you anything other than the worst president ever for the environment and climate," said Ariel Hayes, the political director of the Sierra Club, as The New York Times reported. "Voters in Florida and across the country have watched Trump achieve this status for nearly four years, and no amount of greenhouse gaslighting will change that."
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President Trump admitted to downplaying the risk of the coronavirus after tapes were released of him acknowledging the dangers to journalist Bob Woodward. The tapes from February and March for Woodward's new book "Rage" show that the president's private conversations stood in stark contrast to what he was telling the public, as The New York Times reported.
The released tapes fueled outrage as they show a president clearly aware that the virus was extremely dangerous, but intentionally downplaying its risk and holding gatherings where people stood in close proximity to each other. Now that the virus has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and nearly 900,000 people worldwide, critics are questioning why Trump deceived the public about the virus' spread.
As The Washington Post reported, in a tape from a phone call on Feb. 7, Trump said, "You just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus."
For emphasis, he added, "This is deadly stuff."
Trump then held several interviews with the news media where he said the U.S. had the virus under control. On a March 19 call with Woodward, Trump admitted to downplaying the virus as well.
"I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down," Trump said on tape, as POLITICO reported. "Because I don't want to create a panic."
Trump was asked Wednesday about his decision and was reminded that the virus' death toll is near 200,000 in the U.S.
"Well, I think if you said 'in order to reduce panic,' perhaps that's so," Trump said, as Yahoo News reported. "The fact is I'm a cheerleader for this country. I love our country, and I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic, and certainly I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy. We want to show confidence. We want to show strength."
Democrats swiftly noted that other world leaders were less concerned about being a cheerleader and took decisive, preemptive actions to reduce the risk of transmission.
"He knew and purposely played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months," Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in front of the United Auto Workers training facility in Michigan Wednesday, as The Washington Post reported.
The timeline of Trump's actions shows a pattern of deception well after he knew the virus was airborne and far more deadly than the flu. And yet, weeks after admitting that to Woodward, Trump said to reporters at the end of February, "It's a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for. And we'll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner."
And then on Feb. 28, at a rally in South Carolina, Trump dismissed the virus as the Democrats' "new hoax."
Even though Trump tells Woodward on the tapes that he intentionally played down the virus because he didn't want to create a panic, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters with a straight face Wednesday that the president had not deceived the American public at all about the coronavirus.
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By Brett Wilkins
The United States will most likely experience a "post-seasonal" spike in coronavirus infections largely due to holiday travel and gatherings, current and former U.S. health officials said on Sunday.
"We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year's — surge ... a surge upon a surge," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an incoming chief medical adviser to President-elect Joe Biden, on CNN's State of the Union.
"We're really at a very critical point," he warned.
"I share the concern of President-elect Biden that, as we get into the next few weeks, it might actually get worse," Fauci added, referring to Biden's prediction earlier this week that "our darkest days in the battle against COVID-19 are ahead of us, not behind us."
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he believes the worst is still yet to come in the coronavirus pandemic following the holiday… https://t.co/gPU86rjiQO— State of the Union (@State of the Union)1609079415.0
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams also said that a post-holiday infection surge was likely.
"But what the important thing for people to understand is that even if you traveled, it doesn't mean you just throw your hands up in the air and say, oh well," he said on ABC's This Week.
"There are measures that you can take," said Adams, including getting tested, self-quarantining, and avoiding vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, appearing on CBS' Face the Nation," predicted "a grim month."
"We have a very difficult month ahead of us," he said, identifying California, Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey as places "where cases are still building."
When asked how long it will be until the nation sees results from the two vaccines which have been administered to some 1.9 million Americans and counting, Gottlieb said that while vaccinations are "going to take about three weeks to get through all the nursing homes," there will be "some indication" that mass inoculation is "probably having an effect maybe as early as this week."
More than 4.4 million Covid vaccines have been provided across the world (that we know of). That includes, in dos… https://t.co/sPNxiSCORk— Kristine Servando (@Kristine Servando)1609130059.0
Fauci told CNN that in order to achieve "herd immunity" — the effective neutralization of the virus following the infection or vaccination of enough people — 70% to 85% of the public would likely need to be inoculated.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 179,104 new coronavirus infections and 1,309 new daily deaths on Sunday, for a total of 18.9 million U.S. infections and 330,901 COVID-19 deaths during the nine-month pandemic.
The health experts' warnings came the morning after Trump refused to sign a $900 billion pandemic relief bill, allowing unemployment coverage for millions of Americans to expire and threatening millions more with eviction as a federal moratorium was set to expire at the end of the year.
Trump acquiesced to bipartisan pressure and later on Sunday signed a $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and spending bill that will provide vaccine distribution, unemployment, small business, and airline company assistance, and fund the U.S. government through September 2021.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The latest Department of Energy (DOE) plan follows its rollbacks on lightbulb and dishwasher standards, as well as President Donald Trump's repeated complaints about water-saving appliances. But consumer advocates say the changes are unnecessary, and would harm both the environment and American pocketbooks.
"Frankly it's silly," Appliance Standards Awareness Project Executive Director Andrew deLaski told The Associated Press. "The country faces serious problems. We've got a pandemic, serious long-term drought throughout much of the West. We've got global climate change. Showerheads aren't one of our problems."
The rollback targets a 1992 law mandating that showerheads can't release more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. The law does not allow the DOE to set less rigorous standards, but the Trump administration has found a way around that, deLaski explained in a blog post:
The trick DOE is floating here is to try to dodge the law by reinterpreting what the word "showerhead" means.
The proposal, if finalized, would allow manufacturers to make giant showerheads with several nozzles within them. DOE proposes to accomplish this through a change in the test procedure that would characterize each of those separate nozzles as a showerhead. The full device could have as many 2.5 gallon-per-minute showerheads as the manufacturer wants. Get it?
The DOE proposal reverses an Obama-administration decision that the 2.5 gallon-per-minute rule should apply to the entire showerhead device, even if it had multiple nozzles, The Associated Press explained.
The proposed regulation follows Trump's repeated complaints about efficient appliances. Most recently, he targeted showerheads specifically in a July 16 speech on the South Lawn of the White House.
"So showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn't come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn't come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don't know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect," Trump said.
The remarks built on Trump's repeated complaints about water-saving bathroom fixtures. Late last year, he claimed Americans had to flush toilets "10 times, 15 times," CNN pointed out.
In justifying the change, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said it would allow "Americans — not Washington bureaucrats — to choose what kind of showerheads they have in their homes."
But consumer advocates said U.S. customers could already take satisfying showers using devices that meet current standards.
"There is absolutely no need to change current showerhead standards," Consumer Reports vice president of advocacy David Friedman said in a statement reported by CNN. "Thanks to the standards, consumers have access to showerheads that not only score well on CR tests and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but also save consumers money by reducing energy and water consumption."
DeLaski told The Associated Press that the proposed devices would end up "literally probably washing you out of the bathroom."
The proposed changes would also worsen the impacts and causes of the climate crisis, deLaski explained in his blog post.
He pointed to an April study, which found that much of the western U.S. is experiencing the first "megadrought" caused by global heating. And he noted that more water intensive showers would also mean more greenhouse gas emissions burned to heat that water.
"The new multi-nozzle showerheads would not only needlessly waste water, exacerbating shortages caused by drought, but also boost the carbon pollution that has made long-term droughts worse," he wrote. "No one benefits from this gimmick."
However, Reuters pointed out that the proposal may never come to anything. Trump faces reelection in November, and is currently behind in the polls. And if the regulation is finalized, it could be challenged in court.
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To find out, an international team of researchers set out to determine how meeting the Paris agreement goals would impact the global balance of energy-sector employment.
The result, published in One Earth on July 23, was "surprising," as study co-author and RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment environmental economist Johannes Emmerling told EcoWatch. Limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius would actually create eight million more energy jobs by 2050.
"We did not expect that at all," Emmerling said.
A Global Dataset
Previous attempts to predict the impact of climate action on global energy jobs relied on data from Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, which excluded major players like India, Brazil and China. To expand their view, the research team built their own global data set covering around 50 countries. The dataset focused on 11 energy technologies and five job categories: construction and installation, operation and maintenance, manufacturing, fuel production and refining.
The team then used a model to determine what would happen to global jobs under two scenarios: one in which current policies continued and another in which world leaders acted to meet the Paris agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In the first scenario, energy jobs would continue to grow, rising from 18 million today to 21 million by 2050. But the researchers found that they would grow even more if we act to resolve the climate crisis, reaching 26 million by mid-century.
Of course, the makeup of those jobs would change in a climate-action scenario. Today, the researchers calculated that there are 12.6 million people working in fossil fuel industries, 4.6 million in renewable energy and 0.8 million in nuclear. In the Paris-agreement scenario, that balance would shift to 3.1 million working in fossil fuels and 22 million working in the renewable sector. Fossil-fuel extraction in particular would be hard-hit, making up around 80 percent of job losses, but renewables would more than make up the difference. Wind and solar in particular would take off, representing more than 85 percent of renewable sector gains. In total, 84 percent of 2050 energy jobs would be in renewables, with only 11 percent in fossil fuels and five percent in nuclear.
This data, Emmerling said, could help inform energy policy debates.
"The job losses due to the energy transition... have often been used to argue that it should be delayed," he noted. Or that it should be avoided altogether.
Former President Donald Trump, for example, justified his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement by proclaiming his love for coal miners, the study authors pointed out. Australia's current Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in addition, won a campaign in which he promised to protect fossil-fuel jobs. The new findings can help assuage some of the fears these leaders tap into with their anti-climate-action rhetoric.
"The point is that the number of jobs that could be created if we move to a sustainable economy will be a gain," Emmerling said.
Up for Grabs
While the research found that there would be a global net gain in energy jobs, Emmerling acknowledged that there would be some losers on the local, national and regional level. Fossil-fuel exporting countries like Mexico, Australia, Canada, South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa all stood to see net-losses by 2050 in a climate-action scenario. China was set to lose energy jobs no matter what because of a decline in coal mining, but it also has great potential to take advantage of a green transition because it currently leads the world in solar PV manufacturing. For many other countries, however, any loss would be offset. The U.S. could gain more than a million jobs by 2050 by honoring the Paris agreement.
In addition, the nature of renewable energy jobs means there is more potential for different nations to take advantage of growth in the sector, especially when it comes to manufacturing.
"Future renewable energy manufacturing jobs differ from other job categories as there is nothing physically tying these jobs to a particular geography in the same way that coal mining has to happen where coal deposits are located," the study authors wrote.
Because of this, the researchers were not able to accurately model where manufacturing jobs would end up in the future, meaning that countries have a chance to shape their energy future through industrial policy. While China currently dominates the making of solar PVs, there is no reason that this has to remain the case. The researchers therefore suggested that nations currently reliant on fossil-fuel exports actively promote renewable manufacturing to offset potential losses, as India, for example, is already doing.
"These jobs are up for grabs for countries who invest in these technologies," Emmerling said.
A Just Transition
That said, a transition to a renewable energy economy will doubtless impact individual communities and workers who have long relied on fossil-fuel extraction for income. This is why many environmental campaigners have called for a "just transition" that would compensate these communities and retrain these workers.
The study authors argued that any program of this nature requires an accurate understanding of both potential job losses and gains, which is something their work provides. Next, they hope to fill out the picture by looking at the quality and types of new energy jobs, including wages, skill level and necessary training.
Ultimately, however, the study results affirm the possibility of a just transition by demonstrating that there is "room for compensating," as Emmerling put it.
"There is a pie to be shared and distributed, and in the end the pie will be bigger," Emmerling said.
A graphical abstract of the study results. Pai et al./One Earth / CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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By Kenny Stancil
A new report released Monday by a federal oversight agency revealed that before former President Donald Trump's Environmental Protection Agency reapproved use of dicamba in 2018, high-ranking officials in the administration intentionally excluded scientific evidence of certain hazards related to the herbicide, including the risk of widespread drift damage.
The Office of the Inspector General found that the 2018 decision by the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs to extend registrations for three dicamba products "varied from typical operating procedures."
Specifically, according to the IG report, "the EPA did not conduct the required internal peer reviews of scientific documents," which paved the way for "senior-level changes to or omissions" of research detailing the drift risks of the weed-killer.
While "division-level management review" of pesticide safety documents is typical, staff scientists at the EPA told the IG that senior leaders were "more involved in the 2018 dicamba decision than in other pesticide registration decisions." In addition, "staff felt constrained or muted in sharing their concerns," the government watchdog's report noted.
"Now that the EPA's highly politicized, anti-science approach to fast-tracking use of this harmful pesticide has been fully exposed, the agency should cancel dicamba's recent approval, not try to defend it in court," Stephanie Parent, a senior environmental health attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in response to the new report.
"The EPA knows that anything less is likely to result in yet another summer of damaged fields and lost profits for farmers choosing not to use dicamba," Parent added.
Breaking: A new report, released today, reveals that high ranking officials in Trump's EPA purposefully excluded da… https://t.co/AkPhVwQ0BI— Center 4 Food Safety (@Center 4 Food Safety)1621900096.0
Over the past four years, dicamba products sprayed "over the top" of soybean and cotton crops genetically engineered to resist the herbicide have "caused drift damage to five million acres of soybeans as well as orchards, gardens, trees, and other plants on a scale unprecedented in the history of U.S. agriculture," according to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Recent research also indicates that dicamba endangers human health. Last year, a team of epidemiologists found that use of the weed-killer can increase the risk of developing numerous cancers.
The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit challenging the 2018 approval of three dicamba products sold by agrochemical giants BASF, Corteva, and Monsanto, which was acquired three years ago by the German pharmaceutical and biotech company Bayer.
In response to the lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit overturned the Trump EPA's approval of those three products in June 2020 and ruled that the agency had violated the law when it "substantially understated" the "enormous and unprecedented" amount of damage caused by dicamba herbicides in 2017 and 2018 and "entirely failed to recognize the enormous social cost to farming communities."
And yet, just days before the November presidential election, the Trump EPA rushed to approve new five-year registrations for dicamba products created by Bayer and BASF and extend until 2025 the registration of another dicamba product developed by Syngenta.
As a result, farmers and advocacy groups were once again forced to sue to challenge the approval of the destructive weed-killer. According to the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity, that was the third time the EPA had registered dicamba herbicides, each time with additional restrictions that have failed to curb drift damage.
Referring to the IG evaluation released Monday, George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, said that "this report admits what we knew already: dicamba's approval was politically tainted. EPA unlawfully promoted the profits of pesticide companies instead of following the law and sound science, putting chemical companies over protecting farmers and the environment."
"The disappointing part," Kimbrell added, "is that EPA nonsensically continues to stand by the plainly political dicamba decision rushed through just days before the 2020 election, just five months after the court's striking down of the 2018 approval."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Trump Wanted to Withhold Wildfire Aid to California Over Political Differences, Former DHS Official Says
In a scathing campaign ad released Monday by Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Miles Taylor said that his experience had showed him that the president wanted to "exploit the Department of Homeland Security for his own political purposes and to fuel his own agenda."
In one example, Taylor cited a phone call Trump made to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"He told FEMA to cut off the money and to no longer give individual assistance to California," Taylor said. "He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn't support him and that politically it wasn't a base for him."
Revelations by Trump's former DHS chief. POTUS - Tried to stop CA fire victim relief funding b/c blue state - Want… https://t.co/Qvggd5iqjC— Republican Voters Against Trump (@Republican Voters Against Trump)1597689109.0
Taylor does not say when Trump made the alleged call, the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out.
However, Trump did publicly clash with California over wildfire aid two months after the Camp Fire killed 84 people and devastated the town of Paradise.
"Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen," the president tweeted at the time. "Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!"
Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would… https://t.co/l5Jyjb8lEs— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1547047543.0
The tweet was widely criticized by California firefighters and politicians at the time for making such a threat following a major tragedy. Trump's focus on forest management was also seen as a way to downplay the role of the climate crisis in fueling more extreme fires.
"Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state's history last year. We should work together to mitigate these fires by combating climate change, not play politics by threatening to withhold money from survivors of a deadly natural disaster," California Senator Kamala Harris, who is now Joe Biden's running mate in his bid to unseat Trump in November, tweeted at the time.
Californians endured the deadliest wildfire in our state’s history last year. We should work together to mitigate t… https://t.co/ni9zzpaqte— Kamala Harris (@Kamala Harris)1547047728.0
Trump critics also pointed out that more than half of forested land in California is controlled by the federal government, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. However, despite Trump's threat, the aid was never actually withheld.
The White House responded to Taylor's video by saying he had never raised any complaints while working for DHS from 2017 to 2019.
"This individual is another creature of the D.C. Swamp who never understood the importance of the President's agenda or why the American people elected him and clearly just wants to cash-in," White House spokesperson Judd Deere said in a statement to POLITICO.
In the video, Taylor also endorsed Biden in the November election, becoming one of the highest ranking former administration officials to do so, ABC 7 reported.
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A federal judge ruled Friday the Dakota Access Pipeline may continue pumping oil despite lacking a key federal permit while the Army Corps of Engineers conducts an extensive environmental review.
The Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes challenging the pipeline, which they say is operating illegally beneath a reservoir near their reservation, failed to "demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable injury," according to James Boasberg of the D.C. District Court, who criticized the Biden administration repeatedly in his ruling and noted the tribes' burden of evidence was far higher than the government's.
It also highlights how Supreme Court precedent has made NEPA "virtually impossible to enforce," according to Eric Glitzenstein, the Center for Biological Diversity director of litigation. "Here, an environmentally devastating pipeline was constructed in flagrant violation of the law, and yet there is no remedy because of recent Supreme Court rulings that severely undercut lower courts' ability to halt a project before NEPA review can even take place," he told E&E. "We have the Roberts court to thank for that absurd outcome."
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