By Tara Lohan
In the aftermath of the Nov. 3 election, President Donald Trump has tried every trick in the book to avoid facing the reality of his loss. A barrage of lawsuits accompanied by disinformation campaigns has attempted to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.
But a close look at regulatory actions and executive moves shows that, even as Trump makes a show of refusing to concede or transition power to the incoming Biden administration, his team is pushing through a slew of last-minute rules and regulations.
Many of these changes will harm the environment and public health.
It isn't surprising that an administration that has attempted to roll back more than 100 environmental protections in the past four years would step up its assault in its waning months. But that doesn't make the continued attacks any less important. Here's some of what's at risk:
1. Tribal Lands
Tribes and environmental groups have fought for decades against a proposed copper mine in an area of Arizona known as Oak Flat, which is a sacred site for a dozen tribes, including the San Carlos Apache.
Now the Trump administration is pushing to fast-track a deal that would transfer ownership of the land, which is in the Tonto National Forest, to Resolution Copper, a firm owned by mining companies Rio Tinto and Billiton BHP.
"Last month tribes discovered that the date for the completion of a crucial environmental review process has suddenly been moved forward by a full year, to December 2020, even as the tribes are struggling with a COVID outbreak that has stifled their ability to respond," an investigation by The Guardian found. "If the environmental review is completed before Trump leaves office, the tribes may be unable to stop the mine."
2. FERC Shakeup
Just days after the election, Trump switched up the leadership of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which has a hand in regulating hydroelectric projects, as well as interstate transmission of electricity, oil and natural gas.
Chairman Neil Chatterjee was replaced by fellow Republican James Danly, who has a more conservative view on federal energy policy. Chatterjee, once known as a "coal guy," had recently advocated for policies supporting distributed energy and for regional grid operators to embrace carbon pricing as a market-based solution for addressing climate change.
3. Hamstringing LWCF
The Great American Outdoors Act, a major conservation bill signed into law in August, allocated $9.5 billion to help fix national park infrastructure and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
But despite (falsely) hailing himself as a conservation hero at the law's signing, Trump has already begun undermining the legislation's effectiveness. An order signed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Nov. 9 allows state and local governments to veto any land or water acquisitions made through the fund.
Chris D'Angelo at HuffPost called the move a "parting gift to the anti-federal land movement." Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who advocated for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, wrote a letter to Bernhardt urging him to rescind the order. "This undercuts what a landowner can do with their own private property, and creates unnecessary, additional levels of bureaucracy that will hamstring future land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund," he wrote.
Senator Jon Tester at a press conference to discuss the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2018. Public domain
In another blow, officials and conservation groups in New Mexico were surprised to learn that none of their projects proposed to receive funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund were selected by the Department of the Interior. Some believe the move is political retribution for being critical of the Trump administration and its policies.
4. Dam Raising
On Nov. 20 the Trump administration finalized a plan to raise the height of Northern California's 600-foot Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet, which would allow for more water storage. The reservoir feeds the federally run Central Valley Project, which funnels water hundreds of miles south to cities and farms. That includes the politically connected Westlands Water District in the San Joaquin Valley, which formerly employed Interior Secretary David Bernhardt as a lawyer and lobbyist.
The state of California has strongly opposed the effort to raise the dam's height because it would flood the McCloud River, protected as wild and scenic. Conservation groups also say the plan would threaten endangered species such as Chinook salmon, delta smelt and Shasta salamanders.
California Rep. Jared Huffman called it the "QAnon of water projects, meaning it's laughably infeasible and just not real."
The staunchest opposition has come from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, which lost 90% of its sacred sites with the construction of the dam and faces the loss of its remaining sites and burial grounds if the reservoir is expanded.
5. Pesticide Changes
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Nov. 20 it was taking away a tool states can use to control how pesticides are deployed. The action could further endanger farmworkers and wildlife.
A Section 24 provision of the Federal, Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act lets states set stricter restrictions on federally regulated pesticides in response to local needs and conditions. But after numerous states sought to limit the use of the weed killer dicamba, the agency will now no longer allow states to set more protective rules for any pesticides.
6. Migratory Birds
A gutting of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 took a big step forward at the end of November, clearing the way for the administration to finalize the rule change by the end of Trump's term.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement to redefine the scope of the law to no longer penalize the energy industry or developers for "incidentally" killing migratory birds.
Pied-billed grebe on an oil-covered evaporation pond at a commercial oilfield wastewater disposal facility. Pedro Ramirez Jr. / USFWS
The agency's own analysis found that the rule change would "likely result in increased bird mortality" because — without penalties — companies wouldn't take additional precautions to help make sure birds aren't killed by their operations.
That's already proving true. "Since the administration began pursuing its looser interpretation of the law in April 2018, hundreds of birds have perished without penalty, according to documents compiled by conservation groups this year," The Washington Post reported.
7. ANWR Auction
The Bureau of Land Management announced on Dec. 3 that oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would go on sale on Jan. 6, following a shortened time frame for the nomination and evaluation of potential tracts to be drilled.
"Once the sale is held, the bureau has to review and approve the leases, a process that typically takes months," The New York Times reported. "But holding the sale on Jan. 6 potentially gives the bureau opportunity to finalize the leases before Inauguration Day. That would make it more difficult for the Biden administration to undo them."
Despite the fact that the Trump administration is intent on opening the door to drilling in the 1.6 million-acre coastal plain — one of the wildest places left in the United States — it's still unclear how interested the oil industry will be. Or how readily they'll be able to finance their operations. All the major U.S. banks have said they'll no longer fund new oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.
8. Dirty Air
One week into December, the administration finalized its decision declining to enact stricter standards for regulating industrial soot emissions.
This came despite the fact that the administration's own scientists found that maintaining the current limits on tiny particles, known as PM 2.5, results in tens of thousands of early deaths each year. And despite the fact Harvard researchers found that those who have lived for decades with high levels of PM 2.5 pollution are at a greater risk of dying from COVID-19.
9. Border Wall
The incoming Biden administration has vowed to not build another foot of the border wall, but the borderlands ecosystem remains under threat as the Trump administration is continuing to push ahead.
In some cases wall builders are even attempting to speed up the work.
"That's happening from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas to Arizona's stunning Coronado National Memorial and Guadalupe Canyon, a wildlife corridor for Mexican gray wolves and endangered jaguars," NPR reported. "At $41 million a mile, the Arizona sections are the most expensive projects of the entire border wall."
In Arizona they're needlessly razing vegetation and blasting mountains for roads in remote areas to help enable construction that likely won't even take place.
10. Harming Whales and Dolphins
Trump may be leaving office, but marine mammals won't be able to rest easy. NOAA Fisheries issued a rule on Dec. 9 allowing the oil and gas industry to harm Atlantic spotted dolphins, pygmy whales, dwarf sperm whales, Bryde's whales and other marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico while using seismic and acoustic mapping, including air guns, to gather data on resources on or below the ocean floor.
In an effort to further efforts for oil and gas drilling, nearly 200,000 beaked whales and more than 600,000 bottlenose dolphins could be "disturbed." And "pygmy and dwarf sperm whales are expected to be harassed to the point of potential injury, with a mean of 308 whales potentially harmed per year, according to the final rule," E&E News reported.
Dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico. Carey Akin / CC BY-SA 2.0
11. More Lease Sales
The Arctic isn't the only place where the rush is on to exploit public lands. On Dec. 9 the Bureau of Land Management updated an environmental assessment for a 2013 plan for leases to extract climate- and water-polluting tar sands on 2,100 acres in northeastern Utah. But then just days late it hit the pause button on the effort.
While that one may be on hold, the administration did kick off the sale of leases for oil drilling on 4,100 acres of federal land in California's Kern County on Dec. 10. The first such sale in the state in eight years could be canceled by the Biden administration and if not, would face legal challenges from environmental groups.
12. Cost-Benefit Rule
One of the administration's biggest parting gifts to industry — the "cost-benefit" rule — was finalized on Dec. 9. It would require the EPA to weigh the economic costs of air pollution regulations but not many of the health benefits that would arise from better protections.
"In other words, if reducing emissions from power plants also saves tens of thousands of lives each year by cutting soot, those 'co-benefits' should be not be counted," in the EPA's new analysis, The Washington Post explained.
The rule would be a big blow to efforts to improve public health and curb pollution.
"The only purpose in making this a regulation seems to be to provide a basis for future lawsuits to slow down or prevent future administrations from regulating," Roy Gamse, an economist and former EPA deputy assistant administrator for planning and evaluation, told Reuters.
Slowing down the Biden administration will continue to be a big part of Trump's last month in office — along with the finalization of more rule changes to add insult to injury.
Legal experts have begun mapping which rollbacks will be quick and easy to undo and those that will take sustained effort. But one thing is certain: There's a long road ahead to reverse dangerous regulations, restore scientific integrity and make up for lost ground on climate change, extinction and other cascading crises.
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
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By Brett Wilkins
A coalition of environmental advocacy groups on Monday threatened to sue the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for failing to ensure that Trump-era development permits "will not jeopardize endangered species and critical habitat across the country."
The Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance, and other groups filed their formal notice to the Biden administration regarding Nationwide Permits reissued during the final days of Donald Trump's presidency.
At issue are 16 permits that, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, "will allow hundreds of thousands of discharges of dredged or fill material into the nation's waters and wetlands from oil and gas development, pipeline and transmission-line construction, and coal mining."
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service have previously found that these activities—which are approved with little or no environmental review—threaten iconic species including whooping cranes, Florida manatees, and the hundreds of migratory birds that need wetlands to survive," the center said.
We just launched a lawsuit with allies over the Army Corps' failure to ensure Nationwide Permits reissued during Tr… https://t.co/jSrfeqE9DE— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1612812063.0
Last May, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated the Endangered Species Act when it issued Nationwide Permit 12, which allows companies to construct energy projects—including the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline—at water crossings.
"Rather than comply with a court order to ensure that endangered species are protected from further death and destruction, the Trump administration doubled down on its original violation by issuing even weaker Nationwide Permits with fewer protections for these species," Daniel E. Estrin, general counsel for Waterkeeper Alliance, said in a statement.
"It's long past time for the Corps to rethink its approach to dredge-and-fill permitting and to ensure that these activities will not put endangered species or their habitat in jeopardy," Estrin added.
Jared Margolis, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that the Trump administration "flagrantly violated bedrock environmental laws when it reissued the Nationwide Permits, without regard for the people, places, or wildlife that are affected by this deeply flawed program."
"I'm hoping President Biden will prevent the Corps from continuing to use the permits to rubber-stamp major projects like oil pipelines that leak and spill, degrading the clean water that people and wildlife need," added Margolis.
On his first day in office, Biden issued an executive order revoking Keystone XL's permit and calling for a review of the 15 others.
"While the groups are hopeful that this process will result in important changes to the program, if the Corps continues to ignore its duty to properly account for the harm Nationwide Permit activities pose to species, then litigation may be necessary," the coalition said in its statement.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Krill oil has gained a lot of popularity recently as a superior alternative to fish oil. Basically, the claim goes, anything fish oil can do, krill oil does better. Read on to learn what makes krill oil supplements better than fish oil supplements, why you should consider these vitamin supplements, and which brands we recommend.
What is Krill Oil?
Krill oil is made from a tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that live in the ocean and usually serve as whale food. In fact, krill means "whale food" in Norwegian. These tiny organisms actually play an extremely important role in the food chains of marine ecosystems. The krill used to make krill oil are usually found in the waters around Antarctica.
Just like the fish oils found in supplements, krill oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that contain EPA and DHA, two compounds that are proven to have a number of health benefits.
But what makes krill oil better than fish oil?
It's believed that krill oil is better absorbed in the body than fish oil. Both derive most of their benefits through the EPA and DHA that are contained in their fatty acid stores. However, for the same dose, krill oil will result in more fatty acids in the blood than fish oil. A potential explanation for this is that while fish oil's fatty acids come as triglycerides, krill oil's come as phospholipids which are more easily processed by the body.
Additionally, krill oil contains astaxanthin which is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory properties that might have an enhanced positive effect on heart health. Studies have shown that krill oil is more effective than fish oil at lowering blood pressure and lowering bad cholesterol.
Our Picks for the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. You can learn more about our review methodology here. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Best Overall - Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Best for Cognitive Health - Onnit Krill Oil
- Best for Heart Health - NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Best for Joint Health - Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Strongest - Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
How We Chose the Best Krill Oil Supplements
Here are the factors that we considered when comparing the best krill oil brands to create our list of recommended supplements.
Omega-3 Content - We looked to see the amount of omega-3 fatty acids contained in each krill oil softgel or capsule.
Astaxanthin Content - The best krill oil pills contain this naturally-occurring antioxidant.
Third-Party Lab Testing - For any nutritional supplement, we choose brands that guarantee the quality of their product through independent lab testing.
Krill Source - We also compared these supplements for the source of their krill oil, and only recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested krill.
The 5 Best Krill Oil Supplements
Best Overall: Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 3 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 150 mcg per 3 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: We love Vital Plan Krill Oil Plus because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, astaxanthin, and choline to help promote brain, cardiovascular, and joint health, and because it is made with sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill. In fact, Vital Plan uses Superba krill oil, which is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and is 100% traceable.
Best for Cognitive Health: Onnit Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 200 mcg per 2 softgels
- Krill Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Onnit Krill Oil makes it easy to supplement your diet with the essential nutrients found in krill with just two softgels per day. The DHA and EPA fatty acids, plus astaxanthin, contained in these supplements can help support better cognitive, heart, and joint health. Plus, they source their krill from a Friend of the Sea certified supplier.
Best for Heart Health: NOW Neptune Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 250 mg per 2 softgels
- Astaxanthin - 360 mcg per 2 softgels
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: NOW Neptune Krill Oil supplements use 100% Neptune krill oil, a patented oil derived from Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). Two softgels contain 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 360 mcg of astaxanthin that can promote better cardiovascular and joint health. We like NOW Neptune Krill Oil because they also get their krill oil from a Friend of the Sea certified source.
Best for Joint Health: Viva Naturals Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 330 mg per 2 capsules
- Astaxanthin - 1.6 mg per 2 capsules
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: Viva Naturals uses a trademarked Caplique capsulation to avoid any krill oil odor or potential fishy burps. WIth 90 mg of DHA and 165 mg of EPA per 2 capsule serving, this supplement will definitely give you your money's worth, as they pack more DHA and EPA than your average supplement. We like that these capsules contain a higher concentration of the antioxidant astaxanthin, and are designed to eliminate any fishy aftertaste.
Strongest: Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil
- Omega-3s - 240 mg per softgel
- Astaxanthin - 500 mcg per softgel
- Source - Antarctica
Why buy: IKOS certified and made with their proprietary Superba krill oil formula, Sports Research Antarctic Krill Oil is an excellent choice if you're looking to enjoy the benefits that quality omega-3 fatty acids can provide. Every softgel capsule contains 1000 mg of krill oil, making it the strongest krill oil supplement on our list. We like that their krill oil is also certified as sustainably sourced by the MSC.
The Research on Krill Oil Supplements
Research has long demonstrated the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in foods like fish, nuts, and certain grains like flax seed. Since krill oil naturally contains higher levels of these beneficial nutrients, it has also been found to provide a number of health benefits.
Numerous studies have linked the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and krill oil to cardiovascular health, finding that those who ingest higher levels of these nutrients are at lower risk for coronary heart disease, potentially lower risk of stroke, and have lower cholesterol levels. Another study found that krill oil supplements offer a safe alternative to fish oil for those seeking cardiovascular benefits in a smaller and more convenient form.
Krill oil supplementation has also been found to help reduce the symptoms of knee and joint pain.
Additionally, researches found that rats given krill oil supplements showed improved cognitive function and benefited from anti-depressant-like effects. However, more research on its effect for human brain development and function is needed.
How to Choose the Right Krill Oil Supplement
When shopping for a krill oil supplement, there are important pieces of information that you should always look for. Here are some tips on how to compare brands and how to read labels.
What to Look For
For any supplement, always check to see if it has undergone third-party lab testing for quality and safety. This is especially important for any fish or krill oil to make sure that it does not contain any harmful compounds like mercury.
Look for the amount of krill oil contained in each capsule and each serving (as these will sometimes differ). You should choose supplements that offer between 200 mg and 350 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per serving for the best results.
Make it a priority to learn where the brand sources its supply of krill oil. We recommend brands that use sustainably-harvested Antarctic krill oil because the process of harvesting is more tightly regulated by various groups.
This is good advice for all nutritional supplements, but be sure the krill oil you choose does not contain any unwanted or unnecessary ingredients. All of our recommendations contain just the krill oil and the capsule it comes in.
How to Read Labels
When you are comparing krill oil supplements, here are some key things to look for on any label:
- Supplement Facts - This is where you can find information on the amount of krill oil in each capsule, how many capsules make up one serving, and a breakdown of how many omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients are contained in the supplement.
- Other Ingredients - Listed at the bottom of the supplement facts table, this list will tell you what the capsule itself is made of and if there are any additional ingredients present.
- Certifications - Check the label for important certifications and seals of approvals that can tell you if a krill oil is IKOS-certified, third-party lab tested, or sustainably harvest.
How to Use Krill Oil Supplements
Krill oil supplements typically come in capsules that you swallow with water. For most brands, 2 to 3 capsules make up a single serving, and you can take a serving either once or twice per day. Some brands recommend their supplements be taken with food to aid in their digestion and absorption.
Safety & Side Effects
While krill oil supplements are generally considered safe for most adults, it is extremely important to note that you should not take krill oil if you are allergic to shellfish. The potential side effects for krill oil are considered mild and similar to fish oils, including:
- Upset stomach
- Fishy taste
By Daniel Raichel
While many know Chicago as the "Second City," the old stomping grounds of Michael Jordan or Al Capone, or perhaps even still as "Hog Butcher to the World," I doubt many think of it as a home for endangered wildlife.
However, as a recent Chicago Tribune article shows, that's exactly what it is for one of our very favorite endangered pollinators—the rusty patched bumble bee.
For the better part of a decade, NRDC has fought for the rusty patched bumble bee's survival, and we are now suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the fourth time—this time, to reverse a Trump-Era decision not to designate federally protected "critical habitat" for the bee.
That's why it was particularly sweet to learn that a couple of rusty patched bumble bees were spotted foraging near the Rogers Park Metra stop, not far from the Honeybear Cafe and some of my old foraging grounds growing up.
"Rogers Park Metra Community Garden" by LN is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Although the article provides a fun "work meets life" moment for me, it also underscores the importance of our lawsuit. As Abby Shafer of the Evanston Native Bee Initiative notes, one patch of native habitat can be meaningful, but what's most needed is a network of interconnected habitat so that the bee's populations can recover and once again thrive.
By refusing to designate "critical habitat" for the bee, the Fish and Wildlife Service effectively scuttled any plan for such a federally protected habitat network—breaking the law and putting this magnificent and vulnerable bee one step closer to extinction. That's why we'll keep fighting in court until we (yet again) secure the protections that the rusty patched bumble bee deserves.
Who knows, if we're successful, maybe you'll see the rusty patched bumble bee in your neighborhood too.
"The Lurie Garden in Chicago's Millennium Park" by UGArdener is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Reposted with permission from NRDC.
Trump's Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, which was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2019, moved away from imposing national limits on greenhouse gas emissions, instead allowing states to set their own. It also did away with a provision mandating that utilities move away from coal. The new rule would have reduced electricity emissions by less than half of what would be necessary to limit global warming to two degrees Celsius and, according to the EPA's initial estimate, would have led to between 470 and 1,400 additional air pollution deaths a year by 2030.
"Despite [EPA Administrator] Andrew Wheeler's frequent protests, the EPA's role is to protect the American people from dangerous pollution and act on the greatest threat to our country: the climate crisis," Sierra Club Chief Climate Council Joanne Spalding said in a statement. "The Dirty Power Plan didn't do either of these things and the court rightly vacated it."
At stake in Tuesday's decision was the meaning of the Clean Air Act. The Trump EPA argued that the law only allows the agency to limit pollution from individual sources, not across an entire sector, Reuters reported. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit disagreed.
"Because the ACE Rule rests squarely on the erroneous legal premise that the statutory text expressly foreclosed consideration of measures other than those that apply at and to the individual source, we conclude that the EPA fundamentally 'has misconceived the law,' such that its conclusion 'may not stand,'" the three-judge panel ruled.
Some environmental groups hailed the ruling as a boon to the incoming Biden administration, since they will now have an easier time replacing it, The Washington Post reported.
"Today's decision is the perfect Inauguration Day present for America," Environmental Defense Fund Senior Attorney Ben Levitan said in a statement. "It confirms that the Trump administration's dubious attempt to get rid of commonsense limits on climate pollution from power plants was illegal, it reaffirms that the Clean Air Act and the Endangerment Finding are the law of the land, and it restores the vibrancy of the rule of law. Now we can turn to the critically important work of protecting Americans from climate change and creating new clean energy jobs."
However, the Washington Post reported that the Clean Power Plan also ran into legal challenges. When the Trump administration took office, the plan had been put on hold by the Supreme Court while the court battle continued. In a dissent from part of the ruling Tuesday, Judge Justin Walker, a Trump appointee, said the EPA never had the authority to implement the Clean Power Plan either.
Columbia Law School Professor Michael Gerrard noted that Walker was a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
"[The dissent could be a bad sign for how the Supreme Court might rule if these issues ever go there," he told The Washington Post.
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Provisions in the CARES Act passed last March, gave 77 fossil fuel companies $8.2 billion in tax breaks, and their laid off workers a $1,200 stimulus check. Using SEC data, the report shows Marathon Petroleum, the biggest single beneficiary, got more than $2 billion before laying off almost 2,000 workers — about 9% of its workforce at a rate of around $1 million per laid off worker.
Five companies went bankrupt after receiving $308.7 million in tax bailouts and laid off a total of 5,683 workers. "I'm not surprised that these companies took advantage of these tax benefits, but I'm horrified by the layoffs after they got this money," said Chris Kuveke, a researcher at BailoutWatch, told The Guardian. "Last year's stimulus was about keeping the economy going, but these companies didn't use these resources to retain their workers. These are companies that are polluting the environment, increasing the deadliness of the pandemic and letting go of their workers."
As reported by BailoutWatch:
As Washington debates ending tax subsidies for fossil fuels, part of President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, fossil fuel companies are quietly reporting their employee headcounts and final tax bills for 2020. The data underscore the hypocrisy of claims that fossil fuels are a necessary engine of employment and succeed on an equal playing field in the free market.
The bailouts are the tip of a much bigger iceberg: Fossil fuels have long benefited from a trove of tax-code provisions. In the century since they emerged, the coal, oil, and gas industries' strength has reflected not market efficiencies, as defenders claim, but government largesse that far exceeds what has so far been extended to the clean energy sector.
For a deeper dive:
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Wednesday's pro-Trump mob attack on the U.S. Capitol brought upon a flurry of responses from elected officials. "We now will be part of history, as such a shameful picture of our country was put out to the world, instigated at the highest level," Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California wrote in a letter to her colleagues, according to The New York Times.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the rioters "tried to disrupt our democracy." "They failed," he added, The New York Times reported. But the senators were not the only ones to respond.
"The violent mob that stormed the United States Capitol today, causing senseless loss of life, was there only because of the reckless and anti-democratic actions of Donald Trump," Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp wrote in a statement.
"Like the rest of the world, we watched the events at the U.S. Capitol in horror as anti-democratic zealots violently disrupted what should have been a ceremonial start to the peaceful transition of power after a free and fair election," David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society added.
The Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society were joined by a number of other environmental and conservation groups across the country to condemn President Donald Trump's incitement of the attack.
"Trump willfully infects our body politic with a seditious poison whose antidemocratic effects will linger for years," Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, wrote in a press release. He called upon principal officers of the executive branch to "immediately invoke the 25th Amendment to remove a demagogue who is manifestly unfit for office."
Greenpeace USA's Executive Director Annie Leonard also called for Trump's removal.
"Yesterday's white supremacist, anti-democratic attack on representative government was carefully and intentionally coordinated by Trump," Leonard wrote. "Those responsible must be held accountable."
Many environmental groups underscored their statements with shared values for conservation and a healthy planet.
"Everything we stand for, all of the work we do to protect birds and the places they need, is predicated on the rule of law." Yarnold wrote. "We believe that those who have committed crimes today should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law — and those who enabled them should be held to account."
Sierra Club's Executive Director Michael Brune said the two new senators in Georgia will ensure "both chambers of Congress are led by those committed to creating a liveable planet, safe communities, and an inclusive democracy."
He added, "And now, we must use our power to expel Trump and the Trumpism that is attacking the core values and institutions of our country."
These statements follow a recent reckoning regarding the role of racism in environmentalism. Over the summer, activists called on environmental groups to recognize their roles "in perpetuating systemic racist policies and practices," National Geographic reported.
"I need you to understand that our racial inequality crisis is intertwined with our climate crisis. If we don't work on both, we will succeed at neither," Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and policy expert, wrote in The Washington Post.
"How can we expect black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes?" She asked.
Although the responses made by environmental groups may not alone inspire equity in environmental spaces, they may be a stepping stone for environmental organizations to confront issues they haven't in the past.
"Let's call this what it is: a violent attempted coup by white supremacists hell-bent on suppressing the majority of people in America demanding progress and justice," May Boeve, 350.org's executive director wrote. "While militarized police attacked Indigenous water protectors at Standing Rock in 2016, and Black and brown protesters during racial justice uprisings of 2020, this is a racist and despicable contrast as right-wing insurrectionists attempt to revive the Civil War during a global pandemic, the day after the officer who shot Jacob Blake walked free."
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The incident, first reported by the Citrus County Chronicle on Monday, prompted a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation and outrage from conservationists and animal lovers. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is even offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction.
"Manatees aren't billboards, and people shouldn't be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason," CBD Florida Director Jaclyn Lopez said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch. "However this political graffiti was put on this manatee, it's a crime to interfere with these creatures, which are protected under multiple federal laws."
Harassment of a manatee is a federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to one year in prison.… https://t.co/BZzk19XBeu— Center for Bio Div (@Center for Bio Div)1610403235.0
The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, which was classified as an endangered species in 1973, according to The Washington Post, although their status has since been lowered to threatened. Currently, manatees are protected federally under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and on the state level under the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978, The New York Times reported. Harassing a manatee carries a federal penalty of up to $50,000 and a year in jail, and a state penalty of up to $500 and 60 days in jail.
The affected manatee was first discovered in the Homosassa River in Citrus County by Hailey Warrington, a family boat charter operator, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Warrington said she saw the manatee while on a boat tour and took photos and a video to report the incident.
"This is just disturbing. One hundred percent disturbing," Warrington told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "It's something we don't see very often. When we do see it, it hurts our heart."
The USFWS said that the letters appear to have been etched in algae and that the animal was not seriously harmed. Warrington claimed that while the etching reached the skin, it did not appear to leave a wound. The animal seemed healthy, but stressed.
Elizabeth Fleming, senior Florida representative for the Defenders of Wildlife, told The Washington Post that the perpetrator either had to restrain the manatee to write the message, or the manatee was so used to humans that it allowed the action.
There are more than 6,300 West Indian manatees living in Florida, according to the USFWS. While that number has increased significantly in the last 25 years, the animals still face threats from habitat loss and boat collisions. About 100 manatees die every year from boat strikes, according to The Washington Post, accounting for 20 percent of total manatee deaths.
For Elizabeth Neville, Defenders of Wildlife senior Gulf Coast representative, the harassment of this particular manatee is a striking example of politics impacting wildlife.
"The content of this manatee's mutilation, however, highlights a broader and darker truth: that wildlife, despite having no ability to vote or otherwise participate in our political systems, exist and suffer profoundly at the mercy of human politics," she said in a statement.
"Based on the choice of the word carved in the manatee's flesh, one can only assume that this act of mutilation was politically motivated. But, this is far from the only scar borne by manatees due to politicians' destructive choices. Other scars include policies that favor unsustainable development and polluting industries, hamper communities' abilities to address plastic trash in our waters and impede progress on fighting climate change."
Anyone with information about the incident should contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922, the Citrus County Chronicle shared.
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By Julia Conley
Just over two weeks before President Donald Trump is set to leave the White House, his U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday finalized a rollback of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—a law that's been in place since 1918 and which conservation groups credit with holding corporate polluters accountable for harming bird species.
In what the Western Values Project called a "parting gift to Big Oil by corrupt former oil lobbyist Interior Secretary David Bernhardt," the USFWS announced a new rule under which the federal government will no longer penalize or prosecute companies when their actions cause the inadvertent death of birds.
In the case of oil spills like the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed more than one million birds in 2010; electrocutions by power lines; ducks and other species stuck in fossil fuel tailings ponds; and illegal actions like the spraying of banned pesticides, companies will no longer be held to account as long as they don't intentionally kill birds.
Antithetical to its purpose, US Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule rolling back protections for migratory b… https://t.co/sC7gB0SX7R— Aric Caplan (@Aric Caplan)1609869659.0
When it was passed into law more than 100 years ago, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) made it illegal to hunt, take, capture, or kill birds from endangered species "by any means or in any manner."
Bernhardt said Tuesday the new rule "reaffirms the original meaning and intent of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," while the Center for Western Priorities called it a "radical interpretation of the law."
"The Trump administration wants to make sure extractive industries can continue to kill birds after they leave office," said Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the group. "Secretary Bernhardt's former oil industry clients have explicitly asked for this policy change, and now he is delivering, just days before returning to the private sector. By finalizing this proposal, the Trump administration is signing the death warrants of millions of birds across the country."
Conservation groups pointed to data showing that three billion birds have been lost in North America since 1970, while six million fewer birds were counted by the Audubon Society in 2019 than previous tallies showed.
As Common Dreams reported in September, the wildfires that overwhelmed the West Coast last year were thought to be behind the deaths of thousands of migratory birds in the southwest.
"This brutal blow hits America's birds when many populations are already plummeting, so it's really the last thing they need," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump officials are giving oil companies and other polluters a license to kill birds. Vast numbers of birds will be electrocuted by power lines, drowned in oil waste pits and killed in other easily preventable ways."
Advocates say the MBTA has worked in recent years to show the oil and gas industry that it will be held accountable if its activities kills birds. The federal government reached a $100 million settlement with BP after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who was named as President-elect Biden's nominee for Interior Secretary last month, is expected to repeal the USFWS's rule, but that process could take time. Meanwhile, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) introduced the Migratory Bird Protection Act last year as the administration was considering the rollback, with the aim of reaffirming the original law's intent of protecting vulnerable birds—not corporations.
Advocates also expressed hope that the federal courts will strike down what Greenwald called the Trump administration's "reckless attack on one of America's oldest and most important conservation laws," as Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York did in August.
"There is nothing in the text of the MBTA that suggests that in order to fall within its prohibition, activity must be directed specifically at birds," Caproni said in her ruling at the time. "Nor does the statute prohibit only intentionally killing migratory birds."
The Trump administration is kicking off the new year and its remaining weeks—and, to add insult to injury,… https://t.co/uydTahSeao— Audubon Society (@Audubon Society)1609866426.0
Jamie Rappoport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife said the group would call on the Biden administration "to restore protections for birds immediately and affirm that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits incidental take."
"Even though a federal court already ruled that the Trump administration cannot eliminate protections for migratory birds, the administration continues its relentless campaign to undermine environmental protections and harm wildlife," said Clark.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Brett Wilkins
A report published Tuesday by the eco-advocacy group Environment America urges President-elect Joe Biden to immediately restore critical environmental protections gutted by Trump administration regulatory rollbacks.
"His administration has steadily loosened oversight of polluting industries, eroded protections for endangered wildlife, and stymied efforts to address our most daunting environmental threat: climate change," the report states. "These rollbacks have and will continue to significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions and lead to thousands of premature deaths due to poor air quality every year."
"By undoing the Trump administration's rollbacks of environmental protections, the Biden administration will be able to protect our natural landscapes and give Americans cleaner air, cleaner water, and a more livable climate," the report continues.
Here’s our recommendations for the first actions President-elect Biden can take to protect the environment. 5 thing… https://t.co/yRSojPMrJh— Environment America (@Environment America)1609257900.0
"Many of the rollbacks have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency," the report notes. "Others by the departments of Transportation, Energy, and Interior. A lot of them can be undone through swift administrative action in the early days of a Biden administration."
The report says that Biden's actions could and should include:
- Rejoining the Paris climate agreement;
- Repealing the so-called "Dirty Water Rule";
- Raising federal fuel economy and emissions standards for vehicles and reaffirming California's authority to set stronger vehicle emissions standards;
- Withdrawing the Trump draft five-year plan on offshore drilling; and
- Restoring smart energy efficiency policies.
Additionally, the report recommends 15 policies and actions the incoming administration should consider during its first 100 days, including ending oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, protecting endangered species, and reducing methane emissions.
Earlier this year, nine other environmental groups declared Trump "the worst president for our environment in history," citing his administration's "unprecedented assault on our environment and the health of our communities" and policies that "threaten our climate, air, water, public lands, wildlife, and oceans."
Matt Casale, lead author of the new report and environmental campaigns director for the U.S. Public Interest Resource Group Education Fund, said that "air pollution has been on the rise and many of our bodies of water are at risk of pollution."
"As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, so have the impacts of global warming — from increased wildfires and hurricanes to heat-related illness," he noted.
"There's a lot to do," added Casale, "but so much of the policy damage from the past four years can quickly be fixed through swift administrative action in the early days of the Biden administration."
"Biden has the opportunity to use the first 100 days to put us on a path toward a cleaner, healthier future for ourselves, our children, and grandchildren," said Casale. "He cannot pass up that opportunity. We don't have any time to waste."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jessica Corbett
With President Donald Trump's first term soon coming to an end, the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday finalized a rule that critics are calling a last-minute attempt to "sabotage" future efforts by President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration to tackle the intertwined climate and pollution crises.
Capping off nearly four years of Trump and members of his administration working to roll back over 100 environmental and public health protections in the service of corporate polluters, the new rule changes how the EPA calculates the costs and benefits of new policies on air pollution under the Clean Air Act.
The new requirements, as the Washington Post reports, "instruct the agency to weigh all the economic costs of curbing an air pollutant but disregard many of the incidental benefits that arise, such as illnesses and deaths avoided by a potential regulation. In other words, if reducing emissions from power plants also saves tens of thousands of lives each year by cutting soot, those 'co-benefits' should be not be counted."
Speaking to @CoralMDavenport @nytimes about the rule announced today by @EPAAWheeler, EPN member Roy Gamse said, "I… https://t.co/nQDJ5Pl66R— Environmental Protection Network (@Environmental Protection Network)1607540587.0
Former coal lobbyist and current EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the finalization during a virtual event with the Heritage Foundation, saying, "thanks to President Trump's leadership, we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes."
Environmental and public health advocates pushed back against Wheeler's framing, blasting the rule as not only yet another piece of the outgoing administration's deregulatory agenda but also a blatant attempt to hamstring Biden, who ran on a promise to deliver environmental and climate justice.
"For four years, this administration has waged war on public health by kowtowing to polluters," Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said of Trump's first term. "Now, on the way out the door, this amounts to sabotaging the efforts of the incoming administration to protect Americans from dirty air."
"It will literally be a breath of fresh air to soon have a president and an EPA working each day to make Americans and the planet healthier and safe," he added of Biden's planned January 20 inauguration. "But Administrator Wheeler and President Trump are hellbent on making that job as difficult as possible."
This rule will distort @EPA analysis by discounting the health benefits of air pollution standards & prioritizing t… https://t.co/UnJjArprPn— Rep. Frank Pallone (@Rep. Frank Pallone)1607554767.0
Proposed in June, the final rule comes in the midst of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, noted Chris Saeger, a spokesperson for Accountable.US. Early research has tied air pollution to a heightened risk of dying from Covid-19, which had killed over 288,700 people in the United States, according to John Hopkins University's tracker.
"Donald Trump must be held accountable for selling out Americans' air quality to big oil companies and fossil fuel lobbyists during a public health emergency," Saeger said. "To restore our nation, the Biden administration must raise standards for the air we breath by rejecting these irresponsible policies that reward the special interests the Trump administration used to work for."
Emily Davis, senior attorney in the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate & Clean Energy Program, also called on the next administration to forge a new path on pollution policy.
"This is an egregious 11th-hour attempt to handcuff the incoming administration and undercut the benefits of clean air—in the worst days of a global health crisis," she said of the new rule. "Our country is struggling to address racial injustice and a deadly pandemic magnified by pollution, which all heavily impact Black, Latino, and low-income people."
"The Biden administration should deep-six this dishonest and dangerous rule—and allow EPA to re-embrace its core mission, which is to protect public health and our environment," Davis added. "We'll use every tool, and look forward to working with the Biden team, to ensure that healthier future for all."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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In yet another attack on the environment before leaving office, the Trump administration is seeking to transfer ownership of San Carlos Apache holy ground in Oak Flat, Arizona, to a copper mining company.
The administration pushed to finish the environmental review process, a necessary step to transfer ownership to copper mining company Resolution Copper, and its two parent companies Rio Tinto and BHP, to December 2020, almost a full year ahead of the planned completion.
"The Trump administration is cutting corners and doing a rushed job just to take care of Rio Tinto," Democratic Arizona representative Raúl Grijalva told The Guardian. Grijalva has been outspoken in his opposition to the mine plans.
"And the fact they are doing it during Covid makes it even more disgusting. Trump and Rio Tinto know the tribes' reaction would be very strong and public under normal circumstances but the tribes are trying to save their people right now," Grijalva said.
Oak Flat is a high desert wonderland full of rock spires, choppy hills, ancient oaks, medicinal plants and long stretches of desert flatland. It contains many Indigenous archaeological sites dating back 1,500 years, and is near Tonto National Forest, the largest of six national forests in Arizona. For centuries, the Apache have considered the site holy, using the area for ceremonies. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
However, what is estimated to be one of the world's largest copper deposits resides 7,000 feet underneath the site. If mining proceeds, more than 11 miles of Indigenous sacred sites, burial grounds and petroglyphs would be destroyed, The Guardian reported. Not only that, but Resolution Copper intends to extract 1.4 metric tons of ore, which would create a crater stretching almost two miles wide and 1,000 feet deep.
Rio Tinto, the world's second largest mining company, is no stranger to controversy. The Anglo-Australian company was recently involved in destroying a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal site in order to mine iron ore, against the wishes of the land's traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people.
In 2014, a proposal called the Southeastern Arizona Land Exchange was tacked onto the end of a spending bill to exchange federal land for privately owned land for Resolution Copper. Several Arizona legislators supported it, despite opposition from regional Arizona tribes.
Currently there is no federal law that allows control of ancestral lands outside of Native reservation boundaries.
After the environmental review process is complete, the transfer must occur within 60 days, potentially before President-elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.
The move marks one of many attempts by the outgoing administration to keep pushing for environmental rollbacks as it leaves office, including opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for drilling and weakening migratory bird protections.
"We are looking at the destruction of some of the Apache's most significant cultural and historic sites with this project," Kathryn Leonard, an Arizona state historic preservation officer, told The Guardian.
"Our preservation laws are not set up to prevent this level of loss. It weighs heavily on me."
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The oil industry responded to the controversial and last-minute sale of oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a collective 'meh' on Wednesday.
The federal government received bids on just 11 of the 22 leasing tracts on offer, and nine of those were purchased at the legal minimum price of $25 per acre by an Alaska state-owned corporation with hopes to sublet the tracts to other oil companies in the future.
No major or even mid-size oil companies entered valid bids.
The ANWR lease sales are mandated as part of the GOP plan to pay for its 2017 tax cuts based on expectations that the sales and oil extraction would net the Treasury $1.8 billion over 10 years; Wednesday's lease sale raised $14.4 million.
Under mounting pressure from climate advocates, the six biggest American banks and five biggest Canadian banks have all pledged not to finance drilling in the refuge. President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to prevent oil drilling in the refuge.
"This lease sale was an epic failure for the Trump administration and the Alaska congressional delegation," Adam Kolton, executive director of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement.
"After years of promising a revenue and jobs bonanza they ended up throwing a party for themselves."
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