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Drivers battle traffic during rush hour in Los Angeles, CA in March 2015. Eric Demarcq / flickr / cc

By Jessica Corbett

A coalition of 17 states and the District of Columbia is suing the Trump administration for blocking greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles that aimed to reduce air pollution and curb U.S. drivers' contributions to the global climate crisis.

In what critics called an "indefensible and frankly embarrassing decision," last month U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt caved to automobile industry lobbyists' demands and announced that his agency is drafting relaxed manufacturing rules for vehicles made between 2022 and 2025.

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The 2018 Ford Transit, one of Ford's 15 showcased models at the DC Auto Show, gets an estimated 23 mpg according to fueleconomy.gov. washingtonautoshow.com

This week, tens of thousands of people will attend the Washington Auto Show to see the latest that the industry has to offer. However, instead of moving toward a cleaner transportation future, Ford Motor Company and other automakers are working to take us backward: They are lobbying the Trump administration to weaken clean car standards, which curb pollution, save consumers money and protect health.

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Bureau of Land Management California / Flickr

The Trump administration is rescinding Obama-era rules designed to increase the safety of fracking.

“We believe it imposes administrative burdens and compliance costs that are not justified," the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wrote in a notice published Friday in the Federal Register.

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Caribou graze on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. USFWS / Flickr

The Republican tax bill, which is likely headed to President Donald Trump's desk in the next few days, has major repercussions for our precious environment.

While the electric vehicle industry and the wind and solar sector can breathe a little easier that the sweeping legislation preserves their tax credits, fossil fuel producers are likely cheering the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling.

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Environment America released its 2017 Environmental Scorecard on Thursday, tracking how the U.S. Congress voted on bills that could protect our air, water, landscapes and the health of the planet. Absences count against a member's score.

Environment America's Washington, DC office director Anna Aurilio said the following:

Sadly, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much these days, including the need to protect our environment. It shouldn't be this way, it didn't used to be and we're doing all we can to make sure it's not this way in the future.

But, as we release our environmental scorecard for 2017, we want to not only applaud the Democrats who scored 100 percent, but also cheer on those members of both parties who boldly stood up for our planet this year.

Overall, the U.S. Senate had a score of 47 percent and the U.S. House of Representatives scored 45 percent, which does not bode well for our air or water.

The good news is that 139 members from the two branches voted with us 100 percent of the time, which means our planet and our families are represented by a lot of real environmental champs.

And on a number of issues, the environment received bipartisan support. In particular, a cadre of Republicans in the U.S. House supported funding to make public transit available and to ensure that the EPA had enough money to do its job protecting our air and water. In the Senate, limiting methane pollution was the big bipartisan winner.

Unfortunately, with 145 of our federal decision-makers scoring 0 percent, it's obvious we have a lot more work to do to make sure our elected officials represent the majority of Americans who want to see a cleaner, greener, healthier planet for future generations.

Lorie Shaull / Flickr

About 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota, drawing fierce outcry from pipeline opponents.

The leak, the largest spill to date in South Dakota, comes just days before Nebraska regulators decide on whether its controversial sister project—the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline—will go forward.

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Environment America

While nearly 9 in 10 Americans support the development of more solar energy, electric utilities and fossil fuel-backed special interests are trying to hold off the inevitable renewable-energy future by promoting policies that would make rooftop solar harder to obtain.

A new report released Thursday by Environment America Research & Policy Center documents 20 entities, across 12 states, who sought to roll back key policies driving solar power over the past year.

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The sun is rising on a newer, cleaner era of American energy use.

The U.S. generates nearly eight times as much electricity from the sun and the wind than it did in 2007—enough to power more than 25 million homes—and the average American uses 10 percent less energy than he or she did 10 years ago, according to a new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center.

The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, also cites a 20-fold increase in battery storage of electricity and the meteoric rise in sales of electric cars—from virtually none in 2007 to nearly 160,000 last year—as evidence that despite attempted rollbacks in Washington, a clean energy revolution is under way across the U.S.

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Kris Krüg / Flickr

By Mike Ludwig

As the Trump administration moves to gut Obama-era clean water protections nationwide, an environmental group is warning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that its draft pollution discharge permit for offshore drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico violates clean water laws because it allows operators to dump fracking chemicals and large volumes of drilling wastewater directly into the Gulf.

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Atlanta City Council unanimously approved a measure Monday establishing a community-wide goal of transitioning 100 percent to renewable energy by 2035.

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Clean energy supporters in Massachusetts announced legislation Monday, backed by more than a quarter of the state legislature, committing Massachusetts to get 100 percent of its energy needs from clean and renewable sources by mid-century.

The legislation, introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker and in the Senate by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, establishes targets for Massachusetts to meet its electricity needs from renewable energy by 2035 and all of its energy needs, including heating and transportation, from renewable sources by 2050.

"The supporters of this bill have joined the growing number of stakeholders and leaders who recognize the need for rapid transition to clean, renewable energy to tackle our environmental challenges," Rob Sargent said. "With a can-do attitude, powering our state entirely with clean, renewable energy is as feasible as it is necessary."

A combination of environmental concerns and declining costs for renewable energy have made it the "go-to" option for many communities and businesses, in part because it is pollution-free, but also because it requires no fuel costs. As a result, dozens of major corporations from Google to General Motors to Walmart have already committed to a complete shift to renewable energy. Similarly, dozens of local governments including San Diego, California, St. Petersburg, Florida and Georgetown, Texas, have plans to go 100 percent renewable.

"The federal government is moving backwards on clean energy. So, the states must lead," said S. David Freeman, a long-time utility executive at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the New York Power Authority and the Tennessee Valley Authority. "Massachusetts can show the way by enacting the 100 percent renewable bills and by so doing save consumers millions of dollars in the future with a free fuel energy supply."

Given the considerable resistance renewables are likely to face in Congress and the Trump administration, clean energy proponents are looking to state and local governments, businesses and institutions to ensure continued progress. In addition to the campaign in Massachusetts, Environment America and its partners are planning campaigns to get other states to go 100 percent renewable. And, today they will launch an effort to persuade America's colleges and universities to make similar commitments.

"Despite tremendous progress on renewable energy in the past decade, we've got much more to do and leaders in Washington who want to take us backward," Sargent said. "That's why we're counting on our local and state governments, along with businesses, colleges and universities and other institutions to lead the way by setting their sights on 100 percent renewable energy."

More than 650,000 kindergarten through 12th grade children in nine states attend school within one mile of a fracked oil or gas well, putting them at increased risk of health impacts from dangerous chemicals and air pollution.

Moms Clean Air Force

The finding comes from a new study by Environment America Research & Policy Center that exposes the proximity of fracking near schools, hospitals, day care centers and nursing homes, risking the health of our children and other vulnerable populations.

"Schools and day care centers should be safe places for kids to play and learn," said Rachel Richardson, director of Environment America's Stop Drilling program and co-author of the report. "Unfortunately, our research shows far too many kids may be exposed to dirty air and toxic chemicals from fracking right next door."

Using data provided by the oil and gas industry and state regulators, Dangerous and Close—Fracking Puts the Nation's Most Vulnerable People at Risk, found that:

  • 1,947 child care facilities, 1,376 schools, 236 nursing care providers and 103 hospitals are within a one-mile radius of fracked wells in the nine states examined.
  • More than 650,000 kindergarten through 12th grade children attend school within one mile of a fracked well.
  • The highest percentage of children attending school close to fracked wells is in West Virginia, where 8 percent of children spend their school days within one mile of a fracked well.
  • Texas has the largest number of children attending school close to a well, with 437,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students attending public or private school within one mile of a fracked well.

The report included data from nine states total including Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.

Hospitals, nursing homes, schools and day care facilities within one mile of a fracked well, 2005 through early 2016, in Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.Environment America

"American society aspires to protect children, the sick and the elderly," said Elizabeth Ridlington, policy analyst with Frontier Group and co-author of the report. "This report shows that we're violating that ideal because of our overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels. We've sunk to putting vulnerable populations at risk instead of making the wholesale shift to conservation and renewable energy."

Fracking creates a range of threats to our health, including creating toxic air pollution that can reduce lung function even among healthy people, trigger asthma attacks and has been linked to premature death. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to fracking's health risks. Children's immune systems are more susceptible to damage from toxic chemicals while older adults have weaker immune systems and more difficulty breaking down toxics chemicals in the body.

Studies show that the closer you are to fracking, the more susceptible you are to suffering negative health effects. In Colorado, residents living within one-half mile of fracked wells were exposed to pollutants that increased their risk of illness. Researchers at University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University found that in Pennsylvania hospitalizations rates increase near fracking sites.

"Fracking is an inherently dangerous threat to public health and should not be where vulnerable children and families live," said Dr. Walter Tsou, president of Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"It is an unavoidable fact that as fracking operations have spread across the U.S., significant damage to our health and our environment has occurred," said Laura Burns, parent of two and field organizer for Mom's Clean Air Force in Ohio. "Our children are our future. And for the sake of our future, we need to be seeking clean, renewable energy solutions."

Given the scale and severity of fracking's impacts, fracking should be prohibited wherever possible and existing wells should be shut down beginning with those near institutions that serve our most vulnerable populations.

To better protect communities already on the front lines of drilling, stricter regulations should be adopted and federal fracking loopholes should be closed to hold the oil and gas industry to the same standards as other industry. Currently, oil and gas companies are exempt from key provisions in the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

"Our children's health and safety should be non-negotiable," Richardson said. "Ultimately, the only solution to this toxic health threat is to ban fracking entirely and move toward 100 percent renewable energy as swiftly as possible."

Environment America

From the Chesapeake Bay to the Puget Sound to the many smaller waters in between, America’s waterways are today one step closer to protection under the Clean Water Act, as the Obama administration is now in the final stage of issuing guidelines to restore critical Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s waterways.

“This is an important step forward for America’s waters and the people who depend on them and enjoy them,” said Shelley Vinyard, federal clean water advocate for Environment America. “Once these guidelines are final, everyone from the Great Lakes fisherman to the family visiting the shores of the Narragansett Bay will be able to reap the rewards of cleaner water.”

The guidelines come at a time when nearly 60 percent of the country’s streams, 20 million acres of wetlands, and 117 million Americans’ drinking water is at risk of pollution, thanks to two polluter-friendly Supreme Court decisions in the last decade. The guidelines, which were proposed last April, received overwhelming support from ordinary citizens, thousands of public health professionals, and hundreds of farmers, local elected officials, and recreational businesses—from Confluence Kayaks in Colorado to Angus Murdoch, a farmer from central Virginia.

The proposed guidelines are expected to be finalized by early spring, and were sent to the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 22.

The industries primarily responsible for this pollution—mega-agribusiness, the coal industry, Big Oil and big developers, are fighting to block these guidelines. In fact, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill Feb. 16 that, if passed, would block the president and his administration from ever finalizing these guidelines, and would leave as many as 2.5 million miles of streams nationwide permanently unprotected.

“We are excited that the administration has taken this step toward restoring the Clean Water Act and has reiterated its commitment to protecting America’s waterways from pollution,” Vinyard said. “We are counting on the Obama administration to continue to stand up to big polluters, and look forward to working with them to ensure all Americans have clean water in which to swim, fish, recreate, and drink.”

For more information, click here.