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Death Valley National Park ranger and a group of students. The new bill codifies an Obama-era act that allows students and their families to visit national parks for free. NPS / Kurt and Edwige Moses

In a rare bipartisan push, the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a major public lands package on Tuesday.

The Natural Resources Management Act, approved 92-8, establishes 1.3 million acres of new wilderness, adds 694,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas, creates four new national monuments, among other important conservation measures, according to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who introduced the bill with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

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Buses head out at the Denver Public Schools Hilltop Terminal Nov. 10, 2017. Andy Cross / The Denver Post via Getty Images

By Corey Binns

Before her two kids returned to school at the end of last summer, Lorena Osorio stood before the Westminster, Colorado, school board and gave heartfelt testimony about raising her asthmatic son, now a student at the local high school. "My son was only three years old when he first suffered from asthma," she said. Like most kids, he rode a diesel school bus. Some afternoons he arrived home struggling to breathe.

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Anacortes Refinery (Tesoro), on the north end of March Point southeast of Anacortes, Washington. Walter Siegmund / CC BY-SA 3.0

If voters approve Initiative 1631 on Nov. 6, Washington state will take a significant step in climate action by becoming the first state in the nation to enact a fee on carbon emissions. That is, unless Big Oil can stop it.

The U.S. oil industry has pumped a record $30 million to stop the carbon tax, which environmentalists have tried to enact for years, Reuters reported, citing state data. Meanwhile, proponents—including green groups and climate activist billionaires Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs—have spent $15.2 million.

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Liz Gorman / Bellvisuals.com

Another key group wants embattled U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt out of a job—his employees.

On Wednesday John O'Grady, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, the union that represents more than half of EPA employees, announced that the council would join the nation-wide campaign to #BootPruitt, Bloomberg reported.

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Congressional Republican lawmakers have set record lows on the 2017 League of Conservation Voters (LCV) scorecard, released Tuesday.

The LCV, which has been scoring lawmakers' actions on environment, public health and climate issues for nearly 50 years, awarded Senate Republicans a record low average 1 percent score, with 46 Senators receiving a score of zero—meaning "they voted against the environment and public health at every opportunity" in 2017.

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Alaska Department of Natural Resources

The backdoor Arctic refuge drilling provision snuck in the Senate Republican's tax reform plan could be held up thanks to a little-known procedural rule.

The Republican-led effort to open the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling could violate the Byrd Rule, which outlines what can be included in the Senate's budgetary legislation.

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Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) recently emerged as one of the upper chamber's biggest environmental stalwarts after grilling both Rick Perry and Ryan Zinke over their climate denial during hearings.

But Franken—who is dipping into his comedic roots in a hilarious new web series about climate change—isn't the only U.S. senator who consistently champions environmental safeguards.

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I was shocked to learn that last week the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Sen. Bernie Sanders a score of 6 percent in their 2016 National Environmental Scorecard. LCV claims that Sen. Sanders received such a low score because he missed votes while he was running his historic presidential campaign. But there may be more to the story than we're being told.

Those of you who have seen Gasland I and II know that fracking is very personal for me. One of the reasons I was a proud surrogate of Bernie's is because he was the only candidate to call for a national ban on fracking. So when I see him being treated this way by an organization, whose board of directors is known to support and promote fracking, it's also personal.

The bottom line is LCV's scorecard system is flawed and fails to evaluate lawmakers on their full body of work. That's why, according to their scorecard, pro-fracking senators like Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Corey Gardner (R-CO) actually score higher than Bernie. That's just plain ridiculous.

It's no secret that LCV, who endorsed Sec. Clinton during last year's primary, have contempt for Bernie. I experienced this firsthand while serving on the Democrat's platform committee fighting for a national ban on fracking to be included as part of the party platform. The pushback I received from LCV Chairwoman Carol Browner, and many others from the Clinton camp, was astonishing. Not to mention the fact that LCV even endorsed candidates known to support the fracking industry and take their money—and 2016 was not the first time. This is antithetical to the organization's mission statement, which includes a commitment to "electing pro-environmental candidates who will champion priority issues." There is nothing pro-environment about fracking, and to say otherwise is nothing short of pronouncing alternative facts.

Bernie had the most ambitious climate platform in presidential history and he has continued his leadership since the campaign—standing up for Native American rights and against the Dakota Access Pipeline, standing up for environmental justice and standing up against President Trump's agenda, which includes rolling back as many environmental regulations as possible and letting fracking run rampant throughout our communities.

At a time when we all have to come together, we should be standing with proven climate and environmental champions, not throwing them under the bus to score cheap points with the political establishment.

Please join me in telling the LCV to start acting like true environmental leaders and adjust Bernie's score to account for his historic presidential campaign that consistently elevated climate change and environmental justice as national issues. LCV should also make a commitment to the people and its members that they will no longer support pro-fracking candidates and reflect accurate scores for lawmakers who promote or otherwise support this climate-altering practice.

President Donald Trump has signed another executive order aimed at eliminating regulations that he claims are damaging to the U.S. economy, but some worry that the measure will roll back critical environmental protections.

The order, called "Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda," directs each government agency to create a task force to evaluate existing federal regulations and recommend whether they should be kept, repealed or modified.

A White House official told POLITICO that the task forces will "focus on eliminating costly and unnecessary regulations."

The new order also directs agency heads to appoint "regulatory reform officers" to ensure that agencies are carrying out the president's other executive orders, such as his recent 2-for-1 rule that requires federal agencies to repeal two old regulations for every new one.

"Excessive regulation is killing jobs," Trump said during the signing ceremony. "Every regulation should have to pass a simple test: Does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers? If the answer is no, we will be getting rid of it."

"We will stop punishing companies for doing business in the United States," Trump added. "It's going to be absolutely just the opposite. They will be incentivized to doing business."

The president was flanked by leaders of major U.S. corporations, including Lockheed Martin, Johnson & Johnson, Dow Chemical Co. and Campbell Soup.

Dow Chemical Co. chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris, who leads Trump's advisory council on manufacturing and received the presidential signing pen. Just yesterday, Liveris praised the Trump administration for being "the most pro-business administration since the Founding Fathers."

Bloomberg Politics pointed out that The White House already has an entire agency, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, that reviews all government regulations before they are issued. It is unclear how the existing office will be working with the new officials.

Environmental groups have criticized Trump's latest executive order, saying that it is crafted to help the country's biggest polluters.

"The Trump administration wants less government, except when it wants more to carry out its oil and gas industry agenda," Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said in a statement. "This executive order will put Trump's unvetted corporate minions above experts at our federal agencies in charge of protecting our water, our land and our climate."

"We can only hope that the resistance inside these agencies will be strong enough to stop these destructive Trump toadies from dismantling protections for the American people," Nichols continued. "This administration and its deluded enforcers will never understand what it feels like to worry about the water their families are drinking, the food their families are eating or if their houses will survive the next superstorm. It's up to all of us outside the billionaire bubble to resist the ways in which the Trump administration is destroying this country."

Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters had similar sentiments.

"President Trump is rigging the system so corporate lobbyists can lower standards that protect the public health and safety of all people in this country," Sittenfeld told NPR . "These task forces will attempt to roll back common-sense protections for the air we breathe, the water we drink and the lands we cherish."

Waterkeeper Alliance said that Trump's latest order will only help destroy agencies and regulations that are designed to protect people and the environment. For instance, rules that ensure that tap water does not contain pollutants that cause cancer or brain damage could be on the chopping block.

"President Trump's action to slash regulation is more like a pollution prison sentence, subjecting our communities to increased exposure to polluted water, toxins, disease and economic burden for generations to come. There is no justification for this type of brazen policy that only benefits the richest and most powerful corporations in the world," said Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi. "Americans and all world citizens want and deserve clean water and clean air. President Trump will face massive resistance to this misguided executive order."

The Waterkeeper Alliance pointed out that the assumption that regulations have a negative impact on job creation is false.

"The reality is that only two-tenths of one percent of layoffs are caused by all governmental regulations, including environmental ones," the organization said. "Earlier this month, job loss was cited as a major reason for overturning the Stream Protection Rule despite the fact that the Congressional Research Service found the rule would have created as many jobs as it eliminated. If implemented, the Stream Protection Rule would have protected an estimated 6,000 miles of streams over the next two decades from the devastating effects of mountaintop removal coal mining."

Earlier at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland on Friday, Trump promised to slash 75 percent of regulations all while claiming he wanted to "protect our environment."

"We're going to put the regulation industry out of work and out of business. And by the way, I want regulation. I want to protect our environment. I want regulations for safety," Trump said, according to CNBC. "I want all of the regulations that we need and I want them to be so strong and so tough. But we don't need 75 percent of the repetitive, horrible regulations that hurt companies, hurt jobs."

But Trump's first month in the White House has been a nightmare for environmentalists and the planet alike. He has appointed a cabinet full of polluters with ties to the fossil fuel industry, and signed executive orders to push through the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline and nullify Obama-era climate policies such as the Stream Protection Rule.

And as Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group's senior vice president for government affairs, put it, "President Trump is engineering the most hostile assault on public health, and mark my words, his administration's planned destruction of many rules will put the health of millions of hard-working Americans and their families in jeopardy."

Incidentally, it emerged Friday morning that his daughter, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner pushed the president to exclude language that criticized the Paris agreement from an upcoming executive order, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Led by Food & Water Watch, more than 200 public interest and environmental groups sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today, urging the agency to heed the recommendation of its own independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) and clarify the seemingly unsupported top-line finding of the June 2015 draft fracking report.

The EPA's June 2015 draft of the study featured a dismissive and unsupported topline finding—that fracking has not led to "widespread, systemic" problems nationally, as if that should be the bar. The groups back the SAB's recommendation that the EPA either drop the controversial language or provide a "quantitative analysis" to support it.

The letter, signed by hundreds of national, statewide and local environmental and public interest groups, representing millions of members, was sent directly to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It is being sent on the heels of an EnergyWire FOIA report indicating that the Obama White House was engaged in the "messaging" for the rollout of the controversial EPA study, stating that "White House aides kept tabs on what the 'topline messages' would be."

In the letter, environmental groups specifically call on the EPA to revisit its statement of findings, consistent with the SAB recommendations, and resolve the three major problems with the controversial line:

1. The EPA did not provide a sense of what the agency would have considered "widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States."

2. The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because it presumes, without discussion, that looking on a national scale, over several years, provides an appropriate metric for evaluating the significance of known impacts.

3. The "widespread, systemic" line is problematic because the EPA failed to explain adequately the impediments to arriving at quantitative estimates for the frequencies and severities of the impacts already occurring.

The letter continues:

"By dismissing fracking's impacts on drinking water resources as not 'widespread, systemic,' the EPA seriously misrepresented the findings of its underlying study. This has done the public a disservice. We feel the agency now owes it to the public—and particularly to those already impacted by 'hydraulic fracturing activities'—to address these criticisms."

Other organizations that signed today's letter include: Sierra Club, Indigenous Environmental Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, Earthjustice, League of Conservation Voters, Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth, 350.org and Clean Water Action.

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