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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) took to the floor of the House of Representatives yesterday to chide Republicans for not reading the Green New Deal, which she introduced over one year ago, as The Hill reported. She then read the entire 14-page document into the congressional record.
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These days, bipartisan collaboration sometimes seems impossible. But during National Clean Energy Week, Republicans and Democrats come together for meetings in Washington, D.C., and workshops across the country.
By Elliott Negin
On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.
Sidelining Science<div id="a0046" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="KTL07A1576661585"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1164145122381950977" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">“By allowing chlorpyrifos to stay in our fruits and vegetables, Trump’s @EPA is breaking the law and neglecting the… https://t.co/DCZpzQKdi9</div> — On Capitol Hill (@On Capitol Hill)<a href="https://twitter.com/EarthjusticeDC/statuses/1164145122381950977">1566388800.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Today's EPA offers a stark example of the Trump administration's crusade to dismantle science-based agencies. Nearly 1,600 employees <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/with-a-shrinking-epa-trump-delivers-on-his-promise-to-cut-government/2018/09/08/6b058f9e-b143-11e8-a20b-5f4f84429666_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.580c7cd37b13" target="_blank">left the EPA</a> during the first year and a half of the EPA administration, while only 400 were hired, according to data obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request. Of 1,600 employees <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/epa-workers-trump-administration-2603730765.html">who left</a>, at least 260 were scientists, 185 were "environmental protection specialists" and 106 were engineers. The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/budget" target="_blank">total number of employees</a> at the agency today — 14,172 — is the lowest in 30 years.<br></p><p>Besides chopping staff, the EPA has dramatically reduced the role of outside science advisers. Last fall, EPA Administrator <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/andrew-wheeler">Andrew Wheeler</a>, a former coal industry lobbyist, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/11/climate/epa-disbands-pollution-science-panel.html" target="_blank">disbanded</a> a 20-member scientific advisory committee on particulate matter, <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060102455" target="_blank">failed</a> to convene a similar panel on ozone, and <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060102455" target="_blank">packed</a> a seven-member advisory committee on air quality standards with industry-friendly participants.</p><p>The EPA is not the only agency pushing scientists out the door. The same day the EPA made its chlorpyrifos announcement, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/07/18/many-usda-workers-quit-research-agencies-move-kansas-city-brain-drain-we-all-feared/?utm_term=.c549e94ec861" target="_blank">announced</a> that nearly two-thirds of 395 Washington, D.C.-based employees in its Economic Research Service, which provides analyses on a range of issues, and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which oversees $1.7 billion in scientific funding, will quit rather than relocate to Kansas City.</p><p>The department's dubious rationale for moving the Research Service and National Institute is placing researchers closer to farmers and <a href="https://www.aaea.org/UserFiles/file/Report-MovingUSDAResearchersWillCostTaxpayers-AAEAReport2019june19final.docx.pdf" target="_blank">cutting costs</a>, but its ulterior motive is to hollow out their staffs, hindering their ability to carry out their missions. Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged as much during a <a href="https://www.c-span.org/video/?463060-1/mick-mulvaney-addresses-south-carolina-republican-party-gala&start=2412" target="_blank">speech</a> he gave at an Aug. 2 Republican fundraiser in South Carolina.</p><p>"You've heard about 'drain the swamp.' What you probably haven't heard is what we are actually doing," he said. "I don't know if you saw the news the other day, but the USDA just tried to move, or did move, two offices out of Washington, D.C…. Guess what happened? More than half the people quit…. What a wonderful way to sort of streamline government, and do what we haven't been able to do for a long time."</p>
Capitol Hill Science Defenders<p>Some members of Congress are fighting back. Late last month, for example, the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress — a temporary committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans — <a href="https://federalnewsnetwork.com/modernizing-congress/2019/07/house-modernization-committee-recommends-bringing-back-office-of-technology-assessment/" target="_blank">unanimously approved</a> a recommendation to resurrect the Office of Technology Assessment, a congressional watchdog agency that then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich <a href="https://ota.fas.org/2012/01/31/gingrich-said-to-decimate-congressional-expertise/" target="_blank">killed</a> in the mid-1990s.</p><p>The select committee's recommendation comes on the heels of a draft House <a href="https://appropriations.house.gov/news/press-releases/appropriations-committee-releases-fiscal-year-2020-legislative-branch-funding" target="_blank">spending bill</a> for the 2020 fiscal year that includes $6 million to jumpstart the agency, which provided Congress with <a href="https://ota.fas.org/otareports/" target="_blank">analyses</a> on a range of topics, from acid rain to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/">climate change</a> to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/renewable-energy/" rel="noopener noreferrer">renewable energy</a>, from 1972 to 1995.</p><p>Meanwhile, House Democrats and Republicans alike voiced their support for protecting federal science during a recent Science, Space and Technology Committee <a href="https://eos.org/articles/hearing-garners-bipartisan-support-for-scientific-integrity" target="_blank">hearing</a> on scientific integrity. <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/administration/eop/ostp/library/scientificintegrity" target="_blank">Two dozen</a> federal agencies have adopted scientific integrity policies since 2010, but they are inconsistent and difficult to enforce, so some members of Congress want to codify protections in a law.</p><p>"Allowing political power or special interests to manipulate or suppress federal science hurts, and hurts all of us," <a href="https://eos.org/articles/hearing-garners-bipartisan-support-for-scientific-integrity" target="_blank">said</a> New York Rep. Paul Tonko at the July 17 hearing. "It leads to dirtier air, unsafe water, toxic products on our shelves, and chemicals in our homes and environment. And it has driven federal inaction in response to the growing climate crisis."</p><p>Earlier this year, Tonko introduced the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1709/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22scientific+integrity+act%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=1" target="_blank">Scientific Integrity Act</a>, which would guarantee federal scientists the right to share their findings with the public, ensure the accuracy of government science-related communications, and protect scientific research from political interference.</p><p>Federal science has taken an unprecedented beating during the Trump administration and remains a long way from its glory days half a century ago when it landed men on the moon. Tonko recognizes that protecting scientific integrity is a critical first step to rebuilding American scientific enterprise and that it deserves bipartisan support.</p><p>"Scientific integrity is a longstanding concern that transcends any one party or political administration," Tonko <a href="https://eos.org/articles/hearing-garners-bipartisan-support-for-scientific-integrity" target="_blank">said</a>. "The abuses directed by this president and his top officials have brought a new urgency to the issue, but the fact remains whether a Democrat or Republican sits in the [House] speaker's chair or the Oval Office, we need strong scientific integrity policies."</p>
- Trump's EPA Won't Ban Brain-Damaging Pesticide - EcoWatch ›
- How to Avoid Brain-Damaging Chlorpyrifos in Milk and Produce ... ›
Nearly 8 in 10 Americans acknowledge climate change is occurring, and an increasing number of Republicans are also getting on board, new polling shows.
On Thursday, July 19 The Hill reported that the Republican controlled Congress passed a non-binding resolution saying a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions "would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States."
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives announced on Thursday a series of bills aimed at profoundly gutting the Endangered Species Act, including provisions making it almost impossible for imperiled species to gain protection and giving states that often oppose endangered species protection veto power over those decisions.
Now, renewable energy trade associations are raising the alarm about an eleventh-hour provision called the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) program that "would have a devastating, if unintended, impact on wind and solar energy investment and deployment," according to a letter addressed to the Senate.
Just this week, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries signed a paper issuing a urgent plea to global leaders about the "current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change." The article, titled World Scientists' Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice, is a wakeup call to anyone concerned about rapidly rising temperatures and stronger and more frequent extreme weather events.
But the dire warning could fall on deaf ears to a specific segment of the U.S. population: highly educated Republicans.
Their choice of president will, in part, determine the shape of U.S. climate policy for the next four years.
The Democrat and Republican parties — and their respective nominees — have spelled out radically different visions for the future of American energy and emissions reductions, as well as the country's participation in international efforts to tackle climate change.
The official party lines are expressed in the Democratic and Republican "platforms," the U.S. equivalent of a manifesto. Clinton has laid out a detailed plan for U.S. energy and climate policy on her campaign website. Trump outlined his own vision during a speech on energy in North Dakota.
Both candidates have also made various scattergun comments on the subject during their campaigns and careers.
Clinton and Trump have also announced who will be joining them as their respective vice presidents. Tim Kaine, senator for Virginia, will join the Democratic ticket, while Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, will join the Republicans.
Carbon Brief has collected the climate and energy views of the candidates, their vice presidents and their parties' platforms in an interactive grid. This will be constantly updated as the election approaches.
The recent ouster of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) from his Congressional seat has shaken Washington Republicans and rattled open several leadership positions. And—as hard as it is to believe—the House Republican conference apparently hadn’t even hit bottom yet.
You’d think that it’d be hard to get much worse than Cantor’s record when it comes to clean air, clean water and action to tackle the climate crisis. As Majority Leader, Cantor worked side by side with Speaker John Boehner on pushing a destructive legislative agenda for what has been called the most anti-environmental House in history. Cantor himself earned just a four percent positive lifetime environmental voting rating from the League of Conservation Voters. In other words, he was among the lowest of the low when it came to doing the bidding of big polluters.
Cantor led the way on votes that would bar the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from acting to curb climate-disrupting pollution, force the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, gut clean energy investments, take support away from job-creating clean energy projects and voted over and over again to give tax handouts to big oil companies. And all the while, he’s tried to open up our public lands to drilling and make it harder for the President to designate National Parks. Still, while it is no tragedy to see Cantor go, its no comfort to look at the records of those who will replace him.
Current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) just won an election among his colleagues to be promoted to Majority Leader. That’s the same McCarthy who somehow scored lower than Cantor on an environmental voting scorecard, garnering just three percent. In fact, between 2013 and 2014, McCarthy did not make a single pro-environment vote. Instead, he stood alongside Cantor in rallying support and votes for one of the most toxic agendas ever.
As Majority Whip, McCarthy spearheaded House Republican efforts to take nearly 500 votes attacking critical clean air and water safeguards, public lands protections and clean energy initiatives over just the last four years. And, now, with his eyes on a promotion, he’s flip-flopping on one of the few issues he was strong on by abandoning the Wind Production Tax Credit, better aligning his position with the right wing political ATM that is the Koch Brothers. Its no surprise—as Sierra Club’s Dave Hamilton explained.
“For years, Congressman McCarthy strongly backed the Wind Production Tax Credit as it supported thousands of California jobs, including many in his own district. He even pushed for the PTC to be extended to 2020,” said Hamilton. “But unfortunately the path to Republican leadership appears to now go straight through the Koch Brothers’ office. McCarthy is toeing the line by joining their call to kill competition from the wind industry by killing the PTC and American jobs right along with it."
While McCarthy is trying on a new brand of extremism, his promotion means a vicious fight broke out to fill his old Majority Whip post. And it was a race to the bottom.
The winner? Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), who has been spending much of his recent time attacking the EPA’s first-ever carbon pollution protections. You know—that policy supported by 67 percent of the American people. Why? Well, Scalise is notoriously chummy with fossil fuel lobbyists in Washington. According to the Republic Report, Former Congressional staffers from his office have gone on to work for trade groups that have made it a priority to attack clean air safeguards and push offshore drilling. And the Republican Study Committee that he chairs held meetings inside the office of the lobbying firm hired by the Koch Brothers to fight efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
In public, Scalise is just as bad. For example, he’s rejected climate science as a “myth.” His evidence for ignoring the calls for climate action resonating from 97 percent of scientists, the U.S. Military and NASA? Barack Obama wore a coat for his January 2013 inaugural address when he discussed the urgent need to tackle the climate crisis.
In other words, don’t expect a new era of reason from the Republican-led House despite the new faces in leadership. Instead, Scalise and McCarthy stand for the brand of extremism that’s been well practised there over the last four years, which puts polluters in the driver’s seat while everyone else is trying to catch a ride.
Here we go again. After the 2012 fiasco in which Congress failed to pass a Farm Bill at the eleventh hour, the Senate rallied early this month to pass its version of the national food and farming legislation—which is up for debate and renewal every five years.
Ten days later, the Farm Bill died again when the House failed to pass its own version of the 2013 bill. It’s not clear exactly what’s up next. But we're rolling up our sleeves—again—to press for the best legislation possible, and we fully hope and expect that Congress will pass a Farm Bill this year.
So what happened last week?
Here's the scoop. House Democrats resoundingly opposed dramatic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) included in the proposed bill. The proposed bill would have severely narrowed this aspect of our nation's social safety net, knocking two million current recipients out of the SNAP program.
What Will it Take?
Since we can expect Tea Party Republicans to oppose any bill without even greater SNAP cuts, the other Republicans and Democrats will need to work together.
And there are clear signs this is possible. Before the bill failed, the House passed a historic amendment limiting commodity payments. As policy analysts for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) explain, this may be the key—along with agreement on SNAP—to revival of the Farm Bill.
And several amendments with bipartisan co-sponsorship included important limits on government payments for insurance premiums. Unfortunately many of those amendments were among the 100+ that never made it to the floor for debate and vote.
So, creating a Farm Bill that could pass in the House means making less draconian cuts to the SNAP program, keeping reforms to commodity payment programs that were agreed to in the floor debate and making substantive reforms to crop insurance programs—which have surpassed the commodity programs in terms of government expenditure.
It will also mean including bipartisan amendments for rural economic development, local and regional food systems, organic agriculture and fair competition.
Meanwhile, On the Budget Side ...
In a separate process, both the House and Senate have to pass agriculture budgets every year to fund agriculture, rural development, nutrition and food safety programs. The huge gap in priorities between the House and Senate on the Farm Bill is also reflected in their budget proposals. They differ from one another by about $1.43 billion.
This week and last, the relevant Senate and House committees wrote up their proposal for agriculture spending for the 2014 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The full House is expected to take up the proposal next week. The full Senate will then follow.
While both House and Senate budgets allow for continued support of the important Conservation Stewardship Program, many conservation programs face cuts—including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and the Agricultural Management Assistance Program. Funding levels remain inadequate, even in the Senate bill, for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to fully deliver the conservation programs.
We’re happy to report that both budgets continue support for some key rural development programs including the Value-Added Producer Grants. The Senate budget also continues to fund important sustainable agriculture research, education and extension including the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program—the cornerstone program that has funded research on sustainable agriculture systems over the past 25 years.
A Long Haul That Isn't Over
Following the Fourth of July holiday, Congress will pick up where they left off and will—for better or for worse—decide the fate of U.S. agriculture for the next five years.
We won't let our guard down, and will continue to let readers know when opportunities arise to put the pressure on policymakers in Congress to pass smart legislation that is responsible to taxpayers, farmers and consumers—now and for future generations.
With more good news on jobs deflating their attacks on President Obama, Republican politicians and their media allies have gone into overdrive hyping high gas prices and falsely assigning blame to the president.
If Republicans really cared about high gas prices, they wouldn't keep us hooked on Big Oil.
Connect: Americans want relief from the pain they're feeling at the pump—not political games.
State of play: After protecting Big Oil profits and letting Wall Street speculators get away with driving up gas prices, Republicans are now trying to shift the blame.
Define: They're using false claims to blame the president—and promoting false solutions that won't lower gas prices for Americans, but will bankroll big profits for Big Oil.
Discredit: It's no surprise they'd protect Big Oil and Wall Street every step of the way and cheer when gas prices are high—they'd rather see Obama lose than America win.
ATTACKS AND RESPONSES
Attack: "Gas prices have doubled since Obama took office."
- After protecting Big Oil profits and letting Wall Street speculators get away with driving up gas prices, Republicans are now trying to shift the blame.
- The truth is that U.S. oil production is the highest in years and gas prices are lower than at the end of Bush's term.
- The recession Republicans helped cause sank gas prices just as Obama took office—so of course that's the misleading starting point they'd use.
- Actually, Keystone would allow Big Oil to manipulate the supply of oil in the region—driving up prices.
- An independent analysis not funded by the oil industry shows the pipeline could raise gas prices in the Midwest by 10 to 20 cents more per gallon.
- Even TransCanada, the company sponsoring Keystone XL, admits that the pipeline will enable foreign oil companies to make an extra $2 billion to $4 billion per year off of the U.S. economy, thanks to higher oil prices in the Midwest.
- With Keystone, Big Oil gets billions, foreign countries get the oil, and Americans get all the risks—plus higher gas prices.
- U.S. oil production is the highest it's been in years—and gas prices have still gone up.
- Oil companies are still raking in record profits, charging us $4 a gallon, and collecting billions every year in taxpayer handouts.
- The only way to protect American families and businesses—the entire American economy—from volatile gas prices is to kick our dependence on oil.
- So instead of protecting Big Oil at the expense of taxpayers, let's invest in cleaner, safer sources of energy that will put millions of Americans back to work and won't ever run out.
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