By Brian Palmer
Henhouse, meet foxes.
#EPA Chief Denies CO2 as Primary Driver of #ClimateChange https://t.co/r3AbWyBrJQ @SierraClub @ewg @350 @Agent350 @foodandwater @LeoDiCaprio— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489090914.0
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt renewed his science denier vows on Thursday, telling CNBC that human activity is not a "primary contributor" to the observed warming of the planet in recent decades. So it should come as no shock that he's stocking the upper levels of the EPA with fellow climate change deniers, according to a report by Coral Davenport in the New York Times.
Pruitt has started by borrowing personnel from his fellow Oklahoman, Sen. James Inhofe. To call Inhofe a climate change denier is inadequate. Inhofe is a climate change ridiculer. He is the Don Rickles of climate change, and he relishes his role as pantomime villain for climate change advocates, throwing snowballs in Congress and using the word hoax the same way Trump uses "SAD!" Pruitt's chief of staff and his chief of staff's deputy both come from Inhofe's orbit. Andrew Wheeler, Pruitt's candidate for deputy administrator at EPA, another Inhofe loyalist, has called the Paris climate agreement a "sweetheart deal" for China. It will be interesting to see how a team of science deniers will manage an agency of scientists.
If we must slash the EPA's staff and budget, can we at least keep the real experts and get rid of these guys?
Two-for-one already done?
Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 30 requiring federal agencies to repeal two existing rules for every new one they adopt, and to make sure that the combined cost of all rules issued this fiscal year is zero, regardless of net benefits. He called it "the biggest such act that our country has ever seen."
There's just one teensy problem: The order is unconstitutional. When Congress gives agencies the power to issue rules, Congress typically identifies the exclusive factors that the agencies must consider when formulating those rules. For example, Congress may tell the agencies to make decisions based on the best available science, the need to prevent serious environmental harm, or in some cases, whether the benefits of the rule to society outweigh its costs. But Congress has never authorized agencies to decide whether to implement environmental and health laws based on the factors set out in Trump's executive order: reducing the number of regulations on the books and reducing new regulatory costs to zero without accounting for overriding benefits. Under our Constitution, it is Congress's job to specify those factors, and a president has no authority to direct agencies to make decisions to issue or rescind rules based on other, inconsistent factors. This is why the Natural Resources Defense Council has sued to have the executive order declared illegal.
As Trump's own nominee for associate attorney general, Rachel Brand, conceded during her confirmation hearing, any regulatory action taken by an agency has to be "reasoned." But what could be less reasoned than eliminating two rules simply because the agency adopts an unrelated rule? The argument is facially preposterous: "Well, your honor, we had to allow mercury and lead contamination in order to prevent asbestos exposure." Yet, that's basically what Trump's executive order seems to require. Holding a new and important health or environmental standard hostage until the agency identifies two existing rules to rescind—and rescinding rules based on factors Congress never approved—is unlawful. If Trump does not understand that the Constitution does not empower him to tell agencies to ignore the law, then perhaps a federal court will set him straight.
Preparing for the flood without NOAA.
Perhaps even more than the EPA, NOAA poses the biggest challenge to Trump's habit of ignoring scientific evidence. The government's top climatologists work for NOAA, and the agency is the nation's greatest resource for sound scientific research on climate change and its effects. NOAA scientists have a tradition of independence and rigor—they are not to be tangled with, especially by a president whose own understanding of science seems shaky on a good day.
President George W. Bush learned this lesson. His credibility took a major hit in 2006 when government scientists like James Hansen accused him of censoring valid research for political reasons.
The biggest victim in Trump's NOAA budget cuts would be the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, which operates the satellites, radars, buoys, stations, and gauges that indicate changes in the earth's climate. The program has collected 20 petabytes of data about the state of our planet, approximately the same amount of data in 133 billion digital photos. It is a treasure trove of priceless scientific information, and slashing it to bits would be crazy. If climate science is truly unsettled, as Trump claims, collecting data is the only way to settle it.
Speaking of inconvenient data that Trump refuses to collect, Pruitt's EPA has told oil and gas companies they no longer have to measure the methane that they burn off or vent into the atmosphere. Not only are these methane losses wasteful—methane is the main component of the natural gas we burn for electricity—but they're damaging to the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide, and the Obama-era data collection order was a first step toward limiting its emission from existing drilling sites.
Even if Trump doesn't believe in climate change, it makes sense to monitor methane losses, because we have a right to know how much of the nation's fuel resources are being squandered. Refusing to collect that data is a tacit admission that Trump's administration knows climate change is real—the only credible reason not to monitor methane losses is to cover up the oil and gas industry's effects on the climate.
Copy, paste, repeat.
Scott Pruitt got in trouble in 2014 when the New York Times revealed that he had passed off a letter from an energy company and financial backer as his own work. Apparently, Pruitt is quickly rubbing off on the rest of the Trump administration.
On Monday, the White House issued a press release congratulating Exxon for making investments in American jobs. Not only did the statement cite investments announced long, long before Trump became president, but the White House press release copied an entire paragraph from Exxon's own statement without acknowledgement. Yes, folks, the White House has now outsourced its communications work to Exxon. Could they at least pretend to be separate entities?
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Tara Lohan
In 1999 a cheering crowd watched as a backhoe breached a hydroelectric dam on Maine's Kennebec River. The effort to help restore native fish populations and the river's health was hailed as a success and ignited a nationwide movement that spurred 1,200 dam removals in two decades.
Transmission lines from the Churchill Falls generating station in Labrador. Douglas Spott / CC BY-NC 2.0
Atlantic sturgeon were brought to the brink of extension in the 20th century and are now are listed as an endangered species. NOAA
Near Happy Valley-Goose Bay on the Churchill (Grand) River downstream from Muskrat Falls. Douglas Sprott / CC BY-NC 2.0
Construction of the Site C dam in British Columbia in 2017. Jason Woodhead / CC BY 2.0
The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is the first U.S. offshore wind farm. Dennis Schroeder / NREL / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
We pet owners know how much you love your pooch. It's your best friend. It gives you pure happiness and comfort when you're together. But there are times that dogs can be very challenging, especially if they are suffering from a certain ailment. As a dog owner, all you want to do is ease whatever pain or discomfort your best friend is feeling.
The excess carbon dioxide emitted by human activity since the start of the industrial revolution has already raised the Earth's temperature by more than one degree Celsius, increased the risk of extreme hurricanes and wildfires and killed off more than half of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. But geologic history shows that the impacts of greenhouse gases could be much worse.
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By Teri Schultz
Europe is in a panic over the second wave of COVID-19, with infection rates sky-rocketing and GDP plummeting. Belgium has just announced it will no longer test asymptomatic people, even if they've been in contact with someone who has the disease, because the backlog in processing is overwhelming. Other European countries are also struggling to keep up testing and tracing.
Meanwhile in a small cabin in Helsinki airport, for his preferred payment of a morsel of cat food, rescue dog Kossi needs just a few seconds to tell whether someone has coronavirus.