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Trump Disbands Panel That Helped Cities Respond to Climate Threat

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Texas National Guard soldiers conduct rescue operations in flooded areas around Houston, Texas on Aug. 27. 1Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD

By Jessica Corbett

In the Trump administration's latest attempt to quash any efforts by the federal government to raise awareness or mitigate the effects of climate change, a community resilience panel announced Monday that the president had terminated the two-year-old group.


Chairman Jesse Keenan, a Harvard University professor, told the other members of the Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems on Monday that there would be no further meetings and the panel would dissolve, per President Donald Trump's orders.

"This was the federal government's primary external engagement for resilience in the built environment," Keenan told Bloomberg News.

"It was one of the last federal bodies that openly talked about climate change in public," he added. "I can say that we tried our best and we never self-censored!"

The panel was created in 2015 by former President Barack Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and had more than 350 volunteer members. Its mission to guide municipal governments and local groups to improve buildings, communications, energy systems and transportation in response to climate threats made the panel especially vulnerable under the Trump administration.

Keenan told E&E News that the panel's ability to collaborate resilience efforts across local, state, and the federal government as well as the private sector were especially notable, and described the group's key activities:

We identified gaps in codes and standards, we proposed streamlined communications channels, we vetted best practices in design standards, we created guides for operators of infrastructure facilities, etc. ...

It was a very diffuse effort by virtue of the diversity of infrastructure sectors that we covered, but we built a meaningful entity that served as a direct avenue of engagement with the federal government.

The panel was sponsored by the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology, and co-sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Economic Resilience, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as its Office of Infrastructure Protection.

The group's members were scheduled to meet again in the spring of 2018.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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