Trump’s Hand-Picked Scientists Rebuke EPA Rollbacks
A top science-advisory board staffed with many of the Trump administration's hand-picked appointees rebuked three of Trump's most sweeping rollbacks of environmental regulations as flying in the face of established science, as The New York Times reported.
The Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Board, which reviews the scientific integrity of EPA policies, published a draft letter on the last day of 2019. Three of the four draft reports published say the administration's policies run counter to established science. The advisory board, which Congress established in 1978, criticized rollbacks that would weaken regulations over waterways and wetlands, as well as a rollback of Obama-era regulations to reduce car and truck emissions. The board also criticized a change that would restrict the type of scientific studies that can be reviews when drafting health regulations, as The Washington Post reported.
In addressing tailpipe emissions, the draft letter gives a stinging rebuke to the administration's plan. "[T]here are significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis of the proposed rule," the letter says, as CNN reported.
In addressing waterway regulations, the advisory board draft letter says that the Trump administration's actions decrease protections "for our Nation's waters and [do] not support the objective of restoring and maintaining 'the chemical, physical and biological integrity' of these waters," as CNN reported.
It also said the rule "neglects established science" by "failing to acknowledge watershed systems," as The New York Times reported.
The EPA said it "appreciates and respects the work and advice of the" board, as CNN reported.
"The reports they posted are draft and will be discussed at their next meeting," EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer told CNN. "The final commentary and reports will be developed soon after the public meeting and then sent to the Administrator."
The EPA's decision to release the letters on the last day of the year seemed cagey and suspicious to environmental activists.
"The administration delayed releasing those Science Advisory Board reviews for months, and made them public only today – on New Year's Eve. It's clear that 2019 is ending as it began, with the Trump administration sidelining science and attacking the safeguards that protect American families from pollution," said Vicky Patton, general counsel at the Environmental Defense Fund, in a statement. "EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler must immediately withdraw these unlawful proposals that threaten the health and well-being of all Americans."
Legal scholars also noted that when the administration's handpicked scientists are questioning the policies, it might undermine the White House's arguments in the courts.
"The courts basically say if you're going to ignore the advice of your own experts you have to have really good reasons for that," said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of law with the Vermont Law School, to The New York Times. "And not just policy reasons but reasons that go to the merits of what the critiques are saying."
Stephen Hamburg, chief scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund who served on the advisory board for two terms before stepping down at the end of September, told The Washington Post that it is noteworthy that a board dominated by Trump's handpicked scientists, who have a reputation for backing industry and advocating for loosening regulations, found serious flaws in several Trump's proposals.
"It really calls the question to what degree these suggested changes are fact-based as opposed to politically motivated," said Hamburg.
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By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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