Trump Announces Final Rollback of Law That Gives Communities a Say in Fossil Fuel Projects
The target of Trump's latest rollback is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was signed into law by Richard Nixon 50 years ago, CNBC explained. It requires the federal government to consider the environmental impacts of major infrastructure projects like pipelines and highways and gives communities a chance to speak up on projects that will impact them. Advocates say its rollback will disproportionately harm low-income communities of color, who tend to be exposed to higher pollution levels.
"The Trump administration's anti-environment agenda is a racist agenda. Dismantling NEPA is a blatant attempt to silence the working class communities of color who are resisting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure into their communities," Greenpeace senior climate campaigner Lisa Ramsden told CNBC.
Trump is slated to announce a major rollback of #NEPA today — a bedrock environmental law that gives impacted and frontline communities a voice in weighing in on federal infrastructure projects that threaten public health and safety. https://t.co/ByXWIZfgb4— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) July 15, 2020
Trump announced the rollback, which was first proposed in January, at the UPS Hapeville Airport Hub in Atlanta, Georgia. He recalled being frustrated by the slow pace of the NEPA process as a construction magnate in New York and said the revised regulations would speed the expansion of I-75, a major Georgia thoroughfare for truckers, BBC News reported.
"This is a historical breakthrough that means better roads and highways," Trump said, as BBC News reported. "We are reclaiming America's proud heritage as a nation that gets things done."
Together we are reclaiming America’s proud heritage as a nation of builders! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/rznjEOTc54— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 16, 2020
Specifically, the administration is making the following changes, as The New York Times reported:
- Environmental studies will have to be completed in only one to two years.
- Certain activities will be exempted from environmental reviews altogether.
- Federal agencies will no longer have to consider a project's "cumulative" effects on the environment, such as its impacts on the climate crisis.
Trump argued that the changes would save hundreds of millions of dollars over almost a decade because they would speed reviews. He has also pushed to loosen regulations to boost the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In June, he signed an executive order mandating agencies bypass NEPA in order to expedite certain projects.
But Belinda Archibong, an assistant professor of economics at Barnard College of Columbia University, told The New York Times that simply lifting regulations did not do much to boost the economy.
"Saying 'We're going to pull back on regulation' does not mean that firms are going to start hiring more people. That's complete nonsense. All that's going to happen is it's going to lead to more pollution, period," Archibong said.
Trump has rolled back 100 environmental rules while in office, and this is one of the largest.
"This may be the single biggest giveaway to polluters in the past 40 years," Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in an email to EcoWatch. "The Trump administration is turning back the clock to when rivers caught fire, our air was unbreathable, and our most beloved wildlife was spiraling toward extinction. The foundational law of the modern environmental movement has been turned into a rubber stamp to enrich for-profit corporations, and we doubt the courts will stand for that."
HAPPENING NOW: While our most vulnerable communities continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic, the Trump administration has just finalized rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act and jeopardized the health and safety of everyone in America. https://t.co/nfEfmF7N57— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) July 15, 2020
While green groups have promised to sue to stop the changes, this may not be necessary. If Trump loses the November election, Congress could reverse the changes with a simple majority and the signature of the new president, CNBC pointed out. Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden has promised to undo Trump's environmental rollbacks if elected.
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By Peter A. Kloess
Picture Antarctica today and what comes to mind? Large ice floes bobbing in the Southern Ocean? Maybe a remote outpost populated with scientists from around the world? Or perhaps colonies of penguins puttering amid vast open tracts of snow?
Giants of the Sky<p>As their name suggests, these ancient birds had sharp, bony spikes protruding from sawlike jaws. Resembling teeth, these spikes would have helped them catch squid or fish. We also studied another remarkable feature of the pelagornithids – their imposing size.</p><p>The largest flying bird alive today is the <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/group/albatrosses/" target="_blank">wandering albatross</a>, which has a wingspan that reaches 11 ½ feet. The Antarctic pelagornithids fossils we studied have a wingspan nearly double that – about 21 feet across. If you tipped a two-story building on its side, that's about 20 feet.</p><p>Across Earth's history, very few groups of vertebrates have achieved powered flight – and only two reached truly giant sizes: birds and a group of <a href="https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/pterosaurs-flight-in-the-age-of-dinosaurs/what-is-a-pterosaur" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reptiles called pterosaurs</a>.</p>
Full-size model of a Quetzalcoatlus on display at JuraPark in Baltow, Poland. Aneta Leszkiewicz / Wikimedia<p>Pterosaurs ruled the skies during the Mesozoic Era (252 million to 66 million years ago), the same period that dinosaurs roamed the planet, and they reached hard-to-believe dimensions. <a href="https://www.wired.com/2013/11/absurd-creature-of-the-week-quetz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Quetzalcoatlus</a> stood 16 feet tall and had a colossal 33-foot wingspan.</p>
Birds Get Their Opportunity<p>Birds originated while dinosaurs and pterosaurs were still roaming the planet. But when an <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dinosaur-killing-asteroid-impact-chicxulub-crater-timeline-destruction-180973075/" target="_blank">asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula 66 million years ago</a>, dinosaurs and pterosaurs both perished. Some <a href="https://www.audubon.org/news/how-birds-survived-asteroid-impact-wiped-out-dinosaurs" target="_blank">select birds survived</a>, though. These survivors diversified into the thousands of bird species alive today. Pelagornithids evolved in the period right after dinosaur and pterosaur extinction, when competition for food was lessened.</p><p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/spp2.1284" target="_blank">The earliest pelagornithid remains</a>, recovered from 62-million-year-old sediments in New Zealand, were about the size of modern gulls. The first giant pelagornithids, the ones in our study, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75248-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">took flight over Antarctica about 10 million years later</a>, in a period called the Eocene Epoch (56 million to 33.9 million years ago). In addition to these specimens, fossilized remains from other pelagornithids have been found on every continent.</p><p>Pelagornithids lasted for about 60 million years before going extinct just before the Pleistocene Epoch (2.5 million to 11,700 years ago). No one knows exactly why, though, because few fossil records have been recovered from the period at the end of their reign. Some paleontologists cite <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/02724634.2011.562268" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate change as a possible factor</a>.</p>
Piecing it Together<p>The fossils we studied are fragments of whole bones collected by paleontologists from the University of California at Riverside in the 1980s. In 2003, the specimens were transferred to Berkeley, where they now reside in the <a href="https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of California Museum of Paleontology</a>.</p><p>There isn't enough material from Antarctica to rebuild an entire skeleton, but by comparing the fossil fragments with similar elements from more complete individuals, we were able to assess their size.</p>
In life, the pelagornithid would have had numerous 'teeth,' making it a formidable predator. Peter Kloess, CC BY-NC-SA
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As U.S. Election Nears, Polling Shows 82 Percent of Voters Support 100 Percent Clean Energy Transition
By Jessica Corbett
With an estimated 66 million ballots already cast and only a week to go until Election Day, new polling released Tuesday shows the vast majority of U.S. voters believe the nation should be prioritizing a transition to 100% clean energy and support legislation to decarbonize the economy over the next few decades.
<div id="5206f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="584d1641628f692ff103aee7ed74b45e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1321080152328208384" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Biden should get "uncontrolled climate change would cost $486 trillion" tattooed on his forehead imo https://t.co/nTbVdHa9gD</div> — Emily Atkin (@Emily Atkin)<a href="https://twitter.com/emorwee/statuses/1321080152328208384">1603805027.0</a></blockquote></div>
Arctic Ocean sediments are full of frozen gases known as hydrates, and scientists have long been concerned about what will happen when and if the climate crisis induces them to thaw. That is because one of them is methane, a greenhouse gas that has 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey has listed Arctic hydrate destabilization as one of the four most serious triggers for even more rapid climate change.