As Americans, we have a right to expect that the people we entrust with public service will work toward good governance, put the national interest first, advance the mission they're given, and do so with integrity.
As administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pruitt has a single overriding responsibility: to protect the environment and public health. Instead, he's protecting big polluters as he moves to delay or weaken needed safeguards at the direct behest of one industrial lobbyist after another.
As a senior official in the executive branch, he has an obligation to work on behalf of the people. Instead, he's setting the public interest aside, putting special interests first, and making the public pay the price.
And in his role overseeing the work of some 15,000 professional staffers, he has a duty to set an example of good judgment and ethical conduct. Instead, he's become the administration's poster boy for repeated lapses in both.
There's his sweetheart condo deal with the wife of a fossil fuel lobbyist. And his insistence on flying first class when the taxpayers are buying the ticket, citing security concerns that somehow vanish when Pruitt pays the fare for personal flights home to Oklahoma. On Tuesday we learned that an inquiry by the EPA's own Homeland Security office could find no evidence of any security threat that might justify the estimated $3 million in taxpayer money spent so far on Pruitt's security detail.
Small wonder he's become a late-night punchline. There's nothing funny, though, about the damage he's trying to do to the EPA and its capacity to protect the public from the real threats of toxic pollution and industrial ruin.
Pruitt's greatest affront to the country is his single-minded effort to weaken, delay or do away with the EPA standards and rules that defend our air and water, protect us from toxic pesticides and chemicals, and enable us to fight the growing dangers of climate change.
Those commonsense safeguards are grounded in sound science, the public interest, and the rule of law, as Pruitt is finding out in our courts. That hasn't stopped him from trying to gut those protections, and this is more than reason enough to fire him.
The way Pruitt conducts himself in office, though, warrants termination on ethical grounds. On Monday evidence emerged that Pruitt can't be taken at his word, when two EPA staffers told The Atlantic of an email showing that Pruitt personally authorized a $56,765 raise for a favored aide after the White House rejected the increase as inappropriate. Pruitt last week blamed the incident on "my staff," claimed he did not know who was responsible, and told Fox News that "the officials that were involved in that process should not have done what they did."
In response to the contradictory email, EPA chief of staff Ryan Jackson put out a carefully worded statement, saying "Administrator Pruitt had zero knowledge of the amount of the raises, nor the process by which they transpired. These kind of personnel actions are handled by EPA's HR officials, Presidential Personnel Office and me."
The issue here, of course, isn't process. It's integrity. We're being asked to imagine Pruitt was somehow unaware that one of his closest aides was getting a ludicrous raise over White House objections. Even in Washington, that's not how it works.
The email controversy broke just hours after it was reported that the senior ethics official in the U.S. government―appointed by President Trump―had sent a scathing letter to his EPA counterpart, demanding to know whether Pruitt's long trail of ethical controversies had compromised his ability to serve with "impartiality" and whether Pruitt "is using his public office for private gain."
In the letter, David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, cited what he called "extremely concerning reports" that at least five EPA staffers who objected to Pruitt's imperious requests for lavish spending and special privilege were later demoted or reassigned or sought different jobs.
EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski was placed on leave without pay for pushing back on Pruitt's requests for spending on things like a $100,000-a-month fee to share a private jet or $70,000 for office furniture, including a bulletproof desk for the armed security agent stationed at all times within Pruitt's office suite.
Eric Weese was demoted from his position as head of Pruitt's security detail after refusing Pruitt's demand that he turn on emergency lights and a siren on a government-owned SUV to whisk the administrator to the airport and to dinner at his favorite French restaurant.
"If true," wrote the ethics chief, "it is hard to imagine any action that could more effectively undermine an agency's integrity than punishing or marginalizing employees who strive to ensure compliance with the laws and regulations that safeguard that integrity."
For Pruitt, destroying the integrity of the EPA has been job one since day one.
Pruitt came to office with zero credibility as an environmental advocate. Indeed, he built a career taking the EPA to court in an effort to hobble the agency on behalf of oil, gas, and coal companies. Now he's an embarrassment―if not to Trump, then to the entire country.
In his letter, Apol may have put it best. "The success of our Government," he wrote, "depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve."
Scott Pruitt has betrayed that trust. He cannot earn it back. It's time we bought him one last ticket home to Oklahoma―in coach.
- EPA Rolls Back Fuel Efficiency Standards ›
- 'I Don't Know How You Survive This One': Pruitt's Condo Scandal ... ›
Since 1970, the mission of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has been to protect the planet and all its inhabitants. There is no work more important than safeguarding the future that we leave our children.
And yet now, in these tremendously difficult times, it is our children who are showing us the way. In the weeks since the tragic deaths of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the survivors have responded with a remarkable display of resilience and resolve. Out of tragedy, they've found hope, galvanizing a national movement for change.
On Saturday, the students hope to stir our elected officials into action by leading the nation in the March for Our Lives on Washington, DC, where half a million Americans are expected to join them to stand up against gun violence. Legions of others will attend sister marches elsewhere—in New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Kansas City and more than 800 other cities across the country and around the world.
Pundits are already calling this a cultural watershed, the largest youth-led movement since the Vietnam War, with a new generation showing the rest of us the way to usher in needed change.
I'm in awe of these students, who have lit the American conscience and turned tragedy into promise. They've ignited a national movement. And they've embraced the power each of us has to be a voice and a force for progress.
It's time for them to lead, and we will follow.
Solar panels can provide electricity for decades, and they have few maintenance needs compared with other energy generation systems. However, regular solar panel cleaning is important to ensure they remain productive. When dust and debris accumulate on the surface of photovoltaic cells, they block sunlight, and less electricity is produced.
The best solar panels come with a power production warranty of 25 to 30 years. Like any device, they lose performance capacity over time. High-quality modules will only lose around 0.5% of their capacity each year, but this is only true for solar panels that are cleaned regularly. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, soiling can reduce panels' annual electricity output by up to 7% in some parts of the U.S.
Rain can naturally wash away dirt and particles from the surface of solar panels, especially if they are tilted. So if you live in a place with regular rainfall, your panels will be less affected by soiling. However, solar panel cleaning services are still recommended two to four times per year to make sure your system stays productive.
Recommended Solar Panel Cleaning Schedule
Solar panels are exposed to dust, dirt and bird droppings all year long. Depending on where you live, there may also be seasonal issues that affect panels, and you must make sure these are handled properly. Below are our solar panel cleaning tips for each part of the year.
As you might guess, a large amount of falling leaves can block a lot of sunlight if you let them accumulate on your solar panels. However, even a small number of leaves can have a major impact on power generation, due to how solar panels work:
- The photovoltaic cells that make up a panel are wired in series. When even one cell is covered completely by a leaf, the entire panel becomes less productive.
- Consider that the solar panels themselves are also wired together in strings (series circuits) and connected to an inverter. If one panel in the circuit has issues, all others will be affected.
- As a result, a single large leaf can affect an entire row of panels if it fully covers one solar cell. As more leaves accumulate, the electricity output continues to drop.
You can clean the leaves on your own, but you should get a rake that is specifically designed for solar panels. Otherwise, you can damage the surface of the solar panels, and your manufacturer warranty may be voided due to rough handling.
Snow and ice become the main issue for solar panels when the winter arrives. Most high-quality modules have low temperature ratings and will not be damaged by cold weather, but a thick layer of snow can block sunlight and stop electricity production.
- Snow should be cleaned from solar panels and other roof surfaces as soon as possible.
- Otherwise, the snow can melt and freeze back into ice, which is more difficult to remove.
The sun can help you by melting some of the snow and ice on your roof, but solar panel cleaning might still be necessary after a heavy snowfall. Again, you will need a specialized solar panel snow rake. Avoid ice scrapers and any other tools that may scratch or damage solar cells.
There is plenty of pollen in the air during spring, and it can accumulate on solar panels and lower energy production. Regular washing is recommended during this season to prevent pollen buildup. If you're not sure how much pollen you're expected to get, many weather forecasts provide information on pollen levels, and there are also online resources where you can check pollen counts for your zip code.
Pollen allergies are very common, and they tend to worsen during spring. If you or someone else in your home is sensitive to pollen, you might prefer to hire a solar panel cleaning service to avoid direct exposure.
During summer, the cleaning needs of solar panels will depend on your climate and weather conditions:
- In regions that get plenty of rain during summer (hurricane season), there is little need to clean your panels because the weather will do the job for you.
- Regions with less rainfall tend to be hot and dry during summer (fire season), and regular maintenance may be necessary to remove extra dust, ash and other particles.
Solar panels can achieve their highest electricity savings during summer, since there are more hours of sunlight per day. However, this is only true when they are kept clean of grime. Dirty solar panels will always have a lower energy output, no matter the season.
How to Clean Solar Panels
Cleaning solar panels on your own can be dangerous — especially if they are installed on a hard-to-access roof area. In these cases, paying for a solar panel cleaning service is a safer option.
- Many of the best solar companies offer cleaning services. Some local solar installers may even offer free cleaning for a limited time after your purchase.
- You can also get in touch with professional cleaners who specialize in solar panel maintenance.
Another option to keep your solar panels clean is installing a sprinkler system like that from Heliotex. These remove dust and other particles automatically. With this type of system, solar panels can also be cleaned more frequently, as nobody needs to climb on your roof. With no chance for dust to accumulate, you generate more kilowatt-hours of energy over time and your power bill savings are higher, lowering your overall solar panel payback period.
DIY Solar Panel Cleaning
Cleaning solar panels on your own is also an option, especially if you have a ground-mounted solar system that you can reach easily. However, you must make sure the panels are not damaged while taking all the necessary precautions to avoid accidents.
To clean your solar panels without damaging them, take note of the following recommendations:
- Use soapy water, avoiding harsh chemicals. Something as simple as diluted biodegradable soap should do the job.
- Use a non-abrasive sponge or a soft brush and squeegee.
- Use a standard garden hose, since a pressure washer can damage your solar panels.
To keep yourself safe, be extra careful when cleaning a rooftop solar system, especially if you have a high-pitched roof. We recommend wearing personal protective equipment including a hardhat and safety harness at the bare minimum.
Also, make sure you stay hydrated while cleaning your solar panels, and avoid working in extreme heat. The risk of heatstroke should not be underestimated, and you will need emergency medical attention if it happens to you. Early morning and evening are the best times of the day for solar panel cleaning, or you can wait to wash your solar panels on a cloudy day.
Cost of Solar Panel Cleaning Services
Solar panel cleaning companies normally either charge per module or charge a flat rate for the entire array. You can expect to pay between $5 and $10 per panel, or $150 to $200 for the entire system, though prices may vary depending on location, season and other factors.
If you don't have solar panels yet, some installers may offer free cleaning for a limited time after your purchase. However, this shouldn't be the main factor when choosing your solar provider. Free cleaning is a nice perk, but make sure you're actually getting a high-quality installation.
How to Tell When Your Solar Panels Need Maintenance
As mentioned above, solar panels are very durable and 25- to-30 year warranties are standard in the industry. However, solar power systems are only productive when their surface is kept clean. Dust, particles and objects will not cause permanent damage, but their electricity output can be reduced drastically.
If your solar panels are producing less electricity than usual, even with sunny weather, they could need cleaning or maintenance. There are two main ways to detect electricity production issues:
- Many solar inverters now come with energy monitoring apps, and you can simply check the electricity production with your smartphone. If there is a significant drop in the daily kilowatt-hour output, the app will let you know.
- When your solar panels are producing less electricity, there will also be an impact on your electricity bill. You will notice that more kilowatt-hours are consumed from the grid, which means you pay a higher bill.
Checking your energy monitoring app regularly is a good habit when you have solar panels. You can detect issues faster and get them fixed, instead of waiting for the next power bill. By then, you will have already used a lot of electricity from the grid.
FAQ: Solar Panel Cleaning
Do solar panels need to be cleaned?
Yes, solar panels need regular cleaning, ideally two to four times per year. They are only productive when sunlight reaches their solar cells, and anything that blocks sunlight reduces their output. This includes dust, dirt, pollen, leaves, snow, ice, bird droppings and any other particles or objects that remain on their surface.
What should I use to clean solar panels?
To clean solar panels, you should use a cleaning method that will not damage the cells. Solar panels should be washed with soapy water and a non-abrasive sponge, or a soft brush and squeegee. If you need to remove leaves or snow, look for a specialized solar panel rake and avoid any cleaning tools that could scratch their surface. An easier and safer option is hiring a professional solar panel cleaning company.
Does cleaning your solar panels make a difference?
Yes, cleaning your solar panels has a major impact on panel productivity. According to NREL, soiling can reduce the annual output of your solar panels by up to 7%.
How much does it cost to hire someone to clean solar panels?
When hiring a solar panel cleaning service for your home energy system, you can expect to pay around $5 to $10 per panel or a flat fee of $150 to $200.
Leonardo David is an electromechanical engineer, MBA, energy consultant and technical writer. His energy-efficiency and solar consulting experience covers sectors including banking, textile manufacturing, plastics processing, pharmaceutics, education, food processing, fast food, real estate and retail. He has also been writing articles about energy and engineering topics since 2015.
President Trump has launched the most sweeping industrial assault in history on our oceans, marine life, coasts and all they support, proposing to expose nearly all U.S. waters to the risk of another BP oil spill–style disaster.
In a move that would put every American coastal community at risk, Trump proposed Thursday to hand over vast reaches of waters currently protected from drilling—in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans—to the oil and gas industry.
If Trump gets his way, iconic fishing grounds like George's Bank, treasured recreational waters like the Florida Straits, and critical marine-breeding areas like those off the California coast would be exposed to the dangers of blowouts, explosions, catastrophic spills, seismic blasting and other perils that come with these inherently hazardous industrial operations at sea. We could see drill rigs going up in federal waters off our coasts from Maine to Florida, from California to Alaska, and everywhere in between.
Trump's proposal comes on the heels of two moves that needlessly increase those dangers. Over the holidays, the Trump administration proposed weakening offshore drilling and production safeguards that grew directly from lessons learned from the BP disaster. And earlier in December, the administration killed an independent study needed to help modernize and strengthen responsible public oversight of oil and gas operations at sea. This three-front assault on our oceans and coasts is madness—and it's maddening.
We all remember the 2010 BP blowout that killed 11 workers, dumped more than 200 million gallons of toxic crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and threw scores of thousands of people out of work. Watching oil gush into pristine ocean waters for 87 days while the industry fumbled, unable to stop it. The ghastly pictures of pelicans, dolphins, turtles and other marine life dying and coated in oil that polluted more than 1,100 miles of coast. And the presidential commission that told us what went wrong and what we needed to do to prevent anything like it from happening again.
Trump wants us to forget all that and let the oil and gas industry have its way with our workers, waters and wildlife. Far from protecting us from the next BP-type disaster, he's increasing the odds of another one.
If Trump gets his way, we'll know less about the dangers of offshore drilling, we'll have fewer tools to reduce those risks, and we'll have more waters and coasts exposed to hazard and harm.
And for what?
The U.S. will produce more crude oil today—9.2 million barrels—than at any other time since the early 1970s. When you add natural gas liquids, which are refined much like crude oil, we're up to 12.9 million barrels a day, our highest level ever and up 90 percent over just the past decade.
To those who think oil is a national security commodity, we now export 6.2 million barrels of crude oil and refined petroleum products each day—up 343 percent since 2008. That's enough to meet a third of our daily demand, but the industry is shipping it overseas.
This isn't about national security or some speechwriter's pipe dreams of energy "dominance." It's about putting fossil fuel profits first—and putting the rest of us at risk. Its reckless. It's reprehensible. It's wrong.
There may be nothing more essential to the natural systems that support and sustain all life on earth than clean and healthy oceans. Oil and gas production at sea puts all that at risk of blowouts, explosions, disastrous spills and the sonic blasts used in exploration that can be dangerous, even lethal, to whales and other marine life. Burning oil and gas creates carbon pollution that drives climate change—warming our oceans, raising sea levels, and threatening our coastal communities. And much of that carbon pollution settles into our oceans, making our waters more acidic and wreaking havoc on shellfish, coral reefs and other foundational forms of life at sea.
Protecting the waters that sustain life on our planet begins with ending our reliance on fossil fuels as quickly as possible, by investing in energy efficiency so we do more with less waste; modernizing our transportation systems; and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.
As we shift away from the dirty fuels of the past toward cleaner, smarter ways to power our future, we must limit, not expand, the waters that are exposed to the hazards of offshore drilling. And we must do everything we can to reduce the risks of what is, by its nature, dangerous work, by strengthening commonsense safeguards, not weakening them.
Trump is trying to take us in exactly the wrong direction. This, though, is not a done deal—far from it. These are public waters; they belong to you and me, and we have a say in their care. It's time for all of us to join with the hundreds of state, local, and federal elected officials, tens of thousands of business leaders, and half a million fishing families who understand how much healthy oceans mean to us and want to protect these waters and all they support from the hazards and harm of offshore drilling.
Nobody voted for this reckless assault on our oceans. It's time we stood up to put a stop to it.
Rhea Suh is the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Like any arbitrary benchmark, the 100-day point of a new president's term normally tells us only so much about what's to come. In the case of President Trump's all-out assault on our environment and health, however, we've already seen more than enough.
In his first three months on the job, Trump has acted again and again to undo half a century of bipartisan progress in protecting our rights to clean water, air and lands. He's moved to part ways with longstanding American values of conservation in the public interest. And he's betrayed the covenant we've forged with our children to leave them a livable world.
That's not a plan to put America first. It's about putting industrial polluter profits first―and putting the rest of us at risk.
Presidents don't get to roll back generations of hard-won gains with the stroke of a pen. Working with his fellow Republicans in Congress, Trump has already killed rules to protect coal communities from mountaintop demolition that destroys forests and streams. And he may expose more public lands to the ravages of coal mining.
Much of what he's ordered, though, can be halted, slowed or turned back around―in the court of public opinion or in a court of law. To do that, we'll have to stand together and give real voice to truth against a president intent on using the full powers of his high office to try to eliminate the tools we need to protect our families and communities from ongoing harm.
From his first week in office, Trump and congressional Republicans have attacked the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, the lands that grow our food and the wild places we share. He's put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the thumb of Scott Pruitt, an avowed foe of the agency's mission, while proposing to gut the EPA budget and staff.
He's taken on the very notion of responsible public oversight with an unlawful and baseless order to scrap two existing regulations for every new one put in place―as though we can cope with emerging threats only if we pretend the old ones no longer exist.
Any one of these tacks would be cause for national alarm and public rebuke. Taken as a whole, the Trump broadside attack on the nation's environment and health demands the united and concerted opposition of every American, from red state and blue, who cares about our common future.
Whatever our political leanings, we all should be shocked at this radical campaign to roll back environmental safeguards, abandon important national goals and hobble our environmental steward, the EPA. Trump's reckless attempts to do just that run wildly at odds with the will of the people, as a raft of recent polling proves.
A solid 61 percent of the country disapproves of Trump's big polluter agenda, an April poll by Quinnipiac University found. Just 19 percent want the EPA weakened or eliminated, according to a January Reuters poll, with 61 percent saying the agency should be strengthened, expanded or kept at its current strength. Trump, though, has proposed slashing the agency's budget by 31 percent, taking it back to 1990 funding levels and cutting staff by 20 percent.
In one policy area after another, in fact, the disparity between Trump's actions and public opinion is striking:
Protecting Our Waterways
- Drinking Water: Nationally, fears over water pollution hit a 16-year high in March, with 63 percent of Americans telling the Gallup polling organization they worry "a great deal" about drinking water pollution. Who could blame them? Trump has directed Pruitt to dismantle the Clean Water Rule, put in place to protect wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for one in every three Americans.
- Great Lakes: Trump's cuts would end federal funding to reduce industrial and municipal waste, toxic contaminants and other pollution in the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere. Who's with Trump on that one? Not the people who understand it the most. In Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and nearby states, 86 percent of the public supports the federal effort to clean up the Great Lakes.
- Chesapeake Bay: Trump has proposed killing, also, a multi-state plan to clean up the nation's largest natural estuary, the Chesapeake Bay, which is being strangled by the toxic runoff from a 64,000-square-mile watershed that reaches nearly to Canada. That flies directly against the interests of those who live at the mouth of the bay: 94 percent of Virginians support the federal bay cleanup program, according to an April poll by Christopher Newport University.
- Clean Energy: What about Trump's belittling disdain for American clean energy innovation and enterprise? Turns out 71 percent of the country favors wind, solar and other alternative energy over oil, gas and coal, with all the damage and danger they bring, according to an April Gallup poll.
- Dirty Energy: Fully 59 percent of survey respondents say environmental protection should come ahead of fossil fuel development, with just 23 percent preferring dirty energy to clean water and air. The 26-point gap between the two, by the way, is the largest margin since Gallup began asking the question 15 years ago.
Trump has directed the EPA to weaken or eliminate standards to clean up the cars and dirty power plants that together account for 60 percent of the U.S. carbon pollution that's driving global climate change. That's a stone-cold loser in the public mind. Drivers like saving billions of dollars a year at the pump, and an April poll by Quinnipiac found that 76 percent of the public is "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about climate change, with 62 percent saying Trump should not backtrack on standards and rules put in place to fight it.
- Climate Action: Far from supporting Trump's retreat from the climate fight, 59 percent of poll respondents say the country needs to be doing even more to fight the carbon pollution that's causing seas to rise, turning croplands to deserts, and contributing to raging wildfires, flooding, droughts and storms.
- Jobs: Fully 68 percent of Americans understand that we can fight climate change and support economic growth, like the gains that have put three million Americans to work helping us to become more efficient, building all-electric and hybrid cars and getting more clean power from the wind and sun.
- Research: The Quinnipiac poll found that 72 percent of Americans say it's a "bad idea" for Trump to slash funding for the scientific research we need to better understand climate change and other threats to our environment.
A hundred days into Trump's presidency, we've already seen more than enough. It's time to gather as one and speak out against his senseless campaign to turn back the clock on 50 years of environmental gains and stanch the promise of more progress to come.
On Saturday, April 29, I'll travel, along with thousands of others, to Washington, DC, to march with the People's Climate Movement. I hope you'll join us, in the nation's capital or in any of dozens of sister marches across the country, to show Trump just how far out of step his policies are with the will of the people he serves.
Let's put Donald Trump on notice. Let's show him what we believe. We won't back down from this challenge. We won't back down from this fight. We'll defend our health and environment. We'll hold fast to the values we share. We'll stand up for our children's future and their right to a livable world.
For all the bewilderment and chaos of President Trump's first month in office, on one point he's been all too clear: He is dead set on destroying the commonsense safeguards we all depend on to protect our environment and health, crippling our government's ability to stand up to industrial polluters and shutting down the voice of the people in those actions that most impact our lives.
As early as this week, Trump is expected to escalate this assault with orders that could threaten our waters, public lands and hopes of leaving our children a livable world. He is reportedly poised to direct his administration to rewrite the Clean Power Plan (the single-most important tool we have for cutting the U.S. carbon pollution that's helping to drive climate change), rewrite the Clean Water Rule (putting at risk wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for 117 million Americans) and lift the moratorium on new coal leases on our public lands.
And let's be just as clear as to who'll pay the price for this reckless assault on our values and rights: our families, workers, communities and kids. That is not okay.
OMG! Assault on the #EPA Begins: Trump to Sign Two Executive Orders https://t.co/fNV2qNlMrs @climatehawk1 @greenpeaceusa @billmckibben @350— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1487688698.0
It's all according to a plan ripped straight out of the playbook of big oil, coal and gas. And, like so much else we've seen from this administration so far, it's built on the sand of state-sponsored deceit.
Trump claims it's about jobs. It's not. It's about profits for some of the worst polluters on the planet. He says this will strengthen our economy. It won't. Shifting to cleaner, smarter ways to power our future is the economic play of our lifetime. Trump wants to slam us into reverse and squander our future on the dirty fuels of the past.
And he boasts this will "make America great again." But taking us back to the days when rivers caught fire, beaches were blackened with toxic crude oil and air pollution darkened our skies is not great.
Less than five weeks after taking office, Trump and his Republican allies in Congress have rushed to set back progress achieved through decades of bipartisan cooperation on clean water and air, the protection of our public lands and coastal waters and our obligation to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change.
Trump has killed rules to protect coal communities and mountain streams from the ravages of mountaintop removal. He's swept aside the voice of the Standing Rock Sioux and vowed to force the Dakota Access Pipeline across their water sources and sacred lands. And he's put a career opponent of environmental protections in charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt has sided with industrial polluters to take the EPA to court 14 times to try to block the agency from doing its job of protecting the public from polluted air and water and the perils of unchecked climate change.
Pruitt has turned to oil and gas producers to write letters critical of EPA policy that he has then posted, almost verbatim, on official stationery of the Oklahoma office of attorney general. He's accepted more than $300,000 in direct political contributions from oil and gas companies and organized the collection of millions more from the industry on behalf of conservative causes and candidates. Just last week, an Oklahoma court ordered Pruitt to release up to 3,000 e-mail exchanges he had with fossil fuel and other industrial interests.
Judge orders #Trump's @EPA pick #pollutingPruitt to release emails by Tuesday https://t.co/qie7rQ5cXm— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1487338632.0
Those e-mails will tell us, in Pruitt's own words, just how ready he is to regulate these polluting industries as head of the EPA. That information goes directly to Pruitt's fitness to serve and that''s precisely what the Senate has a constitutional duty to assess. That's what checks and balances are all about.
And yet, on Feb. 17, rather than wait a few days for those e-mails, Senate Republicans, joined by two Democrats from coal-mining states, forced a 52–46 vote to confirm Pruitt. Among Republicans, only Susan Collins of Maine showed the courage to stand up for the people of her state and vote to reject Pruitt, the worst pick ever confirmed to head the EPA.
True to form, shortly after being sworn into office, Pruitt tweeted out his mission statement: "I'm dedicated to working w/stakeholders—industry, farmers, ranchers, business owners—on traditional values of environmental stewardship."
In so many ways, that says it all. Pruitt is there to serve special interests, not to do the job President Richard Nixon first assigned the EPA nearly five decades ago: Defend the natural resources upon which our prosperity, our security and our very lives depend.
What does Pruitt's tweet say, though, to that family in coal country, watching ancient Appalachian streams buried by tons of toxic scree when mountains get dynamited to rubble? What does it say to that waterman in the Chesapeake Bay, where Pruitt fought EPA cleanup efforts meant to save dying crabs, oysters and fish? What does it say to that child struggling with asthma, that senior citizen plagued with respiratory ailments or that expectant mom worried about mercury harming her unborn baby—all real problems addressed by EPA rules Pruitt went to court to try and overturn? And what does it say to our children and grandchildren when they ask why we failed to stand up to the mounting dangers of climate change?
The EPA is our environmental guardian. We need that guardian to be strong. We need it to stand up to industrial polluters and fight for the good of our people.
This story, though, is just being written. It's the beginning, not the end. We still hold, in this country, more political power in the palm of our hand than any other people in any other place at any other time in the history of the world.
We will not abide this reckless assault. We will not lie quiet and calm. We'll embrace our political power. We'll rise as one and resist. We'll gather in numbers, both large and small and, from our living rooms and kitchen tables to the halls of Congress and the National Mall, we'll sound the voice of a united people standing up for a healthy environment, standing up for our values and rights, standing up for our common future.
Before Inauguration Day, the Trump era has opened with an extremist agenda that poses an alarming threat to our people, our environment and the core values we share about justice, fair play and our commitment to leave future generations a livable world. Already, we've seen a set of cabinet nominees dominated by fossil fuel advocates, billionaires and bankers; a president-elect who says "nobody really knows" what's happening to our climate; and a full-on witch hunt for the experts who know the truth.
#Trump Declares All-Out War on Environment With Fossil Fuel-Loving Cabinet https://t.co/8ZG3u1A6a6 @greenpeaceusa @Greenpeace @350 @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482084229.0
This is not normal. It's the most radical approach to American governance we've seen in our lifetime. Whatever we voted on in November, nobody voted for dirty water and air. Nobody voted to walk away from climate leadership and millions of clean energy jobs. And nobody voted to hand over our country to a pollute-ocracy that puts polluter profits first—and puts the rest of us at risk.
The following list addresses some, but not all, programs, policies and initiatives the Trump administration and GOP lawmakers have targeted. This could become the worst legislative and executive assault in history against the common sense safeguards we all depend on to protect our environment and health. At risk is the water we drink, the air we breathe, our public oceans, coasts and lands and the very approach we've taken for generations in this country to protect our common inheritance.
At the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), we will stand up and hold this government to account, by making sure the public understands what's at stake—for our country, our people and the common future we share.
Climate and Energy
The Clean Power Plan: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set the first national standards reducing dangerous carbon pollution from our largest source, fossil fuel power plants. The Clean Power Plan provides reasonable state-specific goals for carbon cuts, flexibility for states to meet them and a federal plan that will cut a key driver of climate change 32 percent by 2030 and stimulate growth in clean energy. More here and here.
Here are 10 questions the Senate must ask Scott Pruitt and Rex Tillerson. https://t.co/vsK1hAhcT4 via @EcoWatch— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1483562166.0
International Climate Agreement: The Paris climate agreement signed by nearly 200 nations and effective as of Nov. 4, 2016 is a global response to the threat of climate change. It aims to hold global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. More here and here.
HFC International Commitments: In October 2016, more than 140 countries signed onto the Kigali Agreement, which calls for phasing down powerful climate-warming pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under the Montreal Protocol, the treaty that saved the ozone layer. Industry supports the agreement. More here.
Reducing Methane Pollution and Natural Gas Waste in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry (BLM & EPA): These standards will reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxic air emissions from fracking and other oil and gas operations. Leaks and purposeful venting waste gas that could be sold and used while threatening health and worsening climate change. More here and here.
Restrictions on public financing for overseas coal projects: The Obama administration restricted U.S. funding for overseas coal power plants to limit climate change. This affects the Export Import Bank and other entities. More here.
Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Climate Impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (CEQ): The White House Council on Environmental Quality issued guidance to federal agencies on analyzing the climate impacts of their proposed actions before deciding on how to proceed. More here.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released an economic agenda Thursday that would eliminate safeguards for America's air, land, waters and food supply; open public lands to damaging oil and gas development; and worsen the impacts of climate change.
Trump photo: Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Trump went on the attack against clean air, safe water and food, and a livable future for our kids. His plan to make America dirty again reads like a polluter wish list. It would set us back a generation, taking a toll we can't afford on our air, climate, waters and even the meals we feed to our families.
Meet the Oil Billionaire Shaping #DonaldTrump’s Energy Policy https://t.co/QNGpvL9PK9 #RNCinCLE @greenpeaceusa @billmckibben @350 @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1469116230.0
Here's a reality check:
- The clean water rule provides needed safeguards to protect the sources of clean drinking water for one in every three Americans.
- Food safety standards help fight food contamination that threatens peoples' lives.
- Cutting smog pollution will save us billions of dollars each year by reducing the number of Americans forced out of work and into the emergency rooms with asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments that smog makes worse.
- Cleaning up the dirty power plants that account for 40 percent of our carbon footprint is essential to stave off the worse impacts of rising seas, widening deserts, soaring temperatures, raging wildfires and floods and storms.
Florida's algae problem is the latest reminder that we must act now to protect our waters and combat climate change.
It's as thick as guacamole, but you don't want it near your chips. You don't want it in your water, either, but that's exactly where it is, a sprawling mat of toxic algae the size of Miami, spreading out across Florida's storied Lake Okeechobee and from there along major rivers to the state's Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
Lake Okeechobee's blue-green algae bloom is visible from space.National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Fish are dying. Beaches are closing. People are getting sick.
"The smell is so bad it will make you gag," Mary Radabaugh told officials at a town hall meeting last week near Palm Beach. "We have red eyes and scratchy throats."
Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in affected areas and is pleading with Washington for assistance to cope with widespread threats to the environment and public health.
"South Florida is facing a crisis," Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, wrote in a letter July 6 to U.S. Senate leaders. "Beaches and waterways that would normally have been crowded this past Fourth of July weekend were empty as families and vacationers heeded warnings to avoid the toxic blue-green and brown algae blooms that have formed along the waterways and even out into the Atlantic Ocean."
'Guacamole-Thick' Algae Takes Over Florida's Atlantic Coast, 4 Counties Declare State of Emergency https://t.co/r3n8BhYXD4 @TheCCoalition— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467538505.0
The algae blooms that have thrown the Sunshine State into crisis are telling us three things. First, we need to protect our waters from the pollution that breeds these toxic blooms. Next, we need to fight the climate change that brings warmer temperatures that amp up algae growth. And finally, we need to demand real action on both fronts from our elected leaders at every level.
Algae blooms are a national problem. In recent years, we've seen them in water bodies as large as Lake Erie. There are a perennial problem near the mouth of the Mississippi River, where algae blooms strip oxygen from the water, creating a dead zone that threatens shrimp, fish, crabs and other marine life across a span of ocean the size of Connecticut in the rich fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico. They're a growing threat to our environment and health.
The immediate cause of the blooms can vary, but the common basics are these: Rains wash pollution from farms, septic tanks and other sources into our waters—from small streams and wetlands to great rivers and lakes—and municipal sewage systems add waste to these waters. These pollutants then supercharge the waters with nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. That feeds a population explosion for algae that feast on these nutrients. Warmer temperatures accelerate the growth.
Algae blooms, though, are toxic. Cyanobacteria is what scientists call them and they can cause skin and respiratory ailments as well as gastrointestinal and liver illness. In large doses, they can even threaten the nervous system. Humans can be affected by coming in direct contact with the algae; swallowing water at the lake, river or ocean; or even breathing water spray in which algae are growing.
Bloom in Lake Okeechobee https://t.co/e9oIOxcqec #NASA https://t.co/tLSPUFbCss— NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)1467813603.0
These toxins threaten marine life, birds and other wildlife as well. In addition, when algae die they decay, a process that robs water of oxygen, which can cause mass fish kills. Finally, a mat of algae like the one covering much of Lake Okeechobee starves underwater plant life of needed sunlight, in turn denying food to fish and other species dependent on those plants.
The fix is to set commonsense limits that keep pollution out of our waters and then to enforce those limits. That means requiring cities and towns to do a better job treating sewage and keeping it from entering the watershed after heavy rains. It means stopping large, concentrated animal feeding operations from dumping massive amounts of waste into our waters. It means applying standards to prevent industrial agricultural operations from polluting our waters with fertilizer that runs off their fields. And it means fighting the climate change that is warming our waters, helping to turn modest seasonal algae growth into crisis-level blooms.
We just wrapped up the hottest June ever recorded in the contiguous U.S.—a blistering 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average. Last year was the hottest year globally since record keeping began in 1880 and this year's first five months have been even hotter. Nineteen of the hottest years on record have occurred in the past 20 years.
Turning this around means shifting away from the dirty fossil fuels that are driving global climate change and investing in cleaner, smarter ways to power our future without imperiling the planet. The algae blooms in Florida are a reminder of how much this matters and how urgently we must act.