The Restoration of Environmental Regulation

The four long years of environmental deregulation came to an end on January 20 when Joe Biden took office. While the Trump administration’s legacy is one of relaxing and deleting environmental laws as giveaways to the oil and gas industry, the Biden administration has already made it clear it will restore environmental regulation. On the day Biden took office, he restored America’s place in the Paris Climate Agreement. By contrast, Trump signed an executive order within a few weeks after taking office requiring federal agencies to get rid of two regulations for every new regulation. 

Restoring scientific integrity in federal agencies

On January 27, Biden signed executive orders designed to bring back environmental regulation. One of those executive orders is titled the Presidential Memorandum on Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking. It directs federal agencies to make decisions based on the best available science and data. The memorandum gives the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy the responsibility for ensuring scientific integrity across federal agencies. 

The memorandum corrects one of the Trump administration’s last rules. Dubbed the “anti-science rule,” the Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information, limits what research the federal agency can use to set public health policy. The rule restricts the EPA’s use of key scientific studies when it considers taking regulatory action on pollution and toxic chemicals.

Tackling climate change 

Biden signed an executive order declaring net-zero global emissions by mid-century are required to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

  • The order affirms that the U.S. will exercise leadership in dealing with climate change. 
  • The order establishes the White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy, led by the National Climate Advisor and Deputy National Climate Advisor. It will be a central office in the White House with the responsibility to coordinate and implement the President’s domestic climate agenda. 

Instructing the federal government to lead by example

The executive order Biden signed on January 27 directs the federal government to lead by example. It directs federal agencies to procure carbon emission-free electricity and zero-emission vehicles. The purchases must be made in America, following Biden’s Buy American executive order. The order also directs federal agencies to develop a plan increasing the resilience of their operations and facilities to climate change impacts. 

Putting the brakes on new fossil fuel leases on public lands and fossil fuel subsidies

The executive order directs the Interior Secretary to put the brakes on new oil and natural gas leases on public lands and offshore waters. It directs the Interior Secretary to launch a review of all existing leases and permitting practices of fossil fuel development on public lands and waters. The DOI must also take steps toward doubling renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. Under the Trump administration, oil and gas leases were granted on public lands across America, including in Alaska’s Arctic area. 

The executive order directs federal agencies to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. U.S. direct fossil fuel subsidies are an estimated $20 billion a year, and that is a conservative estimate. The oil and gas industry receives 80 percent of the subsidies, while the coal industry receives 20 percent. 


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Trump’s Environmental Deregulation Legacy

No president did more to deregulate environmental protection than Donald Trump. Environmental deregulation started early. At the beginning of his administration, Trump signed an executive order that for every new regulation issued, at least two regulations must be identified for elimination. That was a signal we were in for a long deregulatory ride, one that lasted the entire four years of his administration. 

The environmental laws the Trump administration rolled back included replacing the Clean Power Plan, gutting the Endangered Species Act, and weakening both the Coal Ash Rule and Mercury and Air Toxic Standards. Every rollback represents a giveaway to Trump’s industry cronies. The oil and gas industry and the mining industry came before the environment in his administration. 

Replacing the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule 

The Obama administration proposed the Clean Power Plan in 2014 and finalized it in 2015. The CPP created carbon dioxide emission performance rates for two subcategories of fossil fuel-fired power plants. Carbon accounts for 82 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Under the CPP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that carbon emissions from the electricity sector would decrease by 32 percent below 2005 levels. Sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants were projected to drop by 90 percent, while nitrogen oxide emissions would drop by 72 percent. 

In March 2017, former President Trump issued an executive order directing the EPA to review the CPP, and in October 2017, the EPA proposed to rescind the rule. In 2019, the EPA finalized the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which rolled back the CPP. While the CPP set nationwide standards to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, ACE allows states to set their own standards. ACE will increase carbon emissions by over 600 million short tons by 2030, according to the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis

Gutting the Endangered Species Act

The Trump administration issued a new rule in December that weakened the Endangered Species Act by making it harder to protect critical habitat areas for threatened and endangered species. The rule narrows the definition of habitat by limiting it. The problem with limiting the definition is that climate change causes habitat degradation and loss, which is one of the main causes of extinction. 

The new rule amounts to a giveaway to the fossil fuel and mining industries. It allows the oil and gas industry to explore and extract in areas of critical habitat and allows mining industries to set up shop in areas where threatened and endangered species live. 

Weakening the Coal Ash Rule and Mercury and Air Toxic Standards

Coal ash occurs after power plants burn coal to produce electricity. It is one of the biggest types of industrial waste generated in the U.S. According to the EPA, in 2012, 470 coal-fired power plants generated about 110 million tons of coal ash. In 2015, the Obama administration issued a rule to deal with coal ash. In 2018, the D.C. Court of Appeals ordered the EPA to strengthen the national coal ash standards set in 2015. Instead, the Trump administration weakened the 2015 standards. 

The Mercury and Air Toxic Standards require fossil fuel-based power plants to reduce mercury emissions and other pollutants, including arsenic, nickel, and acid gases. Power plants are the biggest emitters of mercury in the U.S. Exposure to mercury is linked to a slew of human health problems, including neurological disorders. The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that the EPA must consider the costs to public health and industry. The EPA published a cost finding in 2015 before issuing the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards in 2017. 

In 2018, the Trump administration proposed to revise the cost finding. The new cost finding stated that MATS is no longer “appropriate and necessary.”

In addition, the revision found the mercury and other pollutants from power plants acceptable.

In April 2020, the EPA gutted MATS. 


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The New EPA Anti-Science Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency recently announced the finalization of an anti-science rule that amounts to the last gasp of a failed administration. The rule titled, Strengthening Transparency in Pivotal Science Underlying Significant Regulatory Actions and Influential Scientific Information, limits what research the federal agency can use to set public health policy. It is a rule that the federal agency’s scientists advised against. 

The rule restricts the EPA’s use of key scientific studies when it considers taking regulatory action on pollution and toxic chemicals. The rule requires the federal agency to publish all data they use to craft regulations. The trouble is that some of the best studies tend to not make their underlying data public to protect confidential information about study participants.

Disingenuous reasoning of EPA Anti-Science Rule

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler claims that the intent behind the rule is to bring transparency. “I fundamentally believe that the American public has a right to know about EPA’s regulations and their scientific underpinnings,” he said in a statement. “Increased transparency has strengthened the Agency’s credibility with the public in the past, and I intend for this rule to do the same as we move forward.”

“The people pushing it are claiming it’s in the interest of science, but the entire independent science world says it’s not,” Chris Zarba, a former director of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, told The Washington Post. “It sounds good on the surface. But this is a bold attempt to get science out of the way so special interests can do what they want.”

“That EPA leadership has overruled the input of the scientific community, the voices of environmental justice advocates, and simple common sense to push this rule is beyond disappointing,” said Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a deliberate refusal to protect people’s lives.”

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) told The Hill the rule is “one last gasp of science denial” before the Biden administration is sworn in.” Indeed, the rule occurred under a president on his way out, who still faces the possibility of being impeached. 

Andrew Wheeler’s giveaway to toxic polluters 

The new rule amounts to a giveaway to toxic polluters by Wheeler, a former lobbyist whose clients included Murray Energy, the largest privately-owned coal company in the U.S. While working as a lobbyist for Faegre Baker Daniels, Wheeler’s firm earned more than $3 million in income from Murray Energy, according to EcoWatch. Wheeler served as vice president of the Washington Coal Club, a pro-coal nonprofit, while still working at Faegre Baker Daniels. 

Murray Energy created an “Action Plan” on eliminating the Clean Power Plan, eliminating tax credits for solar and wind energy, and eliminating the endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions. This occurred while Murray Energy was still Wheeler’s client, and he admitted to knowing about the plan during his confirmation hearing. 

The deregulatory swamp needs cleaning

When Joseph Biden takes office on January 20, he will be handed an environmental deregulation nightmare. It will be up to him to craft regulations and policies overturning Trump’s giveaways to fossil fuel companies. Overturning this new rule needs to be at the top of Biden’s list. As Liz Perera, Sierra Club’s Climate Policy Director, said, “We urge the Biden Administration to quickly work toward overturning it so that the EPA will once again be a science and public health-focused agency.”

The Continued Attacks On Environmental Protection By Lame Duck Trump

As the Trump administration winds down, the environmental rollbacks continue and even seem to increase. The air, water, soil, human health, and animals are not exempt. What matters most to the people running the federal agencies charged with protecting the environment is industry, namely the fossil fuel industries. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt worked as an oil lobbyist. Many of his decisions serve as handouts to his former clients or others in the industry. 

Ignoring the Marine Mammal Protection Act

Environmental groups continue to fight for environmental protection. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a notice of intent to sue to the Interior Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not updating population analyses for polar bears, walruses, sea otters, and manatees, as required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The notice letter asks for immediate updates for expired stock assessments of polar bears, Pacific walruses, three stocks of northern sea otters in Alaska, the southern sea otter stock in California, and two stocks of West Indian manatees around Florida and Puerto Rico.

The MMPA requires the FWS to do stock assessment reports for all marine mammals within its jurisdiction, and that includes polar bears, sea otters, walruses, and manatees. Some of the stock assessments have not been updated in over a decade. Stock assessments are key to managing marine mammal populations. With them, threats to marine mammals are analyzed and guide management actions for industries, including commercial fisheries and oil and gas. Failure to update stock assessments harms the very animals the FWS serves to protect. 

“It’s no accident this administration refuses to update stock assessments for polar bears and other species highly vulnerable to oil spills. Trump is again ignoring his legal obligations as a favor to Big Oil,” said Lalli Venkatakrishnan, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is about good science. The feds must know how marine mammal populations are doing before allowing any harm to these animals from oil and gas activity and other threats.”

Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge up to the oil industry

The notice comes as the Trump administration rushes oil leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration takes handouts to the oil industry to a new level, making the George W. Bush administration look like one that protected the environment. Recently, the Trump administration issued a “request for nominations” to oil companies, asking them to identify their preferential areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain to lease for oil drilling.

The Arctic Refuge is considered sacred land to indigenous groups. “The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is sacred land that sustains not just the Gwich’in and Iñupiat Peoples but is one of the last untouched ecosystems in the world,” said the director of Sovereign Iñupiat for a Living Arctic (SILA), Siqiñiq Maupin, in a statement

Five of the six major U.S. banks (Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo) have announced that they will not fund any new oil and gas development in the Arctic Refuge. President-elect Biden stated he will make permanent protection for the Arctic Refuge and other federal areas impacted by the Trump administration’s policies a day one priority. In other words, expect Biden to issue executive actions regarding federal lands.


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The Trump Administration Roll Backs of Migratory Bird Protection

Rolling back protections of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act is an example of the corruption and obsequious deference to Big Oil by Trump & Co.

How do you change environmental laws to favor fossil fuel and mining industries without Congress? You gut regulations by having federal agencies issue a new rule. It is a move President Trump loves to make. In four years, the Trump administration has rolled back more than 125 environmental protections. Even now, dozens more are in the works. 

The most recent new rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service involves migratory birds. On February 3, 2020, the FWS published a new rule to clarify the ban on the “take” of birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The proposed rule states that the scope of the MBTA applies only to intentional injuring or killing of birds, but conduct that results in the unintentional injury or death of migratory birds is prohibited. The FWS published an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in June and in November and announced the publication of the final EIS

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act: Doing the Bidding of Big Oil

The new rule is a major rollback of the MBTA just two months before Joe Biden takes office. Big Oil drives the move gutting the MBTA. Tellingly, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist. At least 17 of Bernhardt’s former clients received handouts from the Trump administration during his time as Interior Secretary, according to research by Western Values Project. Excluding incidental killings of birds from the MBTA shields oil companies from liabilities and penalties. The rule would “likely result in increased bird mortality,” as the final EIS acknowledges. But that does not matter as long as Bernhardt’s oil industry cronies are happy. 

Western Values Project obtained a request by Western Energy Alliance, submitted to the FWS “suggesting statutory changes to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.” The Independent Petroleum Association of America, Berhardt’s former client, had inside knowledge of the pending rollbacks, the documents also revealed.

“Trump just keeps solidifying his legacy of the worst environmental, public lands, and wildlife presidency in history. This is yet another gift to Big Oil by corrupt Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on his way out the door. Bernhardt puts yet another favor for Big Oil before the needs of small businesses and workers during a pandemic, illustrating “everything that is wrong with the Trump administration and its priorities,” said Western Values Project Director Jayson O’Neill. 

The rollbacks of the MBTA extend protections to industry activities that kill birds. If the rollback was in place in 2010, BP would not have faced consequences under the MBTA for the more than one million birds killed in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. BP paid $100 million in fines thanks to the MBTA protections recently weakened. 

Why so many oppose the rollbacks

There is bipartisan opposition to the MBTA rollback, including from congressional members, more than 25 states, tribal governments, scientists, and 250,000 people who submitted comments opposing the rollback. 

One reason for the opposition is that the Trump administration sped up the environmental review process by minimizing the comment period and did not do a thorough analysis of environmental impacts and reasonable alternatives. “This environmental review process has made a mockery of the public engagement and scientific review required under the law,” as David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society stated.

Another reason for the opposition is that migratory birds need full protection. Three million birds in North America have been lost since 1970. Climate change threatens two-thirds of North American birds. Oil waste pits kill 500,000 to one million birds a year, which means the Trump administration extended protections to an industry responsible for so many bird deaths. 


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What Will President Biden’s Environmental Policies Look Like?

Now that the electoral college voted for Joe Biden as the next president, it’s time to consider his environmental policies. They will definitely not look anything like Donald Trump’s policies that opened the nation’s air, water, and soil up to fossil fuel companies to exploit. 

Biden’s first days in office will certainly include undoing the damage of Trump’s policies. He has pledged to reinstate the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate accord. Biden will not need Senate approval since the U.S. involvement with the accord was set up by an executive action

A 100 percent clean energy economy and net zero-emissions by 2050

Achieving a 100 percent clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050 is one of the key parts of Biden’s environmental policies and climate change plan. Using the federal government procurement system, which spends $500 billion annually, as a driver to meet the 100 percent clean energy goal is one of those measures. Making U.S. government buildings, facilities, and installations more efficient and environmentally-friendly is another measure. 

Biden’s plan recognizes that transportation is a key sector as it is the fastest-growing source of climate pollution. He pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in several ways. One of those ways is by using the Clean Air Act. Another way is developing new fuel economy standards to ensure 100 percent of new sales for light and medium-duty vehicles will be electric.

Protecting nature

Biden’s environmental policies include a climate change plan committed to protecting nature. The exact opposite of President Trump’s administration. Instead of offering up public lands to fossil fuel and mining companies, Biden pledges to protect biodiversity, slow extinction rates, and conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030. Biden’s plan also includes protecting areas impacted by President Trump’s executive actions. The president-elect vows to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other areas that face environmental destructions due to Trump’s policies.

He pledges to ban new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters and create programs to enhance reforestation and develop renewables on federal lands and waters. He has a goal to double offshore wind by 2030. 

Investing in clean energy, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles

Biden’s environmental policies also include pledges to make a federal investment of $1.7 trillion in clean energy over the next 10 years. He also pledges to leverage private sector and state and local investments to total more than $5 trillion in investments. This summer, Biden mentioned the $90 billion investment the Obama administration made in clean energy. “We’ll do it again, but this time bigger and faster and smarter,” Biden said. “We’re not just going to tinker around the edges. We’re going to make historic investments that will seize the opportunity and meet this moment in history.”  

The Biden plan will incentivize clean technology deployment in several ways. One of those is by improving the energy efficiency of the nation’s buildings. He pledges to set a goal of reducing the carbon footprint of the U.S. building stock by 50 percent by 2035. Part of that includes directing the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to make housing for low-income communities more efficient and directing the U.S. Department of Energy to redouble efforts to accelerate new energy efficiency standards for household appliances.

Biden pledges to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles. One of the barriers to accelerating the deployment of EVs is the lack of charging stations. Biden’s plan includes working with governors and mayors to support deploying more than 500,000 new public charging outlets by 2030. He will also restore the full EV tax credit.

The next great railroad revolution

Biden’s plan includes starting the second great railroad revolution. The first part of his plan is bringing higher speed rail to the Northeast Corridor.

He pledges to shrink the travel time from Washington, D.C. to New York by half. He also pledges to make progress on California’s high-speed rail project, start constructing end-to-end high-speed rail across the Midwest and West, and begin construction of a high-speed rail system that will connect the coasts. 


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The Move to Keep Fossil Fuels In the Ground

The covid-19 pandemic failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. According to the World Meteorological Organization, global carbon emissions continue to increase. Perhaps one of the reasons is that most of the world’s electricity still comes from fossil fuels. And fossil fuel exploration and extraction continues despite the pandemic.

Fossil fuels are the main cause of climate change. Coal, oil, and gas comprise nearly 80 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions since the industrial revolution. The world is on track to produce more than twice as many fossil fuels by 2030 than is consistent with limiting the rise in global temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The world’s fossil fuel reserves contain enough carbon to push the world beyond the 1.5C goal. 

Phasing-out existing stockpiles and the production of fossil fuels is in line with the 1.5C goal. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty calls for the phasing out of both stockpiles and production. A treaty would put the supply-side of fossil fuels in center focus by creating an international agreement to deal with greenhouse gas emissions at source. A treaty would help keep large amounts of fossil fuels in the ground. 

Why a treaty is necessary

The latest UN Environment Program report on the emissions gap found that nationally determined contributions of emissions imply a temperature rise of three degrees Celsius by 2100. If the emissions gas is not closed by 2030, the goal of staying below two degrees Celsius is out of reach. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) latest findings calls for a reduction of carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and for investments in fossil fuel extraction and power generation to decrease by up to $.85 trillion by 2050. 

The global demand for oil, gas, and coal is growing. Fossil fuels comprise 81 percent of energy use, according to the International Energy Agency. Fossil fuel use will increase for decades, the IEA projects. However, to keep warming below two degrees Celsius, 80 percent of fossil fuel reserves should not be burned, according to a report by Carbon Tracker. 

Some countries have policies in place to phase out fossil fuels

Although international treaties neglect supply-side solutions, countries are moving to keep fossil fuels in the ground. New Zealand, France, Belize, and Costa Rica have moratoriums on oil exploration in place. France, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Uruguay have moratoriums on hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The UK, Spain, and China have set timetables for phasing out existing fossil fuels. Several other countries committed to divesting from fossil fuels. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund divested from coal stocks. Ireland’s Parliament voted to require its sovereign wealth fund to divest from fossil fuel stocks.

The Powering Past Coal Alliance launched in November 2017 as a coalition of national and sub-national governments, businesses, and organizations to advance the transition from coal to clean energy. Over 25 nations are part of the Alliance. These nations have pledged to phase out coal-fired power generation. To be a member of the Alliance, nations must make public declarations they will not build new, unabated coal-fired power stations and will phase out existing ones.

Phasing out subsidies

Fossil fuel subsidies occur in all stages of fossil fuel production. The Production Gap report by the UNEP looked at production plans in 10 key countries. Seven of the countries (China, the United States, Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia, and Canada) are top fossil fuel producers. Three are significant producers with strong climate goals (Germany, Norway, and the UK). What the report found out is that the production of fossil fuels in nearly every national plan exceeds the 2030 levels projected by the IEA. Subsidy reform is a tool governments can use to help make their fossil fuel plans line up with climate goals. 

The will to act

The world is already experiencing climate change impacts. The 2020 hurricane season so far has had 30 named tropical storms and forced forecasters to use the Greek letters of the alphabet. That breaks the record set in 2005 when there were 28 named storms. Hurricanes are not the only climate change impacts this year. California has experienced a record number of devastating wildfires, with 4.1 million acres and counting burned in 2020. 

Do countries have the will to act to keep fossil fuels in the ground so the world can keep warming to the 1.5C goal? Only time will tell


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Judge Removes the Authority of Acting Bureau of Land Management Director

In early October, a federal judge in Montana removed the Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William Perry Pendley’s authority and indicated that actions under his leadership could be invalidated. Pendley has served as the acting director of the BLM for over a year. During Pendley’s tenure, he oversaw deregulatory efforts, unprecedented oil and gas leasing, and land-use plans that favored industry. 

The ruling by Judge Brian Morris occurred in response to a lawsuit by Montana Governor Steve Bullock and the Montana Department of Natural Resources. The plaintiffs contended that since the Senate had not confirmed Pendley, he has no authority to make decisions for the BLM. 

Management plans by Pendley leave public lands unprotected

Sixty environmental and conservation organizations sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt asking him to retract all management plans, decisions, rulemakings, and regulation influenced by Pendley. 

The plans and decisions the organizations asked Bernhardt to retract include the Lewistown Resource Management Plan and the Missoula Resource Management Plan. The Lewistown RMP covers 651,200 surface acres and 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in central Montana. It allows oil and gas leasing on 95 percent of the Lewistown area. The Missoula RMP covers around 163,000 surface acres and 268,000 acres of federal mining interests between Missoula and Avon in Montana. The plan increases grazing and timber harvesting and removes protection for environmental areas of critical concern. Both plans govern the management of the land for the next 20 years. 

Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation, said that the Lewistown and Missoula RMPs are “another example of why William Perry Pendley is unfit to lead the agency that manages more than 245 million acres of public land.” She added that Pendley “has rejected what Montanans have asked for and is now advocating to hand them over to oil and gas companies at below-market prices.”

The management plans for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah are two other decisions the organizations asked Bernhardt to retract. The plans for the national monuments leave two million acres of public land unprotected. Within the two million unprotected acres are culturally significant sites for the Navajo, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribe, such as rock art and cliff dwellings. Leaving them unprotected opens them to looting and vandalism. 

Pendley acted as the de facto head of the BLM for over a year. President Trump nominated him in June to serve as the official head of the federal agency but withdrew the nomination in August. In September, House Democrats demanded Pendley’s removal, and Senator Michael Bennet from Colorado spoke on the Senate floor against Pendley. Bennet characterized Pendley as “by far the most extreme, anti-public lands nominee in my lifetime.” He pointed out that Pendley does not believe in the concept of public lands but has argued that the founding fathers intended for the sale of all federal lands. 

Pendley refuses to step down despite the court ruling 

William Perry Pendley refuses to step down despite a court challenge to his authority. “News of my political demise has been greatly exaggerated,” he said at the Free Roaming Equids and Ecosystem Sustainability Network conference in Cody, Wyoming. During an interview with the Powell Tribune, he said that the court decision “has no impact, no impact whatsoever.” He added that he has “the support of the president.” 

 “Taxpayers are going to be on the hook as the administration tries to save face by blindly appealing this strong rebuke of its legal charade,” said Western Values Project director Jayson O’Neill. “Challenging this decision will not only cost taxpayers more but create additional layers of uncertainty for both industry and public land users.” 

What you can do

Are you tired of corrupt presidential appointees making decisions that destroy the nation’s public lands? Vote on November 3

Why Trump Must Be Voted Out To Save the Environment

Not too long after taking office, Trump issued an executive order that for every new regulation enacted, two must be eliminated. The Brookings Institute tracked the administration’s deregulatory actions and found 74 actions, as of August 2020, taken to weaken environmental protection. The Trump environmental record has at least been consistent.

President Obama established the Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions using the Clean Air Act. The plan reduced carbon emissions from the power sector. The Trump administration replaced the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which will only result in a one percent reduction in GHG emissions from power plants, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Fuel economy standards are one way to reduce GHG emissions as transportation is the largest source of U.S. emissions. The Trump administration rolled back Obama-era fuel economy standards, which gave Americans $660 billion savings. The new standards take away $460 billion of those savings. The new standards increase GHG emissions by almost three gigatons of carbon, equivalent to nearly two years of emissions from the transportation sector.

In 2016, The Obama administration enacted a rule to reduce venting or flaring of methane from oil and gas production on public lands. The Trump administration rolled back the rule by releasing a replacement that rescinded most of it. Methane is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential far exceeding that of carbon. Methane accounts for 16 percent of climate change. 

The Trump administration rolled back rules designed to protect the air. One of those rules is the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) that limits the amount of mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants. Mercury is a neurotoxin that accumulates in the soil and water. Mercury concentrates in fish and is particularly toxic for pregnant women and children. 

The Trump administration refused to strengthen National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and fine particulate matter (PM 2.5). Every five years, an independent science advisory committee reviews NAAQS. The administration packed the advisory committees with industry and anti-regulatory members, limited the scientific research the committees could consider and accelerated the process. 

In July 2020, the Trump Administration issued a rule to update the National Environmental Quality Act. The new rule aims to limit environmental reviews of projects to two years, limit climate change as part of environmental assessments, and excludes certain projects from the environmental assessment process. 

The Trump administration issued a rule that redefines and restricts the waterways the Clean Water Act protects. Under the rule, 51 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of streams lose federal protections. The streams and wetlands that lost protection serve as headwaters for rivers and lakes that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. 

The economic and health benefits of environmental regulation

The Trump administration deregulates environmental protections despite the benefits of protecting the nation’s air, water, and soil. The Office of Management and Budget looked at major regulations from 2005 to 2014 and found that the economic benefits greatly exceeded the costs every year. The benefits of environmental regulations exceeded costs by a ratio of more than 10 to one and provided net economic benefits to the U.S. of over $500 million a year. 

There are health benefits from environmental regulations. Fossil fuel-burning power plants discharge at least 5.5 billion pounds of pollution into bodies of water every year, according to a report by the Environmental Integrity Project. Wastewater from power plants contributed to more than 23,000 miles of contaminated rivers, polluted fish in 185 bodies of water, and the degradation of 399 bodies of water used as drinking water sources.

Perhaps the most iconic and far-reaching failure of the Trump Environmental Record rests with the Paris Agreement.

Trump and the Paris Agreement

President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an agreement about 195 countries to reduce their GHG emissions to avoid the worst climate change impacts. The U.S. is the only major GHG emitter in the world to withdraw from the agreement and cannot withdraw until the day after the 2020 election in November. A poll taken right after the 2016 election found that seven in 10 voters (69 percent) said the U.S. should participate in the Paris Agreement. Two-thirds of voters also said that the U.S. should reduce its GHG emissions, regardless of what other countries do, and 62 percent wanted Trump and Congress to do more to address climate change.

During his announcement about the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump mentioned the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” However, not doing anything to mitigate climate change will cost far more than the costs of complying with the Paris Agreement. A 2020 study found that delayed mitigation of climate change will reach 18 percent of global GDP in 2080 and further mitigation delay costs 0.5 trillion dollars a year. The damages due to delayed mitigation increase by 0.6 trillion dollars a year in 2020. In December, the House Committee On Oversight and Reform released estimates for the current economic effects of climate change. The estimates cite the data of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) which found that, as of December 2018, climate change cost U.S. taxpayers about $430 billion in disaster assistance since 2005. 

What you can do

You can do something to stop the environmental deregulation. Begin the hard road of reversing the Trump environmental record. Vote on November 3. 

Green Wave 2020 Aims To Put Environmentally Friendly Candidates In Office

President Trump’s environmental policies mostly consist of rolling back Obama-era policies dealing with climate change. Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. That action put the U.S. in the role of being the only country expressing intent to withdraw from the agreement. Trump can’t officially withdraw until the day after the 2020 election. That makes November 3 an important day for environmentalists. 

In early October, a coalition of environmental organizations launched a project to elect environmentally-friendly candidates. Green Wave 2020 is a joint project of Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, EDF Action, the NRDC Action Fund, and the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund to mobilize the members of the organization to help elect environmental champions in November. The organizations created a list of over 30 congressional races where the targeted candidate has a strong environmental track record or platform. Many of the candidates in the 30 prioritized races are running against someone how denies climate change. 

Green Wave 2020 involves more than 70 professional organizers in 15 states who mobilize environmental group members volunteering to help elect environmentally-friendly candidates. The organizers provide members with remote phone and text banking opportunities, along with other online tools. The project mobilizes thousands of environmental group members. 

“The stakes for the environment, for our climate, and for communities suffering the worst consequences of toxic pollution across the nation have never been more stark than in 2020,” said Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz. “This unprecedented mobilization of our collective membership, including millions of members nationwide, will also help build lasting infrastructure in key states and districts that environmental champions running for office can rely upon for future election cycles.”

Turning a red state green

Arizona is typically a red state where Republican candidates tend to flourish. The state’s three congressional races each make the priority list of the Green Wave 2020. Those three races include a senate seat. Mark Kelly (D) hopes to unseat incumbent Senator Martha McSally (R) to win John McCain’s former seat. A glance at the websites of both candidates shows why the project focuses on Arizona. McSally’s site does not even mention her environmental views, while Kelly’s site contains information on his views on climate change and the environment.

McSally’s site states that she supported Trump’s repeal of the 16 Obama-era regulations. The League of Conservation Voters gave her a six percent on its National Environmental Scorecard. That ranking put her on the organization’s Dirty Dozen that targets the most anti-environment candidates. McSally voted against the Clean Power Plan, efforts to boost Arizona’s clean energy economy, and clean air protections. Phoenix has one of the worst air basins in the country. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2020 report ranked Phoenix among the top 10 most polluted cities for ozone, year-round particle pollution, and short-term particle pollution.

Kelly wants to boost Arizona’s clean energy economy. His site points out that the sector employs 10,500 people in the state. He wants to triple that number by “making massive investments in research and development of technologies that make renewable energy more competitive and accelerate the transition to a renewable economy.” The LCV endorses him for the senate. 

Green Wave 2020: What you can do

Join Green Wave 2020. Vow to vote for candidates that champion the environment and work to mitigate climate change. As EDF Action President Joe Bonfiglio said, “The stakes in this year’s elections are incredibly high.” 


Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash