QUOTES OF THE WEEK:
“Nobody’s fooled by this publicity stunt. Florida is at risk for offshore drilling because the Trump administration chose to put it at risk.”
— LCV Deputy Legislative Director Alex Taurel, in response to the Trump administration exempting Florida from their offshore drilling expansion
“Last November, the people of Vancouver spoke loud and clear by electing Don Orange for Port Commissioner. Today’s vote shows why this community stood up for safe healthy neighborhoods and good clean jobs, and won’t sacrifice their future for the oil industry’s profits.”
— Shannon Murphy, President of Washington Conservation Voters, after commissioners rejected a proposal to build what would be the largest oil export terminal in North America
LCV IN THE NEWS:
Associated Press: Trump moves to vastly expand drilling off US coasts
Bloomberg BNA: New Minnesota Senator Gets Seat on Energy Panel
Huffington Post: Wisconsin Is Quietly Becoming The Top Senate Race Of 2018
OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:
LCV’s state affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:
Adirondack Daily Enterprise (NY): Green groups set out legislative agendas
Hartford Courant (CT): Connecticut Environmentalists Oppose Trump Offshore Drilling Plan
Chesapeake Bay Journal (MD): Hogan announces MD will join state coalition to fight climate change
San Francisco Chronicle (CA): The silver lining of Trump’s “war” on California
THE FLORIDA KICKBACK?: Just a few days after announcing new plans to open offshore drilling along every major American coast, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that Florida would be exempt from any offshore drilling. Zinke gave no specific reason for Florida’s exemption save praising Governor Scott’s ability to negotiate. The flip-flop appears to be no more than a politically motivated publicity stunt to boost Scott (who has a long history of supporting offshore drilling and who failed to call for Florida to be excluded from the drilling plan last year) in his potential bid for Senate. Trump and Zinke are playing politics with the environment and basing policy on politics rather than the health and safety of our communities, and they’re going to have a hard time explaining this one—especially to all the other coastal states.
CAN WE TRUST THE TWEET? For Bloomberg, Jennifer Dlouhy digs into what Zinke’s surprise Twitter announcement actually means. The specifics are light, and depend on how the Trump administration defines “Florida.” “A broad definition would include all three of the offshore planning areas that surround the state — encompassing the Florida Straits, south Atlantic waters and the eastern Gulf.” Or, the administration could purpose something much narrower that still lets oil companies drill in the prized eastern Gulf of Mexico.
SOUNDS FAMILER: We’ve seen Zinke use this playbook before, announcing that no national monuments would be rescinding and then gutting Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante weeks later. Is offshore drilling the sequel no one asked for?
ELECTIONS MATTER DEPT: Remember Don Orange? LCV’s affiliate Washington Conservation Voters Action Fund went toe-to-toe with Tesoro Oil’s big spending to defeat their candidate for a seat on the Vancouver Port Commission, which on Tuesday unanimously rejected the company’s proposal to build what would have been the largest oil export terminal in North America. Voters elected Don Orange over industry-backed Kris Greene two to one – a win so decisive that no commissioner ignored the public will.
MEANWHILE IN OLYMPIA: Also this week in Washington, Governor Jay Inslee proposed an ambitious agenda, including stepping up on climate change and voter participation. Following last year’s election of Manka Dhingra to the state Senate, an environmental coalition including our state affiliate in Washington came together to outline a bold legislative plan including climate and oil spill prevention. For the first time ever, the coalition has also adopted a Partnership Agenda to support the work being led by groups outside the coalition and that are important for environmental progress. The inaugural Partnership Agenda items are the WA Voting Rights Act (HB 1800, SB 5267), Preventable Pesticide Drift Exposure (HB 1564), Solar Fairness Act (SB 6081), and Presumptive Disease for Firefighters.
DON’T FORGET VIRGINIA: Governor-elect Ralph Northam this week highlighted a plan to fight climate change as one of his top priorities for the upcoming legislative session. Virginia LCV PAC was one of Northam’s biggest supporters, making their largest electoral investment ever to secure his victory. Now they’ll continue working to make sure climate action remains high on the agenda.
SIREN: SHADY SCOTT’S REPEAL PLANS: In an interview with Reuters, Scott Pruitt outlined his plans for the EPA in 2018, which include a repeal of the Clean Power Plan by the end of 2018, much faster than the normal rulemaking process. He also said that he plans on pushing for a “public debate” about climate change: “The debate is how do we know what the ideal surface temperature is in 2100?… I think the American people deserve an open honest transparent discussion about those things.” Pruitt’s position is absurd — climate change is settled science, and his priority should be addressing the numerous challenges and impacts.
AS IF YOU NEEDED MORE PROOF: On Monday, NOAA reported that 2017 was the third-warmest year ever recorded, and weather disasters in 2017 cost the US a record $306 billion. There is no debate — extensive scientific evidence shows that human-caused climate change fuels more intense and severe weather disasters like the hurricanes and wildfires that devastated the South and West in 2017, respectively. These disasters will only get more frequent and more intense.
TRUMP’S COAL BUDDY: On Tuesday, the New York Times published a report on a memo from Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy (and a major donor to Trump’s campaign), to the White House. The memo outlines fourteen detailed policy requests that would benefit the coal industry, most of which are completed or are on the way to being completed. While we’ve long known that the Trump administration is close with polluters and industry, this is the clearest evidence so far that policy is coming directly from industry. Shockingly, but not surprisingly, Pruitt appears to be continuing the playbook he used as AG in Oklahoma to allow industry friends to dictate policy that protects their bottom lines at the expense of our health and communities.
UNQUALIFIED NOMINEES RENOMINATED: Donald Trump renominated two of his most-unqualified nominees for major environmental positions in his administration: Andrew Wheeler for deputy administrator of the EPA and Kathleen Hartnett White for head of the Council on Environmental Quality. Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist, and Hartnett White runs a policy organization funded by fossil fuel companies. Hartnett White, in particular, has garnered intense criticism, with Senator Tom Carper describing her as “overwhelmingly unfit for such a crucial position” and saying, “In the 17 years I have been in the Senate, I have never sat through a hearing as excruciating as Ms. White’s.”
OUR TAKE: “There’s a reason these troubling anti-science, pro-polluter nominees couldn’t get across the finish line last year. Kathleen Hartnett White has no place heading up the White House environmental office – she has a long record of distorting science, spouting conspiracy theories and denying serious pollution problems in Texas. And as Scott Pruitt’s number two, coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler would only rubberstamp more favors to the administration’s polluter allies at the expense of our clean air and water.” –LCV Vice President for Government Affairs Sara Chieffo
INTERIOR POLITICIZING GRANTS: The Washington Post reported this week that the Interior Department has implemented a new screening process for grants and cooperative agreements. The new process requires a political aide to sign off on all grants given, with the aim of limiting grants to programs that align with the Interior Secretary’s political priorities. According to David Hayes, the Deputy Secretary under both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, many of these grants are authorized by Congress and “subjugating Congress’ priorities to 10 of the Secretary’s own priorities is arrogant, impractical and, in some cases, likely illegal.” The Trump administration’s blatant abuses of power and perpetuation of anti-science ideology are shameful.
THE EPA’S SHRINKING WORKFORCE: As of last week, the EPA officially has fewer employees than it did under Ronald Reagan, and is still shrinking. Scott Pruitt has boasted about how “proud” he is of the decrease in workforce, but he should not be — EPA employees report feeling demoralized, and the EPA’s understaffing is undermining its mission. Additionally, almost half of its existing workforce will be eligible for retirement by 2021, potentially leaving the EPA even more short staffed.
MORE UNQUALIFIED TRUMP APPOINTEES: The Trump administration has appointed a new Deputy Director of the National Park Service — yet again choosing someone dangerous and deeply unqualified. In this case, the individual charged with protecting our natural lands used his position to help the owner of the Washington-based NFL team cut down more than 130 trees on the Potomac River that were blocking the view from his house. Scientists at the National Park Service said that cutting down these trees made it more likely that non-native species would eventually cause erosion on the hillside that was logged.
AND ANOTHER ON THE HORIZON?: One year into his presidency, Trump still has not managed to nominate a Director of the Bureau of Land Management. However, one name that’s been proposed is Karen Budd-Falen, a property-rights lawyer who has spent her career fighting against the Bureau of Land Management. Budd-Falen’s nomination would fit perfectly with the Trump administration’s other environmental nominations, in that she seems keen to dismantle the agency she’s charged with leading from the inside out. Budd-Falen is an industry ally who would choose polluters over protection every single time.
SCOTT’S SHADY TRAVELS: The EPA Inspector General launched an investigation this week into Scott Pruitt’s trip to Morocco last month. Pruitt said that he was promoting natural gas, but Senator Tom Carper (who requested the investigation) said that natural gas exports do not fall under Pruitt’s jurisdiction, as they are part of the Department of Energy. This investigation adds to the concerns about Pruitt’s travels, as the Inspector General had already begun investigating his use of private and military flights back home to Oklahoma.
NEW YORK CITY STANDS UP: On Tuesday night, New York City filed a lawsuit against five major US oil companies for damages relating to climate change, highlighting in particular the damages from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The city also announced that its pension funds will divest from fossil fuels. While Trump and Pruitt continue to deny climate change’s existence, local and state governments have taken mitigation efforts into their own hands.
WEEKEND READ: Mother Jones published an in-depth investigation into Minden, West Virginia, where a resident said “Every single neighbor I’ve had has died of cancer.” It’s a striking account of a town poisoned by industry pollution and a clear example of the crucial necessity of preventing chemical contamination and exposure in the first place as well as committing to helping communities, particularly those most vulnerable, recover from environmental degradation. Taking the environmental cop off the beat and not holding industry accountable for the damage they cause has real, immense, and often tragic human costs.
January 19 – Continuing Resolution expire
January 24 – Outdoor Retailers Association conference begins in Denver
January 30 – State of the Union Address
January 30 – Scott Pruitt testifies in front of the Committee on Environment and Public Works
February 22 – Washington, DC public meeting on the Trump administration’s radical offshore drilling plan