THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – May 11, 2018

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“The record-breaking rainfall, flooding, and destruction driven by Hurricane Maria — not to mention Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — is what climate change looks like. And, as sea levels continue to rise and air and water temperatures continue to warm, these storms are likely to worsen. Hurricane Maria showed us that we can’t afford to wait another day to fight back. We are climate change refugees, and our collective stories serve as a cautionary tale that government officials need to hear.”

–Agnes M. Torres Rivera, a volunteer for Connecticut LCV’s Chispa, shares her powerful story in an op-ed about being a climate change refugee

“This is why there’s two branches of government.

–Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke confuses our constitutional structure when questioned by Senator Jon Tester about the Trump administration’s nearly 90 percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund

“Tonight’s victory shows that Dan McCready’s leadership in fighting for a clean energy future is resonating with the people of North Carolina. This win brings North Carolinians in the 9th district one step closer to having a champion for clean air, clean water, and climate action working for them in Congress.”

–LCV Action Fund’s Tiernan Sittenfeld on clean energy entrepreneur Dan McCready’s victory in the NC-09 Democratic primary

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

E&E News: House ‘green’ races look increasingly blue

Legal Newsline: Alaska court: Conservation groups can challenge Trump’s reversal of drilling ban

Teen Vogue: Hurricane Maria Made Me A Climate Change Refugee

Las Vegas Review-Journal: House expected to OK Yucca Mountain bill, despite opposition

The Detroit News: Carmakers head to White House to talk mpg rules

 

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:

Chesapeake Bay Journal (VA): Can Chesapeake’s ‘crown jewel’ cliffs still be spared?

LongIsland.com (NY): Governor Cuomo Advances ‘Save Our Waters’ Bill To Prohibit Offshore Drilling Infrastructure In New York Waters

E&E GreenWire: CALIFORNIA: Green issues rule ‘most interesting’ race

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LISTEN UP, CEOS! On Friday, leaders of the auto industry met with Trump. Ahead of the meeting, LCV, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists sent a letter to these CEOs urging them to “stand with the majority of Americans who want cleaner, more fuel efficient cars and cleaner air.” The groups also asked the CEOs to  oppose any rollback of the fuel economy and climate pollution standards and support working in concert with California’s clean cars program.”

PUSHING OUT PRUITT: Remember when we learned that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was shopping around negative stories about his colleague, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, to take some of the heat off his scandals? That didn’t make Trump too happy —  and now top White House aides are calling for Pruitt’s resignation. Rumors suggest that Trump isn’t thrilled by the ongoing scandals and legal woes coming out of the EPA, and insiders say that it’s increasingly likely Trump will make a move to replace Pruitt with his recently-confirmed deputy administrator, Andrew Wheeler.

WHO IS ANDREW WHEELER? Politico did a deep-dive into Andrew Wheeler, and what they found wasn’t good: “a longtime Washington insider and coal lobbyist who would pursue the same anti-regulation agenda — only without all of Pruitt’s baggage.” This means that, should we successfully #BootPruitt, it’s still a long uphill battle to fight for a cleaner, safer environment.

SLOW WALKER: Political appointees at the EPA are slowing down the review process for  Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about their boss, and criticizing career employees for complying with the requests. This high-level screening of documents is highly unusual — leading us to believe that there’s even more Pruitt wants to hide about his work at the EPA.

THE INSPECTOR GENERAL at the EPA has already called them out on it. Will that convince them to be more transparent? We’re not counting on it.

THANKS TO FOIA, we already know that Pruitt’s team has gone to great lengths to control his public image in the past year. EPA aides made sure their administrator was coddled and cared for while out on the road, scripting audience questions at “town halls” and identifying people as “friendly” or “unfriendly” — helping Pruitt dodge tough questions about his record on the environment. We think he should have to face the public and answer for his harmful actions on clean air, water and land.

FOUR OUT AT EPA: In just two weeks, four senior officials at the EPA have called it quits as their boss continues to get tangled up in scandal after scandal. Could it be that Pruitt is pushing out the EPA’s top talent? Or are they jumping ship before even more gets uncovered?

BUNKERED UP: As of late, Pruitt has been on total lockdown. He only trusts a handful of allies in his inner circle — discluding his chief of staff, Ryan Jackson. The distrust is apparently mutual, as Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports that “most everyone else in the building wants him gone.”

…THAT’S IT? Just 87 words made up Pruitt’s justification for flying first class and wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars. In a memo to EPA officials, security chief Pasquale Perrotta claimed that Pruitt faced unruly passengers who would lash out at him when he was seated in coach, and, therefore, Pruitt needed tickets that cost four or five figures. We don’t buy it — it’s just Pruitt looking out for himself, as always.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: Pruitt let a California Superfund site jump to the top of his personal priorities list of sites needing “immediate and intense” action after conservative media personality Hugh Hewitt brokered a meeting with local officials. It’s also worth noting that this meeting was previously undisclosed — it was pried out of the EPA through the courts. To us, that looks like Pruitt is doing a favor for a big conservative influencer (much like he did with mega-donor Sheldon Adelson) who could possibly further his political career down the road.

MORE MORE MORE! According to a new trove of emails coming out of the EPA, Pruitt has received over 20,000 pages of emails from the oil and gas industries. From meeting requests to impassioned “thank you’s” for his rollback efforts, it looks like industry is courting Pruitt heavily — which is undoubtedly bad news for the rest of us.

ZIG-ZAGGING ZINKE: On Thursday, Zinke testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on his FY 2019 budget, where he was called out on many of his harmful plans and actions. Here are some highlights:

HOLLER FOR VAN HOLLEN: Senator Chris Van Hollen grilled Zinke on offshore drilling. Zinke said he was committed to “no new oil and gas platforms off the coast of Florida,” which was an announcement he previously made in a tweet despite Florida remaining in the process. Van Hollen called out that announcement for looking very political, and we agree. Van Hollen also wanted that same commitment for his home state of Maryland, and Zinke dodged the answer.

LWC…WHAT?:  During yesterday’s hearing Secretary Zinke attempted to justify the Trump administration’s nearly 90 percent cut to LWCF, our nation’s best park program. Zinke claims he’s long been a supporter of the program, but he couldn’t even get its name right. Watch HERE.

PROTECTING ZINKE: In an email to staffers, a top political appointee declared that the top priority of Department of Interior employees is to protect Zinke. This email appeared just as scrutiny of Zinke’s wasteful spending and conflicts of interest increased. It appears both Zinke and Pruitt are violating the public’s trust in our government officials — and disregarding the missions of their own agencies.

NOT YOUR JOB: Just as summer vacation season is heating up, Zinke reassigned park rangers away from the already understaffed national parks to the U.S.-Mexico border, where they’ll patrol as part of Trump’s xenophobic crackdown on immigration. Tasked with keeping people and landmarks safe at our national parks, this border reassignment is nothing more than another stunt. Zinke should keep park rangers on the jobs for which they were hired and trained. By the way, how much will it cost to train these park rangers on border patrol and immigration enforcement?

HMMM: Over a year ago, the EPA took down its climate change website for “updating” — it’s still not back online. The site, which was maintained by three administrations  before Trump, had supported the scientific consensus on climate change, recognizing the reality of the threat and that human activity has fueled this crisis. It’s no surprise that the Trump administration, which does not share this belief, would neglect this webpage  — but, of course, depriving the public of important information is problematic.Climate change is real, and talking about it is just the first step to addressing its devastating impacts.

PATAGONIA V. TRUMP: Three cheers for Patagonia, the outdoorsy clothing company suing Trump over his attempt to reduce the size of Bear Ears National Monument. This company is a great example of much-needed environmental activism from the private sector, and we applaud their involvement at a critical time for the future of our beautiful lands and landmarks.

LISTEN UP, SENATORS! Here’s how Congress can do its job in protecting our environment in the next few weeks:

SAY NO to the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendment Act, which rolls back public health and environmental laws guiding nuclear waste and ignores important safety protocols. While we were disappointed the House passed this legislation, we’ll keep fighting to ensure it goes nowhere in the Senate.

OUR TAKE: “Rather than charge forward at the cost of public safety and public resources, we urge Congress to reject this legislation and instead start an important and necessary consent-based approach to siting for permanent solution for high-level nuclear waste.”

KEEP PUSHING on the America’s Water Infrastructure Act, which is being considered by the Senate committee on the Environment and Public Works.

OUR TAKE: “The America’s Water Infrastructure Act is an important step in the right direction towards fixing our crumbling water infrastructure and ensuring every family has access to clean, safe water.”

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, stop rubber-stamping all of Trump’s judicial nominees, despite  their anti-environmental and anti-voting rights records. On Thursday, Senate Republicans handed Michael Brennan a lifetime appointment on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, despite his home state senator –  Tammy Baldwin – refusing to turn in a blue slip on his nomination. Without a blue slip from a home state senator, a nominee should be stopped in their tracks. But apparently those days are behind us.

 

COMING UP:

MAY 16 – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment

SEPTEMBER 30 – Expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s best conservation program

 

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