(de)regulation nation: two weeks of better, good, and great news edition

“So I will not beg the world leaders to care for our future. I will instead let them know change is coming, whether they like it or not."


Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking environmental news in the Trump era.

Send your feedback and story tips to emily@deregnation.com.

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you got it from a friend, please sign up at deregnation.com.

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As promised, here’s the upbeat companion to Wednesdays “all bad news” edition of (de)regulation nation. If you know of any stories that I’ve missed, please point me at ‘em in the comments, or email me at emily@deregnation.com.

Next week I’ll return to the regular format.

Onward with the better, good, and great news.

Poland calling:

  • At the international climate conference in Poland, the Trump administration has tried to obstruct constructive discussions and commitments. But a host of blue-chip corporations are talking strong climate action, including American firms Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. They’ve been joined by the C40 alliance of American mayors, a group that has helped push cities into the forefront of U.S. climate action. "Forward-thinking companies are forging ahead on electric vehicles to demonstrate leadership, reduce their emissions and ready their business operations for a low-carbon economy," said a spokeswoman for a business climate group. "Despite uncertain times internationally the economic opportunities are vast, and business is simply getting on with it.” Read more in Greenbiz.

  • According to a report released at the Poland talks this week, over 1,000 groups representing almost $8 trillion worth of investment funds have divested from fossil fuels. The movement may now be the largest divestment campaign in history. Read more in Earther.

Back in Trump’s backyard…

  • The $867 billion Farm Bill has emerged from both the House and Senate with never-before-seen emphasis on projects to reduce food waste nationally. Decomposing food piles up in landfills, becoming a major source of climate-heating carbon pollution that could be diverted to biogas-powered energy or composting. The bill also funds the Department of Agriculture to “conduct a study on food waste that looks at measurement methodologies, contributing factors, financial costs, the effectiveness of current donation liability protections and other relevant areas.” Read more in WasteDive.

  • Although President Trump has threatened to trash tax incentives for consumers purchasing electric cars, his “incendiary rhetoric and fossil-fuel-friendly policies have failed to even slow down America’s transition to a clean-energy economy,” writes Michael Grunwald in Politico. There’s a long way to go in freeing the nation’s auto fleet from dependence on gasoline. But with the House transitioning to Democratic control next year, and support for the progressive wing’s “Green New Deal” increasing, it’s unlikely Congress will be eliminating the EV tax credit.

  • Dozens of Congressional Democrats this week signed a letter to President Trump stating their worry that “time is running out for the United States” to act effectively on curbing the worst of climate change. The missive sets the stage for ramping up climate policy moves in the House next year. Read the letter.

  • Between the recent, deadly, and devastating California wildfires and the new group of progressive Democrats in the House, climate change could emerge as the “sleeper issue of the new political cycle,” according to an opinion writer at The Wall Street Journal. There’s something snarky to be said here about how much death and destruction it’s taken for the WSJ’s op-ed page to begin reversing its longtime climate denial.

Meanwhile, in the laboratories of democracy:

  • New York State’s Public Utility Commission has voted to implement the country’s most ambitious energy storage target: 1,500 megawatts by 2025 and 3,000 by 2030. It also more than doubled energy efficiency targets for investor-owned utilities. Increasing the amount of energy that utilities can store (via batteries or other methods) is crucial to reducing the state’s carbon pollution, by winding down the state grid’s dependence on coal-fired power plants. Read more in UtilityDive.

  • A federal judge upheld Washington State’s denial of a key permit for construction of a coal export terminal. If built as planned, it would be the largest coal export dock on the West Coast, the point of departure for 44 million tons of Rocky Mountain coal to Asian markets. Read more in the Longview Daily News.

  • Around a dozen companies have so far pledged $285 million for three leases off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s far and away the most ever bid for offshore wind rights in the United States, and the auction hasn’t even ended yet. Read more in Bloomberg.

  • A public meeting regarding permits for a proposed plastics factory in Louisiana became “a referendum on environmental racism.” Residents of St. James Parrish, which is majority African-American, and environmentalists voiced opposition to the project for over three hours before representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as Louisiana environmental and natural resources officials. “Sharon Lavigne, a St. James resident and director of RISE St. James, a recently formed community organization, pointed out that the promised improvements to neighborhood parks and schools are of little use when nearby industrial pollution already threatens community members’ lives.” Read more at DeSmogBlog.

  • In South Dakota, energy regulators approved a plan for a 61-turbine, 220-megawatt wind farm in Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson Counties. Commissioners sought to balance the needs of wind supporters with those of residents who don’t want to live near the wind farms by creating noise level restrictions and other conditions. Read more in The Daily Republic.

  • A major American utility has announced plans to cut its carbon emissions 80 percent by 2030, and to zero them out entirely by 2050. Xcel Energy’s goal is an industry first, and will touch power supplies across eight states. ““This risk of climate change isn’t going away and we want to be the company that does something about it and hopefully inspire others to do something about it too,” Xcel’s CEO told reporters. Read more in the (journalist-owned, reader-supported) Colorado Sun.

  • Clean-energy jobs now outnumber fossil fuel jobs across much of the rural Midwest. A new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that there 158,000 jobs and growing in wind and solar across 12 mid-America states 2017, with renewable work outpacing fossil fuels in all but two: Kansas and North Dakota. Read more in InsideClimate News.


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m an environmental journalist. Learn more about me and see some of my work at my web site.

This week’s quote is by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teen climate activist who has inspired tens of thousands of young people worldwide to take political aim at foot-dragging politicians. Read more about her truth-to-power speech at the Poland climate talks this week in The Hill, and check out this brief profile of Thunberg in The New Yorker.

If you’ve received (de)regulation nation from a friend and like it, please subscribe.

Subscribe now

Send tips and feedback: emily@deregnation.com

(de)regulation nation: two weeks of rollbacks and denial

"Depending on how you look at things, a coal-stuffed climate summit is either completely absurd—'beyond parody,' as one commentator put it—or merely appropriate."


Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking environmental news in the Trump era.

Send your feedback and story tips to emily@deregnation.com.

If you like this newsletter, please forward it to a friend. If you got it from a friend, please sign up at deregnation.com.

Subscribe now


Even by the standards of the Trump administration, it’s been a remarkable two weeks for environmental politics and policy. So in today’s newsletter, I’ll round up the bad environmental news that’s come out since Thanksgiving.

Stay tuned, though! On Friday, we’ll come out the other side with as much upbeat news as I can pack in to a single edition.

Onward with the bad news:

  • The Trump administration tried to bury the peer-reviewed National Climate Assessment by releasing it on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving. Read more at The New York Times.

  • When news outlets nationwide covered the report’s red-alert conclusions anyway, Trump and his cabinet instead assaulted the messengers. Trump “flatly rejected [the report’s] central finding that global warming is causing ongoing and lasting economic damage. ‘I don’t believe it,’ he said.” But the report could be helpful in the growing list of lawsuits fighting rollbacks of Obama-era policies to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Read more at InsideClimate News.

  • Then, at the G20 summit in Argentina, Trump refused to sign on to a joint statement vowing to fight climate change. The 19 other world leaders present took the pledge. Read more in Axios.

  • Emails obtained by Sierra Club and shared with reporters revealed that President Trump’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” let former EPA chief Scott Pruitt’s staff pick and choose topics for interviews, and review questions in advance. Read more in The Daily Beast.

  • Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) a drunk, after the lawmaker called for Zinke to resign over his own list of ethics inquiries. Grijalva will chair the House Natural Resources Committee next year, and says he intends to increase Congressional oversight of Interior. Read more in Politico.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the Trump administration will begin the formal process to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (the INF Treaty) with Russia, unless Russia proves by mid-winter that it has returned to compliance with the pact. Russia is widely regarded to have violated the treaty’s mandate against arming with ground-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles, but a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement could trigger a new bilateral arms race. Read more in The New York Times.

  • Trump wants to take America’s clean water rules back to the 1980s. The EPA has proposed to gut water protections for thousands of streams and millions of acres of wetlands, claiming the move will help streamline regulations for farmers and developers. The current “Waters of the U.S.” rule was backed by hundreds of peer-reviewed studies. “They’re trying to sidestep the science,” a former EPA water expert told a reporter. “The science is pretty clear that whatever happens at the top of the watershed affects the bottom of the watershed.” Read more in The Guardian.

  • The Bureau of Land Management announced plans to rewrite a 2015 federal blueprint (laboriously negotiated with states and other stakeholders by the Obama administration) for saving the sage grouse. The imperiled Western bird’s habitat happens to overlap with millions of acres that the Trump administration wants to lease for oil and gas drilling. Read more in High Country News.

  • The Trump administration also authorized seismic testing for gas and oil deposits off the Atlantic coast, including in areas on the migration route of critically endangered North-Atlantic right whales. Seismic testing involves setting off airguns underwater to bounce sound waves off the sea floor, sort of an ultrasound test to detect buried oil and gas. “From zooplankton all the way up to the largest right whales, including sea turtles and important fisheries,” the seismic blasts affect the entire marine food chain, an environmentalist told a reporter. Industry proponents disagree. Read more at WLRN Miami|South Florida.

  • The EPA wants to roll back Obama-era pollution caps on new coal plants, called “New Source Performance Standards.” The Trump administration’s replacement plan would increase the amount of carbon dioxide a newly built plant could pump out by over 30 percent, from 1,400 pounds per megawatt-hour to 1,900 pounds. The regressive move may have little practical impact, though, as market forces make construction of new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. very unlikely. Read more in Utility Dive.

  • Meanwhile, at the annual international climate conference (being held this year in pro-coal Poland), the United States joined with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to try and water down the gathering’s recognition of a recent United Nations climate science assessment, which forecasts catastrophic consequences if the world doesn’t zero out carbon emissions within 20 to 30 years. Watch more at MSNBC.com.

Okay, it’s over. See you on Friday with a compilation of the past two weeks in better, good, and great developments.


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m an environmental journalist. Learn more about me and see some of my work at my web site.

If you’ve received (de)regulation nation from a friend and like it, please subscribe.

Subscribe now

This week’s quote is by Elizabeth Kolbert, from her latest comment on the international climate talks in The New Yorker.

Send tips and feedback: emily@deregnation.com

The return of (de)regulation nation

"Problem? Start with feeling love for the problem. You will then know what step you wish to take."

Dear Readers,

I was blown away by all the kind notes you sent two weeks ago, after I posted about my unexpected hospitalization. Thank you so much! They cheered me up a lot.

After five days in the hospital, and another ten days spent mostly sleeping, I’m slowly wading back into work. Expect a new edition of (de)regulation nation to appear in your inbox Wednesday afternoon, and a bonus edition on Friday.

Today’s quote is from Yoko Ono, via her Twitter feed.

‘til tomorrow,

Emily

we'll be right back...

Dear (de)regulation nation readers,

The newsletter is on an unexpected break this week, because I unexpectedly ended up in a local ER Monday morning.

I have been in the hospital ever since, but it looks very much like I’ll be set free tomorrow.

Regular publishing resumes next week.

Thanks for your patience.

Emily

(de)regulation nation: the farm bill could roll back federal forest protections

"It’s not a land management and wildland fire management problem. It’s an urban planning problem."

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking environmental news in the Trump era. Each issue features updates on rollbacks of conservation, environmental, and public health protections, as well as news from across the political spectrum about what’s going right and who’s fighting back.

Send your feedback and story tips to emily@deregnation.com.

If a friend forwarded this newsletter to you, subscribe now at deregnation.com.

Subscribe now


When we reporters “follow the money” in politics, we’re often trying to figure out whether campaign contributions or other financial sweeteners have swayed an elected official’s position towards an industry and away from the public interest they’ve sworn to serve.

This problem becomes starker when it comes to this administration’s energy policies. While writing up this week’s “good” news item, I did a little digging into energy sector employment and trends. President Trump and his appointees champion increases in every possible parameter of engagement with coal, natural gas, and oil. But the facts paint a very different picture of what’s in the public’s best interest.

Right now, there are about 6.5 million Americans employed in the energy generation and energy efficiency industries, according to federal data crunched for the latest “U.S. Energy and Employment Report,” a well-regarded roundup of sector trends. According to the report,

  • There are about 676,000 jobs in the low-carbon sectors of solar, wind, geothermal, heat-capture bioenergy, and hydropower energy generation.

  • Just over 769,000 Americans work in coal, natural gas, oil & petroleum (which alone accounts for over a half-million jobs), and “advanced gas” energy generation.

  • 2.25 million people work in energy efficiency, which means doing as much or more while using less energy of any sort, lowering both energy costs and carbon pollution.

  • Jobs in energy generation overall are projected to rise by 8 percent this year. Just one-quarter of the new jobs are in petroleum- and natural-gas-related generation (and no growth at all in coal), with the rest “comprised of installing and building new renewable energy capacity additions.”

  • If those rates held steady for a few years, jobs on the low-carbon side would surpass those on the fossil-fuel side by 2021.

(I’ve omitted nuclear energy’s 73,700 jobs from these figures, while the report included them in its accounting of low-carbon job trends.)

These numbers suggest the public’s best interest is, at the very least, not favoring fossil fuels over low-carbon energy and energy efficiency. Which of course is the exact opposite of the Trump administration’s position.

Lawmakers face more immediate voter backlash than the president or his cabinet if the surge of low-carbon energy jobs begins to stagnate. Perhaps that’s why most have largely ignored the White House’s annual requests to gut federal funds for every energy program or project that isn’t fossil-fuel related. But there’s nothing new coming out of Congress, either.

How much faster would our low-carbon energy economy be growing without the hostility from the White House?

Onward:

bad: Trump pumps hard for rollbacks in federal forest protections

  • As part of the 2018 farm bill, the Trump administration is pushing for environmental rollbacks in federal forest management.

  • Why in the farm bill? Because the U.S. Forest Service, which manages most federally-owned forested acres, is part of the Department of Agriculture. The Bureau of Land Management (part of the Interior Department) oversees the rest.

  • To build support for these policies, President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have returned to demonizing “bad forest management” and “radical environmental groups” for their malign influences on wildfire prevention.

  • It’s right-wing terminology for conservation activists who fight ecologically-unsustainable commercial logging of public lands.

  • What Trump administration wants, as shortly and sweetly as I can write it, is to:

    • Permit federal forest managers to approve certain types of projects on forest tracts up to 9.3 square miles/6,000 acres in size, without having to undertake the public notification and comment periods, or environmental impact studies, that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires.

    • Exempt projects that range from spraying pesticides to control insect or disease problems, to allowing “salvage logging” of areas damaged by wildfire or hurricane winds, cutting trees proactively to reduce wildfire risks, and more.

    • The common theme among the proposed exemptions is that most would make it easier for federal agencies to evade public attention or pushback against poorly-conceived plans for logging or chemical use in federal forests

good: a wave for a “Green New Deal” laps at the Congressional shore

  • Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14), along with allies in the grassroots climate group Sunrise Movement, are pushing the Democratic Party to create a “Green New Deal.”

  • Nearly a dozen House members so far have backed Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a “select committee for a Green New Deal,” which would draft policies to wean the United States off oil, natural gas, and coal-fired energy within 30 years or less, while creating 15 million new jobs in low-carbon energy and related sectors of the economy.

  • No one seriously expects effective new climate policies to get through the Senate’s Trumpist-Republican majority. But with so little time left to avert catastrophic climate change, working out policy plans now would allow a future reality-based president and Senate to enact them that much faster.

  • Some veteran lawmakers like Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ6), the likely chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year, oppose creation of a separate climate committee and urge “realistic” climate goals.

  • My take: The Green New Deal is partially a high-stakes proxy fight over the Democratic Party’s future direction: Will it stay insulated in the D.C. bubble, or become a real people’s party?

  • Sludge reports on the financial links between fossil fuel interests and some House Democrats who oppose the Green New Deal committee.

  • The Nation explains the Green New Deal and wonders if Democrats “will rise to the opportunity” of its promise. “[C]ompeting priorities (to say nothing of raw political calculation) have a way of crowding out even the most promising ideas” in the party.

  • The Hill gives skeptics of the Green New Deal more emphasis in its coverage of the debate.

  • The New Yorker concisely surveys the political and technological challenges of cutting carbon emissions fast enough to avert catastrophe.


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m an environmental journalist. Learn more about me and see some of my work at my web site.

If you’ve received (de)regulation nation from a friend and like it, please subscribe.

Subscribe now

This week’s quote is by Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at University of California, Santa Barbara. He and several other experts spoke compellingly about how California communities need to change if they want to coexist with fire, for this Los Angeles Times story.

Send tips and feedback: emily@deregnation.com

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