“I don’t want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to the scientists.”
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Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking Trump administration environmental rollbacks, along with who’s fighting back and what’s going right.
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Last week the final death knell rang for the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule, a mandate that extended federal clean drinking water protections to wetlands, ponds, lakes, and small streams.
Trump environmental officials allied with a host of industry lobbies that detested WOTUS (including agriculture, ranching, homebuilding, and manufacturing sectors) to craft a replacement that would greatly “restrict the number of waterways that fall under federal jurisdiction, cutting out the vast majority of stream miles in arid Western states and as much as half of the nation's wetlands,” as Politico notes.
The Obama WOTUS never went into effect nationwide thanks to court challenges by a dozen states. Trump’s rollback wipes that rule off the federal books, but it’s more than likely to up in court as well.
House and Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to block the Trump’s late-August moves to weaken protections for endangered wild plant and animal species. The Democrats’ bill is adorably dubbed the “PAW and FIN Act” (short for Protect America’s Wildlife and Fish in Need of Protection Act of 2019).
The current Congress’s record to date suggests that the PAW and FIN Act could well pass the House, while hitting the obstruction that is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate. But despite Republican attempts for years to kill the Endangered Species Act with a thousand cuts, it remains one of the most popular pieces of environmental law in the country, as PBS News Hour reported last year.
So this attempt to save it could become a big talking Democratic point in next year’s presidential and congressional election campaigns.
Although the Trump administration continues to describe its Endangered Species Act changes as “modernization” of the multi-decade-old law, they are “widely viewed by environmentalists as an attempt to clear the way for an increase in mining, logging and other extractive activities by weakening the country’s strongest law protecting wildlife,” as Courthouse News puts it.
More than 300 news outlets “with a combined audience of more than 1 billion people” have signed on to Covering Climate Now, an initiative that its organizers are calling “a new beginning for climate reporting.”
Timed to coincide with this month’s UN Climate Summit and a major call for a youth climate strike (look for that this Friday), the participants are boosting their coverage and content on climate change, some of them even sharing stories with each other. (Still a near-heresy within the broader news industry, believe me.) Some say it’s the beginning of a new commitment to climate reporting.
It has been a long haul to this point for us reporters who have been covering the accelerating intensity and dangers of climate change for years. For years the facts have been attacked by the fossil fuel industry’s well-financed, long-term campaign of climate action delay and denial (an effort well-documented by InsideClimate News’ “Exxon: The Road Not Taken” investigation). Often our stories have sunk out of sight with minimal impact on public attitudes or government policies.
Covering Climate Now seems to be having a big ripple effect for the better. Let’s see where it goes next.
Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.
This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist. You’ll find links to my reporting and more biographical goodness at my website .
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This week’s quote is by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, from her testimony on Wednesday to a Congressional subcommittee. See the whole thing on C-SPAN, and read more in The New York Times about how Greta is applying her “outsider perspective” to US climate inaction.