a deregulation trifecta: air, water, wildlife

"We was marching through the street, they were blocking every bill "

July 22, 2018 — Before summing up highlights of the past week’s Trump administration rollbacks, I have housekeeping news:

I’m moving (de)regulation nation to SubStack, a startup that’s created a nifty all-in-one, news-optimized platform for independent journalists to publish great newsletters. This move will allow me take the time I would otherwise spend wrestling with website and email newsletter apps, and put it back into researching, writing, and strategizing this newsletter. Your power to control your subscription will not change at all.

Back issues of (de)reg nation will be available on SubStack by early August.

SubStack’s tools also include a secure online payment option. So this switchover will eventually make it easier to develop this newsletter as an entrepreneurial news venture.

For now, though, (de)regulation nation remains free.

Onward.

bad: air

  • The Trump administration plans to challenge California’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from automobiles more strongly than federal rules require, as well as create mandates for electric vehicle adoption.

  • The Trump EPA will attempt to revoke California’s power to set its own, stronger fuel efficiency standards as written into the 1970 Clean Air Act (it’s called the “California waiver” in policy-nerd-speak).

  • As part of the deregulatory package, the administration will also attempt to permanently weaken Obama-era fuel economy requirements, which mandate that automakers achieve fleet-wide averages of about 50 miles-per-gallon by 2025.

  • If the administration succeeds in destroying the California waiver, air quality and environmental health are likely to worsen for tens of millions of people across the country, since many states typically follow California’s lead in setting their own.

  • They will also severely undercut the climate-heating pollution cuts the U.S. committed to in the Paris Agreement.

  • Read more: Bloomberg News has the scoop.

Related: “Poor air quality is linked to decreased productivity, school attendance and even lifetime earnings,” reports the enviro solutions mag Ensia.

also bad: water

  • The Trump administration has overhauled a 2015 Obama-era rule on coal ash disposal, created in the wake of catastrophic spills of the heavy-metal-laden waste into waterways in North Carolina and Tennessee.

  • The revised rule is much weaker than the original.

  • The rollbacks reflect many changes that the power industry requested, and applies to ash dumps at more than 400 coal-fired power plants nationwide.

  • Under Obama, the EPA agreed not to define coal ash as hazardous waste (which would have invoked a whole new realm of regulation), in return for a commitment by industry to monitoring of groundwater quality near ash ponds.

  • Among the rule changes, states can now release industry from monitoring groundwater quality.

  • Signing off on this rollback was the first major regulatory action by Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who has replaced Scott Pruitt, the big-spending, ethically-challenged, climate-change-denying former administrator. Pruitt remains under investigation by Congress and the EPA’s Inspector General.

  • Read more in this comprehensive writeup from the Washington Post.

Related: A federal court upheld an Obama-era rule aimed at [deep breath] reducing harm to aquatic animals caused by the cooling-water intakes of power plants. Environmental groups took the rule to court, saying it would do little to protect aquatic life. Industry also wanted to overturn the rule, saying it would lead to power plant and manufacturing facility shutdowns. The three-judge panel rejected both sides’ arguments. E&E News caught this story.

more bad: Republicans, White House, industry attack the Endangered Species Act

  • On Thursday, the Interior and Commerce departments proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act that would fundamentally cripple its protections for threatened and endangered animals and plants.

  • Commerce is home to the agencies that apply the ESA to marine species, while all other species are overseen by Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • The changes would include factoring the economic impacts of protecting wild animals and plants into determining their risk of extinction.

  • This has never been allowed in the ESA’s 45-year history, and mirror a similar change the EPA hopes to impose on air pollution regulations.

  • More than two dozen bills seeking to weaken the ESA have also been in play inside the Beltway over the past two weeks, including legislation that would ban protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes.

  • Opponents of the law see the Republican control of Congress, combined with Trump’s enthusiasm for deregulation, as their best chance in a quarter-century to gut it.

  • “The myriad proposals reflect a wish list assembled over decades by oil and gas companies, libertarians and ranchers in Western states, who have long sought to overhaul the law,” reports The New York Times.

better: Americans of all political stripes strongly support the Endangered Species Act

  • On the same day that the Trump administration announced its proposals to change the Endangered Species Act, a new study found that 83 percent of Americans support the law.

  • The ESA polled well among 90 percent of liberals, 74 percent of conservatives, and 68 percent of hunters and property-rights advocates.

  • Study lead author Jeremy Bruskotter of Ohio State U did the study to learn if the act was as controversial as common wisdom (and lazy reporters) often claim it to be.

  • Read more in The Revelator.

goodish: A Republican in Congress acts rationally on climate change

  • Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida) is bucking his party’s know-nothing stance on climate change.

  • Curbelo has introduced the Market Choice Act of 2018, legislation that would put a price on climate-heating greenhouse gas pollution (termed a “carbon tax” by both supporters and opponents) from oil refineries, gas processing plants, coal mines, industrial facilities, and fuel import facilities.

  • The charge would begin at $24/ton and rise at the rate of inflation + two percent a year.

  • The plan would eliminate the gasoline tax, currently at $0.184 a gallon, which funds federal highway maintenance; although the rise of hybrid and EVs has meant that this fund is no longer collecting enough money.

  • Even Curbelo admits that the legislation isn’t likely to go anywhere. In fact, last week 222 Republican members of the House (as well as seven Democratic members) voted for a resolution opposing any sort of carbon tax as “detrimental to the United States economy.” Only six GOPers opposed the resolution.

  • A recent study from the Stanford Energy Modeling Forum, involving 11 teams, modeled how a carbon tax would affect the environment and economy. It found that the charge would curb carbon pollution, while a small decrease in economic activity would be more than offset by the economic benefits created from slowing down climate change and lessening pollution.

  • But for Republicans who may be rethinking where they stand on climate change, Curbelo says the bill is an “opportunity to begin that discussion,” according to the Houston Chronicle.

  • Read more about the bill at S&P Global, and the vote at Roll Call

  • Read more about Curbelo’s intro of the bill, and last week’s anti-climate action vote, in the New Orleans Times-Picayune

  • Here’s coverage of the Stanford study in The Guardian

Related: “Don’t Let Anyone Fool You: There ARE Environmental Conservatives. And they’re pissed.” Tell us more, Mother Jones.

Great: Thousands of teens across the U.S. march for climate justice & action, and get covered by major news media


(de)regulation nation is written by Emily J. Gertz and produced by Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This week’s quote is by Janelle Monáe.

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