(de)regulation nation: automakers make a Trump-free deal with California

"It is of little use for us to pay lip-loyalty to the mighty men of the past..."

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking bad, better, good, and great environmental news in the Trump era.

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In Tuesday’s newsletter, I failed to credit the Miami Herald’s Puerto Rico coverage, and also the Puerto Rico-based Center for Investigative Reporting / Centro de Periodismo Investigativo for its original work (in Spanish) of uncovering the trove of profane Telegraph chats between Gov. Roberto Rosselló of Puerto Rico and his team.

CPIPR’s English-language coverage includes this story on the “multi-million dollar corruption network” behind the chats that has pillaged public funds “though the sale of influences, contracts and access to benefits in the government,” even as officials imposed a stark austerity budget on island residents following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. (<<< —- the environmental news link)

The world press has spent the past couple days describing Boris Johnson, the UK’s new prime minister, as that nation’s version of President Trump. They’re referring in part to his erratic public persona and crazy hair, but mostly to his embrace of populism. Check out this new analysis in The Conversation for a quick dig into how accurate that comparison may be.

But when it comes to bigotry, contempt for women, authoritarian leanings, and selling off the public trust to private-sector allies, CPIPR’s reporting shows that the US has had something of a mini-Trump of our own on this side of the Atlantic.

On July 24, Rosselló announced his resignation. But the movement to revitalize democracy in Puerto Rico may be just beginning.

Onward:

bad: the great public lands robbery is underway

  • Earlier this month, as I covered in (de)regulation nation, the Interior Department announced its plan to relocate most staff at the Bureau of Land Management’s Wash., DC headquarters to new offices across the west.

  • Agency chiefs say the move will save improve efficiency by putting staffers closer to the lands they manage, as well as slashing tens of millions off BLM HQ’s expenses, and give junior staff more professional development opportunities with senior staff.

  • Former BLM chiefs tell Bloomberg Environment that rather than good-government move, BLM’s HQ relocation is more likely a step towards handing off federal control of public lands to states, a move that would likely accelerate drilling and mining in many areas even further.

  • I asked Interior whether any of the BLM’s projected savings would go towards replenishing its budget for recreation programs, which by some estimates has dropped by $14 million since 2010. And if so, by how much?

  • “Savings (generally): $50M over 20 years,” responded Interior Press Secretary Molly Block in email.

  • Ms. Block similarly non-answered another question, on how BLM will continue to use the best climate science in managing all public lands, once its senior staff are dispersed across the western US.

better: Congress is debating dueling climate action plans, a carbon tax, and more

  • A bloc of moderate House Democrats has proposed that the nation set a 2050 deadline for eliminating carbon pollution.

  • It’s two decades later than the more ambitious deadline proposed in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, but “more ambitious than seen in past proposals from Democratic leadership in Congress,” reports the Washington Post.

  • “The same goal has been established by states and territories including Maine, Nevada and Puerto Rico, as well has nations including Germany, Japan and Spain,” notes Roll Call, which adds that the bill’s sponsors plan “to court Republican lawmakers and voters for their support. “

  • Two Senate Democrats have introduced the “Climate Action Rebate Act,” a carbon tax that “aims to generate $2.5 trillion in revenues over 10 years starting in 2020,” reports Reuters. “It would rebate about 70 percent of the money to families that make less than $130,000 per year, and use the rest for energy infrastructure, job retraining for fossil fuel workers, and research and development.”

  • A House committee this week passed the “Climate Risk Disclosure Act,” a bill that would require publicly-traded companies to disclose their exposure to climate risk as well as their load of greenhouse gas pollution.

  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a companion bill in the Senate earlier this month, as CNBC reports.

good? Republicans in Congress form an environmental caucus

  • Some House and Senate Republican lawmakers have formed a new ad hoc group within Congress, the “Roosevelt Conservation Coalition,” to “embrace and promote constructive efforts to address environmental problems, responsibly plan for all market factors, and base policy decisions on science and quantifiable facts.”

  • “Unleashing solutions that enhance and protect our environment are essential to ensuring economic growth, energy independence, and national security,” said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in a statement announcing the coalition.

  • The “Roosevelt” moniker is a 100-year callback to President Theodore Roosevelt, a conservation advocate who championed the creation of Yellowstone National Park, along with scores of wildlife refuges across the country.

  • (It’s worth recalling that Republican Party positions of 1900 were much like those of today’s Democratic Party, with few points of resemblance to the contemporary GOP.)

  • Is this a good-faith effort “to strengthen conservation programs, promote public health, defend our environment, keep our air clean and protect our waterways,” as Congressman Brian Mast (R-Florida) said in the statement?

  • The fact that the words “climate change” do not appear anywhere in the coalition’s statement does not inspire confidence.

  • But the reference to “national security” could be read as subtle push-back against the White House’s resistance to recognizing climate risks to national security.

great: major automakers and California defy Trump rollback, make an agreement to curb auto pollution

  • Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW “have struck a deal with California to reduce tailpipe pollution,” reports The New York Times, side-stepping the Trump rollback of strong Obama-era standards.

  • The deal will create “much-needed regulatory certainty,” the automakers say, and avoid “a patchwork of regulations while continuing to ensure meaningful greenhouse gas emissions reductions.”

  • The automakers are referring to two things here:

    • The lawsuit that over a dozen states and DC filed last year, charging that Trump arbitrarily and capriciously junked the Obama-era standards.

    • The Trump EPA’s stated intention to revoke California’s power (written into the Clean Air Act) to set its own standards, which the state has vowed to fight.

  • California is now calling on more automakers to join the deal.

  • Under the deal, cars and light trucks sold in California will need to get about 51 miles per gallon by 2026, rather than the 52.5 mpg by 2025 established in the Obama standard.

  • “Automakers will also receive additional compliance credits for selling electric vehicles under the plan, among other revisions, the state’s air pollution regulator said,” according to Bloomberg News.

  • “Some environmental groups criticized the slower pace and expanded loopholes the deal awarded the automakers,” The Times reports.

  • But it’s considerably stronger than what the Trump administration intends: freezing the tailpipe standard at its 2021 level of 37 mpg.

  • “The EPA called the deal a ‘stunt,”, reports The Verge, “and said it won’t change the administration’s rollback plans.”

  • Background:

    • Trump’s EPA and Department of Transportation announced their plan to replace the Obama-era standards a year ago, “with only desultory gestures at justification,” as Vox wrote at the time.

    • The auto industry, fearing the regulatory chaos that years of litigation over the rollback will cause, wrote directly to the president to urge him to roll back the rollback, as The Detroit Free Press reported in June.


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This newsletter is written by Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist. You’ll find links to my past reporting and more biographical goodness at my website .

Please send tips and suggestions to: emily@deregnation.com

This week’s quote is by Theodore Roosevelt, taken from his 1910 speech, “The New Nationalism.” The full quote reads:

“It is of little use for us to pay lip-loyalty to the mighty men of the past unless we sincerely endeavor to apply to the problems of the present precisely the qualities which in other crises enabled the men of that day to meet those crises.”