(de)regulation nation: BLM delays drilling near New Mexico national park

"There’s no time to be cynical in this world; we’re in a goth world, it’s all darkness."

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Bad: Trump administration moves to stall tailpipe pollution cuts

  • Last week the Trump administration released its plan to roll back tailpipe pollution cuts. The administration hopes to freeze auto emission standards at 2020 levels.

  • Under the original 2012 rule, which the Obama administration developed over three years, car makers must raise fuel efficiency in increments, ultimately doubling it (from 2012 levels) by 2025.

  • The administration has also verified that it will challenge California’s right to set its own, tougher auto pollution standards, even though the state’s right to do this is written into the Clean Air Act.

  • Automakers lobbied the Trump administration for more time to meet the 2025 deadline. But this plan has them spooked, since it could end up in court for years, and upend the entire federal regulatory process.

  • Read more: Amid the tons and tons of coverage of this major attack on an important environmental rule, this account in HuffPost stands out as a readable recap of how we got here. Politico does a good job describing the political and regulatory questions. Philly.com covers the promise by a coalition of (as of Friday) 18 state attorneys general to sue the administration over its plan, particularly the challenge to California’s Clean Air Act waiver.

Related: Five days after the Trump administration announced its intention to overturn California’s Clean Air Act waiver, the state countered that not only will it fight that move in court, it will also hold automakers to the existing emissions standards, even if the federal government weakens them. “That won’t be pleasant for automakers, which unwisely pressured Trump to relax the standards,” the Los Angeles Times understatedly notes.

But why are we focused on improving cars? Mayors who oppose the rollback and challenge to California’s waiver would more good for the climate and public health, argues Curbed, if they made it easier for people to not drive in the first place.

Better: Feds take drilling leases close to Carlsbad Caverns off the block

  • The Bureau of Land Management intends to lease upwards of 200 oil and gas drilling sites in New Mexico.

  • But the agency has removed all sites within 10 miles of Carlsbad Caverns National Park from the sale, for now.

  • The agency has received scores of public comments critical of the entire leasing plan, which environmentalists say will make air quality in the region (where drilling is already a major industry) even worse.

  • Environmentalists have also accused the agency of downplaying potential harms to groundwater and the area’s unique limestone geology.

  • But some gave the BLM measured praise for withdrawing the sites nearest Carlsbad Caverns from consideration.

  • “I’m very pleased the BLM listened to the public’s concerns by recognizing that these are delicate and rare resources that need to be studied and analyzed more before any leasing takes place in that area,” Ernie Atencio of the National Parks Conservation Association told a reporter.

  • Read more in the Albuquerque Journal.

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Good: Trump makes a solid pick to lead White House sci-tech office

  • On July 31, President Trump nominated Kelvin Droegemeier to lead the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.

  • National science organizations and science policy experts have lauded the pick.

  • Droegemeier, an extreme-weather expert, is currently vice-president for research at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, and a one-time vice-chair of the governing board of the National Science Foundation.

  • Droegemeier “has experience speaking science to power,” John Holdren, who was President Obama’s OSTP director and chief science advisor, told Nature News.

  • It’s an open question whether Droegemeier can have a positive impact on this White House or the Trump administration, which have steadily attempted to slash federal science funding, undermine scientific advisory panels, and weaken the work of career agency scientists.

  • The Department of Interior and the EPA have both overhauled federal scientific advisory bodies in ways that shed expert researchers. A bogus “transparency” proposal, intended to exclude the findings of important environmental health studies from policy-making, is still in play at the EPA.

  • Under Trump, the OSTP has dropped from 130 to about 50 staffers, and has been leaderless since he took office 19 months ago. It’s the longest the office has gone without a director.

  • Read more in Nature News

  • Read more in Science

  • To learn more about some of the unqualified political operatives that Trump nominated for science-related leadership positions during his first year in office, these two stories I reported for Reveal News/Center for Investigative Reporting last year are a good place to start.

Soak in the goodness:

The world supply of wind and solar energy supply has hit 1,000 gigawatts (1 terawatt) and continues to rise, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. BNEF estimates the second 1,000 gigawatts will be online by mid-2023, at a cost nearly 50 percent lower than the first. A gigawatt of electricity can power roughly 700,000 American homes.

The number of days per year when wind and solar power cause power prices to drop below zero are increasing in some nations. This forces utilities to suspend generation from coal-fired plants, as Bloomberg News (same Bloomberg, but not BNEF) reports.

New Jersey aims to be 100 percent clean-energy-powered by 2050, with much of the load carried by offshore wind farms, reports The Asbury Park Press.

Great: Supreme Court upholds children’s climate lawsuit against federal government

  • Another encouraging thing happened on July 31: The Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s latest attempt to put the breaks on a landmark climate change lawsuit.

  • The case is called Juliana vs United States, named for lead plaintiff Kelsey Juliana.

  • In 2015, Juliana’s 21 youth plaintiffs (now aged from 11 to 22 years old) sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failing to protect the public trust.

  • How? By “creating a national energy system that causes climate change” via burning of fossil fuels, which has set in motion dangerous environmental changes that will harm their future selves, along with their future offspring.

  • The Trump administration inherited the case from the Obama administration, and has tried repeatedly to slow it down or get it thrown out of court.

  • If the Juliana plaintiffs win their case, currently scheduled to go to trial on October 29 at a federal district court in Oregon, it would be a legal precedent establishing that U.S. constitutional rights include the right to a healthy environment.

  • Upshot: If you pay attention to just one climate change lawsuit, make it Juliana.

  • But there’s a long way to go yet. The Trump administration will likely try again to stop the trial from taking place; and if it loses in court, it will almost certainly appeal.

  • Read more at Climate Liability News, a great source for all sorts of climate change-related legal coverage.

  • The Wikipedia entry for Juliana has an accurate and concise timeline of milestones in the case since 2015.

Also great: This Republican is building a movement for climate action

  • Grist offers up this admiring profile of collegiate Republican Kiera O’Brien, an Alaskan bucking her party’s climate change delay and denial.

  • The Harvard student has co-founded Students for Carbon Dividends, a bipartisan campaign pressing lawmakers to enact market-based curbs on climate-heating carbon pollution.

  • “What O’Brien is doing — going against her party’s grain — takes guts,” says Grist. “For most Republican leaders, climate action is a political non-starter.”

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

This week’s quote is by Miho Hatori, via The Creative Independent.

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