(de)regulation nation: California commits to creating a carbon-free economy before 2050

"This is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us, as citizens of the United States, need to determine just who it is that we are, just what it is that we stand for."

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

Each issue includes updates on Trump administration 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. I call the format is B2G2: Bad, Better, Good, Great.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m an environmental journalist, and 2018 Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism fellow at the CUNY Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Send your feedback and story tips to emily@deregnation.com.

If a friend forwarded this newsletter to you, sign up today at deregnation.com. Thanks.


Have you ever wondered how I select and sort the stories for (de)regulation nation? Sure you have. Let me pull back the curtain on my Editorial Process:,

  • I look for reporters and stories that get into why a policy is bad or good; why it worked or didn’t (or won’t); and who or what gets helped or hurt as a result.

  • “Bad” environmental news choices nearly always involve attacks on credible science and good environmental policies by the Trump administration, because a) this newsletter exists to track that news, and b) that news is important to the public interest, but tends to get lost in the 25/7 crush of news on other topics.

  • Bad stuff abetted or advanced by Congressional lawmakers of any party is also eligible, along with smart stuff advanced by same.

  • “Better” and “good” news often involves opposition to the bad stuff, along with real-world progress (or foundation-laying for it) in municipalities and states.

  • Also, I’m always on the lookout for bipartisan efforts to protect scientific integrity and advance good policies; citizens getting involved in environmental policy action; candidates running on sound enviro policy ideas.

  • “Great” items ideally report unambiguous progress on an environmental front (such as curbing climate-heating emissions, or advancing cleaner energy, environmental health, or wildlife conservation and protection), from anywhere in the world.

The degree of upbeatness that makes a story “good” vs “great” can shift from week to week, depending on what’s been in the news. But these rules-of-thumb are basically where I began planning (de)regulation during the winter. Six months since the first issue came out in March, new subscribers are signing up steadily (Thanks, readers!), so the format seems to be working well

What I have found, though, is that often there’s too much news across the spectrum of bad to great, than I can pack digestibly into one weekly newsletter.

To keep (de)regulation nation readable, and in particular bearable when it comes to the bad news, I’m letting a lot of important developments go by.

So, it’s time to figure out how to publish more often. This will almost definitely mean creating funding streams for the newsletter through some combination of entrepreneurial journalism grants, advertising, sponsorships, and reader contributions.

How do you think (de)regulation nation should grow? Please follow the link at the bottom of this week’s newsletter to take a two-minute survey. Your answers will help me continue to make this the best, most original enviro-news update in your inbox.

And while it’s not obligatory, including your contact information in the survey will allow us to schedule a brief phone interview, which is a super-helpful way for me to learn more about what readers want and need.

Onward:

bad: Trump’s terrible climate policies may be inspiring a “global rightward shift on climate change”

  • In case you missed it, Australia’s Malcolm Turner was ousted by his political cohorts as prime minister a couple weeks ago. They rebelled over Turner’s plan for modest greenhouse gas pollution cuts.

  • Meanwhile in Canada, where Justin Trudeau won election in 2015 on a platform that included national carbon pricing (an economic lever for making it more costly for industries to continue creating carbon pollution), the federal government has dialed back the scope of its plan to appease right-wing critics, while also approving several major oil-export pipelines.

  • With Trump reversing Obama-era climate policies, this means that three of the world’s top emitters of heat-trapping pollution have either abandoned ambitious plans and regulations to slash greenhouse gas emissions, or are sacrificing them for political survival.

  • The head of a Canadian manufacturing industry group told a newspaper that in light of Trump’s climate rollbacks, Canada would hurt its own economy by passing a strong carbon tax.

  • In July, former Australian prime minister Tony Abbot “exhorted Australia to follow President Trump’s lead and leave the Paris agreement...to save our party from a political legacy that could haunt us for the next decade at least.”

  • No major industrialized nation is on track to meet its goals under the Paris Agreement for slashing carbon pollution.

  • Read Robinson Meyer’s sobering analysis of the U.S.-Australia-Canada alignment on bad or weak climate policies in The Atlantic.

related: methane leaks get a pass

The Trump administration has proposed rolling back an Obama-era mandate that energy companies test for and repair methane leaks, as well as another regulation that clamped down on “flaring:” intentional venting and burning of methane from oil or gas drilling infrastructure. Read more in The New York Times.

Methane is a powerful heat-trapping gas that could rival CO2 as a driver of climate change over the next 100 years.

also bad

  • Mass transit: The Trump administration is dragging its heels on releasing federal grants to mass transit expansion projects around the country. The Federal Transit Administration (part of the Department of Transportation) has dispersed only half the $2.6 billion Congress appropriated for this fiscal year. The delays are creating political headaches for city officials who advocated the projects, “which may be the point,” writes Angie Schmitt. Read more in Streetsblog.

  • Public lands: Last week Sonny Perdue, the Secretary of Agriculture, “abruptly suspended the environmental review” of a mining plan for federal lands in Minnesota “saying the agency had not uncovered any new information.” The U.S. Forest Service then dropped its 2016 suspension of mining in parts of Minnesota’s Superior National Forest that are just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, an important recreation and conservation area. In 2017, Perdue promised Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) that the agency would complete a two-year study of potential environmental and other dangers of mining these federal lands. Read more in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and Sierra Magazine.

better: U.S. civic, business leaders renew vows to fill Trump-shaped void in U.S. climate regulations

  • The Global Climate Action Summit is taking place this week in San Francisco.

  • It’s a gathering-together of hundreds of civic and business leaders, including governors and mayors, who last year proclaimed “We’re Still In,” after Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

  • Observers expect them to affirm that they’ll take strong-enough action to counter the Trump administration’s abandonment of science-based climate policies.

  • What’s important is that they come up with firm plans to take those actions. It’s not clear how well that will turn out.

  • The challenges are immense, particularly when it comes to slashing use of oil-based fuels for transportation, which has surpassed coal-fired power as the greatest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.

  • Thousands of scientists, engineers, and activists will also be there. “It kind of feels like a climate nerd prom out here,” one policy wonk told a local TV station.

  • Policy experts say that because this summit “is focused on the believers” in climate action, it could deliver on action as well as the yakkity-yak.

  • Read more about “climate prom” at KCRA3 San Francisco.

  • Read some expert analysis by folks affiliated with the Brookings Institution.

  • Read about the Global Climate Action Summit in the Los Angeles Times.


good: California lawmakers delivered a pile of ambition just ahead of the summit

  • The California legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, a bill committing the state to eliminate fossil fuels from its electricity supply by 2045.

  • It’s the most ambitious zero-carbon promise in world history, enacted by the world’s fifth largest economy.

  • Gov. Jerry Brown also signed an executive order that commits California to zero out carbon throughout its economy (meaning transportation, building cooling and heating, manufacturing, and more) also by 2045. Since executive orders can easily be overturned, it’s a less powerful development than the electricity law, but still significant.

  • California’s moves take on special significance as the state deals with repeat climate change-driven disasters from heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and sea level rise.

  • Read more the political context of California’s economy-wide carbon neutrality vow, in this Vox explainer.

  • Read more about California’s zero-carbon electricity vow in the context of how it’s already suffering from global warming, in InsideClimate News.

great: court upholds Massachusetts’ power to regulate CO2 pollution

  • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled last week that the state has legal authority to curb carbon pollution from power plants.

  • State environmental officials last year finalized regulations mandating that power generators curb CO2 spew 7 percent a year between now and 2020, and 80 percent by 2050.

  • But electric utilities took the state to court, arguing in a variety of ways that the regulation was illegal.

  • The decision is especially encouraging in the wake of the Trump EPA’s release of its oxymoronically-named “Affordable Clean Energy” plan, the agency’s replacement for the Obama EPA’s Clean Power Plan to curb CO2 from power plants.

  • Read more in InsideClimate News.


also great: a quick (de)regulation nation reader survey

  • Please take 2 minutes to answer a few questions about the future of (de)regulation nation.

  • Your answers will help me continue to create and improve this newsletter.

  • Here’s that link again.

  • You can also write me emily@deregnation.com with feedback and story tips.

  • Thank you!


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

This week’s quote is by Barack Obama, delivered in a speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne on Sept. 7.

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email: emily@deregnation.com

twitter: @ejgertz & @deregtracker