(de)regulation nation: House Democrats poised to rock Trump's world

“I can conceive of no better service… than boldly exposing the weakness, liabilities and infinite corruptions of democracy.”

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bad: EPA gives a climate change denier spot on top agency science panel

  • John Christy, an atmospheric scientist at University of Alabama, is among the 3 percent of climate researchers worldwide who disagree with the other 97 percent on the realities of climate change.

  • EPA is putting Christy, a longtime critic of regulations to protect environmental health, on the agency’s influential, 45-member Scientific Advisory Board.

  • According to Christy, EPA invited him to apply.

  • Christy says his top priority will be convincing fellow panel members that the vast majority of climate scientists worldwide have erred in crediting climate change to human actions instead of natural phenomena, or warning that climate change is harming public health and welfare.

  • This is the latest in an ongoing series of moves by the Trump administration to sever good science from environmental and public health regulations.

  • “The Trump administration has been stacking EPA’s science advisory boards with researchers and consultants whose work is often funded or promoted by industry,” notes E&E News reporter Scott Waldman. “It has reached out to critics of climate science and air pollution regulations to serve on the boards.”

  • Read more in E&E News via Scientific American

Fast fact: It’s been official US government policy for a decade that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public’s health and welfare. (See “CO2 endangerment finding” on your favorite online search tool for more info.)

also bad: Christy’s own Alabama will suffer, a lot, as the climate gets hotter

  • Coincidentally, during the same week that Alabama-based Christy ascended to a top federal science advisory role…

  • …a new county-by-county analysis of climate impacts suggested that the southeastern states will be hardest hit in the US.

  • Between 2080 ad 2099 (well within the lifetimes of today’s youngsters), changing climactic conditions in the southeast will include:

    • Farming yields lowered by up to 80 percent

    • Increases in annual premature deaths by roughly 50 persons or more per 100,000 residents (which would add up, at the lower end, to around 2,450 additional premature deaths per year in Alabama alone)

    • Lowered income of 5 to almost 30 percent on a county-by-county basis

  • Political analysts at the Brookings Institution, a centrist DC think tank, have found a silver lining amid these and other downbeat findings.

  • “What if we flip the frame from emissions to impacts?,” they write. “From that perspective, the current gridlock might not be as permanent as it now seems, as many of the jurisdictions that have selected political leaders opposed to climate policy are the most exposed to the harms of climate change.”

  • In other words, they believe forecasts like these may break the “brown blockade” of fossil-fuel-producing states that has stalled progress on federal energy and climate policies, and lead to a new era of policy progress. Hurrah!

  • Read more at the Brookings Institution, which includes links to the original study, created by over 20 scientists and other researchers via the Climate Impact Lab.

better: newly empowered House Democrat vows to hold natural resource agency accountable

  • During the first two years of the Trump administration, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives uncritically supported its aggressive expansion of mining, fracking, and drilling on public lands, and erasure of many pro-conservation policies.

  • Now Democrats control the House, and Rep. Raul Griljava (D-Ariz.), the new chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, says he’ll focus the committee on climate change, and much influence regulated industries have on the doings at Interior.

  • In early January, Griljava confronted Interior acting director David Bernhardt by asking via letter (the standard form of early engagement between agencies and oversight committees) why agency staff were arranging public meetings about plans for drilling in the Arctic Refuge, even though Interior was closed, and its staff supposedly furloughed, during the government shutdown.

  • Two days later, Interior postponed the meetings.

  • Griljava can’t be sure his letter sparked that action, but it’s a better outcome than nothing at all, which is what he got in response to dozens of letters sent to former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017 and 2018.

  • Read about all this and more in Audubon magazine’s profile of Raul Griljava.

Remember: From blowing up the multi-state plan to save the sage grouse, to slashing the Bears Ears National Monument by about 2 million acres (coincidentally, acres targeted by industry for resource extraction), Trump-era environmental policies have been heavy on reversals of Obama-era conservation- and public health-oriented wildlife, federal lands, and ocean policies.

good: the heat’s still on Interior ex-chief Zinke for potential corruption

  • Raul Griljava also told Audubon magazine that he’ll call former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to testify before Congress about the ethics and corruption allegations that piled up against him during his agency tenure.

  • Last fall, when Griljava fired a volley by calling on Zinke to resign, the then-official responded by calling Griljava a drunk, as Vox reported at the time.

  • Zinke’s December resignation came after the White House told him to leave voluntarily by the end of the year or be fired, as the Washington Post discovered.

  • Zinke announced his departure a few days after schmoozing at Interior’s annual Christmas party with “lobbyists and conservative activists [in] his executive suite,” according to the Post, “where he posed for photos in front of a large stuffed polar bear wearing a Santa cap, according to an attendee.”

  • The Post also broke that the Department of Justice has been investigating Zinke since at least last October for possibly lying to investigators.

  • DOJ’s investigation is related two investigations of Zinke from within Interior, one of them for a federal lands deal that would benefit Zinke and his wife by $$$.

great: LOL opportunity

  • Nothing came across my sightline this week that lived up to my highest ambitions for GREAT—a real life something (citizen action, government move, law, court decision, switch flipped on a massive new solar power farm, etc.) that changes something tangibly for the better, or at least bodes well to do so.

  • What did happen, though, was that I laughed out loud at this bit on late night TV’s The Daily Show, loudly, for at least upwards of a minute. That felt so unusual and GREAT that it makes me wonder if many lovely (de)regulation nation readers could use a great laugh as well.

  • It’s about this week’s blast of polar weather in the lower 48, and climate change, and President Trump, and stale TV news tropes, and the funny that results when they get combined. Enjoy:


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    This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist. Learn more about me and see some of my work at my web site.

    This week’s quote is by Walt Whitman. I found it at Brain Pickings, in a thoughtful essay titled “Walt Whitman on Democracy and Optimism as a Mighty Form of Resistance.”

    I welcome your feedback, questions, and story tips: emily@deregnation.com