(de)regulation nation: snagging a conservation victory from the paws of deceit

“Go into the bowels of the government and never go to the top. The lies start at the top.”

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

Stakeholders across the political spectrum are beginning to show their hands for and against the Green New Deal, the climate action resolution that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced in Congress in early February. Here’s a rough breakdown of the sides:

  • Trumpist Republicans and industry groups, who favor climate denial, deregulation, and continued dependence on fossil fuels.

  • Republicans who are breaking with Trump in calling for an alternative plan in favor of carbon taxes.

  • Centrist Democrats such as senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), who now see a political upside to staking out a position for climate action.

  • Fervent supporters inside and outside Congress, such Ocasio-Cortez and Markey, the Sunrise Movement, Hip Hop Caucus, and school children worldwide mobilized by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg

  • The Big Green environmental groups, which are GND-positive overall, but differ on whether it goes far enough, is or is not politically unrealistic, etc.

Then there’s organized labor. On Monday, 11 AFL-CIO-affiliated labor unions announced their opposition to the GND via this letter (tweeted out by Payday Report’s Mike Elk) to Markey and Ocasio-Cortez. While affirming their love for climate change action, particularly when it includes an expanding clean energy workforce, the unions state that the GND “is far too short on specific solutions that speak to the jobs of our members and the critical sectors of our economy.”

Advocacy group Friends of the Earth has responded by calling the labor letter “out of touch with the present, not to mention the future, of energy in America,” terming the unions “climate deniers like the Koch brothers, the Republican Party and Big Oil.”

It’s a striking stand-off, given that until switching to candidate Trump in 2016, “Big Labor” was almost synonymous with “Democratic Party.”

For the deepest examination to date about the forces aligning against the GND, check out the Public Accountability Initiative’s new report, “The Anti-Green New Deal Coalition.” While you’re at it, check out PAI’s awesome LittleSis database, too, which tracks the connections between the globe’s political and business elites.


bad: Park Service fires climate scientist who resisted censorship

  • Maria Caffrey, a climate scientist studying the risks that rising seas pose to U.S. national parks, has lost her contract job with the National Park Service (which is part of the Department of Interior).

  • Caffrey resisted bullying and other pressures by agency officials to remove all the references to the human causes of climate change from her final report, as Reveal first reported in April 2018.

  • That story led Congress to investigate, and the Park Service ultimately published the report uncensored.

  • In its follow-up, Reveal reports that even though she was assured last year that her contract would be renewed, officials in Feb. told Caffrey there was no longer funding for her position. Caffrey’s supervisor refused to confirm or deny to her that the move was retaliation for “the cliamate change stuff.”

  • The Trump administration has sought to justify and protect its environmental rollbacks by fiercely attacking climate and environmental science. Reveal notes that there are “194 examples of the federal government censoring, hindering or sidelining climate change science since Trump was elected.”

  • On March 7, Senate Democrats introduced a bill to block Trump’s proposed White House “climate change commission” led by prominent denier William Happer. It faces a steep climb with the chamber’s Republican majority, and some fossil energy state Democrats could resist it as well.

also bad: a Democratic gov is trying to censor her own state scientists on fossil fuel deal

  • Climate and science denial aren’t just for Republican Party operatives, lobbyists, hacks and flacks.

  • As DeSmog — where I used to work — has reported, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) “squashed a letter by her own state health agency, which raised serious concerns about a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in a densely populated Providence neighborhood.”

better: Florida moves towards regulating fracking, sort of

  • It’s not exactly what environmental activists wanted and it’s not even close to a ban, but the Florida Senate Agriculture Committee has advanced regulatory safeguards for fracking, along with a ban of some types of fracking in certain places, too.

  • While far from a drilling mecca akin to areas of Wyoming, South Dakota, or Texas, Florida has slowly but surely opened for business to the oil and gas industry, particularly for shipments of LNG-by-rail.

  • Environmentalists criticize the bill for claiming to ban fracking on its face while actually ushering drilling in the state.

  • “It’s appalling that senators have chosen to only focus on one type of fracking technique,” Michelle Allen of Food & Water Watch, told The Miami Herald. “Most tellingly, legislators continue to use the oil industry line that matrix acidizing is just a cleaning technique when it is clear toxic chemicals are used in this type of drilling for the purposes of reaching new pockets of oil.”

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good: Trump has signed the Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization into law

  • On March 12, President Trump signed a bill into law that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The legislation passed Congress with veto-proof bipartisan majorities.

  • The fund “protects vital habitats in Montana, Oregon, Washington, and California; creates new wilderness areas in New Mexico; establishes new national parks and expands existing ones; blocks exploration of a gold mine north of Yellowstone National Park; guarantees that federal lands stay open for recreation; and so much more,” exulted the outdoor industry business publication SNEWS. Still,“outdoor advocates are both hopeful and skeptical of how the legislation will play out.”

  • Why? Well, even as administration officials claimed warm fuzzies over the law’s enactment, the White House’s new federal budget proposal called for not funding the LWCF .

  • White House budgets are statements of a president’s priorities, not demands that Congress must follow. So singling out the LWCF for demolition was likely a dog-whistle to Trump’s anti-regulation allies. It could also be a move to inhibit Republican lawmakers from supporting future conservation legislation.

  • U.S. Sen. John Tester (D-MT) slammed the administration’s hypocrisy. “It is easy to understand why folks hate Washington when politicians cheer on the President as he signs a bill to authorize LWCF just one day after trying to gut its funding,” Tester told the Missoulian. “I hope the President’s cheerleaders put money where their mouth is and fully fund this critical conservation initiative.”

also good: instead of running for president, this billionaire is going “beyond carbon”

  • Mike Bloomberg, the business tycoon and former mayor of New York, made the headlines recently by announcing he’s not going to run for president.

  • Bloomberg said that instead, he’ll continue ruling at the intersection of Big Philanthropy and Big Green, by backing the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Carbon” campaign to phase out fossil fuel energy in the U.S.

  • The campaign will be a grassroots effort “to being moving America as quickly as possible away from oil and gas and toward a 100 percent clean energy economy,” according to an opinion piece Bloomberg published on his namesake business news site.

  • I’ve learned as a seasoned investigative journalist to second-guess the whims of multi-billionaires (Bloomberg is the 11th richest man on the Earth), or even multi-millionaires for that matter.

  • Still, to his credit, Bloomberg has already donated more than $100,000 to Sierra Club’s existing “Beyond Coal” campaign to get all U.S. coal-fired power plants shut down by 2030, and says he’ll continue to fund that as well.

  • Emily reminds me that he’s also been an important force in galvanizing the C40 Cities alliance of 90 cities worldwide taking leadership on climate action.

great: a Republican-dominated city council passes an offshore drilling ban

  • Here in northern San Diego County, Calif., a Vista city council member named John Franklin introduced and got a resolution passed at the March 12 city council meeting that calls for a ban on offshore drilling in the Pacific Ocean.

  • In introducing the resolution, Franklin said he learned about it from a constituent, thanking her for her activism on the issue and saying an “unspoiled” oceanfront is something everyone can agree on.

  • Franklin’s move is remarkable because he isn’t just a random member of a random mid-sized city council. In his day job, he manages campaigns for Republican Party candidates within San Diego County, via his business Pacific Political. Clients have included former Congress member Darrell Issa, a staunch climate denier.

  • Franklin’s resolution cuts against the grain of the Trump administration’s proposed deepwater offshore drilling in the Pacific, although it’s consistent with the pro-environmental-conservation stances of other California conservatives.

  • The city has a 3-2 conservative-liberal balance and yet, perhaps because it was introduced by a Republican, the resolution passed unanimously.

  • The audience in attendance clapped and cheered as the city council approved the ban.

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This week’s edition was researched and written by Steve Horn, a San Diego, Calif.-based reporter and producer for The Real News Network. Steve has freelanced for The Intercept, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Vice News, and others. From 2011 to 2018 he was an investigative reporter for the climate and environmental news site DeSmog. In his free time Steve is a competitive distance runner and serves on the screening committee of the Dan Diego International Film Festival.

This edition was edited and produced by journalist Emily Gertz, the founder of (de)regulation nation.

This week’s quote is by Myra MacPherson, a former reporter for The Washington Post and author of author of “All Governments Lie: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone.” Describing Stone’s journalistic philosophy in 2014, MacPherson said, “The first [rule] was to go into the bowels of the government and never go to the top. The lies start at the top.”"

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