Environment & Climate

Kentucky Coal Company Announces Plans to Build the State’s Largest Solar Farm

by Natasha Geiling – The company says the farm will give jobs to displaced coal miners. A Kentucky coal company announced this past Tuesday that it is planning to build a solar farm on a reclaimed mountaintop removal coal mine and that the project would bring both jobs and energy to the area. Berkeley Energy Group, the coal company behind the project, billed it as the first large-scale solar farm in the Appalachian region, which has been hit hard by the decades-long decline in the U.S. coal industry. The company, in partnership with EDF Renewable Energy, is currently conducting feasibility studies for the project on two reclaimed strip mines, both located in the eastern part of the state. Berkeley Energy Group estimates that the solar farm could produce as much as 50 or 100 megawatts of electricity, which would be five to ten times the size of Kentucky’s largest solar farm. Berkeley...

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This Earth Day, Defeating Trump is Job One

by Libero Della Piana – This Earth Day, we face a climate threat greater than ever before. And he lives in the White House. On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump consistently mocked climate science and promised to gut policies protecting our communities, natural resources and the environment. He called climate change “a hoax” invented by the Chinese government. In and out of office, Trump has been consistently at odds with scientific evidence and consensus on climate change. His is also at odds with public opinion, which increasingly acknowledges and understands the threat of global climate crisis. Despite its failures to advance a legislative agenda, the Trump Administration has successfully used executive orders, rule changes in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies, and the use of the Congressional Review Act to undo crucial protections of air, water and the environment. Trump’s greatest achievement thus far may very well be turning...

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‘Payout Time’: Exxon Seeks Waiver From U.S. Sanctions to Drill in Russia

by Nika Knight – “Exxon applied for waiver from sanctions on Russia. Among departments who must approve: State Department, run by company’s ex-CEO” Exxon is applying for a waiver from the U.S. Treasury Department to bypass U.S. sanctions against Russia and resume offshore drilling in the Black Sea with the Russian oil company Rosneft, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Among those charged with deciding to grant the permit is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon who previously oversaw the company’s Russia operations. Rebecca Ballhaus  ✔@rebeccaballhaus Exxon applied for waiver from sanctions on Russia. Among depts who must approve: State Dept, run by company’s ex-CEO https://www.wsj.com/articles/exxon-seeks-u-s-waiver-to-work-in-russia-despite-sanctions-1492620677 … 1:09 PM – 19 Apr 2017   “Ka-ching! Payout time,” tweeted Rachel Maddow in response to the Wall Street Journal report. Rachel Maddow MSNBC ✔@maddow Ka-ching! Payout time.https://goo.gl/Zv9pT1  1:52 PM – 19 Apr 2017 Exxon Seeks U.S. Waiver to Resume Russia Oil...

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Wilder Fires and Rising Waters, Climate Impacts Coming to America’s Door

by Lauren McCauley – Pair of new studies show how American climate refugees will ‘reshape’ population landscape of the nation. Americans in many cases have been slow to acknowledge the real threats posed by global warming. But two new studies out Monday found that people living throughout the United States could soon see their communities forever altered by higher seas and raging forest fires. While the United States has lagged in taking dramatic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or transform its power grid to accommodate renewable energy sources, other nations have taken the lead. Further, studies have historically shown (pdf) that Americans are generally reluctant to perceive climate change as anything more than a moderate risk, seeing it as something that impacts people in more vulnerable, developing nations. The idea of a person becoming a climate change refugee seems similarly foreign. However, Mathew Hauer, a demographer at the University of...

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Energy Secretary Targets Wind, Solar After Overseeing Renewables Explosion as Texas Governor

by Mark Hand – Rick Perry wants answers to baseload generation retirements. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn’t mention renewable energy by name. But his request for the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate how federal subsidies boost one form of energy at the expense of baseload generation was clearly meant as a swipe at wind and solar energy resources. In an April 14 memo to his chief of staff, a copy of which DOE provided to ThinkProgress, Perry directed the agency to look at the extent to which “continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.” Perry previously served as governor of Texas where he led an expansion of renewable energy sources across the state. Texas leads the nation in wind-powered generation capacity with more than 18,500 megawatts, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration....

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7,000 Massive Methane Gas Bubbles Under the Russian Permafrost Could Explode

by Joe Romm – Scorching March brings Arctic temperatures up to 20°F warmer than normal. Russian scientists have recently discovered some 7,000 underground methane bubbles in Siberia that could explode anytime. ‘Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost,” explained a Russian Academy of Science spokesperson, “which is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during last several decades.” Video of one of Russia’s methane bubbles, which have been called ‘trembling tundra’ This discovery is especially worrisome for three reasons. First, methane traps 86 times as much heat as CO2 over a 20-year period. Thawing permafrost creates both CO2 and methane (CH4), but most models of thawing permafrost assume only CO2 is created. If, as it appears, a lot of methane is being generated, then we’ll see even more extra warming than scientists have projected. Second, a recent study found global...

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New York Times Defends Hiring Extreme Climate Denier: ‘Millions Agree with Him’

by Joe Romm – The Times replaces search for truth with search for popular ideas that are false. But would they hire a Holocaust denier? Amidst backlash and subscription cancellations for hiring extreme climate science denier, Bret Stephens, the New York Times offered a stunning defense: There are “millions of people who agree with him.” With that ‘logic’, the Times could hire as a columnist former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke — or a flat earther or someone who thinks vaccines pose a health hazard. After all, millions agree with them. Screenshot of a typical pop-up ad in the NY Times new ad campaign This defense is especially absurd since, as I detailed Friday, the Times has been running a major ad campaign claiming there is no alternative to the truth — and former Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Stephens has repeatedly dismissed as “imaginary” the climate reality reported...

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Underwater Pipeline has Been Leaking Gas into a Beluga Whale Habitat for 3 Months

by Katie Valentine – An underwater natural gas pipeline has been leaking for three months into an endangered beluga whale habitat. Alaska’s Cook Inlet has long been known for its stunning mountain views and the endangered beluga whales that inhabit the watershed. But a series of oil and gas leaks from underwater pipelines, one of which is still ongoing, has residents and environmentalists concerned both about the short-term impacts on sensitive wildlife and the long-term risks of the region’s aging pipeline infrastructure. “It’s a radical physical environment for steel infrastructure,” Bob Shavelson, advocacy director at the Cook Inlet-based Inletkeeper, told ThinkProgress. The southern Alaska inlet contains more than 1,000 miles of pipelines and 16 offshore oil and gas platforms, frequently operating in harsh conditions, including earthquakes and three feet of ice. In early February, officials with pipeline company Hilcorp Alaska reported that natural gas was leaking into Cook Inlet from an eight-inch...

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Financial Experts to Trump: Climate is a Smart Investment

by Natasha Geiling – International climate finance has obvious humanitarian benefits — but Trump could be missing out on economic benefits too. Recent floods and mudslides in Peru — driven by extreme precipitation linked to exceptionally warm waters off the coast — have devastated the country, claiming more than 100 lives and damaging 130,000 structures. The destruction is so extreme that the Peruvian government estimated immediate reconstruction will cost the country as much as $3 billion over the long term, and as much as $9 billion over the next five years. In Colombia, similar precipitation triggered a flood that left parts of the southern city of Mocoa completely destroyed, and killed at least 293 people. After the flood, the president of Colombia issued a dire warning: the country needs to prepare for more disasters like this as climate change continues to fuel extreme precipitation. “We are confronting a natural disaster caused by climate change,” he said, according to...

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Global Solar Demand Soars 30-fold in Just 9 Years

by Joe Romm – Solar now employs more U.S. workers than Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon combined. The rapid rise of solar power is one of the most astonishing transformations in the history of global energy use. A decade ago, solar photovoltaics (PV) was just a tiny sapling, easily dismissed by fossil fuel advocates. Today, after a remarkable 30-fold increase in PV sales in just nine years, it has become a giant redwood forest. And the giant is still growing, as GTM Research reported in its latest Global Solar Demand Monitor for the first quarter of 2017. CREDIT: GTM Research Last year alone saw a stunning jump in annual global PV demand of more than 50 percent. And GTM projects that demand for solar power will continue to rise. This transformation has been driven by steadily plummeting costs for solar (and other enabling technologies). Indeed, India’s Minister for Power, Coal, New & Renewable...

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Chinese Internet Giant Buys 5 Percent of Tesla for $1.8 Billion

by Joe Romm – Tesla’s market value surge signals a booming future for electric vehicles — globally. On Monday, Tesla accelerated past Ford Motors to become the number two U.S. automaker by market capitalization — the total stock market value of the company. That puts Tesla’s market cap ($48 billion) within sight of General Motors’ ($51 billion). Via MarketWatch The stock surge reflects the market’s view that the future for cars is electric. After all, Ford sold nearly 240,000 cars in March, whereas Tesla reported on Sunday that its total deliveries in the whole first quarter were only 25,000 cars. Still, Tesla’s 2017 Q1 sales were up nearly 70 percent over 2016 Q1 sales. And the market likes to bet on growth. Rapid and ongoing drops in battery cost mean we are just at the start of the EV revolution. As Navigant Research reported in January, “more than 37 million plug-in electric vehicles are expected...

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Green Is Good

by Ryan Richards – How Smart Policy Can Sustain Growth of Private Investment in Conservation. Introduction and summary Bedrock environmental legislation, such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, has helped inspire innovative solutions to complex environmental issues. Today, there is a fast-growing industry that encourages private investors and businesses to work independently or in partnership with public agencies and apply market-based approaches to conservation.1 Recent data suggest that environmental markets in the United States facilitate at least $2.8 billion in transactions annually.2 From 2014 through 2015, more than $1.15 billion in private capital was injected into markets for habitat conservation and water management, reflecting a new trend in business to find investment opportunities that also deliver social and environmental benefits.3 This new approach provides several advantages, including: More options for conserving or restoring natural resources A larger pool of resources for addressing environmental problems Potential to mobilize...

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Key Report: Hundreds of Native Bee Species Buzzing Toward Extinction

by JULIE FIDLER – One species is already presumed to be extinct. The Center for Biological Diversity has published a first-of-its-kind comprehensive review of more than 4,000 native bee species in North America. The report indicates that more than half the species with sufficient data are declining. Nearly 1 in 4 is racing towards extinction due to increased pesticide and other factors. Of the 1,437 species with sufficient data, the nonprofit found that 749 were declining. An additional 347 (24%) of the species are imperiled and at risk of extinction. The center presumes that the species lacking sufficient data are presumed to be at risk of extinction as well. The author of the report, Kelsey Kopec, said in a statement: “It’s a quiet but staggering crisis unfolding right under our noses that illuminates the unacceptably high cost of our careless addiction to pesticides and monoculture farming.” All of the bee...

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Renewables Shatter Records as Coal Production Drops to 1978 Levels

by Joe Romm – California hits stunning 56.7 percent peak power from renewables, and it’s only spring. Renewable power keeps shattering records in the United States and around the world. Meanwhile, U.S. coal production has fallen to its lowest level since 1978, according to statistics from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA). Yet President Donald Trump and his administration nonetheless continue to champion the dirty and dying fuels of the 19th century. Just last week Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced a new push to expand coal mining on public lands, while misguidedly attacking renewables: “We can’t power the country on pixie dust and hope.” Ironically, a few days earlier, the California grid’s Independent System Operator (ISO) tweeted that it achieved a record high percentage of peak demand provided by renewables of 56.7 percent. California ISO @California_ISO #ISO hit all-time peak percentage of demand served by #renewables, 56.7% at 11:25 a.m. today #cleanenergy...

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Environmental Assault Met with Immediate Legal Challenges

by Natasha Geiling – After failing to pass the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act last week, the Trump administration looked to get its agenda back on track on Tuesday, releasing a long-awaited executive order that directs federal agencies to begin dismantling the domestic and international climate policies of the Obama administration. While the order itself represents a dramatic reversal in U.S. climate policy, the fight to implement its directives has just begun. Environmental groups responded almost immediately, filing a number of legal challenges aimed at slowing — or stopping altogether — Trump’s attempts to roll back climate action. The first, filed the day after Trump released his executive order, was in response to the Interior Department’s decision to restart the federal coal leasing process without concluding a review of the program begun by the Obama administration. In the lawsuit, a coalition of environmental groups, along with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, challenged that decision,...

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Coalition Takes Trump’s Order to Pillage Public Lands for Coal to Court

by Andrea Germanos – “This isn’t putting Americans first, this is putting corporate polluters first.” A day after President Donald Trump “took a wrecking ball to U.S. action on climate change” with an executive order that included lifting his predecessor’s pause on new federal coal leases, a coalition of groups has filed a legal challenge to stop the widespread damage the rescission would bring about. Opening public lands to coal leasing, say the groups, which include Citizens for Clean Energy, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife, serves only to fatten the coffers of coal executives, rip off taxpayers, befoul the air and water, threaten wildlife, and fuel climate change. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Earthjustice. The pause, which the Obama administration put in place in 2016, was to conduct a review of the program to ensure that it offers “a fair return to taxpayers and reflect...

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Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns

by Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report – A scientific study published in the prestigious journal Palaeoworld in December issued a dire — and possibly prophetic — warning, though it garnered little attention in the media. “Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic,” reads the study’s abstract. “But the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.” The study, titled “Methane Hydrate: Killer Cause of Earth’s Greatest Mass Extinction,” highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on the planet, was methane hydrate. In the wake of that mass extinction event, less than 5 percent of the animal species in the seas lived, and less than one-third of the large land animal species made it. Nearly all the trees died. Methane hydrate, according to...

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Contrary to Spin, Trump Slashing Energy Jobs With New Executive Order

by Nika Knight – “These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” As the Trump administration brags that Tuesday’s executive order to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations will create coal industry jobs, new employment data from the Department of Energy (DoE) demonstrates how misguided that claim is. Clean energy employs many more Americans than the fossil fuel industry, and economic forecasts show that the trend will continue, according to a Sierra Club analysis published Monday of the DoE’s 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (pdf) released earlier this year. “Clean energy jobs, including those from solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart grid technology, and battery storage, vastly outnumber all fossil fuel jobs nationwide from the coal, oil and gas sectors. That includes jobs in power generation, mining, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction,” the Sierra Club...

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TV Coverage of Climate Fell 66 Percent During a Record-Setting Year for Global Warming

by Joe Romm – Trump’s budget targets federal funding of PBS, the one network with the most climate coverage. In 2016, the major networks’ coverage of climate change dropped by two thirds compared to 2015. In fact, climate coverage last year was close to its lowest levels since 2009, according to a new analysis by MediaMatters of the evening and Sunday news programs that air on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. This drop is despite historic wildfires, extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew, and month after month of record-breaking global temperatures. And, of course, there was a presidential campaign between two people who have diametrically opposed views on the gravest preventable threat to the United States and the world. During the campaign, the major networks spent no time examining the climate policy differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — despite their vast disagreement on domestic action, the Paris climate agreement, and whether...

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‘Earth is a Planet in Upheaval’: World Meteorological Organization Issues Dire Climate Warning

by Joe Romm – “Truly uncharted territory” 2016’s record-warming continues in 2017 with Jan-Feb 2017 the second hottest on record after 2016. CREDIT: NOAA Humanity is “now in truly uncharted territory,” thanks to CO2-driven climate change, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned Tuesday. The WMO’s annual “State of the Global Climate in 2016” paints a dire picture for humanity: record CO2 levels, record warming, record drop in both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, and record high sea levels. Severe droughts “brought food insecurity to millions in southern and eastern Africa and Central America.” NOAA reported this month that the record-smashing warming of 2016 continued into 2017. In this country, “there were 11,743 daily warm temperature records broken or tied” in February alone. Globally, it was the second hottest February and January-February on record after 2016. “Earth is a planet in upheaval due to human-caused changes in the atmosphere,” as University of Arizona...

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Coal Giant to Receive Award for Bankruptcy Deal that Screwed Over its Workers

by Natasha Geiling – The country’s second-largest coal supplier, fresh off bankruptcy, will receive the “Restructuring Deal of the Year” award. It’s been a wild year for Arch Coal, the country’s second-largest producer of coal. In January, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; less than a year later, they won approval for a restructuring deal that allowed them to cut millions in debt from their books and emerge relatively unscathed. On Thursday night, as part of the 2017 Distressed Investing Event, Arch Coal will receive an award for that deal, despite the fact that the restructuring benefited company executives while leaving workers and the environment worse off. “Arch Coal shed hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars in debt by short-changing both their commitments to worker health care and pensions and their environmental cleanup obligations,” Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, told ThinkProgress. “Economically their prospects...

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Memo to FBI: If Team Trump and Putin Colluded, any Money Trail Likely Involves Oil

by Joe Romm – Russia sold off one-fifth of its state-owned oil giant in December, but we still don’t know who bought it all. As the FBI investigates possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, one aspect merits closer examination: the $11 billion post-election sale of 19.5 percent of the Kremlin-controlled oil giant Rosneft. If there was an actual quid pro quo between Trump officials and the Russian government, it may well involve that sale for two reasons. First, prior to the election, “most industry watchers had written off the chances of a foreign investor being found for Rosneft,” as Fortune explained at the time. But electing someone who had vowed to improve relations with Russia appears to have changed the economic landscape. Second, as Reuters has detailed, Russian President Vladimir Putin managed to sell off this “oil jewel without saying who bought it.” In this post, I’ll attempt to connect...

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US Ditches Human Rights Hearing in ‘Unprecedented Show of Disrespect’

by Nadia Prupis – ACLU had planned to drill officials on immigration, DAPL, and Muslim ban, but representatives from various departments never showed. The U.S. failed to show up to a human rights hearing in an “unprecedented show of disrespect to the international community,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Tuesday. In a surprise move, the government ditched a hearing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States, where the ACLU had planned to drill officials on the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration; its ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries; and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other issues. The civil rights group had filed an emergency request for the meeting in February, after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. That order, as well as its follow-up mandate, issued last month, have since...

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Trump’s America: Two Coal Plants Announce Closures in Ohio, Layoffs at Carrier Factories in Indiana

by Jen Hayden – Remember when Donald Trump appeared in Indiana to announce he’d saved 1,100 jobs at that Carrier and United Technologies were planning to send to Mexico? A refresher from early December: “But I will tell you that United Technologies and Carrier stepped it up and now they’re keeping — actually the number’s over 1,100 people, which is so great, which is so great …. I just noticed — I wrote down because I heard it — since about six years ago, 260 new federal regulations have passed, 53 of which affect this plant. Fifty-three new regulations. Massively expensive and probably none of them amount to anything in terms of safety or the things that you’d have regulations for.” His fans cheered and chanted, hailing their king of bankruptcy for saving all those jobs. Except, as the Washington Post later mentioned, those numbers were—the jobs and the regulations— false. This week significant...

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Climate Kids Demand Feds Turn Over ‘Wayne Tracker’ (aka Rex Tillerson) Emails

by Andrea Germanos – “When looking for evidence of a cover-up, emails from Rex Tillerson’s pseudonym about climate change are just the kind of evidence the court needs to see.” Lawyers representing youth in a landmark climate lawsuit are demanding to see the emails Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent using the alias “Wayne Tracker” while serving as CEO of ExxonMobil. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office made the claim of the email alias last week in a court filing as part of its investigation into the oil giant’s climate cover-up. The filing said Tillerson used the “Tracker” account to discuss climate change and other matters from at least 2008-2015. In the youths’ case, as Common Dreams wrote, the 21 “co-plaintiffs argue that by failing to act on climate change, the U.S. government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights and their rights to vital public trust resources.” Their legal...

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East Chicago’s Pleas for Clean Drinking Water Go Unanswered as Trump Moves to Weaken EPA

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – Environmental justice is on the chopping block at the Environmental Protection Agency, and that doesn’t bode well for communities like East Chicago, Indiana, where the agency recently discovered that drinking water is contaminated with lead. Nearly three weeks ago, a number of East Chicago churches and community groups petitioned the EPA to take emergency action and protect the majority-Black community from lead poisoning, which can cause a long list of health problems, especially in children. As of Tuesday, the local leaders and their environmentalist allies had yet to hear back from the agency. The EPA’s inaction in East Chicago comes as Trump’s administration considers massive budget cuts that could crush the agency’s environmental justice program, which is supposed to ensure the fair treatment of low-income communities, Native communities and people of color under environmental law. The agency’s environmental justice office is slated...

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Turtle Found Covered in Barnacles and Leeches Receives Epic Sendoff

by Amelia Kinney – Hundreds cheered as a rescued Loggerhead turtle named Poppy returned to the wild. A crowd of five hundred gathered last weekend to watch the release of a loggerhead turtle named Poppy back into the wild. According to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, “Poppy was found floating near Hutchinson Island last October covered in barnacles and leeches. Initial bloodwork showed anemia, hypoglycemia and overall poor health due to starvation”. Poppy spent almost six months at the turtle rehabilitation center, receiving much-needed treatments. IUCN’s Red List classifies the loggerhead sea turtle as a species vulnerable to extinction. National Geographic attributes this consistent population decline to “pollution, shrimp trawling, and development in their nesting areas”. Sea turtles are especially vulnerable to ocean pollution, as they often mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish. Aside from releasing toxic compounds, ingested plastics can cause “intestinal blockage, reduced nutrient absorption and malnutrition,...

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Budget Will Drive Up Republican Voters’ Energy Bills

by Joe Romm – Two key programs that help the elderly and rural poor reduce their energy bills will be cut. President Trump’s new federal budget continues a remarkable pattern of being gratuitously cruel to his own voters. The just-released budget zeroes out the two major programs designed to help low-income and elderly Americans deal with energy costs: the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). “Families receiving weatherization services see their annual energy bills reduced by an average of about $437, depending on fuel prices,” according to DOE data. In 2010, the program saved low-income families a whopping $2.1 billion. Cutting it will save $121 million. The program, though, is targeted toward low-income Americans, “especially low-income persons who are particularly vulnerable such as the elderly, the disabled, and children.” There is a huge...

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“Morally Obscene” Trump Budget Proposal Stands to Make America Cruel Again

by Deirdre Fulton – Environment, public education, worker protections, and cultural institutions all stand to lose under Trump’s “cruel” budget blueprint.   Meals on Wheels. Amtrak. Teacher training, after-school, and summer educational programs. The National Endowment for the Arts. The Appalachian Regional Commission. The National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All these initiatives and agencies—plus many more—face cuts or wholesale elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed “skinny budget,” officially unveiled Thursday. Meanwhile, the blueprint calls for increases in military spending, border and immigration enforcement, and money for charter and private schools. The Washington Post has a comprehensive breakdown, with graphics, here. The document was variously denounced as “an all-out assault on our planet;” “dirty and dangerous;” “cruel;” and “unacceptable.” “President Trump’s budget is morally obscene and bad economic policy,” declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “It will cause devastating pain to the very people Trump promised to help...

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House Dems Send Educational Materials to Help Scott Pruitt Get a Grip on Basic Climate Science

by Andrea Germanos – “It’s clear that you need to read the enclosed reports.” Given the lack of understanding of basic climate science Scott Pruitt displayed on a recent appearance on CNBC, 33 House Democrats have sent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head educational materials to help him get a grip on established facts. Speaking last week to the network’s “Squawk Box,” Pruitt sparked the ire of climate groups—and contradicted his own statements to the U.S. Senate—when he said, “I would not agree that is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” “As Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt must understand these non-controversial concepts,” a press statement from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) states. Blumenauer, along with 32 of his House colleagues including Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Barbara Lee (Calif.), Mark Pocan (Wis.), and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) sent to Pruitt a brief letter as well...

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China is Building a National Park 60% Larger than Yellowstone to Protect Siberian Tigers

by Amanda Froelich – China is preparing to build a 5,600-square mile national park to protect the Siberian tiger, Amur leopard, and a few other endangered species. Not everything is bigger in the United States… In only a handful of years, a national park 60% larger than Yellowstone will be constructed in northeast China, in the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. The project has been approved so that Siberian tigers, which are endangered due to poaching and habitat loss – primarily from logging, will be protected. Amur leopards will also find sanctuary in the new national park. Conservation efforts, including a logging ban, have helped increased the population of wild Siberian tigers in the area from six to nine in 1998 to 27 in 2015, reports the Shanghaiist. However, the current reserve for the tigers is not large enough for the species to thrive, which is why a park which will...

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New York AG: SoS Tillerson Used Email Alias for Climate Messages While CEO of ExxonMobil

by Neapolitan – Well, isn’t this special. Bloomberg is reporting that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson allegedly used an email alias account for many years to discuss climate change matters while he was CEO of ExxonMobil in what appears to be an effort to keep sensitive communications out of the eyes of the public, Exxon’s shareholders, and, possibly, investigators. New York says Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an email alias to discuss climate change while he was chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp.: Wayne Tracker. Tillerson sent messages from the account to discuss the risks posed by climate change, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a court filing about his office’s fraud investigation of the company. Tillerson, whose middle name is Wayne, used the Wayne Tracker account on the Exxon system from at least 2008 through 2015, Schneiderman said. Schneiderman made the claim in a letter Monday to Justice Barry Ostrager...

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Another Sign Just Came in That Tar Sands Operations Are on Life Support

by Andrea Germanos – ‘Societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing,’ Shell chief executive said. Royal Dutch Shell announced last Thursday that it is selling off the majority of its tar sands assets, as its chief executive noted dwindling “societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it.” Of the $7.25 billion deal with energy company Canadian Natural, Shell said in a statement that it will “sell all of its in-situ and undeveloped oil sands interests in Canada and reduce its share in the Athabasca Oil Sands Project (AOSP) from 60 percent to 10 percent.” As InsideClimate News noted, the sale is “one of the biggest in a series of steps by multinational companies to turn away from the tar sands, among the most expensive and carbon-intensive sources of oil.” For Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden, it marks “a significant step in...

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Pruitt Promised He’d Tackle CO2 But Now Plays Dumb on Climate Science

by Nika Knight – ‘The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and he seems happy to let the climate crisis burn out of control.’ \Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt made heads turn on CNBC Thursday morning when he argued against decades of scientific consensus and said that carbon dioxide emissions aren’t a primary driver of global warming. In doing so, Pruitt directly opposed his own statements to the U.S. Senate. (This wouldn’t be the first time that Pruitt lied to or misled Congress.) In his answer to a question on the record (pdf, page 122) from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Pruitt wrote: “I also believe the Administrator has an important role when it comes to the regulation of carbon dioxide, which I will fulfill consistent with Massachusetts v. EPA and the agency’s Endangerment Finding on Greenhouse Gases respective of the applicable statutory framework established by Congress.”...

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Will Electric Cars Soon have Solar Roofs? Toyota and Tesla say Yes.

by Joe Romm – Advanced Panasonic solar modules triple the output of Toyota’s previous solar roof. Last week, Panasonic announced an advanced solar panel system that will debut on the 2017 model Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid in Japan (the Prius Prime). It is “the first commercially available, mass-produced passenger car to feature an optional solar charging system,” PV magazine explained. Panasonic notes that, previously, rooftop solar cells had outputs of only “several tens of watts.” So they were used only for ventilating parked cars and “auxiliary charging” of the standard 12-Volt lead-acid battery. But improvements in solar efficiency combined with advanced design and “technologies to laminate three-dimensional curved glass” have allowed a high output — some 180 watts, which is more than triple the output of the previous solar roof. As a result, this battery can charge the lithium-ion powertrain batteries, providing up to an additional 3.7 miles of range on a sunny day....

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This Program has Saved Taxpayers Hundreds of Billions of Dollars. The GOP Wants to Cut it

by Samantha Page – The Energy Star efficiency program costs less than .001 percent of the DoD budget. As the federal government braces for the administration’s so-called “skinny budget,” expected late next week, rumors of what, exactly, will be cut keep circulating. Among the programs reported to be on the Trump administration’s chopping block: the popular, cheap, effective Energy Star consumer labeling program from the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency. The United States spends about $57 million a year on the Energy Star efficiency standards program. Under Energy Star, scientists create guidelines and test new consumer goods for efficiency — new washing machines, for instance. The programs most recently launched standard is for electric vehicle chargers, which gives some sense of how far-ranging and modern this program is. It’s also a huge money-saver. Since it was established in the 1990s, the Energy Star program has saved U.S. consumers some $360 billion, mostly...

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Climate Scientist: Trump Budget is ‘an All-Out Assault on Earth’

by Joe Romm – Defunding NOAA’s satellites will also hurt weather forecasts, jeopardizing public safety, experts warn. Donald Trump’s “see no evil” approach to climate change became dangerously real this week. A four-page White House budget memo secured by The Washington Post reveals the Trump administration wants a 17 percent cut in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s overall budget — with the deepest cuts coming from earth observation. NOAA studies the atmosphere and oceans — often using satellites — to better understand climate and weather. Under the draft Trump plan, NOAA’s satellite program would be cut by more than a half billion dollars. These cuts would be “devastating” both to NOAA and the United States, extreme-weather expert Dr. Kevin Trenberth told ThinkProgress. “All of the major fronts in advancing weather forecasting and El Nino forecasts come from climate research involving interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean, and land surface and moisture flows. Satellite data are a vital...

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China Smashes Solar Energy Records, as Coal Use and CO2 Emissions Fall Once Again

by Joe Romm – With millions of jobs up for grabs, China seizes clean tech leadership from U.S. We are witnessing a historic passing of the baton of global leadership on technology and climate from the United States to China. The new U.S. administration has said it will abandon climate action, gut clean energy funding, and embrace coal and oil — the dirty energy sources of the past that experts say can’t create a large number of sustainable new jobs. At the same time, China is slashing coal use and betting heavily on clean energy, which is clearly going to be the biggest new source of permanent high-wage jobs in the coming years. Indeed, Beijing plans to invest a stunning $360 billion by 2020 in renewable generation alone, and China’s energy agency says the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.” Renewable energy jobs in select countries (excluding large hydropower). CREDIT: IRENA In...

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Threatening Clean Water for Millions, Trump Signs Off on Polluter Giveaway

by Lauren McCauley – Environmental organizations say “Trump’s dirty water order is dangerous and illegal, based on corporate greed and unlawful environmental pollution.” Throwing the weight of his office behind the nation’s biggest polluters, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order directing his administration to dismantle the Obama-era Clean Water Rule. Surrounded by other foes of environmental regulation, including the newly confirmed EPA head Scott Pruitt, the president declared the 2015 law, also known as Waters of the United States, “a horrible, horrible rule. Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad.” Passed under former President Barack Obama, the Clean Water Rule extends Clean Water Act protections to streams and wetlands. As The Hill observed Tuesday, Trump’s move is seen as “an opening shot by Trump against the EPA, which was a frequent target of criticism from Republicans for alleged overreach under Obama’s tenure.” Though implementation...

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Biologists Warn Half of All Species to Face Extinction by 2100, as GOP Pushes to Destroy Protections

by Nika Knight – Days after Republican lawmakers speechified about dismantling the Endangered Species Act, biologists ring alarm bells about global mass extinction. Today, 20 percent of all species are at risk of being wiped out, scientists at a Vatican conference on biodiversity warn, and that number may rise to nearly 50 percent by the end of the century. “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” warned the conference organizers. Biologists, ecologists, and economists traveled to Rome from around the world for the workshop titled “How to Save the Natural World on Which We Depend,” which begins Monday, to strategize together on how to limit the mass extinction event caused by rampant over-development, climate change, overpopulation, and unsustainable agricultural practices. The meeting sharply contrasts with last week’s U.S. Senate hearing on how to “modernize the Endangered Species Act ,”...

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EPA Administrator Lied about Private Email use in Senate Testimony

by Bryce Covert – Thousands of emails Scott Pruitt sent to oil and gas companies still haven’t been disclosed. An investigation by Fox 25 in Oklahoma has confirmed that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt used a private email account to conduct official business while he was the state’s attorney general, directly contradicting what he told the Senate during his confirmation hearing. During his hearing, Pruitt was asked by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), “Have you ever conducted business using your personal email accounts, nonofficial Oklahoma Attorney General email accounts, text messages, instant messenger, voicemails, or any other medium?” Pruitt responded, “I use only my official OAG email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.” But the Oklahoma attorney general’s office confirmed to Fox 25 that Pruitt used private email for state business after an Open Records Request revealed documents where certain email addresses...

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President Trump’s Coming War on Science: Environment Edition

by Alison Cassady – On February 17, the U.S. Senate confirmed former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA. Observers can now expect the Trump administration—with Congress providing the wind at Administrator Pruitt’s back—to charge ahead with an aggressive agenda to weaken or nullify a decade’s worth of progress on pollution reduction. President Donald Trump and Administrator Pruitt are likely to start off by announcing plans to dismantle the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants, and other components of President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan. They may also attack an Obama-era rule to protect the nation’s waterways from pollution. In addition to taking on specific environmental protections, President Trump and Congress are likely to pursue a more pernicious strategy to deny or obscure basic facts and science about climate change and assert new supposed truths...

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This Isn’t Just Trump. This Is Who the Republicans Are (VIDEO)

by Dave Johnson – So far President Donald Trump has signed very few bills. One lets coal companies dump waste into streams. Another lets oil companies bribe foreign dictators in secret. Now he is moving to block a Labor Department “fiduciary rule” that requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients when advising on retirement accounts. Here’s the thing: this isn’t just Trump doing this. The Republican-controlled House and Senate passed those two bills, and the Republicans have been fighting that fiduciary rule tooth and nail. It’s not just Trump, Republicans as a party are using Trump to engage in a general assault on protections from corruption, pollution, corporate fraud and financial scams. This is who they are. “We Just Need A President To Sign This Stuff” This is not just Trump. What we are seeing happening to our government is the end result of a decades-long...

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Major Outdoor Retailers Boycott Utah over Threats to Sell off Public Lands

by Jenny Rowland and Nicole Gentile – “It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line.” After countless attempts by Utah politicians to sell off or abolish national parks, forests, and national monuments, the world’s largest outdoor gear show has decided to take its business out of the state. “Outdoor Industry Association will continue to support the efforts of Outdoor Retailer to seek a new home for the trade show,” Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said in a statement. “It is important to our membership, and to our bottom line that we partner with states and elected officials who share our views on the truly unique American value of public lands for the people and conserving our outdoor heritage for the next generation.” After 20 years of hosting the bi-annual outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake City, organizers of the show finalized their decision to move...

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Keystone XL Developer Files Pipeline Application in Nebraska

by Samantha Page – TransCanada is expected to try to use eminent domain for parts of the route. TransCanada just took another step toward getting its beleaguered Keystone XL pipeline back on track: the oil company filed an application Thursday with a Nebraska agency for route approval. The move is the first state-level application for the company since President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum in January directing the State Department to review the pipeline’s federal application within 60 days. TransCanada submitted its new application to the State Department on January 26. “This application has been shaped by direct, on-the-ground input from Nebraskans,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “The thousands of Nebraskans we have met over the last eight years understand the value of this project and what it means to the state. As we have said consistently, safety and a respect for the environment remain our...

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Senate Confirms “Worst, Most Dangerous Administrator in EPA History”

by Andrea Germanos – With fossil fuel industry ally Scott Pruitt now in charge, now ‘begins the fight of a lifetime to protect public health, our environment, climate stability, and even the simple sanctity of the EPA itself.’ Portending risks to “the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love,” the U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The 52-46 vote comes a day after an Oklahoma judge said Pruitt was in violation of the state’s Open Records Act and ordered the release of thousands of emails between his office and fossil fuel companies. Senate Democrats said that warranted a delay on Pruitt’s confirmation, but Republicans pushed the vote ahead. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.) joined Republicans to vote in favor of Pruitt; thus, wrote Esquire‘s Charles Pierce, “we must assume that two Democratic...

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Saudis Plan $2 Trillion IPO to End Their ‘Dangerous’ Addiction to Oil

by Joe Romm – Saudi Aramco will go public to monetize its oil reserves before demand peaks and price collapses for good. What does a country do when in its entire economy is built around a natural resource that the world is starting to shift away from? In the case of Saudi Arabia, they plan their own shift off oil — financed by the world’s largest initial public offering (IPO) of stock, some 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company. Last year, deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the plan to take Aramco, which the Saudis value at some $2 trillion, public. Last month, the Financial Times reported those plans are on track for an IPO next year, noting that Saudi advisers say a successful IPO “is essential to the deputy crown prince’s radical efforts to wean the kingdom off oil through his Vision 2030 programme.” Credit: Financial Times The...

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U.S. Solar Installations Jumped 95 Percent Last Year

by Samantha Page – There was more solar capacity added in 2016 than any other type of electricity generation. If humanity wants to have any chance of slowing the rapid warming of the climate, people need to stop burning fossil fuels — but no one wants to go without electricity. That’s why it’s encouraging that U.S. solar installations nearly doubled last year, increasing 95 percent over 2015’s installations, and adding 14,626 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaic electricity generation capacity to the U.S. grid, according to preliminary data from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). All segments — residential, non-residential, and utility-scale — saw growth from 2015 to 2016. The non-residential sector includes community solar and commercial installations The report notes that 22 states added more than 100 MW of solar capacity last year — a new record. Minnesota, Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts were all mentioned as rising solar powerhouses in the report. The geographical diversity (California,...

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Anthropocene Math in the Age of Trump: Humans Are Running Out of Time to Save the Climate

by Nika Knight – Industrialized societies are changing the climate 170 times faster than natural forces. As the Trump administration and Republicans in power in Congress set to work destroying environmental regulations, scientists have added urgency to the resistance with a simple new equation that shows the staggering effect human activity has had on the climate. Their findings? Humans have altered the climate 170 times faster than natural forces. In fact, the equation revealed that industrial societies pack the same climate punch as an asteroid strike. Professor Will Steffen of the Australian National University and Owen Gaffney of the Stockholm Resilience Centre devised the “Anthropocene equation” and published their findings in The Anthropocene Review Friday. The equation demonstrates that while natural forces dominated the climate for 4.5 billion years, in only the past six decades, humans have become the main drivers of climate change, as the Guardian notes. Perhaps the researchers’ most frightening...

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North Dakota Bills Could Strip Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters of Their Rights

by Carimah Townes – Standing Rock protesters face five new threats. Over the weekend, veterans flocked to Standing Rock to shield Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters from law enforcement — the second time they’ve done so in recent months. But North Dakota lawmakers are now planning to radically constrict the right of DAPL opponents, including veterans, to demonstrate against the project. There are currently four bills in the state’s House and Senate that create new criminal penalties for acts of protest or heighten existing penalties. And there is a fifth bill that could put demonstrators in physical danger. HB 1193 turns a misdemeanor offense into a felony if the offense is “done intentionally to cause direct or indirect economic harm in excess of one thousand dollars to the government or to a person.” HB 1203 states that drivers who “negligently” injure or kill people obstructing traffic will not be responsible for the damage caused....

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Hundreds of Pilot Whales Refloat After Mass Strandings

More than 200 beached pilot whales free themselves at high tide and swim away amid mass strandings on South Island. At least 200 whales stranded on a remote New Zealand beach managed to refloat themselves at high tide on Saturday and return to sea, but conservation officials warned the beachings may not be over. More than 650 pilot whales beached themselves along Farewell Spit at the tip of the South Island in two separate mass strandings over the past several days. On Thursday, volunteers managed to refloat nearly 100 of the stranded pilot whales. About 350 whales have died, including 20 that were euthanised. Hundreds of volunteers from farmers to tourists have spent days at the beach dousing the whales with buckets of water to keep them cool and trying to refloat them. “People seem to have an emotional attachment to marine mammals,” said Department of Conservation spokesman Herb...

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The GOP Plan to Prevent a Repeat of Obama’s Climate Action

by JOHN LIGHT – Congress is moving to get rid of a legal precedent that allowed the EPA to tackle climate change under President Obama. Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, attracted some attention last week for his opposition to a Supreme Court precedent that undergirds many of the regulations put forth by federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communications Commission. Congress has also taken up the cause, pushing new legislation that would undo this precedent. And if Gorsuch would like to pare back agencies’ power using a scalpel, Congress intends to go about the job using a sledgehammer, environmental advocates say. At issue is Chevron deference, also called the Chevron doctrine. Stemming from a 1984 Supreme Court case, Chevron deference is the concept that if Congress makes a vague law, a regulatory agency can fill in the blanks — within reason. A lot of...

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‘Not on Our Watch’ — Veterans Promise ‘Boots on the Ground’ to Stop DAPL

by: Claire Bernish / The Free Thought Project –  A group of veterans has vowed to defend the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, saying DAPL will never be completed, ‘not on our watch.’ A group of U.S. military veterans, standing in defense of Indigenous rights, has vowed construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline will never be completed — and will put boots on the ground to ensure it. “We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected,” Anthony Diggs, spokesman for Veterans Stand, told CNBC. “That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch.” Veterans, said Diggs, seek to raise enough funds “to have a larger, solid boots-on-the-ground presence.” As staunch a stance as that might sound, the veterans remain committed to nonviolent action in defense...

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Here’s What a Defunded EPA Means for America

by JOHN LIGHT – The agency Trump plans to eviscerate does much more than fight climate change. We’re two weeks into the Trump administration and already it’s clear that on the campaign trail our new president was not overstating his antipathy for efforts to combat global warming. In fact, if anything, he understated his desire to demolish the Environmental Protection Agency, the federal agency through which President Obama tried to reduce climate change-causing pollution. While the long-term effects of President Trump’s plans for the EPA are worrying — the director of the EU’s Environmental Agency says there’s “not a snowball’s chance in hell” of containing global warming without US cooperation — his proposed cuts in the budget and staff at the agency will also have dramatic short-term effects. Here’s just some of what’s in store: Trump’s team has more than $800 million in budget cuts planned for the agency. To head...

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As Administration Pushes Dakota Access Pipeline Forward, Tribes ‘Stand Ready to Fight’

by Natasha Geiling – The Army Corps of Engineers has been instructed to grant the final easement for the pipeline. The controversial Dakota Access Pipeline just got one step closer to completion: according to statements released on Tuesday night by two North Dakota lawmakers, the acting secretary of the Army has instructed the Army Corps of Engineers to grant the final permit needed to finish the pipeline. The easement has not officially been granted — contrary to Rep. Kevin Cramer’s (R-ND) statement — and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has pledged to vigorously pursue legal action to ensure that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), ordered in December by President Obama, is completed. But the statements raise questions about how the Army Corps intends to proceed now that President Trump, a staunch supporter of the pipeline, is in office. Trump — who campaigned on a platform of increased fossil fuel extraction, and repeatedly praised both the Dakota Access...

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‘Dangerous’ and ‘Dumb’: Trump Signs Executive Order Torching Regulations

by Andrea Germanos – “It will fundamentally change our government’s role from one of protecting the public to protecting corporate profits” President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday that aims to slash regulations—an action, advocacy groups say, that puts lives at risk. The order—the latest of a flurry since he took office—states that “for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination,” fulfilling a campaign promise he made. “For fiscal year 2017, which is in progress, the heads of all agencies are directed that the total incremental cost of all new regulations, including repealed regulations, to be finalized this year shall be no greater than zero,” it adds. Trump said before signing the order: “We’ll be reducing big league,” adding “This will be the biggest such act our country has ever seen.” Advocacy groups were quick to decry the executive order as...

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‘A Vote for Climate Disaster’: Senate Confirms Tillerson as Secretary of State

by Nadia Prupis – “The fight against Tillerson’s nomination revealed just how much fossil fuel industry money has corrupted Congress” The U.S. Senate has confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, revealing “just how much fossil fuel industry money has corrupted Congress,” as climate group 350.org put it. The 56-43 vote went largely along party lines, but got some Democratic support, including from Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Mark Warner (Va.), as well as Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine)—the same non-Republican quartet who allowed Tillerson to advance on Tuesday. “A vote for Rex Tillerson is a vote for climate disaster,” said May Boeve, 350 executive director. “Negotiating oil deals with human-rights abusing heads of state does not qualify you to lead international diplomacy. The fight against Tillerson’s nomination revealed just how much fossil fuel industry money has corrupted Congress.” “In the face of this corruption,...

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Keystone XL Opponents Promise Trump a Mass Mobilization ‘On a Scale Never Seen’

by Deirdre Fulton – Trump “declared war on indigenous nations”—and now they’re ready to fight back. With his order to revive the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, President Donald Trump “has declared war on Indigenous nations across the country,” one Cheyenne River Sioux organizer said Monday. But he’ll be met by a fierce native resistance movement that “will not back down,” said the organizer, Joye Braun, on a press call organized by the Indigenous Environmental Movement (IEN). Trump signed executive orders last week advancing the controversial KXL and Dakota Access (DAPL) pipelines, prompting widespread outrage and vows of bold resistance from the Indigenous activists, climate campaigners, and countless others who have fought against both projects. What that opposition will look like came into sharper focus on Monday. “Make no mistake: resistance to the toxic Keystone XL pipeline will only grow stronger,” declared Dallas Goldtooth, IEN’s Keep it in the Ground organizer. “We...

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Doomsday Clock Now Two and a Half Minutes to Midnight

by Deirdre Fulton – The nuclear danger of a Trump presidency, combined with his administration’s climate denialism, heighten the risk of a global catastrophe, according to scientists. The symbolic Doomsday Clock inched closer to midnight on Thursday, and we have President Donald Trump largely to thank for the ominous development. At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists‘ Science and Security Board moved the hands of the iconic clock 30 seconds closer to “midnight,” or the end of the world. For the first time in the 70-year history of the clock, “the board has decided to act, in part, based on the words of a single person: Donald Trump, the new President of the United States,” according to a press statement. The nuclear danger of a Trump presidency, combined with his and his administration’s climate denialism, heighten the risk of a global...

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Media Blackout at Multiple Federal Agencies

by Lauren McCauley – Moves come amid growing concern that Trump and his appointees will suppress scientific innovation and research to advance their own ideological agenda. Though the majority of President Donald Trump’s controversial cabinet nominations have not yet been confirmed, his so-called “beachhead” teams have arrived at their respective agencies, carrying out orders that make clear that the “War on Science” has begun. On Tuesday, BuzzFeed broke the news that scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are no longer allowed to share information about taxpayer-funded research with the public. In an email sent Monday and obtained by the news outlet, Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for the USDA’s primary in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), told the department: “Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents…This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social...

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Trump Administration Imposes Freeze On EPA Grants and Contracts

by Andrew Revkin and Jesse Eisinger – The Trump administration has imposed a freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Trump administration has imposed a freeze on grants and contracts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a move that could affect a significant part of the agency’s budget allocations and even threaten to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing, according to records and interviews. In one email exchange obtained by ProPublica on Monday, an EPA contracting officer concluded a note to a storm water management employee this way: “Right now we are in a holding pattern. The new EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately. Until we receive further clarification, this includes task orders and work assignments.” Asked about any possible freeze and its implications, EPA officials did not provide an answer....

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Plan to Crush the EPA Is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – Last month, in his final days as secretary of North Carolina’s environmental quality office, Donald R. van der Vaart penned an op-ed in support of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. At a confirmation hearing last week, Senate Democrats grilled Pruitt over his record of siding with polluters and suing the EPA to block a long list of air and water protections, but Republicans submitted van der Vaart’s op-ed as evidence that the regulatory community is behind President Trump’s nominee. The Republicans were perhaps unaware that the EPA had just called out van der Vaart’s agency for failing to protect communities of color from awful odors and swarms of flies generated by waste pits full of urine and feces at industrial pig farms. On January 12, the EPA’s civil rights office, which is tasked with protecting...

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Trump Uses Executive Order to Revive Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines

by Samantha Page – The biggest victories of the environmental movement under Obama are now in jeopardy. President Donald Trump signed executive orders Tuesday allowing two controversial oil pipelines — Keystone XL and Dakota Access — to move forward. Delaying and stopping the development of those pipelines were among the environmental movement’s biggest victories over the past few years. Both projects attracted years of protest and civil disobedience, and Tuesday’s move is expected to be seen as a slap in the face to the broad coalition of Americans who oppose increased fossil fuel infrastructure. “More people sent comments against Dakota Access and Keystone XL to the government than any project in history,” 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said in a statement. “The world’s climate scientists and its Nobel laureates explained over and over why it was unwise and immoral. In one of his first actions as president, Donald Trump ignores all that in his eagerness to...

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‘Hostile Takeover’: Oil & Gas Industry Now In Charge of US Foreign Policy

by Jon Queally – Confirming Rex Tillerson, Republicans on Senate Foreign Relations Committee “just knowingly handed our international climate diplomacy over to a rogue oil mogul” In a vote strictly along party lines, Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to confirm former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State on Monday. Despite unified opposition from Democrats on the committee and a campaign by climate action and corporate accountability groups, Tillerson’s confirmation now passes to the full Senate where the Republican majority is nearly certain to finalize his appointment. Those who opposed Tillerson most aggressively responded to Monday’s vote by calling Republicans “spineless” and promised that the confirmation would only serve to further unify climate activists and the broader anti-Trump movement. “The Senators voting to confirm Rex Tillerson have clearly left their spines at home. Instead of standing up to a historically unpopular President, they’re letting Trump hand...

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Eight Survivors Located in Avalanche-Hit Italian Hotel (VIDEO)

Rescuers search for survivors after massive snow slide buries tourist hotel in Italy. Rescuers have located eight survivors, including two children, in a ski hotel two days after it was buried by an avalanche near an earthquake-hit city of Penne in central Italy. Speaking on Friday,Titti Postiglione, head of the Civil Protection’s emergency department, said two of the survivors had already been pulled clear of the snow and debris which destroyed the isolated Hotel Rigopiano on the Gran Sasso mountain in the province of Pescara on Wednesday. Rescuers were digging to free the remaining six people. 4 dead, 30 missing in Italy’s avalanche disaster “Finding these people gives us further hope there are other survivors,” Postiglione said. Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler, reporting from Penne, said there was a lot of activity at the emergency base in the central Italian town. “Rescue workers say they managed to speak to them....

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2014 Was Hottest Year Ever Recorded. Then It Was 2015. Now It’s 2016.

by Andrea Germanos – (Credit: NOAA)For the third year in a row, the world experienced its warmest year on the books, global scientists have determined The new assessments come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the UK’s Met Office, as well as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which relies in part on data from those agencies. The findings also back up the declaration made earlier this month by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. “2016 is remarkably the third record year in a row in this series,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “We don’t expect record years every year, but the ongoing long-term warming trend is clear.” NOAA’s calculations put the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces at 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average, while NASA puts the globally-averaged temperatures for...

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Obama Sends $500 Million to Green Climate Fund, Signaling End to Era

by Nadia Prupis – The contribution is one of President Barack Obama’s final moves before climate denial cabinet takes over. The Obama administration on Tuesday sent another $500 million to the Green Climate Fund, which was established as part of the Paris climate agreement to collect aid from wealthy countries to help frontline nations adapt to the impacts of global warming. The contribution marks one of President Barack Obama’s last moves before leaving office and handing the presidency to an administration staffed largely by climate deniers. It’s the second $500 million check the U.S. State Department gave to the fund, culled from the fiscal year 2016 Economic Support Fund appropriation. The fund aims to attain $100 billion by 2020, with the U.S. pledging $3 billion alone. Green groups had long pressured Obama to contribute the remainder of the U.S. pledge before Trump takes office. The landmark Paris treaty is one of...

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Bipartisan EPA Alumni Urge Senate to Reject Pruitt’s “Troubling” Nomination

by Nadia Prupis – Pruitt’s track record shows he would “set science aside when the outcome is at odds with his predetermined political point of view”. On Monday, 13 former heads of state environmental bureaus sent a letter to senate leaders, urging them to reject Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s nomination as Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief. The letter (pdf), organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), implores members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to vote against Pruitt over his track record of opposing EPA rules—a history that calls into question whether he “appropriately respects science-based decision making” or would cooperate with states to protect Americans’ health and safety from climate threats. “While we have worked under both Republican and Democratic Governors, reflect a range of political views, and come from diverse states, we share a common concern about Mr. Pruitt’s nomination,” the letter reads. In one...

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Guilty VW to Pay Record $4.3B over Emissions Scandal

Penalty is largest ever levied by the US government against an automaker as Volkswagen admits guilt to three charges. German car giant Volkswagen (VW) will admit guilt and pay a record $4.3bn in fines to settle a diesel emissions cheating scandal, according to US officials. The US justice department also charged six VW executives for their roles in the conspiracy, five of whom are believed to be in Germany while one was arrested in Miami on Saturday. “Today’s actions reflect the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to protecting consumers, to protecting the environment and our financial system, and holding individuals and companies accountable for corporate wrongdoing,” US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Wednesday. She also said the size of the penalty, the largest ever for a car company in US history, reflects the unusual level of premeditation of wrongdoing at high levels of Volkswagen. “The knowledge and choices they made went to the executive...

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Rex Tillerson’s Big Oil Ties Endanger the Climate and National Security

by Cathleen Kelly – The direct link between climate change threats and the duties of the secretary of state is strong. As droughts, floods, heat waves, and other symptoms of a warming world increase both in number and intensity—throughout the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Arctic, Europe, and the United States—the next U.S. secretary of state will face urgent pressure to curb climate change and manage the effects of a warming planet that can no longer be avoided. Failure to do so will damage the global economy and destabilize an already wobbly security landscape, with potentially dire consequences for U.S. national security interests. The next U.S. secretary of state must, as Secretary John Kerry has, protect U.S. foreign policy and security interests and demonstrate a track record of personal and diplomatic credibility. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for the job, former* ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, does not meet those qualifications. Foreign policy...

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Trump to Cede Millions of High-Wage Jobs to China

by Joe Romm – Beijing will create 13 million jobs by 2020, investing $360 billion in clean energy, while Trump vows to abandon the sector.   Renewable energy jobs in select countries (excluding large hydropower). CREDIT: IRENA China is preparing to go big on the only major new source of sustainable high-wage employment in the coming decades. Beijing’s newest 5-year energy development plan invests a stunning 2.5 trillion yuan ($360 billion) in renewable generation by 2020. Of that, $144 billion will go to solar, about $100 billion to wind, $70 billion to hydropower, and the rest to sources like tidal and geothermal power. The Chinese National Energy Administration said in a statement Thursday the resulting “employment will be more than 13 million people.” China is already doing way better than the U.S. in this regard, and President-elect Trump’s commitment to opposing clean energy will not make things any better. As the International Renewable...

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As a Trump Administration Fast Approaches, Cities and Towns Gear Up for Political Resistance

by Sally Neas – In the years to come, community bills of rights are one strategy to shelter vulnerable populations. Back in March, when Donald Trump was facing off with two now-forgotten candidates for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the small town of Barnstead, New Hampshire, was quietly protecting its citizens. At their annual town hall, residents voted unanimously for a city ordinance establishing the right to freedom from forced religious identification. This inconspicuous action was part of a growing national movement for strengthened community self-governance that has found new purpose as the reality of a Trump presidency fast approaches. It came in the form of a community bill of rights, a charter or ordinance that affirms certain rights within a municipality. Similar bills have granted the right to a clean environment, safe and affordable housing, health care, and worker’s rights, among others. President-elect Trump’s campaign promises, proposed policies, and cabinet...

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Global Economic Realities Confirm, the ‘Future is Not in Fossil Fuels’

by Deirdre Fulton – While oil and gas companies falter, ‘renewable energy has reached a tipping point,’ says World Economic Forum expert. Underscoring the need for a global shift to a low-carbon economy, a new report finds a record number of U.K. fossil fuel companies went bust in 2016 due to falling oil and gas prices. The Independent reported the analysis from accounting firm Moore Stephens which found “16 oil and gas companies went insolvent last year, compared to none at all in 2012.” And the trend was not unique to the U.K.—a year-end bankruptcy report from Texas-based Haynes and Boone LLP showed there have been 232 bankruptcy filings in the U.S. and Canadian energy sector since the beginning of 2015. “As the warnings from climate science get stronger, now is the time to realize…that the future is not in fossil fuels,” Dr. Doug Parr of Greenpeace U.K. told The Independent....

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Democrats Aim to Slam Brakes on Key Members of Trump’s “Rigged Cabinet”

by Deirdre Fulton – Tillerson, Sessions, DeVos, and Mnuchin among those set for messy confirmation process. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been warned that Senate Democrats are planning to “aggressively target” eight of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees, aiming to delay as long as possible the confirmation hearings slated to start next week. “President-elect Trump is attempting to fill his rigged cabinet with nominees that would break key campaign promises and have made billions off the industries they’d be tasked with regulating,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Sunday reported by the Washington Post. “Any attempt by Republicans to have a series of rushed, truncated hearings before Inauguration Day and before the Congress and public have adequate information on all of them is something Democrats will vehemently resist,” Schumer said. “If Republicans think they can quickly jam through a whole slate of nominees without a...

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‘The Greatest Single Step’ to Help Elephants Was Just Taken

by Andrea Germanos – In ‘game-changing’ development, China announces it will ban all domestic ivory trade by end of 2017 In a development widely described as game changing for the ecosystem engineers, China has announced it will enact a total ban on its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. The news on Friday, as Agence France-Press reports, “follows Beijing’s announcement in March to widen a ban on imports of all ivory and ivory products acquired before 1975, after pressure to restrict a trade that sees thousands of elephants slaughtered every year.” Reuters adds: “The State Council said in a notice a complete ban would be enforced by Dec. 31, 2017. A first batch of factories and shops will need to close and hand in their licenses by March 31, 2017.” It is indeed a significant step, as “China is currently the biggest buyer and seller of ivory in the...

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