(de)regulation nation, vol. 1 no. 4: Trump is why we can't have anything nice.
April 11, 2018 — National political reporters, news anchors and pundits spent the past week chewing over whether and when President Trump might fire EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who has racked up over a dozen scandals (HuffPost) ranging from ethical lapses to free-spending ways with millions of taxpayer dollars.
Much like his boss, Pruitt denies wrongdoing. And much like Trump, there's been a steady reveal of evidence that he has indeed done wrong, and sometimes tried to shift the blame.
No argument that this is newsworthy stuff. But the coverage has largely ignored Pruitt's leadership of the EPA, including moves such as last week's rollback of strict tailpipe emissions rules (which I covered in (de)regulation nation vo. 1. no. 3).
Pruitt is trying to slash regulations that protect the health of millions of people and cut America's climate-heating greenhouse gas pollution. Doesn't that merit equal time alongside his 24/7 security detail, $43,000 soundproof phone booth, and super-expensive plane tickets?
- The Trump administration wants to eliminate funding for the Department of Interior's Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which helps fund state-based projects that keep wildlife and wild plants from going extinct.
- The fund survived this year's federal funding process. But White House has eliminated the fund entirely from its 2019 budget proposal, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supports the move.
- The fund provides $1.1 million a year to Hawaii's Plant Extinction Prevention Program, an 11-person team that works to keep around 200 rare Hawaiian plant species in existence.
- The project's botanists do painstaking and arduous work "collecting seeds and cuttings for propagation, replanting new populations in the wild, building and maintaining fences to block out invasive pigs and other herbivores, and even going so far as to help pollinate some species by hand" in some of the "most remote areas of the island chain, including steep cliffs and places probably never before seen by other human eyes."
- Since it began its work 15 years ago, the team has not lost a single species.
- Read more: The Revelator
- Scott Pruitt's allies say Trump hasn't fired the scandal-prone EPA administrator because he has been so effective at wiping out environmental rules.
- But has he? Although he's taken aim at nearly three dozen regulations, at least 10 of those moves have been challenged by lawsuits.
- In one example, a federal judge ruled in March that the agency had illegally delayed implementation of regulations protecting agricultural workers and the public from certain pesticide exposures.
- Read More: The New Republic
- Two newly published studies suggest that Arctic summer sea ice may endure into the 21st century if the Earth's average temperature warms no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100.
- Keeping at least some of the summer Arctic Ocean under ice is important to saving many Arctic wildlife species and ecosystems.
- 1.5 degrees is the "preferred" temperature target set in the Paris Climate agreement. Formally, the agreement commits the nations that have signed on to keep warming below 2 degrees C.
- The studies can be read as a backhanded criticism of the current trajectory of global carbon emissions. At the current rate of pollution, average global temperatures are projected rise around 4 degrees C by 2100. That would mean a 12-degree C increase in the Arctic, where warming effects are amplified.
- But it's also a counter-argument to the notion that it's too late to do something useful about global warming.
- Read more: Discovery Magazine
- The cities of Oakland, San Francisco, New York, and other California cities and counties are suing oil, gas and coal firms, demanding that they pay billions in financial damages to help cities cope with sea level rise and other climate change harms.
- The legal cases they're making, that these firms have "created a public nuisance," are similar to those used successfully by states to hold Big Tobacco responsible for harming public health.
- Cutting-edge climate science is helping make these lawsuits possible.
- Read more: HuffPost (Full disclosure: I wrote this article.)
Photo: Cyanea kauaulaensis fruit on Maui. Credit: Plant Extinction Prevention Program.