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The United States EPA in 2017 – What New Changes Mean For Climate Change

This article started while researching a completely different subject.  A headline caught our attention and one thing led to another; what we found wasn’t surprising but is indeed something to think about – and something to watch in the future.  On 10/10/2017 we read an EPA press headline:  

EPA Takes Another Step To Advance President Trump's America First Strategy, Proposes Repeal Of Clean Power Plan:  “The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Tuesday that Scott Pruitt, the chief of the agency, had signed a measure to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature policy (CPP) to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America’s efforts to tackle global warming.”1

So, the name Scott Pruitt entered into the mental file that collects data during research.  We read the article and did some other research on the Clean Power Plan that was being repealed.  Then, in an entirely unrelated search, we ran across this bit of information about the lawsuit against Colorado back in 2014: 

Colorado Sued by Neighboring States Over It’s Weed Policy:  "Both Oklahoma and Nebraska want the law that allows marijuana consumption in their neighboring state overturned...the states claim that the discrepancy in weed regulation has been "draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice system." The State of Colorado has created a dangerous gap in the federal drug control system," claims the lawsuit, which has been filed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt." 2

Scott Pruitt, Head of the EPASo there we have Scott Pruitt’s name again, in the space of two days and something clicked.  So we decided to look him up and discovered he has a cloud of controversy surrounding him as the following February 2017 CNN report3 shows:

"In June 2013, a top lobbyist at Devon Energy, an Oklahoma-based oil and natural gas giant, sent one of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's top officials a draft letter objecting to recently proposed federal regulations on fracking.  Two months later, Pruitt, signed a nearly identical version of that letter. The only difference was the addition of the attorney general's official letterhead and a paragraph citing additional legal precedent to back up the letter's arguments.

"The episode was just one of several examples that highlighted the relationship Pruitt maintained with Devon Energy and the oil and gas industry during his time as Oklahoma attorney general. This raises questions about how Pruitt will conduct himself at the EPA, which is charged with regulating that industry.”

Here's more from Pruitt’s October 2017 speech announcing they were going to repeal Obama's Clean Power Plan:  “The EPA will respect the limits of statutory authority. The CPP ignored states’ concerns and eroded longstanding and important partnerships that are a necessary part of achieving positive environmental outcomes.” said Administrator Pruitt.” 

He sure didn't take that tone about ‘partnership’ and ‘state's concerns’ when he SUED his neighboring state, did he?  Wait, it gets better. 

MSNBC reported4 the following: “The EPA’s inspector general acknowledged plans Friday to expand its inquiry into Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travel habits; scrutiny from his own agency for taxpayer-funded trips totaling more than $58,000, according to records provided to a congressional oversight committee and obtained by The Washington Post.

“This story comes on the heels of reports that Pruitt holds “back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates – and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates.  These controversies are unrelated to concerns about his willingness to ignore EPA scientists, his misleading public remarks and the allegations that he illegally hid correspondence that documented his cooperation with the oil and gas industries during his tenure in Oklahoma.”

Now let’s move on to the damage to the environment that has occurred since he’s been head of the EPA.  We find this:  “To date, the Trump administration has sought to reverse more than 50 environmental rules, according to an analysis by The New York Times.”5

25 rules have been overturned

  • Flood building standards
  • Proposed ban on a potentially harmful pesticide
  • Freeze on new coal leases on public lands
  • Methane reporting requirement
  • Anti-dumping rule for coal companies
  • Decision on Keystone XL pipeline
  • Decision on Dakota Access pipeline
  • Third-party settlement funds
  • Offshore drilling ban in the Atlantic and Arctic
  • Ban on seismic air gun testing in the Atlantic
  • Northern Bering Sea climate resilience plan
  • Royalty regulations for oil, gas and coal
  • Inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions in environmental reviews
  • Permit-issuing process for new infrastructure projects
  • Green Climate Fund contributions
  • Mining restrictions in Bristol Bay, Alaska
  • Grizzly bear listing as endangered species,
  • Hunting ban on wolves and grizzly bears in Alaska
  • Protection of whales and sea turtles
  • Reusable water bottles rule for national parks
  • National parks climate order
  • Environmental mitigation for federal projects
  • Calculation for “social cost” of carbon
  • Planning rule for public lands
  • Copper filter cake listing as hazardous waste

19 rollbacks are in progress

  • Clean Power Plan
  • Paris climate agreement
  • Wetland and tributary protections
  • Car and truck fuel-efficiency standards
  • Status of 10 national monuments
  • Status of 12 marine areas
  • Limits on toxic discharge from power plants
  • Coal ash discharge regulations
  • Emissions standards for new, modified and reconstructed power plants
  • Emissions rules for power plant start-up and shutdown
  • Sage grouse habitat protections
  • Fracking regulations on public lands
  • Regulations on oil and gas drilling in some national parks
  • Oil rig safety regulations
  • Regulations for offshore oil and gas exploration by floating vessels
  • Exploratory drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge
  • Hunting method regulations in Alaska
  • Requirement for tracking emissions on federal highways
  • Emissions standards for trailers and glider kits

8 rollbacks are in limbo: 

  • Methane emission limits at new oil and gas wells
  • Limits on landfill emissions
  • Limits on methane emissions on public lands
  • Mercury emission limits for power plants
  • Hazardous chemical facility regulations
  • Groundwater protections for uranium mines
  • Efficiency standards for federal buildings
  • Rule helping consumers buy fuel-efficient tires

From this list, It appears clear that under Scott Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA no longer stands for Environmental Protection Agency but instead for Energy Providers Advocate.   However, there are a few rules that were overturned that WERE unduly expensive and did little to mitigate climate change, or help the environment, so the list is somewhat deceptive.  Also, some things on the list are well covered by other rules that were left in place, avoiding the cost of duplication and oversight “overkill.”

There are some who claim the Clean Power Plan would not have helped the environment, and that it’s repeal will help Americans.  From a Washington Examiner article dated 10/17/2017 we find this viewpoint:  “Although there is no shortage of policy reasons to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which promises lots of economic pain for no discernible environmental gain, Pruitt is proposing repeal chiefly because the plan exceeds the legal authority delegated to the agency by Congress.  The Obama EPA claimed the Clean Power Plan would deliver up to $95 billion in climate change mitigation benefits by 2030, but that's flimflam. The EPA's own climate model estimated the plan would avert less than 0.02 degrees Celsius of global warming by 2100 — too small an amount to have any discernible impact on weather patterns, polar bear populations, or anything else people care about. The climatic effects in 2030 would be even smaller.”6

Those EPA models were not under the Trump administration but Obama's; as a result, no firm argument, for or against, can be made regarding politics.  Obama’s own EPA produced models that did not agree with his Clean Power Plan.

We must balance ecology and economy 
We try to look carefully at both sides of an issue because of the divisiveness of political agendas; and a propensity today for knee-jerk reactions from people who choose not to hear anything that challenges their own belief systems.

An EPA directive states this:  "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the states, serves a vital role in protecting human health and the environment. When conducting agency action to achieve these objectives, the EPA must strive to promote transparency and public participation to provide the American public with due process, accountability, and a sense of fair dealing."

To be clear, some members of environmental groups, and some at the EPA, have gone around this directive to try to circumvent the rules; frequently leaving the public completely unaware of environmental actions being taken.  This is bad business on the part of both environmentalists and the EPA.  However, Scott Pruitt himself has been accused of doing just that.

Obama’s Clean Power Plan never took effect due to court challenges by states so technically, nothing has been lost because nothing was ever put into action.  We're still at the same level or harm that we have been operating at since the industrial revolution began.  The overturned rules and rollbacks are not quite as devastating as the NY Times article would have you believe, and we smell political posturing in the tone, but they show a very concerning mindset shift in the U.S. Government's environmental polices.

Make no mistake though, more than a few of the overturned rules ARE  extremely damaging to the health  of our planet (not to mention the country's reputation around the world.)  It is our firm belief that Scott Pruitt IS devastating to the environment.  He is a climate denier, deep in the pocket of big oil and has no business leading the EPA.  

Supposedly, Trump does plan on investing in the clean energy sectors . . . we shall see.  Then there is the newly formed United States Climate Alliance7 which has joined  14 states together – states responsible for nearly 23% of all CO2 emissions in the U.S. – with each state vowing to support both the Paris Accord and the Clean Energy Plan, so all is not lost.  Many states are tired of the over-reach of the federal government and choosing to exercise their state rights...from medical and recreational marijuana to industrial hemp to the environment.  The people are speaking in increasing numbers; and most Americans have woken up and smelled the pollution and the corruption.

Climate change is real and solutions MUST be found that find the balance between ecology and economy.  Industrial hemp clearly helps that balance and thus we will continue to spread the word and fight for both truth AND progress.

 

Sources:

 1.  https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-takes-another-step-advance-president-trumps-america-first-strategy-proposes-repeal

 2.  https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/12/18/colorado-marijuana-lawsuit/20599831/

 3.  http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/22/politics/scott-pruitt-epa-oklahoma/index.html

 4.  http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/investigation-expands-epas-scott-pruitt

 5.  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/climate/trump-environment-rules-reversed.html

 6. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/repealing-the-clean-power-plan-will-benefit-all-americans/article/2637612

 7.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Climate_Alliance

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