The Real Lowdown: The Trump and Congressional Republican Assault on Our Environment, Vol. 19

Scott Pruitt wants to be a game show host to debate climate change, communities respond harshly to rolling back methane standards, and even Republicans are against offshore drilling.
Credit: Dave Logan/iStock

Scott Pruitt wants to be a game show host to debate climate change, communities respond harshly to rolling back methane standards, and even Republicans are against offshore drilling.

America the superpower is fast becoming America the super pariah, thanks to President Trump.

At the recent G20 summit in Germany, Trump reiterated his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, which drew a rebuke from Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel. “I deplore this,” she said, making it clear that Trump made the talks on a range of issues, including climate change, difficult.

The diplomatic faux pas led NRDC President Rhea Suh to muse: What if a president goes one way and the nation goes another? “Though President Trump is turning his back on the 2015 Paris climate agreement and pushing his misguided plan to put fossil fuels first, others are standing strong on the side of progress,” she said. “More than 2,100 states, cities, universities, businesses, and investors have pledged to move forward to protect future generations from the growing dangers of climate change.”

She noted, too, that California governor Jerry Brown and New York’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will document those gains and make a report to the United Nations, which is tracking the world’s efforts to reduce the carbon footprint. While they are showing that Trump can’t stop the United States from doing its part to meet its Paris commitments, in other ways the Trump team’s drive to put our health and environment at risk continued—and continued hitting speed bumps.

Scott Pruitt, Climate Game Show Host

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt announced this week that he wants scientists to debate climate change on TV.

“Bizarre,” tweeted David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program. He wondered about potential titles: Celebrity Climate Chefs? Climate Apprentice? Game of Thrones (Winter Is Not Coming)? Many scientists have observed that clarity and truth are better found through genuine scientific peer review than phony television debates.

What Pruitt’s really up to, apparently, is trying to march the EPA further backward on addressing the carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, including possibly trying to undo the agency’s scientifically grounded endangerment finding requiring action under the Clean Air Act to curb heat-trapping air pollutants.

Pruitt’s Posse Thinks Like the Boss

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? Turns out a potential member of Pruitt’s team, like the boss, doesn’t agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is real and carbon pollution is chiefly at fault.

EPA enforcement nominee Susan Bodine told a Senate panel on July 12 that the United States should exit the landmark Paris climate agreement because of the “uncertainty” about climate modeling and the extent to which CO2 causes temperature rise. She also said the agreement could cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion.

None of that’s true. The last point, notably, comes from a widely discredited study that NRDC analyst Kevin Steinberger showed grossly inflated costs and blithely ignored the billions of dollars of benefits.

NRDC, Others Sue Trump for Delaying Ozone Safeguards

On July 12, NRDC, Earthjustice, and other environmental groups sued the Trump administration to stop the EPA’s delay of a 2015 ozone pollution safeguard that could reduce asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments for millions of Americans.

“'This illegal action would expose Americans to dangerous amounts of smog,” said John Walke, director of the Clean Air program at NRDC. “The EPA claims it needs more time, but this move is a dangerous step backward when it comes to cleaning up smog in communities. Just like the EPA’s recent attempt to block methane emission reductions from oil and gas operations, this unwarranted delay will meet the same fate and be overruled by the courts.'”

The EPA Gets an Earful Opposing Its Delay of Methane Pollution Standards

In the be-careful-what-you-ask-for department, the EPA held a public hearing on July 10 to hear what folks think of its delay of oil and gas sector standards requiring operators to inspect for and repair leaks of methane from oil and gas infrastructure.

Not much, dozens of people testified. Instead they supported the standards, which could help reduce asthma attacks and other respiratory ailments for millions. “This rule was properly promulgated and has been in effect for over a year,” NRDC’s Lissa Lynch and Lucy Laflamme said in their testimony for the hearing. “There is no statutory justification for suspending it. The EPA must withdraw these unauthorized, unwarranted proposed stays to prevent the harms to public health and our climate they will cause.”

A Bipartisan Wave Rises Against Trump Offshore Drilling

On July 3, the U.S. Department of the Interior issued a request for information on offshore oil and gas leasing—a prelude to opening our oceans to exploitation and damage. A bipartisan wave is rising against the idea, said NRDC oceans and fossil fuels experts Alexandra Adams and Franz Matzner.

Here’s Maryland Republican governor Larry Hogan: “I’m not in favor of offshore drilling.” New Jersey representative Frank LoBiondo, also a Republican, rallied more than 100 congressional colleagues to send Trump a letter urging that the Atlantic and Pacific remain off-limits, and there’s more opposition from other politicians and dozens of coastal communities. “The communities, people, and businesses that rely on healthy coasts will defend their way of life against the federal government’s shameful readiness to put oil industry profits over people yet again,” said Adams and Matzner.

That’s this week’s Real Lowdown. NRDC has prepared a list of other far-ranging threats. And we’re vigilantly reporting on the administration’s assault on the environment through Trump Watch.

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