Oceans help feed the world, provide a living for millions of people, and are home to most of the life on the planet.
NRDC works to protect our seas from pollution and exploitation. We help implement laws that allow overfished species to rebound, and we fight to protect coastal communities from offshore drilling. We work to ban destructive fishing practices, conserve ocean treasures, and improve stewardship of the world’s shared oceans, which generate trillions of dollars in economic activity.
Oceans are threatened by overfishing, oil and gas drilling, mining, and other industrial activities.
There’s been no small amount of pushback to President Trump’s recently announced plan to expose all our coasts to risky offshore drilling. But today another shoe dropped. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper drew a figurative line in the sand when he publicly denounced the plan and conveyed that North Carolina’s communities and quality of life are more important that private oil conglomerate profits. “I can sum it up in four words: not off our coast,” the Governor stated.
Today’s announcement marks another critical moment when communities and state leaders are standing up to an administration that is ignoring citizens in favor of lining the pockets of oil companies. Governor Cooper’s statement won’t be the last we’ll see given all that coastal communities have to lose.
In fact, many of these communities already weighed in when the Department of the Interior completed its 2012-2022 Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program just eight months ago. Upon making its determination to exclude the Atlantic ocean, the agency cited that not only had it received extensive opposition from citizens living along the Atlantic coast and their public officials, but that in the Mid- and South Atlantic Planning Areas ocean-dependent tourism accounted for more than $6.5 billion and $4.4 billion in value added to adjacent coastal areas.
The agency went on to say that stakeholders had “expressed concern that oil and gas activities and their potential impacts could jeopardize existing economic activities and the health of important contributors to coastal economies.” And that was, in fact, the case. As of June 2017, 126 East Coast municipalities and more than 1,200 local, state and federal elected officials had formally opposed offshore drilling and/or seismic airgun blasting. And in the state of North Carolina that included chambers of commerce, restaurant associations, tourism boards, and fishing groups standing up to drilling off their coasts. But this sentiment was broad and came from all points in the country, with citizens understanding that these waters belong everyone.
Governor Cooper has acknowledged what many coastal state leaders are finding—not only is drilling a risk to booming tourism and fishing economies, but it is a direct threat to its citizens’ way of life. North Carolina residents know that drilling brings with it not only the risk of major spills, but routine pollution and industrialization of its coasts.
Governor Cooper’s statement today now adds him to the growing list of bipartisan leaders who have joined the fight against another effort to enrich oil companies while leaving communities high and dry.
House Oversight Hearing Signals Return of “Empty Oceans Act” and New Efforts to Roll Back Federal Fisheries Law
This afternoon, the House Natural Resources Committee’s Oceans Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), the law that governs our nation’s fisheries in federal waters. The hearing presented an opportunity for decision makers to discuss the law’s remarkable achievements—including successfully rebuilding 43 once-depleted stocks and supporting 1.6 million jobs—and strategies to further these successes. While some of that happened, at other points, the hearing devolved into an unproductive exercise in finger-pointing and a platform for members to advocate for what has been a growing list of proposals to undermine the core tenets of sustainable fisheries management.
America’s ocean fisheries are some of the best managed in the world, and our success is owed to the MSA’s science-based management framework.
In the 1980s and 90s, fish populations across the country were in decline due to overfishing, and some of our nation’s most iconic stocks (such as cod, flounder, and haddock in New England) had crashed. But lawmakers and fishermen rose to the occasion, and the health of our nation’s fisheries and coastal economies improved as a result. Thanks to requirements that fishery managers end overfishing through science-based catch limits and rebuild overfished stocks in as short a time as possible not to exceed ten years (with certain limited exceptions), many of our fish populations have come back from the brink after decades of chronic overfishing. (For more on this, see our report evaluating the rebuilding requirement’s effectiveness, “Bringing Back the Fish.”)
Through previous reauthorizations of the law in 1996 and 2006, Congress has consistently moved the ball forward on sustainable fisheries management, with broad bipartisan support. The late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was a leader of these reforms, working to ensure a legacy of healthy U.S. fisheries and fishing economies. That legacy was evident today. While each of the hearing witnesses came with different perspectives—these included one state fisheries manager, one recreational angler, and two members of the commercial fishing industry—they all expressly recognized the law's significant achievements in reducing overfishing and rebuilding depleted stocks. Charles Witek, a recreational fisherman from New York who has been closely involved in management decisions at both the federal and state level, described the MSA as "the only framework for fisheries management that has [been] met with consistent success."
But recent legislative proposals threaten to move us backwards. Lurking not so far in the background of today’s hearing was a growing array of bills that would weaken the MSA by de-emphasizing the role of science, diminishing transparency and accountability, and generally watering down legal standards.
One offender is H.R. 200, Congressman Don Young of Alaska’s latest effort to dismantle the MSA in the name of “flexible” fisheries management. H.R. 200 would, among other things, weaken the law’s rebuilding requirement by riddling it with loopholes, and exempt potentially hundreds of species from science-based catch limits. It also takes a swipe at bedrock environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Antiquities Act, and National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Far from a minor tune-up of the law, Congressman Young’s “Empty Oceans Act” is a full-on attack of the very parts of the MSA that have successfully brought back depleted fisheries.
If you are thinking this all sounds familiar, that’s because we have been here before. H.R. 200 marks the third iteration of the Empty Oceans Act. As my colleague Alex Adams wrote then, these efforts to dismantle the MSA are longstanding and often perplexing. But each time, they have failed. Recognizing that the MSA has produced real benefits to our oceans and coastal communities, over 500 organizations and individuals, representing fishermen, business owners, chefs, and community leaders, joined letters opposing the Empty Oceans Act (then H.R. 1335) in 2015.
This Congress, H.R. 200 is flanked by a number of other bills that prioritize short-term economic gain and partisan political volleying over the health of our ocean fisheries. One of them is H.R. 2023, the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act.” Introduced by Representative Garret Graves of Louisiana, H.R. 2023 seeks to benefit the recreational fishing sector specifically, but shares many similar provisions with H.R. 200 and would have wide-reaching impacts that weaken science-based management in both the recreational and commercial sectors.
Another theme of discussion at today's hearing had to do with how the Department of Commerce (through NOAA Fisheries) and the regional fishery management councils implement statutory mandates. Recent decisions by the Department of Commerce—including decisions to allow relaxed management of red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, and to validate New Jersey's risky decision to opt out of necessary conservation measures for summer flounder—show an alarming trend of political officials intervening to undermine science-based fisheries management, and effectively sanctioning overfishing of sensitive populations that require careful management by scientists and managers at the regional level. (Thankfully, the ocean conservation community is holding the agency accountable—on Monday, Ocean Conservancy, EDF, and Earthjustice sued the Department of Commerce for failure to comply with the MSA and other federal laws in issuing the red snapper rule.)
We hope that Congress and the Administration will continue to support the MSA and safeguard its hard-won gains. The future of our oceans depends on it. We will be providing updates throughout the MSA reauthorization process, so be sure to stay tuned.
Congress has officially launched the next phase in the ongoing budget battle, with the House holding a mark-up of budget legislation that, if ultimately successful, will lay out the framework for the federal budget going forward.
Normal enough, right? But there is a hitch that could pervert this seemingly straightforward fiscal exercise into yet another Trojan horse for unpopular, policy giveaways that have no chance to pass on their own.
Here’s how it works. First, the “budget reconciliation” process comes with special procedures that allow the budget committee to include instructions to the rest of Congress to change laws in order to meet whatever budgeting “targets” the budget committee puts forward. Second, these provisions all just get bundled together for a single majority-only vote so the individuals never get independent up-or-down votes. That means, used improperly, the final budget bill is basically a rider magnet on steroids.
So far, Republican Leadership has made it all too clear that they intend to utilize the budget process to jam through some of the most unpopular provisions they haven’t been able to pass through standard rules.
And no surprise, their primary target this round is to pry open the nation’s remaining intact public lands and oceans for expanded drilling. They’re starting by trying to turn the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into a moonscape of drill rigs and crisscrossing pipelines and expose our unspoiled coasts to the oil spills and pollution that are part and parcel of offshore drilling.
Such an attempt doesn’t add up. It flies in the face of growing, bipartisan public opposition, overlooks economic harm to existing local economies and cherished ways of life, all while ignoring the decades of existing oil reserves the fossil fuel has stockpiled and the cost to taxpayers of continuing to subsidize the high-cost, high-risk plunder of our shared natural resources.
Let’s start with the basics. The reconciliation process is supposed to be about finding new ways to generate revenue. But that doesn’t wash when it comes to the sell-off of more public lands. For starters, the administration recently slashed the royalty rate for an upcoming offshore lease sale to its statutory minimum—despite study after study showing that existing rates are already far below market rates. Second, even as they spin a yarn about fossil fuel revenue balancing the budget, certain Senators and Members of Congress propose bills to transfer even these bargain basement royalties to their home states. Third, the debate over expanded oil and gas drilling notoriously ignores just how dependent new drilling is on a web of taxpayer subsidies. For example, recent studies show that expanded offshore drilling relies on large scale hand-outs to fund the high-cost, high risk prospect of sinking drill rigs into ocean waters. Finally, there is never any mention of the costs to the federal government and states when its time clean up after the inevitable oil spills, water pollution, and land degradation that comes with drilling and mining.
Third, we do need more energy jobs today, but we need them in clean renewables that cut pollution while generating good-paying, domestic jobs. Investing in more public lands drilling today is barreling the U.S. into the past. Our financial resources and industry attention should be focused on strengthening the economy, growing jobs and remaining a global energy leader. And that means investing in clean solar and wind energy—the fastest growing and cheapest sources of new energy generation—a increased energy efficiency, battery storage and other modern technologies to power our nation. That’s the smart path to delivering hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs that can’t be shipped overseas.
Finally, sacrificing our natural heritage has nothing to do with “energy dominance”; We don’t need this energy. Risking our public forests and wildlands, coastal environments, and local economies so we can ship the oil overseas may boost oil conglomerate profits, but it won’t make us more secure. Instead of “fueling America,” it would benefit other nations and set us back in winning the global clean energy technology race. Moreover, the fossil fuel industry has stockpiled decades’ worth of oil reserves, more than enough to transition to an urgently needed carbon-free future. Bottom line, there are far less risky energy sources to tap--that don’t come at the expense of our natural landscapes and continued taxpayer subsidies for some of the wealthiest corporations on Earth.
For all these reasons, any “budget reconciliation” instruction designed to turn more federal lands and oceans over to private oil companies is nothing more than another gift to the oil industry at the expense of communities, healthy lands and oceans, and taxpayer pockets.
Republican Leadership should think twice not only about converting the budget process into a giant hand-out to private fossil fuel companies, but also using it as a delivery mechanism for unpopular measures that run counter to the public interest
The Trump Administration Is Pulling the Teeth from Our Most Fundamental Safeguards
The regulations that protect Americans’ health, economy, and environment now need our protection.
Below is a transcript of the video.
(Soundbite of President Trump: This will be the largest-ever cut by far in terms of regulation.)
John Walke, Director, NRDC Clean Air program: I don't think people fully realize how radical the attacks are on the basic safeguards for clean air and clean water and safe food in this country right now. Regulations are facing attack in Washington by politicians in Congress and by the new Trump administration.
Let's start with the basics: The United States Congress passes legislation, sends it to the White House for the president to sign. If the president signs it, it becomes law.
Laws only have meaning if they are enforced and carried out. That's where regulations come in. Federal agencies, like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, issue and enforce regulations to carry out laws like the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and safeguards for Americans' food and a safe environment.
Erik Olson, Director, NRDC Health program: You know when we go home, and we go into the kitchen, and we turn on the tap, we just assume that water is pure, and it's safe. When we go to the grocery store, and we buy some meat, or we buy some vegetables, we just assume that that's safe, and it's not going to make our families sick. Behind all that, is really regulation to make sure that we don't have contaminated tap water, that we don't have contaminated food.
Walke: Enforcing the law through effective regulations delivers enormous health benefits, as well as cost savings for Americans.
Every time the air is clean and harmful pollution is avoided, that means that Americans and their kids don't have to go to emergency rooms; it means they're not suffering bronchitis or asthma attacks.
President Trump has proposed the most extreme budget cut in EPA's history.
(Soundbite of President Trump: Should I give this pen to Andrew? Dow Chemical. Should I? I think maybe, right?)
Slashing the money it needs to enforce the law by over 30 percent and promising layoffs of employees across the agency.
Olson: We've got to have strong rules, and we've got to have vigorous enforcement, and without that, our health and, in some cases, our lives are at stake. We have disease outbreaks from water contamination still occurring to this day because of shortcomings in enforcement and because of lack of regulation in some cases.
Walke: When there's no money, when there's no law enforcement, when there are no regulations necessary to uphold the law, then you're not committed to clean air and public health, you're not committed to clean water and public safety.
I'm sorry, that's just not the way it works.
Tell your senators to oppose the bill for the "Risk to Americans Act"
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.
Bizarre. "Celebrity Climate Chefs"? "Climate Apprentice"? "Game of Thrones" (Winter is Not Coming)? 1/ https://t.co/jruQz3k1hn
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 findingrequiring 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.
The Federal Government just spent three years painstakingly assessing the nation’s offshore drilling policies, following the dictates of the law governing management of our public coastal waters. The previous administration conducted a thorough analysis of the benefits and risks, while receiving extensive input from industry, potentially impacted communities and businesses, and the public at large. That process revealed a massive groundswell of public opposition to expanded drilling off our coasts, as well as significant scientific and economic data showing that opening drilling into frontier areas is not in the public interest.
And yet, just a few months later, President Trump’s Interior Department (DOI) is looking to scrap that plan and start again. On July 3rd, the Department of the Interior at the behest of oil and gas companies issued a Request for Information on offshore oil and gas leasing, initiating a redundant, multi-year process to expand drilling off our coasts.
The Department of the Interior evaluated drilling in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, as well the Atlantic Ocean when it began the process several years ago, and ultimately determined it was a bad call. The Arctic is pristine—there’s never been oil production in its federal offshore waters despite an expensive and catastrophic attempt at exploration by the oil major Shell in 2012. It supports iconic wildlife, including polar bears, whales, and all sorts of seal species, which, in turn, support the subsistence lifestyle of the northernmost Alaskan Native tribes. Similarly, the Atlantic Ocean has been off the table for drilling for more than 30 years, supports incredibly rich marine ecosystems, and is a primary economic driver for hundreds of communities up and down the coast. All of this would be at risk of devastation if those oceans were drilled and oil were to spill. As leaders of the bipartisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling wrote last week in the New York Times, “drilling in the outer continental shelf remains risky business.”
DOI ultimately removed Arctic and Atlantic lease sales from consideration in part thanks to overwhelming public opposition and instead President Obama opted to permanently protect the vast majority of the Arctic and 31 Atlantic deep sea canyons from all future drilling. Removing these areas reflected the public’s preference for preservation over exploitation with Americans submitting more than 1.4 million comments opposing drilling; their elected representatives repeatedly calling on President Obama to protect their coasts; businesses and municipalities declaring their opposition to drilling and seismic testing; and a host of environmental, Latino, conservation, faith-based leaders, and veterans organizations urging the President to steer our offshore energy policy forward.
This recent history is repeating itself, and then some.
Communities immediately rallied upon the release of Trump’s executive order to expand offshore oil and gas production; they came together again around the annual Hands Across the Sand event; and Members of Congress and Senators have introduced a number of bills to prevent drilling off their coasts. Bipartisan opposition is growing, and Governors are weighing in strongly as well. These coastal leaders are taking a stand and protecting their communities’ economies and way of life:
Last week, Larry Hogan, Republican Governor of Maryland, stated plainly, “I’m not in favor of offshore drilling.”
South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford introduced a bill to place a moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic, Straits of Florida and Eastern Gulf, and continues to lead opposition on behalf of South Carolina.
New Jersey Republican Frank LoBiondo worked with his colleagues to rally more than 100 members of Congress to send a letter to the Trump administration urging that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans remain off limits for oil and gas drilling.
Florida Republican John Rutherford and Virginia Democrat Don Beyer teamed up to lead a bipartisan letter from more than 100 members of Congress to Interior Secretary Zinke voicing concerns with a proposal to issue seismic testing permits for the Atlantic Ocean.
Senators called on the Trump Administration to protect coastlines from offshore oil drilling in a strong letter, and introduced legislation to prohibit Interior Secretary Zinke from revising approved offshore drilling plan for 2017-2022 to open up new areas.
Similarly, editorial boards up and down the Atlantic coast have taken firm stances against expanded drilling. These are just a few examples:
The voice of the The Virginian-Pilot, out of Virginia Beach, urged readers to submit comments to Interior’s RFI docket, saying, “All of Hampton Roads has a vested interest in protecting its coasts for a number of reasons, and citizens should make sure that Washington knows why.”
The BaltimoreSun was a little blunter, titling their editorial, “Offshore drilling is a loser.”
Sarasota Florida’s Herald-Tribunetook a similar tone, writing, “In March, 17 members of Congress representing Florida, Republicans and Democrats, sent a letter putting the secretary of the interior—and, by extension, Trump—on notice: Keep the eastern Gulf of Mexico off limits to drilling for gas and oil, or expect a fight….Let’s get ready to rumble.”
The engagement of leaders across the political spectrum, and the editorial boards that reflect their communities’ voices, is strong evidence that attempts to open our coasts will be met with a fight. 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.
We saw a major victory against the administration’s pro-polluter agenda—but the attack continues on our public lands, science, and clean energy.
Something interesting—a first―happened this week to President Trump’s unabashed agenda to put our health and environment in danger.
It ran into a brick wall.
The brick wall was the law. Trump and his allies may have an ideology-driven drive to dismantle our bedrock health, safety, and environmental protections. But it won’t happen just on their say-so.
Team Trump learned that tough lesson when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit slapped down U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt for violating the Clean Air Act by “staying”―essentially halting—the Obama-era EPA’s curbs on the potent climate pollutant methane and other smog-forming pollution from oil and gas operations.
In June, Pruitt announced a 90-day suspension of the methane rule. He followed up shortly thereafter by extending the stay another two years, despite acknowledging that this pollution has a “disproportionate effect on children.”
NRDC and five other groups filed suit against the delay on June 5. And less than a month later, on July 3, the federal appeals court ruled that Pruitt lacked the legal authority to delay the methane protections. The court ordered the rules immediately back into effect. And NRDC stands ready to go back to court if Pruitt tries to finalize the two-year extension.
David Doniger, who heads NRDC’s Climate & Clean Air program, took some hope from the nation’s independent courts standing up for the rule of law just ahead of Independence Day. “This is the first of what we hope will be many court setbacks for Scott Pruitt, whose devotion to the law is rhetorical and not real,” Doniger said.
So far, NRDC, often with others, has filed 16 lawsuits against the Trump administration for ignoring or violating the law on a host of anti-health environmental and climate moves.
In other ways, with Congress out of Washington for the July 4th week, our health and environment and the science to protect them continued to fall under fire.
Tell Trump we won't stop fighting global climate change
Agencies such as the EPA have been purging their advisory boards of scientists. The White House, too, has gotten into the act. It has come to light that with the departure of three scientists who had worked under the Obama administration, the science division in the Office of Science and Technology Policy is now devoid of anyone trained as a scientist.
Under Obama, the OSTP had more than 100 experts, most of them scientists, to advise on issues ranging from the Ebola crisis to the Deepwater Horizon spill. Now just 35 work there, none of them scientists. One former OSTP scientist described the impact: “This administration is flying blind on a range of science and technology issues.”
Efficiency Standards Targeted Next?
On July 3, the U.S. Department of Energy said it was gathering information about an Obama-era energy efficiency standard for air compressors, which could be the next thing targeted in the Trump era. Savings for consumers could go out the window.
A draft copy of a DOE Federal Register filing suggested that the agency was responding to complaints from small businesses. On June 13, NRDC and a coalition of states sued the Trump administration for illegally delaying the compressor standard and other efficiency standards. At that time, Kit Kennedy, director of NRDC’s Energy & Transportation program, said, “We’re standing up today for American families and businesses. These delays are hurting their budgets and creating uncertainty for U.S. manufacturers that need to make critical decisions about their product lines.”
Stop Trump and Pruitt’s escalated anti-environment assault
Interior Department Fast-Tracking Polluter Profits
U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on July 6 that he was signing an order to give a faster green light to oil and gas interests seeking to exploit our public lands. NRDC lands experts Theo Spencer and Amy Mall observed, “It’s clear that the oil and gas industry already has dominance of our public lands. Dirty, polluting, dangerous oil and gas drilling and fracking do not need any more special favors or shortcuts to environmental review. Today’s move benefits oil and gas company executives. The rest of us Americans stand to lose.”
NRDC Land & Wildlife program director Sharon Buccino added, “We’ll continue to resist this and every other payoff to the oil and gas industries. Our precious public lands should be held in trust for all Americans, not sold off to those who would desecrate them for profit.”
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.
Tell Interior Secretary Zinke to stop the assault on our national monuments
On June 27th, House Republicans released an unacceptable Energy and Water appropriations bill that should dispel any belief that the GOP-run Congress will somehow stop reckless spending cuts in the Trump era. Sure, the cuts they propose to important civilian energy programs aren’t as bad as what President Trump has proposed, but that is faint praise since they are still very bad. Further, where the bill does spend money, it puts it into military spending programs, and misguided and contentious nuclear waste disposal strategies. Not only that, House Republicans didn’t stop with poor decisions on spending. They also included several harmful policy riders that are designed to undermine critical environmental protections.
Overall, this bill cuts funding $209 million below last year’s levels, and, discouragingly, the programs cut the most are those which have helped promote America’s leadership in developing affordable clean energy.
The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its budget cut by nearly 50 percent, with a $1 billion dollar cut. The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) program, a hugely successful incubator for next generation technologies that enjoys broad bipartisan and private sector support, would be eliminated entirely. So would another important clean energy program, the Title 17 loan guarantee program, which has a strong track record of lowering the risks on deploying projects that can make cleaner and cheaper energy a reality. By removing funding from these programs, the House Republicans are putting at risk the innovation that supports 3 million clean energy jobs and our nation’s competitiveness in smart, clean and innovative energy technology solutions.
While cutting these important programs, House Republicans redistribute the funds into polluting and dangerous technologies. Their bill puts an additional $1 billion into nuclear weapons programs, spends $340 million trying to keep alive failed nuclear waste storage proposals like the over-budget MOX project (pg 8 in link) in South Carolina, and $120 million to try and restart the licensing process for the leaky Yucca Mountain repository that is being forced upon the people of Nevada.
Then there are the policy riders. Despite the fact that policy riders are complete non-starters to getting bills through the Senate, House Republicans are again attempting to push these poison pills.
This year’s bill includes the (sadly) usual suite of riders designed to undermine popular environmental protections. They target the important Clean Water Rule and associated clean water policies like protections for streams from industrial runoff. There is also a rider designed to stop restoration of the San Joaquin River, which is California's second longest. Others undermine the implementation of the National Ocean Policy, and try and restart the abandoned and unworkable Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository licensing process. The bill’s Clean Water Rule rider has been updated since last year and is now an even more reckless and cynical attempt to take away safeguards for important waters on which Americans depend for pollution filtration, outdoor recreation, flood control, and drinking water supply. The provision (Sec. 108) would authorize EPA and the Army Corps to repeal the Clean Water Rule without following basic and longstanding processes aimed at giving people a voice in their government’s actions. For instance, a repeal could ignore the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirements to provide meaningful opportunity for public comment on a proposed rule, or its provisions demanding that rules be “in accordance with law” and not arbitrary or capricious.
This bill just shows how once again House Republicans are failing the American people by putting polluter profits above the health and welfare or our planet and those of us who live on it. We, and many others, will do all we can to derail this terrible spending measure and keep clean energy and a healthy future at the forefront.