Scott Pruitt

It's Official: Trump Administration to Repeal Clean Power Plan

Scott Pruitt at the White House

By Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch. Reposted with permission from EcoWatch.

The Trump administration will scrap the Clean Power Plan (CPP), President Obama's signature environmental policy aimed at fighting climate change, confirming earlier reports of such a move.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said at an event in Kentucky he will sign a proposed rule on Tuesday “to withdraw the so-called clean power plan of the past administration.”

Why Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Won't Lead to Action on Climate Change

Man standing in floodwaters in front of damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida

By Scott Gabriel Knowles, Drexel University

It’s not easy to hold the nation’s attention for long, but three solid weeks of record-smashing hurricanes directly affecting multiple states and at least 20 million people will do it.

Clustered disasters hold our attention in ways that singular events cannot — they open our minds to the possibility that these aren’t just accidents or natural phenomena to be painfully endured. As such, they can provoke debates over the larger “disaster lessons” we should be learning. And I would argue the combination of Harvey and Irma has triggered such a moment.

Red Team-Blue Team? Debating Climate Science Should Not Be a Cage Match

Boxing match

By Richard B. Rood, University of Michigan

Scott Pruitt, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has called for a “red team-blue team” review to challenge the science behind climate change. “The American people deserve an honest, open, transparent discussion about this supposed threat to this country,” he said on a radio show, adding he hoped to hold the exercise in the fall.

Most commonly, red team-blue team reviews are used as a mechanism to improve security of information systems or military defenses. The blue team is associated with an institution, the owner of an asset or a plan. The red team is charged with attacking the blue team, with the goal of revealing vulnerabilities.

In First 6 Months Under Trump, Polluters Already Paying Lower Fines to EPA

EPA flag in front of headquarters

It hasn't taken long for Donald Trump to make his mark (well, many marks) on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In the first six months in office, his EPA under Scott Pruitt has already seen a precipitous drop in enforcement for violators of major environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

So far, the Trump administration has collected 60 percent less in fines for civil lawsuits against polluters on average, compared to the previous three administrations.

This Is the Drilling Method for Most US Oil But Regulators Offer Almost No Oversight

Oil pump jacks drilling in California

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and offshore drilling garner a lot of news headlines when it comes to oil and gas issues in America, but they're far from the only game in town, with those two drilling techniques not even constituting the majority of U.S. oil and gas production.

For that, look to enhanced oil recovery (EOR), an under-regulated drilling method that has been around for over a century and could be threatening drinking water sources — if only regulators and the public had enough information to determine that danger, according to a new 63 page report published this week. Environmental group Clean Water Action, with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University, plumbed the academic and professional literature on EOR and its associated regulatory issues in order to lay out the potential environmental and public health risks posed by EOR. They also detail how the drilling method came to be handled with such a light touch by regulators at both the state and federal level.

The report details that the almost non-existent regulatory treatment for EOR, which makes up 60 percent of U.S. oil and gas production, may be further watered down due to proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget cuts by the Trump administration. In addition, oil, gas, and coal companies are pushing for two Senate bills offering tax incentives for this drilling technique which cast it as a supposed climate change solution.

Why Shifting Regulatory Power to the States Won't Improve the Environment

Power plant with a tall smoke stack

By Michael A. Livermore, University of Virginia

President Trump and his appointees, particularly Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, have made federalism a theme of their efforts to scale back environmental regulation. They argue that the federal government has become too intrusive and that states should be returned to a position of “regulatory primacy” on environmental matters.

We have to let the states compete to see who has the best solutions. They know the best how to spend their dollars and how to take care of the people within each state,” Trump said in a speech to the National Governors Association last February.

Some liberal-leaning states have responded by adopting more aggressive regulations. California has positioned itself as a leader in the fight to curb climate change. New York is restructuring its electricity market to facilitate clean energy. And Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, has ordered state environmental regulators to design a rule to cap carbon emissions from power plants.

State experimentation may be the only way to break the gridlock on environmental issues that now overwhelms our national political institutions. However, without a broad mandate from the federal government to address urgent environmental problems, few red and purple states will follow California’s lead. In my view, giving too much power to the states will likely result in many states doing less, not more.

History Shows That Stacking Federal Science Advisory Committees Doesn't Work

Deepwater Horizon oil rig on fire

By Donald Boesch, University of Maryland

Scientists are busy people, but every year thousands donate many hours of their time without payment to advise Congress and federal government agencies. They provide input on all kinds of issues, from antibiotic resistance to mapping the world’s oceans in three dimensions.

The Trump administration has raised alarms by signaling that it is determined to replace scientific advisers who are not in line with its political philosophy. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is replacing most of the members of EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors and, very likely, its Science Advisory Board. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has suspended the activities of numerous advisory panels, including many scientific committees, pending review of their purpose and composition.

Will Trump Cabinet members really be able to shift the scientific advice on which their agencies rely? And how should scientists respond?

States Band Together to Sue EPA After Agency Backtracks on Pesticide Ban

Pesticide spray sign

In late March, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt decided that his agency would not place an outright ban on a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical called chlorpyrifos. The decision came after a federal court ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether or not to ban the pesticide, which the Obama administration had proposed banning in 2015. The chemical has been on the market in the United States since 1965 under the brand name Lorsban and indoor use of the chemical has been banned for more than a decade.

In its decision to allow the pesticide to continue being used in the United States, the EPA went against its own agency’s findings that the pesticide presented unnecessary risks to American citizens. And while Pruitt’s EPA officials did not deny those findings, they did claim additional studies on the chemical were still needed before they could ban it, thus allowing the product's continued use.

In the three and a half months since the EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision, the story has become far more complex than the usual “regulators siding with industry” trope that has played out far too often.

EPA Chief Pruitt’s 'Red Team' on Climate Science Is an Eight-Year-Old Talking Point Pushed by Heartland Institute

Scott Pruitt

Like many of his Trump administration colleagues, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt has never really been down with the whole climate science thing.

Pruitt has denied that carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning is the key driver of climate change, instead hedging his bets with an assortment of ifs, buts, and maybes.

Now, Pruitt is suggesting that what the American public really needs is more debate, more false equivalence, and more delay on policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil Fuel Industry Steps in to Help Save Paris Climate Deal for All the Wrong Reasons

Money clenched in a person's hand

In May of 2016, six months before the U.S. presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump said that he would “cancel” the United States’ involvement in the Paris climate accord. Immediately following his election, however, Trump appeared to back-track slightly, saying he had “an open mind” about the agreement. And just this week, his administration canceled a much-hyped meeting to discuss the deal’s future in the U.S.

The back and forth from the administration likely stems from the fact that officials within it are split, with people like senior adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt urging the president to withdraw from the deal, and people like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that the U.S. should remain in it.

Pressure to stay in the Paris agreement isn’t just coming from members of the White House, either. Polls show that 71 percent of the American public supports the deal, so pulling out would prove to be highly unpopular with American voters. But another faction is begging the president to keep the deal in place: American businesses and fossil fuel companies.

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