Trump Administration

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?

Trump To Tap Jeff Holmstead for EPA? Swamp Alert!

As part of President Donald Trump’s effort to “drain the swamp” directly into his cabinet, a revolving door coal lobbyist is now poised to take a top position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the second time in his career.

According to Axios, President Trump is expected to appoint Jeffrey Holmstead to second-in-command at the EPA, where he will be in charge of overseeing the coal companies that he spent the last decade lobbying for.

Goldman Sachs-backed Firm Invests Big in Shipping Tar Sands by Train Along Keystone XL Route

Oil train tank cars

USD Partners, a rail terminal operator owned in part by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, has signed a nearly three year deal to facilitate moving tar sands by train from where it is extracted in Alberta, Canada, to an offloading terminal in Stoud, Oklahoma, in a route mirroring that of the Keystone XL pipeline.

From Stroud, the heavy oil can be sent via pipeline to the nearby oil storage hub in Cushing, Oklahoma. USD's announcement, which said the company could transport up to 70,000 barrels per day of tar sands in rail cars, came in a June 2 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The deal, centering around the purchase of the Stroud terminal, also included the acquisition of 300,000 barrels of storage space in Cushing, a town known by oil and gas industry observers as the “pipeline crossroads of the world.” 

Ryan Zinke

Ryan Zinke

Credentials

  • M.S. Global Leadership,  University of San Diego (2003). [1]
  • M.B.A., National University (1991). [1]
  • B.S. Geology, University of Oregon (1984). [2]

Background

Federal Research Has Been Stoking Oil, Gas Interest in Bears Ears Monument for Years

Bluff formations in Bears Ears Monument

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is considering revoking the protected status from Bears Ears National Monument, a culturally and archaeologically significant area spanning 1.35 million acres in Utah and protected by then-President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act of 1906 during his last weeks in office.

While numerous Native American tribes claim ties and sacred sites within its borders, Bears Ears is also of considerable interest to the fossil fuel industry for its close proximity to oil and gas deposits, one of several reasons for pushback against the monument designation. According to a map published by WildEarth Guardians, a group calling for protection of Bears Ears, hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) powerhouses EOG Resources and Whiting Petroleum are already drilling near the area. Soon, however, there may be much more activity.

A DeSmog review of Utah state records shows that the drilling company Wesco Operating has obtained permits to drill in oil fields near Bears Ears, fields which are part of a larger shale basin extending under the monument. Furthermore, the federal government has been stoking interest in developing that shale basin to the tune of nearly three quarters of a million dollars invested in feasibility research.

Are Solar and Wind Really Killing Coal, Nuclear, and Grid Reliability?

Rick Perry and the Texas power grid

By Joshua D. RhodesMichael E. WebberThomas Deetjen, and Todd Davidson, University of Texas at Austin

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in April requested a study to assess the effect of renewable energy policies on nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The Conversation

Some energy analysts responded with confusion, as the subject has been extensively studied by grid operators and the Department of Energy’s own national labs. Others were more critical, saying the intent of the review is to favor the use of nuclear and coal over renewable sources.

So, are wind and solar killing coal and nuclear? Yes, but not by themselves and not for the reasons most people think.

In Trump Era, Right Wing Battles Itself Over Energy Policy, Fossil Fuels and a Warming Climate

Donald Trump at a podium

Starkly different visions for how conservatives view energy were on display at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) The Future of Energy Summit in New York City last week.

Right-wing speakers seemed pulled in opposite directions by the twin realities of a changing climate, which is beginning to hit gas companies' bottom lines, juxtaposed against the raw political power of a Trump administration packed with climate change deniers of different stripes.

Some on the right are calling for supporting a transition to a decentralized power grid, fueled by wind and solar energy, but not for the usual reasons.

March for Science Organizer: 'Titans' Like Einstein, Galileo, Carson Engaged With Politics

Scientists and supporters carry a banner leading the DC March for Science

On Earth Day, tens of thousands turned out for the March for Science in Washington, D.C., despite the rain, celebrating ideas, facts, and empirical data while chastising climate science deniers.

Celebrity science educator Bill Nye, honorary co-chair of the March for Science, told the crowd, “We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and our prosperity.” The crowd roared their approval when he said they “could change the world.” 

Newspaper Owned By Fracking Billionaire Leaks Memo Calling Pipeline Opponents Potential "Terrorists"

Homeland Security report calling pipeline activists potential terrorists

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a report titled, “Potential Domestic Terrorist Threats to Multi-State Diamond Pipeline Construction Project,” dated April 7 and first published by The Washington Examiner

The DHS field analysis report points to lessons from policing the Dakota Access pipeline, saying they can be applied to the ongoing controversy over the Diamond pipeline, which, when complete, will stretch from Cushing, Oklahoma to Memphis, Tennessee. While lacking “credible information” of such a potential threat, DHS concluded that “the most likely potential domestic terrorist threat to the Diamond Pipeline … is from environmental rights extremists motivated by resentment over perceived environmental destruction.”

The Washington Examiner is owned by conservative billionaire Philip Anschutz, a former American Petroleum Institute board member. His company, Anschutz Exploration Corporation, is a major oil and gas driller involved in the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in states such as Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Why Trump's EPA Is Far More Vulnerable to Attack Than Reagan's or Bush's

Smoke from smokestacks above cars lining a Cleveland road in 1973

By Walter Rosenbaum, University of Florida

For people concerned with environmental protection, including many EPA employees, there is broad agreement: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in deep trouble. The Conversation

The Trump administration has begun the third, most formidable White House-led attempt in EPA’s brief history to diminish the agency’s regulatory capacity.

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