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Chemical Security: Protecting Syrians, But Leaving Americans Exposed

Aerial view of destruction of West, Texas, chemical plant after 2013 explosion

This is a guest op-ed by Russel Honoré, Randy Manner, and David Halperin

In the torrent of Trump administration actions to void Obama-era regulations, one such move stands out right now as particularly disturbing.

For decades, our country has failed to squarely address the dangers of hazardous chemical facilities — from oil refineries to water treatment plants. An accident, natural disaster, or deliberate attack could trigger an explosion or chemical release that could kill thousands of people. Millions of our citizens live and work near these dangerous facilities.

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.

In Planned EPA Cuts, US to Lose Vital Connection to At-risk Communities

Government employees hold signs at a rally in support of the EPA

By Deborah Morrison and Nicole Smith Dahmen, University of Oregon

Recent headlines point to a relentless undoing of policy and process within the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Trump budget calls for slashing the EPA budget by an estimated 31 percent. Staff would be reduced by 25 percent and 50 programs could see cuts, such as ones designed to lower the health risks from lead paint.

In all likelihood, the first communities to feel effects of a dismantled EPA are those who consistently pay the biggest price when policy strays from being focused on people. It will be the indigenous people, the populations who live in poverty and at-risk communities — often populated by people of color — who typically feel the sharp cuts and public health effects first and fully.

Back-to-back Bleaching Has Now Hit Two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef

Plane silhouette over bleached coral on the Great Barrier Reef

By Terry Hughes, James Cook University and James Kerry, James Cook University

Corals on the Great Barrier Reef have bleached again in 2017 as a result of extreme summer temperatures. It’s the fourth such event and the second in as many years, following earlier mass bleachings in 1998, 2002 and 2016.

The consecutive bleaching in 2016 and 2017 is concerning for two reasons. First, the 12-month gap between the two events is far too short for any meaningful recovery on reefs that were affected in 2016.

Second, last year’s bleaching was most severe in the northern section of the reef, from the Torres Strait to Port Douglas, whereas this year the most intense bleaching has occurred further south, between Cooktown and Townsville. The combined footprint of this unprecedented back-to-back bleaching now stretches along two-thirds of the length of the Great Barrier Reef.

Yes, We Can Do 'Sound' Climate Science Even Though It's Projecting the Future

model showing global water vapor in the atmosphere

By Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research and Reto Knutti, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich

Increasingly in the current U.S. administration and Congress, questions have been raised about the use of proper scientific methods and accusations have been made about using flawed approaches. The Conversation

This is especially the case with regard to climate science, as evidenced by the hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, chaired by Lamar Smith, on March 29, 2017.

Climate Politics: Environmentalists Need to Think Globally, But Act Locally

Three people sit overlooking Bears Ears National Monument

By  and University of Washington

As President Trump pivots from a failed attempt to overhaul health care to new orders rolling back controls on carbon pollution, environmentalists are preparing for an intense fight. We study environmental politics, and believe the health care debate holds an important lesson for green advocates: Policies that create concrete benefits for specific constituencies are hard to discontinue.

Opinion polls and hostile audiences at Republican legislators’ town hall meetings show that the Affordable Care Act won public support by extending health insurance to the uninsured. And this constituency is not shy about defending its gains.

The same lesson can be applied to environmental issues. In our view, environmentalists need to defend environmental regulations by emphasizing their concrete benefits for well-defined constituencies, and mobilize those groups to protect their gains.

Trump's Energy and Climate Change Order: Seven Essential Reads

Coal mine on federal land in New Mexico

By Jennifer Weeks, The Conversation

Editor’s note: The following is a roundup of archival stories. The Conversation

On March 28 President Trump signed an executive order that launched a broad assault on policies put in place by the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution. Trump’s order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw and rewrite the Clean Power Plan, which limits carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. It also eliminates a number of other policies related to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Our experts explain the policies under assault and the impacts of this about-face.

Does 'Green Energy' Have Hidden Health and Environmental Costs?

Ivanpah solar plant

By , and .

There are a number of available low-carbon technologies to generate electricity. But are they really better than fossil fuels and nuclear power?

To answer that question, one needs to compare not just the emissions of different power sources but also the health benefits and the threats to ecosystems of green energy.

Curbing Climate Change Has a Dollar Value — Here’s How and Why We Measure It

Ambulance and cars surrounded by Hurricane Sandy flood waters in Hoboken, New Jersey.

By , Harvard University

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order soon to reverse Obama-era rules to cut carbon pollution, including a moratorium on leasing public lands for coal mining and a plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

Trump and his appointees argue that these steps will bring coal miners’ jobs back (although coal industry job losses reflect competition from cheap natural gas, not regulations that have yet to take effect). But they ignore the fact that mitigating climate change will produce large economic gains.

Brain Drain: Engineers and Managers Flee Southern Company’s Troubled Kemper ‘Clean Coal’ Plant

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart of the Climate Investigations Center

With builder Southern Company still promising that the Kemper power plant will go online soon, a group of key engineers and managers who work on the plant's so-far-inoperable gasifier has left the company.

Earlier this month, Southern Company posted a cluster of want ads on its web site for a “gasification owner,”  a “refinery technician-mechanic,” a “refinery technician-entry level,” and a “gasification technician.”

Those four positions are located at the gasification island, home to the patented TRIG technology developed by Southern Company and Kellogg Brown & Root that is supposed to turn lignite coal from an adjacent mine into a cleaner burning syngas to produce electricity.  The project's twin gasifiers, however, have been troubled by frequent shutdowns and lengthy repairs.

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