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EPA enforcement office may be next on the Trump team’s hit list

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EPA enforcement office may be next on the Trump team’s hit list

By Kate Sheppard and Nick Visser on Feb 9, 2017 1:57 pm

This story was originally published by the Huffington Post and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Trump administration is considering closing down the enforcement division of the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a report Wednesday evening from Inside EPA.

The new administration is reportedly looking to close the Office of Enforcement & Compliance Assurance, or OECA, and instead let individual program offices (such as the air program, the water program, and others) handle enforcement. The outlet Inside EPA quoted “a source familiar with the plan” who says the Trump administration intends to “disassemble the enforcement office … take it, break it up, and move it back into the program offices.”

In a statement emailed to the Huffington Post, the agency’s press office said the “EPA does not have a confirmed administrator and we cannot speculate on future plans for the agency.”

Closing the office would almost certainly mean less enforcement work happens at the agency. OECA handles both civil and criminal enforcement of the country’s core environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. The office is an independent body with about 3,000 employees who “work to advance environmental justice by protecting communities most vulnerable to pollution.”

“Dissolving OECA would have a disastrous effect on EPA’s ability to do its job,” said Nicholas Conger, who served as communications director for OECA from July 2013 through March 2016 and later worked in the EPA administrator’s public affairs office. Conger is now the press secretary of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Americans depend on a strong federal enforcement presence, and that depends on having a program that is directly focused on holding polluters accountable and ensuring they fix their problems.”

Myron Ebell, a climate change denier who led the Trump administration’s transition at the EPA before returning to the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, noted in an email with HuffPost that most environmental enforcement efforts were largely the responsibility of individual offices before the creation of the OECA in the 1990s. Ebell has previously recommended the agency slash its workforce by two-thirds, from about 15,000 to 5,000 employees, and cut the EPA budget in half.

Environmental advocates were quick to point out that Scott Pruitt — the Oklahoma attorney general Trump picked to lead the EPA — made almost the same move back home. Pruitt closed his office’s Environmental Protection Unit not long after he took office in 2011.

Pruitt’s online biography describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” and says he “established Oklahoma’s first federalism unit to combat unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government.” Republicans voted Pruitt’s nomination out of committee last week over a Democratic boycott; he is expected to go up for a vote in the full Senate, though a date for the vote has not been scheduled.

“Scott Pruitt endangered the health and welfare of Oklahomans when he closed his own environmental enforcement unit there, and now it looks like he wants to do the exact same thing at the EPA, imperiling families across America,” Liz Perera, climate policy director at the Sierra Club, said in a statement.

Republican-led efforts in Congress have already begun to roll back much of the environmental progress made under the administration of President Barack Obama. Last week, leaders in the House voted to overturn a rule meant to protect waterways from coal mining operations and another that requires energy companies to disclose payments from foreign governments.

Source: http://grist.org/article/epa-enforcement-office-may-be-next-on-the-trump-teams-hit-list/?utm_content=bufferc5b43&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

The Most Important Environmental Stories of 2016

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The Most Important Environmental Stories of 2016

by Maureen Nandini Mitra – December 28, 2016

The past year brought a lot to agonize about, but also some news to cheer and draw inspiration from

It’s been quite a year. I wouldn’t put 2016 down as a particularly great trip around sol, but it has definitely been an eventful, historic year. As we began drawing our annual tally of the most important environmental stories of the year at the Journal, it was hard to look past the dark cloud cast on our movement by the recent election. But look past we did, and we found that it’s been a mixed bag — while the year offered us much grim news, there have also been and some positive, inspiring events and developments that remind us that all hope is never lost. Here’s our list of the most important stories of 2016. These stories aren’t necessarily headline-grabbers, but they are likely to have long-term impacts on the environment, on us, and on our fellow living beings.

The Upset Victory of Donald Trump

Donald Trump for President sign
Photo by Tony Webster
Trump's election has been a major setback to the environmental movement. We have to gear up for at least four years of vigorous battles to protect our lands and waters.

The unexpected victory of climate change denying Donald Trump has definitely been a major setback for the environmental movement in the US. There’s a high chance that many of the environmental protections we have fought so hard for in the past might get rolled back. At immediate risk are Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the Paris climate accord, and the powers of the EPA. Trump has also prioritized removing restrictions against coal, oil, and natural gas extraction and reviving “vital energy infrastructure projects” like the Keystone XL pipeline. Given the fossil fuel execs and climate deniers Trump has been tapping for key positions in his administration, the coming years are sure to bring increased federal leasing of lands for fossil fuel extraction, cuts to clean energy research programs, and fewer protections for critical lands and ecosystems.

Looks like, come January, we have to gear up for at least four years of vigorous battles to protect our lands and waters.

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Some Thought on the Deep Ecology Movement

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Some Thought on the Deep Ecology Movement

by Alan Drengson

Arne Naess

In 1973, Norwegian philosopher and mountaineer Arne Naess introduced the phrase “deep ecology” to environmental literature. Environmentalism had emerged as a popular grassroots political movement in the 1960s with the publication of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring. Those already involved in conservation and preservation efforts were now joined by many others concerned about the detrimental environmental effects of modern industrial technology. The longer-range, older originators of the movement included writers and activists like Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and Aldo Leopold; more mainstream awareness was closer to the “wise-use” conservation philosophy pioneered by Gifford Pinchot.

In 1972, Naess made a presentation in Bucharest at the Third World Future Research Conference. In his talk, he discussed the longer-range background of the ecology movement and its concern with an ethic respecting nature and the inherent worth of other beings. As a mountaineer who had climbed all over the world, Naess had enjoyed the opportunity to observe political and social activism in diverse cultures. Both historically and in the contemporary movement, Naess saw two different forms of environmentalism, not necessarily incompatible with each other. One he called the “long-range deep ecology movement” and the other, the “shallow ecology movement.” The word “deep” in part referred to the level of questioning of our purposes and values when arguing in environmental conflicts. The “deep” movement involves deep questioning, right down to fundamental root causes. The short-term, shallow approach stops before the ultimate level of fundamental change, often promoting technological fixes (e.g. recycling, increased automotive efficiency, export-driven monocultural organic agriculture) based on the same consumption-oriented values and methods of the industrial economy. The long-range deep approach involves redesigning our whole systems based on values and methods that truly preserve the ecological and cultural diversity of natural systems.

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Climate Change Threats and Solutions

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Climate Change Threats and Solutions

What Can We Do to Make a Difference?

Climate change is already beginning to transform life on Earth.  Without action, the impacts of climate change threaten to catastrophically damage our world. But by rallying people around the world to be a part of the solution, together we have the power to limit the effects of climate change.

Learn more from TNC's leaders about how we're meeting the challenges of a changing planet

Read our Science Blog to find out what's emerging in the world of conservation science around climate change.

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Higher Temperatures

Earth’s temperatures in 2015 were the hottest ever recorded (source: NASA). Why does this matter? Because a change of even 1 degree Fahrenheit – which may sound small – can upset the delicate balance of ecosystems, and affect plants and animals that inhabit them. 

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President Obama bans oil drilling in large areas of Atlantic and Arctic oceans

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President Obama bans oil drilling in large areas of Atlantic and Arctic oceans

By Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin December 20 at 4:21 PM


Hundreds of kayaktivists protest drilling in the Arctic and the Port of Seattle being used as a port for the Shell Oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer (Daniella Beccaria/seattlepi.com via Associated Press)

President Obama moved to solidify his environmental legacy Tuesday by withdrawing hundreds of millions of acres of federally owned land in the Arctic and Atlantic Ocean from new offshore oil and gas drilling.

Obama used a little-known law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect large portions of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the Arctic and a string of canyons in the Atlantic stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia. In addition to a five-year moratorium already in place in the Atlantic, removing the canyons from drilling puts much of the eastern seaboard off limits to oil exploration even if companies develop plans to operate around them.

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Climate Change A Natural Climate Solution

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Climate Change

A Natural Climate Solution

Tana watershed tea plantation 640x400

Nature is the sleeping giant in solving climate change.

Climate change is a global problem, and it requires solutions on a global scale. One of those is hiding in plain sight. Our lands provide an untapped opportunity – proven ways of storing and reducing carbon emissions in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands, or natural climate solutions as we call them.

More than 30% of the climate change goals that our world leaders established at the 2015 Paris Climate Convention can be achieved through the power of nature.

This means that nature-based solutions – such as stopping deforestation and restoring coastal ecosystems – can get us more than a third of the way to the emission reductions needed by 2030.

Let’s give nature back its power to protect us! Oceans, grasslands, wetlands, peat bogs, forests – when they’re destroyed, the carbon they hold is released into the air, and their ability to provide us with life-giving assets disappears. A huge part of our climate work, therefore, is continuing the work that we’re known for: saving nature.   

These stories showcase the power of nature to solve climate change.

Maximizing Nature’s Role in Solving Climate Change
Tackling climate change isn’t just about changing how we produce and use energy. We must also maximize nature’s role.

Forest Carbon Science
Stay informed about the latest in climate change science on Cool Green Science.

This Decade’s Most Important Climate Solution
Read about how nature-based solutions are an essential piece of the climate puzzle. And nature’s time is now.

Mapping Ocean Wealth
Learn more about how our oceans and wetlands can help store carbon.

The Next Agriculture Revolution is Under Our Feet
We need to support innovation in soil health to meet the growing demand for food while strengthening the health of our communities, land, water and climate.

Not All Forestry is Carbon Equal
Learn about how forests clean our air, enhance water security and serve as the world’s oldest and most proven carbon storage technology.

The Forgotten Climate Solution
The land sector has the potential to deliver at least 20% of the climate solution.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees
See how we are helping loggers in the Berau District make changes that yield healthier local villagers and more intact forests sequestering carbon.

Source: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/urgentissues/global-warming-climate-change/nature-is-a-powerful-solution/index.htm?intc=nature.hp.news3

 

Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States

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Wind Vision

About

In support of the President’s strategy to diversify our nation’s clean energy mix, an elite team of researchers, academics, scientists, engineers, and wind industry experts revisited the findings of the Energy Department’s 2008 20% Wind by 2030 report and built upon its findings to conceptualize a new vision for wind energy through 2050.

The Wind Vision Report takes America’s current installed wind power capacity across all facets of wind energy (land-based, offshore, and distributed) as its baseline—a capacity that has tripled since the 2008 release of the Energy Department’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 report—and assesses the potential economic, environmental, and social benefits of a scenario where U.S. wind power supplies 10% of the nation’s electrical demand in 2020, 20% in 2030, and 35% in 2050. The Wind Vision Report builds upon the continued the success of the wind industry to date and quantifies a robust wind energy future.

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All-Electric Vehicles

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All-Electric Vehicles

Tesla Model S

All-electric vehicles (EVs) run on electricity only. They are propelled by one or more electric motors powered by rechargeable battery packs. EVs have several advantages over vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICEs):

  • Energy efficient. Electric vehicles convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels—conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.*
  • Environmentally friendly. EVs emit no tailpipe pollutants, although the power plant producing the electricity may emit them. Electricity from nuclear-, hydro-, solar-, or wind-powered plants causes no air pollutants.
  • Performance benefits. Electric motors provide quiet, smooth operation and stronger acceleration and require less maintenance than ICEs.
  • Reduce energy dependence. Electricity is a domestic energy source.
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Office of Global Change

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Date: 05/21/2009 Description: Renewable Energy © USG Photo

The Office of Global Change (OES/EGC) works on a broad range of international climate change issues, under the guidance of the Special Envoy for Climate Change. The United States is taking a leading role by advancing an ever-expanding suite of measures at home and abroad. The President’s Climate Action Plan highlights unprecedented efforts by the United States to reduce carbon pollution, promote clean sources of energy that create jobs, protect communities from the impacts of climate change, and work with partners to lead international climate change efforts. The working partnerships the United States has created or strengthened with other major economies has reinforced the importance of results-driven action both internationally and domestically and are achieving measurable impacts now to help countries reduce their long-term greenhouse gas emissions.

To reach the Office of Global Change, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

What is Climate Change?

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Climate Change: Basic Information


How is the climate changing in the U.S.?

Observations across the United States and world provide multiple, independent lines of evidence that climate change is happening now.

Climate change is happening

Our Earth is warming. Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.5°F over the past century, and is projected to rise another 0.5 to 8.6°F over the next hundred years. Small changes in the average temperature of the planet can translate to large and potentially dangerous shifts in climate and weather.

The evidence is clear. Rising global temperatures have been accompanied by changes in weather and climate. Many places have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, or intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves.

The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced some big changes oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting, and sea levels are rising. As these and other changes become more pronounced in the coming decades, they will likely present challenges to our society and our environment.

What are climate change and global warming?

View of Earth from space

Global warming refers to the recent and ongoing rise in global average temperature near Earth's surface. It is caused mostly by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Global warming is causing climate patterns to change. However, global warming itself represents only one aspect of climate change.

Climate change refers to any significant change in the measures of climate lasting for an extended period of time. In other words, climate change includes major changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind patterns, among other effects, that occur over several decades or longer.

Learn more about the signs of climate change in the United States.

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Humans are largely responsible for recent climate change

Over the past century, human activities have released large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The majority of greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere.

Emissions at sunsetGreenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. This phenomenon is called the greenhouse effect and is natural and necessary to support life on Earth. However, the buildup of greenhouse gases can change Earth's climate and result in dangerous effects to human health and welfare and to ecosystems.

The choices we make today will affect the amount of greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere in the near future and for years to come.

Learn more about the causes of climate change.


Climate change affects everyone

Our lives are connected to the climate. Human societies have adapted to the relatively stable climate we have enjoyed since the last ice age which ended several thousand years ago. A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.

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Take a Quiz

How much you know about the health impacts of climate change? Take our new online quiz and share your score with friends!Climate Change and Human Health quiz

Some changes to the climate are unavoidable. Carbon dioxide can stay in the atmosphere for nearly a century, so Earth will continue to warm in the coming decades. The warmer it gets, the greater the risk for more severe changes to the climate and Earth's system. Although it's difficult to predict the exact impacts of climate change, what's clear is that the climate we are accustomed to is no longer a reliable guide for what to expect in the future.

We can reduce the risks we will face from climate change. By making choices that reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and preparing for the changes that are already underway, we can reduce risks from climate change. Our decisions today will shape the world our children and grandchildren will live in.

Learn more about the impacts of climate change and adapting to change.

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Hands on a globe

We can make a difference

You can take action. You can take steps at home, on the road, and in your office to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the risks associated with climate change. Many of these steps can save you money; some, such as walking or biking to work, can even improve your health! You can also get involved on a local or state level to support energy efficiency, clean energy programs, or other climate programs.Link to EPA’s Household Carbon Footprint Calculator

Calculate your carbon footprint and find ways to reduce your emissions through simple everyday actions.

EPA and other federal agencies are taking action. EPA is working to protect the health and welfare of Americans through common sense measures to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and to help communities prepare for climate change.

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Source: https://www.epa.gov/climatechange/climate-change-basic-information#main-content

 

STATEMENT: Secretary of Energy Should Embrace America’s Clean Energy Future

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STATEMENT: Secretary of Energy Should Embrace America’s Clean Energy Future

Statement - December 13, 2016

WASHINGTON (DECEMBER 13, 2016)– According to multiple media reports, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Governor Rick Perry to lead the Department of Energy. Perry was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, and twice ran for president of the United States.

As Secretary of Energy, he would lead the Department’s mission to “ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions.” The Secretary of Energy oversees a budget of $29.6 billion (in 2016), including $10.7 billion for all-of-the-above science and technology.

Last week, several reports revealed that the Trump transition team sent a request seeking names of people within the agency who work on climate and clean energy.

Following is a statement from Jennifer Layke, global director of WRI’s Energy Program:

“Governor Perry comes from a state long-associated with the oil industry, but he also has a successful track record of promoting wind power. When Perry took office as governor, Texas had 116 megawatts of wind power, but it now boasts 18,000 megawatts, making it the country’s largest wind producer. If the incoming Secretary truly wants to boost America’s economy, health and security, he should look no further than extending the Department’s commitment to clean, renewable energy.

“The shift to clean energy is well underway and already employing hundreds of thousands of people across the country, including in rural communities. Wind and solar power have been the largest source of new electricity in the U.S. in recent years. The cost to install solar power has fallen by more than 70 percent over the last decade. Wind power currently supplies 4.7% of U.S. electricity and employs more than 88,000 Americans. That’s why states from Texas to Maine and Iowa to Florida are all investing in renewable energy.

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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

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Global collaboration on climate change legal toolkit

2 December 2016
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Legal experts from key international organisations, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, are meeting to develop a climate change legal toolkit to help countries carry out the Paris Agreement.

The two-day consultation is taking place between 1 and 2 December at the Commonwealth Secretariat’s headquarters in London. Academics, think tanks and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are exchanging knowledge and pooling resources to explore how to best support the legal needs and priorities of countries for climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.

Partners include the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Environment. Participants include representatives from six United Nations entities and the World Bank. The Paris Agreement was signed by 193 countries and aims to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement Celebration and Reality Check

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Marking the One Year Anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Agreement
Celebration and Reality Check

 Paris Climate Change Agreement

Bonn, Germany, 12 December 2016 – One year after the world adopted the Paris Climate Change Agreement, climate action across governments, business and societies continues to scale new heights. The challenge now is to take this to an even higher scale with a speed and an urgency that reflects the scientific reality.

“2016 was an extraordinary year in many ways. In less than 12 months the Paris climate agreement entered into force and almost weekly, more countries ratify. Meanwhile nations, cities, regions, businesses and investors continue to signal their unwavering support through practical action, shifts in investments and ever more ambitious pledges, “said Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“This urgency and this action needs not only to continue but to go to scale and gather ever more speed over 2017 and the years and decades to come—because current ambition still falls short of what is needed. In 2016 the UN’s World Meteorological Organization announced world-wide average temperatures had risen 1-degree Celsius in 2015 and that concentrations of the key greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, reached past the significant milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere over the entire year, “she added.

Ms Espinosa said achieving the aims and ambitions of the Paris Agreement will also rest on the speed and urgency of realizing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015.

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