18 Proposed Environmental Rule Eliminations through the Congressional Review Act

Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle  (This article is a feature of an important SF Chron investigative piece: “Trump Gains, Science Loses.”)

18 PROPOSED ENVIRONMENTAL RULE ELIMINATIONS THROUGH THE CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW ACT

Cleanup crews work to remove coal sludge from a stream near Inez, Ky., after a spill that polluted the Tug Fork and Big Sandy rivers in October 2000. Rhonda Simpson / Associated Press 2000 ………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The Congressional Review Act, created in 1996 to allow Congress to eliminate rules with a simple majority vote, had been used just once before this year. But since Jan. 20, when President Trump took office, the Republican-led Congress has applied it vigorously to do away with environmental protection rules.

The act accounts for a large share of the legislation Trump has signed since he entered the White House. Because of the simple-majority threshold, the Republican majority in Congress has been able to use it to roll back environmental protection rules finalized during the last six months of the Obama administration.

The law gives Congress 60 legislative days after a rule has been finalized to roll it back, and that period will expire this month. But some conservatives argue that an obscure provision could be used to eliminate federal regulations going back decades. Once a regulation is revoked, it cannot be undone. The law forbids a federal agency from writing any “substantially similar” new rule.

To date, Trump has signed 11 laws reversing rules covering everything from Internet privacy to gun purchases by the mentally disabled. Four of these laws reversed environmental safeguards under the act. They are:

Stream protection: It was a guard against mountaintop-removal coal mining that has destroyed 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia and released waste into streams that has been linked to cancer and birth defects. The Congressional Research Service said the rule was effective in combatting climate change and protecting drinking water. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the rule “a regulatory assault on coal country.” It was among the first to be revoked.

Methane flaring: Required oil and gas companies to recapture methane flared or leaked from gas and oil wells on public lands. The Bureau of Land Management found that methane flaring wastes enough gas to power 5.1 million homes a year, costing taxpayers $300 million annually in royalty payments. Republicans argued that methane releases have been declining, making the rule unnecessary. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.

Public lands: Gave the public a stronger voice in planning for logging, drilling, mining and other uses of 250 million acres of public lands, mostly in the West. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, argued that the rule gave too much power to special interests over local elected officials.

Extreme hunting: Banned shooting wolves and bears from airplanes, killing bears and cubs and wolves and pups in their dens, and trapping and baiting predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The rollback was sought by the Alaska congressional delegation. Members said that local officials are better equipped to manage wildlife in Alaska, and that the rule impinged on subsistence hunting.

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    8 Major Trump Executive Actions on the Environment

    Repost from the San Francisco Chronicle  (This article is a feature of an important SF Chron investigative piece: “Trump Gains, Science Loses.”)

    8 MAJOR TRUMP EXECUTIVE ACTIONS ON THE ENVIRONMENT

    Traffic on Highway 880 in Oakland. President Trump’s order calls for a review of fuel economy standards for vehicles for model years 2022-25. Michael Macor / The Chronicle

    Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines: Jan. 24 Signs orders to approve the two oil pipelines over the objections of environmentalists who say the projects will damage the area and encourage use of fossil fuels.

    Expedite approvals for infrastructure: Jan. 24 Signs order directing the White House Council on Environmental Quality to speed approvals of infrastructure projects around the country “using all necessary and appropriate means.” Critics fear the order will lead to construction without proper environmental review.

    Border wall: Jan. 25 Calls for expansion of a wall along the southern border with Mexico. Environmentalists say the wall would fragment ecosystems and create barriers to the movement of species. It would also intersect Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Big Bend National Park. Funding faces bipartisan resistance in Congress.

    Two-for-one regulatory repeal: Jan. 30 Orders federal agencies to repeal two rules for every new one and orders all new regulatory costs this year to equal zero. Public Citizen, Natural Resources Defense Council and Communications Workers of America sued, saying the order could require the government to lift bans on lead or asbestos to protect against new chemicals.

    Enforcing the regulatory reform agenda: Feb. 24 Orders federal agencies to root out rules that inhibit job creation, “are outdated, unnecessary, or ineffective,” or “impose costs that exceed benefits.”

    Waters of the United States: Feb. 24 Orders review of an Obama-era rule that expanded protection of smaller bodies of water, tributaries and wetlands. The action could make it easier to develop on wetlands and near streams.

    Fuel economy: March 15 Orders review of fuel-economy standards that limit greenhouse gas pollution from cars and light trucks for model years 2022 to 2025. Vehicles are the biggest source of U.S. carbon pollution.

    Promoting energy independence: March 28 Orders review of Clean Power Plan limiting carbon emissions from coal plants, a linchpin of federal climate policy along with vehicle standards. Ends consideration of climate change in agency reviews, ends calculation of social cost of carbon, making it harder to write new rules to limit emissions. Halts federal actions to prepare for climate change. Lifts moratorium on new coal leases on federal land.

    Online resources: Read more at http://bit.ly/2pHNJW4  (Climate Deregulation Tracker, Columbia Law School, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Earth Institute, Columbia University)

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      BENICIA VIGIL: Still Standing Strong after Trump’s First 100 Days

      WeThePeople Benicia Standing StrongBENICIA RESISTANCE: OBSERVANCE OF TRUMP’S FIRST 100 DAYS
      Friday, April 28, 5 PM
      City Park, First & Military Streets

      WE WILL GATHER ON TRUMP’S 99TH DAY (…not on the 20th this month)

      Shepard-GreaterThanFearWe found ourselves moved and encouraged on Inauguration Day, January 20th when we sang and held hands in the pouring rain just as Donald Trump took the oath of office.  We determined that day to organize, to keep watch, to remain vigilant, and to come together on the 20th of each month to support one another in our efforts to resist authoritarian governance of our constitutional democracy.

      And so we did gather again – in the pouring rain each time – on February 20 and March 20.  In April, we will put off our gathering for a week or so, and meet on the day before the Trump Administration’s 100th day.  We will gather on Friday, April 28th.

      Please share this invitation with friends and family, bring signs and banners, and prepare to have your discouragement and anxieties transformed into purpose and strength in the warmth and insight of our hopeful community of Benicia progressives. 

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        Tar Sands/Oil Sands Carbon Footprint Underestimated by Nearly 25%

        Repost from The Energy Mix

        Tar Sands/Oil Sands Carbon Footprint Underestimated by Nearly 25%

        Inside Climate News, by Lisa Song, April 4, 2017
        BeforeItStarts/flickr

        In a finding that should resonate strongly for Canadian decision-makers charged with meeting the country’s climate targets, new research reveals that the carbon footprint of a litre of synthetic crude extracted from tar sands/oil sands bitumen is more than 23% greater than previously estimated.

        The elevated figure, reported by InsideClimate News, is based on an assessment conducted by the U.S. State Department in the course of its consideration of a still-pending application by Calgary’s Enbridge Inc. to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline to deliver synthetic tar sands/oil sands crude to Wisconsin. It updates an earlier finding produced by the same agency in 2014, during its consideration of TransCanada Corporation’s Keystone XL pipeline.

        That assessment, ICN recalls, determined that “compared to other sources of oil that American refineries might use, the tar sands would be about 17% more polluting on average.” The calculation contributed to then-President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL proposal, a decision recently reversed by his pro-fossil successor.

        A more recent review of Enbridge’s proposed line, however, produced “a gloomier picture of emissions.”

        Employing “the most up-to-date studies and tools, including a model known as GREET, developed by the federal Argonne National Laboratory, which calls it the ‘gold standard’ for this kind of calculation,” the latest assay found that on a comprehensive “well-to-wheels” basis, “tar sands crude would have a carbon footprint of 632 kilograms per barrel, compared to an average U.S. refinery mix of 521 kilograms per barrel of carbon dioxide emissions. The difference is 111 kilograms per barrel—21 percent dirtier, not 17 percent.”

        The four percentage-point difference in the new calculation means the full carbon footprint of tar sands/oil sands production, distribution, and use is 23.5% heavier than previously thought.

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