Volume 1, May 31, 2019, Issue 4

Can’t be too particulate in this business. The White House’s regulatory shop has wrapped up an unusually prolonged review of draft EPA technical advice pertaining to states with areas that are flunking National Ambient Air Quality Standards for fine particulates.

The agency is working on a final version of the 2016 draft guidance designed to help regulators who want to make a case that individual power plants or other specific sources of precursor pollutants do not “contribute significantly” to fine particulate levels that exceed the national standards and could thus be exempted from added pollution control requirements.

EPA’s current annual exposure standard for fine particulates is 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air; the 24-hour limit is 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

It is unclear what changes, if any, EPA has made in response to public comments or when the final version will be released. Once the final draft rule is signed off on it will be posted on the internet.

Not the most efficient bulb in the pack. Several states are taking steps to enact stricter lightbulb efficiency standards, despite the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back Obama-era regulations.

Nevada became the fourth state to bolster lightbulb standards. The new Nevada law is in line with the federal standards proposed by the Department of Energy under President Obama and set to be enacted by the same date.

Those standards were projected to save American households $180 a year on electric bills and reduce carbon emissions by 60 million metric tons, according to a study by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

However, President Trump’s DOE has proposed rolling back the standard to allow less efficient lightbulbs, a move that drew opposition from environmental activists, 43 utility companies, 15 senators and 24 governors, among others, according to ASAP.

What a difference a date makes. U.S. Geological Survey Director James Reilly will require that USGS assessments use models projecting climate change impacts only through 2040 instead of through the end of the century as previously performed, a change that scientists warn will give a misleading view of current emissions, whose greatest impact will occur after 2040.

Political science trumps real science. Trump administration appointees overruled concerns from their own technical experts in deciding not to impose tougher smog requirements on the Wisconsin county where Foxconn Technology Group planned a $10 billion manufacturing facility, newly released documents show.

Had they listened to the environmental experts, it could have required Taiwan-based Foxconn to install expensive, state-of-the-art pollution controls at its flat-screen manufacturing plant.

After appeals by Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker and at the apparent direction of then EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency reversed course in 2018; ruling Racine was in compliance with the ground-level smog standard. The decision followed weeks of objections from career staff at the agency, who said they saw no technical basis to justify it, according to correspondence released under a public records request.

Based on recent reports, it is not at all clear that Foxconn will make good on its promise to build a $10 billion manufacturing facility in Racine County.

Turning up the heat. A group called the House Energy & Environment Action Team (HEAT) recently sent a 16-page pamphlet to every member of Congress encouraging lawmakers to reject all climate policy and connecting concern about global warming to political losses.

In bold letters across the top, the pamphlet stated, “The Plan is … No Plan! Why the GOP shouldn’t do anything on climate.”

“There is absolutely no reason for any Republican to offer a plan to ‘combat climate change,'” the pamphlet continued. “Such a plan, if enacted, would accomplish nothing good for America or the climate.”

Republicans have often been (euphemistically) accused of “eating their own.” I guess it’s true.

Drill baby drill–please may we?  The Trump administration will formally appeal a court decision that keeps permanent protections for oil and natural gas drilling, according to a notice filed with the US District Court for the District of Alaska Tuesday.

What’s the catch? EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler is tasking offices under his control with issuing formal, binding regulations that ratchet up the agency’s commitment to evidence-based policymaking. Among other things, EPA offices, such as the Office of Air and Radiation and the Office of Water, will have to make a firm commitment to balancing the benefits and costs of regulating when they create new federal policies.

The catch is that the administration has shown a distinct tendency to bend conventions of economic analysis in support of a deregulation agenda.

It makes the hyper-partisanship here seem petty. On the first sitting day of the new parliament, at a climate march in Jerusalem, students put hatred aside to tell the government that nothing matters more than a safe climate. Over 500 Arab Palestinians and Jewish Israelis students marched—together— shouting slogans in front of the prestigious Knesset in Jerusalem.

Talk amongst yourselves. A growing number of Democratic politicians and environmental activists are demanding a live televised primary debate dedicated to climate change. The calls are coming as Democratic voters — especially young ones who stand to see significant global warming in their lifetimes — are increasingly revved up about the foreboding environmental crisis.

Such a debate, in which White House hopefuls would try to outdo each other in their commitments to tackle climate change, would also be a way for Democrats as a group to further distinguish themselves from their main opponent, President Trump, who often dismisses climate change as a hoax.

Bank on it. Trump swore in the new Export-Import Bank’s president and board of directors on May 29th, restoring the bank’s quorum and putting it on a path to support more U.S. energy exports.

One of the bank’s first priorities will be to approve a backlog of billions of dollars in loans to support energy companies looking to export technology for major infrastructure projects abroad.

One of the bigger approvals will be for a $5 billion direct loan to undergird just over $4 billion in U.S. equipment and services slated to build a liquefied natural gas project in Mozambique.

The bank will become “Trump’s billion-dollar fossil fuel slush fund,” rather than being used to fight climate change, said Doug Norlen, economic policy program director at the left-leaning Friends of the Earth.

A little cooperation, please. The environmental group Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, with input from leading businesses, released a report Tuesday detailing the case for the federal government, states, companies, and consumers to work together to cut emissions to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

The report, developed over several years, detailed three pathways for the U.S. to cut economy-wide emissions 80% by 2050.

The group, led by Bob Perciasepe, a former EPA deputy administrator in the Obama administration, drafted the scenarios with input from 21 companies across various sectors, including BP, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, BHP, Dow Chemical, Duke Energy, Intel, Mars, Microsoft, and Toyota.

At the top of the world. The Trump administration Tuesday appealed a federal court decision that blocked plans to re-open vast portions of Alaska’s Arctic waters to oil drilling. In March, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason ruled that the president exceeded his authority when he issued an executive order undoing an Obama-era ban on oil leasing in large parts of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

As an aside. More than 90 percent of the Trump administration’s deregulatory efforts have been blocked in court or withdrawn after a lawsuit, according to a running tally maintained by the Institute for Policy Integrity, a nonpartisan think tank sponsored by the New York University School of Law.

Assess this, why don’t you?  Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is demanding information about the Trump administration’s attempts to obscure federal climate science, particularly its ongoing efforts to discredit the National Climate Assessment.

In a letter dated yesterday to Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegemeier, Markey said he was concerned with “political interference” in climate science by the Trump administration.

The missive follows a New York Times report that the Trump administration wants to exclude worst-case, long-term projections from the National Climate Assessment and other federal climate reports.

It is an imperative. House Speaker called the Green New Deal, “a wonderful thing to attract attention and galvanize support. It is again an imperative that it gets done. But we want it to get done in a way that unifies people. … We can bring people together, but they all have to be at the table as we shape the consensus that is the boldest, toughest common denominator and not any weakening of the resolve.

This red tide wasn’t sent by Moscow. Florida’s two Republican U.S. senators–Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–urged the Commerce Department to approve the state of Florida’s request for a “federal fishery resource disaster declaration as a result of recent significant and persistent red tide events off Southwest Florida’s coast.” In their letter, the two senators said the region’s commercial and charter fishermen had suffered “substantial economic losses and have had to change their business practices just to survive radically.”

It was only months ago that then-Governor Scott was tagged by Democrats with the name Red Tide Rick. Last year’s algae blooms almost lost Scott his election bid to unseat Democratic Senator Ben Nelson (D).

Laughing gas. The Energy Department announced the approval of a liquefied natural gas project in Texas, saying it would allow “molecules of U.S. freedom to be exported to the world.”

The department said the permit for the expansion of the Freeport, Texas facility “is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world.”

This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into. The Department of Energy official responsible for overseeing the cleanup program of legacy Cold War sites is stepping down from her position; sources told E&E News. Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management Anne Marie White is leaving DOE after a year of leading efforts to address the impacts of developing the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The Government Accountability Office issued repeated reports earlier this year outlining programmatic failings in reporting and establishing a cohesive national cleanup strategy across the environmental management program’s 16 active sites.

Adding to those reports were new calculations that determined that cleaning up the most challenging site — Hanford in Washington state — could cost $323 billion under the best assumptions, an estimate three times more than the last calculation in 2016.

We have met the enemy, and he is us. A recent poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 71 percent of young Americans, ages 18 to 34, believe that the Supreme Court is “mainly motivated by politics.” According to the same poll, only 25 percent of young Americans believe the Court is “mainly motivated by the law.”

The fault for this lies on both sides of the aisle and is the consequence of decades of hyper-partisanship. The loss of faith in our democracy comes with the blurring of the lines separating the three separate but equal branches of government.

Lead image: https://unsplash.com/@elevenphotographs