Tag Archives: environmental regulations

End of the road for diesel?

David Welch, BLOOMBERG

…diesel will probably be relegated only to a hard-working class of vehicles. While hybrid electric cars can save fuel as effectively as a diesel sedan, and Tesla’s electric cars can offer plenty of zip for motoring enthusiasts, no technology gives the towing power needed for big work trucks like diesel.

It’s easy to imagine diesel will die in America. The troubles that started almost two years ago with the emissions scandal at Volkswagen AG just keep rolling on and on. With General Motors Co. now confronting a class-action lawsuit over 700,000 diesel trucks, there’s growing sense across the auto industry that the days of diesel cars are numbered, at least in the U.S.

GM calls the allegations of emission-test cheating baseless, and the lawsuit stops short of claiming a breach of clean-air regulations. But increasingly, analysts are wondering who will be willing to buy diesel cars and trucks given that many in the industry have been accused of fudging pollution standards. More to the point, how many carmakers will be willing to keep making them?

“This is accelerating the demise,” said Kevin Tynan, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “We were never into them anyway, and with alternatives like hybrids and electric vehicles, there just isn’t much of a reason to sell them.”

GM is just the latest automaker to face a civil lawsuit claiming that its diesel engines use software to meet clean-air rules while the engines pollute at higher levels. The law firm suing GM, Hagens Berman, has also sued Daimler AG, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Volkswagen, which must pay $24.5 billion in government penalties and consumer givebacks for cheating on diesel emissions.

Read more at: GM Suit Digs a Deeper Grave for Diesel – Bloomberg

Filed under Air, Transportation

EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades

Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin, THE WASHINGTON POST

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday evening that its website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information.

One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA’s new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration’s Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions.

The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration’s rollbacks of former president Barack Obama’s climate policies.

Read more at: EPA website removes climate science site from public view after two decades – The Washington Post

Filed under Climate Change & Energy

Op-Ed: Marching for science on Earth Day

Don McEnhill, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Please join us today at noon at Julliard Park in Santa Rosa for a rally to hear five local scientists and the western U.S. director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and then join us for the March for Science.

On Earth Day 2016, 174 countries and the European Union signed the Paris Climate Agreement, with the United States, China and other nations pledging to sign. It was a jubilant day for the Earth. It marked a high point in turning around our Earth’s future from the bleak projections of our climate scientists to a brighter future of a cooler planet. The world’s governments led by the United States clearly agreed with scientists and signed the agreement to save our earth and the human population from devastating effects of climate change.

Today’s Earth Day celebrations find scientists under attack by the new administration in Washington, while President Donald Trump actively ignores science and puts your health and children’s future at risk. Earth Day 2017 couldn’t be a more polar opposite to 2016, as the environmental protections for clean water and clean air are being gutted, and we’re en route to backing out of the Paris agreement.

The election of Trump installed a president who stated in 2015, “Environmental protection, what they do is such a disgrace; every week they come out with new regulations,” and he vowed to “abolish” the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump’s actions to date are a laundry list of anti-regulatory actions that CEOs have been clamoring for because they supposedly hold back U.S. businesses from “getting America back to work.”

A closer look at Trump’s environmental rollbacks to date tells a different tale. It’s not about jobs or helping blue-collar workers. It’s really about increasing corporate profits. The economics of pollution are simple. Every dollar spent controlling pollution is one dollar less in profits. It is very lucrative to pass the costs of doing business on to the public, which is left to breathe dirtier air and drink more polluted water. So are people really winning with these rollbacks based on attacks on well-accepted science? Only if you own a lot of stock in a polluting corporation. Then you can cash in.

The proposed rollbacks on clean water are stunning. HR 465, the Water Quality Improvement Act of 2017, allows polluters to claim that the costs of cleaning up dirty water are too high and relieves polluters of regulations allowing more dirty water into rivers like the Russian River. HR 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017, removes all regulations over the use of pesticides near rivers like the Russian River, despite the fact that the chemicals pollute our drinking water and kill our fish. HR 1430, the HONEST and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017, actually prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from using scientific evidence in the decision-making process.

These attacks on the environment and ultimately our health are just the tip of the iceberg. Trump can only get away with it if we ignore science. We need to remind the people back in Washington that we demand the best available science be used to make decisions and reject the anti-science rhetoric. We need to support scientists who have spent years in school and who work on the world’s toughest problems for everyone’s benefit.

For Riverkeeper, this wasn’t an Earth Day to plant trees by our river but to organize the Santa Rosa March for Science in support of the scientists and their work that we depend on every day to protect and regenerate our river.

Please join us today at noon at Julliard Park in Santa Rosa for a rally to hear five local scientists and the western U.S. director of the Union of Concerned Scientists and then join us for the March for Science. A number of organizations will have ideas for actions you can take to resist the war on science and to strengthen our environmental protections — for our health and our environment.

Don McEnhill is executive director of Russian Riverkeeper.

Source: Close to Home: Marching for science on Earth Day to protect your health | The Press Democrat

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Water

Proposed rule for pesticide spraying near schools revised by state agency

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation on Thursday issued a revised proposed regulation on spraying pesticides near schools, changing an earlier version to provide farmers more leeway in reporting the spraying to school officials.

Despite that change, the proposed regulation remained largely the same as that issued in September and fundamentally bans pesticide applications within a quarter-mile of schools and day care centers on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The rule has been heavily lobbied on both sides. Agricultural interests complained that it was regulatory overreach that wasn’t backed up by available science. Environmental advocacy groups argued it did not do enough to protect children and did not contain sufficient provisions for enforcement. About 500 comment letters have been filed on the plan.

Under the original proposal, farmers would have been required to notify school officials and the county agricultural commissioners of pesticide sprays made within that quarter-mile area 48 hours before they occur.

The revised rule would only require them to provide an annual notification of pesticides that they expect will be applied near the school zones. The grower must describe the pesticides likely to be used, their names and active ingredients as well as a map showing the acreage and its proximity to the school.

Read more at: Proposed rule for pesticide spraying near schools revised by state agency | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Op-Ed: Trump’s Congress speech left unsaid his continued assault on our environment

Rhea Suh, THE HILL

“What kind of a country,” he asked, “will we leave our children?”

In his address to Congress and the nation on Tuesday, President Trump made sparse mention of a leading focus of his first six weeks in office — his unmitigated assault on the nation’s environment and public health.

True, Trump boasted of having worked with congressional Republicans to set mining companies free to pollute mountain streams and destroy forests, by killing the Stream Protection Rule, leaving hard hit coal communities to pay the price.

He highlighted his call to do away with two existing regulations for every new safeguard put in place, an irrational and unlawful approach that short changes the government’s ability to respond to emerging threats in a complex and changing world.

He celebrated his order to revive the Keystone XL dirty tar sands pipeline bragging that he had “cleared the way” for some of the dirtiest oil on the planet to be shipped through the breadbasket of America to be refined on our Gulf coast and shipped, mostly, overseas.

And he took pride in noting his order to sweep aside the voices of the Standing Rock Sioux and force the Dakota Access pipeline across their water sources and sacred lands.

Not great, any of that.

Trump made a fleeting plea “to promote clean air and clear water,” but he never mentioned the order he signed, just hours before, to “eliminate” the Clean Water Rule that provides needed protections for wetlands and streams that feed drinking water sources for 117 million Americans.

He steered clear of reports that he plans crippling budget cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency and to open more public land to the ravages of coal mining.

And he said nothing about his pledge to eviscerate the Clean Power Plan – the single most important measure the government has taken to fight rising seas, widening deserts, blistering heat, raging fires, withering drought and other hallmarks of climate change.

And who could blame him?

Nobody voted in November for dirty water or to put our children’s future at needless risk. Why would Trump tout an extremist agenda for which there’s little public support?

Read more at: Trump’s Congress speech left unsaid his continued assault on our environment

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Water

California environmental leaders, lawmakers gird for fight against President Trump 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Restoring salmon in the Russian River and protecting the North Coast from oil rigs — two long-standing campaigns with broad public support — are among the goals likely to be challenged if not stifled by the sharp right turn of Donald Trump’s administration, environmental advocates and Democratic lawmakers said.

More broadly, the environmental camp fears that landmark legislation, including laws that protect endangered species, clean air and water, are imperiled by Republican control of the House and Senate with an avid deregulation partner in the White House.

The harbingers, they say, include Trump’s trail of tweets and speeches asserting that climate change is a hoax and his post-election appointments of a California water district lobbyist and a prominent climate change denier to head his transition teams at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department, respectively.

Even if Republicans and their allies can’t roll back environmental laws they have long targeted — asserting they harm economic development — the GOP will have nearly unlimited control of national policy and can weaken environmental programs by turning off the cash spigot.

The Sonoma County Water Agency, for example, has received more than $15 million in federal grants in the last four years for a host of water-quality and Russian River watershed projects, including salmon habitat restoration on Dry Creek near Healdsburg, as well as operation of the fish hatchery at nearby Warm Springs Dam on Lake Sonoma.

Under President Trump, such programs may not favor as well in budget allocations, local lawmakers and others fear.

Read more at: California environmental leaders, lawmakers gird for fight against President Trump | The Press Democrat

Filed under Air, Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Water, Wildlife

What does a Trump presidency portend for California’s environmental policies?

Richard Frank, LEGAL PLANET

Sensing political storm clouds ahead, California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday issued a statement on the presidential election results that concludes: “We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time–devastating climate change.”

Several of my Legal Planet colleagues have recently posted thoughtful commentary on what Donald Trump’s election as the nation’s 45th president signifies for national environmental law and policy.  By contrast, I’d like to focus on the potential for significant political dissonance between the incoming Trump Administration and the State of California.

In my view, that potential is sky-high, given California’s longstanding commitment to environmental and energy policies that are anathema to those articulated by Trump in the just-concluded presidential campaign and currently being reiterated by senior members of his transition team.

Business leaders, property rights advocates and Tea Party activists are all seeking the Trump Administration’s active support for their efforts to re-energize the oil, gas and coal industries, aggressively promote private development of federal lands, dismantle or curb USEPA’s regulatory programs and suspend the Obama Administration’s aggressive pursuit of greenhouse gas reduction goals.  California Governor Brown’s above-quoted statement confirms that the Golden State will continue to pursue its environmental, conservation and climate change objectives notwithstanding the dramatic environmental policy shift we can expect under Trump’s presidency.

Past political history demonstrates that such a clash between California and the federal government is likely.  When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, with both houses of Congress in Republican hands, similar political turbulence quickly developed between the Reagan Administration and Reagan’s home state of California on a number of environmental issues.

At its heart, this was, and is, a battle of federalism principles: the proper, respective roles of the federal and state governments in charting public policy, together with the legal authority of both to act.

As we gird for likely legal and political battles between California and the federal government over environmental policy, three constitutional doctrines are likely to play a key role:

  • preemption,
  • regulatory takings
  • and the dormant Commerce Clause.

I briefly review each of those doctrines and their relevance below.

Read more at: What Does a Trump Presidency Portend for California’s Environmental Policies? | Legal Planet

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use

Defending the environment in dark times: Where do we go from here?

Dan Farber, LEGAL PLANET

Yesterday’s election didn’t turn out the way many of us hoped. The results may put in danger much of the progress made over the past eight years in addressing environmental issues and even risk some earlier accomplishments. What’s done is done, however, and we need to think about how to move forward.

The Bush years provide a blueprint that still largely applies. Environmentalists were able to use a three-part strategy to deal with the anti-environmental pressures in D.C., and those tools remain available.

The first approach under Bush was to use whatever political leverage was available at the national level to block anti-environmental moves. This included using the Senate where possible to block legislative initiatives, and lobbying heavily on individual issues. This remains a definite possibility, considering the narrow margin in the Senate and that chamber’s bevy of tools that can be used by the minority.

The second approach under Bush was to use the courts. The Supreme Court is likely to return to its prior alignment as soon as Trump fills his first vacancy, with Justice Kennedy as the swing voter. He is certainly not a reliable environmental vote but is winnable on some issues. The lower courts have a heavy contingent of Obama appointees and should be more sympathetic overall, especially for the first few years before Trump has a chance to make a lot of appointments. National environmental organizations will play a critical role here, as will sympathetic state governments.

The final approach under Bush was to press forward as much as possible at the state level. California passed AB 32; the Northeastern states moved forward with RGGI; and many other states worked hard on issues like renewable energy. Because Republican control of state governments has increased in the meantime, this strategy will now need to focus more on the regions where Democrats remains strong, such as the West Coast and the Northeast.

While these strategies remain valid, we also need to take advantage of ways in which the situation has shifted since 2008. One such change relates to the fissures within the Republican Party. Trump’s victory was as much a blow to conservatives like Paul Ryan as it was to Democrats, and Republicans lost ground among some demographics. These fissures may create the opportunity for new alliances on issues like renewable energy.

Another important change is the increased economic strength of the green economy, which may translate into political leverage even in some GOP areas.

There’s no doubt that this is going to be a very tough four years. The task is to survive with as much of Obama’s environmental legacy intact as possible and to make progress on whatever fronts are open.

Source: Defending the Environment in Dark Times | Legal Planet

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Climate fight targeting cows may reshape California dairies

Kurtis Alexander, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Dairy farmer Bob Giacomini, 79, is ahead of his time, even if he didn’t mean to be.

Eight years ago, the North Bay native bought a custom motor, generator and pipeline to make electricity from an unusual source — cow manure — at his ranch along Tomales Bay. The hope was that the renewable energy would save him a few bucks and perhaps bolster the environmental bona fides of his family’s famed cheese, Point Reyes Original Blue.

As it turned out, the power system served another purpose. It helped do away with the potent greenhouse gas that’s at the heart of a new, first-of-its-kind climate law targeting agriculture.

Legislation signed this month by Gov. Jerry Brown requires California’s dairy industry to answer for its contribution to global warming by making a 40 percent cut in methane emissions in coming years. The gas, which heats the atmosphere 20 times faster than carbon dioxide, comes from the butts and burps of bovines.

One U.N. report blames livestock, which has largely escaped climate regulation, for 14.5 percent of the planet’s heat-trapping gases, as much as planes, trains and automobiles combined.

Read more at: Climate fight targeting cows may reshape California dairies

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living