“Environmental Undermining Snap-Shot

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All environmental protections appear to be at risk now as our new administration and majority zealously pursue a pro-business agenda.  I am a business owner, but more importantly, I am a world citizen. I would never consider taking away from the environment; instead my moral compass is all about contributing to it.  We recently invested in solar panels at our place of business. We are now meeting the bulk of our energy needs and at times adding renewable energy to the grid. I take great comfort in knowing we are simultaneously creating electricity as our air conditioner cranks away on a hot summer sunny day.

We are living in unprecedented times.  As our population grows, environmental protections are especially critical as escalating pollution threatens our air, water, and soils. In such vitally important times, multiple anti-environmental executive orders are flowing and new agency appointees are all too willing to undermine the very missions their agency should be championing

Environmental Protection Agency – The EPA mission isn’t faring well, given the appointee, Scott Pruitt, sued the agency fourteen times while serving as the Oklahoma attorney general. With proposed budget cuts of 31%, 3200 jobs are at risk while scientists are already being fired and replaced with industry CEOs, clearly prioritizing business interests over public health and science, the EPAs basic core mission. Then again, they recently removed “science” from the mission statement. Future budget decisions aside, Pruitt is already quietly tearing this agency and many of our environmental protections apart.

Food and Drug Administration – Per executive order, requests are made to streamline processes, allowing less time for testing and safeguards. The approvals of more toxic pesticides are on the fast-track along with shorter drug reviews.

USDA – President Trump is trying to get Sam Clovis confirmed as “Chief Scientist” of the USDA, the agency responsible for our nation’s food safety, nutrition and agriculture. The USDA is also on the front lines of the climate crisis, as severe weather patterns (droughts and floods) impact our farmers and food supply in a major way. To be noted, Clovis isn’t a Scientist, he denies climate change and has no agricultural background.

Endangered Species Act – Attempts are being made to gut protections of our endangered species. Yes, the same tired argument is being made, those protections are hampering big business.

Oil Pipeline Escalation – Early in the year the Keystone XL was given the executive green light along with the Dakota Access Pipelines, halting all environmental studies.  Fortunately a simple signature didn’t seal the deal. A Nebraska Judge is delaying the Keystone XL protecting the Ogallala Aquifer, our nation’s largest aquifer under Nebraska expanding into surrounding states. As for the Dakota pipeline, within weeks, it was quickly finished and is already transporting oil. Recently a federal judge ruled the interrupted environmental study puts our waterways (Missouri River included), tribal land and food source at risk but the oil flow continues, at least for now.  Multiple suits are in motion attempting to stop both pipelines.

Attempts to Expand Off-Shore Drilling – Per executive order, now all bans on offshore oil and gas drilling are under review putting parts of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at risk.

National Monuments – In an unprecedented move, attempts are being made to shrink or remove protective status of millions of acres set aside for our public to enjoy, undermining all designations made by past Presidents since 1996. As directed, “expedited” reviews were conducted and now our Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending we drastically shrink our national monuments – names yet to be revealed. Our Secretary is also proposing we withdraw the safety rules established by the Bureau of Land Management that protect our water supply from toxic fracking chemicals.

Paris Agreement – Our President withdrew from the world agreement, saying he could get a “better deal”. Such verbiage misses the whole point of the cooperative agreement made by 196 countries promising to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by adopting clean energy and phasing out fossil fuels. To be noted, the United States is the second highest emitters in the world, after China; together emitting about 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide. We join only two other countries who aren’t onboard, Nicaragua requesting more ambitious world goals, and Syria. Fortunately other Champions are coming forward, leading from the bottom up. Michael Bloomberg has pledge to fill the United States funding gap to help other countries implement the agreement, contributing fifteen million dollars! Many cities are now creating their own Climate Action Plans; onboard in Missouri are St. Louis, Kansas City, O’Fallon, University City and Columbia. More states and cities are embracing renewables saving their citizens energy and healthcare costs, all the while reducing their greenhouse emissions

Hiding information about Climate Change – All information about climate change was removed from the EPA website, once considered the most comprehensive educational site on the subject. Fortunately, several cities – Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – have published replicas of the previous EPA site to preserve decades of work and to insure information is readily available to the public.

Energy Pursuits – The executive branch is out of step with the world, relaxing environmental regulations promoting oil and coal at a time when all other countries are pursuing healthier, more lucrative renewable.  It’s ironic as we hear all this rhetoric about regulations stifling our economy; our federal government isn’t promoting the most lucrative opportunity of our lifetime, clean tech jobs.  Other countries are jumping at the opportunity to fill the gap and emerge as industry leaders.  All the while we are creating more pollution build-up for our children’s generation to clean up.

Undermining Scientists – Scientists give us a better life by bring innovation and keeping us safe.  Enjoy your refrigerator…your car…your air-conditioner…more efficient appliances…cleaner skies and waterways…better health…life saving drugs?  When scientists share their expertise, those who have no qualms with exploiting our earth and health tell us our noble scientists have a hidden agenda.  Fortunately, there is now a movement across academia to back-up key databases for fear it will be buried or deleted.

While agency appointments and executive orders are causing great harm, it’s more difficult to change our environmental laws. While the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act are both under review, it’ll require the same rule-making process to change the original rule. Repealing rules takes time and Congressional approval. Encouragingly, the US Senate narrowly rejected the request to lift methane emissions levels on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. And when an executive order oversteps, complaints can be filed on the federal or state level and if the order is determined to be unconstitutional, it can be overturned.

Meanwhile, I will continue to give my representatives feedback requesting policies that prioritize clean water to drink, clean air to breathe and non-toxic soil to grow food, our very basic needs and rights. I hope you do the same!

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Environmental Accomplishments

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Any environmentalist is quite concerned about the election results. I am no exception. To lift my spirits, I reviewed the environmental accomplishments over the last eight years.  Given the environment is our life-line, I had wished for more progress, but in retrospect, these accomplishments now appear quite impressive.

— In response to one of our worst financial emergencies in 2008, Congress implemented an economic package that laid the foundation for a clean energy future. Ninety billion dollars were invested in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and technology. Consequently, solar electricity generation has increased thirty-fold and wind electricity more than three-fold. Research funds granted growth in smart grids, energy efficiency, electric cars, renewable electricity generation, cleaner coal, and biofuels technology.

— The government bailed out the auto industry and required higher efficiencies – 36.6 miles per gallon by 2017 for cars and 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025. Those new standards will reduce tons of carbon pollution and has accelerated transition to electric vehicles; all the while creating a more marketable product and saving us money.

— The Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide as a pollutant in 2009. The Clean Power Plan is on track to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other toxic pollutants from power plants 32 percent by 2030. We are closing down our oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants. Estimated costs to utilities upgrades is projected at $11 billion, while estimated health benefits are $59 to 140 billion. Tackling pollution makes us healthier!

— The Energy Department creation of new standards for energy efficient appliances and products ranging from refrigerators to light bulbs, impacting all structures from homes to enormous buildings. These new regulations won’t only cut significant greenhouse gas emissions; they will also save Americans billions of dollars.

— Last fall the world came together to tackle the dangers of Climate Change. Leaders from 196 countries developed and signed the ambitious Paris Agreement committed to keep global temperature rise this century well below two degrees.

—Per executive order, twenty-three national monuments were designated protecting 265 million acres of land and 100 miles of waterways. It’s always a victory when pristine public land is set aside for us to enjoy along with future generations.

— Per executive order, all federal agencies are making plans to soften their environmental impacts by 2020. Goals include 30 percent reduction in fleet gasoline use, increase water efficiency by 26%, and considering sustainable practices on all federal contracts. These actions will save our tax dollars!

— Efforts were made to keep fossil fuels in the ground to minimize carbon damage. President Obama stopped the Keystone pipeline. The Department of Interior discontinued extracting coal from public land.

On the flip side, a 40-year ban on US crude oil exports was lifted in exchange for extending clean energy tax credits. And, offshore and Arctic drilling leases were granted. Shell stepped away from Alaskan Arctic drilling efforts, ironically oil now more accessible due to glacier melt from carbon-induced global warming. Fortunately just this week, per executive order, President Obama deemed US owned waters in the Arctic Ocean and parts of the Atlantic Ocean as off limits to future oil and gas leasing and halted the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Now we have a new president elect who has been spouting anti-environmental rhetoric for months. He calls Climate Change “a hoax”. He pledges to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and pursue “clean” coal reserves, the dirtiest fuel on the planet. He promises to disband the Environmental Protection Agency since those regulations “get in the way of business”. And he says he is going to break our pact with the World by withdrawing from the Paris Accord.

There is much to be gained by continuing and expanding our efficiency and clean energy trajectory:

*Efficient energy practices and products save us money.

*Reducing toxins and pollutions makes us healthier.

*Decreased climate change dangers reduce environmental and world instability.

*Pursuing renewables is a huge economic opportunity.

To live is to progress; frankly I’m flummoxed the public wouldn’t always want to build on what we have learned.  We now know this clean energy trajectory not only protects our environment, it saves us money, creates jobs, enhances our health, it’s a huge economic opportunity and it honors world-wide needs and opinions.

To protect our environment, it’ll now be more important than ever to join marches, support environmental organizations and speak up. I remain vigilant fulfilling my moral obligation to be a good steward of our earth, assuring future generations too will revel in this beautiful gift. This year I became a grandmother – this just got real personal!

Precious Water

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If you live in the US, remember the wide-spread unrelenting drought of Summer 2012?  That summer, I recall one day they predicted a 90% chance of rain, and it still didn’t rain!  It’s a bit unsettling – 95% of the Scientists have confirmed we are experiencing Climate Change, so extreme weather patterns and droughts will likely become more common.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, year 2013 ended with 31% of the contiguous US experiencing moderate to extreme drought.  As droughts become more common, it’ll become more difficult to replenish our current water supplies and our soils become dryer.

Continue reading “Precious Water”