Eye on Washington Feb/Mar 2018

February, 2018

 

Eye on Washington logoEnvironmental protections and laws that conservationists fought for decades to establish are under attack from President Trump’s administration in his first year in office,with the help of Congress. Those laws and programs were established to stop real harm to our earth and to public health. Environmentalists need to be vigilant and active to stand up against short-sighted deregulation and defunding of agencies responsible for enforcing environmental laws. e political revenge shown by this administration and Congress against progressive states with strong conservation laws is evident.

Offshore Oil Drilling


Our marine environment is facing a double- whammy of new offshore oil and gas exploration.

In December, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the SEA Act, H.R. 3133, which would open a huge hole for companies conducting seismic testing off the US coast, including California, excluding them from many marine mammal protections. e bill also establishes unrealistically short review times for agencies processing seismic test permits. Conservation organizations exposed that the SEA Act would also prevent mitigation if mammals are injured or killed.

The SEA Act is a precursor to the attack by offshore oil drilling recently announced by Interior Secretary Zinke.

Sec. Zinke seems to have exempted Florida from drilling at the request of the governor, leaving other coastal states wondering why Florida was exempted but not others that also rely heavily on coastal tourism.

What you can do:

Post your comments on the plan and learn more here: www.boem.gov/National-Program-Comment /#submitcomments. The deadline for commenting on the Offshore Oil Drilling Plan is March 9.

• Write to your congressional delegation and tell them to oppose seismic permits to explore potential leasing of offshore oil and gas. Tell them to use the Congressional Review Act if necessary to reign in Secretary of the Interior Zinke.

• Write to Sec. Zinke and tell him hundreds of thousands of Americans oppose offshore drilling on the west coast.

Write to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and tell them you do not want to see an oil spill killing our fish, fouling our shores and disrupting our economy like the BP Oil spill that swept the Gulf of Mexico.

National Monuments Continued


As goes Bears Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monuments in Utah, so go more National Monuments—including the Cascade- Siskiyou, which straddles the Oregon/California border. Conservationists are trying to stop the gutting of national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. In April 2017, President Trump ordered Sec. Zinke to review over two dozen national monuments and protected marine areas.

Natural Resource Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) has set mid-February to pass H.R. 4532 (authored by Rep. Curtis (R-UT)) and H. R. 4558 (authored by Rep. Stewart (R-UT)) to drastically reduce the size of both protected areas. e plan is to get a full House vote and Senate passage of the bills as a retirement gift to Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT).

This administration has its eyes set on opening up as much protected public land as possible to mining and mineral extraction. e intent is to eliminate the current National Monument boundaries in favor of significantly smaller parcels that would then be administered by a locally controlled council—without the statutory authority or guidance of the National Park Service. The Northcoast Environmental Center will be watching this legislation, as it is a precursor to additional attacks on our national monuments, including Cascade-Siskiyou.

What you can do:

Write to Congressman Huffman and thank him for his support in stopping these attacks on our NationalMonuments.Tellhimyouopposeallacreage and protection reductions of national monuments especially our nearby Cascades-Siskiyou. Watch for future local actions such as rallies and alerts. Click here to sign up for NEC action alerts.

Putting the Screws to Research— Again


On December 28, 2017, the Interior Department announced it will now funnel grants of $50,000 and greater through a political screening process intended to ensure that federal dollars “better align” with the administration’s “priorities,” according to a newly revealed memo.

The move allows a senior Interior Department adviser named Steve Howke to review grants— including those for universities, land acquisition purposes, and non-profits that can engage in advocacy. ough little is known about Howke, he is from Zinke’s home state of Montana and his experience is limited to credit unions. He will assure money is distributed to those aligned with Trump’s pro-energy base.

Howke’s memo threatens retaliation if agencies donotcomplywiththereviewprocess.“Instances circumventing the secretarial priorities or the review process will cause greater scrutiny and will result in slowing down the approval process for all awards,” the memo stated, in boldface. “I’m immediately skeptical given the administration’s track record,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) said in a statement. “ is grant approval process looks like a backdoor way to stop funds going to legitimate scientific and environmental projects.”

What you can do:

Write to Reps. Grijalva and Huffman and thank them for exposing the political agenda of Sec. Zinke and his henchman Steve Howke in the Department of the Interior. Encourage them to continue to make the actions of this administration transparent.

Endangered Species


Some good news and some bad news. The U.S. Supreme Court declined an appeal by the anti- environment giant Pacific Legal Foundation and property owners in Utah who wanted to rip up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2012 decision to prohibit the “take” or killing of Utah prairie dogs without a permit. at court decision left the permit requirement in place, which slows but does not stop proposed habitat destruction. Last week, Solicitor General Noel Francisco informed the court that he is planning to work with Utah and county governments to “develop greater regulatory and management flexibility” for property owners affected by the ban. ree Utah counties are applying for “master incidental take permits” that would authorize property owners to undertake projects that may harm the species.

The bad news is a push for quick legislation to dampen the effectiveness of most environmental laws, especially the Endangered Species Act. is is done with bills such as the afore-mentioned SEA Act, introduced in the House but then attached to “must pass” legislation such as military spending and other budgets or the much touted bi-partisan “infrastructure” bill intended to improve roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure. Bypassing environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a common strategy in this political atmosphere.

Energy Ethics


On January 5, Department of Energy (DOE) Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette was defensive and non-committal during questioning by legislators about unethical and potentially illegal industry influence on energy policy. Brouillette was asked about reports that Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, a prominent voice for the coal industry, may have influenced DOE proposals to subsidize coal and nuclear plants. When asked if he knew when DOE would respond to his letter of inquiry on the issue, Brouilette responded, “No, sir, I don’t, but I will happily look into it.” Variations of Mr. Brouilette’s non-answer have become common in congressional hearings with Trump appointees on the hot seat.

Simon Edelman, a brave employee of the Department of Energy, was fired from his government job for releasing a photo of Sec. of Energy, Rick Perry and the same coal industry CEO, Murray, in a friendly bear hug. Edelman took the photo at a private meeting between CEO Murray and Sec. Perry. Edelman, who had worked in his publicity job since 2015, is seeking whistleblower protection.

Attack on Public Lands


A recently released government report led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Forest Service reveals that President Trump and his cabinet are considering lifting the ban on uranium mining on the federally owned public lands that surround Grand Canyon National Park. The report was initiated to reduce the “burden” of environmental review and laws with a target to increase extraction of oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources on public lands. The President’s Executive Order 13783 also requires Federal agencies to “make recommendations that could alleviate or eliminate aspects of their actions that unduly burden domestic energy production.” Mining of uranium and other minerals are said to be the basis of many of the proposed boundary changes for National Monument boundaries including Cascade–Siskiyou NM.

What you can do:

Join the Northcoast Environmental Center’s Action Group. We will be taking action through letter-writing and calling our representatives. Join the list of activists by sending you name and email address to the NEC’s Legislative Analyst, Dan Sealy, at dan.sealy@yournec.org. We will get information to you on meetings, training, and upcoming actions.

 

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