Sept 26 2020: Going going Tongass

With a mixture of junk analysis by the Forest Service, disregard for impact statements, and a blind eye for old growth markets the Trump Administration is set on rolling right into Alaska’s Tongass National Forest with plans to open up 9 million acres to logging and roads to allow energy and mineral exploration. Bye-bye roadless rule.

At 17 million acres, the Tongass is America’s largest national forest and the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. Pristine is not a word that this President can even begin to comprehend. But, then our system, places no value on nature until it is harvested. Talk about systematic injustice.

Still, there are human-centric reasons to preserve the Tongass. It is one of our largest carbon sinks, absorbing nearly 8 percent of the greenhouse gas pollution that the U.S. emits.

It may not make economic. According to Yale Environment360, “Today, building new roads in the Tongass would cost an estimated$200,00 to $500,000 per mile. It’s madness. Especially considering that the bottom has fallen out of the timber industry in such a huge way that one recent proposed Forest Service sale, in a portion of the forest still open to logging, didn’t receive a single bid.”

Legal fights are coming so all is not lost for the Tongass.

Sept 23 2020 Wheeler Rebutted


I opened a newsletter-email and was forewarned not to read Wheeler’s recent speech to American Enterprise Institute, to read it sitting down. It should have said “don’t read with sharp objects near by.” It was upsetting and I wrote to an environmental group to which I belong and said “where’s the rebuttal?”. Well, here’s a good one reprinted. Do read this sitting, standing, or lying on a beach!

Wheeler seeks to paint EPA regulatory rollbacks as environmentally

By Rachel Frazin <> – 09/21/20 
12:54 PM EDT

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler 
<> on Monday sought to portray 
some of the agency’s most significant regulatory rollbacks as 
environmentally friendly.

During a speech at the right-wing think tank American Enterprise 
Institute, the country’s top environmental official touted rules 
governing regulation from power plants, vehicle emissions and methane 
emissions as actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

He also praised the agency’s move to regulate aviation emissions.

“Just at EPA, the Trump administration in its first term has taken four 
concrete actions to reduce greenhouse gases,” Wheeler said.

However, some of the rules are expected to provide significantly fewer 
emissions reductions than the Obama-era rules they replaced.

One rule Wheeler highlighted was the SAFE vehicles rule 
which requires automakers to produce vehicles whose fuel economies 
average 40 mpg by 2026 instead of the Obama administration’s 55 mpg by 2025.

The change is expected to result in an additional 867 million metric 
carbon emitted into the atmosphere through 2029.

Another rule touted by Wheeler is the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, 
which replaced 
Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. The new rule gives states more 
time and authority to decide how to implement the best new technology to 
ease emissions from coal plants and does not set emissions caps.

Wheeler said Monday that the rule would reduce carbon emissions from 34 
percent from 2005 levels by 2030, while the Obama administration said 
its rule would reduce emissions 32 percent.

However, the agency’s analysis of the rule said that, compared to no 
regulation, it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11 million tons 
by 2030, while the agency estimated that the Clean Power Plan would 
reduce emissions by 415 million tons.

The Supreme Court issued a decision in 2016 that temporarily halted the 
Obama rule’s implementation.

Wheeler on Monday also touted rules “making it easier and less expensive 
for natural gas companies to capture fugitive methane emissions,” 
referring to emissions that accidentally leak out.

A new agency rule reduces the frequency of monitoring 
fugitive emissions from facilities that help process and transport 
natural gas by half and exempts small wells from monitoring for this.

His comments come as a Rhodium Group analysis estimated that actions 
taken by the Trump administration could cause the release of an extra 
1.8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions 
by 2035.

However, Wheeler also toed the line between characterizing his actions 
as good for the environment and criticizing the prior administration as 
too focused on climate change.

He criticized what he described as the Obama administration’s 
“overweening focus on climate change took the form of virtue-signaling 
in foreign capitals.”

During the appearance, he also sought to downplay the role of climate 
change on wildfires currently ravaging the West Coast.

“I believe that the forest fires in the west are mostly caused by poor 
forest management and not climate change,” Wheeler said.

Scientists have expressed 
climate change contributes to heat and dryness that allow fires to 
spread more rapidly.

Many forests in these states are managed by the federal government 
rather than the states.

In a call hosted by the Biden campaign on Monday, former EPA 
administrators including Republicans, criticized Wheeler’s speech.

“All I can say is if he would just substitute ‘delete, destroy’ for the 
word ‘improve’ he’d be right on,” said Christine Todd-Whitman, a former 
New Jersey governor who also served as EPA administrator under the 
George W. Bush administration.”This administration has done more to roll 
back protections for human health and the environment than any I can 
think of.”

“Honestly this reminds me of President Trump 
<>’s claiming to have done more 
for African Americans than Abraham Lincoln,” said former administrator 
Bill Reilly, who served under George H.W. Bush. “You go through these 
specific rules that have been proposed by the administration and an 
invariable characteristic of the defense of those rules is their 
reduction in cost.”

Sept 16 2020: endangered climate models

Wired published a fascinating and disturbing article on the state of climate models from the US Geological Survey. This is some heady stuff, but I urge you to read it. (See link.) What’s at risk if the current Administration prevails is limiting long-term climate models. Simply put (and it isn’t simple, let’s be clear about that), Trump’s appointee has been moving to short-term appraisals as they are more predictive. Rather than exploring many potential outcomes, the 2023 Fifth Assessment would look at near-term dangers. Sounds potentially ok. I mean what’s wrong with being more concrete? Well, the call to curb emissions is based on long-term projections. This is one very good reason to swab out this Administration.

Sept 15 2020: Climate change accelerates wildfires and that we “know”

So convenient for the President to say science doesn’t know about global warming. We heard the twin engines of the right’s appraisal of wildfires; that science is full of theories (duh!) so doesn’t “know” and that the forests have been mismanaged, like an errant teenager who didn’t do a good enough job raking up the leaves in the yard on an October morning.

On the latter there is truth that our forests have not been managed well. That needs to be said, and is being said by the likes of the Washington Post. (

However, the scope of these fires is off the charts and that’s where our President is missing the moment.

Don’t you wish we had starting off this big discussion calling it global climate change instead of global warming. Not only do we have to contend with the natural ups and downs and unusual cold/icy events that seem to belie warming, but there is a popular idea among the climate contrarians that global dimming, simplistically due to pollution blocking the sun, is cooling the planet. Again, there is some truth to that, but as we clean up our atmosphere, the heating will accelerate. So, don’t let those dimmers dilute nor the mismanagers mangle the here and present danger of global climate change.

BTW, I rather like that Joe Biden called our President a “climate arsonist”. The description has the quality of a brutal blunt instrument, like a club, that some might better understand, while at the same time being eloquent. Throw “alarmist” at us and we are going to send over “arsonist” and maybe even “assassin,” too.

Sept 14 2020 A denier amidst the fires

If nothing else it is singularly tasteless to put in a climate denier in our most august weather authority — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — during this season of wildfires in the west. David Legates (a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science) has been hired to be deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction.

Among other things, he has worked with right-wing Heartland Institute in even opposing NOAA findings.

Before long we are going to have to change our national symbol from the free-spirited bald eagle to the proverbial fox in the henhouse!

Read more here

Sept 9 2020: No. 1 Environmental Prevaricator

In Florida this week the President claimed to the the No. 1 Environmental President. You and I might laugh out loud at the audacity of this thought, but he is doing visible things that will impress his base and voters who just need an excuse to vote for him. So he will get some credit. His administration has endorsed a 10-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling off the state’s coastline as well as the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, signed the Great American Outdoors act, and is being credited with cleaning up superfund sites as well as making clean-up a major focus for future actions (notably, rather than climate change activity).

This is the same President who has called climate change a hoax, vowed to exit the Paris Agreement, weakened oversight of drilling  in federal waters, opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas companies, loosened restrictions on toxic air pollution, rolled back clean water protections, rolled back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards and much more.

Just take air quality alone, which is awfully important to us in East TN. According to the Huffington Post:

“The Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to roll back, weaken and undermine the 1970 Clean Air Act, which is responsible for what the American Lung Association labelled a decades-long “slow but steady improvement” in the nation’s air quality.

According to the American Lung Association, the EPA under Trump has actively sought to loosen restrictions on hazardous air pollutants including arsenic, CO₂, hydrogen sulfide and mercury, and has taken steps to roll back methane emission standards for the oil and gas industry.

In 2018, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a formal coal lobbyist, disbanded the air quality panel tasked with advising on airborne particulate matter. He replaced committee members with paid consultants linked to the fossil fuel, tobacco and pharmaceutical industries.”

His is blatant greenwashing and don’t let his Administration get away with it.

Sept 5 2020: All OK as long as only on brink of distinction

The Administration is taking another bite out of the Endangered Species Act by proposing carve-outs, exceptions to habitat protection based on balancing other things like, well, you know, development! Washing over this with talk of schools and wildfire prevention we know this is just a veneer. And how would they measure whether the impact would not lead to species’ extinction? Do you believe they have the means or the will to figure that out and follow through if it is even possible to obtain protection when a piece of a species habitat is missing?

“Section 4(b)(2) of the ESA gives the Secretary of the Interior the authority to exclude any particular area from a critical habitat designation if the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion for that area, so long as excluding the habitat will not result in the species’ extinction.

The proposed rule provides the framework for how the Service will take into consideration the economic impact, impact on national security and other relevant impacts of designating critical habitat. Additionally, the proposed regulations would provide categories of “other relevant impacts” that the Service may consider, including public health and safety, community interests and the environment, such as increased risk of wildfire or pest and invasive species management.”

Sept 4 2020: Always the landlord

Giving away public lands through lower fees for extraction industries while simultaneously reducing state incomes, that’s this Administration’s way. The thing is our President thinks public lands are his to do with as he sees fit.

Read this article from The Guardian to find out more:

Sept 1 2020: Trump loves toxic wastewater

It’s not just coal that this Administration loves, but they have to love the toxic wastewater, too. To put it another way, who in their right minds would support pulling back regulations that limit dangerous chemicals being dumped into our water?! The specific regulation being rolled back is  Effluent Limitation Guidelines or ELG for power plants.

“With today’s rollback of clean water protections, the Trump EPA allows dirty coal-burning plants to dump more toxic substances into our rivers, lakes, and drinking reservoirs and exposes our communities to more cancer-causing pollution.  The EPA itself has estimated that at least 30 percent of all toxic water pollution from all industries comes from these plants, and the technology to prevent and treat this pollution is widely available.  The EPA is making it easier for the most polluting and worst run coal-fired plants to dump poisons into the waterways our communities depend upon.”—Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Aug 28 2020: “It’s the climate, stupid!”

My father said a sure sign of intelligence is recognizing the obvious. So, isn’t it obvious that the climate crisis cannot be solved without the United States participation, if not leadership? We must elect Biden to have a shot at this thing.

Rolling Stone magazine writes compellingly on this topic: