August 2, 2020. Trump Administration to Endangered Species: Stay Where You Are!

In another move that refuses to acknowledge any sense of future, notably climate change, a new proposal from the Fish and Wildlife Service can block any land that isn’t currently habitat but might be needed in the future. Let it be noted that this Administration is allergic to any consideration of future impacts, a consistent viewpoint across many areas, not just environmental.

“The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to help endangered species flourish and expand back into their former habitats. If this rule were in place fifty years ago, the bald eagle would have been kept at death’s door in perpetuity, limited to a few square miles here and there. If this administration can’t tell the difference between where an endangered species lives today and where it would live if it were no longer endangered, it has no business rewriting this or any other law,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) — from The Hill

You can read it the proposed new rule here: https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/proposed-definition-of-habitat-web-version.pdf

July 14, 2020: GAO shows carbon cost maneuvering

The Trump Administration has revised the metrics used to measure the social cost of carbon to further deregulations. While this itself is not news, the GAO has revealed these efforts to manipulate cost-benefits analysis leading to more deregulation.

The General Accounting Office (GAO), non-partisan investigative agency for Congress, released a report that shows the revised model with its vaunted seven times reduction in carbon cost was based on changing two metrics: 1. only factoring damages within the United States instead of globally which ignores all the US assets and personnel abroad and 2. changing an economic measure, the discount rate, in a way that puts more value on future benefits and so reduces rationale for paying costs today.

Further the GAO report states an executive order from 2017 disbanded an interagency working group charged with developing social cost of carbon estimates and discarded that group’s guidance and cost estimates.

“Without identifying a federal entity or entities to be responsible for addressing the National Academies’ recommendations, including monitoring scientific research and ensuring that updates to the federal estimates consider such research, the federal government may not be well-positioned to ensure agencies’ future regulatory analyses are using the best available science,” GAO wrote.

July 9, 2020: Issues Importance Survey

We recently fielded a survey to better understand what issues among the 13 that make up the BCDP platform are most important to you.  With 78 of you responding, here’s what you told us:

Looking at the top two most important issues and grouping those that scored tightly the first segment were 1. Affordable Healthcare, 2. Voting and 3. Equality/Discrimination (tied for second) and 4. Environment. The next grouping a few points down were 5. Support for Benefits and Coverages: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, 6. Employee Rights and Benefits, 7. Education and 8. Criminal Justice Reform. Next grouping was 9. Improving Local Government Operations, 10. Infrastructure, 11. Economy and 12. Immigration.  Final segment was 13. Access to Firearms and Gun Safety. It should be noted that the last one had the most spread across importance measures and may have been interpreted differently by different people.

Looking at top responses only Voting, Equality/Discrimination and Affordable Healthcare were the top contenders.

You can read the Blount County Democratic Party Platform above on this site.

June 28 -Oppose Pendley for BLM Director

Opportunity for success. The Trump Administration’s hand has been forced by a lawsuit regarding an “acting director” be made official so it needs to go before Congress.

The individual is the uber-fox-in-the-henhouse Willian Pendley, currently acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. He is known to be he “…a public lands extremist, dedicated to selling off public lands or handing over public resources to mineral and livestock industries throughout his career” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project as quoted on Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s website.

Please write your representatives to oppose this nomination and if you’d like to go further, contact the members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee who will take up this nomination. Note that Senator Lamar Alexander serves on this committee. Others: Chairwoman Lisa Murkowsi, Ranking Member Joe Manchin, John Barrasso, James Risch, Mike Lee, Steve Daines, Bill Cassidy, Cory Gardner, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Martha McSally, and John Hoeven.

Just last Thursday he provided evidence for his removal as the Trump Administration would put most of Alaska’s 23 million acre National Petroleum Reserve open for oil and gas leasing under a new plan. Note that the November draft plan only offered up 18 million acres so they are trying to add 5 million more. Let them know we are paying attention.

June 25 -EPA barrier to reducing Greenhouse Gases in biofuels

Biofuels=tricky subject. Acknowledging that upfront and without going into the relative merits/demerits of different products used in the process, it IS a worthy pursuit.

Bi-partisan legislation, the Growing Climate Solutions Act, aims to help farmers, through carbon credits, increase their involvement in renewable fuels. It seems the EPA is being responsive to oil refiners asking for retroactive exemptions to requirements that they blend biofuels into their products.  Senate hearings were held yesterday, so this could turn into good news. So-called “carbon farming” in its embryonic state should be encouraged and the EPA should do more to get behind it.

Jun 24 -Appearance of good news: not since 1990 the EPA added something new to Hazardous Air Pollutants list

The EPA granted petitions from Halogenated Solvents Industry Alliance (HSIA) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to add n-propyl bromide, commonly known as 1-bromopropane (1-BP), to the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) list of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs). 1-BP is found in degreasers, cleaners, spray adhesives, automotive refrigerant flushes and lubricants. Nothing has been added to HAPs list since 1990.

Sound like good news, right? Well…under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA noted last year that the chemical could pose “an unreasonable risk of injury to health” under certain conditions of use but did not find any unreasonable risk of injury to the environment. The risk evaluation is ongoing and is expected to be finalized this year.

One just has to wonder what exceptional circumstance will be required before any true regulatory activity would occur. Trump’s EPA gets to claim doing a good thing in both health and clearing up backlog but what comes next is what really matters.

Today’s environmental gasp: perchlorate de-regulation in drinking water

Recently the Trump Administration’s EPA decided to stop regulating perchlorate, a toxic chemical compound found in rocket fuel (and other places) that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage. They stated that it does not show up in drinking water and is no longer a threat. We want to know who they know that because national testing ceased in 2005. According to the Environmental Working Group’s tap water database (through 2017) perchlorate was detected in 375 water utilities serving an estimated 12.1 million people. But those records do not include smaller water systems, so the number of Americans drinking water contaminated with perchlorate is likely much higher. And, this is so like other Trump administration decisions not to impose recommended limits on toxic chemicals, such as its decision not to ban child-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos or known-carcinogen asbestos. Watch this space for more environmental gasps!

To read more:

June 10 -BCDP Issues Survey 2020

The Blount County Democratic Party is interested in how you would rate the importance of issues, based on your life here in Blount County. We are asking because we want to focus on what to do after we win elections when we will govern and solve problems for people. We understand our first mission to replace the current Administration and all the enablers. This is about what comes after that.

We ask that you fill out this survey in this online portal. Your answers will be tabulated along with those from other people in Blount County. Your answers will help determine which issues should get the most attention from BCDP.

Thank you for you participation.