Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Category Archive: Policy

  1. President rolls back environmental rules for infrastructure push

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    Valerie Volcovici and Jeff Mason August 15 2017  Read full Reuters article here

  2. Students, Cities and States Take the Climate Fight to Court

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    • Several groups and individuals around the United States have gone to court to try to do what the Trump administration has so far declined to do: confront the causes and effects of global warming.
    • Efforts in the United States are part of a wave of litigation around the world, including a 2015 decision in which a court in the Netherlands ordered the Dutch government to toughen its climate policies; that case is under appeal. A 2017 report from the United Nations Environment Program found nearly 900 climate litigation suits in more than 20 countries.

    read full NY Times article here

    In California, two counties and a city recently sued 37 fossil fuel companies, seeking funds to cover the costs of dealing with a warming world. In Oregon, a federal lawsuit brought on behalf of young people is moving toward a February trial date, though the so-called children’s suit could be tossed out before that. And more than a dozen state attorneys general have sued to block Trump administration moves to roll back environmental regulations.

    ….In the new suits, Marin and San Mateo Counties and the City of Imperial Beach are accusing the oil companies of knowing that their industry would cause catastrophic climate change and covering up the evidence.

    Serge Dedina, the mayor of Imperial Beach, said his community was already dealing with coastal flooding and increasingly heavy rains, and sees more to come as the sea level rises. “How do we make sure those responsible pay the costs so that residents of communities like mine don’t have to pay the costs?” he asked.

    The supervisor for District 3 of Marin County, Kathrin Sears, said, “It’s time to hold these oil, gas and coal companies accountable for the damage they knew their products would cause.

    ….Perhaps the most effective litigators in the fight against climate change could turn out to be state attorneys general. During the Obama administration, conservative attorneys general like Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt, who had a particularly close relationship with fossil fuel interests, fought environmental initiatives and often had private-sector players as fellow plaintiffs.

    Now Mr. Pruitt heads the Environmental Protection Agency, and progressive attorneys general, especially New York’s Eric T. Schneidermanare suing just as enthusiastically, along with environmental groups, to counter the administration’s efforts to roll back climate change regulations.

    Their pushback could already be having an effect. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency reversed itself on a one-year delay it had announced on enforcing a rule regarding ozone — one day after attorneys general filed a lawsuit challenging the delay

  3. CORRECTION: US Dept of Agriculture’s NRCS supports science and use of ‘climate change’

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    NOTE FROM ELLIE: This Guardian story I originally posted was strongly refuted by the Acting Chief of the NRCS in an email in support of science and climate change action. Here is the text:

    From: Jordan, Leonard – NRCS, Washington, DC
    Sent: Tuesday, August 08, 2017 1:07 PM
    To: Jordan, Leonard – NRCS, Washington, DC <Leonard.Jordan@wdc.usda.gov>
    Subject: Climate change story

    NRCS Employees,

    As you’ve likely seen, there has been considerable news coverage during the past two days centered around two emails that discuss the use of the phrase “climate change.”  The articles allege that NRCS has received direction and has provided direction to censor the use of the phrase “climate change.”

    I want you all to know that this is not the case.  There has never been a directive from the administration regarding the use of the phrase climate change, or any other language.  There is nothing stopping you from communicating to your customers using the terminology that you see as most beneficial for getting conservation on the ground.  The Department and NRCS are fact-based, science-driven, and customer-focused, and nothing about who we are or what we do has changed.

    The climate change websites for both USDA and NRCS remain active.  We work each day to help agricultural producers plan and implement conservation practices that sequester carbon and benefit our natural resources, enabling producers to improve their bottom line while rising to the challenge of today. With partners like Colorado State University, we’re able to offer tools like COMET-Farm, an accounting system for greenhouse gases on agricultural lands. Our Conservation Innovation Grants program continues to empower partner organizations and producers to develop cutting-edge approaches and technologies that support greenhouse gases, cleaner water and air, healthier soil and development of conservation finance systems. And this is just the beginning.

    We remain committed to empowering you to do what you do best, whether you’re a district conservationist or a snow surveyor, or a biologist or a conservation technician.  Our team provides one-on-one, personalized advice on the best solutions to meet the unique conservation and business goals of those who grow our nation’s food and fiber.  We help people make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the health of our air, water, soil, and habitat.  And we generate, manage and share the data, technology and standards that enable partners and policymakers to make decisions informed by objective, reliable science.

    Nothing is going to keep us from carrying out our mission.

    Leonard Jordan

    Acting Chief

    NRCS
    This electronic message contains information generated by the USDA solely for the intended recipients. Any unauthorized interception of this message or the use or disclosure of the information it contains may violate the law and subject the violator to civil or criminal penalties. If you believe you have received this message in error, please notify the sender and delete the email immediately.

  4. Is a Conservative Climate Movement Heating Up?

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    • Optimists see hope in growing GOP support for renewable energy, but many Republicans still steer clear of anything that says climate change.
  5. EPA Science Integrity Panel Says Pruitt’s Climate Denial Is Permissible

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    August 2 2017 Read full Inside Climate News article here

    A complaint was filed after Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator said on CNBC that carbon dioxide isn’t a main cause of global warming….

    …In a letter about this notion sent to Pruitt on Monday, leaders of 16 scientific societies cautioned that “the integrity of the scientific process cannot thrive when policymakers—regardless of party affiliation—use policy disagreements as a pretext to challenge scientific conclusions.”

  6. Electric cars win? Britain to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2040

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    By Kylie MacLellan and Guy Faulconbridge July 26 2017 read full Reuters article here

    LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 in an attempt to reduce air pollution that could herald the end of over a century of reliance on the internal combustion engine….

    The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centers by 2025, while the French government also aims to end the sale of new gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

    The British government has been under pressure to take steps to reduce air pollution after losing legal cases brought by campaign groups. Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives had pledged to make “almost every car and van” zero-emission by 2050….

  7. America’s Pledge: States, cities, businesses and citizens taking action to fight climate change

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    [Earlier this month] Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg [launched] America’s Pledge—an initiative to compile and quantify the actions of U.S. states, cities and businesses to drive down their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

    America’s Pledge will for the first time aggregate and quantify the commitments of these “non-state actors,” demonstrating to the international community that U.S. climate resolve remains strong despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris.

    …an unprecedented number of U.S. states, cities, and businesses have affirmed their support for the landmark climate deal, including through the We Are Still In” declaration signed by more than 1,500 businesses, nearly 200 cities and counties, nine states, and over 300 universities.

    This enthusiasm for climate action is as yet unquantified, but it’s vast and varied and growing every day:

    • …California Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders released a plan to extend through 2030 California’s cap-and-trade program. The program marshals market forces to motivate investment in low-carbon solutions, drive innovation, create jobs, and cut emissions cost-effectively.
    • Colorado announced it will be the 14th state in the newly formed U.S. Climate Alliance, whose members together represent over a third of the U.S. population and GDP. The states are committed to the U.S. meeting its Paris target of reducing emissions 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.
    • More than 350 Climate Mayors have adopted the Paris Agreement goals for their cities. And more than 100 U.S. cities both large and small have pledged to transition their communities to 100% clean energy.
    • About two-thirds or more of mayors who responded to a recent survey by C2ES and The U.S. Conference of Mayors said they generate or buy renewable electricity to power city buildings or operations, buy green vehicles for municipal fleets, and have energy efficiency policies for municipal buildings. And they want to partner with the private sector do more….
  8. How California Plans to Go Far Beyond Any Other State on Climate

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      Read full NY Times article here

    Last August, the State Legislature set a goal of slashing emissions more than 40 percent below today’s levels by 2030, a far deeper cut than President Barack Obama proposed for the entire United States and deeper than most other countries have contemplated. So how will California pull this off?

    On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law expanding the state’s cap-and-trade program, which is expected to play a big role. But cutting greenhouse gases this deeply will involve more than cap and trade. The state plans to rethink every corner of its economy, from urban planning to dairy farms.

    Until now, most states have followed a standard playbook for curbing emissions. Market forces have replaced older coal plants with cheaper and cleaner natural gas, while state mandates have added modest shares of wind and solar power to the grid. As a result, domestic carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent since 2005 at relatively little cost.

    But California has now plucked most of that low-hanging fruit. The state’s emissions are nearly back to 1990 levels, it barely uses any coal and it has installed as many solar panels as the rest of the country combined. Per capita, California has the third-lowest emissions in the nation, after New York and the District of Columbia, which means further cuts will come less easily than they would for a state like Texas.

    “Each additional increment of carbon reduction is tougher than the previous one,” said Dan Reicher, director of the Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford. He added, “California will have to reach deeper into the bag of technologies” to cut emissions from more stubborn polluters like oil refineries and cement plants.

    …In January, California’s Air Resources Board, which has broad latitude to carry out the state’s climate laws, detailed one possible strategy for cutting emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

    First, by law, California must get 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030, up from 25 percent today. That’s a herculean task in itself: The state is already straining to cope with sharp swings in solar power during afternoons and will soon have to juggle ever-larger shares of intermittent renewable electricity, by deploying batteries, reworking its grid or taking other novel approaches.

    Second, the board envisioned the number of electric cars and other zero-emissions vehicles on California’s roads rising to 4.2 million by 2030 from 250,000 today. Freight trucks would have to become more efficient or electrified, while cities would need to adopt far-reaching strategies to promote mass transit, biking and walking.

    But a major push on renewable power and transportation would get California just one-fourth of the way toward its goal. Other cuts would come from doubling efficiency savings from buildings and industry, no mean feat in a state that already has some of the strictest building codes in the country. The state would also need to lower the carbon content of its gasoline supply under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, possibly by increasing biofuel use.

    One-third of the reductions in the proposal would come from curbing emissions of methane — a potent greenhouse gas — from landfills, wastewater facilities and manure piles at dairy farms. No state has ever regulated agriculture so aggressively, and dairy farmers are pushing back, warning that capturing methane from millions of cows could prove untenable.

    …So, as a complement to these efforts, Mr. Brown insisted on expanding another major program: cap and trade.Mr. Brown has promoted California’s policies as a way of convincing the world that the United States won’t abandon the fight against climate change, even after Mr. Trump announced a withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. “I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track,” Mr. Brown said in May.

    California is responsible for only 1 percent of global emissions. But it could contribute even more to the world’s efforts by advancing new tools to tackle climate change, like floating deepwater wind farms.

    If the state stumbles, that could provide valuable lessons, too. By 2030, California plans to close its last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, which provides 9 percent of the state’s electricity. The idea is to replace that lost power with renewables and efficiency. If that proves unworkable, it could offer a warning to other states facing nuclear shutdowns.

    California’s push to make cap and trade effective could also have global ramifications, especially since Europe has failed to gain traction with its emissions-trading program and China is testing its own version

  9. Marin County joins San Mateo Co and City of Imperial Beach legal suit vs. fossil fuel giants; could be next big strategy for suing over climate change

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    • Two California coastal counties and one beach-side city touched off a possible new legal front in the climate change battle this week, suing dozens of major oil, coal, and other fossil fuel companies for the damages they say they will incur due to rising seas. Washington Post.
    • County contends that the companies knew for nearly 50 years that their fossil fuel products would cause sea level rise and coastal flooding but still failed either to warn the public or take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution – Read full Marin County Press Release hereJuly 17, 2017  County of Marin San Rafael, CA – Marin County Press Release …the County of Marin has joined two other jurisdictions[PDF] in filing complaints[PDF] in California Superior Court against 37 oil, gas and coal companies. Marin, the County of San Mateo and City of Imperial Beach contend that the companies knew for nearly 50 years that their fossil fuel products would cause sea level rise and coastal flooding but still failed either to warn the public or take steps to reduce their greenhouse gas pollution.
      An archive photo of a flooded Manzanita Park and Ride lot in the Tam Junction area.Seasonal flooding, depicted by this inundated parking lot at the Manzanita Park and Ride lot in the Tam Junction area of southern Marin, is becoming more and more commonplace. County of Marin

      ….According to the complaint, the companies “concealed the dangers, sought to undermine public support for greenhouse gas regulation, and engaged in massive campaigns to promote the ever-increasing use of their products at ever greater volumes.”“Sea level rise is here and we’re experiencing it first hand in Marin, as roadways continually flood with king tides and storms,” said District 3 Supervisor Kate Sears, a member of the Board’s subcommittees for sea level rise and the County’s Climate Action Plan…..

      Along Marin’s San Francisco Bay shoreline alone, an estimated $15.5 billion in assessed property is endangered by projected rises in ocean and bay levels, according to the County’s BayWAVE Vulnerability Assessment, completed in June. More than 12,000 homes, businesses and institutions could be at risk from tides and surge flooding by the year 2100.

      …In addition to sea level rise, Marin’s coastal communities are threatened by king tides and flooding, and severe storms will be frequent, longer-lasting, and more damaging.  A separate 2017 state sea level rise assessment projects that bay levels could rise by nearly seven feet by the end of this century if emissions continue unabated.

      The County has already spent millions of dollars on projects that help repair lands and infrastructure affected by rising sea levels and planning for its longer-term effects. After years of witnessing and paying for the effects of greenhouse gas emissions, County of Marin officials said enough is enough…

  10. California lawmakers approve cap-and-trade extension to 2030 in bipartisan effort to further reduce GHG emissions

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    July 17, 2017 LA Times  read full article here

    In a big victory for Gov. Jerry Brown, state lawmakers approved a 10-year extension for California’s cap-and-trade program. The vote came with bipartisan support, a significant shift from previous years where climate policies squeaked by along party lines or with only a handful of Republicans in favor.

    Cap and trade requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions. The legislation approved on Monday, Assembly Bill 398, will continue the program until 2030.  Lawmakers also approved related legislation, Assembly Bill 617, to improve air quality in polluted communities.

    …California’s program is the only one of its kind in the U.S. and has been considered an international model for using financial pressure to prod industry to reduce emissions. …

    …“California Republicans are different than national Republicans,” said Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley), who pushed members of his caucus to work with Democrats on the issue. “Many of us believe that climate change is real, and that it’s a responsibility we have to work to address it.” The legislation to extend cap and trade, Assembly Bill 398, passed 55 to 21 in the Assembly and 28 to 12 in the Senate….