Category Archives: Environment

Trump, Seeking to Fulfill Campaign Promise to ‘Put Coal Country Back to Work,’ Signs Legislation to End ‘Stream Protection Rule’

Donald Trump has been busy lifting environmental and financial regulations © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Donald Trump has been busy lifting environmental and financial regulations © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With great zeal, Donald Trump is dismantling environmental protections, regulations designed to mitigate climate change, and consumer financial protections intended to prevent another Great Recession that caused millions to lose their jobs, homes, retirement and college savings. With all the hullabaloo over Russian hacking of the election and Trump aides colluding with Russian operatives during the campaign, the firing of top National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who not only lied to VP Pence but also to federal authorities about his contact with Russia prior to the inauguration, the Trump Muslim/Travel Ban, and Trump’s attack on a free press, arguing that contrary to what is being reported, his new administration is a “fine tuned machine,” you likely have not heard about how Trump intends to make sure the machine is powered by dirty fuel and financed by deregulated banksters.

This from the White House pool press report by Adrian Carrasquillo, White House correspondent for BuzzFeed, at the signing of H.J. Res. 38:

The bill overturns the Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which was signed during the final month of the Obama administration, “addresses the impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, and the productivity of mining operation sites,” according to the Congress.gov summary of the resolution.

“By eliminating this rule I am continuing to keep my promise to get rid of wasteful regulations that do nothing, absolutely nothing, but slow down the economy, hamstring companies, push jobs to other countries, which is happening all over, although I must say we’ve stopped it,” Trump said. “You’ve seen all the factories, all the plants, they’re moving back, they’re going back to a lot of places. So you know that right, fellas? They’re moving back fast — Ford, General Motors, Fiat, so many, very happy. Compliance costs for this rule would be over $50 million a year for the coal industry alone, it’s unnecessary.”

in the Roosevelt room and flanked by House Republicans on his left and miners from West Virginia in hard hats on his right, POTUS signed the resolution that he said would “eliminate another terrible job-killing rule saving many thousands of American jobs especially in the mines, which I’ve been promising you. The miners are a big deal, I’ve had support from some of these folks right from the very beginning and I won’t forget it. We went to West Virginia and we had 17, 18,000 people and they couldn’t get into that big arena.”

Trump thanked House Republican leadership including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop and Rep. Bill Johnson.

McConnell, McCarthy, and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin were behind the president as he spoke. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus stood off to the side watching the president’s remarks. Pool has asked for a full list of who was in attendance.

 

Trump told the miners the rule was a major threat to their jobs and said there was “a spirit of optimism rising across the country.”

“How about one of the miners saying a few words. I hear Rand all the time,” Trump joked of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who was in the room.

Coal miner Michael Nelson, General Superintendent, of the Marion County Coal Company stepped to the microphone: “President Trump we thank you for everything you’ve done for us. Everything you’re doing for our industry is very much needed. I’ve been in this industry for 40 years and this is a very exciting time in our industry.”

Nelson said he worked for Marion County Coal Company in West Virginia and POTUS asked “How did I do in the area?” referencing the election. “Oh, you did great,” Nelson said to laughs in the room.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said “this is a lifeline to us, these miners they mine in West Virginia, it’s a source of pride for us as a state that we’ve been able to power this country, that we’ve had the opportunity to provide the energy to this country.”

Sen. Rand Paul said this is a big day for Kentucky and thanked Trump for getting rid of job-killing regulations. “I can promise you Eastern Kentucky voted 75% for Donald J. Trump,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the last eight years brought a “depression” to Eastern Kentucky. “Our folks are so excited to have a pro-coal president and we thank you so much for being on our side.”

A funny moment happened before the event concluded, Carrasquillo reported. POTUS got excited and invited the miners to the Oval Office and began to leave before having to be reminded that he had to actually sign the resolution first.

FULL LIST OF ATTENDEES:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito

Sen. Rand Paul

Sen. Joe Manchin

Rep. Bill Johnson,

Rep. David McKinley

Rep. Evan Jenkins

Rep. Jim Jordan

Rep. Morgan Griffith

Rep. Rob Bishop

Rep. Alex Mooney

Rep. Jim Renacci

Rep. Doug Lamborn

Hal Quinn, President and CEO, National Mining Association

Matt Evans, Vice President, Boich Companies

Robert Murray, Chairman, President and CEO, Murray Energy Corporation

Ryan Murray, Vice President, Murray Energy Corporation

Casey Crooks, Superintendent, American Energy Corporation

Kevin Hughes, General Manager, Murray Energy Corporation

Scott Martin, General Superintendent, The Harrison County Coal Company

Robert Moore, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, Murray Energy Corporation

John Hardison, General Manager, Anchor Longwall & Rebuld, Inc.

Eric Grimm, General Manager, The Marshall County Coal Company

Michael Carey, Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Murray Energy Corporation

Gary Broadbent, Senior Corporate Counsel and Director of Investor and Media Relations, Murray Energy Corporation

Michael Nelson, General Superintendent, The Marion County Coal Company

Here is the notice from the White House.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: PUTTING COAL COUNTRY BACK TO WORK

LETTING COAL COUNTRY WORK AGAINToday, President Donald J. Trump signed legislation (House Joint Resolution 38) to stop the costly “Stream Protection Rule” from further harming coal workers and the communities that depend on them.

  • H.J. Res. 38 blocks an overly burdensome regulation from harming the coal industry.

o   The regulation was expected to reduce coal production, leading to fewer coal jobs across the country.

o   The blocked regulation threatened the coal industry with millions of dollars in compliance costs.

o   Complying with the regulation would have put an unsustainable financial burden on small mines, most of which are in the Appalachian Basin.

  • The blocked regulation would have duplicated existing regulations already in place to protect Americans.

GIVING COAL COUNTRY RELIEF: Since 2009, the coal industry has declined, leaving workers and communities without a lifeline.

  • Since January 2009, the coal mining industry has lost over 36,000 jobs without any relief in sight.
  • From 2009 to 2015, coal production declined by over 177,000,000 tons across the country.
  • From 2009 to 2015, over 600 coal mines closed.

A PROMISE TO COAL WORKERS: Before President Trump’s inauguration, he promised coal workers he would support them and reverse the harmful actions of the past administration.

  • November 21, 2016, the Trump-Pence Transition Team pledged to “end the war on coal” and review harmful regulations created under the Obama Administration.
  • September 22, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump called out harmful coal regulations: “I will rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.”
  • August 8, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump pledged to the American people: “We will put our coal miners and steel workers back to work.”

GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE WAY: President Trump has been steadfast in his commitment to reducing the regulatory burden on all Americans, their pocketbooks, and their businesses.

  • President Trump has required that for every new Federal regulation, two existing regulations be eliminated.
  • President Trump has placed a moratorium on all new regulations by executive departments and agencies that are not compelled by Congress or public safety.
  • President Trump directed the Commerce Department to streamline Federal permitting processes for domestic manufacturing and to reduce regulatory burdens on domestic manufacturers.
  • President Trump signed an Executive Order expediting the environmental review and approval processes for domestic infrastructure projects.
  • President Trump signed legislation to eliminate a costly regulation that threatened to put domestic extraction companies and their employees at an unfair disadvantage.
  • President Trump directed the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct a full review of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act to ensure associated, burdensome regulations receive proper scrutiny.
  • President Trump ordered re-examination of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, to make certain that it does not harm Americans as they save for retirement.

 

Long Islanders Join Statewide Rallies for Climate Action, Tell Schumer to ‘Resist Trump’

Long Islanders join statewide rallies for climate action to tell Senator Schumer to act as a leader and ‘Resist Trump’ © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Long Islanders join statewide rallies for climate action to tell Senator Schumer to act as a leader and ‘Resist Trump’ © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

“Resist Trump” was the chant by some 300 environmental activists who rallied outside Senator Charles Schumer’s Long Island office in Melville during a statewide day of action, February 2. Similar rallies were being held at all eight of Schumer’s offices throughout New York State to demand that he show bold leadership to protect public health and the environment by telling Senators to use every tool at their disposal to challenge the corporate takeover of our democracy and reject Trump’s nominees and policies that would decimate the climate and the environment.

“Schumer’s announcement on January 30 that he will vote against several Trump nominees is a sign that he is hearing the message coming from the grassroots. Voting against oil and gas insiders is just the first step to resisting Trump’s anti-environmental agenda—bigger battles over drastic EPA budget cuts, clean air regulations, climate change, and fossil fuel drilling are on the horizon,” stated Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch, the leading organizer of the Long Island rally.

Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch: “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch: “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Donald Trump has wasted no time in setting out a clear agenda that threatens fundamental environmental protections. With clean air and water under attack, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer must lead his colleagues in standing strong against Trump’s science-denying Cabinet appointments and his climate-destroying plans,.

Weltman declared, “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance. He must vigorously oppose cabinet appointments, lead the charge against Trump’s plans to slash EPA budget, dismantle the EPA, resist plans for the Dakota and Keystone pipelines. He must motivate his fellow Democrats.

“Each day, we are sicker, more depressed, more fearful,” said Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org. “As difficult as these days have been, we are more worried about the days ahead. The small gains in climate action will be overturned, we will go back 70 years to the point of no return…

“Trump’s friends are not concerned about our future of the country or the planet. Their only god is profit. They are determined to frack more land, pollute more air. Make America Great Again? No, make a small group of millionaires even richer, plundering our lands.

Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org: “We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org: “We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“You may have said you are tired of fighting. That it’s hopeless. But you must continue to fight for environmental, economic, racial, social justice. Turn your anger into action for change…. A Small group of citizens can change the world. One person becomes a group, a group becomes a crowd. People power grows exponentially. Don’t tell me people’s protests don’t matter. They build consensus, a movement.

Long Island environmental activists tell Senator Schumer, “Resist Trump” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Long Island environmental activists tell Senator Schumer, “Resist Trump” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The anti-Trump movement already eclipses the Tea Party at its height by 20 points. Democrats are finding our voice. Dissent and protest is happening on a greater scale. The New York Times in an editorial said Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by new ones. [Neil] Gorsuch doesn’t deserve confirmation [for the Supreme Court] because the process leading to his nomination was illegitimate.”

Democrats have to mobilize for the local elections in 2017, try to flip the House and/or the Senate and take more state positions in 2018.

“We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.”

Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the LI Progressive Coalition, said the Trump election is a Trojan horse for corporate interests. “Pruitt, Sessions, Perry – every one a threat to the climate, the environment and our institutions… Attacks against environment, climate have the worst impacts on folks with the least ability to do something about it.” It’s a matter of economic and climate justice.

Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club: “There is no alternate planet” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club: “There is no alternate planet” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club said simply, “There is no alternate planet. You can’t eat or drink money – maybe you can burn it for heat. Schumer, do your job.”

Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky of Clean Air Water Soil declared, “We want leadership from Schumer… We thought fracking was over in New York State. It might be coming back.” The Navy was the responsible agency for cleaning up the Grumman plume at Bethpage, Trump wants to walk away from paying for clean up, he said.

Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky lead a new environmental advocacy group, Clean Air Water Soil © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky lead a new environmental advocacy group, Clean Air Water Soil © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

People carried signs such as “Tax Carbon. Trump Too.” “Tell the Con Man in Chief: You Can’t Fool Mother Nature. Take Climate Action.” A young boy held a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” Others urged Schumer to “Resist Trump” and “Be a Leader.”

Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, resistance to Trump already exceeds that of the Tea Party at its peak © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, resistance to Trump already measureably exceeds that of the Tea Party at its peak © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The group then marched through the parking lot to the front of Schumer’s Long Island office and a few of the leaders, who had appointments, hand-delivered petitions, reporting back  that they were well received. “We’ll be back,” he said.

The simultaneous actions took place at all eight of Schumer’s New York offices (Buffalo, Rochester,  Syracuse,  Binghamton,  Albany,  Peekskill,  Melville and Manhattan), as well as in Washington, DC.

A boy carries a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
A boy carries a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Sponsoring organizations include: Food & Water Watch, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Sierra Club, NYPIRG, MoveOn, Long Island Activists, Reach Out America, Slow Food North Shore, iEatGreen, 350.org, Long Island Clean Air Water & Soil, Public Citizen, Greenpeace

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Trump to Auto Execs: Don’t Worry About Environmental Regulations, Permits

Women’s March Protesters kept at a distance from the White House on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Many called for protecting the environment and climate. Donald Trump is dismissive, telling auto manufacturers that environmental regulations “are out of control.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Women’s March Protesters kept at a distance from the White House on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. Many called for protecting the environment and climate. Donald Trump is dismissive, telling auto manufacturers that environmental regulations “are out of control.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

George Condon, National Journal, reports on Donald Trump’s meeting with auto executives earlier today:

The president, accompanied by the vice president, entered the Roosevelt Room at 9:11, shook hands and greeted the auto executives who had been standing around on one side of the table waiting for him and chatting with top administration officials. The executives took their seats at the table and the president gave brief welcoming remarks before the pool exited at 9:16.

Transcript of remarks to come. But the tenor was set even before everybody sat down when he playfully said to two of the executives “start building in the U.S.”

As everyone sat down, he was the gentleman and held the chair for Mary T. Barra of General Motors, saying, “Let me help you with that.” After thanking them for coming, he assured them “you’re not being singled out.” Of job creation, he said, “It’s happening; it’s happening big league.” He added, “We’re bringing jobs back to the U.S. big league.” He talked of regulations and the need to control them. He brought up environmental regs, saying, “I am an environmentalist…. But it’s out of control.” He promised that they would get answers on their permits much faster than they are now.

The president sat in the center chair. To his right was Barra, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of General Motors, then Craig Glidden of GM, then Steve Bannon. Across the table from Bannon was Stephen Miller, then Jared Kushner, the Gov. Matt Blunt, then Mark Fields of Ford, Ziad Ojakli of Ford, Hope Hicks, then Priebus. Back on the president’s side of the table, it was Sergio Marchionne of Fiat to the president’s left, then Shane Karr of the alliance of automobile manufacturers, and Josh Pitcock of the vice president’s office. The vice president sat directly across the table from the president. In other small talk, the president kidded Marchionne about having spent the night flying to get to the meeting. And he wished one of the executives, Mark Fields, a happy birthday.

Here are his notes of what Trump told the executives:

“I want to just thank you all for being here. We have a very big push on to have auto plants and other plants, many other plants. You’re not being singled out, believe me, Mary, I promise. But you have a lot of plants from a lot of different items built in the United States. And it’s happening, it’s happening big league.

“We had Whirlpool up yesterday, we’re talking about big construction facilities. And it’s not the construction I want although that brings jobs. It’s the long term jobs that we’re looking for.

“We’re bringing manufacturing back to the United States big league, we’re reducing taxes very substantially and we’re reducing unnecessary regulations. And we want regulations but we want real regulation that mean something.

“Mark and I were together yesterday and I think we understand that. We’re going to make the process much more simple for the auto companies and for everybody else who wants to do business in the United States.

“You’re going to find this to be from being very inhospitable to extremely hospitable. I think we’ll go down as one of the most friendly countries and right now it’s not.”

“I have friends that want to build in the United States, they go many, many years and then they can’t get their environmental permit over something that nobody ever heard of before. And it’s absolutely crazy.

“I am, to a large extent, an environmentalist, I believe in it. But it’s out of control and we’re going to make it a very short process. And we’re going to either give you your permits or we’re not going to give you your permits. But you’re going to know very quickly. And generally speaking we’re going to be giving you your permits.

“And it is an honor to be with you today.”

Lessons From the Historic Women’s March: How to Counter Trump

The Capitol Building still draped in flags for Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before, 750,000 crammed the National Mall to stand up for Women’s Rights and Human Rights © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
The Capitol Building still draped in flags for Donald Trump’s inauguration the day before, 750,000 crammed the National Mall to stand up for Women’s Rights and Human Rights © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

It’s already begun. The unraveling of eight years of progress under Obama. Contrast their first actions: Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act so women can have a legal remedy for pay equity. Trump signed  an executive orders to dismantle Obamacare and to withhold funding from any NGO anywhere that funds abortions.

Donald Trump doesn’t care that more than twice as many people came out to protest his illegitimately gained presidency, his morals and his agenda than came out to support his inauguration (I was at both. I saw despite the lies that Trump is spewing.) His warped ego will probably take it as a matter of pride that more than 500,000 people descended on Washington from all over the country while millions more filled out gargantuan protests in NYC (400,000), Los Angeles (750,000), Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis – indeed, all across the US – plus cities in 50 countries including Paris, London, Sydney.

Nasty Canadian Women at the Women’s March on Washington © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Nasty Canadian Women at the Women’s March on Washington © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

They came out to declare: Women’s Rights are Human Rights, women are not chattel, a mere vessel (vassal) to harbor an embryo. And so women and their men and children were standing up for reproductive rights, access to health care, gun safety, climate action, immigration reform, criminal justice, pay equity, public education, voting rights, campaign finance  – all those things that together constitute “women’s issues”. Economic justice, climate justice, criminal justice, social justice, political justice, national security and peace in the world are all “women’s issues.”

“From the shores of Sydney, Australia to the tundra of Kodiak, Alaska we marched. Signs held high, our voices carried across Little Rock, Arkansas and Nashville, Tennessee, Phoenix, Arizona and Lansing, Michigan. Pink knit hats stretched as far as the eye could see in London, England, New York City, Los Angeles, California and Washington DC,” writes Heidi L. Sieck, Co-Founder/CEO,  #VOTEPROCHOICE.

We Can Do It © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
We Can Do It © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In fact, this was the single largest political demonstration day of protest in US history and most certainly the largest outpouring of opposition at the opening of a new administration. Trump, who lost the popular vote by 2.6 million and carried only 42% of The Women’s Vote, comes into the White House with the lowest favorability rating probably since Lincoln, and 20 points lower than the outgoing president, Barack Obama.

And if Trump would actually have listened to his own nonsensical, dystopian, bizarre inaugural speech, he would realize that the women, men and children who protested rightfully have the political power that Trump said no longer resided in Washington.

“January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again,” Trump intoned. “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now…. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.”

Scream so he hears you! Donald Trump turned a deaf ear to the protesters, making sure they couldn’t get near the White House. But the nearly million strong roared loud enough to shake the venerable buildings © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Scream so he hears you! Donald Trump turned a deaf ear to the protesters, making sure they couldn’t get near the White House. But the nearly million strong roared loud enough to shake the venerable buildings © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And yet, Trump managed to turn a deaf ear to the roars from the Women’s March that literally shook buildings with its force (yet he had to see them because his motorcade drove through twice on his way to the CIA).

In his first 100 days, what Trump vows to do would undo the progress of 100 years, violating the will of the vast majority of Americans.

But here it is: Trump managed to resurrect a militant feminism that, frankly, was dormant during the election campaign when Hillary Clinton could have, should have (in fact did, were it not for the Electoral College), break that ultimate glass ceiling to run the White House. Women of all ages, all races and creeds, and men and children, marching together in solidarity. A man carried a sign saying “I can’t believe we’re still fighting for this”.

I’m With Her © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
I’m With Her © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Now what will those who marched do? What will happen? Will that energy and activism be sustained against the forces of disillusionment, frustration, paralyzing despair and self-preserving apathy? Or will they return home feeling vindicated and affirmed that their fears and concerns are real and they are not to be silenced? I think they will return empowered, invigorated with a mission, with a voice, a language to articulate grievances and a clarity of purpose. Indeed, the Women’s March organizers are posting 10 action items for the first 100 Days at womensmarch.com.

Also, there are ways and avenues and organizations to channel that rage and turn it into strategic, well articulated constructive action, in order to fight against the despair that will come when we aren’t able to immediately stop the steamroll of anti-democratic, regressive initiatives that come from the Trump/Republican camarilla.

Donald Trump may not care about the protests, feeling somehow above and immune in his bubble of sycophants. In a creepy way, he probably drew orgasmic delight that 4 million people around the world focused their attention on him, no matter that he was the target of their contempt, disdain and hatred.

Women’s Marchers in numbers hard to ignore by Congressmen, Senators, State Legislators© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Women’s Marchers in numbers hard to ignore by Congressmen, Senators, State Legislators© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But Congressmen know. Senators know. State legislators know. And they should be quaking in the reverberation of the marchers. And that’s where the focus has to be. This is Day 1 of the 2017 campaign to take back state offices. This is Day One to take back the House and/or the Senate in 2018. Because taking just one house would cut Trump’s Presidency to 2 years instead of an excruciating 4.

That is, if he isn’t impeached first for his corrupt business practices and likely collusion with Russia (not likely with a Republican Congress that clearly doesn’t care about actual illegalities like blatant violations of emoluments clause of Constitution and conflicts of interest that go against the national interest). He is more likely to be removed by a military coup when he orders bombing civilians, repopulating Guantanamo with prisoners snatched up with bounties, reopening black sites in order to torture, or, as he told the CIA, getting a second chance at taking Iraq’s oil because, you know, he learned as a boy “to the victor belong the spoils.”

Marching Forward We Won’t Go Back © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching Forward We Won’t Go Back © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Individually, we feel powerless, but collectively we have power. And it starts with pressing our village and city mayors, town and county supervisors, state representatives, governors and Congressmen need to be bold – like the San Francisco and New York mayors vowing to repulse Trump’s attack on sanctuary cities, governors like Cuomo in New York State standing up for a climate action agenda and protecting women’s reproductive rights; generals vowing to reject an order to bomb civilians or torture terror suspects. It’s newspapers being willing to lose privileged “access” and risking lawsuits to publish investigations. It’s government workers with the courage to be whistleblowers.

By these measures, the simple act of voting would seem an easy way to counter Trumpism, yet a disgraceful number don’t even do this; people need to start early to get registered to vote and vote in every election, especially local and state elections and not just the presidential.

But all of this requires us to stay active. We have to resist being immobilized by despair (that’s their strategy) and take action. If it seems too overwhelming with everything being thrown at us, just pick one or two issues to stay on top.

How to counter Trump?

Just a smattering of the signs left by the 750,000 Women’s Marchers, wanting to leave a message for Washington policy makers © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Just a smattering of the signs left by the 750,000 Women’s Marchers, wanting to leave a message for Washington policy makers © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Conflicts of Interest: Support Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s legislation that would require Trump to disclose his business holdings and require him to disclose his tax forms. Investigate – after all, what is Government Oversight Committee for, beyond investigating Benghazi and Clinton’s emails? Sue for violations of the emoluments clause, for Trump Hotel in Washington violating the law that prevents an elected official from leasing property from the federal government. Impeach Trump and any of his lackeys for their self-serving, self-dealing conflicts of interest.  Boycott Trump’s business holdings and the corporations that enable him, including Trump Hotels and golf courses, “Celebrity Apprentice,” and Fox News.

Cabinet appointments: Democrats will be unable to stop Trump’s appointments, thanks to the hypocritical Republican lapdogs. But Senate Democrats have a duty to expose their self-interest conflicts, their ineptitude, their extraordinary lack of qualifications so that they will be put on notice that their actions will be scrutinized.

“Through cutting-edge reports, social media, newspapers, radio and TV, and much more, we’re going to highlight this rogues’ gallery’s history of law-breaking, how their corporate ties will corrupt policymaking, and how their reactionary views will harm everyday Americans.” says Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen (citizen.org).

Dissent is patriotic © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dissent is patriotic © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

What should Senate, House Democrats do? Oppose with every tool and tactic they can the anti-Democratic principles, including using the Republican tactics against them like the filibuster, holds on nominations, lawsuits, articles of impeachment  (though McConnell and Ryan will likely take away the very tools they used to unprecedented degree). That isn’t the same thing as opposing for opposing sake, to make the president fail, as Republicans did even as Obama was trying to keep the country from economic collapse. But Democrats are obligated to fight back where the agenda destroys progress. What Democrats should not do? Try to appeal to the pseudo-populism and the mythical “poor” “underserved” “voiceless” white working class, as if they are the only “real Americans” who matter. And yes, they should sue the Trump Administration just as the Republicans sued Obama over DACA and Obamacare. If Republicans don’t offer any means to compromise or impact policy, Democrats should go nuclear.

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Support the Fourth Estate – the journalists who fulfill their function of investigating and being a watchdog on government and powerful interests. Be vigilant in calling out falsehoods, fake news and propaganda. That means that when the economy goes down, unemployment  goes up, tens of thousands die without access to health care and Trump and the Republicans blame Obama and the Democrats, that The Media hold them to account. Write letters to the editor, comments online. Alert news media to issues. Defend journalists who are doing their job. Cultivate social media networks to counter the right-wing propaganda machine. The success of the Women’s March to rally support solely through social media shows these networks have taken root.

Fight the rabidly regressive agenda that Trump/Republicans will steamroll through in the first 100 days. The more that Republicans refuse to accept compromise or allow Democrats to participate in forming policy, the more militant the opposition has to become. Boycott, strike, protest, rally. Use your body, your voice, your pen.

Respect Existence or Expect Resistance© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Respect Existence or Expect Resistance© 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Sue. Sue. Sue. “Presidents do not rule by fiat,” declared Mitch Bernard, Chief Operating Officer, for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Donald Trump may not simply undo international agreements, overrule enacted laws, or violate environmental regulations on his own say so. If — when — he ignores environmental laws, NRDC will meet him in court. And we’re gearing up to give him the fight of his life.”

The Trump/Republican strategy (copied from Karl Rove and the Bush/Cheney debacle) is to have so many outrages coming so fast, deflecting attention and paralyzing any action, and more significantly to normalize the destructive actions simply by being equivalent or (imagine) not as bad as the previous outrage.

Putin$ Puppet. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Putin$ Puppet. © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“In the face of Trump’s parade of horribles,” says Robert Reich of MoveOn.org, “it would be easy (and understandable) for people to get numb, hunker down, and pray that they’ll make it through the next four years. But human history teaches us of the perils of complacency and fear in response to political extremism and violence.”

If it is too paralyzing because of all the issues that are infuriating to your core, pick one, two or a few to focus on – keep active and aware of what Trump and his collaborators in the Congress and the Cabinet are doing. Write, call, visit, rally at representatives’ offices. Speak up to family, friends and neighbors. Go to town halls and civic meetings. You cannot be a Silent Majority.

I’m With Mommy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
I’m With Mommy © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Support key organizations – give what you can – because they will need money to lobby, sue, organize protests and petition campaigns, can offer language for legislation and expose facts about the impacts of overturning regulations allowing corporations to pollute the air and water; repealing the Affordable Care Act, (losing 3 million jobs, adding billions to the budget deficit, depriving 18 million newly insured people of access to health care, instead of saving 87,000 lives, seeing 36,000 die needlessly for lack of health care); of the public health, environmental, economic, international repercussions of rolling back climate action. (Caveat: Organizations can’t just seize on the latest outrage to fundraise without actually doing something.)

Some worthy organizations that have outlined effective strategies to beat back the forces of darkness include National Resources Defense Council (NRDC.org), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF.org), League of Conservation Voters (LCV.org), MoveOn.org, EmilysList.org, WomensMarch.com, PlannedParenthood.org, Public Citizen (citizen.org), just to list a few.

Standing up for women’s rights © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Standing up for women’s rights © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Together, we must resist the Trump Dynasty with everything we’ve got — starting with marches all over the country today,” declared Robert Weissman of Public Citizen. “It won’t be easy. We can be honest about that. The fights that matter most rarely are. But with all of our vigilance, all of our acumen, all of our strength, we can — we will — prevail over greed and hatred and corruption.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

NYS Governor Gives His Support for Long Island to Sign Deal for Offshore Windpower

Long Island activists rally for offshore windpower at LI Power Authority.
Long Island activists rally for offshore windpower at LI Power Authority.

 

Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

On January 25, activists who have been fighting for decades for clean, renewable energy in order to end our society’s dangerous addiction to fossil fuels, are hoping they will finally be able to pop the champagne corks when the Long Island Power Authority Board approves a power purchase agreement for off-shore wind power for the East End.

Indeed, just a week after the Block Island Wind Farm began producing power, New York labor unions, civic and environmental organizations and elected officials hosted a rally outside of Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) praising LIPA for expressing support of offshore wind power and its anticipated vote on Jan. 25 to move forward on the nation’s largest offshore wind project. Over 100 gathered in front of LIPA, in the largest show of Long Island’s support for offshore wind to date.

Located off the east end of Long Island, Deepwater Wind’s 90-megawatt, 15-turbine project will produce enough energy to power about 50,000 Long Island homes by 2022. This pivotal decision, opening a new era for Long Island’s energy economy, would eliminate the need for LIPA to build a new fossil fuel-fired plant to meet the region’s energy needs. Keep in mind that Long Island officials keep saying the impediment to businesses coming here are the high energy costs.

Now the activists are calling on LIPA to move forward on the Island-Wide renewable energy Request for Proposal in early 2017 which could include another 210 MW of offshore wind off of Long Island’s south fork. (Europe already generates 12,100 megawatts of off-shore wind energy).

Meanwhile, in the waning days of the Obama Administration (and not a moment too soon), the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), awarded Statoil Wind US LLC, a private company from Norway that specializes in oil and gas, the lease to develop an off-shore wind farm on 80,000 acres some 12 miles off of Long Island’s south shore. Statoil’s $42.5 million bid beat out NYSERDA, the New York State energy research development agency, which had wanted to win so it could be the lead agency and expedite development of off-shore windpower for New York.

The project could provide 800 megawatts of offshore wind power in an area 17 miles south of the Rockaway Peninsula.

Now that it will be the domain of a private company, New York customers- like LIPA and Con Ed – will likely have to compete with New Jersey and others. LIPA needs to lock in supply, with a Power Purchase Agreement and details on where the company can run its cables on to shore, and do so before the Trumpsters try to overturn the lease altogether. Recall this is the same area where a private company wanted to site the Port Ambrose Liquified Natural Gas facility, which would have shut down the possibility of any wind farm.

The incoming Trump Administration’s determination to reverse course on a transition to clean, renewable energy, and return us to dependency on fossil fuels – no matter the impact on climate, the environment and ecology, no matter how it basically indentures residents and businesses to ever higher prices for energy, no matter how it endangers national security –  means it will be up to the states to continue progress.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has set a goal of producing 50% of New York’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and 80% by 2050, with an ultimate goal of 100%. Developing offshore wind power – and a wholly new industry for Long Island – is essential for achieving those targets, along with solar, geothermal and hydro power sources (East Hampton has passed legislation that it would get 100 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources.)

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address at SUNY Farmingdale, Long Island, declares his support to develop offshore windpower, beginning with 90 megawatts to serve the East End, and ultimately 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power in the Atlantic Ocean by 2030 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address at SUNY Farmingdale, Long Island, declares his support to develop offshore windpower, beginning with 90 megawatts to serve the East End, and ultimately 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power in the Atlantic Ocean by 2030 © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Governor Cuomo made major news during his State of the State message at SUNY Farmingdale on Long Island, announced that New York is committed to building 2,400 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind power by 2030 – enough to power 1.25 million homes. The Governor also pledged his support for New York’s first, and the nation’s largest, offshore wind project off the east end of Long Island.

“We have to start to do some big things, we have to do big things in renewable energy to get that cost to power down on Long Island,” he stated. “And we have wind power, we’ve had wind power for years. Offshore wind farms work. They can be done right, they can be done correctly, they don’t have to be an eyesore.

“I’m calling on LIPA to approve a 90 megawatt wind farm. It’s enough to support 50,000 homes. They will not be visible from the beach. They will be 30 miles southeast of Montauk. Not even Superman standing on Montauk Point could see these wind farms. But the upside is tremendous. It will be the largest offshore wind project in our nation’s history, not just in existence. It’s jobs. It’s clean energy and it’s inexpensive energy which then drives the economy. And we are not going to stop there. We have a mandate of 50 percent renewable power by the year 2030. We want to get 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 and we are not going to stop until we reach 100 percent renewable because that’s what a sustainable New York is really all about.”

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address at SUNY Farmingdale, Long Island says the ultimate goal is generating 100% of the state’s energy needs from renewable sources © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State address at SUNY Farmingdale, Long Island says the ultimate goal is generating 100% of the state’s energy needs from renewable sources © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Offshore wind power is especially important in light of Cuomo’s pronouncement in his State of the State address that the Indian Point nuclear plant, which theoretically generates 2000 megawatts of energy, will be shut down by 2021.

The Atlantic waters off Long Island has some of the best conditions for off-shore windpower production in North America, if not the world. Dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of offshore wind” we could be the epicenter for a new American energy industry, already $20 billion globally. Scientists and engineers at SUNY Stony Brook are developing new battery storage systems and monitoring controls. Wind turbines need to be manufactured, installed, monitored and maintained, producing thousands of everlasting jobs along with the wind power.

And unlike fossil fuels, where the prices are unpredictable except they almost always go up (oil and gas, after all, are finite resources, costly to develop, process and deliver), wind power is a predictable, stable price that is on a trajectory to come down, not up.

“It’s been a marathon of work and effort to bring wind power to Long Island, but we are at the last mile and moving closer to the finish line,” Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment said at the Dec. 20 rally. “Long Islanders are ready for offshore wind. We have assessed the science, the economics and the societal benefits and we concluded that wind works as an important mainstream energy source. We can longer be fossil fools and deny the consequences of climate change.”

“With Donald Trump about to occupy the White House, it’s essential that states like New York take the lead in transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Eric Weltman, Senior Organizer, Food & Water Watch stated. “Climate change could be catastrophic to New York, but with the fossil fuel industry poised to set federal energy policy, we need Governor Cuomo to lead a clean energy revolution. Having banned fracking, a next crucial step is for New York to move forward with the nation’s largest offshore wind farm.”

Come out to the LIPA board meeting on January 25 to show your support.

If they build it, we will come.

To learn more about Reforming the Energy Vision, including the Governor’s $5 billion investment in clean energy technology and innovation, visit www.ny.gov/REV4NY and follow @Rev4NY.

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

 

Shoring Up His Climate Action Legacy, Obama Bans Future Oil Drilling in Atlantic, Arctic Ocean Areas

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

WASHINGTON – President Obama has taken action to ban future mineral extraction from huge sways of offshore areas in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans to protect these ecologically sensitive marine environments from the impacts of any future oil and gas exploration and development.

Obama used a little-known law called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to protect large portions of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in the Arctic and a string of canyons in the Atlantic stretching from Massachusetts to Virginia. In addition to a five-year moratorium already in place in the Atlantic, removing the canyons from drilling puts much of the eastern seaboard off limits to oil exploration even if companies develop plans to operate around them.

The announcement by the White House was coordinated with similar steps being taken by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to shield large areas of that nation’s Arctic waters from drilling.

The withdrawal does not restrict other uses of these federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf, and will help to sustain commercial and recreational fisheries in the Atlantic to support fishing-dependent communities, as well as the harvest of marine resources on which many Alaska Native communities rely for subsistence use and cultural traditions.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded President Obama’s announcement saying, “The President’s bold action recognizes the vulnerable marine environments in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, their critical and irreplaceable ecological value, as well as the unique role that commercial fishing and subsistence use plays in the regions’ economies and cultures,” Secretary Jewell said. “The withdrawal will help build the resilience of these vital ecosystems, provide refuges for at-risk species, sustain commercial fisheries and subsistence traditions, and create natural laboratories for scientists to monitor and explore the impacts of climate change.”

The withdrawal areas announced encompass 3.8 million acres in the north and mid-Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast and 115 million acres in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Including previous presidential withdrawals, the {resident’s action protects nearly 125 million acres in the offshore Arctic from future oil and gas activity.

In the Atlantic, the withdrawal decision protects 31 canyons, extending from Heezen Canyon offshore New England to Norfolk Canyon offshore of the Chesapeake Bay. The largest, Hudson Canyon, reaches depths greater than 10,000 feet, comparable in scale to the Grand Canyon, which is 6,093 feet at its deepest. The canyons are regions of enhanced biodiversity, home to numerous species including deep-water corals, deep-diving beaked whales, commercially valuable fish, and significant numbers of habitat-forming soft and hard corals, sponges and crabs.

The canyon region is home to several fish stocks managed as Highly Migratory Species, including commercially valuable marlin, sailfish, swordfish, tuna and sharks. These geologic features also provide important habitat for a number of protected species including beaked, sperm and sei whales, many of which show an affinity to canyon ecosystems as compared to other Atlantic waters.

The President’s action will preserve critical ecological hot spots, helping to protect habitats important to Atlantic fisheries. The designation also affords long-term opportunity for research and exploration, and helps ensure that species dependent on the canyon habitats are protected. It also builds on protections established by the recent creation of the Frank R. Lautenberg Deep Sea Coral Protection Area. This protected region, created by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Fishery Management Council and approved by NOAA, prohibits bottom trawling in all the canyons in the region.

In addition to numerous requests from local and regional officials to protect these offshore resources, 145 prominent marine scientists issued a public letter in September 2015, voicing their conclusion that the threats to the unique marine environment in this region warranted permanent protection to preserve intact ecosystems. These concerns are informed by a number of research findings, including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study that found ocean temperatures in the Northeast U.S. Shelf are projected to warm three times faster than the global average and a climate vulnerability assessment on fish and invertebrate species in the region that concluded warming oceans due to climate change threaten the majority of fish species in the area, including salmon, lobster, and scallops. The President’s action builds on his establishment of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, which protects 4,913 square miles of marine ecosystems located 130 miles southeast of Cape Cod. The withdrawal protects major Atlantic canyons that are not in the National Monument.

The President’s Arctic withdrawal, which encompasses the entire U.S. Chukchi Sea and significant portions of the U.S. Beaufort Sea, will provide critical protection for these vibrant and fragile offshore ecosystems, which are home to marine mammals and other important ecological resources and marine species on which many Alaska Native communities rely for subsistence and cultural traditions. These include several species of seals; Pacific walrus; polar bears; more than 98 fish species; a number of whale species, such as the bowhead, gray and beluga; many bird species, including waterfowl such as eiders, long-tailed duck and geese; and shorebirds such as the red-necked phalarope.

“Risks associated with oil and gas activity in the remote, harsh and undeveloped Arctic are not worth taking when the nation has ample energy sources near existing infrastructure,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, the Director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “Oil spill response and clean-up raises unique challenges in the Arctic and a spill could have substantial impacts on the region, particularly given the ecosystem fragility and limited available resources to respond to a spill.”

The withdrawal does not affect existing leases in these federal offshore waters and would not affect a nearshore area of the Beaufort Sea, totaling about 2.8 million acres, that has high oil and gas potential and is adjacent to existing state oil and gas activity and infrastructure. While there are significant concerns about oil and gas activity occurring in this area, it will be subject to additional evaluation and study to determine if new leasing could be appropriate at some point in the future. Interior’s five year offshore leasing program for 2017-2022 does not include lease sales in this area or in the withdrawn areas.

The U.S. Arctic Ocean is characterized by harsh environmental conditions, geographic remoteness, and a relative lack of fixed infrastructure and existing oil and gas operations. Despite the substantial steps this Administration has taken to improve the safety of potential Arctic exploration, there would still be significant risks associated with offshore drilling operations and the consequences of an oil spill in this region could be substantially detrimental to the ecosystem.

Climate change-induced temperature increases are occurring fastest in Polar Regions, including the U. S. Arctic, resulting in a disproportionate amount of changes to the Arctic environments, including reduction in seasonal ice cover. Loss of sea ice coverage reduces the available habitat for ice-dependent species such as seals, polar bears, and Pacific walrus. Such conditions and stressors may increase the vulnerability of these species and habitat and reduce their resilience to impacts of oil and gas activities.

The Arctic withdrawals build on past actions the President has taken to protect fragile ecosystems and build resilience in the face of climate change, including the Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience AreaChukchi and Beaufort Seas areas placed off limits to oil and gas leasing earlier this year; and the Bristol Bay withdrawal in 2014.

Further scientific analysis related to the President’s withdrawal proclamation is available here for the Arctic and here for the Atlantic.

Maps of the areas related to President’s withdrawal proclamation are available here for the Arctic and here for the Atlantic.

Obama Administration Implements New Actions to Bring Clean Energy Savings to All Americans

Solar energy array, Greece. Even as President Obama works to make clean, renewable energy readily available for all Americans, the incoming Trump Administration is likely to reverse course in favor of boosting fossil fuels. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Solar energy array, Greece. Even as President Obama works to make clean, renewable energy readily available for all Americans, the incoming Trump Administration is likely to reverse course in favor of boosting fossil fuels. © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Even as President Obama works frantically in the closing days of his administration to facilitate a transition to clean, renewable energy in order to address the climate change crisis, the incoming occupier Donald Trump has called Climate Change a hoax perpetrated by China to weaken the US economy, and has promised to ease the way for domestic oil and gas production and coal mining. 

The news that the largest domestic oil & gas field in US history has just been unearthed in Texas by the US Geological Survey – 20 billion gallons ($900B worth) – means that, with Trump controlling energy policy, the US is doomed to global-warming carbon economy for the foreseeable future, or until earth is rendered uninhabitable by climate change. What do you bet Trump will cancel any incentive to clean energy?

Meanwhile, Obama has been working frantically to raise the threshold of clean, renewable energy. Here is the latest (possibly final) initiative. One wonders whether Trump will reverse it, just because he can. 

This fact sheet is from the White House (and should stand as a reminder of all that we are about to lose):

FACT SHEET: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES NEW ACTIONS TO BRING CLEAN ENERGY SAVINGS TO ALL AMERICANS

Through President Obama’s Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative and beyond, we are making progress opening up opportunities for all American’s to go solar and retrofit their homes and businesses to be more energy efficient. Since President Obama took office, the amount of electricity we generate from the sun has increased more than 30 fold, we added solar jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy, and we’ve cut the price of residential solar energy systems more than 50 percent. In fact, earlier this week the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot program announced a new target to cut the cost of solar in half by 2030. At the same time, energy consumption in 2015 was 1.5 percent lower than it was in 2008, while the economy grew by 10 percent over the same period. And we have improved the energy efficiency of more than one million low and moderate income homes.

Today, in coordination with a White House Clean Energy Savings for All Summit in Baltimore, Maryland hosted by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Labor Secretary Tom Perez, the Obama Administration is taking the following new actions:

Launching a Challenge to Bring Solar Energy to Dozens of Low and Moderate Income Communities: The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative is launching a new Solar In Your Community challenge to expand solar access to Americans who have been left out of the growing solar market, including low- and moderate-income (LMI) households, state, local and tribal governments, and non-profit organizations. One hundred teams across the country will compete for cash prizes and technical assistance as they demonstrate innovative business and financial models that expand solar access to under-served groups. The teams with the most scalable, replicable solar business models will be eligible to win $1 million in final prizes, including a $500,000 grand prize. This challenge will reduce market barriers to solar deployment by spurring dozens of projects across the nation, with an emphasis on new and emerging solar markets. The challenge will help to achieve President Obama’s goal to bring 1 gigawatt (GW) of solar to low and moderate income families by 2020, test new business models that expand solar access, build local capacity to support community-scale solar projects, and establish resources that will aid in expanding solar access to underserved communities.

Growing the Reach And Impact of the Obama Administration’s National Community Solar Partnership: Last July, the Administration launched the National Community Solar Partnership—a collaborative effort between DOE, HUD, USDA, EPA, representatives from solar companies, NGOs, and state and community leaders —which works to unlock access to solar for the nearly 50 percent of households and businesses that are renters or do not have adequate roof space to install solar systems, in particular, for low- and moderate- income communities. Since we launched the partnership last year, more than 150 companies, organizations, and universities that represent 36 states have joined the effort to increase access to community solar, growing the number of members to 155, including the following 27 new partners joining today:

  • C2 Special Situations Group – New York
  • Center for Sustainable Communities – Georgia
  • Clean Energy States Alliance – Vermont
  • Connexus Energy – Minnesota
  • Elemental Energy, Inc. – Oregon
  • Energy Alabama – Alabama
  • Energy Outreach Colorado – Colorado
  • Energy Solidarity Cooperative – California
  • Environment Georgia – Georgia
  • Great Plains Institute – Minnesota
  • ICAST – Colorado
  • Imani Energy, Inc. – Delaware
  • Metropolitan Area Planning Council – Massachusetts
  • Minnesota Department of Commerce – Minnesota
  • MN Community Solar – Minnesota
  • Monadnock Sustainability Network – New Hampshire
  • Nebraskans for Solar – Nebraska
  • North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center – North Carolina
  • Novel Energy Solutions – Minnesota
  • Placer Consulting Services LLC – Tennessee
  • Reneu Energy – New York
  • Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources – Rhode Island
  • Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation – California
  • Solar Site Design – Tennessee
  • Sunvestment Group, LLC – New York
  • Tralee Capital Partners – Colorado
  • West Virginia Solar Systems – West Virginia

Issuing Best Practices for Promoting the Development of Smart Residential PACE Financing Programs that ProtectConsumers: Today, DOE is releasing updated Best Practice Guidelines for Residential PACE Financing Programs. The guidelines provide best practices that can help state and local governments, PACE program administrators, and their partners to plan and implement programs that effectively deliver clean energy, water efficiency, and related upgrades to consumers. The updated best practices reflect input gained from over 200 comments on draft guidelines released for public review earlier this summer. The new guidelines include additional protections for consumers who voluntarily opt into PACE programs and lenders who hold mortgages on properties with PACE assessments. DOE also provides additional guidelines and program design recommendations to help ensure PACE financing is used appropriately and at the lowest cost for low-income households that otherwise meet program eligibility criteria. DOE will continue supporting state and local governments in incorporating the guidelines into PACE statutes and regulations as they are developed and modified. Additional information about PACE financing and technical assistance available at DOE can be found at their State and Local Solution Center. The best practices build on the PACE financing guidance issued by the Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs this summer.

Announcing a New Partnership to Help Improve Energy Efficiency in HUD-Assisted and Public Housing: This summer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began partnering with EDF Climate Corps fellows to promote utility benchmarking of HUD-Assisted and Public Housing.  The fellows will be embedded with organizations across the country to offer assistance in analyzing and documenting portfolio-wide energy usage and developing strategies to improve energy performance and reduce operating costs.

Creating a Clean Energy Compact between the Department of Energy and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to Forge a Workforce and Community Investment Program: As the energy industry continues to transform, the U.S. Department of Energy is working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities to establish the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Clean Energy Coalition (HBCU-CEC).  The goal is to strategically engage the nation’s HBCUs in the adoption of energy efficiency, solar and other renewable energies on campus and within the communities where HBCUs are located, primarily populated by low and moderate income individuals and families.  Collectively, the coalition, with technical assistance from the Department of Energy, led by the Energy Jobs Strategy Council and the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, will forge a workforce and community investment program focusing on energy education and awareness, low and moderate income solar deployment, building energy efficiency, job creation, jobs skills training, utility costs savings, and reduction in environmental impacts.  These efforts will help to position HBCUs as demonstrated leaders in deploying clean energy in low and moderate income communities while insuring the community benefits from resultant economic and social opportunities.

 

Obama Honors National Park Service Centennial as Republicans Try to Privatize, Capitalize, Shortchange

Just a few of the 5 million visitors a year who marvel at Grand Canyon National Park. Obama is honoring the National Park Service on its centennial and has designated 22 national monuments during his tenure; Republicans want to allow logging and uranium mining at the Grand Canyon © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Just a few of the 5 million visitors a year who marvel at Grand Canyon National Park. Obama is honoring the National Park Service on its centennial and has designated 22 national monuments during his tenure; Republicans want to allow logging and uranium mining at the Grand Canyon © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, news-photos-features.com

(see Update below)

It is beyond infuriating that Republicans, who every four years call themselves the “Party of Lincoln,” can claim the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and the EPA which were signed when Richard Nixon was president, and that on this, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, we all can thank President Theodore Roosevelt, a (Progressive) Republican, for America’s “best idea” – our national park system.

That’s because these are under attack by today’s Republicans – the party of Donald Trump. Today’s Republicans bear as little resemblance to the party of Lincoln or Roosevelt as George Wallace to the Democratic party.

Republicans are so infuriated by the 22 national monuments and preserves Obama has designed during his time in office using his powers under the Antiquities Act (265 million acres of public lands and waters — more than any administration in history), that they have tried to repeal it and take the power to preserve lands from for the use of all Americans, equally, into the hands of greedy developers (a la Donald Trump).

Trump is probably thinking, “Donald J. Trump will be the president who dispatches the $19 trillion national debt – I only need to sell off Yellowstone, and maybe Yosemite,” (no doubt to the cheers of Peter G. Peterson, who is obsessed with the national debt, see www.pgpf.org/.)

As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof noted in his annual paean to the national parks, fresh from his hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, the most democratic place in America isn’t the voting booth, but the national parks.

“Even in the Great Depression, an impoverished America could afford to work on building paths like the John Muir Trail, yet today we can’t afford to maintain them properly,” Kristof writes. “Our predecessors pretty much invented the idea of national parks and wilderness trails, bequeathing us an inheritance of incalculable wealth. And on our watch, as we mark the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, we’re squandering it.”

Our national parks system are overwhelmingly popular – indeed, the number of annual visits to non-local parks (not even counting if New Yorkers climb the Statue of Liberty), equates to one per person.

According to a study by Linda J. Bilmes and John Loomis published in US News, the national park system is valued at $92 billion a year, but total revenue, including Congressional appropriation comes to a mere $3 billion a year. Meanwhile, Congress has cut its funding for NPS by 15 percent over the last 15 years (after factoring inflation), while its backlog of overdue maintenance projects amounts to $12 billion a year (and rising).

“Consequently, the agency is fighting an uphill battle to keep parks pristine and unspoiled as visitor numbers climb and climate change stresses natural resources in the parks.”

Despite opposition from Republicans – or perhaps because of it – Obama has during his tenure designated more national monuments using his power under the Antiquities Act than any prior president (much as he has had to resort to Executive Orders to get anything else done): Obama not only has saved natural treasures for generations to come, but has used the designations to tell a more complete story of America’s heritage, so that more of our community can feel the same sense of pride: So, in addition to preserving natural settings  like Browns Canyon National Monument, New Mexico, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument and Sand to Snow National Monument, California, Obama designated monuments honoring Black-Americans (Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers Monument, Ohio;  Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument), Hispanics (Cesar Chavez National Monument ), workers (Pullman National Monument, Illinois), women (Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, Washington, DC), and the latest one, LGBT Stonewall National Monument, New York. (See a full list of monuments designated under the Antiquities Act, going back to Theodore Roosevelt, who designated the first National Monument, Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming, in 1906. www.npca.org/resources/2658-monuments-protected-under-the-antiquities-act.)

“Stonewall will be our first national monument to tell the story of the struggle for LGBT rights.  I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country – the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us.  That we are stronger together.  That out of many, we are one.  That’s what makes us the greatest nation on earth.  And it’s what we celebrate at Stonewall – for our generation and for all those who come after us,” Obama said at the ceremony.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service and national park system has been under assault by Republicans, who not only have tried to repeal the President’s power under the Antiquities Act, but regularly introduce bills to remove impediments to private/corporate access and use of federal lands.

“This includes three dangerous new bills that would allow millions of acres of national forests to be auctioned off by the states for mining, logging, drilling, road construction and more. This would happen with no regard for current environmental protections, and could cut off access to our shared public lands,” writes The Wilderness Society’s Alan Rowsome, Senior Director, Government Relations for Lands.

Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its 100th birthday, but potential uranium mines and logging of old growth ponderosa pine forest just outside the boundary directly threaten water quality, human health, wildlife connectivity and cultural heritage protected by this most wondrous preserve. Because the Republican-controlled Congress has refused to act on legislation Rep. introduced by Raul Grijalva, the Wilderness Society is calling for Obama to proclaim a Greater Grand Canyon Heritage National Monument.

Republicans have even blocked donations of land:  for example, the National Park Service was set to receive 87,500 acres of pristine land in the Maine Woods from a non-profit organization started by the founder of Burt’s Bees, which would be used to designate a new national monument and, eventually, a new national park.

Who is responsible for blocking the acquisition? Believe it or not, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who has led a crusade to overturn the Antiquities Act.

“When he learned that President Obama used the Antiquities Act to protect 704,000 amazing acres as the Basin and Range Monument in Nevada, Representative Bishop called that ‘shameless.’ He even said that the Antiquities Act was ‘evil in the flesh’,” writes The Wilderness Society’s Alan Rowsome. “When he was informed that Basin and Range was home to many Native American artifacts, including cave paintings, he replied ‘Ah, bull crap. That’s not an antiquity’.”

The anti-National Parks furor is bound up with climate denial and a fervent effort to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency, which is itself wrapped up in a goal of preserving the status quo for the Capitalists who currently control the economy. Of course, clean, renewable energy would be a new capitalist endeavor, creating a new generation of millionaires, but that would displace the current Power Brokers whose wealth is tied to fossil fuels.

But setting aside land does not only mitigate against climate change, the national parks are also victims.

As Obama wrote after personally visiting two national parks: National Parks — spectacular natural treasures that are available to everybody, not just the lucky few — have been called America’s best idea. Under my administration, we’ve protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters — more than any administration in history. I’ve been proud to build on the work of the giants of conservation and environmental protection who came before me, like President Lincoln who first protected the Yosemite Valley in 1864, and President Teddy Roosevelt, who spoke so eloquently about why our strength and future as a nation relied on protecting our precious natural resources.

But there is more we must do to protect our parks and to protect this planet for generations to come. Make no mistake: The biggest challenge we are going to face in protecting them is climate change.

That’s why we’ve worked so hard to jump-start a clean energy revolution and to build a solar industry that’s growing by leaps and bounds. That’s why we’re tackling carbon pollution through the Clean Power Plan here in America and by rallying the whole world to tackle climate change together through the Paris Agreement.

Climate change is no longer just a threat; it’s already a reality. Yosemite meadows are drying up. Bird ranges are shifting further north. Alpine mammals are being forced further upslope to escape higher temperatures. We’re also seeing longer, more expensive, and more dangerous wildfire seasons — fires that are raging across the West right now.

In the coming years and decades, rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers at Glacier National Park and no more Joshua trees at Joshua Tree National Park. Rising seas could destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades and at some point might even threaten landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Doing nothing to stop those changes is not the example we want to set for the next generation.

We have to take seriously the idea that these treasured places could be marred or lost to history. We can’t deal with it later or think that it’s somebody else’s problem. And we can’t let climate change deniers carelessly suggest that we don’t need to get serious about the carbon pollution being released into our atmosphere or that we should scrap an international climate treaty that we spent years putting together. We can’t afford to go backward.

And much the same as clean, renewable energy is no threat to America’s capitalist model, national parks and monuments may be communally owned and enjoyed, but are also very much part of the Capitalist fabric: Headwaters Economics calculated that in 2015, non-local park visits totaled 307,247,267, spending amounted to $16.9 trillion, visitor spending (alone) supported 251,997 jobs and $8.1 trillion in income. There are whole towns, as well as tens of thousands of small businesses, that depend upon their proximity to a national park (as was dramatically demonstrated when Republicans shut down government in 2013.)

This does not even take into consideration the public health benefits of national parks, the value to families, to the benefits of personal experience. Priceless to be sure, if not incalculable.

Signing a proclamation honoring the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Obama declared, “NPS parks and programs strive to tell our diverse stories, allowing us to learn from the past and help write our country’s next great chapters. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, let us thank all those who — through their dedication to the mission of the NPS — help our country build on the legacy left by all those who came before us. As we look to the next century and embrace the notion that preserving these public spaces in ways that engage, reflect, and honor all Americans has never been more important, let us summon the foresight and faith in the future to do what it takes to protect our National Parks for generations to come.” (see 2016parkservice.prc.rel.pdf)

Update: Marking the 100th anniversary of the National Park System, President Obama designated  the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine as our 413th national park site. The park is more than 87,500 acres in size and sits along the East Branch of the Penobscot River in Maine. In addition, Obama will more than quadruple the size of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine protected area.

 

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© 2016 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Obama Administration Fact Sheet: What Climate Change Means for Your Health and Family

Extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy which hit Breezy Point, Queens, NY, exacerbated by climate change impact public health physically and mentally © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy which hit Breezy Point, Queens, NY, exacerbated by climate change impact public health physically and mentally © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

CDC researchers have just concluded that that the virus damages fetal development, resulting in microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. No other mosquito-borne virus has ever caused birth defects.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the public health impacts already being caused by climate change. That’s because changing climate is expanding the habitat for mosquitoes that carry the Zika Virus, Lyme disease and other issues.

Delivering on another commitment in the President’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration released a new final report called The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, which significantly advances what we know about the impacts of climate change on public health, and the confidence with which we know it.

Developed over three years by 100 experts in climate-change science and public health – including representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) – the Climate and Health Assessment reinforces that climate change is a significant threat to the health of Americans not just in the future but right now. As the climate continues to change, the risks to human health will grow, exacerbating existing health threats and creating new public health challenges, and impacting more people in more places. From children to the elderly to pregnant women and the disabled, every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change, now and in the future. A few examples of the increased health risks found in the assessment include:

         Air pollution and airborne allergens will likely increase, worsening allergy and asthma conditions. Future ozone-related human health impacts attributable to climate change are projected to lead to hundreds to thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions, and cases of acute respiratory illnesses each year in the United States by 2030, including increases in asthma episodes and other adverse respiratory effects in children. Ragweed pollen season is longer now in central North America, having increased by as much as 11 to 27 days between 1995 and 2011, which impacts some of the nearly 6.8 million children in the United States affected by asthma and susceptible to allergens due to their immature respiratory and immune systems.

         Extreme heat can be expected to cause an increase in the number of premature deaths, from thousands to tens of thousands, each summer, which will outpace projected decreases in deaths from extreme cold. One model projected an increase, from a 1990 baseline for more than 200 American cities, of more than an additional 11,000 deaths during the summer in 2030 and more than an additional 27,000 deaths during the summer in 2100.

         Warmer winter and spring temperatures are projected to lead to earlier annual onset of Lyme disease cases in the eastern United States and a generally northward expansion of ticks capable of carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Between 2001 and 2014, both the distribution and the number of reported cases of Lyme disease increased in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

         Increase the risks of water-related illnesses. Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events, and increased water temperatures, will increasingly compromise recreational waters, shellfish harvesting waters, and sources of drinking water, increasing risks of waterborne illness.

         Climate change, including rising temperatures and changes in weather extremes, is expected to increase the exposure of food to certain pathogens and toxins. Rising temperature and increases in flooding, runoff events, and drought will likely lead to increases in the occurrence and transport of pathogens in agricultural environments, which will increase the risk of food contamination and human exposure to pathogens and toxins. This will increase health risks and require greater vigilance in food safety practices and regulation.

         Climate change will have the largest health impact on vulnerable populations including those with low incomes, some communities of color, limited English proficiency and immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children, pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

         Extreme weather and other events related to climate change will impact health by exacerbating underlying medical conditions, increasing exposure to food-borne and waterborne illness risks, and disrupting infrastructure, including power, water, transportation, and communication systems, that are essential to maintaining access to health care and emergency response services and safeguarding human health.

In addition, the Administration has announced a number of actions to respond to the critical challenges and vulnerabilities outlined in the Climate and Health Assessment. These include:

         Expanding the scope of the President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children to focus on the impacts of climate change on children’s health.

         Developing K-12 educational materials on climate change and health.

         A Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative, which will provide awards for tribal and territorial health departments to investigate, prepare for, and adapt to the health effects of climate change.

         An update to the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Toolkit,issued by the Department of Health and Human Services.

         Designating May 23-27, 2016, as Extreme Heat Week, during which Federal agencies will take a number of actions to work with community planners and public-health officials to enhance community preparedness for extreme heat events.

 

The findings of the Climate and Health Assessment strengthen and broaden the scientific foundation for future decision making, allowing individuals, communities, organizations, and governments to proactively manage the health risks of climate change.  A better understanding of how climate change affects our health, and the health of our children and grandchildren, underscores the need for urgent action to combat the threats climate change poses on American citizens and communities.

Already, under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has done more to combat climate change and protect the health of communities than ever before. For example, the Clean Power Plan will deliver better air quality, improved public health, clean energy investment and jobs across the country. Since the historic global climate agreement was reached at COP21 in Paris last year (signed on Earth Day at the United Nations), the United States has announced plans to not only implement the agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but has also committed to adopting an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down HFCs, a potent greenhouse gas. The Administration has forged a global agreement to cut aviation emissions, and most recently taken a series of actions to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, while also helping to spur a historic increase in wind and solar energy while doubling the fuel efficiency in our cars.

HOW CLIMATE CHANGE AFFECTS HEALTH:

KEY FINDINGS AND MESSAGES FROM THE ASSESSMENT 

Changes in Extreme Heat and Extreme Cold.  A warmer future is projected to lead to “on the order of thousands to tens of thousands of additional premature deaths per year across the United States by the end of this century” from heat.  Any reduction in cold-related deaths is projected to be smaller than the increase in heat-related deaths in most regions. High temperatures can also lead to a wide range of illnesses. Examples of illnesses associated with extreme heat include cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal illnesses; diabetes; hyperthermia; mental health issues; and preterm births.  Even small differences from seasonal average temperatures result in illness and death.  An increased risk for respiratory and cardiovascular death is observed in older adults during temperature extremes.

Impacts on Air Quality. Changes in the climate affect the levels and location of outdoor air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter.  These changes in ozone are projected to lead to hundreds to thousands of premature deaths, hospital admissions, and cases of acute respiratory illnesses per year in the United States in 2030.  In addition, the area burned by wildfires in North America is expected to increase dramatically over the 21st century due to climate change.  Air pollution from wildfires can affect people far downwind from the fire location,increasing the risk of premature death and hospital and emergency department visits.  Higher temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide levels also promote the growth of plants that release airborne allergens.

More Frequent and Intense Extreme Events.  Climate change will expose more people to increases in the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires, and flooding related to extreme precipitation and hurricanes.  Many types of extreme events related to climate change cause disruption of critical infrastructure, including power, water, transportation, and communication systems, that are essential to maintaining access to health care and emergency response services and safeguarding human health.  Health risks may also arise long after the event, or in places outside the area where the event took place, particularly if multiple events occur simultaneously or in succession in a given location – this could be the result of damage to property, destruction of assets, loss of infrastructure and public services, social and economic disruption, and environmental degradation. Poverty also is a key risk factor, and the poor are disproportionately affected by extreme events.

Altered Timing and Location of Vector-Borne Disease. Climate change is expected to alter the geographic and seasonal distributions of existing vectors and vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus infections, and other diseases spread by vectors like mosquitoes. Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and a higher frequency of some extreme weather events associated with climate change will influence the distribution, abundance, and prevalence of infection in the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus, the leading cause of mosquito-borne disease in the United States.  Outdoor workers are at a greater risk for contracting Lyme disease and, if working in areas where there are infected mosquitoes, occupational exposures can also occur for West Nile virus.

Increased Risks of Water-Related Illnesses.  Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme precipitation events will increasingly compromise recreational waters, shellfish harvesting waters, and sources of drinking water, increasing the risk that infrastructure for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater will fail due to either damage or exceeding system capacity. Although the United States has one of the safest municipal drinking water supplies in the world, water-related outbreaks still occur—between 1948 and 1994, 68 percent of waterborne disease outbreaks in the United States were preceded by extreme precipitation events. Inequities in exposure to contaminated water disproportionately affects tribes and Alaska Natives, residents of low-income rural subdivisions along the U.S.–Mexico border, migrant farm workers, the homeless, and low-income communities not served by public water utilities—some of which are predominately Hispanic or Latino and African-American communities.

Increased Threats to Food Safety and Nutrition.  As climate change drives changes in environmental variables, such as ambient temperature, precipitation, and weather extremes (particularly flooding and drought), increases in foodborne illnesses are expected. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are 48 million cases of foodborne illnesses per year, with approximately 3,000 deaths.  Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can actually lower the nutritional value of most food crops. Climate-change impacts on food production, food processing and utilization, food prices, and agricultural trade were recently addressed in a separate assessment report on Climate Change, Global Food Security, and the U.S. Food System.

Adverse Impacts on Mental Health.  The cumulative and interactive effects of climate change, as well as the threat and perception of climate change, adversely impact individual and societal physical and mental health and well-being.  Mental health consequences of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.  The mental health impacts of extreme events, such as hurricanes, floods, and drought, can be expected to increase as more people experience the stress—and often trauma—of these disasters.  People with mental illness and those using medications to treat a variety of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and extreme heat. 

Disproportionate Effects on Vulnerable Populations.  Every American is vulnerable to the health impacts associated with climate change.  People at every life stage have varying sensitivity to climate change impacts.  The most vulnerable populations include individuals with low income, some communities of color, individuals with limited English proficiency and immigrant groups, Indigenous peoples, children, pregnant women, older adults, vulnerable occupational groups, persons with disabilities, and persons with preexisting or chronic medical conditions.

  •         Communities of Color, Low Income, Immigrants, and Limited-English-Proficiency Groups. Vulnerable populations are at increased risk of exposure given their higher likelihood of living in risk-prone areas (such as urban heat islands, isolated rural areas, or coastal and other flood-prone areas), areas with older or poorly maintained infrastructure, or areas with an increased burden of air pollution. Communities of color, low income, immigrant and limited-English-proficiency groups also experience relatively greater incidence of chronic medical conditions, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can be exacerbated by climate-related health impacts.
  •        Indigenous Peoples in the United States.  Because of existing vulnerabilities, Indigenous people, especially those who are dependent on the environment for sustenance or who live in geographically isolated or impoverished communities, are likely to experience greater exposure and lower resilience to climate-related health effects.
  •          Pregnant Women. Climate-related exposures may lead to adverse pregnancy and newborn health outcomes, including low birth weight, preterm birth, dehydration and associated renal failure, diarrhea, and respiratory disease.  Estimates indicated that there were more than 56,000 pregnant women and nearly 75,000 infants directly affected by Hurricane Katrina and that pregnant women with high hurricane exposure and severe hurricane experiences were at a significantly increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
  •          Children. Climate change—interacting with factors such as economic status, diet, living situation, and stage of development—will increase children’s exposure to health threats. Children are vulnerable to adverse health effects associated with environmental exposures due to factors related to their immature physiology and metabolism, their unique exposure pathways, their biological sensitivities, and limits to their adaptive capacity.  Children have a proportionately higher intake of air, food, and water relative to their body weight compared to adults. They also share unique behaviors and interactions with their environment that may increase their exposure to environmental contaminants.
  •          Older Adults.  The nation’s older adult population (ages 65 and older) will nearly double in size from 2015 through 2050.  Between 1979 and 2004, deaths from heat exposure were reported most commonly among adults aged 65 and older.  The need to evacuate an area during or after extreme events can pose increased health and safety risks for older adults, especially those who are poor or reside in nursing or assisted-living facilities.  Air pollution can also exacerbate asthma and COPD and can increase the risk of heart attack in older adults, especially those who are also diabetic or obese.
  •      Occupational Groups.  Outdoor workers are often among the first to be exposed to the effects of climate change. Climate change is expected to affect the health of outdoor workers through increases in ambient temperature, degraded air quality, extreme weather, vector-borne diseases, industrial exposures, and changes in the built environment.  An increased need for complex emergency responses will expose rescue and recovery workers to physical and psychological hazards.  The incidence of heat illness among active duty U.S. military personnel is several-fold higher than the summertime incidence in the general U.S. population (147 per 100,000 among the military versus 21.5 per 100,000 in the general population per year)
  • Persons with Disabilities.  An increase in extreme weather can be expected to disproportionately affect populations with disabilities, who experience higher rates of social risk factors—such as poverty and lower educational attainment—that contribute to poorer health outcomes during extreme events or climate-related emergencies.  Persons with disabilities often rely on medical equipment (such as portable oxygen) that requires an uninterrupted source of electricity.
  •     Persons with Chronic Medical Conditions.  Preexisting medical conditions present risk factors for increased illness and death associated with climate-related stressors, especially exposure to extreme heat.  Hospital admissions and emergency room visits increase during heat waves for people with diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and psychiatric illnesses. Medical conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or mental illnesses can impair judgment and behavioral responses in crisis situations, which can place people with those conditions at greater risk.

NEW ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS RESPONDING TO THE

CLIMATE AND HEATH ASSESSMENT

President Obama has already taken action to combat the health impacts of climate change and protect the health of future generations. Just last year, the Administration:

         Brought together health and medical professionals, academics, and other interested stakeholders to discuss the challenges of climate change for public health through a series of convenings, workshops, and a formal White House Climate Change and Health Summit;

         Expanded access to climate and health data, involving more than 100 health-relevant datasets, to spur innovation so that communities and businesses could act to reduce the health impacts of climate change;

         Started integrating climate considerations into agency health and safety policies; and

         Created initiatives at EPA, USGS, CDC, and the Department of Defense to improve, consolidate, and better visualize data connecting climate change effects to human health.

The Administration has announced a series of additional actions to keep us on track to better understand, communicate, and reduce the health impacts of climate change on our communities, including:

         President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children Addresses Climate Change.  The President’s Task Force on Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks to Children, has expanded its scope to include climate change.  The Task Force includes representatives of 17 federal departments and White House offices and focuses on environmental threats to the health and wellbeing of children that are best addressed through interagency efforts.  Its priorities are asthma disparities, healthy settings, chemical exposures, and climate change and children’s health.  The Task Force has made available examples of actions being taken around the country to protect children from the impacts of climate change on HHS’s new climate and health website at http://www.hhs.gov/climate/childrenshealth/index.html. 

         Developing a Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative. This year, CDC’s Climate and Health Program will launch the Climate-Ready Tribes and Territories Initiative, which will provide awards for up to five tribal and territorial health departments in the U.S to support public health preparedness and resilience activities that address the health challenges of climate change in these areas.  Although some state and city health departments receive guidance and funding for climate and health research and adaptation planning, no similar program has been available to assist tribal and territorial governments. CDC will work with stakeholders to develop guidance relevant to the unique challenges faced in these jurisdictions.  CDC will use its disease prevention expertise to assist tribal and territorial governments in investigating, preparing for, and adapting to the health effects of climate change.

         Updating the Sustainable and Climate Resilient Health Care Facilities Toolkit.The Toolkit is undergoing pilot testing and evaluation and will be revised and expanded by the end of the year.  In addition, lectures and trainings on the toolkit are being planned for a series of major conferences this year, including the NACCHO Preparedness Summit, the meeting of the American Society for Healthcare Engineering, and the CleanMed Conference. Also planned is a series of training webinars for the private sector on how to use of the toolkit by Practice Greenhealth.

         National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to Develop K-12 Educational Materials on Climate Change and Health.  NIEHS is developing educational materials on climate change and health at the K-12 level based on the new Climate and Health Assessment.  They will partner with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the American Meteorological Society to help disseminate the materials and offer training. The audience for training is teachers and “train the trainer” teacher experts.  The training is expected to be piloted this fall.

         Reducing the Health Impacts of Extreme Heat. The Administration is announcing that May 23 – 27 is Extreme Heat Week during which agencies will take a number of activities to prepare the nation for extreme heat. This week is a key part of America’s PrepareAthon!, the Administration’s seasonal campaign to build community-level preparedness action. The White House is planning a webinar during Extreme Heat Week focused on education and outreach to populations more vulnerable to extreme heat as well as to community planners and public health officials to enhance community preparedness to extreme heat events.

 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Climate Change, Energy & the Environment

Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders meet for a debate moderated by CNN at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in Brooklyn, ahead of the April 19 New York State primary © 2016 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Ahead of the April 19 New York State Primary, the gloves came off between the two contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, at what is being called “The Brooklyn Brawl” – the Democratic Debate at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The confrontation was the most contentious to date, but still substantive with both candidates making strong arguments on major issues. 

Here are annotated highlights from the “Brooklyn Brawl” – the debate between Democratic contenders for the nomination for president, former Secretary of State and New York State Senator Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, based on a transcript provided by CNN, the news organization that hosted the debate, April 14. 

In this section, the candidates discuss climate change, energy and the environment: 

Climate Change, Energy & the Environment 

In yet another question framed around a Sanders attack, Blitzer asks, “Secretary Clinton, Senator Sanders has said you are in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. You say you’re sick and tired of him lying about your record. What are his lies?”

CLINTON: Well, let me start by saying we need to talk about this issue and we should talk about it in terms of the extraordinary threats that climate change pose to our country and our world. And that’s why for the last many years, both in the Senate and as secretary of State, it’s been a big part of my commitment to see what could be done.

“But there has never been any doubt that when I was a senator, I tried — I joined with others to try to get rid of the subsidies for big oil. And I have proposed that again, because that’s what I think needs to be done as we transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. And everyone who’s looked at this independently, “The Washington Post” and others, who give us both hard times when called for on facts, have said that this is absolutely an incorrect false charge.

“So, we both have relatively small amounts of contributions from people who work for fossil fuel companies. Best we can tell from the reports that are done. But, that is not being supported by big oil, and I think it’s important to distinguish that. And, let’s talk about what each of us has proposed to try to combat greenhouse gas emissions and put us on the fastest track possible to clean energy.”

SANDERS: Now, what I think is when we look at climate change now, we have got to realize that this is a global environmental crisis of unprecedented urgency. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“And, it is not good enough. You know, if we, God forbid, were attacked tomorrow the whole country would rise up and say we got an enemy out there and we got to do something about it. That was what 9/11 was about.

“We have an enemy out there, and that enemy is going to cause drought and floods and extreme weather disturbances. There’s going to be international conflict. (APPLAUSE) I am proud, Wolf, that I have introduced the most comprehensive climate change legislation including a tax on carbon. Something I don’t believe Secretary Clinton supports.”

CLINTON: Well, let’s talk about the global environmental crisis. Starting in 2009 as your Secretary of State, I worked with President Obama to bring China and India to the table for the very first time, to get a commitment out of them that they would begin to address their own greenhouse gas emissions. (APPLAUSE)

“I continued to work on that throughout the four years as Secretary of State, and I was very proud that President Obama and America led the way to the agreement that was finally reached in Paris with 195 nations committing to take steps to actually make a difference in climate change. (APPLAUSE)

“And, I was surprised and disappointed when Senator Sanders attacked the agreement, said it was not enough, it didn’t go far enough. You know, at some point putting together 195 countries, I know a little bit about that, was a major accomplishment (APPLAUSE CHEERING) and, our President led the effort to protect our world and he deserve our appreciation, not our criticism.”

SANDERS: Let’s talk about that. When you were Secretary of State, you also worked hard to expand fracking to countries all over the world. (CHEERING) 

“The issue here — of course the agreement is a step forward, but you know agreements and I know agreements, there’s a lot of paper there. We’ve got to get beyond paper right now. We have got to lead the world in transforming our energy system, not tomorrow, but yesterday. (APPLAUSE) And, what that means, Wolf, it means having the guts to take on the fossil fuel industry. Now, I am on board legislation that says, you know what, we ain’t going to excavate for fossil fuel on public land. That’s not Secretary Clinton’s position.

Let us support a tax on carbon.”

CLINTON: Well, I’m a little bewildered about how to respond when you have an agreement which gives you the framework to actually take the action that would have only come about because under the Obama administration in the face of implacable hostility from the Republicans in Congress, President Obama moved forward on gas mileage, he moved forward on the clean power plant. He has moved forward on so many of the fronts that he could given the executive actions that he was able to take. (APPLAUSE) 

“And, you know, I am getting a little bit — I’m getting a little bit concerned here because, you know, I really believe that the President has done an incredible job against great odds and deserves to be supported. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING)

“Now, it’s easy to diagnose the problem. It’s harder to do something about the problem.” (APPLAUSE)

Fracking

LOUIS: Secretary Clinton, as secretary of state, you also pioneered a program to promote fracking around the world, as you described. Fracking, of course, a way of extracting natural gas. Now as a candidate for president, you say that by the time you’re done with all your rules and regulations, fracking will be restricted in many places around the country. Why have you changed your view on fracking? 

CLINTON: No, well, I don’t think I’ve changed my view on what we need to do to go from where we are, where the world is heavily dependent on coal and oil, but principally coal, to where we need to be, which is clean renewable energy, and one of the bridge fuels is natural gas.

“And so for both economic and environmental and strategic reasons, it was American policy to try to help countries get out from under the constant use of coal, building coal plants all the time, also to get out from under, especially if they were in Europe, the pressure from Russia, which has been incredibly intense. So we did say natural gas is a bridge. We want to cross that bridge as quickly as possible, because in order to deal with climate change, we have got to move as rapidly as we can.

“That’s why I’ve set big goals. I want to see us deploy a half a billion more solar panels by the end of my first term and enough clean energy to provide electricity to every home in America within 10 years.  (APPLAUSE)

“So I have big, bold goals, but I know in order to get from where we are, where the world is still burning way too much coal, where the world is still too intimidated by countries and providers like Russia, we have got to make a very firm but decisive move in the direction of clean energy.”

SANDERS: This is a difference between understanding that we have a crisis of historical consequence here, and incrementalism and those little steps are not enough. (APPLAUSE)

“Not right now. Not on climate change. Now, the truth is, as secretary of state, Secretary Clinton actively supported fracking technology around the world. Second of all, right now, we have got to tell the fossil fuel industry that their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet. (APPLAUSE)

“And that means — and I would ask you to respond. Are you in favor of a tax on carbon so that we can transit away from fossil fuel to energy efficiency and sustainable energy at the level and speed we need to do?” (APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: You know, I have laid out a set of actions that build on what President Obama was able to accomplish, building on the clean power plan, which is currently under attack by fossil fuels and the right in the Supreme Court, which is one of the reasons why we need to get the Supreme Court justice that President Obama has nominated to be confirmed so that we can actually continue to make progress.  

“I don’t take a back seat to your legislation that you’ve introduced that you haven’t been able to get passed. I want to do what we can do to actually make progress in dealing with the crisis. That’s exactly what I have proposed. And my approach I think is going to get us there faster without tying us up into political knots with a Congress that still would not support what you are proposing.” 

LOUIS: I have a question for you, Senator. You’ve said that climate change is the greatest threat to our nation’s security. You’ve called for a nationwide ban on fracking. You’ve also called for phasing out all nuclear power in the U.S. But wouldn’t those proposals drive the country back to coal and oil, and actually undermine your fight against global warming?  

SANDERS: No, they wouldn’t. Look, here’s where we are. Let me reiterate. We have a global crisis. Pope Francis reminded us that we are on a suicide course. Our legislation understands, Errol, that there will be economic dislocation. It is absolutely true. There will be some people who lose their job. And we build into our legislation an enormous amount of money to protect those workers. It is not their fault that fossil fuels are destroying our climate. But we have got to stand up and say right now, as we would if we were attacked by some military force, we have got to move urgency — urgently and boldly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jobs are one thing, but with less than 6 percent of all U.S. energy coming from solar, wind and geothermal, and 20 percent of U.S. power coming from nuclear, if you phase out all of that, how do you make up that difference?

SANDERS: Well, you don’t phase it all out tomorrow. And you certainly don’t phase nuclear out tomorrow. What you do do is say that we are going to have a massive program — and I had introduced — introduced legislation for 10 million solar rooftops. We can put probably millions of people to work retrofitting and weatherizing buildings all over this country. (CHEERING) Saving — rebuilding our rail system. (APPLAUSE) Our mass transit system. (APPLAUSE)

“If we approach this, Errol, as if we were literally at a war…that is exactly the kind of approach we need right now.”

Next: National Security & Foreign Policy 

See also:

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Qualifications, Credibility 

Brooklyn Brawl: Democrats Clinton & Sanders Debate Gun Violence & Criminal Justice

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