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April 11, 2017
The attempt of the Trump administration to strike down the very capability of regulatory action, accompanied by a similar ascendancy in Congress of scoffing "know-nothing" attitudes toward scientific integrity, has been greeted with a spectrum of counter-actions. Trump Resistance has become a national theme, and in this edition we examine a few leading examples.
But first the news.

Water Ceremony and Blessing

Sunday, April 23 Noon- 1PM Clute Park, Watkins Glen

Please join us in Water Ceremony at Clute Park. Crow Marley, Seneca Lake Defender, Medicine Wheel teacher and Water Protector, will lead us in this lovely ceremony. Crow brings this song from the Grandmothers she has studied with in Canada with their urgent message that more women--who are the Water Protectors- must sing this song to help keep our waters safe and clean. This particular Water Song needs to be sung by women more than ever since our Earth's waters are being threatened in many ways. While our ceremony is on Seneca Lake, the prayers are done to include all waters.

The ceremony takes less than 30 minutes. The song is easy, melodic and magical which takes about 5 minutes to sing.)

For those who know The Water Song and sing it everyday are encouraged to come. For those who would like to learn the song, you are especially invited. Share widely and invite people you know who care about the environment, the waters, Standing Rock and all things in nature.

Please note: It is tradition that women wear skirts during Native Ceremony. It won't be as cold as it was in January, but we suggest you dress in layers. If you have a drum or rattle, bring it along!

Please email Margie Rodgers if you have any questions, or call her at 607-738-5232

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Climate at the CrossRoads
Environmental Justice in the Age of Trump
with Sandra Steingraber

Tuesday April 18, 7:00-9:00pm
Textor Hall, Rm 102
Ithaca College
Ithaca, NY
Campus
Map click here

Free and open to the public

How are fossil fuels a human rights issue? How is the climate crisis driving refugee crises in Muslim nations? How do U.S. military leaders view climate change? How does climate activism intersect with the struggle for racial justice? What of the economic promises of renewable energy? And how can we join the upcoming March for Science and Climate March?

Dr. Sandra Steingraber will be joined by a panel of experts and activists to discuss the intersectionalities of climate change and the future of environmental activism in the current political climate, with a special focus on local initiatives. Dr. Steingraber is a distinguished scholar in residence at Ithaca College. She is a biologist, author, and activist. This event is part of Ithaca College Sustainability [Earth] Week.

Panel discussions:
· Race & Poverty - Anthony Rogers-Wright (climate justice leader)
· Children’s Rights - Lisa Marshall (community organizer,
Mothers Out Front - Finger Lakes )

· National Security - Colleen Boland (military veteran)
· Muslim Issues - Mahad Olad (Ithaca College student)
· Economics - Peter Bardaglio
(Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative [TCCPI])

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Action Alert! Protect Westchester Water

Stop Proposal to Weaken Yorktown Wetlands Law

A proposed a new Wetlands Law for Yorktown (NY) seriously weakens existing law, and is a threat to our environment and to our neighborhoods.

Sign this petition if you oppose the new law and want to protect our Wetlands.

Why should you care?

  • The proposed law is substantially weaker than the current law, with fewer protections for our critically important wetlands.
  • Wetlands protect our property from flooding and our roads from dangerous icing conditions; like sponges, wetlands soak up and retain runoff.
  • When nature retains storm-water, it’s free. When the town must install and maintain drainage systems, taxpayers pay.
  • Wetlands provide wildlife habitat for breeding, feeding and nesting, and help remove pollutants from our drinking water.

How is the proposed law weaker?

  • It protects fewer wetlands — only those exceeding 4,356 square feet, more than four times larger than what is protected by the current law.
  • It ignores a wetland’s function. Often, smaller wetlands are more important than larger ones.
  • It is not clear if Town-owned wetlands are covered. Some of our most important wetlands are on Town-owned land; the Town should be held to the same standard as private owners
  • You won’t be notified if your neighbor plans to fill a wetland to build a swimming pool or regrade property for a mini soccer field. Your only “notification” will be when you see the bulldozer on his property and the water starts running into your backyard. By then, it will be too late.

How can you stop the proposed law?

  • Attend the Public Hearing on April 18th at 7:30 pm at Town Hall, 363 Underhill Avenue, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598.
  • Speak up: Let your elected representatives know you want a stronger, not weaker, wetlands law. Share personal stories about what happened to your property or in your neighborhood when nearby wetlands were filled in or damaged beyond repair.
  • Send an email or postcard/letter (363 Underhill Avenue, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598) to all Town Board members. Remind them that you want YOUR wetlands and quality of life protected. Email addresses: Supervisor Michael Grace ; Councilman Tom Diana ; Councilman Vishnu Patel ; Councilman Ed Lachterman ; Councilman Greg Bernard .
  • Sign the online petition opposing the proposed law.

Share the petition on facebook, twitter and by email by including this link

Click here for a copy of the proposed law.
For more information: saveyorktownwetlands@gmail.com

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Free Screening of "Before the Flood"

Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 7:00 PM
The Park Church
208 W Gray St. (
corner of Main and Church Streets)
Elmira, NY 14901

Discussion will follow and refreshments will be provided.

Before The Flood is an analysis of scientific evidence concerning the causes and effects of climate change. Released last October, it features Leonardo DiCaprio, actor, environmentalist and the United Nations Messenger of Peace, as he travels the world to learn how climate change affects our environment and what society can do to prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the planet. During his journey to five continents and the Arctic, DiCaprio speaks with President Barack Obama, Pope Francis, tech innovator Elon Musk, scientists, and activists about the many effects of climate change – threats to human health and safety from floods, tornadoes, and drought; damage to the national economy; and increased risk of terrorism.

The Department of Defense and the property & casualty insurance industry agree that climate change is a clear and present danger. Future political decisions about human migrations, drought, flooding, food and water insecurity, and the resulting conflicts and border wars will be impacted by climate change

Before the Flood is well done, positive but serious and easy to understand. Students will find it to be a helpful resource.

  • Legislators in Chemung, Steuben and Schuyler Counties have been invited.
  • Please invite your village, town or city elected officials to attend.
  • Also, share this invitation with your contacts and post it to Facebook.

The screening is sponsored by People for a Healthy environment (PHE) and co-sponsored by The Park Church, Catholic Charities, and the Jewish Center and Federation of the Twin Tiers.

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The Doctrine of Discovery

~ Unmasking the Domination Code ~

A film based on the book Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Discovery by Steven T. Newcomb

Wednesday, April 12, 6:00PM

at The Kiva, 101 Baldy Hall, UB North Campus, Amherst [Map ]

Event is Free and Open to the Public - Refreshments provided.

Following the film, there will be a discussion facilitated by Agnes Williams, coordinator of the Indigenous Women's Initiatives.

Chief Justice John Marshall's distinction between "Christian people" and "heathens" in Johnson v. M'Intosh (1823) is still treated by the U.S. Supreme Court as valid law for the United States. The Supreme Court has used the claimed right of Christian discovery and domination in the Johnson ruling as its underlying rationale for every ruling it has handed down since 1823 regarding our original nations.

Columbus and other colonizers laid claim to the lands of original nations on the basis of the idea that Christians had a biblical right to discover and dominate non-Christian lands.

For more information go to Re-Energize Buffalo Film Screening & Discussion

Co-sponsored by : SSW GSA, the Humanities Institute, The Haudenosaunee- Native American Studies Research Group, and the Native American Graduate Student Association

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States of Resistance

DEC denies permit for controversial National Fuel pipeline

National Fuel’s pipeline project would have crossed more than 190 creeks and streams up through Allegany, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties, according to the specifications. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has rejected National Fuel's plans for a 97-mile pipeline to carry natural gas from northwestern Pennsylvania to Elma.

The DEC determined there was too big a threat to water quality and wildlife to grant National Fuel the water quality certificate required to construct the Northern Access Pipeline.

"After an in-depth review of the proposed Northern Access Pipeline project and following three public hearings and the consideration of over 5,700 comments, DEC has denied the permit due to the project's failure to avoid adverse impacts to wetlands, streams and fish and other wildlife habitat," the DEC announced.

"We are confident that this decision supports our state's strict water quality standards that all New Yorkers depend on," the DEC statement added.

Further reading: DEC's full Notice of Denial here

A series of public meetings was held on the proposal in February to gauge feelings about the project.

Environmental groups and residents raised concern about threats the pipeline posed to water quality, including its planned crossing of Cattaraugus Creek, which is the sole source drinking water aquifer for residents in a 325-square-mile area.

Part of the project would have involved developing a compressor station in the Town of Pendleton along with additional pipeline connections in Niagara County.

And, a third part of the project would have included upgrading a compressor station in the Town of Elma.

In all, the pipeline project would have crossed more than 190 creeks and streams in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties.

DEC officials determined National Fuel's plans did not "avoid or adequately mitigate" impacts that could harm water quality and associated resources.

"Crossing multiple streams and freshwater wetlands within a watershed or basin, including degrading riparian buffers, causes a negative cumulative effect on water quality to that watershed or basin," the DEC reasoned in its denial.

"If allowed to proceed, the project would materially interfere with or jeopardize the biological integrity and best usages of affected water bodies and wetlands," the statement added.

It is the second large-scale project designed to transport natural gas from wells employing hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania that was shot down by the DEC in just less than a year.…—T.J. Pignataro, "DEC denies permit for controversial National Fuel pipeline," The Buffalo News, 4/8/17

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Lower Oil Prices Strike at Heart of Canada’s Oil Sands Production

Oil Price's Spectrum of Pain (Click to view video)

OTTAWA — For as long as 400-ton dump trucks have been rumbling around the open pit mines of Canada’s oil sands, crews from Kal Tire have been on hand to replace and repair their $70,000, 13-foot diameter tires.

But the relationship, going back over a decade, didn’t spare the company when oil prices began plummeting.

Dan Allan, the senior vice president of Kal’s mining tire unit, said that customers immediately began looking for price concessions. Others asked Kal to withdraw personnel from some sites or swiftly canceled plans to add more maintenance crews.

“We’re sort of caught at the sharp end of the spear,” said Mr. Allan, who is now looking to relocate some employees. “It’s really difficult.”

Canada’s oil sands — and the 167 billion barrels of reserves — prompted an unprecedented expansion over the last decade. But the roughly $155 billion spending spree left the industry with unusually high production costs.

Now, oil sands operators are scrambling to limit the damage, as crude prices hover near seven-year lows.

Suncor, the largest oil sands operator, announced plans to eliminate about 1,000 contract jobs. Shell Canada said it would cut its oil sands work force by about 10 percent. Cenovus Energy said that it would reduce investment spending by 27 percent, and set aside plans for two oil sands project expansions.

A camp for workers in Northern Alberta, the heart of the oil sands, was permanently closed and another was temporarily shut. Several proposed oil sands projects and expansions are under review or have been deferred.

The cuts, though, won’t necessarily translate into lower production. Oil sands production is expected to increase by 25 percent, to 4.8 million barrels a day, according to January estimates by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, partly because of new projects moving into production.

The enormous projects are just too difficult to switch off, and the companies must keep pumping crude to cover the sizable debt on their multi-billion-dollar investments. They also don’t want to cede market share to producers in other countries.…—IAN AUSTEN, "Lower Oil Prices Strike at Heart of Canada’s Oil Sands Production," The New York Times, 2/2/17

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Appeals court says pipelines must pass state reviews

An appeals court this week rejected the notion that federal law allows pipelines to proceed without all relevant state reviews.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co.’s pipeline through the southern Berkshire town of Sandisfield now can’t proceed before getting final water quality certification from the state.

The First Circuit Court of Appeals deferred to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s own process of issuing a final federally required water quality certificate for the proposed Connecticut Expansion Project.

The company, which proposes to extend an existing pipeline in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, sought a stay of a DEP adjudicatory hearing and other administrative proceedings after Berkshire Environmental Action Team and a citizens’ group jointly appealed a preliminary certification notice last July.

Richard Kanoff, the lawyer who brought the group’s appeal, said, “The decision means in the future that Kinder Morgan/TGP will be required to procure a final DEP water quality certificate, following a full and complete evaluation. The notion that DEP’s review may be interrupted midstream following an initial determination, as TGP claimed in this case, has been rejected.

TGP spokesman Richard Wheatley said, “Although we are disappointed with the court’s decision, we are confident that we will successfully complete the permit processes and look forward to executing on this project to increase deliveries of clean, domestic natural gas for New England consumers.”

The conditional approval TGP received included a condition forbidding the company from “conducting any ‘work subject to this Certification, including the cutting of trees,’ until ‘the expiration of the Appeal Period,” according to the 18-page decision by the three-judge panel that included retired U.S. Supreme Court Judge David Souter.

“In a literal sense, state agencies repeatedly take ‘action’ in connection with applications for water quality certifications,” the decision reads. “They docket applications, review them, and express opinions about them. We see no reason, though, to think that Congress wanted us to exercise immediate review over such preliminary and numerous steps that state agencies may take in processing an application before they actually act in the more relevant and consequential sense of granting or denying it.”…—Richie Davis, "Appeals court says pipelines must pass state reviews," The Greenfield Recorder, 3/17/17

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Keystone XL Needs Much Higher Oil Prices To Be Viable

The Keystone XL Pipeline (KXL) is a bet on much higher oil prices several years from now. It will take at least $85 oil prices to develop the new oil sand projects needed to fill the pipeline.

It is also a bet that U.S. tight oil output will continue to grow and will need heavy oil to blend for refining. Both bets are risky.

A Bet On Higher Oil Prices

KXL would add about 830,000 barrels per day (b/d) to the 1.3 million b/d already moving through the base Keystone Pipeline system completed in 3 phases between 2010 and 2014 (Figure 1) when oil prices were more than $90 per barrel.

It was not until prices exceeded $70 per barrel in 2005 (December 2016 dollars) that oil sands expansion began to accelerate (Figure 2). Since then, production has almost doubled from 1.3 to 2.4 mmb/d and cumulative production has increased from 5.4 to 10 billion barrels.

By comparison, the Bakken and Eagle Ford tight oil plays have each produced 2.4 billion barrels. The Permian horizontal tight oil plays–Spraberry, Wolfcamp and Bone Spring–have produced less than 1 billion barrels. (NB: EIA’s Drilling Productivity Report estimate of 4.8 billion barrels includes all conventional production in the counties in which the tight oil plays are located)

In 2015, oil prices averaged only $43 per barrel. No new oil sand projects have been sanctioned since oil prices collapsed in 2014 although 3 pilot projects have been approved since prices moved into the $50 per barrel range. Approval is not the same as sanctioning and these 3 projects together would add only 35,000 b/d.

It seems unlikely that new greenfield projects will be sanctioned until oil prices move much higher (Canadian heavy oil (WCS) trades at a 25% discount to WTI). Assuming that prices stabilize in the $50 to $60 range, it is reasonable that pilots may evolve into brownfield expansion projects over the next year or two.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers estimates that annual oil sand production will grow 128,000 b/d until 2021 and then, grow more slowly at 59,000 b/d. If all of that new oil were going to KXL, it would not reach capacity for about 10 years. But other pipelines are already approved for expansion and will probably get much of the oil before KXL is completed.…—Arthur Berman, "Keystone XL Needs Much Higher Oil Prices To Be Viable," OilPrice, 2/3/17

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Maryland’s fracking ban is fodder for campaigns against industry in Pa., Va.

Governor Larry Hogan signs the fracking ban bill during a ceremony on Tuesday. (Pamela Wood / Baltimore Sun)

When Gov. Larry Hogan signed a state fracking ban into law Tuesday, the stroke of his pen might have sent ripples beyond Maryland’s borders.

Environmentalists in Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are hoping that the action spurs decision makers in those states to give the controversial gas-harvesting practice a second thought.

“It makes them kind of sit up and take note and say, ‘Well, Maryland took a long, hard look at this. They have spent years looking at the issue and come to this conclusion,’” said Kristin Davis, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves injecting fluid into shale formations to release natural gas. Proponents say the practice has created jobs, helped drive down energy costs and freed the country from dependence on foreign oil. Opponents say fracking can contaminate the air and water.

Maryland was the first state in which the practice is geologically feasible to ban the practice by law. Hogan, a Republican, surprised the General Assembly’s Democratic leadership when he offered his support for the measure last month.

Fracking opponents are already urging Democratic governors in California, Colorado and Pennsylvania to follow the lead of Maryland’s Republican executive. They are urging Florida’s Republican leadership to do the same.…—Scott Dance, "Maryland’s fracking ban is fodder for campaigns against industry in Pa., Va.," Baltimore Sun, 4/8/17

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In Alaska's Cook Inlet, Another Apparent Hilcorp Natural Gas Leak

Hilcorp has shut down its third pipeline this year in Alaska's Cook Inlet after discovering a problem on the line. Credit Fox Houston 26 screenshot

ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The owner of a pipeline leaking natural gas into Alaska's Cook Inlet is dealing with another potential gas leak on a different line. It is the third such incident this year for Hilcorp Alaska in an area that has been declared a "critical habitat" for endangered beluga whales.

A spokesman for the company said the latest incident was not a leak, but rather "a metering anomaly." The federal agency with jurisdiction over the pipeline challenged that characterization.

"As far as we know there was a leak. If they [Hilcorp] have some new information that hasn't made it to us yet, I couldn't speak on that," said Darius Kirkwood, a spokesman for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

"The line has been shut down and we are investigating," he said.

Alaska's Cook Inlet is home to endangered beluga whales like the one seen here. Credit: DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images

Further reading: Owner of Leaking Alaska Gas Pipeline Now Dealing With Oil Spill Nearby

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) called it a leak.

"The pressure in the line dropped dramatically, that was their indicator that they had a leak," said Kristin Ryan, the director of spill prevention and response for the DEC. "They shut the well in and shut the line down. So that has been stopped."

Neither Ryan nor Kirkwood had information about when the problem was reported or how much natural gas may have leaked out. The underwater pipeline carries gas to shore from the company's Steelhead drilling platform. Hilcorp has emptied the pipeline of gas. Because Alaska has no regulations that apply to natural gas leaks, PHMSA is handling the response.…—Sabrina Shankman, "In Alaska's Cook Inlet, Another Apparent Hilcorp Natural Gas Leak," InsideClimate News, 4/8/17

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Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year

Under a proposal introduced in the California legislature, the state's electricity would come entirely from renewable sources, like this Oakland wind farm, by 2045. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Lawmakers in state legislatures across the nation have proposed hundreds of bills this year relating to clean energy. While many propose to grow alternative energy resources, others work to impede them, creating a chaotic map of countervailing efforts.

State politicians have introduced measures to dramatically expand renewable electric power in nearly a dozen states in the first three months of 2017, some as ambitious as aiming to run entirely on renewables within a few decades; some would launch smaller-scale community solar ventures, like a pilot in Virginia; others would add tax breaks for solar users in South Carolina and Florida.

But other state legislatures are resisting the advance of clean power as it begins to transform the energy landscape. Less a new assault inspired by the Republican-led backlash against green energy under way in Washington, D.C., it's the continuation of campaigns by conservative groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Prosperity and the Heartland Institute with ties to the fossil fuel billionaires, the Koch brothers. Members of traditional energy companies, including utilities and fossil fuel companies, have also supported some attacks.…—Zahra Hirji, "Hundreds of Clean Energy Bills Have Been Introduced in States Nationwide This Year," InsideClimate News, 3/27/17

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Republican legislators take aim at Public Utilities Commission

Republicans have introduced a half-dozen bills that would change the power and makeup of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.

With complete control of the Minnesota Legislature, Republicans are taking early aim this session at a little-discussed state commission that has a big say on energy issues.

Republicans have introduced a half-dozen bills that would change the power and makeup of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, a five-member group appointed by the governor that has the power to regulate the state’s big electricity, gas and telecommunication companies. The proposals run the gamut, from changing the commission’s abilities to oversee and review new natural gas and pipeline projects to where its members come from in the state.

The proposals come at a time of uncertainty over the nation's future energy policies under President Donald Trump, and they would mean big changes to the 42-year-old commission, which impacts the pocketbooks of Minnesota businesses and homeowners by setting energy rates.

Republicans say the commission has a metro-heavy representation and bogs down critical state projects with bureaucratic red tape. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said GOP Rep. Jim Newberger, who authored one the proposals to go around the PUC.

Further reading: ALEC state of mind – Rep. Garofalo’s energy bill gives away too much to energy companies, MinnPost, 4/8/15

But church leaders and clean energy groups, among others, are opposing the bills, saying they set a dangerous precedent by weakening the only check on the state’s monopoly energy system. “They all look like small changes but they all add up to a big change in utility regulations,” said Annie Levenson-Falk, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, a newly-formed organization that advocates for energy consumers in Minnesota. “There’s no market so the checks on that market are so important. The PUC is that check.”…—Briana Bierschbach, "Republican legislators take aim at Public Utilities Commission," MinnPost, 2/1/17

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EPA Integrity Watchdog Could Spark Internal Clash Over Pruitt’s Climate Denial

AAAS Fellow Francesca Grifo is tasked with protecting scientific integrity at the EPA. (Photo: EPA)

Did Scott Pruitt's recent climate denial cross a red line and violate the scientific integrity rules of the Environmental Protection Agency? That's a question now being reviewed by an agency watchdog with a long record of pushing for credibility and transparency in government science.

The agency turned that matter over to Francesca Grifo after the Sierra Club demanded an investigation of Pruitt for publicly questioning carbon dioxide's role in global warming last month. Grifo is a holdover from the Obama administration who in 2013 became the agency's first scientific integrity official.

Before that, she spent eight years with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an advocacy group that is now squarely at odds with the Trump administration on climate change and other issues.

At UCS, Grifo advocated for stronger scientific integrity policies, testifying before Congress and writing papers accusing the George W. Bush administration of interfering with science and peddling uncertainties over the causes of climate change.

Now Grifo, who is not a political appointee, is tasked with investigating her boss on the issue.

"She'll have to be very gutsy," said Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, who studies environmental regulation and science in regulatory policy. "She's shaking her fist at a hungry lion."

Pruitt sparked the inquiry when a CNBC interviewer asked him if carbon dioxide was the "primary control knob" for climate change. He replied: "So no, I would not agree that it's a primary contributor to the global warming that we see. But we don't know that yet...We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis."

The comment, which goes against the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, prompted the Sierra Club to ask the agency's Office of Inspector General to conduct an inquiry into Pruitt's statements. The Sierra Club said the statements violated the agency's own scientific integrity policy. "We respectfully urge you to investigate and remedy this violation as soon as possible to prevent further erosion of scientific integrity at the agency," Sierra Club's attorneys wrote in the letter on March 14.… —Georgina Gustin, "EPA Watchdog Could Spark Internal Clash Over Pruitt’s Climate Denial," InsideClimate News, 4/6/17

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Trump Clears Way for Possible Mojave Desert Water Pumping

Environmental critics say groundwater pumping could dry up desert springs that plants and wildlife need to survive, especially in Mojave National Preserve and the new Mojave Trails National Preserve. (David Dufresne/Flickr)

LOS ANGELES — Reversing an Obama-era policy, the Trump administration is clearing a path for a private company to pump water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it in Southern California.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management previously ruled that Cadiz Inc. couldn’t use an existing federal railroad right of way to build a 43-mile pipeline to carry water from its private Mojave wells to the Colorado River Aqueduct.

The decision would have forced Cadiz to go through the long and costly process of completing environmental studies for the pipeline.

But in a March 29 memo, the BLM revoked two previous instruction memos that provided policy guidance and underpinned that decision, effectively opening the way for a reversal.

The new policy also removes a future decision from the BLM’s field office in California — which made the 2015 ruling — and puts it in the hands of the agency’s Washington, D.C., office.

Environmental critics have charged that the groundwater pumping could dry up desert springs that plants and wildlife need to survive, especially in Mojave National Preserve and the new Mojave Trails National Preserve.…—Robert Jablon, "Trump Clears Way for Possible Mojave Desert Water Pumping," KQED News, 4/6/17

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Bipartisan Opposition To Trump's Water Cuts Is Already Growing

Rural communities voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in November. Now a key program that supports the safety of their water is at risk. Credit: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Donald Trump plans to eliminate a popular federal program that helps small, rural communities — many of them Trump strongholds — to upgrade and maintain their water infrastructure systems. But his plan just got a bit more complicated.

This week, a bipartisan group of more than 60 U.S. representatives issued a letter to the House’s Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, writing in defense of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s water and wastewater loan and grant program.

The letter, signed by 49 Democrats and 13 Republicans as of Wednesday, calls for increased funding of the USDA rural water program, arguing that it and two other related initiatives are “essential in helping small and rural communities overcome their limitations in providing safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation.”

A failure to protect the program, the letter says, would result in “irreparable and long lasting harm to these water systems and the Americans who rely on them.”

In a statement, Mike Keegan, a spokesman for the National Rural Water Association, applauded the lawmakers who signed the letter ― a group led by Reps. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) and John Katko (R-N.Y.) ― and expressed optimism that a majority of Congress would also back the threatened program.

This federal initiative is a priority for [a] very diverse and large group of members of Congress, both regionally and politically,” Keegan noted in the statement, “and I think that bipartisan and broad support projects very positively for Congress funding the initiative this year.”

The USDA program, last funded with an annual budget of $498 million, was deemed “reduplicative” of the Environmental Protection Agency’s state revolving water funds in Trump’s budget blueprint. The document called on small, rural water utilities otherwise served by the USDA program to turn to the EPA revolving funds, which are slated for a slight budget increase, for help.

But rural advocates like Keegan note that the EPA programs have typically allocated the bulk of their funding — as much as 77 percent — to larger, urban water systems. And smaller systems are less enticing candidates for private financing because they often lack the resources to repay the loans at the interest rates and on the payment schedules that private institutions prefer.…—Joseph Erbentraut, "Bipartisan Opposition To Trump's Water Cuts Is Already Growing," The Huffington Post, 4/6/17

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This is how states will fight Trump's energy order

Click to view video

Donald Trump’s plan to bring an abrupt halt to America’s crusade against climate change will test California and other states like never before as they seek to wrest control of the nation’s energy future from a hostile White House.

The energy plan Trump unveiled on Tuesday left no doubt that the states are now on their own — and that the White House is already poised to weaken some of their pioneering efforts.

Left uncertain, though, is whether Trump can unilaterally relinquish the nation’s role as a global leader in the fight to curb emissions, or whether the progressive states — with an assist from legally savvy environmental groups — can preserve that mantle.

Shortly after Trump signed his energy plan, Gov. Jerry Brown vowed that the president’s “outrageous move will galvanize the contrary force.”

Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are moving fast to consolidate the power of several other states and countries that are united on climate action, and are emerging to fill the American leadership vacuum on the world stage that the Trump administration has created.

It’s a formidable coalition, with U.S. states and foreign governments representing a billion people and a third of the global economy. Whether it can be harnessed to bring America in a direction the White House is now dead set against remains to be seen.…—Evan Halper, "This is how states will fight Trump's energy order," Los Angeles Times, 3/29/17

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I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations

In the waning days of 2016 we were warned: save the data. Photograph: Andrew Stewart / SpecialistStock

As an Arctic researcher, I’m used to gaps in data. Just over 1% of US Arctic waters have been surveyed to modern standards. In truth, some of the maps we use today haven’t been updated since the second world war. Navigating uncharted waters can prove difficult, but it comes with the territory of working in such a remote part of the world.

Over the past two months though, I’ve been navigating a different type of uncharted territory: the deleting of what little data we have by the Trump administration.

At first, the distress flare of lost data came as a surge of defunct links on 21 January. The US National Strategy for the Arctic, the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, and the report on our progress all gone within a matter of minutes. As I watched more and more links turned red, I frantically combed the internet for archived versions of our country’s most important polar policies.

I had no idea then that this disappearing act had just begun.

Since January, the surge has transformed into a slow, incessant march of deleting datasets, webpages and policies about the Arctic. I now come to expect a weekly email request to replace invalid citations, hoping that someone had the foresight to download statistics about Arctic permafrost thaw or renewable energy in advance of the purge.…—Victoria Herrmann, "I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations," The Guardian, 3/28/17

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The Climate Data That Led to a Hung Jury

The author, Ken Ward, on the witness stand

Last week, a Skagit County, Washington jury failed to reach a verdict in my trial on charges of burglary and sabotage for closing the TransMountain pipeline as part of the ShutItDown climate direct action, which disrupted all five pipelines carrying Canadian tar sands oil into the U.S. last October.

The trial itself was very short, barely two days long, because there was no disagreement on the facts of the case, because my proposed necessity defense was not allowed by order of the presiding judge (so our expert witnesses on climate science and energy policy did not take the stand) and because my own testimony was sharply limited in scope.

On the stand, I told the jury my own story, about working for decades on the staff of public interest and environmental organizations where we treated climate change as merely one among many policy issues and about the rude awakening I received after reading two seminal papers, Bill Hare's, 1997 Greenpeace International report The Carbon Logic and Dr. James Hansen's 2005 A Slippery Slope.

In my testimony and with a handful of charts and graphs, I aimed to show:

  1. How quickly climate change is occurring and how far out of whack Earth systems are from historical norms ...
  2. The potentially catastrophic impact of sea level rise on Skagit County ...
  3. The culpable role of tar sands oil in contributing to disaster ...
  4. The scale of change necessary to stave off the worse case, and ...
  5. The powerful, effective and unique role that nonviolent climate direct action can play in forcing change in a deadlocked society.

I was not allowed to get all of that into the record, but in the end, the jury had these four pieces of tangible evidence to review in their deliberations.

Video of the Action. The prosecution chose to show the jury a short video of highlights of the action that we had prepared, drawing from my own live-streaming and video shot by independent documentarians, Lindsey Grayzell and Carl Davis.…—Ken Ward, "The Climate Data That Led to a Hung Jury," Climate Disobedience Action Fund, 3/6/17

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The Hidden World of Soil Under Our Feet

Katie Scott

THE world’s worrisome decline in biodiversity is well known. Some experts say we are well on our way toward the sixth great extinction and that by 2100 half of all the world’s plant and animal species may disappear.

Yet one of the most important threats to biodiversity has received little attention — though it lies under our feet.

Scientists using new analytical techniques over the last decade have found that the world’s ocean of soil is one of our largest reservoirs of biodiversity. It contains almost one-third of all living organisms, according to the European Union’s Joint Research Center, but only about 1 percent of its micro-organisms have been identified, and the relationships among those myriad life-forms is poorly understood.

Soil is the foundation on which the house of terrestrial biodiversity is built. Without robust soil ecosystems, the world’s food web would be in trouble.

To understand more, scientists recently embarked on what they call the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative to assess what is known about soil life, pinpoint where it is endangered and determine the health of the essential ecosystem services that soil provides.

They are not just looking at soil in remote, far-off landscapes. One of the more intensive studies is taking place in New York’s Central Park.

The focus is on the life that resides in the soil — the microbes, fungi, nematodes, mites and even gophers that make up a complex web of interrelationships.

A teaspoon of soil may have billions of microbes divided among 5,000 different types, thousands of species of fungi and protozoa, nematodes, mites and a couple of termite species. How these and other pieces all fit together is still largely a mystery.

“There’s a teeming organization below ground, a factory, with soil animals and microbes, each with their own role,” said Diana H. Wall, a professor of biology at Colorado State University who has studied soil biodiversity in Antarctica and Kansas over the last two decades and who is the scientific chairwoman of the soil biodiversity initiative. “A leaf falls, and earthworms and termites are constantly ripping and tearing it apart, and microbes and fungi pass the nutrients on to plants.”…—Jim Robbins, "The Hidden World of Soil Under Our Feet," The New York Times, 5/11/13

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