The Washington Post listed their 10 most consequential environmental stories. Summaries and my comments (in italics) are below.
1. Withdrawal from the Paris climate accord. Blasts the US withdrawal “from a global effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to fend off the worst effects of climate change…”The United States is now the only nation [of 196] in the world to reject the deal.”
But the US rejected participation in the earlier Kyoto Accord for the same reasons. First, as Dick Stegemeier reminds us and makes CO2 haters apoplectic, plant growth relies on CO2; it makes earth habitable. Air is 400 parts per million (0.04% ppm) of CO2; we inhale that much in every breath we take. In school classrooms, the allowable CO2 content is 1,000 ppm; many reach 2,000ppm or even 3,000ppm. So we inhale 400ppm CO2 and exhale 4% to 5% CO2ppm (40,000ppm) — a buildup of 100 times. We’re dead if we don’t inhale; dead if we don’t exhale — and brain dead if we adopt the trickery EPA used to flim-flam the Supreme Court on CO2.
Second and more to the question of a US role, we were one of three nations of 195 to reject the predecessor Kyoto Accord, enabling us to avoid giving $Billions to less-developed nations that would do nothing to “progress.” Third, no nation but the US has met any 2020 Kyoto targets — largely because economics slashed US coal-fired electric generation by one-third. Fourth, no nation has met any of its “commitments” to donate $100 billion to less-developed nations for also ignoring the Kyoto targets. So the US is the only nation meeting Kyoto goals, saving $Billions, and not welshing on payments to non-performing Third World and Developing nations. Paris will be the same.
2. A sea change at the Environmental Protection Agency. Blasts EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has “acted aggressively to reduce the agency’s reach, pause or reverse numerous environmental rules and shrink its workforce to Reagan-era levels.”
EPA has squandered budgets and employee time, damaged human health and allowed pollution in areas they were set up to protect (see #8, below). Thus the “Environmental Justice (EJ)” staff of dozens had a budget of millions since 1992, but no formal mission or a single accomplishment; EJ listed meetings and phone calls as “accomplishments.” Similarly, EPA’s Superfund projects were never prioritized — Pruitt has done so.
There are many such cases. A 20% budget reduction and directed missions and priorities should enable the agency to execute its mission effectively. The cut will not go into effect for months, and then through Reductions in Force (paid resignations) and normal retirements. Since Administrator Pruitt has taken over, improvement is preceding the budget schedule.
8. Criminal charges mount in the Flint water crisis. Michigan’s Attorney General, in 4 years, has charged 51 State and local officials with involuntary manslaughter and other criminal charges for roles in the Flint water crisis, which exposed thousands of young children to dangerous levels of lead contamination. His investigations continue — but probably will not impact any EPA officials.
EPA is responsible for Safe Drinking Water compliance. They delegate that authority to allow state or local officials to handle issues. Thus after approving a State plan, EPA delegated power to Michigan — which re-sourced Flint’s drinking water to cut costs, with no hearings or approvals.
The Detroit News (2/15) said EPA’s Regional Administrator knew the facts, but claimed her “hands were tied.” The Agency Administrator went further: when an EPA staff expert wrote repeated warnings to agency officials, he was reassigned and forbidden to discuss the issue. Administrator McCarthy later (6/12/16) wrote the Flint Mayor and the Michigan Governor, rejecting appeals for help, blaming them and a newly-corrupted distribution system. In tones as damaging as her letter, she claimed EPA had no money to fix things. She has escaped the AG’s investigations and behaves as she did on Puerto Rico landfill disasters and other non-cleanups — and she remains uncharged and publicly critical of the new EPA leadership and approach.
3. The fight over national monuments. Blasted the review of 27 land and marine monuments that had been designated in April, 2017, and called “overzealous land grabs” by some who opposed them.
Utah Republicans said the “overzealous land grabs” put 60% of all Utah under “Federal protection.” Interior Secretary Zinke said he would order reviews of other protected areas. Native American and environmental groups are leading “a wave of lawsuits;” at least those won’t be settled now by an agency that always agrees with those groups and that tactic.
4. Drill, drill, drill. Blasting announcement of “the largest gulf [of Mexico] lease offering for oil and gas exploration in U.S. history.”
The writers ignore/don’t understand how the years it takes to plan, authorize, complete and make awards in an offshore lease sale. In other cases they advance other false horrors — renewed coal mining and use (despite admitting that natural gas use has forced a precipitous decline in U.S. coal-fired electricity); another Deepwater Horizon catastrophe; and “drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” But, they say, “Let the buyer beware. Royal Dutch Shell drilled a $7 billion hole in the Chukchi Sea in 2014 and has nothing to show for it.”
That list of horrors is the authors’, who ignore all the steps to be taken and economic realities that militate against them. For example, coal mining and use will continue to be subject to fracking economics and the environmental superiority of natural gas which has eliminated over 1/2 of natural gas-fired electricity. The oil lease sale processes will take years and be subject to every delay in court that environmentalists can muster. Deepwater Horizon catastrophe causes have been long corrected. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, barred for 50 years, is a red herring — the very small area to be opened for drilling has always been officially available except for environmentalists’ misrepresentations that present it as part of the Reserve. Any drilling will be limited to small acreage, far from the Reserve and the wildlife that is protected there.
That completes the first one-half of The Post’s nominees for Most Consequential Environmental Stories of 2017. Some are worth discussing or debating; some probably do not deserve to be on the list and some reflect astounding naiveté or selective discussion by the authors.