October 18, 2017
The battle for climate action is being fought at all levels, from the highest court to the light switch in your home. The scale of the battlefield and the frequency of the clashes can make keeping up with it all intimidating, so this week I’ve selected articles covering five important legal and bureaucratic climate fights, from pipeline protesters to civil servants to heads of state. A well-informed populace is essential to a healthy democracy, and the key to preventing a complete takeover of our country by special interest groups like the fossil fuel industry. Those of us who wish to live in a democratic state instead of a fascist oil-garchy must stay engaged and do everything we can to stop the devolution of our nation.
—Jon Conway, Ph.D., Greenpower Research Director
If a self-identified Nazi can claim “free speech” to call for the extermination of millions of humans without police interference, why can’t peaceful and lawful demonstrations be used to protest the seizure and destruction of private property by a private corporation? This is the issue behind a recent lawsuit against Sunoco, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), private military firm TigerSwan, and a group of law enforcement officers following the arrest of peaceful protestors and landowners in the path of Sunoco and ETP’s Mariner East 2 pipeline in Pennsylvania. Sunoco and ETP were also responsible for the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), and hired mercenary group TigerSwan to provide “security” for DAPL and Mariner East. Both the DAPL and Mariner East conflicts featured state and/or federal powers (eminent domain and law enforcement officers) working with private corporations to protect profit at the expense of the earth. Will these plaintiffs, unlike the Dakota Access water protectors, see justice?
4. Dire Warnings Over Fed’s Failure To Track Highway Emissions CBS San Francisco
Following closely behind last month’s Department of Energy announcement that greenhouse gases from the transportation sector had finally surpassed those from the electricity generation sector, the Department of Transportation has stated that it is indefinitely delaying a program aimed at measuring and reducing transportation sector emissions. This act is unprecedented in department history, but perfectly in keeping with the Trump administration’s objective of suppressing climate action. And in keeping with the unprecedented resistance to the Trump administration, a group of eight states are now suing the Department of Transportation to restart the critically-important highway emission monitoring program.
"DOT owes the American people an explanation for this highly unusual step to essentially ignore carbon pollution."
3. Civil Servants Charge Trump is Sidelining Workers with Expertise on Climate Change, Environment The Los Angeles Times
In a move mirroring the bloody purges that often follow a coup, the Trump administration has made it a priority to fire, sideline, or drive out career staff at many federal agencies. This has often taken the form of moving an offensive employee (often someone specializing in climate change) to a completely unrelated job, or by putting an unqualified person into a key position—much like Trump and the rest of his cabinet. “I got 30% of the crew that's not loyal to the flag,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke this week, signaling major staffing changes. This type of behavior is beginning to provoke legal backlash, as a group of law experts warned that it veers dangerously close to violating Nixon-era laws against political staffing purges. In other words, cronyism and suppression of experts is illegal, unethical, and threatens the future of American climate action and resilience.
"The work of the EPA science arm has now been disconnected from the agency’s decision-making. It’s like a bureaucratic Dunkirk over there. They are just stuck waiting on the beach."
2. U.S. Climate Change Policy: Made in California The New York Times
As the largest state in the nation, California has unique powers to determine or sway national standards for several large industries. The American auto industry in particular has worked to meet the stricter air standards set by California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) to reduce air pollution. This role has brought CARB into conflict with the Trump Administration as Trump calls for regulatory rollbacks that he claims will allow for US manufacturers to “make cars in America again.” He is apparently unaware that cars have been manufactured in the US continuously for over a century. The EPA has already claimed a few victories against California environmental standards, but has not yet been able to completely override California’s influence over vehicle emissions. The Trump administration still has a “nuclear option” if it revokes California’s waiver to set its own emission standards, and while that would trigger a major court battle, it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility for this administration.
1. Solar Industry Roiled by Trade Ruling That Some Fear Could Lead to Tariffs The Washington Post
The US International Trade Commission sent shock waves through the American solar industry last week when it ruled in favor of two bankrupted solar manufacturing companies, Suniva and Solar World, saying that they had been caused injury by cheap solar panel imports from China, Mexico, South Korea, and Canada. Suniva and Solar World, owned by Chinese and German firms, respectively, are seeking tariffs that will essentially double the cost of solar panels and modules in the US, crippling the entire industry. Since the ITC is now required to submit recommendations for remedy to the White House by November 12th, this finding essentially places the future of the national solar industry solely in the hands of Donald Trump. Trump has made it clear he favors dirty fossil fuels to solar and other renewables, and has called for increased tariffs on imported goods. This is an existential threat to US solar as it currently stands. The ITC’s public hearing will take place on October 3rd. Stay tuned to Greenpower in the coming days and we’ll let you know how you can best take action to protect solar energy in America!
Winners and losers.