Need more to meet in the middle

How do we resolve the divisiveness in our political climate today? One person at a time, I think. We will not solve the problems facing our nation, indeed, our planet, with vitriol and loud voices. Friend and fellow-blogger Keith, as always, makes some excellent points on this topic. Please take a minute to read … this is too important for us to continue as we have been. Thanks, Keith!!!

musingsofanoldfart

The overarching theme of the book “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn is to accomplish lasting, impactful solutions (in this case with climate change and environmental concerns) we need to work with folks in the middle. In essence, the folks in the extremes are too strident and reluctant to compromise.

A good example comes from the Montana rancher as he combats climate change and environmental degradation caused by fracking for natural gas. He works with folks who will address the environmental issues, but permit him and his family to make a living ranching. He notes the fracking companies paint a picture that is far rosier than it is, while some extreme environmentalists want everything to stop and do nothing with the land. At personal risk, he built a coalition of ranchers, environmentalists and government officials who were willing to follow his lead to preserve the environment while permitting the ranchers…

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Keystone XL … A Hollow Victory?

Last week I reported about the spill of 210,000 gallons of oil from the Keystone XL pipeline, and expressed hopes that somehow this would sway the Nebraska Public Service Commission that was set to vote yesterday on whether or not to grant approval for the final stage of the pipeline that would go through Nebraska.    So what happened yesterday?

Predictably, the commission voted that the pipeline may proceed through Nebraska … BUT … it is not the win TransCanada, the builders of the pipeline, had hoped for.  Why?  Because, while the commission said they could proceed, they mandated that it follow an alternative route.  Hey, it’s an alternative world with alternative facts, so why not an alternative route?  What does all this mean, you ask?

pipeline-new-routeFirst, it means that the project that has been on the drawing board for nine years now will be futher delayed.  Second, you may remember I noted that the two environmental impact studies were outdated (2012 & 2014) and thus did not include last week’s major spill.  With the alternative route, a new environmental impact study could be called for – one that would include the recent spill, as well as the one from last year. Third, the landowners along the new, alternative route, have not had the opportunity of due process, the chance to argue their case before the state commission, which could result in a legal delay. Fourth, with oil prices down significantly from when the project was first proposed, TransCanada was already looking at diminished returns on their investment.  With the legal delays, scheduling changes, and additional costs involved, they could well decide not to proceed with the project at all.

TransCanada’s CEO, Ross Girling, was less than enthusiastic, saying the company is now “assessing how the decision would impact the cost and schedule of the project.” Top financial and market analysts expressed skepticism that the project will ever reach fruition.  Environmental groups opposed to the project are cautiously optimistic.  One such group, Friends of the Earth, sent me this email …

Keystone friends of earthNo, I did not send them a donation, though if I could afford it, I probably would, for it is a good organization and they do good work.

In addition to environmental groups, Native Americans and other landowners would have much preferred the commission to vote down the project altogether. According to Bloomberg …

“Nebraska’s decision overrode the objections of environmental groups, Native American tribes and landowners along the pipeline’s prospective route. The project had the support of the state’s governor, Republican Pete Ricketts, its chamber of commerce, trade unions and the petroleum industry.”

Tells you all you need to know, doesn’t it?

The commissioners who supported the route change said it would impact fewer threatened and endangered species, fewer wells, less irrigated cropland, and that it included one less river crossing. While TransCanada had originally included the alternative route in its proposal, no impact studies were ever done for that route, leading most to believe it was never intended to be considered.

What happens next?  Landowners and environmental groups have 30 days to file an appeal, which I would bet my bottom dollar will happen in well under 30 days. The decision by the Public Service Commission (PSC) was not a complete victory for either side, but it will certainly delay the project further, could possibly halt it based on new environmental impact studies, and could even cause TransCanada to cancel the project.  Time will tell, but for the moment, it seems rather a hollow victory for TransCanada and its wealthy stockholders.  And oh, by the way, speaking of stockholders  …

You may find it interesting to note that Donald Trump holds stock in TransCanada, as well as in Energy Transfer Partners, the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Wow, what a surprise, yes?

Stay tuned ….

Look What We’re Doing To Our Planet!!! 🌍 🌏 🌎

oil spill.JPG

Spilled oil in South Dakota – 2016

Early Friday morning it was announced that on Thursday, an existing portion of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline leaked at least 210,000 gallons of oil near Amherst, South Dakota. The spill is about 40 miles from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation. Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribal chairman David Flute said his community is concerned the leak, the largest by the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota to date, could pollute the area’s aquifer and waterways.

“We are keeping a watchful eye and an open ear. The concern is at a high level, but there is really nothing we can do.”

On November 20th, the Nebraska Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to accept TransCanada’s Keystone XL proposal to construct new pipeline through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.  Thursday’s spill is the largest yet in the pipeline’s 7-year history. Last year, another major leak sent 16,800 gallons of oil spilling onto South Dakota grasslands. Now, one might expect a leak of more than 210,000 gallons might influence the decision of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, mightn’t one?  Well, think again.  An excerpt from the law governing the approval process:

“Commission Determination – In determining whether the pipeline carrier has met its burden, the Act prohibits the Commission from evaluating safety considerations, including the safety as to the design, installation, inspection, emergency plans and procedures, testing, construction, extension, operation, replacement, maintenance, and risk or impact of spills or leaks from the major oil pipeline.”

The law also states that an environmental impact study is to be presented and considered.  The environmental impact study can and does consider spills and leaks and those are reflected in the report.  The only problem here is that two environmental impact studies will be presented:  one was conducted by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality in 2012, and the other conducted by the State Department in 2014.  No environmental impact study has been performed for three years, thus neither this latest major spill nor the one last year will be considered in the decision next week.

dallas-goldtooth

Dallas Goldtooth

“It poses a risk to the Indigenous rights of tribal nations all along the route and it’s a complete disregard for free prior and informed consent as guaranteed on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It puts at risk the drinking water of over 65,000 Indigenous peoples along the route and puts at risk the livelihood for so many people that depend on tourism, on the land itself for farming and livestock. It’s a risk we can’t take.” – Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

TransCanada first noticed the drop in pressure that is indicative of a leak at around 6:00 a.m., Thursday morning; the state was not notified until 10:30 a.m., and the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate tribe was not notified until noon.PipelineThe Obama administration spent six years considering the controversial cross-border pipeline before ultimately denying a permit for its construction in November of 2015. On Friday, 04 March 2017, the Trump administration issued a permit allowing the pipeline to move forward. Why?  Two reasons, greed and Trump’s determination to reverse every action President Obama took during his eight years in office.

However, there is yet another twist in the story. When the project was first proposed in 2008, oil prices had just topped $70 a barrel, rising to more than $90 a barrel between 2010 and 2014. But since then, oil prices have dropped precipitously — down to just about $56 a barrel today, greatly reducing the profitability and salability of the oil from the pipeline.

We have one planet to live on.  Humans will not, contrary to what some believe, live on Mars or the moon.  Humans and most of the other living creatures and vegetation currently calling this planet their home, will survive on this planet or not at all.  But, as with any home, we must maintain it, care for it, and take responsibility for its habitability.  The industrialized, western nations are, quite frankly, doing a lousy job of taking care of our planet, nearly always choosing profit over good stewardship.  love earth

We have a responsibility to preserve our planet for future generations.  Instead, we applaud a leader who approves a risky pipeline that will endanger the water supplies in at least four states, and who has refused to work toward a healthier, more sustainable environment.  If, after 11 spills in 7 years, two of them major spills, this pipeline is allowed to continue, it will be an abomination, another time that we traded human life for profit, another time we bowed to greed.  A saying I have heard many times in the last few years is that the Earth will survive without humans, but humans will not survive without Earth. Think about it.earth

 

With Our Heads In The Sand …

The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place this week and next (November 6-17) in Bonn, Germany. Despite Donald Trump’s desire to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord, he is not able to do so officially until 2020, and thus the U.S. is represented in Bonn this week, albeit by a weak party with no voice, for fear of rousing Trump’s ire.

As I reported in my post of June 1st, all but two nations on the entire globe, Nicaragua and Syria, had signed the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.  Since then, both Nicaragua and Syria have signed the agreement, but Donald Trump has announced his decision to pull out at the earliest possible date, making the United States the only nation on the entire globe that will not participate, at least not at the federal level or officially, in trying to save the planet from the greed and ignorance of mankind. We stand alone, and on the wrong side of the fence.

The delegation to Bonn from the U.S. is led by two men:  Thomas A. Shannon, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and Trigg Talley, Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change.  Both men have shown themselves in the past to be committed to addressing issues of climate change, and Mr. Talley served as the head of U.S. delegation during three years of preparatory conferences for the Paris Agreement.  However, this week their hands are tied, and they are ashamed and embarrassed at the stand their nation has taken.  According to one delegate, “It’s as though the US negotiators have been dipped in aspic. They are scared stiff of upsetting the White House. They try to be constructive, but they don’t want that known.”

Thomas Shannon (left) and Trigg Talley

The White House has confirmed that the US will promote the “efficient” use of coal, nuclear energy and natural gas as an answer to climate change in a presentation to delegates in Bonn. Trump has vowed to revive America’s ailing coal sector but this message is likely to provoke outrage on the global stage. “We are seeing 196 parties trying to move forward and put the Paris accord into effect. They don’t want to let the US impede that progress,” said David Waskow of the World Resources Institute.

Another delegate said: “We have lost the leadership the US used to provide. They have the best negotiating team and they are usually put forward strong arguments, but in talks this year, they have been quiet. You can feel they are a little lost. It must be so hard for them now. I sympathise.”

But there is a bit of a bright spot …

But the U.S., or at least parts of it, was also represented in another way. According to an article in The Guardian

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement has created a vacuum into which dozens of state, city and business leaders have leapt, with the aim of convincing other countries at the international summit that the administration is out of kilter with the American people.

The counter-Trump movement in Bonn is being spearheaded by Jerry Brown, the governor of California, and Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York. Brown, in particular, has assumed the role of a de facto US leader, scheduling more than two dozen events to agitate for renewable energy and emissions cuts to combat what he has called an “existential crisis”.

A US Climate Action Center has been set up for delegates in Bonn, representing the climate change priorities of several thousand US cities, states, tribes and businesses. Corporate giants Mars, Walmart and Citi are expected to push for action on climate change. The center is in lieu of an official US presence – for the first time, the US government won’t have a pavilion at the annual UN climate summit.

At the razzamatazz opening of the alternative US centre on Thursday, California state senator Ricardo Lara told the audience: “Greetings from the official resistance to the Trump administration.” Pausing for cheers and applause, he said: “Let’s relish being rebels. Despite what happens in DC, we’re still here.”

A coalition of 14 US states, including California and New York, have said they are on track to meet the US target of a 26-28% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. The goal was set by Barack Obama’s administration as part of the Paris agreement between 195 nations to avoid dangerous global warming of more than 2C.

Brown has raised his profile in recent months by meeting with China’s leadership to discuss clean energy technology and becoming a special adviser for states and regions during the Bonn talks.

The efforts of Brown, Bloomberg and others is definitely heartening, is a step in the right direction, and sends a loud and clear message to Trump that he does not, in fact, represent our nation in his decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. But ….

Governors such as Brown and Cuomo cannot officially take the place of the US president in UN climate talks. Their emissions pledges do not supersede the official US position and, in any case, the 14 committed states only have influence over around half of total US emissions. Without national leadership, the US is in danger of missing its emissions reduction goals and will jeopardize international efforts to stave off 2C of warming, which would lead to elevated sea level rise, intensified droughts, heatwaves and wildfires.

By what right, I ask, does one ‘man’, Donald Trump, determine the destruction of the planet?  And to what end does he make this decision?  For the jobs of a few thousand coal miners whose jobs will be gone, despite Trump’s best efforts, within five years at the latest, for there is little market for coal anymore?  For a handful of jobs, he is willing to risk the lives of the 7.442 billion people who call this planet ‘home’?

We, the United States, are rapidly becoming a pariah in the world, thanks to only one person.  The world has already waited too long to address the issue of climate change, and it is imperative that every person on the earth step up to the plate and do his/her part immediately.  And yet, here in the U.S., life goes on – we mine coal, start up new oil pipeline projects without proper environmental studies, drive our cars wherever we wish, keep our homes toasty, pollute our cities with antiquated factories, emitting more Co2 every day.  And we are the only country left on the planet whose leadership is thumbing their noses at the rest of the world and sending the message “we don’t care”.  Shame on Donald Trump, and shame on the U.S.

Idiot of the Week — Rick Perry

Idiot of the Week medalYesterday, I started a post about Rick Perry.  It was to be just a post about a ridiculous claim he had made earlier in the week.  We are used to inanity from everyone in the current administration, so, while his comment did cause my jaw to drop, it wasn’t really that unexpected, and I planned to write the post and then put Mr. Perry out of my mind.  But, as I wrote I thought “y’know … people don’t just get this stupid overnight, and there must have been previous signs of such idiocy”.  And so, I went in search of … and after reading for a bit, I decided that it is high time I write another of my Idiot of the Week posts.  And so, allow me to introduce this week’s idiot, Secretary of the Department of Energy, Mr. Rick Perry.  And I simply must begin with the most recent evidence of his condition, for it is what put him onto my radar …


On Connecting the Dots … One Plus One Equals … Four????

No Shit Sherlock.  Dumber Than A Coal Bucket.  You’ve GOT To Be Kidding Me???  Those are the first thoughts that came to mind when I read last night that Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry said that increased use of fossil fuels will lead to a reduction in sexual assaults.

You still with me here, or are you rolling on the floor laughing?  Yeah, me too.  So, how did he connect the dots to come up with this theory?

Rick Perry.jpg“But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts.”  Is he serious???

So, if you burn fossil fuels in Africa, more people will have electricity, so it will not be so dark, so guys won’t rape girls as much if the lights are on.  Brilliant, don’t you think?  Possibly the most incredible theory I have heard yet out of this administration.  Even better than the Civil War being a result of people not being able to compromise on the issue of slavery.

And the Department of Energy spokespeople, bless their little hearts, attempted to spin Perry’s words with this …

“The secretary was making the important point that while many Americans take electricity for granted there are people in other countries who are impacted by their lack of electricity.”

No, excuse me ma’am, but the “secretary” is an IDIOT!

The nation’s largest environmental group, The Sierra Club, apparently agrees with me.  Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, had this to say …

“It was already clear that Rick Perry is unfit to lead the Department of Energy, but to suggest that fossil fuel development will decrease sexual assault is not only blatantly untrue, it is an inexcusable attempt to minimize a serious and pervasive issue. Women, and particularly women of color, are among some of the most severely impacted by the climate crisis, and it is these same communities that are most at risk of sexual assault. Rick Perry’s attempt to exploit this struggle to justify further dangerous fossil fuel development is unacceptable. He does not deserve to hold office another day with these twisted ideas, and he should resign from his position immediately before he causes any more damage.” 

It is interesting to note that Perry was one of Trump’s first cabinet picks, and was placed in the position of Secretary of U.S. Department of Energy, the very deparment he said he would abolish during his campaign for president in 2012.

And now let’s look at some of the other qualifications Mr. Perry has for receiving this award, for you know my standards are high and one episode of idiocy is rarely sufficient …


His new job …

While he enthusiastically accepted Trump’s nomination last December, it turned out he had absolutely no idea what the job actually entailed.  He thought he would be “a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry.” Is this man hung up on fossil fuels or what?  Oh yes, I must remember he is a Texan, where oil is king.  But Perry was shocked to discover that two-thirds of the annual departmental budget he would soon oversee is dedicated to maintaining and protecting the United States’ nuclear arsenal.


On climate change …

While not necessarily a climate change denier, he is certainly a skeptic, not convinced that human activities play a significant role.  Read some of his own words on this topic:

  • “We cleaned up our air in the state of Texas, more than any other state in the nation during the decade. Nitrous oxide levels, down by 57 percent. Ozone levels down by 27 percent. That’s the way you need to do it, not by some scientist somewhere saying, ‘Here is what we think is happening out there.'”

  • “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is just nonsense. Just because you have a group of scientists who stood up and said here is the fact. Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

  • [Climate change is] all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight,Al Gore is a prophet all right, a false prophet of a secular carbon cult, and now even moderate Democrats aren’t buying it.” – from Perry’s book, Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington, November 2010

  • “There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.”

  • “Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed.”

Perry-climate.jpgLast month, Perry said that climate change is a “threat to our nation” and that it is contributing to the recent spate of extreme weather slamming the country. But … he still wants to burn more fossil fuels because he refuses to accept the basic science that climate change is caused by carbon pollution.

During a budget hearing in June, Perry went head-to-head with Senator Al Franken in a heated exchange.

“I did not think that CO2 was the primary knob that changes it. I don’t. I think that there are some other naturally occurring events — the warming and the cooling of our ocean waters and some other activities that occur. I also said in the next breath that man’s impact does, in fact, have an impact on the climate, and the question is: What is going to be the economic impact for this country?”

I hate to tell you this, Rick, but if the earth becomes uninhabitable, the economic impact won’t matter … at all.


Scratching the pharma’s back …

Shortly after his 2006 re-election as Governor of Texas, Perry issued an executive order mandating that sixth-grade girls in Texas be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus—a decision that seemed unusual for a man widely seen as a social conservative. It later surfaced that Perry was close to a pharmaceutical lobbyist, Mike Toomey, who had pressed the case for the vaccine mandate. (And no doubt pressed some money into Perry’s palm.)


He fell for it …

Perry I dunno

I dunno …

On July 19th, Perry received a phone call which lasted for 22 minutes.  He was convinced he was speaking to the Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groysman, but in fact he was speaking with two Russian pranksters, Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov, who have become known for targeting celebrities and politicians with audacious stunts.  During the course of the conversation, one of the duo told Perry that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had invented a new biofuel made from home-brewed alcohol and pig manure.  Not even fazed, Perry responded, “I look forward to visiting with the president and getting a more in-depth briefing … If that’s the result, then he’s going to be a very, very wealthy and successful man.”


Dancing with the stars …

Last September, having dropped out of the republican primary race, Perry decided to try something new, and signed on for a season on Dancing with the Stars.  This short video xlip speaks for itself … 

So now, folks, I think you see why I decided to give Mr. Rick Perry this most prestigious award, Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award!  Perry was one of the few hundred (slight exaggeration) republican candidates who threw their hats in the ring for the 2016 presidential election, and on the one hand, I say I’m glad he dropped out of the race, but then again … look what we did get … sigh.

Mr. Perry … please accept this well-deserved award and be sure to hang it somewhere special in your office so that everyone will see it!

And So It Begins …

The headline caught my eye immediately …

E.P.A. Cancels Talk on Climate Change by Agency Scientists

Needless to say, the headline alone made creepy music begin to play in my head and shades of 1984 ran through my mind. Red flags flew up and alarm bells sounded. Funny how two years ago I would have thought nothing of this headline.

The event at which three scientists were scheduled to speak is the State of the Narragansett Bay and Watershed program in Providence, Rhode Island, and is hosted by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program. The conference is designed to draw attention to the health of Narragansett Bay, the largest estuary in New England and a key to the region’s tourism and fishing industries. The three scientists who have been barred from speaking at the conference helped research and write the 400-page report on the state of the bay. Among the findings are that climate change is affecting air and water temperatures, precipitation, sea level and fish in and around the estuary.

Much of the conference was to revolve around climate change.  Instead of the three scientists presenting the results of their scientific research, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt, is scheduled to speak.  You will remember that Scott Pruitt is a climate change denier who, as Oklahoma attorney general, actually sued the very agency he now leads more than a dozen times.

The three scientists, Autumn Oczkowski, Rose Martin, and Emily Shumchenia, were to speak on an afternoon panel entitled “The Present and Future Biological Implications of Climate Change.” Given Mr. Pruitt’s and Mr. Trump’s views on climate change, and their unwillingness to accept responsibility for reducing carbon emissions in order to slow the effects on the environment, this stifling of data, or open discussion should come as no surprise.

EPA spokesman, John Konkus said that the three scientists would be allowed to attend the program, but not the morning news conference.  Perhaps Mr. Pruitt fears the scientists might comment. No surprise, but very disturbing.  We The People are not to be allowed access to facts, only to the ‘alternative facts’ that Trump & Co decide upon.  1984. Newspeak.

Since August, all EPA grant requests have gone through Mr. Konkus’ office for review. Konkus served on Trump’s campaign before he was appointed deputy associate administrator in the EPA’s Office of Public Affairs. At the time, agency officials said they were ensuring agency funding is in line with “Mr. Pruitt’s priorities”.  And we all know what those are … $$$$$$$$$$$$$$

The Narragansett Bay Estuary Program is funded through the EPA’s approximately $26 million National Estuary Program. It funds 28 state-based estuary programs and delivers about $600,000 annually to the Narragansett Bay program. Mr. Pruitt’s proposed budget for 2018 would eliminate the national program. Eliminate.  Think on that one for a minute.

The EPA has removed most mentions of the words “climate change” from its website. Pruitt has declined to link carbon dioxide emissions to global warming, and in an interview with Time magazine last week said he intended to assemble a team of independent experts to challenge established climate science because, Mr. Pruitt asserted, it has not yet been subject to “a robust, meaningful debate.”  Nor is it likely to be under the “leadership” of Mr. Pruitt.

In other environmental news, the EPA is loosening regulations on toxic chemicals that may affect the quality and toxicity of drinking water, among other things that pose a threat to the health of people and the planet as a whole.  And Trump’s proposed budget includes funding for drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The refuge is an untouched region of Alaskan wilderness, supporting the habitat of caribou, wolves, polar bears and hundreds of species of migratory birds. I will have more about these topics in a future post.

I think we all anticipated these moves and more, but to wake up one morning and see in bold print that blatant censorship of real information is happening is sobering, to say the least. Censorship. The withholding of information robs us of the ability to decide for ourselves what to believe or disbelieve.  Trump & Co would have us believe only what they tell us to believe.  They would turn us into sheeple who have no need to think, for we are told all that we need to know by the likes of Trump, Pruitt, Sessions and the rest.  We The People will not stand for it, for I still have faith in our independent spirit.  I sincerely hope that the three scientists who were barred from speaking will speak out in other venues, will help the public understand the results of their research in spite of Big Brother.

Alternative facts … a lie by any other name is still a lie.

Four disasters this week

My friend and fellow-blogger Keith has written another excellent post that I would like to share with you today. He speaks of four disasters this week, and … well, I will let Keith tell you in his own words, for there is really nothing for me to add. Thank you, Keith for such an excellent, well-stated post, and for your permission to re-blog.

musingsofanoldfart

Between the horrible earthquake outside of Mexico City and Hurricane Maria, two disasters are harming people. This is on top of the two terrible hurricanes that hit Texas (Harvey) and Florida and the Caribbean Islands (Irma) in the past three weeks. We need to help those impacted and who may still be impacted as Maria continues onward. At last count, 245 people in Mexico City and the area have died from the earthquake and Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, etc. have been decimated by Maria.

While it is highly likely man-influenced climate change has made the hurricanes more powerful, two other disasters are clearly man-made and harmful to people. For one, we have to travel to Myanmar and Bangladesh as the government of Myanmar is doing an ethnic cleansing of a minority group of Muslims called Rohingyas. Over 400,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Bangladesh to escape the raping, killing, beating and burning of their homes…

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EPA Is Now The SPPA … ‘Scott Pruitt Protection Agency’

EPA Director Scott Pruitt’s life is worth more than yours or mine.  We all know that the Environmental Protection Agency is being scaled back, their hands tied when it comes to doing their job monitoring and enforcing laws that were intended to protect our environment, our health and our very lives.  This was Trump’s dream, to repeal all laws and actions that were implemented by President Obama … or any previous presidents, for that matter.

In a Washington Post article this morning, however, the assault on the functionality of the EPA has been taken to a new level.  Agents who are trained in investigating environmental crimes have been taken away from their jobs … and placed on a security detail to protect, not the environment, but director Scott Pruitt.  Pruitt is now receiving round-the-clock security protection by agents whose jobs it has been to monitor assaults on the air and water we rely on to survive.

Reportedly, Pruitt has been the victim of threats … threats he brought upon himself by his own rhetoric, his denial of human contributions to climate change, and his intent to rollback previous efforts to protect our planet.

epaIn the past, the EPA director has had one of the smallest security details of all cabinet members.  It should still be so.  The agents being relocated to Pruitt’s personal security detail are, understandably, not happy.  Michael Hubbard, a former special agent who led the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division office in Boston said, “These guys signed on to work on complex environmental cases, not to be an executive protection detail. It’s not only not what they want to do, it’s not what they were trained and paid to do.”

Who pays the price for keeping Pruitt safe and cozy?  Well, you already know the answer to that, folks.  But what is that price?  I do not know what it is costing today, but to put it into perspective, during Pruitt’s first three months in his current position, his personal security detail cost We The People $832,735.40.  Since then, his security detail has nearly tripled, so I will leave it to you to do the math. The $800k was nearly double what the previous director required.  Process that one for a minute.

But even the cost of Pruitt’s security pales in comparison to the cost of the damage that is going unnoticed

pruittPatrick Sullivan, the EPA assistant inspector general for investigations, said, “A lot of correspondence we have reflects that people are unhappy with his perceived unenforcement of environmental laws.” Now, we all know that! The vast majority of people in the U.S. do believe the scientists and do wish to preserve the planet for future generations, contrary to the rhetoric of Trump & Co. Shouldn’t these ‘threats’ be a wake-up call to Pruitt that he is on the wrong track?  Wouldn’t you think that somebody in power would assess the situation and realize that we care more about our planet than apparently Trump or Pruitt do?  But alas … I must have forgotten for a moment, that our needs are secondary to Trump & Co.’s personal goal of reversing every good thing that has been done in the past 8 years.  Whatever was I thinking?

This is yet another nail in the coffin of our hopes for any meaningful enforcement of environmental laws …  the few that remain, that is. My own opinion is that Pruitt was the worst possible choice for this job, given that he has filed multiple lawsuits against the very agency he now leads, and it is his own words and actions that have placed him in this situation.  If the threats are real, and I have some doubt about the volume of threats quoted by the agency, he brought them on himself, so let him hire his own bodyguards from his own pay.  His net worth is valued at somewhere between $1 million and $5 million, so he can better afford it than we can.  I do believe in providing security for our employees, but to take people away from doing an important job so they can protect a man who is purposefully destroying our lives, is unconscionable.

earth-3

NASA And The New Director …

Dr. Ben Carson – Secretary of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State

Betsy DeVos – Secretary of Education

Jeff Sessions – Attorney General

Scott Pruitt – Director of the Environmental Protection Agency

The above is a list of just a few of the cabinet members appointed by Donald Trump who are the complete antithesis of the jobs they hold.  I have written at length about each before, so I need not repeat myself here.  However, yesterday a new name was added to the list: Jim Bridenstine for Director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

nasa-logoUnlike every other NASA director in the history of the agency, Bridenstine has no science credentials … no background in scientific research, no college degree in any hard science, zip.  His degrees were in business, economics and psychology. In fact, Mr. Bridenstine is an anti-scientist … a climate change denier who seems to believe that, despite the lack of a related education, he knows more than the scientists who have devoted their entire careers to study and research.  This is the man who may soon be in charge of our space program, folks.

Bridenstine has taken climate-change denial to new levels.  In 2013, he gave a lengthy speech to the House of Representatives enumerating his points for disputing the scientific results of climate change. “Mr. Speaker, global temperatures stopped rising 10 years ago. Global temperature changes, when they exist, correlate with Sun output and ocean cycles.” But he then went on to demand that President Obama apologize for funding climate change research!

NASA chart.jpgNASA has been at the forefront of climate change research, and in 2010 a NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) science brief summarizing recent research, explains, “A study by GISS  climate scientists recently published in the journal Science shows that atmospheric CO2 operates as a thermostat to control the temperature of Earth. There is no viable alternative to counteract global warming except through direct human effort to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level.”

nasa-2.jpgBoth Senators from Florida, republican Marco Rubio and democrat Bill Nelson, criticized the Bridenstine’s nomination.  Florida, of course, is connected to NASA through the Kennedy Space Center located in Titusville, Florida.  “I just think [his nomination] could be devastating for the space program,” said Rubio. “The head of NASA ought to be a space professional, not a politician,” said Nelson.

Because I am not ‘science-savvy’, have never understood more than basic scientific concepts, I shall simply say that NASA’s Earth Science Division is a key player in providing data and scientific research on environmental issues, including climate change.  NASA’s research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena is world-renowned. Nasa’s network of satellites provide a wealth of information on climate change.

However, since last November, Trump has made it clear that he intends to cut funding for this division and expects NASA to focus only on space exploration, not earth’s environment.  His nominee for director of NASA seems to fit well with his goals of defunding all federally funded environmental research.

Bridenstine, it is said, has long lobbied for ‘opening commercial access’ to space.  What does that mean, exactly? I cannot say for sure (I told you … science is NOT my strong suit) but Bridenstine is a strong advocate for drawing private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin more deeply into NASA’s exploration of space, and he mentions ‘commercial use of the moon’s resources’.  Okay, fine, I suppose, but if we do not address climate change, none of that has any relevance now, does it?

nasa-3Bridenstine’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate, and here is where I think there may be some hope.  Given the partisanship in the Senate, no democrat is likely to produce a ‘yea’ vote.  So … it only requires 3 republican senators to vote against Bridenstine’s nomination and he will fail to be confirmed.  Marco Rubio has already expressed concerns, so if he sticks by his guns, there is one.  Since Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists after the Charlottesville attack three weeks ago, many republicans in both the House and the Senate are growing disillusioned with Trump.  And, he has added insult to injury, insulting a number of his own party.  And let us not forget the devastation wreaked by last week’s hurricane on the gulf coast of Texas. My hope is that at least two other republican senators are fed up enough to deny him this confirmation, for Bridenstine and NASA will not be a good combination. Once again, Trump has chosen what may be the worst possible candidate to fill a position.  Let us hope the Senate puts the brakes on this one.

bridentine

Jim Bridenstine

White House’s Censorship Of Climate Change Reports

As I have said before … words matter. One’s choice of words matters. Months ago, we were introduced by the Trump administration to the concept of ‘Alternative Facts’, and those included, as we discovered, an alternative vocabulary. Now the (S)White House has added to the ‘dictionary of alternative words’ by dictating to federal agencies what words they are and are not to use. Guess what, folks? “Climate Change” is no longer allowed. Blogger-Friend Gronda has the details for you, as well as a link to the Annual Climate Change Report, which will likely be altered before it is released to the public. Please take a few moments to read this important information! Thank you, Gronda, for an excellent post and for permission to share!

Gronda Morin

Here is link to the 2017 Climate Change Report sponsored by the US government, and published by the NY Times: Read the Draft of the Climate Change Report – The New York Times 8/7/17 (A draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, but was obtained by The New York Times, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. The report was completed this year and is part of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. )

Because of the republican President Donald Trump’s administration’s disdain for climate change issues, many are concerned whether this report will be shared with the American taxpayers, and if it is, how heavily censored the report will be, and thus, we have this latest leak.

Here’s the rest of the story…

On August 7, 2017, Oliver Milman…

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