THIS WEEK IN CLIMATE (IN)ACTION – May 4, 2018

QUOTES OF THE WEEK:

“Scott Pruitt should be the next to go. The exodus of Pruitt’s closest aides shows just how toxic his reign at EPA has become.

–Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) has some bold words for the EPA chief, asking for him to step down after whistleblowing and staff resignations have dominated the news

“The federal vehicle emissions standards — negotiated in an historic agreement between states, the federal government and the auto industry — provide a critical line of defense against climate change, drive American innovation and competitiveness, and save consumers money at the gas pump.”

–Twenty-four Senators penned a powerful letter affirming their support for the Clean Car Standards and opposition to Trump’s pending rollback

“We need leaders who are ready to roll up their sleeves, take steps to work across the aisle, and put the people of Michigan first. For those who are not up to this challenge, there’s an election in November and I’m sure there are a number of people eager to lead boldly on the issues that confront our beautiful state.”

–Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, in an op-ed calling for a stronger state environmental watchdog

 

LCV IN THE NEWS:

Associated Press: Arizona AG announces $40M VW consumer fraud settlement

Politico: GREENS SUPPORT STABENOW

E&E: Enviros seek ANWR public meeting in D.C.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

LCV’s state affiliates are hard at work protecting the environment and fighting climate change in the states. Here’s what people are reading across the country:

Detroit Free Press (MI): Michigan’s water, people need a stronger department of environmental quality

Public News Service (NM): NM’s Electric School Bus Advocates Seek VW Settlement Money

Wisconsin Gazette (WI): Conservationists launch ‘Field Guide to Taking Back Wisconsin’

Anchorage Daily News (AK): Young Alaskans take action in the courts after decades of inaction on climate change

WLRN (FL): Coalition Of Environment Groups Launches Push For State Action On Climate Change

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YOU CAN’T STOP THE HEAT: Scott Pruitt had another rough week in Washington, taking bipartisan fire and getting hit with headline after headline of bad news.

OUR TAKE: We deserve better and we demand better. We demand government officials who are responsible stewards of our tax dollars and don’t fall victim to polluter cash. We also deserve Congressional leadership that takes their oversight responsibility seriously and calls foul when they see blatant corruption. It’s clear we have neither and it’s beyond time for Pruitt to go.

PASSING THE BUCK: In an effort to lessen the constant flood of negative press, a member of Pruitt’s communications team has reportedly been shopping negative stories about Ryan Zinke and Interior to different news outlets. The EPA is denying that this happened, but the White House Presidential Personnel Office apparently called the EPA “enraged” about it.

LIAR LIAR: Former deputy chief of staff at the EPA, Kevin Chmielewski, is calling Pruitt a “bold-faced liar”. Pruitt told Congress last week that no staffer was retaliated against for criticizing his wasteful spending — but Chmielewski was pushed out for that very reason.

THIS COMES AS NO SURPRISE: It figures that a person who doesn’t believe in science would also struggle with the truth. But what we really want to know: at what point will Trump say enough is enough with Pruitt’s dishonesty?

PRUITT LOSING SUPPORT: Marc Short, Trump’s congressional liaison and legislative affairs guru, appeared to withhold support for the embattled EPA chief. His standout quote from a CBS interview: “I don’t think that you can say that simply delivering on the agenda excuses misuse of taxpayer dollars.” Could this signal that Pruitt is on his way out? We never know for sure with this White House — but things certainly don’t look good for Pruitt.

HOT JOB LEAD: Several of Pruitt’s high profile aides have jumped ship, but Liz Bowman’s exit may be the strongest signal of Pruitt’s impending departure. With his top comms aide gone, who will even bother trying to clean up Pruitt’s mess?

SCOTTY UNDER NEW SCRUTINY: The inspector general of the EPA is opening a new investigation into the ethics of Pruitt’s wasteful spending — looking specifically at his sweetheart condo rental deal with a lobbyist couple. This is only the latest of more than a dozen federal inquiries into Pruitt’s unethical behavior in office, all of which raise multiple questions about policy decisions made under his tenure.

BY NOW YOU KNOW THE STORY: Pruitt’s lobbyist friends gave him a good deal on rent, and in exchange, he approved a client’s project. But it turns out that Pruitt’s affairs with the influence industry go much deeper than that. Here’s what was uncovered just this week:

SECONDS, PLEASE? Not only did J. Steven Hart lobby his wife’s tenant — Scott Pruitt — but he also asked Pruitt to approve his client’s picks for an EPA science advisory board. The company in question, Smithfield Foods, pays Hart’s firm over $280,000 per year.

COINCIDENCE? I THINK NOT: Lobbyist and friend of Pruitt, Richard Smotkin, helped the EPA plan a trip to Morocco and sat in on a number of closed-door meetings — and then the government of Morocco put him on retainer. Hmm…

SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT: The Office of the Special Counsel is investigating whether or not an EPA tweet violated the Hatch Act. The tweet in question, from the EPA official handle, slammed Democrats for failing to block Andrew Wheeler’s nomination — even though federal law prohibits political activity from government employees.

NOT JUST MOROCCO: Pruitt has made a habit of letting outside agents plan his (lavish) taxpayer-funded trips. His cancelled trip to Israel was orchestrated in part by Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson.

THAT’S WHAT YOU GET: We know Pruitt’s strategy going into his hearings last week was to blame his staff for all his mistakes — and that’s exactly what he did. Now, Pruitt has to face the blowback: an EPA with tanking morale and staff in despair. Politico recently reported how morale is down amongst EPA staff as a result of poor leadership.

STRONG OPINIONS: Editorial boards and op-ed contributors are having a field day with all the material Pruitt and the EPA are providing. Check out some of the best from this past week:

LOST OPPORTUNITY: In yet another move to hinder government scientists from working or speaking to the public or other scientists, the Interior Department has blocked 14 Bureau of Land Management archaeologists from attending the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology – the largest meeting in the Western Hemisphere for archaeologists. Central to this year’s event is a discussion of protecting public lands, many of which are archaeological sites. The panel on public land protection had to be cancelled as a result of Interior’s decision to block them from attending.

ROLLING THE DICE ON ETHICS: Deputy Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, keeps taking meetings with MGM representatives, adding to the speculation that he is not complying with his signed ethics agreement that bars him from participating in matters that involve his former lobbying firm.

WHY IT MATTERS: In December, Bernhardt took a meeting with three people registered to lobby on behalf of MGM. While this was happening, Interior refused to make a required decision on a proposed casino partnership between two Connecticut tribes for a casino not on Indian land, which requires federal approval. All the while, MGM was planning the opening of a new casino nearby the proposed location of the two tribes’ casino.

SLAM ON THE BREAKS! We now know for sure that the Trump administration is planning to propose a freeze on auto emissions standards at 2020 levels, a devastating blow to attempts to limit carbon pollution and get a handle on global warming. Because of the administration’s irresponsible assault on vehicle emissions standards, California and 17 other states are suing the Trump administration. The states — which include leaders on climate change from California to New York — argue that Trump and Pruitt are acting recklessly in making the decision to reconsider Obama-era standards, as the freeze would add billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions back into the atmosphere.

TRUMP TRIES ANOTHER ROUTE: Trump is also targeting an exemption held by California and 13 other states, which allows them to set their own — often higher — emissions standards. However, we recently learned that Pruitt hasn’t even reached out to the California Air Resources Board to begin that conversation. We’re behind these states standing their ground and helping to keep dirty vehicles off our streets.

WE’VE GOT BACK UP: Over a dozen senators, led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), fired back by offering their support for California and all other states who follow their lead and hold automakers to higher emissions standards.

TRADING FAVORS: A former Trump advisor, billionaire Carl Icahn, has received a financial hardship waiver for his oil refinery. For context, Icahn was a big campaign donor for the Trump campaign. This is just another outrageous display of the industry favoritism and pay-for-play cronyism that has consumed the Trump administration.

CALAMITY IN THE COURTS: Donald Trump’s agenda is losing in the courts. In order to win, he’s trying to stack the federal bench with judges who will rule in favor of it, regardless of how harmful a decision may be. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley are rubber stamping these nominees at breakneck speed. This week, McConnell gave an interview to Hugh Hewitt where he said that confirming Trump’s judicial nominees is his “top priority” through December 31, and he will be “processing them as quickly as they come out of the Judiciary Committee.”

TRAMPLING TRADITION: Senate Republicans are trampling over a long-standing tradition for federal judicial nominees: consent of the home-state Senators. In the case of Michael Brennan, nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Senator Tammy Baldwin did not turn in her blue slip of approval on his nomination – a tradition that gives senators from the nominee’s home state the chance to approve them first. Traditionally, when one of the nominee’s home state senators does not turn in a blue slip, or turns in a negative one, the nominee does not move forward in the confirmation process. Despite Baldwin’s refusal to turn in a blue slip for this awful nominee, Senate Republicans decided to move forward with the nomination anyway, demonstrating again their willingness to disregard established norms in favor of their dangerous agenda to stack the courts with people who will put polluters before people.

HERE’S HOW WE FEEL: From our statement — “It’s outrageous to see Senator Grassley and Republicans rubberstamping President Trump’s extreme nominees like Brennan at such a rapid pace. The damage these lifetime appointments can do to the environment and public health cannot be overstated.”

THE FULL SENATE will vote next week. If you’re just as outraged as we are, call your senators and let them know!

COMING UP:

MAY 7 – Congress is back in session

NEXT WEEK – The Senate will vote on the confirmation of Michael Brennan for the Seventh Circuit

MAY 16 – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment

SEPTEMBER 30 – Expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s best conservation program

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