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This GIF shows how far the 100th Meridian has shifted since 1980

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Climate change works in mysterious ways; it isn’t limited to wildfires and melting ice. Today’s climate exhibit: The 100th Meridian — the famous dividing line that separates America’s wet East from the dry West — has migrated 140 miles east since 1980.

The boundary passes through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — America’s breadbasket. Once you cross the divide, the rain-soaked grasses of the East turn into dusty plains, with the occasional cactus dotting the landscape.

“Passing from east to west across this belt a wonderful transformation is observed,” remarked John Wesley Powell, famous explorer of the West, in 1890. The conservationist was the first to mark the transition line, which became known as “100th Meridian” because it closely follows the 100th meridian of longitude (a vertical line that stretches from the North to South Poles).

But we may have to change the line’s name someday. The shift is the result of rising temperatures drying out parts of the northern plains and less rain falling further south, YaleEnvironment360 reports. This could be due to natural variability — changes caused by nonhuman forces — but the migration aligns with what researchers tell us to expect from global warming.

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This GIF shows how far the 100th Meridian has shifted since 1980

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‘He’s a political prisoner’: Standing Rock activists face years in jail

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Standing Rock saved Little Feather’s life. Then the U.S. government took it from him.

Little Feather was one of thousands of Native Americans who traveled to North Dakota in 2016 to fight the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The 45-year-old member of the Chumash Nation was battling drug addiction at the time, said his wife, Leoyla Cowboy. But the “water protector” movement gave him a sense of purpose, a renewed connection to indigenous elders, and sobriety.

But last year as the oil pipeline began operations, authorities jailed him and charged him with felonies stemming from his involvement in the demonstrations. Little Feather’s case and the prosecution of hundreds of others is part of what activists say is an aggressive campaign by U.S. law enforcement to suppress indigenous and environmental movements, using drawn-out criminal cases and lengthy prison sentences.

“He has been taken from us, and it’s a huge void in our lives,” Cowboy, 44, told the Guardian in a recent interview after Little Feather, also known as Michael Giron, was sentenced to three years. “He is a political prisoner … We were protecting our land. It’s something we have to do, and we’re going to be met with this violence from these agencies, from the federal government, from the state.”

As Red Fawn Fallis prepares for her sentencing next week in the movement’s most high-profile prosecution, activists are speaking out about the toll the cases have taken — continuing to drag on and tear apart families — all as Standing Rock has almost entirely disappeared from headlines.

After Donald Trump took office and ordered expedited approval of the $3.7 billion pipeline last January, the crackdown on activists escalated. The cases stemmed from clashes with police in late 2016 when thousands gathered at Oceti Sakowin and other campsites by the pipeline, facing a highly militarized operation, brutal shows of force, mass arrests and widely condemned jail conditions.

Under Trump, who has had financial ties with the pipeline company, the U.S. Department of Justice has pressed forward with six cases against Native Americans. North Dakota prosecutors meanwhile have pursued more than 800 state cases against people at Standing Rock, including 165 still pending, according to the Water Protector Legal Collective, a legal support team.

“They needed these convictions to make examples of people,” said Rattler, another federal defendant who, like Little Feather, agreed to a plea deal. “We got their attention, and they are scared of us.”

Rattler, a Lakota Oglala man, and Little Feather were each charged with two felonies — civil disorder and use of fire to commit a felony — related to a standoff on Oct. 27, 2016, when police deployed pepper spray and armored vehicles in response to a roadblock set up by activists. More than 140 people were arrested.

The arson charges related to the fact that “several fires were set by unidentified protesters” to thwart police, as prosecutors wrote in one court filing.

If the men were convicted, they faced a mandatory minimum of 10 years. Activists argued the charges were excessive, and some thought the men would prevail in a courtroom, especially considering reporting by the Intercept, which uncovered how a private security firm had used military-style counter-terrorism methods to target and infiltrate the protests.

But the defendants and their attorneys ultimately had concerns about the risks of a trial. One survey of jury-eligible locals found that 82 percent to 94 percent had prejudged protesters as guilty or were biased against them.

“Having a fair trial in Bismarck was going to be impossible,” said Rattler, 45, whose legal name is Michael Markus. “If you go to court in North Dakota, you are going to get convicted.”

Wasté Win Young, a Standing Rock member who is still facing trespassing and rioting charges in North Dakota court, said she was now regularly targeted and racially profiled by locals and police in the area.

“It’s just surreal still living here,” she said, noting that the fossil fuel industry had a lot of influence in the area and that there was heavy local bias against the demonstrations. “They feel like their security, their well-being was threatened by the so-called violent protesters, which was not the case at all.”

Still, Young said she was not afraid to go to court: “I stood my ground and it was in honor of my ancestors and to protect their way of life.”

Red Fawn Fallis was originally accused of shooting at law enforcement, facing a potential life sentence. The case moved forward even after it was reported that a paid informant for the FBI had developed a romantic relationship with her during the protests and was the owner of the gun she allegedly fired. Prosecutors eventually dropped the charge in exchange for her pleading to lesser offenses, and on Monday, she is expected to receive a seven-year prison sentence.

The U.S. attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Rattler, who is expected to get three years in prison, said the pending case meant he was restricted from freely traveling to indigenous ceremonies and other events.

“That’s been going on for hundreds of years — the federal government telling indigenous people where they can and can’t go,” said Ollie, Rattler’s partner who requested not to use her full name. “They do it just because they can.”

Sandra Freeman, Rattler’s attorney, said it had been difficult coming to terms with the reality of his plea agreement: “He is someone who is a really gentle, non-violent person who has accepted significant, significant time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.”

Despite everything, Rattler said he was glad he was involved in the movement and wanted to eventually continue the work: “I have no regrets about what I did.”

After Little Feather’s personal transformation at the Standing Rock camps, Cowboy said she was eager to start their lives together: “I have been praying for a person like Little Feather all my life.”

But her husband has been incarcerated since last March when police pulled them over and arrested him while the newlyweds were traveling to an indigenous march in Washington D.C.

With sentencing over, there was some relief in knowing he would eventually come home, Cowboy said. But she also recognized that there would be lasting consequences.

While she was inspired to see the momentum from Standing Rock spread to other fights, she said, it sometimes felt like those still suffering from the North Dakota movement had been left behind. “They are forgetting that we are still here.”

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‘He’s a political prisoner’: Standing Rock activists face years in jail

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What is Scott Pruitt so afraid of?

For a country that already imports 99 percent of its oil, France’s decision to end all new oil development and phase out existing projects by 2040 may not seem all that meaningful. The Guardian called it a “largely symbolic gesture.”

But actually, as geoscientist Erik Klemetti noted, France is committing to keeping a massive oil reservoir in the ground. The Paris Basin, a region in northern France, may contain nearly as much underground petroleum as the huge Bakken Formation in North Dakota. Extracting that oil and gas would require extensive fracking.

Klemetti calculates that France could extract 100 years worth of oil for the country by fully exploring the Paris Basin — which could contain, according to the top estimate, 5 billion barrels of oil. At current oil prices (around $58 per barrel), that’s worth about $290 billion.

Instead, France decided to say au revoir to oil and gas altogether.

Earlier this year, the country also announced it would ban internal combustion engines by 2040. With decisions like these, France is positioning itself on the right side of history. And it’s sending a message to a world that’s floundering on climate change: A more just and prosperous future is possible, and it doesn’t require the dirty fuels of the past.


What is Scott Pruitt so afraid of?

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When stories about drought spike, people use less water.

The demonstrations call on households, cities, and institutions to withdraw money from banks financing projects that activists say violate human rights — such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and efforts to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

The divestment campaign Mazaska Talks, which is using the hashtag #DivestTheGlobe, began with protests across the United States on Monday and continues with actions in Africa, Asia, and Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday. Seven people were arrested in Seattle yesterday, where activists briefly shut down a Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo.

The demonstrations coincide with a meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, involving a group of financial institutions that have established a framework for assessing the environmental and social risks of development projects. Organizers allege the banks have failed to uphold indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior, and informed consent” to projects developed on their land.

“We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the front lines but every person on this planet,” Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network community organizer, said in a statement.


When stories about drought spike, people use less water.

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Indigenous-led, anti-fossil fuel protests are shutting down banks in cities across the globe.

The demonstrations call on households, cities, and institutions to withdraw money from banks financing projects that activists say violate human rights — such as the Dakota Access Pipeline and efforts to extract oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

The divestment campaign Mazaska Talks, which is using the hashtag #DivestTheGlobe, began with protests across the United States on Monday and continues with actions in Africa, Asia, and Europe on Tuesday and Wednesday. Seven people were arrested in Seattle yesterday, where activists briefly shut down a Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo.

The demonstrations coincide with a meeting in São Paulo, Brazil, involving a group of financial institutions that have established a framework for assessing the environmental and social risks of development projects. Organizers allege the banks have failed to uphold indigenous peoples’ right to “free, prior, and informed consent” to projects developed on their land.

“We want the global financial community to realize that investing in projects that harm us is really investing in death, genocide, racism, and does have a direct effect on not only us on the front lines but every person on this planet,” Joye Braun, an Indigenous Environmental Network community organizer, said in a statement.

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Indigenous-led, anti-fossil fuel protests are shutting down banks in cities across the globe.

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The Standing Rock Sioux could still beat the Dakota Access Pipeline — in court

By some accounts, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline now looks unwinnable. Standing Rock became a ghost town last week after police raided and razed the prayer camp that once hosted thousands of water protectors. Earlier this month, the Trump administration fast-tracked approval to build the final section of the pipeline and cancelled the environmental impact statement ordered by President Obama. Construction is nearing completion and oil could flow through the pipeline as early as March 6. For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, time is running out — fast.

The Sioux’s best shot at stopping Dakota Access now lies in court. It may be a long shot, but a legal win is still possible, some advocates say.

A legal challenge filed by the tribe on Feb. 14 charges pipeline builder Dakota Access, LLC, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with a range of environmental, cultural, and treaty-based violations. It asks a federal judge to rule on whether the Army Corps broke laws and treaties by allowing construction of the last leg of the pipeline under Lake Oahe, a reservoir along the Missouri River in North Dakota.

“What you have is this well-supported decision from a past administration to do more and give a full consideration to treaty rights, and then the second administration throws it in the trash,” says Jan Hasselman of Earthjustice, who’s representing the tribe in its lawsuit. “That’s just not how it works.”

“It’s absolutely not over,” says Kyle Powys Whyte, a professor of philosophy and community sustainability and a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. He’s been closely tracking the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and he thinks the tribes fighting the project have a good legal case. “Absolutely I think there’s a chance to stop this thing.”

One of the Sioux’s main legal complaints is that construction of the pipeline near its reservation and through sites it considers sacred would violate the tribe’s treaty rights — specifically, its rights under the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie treaties. At the heart of the matter is the Sioux’s right to self-determination and tribal sovereignty. Tribes like the Sioux are independent, self-governing nations like any other in the world. And the sovereignty of tribal nations preexists the United States, just like the nations themselves.

Many Native Americans believe that this sovereignty is now under extreme threat. The administration of Donald Trump may be the most hostile to Indian tribes since that of Andrew Jackson, who caused the Trail of Tears in the 1830s, argues Matthew Fletcher, a professor of law at Michigan State University and a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The tribe’s legal motion also charges that the Army Corps violated the National Environmental Policy Act by terminating an environmental review of the pipeline, and violated the Clean Water Act as well.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has joined the Standing Rock Sioux in its legal challenge, and on Feb. 22, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe filed its own motion in the case, calling on the court to reject the Army Corps’ permit for pipeline construction. Several other allies, such as the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, have filed amicus briefs supporting the Standing Rock Sioux’s legal case.

Hasselman believes the Sioux have strong legal claims that could lead to the pipeline’s approval being overturned. If the current legal motion fails, he says the tribe will appeal in federal circuit court. Even if oil starts flowing in the pipeline in the interim, it could still be shut off down the line, Hasselman told the Bismarck Tribune.

And tribes are waging other legal battles against the pipeline too. On Feb. 9, the Cheyenne River Sioux filed a motion to temporarily halt construction on the grounds that the pipeline would violate their right to religious freedom by desecrating the sacred waters of Lake Oahe.

“I really hope that the case for religious freedom works,” Powys Whyte says. “This can’t possibly be a country where someone’s business idea can trample someone’s constitutional right to practice their religion.”

The Oglala Sioux Tribe joined the fray on Feb. 13 with its own lawsuit claiming that the pipeline threatened its treaty rights to safe drinking water.

The Cheyenne River Sioux’s religious claim is being heard on Feb. 28, and other motions should be considered in the coming weeks. Still, it could take months, if not years, for all of these cases to move through the courts.

Even if pipeline opponents’ lawsuits are not successful in stopping the pipeline, Powys Whyte sees other gains that have come from the #NoDAPL fight. Standing Rock has provided a template for an indigenous-led movement against projects that pose threats to the environment and to tribes’ sovereignty — a template that could prove crucial to activists over the next four years. He points to two other battles for indigenous rights that will be heating up in coming months: the resistance against the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Tohono O’odham Nation’s staunch opposition to Trump building a border wall on their reservation in Arizona.

Powys Whyte urges non-indigenous environmentalists to get educated about Native American history and tribal rights, and to consult with tribes and incorporate their concerns into campaigns. “Part of the reason why non-indigenous activists are coming late to the Dakota Access fight is because they weren’t aware of the vulnerability and susceptibility Native tribes have,” Powys Whyte says. To learn more, he recommends reading the Native Appropriations blog and the Standing Rock syllabus.

“Literally, if more people supported democratic tribal sovereignty, we wouldn’t have something like the Dakota Access Pipeline happening,” Powys Whyte says.

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The Standing Rock Sioux could still beat the Dakota Access Pipeline — in court

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American Kids Are About to Get Even Dumber When It Comes to Climate Science

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by Fusion and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The debate surrounding science education in America is at least as old as the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial,” in which a high school science teacher was criminally charged for teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee law. But bills percolating through state legislatures across the US are giving the education fight a new flavor, by encompassing climate change denial and serving it up as academic freedom.

One prominent example, South Dakota’s Senate Bill 55, was voted down Wednesday, but others are on the docket in three states, with possible others on the way. Advocates say the bills are designed to give teachers additional latitude to explain scientific theories. Opponents say they empower science denial, removing accountability from science education and eroding the foundation of public schools.

In bills making their way through statehouses in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Texas, and a potential measure in Iowa, making common cause with climate change denial is a way for advocates to encourage skepticism of evolution, said Glenn Branch, deputy director for the National Center for Science Education, an advocacy group.

“The rhetoric falls into predictable patterns, and the patterns are very similar for those two groups of science deniers,” he said.

Science defenders like the NCSE say science denial has three pillars: That the science is uncertain; that its acceptance would have bad moral and social consequences; and that it’s only fair to present all sides. All three are at work in the latest efforts to attack state and federal education standards on science education, Branch said.

According to a survey published last year, this strategy is already making headway. The survey, in the journal Science, found that three-fourths of science teachers spend time on climate change instruction. But of those teachers, 30% tell their students that it is “likely due to natural causes,” while another 31% teach that the science is unsettled. Yet 97% of scientists who actively study Earth’s climate say it is changing because of human activity.

In South Dakota, state Rep. Chip Campbell, R-Rapid City, said the bill would have enabled broader discussions in the classroom, according to The Argus-Leader.

“In science it is imperative that we show not only the strengths but also the weaknesses of theories,” he said. “Weaknesses, not strengths, are the key to finding the truth.”

Many of these bills are being pushed in response to recently adopted federal standards for science education. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), developed by 26 states, were finalized in 2015. As of November 2016, 16 states had adopted them, and the guidelines are under consideration in several others.

Efforts to undermine science education are often related to adoption of the new standards. In West Virginia in 2016, for example, lawmakers removed language in the standards that said human activity has increased carbon dioxide emissions and affected the climate. In Wyoming, lawmakers passed a statute banning public schools from teaching climate change is caused by humans, though that was later repealed. Also in 2016, Idaho lawmakers passed a bill permitting the use of the Bible in public schools as long as it was in connection with astronomy, biology, and geology. The bill passed in a modified form without referencing those scientific topics, but it was later vetoed.

“The concerns of these anti-science officials aren’t rooted in peer-vetted science. They are rooted in opposition to learning the truth about climate change,” said Lisa Hoyos, the director of Climate Parents, an offshoot of the Sierra Club that supports climate education. “The purpose of these bills is to create space for peer-reviewed, evidence-based science to be challenged based on teachers’ political opinions.”

It’s part of a third wave of anti-science legislation at the state level, according to Branch.

The first wave, specifically targeting evolution, dissipated after 1968, when the Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas that prohibiting the teaching of evolution was unconstitutional. The second wave focused on “intelligent design,” a branch of creation theory that postulates a higher power guides and shapes the process of evolution. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, anti-evolutionists focused on bills that would require teachers to say evolution was controversial, while staying silent on possible alternatives, Branch said. Later Supreme Court cases also rejected these policies on various First Amendment grounds.

The newest wave, which began around 2004, focuses on “academic freedom—teach the controversy, talk about theories’ strengths and weaknesses,” Branch said.

“They all have the same effect, which is to free teachers from having to teach evolution as accepted science, and to prevent state and local officials from doing anything about it,” he said.

The bills initially targeted evolution, but later, advocates came up with a standard list: biological evolution, the origin of life, global warming, and human cloning are considered the controversial topics in science education, Branch said.

He and Hoyos both noted that the bill would have protected teachers who wanted to teach anything at all, not just skepticism of climate change and evolution.

“A teacher could, on the public dime, teach creationism, flat-Earthism, white supremacism, and there would be nothing that the taxpayers could do about it,” Branch said. “It’s not that science teachers shouldn’t have some freedom to do what they do; but all of these states already have all various kinds of regulations, policies, and informal practices that give a reasonable degree of freedom.”

Similar active bills include Indiana’s Senate Resolution 17, Oklahoma’s Senate Bill 393, and Texas’s House Bill 1485, Branch said. Because Indiana’s is a resolution, it would have no legal effect other than to express the intent of lawmakers, which Branch said was an “interesting variant.” In Iowa, lawmakers are discussing a measure that would make the next generation standards optional, he said.

To date, South Dakota’s was the only measure to have been passed by a chamber of the legislature; the state Senate passed it in January. It’s also the first measure to die. It lingered in a House education committee before a hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, and it was defeated, 11-4. Its sponsor, Republican Sen. Jeff Monroe of Pierre, had introduced different versions of the bill for the past four years, but it never made it as far as it did in 2017, Hoyos said.

“Perhaps that’s because of the political climate we’re in, with the president actively opposing climate science,” she said. “From the president on down, there are some political forces in our society who think it is open season to attack climate science.”

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American Kids Are About to Get Even Dumber When It Comes to Climate Science

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Jam the courts, blow the whistles, shut down the kitchen: Here are The Resistance’s latest strategies

In the aftermath of America’s Most Baffling Press Conference, let’s cut to the chase: People are calling out Trump and his administration in meaningful, productive ways all across the land. Here’s what went down:

Despite unprecedented calls from EPA employees for senators to block his confirmation and a judge’s order to release years of emails with fossil fuel industry figures, Scott Pruitt is now EPA administrator. Are you enraged? Will you be in Boston this weekend? That’s something else to be upset about, but bear with us: Thousands of scientists are in town for the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference. On Feb. 19, scientists and their allies will hold a rally in Copley Square to protest the Trump administration’s anti-science rhetoric and policies.

If you’re trying to reach anyone in the Department of Energy, you might have a tough time of it, because their phone directory was taken offline on Thursday morning. Cool! Anyway, California Rep. Ted Lieu and Virginia Rep. Don Beyer have published a guide for whistleblowers as a show of strength against the Trump administration’s “strapp[ing] a muzzle on federal agencies.” The Union of Concerned Scientists also released a guide to help scientists bring important information to the public discreetly and securely. Environmental science and public health shouldn’t be political, and these guides are a means to protect them.

Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux in a new attempt to block construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is already underway. A bit of good news for the anti-pipeline movement: The hearing may be expedited.

On Feb. 16, the American food industry may have looked a little … thin. That’s because immigrants across the United States took the day off to show what an America that operates on deportations and immigration bans would look like. (Spoiler: It doesn’t have a lot of food.) In case you were wondering if Washington would notice (via The New York Times): “The Pentagon warned its employees that a number of its food concessions, including Sbarro’s [sic], Starbucks, and Taco Bell, were closed because immigrant employees had stayed home and that they could expect longer lines at restaurants that were open.”

And in response to an ongoing rash of deportations, a coalition of Mexican lawmakers under the name Monarca is aiming to protect Mexican immigrants by exploiting the U.S. legal system’s greatest weakness: It’s a bureaucratic nightmare that’s already heavily backlogged!

And, ICYMI on Grist:

The movement to divest from Dakota Access is growing fast.
Big name Republicans are taking a carbon tax plan to the White House.

Link – 

Jam the courts, blow the whistles, shut down the kitchen: Here are The Resistance’s latest strategies

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Trump’s environmental assault continues, and now he’ll have Pruitt as a henchman

Even as national security scandals and general chaos engulf the White House, President Trump continues to wreak environmental havoc. Your Trump Tracker columnist already told you what POTUS got up to in his first and second weeks; now here’s a roundup of the mayhem from weeks three and four.

Not-so-great Scott:
Oil industry ally taking helm at EPA

What happened? Scott Pruitt is expected to be confirmed by the Senate as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday. [UPDATE: Yep, he was confirmed.] He doesn’t lack for detractors. EPA employees are making unprecedented calls for senators to oppose his nomination. Maine Republican Susan Collins says she won’t vote for him. Democrats have been kicking up a fuss over Pruitt’s refusal to release emails from his time as Oklahoma attorney general, when he did the oil and gas industry’s bidding. On Thursday, an Oklahoma judge ordered Pruitt to release those emails by next Tuesday. But none of that will be enough to stop him from being confirmed.

So the EPA will be led by a man who appears to hate the EPA. Pruitt has sued the agency 14 times to challenge environmental rules, and couldn’t or wouldn’t name a single EPA rule he likes. His ties to oil and gas producers and the Koch brothers are notorious, and the donations he’s received from them have been bounteous. He sides with different kinds of polluters too, like the poultry industry.

In other cabinet news, Trump’s nominees for two more environment-related jobs — Rep. Ryan Zinke for interior secretary and Rick Perry for energy secretary — are expected to sail through confirmation once they get squeezed onto the Senate calendar. They will join a host of other climate deniers in the Trump cabinet, including recently confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

How much does it matter? Pruitt’s confirmation is a huge deal. The EPA is responsible for implementing federal laws that protect air and water, and determining what the latest science tells us about protecting human health. If Pruitt refuses to implement those laws or consider that science, the environment will get dirtier and Americans’ health will suffer. Which leads us to …

Something wicked this way comes:
Trump poised to bludgeon the EPA

What happened? The Trump team told EPA officials this week that the president is planning to sign executive orders to revamp the agency and curb its work on climate change. He’s just been waiting for Pruitt to be confirmed. As soon as next week, Trump is expected to hold a swearing-in ceremony for Pruitt at EPA headquarters and sign the orders, which may include one related to the State Department and the Paris climate deal. The orders could “suck the air out of the room,” a source told Inside EPA. And the agency is already gasping for breath. EPA Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe said on Tuesday that Trump’s federal hiring freeze is “creating some challenges to our ability to get the agency’s work done.”

How much does it matter? A ton. Reversing progress on climate change in particular will have massive, global impacts. If, as expected, Trump kills Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the U.S. will be unlikely to meet its emission-reduction pledge under the Paris deal, and if the U.S. flakes, other countries are more likely to flake on their pledges, too. If Trump tries to pull out of or undermine the Paris agreement, the repercussions will be even bigger.

If you build it …
Full speed ahead on Dakota Access

What happened? Construction started up on the controversial segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline last week, after the Trump administration officially granted an easement for the pipeline to be built on federal land. The disputed segment will run underneath Lake Oahe, a reservoir in North Dakota near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The Sioux and environmental allies have been trying various legal challenges to stop the construction, but none have worked so far and they’re increasingly looking like long shots. The pipeline could be completed and pumping oil by June 1.

Meanwhile, the company that wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline is also moving forward. Obama rejected the proposed pipeline in fall 2015, but Trump encouraged pipeline builder TransCanada to revive the project. On Thursday, the company made a step in that direction, applying to a Nebraska commission for approval of its proposed route through the state.

Trump said last week that his pipeline moves must not have been controversial because he hadn’t gotten a single phone call in opposition. Perhaps that’s because the White House wasn’t picking up the phones.

How much does it matter? A lot. Both pipelines pose local environmental risks and global climate threats, but more notably, stopping them had become a cause for the climate and environmental justice movements to rally around. Activists aren’t giving up, though: They’re continuing to fight both projects and ramping up battles against other pipelines around the U.S.

Breaking the rules:
Repealing regs to help pollutocrats

What happened? The House has been swiftly and giddily voting to repeal Obama-era environmental regulations, and the Senate has been following suit at a slightly slower pace. This week, Trump signed two of those rule revocations into law. The first one was a gift to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his oil industry buddies; Trump did away with a rule that had required oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments they made to foreign governments, with the aim of curbing corruption. The second was a gift to the coal industry; now mountaintop-removal mining companies will again be free to dump their waste into streams. And thanks to a provision in the law Congress used to make these repeals, the government is banned from issuing substantially similar regulations in the future.

The Trump administration has also delayed some regulations that the Obama team had put in place, including one to add the rusty patched bumble bee to the endangered species list.

How much does it matter? Some. We’ll now see more corruption in developing countries and more pollution in coal-mining communities. Trump may next sign repeals of regulations on methane leaks and public participation in land management. But the real danger is still to come. As Juliet Eilperin recently reported in the Washington Post, “Trump has embarked on the most aggressive campaign against government regulation in a generation.” We ain’t seen nothing yet.

On that note, have a happy long weekend!

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Trump’s environmental assault continues, and now he’ll have Pruitt as a henchman

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Here’s Why Donald Trump Can’t Defund “Out-of-Control” California

Mother Jones

One of President Donald Trump’s favorite threats is cutting federal government funding to states, cities, and other entities that refuse to cooperate with his policies. On January 25, he issued an executive order titled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” which warns “sanctuary cities” that they could lose federal funds if they continue to protect undocumented residents from deportation. After an appearance by Breitbart‘s Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California-Berkeley was canceled amid violent protests, Trump tapped out the following tweet:

And during a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump doubled down on California: “If we have to, we’ll defund…We give tremendous amounts of money to California. California in many ways is out of control, as you know.”

Here’s the thing: Trump can’t just yank funding from states or cities or universities that upset him. Yet the matter is far from resolved: Several cities and one state have already filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over its threats, all but ensuring a battle that could end up before the Supreme Court. Here’s what you need to know about the legal issues behind this fight.

Why can’t the president withhold federal money from states or cities?

The short answer is that Congress, not the White House, has ultimate power over the federal purse. The president’s budget requests may direct Congress how to allocate federal spending, but the matter is not entirely in his hands. And he has no authority to withhold or rescind spending that’s already been authorized.

So couldn’t Congress defund a state or city if the president asked it to?

Hypothetically, Congress could pass a law or budget bill that puts conditions on the federal funding provided to, say, out-of-control California. But numerous Supreme Court decisions protect state and local governments against this type of vindictive policymaking. When the federal government raised the national minimum drinking age to 21 in 1984, it prodded states into enforcing the new law by stipulating that any state that didn’t comply would lose 5 percent of its federal highway construction funds. South Dakota wasn’t happy about this and filed a lawsuit against the federal government. South Dakota v. Dole worked its way up to the Supreme Court, which found that the federal government can apply conditions to funding—with a few limits. One of those limits is the stipulation that any conditional spending must not be “coercive.” As Justice William Rehnquist wrote, there is a point when “pressure turns into compulsion,” and a state might unconstitutionally be forced to comply because it needs the federal money to operate. Additionally, conditional funding can only apply to new money, not funding that’s already been committed.

As a practical matter, states and cities receive federal money through hundreds of different appropriations bills and programs. If Trump and congressional Republicans wanted to effectively defund California, they would have to modify each federal spending provision that affects the state. Conceivably, they could pass a bill that instructs the Department of the Treasury to stop sending money to Sacramento, but that would spark an enormous constitutional crisis.

But aren’t states and cities required to follow federal laws whether they like it or not?

Yes—but again there are limits. When the Supreme Court ruled on the constitutionality of Obamacare in 2012, it also considered the law’s expansion of state Medicaid programs. The Affordable Care Act had threatened to cut off all Medicaid funding to states should they fail to expand the program in accordance with its standards. Citing South Dakota v. Dole, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his opinion that this ultimatum was “a gun to the head” of the states. For many states, federal Medicaid money comprises more than 10 percent of total revenue, and losing that money would effectively cripple them. Six other justices agreed with Roberts on this point, and Medicaid expansion was left to the states.

What about the 10th Amendment?

The 10th Amendment of the Constitution says that any power not delegated to the federal government becomes the responsibility of the states. This is the basis of America’s federal system, whereby states have the freedom to pass laws that are distinct from those passed by Congress.

The Supreme Court has long interpreted the 10th Amendment as the foundation for a check on federal power. Take the case of Printz v. United States. After Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993, a Montana sheriff named Jay Printz challenged its requirement that local law enforcement agencies conduct background checks on gun buyers. He argued that Congress was acting outside of its authority to compel state-level officials to enforce federal law. In 1997, five Supreme Court justices, led by Antonin Scalia, agreed.

The Printz decision underscores what Duke University law professor Matthew Adler calls “an external constraint upon congressional power—analogous to the constraints set forth in the Bill of Rights—but one that lacks an explicit textual basis.” In other words, decades of Supreme Court rulings on the 10th Amendment have formed an effective check on federal power by the states. And that could mean that just as Printz was allowed to resist conducting federally mandated background checks, a court could find that officials in sanctuary states and cities are allowed to avoid enforcing federal immigration law.

Don’t conservatives like the 10th Amendment more than progressives?

In the past, the 10th Amendment has provided cover for advocates of states’ rights and efforts to resist federal civil rights efforts such as integrating schools. More recently, the 10th Amendment became a rallying cry for the Obama administration’s opponents. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is a big fan of the 10th, and tea partiers and “Tenthers” invoked the amendment to push back against Obamacare and even call for secession.

Now it’s liberals who are warming to the promise of the 10th Amendment. San Francisco’s recently filed federal lawsuit against the Trump administration argues that, defunding aside, the anti-sanctuary-city executive order violates the 10th Amendment. The city claims that it is within its rights to not cooperate with federal authorities under the “anti-commandeering” precedent set in Printz, which says higher jurisdictions may not “commandeer” local resources to enforce federal rules. Likewise, Massachusetts has also invoked the 10th amendment against Trump’s “Muslim ban” executive order. Several Boston suburbs have also cited the 10th in their lawsuits against the administration’s sanctuary city order, as has Santa Clara County, California, the home of Silicon Valley. Last week, Portland’s mayor issued a statement that the 10th Amendment protects its sanctuary city policies too.

How could this battle play out?

The feds depend on state and local officials to enforce their policies. The federal system is set up to encourage cooperation between state and federal officials. If that falls apart, Trump will have difficulty enacting his agenda. As Yale law professor Heather Gerken recently argued on Vox, “Even if President Trump spends enough political capital to win this or that battle against blue cities and states, he cannot win the war. The federal government doesn’t have the resources to carry out Trump’s policies.”

The funding question remains up in the air since Trump hasn’t given any indication to how, exactly, he would defund cities and states. However, given that California is in the process of passing legislation that effectively makes the entire state a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, and given that its elected officials have been vocal about their opposition to Trump, we could see a California v. U.S. case in the near future if Trump tries to follow through. On Monday, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra reiterated his commitment to pushing back against Trump’s defunding threat. “We will fight anyone who wants to take away dollars that we have earned and are qualified for simply because we are unwilling to violate the Constitution under these defective executive orders,” he said.

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Here’s Why Donald Trump Can’t Defund “Out-of-Control” California

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