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Trump’s EPA just introduced a historic CO2 rule for planes. Wait, what?

Cars, power plants, and some buildings are subject to fuel and energy efficiency standards in the United States. Believe it or not, up until now, the nation’s aviation industry has been free to do whatever it wants when it comes to emissions. Left to their own devices, U.S. airlines have let their carbon emissions steadily rise and their fuel efficiency gains stagnate. Between 2016 and 2018, emissions rose 7 percent while fuel efficiency improved by a measly 3 percent.

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the U.S.’s first-ever CO2 standard for airplanes. The rule would impose regulations restricting emissions from the aviation industry — something many other developed countries have already done. The EPA hasn’t released the full proposal yet, which means details about what the rule will actually do are still TBA.

But isn’t Trump’s EPA certifiably averse to regulating polluters in any way, shape, or form? To say that the current administration hasn’t made emissions standards a priority would be an understatement. In fact, the Trump administration is facing threats of lawsuits from environmental groups over its recently finalized rule weakening fuel efficiency standards for vehicles.

While the EPA’s new CO2 standard for airplanes is historic, it doesn’t necessarily signal that the agency is changing its industry-friendly ways. The EPA has basically had its hand forced by both domestic green groups and an international regulator.

The rule’s long and tortuous journey began in 2010, when a group of environmental organizations sued President Obama’s EPA for neglecting to regulate emissions from ships and airplanes. A year later, the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., ruled that the EPA had to make a determination on whether emissions from planes posed a threat to public health. If the answer to that question was yes, the agency would have to create new regulations limiting those emissions. In 2016, green groups filed another lawsuit against the agency for neglecting to finalize the court-mandated evaluation of whether emissions from planes are harmful to public health. The EPA finally did so later that year, finding that plane emissions are indeed harmful. But the agency has dragged its feet on proposing the actual emissions regulation until now.

Daniel Rutherford, shipping and aviation director at the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation, says airplane manufacturers are eager for the rule to take effect. “Without a CO2 standard, Boeing and Gulfstream, for example, can’t sell their aircraft internationally in the future,” he said. That’s because of standards set by the U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which was formed at the behest of the U.S. toward the end of World War II to help the booming aviation industry achieve uniformity. American manufacturers have been meeting ICAO’s emissions standards voluntarily, but in the future, the lack of EPA pollution standards for planes will hinder their ability to be competitive in the international market. Starting in 2023, Boeing and other manufacturers will need to recertify their existing aircrafts under the EPA’s forthcoming standard, otherwise they won’t qualify for sale under ICAO’s guidelines. In other words, it’s a matter of paperwork.

Rutherford emphasized that ICAO’s guidelines aren’t exactly the gold standard — they compel airlines to do the bare minimum, and the strictest ICAO requirements won’t even take effect until 2028. Green groups hoped the U.S.’s standards would be more stringent. “The trick with ICAO is that it tends to introduce what we call ‘technology-following standards,’ so instead of looking ahead and setting new poles for technology, it tends to say, ‘OK, let’s see what’s already developed and see that it’s deployed in all aircrafts,’” Rutherford said. ICAO’s recommendations might’ve been groundbreaking a decade ago, but most new aircrafts already meet the recommendations easily. “It’s very clear that the standard as ICAO proposed and probably as the EPA will propose itself is too weak to reduce emissions” by much, he said.

But the EPA’s rule could still change to become more planet-friendly. Once the rule is released, the public will have an opportunity to comment, a process that could take a month or more. After that, the EPA will have to finalize the rule, which typically takes about a year, which means the process will stretch into the next administration. If that administration is Democratic, it could scrap the original version of the rule and go back to the drawing board.“There might be an about-face on the requirements for the final rule,” Rutherford said, “but it’s really dependent upon the presidential election.”


Trump’s EPA just introduced a historic CO2 rule for planes. Wait, what?

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‘Never give up’: Greta Thunberg takes climate strike to the White House

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

WASHINGTON — Greta Thunberg, the famous 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist who kicked off a global movement of students leaving school to demand action on the climate crisis, joined other youth activists at a rally outside the White House on Friday.

A few hundred people, mostly teenagers and young children, gathered on the Ellipse south of the White House carrying signs that read “I want you to panic!” and “Why are we studying for a future we won’t have?” They chanted, “This is a crisis, act like it!” and “No more coal, no more oil, keep that carbon in the soil.” When someone mentioned President Donald Trump, the crowd booed and yelled “Shame!”

After marching a short distance toward the White House, numerous protesters lay down on the ground for an 11-minute “die-in” ― what one speaker called a “mass extinction.” The protest represented the 11 years that scientists say world governments have to rein in greenhouse gas emissions to stave off potentially cataclysmic climate change.

“We are striking today to save tomorrow!” Nadia Nazar, the 17-year-old co-founder of the Zero Hour movement.

Trump has a long history of denying the threat of climate change, often arguing that spells of cold weather somehow disprove the long-term warming trend. His administration has taken an ax to a slew of environmental regulations meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions — all part of its so-called “energy dominance” agenda. Thunberg told CBS in an interview last month that she wouldn’t “waste time” talking to Trump if given the opportunity.

Thunberg spent most of the rally surrounded by peers and a throng of reporters wielding cameras. She quietly joined a series of chants, and when finally given a chance to speak, simply expressed her gratitude for such a large turnout.

“This is very overwhelming,” she said. “Never give up. We will continue.”

Jeff Hunt, a 28-year-old resident of Washington, D.C., was among those participating in Friday’s rally. He carried a sign that read, “When I grow up I want to be Greta Thunberg,” and told HuffPost that like Thunberg, he thinks Trump is a lost cause.

Instead, Hunt hopes the event helps sends a message to the rest of the country and world that we are nearing a dangerous tipping point and it is time to make radical, economy-wide changes that will protect future generations.

“I have high hopes that the generation beneath me will be much more plugged in,” he said. “I feel like my generation has kind of dropped the ball, if you look at our voting habits and our dedication to actually change our lifestyle.”

Thunberg rose to fame last year when she went on strike from school following Sweden’s hottest summer on record. For weeks, she sat outside her country’s Parliament, holding a “School strike for climate” sign and demanding that local politicians enact policies in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate action.

School strikes quickly popped up in other countries. And in March, an estimated 1.4 million young people in more than 100 countries mobilized for a global strike, part of what has come to be known as the Fridays for Future movement. Tuesday’s gathering outside the White House comes ahead of a weeklong global strike slated for the week of September 20.

Thunberg traveled to the United States by sailboat to reduce her carbon footprint. While in the United States, she’s expected to testify before Congress, speak outside the U.S. Supreme Court alongside youth suing the government over climate change, and attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York.

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‘Never give up’: Greta Thunberg takes climate strike to the White House

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22 states sue the Trump administration over its climate ‘plan’

Twenty-two states and seven cities sued the Trump administration on Tuesday over the Environmental Protection Agency’s new plan for power plants. The lawsuit alleges that the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule would accelerate the impacts of the climate crisis and impose health and safety risks on Americans.

The challenge — led by the states of New York, Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia — comes two months after the EPA finalized the plan. The new rule replaced the Obama-era Clean Power Plan that set ambitious goals aimed at weakening carbon emissions coming from power plants. It gives a bit more elbow room to coal-powered stations and allows older ones to stay open longer.

“The science is indisputable; our climate is changing,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a tweet. “Ice caps are melting. Sea levels are rising. Weather is becoming more and more extreme. That’s why we are fighting back.”

A recent Harvard study shows that the EPA’s estimated carbon reductions from power plants under the new rule (which are pretty minor) wouldn’t hold up under changing market conditions. In addition, researchers say that the agency underestimated the health effects the rule would have in some states and overestimated its overall economic benefits.

Not that the EPA’s own projections looked pretty. The administration’s analysis found that the ACE rule, compared to the Clean Power Plan, would lead to 1,400 premature deaths by 2030 and would cost Americans $1.4 billion more per year than it saved.

Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. increased by roughly 3.5 percent last year. The Harvard analysis suggests that Trump’s new rule could drive emissions even higher by failing to nail down target reductions. Meanwhile, it may result in more cases of respiratory illness, heart attacks, asthma, and early death due to exposure to particulate matter and toxic air pollutants.

The new lawsuit parallels the Republican-led effort to stop the Clean Power Plan in 2015, when 24 states led by Oklahoma sued the Obama administration over the rule. The Supreme Court hit pause on the plan a year later. Soon after President Trump took office, the EPA started crafting a Trump-friendly alternative to the plan.

If you compare the states that sued over the Obama-era rule in 2015 and those that are suing the Trump administration now, it’s no surprise that you’ll see a partisan divide. Only Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina were part of both lawsuits.

An EPA spokesperson told the New York Times, “EPA worked diligently to ensure we produced a solid rule, that we believe will be upheld in the courts, unlike the previous Administration’s Clean Power Plan.” Only time will tell — it’s possible that the challenge could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

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22 states sue the Trump administration over its climate ‘plan’

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Veggie discs? Seitan slabs? E.U.’s meat fans want to rebrand vegetarian food

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The E.U. is turning up the heat on fake meat. At a meeting in Brussels, the E.U. agriculture committee approved regulations that require the rebranding of meat alternatives to avoid confusion with the real thing. This decision, if passed by the rest of the E.U., could have major repercussions on vegetarian food.

Under the new food-labeling amendment, words like burger, hamburger, sausage, steak, and escalopes will be reserved for meat products. Veggie burgers might be called “veggie discs”; seitan steaks could be rebranded as “seitan slabs,” according to the Guardian. (If you’re wondering what an escalope is, it’s a thin slice of boneless meat or fish. Maybe forcing the renaming of “soya escalopes” isn’t the worst thing in the world after all.)

In 2017, the European Court of Justice ruled to protect words associated with dairy products — hence, “soya milk” became “soya drink” and anything marketed as “cheese” turned into “plant-based alternative to cheese.” Proponents for the new amendment cited this law as precedent.

Why the pushback on tofu burgers? Plant-based diets are on the rise in Europe as vegan and vegetarian options go mainstream. A 2018 study found that a third of people in the U.K. have reduced or altogether stopped their meat consumption. Searches for vegan or vegetarian barbecue recipes jumped up 350 percent, reflecting an overall increased interest in meat alternatives.

Some members of parliament suspect the vote might have been influenced by the meat industry. Molly Scott Cato, of the U.K. Green Party, told The Independent that she saw this as a move by meat companies to undermine the growing plant-based diet trend. “It is going to be a bit repulsive if you have to eat something called ‘vegetable protein tube,’” she said.

The E.U. food-labeling amendment would join six state laws in the U.S. that have pushed back against plant-based alternatives using meaty names. Missouri passed a law late last year that would jail producers of fake meats for not clearly representing their products. Watch our video on the strange fight over vegetarian food labels:

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Veggie discs? Seitan slabs? E.U.’s meat fans want to rebrand vegetarian food

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Why Toledo just gave legal rights to Lake Erie

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

Lake Erie provides drinking water for 11 million people, and an unusual tactic to protect it was just adopted in Toledo, Ohio: On Tuesday, Toledoans passed the “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” in a special election, with 61 percent voting yes on a ballot measure that could allow citizens to sue polluters on behalf of the lake.

“This is the first in the nation in terms of rights-of-nature law being adopted by a municipality over a certain ecosystem, and I think it’s the beginning of more things to come in that area,” said Thomas Linzey, executive director and chief legal counsel for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which helped local activists draft the bill.

The ballot measure will amend the city’s charter to establish that Lake Erie has the right to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” The goal of giving the lake legal rights, Linzey said, is for activists to be able to do “a survey of who’s the biggest polluters into the lake” and then bring lawsuits “to stop that pollution,” he said.

Runoff pollution is a major cause of Lake Erie’s algae blooms, which can make water toxic to fish, wildlife, and people. This kind of pollution occurs “when rainfall washes fertilizer and manure spread on large farm fields into streams that flow into Lake Erie,” according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Past problems with Lake Erie’s water quality prompted organizers to think about new ways to safeguard it. Back in 2014, the City of Toledo issued an advisory for residents not to drink municipal water after chemical tests found unsafe levels of an algal toxin. The toxic algae bloom left 110 people sick and nearly half a million without tap water. Ohio even declared a state of emergency.

“For three days in 2014, we lost access to our drinking water, and we didn’t see any action come out of that,” Markie Miller, an organizer for Toledoans for Safe Water, told CityLab. “We wanted to do something for ourselves.”

The concept of giving rights to nature originates, at least within the U.S., from an article by Christopher Stone published in 1972 in the Southern California Law Review: “Should Trees Have Standing? — Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects.” Since then, the idea has gained traction internationally. In 2008, Ecuador became the first country to recognize rights of nature in its national constitution. And in 2010, Bolivia’s legislative assembly passed the “Law of the Rights of Mother Earth.”

The basic principle is that of legal standing: Under the U.S. Constitution, to have standing, one needs to show direct injury to oneself caused by some entity, and there must be some redress, or remedy, that can be found in court. Activists hope that with these new rights, Lake Erie will have standing in court without needing to demonstrate injury to a human.

The U.S. Clean Water Act addresses point-source pollution, from a confined and discrete source. But a significant percentage of what plagues Lake Erie is diffuse, non-point-source pollution, such as excess fertilizers from agriculture and urban stormwater runoff.

The fact that Toledoans endorsed such an unusual means to combat pollution reflects an understanding that current regulations aren’t sufficient, said Madeline Fleisher, senior attorney in the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Columbus office. “The citizens of Toledo are clearly and rightfully frustrated. I understand why they’re trying novel approaches to try to get those issues addressed.” (As is common in local special elections, turnout in Toledo’s was low; just shy of 9 percent of registered voters cast ballots.)

The proposal has been contentious. The board of elections in Lucas County (whose seat is Toledo) voted to block it from the ballot in the November 2018 election. After several months of debate, the board ultimately voted in December to add it to the February special election because of an Ohio Supreme Court decision, as the Toledo Blade reported. One board member said he still believed the measure was “on its face unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

Opponents of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights are concerned about the costs of litigation for farms and businesses. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation already pledged its support for a lawsuit farmer Mark Drewes filed in the Federal District Court for Northern Ohio Wednesday, challenging the constitutionality of the bill.

“Farmers want and are working toward improving water quality, but this new Toledo law hurts those efforts. Mark Drewes understands this, and it’s Farm Bureau’s job to back his important actions on behalf of Ohio farmers,” the executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau, Adam Sharp, said in a statement.

The suit contends that the measure violates federal constitutional rights, including equal protection and freedom of speech. Additionally, it argues that the bill of rights violates Ohio state law in several ways. For example, it contends that Toledo as a local government cannot override the Ohio state governing structure of Lake Erie, since the Ohio Department of Natural Resources governs the lake under state law.

“One of the biggest challenges that the [Lake Erie] Bill of Rights will have is moving from vision to enactment,” said Cinnamon Carlarne, an Ohio State University law professor. “That is part of a larger conversation trying to advance the role that law plays in protecting ecosystems for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is that we are, as humans, fundamentally dependent on them.”

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Why Toledo just gave legal rights to Lake Erie

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What would a national emergency over climate change look like?

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Well, it finally happened: President Trump declared a national emergency in order to secure funding for his barrier between Mexico and the United States. We are under virtually no threat from illegal immigration through the southern border. Phew! But don’t put up your feet just yet, the U.S. actually is facing a pretty terrifying threat, not from immigrants, but from climate change.

Now that Trump has set a precedent, some are raising the point that a different president could use the same maneuver to declare a national emergency over rising temperatures. After all, rising sea levels, worsening hurricanes, wildfires, invasive species, and droughts threaten millions of Americans. Talk about a national security crisis.

Shortly after Trump made his declaration, Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar took to Twitter to call on the next president to declare climate change a national emergency upon taking office. If the idea catches on, 2020 Democrats might have to decide not only whether they support the Green New Deal, but also whether they would be willing to take that commitment to the next level.

Hold your horses, can a future president use emergency power to combat climate change? And if so, what would that even look like?

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Dan Farber, professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, examined the idea of a climate change national emergency in a blog post. It turns out there are a few things a future president might be able to do to mitigate climate change through such a move. Here are the areas Farber thinks are worth exploring (these options are as of yet untested, could look different in practice, AND, as Farber told us in an earlier story, just ’cause it’s possible in theory doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea):

Oil drilling could be put on pause. “Oil leases are required to have clauses allowing them to be suspended during national emergencies,” Farber writes. If climate change is causing the emergency, doesn’t it make sense to pump the brakes on the stuff causing it? Hmmm?
The Secretary of Transportation, who is in charge of transportation coordination during national emergencies, could restrict use of gas-powered vehicles.
The renewable energy industry could get an influx of financial support, because a provision allows “the President to extend loan guarantees to critical industries during national emergencies,” Farber writes.
There’s even an act that could be invoked to give the president power to “impose sanctions on individuals and countries.” In a national climate change emergency scenario, the act could be used to sanction oil-producing countries.

In a national emergency, the president gets nearly 150 special powers. The options listed above are just a few of the ways those powers could be used in the name of climate change mitigation.

Already, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer has announced he will be introducing a “congressional emergency declaration on the climate crisis” in Congress. Get ready, GOP! Even if the Supreme Court ends up striking down the border wall, Trump just opened Pandora’s Box.

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What would a national emergency over climate change look like?

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North Dakota tribes issue thousands of IDs to stop voter suppression

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If North Dakota tribal members show up to the polls today without proper ID, indigenous leaders are determined to make sure they’re still able to exercise their right to vote.

The Supreme Court recently declined to hear an appeal of the state’s new, restrictive voter ID law, which requires the listing of a valid residential address. Since many tribal members use P.O. boxes, the law has the potential to disenfranchise a large portion of the state’s Native community. But organizations have been rallying to help tribal members meet the requirement, even as late as Election Day.

“It’s an absolutely critical election. We won’t sit quietly and let our people be denied their right to vote,” Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Mike Faith said in a statement.

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In the days leading up to the midterm election, indigenous leaders rallied to issue thousands of new ID cards for would-be voters. The campaign, dubbed #StandingRockTheVote, is the result of a partnership between several North Dakota tribes and nonprofit advocacy organizations fighting voter suppression. As of last week, the Standing Rock Sioux, Turtle Mountain Chippewa, and Three Affiliated Tribes had distributed more than 2,000 new ID cards to their members free of charge so that they won’t be turned away at the polls. Through a GoFundMe page, the group raised more than $230,000 for the initiative in 17 days. The Native American Rights Fund also donated $50,000.

“We are modeling how we can work together to ensure our Native vote is as a large as possible,” said Phyllis Young, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and a field organizer for the coalition that is mobilizing voters.

Young is working alongside Four Directions, a nonprofit that supports Native voting rights, and Lakota People’s Law Project, which works to protect Lakota land and resources. Together they’ve devised a “failsafe” plan to make sure no native voters fall through the cracks on Election Day.

For anyone who still doesn’t have a qualifying ID when they show up to vote, tribal officials and volunteers will be present at polling places to issue documents on the spot that comply with voting laws. As long as voters in need of ID can verify their tribal membership and point out where they live on a map, officials will help them find a corresponding residential address and issue a letter verifying their eligibility.

Matt Samp, an organizer at Four Directions says his group successfully tested the method of issuing documents on the spot at the state auditor’s office last week. It’s a technique that hasn’t been tried before this year — and can work, in part, because North Dakota is the only state that doesn’t require voter registration.

“Our first effort has been getting people new IDs. We don’t want to have to use this letter one time, but if we have to we have it,” Samp said. “I shouldn’t have to be on the ground doing this, but that’s the law they made, so we’re complying with it.”

In 2016, members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued the state over the residential address requirement, arguing that the rule would disproportionately impact Native American voters who faced additional barriers to securing the necessary ID. Some critics contended that the law was aimed at suppressing the Native vote. Eighty-three percent of Sioux County, where the Standing Rock reservation is located, voted for Democratic candidate Heidi Heitkamp for in 2012. She ended up winning her Senate seat by just 3,000 votes, and her victory is largely attributed to the support she received from the indigenous community.

Daniel Hovland, chief judge for the U.S. District Court in North Dakota, initially ruled that the new voter ID law placed “excessively burdensome requirements” on the state’s Native American voters. That decision allowed people with mailing addresses on their IDs to vote in the primaries. But the state appealed, and a higher court sided with them this September, putting the restrictive law back into play for the midterm election. The Spirit Lake Tribe filed another suit in federal court asking for emergency relief from the mandate, but Judge Hovland denied their emergency request last week, on the grounds that such a last-minute change would cause “confusion.”

It’s unclear what the new law (and the efforts to issue new IDs to tribal members) might mean for the election. Heitkamp is running for reelection in a close race against Republican candidate Kevin Cramer. Although Heitkamp has been vocal about some issues important to tribes in North Dakota — like addressing the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women — she received criticism for failing to back Standing Rock opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Heitkamp’s campaign website also says she supports oil and coal.

But just because of Heitkamp’s stances have left a sour taste with some Native American voters doesn’t mean they won’t show up at the polls. Because of the lengths Young, Samp, and others have gone to get out the vote, Native Americans are now expected to have a higher-than-normal turnout in the North Dakota election on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to turn a challenge into an opportunity,” says Daniel Nelson, Program Director at the Lakota People’s Law Project, adding that the sentiment on the ground is actually pretty jubilant. “Democracy is alive and well at Standing Rock.”

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North Dakota tribes issue thousands of IDs to stop voter suppression

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Did Brett Kavanaugh lie about his environmental record?

Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court nominee accused of sexual assault by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, wants you to know that, at the time of the alleged incident, he was just an average teenage virgin. His pastimes included “hanging out and having some beers” with his buddies, OK? In normal amounts, allegedly. And you know what? It’s difficult to definitively prove that his version of events isn’t true.

What we do have a record of, however, is how Kavanaugh has voted on the environment. “In some cases, I’ve ruled against environmentalists’ interests, and in many cases I’ve ruled for environmentalists’ interests,” he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 5. So why did one law professor call him the “Voldemort” of environmental law?

Unfortunately for lovers of the truth and also planet Earth, the honorable judge may have mischaracterized his environmental credentials, as the Intercept reports. Let us please turn to the receipts.

During that testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Kavanaugh named Natural Resources Defense Council v. EPA as an example of a time he upheld environmental regulations. As Sharon Lerner wrote in the Intercept, he actually ruled against three out of four of the challenges brought by environment groups in that case. And the one point he sided with environmentalists on wasn’t “especially environmental,” an NRDC senior attorney told Lerner.
But what of his opinions? Did the judge pen fiery defenses of the environment during his tenure? Not really. An Earthjustice analysis found that, when deciding 26 EPA-related cases, Kavanaugh sided with the deregulation camp 89 percent of the time.
Kavanaugh, unlike most normal human beings, doesn’t seem to have a soft spot for nature’s majestic fauna. An analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity shows that Kavanaugh voted against wildlife 96 percent of the time. Do all judges just hate animals? Nope! That same analysis shows conservative judge David Sentelle voted against animals 57 percent of the time, and moderate judge Merrick Garland voted against them 46 percent of the time.
The last nail in Kavanaugh’s environmental coffin comes from President Trump himself, who sent out an email this summer praising the Supreme Court nominee for overruling federal regulators “75 times on cases involving clean air, consumer protections, net neutrality and other issues.”

For someone who has attended so many sports games, this former football bro is pretty bad at keeping score. Maybe all the beverages he’s consumed in his lifetime have clouded his ability to remember his environmental voting record.

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Did Brett Kavanaugh lie about his environmental record?

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What do vaping and offshore drilling have in common? Amendment 9.

The Sunshine State is no stranger to high drama come election season. This year, Florida is the place to watch if you’re curious how toxic algae has changed the Senate race or how Puerto Rican émigrés are shaping policy on the mainland. It’s also the place to be for voters with a disdain for both fossil fuels and e-cigarette vapors — they’ll get a chance to hit two birds with just one ticked oval on the ballot.

If passed, Amendment 9 would ban both offshore drilling and indoor vaping in the state constitution. A series of unusual events has led to the pairing, which only could have happened in Florida.

Florida is the sole state that appoints a commission with the power to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot. This Constitution Revision Commission only forms once every 20 years — and this is the lucky year. It exercised a unique power: “bundling” several proposals that span multiple issues into a single amendment. In contrast, if a proposed amendment were to make it to the ballot via petition, it’s bound by a “single-subject rule” aimed at preventing “log-rolling” — forcing voters to compromise one issue for another, or leading an unpopular measure to success by tying it to a more likable cause.

“Grouping some ideas which share common elements is for the benefit of the voter,” Brecht Heuchan, chair of the commission’s Style & Drafting Committee, said in a press release. “Grouping some ideas together keeps the ballot from becoming too lengthy to complete.”

The commission is now defending that reasoning in court after a retired Florida Supreme Court justice challenged six amendments on the ballot — including Amendment 9 — and charged the commission with “a form of issue gerrymandering.” In early September, a circuit judge sided with the plaintiff and ruled to have the amendments taken off the ballot, but Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi quickly appealed.

“I’m hopeful and I have every reason to believe it will be on the ballot from November,” Lisa Carlton, author of the proposal to limit where e-cigarettes can be used, tells Grist. “We’ll have to wait and see what the final decision is.”

Carlton, a former Republican state senator, was appointed to this year’s Constitution Revision Commission by Governor Rick Scott. When it comes to pairing her proposal with a stop to offshore drilling, she’s enthusiastic.

“The issues together send a message of clean air, clean water,” says Carlton, who believes her original proposal encompassed both health and environmental benefits. “I cannot think of anything more important than protecting our near shores in Florida,” she says.

Others are worried about marrying the two issues. The Florida League of Women Voters’ endorsement of the amendment comes with a caveat: “Our concern for the environment overrides our concern about putting vaping in the Constitution.”

“Frankly, bundling offshore drilling with vaping — it’s laughable,” says Patricia Brigham, president of the Florida League of Women Voters. Asking Floridians to vote on an amendment that encompasses unrelated issues puts voters in a difficult position, she says. It also makes the amendment harder to understand.

Another pairing that has left some voters scratching their heads is an amendment that addresses both college fees and death benefits for spouses of first responders and military members killed in the line of duty.

Manley Fuller is the president and CEO of Florida Wildlife Federation, the organization that wrote the language on offshore drilling now included in Amendment 9. He wasn’t happy about the bundling at first, either — but if his organization was going to be forced to tango with anybody, he’s glad it happened to be the vaping measure.

“There were other [proposals] which were much more complicated and very divergent,” Fuller says. “Vaping was probably the least objectionable.”

It’s been a long battle to stop offshore drilling. Only recently has it become a cause with bipartisan support. Rick Scott opposed a similar constitutional ban in 2010, but he’s now running to keep his seat on a platform that challenges the Trump administration’s attempts to expand offshore drilling. If passed, Amendment 9 offers permanent protection of the state’s shores and marine habitats.

“The reason we need to put it in the constitution is to send a clear message that Floridians do not want oil or gas drilling in our state marine waters,” says Fuller.

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What do vaping and offshore drilling have in common? Amendment 9.

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Trump’s power plan proposal is “about coal at all costs”

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

When President Obama unveiled the Clean Power Plan in the East Room of the White House three years ago, he called it “the single most important step America has ever taken in the fight against global climate change.” Today, that plan, which would have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 19 percent in 2030 relative to 2005 levels, will be replaced by the Trump administration’s “Affordable Clean Energy” proposal, which will give states more authority to craft regulations for coal-burning power plants and replaces the “overly prescriptive and burdensome” requirements in the CPP with what they describe as “on-site, heat-rate efficiency improvements.”

These regulations are expected to only decrease CO2 levels by a fraction of the amount that were anticipated under Obama’s plan. The Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged this will lead to hundreds of more deaths each year, along with sharp increases in the number of hospital admissions, lost work days, and school absences because of the health impacts of dirtier air. Not to mention the fact that increased emissions of carbon dioxide will further accelerate global warming.

“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. Wheeler and EPA air pollution chief Bill Wehrum are both former lobbyists for coal-producing companies that benefit from the agency’s new rule.

The Clean Power Plan faced powerful opposition from nearly the moment it was signed. Several coal-producing states, including Texas and West Virginia, led a group of industry stakeholders to ask the Supreme Court to stay the CPP in January 2016 pending an appeals court’s ruling. The Court agreed to temporarily block the plan and it has been suspended ever since.

Republicans, state environmental officials, and fossil fuel industry titans have urged the Trump administration to replace the Clean Power Plan for the past several months, citing its costs and dubious legality under the Clean Air Act. All 11 Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote to former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt in January asking him to eliminate the rule. “Not only is the CPP bad policy, it is unlawful,” they wrote. “Congress did not give EPA the authority to transform our energy sector.”

Former agency officials blasted the proposal in a call with reporters hours before the EPA unveiled ACE. Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator who developed the CPP under Obama, called its replacement “galling and appalling.”

“This is all about coal at all costs,” she said. “They are continuing to play to their base and following industry’s playbook step by step.”

Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont and a member of the Environment and Public Works committee, tweeted after the announcement, “Trump is actively destroying the planet in order to enrich his billionaire friends in the fossil fuel industry. We must fight back.”

The savings highlighted in Trump’s proposal — $400 million in annual net benefits with a reduction in CO2 emissions of up to 1.5 percent by 2030 — include a severe human cost, which the agency mentions in the fine print of its 289-page impact analysis.

Because of an increase in a tiny air pollutant known as PM 2.5, which contributes to smog and is linked to asthma and heart disease, the EPA predicts between 470 to 1,400 more deaths and thousands more lost days of school. Depending on how aggressively states make efficiency standards for individual power plants, those numbers could decrease.

“The Clean Power Plan would have reduced particle pollution along with the CO2 benefits by 25 percent by 2030. And we know reduction in particle exposure means saved lives,” said Janet McCabe, the former head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. The EPA deferred a request for comment on former agency officials’ criticism of the Trump plan to an agency press release about the proposal.

The United States’ level of CO2 emissions actually decreased in 2017, but experts fear that a weakened regulatory scheme with decentralized goals could hike up rates of pollution nationwide. “Environmental regulation in many cases is one of the leading causes of the decline in emissions that we observed over the past twenty years,” said Reed Walker, an associate professor at UC Berkeley who co-authored a recent study that found regulation to be a key factor in reducing emissions in the manufacturing sector, even with increasing output. Under Wheeler and former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, the federal government has started the process of rolling back at least 76 environmental regulations, according to the New York Times. Many of these rules include protections to wildlife habitats and restrictions aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump, who will celebrate the Affordable Clean Energy proposal at a rally in West Virginia, has propped up coal miners with several regulatory decisions. In June, he ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to bail out struggling coal-fueled power plants and, last month, the EPA finalized a rule that relaxes the requirements for storing toxic coal ash. He also announced his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement.

Once the Trump administration’s proposal is formally published, members of the public will have 60 days to comment on it. The EPA also plans to hold a formal hearing.


Trump’s power plan proposal is “about coal at all costs”

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