New Jersey Takes a Huge Step Towards Renewable Energy

by George Tahopoulos

On Thursday of this week New Jersey drastically changed its energy sector. They passed two bills that set new goals for increasing the amount of renewable energy that goes into the state. The deal consists of New Jersey saying that by 2030 they will generate 50% of their electricity from renewable energy. The bill was also passed with a 300 million dollar subsidy to the states remaining nuclear power plants which, some environmental groups are not exactly enthused by this because it starts another argument to whether we should move over to nuclear energy even though the danger is high and it is practically impossible to dispose of the waste.

People like Jeff Tittel the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club think that the bill is purely about the subsidy and that the quota set on renewable energy is a diversion to make you not see what is actually going on. In my opinion I believe that by 2030 most of the country will already be on renewable energy so I feel as if the nuclear industry is not mad about the bill being passed.

All of this is of course in response to President Trump taking us out of the Paris agreement. Since then there has been much outrage in the environmental community and senators have started to take matters in their own hands. This is just one of the 14 states whose senators announced that they would uphold the agreement and push forward on their own.

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Natural Gas Politics in Colorado

by Michael Patterson

Government officials in La Plata Country, Colorado are working to address an issue that has residents concerned. Natural gas wells in the region are found to be emitting high amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. This discovery came after a 2014 NASA study found that La Plata County had the highest level of methane in the country (Plautz para. 2).

La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt has been actively involved with protecting communities from environmental harm caused by these natural gas wells. She approached Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) to get his vote for limiting the use of gas wells in Colorado communities. Senator McCain voted against the removal of the Obama-era rule, which limits the amount of methane being emitted on public land. However, some people have criticized Lachelt for her role in the environmental movement. Some say that her trip to Washington is evidence that she is using her role in public office for personal gain because her trip was funded by an environmental group that she also leads. The issue of oil and politics will be a debate for several years to come.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/la-plata-county-recall-methane_us_5ab12b39e4b0eb3e2b30dd51

Air Quality in Delaware

by Travis Turner
A recent test done by the American Lung Association discovered that air quality has been decreasing in several parts of Delaware. The three counties all scored poorly on the high ozone days category. Kent county received a C, Sussex received a D, and New Castle received a F. However, both Kent and Sussex received an A for their particle pollution, while New Castle received a D.  Kevin Stewart who is the Environmental Health Director believes these low ratings are due to several main factors. The biggest cause of this is that I – 95 runs right through most of New Castle. Cars, trucks and buses are big contributors to ozone pollution. New Castle is also home to a fairly large commuter work force. Another interesting cause of the pollution can be considered a negative externality. Delaware is located downwind to several high polluting businesses. Since they are not in the state borders, unfortunately there is not much Delaware can do about it.
I believe this air quality issue needs to be addressed on a national level for any significant change to occur. We currently take clean air for granted and we really shouldn’t. There are countries out there who do not have the luxury of clean air. Countries like China deal with smog and acid rain due to their high levels of pollution. Realistically I don’t think we will ever end up in their position, but that doesn’t mean we should not put some effort into improving our current air quality.

Scott Pruitt’s Meetings with Campaign Donors

by Shane Pollock

Since taking office in 2017, the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt has been reported of meeting with at least 39 of his campaign donors, including major oil, gas, and coal companies, such as Murray Energy. This report comes at a time where Pruitt is facing a lot of criticism for his office’s spending habits. The meetings with past donors have greatly outnumbered meetings with environmental organizations. On top of this, Pruitt has already given speeches at 4 different events planned by the Federalist Society, another one of Pruitt’s donors during his campaign for Attorney General. Pruitt has also been seen touring a coal mine in Wyoming, Arch Coal, which ironically also donated to his campaign in 2014. All of these meetings and events are made public by the EPA, and can be seen here: https://www.epa.gov/senior-leaders-calendars/calendar-scott-pruitt-administrator .

What do you think about Pruitt focusing a lot of his time on past donors of his campaigns? Is it a normal part of politics, or is in inappropriate for a sitting administrator to do? Do you think Pruitt should be more concerned with our environment than maintaining past relationships? Personally, I believe Pruitt is focusing far too much of his time on the wrong industries. With so much attention on the oil & gas industry, how is he benefiting our environment?

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-campaign-donors_us_5acc4525e4b0150d9bfe7820

Biggest Threat to Humanity? Climate Change

by Ryan Molloy

 

During a press conference in New York last Thursday, the president of the United Nations (Antonio Guterres) delivered strong words about what this nation’s biggest threat is. Many were expecting answers similar to nuclear attacks, civil war, etc. Although Guterres stated his belief that the biggest threat to humanity is climate change, Guterres then mentioned that the economic cost of climate related disaster has hit a staggering $320 billion. He expresses concern of how many more “alarm bells” need to go off before the issue is taken as seriously as it should be.

Focusing on emissions, Guterres is holding a United Nations Summit on Climate change next year, specifically targeting government leaders to strengthen their pledges that they have made to curb emissions under the Paris agreement before 2020. Although Trump has announced the United States’ departure from the Paris agreement, it does not end until 2020. With that being said, not only do government leaders need to do their part but business leaders and powerful investors also play crucial roles as well. Guterres believes that all around the world the role of government is becoming less and less relevant and the role of the economy and society is playing a larger role. American businesses and society has done a great job in enforcing the Paris Agreement. Unlike American businesses, the government is doing the exact opposite and completely withdrawing from the agreement. Guterres still holds out hope that he can get the Trump administration to stay with the Paris Agreement.

Link: https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3029467/un-secretary-general-climate-change-the-most-systemic-threat-to-humankind

EPA, Subject to Change

by Isa Molewijk

There has been a lot of controversy around the appointment of Scott Pruitt as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. The walking contradiction of an anti-environmentalist in charge of the EPA has been subject to both outrage and applause all over the world. Now Pruitt is under fire for several scandals about his spending habits, like the deal to rent a Capitol Hill condominium linked to a gas industry lobbyist. Headlines like ‘White house considered firing Scott Pruitt’ and ‘Scott Pruitt’s bizarre condo scandal and mounting ethics questions’ scatter the news. Even republicans openly question Pruitt’s legitimacy. Furthermore, it strikes a more fundamental question about the existence of the EPA and the overall United States political system. How could an anti-environmentalist become chief of the EPA in the first place? And who will stand for the environment in times of Global Warming?

In the Netherlands there was a similar case of a ‘walking contradiction’ when anti-immigration-politician Rita Verdonk was appointed minister of Integration and Immigration.[1] With an increasing amount of refugees in Europe from war-torn countries, Verdonk sought to sharpen immigration laws and regulations. During her term (2003-2007) her directness and dehumanizing policies earned her the nickname ‘Iron Rita’. Fortunately, she did not get all policies through. Mainly because of the existence of the Dutch Council for Refugees, a Non-Governmental Organization (although partially government funded) which is leading in expertise and lobbies immigration policies to the House of Representatives.[2] They work close together with the government and when the government does not take their advice they use the media to demand consideration. In every branch of government there is a non-governmental agency that needs to be reckoned with. Their non-governmental nature causes them to solely have their purpose at mind, not worrying about re-election or presidential appointments. In the case of environmental policy, the Dutch government sets the frameworks, but the law is mostly shaped by non-governmental agency Stichting Natuur & Milieu (Nature and Environment).[3]

 

The Trump Administration and appointment of Scott Pruitt seemed to perish all hope for environmental protection in the U.S. However, it was an executive order from president Nixon that created the EPA in the first place. Maybe Scott Pruitt should not be on fire for non-surprising unethical behavior, but the entire political system that got him to be chief in the first place. Maybe the EPA should have a less governmental nature and there should be more non-governmental third party organizations to be reckoned with. It is time to be creative and demand change in a fundamental anti-environmental system. After all, environmental protection should not be linked to being a republican or democrat: we all breath the same air and we will all suffer the consequences of human-fueled global warming.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/scott-pruitt-epa-condo-rental_us_5ac25b2ee4b04646b644ffb1

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rita_Verdonk

[2] https://www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl/english

[3] https://www.natuurenmilieu.nl/english/

Cars, California and Federalism

by Catherine Long

A common theme among the blog posts we have discussed throughout the semester has been President Trump’s dedication to reversing most Obama-era policies in relation to the environment. This article continues this theme, however there is also an added element of federalism at work. Through the 1970 Clean Air Act, the EPA has worked to reduce the emissions from cars by setting stricter fuel economy standards. Under President Obama, great strides were taken to ensure this would be the case until 2025, almost ten years after his departure. The 1970 Clean Air Act also allowed for waivers to be given to states who wanted to set their own fuel economy standards. California has participated in this system and wishes to set stricter fuel economy standards in order to encourage growth in the electric car sector. However, upon taking office, President Trump assured the automobile industry that he along with the head of the EPA Scott Pruitt would review the standards set by the EPA under President Obama and that he would set the standards at a level that would allow cars to be made in America again. Appealing to the growth of the economy and an increase in American manufacturing has been a tactic President Trump has used since his Presidential campaign. However, California plans to move ahead with its stricter standards. This creates a dilemma because car manufacturers have to decide whether to follow California’s standards in order for their cars to be bought in that state or follow the much lower national standards and potentially lose buyers in California. In order to solve this dilemma, California has tried to negotiate with the Trump administration by stating that they will lower their standards if Trump prolongs the Obama-era standards until 2030. This article offers an interesting insight into how states are attempting to influence environmental policy under a President who doesn’t subscribe to environmentally friendly policy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2018/03/13/epa-administrator-pruitt-says-california-is-not-the-arbiter-of-the-nations-emission-standards/?utm_term=.e260c6f1af6d