The state of the environment

Posted by Tom Camfield

A view from the grass roots . . . If you watched the insipid State of the Union speech last week, did you notice that Donald didn’t have anything at all to say about global warming/climate change?

Donald Trump is nominating David Bernhardt to be Interior Secretary, putting a former oil lobbyist on track to take over the Interior Department,” Bloomberg news reported Feb. 5. If confirmed, Bernhardt, present deputy secretary, would succeed Trump-appointed Ryan Zinke, who recently resigned facing intense pressure to step down because of multiple probes tied to his real estate dealings in his home state of Montana and his conduct in office. Donald announced the intended promotion of acting secretary Bernhardt on Twitter Feb. 4.

Donald already had decided to put former coal-company lobbyist Adam Wheeler, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, to replace departure of the president’s first appointed and scandal-plagued EPA chief Scott Pruitt.

Bernhardt has played a major role in a pro-energy course at Interior—shaping policies to expand drilling, making sure economics are factored into endangered species decisions, etc. He argues that the government has too often pursued wildlife protections without regard for the potential cost to land-owners and businesses. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry of Texas also is as conservative as they come. He apparently just phones Donald every couple of weeks to affirm that he’s still alive.

Some of us, of course, feel land-owners (including developers) and businesses are too often at present pandered without regard for the survival of endangered species. Think of wetlands being filled, or drilling for oil and mining after national monuments (eventually parks also, no doubt) are shrunk in size merely to accommodate business profit.

There’s no long-range vision of or concern for the future among today’s Republicans, who have no qualms about raping finite resources. They give short shrift to development of clean alternate-energy sources.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer stated in response to the nomination: “David Bernhardt might be most ethically-challenged, special-interest-driven nominee the president could have selected for this position—and that’s saying something considering he would be following former Secretary Ryan Zinke . . . Mr. Bernhart’s nomination is a serious threat to our nation’s public lands, wildlife and natural resources.”

A similar response was forthcoming from Nicole Ghio, senior fossil fuels program manager for Friends of the Earth: “Trump has once again nominated a corrupt industry hack to lead a critical federal agency. . . Instead of another puppet to corporate polluters, Americans want real leaders who will protect our public lands, natural resources and cultural heritage.”

Bloomberg noted: “Bernhardt would be on the front line of Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda. The Interior Department is weighing plans to expand the sale of offshore oil drilling rights in a 1.6-million-acre piece of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” Interior Department agencies also play a lead role interacting with Native American tribes, issuing rights for grazing on public lands and considering whether animals should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Which among other things brings us to our own state’s salmon runs, ailing Orcas, etc. The Seattle Times’ main headline Feb. 7 read: “EPA thwarts state bid to cool off rivers too hot for salmon.” Salmon are dying in over-heated rivers; orcas who feed on them are slowly starving to death.

Does Donald trump care about fish and wildlife species survival? No. He doesn’t seem to be concerned even with the survival of humankind.

The Times story reported: “A move to initiate state regulation of salmon-killing hot water in the Columbia and Snake rivers has been iced by the Trump administration—for now. The state’s Department of Ecology has initiated a public comment process on draft permits that would enable it to enforce state water-quality standards at federal dams, including temperature.

“On Friday night the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) wrote to the department to announce it is yanking the draft permits that were under review.” Donald and his flying monkeys strike again! Governor Jay Inslee wants state Ecology to stand firm. During summer both rivers exceed the state’s uppermost temperature standard of 68 degrees, at which point salmon begin to die. (The Times testified to this with some underwater photography in a recent issue.) Ongoing climate change since 1960 and the existence of certain dams are to blame, it has been determined. The state wants to regulate flow from the dams in a manner that would maintain cooler rivers.

The EPA has made no explanation for nixing the state’s ecological plan.
To me it seems that autocratic Donald just wants to do away with state rights for blue states and initiate all agendas and decisions for the oval office.

MAGA indeed! Make America Greedy Again

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Tom Csmfield

AN UPDATE—Something I’m highly interested at the moment is a massive public lands bill introduced in the U. S. Senate by co-sponsors Maria Cantwell of our own state (Democrat, of course) and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska (Republican). Its features call for a multi-billon-dollar Yakima Valley water project, blocks new mining operations in 340,000 acres of.federal land in our state’s Methow Valley—and also, says Cantwell, will help the Northwest and the rest of the country prepare for climate change.

It also provides for creating programs to explore new technologies for fighting wildfire, like drones and GPS tracking.

Giving hope for passage of the 660-page bill is the fact that it promises to shape public lands across the country and lines up politicians’ favored projects for federal support. The ominous bill is a compilation of various pieces of legislation that would struggle to get time on their own on the Senate floor, Cantwell said. It could pass as soon as Tuesday. If approved, the bill would represent a rare, bipartisan compromise that celebrates and bolsters some public lands — for hunting and hiking and conservation — but also recognizes the difficulties those lands face as the climate and environment changes.

That all leaves us at the moment with both Donald Trump, ultimate anti-conservationist, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. Anti-regulation Donald won’t be too keen on the restricted mining provision—and there’s also his uninformed finger-pointing on the matter of wildfires. How will this attitude filter down to lackey McConnell, and the scheduling for a Senate vote?

I’m glad I voted for Maria Cantrell. And I’ve had a thing for the Methow Valley since 62 years ago when 7 of us set up a long-term camp, organized by my father-on-law on the bank of the Chewack River. It was 30 miles from the nearest store. There was nice fishing lake also within decent hiking distance. The Chewack runs into the Methow River.

See: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/heres-what-the-massive-public-lands-bill-means-for-conservation-climate-change-in-washington-state/

Wednesday, February 13