Welcome to Ocean Watch; a weekly recap of federal and regional actions that impact the coastal and marine water quality and ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean. Clean Ocean Action will aggregate and analyze these actions, and signify the impact and threat level to the Mid-Atlantic using color coding – Red is a high level threat, orange is intermediate, yellow is a caution, and green would be a positive action. While many of these actions have taken place in Washington DC, and don’t affect the mid-Atlantic directly, the direction of national energy, climate, and regulatory policy will have implications and impacts for the mid-Atlantic region.
Executive Order Alert!
On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order designed to impose additional roadblocks to government regulators ranging from FDA to EPA. The EO, titled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda, designates officials within government agencies to monitor rule-making and identify needed policy changes. A familiar refrain from Trump has been and continues to be “Excessive regulation is killing jobs”, even while many independent analyses of environmental regulations show clear economic benefits from regulating pollution from powerplants, and other efforts. (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/news/new-report-disproves-trump-administration-claims-of-job-killing-environmental-regulations/).
Bannon Lays Out the End Goal
White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon both spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and bragged about their early efforts to revamp how the federal government imposes regulations. The most interesting and alarming statement was made by Bannon, and cuts right to the core of the last 4 week’s executive orders and nominations: “I think the consistent, if you look at these Cabinet appointees, they were selected for a reason and that is the deconstruction, the way the progressive left runs, is if they can't get it passed, they're just gonna put in some sort of regulation in — in an agency. That's all gonna be deconstructed and I think that that's why this regulatory thing is so important.”
When Steve Bannon casually mentions the “deconstruction” of regulations, remember that he is talking about clean water and air, habitat and species, and public health. Bannon's comment clarifies why agency appointments have generally been directly hostile to the mission and purpose of the agency they are meant to head. Their job directive is clear; to dismantle regulatory controls.
While Scott Pruitt has been confirmed as EPA Administrator, thousands of emails and communications from Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma Attorney General were released this week as a result of an Open Records Act request and eventual lawsuit by the Center for Media and Democracy. Many Senate and Congress Representatives called for the release of these documents prior to the confirmation vote. Unfortunately that did not happen. However, as these records are sorted and read through, it is clear that the well-known relationship between Pruitt and the fossil fuel industry will be further illuminated.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, repeatedly requested that Pruitt disclose such communications during Pruitt’s Senate confirmation. Rather than release them, Pruitt referred Whitehouse and other colleagues to his office’s Oklahoma Open Records Act process—the same process that forced the Center for Media and Democracy to wait over two years to receive a response. Whitehouse released the following statement today on the newly released emails:
“These emails, which Scott Pruitt wanted to keep from public view, show an elected official cultivating a cozy relationship with regulated industries as he helped them through his official work. Seeing industry representatives fawning over Pruitt’s efforts to attack the EPA, it’s clear that this information should have been closely examined by the Senate as we considered his nomination to run that agency. But even after Republicans rammed his confirmation through and a court ordered the materials released, we still don’t have the full picture. The Center for Media and Democracy and others are waiting on troves of documents related to Scott Pruitt’s work on behalf of the polluters he now regulates. The American people must know the full extent of that relationship.”
Zinke Nomination progressing - slowly
The nomination of Representative Ryan Zinke (R- MT) to lead the Department of Interior, will likely be delayed until Marsg as the U.S. Senate goes on a week-long break starting this weekend, and returns the week of Feb. 27. Zinke has been a mixed bag in terms of his environmental credentials – strong at times on advocating for public access to public land and for certain stewardship goals related to hunting and fishing management, yet also a very troubling record of voting against the protection of endangered species — and for fossil fuel development and other extractive industries on public lands. Zinke also has strong financial ties to the oil and gas industry — which has given him more than $300,000 during his political career. The arc of his career suggests that he will work to privatize public lands for private benefit; for logging, fossil fuel, and other extractive interests.
YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED!
· The executive orders and congressional actions of the last week have reinforced how vital it is that every citizen engage with their elected officials. In this day and age of instant communication, there is no excuse for not contacting your elected officials. Use the links below to find your representatives and let them know how important clean water and strong environmental protections are.
§ Call your US Senators: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
§ Call your US House of Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/
o State Level:
§ Contact your Governor: https://www.usa.gov/state-governor
§ For NJ residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/districts/njmap210.html
§ For NY residents, contact your State Senate and Assembly Representatives: http://www.elections.ny.gov/district-map/district-map.html