Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ocean Watch - Week 12

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.
Mid-Atlantic Ocean Watch – Week 12

Mid-Atlantic Back in the Drilling Cross Hairs?

We have been reporting for several weeks now about the near imminent threat of expanding oil and gas drilling in outer continental shelf (OCS) federal waters. COA is awaiting a Trump administration executive order and related actions that would target not just a reopening of the OCS Lease Plan (and the potential reinclusion of the mid-Atlantic in this plan), but also actions aimed at shrinking or eliminating national monuments or nixing another offshore order signed by former President Obama that placed 98 percent of the U.S. Arctic under protection.

Keep an eye on our social media and webpage over the coming days and weeks, as we continue to monitor the situation. The thousands of coastal economies that depend upon a clean and healthy Atlantic Ocean are incompatible with oil and gas drilling anywhere in our region. Oil does not respect state boundaries. Seismic blasting to discover these reserves does not discriminate between a dolphin from New Jersey and a whale from Florida. Call your congressional representatives TODAY, and tell them that offshore oil and gas drilling anywhere in the Atlantic is not acceptable!

Trump EPA Takes Aim at Vehicle Emissions Standards
It is clear that the Trump Administration is taking aim at all fossil fuel related regulations, from extraction to generation, and everywhere in between. Not even vehicle emission regulations are safe from this onslaught. In an agreement struck with automakers in 2012, the Obama administration required that cars run 54.4 miles per gallon of fuel by 2025. This standard, up from 27.5 miles per gallon, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6bn tons over the lifetime of new vehicles and save 2m gallons of oil per day by 2025– a clear win for the environment, for consumers who would be free to use that gas money for other expenses, and for energy efficiency. Unfortunately, these rules are squarely in the Trump Administration’s cross hairs.
This assault starts with the federal budget, and ends with direct rollbacks to regulations. According to a White House budget document , the EPA’s vehicle testing budget would be cut by 99 percent and the staff that does that testing would be cut by more than half. The cuts would be to the department that certifies emissions are met and that fuel economy claims are accurate. The proposal, which would also cut 168 out of 304 full-time jobs, seeks to partially fund current operations by boosting fees automakers and engine manufacturers pay for testing. An EPA official confirmed the document's authenticity. This news comes as Volkswagen recently settled one of the largest vehicle emissions fraud cases in history, paying out $25 billion dollars in fines for cheating emissions tests. Along with these budget cuts, Trump has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to review fuel efficiency standards that were a key plank of Barack Obama’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, apparently seeking a regulatory rollback to go with his budget cuts.

EPA Shutting Down its Climate Adaptation Office
Reports from Washington indicate that Scott Pruitt’s EPA is closing the Climate Adaptation Office within EPA’s headquarters. The Unit, though small in size, was focused on preparing for the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise and more extreme weather; a critical task as all those who live in coastal areas can tell you.

Key Federal Job Positions, Environmental Regulations, and Services on the Chopping Block

The Trump administration has finally lifted its federal hiring freeze, however with this news comes reports that the administration has ordered the heads of every federal agency to start significantly reducing their personnel over the next year. Although the memo did not get into specific staffing cuts, Politico reports that Trump definitely put a target on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Budget documents indicate that the White House would like to see EPA staffing reduced by as much as one-third – a devastating and catastrophic reduction in staff and funding that oversees contaminated site remediation, interstate pollution issues such as air and water discharges, and more. Moreover, the EPA has been directed to identify two regional offices for closure by June 15. Ultimately, Congress has the power to accept, reject, or alter the Trump budget— this is why our message to our Congressional delegation must be clear and powerful – Save EPA, fund environmental protection, and do not sacrifice our future for short term interests. Furthermore, the Trump administration through EPA, has opened a notice and comment period to gather information on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement, or modification. This input is intended to help inform EPA’s response to President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. These budget cuts, hiring freezes, regulatory rollbacks, and fossil fuel energy expansion policies are clearly designed to create more profit for fossil fuel corporations, while the public pays the price, and US manufacturing and technological innovation fall further behind the rest of the world.

Whitehouse Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ) Withdrawals Climate Change Guidance
In more regressive and fossil friendly news, the Trump Whitehouse led CEQ has announced in a federal register notice that they are withdrawing their ‘‘Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews”.

Climate Change Godfather Endorses a Republican Climate Plan
Back in February, we wrote on the proposal put forward by several leading Republicans, including three former Cabinet secretaries, supporting a Carbon Fee in an effort to reduce emissions and address the worst impacts of climate change. See that story here.  This week, the leading scientific voice on climate change, Dr. James Hansen, endorsed a Carbon market based proposal such as a carbon fee. The backing of Dr. Hansen of a republican proposal to address carbon emissions should be seen a positive movement toward building a consensus market based approach for carbon emissions. Tell your elected officials that this is the path forward to heading off the worst of climate change impacts.olalafkhfg
·         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.
o   Federal:
§  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

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