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SUMMER 2018

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 3 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

Pruitt is rolling back a slew of safeguards against air and climate pollution.

NRDC Calls on Trump to Fire Pruitt Court Fight Over Ocean Drilling Ban Rages On Ryan Zinke’s Disastrous First Year as Interior Secretary Tell Amazon to Help Save America’s Bees!

NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.


Victory

CLIMATE’S DAY IN COURT: I

A federal court has blocked the Trump Administration’s second attempt to hit the “stop” button on a vital safeguard that cuts cancer-causing, smogproducing and climate-changing air pollution from oil and gas operations on our public lands. NRDC has now prevailed twice in court when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke moved to delay the Obama-era Methane and Waste Prevention Rule. The judge in the latest case called Zinke’s action “baseless.” That sends yet another message to the administration that it will not get away with illegal handouts to industry at the expense of our health and climate.

Victory

CLIMATE’S DAY IN COURT: II

In a big win for NRDC and our planet’s climate, a federal court ruled that the Bureau of Land Management violated the law when it made 80 billion tons of coal available for leasing in the Powder River Basin, which stretches across Montana and Wyoming. That’s enough coal to keep our nation’s current coalfired plants burning for another 100 years. The court agreed with NRDC that the agency must first assess the environmental risks of combusting such vast amounts of fossil fuel and consider the alternatives.

Victory

THUMBS-UP FOR EFFICIENCY

A federal judge has ruled that the Trump Admin­ istration illegally delayed four energy efficiency standards that will save consumers and businesses more than $8 billion on their utility bills. In a big win for NRDC and our allies, the court ordered the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to publish the standards for the four products in question: portable air conditioners, battery backup systems, air compressors and packaged boilers. The standards were completed under President Obama but delayed for more than a year by the Trump DOE

C OV E R A RT I C L E

NRDC CALLS ON TRUMP TO FIRE PRUITT U nder increased fire for his extreme propolluter agenda and dogged by controversy over lavish spend­ing and ethics scandals, EPA Adminis­tra­tor Scott Pruitt is facing a growing chorus demanding that President Trump oust him. NRDC has led the charge in channeling widespread public outrage over Pruitt’s disastrous anti-environment­tenure into a concerted campaign to prevail on Trump to dismiss him. “This is not a position we take lightly,” says NRDC President Rhea Suh. “We’ve disagreed with EPA administrators before. Pruitt, though, is intent on making the agency fail. That’s why we’ve joined with other environmental advocacy groups in calling on President Trump to replace Pruitt with someone who’ll protect people, not polluters.” In just over a year on the job, Pruitt has engaged in a reckless campaign to roll back dozens of environmental and public health protections in order to benefit America’s biggest polluters, from moving

to dismantle the landmark Clean Power Plan to scuttling the Clean Water Rule, which protects sources of drinking water for more than 100 million Americans. All the while, he has presided over the EPA like a third world despot, racking up exorbitant bills for first-class travel and other outrageous expenses, like a 24/7 security detail of 30 bodyguards, even as he has sought to slash the agency’s budget and starve it of vital resources. The consequences have been dire. Under Pruitt’s watch, the number of civil cases the EPA has opened against polluters has plunged by 44 percent, for example, and industry fines for pollution have plummeted by almost half. A single week in April seemed to epitomize Pruitt’s reign: jostling head­lines announced his axing of climate-saving auto pollution standards while simultaneously exposing an apparent sweetheart deal in which he leased a luxury condo in Washington, D.C., from the wife of a

fossil fuel lobbyist. “Pruitt has taken the environment out of the Environmental Protection Agency and the public out of public service,” says Suh. “It’s time for him to go.”

COAL PLANT © JULIEN MCROBERTS/OFFSET; POLAR BEARS © GETTY IMAGES

G O O D N EWS

S P E C I A L R E P O RT

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Court Fight Over Ocean Drilling Ban Rages On President Trump’s lawless attempt to overturn a permanent ban on new offshore oil and gas leasing in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans took a hit when a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit challenging Trump’s action may proceed. NRDC and Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of a coalition of Alaska Native and conservation groups less than a week after Trump signed an executive order aimed at reversing the Obama-era offshore drilling ban. The Trump Administration and its allies in the fossil fuel industry argued strenuously to have the suit thrown out of court, even though

the law contains no provision allowing presidents to reverse such ocean protections created­by their predecessors. Trump’s order would expose 98 percent of the U.S. Arctic Ocean and 31 biologically rich deepwater canyons in the Atlantic to new drilling, threatening critical habitat for polar bears, right whales and countless other species. “Trump’s brazen attempt to strip protection from 128 million acres of U.S. ocean waters for the benefit of polluters is unlawful,” says Niel Lawrence, an NRDC senior attorney. “Now he will have to answer for it in a court of law.”


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

n March 1, 2017, the day he was sworn in as President Trump’s new interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, a former single-term congressman, declared he was “honored and humbled” to serve in the post. Even by the standards of Trump Administration doublespeak, Zinke’s assertion of humility was jaw-dropping. After all, he’d just arrived for his first day on the job astride a horse named Tonto. Soon Zinke was ordering his staff to raise a special secretarial flag whenever he was on the premises, and he commissioned a commemorative coin with his name emblazoned on it. But if such imperious acts have seemed by turns baffling and disconcerting, what really provokes outrage is Zinke’s repeated casting of himself as a Teddy Roosevelt conservationist—a responsible steward for our 500 million acres of public lands and oceans. In his inaugural press statement, Zinke vowed to uphold Roosevelt’s legacy and “work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits all Americans for generations to come.” In reality, Zinke’s first year on the job has been nothing short of an environmental disaster. “Teddy Roosevelt must be rolling over in his grave,” says Andrew Wetzler, the managing director of NRDC’s Nature program. “Rather than uphold Roosevelt’s legacy, Zinke has launched a full-scale attack on it by throwing open our public estate to the fossil fuel industry.” That rush to commercial exploitation has encompassed everything from national monuments to treasured coastlines, from Arctic wildlife habitats to vast stretches of public lands in the Lower 48. Only a tidal wave of public outrage kept Zinke from sticking it to the little guy by imposing a dramatic hike in entrance fees to national parks. He is still eyeing a plan that would slash royalty fees paid by energy companies to drill in offshore waters. NRDC has filed no fewer than ten lawsuits against Zinke’s Interior Department to date, and we’re prepared to take legal action on other fronts as new threats emerge.

addressed the industry’s top lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Moreover, a number of questionable travel expenses­have been the subject of ethics complaints against Zinke, including the more than $12,000 he spent chartering a private plane owned by oil and gas company executives for a flight from Las Vegas to Montana. The department’s inspector general says she has been thwarted in her investigation of Zinke’s travel practices by his failure to keep complete records and his department’s apparent inability to “distinguish between personal, political and official travel.”

Zinke has been working tirelessly for the fossil fuel lobby. Clockwise from top left: The California coast—and virtually all of our nation’s coastal waters—will be opened to drilling; Gold Butte in Nevada is one of four national monuments that Zinke has proposed shrinking; the Coal Hollow Mine could be expanded onto public land near Bryce Canyon National Park, thanks to Zinke’s reversal of the coal leasing moratorium; Yellowstone’s grizzlies have been stripped of their endangered species protections. Inset: Zinke at his confirmation hearing.

Zinke’s penchant for invoking Roosevelt is perhaps most galling when it comes to his assault on our national monuments. It was Roosevelt who signed the 1906 Antiquities Act, which granted presidents the authority to permanently protect sites of irreplaceable historic and cultural value. Roosevelt himself used that authority to preserve 17 sites, including those that would eventually become Grand Canyon and Olympic National Parks. That hasn’t stopped Zinke from plotting against several of our national monuments. On the basis of his recom­ mendations, President Trump has moved to shrink two monuments in Utah—Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante—by a staggering 85 per­cent and

45 percent, respectively. NRDC is challenging those attacks in federal court. Zinke has further proposed significant reductions to two other monuments, Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou and Nevada’s Gold Butte, and would open six more—some on land, some in the ocean—to extractive industries, such as logging, mining, drilling and commercial fishing. Rather than working tirelessly for all Americans, Zinke has been working tirelessly for the fossil fuel lobby. In his first two months on the job, he held more meetings with oil and gas executives— including brass from ExxonMobil, Chevron and BP America—than with representatives from any other group. Three weeks after he took office, he

Zinke’s tenure at Interior is shaping up to be a bonanza for the fossil-fuel giants. He summarily overturned an Obama-era moratorium on coal leasing on federal land, and he has moved swiftly to fast-track drilling and mining permits by scaling back or scrapping federal environmental and public health protections. Meanwhile, the amount of public land offered for oil and gas leasing during Zinke’s first year totaled nearly 12 million acres, a sixfold increase over the last year of the Obama Admin­istration. That included the largest-ever lease sale in the National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, also known as the Western Arctic Reserve, which contains nesting habitat for millions of migratory birds and the calving grounds of the Western Arctic caribou herd. In addition, Zinke’s lieutenants are [Continued on next page.]

GOLD BUTTE © BLM; COASTLINE © ROBERT BOHRER/123RF; BEARS © NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC/ALAMY; COAL HOLLOW © ETHAN MILLER/GETTY IMAGES; RYAN ZINKE © RON SACHS/PICTURE-ALLIANCE/DPA/AP

RYAN ZINKE’S DISASTROUS FIRST YEAR AS INTERIOR SECRETARY O


Investors Ratchet Up Pressure on Pebble Mine

headed pell-mell toward opening the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—our nation’s premier denning grounds for polar bears—to oil and gas development. Meanwhile, in California, Zinke is threatening to scrap the historic Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which protects vast swaths of the Mojave Desert and designates urgently needed renewable energy zones. But the onslaught isn’t confined to our public lands. In January, Zinke announced plans to open virtually all our coastal waters—from Maine to California and even off the coast of the Arctic Refuge—to oil and gas drilling. That represents a radical change from the Obama Admin­ istration, which placed 94 percent of federal waters off-limits to the industry. Then, last month in the Gulf of Mexico, the Interior Department conducted the largest ocean lease sale in U.S. history, covering more than 77 million acres, even while moving to roll back vital safeguards put in place following the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. “We’re fighting Zinke’s assault on our public estate—and defending Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy— at every step of the way,” says Wetzler. “We’ve already won key victories in federal court (see front page), and we intend to keep Zinke in court until he abandons these schemes to sell our natural heritage to the highest bidder.” TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/stopzinke

Keystone XL Suffers Yet More Setbacks Prospects are fading for the climate-wrecking Keystone XL pipeline. Earlier this year, TransCanada, the company behind the tar sands pipeline proposal, secured commitments from shippers to fill just 60 percent of the pipeline’s capacity—and that includes the Alberta government chipping in to buy 50,000 barrels per day of space. Normally, pipelines get commitments for more than 80 percent of capacity before they move forward. So it’s no surprise that TransCanada has missed its own deadline for making a decision on

Tell Amazon to Help Save America’s Bees! Amazon, the giant of e-commerce, is no friend to bees. While other major retailers, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and True Value, have announced plans to phase out products containing bee-killing neonic pesticides, Amazon still sells home and garden products that are toxic to these vital, fuzzy pollinators. Seventy percent of America’s major crops depend on bees for pollination. But as the use of neonics has skyrocketed, bee populations have collapsed, and scientists have linked the two.

whether to proceed with the pipeline. The company’s court setbacks are mounting as well. In February, a federal judge ruled in NRDC’s favor and ordered that information related to the Trump Administration’s approval of the project be made public. A cross-border permit for Keystone XL, which threatens our climate as well as water supplies in America’s heartland, was rejected by the Obama Administration before the Trump State Department moved to approve it last year. “The public has a right to know what evidence and what materials were considered in making that decision,” says NRDC Senior Attorney Jackie Prange. NRDC will keep fighting to stop this dirty energy project for good.

A potential new corporate partner in the Pebble Mine is facing pressure from investors to stay away from the proposed gold and copper operation, which threatens the world’s greatest wild salmon fishery, in Alaska’s Bristol Bay. The California treasurer and the comptrollers for New York State and New York City, who manage the largest public pension funds in the country, have sent letters urging First Quantum Minerals to cut ties with the Pebble Mine. It is too risky for investors, they say, and poses grave threats to the environment and indigenous people of Bristol Bay. State pension fund leaders already helped persuade mining giant Rio Tinto to walk away from this Alaskan misadventure. “First Quantum should heed its shareholders and get out now,” says Taryn Kiekow Heimer, an NRDC senior advocate. “This toxic project is fraught with risk.” The mega mine would produce billions of tons of contaminated waste in the headwaters of the streams where some 60 mil­­lion salmon return to spawn each year. Despite the mine’s potentially catastrophic dangers, confirmed by a peer-reviewed EPA study, the Trump Administration has opened the door for permitting and laid out a rushed review process, including a curtailed public comment period. Tens of thousands of NRDC Members have responded by sending comments opposing the mine, and NRDC will fight it in court if necessary. TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/stoppebble

“Amazon can make a real difference by pulling products that contain neonics off its website,” says Rebecca Riley, a senior attorney with NRDC’s Nature program. Neonics can kill bees outright. Even in small doses, they interfere with a bee’s ability to navigate, reproduce and find food, and they make bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites and other diseases. NRDC is suing the EPA to crack down on neonics, and some 75,000 NRDC activists have urged Amazon to phase out products that contain these bee-killing pesticides. TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/savebees

The headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska

RALLY © B. CHRISTOPHER/ALAMY; BEE © ISTOCK; BRISTOL BAY © ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM

[Continued from previous page.]


In an outrageous flip-flop that could further imperil Africa’s already endangered elephants, the Trump Administration will allow the import of elephant hunting trophies to resume. The move comes as the administration establishes a taxpayer-funded­advisory council, stacked with die-hard trophy hunters, that will advise it on how to promote the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. In November, the Interior De­­part­ment announced plans to reverse an Obama-era ban on ele­phant trophy imports from Zim­babwe. That led to a much-publicized­round of tweets by Pres­i­dent Trump in

which he called elephant hunting a “horror show” and appeared determined to keep the ban in place. But by March, the administration­had reversed course again, quietly de­­ciding to consider permits for trophy imports on a case-by-case basis. “Not only did the administration slip its reversal announcement under the radar, but its new process for approving trophy permits is almost entirely shielded from public review,” says Elly Pepper, deputy director of NRDC’s Wildlife Trade Initiative. “And given the cozy relationship between the administration and pro-trophy hunting groups like Safari Club International and the NRA, you can bet

these ‘case-by-case’ decisions are going to come down in favor of the hunters.” No doubt owing to the avid interest of Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric in sport hunting, the adminis­tration’s euphemis­tically named International Wildlife Conser­vation Council (IWCC) is packed with trophy hunting advocates. Appointed members include the NRA’s director of hunt­ing policy, a “celebrity hunter” who co­produced the reality TV show Extreme Huntress and the co-owner, with Trump’s sons, of a hunting preserve in upstate New York. Meanwhile, the administration rejected scores of qualified candidates from the conservation community, including NRDC Senior Attorney Andrew Wetzler, an expert in endangered species law, whose nomination was backed by half a dozen other prominent con­servation and animal-welfare groups. “Letting a select committee of trophy hunting interests decide the fate of elephants and other endangered species is a recipe for disaster,” says Pepper. “NRDC will be monitoring and exposing their deci­sions, holding them accountable to public opinion and going to court if that’s what it takes to derail their radical trophy hunting agenda.”

Pruitt Moves to Weaken Clean Car Standards By Luke Tonachel, director, Clean Vehicles and Fuels Project

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced plans to roll back landmark clean car standards that not only cut climate-destroying carbon pollution but also save consumers $92 billion on gasoline and benefit the economy. The move will take America backward by jeopardizing successful safeguards that are already working to clean our air, save drivers money at the pump and fuel technological innovation that creates jobs. Pruitt claimed the clean car standards were too tough for auto­ makers to meet, but an exhaustive multiyear study completed in January 2017 proved that wrong. In fact, the report showed not only that the standards were effective, but that auto companies could potentially meet even stronger

standards at reasonable cost. Another study estimated that clean car standards would create more than 100,000 jobs in 2025, with that number growing to 250,000 in 2035. Pruitt’s move is a U-turn in the fight against climate change. Transportation is the greatest contributor to carbon emissions in the United States, and now they will only rise, further endangering the public’s health by creating dirtier air and accelerating climate change. Delaying action to reduce vehicle carbon pollution today will require more aggressive action in the future if we want to get back on a path to stabilizing Earth’s climate. Strong, long-term standards have been instrumental in advanc-

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ing­technology innovation, new products and jobs for the workers who build them. Today more than 288,000 Americans are making components that go into cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. Weakening the standards stifles innovation and puts these jobs at risk. U.S. suppliers, who employ 2.6 times more Americans than the car-brand auto assembly companies, could cut jobs at home and move operations to countries focused on building the clean cars we need. Both NRDC and our allies—as well as the 13 states that have maintained tough, state-level clean air standards—are ready to fight back. Pruitt is taking us in the wrong direction, and we will use all legal means available to stop him.

LUKE TONACHEL © REBECCA GREENFIELD; FLORIDA PANTHER © ISTOCK; ELEPHANTS © TUI DE ROY/MINDEN

Trump Breaks Promise on Elephant Trophies, Forms Hunting Council

N R D C VO I C E S

Nature's Voice Summer 2018  

All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...

Nature's Voice Summer 2018  

All of the environmental projects and victories described in Nature’s Voice are made possible through the generous support of Members like y...