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SUMMER 2017

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 2.4 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

The Flat Irons roadless area in Colorado could be newly threatened by Trump’s lifting of the coal leasing moratorium.

Trump Ignites Major Climate Fight Keystone XL Revived; NRDC Fires Back in Court NRDC Unveils Strategy to Stop the Trump Onslaught Standing Tall for Vanishing Giraffes

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


Victory

NEW FLIGHT OF THE BUMBLEBEE Under pressure from an NRDC lawsuit, the Trump Administration has granted federal protections for the rusty patched bumblebee. This essential native pollinator was added to the endangered species list by the Obama Administration, but the Trump Interior Department proceeded to illegally “freeze” the listing. The agency’s reversal is a huge win for the bee —which has vanished from more than 90 percent of its historic range — and for our larger campaign to save bees from toxic pesticides and other threats.

Victory

JUSTICE PREVAILS IN FLINT After a yearlong legal battle, residents of Flint, Michigan, will finally get their water pipes replaced. In a big victory for citizen power, a federal judge approved a settlement that requires the state of Michigan to spend nearly $100 million to get lead and galvanized steel pipes out of the ground and help resolve the city’s drinking water crisis. NRDC and the ACLU of Michigan filed the citizen suit on behalf of residents after officials refused to act.

Victory

INDIAN POINT TO CLOSE New York’s aging, problem-plagued Indian Point nuclear power plant will close by April 2021, according to an agreement announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo — welcome news for some 20 million people who live within 50 miles of its reactors. The governor has committed to replacing the plant’s power with clean and renewable energy, with no net increase in climatedestroying carbon emissions. NRDC has long opposed relicensing the plant, which has a history of operational, safety and environmental troubles.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

Trump Ignites Major Climate Fight P resident Trump has launched a full-scale assault on President Obama’s legacy of climate action, setting the stage for a rolling series of pitched legal battles between his administration and NRDC as we fight in federal court to defend years of hardwon climate progress. Trump’s actions include a sweeping executive order to start dismantling landmark victories, in a stunning rebuke of science that comes on the heels of polls showing overwhelming public opposition to such climate policy rollbacks. The centerpiece of what David Doniger, director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Air program, calls President Trump’s “climate destruction plan” is the directive that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begin the lengthy legal process of unraveling President Obama’s historic

Clean Power Plan. Obama’s plan would cut carbon emissions from U.S. power plants by nearly a third and would be the biggest step our nation has yet taken to meet our carbon reduction targets under the Paris climate agreement. Trump’s executive order also abandons the moratorium imposed by Obama on new coal mining leases on public lands. Within days of the order being issued, NRDC went to court to challenge the president’s attack on the Clean Power Plan, and we are prepared to file lawsuits to protect wildlands under the most immediate threat from the coal industry, such as the gateway to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. NRDC is likewise gearing up to defend Obamaera clean car standards against an expected rollback attempt by Trump; those standards would ultimately reduce climate pollution by five billion tons, the equivalent of taking 53

million cars off the road for a year. “Polls show that 60 to 80 percent of Americans oppose these reversals,” says Doniger. “Yet inside the echo chamber of the Trump Administration, political appointees are even prohibiting certain agencies from using the words climate change. We will not stand by while a handful of climate deniers derail the progress we’ve made and send us careening toward climate chaos.”

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

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Keystone XL Revived; NRDC Fires Back in Court pipeline, starting in 2008, and eventually persuaded In yet another attack on our planet’s climate and the Obama Administration to deny a cross-border President Obama’s legacy, the Trump Administration permit for the project. But President Trump is trying has approved a permit that would allow the Keystone to bring the energy boondoggle XL pipeline to move forward. roaring back to life. NRDC immediately hit back Keystone XL would transport with a federal lawsuit aimed at up to 830,000 barrels of dirty tar preventing construction of the sands oil through the American climate-wrecking pipeline. “This heartland every day. It would cross all-risk, no-reward pipeline has more than 1,000 rivers, lakes and never been in America’s national streams and come within a mile interest,” says Anthony Swift, of 2,500 wells, threatening water director of NRDC’s Canada Ruptured tar sands pipeline, Michigan, 2010. supplies, farms, sacred tribal lands Project. “We’ll fight in court for as and communities. From the strip long as it takes to slam the door mine to the gas tank, tar sands crude generates nearly on Keystone XL.” Millions of Americans — including twice as much carbon pollution as conventional crude. NRDC Members — united in opposition to the risky

MOUNTAIN © TED ZUKOSKI/EARTHJUSTICE; BEE © DAN MULLEN; PIPE © NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD

G O O D N EWS


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

mid the tumult following the election of Donald Trump, one certainty emerged right away: NRDC’s lawyers were going to be spending a lot of time in federal court over the next four years. As a candidate, Trump had made no secret of his hostility toward environmental protection, whether he was deriding climate change as “a hoax” or thundering about a return to dirty coal. Then, as his administration took shape — led by a cabinet of billionaires and chockablock with anti-environment extremists — it quickly began firing the opening salvos in a scorched-earth strategy to destroy President Obama’s landmark achievements and roll back 50 years of environmental progress. With both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government in the fevered grip of radical anti-environmentalism, “we knew from the getgo that if we were going to wage an aggressive

The sheer scale of this onslaught means that we have to be prepared to wage scores of expensive courtroom battles simultaneously. counterattack, those battles would most effectively be fought in the federal courts,” says Mitch Bernard, NRDC’s chief counsel. “We had to hit the ground running and let this administration know right away that we mean business.” Indeed, NRDC was the first organization to file an environmental lawsuit against the Trump Administration, going to court just two weeks after Inauguration Day to halt the Trump EPA

NRDC has filed suit to stop President Trump from opening vast swaths of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans to offshore drilling.

from illegally rolling back safeguards against mercury pollution. That was followed in short order by a slew of other NRDC legal challenges aimed at stopping the Trump Administration from green-lighting the Keystone XL pipeline, dismantling President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, stalling energy efficiency standards, refusing to ban a pesticide linked to learning disabilities in children, freezing federal protections for an endangered bumblebee and more. With the pace of legal warfare escalating dramatically, Bernard now expects the NRDC docket will grow to more than 100 active cases in the first year of the Trump presidency. It’s all part of NRDC’s aggressive, three-prong legal strategy: defend the landmark achievements of the Obama Administration, protect the public and hold polluters accountable when the Trump EPA refuses to enforce the law, and repel attempts by the White House and Congress to undermine our bedrock environmental laws. “Taking on the toughest courtroom fights is in our DNA,” says Bernard. “At the birth of NRDC almost 50 years ago, we helped write our nation’s environmental

laws and then went out and won dozens of the cornerstone legal victories that protect our nation’s air, water, wildlife and public lands. No group is better prepared than NRDC to back down the Trump Administration in court. But the sheer scale of this onslaught means that we have to be prepared to wage scores of expensive courtroom battles simultaneously.” To that end, NRDC has established the Stop Trump Legal Fund, devoted exclusively to expanding our litigation team so it can rapidly deploy attorneys whenever and wherever the Trump Administration strikes next. “Counterattacking on so many fronts at once is going to require unprecedented resources,” says Bernard. NRDC has set a $1 million fundraising goal for Members to help fill this legal war chest. The need couldn’t be more urgent. Another fusillade of attacks from the Trump Administration — some launched, some on the way — will demand a swift NRDC response in federal court. Trump has already lifted President Obama’s coal leasing moratorium, exposing the gateway to Bryce Canyon National Park to strip mining. We’ll also need to challenge

his expected rollback of Obama’s clean car rules, which threatens more dependence on climatedestroying fossil fuels. We’re expecting Trump to flash the green light for rampant oil and gas drilling in national wildlife refuges, endangering a wide array of species from coast to coast. And we must be fully prepared to defend the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans when the White House attempts to reverse the ban on drilling in those treasured marine environments. This initial barrage of attacks is largely focused on destroying President Obama’s environmental legacy. But NRDC litigators are expecting a second wave to follow hard on the first. “Once Trump’s appointees fully staff up their agencies,” says Bernard, “they are sure to issue a flood of pro-industry rules that would endanger all Americans with vastly more pollution. NRDC will need to challenge them, rule by rule.”

Port Arthur, Texas, is one of many frontline communities that stand to suffer more from Trump’s policies.

No less urgent: standing up for vulnerable citizens and frontline communities that would suffer first and most from Trump’s big-polluter policies. Draconian budget cuts proposed by the president would gut the EPA’s ability to enforce environmental laws and to hold corporate polluters accountable. “NRDC will step into that [Continued on next page.]

POLAR BEAR © JIM RICHEY PHOTOGRAPHY/ISTOCK; PORT ARTHUR © MICHAEL S. WILLIAMSON/THE WASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

NRDC Unveils Legal Strategy to Stop the Trump Onslaught A


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Boycott Mexican Shrimp, Save a Porpoise!

Boreal forest, Canada

NRDC Takes On Dow to Defend Monarchs Struggling monarch butterflies, whose population has dropped 30 percent since last year, now face a new threat. Dow’s new herbicide Enlist Duo has been approved for widespread agricultural use by the Environmental Protection Agency. Enlist Duo kills milkweed, the food monarch caterpillars depend on for survival, and may also pose serious risks to human health. NRDC has filed suit against the Trump EPA to block the dangerous herbicide.

NRDC Stands Tall for Vanishing Giraffes Giraffes, long-necked and beloved, are silently disappearing from the savanna. Their populations have plunged 40 percent over the past 30 years, and today there are even fewer giraffes than elephants in Africa. In response to scientific consensus that these remarkable creatures are headed toward extinction, NRDC and our wildlife protection allies have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list giraffes under the Endangered Species Act. While habitat loss and overhunting for meat are the primary causes of the decline, giraffes are also threatened by the lucrative international trade in wildlife parts. The United States is a major

Enlist Duo is a cocktail of two toxic chemicals: glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen that has also driven the widespread destruction of milkweed; and 2,4-D, an old-school herbicide that has been linked to cancer as well as thyroid disorders and birth defects. In 2015, after NRDC filed suit, the EPA tried to walk back its initial approval of Enlist Duo. But in January it reversed course yet again and decided to allow even more expansive use of the herbicide on genetically modified corn, soy and cotton in 34 states. “The EPA got a second chance on Enlist Duo,” says NRDC Senior Scientist Sylvia Fallon. “Yet it failed once again to protect public health and the environment.”

destination for giraffe bone carvings, skin and hunting trophies. On average, more than one giraffe trophy is imported into our nation every day. Even the domestic trade in giraffe parts appears to be growing. NRDC and our partners found at least 1,224 giraffe parts for sale online in the United States in less than a month. “It’s unthinkable that we could lose giraffes forever and that our nation is contributing to the decline of these majestic animals,” says Elly Pepper, deputy director of the Wildlife Trade Initiative. Listing giraffes under the Endangered Species Act would ban most imports of giraffe products, helping to end the U.S. role in this damaging trade. Protecting giraffes with the power of U.S. law would give a major leg up to the world’s tallest land animals.

The world’s smallest porpoise is in imminent danger of disappearing from the planet. Only about 30 vaquita porpoises remain in Mexico’s northern Gulf of California, and they will likely die out by 2020 — unless a consumer boycott of Mexican shrimp, launched by NRDC and our partners, can save them. The biggest threat to the vaquita is entanglement in fishing gear, specifically, the catch-all gill nets used by fishermen in the upper gulf. From 1990 to 2010, the vaquita population fell from more than 700 to just 200, primarily because of Mexican shrimpers using gill nets in vaquita waters. Mexico has proposed numerous initiatives to limit gill net fishing and save the vaquita, but enforcement has been dismal. Recent searches of the Gulf of California have uncovered scores of illegal gill nets, and shrimp vessels still fish in protected waters. “Without effective safeguards, the tiny porpoise doesn’t stand a chance,” says NRDC Senior Attorney Zak Smith. We’re calling on our Members and all Americans — the biggest consumers of Mexican shrimp — to help save the vaquita by boycotting shrimp from Mexico. Please check labels and ask about origins at the seafood counter or restaurant the next time you buy shrimp.

Gill nets endanger the very last vaquitas.

TAKE ACTION

boycottmexicanshrimp.com

MONARCHS © SHUTTERSTOCK; VAQUITA © FLIP NICKLIN/MINDEN PICTURES; GIRAFFES © JOEL SARTORE/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CREATIVE

[Continued from previous page.] breach and fight for environmental justice by suing polluters directly, much as we did during previous hostile administrations, like those of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and even more recently in Flint,” says Bernard, referring to the landmark settlement won by NRDC on behalf of residents in Flint, Michigan, that will force the state to replace the dangerous pipes that produced the lead contamination crisis there. The election of President Trump could hold consequences that are even more dire, absent NRDC legal action. A political movement at the radical fringe, allied with some of the country’s most heavily polluting industries, has long sought to take a wrecking ball to America’s entire framework of environmental protections and is counting on this White House and the 115th Congress to do exactly that. The administration’s so-called regulatory reform agenda, epitomized by President Trump’s dangerous executive order that federal agencies rescind two regulations for every new one issued, is part and parcel of its high-stakes strategy. “They want to strip all future administrations of the authority to protect our environment,” says Bernard. “We can’t let that happen.” As for President Trump’s “two-for-one” executive order, NRDC has sued in federal court to block it.


NRDC Action Fund Battles to Save EPA from Trump’s Ruthless Cuts Donald Trump vowed during his campaign that, if elected, he would so thoroughly dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency that there would be only “little tidbits left.” His first proposed budget as president demonstrates just how determined he is to deliver on that promise. Indeed, Trump’s proposal for fiscal

year 2018 would slash the EPA’s budget by a staggering 31 percent —more than any other federal agency. The NRDC Action Fund is mounting an all-out counteroffensive on Capitol Hill aimed at galvanizing public opposition to Trump’s radical assault and saving environmental protection in America.

“President Trump’s draconian cuts of more than $2 billion would force the agency to eliminate or cripple scores of programs that are vital to protecting us from dangerous air pollution, contaminated drinking water and toxic chemicals,” says Kevin Curtis, executive director of the NRDC

Action Fund. The budget would abolish all programs associated with climate change and would zero out funding for restoration of the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. What’s more, the EPA would radically scale back its enforcement

of environmental laws, which would unleash corporations to pollute with impunity. Congress has the power to reject these drastic cuts, and that’s where the NRDC Action Fund is waging an aggressive campaign to save the EPA. The mission of the Action Fund is building support for environmental protection and mobilizing citizen power on Capitol Hill. Saving the EPA will require pressure on key centrist senators whose votes on the budget will likely prove decisive. The Action Fund is sounding the alarm in their home states through an intense media campaign that is spotlighting the awful price we will pay — in pollution, illness and death — if Trump’s budget is approved. And the Action Fund is making it easy for thousands of constituents to express their outrage by phone or face-to-face at town hall meetings. “We need key senators to get the message loud and clear that voters will not tolerate Trump’s attempt to dismember the EPA,” says Curtis. “No senator wants to incur that kind of voter wrath.” At this critical moment, the Action Fund is asking NRDC Members to support its all-out push to save our environment and the EPA.

Trump’s “Buy One, Lose Two” Deal Is Unlawful By Rhea Suh, President

Imagine a scientist declaring we can’t find a cure for cancer unless we stop work to prevent polio and smallpox. That’s absurd, of course, but it’s precisely the approach President Trump wants our government to follow when it comes to environmental safeguards. Under his new executive order, when a federal agency wants to issue a new rule,

standard or regulation to protect us, it must scrap two existing measures, regardless of the benefits they provide. It’s all about cutting costs for corporations and making the rest of us pay the price. The order goes beyond the president’s authority under the Constitution. It would require federal agencies to violate their legal obligations to protect

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the public. And it would put Americans at greater risk because new protections won’t be able to move forward unless existing protections can be repealed. NRDC has joined with our allies in filing suit to block Trump’s unlawful decree. Nobody wants overregulation. Our federal government, though, has no higher obligation than to protect the health and safety of our people. The Clean Air Act, for example, averts more than 230,000 preventable deaths, 86,000 emergency room visits and more than 16 million lost days of work or school every year. That saves the country up to $2 trillion annually, or 30 times as much as it costs industry to comply with our clean air laws. Under Trump’s order, those benefits  would be ignored, as agencies are directed to find at least two regulations to cancel for every new one they adopt. Trump’s order puts polluters first and the American people dead last. We’re confident the court will agree.

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N R D C VO I C E S

Nature's Voice Summer 2017  

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

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