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Our Daily Planet: Maybe Cleaner Trucks, Capitol Sit In, Blame Game In CA, Corporations Signing Renewable PPAs, and China Does the Right Thing
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 Air

Truck Tailpipe Emission Standards To Be Updated

The Trump Administration announced yesterday that it will update the standards on tailpipe emissions from large trucks by initiating a rulemaking process that will “offer opportunities to reduce regulatory burden through smarter program design.”  Dubbing it the “Cleaner Truck Initiative” the Acting EPA Administrator said that the rulemaking  “might lead to a reduction in the allowable NOx emissions level from truck engines, but it could also lead to other deregulatory actions to ease compliance for truck makers and trucking companies.”  The rule will address Nitrogen Oxide pollution (aka NOx), which is one of the pollutants that can damage lungs, cause asthma attacks and shorten lives.  

There was, however, a spot of good news yesterday, when the U.N. released a report that predicted that the hole in Earth’s ozone layer is on track to be fully healed within 50 years, according to climate change experts.  The upper zone layer (not to be confused with ozone pollution) is a delicate, gaseous barrier surrounding earth that protects us from the sun’s harmful UV rays.  The regeneration of the ozone layer is attributed to a 1987 global ban on chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, which were commonly used in things like aerosol cans and refrigerators.

Why This Matters:  Even as he promised that the initiative will result in cleaner truck engines, according to The Washington Post, Acting Administrator Wheeler “boasted about the more than two dozen regulatory rollbacks the agency has set in motion.”  Still, environmental leaders cheered the announcement as an improvement from this Administration.  I (Monica) would not hold my breath — it is hard to overlook all the pro-business rhetoric about loosening red tape, and there was plenty of equivocation.  Indeed — it is probably a clue that the initiative is the “cleaner” trucks initiative rather than the “clean” trucks initiative.  What is clear from the good news about the ozone hole healing is that environmental regulations work and they can be good for business too.   

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 Land

CA
Who’s To Blame for CA Wildfires?

President Trump blamed poor forest management on the wildfires that continue to rage in California which has drawn strong pushback from Democrats in Congress. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who represents Northern California’s 15th district condemned the President’s tweet for its insensitivity to suffering families adding that “a majority of the forests in California are under the president’s management. He’s been on the job for two years. If he’s blaming forest management, he owns a lot of the problem.”

While climate change can’t be blamed for any one fire specifically, it is the primary driver of why these fires are so frequent and intense. As Vox explained, scientists reported in 2016 that about 55 percent of the dryness in western forests between 1979 and 2015 could be attributed to warming due to human activity. This ongoing warming converges with seasonal variations in temperature and rainfall. “Climate change is increasing the vulnerability of many US forests through fire, insect infestations, drought, and disease outbreaks,” according to the US government’s National Climate Assessment. In addition to climate change, California’s utility PG&E has come under enormous criticism in the role it has played, especially in last year’s wine country fires. Cal Fire said transmission lines and other PG&E equipment were responsible for 16 of the fires, although it still hasn’t found a cause for the deadliest of the fires, the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, which killed 24 people. In response, PG&E lobbied the state Legislature for protection from mounting liabilities. While no direct cause for the current fires has been determined, PG&E’s stock price has fallen by one third since the utility disclosed to state regulators late Thursday that one of its transmission lines suffered an outage at about the time the Camp Fire ignited near the town of Pulga.


Why This Matters: Big industries and utilities have been given a pass for a long time by our government to pollute and act negligently yet politicians keep taking their campaign money. In fact, some of the biggest recipients of PG&E Corp’s contributions are California Democrats. It’s not good optics for lawmakers to (rightfully) condemn President Trump’s tweets but keep taking money themselves from one of the industries responsible for the fires. We have to demand that in addition to enacting legislation that does something about climate change and wildfires that our lawmakers also stop taking money from the industries that are contributing to these issues. 

What You Can Do: If you’re able, please consider helping fire victims here
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 Climate Change

Green New Deal

When candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Coretz (NY-14), Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Ayana Pressley (MA-7) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) won their races for the US House of Representatives they came to Congress actively advocating for an aggressive federal for green infrastructure and jobs. As the Huffington Post explained, they’re the first contingent of Democrats calling for a radical federal spending plan to rapidly wean the United States off fossil fuels and prepare the nation for climate change that looks increasingly likely to cause cataclysmic damage in the coming years. Dubbed the “Green New Deal,” the vague set of policy proposals hark back to the Depression-era spending programs that built many of the country’s infrastructure landmarks. You can watch Grist’s video above to get a better sense of what this framework would entail. 

Yesterday, a group of over 200 youth activists protested (the likely next Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi’s DC office to demand that she make the Green New Deal a priority for the next Congress. Ocasio-Cortez came to speak with the young activists and had the following exchange with Pelosi on Twitter. 
Pelosi responded with a statement urging Capitol Police to allow the protestors to stay and reinforcing her recommendation to House Democrats to reinstate a select committee to address the climate crisis. 

Why This Matters: Some have questioned why these protestors weren’t protesting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instead as he has made it evident he will in no way act on climate change. While Nancy Pelosi herself cannot guarantee passage of a  Green New Deal (there’s the fact that the Senate and White House are still in Republican control) she can make green jobs a major part of how Democrats talk about the economy. Democrats hardly talked about climate and environmental issues during the 2018 campaign season, the serious risks we face and the opportunities we have to boost the sectors of our economy with the fastest growing jobs. Sending a signal to Nancy Pelosi that this must change, especially if the signal is coming from young people, can help ensure that the Green New Deal doesn’t become an afterthought when the new majority-Democrat House of Reps is sworn in in January. This activism should be encouraged. 
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 Energy

Corporations Choosing Renewables In New Power Purchases

Renewable energy is becoming the energy of choice for large corporations, as evidenced by a slew of new renewable power purchase agreements executed this fall.   And there are even more renewable power deals being done by U.S. multinationals in countries like Brazil and China.  

Why This Matters:  The market is talking – corporations like Walmart and Royal Caribbean are aggressively meeting their renewable power commitments because these deals make economic sense.  Renewable energy is the energy choice for business going forward.  GreenBiz sums it up saying “the fourth quarter is winding up to be a blockbuster:”  Corporations are leading the way.  This is how we make the change to a clean energy future.
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 People

Morgan Springer/Interlochen Public Radio
Women Who Fish 

Fewer Americans go fishing these days and a new program in Michigan is hoping to get more of them outdoors, specifically women. As NPR reported, recently, a whole band of women got together along the bank of the Two Hearted River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to go fishing. They were part of a steelhead fishing class put on by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources called Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) whose goal is to inspire women to fish.

In 2016, about 14 percent of Americans fished, and most of them were men. But a recent study on the Upper Great Lakes indicates female participation is on the rise. It found that fishing license sales increased among female anglers by about 4.5 percent between 2000 and 2015. That’s an additional 43,000 female anglers. Richelle Winkler is the principal investigator on that study and an associate professor at Michigan Technological University. She says younger women, in particular, are getting involved and that “Young women today are about two times more likely than women born in 1960 to buy a fishing license.” 

Why This Matters: Hunting and fishing licenses pay for conservation projects and when fewer Americans go fishing, there’s less funding to go around. You can take a look here at some of the programs fishing licenses support. Additionally, as we’re becoming an almost entirely indoor species, it’s important to help keep people connected to the great outdoors so that they become advocates of conservation themselves. 
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 Animals   

Image: Thatsmags.com

One China Thing:   Rhino and Tiger Parts Trade Ban Restored

Early this week, after a huge global outcry, China announced it would continue to ban the sale of rhino and tiger parts. Late last month, China said it planned to overturn the 25-year policy, and going forward would have allowed the trade of rhino horns and tiger bones from captive animals for use in medical and scientific research, education and “cultural exchanges,” according to a news report by Reuters.  But this week, a high ranking Chinese government official told the state news agency Xinhua that the October decision was “postponed after study.”  The government says it continue to “crack down on illegal trafficking and trade of rhinos, tigers and their byproducts and other criminal activities,” which is great news for these highly endangered animals.  There are only 3,900 tigers and less than 30,000 rhinos remaining in the wild. 

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