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Ford gets a wake-up call, Zinke backs down on fees, and a Pruitt Check In
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

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Photo: Union of Concerned Scientists

Trump Administration Says Time's Up For Clean Cars

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced today that the standards for clean cars set by the Obama Administration and the state of California are too high and thus they are being withdrawn.  The agency will draft a new rule because the assumptions on which the prior rule was based -- assumptions about the price of gasoline, plus "the social cost of carbon, the rebound effect, and energy security valuation" -- should be updated to be consistent with empirical evidence. As we previewed last week in ODP, this decision puts the federal government on a collision course with the State of California that insists on its right to set a more stringent standard, which is explicitly allowed under the Clean Air Act.  

Interestingly, the Ford Motor Company originally met with President Trump last year to ask for the rule change, but now seem to be walking back their support for the Trump Administration's decision.  Environmental groups yesterday staged a protest with 300 alarm clocks ringing (loudly) on the sidewalk in front of Ford's D.C. offices, a literal "wake-up call" to the company about the consequences of its lobbying efforts for air pollution and climate change.  Meanwhile, Ford Motors' Board Chair and CEO said in a blog post last week that they "support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback

Why This Matters:  This clean car rule is critical for our health, not just for climate change.  And it is good for our economy and for our national security, even during times when gas is cheap, to build cars that get more miles to the gallon.  We have the know-how -- why would we not want to build and drive the most advanced cars possible?  Mary Nichols, who runs the California agency that sets their car standard, has been working on cleaning our nation's polluted air for three decades and she has the law on her side. We are betting on California to prevail, but they will have to fight it out now.  It's gonna get ugly. 
Photo:  Chris Farmer/E&E News


Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River  Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Spilling Water For Salmon

On Monday, a federal appeals court sided with conservation groups over the federal government and ruled that planned measures to help juvenile salmon survive must go forward.  A year ago, a federal district court judge ruled that federal dam managers on the Columbia and Snake Rivers have to meet higher water release (or "spill") requirements between April and mid-June when baby salmon are migrating to the ocean. The appeals court agreed with the lower court's finding that because the salmon are so endangered, the protections were warranted in order to increase the likelihood that the salmon make it through the dams. The more water that is released from the dams, however, the less that will be available for power generation and farming.  The new spill operations will begin on Tuesday at some dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, bringing much-needed protections for baby salmon migrating down the river now.

The decision was cheered by the environmental groups who have sued the government for years to protect the highly endangered fish.  "After more than 20 years of federal failure, salmon are in desperate need of help now," Todd True, an Earthjustice attorney involved in the case, said in a statement. "The measures the court upheld will give salmon a fighting chance while the federal government catches up to the scale and urgency of what the law requires to protect these fish from extinction."

Why This Matters:  The court overruled the scientists in the government, who environmental groups argued were not doing enough to help the juvenile salmon.  These salmon are important for Native American tribes who depend on them for food, for critically endangered Orca whales in Puget Sound that are starving to death because not enough juvenile salmon are making it to the ocean, and for the identity of the region, for which salmon are more than just fish.  Moreover, the arguments that the additional water should be held back for power generation were all wet -- there is generally a surplus of water for power generation in the spring months.


Zinke Backs Down From National Park Fee Increases 

As the Washington Post reported, Interior Department officials are backing away from a plan to dramatically increase entrance fees at the most popular national parks after receiving more than 100,000 public comments from Americans nearly unanimously opposed to the idea. Last October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed to increase peak-season entrance fees at 17 parks from $25 to $70 — the largest hike since World War II.

The public comments in response to the fee hike inundated the NPS website, with one commenter noting, “Having to pay $70 just to get in would definitely make me consider other options for our family vacation.”

In Congressional testimony last month Zinke defended his decision to increase fees despite the controversy surrounding his spending taxpayer money on chartered airplane flights. As the Denver Post reported, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington asked Zinke if it was a mistake for him to spend $12,375 on a late-night trip in June from Las Vegas to his home state of Montana on a private jet--a comment to which Zinke took offense. 

Why This Matters: According to Rich Dolesh, vice president at the National Recreation and Parks Association, a survey conducted by the Outdoors Alliance for Kids (a coalition of 55 national and local groups) showed that people who were less likely to visit a park under the proposed fee hike were individuals who earned $30,000 or less annually. The survey also found that nearly 70 percent of respondents opposed or strongly opposed a rate increase, and 83 percent said it would make a park visit more difficult. The significant amount of public comments on the proposed fee hikes clearly got Ryan Zinke's attention--it goes to show that your voice matters. 


Apps To Help You Explore the Outdoors

It still feels like winter on much of the East Coast and while we keep telling ourselves that spring weather is just around the corner, it's not too soon to make plans to enjoy the outdoors once warmer weather returns. Mother Nature Network did a great roundup of 17 apps that help you explore outside and get the most of your time in nature. 

From field guides to help you identify animals and plants to apps that help you find the perfect hike in your area, find your nearest park here and then use the apps to help boost your experience (and learn some new things). 

Why This Matters: Getting outside is good for your health. It can help improve your short-term memory, reduces stress and inflammation, and even can help depression and anxiety. If you've been working on practicing mindfulness, doing so in nature can have added benefits


Dog Poop is Making a Mess of Things

In the United States, pet dogs produce 21.2 billion pounds of poop each year which pollutes water in both urban and rural environments. People aren't picking up dog waste which is problematic not just for the smell and inconvenience to whoever steps in it but also because dog poop is full of bacteria and parasites. As Outside reported, one gram of dog poop can contain up to 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, and dog poop is also a common carrier of whipwormshookwormsroundwormsparvocoronavirusgiardiasalmonellacryptosporidium, and campylobacter.

Since dogs eat nutrient-rich bagged food their poop also introduces foreign nutrients into ecosystems. Dog poop is "very rich in substances like nitrogen and phosphorous—the same ingredients you’ll find in fertilizer." When left on the ground it leads to an imbalance that, when washed into water sources, can lead to algae blooms and promote the growth of invasive plant species on land.

Additionally, when left on the ground in residential areas the poop gets washed away by rain and storm runoff almost always enters rivers, lakes, streams, or the ocean without being treated.

Why This Matters: Most people don't realize just how detrimental their dog's poop can be to the environment. To put it in perspective, in 2017 dogs in America produced more waste than our nation's entire human population did in 1959--around 11 million tons per year. Even owners who doo scoop poop place a burden on the planet with all the plastic waste that comes from poop bags--in San Francisco the bags account for 4% of the municipal waste in the city's landfills, this is as much as the whole city's discarded disposal diapers.

Step In It Deeper: Researchers have been using dog poop to collect biomethane gas and generate electricity to power street lights and even home gadgets through "Poo Poo Power." While it's still unclear how scalable these projects are, municipalities are really starting to think about how to sustainably solve their dog waste problems. 



Seth Meyers' "Check In" with the EPA from July 2017
Scott Pruitt Isn't Funny, But Seth Meyers Is

This takedown of the EPA Administrator by Seth Meyers from last summer is truer now than ever.  Pruitt's recent ethical lapses (as detailed last night by the Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis) and disdain for protecting the environment (see Air above) have landed him in the news often, especially this week.  Whether it is his ridiculously cheap rent, his supersized security detail, his soundproof booth for phone calls, his !st class plane flights, or just all the ways he has bent over backward to favor polluters in rolling back regulations and squashing enforcement, Administrator Pruitt is no joke.  But Seth Meyers at least can make us laugh until we cry.

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