The Results of our Exclusive ODP Environmental Anxiety Index, and our Penguin Naming Poll Too! And the winner is…..
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

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Exclusive ODP Poll Results Show Trump Environmental Policies Pushing Independent Voters to Dems
As we reported last Friday, voters’ environmental anxiety is on the rise. Today we bring you the full results of our exclusive poll on voter attitudes about the Trump Administration and the environment.  The poll, taken April 16-18, was conducted by innovative polling research firm Change Research and tabulated the preference of 1,000 respondents using their proprietary online survey research methods.
Voters disapprove of Trump’s environmental policies by a 50%-35% margin.  Moreover, almost half (47%) of all voters say that Trump’s environmental policies specifically will “impact [their] vote” in 2018.
Among those who say that Trump’s environmental policies will impact their vote for Congress, a stunning 90%-9% say that they are more likely to vote Democratic. This view goes well beyond Democratic voters.   Even among independents whose voters are influenced by environmental matters, the share of those pushed toward voting Democratic due to environmental concerns is an overwhelming 87%-12%.
Democrats have a strong advantage with the electorate on environmental issues.  Voters trust Democrats more than Republicans to handle conservation issues by a 43-24% margin, and pollution issues by a 44%-22% margin.
Many of Trump's own voters are concerned about his environmental policies. 
  • More than one-in-five (22%) of Trump’s backers oppose or have mixed feelings about his approach to the environment
  • Nearly one-in-seven Trump voters (14%) say that these concerns will drive their votes for Congress in 2018 – and of them, nearly one-third (31%) say that these policies are pushing them toward the Democrats in 2018
  • More than one-in-five (22%) Trump supporters strongly oppose his plan to cut back on areas set aside for conservation use (versus 27% who strongly support it)
  • More than one-in-five (21%) Trump voters strongly oppose proposed changes to the endangered species act (versus 22% who strongly support it) 
  • A plurality of Trump voters (42%-34%) oppose any effort by the EPA to fire scientists who believe in climate change.
Why This Matters:  Our poll found that voters are rejecting Trump’s rollbacks of environmental protections, denial of climate science, and reduced protection for public lands and wildlife.  With sentiment strong and rising, a green wave of public opposition to Trump’s environmental policies is the underappreciated force behind a growing blue wave of public opinion in 2018.  In close races in the 2018 mid-terms, environmental issues could be a deciding factor for independent voters.  The "blue wave" could be fueled in large part by voters who care deeply about the environment and conservation.  


Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke poses with his park ranger hat on backwards.  
After Pruitt, Is Commander Z Next?

After the bruising few weeks that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has lived through, E&E News reports that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may be in for a similarly rough ride ahead.  There are some striking parallels between the ethical problems surrounding Pruitt and Zinke.  Like Pruitt, Zinke has spent an extravagant sum on an unnecessary office upgrade -- in Zinke's case, it was an office door on which Zinke spent $55,000 (down from the original $139,000 bid) under a no-bid contract.  Like Pruitt's exorbitant travel, Zinke went to Las Vegas to speak to the Golden Knights professional hockey team (not sure how this was connected to his job as Secretary), which is owned by one of his largest campaign contributors, and then flew home to Montana on an expensive private charter airplane, all on the taxpayer's nickel.  Zinke has also fired or reassigned numerous agency employees, many of whom are Native American or work on climate change issues, which is similar to Pruitt's silencing of EPA employees who disagree with his policies. 

The most striking parallel with Administrator Pruitt, however, may be Zinke's close ties to the industry he is supposed to regulate, and his eagerness to "undo" Obama Administration policies.  This week, for example, it is expected that Zinke will announce a reversal of Obama Administration safety regulations put in place after the Deepwater Horizon disaster -- a regulatory roll back the oil and gas industry had been seeking.  And -- a bonus -- like Administrator Pruitt, Secretary Zinke is a climate denier -- having admitted his skepticism on his Commander Z radio broadcast in 2013.  

Why This Matters:  Secretary Zinke and Administrator Pruitt are both likely to keep their jobs because they are so "good" at them.  They are highly effective at carrying out President Trump's pro-mining and anti-conservation agenda -- even if they violate ethics rules and create avoidable controversies for the Administration.  The more liberals and environmentalists attack them, the safer Zinke and Pruitt seem to be.  But make no mistake, if Democrats committed these sort of ethical breaches, Republicans in Congress would be holding hearings and investigating, instead of looking the other way.  


Photo: Wade Payne/AP
Dumping Toxic Coal Ash About To Get Easier

Coal ash, is created when coal is burned by power plants to produce electricity and is one of the largest sources of industrial waste generated in the US. In 2012, 470 coal-fired electric utilities generated about 110 million tons of coal ash. While the toxic contents of coal ash may vary depending on where the coal is mined, coal ash commonly contains some of the world’s deadliest toxic metals: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and selenium. These toxins can cause cancer and neurological damage in humans and harm wildlife when they leach from disposal sites and make their way into above-ground and underground waterways including streams, rivers, aquifers, and drinking water wells.

Current regulations require that existing coal ash waste pits are monitored with results reported on publicly accessible websites and that new coal ash pits are lined with waterproof materials in an effort to avoid leaching. In early March, however, the EPA (under the leadership of Administrator Pruitt) proposed more than a dozen rule changes that would allow power plant owners to avoid cleaning up their coal ash deposit sites that were found to be leaking and contaminating groundwater.

The EPA held one public hearing in Arlington, Virginia (not near most coal ash sites) last week where experts and concerned citizens traveled to plead with the agency not to strip away safeguards for American communities. This location selected by the EPA made it especially difficult for poor communities (who are most affected by the damaging effects of coal ash) to make their concerns heard. The public comment period on the proposed rollback ended yesterday and we'll have to wait and see what the agency decides and if they will listen to the thousands of comments asking for protections to stay in place. 

Why This Matters: As it relates to our poll, this story shows that Americans want the government to prioritize their safety instead of helping owners of coal-fired power plants by making it easier for them avoid cleaning up their messes. 

Go Deeper: A new report by the operator of Puerto Rico's only coal-fired power plant has shown a sharp increase in the levels of arsenic, chromium, and two radioactive isotopes in groundwater near the plant after Hurricane Maria. Residents of the town of Guayama say that the incidents of cancer have been on the rise. Then in other coal news, read more about how coal companies have avoided cleaning up the environment around their surface mines after they close, leaving states and communities to pick up the tab. (h/t to Bryce Oates of the Daily Yonder--a great outlet covering rural communities--for sending us this story)


Photo: Dana Trimble
One Cool Thing: Co-parenting Owls

Two female great horned owls in Nevada who shared the same male mate were observed exhibiting unprecedented behavior: co-parenting their chicks. When the smaller of the two female’s eggs failed to hatch, she hopped across the rock that separated the two nests and started helping the larger owl care for her eggs. When the eggs hatched, the smaller female stuck around, helping the larger feed the chicks. One chick has since left the nest, but the other remains, and the second mom still swings by to help out. Talk about #girlpower! You can watch the happy owl fam on their very own webcam here

In Other Bird News: The ODP African penguin naming contest has a winner! The penguin will be named Prince Harry and upon the real Harry's marriage we will adopt a female penguin and name her Meghan as a "wedding gift" to the happy (human) couple. Thanks to everyone who participated and gave us your great name suggestions! 
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