If you had your doubts about Climate Change, don’t worry it no longer exists. The country’s new President has vowed to destroy President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, a government-wide plan to reduce carbon emissions and address climate change. The Trump actions clearly place the interests of corporate America and economic outcomes above the health and welfare of the public and our environment.
Trump’s recent executive orders have made mayhem of the fossil fuel industry. At a meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency last week President Trump gleefully signed an executive order that instructs regulators to rewrite key rules curbing U.S. carbon emissions and other environmental regulations. Trump stated that he is putting an end to the war on coal and the theft of American prosperity, vowing to bring coal jobs back to the East.
The order lifts a moratorium on federal coal leasing and, sending a message that climate change does not exist, removes the requirement that federal officials consider the impact of climate change when making decisions.
Tom Sanzillo, director of finance for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said in an interview that the move “becomes a largely politically symbolic measure for right now” because other, lower-carbon sources of energy are out-competing coal. He noted that U.S. coal consumption has declined 27 percent since 2005, from 1.02 billion tons to 739 million tons in 2016, its lowest level in nearly four decades.
Trump’s action will most certainly lead to numerous lawsuits…beginning with the Western Environmental Law Center.
“Each year, over $330 million in natural gas that could be used by homes, schools and businesses is wasted to the atmosphere from sloppy drilling practices on our public lands,” said Tom Singer, Ph.D., senior policy advisor with the Western Environmental Law Center. “Trump’s order would set in motion action to sanction this waste, reduce oil and gas royalties that pay for public services in cash-strapped states such as New Mexico, and exacerbate climate and health impacts to communities that live near oil and gas drilling. That’s foolish.”
The Western Environmental Law Center quickly vowed to, “wield the full power of the law to combat the Trump order and continue advocacy to transition away from fossil fuels and to build the resilience of public lands, rivers and forests and communities to withstand the impacts of climate change.”
Trump has already rolled back restrictions on mining, drilling and coal- and gas-burning operations, nullified a regulation barring surface-mining companies from polluting waterways, is having the EPA rewrite 2015 regulations that limit greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants and set aside a new system that would have compelled coal companies and other energy firms to pay more in federal royalties. In addition he is reconsidering stricter fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, instructing the Interior Department to rewrite a rule, currently in the court, that imposes restrictions on hydraulic fracturing on federal and tribal lands and has approved two major oil pipelines, Dakota Access and Keystone XL, that Obama had halted.
While environmental groups condemn the anti climate change orders, mining officials say it is an important course correction in federal energy policy — it was an unlawful attempt to radically transform the nation’s power grid, destroy valuable energy assets and leave our economy more vulnerable to rising power prices — all for an insignificant environmental benefit.
How all this will impact us locally is hard to say. Remember that in the west solar and wind are competitive with coal and that natural gas ranks as the lowest-cost source of electricity generation overall.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray regarding the EPA’s changes to federal vehicle fuel-economy and emissions standards, sent a joint statement, “Representing a West Coast region of over 50 million people with a combined GDP of $2.8 trillion, we speak in unified opposition to the federal withdrawal from the vehicle fuel efficiency standards that have worked for years to lower consumers’ fuel costs while making our air healthier to breathe.
“Our job as governors and mayors is to boost our region’s economic opportunities and to make our cities and states cleaner and healthier for our citizens. This decision does the exact opposite, making America more dependent on oil while putting more lives at risk from pollution and shortchanging consumers at the pump. The U.S. is a technology superpower. Our strong vehicle fuel economy standards are a reflection of that and position the U.S. to remain competitive in the global push toward clean cars”
Last fall The Bend City Council approved a resolution to set climate action goals for city facilities and operations, as well as the Bend community. The goal is to reduce fossil-fuel emissions, conduct an analysis of reducing fossil fuels and how that would affect Bend’s economy and hire someone to oversee the plan. Current Bend Mayor Casey Roats opposed the resolution at the time of its approval.
In brief the ordinance aims to set specific, measurable goals based on the best available science for both the City and the community as a whole: the entire city would become carbon neutral by 2030 and reduce fossil fuel use by 40 percent by 2030 and 70 percent by 2050. It establishes a timeline for creating climate action plans, first for City government and then for the community, ensures public engagement in creating and implementing the action plans and directs the city manager to hire adequate staff to support development and implementation of the action plans.
The ordinance is proposed to be part of biennial budget development this year with a focus on gaining outside funding.
Carbon neutrality, or having a net zero carbon footprint, refers to achieving net zero carbon emissions by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. Are you lost yet? In other words: it’s complicated and some question if the effort that goes into carbon neutrality actually makes a difference.
Carbon footprints are usually associated with transportation, energy production and industrial processes. Many of these footprints are already being negated in the Bend area via the Bend Energy challenge, use of solar energy and the Energy Trust of Oregon’s efforts to reduce energy in new construction projects with technical assistance and cash incentives.
On April 29 hundreds of thousands of people across the nation will join a massive nonviolent action regarding many of the White House Climate Change orders. For information on the march in Bend see www.350deschutes.org.
Trump has put climate change on the forefront of the news…we’re all thinking about it, even if we don’t understand all of it. It’s a good time to get up to speed and take a stand on what you think is important to the surrounding environment.