By David DeJohn, NHCLP
2018 sure didn’t waste any time in the weather department. From the snow Christmas Day to two weeks of record cold and frozen pipes to 50 degrees and flooding, and we’re only half way through the month of January! I have a project I’m still picking away at in Deerfield and I worked that first week between Christmas and New Years. I say worked, but mostly I was chasing tarps carried away by the wind, trying to keep equipment running and thawing out fingers on the truck heater. I did what I could without the use of my excavator but finally gave in when a gust of wind literally picked up my poly wheelbarrow that was holding down a tarp on a stone pile and flipped it about six feet away. So I waited out the week and started back this week when temps started out in the 20s and ended up in the 50s! Crazy.
So, exactly one year ago I wrote in these notes that I wasn’t a fan of the direction I thought this country was taking. One of my biggest concerns among others was the hit that our environment was about to take. The contempt shown for the science around climate change, and science in general, was scary but I hoped that reason would prevail. Well, no such luck. This administration’s assault on the natural world is frightening, callous, and shows a complete disregard for the hard fought gains made since the 70s to clean up our air and water and hold the oil, coal and gas corporations accountable for the pollution they create. Science, education and technology have all played a part in moving us away from a complete reliance on fossil fuels and towards greener energy solutions that will help in reducing carbon emissions. There’s no one perfect solution and fossil fuels will most likely always be a part of the mix but this absolute lack of consideration for anything else and bending over backwards to give the fossil fuel industry everything it has ever wanted is astounding.
We need energy and that’s a fact. It’s what makes everything we do possible, and in that regard every single one of us bears some responsibility for the predicament that our world is in. We can’t ignore it and we don’t have time to wait for “further studies” or because “not all the facts are in.” Regardless of whether or not you believe in climate change, pollution is real; air and water pollution is real; bird and mammal and marine species going extinct at an alarming rate is real (an estimated ¼ of all species in the next 50 years); an average of 1.7 oil spills a day is real (roughly 875 million gallons of oil have been spilled since 1979 worldwide. In this country 9 million gallons have spilled from pipelines alone since 2010). These things are facts that can’t be disputed.
In this country the EPA is the closest thing we’ve got to a Federal watchdog for the environment and though it is an imperfect steward we need it to be able to do it’s job. A job made much harder now that it is being run by a man who once sued that very agency over a dozen times to try and block various environmental rules and regulations. Mr. Pruitt meets daily with executives and lobbyists from the fossil fuel industries, but rarely meets environmental groups and scientists. It’s well known that Mr. Pruitt and this administration in general deny climate change and has announced the intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, “the only country in the world” to oppose the agreement. This is only one of 60 environmental rules and regulations that have been thrown out or in the process of being thrown out.
29 rules have been overturned at the stroke of a pen, some of which include lifting a freeze on new coal leases on public lands, revoking a rule that prevented coal companies from dumping mining waste and debris into local streams (what!?), approved the Keystone and XL pipelines as well as the Dakota Access pipeline,all of which are part of already existing pipeline routes and have had accidents that have contributed to the 9 million gallons spilled since 2010.
There are 14 proposals in progress to repeal rules such as the Clean Power Plan, repeal a rule under the existing Clean Water Act that protects tributaries and wetlands, a proposal to shrink 10 National Monuments, and an effort to re-access 12 protected marine areas to be opened up to expanded off shore oil and gas drilling and has proposed ending a restriction on exploratory drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For a complete list of these reversals go to www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/05/climate/trump-environment-rules-reversed.html.
This is an administration that is so out of touch with environmental realities that it’s mind boggling. Luckily though the process for rolling back these regulations hasn’t exactly gone the way they want because “in many cases they’ve tried to by-pass formal rule making procedures and skipping steps like notifying the public and asking for comment.” Lawsuits are being filed in an attempt to force the administration to at least follow established procedure to review and change these rules and regulations. There is most definitely a fine balance between energy needs and environmental protection and dealing with climate change, but this administration has almost completely ignored renewable energy as part of that equation. Recently though, Federal regulators rejected a proposal from Energy Secretary Rick Perry to subsidize unnecessary and aging coal and nuclear power plants at the expense of cleaner, more affordable energy options. “The proposed rule was a not-so-thinly veiled effort to prop up dying fossil fuels and undermine modern, clean, renewable energy. Secretary Perry’s proposed rule was but another in a long list of actions by the Trump administration that defy the facts to appease the polluter lobby.” So there is indeed hope.
One of the main arguments that is often put up against preparing for climate change and complying with stricter regulations is that it is too burdensome (meaning it’s easier to pollute than to comply, so just let us) and too expensive. This last part coming from industries that are already heavily subsidized with our tax dollars. Well I think that’s an argument that can no longer hold water now that the 2018 Tax Overhaul has been passed and these Corporations and Industries have been given billions and billion of dollars in permanent tax breaks to supposedly re-invest and create jobs. I really hope someone in Congress will bring up that point the next time these companies start whining about having to install a smokestack scrubber or clean up a toxic waste site or keep debris from a mine from getting into a stream or tributary. Think of all the jobs that could be created by the coal industry alone if they moved to restore the areas devastated by mining and actually began to invest in Green energy technology and brought that to the areas hardest hit by the decline in coal production.
Now, I’m fully aware that I’m speaking in simplistic terms and that there are political and social realities that make all this extremely complicated. However, what’s not complicated is this administration’s seemingly total lack of concern and complete denial for the changing climate and it’s inability to see and understand the value of what little natural world we have left. Some places deserve to be left alone and to remain wild and unexploited.
As stated before, many of these rollbacks and proposals are, or will be, challenged in court and it could be years before they could possibly take effect. At the very least they may be made to follow proper procedures to change the regulations. There are hundreds of State and National groups and associations working everyday to challenge and educate this administration and the public. It bears repeating that as a “Green Industry” Association, along with our partners at the UNH Cooperative Extension and others, we need to be educating and getting educated on these important topics so that we can become the best stewards of the Natural World that we can be. As I said one year ago, we are in a unique position to educate the public, voice our opinions and defend that which we can’t do without. Get involved, make your voice heard!