Deconstructing the National Environmental Policy Act

[On January 1, 1970, Richard Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act which compels land managers to be accountable, transparent (not making deals in backrooms), to let sound science be a guide, to acknowledge in a forthright way what they don’t know, and to not do things by the seat of their pants or at the whim of political pressure or intimidation.
Even on a U.S. Department of Energy website, one that hasn’t yet been scrubbed by the Trump Administration, NEPA is referenced as “the Magna Carta” of environmental laws, the one that laid down the foundation, in fact, for all modern environmental laws in the land; laws that have safeguarded the health of millions of people, brought species back from the brink, ensured that water flowing from the tap is safe to drink and air good to breathe….
Today, there are several efforts underway in Congress to weaken or gut key provisions of NEPA, part of a larger fusillade of more than 150 overt and more insidious attempts to weaken the law….

NEPA has a special connection to the EPA, for the law gives the agency heft in enforcing the Clean Air and Clean Water acts and in recent years it has employed NEPA to consider the consequences of fossil fuel companies, automobiles and coal-fired energy plants sending carbon dioxide into the atmosphere contributing to human-caused climate change.
One of the first things President Trump did was sign an executive order cancelling an executive order implemented by his predecessor which had instructed federal resource agencies to study climate change, consider climate change in management decisions, make plans for adaptation, and generally coordinate across the boundaries of bureaucratic fiefdoms.
On January 28, 2018, the House Natural Resources Committee chaired by Rob Bishop of Utah, issued a press release praising legislation that would rapidly ramp up oil and gas drilling on public lands and coastal areas. Notably, earlier in January after Trump announced a sweeping change that would clear the way for more offshore drilling by rescinding Obama-era regulations, he backtracked in deciding to exclude Florida where he has a home in Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, and where Republicans protested….] Read the full article here | MOUNTAIN JOURNAL

Fracking in Wyoming | Photo by EcoFlight, courtesy of SkyTruth

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On Poisoned Land | Contaminated Life on the Dine’ (Navajo) Reservation

A report by the Natural Resources Defense Council warns of the Navajo Nation as a case study in irresponsible nuclear resource extraction:

“For decades the Navajo Nation has been especially affected by boom-and-bust uranium mining. On Navajo land alone, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from 1944 to 1986; left behind were more than 500 abandoned uranium mines, four inactive uranium milling sites, a former dump site, and the widespread contamination of land and water. Only recently has the government attempted to assess and mitigate this contamination, but full reclamation of the land is unlikely.”
According to an international water charity, DigDeep, Navajo people are 67 times more likely than other Americans to live without running water or a toilet. In practice, this means families across the Navajo Nation have to wash their children’s hair in small washtubs. They have to haul all drinking and washing water from the closest towns and cities, with round trips sometimes reaching 100 miles. The tasks required for even the smallest of families are time-consuming and strenuous.
In September 2014, at Window Rock, Ariz., the Obama administration reached a settlement with the Navajo Nation after years of litigation over mismanagement of lease revenues and royalties from mining, ranching, and timber harvesting on Navajo trust lands. The United States will award the Navajo $554 million to settle claims arising from the federal government’s mismanagement of tribal trust funds dating back to 1946, making this the single largest settlement between the United States government and an American Indian tribe, reported The New York Times.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday, January 18, 2017, it reached a legal settlement with Phoenix-based Freeport-McMoran Inc. (NYSE: FCX) to clean up 94 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The U.S. government will cover half of the costs of the clean-up settlement. Read the article here | Phoenix Business Journal

“This historic settlement will clean up almost 20 percent of the abandoned mines on the Navajo Nation,” said Acting Regional Administrator Alexis Strauss for the EPA Pacific Southwest. “Cleaning up the uranium contamination continues to be a top environmental priority for our regional office.”

The U.S. government and mining companies mined radioactive uranium from hundreds of mines on Navajo lands from the end of World War II and throughout the Cold War.

The last mine shut down in 1986.

Putting it Mildly: Inside The Most Important Supreme Court Case

FEB 12, 2016 9:17 AM | THINKPROGRESS

[Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court unexpectedly suspended the Obama administration’s most aggressive effort to fight climate change in a 5-4 vote. The rules, known as the “Clean Power Plan,” target greenhouse emissions from existing power plants and are expected to “decrease total emissions by a total of 16% from 2020 levels” by the time the rules take full effect in 2030. That’s only one step towards the 80 percent total reduction needed to ward of the worst effects of climate change, but it is a significant step.

And, as the Court’s party-line vote suggests, the Clean Power Plan is also a test of whether the United States has the political will to tackle climate change.

If we do not prove able to this task, the consequences will be catastrophic. In the relatively short term, the Environmental Protection Agency predicts that the Clean Power Plan will “avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.” In the longer term, major cities could be swallowed by the ocean. Displaced residents will trigger a worldwide refugee crisis. Entire regions of the United States could be converted into a permanent Dust Bowl. The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will rival any tragedy that has faced humanity since the Book of Genesis.

If the Court ultimately strikes down the Plan, however, the United States could be left impotent in the face of a looming catastrophe — and not just with respect to this particular catastrophe. The states challenging the Clean Power Plan call for sweeping changes to the balance of power between the regulator and the regulated. Indeed, if some of their most aggressive arguments succeed, it’s unclear that the federal government is permitted to do much of anything at all.]

Read the full article here | THINKPROGRESS

1 OIL FIELD CA

Kane Field Oil Rigs | California

 

1 NO2

Animated map of continental United States NO2 levels, 2005-2011 | Source: NASA

Power of Rhetoric, and narrative techniques: I guess the question here is, who ultimately gains from framing an argument in this particular manner

Power of Rhetoric, and narrative techniques: I guess the question here is, who ultimately gains from framing an argument in this particular manner

Conservative media are calling a new proposal to protect waterways “one of the biggest land grabs” ever that will give a government agency “control of all private property.” The rule, which could help protect the drinking water of 117 million Americans, would only resolve which bodies of water are protected from pollution under the current jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. [from Media Matters]