US officially rejoins Paris Agreement

February 23, 2021 by  
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As promised, President Joe Biden has helped the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate accord after Donald Trump’s reign of eco-terror. As of last Friday, it’s official. But now comes the hard part: getting the U.S. to set and meet a national target for cutting fossil fuel emissions. Although the U.S. president is also busy with COVID-19 deaths surpassing 500,000, the climate just can’t wait. As Biden said to the Munich security conference, “We can no longer delay or do the bare minimum to address climate change . This is a global existential crisis, and all of us will suffer if we fail.” Related: Biden signs executive order to rejoin Paris Agreement Biden’s challenge is to set a realistic target while balancing tricky financial and political realities in a country where many citizens deny the climate is even changing. His administration wants to settle on a U.S. emissions goal by April, in time for the Earth Day summit Biden is hosting. Climate leaders are hoping that a strong U.S. plan will serve as a good role model for other countries figuring out how to cut their emissions. Many Republican leaders are skeptical. “Returning to the Paris climate agreement will raise Americans’ energy costs and won’t solve climate change,” tweeted Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, the Senate energy panel’s top Republican. “The Biden administration will set unworkable targets for the United States while China and Russia can continue with business as usual.” Paris accord leaders want to keep global warming from reaching 3.6°F (2°C) higher than pre-industrial times. Already the world is up 2.2°F (1.2°C), leaving us very little wiggle room. Thanks to Trump’s stance on the environment, the U.S. was officially out of the Paris Agreement for 107 days. Some environmental leaders worried that when a Trump-led U.S. abandoned the accord, other countries would follow. Fortunately, none did. Now, Biden has the challenge of reversing Trump’s four years of climate inaction. The world awaits the nation’s new emission -cutting plan. Via AP Image via H. Hach

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A modern cabin in rural Washington celebrates indoor/outdoor living

February 23, 2021 by  
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Eager to relax and unwind from city living, a retired aerospace engineer reached out to Seattle-based David Coleman Architecture to design a modern, energy-efficient cabin on a 10-acre rural site in Sultan, Washington. Located about an hour outside of Seattle in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the idyllic meadow property inspired the client’s vision for a playful home deeply connected to the land with an emphasis on indoor/outdoor living. As a result, the architects created a dynamic, single-story dwelling — dubbed Field House — that embraces nature from multiple directions and sits lightly on the land with a small energy footprint. In addition to sweeping panoramic views, the client had a long list of design features he wanted for his new home. One of the more unusual requests was the organization of the cabin on an offset grid with acute angles to create “dynamic spatial experiences” enjoyed both inside and out of the home. To strengthen its relationship to the surroundings, the cabin features an exposed wood structure that pays homage to the region’s timber heritage as well as an indoor courtyard surrounded by glazing that blurs the line between indoors and out. Three sheltered porches extend the footprint of the 1,500-square-foot Field House to the outdoors, with the most dramatic of the three topped by a triangular roof punctuated with a large, open oculus.  Related: ÖÖD prefab glass cabin immerses you in nature while you work To meet high-performance energy standards, the home features well- insulated glazing and walls, an on-demand water system and a mini-split heat pump system. “The resulting building is essentially a platform for viewing the rise and fall of the sun, the change of the seasons , and the natural beauty that flows by and through the site,” the architects explained in a project statement. Approximately 50 horses and 20 ponies roam the open pasture lands surrounding the home. + David Coleman Architecture Photography by Lara Swimmer via David Coleman Architecture

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Local communities want Trump’s border wall torn down

January 29, 2021 by  
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On his first day in office, President Joe Biden ordered construction to halt on Trump’s infamous border wall. But environmentalists and communities living along the border want him to go much further, tearing it down and reversing the wall’s damage. Donald Trump set aside $15 billion for his “big beautiful wall” between the southern border of the U.S. and Mexico. About 455 miles had been constructed out of a planned 738 miles by the time Trump left office. The former president got his hands on the money by declaring a national emergency in 2019 and diverting tax dollars that would have otherwise gone to defense or counter-drug programs. But he didn’t spend a lot of time assessing the environmental and cultural impact. Hundreds of miles of land have been blasted and bulldozed, including protected public land and sites sacred to Native Americans. Related: Trump administration disregards border wall’s environmental impact “It’s a disaster, a mess, the suspended laws must be put back on the books to give border communities equal protection, and every section looked at carefully so that it can be torn down in a coordinated and responsible way, and the damage addressed immediately,” said Dan Mills, the Sierra Club’s borderlands program manager, as reported by The Guardian . Community leaders are asking Biden to cancel outstanding wall-building contracts, send experts to assess damage, tear down the wall whenever possible and clean up all the metal, barbed wire and concrete. They also urge the president to rescind waivers suspending 84 federal laws pertaining to public lands, endangered species , clean air and water and Native American rights. They’ve asked him to withdraw lawsuits against private landowners lodged to seize their land by declaring eminent domain. “It was a complete waste of money and poorly thought out, and is a constant unsightly reminder of Trump’s ugly approach to Latin America,” said retired professor Sylvia Ramirez. “The wall should never have gone up, we tried to fight it, and now it will be very difficult to undo.” Ramirez has relatives buried in historic cemeteries which are now cut off between the international border and Trump’s 30-foot wall. Next month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case brought by the ACLU, Sierra Club and the Southern Border Communities Commission about the legality of diverting billions from the Department of Defense without Congress’ okay. Via The Guardian Image via White House Archive

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Le Littoral is a modern retreat tucked into an idyllic region of Quebec

January 29, 2021 by  
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Located in a region of Quebec known for its rolling hills and stunning views, this modern, minimalist retreat overlooks the area where the ocean meets the St. Lawrence River. The residence is known as Le Littoral and was designed by Architecture49, a firm based in Western Canada that specializes in creating wooden structures with off-center volumes. The clients are a couple who wanted to create a home with a contemporary style that complements the natural setting of rural Charlevoix. They wanted it to be used as both as a vacation residence and a luxury rental for visitors to the popular area. Architecture49 brought that vision to life by taking inspiration from the region’s historic architecture and farm buildings, then adding modern elements. Related: A lakeside, prefab home in Quebec aims for LEED Gold With sustainability in mind, the architects were sure to take highlights such as woodcutting and landscaping into account to minimize the impact of construction on the natural surroundings. To address the sloping nature of the setting, the home was elevated, and a lack of a basement eliminated the need for excavation. The building’s layout minimizes energy consumption while still taking advantage of lakeside views in the front and a private forest in the back. La Littoral features a swimming pool , sauna, fireplace and a spa, with a kitchen inside the cantilevered upper volume. As avid foodies, the clients requested a fully functional kitchen with amenities that would allow professional chefs and amateur cooks alike to take advantage of Charlevoix’s abundance of local ingredients. In addition to turning to local businesses and artisans, the architects relied on locally sourced FSC -certified cedar and pine for the structure’s skeleton. The kitchen features Quebec granite countertops, and the roof is made of sheet metal. The home’s automation systems are produced by local companies as well. + Architecture49 Photography by Stéphane Brügger via v2com

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Federal court dismisses Trump’s rollback on regulating carbon emissions

January 20, 2021 by  
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A federal court has turned down the EPA’s efforts to lessen carbon emission regulations for coal plants. The move has been celebrated and welcomed by opponents of the Trump administration’s actions to weaken environmental protection laws. Many critics of the regulations say that the rollback would give coal plants too much power in deciding their carbon control actions or lack thereof. The ruling now reduces the list of actions that the newly inaugurated President Joe Biden has to take in his first days in office. Biden is expected to get things going right from day one by reversing some of the harmful environmental policies put in place by the Trump administration. Related: EPA finalizes rule to make efforts against climate change more difficult The 2019 regulation would have required individual states to make coal-fired plants more efficient in the long run. However, the regulation left a wide margin within which states could operate in regards to reducing emissions, as long as they can show some effort toward making coal plants efficient. EPA officials had earlier said that the Clean Air Act imposes major limits on the freedom to go beyond the changes that can be made at specific power plants. Further, one EPA official said that the agency is not an energy regulatory authority. While the EPA might be on the defensive, the judge ruled that the agency is incorrectly reading the statute. The ruling said that the statute section “does not, as the EPA claims, constrain the Agency to identifying a best system of emission reduction consisting only of controls ‘that can be applied at and to a stationary source.’” The ruling indicates that the EPA’s rollback ignores some elements that power plants might use to achieve emissions reduction. Following the ruling, environmental lawyers and other groups expect Biden’s administration to take a broad approach to the regulation of power plants. However, some lawyers have cautioned that if the administration gets too ambitious with the regulations, it may have to face the Supreme Court’s conservative majority. Via Axios Image via Benita Welter

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Trumps name found scraped into a manatees back

January 13, 2021 by  
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Manatees resemble half-ton potatoes, but researchers can tell them apart. According to Patrick Rose, aquatic biologist and executive director for Save the Manatee Club, most adult manatees have unique scars from accidents like boat strikes. But one manatee stands out more than the rest. This week, viral videos showed a West Indian manatee with “Trump” scraped into its back. The maimed manatee was spotted in Florida’s Homosassa River last Sunday. In 2019, Inhabitat reported on illegal interactions between manatees and humans in this same river. Related: Effects of COVID-19 lead to increased deaths of Florida manatees While scraping the presidential surname into a layer of algae will probably not injure a manatee — unless the perpetrator scrapes too hard and the sea cow becomes infected — it is still harassment. Under U.S. law, anyone guilty of harassing a manatee faces a $50,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is leading an investigation into the defiled manatee. The Center for Biological Diversity is adding $5,000 as a reward for intel leading to a conviction of the responsible party. “It’s a little hard to see the extent of damage from the video,” said Ruth Carmichael, marine biologist at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “It is harassment, regardless. If the scrape penetrates the skin, then it likely caused some pain and stress. The animals have nerves and sensory hairs in the skin. Additionally, open wounds could become infected.” Florida has an estimated 6,300 manatees, a big increase from a 1991 estimate of 1,267. But the gentle giants are susceptible to terrible fates due to human activity. At least 10 were drowned or crushed last year by locks and floodgates, in addition to the usual boat strikes. In 2017, the IUCN upgraded manatees from endangered to vulnerable. But it’s especially cruel that a creature that has faced the threat of extinction should have to bear the surname of a man who has spent the last four years weakening protections of endangered species . Do you have information on who scraped “Trump” onto the manatee? Call the wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477 or email FWS_TIPS@FWS.GOV . Via BBC , HuffPost and Save the Manatee Club Image via NOAA

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Trump administration disregards border wall’s environmental impact

December 30, 2020 by  
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An environmental row rages on as the Trump administration races against time to complete its target 450 miles of the border wall along the American-Mexico border. At the beginning of 2020, the Trump administration vowed to meet this goal within the year. In a last-ditch effort to deliver the promise, workers across 37 different construction sites along the border rush to meet the deadline. While workers erect the bollard steel wall, environmental conservationists and other groups voice frustration over how these reckless actions fail to consider nature. According to Kate Scott, Executive Director and President of the Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Centre, the construction disrupts the natural migration of wildlife and birds. “I feel great pain in my heart,” Scott said while speaking to CNN. “It’s like driving a stake through my heart because the river should be allowed to be, and not have this monstrosity. This wall of shame.” Like several other conservationists, Scott has been at the border watching and documenting the harm the process causes to wildlife . She watched as construction workers erected steel bollards at the San Pedro River, which flows from Mexico to the United States. Her frustration with the process is that it hampers the free migration of birds and other animals across the river and natural terrain. According to the  National Audubon Society of Arizona , about 40% of all bird species in North America spend some part of their lives on the San Pedro River. Due to the construction process, most of the birds and other animals have been pushed away from their natural habitat and travel pathway.  Despite the project’s effects on wildlife and nature, Customs and Border Protection insists the project meets environmental requirements. The organization claims the project has been analyzed and measures have been put in place to reduce environmental impacts. In contrast to these denials, conservationists have already collected enough evidence to show the project’s negative effects on wildlife. At the start of the construction in 2019, a non-profit organization, Wildlands Network, put up cameras in the San Bernardino Valley to monitor the project’s impact on wildlife migration. According to Myles Traphagen, Wildlands Network borderlands program coordinator, all  migrations across the border stopped dead  at the end of the second week of December. All hopes now rest on incoming President Joe Biden to put an end to the Trump administration’s reckless actions. Although Biden promised not to continue with wall construction , conservationists want the wall pulled down entirely, especially in areas where it affects wildlife. + CNN Image via Ted Eytan

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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes

October 30, 2020 by  
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If offered Biden’s lead EPA role, Mary Nichols would say yes Katie Fehrenbacher Fri, 10/30/2020 – 03:00 The Presidential election looming next week could change everything for the future of the environment, clean air and the markets contributing to the clean economy. And if Vice President Joe Biden wins, there’s a chance it could change everything for California’s clean air chief Mary Nichols, too.  Bloomberg recently reported that Nichols, the retiring chair of the California Air Resources Board,  was on a shortlist to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency if Biden wins the election next week. Others on the list for EPA head, or other environmental roles, include Mississippi environmentalist and former regional EPA administrator Heather McTeer Toney, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Connecticut regulator Dan Esty, according to the report.  During an interview at the VERGE 20 conference on Thursday , Nichols responded to a question about the report, by saying this: I am one of the people who worked at the EPA once upon a time who has been shocked and distressed by the treatment they have received over the last four years. In particular, it’s a much smaller, a much weaker agency than it was supposed to have been. And if the President wants my help, in whatever capacity, to help turn that around, I’m going to say yes.  If Nichols took on the lead role with the EPA, it would be an abrupt 180 for the agency under President Donald Trump. Current EPA head Andrew Wheeler, working with the Trump administration, has rapidly moved to dismantle many environmental, clean water and clean air protections in an attempt to remove red tape for industry. These are the types of regulations that Nichols has spent her 50-year career — including a stint at the EPA during the Clinton administration — helping implement.  In particular, Nichols and CARB have clashed with the Trump administration, and Wheeler, over issues including California’s ability to set stricter auto emissions standards. Last year, the administration revoked the state’s waiver to set stricter auto standards, and California, followed by 22 other states, sued the Trump administration. Of course, the outcome of the election is uncertain, and Nichols is reportedly just one of the names on Biden’s shortlist. The CARB chair told the VERGE audience that she is only planning to step down from CARB at the end of this year because she has some other projects she has her eye on.  My decision to step down from the Air Resources Board and turn over the leadership of this wonderful organization to someone else isn’t really based on a desire to retire. I have been doing this job for a very long time. Longer than anyone else has or maybe ever will. I want to do some other things. I have some ideas and projects in mind, which I’m not ready to make any announcements about. But it’s not a question of retiring.  Regardless of whether the EPA role is in Nichols’ future, we’re clearly looking forward to seeing what she does next.  Topics Transportation & Mobility Policy & Politics VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Kathryn Cooper, GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Fossil fuel companies denied seismic blasting permit renewals

October 7, 2020 by  
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On October 1, a status conference on seismic litigation ruled in favor of the environment by prohibiting fossil fuel companies from using seismic airguns in offshore oil exploration. Fossil fuel companies have long disrupted marine life and coastal communities by using such airguns while exploring offshore oil sources. But the new decision means that once current permits expire on November 30, companies will not be allowed to renew them. The decision now hands victory to environmental organizations, marine species and coastal communities. There has been an ongoing battle surrounding seismic blasting permits, also known as as Incidental Harassment Authorizations (IHAs). These permits allow fossil fuel companies to use seismic testing in search of oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean. Related: Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration During the hearing, the lawyers representing the federal government recognized that IHAs expire next month with no room to extend them. Michael Jasny, the director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, applauded the decision. He termed the use of seismic blasts as “senseless” actions that harm the environment. Seismic blasts are fired as regularly as every 10 seconds. For weeks or even months, these sounds disrupt marine species, including whales and many types of fish, that depend on sound to navigate and hunt. Long periods of seismic blasting make it challenging for such species to find food for survival. The news revives hope within scientific and conservation communities. In recent years, scientists have warned that continued seismic blasting combined with other threats, such as ship strikes, could lead to the extinction of North Atlantic right whales. Due to such risks, the Obama administration denied seismic blasting permits to fossil fuel companies in 2017. In November 2018, the Trump administration issued fresh IHAs. This move was met by backlash from NRDC, 10 states and several businesses and coastal communities, who collectively took the matter to court. Although the ruling ended in a victory, Jasny says that more efforts still have to be made to seal any loopholes and end seismic blasting once and for all. Via CleanTechnica Image via Amy Humphries

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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage?

September 30, 2020 by  
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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage? Hannah Murphy Wed, 09/30/2020 – 01:00 This story originally appeared in Rolling Stone  and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalistic collaboration to strengthen coverage of the climate story. When he talks about the Trump administration, David Doniger likes to say: “Imagine where we’d be if they knew what they were doing.” The climate lawyer and senior adviser to the NRDC Action Fund spends his days defending the environment from the U.S. government, and for the past 3.5 years, that’s meant a front-row seat to the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on any regulation that’s meant to slow the  climate crisis .  But it’s also been a window into the hasty, sloppy and legally dubious ways that it’s gone about it. “One of the hallmarks of this administration is how incompetently they’re doing this,” says Doniger. “It shows up in how slowly they’ve been able to work, and how flimsy their legal rationales are.” Almost all of Trump’s attempts at deregulation — some 100 rules that he’s tried to eliminate or weaken — are being challenged in court, and environmentalists are steadily winning. According to the  Institute for Policy Integrity  at New York University, the Trump administration has lost 69 of the 83 legal challenges it’s faced in its deregulatory blitz.  “We were saved by their incompetence,”” says Andrew Wetzler of the NRDC Action Fund, mainly by its failure to follow basic rule-making procedures. It rushed through the process, often shortening or entirely skipping over the required 60 days for public comment, which provided a clear opening for its rule changes to be challenged in court. The administration’s ineptitude has given environmentalists hope that if Trump loses the election, the policy impact of his unrelenting pro-fossil fuel agenda ultimately could be short-lived. “If he’s a one-term wonder,” says Doniger, “the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time.” But time, at this hour of the climate fight, might be our most precious resource. As we stumble ever closer to the  collapse of ice sheets, oceans and forests , the range of meaningful action we could take narrows. There is now believed to be more carbon dioxide in the air than any time in the last 3 million years. Our oceans are on track by the end of this century to become more acidic than they’ve been in some 15 million years — when they were enduring a major extinction event. Those oceans are also rising steadily enough to threaten the homes of 150 million people in the next three decades. “We lost years at a critical time,” says Wetzler. “We’re on the precipice of a number of climate and biological tipping points.” And, he says, we won’t fully understand the impact of that loss for years.  If he’s a one-term wonder, the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time. If Joe Biden wins in November, environmentalists say, his administration would have a slim window of opportunity to get our agencies back on track to meet the enormity of the climate crisis. “It means being aggressive from day one,” says Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “And not futzing around — knowing what you’re going to do and implementing it immediately.”  Making up for the lost time won’t be easy. Despite his slap-dash approach, Trump still managed to scramble the trajectory of American climate policy, creating a tangle of legal fights that will have to be cleared up for U.S. climate policy to move forward. And he left almost no part of our environmental regulatory structure untouched —  greenlighting fossil fuel infrastructure such as the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines, setting us back on emission-reduction goals by reversing the Clean Power Plan and higher fuel-efficiency standards, and gutting the federal agencies that should be at the helm of our climate response.  So how difficult will it be to unscramble this mess? It would have to happen in three parts, environmentalists say, and all three would have to start on day one. First, Biden would have a powerful arsenal of executive tools available to him — if he chooses to use them. A  coalition of over 500 environmental  groups already has assembled a plan for how he could effectively jumpstart our fight against the climate crisis using executive powers, which would avoid both going through Congress and the lengthy federal rule-making process. Using executive power, Biden could declare a national climate emergency. It wouldn’t just send an important message to Americans — and the rest of the world — that we’re taking the climate crisis seriously; it also would give the administration the power to mobilize the government on a massive scale, like ordering the Secretary of Defense to redirect military spending toward the rapid development of clean energy.  Biden also could immediately order federal agencies to reverse the climate rollbacks Trump introduced through executive order — such as allowing oil and gas companies to side-step state approval — and start issuing his own. Most urgent, Biden would have the power to keep more fossil fuels in the ground: He could direct the Secretary of the Interior to halt oil-and-gas leasing and fracking on federal lands, reinstitute the ban on exporting crude oil, and order all federal agencies to deny permits for new fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, storage facilities and refineries.    He’d also be able to change the ways that money moves through the energy sector. He could prohibit the U.S. government from financing fossil fuel programs overseas and end all Department of Energy loans for fossil fuels stateside, while also requiring the Federal Reserve to manage climate risks — forcing it to acknowledge the current and future impact of  climate change  on our economy.  Many of these tools already were available in the Obama era, but the administration chose not to use them. For example, “the Clean Air Act is actually quite clear that you have the authority to set national ambient air quality standards,” says Hartl. “It would have been incredibly bold, and it actually wouldn’t have had the problems that the Clean Power Plan had. They could have really moved the needle on greenhouse gases in a very, very powerful way.” But, Hartl says, the Obama administration shied away from these kinds of actions for fear of political consequences. At the beginning of this year, two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government, up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term. Biden would face a very different national landscape. At the beginning of this year,  two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government , up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term.  In a poll last week , likely Democratic voters ranked climate change as the most important issue to them in this election, and Data for Progress, a progressive think tank, has found that talking about climate change actually could help persuade voters on the fence to vote for a Democrat. All of this is to say, a Biden administration could have an unprecedented political mandate to take action on the climate crisis.  In addition to issuing executive orders, beginning on day one Biden also would need to start the process of unwinding the deregulation efforts that Trump carried out through the federal rule-making process — such as  rollbacks on the Endangered Species Act  and fuel-emissions standards — and writing new ones to take their place. Environmentalists are confident that a new administration systematically could undo each rollback, but that process could take two years, according to Hartl.  And the Biden administration would need to learn from Trump’s mistakes. Legal challenges from the industries that these regulations impact — the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association — are inevitable, “so you have to go in and be prepared to defend it the first time,” says Hartl. That means following the process to the letter: establishing rules with legal backing from legislation such as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts; opening the rule up to public comment; and then presenting a final rule that can stand up in court. Unlike Trump’s deregulation efforts, which were fighting against decades of environmental legislation, the law would be on Biden’s side. “The reality is that when Congress passed these laws,” says Hartl, “they were designed to make the environment better.” Finally, Biden would have to start hiring like mad. Over the past four years, Trump’s EPA and Interior Department have hemorrhaged talent. The Bureau of Land Management moved the majority of its staff out of Washington, D.C., leading some 70 percent of that staff to resign, and the EPA is nearly as small as it was during the Nixon era, when the EPA was founded. “That pattern, in the most extreme way, is mirrored throughout the environmental agencies,” says Wetzler. “There’s been a real brain drain of people who can’t stand in an agency and support the agenda under the Trump administration, and we’ll have to put back the pieces of very demoralized, and in some cases broken, agencies.” But from those ashes, Biden could build a coalition of climate advocates across his cabinet. His transition team, and the 4,000 people they appoint,  are arguably more influential than any campaign promises he could make . “Personnel is policy,” says Jamal Raad, co-founder and campaign director for Evergreen Action, founded by former staffers of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s presidential campaign. “We need to choose regulators that have a climate lens,” and that lens doesn’t end at the EPA — it can reach the Department of Agriculture, where we have to reimagine our food production to work with our changing climate, or the Treasury, where regulators could interpret the Dodd-Frank consumer protection act to include climate risks. And within the White House, Raad says, Biden could create a National Climate Council that’s equivalent to the National Economic Council. “There needs to be a plan to reorient the federal government so that climate is a lens in all decision making.” Heading into the general election, pressure from the left wing of the party shaped Biden’s $2 trillion climate plan, “a green new deal in all but name,”  wrote activist and journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat . “It’s the most progressive, forward-leaning environmental plan that any candidate for president has ever released,” says Wetzler of the NRDC Action Fund. “It would represent incredible progress.” And while the Biden campaign hasn’t laid out a timetable for the plan, “the Biden team has been signaling their prioritization of climate by making it central to their economic recovery plans,” says Raad. “I think that folks should be cautiously optimistic — but vigilant — on the prospect of climate being a priority early in the first term.” Of course, this all hinges on what happens in November. And if Trump is re-elected, his administration would have the chance to establish a legacy of more than just incompetence and squandered time. Four more years of Trump being in charge of the environment could permanently alter the American landscape. If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity. In some cases, it would give the Trump administration time to fight back against the legal challenges they face, leaning on courts that they’ve stacked with anti-environmental judges. And damage could be done that will be near impossible to undo — rules can be changed, but mines can’t be unmined. The Trump administration has pursued the largest rollback of federally protected land in U.S. history. Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, for example, which Trump shrunk by 85 percent in 2017, is in the crosshairs of uranium developers. Trump’s move has been mired in lawsuits, but a second term could give them the time to untangle them and hand the land over to the uranium lobbyists.  Likewise, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was just approved in August, leaving little time for leasing, let alone actual development, before Inauguration Day. But if Trump wins, those leases are likely to move forward, as will the roads, pipelines and oil rigs that come with them, doing permanent damage to a vital and fragile ecosystem. “Over time you’re looking at millions and millions of acres of fossil fuel leasing,” says Hartl from the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund. “And eventually, once you get to the point where they’re actually putting drills in the ground, it’s very hard to undo that. You’re locking in a tremendous amount of fossil fuel infrastructure.” Trump’s influence on the Supreme Court looms heavily for the environment as well. With Trump already raring to appoint a new justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a second term is likely to offer him a fourth Supreme Court appointment, which would mean the highest court would house   seven Republican-appointed justices. When you’re suing over environmental issues, the court’s make-up can be the difference between having your day in court and not. “For example, there’s a general judicial doctrine called ‘standing,’ or your ability to go to court to pursue your aggrieved interests,” explains Hartl. “Conservative judges want to narrow who has standing as much as possible, because that limits access to the courts. When you’re fighting for the environment, and your interest is protecting an endangered species or the atmosphere or the water, they’ve already made it hard for us to go to court, to have standing. And they can narrow it even further so that we don’t even have recourse. Our ability to just fight for the environment is at stake.” The climate movement has never been more clear on what it is fighting for and what it needs to do, and finally has a presidential candidate who is signaling some willingness to do it. The prescription is fairly simple: Stop burning fossil fuels so we can begin drawing down the carbon in the atmosphere that’s overheating our planet and disrupting the systems that have supported life on Earth as we know it. The president has a lot of power to take that action, and we have no time to lose. “It’s true that we have 30 years [before an irreversible climate collapse], but when you act on that 30-year scale really affects how radically you have to act,” says Wetzler. “If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity.” This November, we can choose to act, and set ourselves back on course. “If this is a one-time, Black Swan event, we’re probably going to recover as a nation,” says Doniger. “This is the project of the century.” Andy Kroll contributed reporting to this story. Pull Quote If he’s a one-term wonder, the biggest consequence of the Trump administration may just turn out to be lost time. At the beginning of this year, two-thirds of American adults said that protecting the environment should be a top priority of the federal government, up from only 30 percent at the beginning of Obama’s first term. If you think about where the United States was at the beginning of the Trump administration — and where the world was, in terms of taking climate change seriously — it’s a huge, squandered opportunity. Topics Climate Change Policy & Politics Oil & Gas Policy & Politics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which Trump shrunk by 85 percent in 2017, is in the crosshairs of uranium developers. Photo by Krista Hardin/Shutterstock.

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Will a Biden administration be able to reverse Trump’s climate damage?

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