The radical idea behind Trump’s EPA rollbacks

Scott Pruitt is pictured. | AP Photo
Several former EPA chiefs say Scott Pruitt and President Donald Trump have it wrong. | Getty



The Trump administration isn’t just pushing to dramatically shrink the Environmental Protection Agency, chop a third of its budget and hobble its regulatory powers. It’s also trying to permanently limit the EPA’s mission — while portraying doing so as a return to the agency’s roots.

What Administrator Scott Pruitt calls his “Back to Basics” agenda would refocus the agency on narrow goals such as cleaning up toxic waste and providing safe drinking water — the kinds of issues that inspired the EPA’s creation in 1970 amid a public outcry about burning rivers and smog-filled skies. But it would abandon the Obama administration’s climate regulations, along with other efforts that Pruitt argues exceed the agency’s legal authority. Continue reading “The radical idea behind Trump’s EPA rollbacks”

Trump’s EPA attacks spook former GOP chiefs

Donald Trump’s pledges to gut the EPA have set off alarms among the agency’s backers — including the Republicans who use to lead EPA and now are warning that the GOP nominee’s plan threatens to destroy the agency that has cleaned up the nation over the past half century.

Despite declaring himself a “huge believer in clean water and clean air,” Trump has promised to revoke environmental rules, “to get rid of [EPA] in almost every form” and to allow the states to decide how to regulate pollution. And his campaign has tapped Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute — who has criticized EPA as “the No. 1 job killer in America” — as the point person to lead the change if Trump wins on Nov. 8.

The former EPA chiefs under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush see the strategy as a disaster.

“All we’re doing is shoving ourselves back into where we were in the late ’60s,” said Bill Ruckelshaus, who became the first EPA administrator in 1970 and returned under Reagan during a turbulent period at the agency. “Rivers catching on fire, smog so bad you could hardly see one another. And those kind of problems would recur.” Continue reading “Trump’s EPA attacks spook former GOP chiefs”

Supreme Court’s mercury ruling comes too late for coal

President Barack Obama’s opponents won a Supreme Court skirmish in the “war on coal” Monday, but the ruling blocking his mercury pollution rule won’t do anything to reverse coal’s waning role in the nation’s power supply.

And on top of that, legal experts don’t expect the decision to hamper the administration’s plans for landmark climate regulations that are set to further cement the decline of the fuel that only a few years ago dominated the industry.

For utility giant American Electric Power and others in the power sector, the judgment on the mercury rule that started to take effect in April comes too late to save the dozens of plants that already closed, or are slated to in the next several months.

“We’re not bringing them back,” Nick Akins, AEP’s CEO, president and chairman told POLITICO. “Once that ball gets rolling, it’s not going to change.” Continue reading “Supreme Court’s mercury ruling comes too late for coal”

Bye-bye, birdie: How this threatened species became a flashpoint in the $1.1 trillion spending bill

A Gunnison sage grouse is pictured. | AP Photo
AP Photo

Before lawmakers could agree to a $1.1 trillion, last-minute deal to avoid shutting down the U.S. government, they first had to deal with a couple of birds.

The result is a 1,603-page spending bill that includes a paragraph barring the Obama administration from approving endangered-species protections for two types of sage grouse, an imperiled, pheasant-like bird that is ruffling the petroleum industry’s feathers across the West by cohabiting on prime oil and gas land.

Now environmentalists are squawking. Continue reading “Bye-bye, birdie: How this threatened species became a flashpoint in the $1.1 trillion spending bill”

Oil and gas ‘soul searching’ over Landrieu

Endangered Senate Energy chairwoman Mary Landrieu has a new problem to worry about — the risk that her longtime supporters in the oil and gas industry would abandon her in a December runoff against Republican challenger Bill Cassidy.

Even before Wednesday’s news of a personnel shakeup in the Louisiana Democrat’s campaign, people in the industry were grappling with a tough decision: whether to stick with one of their staunchest champions on the Hill or embrace Cassidy in hopes of putting Republicans in charge of the Senate. Some of them say the choice has become especially acute in recent months, with polls indicating the likelihood of a Dec. 6 runoff that could decide which party controls the chamber. Continue reading “Oil and gas ‘soul searching’ over Landrieu”

Green vs. green battles continue

The Obama administration is hoping to put a stop to an increasing problem for wind and solar power — feuds with environmental groups that say the projects threaten endangered species or valuable habitat.

But some conservation groups are wary of being burned.

The irony, of course, is that environmentalists are generally big fans of renewable energy, especially compared with greenhouse gas-spewing fossil fuels like coal.

The Interior Department has looked for ways to avoid these green-vs.-green conflicts both by trying to expedite environmental reviews for large solar projects and by creating voluntary guidelines to prevent wind turbines from killing birds. Continue reading “Green vs. green battles continue”

Post-Solyndra, GOP eyes other targets

Rep. Darrell Issa is pictured. | JOHN SHINKLE/POLITICO
Darrell Issa has pursued probes into solar firms Abound Solar and BrightSource Energy. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

Solyndra is dead. Long live Solyndra?

Republicans may not be ready to give up their attacks on the Obama administration’s green energy investments, despite their failure to produce any bombshells — or even a winning campaign theme — from the demise of the California solar manufacturer.

Even as Solyndra itself fades from center stage, the GOP still has plenty of targets in the billions of dollars’ worth of grants, loan guarantees and other investments the Energy Department has made in solar, wind, battery and alternative-vehicle companies, some of which have suffered headline-grabbing stumbles of their own. And Congress’s series of fiscal disputes could provide ample avenues for the Republicans to make their case. Continue reading “Post-Solyndra, GOP eyes other targets”

Arnold’s green road back

Arnold Schwarzenegger, hot off a seven-year run as California governor, went underground in May after it was revealed he had fathered a child with a household employee.

The White House, which worked with him on events like Solyndra’s factory groundbreaking in 2009, cut off contact. A “world tour” to promote green policies was derailed. Polls showed that most of the support he had left among his former constituents was gone.

But in recent weeks, Schwarzenegger has begun to return to the spotlight, making public appearances at renewable energy and climate change events, advocating for green technology and touting his energy achievements in the Golden State.

“I promise you I will be your cheerleader and carry our message around the world. I will do everything in my power to make this happen,” Schwarzenegger told the American Council On Renewable Energy on Dec. 5 in Washington, D.C. “I feel as passionate about this as I did about bodybuilding, about fitness and weight training, all those things.” Continue reading “Arnold’s green road back”

Dissenting from the Bench: The Role of Oral Dissents at the Supreme Court in Inciting Action

There is no story more formally structured than a legal narrative; there is an audience, narrators, characters, a plot, rules about who can say what when — and, typically, wide room for interpretation. Jerome Bruner writes that, like all tales, a legal narrative reflects Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic Pentad: agent, action, goal, setting and means — but there is some disagreement between the five elements, creating trouble. In fiction, of course, that trouble creates the plot; in everyday life, trouble is grounds for a story recounted later, to friends or family, sometimes again and again. But trouble is a different thing altogether when it is created in a legal setting. “It is the conversion of private Trouble (in Burke’s sense) into public plight that makes well-wrought narrative so powerful, so comforting, so dangerous, so culturally essential” (Bruner 2002:35). Fortunately for lawyers, the trouble created for legal narratives is inherently adversarial; in almost every case, both sides make different claims, and it is up to the audience — sometimes a jury, other times one or more judges — to decide how the story ends.

Continue reading “Dissenting from the Bench: The Role of Oral Dissents at the Supreme Court in Inciting Action”

Student Assembly votes to fund additional counselor

The College of William and Mary Student Assembly passed its largest appropriation in seven years to provide funding for an additional staff member at the Counseling Center.

The SA passed the Student Mental Health Act, sponsored by Sen. Ryan Ruzic J.D. ’11 and Sen. Curt Mills ’13, Tuesday night, appropriating $57,000 from the consolidated reserve to fund the salary, benefits and search process to employ an extra psychologist at the Counseling Center for one year.

“We were able to do something that actually helps students in a real, substantive way,” Ruzic said. “I think student government does a lot of things that help a lot of students, but in very small ways. It’s great when we have a lot of our various missions — talking to the state government about more funding, talking to administrators about student life issues — but there’s very few things we do that so fundamentally help people.”

Continue reading “Student Assembly votes to fund additional counselor”