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Trump admin wasting tax dollars on new feel-good eco nonsense

(EPA.gov release ) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded $75,000 to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, as part of the General Assistance Program (GAP). The tribe will use the funds to administer their environmental program and assist in the development of multimedia programs to address environmental issues. The GAP program protects the health of the Cherokee Nation by safeguarding the environment through awareness and environmental program development.

“The Cherokee Nation has been recognized for their leadership in environmental services,” said Acting Regional Administrator Sam Coleman. “We are pleased to support our tribal partners in sustaining environmental protection endeavors.”

“These GAP dollars support all of the environmental work that we do here at the Cherokee Nation. Our partnership with the EPA benefits both the Nation, and all of northeast Oklahoma,” Sara Hill, Secretary of Natural Resources for Cherokee Nation said.

The grant will provide support for the Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission (EPC). The commission is a five-person board that oversees environmental programs. The EPC regulates areas such as solid waste including the Cherokee Nation Landfill and underground storage tanks, toxic and hazardous substance control, and water quality. The EPC also promulgates rules, conducts enforcement actions, issues permits, approves facility plans, and conducts oversight of environmental review activities and procedures for handling complaints.

The primary purpose of GAP is to support the development of core tribal environmental protection programs. Other activities to be carried out under the grant include, but are not limited to, attending environmentally related training and conducting community outreach.   

In 1992, Congress passed the Indian Environmental General Assistance Program Act which authorizes EPA to provide GAP grants to federally-recognized tribes and tribal groups for planning, developing, and establishing environmental protection programs in Indian country, as well as for developing and implementing solid and hazardous waste programs on tribal lands.

The Cherokee Nation’s Office of Environmental Services is a member of the Inter-Tribal Environmental Council (ITEC), which is an organization that was developed by Cherokee Nation to protect the health of Native Americans, their natural resources, and their environment as it is related to air, land and water. This organization is designed to provide support, technical assistance, program development and training to member tribes.

I Told You So: US withdrawal from Paris climate scheme unlikely to impact emissions

LONDON (Reuters) – The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate pact is unlikely to have a direct impact on the expected decline in global carbon emissions, BP’s chief economist said on Tuesday.

“Nearly all the improvement in (carbon reduction) comes from the developing world, it isn’t coming from OECD or America,” Spencer Dale said during a presentation of BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy.

The reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in recent years has been a result of cheaper natural gas pushing out more polluting coal rather than regulations, he said.

 

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by David Clarke)

 

Instead of canceling Obama land grab, Trump admin scales it back

By Timothy Gardner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Monday he has recommended that President Donald Trump reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah – a move that drew quick fire from conservationists but was supported by mining and drilling interests.

The 1.35 million acre (5,463 square kms) area, designated by former President Barack Obama during his final days in office and named for its iconic twin buttes, is the first of 27 national monuments to be reviewed by the Trump administration as part of a plan to increase development on federal lands.

“My job is to make sure that I … reflect the concerns of Utah, and reflect the concerns of the taxpayers and the public who own the lands, and I think we’ve done that,” Zinke told reporters in a teleconference about his interim recommendation sent to Trump on Saturday. Zinke toured Utah for four days before making the recommendation.

His report said that the Antiquities Act, used by past presidents to declare monuments, should cover the “smallest area compatible” with protecting important sites.

“Therefore… the Secretary of the Interior recommends that the existing boundary of the (Bears Ears) be modified to be consistent with the intent of the act.”

Rather than designating a vast monument, as Obama did, “it would have been more appropriate to identify and separate the areas that have significant objects to be protected to meet the purposes of the Act,” Zinke’s report said.

More study is necessary to determine how much smaller Bears Ears should be, Zinke said, and that decision will not be made until all of the 27 monuments are reviewed.

Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, said Zinke’s recommendation was “nothing less than an attack on the future of all American monuments, parks and public lands,” and was “against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Americans.”

A public comment period that closed in late May generated hundreds of thousands of comments, with the majority expressing hope that monuments like Bears Ears remain protected.

Zinke also recommended that tribes be allowed to co-manage “cultural areas” within the resized monument – a nod to Native Americans who had lobbied for protections for the territory – and that Congress review conservation policies in the area.

His recommendation to Trump set the tone for the administration’s broader review, triggered by an executive order in April.

Trump had argued that previous administrations “abused” their right to designate monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and put millions of acres of land, mainly in western states, off limits to drilling, mining, logging and ranching without adequate input from locals.

The review is likely to add fuel to a heated national debate over Washington’s role in America’s wildest spaces. Environmentalists and tribal groups support federal oversight, but many state political leaders, conservatives and industry groups say the lands should generate money for business, creating jobs, or yielding revenue for education and other public services.

While the land encompassed by the Bears Ears monument is not believed to contain huge amounts of coal, oil or gas, several other monuments on Zinke’s review list do – making the Bears Ears decision symbolically important to industry groups.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies, said Zinke’s approach was sensible. “It’s clear that Bears Ears was an overreach, and was much larger than necessary to protect cultural resources.”

 

(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Dan Grebler)

 

Interior Secretary to make proposal on Bears Ears monument

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is due to make a recommendation to the White House on whether to rescind or resize Utah’s Bears Ears monument, setting the tone for the administration’s broader study of which lands protected by past presidents should be reopened to development.

The 1.35 million-acre monument, created by former president Barack Obama at the end of his term and named after its iconic twin buttes, is the first of 27 national monuments that will be evaluated by the Department of the Interior after President Donald Trump ordered the review in April.

The deadline for Zinke’s recommendation on Bears Ears is June 10, though an Interior Department official did not say when the recommendation would be made public.

Trump had argued that previous administrations “abused” their right to designate national monuments under the U.S. Antiquities Act of 1906, and put millions of acres of land, mainly in western states, off limits to drilling, mining, logging and ranching without adequate input from locals.

Conservation groups, meanwhile, have called Trump’s effort to alter existing national monuments illegal and irresponsible, and have vowed to challenge him in court.

“Whatever comes out of these recommendations will give us an insight into how this administration takes its responsibilities to protect public lands and uphold conservation mandates,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel of the Wilderness Society, an environmental advocacy group.

 

HEATED DEBATE

The review taps into a heated national debate over Washington’s role in America’s wildest spaces: environmentalists and tribal groups support federal oversight, but many state political leaders, conservatives, and industry groups say the lands should be generating money for business, creating jobs, or yielding revenue for education and other public services.

Bears Ears was created after years of lobbying by a coalition of five tribes, who say the area is sacred. Republicans, like Senator Orin Hatch of Utah, have argued, however, that Obama’s designation of the Bears Ears monument had weakened education funding in the state through its School and Institutional Trust Lands system – which delivers revenues from land development to schools.

While the land encompassed by the Bears Ears monument is not believed to contain huge amounts of coal, oil or gas, several other monuments on Zinke’s review list do – making the Bears Ears decision important symbolically to industry groups.

“Who is to say that, in the future, a president couldn’t just put a whole basin under monument designation,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, representing oil and gas companies.

 

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

 

Exxon calls NY prosecutor’s climate change probe ‘harassment’ in filing

By Ernest Scheyder and Emily Flitter

(Reuters) – Exxon Mobil Corp asked a New York court on Friday to reject another subpoena request from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, arguing the prosecutor’s recent claim to have found evidence Exxon misled investors was false and that he was abusing his investigative powers.

The company said Schneiderman’s allegation it had neglected to estimate the impact of future environmental regulation on new deals was “frivolous” and that no “legitimate law enforcement need” would be served by giving his office more documents.

“For a prosecutor proceeding in good faith, the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing is grounds for closing an investigation, not expanding it,” Exxon wrote in its filing with the court.

Schneiderman’s office denied the allegations.

“As detailed in our filing last week, the Attorney General’s office has a substantial basis to suspect that Exxon’s proxy cost analysis may have been a sham,” said Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for the New York attorney general. “This office takes potential misrepresentations to investors very seriously and will vigorously seek to enforce this subpoena. We look forward to next week’s hearing.”

Schneiderman sought more materials from the oil producer as part of an ongoing probe that has already reviewed nearly 3 million documents. He is examining whether Exxon misled the public about its understanding of the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the earth’s climate.

The probe has already revealed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who until December was chief executive of Exxon, used a separate email address and an alias, “Wayne Tracker,” to discuss climate change-related issues while at the company.

Testimony Schneiderman made public on June 2 offered more details about how the company handled the “Wayne Tracker” account, which was first created in 2007. Exxon employee Connie Feinstein, an information technology manager for the oil company, told prosecutors changes in the email program Exxon used, along with an automatic process that deleted internal emails after 13 months, may have erased years’ worth of “Wayne Tracker” emails.

“We realized that the automated file sweeper had not been disabled for a period of time as it should have been,” Feinstein said in the April 26 interview.

Exxon has been fighting Schneiderman’s requests for information about its climate change policies in both state and federal court, claiming it should not have to turn over records because the New York prosecutor’s probe is politically motivated.

The case is People of the State of New York v PricewaterhouseCoopers and Exxon Mobil Corporation, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 451962/2016.

 

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

 

Germany teaming up with California to impose global climate taxes

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is teaming up with California to cooperate on tackling climate change following the U.S. government’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement.

Europe’s largest economy and the biggest U.S. state in economic terms will back the work of the “Under 2 Coalition,” which includes cities, regional governments and states, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said on Saturday.

“We cannot achieve our climate goals without the engagement of local and regional communities. That has become even clearer after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement,” Hendricks said after agreeing on the joint approach with California Governor Edmund Brown in San Francisco.

“California and Germany unite the world leaders in the fight against climate change, the existential threat of our time,” Brown said in a statement released by the German ministry.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris agreement drew anger and condemnation from world leaders and industry.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week pledged her country’s continued commitment to the agreement, calling the U.S. decision “very regrettable.”

Hendricks said the German government would ensure that cities, communities and regions played an important role in the U.N. climate change conference in Bonn in November.

 

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Alexander Smith)

 

Zinke Signs New Sage Grouse Order

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, late yesterday, signed a Secretarial Order 3353 to improve sage-grouse conservation and strengthen communication and collaboration between state and federal governments. Together, the Federal government and states will work to conserve and protect sage-grouse and its habitat while also ensuring conservation efforts do not impede local economic opportunities.

In signing Secretarial Order 3353, Secretary Zinke established an internal review team that will evaluate both Federal sage-grouse plans and state plans and programs to ensure they are complementary. As the team explores possible plan modifications, it will also consider local economic growth and job creation.

“While the federal government has a responsibility under the Endangered Species Act to responsibly manage wildlife, destroying local communities and levying onerous regulations on the public lands that they rely on is no way to be a good neighbor,” said Secretary Zinke. “State agencies are at the forefront of efforts to maintain healthy fish and wildlife populations, and we need to make sure they are being heard on this issue. As we move forward with implementation of our strategy for sage-grouse conservation, we want to make sure that we do so first and foremost in consultation with state and local governments, and in a manner that allows both wildlife and local economies to thrive. There are a lot of innovative ideas out there. I don’t want to take anything off the table when we talk about a plan.”

In September 2015, the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture finalized the greater sage-grouse plans, which included amendments and revisions to 98 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service land use plans in 11 Western states. The plans were cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as a key reason for its decision that the greater sage-grouse did not merit protection under the Endangered Species Act. Protection under the act could potentially stifle economic development across large areas of the American West where more than half of sage-grouse habitat is on public lands managed by the BLM and the Forest Service.

The Secretary has asked this interagency team of experts from the BLM, FWS, and U.S. Geological Survey to focus on addressing the principal threats to rangeland health and sage-grouse habitat—invasive grasses and wildland fire. The team will also consider creative approaches and ideas, including a captive breeding program, setting population targets by state, and opportunities to improve state involvement.

The team will examine the plans in light of policies set forth in Secretarial Order 3349, American Energy Independence. To this end, the team will be asked to identify plan provisions that may need to be adjusted or rescinded based on the potential for energy and other development on public lands.

This Secretarial Order follows through on statements Secretary Zinke made during his confirmation hearing, when he stated that he understands each state has different needs and issues and committed to working with them and local communities. He concluded that together the Federal government, states and western communities will get this job done.