Trump admin backs UN oceans plan

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States supported a global call to action at the United Nations on Friday to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources, even as it noted President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw from a pact to fight climate change.

The first U.N. Ocean Conference ended on Friday with the adoption of a Call to Action, which said: “We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean.”

“We recognize, in this regard, the particular importance of the Paris Agreement, adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” it read.

After the consensus adoption, David Balton, deputy U.S. assistant secretary for oceans and fisheries, reminded the summit “that on June 1 our president announced that the United States will withdraw from or renegotiate U.S. participation in the Paris agreement or another international climate deal.”

Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the landmark 2015 Paris agreement drew anger and condemnation from world leaders and heads of industry.

Speaking after the United States, French Ambassador for the Oceans Serge Segura received applause from delegates in the U.N. General Assembly after stating climate change was real.

“France is committed to upholding all of our obligations under the Paris agreement both for our welfare, but also for the welfare of the international community as a whole,” he said.

The week long ocean summit promoted partnerships, such as between governments and businesses, to address issues such as marine pollution, ocean acidification, and marine research. More than 1,300 voluntary commitments to save the ocean were made.

Safegarding the ocean was one of 17 goals adopted in 2015 by the 193 U.N. member states as part of an agenda for the world’s sustainable development up to 2030. Another goal calls for “urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”

 

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown)

 

Trump administration orders review of landmark sage grouse plan

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – The Trump administration has ordered a review of sweeping federal land-use restrictions adopted in 2015 to safeguard the greater sage grouse, a once-ubiquitous prairie bird whose fate is tied to the health of America’s vast but vanishing Western grasslands.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the 60-day review of sage grouse conservation rules in a Wednesday conference call with reporters, saying Western governors have complained that federal implementation of the plan has been alternately “heavy-handed” and inconsistent.

Environmental groups immediately protested the move, saying it might lead to unraveling a complex and delicately balanced strategy that took federal agencies years to negotiate with state and local governments, scientists, ranchers and other private interests.

The Obama administration launched the plan in September 2015 as an alternative to listing the ground-dwelling bird under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would potentially have entailed even tougher habitat protections.

Zinke insisted he was seeking to perfect, not dismantle, sage grouse conservation measures, while allowing greater innovation and “flexibility” by individual states on “such things as jobs and energy development.”

He said greater focus might be placed on factors other than strict habitat protection, such as predator, disease and wildfire control. Zinke also said some states have suggested the overall strategy place more emphasis on grouse population numbers than on habitat size.

Two Western governors, Democrat John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Republican Matthew Mead of Wyoming, who co-chair a federal-state sage grouse task force, contradicted such a shift in a letter to Zinke last month.

“We understand that you are considering … moving from a habitat management model to one that sets population objectives for the states. We are concerned that this is not the right decision,” they wrote in the May 26 letter.

The plight of the grouse, a key indicator species for America’s dwindling sagebrush ecosystem, has pitted conservation groups against oil and gas drilling, wind farms and cattle grazing in one of the biggest industry-versus-nature conflicts in decades.

The landmark measures implemented 21 months ago were aimed at saving the grouse while allowing activities such as energy development, mining and ranching to co-exist with the chicken-sized prairie fowl.

The greater sage grouse, known for its elaborate mating rituals, once ranged by the millions across a broad expanse of the western United States and Canada. They are now believed to number between 200,000 and 500,000 birds across 11 Western states and southern Alberta.

Besides a patchwork of conservation programs for state and private lands representing 45 percent of sage grouse habitat, the new strategy includes a set of tiered limits on commercial development inside 67 million acres (27 million hectares) of designated habitat on federal land.

Unlike many Western land-use battles of the past, sage grouse conservation drew wide support from commercial interests. Many ranchers, in particular, found common cause with efforts to protect the rangelands on which their livestock depend, citing the axiom: “What’s good for the bird is good for the herd.”

 

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Bill Trott)

 

Trump admin says it is still committed to global climate controls

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said on Monday the United States was committed to the environment despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of a 2015 global agreement to fight climate change.

Trump’s decision last week prompted criticism from allies and environmentalists alike but Perry, in Tokyo to discuss energy issues, said the United States would continue to work to cut emissions.

“The United States is not backing down from its role as a leader on cleaning up the climate,” Perry told reporters, adding he hoped that China would take this as “an opportunity to step forward and be real leader”.

China is the world’s biggest emitter of carbon emissions blamed for causing atmospheric temperatures to rise.

Perry spoke after meeting Japanese Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko, who told him that Japan was sorry the United States had decided to pull out of the Paris accord, a ministry official said. Seko was reassured the U.S. remained committed to reducing emissions, the official said.

Perry said the two nations would continue working together in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which he visited on Sunday.

The two countries agreed to share information on Toshiba Corp and Perry said that issues involving the bankruptcy of Toshiba’s U.S. unit Westinghouse Electric Co should not affect their cooperation in the nuclear sector.

 

(Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick and Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Nick Macfie)

 

Congress calls on Sessions to investigate DoJ abuses in WOTUS case

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte (VA-6) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for a review of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to prosecute a California court case alleging violations under the Clean Water Act (CWA) – directly related to both the statutory exemptions for farming and Obama administration’s waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

The letter requests information about DOJ’s process for prosecuting violations of the CWA, citing specific concerns about the case of Duarte Nursery v. Army Corps of Engineers. In the letter, the chairmen note both committees’ concerns that the court’s opinion is “not consistent with legislative intent behind the farming exemptions under the CWA.” The letter also seeks to clarify whether a legislative fix is required to protect farmers, such California farmer John Duarte, from similar prosecution in the future. 

Mr. Duarte’s case clearly highlights the need to keep the federal government out of America’s backyards, fields and ditches. Little-by-little we watched the previous administration chip away at the rights of land and property-owners, aiming to expand its authority through broad new rules under WOTUS, all while providing little clarity to farmers and ranchers about what qualifies for exemptions. Our letter aims to work with the new administration to better define current interpretations of both WOTUS and farming exemptions so we can begin to set new rules of the road that will protect our farmers and ranchers from onerous fines, penalties and regulations,” said Chairman Conaway.

“The regulatory overreach of the previous administration is having a negative impact on the lives of hardworking Americans. Congress made its intentions of how the Clean Water Act was to be applied for the health and safety of Americans, but the Obama administration has twisted law to serve a political agenda. We will work with President Trump and the new administration to reverse Obama-era regulations that are hurting American farmers, as well as other industries, and private citizens alike,” said Chairman Goodlatte.

Mr. Duarte’s case stems from a February 2013 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) allegation that the vernal pools on Mr. Duarte’s land are considered WOTUS, thus subject to CWA authority. The Corps argued that based on inconsistent agriculture production patterns on Mr. Duarte’s land prior to his purchase in 2012 he did not qualify for farming exemptions and had violated the CWA when he plowed his field in late 2012. Mr. Duarte now faces fines of roughly $2.8 million and additional costly mitigation measures.

Full text of the letter is available below.
_

May 26, 2017

The Honorable Jeff Sessions              
Attorney General of the United States          
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW         
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Sessions:

As Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary (“Committees”), we have been following the case of Duarte Nursery v. Army Corps of Engineers very closely. As you may know, the interpretations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and its farming exemptions are critical to farmers and ranchers across the nation and, thus, are of particular interest to the Agriculture Committee, especially given the Committee’s jurisdiction over agriculture generally. The Judiciary Committee’s oversight responsibilities include ensuring that the Justice Department enforces the law as Congress intended.

The prosecution of Mr. Duarte raises concerns that the Congressional intent behind the farming exemptions in the statute is misunderstood. Specifically, it is the Agriculture Committee’s view that even occasional farm activities, including grazing, qualify as “normal” farming under the statutory exemption, and also are part of an established operation for purposes of the exemption. Further, it is the Committee’s view that the activity at issue in this case constitute plowing for the purposes of the exemption.

To better understand the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) process for prosecuting potential violations of the CWA and in order to determine whether or not legislation is required to correct potential misinterpretations of the law, the Committees request the following information:

  • What does the DOJ consider in determining whether or not to prosecute a violation of the CWA?
  • Is it appropriate to seek reduced penalties where the alleged violation is based on a novel or strained interpretation of the underlying statutory authority?
  • Have there been any cases where DOJ has entered into contingent settlements pending an appeal of a CWA case? If so, please describe the circumstances of those cases.
  • Has DOJ ever declined on appeal to advance CWA arguments that were successful at the district court level? If so, please describe the circumstances of those cases.

If you have any questions about this request, please contact Agriculture Committee staff at (202) 225-2171 and the Judiciary Committee at (202) 225-3951.

Sincerely,

K. Michael Conaway                                                             
Chairman        
House Committee on Agriculture      

Bob Goodlatte           
Chairman
House Committee on the Judiciary                 

cc:        The Honorable Scott Pruitt, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

‘President Trump believes the climate is changing’: Ambassador Haley

Contact the White House!  Tell President Trump to DROP his belief in liberal hoaxes! – Donald Ferguson

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump “believes the climate is changing,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Saturday after Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate accord sparked dismay across the world.

“President Trump believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation,” Haley said during an excerpt of a CNN interview released on Saturday. The interview will be broadcast on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Trump “knows that it’s changing and that the U.S. has to be responsible for it and that’s what we’re going to do,” Haley said.

On Thursday, Trump announced the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate change pact, tapping into his “America First” campaign theme. He said participating in the pact would undermine the U.S. economy, wipe out jobs, weaken national sovereignty and put his country at a permanent disadvantage.

“Just because the U.S. got out of a club doesn’t mean we aren’t going to care about the environment,” Haley said.

Later on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said that remaining in the accord would have proved costly to U.S. economic growth and to the working-class Americans at the core of Trump’s political base.

“By withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump chose to put the forgotten men and women of America first. And he always will,” Pence told a political rally in Iowa.

On Friday, nobody at the White House was able to say whether Trump believed in climate change. In recent years, he has expressed skepticism about whether climate change is real, sometimes calling it a hoax. But since becoming president, he has not offered an opinion.

The decision to take the United States out of the pact prompted a negative reaction around the world, and world leaders redoubled their commitment to an accord agreed to by every country on the planet save Nicaragua and Syria.

China and Europe on Friday pledged to unite to save what German Chancellor Angela Merkel called “our Mother Earth,” standing firmly against Trump’s decision.

The vast majority of scientists believe global warming is mainly the result of human activities, including power generation, transportation, agriculture and industry.

A small group of skeptics, some of them in the White House, believe the Paris pact threatened business.

 

(Reporting by Mike Stone; additional reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

 

BetterEconomy.org: ‘Paris withdrawal good start, but we want more’

WASHINGTON — Americans for a Better Economy President Donald Ferguson released the following statement Thursday:

We hope today’s announcement is a total and immediate withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement as a participant, funder and signatory. The U.S. must have no involvement whatsoever with this agreement, starting immediately.

Thousands of Americans for a Better Economy supporters signed our petition at BetterEconomy.org demanding total and immediate withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement. We hope today’s announcement by President Trump fulfills that demand made by thousands of voting conservatives.

The U.N.’s own figures show the agreement has virtually no impact on global temperatures.  it would, however, cost 400,000 Americans their jobs and send electric bills skyrocketing by between 13 and 20 percent.

In fact, the existential threat posed by U.N. climate agreements requires even further steps.

Total and immediate withdrawal from the Paris agreement is only the first step.  So long as the U.S. remains in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, these threats to our jobs, our economy and our personal freedoms will always loom over us.

President Trump and the United States Senate must fully withdraw the U.S. from the U.N.F.C.C.

We urge President Trump submit this request for the Senate’s consideration and vote.

-30-

Americans for a Better Economy (http://www.BetterEconomy.org) is the nation’s most effective grassroots opponent of liberal environmentalism. 

Public flood DC with comments on Antiquities Act land grab review

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration’s call for an opening of U.S. national monuments to economic development has drawn 107,000 comments from the public.

President Donald Trump last month ordered the Interior Department to review some 27 national monuments created since 1996, with an eye to rescinding or shrinking the size of some of them to increase development opportunities.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke gave the public until May 26 to comment on Bears Ears, the country’s newest monument, and until July 10 to comment on the rest.

As of Friday, groups and individuals had posted more than 107,000 comments on a government website created to receive them as part of the review process, a high number given the short time frame.

A Commerce Department call for public comments on regulatory hurdles completed last month drew under 200 comments.

Many industry groups and politicians, including Utah’s governor, two senators and congressman, want Zinke to reverse monument designations and turn over control of the protected lands to states.

Zinke is due to give his recommendation to Trump on Bears Ears on June 10 and publish a report on the other monuments later.

 

(M)any opponents of the monument designations have posted comments, with some arguing that barring large swaths of land from any development keeps the public from fully enjoying these areas.

“Sweeping monument designations … restrict or eliminate opportunities for responsible off-highway motorized recreation on public lands,” said one anonymous comment, from a self-described member of the American Motorcycle Association.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Tom Brown)