June 11, 2020
In California, minority communities were already being disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Now that threat is compounding on communities of color as wildfire season flares up, and as thousands take to the streets to protest racial injustice, sometimes being forced to inhale tear gas as police attempt to disperse crowds.
The Environmental Protection Agency is facing a third lawsuit over its policy to suspend penalties for companies that stop monitoring their pollution outputs during the coronavirus pandemic. The Center for Biological Diversity on Wednesday announced that it intended to sue the agency, arguing its new policy violates the Endangered Species Act.
Climate scientist Michael Mann calls it a "Faustian bargain." Burning fossil fuels releases heat-trapping greenhouse gases, but it also releases sulfate aerosols that help cool the planet. And with emissions for both types of gases way down because of coronavirus-related shutdowns, it could actually mean short-term melting in the Arctic this summer.
Following criticisms over the agency's treatment of landowners, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a rule this week that will delay the start of construction on energy infrastructure projects like pipelines until it makes determinations on requests to appeal its approvals. Previously, companies could continue construction even as landowners challenge an agency ruling.
A Colorado environmental group dropped plans to place an anti-fracking measure on the state's November ballot, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. It's the second state initiative to be put off this year over virus worries. The group, Colorado Rising, had been exploring several ballot initiatives to place more stringent regulations on oil and gas drilling in Colorado, the fifth-largest U.S. oil-producing state.
June 10, 2020
Black activists in Louisiana's "Cancer Alley" have been protesting a planned petrochemical project for years, but any visits to the site could soon be punishable with a minimum three years in prison under a new bill awaiting the governor's signature. The legislation comes as other states have enacted similar laws in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, imposing harsh penalties for trespassing on pipeline property.
Some of the country's most polluting industries have flooded state regulators with requests to ease environmental regulations, NPR reports. Companies across the country say the pandemic is interfering with their ability to comply with laws that protect the public from pollution, but some public health advocates say state regulators already weren't doing enough to enforce environmental protections.
Philip Alston, who spent years at the United Nations confronting the world's vast societal injustices, hopes that the current protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, along with threats from Covid-19 and global warming, will act as a wake up call for change. But he also fears what he calls "crisis fatigue."
Elizabeth Yeampierre has been an important voice in the environmental justice movement for more than two decades. As co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance, she leads a coalition of more than 70 organizations focused on addressing racial and economic inequities together with climate change—and sees the fights against climate change and racial injustice as deeply intertwined.
The Bureau of Land Management is considering a plan that would expand drilling into some of northern New Mexico's last available public lands, threatening the desecration of sacred Native American artifacts near Chaco Canyon while bringing in a swath of new public health risks to a place that's already reeling from one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the world.
The world's 14 biggest carmakers are on course to miss globally agreed upon climate targets, a leading sustainable finance think tank said on Wednesday, urging investors to do more to pressure boards to change their production plans. The report looked at automakers' plans for electric vehicles, hybrid and internal combustion engine vehicles, finding no companies were in line with the Paris climate accord.
The first major U.S. offshore wind farm, planned for the Massachusetts coast, reached a key permitting milestone on Tuesday with the publishing of a long-awaited federal environmental study that considers the project's impacts on fisheries and navigation. That marks a step forward for the Vineyard Wind project, which has experienced delays over concerns that its wind turbines will hurt commercial fishing.
Britain is about to pass a significant landmark. At midnight on Wednesday, the country will have gone two full months without burning coal to generate power, BBC reports. A decade ago about 40 percent of the country's electricity came from coal, but plummeting demand for electricity due to pandemic-related shutdowns and cheaper renewable sources prompted officials to shut down coal plants.
June 9, 2020
As marchers in the United States and around the world filled the streets this past week to protest against police brutality and racial injustice, black scientists grieved openly on social media, calling for action on racism in society and in science. Many called on colleagues, universities and scientific societies to support black scientists and publicly condemn racism.
In its latest attempt to speed up fossil fuel development, the Trump administration has finalized a rule that limits how states can protect their waterways under the Clean Water Act. That change, which focuses on "point source discharges" could affect a number of fossil fuel projects across the country, including a proposed natural gas pipeline in New Jersey and a proposed gas terminal in Oregon.
While the Trump administration has expressed scorn over climate change backlash interfering with fossil fuel development, federal judges continue to rule in ways that suggest the administration should be taking global warming seriously, Bloomberg reports. At least six times, federal judges have ruled that the administration didn't adequately consider climate change in land leases or oil projects.
Amid the ongoing public health crisis, California's freight and oil industries are using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to try to delay two proposed regulations that would limit diesel exhaust throughout the state, sparking outrage from clean air advocates. Long-term exposure to exhaust can cause serious allergies, cardiopulmonary diseases, cancer and premature death.
A new Interior Department move to leave controversial temporary leaders in place indefinitely may violate laws on filling vacancies, legal experts say, and skirts requirements for Senate confirmation. There are so far no clear guidelines for how long William Pendley, acting head of Bureau of Land Management, and David Vela, acting director of the National Park Service, should continue to serve, The Hill reports.
Cristobal remained a tropical depression as it pushed northward along the lower Mississippi Valley on Monday, a day after making landfall as a tropical storm with 50-mph winds along the Louisiana coastline. Forecasters say the system will continue into the Midwest, where it will join forces with a non-tropical storm mid-week, unleashing strong winds and soaking rain across parts of the region.
In the last decade, China has tried to stake out a position as a global leader on climate change by weaning itself off coal, building up renewable power infrastructure and investing in electric vehicles. But as the country faces an economic crisis caused by a pandemic, it has begun to loosen restrictions on industrial pollution and is inching back toward coal use, Bloomberg reports.
The United States, along with the EU, this week supported calls from the world's airline industry to change a landmark international scheme that would force most of the world's airlines to begin offsetting their carbon emissions starting next year. The industry says the scheme puts too much financial burden on airlines that are already struggling with plummeting air travel demand due to coronavirus.
June 8, 2020
President Trump is easing protections for a large marine protected area off the coast of New England, opening it to commercial fishing. But ocean experts caution that the rollback to protections of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument will hurt the environment and won't help fishermen who are struggling to sell anything during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the wake of new research predicting megadrought in the West, and after an exceptionally dry spring, the Four Corners region is headed into the summer of 2020 with deep uncertainty. On top of the disruption from the coronavirus pandemic, summer forecasts suggest yet more heat waves, wildfire and water supply shortages for Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
An executive order President Trump signed last week that lifts environmental review of major projects, including pipelines and other development for polluting industries, will disproportionately harm minority communities, experts warn. Communities of color often bear the brunt of polluting facilities, which also exposes those communities to higher risk of Covid-19, our own reporting shows.
An asset manager with deep pockets is buying up irrigated agricultural land in western Colorado to lease that land back to farmers for profit as climate change exacerbates drought and makes water scarcity more likely in the future. This article was published in partnership with Aspen Journalism and KUNC in Colorado.
American Climate Video: A Maintenance Manager Made Sure Everyone Got Out of Apple Tree Village Alive
As the 2018 Camp Fire raged toward Paradise, California, Stephen Murray had just a few hours to help evacuate 281 senior citizens from the mobile home park where he worked. "I kicked in their doors. I woke them up, I got them out of bed and got them to safety," Murray said. This is part of our American Climate series documenting how climate change is impacting people across the country.
U.S. taxpayers could be on the hook for billions of dollars in climate-related property losses as the government backs a growing number of mortgages on homes in the path of floods, fires and extreme weather, Politico reports. With extreme rainfall on the rise as the planet warms, more homes are being built on at-risk land as fewer people buy federally backed flood insurance.
The federal government is proposing a $4.6 billion plan to protect the low-lying Miami area from the effects of climate change, including the construction of miles of walls to protect the coast from sea level rise. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released a draft plan Friday calling for walls tall enough to protect thousands of homes and businesses from flooding that could reach about 13 feet in height.
The world's largest rainforest is set for another record year of burning, and an area 11 times the size of New York City could be set ablaze, a new report warns. The report comes as many Brazillian patrols that work to stop illegal logging have been sidelined or sickened by Covid-19. Every year, illegal loggers level huge swaths of jungle, then burn the land to make way for crops or cattle.
June 5, 2020
As protests for racial justice roiled the nation, President Trump on Thursday signed his third executive order aimed at speeding up fossil fuel development. With no press and no cameras allowed, there was little fanfare as Trump signed the order, which invoked an "economic emergency" as a reason to waive the enforcement of the nation's environmental protection rules.