When President Trump announced the United States would begin the process of removing itself from the Paris climate accord, he promised to renegotiate to reenter the landmark climate agreement or begin an "entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States."
"We will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair," Trump told an audience in the Rose Garden. "And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine."
But over the weekend, the Trump administration largely punted on its first opportunity to push for a better deal for the United States, providing fodder for critics who say the offer from a president who once called climate change a "hoax" was never sincere in the first place.
From the National Resources Defense Council:
On Sunday, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt left a meeting early in Italy with fellow G-7 environmental ministers to attend a full Trump Cabinet meeting on Monday.
"I believe engaging in international discussion is of the utmost importance to the United States when it comes to environmental issues," Pruitt said in a statement to explain his departure. He also tweeted this:
In the week leading up to the Italy trip, Pruitt seemed to do little to abate some allies' ire over the the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Germany's environmental minister, in a striking rebuke to a formal ally, posted ahead of the meeting a web page of "fact-checks" into Trump's recent statements about the Paris deal. Here's some of what it said:
Trump: "As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States – which is what it does – [...]"
Fact checks: False. The agreement is not a punishment for anyone or any individual country.
Behind the scenes, German Chancellor Angela Merkel "is seeking to bolster support among G-20 members for tackling climate change ahead of a summit in Hamburg next month, while trying to avoid giving the impression she is rallying an anti-U.S. alliance," according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, France's newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, invited U.S. climate researchers to move to France -- which apparently is a sincere offer:
"Don’t be fooled by the cheeky slogan “Make Our Planet Great Again” and the snazzy graphic design — this is an actual policy and platform to recruit climate researchers. France, it boasts, has “top-level research infrastructure and laboratories as well as an effervescent startup ecosystem.”
American researchers fed up with the Trump administration’s rejection of the urgency of climate change can fill in a form detailing their vocation, nationality, and research interests. Then they get a customized pitch for why they ought to move to France," writes Rebecca Tan for Vox.
Here's Macron's "snazzy" tweet:
Other European environmental officials appeared to be happy that Pruitt showed up, however briefly:
1/ Italy's enviro minister says @EPAScottPruitt G7 participation "allowed us to start constructive dialogue on all environmental issues"— Juliet Eilperin (@eilperin) June 11, 2017
2/ Italian Minister Gian Luca Galletti adds at G7, Pruitt helped "to open new channels of business cooperation between our two countries."— Juliet Eilperin (@eilperin) June 11, 2017
Pruitt's statement aside, the relative disengagement of the United States from climate talks over the weekend belie an overlooked fact in the Paris fallout: The United States is still a member of the agreement. And it will be until November 2020, at the earliest.
That means Pruitt and other Trump officials will be invited to rounds of Paris climate talks, like the one scheduled in Germany in November, for years to come.
And even after that, should the United States go through with pulling out, the nation will still be a party to the overarching 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the treaty under which the Paris agreement was built.
So the Trump administration will have several more opportunities to strike the deal they say they want on a climate agreement. Excuses for leaving future meetings early will be harder and harder to come by.
|You are reading The Energy 202, our must-read tipsheet on energy and the environment.|
|Not a regular subscriber?|
-- The deadline has come and gone for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to make his recommendation for the fate of Bears Ears National Monument, a 1.35 million-acre plot of land in Utah that President Obama controversially protected by naming it a national monument at the end of his time in office. President Trump has ordered a review of Bears Ears and 26 other national monuments, a designation that limits drilling and logging in an area deemed to be of historic or scientific interest.
Both the pro- and anti-development sides of the issue are eagerly anticipating Zinke's recommendation, which will set expectations for the fate of the other 26 national monuments under review. Zinke's deadline for making the recommendation was Saturday, but it's unclear when an announcement will be made public.
-- The days of ExxonMobil cooperating with New York's probe into whether the company has misled investors on climate change issues are long gone. In arguing that another subpoena of company records should be rejected, Exxon in a court filing called the state's investigation "harassment" and "reckless and false."
"For a prosecutor proceeding in good faith, the absence of any evidence of wrongdoing is grounds for closing an investigation, not expanding it," Exxon told the court, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, the office of New York's attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, said one Exxon witness told prosecutors that the company may have erased seven-years worth of emails Rex Tillerson sent under the alias "Wayne Tracker," which the former Exxon chief executive used to discuss sensitive business matters.
InsideClimate News explains the focus of the investigation:
[The email alias] was created at the same time that investigators claim Exxon may have been using two sets of numbers to calculate the cost of carbon emissions as a way to assess climate-related risks to the company's business. One set of numbers was publicly given to investors showing a conservative and less risky calculation; a second, closely held internal "secret" set of numbers painted a less realistic assessment on which Exxon based its business strategy, Schneiderman said in the latest court filings.
With the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica finally beginning to "heal" after years of deterioration from a class of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, scientists are concerned by another hazard to the protective layer of gas. Chelsea Harvey reports for The Post:
Severe storms over the central United States may be posing bigger problems beyond bad weather. New research suggests that frequent summertime storms in the Great Plains region could be depleting the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, putting humans at increased risk of unhealthy exposure to ultraviolet radiation. And some scientists believe that climate change could make the situation worse.
Many parts of Trump's Rose Garden speech withdrawing from the Paris climate accords have been debunked. But recently The Post's Michelle Ye Hee Lee gave some extra scrutiny to some overlooked claims on "clean coal" and the opening of new mines.
THE CLAIM: Trump said the Paris agreement hurt the development of the U.S. coal industry. Now that he is president, he said, “mines are starting to open up."
THE FACTS: "The new mines that are scheduled to open, including in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, are ones that will produce metallurgical coal, which is used to make steel. This coal is used to produce coke, which is then used to blast the furnace to create metal. It’s different from thermal coal, which is burned for steam to produce heat and electricity."
"The Paris deal focuses on carbon emissions from electricity-generating coal, not metallurgical coal."
THE CLAIM: Trump claimed the Paris agreement is blocking the development of “clean coal."
THE FACTS: "'Clean coal' is rhetoric often used to describe carbon capture and storage, a technique to capture carbon emissions from power plants, transport it through pipelines and inject it deep into the ground to make oil wells more productive. Since the United States signed on to the Paris agreement in 2015, this technology has continued to develop in the United States."
If anything will hurt U.S. "clean coal" efforts, it's more likely to be Trump's budget cuts to parts of the government researching it.
Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic governor of Virginia, had an op-ed in The Post on Friday describing what states like his can do to lead on clean energy:
Last month, I signed an executive directive to begin the process of establishing a statewide cap on carbon dioxide emissions by Virginia’s electric utilities. When complete, these regulations will significantly reduce the commonwealth’s contribution to global warming and make Virginia a leader in the clean-energy economy... I am proud that, despite our reputation as a Southern state hostile to renewable energy, Virginia is the first state in the Trump era to take action to cut carbon and create clean-energy jobs. But we cannot meet this threat alone. It is imperative that others pick up the mantle of leadership that Trump dropped.
Here are some more local headlines:
- The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold its hearing on Tuesday on the nominations of Kristine Svinicki, Annie Caputo and David Wright to be members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the nomination of Susan Bodine to be assistant administrator of the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance of the EPA.
- House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry will hold a public hearing on small watershed infrastructure on Tuesday.
- The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday on “the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act.”
- The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy will hold a hearing on Wednesday on "Energy Security Planning, Emergency Preparedness, and State Energy Programs."
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands will hold a legislative hearing Wednesday on the SHARE Act.
- The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power is holding a legislative hearing Wednesday on hydropower and water bills.
- The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee will hold a Thursday hearing on the 2018 farm bill.
- EPA head Scott Pruitt will testify on Thursday before the House Appropriations Interior, Environment and Related Agencies subcommittee next week on the agency’s proposed budget.
- Later this month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration will host its 2017 EIA Energy Conference in Washington D.C.
Watch President Trump drop binders of environmental reports to the ground during a speech at the U.S. Department of Transportation:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says President Trump is getting in the way of his own agenda:
Watch footage of a mother bear, her cub and a coyote fighting near a trash can: