Arnold Schwarzenegger is no fan of President Trump or his deputies, including Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt. Yet the former California governor cemented his place as perhaps the most anti-Trump Republican out there, at least on energy and environmental issues, by calling Pruitt “the worst environmental secretary that we have ever had.”
In an interview with Vice News published over the Memorial Day weekend, Schwarzenegger had unusually harsh words for the embattled EPA administrator.
“He's doing the bidding for the oil companies and the coal companies,” Schwarzenegger said when asked about the possibility the EPA will take away California's ability to set its own automobile emissions standards. "I pay no attention to what he says. He cannot be taken seriously."
At first glance, this may seem like typical Schwarzenegger, who on environmental issues is anything but a typical Republican. In the past, he has blasted Trump for an Interior Department proposal to expand offshore drilling, telling Trump not to “touch California.” After Trump announced he would pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord, he argued that the president's rejection of the deal did not matter because states and businesses will “pick up the slack.” Most congressional Republicans have embraced Trump's -- and Pruitt's -- deregulatory policies.
But Schwarzenegger is not alone among other California Republicans wary of the EPA's approach to the state.
The Trump administration is considering taking away the state's ability to set its own fuel-efficiency standards. During a recent hearing of the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the EPA's budget, Rep. Ken Calvert, a long-serving California Republican and that panel's chairman, pushed back. He emphasized to Pruitt that California's auto-emissions waiver under the Clean Air Act has enjoyed bipartisan support through the decades.
“This has been something that has been granted going back to the beginning of the Clean Air Act because of the leadership California demonstrated,” Pruitt said in response.
For the moment, California's waiver appeared not to be in jeopardy. But then a day later, The Post and other news outlets reported on a proposal drafted in large part by the Transportation Department that would freeze fuel-efficiency standards starting in 2021 and challenge California’s ability to set its own fuel-efficiency rules.
Even the auto industry seems to realize it got more than it bargained for by lobbying Trump to ease the standards. This month, Mitch Bainwol, president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, called for the Trump administration to keep up annual increases in fuel economy standard, saying it would be a citing a “regulatory nightmare” if California and other states wind up with one standard system while many other states have another.
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— Pruitt watch: The round-the-clock security detail needed to protect EPA chief Scott Pruitt cost taxpayers nearly $3.5 million during his first year at the helm of the agency, according to figures published by the agency on Friday. The agency spent $2.7 million on salaries for agents and another $760,000 on travel costs related to the security coverage. “The amount is nearly double what taxpayers paid annually on average to provide security for Pruitt’s two immediate predecessors, Gina McCarthy and Lisa Jackson, during their tenures,” The Post's Juliet Eilperin writes.
— Meanwhile, the Department of Energy's internal watchdog found no “inappropriate trips” for Rick Perry: DOE's inspector general found Trump's energy secretary has followed departmental policies when flying on noncommercial or military aircrafts during his first year leading the agency. April Stephenson, the deputy assistant inspector general, noted in her report to Perry the department “had not developed formal policies and procedures to justify and approve” such flights, recommending that the department codify them.
— Why New Jersey is leading the resistance to Trump’s offshore drilling plan: The reason, writes The Post's Darryl Fears, is the Garden State's long history of trashy beaches. Literally: Nine cities in New Jersey and New York once routinely dumped barges of waste in an area 100 miles off Cape May, resulting in raw sewage washing ashore until Congress passed an anti-dumping law in 1988.
Now, Fears writes, the Jersey Shore "is revitalized, a state treasure that residents, conservationists and politicians fiercely protect." Last month, the state's new Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, signed a law making New Jersey the first Atlantic state to adopt a legal barrier to offshore drilling.
— Major investor pulls out of Alaska mine: A major investor in the Pebble Mine project has pulled out of the controversial project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, jeopardizing the plan to build a gold and copper mine there near rich salmon fishing grounds, The Post's Eilperin and Steven Mufson report. First Quantam Minerals Ltd. backed out of the deal after providing $37.5 million initially and pledging $150 million over three years in exchange for a 50 percent share in the project. Environmental groups had lobbied First Quantum hard for months to withdraw from the project, which pit Alaska's mining and fishing sectors against each other. Even EPA chief Scott Pruitt earlier this year decided not to scrap an Obama-era determination that a large-scale mining operation could irreparably harm Alaska's Bristol Bay watershed.
— Two ex-Inhofe staffers make their way into the Trump administration: Just before leaving for recess last week, the Senate confirmed the nominations of Francis Fannon and Annie Caputo, both of whom used to work for Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), as assistant secretary of state for energy resources and a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, respectively. The picks further extend the influence of the snowball-wielding senator in the Trump administration, whose ex-aides populate the upper ranks of the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental posts in other departments.
Frank, one of my former staffers, can use his leadership and expertise effectively to advance American energy dominance and enforce energy sanctions, like those against Russia and Iran. Congratulations on your confirmation! https://t.co/fQTG3RrjR0— Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) May 24, 2018
Congratulations to my former staffer, Annie Caputo, on her confirmation today! Annie has over 20 years of experience handling nuclear energy issues, which will serve her well in her new role at the @NRCgov. https://t.co/m70cVM6dJK— Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) May 24, 2018
— It's not even hurricane season yet, and a named storm has already hit the United States: The subtropical storm Alberto, the first storm of the 2018 hurricane season, made landfall along the Florida panhandle late Monday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center projected 4 to 8 inches of rain with isolated amounts up to a foot into the panhandle and much of Alabama and western Georgia.
A named storm making landfall on the continental United States before the June 1 start date of official hurricane season is actually not that anomalous. It has actually happened at least nine times before, Brian McNoldy writes for The Post.
— Big banks have not abandoned King Coal, report says: A new analysis from the Rainforest Action Network, a left-leaning environmental advocacy group, found that five of the biggest banks in the United States are still lending tens or, in some cases, hundreds of millions of dollars to coal companies after vowing years ago to cut back on financing extraction of the fuel. "Even experts got the impression that banks were abandoning coal," the New York Times reports. However, the banks "left themselves plenty of room to respond if the coal industry recovered."
Bank of America and JPMorgan pushed back against the report's conclusions when reached by NYT, while Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley declined to comment.
— Not quite the last straw: McDonald’s shareholders late last week voted against a proposal to take steps toward banning plastic straws at the fast-food chain. The proposal would have required the company to prepare a report about the business risks of contributing to plastic pollution with its straws. But the shareholder resolution sucked up only 7.65 percent of the vote, USA Today reports.
— Saudi Arabia signals end to efforts to limit production: The kingdom Saudi Arabia said Friday it will end 18 months of efforts to limit production and drive up crude oil prices, The Post’s Mufson reports. One reason for the shift? An angry tweet from President Trump, according to a top official at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.
Namely, this one from April 20:
Looks like OPEC is at it again. With record amounts of Oil all over the place, including the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
Mufson writes: “The drop erased a three-week rally that was based in large part on geopolitical worries about unrest in Venezuela and U.S. calls to curtail purchases of Iranian oil."
— Meanwhile, Saudis ink a shale deal: Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia's state-run oil company, Saudi Aramco, reached an agreement with Halliburton to boost production in three shale fields on the Arabian peninsula, the New York Times reports. “The companies did not reveal many details of their three-year contract, but it represented an expansion of Saudi Aramco’s efforts to produce more natural gas to support its growing chemical industry,” per the report. Aramco is eyeing an initial public offering "most likely" next year, Bloomberg News reports.
- Congress is in recess all week.
- The Wilson Center holds an event on solutions in Arctic meteorology.
- The World Resources Institute holds an event on one year since President Trump’s announcement on the Paris climate accord on Wednesday.
- The Wilson Center holds an event on sustainable water on Wednesday.
- EPA’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources research program holds a webinar on lake and stream assessment on Wednesday.
- The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy holds a webinar on stage gate metrics for ocean energy technology on Wednesday.
- The Atlantic Council holds an event on supply chain vulnerabilities in the software era on Wednesday.
- The House Science, Space an Technology Committee holds a field hearing on earthquake mitigation on Thursday.
- S&P Global Platts holds its 13th annual Northeast Power and Gas Markets Conference starting on Thursday.
- The Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment holds a discussion on solar jobs and the economic impact on Thursday.
- The United States Energy Association holds an event on coal mine drainage on Thursday.
- The Citizens' Climate Lobby's 9th annual international conference and lobby day June 10-12.
— This is not a camera trick: Those are indeed blue flames crackling up on the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. As the U.S. Geological Survey explains, vegetation buried by the lava flows produces methane, which burns with that eerie blue hue.