For the past two years, federal regulators under President Trump have spent much of their time relaxing environmental regulations the previous administration put in place. And when it has chosen to write new rules, it is often criticized for doing so too slowly.
But a cadre of blue states are going in the other direction, moving ahead with their anti-pollution own regulations and, occasionally, butting heads with federal officials while doing so. Here's a rundown from my colleagues, Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin.
- Colorado and New Mexico have adopted new policies attempting to capture more methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas operations in the state. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era rules targeting those emissions.
- Hawaii, New York and California, are banning the pesticide chlorpyrifos, linked to neurological problems in infants, as the Environmental Protection Agency allows the product to stay in the market as the chemical industry has resisted restrictions.
- Michigan and New Jersey, along with a handful of other states, are moving ahead to restrict a class of so-called “forever chemicals" that don't degrade in the environment and are linked to a number of health issues, including thyroid disease and certain cancers. At the same time, the EPA has promised to do the same with that class of compounds, called polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), though critics say the federal standards would not go far enough.
- Oregon is taking direct aim at the Trump administration's rollbacks. This week, Gov. Kate Brown (D) is expected to sign a bill codifying into state law federal clean air and clean water standards that were in place before Trump took office.
- California is mounting probably the biggest legal battle of all with federal regulators. The state, with some of the most smog-choked cities in the country, is trying to tighten auto emissions standards as the EPA and Transportation Department loosen tailpipe rules on new cars and smaller pickup trucks. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia will follow California's lead if the state diverges from federal standards.
The problem of that patchwork of regulations: “At the end of the day, I think regulated entities want to know what the expectations are,” Wendy Heiger-Bernays, an environmental health professor at Boston University, told Dennis and Eilperin. “They’d prefer not to have two different standards — one in one state and another in another state.”
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— 2020 watch: Here's the latest on climate proposals coming out of the growing Democratic field.
- Biden: During a campaign rally in Philadelphia on Saturday, the former vice president touted priorities including tackling climate change and expanding health-care access, as the New York Times reports. He spoke about his climate plan, which some Democrats and presidential rivals have suggested doesn’t go far enough. “If you want to know what the first, most important plank in my climate proposal is, beat Trump,” he said. “Beat Trump, beat Trump.”
- Buttigieg: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg released more than a dozen new policy proposals, including a climate change proposal that includes a tax on carbon emissions. In an interview, he outlined some of his priorities: “We no longer have the luxury of debating whether to prepare for climate change, it's on us … As president, I want to massively increase research and investment in renewable energy in solar, wind, and also technologies that can take carbon out of the atmosphere, because we're going to have to do both,” he said. “We also need to make sure we have carbon pricing."
- Inslee: Meanwhile, the climate plan released last week by Democratic candidate and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was praised by Green New Deal sponsor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who called it the “most serious comprehensive one” in the 2020 field thus far.
.@JayInslee’s climate plan is the most serious comprehensive one to address our crisis in the 2020 field.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 18, 2019
It meets key marks:
✅ Big enough
✅ Fast enough
✅ Economically stimulating for working people
✅ Acknowledges injustice w/ an eye to make communities whole https://t.co/C7nyEsdUxk
— Trump vs. California: The president took numerous jabs at the nation's most populous state during an address at the National Association of Realtors’ annual midyear legislative meetings on Friday, Politico reports. He repeated criticism he has expressed about the state’s high-speed rail project as well as what he has described as inadequate “forest management.” During his remarks, the president said such actions, rather than climate change, were to blame for the state's spate of deadly wildfires. “He blames it on global warming,” Trump said of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). “I say, ‘Look, try cleaning the floor of the forest a little bit. So you don’t have four feet of leaves and broken trees that have sat there for 25 years.’ "
— Deal reached on steel tariffs: The United States agreed on Friday to lift steel and aluminum tariffs from Mexico and Canada, “clearing a major obstacle to congressional passage of President Trump’s new North American trade deal, The Post’s David J. Lynch, Emily Rauhala and Damian Paletta report. “The bargain calls for Mexico and Canada to adopt tough new monitoring and enforcement measures to prevent subsidized Chinese steel from being shipped to the United States via their territory. In return, the United States will lift its tariffs in 48 hours,” they reported Friday. “Trump’s decision followed a Commerce Department report that concluded rising imports of foreign autos and auto parts threatened U.S. automotive research and development capabilities and thus impaired national security.”
— “This tech is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with climate change”: Gregory Jaczko, who served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 2005 to 2009, now argues nuclear power is too risky to be a feasible option for tackling climate change, he writes in this op-ed in The Post. Although in 1999, when he began to work on issues related to nuclear power, he believed “the risks from human-caused global warming seemed to outweigh the dangers of nuclear power,” he said his views began to shift when he first started on the commission in 2005. Soon, he began to doubt his claims that nuclear energy was safe. “Despite working in the industry for more than a decade, I now believe that nuclear power’s benefits are no longer enough to risk the welfare of people living near these plants,” he continues. “The current and potential costs — in lives and dollars — are just too high.”
— Louisiana’s climate crisis: A report released by the state government outlined how as global warming worsens, flood-prone communities will have to shift inland. The state’s economy will have to shift, too, from one that focuses largely on fishing, oil and gas industries, which are vulnerable to changes that come with climate change, E&E News reports. “Louisiana is in the midst of an existential crisis,” the report says. “We must accept that some areas of Louisiana cannot be preserved as is and that some residents will have less land and more water, potentially impacting their livelihoods and communities.”
— How climate change is affecting the Panama Canal: The canal has experienced lower water levels because of a serious drought. Carlos Vargas, the Panama Canal Authority’s executive vice president for environment, water and energy, called the last five months “the driest dry season in the history of the canal,” the New York Times reports. The shift has resulted in some shippers having to reduce how much cargo they carry. Because the canal sees about 5 percent of maritime trade, "[a]ny hiccup in its operation can ripple through the global economy and affect the United States, the origin or destination for much of the canal’s traffic. And those problems may become more commonplace as the climate changes.”
- House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife holds a hearing on the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday.
- The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands holds a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management holds a hearing on disaster preparedness on Wednesday.
— A throng of tornadoes: Dozens of twisters have hit the Plains since Friday, Matthew Cappucci writes. “On Saturday, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center (SPC) raised the severe weather threat to its second-highest level (4 out of 5) on Monday,” he adds. “That’s a surefire sign confidence is high for a potentially significant event. Since 2003, only 18 events have prompted SPC to raise a red flag that early.”