THE LIGHTBULB

Environmentalists and critics derided President Trump's speech yesterday in which he touted his environmental accomplishments.

“Facing Cabinet members, including his Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department chiefs, the president said he had urged his deputies to tackle environmental challenges “so we can provide the highest quality of life to all Americans,” my colleagues Juliet Eilperin and Seung Min Kim reported.

They added: “'We want the cleanest air, we want crystal clear water. And that’s what we’re doing,' [Trump] said. 'These are incredible goals that everyone in this country can rally behind, and they are rallying behind.' Touting the United States’ level of access to drinking water, Trump boasted that his White House was working 'harder than many previous administrations' on the issue of the environment, adding: 'Maybe almost all of them.'"

Not so, cried environmentalists, who say the Trump administration is more likely to be remembered for rolling back President Obama's environmental policies and not doing much to advance climate change after withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord.

They pointed to a number of ways in which the president's rhetoric is inconsistent with his actions. “Regrettably, the president’s rhetoric and the statements he’s made on climate are, at best, disingenuous,” former congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told Juliet and Seung Min.

  • The administration recently rolled back Obama's clean power plant regulations, allowing power plants to produce more pollution that is blamed for worsening climate change.
  • It soon intends to freeze tougher mileage standards for cars and pickup trucks. Twenty-three governors, in mostly Democratic-led states, announced last night they will back California in sticking to pre-Trump administration admissions goals.
  • Federal data suggests air quality is worsening: “The number of unhealthy days for ozone and soot pollution reached 799 in 2018 and 721 in 2017, according to EPA data, the highest levels they’ve hit since 2012. The nation’s carbon dioxide emissions increased more than 3 percent last year, according to the federal government, their biggest increase since 2010,” report Juliet and Seung Min.
  • EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler echoed Trump's boasts, saying: “I do believe that our air is cleaner and our water is cleaner than other countries around the world. And I think the data supports that,"  according to my colleagues.
  • But: “While U.S. water quality ranks among the highest in the world, and Americans face relatively low exposure to fine particle pollution, or soot, the country’s smog problem is much worse than dozens of other countries across the globe. The Health Effects Institute’s State of Global Air 2019 report shows the United States ranks 123rd out of 195 nations when it comes to smog, or ozone pollution.”

The bottom line is Trump argues he is taking a “practical approach” to regulating environmental hazards that takes into account a “strong economy,” according to administration officials. But critics believe that strategy is far too industry friendly and risks any progress made toward mitigating the effects of climate change.

Many 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have made climate change a priority in their campaign messaging. Although new Washington Post/ABC News polling shows that climate change still ranks relatively low on a list of issue priorities for voters, "81 percent of Democrats said climate change was 'very important,' compared with more than the 56 percent of independents and 26 percent of Republicans,” write Juliet and Seung Min. 

Here's a smattering of reactions to Trump's speech, which some noted took place after an awful Washington, D.C. rain storm:

Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur: 

The Guardian's Emily Holden: 

MSNBC's Chris Hayes: 

Via HuffPost's Alex Kaufman: 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination: 

Clean Air Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Note to readers: Dino Grandoni is on vacation and will be back at the helm of this newsletter on Monday, July 15. Meanwhile, we have an all-star lineup of Post writers to keep you up-to-date on all your energy and environmental needs. Thanks for reading.

POWER PLAYS

— Dems want to declare a climate emergency: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) are planning to introduce a resolution to declare climate change an official emergency, though it would not force any formal climate action. “Senator Sanders is proud to partner with his House colleagues to challenge this absurdity and have Congress declare what we all know: we are facing a climate emergency that requires a massive and immediate federal mobilization,” a spokesperson for the Vermont senator told The Guardian. Meanwhile, Blumenauer’s office said he “decided to draft the resolution after Donald Trump declared an emergency at the US border with Mexico so he could pursue building a wall between the two countries.”

— The latest on Iran’s move to surpass uranium enrichment cap: The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed Iran’s announcement it enriched uranium beyond the limit set by its 2015 deal. “Iran has said that it will scale back its obligations under the accord at 60-day intervals and gave Europe another deadline of Sept. 5 before taking a third step to breach the agreement,” The Post’s Erin Cunningham reports. “Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, said Monday that if European nations ‘do not fulfill their commitments seriously and do not do anything more than talk, Iran’s third step will be harder, more steadfast and somehow stunning,’ the Associated Press reported.”

In case you missed it: The Post’s Adam Taylor explains what Iran’s latest uranium enrichment boost means.

— Two dozen governors want Trump to stop rollback of clean car rules: According to a draft statement, the group of governors representing 52 percent of the U.S. population will urge the administration to reconsider its move to relax mileage standards and also call on the president to allow California to set its own rules, the New York Times reports. “Strong vehicle standards protect our communities from unnecessary air pollution and fuel costs, and they address the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States,” the governors wrote. “We must unite to ensure a strong, science-based national standard, in California and across the country, that increases year over year.”

— Health groups file suit against Trump’s rollback of key Obama climate rule: The American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association are suing the administration over its repeal of Obama's clean power plan, which lowered carbon emissions from power plants that worsen climate change.

In a statement, the groups said the EPA “abdicates its legal duties and obligations to protect public health under the Clean Air Act, which is why we are challenging these actions… EPA has legal authority and obligation under the Clean Air Act to protect and preserve public health and welfare, including by regulating carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants. However, it is simply not lawful for EPA to use its legal authority in ways that will increase dangerous air pollutants and harm the health of Americans.”

The Energy 202 wrote last week that while the administration says the rule will reduce carbon emissions, as many as 16 states could see an increase in carbon emissions under the plan. 

— Climate change, scrubbed: A March news release from the U.S. Geological Survey got rid of references to climate change, E&E News reports. The release highlighted a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, which assessed the impact of climate change on California’s economy, predicting $100 billion in damages related to global warming and sea-level rise in the state by the end of the century. “The agency's press release about the California coastline study was significantly altered to mask the potential impact of rising temperatures on the state's economy,” per the report. “Instead, it described the methodology of the study and how it relied on ‘state-of-the-art computer models’ and various sea-level rise predictions.” The USGS released is the latest example of a “pattern of downplaying climate research at USGS and in other agencies within the administration.”

THERMOMETER

— How the climate crisis could change fire season in Alaska: The abnormally warm season in Alaska has sparked concerns about worsening wildfires there this summer, and experts are worried that means a strain on national resources. Experts told The Post’s Liz Weber that after years of Alaskan fire crews being dispatched to states in the Lower 48 to help battle their fires, this year Alaska is expecting to have to call on so-called hotshot crews from the Lower 48 for help.  “When it’s busy here, they are very dependent on calling up resources from the Lower 48,” Alison York, coordinator for the Alaska Fire Consortium, told Liz. This fire season, state has “already requested crews from Western states this fire season, even receiving aircraft support from Canada to assist with the Swan Lake Fire."

— Every beach in Mississippi is closed because of toxic algae: All 21 beaches in the state of Mississippi have been closed because of a blue-green Harmful Algal Bloom across the region’s waters, with the final two beaches closed on Sunday. “The algal bloom, or rapid growth, is in part caused to the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway in Louisiana, which introduced an excessive amount of freshwater to the coastline,” the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports. “The blue-green algae is technically not an algae, but cyanobacteria, which is known to produce toxins. Exposure can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, climate change is exacerbating the blooms, causing them to “occur more often and in locations not previously affected.”

OIL CHECK

— There’s record natural gas production, but it’s not getting to everyone: Some parts of the country can’t get access to the natural gas that’s overflowing in the United States. While drillers in West Texas are burning off their oversupply, some customers in New York City can’t get the gas delivered because of “jammed supply lines running into the city on the coldest winter days,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “…With U.S. homes, power plants and factories using more natural gas than ever, the uneven distribution of the shale boom’s bounty means that consumers can end up paying more or even become starved for fuel, while companies that can’t get it to market lose out on profits. Around New York City, the dearth of gas has cast uncertainty over new developments and raised fears of stifling economic growth.”  

DAYBOOK

Today

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy holds a legislative hearing.

Coming Up

  • The House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on Water Resources Development Acts on Wednesday.
  • The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands holds a legislative hearing on Wednesday.
  • The House Science, Space and Technology Committee holds a hearing on glacial and ice sheet melt and climate change on Thursday.
EXTRA MILEAGE

— A WMATA waterfall: After heavy rains and flash floods poured through the D.C. region on Monday morning, floodwater was seen rushing through a metro station in Virginia.