Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D—Arizona), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Peter Dykstra: Coming attractions

Between the shutdowns, showdowns, and an already-cluttered 2020 challenge to Trump, a few environmental observations

This week, President Trump directed his Thumbs of Fury at Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.


A former Senator and conservative loyalist, Coats led a team of intelligence chiefs in presenting their annual Worldwide Threat Assessment to Congress. In addition to contradicting Trump's rosy views on Russia, North Korea, ISIS and more, Coats said climate change posed a dire threat to global security.

Trump had already tweeted his obligatory tweet that the blast of Arctic air momentarily over his head disproved "global waming (sic)." But then he added that his hand-picked security bosses needed to go "back to school."

Two years into the Trump Era, it was no shocker that Trump's dogma overruled data or expertise. I guess it wasn't even a shocker that the Presidential spellcheck didn't even bother challenging "waming."

But back in the real world, voters have returned control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats, and control of the chamber and key House committees have changed hands.

Democrat Raul Grijalva replaced Republican Rob Bishop as Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. Together, the two combine for a lifetime League of Conservation Voters (LCV) score of 98% -- Grijalva at 96%, and Bishop at 2%. The scores represent an annual performance rating put out by the LCV on House and Senate members for "good" and "bad" environmental votes.

Bishop called for the revocation of the Endangered Species Act, transferring its powers to state agencies ill-prepared and largely unwilling to enforce it.

Bishop also pushed to gut the Antiquities Act, the 1906 law used by Presidents Clinton and Obama to sidestep Congress in protecting Western lands.

Grijalva and his fellow Democrats are now in a position to block regressive legislation and probe potentially shady dealings within federal agencies.

Grijalva also promises to look backward. House Democrats now have the subpoena power they lacked during the brief and contentious reigns of Scott Pruitt at the EPA and Ryan Zinke at the Interior.

While most of the dozen-plus misconduct complaints against Zinke were closed with no action taken, Grijalva may still move on an alleged conflict of interest involving a land deal in Whitefish, Montana, Zinke's hometown.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee became an inquisition chamber for climate science under Chair Lamar Smith of Texas, who retired this month. His understudy, Californian Dana Rohrabacher, lost his re-election bid. Eddie Bernice Johnson, the Dallas-area Congressional veteran who led Democratic resistance to Smith, takes over the gavel.

Little should change on the Senate side, with Republicans retaining control. Two new Senators bring climate-denying credentials to the job: Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn led a crusade against energy-efficient lighting in the House in 2011; as Florida Governor, Rick Scott reportedly banned the mention of climate change from government meetings or reports. Scott denied the charge made by whistleblowers in 2015.

Finally, in lining up replacements for the departed Pruitt and Zinke, the Trump Administration took dramatically different approaches: EPA's Andrew Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist. By contrast, Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist.

And on Thursday, the EPA announced the appointment of John Christy to its Science Advisory Board. Christy is a go-to authority for climate deniers. His published salary for the last complete fiscal year in the University of Alabama system is $277,658, which would make him one of the best case studies that climate scientists are only in it for the money.

Print Friendly and PDF
SUBSCRIBE TO EHN'S MUST-READ DAILY NEWSLETTER: ABOVE THE FOLD
Credit: WWF Malaysia/William Joseph
Children

Balancing palm oil and protected forests to conserve orangutans

Orangutan populations have decreased in fragmented forest areas near palm oil plantations, but they have remained fairly stable in protected forests, giving conservationists some hope for the species' future amid continued decline, according to a new study.

Keep reading... Show less
Corals in American Samoa region that survived a 2015 bleaching event. (Credit: Stephen Palumbi)
Originals

“A friend is gone:” Handpicking hardy corals to save them from warming waters

When Steve Palumbi and a group of scientists arrived in American Samoa in 2017, they saw a grim scene. Acropora hyacinthus, a charismatic coral shaped like large plates, was dying out.

Keep reading... Show less
Wil C. Fry/flickr
Toxics

Widely used PVC plastic chemical spurs obesity, prediabetes: Study

Mice exposed in the womb to a chemical used in PVC plastic, door and window frames, blinds, water pipes, and medical devices were more likely to suffer from prediabetes and obesity, according to a study released this week.

Keep reading... Show less
From our Newsroom

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.