Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Biden Ready Now To Restore The EPA Away From Trumpian Anti-Climate BS


Top: Methane gas flaring from a pit in Bakken oil field. Lower: Satellite image of melting permafrost near  Liverpool Bay, Canada.

Few people are aware that in the first  18 months of the Trump administration, 1,200 staff members left the EPA- half of them scientists.  They were simply unable to sign onto a deplorable and deliberate program to gut science at the agency and replace it with PR and propaganda.  Those numbers represent an enormous trove of expertise that will be difficult to recover.

Early on in Trump's reign of terror he set loose a string of environmental atrocities  on the EPA to try to irreparably damage the agency.  One such atrocity was intended to weaken yet another an Obama-era requirement: one that mandated that companies monitor and repair methane leaks.. This was according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. In a related move, Trump's Interior Department released its final version of a 2018 draft rule that essentially repealed a restriction on the intentional venting and “flaring,” or burning, of methane from drilling operations.

In July of the same year the E.P.A. proposed weakening a rule on carbon dioxide pollution from vehicle tailpipes. And in August, the agency proposed replacing the rule on carbon dioxide pollution from coal-fired power plants with a weaker one that would allow far more global-warming emissions to flow unchecked from the nation’s smokestacks.

In the words of Janet McCabe, the E.P.A.’s top climate and clean-air regulator in the Obama administration.:

"They’re taking them down, one by one,” 

For the fossil fuelers, of course, jubilation reigned or something close to it. Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, an association of independent oil and gas companies based in Denver, spun it thusly:  

"The Obama-era E.P.A. methane rule was the definition of red tape. It was a record-keeping nightmare that was technically impossible to execute in the field.”

In actual fact, this is a disgusting dodge and also an admission of colossal inefficiency given the fossil fuel energy sector appeared more open to wasting product than harnessing it.   As noted in a paper in the journal Science, methane emissions from domestic oil and gas operations reached 2.3 percent of total production last year. Not much you say?   Well, it's 60 percent higher than current estimates from the EPA and it translates into an estimated 13 million tons of natural gas lost - or enough to fuel 10 million homes.

Try to process that. And while you're at it, that all this lost methane instead went directly into the atmosphere to add to the already powerful CO2 driven greenhouse effect.  Let's quantify that for you: The Trumpie EPA conceded at the time that easing the rule for methane leaks would put as ,much as 380,000 additional tons of methane into the atmosphere from 2019 to 2025. This added amount would be equivalent to 30 million tons of  CO2 - given methane's much higher forcing factor.

The  Science journal study was based on the culmination of five years of research to determine the effects of methane leakage and its effect on climate. Leaks themselves can occur at many places along the natural gas supply chain, including poorly maintained pipes, seals and storage tanks - and even certain equipment that emits gas by design- including outmoded pneumatic devices.

To read more about the paper's findings go to:

Oil and Gas Facilities Leak More Methane Than ... - Scientific American

Sgamma, meanwhile, had  praised the Trump administration for turning the oil companies’ requests into policy, i.e. formalizing the gross inefficiency, while  noting that the Obama administration frequently turned proposals from environmental groups into policy.   She had the audacity to blab at the time:

It all depends on who you trust.  That administration trusted environmentalists. This one trusts industry.”

Well, those days are over!  Now, at last,  it's all out war on these miscreants.

As reported in the NY Times, the Denver Post and WaPo two weeks ago, the Biden administration is taking the extraordinary  step of providing a public accounting of the Trump gang's  political interference in science.   This long overdue step will entail drawing up a list of dozens of regulatory decisions warped by political interference in objective research.  Such as the matter of methane flaring and other unintended CH4 leaks.

The effort could buttress efforts to unwind the spurious pro-business regulations of the past four years, while uplifting agencies' science staff battered by four years of disregard. It is particularly explicit at the Environmental Protection Agency.  This is where President Biden’s political appointees said they felt that an honest accounting of past problems was necessary to assure career scientists that their findings would no longer be buried or manipulated.  One could say it has the highest priority to restore confidence to all the federal agencies that do science and I agree.   There can be no stone unturned in rooting out all the Trump tentacles of misinformation and disinformation. 

In a blunt memo earlier this month, one senior Biden appointee said political tampering under the Trump administration had “compromised the integrity” of agency science. She cited specific examples, such as Trumpie plants discounting studies that showed the harm of dicamba, a herbicide in popular weed killers such as Roundup that has been linked to cancer and subsequently ruling that its effectiveness outweighed its risks.

The broader list of decisions where staffers say scientific integrity was violated is expected to reach about 90 items, according to one person involved in the process. It currently includes well-known controversies like the miasma of decisions around Pebble Mine, a proposed copper and gold mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, as well as rulings around relatively obscure toxic chemicals.  

In the words of current EPA administrator, Michael Regan, in an agency wide email message 2 weeks ago Tuesday:

Manipulating, suppressing, or otherwise impeding science has real-world consequences for human health and the environment, When politics drives science rather than science informing policy, we are more likely to make policy choices that sacrifice the health of the most vulnerable among us.”

He asked employees to bring “any items of concern” to the agency’s scientific integrity officials or the independent inspector general and pledged to encourage “the open exchange of differing scientific and policy positions.”

Trump’s well-documented, abominable attacks on science include doctoring a map with a black Sharpie to avoid acknowledging that he was wrong about the path of a hurricane and pressuring scientists to back his false claim; meddling in federal coronavirus research; and pressuring regulators to approve COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Those actions provoked bipartisan concern during his administration.

It is now time to restore scientific credibility on multiple critical science issues, which the Trump scum had debased, distorted and defiled.

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