Virginia residents vow to fight on after natural gas project gets environmental approval

Anti-pipeline activists hope to change the mind of Democratic candidate for governor.

A “No Pipeline” sign is posted next to a property line marker only a few feet from the center line of the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Bolar, VA. CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber

Virginia residents and environmental groups are vowing to keep fighting proposed natural gas projects after federal regulators dealt their efforts another blow on Friday by issuing a favorable environmental analysis of a major pipeline project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) conclusion that the Mountain Valley Pipeline project “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts” came as little surprise to opponents, considering the agency has given almost every pipeline application it has reviewed an environmental green light.

Environmental groups condemned the findings in FERC’s environmental review of Mountain Valley. Following a pattern established with its review of other pipeline projects, FERC swept aside Mountain Valley’s threats to water resources, the safety of communities, and the climate, Oil Change International said in a statement.

“FERC severely undercounts climate pollution by ignoring methane leakage across the gas supply chain, which makes gas as dirty or dirtier than coal, and by omitting emissions from upstream fracking,” Oil Change International research analyst Kelly Trout said. “FERC also wrongly assumes that gas supplied by the project is likely to replace coal, when it’s just as likely to lock out the clean energy and efficiency alternatives we urgently need.”

Mountain Valley and another proposed Virginia pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, are facing strong opposition from residents who live along their routes. On the other hand, FERC and other government agencies are working closely with the pipeline developers to help them get the pipelines through the regulatory process and into operation.

The final environmental impact statement for Mountain Valley “is largely identical to the severely flawed — and perhaps legally indefensible — draft environmental impact statement” released last fall, Peter Anderson, Virginia program manager for environmental group Appalachian Voices, said in an email to ThinkProgress.

The odds may be stacked against them, but residents aren’t giving up. “It is my firm belief that these pipelines are not going to be built,” Ernie Reed, president of environmental group Wild Virginia, said Saturday at an anti-pipeline conference in Great Falls, Virginia, organized by local 350.org chapters and Sierra Club groups.

Dominion wants to put a pipeline through farmland designated for conservation

Reed rattled off ways in which the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could be halted, many of which would also apply to the Mountain Valley Pipeline: FERC could ultimately deny a permit for the pipeline, even if the project, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, receives a favorable environmental review. The agency is scheduled to release a final environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21.

The scope of opposition in central and southwestern Virginia to both pipelines also is giving Reed hope that the projects will be defeated. “Nobody has ever put as much pressure on FERC as we have,” he said.

Another potential avenue for blocking the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a pending lawsuit on the legality of a permit granted by the Buckingham County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors to build a compressor station in the county. If the lawsuit is successful, it could derail the entire project, Reed said. The compressor station would be built on a 68-acre parcel of land bordered by the largely African American Union Hill community, raising environmental justice issues.

Perhaps the best chance — yet still unlikely — is if the state of Virginia denied a water quality permit for the pipelines. The governor could direct the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to strengthen its review of the projects, rather than deferring to the U.S. Corps of Engineers to conduct a less rigorous review.

But the defeat of an anti-pipeline candidate in last week’s Democratic primary for governor delivered a major blow to efforts to get the state to stand in the pipelines’ way. Virginia’s current governor, Terry McAuliffe (D), has come out strongly in favor of both pipelines. His term ends in January.

In the Democratic primary, Tom Perriello, a former U.S. congressman, made pipeline opposition a major part of his campaign. But Ralph Northam, the state’s current lieutenant governor who had the backing of state party leaders, easily defeated Perriello in the primary.

Perriello held a news conference in Richmond, Virginia on February 8, 2017, where he announced his opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber

Some activists plan to “bird-dog” Northam, who did not share Perriello’s anti-pipeline position, as he campaigns for governor this summer and fall. With a vocal presence at each of his campaign events, the activists hope to apply enough pressure to get Northam to change his mind and come out against both pipeline projects.

Kirk Bowers, pipelines campaign manager for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress that the fate of the anti-pipeline movement may have rested in the Democratic primary. All of the central Virginia and southwestern Virginia counties went for Perriello because of his stance on the pipelines, while the state’s major population centers went strongly for Northam.

Bowers, who has been fighting pipelines in the state for years, said he doesn’t share Reed’s optimism about both pipelines not getting built. “I’m a little discouraged right now,” he said. “We’ve just about given up on FERC because they approve everything.”

The lead developer of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is Dominion Energy; Equitrans LP is the primary backer of Mountain Valley, which would move about 2 billion cubic feet per day from shale gas fields in northern West Virginia into Virginia. Both pipelines would be 42 inches in diameter, the largest-diameter for U.S. natural gas pipelines.

Virginia landowners, environmentalists urge divestment to stop proposed natural gas pipeline

Speakers at the anti-pipeline conference emphasized that Virginia already has enough pipeline capacity, noting that electricity demand has been flat or declining five out of the last eight years in Virginia.

Reversing flows on natural gas pipelines, such as the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., could deliver enough natural gas to new power plants in Virginia and North Carolina, said Thomas Hadwin, a former utility official in Michigan and New York who now lives in Virginia and assists the Augusta County Alliance, which opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

But the more important question, according to Hadwin, is whether these new gas-fired plants are needed. Officials could instead turn to solar and wind energy and implement aggressive energy efficiency efforts to reduce demand, Hadwin said. “We don’t need new power plants to have enough electricity,” he explained. “If we don’t need new power plants, we don’t need new pipelines to serve them.”

In a Friday statement, Ben Luckett, staff attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said FERC’s “failure to look at whether this pipeline is actually needed to serve the public, and not just the bank accounts of MVP’s shareholders, is absolutely galling.”

“Without a real market analysis, FERC can’t tell whether the pipeline’s extreme impacts to landowners, communities, and the environment will bring about any public benefit. Our independent studies indicate that they will not,” Luckett said.

Analysts also believe piping in new natural gas supplies from the Marcellus Shale into Virginia and North Carolina to serve gas-fired power plants could discourage developers from building solar or offshore wind projects. The demand for renewable energy may be dampened by the use of a natural gas — a fossil fuel with serious climate impacts — to produce electricity in the region.

But the routing of the Mountain Valley also could have a direct impact on solar energy development beyond simply feeding new gas-fired power plants. If built on its current route, the pipeline would prevent the development of at least one proposed solar project, according to the owner of property in Franklin County, Virginia. Donald Barnhart has entered into an agreement to lease his property to Hexagon Energy LLC, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based energy development company focused on clean energy.

Mountain Valley will bisect Barnhart’s property into “two largely useless portions,” Barnhart’s lawyers said in a June 21 letter to FERC. “If the route as proposed stands, Mr. Barnhart’s property will be rendered unfit for a solar farm and Franklin County and its residents will be deprived of cheap, renewable, and most importantly, sustainable clean energy for decades to come,” the lawyers said.

FERC currently has only two commissioners. Before it can issue a final ruling on the Mountain Valley application, the agency will need the U.S. Senate to confirm one more commissioner to give it quorum. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has already approved the nomination of two Republican commissioners to the agency.

Mountain Valley’s developers are hoping to receive a final FERC permit later this year, which would allow them to begin construction on the project by year’s end. The developers are targeting the end of 2018 to bring the pipeline into service.

If FERC approves Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, anti-pipeline groups in Virginia are vowing to take legal action. “We have been building a legal case since day one on this,” Reed said. “Some of the best legal minds in the world are working on this. We’ve been building an informational case with experts since day one. We believe that we have the tools to be able to stop this legally.”


Virginia residents vow to fight on after natural gas project gets environmental approval was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Virginia residents vow to fight on after natural gas project gets environmental approval

Anti-pipeline activists hope to change the mind of Democratic candidate for governor.

A “No Pipeline” sign is posted next to a property line marker only a few feet from the center line of the route of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline in Bolar, VA. CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber

Virginia residents and environmental groups are vowing to keep fighting proposed natural gas projects after federal regulators dealt their efforts another blow on Friday by issuing a favorable environmental analysis of a major pipeline project.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) conclusion that the Mountain Valley Pipeline project “would result in limited adverse environmental impacts” came as little surprise to opponents, considering the agency has given almost every pipeline application it has reviewed an environmental green light.

Environmental groups condemned the findings in FERC’s environmental review of Mountain Valley. Following a pattern established with its review of other pipeline projects, FERC swept aside Mountain Valley’s threats to water resources, the safety of communities, and the climate, Oil Change International said in a statement.

“FERC severely undercounts climate pollution by ignoring methane leakage across the gas supply chain, which makes gas as dirty or dirtier than coal, and by omitting emissions from upstream fracking,” Oil Change International research analyst Kelly Trout said. “FERC also wrongly assumes that gas supplied by the project is likely to replace coal, when it’s just as likely to lock out the clean energy and efficiency alternatives we urgently need.”

Mountain Valley and another proposed Virginia pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, are facing strong opposition from residents who live along their routes. On the other hand, FERC and other government agencies are working closely with the pipeline developers to help them get the pipelines through the regulatory process and into operation.

The final environmental impact statement for Mountain Valley “is largely identical to the severely flawed — and perhaps legally indefensible — draft environmental impact statement” released last fall, Peter Anderson, Virginia program manager for environmental group Appalachian Voices, said in an email to ThinkProgress.

The odds may be stacked against them, but residents aren’t giving up. “It is my firm belief that these pipelines are not going to be built,” Ernie Reed, president of environmental group Wild Virginia, said Saturday at an anti-pipeline conference in Great Falls, Virginia, organized by local 350.org chapters and Sierra Club groups.

Dominion wants to put a pipeline through farmland designated for conservation

Reed rattled off ways in which the Atlantic Coast Pipeline could be halted, many of which would also apply to the Mountain Valley Pipeline: FERC could ultimately deny a permit for the pipeline, even if the project, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline, receives a favorable environmental review. The agency is scheduled to release a final environmental impact statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline on July 21.

The scope of opposition in central and southwestern Virginia to both pipelines also is giving Reed hope that the projects will be defeated. “Nobody has ever put as much pressure on FERC as we have,” he said.

Another potential avenue for blocking the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a pending lawsuit on the legality of a permit granted by the Buckingham County, Virginia, Board of Supervisors to build a compressor station in the county. If the lawsuit is successful, it could derail the entire project, Reed said. The compressor station would be built on a 68-acre parcel of land bordered by the largely African American Union Hill community, raising environmental justice issues.

Perhaps the best chance — yet still unlikely — is if the state of Virginia denied a water quality permit for the pipelines. The governor could direct the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to strengthen its review of the projects, rather than deferring to the U.S. Corps of Engineers to conduct a less rigorous review.

But the defeat of an anti-pipeline candidate in last week’s Democratic primary for governor delivered a major blow to efforts to get the state to stand in the pipelines’ way. Virginia’s current governor, Terry McAuliffe (D), has come out strongly in favor of both pipelines. His term ends in January.

In the Democratic primary, Tom Perriello, a former U.S. congressman, made pipeline opposition a major part of his campaign. But Ralph Northam, the state’s current lieutenant governor who had the backing of state party leaders, easily defeated Perriello in the primary.

Perriello held a news conference in Richmond, Virginia on February 8, 2017, where he announced his opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber

Some activists plan to “bird-dog” Northam, who did not share Perriello’s anti-pipeline position, as he campaigns for governor this summer and fall. With a vocal presence at each of his campaign events, the activists hope to apply enough pressure to get Northam to change his mind and come out against both pipeline projects.

Kirk Bowers, pipelines campaign manager for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress that the fate of the anti-pipeline movement may have rested in the Democratic primary. All of the central Virginia and southwestern Virginia counties went for Perriello because of his stance on the pipelines, while the state’s major population centers went strongly for Northam.

Bowers, who has been fighting pipelines in the state for years, said he doesn’t share Reed’s optimism about both pipelines not getting built. “I’m a little discouraged right now,” he said. “We’ve just about given up on FERC because they approve everything.”

The lead developer of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is Dominion Energy; Equitrans LP is the primary backer of Mountain Valley, which would move about 2 billion cubic feet per day from shale gas fields in northern West Virginia into Virginia. Both pipelines would be 42 inches in diameter, the largest-diameter for U.S. natural gas pipelines.

Virginia landowners, environmentalists urge divestment to stop proposed natural gas pipeline

Speakers at the anti-pipeline conference emphasized that Virginia already has enough pipeline capacity, noting that electricity demand has been flat or declining five out of the last eight years in Virginia.

Reversing flows on natural gas pipelines, such as the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., could deliver enough natural gas to new power plants in Virginia and North Carolina, said Thomas Hadwin, a former utility official in Michigan and New York who now lives in Virginia and assists the Augusta County Alliance, which opposes the Atlantic Coast Pipeline.

But the more important question, according to Hadwin, is whether these new gas-fired plants are needed. Officials could instead turn to solar and wind energy and implement aggressive energy efficiency efforts to reduce demand, Hadwin said. “We don’t need new power plants to have enough electricity,” he explained. “If we don’t need new power plants, we don’t need new pipelines to serve them.”

In a Friday statement, Ben Luckett, staff attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, said FERC’s “failure to look at whether this pipeline is actually needed to serve the public, and not just the bank accounts of MVP’s shareholders, is absolutely galling.”

“Without a real market analysis, FERC can’t tell whether the pipeline’s extreme impacts to landowners, communities, and the environment will bring about any public benefit. Our independent studies indicate that they will not,” Luckett said.

Analysts also believe piping in new natural gas supplies from the Marcellus Shale into Virginia and North Carolina to serve gas-fired power plants could discourage developers from building solar or offshore wind projects. The demand for renewable energy may be dampened by the use of a natural gas — a fossil fuel with serious climate impacts — to produce electricity in the region.

But the routing of the Mountain Valley also could have a direct impact on solar energy development beyond simply feeding new gas-fired power plants. If built on its current route, the pipeline would prevent the development of at least one proposed solar project, according to the owner of property in Franklin County, Virginia. Donald Barnhart has entered into an agreement to lease his property to Hexagon Energy LLC, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based energy development company focused on clean energy.

Mountain Valley will bisect Barnhart’s property into “two largely useless portions,” Barnhart’s lawyers said in a June 21 letter to FERC. “If the route as proposed stands, Mr. Barnhart’s property will be rendered unfit for a solar farm and Franklin County and its residents will be deprived of cheap, renewable, and most importantly, sustainable clean energy for decades to come,” the lawyers said.

FERC currently has only two commissioners. Before it can issue a final ruling on the Mountain Valley application, the agency will need the U.S. Senate to confirm one more commissioner to give it quorum. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has already approved the nomination of two Republican commissioners to the agency.

Mountain Valley’s developers are hoping to receive a final FERC permit later this year, which would allow them to begin construction on the project by year’s end. The developers are targeting the end of 2018 to bring the pipeline into service.

If FERC approves Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, anti-pipeline groups in Virginia are vowing to take legal action. “We have been building a legal case since day one on this,” Reed said. “Some of the best legal minds in the world are working on this. We’ve been building an informational case with experts since day one. We believe that we have the tools to be able to stop this legally.”


Virginia residents vow to fight on after natural gas project gets environmental approval was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trump’s Interior Secretary defends his plan to cut at least 4,000 staff

Zinke has also begun an unprecedented shake-up of senior career officials.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke talks with reporters at the Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument near Staceyville, Maine, June 14, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Patrick Whittle

In multiple appearances on Capitol Hill this week, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke stood behind his proposal to cut at least 4,000 full-time staff from the Interior Department. He has also begun an unprecedented shake-up of senior career officials. Together, the thinning of experienced career employees could have far-reaching consequences for the agency’s ability to manage public land and energy development on behalf of the American people.

“I’m troubled by a number of recent personnel decisions that call into question the department’s commitment to its workforce and of keeping Congress informed of major changes to the day-to-day operations of the department,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) told Zinke on Wednesday.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget would cut the Interior Department by nearly 12 percent, forcing significant layoffs. While the reductions would impact the entire agency, those staff cuts are particularly concerning for two bureaus: the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

During his first week on the job, Zinke promised to “focus on rebuilding our parks,” but the administration’s proposed budget still cuts the park service by almost $300 million. The park service’s own budget justification says that they would be forced to cut 1,242 full-time equivalent employees, a number that, in practice, could end up being much higher because many park rangers and other employees are seasonal or part-time. This would likely result in closed campgrounds and other facilities at a time when national park visitation is at an all-time high and is an economic boon to local communities.

Don’t be fooled by Trump’s National Park Service photo-op

The cuts at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are also severe. Department officials already told the BLM in a memo to prepare to cut 1,000 people before the end of the year — a 10 percent cut of the agency’s staff. According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a group representing state, local, and federal resource professionals, BLM is already severely understaffed.

“According to Trump’s fantasy plan, BLM is supposed to achieve ‘energy independence’ before its coffee break, stimulate rural ‘job creation’ by lunch and do it with substantially less resources,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that BLM failed to identify any functions the bureau is supposed to set aside. “It is disturbing but perhaps not surprising that BLM staff are directed to put political hobbyhorses ahead of legally required duties.”

BLM has a host of responsibilities that stand to be impacted by significant cuts — including managing safety and inspection of oil and gas production, firefighting, mineral rights on Indian lands, abandoned mines, and protecting cultural and historic sites.

BLM’s law enforcement rangers are also already stretched thin. Right now, only 124 rangers are responsible for patrolling 245 million acres of public lands — essentially one officer for every 2 million acres. These rangers combat drug cultivation, protect Native American sites and artifacts from being looted, prevent thousands of incidents of theft and vandalism, and confront anti-government threats like those posed by the Bundys, who staged an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s not just cuts that have people worried about Interior’s ability to handle its responsibilities. Zinke recently sent nearly 50 senior career officials letters informing them of new assignments. Though Zinke can legally reassign these positions, Dan Ashe, Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service under the Obama administration, says the scale of the shake-up is unprecedented and could result in several issue experts being moved outside of their expertise. For example, the agency’s top climate policy official has been reassigned to an office with the mission to collect revenues from energy development on public lands.

“I’m very worried about the idea that you’re moving people who have real serious expertise in an area to an area that they may not know anything about,” Udall, the top Democrat overseeing Interior spending, said in an interview with Politico. “It looks like an attempt to make the agency so it doesn’t work very well or [so] that the powers that be exercise their will more easily on the agency.”

Some are calling the moves an attempt to “intimidate” career employees and send a message that political leadership is calling the shots. Zinke told reporters after the hearing that the senior officials “can either take the move or resign.”


Trump’s Interior Secretary defends his plan to cut at least 4,000 staff was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mississippi realizes how to make a clean coal plant work: Run it on natural gas

How to make a ‘clean coal’ plant work: Run it on natural gas.

Lignite coal mined in Mississippi for “clean coal” plant. CREDIT: AP/Rogelio V. Solis, File

At his Wednesday rally in Iowa, President Donald Trump once again touted his imaginary revival of coal and the importance of “clean, beautiful coal.”

That same day, Mississippi utility regulators finally figured out the best way to make the state’s wildly expensive “clean coal” plant much cleaner and more affordable: Skip the coal part entirely.

Sadly, this realization comes after spending billions on cost overruns in a complicated scheme to convert coal to gas while capturing and burying some of the CO2 released in the process. The new plan is to use natural gas.

Conceived over a decade ago when natural gas and renewables were both more expensive, Southern Company’s Kemper plant was originally supposed to cost $2.4 billion. It broke ground in 2010 and, like most clean coal projects, was plagued from the very first by mismanagement, delays, and cost overruns.

Carbon Capture And Storage: One Step Forward, One Step Back

By 2015, the 582-megawatt plant was running primarily on natural gas because the coal-to-gas part of the scheme had proved too challenging. Last summer, the New York Times published a scathing expose on the project, run by Southern Company’s Mississippi Power unit. Internal emails, documents, and secretly recorded conversations provided by a whistleblower “show that the plant’s owners drastically understated the project’s cost and timetable and repeatedly tried to conceal problems as they emerged.”

On Wednesday, the Mississippi Public Service Commissioners passed a motion telling its lawyers to draft an order requiring a solution “that eliminates ratepayer risk for unproven technology” and that would “allow only for operation of a natural gas facility at the Kemper Project location.”

The commissioners want ratepayers to cover only the $840 million in equipment to burn gas. Otherwise, as the AP explains, “Southern shareholders, who have already taken $3.1 billion in losses, could absorb roughly another $3.5 billion.”

With that kind of money at stake, this could end up in court for years. But the order will no doubt send a chill through any utilities still pursuing or imagining a clean coal plant.

Ironically, Trump’s proposed budget for the Energy Department slashes funds available for clean coal by more than half. It seems even his own administration understands what he doesn’t: Clean coal is an oxymoron.


Mississippi realizes how to make a clean coal plant work: Run it on natural gas was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Trump gets confused on Paris climate agreement, exaggerates coal jobs growth

President flip-flops on whether climate agreement is binding.

President Donald Trump told a crowd at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 21, 2017, that he kept his promise to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump once again asserted that the Paris climate agreement would have cost the United States millions of lost jobs and put the country at a permanent economic disadvantage, claims that have been rebutted several times since the agreement became a major target of his presidential campaign.

“When I campaigned for president, I promised to renegotiate or leave any deal which fails to serve America’s interests. And I’m not going to allow other countries to take advantage of the United States any longer,” Trump told a crowd gathered at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday.

Experts point out that in his arguments against the Paris agreement, Trump completely omits the severe economic toll posed by failure to act on climate change, a cost far greater than that of action. Trump also ignored the economic benefits of clean energy — a sector that is growing much faster than the economy as a whole.

Trump also stated the Paris agreement would have been a “catastrophe” for the United States in part because the goals set for each country were binding. “They all say it’s nonbinding. Like hell it’s nonbinding,” Trump said.

But once again, experts have rebutted claims that the Paris agreement would have bound the United States to particular climate goals and to take particular domestic actions — the agreement is nonbinding and each nation sets its own targets.

Trump’s reason for leaving the Paris agreement left Obama’s science adviser stunned

In fact, Trump contradicted himself on whether the Paris agreement is binding. Three weeks earlier, Trump announced the nation’s withdrawal from Paris and described the agreement as nonbinding. “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump said June 1.

Trump emphasized that his administration will not let “foreign bureaucrats plan our economy or tell Americans how to run their country.” He recalled his campaign promise to renegotiate or leave any international agreement that fails to service America’s interests. “And I’m not going to allow other countries to take advantage of the United States any longer. And for that reason, I totally cut off negotiations” on the Paris agreement,” he said.

This time, Trump’s claims were rebutted by a member of his own administration. Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the House Appropriations Committee that withdrawal from Paris “was not a sign of disengagement… The president made that clear.” Pruitt told the lawmakers that while he was in Italy earlier this month for the G7 environment meeting, he started bilateral discussions with his environmental ministry counterparts “with respect to our continued leadership” on carbon dioxide reduction.

Over the past month, the Trump administration has consistently exaggerated the growth in coal mining jobs since the inauguration. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Restoring the former glory of the coal industry dominated the president’s rhetoric during the presidential campaign and remains a prominent talking point for his administration. In his speech, Trump declared “we’ve ended the war on clean, beautiful coal and we’re putting our miners back to work.” He claimed “33,000 mining jobs have been added since my inauguration,” a clear reference to coal mining jobs.

Trump followed the lead of his EPA chief in overstating the growth of coal mining jobs since the start of 2017. In multiple television interviews earlier this month, Pruitt stated the coal industry has grown by 50,000 job since Trump took office.

No data exists from government or industry sources to back up the claim that the industry has seen such a dramatic surge in coal mining jobs over this time period. The coal sector reportedly has added about 1,000 jobs since October 2016. Coal could not have added 50,000 jobs in the last eight months, since that is essentially the size of the entire coal industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Atlantic reported.

An EPA spokeswoman later explained that Pruitt was referring to the mining sector, which includes more than coal jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the mining sector as any business involved in the extraction of minerals like ores, coal, petroleum, and natural gas.

Not The Onion: Trump proposed covering his untenable border wall with solar panels

Trump also made a case for putting solar panels on the wall that he wants to build on the border between the United States and Mexico. “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself,” he told the audience. “That’s one of the places that solar really does work, tremendous sun and heat… and I think we could make it look beautiful, too.”

The Financial Times looked at the economics of a solar-paneled wall on the U.S. side of the border earlier this year. The newspaper concluded it’s a “non-starter,” noting, for instance, that “less than 2 percent of the U.S. population lives within 40 miles of the Mexico border.” That means you’d need a multibillion-dollar power line, too.


Trump gets confused on Paris climate agreement, exaggerates coal jobs growth was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

EPA tweets about scented candles causing asthma, delays pollution standards that could save lives

At the same time, the agency is delaying regulations meant to cut down on dangerous pollutants.

CREDIT: AP Photo/David J. Phillip

The Environmental Protection Agency is charged with the protection of two things: the environment and public health. So it’s no surprise that the agency would use it’s social media presence to tweet about asthma, something that as of 2009, affected 1 in 10 children and 1 in 12 adults in the United States.

Asthma can be triggered by a number of irritants, from pollen and dust spores to pollution in the air. And, as the agency that regulates air pollution, it seems like an EPA concerned about asthma would draw the connection between asthma attacks and pollution such as smog, ozone, and particulate matter.

That, however, is not what the EPA has been doing. In two tweets sent from the official U.S. EPA account during the month of June, the EPA singled out just two potential triggers for asthma attacks: incense, and bonfires.

CREDIT: Twitter

“They are just distracting from the larger issues by focusing on the really small ones,” Liz Purchia, a former EPA communications official under the Obama administration, told ThinkProgress. “I’d love to see the last time they talked about carbon pollution from power plants and the threat that they posed to public health.”

Just days before the EPA sent the first tweet, warning about the dangers of incense and scented candles, the agency announced that it would be giving states another year to develop air quality plans meant to comply with the agency’s 2015 ground-level ozone standard, which created stricter limits for ozone pollution. Ozone pollution is a known trigger for asthma, especially in children, who are at greater risk of exposure to ozone because they tend to spend more time outside than adults — something that the EPA’s own website acknowledges.

Days after sending the tweet about incense and scented candles, the EPA also announced it would seek to a two-year delay in the implementation of a rule requiring oil and gas companies to detect and repair leaks of methane and other air pollutants from oil and gas wells. In announcing the delay, the EPA acknowledged that it could have a disproportionate impact on the health of children, but argued that delay was worthwhile because it would save the oil and gas industry roughly $173 million.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Purchia said. “They are using smoke and mirrors to make it appear like they are trying to protect public health, and meanwhile they are doing everything that they can do rollback regulations and work with the fossil fuel industry to bend to their will. They are showing a willful blindness towards the health of the American public.”

EPA acknowledges delaying methane rule might make more children sick, but will help industry

During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was asked about the high occurrence of childhood asthma in Oklahoma, where he had served as Attorney General for six years. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) asked Pruitt why he had not brought lawsuits against polluters on behalf of any of the more than 88,000 children with asthma in the state.

“You can’t just bring lawsuits if you don’t have standing if there’s not been some injury to the state of Oklahoma,” Pruitt responded.

As attorney general, however, Pruitt actually worked against the interests of childhood asthma sufferers, suing the EPA to stop the implementation of its methane rule, which would help cut down on the amount of air pollution that can trigger asthma.

Pruitt has not, as of yet, taken any legal action against incense or scented candle manufacturers. The EPA did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for an explanation regarding how the agency chose which asthma triggers to highlight in its tweets.


EPA tweets about scented candles causing asthma, delays pollution standards that could save lives was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.