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Trump budget 'cripples' environment, science, critics say
Miami (AFP) March 16, 2017

Sierra Club says EPA's Pruitt flouting integrity rules
Washington (UPI) Mar 16, 2017 - Following a review of fuel economy standards from the White House, the Sierra Club said it filed a complaint against the EPA for violating integrity rules.

President Donald Trump vowed during a visit to the American Center for Mobility near Detroit to review, or possibly revoke, guidelines submitted by his predecessor that were aimed at putting more clean vehicles on the road. Former President Barack Obama during his second term in office issued a mandate that called for an increase in fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The Obama administration said the goal of the mandate was to curb greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, the economic sector that accounts for the majority of harmful emissions.

Trump met on the sidelines of his visit to Michigan with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who the Sierra Club accused of violating the EPA's scientific integrity policy in "multiple ways."

In a filing to the EPA's inspector general, the Sierra Club said Pruitt's statements questioning some of the causes of climate change undermine the EPA's stated mission.

"Pruitt clearly violated the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Integrity Policy by publicly denying that carbon pollution is driving the climate crisis" Elena Saxonhouse, a senior attorney for the Sierra Club, said in a statement. "If the EPA's Scientific Integrity Policy is to have any meaning then this type of clear violation must be strictly enforced and resolved."

Naming Pruitt as EPA administrator concerned some critics of the Trump administration as he's leading an agency he once sued while serving as Oklahoma's attorney general.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency under Pruitt said it was abandoning measures that called for the disclosure of methane emissions from oil and natural gas wells. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, though a handful of states argued the measure would inhibit the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry.

An order from the EPA under Obama said methane is among the more prevalent greenhouse gases emitted in the United States and nearly 30 percent of those emissions come from oil and natural gas production.

After Trump's announcements in Michigan, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., took to Twitter to say the president was waging war on the environment and wants "Pruitt to make our strong fuel economy emissions standards his latest victim."

A federal guideline from the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy on fuel standards for model year 2017 vehicles finds fuel-efficient vehicles would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, which would align with Trump's pledge on the campaign trail to make the country energy independent.

From Michigan, Trump said the review of Obama-era standards was about eliminating "industry-killing regulations" that threaten U.S. companies and workers. Pruitt said in a statement the standards are too costly and potentially unrealistic.

"This thorough review [of the Obama-era mandate] will help ensure that this national program is good for consumers and good for the environment," he said in a statement.

The Sierra Club in its filling accused Pruitt of "misrepresenting his own agency's science," adding there is "evidence of political motivation."

US President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget would slash funding for science, health and environmental programs at home and abroad, sparking an outcry Thursday among experts who say the cuts would endanger the planet.

The blueprint, which also includes sharp cuts in spending on the arts and foreign aid, has yet to undergo scrutiny in Congress and must be approved by lawmakers before it can take effect.

But environmentalists swiftly lashed out at the plan, calling it "shocking," and "drastic," particularly for the way it trimmed science programs while boosting defense spending by $52 billion.

A key target was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which would get $5.7 billion, a 31 percent cut compared with 2017 levels. Some 3,200 jobs at the agency would be eliminated, about one-fifth of its workforce.

The proposal called for an end to funding both former president Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan and international climate-change programs in order to save $100 million for American taxpayers.

The United States typically contributes about $4-6 million per year to help fund the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, about 20 percent of its budget.

UNFCCC spokesman Nick Nuttall said "we understand that approval of such a budget can be a long and complex process and we will follow it with interest."

- Zeroed out -

Under the EPA cuts, major programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes would end, along with a popular program to certify environmentally friendly appliances with the Energy Star label.

Some $250 million in programs aimed at protecting coastal life would be "zeroed out" for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including research and education run by a program called Sea Grant.

Overall, NOAA could reportedly face as much as a $990 million cut from its annual budget.

"The message the budget sends is that our ocean -- the engine that drives an economy worth $359 billion and supports millions of people -- is simply not a priority for the Trump administration," said Addie Haughey, associate director of government relations at Ocean Conservancy.

"It is cutting bone-deep into the lives, livelihoods and safety of hundreds of thousands of coastal communities from Alaska to Hawaii, Oregon to Florida."

Jacqueline Savitz, senior vice president at the advocacy group Oceana, called on Congress to reject the cuts.

"Funding cuts of this magnitude could cripple key agencies like NOAA and the Coast Guard, which would be devastating to decades of ocean conservation," she said.

"These federal agencies, and the budgets that support them, allow our nation's bedrock conservation laws to sustainably manage our fisheries, protect marine mammals and endangered species, preserve marine habitats, clean up oil spills and so much more."

- Asteroid study axed -

The main engine for US medical health research, the National Institutes of Health, would lose $5.8 billion, or about 18 percent, bringing its 2018 budget to $25.9 billion.

Four NASA Earth science missions would be shuttered.

Three satellite programs aimed at studying climate change and oceans would never launch.

The fourth -- a deep-space Earth observing mission known as DSCOVR which was launched in 2015 and was initially the brainchild of former US vice president Al Gore -- would have its cameras turned off.

NASA would also be forced to abandon its plan to lasso an asteroid and coax it into a lunar orbit for study by a human crew sometime in the 2020s.

Otherwise, NASA's budget was left largely intact. It was trimmed by less than one percent.

NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot described the plan as "a positive budget overall for NASA."

But Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols had harsher words for the broader White House plan.

"The Trump administration clearly sees corporations as its true constituents, not the people of this country," said Nichols.

"This is a budget proposal that fully reveals the Trump administration's corruption, cynicism, and small-mindedness."

Manish Bapna, managing director of the World Resources Institute, agreed.

"The latest budget continues the administration's shocking disregard for priorities that are critical for people's health and the economy," said Bapna.

Prior to these proposed cuts, international, environment, science and energy programs combined accounted for only three percent of federal spending, said Bob Perciasepe, president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.

"We urge Congress to avoid drastic cuts," he said.

"We should be enhancing programs that contribute to quality of life and health, US economic leadership, and long-term security. Inaction on climate today will lead to greater costs tomorrow."

Trump to undo Obama auto emission rules: official
Washington (AFP) March 15, 2017
President Donald Trump is set to announce steps Wednesday to halt his predecessor Barack Obama's future vehicle emissions limits for manufacturers, a senior administration official said. During a visit to auto manufacturing hub Detroit, Trump is set to announce that the Environmental Protection Agency's objectives for 2022-2025 will be put on hold during a new review period. "We are goin ... read more

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