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Scott Pruitt: About The Scandal-Ridden Former EPA Chief Who Just Became An Energy Lobbyist In Indiana.

Steven Li

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Scott Pruitt is no stranger to the Energy community. He’s been an outspoken critic of environmental regulation, having built his career upon lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Surprisingly, in February of 2017, President Trump appointed Pruitt to become the 14th administrator of the EPA.

But Pruitt’s relatively short one-year tenure as the head of the EPA was ridden with scandal. In fact, Pruitt has been the subject of some 13 federal investigations during his time at the EPA. He implemented unauthorized raises for aides. He had core involvement in spending abuses at the EPA itself. He was a part of many other misconducts in office. All in all, Pruitt’s track record was far from clean.

Scandals: Mixing Personal With Professional Life

According to reports from the New York Times, Pruitt involved three EPA officials to help his daughter secure an internship at the White House. Additionally, Pruitt would leverage his power and influence to contact the likes of the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, hoping to have the executive help his wife start a franchise of her own.

As Pruitt continued to get closer to Trump, eventually asking him to fire Jeff Sessions and instead have him lead the Department of Justice, Pruitt’s conflict of interest began to show itself more and more.

Pruitt’s Views On Climate Change

In 2017, even while being the head of the EPA, Pruitt questioned the validity of climate science. Specifically, Pruitt told CNBC that he doesn’t believe that carbon dioxide emissions are the primary contributor to climate change, despite this being the consensus among climate scientists.

It comes as no surprise that Pruitt believes in environmental deregulation, and with this belief, was one of the strongest driving forces that influenced President Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement, according to the New York Times.

Pruitt’s Key Policy Decisions

  1. Withdrawing From The Paris Climate Agreement: Pruitt, along with Steve Bannon, convinced Trump to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement, despite former Vice-President Al Gore trying to convince Trump otherwise.
  2. Opposing the Clean Power Plan: Pruitt strongly opposed the Clean Power Plan, a plan that sought to limit carbon emissions. Again, this comes as no surprise as Pruitt didn’t believe carbon emissions were center to the climate change issue.
  3. Lowering Fuel Emission Standards: The Obama administration set fuel emission standards for passenger cars and other vehicles. Pruitt deemed these standards too unrealistic. He, therefore, opposed them.
  4. Decreasing Funding To The EPA: Pruitt believed in deregulating the environment. The EPA’s budget was decreased by 30% in 2017.

All in all, it’s clear where Pruitt’s beliefs lie when it comes to environmental regulation and climate change.

Pruitt’s Interactions With Lobbyists

Pruitt had several notable scandals linked to lobbyists. In 2017, Pruitt leased a bedroom linked to a Canadian energy company’s lobbying firm. And with respect to foreign travel, had a Morocco trip organized by another lobbying firm.

There was a pattern of Pruitt interacting with lobbyists in questionable ways without disclosing their relationship. It’s no surprise that these lobbyists are oil and gas companies, who would benefit from Pruitt’s legislative views.

The extent to which lobbyists impacted Pruitt’s policy decisions is unclear.

Becoming A Lobbyist

Lobbying disclosure forms show that Pruitt has registered as an energy lobbyist in Indiana. Investigative reporter Michael Biesecker found that Pruitt seems to be getting involved in lobbying in the coal industry.

As Pruitt refers to himself as a self-employed consultant, it seems that his only client is RailPoint Solutions LLC. The manager of the Delaware corporation, Heather Tryon, also seems to be the Chief Financial Officer of Sunrise Coal.

Conclusions

Pruitt’s new career as a lobbyist comes as no surprise. While Pruitt was the head of the EPA, he was a supporter of fossil fuels and didn’t emphasize the severity of the climate change problem as it relates to the increased usage of fossil fuels.

At the moment, nobody can be sure what exactly Pruitt’s working on. Lobbying disclosure forms are generally vague. As Pruitt continues to work in Indiana, we’ll be sure to continue covering what he’s up to.

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Australia Gets Flamed For Neglecting The Climate Emergency In The Pacific

Rich Bowden

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Australia gets flamed for its climate inaction

Former Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga has re-opened the controversy over Australia’s high-handed approach at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum. Australia has been accused of trying to silence Pacific leaders, like Sopoaga, who are demanding it to do more to combat climate change.

Tuvalu hosted the Pacific Islands Forum in August. 

At the forum, Australia pressured Sopoaga among other pro-climate action leaders from the Pacific, to accept a watered-down communique. Many leaders believe it would do little to combat the climate emergency in the Pacific.

Australia not tackling the Pacific’s unique climate challenges

Sopoaga told Australia’s SBS News he thought hosting the PIF forum in Tuvalu would highlight the challenges facing smaller Pacific nations. He said he sought to show countries like Australia the existential threat climate change poses to low-lying countries like Tuvalu.

However, he regretted that support was not forthcoming. Further, he didn’t like that Pacific leaders who spoke out on climate change had the chance to accept hush money.

“Putting this money on the table … and then expecting Pacific Island countries like Tuvalu to say ‘OK, we’ll stop talking about climate change’ … is completely irresponsible,” he added.

Sopoaga said action was needed at domestic level in countries such as Australia to have any effect.

“Any amount of money that is coming with the Step-Up [Pacific aid program] cannot be seen as an excuse for no action at a domestic level to cut down on greenhouse emissions.”

Climate change poses an existential threat to Tuvalu

Tuvalu, like a number of low-lying Pacific micro-nations, is under threat from climate change. The sea has almost claimed two of the nine islands. And with the highest point only 4.6 meters above sea level, locals fear they will one day be completely swamped. 

Home to just 11,000 people and an average of just 6.6 feet above sea level, Tuvalu is in danger. In fact, its people are already making plans to evacuate should sea levels rise further.

Sopoaga has previously rejected offers to relocate the people, saying it won’t make a significant difference.

“Moving outside of Tuvalu will not solve any climate change issues,” Sopoaga says. He adds, “If you put these people in the middle of industrialized countries it will simply boost their consumptions and increase greenhouse gas emissions,” as he told The Guardian in May. 

Sopoaga’s term as Tuvalu PM came to an end last month after losing a vote in the country’s parliament. The expectation is that his successor, Kausea Natano, will continue the call to action from the world on climate change.

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Brexit Is Overshadowing Climate Activism

Haider Sarwar

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Brexit

Due to the ongoing Brexit crisis in the United Kingdom, discussions regarding climate change legislation has been postponed. The European Union meets four times a year in Brussels, Belgium, and this past week the British Parliament asked for yet another extension on formulating a plan to decarbonize by 2050.

The 2050 Plan

In November 2018, the EU proposed to have its total carbon emissions reach a net-zero by 2050. This was a move unique to the EU, and it sought to motivate other countries such as the US and Brazil to follow its footsteps. Over half the members of the EU, including the UK, have signed onto this plan.

Critics have deemed this plan as ambitious and near impossible. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure on European governments from large industries. Still, there is hope for the EU to reach this goal as many of the members are adamant about decarbonizing all of Europe. The biggest obstacle to this plan, however, is the countries’ internal affairs. The prime example of this is the UK’s notorious Brexit plan.

Brexit’s Prolonged Existence

In June 2016, a referendum on whether to leave the European Union was held in the UK. Then, 51.6% of people voted to leave. Ever since, deals illustrating better ways for the UK to leave the EU have been proposed. Both the EU and the UK have shared and torn apart these deals. Today, the disagreements persist with a very obscure future. 

It is partly because of this ongoing issue that the EU was unable to present a proper plan for decarbonization at the UN climate summit last month. The aforementioned meeting in Brussels also illustrated that the UK won’t adopt the decarbonization plan. Many EU officials have expressed annoyance towards the UK for this reason. Climate activist Greta Thunberg further argued that if politicians and governments were serious about tackling climate change, they would not spend their time “talking about taxes and Brexit.”

The adoption of the 2050 plan from the UK is being pushed to take place in 2020. The EU has little interest in refusing the UK of an extension, too. This is because a chaotic no-deal scenario would be initiated by the EU, which would be less than advantageous. 

Internal issues such as Brexit have been an obstacle to the EU’s proposed climate action for years, now. It is essential for Great Britain to pull itself out of the ongoing issue to create a plan for the future.

Will The UK Set Aside Politics To Focus On Climate Change?

Many activists wish to see countries such as the UK set aside their politics to focus on more important issues like climate change. It is unclear how long it will take for the UK and the EU to finally reach an agreement about Brexit, but there is hope that this extension will be the last one.

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Congress Unveils First Bill To Address Climate Refugee Crisis

Ari Kelo

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Climate refugee

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a new bill to protect climate refugees.

The Climate Displaced Persons Act, written by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), would create a new federal program specifically for refugees displaced by climate change. If enacted into law, the U.S. would take in at least 50,000 climate refugees each year, beginning in 2020.

Although long overdue, backlash from both President Trump and the Republican-led Senate may stall any attempts to turn this bill into law. Regardless, this bill provides an important blueprint for future policies on climate-related migration.

And notably, this bill is the first of its kind to address the growing number of migrants displaced by climate change.

What is the Climate Displaced Persons Act?

Written in reaction to the rising number of people displaced by climate-related catastrophes, this bill would create an action plan on how the U.S. can help.

Since 2009, a climate-related disaster has displaced about one person every second. This rate accounts for extreme weather events, famine, drought, and rising sea levels, among other climate emergencies.

Overwhelmingly, 22.5 million people have been displaced due to climate change in the past decade. And the UN speculates that number could rise to 200 million forcibly displaced people by 2050.

Accordingly, this bill has two major aims. It intends to “establish a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy and authorize the admission of climate-displaced persons,” according to its first draft.

In particular, the bill entails the U.S. taking on more responsibility in handling the global crisis.

It would create a humanitarian program separate from the U.S. refugee admissions program, specifically for those affected by climate change. The new program would guarantee the same benefits for climate refugees.

The legislation would also task the Secretary of State with devising a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy. This is turn will create a Coordinator of Climate Resilience position within the State Department.

If made law, the bill will also provide a minimum of 50,000 climate migrants resettlement opportunities in the U.S. each year.

New legislation for climate refugees

To Rep. Velázquez, immigration policy must acknowledge the role of climate change.

“If we are going to meaningfully discuss comprehensive climate equity and climate justice, we must inject security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons into our conversations,” she said in a press release.

So far, the U.S. has failed in this cause. Just last month, President Trump reduced the maximum refugee cap to 18,000 — a new low. And with his administration tightening up on immigration of all kinds, it’s unlikely he’ll loosen up on climate-related migration, to say the least.

But President Trump’s refusal to support climate science or immigration hasn’t dissuaded Rep. Velázquez.

“Despite this Administration’s efforts to strip the world’s most vulnerable populations of refuge, America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” she insisted.

After its introduction on Wednesday, the House referred the bill to the Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Committees on the Judiciary and Energy and Commerce will also review the bill before the House continues its deliberation.

Democrat Edward Markey, a key supporter of the Green New Deal, has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

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