MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Trump Just Ordered Government Scientists to Hide Facts From the Public <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Throughout Trump's campaign, he and his proxies consistently expressed hostility to government regulation, particularly of the fossil fuel and agriculture industries. Within days of taking over, the Trump Administration has already put a squeeze on the two agencies that most directly regulate Big Energy and Big Ag, the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Agriculture.</p> <p>At EPA, the administration has&nbsp; ordered that "all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately," ProPublica writers Andrew Revkin and Jesse Eisinger <a href="" target="_blank">report</a>, quoting an internal EPA email they obtained. Myron Ebell, the climate change denier who led the Trump team's EPA transition and directs the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, confirmed the suspension, Revkin and Eisenger report.</p> <p>That's potentially a massive blow to the the agency's core functions, says Patty Lovera, assistant director of the environmental watchdog group Food &amp; Water Watch. "The EPA's not necessarily out there running a bulldozer to clean up a toxic site," she says. Superfund, an EPA program <a href="" target="_blank">responsible for cleaning up the nation's most contaminated land</a>, is executed through contracts, she said. The EPA turns to contractors for "tons of water stuff, too"&mdash;from monitoring water quality downstream from polluters to helping municipalities update water infrastructure to avoid toxins.</p> <p>"It's one thing to put a pause on new contracts to they can be reviewed, but to reach back and stop existing ones is a whole other can of worms," Lovera said.</p> <p>in Flint, Michigan, where lead contamination has led to the nation's most notorious drinking-water catastrophe in years, the announcement brought uncertainty and confusion. "State officials are seeking more information on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency freeze on grants and contracts and what it could mean to $100 million in federal funds already appropriated for the Flint water crisis," the news site <a href=";utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+michigan-news+(" target="_blank">reported</a> Tuesday. In statement quoted by, the press secretary for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder noted that "we haven't received any guidance from the federal government" about&nbsp; EPA's funding to address the Flint crisis.</p> <p>Andrew Rosenberg, who directs the Center for Science and Democracy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, adds research to the list. The agency funds crucial environmental science through contracts with outside scientists, and interruptions to their funding can be devastating, he said. He likened the situation to the government shutdown of 2013, which temporarily blacked research funding throughout the federal government, including EPA. In a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a> at the time, Rosenberg quoted an EPA scientist he interviewed on the effects of such interruptions:</p> <blockquote> <p>A toxicologist who works for the Environmental Protection Agency expressed great frustration that the crucial work of testing chemicals on the market for toxicity has been interrupted. This work had been slow and complex, and short of manpower. Now, things are worse, the scientist writes. &ldquo;The next time you reach under the sink to pull out a cleaning product, ask yourself if you&rsquo;d really like to know if it was causing cancer, or if it was safe.&rdquo; The shutdown, the toxicologist concludes, will keep toxic chemicals on the shelves &ldquo;longer than they otherwise should have.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, it remains unclear exactly how far-ranging the contract suspension is&mdash;and that brings us to another move from the White House: a media blackout. <em>The Huffington Post</em>'s Kate Sheppard <a href="" target="_blank">got hold of an internal EPA email</a> sent to staff Monday blocking all press releases, social media messages, and blog posts. As for answering queries from journalists, "Incoming media requests will be carefully screened," the email stated. My own calls an emails to EPA spokespeople on Tuesday went unanswered.</p> <p>Meanwhile, over at the USDA, a similar media blackout is afoot, <a href="" target="_blank">reports</a> Buzzfeed's Dino Grandoni:</p> <blockquote> <p>According to an email sent Monday morning and obtained by BuzzFeed News, the department told staff &mdash; including some 2,000 scientists &mdash; at the agency&rsquo;s main in-house research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), to stop communicating with the public about taxpayer-funded work.</p> <p>"Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents," Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for ARS, wrote in a department-wide email shared with BuzzFeed News.</p> <p>"This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content," she added.</p> </blockquote> <p>Food &amp; Water Watch's Lovera notes that the decree is somewhat ironic, because the Obama USDA itself kept its scientists on a short leash in terms of press access&mdash;especially on topics of high importance to the agrichemical industry, like pesticides and genetically modified crops, she said. The plight of former ARS entomologist Jonathan Lundgren, who focused on those sensitive issues, illustrates her point. My profile of Lundgren is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p>"It's not like USDA scientists were out shouting the in the public square," Lovera said. The recent gag order signals that the Trump team will put USDA research under even tighter control.</p> <p>If the funding interruptions and media blackouts continue, she said, much of what the USDA and EPA do to study and protect the public from polluting industries will be negated. And that might be the point, she said: If you can prevent public agencies from conducting vital functions, "you can say they don't do anything, and justify cutting their funding."</p> <p>On a positive note, all of the information that emerged Tuesday on the EPA and the USDA came from internal leaks. Trump may be determined to keep these crucial watchdog/research agencies tightly muzzled, but at least some career bureaucrats and scientists appear unwilling to keep the public in the dark.</p></body></html> Environment Food Wed, 25 Jan 2017 00:24:14 +0000 Tom Philpott 323906 at CBO Says Obamacare Exchanges Not In a Death Spiral <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at Vox,</a> health care superguru Sarah Kliff writes about a <a href="" target="_blank">new CBO report</a> that projects no imminent "death spiral" for Obamacare. CBO reckons that 10 million people will buy insurance from the Obamacare exchanges this year, rising to 13 million by 2027. That's definitely not a collapse, no matter how often Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan say so. But Kliff adds this:</p> <blockquote> <p>To be clear: The insurance marketplaces are way smaller than CBO had initially expected. Back when the law passed, the agency estimated that there would be 26 million people in the marketplace in 2017. We&rsquo;re on pace to have a market less than half that size. A market with more people would likely have lower premiums, as it would mean more healthy people had decided to join.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is true, but it's important to understand <em>why</em> it's true. CBO originally projected that Obamacare would lead to a big drop in the number of people on private health plans, who would then buy insurance on the exchanges. That didn't happen. Instead, the number of people on private plans stayed nearly stable. Here's how things turned out:</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank">2013 projection for 2016:</a> +22 million on exchanges, -10 million in private coverage, +12 million in Medicaid = net +24 million (Table 1)</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">2016 projection for 2016:</a> +12 million on exchanges, -4 million in private coverage, +13 million in Medicaid = net +21 million (Table 4)</li> </ul><p>So the difference between the original projection and the actual numbers for 2016 is about 3 million. That's a fairly small difference, and it's basically good news: we'd rather have people on employer health plans than Obamacare. The coverage is generally better and it costs taxpayers less. The downside is that the low Obamacare numbers make the exchanges a bit less stable, but they aren't showing any signs of collapse, and it's a worthwhile price to pay anyway.</p> <p>But really, you don't even need to go through this exercise. The easiest way to see how Obamacare is doing is to look at the number of uninsured. Here are the projections:</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank">2013 projection for 2016:</a> 31 million (11 percent of total population)</li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">2016 projection for 2016:</a> 27 million (10 percent of total population)</li> </ul><p>There are 4 million <em>fewer</em> uninsured than CBO originally projected, and it's cost the taxpayers <em>less</em> than CBO originally thought. In other words, Obamacare has performed better than projected and cost less than projected. That's a big win.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 25 Jan 2017 00:07:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 323926 at Trump Expected to Sign Executive Orders on Immigration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This story was <a href="" target="_blank">originally published</a> by </em>Reuters.</p> <p>WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump was expected to sign several executive orders restricting immigration on Wednesday, at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, according to several congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter.</p> <p>Trump's orders were expected to involve restricting access to the United States for refugees and some visa holders from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, said the aides and experts, who asked not to be identified.</p></body></html> Politics Immigration Tue, 24 Jan 2017 23:49:17 +0000 Reuters 323921 at Badlands National Park's Viral Tweets on Climate Change Just Disappeared <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On Tuesday morning, the official Badlands National Park Twitter account started talking about climate change:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202017-01-24%20at%205.28.26%20PM.png"></div> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Because President Donald Trump has previously said that climate change is a <a href="" target="_blank">Chinese hoax</a>, and because the administration has, apparently, <a href="" target="_blank">banned Environmental Protection Agency employees</a> from talking about <em>anything</em>, and because the main National Park Service Twitter account was recently censored by the White House for (gently!) mocking Trump's small inauguration crowd size, Badlands' tweetstorm quickly went viral.</p> <p>But four hours after the first one went out, the four tweets about climate change were deleted.</p> <p>What happened? It's unclear. The park didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. But the deleted tweets are unusual because Badlands tweets about climate change all the time. The park's hyperactive social media account, like the digital imprints of a lot of parks and agencies, really wants the world to know what global warming is doing to its patch of South Dakota:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202017-01-24%20at%205.15.22%20PM_0.png"></div> <p>And:</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/Screen%20Shot%202017-01-24%20at%205.14.20%20PM.png"></div> <p>And:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">#ThatMondayFeeling</a> Globally amphibians are declining from a chytrid fungus that is driven by <a href="">#climatechange</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Badlands Nat'l Park (@BadlandsNPS) <a href="">July 19, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And my favorite:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="und"><a href="">@NPCA</a> <a href="">#climate</a></p> &mdash; Badlands Nat'l Park (@BadlandsNPS) <a href="">August 18, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Tweeting about climate change wasn&rsquo;t out of character. It might not have had anything to do with Trump. But deleting those tweets? That&rsquo;s kind of unusual.</p> <p><strong>Update: </strong>DNC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson has now weighed in on the missing tweets, emailing reporters, "Vladimir Putin would be proud."</p></body></html> Politics Climate Change Tue, 24 Jan 2017 22:55:03 +0000 Tim Murphy 323886 at Conservatives Pull Off Yet Another Idiotic Planned Parenthood "Sting" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The conservo-sphere is in a tizzy today over yet another undercover video. This one, from the group Live Action, purports to show that Planned Parenthood is lying about what they do: if you want an abortion, they're happy to help. But prenatal services? They'll turn you down every time. They have dozens of recorded phone calls to prove it.</p> <p>I'm sure you're wondering what the catch is. The answer is: there isn't one. Planned Parenthood is very clear about their mission. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Planned Parenthood health centers focus on prevention: <strong>80 percent</strong> of our patients receive <strong>services to prevent unintended pregnancy.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Page 29 of their <a href="" target="_blank">2014-15 annual report</a> breaks this down into the following colorful chart, available to anyone with an internet connection:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_planned_parenthood_prenatal.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Page 30 provides more detailed data: Prenatal visits accounted for 17,149 "clinical interactions" out of a total of 9,455,582. That's 0.18 percent of the total. I've added the blue sliver at the top to illustrate this.</p> <p>In other words, Planned Parenthood doesn't pretend that prenatal care represents a big share of what they do. For the most part, they provide contraception, abortions, STD testing, and various screening services. The folks who ran this sting operation knew this perfectly well, and deliberately chose to call and ask about a service that very few clinics provide&mdash;all so they could get lots of "undercover" phone calls of Planned Parenthood receptionists turning them away when they asked for help. They could have saved themselves a lot of time by just sticking a camera in front of a couple of pages of Planned Parenthood's annual report.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 24 Jan 2017 22:27:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 323901 at Here's Kellyanne Conway's 1998 Stand-Up Comedy Performance <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Long before she rose to fame as President Donald Trump's spin master and chief defender of <a href="" target="_blank">"alternative facts,"</a> Kellyanne Conway once participated in a Washington D.C. charity event where she delivered a stand-up comedy routine, complete with a red-feathered boa song-and-dance number. The unlikely 1998 performance, which was recently unearthed and published on YouTube, featured jokes about Norman Ornstein and "political pundettes."&nbsp;</p> <p>Although she appeared to give it her all, Conway's routine doesn't appear to have been a hit. Nearly 20 years later, she can at least take comfort in knowing someone still believes in her performing skills:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em><a href=";utm_source=jezebel_twitter&amp;utm_medium=socialflow" target="_blank">(h/t Jezebel)</a></em></p></body></html> Media Donald Trump Tue, 24 Jan 2017 22:25:29 +0000 Inae Oh 323891 at Jerry Brown Blasts Trump's "Alternate Universe of Non-Facts" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's almost as if the man who once ran for the White House himself is taking a stand as a kind of alternative president. In his annual State of the State Address on Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown reiterated a vision for the nation's most populous state that was thoroughly at odds with the Trump administration. He pledged to continue inking California's own climate agreements with other states and countries, to fight for the Affordable Care Act, and to "defend everybody&mdash;every man, woman, and child&mdash;who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state."</p> <p>Expanding upon <a href="" target="_blank">recent vows to counter Trump's agenda</a>, Brown took aim at the administration's "bald assertion of 'alternative facts'" and "blatant attacks on science." He lamented that the "familiar signposts of our democracy&mdash;truth, civility, working together&mdash;have been swept aside." But he maintained that California could serve as a powerful bulwark: "We must prepare for uncertain times and reaffirm the basic principles that have made California the Great Exception that it is."</p> <p>"When we defend California," Brown said, "we defend America."</p> <p>Here's the <a href="" target="_blank">full text</a> of the speech:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thank you. Thank you for all that energy and enthusiasm. It is just what we need for the battle ahead. So keep it up and don&rsquo;t ever falter.<br><br> This is California, the sixth most powerful economy in the world. One out of every eight Americans lives right here and 27 percent &ndash; almost eleven million &ndash; were born in a foreign land.<br><br> When California does well, America does well. And when California hurts, America hurts. [In the delivered version of the speech, Brown added: "When we defend California, we defend America."]<br><br> As the English poet, John Donne, said almost 400 years ago:<br><br> &ldquo;No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main&hellip;And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.&rdquo;<br><br> A few moments ago, I swore into office our new attorney general. Like so many others, he is the son of immigrants who saw California as a place where, through grit and determination, they could realize their dreams. And they are not alone, millions of Californians have come here from Mexico and a hundred other countries, making our state what it is today: vibrant, even turbulent, and a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.<br><br> We don&rsquo;t have a Statue of Liberty with its inscription: &ldquo;Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free&hellip;&rdquo; But we do have the Golden Gate and a spirit of adventure and openness that has welcomed &ndash; since the Gold Rush of 1848 &ndash; one wave of immigration after another.<br><br> For myself, I feel privileged to stand before you as your governor, as did my father almost sixty years ago. His mother, Ida, the youngest of eight children, was born in very modest circumstances, not very far from where we are gathered today. Her father arrived in California in 1852, having left from the Port of Hamburg, aboard a ship named &ldquo;Perseverance.&rdquo;<br><br> It is that spirit of perseverance and courage which built our state from the beginning. And it is that spirit which will get us through the great uncertainty and the difficulties ahead.<br><br> It is customary on an occasion like this to lay out a specific agenda for the year ahead. Six times before from this rostrum, I have done that, and in some detail. And, as I reread those proposals set forth in previous State of the State speeches, I was amazed to see how much we have accomplished together.<br><br> We have:<br><br> Increased &ndash; by tens of billions &ndash; support for our public schools and universities.<br> Provided health insurance to over five million more Californians.<br> Raised the minimum wage.<br> Reduced prison overcrowding and reformed our system of crime and punishment.<br> Made California a world leader in the fight against climate change.<br> Passed a water bond.<br> Built up a rainy day fund.<br> And closed a huge $27 billion deficit.<br><br> And during the last seven years, California has reduced the unemployment rate from 12.1 percent to 5.2 percent and created almost 2.5 million jobs. And that&rsquo;s not all.<br><br> But this morning it is hard for me to keep my thoughts just on California. The recent election and inauguration of a new President have shown deep divisions across America.<br><br> While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. We have seen the bald assertion of &ldquo;alternative facts.&rdquo; We have heard the blatant attacks on science. Familiar signposts of our democracy &ndash;truth, civility, working together &ndash; have been obscured or swept aside.<br><br> But on Saturday, in cities across the country, we also witnessed a vast and inspiring fervor that is stirring in the land. Democracy doesn&rsquo;t come from the top; it starts and spreads in the hearts of the people. And in the hearts of Americans, our core principles are as strong as ever.<br><br> So as we reflect on the state of our state, we should do so in the broader context of our country and its challenges. We must prepare for uncertain times and reaffirm the basic principles that have made California the Great Exception that it is.<br><br> First, in California, immigrants are an integral part of who we are and what we&rsquo;ve become. They have helped create the wealth and dynamism of this state from the very beginning.<br><br> I recognize that under the Constitution, federal law is supreme and that Washington determines immigration policy. But as a state we can and have had a role to play. California has enacted several protective measures for the undocumented: the Trust Act, lawful driver&rsquo;s licenses, basic employment rights and non-discriminatory access to higher education.<br><br> We may be called upon to defend those laws and defend them we will. And let me be clear: we will defend everybody &ndash; every man, woman and child &ndash; who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.<br><br> My second point relates to health care. More than any other state, California embraced the Affordable Care Act and over five million people now enjoy its benefits. But that coverage has come with tens of billions of federal dollars. Were any of that to be taken away, our state budget would be directly affected, possibly devastated. That is why I intend to join with other governors &ndash; and with you &ndash; to do everything we can to protect the health care of our people.<br><br> Third, our state is known the world over for the actions we have taken to encourage renewable energy and combat climate change.<br><br> Whatever they do in Washington, they can&rsquo;t change the facts. And these are the facts: the climate is changing, the temperatures are rising and so are the oceans. Natural habitats everywhere are under increasing stress. The world knows this.<br><br> One hundred and ninety-four countries signed the Paris Agreement to control greenhouse gases. Our own voluntary agreement to accomplish the same goal &ndash; the &ldquo;Under Two M.O.U.&rdquo; &ndash; has 165 signatories, representing a billion people.<br><br> We cannot fall back and give in to the climate deniers. The science is clear. The danger is real.&nbsp;<br><br> We can do much on our own and we can join with others &ndash; other states and provinces and even countries, to stop the dangerous rise in climate pollution. And we will.<br><br> Fourth is infrastructure. This is a topic where the President has stated his firm intention to build and build big.<br><br> In his inaugural address, he said: &ldquo;We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation.&rdquo;<br><br> And in this, we can all work together &ndash; here in Sacramento and in Washington as well. We have roads and tunnels and railroads and even a dam that the President could help us with. And that will create good-paying American jobs.<br><br> As we face the hard journey ahead, we will have to summon, as Abraham Lincoln said, &ldquo;the better angels of our nature.&rdquo; Above all else, we have to live in the truth.<br><br> We all have our opinions but for democracy to work, we have to trust each other. We have to strive to understand the facts and state them clearly as we argue our points of view. As Hugo Grotius, the famous Dutch jurist, said long ago, &ldquo;even God cannot cause two times two not to make four.&rdquo;<br><br> When the science is clear or when our own eyes tell us that the seats in this chamber are filled or that the sun is shining, we must say so, not construct some alternate universe of non-facts that we find more pleasing.<br><br> Along with truth, we must practice civility. Although we have disagreed &ndash; often along party lines &ndash; we have generally been civil to one another and avoided the rancor of Washington. I urge you to go even further and look for new ways to work beyond party and act as Californians first.<br><br> Democrats are in the majority, but Republicans represent real Californians too. We went beyond party when we reformed workers&rsquo; compensation, when we created a rainy day fund and when we passed the water bond.<br><br> Let&rsquo;s do that again and set an example for the rest of the country. And, in the process, we will earn the trust of the people of California.&nbsp;<br><br> And then there is perseverance. It is not an accident that the sailing ship that brought my great-grandfather to America was named &ldquo;Perseverance.&rdquo; That is exactly what it took to endure the dangerous and uncertain months at sea, sailing from Germany to America.<br><br> While we now face different challenges, make no mistake: the future is uncertain and dangers abound. Whether it&rsquo;s the threat to our budget, or to undocumented Californians, or to our efforts to combat climate change &ndash; or even more global threats such as a financial meltdown or a nuclear incident or terrorist attack &ndash; this is a time which calls out for courage and for perseverance. I promise you both.<br><br> But let&rsquo;s remember as well that after the perilous voyage, those who made it to America found boundless opportunity. And so will we.&nbsp;<br><br> Let me end in the immortal words of Woody Guthrie:<br><br> &ldquo;This land is your land, this land is my land<br> From California to the New York Island<br> From the Redwood Forest, to the Gulf Stream waters<br> This land was made for you and me...<br><br> Nobody living can ever stop me,<br> As I go walking that freedom highway;<br> Nobody living can ever make me turn back<br> This land was made for you and me.&rdquo;</p> <p>California is not turning back. Not now, not ever.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Politics Climate Change Donald Trump Immigration Top Stories california Tue, 24 Jan 2017 20:55:56 +0000 Josh Harkinson 323881 at The Trump Administration Really Doesn't Want EPA Employees Talking to the Press <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="" target="_blank">story</a> originally appeared on </em>The Huffington Post <em>and is reproduced here as part of the </em><a href="" target="_blank">Climate Desk</a> <em>collaboration.</em></p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency</a> has frozen its grant programs, according to sources there.</p> <p>EPA staff has been instructed to freeze all its grants&mdash;an <a href="" target="_blank">extensive program</a> that includes funding for research, redevelopment of former industrial sites, air quality monitoring and education, among other things&mdash;and told not to discuss this order with anyone outside the agency, according to a Hill source with knowledge of the situation.</p> <p>An EPA staffer provided the information to the congressional office anonymously, fearing retaliation.</p> <p>It's unclear whether the freeze is indefinite or temporary as the agency transitions fully to the Trump administration; the Senate has not yet confirmed Trump's pick for EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. It's also not clear the immediate impact the grant freeze would have on programs across the country, since EPA grants are distributed at varying intervals and frequency.</p> <p>"I will say it's pretty unusual for us to get these kinds of anonymous contacts from people at the agency, which makes me think it's unusual," said the Hill source.</p> <p>Neither the Trump transition office nor the central press office at the EPA responded to a request for comment Monday.</p> <p><em>The Huffington Post</em> also received a message that was reportedly sent to staff Monday that seems to cover the current agency guidance on talking to the press in general, not just about the directive on grants. The memo states that the agency is imposing tight controls on external communication, including press releases, blog posts, social media, and content on the agency website.</p> <blockquote> <p><em>I just returned from a briefing for Communication Directors where the following information was provided. These restrictions are effective immediately and will remain in place until further direction is received from the new Administration&rsquo;s Beach Team. Please review this material and share with all appropriate individuals in your organization. If anyone on your staff receives a press inquiry of any kind, it must be referred to me so I can coordinate with the appropriate individuals in OPA.</em></p> <ul><li><em>No press releases will be going out to external audiences.</em></li> <li><em>No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled.</em></li> <li><em>No blog messages.</em></li> <li><em>The Beach Team will review the list of upcoming webinars and decide which ones will go forward.</em></li> <li><em>Please send me a list of any external speaking engagements that are currently scheduled among any of your staff from today through February.</em></li> <li><em>Incoming media requests will be carefully screened.</em></li> <li><em>No new content can be placed on any website. Only do clean up where essential.</em></li> <li><em>List servers will be reviewed. Only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.</em></li> </ul><p><em>I will provide updates to this information as soon as I receive it.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>("Beach team" refers to staffers for the new administration working at the various agencies while new leadership is put in place; "OPA" most likely refers to the "Office of Public Affairs.")</p> <p>There are clearly major changes underway at the EPA as the Trump team takes the helm. Trump appointed <a href="" target="_blank">Myron Ebell</a>, the director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute and a fierce EPA critic, to oversee the transition work at the agency. <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Axios </em>reported</a> Monday that the Trump team plans to cut $815 million from the agency's budget, for programs like states and tribal assistance grants, climate programs and other "environment programs and management."</p> <p>Pruitt has a long history of battling the agency over environmental regulations as the attorney general of Oklahoma, <a href="" target="_blank">describing himself</a> as "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda."</p> <p>UPDATE: In a report later Monday night, <a href="" target="_blank">ProPublica confirmed</a> the freeze&nbsp;in an interview and reported it also includes EPA contracts.&nbsp;Ebell told ProPublica the freeze is to "make sure nothing happens they don't want to have happen."</p> <p>"This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it's very similar to what others have done," he said.</p></body></html> Environment Climate Desk Tue, 24 Jan 2017 20:22:00 +0000 Kate Sheppard 323866 at White House Press Secretary Defends Trump's Bogus Allegations of Voter Fraud <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump's false assertion that millions of people voted illegally in the November elections. Spicer repeatedly affirmed that Trump has long held this view, but he could not cite any credible evidence for the belief. Instead, he named a study that does not back up the president's claims.</p> <p>"The president does believe that," Spicer said in response to a question about illegal voting. "I think he's stated his concerns of voter fraud and people voting illegally during the campaign. And he continues to maintain that belief based on studies and evidence that people have presented to him."</p> <p>Asked for specific evidence, Spicer replied, "I think the president has believed that for a while based on studies and information he has."</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src=";show_text=0&amp;width=560" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>This response spurred more questions from reporters throughout the briefing. NPR's Mara Liasson grilled Spicer on whether Trump will pursue an investigation. "If 3 to 5 million people voted illegally, that is a scandal of astronomical proportions," she said. "I'm asking you, why not investigate something that is the biggest scandal in American electoral history?" Other reporters asked similar follow-up questions, but Spicer said there are currently no plans for an investigation.</p> <p>Spicer did cite as evidence a 2008 Pew Research Center report that he said supported Trump's claim. But it quickly became clear that this was false.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">As primary author of the report the Trump camp cited today, I can confirm that report made no findings re: voter fraud. /1</p> &mdash; David Becker (@beckerdavidj) <a href="">November 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@mariaspinella</a> <a href="">@PressSec</a> I'm aware of no Pew report, including the ones I wrote when I was there, which support any findings of voter fraud</p> &mdash; David Becker (@beckerdavidj) <a href="">January 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Members of the media also quickly impugned Spicer's honesty over the exchange.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">It goes without saying but lying about voting fraud is far worse than lying about crowd size.</p> &mdash; Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) <a href="">January 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Spicer's integrity was already on the line after he gave a series of false statements on Saturday regarding the size of the audience at Trump's inauguration and then <a href="" target="_blank">defended those statements</a> in his first full press conference on Monday.</p> <p>After the election, Trump <a href="" target="_blank">tweeted</a> that he would have won the popular vote "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." On Monday, in a meeting with congressional leaders from both parties, Trump <a href="" target="_blank">reportedly spent the first 10 minutes</a> claiming again that 3 to 5 million "illegals" had voted. But on Tuesday, Spicer assured the press that Trump is "very comfortable with his win." Trump, Spicer <a href="" target="_blank">continued</a>, received the most electoral votes of any Republican president since Ronald Reagan. Again, that's not right: George H. W. Bush got more in 1988.</p></body></html> Politics 2016 Elections Tue, 24 Jan 2017 19:49:45 +0000 Pema Levy 323871 at Trump Resurrects Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Environmentalists and social justice advocates scored long-shot victories during the Obama years when they successfully pressured the administration to block construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. But it turns out those victories may be short-lived.</p> <p>On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order and several presidential memorandums to move along the two projects.</p> <p>The executive order lays out a process by which the administration will identify &ldquo;high priority infrastructure projects&rdquo; and undertake an expedited review. The Keystone memorandum invites TransCanada, the pipeline operator, to resubmit its application for approval and promises an expeditious review by the State Department. Trump told reporters at the White House, "We are going to renegotiate some of the terms" of the Keystone XL project, such as requiring that the steel be made in the United States.</p> <p>The Dakota Access memorandum encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to revisit its decision from December to halt construction along the project&rsquo;s original route while an environmental review was carried out.</p> <p>Much remains unclear about what exactly the new orders will mean for the Dakota Access Pipeline&mdash;which sparked controversy in large part because it was slated to cross Lake Oahe near land owned by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe&mdash;and Keystone, which would have required a federal permit to cross the US-Canadian border and transport tar sands crude oil to the Gulf Coast.</p> <p>EarthJustice, the group that has represented the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said it does not plan to immediately file a new lawsuit but that if the Army Corps of Engineers does reverse its decision, the group &ldquo;will likely seek court review.&rdquo;</p> <p>"President Trump appears to be ignoring the law, public sentiment and ethical considerations with this executive order aimed at resurrecting the long-rejected Keystone XL pipeline and circumventing the ongoing environmental review process for the highly controversial Dakota Access Pipeline," said EarthJustice President Trip Van Noppen. "This move is legally questionable, at best."</p> <p>Presumably the next step for the 1,179-mile Keystone XL will be for TransCanada to resubmit its application to the new administration. There are two ways Trump could greenlight Keystone from there. He can eliminate the need for a National Interest Determination, which would involve the State Department collecting information from multiple federal agencies about whether the project is in the national interest. (The Obama administration previously declared that the project did not serve the national interest.) Or he and his Secretary of State could simply reverse the Obama ruling and declare that building the pipeline is indeed in the national interest.</p> <p>Though Trump is clearly hoping for construction to begin quickly, environmentalists are already making plans drag the process out. Jane Kleeb, who runs the Bold Alliance and opposes Keystone, noted that TransCanada doesn't yet have the land it needs to complete the pipeline. "We are headed to the courts to challenge the right to use eminent domain," Kleeb said.</p> <p><em>This story has been revised to include additional developments.</em></p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Donald Trump Energy Dakota Access Pipeline Infrastructure Tue, 24 Jan 2017 19:17:58 +0000 Rebecca Leber 323841 at