Boot the Swamp Monster, then Reboot EPA

Count CRS as part of the bi-partisan chorus calling for an end to the Scott Pruitt era at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). From the start, it was clear that Scott Pruitt—who had sued the EPA 13 times to block environmental protections—was ill suited to lead the agency. His open disdain for EPA’s mission and overwhelming bias towards polluting special interests were obvious concerns. Still, he has managed to be far worse than billed. Pruitt’s many ethical lapses are so jaw dropping that they stand out even against the backdrop of an administration replete with ethical shortcomings. It started with him having a $43,000 soundproof booth built in his office to prevent other EPA staff from overhearing his conversations. Then we find that he was living in an energy lobbyist’s condo on sweetheart lease terms. Beyond that, there were shady real estate dealings in Oklahoma, flying first class on taxpayers’ dime, and taking expensive overseas junkets to promote natural gas exports. Recently it was discovered that Pruitt’s EPA, along with the White House, sought to block publication of a federal health study on nationwide toxic water-contamination that threatens human health after an aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare.” Pruitt’s tenure is also rife with examples of him privately meeting with industry lobbyists, then immediately ordering policy changes that favor those same special interests. Having Scott Pruitt as EPA chief makes the president’s “drain the swamp” rhetoric down right Orwellian. Under Pruitt, the swamp of special interest influence and self-dealing has gotten exponentially deeper—and the mission of EPA turned upside-down. This corruption of EPA and total...

Conservatives Rally to Defend National Monuments

The Trump administration’s unprecedented rollback of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments in Utah—along with signals of more monument slashing to come—has generated strong pushback from conservatives. In addition to CRS, Citizens of the Republic (founded by Ronald Reagan), and the Green Tea Coalition have rallied to the defense of America’s national monuments–all coordinating their efforts as part of the American Monuments Alliance. In addition, numerous conservative legal scholars have challenged the administration’s rollbacks as unlawful and unconstitutional. Even more telling, recent polling shows that the vast majority of conservatives oppose the administration’s national monument rollbacks.  For example, a national poll by McLaughlin & Associates late last year found that 85 percent of Republicans nationwide support keeping existing national monument designations in place or increasing their number. Safeguarding important parts of America’s natural and cultural heritage has always been conservative. As President Reagan once noted, “What is a conservative after all but one who conserves.” Prudence, tradition, and selfless concern for future generations are all hallmarks of genuine conservatism. Those on the political right who betray those values are not conservative. It, therefore, makes sense that a Republican, John F. Lacey (IA), wrote the 1906 law authorizing the designation of national monuments, that it was passed by a Republican Congress, and that is was signed into law by a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt. That purpose of that law, the Antiquities Act, was to prevent the looting, vandalism, and other harmful exploitation plaguing important areas of cultural or natural significance. Devils Tower, Montezuma Castle, Petrified Forest, Muir Woods, and the Grand Canyon were among the first places protected...

Another Threat to America’s Great Outdoors?

Over the past year, our public lands and waters have been under siege like never before. National monuments, the Arctic Refuge, sensitive coastal areas, have all had their protections removed. Countless other public land protections and environmental safeguards have been scrapped.  Soon we may be adding the selloff of our public lands to that list. The Trump administration’s recently leaked infrastructure document, titled “Funding Principles,” appears to call for selling off America’s great outdoors to special interests as a way of funding its infrastructure goals. In the section titled Disposition of Federal Real Property, it “would establish through executive order the authority to allow for the disposal of Federal assets.” If enacted, President Trump and/or Secretary Zinke would be able to sell our publicly owned lands as they see fit. Apparently, it does not matter that during the campaign both Trump and Zinke claimed to oppose any efforts to sell or otherwise transfer America’s public lands. This is something CRS will be monitoring closely. Share...

Trump’s Monument Rollback is Unconstitutional

With his recent announcement in Utah that he intends to dramatically slash Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, President Trump has crossed the threshold from ill-advised rhetoric to illegality. While this is the clear consensus of legal minds from across the political spectrum, conservative lawyers and experts well steeped in the U.S. Constitution are sounding some of the loudest alarms. A new legal paper from Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general under President Reagan, and W Bruce DelValle—both partners at the firm Fein & DelValle PLLC—makes the case that Trump’s actions are not simply illegal, they are unconstitutional. Fein and DelValle point out that in crafting the Antiquities Act, which grants presidents the authority to establish national monuments, Congress never “intended to crown the President with discretion to revoke or materially diminish or alter the management of an existing national monument.” They go on to explain that Congress was careful to make sure that nothing in the language of the Antiquities Act delegates “legislative power to the President to revoke or to materially disturb prior presidential national monument declarations.” In fact, the ability of Congress to delegate legislative authority to the president is limited under the constitution, which is why that authority must be explicit and provide “intelligible standards to restrain executive discretion.” The implications of President Trump attempting to overstep the limits of his power by rolling back national monuments extend well beyond the harm caused to the monuments themselves—and our natural and cultural heritage that they protect. This move threatens to erode the separation of powers on which our democracy is founded. It represents...

CRS Ad Highlights Need for Strong Environmental Leadership

“I believe in a sound, strong environmental policy that protects the health of our people and a wise stewardship of our nation’s natural resources.” – President Ronald Reagan Those words were spoken at a time when our elected leaders, regardless of party or faction, truly believed American natural resources were worth fighting for.  Clean water and clean air were priorities along with good health and safe communities. Today our Nation is suffering from a lack of responsible environmental leadership, especially on the political right. We need more conservatives willing to show leadership and take a stand to preserve America’s natural heritage and security. U.S. Representatives Ryan Costello and Brian Fitzpatrick showed that leadership when they voted against riders to the federal budget that would have blocked new U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to cut natural gas waste and methane pollution. That is why Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship is thanking Reps. Costello and Fitzpatrick for their leadership with a print and digital ad campaign. Now it is time for other elected officials, at the state and federal level, to join them in support of commonsense policies that protect American resources and our environment. In fact, the attack on federal methane rules is not unlike the fight happening now in the Pennsylvania legislature where legislators are trying to pass budget riders that could block air quality permits that reduce methane emissions and other pollution. Unfortunately, natural gas waste and methane pollution is a big problem in that state. In fact, Pennsylvania oil and gas operators emit more than 110,000 tons of methane every single year...

Zinke Recommends Slashing National Monuments

CRS is deeply disappointed that Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke has recommended that the Trump Administration dramatically shrink protections for some of our nation’s cherished national monuments. Secretary Zinke confirmed that he recommended rollbacks in a report to President Trump, but the administration has thus far kept the details shrouded in secrecy. “This outcome seems to have been baked in from the start,” said CRS President David Jenkins. “How else can one explain a decision that defies consensus legal opinion and ignores the clear wishes of more than 99 percent of Americans who submitted comments?” According to press reports, Zinke has recommended slashing at least four national monuments. Two of these are in Utah, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.  Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is reported to also be on that list. Such rollbacks of national monuments are unprecedented, and according to a broad consensus of legal experts, illegal. This includes legal opinions from conservative consultants that advised the Trump transition team. One such opinion points out: “Congress intended the Antiquities Act to be used as a ‘one-way’ authority to create and expand monuments, not abolish or diminish them in size.” It went on to note that Congress reaffirmed this by passing the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), which stipulates that only Congress has authority to modify and revoke national monuments created under the Antiquities Act. The administration has allowed the opinions of a few disgruntled special interests and their pals in Congress to trump the opinions of most Americans—and the best interests of communities that benefit from our national monuments. When the details come out, it...