Clean Power Plan Rollback Won’t Save Coal

The Trump administration’s decision to scrap the Clean Power Plan, and replace it with a scheme that will allow at least 12 times the pollution, is irresponsible and will do nothing to meet moral and legal obligations to lower carbon emissions. Despite this brazen effort to prop up the coal industry, free market forces will continue to displace coal in favor of natural gas and renewables. Pandering to coal state residents with false promises of a coal comeback is self-serving and cruel. Scrapping the Clean Power Plan, along with this administration’s effort to roll back auto fuel efficiency and emission standards, and a host of other pollution control rollbacks, together constitute the biggest assault on America’s air quality since President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act into law 48 years ago. Equally problematic, is the administration’s total abandonment of efforts to address climate change. Ignoring a very real problem, which is already having significant impacts and proving costly, is not conservative. A comprehensive, common-sense policy to reduce carbon emissions is greatly needed, and Republicans in Congress need to finally step up. Thirty years ago President Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, two of the world’s greatest conservative leaders, were both boldly calling for action to address climate change. Thatcher warned that we must “remember our duty to Nature before it is too late.” In the three decades since, the science has gotten more certain, the impacts have become obvious, and yet today’s pretend “conservatives” have prioritized special interest politics over their moral obligation to safeguard our planet, or as Reagan put it, “this magical planet that God gave us.” The current...

Arsonists and Poachers do not Deserve Pardons

Remember the old adage “if you do the crime, you do the time.” That slogan reflects the time-honored belief that those who willfully engage in criminal behavior should be held accountable. Unfortunately, President Trump veered sharply away from this basic law and order principle when he recently decided to pardon Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of which are convicted arsonists. The Hammonds, who have a decades long history of lawless and bullying behavior, were convicted in 2012 of setting fires on public land in 2001 and 2006 that endangered nearby hunters and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff. One of those fires was set to cover up another crime after a hunting party witnessed the Hammonds poaching deer. The Hammonds’ conviction and 5-year prison sentence, which was ordered by a Reagan appointed judge, became a cause celeb for anti-government radicals. It gained national attention in 2016 when Ammon Bundy and roughly a dozen other militants seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, beginning a 41-day occupation and standoff with authorities. Indiana oil products tycoon and friend of Vice President Mike Pence, Forrest Lucas, lobbied for the Hammonds pardon, as did Oregon Congressman Greg Walden and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke.  After the pardon, Lucas flew the Hammonds home on his private jet. This pardon sends exactly the wrong message to those who willfully ignore public land protections and violate the law. It will likely embolden others, especially the militant Bundy types who seek to run roughshod over the ownership rights of all Americans to our parks, refuges and other public lands. Furthermore, given the exploding problem of wildfires plaguing the...

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...

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