Redoubling our efforts after Pruitt’s departure

Scott Pruitt may have left the building, but his legacy of attacks on the environment and climate denial will likely live on. So, Save The Bay’s work to protect the Bay Area and California remains vital and urgent this year.

Pruitt’s resignation as EPA Administrator comes after his many scandals prompted at least 13 federal investigations. Worse for the planet, Pruitt also initiated 31 EPA deregulation efforts to undo long-standing rules that protect public health from pollution. Expect Pruitt’s replacement, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, to continue or accelerate this agenda, and offer no relief to the nation’s air and water.

A former coal and uranium lobbyist, Wheeler lobbied for Murray Energy and other major polluters, working against strong protections for clean air, water and public lands. He also worked as an aide to James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the leading climate change denier in the U.S. Senate. Wheeler could actually be more effective than Pruitt was in rolling back environmental protections because he’s a veteran Washington, DC, insider with extensive political contacts.

So, what should we do? Resist and redouble our efforts to ensure state and regional environmental laws and funding compensate for federal disinvestment in San Francisco Bay and California’s resources. Save The Bay will:

  • Lead the fight to reduce pollution of the Bay and accelerate climate adaptation in the Bay Area. Whoever runs the EPA, we have the tools to reduce trash in the Bay, and insist that California regulators enforce the stormwater pollution rules Caltrans has violated for years.
  • Seize the opportunity to secure another $200 million in state matching funds for Bay marsh restoration this fall. We’ve already endorsed Proposition 3, the November state water bond that adds money for the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority’s wetlands grants, beyond what the regional Measure AA parcel tax provides.
  • Encourage our federal elected officials to exercise vigorous oversight of EPA and block rollback of crucial water and air protections. We’ll urge Senators Feinstein and Harris, Nancy Pelosi and the entire Bay Area delegation to be tenacious watchdogs over the EPA’s budget, and the Clean Water Act that guards against pollution and destruction of wetlands.

You can help by supporting Save The Bay generously. And sign up for action alerts and volunteer programs.

The Bay Area and California have already shown we won’t let the Trump Administration take us backwards on environmental protection. Scott Pruitt’s resignation should only strengthen our resolve to make San Francisco Bay better for future generations, starting right here at home.

 

 

An Earth Day Present for Scott Pruitt

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Back in February America’s newest EPA
Administrator Scott Pruitt famously said on CNBC’s Squawk Box,

I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate
is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement
about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that [carbon dioxide]
is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

This statement is not only alarming, but it also discredits the climate research conducted by the nation’s top organizations including the EPA, NASA, and NOAA, all of which agree that carbon dioxide emissions are a key driver of climate change.

It was painfully clear that Pruitt forgot to do his science homework and was desperately in need of some help. So, we decided purchase a copy of Global Warming for Dummies and even asked hundreds of Save The Bay supporters to sign the book.

Thanks to you we’re now ready to ship a copy to Washington D.C. just in time for Earth Day so Pruitt can study up and faithfully execute his core duty as EPA Administrator: make America green again.

We hope you enjoy your present, Scott!

Op-Ed: Trump budget would make America dirty and sick again

Jorge Gonzalez, searches for debris near collected old tires at Warm Water Cove, in San Francisco, Calif., as he joins hundreds of volunteers participating in the Community Team's Coastal Cleanup Day, at different locations along the San Francisco Bay shoreline, on Sat. September 19, 2015. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle
Jorge Gonzalez, searches for debris near collected old tires at Warm Water Cove, in San Francisco, Calif., as he joins hundreds of volunteers participating in the Community Team’s Coastal Cleanup Day, at different locations along the San Francisco Bay shoreline, on Sat. September 19, 2015. Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

President Trump’s budget proposal is a direct assault on our health and safety. The enormous cuts he is proposing to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will hurt people and the planet by gutting enforcement of laws that protect the water we drink, the air we breathe and the environment that sustains us.

How many voters last year asked for more smoggy skies and fouled water, for less enforcement of criminal pollution and faster climate change? It’s doubtful most Trump voters want that, but his budget sides with polluter interests and climate deniers — not with us.

The EPA has a huge responsibility but a tiny budget. Out of every $10 in federal taxes, just two cents goes to the EPA. Cutting the EPA’s budget by 31 percent would not save much money, but it would cost a lot in lives, in lost productivity from illness and in pollution damage to crucial resources such as San Francisco Bay.

The Bay is our region’s greatest natural treasure, the heart of our economy and quality of life. It took enormous effort to return the Bay to health from near-death 40 years ago, when it was choked with garbage, sewage and industrial waste.

The Clean Water Act and the EPA helped build treatment plants in the 1970s that made the Bay’s beaches safe and its waters swimmable again. Harbor porpoises have even returned to the Bay.

As the Bay Area keeps growing, we need more federal investment, not less, to combat the impacts of climate change, freshwater diversion and polluted storm water pouring unfiltered off streets into the Bay.

Bay Area voters agreed to tax themselves in last year’s Measure AA to accelerate shoreline wetlands restoration that’s mostly within a federal wildlife refuge. The federal government should match our investment, yet Trump’s budget would zero out EPA’s $5 million program that protects marsh habitat and reduces pollution in the Bay.

And the cuts go much deeper.

The Bay Area environment is not a bubble. We’re connected to the rest of California and the nation, where the EPA’s programs have made people and wildlife healthier and safer. Agency warnings about threats to fish species and water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are forcing a rewrite of Gov. Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix. The EPA’s Clean Air Act enforcement reduced smog from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh and forced safer drinking water in cities nationwide. To avoid more health crises like the tragedy in Flint, Mich., we need a stronger EPA, not budget cuts that slash enforcement.

The EPA identifies and cleans up toxic waste at Superfund sites, including more than 50 in the Bay Area. Its Toxics Release Inventory publishes data online so we know the pollution risks in our backyards. It is on the front lines of addressing the climate change that is already hurting our health, natural resources and economy.

The EPA has helped cut global warming gases from U.S. power plants, factories and cars, and its energy efficiency standards have reduced our consumption of fossil fuels. While Trump and his Cabinet deny facts and ignore science, the EPA is required by law to limit the carbon emissions that are cooking the planet. But that takes resources and staff that Trump would cut.

We must tell Congress to reject reckless budget cuts to environmental protection. Every mayor and city council member must echo that call. Our governor and state Legislature must keep their pledge to enforce laws if the federal government does relax its efforts, and fund enforcement of those laws.

Trump’s budget would make America dirty and sick again, and nobody who breathes or drinks should stand for it.

 

David Lewis is the executive director of Save the Bay. Learn more at www.savesfbay.org.
This Op-ed was originally published in the SF Chronicle on 3/18,2017. 

Bay Alert! Urgent Action Needed: Give Today!

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Trump’s EPA budget was leaked to the press. It’s bad news for public health and the environment, especially our Bay. Trump’s budget totally eliminates EPA’s San Francisco Bay program. While other bays around the country face reductions in EPA funding, our Bay funding has been slashed to zero.

This is a slap in the face to you and every Bay Area resident who wants healthy communities and natural resources. The EPA is supposed to ensure clean water and healthy wetlands. But the federal government is turning its back on us by cutting EPA’s San Francisco Bay funding entirely.

We have to step up and protect our Bay from the White House. I hope you’ll make an emergency contribution to Save The Bay now so we can scale up our efforts at the state and local level to defend our Bay and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

With Trump proposing these deep funding cuts, you and I will have to do more to protect the Bay. Save The Bay’s strategy is basic: act locally to make the Bay healthier. We’re working with Bay Area cities to reduce toxic pollution, restore wetlands, and lower climate change risks to people and wildlife. We’ve proven we can take on tough challenges and win. But we can’t do this without you. Please give today so we can preserve this amazing place we call home.

Trump’s planned EPA cuts: Zero dollars for Bay Area program

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The San Francisco Bay is emerging as a huge target for the Trump Administration as it plans to slash spending at the Environmental Protection Agency: A preliminary budget this week shows President Donald Trump plans to eliminate a $4.8 million federal program to protect the bay.

The document, obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, outlines major cuts to estuaries around the country, as the administration aims to carve 3,000 jobs and $2 billion, or 25 percent of the current budget, from the EPA’s 2018 budget.

Environmentalists across the country have been bracing for Trump’s long-promised budget ax, and the president has threatened to cut federal funding in California as the state aggressively opposes many of the White House’s immigration and other policies.

The $4.8 million for the EPA’s San Francisco Bay Program — established by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2008 — helps fund a variety of projects, including restoring wetlands and watersheds, reducing polluted runoff, and improving shoreline protection in San Francisco Bay.

“We need more money from the federal government, not less,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, restoring and celebrating San Francisco Bay.

Michele Huitric, an EPA spokeswoman in San Francisco, said the agency wasn’t commenting on the proposed cuts. Gov. Jerry Brown’s office also had no comment.

The Bay Area’s budget is already far below that of other estuary regions like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound — $73 million and $28 million respectively. “The bay starts off at a big disadvantage in federal funding even though we have the highest demonstrated need,” Lewis said.

Rufus Jeffris, vice president of communications for the Bay Area Council, said in an email that this would be “a huge hit for our region, given that the proposed cuts are coming (less than a year) after local Measure AA won 70 percent approval.”

Measure AA is a $12-per-year parcel tax in all nine Bay Area counties that aims to generate $500 million over 20 years for critical tidal marsh restoration projects around San Francisco Bay.

“The Bay Area is the only region in the U.S. that has raised its own dollars to match federal investments in these programs, and now they’ve just walked away from the table,” Jeffris wrote.

Other estuaries may also suffer from these proposed budget cuts — the plan calls for Puget Sound funding to be cut from $28 million to $2 million; the Great Lakes, $300 million to $10 million; and Chesapeake Bay, $73 million to $5 million.

Environmental policy experts at the Heartland Institute — a free-market think tank in Arlington Heights, Illinois — are pleased with the proposed budget, which might rein in an agency that “costs the nation’s taxpayers and consumers billions of dollars a year,” according to the institute’s president, Joseph Bast.

“EPA’s budget was much too big in 1991, when it was $6 billion, the same as is now proposed by the Trump administration,” Bast said in a news release. “EPA was much too large in 1984, when it had 11,420 staff members, approximately the same number as the Trump administration now wants it to have.”

H. Sterling Burnett, an environment and energy policy research fellow at the institute, said, “The budget doesn’t target California per se, rather the EPA as a whole.”

“It’s long overdue – maybe if they have significantly reduced budgets, they might focus on their core mission,” said Burnett. He characterized this mission as being focused solely on laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

The proposed cuts would also eliminate funding for a wide range of air and water programs, and cut spending for programs that control water pollution and protect low-income communities from environmental and health hazards.

Lewis said it’s important to remember that this is “essentially a leaked draft that only might be a part of a Trump budget. We don’t know if it will actually be proposed or what might happen.” Approving new budgets requires congressional approval, and with 46 Democrats and two independents in the Senate, it might be expected that some of the proposed cuts would lessen in severity.

In all, Save The Bay’s Lewis wasn’t surprised at the developments. “These deep budget cuts don’t make sense for public health or the environment, but are exactly what we expected.”

“It’s exactly the outrageous attack on the environment that we expected from the president and the people he’s surrounded himself with,” Lewis said.

Norman LaForce, legal chair for the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, agreed with Lewis’ assessment of President Trump. “He has no interest in helping California in any way. The next four years are just going to be an environmental hell in the United States.

This article featuring David Lewis was originally published in the San Jose Mercury News on 3/3/2017.