Zinke reprimanded park head after climate tweets

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke brought the leader of a California park to his office last month to reprimand him for climate change-related tweets the park had sent via Twitter, two sources close to the situation said.

Zinke did not take any formal disciplinary action against David Smith, superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park. And the tweets at issue weren’t deleted, because they didn’t violate National Park Service or Interior Department policies.

But Zinke made it clear to Smith that the Trump administration doesn’t want national parks to put out official communications on climate change.

And by bringing Smith from California to Washington, D.C., to deliver the tongue-lashing, he also sent a message to the park service at large.

One source said Smith “got a trip to the woodshed” and described his one-on-one meeting with Zinke as “highly unusual.”

Another source said Zinke expressed concern with the tweets during the meeting, and told Smith “no more climate tweets.”

Other sources with knowledge of the meeting confirmed that Zinke wanted to stop tweets about climate change.

The Park Service didn’t respond to various questions about the situation, including requests to confirm the Zinke-Smith meeting and to identify who sent the tweets at issue.

“Many of our 417 National Park sites have a social media presence and content is generally determined at a local level,” Park Service spokesman Jeremy Barnum said in a statement.

Smith did not talk to The Hill for this story, and the Park Service did not make him available for an interview.

Heather Swift, a spokeswoman for Zinke, denied the description of the meeting.

“You have been given really bad information,” she said, declining to elaborate or to make Zinke available for an interview.

The meeting came after a series of 15 tweets were sent on Nov. 8 by Joshua Tree’s Twitter account. The tweets were focused on climate change’s impacts both on national parks in general and on Joshua Tree in particular.

The tweets were based on scientific conclusions, sometimes citing federal government reports and including caveats when necessary.

An overwhelming consensus—over 97%—of climate scientists agree that human activity is the driving force behind today’s rate of global temperature increase. Natural factors that impact the climate are still at work, but cannot account for today’s rapid warming,” read the first tweet of the series.

“Current models predict the suitable habitat for Joshua trees may be reduced by 90% in the future with a 3°C (5.4°F) increase in average temperature over the next 100 years,” said another.

It detailed climate change’s expected impacts on the desert Southwest, including on flora and fauna species like pinyon pine and desert iguana, and linked to a Park Service web page with more details on Joshua Tree and climate change.

The tweets got significant attention, garnering far more retweets and likes than the vast majority of tweets from national park accounts.

It’s not the first controversy surrounding the Park Service’s social media under the Trump administration.

On the day of President Trump’s inauguration, the Park Service’s main Twitter account retweeted a comparison of the inauguration crowd size on the National Mall — which the agency manages — against an obviously larger crowd from former President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

The tweet was soon deleted.

Days later, the Twitter account of South Dakota’s Badlands National Park sent out tweets with facts about climate change. They were deleted, and the agency said a former employee with access to the account was responsible.

Trump’s opponents celebrated both episodes, along with the Joshua Tree tweets, as rebellion against the new administration, including Trump’s skepticism of human-induced climate change.

Conservationists say Zinke’s admonishment over the Joshua Tree tweets is especially troubling, both because of the chilling effect on the agency and as a sign of the administration’s views on global warming.

“This meeting shows how little respect Secretary Zinke has for the front-line employees who manage our national parks and public lands. It also reveals how far the Trump administration will go to hide basic facts from the American people,” said Aaron Weiss, spokesman for the Center for Western Priorities, which has fought much of Zinke’s agenda.

Zinke’s decision to call the Joshua Tree superintendent to Washington also serves as a window into Zinke’s leadership style.

He’s caught significant attention as Interior secretary for his brash style, reflected in direct attacks on the outdoor gear maker Patagonia after it criticized him; accusations that “the dishonest media or political operatives” were trying to tie him to Whitefish Energy’s utility repair contract in Puerto Rico; and his declaration that controversies surrounding his travel spending are “a little BS.”

Zinke has instructed employees to raise a flag for the secretary atop Interior’s building when he is there and has had commemorative coins made for him.

Maureen Finnerty, a retired Park Service superintendent and career official with the agency, accused Zinke of ignoring science in criticizing the tweets.

“The parks should be at the forefront of climate change discussion, because it’s impacting them,” she said.

Finnerty is chairwoman of the Coalition to Protect National Parks, a group composed largely of retired Park Service employees who advocate on numerous agency issues.

In Zinke’s time as secretary, he’s worked to roll back nearly all of the department’s major climate policies, including a moratorium on new coal mining on federal land and a policy to limit methane emissions from oil and natural gas drilling.

The changes have been less pronounced at the Park Service. But the agency did scrap a controversial Obama administration policy from December 2016 that asked parks to formulate plans for preserving natural resources and protecting them from threats like climate change.

If Zinke wants park employees to avoid talking about climate change, he should be more transparent about it, Finnerty said.

“They should go through the process, they should be transparent about it, they should seek whatever input they need, and then they can change the policy,” she said.

[The Hill]

Trump moves to weaken black lung protections

President Donald Trump is considering weakening a regulation intended to protect the health of one of the demographics he has often claimed to care most about — America’s coal miners.

A notice labeled “Regulatory Reform of Existing Standards and Regulations; Retrospective Study of Respirable Coal Mine Dust Rule” was published on Thursday by the White House for the Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. The stated purpose of the reevaluation would be to determine how a 2014 rule passed under President Barack Obama regulating coal miners’ exposure to coal dust “could be improved or made more effective or less burdensome.”

When the rule was first implemented, it utilized new technologies and increased sampling in mines so that workers would have real-time information about dust levels. This would in turn allow both the miners and operators to minimize the chances that workers would be overexposed to coal dust, which has caused an epidemic of black lung disease among coal miners.

In spite of a 1969 law that increased coal mine safety requirements, more than 76,000 coal miners throughout America died of black lung disease between 1968 and 2014. Many of those deaths occurred among coal miners whose entire mining careers took place after the 1969 law had taken effect.

In response to the announcement that the coal dust rule would be reevaluated, the National Mining Association released a statement saying, “While we’ve not had any discussions with the agency regarding the retrospective study, we think it might shed valuable information on operation of the rule since its promulgation and ways it might be improved to provide further protection for miners while eliminating unnecessary implementation requirements for operators.”

Meanwhile a spokesman for mining company Murray Energy — whose owner, Bob Murray, was a major Trump backer in the 2016 election — released a statement saying that it is “pleased that the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is reexamining the Obama administration’s Respirable Dust Rule, which fails to protect coal miners in any way.”

Although coal mining has been on the decline in Appalachia over the past few years, that isn’t as a result of Trump’s policies. Part of that is something Trump can’t control. And part of it is something Trump doesn’t want to control. The chief struggle facing coal miners is that natural gas, solar and wind power can outcompete coal due to their low cost and abundance. Making matters worse for coal miners themselves, the coal mining jobs are often the best-paying ones in their area, and job retraining programs have a spotty track record of actually helping individuals who use them.

This latest policy undermines Trump’s longstanding claim to be an ally of coal miners, which he bragged about when he pulled out of the Paris climate accord. “I happen to love the coal miners,” Trump proclaimed at the time.

Trump may have let his true feelings about coal miners be known during a Playboy interview in 1990, however.

“The coal miner gets black-lung disease, his son gets it, then his son,” Trump told Playboy. “If I had been the son of a coal miner, I would have left the damn mines. But most people don’t have the imagination — or whatever — to leave their mine. They don’t have ‘it.'”

[Salon]

CDC banned from using ‘evidence-based’ and ‘science-based’ on official documents

The Trump administration has reportedly banned the Centers for Disease Control from using the phrases “evidence-based” and “science-based” on official documents.

Senior CDC officials distributed the list of “forbidden” words and phrases to policy analysts at the CDC on Thursday, the Washington Post reported Friday. The list also bans the use of “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender” and “fetus.”

Analysts are reportedly prohibited from using the phrases on official documents they prepare for the 2019 budget, which is expected to be released in February.

An analyst who attended the meeting at the CDC in Atlanta told the Washington Post that instead of “evidence-based” or “science-based,” policy analysts are instructed to use the phrase, “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The analyst told the Post that other branches of President Trump’s health department are likely adhering to the same list of banned words. The source said that others at the meeting reacted with surprise when given the list.

“It was very much, ‘Are you serious? Are you kidding?’” the analyst said, “In my experience, we’ve never had any pushback from an ideological standpoint.”

The Trump administration has been repeatedly scrutinized for declining to acknowledge science-based findings, particularly related to climate change. Trump himself has not said whether he believes in climate science, and numerous members of his administration and his appointees have denied aspects of scientific consensus related to global warming.

[The Hill]

Trump Says He Wants To Cut ‘70 To 80 Percent’ of Regulations

It can be notoriously difficult to pin down Donald Trump on the finer points of policy. But on Monday morning, the Republican presidential nominee put forth a surprisingly specific proposal: He is going to cut “70 to 80 percent” of federal regulations if he wins the White House.

Trump, lagging badly in the polls, made his anti-regulatory vow while speaking at a farmers’ roundtable in Boynton Beach, a town in the must-win state of Florida. The real estate mogul did not explain how his administration would determine which rules to axe, or how they would go about accomplishing such an unprecedented rollback through executive fiat.

“We want clean air, we want clean water,” Trump said. “But we have and you have situations and regulations, which we’re gonna cut ― we will probably cut 70 to 80 percent of the regulations, OK?”

The Republican nominee told farmers that the regulatory oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency, a favorite target of his, was simply too much to bear. The federal agency that enforces clean air and water laws has been a “total disaster,” and regulations on the whole “have been a total catastrophe,” he said.

Trump clarified, however, that he likes fresh air as much as the next person. “Look, we all believe in environment,” he said. “I mean, my primary thing with the environment ― immaculate air, beautiful clean air, and crystal clean water. That’s it. Once you go beyond that, you start to lose all of us, OK?”

Facing an increasingly narrow path through the electoral college, Trump has been banging the anti-regulation drum hard in recent days, starting with his “contract with the American voter.” In that agenda, Trump says that he will require that two regulations be repealed for every new one that goes into effect, offering no rationale for that seemingly arbitrary ratio.

A President Trump might be surprised by how difficult it would be to repeal 70 to 80 percent of federal regulations. A president could undo certain regulations that are established through executive action, and effectively weaken others by choosing not to enforce them much. But businesses mostly face regulations that have been established by Congress, through laws like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Congress would therefore have to undo such laws.

Trump has gone so far as to claim that the nation’s coal barons are practically starving, thanks to regulations.

“I have friends that own the mines. I mean, they can’t live,” Trump said at a Pennsylvania campaign event in August. “The restrictions environmentally are so unbelievable where inspectors come two and three times a day, and they can’t afford it any longer and they’re closing all the mines. … It’s not going to happen anymore, folks. We’re going to use our heads.”

(h/t Huffington Post)

Reality

The Code of Federal Regulations is the published list all of the general and permanent rules and regulations by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States. In it is the 50 categories that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation, which consists of a lot more than “clean air.”

Just to name a few examples of the regulatory agencies that are designed to keep you safe as a homeowner, motorist, student, employee, employer, and a consumer of fruits, vegetables, meat, drugs, alcohol, utilities, banking, and shipping include:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): regulates and promotes air transportation safety, including airports and pilot licensing.
  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC): ensures free and fair competition and protects consumers from unfair or deceptive practices.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA): administers federal food purity laws, drug testing and safety, and cosmetics.
  • National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): prevents or corrects unfair labor practices by either employers or unions.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): develops and enforces federal standards and regulations ensuring working conditions.

 

 

Trump Wants to Roll Back Food Safety Regulations

Donald Trump floated rolling back food safety regulations if he wins the White House in November.

In a fact sheet posted online Thursday, the campaign highlighted a number of “specific regulations to be eliminated” under the GOP nominee’s economic plan, including what they called the “FDA Food Police.”

“The FDA Food Police, which dictate how the federal government expects farmers to produce fruits and vegetables and even dictates the nutritional content of dog food,” it read.“The rules govern the soil farmers use, farm and food production hygiene, food packaging, food temperatures and even what animals may roam which fields and when,” the statement continued. “It also greatly increased inspections of food ‘facilities,’ and levies new taxes to pay for this inspection overkill.”

The fact sheet was later removed from the website and a new fact sheet detailing Trump’s economic agenda did not include mention of the FDA.

The FDA recently completed an overhaul of the food safety system with seven rules to better protect consumers from food-borne illnesses. Manufacturers of both animal and human food are now required to implement preventive controls to minimize the risk of contaminating food when it’s manufactured, processed, packed or held by a facility.

Trump’s economic policy plan also calls for “an immediate halt to new federal regulations and a very thorough agency-level review of previous regulations to see which need to be scrapped.”

Agencies would be required to list all regulations and rank them in terms of their contribution to growth, health and safety. The ultimate goal, Trump said, would be to strengthen the rules that are useful and reduce the rules that harm the economy.

(h/t The Hill)

Reality

Republicans can complain about regulations all they want, FDA food regulations on hygiene are part of the reason why when eating food you don’t think twice about if it will kill you.

Who cares what report they manipulate to show regulations kill jobs (overall they don’t) when we are talking about public safety.

Probably the most recent famous incident involving sub-standard sanitary conditions resulting in a public health crisis was the listeriosis outbreak caused by Blue Bell ice cream in 2015 that caused 5 deaths.

These protections are what Trump wants to repeal. This isn’t funny.

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