Riley DeBaecke's articles
Good stuff to know Under normal circumstances, NEPA sets a hard, but simple line for federal action on construction projects. Before the government can move ahead with a proposed project, it must:
- Determine the future environmental impact of the project
- Alert the public of its plans
- Consult other alternatives to the proposal
- Invite public commentary
The court ruling NEPA applies to 'major federal actions,' and courts have recently interpreted this term broadly.
What it means The Trump administration may pick and choose which of its projects count as 'major federal actions'. Discretion on a project’s classification lies with the agencies overseeing its completion.
Now, 'cumulative” and “indirect' effects are no longer required for agencies’ consideration. With that, NEPA maintains that decisions must “make sense for tomorrow as well as today.”
Bottom line This broad interpretation of NEPA eviscerates two of the most important protections of the act.
Civil rights lawyers and community activists are now joining forces to defeat the deafening blow to communities of color in the latest series of Trumpian environmental rollbacks.
Dig deeper → 2 min
Big picture Two-thirds of Americans believe the US government must act more urgently to slow global warming. As November's presidential election nears, climate change policy will likely earn a top-ten spot in debate topics.
What to know
- 63% of Americans feel as if climate change is directly or indirectly affecting their communities and livelihoods.
- 65% believe the federal government is not doing enough to combat climate change.
- 79% of respondents advise federal investment in alternative energy sources such as solar panels and wind farms.
Politics politics politics
- Democrats have increased their awareness of the dangers of climate change by 27% since 2009.
- Republicans and Republican-leaning voters developed only a 6% greater consciousness of climate change.
- Partisanship seems to color most people's views about local climate change effects more than anything else.
- Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say climate change impacts their local community.
- Moderate-liberal Republican and Republican-leaning voters acknowledge the local impacts of climate change more frequently than their more conservative counterparts.
Bottom line Come November, policy differences between the presidential candidates on climate change will become abundantly clear. Political analysts will have to examine what level of influence climate will have over election results.
Dig deeper → 3 min
What to know Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) in 1955, which funded federal air pollution research but did not require or give power to the federal government to regulate air pollution.
The Clear Air Act of 1963 permitted the government to control air pollution in certain capacities. In 1999, several citizens, conservation, and environmental groups filed a petition for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollution under this act.
The EPA denied the petition, and Massachusetts and several other states filed a class action lawsuit against the EPA to fight for the American people’s right to live in safe environments with clear air.
After a lengthy debate over the ambiguity of the Clean Air Act’s language, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Massachusetts in a 5-4 decision.
Key Takeaways The EPA cannot decline to issue emission standards for motor vehicles based on policy considerations not specifically enumerated in the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Some of the progressive rules that resulted from this case, such as the Clean Car and Clean Truck Standards, were recently minimized by the Trump administration in the beginning stages of the pandemic.
Bottom line The government will continue its ableism (discrimination in favor of able-bodied people) without public pressure and scrutiny, so we must come together to vote and advocate for accelerated climate change action.
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What to know
- Over 332 active fires are burning over 1.6 million hectares of land in Siberia
- Parts of the Arctic Circle have been burning since July 2019
- These wildfires originated from a combination of natural causes including temperatures reaching 30 ℃, wind, and dry thunderstorms
- The cost-benefit ratio of saving these ecosystems indicates that Siberia should let the wildfires burn until rain comes because most of them are not directly endangering civilization
- These fires are so humongous their smoke blew across the North Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea to reach Oregon, Alaska, and Canada
- Wildfires are destroying valuable ecosystems in the Arctic Circle
- High temperatures melted the permafrost early, releasing the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trapped underneath and contributing to climate change
- Temperatures in the Arctic Circle reached record highs within the past six months, only exacerbating the fires
- Human-caused climate change intensified these fires in a variety of ways
- We must act on climate change before other extreme weather events begin to seriously affect a greater number of humans
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The scoop Flint, Michigan is still suffering from an unconscionable public health crisis six years later. We built a lengthy timeline of environmental injustice since 2014. Check it out.
Why it matters Despite municipal and federal efforts to remove the lead pipelines delivering water to residential areas, Flint residents and visitors are still wary. They often only drink bottled water, distrusting the city officials who lied to them for so many years and told them their water was “safe.”
Big picture Moving forward, Flint officials have a responsibility to ensure that every single lead pipe is pulled from the ground, including pipes that don’t currently connect to residents’ homes. They must file reimbursement requests to fund research to further decrease the lead parts per billion in drinking water to at least convey trust to rightfully dubious residents.
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The scoop Whales accumulate carbon throughout their lifetime and die with it on the ocean floor. So they save around 33 tons of carbon from the atmosphere each.
Why it matters Today, whales number approximately 1.3 million, and conservation efforts to return them to their 4-5 million pre-whaling population could significantly reduce the greenhouse effect by lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide. However, they are constantly at threat of being hunted.
Big picture Recovering the global whale population to even half its original size is no easy feat, but we must do all in our power to multiply whale species’ populations in all of Earth’s oceans. Regardless of whether a high-tech carbon sequestration tool becomes widely available, harnessing the carbon-capturing power of these beautiful creatures will always positively enhance our atmosphere and marine ecosystems.
Dig deeper --> 3 min read
The scoop: Given recent developments in fiscal policy, there is a compelling case to be made for a green stimulus package.
The proposal: Create millions of family-sustaining career-track green jobs, deliver strategic investments, Expand public and employee ownership, Make rapid cuts to carbon pollution
Bottom line: The Green Stimulus plan must decidedly advocate for ambitious measures and well-reasoned policies to correct the egregious destruction of American land and improve workers’ conditions nationwide. We must follow suit after several European countries’ green stimulus packages; the world is watching.