NFIP Expiration (51 days)
Government Shutdown (51 days)
New Congress (15 days)
The extension’s extension was correctly predicted, and by Friday a continuing resolution will have been passed extending funding for Federal agencies through February 8th and reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program.
Congress, Climate Change, and the Coasts - If you’re climate aware, await the new Congress. We are getting notified left and right that Congressional leaders have had it with this Administration’s denial of climate change. Senators and Members of the House have proposed a call to action, with some introducing new legislation. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ranking Member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Environment Subcommittee, and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Vice Ranking Member of the Committee, led 96 members in urging President Trump to act on the findings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA). According to the NCA, without intervention, we will see record heat waves, more acidic oceans, raging wildfires, rising sea levels, and a surge in extreme weather events – all in our lifetime. Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) convened on the Senate floor to call for action on climate change and sea level rise, both of which already have had a profound effect in each state. In addition, Representatives McEachin (D-VA) and Schneider (D-IL) have introduced the P.A.R.I.S. Climate Act which highlights the disastrous effect of the US withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement. HRES 1087 was agreed upon by the House, expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that sea level rise and flooding are of urgent concern impacting Florida that require proactive measures for community planning and the State’s tourism-based economy to adapt.
DOI Secretary Ryan Zinke is out – There will be someone new in 2019. Click here to see the Time’s ‘You’re Hired, You’re Fired’ tracker.
EPA Rollbacks – In its proposal on rollbacks for clean power, the EPA snuck in a solicitation of comments on whether or not greenhouse gas emissions from power plants contribute significantly to climate change. The proposal would allow new coal fired power plants to produce 36% more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than was previously allowed under the 2015 regulation. “This roll-back is yet another giveaway to the coal industry at the expense of our climate and health,” said Senator Markey (D-MA). “Relaxing these standards could lead to the construction of more coal-fired power plants, and that would be a disaster for our environment and for the planet. Attempting to boost the prospects of a flatlining coal industry would only boost harmful emissions and incidents of asthma and other illness.”
WOTUS & Clean Water Act
Trump’s EPA rollbacks will leave more than half of Florida’s protected wetlands unprotected. Without Federal protection, water quality will rapidly degrade much like it did in the past. According to the National Wildlife Federation, this loss of Federal protection could significantly alter the Florida landscape. This infographic from Engineering News Record (ENR) will help you understand why excluding the smaller tributaries, ponds and wetlands from Federal protection is a terrible idea. It all drains to the same place.
Incidental Harassment – Let’s just say that in today’s workplace (and beyond), both ‘harassment’ and ‘incidental harassment’ would lead you to the same place. Not in our oceans. The National Marine Fisheries Service approved permits to allow 5 oil and gas companies to conduct seismic airgun blasting that is known to be harmful, disruptive and lethal to marine mammals. At a time when oil is so abundant that greedy petroleum companies are encouraging Americans to purchases gas guzzlers to use their fuel, this Administration wants to seek more sources of oil. Surfrider Foundation, represented by Earthjustice and a coalition of environmental groups are suing the National Marine Fisheries Service. The permits allows up to 30% of a species’ population to be disrupted, harmed, or killed. While there is certainly a difference between what will really happen and what is allowed, these loose restrictions are extremely concerning. You’ll often see the term ‘Take’ in Federal regulations in regard to marine mammals. It’s a euphemism: The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) states that the term “take” means to harass, hunt, capture, or kill, or attempt to harass, hunt, capture, or kill any marine mammal. If this upsets you, write to your representatives. Don’t know who they are? Look them up here.
Adding on to that, the MMPA was also amended by S 3119, the ‘Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act’, which allows nearly 1,000 sea lions to be killed in the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest each year. It’s simply amazing that Congress came together to pass this bill that is strikingly short-sighted and is only for a small portion of the nation. “Blaming seals and sea lions shifts the focus away from human accountability for the actions that have led to declining salmon runs, and diverts limited resources and time away from tackling things that will help salmon recover, like restoring habitat, reducing pollution, and removing dams,” says The Whale and Dolphin Conservation.
Is the Corps not moving quickly enough on permits for your project? Charleston County, SC – The Corps said it is studying the county’s proposal to retain an additional staff members to process permits and applications. The Corps is understaffed in many districts, and while there are some reimbursement clauses for both dollars and in-kind services provided by a non-Federal entity, the Corps process is rapidly incorporating ‘pay to play’ restrictions. Questions about permits on your own project? Reach out to us.
We’ll leave you here with two especially important articles:
That’s it for 2018 - See you next year!