Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2/13 Trump's EPA, Pruitt travel, oil spill, fish ban, Land & Water Fund, Zinke's Interior, Samish review, Clallam creeks, Trump's 'temps'

In Dreamland [PHOTO: Laurie MacBride]
Snoozing in Safety
Laurie MacBride in Eye on Environment writes: "Even sea lions need their beauty sleep. And since they’re a favourite meal for killer whales, they need to be careful about where they haul out for a snooze. So it wasn’t a surprise last summer to see three large sea lions catching some z’s on East Cardinal Buoy PB, off Cape Lazo – the extremely shallow depth at that spot likely keeps killer whales at a safe distance…."  (Continue to read more about this buoy.)

Trump budget seeks 23 percent cut at EPA, eliminating dozens of programs
The White House is seeking to cut more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency — an overall reduction of more than 23 percent. The fiscal 2019 proposal released Monday marks the Trump administration’s latest attempt to shrink the reach of an agency the president once promised to reduce to “little tidbits.” The EPA already has lost hundreds of employees to buyouts and retirements over the past year, and its staffing is now at Reagan-era levels. Under the latest budget, the agency would continue to shrink in size and ambition, leaving much more of the work of environmental protection to individual states. Brady Dennis reports. (Washington Post)

First-class travel distinguishes Scott Pruitt’s EPA tenure
In total, the taxpayer-funded travel for [EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt and his top aides during that stretch in early June cost at least $90,000, according to months of receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project under the Freedom of Information Act. That figure does not account for the costs of Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail, which have not been disclosed. Juliet Ellperin and Brady Dennis report. (Washington Post)

Under Trump’s EPA, pesticide workers pin hopes on state
Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency made the kind of announcement that, at any other time, would simply be routine: The federal agency is giving Washington state more than a half-million dollars to help ensure safe usage of pesticides. Despite cutbacks in many environmental efforts, the amount is equivalent to monies received in past years and similar to programs that received funding in Alaska, Idaho and Oregon…. Farm worker advocates say they welcome efforts to strengthen state pesticide regulations, but warn that improved safety and health hinges on pesticide notification and reporting requirements. And they aren’t optimistic about improvements in the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency…. The administration also delayed until later this year the implementation of a new national rule on certification and training of workers applying pesticides. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, which represents agriculture departments across the country, said the one-year delay would allow states to implement the improved standards in a fashion that emphasizes education rather than enforcement. Martha Baskin reports. (Crosscut)

A Nearly Invisible Oil Spill Threatens Some of Asia’s Richest Fisheries
A fiery collision that sank an Iranian tanker in the East China Sea a month ago has resulted in an environmental threat that experts say is unlike any before: An almost invisible type of petroleum has begun to contaminate some of the most important fishing grounds in Asia, from China to Japan and beyond. It is the largest oil spill in decades, but the disaster has unfolded outside the glare of international attention that big spills have previously attracted. That is because of its remote location on the high seas and also the type of petroleum involved: condensate, a toxic, liquid byproduct of natural gas production. Unlike the crude oil in better-known disasters like the Exxon Valdez and the Deepwater Horizon, condensate does not clump into black globules that can be easily spotted or produce heart-wrenching images of animals mired in muck. There’s no visible slick that can be pumped out. Experts said the only real solution is to let it evaporate or dissolve. Absorbed into the water, it will remain toxic for a time, though it will also disperse more quickly into the ocean than crude oil. Steven Lee Myers and Javier C. Hernandez report. (NY Times)

Clallam commissioners add interim ban on non-native fish farms to shoreline plan
Atlantic salmon raised in new fish farms became even more unwelcome Monday in waters off Clallam County. County commissioners at their work session Monday added another wall to keep companies from building new facilities that grow the salmon and other non-native species. The interim ban, similar to Island County’s and in line with the direction state lawmakers are headed, will be imposed as part of a state-mandated update to the county shoreline development master program that commissioners’ Chairman Mark Ozias said he hopes will be completed by March 31. Paul Gottlieb reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Federal Land And Water Conservation Fund Under Threat 
The Trump administration has proposed its budget for fiscal year 2019.  It would once again gut funding for a multi-million-dollar federal conservation and outdoor recreation program. People joke the U.S. Land and Water Conservation Fund is the most important conservation program nobody knows about. It was created in 1965 and is funded almost entirely by fees on offshore oil and gas extraction. Up to $900 million per year is used nationwide to protect or purchase public land and water…. The program has strong bipartisan support and last year, the Trump administration’s budget also attempted to gut it. But Congress funded its preservation. Bellamy Pailthorp reports. (KNKX)

Zinke Ties National Parks Fixes To Oil, Gas Profits On Public Lands
The Interior Department plans to expand energy development on public lands and offshore to pay for the National Parks’ maintenance backlog. In the Pacific Northwest, the needs range from washed-out roads and trails at Mount Rainier National Park to repairing bridges and parking lots at the Olympic National Park. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says the Parks’ maintenance backlog is $11.7 billion. The entire Interior Department’s backlog is $16 billion. The budget plan Zinke unveiled Monday would provide $800 million in the coming fiscal year.  Eilis O'Neill reports. (KUOW/EarthFix)

Interior to replace Obama-era rule on methane emissions
The Interior Department is replacing an Obama-era regulation aimed at restricting harmful methane emissions from oil and gas production on federal lands. A rule being published in the Federal Register this week will replace the 2016 rule with requirements similar to those in force before the Obama administration changed the regulation. Interior had previously announced it was delaying the Obama-era rule until January 2019, arguing that it was overly burdensome to industry. Matthew Daly reports. (Associated Press)

Samish Bay evaluation coming
As the Samish River winds its way from southern Whatcom County to Samish Bay, it flows through a patchwork of Skagit County farms, residential areas and forests. As spring approaches, many are wondering whether bacteria from pastures where livestock live and septic systems along the way will wind up in the river and the bay, or whether the water will remain clean. Each March through June, the state Department of Health evaluates the cleanliness of the bay. During that spring evaluation, if the watershed exceeds pollution limits no more than once, it may qualify for an upgrade that would benefit shellfish growers in Samish Bay. Kimberly Cauvel reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Bacterial study finds problems in Chimacum, Ludlow creeks
A study of bacterial pollution in the Chimacum and Ludlow creek basins found good news and bad news. Though there was a fairly significant improvement in Chimacum Creek, half of the monitoring stations are still failing the state standard, said environmental health specialist Anna Bachmann with Jefferson County Public Health, which conducted the study with the Jefferson County Conservation District. Jesse Major reports. (Peninsula Daily News)

Trump officials under fire for tapping “temps” to head key Interior agencies
The Trump administration is violating federal law and circumventing the advice-and-consent role of the Senate by relying on temporary directors to head agencies such as the National Park Service, an environmental group alleged Monday. In a complaint filed with the Interior Department’s Inspector General, the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility charged that Interior was “completely bypassing Senate confirmation” with its appointments of acting directors to lead the Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management…. Enacted in 1998 as a response to perceived abuses in the Clinton administration, the Federal Vacancies Reform Act sets limits on how long “acting directors” can run federal agencies. It also requires that a temporary director have at least 90 days of senior service the prior year in the agency he or she is running. Stuart Leavenworth reports. (McClatchy)

Now, your tug weather--
West Entrance U.S. Waters Strait Of Juan De Fuca-  212 AM PST Tue Feb 13 2018  
TODAY
 SW wind 10 kt or less. Wind waves 1 ft or less. W swell  6 ft at 13 seconds. A chance of rain.
TONIGHT  SW wind 10 to 20 kt. Wind waves 1 to 3 ft. W swell 6  ft at 13 seconds. Rain.

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