Below, we have an interview with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams about her move to Rewiring America, a group that advocates for electrification. But first:
Interior Department reverses land deal in Alaska’s Izembek refuge – but the door is still open to a road there
The Biden administration said yesterday it’s withdrawing a land-swap deal that would have allowed a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refugea vast wild area in Alaska originally protected under PresidentJimmy Carter.
The move helps preserve the environmental legacy of Carter, who entered home hospice care last month at 98 and has made the issue a top priority in his final days, we report with our colleagues Timothy Poko.
Still, it stops short of the complete rejection of a road sought by some environmentalists and Carter himself. And it comes one day after climate activists are criticized President Biden for approving a massive oil drilling project in Alaska, saying the approval of ConocoPhillips‘s Willows the project would undermine the president’s own legacy on environmental protection.
A road through the Izembek refuge was approved under President Donald Trump in a land-exchange deal with Alaskan officials, who have made it a priority to connect a remote town of 925 people with the rest of the state. But environmentalists have fought the road, saying it would fragment a pristine stretch of tundra and lagoons otherwise off-limits to motorized traffic.
the Department of Interiors said Tuesday it was withdrawing the Trump-era land swap. The department said the deal was made with procedural flaws and did not assess how a road could damage the locals’ subsistence lifestyle and the region’s natural habitat.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland outlined her position in a legal brief filed Tuesday in the litigation over Izembek. That brief, filed in the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuitleft open the possibility that Interior might agree to a future land swap to enable the construction of a road, one possibly different from what was envisioned during the Trump years.
“This decision does not foreclose further consideration of a land exchange to address the community’s concerns, although such an exchange would likely be with different terms and conditions,” the brief said.
Uncertainty over a new road
During a virtual meeting Tuesday before the announcement, Haaland told locals she supports a new land exchange and a new road project, said Della Trumblechief executive of King Covea tribal business organization in the region.
Trumble said boat and helicopter travel to her community is difficult, especially for the elderly and when it snows, making it an ideal road. But she said she did not know what kind of road Biden officials might find acceptable or what kind of changes they might want to the Trump-era deal.
“We will work with them, and what that means at this point, I honestly don’t know,” he said. “We don’t have a choice at this point. We have to come to some sort of resolution.”
An Interior spokeswoman said she would not comment on “a private conversation.”
Mon. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who has advocated for the road, voiced skepticism that Haaland’s support would lead to a road being built soon. In a statement, he accused the administration of aligning with conservationists who don’t live in Alaska but attempt to block development there.
“This decision is the latest act in Secretary Haaland’s disingenuous playbook: Tell Alaskans, particularly Alaska Native people, that you support something,” he said, “and then purposefully delay it for years so it can never actually happen.”
Carter’s conservation legacy
Despite losing the 1980 election, Carter successfully pressed Congress that year to pass the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Acta landmark law that protected more than 100 million acres in Alaska.
More than four decades later, as one of his last public acts, Carter took the unusual step of filing a brief last year that criticized the land-swap deal in Izembek, saying the road would undermine one of his signature conservation achievements.
“My name is Jimmy Carter,” he wrote in the brief. “In my lifetime, I have been a farmer, a naval officer, a Sunday school teacher, an outdoorsman, a democracy activist, a builder, governor of Georgia and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And from 1977 to 1981, I had the privilege of serving as the 39th president of the United States.”
Biden said Monday that he had spent time with his predecessor in recent days and that Carter had asked him to deliver a eulogy. In a statement Tuesday, the Carter Centeran Atlanta-based organization founded by the former president and his wife, said it was “grateful” for the reversal of a land-swap deal that “threatened to undermine ANILCA as a powerful piece of conservation law.”
David Raskinspresident of Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refugessaid Carter appeared to have a powerful influence on the issue — to a certain extent.
“If President Carter had not weighed in, we would not be where we are,” Raskin said. “But in the long run, if Secretary Haaland allows that road, it certainly damages Carter’s legacy.”
Stacey Abrams to join Rewiring America as senior counsel
Stacey Abramsthe longtime voting rights advocate and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, will join the electrification group Rewiring America as senior counsel, the organization announced Tuesday.
Abrams told The Climate 202 that in her new role, she will focus on spreading awareness of the incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act that can help consumers go electric.
“Rewiring America has taken a very important track on what is a global crisis and global conversation,” she said. “Ultimately it’s about the 300 million Americans who have the ability to shape our climate policy going forward by making decisions that actually help them make their lives better today.”
Abrams added that he is excited about helping people get their “fair share” of the climate law’s benefits, especially in disadvantaged communities that have borne the brunt of environmental hazards.
“When communities that are suffering get the chance to fly, that has a booming effect on the rest of the economy, on the rest of the neighborhoods,” he said.
The move comes after the Biden administration in November asked Rewiring America to lead a coalition of major US companies in a campaign to educate consumers about the climate law’s incentives, according to a news release.
EPA proposes rules to limit ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water
the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed planned limits on polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS, potentially forcing water utilities across the country to spend billions of dollars to comply, although it will probably be months before the rules are finalized, The Washington Post’s Timothy Poko reports.
The rules would be the nation’s first drinking water standards for a group of human-made chemicals that scientists say pose a more significant risk to public health than previously thought, having recently been linked to infertility, cancer and other immune or cardiovascular issues.
These “forever chemicals,” which can persist in the environment for years without breaking down, are also found in common consumer products.
If the rules are enacted, water utilities will be required to detect and reduce PFAS contamination at 4 parts per trillion, falling short of a safe consumption advisory the agency set in June that people said could be affected at a lifetime exposure of just 0.004 to 0.02 parts per trillion. On Tuesday, officials said that 4 parts per trillion is the lowest level at which the toxic compounds can be accurately measured and detected, making it the most stringent rule the agency could enforce.
Nevada considers capping water use for homes in Las Vegas
Lawmakers in Nevada are considering a proposal that would, for the first time, give water managers the power to shut off water use for single-family homes that consume more than about 163,000 gallons of water per year, The Post’s Joshua Partlow reports.
The new draft rules follow laws established last summer to limit the size of swimming pools and tires of decorative grass — each of which are intended to address direct conditions on the Colorado River after more than two decades of a climate-change-fueled drought.
If the rules are approved, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, which serves the Las Vegas metropolitan area, said it does not plan to take action right away. Instead, the agency said the rule is just another tool that could help the state prepare to handle future cuts in water usage if the drought persists.
Still, about 20 percent of residential water users in the Las Vegas area — which is home to about 2.3 million people — already use more than the allotted amount of water. And although Nevada has the smallest allocation of Colorado River water out of all the basin states, at 300,000 acre-feet per year, about 90 percent of the water in the Las Vegas area comes from the river.