Policy

Week 9 in Energy & Environment: Keystone XL Pipeline Permit Approved and Ethics Action Against Scott Pruitt

Budgets. An analysis released this week shows that spending on federal contracts related to the environment in fiscal year 2016 reached 423 congressional districts. Almost half of the $5.9 billion went to districts represented by Republicans, which may present challenges when the Administration tries to pursue major spending cuts that affect these districts.Permits. Friday, the Trump administration approved a permit authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This doesn't yet clear the path for TransCanada's $8 billion project, which still requires regulatory approval from the Nebraska Public Service Commission. That decision won't likely come until fall 2017. The State Department approved the project with an environmental impact assessment (EIA) conducted in 2014 and opponents argue both the project and energy markets have changed so much since then that a new EIA is needed. The Nebraska State government and organizations like the NRDC and Sierra Club are ready to challen...
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Week 9 in Science & Technology: Threats to Privacy and Attacks on Climate, Earth, and Space Science

Senate Republicans Vote to Eliminate ISP Privacy RulesOn Thursday, March 23, the Senate voted along party lines to eliminate Obama-era privacy rules meant to protect Americans from invasive surveillance by internet service providers (ISPs), such as Comcast and Time-Warner. Republicans voted to apply the Congressional Review Act to eliminate FCC rules that required meaningful notice and opt-in consent from consumers before sharing or selling their data. These rules had also created stricter requirements for cyber security and notification in the event of a data breach. The Senate's action would take these types of privacy related issues out of the hands of the FCC, requiring congressional action to reinstate them in the future. This vote is a blow to consumer privacy and demonstrates how Republicans have aligned themselves with business interests over consumers. As privacy comes under attack from all quarters, lawmakers should be strengthening our rights, not weakening them. The Hous...
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Week 9 in Infrastructure & Urban Policy: Local Communities Respond to HUD Budget Cuts

How HUD Budget Cuts Affect Local CommunitiesAs we reported in last week's report, according to preliminary budget documents for fiscal year 2018 that were leaked, the Trump administration has considered more than $6 billion in cuts at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). We know that Trump's HUD budget cuts would disproportionately impact cities' poorest residents. Cities and counties are not taking this news lightly: CHICAGO: Eight Arrested at Downtown Protest Against Trump's Budget Cut: "Eight people were arrested on Tuesday during the eighth #ResistTrumpTuesday protest, which focused on President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 'For us here in Illinois it means less direct rental assistance payments including section 8 housing, housing vouchers for homeless veterans would be cut by at least $300 million,' said one organizer." ChicagoistNEW ORLEANS: New Orleans Braces for Deep Cuts in Trump's Spending Plan: ...
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Week 8 in Science & Technology: Trump Administration Proposes Severe Cuts to Scientific Programs

President's Budget ProposalOn Thursday, March 16th, the Trump Administration introduced its initial budget proposal for FY2018, proposing a $54-billion hike in defense spending, while gutting domestic discretionary spending, including scientific programs. The budget landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, and elicited deep concerns from the scientific community. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) warned that "The Trump Administration's proposed budget would cripple the science and technology enterprise through short-sighted cuts to discovery science programs and critical mission agencies alike." Although ultimately Congress sets the federal budget, and much of this proposal stands little chance of being enacted as is, this budget outline provides a clear illustration of the Administration's priorities--and science is apparently not one of them.This so-called "skinny budget" is an initial outline of the President's proposed budget, and a full proposal is expec...
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Week 8 in Energy & Environment: Trump Proposes Cutting EPA Budget by One Third

Budgets. To much attention, this week the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released its proposed budget for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year, which is none too friendly to environmental programs. The White House recommends a 31 percent cut to the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Some of these cuts include slashing all funding for "the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and partnership programs, and related efforts" and "regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs," as well as "Energy Star; Targeted Airshed Grants; the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program; and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border." There are a myriad of reasons why cutting funding for these programs would be a disaster. For example, over the last 22 years, the Energy Star program has helped save consumers more than $362 billion on utility bills. O...
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Week 7 in Trade: Americans Support Trade, NAFTA and Trade Law Enforcement

Americans Support Trade with Other Countries - A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll recently asked voters "In general, do you think that free trade between the United States and foreign countries has helped the United States, has hurt the United States, or has not made much of a difference either way?"43% answered that it helped, while only 34% said that it had hurt. This is the highest proportion to be supportive of trade since the Wall Street Journal started asking the question in 2010. While the country is obviously torn on the issue, there is a solid plurality that thinks freer trade helps the US develop and prosper. This is in sharp contrast to the national narrative of a growing and overwhelming rejection of free trade, a perception that appears to be false.RECENT ACTIONS BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION - Against that backdrop, Commerce Secretary Ross met with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday, and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal on Friday. R...
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Week 7 in Infrastructure & Urban Policy: HUD Budget Cuts, Secretary Carson on Watch, RISE Stronger’s Infrastructure Stance

HUD Budget CutsAccording to leaked, preliminary fiscal year 2018 budget documents, the Trump administration has considered more than $6 billion in cuts at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Under the preliminary plan, compared to previous funding: About $1.3 billion would be cut from the public housing capital fund$600 million would be cut from the public housing operating fundDirect rental assistance payments — including Section 8 Housing and housing vouchers for homeless veterans — would be cut by at least $300 millionHousing for the elderly — known as the Section 202 program — would be cut by $42 millionThe HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides block grants for local communities to build affordable housing, would be cut entirelySection 811 housing for people with disabilities would be cut by $29 millionMoney available for Native American housing block grants would be cut by $150 millionChoice Neighborhoods, a program that invests in redeveloping...
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Week 7 in Education: Transgender Rights Case Returned and Every Student Succeeds Act Undermined

This week, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case of Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who sued his school district in Virginia for the right to use the bathroom associated with the gender with which he identifies. In sending the case back to the lower court for review, the Supreme Court also vacated the appeals court's order in Mr. Grimm's favor. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will now be faced with the task of determining whether Title IX rules allowing for the provision of "separate toilet, locker rooms and shower facilities on the basis of sex" can be extended to provide protections for transgender students.With only one Republican in opposition, Senate Republicans voted Thursday to repeal regulations associated with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Similar legislation was passed by the House of Representatives last month. President Trump has signaled that he will sign the resolution, which will preserve ESSA, but nullify certain regulations and give more power ov...
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Week 7 for Energy & the Environment: Pruitt and Carbon Dioxide, Regulation Rollbacks, and the Paris Agreement

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt told CNBC this week he doesn't believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to climate change, and called for continued debate, review, and analysis. Though Pruitt has previously questioned the science of climate change, views contrary to established climate science coming from an EPA Administrator are still shocking. Pruitt's comments were met with widespread criticism and outrage from scientists, businesses, former EPA administrators, and the public. In an unusual display of furor over the Administrator's comments on climate science, Pruitt's office faced such a deluge of angry calls to his main line that by Friday, the EPA was forced to set up a temporary call center before forwarding calls to a voice mailbox by Saturday, which is also now full and not accepting new messages.In an attempt to appease different White House factions, the Trump administration is reportedly considering a plan to remain in the Par...
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Week 6 in Infrastructure & Urban Policy: Carson, the FAA, and Planning Begins for the Infrastructure Bill

Last week, Ben Carson was confirmed as Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His recent controversial comments about slavery notwithstanding, Carson is likely to roll back gains in the Affordably Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, which the new SOHUD referred to as a "social engineering" tool. AFFH requires federal grantees to further the mission of the Fair Housing Act.This week, the House Subcommittee on Aviation will hold its third in a series of hearings to prepare for a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reform and reauthorization bill later this year. Witnesses will include Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden, SkyWest CEO Russell Childs, Air Transport Services Group CEO Joseph Hete, Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson, and Travelers United Chairman Charles Leocha. Also this week, President Trump nominated Jeff Rosen to serve as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation. Rosen, who has spent nearly 30 years with Kirkland &...
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