Tag Archives: EPA

Thanks be to Mad Dog for sounding rational

That did it.

It’s official. James “Mad Dog” Mattis is my favorite member of Donald J. Trump’s Cabinet.

The secretary of defense has spoken in direct contradiction to the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the president of the United States by declaring — be sure you’re sitting down — that climate change is real and it presents a threat to our national security.

Who would have thought that a retired Marine general with the nickname of “Mad Dog” would emerge as the premier grownup in the new president’s Cabinet.

Here’s part of what Mattis said, according to the Huffington Post: “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

Trump has said climate change is a hoax perpetrated by “the Chinese.” The EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has sued the EPA more than a dozen times and has called for its elimination. He has expressed openly his belief that climate change is not real, joining a paltry list of climate change deniers.

Now we have a defense secretary making sense. He calls climate change a national threat. His remarks well might reveal fissures within the Trump administration. As the Huffington Post reports: “These remarks and others in the replies to senators could be a fresh indication of divisions or uncertainty within President Donald Trump’s administration over how to balance the president’s desire to keep campaign pledges to kill Obama-era climate policies with the need to engage constructively with allies for whom climate has become a vital security issue.”

Semper fi, Gen. Mattis.

Dr. Carson approved for HUD post; more OJT for key Trumpster

OK, let’s review for a moment the nature of some of Donald J. Trump’s key Cabinet appointments.

Betsy DeVos, who has zero exposure to public education is now head of the U.S. Department of (Public) Education. She didn’t attend public schools, her children didn’t attend them, she favors vouchers that would spend public money to allow parents to send their kids to private schools.

Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who has sued the Environmental Protection Agency repeatedly, is now head of the EPA. He wants to dismantle the rules and regulations designed to, oh, allow for a clean environment.

Ben Carson, whose spokesman once said is not qualified to run a federal agency, today has been confirmed to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson is a renowned retired neurosurgeon and is a former Republican primary opponent of the president of the United States.

Rex Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, has not a lick of experience in international diplomacy. But there he is, serving as secretary of state.

These folks all have something in common with the person who picked them for their high-profile government jobs. The president doesn’t any experience, either, in the job to which he was elected.

Trump is holding the first public office he ever sought. He has zero public service experience. He has focused his entire adult life on one thing: personal enrichment. He doesn’t know how the government works. He doesn’t seem to grasp the complexities of governance and legislating.

Hey, that’s OK in the minds of millions of Americans who voted for him. He told it “like it is” during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Can all of these individuals learn how to do their jobs? I damn sure hope so … for the sake of the nation they are leading.

Trump’s Cabinet: at best, a mixed bag

Donald J. Trump hasn’t picked a gang of losers for his Cabinet.

He’s got some winners in the bunch. I am not equipped just yet to assess all of the president’s team members. Some have yet to take office, such as Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry.

But I do feel driven to offer a word or two on a few of the more visible selections Trump has made.

First, the good picks.

James “Mad Dog” Mattis at Defense might be the best of the bunch. The retired Marine Corps general has turned out to be a seriously mature and thoughtful fellow. Imagine someone with the “Mad Dog” nickname earning that designation.

Gen. Mattis has declared that the United States won’t “torture” enemy combatants, nor will it seize Iraqi oil. He has managed to contradict the president directly on those two key elements. Semper fi, Gen. Mattis.

John Kelly, another Marine general, is a plus at Homeland Security. He’s kept a low profile so far, but has toured the southern border to take a first-hand look at the so-called “porous” border.

Rex Tillerson might be the big surprise at State. The former ExxonMobil CEO brought some serious baggage to his job. I remained worried about whether Tillerson’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to skew the U.S. policy toward Russia.

But he is talking reasonably and thoughtfully about U.S. foreign policy so far. His political foes have been quieted somewhat now that he’s on the job.

Let’s look at three Cabinet clunkers.

Betsy DeVos at Education shouldn’t be there. She has no experience — let alone understanding — of public education; she never attended public schools; nor did her children. She favors voucher programs that peel away public funds to pay for private education for parents and their children.

My friend, 2015 National Teacher of the Year Shanna Peeples, has invited DeVos to visit public schools here in Amarillo, hoping she can collect some level of understanding about the hard work that’s going on in public classrooms. I do hope the secretary accepts Shanna’s invitation so she can learn something about the agency she is now leading.

Ben Carson at Housing and Urban Development is another loser who has no business running an agency about which he knows not a single thing. The retired — and famed — neurosurgeon said so himself, through a spokesman; he isn’t qualified to run a federal agency. Trump picked him anyway. Enough said there.

Scott Pruitt, the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, might be the worst of the bunch. How does the president justify selecting a sworn enemy of the agency he now is leading. Pruitt hates the EPA and sued the agency 14 times while serving as Oklahoma attorney general. He’s a friend of big oil and he detests EPA’s efforts at developing alternative energy sources for the purpose of, that’s right, protecting the environment.

Sheesh, man!

I am hoping for the best. My fear, though, falls short of that. As for the Trump Cabinet winners, I hope their strength rubs off on their weaker colleagues.

Why these picks for Energy and the EPA?


Donald J. Trump one day will meet with the media.

One day … perhaps.

When he does, the president-elect might have to answer a set of questions from journalists. They deal with two key Cabinet picks.

Why did he choose two men — Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Rick Perry as secretary of energy — after they both have all but declared war on the agencies they will be asked to lead?

Pruitt is no fan of the EPA. As Oklahoma attorney general, he has sued the agency time and again for this and that reason. He’s allied with the fossil fuel industry. He seems to hate the clean-air rules the EPA has laid down. He doesn’t believe that climate change is real — and dangerous.

Former Texas Gov. Perry in 2011 said he wanted to eliminate the Energy Department … or at least he tried to say so, but he got hung up in that “oops” moment during a Republican presidential debate.

I’m puzzled by these two picks. I have some hope that Perry might have changed his mind about the Energy Department. I’m not at all comfortable with Pruitt and his continued commitment to battle the very agency he is being asked to oversee.

I just hope the president-elect takes some time to explain to many of us out here what in the world he is thinking about these two critical agencies.

What about the ‘protection’ in EPA title?


I’m still trying to fathom the unfathomable about one of Donald J. Trump’s key administration appointments.

That would be Scott Pruitt being named to head the Environmental Protection Agency. I added the emphasis for a reason. Now I shall explain.

The EPA is designed, as its title suggests, to protect the environment, to ensure that we have clean air, water, that our land doesn’t blow away in the wind. Its mission is to enact regulations to ensure that we preserve our land, water and air.

President Nixon, of all people, thought creating the EPA was a worthwhile endeavor, so he did it in 1970.

The president-elect, though, has selected a sworn enemy of the EPA. Pruitt is the Oklahoma attorney general who has sued the EPA because he — and presumably the rest of his state government — doesn’t like the regulations that the EPA places on industries, such as oil and gas exploration, which is a big deal in Oklahoma (and in Texas, for that matter).

Pruitt’s mission in his public life hasn’t been to protect the environment, or to shore up the agency assigned to do that important task. Oh, no. He has declared war on the EPA.

I am failing big time to grasp how this appointment is supposed to work. Is the president-elect in league with this guy, Pruitt? Does he want to disband, dismantle and disassemble the EPA?

The very term “EPA” has become, in effect, a four-letter word in what has become of Republican orthodoxy. What a shame it is that a tried-and-true Republican, Richard Nixon, would create a valuable federal agency only to have it placed in the hands of someone who seemingly wants to destroy it.

When in God’s world did clean air and water become bad things?

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

So help me, I wish Earth Day was a bigger deal than it has become.

For a whole day — as if that’s enough time to honor the only planet we have — we’re supposed to put Earth on the top of our mind’s awareness.


This is the 45th annual Earth Day. Many communities around the world are going to have public events to commemorate the day. That’s fine. I welcome all the attention that will be paid to Earth until the sun comes up tomorrow.

Given that it was created 45 years ago, that means Earth Day began during the Nixon administration. I doubt President Nixon really paid a lot of personal attention to the condition of the planet, but I certainly applaud that it was during his years in the White House that the Environmental Protection Agency was created.

In the decades since Earth Day’s creation, though, it has become something of a political flashpoint.

Some of us believe the planet is in peril. Our climate is changing and yet humankind keeps doing things to the planet that exacerbate the change that’s occurring. Deforestation is one thing. Spewing of carbon-based emissions is another. Some of say we need to do a better job of protecting our planet — or else face the consequences, which are as grim as it gets. Hey, we have nowhere else to live — for the time being, at least.

Others of us say there’s little we can do. Climate change? It’s part of Earth’s ecological cycle. We need to accept the inevitable and not seek to destroy our industrial base to chase after a cause that is far too big for mere human beings to tackle.

I won’t accept the hard-core climate change deniers’ thesis.

For the time being, I am at least grateful that the world sets aside a day to honor the good Planet Earth.

We ought to do it every day of every year.


'P' offers a pleasant surprise

Politicians occasionally surprise me — pleasantly so.

Sometimes I draw conclusions about politicians, only to have them suggest I might have been a bit too quick on the trigger.

George P. Bush has been, well, one of those pleasant surprises as he runs for Texas land commissioner.

It turns out that the tea party wing of the Republican Party with which he has aligned himself might be gnashing its teeth over P’s environmental policies. As land commissioner, environmental protection goes with the territory.


P, the grandson of President George H.W. Bush, nephew of George W. Bush, son of Jeb Bush and a darling of the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, turns out to be keenly aware of some issues that interest those of us who tilt the other direction.

The young man acknowledges the Earth’s climate is change, that it’s getting warmer; he likes the idea of developing alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar power; he stops short of calling for abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency; he’s concerned about protecting coastal wetlands; he wants the state to use less coal and use more natural gas to fire electrical power plants.

This guy just might be OK if he gets elected. In a state that leans so far toward the GOP, that event is a near-certainty.

The land commissioner has other responsibilities as well, such as administering the state’s veteran home loan program. On that score, I give the incumbent Commissioner Jerry Patterson and his immediate predecessor David Dewhurst loads of credit. P likely will need to study up on the impact the program has on prospective homebuyers.

I’ve long thought of the land commissioner, though, as one of the state’s chief environment stewards. The office’s very name suggests that protecting “the land” is its top priority.

On that score, George P. Bush is sounding more reasonable than his tea party affiliation would suggest.

I presume he’ll know that many Texans — including yours truly — will be watching him to ensure he stays true to his stated beliefs about our environment.

We’ve only got one planet, P. We need to take care of it.



Here comes the sun … power

President Obama has decided to crack down on carbon dioxide emissions produced by power-generating plants.

He has implemented federal environmental rules requiring a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. Is the president the enemy of the coal industry, which produces a lot of energy to fuel these plants? Not according to Bloomberg View, which reports that the solar industry is the biggest threat to the fossil fuel industry.


I’ve read the article attached here and it brings to mind something I’ve wondered for almost the entire time I’ve lived in West Texas: Why isn’t solar energy more prevalent here?

I think I know one reason: natural gas. We have lots of natural gas here and it remains a large employer and is quite important to the electricity-generation grid. There’s little incentive, therefore, to move away from natural gas.

West Texas is producing a lot more wind energy now than when we moved here in early 1995. Indeed, Texas and California are the two top alternative-energy producing states in the country — a fact that I’m sure drives the governors of both states, Democrat Jerry Brown of California and Republican Rick Perry of Texas stark-raving mad.

West Texas also has a large amount of sunshine. The Panhandle has more than 300 days of sunshine annually. We can erect a lot of solar panels on new home construction here and have them heat and cool houses while using less fossil fuel that has limits on its supply.

As Carl Pope, a Sierra Club activist, writes for Bloomberg View: “Solar panels — whether utility scale or residential rooftop — generate maximum power on exactly those hot afternoons when demand peaks. What’s more, they do so at no marginal cost; the sun is free. This reduces reliance on peakers, causing prices to fall across the board, including for customers without solar power.”

It’s an interesting concept that ought to find its way to West Texas … eventually.

Cleaner air a new focus

President Obama has unveiled a strategy that he hopes will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent.

Power-generating plants will have to reduce the emissions by 2030 or else face stiff penalties.

Cleaner air is a good thing. Spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is bad, as it contributes to the climate change scientists say is well under way around the world.


Oh, but just wait. This measure is going to be met with all kinds of hostile reaction.

The coal industry is going to lead the charge, as the coal-fired plants are the chief culprits. Who are the winners? Let’s try the natural gas industry — which, by the way, is flourishing in West Texas. Natural gas fires these plants, too, but does so more cleanly and it is cheaper than coal.

So, do you think our state’s government leadership will climb aboard the Environmental Protection Agency bandwagon and endorse the president’s new initiative?

Do … not … hold … your …. breath.

As with everything these days, politics gets in the way of doing the right thing.

The White House is occupied by a Democrat. Texas state government is populated by Republicans. Therefore, if one party proposes something, it’s a bad thing in the eyes of those in the other party.

Let’s remember something, though, if we’re going to politicize this argument. The 1970 Clean Air Act was signed into law — along with the creation of the EPA — by a Republican president of some note, a fellow named Richard M. Nixon.

Utility companies that rely heavily on coal-fired electricity likely will threaten to raise rates on customers to pay for the improvements being mandated by the EPA. Our electric utility isn’t as reliant on coal as many others, given that we have plenty of natural gas to fuel our electrical needs.

“The purpose of this rule is to really close the loophole on carbon pollution, reduce emissions as we’ve done with lead, arsenic and mercury and improve the health of the American people and unleash a new economic opportunity,” said Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The rule is worth enforcing. I happen to be all in favor of cleaner air, even if it might cost a little bit more to breathe it.

JFK a liberal? Not so sure about that

David Greenberg, writing for The New Republic, posits a theory that President John F. Kennedy was a true-blue liberal.


Interesting, eh?

The president, who was shot to death 50 years ago next week, cut taxes. He stared down the Soviet Union by flexing the nation’s military might. He also, according to Greenberg, believed government could be a force for good, not evil. Kennedy preferred diplomacy over armed conflict, Greenberg asserts, making him more liberal than conservative.

I suppose that’s all true.

Greenberg’s piece, though, doesn’t touch on some other key issues that defines liberals and conservatives.

How about abortion? I don’t recall much discussion over the years since JFK’s death about how he viewed women’s reproductive rights. The president was a practicing Catholic, after all. Even though he made it clear during the 1960 presidential campaign that church doctrine wouldn’t inform his public policy, many politicians before and since JFK’s time have relied on their faith to decide some of these critical matters.

Prayer in school? Did the 35th president oppose school-mandated prayer, which the Supreme Court essentially struck down in 1963?

Environmental protection is another favorite issue for liberals. It wasn’t until 1970 — during the administration of Republican Richard Nixon — that the federal government created the Environmental Protection Agency.

Kennedy did seek to further the cause of civil rights, but he had to be persuaded to do so. His death in Dallas prevented him from enacting the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. That was left to President Lyndon Johnson, whose courage helped the Democratic Party “lose the South,” in the words of his good friend, Sen. Richard Russell, D-Ga.

My own view is that JFK was more of a centrist than a bleeding heart.

Given the extreme views that both parties have adopted in the past two decades, that isn’t such a bad thing.