ISO Happy Ending: Comment by 10/31 on Emissions Standards for Power Plants

Once upon a time, there was an administration that protected its people from dangerous modern fire-breathing dragons. Then in August 2018, the big bad wolf-ogre-gremlin-current administration announced plans to undo Obama rules limiting harmful emissions from fossil fuel power plants. The plot: to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, and put in its place a wicked changeling, a watered down alternative dubbed the Affordable Clean Energy rule.

But as in all good stories, there’s time for a dramatic rescue! The law requires that the public can comment on this proposed change until Oct 31, 2018.

How to comment

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will accept comment on the proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule through October 31, 2018.  Comments should be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355 and may be submitted by one of the following methods.

Some things you can say in your comments:

  • The bottom line: oppose repealing the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and replacing it with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, because it’s imperative to reduce fossil fuel emissions and the ACE is much weaker than the CPP.
  • EPA evidence in the record shows the CPP would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 1,700 heart attacks each year
  • The EPA’s own calculations show that the proposed ACE would result in an additional 1,400 deaths and 48,000 new asthma attacks yearly compared to the CPP
  • Under the CPP the federal government sets emission targets for states, but the ACE allows states to set the targets themselves, which promotes a “race to the bottom”
  • The goal of the CPP (backed by evidence in EPA’s regulatory record) was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The EPA’s own calculations indicate the proposed ACE would only reduce emissions by somewhere between 0.7 and 1.5%
  • EPA’s proposed ACE uses deceptive accounting gimmicks to artificially inflate the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to minimize the health benefits of the original CPP. This means its cost-benefit analysis is flawed and unreliable
  • The Regulatory Impact Analysis shows that under every illustrative scenario EPA analyzed, the ACE would result in more CO2, SO2, and NOx than the CPP
  • The EPA’s analysis radically under-counts the deaths, illnesses, and climate damages from power plants’ soot, smog, and carbon pollution. This is contrary to sound science and economics
  • The ACE proposal drastically undercounts the real costs of climate pollution for all Americans by ignoring global impacts. Climate pollution has worldwide impacts, but the proposal counts only those impacts that are expected to occur within U.S. borders.
  • The EPA’s own estimates show that, compared to the Clean Power Plan, the ACE plan would impose up to $10.8 billion in annual net costs on Americans in 2030, when accounting for compliance costs and the loss of the CPP’s benefits for climate and public health. By contrast, the CPP was designed to save consumers hard-earned money on electric bills
  • We cannot afford further delay in confronting the threat of climate change by repealing the CPP and replacing it with the much weaker ACE. Even the current administration’s reports contain overwhelming evidence that we need to cut fossil fuel emissions, including:
    • The 11/17 Climate Science Special Report – the combined work of 13 federal agencies including the EPA – which contains overwhelming evidence that human-generated carbon emissions are the dominant cause of global warming with all of its effects on the U.S. and the world, including floods, heat waves, rising sea levels, hurricanes and storms
    • The 8/18 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about federal fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks showing that with our present rate of greenhouse gas emissions, the planet is expected to experience a disastrous warming of 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century

More info:

The Clean Power Plan (CPP) was adopted by the Obama Administration in 2015.  Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is legally obligated to regulate carbon dioxide from major sources in the United States. That’s why, in 2015, the EPA released its first standard aimed at cutting carbon emissions from power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” The power sector is second only to the transportation sector as a source of emissions in the US.

The CPP aimed to cut emissions from the electricity sector by an estimated 32% below 2005 levels by 2030—a modest but important first step.  Cost-benefit analysis consistently showed a net economic gain from the CPP. It was adopted after a robust, years-long regulatory process in which the EPA held numerous hearings and received millions of comments.

The Trump Administration was hostile to the CPP from the beginning and solicitous of the coal industry and fossil fuel sectors generally. Trump directed the EPA to begin the process of repealing the CPP and replacing it with what EPA dubbed the “Affordable Clean Energy” (ACE) rule. That regulatory process is now pending and, as required by federal law, EPA is now accepting public comments on this proposed repeal and replace. The deadline for commenting on the proposed ACE is October 31, 2018.

Speak up for immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018, or write a letter to the Dept. of Homeland Security (must be postmarked by November 6, 2018).

In September we alerted you to new horrific steps the administration is taking to unfairly treat immigrant families. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have proposed a rule that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit families to be detained in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so speak up and act now!

What you can do:

Use the suggested talking points below, and feel free to add your own thoughts, to either leave an online comment (option 1), or write and mail a letter (option 2):

  • Option 1: Click on this link to leave an online comment about Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children.
    • You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov and include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line.
  • Option 2: Write and mail a letter to:
    • Debbie Seguin, Assistant Director, Office of Policy,
      U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Department of Homeland Security
      500 12th Street SW
      Washington, DC 20536

Mix & match from these suggested talking points to include in your comment or letter, and feel free to use your own words and add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores v. Reno Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Also! A great idea suggested by Families Belong Together — hold a letter-writing party and get your friends to write together. Email info@familiesbelong.org for more information, or see the resources in FBT’s toolkit here.

If you missed our original article, here’s more background: The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants. Our September 12 article, when we first asked you to comment, is here.

Families Belong Together graphic by Instagram user @desdemona1

Help stop the jailing of immigrant children

Deadline – submit your comments at this link by November 6, 2018. Or copy the link into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas and Georgia, we learn that the administration has been stealing FEMA money to spend on jailing and deporting immigrants. Here’s another part of the unnatural disaster that is the administration’s immigration policy: a proposed rule by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would permit migrant children to be jailed with their families for an indefinite period of time. The rule would throw out the current 20-day limit on detaining these children, and would also permit the administration to detain families in facilities that aren’t “state licensed,” as currently required. We only have until November 6 to comment on this dreadful proposed rule, so read up and act now!

The proposed rule would terminate the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno, a long-established federal court class-action settlement that ensures the safety and proper care of minors in immigration detention. Among other provisions, the Flores settlement prohibits the government from detaining migrant children – whether they arrive unaccompanied or with their families – for more than 20 days.

Since Current Occupant’s June 2018 executive order ended his family separation policy, the administration has struggled to comply with Flores’s 20-day limit while simultaneously keeping families together and detaining them until their immigration proceedings are completed. In July 2018, federal judge Dolly Gee, who oversees Flores, denied the administration’s request to modify the settlement agreement to let them detain children beyond 20 days.

The proposed DHS/HHS rule is an explicit attempt to do an end run around Judge Gee’s ruling, and around the other protections in the Flores settlement. It would allow the government to keep migrant children locked up with their families indefinitely, pending deportation hearings; it would also allow the families to be housed in unlicensed facilities, while the Flores settlement requires only state licensed facilities to be used.

Please speak up NOW. Leave a comment at this link (do not comment on this article, please click on the link, or type this into your browser:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=ICEB-2018-0002-0001 ) for Proposed Rule Docket ID ICEB-2018-0002. The rule is titled Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors and Unaccompanied Alien Children. You can also comment by email: write to ICE.Regulations@ice.dhs.gov (include DHS Docket No. ICEB-2018-0002 in the subject line).

Mix & match from these suggested points to include in your comment, and feel free to add your own thoughts:

  • Don’t overturn the long-standing Flores Settlement Agreement. No child should be held in jail indefinitely and in facilities that are not state licensed.
  • The long-established Flores Settlement Agreement is necessary to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. Its limits on jail time and housing conditions must not be modified to keep children in detention longer than 20 days, or in unlicensed facilities.
  • Overturning the Flores court-ordered protections will waste billions in taxpayer money to jail children and their parents. This administration should uphold American values and protect children in its care, use humane options for release from detention, and provide families a meaningful chance to apply for asylum rather than implementing regulations to detain children indefinitely.
  • The indefinite detention of migrant children and families is inhumane and economically wasteful.

Watch the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s short video about the proposed changes to the Flores Settlement Agreement and possible impacts on the detention of immigrant children.

Read our recent article for background on the administration’s ongoing attempts to separate refugee families and imprison children. And see this article for other ways you can help immigrants.

First he came for our auto emissions standards, now he wants to frack our federal lands . . .

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – submit comments by email by September 7, 2018. Note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116.
If email link doesn’t work, address is: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov  

In a coordinated attack on California, coming just after challenging our vehicle emissions standards, the Trump administration took the first steps toward opening up 1.6 million acres of public land and mineral estate in California to fracking and oil drilling. The Bureau of Land Management posted a notice of intent in the Federal Register on August 8, 2018:

the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Bakersfield Field Office, Bakersfield, California, intends to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a potential Resource Management Plan (RMP) amendment for the Bakersfield Field Office Resource Management Plan. The supplemental EIS will analyze the impacts of hydraulic fracturing technology on BLM-administered public land and mineral estate in the Bakersfield Field Office Planning Area exclusive of the California Coastal National Monument and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

The notice seeks comments on the dangers of opening up 400,000 acres of public land and an additional 1.2 million acres of federal mineral estate in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. This would end a five year moratorium on leasing federal land to oil companies in California: no federal lands in the state have been leased to oil companies since 2013, when a federal judge found that the BLM had leased land in Monterey County without fully considering the environmental impact of fracking.

Environmentalists are concerned that fracking — an extreme oil-extraction process that blasts toxic chemicals mixed with water underground to crack rocks — can increase the risk of earthquakes and contaminate groundwater. The public lands in question here sit over groundwater that supplies neighboring areas with water for agricultural and human uses. In addition, fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, which means toxic chemicals are even closer to underground drinking water supplies than usual, with unusually high concentrations of chemicals, many of which are dangerous to human health and the environment.

In a state where water is more precious than oil, we can’t take this kind of risk with our groundwater.

Comment now! Comments close on September 7, 2018. More info on commenting here (but don’t use the comment link on that page – it appears to be broken!) Send an email instead to: blm_ca_bkfo_oil_gas_update@blm.gov and note that you are commenting on 83 FR 39116. 

Notes you can include in your comment:

  • Do not open our beautiful public lands to fracking and drilling. Do not sacrifice our health, wildlife and climate to profit big polluters.
  • Fracking involves the use of very toxic chemicals, which we don’t want on our public lands.
  • The toxic chemicals will invariably spread to nearby cities and towns, and the people affected are often the very poorest people.
  • These toxic chemicals get into the groundwater, especially in California, where fracking is dangerously shallow.
  • In a state where water is so precious — to agriculture, human populations, and wildlife — clean water is worth more than dirty oil.
  • We desperately need to keep these dirty fossil fuels in the ground and focus more on developing cheaper and cleaner green energy technologies. The climate is changing and we need to take step to move away from oil, not pour resources into using the dirtiest and most difficult to extract.
  • Why despoil our environment to extract a resource we should be moving away from?

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

Keep California Air Clean

By Christina Tarr

Deadline – October 2, 2018

Back in 2012, the Obama administration (remember them? Sniff…) set an ambitious target for emissions standards: Cars and trucks would achieve a standard of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

There are so many obvious reasons this is a good idea that it seems pointless to even mention them, but here are a few anyway:

Unfortunately, the current administration hates the environment. On August 2, 2018, the Trump Administration released its long-threatened proposal to weaken antipollution and fuel efficiency standards, revoking the 54.5 MPG goal and freezing standards at about 37 MPG after 2021. But wait, it gets worse: the 1970 Clean Air Act grants a waiver to California allowing us to set our pollution standards at a tougher level than the federal government; 13 other states now follow our lead. Currently, 40% of all car sales in the United States take place in California and the thirteen other states operating under waiver — and California’s tougher standard is now the de facto national standard. Big Oil’s Friend in the White House wants to revoke this waiver, meaning that the new, lower federal standard will be the law of the entire land. This is a direct hit at California.

Here’s a great video from Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) explaining the whole story.

What you can do:

Submit a comment at Regulations.gov:  

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation are taking comments on this ill-advised rollback until end of day (Eastern time) October 2, 2018; and you can write to them here.  Include these points in your comment:

  • Climate change is real. We need to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
  • The automobile industry needs a goal to work toward. It’s in no one’s interest to move the goalposts.
  • Clean air is important for public health.

Take action in California:

Governor Jerry Brown said, “California will fight this stupidity in every conceivable way possible.” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 16 other states and the District of Columbia already sued the EPA in May in anticipation of this recent action, and now Attorney General Becerra is planning to lead 19 attorneys general in a new lawsuit against the actual proposal.

Write to Brown and Becerra and thank them for taking action to preserve our state and our nation’s clean car emissions standards:

Governor Edmund G. Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160
Or by email

Attorney General Xavier Becerra
California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550

Phone: (800) 952-5225
Fax: (916) 323-5341
Or by email

Let your Members of Congress know your thoughts about the need for strong emission standards for automobiles, and the need for California to set its own standards. Include the same points as above:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places.

We Need to Save Wildlife. Again.

By Christina Tarr and Andrea Lum

Action deadline: September 24, 2018

A death knell rang on July 19 for hundreds of endangered animals and plants in the United States, as the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back two key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. Yes, this means polar bears. In the most brazenly anti-environmental/pro-business stance possible, the administration also wants to eliminate language that tells officials to ignore economic impacts when determining how wildlife should be protected.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. In a recent press release, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl stated: “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife. If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

What you can do:

Comment on the proposal: The comment period on this proposal opened on July 25. Please file your comments here by the deadline: September 24, 2018.

Some points you can include:

  • The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction.
  • This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems.
  • Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.

Next, call your Members of Congress: Let them know that endangered species matter to you, thank them for their work in protecting endangered species, and urge them to continue to do so whenever they can. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris stood against anti-environmental provisions. Our representatives all have good records: read about Representative Barbara Lee’s support for the environment and environmental justice here, and see her conservation scorecard here. See Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s conservation scorecard here, and Representative Eric Swalwell’s here. Call them using the same comments you adapted from the above scripts, or a slightly different one, like this:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank [Senator/Representative ______].

I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the proposed threats to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration. The ESA, and all environmental legislation, is very important to me.

[Here’s an example, you can say something about your own experience with wildlife]: Seeing bald eagles nesting in Milpitas and peregrine falcons nesting on the Cal campus encourages me to believe that we can coexist with nature, but we have to work at it. When development and the resulting habitat loss is the chief danger to all wild life, I appreciate anything you can do to curb our destruction of wild species and wild places. We are lucky to be close to so much wilderness in the Bay Area, but we have to work to ensure that wild places persist, both here and everywhere around the country. Thank you.

[For Senators only:  Thank you for working to keep dangerous anti-environmental riders out of must-pass legislation like the Farm Bill and the Defense Authorization Act.]

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. Andrea Lum is on the IEB newsletter and website team, and is the IEB Volunteer Team lead.
Photograph of bald eagle by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

Say something, before the gag goes in

You have until July 31.

TL;DR: That’s the end of the period for you to comment on the “gag rule” that the Administration has proposed to try to destroy Planned Parenthood.

Of course, that’s not what the proposal says … in a nutshell, as the Sacramento Bee put it:

The proposal would deny federal Title X funds for birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease tests to any clinic that also provides abortions or even refers a patient for the procedure. Just to be clear, it’s already against the law to use federal money for abortion; Title X recipients undergo frequent audits to ensure their funds go where they’re supposed to.

Sound better? Nope. It’s still a blatant attempt to destroy Planned Parenthood and any other clinic that provides a full range of reproductive health services, if the clinic dares to provide, or discuss, or refer patients for abortion as well as keeping them from getting pregnant, keeping them healthy, or even seeing them through healthy pregnancies.

Your reproductive rights don’t mean much if you can’t exercise them. That means YOU need to speak up, and NOW. Here’s the comment link for Proposed Rule 2018-11673.

Some points you can make:

  • Title X focuses not on ending unwanted pregnancies, but preventing them. It’s the nation’s oldest family planning program.
  • More than a million low-income Californians, most of them women of color, annually use Title X health care.
  • Women’s health clinics are the only health care sources available in some rural areas of California.
  • This proposal would put the health care of the four million people who depend on Title X at risk by defunding clinics that provide birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted disease tests.
  • If enacted, the gag rule would prohibit ANY Title X health care provider from referring patients for abortion — even if that’s what the patient wants, and even if withholding that information threatens their health.
  • This would destroy the trust between patients and doctors.

Read our earlier article for more info.

Oh, and also: if you have any friends in Maine or Alaska, tell them to talk to Senators Collins and Murkowski, who could make the difference in whether an anti-choice Justice gets confirmed for the Supreme Court.

Speak Out Against the Census Immigration Question

Deadline: August 6, 2018 – Attacking immigrants by bureaucracy: the 2020 Census will include a new question on citizenship. Why? The Constitution requires that the Census count “all persons” – NOT all citizens. Members of Congress, whose districts are determined by the Census counts, represent all people, NOT just citizens. The Commerce Department, however, bizarrely claims citizenship data “is critical to the Department’s enforcement of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and its important protections against racial discrimination in voting.” Census experts and civil rights advocates strongly disagree. Read our earlier article here.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra immediately filed a lawsuit to prohibit the citizenship question from being used. Other lawsuits followed; one lawsuit, brought by a coalition of states and cities, led by New York, recently survived a challenge and is proceeding in New York federal court. Fifty-six House members signed a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on June 28, asking him to explain “contradictory and misleading statements” made by him and other members of the administration regarding the process behind the decision to add the citizenship question to the census.

Now you also have a chance to speak out on this racist, anti-immigrant ploy! The Census, including the citizenship question, is open for public comment until Monday, August 6. The main page is here; the comment page is here. Some possible points you may wish to include in your comment:

  • There’s no evidence a citizenship question is needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act or to protect against racial discrimination in voting.
  • Nonpartisan experts, including six former Census Bureau directors, believe the question is not properly tested and risks the accuracy of the Census.
  • The question is likely to depress response rates, leading to a serious under-count
  • The Constitution requires that the census count citizens and non-citizens alike.
  • Any actions that appear hostile to non-citizens should be scrupulously avoided, especially in this very hostile political climate.
  • Adding this question is likely to skew the census count by discouraging immigrants from participating, thus blocking states from receiving sufficient federal funding.

Spit out Trump’s “gag rule” – don’t make doctors lie to patients

More than any other, two social issues have defined the conservative political agenda: no gun control and no abortions. A cynic might interpret this as conservatives being more concerned about the rights of fetuses than protecting children in our schools from getting shot — but let’s put that aside for the moment. Instead, let’s focus on the latest proposed effort by Donald Trump to trample on a woman’s reproductive freedom: a “gag rule” executive order (presumably so named because it will make you want to throw up).

Roe v. Wade still remains the law of the land. But this has not stopped conservatives from passing legislation and issuing executive actions that restrict access to abortions to a point that comes dangerously close to functionally negating the Supreme Court decision, including limiting abortions to the first few weeks of pregnancy, requiring pregnant women to visit so-called “crisis pregnancy centers” (that strongly advocate against choice) before they can terminate a pregnancy – even outright, unconstitutional criminalization of abortion – and the list goes on.

At the federal level, the battle over reproductive rights has centered on Title X funding. Enacted when Nixon was President (when – ironically – many of the social programs under attack today were created), Title X provides funding for family planning services, especially targeted to low-income or uninsured patients. Under the currently modified rules, such funds cannot be used to pay for an abortion. However, clinics that provide abortions can still receive Title X funds for non-abortion services, including contraceptives and Pap tests. They can also advise women about the risks vs. benefits of an abortion and refer women to places that provide abortions.

Congress has frequently sought to place more draconian limits on Title X funding, with an ultimate goal of preventing family planning services from even offering advice regarding an abortion. At dead center of these attacks is Planned Parenthood, which has been conservatives’ main target for years and years. The most recent proposed legislation cropped up as part of Congress’s ill-fated attempt to repeal Obamacare. Fortunately, this was not enacted.

Stymied in Congress, Donald Trump has inserted himself into the fray via a threatened executive action — a “gag rule” that would enforce domestically what is already the case for clinics outside the U.S. In essence, reproductive health providers would be required either to stop discussing abortion with their patients – most specifically, they would not be able to discuss abortion as an option or refer patients to abortion providers – or stop receiving Title X money.

According to an NPR report, the proposed executive order would also “require facilities receiving federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortion.” This could force the closing of facilities that currently provide both services within the same building.

While Trump had sent the proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for review last week, he officially went public with it Tuesday night, announcing it at the Susan B. Anthony List’s 11th annual Campaign for Life Gala.

Planned Parenthood and the ACLU previously filed lawsuits against the Trump administration over enacting “guidance” that forces family planning services to prioritize practices such as the rhythm method over alternative contraception methods. You can expect these organizations to similarly challenge the gag rule in court. While exact wording of Trump’s executive order remains uncertain for the moment, one thing is clear: If the gag rule is enacted, retaining federal funding will require that physicians essentially lie to patients regarding abortion options. That’s one big reason why the rule needs to be blocked.

Legislative opposition to this latest effort from Trump is strong and growing. On May 14, over forty senators, including both California senators (Feinstein and Harris), sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) warning of the potentially disastrous impact of a domestic gag rule. More than a hundred members of the House sent a similar letter; Barbara Lee was one of the first to sign, and Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell also signed, completing our East Bay contingent.

What you can do:

You can voice your opposition to the gag rule by emailing HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Here’s a suggestion for what to say:

Dear HHS Secretary Alex Azar,

I’m writing in opposition to President Trump’s announcement of a “gag rule” on health care providers that participate in Title X. If enacted, the gag rule would prohibit ANY Title X health care provider from referring patients for abortion — even if that’s what the patient wants, and even if withholding that information threatens their health. This would destroy the trust between patients and doctors. And it would put the health care of the four million people who depend on Title X at risk. I urge you to express your opposition to this rule.

You can also thank our Senators and Representatives for taking a prompt, strong stance on this important issue:

My name is ______, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for signing on to the letter to the Department of Health and Human Services opposing a gag rule on health care providers receiving Title X funds. Women need need access to health care and they need to trust their health care providers to give them full and accurate information. The proposed gag rule would be dangerous and destructive. I’m counting on you to keep working to protect women’s health.

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Tell EPA Not to Remove Pollution Controls from Oil & Gas Companies

Let’s start with the basics:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency currently has guidelines that allow states to control emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
  • The oil and gas industry is the largest single industrial source of dangerous chemicals in smog and major contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The deadly duo of Trump/Pruitt wants to get rid of those guidelines.
  • With five refinery communities in the Bay Area plus the traffic we all love so well, oil and gas industry emissions affect our health, and the health of those we love, every single day.
  • The public has until April 23, 2018 to comment on the proposed withdrawal of the guidelines. 

These guidelines gives states non-binding “control techniques guidelines” (CTG) with information on recommended techniques for emissions by the oil and gas sector, with leeway for states to choose other techniques if they prefer. However, if there are ozone smog problems, when EPA issues a CTG, under the Clean Air Act a state must revise its clean air plans to require “reasonably available control technology” for oil and gas industry equipment. The EPA estimates that the guideline has the potential for annual pollution reductions of over 64,000 tons of volatile organic compounds, which create smog; nearly 200,000 tons of the greenhouse gas methane; and 2,400 tons of other hazardous air pollutants that can cause serious health effects. Without the CTG, oil and gas company equipment could spew pollutants even where there are reasonably available ways to control the pollution.

In other words: get rid of the guidelines, unnecessarily increase air pollution and increase the harm to our health and the health of our environment.

Submit comments here by April 23, 2018, 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time (8:59 PM in California). More info, including talking points, here; more info, including a link to other people’s comments, here.

Want to do more environmental action?