(Promoted by Colorado Pols)
Administration Guts National Monuments, Moves to Reverse Clean Air Rule
Present needs and present gains was the rule of action — which seems to be a sort of transmitted quality which we in our now enlightened time have not wholly outgrown, for even now a few men can be found who seem willing to destroy the last tree, the last fish and the last game bird and animal, and leave nothing for posterity, if thereby some money can be made.
From the Biennial Report of the State Fish and Game Commissioner to the Governor of North Dakota, December 1894
It was an even sleepier bend in the road in 1989, although the state park was already there, where the Burr Trail joins Utah 12. In the shadow of Boulder Top—that I would learn a few years later in a geology class at “the U” is a sort of kin to Grand Mesa, a basalt-capped plateau more resistant to the erosion of eons than the landscape all around.
My love of the rock, of the desert and canyons, sprang from time spent near Boulder Town. All through the early 90s, I began to wander deeper and further into that fantastical land: Calf and Deer Creeks, the Gulch, Hole-in-the-Rock road, and Fiftymile Mountain.
In 1996, when President Clinton designated the area as part of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, I was already familiar with many of its wonders, and aware that I knew so very little still. So I have returned time and again.
This coming Monday President Donald Trump is expected to do what no other president has done before. Undo by executive fiat vast portions of National Monuments designated by his predecessors.
The president will do this deed in Utah, where two National Monuments are on the chopping block: Bears Ears and Grand Staircase.
The former is part of Obama’s legacy and broadly supported by many tribes for its ancestral significance, sacred qualities, and high concentration of cultural sites. Thus an extra special treat—one presumes—for the defiler-in-chief who seems to relish undoing whatever his predecessor put in place if only out of spite.
For the latter, Grand Staircase Escalante, Trump is reaching back more than twenty years into three administrations past, to unravel some bit of good done before. In this case to thwart the clear will of the American public that owns, maintains, and has sacrificed for these public lands—and which strongly favors keeping them as a National Monument.
The area is a popular destination and a driver for local economic development. The Monument includes a fantastic treasure trove of archaeological, paleontological, geological, and biological resources, and provides outstanding opportunities for all sorts of study, learning, and research, as well as for recreation and tourism.
But protecting public lands in any manner has long stuck in the craw of some old-school schemers, decrepit sagebrush rebels or their protégé, who believe—in the case of Grand Staircase, for instance—that mining the area’s coal remains the better choice for the future.
One of those old-school dinosaurs who refuses to relent to modern times is Senator Orrin Hatch from Utah. Hatch has served in the U.S. Senate for twice as long as the Grand Staircase National Monument has existed, occupying some prime Swamp real estate for many decades.
Sen. Hatch’s big debut onto the national stage, 15 years into his Senate career and more than 25 years ago, came during one of the U.S. Senate’s earlier forays into the issue of sexual harassment. But the derision that came from his unfortunate Coke can line of questioning and the hostile nature of his attacks on Ms. Hill then, has not distracted him in the years since from what seems his first love: Criticizing the federal government that has employed him for about half his life.
And when it comes to that government standing in the way of digging up rocks, drilling for oil, or chopping down forests, then Orrin really gets his dander up. Which brings us to next Monday when Sen. Hatch is expected to accompany Trump to Utah and to what many hope is the tail end of his long Senate and special interest service.
It also sends us halfway across the continent …To Charleston West Virginia, today, where the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is wrapping up its single public meeting on dismantling the Clean Power Plan.
Under the Obama Administration the Clean Power Plan was developed, after numerous public meetings in locations across the nation, to meet an obligation the federal government has to control carbon pollution which the Supreme Court has found poses an endangerment to public health.
The disregard for meaningful public process, in support of a pre-determined policy reversal, is made more painfully obvious in the choice for solitary venue, in the heart of “coal country.” Still, despite efforts to create a favorable optic for dismantling of important, and popular, health and environmental regulations, those urging that the Clean Power Plan be left in place are nonetheless holding their own.
The Huffington Post is among many outlets reporting that much of the testimony, even from inside the heart of “coal country,” is urging that the EPA keep the rule in place:
On Tuesday, Sturgill, 72, drove three hours to Charleston, West Virginia, for the EPA’s only public hearing on the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. Hunched in front of a microphone at a rounded wooden table in the Senate Judiciary Committee Room of the West Virginia Legislature, he made his plea once again: “We’re still dying ― we’re still literally dying ― for you to help us.”
“Just how many people must pay the supreme price of death for a few rich, greedy people to bank a few dollars?” Sturgill said. He noted how long he and his wife, Sharon, had trekked just to speak for a few minutes. “We may be old, but we still love living.”
A lot of time and distance has passed in the years since I began to explore the drainages of the Escalante and its uplands, in southern Utah. And one thing that was true then is true still—though now we have a few decades of additional, confirming data: Coal is not the future. Not for America’s power and not for economies of the rural west. Here in the North Fork we were reminded of that, again, this week.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports Bowie Resource Partners, owner of the North Fork Valley’s Bowie No. 2 Mine near Paonia, announced Oct. 31 that Canyon Consolidated Resources, LLC, was to buy out the majority ownership in Bowie from Galena Private Equity Resources Fund.
…The bond sale was pulled earlier this month due to market skittishness among investors. Bowie last week says discussions with Canyon concluded without a sale agreement due to the financial market conditions.
The regulatory dismantling being wrought by the Trump Administration is part of a cynical attempt to prop up a dying industry regardless of ecological damage being done, oblivious to the retreat in leadership it signals to all the world, and despite howls of outrage from the public. It will not be easily repaired.
Reversing decades of progress in public lands management, ignoring decades of science on climate, thumbing the scales to an even greater degree in favor of dirty fossil fuels, will bring lasting impact. The eyes of the future look back on us, and not kindly.
But no matter these ill-advised efforts, coal is not coming back. Good policy would help coal-dependent communities move forward, not treat them as collateral damage for political expediency or corrupt gain.
The Clean Power Plan is such a policy, designed to build for the future not curry favor with titans of the past. Just as participation in the Paris Climate Agreement, to which the United States alone in the world is not party, was a sign that America intended to remain a global leader in stewarding a healthy environment.
The Trump Administration is unconcerned with either climate reality or global leadership. It has surrendered instead to intentional disbelief and subservience to the status quo. This all just affirms what has become too painfully clear. America, and the world, can expect no leadership from this administration.
Instead we must organize around the impediments this willful ignorance has imposed upon us, and we must prepare for 2018. No politician should escape the voters’ scrutiny.
In November we will have a chance to hold our leaders to account, to return those that are serious about solving problems, and to holding rogue power to account, and to retire those who are not. The eyes of the future look back on this time. We cannot squander it.