Emily J. Gertz is senior editor of Drilled News. A longtime environmental reporter and editor, her work has appeared in HuffPost, Reveal, Arctic Today, The Guardian, Popular Science, Scientific American, Sierra, and more.
From the Streets to the Courts, Fossil Fuel Is Trying to Outlaw Climate Accountability

From the Streets to the Courts, Fossil Fuel Is Trying to Outlaw Climate Accountability

There are a couple ways so-called “average” Americans can try to hold the powerful to account: We can take to the streets or take to the courts. But for decades, powerful industries and their allies in state houses nationwide have been slowly, surgically narrowing those options.

Now, with an alarming number of states moving to criminalize protest, and a renewed effort to push “tort reform,” a euphemism for eroding the public’s ability to hold companies legally and financially liable for the harms they cause, these two key tools are very much in danger.

The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s brought big wins for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and environmental and consumer protections. In a lot of ways, efforts to roll back those wins over the last several few decades have been one long counter-reaction to those initial reforms.

In response to the erosion of those social and legal gains, the last five or six years have seen a resurgence of the progressive left, and a return to the direct action approaches of the past, but informed by a new understanding of the ways injustices interconnect, and much better organized by virtue of new digital tools. Previously disparate groups are starting to recognize that whether they’re climate-focused, race-focused, gender- or class-focused, they’re all really fighting for the same thing: justice (which is critical to winning any one of these fights, as Mary Annaïse Heglar has pointed out time and again) .

This Avengers-like coming together of multiple social movements into one coordinated push for justice terrifies the industries and political groups that (unless they change, too) stand to lose the most from the achievement of social, economic, and environmental justice.

They spent decades building out a network of think tanks, front groups, political action committees, media, and …

The Trump Administration Has “Corroded” Federal Environmental Science

The Trump Administration Has “Corroded” Federal Environmental Science

The Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on the budgets, staffing, and priorities of federal environmental agencies have “corroded our government’s ability to protect our nation’s ecology and public health,” according to a new report from Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a government science watchdog.

Congress has generally rejected annual White House proposals to slash the budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and other key environmental agencies.

But political appointees have managed to fulfill many of the Trump administration’s anti-regulatory wishes in other ways. At EPA they have decreased staff numbers largely via hiring freezes, or by not filling positions that open up when senior staffers retire.

Appointees have also targeted research into areas like toxic chemical safety, climate change, and air pollution for particularly severe budget cuts, said the report’s lead author, Christopher Sellers, an environmental historian at Stony Brook University in New York, who has testified to Congress on plummeting enforcement of environmental regulations at Trump’s EPA.

“If there’s one overriding principle involved, it’s a pretty strategic taking-apart of government capacity to act in the public good,” said Sellers

The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative formed in late 2016 to archive and monitor federal climate and other environmental data, and to track changes to environmental, energy, and climate information on government websites.

The Trump-era push “to really crush the federal regime built over the last 50 years” is “historically anomalous,” said Sellers, but also the culmination of longstanding conservative campaigns to politicize climate and other environmental science, and roll back or eliminate environmental regulations aimed at reining in pollution caused by businesses and industries.

The Trump administration’s year-on-year proposals to crater environmental spending are “a clear strategy fully in line with a lot of conservative think tank proposals,” said Sellers, notably the Heritage …

Plaintiffs in Landmark Youth Climate Case Want Their Day in Court

Plaintiffs in Landmark Youth Climate Case Want Their Day in Court

Lawyers for the 21 young plaintiffs in the landmark climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States have asked the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for a full court review of the 2-1 decision to dismiss their case in January.

According to the petition, filed on Monday, the two judges who ruled against sending the case to trial “made significant errors of law” in finding that the youth did not have standing to sue the U.S. government over its continued support for oil, gas, and coal energy development. The petition also questioned the finding that changes in the government’s policies must come via lawmakers and voters, not the courts.

There is overwhelming scientific agreement that the heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions created by burning fossil fuels for energy are the main cause of climate change.

For the petition to be approved, a majority of the Ninth Circuit’s 29 judges would have to agree to hear the appeal, which would then be considered by a panel of 11 judges.

The Ninth Circuit has a decade-long track record of granting such “en banc” reviews in cases where the rights of children are in question, Julia Olson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Given the gravity of the ongoing harm to these children, and the significant flaws in the majority’s decision made clear by the vigorous dissent, this case deserves the same careful review of the full Court,” Olson said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.…