Panhandle Progressive

What President Biden Could Do for the Environment in His First Ninety Days

There can be little debate that the Trump administration has been more hostile to sound environmental policy than any administration in modern history. From the start President Trump identified environmental protection as the territory of Obama liberals and played strongly to his populist base and big fossil fuel industry donors by dismantling every protection in sight. So, a Biden administration has a lot of work to do restoring the positive direction set in previous administrations. Here is where I think he should start.

Trump Flails Again at Environmental Law and Policy

While we were distracted by a pandemic, a recession, and an uprising in the streets, Donald Trump attempted to upend decades of environmental law and policy with the stroke of his pen. In an executive order dated June 4, 2020, President Trump directed all federal agencies to use “emergency powers” to speed infrastructure work, specifically waiving or bypassing where possible the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Trump justified this order on the basis of the “economic emergency” existing in the country created by the national COVID-19 response. This shouldn’t surprise us – Trump has used every excuse to undermine environmental regulations from the start of his Administration, often favoring oil, gas and coal interests. But the scope of this executive order is audacious.

Solar Energy and the Legislature: A Power Play in Charleston

For a state beholden to the coal and natural gas industries, solar energy generated a lot of heat at the recent West Virginia legislative session. Two initiatives concerning alternative energy, including solar, were introduced. One survived and will become law. Unfortunately, the survivor is a timid effort to attract a specific hi-tech enterprise that will involve no new solar energy facilities unless that enterprise locates here. But progress on renewable energy in West Virginia will have to be made in small steps, and this was a start.

Trump’s Obstruction of Congress: The Real Constitutional Threat

In the ongoing trial of Donald Trump, the House Managers have laid out a case on two articles of impeachment. Article I – abuse of Presidential power – received the most time and attention by the House Managers and the President’s defense team. However, Article II, charging the President with obstruction of Congress, describes conduct that will have more far reaching consequences for the nation. At the President’s direction, the White House and federal agencies have refused to produce a single document. He has also directed key federal employees to refuse to appear for testimony. If a President can unilaterally declare impeachment proceedings in the House to be invalid, and on that basis deprive those proceedings of crucial evidence, what is left of the impeachment power?

West Virginia's Green Amendment

On February 11, 2019, thirty-two West Virginia legislators -- all Democrats -- introduced Resolution 25 in the West Virginia House of Delegates. The Resolution called for an amendment to the West Virginia Constitution creating a right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment. Modeled on a similar amendment in Pennsylvania, the “Green Amendment” declares that these public natural resources are the common property of the people and appoints the State of West Virginia as trustee of those resources. These declarations would have sweeping legal consequences if the Green Amendment is adopted.

What Are We Going To Do About It?

Even before the upcoming public impeachment hearings, we know the facts. Despite the blizzard of falsehoods issued by Presidential tweet to cover up the crime – it was a “perfect call”, there was no quid pro quo -- all these have been discredited, one by one, then abandoned. We know this: the President used our money, not his own, to squeeze a desperate country into providing political dirt on Joe Biden, Trump’s possible opponent in the 2020 election. This extortion was intended to benefit himself, not the country. So the question is not what happened. Rather, the question is what are we going to do about it?

Paper or Plastic?

Remember when grocery clerks would ask this question at the checkout counter? Now you practically have to leap over the counter to prevent your groceries from immediately going into plastic bags. I have always assumed that plastic bags became the grocery industry’s packaging of choice because of the cost savings to the grocers. This is basically true. I have also assumed that paper bags are both biodegradable in landfills and recyclable into other products, while plastic bags are not biodegradable and rarely recycled. But going beneath these assumptions a little further, the environmentally sound choice between paper and plastic bags is not at all clear.