Earth Day 2018 – Mr. Secretary, Go Green

The time of fossil fuels is over.

This Earth Day I propose enjoying some outdoor fun and writing a letter to a government official about an environmental issue that is important to you.

My Earth Day plans include participating in a field trip with the California Native Plant Society and writing a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, which I already did (see below).

Earth Day 1970

In 1969, Gaylord Nelson was a U.S. Senator representing his home state of Wisconsin. He had long been concerned about the environmental deterioration occurring in the United States because private companies were being allowed to exploit public resources polluting and degrading air, water, and land with impunity. He had been trying to get the American public to make a national issue out of the environment with little success.

Reading an article about the anti-Vietnam War teach-ins taking place at colleges across the country gave him an idea. Nelson decided to try the same method to start a grassroots environmental movement. He formed a nonprofit organization and asked a Harvard graduate student named Denis Hayes to organize the first Environmental Teach-In.

Protesters Carrying Earth Day Posters April 22, 1970 - Photo Credit: Doug Draper
Protesters Carrying Earth Day Posters April 22, 1970 – Photo Credit: Doug Draper

On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets demanding that the government take action to clean up the environment and stop industries from using the air, water, and land as free places to dump toxic waste.

Pressured by the public, Congress passed far-reaching clean air and clean water legislation that has been protecting Americans for almost 50 years.

Earth Day 2018

Now, in 2018, Americans are facing a new assault on the environment and the laws that Congress put in place to protect us from being taken advantage of and poisoned by private industries and public agencies.

I believe that I have a responsibility to speak up. You can choose to do so, too. We can tell our supposedly democratic government founded to serve “We the People,” that we strongly oppose the dismantling of environmental protections and regulations and the destruction of our public lands. We can stand up and say it is not acceptable that our own government is endangering and harming the people we love.

Writing a letter is one way you can exercise your right to Freedom of Speech.

Below is my letter to Secretary Zinke regarding the unprecedented and dangerous expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration and development he is overseeing as the Secretary of the Interior. I will add any response I receive to the end of this post.

BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Drilling Platform on Fire in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010
BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Drilling Platform on Fire in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 – Photographer Unknown

If you are interested in learning more about the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program that I discuss in my letter, you will find links in the resources section below.

I hope you will join me in writing a letter yourself.

April 12, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Re: Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Development

Dear Mr. Secretary,

Overseeing a department with 70,000 employees who manage one-fifth of the land in the United States, 35,000 miles of coastline, and 1.7 billion acres of the outer continental shelf is a heavy responsibility. You have the power to affect the wellbeing of over 327,000,000 Americans now and in the future.

I am writing to you as a mother, an American citizen, and a resident of the California Central Coast to express my strong opposition to the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (DPP).

The United States needs to get off fossil fuels not embark upon an unprecedented expansion of oil and natural gas exploration and production along almost the entire coastline of the country.

As the DPP states, outer continental shelf oil and gas development is a long-term endeavor fraught with technical issues and environmental risks. It mentions but does not address global warming or catastrophic oil spills. “Production from exploration and development in newly available OCS areas will likely not occur for a decade or more, and then will continue for another 30 to 40 years or longer” (p. 1).

Offshore oil and gas operations require substantial infrastructure both offshore and onshore including drilling platforms, pipelines, transfer stations, storage tanks, and processing facilities. Once fossil fuel companies invest billions of dollars into building this infrastructure they will likely continue producing oil and gas for decades.

Locking the United States into 50 years of expanded oil and gas production will not generate energy security or economic vitality for the American people. Global warming is not some distant amorphous threat it is already happening. The continued burning of fossil fuels is endangering all Americans and people all over the world.

To make America great again, we need to stop looking back and move forward. The time of fossil fuels is over. Clean renewable energy is the future that we need to invest in, right now. I urge you to use your authority to curtail fossil fuel development and encourage deployment of clean renewable energy on public lands (submerged or not).

In 20 years, what do you want to say to your children and grandchildren? “I am proud I was instrumental in opening up the entire United States coastline to oil and gas exploration.” or “I am proud that I did everything in my power to move the country towards clean renewable energy to keep Earth habitable for you and your children.”

Sincerely,

Linda Anne Poppenheimer

Featured Image at Top: Three Wind Turbines at Sunset off the Irish Coast – Photo Credit Shutterstock/Peter Cripps

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Make Your Voice Heard on Regulations.gov

Give the government a piece of your mind (politely).

One way to be an engaged citizen is to comment on pending U.S. government regulations related to issues that are important to you. It may be easier than you think.

The idea for this post came to me while I was watching a Presidents’ Day mattress sale commercial sandwiched between television segments of the Winter Olympic Games. I thought, “Geez, nowadays, we commemorate the birthday of our founding father with discounts on mattresses.” “Surely, we can honor George Washington in a more suitable way.”

George Washington dedicated most of his life fighting for, establishing, and protecting many of the freedoms Americans enjoy today. He embodied government for the people and by the people. When I think of George Washington, the Bill of Rights First Amendment immediately comes to mind.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” —United States Constitution Bill of Rights First Amendment

There are many ways that you can exercise your right to freedom of speech and share your thoughts and opinions with your elected officials and with government agencies including calling, writing, and emailing, attending town hall meetings and events, voting, participating in public demonstrations, and being active on social media.

Another important but perhaps not well-known avenue of communication is Regulations.gov. This website makes it easy for you to obtain information about pending regulations (also called rules) and then comment on them before they are finalized.

Until a few years ago, I had never heard of Regulations.gov so I decided to celebrate George Washington’s birthday this year by spreading the word.

E-Government Act of 2002

In 2002, Congress passed the E-Government Act to bring the federal government into the Internet age.

“To enhance the management and promotion of electronic Government services and processes by establishing a Federal Chief Information Officer within the Office of Management and Budget, and by establishing a broad framework of measures that require using Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.” —Public Law 107-347, 107th Congress

Regulations.gov is the Internet interface for the eRulemaking Program, which is just one of many E-Government initiatives, set in motion by the passage of the law.

Rulemaking Process

Rulemaking is the process used by almost 300 federal agencies to issue regulations for laws enacted by Congress. Congress decides what needs to be accomplished and the affected agencies determine how to do it.

During the rulemaking process, the agency gathers information, prepares a draft rule and supporting documentation, and publishes it in the Federal Register and on Regulations.gov.

The public then has an opportunity to review the information and comment on it within a specific period, often ranging from 30 to 60 days. Sometimes the comment period is extended or re-opened. Comments and documentation submitted by the public are considered during the decision making process. The final rule is published in the Federal Register along with the date it will go into effect.

If you are interested in learning more about the Federal Register or the Rulemaking process, there are links in the resources section below.

Regulations.gov

On the Regulations.gov website, you can browse pending rules to determine if there is something you want to comment on, but chances are you will become aware of an important issue from other sources like news reports, social media postings, people you know, newsletters, and heads up emails from organizations you trust. Keep your eyes and ears alert for terms like pending regulation, proposed rule, and rulemaking.

On your first visit to Regulations.gov, I suggest you dink around a bit to familiarize yourself with the site. For instance, clicking the “Learn” tab will take you to a page that provides an overview of the regulatory process and you can click on a link to learn about the eRulemaking Initiative. The “Help” tab houses tips on how to use the site, FAQs, and a glossary section, which I think is helpful for understanding terms. For instance, every rule has a docket ID that is essentially the file name of the electronic folder for the rule.

To find a specific rule from the “Home” page, you can either type a docket ID, agency name, or keyword into the search window or click on the “Browse” tab.

When you land on the docket home page, you will find a summary, supporting documents, important dates, contact information, and a “Comment Now!” button. If you have not previously had the opportunity to read the specifics of the issue, this is a good place to do it.

Making a Comment

When you are ready to enter your comment, click on the “Comment Now!” button. Type your comment into the window, include your name if you want, and attach documents that support your comment (if you have any). You will have an opportunity to review and edit your comment before submitting it.

Every comment is assigned a unique number and you can request to have it emailed to you. Depending on how many public comments are being submitted and processed, your comment may not immediately show up in the comments section on Regulations.gov.

The example below is my public comment regarding the federal government’s intent to expand offshore oil and gas exploration, which you have likely heard or read about in the past several weeks.

Regulations.gov Comment Example

If you would like to join me in opposing the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, click on the following link Docket ID: BOEM-2017-0074, which will take you directly to the docket page. Then click the “Comment Now! button” to make your comment.

If your interest lies in another area such as education, agriculture, healthcare, transportation, or _____ that is okay. Select a different docket and submit a comment.

You have the right and the power to be an engaged citizen. Submitting public comments on Regulations.gov is just one way to do it.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what George Washington would think about Regulations.gov, but I hope he would approve.

Featured Image at Top: Colored Comment Bubbles on Blue Background – Photo Credit iStock/BrianAJackson

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