Weekend Reader:  Handing out medals in the Battle of Pruitt

Whistleblowers, investigative reporters, and NGO's in line for commendations

To start, the photo is from Energy Department HQ, with DOE Secretary Rick Perry and, closest to him, coal baron Bob Murray. I don't know the next person to the right, but in this 2017 photo, Mr. Murray had come a-lobbyin' with veteran DC insider and mouthpiece Andrew Wheeler (beneath the red arrow). More on the photo later.


Scott Pruitt's 17-month EPA Scandal-Palooza is over, but here are a few who helped expose his tawdry reign:

-- Strong investigative journalism from the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, among others; the Times just won Columbia's Oakes Award for Environmental Journalism for its EPA work.

-- Internal whistleblowers, most notably former Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Chmielewski, a self-described Trump supporter;

-- Dogged pursuit of internal agency documents by NGO's, notably the Sierra Club;

Back to the photo: Simon Edelman was a photographer for the Department of Energy. He took the picture in question, and released it to the public.

Murray has earned a rep as the most unhinged of the coal barons. He and Wheeler hatched a plan to rescue the foundering domestic coal industry via a DOE mandate for major utilities to invest in coal. On June 1, 2017, President Trump, citing vague and unspecified national security concerns, put Murray's and Wheeler's scheme in play, ordering DOE to bail out not just economically failing coal plants, but failing nuclear plants as well.failing coal plants, but failing nuclear plants as well.

Perry's DOE fired Edelman for releasing the photo, not only making him a martyr in the Battle of Pruitt, but perhaps the first martyr in the Battle of Wheeler. Now Mr. Wheeler has replaced Scott Pruitt as EPA chief on an interim, but possibly a permanent, basis. As befits America's Grand Experiment with a two-tens-for-a-five form of government, many are expressing hope that he'll be a cut above Pruitt's venality. Even Sheldon Whitehouse, the Senate's conscience on climate action, wished in a prepared statement that Wheeler could bring "clear-eyed leadership" to the wounded agency.

Thank you for your service, one and all.

And one last citation for fragging your own side: David Schnare is a former EPA employee turned activist climate denier. He's made a name for himself of late by sandbagging climate scientists with onerous Freedom of Information Act requests. But now one of his colleagues and ideological soulmates, Chris Horner has accused him of financial mismanagement of their nonprofit, the Freemarket Environmental Law Clinic.

With Schnare as a close second, Horner has emerged as the virtuoso among climate science harassers-- beginning with his years-long torment of Michael Mann during Mann's tenure at the University of Virginia. Horner had petitioned Mann's emails, internal correspondence, text messages and more in an effort to find discrediting correspondence.

Now, he's applying his finely-honed grief-making skills against an ally.

Fetch me the popcorn, and may the best man win!!

Top Weekend News

In The Guardian, John Abraham examines the staggering future costs of sea level rise and coastal inundation.

Eric Holthaus on how this year's severe storms season could set records. (Grist)

In an introductory speech to EPA employees, acting EPA boss Andrew Wheeler said risk communication would be a high priority. (E&E Daily)

What to expect on environmental cases from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Steve Curwood's Q&A with U. of Vermont Law Professor Patrick Parenteau. (PRI's Living On Earth)

More on Kavanaugh from Marianne Lavelle at Inside Climate News.

If coral reefs disappear, some tropical fish will lose their only protection. (Hakai)

Rancher Dwight Hammond, Jr.'s imprisonment inspired the armed takeover of a National Wildlife Refuge. Sprung from prison by President Trump's pardon he discussed how prison has changed his outlook. And how it hasn't. (Oregonian)

Opinion pieces and editorials

Eric Holthaus throws some anti-shade on Trump and environment: He'll be terrible, but he's not everything.

Podcasts of note

Quick Instagram post from Planet Forward, George Washington University's J-School, on "The Last Straw" -- plastic drinking straw bans popping up everywhere.

More Trump Rollbacks

ExxonMobil becomes the latest corporation to exit the anti-regulatory American Legislative Exchange Council. (Reuters)

Alex Kaufman reports on Andrew Wheeler's first week as interim EPA boss-- and his first two potential scandals. (HuffPost)

www.vox.com

Most Democrats and Republicans think the government should make climate change a priority

A new survey finds broad support among American voters for doing more on climate change.

ADSE's Young Researchers Conference 2021

The Alliance for Diversity in Science and Engineering (ADSE) is hosting its 9th Young Researcher Conference from January 28-30th, 2021. Read more about the conference and how to register here.

Biden may cancel Keystone XL pipeline permit as soon as his first day in office

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the permit for the $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, and perhaps as soon as his first day, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
insideclimatenews.org

Global efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate are lagging as much as efforts to slow emissions

A new UN report highlights how an adaptation gap hurts the most vulnerable countries and urges increased financing and cost-effective, nature-based preparations.

www.abc.net.au

Climate change pushed ocean temperatures to record high in 2020, study finds

Climate change saw the world's oceans absorb 20 zettajoules of heat in 2020, driving seas to record temperatures and setting the scene for decades of savage weather and environmental devastation.
e360.yale.edu

More than 400,000 US clean energy jobs have been lost so far during the pandemic

The clean energy sector in the United States lost 429,000 jobs last year due to the economic impacts of Covid-19, with the industry hitting its lowest number of workers since 2015, according to a new analysis of federal unemployment filings.

www.wesa.fm

Philadelphia aims to be carbon neutral by 2050

Sounding optimistic after four years of battling climate change with little help from the federal government under the Trump administration, Mayor Jim Kenney said Friday that Philadelphia will aim to become carbon neutral by 2050.

stateimpact.npr.org

Harrisburg resident’s charges dismissed in alleged Mariner East ‘buy-a-badge’ scheme

A judge has dismissed all charges against Harrisburg resident James Murphy, a security firm employee who had been charged in connection with an alleged bribery scheme related to Mariner East pipeline construction in Chester County.