Decision Day for Climate Change Denier-in-Chief

Rose (Garden) Ceremony This Afternoon

The announcement of the announcement, delivered, as one might expect, late night, via Tweet.

Is there any reading-between-the-lines that can be done here? Perhaps the all-caps “Make America Great Again” is an indication the “drop-out/isolationist/climate change-denying crew” within the White House (Bannon, Pruitt, et. al.) has prevailed? Or maybe Trump just likes saying that slogan. While it does seem likely Trump will pull the U.S. out of the non-binding climate pact, (leaving the U.S. on the outside of 194 countries along with only Syria and Nicaragua,) the truth is, no one knows what Trump will do until he does it. And he is clearly milking the run-up to his announcement for all it’s worth.

Climate Change Accord: Big Oil Wants In, Europe/China Say They’re Ready To Lead

At a contentious annual meeting (see the next headline below) Exxon’s freshman CEO, Darren Woods, said the U.S. should stay in the Paris Accord, for the simple reason that it’s better to have a seat at the global climate table than not. “When it comes to policy, the goal should be to reduce emissions at the lowest cost to society,” Woods said. His predecessor at the helm of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, is now Trump’s Secretary of State. Under his leadership, Exxon was one of the first U.S. fossil fuel companies to acknowledge climate change is real. He’s also favored staying in.

China and the European Union will issue a joint statement Friday reaffirming their commitment to the climate change agreement, regardless of whether Trump pulls the U.S. out or not. The BBC says it’s already seen the statement, suggesting Chinese and European officials felt it was important to get it out preemptively, so it would not look like they were reacting to any decision by President Trump. The Washington Post quotes the China/EU statement this morning, emphasizing Trump is abandoning most of the things he says he stands for, just to make a wrongheaded point about climate science: “Tackling climate change and reforming our energy systems are significant drivers of job creation, investment opportunities and economic growth.”

And although we often disagree with Mitt Romney (and Trump certainly doesn’t care about what he has to say), he very succinctly sums up what we feel is really important about this whole thing:

Exxon Shareholders Demand More Accountability On Climate Change/Several Companies Already Doing More On Their Own

In a highly unusual move, Exxon shareholders overwhelmingly approved a measure its board of directors was against. The measure requires the company to more formally report on how climate change impacts its business. This type of vote is highly unusual, because it requires the support of the company’s biggest shareholders to pass. Those shareholders usually side with the board as their primary interest is seeing the company make as much money as possible. While the result is being called a “victory for environmentalists”, if you look at this measure cynically: part of why it was able to muster a significant level of support is that it doesn’t require the company to do anything to fight climate change, just report more formally on the impact on its business. The measure is non-binding, but is likely to be adopted in some way, given the support of more than 2/3rds of shareholders.

Slate has a nifty roundup of corporations big and small taking initiatives to combat climate change on their own. Most interesting to us: SC Johnson’s announcement that its Bay City, Michigan, Ziploc bag plant now runs 100% on wind energy. It’s the 3rd fully wind-powered plant for the company, but the first in the U.S. And New Jersey utility, PSEG  is shutting down its last 2 coal fired plants in that state, one in Trenton, one in Jersey City. The move leaves New Jersey with only one remaining coal burning plant, near Cape May.

Comey Cleared To Testify; Mueller Adds To His Team

Fired FBI Director James Comey could appear in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee as early as next week. That was the original plan, but then Special Counsel Robert Mueller put the brakes on, saying he wanted to make sure Comey wouldn’t reveal anything that might complicate his probe into possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Now that’s apparently been squared away. As we’ve said before, if Comey wants revenge, he doesn’t need to reveal anything new. All he has to do to infuriate Trump is get huge ratings.

Mueller, meanwhile, added a key player to his team. According to Bloomberg, Justice Department fraud chief Andrew Weissmann will join the investigation. Weissmann is a specialist in corporate fraud and foreign bribery. He was the FBI’s general counsel when Mueller was director.

Reasonable? Or A Cop-Out?

The White House says it will no longer discuss the Russia investigation, referring any questions from the media to Trump’s newly-hired outside lawyer, Marc Kasowitz. The only real problem with that is Trump hasn’t stopped Tweeting about it. Until that happens, we see it as fair game.

One Way To Do A Travel Ban, Without Doing A Travel Ban, Is Just Make It Impossible For People To Get Visas

Just take a look at this new form for visa applicants, approved by the Trump administration for a 6-month trial run, and reported on by Reuters today.

It asks for 15 years of biographical information, and 5 years of detailed information about what names applicants used on social media, and on which platforms. Also, 5 years of email addresses and phone numbers.

Now ask yourself this question: would I be able to sit down and complete this form without making a small mistake or omission even if it’s inadvertent?

That’s exactly what immigration lawyers are worried about: the new form will “catch” almost every applicant even if it’s a small omission or something they simply don’t remember, thus giving the U.S. “legit” reasons to deny in almost every case.

We should point out: not every visa applicant will have to fill out the form, just those “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny.” And even then, this new form is “voluntary” and it’s even printed on the form that “Failure to answer every question will not necessarily preclude visa issuance.” Right.

We have also pointed out several times that Trump’s proposed 29% cut in the state department budget helps achieve this same goal, by potentially making visa processing much more cumbersome and time consuming. We are already starting to see students and scientists (among others) opt for other countries given the increased uncertainty of obtaining and maintaining visa status here.

Ohio Not Waiting For Federal Action, Sues Drug Makers Over Painkillers

Ohio’s attorney general says 5 drug companies “fueled Ohio’s opioid epidemic” by exaggerating health benefits and trivializing addiction risks. Several of the manufacturers responded, saying they act within FDA guidelines and are working hard to develop abuse deterrents.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Ohio has the 3rd highest drug overdose rate in the country. Only West Virginia and New Hampshire have more.

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