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Taking Action Outside of Government

The news of Trump rolling back environmental protections is hard for me to take in, although I knew it was all coming from the moment I heard the election results. Despite my anger and grief that hits me in occasional waves, I see the current political landscape as an opportunity for people to wake up and realize that if they want something done, it will happen faster if they organize and do it themselves. It’s time to take real, concrete action outside of government.

Yesterday I found a perfect example of action outside of government being put into practice: this past weekend, 300 union plumbers installed water filters in the faucets of Flint, Michigan residents. Members of Plumbers Union International donated the supplies and organized the volunteer effort. Here is the media alert.

It would have been great for Federal, state, and local governments to use their money and power to fix the Flint lead crisis by now (it started in 2014!), but here we are. So thank you Plumbers Union International for using your skills to help others on a Saturday. I plan to follow your example of taking action outside of government as often as possible.

 

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Go Time

The Trump presidency hits me in waves. Right now I’m angry because I just found out that Trump signed a “document” clearing the way for the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.

So reckless. So dangerous. Such a slap in the face to humanity.

I’m so angry.

So right now I’m listening to “Splinter” by Ani DiFranco on repeat. Here are the amazing lyrics:

Something about this landscape just don’t feel right
Hyper air-conditioned and lit up all night

Like we just gotta see how comfortable comfortable can get
Like we can’t even bring ourselves to sweat

Sweat in the summer, shiver in the winter
Just enough to know that we’re alive
Watch out for that TV, it’s full of splinters
And remember you can always go outside
Really, really, really far outside

And some might call it conservation
And some might call it common sense
And maybe it’s because I am Libra
But I say balance balance balance balance
I say balance balance balance balance

Who put all this stuff in my apartment?
Who put all this ice in my drink?
Who put the poison in the atmosphere?
Who put the poison in the way I think?

O women, won’t you be our windows
Women who bleed and bleed and bleed
Women who swim with the tide, women who change when the wind blows
Show us we are connected to everything
Show us we are not separate from everything

So here’s to the trials of living
Here’s to feeling our share of pain
All the way from childbirth to dying
Here’s to being connected to everything
Here’s to staying connected to everything

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Super Basic Administrative Law

I’ve spent a large chunk of my life studying and working within the environmental law realm, which is a subset of administrative law.

Have I lost you yet? I know this stuff is dense and the terminology sucks. Bear with me – I’ll make it short. Knowing the bare-bone basics of administrative law is important for understanding the U.S.

The U.S. government has three branches (Judicial, Legislative, and Executive), and the Executive Branch is more than just the President. The Executive Branch is also made up of many agencies, like the Department of Justice, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and many more.

Federal agencies further their missions by interpreting the laws that are passed by Congress (Legislative Branch) to make their own rules and regulations. This process of Executive Branch agencies interpreting the laws passed by Congress to make rules and enforce them is what administrative law is all about. It creates a ton of government policy and it all happens outside of elections and the Congressional “how a bill becomes a law” process.

For example, Congress passed the original version of the Clean Air Act in the 1960’s, and then made major changes to it in 1970, 1977, and 1990. But other than that, all of the Clean Air Act rules that power plants, car manufacturers, and other sources of air pollution must follow have been created and enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, with oversight by the courts (Judicial Branch). All of Obama’s climate change policy has occurred within the administrative law process.

The last layer I will add on today: although the agency must follow the purpose of the law they are charged with interpreting, the President, as the head of the Executive Branch, appoints the heads of the agencies. Therefore, the President has significant influence on what actions the agency takes during his term.