It was time to DE-clutter my coffee table, which was groaning under the weight of too much mail and reading material. So, I began. The first newsletter I read from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) would almost have me on the verge of tears. I'm not the one in my family who cries easily. My older sister does, but the EDF article "Trial by fire" brought me very close to angry tears.
On a day that usually makes Americans proud and happy, too many of us weren't.
On this day--January 20, 2017--Donald Trump became our president. If that wasn't bad enough, on this same day at high noon, EPA's climate website went dark. What a terrible way to start a presidency by showing contempt for an environmental agency.
EDF staffers had been alerted to this happening, and their legal team kicked into gear. They filed a request with the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act to restore public access to data. The Trump administration's attempt to conceal the truth was thwarted by their timely action. This set in motion a legal process to ensure the preservation of health and air-pollution data. General Counsel Vickie Patton observed: "During these extraordinary times, the law is our strongest ally."
Then, four days later, rumors spread that there was a plan to permanently take down all climate-related material from the EPA's website. But EDF attorneys Peter Zalzal and Martha Roberts put together a team of over a dozen young attorneys and legal fellows to address this fear. Together they huddled around their laptops in EDF offices in Boulder, CO, and Washington, D.C. They managed to download data sets to ensure that climate information compiled over the years wasn't lost. I believe we owe this group a debt of gratitude.
Zalzal observed "This scientific data is the foundation for sound environment and health policy. To eliminate it would be unprecedented." Thankfully, because of their timely work and the work of others, the administration backed off.
It is good to know that we have these environmental lawyers defending the public interest.
They oppose any retreat from the Paris Climate Agreement. They even have managed to convince companies like Walmart that environmental protection pays. Walmart has been an EDF partner for more than ten years, and they have pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by one billion tons by 2030.
The EDF has also done considerable environmental work in some states. With their help, Illinois passed a law that will double the state's renewable energy by 2030 and cut power-sector carbon pollution by more than half.