Frankly, it’s hard to think about a lot besides COVID-19 this month. Our hearts go out to those who have suffered from the virus here and abroad. We are deeply grateful to the courageous front-line workers, nurses, drivers, and housekeepers who selflessly care for the afflicted. We’re equally grateful to all the grocery checkout workers, salespeople, bus and delivery drivers, utilities workers—everyone who shows up at work to keep our wounded world running. True heroism is defined by these neighbors of ours.  

   The KEC’s mission is to inform and protect: inform Kitsap residents so we can protect our beautiful lands, trees, and water. Over the past year this newsletter has covered issues of interest to our area (harmful herbicides, deforestation, climate change, county and state governments’ response). Of course, the local and the global are inseparable—the coronavirus is tragically apt proof of that. Decisions made at the national and international levels affect us all, every day. 

Which brings us to the National Environmental Protection Act, and why you should care. NEPA is a law, in force since 1970, that requires many federal agencies (nearly 80 of them) to assess environmental effects before approving permit applications, land management, and public projects including the construction of highways, pipelines, and telecommunication networks.

   This means giving careful consideration to how a planned project might contribute to climate change and other environmental issues.

   In January the Trump administration proposed massive changes to NEPA that would ignore the climate crisis and severely limit public input.   

  The proposed changes to NEPA include: 

  – limiting the time for environmental impact studies;
  – requiring agency officials to “timely resolve disputes that may result in delays”;
  – loosening requirements for whether NEPA applies to a planned project at all;
– allowing companies to conduct their own environmental review. 

   Anyone who’s up on the news knows that the Trump administration has been replacing experts with political loyalists up and down the ranks. (Putting yes-man Mike Pence in charge of the coronavirus, with his record of encouraging the spread of AIDS as governor of Indiana, is but one example.) Who’s going to run those 80 agencies subject to NEPA? The likely answer makes the sweeping proposed changes truly alarming, especially as climate change and sea rise present an existential threat worldwide. Ignoring them in favor of business interests is perhaps the worst crime in these very swampy times.  

What’s next?
The Council on Environmental Quality (in the House of Representatives) is soliciting comments on the proposed revisions through March 10. However, the National Law Review remarks, “don’t expect any major changes in the final rule.”  They add, however, that “it also is a near certainty that the new NEPA standards will face challenges in the courts.”

   How will this being an election year influence the fate of Trump’s ghastly plan to sacrifice Nature to business interests? Voting the president out of the White House might overturn it. But there remain deep policy differences among the remaining Democratic presidential candidates, and KEC urges you to examine the candidates’ records on safeguarding the environment. Please, Kitsap residents, be aware of these issues nationally as you prepare for 2020 elections, and also as you put state and local challenges in perspective. 

   Keep washing your hands, too, and thanking those nurses and grocery employees.

P.S., March 6: The New York Times of March 4 reports that the Trump administration is restricting the reach of science in the Environmental Protection Agency, severely limiting the research that can be used to draft environmental and public health regulations. How timely as COVID-19 becomes a pandemic.


Recipe for hand sanitizer (better than the commercial chemical-filled stuff)

* 2/3 cup isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or Everclear or cheap vodka
* 1/3 cup pure (or as pure as possible) aloe vera gel
* Essential oil in your choice of fragrance (optional—just to smell nice)
* a small or medium mixing bowl
* a spoon
* 1 to 3 empty containers, such as a 2- or 3-oz container from travel toiletries kit
* a kitchen funnel

(Note on ingredients: Everclear (190 proof = 95% alcohol) is at the liquor store if your drugstore is out of rubbing alcohol. Aloe vera can be ordered online, and so can essential oil.)

1. In the bowl, stir alcohol and aloe vera gel until well blended.

2. Add around 8-10 drops of scented essential oil if you want.

3. Using funnel, pour well-mixed solution into your hand sanitizer containers. 

The CDC recommends that hand sanitizer have at least 60% alcohol. 

This is the second most effective way to keep your hands germ free. Washing is still the most effective way.