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Trump trashes 50-year-old environmental law, blames coronavirus

With the nation’s eyes on ongoing protests for racial justice (not to mention a seemingly endless public health crisis), last week President Trump signed an executive order that would waive key requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The landmark 1970 law requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of proposed federal actions and projects, including the construction of major highways, airports, oil and gas drilling, and pipelines. Trump’s new executive order relaxes the law’s requirement that major new infrastructure and energy projects undergo environmental reviews to ensure they will not significantly harm the environment and nearby public. (Industry representatives often blame the environmental impact statements required by the law for the extensive delay of permit approvals.)

“From the beginning of my Administration, I have focused on reforming and streamlining an outdated regulatory system that has held back our economy with needless paperwork and costly delays,” Trump wrote in the executive order. “The need for continued progress in this streamlining effort is all the more acute now, due to the ongoing economic crisis.”

But the president’s desire to suppress the 50-year-old law long predates the coronavirus-fueled recession.

Early this year, the Trump administration announced plans to overhaul key elements of the law, including by limiting requests for community input prior project approval, disregarding project alternatives, and shortening the deadline for environmental impact statements and environmental assessments. Pollution-burdened communities have long leveraged NEPA as a defense mechanism to protect their health and the environment — examples include the fights against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the expansion of the 710 freeway in Long Beach, California.

The new order promotes a quicker permit approval process on these kinds of projects by invoking a section of federal law that allows individual government agencies to use their own emergency authorities to bypass environmental requirements. Trump’s order weakens standard environmental review requirements not just in NEPA, but also in the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act.

Even before Trump declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a national emergency, the White House Council on Environmental Quality held two public hearings in Denver, Colorado, and Washington, D.C., to gather feedback on Trump’s initial proposal to overhaul NEPA in ways that would speed up projects and de-emphasize environmental reviews. Students, construction workers, university professors, and grassroots activists testified before a panel of expressionless White House officials, testifying that NEPA’s requirements are vital for their safety, health, and the environment.

Anthony Victoria Midence and other environmental advocates in California’s Inland Empire, a region that experiences some of the country’s worst smog, have united environmental and labor groups to fight a controversial airport expansion that the government’s own assessment shows would add one ton of pollution to the region’s air each day. The groups invoked NEPA to mount a legal challenge to the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval of the project’s permits. Trump’s new executive order would have stymied their efforts, according to Victoria Midence, who is the community director for the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, a local social justice group.

“It’s clear that the Trump administration is willing to sacrifice working people of color for the benefit of industry,” he told Grist. “This latest move by Trump further demonstrates that he does not care about black and brown lives.”

The new executive order comes on the heels of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalizing a rule last week that will make it much more difficult for states, tribes, and the public to protest or block pipelines and other projects that could pollute the air and water systems. The decision, which overturns a 50-year-old understanding of the Clean Water Act, would set a strict one-year deadline for states and tribes to approve or deny proposed projects such as pipelines, dams, or fossil fuel plants.

Trump also signed another executive order last month that allows several federal agency heads to weaken regulatory requirements “that may inhibit economic recovery.” The move prompted the EPA to alert the fossil fuel industry that it could suspend enforcement of certain environmental laws, including those that require the gathering of public input on projects and the monitoring of air pollution levels.

“We need to place people over profit,” Victoria Midence told Grist. “As we suffer through this pandemic with the fear that our lungs and heart are already compromised because of diesel pollution, Trump is removing perhaps the last protections we have to raise our voices and demand environmental justice.”

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Trump trashes 50-year-old environmental law, blames coronavirus

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Air pollution in some national parks is as bad as in Los Angeles

This summer, millions of families will flock to national parks like Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Yellowstone to enjoy the great outdoors and have their kids breathe in some fresh country air.

The only problem: A whopping 96 percent of national parks in the U.S. are plagued by “significant air pollution,” according to a new study by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). In fact, 33 of America’s most-visited national parks are as polluted as our 20 largest cities, the report said.

“The poor air quality in our national parks is both disturbing and unacceptable,” said Theresa Pierno, president and CEO for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), in a statement. “Nearly every single one of our more than 400 national parks is plagued by air pollution. If we don’t take immediate action to combat this, the results will be devastating and irreversible.”

The culprits? Extracting and burning fossil fuels (specifically coal — surprising, we know), car exhaust, and side effects of climate change like wildfire smoke. The report notes that the large majority of polluted air doesn’t originate in the parks, but gets blown in from elsewhere.

Last year, the most popular parks — like Sequoia, Mojave, and Joshua Tree — recorded up to two months of dangerous ozone levels, mostly in the summer when the parks are always busiest. While bad air quality causes some people to stop visiting national parks, according to the NPCA’s report, there has still been an overall impact on visitors’ health: People are getting allergy and asthma attacks in the parks more often.

Air pollution is actively damaging sensitive species and habitats in 88 percent of national parks — like alpine flowers in Rocky Mountain National Park which, apart from being pretty, provide essential habitat for some of the animals there, like elk.

In 89 percent of all parks, particulate matter in the air creates a visible haze, clouding views as well as lungs. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, is even smokier than its name suggests. The name is supposed to refer to the bluish mist that naturally hangs over the mountains, not the white or yellowish haze of pollution that is now often seen at the park.

What’s the solution? The NPCA urges a swift transition to clean energy sources, a reduction in air pollution for areas neighboring national parks, and for states to stay in compliance with the Clean Air Act despite the loosened federal regulations under the Trump administration. Just last week, as the Guardian pointed out, the Bureau of Land Management moved forward with a plan that would open more than 1.6 million acres of land near national parks in California to fracking.

“At a time when the climate crisis facing the planet is irrefutable, the laws that protect our climate and the air we breathe are being challenged like never before as this administration continues to prioritize polluters’ interests over the health of our people and parks,” said Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program Director for NPCA, in a statement.


Air pollution in some national parks is as bad as in Los Angeles

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2019′s Clean 15: Powerful Health Benefits of the Most Pesticide-Free Produce

2019 has its official “Clean 15.” Each year, the Environmental Working Group analyzes data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticides found in conventionally grown produce. “Overall, nearly 70 percent of the conventionally grown produce sold in the U.S. comes with pesticide residues,” according to an Environmental Working Group news release.

The good news is some produce tends to have little to no pesticide residues?making it relatively safe to consume if you can’t find or afford the organic versions.

Here are the 15 fruits and vegetables?dubbed the Clean 15?that the Environmental Working Group found to have the lowest amounts of pesticide residues along with the overall health benefits of each one.

15. Honeydew melon

Credit: daniaphoto/Getty Images

Honeydew melon is rich in vitamin B6, folate and potassium. And a one-cup serving of diced honeydew contains roughly half of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C?for only about 60 calories.

According to Healthline, honeydew melon offers several benefits?including lowering blood pressure, improving bone health and supporting healthy skin. It also provides a healthy combination of water and electrolytes to effectively hydrate your body.

14. Mushrooms

Although some varieties can be poisonous in their own right, you probably won’t have to worry about pesticides on mushrooms polluting your body. Instead, you can enjoy their health benefits.

A cup of white mushrooms is only about 15 calories. And for those calories you get a good amount of riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, copper and selenium?as well as fiber and protein. Mushrooms also are rich in antioxidants, which help to protect the body against many diseases.

13. Broccoli

There are many reasons to eat your broccoli besides its low pesticide content. A cup of chopped broccoli has about 30 calories, two grams of fiber and three grams of protein. And it contains some very high levels of vitamins and minerals.

That one-cup serving provides you with about 135 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, 116 percent of vitamin K and decent amounts of various B vitamins. It also has about four percent of the recommended calcium intake, four percent of iron, eight percent of potassium and 10 percent of manganese.

12. Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe had a slight edge on its melon friend, honeydew, for its Clean 15 spot. But nonetheless, both are healthy choices when it comes to reducing pesticides in your diet.

A cup of diced cantaloupe contains about 50 calories, 106 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin A, 95 percent of vitamin C, several B vitamins and 12 percent of the recommended potassium intake.

According to Healthline, cantaloupe has more beta carotene than many other yellow-orange fruits and veggies. “Once eaten, beta carotene is either converted into vitamin A or acts as a powerful antioxidant to help fight free radicals that attack cells in your body,” Healthline says.

11. Cauliflower

Broccoli often gets more attention, but don’t forget about its cruciferous cousin: cauliflower. A cup of raw cauliflower contains about 25 calories, three grams of fiber and two grams of protein. It also has about 77 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin C, 20 percent of vitamin K, 14 percent of folate, nine percent of potassium and eight percent of manganese.

Healthline reports that cauliflower is also high in choline?which helps to support cell function, promote brain health and prevent health issues, including heart and liver disease.

10. Cabbage

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Cabbage is another cruciferous vegetable that offers several health benefits?and not too many pesticides, according to the Environmental Working Group.

A cup of raw, chopped cabbage has about 22 calories, two grams of fiber and one gram of protein. It contains roughly 54 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin C, 85 percent of vitamin K, 10 percent of folate and seven percent of manganese, among other nutrients.

Plus, regularly eating cabbage might help to combat inflammation in the body, prevent cardiovascular disease, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of cancer.

9. Kiwi

Kiwis pack a lot of nutrition into a small package. One medium kiwi has about 46 calories, two grams of fiber and a gram of protein. And it’s a very good source of vitamin C, providing 117 percent of the recommended daily intake.

A medium kiwi has about six percent of your daily vitamin E, 38 percent of vitamin K and seven percent of potassium.

Research has linked kiwis to numerous health benefits. They might be able to treat asthma, help with digestion, manage blood pressure and stop vision loss.

8. Asparagus

Asparagus comes in multiple colors?each packed with healthy nutrients. A cup of raw asparagus?or roughly eight medium spears?is only about 27 calories, yet it has three grams of fiber and three grams of protein.

Among its many vitamins and minerals, the serving has about 20 percent of the recommended vitamin A intake, 70 percent of vitamin K, 13 percent of thiamin, 17 percent of folate, 16 percent of iron, 13 percent of copper and eight percent of potassium.

7. Eggplant

Eggplant isn’t as high in nutrients as other produce, but this member of the Clean 15 still has its benefits. A one-cup serving of boiled eggplant contains about 35 calories, two grams of fiber and a gram of protein. It also has small amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6 and manganese.

Plus, it provides the antioxidant nasunin in its purple skin?which can help to combat free radicals in the body, as well as improve brain health.

6. Papaya

The tropical papaya is loaded with nutrients to keep you healthy. A cup of cubed papaya has about 55 calories, three grams of fiber and one gram of protein. It also gives you 31 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin A, 144 percent of vitamin C, 13 percent of folate and 10 percent of potassium, among other vitamins and minerals.

Papaya’s many powerful antioxidants help to lower your risk of several diseases, including cancer. Plus, papaya might benefit your heart, aid digestion, improve skin and fight inflammation.

5. Onion

Credit: Qwart/Getty Images

A cup of chopped onions?probably more than you’d eat in one sitting?contains 64 calories. And the veggie is a good source of nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate and potassium.

“Onions may have several health benefits, mostly due to their high content of antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds,” Healthline says. “They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and have been linked to reduced risk of cancer, lower blood sugar levels and improved bone health.”

4. Sweet peas

As part of the legume family, peas are increasingly popular as a source of plant-based protein. A half cup of boiled peas contains about 62 calories with four grams of fiber and?four grams of protein. Plus, it has several B vitamins, 34 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin A, 13 percent of vitamin C, 24 percent of vitamin K, seven percent of iron and 11 percent of manganese.

Peas?may help regulate blood sugar levels, aid digestion and protect against some chronic diseases, including cancer.

3. Pineapple

Sweet pineapple tastes like candy, but you can rest assured you’re getting plenty of nutrients?and few (if any) pesticides.

A cup of pineapple chunks has roughly 74 calories, which primarily come from the natural sugars. Plus, it offers several B vitamins, about 46 percent of the recommended intake of vitamin C, five percent of magnesium, six percent of potassium, seven percent of copper and a whopping 131 percent of manganese.

Pineapple also is brimming with antioxidants, has enzymes that can aid digestion and might help to reduce inflammation and boost the immune system, according to Healthline.

2. Sweet corn

It might get stuck in your teeth when you gnaw it off the cob, but at least you won’t have to worry about pesticides in your sweet corn. Less than one percent of the sweet corn samples the Environmental Working Group analyzed showed any signs of pesticide residues.

One medium ear of sweet corn has about 77 calories, two grams of fiber and three grams of protein. Plus, it’s rich in vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese.

1. Avocado

Credit: tashka2000/Getty Images

Here’s one more reason to obsess over avocados. Like sweet corn, less than one percent of avocados had any pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group.

A one-cup serving of cubed avocado contains about 240 calories, largely coming from its healthy fats. It also has 10 grams of fiber and three grams of protein?as well as several B vitamins, 25 percent of the recommended vitamin C intake, 16 percent of vitamin E, 39 percent of vitamin K, 11 percent of magnesium, 21 percent of potassium and 14 percent of copper.

One study even found that people who consume avocados tend to have better overall diets and be generally healthier than those who don’t eat any. So don’t hesitate to incorporate this star of the Clean 15 into your diet.

Main image credit: Mizina/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


2019′s Clean 15: Powerful Health Benefits of the Most Pesticide-Free Produce

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Just how bad for you is breathing in air pollution? Well, it depends whom you ask.

Ask almost any scientist how bad air pollution is for people, and the answer is likely, pretty darn bad. Last week, a global report published by the Health Effects Institute found that breathing dirty air shortens the average expected lifespan of a child born today’s by 20 months, compared to how long they would live in the absence of air pollution. Robert O’Keefe, Vice President of the Institute, said in a statement that the research is part of “a growing worldwide consensus – among the World Health Organization, World Bank, International Energy Agency and others – that air pollution poses a major global public health challenge.”

But if you listen to Tony Cox, chair of the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and appointee of former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, you’ll hear a completely different message. During a public meeting in late March, Cox said he is “actually appalled” with what he considers a limited body of evidence that links particulate matter in the air with premature death.

Not surprisingly, Cox’s statements have landed him in hot water with prominent scientists and public health advocates who say he could wind up undermining decades of work to clean up America’s air since Cox’s committee has been charged with advising the Environmental Protection Agency on its air quality standards.

The EPA is in the midst of reassessing its national air quality standards, which it does every five years to ensure that it is reviewing the latest scientific evidence available. It recently submitted a 1,800-page ‘Integrated Science Assessment’ compiling research on the health impacts of particulate matter pollution to the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which is independent of the EPA but influential in their final decision. That committee will give its recommendations on whether to strengthen or adjust existing federal standards.

Under the Trump administration, the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee has undergone somewhat of a scientific makeunder. For one, the committee is much smaller than it has been in the past, once boasting 28 members and now staffed only by its minimum of seven. Environmental organizations contend that former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and other members of Trump’s administration appointed largely pro-fossil fuel industry members, including Cox — who has previously worked as a consultant for the American Petroleum Institute and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association. The EPA also disbanded a Particulate Matter Review Panel that previously weighed in Integrated Science Assessment alongside Cox’s committee.

As head of the committee advising the EPA on air quality, Cox has recommended that the agency only consider studies that make a causal link between air pollution and health outcomes through a scientific approach called manipulative causality — essentially a way of determining a potential hazard’s effect on health by looking at what happens when exposure stops. But limiting the scientific evidence under consideration to one methodology versus what scientists call a “weight of evidence approach” would exclude the vast body of research on air pollution.

Jonathan Samet, the former chair of the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, explained to Grist that using the weight of evidence method has been the practice for policy decisions for half a century. “This is the kind of approach used to decide that smoking causes lung cancer or that smoking causes heart disease,” Samet said.“These are constructs that are broad and holistic and have long been in place,” he said.

Samet compared manipulative causality to waiting to see whether a smoker’s health improves once they quit the habit. The approach can be prohibitively time-consuming, and it’s just one way of assessing the broad health implications of a potential toxin. And importantly for the EPA’s upcoming air quality decision, there aren’t many studies published already that fall within this framework.

In a scathing article published last week in the journal Science, research director Gretchen Goldman of the Center for Science and Democracy and the Union of Concerned Scientists and Harvard biostatistician Francesca Dominici wrote that “a requirement of manipulative causation fails to recognize the full depth and robustness of existing approaches in epidemiology, statistics, and causal inference and the degree to which they deal with confounding factors.”

A separate statement by the Union of Concerned Scientists contended that if the EPA adopts Cox’s recommendation via the Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee for limiting studies to the much narrower approach, “It will be virtually impossible to prove particle pollution harms public health, despite the vast array of studies that show otherwise.”

In an email to Grist, a spokesperson for the EPA wrote that “Administrator Wheeler thanks the CASAC for all their efforts and will take all the CASAC advice under consideration.”

Vijay Limaye is a fellow at the Natural Resources Defense Council who previously worked at the EPA and helped write the Integrated Science Assessment that Cox’s committee is now scrutinizing. Limaye says the vast majority of the evidence it considers, as well as the research compiled in this week’s State of the Global Air, would be “pushed to the side” under Cox’s approach. “It would basically rob the EPA of a number of tools it’s already been using to characterize the harmful effects of air pollutants.”

The Chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee will finalize its particulate matter review of the EPA’s assessment in the coming weeks.


Just how bad for you is breathing in air pollution? Well, it depends whom you ask.

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Illinois voters saw through this Republican’s climate facade

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On Tuesday night, a Democratic climate advocate ran against a Republican “climate advocate” in Illinois’ 6th district. The results of that race make one thing clear: If conservative politicians want to incorporate the environment into their platforms, they have to mean it. Let’s back up for a second.

In 2016, a bipartisan effort to address rising temperatures formed. The Climate Solutions Caucus said it would “explore policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” But after the group failed to accomplish, well, anything, the Climate Solutions Caucus appeared to chiefly be exploring one thing: how to shield conservatives running in states where environmental issues matter to voters.

The question leading into the midterms was whether belonging to the caucus would have any impact for Republicans running for reelection. That brings us back to Illinois’ 6th district, where Sean Casten — a Democrat with a background in renewable energy (and a background as a contributing writer to Grist) — beat out six-term incumbent Peter Roskam.

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Roskam became a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus in May, two months after Casten won the Democratic primary on a platform that featured climate action front and center. After joining the group, Roskam, alongside a lion’s share of the Republicans in the caucus, voted for a resolution condemning the very notion of a carbon tax. (Putting a price on carbon is a Republican-friendly, market-based approach to fighting climate change, but never mind that.)

Roskam’s lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters — an organization that keeps tabs on how members of Congress vote on green issues — wasn’t anything to write home about. He earned a 7 percent lifetime score from the group, and scored just 3 percent last year. He’s also on record calling global warming “junk science.”

“The Climate Solutions Caucus — I truly don’t know what its purpose is,” Casten tells Grist. “It’s a great way to provide cover for Republicans who want to appear to care, but it’s not lost on anybody in this district that Roskam called climate change junk science and joined the Climate Solutions Caucus right after I won the primary to try to give himself some cover.”

Casten, on the other hand, was unequivocal about his stance on green issues. He called global warming “the single biggest existential threat we face as a species,” and has a plan for what he wants to do about it once he gets to Congress.

As a former CEO of renewable energy companies, Casten says he’s equipped to frame the debate in a way that appeals to both businesses and consumers. “There’s no fundamental conflict between the economy and the environment, provided you focus on efficiency and conservation,” Casten says. He wants to streamline parts of the Clean Air Act to encourage innovation and efficiency. “The Clean Air Act is awesome,” he says. “But it’s got these flaws because it was written in a way that never contemplated regulating CO2.” That’s one of the things he plans to push for in 2019.

One thing he doesn’t plan on doing when he gets to Capitol Hill? Joining the Climate Solutions Caucus. “It’s not high on my list of things to do, because it’s really important for me to do something about climate,” he says. “I don’t need any resume bonafides.”

By the time results had rolled in from purple districts across the country on Tuesday night, it became evident that Roskam wasn’t the only climate caucus Republican whose diluted environmental message failed to resonate with voters. In all, 12 other conservative members of the caucus lost their seats to folks with better climate bonafides.

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Illinois voters saw through this Republican’s climate facade

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Container ships are getting cleaner, but the effort is adrift

The giant vessels that carry colorful boxes of cargo around the world are becoming more energy efficient.

China’s COSCO Shipping has outfitted its container ships with new propellers and a protruding “bulbous bow” to reduce wave resistance and curb fuel consumption. CMA CGM of France has equipped vessels with electronically controlled engines to optimize performance, and more of its ships can plug into shoreside electricity supplies to avoid running their massive diesel engines at berth.

As a result, carbon emissions associated with moving those boxes have steadily declined in recent years. From 2009 to 2017, container ship emissions dropped roughly 37 percent on average — per container, per kilometer for global ocean transportation routes, the Clean Cargo Working Group reported earlier this month. (Per mile, that’s about a 60-percent reduction.)

But that progress is starting to level off, showing the limits of the shipping industry’s existing actions to tackle climate change, according to the new study.

Examining the emissions-reduction efforts of those operating container ships could help illuminate some of the challenges involved in getting oil tankers, bulk carriers, and other types of cargo vessels to curb pollution. Container ships account for only about 5.5 percent of the world’s merchant fleet, and it’s the only sector that reports its collective emissions in such a comprehensive way.

When it comes to emissions data, says Suzanne Greene of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics, “The shipping industry has so much potential to be more transparent.” (Greene was not a contributor to the new report.)

The container ship survey tallied annual data from about 3,200 vessels, or nearly two-thirds of the world’s container fleet, shared by 22 companies. The data don’t reveal exactly what portion of the reductions were due to energy-efficiency investments or were a result of external factors, such as the consolidation of major container carriers or shifting trade patterns, says Nate Springer, who manages the Clean Cargo Working Group for BSR, a sustainability-focused consultancy. However, he adds, “The consistent progress since 2009 provides compelling evidence that progress is due in large part to industry efforts.”

Like its rivals COSCO and CMA CGM, A.P. Moller-Maersk has invested in new, fuel-efficient vessels and retrofitted older ships with energy-saving designs. Its real-time tracking system allows it to avoid delays, maximize cargo space, and optimize ship speeds for fuel efficiency. Thanks to these measures, the company’s container division — the largest in the world — has seen a 43-percent drop in emissions per container moved since 2007.

Despite all of this, the rate of emissions reductions is slowing down for the broader container industry, the report said. Container-related emissions fell by 1 percent from 2016 to 2017 — below the 2.4 percent from 2015 to 2016, which was below the previous year’s reductions.

Springer says he expects container companies will continue reducing emissions. But he concedes: “We know that if the progress continues at this lower rate, then it will be difficult to remain on track to meet the ambitious climate goals recently announced in the International Maritime Organization climate strategy.”

Last April, the U.N.’s International Maritime Organization agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping by at least 50 percent from 2008 levels by 2050. If all types of cargo ships formed a country, their total annual emissions would rank in the top 10, between those of Japan and Germany.

The Clean Cargo data don’t provide a full picture as to why carbon reductions are shrinking. But one partial explanation could be that rising shipping activity is offsetting improvements in efficiency.

Container port traffic rose by nearly 15 percent from 2013 to 2017, while ships of all types unloaded more than 12 percent more cargo tonnage over that five-year period, according to a United Nations trade database. At the same time, the world’s container fleet has added dozens of new (and enormous) vessels.

Another explanation might be be that companies’ individual efforts are beginning to hit a wall. “We are reaching the point where it will be more and more challenging to drive significant CO2 efficiency on our own,” says John Bang Kornerup, head of sustainability strategy and shared value at Maersk.

Companies can only do so much to trim emissions from existing technology. To truly move the needle, the entire industry will need to shift toward cleaner fuels and zero-emissions propulsion technologies. That requires widespread investment in research and development to make alternatives more commercially viable, Kornerup says.

“Efficiency measures alone are not enough to deliver shipping’s share of achieving the Paris ambition,” he explains, referring to the landmark climate agreement. He adds that it is “an industry challenge to drive the needed innovation in new propulsion technologies.”

Yet many shipping companies, container or otherwise, still haven’t adopted even relatively straightforward strategies for curbing emissions, such as tracking and reporting their carbon footprints. Much of the data available today is based on averages from shipping routes or sectors, not individual ship performance.

Without more rigorous accounting, it will be difficult to truly know how well the industry is progressing toward meeting its climate targets, says Greene, the MIT logistics expert. That lack of data will also make it harder for major shipping customers — the IKEAs and DHLs of the world — to calculate their supply chain emissions.

“The bottom line in sustainability these days is really the carbon emissions number,” she notes. “And if that’s what we’re using, it should be decently accurate.”

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Container ships are getting cleaner, but the effort is adrift

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The EPA’s coal plan is a ripoff for Americans, according to the EPA

The Trump administration’s newest proposal to weaken regulations on coal-fired power plants is called the Affordable Clean Energy rule, or ACE. But a close reading of the administration’s own analysis suggests that the acronym more accurately stands for Asthma, Climate Change, and Emphysema.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new rule would amend the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, making it easier for old coal power plants to stay open. The EPA considered the impact and found that if the plan leads coal-fired plants to start cleaning up their act, it would still cause more hospital visits, more sick days away from work and school, and the early deaths of up to 1,400 people each year, by 2030.

What’s remarkable is that the agency’s analysis doesn’t attempt to make the case that the new policy’s benefits to society outweigh the steep costs. Instead, the EPA’s figures show that the savings for coal plants are relatively trivial compared to the costs of rising pollution from coal-fired plants. Under every scenario the EPA ran, it found the proposed ACE rule would cost Americans at least $1.4 billion a year more than it saved, when compared with simply leaving the Clean Power Plan alone.

“When an agency wants to do something that’s harmful to the American people, it typically tries to hide it,” said Richard Revesz, director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law. “What’s unusual here is that the EPA just comes out and says it.”

You have to do some digging to find these numbers. EPA’s press officers aren’t exactly highlighting the findings that the proposal would leave Americans worse off. In a fact sheet, for example, the EPA trumpets its finding that ACE could save power-plants up to $6.4 billion in compliance costs. But wade into the details to look up that scenario (check out table 18 on page 165), and you see that the EPA weighs that $6.4 billion against health costs that run between $16.6 billion and $75 billion.

That the EPA’s own analysis suggests the proposal will do more harm than good creates a legal vulnerability, according to Revesz, because federal agencies have an obligation to make policies that are not arbitrary or capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act, the 1946 law governing the regulatory and rule-making powers of federal agencies. “The administration is skating on very thin ice with this proposal,” Revesz said.

A coalition of 19 states and cities, including New York, California, and Massachusetts, has formed to defend the Clean Power Plan in court. And shortly after the EPA unveiled ACE on Tuesday, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced she’d sue to challenge the plan if it’s adopted.

“The fingerprints of the coal industry are all over this plan,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. “It’s written to enrich the fossil fuel industry by poisoning our air and our climate.”

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The EPA’s coal plan is a ripoff for Americans, according to the EPA

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How California can make its cap-and-trade program more equitable

Last week California celebrated a big milestone: The state announced it had succeeded in bringing down its carbon emissions to levels it hasn’t seen since the 1990s. And the Golden State managed to hit that benchmark four years earlier than it had set out to, all while laying to rest the tired old argument that an economy can’t grow while emissions shrink.

There is, however, a catch: Carbon emissions may have dropped statewide, but according to a study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, low-income and communities of color that border heavy industry are seeing greater amounts of greenhouse gases and other airborne pollutants. Further, the analysis validates criticism against one of the state’s most celebrated climate interventions: its cap-and-trade program.

Historically, proposed climate solutions have focused on addressing aggregate carbon dioxide numbers while ignoring localized impacts, says Amy Vanderwarker, senior policy strategist at the California Environmental Justice Alliance. And communities in closest proximity to greenhouse gas emitters have long argued that cap-and-trade has concentrated airborne contaminants on those who are most vulnerable to pollution.

“In many ways we have thought of the work that these research partners are doing as the ‘I Told You So Report,’” Vanderwarker says. “It’s academic and data- driven verification of the lived reality and experience and knowledge and wisdom of low income communities of color across the state.”

Unfair Trade

Through it’s cap-and-trade program, California sets a “cap” for the total amount of carbon that can be emitted by certain companies operating within the state. Companies can purchase or “trade” emission allowances with each other, allowing bigger polluters to essentially purchase the right to emit from state auctions or from other companies that aren’t sending out as much carbon and have allowances to sell. The danger of this system is that the companies that end up purchasing those allowances — and thus polluting more — tend to be located in “fence-line” communities, which are typically lower-income and inhabited predominantly by people of color.

The report shows a correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and the presence of other harmful pollutants, like particulate matter and volatile organic compounds, that have been linked to cancer, respiratory problems, and other health issues. (Grist board member Rachel Morello-Frosch is a study co-author.) Put simply, facilities are usually emitting more than just carbon: so when greenhouse emissions go up, so does the amount of other bad stuff in the air.

The new research confirms that facilities regulated by California’s cap-and-trade program are disproportionately located in “fence-line” communities: Neighborhoods within 2.5 miles of regulated facilities on average had a 34 percent higher proportion of residents of color and a 23 percent higher proportion of residents living in poverty than areas beyond that boundary. And more than half of these polluters actually increased the amount of greenhouse gases they released since the system started in 2013. Those facilities were surrounded by neighborhoods that had higher rates of poverty and more residents of color than those surrounding facilities that cut down their emissions .

“When it comes to climate change and to greenhouse gas emissions, place does matter,” Vanderwarker says. “When you look at what’s happening on the ground, you see a different picture than what a statewide analysis and statewide numbers show.”

Clean Air for All

So what is a well-meaning, climate-concerned state to do? In addition to pointing out California’s discrepancy in cap-and-trade pollution, the new study outlines potential solutions to make the program more equitable.

While cap-and-trade is designed to tackle climate change by reining in greenhouse gases statewide, it’s federal statutes, like the Clean Air Act, that regulate the quality of the air we breathe. One of the keys to improving California’s air overall, according to the study’s lead author Lara Cushing, is to quit thinking about measures designed to address climate change and those targeting air pollution separately.

“Having them harmonize those efforts instead of regulating them separately might help the state achieve both its climate and its equity goals,” Cushing says. “From a public health perspective, getting the biggest bang for your buck for the emissions reductions you’re undertaking means prioritizing emissions reductions from sources that also release a lot of health-damaging pollutants.”

Another obvious course of action is for California to significantly lower the cap and give out fewer allowances to companies. An initial glut of allowances may have made it too easy for companies to purchase additional permits to pollute.

Then there’s the issue of offsets — investments companies can buy in green projects, like forest-preservation efforts (since trees absorb carbon dioxide). Facilities regulated by the cap-and-trade program can use offsets to cancel out up to 8 percent of the emissions they’re allowed under California’s cap. The problem: A majority of these investments — 75 percent — have been made on out-of-state initiatives. Cushing’s research suggests that regulations incentivizing or requiring companies to put their money in local green projects could help alleviate the health impacts facing California’s fence-line communities.

The state is actually starting to do this: When it passed an expansion of the cap-and-trade system last year, the bill included a measure that reduces the amount of offset credits a company can purchase and requires half of those credits to go towards projects that benefit California.

The California Environmental Justice Alliance — which opposed the expansion of the cap-and-trade system approved last year — is now paying close attention to how the state moves forward with implementing the program. Vanderwarker wants trends in the amount of greenhouse gases and co-pollutants emitted in fence-line communities to be clearly tracked as part of cap-and-trade, and she argues there needs to be a plan in place to address any hot spots where air concentrations are increasing.

“We haven’t really seen any clarity on that plan from the California Air Resources Board,” she says.

What California does to address equity within its climate policies matters not only for vulnerable communities in California, but for those across the country — particularly as other places consider their own carbon-trading systems.

“California is a leader on climate change, and California can be proud of that,” Cushing says, “It’s important that we get it right and that we continue to study this program — and whether disadvantaged communities are seeing the full benefits of California’s carbon reduction efforts — so that we can continue to play that leadership role.”

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How California can make its cap-and-trade program more equitable

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How Often Should You Clean Your Couch Fabric?

Everyone’s living room couch needs a good cleaning every now and then, but this is doubly true if you have pets that like to lounge on your furniture. Our couches often weather a lot, from spills and pet hair to everyday wear and tear. If it’s been a while since you last cleaned your couch upholstery, you might be wondering if it’s time for a good clean.

Why You Need to Clean Your Couch Fabric

It’s important to clean your couch fabric every so often because, just as your clothes do, your couch is liable to pick up a variety of contaminants. Food, dirt, dust and grime can get trapped in the?woven threads?of your sofa, leading them to harbor microbes and bacteria. In addition to looking unsightly, a dirty couch can smell and can even spread the growth of bacteria in your home.

How Often to Clean

So, how often should you clean your couch??TODAY recommends doing a deep clean at least once a year. You can, of course, go to a professional, but many professional upholstery cleaners use toxic cleaning products that fans of natural alternatives probably wouldn’t like.

Instead, I recommend vacuuming your couch once a week and cleaning the fabric itself at least every two weeks, if not more often. Because you’ll be using more natural methods, it’s important to stay on top of your cleaning schedule.

Tips and Tricks

When you go to clean your sofa fabric, here’s what to do:

First, remove any washable fabric and throw it into the washing machine with your regular laundry detergent. Important: ONLY DO THIS if your couch fabric is machine washable. This should be clearly designated on the tag.
Next, any parts that can’t be washed in your machine or taken off of the couch should first be vacuumed, then cleaned. Running a vacuum cleaner over your fabric will pick up most?pet hair and food particles. Be sure to vacuum under cushions and between pillows. If you have any lingering odors, sprinkle some backing soda over the couch and allow it to sit for at least a few hours before vacuuming it up.
Finally, it’s time to wipe down the fabric itself. As long as your sofa’s upholstery tag doesn’t say that it needs to stay completely dry, you’re good to go ahead and use a clean sponge to wipe it down.

Related Articles:

My Hunt for a Chemical-Free Couch
Top 10 Eco-Friendly Ways to Clean the House
Are Green Cleaning Products Really Safe?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How Often Should You Clean Your Couch Fabric?

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Supreme Court Justice Kennedy is retiring. Here’s what that means for the environment.

Anthony Kennedy is retiring, and progressives around the country are trying not to freak out. The 81-year-old justice, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1988, has been a crucial swing vote on many issues from abortion to gay marriage to campaign finance. And — for better or worse — he has also been the deciding vote on environmental issues for the past three decades.

As a moderate on an increasingly divided court, Kennedy has been in the majority in an outstanding number of environmental cases. As Lewis and Clark environmental law professor Michael Blumm writes, “Advocates in environmental cases must tailor their arguments to win his vote or risk losing their appeals.”

Over his 30-year tenure, Kennedy — who was once called by the New York Times an “equal opportunity disappointer” — has been a mixed bag for environmentalists.

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the most consequential ruling on climate change in the past two decades, Kennedy was the swing vote. The state of Massachusetts had challenged the EPA’s refusal to regulate greenhouse gases, despite profound and convincing evidence that they are harmful to human health and well-being.

Kennedy joined the four liberal justices, arguing that the EPA would have to treat CO2 like any other pollutant, unless the Bush-era agency provided “scientific basis” for its reasoning. Although he didn’t write the majority opinion, without him — or with a more staunchly conservative justice in his place — we might still be fighting to have CO2 recognized as a pollutant at all.

On the other side of spectrum, Kennedy, again as the swing vote, tempered his support for the EPA by aligning with conservatives in the 2014 decision on Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, joining the late Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion. The majority argued that while the EPA could continue to place limits on CO2 emissions from large stationary pollution sources like power plants, the administration could not regulate smaller sources like schools, apartment buildings, or businesses.

In 2006, a Michigan property owner, John Rapanos, faced criminal charges from the EPA for draining and filling in potentially protected wetlands with earth. Conservative justices wanted to dramatically restrict the definition for wetlands — which would have decimated protected areas across the country.

Kennedy’s decisive opinion in the case, Rapanos v. United States, established a new standard which protected all wetlands that are part of a “significant nexus” of navigable waters. It was a win for environmentalists — but one that still significantly restricted wetland protection under the Clean Water Act.

Despite his mixed record, any replacement for Kennedy will likely have a much, much worse record on environmental issues. Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment — and the son of a former EPA administrator to whom current chief Scott Pruitt has garnered frequent comparisons —  has been an opponent of many Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act protections throughout his career. Some of the other members on Trump’s initial shortlist carried even more alarming disregard both for issues of civil liberties and for the environment. And Kennedy has, at times, provided the much-needed fifth vote to reject restrictions on abortion rights, with significant impacts for both women’s health and our environmental future.

It remains to be seen exactly what the new justice will think of the EPA, clean air protections, and climate change, but the conservative-liberal split on the court will significantly change for the first time in decades. Environmentalists may have gotten lucky with Kennedy’s moderate support of CO2 regulation and protecting wetlands — and chances are their luck has run out.

“I’m fearful,” Blumm, the law professor, told Grist. “And I think all people who watch the court and care about the environment should be fearful.”

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Supreme Court Justice Kennedy is retiring. Here’s what that means for the environment.

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