Tag Archives: epa

These fired air pollution experts just did the job the EPA didn’t want them to do

Most people don’t show up to a job after getting fired — but that’s exactly what former members of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee did last week.

The group of air pollution and public health experts reconvened to review the latest science and offer recommendations for new air quality regulations, one year after they were fired by then-acting head of the EPA Andrew Wheeler. After days of discussions, the newly renamed Independent Particulate Matter Review Panel issued a letter on Tuesday warning that current regulatory limits pose a threat to public health and urging stricter standards to limit particulate pollution, which has been linked to increased risk of a host of heart and respiratory diseases.

“We wanted to put on the record, here’s all the things that should have happened, had we not been disbanded,” Christopher Frey, the head of IPMRP, told Grist. “And here’s the science advice that the agency would have gotten from us.”

Frey, an environmental engineer and the previous chair of the EPA committee that provides science-based recommendations when the EPA is making air pollution rules, said there was little doubt about the need for stricter regulations. “The evidence is just so strong, it’s kind of mind-boggling,” said Frey.

Federal science has never been perfect — elected officials have always balanced political motivations with government scientists’ findings, and the current administration isn’t the first to pick and choose evidence that supports its agenda. But the state of science is a lot worse than that under Trump: A bipartisan report earlier this month found that federal science is at a “crisis point” due to unprecedented measures that include the EPA’s replacement of panels of experts with researchers affiliated with the industries they regulate.

The IPMRP isn’t just trying to sound the alarm about the Trump administration’s alarmingly anti-science decisions. In addition to raising public awareness, Frey and other members of the panel want their scientific expertise on the record to support any legal cases against the EPA’s new regulations. “No matter what this agency does in terms of rulemaking on particulate matter, given all of the things they’ve changed to the review process, I’m sure they’re going to be challenged in court for making arbitrary and capricious changes to the process itself,” said Frey.

And if you’re still not convinced: The committee within the EPA currently responsible for making scientific recommendations on air pollution wants input from the experts who went on to form IPMRP. In a letter to Andrew Wheeler this April, they suggested that he reinstate the fired scientists, “or appoint a panel with similar expertise.”

Continue reading:  

These fired air pollution experts just did the job the EPA didn’t want them to do

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, GE, LG, ONA, OXO, Thermos, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on These fired air pollution experts just did the job the EPA didn’t want them to do

‘The next Flint,’ and America’s problem with lead in its water

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A U.S. city is facing a public health crisis, after years of denying that it had a problem with lead in its drinking water supply. In 2016, that would have been a reference to Flint, Michigan. This week, it’s Newark, New Jersey, where city officials on Sunday resorted to handing out bottled water to affected residents.

Lead has long been recognized as a potent neurotoxin. The health effects of lead exposure in children include lowered IQ and increased risk of behavioral disorders. Exposed adults are more likely to develop a slew of health problems including nerve, kidney, and cardiovascular issues. Pregnant women and babies are especially vulnerable, as even low levels are associated with serious, irreversible damage to developing brains and nervous systems.

No amount of lead is considered “safe,” but the federal government has set a limit of 15 parts per billion in drinking water. At one point, tests in Flint revealed lead levels at over 100 ppb. In July, a test showed Newark water lead levels at 55 ppb. In both cases residents say the city’s denials and delays came at a cost to their wellbeing.

“The mayor keeps saying that this isn’t like Flint,” Newark resident Shakima Thomas told Grist way back in November. “It is the same as Flint in the way that they tried to cover it up. We were victimized by this administration. They gamble with our health. They put politics first before justice.”

And that pattern appears to be continuing. Some experts say they already have a good idea of where the “next, next Flint” might be.

How Newark became “the next Flint”

The warning signs have been in Newark since 2016 — the same year Flint’s crisis hit the front pages. City officials have long denied it has a major lead problem with its drinking water, insisting the issue was limited to buildings with aging infrastructure — though they did shut water fountains down in more than 30 schools, providing bottled water instead. A city-wide water testing plan was set up in 2017 – and over the following 18 months, multiple tests showed more than 10 percent of homes in the city had lead levels exceeding the 15-parts-per-billion federal limit.

Last fall, the city began giving out water filters to some 40,000 residents. But residents complained that they were not told how necessary the filters were, or were unclear on how to properly install them. Then last week, the Environmental Protection Agency sent the city a letter citing serious concerns about drinking water safety, saying the filters Newark residents were given may never have worked properly. The EPA tested water filtered through the city-provided filters and lead levels still came out above the federal limit.

“We are unable at this time to assure Newark residents that their health is fully protected when drinking tap water filtered through these devices,” the EPA’s letter read.

When the city began handing out bottled water this weekend, some residents waited in line for water for hours, only to find out it was only being passed out to people who live in certain areas. (The National Resource Defense Council brought a federal lawsuit against the city to force Newark to deliver bottled water to expand its bottled water giveaway to residents who are pregnant or have children age 6 or younger in the eastern part of the city.) Efforts hit another snag when officials realized the bottled water had expired and had to temporarily stop the handouts.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka issued a joint statement Monday, calling on federal officials to help. “We take this very seriously,” they said. “We want to be out ahead of this.”

The next “next Flint”

While Newark currently holds the dubious moniker of “the next Flint,” advocates say another city is in the running for the title: Pittsburgh. Lead concerns in the Steel City have been bubbling up for years now, culminating with a major lawsuit brought against the city by Pittsburgh United and the NRDC that was settled earlier this year.

In 2014, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority changed which chemicals they use in the public water pipes. (Chemicals can interact with the lead pipes in different ways, and in some cases, cause corrosion of lead pipes.) By 2016, the number of resident requests for water testing had risen significantly, according to local media. The problem wasn’t publicly acknowledged until 2017, when the city made a plan to distribute water filters to some residents. (That part took through 2018.)

In February 2019, the NRDC and Pittsburgh United settled their lawsuit against the city. The terms? The city agreed to replace thousands of lead pipes, provide all low-income residents with free water filters, and to prioritize action for homes where children live. Lead levels still exceed the federal standard but have been falling over this past year.

“The time lag is extremely serious — and it has a real impact on not only the health of families, but also a huge psychological impact once they find out,” said Dimple Chaudhary, an NRDC attorney and lead counsel in cases against both Flint and Pittsburgh. “I’ve spoken to mothers who are absolutely devastated when they find out they may have fed their baby lead-tainted formula.”

A familiar pattern

So why do these lead problems take so long for cities to acknowledge?

Chaudhary, who is advising on the NRDC and Newark Education Workers Caucus’ lawsuit against Newark (filed in early 2019), says she sees a pattern with lead contamination crises. First, community members suspect there is a problem, but may not have access to all the related information due to a lack of transparency by public officials. As residents advocate their case to city officials, weak regulations, poorly presented data, and low political will can lead to belated city acknowledgment of the problem. And even when both residents and city officials agree that something must be done, finding and implementing a solution can be chaotic.

“You have confusion about the state of the water, you have mixed messages about what people should do, and then, if things go well, you may have a court or part of the government step in and try to fix it,” she said. “But you’ll see in a lot of cases that the damage has already been done, both to people’s health and the public trust.”

Experts agree that issues with collecting and accessing data are a big part of the problem. It starts with weak regulations: The EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule, part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, only requires cities to test for the two metals every three years. And officials are only required to sample about 10 percent of residences. And even that limited data can be hard to access.

“There are technical limitations in place that seem designed to frustrate access to the data,” said Laura Pangallozzi, a visiting professor of geography at Binghamton University. She explained that the publically available data sets on the EPA website are hard to use without programming skills. This can prevent people (even scientists) from being able to look at lead levels in drinking water nationally to identify outliers. And, according to Pangallozzi, some states don’t report their data at all.

Even assuming a city becomes aware of a lead contamination issue, officials do not always let the public know in a timely or efficient manner. Cities are not required to report lead levels to the public until lead levels hit 15 parts per billion — the threshold at which cities must begin corrosion control measures, like adding chlorine to the water to prevent lead seeping in through the pipes, or, if the state requires it, replace lead pipes in the city water infrastructure.

“How officials roll out the public education requirement will have a big impact on how many people know about it,” Pangallozzi said. “Officials have choices in these matters, and it is such a negative for the reputation of a place, there is going to be natural reluctance to publicize.”

Given the proper incentive though, she said, change can happen fast — like when Washington, D.C. discovered it had a lead problem back in 2004. “They got that taken care of very quickly, by comparison,” she said, “because there were members of Congress drinking the water.”

As for a future “next Flint,” Newark and Pittsburgh may only be the tip of the lead pipe. According to an investigative report commissioned by Congress, about 2 percent of public water systems across the country exceeded the federal limit on lead between 2014 and 2016 — and that was with less than half of states reporting back.

“Even Flint’s highest levels were not atypical for water systems that have problems,” Pangallozzi said.


‘The next Flint,’ and America’s problem with lead in its water

Posted in Accent, alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘The next Flint,’ and America’s problem with lead in its water

‘We’re not a dump’ — poor Alabama towns struggle under the stench of toxic landfills

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

West Jefferson, Alabama, a somnolent town of around 420 people northwest of Birmingham, was an unlikely venue to seize the national imagination. Now, it has the misfortune to be forever associated with the “poop train.”

David Brasfield, a retired coal miner who has lived in West Jefferson for 45 years, thought at first the foul stench came from the carcass of a shot pig. By the time he realized that human feces was being transported from 1,000 miles away to a nearby landfill site, a scene of biblical pestilence was unfolding upon West Jefferson.

“The odor was unbearable, as were the flies and stink bugs,” said Brasfield, who sports a graying handlebar mustache and describes himself as a conservative Republican. “The flies were so bad that you couldn’t walk outside without being inundated by them. You’d be covered in all sorts of insects. People started getting headaches, they couldn’t breathe. You wouldn’t even go outside to put meat on the barbecue.”

The landfill, called Big Sky Environmental, sits on the fringes of West Jefferson and is permitted to accept waste from 48 U.S. states. It used a nearby rail spur to import sewage from New York and New Jersey. This epic fecal odyssey was completed by trucks which took on the waste and rumbled through West Jefferson — sometimes spilling dark liquid on sharp turns — to the landfill.

Outrage at this arrangement reached a crescendo in April last year when Jefferson County, of which West Jefferson is part, barred the landfill operator from using the rail spur. Malodorous train carriages began backing up near several neighbouring towns.

“Oh my goodness, it’s just a nightmare here,” said Heather Hall, mayor of Parrish, where the unwanted cargo squatted for two months. “It smells like rotting corpses, or carcasses. It smells like death.”

America’s dumping ground

Residents started hounding the phone lines of elected officials and showed up at public meetings with bags of dead flies. One man described the smell as similar to “25,000 people taking a dump around your house.” The growing national media attention eventually stung New York and New Jersey, which halted convoys of human waste to the site.

But while the distress lifted from West Jefferson, other communities across Alabama struggle forlornly in a miasma of nearby landfills. Alabama has gained a reputation as the dumping ground of the U.S., with toxic waste from across the country typically heaped near poor, rural communities, many with large African American populations.

Alabama has a total of 173 operational landfills, more than three times as many as New York, a state with a population four times greater but with just 54 dumps. California — three times larger than Alabama and containing eight people for every Alabamian — has just a handful more landfills than the southern state.

“You take a poor rural area, take advantage of the people and turn their farming land into a dumping ground so a few people can make a profit,” said Nelson Brooke, head of the Black River Riverkeeper organization. “Parts of our state have been turned into a toilet bowl and there isn’t the political spine to stop it.”

Many of the largest landfills are clustered in a region known as the Black Belt, a stretch of counties around Alabama’s midriff named initially for its fertile topsoil but latterly known for the tenant farmers and sharecroppers that helped form the basis of its large black population today.

The low land values and extreme poverty of the region make it a magnet for landfills, with waste hauled in from across the country for as little as $1 a ton. Acceptance of landfills is delegated to counties, causing potential conflicts of interest with local officials involved in waste disposal. Residents are often blindsided by the appearance of new dumps.

“A continual refrain for decades in Alabama is that politicians are selling out the people,” said Conner Bailey, an academic at Auburn University. “It’s a long tradition.”

Environmental injustice

A crucible of the civil rights movement — from the Selma-to-Montgomery march to the Rosa Parks-inspired bus boycotts to the Birmingham church bombing — Alabama’s racial disparity in pollution exposure has become only more stark.

A landfill near Emelle in Sumter county, where the neighbouring community is about 90 percent black and a third of people live in poverty, at one point accepted 40 percent of all hazardous waste disposed in the U.S. Anniston, Alabama, where half the residents are black, won a high-profile settlement from Monsanto after the dumping of so much PCBs, chemicals linked to cancers and liver damage, that a local creek turned red.

“There are still major problems in Alabama resulting from environmental injustice and there does not appear to be will on part of its government to reverse these problems,” said Ryke Longest, a law professor at Duke University.

“Alabama’s history with Jim Crow and preservation of segregation as well as suppressing voting rights made these problems worse by segregating communities and disenfranchising black Americans in their communities.”

Many homes near the sprawling Stone’s Throw landfill, east of Montgomery, are now abandoned. The landfill, which can accept 1,500 tons of construction debris, ash, asbestos, sludge, and other material each day, is located in the Ashurst Bar/Smith community, which is around three-quarters African American.

“It’s almost unbearable to live there, even three miles away my eyes burn and I get nauseous,” said Phyllis Gosa, now retired and living in Selma but still visits family who have owned property in the community since the end of slavery. “It’s our heritage; we are losing who we are. When it comes to people of color, we are still three-fifths of a human being. The 14th amendment doesn’t apply to us. That’s who Alabama is, that’s its legacy.”

Ron Smith, a neighbor and pastor, said there is pressure on black families to sell devalued land to the expanding landfill. He grows blueberries in his back yard but is uncertain if he should eat them. “Our government picked an area where people couldn’t defend themselves,” he said. “This is the perfect area.”

Unlike the 1960s civil rights push, there has been no federal savior. In April 2017, a group of residents claimed that Alabama’s tolerance of the Stone’s Throw landfill had caused chronic illnesses such as asthma and cancer, pungent smells and water pollution, thereby breaching the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of race-based discrimination.

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided there was “insufficient evidence” for the complaint despite finding that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) hadn’t properly enforced a requirement that six inches of covering soil be placed upon landfill waste every day. ADEM wrote to the landfill, also in December, scolding it for excessive discharges of copper, oil, grease and “suspended solids” between 2016 and 2018.

However, while the EPA found “a preponderance of the evidence that a lack of enforcement did result in adverse impacts,” other, white-majority, communities also live under this inadequate regime, meaning the blight couldn’t be defined as racist.

The finding follows a familiar pattern by the EPA: The agency’s civil rights office went 22 years without deciding that discrimination laws were broken, despite hundreds of complaints.


More than 40 black residents have now turned to the courts, suing Advanced Disposal Services, which operates Stone’s Throw, and two water utilities for allowing heavy metals, E. coli and a cocktail of harmful chemicals to leach into the water supply and, they claim, cause their abdominal cancers.

“Alabama seems to have an inordinate number of these big landfills that have created a variety of problems,” said Ted Mann, the attorney representing the residents. Mann, an Alabamian Democrat who has an abstract painting of Abraham Lincoln in his Birmingham office, said his clients feel “trapped.”

“ADEM doesn’t do much of anything,” he said. “Underfunded, understaffed and woefully and inadequately involved in the environmental issues in our state.”

The crossover between pollution and racism “is hard to not see,” Mann said. “If you see it and you ignore it, it’s because you just want to ignore it.”

Other communities aren’t able to muster legal recourse. Uniontown, half an hour west of the civil rights touchstone of Selma, is a place where 9 out of 10 residents are black and the median household income is $14,000 a year. Uniontown’s roads are derelict, the only grocery store closed last year and its elementary school can only afford to educate children up to grade three.

Uniontown is also home to the Arrowhead landfill, an artificial green mountain twice the size of New York’s Central Park that looms over the tumbledown town. It can accept up to 15,000 tons of waste a day, from 33 states. In 2012, ADEM allowed Arrowhead to expand in size by two-thirds.

A group of residents have spent the past decade complaining about a smell similar to rotten eggs coming from the landfill, as well as the site’s coal ash for causing an array of health problems, such as sore throats and nosebleeds (Arrowhead said that no coal ash has been delivered to the landfill since 2010).

The landfill is a “huge hill in the midst of the community,” said Esther Calhoun, who has lived in Uniontown most of her life. “That smell … it makes you want to vomit. The pecan trees, they don’t bear any more. Even the garden that I had, we don’t use it any more.”

But in March last year, a few months before its similar Civil Rights Act decision over Stone’s Throw, the EPA ruled that Uniontown has not been subjected to “a prima facie case of discrimination.”

This knockback has shrouded Uniontown in fatalistic hopelessness, according to local activists. “They are trying to break our spirit,” said Ben Eaton, a retired teacher who speaks in a rumbling baritone and moves around with the aid of a walker. Eaton, now a county commissioner, had just come from a meeting where Arrowhead was asked to pay some fees up front so the county could afford an ambulance service.

“It’s a sort of learned helplessness,” he said. “People are hanging on by a thread right now. Well, my folks have always taught me to go down fighting, even if you go down.”

Mike Smith, an attorney for Arrowhead, said neither ADEM nor the EPA have ever found excessive odor, air pollution, or water contamination. “The residents you may have spoken to have been offered multiple opportunities, both formal and informal, to present any evidence of pollution and have failed to do so,” he said.

Smith added that the Uniontown community and surrounding Perry County “benefit substantially” from jobs and “host fee” payments provided by Arrowhead, with the landfill also sponsoring school supplies for the past decade.

ADEM insists it has environmental justice top of mind in its regulatory activities, with a spokeswoman stating the agency went “above and beyond” its legal requirements when consulting with residents living in West Jefferson, Uniontown, and Ashurst Bar/Smith.

“The department is confident that it has the resources and statutory authorization to properly regulate and monitor landfills in Alabama to ensure the protection of human health and the environment,” the spokesperson added.

‘We’re not a dump’

But even in West Jefferson, where the “poop train” was defeated, there is little hope of a lasting resolution in the tensions between the desire to generate income and community concern over quality of life.

In July, ADEM handed the Big Sky Environmental landfill a five-year extension to its permit. ADEM has also proposed changing the rules so that permits last for 10 rather than five years and has rescinded its environmental discrimination procedures, claiming its existing complaints process is sufficient.

“Let every state take care of their own trash but don’t bring it to Alabama,” said David Brasfield, the retired miner. “We just don’t need it. We’re better than that. We’re not a dump.

“But it will happen again if we let it. We cannot forget it and put it out of our minds. This is my home and I plan on defending it.”

Link – 

‘We’re not a dump’ — poor Alabama towns struggle under the stench of toxic landfills

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, PUR, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on ‘We’re not a dump’ — poor Alabama towns struggle under the stench of toxic landfills

Deadly air pollution has a surprising culprit: Growing corn

Subscribe to The Beacon

A new study raises serious concerns about the human health consequences of growing corn. Though air quality has improved in the United States in recent decades, fine particulate matter still kills about 71,000 people each year — and is one of the leading causes of death globally. About 4,300 of those deaths are from the process of growing corn, mostly due to the application of ammonia as a fertilizer. That’s more people than died in Hurricane Maria, every single year.

“The magnitude of the problem is surprising,” said University of Minnesota’s Jason Hill, the study’s lead author. “We tend to think of air pollution from smokestacks and tailpipes, but agriculture is a major contributor to reduced air quality also.” Hill and his colleagues found that ammonia from corn fertilizer significantly increases atmospheric PM2.5 levels, a particularly deadly form of air pollution.

In total, corn alone is responsible for about a quarter of agricultural-related air pollution deaths, with most of the rest due to animal agriculture. Since corn is a primary source of animal feed, the new study likely underestimates its impact on air quality.

The study attempted to estimate the cost of growing corn on human health and climate change. The researchers used the EPA’s values of $9 million for every avoided death due to air pollution and $43 per ton of CO2 for the social cost of carbon. In terms of air pollution and carbon emissions, that means the harm caused by growing corn is equal to about 70 percent of the value of the corn that’s produced — a shockingly high value.

But even that doesn’t include the emissions from animal agriculture or corn ethanol. Most corn grown in America goes to producing ethanol, for use in animal feed, and other industrial uses. Only a small percentage is for human consumption.

“The full impact of corn is going to be much larger,” Hill said.

This huge impact is likely not evenly distributed. Hill’s previous research showed that the cost of air pollution in general is borne disproportionately by communities of color. He’s working to see if the same is true for agricultural-based air pollution.

In an interview with Brownfield Ag News, Nathan Fields, the vice president of production and sustainability for the National Corn Growers Association, called the study “divisive.” “It’s no secret that corn production is an intensive cropping system,” Fields said, noting that the industry has been trying to “lower that footprint as much as possible” for decades.

“The way that we react, I would say, is just to highlight all the work that’s been done, all the research that’s going into nutrient use efficiency that’s out there and hopefully not spend more money and more resources on paper studies trying to link it to horrible situations,” he added.

Hill told me that the importance of his research is magnified because it was funded in part by the USDA, EPA, and the Department of Energy. “As members of publicly funded universities, our charge is to look for problems that affect the public and solutions to them,” Hill said. “The paper went into detail about the ways that this problem could be alleviated.”

Among the solutions Hill floated: precision agriculture, using different fertilizer types, changing the location of where corn is planted so it’s not upwind from major cities, crop switching, and even dietary shifts away from foods that use corn-based ingredients.

“We need to do a better job at controlling ammonia emissions from corn itself; that will have immediate benefits to human health,” Hill said.

View original article – 

Deadly air pollution has a surprising culprit: Growing corn

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, Anker, FF, GE, Jason, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Deadly air pollution has a surprising culprit: Growing corn

EPA nominee Andrew Wheeler wasn’t ready for the Senate’s questions on climate change

Subscribe to The Beacon

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

It was clear about halfway through Andrew Wheeler’s confirmation hearing to lead the Environmental Protection Agency that he wasn’t prepared for the number of questions he was getting on climate change.

Senator Ed Markey (a Democrat from Massachusetts) asked Wheeler on Wednesday whether he agreed with the fourth National Climate Assessment’s conclusions on how Americans will be affected by the world’s relative inaction on climate change, a report that was vetted by 13 federal agencies including the EPA.

Wheeler didn’t exactly answer, saying that he had not been fully briefed on the report because much of his agency’s staff isn’t working right now. “We’ve been shut down the last few weeks,” he said, explaining that he had only been briefed once by staff since the report was published in late November. He said his additional briefings were postponed; about 95 percent of his agency is furloughed.

The Republican majority gave Wheeler an unsurprising pass, defending his record as a lobbyist for an assortment of industries he now regulates, including his main old client, coal baron Bob Murray. But most of the Democratic members, which included several potential 2020 presidential contenders, grilled Wheeler on climate change.

Senator Bernie Sanders asked Wheeler if he considered climate change to be “one of the great crises that face our planet.”

“I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir,” he answered. “I would call it a huge issue that needs to be addressed globally.”

When senators grilled him on climate change, Wheeler attempted to walk a fine line to sound more reasonable than the president’s talk of a “hoax,” but not go too far to suggest he would do much to crack down on rising greenhouse gas pollution.

“On a one to 10 scale, how concerned are you about the impact of climate change?” Senator Jeff Merkley (a Democrat from Oregon) asked Wheeler, saying that 10 would be an issue that keeps him “up at night.”

“I stay awake at night worrying about a lot of things at the agency,” Wheeler said, before volunteering an “eight or nine.”

Merkley didn’t hide his surprise. “Really?”

The senator challenged Wheeler on his go-to talking point that the EPA was taking action on pollution via its Affordable Clean Energy rule replacement for an Obama-era coal plant regulation and fuel efficiency standards. ACE doesn’t reduce carbon emissions from coal any more than market forces, and the EPA is weakening car standards and considering ending a waiver for California that implements more aggressive targets.

These policies already didn’t come close to the reductions needed to limit warming below a disastrous 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F). But reversing them risks even more. Last year, greenhouse emissions continued to rise globally, including by 3.4 percent in the United States.

There was an even sharper focus on climate change than in past Trump-era EPA hearings. The conversation around climate change has shifted quite a bit since Wheeler last appeared before the Senate in August, a few weeks after he took the helm of the agency. Now Trump officials face more questions from the opposing party that dig deeper than the usual “Do you believe in climate change?”

The three senators who are considering presidential bids, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sanders, and Merkley, all centered their questions around climate change. Since August, the issue has become a top item for the House Democratic majority, and progressives have talked of an ambitious “Green New Deal.” Meanwhile, the science has grown more alarming: In addition to the National Climate Assessment, an October report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looked at the damaging effects from 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming.

A protest interrupted Wheeler when he began on Wednesday, which never once mentioned the words “climate change,” as he ran through his greatest hits — deregulatory and otherwise — from his first year at the EPA.

The protests could still be heard faintly from the hallway when he continued his introductory remarks. “Shut down Wheeler! Not the EPA!”

Read article here:

EPA nominee Andrew Wheeler wasn’t ready for the Senate’s questions on climate change

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, FF, G & F, GE, LAI, ONA, Prepara, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on EPA nominee Andrew Wheeler wasn’t ready for the Senate’s questions on climate change

Facebook got into hot water for hiring this PR firm. The EPA was another one of its clients.

Subscribe to The Beacon

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Newly obtained emails reveal that officials at the Environmental Protection Agency were misleading about the circumstances under which they hired a Republican opposition research firm known for its aggressiveness and willingness to sling mud. They also show the inner workings of a government press office hijacked by political operatives who adopted a combative attitude to the press, seeking to generate rosy headlines from sympathetic outlets while simultaneously lashing out at reporters and whistleblowers who criticized the agency, including by planting negative stories about them.

The EPA’s hiring of Definers Public Affairs stood out in the staid world of government contracting, where any appearance of explicit partisanship, of the kind the organization specializes in, is studiously avoided. Definers’ reputation as partisan and hyper-aggressive has recently helped embroil Facebook in scandal after it was revealed that despite trying to project an inoffensive and bipartisan image in Washington, the Silicon Valley giant had secretly hired the firm to disparage its Washington critics. The lines of attack included spreading supposed evidence showing that opposition to Facebook was fueled by liberal donor George Soros.

After Mother Jones revealed the existence of the EPA’s $120,000 Definers contract in December 2017, the agency’s press office fought back, claiming the contract had been awarded through the agency’s Office of Acquisition Management after a competitive bidding process based solely on cost considerations.“The contract award was handled through the EPA Office of Acquisition Management and was $87,000 cheaper than our previous media monitoring vendor while offering 24-7 news alerts once a story goes public,” then-EPA Spokesperson Jahan Wilcox told Mother Jones last year.

This is not completely true.

It is only one of the findings that appear in thousands of pages of internal EPA emails reviewed by Mother Jones that contradict the reasons Wilcox said the contract had been awarded. Moreover, the emails provide a detailed picture of how the Trump administration immediately and aggressively tried to realign the agency and route taxpayer dollars for partisan purposes. The campaign to undermine environmental enforcement and oversight at the EPA has not ended simply because Scott Pruitt and several of his staff have left the agency.

“One of the main reasons that we have a corps of career government contract personnel is to keep the political people away from giving the taxpayer money out to political cronies,” Charles Tiefer, a professor of contract law at the University of Baltimore, explains. “Politicizing the award of contracts by mugging the career people is the definition of corruption. What the political people made the career people do this time was more like a banana republic than the United States.”

For the Trump administration, politicizing government practices is the norm. But the EPA, an agency that some conservatives, including Scott Pruitt, believe should be eliminated, has long provided a special window into how far the administration is willing to go to assert overt partisanship and override recalcitrant career staff in ways that alter the daily work of government.

Definers was one key piece of that strategy inside the EPA. The Virginia-based PR firm has worked for political and corporate clients alike — Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee, the United Arab Emirates, and America Rising PAC — promising them its “full-service war room,” manned by Republican staffers who bring a unique approach of “intelligence gathering and opposition work.” In fulfilling that mission, Definers was caught filing Freedom of Information Act requests for the emails of EPA career staffers who spoke out publicly against Pruitt.

Definers is linked to a deeply interconnected network of conservative political groups run by Joe Pounder, a former campaign staffer for Rubio who has been described as “a master of opposition research,” and founded by Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager. It lists the same Virginia address as the America Rising PAC and America Rising Squared, a nonprofit that has sent staff to ambush and film environmental activists like Tom Steyer and Bill McKibben. On its website, America Rising Corp. — a separate entity from American Rising Squared, which doesn’t have to disclose donors — describes itself as “an opposition research and communications firm whose mission is to help its clients defeat Democrats.” The news aggregator Need to Know Network, which purports to “work with partners and organizations to provide content that is unique and original to our audience,” was founded by Pounder and other operatives and shares staff and offices with Pounder and Rhoades’ other political entities.

Obtained by the Sierra Club from a FOIA request, the EPA emails show that the press office was interested in Definers and working with NTK from the start, disregarding the cost and concerns about the uncompetitive bid raised by career staff. While one group sought a $120,000 contract, another posted flattering coverage of Pruitt.

A former employee of the EPA’s Office of General Counsel told Mother Jones that the “whole notion that the agency is using a group like Definers and [NTK] and manipulating the media coverage of its activities” in ways the public isn’t aware of could have violated Congress’ appropriations law prohibiting the EPA from using funds for propaganda and publicity purposes. “Somebody reads a story and thinks it’s a straight news story, when in fact the agency is putting out misleading information that’s very offensive and probably violates the Appropriations Act,” the former staffer said.

Jahan Wilcox, a senior strategic adviser in its press office, came from the world of political operatives, working for Rubio’s presidential campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee before being tapped by the EPA. Wilcox did not return a request for comment, nor did Definers or NTK. The EPA’s normal operations have been affected by the government shutdown and also did not return a request for comment.

Shortly after he was appointed to the EPA in March 2017, Wilcox made his first contact with NTK. “With the 100 Days of the Trump Administration coming up, we were curious if Need To Know (NTK) news would like to report on the accomplishments of Scott Pruitt and the EPA?” he emailed Jeff Bechdel, communications director for America Rising PAC and managing editor for NTK the month he arrived.

Always free, always fresh.

Ask your climate scientist if Grist is right for you. See our privacy policy

NTK, working off a set of talking points about the EPA’s intended rollbacks provided by Wilcox “and other stories out there,” wrote the story: “How Scott Pruitt is Reshaping the EPA in the First 100 Days,” which the EPA in turn shared on social media as laudatory coverage of Pruitt. Wilcox forwarded the story to his colleagues, adding, “I know huge.”

From January to November 2017, NTK ran about two dozen positive stories about Pruitt. One included him on a list of “3 Possible Replacements for AG Sessions if he Returns to the Senate.” Others attacked critics, like in “Dem Senator Files Bogus Complaint Against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt,” and touted wins, like in “Pebble Mine Settlement Huge Win for Jobs, Trump, and Pruitt.”

The EPA faithfully pushed the stories out on its social-media feeds and in its news clips. “Still waiting on us to tweet out this story from NTK,” Wilcox emailed the comms staff regarding May story “Pruitt Promises to Put States Back in the Driver’s Seat on Regulations.”

When Pounder approached the EPA on May 19, he identified himself in the memo he sent to Wilcox pitching Definers as a potential vendor as the president of America Rising Corp. Wilcox and other political appointees immediately warmed up to the idea of hiring Definers, and they pushed EPA career staff to hire them. Career EPA staff raised concerns about the contract, including that it had not gone through a competitive bidding process, but the political staff dismissed those concerns and pressured contracting officials throughout July and August 2017 to complete the deal.

As the months dragged on without Definers being hired, Wilcox and other political staff repeatedly questioned career employees about the holdup.When told that the effort to hire Definers had slowed because the company wasn’t even registered as a federal contractor and seemed reluctant to do so, Wilcox forwarded the explanation to Pounder. Shortly after, Pounder sent Wilcox a screenshot showing that the company was now officially registered.

According to these emails, the costs associated with the contract were hardly discussed because there was no competitive bidding process. Political appointee Liz Bowman, the EPA’s top spokesperson, complained at one point that George Hull, one of their career colleagues who was responsible for overseeing the contract, “has been dragging on for weeks and weeks.”

“I don’t care how this happens but we need to make this happen as quickly as possible,” Wilcox emailed Hull in June. Hull replied at another point: “We cannot move forward without going through a competitive bidding process,” including a presentation about the product. Wilcox at first dismissed the importance of a demonstration, saying: “I know the quality of their product.” Pounder eventually spoke with a career staffer about the service.

Tiefer acknowledges that while there might have been a legitimate need for a clipping service, Wilcox or any other political staff should not determine the contracting requirements. Career employees are required to vet potential contractors, and Tiefer says he doubts that, given Definers’ background in aggressive political opposition work, the company would have been chosen without interference from the political appointees.

“I have been teaching government contracting for over 20 years, and I have never seen a political operative firm getting a government contract,” Tiefer says.

Wilcox also was in touch with NTK throughout this period. He emailed Bechdel about an exchange with Eric Lipton of the New York Times, who had reached out to the EPA to confirm details for a story in October 2017. The EPA responded with neither a confirmation nor denial, instead linking to other outlets. Wilcox then framed the story for NTK. “You can report that the New York Times is calling USA Today ‘Fake News,’” he wrote. “Let me know if you are interested in this.” Bechdel passed on the pitch.

Finally, in early December, the EPA formally approved the Definers contract for $120,000. As soon as Mother Jones broke the story, the EPA faced mounting questions about the nature of the award. When Mother Jones sent questions to the EPA last year, Bowman immediately emailed Pruitt Chief of Staff Ryan Jackson and Enforcement Adviser Susan Bodine, claiming she knew “exactly where this leak came from.”

As Definers and the EPA faced calls for an Inspector General audit and for a Government Accountability Office investigation, the EPA and Definers decided it wasn’t worth the negative publicity. Five days after the report, and six months after Wilcox first advocated the contract, the EPA and Definers mutually agreed to cancel it. Definers said it would forgo contracts under negotiation with at least four other government agencies, including the Department of Education. By then, Pruitt’s trickle of controversies — chartered and first-class flights, a private phone booth, a 24/7 security detail, blurred lines between campaigning and government business — were already becoming regular headlines.

When the mounting investigations into whether he exploited his government position for other gain became too much of a liability, Pruitt resigned from the administration and was replaced by Andrew Wheeler in July. The EPA press shop saw high turnover as well. Wilcox resigned within days of Pruitt’s departure, and was most recently working for Wisconsin Republican Leah Vukmir’s unsuccessful campaign to defeat Senator Tammy Baldwin.

But others from Pruitt’s time remain, and even though the EPA’s media tactics may not be as aggressive as they once were, some of its earlier strategy still continues.

That was clear in late November, when the Trump administration released a thoroughly vetted National Climate Assessment, authored by 13 agencies including EPA scientists. Wheeler responded to the report with a dog whistle, arguing that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Obama administration told the report’s authors to only look at the worst-case scenario of global warming. The echo chamber kicked in: By the end of the day, the Koch-funded Daily Caller had supposedly proven Wheeler’s point (in a story disputed by the report’s authors), and the EPA blasted it out as a “Fact Check” news alert.

Originally posted here: 

Facebook got into hot water for hiring this PR firm. The EPA was another one of its clients.

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, oven, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Facebook got into hot water for hiring this PR firm. The EPA was another one of its clients.

Senate confirms 4 Trump nominees to top environmental posts in last-minute vote

Subscribe to The Beacon

This story was originally published by the HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The Senate voted to confirm at least four of President Donald Trump’s nominees to top environmental posts Thursday in last-minute votes just hours before the 115th Congress adjourned.

The confirmations, which received mixed reaction from environmentalists, fill long-vacant roles and save the White House from having to restart the nomination process with a newly sworn-in 116th Congress.

The nominees, among more than 60 administration officials confirmed in the 11th-hour voice vote, include those picked for executive posts at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Council on Environmental Quality.

At EPA, Alexandra Dunn was confirmed to lead the agency’s chemical office. Dunn previously served as the EPA administrator for Region 1 in Boston. She won praise overseeing the New England region as an “apolitical” bureaucrat who The Boston Globe described in an August profile as gaining “respect for protecting the environment.”

The position as assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention was left open since 2017, when former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt nominated Michael Dourson, whose consultancy InsideClimate News described in 2014 as the “one-stop science shop” favored by the chemical and tobacco industries. Dourson dropped out as Republican support for his nomination waned.

The other EPA nominee — the Senate’s final confirmation, just minutes before adjourning — faced more intense scrutiny from environmentalists and public health advocates. William Charles “Chad” McIntosh, Trump’s pick for the EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs, came under fire in March when HuffPost reported on his 19-year career as the head of Ford Motor Co.’s environmental compliance and policy divisions.

During his tenure at Ford, degreasing chemicals spilled at a manufacturing plant in Livonia, Michigan, and broke down into vinyl chloride — linked to cancers of the liver, brain, lungs, lymph nodes and blood — and tainted the local groundwater.

“You can’t ignore these kinds of toxic chemicals in such an enormous quantity on your property, so whoever was in charge of the environmental state of affairs at this plant did not do his job,” Shawn Collins, an attorney representing homeowners whose groundwater was affected, told HuffPost in March. “That’s McIntosh.”

Among the most controversial nominees was Daniel Simmons, a former fossil fuel lobbyist who questioned climate science, to lead the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. After the White House nominated him to the post in June, Simmons backtracked on some of his past criticisms of renewable energy, insisting he “likes” zero-emissions energy sources. But, as Utility Dive reported, he previously served as the vice president of policy at the Institute for Energy Research, a coal- and oil-backed think tank, and for the American Energy Alliance, its lobbying arm. The latter organization called for the abolition of the office Simmons will now oversee as recently as 2015.

Among the least controversial was Mary Neumayr, Trump’s pick to lead the Council on Environmental Quality. The president initially nominated Kathleen Hartnett White, a die-hard climate denier and fossil fuel ideologue, to run the seldom-discussed White House agency, which oversees the National Environmental Policy Act. But Hartnett White flamed out during her confirmation hearing, delivering one of the most embarrassing performances of any nominee as she withered before senators’ questions about basic earth science.

Neumayr, by contrast, appeared to be a “more middle-of-the-road” pick, The Washington Post surmised in June, citing her “reputation as a pragmatist.” She spent much of her career working for the federal government, including eight years as the chief counsel on energy and environmental issues for the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. During her confirmation hearing, she told senators, “I agree the climate is changing and human activity has a role.”

But unnamed insiders close to Neumayr, who until Thursday served as the Council on Environmental Quality’s chief of staff, told the Post she’s a strong supporter of the president’s deregulatory agenda. ThinkProgress criticized Democrats on the Senate committee that vetted Neumayr’s nomination for going easy on her.

The power of the Council on Environmental Quality changes from administration to administration. But the White House released a 55-page infrastructure plan in February that calls on the council to “revise its regulations to streamline NEPA would reduce the time and costs associated with the NEPA process.” Neumayr would be central to overseeing that process.

EPA declined an interview request, sending an email stating: “Due to a lapse in appropriations, the EPA Press Office will only be responding to inquiries related to the government shut down or inquiries in the event of an environmental emergency imminently threatening the safety of human life or where necessary to protect certain property.”

Neither the White House nor Energy Department immediately responded to requests for comment.


Senate confirms 4 Trump nominees to top environmental posts in last-minute vote

Posted in Accent, alo, Anchor, FF, GE, InsideClimate News, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Senate confirms 4 Trump nominees to top environmental posts in last-minute vote

Scott Pruitt never gave up on dream to debate climate science, EPA records show

Invest in nonprofit journalism today.Donate now and every gift will be matched through 12/31.

This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

In Scott Pruitt’s final weeks as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, his political advisors were still considering ways to formally raise doubts about climate change science, agency records show.

The scandal-plagued Pruitt had long pushed for a public “red team, blue team” debate between mainstream scientists and the small minority of scientists who disagree with them about climate change and its causes. In late 2017, White House officials urged him to abandon the idea.

Yet according to emails obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act request, as recently as mid-May 2018 aides were considering an alternative: The agency could ask for public comments on a 2009 legal finding that requires the U.S. government to regulate greenhouse gases.

If by that process the EPA could successfully rescind the conclusion that greenhouse gases endanger public health, the federal government would no longer have to regulate major sources of carbon pollution, including power plants.

According to a former senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity, the plan to ask for comments rather than hold a public debate was a compromise struck between the White House and the EPA. In July, however, Pruitt resigned, following dozens of stories about his ethical troubles.

The emails obtained by the Guardian offer a glimpse of how the Trump administration has struggled to settle on a position on climate change.

President Trump himself has repeatedly doubted overwhelming research that shows humans burning fossil fuels are emitting greenhouse gases that raise global temperatures and cause catastrophic environmental changes. A number of top officials have expressed similar feelings or questioned how bad climate change will be, and federal agencies are reversing climate change mitigation efforts for power plants and cars.

However, many Republicans and large energy companies urging Trump to rescind regulations do not want the EPA to debate the 2009 climate change finding, fearing a losing battle.

The Midwest power provider American Electric Power, for example, opposes reconsidering the finding. It has long relied on coal but is shifting its electricity mix.

“I don’t think the business community wants this at all,” said Paul Bledsoe, who was a climate change advisor to Bill Clinton. “They all came out against leaving [the Paris climate agreement]. They all have statements on their websites that they believe in climate science. The last thing they want is to get thrust into the middle of this.”

Pruitt’s most conservative supporters pushed him to reexamine the finding anyway, a move which would require a full scientific review and prompt massive legal battles.

It is not clear how serious the EPA considerations were or whether Pruitt’s staff intended to eventually propose a rollback. Attachments shared in emails between senior staff members included an “Endangerment ANPRM draft,” referring to an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking,” an early step in the regulatory process. Another email contained a version of talking points for a “Notice of Opportunity to Comment.”

Conservative groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, had petitioned the EPA to reevaluate the endangerment finding. The EPA could have posted those petitions and asked for public comments. Or it could have solicited input as part of another climate-related rollback.

The documents referred to in the emails were not released, because the Freedom of Information Act does not require the government to release records that were part of ongoing deliberations. One subject line referenced an afternoon meeting.

The staffers exchanging the drafts, air official Mandy Gunasekara and the policy chief, Brittany Bolen, stayed at the EPA when Pruitt left. In a brief interview this month, Gunasekara said the agency’s “understanding of CO2 and greenhouse gases continues to evolve.” She declined to comment on the released emails. Spokespeople for the EPA and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Emails released to the Guardian also showed the EPA air chief, Bill Wehrum, planning in December to make an announcement about the “RTBT,” the notional “red team, blue team” debate.

This month, in a draft rule to ease standards for new coal plants, the EPA said it would accept comments on whether the agency had correctly interpreted the endangerment finding.

Climate advocates say the EPA should be transparent about its plans now.

“Americans deserve to know whether acting EPA head, Andrew Wheeler, nominated to be EPA administrator, disputes that carbon pollution endangers human health and the environment,” said John Walke, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to a peer-reviewed paper published last week in the journal Science, scientific evidence showing that greenhouse gases are dangerous to public health is even stronger than it was when the endangerment finding was established in 2009.

Dig this article?Support nonprofit journalism

. Help us raise $50,000 by December 31! A little bit goes a long way.

Donate today and your gift will be matched


Continue reading: 

Scott Pruitt never gave up on dream to debate climate science, EPA records show

Posted in alo, FF, GE, LAI, LG, ONA, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Scott Pruitt never gave up on dream to debate climate science, EPA records show

EPA chief says Trump administration may reshape next federal climate report

Subscribe to The Beacon

This story was originally published by the HuffPost and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said Wednesday that the Trump administration may step in to change the way the government drafts its next National Climate Assessment.

The suggestion that politicians might influence a report from more 300 federal scientists at 13 agencies came at an event in Washington, where reporters pressed the agency chief on the authors’ dire projections about devastating climate change.

Speaking at a Washington Post Live event, Wheeler accused former President Barack Obama of telling “the report’s authors to take a look at the worst-case scenario for this report.”

“Going forward, I think we need to take a look at the modeling that’s used for the next assessment,” Wheeler said.

It’s an audacious set of statements from the acting EPA administrator, who until last year served as a top coal lobbyist and espouses the industry’s scientifically unsound stance that the link between fossil fuels and climate change remains dubious.

The remarks follow a clear, cynical pattern among those who deny climate science, accusing scientists and researchers of bias.

The announcement is concerning in light of a previous incident of political interference. In 2005, Philip Clooney, a former oil lobbyist working for the George W. Bush administration, was caught altering language in climate science reports to weaken the link between fossil fuels and rising global temperatures.

What Wheeler appeared to suggest Wednesday goes beyond that. He said the administration could take a dangerously optimistic route by developing what the EPA chief called “more realistic projections” incorporating future advancements in “technology and innovation.”

He also said the National Climate Assessment was based on overly pessimistic and outdated models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations’ research body on global warming.

By contrast, the IPCC warned in October that world governments must halve emissions over the next 12 years to avert catastrophic climate change costing $54 trillion. That cost could, in fact, be on the conservative side, according to a study published in June that found the IPCC relied on economic models that failed to grasp the magnitude of global warming.

Trump, who rejects climate science outright, dismissed the IPCC’s report in October and said he does not believe the results of the latest federal study.

Wheeler put a friendlier face on the administration’s climate change denial after he took over in July following disgraced and scandal-plagued Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation. He halted some of the EPA’s antagonism of the press and spoke in dry legalese when deploying the same unscientific industry propaganda Pruitt used to justify his doubt over the causes of climate change. But he is pursuing the same aggressive rollback of climate regulations.

In August, Wheeler proposed dramatically weakening fuel economy standards, clearing the way for vehicles ― the nation’s No. 1 source of climate pollution ― to spew an addition 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2030. Weeks later, he moved to gut a signature Obama-era rule on power plant pollution ― allowing for increased pollution that could cause 1,400 premature deaths per year.

Officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one of the 13 agencies behind the National Climate Assessment, said no political appointees interfered with the contents of the report. But Wheeler has a history of attempting to change the way the federal government analyzes pollution.

In October, he fired a panel of scientific experts responsible for helping the EPA’s review of air quality standards for particulate matter, an issue that has long dogged the coal industry for which the agency chief previously lobbied.

Later that month, Wheeler said he’d delay a decision on how to move forward on the EPA’s controversial “transparency” rule, a proposal that would bar the agency from using critical epidemiological studies when drafting regulations, until next year.

Wheeler once again punted on difficult questions on Wednesday, despite criticizing the nature of the report.

“I haven’t read the entire report yet, but I’ve gone through it,” he said, adding that he wants to “follow up” on the projection modeling methods.

Continue reading:

EPA chief says Trump administration may reshape next federal climate report

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, LG, ONA, PUR, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on EPA chief says Trump administration may reshape next federal climate report

The EPA is one step closer to making our air even dirtier

Get your

daily dose of good news

from Grist

Subscribe to The Beacon

The Trump administration is one step closer to dismantling a major federal energy policy aimed at improving air quality and lowering carbon emissions — just on the heels of a World Health Organization report highlighting the impact of air pollution on children’s health.

Former Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt announced last year that his agency would repeal the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP), which the EPA had estimated would prevent 90,000 asthma attacks in children and save 4,500 lives each year. The plan’s replacement, the “Affordable Clean Energy Rule,” relaxes regulations for coal plants. If implemented, it could lead to 1,400 more premature deaths each year by 2030, according to EPA estimates.

Public comment on the proposed replacement plan just closed Wednesday. A dozen national medical and public health organizations — including the American Lung Association, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and others representing physicians and nurses — submitted a joint comment urging the EPA to stick to the original Clean Power Plan. Their letter highlighted the dangers of both air pollution and climate change, which can increase the production of smog and fuel wildfires and dust storms that can also make it harder to breathe.

“The changing climate threatens the health of Americans alive now and in future generations,” they wrote. “The nation has a short window to act to reduce those threats.”

In case you’re in need of a “just how bad is it” reality check, earlier this week, the World Health Organization released a report stating 93 percent of kids under 15 are breathing air that endangers their health and development. Even in wealthy countries like the U.S., more than half of children under the age of 5 are exposed to pollution levels above the WHO’s air quality guidelines.

Kids are particularly vulnerable to air pollution because they’re short and air pollution concentrates closer to the ground, the report says. Their growing bodies and brains are more affected by toxins that can, among other health risks, affect neurodevelopment and cognitive ability.

“Air pollution is stunting our children’s brains,” Maria Neira, director of WHO’s Department of Public Health, said in a statement. But, she added, “There are many straight-forward ways to reduce emissions of dangerous pollutants.”

Which brings us back to the EPA’s proposed energy plan.

Green Latinos submitted a comment on the plan, highlighting the disproportionate burdens placed on communities of color: “One of two Latinos in the United States lives in a county that does not meet EPA’s public health air quality standard. We also know that 40 percent of Latinos live within 30 miles of a power plant, and that Latino children are 40 percent more likely to die from asthma than non-Latino white children…Carbon pollution also endangers Latinos nationwide by driving climate change. Already, we see Latinos on the frontlines of climate change, in the line of fire of extreme heat in the Southwest, extreme drought in California, and sea level rise in Florida.”

The National Mining Association, on the other hand, applauded the EPA’s repeal of Obama-era emissions regulations. “[The Clean Power Plan] is based on the misguided notion that the nation must stop using fossil fuels because these fuels are harmful to the public interest,” wrote Association President and CEO Hal Quinn.

The EPA is expected to put forward a final rule by the end of the year.

Visit site: 

The EPA is one step closer to making our air even dirtier

Posted in alo, Anchor, FF, GE, ONA, OXO, Radius, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The EPA is one step closer to making our air even dirtier