Chemical Industry Ally Faces Critics in Bid for Top E.P.A. Post
The scientist nominated to head the federal government’s chemical regulatory program has spent much of his career helping businesses fight restrictions on the use of potentially toxic compounds in consumer goods.
That record is expected to figure prominently in a Senate confirmation hearing for the scientist, Michael L. Dourson, who critics say is too closely tied to the chemical industry to be its chief regulator.
The source of the concern is a consulting group that Mr. Dourson founded in 1995, which has been paid by chemical companies for research and reports that frequently downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.
Four chemicals that are nearly ubiquitous in everyday products — 1,4-dioxane, 1-bromopropane, trichloroethylene and chlorpyrifos — are now under review by agency regulators to determine whether they pose a threat to public health. If confirmed, Mr. Dourson would oversee the review of some chemicals produced by companies that his firm used to represent.
Mr. Dourson, 65, worked for the Environmental Protection Agency from 1980 to 1994, according to his résumé, starting as a staff toxicologist, preparing health assessments of various substances. He worked his way up over time, becoming chief of the pesticides and toxics team in 1989, supervising scientists who support the E.P.A.’s regulatory work. Mr. Dourson ultimately oversaw a team of scientists conducting risk assessments for the agency’s offices of water, solid wastes and air quality. 9-19-17
Read more at The Washington Post
California rewrites the GOP’s climate playbook
For the past decade, Democrats hoping to pass a big climate law have played Charlie Brown to the Republicans’ Lucy. Despite the GOP making it clear it has no intention of holding the ball for a global warming kick, the left routinely convinces itself that their counterparts will kneel into position once it gets a running start.
In 2010, Senate Democrats appealed to Republicans to pass federal climate legislation, only to see almost every conservative bail on them. Since then we’ve seen the old pattern repeat in statehouses and ballot boxes around the country: Democrats ask the GOP to hold the ball then go flying head-over-heels.
But then in July, a cadre of eight California Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats and pass that state’s cap-and-trade law.
The partisan space-time continuum shuddered — and this was before back-to-back superstorms, Harvey and Irma, buffeted the United States. Had the well-worn GOP force field stymieing progress on climate change begun to crack at the far-western edge?
While an enraged right planned the ouster of its leader, Chad Mayes, California Governor Jerry Brown praised him and the others who’d broken ranks. As did former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wrote: “I hope Republicans around the country can learn from the example.”
Read more at Grist
Religious communities are taking on climate change
Pope Francis stands in front of a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. The pope, who takes his name from St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and ecosystems, has led a call to action on climate change for the Catholic community.
Before Pastor Jim Therrien, 49, moved to New Mexico, he rarely thought about environmental issues. Back in Kansas, where he was born and raised, the grass outside his home was always green, and though the state had an active oil industry, companies fenced off well sites properly and promptly cleaned up spills. But then he and his family saw the impacts of energy development on the Southwestern landscape and their new church community. Therrien began to think about the connection between the local environment and the broader issue of climate change.
Every day, Therrien, a blond, ruddy and tattooed man of Irish descent, looked out his window and saw a dry land getting drier. Residents told him that winters used to be much colder and snowier. The hotter temperatures thickened the methane haze, and oil and gas traffic tore up the dirt roads. Therrien started to see these problems as injustices that conflicted with Christian values. So he decided to take a stand. Churches have long played a crucial role in social movements, from the civil rights era to immigration reform. Why not environmental activism?
“I don’t ever consider myself an environmentalist,” he told me one afternoon at the Lybrook Community Ministries, on a remote stretch of Highway 550, between the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache Reservation. “I’m more of a people person.”
Therrien’s congregation, mostly Navajo, had spent years living with the San Juan Basin’s drilling boom, and the last thing they needed was a sermon about climate change. So instead of lecturing, he created a garden to reduce the church’s use of fossil fuels to transport food. Then he began fundraising for solar installations on homes around the mission and urging lawmakers to tighten regulations on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas released by oil and gas drilling.
Last year, he joined the Interfaith Power & Light campaign, “a religious response to global warming” composed of churches and faith communities across the U.S. Since 2001, the network had expanded its membership from 14 congregations in California to some 20,000 in over 40 states. The group provides resources to churches and other faith communities for cutting carbon emissions — helping install solar panels, for instance, and sharing sermons on the importance of addressing climate change.
Therrien says he is merely “following the Scripture.” In the process, however, he has joined a growing environmental movement that brings a religious dimension to the problem of climate change.
Read more at High Country News
North Carolina delays decision on Atlantic Coast Pipeline
At public hearings and through written comments, a significant number of North Carolinians urged state regulators to deny the Atlantic Coast Pipeline a clean water permit this summer.
Faced with a Monday deadline and a lopsided number of public comments opposing the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration has delayed until mid-December its decision on whether to permit the controversial project.
Without fanfare or press release late yesterday, the state issued a four-page “request for additional information,” part of its duty under the federal Clean Water Act to ensure the natural gas pipeline won’t harm the over 320 rivers and streams and hundreds of acres of wetlands in its path.
Pipeline foes hailed the action, which appeared to vindicate a critique they’ve been leveling for months against the project, slated to hug the state’s I-95 corridor and pass through eight eastern North Carolina counties.
“The current application leaves out critical information,” said Geoff Gisler, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “There are literally hundreds of streams and wetlands that the company has asked to dig through with hardly any analysis.”
The delay followed a series of rowdy hearings and meetings last month that were packed with pipeline opponents, and the receipt of over 9,000 written public comments – 85 percent urging rejection. 09-15-17
Read more at Southeast Energy News
Want to help hurricane victims? Donate to abortion funds
REUTERS / Mark Makela
The clearest link between abortion and climate change is that most people flee, screaming, from conversations about both of them. But if you’re at a loss for ways to help those recovering from Hurricane Irma or Harvey, please don’t.
Strong reproductive rights, as we’ve argued before, are one type of climate resilience. Women need easy access to abortion and contraception to better handle all the challenges that climate change will deal them. But now, as the Gulf Coast states reckon with the damage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — and the impending threat of their friends Jose and Katia — we’re seeing exactly how extreme weather exacerbates the need for abortion access.
Kenya, a patient counselor at a Houston abortion clinic who requested we not include her last name, describes Harvey’s aftermath: “The calls start coming through: ‘I need to do this, but I don’t have the means.’ Some women lost everything. They don’t have flood insurance. They don’t have the family support.” The financial need that drives the decision to terminate a pregnancy, she says, becomes even greater in the wake of such a natural disaster. 9-13-17
Read more at Grist
Organic Industry Sues USDA To Push For Animal Welfare Rules
The organic eggs in your grocery store are supposed to come from chickens that have year-round access to the outdoors. That’s according to long-standing organic regulations.
But a huge battle has erupted over what “access to the outdoors” actually means. And it’s now led to a lawsuit: The Organic Trade Association, which represents most organic food companies, is suing the government, demanding that it implement new rules that require organic egg producers to give their chickens more room to roam.
On one side of this battle, there are a few large-scale organic egg producers, such as Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Saranac, Mich. They believe that “access to the outdoors” means that the chickens get to live in houses with screened-in porches.
“It’s kind of like your screened porch on your house,” says Greg Herbruck, president of the business. “When you go out there, you’re outside. You’re protected from the rain. In this case, we protect [the chickens] from disease and from predators.” 09-13-17
Read more at NPR
Harvey and Irma aren’t natural disasters. They’re climate change disasters
If you’re like me, you can’t stop yourself from watching the weather these days. And if you’re like me, you can’t help but think: Holy shit, it’s here.
Back-to-back hurricane catastrophes have plunged the United States into a state of national crisis. We’ve already seen one worst-case scenario in Texas: For the moment, Hurricane Harvey stands as the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history. And now there’s Irma, which has wreaked havoc across the entirety of Florida, America’s most vulnerable state. In just two weeks, the U.S. could rack up hundreds of billions of dollars in losses.
Make no mistake: These storms weren’t natural. A warmer, more violent atmosphere — heated up by our collective desire to ignore the fact that we live on a planet where such devastation is possible — juiced Harvey and Irma’s destruction. 09-11-17
Read more at Grist
Why Environmentalists Can’t Afford to Wait Until 2018
2017 has been a devastating year for the millions of Americans who care about the environment.
Since Donald Trump took office in January, his administration has made fracking easier on public lands, paused regulations that keep power plants from pouring arsenic and mercury into waterways, proposed cutting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent, started planning to strip protections from national monuments, and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.
As a result, many despondent environmentalists are turning their focus to the 2018 midterms as their only chance to get a seat at the policy-making table.
That is a big mistake. By focusing on 2018, we’re ignoring elections that will have an enormous impact on climate change and the environment—the 2017 mayoral elections.
We are an urban nation—71 percent of Americans live in cities of more than 50,000 people—and this fall, 390 cities will hold mayoral elections, from New York and Boston, to Cleveland and Atlanta. With the powers at their disposal, environmentally-friendly mayors can quite literally save the planet. And in contrast to the federal government, mayors can act quickly and decisively.
So what can mayors do to save the planet? For starters, green buildings. The buildings we live and work in account for almost 40 percent of national CO2 emissions. Many cities are already taking action by adopting green building codes, which require sustainable building materials and strict energy-efficiency standards. San Francisco is even requiring new buildings to incorporate solar or living roofs, which could reduce as much carbon emissions as taking 5,400 cars off the city’s streets. 09-10-17
Read more at EcoWatch
The unprecedented drought that’s crippling Montana and North Dakota
It came without warning, and without equivalent. Now a flash drought is fueling fires and hurting the lives of those who work the land
When Rick Kirn planted his 1,000 acres of spring wheat in May, there were no signs of a weather calamity on the horizon. Three months later, when he should have been harvesting and getting ready to sell his wheat, Kirn was staring out across vast cracked, gray, empty fields dotted with weeds and little patches of stunted wheat.
“It’s a total loss for me,” said Kirn, who operates a small family wheat farm on the Fort Peck Reservation, an area of north-eastern Montana that lies right in the heart of the extreme climatic episode. “There’s nothing to harvest.”
Kirn’s story is typical across the high plains in Montana and the Dakotas this summer, where one of the country’s most important wheat growing regions is in the grips of a crippling drought that came on with hardly any warning and, experts say, is without precedent.
While much of the country’s attention in recent weeks has been on the hurricanes striking southern Texas and the Caribbean, a so-called “flash drought”, an unpredictable, sudden event brought on by sustained high temperatures and little rain, has seized a swathe of the country and left farmers with little remedy. Across Montana’s northern border and east into North Dakota, farms are turning out less wheat than last year, much of it poorer quality than normal. 09-07-17
Read more at The Guardian
Squam Lake’s loons are suffering, and unexpected pollution part of the problem
The lone loon chick on Squam Lake gets fed a minnow by its parent last week on the northern end of the big lake.
Somewhere in the woods of Holderness or Sandwich, at the northern end of the lovely lake that inspired On Golden Pond, it’s likely that an abandoned barrel of unintended consequences is slowly killing loons.
And on the western side of the lake, along a dirt road named after a quaint local farm, a different set of unintended consequences is adding to the toll.
Between them, these oozing products of decades-old decisions help explain why Squam Lake is proving fatal to New Hampshire’s most iconic waterfowl.
“Loons are the canaries in the coal mine. It’s not just the loons, it’s everything. Everything might be affected,” said Tiffany Grade, a biologist with the Loon Preservation Committee.
The committee, which has been monitoring and trying to help New Hampshire’s loon population since 1975, is sounding the alarm on Squam Lake because just one loon egg hatched on the entire lake this year, a “new and very depressing low” for the population. It’s puzzling because the statewide population of the birds is fairly stable.
The search for what’s different about Squam Lake dates back to 2005, when the lake lost 44 percent of its adult loons, “the largest single-year decline seen in history,” Grade said.
Puzzled, the Loon Preservation Committee started doing detective work. They took some eggs that never hatched from loon nests and tested them for a whole suite of contaminants. Eventually, they found two of real concern: PCBs and DDT. 09-04-17
Read more at Concord Monitor
Investment Giant Votes to Require Exxon to Detail Climate Risk Disclosure
Vanguard / Facebook
Investing giant Vanguard voted to require ExxonMobil to include more detailed assessments of how climate policies impact its bottom line, according to proxy voting records released Thursday.
Vanguard’s vote at the shareholder meeting and its vote in favor of a similar resolution for Occidental Petroleum mark the first time the firm has voted for shareholder resolutions opposed by company management.
“Climate risk is an example of a slowly developing and highly uncertain risk—the kind that tests the strength of a board’s oversight and risk governance,” CEO Bill McNabb wrote in a public letter released with the voting records. “Our evolving position on climate risk (much like our stance on gender diversity) is based on the economic bottom line for Vanguard investors. As significant long-term owners of many companies in industries vulnerable to climate risk, Vanguard investors have substantial value at stake.”
The overall Exxon vote passed in early June with nearly 63 percent of shares in favor. 9-1-17
Read more at EcoWatch
Harvey’s Damage in Heart of Texas Oil Country Creates Quandary for Congress
With the home of the U.S. oil industry now in distress, will Congress and the president rethink climate change and their budget-slashing strategy?
Even as the floodwaters continue to rise in East Texas, it’s clear that Hurricane Harvey will force a new reckoning over major energy and climate policy questions.
The immediate priorities—rescue operations, disaster assistance, flood insurance, and the like—will be followed by broader questions involving the vulnerability of infrastructure, the energy industry and communities to extreme weather, and the need to balance mitigation of the pollution that causes climate change with adaptation to global warming’s inescapable impacts.Mario Qua holds Wilson Qua after making their way through flood waters as the Houston area was inundated with heavy rain from Hurricane Harvey. Families grabbed anything that could float to escape the flooding. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesIn this region, some of these issues have been pushed to the side as the Gulf Coast served as handmaiden to the North American oil and gas boom. Now, the oil and gas industry’s prime processing and export center is partially under water.
Also running through the debate is the question whether this storm, beyond even the experiences of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, will lead to broader acceptance of the scientific consensus surrounding climate change, a crisis that offers no convenient escape route.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Harvey’s rainfall was on track to break national records, the Texas state climatologist said. By midday Tuesday, parts of the Houston area were reporting more than 49 inches of rain had fallen, and the storm wasn’t finished. The National Weather Service said another 10 to 20 inches was expected over parts of the upper Texas coast and into Louisiana. Thousands of people had to be rescued from the flooding.
Trump’s Budget Ignored the Risks of a Disaster Like Harvey
The widespread damage from Hurricane Harvey, and months of recovery ahead, compels Congress to rethink its priorities as it faces a deadline in just a month to pass a new federal budget and raise the debt limit.
Among the urgent issues: approving emergency relief for Harvey that surely will run into billions of dollars; deciding whether to strengthen the federal flood insurance program’s dwindling finances; and considering the deep budget cuts the Trump Administration has proposed for several agencies playing a prominent role in hurricane-related operations. 08-30-17
Read more at Inside Climate News
Built (not) to spill
People keep building in flood-prone places like Houston.
And all that unchecked development makes flooding worse. It’s worth looking back at an in-depth piece published last year by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, which made a compelling case that, by turning Houston’s permeable prairie into houses, people have transformed a sponge into a bathtub. It has also put more people in harm’s way.
“More people die here than anywhere else from floods,” Sam Brody, a Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher, said at the time. “More property per capita is lost here. And the problem’s getting worse.” 08-28-17
Read more at Grist
Did Climate Change Intensify Hurricane Harvey?
“The human contribution can be up to 30 percent or so of the total rainfall coming out of the storm.”
Harvey submerged Interstate highway 45 in Houston with record, widespread flooding on Sunday. REUTERS/Richard Carson
Every so often, the worst-case scenario comes to pass.
As of Sunday afternoon, the remnants of Hurricane Harvey seem likely to exceed the worst forecasts that preceded the storm. The entire Houston metropolitan region is flooding: Interstates are under feet of water, local authorities have asked boat owners to join rescue efforts, and most of the streams and rivers near the city are in flood stage.
Some models suggest that the storm will linger over the area until Wednesday night, dumping 50 inches of water in total on Houston and the surrounding area.
“Local rainfall amounts of 50 inches would exceed any previous Texas rainfall record. The breadth and intensity of this rainfall are beyond anything experienced before,” said a statement from the National Weather Service. “Catastrophic flooding is now underway and expected to continue for several days.” (In years of weather reporting, I have never seen a statement this blunt and ominous.)
This means that thousands of people—and perhaps tens of thousands of people—are facing a terrifying and all-too-real struggle to survive right now. In an age when the climate is changing rapidly, a natural question to ask is: What role did human-caused global warming play in strengthening this storm? 08-27-17
Menominee Tribe seeks stricter federal oversight in Michigan mine fight
The fate of a mine near headwaters of a sacred river hinges on a wetlands permit; the tribe wants tougher federal standards to apply—not looser state ones.
In its continued fight against a mine near sacred waters, the Menominee Indians of Wisconsin want stronger federal regulations to apply as officials weigh the final permit for mine approval.
At issue is the Back Forty mine, a proposed 83-acre open pit gold, zinc and copper mine in the southwestern corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The mine would sit within 150 feet of the Menominee River, which forms the Michigan-Wisconsin border—and is namesake for the Menominee Tribe across the border in Wisconsin.
Environmental Health News highlighted the Menominee’s fight last year in “Sacred Water,” a national look at how culturally significant water resources—both on and off reservation—get sullied, destroyed, defaced by activities often happening beyond Native Americans’ control.
The mine was on track for approval but has been stagnant, as it still needs one permit—a wetlands permit—before beginning operation. The state of Michigan has controlled permitting to this point.
This week the Menominee tribe asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to take over authority for the wetland permit under Clean Water Act rules.
Menominee tribal member Burton Warrington said the Clean Water Act—specifically section 404(G)— allows for states or tribes to take over permitting control, but that doesn’t mean all waterways. 08-25-17
Read more at Environmental Health News
Researchers took on Exxon’s dare to prove it misled the public about climate change
Coast Guard crew members at work on a mission with NASA to study changing Arctic conditions. Exxon has used such studies to help plan future operations. (NASA / Kathryn Hansen / Rex Features)
This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Two years ago, Inside Climate News and L.A. Times investigations found that while ExxonMobil internally acknowledged that climate change is human-made and serious, it publicly manufactured doubt about the science. Exxon has been trying unsuccessfully to smother this slow-burning PR crisis ever since, arguing the findings were “deliberately cherry picked statements.” But the company’s problems have grown to include probes of its business practices by the New York and Massachusetts attorneys general and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Now, science historian Naomi Oreskes and Harvard researcher Geoffrey Supran have published the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis of Exxon’s climate communications that adds more heft to these charges. Exxon dared the public to “read all of these documents and make up your own mind,” in a company blog post in 2015. The new paper, “Assessing ExxonMobil’s Climate Change Communications,” in the journal Environmental Research Letters, takes up the challenge. Oreskes and Supran systematically analyze nearly 40 years of Exxon’s scientific research, reports, internal documents, and advertisements, and find a deep disconnect between how the company directly communicated climate change and its internal memos and scientific studies.
“The issue of taking things out of context or cherry-picking data is an important one, and one all historians and journalists deal with,” Oreskes tells Mother Jones. “When ExxonMobil accuses journalists of cherry-picking, there is a way we can address that. There are analyses we can do to avoid these issues. Well, if you think the LA Times is cherry-picking [examples], we’ll look at all of them. Nobody can say we are selecting things out of context.” 08-23-17
Read more at Grist
Court Rejects Pipeline Rubber-Stamp, Orders Climate Impact Review
The ruling on the Southeast Market Pipelines Project is the second federal court decision this month to conclude climate impacts must be taken into account.
Neil Chatterjee, formerly senior energy policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was confirmed this month as FERC’s interim chairman. Credit: Ben Hider/Getty Images
The court sent the pipeline project back to FERC for a more detailed impact review.
An appeals court rejected federal regulators’ approval of a $3.5 billion natural gas pipeline project on Tuesday over the issue of climate change.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to fully consider the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning the fuel that would flow through the Southeast Market Pipelines Project when the commission approved the project in 2016.
“FERC’s environmental impact statement did not contain enough information on the greenhouse gas emissions that will result from burning the gas that the pipelines will carry,” the judges wrote in a divided decision. “FERC must either quantify and consider the project’s downstream carbon emissions or explain in more detail why it cannot do so.”The 2-1 ruling ordered the commission to redo its environmental review for the project, which includes the approximately 500-mile Sabal Trail pipeline and two shorter, adjoining pipelines. With its first phase complete, the project is already pumping fracked gas from the Marcellus-Utica shale basins of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
The appeals court’s decision will not immediately affect the flow of gas in the Sabal Trail pipeline, which began operations on June 14, said Andrea Grover, a spokesperson for Enbridge Inc. Enbridge has a 50 percent ownership stake in the Sabal Trail Pipeline through its company Spectra Energy Partners.
FERC declined a request for comment. 08-22-17
Read more at Inside Climate News
17 million in US live near active oil or gas wells.
In West Virginia and Oklahoma, almost half the population lives within a mile of a well.
More than 17 million people in the United States live within a mile of an active oil or natural gas well, according to a new study.
The study is the first peer-reviewed, nationwide estimate of how many Americans live close to active wells and raises health concerns, as such proximity has been linked to heart, lung and brain problems, some cancers, and certain birth defects such as lower birth weights, pre-term births and heart defects.
“The closer you are to a well, the more likely you are to have health impacts, said Eliza Czolowski, lead author of the new study and an associate in the energy and environment program at PSE Health Energy, a nonprofit research institute in Oakland, California.
Using state-level information on oil and gas drilling and the U.S. Census, Czolowski and colleagues had data for 30 states and estimated that 17.6 million Americans, or about 6 percent of the population of the contiguous 48 states, lives within a mile of an active oil or gas well.
Perhaps most concerning for public health, about 1.4 million children under the age of 5 live within a mile of active wells.
“This study hammers home why we need federal and state safeguards against oil and gas air pollution like methane,” said Bruce Baizel, energy program director at Earthworks, which was not involved in the study.
“Americans across the country are forced to live with oil and gas operations in their communities, literally right next door to their homes, their schools, their playgrounds,” he added. 08-23-17
Read more at Daily Climate
Trump’s Interior Department moves to stop mountaintop removal study
A 2009 photo shows a mountaintop removal site in Southern West Virginia.
Trump administration officials have told the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to halt a review of the increased public health risks faced by Appalachian residents who live near mountaintop removal coal-mining sites, the academies revealed in a statement issued Monday.
Word of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement order was disclosed by the academies just hours before the scientific panel conducting the study was scheduled to hear from coalfield residents at a public meeting Monday evening in Hazard, Kentucky, and then hold two days of business meetings in Lexington.
Academies spokesman William Kearney said in a statement that the OSM told the academies in a letter Friday to “cease all work” on the mountaintop removal study. The letter indicated that Interior had begun “an agency-wide review” of grants and cooperative agreements in excess of $100,000, “largely as a result of the Department’s changing budget situation,” the academies said. 08-21-17
Read more at Charleston Gazette-Mail
EPA Welcomed Industry Feedback Before Reversing Pesticide Ban, Ignoring Health Concerns
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News/Getty Images
Before the Environmental Protection Agency issued its March 29 decision to reverse a proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the agency considered information from industry groups that wanted to keep it on the market, according to internal agency documents. But the heavily redacted documents may be most notable for what they do not include.
The Intercept obtained internal emails, reports, and memos via a Freedom of Information Act request for materials used to brief EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on chlorpyrifos.
Although the documents reflect several direct communications between the EPA, big agricultural groups, and, in one instance, Donald Trump, they included no evidence that the agency met with environmental or public health groups or weighed concerns about the pesticide’s damaging effects. There was also no substantive discussion of the many studies detailing health effects. The story that emerges from the documents is a simple one of agricultural industry lobbying and, after its success, celebration.
Before the presidential election, the EPA had proposed banning chlorpyrifos based in part on evidence that the chemical causes lasting harm to children’s brains, including attention problems, memory loss, tremors, and autism. In reports issued in 2014 and 2015, the agency acknowledged research showing that children exposed to chlorpyrifos were more likely to have certain developmental problems. In November the EPA issued a report recommending a ban. A 90-day waiting period pushed the finalization of the ban into March, after Trump’s inauguration. 08-18-17
Read more at The Intercept
Greenpeace Activists Interrupt Operations at Arctic Oil Drilling Site
Nick Cobbing / Greenpeace
Peaceful activists, including one American, from a Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, have stalled Statoil’s oil operations in the Barents Sea off the Norwegian coast. The activists entered the exclusion zone of Statoil’s oil rig, Songa Enabler in the Barents Sea with kayaks and inflatable boats, while swimmers protested in the water with banners.
The activists plan to sustain the peaceful protest to stall Statoil’s oil drilling as long as possible to send a message that the Norwegian government is failing its commitments to Norway’s constitution and the Paris agreement. They are also displaying a constructed giant globe in front of the rig with written statements to the government.
Thirty-five activists from 25 countries are escalating a peaceful protest after tailing the rig for one month in the Barents Sea.
The Norwegian government has recently opened up a new oil frontier in the Arctic. The state-owned oil company has just started to drill for oil at the Korpfjell well, a controversial site 415 kilometers from land. It is close to the ice edge and an important feeding areas for seabirds. This is the first opening of new areas for oil drillings in 20 years and it is the northernmost area licensed by Norway. 08-17-17
Read more at EcoWatch
Queen bees less likely to lay eggs, start colony after insecticide exposure
Some queen bumblebees exposed to a common insecticide may never lay eggs or start colonies, which would lead to their extinction, researchers say.
The latest findings, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, found exposure to thiamethoxam can substantially affect how many eggs are laid by queen bees.
A year ago, the same Canadian and British researchers showed queen bees were less likely to feed, and their eggs developed more slowly after just a two-week exposure to thiamethoxam, an insecticide in the neonicotinoid family.
The tests examined exposure amounts that would be similar to those sprayed on a farmers’ field. Bumblebees are important crop pollinators. 08-14-17
Doors to the floor are now frequently locked, and employees have to have an escort to gain entrance.
Some employees say they are also told to leave behind their cellphones when they meet with Mr. Pruitt, and are sometimes told not to take notes.
Mr. Pruitt, according to the employees, who requested anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs, often makes important phone calls from other offices rather than use the phone in his office, and he is accompanied, even at E.P.A. headquarters, by armed guards, the first head of the agency to ever request round-the-clock security.
A former Oklahoma attorney general who built his career suing the E.P.A., and whose LinkedIn profile still describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” Mr. Pruitt has made it clear that he sees his mission to be dismantling the agency’s policies — and even portions of the institution itself.
But as he works to roll back regulations, close offices and eliminate staff at the agency charged with protecting the nation’s environment and public health, Mr. Pruitt is taking extraordinary measures to conceal his actions, according to interviews with more than 20 current and former agency employees. 08-11-17
Facebook’s campus in California’s Bay Area. Noah Berger/Reuters
U.S. coastal cities are coming the closest to meeting sustainability goals set by the UN, according to the first analysis of 100 metropolitan cities by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). But no U.S. city has yet managed to reach a score of even half of what is necessary to satisfy the Paris Climate Agreement.
The Sustainable Development Goals Index measures how successfully cities are dealing with issues related to poverty, health, and equitable income distribution in addition to climate change objectives like cutting large carbon emissions. Jeff Sachs, Director of the SDSN, said the report—the first of many—creates “an accurate starting line” for cities in their “race to 2030 and a smart, fair, and sustainable future.”
The results show that within U.S. cities, economic circumstances and climate change measures are correlated: cities like Baton Rogue, Louisiana, and Detroit, Michigan, which scored the lowest on the index, had high levels of relative poverty and unemployment as well as higher emission rates. 08-10-17
Gov. Roy Cooper’s message last month to Washington echoed throughout a state-hosted public hearing Monday night on the proposed federal offshore leasing program.
The North Carolina governor’s stern statement “not off our coast” or a variation thereof reverberated throughout the two-hour public hearing attended by about 175 people.
An overwhelming majority spoke in opposition to offshore oil and gas exploration and drilling, expressing concerns about how such activity would result in oil spills, destroy the coastal economy and irreparably harm the environment.
“I’ve heard the argument many times ‘let’s update the seismic geological and geophysical data because what we have is old and we don’t know what’s out there,’ ” said Hampstead resident Jack Spruill.
Standing at a podium at the front of a sprawling room in the New Hanover County Government Center, Spruill followed that statement with the adage, “You better not go a courtin’ if you’re not prepared to get married.”
“I’m concerned about all aspects of this issue,” he said.
The one facet he chose to focus on during his three-minute allotted time to speak was onshore infrastructure.
Spruill lived in southern Louisiana for eight years. He spent half of those years as a Navy Reserve officer attached to a destroyer based in New Orleans.
It was in The Big Easy where Spruill said he saw the onshore infrastructure that supported offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. 08-9-17
On dusty land in Mission, Tex., near the Mexican border, Marianna Trevino Wright recently took a walk with a contractor. She was showing off her effort to turn the earth surrounding the National Butterfly Center into “an oasis for butterflies,” she said — with 10,000 native milkweed plants that a dwindling number of monarch butterflies use as habitat in their arduous and yearly migration from Mexico and across the United States to Canada.
But the yellow that caught her eye that day wasn’t the fluttering wings of butterflies. It was heavy machinery that mows vegetation, said Wright, executive director of the butterfly reserve. And men were taking soil samples on the center’s property. “I said, ‘Hey guys what you’re doing?’ They said, ‘Working.’ I said, ‘On what?’ They said, ‘Clearing the land.’ I said, ‘You mean my land.’ They said, ‘We’re going to have to call our supervisor.’”