Trump Administration Sued for Suspending Protections for Endangered Bumble Bee
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued the Trump administration Tuesday for illegally suspending the rule to put the rusty patched bumble bee on the endangered species list. The rusty patched bumble bee has lost approximately 90 percent of its range in the past 20 years. It is the first bumble bee ever listed under the Endangered Species Act.
“The Trump administration broke the law by blocking the rusty patched bumble bee from the endangered species list,” Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the NRDC, said. “The science is clear—this species is headed toward extinction and soon. There is no legitimate reason to delay federal protections for this bee. In this case, the decision to freeze protections for the rusty patched bumble bee without public notice and comment violates the law.” 2-16-17
Say Goodbye to Coal-Free Streams
President Trump has officially killed the Office of Surface Protection’s Stream Mining Rule, as he signed legislation undoing the Obama era protection Thursday.
Surrounded by lawmakers, coal miners and friendly coal executives, Trump blasted the rule as “another terrible job killing rule” and promised to save jobs “especially in the mines, which, I have been promising you—the mines are a big deal.”
A report issued by the Congressional Research Service last month found that the rule would have eliminated a minimal amount of jobs in the coal industry, while generating an additional 250 jobs per year. 02-17-17
Researchers find pesticide spills, accidents may alter farmworkers’ DNA
Study of Iowa, North Carolina farmworkers finds high doses of pesticides can potentially impact DNA, triggering cancers later in life.
Farmworkers who have a high pesticide exposure event—such as a spill—are more likely to experience molecular changes on DNA that may lead to certain cancers, according to a large U.S. study of pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina.
The research, part of the ongoing Agricultural Health Study that is monitoring the health of more than 57,000 private and commercial pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina, adds to growing evidence that high exposure to certain pesticides may spur prostate and other cancers in people handling the chemicals.
“This lines up perfectly with what the National Cancer Institute is doing on the markers that increase the risk of cancer. It’s a timely, relevant study,” said Linda McCauley, dean and professor of Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. McCauley was not involved in the study.
Researchers have long suspected pesticides may play a role in the elevated cancer rates among farmers and others who apply pesticides. 02-16-17
“Dark Forces” Are Coming for Your Organic Food
So says the former Obama USDA appointee who helped create national organic standards.
The Freedom Caucus is a rowdy band of GOP US House members most famous for triggering government shutdowns, pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and driving former GOP Speaker John Boehner from his post on the theory he wasn’t conservative enough. And now they’re coming for your certified-organic food.
Merrigan warned that “forces of darkness” are “coming together and saying, ‘Let’s sharpen our knives on organic.'”
Back in December, the Freedom Caucus released a “recommended list of regulations to remove.” Among its 228 targets—ranging from eliminating energy efficiency standards for washing machines to kiboshing rules on private drones—the group named the National Organic Program. 02-09-17
The Holocene climate experience
The history of climate and human health gives us a glimpse of the dramatically amplified risks we face if present trends continue.
What can we learn from the past to guide us in adapting to future climate change? What does the story about human experiences of past natural climatic changes tell us in broad terms? At the least it points to the types of risks to the health, survival, and social stability that may result from this century’s human-driven climate change.
The Holocene spans 11,000 years, a mere sliver of the total Homo sapiens experience of climate variation, but it provides a good entry point. The rigors of the preceding ice age gave way to climatically congenial times which have been sustained, by and large, throughout the Holocene epoch.
This latest of the nine interglacial periods during the past million years has been the one in which anatomically and behaviorally modern humans began exerting increasing control over the environment and its carrying capacity by shifting toward growing crops, herding animals, managing water flows, and building settlements. 02-07-17
Tech Trends That Are Changing the World for Animals—
for the Better!
Many of us just couldn’t wait for 2016 to be over, and now 2017 is off to a rocky start as well. What better way to cheer ourselves up than to take a peek at some technology trends that are revolutionizing the world for animals?
Trend #1: The Future of Protein
Imagine a world in which factory farming no longer exists, and we can feed the world high-quality protein with minimal inputs of energy, water, fertilizer, and no antibiotics! A world in which the suffering and environmental destruction inherent in factory farming is a thing of the past. This world is not as far off as you might think, thanks to advancements in cellular agriculture.
Over the past few years, innovators have been leveraging tissue engineering, synthetic biology, bioengineering, and materials science to grow or replicate factory farmed products—such as meat and dairy—in a laboratory setting. You may have heard of the Impossible Burger, Hungry Planet’s Range-Free™ burger, and Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger—which is now supported by an investment from Tyson Foods—and these are just the beginning! 02-09-17
Target’s new chemicals policy hits a bullseye
A chemical reaction needs at least two elements and a catalyst to begin a swift and irreversible change. Starting in 2017, Target’s new chemicals strategy promises to cleanse its shelves, and the brands along its value chain, of toxic chemicals. If enacted properly, the fallout of the policy and its implementation can have lasting, positive repercussions.
Target’s Jan. 25 announcement is the first push from a U.S. retailer encompassing every product it sells — including its in-house and national brand consumer products — and its operations. The process calls for several ingredients: Strategic planning from the retailer; the commitment of its business partners; and best practices borrowed from NGOs.
The hoped-for result? A healthier consumer base with loyal purchasing power, meaning sustainable returns for the company.
“Our chemical strategy will be one of the most comprehensive in the U.S. retail industry, including all Target-owned and national brand products and operations, not just formulated products,” wrote Jennifer Silberman, Target’s chief sustainability officer (CSO), in the press announcement. “Ultimately, we want to bring all stakeholders together to innovate and champion a consistent, industry-wide approach to greener chemistry.” 02-10-17
Green groups file sweeping lawsuit accusing Trump of seizing Congress’s powers on regulations
Three advocacy groups filed a sweeping federal lawsuit Wednesday, challenging President Trump’s executive order requiring two federal regulations to be “identified for elimination” for every new one added — arguing that the order fundamentally takes over Congress’s powers to enact laws to protect public health, safety, and the environment.
“The Executive Order exceeds the President’s authority under the Constitution, usurps Congress’s Article I legislative authority, and violates the President’s obligation to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’” says the lawsuit filed by Public Citizen, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Communications Workers of America.
The executive order in question did not garner nearly as much attention as Trump’s executive order on immigration. Yet although in a very different sphere from immigration, the question the lawsuit raises is similar to that now playing out in court before the 9th Circuit — does a Trump executive order violate a very basic element of the Constitution? 02-08-17
Food Security, Forests At Risk Under Trump’s USDA
U.S. food security, forest health, and the ability of farmers to respond to climate change are all at risk if President’s Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture brings climate change skepticism to the agency, agricultural researchers and environmental law experts say.
That concern takes root not only in Trump’s own statements scoffing at climate policy, but also in the words and actions of his nominee for Agriculture secretary — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who in 2007 resorted to prayer as a strategy to deal with a severe drought Georgia was enduring.
“Snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes have been around since the beginning of time, but now they want us to accept that all of it is the result of climate change,” Perdue, whose Senate confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled, wrote in a 2014 National Review column. “It’s become a running joke among the public, and liberals have lost all credibility when it comes to climate science because their arguments have become so ridiculous and so obviously disconnected from reality.”
In fact, the science of human-caused climate change is far from a running joke. 02-07-17
Does the Constitution hold the key to climate action?
How a group of young climate plaintiffs are making their case.
The day before Donald Trump’s inauguration, a group of environmental lawyers had hoped to depose Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for secretary of State, in Dallas, Texas. Julia Olson wanted to grill the former ExxonMobil CEO and American Petroleum Institute board member about climate change: what his industry knew, when they knew it, and how they lobbied the federal government to address — or ignore — the problem.
Industry lawyers disputed the request, and at press time it was unclear if the deposition would actually happen. But if it does, Olson will add Tillerson’s testimony to the evidence she is gathering for a trial in Oregon later this year, where she will try to convince a federal judge that the government’s failure to stem the climate crisis violates the constitutional rights of her clients — 21 young people not yet old enough to legally buy a drink.
This lawsuit is as broad as most are narrow. Environmental litigation is often incremental, ensuring that the government dots its i’s and crosses its t’s when permitting energy projects or carving out endangered species habitat. Olson’s case is instead designed to upend our entire fossil fuel-based energy system. 02-06-17
Mark your calendars! The March for Science is happening in D.C. on April 22.
Chesapeake losing its oyster reefs faster than they can be rebuilt
There aren’t enough shells to go around for wild fishery, aquaculture and sanctuaries
The Chesapeake Bay has an oyster problem — but more fundamentally, it has a shell problem.
Put simply, there aren’t enough oyster shells available to support a large-scale restoration of the Bay’s depleted bivalve population. And the way things are going, there may not even be enough to sustain the wild fishery a whole lot longer, at least in Virginia.
Decades of overharvesting, habitat destruction, disease and poor water quality have reduced the population of oysters in the Bay to less than 1 percent of its historic levels. And in much of the Bay, oyster reefs — made up of the shells of living and dead bivalves — are wearing down and disappearing faster than they’re being built up.
Scientists, managers and others worry that there aren’t enough shells to go around to sustain the traditional wild fishery as well as a growing aquaculture industry, not to mention ambitious large-scale efforts by both states and the federal government to restore the Chesapeake’s oyster population for its ecological value. 01-29-17
Women scientists: “We’re not backing down, and we’re not going away”
It started as a group text message among four friends from graduate school about new kids, puppies, and jobs. You know, the successes and struggles that are the building blocks of everyday life.
In the wake of the election, the discussion changed. While everyday life continued, the four friends — all women working in the climate and ecology fields — faced a new reality. Their discussions turned into an email chain, which grew to include a group of women, until finally it spawned a pledge of inclusivity in science and the need for reason in politics that’s now been signed by more than 14,000 women in science.
The group, dubbed 500 Women Scientists, was created in response to President Trump and his anti-science, anti-women comments. Its pledge vows to protect the scientific enterprise from his attacks as well as “build a more inclusive society and scientific enterprise.”
It’s part of a growing movement of scientists pushing back against the rise of what can best be described as a disregard of facts. Trump’s cabinet nominees all dodged questions on climate, for example, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently said the world is closer to doomsday because of the swell of anti-science rhetoric. Scientists have been coordinating online and organizing marches to protest these developments (a number also participated in last weekend’s Women’s March). 01-29-17
Troops Who Cleaned Up Radioactive Islands Can’t Get Medical Care
When Tim Snider arrived on Enewetak Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to clean up the fallout from dozens of nuclear tests on the ring of coral islands, Army officers immediately ordered him to put on a respirator and a bright yellow suit designed to guard against plutonium poisoning.
A military film crew snapped photos and shot movies of Mr. Snider, a 20-year-old Air Force radiation technician, in the crisp new safety gear. Then he was ordered to give all the gear back. He spent the rest of his four-month stint on the islands wearing only cutoff shorts and a floppy sun hat.
“I never saw one of those suits again,” Mr. Snider, now 58, said in an interview in his kitchen here as he thumbed a yellowing photo he still has from the 1979 shoot. “It was just propaganda.”
Today Mr. Snider has tumors on his ribs, spine and skull — which he thinks resulted from his work on the crew, in the largest nuclear cleanup ever undertaken by the United States military.
Roughly 4,000 troops helped clean up the atoll between 1977 and 1980. Like Mr. Snider, most did not even wear shirts, let alone respirators. Hundreds say they are now plagued by health problems, including brittle bones, cancer and birth defects in their children. Many are already dead. Others are too sick to work. 01-28-17
Trump’s War on Science Sparks Massive Resistance
The Trump-Pence Administration’s war on facts may have galvanized the next major demonstration in the nation’s capital—the Scientists’ March on Washington, which is as yet unscheduled but is garnering significant enthusiasm online.
Spurred by the new administration’s stance on climate change, muzzling of scientists and slashing of environmental regulations, the idea grew out of a Reddit thread started in the wake of Saturday’s inspirational Women’s March on Washington and global solidarity events.
As the Washington Post reports:
[S]omeone wrote, “There needs to be a Scientists’ March on Washington.”
“100%,” someone replied. Dozens of others agreed.
One participant in the exchange, University of Texas Health Science Center postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Berman, took the conversation to heart. In short order, the march had a Facebook page (whose membership swelled from 200 people on Tuesday night to more than 150,000 by Wednesday at noon), a Twitter handle, a website, two co-chairs, Berman and science writer and public health researcher Caroline Weinberg and a Google form through which interested researchers could sign up to help. 01-26-17
Beginning of a Movement
Tens of thousands of students and academics join Women’s March on Washington.
Hundreds of thousands of people converged on the nation’s capital Saturday to show solidarity and support for those who feel their rights may be threatened by the new administration, which began just the day before when Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States.
Among the sea of pink knit hats and colorful signs were tens of thousands of college students, faculty and administrators who feel that their rights, too, are under attack.
Some marched for themselves. Some marched for friends and family members. Some marched with contingents that traveled long hours on buses from campuses far from here. College women marched for reproductive rights and stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Some students said they were marching for the rights of undocumented immigrants, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, people of color and people with disabilities. And university professors marched for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry and campus diversity.
An estimated 50,000 students from college campuses across the country attended the Women’s March on Washington, according to Madison Thomas, the march’s national coordinator for college engagement. 01-23-17
At the Women’s March,
a call for climate protection, too
Amid a sea of signs and pink hats, plenty of people also marched for environment and climate science.
There’s a call for good science, good journalism, real facts and justice.
To be sure, the predominant theme at Women’s Marches big and small across the nation and globe Saturday was that “this pussy bites back” and “love trumps hate.” But a noticeable subset of marchers also called for strong climate science, a stand against environmental rollbacks, better environmental education, and a fix for environmental injustice. 01-22-17
70,000 New York City Birds Sacrificed for Air Travel
In last eight years, nearly 70,000 birds have been killed in the New York City area to make the skies safer for air travel.
On Jan. 15, 2009, three minutes after takeoff from New York City’s La Guardia Airport, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 hit a flock of Canadian geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and lost all engine power. Remarkably, pilots Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles ditched the aircraft onto the Hudson River in midtown Manhattan. All passengers and crew, 155 people, escaped with only a few serious injuries.
It was the most successful ditching in aviation history known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.” 01-17-17
The Most Dangerous Bill You’ve Never Heard of Just Passed the House
Last, week, under the cover of a media bliss-out except among Koch funded right-wing channels, the House of Representatives passed a bill which would effectively repeal future standard setting under every important environmental, public health, consumer protection, labor standards, occupational safety and civil rights law on the books.
The bill, called the REINS Act, requires that any future major regulation adopted by an Executive Agency—say a new toxic chemical standard required by the recently enacted Chemical Safety Act, or a new consumer protection rule about some innovative but untested kind of food additive—must be approved by a specific resolution in each House of Congress within 70 days to take effect.
To give a sense of the scale of this road-block, in 2015 there were 43 such major federal regulations passed to protect the public; among them were food safety regulations, the Clean Power Plan regulating pollution from electrical generating facilities, net neutrality rules protecting the internet from monopoly, restrictions on predatory lending and energy efficiency standards for appliances. 01-10-17
‘It’s Outrageous’: EPA Acknowledges Proven Dangers of Bee-Killing Pesticides But Refuses to Restrict Them
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acknowledged for the first time on Thursday that three of the nation’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticides pose significant risks to commercial honey bees. But in a second decision, which represents a deep bow to the pesticide industry, the agency refused to restrict the use of any leading bee-killing pesticides despite broad evidence of their well-established role in alarming declines of pollinators.
The EPA analysis indicates that honey bees can be harmed by the widely-used pesticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam and dinetofuran. The agency also released an updated assessment for a fourth leading neonicotinoid—imidacloprid—showing that in addition to harms to pollinators identified last year, the pesticide can also harm aquatic insects. 01-13-17
Exxon Ordered to Fork Over 40 Years of Climate Research
“This affirms our authority to investigate fraud,” Healey tweeted after the decision. “ExxonMobil must come clean about what it knew about climate change.”
Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers told Reuters the company was “reviewing the decision to determine next steps.”
In June, the company filed a lawsuit at a federal court in Texas to block Healey’s investigation. However, a Texas judge later ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over an investigation in Massachusetts. 01-12-17
Shut ’em Down
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Monday that the state will close the facility, a short drive north of New York City, by April 2021.
The move is a victory for local environmental activists who had pushed for years to close the aging pair of nuclear reactors.
Indian Point sits in an especially precarious spot: right by the Hudson River in suburban Westchester County, near an active fault line, and uncomfortably close to some 20 million people in three states. It’s a glaring target for terrorists with a habit of leaking radioactive waste. 01-10-17
Tesla Flips Switch on Gigafactory to Accelerate World’s Transition to Renewable Energy
Elon Musk’s Master Plan to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy is becoming reality. Tesla and Panasonic have officially kicked off the mass production of lithium-ion battery cells at the massive Gigafactory outside Sparks, Nevada.
“Tesla’s mission is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles in addition to renewable energy generation and storage,” the company announced in a blog post on Wednesday. “At the heart of these products are batteries.”
The high-performance cylindrical “2170 cell” was jointly developed by Tesla and Panasonic engineers. The cells will be used for Tesla’s suite of battery storage products, the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, as well as the company’s mass-market electric car, the Model 3. 01-05-17
E.U. loophole counts wood energy as “carbon neutral.” It’s not.
As American foresters ramp up logging to meet the growing demand for wood pellets by power plants on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, a new European wood energy proposal would allow the power plants to continue claiming their operations are green for at least 13 more years, despite releasing more heat-trapping pollution than coal.
Most of the wood fueling converted coal plants in England, Denmark, and other European countries is coming from North American forests. Each month, about 1 million tons of tree trunks and branches from southern U.S. pine plantations and natural forests is being turned into pellets and shipped to European power plants, mostly to Drax power station in the U.K. 1-1-17
Trump EPA Nominee Scott Pruitt Would Trash Air And Water Safeguards
Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency gives lie to Donald Trump’s claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.
“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a November 22 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”
Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally. 1-3-17
Texas winegrowers fear new herbicides will wipe out industry
Competing against millions of acres of cotton, winegrowers fear federal approval of new herbicides to be used on genetically modified cotton seeds will wipe out the wine industry in the Texas High Plains.
As Paul Bonarrigo watched his grapevines dwindle, he was confident that heavy-duty herbicides, probably sprayed on crops by a nearby farmer, were drifting into his vineyards. For the past two years, his 44 acres in Hale County — once sprawling vineyards providing fruit for Bonarrigo’s Messina Hof Winery — have not produced any grapes as they wither from chemical damage.
Other Texas winegrowers have seen similar damage, and they blame it on dicamba and 2,4-D, two high-volatility herbicides commonly used on cereal crops, pastures and lawns. Now, the state’s vintners are alarmed that use of the chemicals may soon expand to include 3.7 million acres of cotton fields in the High Plains, where cotton is being invaded by weeds immune to the Roundup pesticide long used.
The wine industry contributed close to $2 billion to the Texas economy in 2013, according to a report by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. Bonarrigo said he thinks the industry is now in jeopardy.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently approved Monsanto’s new formulation, called XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, which contains dicamba. The agency has also proposed to register Enlist Duo, a Dow AgroSciences formulation that contains 2,4-D. 1-2-17
The Top-22 Air Polluters Revealed
A mere 100 facilities, out of 20,000, produced one third of U.S. industry’s toxic air pollution in 2014. Another 100 released one third of industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, among 7,000 installations that discharge the gas. And according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity that created the rankings, 22 “super-polluter” sites appeared on both lists (noted below). Many are coal-fired power plants, and some rank high because they are very large. This group is responsible for a significant chunk of U.S. industrial air pollution. 1-2-17