California recommends restrictions for popular pesticide
A foreman watches workers pick fruit in an orchard in Arvin, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
California regulators recommended new restrictions Thursday on a widely used pesticide blamed for harming the brains of babies.
The Department of Pesticide Regulation issued temporary guidelines for chlorpyrifos that include banning it from crop dusting, discontinuing its use on most crops and increasing perimeters around where it’s applied.
The DowDuPont pesticide currently used on about 60 different crops — including grapes, almonds and oranges — has increasingly come under fire from regulators, lawmakers and courts.
A federal appeals court in August ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to remove the pesticide from sale in the United States after it ruled the Trump administration endangered public health by reversing an Obama-era effort to ban the chemical. The EPA is appealing that 2-1 ruling to a full panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hawaii passed legislation in June that will ban the use of the pesticide in January.
An environmental group blasted the new recommendations as toothless and said California should be taking the pesticide off the market after scientists for three state agencies found it was toxic and couldn’t be safely used at any levels.
“Unfortunately, these are voluntary recommendations for local officials that have no weight of law behind them,” said Paul Towers of the Pesticide Action Network. “Instead of taking this brain-harming pesticide off the market, California officials are again passing the buck.” 11-15-18
Hormone-Disrupting Weed Killer Taints Tap Water for Millions in Corn Belt
Seasonal spikes of atrazine–a weed killer that can disrupt hormones and harm developing fetuses–contaminate drinking water in corn-growing areas of the Midwest and beyond, according to an analysis of federal records by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data show that in some Corn Belt communities, atrazine levels can spike three to seven times above the legal limit in late spring and early summer. But by avoiding water testing during peak periods, some water utilities stay in compliance with drinking water regulations—and don’t have to tell customers they were exposed to a hazardous chemical in their tap water.
“Our investigation found that nearly 30 million Americans have atrazine in their tap water,” said Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG senior science advisor for children’s environmental health. “But many may never know, because outdated federal policies allow utilities to test for atrazine before or after the spike.”
EWG’s investigation is the most comprehensive analysis to date of national data on the pervasive contamination of drinking water by this chemical. EWG found that last year, utilities in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio had atrazine spikes much higher than the federal legal limit of three parts per billion, or ppb. The two highest spikes were reported in Evansville, Ill., at 22 ppb, and Piqua, Ohio, at 16 ppb. 11-14-18
A soybean plant at the Arkansas Agricultural Research & Extension Center’s farm shows damage from dicamba. Agrochemical giant Monsanto has created genetically modified soybean seeds that are resistant to the weed killer, but other plants are susceptible.Credit: Beth Hall for the Food & Environment Reporting Network
Every August, Andrew Joyce used to hunker down in the field beside his house, picking juicy, ripe tomatoes in the blazing sun. He’d load them onto his golf cart, along with buckets of okra, squash and other summer crops, and zip over to the farm stand he runs with his wife, Sara, off a two-lane highway near the Arkansas border. Sara’s Produce fans would drive hours to stock up on the artisanal fare, grown amid the fields of soybeans and cotton that reach toward the horizon of Missouri’s Bootheel.
“Everybody brags on my stuff,” said Joyce, 58, a wistful pride crossing his bronzed, weathered face.
But now, he has nothing to sell.
Joyce leans against the greenhouse he’s building, hands in the pockets of his overalls, peering at the field where he started nearly 800 tomato plants in the spring. It was early August when the telltale signs of trouble emerged. The plants’ broad, flat leaves shriveled and curled, their branches twisted and buckled. Then blossom rot set in. Joyce knew they couldn’t be saved. He climbed onto his tractor and mowed down his bestselling crop – for the third year in a row.
The plague that struck Joyce’s farm in Malden, Missouri, was not a natural disaster, but a man-made weed killer called dicamba. Farmers had applied the drift-prone chemical sparingly for decades. But in the past two years, its use has grown exponentially, and now dicamba is destroying millions of acres of crops worth millions of dollars, pitting farmer against farmer and scientists against manufacturers. 11-13-18
The Zinke effect: how the US interior department became a tool of industry
Trump’s interior secretary has been remaking the agency charged with protecting public lands as an ally of big energy
Ryan Zinke has ushered in ‘dramatic change’ since taking over the interior department. Photograph: Molly Riley/AP
Since his first day on the job, when he surrounded himself with a National Park Service police escort and rode through Washington DC on a white-nosed horse named Tonto, the US interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, has exhibited a flair for ostentation.
Not long after taking office in March 2017, the new secretary started flying a special flag, adorned with the agency’s bison seal, above the interior department’s elegant New-Deal-era headquarters. At a cost of more than $2,000, he also commissioned commemorative coins emblazoned with his name to hand out to visitors and staff. He replaced the doors in his office to the tune of more than $130,000, and installed a hunting-themed arcade game in the department’s cafeteria.
Yet to some longtime civil servants working at interior headquarters, this flashy behavior was merely a distraction from graver concerns.
“There was a lot of eye-rolling and embarrassment about the flag and the horse and all of the ridiculousness,” said a former senior employee who left last year and requested anonymity for fear of retaliation. For some, the dominant emotional tenor at the time was “fear and anxiety” as Zinke and his team ushered in “dramatic change” at the interior department.
“All the new administration was interested in was their checklist for dismantling regulations and weakening environmental and land use protections,” said the former staffer. “Instead of asking why a senator or lobbyist or CEO was asking for a special favor and whether or not it was allowed under the law, this administration wanted to know why the special favor wasn’t already done and which deep state employee was standing in the way.” 11-12-18
While hundreds of sick laborers celebrate a verdict in Tennessee, the EPA is weakening rules to protect them.
The Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County, Tennessee. Credit: Brent Moore/Flickr
Ten years ago, environmental disaster struck Kingston, Tennessee. A dike containing massive amounts of coal waste burst, releasing 1.1 billion gallons of the heavy-metal sludge onto land and into waterways. It was the largest spill of coal ash slurry—a mixture of coal-burning byproduct and water—in United States history. The cleanup at the Kingston Fossil Plant took seven years.
Today, 30 of the laborers involved in the cleanup are dead. More than 250 are still sick. This isn’t a coincidence, they argue. The contractor they all worked for, Jacobs Engineering, “lied about the toxicity of coal ash, refused to provide them protective gear, threatened to fire them if they brought their own, [and] manipulated toxicity test results,” according to the workers’ lawsuit against the company.
On Wednesday, a federal jury ruled in the workers’ favor, finding that Jacobs Engineering “failed to ‘exercise reasonable care’ in keeping workers safe and, in its failures, likely caused the poisoning by coal ash of the laborers,” the KnoxvilleNews-Sentinelreported. The verdict means the plaintiffs can seek monetary damages to cover medical testing and treatment of everyone who worked on the cleanup. 11-08-18
The era of bipartisanship on climate is dead. Here’s what comes next.
As the results of the midterms continue to trickle in, one thing is clear: Bipartisan climate action in the U.S. is over.
For decades, there’s been the dream that one day, with the right coalition, the U.S. would pass a nationwide climate policy that could gently steer the country toward a clean energy future. The moderate coalition that might have supported such an effort is now in shambles: Pro-climate Republicans lost big last night. It’s an open question if there are even any Republicans left in Congress that would support bipartisan market-based climate policies (if there ever were).
With Democratic Majority, Climate Change Is Back on U.S. House Agenda
Fossil fuel supporters will still control the Senate, but the House will soon be able to turn a spotlight on climate change and Trump’s retreat from responsibility.
With their win of control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats will now have the numbers to put climate change issues back on the congressional agenda.
But the Republicans reinforced their firewall against any legislative efforts in the Senate by gaining at least two new members with poor records on confronting the climate crisis. That bolsters the power of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to block any measures unfavorable to the fossil fuel industries.
In the states, a pair of ballot initiatives that would have cut climate pollution—in Colorado and Washington—appeared to be headed for defeat after heavy spending by fossil fuel interests that opposed them. But some incoming governors have pledged more aggressive support for clean energy.
And in one House race after another, Republicans who have been out of step with the prevailing scientific consensus on climate change were replaced by Democrats committed to taking action. 11-07-18
The hottest fight in American politics? Arizona’s smackdown over solar power.
It is the hottest, most expensive campaign in Arizona this year — and it’s not the one for the U.S. Senate.
Kris Mayes, a Republican and former Arizona Corporation Commissioner, supports the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative. (Melissa Daniels/AP)
The battle — which has already cost nearly $54.7 million, or about $11.50 for every eligible voter — is over solar power. A ballot initiative would amend the Arizona constitution to require electric utilities to use renewable energy for 50 percent of their power generation by 2035.
With its abundance of sunshine, that should be an easy reach for Arizona. Yet the state gets only 6 percent of its energy from the sun.
The fiercest foe of the measure? Arizona’s biggest utility. Arizona Public Service, or APS, has poured $30.3 million into a political action committee called Arizonans for Affordable Electricity. In an aggressive ad campaign, the group asserts the measure would cost households an additional $1,000 a year.
On the other side is Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona, an alliance of about 50 organizations. In its corner is Tom Steyer, the billionaire investor and political activist from California who donated virtually all of the $23.6 million raised through the end of September. Only two Senate races this year, Texas and Florida, will feature more spending.
The battle has been ugly, replete with allegations of fraud, corruption and phony economic analyses. 11-02-18
Rural America’s Own Private Flint: Polluted Water Too Dangerous to Drink
Nitrates, a common farming byproduct from manure spreading, have been linked to an array of serious health risks. Credit: Lauren Justice for The New York Times
ARMENIA, Wis. — The groundwater that once ran cool and clean from taps in this Midwestern farming town is now laced with contaminants and fear. People refuse to drink it. They won’t brush their teeth with it. They dread taking showers.
Rural communities call it their own, private Flint— a diffuse, creeping water crisis tied to industrial farms and slack regulations that for years has tainted thousands of residential wells across the Midwest and beyond.
Now, fears and frustration over water quality and contamination have become a potent election-year issue, burbling up in races from the fissured bedrock here in Wisconsin to chemical-tainted wells in New Hampshire to dwindling water reserves in Arizona. President Trump’s actions to loosen clean water rules have intensified a battle over regulations and environmental protections unfolding on the most intensely local level: in people’s own kitchen faucets.
In Wisconsin and other Midwestern states where Republicans run the government, environmental groups say that politicians have cut budgets for environmental enforcement and inspections and weakened pollution rules. In Iowa, for example, the Republican-led Legislature dismissed a package of bills that would have blocked any new large-scale hog operations until the state cleaned up its nitrogen-laden rivers and streams. 11-03-18
Trump’s EPA concludes communities don’t have the right to know about potentially toxic emissions
Industry supporters describe potentially toxic emissions as “normal odors” from animal waste.
What factory farm owners portray as “normal odors” from animal waste can cause serious harm to farmers and the residents who live near these large industrial operations.
The Trump administration, like it has with many important health and safety rules, is siding with industry and ignoring how animal waste can have serious impacts on the health of Americans.
Embracing the “normal odor” argument, acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a proposed rule on Tuesday to amend emergency release notification regulations to let industrial agricultural operations off the hook from reporting air emissions from animal waste at their farms.
This is despite the mountain of evidence that shows concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) produce toxic air that can be lethal for farm workers and nearby residents. 10-31-18
Florida heat is already hard on outdoor workers. Climate change will raise health risks
Harvesting crops or building a house in the Florida sun is grueling work, and a new report shows that it’ll only get more miserable and unsafe for workers as climate change sends temperatures soaring.
By at least one safety standard, it was too hot for Floridians to do very heavy labor (like digging with a shovel) for at least an hour a day almost every single day this summer.
Unworkable, a report from Public Citizen and the Farmworker Association of Florida released Tuesday, spells out the risks to the state’s large population of outdoor workers, particularly construction and agricultural workers.
The Sunshine State has one of the highest rates of heat-related hospitalizations in the nation, according to the report. That number is likely an undercount, since strokes, heart attacks, asthma and even mental illnesses can be aggravated by high heat.
“You talk to farmworkers and they know it’s getting hotter. They feel it and they’re worried,” said Jeannie Economos, the environmental health project coordinator for the Farmworker Association of Florida. 10-31-18
How might environmental anxiety impact the midterm elections? Grist looked at the nation’s most competitive House races.
Earlier this fall, the world’s top climate scientists gave humanity about 10 years to avoid a future that really sucks. With the midterm elections right around the corner, that warning means voters are effectively deciding which candidates to trust with the keys to the climate. If voters are sufficiently worried about warming, that anxiety might help determine who is put in office.
According to Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, worry is a stronger predictor of policy support than other emotions. “We found that it’s not fear, it’s not anger, and it’s not disgust or guilt,” he explained. “Worry doesn’t hijack, doesn’t overwhelm, rationality. It can really spur it.”
Charles Benbrook: New study showing organic diets cut cancer risk is a big deal. Let’s treat it that way.
No study is perfect—but recent findings that organic food consumption cuts cancer risk highlights an opportunity to tackle a deadly, expensive health crisis
More than 1.7 million Americans will be newly diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and 35 percent of these cases will prove fatal.
A little less than $150 billion was spent fighting cancer in 2017.
Imagine the excitement that would accompany the discovery of anything — a new drug, therapy, diet, or lifestyle change — that promises to cut overall cancer frequency by 5 percent.
Every year, such a discovery would spare 87,000 people this most-feared diagnosis, and reduce deaths by 30,000 and cancer-related health care costs by around $7 billion.
Such monumental benefits would justify major investments and significant policy change.
Well, not necessarily.
There is a new paper in JAMA Internal Medicine by a team of French scientists that reports a 25 percent decrease in overall cancer risk from relatively high levels of organic food consumption, compared to little or no organic food consumption, in a large, prospective epidemiological study.
Sizable reductions in prevalence were also seen for breast cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), and all lymphomas. (Check out a written summary of the study methods or this 2-minute video focused on key findings). 10-29-18
Arctic Oil Drilling Project Approved by Trump Administration
The Trump administration’s unrelenting quest for Arctic oil and gas took a major step on Wednesday as it approved an energy company’s controversial production plan.
Hilcorp Alaska received the green light to build the Liberty Project, a nine-acre artificial drilling island and 5.6-mile underwater pipeline, which environmentalists warn could risk oil spills in the sensitive Beaufort Sea and threaten polar bears and Arctic communities.
Once built, it will be the first oil and gas production facility in federal waters off Alaska, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke boasted Wednesday in a press release.
“American energy dominance is good for the economy, the environment, and our national security,” Zinke said. “Responsibly developing our resources, in Alaska especially, will allow us to use our energy diplomatically to aid our allies and check our adversaries. That makes America stronger and more influential around the globe.”
“If this company can’t prevent or stop a gas leak in the Cook Inlet, it has no business in the Beaufort Sea,” Miyoko Sakashita, the oceans program director at the Center for Biological Diversity, wrote last year in a Medium post. 10-25-18
The study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine on Wednesday, said that even low-levels of organophosphate exposure can cause brain damage in children. The news comes as Trump‘s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently fighting a court order to ban just one of this class of toxic chemicals―the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
“We have compelling evidence from dozens of human studies that exposures of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides put children and foetuses at risk for developmental problems that may last a lifetime. By law, the EPA cannot ignore such clear findings: It’s time for a ban not just on chlorpyrifos, but all organophosphate pesticides,” study lead author and University of California, Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center Director Irva Hertz-Picciotto told The Guardian.
Children exposed to organophosphates in the womb have an increased risk for lowered IQ, reduced memory and attention and autism, the study found. To reach its conclusions, it drew on a UN database that includes 71 countries and cross referenced it with a wide variety of studies. 10-25-18
Another round of tests finds weedkiller widespread in popular cereals and snack bars
Credit: aka CJ/flickr
Glyphosate is in a bunch of popular cereals and oatmeals—but at levels below federal health standards. Experts say it’s difficult to estimate risk from the levels found but the report is still worrisome since children are consistently exposed.
Glyphosate— the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller—was found in all 28 samples of different cereals, oatmeal and snack bars tested by a lab for Environmental Working Group, according to a report released today.
The nonprofit health and environmental organization sent 10 samples of different types of General Mills’ Cheerios and 18 samples of different Quaker brand products from PepsiCo, including instant oatmeal, breakfast cereal and snack bars to Anresco Laboratories in San Francisco.
“People don’t want this pesticide on their food, especially in foods marketed to and consumed by children,” Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at EWG, told EHN.
The report comes two months after EWG reported glyphosate in 43 out of 45 samples of oat-based foods, including five foods that used “organic” oats. Since that report, glyphosate has been consistently in the news as last month a jury in California found Monsanto’s Roundup caused a groundskeeper’s cancer, and awarded him a settlement of $289 million. The damages were reduced to $78 million this week after Monsanto asked for a retrial, which wasn’t granted. 10-24-18
Finch Bay Hotel in the Galápagos obtained a new, fully electric transfer boat this year, Solar Ray, which is powered by four 370 W solar panels on the boat’s rooftop.
There’s nothing novel about vehicles using alternatives to the internal combustion engine, but solar and battery-powered boats are rarely in the conversation.
Electric vehicles are the talk of the town. Tesla has captured car drivers’ imaginations, delivering the speeds, distances, and style they desire. Battery-powered buses are increasingly in vogue, too. Even major cities—New York being one of the latest—are shifting to all-electric fleets. And the Solar Impulse is making the case for the sun’s might in aviation.
But what about boats? Experts say that the aquatic applications of solar are evolving faster than ever and that innovations in marine transportation will soon swing into the mainstream for everything from small crafts to cruise ships.
What held it back, though, were significant obstacles to adapting vessels for clean energy. Cracks in rigid and weighty solar panels and recurring damage to technology from the wet, wind, and salt of sea environments added to already high material costs. 10-22-18
What Local Climate Actions Would Have the Greatest Impact
In light of even more dire news about our warming planet, leading thinkers tell us the one thing cities and states could do to cut emissions significantly—and fast.
From left to right: Annise Parker (Courtesy of LGBTQ Victory Fund), Shelley Poticha ((Courtesy of NRDC), and Vishaan Chakrabarti (Courtesy of PAU).
A landmark report released by the U.N. last week has laid out the stakes of a warming planet more starkly than ever. Warming of just 1.5 degrees Celsius could bring on the most severe consequences of climate change, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
Many cities and states are leading the public charge to address this, particularly in the U.S. after President Donald Trump pulled out of the Paris climate accord. But it’s not yet clear what their tangible and collective impact has been.
So we asked some leading thinkers on local action and the environment: What is one thing a city or state could do to cut emissions significantly, fast?
Transit and transportation systems are significant contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions. There are immediate regulatory and organizational changes possible, to be followed by intermediate and long-term initiatives. Immediate actions: Cities have regulated tailpipe emissions, limited idling, and created car-free zones. They have eliminated subsidized parking for privately-owned vehicles and restricted parking availability for businesses. 10-17-18
The Environment Is on the November Ballot — Here’s Where and What’s at Stake
ALEX EDELMAN / AFP / Getty Images
Environmental issues such as polluted drinking water in Michigan and harmful algal blooms in Florida could influence which candidates voters will support in this November’s midterm election, said Holly Burke, communications coordinator of the League of Conservation Voters.
“Water issues really resonate with voters in states where clean water has been a dramatic problem,” said Burke.
These issues may affect certain political candidates, but in some states ballot measures will be a more direct way for residents to weigh in on environmental issues. For those hoping that statewide initiatives will help to combat environmental rollbacks at the federal level by the Trump administration, this election will be a crucial test.
The statewide ballot initiative with the greatest environmental significance will be decided by voters in Washington state, which could signal a shift in climate change strategy.
Two other western states will take on clean energy standards, and water issues will appear on the ballots in three states, including a confusing measure in Florida that pairs offshore drilling with an unrelated measure on vaping.
“We’re seeing a lot of support for states to take the lead in the light of federal attacks on clean energy and climate,” said Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters. 10-12-18
E.P.A. to Disband a Key Scientific Review Panel on Air Pollution
Traffic in Los Angeles. One critic said the E.P.A. was trying to “cut science out” of policy decisions.CreditCreditBrooks Kraft LLC/Corbis, via Getty Images
WASHINGTON — An Environmental Protection Agency panel that advises the agency’s leadership on the latest scientific information about soot in the atmosphere is not listed as continuing its work next year, an E.P.A. official said.
The 20-person Particulate Matter Review Panel, made up of experts in microscopic airborne pollutants known to cause respiratory disease, is responsible for helping the agency decide what levels of pollutants are safe to breathe. Agency officials declined to say why the E.P.A. intends to stop convening the panel next year, particularly as the agency considers whether to revise air quality standards.
Environmental activists criticized the move as a way for the Trump administration to avoid what they described as the panel’s lengthy but critical assessment of how much exposure to particulate matter is acceptable in the atmosphere.
“To me this is part of a pattern,” said Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science-oriented environmental nonprofit. “We’re seeing E.P.A. trying to cut science out of the process.” 10-11-18
One of oldest coal companies in US files for bankruptcy
FILE – This file photo taken May 25, 2013, shows an aerial view of Colstrip power plants 1,2,3 & 4 and the Westmoreland coal mines near Colstrip, Mont. Westmoreland Coal Co. of Englewood, Colo., filed for bankruptcy Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, to deal with steep debt and declining world demand. Company officials say the Chapter 11 filing is part of a restructuring agreement with an unnamed group of lenders. Company officials say operations won’t be interrupted and there are no expected staff reductions. Westmoreland has coal mines in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Ohio, North Dakota and Texas and a coal-fired power plant in North Carolina. (Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP, File) (Larry Mayer)
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — One of the oldest coal companies in the U.S. filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday to deal with more than $1.4 billion in debt amid declining demand for the fuel.
Englewood, Colorado-based Westmoreland Coal Co. filed for voluntary Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston as part of a restructuring agreement with an unnamed group of lenders.
Westmoreland, which operates mines across the U.S. and Canada, is the fourth major coal company to file for bankruptcy in the past three years, joining Peabody Energy Corp., Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.
Westmoreland officials said in a statement that operations won’t be interrupted and there are no expected staff reductions.
“After months of thoughtful and productive conversations with our creditors, we have developed a plan that allows Westmoreland to operate as usual while positioning Westmoreland for long-term success,” interim CEO Michael Hutchinson said in the statement.
Coal companies have struggled as demand drops due to a glut of cheap natural gas, the rise of renewable energy sources and plans by some states to reduce or eliminate coal from their energy portfolios.
There are no new coal plants being built in the U.S., and two major coal consumers, China and India, have canceled projects as they seek to reduce air pollution.
Westmoreland officials warned in August that declining industry conditions and significant debt “give rise to substantial doubt about our ability to pay our obligations as they come due,” according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Westmoreland has $770 million in assets and $1.4 billion in debt, according to the bankruptcy filing. One of its creditors is the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, which Westmoreland owes $1.8 million in royalties, according to the bankruptcy filing. 10-09-18
The world has just over a decade to get climate change under control, U.N. scientists say
“There is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of changes required, the body found.
The world stands on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels, and nations will need to take “unprecedented” actions to cut their carbon emissions over the next decade, according to a landmark report by the top scientific body studying climate change.
With global emissions showing few signs of slowing and the United States — the world’s second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide — rolling back a suite of Obama-era climate measures, the prospects for meeting the most ambitious goals of the 2015 Paris agreement look increasingly slim. To avoid racing past warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels would require a “rapid and far-reaching” transformation of human civilization at a magnitude that has never happened before, the group found.
“There is no documented historic precedent” for the sweeping change to energy, transportation and other systems required to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote in a report requested as part of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. 10-07-18
Mountain Valley Pipeline Construction Permit Revoked by Federal Court
Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Appalachian Trail Conservancy screenshot
Communities along the 300-mile proposed route for the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) heard some good news this week. On Tuesday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously voted to vacate a permit required by the Clean Water Act, which was previously issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The ruling stated the Army Corps lacked the authority to substitute one type of construction for another for the natural gas pipeline, which would crisscross rivers and other sensitive aquatic ecosystems hundreds of times between northern West Virginia and southern Virginia.
MVP is one of two pipelines (the other is the Atlantic Coast Pipeline) that have drummed up fierce public backlash across the region. Concerned residents have been peacefully protesting the projects for months, sometimes among the trees they would be helping to save. 10-04-18
Environmental Negligence vs. Civil Rights: Black and Hispanic Communities Get More Pollution, Fewer Jobs
One of President Donald Trump‘s stated justifications for rolling back environmental regulations has been to bring back jobs in highly-polluting industries like coal.
But a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday found that, for “communities of racial/ethnic minorities,” welcoming polluting industries for the sake of employment is a tradeoff that doesn’t make any sense. Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. are both less frequently employed at industrial facilities and more likely to be exposed to toxic air pollution from these sites.
“The share of pollution risk accruing to minority groups generally exceeds their share of employment and greatly exceeds their share of higher paying jobs. In aggregate, we find no evidence that facilities that create higher pollution risk for surrounding communities provide more jobs,” the study concluded.
By the numbers, black Americans hold 10.8 percent of the jobs at industrial facilities, but suffer 17.4 percent of the exposure to air pollution. Hispanics hold 9.8 percent of the jobs, but suffer 15 percent of the pollution exposure. Both populations have less than seven percent of the high-paying jobs offered at industrial sites, U.S. News & World Report reported. 10-02-18
How Brett Kavanaugh Could Help Trump Weaken Mercury Pollution Regulations
The president wants to let coal plants emit more of the neurotoxin. The Supreme Court nominee’s views on the subject are already clear.
How much mercury should coal plants be allowed to emit? There’s been a years-long fight in Washington, D.C., over that very question—and who wins it may ultimately depend on whether Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and particularly dangerous to the brains of developing fetuses and young children. Thus, say Democrats, environmentalists, and public health professionals, its release into the atmosphere should be severely restricted. Back in 2011, the Obama administration attempted to do just that, proposing the first-ever federal limits on toxic heavy metal pollution from coal plants.
But Republicans, the coal industry, and President Donald Trump, citing the costs of regulatory compliance, argue for looser regulations. To that end, the Environmental Protection Agency soon will unveil a proposal to “dramatically weaken” and potentially repeal Obama’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS), according to The New York Times.
A few things inevitably will happen when the Trump administration officially unveils its proposal to weaken MATS. Environmental groups will file a lawsuit arguing that the move violates the Clean Air Act. The lawsuit will be heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—where Kavanaugh currently serves. Finally, that court’s decision will be appealed to the Supreme Court. If Kavanaugh is sitting on the Supreme Court come that time, it’s almost certain Trump’s proposal would be upheld because the justification for it echoes a dissenting opinion Kavanaugh wrote four years ago. 10-01-18