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Donald J. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Trump is a danger to America all Americans. Trump is destroying our lands, our air, our water and our Democracy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump has reduced or removed protections that protect our lands, our air and or water this will have long-term consequences for future generations.Trump wants to remove the EPA the very agency that was put into place to protect Americans from air pollution, water pollution and protect our lands. Trump has removed protections put in place that protect Americans from air pollution and water pollution, while reducing access to health care. Reducing access to health care and reducing air and water standards will harm some Americans and will kill others.Our lands, our air and our water will become more polluted and people will get sick and some will die from polices of Trump and the GOP. Trump and GOP polices will cause more Americans to get sick from bad air and bad water and some will die, that is not putting Americans first, that is putting business first, Americans second. That is not protecting Americans; it is putting the health of Americans at risk to help business owners make a few dollars more.While a few business owners get rich, America and everyday Americans lives are put at risk from the polluted air we can’t breathe, the polluted water we cannot drink to the polluted lands we cannot use.
By Jeff Peterson, opinion contributorWhen asked about climate change and the environment in the first presidential debate, President Trump stated, “I want crystal clean water and air.” As we mark the 48th anniversary of the 1972 Clean Water Act on Oct. 18, the president’s words ring hollow. For most of the past 48 years, the Clean Water Act produced dramatic improvements in the quality of our nation’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters. But problems persist: In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that 46 percent of rivers and streams were in poor condition, contaminated with pollutants. That was also true of 21 percent of lakes and 14 percent of coastal waters.Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s unrelenting rollback of clean water protections is stalling progress toward fixing these problems and endangering a half-century’s worth of gains. Let’s start with the budget. One core element of our nation’s commitment to clean water is federal funding to states to construct sewage treatment plants. For FY 2021, the president proposed to cut this funding by 32 percent. This cut would come at a time when the need for clean water infrastructure is estimated to be $271 billion. Worse, this reduction is in the context of a potentially devastating overall cut to the EPA budget in FY 2021 of 27 percent.Enforcement is essential to meeting the Clean Water Act’s goal of “fishable and swimmable” waterways. But a new study looked at 14 years of data and reported a 70 percent decrease in Clean Water Act prosecutions under Trump. Report authors concluded, “It is hard to overstate the significance” of this decrease, speculating that one explanation may be “uncertainty about the jurisdictional reach of the Clean Water Act” resulting from Trump administration regulatory changes to narrow the scope of waters protected by the act. more...
Uncertainty, hostility and irrelevance are now part of daily life for scientists at the US Environmental Protection Agency.Jeff TollefsonThe day Donald Trump took office as US president, the mood was sombre at the main research campus of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Durham, North Carolina. As scientists arrived for work, they saw pictures of former president Barack Obama and the previous EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy, coming down off the walls. Researchers had reason to be anxious: Trump had threatened many times during his campaign to shutter the EPA, and he had already taken steps along that path. Weeks before he moved into the White House, Trump had nominated Scott Pruitt to head the agency — a man who had spent his career filing lawsuits to block a variety of EPA regulations.When Trump put his hand on the Bible to take the oath of office on 20 January 2017, many EPA scientists kept their heads down. They wondered who might be fired first, and they warned each other to censor their e-mails, for fear that the new administration would monitor communications for any comments criticizing it. Dan Costa wasn’t so worried. After nearly 32 years working at the EPA, he had seen the agency weather many political storms, and he had not lost sleep over the prospect of working for Pruitt and Trump. When inauguration day came, Costa streamed Trump’s speech on his computer and went straight back to work. more...
Oklahoma attorney-general Scott Pruitt has sought to reverse federal limits on greenhouse-gas emissions and air pollution.Jeff TollefsonPresident-elect Donald Trump has chosen Oklahoma attorney-general Scott Pruitt to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt, who must be confirmed by the US Senate, is an ardent opponent of federal regulations to curb climate change and has questioned the science underlying global warming. He is one of dozens of state officials who have mounted a legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants — regulations that Trump has promised to repeal.That case is pending review by the US Supreme Court. If the court agrees to hear the case, the outcome could hinge on whom Trump nominates to fill a vacancy on the nine-member panel of judges. Some experts say that the EPA itself could also seek to repeal the regulations after Trump takes office. In May, Pruitt made his views on climate science clear in a guest editorial in the National Review that he wrote with Alabama attorney-general Luther Strange. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” the pair wrote. “That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime.”Strong reactionsEnvironmentalists blasted Trump for choosing Pruitt, whom they say has put the interests of the fossil-fuel industry before those of the environment and the people of Oklahoma. As well as challenging Obama’s climate regulations, Pruitt has sued the EPA to halt a series of regulations intended to keep air and water clean. In doing so, he has often worked in concert with the same oil, gas and coal companies that he would regulate as EPA chief. more...
Jeff BradyDespite opposition from the oil and gas industry it aims to help, the Trump administration is rolling back an Obama-era rule designed to reduce climate-warming methane emissions. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas. But when it's released before it burns, say from a leaky valve at a drilling site, it's far more potent than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the oil and gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions in the United States. The Trump administration rule would eliminate a 2016 requirement that oil and gas companies monitor and limit methane leaks from wells, compressor stations and other operations.Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the change in Pittsburgh, the heart of gas drilling region in Pennsylvania, a state that voted for Trump in 2016 but is leaning Democratic this year. Wheeler said the new rules deliver on President Trump's 2017 executive order to promote energy independence and economic growth. "EPA has been working hard to fulfill President Trump's promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry," he said.
The weakening of Obama-era efforts to fight climate change amounts to a gift to many oil companies. Researchers warn that the decision ignores science.By Coral DavenportWASHINGTON — The Trump administration formally weakened a major climate-change regulation on Thursday — effectively freeing oil and gas companies from the need to detect and repair methane leaks — even as new research shows that far more of the potent greenhouse gas is seeping into the atmosphere than previously known. The rollback of the last major Obama-era climate rule is a gift to many beleaguered oil and gas companies, which have seen profits collapse from the Covid-19 pandemic. But it comes as scientists say that the need to rein in methane leaks at fossil fuel wells nationwide has become far more urgent, and new studies indicate that the scale of methane pollution could be driving the planet toward a climate crisis faster than expected. Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced at an event in Pittsburgh on Thursday that he had completed the legal process of lifting the methane regulation. He was speaking in a city at the heart of the nation’s natural-gas boom, and in a state that will be critical to winning this fall’s presidential election. “E.P.A. has been working hard to fulfill President Trump’s promise to cut burdensome and ineffective regulations for our domestic energy industry,” he said. “Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses.”
By Rachel FrazinA group of former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) employees has released a report condemning the direction the agency has gone under President Trump. In the report released early Thursday, the group called Save EPA wrote that the Trump administration has been relentless in its efforts to “roll back public health and environmental protections, weaken enforcement of those protections, and cripple EPA’s capacity to address new and existing problems.” “Virtually all the changes that Trump has made have one thing in common: They help polluters and harm the public, now and in the future,” the report said. The report also documented what it described as a “slowing down” of enforcement. It said that in 2018, the number of inspections or evaluations to determine legal compliance was less than 60 percent of the annual average since 2001 and that the number of criminal cases opened was about a third of the levels reported between 2008 and 2013. It particularly critiqued the EPA’s actions with regard to climate change and pollution controls and its handling of science and laid out dozens of changes made by the agency over the past several years. “When it comes to setting back public health and environmental protection, Trump has been relentlessly thorough,” said a statement from Ellen Kurlansky, a former analyst in the EPA’s clean air program and report co-author.
By Rachel FrazinWhen the chemical company Brenntag received a fine in 2017, the National Association of Chemical Distributors asked for help from two new Trump administration appointees who previously worked in chemical lobbying, according to emails obtained by The Hill through a Freedom of Information Act request. The two appointees were Mandy Gunasekara, a former NACD lobbyist who is now chief of staff at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Nancy Beck, former president of the American Chemistry Council. Beck, now detailed at the White House, has been nominated by President Trump to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Brenntag was ultimately fined, although the penalty it received was roughly 20 percent lower than the one initially proposed by the EPA. Documents state that the EPA had originally proposed a $19,410 penalty. It was eventually settled for $15,591 according to an EPA spokesperson. While former EPA officials told The Hill they didn’t think the changed settlement figure was out of the ordinary, the correspondence between an industry executive and former industry officials who landed jobs in the administration underscores what critics say is a cozy relationship between business groups and Trump officials. In one 2017 exchange, NACD Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Jennifer Gibson asked Beck and Gunasekara to “assist” with a settlement that followed an alleged failure by Brenntag to certify a certain chemical on an official report.
By Devan Cole, CNNWashington (CNN) The Environmental Protection Agency will not regulate perchlorate, a water contaminant that "has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage, The New York Times reported Thursday. The Times, citing conversations with people familiar with the matter, said the agency plans to acknowledge that the chemical, "can cause I.Q. damage," but will not issue a regulation for it. The decision appears to defy an earlier court order requiring the agency to produce guidance for the chemical by June, the Times reported. While the chemical can occur naturally, high concentrations of perchlorate have been found in more than two dozen states, usually near "military installations where it has been used as an additive in rocket fuel, making propellants more reliable," the Times said. A spokesperson for the EPA said in a statement to CNN that the agency "has not yet made a final decision" on the potential regulation and that it plans to send the White House its final action "shortly" for review. Agency employees told the Times that it plans to tell the White House in its forthcoming notice that it's "not in the public interest" to control the chemical. The Obama administration had announced plans to regulate the chemical in 2011, and the new decision would revoke an Obama-era finding that the chemical "presents serious health risks to between 5 million and 16 million people and should be regulated," the Times reported. In doing so, the administration will point to recent studies that claim "concentrations of the chemical in water must be at higher levels than previously thought in order to be considered unsafe." The decision comes as the administration continues to grapple with the deadly coronavirus pandemic and represents just the latest move by federal officials not to advance environmental regulations in the midst of the crisis. CNN reported earlier this month that the Trump administration, amid the pandemic, has also continued its quest to limit restrictions on the fossil fuel industry, which is the source of much of the pollution that a recent study said is linked to severe cases of coronavirus.
The ninth circuit court of appeals is being asked to overturn the EPA’s approval of a Monsanto herbicide that is allegedly a threat to farm crops across the USBy Carey GillamThe US Environmental Protection Agency is due in federal court on Tuesday to answer allegations that it broke the law to support a Monsanto system that has triggered “widespread” crop damage over the last few summers and continues to threaten farms across the country. As farmers prepare to plant a new season of key American food crops, farmer and consumer groups are asking the ninth circuit court of appeals in San Francisco to review and overturn the EPA’s approval of a Monsanto herbicide made with a chemical called dicamba. The allegations are from the National Family Farm Coalition, which represents tens of thousands of farmers across the US, and three non-profit consumer and environmental groups. They have been granted an expedited review of their legal petition and hope for a ruling that would block use of the herbicide this summer. The court hearing, which is to be handled by phone due to the coronavirus closing of California courthouses, comes just a month after the office of inspector general for the EPA said it would open an investigation into the agency’s handling of dicamba herbicides. Farmers have reported dicamba damage in both organic and conventional crops, including non-GMO soybeans, wheat, grapes, melons, vegetables and tobacco. A Missouri peach farmer won a $265m verdict in February against Monsanto and German chemical giant BASF after accusing the companies of creating a “defective” crop system that damaged 30,000 peach trees. The Guardian reported last month that internal Monsanto documents obtained through the peach farmer litigation revealed that Monsanto predicted its dicamba crop system would lead to thousands of damage claims from US farmers but pushed ahead anyway, trying to downplay the risks to the EPA.EPA approvalThe crop system in question was developed by Monsanto with help from BASF to encourage farmers to buy dicamba herbicides and spray them over the top of new genetically engineered soybean and cotton crops developed by Monsanto to tolerate dicamba. The altered crops survive dicamba spray but weeds die, making it easier for farmers to eradicate weeds resistant to other herbicides such as Monsanto’s glyphosate. Before the introduction of Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant cotton in 2015 and soybeans in 2016, farmers were largely restricted from using dicamba during the growing season because the chemical can easily drift and vaporize, traveling long distances from where it is sprayed. But the release of the new dicamba-tolerant crops upended that restraint and the EPA subsequently approved “new use” dicamba products sold by Monsanto, BASF and Corteva Agriscience for treating fields planted with the genetically engineered cotton and soybeans.
By Rachel FrazinA federal court on Tuesday struck down the Trump administration’s move to suspend an Obama-era rule that restricted the use of a powerful greenhouse gas, saying the Trump administration did not follow the proper procedure. After the court ruled in 2017 that part of a rule regarding the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) was too far-reaching, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suspended the entire rule without giving the public time to weigh in. A federal court in Washington, D.C., determined in a 2-1 decision that this was unlawful and reversed the EPA’s 2018 action. “EPA had several options by which it could have attempted to address the perceived difficulties associated with implementing our decision,” wrote Judge Sri Srinivasan. “But the one option EPA could not permissibly pursue was the one it chose: promulgating a legislative rule without abiding by notice-and-comment requirements and without invoking any exception to those obligations,” Srinivasan, an Obama appointee, added. Trump appointee Neomi Rao dissented, writing that the agency had “simply interpreted the immediate and necessary consequences of our decision.” The Obama rule in question would have phased down the use of HFCs in appliances. The chemicals are often used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
By Rebecca BeitschThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a sweeping suspension of its enforcement of environmental laws Thursday, telling companies they would not need to meet environmental standards during the coronavirus outbreak. The temporary policy, for which EPA has set no end date, would allow any number of industries to skirt environmental laws, with the agency saying it will not “seek penalties for noncompliance with routine monitoring and reporting obligations.” Cynthia Giles, who headed EPA’s Office of Enforcement during the Obama administration, called it a moratorium on enforcing the nation's environmental laws and an abdication of EPA’s duty. “This EPA statement is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules for the indefinite future. It tells companies across the country that they will not face enforcement even if they emit unlawful air and water pollution in violation of environmental laws, so long as they claim that those failures are in some way 'caused' by the virus pandemic. And it allows them an out on monitoring too, so we may never know how bad the violating pollution was,” she wrote in a statement to The Hill. “EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. In a 10-page letter to EPA earlier this week, the American Petroleum Institute (API) asked for a suspension of rules that require repairing leaky equipment as well as monitoring to make sure pollution doesn’t seep into nearby water. Other industries had also asked to ignite the “force majeure” clauses of any legal settlements they had signed with EPA, allowing for an extension on deadlines to meet various environmental goals in the face of unforeseen circumstances. But Giles and others say the memo signed Thursday goes beyond that request, giving industries board authority to pollute with little overnight from the agency.
By Rebecca BeitschThe Trump administration's plans for addressing vehicle emissions may not be as good for society as an Obama administration rule, according to a review released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) independent science board. The analysis from the Science Advisory Board (SAB) found “significant weaknesses in the scientific analysis” of the 2018 Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles rule. The Trump administration has argued that reducing fuel economy requirements will allow automakers to produce more affordable cars. As customers replace older gas guzzlers with new cars, officials argued, overall emissions output will decline. Those new emissions targets would be rolled out alongside a measure that would freeze average fuel economy at 37 miles per gallon (mpg) by 2026 rather than the 54.5 mpg ordered by the Obama administration. But the Trump administration's analysis of the U.S. vehicle market and the costs and benefits of the rule was flawed because it overestimated the positive outcome of a rule significantly weaker than what it replaces, the SAB said in its report. “Together with other problems and inconsistencies, the issues are of sufficient magnitude that the estimated net benefits of the proposed revision may be substantially overstated,” the report said. “The standards in the 2012 [Obama-era] rule might provide a better outcome for society than the proposed revision.”
The Trump administration’s attempt to kill one of America’s strongest climate policies has been a complete debacle.by Robinson MeyerANN ARBOR, Mich.—On a drizzly day in January 2018, Jeff Alson, an engineer at the Environmental Protection Agency’s motor-vehicles office, gathered with his colleagues to make a video call to Washington, D.C. They had made the same call dozens of times before. For nearly a decade, the EPA team had worked closely with another group of engineers in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA, pronounced nits-uh) to write the federal tailpipe-pollution standards, one of the most consequential climate protections in American history. The two teams had done virtually all the technical research—testing engines in a lab, interviewing scientists and automakers, and overseeing complex economic simulations—underpinning the rules, which have applied to every new car and light truck, including SUVs and vans, sold in the United States since 2012. Their collaboration was historic. Even as SUVs, crossovers, and pickups have gobbled up the new-car market, the rules have pushed the average fuel economy—the distance a vehicle can travel per gallon of gas—to record highs. They have saved Americans $500 billion at the pump, according to the nonpartisan Consumer Federation of America, and kept hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution out of the air. So as the call connected, Alson and the other EPA engineers thought it was time to get back to work. Donald Trump had recently ordered a review of the rules. Speaking from Washington, James Tamm, the NHTSA fuel-economy chief, greeted the EPA team, then put a spreadsheet on-screen. It showed an analysis of the tailpipe rules’ estimated costs and benefits. Alson had worked on this kind of study so many times that he could recall some of the key numbers “by heart,” he later told me. Yet as Alson looked closer, he realized that this study was like none he had seen before. For years, both NHTSA and the EPA had found that the tailpipe rules saved lives during car accidents because they reduced the weight—and, with it, the lethality—of the heaviest SUVs. In 2015, an outside panel of experts concurred with them. But this new study asserted the opposite: The Obama-era rules, it claimed, killed almost 1,000 people a year. “Oh my God,” Alson said upon seeing the numbers. The other EPA engineers in the room gasped and started to point out other shocking claims on Tamm’s slide. (Their line was muted.) It seemed as if every estimated cost had ballooned, while every estimated benefit had shrunk. Something in the study had gone deeply wrong.
By ANNIE SNIDERThe Trump administration on Thursday signed its long-promised regulation to remove millions of miles of streams and roughly half the country’s wetlands from federal protection, the largest rollback of the Clean Water Act since the modern law was passed in 1972. The move delivers a major win for the agriculture, homebuilding, mining, and oil and gas industries, which have for decades sought to shrink the scope of the water law that requires them to obtain permits to discharge pollution into waterways or fill in wetlands, and imposes fines for oil spills into protected waterways.Those industries had fiercely fought an Obama-era regulation that cemented broad protections for headwater streams, which are at the beginning of the river network, as well as certain wetlands. President Donald Trump, whose golf courses and other businesses had fought with regulators over Clean Water Act permits, has lambasted that rule as "disastrous" and his administration repealed it last year.Here are six things to know about the new regulation, known as the Navigable Waters Protection Rule:1) It goes beyond overturning Obama to erase protections that have been in place for decadesThe Trump administration has made a point of rolling back environmental rules put in place by its predecessor, accusing the Obama administration of federal overreach. But the new regulation goes much beyond repealing the Obama-era rule, unwinding the previous rules that have been in place to protect headwater streams and wetlands since the 1970s and ‘80s.2) It drew complaints from EPA's own advisersThe Trump administration issued the rule despite concerns raised by EPA’s outside scientific advisers, who issued a draft report in late December that said the proposed version of the rule was “in conflict with established science … and the objectives of the Clean Water Act.” The criticism was particularly notable given that the majority of the board members were handpicked by the Trump administration.3) Half the country's wetlands could lose protectionWetlands, the in-between zone separating water and land, serve a crucial role in soaking up flood waters, filtering pollution and providing habitat to fish and wildlife. Despite a goal by President Ronald Reagan to have "no net loss" of wetlands, the U.S. has drained or filled in the lion's share of its marshes and bogs, and is continuing on a downward trend.
By Colin DwyerThe Trump administration has lifted a ban on the U.S. military's use of anti-personnel land mines outside of the Korean Peninsula. In a statement released Friday, the White House said the ban — implemented under the Obama administration — interfered with the president's "steadfast commitment to ensuring our forces are able to defend against any and all threats." "The Department of Defense has determined that restrictions imposed on American forces by the Obama Administration's policy could place them at a severe disadvantage during a conflict against our adversaries," said press secretary Stephanie Grisham. "The President is unwilling to accept this risk to our troops." In its statement, the administration said a new Defense Department policy will lay out how and when, "in exceptional circumstances," U.S. military commanders can deploy land mines equipped with self-destruct/self-deactivation mechanisms. The announcement represents a break with the scores of countries around the world that have banned the weapon's use. More than 160 countries, including NATO allies the U.K. and France, are party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction — better known as the Mine Ban Treaty, agreed on in 1997 and implemented in 1999. But the U.S. has never been among them. Despite President Clinton's 1994 call for the weapon's elimination, and despite the Obama administration's 2014 decision to largely ban their use, Washington has been reluctant to attach itself to the agreement.
Contact: Alex FormuzisWASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed its claims today that the active ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s carcinogenic weedkiller Roundup is safe, ignoring a growing body of independent research showing a strong connection between glyphosate and cancer in humans. “Today’s announcement underscores that the Trump administration’s willful ignorance of science and abject fealty toward the chemical pesticide industry knows no bounds,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “No American should believe for a second that Trump and EPA chief Andrew Wheeler ever give a thought to whether their policies could harm public health.” Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Bayer-Monsanto’s Roundup, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. It is largely used as a weedkiller on genetically modified corn and soybeans. But it is increasingly being used for crop management and applied pre-harvest to a number of non-genetically engineered crops, including oats. Last year, a report in Environmental Sciences Europe documented how the EPA ignored a large number of independent, peer-reviewed studies that link glyphosate to cancer in humans. Instead, the report found, the EPA used research paid for by Monsanto to support the agency’s position that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. Since 2018, three separate juries found glyphosate caused cancer in four California residents who were exposed to the herbicide while handling Roundup, and awarded multimillion-dollar damages to the plaintiffs. There are now more than 13,400 similar cases against Bayer. Last April, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released an analysis that gave weight to studies connecting glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and recommended monitoring children’s exposure to the toxic weedkiller.
The math in the draft rule doesn't add up to its supposed need, one senator says.By Kate CoxThe Trump administration has for several years been working to weaken federal vehicle fuel-efficiency standards. To justify these changes, regulatory agencies argued that more stringent standards would both cost consumers more and reduce road safety. A draft version of the new final rule, however, seems to directly contradict those lines of reasoning.The draft of the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule has not been released publicly, but Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) has seen it. In a letter (PDF) to the White House, Carper says not only is the rule "replete with numerous questionable legal, procedural, and technical assertions," as well as "apparent typographical and other errors," but it also completely fails to provide the safety or economic benefits initially claimed.Why SAFE?The SAFE rule is part of a back-and-forth that hasn't literally been going on since the dawn of time, but it kind of feels that way. The kerfuffle all began in 2012 when the Obama administration adopted a fuel-economy standard that would gradually increase the average miles-per-gallon rating for most cars to 54.5mpg by 2025 (about 40mpg under real-world conditions). The Environmental Protection Agency finalized that standard in December 2016.
By Oliver MilmanRollback of clean water protections for streams and wetlands. Obama-era rules have long been targeted by Trump. The Trump administration has completed its rollback of environmental protections for streams, wetland and other bodies of water, a process that has stripped pollution safeguards from drinking water sources used by around a third of all Americans. Clean water protections strengthened under the Obama administration have long been targeted by Donald Trump, who has called it a “very destructive and horrible rule”. Trump has been backed by ranchers, farming groups and golf course operators, who claim the so-called “Water of the United States” (Wotus) rule impinged upon landowners’ rights.The Obama-era water rule was repealed last year and on Thursday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a weakened replacement that removes millions of miles of streams and around half of America’s wetlands from federal oversight, potentially allowing pesticides and other pollutants to be dumped into them without penalty. The move has dismayed former EPA staff who worked on the expansion of protections to ephemeral streams that supply drinking water to an estimated 117 million people in the US.
By Coral DavenportWASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens. From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.The new water rule will remove federal protections from more than half the nation’s wetlands, and hundreds of thousands of small waterways. That would for the first time in decades allow landowners and property developers to dump pollutants such as pesticides and fertilizers directly into many of those waterways, and to destroy or fill in wetlands for construction projects. “This will be the biggest loss of clean water protection the country has ever seen,” said Blan Holman, a lawyer specializing in federal water policy at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This puts drinking water for millions of Americans at risk of contamination from unregulated pollution. This is not just undoing the Obama rule. This is stripping away protections that were put in place in the ’70s and ’80s that Americans have relied on for their health.” Mr. Holman also said that the new rule exemplifies how the Trump administration has dismissed or marginalized scientific evidence. Last month, a government advisory board of scientists, many of whom were handpicked by the Trump administration, wrote that the proposed water rule “neglects established science.”
By Anna M. PhillipsStaff WriterDefying environmentalists and public health advocates, the Trump administration on Thursday will announce the replacement of Obama-era water protections with a significantly weaker set of regulations that lifts limits on how much pollution can be dumped into small streams and wetlands. The changes to the Clean Water Act’s protections are expected to hit California and other Western states especially hard. Federal data suggest 81% of streams in the Southwest would lose long-held protections, including tributaries to major waterways that millions of people rely on for drinking water. Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to announce the new rules in Las Vegas at a conference of the National Association of Home Builders — one of the industry groups that pushed for loosening clean water rules.
Trump is rolling back over 80 environmental regulations. Here are five big changes you might have missed in 2019By Emma NewburgerPresident Donald Trump has taken historically unprecedented action to roll back a slew of environmental regulations that protect air, water, land and public health from climate change and fossil fuel pollution. The administration has targeted about 85 environmental rules, according to Harvard Law School’s rollback tracker. Existing environment regulations are meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions, protect land and animals from oil and gas drilling and development, as well as limit pollution and toxic waste runoff into the country’s water. The administration views many of them as onerous to fossil fuel companies and other major industries.
“Vague appeals to transparency do not warrant the agency impairing its use of quality science," one critic says.By Brady DennisThe Environmental Protection Agency is pushing forward with a policy that could limit the science the agency uses to underpin regulations, a change long sought by conservatives but derided by many scientists and public health experts as an effort to stifle reliance on research into the harmful effects of pollution on Americans.The agency in recent days submitted an updated version of its Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science rule to officials at the Office of Management and Budget. If OMB approves, the next step would be to seek public comment, signaling that the EPA intends to finalize the controversial proposal in 2020.The effort first gained traction when then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pushed for the changes during a high-profile announcement in April 2018. He called it a move toward greater transparency that would increase Americans’ trust and confidence in the research on which the EPA bases major decisions.The new rule would allow the EPA to consider only studies where the underlying data is made available. Critics say that would restrict the use of research that includes sensitive personal data and hamstring the agency’s ability to protect Americans from toxic chemicals, air pollution and other risks.In the annals of science, there aren’t many reports that had as much of an impact as Harvard’s Six Cities Study of 1993. The administration’s proposal, critics add, could prevent the use of such landmark research, which showed a stark association between long-term exposure to air pollution and higher risk of premature death. That work has influenced government pollution standards that research shows have saved thousands of lives. Full Story
By DANIEL LIPPMANThe Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general is investigating whether chief of staff Ryan Jackson was involved in destroying internal documents that should have been retained, according to two people familiar with the matter. The IG's office is asking witnesses whether Jackson has routinely destroyed politically sensitive documents, including schedules and letters from people like lobbyist Richard Smotkin, who helped arrange a trip for then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to Morocco when he was in office, according to one of the sources, a former administration official who told investigators he has seen Jackson do that firsthand.The previously unreported allegations add to the controversy around Jackson, a former aide to Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) who has been at EPA since the early days of the Trump administration. EPA's internal watchdog accused Jackson earlier this week of refusing to cooperate with other ongoing investigations. Jackson was put on notice that the document destruction was improper, something the former official said he discussed earlier this year with an official from the IG’s office.“They would scold us on a daily basis and Ryan would say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know, we’ll do better next time,’" the former official said. Jackson told POLITICO he was “unaware” of the IG investigating him for destroying documents. He didn't respond to a further request for comment. Michael Abboud, an EPA spokesperson, disputed the allegations, noting that a previous investigation had not found evidence of illegal document destruction at the agency.“Even the National Archives have publicly stated these claims are ‘unsubstantiated,'" Abboud said in a statement. "Politico choosing to run this story on the baseless claims of one disgruntled former employee does not make it true. EPA takes record retention seriously and trains all employees (career and political) on proper protocols and will continue to follow them.”The interest in whether Jackson destroyed records may indicate renewed interest in allegations that Pruitt kept a "secret calendar" to hide controversial meetings with Republican donors or industry officials. In July 2018, CNN reported that Pruitt aides would regularly "scrub" his calendar, but a subsequent investigation by the National Archives and Records Administration ended in January and found no evidence of wrongdoing. Full Story
Trump Administration's Repeal of Clean Water Rule Raises Contamination Fears: 'Distinct Probability That Human Health Will Be Compromised'By Rosie McCallLast week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it plans to roll back clean water regulations initiated under the Obama administration as part of the Clean Water Act (CWA)—a move that could end up increasing the amount of toxins entering waterways used for drinking water. A study published on Thursday in Heliyon highlights the dangers increased levels of carcinogenic chemicals in the nation's drinking water supply could cause, with researchers concluding contaminated water could be responsible for more than 100,000 cases of cancer across the U.S. The EPA has announced the repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule defining "waters of the United States" (a description referring to wetlands, streams and other bodies of water that had previously been largely unregulated), and currently applies to 22 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. Their motivation for doing so—at least, in writing—was to "eliminate the ongoing patchwork of regulation" until a revision of the definition for "waters of the United States" can be made. What this means in practical terms is that farmers will not have to seek a permit to use pesticides and fertilizers that risk running into waterways that may later be used as drinking waters. That, in turn, has the potential to increase the risk of cancer and other diseases—although to what extent is hard to say. "The CWA is critical for maintaining and improving the quality of water that is used for municipal, industrial and agricultural purposes. The adage "clean water in = clean water out" is paramount," Kellogg Schwab, the Abel Wolman Professor in Water and Public Health at John Hopkins, told Newsweek. "If the CWA is weakened or eliminated and U.S. waterways become further impaired there is a distinct probability that human health will be compromised resulting in increased morbidity and mortality," he added. Dr Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists describes the decision as a continuation of a conservative campaign to limit oversight from what they believe is government overreach. "This administration has reinterpreted the requirements of the act to say that it covers fewer waterways because they think it is an unfair regulatory burden," Rosenberg told Newsweek. "This is really about big developers and the oil and gas industry," he continues, adding that the move is part of a broad attack against science instigated by the current administration "to shift the cost burden from the polluter to the public." more...
By Rebecca BeitschThe Sierra Club sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday after the agency refused to turn over any documents to back up Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s claim that climate change “is 50 to 75 years out.” The Sierra Club had filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in April asking the EPA to provide all records Wheeler relied on in making that statement, as well as any research from the EPA that supported his claim. Wheeler’s comments came in an April interview with CBS News, when he said he would be focused on pressing issues like access to clean water since “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.” The EPA denied the Sierra Club's FOIA request in June, saying the request “fails to adequately describe the records sought.” “Your request does not seek specific records but is rather a question framed as a FOlA request,” the agency wrote in a letter to the Sierra Club. The environmental group then appealed through the FOIA process but never heard back from EPA. The Sierra Club then filed a lawsuit Wednesday in the D.C. District Court. “They’re essentially arguing that the public does not have a right to know what, if anything, is supporting his claims,” said Matthew Miller, an attorney for the Sierra Club. “The EPA either needs to admit there is in fact no support for the administrator’s statement and they need to set the record straight that he was misleading and inaccurate,” Miller said. “Or they need to provide us with whatever unknown basis of support they are relying on — which is apparently none — and which would be contrary to the overwhelming scientific consensus and his own agency’s scientists' research.” An EPA spokesman said in an email Thursday that while the agency would not comment on pending litigation, "experts from EPA and other organizations like the [United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] regularly measure climate change impacts, including the effects of regulation, in multi-decadal time frames, not year-to-year variations." more...
Nearly 600 ex-EPA officials want Congress to investigate agency over 'inappropriate threat of use' of authorityBy Chandelis Duster, CNNWashington (CNN) - Nearly 600 former Environmental Protection Agency officials are calling on Congress to investigate the Trump administration's "inappropriate threat of use of EPA authority" against the state of California over recent environmental policies. Five hundred ninety-three former officials who worked under Republican and Democratic administrations signed a letter sent to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday requesting an investigation into EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler's threat to withhold federal highway funds from the state. They also want an investigation into Wheeler's demand that the state take action regarding its homelessness crisis. The officials write in the letter that both actions "were intended as retaliation for the state's failure to support President Trump's political agenda." Asked for comment, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud responded: "Highlighting that California has the worst air quality in the nation along with other serious environmental problems is not a political issue. ... EPA expects California leaders to share its concern for the protection of public health." EPA officials who signed the letter include: Eric Schaeffer, who was director of the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement during the George W. Bush administration and is now director of the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project.: Elizabeth Southerland, who resigned from her role as director of science and technology in the EPA's Office of Water in 2017. Gina McCarthy, who was EPA administrator during the Obama administration. Cynthia Giles, who was EPA assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance during the Obama administration. more...
Local officials deny the claims. The notice is the latest salvo in a feud between the Trump administration and Democrat-controlled California.By Associated PressSAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration ratcheted up its feud with California on Wednesday as the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice accusing San Francisco of violating the federal Clean Water Act. Last month, President Donald Trump warned of a potential violation notice, saying the city was allowing needles and human waste to go through storm drains to the Pacific Ocean — an allegation fervently denied by city officials. The violation notice came in the form of a letter to Harlan Kelly, Jr., general manager of the city’s Public Utilities Commission. It said the EPA had identified violations in the city and county wastewater treatment and sewer system, including lack of proper operation and maintenance that has allowed raw and partially-treated sewage to flow onto beaches into the ocean and sometimes into streets and homes. The letter alleged that some discharges contained heavy metals and bacteria and said the city hasn’t kept up proper cleaning, inspection and repair schedules for the system nor properly reported or issued public warnings for sewage diversions. It’s the latest salvo in a feud between the administration and Democrat-controlled California, which has filed more than 50 lawsuits opposing Trump initiatives on the environment, immigration and health care. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom last week alleging waste left by the homeless in big cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles was being improperly handled. more...
By Rebecca BeitschFederal judges dealt a blow to the Trump administration late Tuesday, finding the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hasn’t done enough to limit cross-state air pollution. A panel of judges for the D.C. Circuit Court, which includes a Trump appointee, ordered the EPA to come up with a new plan for how to address smog that travels to the densely populated Northeast, where states are failing to meet federal air quality standards. The decision follows a similar ruling in a Wisconsin case a few weeks ago that said the Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor provision” compels EPA action. The states that brought the case — New York, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Delaware — argue the EPA hasn’t done enough to help them meet a 2021 deadline for reducing ozone pollution, more commonly referred to as smog. The EPA argued states are on track to meet those standards by 2023. “Those states pointed out to the court that it was irrelevant and insufficient for EPA to say ozone levels would be reduced sufficiently by 2023 because of course there is a two year disconnect,” said John Walke, clean air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. An EPA spokesperson said, “We are reviewing the opinion.” Walke said the EPA historically has required downwind states to install better pollution control on coal burning power plants. But this decision comes as the EPA is facing other legal challenges after replacing an Obama-era power plant pollution rule with one that critics say does almost nothing to stem pollution. more...
By Scott Faber, opinion contributorStanding before a room mostly filled with industry lobbyists last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a clear message to the hundreds of American communities with drinking water contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS: Let them drink polluted water. PFAS are man-made “forever chemicals” that never break down once released and they build up in our bodies. Calling Congressional efforts to clean up legacy PFAS pollution in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020 “just not workable,” Wheeler instead will continue to study the matter. Wheeler has so far refused to designate PFAS chemicals as “hazardous substances” under the Superfund law. By doing so, the EPA would kick-start the cleanup process at contaminated sites and ensure that polluters pay their fair share of cleanup costs. The Department of Defense has cited the absence of a “hazardous substance” designation when refusing to clean up sites contaminated by fluorinated firefighting foams. So far, the Environmental Working Group has documented 297 military installations that are contaminated by PFAS, threatening nearby communities. Even former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pledged to pursue the designation for some PFAS, vowing in 2018 that it was “a national priority.” But this week Wheeler parroted chemical industry talking points to contend that cleaning up contaminated sites would be putting politics “ahead of the science.” “You don't solve a problem with a chemical by just declaring it hazardous,” Wheeler said. Actually, the EPA has designated hundreds of chemicals as hazardous under federal statutes meant to fulfill the agency’s mission to, you know, protect people. By doing so, the EPA has reduced releases of hazardous substances from industry into the air and water and cleaned up sites that are badly contaminated. As House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) noted during a markup last week, a hazardous substance designation is not a ban. Many of the chemicals deemed hazardous by the EPA are still used in products. According to news accounts, Wheeler also relied upon earlier EPA approvals of some PFAS chemicals as proof of their safety — despite recent evidence that the agency knowingly ignored studies showing serious health risks. The EPA’s own inspector general just announced a probe into whether agreements on the production of GenX – a notorious replacement chemical for older PFAS — have been enforced. more...
By stephanie ebbsIn yet another strike against California, the Trump administration accused the state of "failing to protect Californians from degraded water," specifically citing concerns about waste from homeless populations getting into sewer systems. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler wrote to California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday alleging the state has not addressed water pollution tied to the homelessness crisis in major cities like San Francisco, specifically when the sewer system can overflow during heavy rain and release untreated water into other areas like the San Francisco Bay. The letter specifically cites a report on NPR last year that cited a local news investigation describing concerns with trash, used needles from drug users and human waste on the streets. The letter also cites at least 23 instances in recent months where water districts in California released water that exceeded the allowed levels of pollutants like copper or cyanide. "The EPA is aware of the growing homelessness crisis developing in major California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and the impact of this crisis on the environment. Indeed, press reports indicate that 'piles of human feces' on sidewalks and streets in these cities are becoming all too common," Wheeler said in the letter. "The EPA is concerned about the potential water quality impacts from pathogens and other contaminants from untreated human waste entering nearby waters," the letter added. Newsom's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning. more...
By Jameson DowAfter last week’s moves to force more pollution and lower clean air standards on California, the Environmental “Protection” Agency threatened this week to pull California’s federal highway funding if California doesn’t bow to their pressure and allow more pollution in their state. We’ve now learned that two states – Minnesota and New Mexico – will join California’s efforts to reduce tailpipe emissions in response to the EPA’s actions. Both states plan to adopt both California’s Zero Emission Vehicle mandate and its tailpipe emissions standards. For more background on how this story has developed, look at Electrek‘s articles from last week. We show how the EPA will have a hard time ending California’s rules and how the EPA’s own analysis shows that their rollback will kill people and cost money. Since then, California responded to the EPA’s likely illegal actions by filing a lawsuit with 23 states opposing the federal government’s attempt to revoke California’s Clean Air waiver. Minnesota and New Mexico are two of those states. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) also voted to stay the course and accept an agreement made between the state and the automakers to voluntarily exceed federal emissions standards, roughly meeting the pre-rollback federal standards. But that wasn’t enough for the EPA, and they won’t drop their losing battle. On Tuesday they gave their reasoning for threatening California’s funding – a bizarre suggestion that the state hasn’t done enough to comply with the same federal clean air rules the EPA is currently trying to eliminate. After arguing last week that California’s waiver should be revoked because the state does not have “particular or unique” clean air needs, the EPA paradoxically argued earlier this week that California actually has exceptionally poor air quality and, as a result, federal funds should be withheld from the state. So much for “no particular or unique environmental problems.” California Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the threat, stating: “The White House has no interest in helping California comply with the Clean Air Act to improve the health and well-being of Californians. This letter is a threat of pure retaliation … We won’t relive entire summers when spending time outside amounted to a public health risk. We won’t be intimidated by this brazen political stunt.” more...
The panel of researchers has plans to continue their studies revealing that 21 million Americans live with unacceptable air pollutionAn advisory panel of air pollution scientists disbanded by the Trump administration plans to continue their work with or without the US government. The researchers – from a group that reviewed the latest studies about how tiny particles of air pollution from fossil fuels make people sick – will assemble next month, a year from the day they were fired. They’ll gather in the same hotel in Washington DC and even have the same former staffer running the public meeting. Christopher Frey, a scientist from North Carolina State University who chaired the group, said 21 million Americans live with air that is dirtier than what the government deems acceptable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is conducting reviews to determine whether those current standards should be tightened or loosened. Frey argued Trump’s EPA has significantly weakened its science review process. “As a public service, we can still tap our expertise and develop advice which we will share with EPA,” he said. The EPA has defended the changes it has made as a drive to encourage consideration of a wider range of viewpoints. The 20-person panel with Frey will include experts in epidemiology and toxicology, as well as people experienced in clinical experiments with humans. One of the dismissed members, Doug Dockery of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, was lead author of the landmark Six Cities study that linked the particle pollution from fossil fuels, called “particulate matter”, to early deaths. Considering after-hours trading? Here's how it might effect your stock market strategy. The Trump administration is accused by at least half a dozen whistleblowers of muzzling climate and pollution science. more...
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