EPA in self destruct mode

I’ve commented on this before.  Readers can click on “EPA” to read prior blogs.

Republicans and Democrats drink the same water and breath the same air.  Contaminants in air come from many sources, including car emissions and chemical plants.  Pollutants  discharged into water bodies or the air can travel long distances and  do not know geographic boundaries.  This is the physical reality, requiring  the  federal environmentalists to be involved in preserving the environment beyond our borders.    We are one planet, and environmentalists in Kansas recognize they are affected by decisions in Beijing.     The rising water temperature, aided by increased Chinese carbon emissions and deforestation in Brazil, is a factor in the extreme weather variations as occurring in the northeast of the US now, and the hurricanes in Puerto Rico,  Florida and Texas last year.

I read a recent letter from a former EPA scientist, who made me so sad.  He had lung disease, and needed to live where the air quality was excellent.  Yet, the high standards which he was involved in, were likely not being  enforced by the EPA.

I’ve commented on Scott Pruitt before as the worst EPA Administrator it was created in 1970.   Both Republicans and Democrats have contributed to building the EPA before Pruitt began to destroy it.   One of the best Administrators, was William Rucklehaus,  the first and fifth administrators of the EPA.   He was a Republican, and first nominated to the post by Richard Nixon, and later became the Deputy Attorney General. He was fired by Nixon, for refusing to  firing the Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, but rehired by Reagan to head the EPA again.  Rucklehaus was able to transfer the approval of all regulations of pesticides to the EPA.   Doug Costle ran the EPA under President Carter, and followed a similar path as Rucklehaus.    President Reagan  campaigned against the EPA as an unnecessary government. He brought in Anne Gorsuch Buford to downsize the EPA.    Buford was  held in contempt of Congress when she refused to turn over documents on Superfund expenditures.

Environmental problems are big in the US because every industry has waste that they want to dispose of,  at the lowest cost, and still be within the law.  Only regulatory groups can evaluate the risk potential, using worse case scenarios.    Love Canal disaster should be taught in schools, as a modern lesson of how dumping of chemicals in the 1950’s underground,  can resurface decades later, and be contributing factors to leukemia.  The chemicals were dump in 1953, and Hooker Chemical thought by donating the land to a school, they could get rid of the mess.  Homes were built close to the school.  Parents noticed their children were betting burns  on their feet when playing barefoot. The impenetrable clay layer  seal was likely fractured by the filtration of water, which expanded as it froze in the winter.  Making American great again, is a fantasy,  because when it comes to environmental action, we are not great.  Not in the 1950’s,  not 1970’s and not today.

I’ll leave out most of this history, but you can check the links below, on Love Canal, and Superfund sites.

The number one threat to our environment is at present is  climate change.   The US should be the leader in curbing carbon emissions, but this was before Trump and Pruitt.  Pulling out of the Paris Accords on Climate Change Mitigation was a giant step backwards.   Transportation accounts for 27% of the greenhouse gases emitted (EPA estimate, 2015)  of which 90% are petroleum based.    We emit around 6,800 million metric tons (mtn) of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, down from a peak of 7,300 mtn in 2007.    According to the EPA (current website, not the Obama archived one)

This decrease was largely driven by a decrease in emissions from fossil fuel combustion, which was a result of multiple factors including substitution from coal to natural gas consumption in the electric power sector; warmer winter conditions that reduced demand for heating fuel in the residential and commercial sectors; and a slight decrease in electricity demand.

The progress, however slight, is an unmistakable downward trend in greenhouse gases, which perhaps will not last much longer.   The lead story in the New York Times on March 30, 2018, reads:

The Trump administration is expected to kick off an effort in coming days to weaken greenhouse gases and fuel economy standards for automobiles, handing a victory to car manufacturers and giving them ammunition potentially to rollback industry standards worldwide.

Car manufacturers and oil companies will be pleased.  It is putting American first only in terms of corporate profits, not its citizens.  California is likely to fight these changes,  with 12 other states expected to follow.  It might end up with 2 sets of standards, one for most of the country, and the second for the California and the allied states.

Regulatory freedom, the right of Americans to choose the gas-guzzlers of their choice, unimpeded by big government will be EPA’s selling points.   Pruitt is expected to make the announcement at a Virginia dealership on Tuesday.   Obama had made auto emissions as strict as California, so auto manufacturers did not have to have two sets of standards for car emissions.

The states allied with California include New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, and together account for a third of all car sales, according to the New York Times.  California can legally require high fuel efficiency and lower emission standards based on a waiver granted by the federal government.   Trump can take California to court, to attempt to void the waiver.   He will likely let the car industry know there will be no renewal for the waivers in 2015.

To some extent,  fuel efficiency is likely to improve as gas prices go up because of consumer demand.   Despite all the talk from Washington,  finding new oil is still increasingly more expensive and the rig count has been increasing.   However,  the consumer is not likely to care about tailpipe emissions, well until they have respiratory problems.   Then they are very interested in everyone’s emission.  So,  a newly converted Democrat, is one with breathing problems.

Thus,  a very chaotic situation is about to unfold.    California may win, at least in the short term, as auto manufacturers are not about to produce two sets of cars.   A court battle is inevitable.

It is all about the Trump administration being weak, and caving in to the big auto manufacturers.

“Environmental preservation is our test.  If we pass it, we get to save the planet.”  (ok, I’ve taken a line from Marjory Stoneman Douglas on preserving the Everglades) We can’t expect China, India and the EU to regulate their emissions when we can’t.   It will take a long time to repair Trump’s damage to our standing in the world.

I wanted write more on Pruitt’s new rules on scientific evidence, which rely solely on public information as a way of further weakening the agency.   I’ll leave this for a separate blog.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT:  US Readies a Plan to Blunt Fuel and Emission Rules for Automakers

EPA:  The Love Canal Tragedy

Wikipedia: Love Canal

EPA: Sources of Greenhouse Emissions

Wikipedia:  US Withdraws from the Paris Agreement

The Antidote to Trump

Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA,  is systematically weakening the EPA.  We have pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Accords, the Clean Water Rule has been suspended,  and the Clean Power Act is being repealed.   Large areas are being opened to mining and oil exploration with minimal review of potential environmental damage. The EPA budget will be reduced by 31% and 25% of the staff will be fired.

It is a tactic to please the right wing, conservative base of Trump’s administration.  The  harm is increased global warming with more extreme weather conditions, causing loss of lives and destruction of homes.   Global warming does not cause hurricanes, but it can make them more frequent and more intense as a result of warming seas.  Long term effects will be decline in the more fragile ecosystems, in  Florida and the Chesapeake Bay, with profound effects.

While Scott Pruitt is doing everything he can to make the EPA less effective,  Mike Mulvaney is going to extreme measures at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, to make the agency ineffective in defending the consumer – just the opposite of what it was set up to do.   I reported that after Equifax security was breached and information on 146 million Americans was stolen,  Mulvaney is not issuing subpoenas for information.  I’ve reported on the atrocious action in allowing Insurance Bi-Weekly to get back in business (not requesting bond equal to their judgement while it was being appealed).

There is a long list of what Trump is doing wrong.  I happen to like Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, but Trump is always undercutting him, and cutting back on the “soft power” of the US,  by diminishing our role in the UN and not filling diplomatic posts.   I think Jeff Sessions is honest and forthright, not allowing the Mueller investigation to become political.    Trump has criticized Sessions for recusing himself from the Mueller investigation, calling him weak.

At this point, the antidote to this, is to elect Democrats to the Senate and House of Representatives in the Fall to help  repair the damage.  There are very few Republicans with a strong environmental record.  We need responsible government and a president that truly believes in a progressive agenda.   I don’t know who I’ll vote for in the next presidential election, but it won’t be for Trump.  The BS coming from Fox News and other conservative outlets is strong, but people can see their way past this stuff.

The best antidote for what is going on in Washington, is an active and informed electorate.  It’s called critical thinking and taking action primarily at the ballot box.

Stay tuned,

Dave

It’s not about puddles, but keeping our water clean

 

“If you had a puddle in your land, (the EPA) called it a lake for the purposes of environmentals.”  Donald Trump,  CPAC, February 23, 2018.  I’m sure he meant environmentalists.  CPAC is the Conservative Political Action Conference.    This claim is  absurd.

I had also wanted to call this dirty water and dirty politics.  It is the collusion of polluters mainly in agricultural states, who allow runoff from farms into streams and wetlands and conservatives within the Republican party.

Scott Pruitt has suspended enforcement of the Clean Water Rule, as enacted in 2015 as of January 31, 2018.   Another words, he made it more difficult for the EPA to do its job – to ensure the US water bodies are free from pollutants and maintain  thriving ecosystems.   He did not abolish the rule, because this requires a formal process.  He will just ignore the rule.

The Clean Water rule was not easy to enact.  It clarified what is meant by the “nation’s water bodies.”  Per the EPA site during the Obama administration:

“Science shows us the most important waters to protect. In developing the Clean Water Rule, the EPA and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers utilized the latest science, including a report summarizing more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published scientific studies which showed that small streams and wetlands play an important role in the health of larger downstream waterways like rivers and lakes.”

 

 

The web address as shown above is no longer active.      See EPA archive website: Why clean water rules matter?

The website address is archive.epa.gov

The following is from Wikipedia:

“The rule ensures that Clean Water Act (CWA) programs are more precisely defined and intends to save time and avoid costs and confusion in future implementation of the act. The rule intends to make it is easier to predict what action(s) will be taken by the EPA and what processes companies and other stakeholders may have to undergo for projects and permitting. There are no direct changes to the law under the Clean Water Rule. After analysis, the EPA and Department of the Army found that higher instance of water coverage would produce a 2:1 ratio of benefits to costs in implementation after the final rule. Implementation of the rule will discern any implications for environmental justice communities, though it is clear that “meaningful involvement from minority, low-income, and indigenous populations, as well as other stakeholders, has been a cornerstone of development of the final rule.”

 Specific details that have been clarified by the rule as outlined below.
  • Defines more clearly the tributaries and adjacent waters that are under federal jurisdiction and explains how they are covered

A tributary, or upstream water, must show physical features of flowing water – a bed, bank, and ordinary high water mark – to warrant protection. The rule provides protection for headwaters that have these features and have a significant connection to downstream waters. Adjacent waters are defined by three qualifying circumstances established by the rule. These can include wetlands, ponds, impoundments, and lakes which can impact the chemical, biological or physical integrity of neighboring waters.

  • Carries over existing exclusions from the Clean Water Act

All existing exclusions from longstanding agency practices are officially established for the first time. Waters used in normal agricultural, ranching, or silvicultural activities, as well as certain defined ditches, prior converted cropland, and waste treatment systems continue to be excluded.

  • Reduces categories of waters which are subject to case-by-case analysis

Before the rule, almost any water could be put through an analysis that remained case-specific, even if it would not be covered under CWA. The rule limits use of case-specific analysis by providing certainty and clarity of protected vs non-protected water. Ultimately the rule saves time and avoids further evaluation and the need to take the case to court.

  • Protects US “regional water treasures”

Specific watersheds have been shown to impact downstream water health.  The rule protects Texas coastal prairie wetlands, Carolina and Delmarva bays, western vernal pools in Californiapocosins, and other prairie potholes, when impacting downstream waterways.

This is not the way to make America Great Again.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

EDF Blog on EPA’s Suspension will set a dangerous precedent

EPA Under Obama:  Clean Water Rule: Streams and Wetlands Matter

Wikipedia: Clean Water Act (1972)

Clean Water Rule

 

 

 

South Africa’s turn to experience global warming

 

“Is it [global warming] an existential threat? Is it something that is unsustainable, or what kind of effect or harm is this going to have? I mean, we know that humans have most flourished during times of what? Warming trends,” Pruitt said. “I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming, that that necessarily is a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal surface temperature should be in the year 2100? In the year 2018? I mean it’s fairly arrogant for us to think that we know exactly what it should be in 2100.”

Scientific predictions are inexact and subject to constant correction.  Pruitt’s attacks on climate change  and other environmental problems are  always to find some weaknesses in scientific studies, exaggerate their effects and then attack anyone who might accept these conclusions as either stupid or arrogant. He spent most of last year identifying why global warming might not be occurring and now seems to be saying that it might be a good thing.

Climate change helps create extreme weather events.   It is never a simple case of cause and effect.  It is more that climate change is a significant contributing factor to catastrophic weather events, like the hurricane Maria that destroyed large parts of Dominica and Puerto Rico and the hurricane Irma that caused destruction on both sides of Florida.   Studies indicated that the  sea water in the Gulf of Mexico was warmer than normal and helped these hurricanes to grow in size and strength.

Climate change is worldwide.   Now it’s Cape Town in South Africa’s turn.  Cape Town is experiencing a “one in 1,000  year” drought.  Scientists believe climate change has contributed to this drought.   Also, increases in population and inadequate funding of other water sources, such as desalination plants, contributed to the crisis.  Americans use about 80 to 100 gallons per day.   In Cape Town, this is a crime.  Water usage as of Feb 1, 2018 is limited to 50 liters, or about 12 gallons per day –   not enough for cooking, showers and toilet flushes.  They don’t know exactly  when the supply of water will go to zero, but it’s real soon.  It was May 11, 2018.  Now it’s July 9.  On Day Zero, peoples’ taps will no longer supply water.  People will stand in line with water containers for hours at designated locations.

Name 3 places Scott Pruitt is unlikely to visit:  Cape Town,  Florida and Puerto Rico.  I could name a dozen more.     The evidence of global warming are everywhere.  Ski resorts in Italy and Switzerland are opening later in the winter and closing earlier.  They increasingly depend on artificial snow making machines.  Islands in the South Pacific are getting smaller as water levels rise.  Residents are abandoning their homes.  Same thing is happening in northern Alaska as the ice melts.

It’s bad and getting worse.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  Scott Pruitt

Foundation for Climate Change Orientation

South Africa’s drought-stricken Cape Town pushes back ‘Day Zero’ to July 9

 

EPA Worst Adminstrator Ever: Scott Pruitt

The EPA has existed for 47 years.   It was created by Richard Nixon in 1970, by Executive Order.    Richard Nixon also signed into law, the Clean Air (1970) and Clean Water Acts (as amended 1972).   The first line of the  Clean Water Act states:

The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.

This first sentence is powerful, as the act directs the federal government in conjunction with state agencies to RESTORE  the quality of the  nation’s waters.   Thus, there was an acknowledgement of a problem.   Thus, the creation of the agency was direct the government to take a leadership role in the restoration of  our water and air resources.  Nixon being from California,  likely understood this, as the Colorado watershed encompasses 7 states in the US and 2 states in Mexico.   California is downstream to all pollutants discharged into the Colorado River in the US.

Scott Pruitt may like to see environmental policy run from the state and local level,  mainly for political reasons, but it is the geographical reality which makes so many of our environmental problems, a national problem, requiring federal action.   The pollutants  from the coal burning plants goes to the upper atmosphere,  where there are no signs saying “You are entering Massachusetts” or even, “You are entering Canada.”

Scott Pruitt is an attorney of law.   He has done nothing to restore or improve air or water quality in his home state of Oklahoma, as Attorney General.   Instead, he accepted contributions from Tyson foods, who were being sued for polluting the Illinois River that flows through Oklahoma.

Oklahoma AG and EPA Pick Pruitt Stalled Pollution Lawsuit After Contributions From Poultry Industry

His track record as AG was to attack EPA actions, initiating 13 lawsuits against the EPA.

Now as administrator of the EPA, his actions run counter the core mission of the EPA, to preserve the water, land and air natural resources of the US for future generations to enjoy.   His perspective is one of an advocate for individuals to pollute as much as they want, so long as they don’t endanger the health and safety of general population.   Individual liberties may sound good, but in result can be extremely harmful.

I have posted numerous blogs on the actions of the EPA under the Trump administration, including the most recent one on banning EPA scientists from making presentations at a scientific meeting on the Narraganset Bay estuary.   I was please to see Steven Colbert, the late night show host,   really tearing into Scott Pruitt’s policies, noting that until he pulled the 3 scientists from the meeting, it is likely few people knew about this estuary, or even what an estuary was.

Scott Pruitt latest attack on the agency he runs is to remove as many of the independent and dedicated environmental scientists in the advisory groups in the EPA and replace them with people of his own choosing.   This tactic in this case is to bar anyone who is receiving funding from the EPA from participating in the advisory groups.

Citing The Bible, The EPA Just ChangedAdvisers Its Rules For Science 

In support of his drastic actions,  Scott Pruitt relies on the pretext that scientists receiving funds from the EPA might have a conflict of interest.  However, this was quickly countered by numerous organizations,  noting there was already strict disclosure rules in place, the prevent conflict of interest.    Dr. Tiech from George Washington University stated the following:

” Disqualifying the very people who know the most about a subject from serving as advisors makes no sense.”

More succinctly, he wrote, “Frankly,  this directive is nuts.”   Others voiced similar opinions, as follows:

The change calls into question EPA’s ability to protect the country, according to Rush Holt, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “We question whether the EPA can continue to pursue its core mission to protect human health and the environment,” Holt said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Scott Pruitt battled the EPA through lawsuits as Attorney General of Oklahoma.  Now,  he must battle the organization he heads.

Stay tuned,

Dave

PS.  I’ve posted numerous blogs on the EPA and the Trump administration’s indifference to environmental issues.   See the various categories such as Environment, Global Warming. Coal, or Chloropyrisfos.  Also you can search under EPA  or Scott Pruitt.

Coal Industry

Regulations are killing the coal industry.  They are destroying jobs.  They destroy who communities and a way of life.  Obama declared war on the coal industry. I dig coal.

This is of course not my opinion.  It’s the opinion of  Trump and EPA director, Scott Pruitt.   I think the recent Frontline show, War on EPA, provides the viewpoints of both Trump supporters and opponents.  You can see the entire program online:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/war-on-the-epa/

About 50 minutes into the program, there is this wonderful quote from Betsy Sutherland, who  was the Director of the Office of Science and Technology until Sept 2017,  about working with Scott Pruitt, “He just doesn’t ask any questions.”  Bob Murray, COE of Murray Coal was quite candid about his influence on the Trump administration: “I gave Mr. Trump what I call an action plan very early on.  It’s about 3 1/2 pages long.  He’s wiped out [completed] page one.

As very briefly mentioned in the program, it is not just about carbon emission, but a long range of regulations on harmful pollutants that Scott Pruitt is rolling back.  These regulation range from the reporting of methane emissions from the natural gas industry to the banning of harmful pesticides.  Another words, what industry wants is exactly what industry gets.  You can’t be sued for methane emissions if nobody knows how much was released.

And one would think that the fossil fuel industry would be soaring on the news that the Clean Power Act is about to be repealed by the EPA.  This is hardly the case.  I can’t say how Murray Coal is reacting to Trump’s agenda because it is a private company.  However, the stock price of the  world’s largest coal company with a market cap of around 3 billion dollars, Peabody Energy (BTU), continued it’s downward decline, with a stock price of around $28/shr, far below its Nov 2012 price of $377/shr.The coal industry has been in a long term decline.  What is killing the coal industry is automation in the mines, and low cost natural gas, not regulation.  The lack of enthusiasm from the stock market on coal stocks pretty well proves this point.

The benefits of the Clean Power Plan Act were far reaching, and included economic, climate and health benefits.  When Scott Pruitt was asked about the relationship between the recent series of hurricane and warming waters due to climate change, he said this was not the appropriate time to consider this subject.  I consider it highly appropriate time to recognize climate change is a factor in the intensity of hurricanes.

Related Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_Power_Plan

Fareed Zakarian, columnist for the Washington Post, really got it right!

China is winning the Future

Stay tuned,

Dave

How we poison ourselves

We do it slowly, in subtle ways.   And we do it, with knowledge of some of the best scientific institutions in the world.  We do it for the love of money. Retired folks who are tired of the noise and pollution of the cities, may feel they have found paradise in rural America, but the dangers of paradise are real and likely to grow worse.   Sending toddlers off to be with grandma and grandpa down on their little piece of tranquility during the summer months may no longer be so good.

The intent of a pesticide is to destroy the specific agricultural pests, without causing harm to the general animal population, which includes fish and bees.  Of course, the agricultural pesticide must also be safe for the human population, which includes people who live near farms and farm workers.

There was strong evidence that the chemical, Chloropyrifos, was  unsafe for agricultural use.  The Administrator  of the EPA, Scott Pruitt is making America great again, only if America can be considered the conglomeration of agricultural interests and agrichemical and fossil fuel companies.

I will say it again- it is a subtle threat.  People don’t know what  they are ingesting.  If a car manufacturer produces a car with faulty air bags, then consumer can sue them.  But only if they survive the accident!  But, if there is slow buildup of harmful neurotoxins as a result of the air we breath or the fish we eat, it may be decades before the full effects are discovered.    We are losing one of the most vital parts of our ecosystem,  bees, which pollinators of  plants.  Without them,  we can’t grow much- see below:

Scott Pruitt

Bees as Pollinators

Organophosphates contain neurotoxins.   The Obama administration proposed regulations on one particular pesticide,  chlorpyrifos, which is particularly harmful to children living near farms as it can effect their brain development.

Pesticides must be approved for use by the EPA.  Once approved, chemical companies invest millions of dollars to produce and market the chemicals worldwide. If there are health risks discovered after approval,  then the chemical companies have the option of withdrawing the pesticide from the market, fearing they might be sued, or continue to produce the pesticide and live with the legal consequences.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

NYT,  March 20, 2017:  E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide