Note: This is part four of a four-part series about the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency, its policies, and the science that underpins those regulations have been under scrutiny in recent weeks. In fact, the agency is in danger of being drastically cut back or dismantled entirely. You can learn more about that by reading part one, part two, and part three, as well viewing a gallery of photos of what America looked like in the early days of the EPA. This week, we’ll focus on where the EPA stands right now.
Nothing in this photo Trump doesn’t approve of – except the kid isn’t blonde
The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to make and enforce regulations that protect the environment. But as the scientific agency seems to throw science out the window, it’s worth asking: what happens when the EPA stops putting our health and wellbeing first?
On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that was easy to miss…The 2007 case dates back to an earlier lawsuit, where Massachusetts sued the EPA for failing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which are known to contribute to climate change. Whether the EPA has such an obligation depends on how you interpret a specific clause of the Clean Air Act. The clause states that the EPA Administrator must set an emissions standard for any air pollutant “from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”…
In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the EPA had to regulate greenhouse gas emissions unless it could prove that they did not endanger public welfare.
The EPA based its decision on more than 100 peer-reviewed studies and input from a public comment period. The summary reads, “The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”
Greenhouse gases are putting us at risk. Luckily, the EPA is obligated to limit their emission. That is, as long as the agency chooses to accept the facts.
Earlier this week, current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the following on CNBC: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
It was an odd (and incorrect) statement from the Administrator of the EPA, an agency that — based on the best available scientific evidence — disagrees with Pruitt’s position, as does NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Center for Disease Control, the U.K.’s Met Office, and the Japan Meteorological Organization.
But, then, there’s nothing new about any of Trump’s appointed flunkies acting like anything other than pimps for the worst corporate barons in American capitalism. It may seem like he’s only carrying on the strongest traditions from previous Republican Administrations – but, that wouldn’t be true, either.
Trump is so confident of the backing of the chumps who voted him into office he has permission to skip over the soft rationales of most Big-C Conservatives and go straight into his repertoire of bald-faced lies, made-up data, alternative truth. Flunkies like Pruitt did this for years back in Oklahoma. Oil and gas companies would write rules and regulations allowing pollution for him to cut-and-paste into official government policy.
They deserve each other. So do the ignoranuses who voted them into national office. Trouble is – the rest of us are stuck with the results of their ignorance and corruption. Until and unless we fight back – and hard enough to win.
❝ The number of jobs created to make, sell and install solar panels in the U.S. grew at a record pace last year, and grew much faster than the overall American economy, which is welcome news for the solar industry in the face of policy uncertainty.
❝ The new figures were issued recently courtesy of a new report from The Solar Foundation. The report — the seventh annual edition to come from the nonprofit — found that there were 260,077 solar workers as of November 2016, which represents nearly 25 percent growth from the amount of solar jobs recorded the year prior. In comparison, jobs in the overall U.S. economy grew at a rate of 1.45 percent.
❝ Last year’s solar market performance made 2016 the fourth consecutive year that U.S. solar jobs grew by 20 percent or more, the report found. It also made for some eye-popping figures, like how 1 out of every 50 new jobs, or 2 percent of new jobs, created in the U.S. in 2016 came from the solar industry…
“The solar industry is an American success story,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation, and these numbers “are proof positive” of that. “Despite partisanship and the election, people really do love solar. Every poll says so. Even conservative Republicans favor solar,” added Luecke.
❝ While Trump has said he’s in favor of job creation from any energy sector, he emphasized the fossil fuel industries during his campaign.
Like his peers in all factions in the Republican Party and the US Chamber of Commerce, the fossil fuel barons own his testicles.
❝ Forty-one percent of the current solar jobs in the U.S. are in residential solar installations, and workers get paid on average $26 per hour, the report found. In 2017, residential solar jobs are expected to see the biggest growth in comparison to other solar sectors, which will likely continue for years to come.
Electricity has only come to full use in economies offering providers the same grants and discounts common to oil and gas providers for decades. Our government still provides billion$ in tax dollar to fossil fuel corporate giants – in every administration. Subsidies for electric cars and solar home installations are building on an even playing ground…for the first time.
Our latest creepy Republican liar-for-president is appointing one of the sleaziest and most corrupt public officials in the United States to head the Environmental Protection Agency. This is like appointing B’rer Fox to oversee hen-house construction. Backdoor guaranteed.
Scott Pruitt is known to take press releases from his Oklahoma oil and gas buddies and reprint them on his official letterhead as state attorney general – as if they were the product of his own research. Scumbag politician of the worst sort.
BTW, Snopes.com has already verified the article and searched deeper finding an article in Popular Mechanics that preceded newspaper coverage.
❝ Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the U.S. continue to cite China’s rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.
Earlier this month, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China’s supposedly growing coal dependency. “Every time we shut down a coal plant in the U.S., China builds 10,” Moore told E&E News. “So how does that reduce global warming?”
❝ Not only is Moore’s statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China’s coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1–2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.
If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.
❝ In part, China’s emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity — especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks — can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint…Now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.
RTFA for several indicators. The author missed one of the most important because it’s still mostly under the radar of those who don’t read deeply into political economy.
Like the UK and many industrial Europeans nations – before the 1960s – China has relied on home coal fires for heating and cooking. China now is on the way to making the same change the West did. Switching to gas. Major pipeline conduits are under construction to bring natgas from Siberia, other regions outside of China. Different pipelines will link into LNG landing facilities at major harbors. As the last-mile, last city block hookups fall into place, the change will be rapid. And welcome.
China wants to deal with their immediate air pollution as much as the ongoing effect on climate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.
The hole in the middle of that now-empty pond is 45 feet in diameter
❝ More than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from a fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state’s main underground sources of drinking water after a huge sinkhole opened up beneath a storage pond…
Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, said the hole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”. The 215 million gallon storage pond sat atop the waste mineral pile…
“Groundwater moves very slowly,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects. “There’s absolutely nobody at risk.”…
Does that mean he’s drinking water from a local source — every day?
❝ The sinkhole, discovered by a worker on 27 August, is believed to reach down to the Floridan aquifer, the company said in a news release…
The Floridan aquifer is a major source of drinking water in the state. One of the highest-producing aquifers in the world, it underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
According to the University of Florida, it’s the principal source of groundwater for much of the state, and the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg all rely on it. The aquifer also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells throughout the state…
❝ The incident comes less than a year after Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer makers, settled a vast federal environmental lawsuit with the US Environmental Protection Agency in which the company agreed to nearly $2 billion in fixes, improvements and cleanups at its plants…
The usual lies will continue from free market politicians and libertarians who hold that voluntary policing, self-regulation is all that corporate exploiters ever need. That lawsuit after lawsuit is required on an annual basis to acquire any level of environmental safety and sanity doesn’t seem to dent the myths that insulate conservative brains from reality.
❝ A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming practices — in 20 seconds! Of course, there are scores of variables when it comes to sustainable farming, but this little video shows the huge difference between no-till and conventional farming:
❝ The video starts on a no-till field — one that isn’t ever plowed. Instead of tilling, or turning over the soil to kill weeds, farmers plant directly into the thatch of grasses and usually use an application of herbicide to knock down weeds. When farmers leave fields bare, like in the other field, soil washes away and local waters are polluted.
Some farmers on this silly little planet continue to grow no till-crops decades after the invention of machines that increase profits. And also require tons of added and otherwise unnecessary chemicals to produce those crops.
“Whether the disease becomes manifest and when this occurs is not only due to lifestyle or genetic factors, but also due to traffic-related air pollution,” said Professor Annette Peters, director of the Institute of Epidemiology II at Helmholtz Zentrum München and head of the research area of epidemiology of the DZD.
For the current study, she and her colleagues…analyzed the data of nearly 3,000 participants of the KORA study who live in the city of Augsburg and two adjacent rural counties. All individuals were interviewed and physically examined. Furthermore, the researchers took fasting blood samples, in which they determined various markers for insulin resistance and inflammation. In addition, leptin was examined as adipokine which has been suggested to be associated with insulin resistance. Non-diabetic individuals underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to detect whether their glucose metabolism was impaired.
The researchers compared these data with the concentrations of air pollutants at the place of residence of the participants, which they estimated using predictive models based on repeated measurements at…up to 40 sites…in the city and in the rural counties.
“The results revealed that people who already have an impaired glucose metabolism, so-called pre-diabetic individuals, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution,” said Dr. Kathrin Wolf, lead author of the study. “In these individuals, the association between increases in their blood marker levels and increases in air pollutant concentrations is particularly significant! Thus, over the long term — especially for people with impaired glucose metabolism — air pollution is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.”
The authors are also concerned that the concentrations of air pollutants, though below EU threshold values, are still above the proposed guidelines of the World Health Organization… As a consequence, they demand changes in government policy: “Lowering the threshold for acceptable air pollution levels would be a prudent step,” said Dr. Alexandra Schneider, who was also involved in the study. “We are all exposed to air pollution. An individual reduction by moving away from highly polluted areas is rarely an option.”
Many folks currently focussed on the political battle over climate change have been at it for a long time. The crap air we’re all faced with as “normal” has been anything but normal for decades. Because we’ve moved slightly back from acid rain and a Love Canal in every backyard doesn’t mean we’ve won anything more than individual battles. Though significant, the full extent of poisoning of the Earth’s air breathers, water-drinkers, continues to demand a critical political movement against the polluters and their acolytes.
❝ The average American tosses 4.4 pounds of trash every single day. It may not seem all that astonishing on the surface, but with 323.7 million people living in the United States, that is roughly 728,000 tons of daily garbage – enough to fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
That is 22 billion plastic bottles every year. Enough office paper to construct a 12-foot-high wall from Los Angeles to Manhattan. It is 300 laps around the equator in paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons. It is 500 disposable cups per average American worker – cups that will still be sitting in the landfill five centuries from now.
❝ Approximately half of the 254 million tons of yearly waste will meet its fate in one of the more than 2,000 active landfills across the country – and you probably live, work or socialize closer to one than you may think.
Same as it ever was. Imagine some future epoch when paleontologists and anthropologists mine the Great American Midden.
One of eight nuclear power plants left behind under the ice and snow
❝ In 1951, the United States government made a pact with the Danish government to begin building camps and testing sites throughout Greenland to protect themselves from arctic Soviet attacks.
Camp Century, built 125 miles inland from Greenland’s shores, was built within the ice, housing up to 200 soldiers, testing construction in the arctic, drilling some of the first ice cores and even testing secret nuclear missiles.
But in 1967, Camp Century, and other camps, were decommissioned and closed. All but the nuclear reactor cores were left, to live forever, forgotten beneath the ice. Or so they thought.
❝ A new study published…in the journal Geophysical Research Letters says that we shouldn’t forget about the stuff, some of it toxic and radioactive, because Greenland is melting. The scientists, from York University in Toronto, estimate with a business-as-usual climate model, the site will be melting in the next 75 years. Outside experts say it could be even sooner than that.
❝ …The scientists estimate that there are 53,000 gallons of diesel fuel, 63,000 gallons of waste water and sewage, and unknown amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls and radioactive coolant. While the site is currently under more than 100 feet of snowfall, fallen since the 1960s, the pollutants will not stay hidden forever.
With the pollutions’ reemergence, the study authors believe this could bring up questions of who is accountable for cleaning up the site. The United States built the site, with the Danish government on a Danish territory, which is now under self-rule.
“It’s a new breed of political challenge we have to think about,” lead author and climate and glacier scientist William Colgan said…
If scientists had their way, responsibility would ultimately accrue to those who put dangerous materials in place. The United States government? That’s another story. The bifurcated clown show in Congress will ultimately decide on the budget – if any – for responsible action. Regardless of which party sits in the White House.
Given our nation’s track record, domestic and foreign, for action on radioactive pollution foisted on communities in the name of our “peace-loving” military – I ain’t too hopeful.