EPA and Environmental Watch

This has been a banner year for seeing the effects of climate change–storms that contain much greater rainfall than if human-induced global warming were not occurring; triple-digit temperatures in California that produced the worst wildfires in the state’s history; statistics that show an increased number of deaths from floods, fires, heat and asthma–all while the Trump administration is tries to pull out of the Clean Power Plan and lessen regulations for the benefit of companies in various industries. Thankfully, the courts are holding some of this back.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency continues to promote fossil fuels and the companies that produce them while assaulting the climate and public health with proposals to weaken the requirements for monitoring and repairing methane leaks from gas and oil wells and setting no limits on power-sector carbon pollution. Methane is 86% more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat over the short run, and methane leaks also emit other volatile organic compounds, including benzene, a well-known carcinogen–creating risks to the climate and to people’s health. (The EPA is accepting comments on the Trump administration’s proposal until October 31, 2018.)

The EPA also has told the outside scientists who advise the agency on the health impacts of soot that their service is no longer required and told individuals being interviewed for a new panel to evaluate ground-level ozone that the panel will not be formed. In addition, the EPA is trying to weaken the rules for radiation exposure despite past guidance that says any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. The EPA is “turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you–like a little bit of sunlight.” So much for scientific input.

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke is trying to roll back the protection of public lands and allow uranium mining there while limiting the ability of native communities to protest and exposing such communities to the risk of health hazards such as cancer and kidney damage.

At the same time, Congress is seeking to weaken the Endangered Species Act by turning over to state and local governments many of the powers now held by federal scientists. Republican Party supporters say the change will make the act work better and eliminate obstacles to economic progress. Wildlife advocates call the proposal the wildlife extinctions package.

Meanwhile, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals is ordering a ban on the deadly pesticide chlorpyrifos, saying that the EPA left the chemical on the market despite extensive scientific evidence that even tiny levels of exposure can harm babies’ brains. One of the judges on the panel dissented from the majority ruling, so the EPA could appeal the court’s decision.

And so the battle goes on–the economy versus the environment, people and animals.

Sources: Akron Beacon Journal, August 9, 2018; Record-Courier, September 27, 2018; Friends of the Earth, September 18, 2018; Physicians for Social Responsibility, September 25, 2018.

–Lorraine McCarty

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