Environment & Climate

EPA Forces Staff to Attend Anti-Leak Classes as Attack on Environment Continues

by Jessica Corbett – Federal employees threatened over leaks while Trump administration wages war on planet. As the Trump administration continues to gut regulations meant to protect public health and the environment, the Associated Press reports Thursday that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) staffers are being forced to attend anti-leaking classes this week as part of a wider effort by the White House to stem the flow of unauthorized information reaching the public. The AP, which obtained training materials from the Environmental Protection Agency’s hour-long anti-leaking class, reports how “a three-page fact sheet sent to EPA employees as part of the training warned that leaks of even unclassified information could have serious consequences to national security.” The document reportedly provided examples detailing how government secrets previously have been revealed through espionage, hacking, or leaks to the press, and noted that “enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm U.S....

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Court Rules Obama Administration did not Overreach in Fracking Rule

by Samantha Page – Too bad the new administration is going to reverse the rule, anyway. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Obama administration was within its rights when the Bureau of Land Management issued a 2015 rule to modernize fracking regulations on public lands. The so-called Fracking Rule, which increased safety specifications on oil and gas wells and mandated chemical disclosures, was challenged by two states — Colorado and Montana — as well as the American Petroleum Institute. In June 2016, a lower court ruled that the BLM “acted beyond its statutory authority.” In part, the lower court found that no law specifically allows the BLM to regulate underground injections. The court also found that even if the BLM could regulate fracking, the so-called “Halliburton Loophole,” part of the 2005 update to the Safe Drinking Water Act, “precluded all federal regulation of non-diesel fracking.” The 10th Circuit...

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Climate Scientists Predicted the Rise in Super-hurricanes Like Maria, Irma, and Harvey

by Joe Romm – But deniers are still trying to shout down any talk of a climate-hurricane link, calling it “idle chatter.” Hurricane Maria, currently on a collision course with Puerto Rico, intensified explosively in one day from a Category 1 storm to Category 5 superstorm. The Prime Minister of Dominica said Tuesday that Maria caused “mind boggling” devastation when it tore through his island nation. “As see storms like Irma and now Maria intensify from tropical disturbances to Category 5 hurricanes in record time, we see hints of yet another potential threat,” climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress via email. “We may have less time to prepare and react to monster storms, hindering our adaptive capacity to deal with their devastating impacts.” Climate science deniers have sought to dismiss scientists’ discussion of the link between human-caused climate change and more intense hurricanes as “idle chatter.” It is anything but. Maria is the...

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Hurricane Maria Threatens Caribbean After Irma (VIDEO)

A strengthening storm is swirling towards the eastern Caribbean along a path similar to deadly Hurricane Irma. A new hurricane is bearing down on the eastern Caribbean, threatening dangerous storm surges and floods, less than two weeks after the region was devastated by Irma. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Monday warned that the new storm, Maria, could become “a major hurricane”. The French territory of Guadelope, the staging area for relief operations for several islands hit by Irma, was on “red alert” on Monday. Schools, businesses and government offices were ordered closed. Warnings were also triggered for Dominica, St Kitts, Nevis, the British island of Montserrat and France’s Martinique. Maria is expected to hit the islands late on Monday, possibly strengthening to as much as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of at least 209km/h. ‘Dangerous’ As of 06:00 GMT, Maria was a Category 1 hurricane, the...

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The Trump Admin Auctioned Off an Imperiled Bird Habitat to Oil Companies for a Whopping $14,837

by Jen Hayden – The Trump administration has auctioned off acres of habitat for the sage-grouse, which narrowly missed making the endangered species list after an extensive plan to preserve the bird’s habitat took effect during the Obama administration. Which, naturally means Trump is dead set marching back the progress. From Westwise: Sage-grouse, a chicken-sized bird once widespread in the West, have seen their populations drop dramatically in recent years, thanks in part to oil and gas development. In an effort to keep the sage-grouse off the endangered species list — a move that would limit all forms of development throughout the region — ranchers, conservationists, Western governors and the Obama administration spent years working on collaborative plans to help the species rebound. Widely hailed as a success, the plans resulted in former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announcing that the sage-grouse would avoid the endangered species list. Unfortunately, this success story is under assault. Citing...

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As World Moves Forward with Paris Accord, U.S. Observes From Sidelines

by Julia Conley – Some officials left a climate summit in Montreal this weekend with the impression that Trump could re-enter the Paris agreement—but critics have doubts. Amid reports that the U.S. is reviewing the terms of the Paris climate agreement and examining a potential re-entry, climate advocates expressed doubts this weekend about changes in President Donald Trump’s climate policy and about the White House’s insistence that it will renegotiate the hard-won climate accord in any meaningful way. Emily J Gertz @ejgertz Contrary to Trump bluster, US can’t unilaterally renegotiate the terms of the Paris accord. It can opt for even weaker CO2 targets, though. https://twitter.com/andymccanse/status/909165008906485761 … 5:25 PM – Sep 16, 2017 Some news outlets reported Saturday that a summit in Montreal, attended by representatives from 30 countries that signed the accord—with a U.S. delegation observing from the sidelines—left officials with the impression that Trump could reconsider his decision to withdraw from the agreement. MIguel...

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House Passes Spending Bill ‘full of giveaways to polluters’ and Big Cuts to EPA and NPS

by Samantha Page – The National Park Service was cut 30 percent — even more than Trump had asked. The House of Representatives voted Thursday in favor of an omnibus spending bill that environmental organizations say will help polluters and reduce the country’s air and water quality. The bill also cuts a number of programs intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or streamline the transition to clean energy. The bill cuts funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by more than $500 million — another blow to an agency that will now have to operate on less than 75 percent of its 2010 funding levels. The National Park Service received a 30 percent cut — a greater cut than even the White House suggested earlier this year in its infamously skeletal budget proposal. Prior to the vote, a group of dozens of environmental groups wrote to representatives, begging them not to...

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Should Utilities Build Charging Stations for Electric Cars?

by Martha T. Moore – Faced with deadlines to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, states are being asked to decide whether utility companies can build electric vehicle charging stations — and pass on the cost to their customers. Building more charging stations could help alleviate “range anxiety,” the fear of running out of charge with no station in sight, and therefore stimulate sales of the clean-air-friendly cars. But in some states, officials say that letting the utility industry build more stations would force all electricity consumers to pay for a service that only a few, relatively affluent, people will use. In California, home to nearly half the electric vehicles (EVs) now on U.S. roads, the Public Utilities Commission last year approved plans for three of the state’s largest utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric — to...

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Homeland Security Waives Environmental Review for California Border Project

by Mark Hand – The number of environmental laws bypassed is astonishing. The Department of Homeland Security granted the federal government waivers for a long list of environmental laws in order to expedite the construction of a new barrier on the border of Mexico and California, about 85 miles east of San Diego. In a Federal Register notice published Tuesday, Elaine Duke, acting secretary of Homeland Security, said the waiver is necessary so that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) can take “immediate action” to upgrade barriers to prevent unauthorized people from crossing into the United States from Mexico. With the waivers from DHS, the Calexico project will get to bypass the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Migratory Bird Conservation Act, Archaeological Resources Protection Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Noise Control Act, Solid Waste Disposal Act, Antiquities Act, Federal...

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As Hurricanes Strike, EPA Staffing Nears a 30-Year Low

by John Light – The agency says it will still be able to respond to natural disasters, like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. At the end of August, nearly 400 employees left the EPA. Staffing levels are approaching their lowest point since the Reagan administration, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the beginning of the summer, the agency offered a buyout plan to 1,200 staffers, and roughly a third took the agency up on the offer. More staffers are expected to retire or take buyouts this month, putting the Trump administration well on its way to slashing 3,200 jobs from the agency, the goal outlined in the president’s budget. As employees head for the exit, some people have questions about whether the agency will still be able to adequately regulate, Timothy Puko reports for The Journal: Mr. Pruitt hasn’t laid out any plan for how to reshape the agency or its priorities, making it more difficult...

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After Harvey, Texas Left With Toxic Soup of Sewage, Spilled Fuel, Pesticides, and More

by Jessica Corbett – As hurricane cleanup continues, Times report reveals alarming levels of E. coli and heavy metals in Houston’s flooded neighborhoods. Following reports that refineries and petrochemical plants released millions of pounds of pollutants because of Hurricane Harvey, which battered Southeast Texas last month, test results published on Monday by the New York Times confirmed concerns that “Houston’s floodwaters are tainted with toxins.” The storm’s unprecedented “1,000-year flood,” triggered by record rainfall generated by the hurricane, left large swaths of the Houston metro area under water. As the region begins itslong road to recovery, and residents attempt to regain access to their homes, those who encountered tainted waters during the storm are already experiencing consequences. Regional medical professionals told the Times they have seen a doubling of skin infections, and “some families in inundated neighborhoods in west Houston said they had developed staph infections and other health problems after wading through waters released from reservoirs that swamped their homes long after other parts...

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What You Need to Know: Hurricane Irma and Its Impacts

by Everton Fox – Questions answered on the Category 4 storm that ploughed into the southwest of Florida on Sunday morning. Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida early on Sunday, belting the southern US state with wind gusts of up to 240km an hour while threatening massive tidal surges. Here are some fast facts on the most powerful storm to hit Florida in decades. Where has it been so far? Hurricane Irma began life as a tropical wave near the Cape Verde Islands on August 30. It then made its way across the Atlantic and caused catastrophic damage in the northern Leeward Islands before heading for the far north of Cuba. How dangerous is this storm? At its peak its winds were around 298km per hour. It is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Irma was the first Category 5 storm to affect the...

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Welcome to the New World of Wildfires

by Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report – When one envisions the US Pacific Northwest, one thinks of green ferns, moss-covered trees in Olympic National Park, or the Hoh Rainforest, where annual rainfall is measured in the hundreds of inches. Moisture, greenery, evergreens, abundant rivers. It’s a large part of the reason why I live here. But thanks to abrupt anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), this region is shifting at a rapid pace. On the Olympic Peninsula where I live, this has been the summer of wildfire smoke. As I write this, Puget Sound, Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, are all engulfed by thick wildfire smoke and ash from fires burning in Eastern Washington and Montana. A local Seattle weatherman remarked that he had “never seen a situation like this.” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency for his entire state on Saturday September 2. Smoke from various wildfires has been a near-constant in this part...

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Climate Change Unleashes “Fire and Fury” on the United States

by Wenonah Hauter – At some point, our policymakers need to understand that these are not simply natural disasters. Their strength, severity and human toll are intensified by our addiction to fossil fuels. Weeks ago, Trump spoke of fire and fury regarding North Korea. But this supercharged hurricane and fire season is unleashing its own fire and fury on the U.S., while Trump remains impervious to the facts of fossil fuels’ contributions to these disasters. Our hearts are with those whose lives and families were devastated by Harvey, and those who are currently battling Irma in the Caribbean and bracing for it in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Our thoughts are also with the communities fighting to protect their homes and critical infrastructure from blazing wildfires. And we stand with communities of color and low-income communities, who bear the brunt of these impacts and who disproportionately bear the burden of environmental...

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The False Equivalence Plaguing our Discussions of Climate Change

by Joe Romm – The national GOP rejects science and any serious action. Everyone else in the U.S. and world is on the other ‘side’ The “both sides do it” approach to modern journalism is both pervasive and dangerous. Nowhere is that clearer than in coverage of climate change, especially in an era where the most extreme climate science deniers are running the federal government. Consider the recent “series of pieces about America’s polarized climate debate” in Axios. The first was “What Republicans are getting wrong about climate change.” The second was “What liberals get wrong about climate change.” You may already be noticing a journalistic bias, a thumb on the scale. In the headline, Axios pits an actual political party, the Republicans, on one side versus “liberals” on the other. In reality, as the National Journal wrote in 2010, “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears...

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Study: 83% of Tap Water Around the Globe Tested Positive for Tiny Plastic Fibers

by Jessica Corbett – Widespread microplastic contamination of drinking water samples has scientists worried about its impact on human health. “Microscopic plastic fibers are flowing out of taps from New York to New Delhi,” according to a recent investigation by Orb Media, which found plastic contamination in 83 percent of drinking water samples gathered from more than a dozen countries on five continents. For what’s been deemed the “first global tap water survey of plastic pollution,” Orb worked with researchers at the State University of New York and the University of Minnesota to test 159 samples. The U.S. had the highest levels of contamination, with 94 percent of its 33 samples testing positive for plastic fibers. Sources of contaminated tap water in the U.S. included Congressional buildings, Trump Tower in New York City, and even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters. “This should knock us into our senses,” Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, said in...

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A Storm That Could ‘Rewrite History’: Irma Hits as Most Powerful Atlantic Hurricane Ever Recorded

by Jon Queally – “The dangerousness of this event is like nothing we’ve ever seen,” warns governor of Puerto Rico as mega-storm makes landfall in the Caribbean. Fueled by warm ocean waters and fulfilling some of the most ominous predictions from climate scientists who warned that powerful storms would occur with increasing frequency and intensity, a “ferocious” Hurricane Irma slammed into the islands of Barbuda and Antigua early Wednesday morning as the most powerful Category 5 hurricane ever recordedin the Atlantic Ocean. Irma’s landfall comes less than two weeks after Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, devastated the Texas coast and the city of Houston, killing dozens of people and now estimated to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph) when it made landfall in Barbuda and is expected to remain at Category 4 or 5 strength...

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Say His Name: Alonso Guillen, DACA Recipient, Died Rescuing People During Hurricane Harvey

by First Amendment – Say his name: Alonso Guillen. He is the face of DACA. He died a hero, unselfishly trying to save others during Hurricane Harvey’s floods. Mr. Guillen was a DACA recipient. These are the very people Donald Trump wants to deport. People who contribute greatly to our country. People who look to America for a better way of life. People literally willing to give their lives for their fellow citizens. We have a disgrace as President. Donald Trump is a stain on our nation. Alonso Guillen, a 31-year-old disc jockey from Lufkin, disappeared on Wednesday around midnight along with two friends after their boat hit the bridge over the creek and capsized. One of them was rescued after clinging to a tree in the rushing water, but days later, after the rains let up and the creek level receded, Guillen and Tomas Carreon Jr. were still missing. Searchers spotted Carreon’s body...

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EPA Has Still Yet to Inspect Nearly a Dozen Houston-area Hazardous Waste Sites

by Mark Hand – News agency reporters have accessed sites by boat and on foot. The Environmental Protection has been unable to inspect many of the contaminated hazardous waste sites in Texas flooded by Hurricane Harvey, even as kids have reportedly been swimming in waters that have passed through these federal or state-designated toxic sites. The EPA said on Saturday that aerial imagery showed 13 of the 41 designated Superfund sites in the Houston area were flooded by Harvey and were “experiencing possible damage” due to the storm. Of these sites, the EPA said just two have been inspected and will not require emergency cleanup, although additional sampling in the area will continue to be conducted. The remaining eleven sites “have not been accessible by response personnel,” the EPA said. “Teams are in place to investigate possible damage to these sites as soon flood waters recede, and personnel are able to safely access the sites,” the agency added....

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Trump Picks Another Non-Scientist for Science Post and Makes ‘A Disastrous Choice’ for Drug Czar

by Andrea Germanos – Rep. Jim Bridenstine is a climate denier, while Rep. Tom Marino has called for some sort of ‘hospital-slash-prison’ for drug treatment. President Donald Trump’s newly-announced nominee to head the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an elected official with no science credentials. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Ohio), who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, is “unlike previous NASA administrators,” Newsweek notes, as “the 42-year-old Michigan native does not have any formal qualifications in science or engineering, having earned a triple bachelor’s degree in economics, psychology, and business from Rice University, and later an MBA from Cornell University.” “Some might say that the government has seemed increasingly reluctant to leave science to the scientists,” writes CNET‘s Chris Matyszczyk. The former Navy Reserve pilot also served as executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum before being elected to Congress in 2012. “NASA scientists have led...

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