Transportation & Infrastructure

Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Death Toll Likely in Thousands, Far Higher Than Official Count

by Julia Conley – In the weeks after Hurricane Maria pummeled the island, the mortality rate has risen sharply over previous years. Trump critics drew attention to a New York Times report on Saturday regarding the estimated death toll in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria, which left the island devastated after making landfall in September. While the official count of fatalities stands at 64, the Times’ analysis found that a more realistic estimate would be in the thousands. The newspaper reported that since Maria hit 42 days ago, 1,052 more deaths than usual have happened in the U.S. territory. The mortality rate has grown as half of Puerto Rico is still without power. A month after the storm, about one million residents did not have access to safe drinking water, and many were desperately using water from a Superfund site to bathe and drink. The dire conditions Puerto Ricans were faced with following the storm have...

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Acts of an Adversary

by Max Bergmann and Carolyn Kenney – Russia’s Ongoing Hostilities Toward the United States and Its Allies. Introduction and summary Russia’s efforts to attack and undermine American democracy did not begin or end with the 2016 election. Russia’s vast espionage and cybercapabilities continue to target the United States government, its citizens, as well as America’s democratic allies around the world. This report outlines Russia’s continuing hostile actions toward the United States and its allies. It finds that the election of Donald Trump has not resulted in the Kremlin changing course or reducing its hostile actions toward the United States. Russia continues to: Aggressively target the United States in cyberspace, including its government, businesses, citizens, and interests Provide cybercriminals with a safe haven from which they can prey on Americans Conduct aggressive espionage campaigns against the United States and its allies, including harassing U.S. diplomats and assassinating the Kremlin’s adversaries abroad Probe ways to...

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As Predicted—Because ‘Pipelines Are Bound to Spill’—Existing Keystone Gushes 200K Gallons of Oil

by Jon Queally – ‘With their horrible safety record, today’s spill is just the latest tragedy caused by the irresponsible oil company TransCanada.’ Some of the worst fears and dire predictions of opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline came true on Thursday when pipeline owner TransCanada announced that more than 200,000 gallons of oil had spilled from the existing portion of the Keystone system in Marshall County, South Dakota. While the company reported the spill in a public statement, Buzzfeed notes there was an approximately four-and-a-half hour gap between when the company said the breach was discovered at 6:00 am and when local officials say they were notified at 10:30 am.  As a South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources told the news outlet, “We’re not quite sure why there was a time gap in there.” Outside of the company’s statement, there has been no outside or independent verification of the size of the spill or details about...

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New Study Shows Urgently Needed 100% Renewable Transition More Feasible Than Ever

by Julia Conley – A complete transition from fossil fuels would create millions of jobs and save money while protecting planet from harmful emissions. A transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research presented in Bonn, Germany on Thursday. The German non-profit Energy Watch Group (EWG) teamed up with Finland’s Lappeenranta University of Technology to present a study at the COP23 climate summit. The results of the study, according to a forward written by EWG’s president Hans-Josef Fell, show “that a 100% renewable electricity system is an effective and urgently needed climate protection measure. A global zero emission power system is feasible and more cost-effective than the existing system based on nuclear and fossil fuel energy.” To achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the warming of the earth to well below...

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Puerto Rico’s Governor is Pushing to Have Whitefish Energy’s $300 Million Contract Revoked

by Adam Peck – There are too many unanswered questions. On Sunday, NBC News reported that Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has asked the board of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to cancel their contract with Whitefish Energy. It’s now been over a month since Hurricane Maria knocked out power across the entire island of Puerto Rico, and thousands of residents are still struggling to keep the lights on. So when a mainland U.S.-based energy company stepped forward to offer their services to help restore power to the island—for a price of approximately $300 million—the local power authority agreed. But almost immediately, the contract raised red flags. The company—Whitefish Energy Holdings, based in Whitefish, Montana—was not some large corporation with hundreds of experienced employees who could quickly deploy to Puerto Rico, but a tiny 2-man operation with annual revenues of $1 million. What’s more, the company appeared to have close ties to Trump...

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Secretary Zinke Attacks ‘dishonest media’ or Asking Questions About Shady Whitefish Energy Contract

by Natasha Geiling – “Only in elitist Washington, D.C., would being from a small town be considered a crime.” A two-person Montana energy company based in the hometown of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is raising eyebrows after securing a $300 million no-bid contract to restore electricity to Puerto Rico. The island remains largely without power in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The firm’s connection to both Zinke and President Trump has set off alarm bells for both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, some of whom have called for an investigation into potential conflicts of interest between the utility and the administration. On Friday, Zinke fired back at critics, blaming the “dishonest media” and “political operatives” for attempting to tie him to the contract. He called the allegations “baseless” and claimed that he had no contact with the company after the contract was awarded. “Only in elitist Washington, D.C., would being from a small town...

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The Protectionist In Chief Will Kill American Jobs

by Shikha Dalmia – There will be no winners, only losers. President Trump is a proud America First protectionist. And yet, the poison pills he injected into the latest round of NAFTA negotiations will not only likely kill —which he has derided as the “worst trade deal ever”—but also his own agenda of preserving American manufacturing jobs. Behold America’s job killer in chief! That the latest negotiations weren’t going to be a kumbaya session was clear when, on their eve, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross penned an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that the $70 billion trade deficit (the gap between the goods and services America exports to its trading partners and those it imports from them) between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada was costing more American jobs than ever before. Ross claimed that the percentage of U.S. content in manufactured goods coming to America from Mexico fell 10 points and Canada 6 points between 1995 and...

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Contract Awarded to the Interior Secretary’s Friend’s Company is Exempt from Government Audits

by Eric Boehm – Oh, okay. The federal government has awarded a tiny Montana company a $300 million no-bid contract to repair Puerto Rico’s hurricane-wrecked electrical grid. The company, Whitefish Energy, has close ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. A copy of that contract leaked last night, and it seems to prohibit the federal government from auditing Whitefish’s work and to shield other details of the company’s efforts from being disclosed via open records laws. “In no event,” the contract says, will the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Comptroller General of the United States, “or any of their authorized representatives have the right to audit or review the cost and profit elements” of the deal. The contract was posted online by Ken Klippenstein, a contributor to The Daily Beast, the first publication to report on the connections between the company and the secretary of the interior. Ken Klippenstein   ✔@kenklippenstein Replying...

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Chiding Trump for Inaction, GAO Report Shows Climate to Cost US Taxpayers Trillions

by Jessica Corbett – Federal watchdog’s report serves as indictment of Trump administration’s climate change denialism and pro-industry agenda. Climate change impacts are already costing the federal government billions, and these costs are expected to increase, according to a new report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). While this may not be news to scientists and environmentalists, the federal watchdog’s report serves as an indictment of the Trump administration’s slow and limited response to the looming threats from climate change, with the expressed goal of helping government guide efforts to improve its response and save money by limiting future damage. “Over the last decade, extreme weather and fire events have cost the federal government over $350 billion”—excluding recent hurricanes and wildfires—and “these costs will likely rise as the climate changes,” the GAO report (pdf) notes, citing data from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program....

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Electric Cars and Surging Solar Spell Market Doom for Fossil Fuels

by Jessica Corbett – Analyses show how demand for electric vehicles and rapidly falling renewable energy prices could take down oil and gas industry. As an increasing number of nations make plans for banning gas and diesel vehicles within the coming decades, and drivers gain an awareness of the benefits associated with electric vehicles, researchers are predicting notable consequences for dirty energy sources as the public shifts toward favoring renewable alternatives. “Post-2025, that’s where electric car sales take off. The further you go into the future, the more it’s electric cars,” Alan Gelder, a senior analyst for the research group Wood Mackenzie, told the Guardian. “If cities began banning cars with a combustion engine, that would rapidly accelerate the switch to electric vehicles.” Drivers transitioning to electric vehicles out of necessity, because of such bans—which multiple European nations plan to implement in the next 15-25 years—and efforts by governments to increase fuel efficiency regluations, is only part of...

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Tiny Company From Zinke’s Hometown Gets $300 Million Contract to Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Power Grid

by  Mark Sumner – In the midst of the disaster in Puerto Rico, it appears that someone may engaged in graft as large as the hurricane that hit the island. Like other electrical utilities, the state-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has multiple mutual-aid agreements with other utilities. It can call on these agreements for help in repairing the power grid in an emergency. These are the same kind of arrangements that allowed utilities in Florida to get power there restored so quickly following the passage of Irma. But even though 79 percent of the island remains without power, PREPA  isn’t calling on those agreements. A constellation of companies, including those controlled by Tesla’s Elon Musk, have offered to work with Puerto Rico to transform the island into a model for the nation using a series of micro-grids, distributed solar, and local storage. The resulting system would be clean, flexible, and resistant to large-scale...

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‘People Are Dying’ but Trump Gives Himself Perfect ’10’ for Puerto Rico Response

by Julia Conley – “The lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streams while waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid.” Despite an estimated one million people still living without drinking water, 80 percent of the island without electricity, and fresh reports that people are “dying” on the island, President Donald Trump stirred outrage on Thursday by giving himself a perfect “ten” on his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico. “The people in Puerto Rico are dying,” said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president Cathy Kennedy, who returned Wednesday from a two-week relief trip with the union’s Registered Nurses Response Network (RNRN). “Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who’s going to get the food today or the water — we shouldn’t have to do...

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‘The People of Puerto Rico are Dying’: Action is Needed Now

by Bonnie Castillo – Volunteer nurses describe deadly conditions and demand federal action immediately. Crowd funding. A Costco Card. The water in a nurse’s own backpack. These are the resources to which volunteer nurses on the ground in Puerto Rico—where 85 percent of the island is still without power and where the official death toll has risen to 48 (with the real toll expected to rise much higher)—have been forced to turn in recent weeks, to keep hurricane victims alive, even for a few additional days. “The people over here in Puerto Rico are dying. We have a healthcare crisis right now,” said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president and Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN) volunteer Cathy Kennedy, RN. “Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who’s going to get the food today or the water—we shouldn’t have to...

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To Great Applause, Paris Announces Combustion Engine Ban by 2030

by Julia Conley – New goal would accelerate existing plan to do away with gas-powered cars and trucks. Receiving great applause from climate advocates, Paris officials announced a new goal on Thursday to ban gas-powered cars from its streets by 2030. Greenpeace USA  ✔@greenpeaceusa Paris plans to banish all but electric cars by 2030 Paris authorities plan to banish all petrol- and diesel-fueled cars from the world’s most visited city by 2030, Paris City Hall said on Thursday. A BIG step! — Paris is planning to ban all but electric cars by 2030. http://reut.rs/2i5cjxQ  1:00 PM – Oct 12, 2017 The proposal would accelerate existing efforts to reduce air pollution in the city after French President Emmanuel Macron promised to ban the sale of vehicles with combustion engines by 2040. Under the rule, only electric cars would be allowed in the city. Paris is already home to an electric car-sharing service, Autolib, which...

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Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico

by Jessica Corbett – Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico As Congress on Thursday approved a $5 billion loan that will further burden the already bankrupt U.S. territory, various solar companies and nonprofits continued working together to offer aid to the storm-ravaged island while also promoting a more sustainable future and resilient energy system. On Thursday, the nonprofit Empowered By Light and Sunrun—the nation’s largest residential solar company—partnered with local leaders to install a 4kW solar array with battery storage at the Barrio Obrero fire station in San Juan. A second system will be installed at another fire station on Friday. More than 90 percent of the island’s power grid has not been restored since Hurricane Maria struck last month. The commonwealth’s power system was already hobbled by financial difficulties long before the hurricane devastated the island, and the federal government has been widely condemned for its slow and inadequatedisaster relief efforts. “It appears the federal emergency response is focused on diesel to...

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Google to Use Balloons for Puerto Rico Phone Service

Alphabet Inc is sending high-altitude balloons to provide phone service to island devastated by Hurricane Maria. Alphabet Inc, the company that controls Google, is sending special balloons to Puerto Rico to help restore phone service after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month. The US Federal Communications Commission said it had approved the company’s application to provide the emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services. The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites. Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to “support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability” in Puerto Rico. Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced...

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Trump Wants $1.6 Billion for the Border Wall. That Covers Just 74 Miles

by Jim Hightower – All this for a boondoggle project most Americans continue to oppose. How much of your money does Donald Trump want to pour into his xenophobic fantasy of erecting an impenetrable wall on our Mexican border? The big-businessman-turned-president insists he doesn’t care about costs — just build it! That seems to be a very un-businesslike approach, but then, it’s not his money, is it? For those of you who do care, one measure of what the total tab might be is that he’s demanding $1.6 billion from Congress to start construction. How much wall will that buy? Seventy-four miles. Now, how long is that U.S.-Mexican border he wants to seal off? One thousand, nine-hundred miles long. Tony Webster / Flickr So, $1.6 billion down — and only 1,826 miles to go. And let’s not even get into the cost overruns, fraudulent billings, shoddy materials, and other scams that the...

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Peak Oil Demand is Near: General Motors Says the Future is ‘all-electric’

by Joe Romm – GM, Ford, and China strongly embrace electric cars, signaling trouble for Big Oil. “General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, announced in a corporate press release Monday. These are remarkable words for a company that has become a global behemoth over the past century by making and selling tens of millions of cars, SUVs, and light trucks that run on liquid fossil fuels. When you add in plans from huge, fast-growing markets like China and India to quickly shift to EVs and end the sale of petrol cars, it’s clear that upending the car market will also upend the oil market. Reuss said GM would accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), with two new EV models coming out in 2018, and “at least” another 18 by 2023. On the same day, Ford Motor Co. announced it would release 13 new EV models in the next five years. The...

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The United States is Unprepared for the Next Major Earthquake

by E.A. Crunden – Mexico is a victim of geography — but so are major U.S. cities like Los Angeles. Two devastating earthquakes recently rocked Mexico in the short span of 12 days, killing nearly 300 people and leaving many more in need of aid and assistance. The dual tragedies, largely worsened by geography, left the country struggling to recover and rebuild. But as outside nations flocked to send their condolences, many experts warned that the same fate could befall a number cities in their home countries as well. The United States happens to be counted in that list. The 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico on Tuesday originated in Puebla and topped buildings far from the site, including 75 miles away in Mexico City. At least 230 people have died so far, with many more casualties expected. That disaster came less than two weeks after an 8.1-magnitude earthquake off the coast —...

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Following Harvey and Maria, House Republicans Propose $10 Billion … for Trump’s Wall

by Gabe Ortiz – Maria’s aftermath in Puerto Rico is nothing short of catastrophic. “Water, food, and fuel are scarce on the island,” noted Vox, with more than three million U.S. citizens facing the prospect of living up to six months without power. According to some estimates,damage could exceed $30 billion. Our fellow Americans are in crisis. Since the disaster, House Republicans, led by Congressman Michael McCaul (TX-R), have unveiled a $10 billion proposal … for Donald Trump’s racist border wall and immoral mass deportation force: Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas) said his panel will vote on the legislation next week. The bill also would add 10,000 more border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, tap the National Guard to patrol the southern border and target people who have overstayed visas. “Now that we have a partner in the White House who has made this a top priority, it’s time to send a bill to President Trump’s...

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Trump’s Refusal to Send Hospital Ship Tips His Plan to Abandon Puerto Rico (UPDATED)

by DocDawg – A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. – U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper Eight hundred and ninety-four feet long, 106 feet wide, and weighing 69,360 tons, USNS Comfort is a complete ocean-going medical facility with 1,000 patient beds including 80 for intensive care patients. Along with 12 operating rooms she boasts a complete dental clinic, optometry lab and pharmacy, X-ray machines, CT scanners, oxygen and fresh water production plants, capacity to store 5,000 units of blood, laundry operations, and a morgue. She’s the size of a 20th century supertanker. Indeed, she was a supertanker — the SS Rose City — until purchased by the Navy in 1987 and converted to serve her current lifesaving mission. She and her sister ship in the Pacific, USNS Mercy, are among the rare few assets of the obscenely wealth US military devoted exclusively to saving, rather than taking, lives. But today,...

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3.5 Million Americans Face Disease & Death in Puerto Rico. What the Hell is Trump Doing?

by Denise Oliver Velez – People with no drinking water. People with no food. People with no medicine. No dialysis. No insulin. No homes. Water full of feces. No fuel for generators. The mayor of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz describes the horror: Where the hell is the army, the navy, the marines?  Why is there no massive airlift in and out?  insightus @InsightusOrg As 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico face a public health crisis, hospital ship USNS Comfort remains moored in Norfolk VA home port. 9:44 AM – Sep 24, 2017 WTF is the President of the United States and the Republican controlled Congress doing? Thank you Hillary Clinton: Hillary Clinton  ✔@HillaryClinton President Trump, Sec. Mattis, and DOD should send the Navy, including the USNS Comfort, to Puerto Rico now. These are American citizens. https://twitter.com/samynemir/status/911401368983924736 … 12:04 PM – Sep 24, 2017 Thank you Governor Cuomo: Andrew Cuomo   ✔@NYGovCuomo Puerto Rico needs...

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Puerto Rico is a Disaster, Moving Toward Catastrophe, That Demands a Massive, Emergency Response

by Mark Sumner – Donald Trump has not mentioned Puerto Rico since the day after Hurricane Maria brutally scourged the US territory. After making a trip to Alabama to call any athlete who takes part in peaceful protest a “son of a bitch” who should be fired, Trump doubled, tripled … pentadekaled down on that point by tweeting 15 times about his NFL hate. He’s also slipped in half a dozen mentions of the health care bill and even managed to talk about how nice the White House looks. But three and a half million Americans, many of whom are without shelter, struggling to find clean water and food, who are living about without power, lacking communications with relatives, and still searching for loved ones they haven’t seen since before the storm—that doesn’t merit a word. Trump isn’t alone in his disdain and neglect. The grand total of time all five Sunday morning talk shows devoted...

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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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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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First Responders Sue Owners of Houston-area Chemical Plant For ‘severe bodily injuries’

by Mark Hand – Arkema failed to take precautions to secure plant, lawsuit alleges. Seven first responders filed a lawsuit Thursday against Arkema Inc., the owner of a chemical plant near Houston, Texas that was damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The suit alleges that the plant owner’s negligence caused the responders “severe bodily injuries.” The plaintiffs, who include police officers and medical personnel, accused Arkema Inc. of neglecting to secure trailers of volatile chemicals susceptible to explosion after severe flooding knocked out the electricity and ability to cool the heat-sensitive chemicals. The chemical plant in Crosby, Texas suffered two explosions early in the morning on August 31, after having lost power for days following Harvey’s landfall. The explosions sent black smoke into the air, forcing several first responders to the hospital following exposure to the smoke plume. At least 2 tons of highly unstable chemicals used in such products as plastics and paint burned at...

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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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Where Have All Those Great Infrastructure Jobs Gone?

by Kristin Miller – The Trump administration has scrapped an Obama-era local hiring plan for public works. Remember back in the heady days of the campaign when then-candidate Donald Trump promised to create 25 million jobs with his economic plan? Many of these jobs were to come from a massive reboot to American infrastructure. He promised a 10-year, trillion-dollar program that would solve many of America’s aging infrastructure woes as well as add new, better jobs for millions of American workers. The promise actually had some bipartisan appeal — both sides of the aisle acknowledge the poor state of our roads, bridges and rails and obviously support job creation. But, of course, any plan does require congressional backing. Trump soon created a White House advisory group, the Council on Infrastructure, populated with both practiced politicians and industry bigwigs to help with the initiative. President Trump’s original budget proposal to Congress in April didn’t...

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A Beautiful Moment of Socialism. But Now Killer Capitalism Resumes

by Paul Buchheit – In the worst moments of the tragedy in Houston, something remarkable about America burst into view, as government and business and military and especially ordinary citizens put aside thoughts of personal gain and dedicated themselves to the needs of fellow human beings. People in Texas and around the nation pitched in, through their labors and donations; neighbors and first responders saved lives; the Red Cross and other charitable organizations, including many local churches, brought food and supplies and medicine to hurricane victims; many GoFundMe initiatives were set up; the business community—especially furniture man Jim McIngvale—donated their goods and services; government officials remained focused on the people they were elected to represent; even the military contributed with rescue helicopters. No one seemed to care about the skin color or religion or politics of those in need. The empathy and cooperative spirit—the socialism!—that gripped America was delightful to behold. But soon we return to reality. Capitalism Has No Incentive to...

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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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Here’s the Long List of Legislative Items Congress Needs to Get to in Addition to DACA

by Amanda Michelle Gomez – Tick tock. The White House will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a six-month delay for Congress to act. The Trump administration is phasing out DACA — an Obama-era initiative that conferred deportation protection and work permits for nearly 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants — unless Congress passes a bill by March to protect recipients, often referred to as DREAMers. President Donald Trump is punting responsibility to Congress. In a statement, he said “the legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws.”  Donald J. Trump  ✔@realDonaldTrump Congress, get ready to do your job – DACA! 8:04 AM – Sep 5, 2017 Meanwhile, Congress already has a slew of crucial legislation that it needs to pass in September. By the end of the month, Congress needs to pass legislation that addresses government fiscal deadlines, natural disaster relief, and now presidential directives. During a the White House press briefing Tuesday afternoon,...

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What Trump and His Team Have Wrecked So Far

by BILLMOYERS.COM STAFF – Here’s a round up from our “While He Was Tweeting” series. Donald Trump and his administration are rolling back a number of regulations and initiatives — as well as cutting offices, budgets and staff — and we’re following it in our “While He Was Tweeting” series. As coverage of Trump’s Twitter feed crowds out these stories, here’s a look at some of what the Trump administration has been up to so far. Our team has not been able to cover everything, but we’re doing our best, and we appreciate your input. Be sure to let us know what you think on the BillMoyers.com Facebook page. Dismantling post-Great Recession Financial Crisis Protections The Trump administration is looking to dismantle many of the protections put into place after the 2008 financial crisis, including the Dodd-Frank reforms and the Elizabeth Warren-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement In June, Trump pulled...

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Harvey Triggers ‘Unbearable’ Pollution as Refineries Spew Cancer-Causing Chemicals

by Jake Johnson – “Air pollution is one of the unseen dangers of the storm.” As the catastrophic flooding brought about by Hurricane Harvey continues to devastate Texas, reports of “unbearable” smells are beginning to emerge from the state, sparking growing concerns of the long-term health effects that could result from toxic waste and fumes being spewed from temporarily closed oil refineries. “At least 10 refineries on the Texas coast have shut down,” notes the Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grenoble. “And whenever a refinery has to be closed or restarted, especially in emergency situations, its emissions far exceed what’s typically allowed.” Environment Texas, a citizen-based environmental advocacy project of Environment America, said in a statement on Monday that Houston oil industry is likely “releasing more than 1 million pounds of harmful pollution into the air, according to its initial reports to Texas regulators.” “Air pollution is one of the unseen dangers of the storm,” Dr. Elena Craft, senior health scientist at Environmental Defense Fund,...

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Why Trump’s Wall is Not Going to Happen

by Steve Chapman – Plenty of GOP members would rather put Barack Obama on Mount Rushmore than underwrite this addled project. Donald Trump has served one-seventh of his constitutionally allotted term of office, and given his talent for self-destruction, there is no guarantee he will get to serve the remaining six-sevenths. But whether he does or not, one thing is a safe bet: When he leaves the White House, there will not be a wall running the length of our southern border. This may come as a shock to his more devoted followers. They cheered madly, and still cheer madly, at his promises to build a wall that Mexico will pay for. “Believe me, one way or the other, we’re going to get that wall,” he told a rally in Phoenix on Tuesday—even “if we have to close down our government.” Between now and the end of September, Congress needs to...

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Nuclear Power Plants are ‘bleeding cash’

by Joe Romm – Business columnist: “Let it be written that environmentalists didn’t kill the nuclear power industry, economics did” “It sometimes seems like U.S. and European nuclear companies are in competition to see which can heap greater embarrassment on their industry,” the Financial Times wrote earlier this month. This appears to be the summer that the final nails are put in the coffin of the much-overhyped U.S. nuclear renaissance — despite President Trump’s comment in June that “we will begin to revive and expand our nuclear energy sector, which I’m so happy about.” The nuclear industry is so uncompetitive now that over half of all existing U.S. nuclear power plants are “bleeding cash” according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) report released earlier this summer. BNEF found that $2.9 billion is lost every year by just 55 percent of all the nuclear plants in the United States. But, as the chart below shows,...

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Is Anybody Home at HUD?

by Alec MacGillis – A long-harbored conservative dream — the “dismantling of the administrative state” — is taking place under Secretary Ben Carson. In mid-May, Steve Preston, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development in the final two years of the George W. Bush administration, organized a dinner at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., for the new chief of that department, Ben Carson, and five other former secretaries whose joint tenure stretched all the way back to Gerald Ford. It was an event with no recent precedent within the department, and it had the distinct feel of an intervention. HUD has long been something of an overlooked stepchild within the federal government. Founded in 1965 in a burst of Great Society resolve to confront the “urban crisis,” it has seen its manpower slide by more than half since the Reagan Revolution. (The HUD headquarters is now so...

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Massachusetts Rolls Out Aggressive New Emissions-reductions Goals

by Mark Hand – Clean energy purchases projected to reach 80 percent by 2050. Massachusetts regulators rolled out new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other sources, putting the state one step closer to meeting greenhouse gas reduction goals within the next few years. The regulations, announced on Friday, include clean energy requirements for utilities, reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generating plants, and cuts in methane emissions from natural gas distribution systems in the state. The new climate rules also require declining emission limits for passenger vehicles owned and leased by state government executive offices. The regulations are aimed to allow Massachusetts to meet legislatively mandated greenhouse gas emissions reductions of 25 percent of 1990 levels by 2020 and then larger reductions in the future. The new regulations take effect on January 1, 2018. The regulations came in response to a 2014 lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation, an...

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Utah Utility Wants to Triple Monthly Charges for Solar Customers

by Mark Hand – Nevada is still recovering from rooftop solar policy similar to Utah utility’s plan. Utah’s largest electric utility company wants to place new charges on rooftop solar customers, a proposal that critics say would unfairly penalize the customers; in addition, they fear it could lead to a scenario similar to the one that recently played out in Nevada, with rooftop solar companies abandoning the state after policymakers weakened the net metering system. Rocky Mountain Power’s plan would nearly triple monthly customer charges and peak-time usage charges for rooftop solar customers, although the company says the new charges are necessary to create an equitable system between solar and non-solar customers. The Utah Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday to get public input on the company’s controversial proposal. Next week, the commission plans to hold a multi-day hearing where Rocky Mountain Power, solar companies, and other official intervenors in...

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Clooney Foundation To Open 7 Schools For 3,000 Syrian Refugee Kids

By Amanda Froelich – The Clooney Foundation for Justice agreed to donate $2.25 million to build 7 public schools, which will educate approximately 3,000 refugee children in Lebanon. Thanks to actor George Clooney and his wife Amal, Syrian refugee children who have faced unimaginable hardship will soon receive an education. This is because the Clooney Foundation for Justice agreed to donate $2.25 million to build 7 public schools, which will educate approximately 3,000 refugee children in Lebanon. The donation was made as part of an educational campaign in partnership with Google and Unicef. The ultimate goal is to provide relief to children and their families during one of the most arduous humanitarian crises since WWII. The couple said in a statement to AP: “They have been victims of geography and circumstance, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. Our goal with this initiative is to help provide Syrian refugee children with an education and put them on a...

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15 Million Americans May be Drinking Water Contaminated with PFCs

by JULIE FIDLER – Perfluorochemicals are found in virtually all Americans More than 15 million Americans across 27 states may have drinking water contaminated with perfluorochemicals (PFCs) that are used to make non-stick cookware and other products, according to a report published in June 2017. PFCs have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and weakened immune systems. What’s more, prenatal exposure to the chemicals has been linked to low birthweight and future obesity. Even small amounts in drinking water are considered a public health threat. Research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Northeastern University in Boston reveals that drinking water has been polluted with perfluorochemicals from more than 4 dozen industrial and military sources from Maine to California. In a press release, managing editor of the EWG Bill Walker said: “It’s remarkable that the richest country on earth can’t guarantee its citizens that their drinking water is completely safe and has no long-term health implications.” Although...

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Wind Farm with Tesla Battery Storage Proposed for Offshore Massachusetts

by Samantha Page – The development could power 80,000 homes with clean energy. Massachusetts might be getting a massive new wind farm that uses Tesla batteries to store energy. Deepwater Wind, a wind energy development company, has proposed a 144-megawatt wind farm with 40-megawatt hours of battery storage for a site 30 miles from mainland Massachusetts and 12 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, the company announced Tuesday. In 2008, Massachusetts passed a law requiring the state to “establish goals and meet targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” Under the law, titled the Climate Protection and Green Economy Act, the state pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Last year, a court ruled that the state had not acted adequately to meet its emissions reductions goals. Following the ruling, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) signed an executive order directing state agencies to, essentially, do better....

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On Electric Cars, the U.S. Is Stuck in the Slow Lane

by Oscar Reyes – While Europe races toward electric vehicles, U.S. automakers are actually trying to make cars less efficient. The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own. These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway. For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon. Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration. Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of...

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Leaked Draft of Rick Perry Grid Study Debunks His Attack on Renewable Energy

by Joe Romm – But will the Trump administration erase those findings from the final Energy Dept. study? Back in April, Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered a study to back up his claims that solar and wind power were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability. That’s why it was a surprise when Bloomberg reported Friday that a July draft leaked to them concluded essentially the opposite: “The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards.” The leaked draft was completed by Department of Energy (DOE) career staff, however, and thus subject to change by Perry and his team of Trump appointees. So the big question is whether the Trump administration will erase those findings in the final draft, the way they appear to be erasing so many other inconvenient truths. Indeed, a DOE spokeswoman told Bloomberg that “those statements as written are not in the current draft.”...

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Paul LePage Continues His ‘crusade against solar power’ With Latest Veto

by Mark Hand – Solar advocates are hopeful lawmakers will overturn the veto. After Gov. Paul LePage (R) vetoed comprehensive solar legislation in 2016, Maine lawmakers crafted a far more modest solar energy bill. And yet this year’s less ambitious bill still proved to be too pro-solar for LePage, who has consistently opposed policies that promote renewable energy in the state throughout his six years in office. On Monday, LePage vetoed L.D. 1504, a bill that directs state regulators to study how to transition away from the state’s current system for reimbursing customers who own or lease solar panels whose excess power gets sent to the grid. Under the legislation, regulators would need to complete the study of the state’s solar industry by 2019. Given his anti-renewables track record, solar energy proponents were not surprised by the governor’s latest veto. “The governor has been on a crusade against solar power and solar legislation for...

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Volvo is Leaving Cars as You Know Them Behind

by Samantha Page – The clean energy future looks unstoppable — at least in some parts of the world. Swedish auto company Volvo announced Wednesday that all of the new cars it produces will be either all-electric or hybrid by 2019. “This is about the customer,” Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo said in a statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars, and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.” The transition to electric is going even faster than the car maker anticipated just last year, when it announced that all its new cars would be available in a hybrid version. Its original pledge was to offer its first all-electric car by 2019. Now, the company expects to have five electric vehicles (EVs) on the market by 2021. “We are convinced that the future of Volvo is electric,” Samuelsson said in a video ad marking the announcement. The video says the announcement marks...

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What Happened to America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It

by Chuck Collins – If you find yourself traveling this summer, take a closer look at America’s deteriorating infrastructure — our crumbling roads, sidewalks, public parks, and train and bus stations. Government officials will tell us “there’s no money” to repair or properly maintain our tired infrastructure. Nor do we want to raise taxes, they say. But what if billions of dollars in tax revenue have gone missing? New research suggests that the super-rich are hiding their money at alarming rates. A study by economists Annette Alstadsaeter, Niels Johannesen, and Gabriel Zucman reports that households with wealth over $40 million evade 25 to 30 percent of personal income and wealth taxes. These stunning numbers have two troubling implications. First, we’re missing billions in taxes each year. That’s partly why our roads and transit systems are falling apart. Second, wealth inequality may be even worse than we thought. Economic surveys estimate...

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Inexperienced Former Event Planner to Run Major Federal Housing Program

by E.A. Crunden – At HUD, she will oversee the distribution of billions of funds for a region with urgent needs. Event planner Lynne Patton, a Trump loyalist without any housing experience, will run the office overseeing New York’s housing programs. Trump named Patton to the position Wednesday, where she’ll oversee the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Region II, home to both New York and New Jersey. Vacant since January 20, the job has been in need of new shoes — but Patton may not be what many had in mind. Up until now, Patton’s biggest claim to fame seems to be planning the wedding of Eric Trump, the president’s son. According to her LinkedIn public profile, Patton says she holds a law degree from Quinnipiac University (with an unexplained “N/A” written next to the degree), in addition to an unnamed degree from Yale University. But Quinnipiac school registrar Jim Benson told the New...

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Israel Plans Most Settlement Homes Since 1992 (VIDEO)

Defence minister says first half of 2017 has seen most illegal expansion since before “Oslo peace process” began. Israel has so far this year advanced its highest number of settlement projects since 1992, the defence minister said, despite warnings such plans make a two-state solution impossible. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the comments on Sunday as Israel’s government faced mounting pressure from leaders of the settlement movement, who wield heavy influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition. Netanyahu has found himself seeking to balance the competing demands of the settlers and US President Donald Trump, who has asked him to hold back on such projects for now as he seeks a way to restart negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Lieberman told journalists and ministers at the start of a cabinet meeting that, so far this year, plans had been advanced for 8,345 homes in the occupied West Bank,...

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Involuntary Manslaughter Charges for Top State Health Official for Role in Flint Water Crisis

by Andrea Germanos – Advocacy group says new charges boost call for governor to resign. Michigan’s attorney general announced Wednesday that the head of the state’s health department and four others have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the years-long Flint water crisis. Nick Lyon, director of Michigan Health and Human Services, “failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” state AG Bill Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday. A press statement from Schuette’s office alleges that Lyon waited a year before alerting the public about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease as a result of the crisis, an act that led to the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore. He also thwarted an independent researcher from investigating the cause of the outbreak, the statement says. Lyon was also charged with misconduct in office. The others now slapped with involuntary manslaughter charges are former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell...

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