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Articles Posted in Environmental contamination

Thumbnail image for donald-2075124_1920.pngWho is Donald Trump trying to impress with his demands to slash spending on scientists and scientific research, and his twitter-blizzard attacks on established science (climate change, as but one of many examples)?

In the environmental field in which I work, the results of research studies done by federally-funded scientists are why we know the dangers to human health of the chemicals-like TCE, PCE, and vinyl chloride– which plants and factories have recklessly dumped and buried throughout their history. People are alive today because of the discoveries made by these scientists.

It’s also why, as the article below argues, we have a chance to actually decrease massive federal spending on disease (like the $279 billion we spend annually on caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease)…because the scientists at the National Institutes of Health are hard at work to find a cure. There is no point in stripping America of its miraculous ability to lead the world in improving life and health. And there is no point in threatening to do so, either.

climate-change-2254711_1920.jpgThis month in Germany, the world’s biggest industrial nations are meeting to discuss what to do about increasingly threatening climate change. A good idea, right? Except it turns out that the meeting will be disgraced by the presence of some 270 business lobbyists, most of them there to protect trillions in worldwide oil industry profits. Their aim is to shut down any chance of real progress on climate change, which would require clamping down on oil production.

Sadly, the U.S. has been stripped of its moral authority on climate change, with the President now the world’s most famous climate change denier, and his cabinet stocked with oil industry hacks like Scott Pruitt (EPA chief) and Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State). Let’s not risk the rapid destruction of our health and planet by allowing oil lobbyists and fake science peddlers to control this debate.

EPA 2428323462_b1d7b53238_o.jpgScott Pruitt has repeatedly stated that he’s cutting the EPA’s budget for Clean Air programs because those programs are not the EPA’s job and that he expects the states to do more to ensure clean air.

This is a lie. Here’s what Scott Pruitt knows:

(1) The states don’t have the money for more environmental protection. They don’t even have the money for what they’re supposed to be doing right now. The State of Illinois where I live, for example, cannot even afford to pay to keep all of its schools and government offices open, or for the medical care, it is contractually obligated to provide its employees. Many other states are in similarly pathetic financial shape. In short, anyone who proposes extensive new state programs for anything-protecting the environment, or otherwise-should have their sanity questioned.

industrial-720706_1280.jpgWhat do you suppose happens when a town cuts its police force and no longer tries to catch people speeding on the most dangerous roads in the town? More speeding, more danger, right?

In fact, if the town didn’t want to catch speeders any more on those roads, what is the surest way to accomplish that result? Cut the police force, right?

Now, what if the speeders themselves were in charge of the town’s decisions about how many police to have, and whether to dedicate them to catching speeders?

A recent article titled “Righting Civil Wrongs” sadly describes how the poor, minority residents of communities throughout the United States have been left with no choice but to sue their government (the US EPA, specifically). Years ago, these residents formally claimed that they were the victims of environmental racism because the government had permitted a local landfill to continue to expand into their neighborhood. By law, the US EPA is required to respond to these serious claims (they are claims of Civil Rights violations, after all) within 180 days, to say whether it agrees that environmental racism is at work. However, some of these residents have been waiting up to 20 years for an answer, and still do not have one.

So they are suing their government just to get an answer. Represented by an extraordinarily dedicated lawyer named Marianne Engelman Lado, they are asking that their government not only obey the law but, more fundamentally, acknowledge their basic humanity.

Of course, to make someone wait decades for the answer to their question is in itself an answer. It says: “We don’t believe you”. Or worse: “We don’t think you’re important enough to get you an answer…..even though the law says that we have to.” The EPA would rather ignore the law than get them an answer. What does this say? Worse, the EPA’s statistics reveal how it is, literally, impossible to get the EPA to take you seriously if you claim to be the victim of environmental racism. In the 22 year history of the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights, while nearly 300 complaints of environmental racism have been filed, not a single one, not a single one, has resulted in a finding of a civil rights violation.

More than perhaps anything else he does, a president’s budget proposal tells us what he thinks is important.

By that measure, President Trump’s just proposed massive budget cuts for the EPA tell us that Trump does not value the EPA mission of ensuring clean air and water for Americans, and in fact that he believes we have been too harsh on the corporate polluters whose behavior deprives us of those things. Stated bluntly, the President is trying to disband the environmental police. Polluters should be licking their chops.

It is impossible to reach any other conclusion when we review what Trump proposes to do to the EPA’s funding:

Pro-business forces in Congress have proposed laws aimed at restricting, or even eliminating, the rights of injured Americans to join together in bringing their claims in the form of a single “class action” lawsuit. A class action is a kind of lawsuit in which those who have been injured by the same corporate conduct can bring their legal claims as part of a single case, rather than having to file dozens or hundreds or even thousands of essentially identical individual cases. Common examples of a class action include:

  • When a corporation has misrepresented its financial health, causing investors to pay more for the corporation’s stock than it is actually worth, only to learn later through an unexpected stock price drop that they had not been told the truth.
  • When a car company has sold automobiles with a common defect–say, a malfunctioning air bag-with the result that car purchasers did not get the car they paid for, and in fact unknowingly got a dangerous car.

Two things that Scott Pruitt just said prove that he is so deep into the pocket of big oil company polluters that he can’t find his way out. He’s not fit to head the EPA.

Here’s what Pruitt said:

(1) “I think people across this country look at the EPA much as they look at the IRS.” That’s what he recently told the Conservative Political Action Conference. But he’s dead wrong. Here’s the truth: It’s not the “people across this country” who look at the EPA like it’s the IRS. It’s polluters who look at the EPA like it’s the IRS. Because the EPA has the power to make them stop polluting, to clean up the pollution they cause, and to protect the American people against pollution. This can cost the polluters a huge amount of money. Polluters fear the EPA because of this power. Polluters hate the EPA because of this power. But “people across the country” don’t fear or hate the EPA. They think of the EPA as the cavalry, riding in to protect them when some polluter has ruined their environment. They know they don’t have the political or financial power to stop polluters-especially the biggest and worst ones, like the big oil companies. So, they think of the EPA as someone who will stop polluters for them, as the people’s protector (even if the EPA doesn’t always merit this respect). I know this because, during my 17 + years of representing literally thousands of families whose air, water, or soil has been contaminated by reckless polluters, that’s what they tell me. That’s what they think of the EPA. That’s what they want and expect the EPA to be. Nothing remotely like the IRS.

It’s hard to say what’s worst about Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s choice to head the EPA. Among the choices are:

·He’s a paid shill for big oil companies who masqueraded as a public servant, i.e., the Attorney General of Oklahoma.

·He used his public office to do what big oil and other polluters wanted him to do. He sued the EPA 14 times, alleging that the agency didn’t have the right to try to restrict pollution.

The recent resignation-in-disgrace of Trump Administration National Security Advisor (NSA), Michael Flynn, and the resulting damage to the country could have been avoided. If the President and his advisers had looked at Flynn more carefully before he was appointed to head the NSA (and assuming that they even cared about what they would have found), they would have realized that the conflicts created by Flynn’s unusual coziness with the Russians would explode in their faces, and badly damage our national security interests.

Are Trump and his people about to screw up again?

Trump has nominated to head the federal EPA Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma. And, in typical Trump fashion, the President is insisting that Pruitt’s nomination be rushed through the Senate, despite the growing number of warning signs screaming that Pruitt’s coziness with big oil and gas companies is going to result in another disastrously conflicted Presidential appointee. For example:

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