Articles Posted in EPA

chimney-3705424_1920-1024x646Talk about federal government overreach! The EPA is planning to weaken rules that allow local communities to have a say in deciding how much pollution in their backyard is too much.  If the agency’s proposed changes go into effect, local individuals and community advocates would no longer be able to appeal to a panel of judges EPA-issued pollution permits that they oppose. More precisely, the new rule would allow the industrial polluter to appeal to the panel to INCREASE its allowed pollution, but the affected community could not appeal to REDUCE the pollution! The proposed rule change is so bad that even industry lawyers seemed surprised by its inequity.

This outrage is just the latest act of environmental sabotage by the EPA since Donald Trump took office.  Other efforts to roll back environmental regulations that protect public health include a rule weakening regulations of greenhouse pollution from power plants (hello, climate change), a coming plan to weaken rules on tailpipe pollution, and a proposal to open most of the US coastline to oil drilling.

Environmental law experts say the proposed rule change will give polluters an even stronger influence over the EPA and could lead to more lenient pollution permits which would hurt poor and minority communities who tend to live closer to polluters than more affluent citizens. The end result for many communities would be that they would no longer have a voice in decisions–made by the pro-pollution EPA– that would affect their homes and their health.

It started with a letter to Congress.

Seven past EPA chiefs, appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, wrote to Congress in April. They were concerned aboutUS-EPA-1-300x300 the direction of the current EPA and offered to help Congress use its oversight to put a halt to Trump’s misguided deregulatory push and the dismissal of science in favor of politics at the agency.

The seven EPA leaders signing the letter had served under Obama, Reagan, and both Bushes, so the current administration could not blame the letter on partisan politics.

Thumbnail image for EPA 2428323462_b1d7b53238_o.jpgAccording to a recent Washington Post article, the EPA has lost a tenth of its criminal investigators since Trump has been in office.

The reason this is good news to polluters is that the special agents in the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division are responsible for investigating the most serious criminal violations of the nation’s anti-pollution laws–violations which can result in prison time for those convicted.

The result is: less investigators, less referrals to the Justice Department for prosecution. In 2017, only 206 criminal cases were referred to the Justice Department compared to 228 during the previous 12 month period under President Obama. Not surprisingly, the number of referrals in 2018 is on pace to drop even lower.

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We keep hearing about big spender, Scott Pruitt, taking first class flights around the globe on the taxpayer’s dime. In fact, Politico reported in February that Pruitt spent over $90,000 last June on first class flights instead of coach, as required by federal regulation, because angry individuals were confronting him in airports and occasionally yelling profanities at him.

It appears, however, that when it comes to spending his own money, he is a bit cheaper.

Last week, ABC News revealed that EPA Chief Pruitt had been renting a Capitol Hill condo partly owned by lobbyist Vicki Hart, whose husband, J. Steven Hart, is president of Williams and Jensen, a firm who lobbies the EPA on behalf of polluters. The terms of the unconventional lease with the lobbyist allowed Pruitt to pay only for nights when he used the condo, at a rate of $50 a night. Apparently, Pruitt’s daughter and wife also stayed at the condo with Pruitt at times. Documents further show that Pruitt paid only $6100 to use the condo over about 6 months, which works out to approximately $1020 for about 20 nights use per month. With weekday rates at 3 star Capitol Hill hotels starting in the mid $200’s, or 2 bedroom apartment rentals running $3000 a month and up, this below-market deal would appear to be an in kind gift to the EPA administrator from a lobbyist…who lobbies the EPA.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for EPA 2428323462_b1d7b53238_o.jpgYou know when Republican senators start opposing their own president’s nominees, things must be really bad.

Such is the case with Michael Dourson, Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) chemical safety office. Two Republican senators from North Carolina, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, recently announced they would not support Dourson. Their opposition stems from the fact that they do not believe that Dourson would protect North Carolina residents from contamination threats–like the Camp Lejeune water contamination and the recent discovery of a chemical called Gen X in the Cape Fear River–which plague their state.

The reason for their concern is apparent to anyone who cares about environmental protection: Dourson, a lackey for the chemical industry, has been paid for years to underplay the harm of various chemicals. His history makes clear which side of the issue this nominee stands on. He has no intention of protecting the people from dangerous chemicals; his loyalty belongs to the industries which paid him.

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If Scott Pruitt wants to spend his professional career as little more than a cabana boy to polluters, that’s his business.

Until.Scott Pruitt 2 (2).jpg

He wants to be in charge of the US Environmental Protection Agency, whose mission it is to regulate and, where necessary, punish those same polluters. There, Pruitt’s joy in providing total, unbridled servitude to polluters has no place.

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Over these last few days since President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, he and his aides-most prominently, EPA chief Scott Pruitt-have been unwilling to answer a simple question: “Does the President think that climate change is a hoax?”

However, for as important as this question is, it is unnecessary. Why? Because we already know the answer. And the answer is that Trump and Pruitt do not believe in global warming. In fact, it’s even worse than that. These guys do not believe in science. They do not accept that science has any role to play in environmental decision-making.

We know this because their contempt for science has been at the root of every decision they have made: from pulling out of the Paris deal; to insisting that the EPA’s budget be slashed by a third; to firing EPA scientists and pulling scientific information off the EPA’s website; to wanting to cut almost half the resources currently being used to clean up the country’s most dangerously contaminated (“Superfund”) sites; to putting back on the market a pesticide already proven (by EPA scientists, no less) to damage children’s brains.

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Thumbnail image for coal-1626401_1920.jpgYour average second grader knows that 1,300 is not the same as 50,000…..and that 400 is not the same as 7,000.

But the man who heads the US EPA evidently does not know this.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt was all over the airwaves the last few days, defending the United States’ backing out of the Paris climate change accord by saying that the decision was necessary to support coal industry job creation. As statistical evidence to support this, Pruitt claimed:

Thumbnail image for EPA 2428323462_b1d7b53238_o.jpgHot off the presses is the Trump/Pruitt proposed 31% cut to the EPA’s budget, including slashing more than $300 million from the fund used to clean up the most toxic and dangerous sites in America, i.e., “Superfund” sites. If this cut passes Congress, thousands will get sick and others still will die because the contamination that the EPA would have cleaned up or mitigated will now be left in the environment to wreak havoc on our citizens, mostly children.

For the last 3 months, EPA Chief Pruitt has promised that such massive cuts made sense because the states were in a better position than the federal government to provide the necessary environmental protection.

Well, the new budget proposal reveals Pruitt’s promise to be a lie, as it proposes to slash the environmental grants to states by 45%, from $1.1 billion to $600 million. In other words, Pruitt wants to take away half of the states’ resources for fighting pollution, at the same time that he promises that they will fight more pollution.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for donald-2075124_1920.pngThis blog is dedicated primarily to environmental issues, and so over the last four months I have blogged with alarm and sadness and sometimes even anger as our new President has done everything within his power to dismantle the EPA–which is the primary federal agency for the protection of public health in this country. Families that I have represented, as well as countless hundreds of thousands of others, are alive and in good health today because the EPA takes seriously its job to warn us as to how dangerous certain industrial chemicals really are; notifies neighborhoods when those chemicals have invaded their air or drinking water; and forces polluters to clean them up.

Trump has also claimed global warming to be a “hoax”, abandoning our role as natural leaders on this important issue, and suddenly consigning the US to the status of a third world back-bencher on the issue perhaps most threatening to the future of mankind. He has appointed to head the EPA a dedicated stooge for the world’s most aggressive polluters (Scott Pruitt), who has joined Trump in discrediting and even firing scientists working for the federal government who have devoted their professional lives to making us all safer.

There has been an almost casual cruelty to Trump’s having done all of this, and so quickly, without even a glancing consideration afforded the millions of Americans–children, first among them–whose health and futures are now endangered because of these blindingly ill-advised actions.

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