Ethylene Oxide/Sterigenics Updates

Articles Tagged with Government

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 donald-2075124_1920.pngPresident Trump’s decision to abandon America’s commitment to the Paris Climate Change Accord is just the latest horrible environmental decision that he has made. Here are just some of the others:

  • Trump named as head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, a lackey for the petroleum industry who has spent his legal career arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have the power to protect the environment. To witness Pruitt in action is to watch an idiot–who was put in place by Trump, not just because he is an idiot, but because he is the oil industry’s idiot–who will make you believe that he begins each day wondering, “What can I do for oil companies today?”
  • Trump and Pruitt have both publicly toyed with the idea of eliminating the EPA altogether, and recently proposed to cut its budget by 31%–greater than that for any other federal agency.
  • They want to cut by almost 50% the already grossly inadequate funds dedicated to cleaning up the country’s most contaminated and dangerous sites (“Superfund” sites)
  • They cynically defend these cuts by promising that the states’ environmental agencies will “pick up the slack” and “are in a better position to do the work anyway”, even though they know this is a lie. Most of the states do not have the money or competence to do the things that the EPA does, and many of them are on record saying so.
  • They have pulled down from the EPA’s website truthful scientific information that the petroleum companies did not want there.
  • They have withdrawn EPA’s previous ban of a pesticide (“chlorpyrifos”), even though years of scientific study proved that it threatens young children’s developing brains.
  • They fired EPA scientists whose job it was to keep the agency focused on its mission of protecting the public’s health.

These decisions reveal a level of ignorance and cruelty that was unthinkable until Trump came along. Environmental protection is a moral issue, above all else. Because, while in a general sense all of us are the victims of pollution, and of the wars over a lack of water and food that rampaging climate change is already provoking, the truth is that those most acutely threatened are the poor, the politically powerless, and, especially, their children. They are the ones who get sick and die, or have shortened life spans, or must live (if they are so lucky to live at all) with starvation, debilitating cancers and chronic respiratory disease…..because decisions such as Trump’s announce that these human beings are not deserving of the same standard of environmental protection as everyone else.

Trump’s decisions are immoral. Because they are made by our elected leader–and because the rest of the world understandably believes that he speaks for Americans–these decisions declare that, as a country, America is abandoning those who suffer most from pollution, and are least able to defend themselves against it.

Thumbnail image for plants-2168119_1920.jpgGet ready for a lot more of this.

Last September, the Obama EPA issued a new rule limiting the levels of air pollution that would be allowed in the states. The idea was to save lives and health, because industrial air pollution is well-documented to threaten both. Wisely, the rule created an exception for events outside the state’s control–such as wildfires or volcanic eruptions–that could dramatically increase air pollution on a short-term basis, and which the state had little or no ability to control.

But leave it to history’s most polluter-friendly EPA, run by the petroleum industry’s best spokesperson, Scott Pruitt, to take a good idea and exploit it as an excuse to create more life-endangering pollution. According to a lawsuit filed by two giants in the environmental protection field– the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and The Sierra Club–Pruitt has created another exception to the rule. This exception goes far beyond creating short-term allowances for natural, unforeseeable, uncontrollable events. As alleged, this new exception now allows more “emissions from coal-burning power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, hazardous waste incinerators and a wide variety of industrial activity”, so long as the emissions are the result of “reasonable controlled human activity”.

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.

science-1336664_1920.jpgThe other shoe is dropping. We learned last week that EPA chief Scott Pruitt was firing his agency’s scientists—the ones who review scientific evidence and determine whether, for example, humans can tolerate less contamination in their drinking water than previously thought, or certain pesticides do damage to children’s developing brains, and therefore should be off the market. We just learned this week that he will likely replace these scientists not with other scientists who are looking out for the people whom the agency is charged with protecting, but instead with so-called “representatives” of the industries the agency is supposed to be watching and regulating and punishing, where necessary, for polluting.

In other words, Pruitt will be trading scientists for corporate lobbyists. He will be transforming the EPA from the protector of the health of the American people to the protector of the profit of the American polluter. It’s a grotesque disfigurement of one of the most valuable and necessary champions of clean air and water that we have had in our society. It’s startling: the EPA will lose key scientists who believe their job is to protect our health.

So it’s not just that Pruitt disagrees with the scientists who know what it takes to keep people safe; it’s that he has decided that their voices aren’t important enough to listen to. It is no exaggeration to say that this decision will cost people their lives.

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.

The politicians that we send to Washington enjoy the greatest healthcare in the world. If they or their spouses or kids get sick, they have immediate access to the finest doctors and hospitals, and the best and most advanced medicines, treatments, and therapies. They will never have to worry that someone in the family might die from an illness that their insurance doesn’t cover, or that they won’t be able to make their mortgage payments or send their kids to college because they had to use the money instead to pay for medical care.

Who pays for this extraordinary medical care– and peace of mind–you might wonder?

You and I do, of course. We (the taxpayers) pay for 72% of the insurance premiums that secure this coverage. We also pay for the special tax breaks that our elected representatives get-and no one else in the country gets-that make it much easier for them to purchase dental or vision insurance, and the free care they get-but no one else in the country gets– at medical facilities in Washington DC, and at military hospitals.

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:

This week, the U.S. Senate votes on whether to approve President Trump’s choice, Scott Pruitt, to head the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). Why should every Senator in the building vote “No”?

Let me ask you this:

Would it be OK with you if a lawyer for the world’s largest oil companies-who has spent his career attacking the environmental protections which the EPA is charged with enforcing-was suddenly in charge of whether your family was protected against pollution caused by the world’s largest oil companies?

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