Tag Archives: Environmental Protection Agency

Trump budget is survival of the fittest

Continue reading Trump budget is survival of the fittest

Republicans join Democrats against Trump’s Great Lakes cuts

It  sounds like an idea that would warm a conservative Republican’s heart: Kill funding of a regional environmental cleanup of the Great Lakes that has lasted seven years and cost the federal government more than $2 billion, with no end in sight. If states want to keep the program going, let them pick up the tab.

That is what President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget plan proposes for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an ambitious push to fix problems that have long bedeviled the world’s largest surface freshwater system — from invasive species to algal blooms and toxic sludge fouling tributary rivers.

During the Obama administration, the program generally got about $300 million a year. Trump’s offer is zero. His spending plan says it “returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”

The response from Republicans in Great Lakes states: No, thanks.

“I think it makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told The Associated Press, adding that he would lobby the Trump administration and congressional leaders to put the money back.

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan considers Great Lakes funding “very important to Michiganders, therefore we know there is strong support among Michigan’s congressional delegation and we will work with them to preserve the funding,” spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.

GOP lawmakers from the region also rushed out statements defending the program. It “helps protect both our environment and our economy,” U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said.

The reaction illustrates a political fact of life: Whether you consider something in the budget valuable or wasteful can depend a lot on where you’re from.

And it underscores the resistance Trump may encounter to some spending cuts he is proposing for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior and other agencies that draw frequent attacks from congressional Republicans yet fund projects and services with support back home.

The president’s spending blueprint also targets a Chesapeake Bay cleanup begun in 1983 that received $73 million last year, plus other “geographic programs.” It doesn’t identify them, but a proposal by the Office of Management and Budget this month called for cutting all or most funding for San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.

Asked for more details, EPA released a statement saying the plan “reflects the president’s priorities” and that Administrator Scott Pruitt “is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency’s core mission.”

The Great Lakes region includes swing states crucial to Trump’s election — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. There’s also New York, Minnesota and Illinois. And Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, is now Trump’s vice president.

Coincidentally, the budget plan was released as about 100 Great Lakes advocates paid a yearly visit to Washington, D.C., in support of the restoration initiative. They flocked to the offices of home-state lawmakers, reminding them that Congress voted only last year to extend the program another five years.

“We are going to turn once again to our bipartisan congressional champions,” said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

While Democratic lawmakers excoriated Trump’s proposal _ “incredibly short-sighted and reckless,” said Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan _ Republicans noted that former President Barack Obama at times recommended more modest reductions to the initiative, which Congress rejected.

Some also pointed out that former President George W. Bush signed initial legislation authorizing a wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup, although he sought little money for it.

The initiative has funded nearly 3,000 projects across the eight states. Among them: efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes, prevent nutrient runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms, rebuild wetlands where fish spawn and remove sediments laced with PCBs and other toxins.

Nearly all the federal grants require cost-share payments from a state, local or tribal agency, or perhaps a nonprofit organization. But Ambs said they can’t afford to shoulder the burden alone.

Without federal support, “all of this restoration work would come to a halt,” he said.

 

EPA chief: Carbon dioxide not primary cause of global warming

 

The new chief of the Environmental Protection Agency said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming, a statement at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and his own agency.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said measuring the effect of human activity on the climate is “very challenging” and that “there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact” of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“So, no, I would not agree that (carbon dioxide) is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Pruitt is a longtime ally of Big Oil, which has led a campaign of disinformation about the role of carbon dioxide in climate change.

Pruitt’s view is contrary to mainstream climate science, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA itself.

Carbon dioxide is the biggest heat trapping force and is responsible for about 33 times more added warming than natural causes, according to calculations from the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change organized by the United Nations.

The panel’s calculations mean carbon dioxide alone accounts for between 1 and 3 degrees warming, said MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry Emanuel.

“Scott Pruitt is just wrong on this,” he said.

The Associated Press sent Pruitt’s comments to numerous scientists who study climate. All seven climate scientists who responded said Pruitt was wrong and that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of global warming.

NASA and NOAA reported in January that earth’s 2016 temperatures were the warmest ever. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, “a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

The EPA says on its website that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.” Human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, “release large amounts of CO2, causing concentrations in the atmosphere to rise,” the website says.

Environmental groups and Democrats seized on Pruitt’s comments as evidence he is unfit for the office he holds.

“The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and he seems happy to let the climate crisis burn out of control,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Pruitt “is spewing corporate polluter talking points rather than fulfilling the EPA’s mission of protecting our air, our water and our communities,” Brune said, noting that EPA has a legal responsibility to address carbon pollution.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the comments underscore that Pruitt is a “climate denier” and insisted lawmakers will stand up to him.

“Anyone who denies over a century’s worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA,” Schatz said in a statement.

The EPA issued a statement Thursday afternoon reiterating that Pruitt believes the climate is warming, in part due to human activity. “Many questions remain however that should be debated: how much is the climate changing, to what extent is human activity involved and what to do about it?” the agency said

Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes, whose book Merchants of Doubt reports purposeful rejection of mainstream science, said, “Mr. Pruitt is not confused. Rather he is part of a campaign designed to confuse us.”

Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge former President Barack Obama’s regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.

Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing in January that climate change is real _ breaking with President Donald Trump and his own past statements.

Pruitt told Democratic senators that he disagreed with Trump’s earlier claims that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese to harm the economic competitiveness of the United States.

“I do not believe climate change is a hoax,” Pruitt said.

The Republican has previously cast doubt on the extensive body of scientific evidence showing that the planet is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame. In a 2016 opinion article, Pruitt suggested that the debate over global warming “is far from settled” and he said “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this report.

 

 

EPA chief ignores scientific consensus, says carbon dioxide not primary cause of warming

The new chief of the Environmental Protection Agency said this week he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming, a statement at odds with mainstream scientific consensus and his own agency.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has made his riches in the fossil fuel industry, said measuring the effect of human activity on the climate is “very challenging” and that “there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact” of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

“So, no, I would not agree that (carbon dioxide) is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt told CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

Pruitt’s view is contrary to mainstream climate science, including NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the EPA itself.

NASA and NOAA reported in January that earth’s 2016 temperatures were the warmest ever. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, “a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere,” the agencies said in a joint statement.

The EPA says on its website that “carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change.” The agency notes that human activities, such as the burning of fossil fuels, “release large amounts of CO2, causing concentrations in the atmosphere to rise.”

Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said “Scott Pruitt is just plain wrong on this.”

Emanuel, co-director of the Lorenz Center at MIT, said the most authoritative compilation of scientific research has shown that increasing carbon dioxide has been the dominant source of global warming, followed by methane and other gases.

Environmental groups and Democrats seized on Pruitt’s comments as evidence he is unfit for the office he holds.

“The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department and he seems happy to let the climate crisis burn out of control,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.

Pruitt “is spewing corporate polluter talking points rather than fulfilling the EPA’s mission of protecting our air, our water and our communities,” Brune said, noting that EPA has a legal responsibility to address carbon pollution.

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said the comments underscore that Pruitt is a “climate denier” and insisted lawmakers will stand up to him.

“Anyone who denies over a century’s worth of established science and basic facts is unqualified to be the administrator of the EPA,” Schatz said in a statement.

Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma attorney general, where he rose to prominence as a leader in coordinated efforts by Republican attorneys general to challenge former President Barack Obama’s regulatory agenda. He sued or took part in legal actions against the EPA 14 times.

Pruitt said during his confirmation hearing in January that climate change is real — breaking with President Donald Trump and his own past statements.

Pruitt told Democratic senators that he disagreed with Trump’s earlier claims that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese to harm the economic competitiveness of the United States.

“I do not believe climate change is a hoax,” Pruitt said.

The Republican has previously cast doubt on the extensive body of scientific evidence showing that the planet is warming and man-made carbon emissions are to blame. In a 2016 opinion article, Pruitt suggested that the debate over global warming “is far from settled” and he said “scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind.”

Trump wants to slash EPA, nix Great Lakes Restoration project

The Trump administration would slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, scaling back and all but eliminating EPA programs aimed at slowing climate change and maintaining water safety and air quality, while eliminating thousands of jobs, according to a draft of the  proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

Under the tentative plan from the Office of Management and Budget, the agency’s funding would be reduced by roughly 25 percent and about 3,000 jobs would be cut, about 19 percent of the agency’s staff.

President Donald Trump has said he plans to pay for billions of dollars more for the military by cutting spending on domestic agencies and departments. Trump plans to submit his budget to Congress the week of March 13.

The proposal would all but eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a wide-ranging cleanup of the world’s largest surface freshwater system that has deep bipartisan support across the eight states adjacent to the lakes, from Minnesota to New York. The program has received around $300 million annually from the federal budget during former President Barack Obama’s tenure — more than $2.2 billion in all. Under the Trump proposal, it would get only $10 million.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., described the proposed cut as “outrageous.”

“This initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp,” Stabenow said. “I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions.”

A spokeswoman for the EPA declined to comment, but a top official said in an internal memo that EPA leaders “will do everything in our power to protect our ability to support the mission of the agency in protecting human health and the environment.”

A copy of the memo from Acting Assistant Administrator Donna Vizian was obtained by the AP.

Vizian said she could not verify news media accounts, but said any proposed cuts were just the start of a lengthy budget process. A final plan is subject to congressional approval, which likely is months away at the earliest.

But the far right, which includes Trump’s core constituents, want his administration to do away with all laws that protect the nation’s air, water and natural resources. They believe that environmental regulations stand in the way of greater profits for oil companies, manufacturers, and other industries.

The conservative think tank Heartland Institute, for example, said Trump’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“If Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are serious about ending the national scandal that is EPA, they will accept nothing less than a 20 percent cut this year and make this year’s cut the first step in a five-year plan to replace the organization,” said Joseph Bast, the group’s president.

The White House declined to comment.

Anti-science leadership

The EPA is now under the leadership of Scott Pruitt, a former state attorney general for Oklahoma, who has questioned the scientific consensus that human activities are contributing to global warming and joined lawsuits against the agency’s emission curbs.

As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt filed numerous lawsuits against the agency he now heads.

Pruitt is under fire for using a private email account as Oklahoma AG to coordinate strategies with fossil fuel companies to oppose environmental rules. During his confirmation hearings, Pruitt said he’d never improperly used emails in an official capacity; but an investigation by The Associated Press found that he did use his private emails to conduct official business, including communicating with staff and lobbyists.

Democrats have accused Pruitt of perjury and called for an investigation, which is unlikely proceed given Republican control of the entire federal government.

Trump’s draft proposal for the EPA would help to achieve the goals of Pruitt and Big Oil. It would cut the EPA’s budget from about $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion. Proposed cuts include reducing the climate protection budget by nearly 70 percent to $29 million, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 97 percent to $10 million and environmental justice programs by 79 percent to $1.5 million.

Also targeted for steep spending rollbacks are the agency’s monitoring and enforcement of compliance with environmental laws, as well as regional projects intended to benefit degraded areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. A program dealing with San Francisco Bay that received $4.8 million last year would be eliminated, as would initiatives for reducing diesel emissions and beach water quality testing.

Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the proposed budget “a fantasy” that ignores the EPA’s mission to protect public health.

“It shows the Trump administration doesn’t hold the same American values for clean air, clean water and healthy land as the vast majority of its citizens,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Our health comes before the special interests of multibillion-dollar industries.”

Environmental groups said the proposed cuts would threaten thousands of jobs and could harm health and safety protections for millions of Americans. The proposals would especially affect programs to address climate change and enforce clean air and water laws, they said.

“Instead of working to protect American families, President Trump’s plans put the interest of big-money special interests over people,” said Nat Mund, legislative director of the Southern Environmental Law Center, a Virginia-based advocacy group.

Congress in December authorized continuing the program through 2021 at $300 million a year, although separate annual votes are needed to provide the money.

 

EPA OKs plan allowing Wisconsin companies to delay compliance with pollution regs

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a plan from two Republican Wisconsin state lawmakers that allows companies to pay to delay compliance with strict phosphorous pollution standards.

Continue reading EPA OKs plan allowing Wisconsin companies to delay compliance with pollution regs

Climate activists issue call to action for Trump times

Continue reading Climate activists issue call to action for Trump times

2016: Highs, lows and farewells

Continue reading 2016: Highs, lows and farewells

Wisconsin DNR fails to update lead testing guidelines for drinking water

Nine months after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warned against flushing water systems before testing for lead, the state Department of Natural Resources has not yet passed that advice on to public water systems in Wisconsin.

The EPA issued a memo in late February as the lead-in-drinking-water crisis in Flint, Michigan was exploding into public view. The memo, intended to clear up confusion over testing procedures, declared that flushing water systems before sampling must be avoided because it can conceal high levels of lead in drinking water

Water managers in Shawano and at Riverside Elementary School near Wausau say they were not aware of the change and have continued to use flushing when testing for lead.

Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech University professor who helped expose the Flint crisis, said that updating the testing procedures is “essential for public health protection.” Any amount of lead can cause permanent damage, including reduced intelligence and behavior problems, according to the EPA. Infants and children are considered the most vulnerable to lead’s negative effects.

“As we saw in Flint, the old protocols effectively ‘hid’ lead in water problems,” Edwards said.

“Given what we now know, data collected using the outdated protocols cannot be trusted.”

The memo also instructed EPA administrators to pass the guidance along to state drinking water program directors. DNR spokeswoman Jennifer Sereno said the agency was notified of the guidance and she confirmed that “pre-stagnation flushing is not an appropriate sampling procedure.”

Sereno insisted the agency had responded appropriately. DNR presented the information at two industry meetings and sent an email to the Wisconsin Rural Water Association in March, she said.

Sereno added that the agency “is in the process of drafting a letter to all community water systems that will make them aware of this and other EPA memos and summarize the content.” The agency, which is responsible for enforcing federal drinking water standards in Wisconsin, expects to send the letters next week, she said.

A search of the DNR drinking water database Friday showed nearly 6,270 lead compliance sample results from 948 water systems have been reported to the agency since Feb. 29, when the EPA guidance was issued. It was not immediately known how many used the now-discredited procedure of pre-stagnation flushing, in which a water system is flushed for some period of time, water sits unused for six hours, and then samples are collected.

Sampling procedures listed on the DNR’s website indicate the water must be stagnant for six hours but do not address whether or not the tap should be flushed prior to sampling. Sereno said new instructions will be posted online to clarify this.

Virginia Tech University professor Marc Edwards talks with Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis before a symposium on drinking water Sept. 7, 2016 at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wis. Edwards said WisconsinÕs failure to notify local water managers of new lead testing protocols in the wake of the Flint, Michigan lead crisis could pose a danger to the public. —PHOTO: Dee J. Hall
Virginia Tech University professor Marc Edwards talks with Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis before a symposium on drinking water Sept. 7, 2016 at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, Wis. Edwards said WisconsinÕs failure to notify local water managers of new lead testing protocols in the wake of the Flint, Michigan lead crisis could pose a danger to the public. —PHOTO: Dee J. Hall

In July, EPA sent a letter reminding states to post updated protocols to their websites, saying the agency would follow up with each state “to ensure that these protocols and procedures are clearly understood and are being properly implemented to address lead and copper issues at individual drinking water systems.” The EPA did not respond to a question about whether any other states had failed to notify water managers of the updated protocols.

While some municipalities, such as the Green Bay Water Utility and the Milwaukee Water Works, were aware of the EPA memo and updated their testing procedures, others continued using outdated methods that included a flushing step — making it possible dangerous levels of lead could go unnoticed.

Shawano included pre-stagnation flushing in the procedures used for this year’s testing, which was completed over the summer. Patrick Bergner, water manager for the city of nearly 10,000 between Green Bay and Wausau, said although he works closely with a DNR liaison, he was not aware of any EPA guidance against flushing.

“I’d be happy to be informed of any changes in the procedure,” Bergner said. One of Shawano’s 21 compliance samples had a level of lead nearly three times the federal action level, which is 15 parts per billion; several more neared the limit.

DNR public water supply specialist Tony Knipfer acknowledged the need for clarification when flushing is appropriate. It is typically recommended as a way for consumers to reduce exposure to lead in their own homes, for example, but should not be done before testing.

“I think it’s fair to say that there’s been some confusion or conflicting information out on the flushing,” he said. “But from a regulatory aspect and a health and safety aspect, we’re looking for representative samples of what’s likely to be consumed.”

Milwaukee Water Works issued a statement in June saying it immediately adopted the instructions not to pre-flush. Those new instructions will be put to use next year when the utility tests 50 homes and buildings for compliance with EPA regulations.

“Prior to February of 2016, MWW did instruct residents to flush their home plumbing prior to the required six-hour stagnation period, before collecting samples for regulatory compliance purposes,” according to the memo from Milwaukee Water Works Superintendent Carrie Lewis to Mayor Tom Barrett.

“The last testing cycle (for Milwaukee) was the summer of 2014. That cycle did include the pre-stagnation flushing instruction,” Lewis wrote. “The next cycle in the summer of 2017 will not.”

Other procedures that can mask the true level of lead in drinking water include removing or cleaning faucet filters called aerators that can collect lead particles; using narrow-necked bottles that result in a slower flow of water; and sampling in cooler months when lead concentrations are lower. The EPA also urged that those procedures should end.

“While we cannot undo the past harm done from failing to detect water lead risks,” Edwards said, “there should be zero tolerance for future needless harm that arises from a false sense of security created by bad data.”

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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