By JIM DWYER FEB. 28, 2017 – New York Times
The view to the south from the Empire State Building on Nov. 24, 1966, one of New York’s worst smog days. Credit Neal Boenzi/The New York Times
Once upon a time, you could touch the air in New York. It was that filthy. No sensible person would put a toe in most of the waterways.
In 1964, Albert Butzel moved to New York City, which then had the worst air pollution among big cities in the United States.
“I not only saw the pollution, I wiped it off my windowsills,” Mr. Butzel, 78, an environmental lawyer, said. “You’d look at the horizon and it would be yellowish. It was business as normal.”
The dawning of environmental consciousness in the United States during the 1960s led to a national commitment to clean air and water with the creation, in 1970, of the Environmental Protection Agency. It came not a moment too soon for New York City, not to mention the nation.
Today, the future and mission of the E.P.A. are in doubt as President Trump is reported to be calling for the agency’s budget to be cut by 24 percent, a reduction of more than $2 billion. Mr. Trump has also instructed the agency to undo certain regulations protecting waterways. He is expected to issue an order reversing rules to curb planet-warming gases from coal-fired power plants.
It’s worth reflecting that New York City before the E.P.A. and the movement it represented would be almost unrecognizable in 2017.
In the 1960s, my playmates and I stopped everything when it began “snowing” ash from incinerated garbage. We chased tiny scraps of partly burned paper that floated in the air as if they were blackened snowflakes. According to a study published in 2001, the quantities of lead in the sediments of the Central Park Lake correlated strongly with the vast quantities of particles emitted from garbage burned in Manhattan during the 20th century. The study found 32 garbage incinerators that were operated by the city, and 17,000 others in apartment houses.
California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.
California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.
Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.
Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.
“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.
After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling.
Critics take issue with Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, which has no color or smell. Monsanto introduced it in 1974 as an effective way of killing weeds while leaving crops and plants intact.
In his Tuesday night speech, President Donald Trump made reference, as he often does, to regulations that have killed American jobs.
This is an oft-used argument on the right — so common, in fact, that it is now taken as a kind of foundational truth, one that is simply self-evident, requiring no evidentiary support. It is one of the conservative economic catechisms (taxes slow growth, rich people create jobs, regulation kills jobs) that’s been repeated so frequently that even mainstream reporters tend to simply assume their truth.
But, at least in the case of the environmental regulations Trump is specifically attacking, it isn’t true. There is no consistent evidence that environmental regulations cause long-term changes in overall employment.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Citizen suits come in three forms.
First, a private citizen can bring a lawsuit against a citizen, corporation, or government body for engaging in conduct prohibited by the statute. For example, a citizen can sue a corporation under the Clean Water Act (CWA) for illegally polluting a waterway.
Second, a private citizen can bring a lawsuit against a government body for failing to perform a non-discretionary duty. For example, a private citizen could sue the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to promulgate regulations that the CWA required it to promulgate.
In a third, less common form, citizens may sue for an injunction to abate a potential imminent and substantial endangerment involving generation, disposal or handling of waste, regardless of whether or not the defendant’s conduct violates a statutory prohibition. This third type of citizen suit is analogous to the common law tort of public nuisance. In general, the law entitles plaintiffs who bring successful citizen suits to recover reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs.
By: Oliver Milman — From: www.TheGuardian.com — March 3, 2017
Planned cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency are set to fall heaviest upon communities of color across the US that already suffer disproportionately from toxic pollution, green groups have warned.
Donald Trump’s administration is proposing a 25% reduction in the EPA’s $8.1bn budget, eliminating nearly 3,000 jobs and several programs including the agency’s environmental justice office. Funding for the cleanup of lead, marine pollution, tribal lands and the Great Lakes region faces severe cuts, while climate initiatives are earmarked for a 70% budget reduction.
The environmental justice office is tasked with bridging the yawning disparity in pollution experienced by black, Hispanic and low-income communities and wealthier white neighborhoods. It provides grants to communities to mop up toxins and rehabilitate abandoned industrial facilities that are invariably found in poorer areas.
In the final months of Barack Obama’s administration, the EPA unveiled a new effort to tackle lead poisoning, air pollution and other problems suffered by communities of color situated next to waste treatment plants, smelters and other sources of toxins. But this plan will be cut down in its infancy should the environmental justice office be dismantled.
I, your editor, was on a conference call with the NRDC this afternoon, March 3, 2017. It was very informative. They are doing amazing front-lines litigation for the natural world (and I include humans in the natural world).
They are putting together “talking points” for the public to help tell the story of why the EPA is important. It will include this fact: the EPA spends in 1.5 years what the military spends in 1 day.
This fact would make a great political cartoon. (Send one to us if you draw one.)
Please consider this point when you hear of “money saving” tactics by the current government.
Which way conveys the message best to you?
The military spends in 1 day what the EPA spends in 1.5 years.
The military spends in 1 day what the EPA spends in 18 months.
The military spends in 1 day what the EPA spends in 216 days.
The military spends in 24 hours what the EPA spends in 5,184 hours.
The military spends in 1 hour what the EPA spends in 216 hours.
Military = one day $ : EPA = 18 months.
EPA = 18 MONTHS : Military = 1 DAY
EPA takes 18 months to spend what military spends in 1 day.
The EPA spends in 1.5 years what the military spends in 1 day.
The EPA spends in 18 months what the military spends in 1 day.
The EPA spends in 216 days what the military spends in 1 day.
The EPA spends in 5,184 hours what the military spends in 1 day.
The EPA spends in 216 hours what the military spends in 1 day.
The future of the EPA is uncertain
by Alessandra Potenza Feb 28, 2017, 8:00am EST
Children play in the yard of a home in Ruston, Washington, while a smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue in 1972.Photo by Gene Daniels / US National Archives Children play in front of a smelter pumping lead and arsenic residue in the air of Ruston, Washington; a woman holds a glass of black, undrinkable water from her well in Ohio; and the view from the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan is so hazy with smog that the New Jersey skyline is impossible to see. These scenes were captured in the early 1970s as part of a project, called Documerica, that was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency to document pollution in the US. Today, the photos show what America looked like before environmental protections were put in place — and they serve as an important reminder of why we need those protections.
Today, the future of the EPA is uncertain. The new EPA leader, Scott Pruitt, has made a career out of suing the agency for its environmental regulations, working hand in hand with the fossil fuel industry. President Donald Trump is expected to drastically cut the EPA’s budget and workforce, as well as roll back many of the regulations that empower the agency. And a bill meant to terminate the EPA by December 2018 was recently introduced in the House by three Republican congressmen.
But most ordinary people haven’t forgotten life before the EPA — and the majority of them don’t want these cuts to the agency. More than 60 percent of Americans want to see the EPA’s powers preserved or strengthened under Trump, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll released last month. And it’s not just liberals, either — almost half of Republicans wanted the EPA to continue in its mission as well. Only 19 percent of Americans would like to see the agency “weakened or eliminated.”
“There’s tremendous public support for clean air and clean water, and the basic mission of the agency is tremendously popular,” Paul Sabin, an environmental historian at Yale University, tells The Verge. “People are counting on the government to provide those protections.”
Colleagues remember Steve Wing as a different kind of scientist — one who believed advocacy and participation should be at the heart of scientific research.
“Community participation was central to the approach [Wing] believed in,” says Phil Brown, a member of the National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council. “[He believed] community residents were usually the most reliable discoverers of problems.” Wing was an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill until he died in November 2016. As a public health researcher, he advocated the use of community-based participatory research (CBPR) and sought to involve communities threatened by environmental hazards in every step of the research process. Brown says that Wing’s dedication to CBPR serves as an example to other researchers who see their advocacy and research as intertwined.
For 20 years, Wing worked with the people living near large farming operations in North Carolina’s hog country. With more than 2,100 hog farms, North Carolina is one of the largest pork-producing states in the country. Farms are concentrated in the eastern portion of the state, where most divert pig waste to open-air lagoons. When hurricanes hit, the lagoons overflow, spilling untreated hog waste into rivers, lakes, and backyards. When they’re working as intended, the lagoons contain the waste in deep pits that turn pinkish-purple from bacteria, emit toxic gases, and seep into groundwater.
Hog manure is poisonous stuff, but prior to Wing’s studies in the area, not much research had been done on the impacts of pig waste on human health. “People living around animal operations were seeing changes in their well water and smelling odors,” says Naeema Muhammad, co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN). Locals felt their concerns were ignored by area officials with ties to industry, says Muhammad. So they approached Wing to design a study on the health impacts of the farms.
To help build trust, community members were treated as co-researchers. That research partnership produced studies that found pollution from large hog operations was associated with increased blood pressure, respiratory symptoms, and stress. Another study found Black, American Indian, and Hispanic North Carolinians were more likely than White residents to live within 3 miles of an industrial hog farm.
Collaboration didn’t end once the study results were published. Wing brought the data back to the community. “People became more aware [of the health risks],” says Muhammad. “This was information that could help them.”
In a 2015 interview for North Carolina Health News, Wing explained why he believed collaborative research is important: “The research questions we choose and the studies we conduct respond to the needs of government or industry — basically, the organizations that have money to spend on research,” he said. “I became interested in the idea that there are problems that wouldn’t be identified by the authorities, that we could learn about if we just listen to the people who are exposed.”
YES! Magazine – Issue 81, Spring 2017
It’s time to look up, look around, and take note because the planet and democracy need you
Up against the White House’s “alternative facts” and attempts to hide climate data, can new allies—citizens and science—prevail against politicians and corporations?
After he moved to London in his early 20s, Luke Howard became obsessed with the weather. Howard had a day job running a pharmacy business in the 1790s and early 1800s, but he spent a lot of his spare time staring at the sky. He collected a set of makeshift weather instruments—glass thermometers; a hygrometer (to measure moisture in the air) cobbled together from a wire spring and a strip of whalebone; and a barometer attached to an old astronomical clock that he bought secondhand and repaired himself. He and his business partner, William Allen, started a science club of a dozen or so members, all men, who met in each other’s houses to give talks about a range of subjects like chemistry, astronomy, and mineralogy. When he was 30, Howard presented to the group three names he had come up with for different types of clouds—cirrus (from the Latin for “curl of hair”), cumulus (referring to a pile), and stratus (a “horizontal sheet”). The talk was a hit, and he published a version of the lecture a year later in a science magazine. And the names stuck: Howard’s cloud categories are still used by professional meteorologists.
This was science in the late 18th and early 19th centuries—a buzzing world of nerds and amateurs trying to document the workings of the world in their spare time. It was less an institution than a labor of love, like sculpture or poetry. London was a kind of hub, full of scientific societies and clubs—they were like the maker faires, the do-it-yourself collectives, the hack-a-thons of the Enlightenment. In the United States, there was a flurry of interest in collecting plant and animal specimens and documenting the natural history of North America. The barriers of the time kept certain people out of science. (There were few scientists of color, although women managed to push their way into influential scientific circles in Europe and America, and Black inventors made important technological contributions in the United States.) Still, the technology for making scientific observations was cheap, much was unknown, and nearly anyone with the means available could make a major contribution.
Then, somewhere between the late 19th and mid-20th centuries, science took a turn. As it became more powerful, sophisticated, complicated, and better funded, it disappeared behind the walls of ivory towers and corporate labs. Since the 1970s, support for science has become a partisan issue in the United States, as conservatives’ faith in science keeps declining. Fifty-eight percent of Europeans say they can’t trust scientists because they are too influenced by corporate money. Science culture is now elitist, say its detractors.
Have we forgotten what science is actually for?