On August 7 I reported that the Trump administration had loosened restrictions on products containing asbestos, which is totally banned in 60 countries because the material is a deadly carcinogen. According to the new rules, asbestos-containing products can be created or imported into the U.S. on a case by case basis.
Now, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group, which seems to be a bit kooky (they’re in favor big time of GMO labeling, for instance), asbestos imports are starting to rise dramatically: 2,000 percent (20 fold) between July and August (click on screenshot below). Most of them, as the graph further below shows, come from Brazil.
We don’t need to use asbestos, as there are safe substitutes. There were about 3,000 deaths per year due to asbestos in the 15 years before 2015, most from mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that can show up decades after a small amount of the product is inhaled. And it’s a horrible way to die: I’ve seen it at work. The EPA should ban it, but lobbyists from the chemical industry are pushing to keep a ban from being enacted.
According to a new report by CNN, Trump is heading to West Virginia today to celebrate the further dismantling of prudent environmental regulations. In this case the EPA is going to deregulate federal supervision of coal-fired electric plants, giving the regulations back to the states. Coal states will, of course, scrap those regulations as fast as they can, for fewer regulations mean more jobs for state residents—not to mention more pollution-related diseases. As CNN notes:
The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise at the heart of his appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia — an appeal embodied by Trump’s 2016 campaign stops in the coal country of West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, where Trump supporters waved “Trump Digs Coal” signs and where the President-to-be donned a coal-mining helmet.
The EPA Tuesday morning formally unveiled the details of its new plan to devolve regulation of coal-fired power plants back to the states, one that is expected to give a boost to the coal industry and increase carbon emissions nationwide.
The move is expected to spark an intense legal battle, with environmental groups already readying legal challenges to the new regulations.
Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday argued the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan — the policy being replaced by this week’s proposal — “exceeded the agency’s legal authority” and argued the old regulations led to rising energy prices which have “hurt low and middle income Americans the most.”
Yes, the same people who are also hurt by pollution! Coal contributes not only to global warming compared to other forms of energy, but also creates particulates that contribute to diseases like asthma and heart and lung disease. This translates into deaths.
But there is some pushback:
The move is just the latest effort by the Trump administration to revive an ailing coal industry and strip climate change-fighting regulations established by the Obama administration. He previously announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accords, calling it an unfair deal for Americans.
“I was elected by the citizens of Pittsburgh,” Trump said at the time, “not Paris.”
Those moves have been rebuffed by California and a dozen other states, which have led a push to maintain high environmental standards and legally challenge the Trump administration’s rollback of the Obama-era rules.
In a statement on Tuesday, California Gov. Jerry Brown decried the Trump administration’s latest proposal as “a declaration of war against America and all of humanity.”
“It will not stand,” he said. “Truth and common sense will triumph over Trump’s insanity.”
As a harbinger of this new era of despoiling the environment, Trump made some very bizarre statements at a fundraiser in New York—comments so bizarre that the Washington Post, in the article below (click on screenshot), had to translate them into English.
“We have — clean coal exports have increased, 60 percent last year — clean coal, which is one of our big assets that we weren’t allowed to use for our miners. You remember Hillary with the coal, right, sitting with the miners at the table? Remember? That wasn’t so good for her. So the people of West Virginia and all over, you look at Wyoming, you look at so many different places where they just, Pennsylvania, where they loved what we did, and it’s clean coal and we have the most modern procedures. But it’s a tremendous form of energy in the sense that in a military way — think of it — coal is indestructible.”
“You can blow up a pipeline, you can blow up the windmills. You know, the windmills, boom, boom, boom [mimicking windmill sound] bing [mimes shooting large gun], that’s the end of that one. If the birds don’t kill it first. The birds could kill it first. They kill so many birds. You look underneath some of those windmills, it’s like a killing field, the birds. But you know, that’s what they were going to, they were going to windmills. And you know, don’t worry about — when the wind doesn’t blow, I said, ‘What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?’ ‘Well, then we have a problem.’
“Okay, good. They were putting them in areas where they didn’t have much wind, too. And it’s a subs — you need subsidy for windmills. You need subsidy. Who wants to have energy where you need subsidy? So, uh, the coal is doing great.”
This is like a twisted version of Ulysses: a mind dump by a demented narcissist. It’s horribly embarrassing to have our President talking about killing birds, blowing up pipelines, and once again bashing Hillary Clinton. But the Post claims there’s a message in there, and translates it. Trump’s references—and lies—include these:
There’s no such thing as “clean coal”. What he’s referring to is apparently coal whose carbon dioxide emissions can be captured and re-used. That’s not what we were exporting: we were shipping out regular “dirty” coal. But even his figure is suspect given that in 2016 coal exports were abnormally low because of low global prices, and exports in 2012 ande 2014 were actually higher than those in 2017.
Clinton did speak to a town hall meeting in West Virginia, and angered locals by talking about “putting a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” Maybe a good policy, but not a good thing to tell West Virginians.
The blowing up refers to Trump’s idea that attacking a coal company whose fuel is onsite is harder than blowing up a pipeline and windmills. (What he meant by the windmills killing birds is obscure to me, unless he’s somehow appealing to environmentalists!). But blowing up windmills is in fact harder than blowing up a single coal-fired plant, as you’d have to target a lot of windmills. And Trump has an animus against windmills. The Post notes that Trump was ticked off that his Scottish golf courses were going to be affected by local windmills, and he fought their construction, even saying that the sound from the windmills (“boom boom”) would hurt people’s health!
As for subsidies for wind power, that assumes that you have to pay people to generate power with wind farms because they’re more expensive per kilowatt hour generated than are coal plants. But the Post says that’s untrue:
While it can be tricky to compare the costs of electricity generation across methods, the financial advisory firm Lazard each year creates an index of the costs of production without subsidies. The 2017 iteration of that report found that wind power was less expensive than producing energy by burning coal. The long-term trend has been a drop in the cost of wind production, while coal production costs have been fairly steady.
Remember, too, what Trump said about those coal plants that are essential to national security: His administration wants to mandate purchases from them to ensure their viability. That’s a subsidy in its own right.
There’s no question that Trump pledged to prioritize the coal industry as a candidate and that, as president, he has tried to do so. But the rhetoric he uses, often picking up well-worn threads he’s been offering for years, can often be inscrutable. It can also often be wrong.
I lived through Nixon, G. W. Bush, and Reagan, and although I was disaffected then, that’s nothing compared to the horror embodied in having this man as the President of the United States.
In the midst of dismantling environmental protections, allowing the shooting of bears in their dens, and calling for forests to be cleared, the Trump administration has also taken one environmental action that’s been under my radar. According to the article below, from The Architects Newspaper (click on screenshot), companies can now create new products containing asbestos, one of the most carcinogenic substances known to humans, without the Environmental Protection Agency being able to evaluate their second-hand effects.
One of the most dangerous construction-related carcinogens is now legally allowed back into U.S. manufacturing under a new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fast Companyrecently reported that on June 1, the EPA authorized a “SNUR” (Significant New Use Rule) which allows new products containing asbestos to be created on a case-by-case basis.
According to environmental advocates, this new rule gives chemical companies the upper hand in creating new uses for harmful products in the United States. In May, the EPA released a report detailing its new framework for evaluating the risk of its top prioritized substances. The report states that the agency will no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments.
It’s bad enough that 60 countries absolutely ban the use of asbestos, but the U.S., while restricting its use, still allows it to be used. It is so toxic, I’ve heard, a that a single inhaled fiber can cause the invariably fatal cancer mesothelioma (Steve Gould was one of the rare survivors). When I had my lab renovated after arriving in Chicago in 1986, they found asbestos insulation around the overhead pipes. My lab was promptly declared a hazardous area, and it had to be decontaminated by walling it off with heavy plastic, putting the room under negative pressure, and requiring the workers to wear moon suits. Our building manager at that time, Dennis, was a prince of a man, but he’d worked with asbestos in shipbuilding plants earlier in his life, and, sadly, he got mesothelioma and died on our watch. It was a terrible loss.
Asbestos should simply not be used, as it poses a risk to everyone exposed to it. But what does Trump or his new EPA care?
Here’s a scary sidelight on the asbestos industry from the same article, again involving Trump
As the world’s largest exporter of asbestos, the Russian company Uralasbest operates an enormous open mine nearly half the size of Manhattan in a mountainous town 900 miles northeast of Moscow, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The company has support from the government and President Vladimir Putin, even though their economic success exposes the local residents to major health risks. Once referred to as “the dying city,” Asbest’s residents have reported the carcinogenic dust is often found as a thick film over garden vegetables, laundry lines, and even on the floors of their homes.
Earlier last month, The Washington Post noted that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the ADAO had discovered a controversial post on Uralasbest’s Facebook page showing photos of company pallets stamped with a seal of U.S. President Donald Trump’s face. Trump has long been vocal about his skepticism on the harmful effects of asbestos, citing in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, that anti-asbestos efforts were “led by the mob.” In 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center might not have burned had the fire-retardant material not been removed from the towers. It’s estimated that 400 tons of asbestos fiber went into the structures before the developers stopped it from being used further in 1971.
Here’s a photo of those pallets. (I cannot vouch for their accuracy, but the Washington Post must have. Perhaps they were Photoshopped by the Russians.) But there’s no denying that Trump is a pro-asbestos guy. After all, it isn’t his life at risk.
I’d normally say “There is a god after all,” but I’m pretty sure there isn’t, for if there was, we wouldn’t have either Trump or Pruitt, and another hyperconservative Supreme Court nominee wouldn’t be in the offing.
Nevertheless, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt, beleaguered by accusations of financial malfeasance and other ethics violations, has resigned.
Just to show there is no god, this won’t affect the direction of the EPA. Pruitt’s successor will be, for the nonce, Deputy EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. Wheeler was a lobbyist for the coal industry. Meet the new boss, etc. etc.
God what a debacle the Trump administration has been—probably worse than any of us even imagined.
The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.
Under the proposed changes, hunters would also be allowed to hunt black bears with dogs, kill wolves and pups in their dens, and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.
These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — were outlawed on federal lands in 2015. Members of the public have 60 days to provide comment on the proposed new rules.
The Final Rule codified prohibitions on certain types of harvest practices that are otherwise permitted by the State of Alaska. The practices are: Taking any black bear, including cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites; harvesting brown bears over bait; taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season (between May 1 and August 9); taking swimming caribou; taking caribou from motorboats under power; taking black bears over bait; and using dogs to hunt black bears.
I don’t understand the mentality of people who would permit these things. They value trophies more than the lives of animals, and as for shooting mothers and hibernating cubs, well, I have no words except it’s Trump and his environment-hating minions.
The rationale for the regulations, at the Federal Register, includes “increasing outdoor recreation.” How “recreational” is it to lure bears with donuts and then kill them? Or slaughter hibernating mothers and cubs? CUBS, for crying out loud:
Part of the stated purpose of Secretarial Order 3347 is to increase outdoor recreation and improve the management of game species and their habitat. Secretarial Order 3347 directs the Department of the Interior to identify specific actions to (1) expand access significantly for recreational hunting and fishing on public lands; and (2) improve recreational hunting Start Printed Page 23622and fishing cooperation, consultation, and communication with state wildlife managers.
What can you do about this? Here’s what:
You may submit comments, identified by Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AE38, by either of the following methods:
Mail or hand deliver to: National Park Service, Regional Director, Alaska Regional Office, 240 West 5th Ave., Anchorage, AK 99501.
Instructions: Comments will not be accepted by fax, email, or in any way other than those specified above. All submissions received must include the words “National Park Service” or “NPS” and must include the docket number or RIN (1024-AE38) for this rulemaking. Comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided.
This is the kind of stuff the Science March was designed to prevent. As yesterday’s New York Times reported, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose name encapsulates its mission, has just dismissed five or more members of its scientific review board, the Board of Science Counselors (BSC). The BSC’s job is to review and vet the science produced by the EPA, which is used in its mission to regulate industries and protect the environment.
The Board was in bad odor after having recommended more work on climate change, and their punishment was to ditch the scientists off the Board—after those scientists had already been told they wouldn’t be let go under the new administration.
So who’s going to guard the environmental henhouse? Why, members of the regulated industries, of course! Read and weep:
A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part of the wide net it plans to cast. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community,” said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.
The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific review board to include more representation from the corporate world.
President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A., pushing for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructing him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the established science of human-caused climate change.
In his first outings as E.P.A. administrator, Mr. Pruitt has made a point of visiting coal mines and pledging that his agency will seek to restore that industry, even though many members of both of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory boards have historically recommended stringent constraints on coal pollution to combat climate change.
Mr. Freire said the agency wanted “to take as inclusive an approach to regulation as possible.”
“We want to expand the pool of applicants” for the scientific board, he said, “to as broad a range as possible, to include universities that aren’t typically represented and issues that aren’t typically represented.”
Everybody knows what’s going on here: the Republicans don’t give a rat’s patootie about the environment, and if those pesky scientists get in the way, well, fire ’em! Let the coal industry determine pollution standards and the industrialists prosper. (And we can also ditch the Paris climate accords.)
You can march for science until your toes wear off, but the real way to stop this is to quit electing Republicans.
As I reported yesterday, after the Trump administration ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to have a social media blackout, a National Park Service account went rogue. Yes, in the Land of the Brave, South Dakota, the Badlands National Park Service Twitter account began emitting a series of tweets about climate change (anthropogenic change is of course poo-pooed by Tru*mp). It was a remarkable example of defiance, and I applaud whoever did it (we’re now told it was an unauthorized person who used the account, but who knows?). Here are some of those tweets, which of course have now been deleted:
The Badlands National Park Twitter Account (@BadlandsNPS) appears to be back up, but is posting only very sporadic and tame tweets. Now, however, a real rogue account has surfaced: “AltUSNatParkService” (@AltNatParkSer) that is, according to Time Magazine, “purportedly run by NPS staffers.” Here’s the header; you can go there by clicking on the screenshot:
A sample is below. Ceiling Cat bless these folks, especially if they’re NPS employees. They may be risking their jobs, but if this isn’t the kind of civil disobedience we need now, what is?
I suspect that, by and large, NPS employees aren’t big fans of Trump, since many are likely to be environmentalists.
My Okinawa correspondent sends a happier picture than last time, this one of a living longhorn beetle, a member of the family Cerambycidae. Note the very long antennae, and the impressive tarsi. Cerambycids are often brightly or contrastingly colored.
Normally I’d have no idea what particular genus or species an Okinawan insect would be– I was happy I recognized the order and family!– but this seems to be an Asian longhorned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis, which has become an invasive species in the US, Canada, Trinidad, and several European countries. The larvae feed on the sapwood of maples, elms, and other trees. If a reader more knowledgeable about Okinawan or East Asian insects has an opinion, please weigh in.
Okay, it’s time for the U.S. Gub’mint to do something about Ammon Bundy and his gang of armed thugs, currently occupying the Malheur Wildlife refuge in Oregon in solidarity with two fellow thugs convicted of arson. As the New York Times reports, these gun-toting, Jesus-loving vandals took a Wildcat excavator and ripped out barbed-wire fencing separating the refuge from private land, allowing other thugs to graze their cows on the reserve:
On Monday, the protesters drove out to a snowy expanse miles from the refuge’s headquarters, bringing along the excavator. They approached a fence they said divided private and public land, and cut a space about 80 feet long, a move they said would allow the Puckett family to graze its cattle at the refuge.
“I feel like this is the first step of many in restoring ranchers’ rights,” Mr. Bundy said.
I’m still amazed that the authorities have done nothing to prevent this criminal trespass on a famous bird refuge. They stand by while the Ammon Gang gets brought food, and while their followers intimidate authorities by trailing them in the area.
What with this vandalism, which now opens the reserve to depredation by Bos taurus, it’s time for the authorities to stop sitting on their hands and do something. If they don’t want to go in with tear gas, which could trigger a gun battle, they can block the roads and cut off power and water. That land is your land, that land is my land, and we don’t have to put up with these morons taking it over for their personal use.