A pandemic seems like a great time to *checks notes* weaken regulations on toxic pollutants?

In case you weren't panicking enough about the way that ambient environmental factors might be surreptitiously destroying your body, the EPA decided that right now would be a great time to change the rules about how they calculate the risk associated with mercury and other toxic metal factory byproducts.

From The New York Times:

The new Environmental Protection Agency rule does not eliminate restrictions on the release of mercury, a heavy metal linked to brain damage. Instead, it creates a new method of calculating the costs and benefits of curbing mercury pollution that environmental lawyers said would fundamentally undermine the legal underpinnings of controls on mercury and many other pollutants.

By reducing the positive health effects of regulations on paper and raising their economic costs, the new method could be used to justify loosening restrictions on any pollutant that the fossil fuel industry has deemed too costly to control.

The real insult-to-injury here is that it would be easy for the EPA to turn a blind eye to these sort of regulations. Offices are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with so much chaos in the world, shady actors in the EPA could deliberately let these rules slip by while still maintaining plausible deniability.

In fact, the EPA already did something like that earlier in this lockdown crisis. In late March, it announced that it was suspending  enforcement of environmental compliance — essentially leaving it up to private companies to decide for themselves if they're following pollution laws. Read the rest

Federal court rules that Scott Pruitt’s sham EPA can’t ban scientists from its scientific advisory board

Back in 2017, the new EPA Director Scott Pruitt -- a fantastically pampered shill for corporations whose income is proportional to the noxious effluvia they eject into our air, soil, and water -- passed a policy barring scientists from participating on the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board if they had ever received a grant from the EPA.

This sneaky-clever move was clearly designed to create the illusion that it was “draining the swamp” by preventing any potential conflicts of interest between scientists and money. Except that most academic scientists rely on EPA (and other) grants. Which limited the pot of scientific advisors on the scientific advisory board to scientists who worked for corporations. Who … somehow … didn’t have any conflicts of interest between their money and their science?

It was, as the NRDC put it, a “pernicious scheme to stack the deck in favor of big polluters by trying to shut out the voices of scientists—all to pump more pollution into our lives.” They added:

Pruitt claimed that his 2017 directive reduced bias on the EPA’s nearly two dozen advisory panels, which offer scientific expertise that then guide policy decisions on environmental pollutants, such as industrial chemicals or airborne particles from power plants. But unsurprisingly, Pruitt’s rule was not extended to scientists and consultants with ties to chemical or fossil fuel companies, allowing the agency to soon fill some open seats with industry insiders who disputed the known harm of pollutants, like ozone and PFOA.

Fortunately, Judge Denise Cote of the U.S. Read the rest

E.P.A. won't ban chlorpyrifos pesticide that scientists say damages children's brains

In the Federal Register, EPA said “critical questions remained regarding the significance of the data” that show chlorpyrifos causes neurological harm to young children.

Under Trump, EPA kills funding for kids' health research centers

“The Trump administration is ending funding for a network of research centers focused on environmental threats to kids, imperiling several long-running studies of pollutants' effects on child development,” report @CorbinHiar & @ArielWittenberg for @EENewsUpdates. Read the rest

EPA Inspector General Report finds massive waste from Trump's Pruitt flying business class, staying in swanky hotels

Trump's initial appointee to run the EPA was Scott Pruitt, who resigned in disgrace in 2018 amid a massive corruption scandal in which he was found to have spent lavishly and assigned improper personal duties to government employees. Read the rest

Former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler is new EPA administrator

The GOP-led U.S. Senate today confirmed ex-coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to run Environmental Protection Agency, in a 52-47 vote mostly along party lines. Read the rest

The EPA's own staff are aghast that Trump is bringing back asbestos

The Trump administration's plan to bring back asbestos is right in line with Trumpist ideology that any science that interferes with profits is a hoax (Trump claims that the asbestos-cancer link is a conspiracy to help the mafia make money on asbestos removal contracts), and the fact that the leading Russian asbestos company (which has ties to Putin) put Trump's face on their packaging is just an extra too-shitty-to-be-true detail for all of us to ponder as we die of mesothelioma in a few years. Read the rest

Scott Pruitt quits EPA after corruption exposed by staffers. His resignation letter to Trump is bonkers.

President Trump's corrupt EPA chief is out. The resignation letter is nuts, and mentions God's divine providence and other creepy surreal stuff that doesn't belong. Read the rest

Judge to EPA: you are legally required to turn over Pruitt's documentary evidence for climate denial

Embattled EPA Director Scott Pruitt went on national TV to announce on behalf of the US government that "I would not agree [CO2 is] a primary contributor to the global warming that we see... There’s a tremendous disagreement about the degree of the impact [of] human activity on the climate." Read the rest

Scott Pruitt's EPA has opened secret backchannels to the climate denial industry to find "scientists" and other "experts"

The Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center sued the EPA to force it to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for access to emails to and from thinktanks associated with the climate denial industry like the Heartland Institute, Plants Need CO2, The Right Climate Stuff, and Junk Science. Read the rest

Scott Pruitt can't answer a yes-or-no question to save his life (or even his ass)

Scott Pruitt is Trump's scandal-haunted EPA administrator; yesterday, he was called before a Congressional hearing to account for himself and his lavish, tax-funded spending, as well as the paranoid culture of retaliatory firings and demotions at the EPA. Read the rest

Scott Pruitt is such a colossal asshole that the lobbyists who were bribing him with nearly-free lodgings evicted him

Scott Pruitt, an asshole, was Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA. Read the rest

America, before the EPA: the photos that the EPA commissioned to document the conditions that led to its formation

When Nixon formed the EPA in 1970, the agency had the prescience to send photographers across America to photograph the kinds of environmental catastrophes that triggered its formation: chemical factories belching smoke; smog over cities; burning barges in the middle of waterways; clearcuts, litter and filthy lakes and rivers. Read the rest

Environmentalists sue White House for access to withheld public records on pesticide use

The Environmental Protection Agency's mission is in its name. But it's hard to tell whether or not the EPA is doing its job if the government refuses to release any records of its doing so.

In the summer of 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity – an organization that is passionate about the link between the well-being of humanity and the ongoing safety and diversity of all the creatures bopping around the earth – requested that the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service provide them with public records on the use of a number of pesticides: chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion. Their request for information was never acknowledged.

Unwilling to take ghosting for an answer, they filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, demanding that the thousands of pages of analysis on how the pesticides' use affects wild plants and animals, be released. In a statement released by the organization earlier today, they cited the following:

The Fish and Wildlife Service had committed to releasing its analysis of that research for public comment by May 2017 and to finalize the documents by December 2017. But last year, shortly after donating $1 million to Trump's inauguration, Dow Chemical asked federal agencies not to finalize the legally required assessments that are crucial to establishing common-sense measures to reduce the pesticides' harm to endangered species. 

The EPA’s initial analysis of the three pesticides, released in 2016, found that 97 percent of the more than 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by malathion and chlorpyrifos.

Read the rest

Professional climate denial took hundreds of millions from the CO2 industries, then slipped off their leash

Five years ago, it looked like big oil and big coal were finally acknowledging the reality of climate change, shifting from the early posture of outright denial and the intermediate strategy of sowing confusion, and moving into an endgame of "clean coal" and monopolizing renewables, but the think tanks they had funneled hundreds of millions in dark money to were not having any of it -- and it's they, not the hydrocarbon barons, who've got the ear of the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, Donald Trump. Read the rest

EPA employees who spoke out about Trump are having their emails ransacked, and the EPA's new "monitoring" firm is linked to a GOP oppo research firm

America Rising, a GOP oppo research firm, has filed a slew of Freedom of Information requests seeking access to EPA employees' email, targeting employees who criticized Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, or EPA policies, or who participated in union rallies against cuts; the requests target communications that mention Trump officials or are addressed to Democrats in Congress. Read the rest

Trump's pick for EPA pollution czar says kids are less sensitive to pollution than adults

The Intercept's Sharon Lerner is Read the rest

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