(de)regulation nation

"This story of 'us' consuming our way to oblivion, with the oil companies innocently fulfilling 'our' insatiable greed for fuel, is just a lie."

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking bad, better, good, and great environmental news in the Trump era.

If you like (de)regulation nation, please forward it to a few friends and suggest they sign up.

Please help me continue to track Trump’s environmental rollbacks as well as better, good, and great news about environmental and climate progress, by becoming a paid subscriber to (de)regulation nation for just $49 per year, or subscribe monthly for $5.

Tips? Questions? Feedback? Send it to emily@deregnation.com.


bad

Under the guise of “cutting red tape,” the US Forest Service is moving to finalize rules that will cut the public out 9 in 10 timber sales on public land.

The agency says the changes will help it to speed up prescribed burning and thinning, to lower the risks of extreme wildfires on over 50 million acres of federal forests.

“But that’s only part of the picture,” notes KQED. “In 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that encouraged federal agencies to ease environmental review for industrial operations on federal land.”

A 34-year Forest Service veteran sees “smoke and mirrors” in the rule changes”

“Buried deep within 16 pages of legalese are some nasty surprises: a nearly unlimited license to commercially log nearly seven square miles — about 3,000 football fields — or build five miles of logging roads at a time without involving the public or disclosing environmental consequences,” writes Jim Furnish in the Washington Post’s opinion section. “The Forest Service’s road-building system is still flawed, and forest road impacts are long-lasting and often severe. So it’s irresponsible to propose constructing hundreds more miles of national forest roads without public input or environmental review of the potential consequences.”

This kind of development would affect areas that many assume are fully safe from development. “Miles of the Appalachian Trail pass through roadless areas, as does the Pacific Crest Trail and many hiking areas in Utah’s High Uintas Mountains in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest,” notes a land conservation expert at the Pew Charitable Trusts. “More than half of the 16.8 million-acre Tongass National Forest in Alaska is protected under the roadless rule.”

If the changes are finalized, “watchdog groups say the policy could mean a tourist returning to a favorite mountain cabin and finding the balcony view sheared of its trees,” reports The Atlanta Journal Constitution. “Or scenery surrounding favorite campsites and hiking trails bulldozed to hang power lines. Or new roads cut through wildlife habitats, so trees as old as the country can be carried off on flatbeds.”

If this issue sounds familiar, it’s because the timber industry and its allies have been bringing this fight in varied guises since 2001, when the Forest Service established its “roadless rule” to protect fully undeveloped swaths of federal forest for old growth wildlife habitat, as well as vehicle-free camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing. “Alaska wants to release 9 million acres in the Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest from the rule, which would be the largest exemption in the country, according to Natalie Dawson, executive director of Audubon Alaska,” reports High Country News, even though “at roughly 17 million acres, the Tongass is the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest and refuge for some of the world’s oldest trees.”

analysis of bad

The Trump administration’s avid rollback agenda has brought sharp focus to a seldom-examined tension within US environmental policy: The federal agencies tasked with protecting nature are also, often, the same ones tasked with leasing it to resource extraction industries for profit.

The Department of Interior, for instance, contains the National Park Service; the Fish and Wildlife Service (which implements the Endangered Species Act for land-based species); the Bureau of Land Management, which leases mining and drilling on federal lands; and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which both oversees safety and environmental standards at coal mines, and post-mining restoration of the land to something like a natural condition.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is in charge of saving endangered marine species and their habitats, is part of the Department of Commerce; and the US Forest Service, which manages 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands, is part of the Department of Agriculture.

In the best of times, neither advocates for conservation nor extraction industries get everything they want. Under Obama, oil and gas fracking on public lands expanded, but the boundaries of protected lands and waters did, too. That administration did not deny that with climate change underway, forests and other wilderness are becoming a lot more valuable as sanctuaries for biodiversity, climate-stabilizing carbon sinks, air and water cycling, and sanity-saving open and wild space, than they are as short-term sources of minerals or timber.

From that standpoint, the Trump era defines “the worst of times.” Under this president’s transactional and reality-averse mindset, forests, prairies, grasslands, and wild waters are as valuable as any given day’s prices for oil and gas, fish and logs.

better

The Forest Service has felt enough heat on this rule change to extend the deadline for public reaction and response to August 26. The Federal Register has all the details on how to submit comments.


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good

Some in Congress are publicly bucking the Trump administration’s conservation rollbacks. Since Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan 12) and John Fortenberry (R-Nebraska 1) reintroduced the “Recovering America’s Wildlife Act” in mid-July, 98 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill would “provide $1.4 billion in federal funding to state wildlife agencies and tribal organizations to spend on ‘species of greatest conservation need.’ those are ones endangered or headed that way,” reports Pennsylvania’s TribLive.

great

A sampling of recent conservation news coming out of the states:

  • In Virginia, state agencies and The Nature Conservancy have teamed up to protect 22,856 acres of forest just east of the Kentucky border, the “largest open space easement ever recorded in the Commonwealth,” reports WCYB News 5.

  • In New England, a team of researchers have busted the “jobs vs environment” argument. Looking at “six states from Connecticut to Maine [that] have protected more than 5 million acres of land, creating a unique natural experiment in conservation,” they found that “saving land can also help local economies. Over those 25 years, land conservation moderately increased local employment numbers and the labor force, without reducing new housing permits.” The Conversation has the story.

  • Michigan cherry farmers who have switched from poisoning crop pests to installing nest boxes for kestrals (a bird of prey struggling to survive in recent decades) to have staved off $2.2 million a year in crop losses, reports Environmental Health News. “Unlike balloons or loud noises, kestrels are a genuine threat whose mere presence is enough to scare off pest bird flocks, said cherry grower Jim Nugent, who installed a nest box on his roughly 40-acre Suttons Bay, Michigan, orchard in the mid-90s. It has been occupied almost every year since.”

  • In California, a public-private partnership is finalizing plans for a groundbreaking wildlife crossing over US Highway 101. “It will be the first of its kind near a major metropolis and the largest in the world, stretching 200 feet (61 meters) above 10 lanes of busy highway and a feeder road just 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of downtown L.A.,” reports AP.

  • As I reported for TakePart back in 2015, when this project was first proposed, “the crossing will allow more mountain lions to move safely out of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to the much vaster contiguous wildlands to the east in Los Padres National Forest.”


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist, and a graduate of the Tow-Knight Center Entrepreneurial Journalism fellowship.

You’ll find links to my other work and more biographical goodness at my website, emilygertz.com

Please send tips and suggestions to: emily@deregnation.com.

This week’s quote is by Amy Westervelt, from her new Popula piece “The Case for Climate Rage.” This essay explains why I opt not to include consumer and lifestyle tips on “what you can do to stop climate change” in this newsletter. I hope you’ll read it.

Reminder/full disclosure: I am a contributor to Amy Westervelt’s Drilled podcast.

(de)regulation nation

"From the start, Trump surrounded himself with energy advisors who own parts of the oil and gas industry.”

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking bad, better, good, and great environmental news in the Trump era.

If you like (de)regulation nation, please forward it to a few friends and suggest they sign up.

Please help me continue to track Trump’s environmental rollbacks as well as better, good, and great news about environmental and climate progress, by becoming a paid subscriber to (de)regulation nation for just $49 per year.

You can also subscribe monthly for $5.

Tips? Questions? Feedback? Send it to emily@deregnation.com.


bad

The Trump administration is almost done erasing another Obama-era environmental regulation: a 2016 rule designed to curb the methane pollution created by the oil and gas industry.

“The White House is finishing its review of the EPA plan,” reports Bloomberg, “which was described by people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named ahead of a formal announcement that is expected within weeks.”

CO2 pollution is the historical trigger for climate change, and CO2 pollution remains its leading driver today. Yes, methane traps more heat in the “short” term, because it breaks down in about 20 years (into CO2) compared to centuries for CO2. But two centuries of burning coal and oil for energy, joined with burning down tropical forests to plant soybeans and oil palm trees and beef cattle, have produced exponentially more CO2 pollution than methane pollution.

But thanks to the fracking boom, lots of methane is being pulled up from ancient shale formations deep underground. Those operations are so leaky that the Earth is experiencing an atmospheric methane high not seen for millions of years.

“Scientists have measured big increases in the amount of methane” since fracking took off about a decade ago, according to a new study covered in National Geographic. “Cows or wetlands have been fingered as possible sources, but new research points to methane emissions from fossil fuel production—mainly from shale gas operations in the United States and Canada—as the culprit.”

The petroleum industry spent decades funding climate denial and beating back regulations to cap and lower carbon pollution. But today’s shale gas producers (in the US, at any rate) aren’t thrilled that the Trump administration is about to kabosh the Obama-era methane pollution rule. “More than 60 oil and gas companies have made voluntary commitments to pare emissions of methane, the chief ingredient of natural gas,” notes Bloomberg, and “some of them insist federal regulation is still essential for the highly fragmented industry.”

Why? Because their big global selling point for natural gas is that it’s a solution to climate change.

better, from a particular point of view

It’s a fact that burning natural gas for energy creates a lot less CO2 than coal. And while coal is sinking much faster today than most expert observers predicted, it’s still going to take decades to replace coal-fired energy systems with solar, wind, and other renewable sources. (Let’s tackle nuclear another time.)

So as the global ambition to tackle climate change has ramped up over the past decade (at least on paper), so have the arguments from gas producers and their political allies, as well as some climate action advocates, who tout natural gas as a “bridge fuel” to that carbon-neutral future.

That argument, combined with the technologies enabling fracking, and the US government’s promotion of fracking (kicked off under Bush and Obama, and run amok under Trump) has helped catapult US natural gas and oil exports to their biggest scale ever, earning $28 billion for the industry in 2018, according to the US Energy Information Agency.

The body of evidence is only growing, however, that “bridge fuel” benefits are being eaten away by how much methane the oil and gas industry is leaking away. Some producers fear that once the Trump administration signals to the world that US could care less about regulating that pollution, their customers will lose faith in their climate-friendly talking points.

good

A new documentary named “Blowout” tracks how corruption in White House is enriching a small corporate elite, and threatening to lock natural gas into the global energy supply for decades longer than the climate can bear.

The doc also traces how policy moves at the federal and state level trickle down to affect the daily lives of average people in the US and the world, from cancer in small-town Colorado, to asthma in Port Arthur, to poverty in Dhaka.

“Now we can say an estimated 1.4 million people live within 500 feet of active oil and gas wells in the US.” producer Zach Toombs tells me, well within the exposure zone for exposure to methane, benzene, and other toxic emissions. “I think the public health impact is one of the great untold stories of this American fossil fuel resurgence.”

None of that is good news, but “Blowout,” just one product of a multi-story joint reporting project between Newsy, The Texas Tribune, The Associated Press, and The Center for Public Integrity, does a really good job connecting all those dots, and adding new ones to the web.

great

Red-meat eaters (*raises hand*) may not have to choose between steak with a side of guilt and saving the world.

Scientists say methane is driving 20-25 percent of unnatural climate heating. While fracking’s portion of the methane problem is growing, burps and farts from domesticated grazing livestock currently account for around 44 percent of human-caused methane, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which adds up to 5 percent of global heat-trapping gas pollution.

The “regenerative agriculture” movement says that returning to running cattle on pasture, rather than raising them in feed lots, is the answer to the cows-or-climate question.

“Returning cattle and other ruminants to the land for their entire lives can result in multiple benefits” according to the movement’s advocates, reports NPR, “including restoring soil microbial diversity, and making the land more resilient to flooding and drought. It can boost the nutrient content and flavor of livestock and plants.

“And because grasses trap atmospheric carbon dioxide, the grass-fed system can also help fight climate change. But it does require more land to produce the same amount of meat.”

(Also, of course, the whole argument is moot if you’re razing rainforest to create cattle pasture, which is the dangerous trend underway in Brazil, reports Mongabay.)

Climate-aware meat-eaters have several pros and cons to weigh in deciding how to get their beef fix. NPR’s story lays them out by looking at the science, while HuffPost offers tips on how to suss out “fake grass fed beef.”

Meanwhile, beefless beef seems to be rampaging onto the US market. Animal-free “meat options” are also showing up at Burger King, Subway, Qdoba, and possibly a hospital or baseball park near you, Vox reports, and “consumer demand” is pushing major food distributors Aramark and Sodexo “towards adding plant-based meat to their menus.”


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist, and a graduate of the Tow-Knight Center Entrepreneurial Journalism fellowship.

You’ll find links to my other work and more biographical goodness at my website, emilygertz.com

Please send tips and suggestions to: emily@deregnation.com.

If you’re not yet signed up to get this in your inbox, please subscribe!

This week’s quote is from the documentary “Blowout.”

(de)regulation nation

"I don’t know whether the bird you are holding is dead or alive, but what I do know is that it is in your hands."

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking bad, better, good, and great environmental news in the Trump era.

As we get closer to the election, tracking Trump’s environmental rollbacks, and debunking his efforts to mislead voters about them, will be crucial. You can help me do that by becoming a paid subscriber to (de)regulation nation for just $49 per year.

You can also subscribe monthly for $5.

I welcome your questions, comments, and tips. Send them to emily@deregnation.com.


Some baby shore bird goodness awaits you beyond todays’ tracking of bad and mixed (better, good) news. Here’s a hint:

Photo: USFWS Northwest Region

bad: Trump’s America is (among other things) by Big Oil and Gas, for Big Oil and Gas

  • Oil and natural gas industry chiefs “were some of the largest contributors to the president during the quarter that ran from April through June,” reports E&E News.

  • Top political appointees at the Department of Interior are so determined to lease drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before the end of 2019, that they fast-tracked environmental impact studies from years to months, and altered the findings of career scientists to play down likely environmental harms, leading more than a dozen agency employees to blow the whistle to reporters at Politico /Type Investigations.

  • A half-dozen top Interior officials, including Secretary David Bernhardt and former secretary Ryan Zinke, are under some form of investigation for misdeeds ranging from ethics violations to criminal misuse of office.

  • Last week I mentioned top agency lawyer David Jorjani, who may have lied to Congress about his role in establishing a restrictive (possibly illegal) rule on Freedom of Information Act Requests.

  • This week sees reporting by Pacific Standard on ethics violations by Timothy Williams, “a seasoned conservative foot soldier who currently serves as the deputy director of the DOI's Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs.” Shortly after taking his Interior job in 2017, PS reports, Williams began a “sustained collaboration” with his former employer, the arch-conservative Americans For Prosperity, to slash the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument.

Jimmy Tobias@JamesCTobias
My first story for @PacificStand was about the Koch network's attacks on public lands:
psmag.com/environment/be… And my last story for @PacificStand was about the Koch network's attacks on public lands:

Jimmy Tobias@JamesCTobias

NEW: @Interior is beset by scandals. Multiple agency officials are under federal investigation for alleged ethics violations. Now, new #FOIA documents reveal further details about their misdeeds. My latest for @PacificStand. h/t @muckrock https://t.co/L2q1nfIBYw
  • Ken McQueen, a former oil firm executive and apparently a climate change denier, is taking leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency regional office that oversees several major oil and gas-producing states including Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas, reports InsideClimate News.

  • In the months since a former aide to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was appointed chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the group’s rule-making work has been politicized and “thrown into turmoil,” reports Politico:

    • “Interviews with more than a dozen current and former FERC regulators, staff and industry officials reveal widespread concerns about the agency’s direction under [Neil] Chatterjee, a former staffer for the Senate majority leader who critics say behaves more like a political operative than a regulator.”

    • “As Chatterjee draws the commission closer to White House priorities, industry officials are increasingly concerned it may soon return to one of Trump’s central energy priorities — keeping uncompetitive coal and nuclear plants from closing.”

better: we’re talking about land use and climate change, at last

  • The year-over-year focus on how bad burning coal, oil, and natural gas are for the climate has tended to overwhelm discussion of how human land use practices, notably industrial-age crop farming and cattle ranching, cause nearly 40 percent of global carbon pollution.

  • Now the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has issued its first comprehensive scientific report on land use (“Climate Change and Land”).

  • The findings aren’t pretty: “The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at ‘unprecedented rates,’ a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself,” reports The New York Times.

  • While the report’s findings are far from upbeat — the phrase “multiple bread-basket failure” jumps out of the coverage I’m following — I’m putting this under “better” because its release has catapulted land use problems and solutions out of the climate nerd realms, into the global climate action conversation:

good: as water grows scarce, California farmers are poised to become solar energy producers

  • “Solar energy projects could replace some of the jobs and tax revenues that may be lost as constrained water supplies force California’s agriculture industry to scale back,” reports the Los Angeles Times.

  • The state’s ag sector may need to scale back by more than half a million acres to conserve diminishing groundwater supplies.

  • Building solar arrays on those acres would help farmers make up lost income, and help conserve undeveloped lands in “California’s inland deserts, where bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and golden eagles still roam across vast stretches of largely intact wilderness.”

  • In the long-cultivated San Joaquin Valley, meanwhile, solar development fits well into ongoing work to restore habitat for “for San Joaquin kit foxes, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, burrowing owls and other at-risk species.”

  • It would also make a big dent in the state’s goals for cutting carbon pollution and switching to clean energy.

great: piping plover chicks are abounding in Maine

  • The Maine population of this endangered shorebird has fledged 165 chicks as of August 7.

  • That’s “a 29 percent increase over last year and a new record for the state,” reports the Press Herald via the Sun Journal.

  • Piping plovers got Maine endangered species status in 1986. The species is listed at threatened at the federal level.

  • “The total number of nesting pairs is just incredible, and it gives us great productivity and tons of piping plover out there,” a Maine Audubon conservation director told a reporter.

  • Maine wildlife officials credit coordinated efforts by federal, state, and local agencies over the past decade with the jump in births.

  • But the work must be sustained. “…if Maine ever stepped away from assisting with plover recovery and protecting the threatened shorebird, the species’ numbers could drop very quickly.”

  • Here in New York City, piping plovers (listed as endangered in New York State) are perhaps the only creatures who benefited from Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, reports The New York Times.

  • On Fire Island (a barrier island off the south coast of Long Island), “the piping plover population has increased by 93 percent” since Sandy’s winds and storm surge dumped a pile of ocean-side sand onto the island’s bay side.

  • “Piping plovers like to nest on dry, flat sand close to the shoreline, where the insects and crustaceans they feed on are easily accessible,” areas also popular with humans for seaside development.


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist and a graduate of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism ’s annual fellowship. You’ll find links to my past reporting and more biographical goodness at my website, emilygertz.com

Please send tips and suggestions to: emily@deregnation.com.

If you’re not yet signed up to get this in your inbox, please subscribe!

This week’s quote is by Toni Morrison, from her 1993 Nobel Lecture. A bit more:

… if it is dead, you have either found it that way or you have killed it. If it is alive, you can still kill it. Whether it is to stay alive, it is your decision. Whatever the case, it is your responsibility.

(de)regulation nation: foxes guarding henhouses

"It’s crucial to keep imagining that things could get better, and furthermore to imagine how they might get better."

Welcome to (de)regulation nation, the newsletter tracking bad, better, good, and great environmental news in the Trump era.

As we get closer to the election, tracking Trump’s environmental rollbacks, and debunking his efforts to mislead voters about them, will be crucial. You can help me do that by becoming a paid subscriber to (de)regulation nation for just $49 per year.

You can also subscribe monthly for $5.

I welcome your questions, comments, and tips. Send them to emily@deregnation.com.


bad: Trump’s new federal lands chief believes in selling off federal lands

  • Interior Secretary David Bernhardt last week appointed conservative Wyoming lawyer and activist William Perry Pendley as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees a quarter-million acres of federal public lands.

  • “The thing is, Pendley thinks the government shouldn’t even own those lands,” reports Utah Public Radio.

  • Pendley has “for decades has championed ranchers and others in standoffs with the federal government over grazing and other uses of public lands,” reports the Denver Post. “He has written books accusing federal authorities and environmental advocates of ‘tyranny’ and ‘waging war on the West.’”

  • On the conservative speaking circuit, “Pendley said that ‘you can’t understand the battle against fossil fuels without understanding what is at the core of the environmental movement and the environmental extremists. . . . They don’t believe in human beings,’” reports the Washington Post.

  • A Department of Interior spokesperson told the Post that despite Pendley’s support for transferring federal lands to state control, “the administration adamantly opposes the wholesale sale or transfer of public lands.”

  • (To my reporter’s ear, “wholesale sale or transfer” reeks of non-denial denial.)

  • Pendley worked for three decades as president and lead lawyer of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a right-leaning group funded in part by the Koch brothers and Big Oil firms. In a 2007 article, High Country News reported that the group had “lost far more often than it's won” in its lawsuits against federal environmental regulations.

  • Pendley takes up management of a quarter-million acres of federal land just as the BLM has kicked off its plan to disperse its most of its D.C. headquarters staff across the western U.S. (where the vast majority of BLM staff are already based).

  • “Acting” appointees evade scrutiny by the Senate, along with any press coverage that might arise during confirmation hearings.

a bit more on William Perry Pendley

In 1982, when Pendley was acting head of minerals leasing in the Reagan-era Department of Interior, a massive sale of coal-mining leases in Wyoming (his home state) and Montana was “marred by the leak of a confidential memo with information about bid amounts,” notes the “Department of Influence” project. “Pendley was later criticized by the commission assigned to study the sale for sending a ‘clear signal’ to potential lessees that DOI would accept low bids.”

In 1983, the Senate failed to confirm Pendley to a more powerful role at Interior, after it emerged that under his watch, the agency had been “politically screening scientists advising the department about oil and gas drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.”

better: countries, cities, corporations may soon pay a hard price for ignoring climate change

  • When a big entity like a corporation or a city, or a country, wants to borrow money, the potential lenders look at that entity’s credit rating to see what they should charge for the favor, and how likely it is they’ll be repaid.

  • Even though the destabilized climate is already costing companies and governments tens of billions of dollars, climate change largely hasn’t factored in to that rating.

  • But that may change, now that the rating agency Moody’s has acquired Four Twenty Seven, a California-based firm on the cutting edge of assigning money values to climate risks.

  • Moody’s will add Four Twenty Seven’s approaches to “studying company sites and their exposure to heat stress, floods, wildfires, hurricanes and other extreme events that become more frequent as the climate changes, and figuring out how vulnerable the company’s suppliers and consumers are to the same phenomena given their predicted frequency,” to its ratings of credit-worthiness, notes one expert observer in Bloomberg.

  • This takes climate policies and practices out of the squishy realm of “reputation management” as well as the brutality of wedge politics, and into becoming “a routine consideration when evaluating the financial strength of any government or company and their ability to pay their debts,” notes InsideClimate News.

  • If a bad climate risk rating results in bad loan terms for these major borrowers, that could drive more action in both public and private sectors on reducing greenhouse gas pollution (to fend off even worse climate change), and preparing for the impacts that can no longer be averted.

  • Thought experiment: Imagine if the US were unable to borrow money at a low interest rate, unless it stops supporting the long-term use of fossil fuels.

  • Moody’s is one of the financial world’s “Big three” credit rating agencies, with revenues of about $4 billion annually.

good: the European Union is preparing to ban a neuro-toxic pesticide that Trump has kept on the US market

  • U.S. pesticide regulators at Trump’s EPA recently reversed an Obama-era ban on agricultural use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, despite its well-documented potential to harm childhood brain development, as noted in (de)regulation nation on July 23.

  • European Union regulators, however, are preparing to ban chlorpyrifos entirely by 2020.

  • “No safe exposure level can be set for the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the European Food Safety Authority says,” reports Chemical & Engineering News. This “suggests that the European Union is unlikely to allow chlorpyrifos use after its approval expires in January.”

  • Late last year, as BuzzFeed reported, researchers analyzing Dow-generated data on the health effects of chlorpyrifos charged that the firm had “masked damage that the chemical had caused to baby rat brains” in its reports to European and US regulators back in the 1990s.

  • The pesticide’s manufacturer, Corteva Agriscience, formerly part of DowDuPont, has disputed the evidence that there is no safe exposure level, and Dow has denied that it manipulated data in the 1990s-era studies.

great: Democrats jam up a Trump Interior nominee (and former Koch advisor) who may have lied under oath

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has blocked Daniel Jorjani’s confirmation to a top legal post at Interior, because Jorjani may have lied to Congress “about his role in reviewing public information requests submitted to the agency,” reports HuffPost.

  • “I believe Department documents made public through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show Mr. Jorjani may have knowingly misled members of the Committee [on Energy and Natural Resources] about the Department’s adherence to laws meant to ensure transparency and accountability in government,” Wyden wrote in a letter requesting an investigation.

  • During the spring, Jorjani told the committee, verbally and in writing, that he neither reviewed FOIA requests, nor made decisions on how to respond to them.

  • But documents that environmental groups got a hold of after suing the administration suggest that Jorjani has actually been involved in Interior’s “Awareness Review” policy.

  • This recently finalized policy gives political appointees more power to control which documents will be given out in response to FOIA requests.

  • Jorjani joined Trump’s Interior in 2017 to “lead a task force for cutting regulations,” according to E&E News, off a stint as a top advisor to the petro-billionaire Koch brothers.

  • “Jorjani had a busy first year in office interacting with industry representatives who have business before the department,” reported Pacific Standard in 2018.

  • He also signed off on moves to gut two Obama-era environmental protections: blocking a copper mine near the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota, and stronger penalties for industry-caused bird deaths under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Thanks for reading (de)regulation nation, a production of Brooklyn Radio Telegraph LLC.

This newsletter is written by me, Emily J Gertz. I’m a veteran environmental journalist and a graduate of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism ’s annual fellowship. You’ll find links to my past reporting and more biographical goodness at my website, emilygertz.com

Please send tips and suggestions to: emily@deregnation.com.

If you’re not yet signed up to get this in your inbox, please subscribe!

This week’s quote is from a recent essay in the magazine Commune, “Dystopias Now,” by Kim Stanley Robinson. I recommend reading the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

The situation is bad, yes, okay, enough of that; we know that already. Dystopia has done its job, it’s old news now, perhaps it’s self-indulgence to stay stuck in that place any more. Next thought: utopia. Realistic or not, and perhaps especially if not.

Besides, it is realistic: things could be better. The energy flows on this planet, and humanity’s current technological expertise, are together such that it’s physically possible for us to construct a worldwide civilization—meaning a political order—that provides adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, education, and health care for all eight billion humans, while also protecting the livelihood of all the remaining mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, plants, and other life-forms that we share and co-create this biosphere with. Obviously there are complications, but these are just complications. They are not physical limitations we can’t overcome. So, granting the complications and difficulties, the task at hand is to imagine ways forward to that better place.

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