(de)regulation nation: Trump rolls back ban on pesticide that harms children's brains
|Emily J Gertz||Jul 24, 2019|| 1|
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Driven by years of frustration with corrupt and callous government, including the botched response to building back from Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are demonstrating peacefully, in the hundreds of thousands, for their governor to resign.
More in the “great” section of this week’s newsletter.
bad: Trump administration reverses ban on a pesticide harmful to children
In a big leap backwards for public health and safety, The Trump administration is allowing farmers to keep using a pesticide linked to childhood brain damage.
Farmers use chlorpyrifos (marketed as Lorsban) on dozens of crops, including soybeans, citrus, grapes, tree nuts, corn, and alfalfa, according to the Dow AgroSciences website Chlorpyrifos Protects.
In reversing the Obama-era ban, Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler ignored the recommendations of his agency’s own scientists to end use of chlorpyrifos.
“Corteva Agriscience, the manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, has continued to insist that spraying the product is safe, and praised the EPA’s determination,” reports The Guardian, although it will “support continued review” and is “open to potential restrictions in the future.”
In a de-regulatory domino effect, the chlorpyrifos decision “is also one of the first concrete results,” reports The New York Times, “of a separate Trump administration effort to restrict the use of scientific studies involving human subjects.”
This rule allowed Wheeler to reject “a major study conducted by Columbia University on its effects on children in New York City,” on the grounds that EPA could not get the study’s raw data and verify its results, reports The Times.
That study found that “even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure of the child,” as Snopes notes.
The U.S. banned residential and indoor uses of chlorpyrifos in 2000 as too dangerous to fetus and childhood health.
The Obama administration moved in 2015 to enact a national chlorpyrifos ban by 2017, which the Trump administration stalled and has now killed.
Hawaii, California, and New York have banned chlorpyrifos, while Oregon, New Jersey, and Connecticut have considered it, reports the Washington Post.
Oregon’s bill died in committee, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting.
A House bill introduced in January to mandate a federal ban appears to have died as well.
better: Trump’s “architect of EPA rollbacks” is under investigation, again, for ethics violations
Bill Wehrum left his job as the top air pollution official at EPA in June, as NPR reported at the time, “amid mounting scrutiny over possible ethics violations.”
His second-in-command, David Harlow, remains at his job of top EPA air pollution lawyer.
Before joining Trump’s EPA, Wehrum and Harlow were partners at a D.C. law firm that represents air polluting industries, and personally “advocated before the EPA and the courts on behalf of some of the biggest polluters.”
Now a new report by House Democrats, “Industry’s Pipeline to Power at EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation,” documents that Wehrum’s work to roll back Obama-era clean air and climate regulations turned out to be remarkably beneficial to their former clients, “which have had remarkable success under his tenure achieving their policy objectives to roll back air pollution protections.”
The report also documents “numerous technical, often arcane, policy shifts sought by [law firm]-represented industry groups that carry major air pollution implications.”
The EPA’s Inspector General has begun its third investigation of whether Wehrum violated federal ethics rules against working directly on rules that involved former industry clients, the Washington Post reports.
A Post story in February revealed that Wehrum stayed in close contact with former law firm colleagues after joining EPA. A “trove of emails…shows the extent to which he communicated and socialized with his former associates even though many of them had clients with business before the EPA.”
It’s not clear what consequences Wehrum might face for ethics violations, if proven, now that he’s left the EPA. But the House report and IG findings could factor into lawsuits against the Trump administration over its environmental rollbacks.
good: efforts to return to the Moon could help advance clean energy on Earth
Under NASA Administrator and “evolved” climate denier Jim Bridenstine, the US space agency is making plans for new human landings on the Moon.
In the process, they’re also “breathing new life into the agency’s research into fuel cells,” for use in space, work that could easily transfer over into advancing clean energy on Earth, reports Midwest Energy News.
NASA already has a “Technology Transfer Program” that looks for ways to “move our research out into commercial industry in order to benefit the taxpayers who produced the research,” a NASA materials engineer named Amy Hiltabidel tells Energy News.
“We have an understanding of some industrial problems. And our NASA scientists come up with some neat solutions,” Hiltabidel tells a reporter. “So we dream up ways to apply these solutions to these problems, kind of like MacGyver.”
One Ohio company’s fuel cell designs, which take advantage of NASA-developed technologies, may be able to “reduce [tailpipe] emissions up to 40 percent” for long haul trucks, compared to running a diesel engine.
If you’re the kind of person who thrills to sentences like, “other innovations include a wicking system to carry water away from individual fuel cells, versus a mini leaf-blower kind of system that Earth-based systems use” as much as I do, be sure to check out the entire article.
great: Thousands of Puerto Ricans are peacefully demanding the resignation of their corrupt governor
Since a trove of damning Telegram group chat messages between Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his top aides came to light earlier in July, the movement for his resignation has been growing.
On Monday, “an estimated half a million Puerto Ricans took to the streets of San Juan,” reports Democracy Now. “It was the largest demonstration yet since the massive leak of nearly 900 text messages—many of them graphic and offensive—between Rosselló and some of his closest advisers broke 11 days ago.”
In the chats, “Rosselló and his inner circle make light of the casualties caused by Hurricane Maria,” notes Vox, “and disparage political opponents using vulgar, homophobic, and sexist language.”
“Besides being offensive, the messages revealed a cozy relationship between the governor and former staff members who now represent special interests,” according to The New York Times.
Rosselló said Sunday that he would not run for re-election in 2020, but that hasn’t assuaged protestors, and three administration figures have so far resigned.
In one text, as The Nation describes, Rosselló’s chief financial officer asks, “Is Your Home Reborn really that bad? Serious question.” Your Home Reborn, the government-run home rebuilding program begun following Hurricane Maria’s devastating destruction, “has racked up nearly 4,000 formal complaints while lining the pockets of US contractors.”
The English-language reporter to follow here is David Begnaud, @DavidBegnaud on Twitter, davidbegnaud on Instagram, who has been reporting on the ground from Puerto Rico for CBS News, since before Maria hit in 2017.
Here in NYC, home to 1.1 million Puerto Ricans (over 9 percent of the city’s population), they’re dancing for the governor’s exit:
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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 .
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