Andrew Wheeler confirmed as new EPA administrator

March 5, 2019 by  
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Andrew Wheeler is taking over the reigns as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ). Wheeler, who used to work as a lobbyist for the coal industry, became the 15th EPA administrator after a Senate vote confirmed his appointment. Shortly after the vote, Wheeler took to Twitter to post his thoughts on becoming the new EPA administrator. Wheeler thanked several politicians for helping him obtain the appointment and vowed to move forward with President Donald Trump’s agenda . “I am deeply honored, and I look forward to continuing the President’s agenda and the work of the Agency alongside all my EPA colleagues,” Wheeler shared. Related: EPA criminal enforcement crumbling under Trump The Senate approved Wheeler for the spot with a narrow vote of 52-47. According to Grist , several senators who had previously supported Wheeler voted against him, because they do not believe he is committed to improving the environment . This includes Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the only Republican who voted against the appointment. Collins later released a statement about how Wheeler is qualified for the post but is not the best option. Collins criticized Wheeler for supporting programs that do not benefit the environment, especially when it comes to climate change initiatives. Given Wheeler’s work history, Collins has reason to worry. Wheeler is now the fourth member of Trump’s cabinet who is regulating an industry in which he used to be employed. Two years ago, Trump appointed Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, to head up the Department of Health and Human Services. Earlier this year, Patrick Shanahan of Boeing took the reigns as secretary of defense while David Bernhardt, an oil lobbyist, was nominated for the Department of Interior. With Wheeler’s appointment now confirmed, he is expected to roll back a few Obama-era laws that were put in place to help the environment. This includes the carbon-cutting Clean Power Plan and a reworking of the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule, which improved water quality around the country. Wheeler was appointed as the new EPA administrator following the resignation of Scott Pruitt, who quit the post amid an ethics scandal last summer. Via Grist Image via U.S. Department of Agriculture ( 1 , 2 )

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Andrew Wheeler confirmed as new EPA administrator

Afghanistans Chihilsitoon Garden is restored with rammed earth architecture

March 5, 2019 by  
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The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) has breathed new life and purpose into the Chihilsitoon Garden, a historic cultural destination in Kabul, Afghanistan that was in ruins for nearly three decades. Founded in the 19th century, the Chihilsitoon Garden had once housed visiting dignitaries such as U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, but suffered looting and damage during the internecine conflict of the early 1990s. Now restored to its former glory, the Chihilsitoon Garden marks the largest rehabilitation project carried out to date by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which has completed over 140 restoration and landscaping projects across Afghanistan since 2002. Spanning an area of nearly 31 acres, the Chihilsitoon Garden is laid out along a longitudinal spine centered on a historic formal axial garden , which is surrounded by informal landscapes ranging from open lawns to densely planted areas. The restoration project reinforced the axial relationship with the restoration of existing open-air spaces, such as family picnic areas, an outdoor amphitheater and a historic formal promenade that includes the original marble fountains. A new recreational zone includes cricket batting areas, volleyball fields and two mini-football pitches as well as an indoor facility with changing rooms and showers. New buildings totaling over 100,000 square feet were also added to the grounds. The contemporary buildings take inspiration from traditional designs and typologies, including the use of rammed earth as an earthquake-resistant structural material. Related: Barefoot solar movement empowers, employs and illuminates in Afghanistan “Found to have been used in parts of Afghanistan as far back as the 2nd century A.D., rammed earth structures are highly suitable to the climatic and ecological environment in the region,” the agency explained an a project statement. “Due to the workability of rammed earth, a range of architectural designs was explored for the various facilities. Reinforced with bamboo trees, steel re-bar and concrete frame structures, buildings constructed with rammed earth were designed to withstand moderate earthquakes.” The 15.1 million-euro  restoration project began in early 2015 and was completed in the middle of 2018. The newly formed independent “Kabul Historic Gardens Trust” will manage the garden. + Aga Khan Trust for Culture Via ArchDaily Images by Simon Norfolk via AKTC

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Afghanistans Chihilsitoon Garden is restored with rammed earth architecture

EPA criminal enforcement crumbling under Trump

February 12, 2019 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criminal enforcement numbers have take a major hit over the past few years. A new study conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) found that the agency had the lowest criminal case numbers since the late 1980s. Last year, the EPA only filed 166 criminal referrals. These referrals are sent to the Department of Justice for prosecution, and those numbers were adjusted to account for the latest government shutdown. As a reference point, the EPA filed close to 60 percent more referrals in 2011 and over 72 percent more in 1998. The rate of new criminal referrals for the 2019 fiscal year, which started in November, is already at a slower pace than last year. So far, the EPA has only filed 24 criminal enforcement referrals, and the government shutdown is expected to affect those numbers even more moving forward. Related: Damage to Joshua Tree during the government shutdown could take centuries to repair Even more concerning is the fact that only 62 of the referrals in 2018 ended with convictions. That is less than any year after 1992 and illustrates a dire need for greater efficiency within the EPA. PEER argues that the Trump administration is one of the biggest reasons behind the low numbers of criminal referrals. “These figures indicate that the Trump plan to cripple EPA is working,” Kyla Bennett, the director of science policy at PEER, explained. “Not enforcing our anti- pollution laws steadily transforms them into dead letters.” The decline in criminal enforcement has also led to a drop in the number of agents who are assigned to such cases. In the spring of 2018, the EPA employed 140 special agents to handle pollution cases in its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and that number has already decreased to 130. According to the U.S. Pollution Prosecution Act of 1990, the EPA is supposed to have 200 CID agents on staff at any given time. With EPA criminal enforcement at historic lows, the main concern is that the agency lacks effective means of prosecuting polluters, which will likely lead to an increase in violations over the next few years. Via Peer.org Image via USEPA  

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IPCC’s latest report, and other troubling news

October 8, 2018 by  
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The IPCC analysis, and another report from the International Energy Agency, paint a stark picture about what it will take to keep global warming within acceptable limits. Are we up to the task?

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IPCC’s latest report, and other troubling news

The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations

April 25, 2018 by  
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Just weeks after this year’s March for Science ,  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is taking a shot at science — “secret science,” in his words . Pruitt recently proposed a rule that would limit the kinds of research the agency could draw on in crafting regulations. Reuters described the move as “an apparent concession to big business” which has angled for the restrictions for a long time. Pruitt’s proposal would mean the EPA wouldn’t be able to use scientific research based on confidential data. That means the agency would only be able to draw on studies that make all their data publicly available for everyone to scrutinize, according to NPR . The administrator said in a statement, “The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end. The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of rulemaking process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.” The EPA’s statement said the proposal is consistent with scientific journals like Nature and Science ‘s data access requirements. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science But some scientists are worried — the move could place crucial data off limits. NPR quoted Sean Gallagher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science ‘s senior government relations officer, as saying, “Our concern with this is they are quite literally limiting the best available science that can be used by the EPA.” Epidemiological studies are often utilized in the agency’s regulatory decisions, and Gallagher said, “Those studies involve people like you and me, signing confidentiality agreements that the scientists doing the studies won’t reveal my personal health information, like my vital statistics, or my death certificate, if I die during the course of the study. This is the kind of science that the EPA relies on, whether it looks at chemicals or particulates and their mortality or health effects. It involves private data.” The proposal won’t enter into force yet; Reuters said there will be a 30-day comment period and the proposal would need to be finalized. + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and NPR Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and NRDC pix on Flickr

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The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations

The transformative power of poetry

September 6, 2017 by  
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Kealoha, the first Poet Laureate of Hawaii and the first poet to perform at a Hawaii governor’s inauguration, brings the transformative power of poetry to the VERGE Hawaii main stage. His work weaves through themes of building, growth and the agency that all people have within us to sow the seeds of sustainable change. Because creating a better future takes a global village. 

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Crazy Texas tire fire demonstrates why America needs the EPA

April 18, 2017 by  
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100,000 tires caught fire in arid Odessa, Texas earlier this month. The blaze was too much for local volunteer firefighters to extinguish as the isolated area’s closest fire hydrant is four miles away. So the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came to the rescue. Turns out the government body has some value after all, despite what some politicians and the president think. The Texas tire fire started Sunday, April 9 around 3 PM. Roads were closed and local people were told to shutter their windows because of the toxic black smoke billowing from the fire. West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Ellis told local news publication OA Online the fire was way beyond their means to extinguish. “We haven’t even been able to get down in the pit where it started because it’s so hot you can’t get down in that pit,” he said. “The rubber just stays hot and it will adhere to your boots and the bunker gear.” YouTube user SF1 captured the massive tire fire with a GoPro Karma drone. Related: Republican senator claims the EPA is brainwashing children Firefighters created a break around the pit to at least prevent the fire from spreading, and then the EPA arrived Monday the 10 to help out. In cases like the Texas tire fire – when a disaster is too overwhelming for local or state resources – the agency can provide strategists, teams, and equipment. GOOD said if the agency hadn’t gotten involved the fire may have raged for weeks. Burning tires can emit hundreds of toxic pollutants into the atmosphere, according to Gizmodo, and breathing in that smoke can lead to negative health effects. Investigators don’t yet know who was responsible for the tire fire. OA Online reported the pit of tires is on private property; their storage could have been against regulation. According to a recent Abilene Reporter-News article , authorities said the fire is finally extinguished. Via GOOD and Gizmodo Images via screenshot

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Trump fails to nominate leadership to secure US nuclear arsenal

January 10, 2017 by  
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A report published by Gizmodo on Monday made a troubling claim: The Trump transition team hasn’t lined up new leadership for the National Nuclear Security Administration – and they have not announced plans to keep the heads of the department until replacements can be been found. This means that the $12-billion-a-year agency entrusted with maintaining “the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile” is leaderless for the foreseeable future. While the Gizmodo report initially claimed that the Trump team asked NNSA director Frank Klotz and his deputy, Madelyn Creedon, to step down on Jan 20, the NNSA is pushing back against those claims . Instead, NNSA officials claimed “There have been no discussions between the president-elect’s transition team and any of NNSA’s political appointees on extending their public service past Jan. 20.” While Trump may not be technically firing the heads of the agency, it seems clear the department may simply be without leadership altogether for weeks or even months while any nominees go through a Senate confirmation process . Along with these high-profile roles, there are a number of smaller appointed roles that will need to be filled in the coming weeks. Related: Rick Perry tapped to run the Department of Energy – which he once promised to shut down There is a small sliver of silver lining to this story: the civil servants within the agency will still be able to serve in their regular roles, even without appointed leadership. While this affects the agency’s ability to secure funding or begin new programs, day-to-day operations will continue. Even if you feel ambivalent about maintaining America’s nuclear arsenal, it’s good to know it’s not going to be left completely unmonitored for months as the NNSA awaits new leadership. Via Gizmodo Images via Steve Jurvetson , Frank Trevino , and Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Haunting Human Gyre made of over 200 underwater figures warns of climate change

January 10, 2017 by  
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A haunting sight awaits scuba divers on an Atlantic seabed. Over two hundred life-size human figures have been arranged in a circle to create the ‘Human Gyre,’ the last exhibit in Museo Atlantico , Europe’s first underwater museum officially completed this month. Located off the coast of Lanzarote, Spain, the artistic installation forms a complex reef for marine species to inhabit and speaks to the fragility of our ecosystem and our relationship with the natural marine environment. The monumental Museo Atlantico complex is the project of British artist Jason de Caires Taylor , who installed over 300 works across a dozen large-scale installations. Constructed around 14 meters underwater, the sprawling museum was created to promote conservation and education. The sculptures, made from environmentally friendly, pH-neutral inert materials, were specially created to double as artificial reefs and attract local fish species. The installations are made to last for hundreds of years and help raise awareness about the threats facing our world’s oceans and climate. Early works installed less than a year ago—construction began in February 2016—have already seen an increase of over 200 percent in marine biomass. Related: Haunting drowned figures send a chilling message in Europe’s first undersea sculpture museum Some of the hauntingly beautiful artworks double as political commentary, such as ‘Deregulated,’ which depicts suited businessmen in a playground-like environment to suggest that corporations are irresponsibly abusing nature as their play area. The life-size human figures used in the Human Gyre and in other installations are based on models of all ages and from all walks of life. “The artistic installation reminds us that we have evolved from marine life, and are all subject to the movements and will of the ocean,” says a statement in the museum press release. “The piece embodies our naked vulnerability to its inherent power, and our fragility in the face of its cycles and immense force. It provides the oxygen we breathe, it regulates our climate and it provides a vital source of nutrition to millions of people. A visit to Museo Atlantico may lead us to a closer understanding of our relationship with the natural marine environment and appreciate the need to value and protect this fragile ecosystem in order to save ourselves.” + Museo Atlantico Images via Jason de Caires Taylor

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Haunting Human Gyre made of over 200 underwater figures warns of climate change

How To Create A Sustainable Shipping Department

July 1, 2016 by  
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Businesses that want to become more sustainable and minimize their ecological footprint are rethinking their shipping and logistics sectors. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans generated about 254 million…

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