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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EPA criminal enforcement crumbling under Trump

Fiat Chrysler pays millions to settle emissions charges

January 14, 2019 by  
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Fiat Chrysler has reached a settlement with the Justice Department, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the owners of about 100,000 of their diesel-powered Jeep SUV’s and Ram pickups. After facing charges that the company had sold diesel vehicles in the United States that had improper software — allowing it to violate emissions rules —  Fiat Chrysler has agreed to pay $800 million to settle the matter. The automaker will pay different state and federal agencies approximately $400 million in fines, plus $280 million to the car owners — which is up to $2,800 per vehicle. The additional $120 million will go to various efforts to curb emissions and future warranty costs. Fiat Chrysler will need to get at least 85 percent of affected vehicles repaired or risk facing additional fines. The vehicles involved in the settlement are Jeep Grand Cherokees from the 2014, 2015 and 2016 model years and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks that have a 3-liter diesel engine. To receive a settlement payment, car owners will first need to have their vehicle repaired. “Today’s settlement sends a clear and strong signal to manufacturers and consumers that the Trump administration will vigorously enforce the nation’s laws designed to protect the environment and public health,” said Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. He added that Fiat Chrysler , aside from breaking the law, also made the efforts to hide their conduct. However, the deal did not include any admission of guilt or wrongdoing by the company. The settlement is only a fraction of what Volkswagen was forced to pay in 2016 when the company was fined for installing emission deceiving software into a half-million diesel cars. As a result, Volkswagen paid $14.7 billion and the company admitted that they improperly installed the software to vehicles. Fiat Chrysler has continued to maintain that they did nothing wrong, and their software for their diesel engines was a legitimate way to meet emission standards. Via CNN Image via Shutterstock

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Fiat Chrysler pays millions to settle emissions charges

Sick of coal yet?

August 29, 2018 by  
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The recent EPA decision doesn’t just fail sustainability professionals — it will trigger a public health crisis.

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Sick of coal yet?

How REMADE could drive innovation in circular manufacturing techniques

August 29, 2018 by  
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Think of it as a multi-disciplined proving ground.

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From plastic straws to a sea change for plastic

August 29, 2018 by  
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It’s time for some big thinking — and concrete action — on plastic waste.

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From plastic straws to a sea change for plastic

It’s time to level with people about climate change

August 29, 2018 by  
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Its impacts are already a part of the story. How will you take charge of the narrative?

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It’s time to level with people about climate change

Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

August 24, 2018 by  
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A new study has revealed Chicago to be the greenest city to work in within the U.S for the second consecutive year. About 70 percent of the Windy City’s office spaces are certified for energy efficiency, up from 66 percent last year. Other top cities include San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis/St. Paul. Each year, the U.S. Commercial Real Estate Services (CBRE Group) surveys buildings in the 30 largest U.S real estate market areas and evaluates the results in collaboration with  Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Results depend on the amount of square footage of LEED – or Energy Star-certified commercial buildings constructed within a city. This year’s records show an extraordinary total of 4,700 green buildings in these 30 areas. The total square footage now accounts for 41 percent of all office spaces. CBRE Senior Vice President David Pogue revealed that green certification has “become a proxy for good building management,” in recent years. “Particularly in the services sector, a lot of their energy use and environmental impact is in the buildings they occupy, so the tenant base is demanding this, and institutional financiers also believe a sustainable building is a better building,” he said. According to the EPA, commercial buildings account for approximately 19 percent of total energy use in the country. As such, they are often the largest contributors of carbon emissions within cities. To combat this, LEED certification was established by The Green Building Council, which recognizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through evaluation of aspects such as water systems and energy efficiency. Similarly, the EPA’s own Energy Star program focuses on strict performance standards in the energy category. “So many buildings have become dependent on this as a way of demonstrating quality to investors and corporate tenants,” Pogue added. “It’s going to cause every building to go back and reconsider what their energy use is — and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” Chicago is well on its way to reaching its goal of 100 percent renewable energy in city-run properties by 2025. Close competitors include San Francisco, with 64 percent of its office spaces certified as energy-efficient. Also notable is Los Angeles, which has the most Energy Star buildings, 716 in total, compared to Chicago’s 339. Via Bloomberg Images via Alan Stark and Michel Curi

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Chicago snags green city spotlight for second year running

EPA may attempt to eliminate California’s emissions independence

July 24, 2018 by  
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The U.S. Transportation Department and the EPA are expected to announce a proposal this Thursday to revoke California’s ability to set its own emissions standards . The proposal, revealed by an anonymous source, suggests that the organizations plan to freeze national emission requirements at 2020 levels until 2026. If this plan were to go into effect, experts estimate that national oil consumption after 2020 would increase by half a million barrels of oil per day. Additionally, the proposal would come into conflict with the Clean Air Act waiver that allows California to set its own regulations on emission levels. The levels of environmental damage from the potential increase in oil consumption have yet to be estimated. This news also comes after a January proposal by Governor Jerry Brown to raise the bar on a previous state goal of having five million electric vehicles available by 2030. California representative Jimmy Gomez added that “vehicle emissions standards are a big part of our environmental identity.” Related: The number of electric vehicles on the streets could triple in two years The EPA and the Transportation Department plan to hold public commentary and hearing sessions before finalizing the decision. Other states are also expected to join the conversation as dozens have adopted the same or similar policies on zero-emission vehicles. The organizations will entertain comments on whether U.S. regulators plan to offer credits for autonomous vehicles and air condition improvements as well. + Reuters Images via Shutterstock

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EPA may attempt to eliminate California’s emissions independence

Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

May 24, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been trying to keep certain people out of a toxic chemical summit, according to reports. Some journalists were barred from entry on Tuesday, and representative Dan Kildee (D-Michigan), who represents Flint , said on Twitter  that his staff wasn’t allowed to attend the EPA’s summit on Wednesday. Kildee said EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s “lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling.” My staff was not allowed to attend today's @EPA #PFAS summit, and I represent communities affected by drinking water contamination. @EPAScottPruitt 's lack of transparency and willingness to deny access to Members of Congress and the media is deeply troubling. https://t.co/TK6ojDQ77o — Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) May 23, 2018 Several sites in Kildee’s district are contaminated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Kildee’s district, according to Earther — and those substances were the focus of the National Leadership Summit on PFAS. So, it seems like it would have made sense for Kildee’s staff to attend an event on the chemicals. Pruitt said in an op-ed piece published by the Detroit Free Press that, at the summit, representatives “from more than 35 states — including Michigan — more than 20 federal partners, several tribes, dozens of industry, non-governmental groups and other national organizations will share valuable recommendations for how EPA should deal with PFAS in communities and communicate the risks associated with PFAS.” Related: The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations Tuesday’s attendee list included Kildee’s staff, and they were told Wednesday sessions were “limited to federal agency folks and states.” A spokesperson for Kildee said that was accurate but the “larger issue, in the Congressman’s opinion, is the EPA limiting or denying access to the taxpayer-funded PFAS summit, either to Members of Congress, the media, or the general public.” Pruitt said Michigan is to spend $1.7 million on testing water supplies — “including in 1,380 public water systems and 461 schools” — after finding PFAS in drinking water and lakes. Michigan stopped providing bottled water to Flint residents in April and said the water is safe. Many Flint residents don’t buy that; local LeeAnne Walters, a 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner , and other residents launched an ongoing Chuffed campaign to get water to the housebound, elderly, and disabled. + White House Via ThinkProgress and Earther Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Flint representative’s staff barred from attending EPA chemical summit

Energy company ditches plan to install a possible tar sands oil facility in New York

May 24, 2018 by  
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Environmentalists celebrated a victory in New York state after an energy company tossed out a 5-year-old plan to install a facility that could have handled Canadian tar sands oil. The plan had clear environmental risks and posed a threat to area residents. After resistance from environmental groups and the public,  Global Companies  decided to abandon the plan. Erin Doran, senior attorney at Riverkeeper , an environmental organization devoted to protecting the Hudson River , said in a statement , “The proposal threatened the health of neighboring communities and would have placed the Hudson River at a greater risk for a disastrous oil spill .” Massachusetts-based Global Companies had requested boilers capable of handling heavy crude at the Port of Albany back in 2013 — Times Union pointed out the company did not indicate the facility would be used for tar sands oil, although it could have — and a legal battle ensued. Company spokesperson Liz Fuller told the Times Union, “We are withdrawing that request and plan to resubmit a renewal application with modifications later this year. The changes to the permit will include a reduction in the amount of crude oil handled through the terminal and will not include a system for the heating of crude oil.” Related: Extreme fossil fuel financing has surged to $115BN under Trump Doran said this is the second major victory in 2018 for Hudson River protection, “…coming after the defeat of industry’s request for new anchorage grounds to facilitate the transport of more crude oil.” She said since 2014, together with other partners, Riverkeeper had been battling the plan in court. She called on New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to approach Global Companies’ next submission “as a new application and to ensure that the operations at this facility finally undergo a comprehensive environmental review.” According to the Times Union, Global Companies sued that department back in 2015 for failing to issue a permit for the boilers, and DEC won an appeals court ruling earlier this year upholding its decision that the energy company’s permit application lacked sufficient information. This week, DEC said it was pleased that Global Companies withdrew its plan. Earthjustice lawyer Chris Amato described this development as “a huge victory for the families that live, work, and go to school in Albany’s South End…Global’s proposal would have spewed more toxic pollution into the air, endangering the health of South End residents, including hundreds of children who live and attend [Giffen Elementary] school in the shadow of the Global facility. This has been, and continues to be, a fight for environmental justice .” + Riverkeeper Via the Times Union Images via Bill Morrow and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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