Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

May 16, 2017 by  
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If President Donald Trump is waging a war on local farmworkers in California , he’s winning. His Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened up the use of a pesticide called chlorpyrifos to agriculture in March, and then this month when at least 50 laborers were exposed to the pesticide Vulcan, of which chlorpyrifos is an active ingredient, some of them vomited or fainted; one person had to go to the hospital. Chlorpyrifos was scheduled to be banned under Barack Obama’s administration. But at the end of March , EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition that called for the ban. Then in Bakersfield, California a Sun Pacific farm sprayed Vulcan on their mandarin trees, and it drifted over to Dan Andrews Farms where workers harvesting cabbage began to feel sick. Grist said Kern County officials have not yet determined if chlorpyrifos was indeed present in the Vulcan sprayed, but both Grist and Kern Golden Empire described chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in Vulcan. EPA documents from February 2017 also listed chlorpyrifos as the active ingredient in Vulcan. Related: Trump’s EPA chief lifts ban on pesticide that poisons children 12 workers reported symptoms of nausea or vomiting. One person fainted and another went to the hospital. Kern Golden Empire reported 12 other laborers didn’t show systems, but that over half the workers had left before medical aid could arrive. Officials described Vulcan as highly toxic, and the Kern County Fire Department and Kern Country Environmental Health and Hazmat came to do a mass contamination of the area. Kern County Public Health Public Relations Officer Michelle Corson called for anyone exposed to seek out medical attention right away. So why, exactly, was chlorpyrifos not banned? Touting a return to sound science, Pruitt apparently didn’t think there was enough evidence to ban the pesticide, even though, according to Grist, multiple studies link exposure to the harmful chemical with lowered IQ in kids and neurological defects. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Pest Management Policy director Sheryl Kunickis welcomed Pruitt’s decision. She said it was good news for consumers, meaning they’d have access to fruits and vegetables. Guess she forgot to mention chlorpyrifos could also send people to the hospital. Via Grist and Kern Golden Empire Images via Wikimedia Commons and Austin Valley on Flickr

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Trump saved a toxic pesticide – and then it poisoned a bunch of farmworkers

In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obamas methane rules in place

May 11, 2017 by  
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In a stunning win for environmental activists , the U.S. Senate voted against repealing the BLM methane rule (originally passed during the Obama administration) to limit methane pollution on public land. Overturned with a 51-49 vote , the deciding “No” was from Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona . Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), lawmakers can overturn the rules of a previously instated administration within the first 60 days of their enactment. Because of this, Congress has voted 13 times to overturn a selection of Obama rules. Many of these relate to srteam protection, internet privacy and the shooting of hibernating bears, reports BuzzFeed. The outcome of Wednesday’s vote is being lauded as positive news, as the Obama-era rule requires gas drillers to limit leaking, venting or burning methane, which is responsible for fueling climate change . In present-day America, where the President believes climate change is a “hoax” and has ties to the oil industry, outcomes such as this one are rarely witnessed. Politicians including Sen. McCain, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina all voted against the repeal to prevent the government from drawing up any future rules that might restrict methane emissions. McCain said in a statement , “Passage of the resolution would have prevented the federal government , under any administration, from issuing a rule that is ‘similar’. I join the call for strong action to reduce pollution from venting, flaring and leaks associated with oil and gas production operations on public and Indian land.” McCaine added that the smarter thing the Trump administration could have done was to release an updated rule to improve the one passed during Obama’s time as President. Related: Senate Republicans could save methane rules from Trump Commenting on McCain’s surprising stance, Mark Brownstein of the Environmental Defense Fund said, “The oil and gas industry gets into power and the first thing they ask for is a repeal of pollution rules, it just doesn’t make people happy. Senator McCain once again demonstrated that he is a voice of common sense and reason.” According to the Bureau of Land Management , enough methane gas is wasted by drillers to supply 6.2 million homes a year. This, in turn, costs taxpayers $46 to $204 million in lost royalties. Considering solar technology is becoming more affordable and countries such as Germany and Costa Rica have already proven populations can thrive on renewable energy , it seems clear the future is green. Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute deemed the outcome “disappointing” and is calling for a review of the rule under a new executive order which was recently released by the White House. However, because of the short time limit on the CRA, it is now too late for another Congressional resolution to take place to repeal the BLM methane rule. Via The Washington Post , BuzzFeed Image via Colorado Politics , Newsmax.com

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In surprise vote, Senate keeps Obamas methane rules in place

Under pressure, Trump punts on Paris climate deal

May 9, 2017 by  
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Google, the North Face and Tiffany & Co. are just a few companies stepping up calls for President Donald Trump to follow through on U.S. climate commitments.

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Under pressure, Trump punts on Paris climate deal

Trump signs executive order aimed at eliminating national monuments

April 26, 2017 by  
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President Trump just signed an executive order that threatens millions of acres of public land. The order seeks to reduce or eliminate multiple national monuments across the US, potentially eliminating public access and water and land protection safeguards. It’s an unprecedented (unpresidented?) move that will likely be challenged in courts. The executive order wouldn’t eliminate the national monuments just yet, since the President doesn’t have the power to do that. Instead, it orders a review of any existing monuments (which Presidents have the power to create under the 1906 Antiquities Act ) designated in the past 21 years that are over 100,000 acres in size. The Department of the Interior will review monuments and determine which it recommends changing. Related: Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument 21 years might seem like an arbitrary timeline, but the executive order is aimed directly at the newly-designated Bear’s Ears Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument, designated by President Clinton 21 years ago. Republicans called the designations an over-reach of federal power and have been fighting to have the monuments eliminated ever since. Polls show that a vast majority of Americans support maintaining or adding more public and protected lands in the US rather than reducing them. The legal battle will likely begin after the Department of the Interior makes its determination. Via The Verge images via The Bureau of Land Management

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Trump signs executive order aimed at eliminating national monuments

Thousands take to the streets to march for science in cities around the globe

April 23, 2017 by  
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Tens of thousands of people took to the streets for Saturday’s March for Science , a series of rallies and marches held on Earth Day . With over 600 rallies across the world, the “celebration of science” advocated the use of evidence-based policy making in all levels of government, with climate change a core topic. President Donald Trump administration’s recent budget cuts to many environment-related programs and his perceived hostility to science served as a major spark for the movement. Inspired by the 2017 Women’s March of January 21, 2017, the March for Science amassed large support in a short amount of time thanks largely to social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. Co-led by nonprofit Earth Day Network , the March for Science was officially declared non-political although many protestors used it as an opportunity to protest Trump’s administration. The main march kicked off in the early morning with a mass gathering on Washington D.C.’s National Mall followed by a march down Constitution Avenue toward the Capitol in the afternoon.t Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Hundreds of satellite marches were held around the world on every continent except for Antartica. In D.C., the event was headlined by Bill Nye , Mona Hanna-Attisha, and Lydia Villa-Kmoaroff who, along with other well-known activists in the science community, presented a series of speeches complemented by “teach-ins,” educational sessions that covered topics from climate change to endangered wildlife. Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Related: Why scientists are marching in over 400 cities on Earth Day Many protestors displayed homemade signs with many indirectly and directly attacking Trump with slogans such as “What do Trump and atoms have in common? They make up everything,” “Mr. President, science gave us Romaine,” and “Pruitt Plus Trump Equals Bad Chemistry.” A few hours after the marches kicked off, President Trump released a statement on Saturday saying: “Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection. My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.” Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images The March for Science was held just a week prior to another major science-related march , the People’s Climate March that will take place in cities across the world on April 29, 2017. + March for Science Lead image via Wikimedia Commons Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

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Thousands take to the streets to march for science in cities around the globe

ExxonMobil exhorts White House to keep Paris agreement

March 31, 2017 by  
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When a fossil fuel company under fire for covering up past knowledge of climate change exhorts the President of the United States to stay in the 2015 Paris agreement , something’s not quite right. ExxonMobil manager of environmental policy and planning Peter Trelenberg wrote a letter to the White House earlier this month reiterating ExxonMobil’s position on the deal. He made it clear ExxonMobil thinks President Donald Trump should not pull out of the historic, hard-fought agreement. On the campaign trail Trump promised to yank the United States out of the Paris agreement. But so far the White House hasn’t taken that step, even in a recent environmentally devastating executive order . Meanwhile Trump’s new Secretary of State, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson , has said in the past the president is wrong about climate change , and perhaps could have now persuaded Trump to stick with the deal. Related: Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson says Trump is wrong about climate change On March 22, Trelenberg wrote to G. David Banks, Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment, thanking Banks for a recent inquiry on the oil and gas giant’s views regarding the agreement. Trelenberg said ExxonMobil welcomed the agreement both in December 2015, when it was announced at COP21 , and in November 2016 when it went into force. Don’t get too excited – Trelenberg didn’t write off fossil fuels altogether. He said, “We believe that the United States is well positioned to compete within the framework of the Paris Agreement, with abundant low-carbon resources such as natural gas , and innovative private industries, including the oil, gas, and petrochemical sectors.” Trelenberg said natural gas is the “cleanest-burning and least carbon-intensive fossil fuel” that has helped American attain 20-year lows in carbon dioxide emissions . He did point out ExxonMobil has invested $7 billion in lower emission fuels – such as biofuels made from algae – for around 15 years, and ended his letter with a final call to stay in the Paris agreement. The irony of the ExxonMobil letter prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to tweet : “It is pathetic that the largest oil company in the world understands more about climate change than the president of the United States.” Via The Independent Images via Roy Luck on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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ExxonMobil exhorts White House to keep Paris agreement

China calls America selfish amid Trump attempt to revive coal

March 30, 2017 by  
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China is uneasy leading the way on climate action without the help of the United States, according to an editorial in Chinese state media. After President Donald Trump signed his executive order rolling back the Clean Power Plan this week, an article ran in the Global Times critical of Trump’s moves. The editorial said, “…what the US is doing undermines the other countries’ dedication to implement the Paris Agreement .” China relied on coal for development, but in recent years has made strides to build renewable energy plants and shut down coal mines . Even if they have a long way to go to fix pollution woes, one study showed their coal use likely peaked in 2014 . Meanwhile Trump has touted the return of coal against evidence of the growth of renewable energy and even the reality of climate change . Related: 75 American mayors affirm climate goals even after Trump executive order So it’s not too surprising Chinese media lambasted Trump in a March 30 editorial. “Some Western media now pin their hopes on China to fill the vacuum left by Washington in the fight against climate change. But no matter how hard Beijing tries, it won’t be able to take on all the responsibilities that Washington refuses to take…Washington’s political selfishness must be discouraged,” it said. The editorial pointed out China and the United States are the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitters, but said China is still in the process of developing while America is a superpower with the technological edge to slash emissions . They said America’s attitudes will impact how people around the world approach the battle against climate change. Global Times also put the pressure on Western media and the public to pressure Trump, saying “American opinion has enabled the country’s political and legal authorities to freeze the president’s Muslim ban. If it keeps up the same vigor, the Trump administration may not be able to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.” Via The Guardian and Global Times Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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China calls America selfish amid Trump attempt to revive coal

Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

March 28, 2017 by  
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Clean energy is increasingly providing work for people across the United States, contrary to what the president might think, and a new Sierra Club report reveals just how much of an impact on the economy it has made. Renewable energy jobs now exceed jobs in coal, oil, and gas in 41 American states and Washington, D.C., according to the report. Sierra Club drew on 2017 Department of Energy jobs data to discover clean energy jobs exceed those in fossil fuels by more than 2.5 to one. The energy jobs of the future, including those in wind , solar , energy efficiency , battery storage , and smart grid technology, already exceed coal, oil, and gas jobs nationally, including positions in extraction, mining, and power generation. According to Sierra Club’s analysis, clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by over 2.5 to one, and exceed gas and coal jobs by five to one. While only nine states have more fossil fuel than clean energy jobs, just six states have more jobs in coal and gas, according to the report. Related: Solar power now provides twice as many jobs as coal in U.S. In a statement Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “Right now, clean energy jobs already overwhelm dirty fuels in nearly every state across America, and that growth is only going to continue as clean energy keeps getting more affordable and accessible by the day. These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires.” If Trump really wants to increase jobs as he claims – and not just fill the pockets of his fossil fuel friends – he should look no further than renewable energy. The report concludes policies to invest in and incentivize clean energy could generate millions of new jobs across America, more than could be created in the fossil fuel sector. Sierra Club also said the clean energy transition should benefit everyone; this means putting first communities and workers who depended on fossil fuels in the past. You can read the full report here . Via Sierra Club ( 1 , 2 ) Images via U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr and Walmart on Flickr

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Clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs in most US states

Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

March 28, 2017 by  
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Popeye was right: spinach really is good for the muscles, and not just the ones in your biceps. In fact, scientists have discovered a way to use the leafy stuff, which has a vascular system not dissimilar to ours, to grow layers of working heart muscle, according to a paper published this month in the journal Biomaterials . The new technique, a collaboration between Worcester Polytechnic Institute , the University of Wisconsin-Madison , and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro , marks a breakthrough in the field of human tissue regeneration, which has hitherto been stymied by scale. To wit, although current bioengineering methods can recreate cellular scaffolding on a large scope, fabricating branching networks of tiny blood vessels has proven far trickier. But then scientists noticed that plants and animals evolved parallel means of distributing water and nutrients to their respective cells. “Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals, and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures,” the authors wrote. “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.” To test their theory, the researchers stripped a bunch of spinach leaves of their cells, leaving behind a network of cellulose. They then seeded the spinach veins with beating human-heart cells. With the leaf fully networked, the team pumped fluids and microbeads through their pint-size proto-heart, mimicking the flow of human cells through our own arterial system. Related: Engineers build artificial muscles from onion skin and gold So far, so successful. “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” said Glenn Gaudette, professor of biomedical engineering at WPI and corresponding author of the paper. And it’s not just spinach that’s up for the job. Other decellularized plants could help deliver oxygen to damaged tissue in victims of heart attacks or other kinds of cardiac trauma. Even better, bioengineers could tweak different plant species to repair a range of tissues in the body. Spinach might work best for highly vascularized cardiac tissue, for instance, but the cylindrical hollow structure of something like jewelweed might be more appropriate for an arterial graft. Similarly, the vascular columns of wood could one day play a role in healing human bones. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field,” Gaudette added. + Worchester Polytechnic Institute Via National Geographic

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Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

Alaska gas leak endangering beluga whales won’t be fixed until the ice melts

March 6, 2017 by  
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A leaking natural gas pipeline in Cook Inlet, Alaska won’t be fixed until the ice melts – continuing to flow unchecked into a habitat for endangered beluga whales. Inside Climate News reports that Hilcorp Alaska, the company responsible for the leak, says it won’t be able repair the damage until later this month, at the earliest, due to concerns over safety for its workers. The 8-inch underwater pipeline has been leaking about 120,000 to 310,000 cubic feet of natural gas per day into the ocean since Feb. 7, 2017. “Given the typical weather patterns affecting ice formation and dissipation in Cook Inlet, we currently anticipate that the earliest that the conditions will allow diving will be in mid-to-late March,” wrote Hilcorp Alaska Senior Vice President, David Wilkins. Doing so before that date would likely make it unsafe for the divers who have to head underwater to fix the leak. But it would be appear to be a case of humans vs. whales, as the oil is leaking into a critical habitat for endangered beluga whales . Bob Shavelson, or the Alaska non-profit Cook Inletkeepe r, have concerns that methane in the leaking gas could displace oxygen in the water and create hypoxic zones that could be dangerous for the roughly 340 belugas in the area. Related: Hundreds of whales die in New Zealand’s third largest mass stranding As Inside Climate News reports, Alaska’s Department of Environment Conservation says Hilcorp didn’t respond to its request for a plan to monitor the leak and environmental impacts. Without such data the state agency can’t assess the threat posed by leak to Cook Inlet. The state has since asked Hilcorp to provide a plan by March 8 – more than a month after the leak began. In a letter to Alaska’s DEC, Hilcorp says the amount of dissolved methane coming from the leak is so minimal that it’s not toxic to aquatic organisms, and that belugas tend to avoid areas covered in ice – meaning that there are likely no belugas around the area of the leak. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says otherwise. In a recent letter the agency noted that Cook Inlet belugas tend to prefer ice cover, to the point that their presence has become associated with that of ice. “If a significant hypoxic zone is created by a continuing natural gas discharge,” the NOAA explained, “Cook Inlet belugas and multiple [physical and biological features] of their critical habitat could be adversely affected.” Via Inside Climate News Images via fooey and briangratwke , Flickr Creative Commons and Frank K , Wikimedia Commons

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Alaska gas leak endangering beluga whales won’t be fixed until the ice melts

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