EPA Welcomed Industry Feedback Before Reversing Pesticide Ban, Ignoring Health Concerns – Sharon Lerner August 18 2017, 9:19 a.m.

Before the Environmental Protection Agency issued its March 29 decision to reverse a proposed ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos, the agency considered information from industry groups that wanted to keep it on the market, according to internal agency documents. But the heavily redacted documents may be most notable for what they do not include.

The Intercept obtained internal emails, reports, and memos via a Freedom of Information Act request for materials used to brief EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on chlorpyrifos.

Although the documents reflect several direct communications between the EPA, big agricultural groups, and, in one instance, Donald Trump, they included no evidence that the agency met with environmental or public health groups or weighed concerns about the pesticide’s damaging effects. There was also no substantive discussion of the many studies detailing health effects. The story that emerges from the documents is a simple one of agricultural industry lobbying and, after its success, celebration.

Before the presidential election, the EPA had proposed banning chlorpyrifos based in part on evidence that the chemical causes lasting harm to children’s brains, including attention problems, memory loss, tremors, and autism. In reports issued in 2014 and 2015, the agency acknowledged research showing that children exposed to chlorpyrifos were more likely to have certain developmental problems. In November the EPA issued a report recommending a ban. A 90-day waiting period pushed the finalization of the ban into March, after Trump’s inauguration.

The industry argument for keeping chlorpyrifos on the market — that the pesticide is an essential tool for farmers — was well-represented in the documents. The issue came up at a March 1 meeting at EPA headquarters, where members of the Washington state chapter of the American Farm Bureau Federation met with Pruitt and requested a more “reasonable approach” to regulating chlorpyrifos. Don Benton, who was then serving as a senior White House adviser, assured the industry representatives that “the new administration is committed to developing new relationships between EPA and the agricultural community, a relationship based on partnerships, not on regulations and enforcement.”

EPA staff members were also in close communication with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, a group that wrote to Pruitt on March 8 expressing its opposition to the ban and met with EPA staff on March 29, the day the decision on chlorpyrifos was announced. Barbara Glenn, the group’s CEO, served as senior vice president of science and regulatory affairs for the pesticide industry group, CropLife America, from 2010 to 2014.

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Court rejects POTUS’ delay of EPA drilling pollution rule – BY TIMOTHY CAMA – 07/03/17 01:40 PM EDT

The Trump administration cannot delay an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule limiting methane pollution from oil and natural gas drilling, a federal court ruled Monday.

In an early court loss for President Trump’s aggressive agenda of environmental deregulation, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the EPA didn’t meet the requirements for a 90-day stay of the Obama administration’s methane rule.

The decision means the EPA must immediately start enforcing the standards.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to delay enforcement of the provision was based on arguments that when the Obama administration wrote the rule, it violated procedures by not allowing stakeholders to comment on some parts of what became the final regulation. The agency used that reasoning to formally reconsider the rule and to pause enforcement.But the court said the argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

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New EPA documents reveal even deeper proposed cuts to staff and programs – By Juliet Eilperin, Chris Mooney and Steven Mufson March 31 at 7:42 PM

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new, more detailed plan for laying off 25 percent of its employees and scrapping 56 programs including pesticide safety, water runoff control, and environmental cooperation with Mexico and Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

At a time when the agency is considering a controversial rollback in fuel efficiency standards adopted under President Obama, the plan would cut by more than half the number of people in EPA’s division for testing the accuracy of fuel efficiency claims by automakers.

It would transfer funding for the program to fees paid by the automakers themselves.

[Trump aims deep cuts at the clean energy agency that made solar power affordable

The spending plan, obtained by The Washington Post, offers the most detailed vision to date of how the 31 percent budget cut to the EPA ordered up by President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget would diminish the agency.

The March 21 plan calls for even deeper reductions in staffing than earlier drafts. It maintains funding given to states to administer waste treatment and drinking water. But as a result, the budget for the rest of EPA is slashed 43 percent.

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The House just passed two bills that would stifle science at the EPA – Updated by Brian Resnick Mar 30, 2017, 5:10pm EDT

Republicans are using the language of science reformers to obstruct the EPA.

House Republicans just passed two bills that will make it harder for the Environmental Protection Agency to use scientific research to protect health and the environment. And they’ve done so under the deceptive guise of “transparency.”

Over the past two days, the House has passed the “HONEST Act” and the “EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act.” On the surface, they seem noble. They use the same language scientists use when advocating for stronger research practices.

But they’re “wolf in sheep’s clothing types of statutes,” says Sarah Lamdan, a law professor who studies environmental information access at CUNY. “What’s really happening is that they’re preventing the EPA from doing its job.”

First, the “HONEST Act”

The HONEST Act is this year’s version of a piece of legislation formerly called the “Secret Science Reform Act.” Its sponsor is Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology — the same Congress member who, by the way, said that President Donald Trump “might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

The HONEST Act stipulates that the EPA can’t make any assessment or analysis based on science that not openly accessible to the public. Specifically, the text states the EPA can’t cite research that isn’t:

publicly available online in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results, except that any personally identifiable information, trade secrets, or commercial or financial information obtained from a person and privileged or confidential, shall be redacted prior to public availability.

Sounds reasonable, right? If passed by the Senate, it would mean the EPA would have to make all the data it uses in its decision-making freely available online so that public and independent researchers could more easily scrutinize its decisions. For sensitive health data, the bill has provision that would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to redact.

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The US Is Finally Taking on Methane, Climate Change’s Hidden Villain – EMMA FOEHRINGER MERCHANT: 05.02.16 3:23 PM

A methane extraction platform is seen at the Kivu Lake, in Gisenyi, Rwanda on April 17, 2016.PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

A methane extraction platform is seen at the Kivu Lake, in Gisenyi, Rwanda on April 17, 2016.PABLO PORCIUNCULA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

This story originally appeared on the New Republic and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Methane, carbon dioxide’s lesser-known cousin, is a big and growing problem for the planet. The chief component of natural gas, methane is also emitted during oil drilling. While it only accounts for 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the US, this chemical packs a potent dose of warming, 84 times more effective than CO2 at absorbing heat. Methane breaks down more quickly and poses fewer direct risks to human health. But it’s already contributed to more than 30 percent of the climate change the planet has experienced.

You wouldn’t have known any of this from the relative lack of attention paid to methane in efforts to combat climate change—until just recently. In March, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the two countries would team up to slash methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2025 and to regulate emissions from existing oil and gas operations, which account for a large majority of methane leaks. In April, Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s chief administrator, named tackling methane emissions as a top priority for the agency in 2016. And in coming weeks—if not days—the EPA will present its finalized regulations to control emissions from new oil and gas wells.

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Congress Just Ripped Flint Officials. It Wasn’t Pretty. – By Julia Lurie | Tue Mar. 15, 2016 6:43 PM EDT

The testimonies were “sickening,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Darnell Earley, Flint’s former state-appointed emergency manager Andrew Harnik/AP

On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to testify in a much-anticipated hearing before a congressional committee investigating the contamination crisis in Flint. If Tuesday’s tense hearing—in which the committee grilled other key local, state, and federal officials—was any indication, he’d better prep a good defense.

The opening testimonies were an exercise in deflection—so much so that the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, called it “sickening.” Former Environmental Protection Agency official Susan Hedman, who was in charge of the agency’s Midwest region until she resigned in January, went so far as to say that this EPA had “nothing at all to do” with Flint’s water contamination crisis. Darnell Earley, the state-appointed manager who oversaw the city’s disastrous switch to the Flint River water, said, “I believe that I have been unjustly persecuted, vilified, and smeared—both personally and professionally—by the media, local, state, and federal officials.”

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