“In a setback for the Obama administration, the Supreme Court on Tuesday temporarily halted enforcement of Obama’s signature climate initiative.
“The Clean Power Plan, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency last summer, requires states to limit coal-fired power plant emissions—the nation’s largest source of greenhouse gases—by a third by 2030. The regulation was expected to revamp the energy industry in the coming decades, shutting down coal-fired plants and speeding up renewable energy production. But 29 states, together with dozens of industry groups, sued the EPA, claiming the rule was ”the most far-reaching and burdensome rule the EPA has ever forced onto the states.”
In a 5-4 vote today, the Supreme Court issued an unusual, one-page emergency order for the EPA to put the plan on hold until the US Court of Appeals, which will hear the case this summer, comes to a decision. While the hold is temporary, manysee the order as a sign that the Supreme Court has concerns about the policy…”
Read more from Mother Jones
“The Obama administration is expected to propose a $250 million cut to its primary funding source for water and sewer systems as part of its budget proposal Tuesday — a prospect that is bringing bipartisan criticism amid the furor over lead contamination in Flint, Mich.
The budget calls for adding $158 million to an Environmental Protection Agency program that offers grants and low-interest loans to help states and cities improve their drinking water systems, according to a source familiar with the proposal. But it would pay for that by making even larger cuts to an EPA clean water program that helps reduce pollution at the source, a trade-off that lawmakers on both sides call foolish.
“We cannot take money away from the fund that cleans up the polluted Flint River — the source of Flint’s drinking water — and put it into fixing Flint’s pipes,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who called himself “grossly disappointed” by the proposal. Cardin noted that the administration’s expected request for drinking water spending is lower than what President Barack Obama sought last year, even if it’s more than what Congress wound up providing.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, accused Obama of making clean drinking water a lesser priority than climate change, a frequent complaint of Republican lawmakers about Obama’s EPA budget proposals…”
Read more from Politico
Washington, DC – On Tuesday, February 9, a coalition of moms from Michigan and Missouri will hold a press conference to address EPA’s failure to act on serious threats to public health in both communities.
Flint, Michigan is reeling from ongoing lead poisoning in its drinking water. EPA senior managers reacted to alarms sounded by its own staff by downplaying the risks and hiding the warnings about the lead levels from the public.
In Bridgeton, Missouri (a suburb of north St. Louis), families live near a radioactive Superfund landfill containing nuclear wastes that were illegally dumped during the Manhattan Project. The nuclear wastes are adjacent to an underground fire at a neighboring landfill. The Bridgeton/West Lake landfill site is owned by the Republic Services waste corporation, and workers there have no protection from either the radioactive wastes or the toxic emissions emitted by the landfill daily.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has refused for over two years to meet with the Just Moms St. Louis community group. She has released a new formal policy on “substantial health risks.”
At the press conference, leaders from both the Just Moms St. Louis and the Flint-based Water You Fighting For community groups will discuss the environmental and public health catastrophes in both communities, and EPA’s responses to date. They will also ask EPA Administrator McCarthy to meet with the Just Moms St. Louis members who traveled here to request that the EPA act on its authority under the Superfund Act to move families away from the landfill, as the agency has done previously with Love Canal and other communities.
“In Sebring, Ohio, routine laboratory tests last August found unsafe levels of lead in the town’s drinking water after workers stopped adding a chemical to keep lead water pipes from corroding. Five months passed before the city told pregnant women and children not to drink the water, and shut down taps and fountains in schools.
In 2001, after Washington, D.C., changed how it disinfected drinking water, lead in tap water at thousands of homes spiked as much as 20 times the federally approved level. Residents did not find out for three years. When they did, officials ripped out lead water pipes feeding 17,600 homes — and discovered three years later that many of therepairs had only prolonged the contamination.
The crisis in Flint, Mich., where as many as 8,000 children under age 6 were exposed to unsafe levels of lead after a budget-cutting decision to switch drinking-water sources, may be the most serious contamination threat facing the country’s water supplies. But it is hardly the only one.
Unsafe levels of lead have turned up in tap water in city after city — in Durham and Greenville, N.C., in 2006; in Columbia, S.C., in 2005; and last July in Jackson, Miss., where officials waited six months to disclose the contamination — as well as in scores of other places in recent years.
Federal officials and many scientists agree that most of the nation’s 53,000 community water systems provide safe drinking water. But such episodes are unsettling reminders of what experts say are holes in the safety net of rules and procedures intended to keep water not just lead-free, but free of all poisons…”
Read more from the New York Times
By Brian Bienkowski
Environmental Health News
Chavel Lopez lives just a few miles north of Texas’ Eagle Ford—one of the many regions in the country recently given a makeover from the fracking industry. ”I just have to drive a bit south and see the wells and the flames,” he said.
For Lopez, rather than a booming industry, these are signs of yet another pollution burden for the region’s people of color.
“We already had issues. Right here in San Antonio, fuel storage tanks were all located on the eastside, predominantly African American neighborhoods,” he said. “For some of these Hispanic neighborhoods, they were already dealing with uranium mining impacts and now the fracking of oil and gas.”
Read More at Environmental Health News
Greenpeace reports that eighty-six bleach plants across the country put 63.8 million people in danger of a potential worst-case release of chlorine gas, a substance so toxic it has been used as a chemical weapon.
Image: Greenpeace Report Cover
“A new generation of chemicals added to furniture, building insulation and baby products like car seats to slow the spread of flames are escaping into air at higher levels than previously thought, according to a new study out of Washington state.
The findings come as Washington lawmakers decide on bolstering flame retardant bans. The state was one of the first to ban an earlier generation of retardants, known as PBDEs.
The new research found flame retardant chemicals used to replace polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) also escape, are ubiquitous in indoor air and suggest inhalation is a major route of exposure for people.
The compounds, called chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, found in the study have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems, and some can alter hormones essential for development.
“We’ve been underestimating what total exposure is,” said Erika Schreder, staff scientist at the Washington Toxics Coalition and lead author of the study published this month in the scientific journal Chemosphere.
Researchers gave 10 people from Washington state an air sampler that simulates breathing to wear during a normal day: office work, commuting, hanging out at home. They tested for a suite of the new generation of chlorinated flame retardants and found all 10 were breathing some amount of them throughout the day…”
Read more from Environmental Health News
“The city of Seattle is suing to make Monsanto pay for cleanup of toxic PCBs from the city’s drainage system and the Duwamish River.
Monsanto was the sole producer of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) for commercial use in the U.S. from 1935 to 1977, and continued to profit from their sale for years even as its officials knew the chemicals were polluting the environment, causing harm to people and wildlife, said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes.
“When the profit motive overtakes concern for the environment, this is the kind of disaster that happens,” Holmes said Tuesday. “I’m proud to hold Monsanto accountable.”
Seattle is the sixth major city in the West to seek cleanup damages from the company, joining San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, San Diego and Spokane, which Holmes said gave him the idea to file the federal lawsuit.
The amount of damages requested isn’t specified and would be determined in the course of the lawsuit, said Laura Wishik, section director for environmental protection in the Seattle City Attorney’s Office.
Targeted is PCB contamination in 20,000 acres that drain to the Lower Duwamish, a federal Superfund site. Also at issue are areas that drain to the East Waterway, adjacent to Harbor Island, a separate Superfund site…”
Read more from the Seattle Times
“The contaminated water crisis wreaking havoc on Flint, Michigan, is easily one of the worst public health and environmental disasters in recent memory. It’s been the subject of widespread public outcry, calls for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s resignation, and a federal investigation.
But while Flint is clearly an extreme case, it is by no means alone in exposing its residents to dangerous levels of lead. Many other Michigan cities also show signs of elevated lead exposure in children—although in these cases, the problem doesn’t come from water but from exposure to lead paint in old houses.
Using information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Mike Wilkinson of Bridge magazine pieced together an interactive map that provides a startling picture of elevated lead levels across the state of Michigan as a whole. The map’s dark red splotches indicate places where 10 or more children have shown elevated levels of lead in their blood. The lighter red splotches indicate where fewer than 10 children tested had seriously elevated lead levels…”
Read more from City Lab
“Humans have made enough plastic since the second world war to coat the Earth entirely in clingfilm, an international study has revealed. This ability to plaster the planet in plastic is alarming, say scientists – for it confirms that human activities are now having a pernicious impact on our world.
The research, published in the journal Anthropocene, shows that no part of the planet is free of the scourge of plastic waste. Everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene lumps, compact discs, cigarette filter tips, nylons and other plastics. Some are in the form of microscopic grains, others in lumps. The impact is often highly damaging.
“The results came as a real surprise,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Jan Zalasiewicz, of Leicester University. “We were aware that humans have been making increasing amounts of different kinds of plastic – from Bakelite to polyethylene bags to PVC – over the last 70 years, but we had no idea how far it had travelled round the planet. It turns out not just to have floated across the oceans, but has sunk to the deepest parts of the sea floor. This is not a sign that our planet is in a healthy condition either.”
The crucial point about the study’s findings is that the appearance of plastic should now be considered as a marker for a new epoch. Zalasiewicz is the chairman of a group of geologists assessing whether or not humanity’s activities have tipped the planet into a new geological epoch, called the Anthropocene, which ended the Holocene that began around 12,000 years ago…”
Read more from the Guardian