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Protecting our Environmental Resources
Updated: 4 hours 4 min ago

Farm Bill Update

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:40

Farm Bill Update from our friends at Community Alliance with Family Farmers & Farmers Guild

In May, the House Agricultural Committee Chairman, Mike Conaway (R-Texas), produced a Farm Bill that had no Democratic support, in part because it included provisions that would require most adults receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps) to prove every month that they worked or were in job training for 20 hours per week. Analysts estimate that provision could cut two million people from SNAP. The bill also eliminated the Conservation Stewardship Program (70 million acres), included no reform of crop insurance or commodity programs, and eliminated funding for Value Added Producer Grants, Rural Energy Assistance, Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion, National Organic Cost Share, Risk Management Education Partnership, and Rural Microenterprise Assistance. This Farm Bill was voted down on the floor as all Democrats and a group of conservative Republicans opposed it.

The conservative group—the House Freedom Caucus—demanded a vote on their favored immigration bill—which legalizes DACA, fully funds Trump’s border wall, cuts legal immigration, sets up a new guestworker program, and institutes E-verify, among other things—before they would vote for the Farm Bill. A moderate group of Republicans also demanded a vote on a similar immigration bill that does not include the guestworker program or E-verify. This vote is scheduled to occur the week of June 18. Both bills are likely to fail since Democrats will not vote for them. After that, the Farm Bill may be reconsidered in the House.

On June 13, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted out a Farm Bill that had bi-partisan support. The Senate bill looks a lot like the previous Farm Bill and includes all of the conservation and local food programs that CAFF supports. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that he hopes to bring the bill before the full Senate by June 29, which is the last day that Congress is in session before the July 4 recess. McConnell has a provision in the bill that will allow Kentucky to return to its historic role as a major hemp producer, so he has real incentives to get it done.

To look at the details of the Senate bill, see http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/senate-ag-committee-farm-bill/ and the links to even more details.

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Sleepy Joshua Tree sees a boom in tourism, illegal rentals

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:34
Binge tourism…..making housing even more unaffordable… Sleepy Joshua Tree sees a boom in tourism, illegal rentals
  • By Louis Sahagun Los Angeles Times (TNS)
  • Jun 17, 2018JOSHUA TREE, Calif. — Mark Grden was looking for peace and quiet when he bought his house a half-mile from the main entrance to Joshua Tree National Park in 1998. And for years, he found it.

    “I used to sit out on the porch and watch bobcats creep past under skies filled with stars, bats and owls,” he said. “Neighbors knew each other and kept an eye on each other’s property.”

    But over the past two decades, this otherworldly landscape has gone from a destination for hikers and rock climbers to an international attraction luring 3 million visitors per year — overwhelming the area’s craggy campsites, low-slung motels and Grden’s once-sleepy community.

    “Now I’m surrounded by Airbnbs filled with vacationing strangers who seem to think anything goes out here,” he said, shaking his head.

    Short-term rental services are spurring a construction boom unfettered by county permits, regulations or lodging taxes of any kind in this gateway to the national park.

    The unincorporated high desert community of Joshua Tree has a population of about 9,000 and an estimated 800 unlicensed vacation rental businesses offering a menu of quirky alternatives to traditional lodging: neighborhood homes, vintage trailers, Sherpa huts, tepees, shipping containers and camps where guests are encouraged to let their dogs run free while they sip cocktails and watch the sunset.

    There are the patches of concrete on which to pitch a tent or park a vehicle that critics say are rented out by “slab lords.”

    It is illegal to operate a nightly rental in unincorporated San Bernardino County, but there are no enforcement codes governing the practice, officials said. With such high demand and nearly no risk of punishment, property owners are rushing to get in the market. But the onslaught of short-term rentals is creating a widening rift among residents, pitting neighbor against neighbor in tense disputes about bad behavior, loud music, 3 a.m. volleyball parties, rampant trespassing, unleashed dogs, drones, piles of garbage and a discomforting lack of housing available for traditional long-term leases. The tensions play out at community gatherings, on social media and in heated arguments that break out in local cafes and supermarkets.

    Vacation rentals have stirred opposition in cities across the country, but the dispute is especially acute in isolated towns with economies almost entirely based on tourism, creating crosscurrents unlike those found in larger, more economically diverse regions.

    In the isolated Eastern Sierra town of Mammoth Lakes, residents rebelled against short-term rentals, mandating voter approval of any changes to zoning restrictions on short-term rentals in residential areas.

    “It is anarchy out there right now,” said David Wert, a spokesman for San Bernardino County. “All this unregulated and sometimes unsanitary activity that is having a huge impact on the community, the environment and the availability of housing for local residents.”

    The county is drafting regulations to rein in the vacation rental market. Specifics being hammered out include, for example, what types of portable sanitation systems should required for businesses operating out of tents, Wert said.

    The ordinance is expected to be presented to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors for approval later this year, said Andy Wingert, the county’s code enforcement chief.

    “We’re already in the process of identifying sites that are manifestly unsafe,” he said. “We will be sending out notices to make them stop.”

    The ordinance can’t come soon enough for residents struggling to cope with the influx of rentals they see as an assault on the environment, and a culture locals describe as “where hippie blurs to redneck.”

    It has changed not just the attitudes but also the rhythms of the community.

    “There’s a heightened state of anxiety on holidays and summer weekends when loud parties rule the night,” Grden said. “At sunrise, a battalion of carpenters, plumbers, painters and housecleaners arrives to fix what was broken the night before.”

    “It may be too late to turn things around,” he added. “The vacation rental industry has split this town right down the middle.”

    On the other side of the issue are those who invested in vacation rentals, which can provide lucrative streams of income in a place where the median household income is about $34,000, compared with about $57,000 in the county as a whole. “I’ve got clients from San Diego to San Francisco who have bought second homes here just to rent them out,” general contractor Mike Wilson said. “One of my clients is making $20,000 a month on two rental properties.”

    Real estate brokers say the first question asked by the Southern Californians who call them each day is: “Can I pick

    up a house there for about $100,000?”“I tell them the truth,” said Bryan Wynwood, a real estate broker in Joshua Tree who owns a vacation rental in town. “The days of homes here selling for $60,000 to $100,000 are over — never to return. Today, entry houses are $150,000 to $200,000.”

    Shipping containers are a cheaper alternative in Joshua Tree’s red-hot vacation rental market. Big Morongo Feed and Tack in Morongo Valley has always specialized in alfalfa pellets, chicken feed and exotic hens but is carving out a new niche business by offering 20-foot shipping containers for $2,900, including delivery.

    Shipping containers painted bright white and outfitted with showers and wooden floors are lodging at Moon Camp, a vacation rental site perched on a slope dotted with creosote on the northwestern edge of the national park.

    “It’s quite livable,” said Rosemary Quigley, 58, of New York, emerging from one of them on a recent weekday morning. “But it’s kind of interesting coming all the way from New York to spend the night in a shipping container.”

    Southern California’s newest vacation boomtown is spread across washes and alluvial plains just north of the park, part of a necklace of communities that stretches 40 miles along California 62 from Yucca Valley to Twentynine Palms.

    Joshua Tree has seen changes before. It was settled by successive waves of people seeking jobs in agriculture, ranching and mining industries that flourished for more than a century.

    Today, it is a popular weekend destination for hikers, rock climbers and other visitors to the park, which like other federal lands in California is luring record crowds.

    Joshua Tree’s status as a refuge for musicians and artists stems in part from the legend that followed the 1973 overdose death of singer-songwriter Gram Parsons in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn.

    But it wasn’t until about three years ago that the vacation rental market started booming, around the time the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio — about 50 miles away by car — started setting world records for attendance and gross revenues.

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Unexpected industry

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:21

Press Democrat Letters to the editor,

Unexpected industry

EDITOR: What is it that people who report on marijuana don’t understand about the vote in 2016? Pretty much everyone I know voted to decriminalize the use of cannabis and private grows. No one envisioned the booming industry that is attempting to insert itself into our local lifestyles.

Not one person would have imagined an industrial cannabis operation at the end of a narrow, winding, private road. No one imagined the smell from a cannabis operation, which has permeated an otherwise bucolic Sebastopol neighborhood where the residents cannot go outside or open windows or doors due to the stench.

Why is it that reports found in The Press Democrat tend to downplay or fail to report the severity of these problems? I challenge anyone to go investigate this matter.

CHARLENE STONE

Santa Rosa

Categories: Food and Farming

Napa’s Measure C appears to be narrowly defeated

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 10:11

Napa’s Measure C narrowly defeated

As the final mail in ballots are being counted, Measure C appears to be narrowly defeated. The wine industry did their best to spread falsehoods to defeat the measure. Funding for the no on C was triple the funding for the yes on C folks. Your fabrications, fear and moneyed interests are loosing their grip as residents realize that wine corporate interests only have profit in mind, not the community. The Yes on C people will not be deterred. Look for this back on the next ballot.

What You Need to Know About Measure C

  • It establishes a buffer zone around streams of 25 to 125 feet, where trees of any kind may not be removed.
  • This doesn’t affect vineyard footprints that have already been approved.
  • Only 795 acres of oak trees may be removed from the designated hillsides in order to plant vineyards. Once the 795-acre limit is reached, permits will be required to cut down any more oaks.
  • In agricultural watershed zones, the measure requires replacing or preserving three times as many acres of oak woodlands as were lost.
  • Opponents, which include industry trade groups, plan to spend $1 million to defeat the measure, according to a Guardian report. Meanwhile the Press Democrat reports that! supporters have raised $163,504 for their “Yes on Measure C” campaign.

How did Measure C Get on the Ballot?
Measure C is the culmination of a three-year grassroots campaign by local community activists and environmentalists. Supporters gathered enough signatures in 2017 to place the measure on the ballot.
Why Do People Support It?
With Napa’s valley floor planted to capacity, the only remaining land for vineyard development lies along the hillsides, the area that concerns Measure C.
Supporters say that cutting oak trees reduces groundwater levels and threatens water quality. Oak woodlands help to protect local water supplies because their roots filter out harmful fertilizers, sediments, pesticides and herbicides. Supporters of Measure C include veteran winemakers, who say further development is unsustainable because resources are limited.
“The largest users of groundwater in Napa Valley are vineyards and wineries, which use over 70 percent of our groundwater,” Chriz Benz, a retired winery manager and Sierra Club member, told KQED’s radio program Forum. “And over half of that groundwater comes from the hillside’s watersheds, where the oak woodlands play a very vital role in capturing and sinking it into the aquifers.”
A 2010 management plan estimates that vineyard development will destroy up to 3,065 acres of mixed woodland by 2020.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Local farmers alternative to glyphosate

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:42
Sonoma County organic farmers use this instead of “Round-Up”. It may take two applications, but you’re not poisoning your family and environment. The orange oil recipe is reputed to work best. Note precautions on the vinegar/Epsom salt formula.

Vinegar / Orange Oil Weed Be Gone
(from Kathy Tresch)

Ingredients:
20% vinegar
orange oil
Dawn dish soap (the blue stuff)

To make a gallon:
About 80% vinegar
20% orange oil
1 cup Dawn

Apply mid day when leaves are dry and air is warm.

Vinegar / Epsom Salt Weed Be Gone
(from Sonoma Beekeepers Group)

Ingredients:
1 gallon 10% vinegar
2 cups Epsom Salt
½ cup Dawn dish soap

Mix and spray weeds early in the day for best effect. Wear Goggles and Gloves before handling vinegar and remember, that this mixture is deadly for amphibians like frogs, lizards and salamanders if you get any spray on them, so check your weeds before you start spraying this stuff.

Categories: Food and Farming

He’s dying of cancer. Now, he’s the first patient to go to trial to argue Roundup made him sick

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 09:34
Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped company In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” He’s dying of cancer. Now, he’s the first patient to go to trial to argue Roundup made him sick

Updated 6:16 PM ET, Sun June 17, 2018

<img alt=”Monsanto says Roundup is safe and can't be linked to individual cancer cases.” class=”media__image” src=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/170501183126-roundup-products-large-169.jpg”>

Monsanto says Roundup is safe and can’t be linked to individual cancer cases.

(CNN)On bad days, Dewayne Johnson is too crippled to speak. Lesions often cover as much as 80% of his body.

Doctors have said they didn’t expect him to live to see this day. But Monday marks a milestone: Johnson, 46, is the first of hundreds of cancer patients to see his case against agrochemical giant Monsanto go to trial.

<img alt=”Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, regularly used Roundup and claims it gave him cancer.” class=”media__image” src=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180615090600-dewayne-johnson-large-169.jpg”>

Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, regularly used Roundup and claims it gave him cancer. Johnson, a father of two in California’s Bay Area, applied Roundup weed killer 20 to 30 times per year while working as a pest manager for a county school system, his attorney said. Read More Johnson’s case is the first to go to trial because, his doctors claim in court filings, he is nearing death. And in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials. And there’s a lot riding on this case, which could set a legal precedent for thousands of cases to follow. Report on Roundup ingredient in dispute The big questions at stake are whether Roundup can cause cancer and, if so, whether Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the product’s cancer risk.

<img alt=”Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped company ” class=”media__image” src=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/170405173019-01-christine-sheppard-large-169.jpg”> Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped company In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” “For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the report states. “The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals.” But Monsanto long has maintained that Roundup does not cause cancer, and that the IARC report is greatly outnumbered by studies saying glyphosate is safe.

We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause.”

Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge

“More than 800 scientific studies, the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the National Institutes of Health and regulators around the world have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer,” Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of strategy, said in a statement. “We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause. We look forward to presenting this evidence to the court.” Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said regulatory authorities help ensure Roundup is safe. “The safety of each labeled use of a pesticide formulation must be evaluated and approved by regulatory authorities before it is authorized for sale,” she has said. The National Pesticide Information Center — a cooperative between Oregon State University and the EPA — said studies on cancer rates in humans “have provided conflicting results on whether the use of glyphosate containing products is associated with cancer.” Many more cases to follow Johnson’s case — and hundreds of similar cases against Monsanto — have been filed in various state courts, Litzenburg said. Many other cases have been filed in federal multidistrict litigation, or MDL.

<img alt=”Johnson had lesions on most of his body, a doctor said. ” class=”media__image” src=”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180615164344-dewayne-johnson-hand-large-169.jpg”>

Johnson had lesions on most of his body, a doctor said. MDL is a procedure similar to class-action, in that it consolidates pre-trial proceedings for the sake of efficiency. But unlike a class-action lawsuit, each case within an MDL gets its own trial — with its own outcome. In other words, one MDL plaintiff might get a large settlement, while another plaintiff might get nothing. It’s not clear when future state or MDL trials will begin. One advantage of filing in state court — as Johnson did — instead of through MDL is that state courts might produce an outcome faster. And in Johnson’s case, time is critical. “Mr. Johnson is angry and is the most safety-oriented person I know,” his attorney said. “Right now, he is the bravest dude in America. Whatever happens with the trial and his health, his sons get to know that.”
Categories: Food and Farming

CARB Workshop notices

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 10:31

Please attend the June Workshops, use talking points from Club and emphasize the need to avoid wind-blown dust by water conservation and improved agricultural practices..

North Coast
DATE:                June 20, 2018
TIME:                 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
LOCATION:       Sonoma County Ag. Preservation and Open Space District
                          747 Mendocino Avenue #100 
                          Santa Rosa, California 95401

RSVP Purpose

Regional meetings are intended to help State agencies gain feedback on opportunities and priorities and refine draft acreage targets for conservation, management, and restoration practices to be modeled and included in the final Plan. These workshops seek engagement with landowners and stakeholders from Resource Conservation Districts, land trusts, nonprofits, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and local, regional, federal, and tribal governments, with the following goals:

  1. Ensuring that draft regional acreage targets for resource management are inclusive of significant local plans, goals, and programs, particularly regional multi-partner or landscape-scale plans; and
  2. Better understanding local priorities and stakeholder needs for successful regional implementation of the Plan through 2030.
  3. Comments on the California Natural and Working Lands Climate Change Implementation Plan, June 12, 2018, by Joan Taylor, for the Desert Committee

     

    Sierra Club: California desert natural and working lands

     

    California deserts store substantial amounts of carbon, primarily in vast caliche deposits in its inland basins, as do other desert basins (Schlesinger 1985, Lal 2004). Once the surface of the desert is disturbed, this caliche releases its carbon into the atmosphere (Hirmas and Allen 2007).   It is increasingly recognized that on a global scale the earth’s deserts may be the missing carbon sink in the carbon budget, and of a magnitude similar to deep ocean carbon burial. (Li et al 2017)

     

    To date, the extent and dynamics of desert carbon deposits have not been well characterized, although the official Science Advisors to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (hereinafter DRECP) emphasized that the disruption of desert soil crusts was a paramount planning concern (DRECP 2010). Currently the University of California at Riverside is embarking on research to better characterize the extent of and mechanisms affecting California deserts as a carbon sink (Allen et al 2017).

     

    It is evident that California desert lands serve as a significant carbon sink as well as providing other vital ecosystem services extensively recognized in DRECP and elsewhere. Currently, the ability of natural and working lands in the desert is under threat. Direct threats include uncontrolled off road vehicle use, inappropriately sited large-scale solar energy projects, and water export projects from the desert to urban areas. The Sierra Club has selectively targeted the most egregious of these projects.

     

    The indirect threats to California arid natural lands are perhaps greater than the direct threats.   The Trump administration is working to eviscerate the DRECP, which is a balanced plan preserving vast acreages of intact desert and directing renewable development to lower conflict zones. The administration also intends to destroy the integrity of the newly designated Mojave Trails National Monument, which protects 1.6 million largely intact acres of the Mojave desert basin and range province. Sierra Club has mounted major campaigns to defend DRECP and the newly designated national monuments.

     

    Clearly, California’s deserts merit inclusion in the California Natural and Working Lands initiative as an integral part of the Climate Change Implementation Plan. Policies and actions formulated to protect intact desert areas can use DRECP as a starting framework, informed and enhanced by emerging research on deserts and carbon sequestration.

  4.  

     

     

    Literature cited

     

Categories: Food and Farming

Senate Committee Moves to Force Release of Water Contamination Study Blocked by Scott Pruitt, White House

Sun, 06/17/2018 - 10:25
Senate Committee Moves to Force Release of Water Contamination Study Blocked by Scott Pruitt, White House

EWG:

WASHINGTON – The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill today that includes report language requiring the Trump administration to release a key scientific study it buried. The study proposed safe levels for fluorinated, or PFAS, chemicals in drinking water at levels nearly six times lower than those the Environmental Protection Agency recommends.

The amendment to the committee report, authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. and approved in the Interior-Environmental spending bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services to publish the study within two weeks of the bill becoming law.

Internal emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and reported by Politico revealed that the top aides to EPA head Scott Pruitt, as well as Department of Defense and White House officials, sought to block the study’s release, fearing a “public relations nightmare” that could follow.

“Scott Pruitt and the White House clearly will do anything to hide information from the public on any number of issues, including the poisoned drinking water of 100 million Americans,” said EWG Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle understand full well how important clean drinking water is for their constituents and all Americans.”

Categories: Food and Farming

The Guardian: Our laws make slaves of nature. It’s not just humans who need rights

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 09:35
Today, environmental laws regulate the human use and destruction of nature……….As daily headlines tell us how we are tearing holes in the very fabric of life on earth, it is time to make a fundamental shift in how we govern ourselves towards nature …….” Our laws make slaves of nature. It’s not just humans who need rights For decades our laws have been a death sentence for the environment. Now, from the Amazon to Australia, the tide is turning

The Amazon rainforest is often called the earth’s lungs, and generates 20% of the world’s oxygen. Yet in the past half-century nearly a fifth of it has been cut down. The felling and burning of millions of trees is releasing massive amounts of carbon, in turn depleting the Amazon’s capacity to be one of the world’s largest carbon sinks – the natural systems that suck up and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Can climate litigation save the world? Read more

Recently, 25 children brought a lawsuit to end the deforestation and its devastating impacts on the environment and their own wellbeing. The case made its way to Colombia’s supreme court, which issued its decision last month. While deforestation is hardly a new issue in this region, the court’s response to the lawsuit certainly was. Commenting that environmental degradation – not only in the Amazon but worldwide – is so significant that it threatens “human existence”, the court declared the Colombian Amazon a “subject of rights”.

In 1972 the law professor Christopher Stone published a seminal article, Should Trees Have Standing?, that explored the possibility of recognising the legal rights of nature. He described how women and slaves had long been treated as rightless in law, and suggested that just as they had eventually attained rights, so trees and other nonhuman living things should also do so.

Today, environmental laws regulate the human use and destruction of nature. They legalise fracking, drilling, and even dynamiting the tops off mountains to mine coal. The consequences are proving catastrophic: the die-off crisis of the world’s coral reefs, accelerating species extinction, climate change. Finally, though, this is changing. In 2006 the first law recognising the legal rights of nature was enacted in the borough of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The community sought to prevent dredging sludge laden with PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl) being dumped in an abandoned coalmine. The organisation I work for, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, helped the council draft the law, transforming nature from being rightless to possessing rights to exist and flourish. It was the first such law in the world. Communities across more than 10 US states have now followed suit, including New Hampshire, Colorado and Pittsburgh.

The poisoned landscape left left by an illegal goldmine in the Amazon forest. Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The poisoned landscape left left by an illegal goldmine in the Amazon forest. After the decision to grant legal rights to nature in Pennsylvania, representatives of my organisation met Ecuador’s constituent assembly in 2008, which was elected to draft a new constitution. We discussed the rights of nature, and why communities all over the world find themselves unable to protect nature under laws that authorise its exploitation. The assembly’s president, Alberto Acosta, told us: “Nature is a slave.”

In 2006 the first law recognising the legal rights of nature was enacted in the borough of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania

However, that year Ecuador enshrined the rights of nature – or Pachamama (Mother Earth) – in its constitution, the first country to do so. Since then Bolivia has put in place a Law of Mother Earth. Courts in India and Colombia have similarly ruled that ecosystems possess rights. In Mexico, Pakistan, Australia and other countries, rights-of-nature frameworks are being proposed and enacted.

Colombia’s supreme court was asked to consider the climate-change impacts of Amazon deforestation in the lawsuit that led to its groundbreaking ruling. Similarly, in Nepal the Center for Economic and Social Development is working to advance rights to protect against climate change. The Himalayas – known as the world’s third pole – are experiencing warming faster than any other mountain range on earth. With the melting of ice and snow, a Sherpa told us, “the mountains are turning black”. But now a constitutional amendment has been developed that would, if adopted, recognise the rights of the Himalayas to a climate system free from global-warming pollution. It would for the first time provide a platform for Nepal to hold major climate polluters accountable for violating the rights of the mountains.

Law today divides the world into two categories: persons, capable of having rights; and property, unable to possess rights. While there is no universally agreed upon definition of “legal person”, it is generally understood to mean an entity capable of bearing rights and duties. The problem that the rights-of-nature movement is now encountering is that this definition is predictably problematic when it comes to rivers, forests or nature more broadly.

In 2017, for example, the state high court in Uttarakhand, India, ruled that in order to protect the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, they should be considered legal persons with “all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person”. In a subsequent appeal to India’s supreme court, the state government asked whether, if the rivers flood, leading to the death of a human being, a lawsuit could be filed for damages. Could the Uttarakhand chief secretary of state, named by the court as one of several officials in loco parentis, be held liable on the river’s behalf? In this case, the supreme court decided not.

Can we hold a river accountable for flooding, or a forest for burning? Of course not. Yet existing legal systems force us to think of nature in terms of human concerns rather than what concerns nature. With the past three years the warmest in recorded history, and as we face what has been called the sixth great extinction, lawmakers and judges appear increasingly to agree that it is time to secure the highest form of legal protection for nature, through the recognition of rights.

To make progress in this area, we must break away from legal strictures that were never intended to apply to nature, such as legal personhood, and establish a new structure that addresses what nature needs. Perhaps we can call this framework legal naturehood. A recent symposium at Tulane Law School, in New Orleans, brought together academics, lawyers and activists to develop a set of guidelines for recognizing and enforcing legal rights of nature, known as the rights-of-nature principles.

These define the basic rights that nature needs, including rights to existence, regeneration and restoration. Further, they call for monetary damages derived from violations of these rights to be used solely to protect and restore nature to its pre-damaged state. In addition, they outline a means for nature to defend its own rights – like children unable to speak for themselves in court – by being the named “real party in interest” in administrative and court proceedings. The principles build on laws and judicial decisions that have begun to accumulate in this new area of law, laying the groundwork for what legal naturehood could look like.

As daily headlines tell us how we are tearing holes in the very fabric of life on earth, it is time to make a fundamental shift in how we govern ourselves towards nature – before, as Colombia’s constitutional court wrote, it’s too late.

• Mari Margil is associate director of the US-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

  • This article was corrected on 24 May 2017. The Center for Economic and Social Development is based in Nepal, not the US. And the warning referred to in the final paragraph is now correctly attributed to the Colombian constitutional court, not the supreme court
Categories: Food and Farming

2014 Napa earthquake may be linked to groundwater changes, study says

Sat, 06/16/2018 - 09:20
2014 Napa earthquake may be linked to groundwater changes, study says

By

Jun 14, 2018 | 2:00 AM | Napa, Calif.

Research suggests the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that rocked California wine country in 2014 may have been caused by an expansion of Earth’s crust because of seasonally receding groundwater under the Napa and Sonoma valleys.

The vineyard-filled valleys flank the West Napa Fault, which produced the quake that killed one person, injured several hundred and caused more than $500 million in losses.

The study recently published in the American Geophysical Union’s “Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth” suggests land between the valleys is stretched each summer as groundwater levels fall beneath the valleys and the ground in the valleys sinks and contracts.

Two men walk past a quake-damaged building in Napa on Aug. 25, 2014. New research suggests the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that rocked California wine country may have been caused by an expansion of Earth’s crust due to seasonally receding groundwater. (Eric Risberg / AP)

The amount of the horizontal stretching measured is tiny — about 0.12 inch — but enough to stress faults, according to the researchers.

“We think it’s more of a localized effect, something related to the groundwater system. We don’t know if it is groundwater pumping specifically, or something related to how the natural aquifer system works, or a combination,” said lead author Meredith Kraner, formerly of the Department of Geosciences at Stony Brook University in New York and now with the University of Nevada, Reno.

Co-authors were William E. Holt of Stony Brook University and Adrian A. Borsa of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.

The early morning Napa quake on Aug. 24 was the largest to hit the Bay Area since the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake on Oct. 17, 1989.

The Napa quake left 8 miles of surface rupture and damaged many historical masonry buildings and older residences, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Toxic Docs

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 09:27
“This dataset and website contain millions of pages of previously secret documents about toxic substances. They include secret internal memoranda, emails, slides, board minutes, unpublished scientific studies, and expert witness reports — among other kinds of documents — that emerged in recent toxic tort litigation.” Toxic Docs PROJECT TOXICDOCS Columbia University and the City University of New York Millions of Pages of Previously Classified Documents on Industrial Poisons (and Counting) Free of Charge. Open to All. Blazingly fast searches of once-secret industry documents

Columbia University’s Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, located at its Mailman School of Public Health, and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center are proud to jointly present ToxicDocs. This dataset and website contain millions of pages of previously secret documents about toxic substances. They include secret internal memoranda, emails, slides, board minutes, unpublished scientific studies, and expert witness reports — among other kinds of documents — that emerged in recent toxic tort litigation.

We’re constantly adding material from lawsuits involving lead, asbestos, silica, and PCBs, among other dangerous substances. Innovations in parallel and cloud computing have made conversion of these documents into machine-readable, searchable text a far faster process than would have been the case just a decade ago.

The crisis of PCBs

These are notes from a meeting of a Task Force on August 25, 1969 that Monsanto set up to deal with the growing crisis of their PCBs’ presence in the environment. At the meeting 3 alternatives were laid out that the company might follow. “1.) Go out of business”; 2.) “sell the hell out of them [PCBs]”; and 3.) “Try to stay in business in controlled applications.” In fact Monsanto did all three. Over next year and a half, it “sold the hell out of PCBs,” moving more than it had ever done before. After public pressure built to ban the sale of PCBs, Monsanto in 1977 finally stopped the sale of what even they acknowledged was a world-wide contaminant.

Link  Download View Favorite8 pagesrefid# X7JKvq01ExZb77QZ857rM8y7d “Evidence of an illegal conspiracy by industry…”

In 1973, members of the Manufacturing Chemists’ Association (MCA) — the chemical industry’s trade group — gathered to discuss how they’d respond to an impending meeting with the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). In this document, they discuss whether withholding the results of a European epidemiological study on the carcinogenic properties of vinyl chloride monomer — particularly with respect to kidney and liver cancer — might be interpreted as “evidence of an illegal conspiracy by industry.”

Link  Download View Favorite7 pagesrefid# Z3rGV7QEE3aBgnZmeXxKd4rY The asbestos industry’s response to health and safety concerns

In an October 1972 memo to the Asbestos Information Association (AIA)’s Executive Committee, Executive Secretary Matthew Swetonic describes the strategies underlying a proposed AIA “Employee Safety & Health Guide” on asbestos. With greater pressure on the asbestos industry to inform its employees about asbestos hazards, the AIA safety guide would help companies showcase concern for employee health and counter parallel medical-labor worker training programs with a more industry-friendly informational booklet. “The point is simple,” he writes. “If we don’t inform our employees, somebody else will!” The guide, attached to the memo, includes information about employer obligations, health facts, smoking, and employee action steps. Like many documents at ToxicDocs, this memo shows industry response to impending regulation and growing knowledge of product dangers

Link  Download View Favorite10 pagesrefid# ypOng6OE4vkv2DJq4LLo6NBad Unearthed historical newsreels

This Monsanto Corporation newsreel was produced in the 1950s to promote the firm’s innumerable plastics, chemicals and synthetics. It describes the world-wide reach of the company and their products showing how factories in The US and England were improving the life of millions. The films served to both promote products and a vision of America undergirded by chemicals and synthetic materials. We learn the industry was proud to produce insecticides, PCBs, vinyl and other materials and toxins later identified as environmental toxins.

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Categories: Food and Farming

As Big Ag Targets Activists, Animal Rights Leader Arrested on Felony Charges for Saving Sick Baby Goat

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 09:21
On top of that, those who have brought the charges in Utah have well-documented ties to the agricultural industry, and as The Intercept notes, “in a state that is dominated by agribusiness, with all sorts of judges, prosecutors, and officials tied to or dependent upon this industry, it is virtually impossible to envision these activists getting anything remotely resembling a fair trial.” Both Utah cases have trial dates set for next week.As Big Ag Targets Activists, Animal Rights Leader Arrested on Felony Charges for Saving Sick Baby Goat

“The law should encourage the rescue of animals rather than the abuse of animals,” he says. “I believe the people of North Carolina will stand for compassion and not cruelty.”

by Jessica Corbett, staff writer Amid mounting concerns—detailed in recent reporting by The Intercept—that Utah prosecutors with ties to the agricultural industry may be improperly motivated to pursue cases against animal rights activists, former law professor Wayne Hsiung was hit with new felony charges in North Carolina on Friday.

Hsiung, who was arrested after exiting a plane at the Asheville Regional Airport, “faces felony charges of breaking and entering and of larceny, as well as a misdemeanor trespass charge,” according to the animal rights network he founded, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). “The Transylvania County prosecutor filed the charges related to the rescue of a baby goat, sick with pneumonia, from a North Carolina farm.”

“Goats have the same feelings as a dog or cat and are just as deserving of love and compassion,” Hsiung, who took the goat to a veterinarian and then an animal sanctuary, said in a statement. “The law should encourage the rescue of animals rather than the abuse of animals. I believe the people of North Carolina will stand for compassion and not cruelty.”

Hsiung is one of six DxE activists featured in The Intercept‘s latest report, published Thursday, about a pair of ongoing cases in Utah. Hsiung’s team filmed conditions at “an industrial farm that supplies turkeys to Norbest, a large company that aggressively markets itself to the public as selling ‘mountain grown’ turkeys who are treated with particularly humane care,” and a pig farm owned by Smithfield Foods. They also rescued a small number of sickly animals from each facility.

These activists, “who took nothing of commercial value, and who injured nobody,” face multiple felony charges and could be imprisoned for many years because of “the same grim reality that has corrupted so much of American democracy: Namely, lawmakers, the legislative process, and the justice system are controlled by the most powerful corporate actors, which abuse and exploit democratic and legal processes for their own interests,” The Intercept asserts.

The state’s ag-gag law was defeated, and “the felony theft statute under which the activists are charged specifies that theft only becomes a felony if the property taken has a value of $1,500 or more.” However, the report explains, “Utah legislators, at the behest of the animal agricultural industry, inserted a caveat into this law providing that it is always a felony to take animals raised for commercial purposes, even if the commercial value is trivial or nonexistent.”

On top of that, those who have brought the charges in Utah have well-documented ties to the agricultural industry, and as The Intercept notes, “in a state that is dominated by agribusiness, with all sorts of judges, prosecutors, and officials tied to or dependent upon this industry, it is virtually impossible to envision these activists getting anything remotely resembling a fair trial.” Both Utah cases have trial dates set for next week.

Leighton Woodhouse, who co-authored the report with Glenn Greenwald and Lee Fang, tweeted Friday that Hsiung was released on bond to speak at a vegan event in Asheville.

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Categories: Food and Farming

Save the Date: Petaluma Progressive Festival

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 09:10
Petaluma Progressive Festival featured speaker Daniel Ellsberg and the San Francisco Mime Troupe

 

Categories: Food and Farming

Betrayal at the USDA (2018)

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 08:55
“Pesticide regulations. The Trump USDA played a key role in one of the most egregious actions of the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt—the March 2017 decision to reverse an Obama-era rule banning the nerve-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos. Documents obtained by the New York Times show that the USDA joined agribusiness lobbyists in arguing against the ban in the weeks before Pruitt’s decision. Betrayal at the USDA (2018) How the Trump administration is sidelining science and favoring industry over farmers and the public

The USDA should rely on science to help farmers and meet the nation’s food needs. Instead, under Secretary Sonny Perdue, it’s more like the Department of Agribusiness.

From farm to fork, the people of the United States deserve a food system they can be proud of—one that ensures the success of farmers while protecting our soil and water and helping to make safe and healthy food available to everyone. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) should play a key role in this system, using science-based policies to advance innovative, sustainable farming practices and increase access to affordable, healthy food for all. 

Instead, in its first year, the Trump administration’s USDA has sidelined science, undermined key public health and safety protections, and prioritized the interests of large agribusiness companies over the public interest. In doing so, the administration has betrayed farmers, consumers, and rural communities. That’s the finding of Betrayal at the USDA, a report examining the agency’s policy and personnel decisions under Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

Why the USDA matters

Many Americans might be surprised to discover how large an impact the USDA has on their everyday lives. The agency’s programs and policies help shape farmers’ decisions about what to grow and how to grow it; the cost, availability, and safety of the food we all eat; the quality of the nation’s soil and water resources; and the social and economic well-being of our communities—especially rural communities.

The USDA is also important for science: the agency invests billions of dollars each year in research on agricultural and food research, and has a stated commitment to scientific integrity and evidence-based decisionmaking in the public interest.

A troubling track record, and a damaging first year

As governor of Georgia from 2003 to 2011, Sonny Perdue showed some troubling traits: a penchant for ethics violations and self-dealing (for instance, signing a law that gave him a retroactive $100,000 tax break on an earlier land deal); a tendency toward cronyism and “revolving door” staffing decisions; and a willingness to put the public at risk by weakening science-based protections.

If Governor Perdue’s record gave rise to concerns about how he would run the USDA, Secretary Perdue’s first year in office has shown those concerns to be well-founded. He has backed unqualified candidates for senior positions, undermined science-based health and safety protections, and prioritized the needs of agribusiness over the needs of farmers and consumers.

Conflicted, unqualified appointees

As he did in Georgia, Perdue has made liberal use of the revolving door to fill USDA leadership posts, appointing former business associates, agribusiness executives and lobbyists to senior-level agency positions.

Betrayal at the USDA offers several examples of such questionable appointments. In one, Kailee Tkacz, a former lobbyist for the Corn Refiners Association and Snack Food Association, was appointed to advise the USDA on federal dietary guidelines—a job for which she needed (and got) a White House waiver to sidestep ethics rules. Tkacz has no training in science, public health, or nutrition.

Perdue has also supported the appointment of people clearly unqualified for the job—like Sam Clovis, a talk radio host and Trump campaign national co-chair who was nominated for the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics, despite having none of the scientific training or experience that the law requires for this position. While his past embrace of conspiracy theories, racist and otherwise offensive statements, and revelations that Clovis was involved in Trump campaign contacts with Russia eventually proved too much for his nomination, he has remained in the USDA as a senior advisor.

Secretary Perdue strongly backed President Trump’s failed nominee for USDA chief scientist, Sam Clovis. A former talk radio host and co-chair of the 2016 Trump campaign, Clovis lacked the legally required scientific training and had a history of racist and homophobic remarks. The nomination was ultimately withdrawn, but Secretary Perdue has kept Clovis on the USDA payroll as a senior advisor.

Photo: Alex Hanson/Creative Commons (Wikimedia)

Undermining science-based standards

The USDA is responsible for applying science to ensure the US food system serves the public interest. This mission includes setting standards to maintain food safety, protect food system workers from job-related illness and injury, improve child nutrition, and alleviate hunger. In each of these areas, Secretary Perdue has initiated policy decisions that appear to override evidence and disregard the public interest in favor of agribusiness:

  • Antibiotics in agriculture. Overuse of antibiotics in meat and poultry production is a serious public health threat. Last year the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines aimed at addressing this threat by discontinuing use of antibiotics in healthy animals. The USDA’s acting chief scientist responded with an unfounded attack on the quality of the evidence WHO used as the basis for its recommendation.
  • Rollback of school meal rules. School meals and snacks, which provide more than half of the day’s calories for a typical American child, are a critical opportunity to ensure that children are meeting their nutritional needs and forming good food habits that can help them avoid obesity and chronic disease as adults. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) was an important step toward achieving this goal, as multiple studies have shown. The Perdue USDA has weakened HHFKA by loosening standards on whole grains, sodium, and sugar-sweetened milk.
  • Pesticide regulations. The Trump USDA played a key role in one of the most egregious actions of the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt—the March 2017 decision to reverse an Obama-era rule banning the nerve-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos. Documents obtained by the New York Times show that the USDA joined agribusiness lobbyists in arguing against the ban in the weeks before Pruitt’s decision. 
  • Food stamp proposals.  Perdue said all the right things about the SNAP program during his confirmation hearings. Since he took office, however, he and his agency have made a series of public statements and policy proposals—including the notoriously ill-conceived “Harvest Box” idea—that seem rooted in misconceptions about SNAP and designed to punish and stigmatize participants.
Photo: Peter Howard/USDA

Taxpayer-subsidized school meals are a critical opportunity to improve nutrition, reduce childhood obesity, and create healthy eating habits for life. School nutrition rules were recently strengthened, but in 2017, Secretary Perdue moved to roll back key provisions, including allowing sugar-sweetened milk.

Reorganizing USDA to prioritize agribusiness interests

In May 2017, Perdue announced plans for a major reorganization of the USDA. The details of these plans—which include establishing a new Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs (TFAA), while eliminating the agency’s rural development mission area and its undersecretary—do not bode well for rural development, conservation, nutrition, and other essential programs.

  • Removing protections for small farmers. By eliminating the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), and rolling back two of its rules, the Perdue USDA has made it harder for small poultry and livestock farmers to stand up against exploitation by the large meat processing companies they have contracts with. This decision (which is now the target of a federal lawsuit) has been widely decried as an abandonment of small farmers.
  • Blurring lines on scientific integrity. Two pieces of the reorganization—moving the little-known US Codex Office from the Office of Food Safety to the TFAA, and merging two of the department’s key nutrition agencies—might seem like meaningless bureaucratic reshuffling. In fact, these moves risk compromising scientific integrity (or the perception of it) with regard to federal food safety and nutrition science.
Photo: Ron Nichols/USDA

Secretary Perdue has repeatedly prioritized the needs of agribusiness and global trade at the expense of small and midsize US farmers and rural communities. For example, by canceling two rules designed to ensure that agricultural companies treat farmers fairly, he is leaving small livestock and poultry producers vulnerable to exploitation by the corporate giants that control nearly every step of the production chain.

Failing to push for farmer-friendly policies

In several areas, Secretary Perdue has been a cheerleader for policies that would likely hurt farmers, or failed to stand up for farmer-friendly alternatives.

For instance, he has supported Trump’s 2019 budget proposal, which would cut USDA funding by a whopping 25 percent—including deep cuts to programs that use science to help farmers and rural communities, such as the Economic Research Service (ERS) and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program (SARE).

Perdue has also been a strong advocate for the Trump tax plan, despite analysis by USDA economists showing that its provisions will mostly help the top 1 percent of farmers and will likely decrease agricultural productivity.

Recommendations

In sidelining science and prioritizing agribusiness interests over the public good, Trump’s USDA is following a pattern that has become familiar to administration observers. Many of the general recommendations in our 2017 report on the Trump administration, Sidelining Science Since Day One, apply here. In addition, the report offers some specific recommendations:

  • Increased oversight. Congress, particularly its agriculture committees, should investigate ethics issues, scrutinize the department’s reorganization decisions, and ensure that USDA is fulfilling its mandate to support farmers and consumers.
  • A qualified chief scientist. The Senate should make clear that it will not confirm a USDA undersecretary for research, economics, and education who does not have the scientific or economic training or experience required by law.
  • Science-based dietary guidelines. As the USDA begins work on the next update of the federal dietary recommendations, Secretary Perdue should ensure that the department seeks, receives, and implements sound and independent scientific advice.
  • Fully-funded research operations. Congressional appropriators should disregard proposals from the White House and Secretary Perdue that call for deep cuts in research and education programs that are important to consumers, farmers, and rural communities.
  • SNAP policies based on evidence, not ideology. Using its oversight authority and its legislative role in reauthorizing the farm bill, Congress should guard against ill-conceived, ideological cuts and eligibility changes to this important social safety net.

 

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Categories: Food and Farming

Hawaii Becomes First State To Ban Widely-Used Pesticide Found To Be Harmful To Kids

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 08:42
Studies have shown a link between prenatal exposure to the chemical and developmental issues in children, like reduced IQ, attention disorders and working memory problems. Farm workers who have been exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have also been found to be at higher risk of lung cancer and immune disorders than those who have not worked with the pesticide. Hawaii Becomes First State To Ban Widely-Used Pesticide Found To Be Harmful To Kids

Hawaii is showing the Trump administration that the states will stand up for our kids, even when Washington will not.”

By Dominique Mosbergen Hawaii has become the first U.S. state to ban the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, a widely-used chemical that’s been linked to severe developmental delays in children and other health risks.

The state’s decision came more than a year after the Trump administration denied a petition to ban the controversial pesticide.

Gov. David Ige (D) signed Senate Bill 3095 into law on Wednesday after it was unanimously approved by the state legislature. Under the new law, pesticides containing chlorpyrifos will be prohibited across Hawaii starting on Jan. 1, 2019. However, businesses will be allowed to apply for a three-year extension to adjust to the new guidelines.

Hawaii has become the first U.S. state to ban the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos, a widely-used chemical that’s been linked to severe developmental delays in children and other health risks.

The state’s decision came more than a year after the Trump administration denied a petition to ban the controversial pesticide.

Gov. David Ige (D) signed Senate Bill 3095 into law on Wednesday after it was unanimously approved by the state legislature. Under the new law, pesticides containing chlorpyrifos will be prohibited across Hawaii starting on Jan. 1, 2019. However, businesses will be allowed to apply for a three-year extension to adjust to the new guidelines. 

The law also prohibits the spraying of pesticides within 100 feet of schools during normal school hours. Users of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos or other restricted chemicals will additionally be required to report annually to the state Department of Agriculture.

“This was a law that was years in the making. Its time had come.” Sen. Russell Ruderman (D-Puna, Ka’u), one of the bill’s sponsors, told The Garden Island newspaper last month.

“We have been guided by the belief that we must always put our keiki first,” Ruderman added, using a Hawaiian word for children. “On that we should all agree.”

Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin that’s been linked to serious health risks in both children and adults. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, exposure to small amounts of the chemical can cause drooling, headaches and nausea. Prolonged exposure can lead to vomiting, tremors, unconsciousness and paralysis, among other effects.

Studies have shown a link between prenatal exposure to the chemical and developmental issues in children, like reduced IQ, attention disorders and working memory problems. Farm workers who have been exposed to high levels of chlorpyrifos have also been found to be at higher risk of lung cancer and immune disorders than those who have not worked with the pesticide. 

Despite these potential health hazards, chlorpyrifos continues to be widely used in agriculture in the United States. Citing federal data, CNN reported last year that chlorpyrifos ― going by pounds of active ingredient ― was the most commonly applied conventional insecticide in the country.

The chemical is sprayed on many food crops, including corn, apples, strawberries, cauliflower, citrus and walnuts; it’s also used on golf courses and to treat wood fences and utility poles.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been mulling the risks of chlorpyrifos for decades. In 2001, the agency banned nearly all indoor use of the chemical. In more recent years, EPA scientists have recommended the pesticide be banned altogether.

Yet, despite the agency’s own research showing that children in some parts of the country were being exposed to unsafe levels of the chemical in drinking water and that residues of chlorpyrifos on food crops exceeded federal safety standards, the EPA refused to ban the pesticide.

Last March, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition to ban chlorpyrifos that was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Pesticide Action Network North America. Pruitt said there was still “considerable areas of uncertainty” about the health impacts of the pesticide and that more research was needed.

This week, the NRDC hailed Hawaii’s chlorpyrifos ban as a “win for public health.”

“Hawaii is showing the Trump administration that the states will stand up for our kids, even when Washington will not,” Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, a senior scientist at the organization, said in a statement.

According to Buzzfeed, California, Maryland and New Jersey have also considered statewide bans of chlorpyrifos since Pruitt took office in 2017.

RELATED…

 

 

NRDC

@NRDC Replying to @NRDC

Childhood exposure to chlorpyrifos can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, reduced IQ, developmental delay and ADHD. Learn more here: https://on.nrdc.org/2JCbl9e 

3:45 PM – Jun 13, 2018 .tcu-image-1007031263675510784 { background-image: url(https://pbs.twimg.com/card_img/1005115092655116288/LnGJiSK0?format=jpg&name=600x314) !important; background-size: cover !important; } Ban Chlorpyrifos

Join our fight in protecting our children from this dangerous pesticide.

Categories: Food and Farming

Napa’s Measure C win still pending final certification

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 13:18

Measure C is ahead as ballots are still set to be certified in the next few weeks. The wine industry gave alot of money to defeat this measure.

Fearless Voting

I would like to share my experience of Napa as a relative newcomer with fresh eyes. Placing my children into elementary school here, it was clear that there are families in the wine industry, and those who are not. Those not in the wine business are often invisible, and don’t speak out for fear of not being included.

Many belonging in the wine industry blindly support what is happening, even when it is not in their best interests, for fear of ridicule. Often those who work for the industry are afraid to make waves, and be shunned by the community. Worst of all, those working in the vineyards do not speak for fear of losing their livelihoods. People being afraid to speak is, sadly, the way Napa County likes it. I am voting yes on Measure C because citizens are being bullied so that unsustainable corporations can deforest the land and use up water for profit.

I oppose No on C because—what’s in it for me? I’m not voting for someone else to make billions of dollars while simultaneously stealing our future’s water and trees.

Despite our county government catering to Big Developers, we still have the freedom to vote. Fear not! How you vote is no one’s business but your own, and counts now more than ever.

Napa

Categories: Food and Farming

Neighbors balk as legal marijuana gains ground in Sonoma County

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 13:03
Neighbors balk as legal marijuana gains ground in Sonoma County JULIE JOHNSON

David Drips has spent weeks tending cannabis seedlings and clones inside an old milking barn in rural Petaluma in preparation for the day he’d plant them in the ground.

On Friday, that day arrived. With a pending permit and county permission to start, he and several others nestled plant after plant into the loamy soil at the windswept Nadale Ranch on Middle 2 Rock Road, where they’ll grow alongside several hundred head of dairy cows.

But complaints against legal cannabis cultivation are mounting in some rural Sonoma County areas, from wooded enclaves west of Healdsburg to farmland outside Petaluma and narrow vineyard-lined lanes in rural Santa Rosa. Echoing concerns about traffic and water use often spurred by new wineries, critics of legal cannabis farms also question whether they will be safe living or working near marijuana farms.

“The wind will be our biggest obstacle, other than the public opinion of our industry,” Drips said. “But neither can’t be overcome.”

Yet local cultivators and out-of-town entrepreneurs seeking to take part in Sonoma County’s legal trade and broaden its farm-to-table ethos are colliding with neighborhood fears following several violent robberies linked to illicit marijuana. Property and zoning rights are pitted against safety concerns. Potential tax and other revenues are bumping up against fear of the illegal drug trade.

“There are high emotions on both sides of the debate,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes a rural Santa Rosa neighborhood where one of the robberies occurred in February. “You have cultivators doing things above board and they’re worried about losing their livelihoods. On the other hand, you have a mom worried about her children growing up smelling pot outside his bedroom. It’s a very emotional conversation right now.”

Concern for safety

A series of home-invasion robberies with out-of-state suspects coming to Sonoma County to steal marijuana, cash and guns have set some neighbors on edge. Robbers broke into five homes during the Feb. 8 and March 12 incidents, tying up residents and ransacking their homes. In one case, a man was killed and another man wounded by gunfire. The targets weren’t legal marijuana growers, according to investigators, but that brings little comfort to people uneasy about marijuana farms near their homes.

“We started to get worried,” said Steve Imbimbo, 59, a retired construction estimator who is trying to get the county to end cannabis cultivation in his remote community in the wooded hills west of Healdsburg. “What if guys come looking for it and come to our house instead? We see cars now up here we’ve never seen before.”

That frightening possibility has been present for years as marijuana has been a thriving, if underground, part of the regional economy. But now, residents have new avenues to object to cannabis operations in their midst.

Imbimbo and other rural residents who don’t want marijuana cultivation near their properties have started organizing. Their ranks include a group of property owners in a dairy region outside Petaluma near Drips who are demanding the county ban any outdoor cultivation and move it all indoors. Cannabis critics showed up at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting wearing red hats with the words “Save our Neighborhoods.”

Legitimate cannabis entrepreneurs are worried policies may be reversed after they’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars into properties, permit fees and technical studies.

“We have an industry that is begging to be regulated, begging to be sunlighted, begging to contribute pretty exorbitant tax revenue,” said Erin Carlstrom, a lawyer and former Santa Rosa City Council member who currently represents cannabis companies coming into compliance.

The neighborhood controversies have led at least one county supervisor — David Rabbitt — to rethink whether the county should further limit cannabis cultivation and change the ordinance governing the newly regulated cannabis industry. The neighborhood controversies are likely to dominate an April 10 Board of Supervisors meeting, the first opportunity they will have to discuss at length how the ordinance appears to be functioning.

Rabbitt, whose southern district includes the Petaluma area where home invasions targeting marijuana occurred in March, said he’s interested in giving residents more ways to oppose cannabis projects and he prefers cultivation to be in warehouses, not outside.

“I know the industry says all these murders and home invasions are happening at illegal grows, but I believe it’s only a matter of time before it happens at legal grows,” Rabbitt said. “And I don’t know if a security plan will lower that risk to an acceptable level.”

At the other end of the political spectrum, Hopkins, whose family runs an organic produce farm, said she envisions a future where small-scale cannabis farms blend seamlessly with their surroundings, giving existing farms ways to diversify their crops while keeping farming vibrant and financially sustainable in Sonoma County.

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Cannabis critics call for tighter rules after home invasions

Sonoma County official: ‘We have failed’ to open cannabis industry to all

For 2nd time in 5 weeks, East Coast gunmen bust into local homes looking for pot

Some of the arguments against lawful marijuana cultivation echo common objections about any new agricultural project — disputes which arise from a decadeslong socioeconomic shift in Sonoma County where working farms are transforming into rural estates.

“Sometimes, I do find myself reminding people: You did purchase a property in an agricultural area,” Hopkins said. “Let’s not muddy the water between the right to farm, agricultural opportunities and concerns with cannabis.”

Influx of outside growers

Sonoma County supervisors and cannabis industry leaders have said they want to usher the legal local marijuana grower out of hiding and into the mainstream. But policies have done little to make that vision a reality.

The county so far has permitted three cultivation projects to start in unincorporated areas — including one indoor warehouse and two projects to grow outside — a fraction of the estimated 5,000 cannabis growers in the county. Although two of the issued permits went to longtime local growers, applicants include people new to the area, evidence of the county’s allure.

“I had hoped that we’d be advantaging our local growing community coming forward,” Supervisor Susan Gorin said. “Instead, our policies are providing a gateway for cultivation opportunities for the greater Bay Area.”

The Board of Supervisors could have taken steps to prioritize local growers and discourage, or even bar, people who haven’t grown in the area. But it didn’t.

Mendocino County, on the other hand, gave local cultivators an advantage by requiring people to demonstrate proof they had been growing marijuana in the county prior to 2016. That requirement was offered for a little over a year, and it will be lifted after June 30.

Imbimbo, the Healdsburg-area resident, voted along with the majority of Californians in 2016 to legalize cannabis and create a legitimate industry out of an illicit one. But he is building a case for his little community along a private road near the Mill Creek watershed to be what’s called an “exclusion zone” where cannabis cannot be grown, similar to the way neighbors can lobby the county to prevent homes in certain areas from becoming vacation rentals.

Imbimbo feels county supervisors have paid lip service to area’s small-scale farmers, but that policies don’t support that mission. Neighbors of his bought a wooded property last year and applied to the county to grow in three locations: inside a structure and a greenhouse and outside. One of the owners, a Sacramento-area man, said he wasn’t ready to talk publicly about the project.

Imbimbo and his wife moved from Oakland to Sonoma County in mid-2016, landing on a private 4-acre property that was supposed to be remote and safe. Now, they worry criminals will come looking for the pot grower next door but end up at his house instead.

“I don’t smoke marijuana. I drink scotch. But I don’t want a distillery next to me,” Imbimbo said. “I love to travel, but I don’t want an airport next door. It comes across as NIMBY, but this is my house. This is where I live.”

No pot zones

Along Purvine Road west of Petaluma, in a bucolic area of the county known for dairies, signs posted on fences read “No Pot on Purvine.”

Galvanized by a shared opposition to a marijuana farm proposed on a 37-acre property, members of the resistance group not only are demanding the county prevent the project and others in the area from moving forward, but also ban outdoor cultivation altogether.

They’ve hired experts to study water issues in the agricultural enclave and convened a meeting last month to present their concerns to Rabbitt and county officials.

A representative for the group, Autymn Condit, 22, said her family moved to their 20-acre property about 10 years ago. Their primary income comes from outside work, but they grow most of their own food. Condit said her coalition of neighbors feel six proposed legal marijuana sites within what they estimate to be a 3-mile radius of Purvine Road is too many.

“The fact is, if it was a winery, we would oppose it on the same grounds, but it (marijuana) also has additional problems,” Condit said, noting safety concerns.

The group’s primary focus is a 1-acre cannabis farm proposed by Sam Magruder, a San Franciscan who is part of an investment group called Big Rock focused on hospitality, wellness and cannabis projects.

Magruder, 39, grew up in Vermont in an area he says looks a lot like Petaluma. He earned bachelor’s degrees in biology, botany and sustainable agriculture from Humboldt State University. He said he started growing pot while a student after becoming a caregiver for a man with multiple sclerosis who used cannabis to treat his symptoms.

Magruder initially bought a property outside Sebastopol but had to sell it after realizing the rectangular shape of the land made it impossible to meet the county’s setback rules, which require marijuana to be a certain distance from property lines and residences. The Purvine Road property meets those standards, and he built a redwood fence to shield the only neighbors within sight.

His property will have two full-time security guards, locked gates, an alarm system and cameras, and all employees will undergo background checks. They will build fences around the garden and surround the fence with native trees and other plants.

They’ll also have vegetables, gardens attracting bees and other pollinators, and small gatherings like a recent lamb roast, Magruder said. He has invited members of No Pot on Purvine to the property and speak with him directly, but said they declined. He feels the neighbors are spreading false information about his project, particularly its estimated water use.

“If you can’t cultivate here, you can’t cultivate anywhere in Sonoma County,” said Magruder.

‘Onerous’ requirements

Sonoma County now anticipates revenue from cannabis taxes and business permits will fall $1.8 million short of initial expectations in the fiscal year that ends June 30, because so few growers have registered to produce pot legally.

Agricultural Commissioner Tony Linegar said the county’s requirements for cannabis cultivation are “onerous,” covering everything from sensitive ecosystems to security — measures required of no other agricultural activity. Legal marijuana growers will be the first agricultural group in Sonoma County required to meter and track groundwater use.

Linegar said the footprint of cannabis will be “tiny.” If every application currently with the county is approved, which is unlikely, the cannabis growing operations would cover about 40 acres. By comparison, Sonoma County’s $590 million wine grape crop covers more than 60,000 acres.

“You can plant 100 acres of potatoes and you need no permit, no permit whatsoever,” Linegar said. “I acknowledge and understand the issues around public safety and security — those have to be addressed. To me those are very important, top of the list. Besides those two items, this should be treated like any other crop.”

Cannabis cultivation shifting

Sonoma County’s rules banned pot cultivation in areas where it traditionally has been grown, areas called rural residential and agriculture residential zones, regardless of the size of the parcel. Some neighborhood groups championed that decision, but the unintended consequence is a majority of existing cannabis operators have been forced to find new places to grow.

“You’re seeing migratory patterns of cannabis cultivation, so that change has been alarming for some of the neighborhoods,” said Hopkins, whose west county district has long been known for marijuana trade.

Natasha Khallouf of Sebastopol is one of those migrating cannabis farmers, and she holds one of the few cultivation permits so far issued by the county. Khallouf, 34, a single mother of two, practices acupuncture, herbal medicine and nutrition at an integrative medical clinic in Sebastopol. She moved to Sonoma County from Santa Cruz about 13 years ago.

She is leasing, with an option to buy, a 5-acre parcel in Penngrove. It is a flat and rectangular piece of land that was used by neighbors with horses. Standing there recently amid crowing roosters and tweeting birds, she described the long hedge row she’s planning with native plants and flowers to shield the neighbors from the sight of marijuana plants. She’ll raise animals and plant a large herb garden geared toward Chinese medicine.

“It’s going to be a beautiful, colorful place,” Khallouf said, noting that across the street other neighbors are planning a 120-acre vineyard. “This is farmland. It is zoned for agricultural use.”

Her parcel is surrounded by houses. Some neighbors have complained, and they convened a meeting with Rabbitt and other county officials. Khallouf wasn’t invited. She attended anyway, but said she felt let down by Rabbitt and other county officials who didn’t invite her to speak or answer questions raised by residents.

Rabbitt, asked about the meeting during an interview, said he was there only as a guest to listen to the neighbors’ concerns.

“I’ve done everything the right way,” Khallouf said. “But a public official allowed me to be ostracized.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

Categories: Food and Farming

The Rights of Nature Movement Goes on Trial

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 09:52
The Rights of Nature Movement Goes on Trial

Why was an environmental law firm sanctioned for helping to block a toxic fracking wastewater project?

Last Friday, a federal judge in western Pennsylvania issued sanctions on two lawyers from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a law firm that for 15 years has been helping municipalities fight industrial projects by encouraging ordinances that recognize the right to local self-government and the rights of nature, including “rivers, streams, and aquifers,” to “exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.” The latest case stems from CELDF’s work in Grant Township, a rural community with a population of 741 located about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. Six years ago, agents from Pennsylvania General Energy, an oil-and-gas exploration company, met privately with local officials to discuss the development of a fracking wastewater injection well in the township. Under PGE’s proposal, the well, which received EPA approval in 2014, would become a busy industrial site, each day allowing 42,000 gallons of toxic and radioactive fracking wastewater to be injected into a layer of rock 7,500 feet beneath the community. With the help of CELDF, residents have successfully fought off the project for the past six years, initially by adopting a local ordinance that granted residents the right to self-government, and granted legal rights to nature. In its ruling last week, the court called CELDF’s legal tactics “implausible.”

Related

How a Small Town Is Standing Up to Fracking

Grant Township, Pennsylvania, population 741, has became the front line of a radical new environmental movement – and they’re not backing down

“Such an approach is unreasonable under any circumstance” and “creates enormous expense to parties and taxes limited judicial resources,” wrote Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Her ruling requires Thomas Linzey, CELDF’s executive director and CELDF attorney Elizabeth Dunne to pay $52,000 to Pennsylvania General Energy. The ruling will be passed along to the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, “to determine appropriate disciplinary measures,” which could include a suspension of the attorney’s legal licenses, or even disbarment.

At the heart of the issue is the American public’s growing dismay over the expanding fortunes and constitutional rights of corporations. CELDF’s mission has been to rejigger the system in favor of communities and the environment, and lessen the power of corporations. Judge Baxter’s decision puts a kink in CELDF’s agenda, and deals a subtle blow to at least one branch of the general resistance that has blossomed under the Trump Administration. CELDF has focused their work in Pennsylvania, where they’re based, but has also been working with communities in Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, Washington and Hawaii to, as their website states, “establish rights for people and nature over the systems that control them.”

The issue here is whether people should have the right to control what goes on in their communities, or whether corporations should have the right to “use your community as a toilet,” says Linzey. “It’s not like this is outside the purview of the law and into crazy-land. This is a real legitimate doctrine.” In a landmark 1972 paper University of Southern California legal scholar Christopher Stone argued for giving “legal rights to forests, oceans, rivers and other so-called ‘natural objects’ in the environment – indeed, to the natural environment as a whole.” As recently as 2016, Georgetown law professor Hope Babcock agreed, writing that granting legal rights to the environment “may be the only way to protect our disappearing natural resources.” Linzey has been at the forefront of taking these academic proposals into the courtroom. “I think [Judge Baxter] had a gut reaction to all these municipalities coming into court arguing these theories and figured I’m going to issue sanctions to stop this from happening,” he says. “The legal profession prides itself on the idea that we are not just functionaries, we are pioneers and we do good for the world.”

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, a powerful industry lobby that has intervened in the Grant Township case on behalf of PGE, cheered the court’s decision.

“I am certainly happy that sanctions in any amount have been imposed after all these years of CELDF’s advocating these meritless arguments,” said Kevin Moody, general counsel of PIOGA, in an email. “Simply enacting local laws that claim/state a people’s right that is contrary to the constitutional framework of the republic and the rule of law does not make the claimed/stated right exist.” When asked what he thought would happen if CELDF’s legal ideas were allowed to prevail, Moody replied, “Anarchy and chaos.” People would “use local governments to create their own little areas of laws superior to state and federal laws,” he said. “An impossible way for our country to function.”

Linzey is not backing down. He plans to appeal the decision with the Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia. “I think what the oil and gas industry wants is for the ruling to have a chilling effect on other municipal officials,” he says. “But I think it will actually have the opposite effect, because it makes it very clear to the people just who runs things, and I think we’re getting to the point where people are more open to seeing that.”

Categories: Food and Farming

Climate change and fossil fuels

Wed, 06/13/2018 - 09:45
DNC Quietly Adopts Ban On Fossil Fuel Company Donations The move is a step toward purging oil, gas and coal industry influence on the Democratic Party’s climate policies. By Alexander C. Kaufman

The Democratic National Committee voted over the weekend to ban donations from fossil fuel companies, HuffPost has learned.

The resolution ― proposed by Christine Pelosi, a party activist and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s daughter ― bars the organization from accepting contributions from corporate political action committees tied to the oil, gas and coal industries. The executive committee voted unanimously to approve the motion.

“We talk about how climate change is real and climate change is a planetary emergency, what we need to do is stop taking money from the institutions that have created this crisis,” said RL Miller, president of the super PAC Climate Hawks Vote Political Action and a co-author of the resolution.

The DNC may consider a second resolution at a full board meeting in Chicago in August to ban contributions over $200 from individuals who work for the fossil fuel industry. Miller said the proposal ― which has not yet been submitted to the DNC ― will hopefully lead candidates to adopt similar policies.

“So if Eddie Exxon is your college buddy and a frat-boy friend of yours and he’s employed at an Exxon gas station and wishes to donate $25 to have a barbecue and a beer with you, fine,” Miller said. “But if Edward J. Exxon in Exxon’s middle management thinks you’re worth contributing $2,700 to out of his own salary, that is much more concerning to us.”

The DNC confirmed the vote but declined to comment on the record.

The vote comes more than a year after the DNC rank-and-file rejected Pelosi’s resolution to forbid “registered, federal corporate lobbyists” from serving as “DNC chair-appointed, at-large members,” and to reinstate former President Barack Obama’s ban on corporate PAC donations.

Obama prohibited contributions from PACs and lobbyists after winning the party’s presidential nomination in 2008. But former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lifted the ban ahead of the 2016 election.

The energy and natural resource sectors, including fossil fuel producers and mining firms, gave $2.6 million to the DNC in 2016, according to data collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That’s a pittance compared to the $56.1 million that came from the finance and real estate sectors, the DNC’s largest corporate donors that year. This year, the energy and natural resource sectors’ donations totaled $186,100 by the middle of May.

Oil and gas companies spent a record $7.6 million on Democratic races in 2016. But that figure pales in comparison to the $53.7 million in direct donations to Republicans, who received 88 percent of the industry’s contributions during that election cycle. Republicans have taken in 89 percent of the industry’s donations so far in 2018.

The coal mining industry gave 97 percent of its donations to Republicans in 2016 ― a figure that has dipped to 95 percent this year.

“This is going to be the way that we ask people to make some clear choices, so voters know what they’re getting,” Pelosi said. “When you talk the talk and walk the walk, that’s how you’re going to inspire people.” 

This story has been updated to include information about DNC donations

Categories: Food and Farming

2 key environmental policies Scott Pruitt was dismantling last week amid his scandals

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 09:18
“That means that the only harm that counts according to the EPA for many of these substances is direct contact with these hazardous chemicals, like if they fall on you. Indirect exposure through soil contamination or air pollution wouldn’t factor into the EPA’s decision of whether to restrict or ban a particular compound.”

Grow your own or buy from local farmers who are not poisoning our food supply.

2 key environmental policies Scott Pruitt was dismantling last week amid his scandals The EPA is weakening how it devises standards on hazardous chemicals. By Umair Irfan Updated Jun 10, 2018, 10:34am EDT

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt made his staff run personal errands like fetching Greek yogurt and protein bars. He had his full-time security detail hunt for a Ritz-Carlton lotion. He had an aide ask for a used Trump hotel mattress. He tried to score a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife.

These stories have been dominating news coverage of the EPA boss (except on Fox News). They prompted smirks and snark, but they’re hardly the most important developments at the agency.

In the past week, even as Democrats asked the Justice Department to investigate Pruitt and federal inquiries and audits of his ethical conduct in office keep piling up, Pruitt managed to deliver two wins for industries that don’t like EPA regulations: continuing to roll back rules on toxic chemicals and change how the EPA weighs costs and benefits of regulations.

These are regulations that affect the health of millions of Americans and perhaps the future of how the EPA protects the environment. Let’s walk through them.

Pruitt wants to change which regulations are even worthwhile in the first place

On Thursday, the EPA issued a notice that it’s planning to revise how it evaluates costs and benefits in making regulations. This is a critical calculation in designing new regulations on everything from greenhouse gas emissions to toxic pesticides. If the costs exceed the benefits, then the regulation isn’t worthwhile.

Conservatives, namely the fossil fuel industry, have long argued that regulations, and specifically Obama’s environmental regulations, are too costly. And as a recent report from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) found, of all the regulations passed from 2006 to 2016, air pollution regulations had the highest costs. But as Vox’s David Roberts reported, these regulations also had the highest benefits:

In short, air quality rules secure enormous health benefits for the American public, but they also ask a great deal of industry.

To frame the same point another way: Air quality regulations serve as a downward redistribution of wealth, out of the pockets of industrialists and into the pockets of ordinary Americans, particularly the poor and vulnerable Americans (African Americans and Hispanics in particular) who tend to live closest to pollution sources. They shift costs, from the much higher health and social costs of pollution remediation to the comparatively smaller costs of pollution abatement.

In an editorial endorsing Pruitt’s move, the Wall Street Journal editorial page argued that Obama’s EPA “juked the numbers to justify costly regulation” by including “social costs and benefits” to make the case for regulating greenhouse gases.

But the point of these calculations was to ensure that the benefits of fighting climate change — like avoiding coastal sea level rise and averting asthma from pollutants often emitted alongside carbon dioxide — could be accounted for in policymaking.

This provided the foundation for Obama’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to reduce carbon emissions from what was then the largest single source of greenhouse gases in the United States, power plants. (The transportation sector has now overtaken power generators.)

Pruitt’s new proposal aims to define benefits of environmental regulations much more narrowly. “Many have complained that the previous administration inflated the benefits and underestimated the costs of its regulations through questionable cost-benefit analysis,” said Pruitt in a statement.

In the case of carbon dioxide, that means only measuring the benefits of reducing carbon dioxide itself and not associated pollutants like particulates, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides.

Under Obama, the social cost of carbon was found to be $36 per ton of emissions. Under Trump, it’s $5.

That means even if Pruitt doesn’t challenge the endangerment finding for carbon dioxide, which forces the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, he can come up with a toothless regulation to replace the Clean Power Plan. Some of Pruitt’s allies want him to challenge the endangerment finding, but he’s indicated he’s not up for what’s going to be a messy years-long legal fight.

The new proposal could also undermine the case for regulations under other EPA tentpoles, like the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Clean Air Act. Right now, the EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal. Environmental activists certainly plan to weigh in. The EPA is restricting how it measures harm from toxic chemicals

Alongside the changes to how it evaluates benefits of regulations, the EPA is also limiting how it establishes harm from environmental toxics. Some of these chemicals like 1,4-Dioxane, a compound found in adhesives and sealants, are likely carcinogens.

Eric Lipton at the New York Times reported this week that the chemicals industry has successfully lobbied the EPA to weaken how it devises standards on hazardous substances:

Under a law passed by Congress during the final year of the Obama administration, the E.P.A. was required for the first time to evaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals and determine if they should face new restrictions, or even be removed from the market. The chemicals include many in everyday use, such as dry-cleaning solvents, paint strippers and substances used in health and beauty products like shampoos and cosmetics.

But as it moves forward reviewing the first batch of 10 chemicals, the E.P.A. has in most cases decided to exclude from its calculations any potential exposure caused by the substances’ presence in the air, the ground or water, according to more than 1,500 pages of documents released last week by the agency.

That means that the only harm that counts according to the EPA for many of these substances is direct contact with these hazardous chemicals, like if they fall on you. Indirect exposure through soil contamination or air pollution wouldn’t factor into the EPA’s decision of whether to restrict or ban a particular compound.

It’s a huge win for chemical manufacturers who have argued for much narrower risk assessments from potentially dangerous substances.

Though the EPA did make it harder for phased-out asbestos products to reenter the market earlier this month, Corbin Hiar at E&E News pointed out that the EPA’s new evaluation standard “means the agency won’t consider the dangers posed by, for example, asbestos-containing tiles, adhesives and piping in millions of homes and commercial buildings nationwide.”

But there have been some new regulations introduced to restrict hazardous chemicals as well.

The EPA under Pruitt agreed last month to phase out methylene chloride, a deadly chemical found in paint strippers, fulfilling an Obama-era push to ban the chemical.

The agency also added 13 new chemicals to its Toxics Release Inventory this week, a public database of industrial chemicals that could cause harm to human health or the environment. The database lets people know what chemicals are in their communities, what their effects are, and how they’re managed.

Trump is (still) standing by Pruitt

Pruitt is building a track record of showy deregulation efforts (some more legally sound than others), and that has made him one of the most productive members of the Trump administration. He’s also mirroring the White House playbook for handling scandals: deny, deflect, blame underlings, attack the media.

House Democrats on Friday called for a criminal investigation of Pruitt, but President Trump is standing by his man.

“Scott Pruitt is doing a great job within the walls of EPA, I mean we’re setting records,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “Outside, he is being attacked very viciously by the press. And I’m not saying that he is blameless, but we’ll see what happens.”

Categories: Food and Farming

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