Sacrificing biota for special interests
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1. Interior Director's 219 allows lead once again in 4.6% of wildest America:
The NRA Applauds Secretary Zinke's Protection of Traditional Ammunition
(margd: all white, all but one male in NRA photo that recalls Trump at his desk)
2. Trump administration freezes endangered species act protections
The rusty patched bumblebee is probably doomed
Trump relents: Bumblebee to be listed as endangered species
Doyle Rice , USA TODAY 2:44 p.m. ET March 21, 2017
It's official: A bumblebee is now on the endangered species list for the first time, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
“The Trump administration reversed course and listed the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species just in the nick of time," said Rebecca Riley, senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "Federal protections may be the only thing standing between the bumblebee and extinction,” she said.
In early January, the service, under President Obama, had directed the rusty patched bumblebee to be added to the list and scheduled the official date for Feb. 10. But President Trump issued an order temporarily freezing all new federal regulations a day before the species was set to receive its newfound protective status.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the Department of the Interior, originally placed the bee on the list because of a dramatic population decline of 87% over the past 20 years. It's now the first bee of any type in the continental U.S. to receive the designation. (In September, the Obama administration designated seven species of bees in Hawaii as endangered.)...
Range, etc., posted at http://www.bumblebeewatch.org/app/#/species/profile .
You can help map bumble bees by submitting photos to bumblebeewatch.org--surprising little known...
The ecological disaster that is Trump’s border wall: a visual guide
The wall could cut off a Texas wildlife refuge and the habitat of big, beautiful cats.
Eliza Barclay and Sarah Frostenson Apr 10, 2017
...what is undeniable is that the 654 miles of walls and fences already on the US-Mexico border have made a mess out of the environment there. They’ve cut off, isolated, and reduced populations of some of the rarest and most amazing animals in North America, like the jaguar and ocelot (also known as the dwarf jaguar). They’ve led to the creation of miles of roads through pristine wilderness areas. They’ve even exacerbated flooding, becoming dams when rivers have overflowed.
And while we don’t yet know exactly what path Trump’s new wall would take, DHS has been eyeing unfenced areas in an East Texas wildlife refuge that conservationists consider some of the most ecologically valuable areas on the border — home to armadillos and bobcats. If a wall were to slice through these ecosystems, it could cause irreversible damage to plants and animals already under serious threat...
AP Exclusive: Pesticide maker tries to kill risk study
MICHAEL BIESECKER | 4/21/2017
Dow Chemical is pushing a Trump administration open to scrapping regulations to ignore the findings of federal scientists who point to a family of widely used pesticides as harmful to about 1,800 critically threatened or endangered species.
Lawyers representing Dow, whose CEO is a close adviser to Trump, and two other manufacturers of organophosphates sent letters last week to the heads of three of Trump's Cabinet agencies (EPA, NOAA NMFS, Interior USFWS). The companies asked them "to set aside" the results of government studies the companies contend are fundamentally flawed.
Dow Chemical wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump's inaugural festivities, and its chairman and CEO, Andrew Liveris, heads a White House manufacturing working group.
The industry's request comes after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced last month he was reversing an Obama-era effort to bar the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food after recent peer-reviewed studies found that even tiny levels of exposure could hinder the development of children's brains.
... Over the past four years, government scientists have compiled an official record running more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides under review — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied. Regulators at the three federal agencies, which share responsibilities for enforcing the Endangered Species Act, are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used...
The public, most of whom strongly favor protection of federal lands, may wish to weigh in as opportunities present:
Trump wants a review of national monuments
President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order Wednesday directing his interior secretary to review the designation of tens of millions of acres of land as “national monuments,” an action that could upend protections put in place in Utah and other states as Trump tries to rack up accomplishments in his first 100 days.
The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the president to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict how the lands can be used.
...Former President Barack Obama infuriated Utah Republicans when he created the Bears Ears National Monument in late December on more than 1 million acres of land that’s sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.
...Interior Secretary Zinke will provide an interim report in 45 days in which he’ll provide a recommendation on Bears Ears UT and a final report within 120 days.
Over the last 20 years, Zinke said, tens of millions of acres have been designated as national monuments, limiting their use for farming, timber harvesting, mining and oil and gas exploration, and other commercial uses...
>5 margd: I hope it is illegal to rescind the federal acts designating monuments. With grazing rights on federal lands going for pennies per acre at times and mining etc. with no clean up , it works out to be federal subsidies at the taxpayers expense and the detriment of the public interest.
>6 DugsBooks: I hope it is illegal to rescind the federal acts designating monuments.
What You Need to Know About Trump’s National Monument Rethink
Trump questions presidential authority to “lock up land”—but can he really rescind federal monuments?
Laura Parker | April 26, 2017
...Every president since, except Ronald Reagan, has used the (Antiquities Act) to set aside land to be preserved in national monuments—more than 120 in all. Obama created 34 national monuments, more than any other president, conserving more than 550 million acres on federal land or in federal waters.
Disagreement over the Antiquities Act’s intent lies in its simplicity. The four-paragraph law clearly states that the president is authorized to “declare” national monuments. But the law says nothing about the presidential authority to do the reverse.
“The Antiquities Act does not provide for rescinding a national monument,” says Robert Keiter, director of the University of Utah’s Wallace Stegner Center, and a specialist in public lands law. “The courts have not ruled on whether there is an implied power in the statute. The issue has never been litigated previously.”
Numerous Attorney General opinions argue that the president lacks the power to revoke, most notably one authored by President Franklin Roosevelt’s attorney general in 1938. When FDR inquired if the Antiquities Act allowed him to scuttle a derelict Civil War-era fort in Charleston, South Carolina, as a national monument, he was advised it did not. Successive administrations heeded that advice.
Presidents have downsized about 20 monuments, most with minor adjustments. The exception is the 639,000-acre Mount Olympus National Monument, created by Theodore Roosevelt in 1909 and cut in half by Woodrow Wilson in 1915 to keep a supply of timber flowing to build Navy ships for World War I. None of the resizings were challenged in court, so that question has yet to be tested.
Outrage and Protest
It would be a mistake to conclude that the controversy engulfing Bears Ears (UT monument created by Obama) cries out for a dramatic change. The dispute represents neither a shift in either the nation’s warm embrace of national monuments nor the contentious politics associated with their birth. The history of national monuments is replete with friction and strife, starting with the litigation over creation of the Grand Canyon National Monument, now one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
In 1907, opposing mining interests argued the monument was simply too large and violated a clause of the Antiquities Act that limits monuments to "the smallest area compatible with ... the objects to be protected." Trump seized on that phrase in alleging presidential abuse even though the Supreme Court found that Theodore Roosevelt indeed had authority to create a monument of such vast size. William Randolph Hearst complicated the politics further as the Grand Canyon was about to become a national park, requiring a provision to be tacked on preventing construction of any structures between the newspaper magnate’s property and the canyon rim that might block his view.
Franklin Roosevelt created Grand Teton National Monument from 35,000 acres of ranchland secretly purchased by John D. Rockefeller, a move that ignited such political blowback from Wyoming ranchers that the Antiquities Act was amended to exclude Wyoming from ever having another national monument.
Despite the machinations, the public largely supports even the most controversial monuments—one reason why Congress, which has clear authority to abolish national monuments, rarely does. It has revoked a handful of monuments, including, in 1955, the South Carolina fort that so pained FDR. More often, Congress has turned national monuments into national parks—more than 30 so far, including Joshua Tree in California, Denali in Alaska, and Olympic in Washington state. Four of Utah’s “Big Five” national parks—Arches, Bryce, Zion and Capitol Reef—began as monuments.
...Although the Utah delegation has Trump’s ear (exercised by Bears Ears monument created by Obama) for now, the election also reinvigorated supporters of public lands, including a coalition of unnatural allies: environmentalists, sportsmen, and business leaders who want public lands protected and are speaking out. In Montana, Zinke’s home state, the governor’s race was largely decided by a debate over the value of protecting public lands. Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, was reelected after casting his Republican opponent as caving to mining and grazing interests.
In Utah, where tourism is the state’s largest “exported” industry, bringing in $8 billion in visitor dollars, the politicians’ tough stand against Bears Ears has come with costly consequences. In protest, the Outdoor Industry Association pulled its twice-yearly trade show from Salt Lake City, where it has been held for the past 20 years—a move that costs Utah $45 million.
Earlier this year, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz got an eye-opening lesson from defenders of public lands after he introduced a bill that would have ordered the Interior Department to sell off 3.3 million acres of public land. The backlash against it was so swift and ferocious that he withdrew the bill a week later.
He wrote on Instagram that he’d pulled his bill because he feared it “sent the wrong message.”
But he added, “This fight is far from over.”
Now it’s up to Trump.
Hope Supreme Court decision not to hear USFWS designation of polar bear habitat isn't in anticipation of a Trump review & over-ride:
Justices deny review of case challenging polar bear habitat
Lydia Wheeler | 05/01/17
23 Environmental Rules Rolled Back in Trump’s First 100 Days
NADJA POPOVICH and TATIANA SCHLOSSBERG | MAY 2, 2017
(National Geographic) Asked the Government Why Animal Welfare Records Disappeared. They Sent 1,700 Blacked-Out Pages.
In January, the USDA deleted a public database that included inspection records from zoos, circuses, and research labs. In the agency’s response to our FOIA request, it still refuses to say why.
Natasha Daly & Rachael Bale. May 1, 2017
They exposed abuses at roadside zoos, uncovered controversial government-funded animal experiments, and revealed the mistreatment of circus elephants. They confirmed dog breeders weren't running puppy mills and that horse trainers weren’t exploiting their racers and jumpers. The records in U.S. Department of Agriculture’s online animal welfare database allowed journalists, investigators, and the public to look up inspection reports and violations of animal welfare laws.
But nearly three months ago, the the USDA removed its database of animal abuse records from its public website, with no explanation.
...The FOIA officer handling the request said that all 1,771 pages were redacted (blacked out) because they’re related to ongoing lawsuits.
...“While these bases may be legitimate for deleting portions of the records at issue, they absolutely cannot be used to withhold 1,771 entire pages,” (Delcianna Winders, of Harvard’s Animal Law & Policy Program) said in an email. She is part of the lawsuit against the USDA.
...The Humane Society’s John Goodwin believes the only beneficiaries to continued secrecy are abusers. “We want the database back up, the American Zoological Association wants it back up. The entire research community wants it back up. The only people who don’t are extremists who want to bury the truth.”
>5 margd: review of national monuments, incl marine monument like that off Hawaii
The public can comment online after May 12 on land and marine monuments.
Commerce Dept takes lead in review of MARINE monuments (such as off Hawaii) per executive order on offshore energy. :-(
National Geographic article on the monuments:
Four U.S. states sue Interior Department over coal leases on public lands
Emily Flitter | May 10, 2017
Four U.S. states have sued Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Interior Department and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to block new leases of public lands for coal mining, according to papers filed on Tuesday in Montana federal court.
State prosecutors for California, New Mexico, New York and Washington are arguing new coal extraction would exacerbate global warming and violate the federal government's statutory duty to use public lands "in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archaeological values," according to the filings...
Review of Certain National Monuments Established Since 1996; Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment (by May 26 for Bears Ears, all others by July 10, 2017)
(Posted May 11. 7,370 Comments Received by midnight May 13)
"You may submit written comments online at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW., Washington, DC 20240."
12 contd. Wow--Interior received 685,000 comments in 15 days re the Bears Ears monument. This is HUGE! Years ago Interior changed direction on another issue after receiving 8,000 postcards distributed at sportsmen's shows, a record at the time. Giving only 15 days for comment and counting bundles of comments via each ENGO sure weighted the consultation against preserving the Bears Ears National Monument--fingers crossed that 685,000 is a number that CAN'T be ignored! (If you wish to comment on the other monuments, you have until July 10.)
For Immediate Release, May 26, 2017
Contact: Randi Spivak, (310) 779-4894, email@example.com
Bears Ears National Monument Wins Overwhelming Support
Interior Receives More Than 685,000 Pro-monument Comments
WASHINGTON— Supporters of Bears Ears National Monument sent a flood of comments to the Department of the Interior urging that the Utah monument be protected, with more than 685,000 messages of support submitted in just 15 days. Interior’s Bears Ears comment period closes tonight.
...President Trump last month ordered a review of Bears Ears and 26 other national monuments at the behest of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the most anti-public-lands members of Congress. Hatch’s political career has been well funded by the fossil fuel industry, including the Koch brothers and Chevron.
A survey of dozens of organizations reveals that more than 685,000 public comments have been submitted to Interior in support of Bears Ears. The regulations.gov website displays each bundle of comments submitted from concerned groups as a single comment, significantly understating the number received.
...Under the order Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is to recommend whether to retain monument status, shrink or rescind certain monuments designated since 1996. Zinke opened a 60-day public comment period for all monuments except Bears Ears, which was allowed only 15 days for public comment.
The close of the comment period for the other monuments is July 10. Zinke is to issue interim recommendation on Bears Ears by June 10...
Maine, this time... Amazing how much money and cross-border crime there is in fish & wildlife. The tragedy of the commons--and the targeted critters.
Why Smuggling of This Ocean Creature May Skyrocket
A proposed law would bar wildlife authorities from monitoring exports of sea cucumbers.
A bill under consideration in the U.S. Congress could make it easier to smuggle sea cucumbers, in decline to satisfy demand in China where they're considered a delicacy.
Sea cucumbers clean the seafloor of waste material and make marine ecosystems more productive.
Commanding $500 or more per kilogram, sea cucumbers are a hot commodity on the black market.
U.S. law requires that any wildlife or wildlife product shipped into or out of the country for commercial sale be declared to the Fish and Wildlife Service—but sea cucumbers could soon be exempted.
Many sea cucumbers are caught illegally off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and smuggled to the U.S.
These "warty" sea cucumbers are sought after by fishermen in California's waters
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that 66 species of sea cucumbers are overexploited worldwide.
Maraya Cornell | June 2, 2017
...In a prepared statement presented at a legislative hearing for last year’s version of the bill, William Woody, the Service’s chief of law enforcement, noted that the seafood exemption “is purposefully narrow to discourage smuggling and illegal trade.” Adding sea cucumbers and urchins to the exemption, he said, would limit “the Service’s ability to…detect and deter unsustainable, illegal trade,” pointing to the “highly profitable black market for transshipment of sea cucumbers through the United States” that the Fish and Wildlife Service had already uncovered.
Nevertheless, last year’s bill unanimously passed in the House under suspension of rules, a motion normally applied to uncontroversial legislation, such as naming post offices.
The Fish and Wildlife Service has declined to comment directly on the pending legislation, but Erin Dean says that inspections of sea cucumbers are crucial for putting together the cases she and her team have been working on.
“Wildlife inspectors are the front-line officers responsible for identifying protected wildlife, examining documents that are presented with the shipments, and detecting if there’s a problem,” she says. “So their role is absolutely critical in stopping illegal trade of wildlife coming in and out of our country.”
That applies to exports as much as imports, Dean says. She notes that agents have seen a marked rise in illegal wildlife exported from the U.S. “Back when I first started as an agent in 2001 the majority of our cases were illegal imports—smuggling inbound. Now we’re seeing a significant shift in wildlife being shipped out of the U.S. In this case, obviously, sea cucumbers, but also live turtles,” and, she adds, other wildlife being smuggled out to Asia.
Conservation organizations, alarmed by the bill’s easy passage, lobbied against the legislation. In a letter 21 groups warned the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that barring the Fish and Wildlife Service from inspecting sea urchins and sea cucumbers would “create loopholes for wildlife trafficking, undermine law enforcement’s efforts to intercept illegal trade in marine wildlife,” and “make it nearly impossible for the Service to track these highly vulnerable marine species.”
...As of this writing, the new bill is in committee in both the House and the Senate.
The proposed exemption for sea cucumbers and sea urchins is one of dozens of attempts to roll back protections for at-risk species. (Also read: Inside the Effort to Kill Protections for Endangered Animals).
Jamie Pang, with the Center for Biological Diversity, was among those who tried to stop the echinoderm exemption last year. She calls the bill’s reintroduction “disappointing and shameful.” In an email she said, “Emboldened by Trump, the industry has ramped up lobbying efforts on Congress, and even moderate politicians like Chellie Pingree and Angus King are acceding to their requests without even considering the effects on conservation or the weakening of the Endangered Species Act.”
Inside the Effort to Kill Protections for Endangered Animals
The U.S. Endangered Species Act has saved more than 200 species from extinction—but business and political interests want to scuttle it.
Christopher Ketcham | May 19, 2017
...Scientists have concluded that 227 species would have gone extinct between 1973 and 2005 without the ESA’s protections. Its broad mandate that vast stretches of habitat require protection in order to preserve the creatures living in them has produced cascading benefits for ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest, the Everglades, the Chesapeake Bay, Shenandoah National Park, and along the New England coast.
Since 1973 more than 1,600 animal and plant species have been declared endangered or threatened, and the great majority are headed toward recovery because of the ESA, researchers say.
...Since 1973 six federal circuit courts have considered and rejected challenges to the ESA's constitutionality, leaving the law intact. In Congress there have been scores of attempts to weaken it by little cuts.
ESA advocates, including conservation groups and most elected Democrats, warn that Republicans are now gearing up for an unprecedented assault. “The Republicans are pushing bills to divert protection funding, prioritize corporate land development, and sidestep science,” says Representative Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona. “These are blatant efforts to place corporate interests over species survival.”
During the past five months Republicans have introduced 25 proposals to skirt, hamper, defang, or undermine endangered species protections. These include bills to amend the ESA to abandon its requirement to use “best available science” in listing decisions and to hand oversight of some of the law’s key management and decision-making provisions to state governments historically hostile to the act.
...(In 1973) The ESA passed the House and Senate by margins that in the current partisan climate would be astonishing: 92 to zero in the Senate, 390 to 12 in the House. President Richard Nixon, a Republican, signed the law without hesitation.
I asked (Retired Congressman John) Dingell if he could get the ESA passed today.
“I don’t think I could pass the Lord’s Prayer in that nuthouse,” he told me, referring to Congress. “The ESA was written so that scientific principles would be used to protect species. Science would make the decisions, science would decide the case. Today we have a bunch of antiscience ignoramuses and vicious lying people in Congress. And we’re going to pay a hellacious price.”
Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing-Acoustic Threshold Levels for Onset of Permanent and Temporary Threshold Shifts
A Notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on 05/31/2017
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) seeks public comment to assist the Secretary of Commerce's review of NMFS' August 2016 Technical Guidance for Assessing the Effects of Anthropogenic Sound on Marine Mammal Hearing: Underwater Acoustic Thresholds for Onset of Permanent and Temporary Threshold Shifts (Technical Guidance), pursuant to section 10 of Presidential Executive Order (EO) 13795, Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy (April 28, 2017).
Comments must be received by July 17, 2017.
The fix was in, but perhaps thousands of Americans did hold off the worst... :-(
...Bears Ears National Monument, which President Obama established less than a month before leaving office and is the first-ever monument created in partnership with Native Americans. Today U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that Trump shrink the borders Bears Ears and reevaluate its management.
> I signed some online petitions. Best I can do currently, my reps are only looking for opinions that back their Republican stance - like "Obamacare horror stories " . They ignore any positive result feedback.
Thought I posted this, but maybe not?
...The Interior Department launched a new offshore-leasing planning process for 2019 to 2024, a move that could open up new areas for drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
In a Federal Register notice published Friday, the Interior Department invited public comment on a plan that would “replace the 2017-2022 Program” established during the Obama administration and represent “a key aspect of the implementation of President Donald J. Trump’s America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.”
Request for Information and Comments on the Preparation of the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program MAA104000
A Notice by the Ocean Energy Management Bureau on 07/03/2017
This document has a comment period that ends in 44 days. (08/17/2017)
Sierra Club's reaction and suggested response (per e-mail):
Horrible! The Trump administration just announced they're making new plans to expand drilling off America's coasts.
The announcement that this administration will develop a new Five Year Plan for offshore drilling, made today by Secretary Zinke, reopens plans to drill off our coasts, creating a potential for wide-scale disaster in our oceans. It also brazenly ignores permanent protections put in place for the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and hits reset on the plan the Obama administration completed only 6 months ago.
Disaster after disaster has shown that Big Oil and Gas cannot be trusted. Their track record includes the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, a failed attempt by Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean, the Deepwater Horizon tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, a major oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast, and the oil spill and leak of gas in Alaska's Cook Inlet. These tragedies can not be allowed to happen again.
We will not allow this administration to jeopardize our communities, waters, and wildlife! Take action now to tell Zinke the people have spoken -- no drilling off our coasts!
Offshore oil spills happen frequently, devastating marine environments, commercial fishing industry, and tourism businesses. Even without spills, offshore oil causes pollution. The Department of the Interior should be protecting our coasts not handing them over so Big Oil can profit at the expense of coastal communities!
After more than 3.3 million public comments and 36 public meetings, the Obama administration's recent 5-year lease plan excluded drilling in the Pacific, the Arctic, and the Atlantic. We cannot go backwards now and allow Trump, Zinke and the rest of this dirty fuel-hungry administration to put our vulnerable coasts in jeopardy.
This planning process is an incredible waste of public resources and a deliberate attack on our oceans. Tell Zinke: The public has spoken, no more offshore drilling!
Your persistence is the reason why President Obama used his authority to protect the Arctic and Atlantic oceans from drilling. Now is the time to resist the Trump administration's effort to roll back progress -- take action today!
Two week extension (to Aug 14, 2017) to comment on designation/expansion of marine sanctuaries and monuments in Atlantic, Pacific, L Huron, and energy mineral exploration in Outer Continental Shelf:
Pursuant to Executive Order 13795—Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, signed on April 28, 2017, the Department of Commerce is conducting a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments since April 28, 2007. The Secretary of Commerce will use the review to inform the preparation of a report under Executive Order 13795, Sec. 4(b)(ii). This Notice identifies 11 National Marine Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments subject to the review and invites comments to inform the review.
Trump Administration Moves to Build Border Wall Around Environmental Regulations
James Rainey | Aug 1, 2017
Donald Trump's Department of Homeland Security says it will waive more than three dozen laws and regulations — most of them requiring environmental review — as it pushes ahead with the first phase of construction of an enhanced wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The announcement Tuesday by the department's Customs and Border Protection Unit pertains to a 14-mile stretch of the wall in the San Diego area — stretching from the Pacific Ocean to a point inland known as Border Monument 251.
...Environmentalists said the area targeted for initial construction in San Diego County includes wetlands, streams and other rare wildlife habitats that are the home of endangered species, including the Quino checkerspot butterfly and the California gnatcatcher, a bird.
"This isn’t just a wall they’re in a rush to build. It’s roads, lighting and all of the infrastructure that comes with it. All of this without any environmental review or public input. It’s a travesty and it has to be stopped," (Brian Segee, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity) said in a statement. "We believe the waiver is unconstitutional, and we’re confident the courts will agree."
DHS Issues Waiver to Expedite Border Construction Projects in San Diego Area
Release Date: August 1, 2017
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
...The waiver will be published in the Federal Register in the coming days.
...Section 102(a) of IIRIRA provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall take such actions as may be necessary to install additional physical barriers and roads in the vicinity of the United States border to deter illegal crossings in areas of high illegal entry into the United States. In section 102(b) of IIRIRA, Congress has called for the installation of additional fencing, barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors on the southwest border. Finally, in section 102(c) of IIRIRA, Congress granted to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive all legal requirements that the Secretary, in his sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure the expeditious construction of the barriers and roads authorized by section 102 of IIRIRA.
The Department is implementing President Trump’s Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border.
While the waiver eliminates DHS’s obligation to comply with various laws with respect to covered projects, the Department remains committed to environmental stewardship with respect to these projects. DHS has been coordinating and consulting -- and intends to continue doing so -- with other federal and state resource agencies to ensure impacts to the environment, wildlife, and cultural and historic artifacts are analyzed and minimized, to the extent possible.
The EPA Is Beginning To Roll Back An Obama-Era Rule Limiting How Much Toxic Waste Power Plants Release In Water
The rule would have cut the amount of toxic metals, nutrients, and other pollutants that power plants release into US waters every year by 1.4 billion pounds, according to the EPA’s own analysis.
Updated on August 15, 2017
...the new rulemaking will target the so-called ELG rule, which applies to most power plants. The Obama administration finalized these standards in November 2015, estimating they would curb the amount of toxic metals, nutrients, and other pollutants that power plants annually release into US waters by 1.4 billion pounds.
The types of pollutants coming out of these plants have been linked to a range of health and environmental problems, from cancer in humans to deformities in fish.
The rule targets two main sources of waste. First, there’s the waste produced when sulfur dioxide is stripped out of the collection of gases venting into the atmosphere from a power plant. The rule imposed the first ever limits on how much mercury, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants can be in this waste.
Second, there’s the residue flushed out of the bottom of furnaces and incinerators at coal plants, called bottom ash, which is often combined with water and stored in ponds on-site. Sometimes heavy rains can cause these ponds to overflow into surrounding waterways, but other times companies may directly dump the waste into surface waters. The rule banned plants from dumping any of this waste, either intentionally or not, into waterways.
“The objective of the 2015 rule is to prevent repeats of the many environmental catastrophes caused by the failure of power company coal ash ponds, the most recent being the 70 mile long Duke Energy spill into the Dan River of North Carolina,” (Betsy Southerland, former director of science and technology in the EPA’s Office of Water) wrote in her exit letter...
Interior Asks to Shrink National Monuments...
Laura Parker | August 24, 2017
...Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he will recommend that none of the 27 national monuments under review be eliminated. But he told the Associated Press in Billings, Montana, that he will propose boundary readjustments to a “handful” of monuments.
The action will almost immediately trigger a legal challenge and political fight in Congress
...The monument review drew more than 2.8 million comments during the public comment period, among the largest number of comments over a proposal in Interior Department history.
...Presidential authority to create national monuments flows from the Antiquities Act, signed into law in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt
...Every president since Roosevelt, except Reagan, and now Trump, has created national monuments during his term. No president has ever revoked an established national monument, or ordered a review of existing monuments. Last spring...Trump signed an Executive Order calling for the analysis...
Shrink at least 4 national monuments and modify a half-dozen others, Zinke tells Trump
Juliet Eilperin | September 17, 2017
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended that President Trump modify 10 national monuments created by his immediate predecessors, including...Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou — or the two marine national monuments — the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll — for which he raised the same prospect.
...the administration should permit “traditional uses” now restricted within the monuments’ boundaries, such as grazing, logging, coal mining and commercial fishing.
...Trump should use his authority under the Antiquities Act to change each of the 10 sites’ proclamations to permit activities that are now restricted. These include “active timber management” in Maine’s Katahdin Woods and Waters; a broader set of activities in New Mexico’s Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks and Rio Grande del Norte; and commercial fishing in the two Pacific Ocean marine monuments, as well as in one off the New England coast, Northeast Canyons and Seamounts.
...Trump (should) request congressional authority “to enable tribal co-management of designated cultural resources” in three ancestral sites: Bears Ears, Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks.
At the same time, he proposes not only shrinking the boundaries of Bears Ears but requesting that Congress make less-restrictive designations within it, “such as national recreation areas or national conservation areas.” The monument, which contains tens of thousands of cultural artifacts, has become the most prominent symbol of the issues surrounding the Antiquities Act.
...Yet Zinke also suggests the administration explore the possibility of establishing three new national monuments that would recognize either African American or Native American history. These include Kentucky’s Camp Nelson, an 1863 Union Army outpost where African American regiments trained; the home of murdered civil rights hero Medgar Evers in Jackson, Miss.; and the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine area in Zinke’s home state of Montana, which is consider sacred by the Blackfeet Nation.
...Grand Staircase-Escalante...contains “an estimated several billion tons of coal and large oil deposits” and that the limits of motorized vehicle use there “has created conflict with Kane and Garfield Counties’ transportation network.”
...Pacific Remote Islands...before Bush protected it in 2009 “there were Hawaiian and American Samoan longliners and purse seiners vessels operating.”
...Changing the way these monuments are managed, as well as their size, is likely to spur a range of legal challenges...
A Court Just Saved Millions of Acres of Untouched National Forestland
September 22, 2017 NRDC
...Yesterday, a Washington, D.C., district court rejected the state of Alaska’s latest attempt to scrap a 16-year-old rule that protects 50 million acres of wild national forests across 37 states.
The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, enacted by President Bill Clinton in 2001, protects the integrity of national forest wildlands by prohibiting damaging development, including commercial logging the construction of most roads. The rule was created for good reason—huge areas of our national forests have been logged, many of them clear-cut, and by 2000, the U.S. Forest Service was maintaining close to 400,000 miles of roads, more than the country’s entire interstate highway system.
But the timber industry—and states like Alaska where the industry holds a lot of influence—has for years been challenging these protections...
Witch hunt at Interior, whose employees BTW pledge allegiance to the CONSTITUTION. Open season though, sounds like, for any aggrieved mineral extractor, etc....
Zinke says a third of Interior’s staff is disloyal to Trump and promises ‘huge’ changes
Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin | September 26, 2017
In a speech to the oil industry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke claimed that nearly a third of his staff is disloyal to President Trump, saying that workers in Washington are reluctant to relax regulations to permit increased mining for coal and drilling for natural gas and oil on public land.
Zinke promised a “huge” change by restructuring staff positions and possibly shifting decision-making positions in the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation from Washington to points out West in the speech Monday to the National Petroleum Council of oil and gas executives, first reported by the Associated Press.
“I got 30 percent of the crew that’s not loyal to the flag”...
...(However) Permits to drill, dig and log are protected by regulations that delay the application process...
(Federal Employees') Oath
I, name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
5 U.S.C. §3331
If you buy sockeye salmon from Alaska and don't care to have a ...Canadian... mine use salmon waters as a dump (in spite of Alaskan opposition), you have until Oct 17 to comment:
(Sure hope WH doesn't use this issue as opportunity to punish Senator Murkowski for her healthcare vote...)
Alaska’s Pebble Mine and the Legend of Trump’s Gold
Tim Sohn |March 2, 2017
...On Valentine’s Day, Kerrisdale Capital Management, a New York-based hedge fund with a specialty in shorting companies it views as overvalued, released a bearish report. “We believe Northern Dynasty is worthless,” it read. “Though the legal and regulatory problems that will continue to plague the Pebble project even under a Trump presidency are enormous, the project’s Achilles’ heel is more fundamental: economics.”
...The company has stayed ahead of insolvency by periodically selling shares and special warrants to investors, using the proceeds to pay lawyers and lobbyists to hobble the E.P.A. and keep the project alive. To make Pebble an actual mine now, the company will need, by its own estimate, some hundred and fifty million dollars for the permitting process alone. It will also require the institutional knowledge of a larger mining company, which means attracting another partner. And assuming it can do that, a number of other obstacles remain. The Kerrisdale report suggests, for instance, that the cost of meeting various logistical challenges—supplying the project’s enormous power needs; building a deep-water port, a pipeline, a haul road, and dams to hold back waste—may in fact be too high for Pebble’s relatively low-grade ore ever to be mined profitably. The report’s conclusion is damning: “Northern Dynasty has skillfully exploited the Trump narrative to reignite enthusiasm for a company that the market had left for dead. But ‘telling a good story’ is all Northern Dynasty has ever been good at.”
...in a generally extraction-friendly state, Pebble is unpopular, and only getting more so. Governor Bill Walker, an independent, has spoken out against the mine, and the G.O.P.-dominated state legislature has grown increasingly skeptical—a particularly important development, since a 2014 ballot measure, supported by two-thirds of voters, gave it veto power over any mine proposal in Bristol Bay. Earlier this week, the United Tribes of Bristol Bay, a consortium that has fought against Pebble for years, was invited to testify before the Alaska House Resources Committee about pollution allegedly caused by all those drill holes. “Our local hunters have seen our game pushed further and further away,” Alannah Hurley, the group’s executive director, told the committee. “These concerns come from our people and our communities, who are seeing real impacts to our way of life.”...
Amazing the animal bits that people traffic--and how they do it. Very lucrative. Punishments in this country at least are generally slaps on wrist relative to profits. So-o, IMHO even if case can be made for bring elephant bits into US legally--for example, giving locals reason to conserve endangered animals that bring in tourism $--legal import WILL be misused and elephants will continue their decline... Hey but big game hunters like Trump Jr will rejoice at Zinke's proposal...
Trophies from elephant hunts in Zimbabwe were banned in the U.S. Trump just reversed that.
Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin | November 15, 2017
The Trump administration announced Wednesday that the remains of elephants legally hunted in Zimbabwe and Zambia can now be imported to the United States as trophies, reversing a ban under former president Barack Obama.
African elephants are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that large sums paid for permits to hunt the animals could actually help them “by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation,” according to an agency statement.
Under the Obama administration, elephant-hunting trophies were allowed in countries such as South Africa but not in Zimbabwe because Fish and Wildlife decided in 2015 that the nation had failed to prove that its management of elephants enhanced the population. Zimbabwe could not confirm its elephant population in a way that was acceptable to U.S. officials, and did not demonstrate an ability to implement laws to protect it.
The Service’s new statement did not specify what had changed in that country — where the African elephant population has declined 6 percent in recent years, according to the Great Elephant Census project — to allow hunting trophies. A spokeswoman said an explanation will be published in the Federal Register on Friday...
>29 margd: I would think that that alone would turn all reasonable people against Trump.
This from California
Trump's environmental rollbacks hit California hard, despite Sacramento's resistance
just two examples - Federal waterways protections that state officials were relying on to save sensitive vernal pools and boost fisheries are gone. A dangerous pesticide that field workers expected would be banned remains widely sprayed.
...In March, Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. chief, overrode the recommendation of ... (EPA) scientists to ban the commercial use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, blamed for developmental disabilities in children.
New research--not just bees, butterflies, and people (in case of chlopyrifos) are impacted. Migrating birds also:
Birds consume pesticides chlorpyrifos (organophosphate) and imidacloprid (neonicotinoid) as granules mistaken as grit or as treated seeds, and it takes surprisingly few to poison a sparrow (4 to 8). Study saw some recovery in migration orientation two weeks after exposure to imidicloprid, but none after chlopyrifos... Imidacloprid changed not only the birds’ migratory orientation, but the birds lost up to 25 percent of their fat stores and body mass, both of which are detrimental to how a bird successfully migrates. (It takes an incredible amount of food energy to power migration.)
Link to Eng et al.'s paper, just published, is below. Discussion on p 3 is accessible and worth the read. (Only jargon in that section is 'LD50', which means dose that kills 50% of test subjects in, say, 24h; 25% LD50 would be one quarter of that lethal dose.)
Wikipedia: Imidacloprid is a systemic insecticide that acts as an insect neurotoxin and belongs to a class of chemicals called the neonicotinoids which act on the central nervous system of insects, with much lower toxicity to mammals. (Routine, preventive application of neonicotinoids were recently banned in Ontario (bees), but are still permitted to control proven insect outbreaks. I believe seeds are still routinely treated with neonicotinoids in the US.)
Wikipedia: Chlorpyrifos (CPS), sold under many brandnames (Google--you may recognize some products.), is an organophosphate pesticide used to kill a number of pests including insects and worms.6 It is used on crops, animals, and buildings... It acts on the nervous system of insects by inhibiting acetylcholinesterase (i.e., a neurotoxin). Toxicity results in more than 10,000 human deaths a year. (This is the chem that kills tourists from time to time, when their overseas hotel rooms are sprayed with it.)
Uranium Company Urged Trump To Carve Up Bears Ears, Then He Did
Zinke has insisted the president’s push to reduce national monuments has nothing to do with mining interests. “This is not about energy,” Zinke told reporters last week. “There is no mine within Bears Ears.”
But the president’s redrawn boundaries of Bears Ears now puts the uranium deposits outside the protected area, Utah’s Republican Gov. Gary Herbert pointed out in an interview with the Post.
Energy Fuels Resources also paid $30,000 to lobbying firm Faegre Baker Daniels to push for the change throughout this year, according to federal records, the newspaper (Washington Post) reported. The lobbying team was headed by Andrew Wheeler, whom Trump has tapped to be deputy secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler is awaiting Senate confirmation.
White House relief for industrial practices that unnecessarily kill birds can have lasting effects if, for example, wind farms locate themselves in migration paths or breeding concentrations of birds. California’s Altamont Pass wind development built 25 years ago, kills an average of 116 Golden Eagles annually...
The White House Turns Its Back on America’s Birds
The Trump Administration will no longer hold industry accountable for bird deaths.
National Audubon Society | December 22, 2017
“...By acting to end industries’ responsibility to avoid millions of gruesome bird deaths per year, the White House is parting ways with more than 100 years of conservation legacy,” said David O’Neill, Audubon’s chief conservation officer, in response to the Trump Administration's decision to no longer enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in cases of incidental bird deaths.
“Gutting the MBTA runs counter to decades of legal precedent as well as basic conservative principles—for generations Republicans and Democrats have embraced both conservation and economic growth and now this Administration is pitting them against each other. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act is one of the most important conservation laws we have.
Congress passed the MBTA in 1918 (2018 will be its centennial year)...prohibits killing or harming America’s birds except under certain conditions, including managed hunting seasons for game species. The law protects more than 1,000 bird species in part because it requires industries implement commonsense best management practices like covering tar pits and marking transmission lines.
...industrial causes of bird mortality in the United States:
Power lines: Up to 175 million birds per year ...
Communication towers: Up to 50 million birds per year...
Oil waste pits: 500,000 to 1 million birds per year...
Gas flares: No reliable mortality estimates, but an infamous 2013 incident in Canada incinerated an estimated 7,500 birds...
On to the marine monuments! What could possibly go wrong with self-certification?
Trump Rolls Back Post-Deepwater Horizon Offshore Safety Regulations
Dec 29, 2017
President Trump has opted to roll back several offshore drilling rules imposed following BP’s disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 that killed 11 workers and spilled millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. In April, Trump ordered Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review some of the Obama-era safety rules that were intended to curb such accidents, and on Thursday the agency issued several proposed changes to regulations. The proposal would, for example, scrap the requirement that mandates operators certify—through a third party—that their safety devices are properly functioning. The changes are expected to save oil-industry companies more than $288 million over 10 years...
Spectacular fossils found at Bears Ears — right where Trump removed protections
by Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin February 22 Email the author
...Triassic phytosaur...looted from Bears Ears in the late 1990s. (Dominic Frederico)
One of the world's richest troves of Triassic-period fossils has been discovered in an area of Bears Ears National Monument that just lost its protected status, scientists announced Thursday. President Trump signed a proclamation in December that shrank the national monument by 85 percent.
...Rob Gay, a contractor at the Museums of Western Colorado,..., who led a team of researchers on last year's expedition, called it the “largest and most complete bone bed in the state of Utah, and one of, if not the largest, anywhere in the United States.” He called the discovery of three intact toothy, long-snouted fossils from the period extremely rare, adding that the “density of bone is as high or greater than all the other Triassic sites in the country.”
The fossil bed is part of the Chinle Formation, ancient river and flood plain deposits that run through the center of the original monument President Barack Obama designated in December 2016. But that sedimentary rock also contains uranium, which made it more commercially attractive than other parts of Bears Ears.
...the firm Energy Fuels Resources lobbied Interior Department officials to shrink the boundaries of the monument, in part to allow the company greater access to areas where it held uranium mining rights. Trump's Bears Ears proclamation, which took effect Feb. 2, cut more than 1 million acres from its original 1.35-million-acre expanse...
Trump reversal of elephant trophy ban underscores the need to watch what he does, not what he says
James Hohmann | March 8, 2018
...Handing another win to the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew a ban related to importing elephant trophies from Africa. A March 1 memorandum, written in dense legalese, said the government will now allow hunters to receive permits on “a case-by-case basis” to bring tusks and other body parts back to this country.
This is notable because Trump chastised and then overruled his own political appointees at the department, led by Secretary Ryan Zinke, when they unveiled plans last November to lift restrictions put in place by Barack Obama. The president called the hunting of elephants for sport a “horror show.”
...The population of African elephants, the world’s largest land mammal, has declined from 5 million to 400,000 over the past century. That’s why they’ve been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1979....
To mark the 100th anniversary of Migratory Bird Treaty, Interior says okay to kill birds if wasn't your intent. Developers have no incentive to site, design and operate to minimize kills. $ trumps our fellow critters... Hopefully next administration will reverse this, but some builds will be with us for decades...
The Trump administration has officially clipped the wings of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni | April 13, 2018
...In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said “the take killing of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.” For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. “All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,” the opinion said.
...The 1918 law was enacted after several species of common birds became extinct; the Audubon Society and other organizations named 2018 the year of the bird in honor of the MBTA’s centennial. The new interpretation reverses decades of action by Republican and Democratic administrations to protect the animals as they navigate the globe. The law covers such disparate birds as eagles, red knots, Canada geese and vultures.
Oil companies are the greatest beneficiaries of the new interpretation... (spills)... oil waste pits that birds mistake for ponds...each year, 500,000 to 1 million birds are lost to pits that oil companies leave uncovered.
The act “has been the tool the Fish and Wildlife Service has used to work with industry to implement basic management practices,” said Sarah Greenberger, vice president of conservation for the Audubon Society, an advocacy group that studies and protects birds. “The reason the industry covers the tar pits (that birds mistake for ponds)is the Fish and Wildlife Service’s use of the MBTA as a tool to get them to the table. Why would you spend money to implement those, why would your shareholders even allow it, if there’s no reason?”
Seventeen former Interior officials, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife directors under presidents Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, repudiated the reinterpretation when it was first announced in December...
>37 margd: As a bird watcher, I find this ruling horrifying. Now there's no incentive for companies to work towards preservation of habitat and wildlife.
The Interior Department Announced (By Accident) That Everything Is for Sale
Charles P. Pierce | Jul 24, 2018
Just in case you had any doubts about Ryan Zinke's commitment to national monument protections.
...The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated national monuments. Comments the department’s Freedom of Information Act officers made in the documents show that they sought to keep some of the references out of the public eye because they were “revealing the strategy” behind the review...
Good Lord! That a state challenged by water management and dependent on tourism permits this. Never mind the thirsty Everglades, which could use the water the US Army Corps of Engineers is flushing to sea. Meanwhile, I understand Gov Scott was blaming residential septic systems? Becoming another election year issue. (And here I was shocked by road run-off directed into Panama City's lovely beach. Children playing in it...):
Investigation: Human waste fertilizes farms, but fuels toxic algae blooms
Lucas Daprile | Feb. 7, 2017
Deregulated "fertilizer" contains same nitrogen and phosphorus as regulated "sludge."
...(Dan Griffin's) 317-acre (sod) farm (in Palm Beach County) was covered in a layer 2 feet deep with mountains piled 12 feet high and wet pools turning blue and green — but no commercial sod in sight.
...During heavy rains, excess nutrients run into nearby watersheds, where they can feed potentially toxic algae blooms. The oxygen- and sunlight-choking pollution can kill fish, mussels and sea grass beds that are food for manatees and a safe haven for juvenile snook, bonefish, sea trout and other marine life.
...illustrates an extreme example of a common practice, a TCPalm investigation found. Two-thirds of the state’s waste is spread on private land. Half of that requires permits and is banned in certain watersheds because, being less treated, it contains more pathogens and heavy metals.
The other half is not. Classified as “fertilizer,” limitless amounts of it can be dumped near waterways — despite containing just as much nitrogen and phosphorus as the sewage sludge.
It's the source of nearly a fourth of the phosphorus in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, according to a 2009 Audubon Florida report that called human waste-dumping "the most preventable source of pollution."
...Farmers have long fertilized their crops with manure and even treated human waste, and some science and industry officials say there's no problem if it's done correctly. The concern is the sheer amount being used these days, which more resembles dumping than fertilizing.
"If you ... use it properly, you don’t cause a pollution problem," said Paul Gray, an Audubon Florida scientist. "It’s being done on an industrial scale and that industrial scale really adds up and harms our waterways.”
Blue-green algae, red tide soil beaches, threaten Florida tourism
Jennifer Kay | July 10, 2018
The algae blooms have become an annual summer threat, fed by nutrients from cattle ranches and farms surrounding the country’s second largest natural freshwater lake. But two years ago, pressure from the powerful sugar industry prompted the Legislature to push back a lake cleanup deadline another 20 years.
The Trump administration is reviewing plans for a new Everglades reservoir that would give water managers more flexibility when lake levels rise.
Scott declared a state of emergency Monday for seven counties around the lake to give state environmental and tourism agencies more resources to respond to problems caused by the algae. The order also authorizes flushing water south of the lake instead of down the rivers that run to the coasts.
Repairs on the dike are expected to continue until 2022. Until then, lake levels must be kept between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet. On Tuesday, the lake stage was 14.46 feet (4.4 meters), swelled with recent rains over the last two weeks.
In southwest Florida over the past week, a months-long bloom of red tide has been blamed for respiratory irritations and dead fish, turtles and manatees. Red tide is another kind of algae that can be exacerbated by fertilizers and other pollution...
July 7, 2016, 12:36pm
How Corruption Caused A Toxic Water Crisis In Florida
Cartoon Of The Day
The Clock is Ticking on Florida’s Mountains of Hazardous Phosphate Waste
Craig Pittman 4/26/2017
Phosphate has also seeded Florida with the environmental equivalent of ticking time bombs.
Drive through much of the Florida peninsula and the land you see is flat—flat as a pancake, flat as a billiard table, flat as a contestant on The Voice who’s about to get the boot. But at the Mulberry plant, and everywhere else the phosphate industry operates, you’ll see mountains. These are massive piles of waste materials called phosphogypsum that are left over from the fertilizer manufacturing process. They rise up to 200 feet high and cover some 400 acres. On top of each one is a pond of acidic water from 40 to 80 acres in size...
Mosaic’s phosphate mines and fertilizer factories must store their waste this way because there is no other way to get rid of it safely. The phosphogypsum is mildly radioactive, enough so that it exceeds a level that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deemed safe for humans. The industry has proposed using its waste for everything from wallboard to road-building material. But the EPA, since 1992, has repeatedly said no. So the only solution is to stack it.
About 25 stacks now dot the Florida landscape, and every year the waste must be piled up higher. In 2014, Mosaic asked Polk County officials for permission to make one of its Mulberry gyp stacks twice as wide and nearly 400 feet tall—taller than the highest natural point in Florida, which is 345 feet above sea level.
...from time to time, a problem crops up at one of the gyp stacks. Then the pond pooled on top spills out and threatens to poison a creek, a bay, or drinking water for miles around.
In 1997, amid heavy rains, a dam broke atop one of two gypsum stacks at the Mulberry Phosphates plant on State Road 60, unleashing a 56-million gallon spill of the acidic wastewater into the Alafia River. The pollution killed everything in its path for 42 miles, eventually rolling into Hillsborough Bay. The death toll included more than 1 million baitfish and shellfish and 72,900 gamefish near the river’s mouth, 377 acres of damaged trees and other vegetation along the riverbank, and an unknown number of alligators. When state officials hit the company with a multimillion-dollar fine for the damage done, it declared bankruptcy and shut down. (Its insurance company wound up footing the bill.) Ten years later, local and state officials were still working on restoration projects. Meanwhile the old gyp stack was taken over by a larger company—Mosaic—with plans to close it permanently.
Florida’s leading industry is tourism. Nearly 100 million tourists visit the state every year. They show up because Florida’s air and beaches are clean and free of pollution. One catastrophic gyp stack leak like the one that happened in 1997 can lay waste to an entire estuary, creating fishkills and other impacts that can drive the tourists away for years...
No refuge from Roundup (glyphosphate) and neonicotinoids for bees, Monarch Butterflies, swallows...
Trump administration lifts ban on pesticides linked to declining bee numbers
Reuters | Fri 3 Aug 2018
Environmentalists say lifting the restriction poses a grave threat to pollinating insects
...The rollback, spelled out in a US Fish and Wildlife Service memo, ends a policy that had prohibited farmers on refuges from planting biotech crops – such as soybeans and corn – engineered to resist insect pests and weed-controlling herbicides.
That policy also had barred the use on wildlife refuges of neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, in conjunction with GMO crops. Neonics are a class of insecticides tied by research to declining populations of wild bees and other pollinating insects around the world.
Rather than continuing to impose a blanket ban on GMO crops and neonics on refuges, Fish and Wildlife Service deputy director Greg Sheehan said decisions about their use would be made on a case-by-case basis.
Sheehan said the move was needed to ensure adequate forage for migratory birds, including ducks and geese favored and hunted by sportsmen on many of the nation’s refuges. US interior secretary Ryan Zinke, whose department oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, has made expansion of hunting on public lands a priority for his agency.
Sheehan wrote that genetically modified organisms have helped “maximize production, and that neonicotinoids might be needed “to fulfill needed farming practices”...
Toxic Spills Highlight Trump's Deregulation of Coal Plant Waste
Ari Natter and Jennifer A Dlouhy | September 21, 2018
EPA relaxed Obama-era rule on coal ash from power plants
Fears of environmental disasters at North Carolina sites
...The Environmental Protection Agency in July relaxed Obama administration requirements that forced companies to keep a closer watch on coal ash disposal sites and their potential groundwater contamination -- and signaled further revisions sought by industry are coming.
...Duke Energy Corp. said Friday that floodwaters from Hurricane Florence had overwhelmed a coal ash basin at its Sutton power plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, raising the possibility the material had spilled into the Cape Fear River.
The Obama-era regulation, put in place after several spills including one in North Carolina, wouldn’t prevent coal ash from pouring into the river. But environmentalists say the Trump administration’s changes will prolong the lives of those toxic waste sites and increase the risk of spills.
More than 100 million tons of coal ash are generated each year from about 400 power plants across the country. When stored in disposal ponds, such as the one compromised in North Carolina, it is a toxic slurry teeming with mercury, arsenic, lead and chromium -- substances that can cause irreversible brain damage, cancer and other diseases...
A friend testified in this successful effort to protect grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
Yellowstone grizzlies: Court reinstates protections, blocks ID, WY trophy hunts
Sep 24, 2018 | News Release, Protecting Grizzly Bears
...The recovery of (other imperiled populations of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states) depends heavily on inter-population connectivity and genetic exchange...the very bears essential to achieve connectivity between still-struggling isolated grizzly populations would have died at the hands of trophy hunters
...A copy of the ruling is available here. https://westernlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/2018.09.24-Grizzly-Final-Decision.pdf
Mercury not only is a neurotoxin affecting children and fetuses, more emissions will result in more sportfish consumption advisories. In 1970s. Lake Erie walleye were completely off-limits.
Trump Administration Prepares a Major Weakening of Mercury Emissions Rules
Coral Davenport | Sept. 30, 2018
The Trump administration has completed a detailed legal proposal to dramatically weaken a major environmental regulation covering mercury, a toxic chemical emitted from coal-burning power plants, according to a person who has seen the document...
The proposal would not eliminate the mercury regulation entirely, but it is designed to put in place the legal justification for the Trump administration to weaken it and several other pollution rules, while setting the stage for a possible full repeal of the rule.
...in the coming days to send the proposal to the White House for approval.
The move is the latest, and one of the most significant, in the Trump administration’s steady march of rollbacks of Obama-era health and environmental regulations on polluting industries, particularly coal. The weakening of the mercury rule — which the E.P.A. considers the most expensive clean air regulation ever put forth in terms of annual cost to industry — would represent a major victory for the coal industry. Mercury is known to damage the nervous systems of children and fetuses...
EPA Administrator Wheeler, coal baron and Trump contributor Murray...
Decades ago, there was a bit of a scandal over a (government?) valuation of an elderly black woman's life at ($27?)...
The E.P.A.’s Review of Mercury Rules Could Remake Its Methods for Valuing Human Life and Health
Coral Davenport and Lisa Friedman | Sept. 7, 2018
WASHINGTON — When writing environmental rules, one of the most important calculations involves weighing the financial costs against any gains in human life and health. The formulas are complex, but the bottom line is that reducing the emphasis on health makes it tougher to justify a rule.
Last week the Trump administration took a crucial step toward de-emphasizing the life and health benefits in this calculus when the Environmental Protection Agency said it would rethink a major regulation that restricts mercury emissions by coal-burning power plants.
The 2011 mercury rule — based on decades of research showing that mercury damages the brain, lungs and fetal health — is among the costliest but most effective clean-air policies put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Utilities estimate they have spent $18 billion installing clean-air technology, and mercury pollution has fallen by nearly 70 percent...
>43 margd: Years ago I took a public speaking course and chose Mercury pollution as a topic. I did some online research and was surprised that coal burning IS the major source of Mercury pollution and comes about by mercury molecules being attached to a ch group by bacteria which makes absorbable by animals.
I had a chart showing how small organisms injested the Hg then were eaten by small fish which were eaten by larger fish, concentrating the Hg, until you got to a top predator like King Mackeral which were listed as dangerous to eat because of the mercury content. I gave out M&Ms to represent Mercury molecules being concentrated which made the speech a great success:-)
The effects of mercury are so severe I don’t see how those rules could be weakened.
>45 mamzel: Good point, but US sport and commercial fishermen on the Great Lakes (and elsewhere?) tend to be Rs...at least the ones with boats or able to afford charters. Hope they object--and loudly!
Protect the last of the wild
James E. M. Watson, James R. Allan and colleagues | Oct 31, 2018
A century ago, only 15% of Earth’s surface was used to grow crops and raise livestock. Today, more than 77% of land (excluding Antarctica) and 87% of the ocean has been modified by the direct effects of human activities.
...Wilderness areas are now the only places that contain mixes of species at near-natural levels of abundance.
...wilderness areas provide increasingly important refuges for species that are declining in landscapes dominated by people. In the seas, they are the last regions that still contain viable populations of top predators, such as tuna, marlins and sharks.
Safeguarding intact ecosystems is also key to mitigating the effects of climate change, which are making the refuge function of wilderness areas especially important.
...Many wilderness areas are critical sinks for atmospheric carbon dioxide...boreal forest...intact forested ecosystems are able to store and sequester much more carbon than are degraded ones...tropics forest)...seagrass meadows
...wilderness areas regulate the climate and water cycles...buffer against extreme weather and geological events.
Wilderness regions are home to some of the most politically and economically marginalized indigenous communities on Earth. These people (who number in the hundreds of millions)
...As US President Lyndon B. Johnson observed when he signed the US Wilderness Act in 1964, “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt … we must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning.”
Already we have lost so much. We must grasp this opportunity to secure the wilderness before it disappears forever.
Nature 563, 27-30 (2018)
Trump: Judge's ruling blocking Keystone XL ‘a disgrace’
ALEX GUILLÉN | 11/09/2018
...Thursday’s decision does not permanently block a federal permit for Keystone XL, a project of the Calgary-based firm TransCanada. It requires the administration to conduct a more complete review of potential adverse impacts related to climate change, cultural resources and endangered species. The court basically ordered a do-over.
In a 54-page opinion, Morris hit the administration with a familiar charge that it disregarded facts, facts established by experts during the Obama administration about “climate-related impacts” from Keystone XL. The Trump administration claimed, with no supporting information, that those impacts “would prove inconsequential,” Morris wrote. The State Department “simply discarded prior factual findings related to climate change to support its course reversal.”
It also used “outdated information” about the impact of potential oil spills on endangered species, he said, rather than “'the best scientific and commercial data available.'...
Toxic waste from 22 coal plants in Illinois puts drinking water for nearby communities at risk, reports show
The compilation of industry-supplied reports from 24 coal plants highlights how federal and state officials have failed for decades to hold corporations accountable for the millions of tons of ash and other harmful byproducts created by the burning of coal to generate electricity.
Most of the waste in Illinois has been mixed with water and pumped into unlined pits, where testing shows harmful levels of arsenic, chromium, lead and other heavy metals are steadily oozing through the ground toward lakes and rivers, including the state's only national scenic river.
In August, a key federal appeals court handed down a scathing ruling that regulations adopted during the Obama administration weren't tough enough and did nothing to prevent leaks at scores of ash pits near shuttered coal plants.
The court ordered the U.S. EPA to adopt new rules that adequately protect the health of people and wildlife. But the Trump administration is pushing to replace the Obama-era regulations with an even weaker set of requirements.
Most of the coal plants in Illinois are owned by two companies, New Jersey-based NRG and Houston-based Vistra Energy.
>49 2wonderY: So are we headed to distilled water with a drop of non polluted mid ocean water for micro nutrients - like the guy used to recommend on the radio decades ago?
Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior
A new report documents suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of staff
Joel Clement | December 4, 2018
...America’s public lands, and the natural and cultural resources they contain, belong to all of us. It is astounding that a small group of ideologues thinks they can hand these resources, and the agencies that manage them, over to industries eager to carve them up for private profit. To do so with blithe disregard for the impact upon our planet’s operating system is careless and dangerous, and we must demand better...
Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior (38 p)
Union of Concerned Scientists | 2018
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his political appointees have overseen relentless attacks on science and put our nation's parks, health, and wildlife at risk.
During the first two years of the Trump administration, Secretary Ryan Zinke and his political team have unleashed constant—and ongoing—attacks on science, from sidelining the work of the agency's own scientists to systematically refusing to acknowledge or act on climate change. These actions have far-reaching and serious implications for our health, the environment, and the future of our public lands.
Science under Siege at the Department of the Interior reviews nearly two years of actions by the DOI under Secretary Zinke and identifies the most damaging and egregious examples of anti-science policies and practices.
Sytematically suppressing science...
Failing to acknowledge or act on climate change...
Silencing and intimidating agency scientists and staff...
Attacking science-based laws that protect wildlife...
The damage from Secretary Zinke’s policies is mounting. They have caused harm to public lands, public health and safety, and the country’s wildlife and habitats. Left unchecked, the effects will take decades to repair, and yet the consequences of climate change are already upon us. We have no time to lose.
Congress, particularly the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, should increase congressional oversight of the DOI and thoroughly investigate all alleged violations of scientific integrity and all reports of suppressed or censored scientific studies. Congress and others should also demand that the DOI's efforts to protect America’s public lands and wildlife include and factor in climate change, both now and in the future.
Scientists and science supporters should bring attention to DOI activities that sideline science and threaten public lands or health. Any scientist—indeed, anyone—can raise their voice and raise awareness when DOI activities threaten public lands or health. Call your representative, visit their local offices, or write a letter to your local newspaper’s editor. UCS has tips and resources to help guide your efforts: www.ucsusa.org/actiontips.
Local stakeholders, partners of public lands, and the outdoor industry should engage with the DOI and participate in public comment periods and other DOI rule-making processes, especially ones that affect public lands in your region, state, and community. As regular users of public lands, local partners and stakeholders are uniquely positioned to see any changes occurring on the ground as a result of DOI actions. Share what you see with your community, other local stakeholders, and the media.
>50 DugsBooks: The midocean water may just be riddled with micro pieces of plastic.
Scientists create bee vaccine to fight off 'insect apocalypse'
A rare ray of hope for the environment compromised by industry & agroindustry
Eric Lipton (NYT) @EricLiptonNYT | 7:06 PM - 2 Jan 2019:
As of Thursday,
DOD will be run by a former senior Boeing executive.
EPA is run by a former coal lobbyist.
HHS is run by a former pharmaceutical lobbyist. And
Interior will be run by a former oil-industry lobbyist.
Welcome to 2019.
James Goldwasser @locussolus1 | 9:19 PM - 2 Jan 2019:
...And the Dept of Transportation is run by the daughter of a Chinese shipping magnate and the spouse of the Senate Majority Leader...
>54 margd: It just boggles the mind when you see the facts in print like that. None of those people plan on having grandchildren or they plan on having a coal powered dome to live in.
The Trump Administration’s War on Wildlife Should Be a Scandal
Nick Tabor | Dec. 29, 2018
The Trump administration’s policies are leading to wholesale destruction of certain birds and other wildlife. This fact has escaped most public notice amid the broader damage the Cabinet is causing to the environment. Among other measures, regulatory agencies have been working to lift protections on endangered animals, open up vast animal habitats for drilling, encourage more trophy hunting, and repress treatment standards for farm animals.
Granted, Republican administrations since Ronald Reagan’s, with their contempt for federal regulation, have often been unfriendly to the animal kingdom. George W. Bush’s administration, for instance, only added 62 kinds of animals to the endangered species list over the course of 8 years, compared to 700 animals each under Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. But several veteran policy advocates we reached for interviews this week said Trump’s team has been unusually aggressive about regulatory rollback.
“I think that what’s different this time is an across-the-board, no-stone-left-unturned, no-holds-barred approach to rolling back environmental safeguards — including for wildlife,” said Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council. George W. Bush’s advisers, he added, picked their targets more selectively. “It was more like a rifle-shot approach. This is more of a shotgun approach.”
...when questioned by the Union of Concerned Scientists, workers at the Fish and Wildlife Service tend to report at a higher rate than most that politics get in the way of their work.
Trump’s stealth war on wildlife has gone under the radar. It’s hard to get worked up about the gratuitous death of, say, 200,000 sage grouse. But Greenberger argues that everyone has a stake in what happens to the sage grouse. “They are an indicator for a much bigger landscape — where there are pronghorn and mule deer and other iconic species,” she said. “If we allow these birds to go extinct, what that signals is something much bigger that will impact all of us.”
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