The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
An Assault on Clean Water and Democracy
Like the 104th Congress when Republicans controlled the House of Representatives, the House is swinging a sledgehammer at a cornerstone of contemporary American democracy and undermining the most extraordinary body of environmental law in the world.
Chief among the attacks is HR 2018, known as the "Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011." The bill, currently working its way through the House, hogties the federal government's role in administering the federal Clean Water Act and gives states a veto power over a host of critical water quality decisions that the Clean Water Act currently authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to make. This approach will foster a 1950s-style race to bottom as shortsighted and self-interested state politicians dismantle their clean water laws in order to recruit filthy polluters.
Corporate polluters—through massive campaign donations and relentless fear-mongering—can easily dominate the state political landscapes. Their indentured servants in Congress—many flying the Tea Party banner—are working to disrupt the existing balance between state control and federal oversight in our environmental laws by returning us to the days of limited federal supervision—a time when local government was on the side of polluters in a partnership that was stealing people's livelihoods, their recreation, their health, safety, property values and their childhoods.
The original drafters of the Clean Water Act were keenly aware of the problems inherent in leaving all responsibility to the states. Prior to 1972, that scheme had ignited rivers and firestorms and left Lake Erie declared dead. We saw the results first hand here on the Hudson River in the 1960s—where hundreds of fishermen lost their jobs because their beloved waterways had become too polluted to allow anyone to safely eat the fish. The Clean Water Act, enacted shortly thereafter, created a beautifully simple yet powerfully effective tool to help address these problems: a federal safety net for water quality that guarantees a minimum level of protection to all Americans, no matter where you live. And for nearly 40 years this approach has been working.
Indeed, the Clean Water Act is one of our most important environmental laws, and it is a model—both in the U.S. and abroad—for achieving a sensible balance between state officials' familiarity with local conditions and the important role the federal government plays in protecting all citizens from a race-to-the-bottom by polluters and politicians intent on short term gain at the expense of local communities and long-term prosperity.
Having this shared authority is essential because state agencies face intense pressure to ignore the Clean Water Act in favor of the most powerful corporate interests. It is no coincidence that many of the bill's sponsors are from states where EPA has used its authority under the Act in recent years to make sure minimum levels of protection are achieved, such as West Virginia and Florida.
Unfortunately, HR 2018 rewards states for their past failures and rolls back the clock nationally by promoting an agenda that benefits only those who seek to pollute our waterways—not the communities that depend on them.
Representative Tim Bishop of New York, to his credit, offered an amendment in committee that would have protected water bodies that serve as drinking water supplies, flooding buffers, recreation destinations and habitat for fish and game prized by anglers and hunters from these sweeping rollbacks. But sponsors of the bill would have none of it—further revealing their disinterest in the protection of the American public from the threats of water pollution.
Poll after poll shows the public's support for clean water. The American people didn't stand for these congressional attacks to our environmental laws in the mid-1990's. And we must not stand for them today.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images
By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.
"The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism wishes to inform the public that following extensive consultations with all stakeholders, the Government of Botswana has taken a decision to lift the hunting suspension," the government announced in a press release shared on social media.
Company Safety Data Sheets on New Chemicals Frequently Lack the Worker Protections EPA Claims They Include
By Richard Denison
Readers of this blog know how concerned EDF is over the Trump EPA's approval of many dozens of new chemicals based on its mere "expectation" that workers across supply chains will always employ personal protective equipment (PPE) just because it is recommended in the manufacturer's non-binding safety data sheet (SDS).
By Grant Smith
From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.
By Brett Walton
When Greg Wetherbee sat in front of the microscope recently, he was looking for fragments of metals or coal, particles that might indicate the source of airborne nitrogen pollution in Rocky Mountain National Park. What caught his eye, though, were the plastics.
In a big victory for animals, Prada has announced that it's ending its use of fur! It joins Coach, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giorgio Armani, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Vivienne Westwood, Michael Kors, Donna Karan and many others PETA has pushed toward a ban.
This is a victory more than a decade in the making. PETA and our international affiliates have crashed Prada's catwalks with anti-fur signs, held eye-catching demonstrations all around the world, and sent the company loads of information about the fur industry. In 2018, actor and animal rights advocate Pamela Anderson sent a letter on PETA's behalf urging Miuccia Prada to commit to leaving fur out of all future collections, and the iconic designer has finally listened.
If people in three European countries want to fight the climate crisis, they need to chill out more.
"The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly," Autonomy Director Will Stronge said, The Guardian reported. "However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary."
The report found that if the economies of Germany, Sweden and the UK maintain their current levels of carbon intensity and productivity, they would need to switch to a six, 12 and nine hour work week respectively if they wanted keep the rise in global temperatures to the below two degrees Celsius promised by the Paris agreement, The Independent reported.
The study based its conclusions on data from the UN and the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in all three countries.
The report comes as the group Momentum called on the UK's Labour Party to endorse a four-day work week.
"We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet," Emma Williams of the Four Day Week campaign said in a statement reported by The Independent. "In addition to improved well-being, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less."
Supporters of the idea linked it to calls in the U.S. and Europe for a Green New Deal that would decarbonize the economy while promoting equality and well-being.
"This new paper from Autonomy is a thought experiment that should give policymakers, activists and campaigners more ballast to make the case that a Green New Deal is absolutely necessary," Common Wealth think tank Director Mat Lawrence told The Independent. "The link between working time and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions has been proved by a number of studies. Using OECD data and relating it to our carbon budget, Autonomy have taken the step to show what that link means in terms of our working weeks."
Stronge also linked his report to calls for a Green New Deal.
"Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them," he said, according to The Guardian. "This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like."
- Reduced Work Hours as a Means of Slowing Climate Change ›
- How working less could solve all our problems. Really. | ›
- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›