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Acting EPA Head Wheeler Downplays Climate Crisis at Confirmation Hearing
Acting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler downplayed the threat of climate change and defended his deregulatory record at the first Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to officially run the agency Wednesday. It was a hearing that some activists and Democrats did not even think should take place, given that business as usual at the EPA has been hampered by the ongoing government shutdown.
"I do not believe that giving the acting administrator a speedy promotion is more urgent and more important than protecting the public from contamination to our air and water and lands," Delaware Senator Thomas R. Carper, the leading Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, as The Washington Post reported.
Demonstrators also interrupted the hearing when Wheeler began speaking, with one shouting, "Shut down Wheeler, not the EPA!"
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders pressed Wheeler on the urgency of climate action. Referencing the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that says humans have 12 years to transition away from fossil fuels in order to stave off dangerous climate change, Sanders asked Wheeler if he agreed with the scientific consensus that climate change is "one of the great crises facing our planet."
"I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir," Wheeler answered. "I consider it a huge issue that has to be addressed globally."
You can watch the full exchange here:
WATCH: EPA nominee Wheeler tells Bernie Sanders climate change 'not the greatest crisis' youtu.be
Wheeler also confused the IPCC report and Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, released by the U.S. government Thanksgiving weekend, The Huffington Post reported. Senators criticized Wheeler for not having yet reviewed the latter.
"That's unacceptable," Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said, as NPR reported. "We're having a hearing on your worthiness for this job and you very conveniently haven't had enough time yet to review whether or not there's an extra level of urgency to this problem."
Wheeler also cited misleading numbers about his replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, as The Huffington Post explained:
When pressed about the need to cut emissions, Wheeler returned to a certain statistic over and over again, stating that the Affordable Clean Energy rule he proposed in August would deliver carbon dioxide reductions 34 percent below 2005 levels, compared to the 33 to 35 percent the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan would have provided.
This is a fudged statistic, however. The EPA's own analysis shows the so-called ACE rule would actually increase CO2 emissions by 20 to 61 million tons, nitrous oxide by 14,000 to 43,000 tons and sulfur dioxide by 29,000 to 53,000 tons. Those increases are expected to cause up to 1,400 premature deaths per year by 2030.
Senate Democrats also questioned Wheeler on other issues, including his rollback of mercury emissions standards from coal-fired plants and the fact that the agency has not yet released a plan for combating the frequency of cancer-linked PFAS in drinking water.
"Through our deregulatory actions, the Trump administration has proven that burdensome federal regulations are not necessary to drive environmental progress," Wheeler said, according to The Washington Post. "Certainty, and the innovation that thrives in a climate of certainty, are key to progress."
Many Republicans, including panel Chairman Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming, agreed.
"Under acting administrator Wheeler's leadership, the agency has taken a number of significant actions to protect our nation's environment while also supporting economic growth," Barrasso said.
Environmental groups, on the other hand, are united in opposing Wheeler's nomination.
"Andrew Wheeler today showed that he is nothing more than Scott Pruitt with a new coat of lead paint," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a press release. "Like Pruitt, he took every opportunity today to distort the truth to Senators about his record of trying to dismantle every clean air, clean water and climate safeguard he could get his hands on."
Despite opposition, Wheeler is likely to be confirmed, The Washington Post reported.
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Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.
gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images
Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.
The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
'We Should Be Retreating Already From the Coastline,' Scientist Suggests After Finding Warm Waters Below Greenland
By Johnny Wood
The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.
The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.
Here are some of the challenges the river faces.
By Jake Johnson
As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.