‘This Is Political Retribution:’ Trump Admin Attacks California’s Environmental Record
First, on Monday, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent a letter to the state warning that the federal government would hold back highway funds if it did not address a backlog of air pollution control plans, according to The New York Times. Then, on Thursday, Wheeler sent another letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom giving the state 30 days to respond to a series of concerns about its implementation of water quality regulations, The New York Times reported further.
"[T]he EPA is concerned that California's implementation of federal environmental laws is failing to meet its obligations required under delegated federal programs. The cost of this failure will be paid by those Californians exposed to unhealthy air and degraded water," Wheeler wrote in Thursday's letter.
The letters come about a week after the administration formally moved to withdraw California's power to set its own vehicle emission standards under the Clean Air Act, a power the state has argued is essential to protecting its air quality.
"We need the extra clean cars to meet the standards set by the federal government," California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols said in a press conference last week reported by The New York Times. "If this prevails, millions of people in California will breathe dirty air. There will be more pollution, more asthma, more hospitalizations, more premature deaths."
California officials say this week's letters are not about the state's environment at all, but are rather further retaliation for the state's opposition to the administration's agenda on issues like immigration and environmental deregulation. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has sued the Trump administration 62 times in federal court, according to The Washington Post. The state has 30 lawsuits pending against the administration over environmental issues alone, according to The New York Times.
"There's a common theme in the news coming out of this White House this week. The president is abusing the powers of the presidency and weaponizing government to attack his political opponents," Newsom spokesman Nathan Click said in an email reported by The Washington Post. "This is not about clean air, clean water or helping our state with homelessness. This is political retribution against California, plain and simple."
Click's remarks were a clear response to a whistleblower complaint that President Donald Trump pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President and Democratic primary candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the 2020 election, which has prompted 220 House members to support an impeachment inquiry, according to TIME.
An overarching theme coming out of the White House:— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) September 26, 2019
Trump persistently weaponizing our government to attack political opponents.
The Director of Natl Intelligence, the DOJ, the EPA...all being used to attack those that stand in his way.
This is about retaliation. Nothing more. https://t.co/eF0adb1qt1
In Thursday's letter, Wheeler echoed remarks made by Trump last week that homelessness in California was threatening its environment.
"If these Democrat liberal politicians don't straighten it out, the federal government will have to come in. We're not going to lose cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and others that are great cities. We're not going to allow that to happen to our cities," Trump said, as NPR reported.
Wheeler's letter cites reports of human feces piled on the streets of Los Angeles and San Francisco.
"The EPA is concerned about the potential water quality impacts from pathogens and other contaminants from untreated human waste entering nearby waters," Wheeler wrote. "San Francisco, Los Angeles and the state do not appear to be acting with urgency to mitigate the risks to human health and the environment that may result from the homelessness crisis."
But environmental and homeless advocates have criticized the president for treating homelessness as a threat primarily to the environment or appearance of certain cities, instead of to the well-being of homeless people themselves.
"The way to reduce the impacts from homeless encampments is to reduce homelessness," Save the Bay Executive Director David Lewis told NPR.
Our ED @DavidLewis speaks out: "@realDonaldTrump has less standing to complain about #pollution and #homelessness than pretty much anybody since his administration is actively gutting the #CleanWaterAct and other environmental laws that protect us all from pollution.” https://t.co/zCNRgabRDq— Save The Bay (SF) (@saveSFbay) September 19, 2019
Wheeler also accused California of other water quality problems. The Washington Post highlighted two, and explained California's response:
His examples include a "years-long practice" in San Francisco of discharging more than a billion gallons of combined sewage and storm water annually into San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean without treating it fully for all biological contaminants.
San Francisco officials said this discharge is being done under a federally approved permit, and 99 percent of it is storm water.
San Francisco is one of the few major American cities that combine storm water and sewage flows that is not operating under a federal consent decree. It is spending billions to upgrade its aging infrastructure, including $4.8 billion to improve regional and local water systems used by 2.7 million people. It has also launched a 20-year, multibillion-dollar sewer system upgrade.
Thursday's letter also called out high amounts of lead and arsenic in California water, but former Obama-era regional EPA head Judith Enck said that other states, like Texas and Louisiana, had more violations.
"I'm not going to say that enforcement isn't a problem, but there are other states that are far worse than California," Enck told The New York Times. "This an obvious attempt at political intimidation."
Our take on @realDonaldTrump's attack on #cleanercars: "Trump has married his administration-wide hostility to the environment to his personal vendetta against California." @EcoWatch https://t.co/ssv5x2qeDf— Safe Climate Campaign (@safe_climate) September 22, 2019
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
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By John Letzing
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The Navajo Nation covers the corners of three different states. Google Maps
Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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DAN medical experts explained the difference between normal lungs, on the left, and "very serious lungs caused by COVID-19," on the right. Matias Nochetto / Divers Alert Network (DAN)
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