Overwhelming Number Turn Out to Support Clean Power Plan at Coal Country Hearing
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) only public hearing on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) featured many more people speaking in favor of the Obama-era effort to slash emissions from power plants.
Even though EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt purposely held the meeting in Charleston "in the heart of coal country," West Virginia to allow more coal stakeholders to testify in person, the vast majority of the 250 speakers at the two-day meeting at the West Virginia Capitol Complex actually approve of the CPP, VICE News reported. Only 30 or so speakers voiced their support for the repeal.
Representatives from environmental and social justice groups such as the NAACP naturally spoke in favor of the plan, which would avert dangerous climate change and save billions of dollars due to the public health benefits of cutting polluting emissions.
But perhaps to the surprise of CPP opponents, many residents of West Virginia and even a former coal miner also spoke of how they wanted to save the Obama initiative.
Cynthia Ellis of Putnam County, West Virginia—who said she contracted asthma due to exposure from coal plant emissions—testified about how her 10-year-old extended family member, Emma, "coached me on how to use my inhaler," VICE reported.
Stanley Sturgill, 72, a retired coal miner diagnosed with black lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease due to years of working in the field, pleaded to the EPA panel: “We're still dying—we're still literally dying—for you to help us."
"Just how many people must pay the supreme price of death for a few rich, greedy people to bank a few dollars?" Sturgill continued, as quoted by Huffington Post.
The Clean Power Plan, Obama's signature climate strategy, limits carbon emissions from coal-fired plants. But the CPP never took effect due to extensive legislation from states opposed to it. In October, the EPA proposed to repeal the CPP in accord with President Donald Trump's Energy Independence Executive Order.
Sturgill, who lives in Harlan County, Kentucky, drove for three hours to get to the meeting. "Do I really think that this administration cares what this old, worn-out coal miner has to say? Well, I don't know. I really doubt it. But I had to be here," he later told HuffPo, "as long as I can draw breath."
Trump and Administrator Pruitt have called the CPP a "war on coal" and vow to bring back coal jobs. But experts say that coal's return is unlikely as demand has dropped steadily due to cheap natural gas, new wind and solar projects, energy efficiency initiatives and other market forces.
"The majority of the profits go to executives and shareholders out of state" Jim Waggy of Charleston, West Virginia, also said at the hearing. "These are primary reasons why West Virginia remains one of the poorest states in the nation despite the presence of coal."
But will the EPA listen to what these voices have to say? As VICE pointed out, even though they were clearly outnumbered by CPP supporters, coal barons such as Robert Murray and other industry voices were given top billing at the hearing. Their testimonies were heard first and presented at the only room of three at the hearing that was consistently aired online.
Day 1 of the @EPA Clean Power Plan hearing in Charleston, West Virginia about to get going. Robert Murray, coal min… https://t.co/F09GChcRnx— Natasha Geiling (@Natasha Geiling)1511877574.0
Murray, the founder and CEO of Murray Energy, called for a repeal of the "so-called and illegal Clean Power Plan, also called the 'No Power Plan.'" He showed up to the meeting flanked by more than 20 miners dressed in full work gear, New Republic reported.
Former President Obama's EPA held 11 public listening sessions before it proposed the CPP in addition to four hearings during the public comment period.
Obama EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia Gannon told Reuters that Pruitt is "just checking a box ... and making it more difficult for Americans across the country to weigh in."
The EPA will receive online comments about its proposal and any requests for additional public meetings until Jan. 16.
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By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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