Congressman Issa Accuses EPA of Conspiring With Environmentalists
First it was the Internal Revenue Service supposedly selectively targeting conservative groups for audits, only it didn't. Then it was Benghazi, and good luck figuring what that was about.
Now self-styled congressional watchdog Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, along with Louisiana Senator David Vitter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has unearthed a baffling new "scandal" to bludgeon the Obama administration with. It seems that the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) communicated extensively with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) while coming up with its new carbon rule to address climate change, announced this past June.
I know. Pick yourself up off the floor.
"Congressional Republicans are investigating whether the Obama administration improperly colluded with a prominent environmental advocacy group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, as the Environmental Protection Agency drafted major climate change regulations," reports the New York Times. The investigation ... comes as Republicans continue a long-running effort to block President Obama's climate change agenda."
The new regulations, now in public comments period, would require power plants to curb climate change-driving carbon emissions and force the closing of coal-fired plants or as Issa and his colleagues call it, the "War on Coal."
“The EPA appears to have a far cozier relationship with NRDC lobbyists on carbon emission rule-making than with any other stakeholders,” Mr. Issa alleged in a statement. “The NRDC’s influence on draft EPA regulations raises substantial concerns about blurred lines and inappropriate influence.”
One of the primary pieces of evidence Issa and Vitter are waving around, according to the New York Times, is a friendly email exchange between EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and NRDC lawyer David Doniger, in which Doniger thanked McCarthy for the announcement of the resolution in December 2010 of court-ordered deadline on limiting greenhouse gas emissions from future power plants for which the NRDC had been advocating. Doniger wrote, “Thank you for today’s announcement. I know how hard you and your team are working to move us forward and keep us on the rails. This announcement is a major achievement. We’ll be with you at every step in the year ahead.” McCarthy wrote back, "Thanks David. I really appreciate your support and patience. Enjoy the holiday. The success is yours as much as mine.”
“Who is working for whom?" said an enraged Vitter. "The key example in all of this is the settlement agreement on greenhouse gases when the NRDC sued the EPA, the EPA settled and the two celebrate the agreement. It doesn’t get any more blatantly obvious than that.”
Issa and Vitter said they were set off by an earlier article in the New York Times that ran in July. It revealed how the NRDC provided a blueprint for the eventual carbon rule and lobbied for its adoption, and pointed out the similarities between the NRDC proposal and the final rule.
"Despite the full breadth and depth of the unprecedented outreach EPA engaged in to formulate and develop the Clean Power Plan proposal, some continue to push a flawed, cherry-picked narrative that simply ignores the well-documented and widely reported and recognized sweep and range of the Agency’s engagement with the public, states and stakeholders over the past 14 months," responded EPA spokesman Tom Reynolds in a statement posted at the EPA website.
The EPA solicited input from other environmental groups, community groups, power companies, the coal industry, labor unions, native tribes and state—more than 300 stakeholders, according to a statement on the EPA website. It is continuing to hold public and private meetings and has received more than a million public comments to date. John McManus, vice president of American Electric Power, told the New York Times, “If we ask for a call or a meeting, they’re receptive. They do want to hear what industry thinks of this, what states think. EPA got input from a lot of groups.”
"This process yielded several crucial components the EPA adopted in developing the proposed rule because it helped focus our attention on what was going on—on the ground—in states and communities across the country, and it generated public discussion and ideas from numerous groups and individuals that helped inform our thinking," Reynolds' statement said. "The fact is, EPA’s extraordinary outreach to business and industry, Main Street and Wall Street, elected officials, NGOs and others, coupled with the tireless work of dedicated agency staff, is what led to this pragmatic, thoughtful and important proposal—one that will cut harmful carbon pollution and lay the foundation for a clean energy future and a stronger economy for our country."
Issa and Vitter have a long history of trying to dig up something to use against the EPA to curb its power, for instance, claiming in August that the agency had pushed through regulations that "cost American jobs" using "sloppy analysis."
And Rachel Maddow Show reporter Steve Benen noted, "In 2005, the Bush/Cheney White House turned over reports on global warming to a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry, encouraging the former lobbyist to edit the official materials to his heart’s content. Other stakeholders in the climate debate were offered no similar opportunities. Issa and Vitter didn’t seem at all concerned about this at the time."
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Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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