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Environmental Groups Sue EPA Over Rule Change That Could Quadruple Toxic Emissions
Seven environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Ohio Citizen Action, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday, The Hill reported.
The lawsuit seeks to reverse the agency's January decision to repeal the "once-in always-in" policy, which said that all "major" sources of air pollution, like power plants or factories, would always be regulated according to stricter standards, even if they took steps to reduce pollution.
At the time of the repeal, the EPA argued that the policy, which had been in effect since 1995, was "a longstanding disincentive for major sources of pollution to implement voluntary pollution abatement and prevention efforts, or to pursue technological innovations that would reduce emissions," EcoWatch reported.
But the environmental groups bringing the suit countered that the repeal would risk doing serious harm to the air and to human health by enabling major polluters to wiggle out of meeting Clean Air Act requirements.
The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), one of the parties to the suit, also released a study Monday examining the potential impacts of the repeal, which would allow industrial polluters to disable or lower their emissions controls if they promise to release less than 10 tons of single pollutants or less than 25 tons of toxic air pollutants overall.
The study examined 12 "major" industrial polluters in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota and concluded that the EPA rule change would allow them to release four times the amount of toxic air pollutants, according to an EIP press release.
Pollutants that would contribute to this increase include carcinogens like benzene and dioxin, acid gases like hydrogen chloride, and neurotoxins like lead, according to the study.
The study further found that 60,000 people lived within a mile of the plants and that more than half of the potentially-impacted communities were disproportionately African American or Latino and had poverty rates more than double the U.S. average.
Further, the report underlined that it is unlikely the plants will be able to accurately measure their emissions once they turn off controls. Currently, most plants measure the working of controls, like scrubbers, and not the release of toxins themselves. The study likened the repeal to "allowing drivers to remove speedometers from their cars if they promise to obey the speed limit."
"This attempt to save money by turning off pollution controls will only further shift the burden of pollution to the rest of us, especially fenceline communities. Polluters can and should save money by preventing pollution in the first place," Ohio Citizen Action deputy director Melissa English said in an EarthJustice press release about the suit.
The rule change and subsequent lawsuit seem to illustrate a pattern at Trump's EPA that Gina McCarthy, the EPA administrator during Barack Obama's second term, described in an interview on Friday with Bill Maher.
When Maher asked her how bad things were at the EPA under Trump-appointee Scott Pruitt, she responded, "The only thing that could be worse is if he actually knew what he was doing," the Washington Examiner reported.
"He's making some policy decisions. But in the end he's trying to get rid of a lot of rules that were put in place that were done well and every time there have been challenges in court, he's going down," she explained.
The courts have yet to decide if McCarthy's analysis will ring true in this particular case.
- Pennsylvania among states suing EPA over air pollution drift - The ... ›
- 8 States Sue EPA Over Midwest Air Pollution | HuffPost ›
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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 ›
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- Needed: A shorter work week – People's World ›