EPA Ethics Chief Calls for Probes of Pruitt as Emails Show 'Open-Door Policy' With Industry Lobbyists
By Jessica Corbett
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) polluter-friendly deregulatory agenda continues under the Trump administration, emails obtained by the Washington Post illustrate the cozy relationships between industry lobbyists and aides to scandal-ridden agency head Scott Pruitt, who is facing more than a dozen federal inquiries.
"The communication between the lobbyists and one of Pruitt's top policy aides—detailed in emails the agency provided to Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Thomas R. Carper (Del.)—open a window on the often close relationship between the EPA's political appointees and those they regulate," the Post reported.
"Littered among tens of thousands of emails that have surfaced in recent weeks, largely through a public records lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club, are dozens of requests for regulatory relief by industry players," the newspaper noted. "Many have been granted."
In April 2017, for example, a golf industry representative sent a message to a then-associate EPA administrator that read in part: "Our guys walked out of that meeting amazed at the marked difference between our meeting today and the reception at EPA in years [past]. Please holler if we can ever help."
Two days later, the World Golf Association chief executive sent the same EPA staffer a thank you message regarding the meeting, and wrote, "We appreciate your interest in both the general overview of the golf industry, along with our specific interest in repeal of the Clean Water Rule and subsequent development of a new Rule." Igniting alarm among environmentalists, the EPA announced in late January that it was suspending the rule to create a new one.
While EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox told the Post the lobbying groups "were dealing with the costly consequences of President Obama's policies that expanded federal overreach while doing little for the environment," Brendan Fischer, director of federal reform at the watchdog Campaign Legal Center observed that with Pruitt at the helm of the agency, there seems to be an "open-door policy towards the industries they are supposed to be regulating."
"As these emails show, when lobbyists ask top EPA officials to jump, the answer is often 'how high,'" Fischer said.
Even though the emails also show some efforts by Pruitt's aides to contact environmental groups, such as John Walke, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Walke told the newspaper that "Scott Pruitt is at EPA only to serve the interests of polluting industries," and "a few token meetings with environmental groups cannot hide his destructive agenda."
The EPA's chief ethics officer, who has frequently defended Scott Pruitt’s actions since he took over the agency in… https://t.co/nfwMvSuNro— Citizens for Ethics (@Citizens for Ethics)1530531014.0
Meanwhile, citing a letter obtained by the New York Times via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, Eric Lipton reported on Saturday that the EPA's chief ethics officer Kevin S. Minoli, once a defender of Pruitt, is calling for independent investigations into whether the administrator has violated federal ethics rules. Lipton also published a series of letters, obtained through the Sierra Club lawsuit, that Pruitt wrote to oil and gas executives shortly after he started at the EPA.
STICK WITH US FOR THIS THREAD: We know Scott Pruitt doesn't like to email (avoids creating a "paper trail") Turns o… https://t.co/o4NZOtYnop— Eric Lipton (@Eric Lipton)1530462074.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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