EPA Holding Its Only Public Hearing on Clean Power Plan Repeal in Coal Country
Starting Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (
EPA) will hold its only public hearing on the proposal to dismantle the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in the coal-producing state of West Virginia.
“The EPA is headed to the heart of coal country to hear from those most impacted by the CPP and get their comments on the proposed Repeal Rule," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said this month about the hearing.
Former 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."
But the EPA has criticized the Obama administration for avoiding a hearing in West Virginia and denying coal workers a chance to testify.
President Donald 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.
Coal miners, lobbyists, environmentalists and others will offer testimonies over the two-day meeting in Charleston. Coal stakeholders will argue that the CPP increases costs to utilities and will result in loss of mining jobs.
"This is the first time in history, I think, that I'll testify in favor of something [the] EPA is doing," Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. "Maybe we're going to have a chance to sit down and talk about preserving our jobs and our communities and our people."
In contrast, proponents will argue how the CPP will avert dangerous climate change and how enacting the plan will save billions of dollars due to the public health benefits of slashing polluting emissions.
Dr. Jeremy Richardson, a senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists will testify. In prepared remarks, he'll argue:
"It is the job of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect human health and the environment. It is not the job of the EPA to protect the coal industry. In fact, the EPA is bound by law to address air and water pollutants from producing and using coal. Many of these pollutants are hurting the health of communities right here in Appalachia, where acid mine drainage and coal ash contaminate our waterways, and are also causing harm around the country where people live downwind from coal-fired power plants. The EPA is also legally required by the Clean Air Act to curtail global warming emissions from power plants because science shows that climate change poses risks to our health and the health of future generations."
David Doniger, the director of the Climate & Clean Air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, will also testify. He states:
"We can have both. We can—and we must—protect Americans' health and preserve the stability of our climate. As the four hurricanes and massive wildfires this fall demonstrate, we must clean up our power plants—as well as our vehicles and other industries—to curb the pollution that's driving extreme weather and other climate impacts and causing thousands of deaths and illnesses—both here in West Virginia, in states downwind, and across the country."
According to Reuters, comments will also be heard on a new plan that the EPA proposed in October that would go easier on power plants than Obama's CPP would have.
The EPA will also receive online comments about its proposal and any requests for additional public meetings until Jan. 16.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 9 am Tuesday at the state Capitol.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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