Fines Against Polluters Drop Sharply Under Trump EPA
"A strong enforcement program is essential to achieving positive health and environmental outcomes," Susan Bodine, head of the agency's enforcement division said in a statement.
However, analyses show that the penalties against polluters are significantly lower under President Trump's EPA. According to The Hill, that $1.6 billion figure is roughly a fifth of the $5.7 billion in penalties collected the year before under President Obama's EPA.
In addition to that, the Scott Pruitt-led agency is also taking credit for the previous administration's enforcement efforts. The EPA 2017 enforcement report covers the federal fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017, meaning the final tally covers three and half months of the Obama administration, "when some of the E.P.A.'s biggest cases were settled," as the New York Times observed.
Steven Chester, the deputy assistant administrator in EPA's compliance office from 2011 to 2014 told The Hill that he is concerned about the drop in litigation and enforcement and its consequences for the environment.
"My big concern is that if there isn't a viable threat of litigation and enforcement, if there aren't an appropriate number of lawsuits or complaints brought, that you lose that deterrent effect—and if you rely too heavily on compliance assistance you are going to end up with more non-compliance," he said.
Chester said that the most noticeable change in the 2017 enforcement report was the drop in the EPA's recommendations to the Justice Department (DOJ) to prosecute polluters, from 152 the year before to 110 now.
"Those numbers tell you what's in the pipeline and what's going to be in the pipeline in future years," Chester said. "Those might not look like big numbers but these are huge numbers because these are cases referred to DOJ, these are cases that DOJ is going to fine."
Most EPA Pollution Estimates Are Unreliable, So Why Is Everyone Still Using Them? https://t.co/BChTjRkCKd @EnvAm @foe_us @Sierra_Magazine— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1517263508.0
Hundreds of endangered sea turtles were stranded on beaches after suffering "cold stunning" in the waters off Cape Cod, Mass. Local rescuers and wildlife rehabilitators stabilized the turtles at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) and National Marine Life Center and began treatment. Many of the sea turtles were transported by land or air to partner facilities around the Eastern Seaboard for longer-term care to make room for more incoming, cold-stunned animals.
Rehabilitators at The Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys assess critically endangered, cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles flown in after rescue in New England. The Turtle Hospital<p>NEAQ and local rescuers begin seeing turtles every fall when water temperatures drop to that 50 degrees F threshold, and typically expect to find them into early January. After that, <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sea-turtle-cape-cod-weather-2621527394.html" target="_self">temperatures are so cold that any animals found are usually no longer alive</a>.</p><p>Merigo estimated that this year's cold season "looks very busy" and noted that local rescue efforts had already surpassed 400 turtles.</p><p>"It is a lot of animals. They're still coming in," she told EcoWatch as she surveyed 39 rescued turtles that day and 20 the day prior. "So far, this is a huge year."</p><p>At NEAQ, the turtles are gradually warmed up about five to 10 degrees F a day. More aggressive warming can cause serious damage and the turtle might not survive, Merigo said. Emergency treatments also include providing replacement fluids, balancing electrolytes and addressing pneumonia. Assessments take place for other serious problems too, such as shell or limb fractures, frostbite, emaciation and eye damage.<span></span></p><p>As local aquariums don't have the capacity to care for all the injured turtles, a group of private pilots called <a href="https://www.turtlesflytoo.org/" target="_blank">"Turtles Fly Too"</a> donated planes, fuel and time to transport some to various partner facilities around the country. Other turtles were driven to closer care facilities.</p><p>"We have a huge network of really great partners working with us, so if we can spread out the care, we can give better care to all the animals," Merigo said.</p><p>The 40 Kemp's ridley sea turtles recovering in The Turtle Hospital will continue to be treated and rehabilitated anywhere from 30 days to a year, depending on the severity of injuries, Zirkelbach said.</p><p>The turtle expert noted that while she's treated cold-stunned turtles from the north before, the newest arrivals were the most cold-stunned Kemp's ridleys ever received at one time.</p>
After rescue, cold-stunned sea turtles received immediate emergency care and assessments at the New England Aquarium. Caitlin Cunningham / New England Aquarium<p>In the past decade, the Gulf of Maine, which spans from Cape Cod to Nova Scotia, has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the ocean, Zirkelbach said. The warm water encourages turtles that migrate north along the Gulf Stream in warmer months to stay in the bay longer.</p><p>"Turtles that fail to migrate south get stuck in the unique horseshoe-shaped topography of the Cape Cod peninsula, and when temperatures drop, the bay becomes a death trap," she added.</p><p>Before ocean temperatures warmed, the waters of Maine were too cold for many of these sea turtles, Merigo echoed. Now, with warming sea surface temperatures, Maine can reach the high 70s to low 80s, which is "perfect turtle temperature," she said. The potential for more turtles getting trapped in the bay and then cold-stunned is nerve-racking for Merigo.</p><p>In addition to shifting habitats as waters warm, warming global temperatures also disrupt natural gender balance in sea turtles, Merigo warned. Gender is determined by the temperature of eggs in nests, and as the planet warms, it will result in all females at some point, she said.</p><p>"The turtles we work with are all endangered and threatened," Merigo said. "For sea turtles in general, the future is a little grim. Climate change is real; it does impact them."</p>
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