Surprise! This EPA Move ‘Will Actually Reduce Air Pollution!’
After two years of scandals and deregulatory schemes that rival the machinations of Captain Planet villains, we thought we were immune to being shocked by the actions of Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But the agency has managed to genuinely surprise us—by doing something that could actually benefit the environment.
Today @EPAAWheeler Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler launched the Cleaner Trucks Initiative to help modernize hea… https://t.co/DliQMlrYLp— U.S. EPA (@U.S. EPA)1542150212.0
The announcement won the agency rare praise from environmental and public health groups, The Washington Post reported.
"This is a positive step and may be the first thing this EPA has done that will actually reduce air pollution," American Lung Association Senior Vice President for Public Policy Paul Billings told The Washington Post.
Heartened to see @EPA announcement today on the Cleaner Trucks Initiative. This announcement is a positive step tow… https://t.co/s1Y9tkv3p3— American Lung Assoc. (@American Lung Assoc.)1542144145.0
The California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has reason to mistrust this EPA due to its plans to weaken the fuel efficiency standards California has championed, also saw Tuesday's announcement as a positive development.
"It's good that they are moving forward, because heavy-duty NOx is a huge problem, both as a precursor to ozone and fine particles," CARB spokesperson Stanley Young told The Washington Post in an email. "CARB petitioned EPA to begin this process, as have many other state and local agencies, so we are pleased that the agency is moving forward to address the next generation of new heavy-duty engines."
The EPA last updated its NOx standards in 2001, the agency said, so many felt a new push was long overdue. Twenty state and local regulators asked the Obama EPA to update the standards two years ago, and the agency agreed. Tuesday's announcement makes reducing NOx emissions the rare Obama-era commitment the agency has actually moved to honor.
"The U.S. has made major reductions in NOx emissions, but it's been nearly 20 years since EPA updated these standards. Through rulemaking and a comprehensive review of existing requirements, we will capitalize on these gains and incentivize new technologies to ensure our heavy-duty trucks are clean and remain a competitive method of transportation," Wheeler said.
This doesn't mean the agency has seen the light when it comes to the need for regulations to protect the environment. At the same time as he announced the initiative in a call with reporters, Wheeler bragged about the more than two dozen rollbacks Trump's EPA had set in motion, The Washington Post reported.
And there's a chance that the final proposal on NOx emissions―which probably won't be released until 2020―could sneak in some deregulations as well. This language from the EPA announcement is not encouraging:
In addition to NOx emissions standards, the CTI will cut unnecessary red tape while simplifying certification of compliance requirements for heavy-duty trucks and engines. Areas of deregulatory focus will include onboard diagnostic requirements, cost-effective means of reassuring real world compliance by using modern and advanced technologies, the deterioration factor testing process, and concerns regarding annual recertification of engine families.
Still, it's a welcome surprise to hear that Wheeler told reporters that the EPA was doing something "because it's good for the environment."
For the first time in two years, the agency has made a move towards doing its job.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.
Toxins in water produced by cyanobacteria was likely responsible for more than 300 elephant deaths in Botswana this year, the country's wildlife department announced on Monday.
How Did Cyanobacteria Poison the Elephants?<p>Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms common in water and sometimes found in soil. Some cyanobacteria produce neurotoxins.</p><p>The cyanobacteria "was growing in pans" or watering holes, the principal veterinary officer of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, Mmadi Reuben, told reporters.</p><p>Reuben said the deaths had "stopped towards the end of June 2020, coinciding with the drying of pans."</p><p>"However we have many questions still to be answered such as why the elephants only and why that area only? We have a number of hypotheses we are investigating," added Reuben.</p><p>Similar elephant deaths have also been recorded in neighboring Zimbabwe.</p>
Climate Change to Blame?<p>Not all cyanobacteria are toxic but scientists say varieties dangerous to humans and animals are occurring more frequently as climate change drives up global temperatures.</p><p>Southern Africa's temperatures are rising at twice the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.</p>
Elephant Paradise?<p>Africa's overall elephant population is declining due to poaching. But Botswana, home to almost a third of the continent's elephants, has seen numbers grow to around 130,000.</p><p>Botswana's government said it was continuing studies into the occurrence of the deadly bacteria. In the winter, elephants hydrate themselves mainly by eating roots and bark, especially of the baobab tree.</p>
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By Alexandra Villarreal
As West coast wildfires color the skies dystopian red and orange and an aggressive hurricane season batters the U.S. Gulf coast, college students are demanding their schools take bold action to address the climate crisis.
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The National Hurricane Center has run out of names for tropical storms this year and has now moved on to the Greek alphabet during an extremely active hurricane season. Late Monday night, Tropical Storm Beta became the ninth named storm to make landfall. That's the first time so many named storms have made landfall since 1916, when Woodrow Wilson was president, according to NBC News.
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