EPA Announces 20 Toxic Chemicals It Won’t Protect Us From
On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first 20 chemicals it plans to prioritize as "high priority" for assessment under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Given the EPA's record of malfeasance on chemicals policy over the past two years, it is clear that these are chemicals that EPA is prioritizing to ensure that they are not properly evaluated or regulated.
Of the 20 chemicals named, the one that immediately jumps out is formaldehyde. EPA's program for assessing the hazards of chemicals — known as "IRIS," the Integrated Risk Information System — completed an assessment of formaldehyde that Trump officials have prevented being publicly released, or even undergoing peer review. This is likely because the conclusions of the IRIS assessment are unfavorable to formaldehyde manufacturers and polluters.
The Trump administration, along with the chemical industry and allies in Congress, is trying to defund and dismantle the IRIS program (industry has been trying for many years, but now it has serious inside help). EPA's plan is plainly to create an industry-approved alternative assessment of formaldehyde under TSCA using Trump EPA standard tactics: suppressing independent science; bending (and breaking) the rules of how to evaluate chemical hazards; and, taking only those steps that meet the approval of the nation's largest chemical manufacturers.
There are other important chemicals on the "high priority" list EPA announced Wednesday, including several phthalates, toxic flame retardants and numerous chlorinated solvents. Based on the actions of the Trump EPA thus far, we can expect that the EPA will continue to:
- improperly (and illegally) ignore uses and sources of exposure to these chemicals in its assessments;
- rely primarily (if not exclusively) on industry-funded studies (withheld from full public scrutiny);
- refuse to exercise its recently streamlined authority to require industry to provide test data on the chemicals;
- use its fatally flawed TSCA Systematic Review that was heavily criticized by experts.
Most importantly, as with the first 10 chemicals that EPA designated for assessment in 2016, and which it is currently evaluating, for these 20 chemicals, EPA's decisions will ultimately impose preemption on state authority to take stronger action than what EPA concludes is necessary, even if EPA concludes that no action is necessary. This means that for formaldehyde and the other phthalates, flame retardants and solvents on EPA's list — if EPA concludes that the uses it evaluates do not pose an unreasonable risk — states will be preempted from taking more protective actions. In addition, if EPA concludes that those uses do pose an unreasonable risk, states will be preempted from imposing any controls beyond what EPA itself chooses to impose. There are some important caveats to that: states retain authority under their own water, air and other laws to take some actions, and there is an as-yet-untested waiver provision in the revised TSCA that may provide states with some additional opportunities to impose restrictions if/when the Trump EPA fails to adequately protect the public. But, suffice to say, the stakes on what EPA does with these chemicals are very high.
Members of Congress, state lawmakers and the public are justifiably very concerned. Just last week, the EPA finalized a rule on methylene chloride that fails to protect consumers and workers — a vulnerable population it is required to protect under the law. There is every reason to expect that, if it is allowed to do so, protection from toxic solvents, phthalates and flame retardants will be undermined by this industry-friendly EPA Toxics Program. That's why the Natural Resources Defense Council is marshalling our legal and scientific resources and working with our allies to confront this dangerous move.
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A "trash tsunami" has washed ashore on the beaches of Honduras, endangering both wildlife and the local economy.
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More long-finned pilot whales were found stranded today on beaches in Tasmania, Australia. About 500 whales have become stranded, including at least 380 that have died, the AP reported. It is the largest mass stranding in Australia's recorded history.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
In another win for climate campaigners, leaders of 12 major cities around the world — collectively home to about 36 million people — committed Tuesday to divesting from fossil fuel companies and investing in a green, just recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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