EPA Staffers Strongly Disagreed Vehicle Emissions Rollback Would Be Safer
Trump's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have justified their proposed rollback of Obama-era vehicle fuel-efficiency standards in part by arguing that higher standards make new cars more expensive, and that freezing standards at 2020 levels would save up to 12,700 lives overall, and up to 1,000 lives per year in the beginning, because people would be more able to purchase newer, safer cars.
In one memo dated June 18, staffers argued that reducing fuel efficiency standards would actually increase the number of car accident deaths by 17 a year from 2036 through 2045 since there would be more cars on the road. NHTSA had argued that the relaxed standards would save 150 lives per year during the same timeframe.
The EPA also thought the proposal would cost the country $83 billion overall, instead of saving it $49 billion as NHTSA estimated.
"The EPA material seriously casts the whole proposal in a very negative light with respect to its technical adequacy," former EPA director of assessment and standards and current Environmental Defense Fund consultant Chet France told The Washington Post.
EPA expert William Charmley had especially harsh words for the proposal.
"EPA's technical issues have not been addressed, and the analysis performed … does not represent what EPA considers to be the best, or the most up-to-date, information available to EPA," he wrote in one critique less than two months before the final proposal was published, according to The Washington Post.
At one point, he even requested that the EPA name and logo be removed from a document assessing the pluses and minuses of the proposal, called a Preliminary Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA).
The final RIA was published with both agencies' names attached and the final proposal used the NHTSA's logic about accident deaths. But the published proposal was not much different from the version EPA staffers had criticized.
"We know at most they made minor changes, because they're still quoting the thousand fatalities per year," former EPA employee Jeff Alson, who retired in April, told The Washington Post.
Two federal officials told The Washington Post that senior political appointees at the EPA had approved the release of the critical documents, suggesting they shared doubts about the draft proposal's logic. The newly published documents could influence the proposal's final draft.
Others have said the newly revealed documents could bolster the case of states like California, who are prepared to sue to restore standards that would raise fuel efficiency to around 54 miles per gallon by 2026 instead of capping it around 37 miles per gallon.
"The EPA documents challenging the Administration's alleged safety rationale for rolling back fuel economy and tailpipe emissions standards are devastating from a legal perspective," former Clinton and Obama Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes told The Washington Post. "If in fact there was internal warfare, that just provides further grist for litigators."
#California Air Board Pushes Back on #Trump Plan to Lower #Emissions Standards https://t.co/erIuobh6Cd @cleanaircouncil @foe_us— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1533762017.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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