Gina McCarthy Confirmed as U.S. EPA Administrator
The Senate confirmed Gina McCarthy as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator today in a bipartisan vote of 59-40 after months of delay due to a boycott by committee Republicans and threats of filibuster. Her confirmation clears the way for the agency to move forward in its mission to protect Americans’ health and the nation’s environment less than a month after President Obama instructed the U.S. EPA to cut carbon pollution from power plants as part of his plan to fight global warming.
“The Sierra Club and our 2.1 million members and supporters congratulate Gina McCarthy on her confirmation as Environmental Protection Agency Administrator," said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “After dedicating her 25-year career to protecting our air and water, Gina McCarthy has a proven record of protecting American families and getting things done. It’s no wonder she received bipartisan support from the Senate today. We look forward to working with her to continue the EPA’s vital work of protecting American families and holding polluters accountable."
“We are encouraged by Ms. McCarthy’s understanding of the impact on American families and communities from the air and water pollution that come from extracting and burning fossil fuels, and urge her to bring an end to one of the most destructive industrial practices occurring today—mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia," said Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons. “We look forward to working with her as she undertakes the central issue of our lifetime as framed by the president—reducing the country’s greenhouse gas pollution while also addressing the escalating impacts occurring right here in the U.S. from climate change.”
After 151 days and answering more than 1,000 questions submitted in May by committee Republicans, McCarthy waited nearly a month and a half longer than any previous U.S. EPA Administrator, despite her bipartisan qualifications and support from many industry and business voices.
“Gina McCarthy’s confirmation is long-awaited good news for the planet and should not surprise anyone remotely familiar with her record," said Environment America's Executive Director Margie Alt. “There is much that remains to be done. In the next three years, we’re counting on EPA to finalize carbon limits for new and existing power plants—the largest sources of global warming pollution—as outlined in President Obama’s recently announced Climate Action Plan. In addition EPA must secure protections for all our waterways, ensuring safe drinking water for 117 million Americans, limiting pollution from development and factory farms. EPA must also deal with the tremendous health and environmental threats from fracking and move ahead with other much-needed environmental initiatives."
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW: What should Gina McCarthy's first priority be now that she is the U.S. EPA Administrator?
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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