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Judicial Hearings in Landmark Clean Air Cases Conclude Today

Judicial Hearings in Landmark Clean Air Cases Conclude Today

Environmental Defense Fund

On Feb. 28 and Feb. 29, the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. will hear oral arguments in a group of lawsuits over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) landmark clean air measures to protect American's health and well-being from climate-disrupting pollution.

“EPA’s leadership in addressing the clear and present danger of climate pollution is compelled by science, anchored in law and will help secure a healthier America,” said Sean Donahue counsel for EDF and presenting arguments for environmental intervenors.

EDF has intervened in defense of these vital protections and has compiled detailed information about the cases. You can read more about the cases and the parties involved, find the court briefs, and get more information on our website.

The EPA protections facing legal challenge include:

  • The Climate Pollution Endangerment Finding, in which EPA—following the Supreme Court’s order in Massachusetts v. EPA—determined that climate pollution endangers human health and welfare on the basis of a rigorous review of the extensive body of climate science.
  • The Clean Car Standards, which establish cost-saving fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks. The standards are supported by U.S. auto makers and the United Auto Workers, among others.
  • Carbon Pollution Limits for Big New Power Plants and Industrial Sources, in which EPA is phasing in requirements for the best available cost-effective pollution controls—starting with new, large industrial emitters (like power plants) while shielding smaller emitters.

The U.S. auto makers and a dozen states (California, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington) have intervened in defense of EPA's clean car standards (the second case listed above). The clean car standards will reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases. The measures are being challenged by the State of Texas and large industrial emitters.

“The historic clean car standards pending before the court show how our nation can work together to reduce dangerous climate pollution while saving families money at the gas pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Vickie Patton, general counsel for EDF. “While some companies are hiring lawyers and lobbyists to obstruct clean air solutions for America, leading businesses are innovating and charting the path to a healthier and more prosperous clean energy future.”

The clean car standards are a compelling example of smart regulation for a stronger America. At a time when Americans are increasingly concerned about rising gas prices, the clean car standards will save Americans thousands of dollars at the gas pump by enabling families to get more mileage out of each gallon of gas, will help break our nation's addiction to foreign oil, and cut dangerous pollution.

Read more about the challenge to the clean car standards, and the other cases, by clicking here.

For more information, click here.

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Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships.

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Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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