Major Flaws Exposed in Senate's Vitter-Udall Chemical Bill
Opponents of the Senate’s Vitter-Udall chemical legislation introduced last week point to numerous flaws in the bill. Perhaps the most contentiously debated part is something called “preemption” which would slow or stop states from acting to control harmful chemicals. Just a few days after introduction of the bill, two state attorneys general are already speaking out.
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Preemption is chemical lobby priority numero uno because only the states in recent years have managed to make headway in controlling some of the worst toxic chemicals. It’s why the chemical lobby rushed to endorse the bill.
According to our friends at SAFER States, more than 150 state policies have been enacted to protect citizens from harmful chemicals. States have made critical progress to:
- define hazardous chemicals of greatest concern to vulnerable populations
- disclose the use of these chemicals in consumer products
- ban the worst-of-the-worst; and
- move the marketplace and the nation towards safer alternatives.
State officials speak out
So it’s not surprising that state attorneys general are coming forward to warn that the bill will limit the ability of states to take action.
On March 5, the California attorney general’s general counsel was the first to weigh in with a detailed critique. Among his concerns is a “regulatory void” that would be created under the bill because it stops state action once the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency begins a slow motion process of up to seven years to control a dangerous chemical. One has to imagine somewhere, a room of chemical lobbyists has got champagne on ice in anticipation of a seven year pass to do what they will.
States, who also do most of the toxics enforcement in this country, would be barred from passing laws identical to rules at the federal level. Our national director, Andy Igrejas, called that provision “a blatant attempt to reduce enforcement.”
This week, the Massachusetts attorneys general weighed in too, saying the Vitter bill “strays far from a bill that can adequately protect our citizens from the potential risks that may be posed by certain toxic chemicals in commerce.” The AG, Maura Healey, went on to say that while she supports federal chemical policy reform, the effort “cannot compromise the ability of states like Massachusetts to use our agencies’ expertise and experience to address the potential public health risks posed by some chemicals.”
I’m just scratching the surface of the state rollbacks. Our friends at the Environmental Health Strategy Center have put together a detailed chart. For more on the weaknesses of the bill, read our recent blog packed with detail.
You can also watch this Rachel Maddow Show segment, Chemical Lobbyist Exposed as Author of New Bill to Regulate Industry, for more information on this issue:
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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>
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