By Farron Cousins
In late March, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt decided that his agency would not place an outright ban on a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical called chlorpyrifos.
The decision came after a federal court ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether or not to ban the pesticide, which the Obama administration had proposed banning in 2015. The chemical has been on the market in the U.S. since 1965 under the brand name Lorsban and indoor use of the chemical has been banned for more than a decade.
In its decision to allow the pesticide to continue being used in the U.S., the EPA went against its own agency's findings that the pesticide presented unnecessary risks to American citizens. And while Pruitt's EPA officials did not deny those findings, they did claim additional studies on the chemical were still needed before they could ban it, thus allowing the product's continued use.
In the three and a half months since the EPA's chlorpyrifos decision, the story has become far more complex than the usual "regulators siding with industry" trope that has played out far too often.
One of the most interesting developments was from a report in early July indicating Pruitt met with the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, a few weeks prior to his decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. While the EPA claims that the meeting was simply a brief introduction when the two men met in a hallway during a conference in Houston on March, the timing of the "chance" meeting has sparked talk that it could have potentially influenced Pruitt's decision on the chemical, which came just a few weeks later.
EPA Chief Met With Dow Chemical CEO Before Deciding Not to Ban Toxic Pesticide https://t.co/00pORekJv0 @ecowatch— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1498668816.0
Originally, Pruitt and Liveris had scheduled an official meeting together while at the conference, but an EPA spokesperson told the Associated Press that the meeting had been canceled due to scheduling conflicts and that the two men did not discuss chlorpyrifos in their brief hallway interaction.
Immediately following Pruitt's chlorpyrifos decision, several groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a suit against the EPA to reverse the decision. The suit claims that the agency did not reach a proper scientific conclusion on the pesticide because the EPA gave it the greenlight before all relevant studies could be concluded and reported.
Last week, five states and the District of Columbia joined the NRDC's suit against the EPA, claiming that the agency did not fulfill due diligence prior to making the decision on chlorpyrifos.
As reported by The Hill:
"Several groups sued over the decision in June, asking a federal court to force the EPA to take action on the pesticide. The states, led by New York, joined that suit Thursday and also filed a legal complaint of their own directly with the EPA.
'Job Number One for the EPA should be protecting Americans' well-being, especially that of our children,' said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), who is leading the states' action.
'Yet the administration is jeopardizing our kids' health, allowing the use of a toxic pesticide for which it can't even identify a safe level.'
The other states joining the motion are Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Together, they allege the EPA did not make a safety finding before continuing to allow the use of chlorpyrifos."
Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin used to kill insects, but exposure in human beings has been linked to devastating side effects, as Earthjustice pointed out:
"Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children. Prenatal exposures to chlorpyrifos are associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development.
Acute poisoning suppresses the enzyme that regulates nerve impulses in the body and can cause convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and, in extreme cases, death. Chlorpyrifos is one of the pesticides most often linked to pesticide poisonings."
The lawsuits from the states and independent organizations likely represent the best chance for reversing the EPA's decision via the court system. The only disappointing fact is that they are necessary. The EPA's suspicious reversal on a chemical like chlorpyrifos is creating a leadership void in protecting public health and the environment. Instead, its actions show a government too willing to put the interests of corporations over the health of the public.
Reposed with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
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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