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Pruitt’s Parting Attack on America's Air Could Cost 1,600 Lives
In his last day at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Friday, ousted Administrator Scott Pruitt left a parting gift for polluters, and took a parting shot at America's lungs. Pruitt acted to remove a cap on the number of glider trucks—new truck bodies built without engines or transmission that produce 55 times the air pollution of trucks with new engines using up-to-date pollution controls—through December 2019, the New York Times reported.
The Obama administration had worked to limit the number of gliders produced each year to 300, Vox reported. Glider trucks were introduced as a way to recycle older truck parts like engines from trucks damaged in accidents, but, as pollution controls on newer engines improved, some truck buyers saw them as a way to save on more expensive pollution controls that can reduce fuel economy.
Glider production had increased from 1,000 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2015, and Obama's EPA estimated that if those trends continued, the trucks would account for half of all truck-caused nitrogen oxide pollution by 2030. It further found that forcing gliders to use up-to-date engines could save 350 to 1,600 lives over the life of the vehicles, according to Vox.
Pruitt's move reverses the 300 truck cap imposed in January of this year, the New York Times reported.
The move was roundly opposed by environmental and conventional trucking groups, including the American Lung Association, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), United Parcel Service and the Volvo Group.
EDF general counsel Vickie Patton blamed both Pruitt and his second-in-command Andrew Wheeler, who will take over as acting administrator, for the decision.
"Pruitt and Wheeler are creating a loophole for super polluting freight trucks that will fill our children's lungs with toxic diesel pollution, ignoring public comments from moms and leading businesses across the country," she told The New York Times.
An EPA spokesperson told the New York Times the agency hopes to repeal the cap altogether by the end of 2019.
The decision comes after Tommy Fitzgerald Sr., CEO of Fitzgerald Glider Kits, the largest glider truck company in the U.S., met with President Donald Trump on the campaign trail and Pruitt after the election, according to Vox.
"Our goose was cooked until President Trump and Pruitt came to town, Fitzgerald wrote in The Daily Caller in April.
Pruitt also moved to reverse the cap after Fitzgerald donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican Representative for Tennessee Diane Black, who is also running for governor in the state, and Black asked Pruitt to act on the reversal, the New York Times reported.
Pruitt had first said he would reverse the 300 truck limit in 2017, but the White House asked him to do a more thorough investigation of the economic and environmental impacts of doing so. Opponents of the plan have appealed to the White House to intervene again, according to the New York Times.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.