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Zinke's Shrinking of National Monuments and Meetings With Halliburton Could be Center of DOJ Investigation
One of the Department of Interior's (DOI) internal watchdog investigations into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's behavior while in office has been referred to the Justice Department, which only happens when investigators determine there might have been a criminal violation, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Two sources familiar with the investigation broke the news to the press, but did not specify which of the probes into Zinke's actions was involved. A senior White House official only told The Washington Post that the investigation revolved around whether Zinke "used his office to help himself."
The Department of Interior's (DOI) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is currently running three ethics investigations of Zinke. These include whether his decision to shrink Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was partly to benefit a local lawmaker and if conversations with the chair of oil-giant Halliburton about a Montana development project Zinke stands to benefit from constituted a conflict of interest.
"The evidence is mounting that Ryan Zinke has criminally abused his power to exploit taxpayer funds in order to afford the lavish lifestyle he desires while working to enrich his friends in the fossil fuel industry. Now, the chickens are coming home to roost," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "Ryan Zinke has done his best to emulate Scott Pruitt, now it's time he finishes the impersonation and resigns."
The news comes two weeks after rumors that Zinke would replace acting Inspector General Mary L. Kendall with a Trump administration political appointee from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. DOI denied those reports, but Center for Western Priorities Executive Director Jennifer Rokala suggested that they still put the independence of the internal DOI investigation at risk.
"If Interior's inspector general is unable to hold Secretary Zinke accountable without political interference, it's time for career prosecutors at the Justice Department to take over," she said in a statement reported by The Washington Post.
Zinke himself brushed off the Justice Department investigation and said no one from the department had contacted him.
"They haven't talked to me. It will be the same thing as all the other investigations. I follow all rules, procedures, regulations and most importantly the law. This is another politically driven investigation that has no merit," he told CNN.
Ryan Zinke visited Grand Canyon National Park on Sept. 22.U.S. Department of the Interior
These are the three investigations that might get Zinke in criminal trouble:
- Grand Staircase Escalante: When Zinke redrew the boundaries of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, he drew them around a piece of land belonging to a state lawmaker, prompting concerns that he was trading public lands for political favors.
- Halliburton Deal: Zinke has met with Halliburton Chair David Lesar while in office and discussed a Montana real estate development owned by Lesar's son that might include a brewery that the Zinke's would run and could increase the value of land nearby owned by the Zinke's foundation. The DOI is involved with regulating Halliburton.
- Connecticut Casino Controversy: Connecticut lawmakers asked for an investigation into Zinke's handling of a potential Native American casino project. He met with lobbyists opposed to the project, but refused to meet with proponents and may have given false information to the tribes involved.
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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.