UCS Sues to Stop EPA from Kicking Independent Experts Off Advisory Boards
By Josh Goldman
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Protect Democracy—a legal non-profit dedicated to preventing our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government—have teamed up to challenge U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt's directive that would ban anyone from serving on EPA advisory boards if they receive EPA grant funding.
Under the guise of improving advisory board balance, Pruitt is using this directive to populate advisory boards with industry-funded scientists and state government officials who have made a career fighting federal regulations. The EPA Science Advisory Board, for example, now includes 14 new members who consult or work for the fossil fuel or chemical industries, which gave Pruitt nearly $320,000 for his campaigns in Oklahoma as a state senator and attorney general.
Banning EPA grant recipients from EPA advisory boards excludes academic scientists from serving on EPA advisory boards in particular, since academics often rely on outside funding—from EPA or elsewhere—to conduct research, fund graduate students, and work in the public interest. For example, EPA grants have funded research linked with projects that: protect children who are at-risk for lead poisoning in Indiana, restore coastal forests in Connecticut, and maintain clean drinking water in Mississippi. It's hard to argue why conducting research in support of these types of projects would make someone provide biased advice to EPA, yet that's the reasoning that Pruitt uses to justify this directive. The reality is that industry-funded science tends to be biased, not science from independent academic institutions.
The scientists that Pruitt has removed from EPA advisory boards also happen to be some of our country's best. Those already dismissed include a Fulbright Scholar and a member of the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, for example. Pruitt has replaced these leaders with scientists who work for the fossil fuel, tobacco and chemical industries and have a history of downplaying the health risks of secondary smoke, air pollution and other public health hazards.
The real reasoning behind this directive is to make it easier for Pruitt to delay, rollback or dismantle the EPA regulations that are designed to protect clean air, water and public health. As we begin 2018, EPA is reconsidering rules that would address: the high asthma and cancer rates caused by heavy-duty trucks on busy roadways, the huge amount of global warming emissions from passenger vehicles, and the outdated emergency response requirements for facilities that store explosive or hazardous chemicals. These types of regulations rely on advise from EPA advisory boards, which are now more likely to support Pruitt in loosening rules that cover the industries tied to the new EPA advisory board members.
Our suit challenging the advisory board directive, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, alleges that the Pruitt directive is arbitrary and capricious (legalese for b.s.), and has no basis in law or EPA precedent. Our complaint also details how this directive violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires all advisory committees to be "fairly balanced," and not be "inappropriately influenced" by the appointing authority.
I'll keep you posted on how this suit develops. In the interim, if you have received EPA funding or have served on an EPA advisory committee, send me your story at (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Even if you aren't an EPA-connected expert, check out how you can get more involved in the fight against Pruitt's anti-science crusade by visiting the UCS action center. This administration needs to hear from everyone, not just scientists and UCS provides a platform for you to join the hundreds of thousands of UCS supporters across the country in standing up for independent scientists and an EPA that seeks to protect public health, not industry profits.
Josh Goldman is a lead policy analyst managing legislative and regulatory campaigns to help develop and advance policies that reduce U.S. oil use.
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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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