Presidential hopeful Joe Biden announced a $2 trillion plan Tuesday to boost American investment in clean energy and infrastructure.
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A brand of bottled water manufactured and sold by grocery-store giant and Amazon subsidiary Whole Foods contains potentially harmful levels of arsenic, according to research conducted by Consumer Reports.
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By Jessica Corbett
Federal regulators on Thursday released a pair of decisions expected to impact the expansion of renewable power nationwide—one that was celebrated by environmentalists and clean energy advocates as a crucial win and another that critics warned "could lead to more pollution by propping up fossil fuel power plants."
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By Eoin Higgins
President Donald Trump's EPA on Thursday finalized a rule to roll back regulations of a chemical found in rocket fuel that can cause brain damage in infants.
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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wrote a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers last week to say that it would not oppose or put a stop to a huge copper and gold mine near the world's largest sockeye salmon fishery, as The Washington Post reported.
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By Melanie Benesh, Legislative Attorney
From the beginning, the Trump administration has aggressively slashed environmental regulations. A New York Times analysis identified 100 environmental protections that have been reversed or are in the process of getting rolled back. The administration's record on chemical safety has been especially hazardous for the health of Americans, especially children.
1. Failed to Aggressively Regulate Toxic ‘Forever Chemicals’<p>The toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS contaminate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/pfas_contamination/" target="_blank">more than 2,200 sites</a> across the nation. Because they never break down in the environment, PFAS are often called "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/these-toxic-chemicals-are-everywhere-and-they-wont-ever-go-away/2018/01/02/82e7e48a-e4ee-11e7-a65d-1ac0fd7f097e_story.html" target="_blank">forever chemicals</a>." They build up in our bodies and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced effectiveness of vaccines. Even though the EPA has known about the risks from PFAS chemicals <a href="https://www.ewg.org/epa-pfas-timeline/" target="_blank">since at least 1998</a>, they remain virtually unregulated.</p><p>In February 2019, the EPA released a toothless PFAS "action plan" that lacked deadlines for action and failed to address the use of PFAS in everyday products, contamination from PFAS air emissions or disposal of PFAS waste, among other concerns. A year and a half later, key goals from the plan, including regulating PFAS under the Superfund law and setting drinking water standards, remain unfulfilled.</p><p>When Congress stepped in and sought to designate PFOA and PFOS – the two most notorious and well-studied PFAS – as "hazardous substances" and to set deadlines for agency action, Trump <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SAP_HR-535.pdf" target="_blank">threatened a veto</a>. Trump's EPA also <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/27/2020-13738/long-chain-perfluoroalkyl-carboxylate-and-perfluoroalkyl-sulfonate-chemical-substances-significant" target="_blank">weakened a rule</a> designed to regulate <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2020/06/final-decision-epa-fails-protect-public-toxic-forever-chemicals-consumer" target="_blank">PFAS in consumer products</a>.</p>
2. Allowed a Rocket Fuel Chemical to Stay in Drinking Water<p>Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel that also frequently contaminates drinking water sources. Perchlorate can interfere with thyroid function, which can also harm <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2017/11/kids-still-risk-rocket-fuel-chemical-food-and-water" target="_blank">childhood brain development</a>.</p><p><a href="https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-02-11/html/2011-2603.htm" target="_blank">Almost a decade ago,</a> the EPA determined that these harms warranted regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The agency then dragged its feet for years. In 2016, the <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/media/2016/160218" target="_blank">Natural Resources Defense Council sued</a> to force the EPA to finally set a legal limit for perchlorate in drinking water. In a <a href="https://www.freshlawblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2016/12/Doc-38-Consent-Decree.pdf" target="_blank">court-approved consent decree</a>, the EPA agreed to propose a standard by October 2018 and finalize it by 2019. However, the EPA sought extensions and failed to meet these deadlines.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/06/26/2019-12773/national-primary-drinking-water-regulations-perchlorate" target="_blank">EPA finally proposed a drinking water standard</a> in June 2019 but also suggested that it might not regulate perchlorate after all. <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/07/21/2020-13462/drinking-water-final-action-on-perchlorate" target="_blank">A year later, </a>the EPA withdrew its decision to regulate perchlorate in drinking water.</p>
3. Allowed Scores of New Chemicals, Including New Toxic PFAS, Onto the Market Without Adequate Oversight<p>In 2016, Congress substantially changed the way new chemicals are approved under the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/new-tsca-bill-falls-short-protecting-americans-toxic-chemicals#.WwLUddMvwWo" target="_blank">Toxic Substances Control Act</a>, or TSCA.</p><p>Under the old law, chemicals were frequently approved by default, often <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/off-the-books-ii-more-secret-chemicals/new-chemicals" target="_blank">without any health and safety information</a>. As a result, unsafe chemicals were allowed to be used for years or decades before the health and environmental hazards came to light. Inadequate oversight of new chemicals can also lead to <a href="https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/harmful-chemicals-removed-from-products-often-replaced-with-something-as-bad-or-worse/" target="_blank">regrettable substitution</a> – when chemicals are finally found to be unsafe, they are often replaced by unstudied chemicals that may be just as or even more toxic.</p><p>The 2016 update was supposed to fix the new chemicals program by requiring the EPA to make an affirmative safety finding on new chemicals and restrict use if industry failed to provide sufficient safety data. Nonetheless, the Trump EPA has approved scores of new chemicals in a process that <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/12/09/when-will-epa-fully-explain-and-legally-justify-its-reviews-of-new-chemicals-under-tsca/" target="_blank">lacks transparency</a> and <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/20200317_comms_pc_tsca_english_final.pdf" target="_blank">contravenes the 2016 law</a>. The EPA has also <a href="https://www.edf.org/blog/2018/09/05/trumps-epa-flouting-law-when-approving-new-chemicals-here-are-3-examples" target="_blank">ignored known health concerns</a>, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/02/21/the-trump-epa-is-throwing-workers-facing-risks-from-new-tsca-chemicals-under-the-bus/" target="_blank">limited its consideration of worker risks</a> and <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2019/06/03/the-trump-epa-is-illegally-denying-requests-for-public-files-on-new-chemicals/" target="_blank">denied requests for public files</a> in the new chemicals program.</p><p>The EPA has also exploited loopholes in the new law to quickly approve new chemicals, including toxic PFAS. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/07/28/greasing-the-skids-the-trump-epa-is-green-lighting-dozens-of-new-pfas-under-tsca/" target="_blank">A recent investigation</a> found that the EPA has been quietly approving new PFAS chemicals, through a provision known as the low volume exemption in the new chemicals program. As a result, the EPA is greenlighting new PFAS chemicals on an expedited basis, without public scrutiny. One PFAS, <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/health/2020/01/27/what-connects-cross-country-skiing-and-chemical-safety/" target="_blank">used in ski wax</a>, was approved despite a finding that the chemical could "waterproof the lungs," resulting in severe health impacts.</p><p>Since the law was updated in 2016, the EPA has reviewed more than <a href="https://www.epa.gov/reviewing-new-chemicals-under-toxic-substances-control-act-tsca/statistics-new-chemicals-review" target="_blank">3,000 new chemicals</a> submissions. More than 1,000 of these chemicals have been approved through the low volume exemption, and since 2016, manufacturers have begun producing at least 900 new chemicals, many without adequate safety data. Environmental groups have <a href="https://earthjustice.org/sites/default/files/files/final_filed_complaint.pdf" target="_blank">sued the EPA</a> over its failures to protect the public and the environment from risks from new chemicals. </p>
4. Failed to Protect Workers From a Deadly Paint-Stripping Chemical<p>Methylene chloride is a highly toxic chemical used in paint strippers that is responsible for <a href="https://saferchemicals.org/us-deaths-from-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">more than 60 deaths</a> since 1980. In the final days of the Obama administration, the <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0231-0001" target="_blank">EPA proposed a ban</a> on "methylene chloride for consumer and most types of commercial paint and coating removal."</p><p>After significant pressure from <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/epa-reconsiders-ban-on-potentially-lethal-paint-stripper-chemical-methylene-chloride/" target="_blank">families who lost loved ones</a> due to methylene chloride exposure, the Trump EPA eventually issued a final rule in 2019. However, the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-bans-consumer-sales-methylene-chloride-paint-removers-protecting-public" target="_blank">EPA narrowed the rule</a> so that it would apply only to consumer<em> uses</em> of methylene chloride, not commercial uses. That means workers are not protected, even though a <a href="https://publicintegrity.org/inequality-poverty-opportunity/workers-rights/epa-restricts-sales-of-deadly-paint-strippers-after-years-of-delays/" target="_blank">Center for Public Integrity investigation</a> found that most deaths from methylene chloride take place at work.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/final-risk-evaluation-methylene-chloride" target="_blank">separate EPA evaluation</a> of methylene chloride found that manufacturing, disposal and several other uses of methylene chloride pose no "unreasonable risk." Environmental groups have filed lawsuits challenging <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2019/trump-s-epa-sued-for-leaving-workers-exposed-to-deadly-chemical-in-paint-strippers" target="_blank">the rule</a> and the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/trumps-epa-sued-over-understating-risks-of-deadly-chemical" target="_blank">recent evaluation</a>.</p>
5. Cooked the Books on the “Civil Action” Chemical<p>Trichloroethylene is a chemical solvent made infamous by the book and movie "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3PHjIly2N0" target="_blank">A Civil Action</a>." The EPA considers it to be a known carcinogen, and it is one of the primary contaminants that sickened scores of veterans who served at <a href="https://psmag.com/environment/what-happened-at-camp-lejeune" target="_blank">Camp Lejeune</a>, in North Carolina.</p><p>As with methylene chloride, in the final days of the Obama administration, the EPA proposed banning three uses of TCE: <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0163-0001" target="_blank">spot cleaning, aerosol degreasing</a> and <a href="https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OPPT-2016-0387-0001" target="_blank">vapor degreasing</a>. In December 2017, the Trump EPA <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-epa-indefinitely-delays-bans-deadly-chemicals" target="_blank">shelved these proposed bans</a>, claiming that it would study those uses in a separate ongoing risk evaluation of TCE.</p><p>However, the EPA dramatically rewrote the accepted science on TCE in the <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-trichloroethylene" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> released in February. As <a href="https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2018/06/industry-s-behest-epa-caves-banning-civil-action-carcinogen-lays-ground" target="_blank">EWG warned</a> in 2018, the solvents industry aggressively lobbied the EPA to ignore a key <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241384/" target="_blank">2003 study</a> finding that TCE causes heart deformities in developing fetuses. TCE's connection with fetal heart defects was an important basis for the Obama EPA's decision to ban three uses of TCE. An <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0890623816303240#bib0190" target="_blank">independent review</a> of the EPA's science found that "prenatal exposure to TCE can cause human cardiac defects" and that the study "remains a valid choice" for assessing risk.</p><p>The lobbyists succeeded. The EPA's draft risk evaluation questioned the study's design and minimized its significance. An <a href="https://www.revealnews.org/article/epa-scientists-found-a-toxic-chemical-damages-fetal-hearts-the-trump-white-house-rewrote-their-assessment/" target="_blank">investigation by Reveal News</a> compared the draft risk evaluation with a leaked earlier draft. It found that the earlier draft had relied extensively on the 2003 study and used it as a benchmark for the risk calculations. Reveal also reported that then-EPA chemicals safety chief Nancy Beck – "<a href="https://www.ewg.org/planet-trump/2017/05/scariest-trump-appointee-you-ve-never-heard" target="_blank">the scariest Trump appointee you've never heard of</a>" – ordered that the risk evaluation be rewritten to downplay the risks of TCE. With the EPA giving significantly less weight to risks from fetal heart deformities, it's unlikely the agency will finalize the proposed bans.</p>
6. Pressured EPA Scientists to Drop Evaluations of Toxic Chemicals – Including Formaldehyde<p>The Trump EPA is undermining the work of independent scientists within the Integrated Risk Information System program, known as IRIS. The program's work is supposed to be impartial and non-political. Its scientific assessments are intended to support the work of other EPA program offices and regional offices. IRIS is a <a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/02/03/epa-iris-toxic-chemicals/" target="_blank">frequent target of chemical industry attacks</a> because its independent safety assessments often don't align with industry objectives.</p><p>In 2018, the Trump EPA tried to <a href="https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3534381/Combined.pdf" target="_blank">defund</a> the IRIS program. EPA leadership also pressured IRIS to drop critical health assessments. In March 2019, <a href="https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/697212.pdf" target="_blank">a Government Accountability Office report</a> disclosed that EPA leadership directed agency offices to limit the number of chemicals they wanted IRIS to review, and cut in half the number of IRIS's ongoing or upcoming assessments.</p><p>One of the halted assessments was IRIS's decades-long review of formaldehyde, a widely used chemical and <a href="https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/content/profiles/formaldehyde.pdf" target="_blank">known human carcinogen</a>. This is surprising because former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt indicated to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in January 2018 that the report was complete and <a href="https://www.markey.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Pruitt%20Letter%20formaldehyde%20assessment.pdf" target="_blank">ready for release</a>. However, answering <a href="https://www.eenews.net/assets/2019/01/29/document_pm_02.pdf" target="_blank">questions for the record</a> following a 2019 Senate hearing, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said formaldehyde was "not a top priority."</p><p>Instead of releasing the IRIS study on formaldehyde to the public, the EPA has instead decided that the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention – under the leadership of Nancy Beck – should <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-finalizes-list-next-20-chemicals-undergo-risk-evaluation-under-tsca" target="_blank">conduct its own assessment</a> of formaldehyde. As with TCE, this action will give the agency an opportunity to distort the science and minimize risks. Because these reviews take years, it will also significantly delay any EPA regulatory action on formaldehyde.</p>
7. Rolled Back Clean Water Protections<p>Industrial chemical pollutants are often discharged into drinking water supplies. But the Trump administration has made it a priority to roll back the<a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/06/29/2015-13435/clean-water-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank"> Clean Water Rule,</a> which more clearly defined which kinds of bodies of water are subject to the Clean Water Act. EWG's analysis found that the Clean Water Rule, if implemented as proposed by the Obama administration, would have protected drinking water sources for more than <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/trump-plan-gut-stream-protections-imperils-tap-water-117-million-americans" target="_blank">117 million Americans</a>.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/31/politics/epa-science-board/index.html" target="_blank">EPA's own science advisors</a> have opposed the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, but the Trump administration <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-completes-repeal-clean-water-rule-imperiling-drinking-water-sources-117m-people" target="_blank">repealed</a> it in 2019, <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/trump-administration-finalizes-repeal-pollution-rule-threatening-drinking-water-sources-117" target="_blank">proposed its own rule</a> in January and <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/21/2020-02500/the-navigable-waters-protection-rule-definition-of-waters-of-the-united-states" target="_blank">finalized it</a> in April. The new rule covers far fewer bodies of water and would leave 234,000 miles of small streams unprotected. EWG estimates that at least 72 million Americans draw at least half their drinking water from small streams.</p><p>Because of the repeal, those bodies of water will no longer be subject to pollution limits. Protection for small and seasonal streams and wetlands is important because they often flow into larger bodies of water, including sources of drinking water. Polluted drinking water sources <a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/agriculture/2017/03/17/judge-dismisses-water-works-nitrates-lawsuit/99327928/" target="_blank">strain municipal water utilities</a> tasked with filtering out contaminants regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act, and risk exposing the public to more <a href="https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/state-of-american-drinking-water.php" target="_blank">contaminants that aren't regulated</a> under the act.</p>
8. Cooked the Books on Asbestos<p>Asbestos is a highly toxic, naturally occurring chemical linked to a particularly deadly form of cancer called <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mesothelioma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375022" target="_blank">mesothelioma</a>. An estimated <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/search?authors=Jukka%20Takala&orcid=0000-0001-5722-7052" target="_blank">40,000 Americans</a> die every year from asbestos-related diseases. Although the toxicity of asbestos is well understood, the EPA has never actually banned most uses. The EPA attempted a ban in 1989, but most of the rule was overturned by <a href="https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6165892895625819539&q=corrosion+proof+fittings+v+epa&hl=en&as_sdt=20006" target="_blank">the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1991.</a></p><p>After Congress reformed TSCA in 2016, the EPA announced that asbestos would be one of the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/research/under-new-safety-law-epa-picks-first-10-chemicals-review" target="_blank">first 10 chemicals</a> reviewed under the new law. Many hoped that this time, the EPA would finally ban asbestos.</p><p>Instead, when the EPA released its <a href="https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/draft-risk-evaluation-asbestos" target="_blank">draft risk evaluation</a> in May, it found that several uses of asbestos, including import of asbestos and asbestos-containing products and distribution of asbestos-containing products, did not pose an unreasonable risk. The EPA made its risk determinations by ignoring exposure from "legacy" uses of asbestos, such as old insulation and building tiles. Although in November the <a href="https://www.ewg.org/release/court-trump-epa-acted-unlawfully-refusing-consider-legacy-use-asbestos-lead" target="_blank">Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals</a> ordered the EPA to fix this error, it has yet to do so.</p><p>Instead of banning asbestos, in April 2019 the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/04/25/2019-08154/restrictions-on-discontinued-uses-of-asbestos-significant-new-use-rule" target="_blank">published a rule</a> requiring notice and approval before manufacturers could resume using it in some applications the agency considered abandoned. However, <a href="https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/815-e-p-a-memos-on-asbestos/12c87a96be998db10048/optimized/full.pdf#page=1" target="_blank">leaked documents</a> show that more than a dozen EPA staffers urged an outright ban on asbestos instead.</p>
9. Proposed a Loophole for Toxic Air Pollution<p>In July 2019, the <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/07/26/2019-14252/reclassification-of-major-sources-as-area-sources-under-section-112-of-the-clean-air-act" target="_blank">Trump EPA proposed to reverse</a> a longstanding policy requiring large power plants, refineries and other industrial polluters to always meet certain strict controls, even after reducing emissions. The new rule creates a loophole in the Clean Air Act regulations that would allow large industrial facilities to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-02/documents/reclassification_of_major_sources_as_area_sources_under_section_112_of_the_clean_air_act.pdf" target="_blank">reclassify themselves</a>, from "major sources" of air pollution to "area sources."</p><p>That change would allow them to opt out of strict pollution control standards, called "maximum achievable control technology," and substantially increase their emissions of dangerous air pollutants. EPA's own data shows that more than <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-07-26/pdf/2019-14252.pdf" target="_blank">3,900 large facilities</a> that <a href="https://www.epa.gov/haps/initial-list-hazardous-air-pollutants-modifications" target="_blank">emit pollutants like mercury and benzene</a> could take advantage of this loophole. <a href="http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2020/02/19/epa-data-emphasizes-danger-of-trump-administrations-air-toxics-loophole/?conversion_pg=www.momscleanairforce.org%2Fthe-racism-of-the-epa-agenda%2F" target="_blank">The Environmental Defense Fund</a> estimates the loophole could increase toxic air emissions by as much as 480 percent, or almost 50 million pounds per year. </p><p>This rollback is especially alarming in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic. Studies have found that people who live in areas with <a href="https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2020/07/17/why-air-pollution-is-linked-to-severe-cases-of-covid-19/" target="_blank">high levels of air pollution</a> are at greater risk for severe cases of COVID-19.</p>
10. Continuing Its Quest to Censor Science<p>In 2018, the EPA <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/04/30/2018-09078/strengthening-transparency-in-regulatory-science" target="_blank">proposed a disastrous rule</a> significantly limiting the kinds of science the agency can rely on to justify environmental regulations. The rule would have prohibited the agency from using studies that don't make their underlying data publicly available or whose results can't be replicated. That change would prevent the EPA from including in its future risk assessments most <a href="https://www.aaas.org/news/scientific-medical-academic-groups-urge-epa-drop-transparency-rule" target="_blank">human health studies</a>, because personal medical data must remain confidential. The rule would undermine studies that are foundational to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/11/climate/epa-science-trump.html" target="_blank">clean air regulations</a>.</p><p>The proposal sparked enormous opposition from scientists, academics and environmental health advocates. More than 600,000 public comments were submitted to the agency, the vast majority in opposition. In September 2019, the EPA dropped the proposal from its regulatory agenda. </p><p>But the Trump EPA is at it again. In March, the agency issued a <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-03/documents/supplemental_notice_of_strengthening_transparency_in_regulatory_science.pdf" target="_blank">supplemental proposal</a> that is actually <a href="https://www.ewg.org/testimony-official-correspondence/ewg-comments-epa-strengthening-transparency-regulatory-science" target="_blank">worse than</a> the original proposal. The 2018 proposal applied to all "dose response" studies, but the new proposal applies to all studies. The new proposal also applies retroactively, which means the EPA could use it to gut existing regulations.</p><p>As these actions – and dozens of others – show, the Trump EPA has aggressively worked to erode and eliminate vital environmental and public health protections. The public needs an EPA that will prioritize people and planet over polluters and profit.</p>
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Supreme Court Rules Atlantic Coast Pipeline Can Cross Appalachian Trail, but the Battle Might Not Be Over
The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 2 Monday that the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) can pass underneath the Appalachian Trail.
The ruling removes one barrier to the pipeline, which has been delayed six years, but it still requires eight other permits, and environmental groups vowed to keep fighting.
"With the ACP still lacking 8 permits, this decision is just plugging just one hole on a sinking ship," director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign Kelly Martin said in a statement. "Nothing in today's ruling changes the fact that the fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a dirty, dangerous threat to our health, climate and communities, and nothing about the ruling changes our intention to fight it."
Supreme Court decision today is dissapointing, but proposed fracked gas pipeline still lacks eight needed permits.… https://t.co/9ZsZ6IPguI— Kelly Sheehan Martin (@Kelly Sheehan Martin)1592248189.0
At stake in Monday's decision is the part of its route that would cross the Appalachian Trail in Central Virginia where the trail overlaps with the George Washington National Forest.
The Forest Service granted the pipeline a permit for the crossing in 2018, but a coalition of environmental groups led by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) sued, arguing that the trail crossing was under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and tossed the Forest Service permit in December of that year.
But the companies appealed and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor Monday, arguing that the Forest Service controlled the land and had just granted the National Park Service a right of way to maintain the trail.
"If a rancher granted a neighbor an easement across his land for a horse trail, no one would think that the rancher had conveyed ownership over that land," Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority, NPR reported.
Only Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan disagreed.
"In her noteworthy dissent, Justice Sotomayor clearly gets what should be obvious: that the Appalachian Trail is land in the National Park system," Natural Resources Defense Council Climate & Clean Energy Program attorney Gillian Gianettti said in a statement. "And under federal law, a pipeline plainly cannot cross land in the National Park system."
Here’s why we’re fighting the #AtlanticCoastPipeline every step of the way: https://t.co/AculcWu8FP— NRDC 🌎🏡 (@NRDC 🌎🏡)1592257093.0
Dominion celebrated the court's decision.
"Today's decision is an affirmation for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and communities across our region that are depending on it for jobs, economic growth and clean energy," the company said in a statement reported by Reuters. "We look forward to resolving the remaining project permits."
However, SELC said the remaining permits could be a major hurdle to the project. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Forest Service permit on three other grounds not covered by the Supreme Court decision, NPR reported. The project also lacks permits relating to its impacts on endangered species, air and water, SELC pointed out.
The organization also pointed out that the decision comes as both Virginia and North Carolina are moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Virginia passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act in April, which requires utilities to shut down all gas plants by 2045. And North Carolina's Clean Energy Plan requires the state to reduce emissions to 70 percent of 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. A pending case before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will determine if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was correct in determining the ACP necessary when it granted it a permit in 2017.
"This is not a viable project," SELC program director DJ Gerken said. "It is still missing many required authorizations, including the Forest Service permit at issue in today's case, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will soon consider the mounting evidence that we never needed this pipeline to supply power. It's time for these developers to move on and reinvest the billions of dollars planned for this boondoggle into the renewable energy that Virginia and North Carolina customers want and deserve."
"This is not a viable project," with 8 permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline still in question, despite today's S… https://t.co/5e32mv1tid— SELC (Environmental Law) (@SELC (Environmental Law))1592248927.0
The Supreme Court decision could greenlight another contested Appalachian pipeline however, Reuters pointed out. The Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would run 300 miles from West Virginia to Southern Virginia, also crosses the Appalachian Trail in the Jefferson National Forest. It is almost finished, but construction at the trail crossing was halted to await the outcome of the ACP case.
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In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.
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By Jessica Corbett
At least 40 U.S. climate and environmental advocacy groups on Friday rallied behind two Louisiana Bucket Brigade activists who are facing felony "terrorizing" charges for leaving a box of plastic pellets collected from Texas waters near a coastal Formosa Plastics facility on the doorstep of a fossil fuel lobbyist in December 2019.
By Emily Holden
The Trump administration is diligently weakening US environment protections even amid a global pandemic, continuing its rollback as the November election approaches.
‘This Is About Who We’re Protecting’<p>Trump's deregulatory agenda has addressed some issues industry would rather were left alone. The agency is changing the way it calculates the benefits of mercury controls for power plants. Companies had already complied with the rule and most didn't want it changed. But the revision is meant to set a precedent for the government to ignore some positive health outcomes of regulation.</p><p>Trump's weakened standards often go against science too, critics say.</p><p>Last month, for example, the EPA decided not to tighten rules for soot pollution, refuting rebutting guidance from experts that more stringent standards would save lives. The EPA has also repopulated advisory boards with representatives from industry and conservative states and is trying to change what science it can consider when developing health protections.</p><p>If a Democrat takes the White House, it will take years to reverse some changes. Moving faster would require Democrats holding both chambers of Congress. Even then, industry would fight hard.</p><p>Christopher Cook, the environment chief for Boston, said Trump's efforts had been "incongruous with all the actions that major cities are taking."</p><p>"The thing I would ask most Americans to consider when they're supporting stronger regulation is that this isn't about what we're protecting against, this is about who we're protecting," Cook said, noting that places with more pollution are faring worse under the coronavirus pandemic.</p><p>"Covid has been a dry run for the climate crisis. We've seen the populations that Covid affects because it attacks the respiratory system. We can't continue with bad air in America."</p>
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