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The San Miguel Power Plant, the groundwater beneath a family ranch is contaminated with at least 12 pollutants leaking from coal ash dumps at concentrations more than 100 times above safe levels. Ari Phillips, Environmental Integrity Project

An examination of monitoring data available for the first time concludes that 91 percent of U.S. coal-fired power plants with monitoring data are contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollutants.

The study by the Environmental Integrity Project, with assistance from Earthjustice, used industry data that became available to the public for the first time in 2018 because of requirements in federal coal ash regulations issued in 2015.

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The W. A. Parish Power Plant, owned by NRG Energy, is one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Roy Luck / CC BY 2.0

Power plants across Texas are leaching toxins into groundwater, according to new research. A report released this week from the Environmental Integrity Project found that all of the state's 16 coal-fired power plants are leaching contaminants from coal ash into the ground, and almost none of the plants are properly lining their pits to prevent leakage.

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House Democrats are investigating reports of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), repeatedly taking premium flights funded by taxpayers.

"Americans deserve an EPA Administrator more dedicated to first-class protection of human health and the environment than to luxury travel at taxpayer expense," Energy and Commerce Democratic leaders wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pruitt.

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By Nikolaos Zirogiannis, Alex J. Hollingsworth and David Konisky

When Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast in August 2017, many industrial facilities had to shut down their operations before the storm arrived and restart once rainfall and flooding had subsided.

These shutdowns and startups, as well as accidents caused by the hurricane, led to a significant release of air pollutants. Over a period of about two weeks, data we compiled from the Texas' Air Emission Event Report Database indicates these sites released 2,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and other pollutants.

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Scott Pruitt. Gage Skidmore / Flickr

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on first or business class flights while his aides generally fly coach, according to the Washington Post. Pruitt has also used military jets to travel back and forth to events.

During a two-week stretch in June—around the same time President Trump announced that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement—the EPA boss and his top aides racked up at least $90,000 in taxpayer-funded travel to help tout Trump's agenda, the newspaper reported, citing EPA receipts obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through Freedom of Information Act requests.

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Smoggy downtown Houston. Kyle Jones / Flickr

By Rachel Leven

Engineer Jim Southerland was hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971 to join the nascent war on air pollution. He came to relish the task, investigating orange clouds from an ammunition plant in Tennessee and taking air samples from strip mines in Wyoming. Among his proudest accomplishments: helping the agency develop a set of numbers called emission factors—values that enable regulators to estimate atmospheric discharges from power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants and other industrial operations.

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Irma Omerhodzic

By Martha Roberts

The imposing limestone government building in central Washington where Scott Pruitt holds sway is increasingly operating away from public view with decisions made behind closed doors, once-public information blacked out, and influential insiders taking charge.

As the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Pruitt has also proven elusive, having spent more than half of his days away from Washington amid speculation he's really focused on a future run for Oklahoma senator or governor. His frequent travel to the Midwestern state at taxpayers' expense recently prompted the agency's Inspector General to open an investigation—and yet, Pruitt has found time to quietly and systematically tear down policies that protect our health and safety.

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Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Gage Skidmore/Flickr

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s inspector general has launched a "preliminary investigation" into administrator Scott Pruitt's frequent trips back to his home state of Oklahoma "at taxpayer expense" following congressional requests.

The Office of Inspector General said in a letter it will investigate the "frequency, cost and extent of" Pruitt's travel to Oklahoma through the end of July. The office will also try to determine "whether EPA policies and procedures are sufficiently designed to prevent fraud, waste and abuse with the Administrator's travel that included trips to Oklahoma."

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So far, the Trump administration's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been lighter on the pocketbooks of polluters than previous administrations, collecting 60 percent less in civil penalties than previous administrations had recovered from environmental violators on average by the end of July in their first year after taking office.

Federal records reviewed by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) also show a significant drop in the number of environmental enforcement lawsuits filed against companies for breaking pollution control laws, compared to comparable periods in the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations.

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A coalition of environmental and public health advocates filed suit Wednesday to challenge a Trump administration rollback that could wipe out critical protections for cleaning up America's leading source of toxic water pollution: coal power plant waste.

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By Jonathan Hahn

On President Trump's first Earth Day in the White House, he declared on Twitter that "we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes and lands"—an amiable if blasé arm-punch to the planet from the leader of the free world.

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Photo credit: Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest

The DC Circuit Court ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tuesday to close a loophole that has allowed hazardous substances released into the environment by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to go unreported.

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As incoming President Donald Trump prepares to appoint an anti-regulatory U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator based on claims that environmental regulations "kill jobs," a new report that synthesizes decades of economics research documents that this claim is false.

The Environmental Integrity Project's report, Don't Believe the Job Killer Hype, examines data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as reports from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and more than two dozen economists and researchers.

The federal government data show that only about two tenths of one percent of layoffs are caused by government regulations of any kind, including environmental regulations. Layoffs are caused far more often by corporate buyouts, technological advances and lower overseas labor costs.

"The evidence shows that there is simply no truth to the idea that regulations kill jobs or stifle growth," said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project. "In fact, regulations provide huge economic benefits to our society, with minimal, though generally positive, effects on jobs and productivity. On the other hand, the absence of regulation can have severe economic consequences, with perhaps the most notable example being the 2008 financial collapse."

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate held a confirmation hearing on Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as Trump's pick to serve as the next EPA Administrator. Pruitt has made a career of repeatedly suing EPA for its "overreach" and has promised to make "regulatory rollback" a top goal.

President Elect Trump's website praises Pruitt for his opposition to what it calls "job killing" regulations. The Trump website features quotes praising Pruitt including this one from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott: "I look forward to working with Scott as he brings common-sense policies to a federal agency that has been one of the biggest job-killers in the Obama administration."

This term has been used repeatedly by Trump and Congressional Republicans, but an examination of economics data and literature reveals that the claim lacks a factual foundation and is just an empty rhetorical device that journalists should challenge and the public should reject.

Here are the facts, all of which are backed up by detailed citations listed in the report:

  • According to information reported by employers to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only two tenths of one percent of mass layoffs—defined as more than 50 people laid off for at least 30 days—are caused by government intervention or regulations (of any kind, not just environmental regulations).
  • For every job lost due to regulations, 15 are lost due to corporate cost cutting and 30 are lost due to changes in the ownership of business or other organizational changes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • A 2014 review paper from the London School of Economics concluded that the effect of environmental regulations on the competitiveness of businesses is "negligible compared to other factors such as market conditions and the quality of the local workforce."
  • Over the last decade, the benefits of environmental regulations have exceeded the costs they impose by a ratio of more than ten to one, according to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
  • All told, major regulations provide net economic benefits to the U.S. of more than $500 billion per year.
  • A 2014 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that stronger environmental policies lead to short-term gains in productivity growth, resulting in permanently higher levels of productivity.
  • Clean air and water regulations often require power companies and municipalities to hire construction workers and engineers to build filtration systems. A report prepared for the Utility Air Regulatory Group estimated that the installation of a sulfur dioxide scrubber on a 500-Megawatt coal plant, for example, creates more than 100 full-time jobs for three years.
  • In 2009, Economists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found that per dollar of spending, solar and wind energy projects create twice as many jobs as coal or natural gas, including more jobs in manufacturing and construction and more "high-credentialed" jobs at an average hourly wage of $24.50.

Abel Russ, attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project and author of the report, noted that by selecting Scott Pruitt to run and possibly dismantle EPA, Trump appears to buy into the argument that it's better to delegate environmental regulations away from the federal government and towards the states.

"If this happens, we may also see a repeat of what some economists observed during President Reagan's efforts at deregulation in the 1980s," Russ said. "States with stronger environmental policies will outperform weak states and create more jobs, while states with weak environmental policies will suffer. Senators should keep this in mind when they vote on Pruitt's confirmation during the hearing this week."