Communities Demand Trump and Pruitt 'Stop Pandering to Billionaire Coal Executives' and Protect Their Families
Community leaders from across the U.S. traveled to Washington, DC, Monday to testify at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Effluent Limitations Guidelines (ELG) hearing, demanding Donald Trump and his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, stop pandering to billionaire coal executives and protect every family and community from coal plants dumping toxic, industrial sludge into their drinking water supplies.
The EPA hearing was held to discuss Pruitt's decision to delay compliance deadlines for strengthened protections against coal plant wastewater dumping. Prior to their testimony at the hearing, local community leaders, concerned citizens and environmental group leaders held a press conference at the National Press Club to share their personal stories on how coal plants pollute their local water supplies. After the press conference, they traveled to EPA headquarters to testify at the hearing, where a mobile billboard reading "polluted wastewater is hard to swallow" circled.
In his testimony, Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. countered the utilities' claims that making these investments would cause harm, comparing the harm to industry profits to the lasting developmental harm that mercury has on children. He also questioned the basis for the EPA hearing.
"This hearing is illegal," Kennedy said. "I know the Clean Water Act and Administrative Procedure Act backwards and forwards. Nothing in there gives you authority to suspend a rule. There has already been a rulemaking that gave us the limits that EPA is now trying to destroy."
Before being strengthened in 2015, EPA hadn't updated clean water protections for coal plant dumping in more than 30 years. The previous, decades-old standards allowed coal plants to release billions of pounds of contaminated wastewater directly into our rivers, lakes, and bays every year. This wastewater contains dangerous and toxic heavy metals like mercury, arsenic and lead, which can cause long-term health problems, especially in children and pregnant women. They can cause cancer, impair mental development and learning ability, and even threaten a child's life. Due to this lack of oversight, nearly 40 percent of all coal plants dump their toxic pollution within five miles of a downstream community's drinking water intake. The 2015 ELGs were an important and long-overdue step toward cleaner water for all Americans, which Pruitt now threatens to reverse.
"Today, the millions of people that Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are putting at risk in their mad dash to appease polluters are actually being represented in Washington," Mary Anne Hitt, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said.
"For those who traveled all the way to our nation's capitol to testify before the EPA, and the many more who submitted comments, today's fight is about getting the peace of mind that our water is safe to drink," Hitt continued. "It's about giving our children glasses of water and knowing it won't make them sick. And most importantly, it's about making sure that our government will put our health, and the health of every other American before the profits of billionaire coal executives that want four country homes instead of the two. We are standing together demanding that Trump and Pruitt follow the law and protect our communities from industrial sludge being dumped into our waterways."
Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Pete Harrison added, "The Trump administration is resorting to increasingly absurd and illegal tactics to elevate the most powerful polluters above the law. It's encouraging to see so many people come to Washington to demand protections for their water, even in the face of this administration's wanton disregard for the safety of the American people."
Watch the video from the press conference here:
Just Released Docs Show Monsanto 'Executives Colluding With Corrupted EPA Officials to Manipulate Scientific Data'
By Carey Gillam
Four months after the publication of a batch of internal Monsanto Co. documents stirred international controversy, a new trove of company records was released early Tuesday, providing fresh fuel for a heated global debate over whether or not the agricultural chemical giant suppressed information about the potential dangers of its Roundup herbicide and relied on U.S. regulators for help.
More than 75 documents, including intriguing text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, were posted for public viewing early Tuesday morning by attorneys who are suing Monsanto on behalf of people alleging Roundup caused them or their family members to become ill with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. The attorneys posted the documents, which total more than 700 pages, on the website for the law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, one of many firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who are pursuing claims against Monsanto. More than 100 of those lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in federal court in San Francisco, while other similar lawsuits are pending in state courts in Missouri, Delaware, Arizona and elsewhere. The documents, which were obtained through court-ordered discovery in the litigation, are also available as part of a long list of Roundup court case documents compiled by the consumer group I work for, U.S. Right to Know.
It was important to release the documents now because they not only pertain to the ongoing litigation, but also to larger issues of public health and safety, while shedding light on corporate influence over regulatory bodies, according to Baum Hedlund attorneys Brent Wisner and Pedram Esfandiary.
"This is a look behind the curtain," said Wisner. "These show that Monsanto has deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. They [Monsanto] have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators."
Esfandiary said public dissemination of the documents is important because regulatory agencies cannot properly protect public and environmental health without having accurate, comprehensive and impartial scientific data, and the documents show that has not been the case with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and the active ingredient glyphosate.
When reached for comment, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one of the plaintiffs' lawyers said, "This trove marks a turning point in Monsanto's corporate life. They show Monsanto executives colluding with corrupted EPA officials to manipulate and bury scientific data to kill studies when preliminary data threatened Monsanto's commercial ambitions, bribing scientists and ghostwriting their publications, and purchasing peer review to conceal information about Roundup's carcinogenicity, its toxicity, its rapid absorption by the human body, and its horrendous risks to public health and the environment."
"We can now prove that all Monsanto's claims about glyphosate's safety were myths concocted by amoral propaganda and lobbying teams," Kennedy continued. "Monsanto has been spinning its lethal yarn to everybody for years and suborning various perjuries from regulators and scientists who have all been lying in concert to American farmers, landscapers and consumers. It's shocking no matter how jaded you are! These new revelations are commensurate with the documents that brought down big tobacco."
Several of the document discuss a lack of robust testing of formulated Roundup products. In one email, Monsanto scientist Donna Farmer writes "you cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen ... we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement. The testing on the formulations are not anywhere near the level of the active ingredient."
The release of the documents Tuesday came without the blessing of Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing the multidistrict litigation moving its way through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In March, Chhabria did agree to unseal several other discovery documents—over Monsanto's objections—and those documents prompted a wave of outrage for what they revealed: questionable research practices by Monsanto, cozy ties to a top official within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and indications that Monsanto may have engaged in "ghostwriting," of research studies that appeared to be independent of the company.
The revelations within those documents prompted an investigation by the EPA's Office of Inspector General into possible Monsanto-EPA collusion, and roiled Europe where regulators now are trying to decide whether or not to reauthorize glyphosate, which is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is found in numerous products in addition to Roundup.
The lawyers said they are sending copies of the documents to European authorities, to the EPA's OIG and to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which has been sued by Monsanto for moving to list glyphosate as a known carcinogen
Monsanto has fought to keep most of the documents it turned over in discovery sealed, complaining to Judge Chhabria that in several court filings plaintiffs' attorneys presented discovery materials out of context and tried to exploit the information to influence public opinion. Chhabria has both chided Monsanto for trying to improperly seal certain documents and warned plaintiffs' attorneys against unfairly publicizing certain documents. It is unclear how Judge Chhabria will react, if at all, to the law firm's release of these more than 75 documents.
Baum Hedlund attorneys said they notified Monsanto on June 30 of their intent to unveil the 75+ documents and gave Monsanto the legally required 30-day window to formally object. That period expired Monday, clearing the way for them to make the release early Tuesday, said Wisner.
Concerns about the safety of glyphosate and Roundup have been growing for years amid mounting research showing links to cancer or other diseases. But the lawsuits only began to accumulate after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. The plaintiffs in the lawsuits allege that the combination of glyphosate with certain surfactants used in Monsanto-branded Roundup products is even more toxic than glyphosate alone, and Monsanto has sought to cover up that information.
Monsanto has publicly denied that there are cancer connections to glyphosate or Roundup and said 40 years of research and scrutiny by regulatory agencies around the world confirm its safety.
Monsanto has made billions of dollars a year for decades from its glyphosate-based herbicides, and they are the linchpin to billions of dollars more it makes each year from the genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops it markets. The company is currently moving toward a planned merger with Bayer AG.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Monsanto, the maker of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, filed a motion June 16 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to reconsider the chemical's addition to California's Proposition 65 list of agents known to cause cancer.
The agrochemical giant made this move based on a June 14 Reuters investigation of Dr. Aaron Blair, a lead researcher on the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) committee, that classified glyphosate as a "2A probable human carcinogen" in March 2015.
On June 22, Monsanto's petition for review and application for stay were denied by the court.
Earlier this year, California became the first state to consider requiring Monsanto to label glyphosate as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Prop 65. The designation was compelled by the IARC's glyphosate classification.
Glyphosate is at the center of hundreds of cancer lawsuits in which plaintiffs across the U.S. claim that they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma due to exposure to Monsanto's Roundup, pointing in part to the IARC cancer classification.
But the St. Louis-based agrochemical maker has vehemently defended the safety of its star product and has previously attempted to block the herbicide from California's cancer list.
The Reuters piece accused Dr. Blair, a top epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, for failing to share "important" scientific data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) he conducted with other scientists to assess the herbicide glyphosate for the IARC. IARC scientists, including Dr. Blair, reviewed a wide body of published, peer-reviewed scientific research on glyphosate and determined in March of 2015 that glyphosate should be classified as a probable human carcinogen. The Reuters' article assumed that IARC scientists were unaware of the additional AHS data and that if the IARC had known of this missing data, its conclusion could have been different. However, Dr. Blair, who worked on the AHS study and the IARC analysis testified [starting on page 70] that he supported IARC's carcinogenicity finding notwithstanding the AHS results, repeatedly asserting that the AHS study was unfinished and unpublished, and IARC required that findings only rely upon studies that were complete, therefore the incomplete AHS data could not have been relied upon by IARC scientists.
Monsanto and its industry allies accused Blair of deliberately concealing data. Blair called the accusations "absolutely incorrect." Reuters reported that IARC is "sticking with its findings." As stated above, the organization only considers published, peer-reviewed research.
Some scientists have since voiced concerns with the AHS cited in the story. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, said the Reuters report "omits the fact that the data from the other epidemiology studies (all case control studies), and the meta-analyses, clearly show a statistically significant increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with glyphosate exposure."
Other concerns of the study include the failure to use an appropriate latency period for cancers, the control group having an elevated risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and exposure misclassification.
Some consumer advocates have also suggested "flaws" within the Reuters story itself. Carey Gillam, a veteran journalist who spent 17 years at Reuters before joining the nonprofit consumer group U.S. Right to Know in 2016, claimed "Monsanto clearly planted that false and misleading story with Reuters and now is exploiting the carefully spun story to try to gain political advantage."
"A careful reading of the documents that the story is based on indicates that Reuters cherry-picked points that furthered Monsanto's agenda while ignoring points that ran counter to Monsanto's position," Gillam continued. "It certainly is also noteworthy that while Reuters described the documents as 'court documents,' implying their reporter got them through the court system rather than from Monsanto and friends, they were not in fact filed in court and so had to be hand-fed to Reuters. It's unfortunate that Reuters has allowed itself to be used to promote Monsanto's propaganda, but hopefully regulators can see through the ruse."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Monsanto's motion "a classic smoke and mirrors flimflam." The environmental attorney is co-leading lawsuits on behalf of dozens of California residents and hundreds of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma throughout the U.S. who allege Roundup causes cancer.
"Its basis is the company's deceptive spin on a study so badly flawed that it could not pass peer review and was never published," Kennedy added. "Like all of its other products and campaigns, Monsanto's motion is equal parts poison, deception and chutzpah."
This is an excerpt from Dick Russell's and my new book, Horsemen of the Apocalypse, an eye opening exposé of the people and corporations most responsible for today's climate crisis and their roles in President Trump's new administration.
Not long ago, the legendary economist Amory Lovins showed me two photos, taken 10 years apart, of the New York City Easter Parade. A 1903 shot looking north from midtown showed Fifth Avenue crowded with a hundred horse and buggies and a solitary automobile. The second, taken in 1913 from a similar vantage on the same street, depicted a traffic jam of automobiles and a single lonely horse and buggy.
That momentous shift occurred because, over a 13-year period, Henry Ford dropped the nominal price of the Model-T by 62 percent. While wealthy New Yorkers led the transition, the remainder of America quickly followed. Between 1918 and 1929, according to Stanford University lecturer Tony Seba, American car ownership rocketed from eight percent of Americans to eighty percent - because DuPont and General Motors devised a financial innovation called car loans, which soon accounted for three quarters of auto purchases. The buggy drivers never saw it coming.
Compare that platform for disruption to the economic fundamentals of today's solar industry. Over the past five years, photovoltaic module prices have dropped 80 percent, and analogous home solar financing innovations have spread like wildfire. Three-quarters of California's rooftop solar has been innovatively financed, with no money down, including the system I installed on my own home. NRG Solar leased me a rooftop solar array with zero cost to myself and a guaranteed sixty percent drop in my energy bills for twenty years. Who wouldn't take that deal? And solar costs continue to drop every day.
Dramatic drops have also plummeted the cost of utility-scale solar plants to around $1 billion a gigawatt. Compare this to the $3 to $5 billion per gigawatt cost of constructing a new coal or gas plant, and the $6 to 9 billion per gigawatt cost for a nuclear plant. We can make energy by burning prime rib if we choose to, but any rational utility seeking the cheapest, safest form of energy is going to choose wind or solar. That's why, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in the first eleven months of 2016 renewables constituted more than 50 percent of newly installed electrical generation capacity—surpassing natural gas, nuclear power, coal and oil combined. Let's face facts. The carbon incumbents are looking at their own imminent apocalypse.
And the real savings for solar and wind comes at the back end—ZERO FUEL COSTS! Unlimited photons rain down on the earth every day for free. Transitioning to clean fuel only requires that we build the infrastructure to harvest and distribute the photons. That infrastructure will bless America with a magical promised era of "free fuel forever."
Internal combustion engines are racing toward the same kind of apocalyptic disruption as the horse and buggy. According to calculations by John Walker of the Rocky Mountain Institute, the current operating cost of an electric car is about one-tenth the cost of an internal combustion engine. The range and performance of EVs now exceeds those of traditional gasoline cars. That's why the world's 15 top auto companies all launched new EVs in 2015. If you believe in free markets, then the day of the internal combustion engine is over.
The markets have already seen the future. The top 50 coal companies are now either in Chapter 11 bankruptcy or on the brink. The three largest coal companies—Arch, Consol and Peabody—have lost 80 percent of their value over the last two years. Looking at these landscapes, Lovins remarked to me, "The meteor has hit. The dinosaurs are doomed. It's just that some of them are still walking around causing trouble."
With these rich indices of imminent change, America, prior to the 2016 election, was on the verge of leading the global transformation away from destructive reliance on the dirtiest, filthiest, poisonous, addictive, war-mongering fuels from hell, to a sunny new age of innovation and entrepreneurship, of abundant and dignified jobs, of a democratized energy system and widespread wealth creation, powered by the clean, green, healthy, wholesome and patriotic fuels from heaven.
Renewable energy like wind and solar create high paying jobs, promote small businesses, create wealth, democratize our energy sector, give us local, resilient power and reduce dependence on foreign carbon. They are therefore good for the economy, good for our national security and good for democracy and our country.
And every American will benefit from the cornucopia of economic and political bounties that accompany a decarbonized nation—no more poisoned air and water, but clean rivers and bountiful oceans, with fish that are safe to eat. No more exploded mountain ranges. No more crippling oil spills in the Gulf, in Alaska or Santa Barbara. No more worries about acid rain deforesting our purple mountains majesty and sterilizing our lakes. No more fretting about acidified oceans destroying our coral reefs, and collapsing global food chains and fisheries. No more ozone and particulate pollution sickening and killing millions of our citizens. No more damaged crops and corroding buildings. No more tyrannical petro-states subjugating their peoples and victimizing their neighbors. And no more oil wars.
While enticing to most Americans and consistent with the historical idealism of an exemplary nation, this portrait of the future represents a fearful nightmare for a certain segment of our population—a segment that is willing to mount all-out civil war to prevent it from happening, an apocalyptic war that threatens to sacrifice the planet.
And we are engaged, as Abraham Lincoln declared, "In a great Civil War." In the 1860s, it took a bloody Civil War for America to transition away from an archaic and immoral energy system—one dependent on free human labor. In 1865, the entrenched interests who profited from that system were willing to sacrifice our country and half a million lives to maintain their profits.
This time, instead of a slave-holding gentry, the entrenched defenders of the system are the carbon tycoons described by Dick Russell in Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These are the apocalyptic forces of ignorance and greed that are out to liquidate our planet for cash.
Russell shows that, to the extent they have a moral compass, it's pointed straight at hell. Like the Horsemen from the Book of Revelation, these actions are herding humanity toward a dystopian nightmare of their creation. The archetypal Horsemen are David and Charles Koch, whom you will meet in Chapter Eight. Koch Industries, you will learn, is not a benign corporation. It's the template of 'disaster capitalism,' the command center of an organized scheme to undermine democracy and impose a corporate kleptocracy that will allow greedy billionaires to cash in on mass extinction in our biosphere and the end of civilization. To the Koch brothers, the renewable revolution is their personal apocalypse that must be averted at all costs.
With their industry bereft of its economic rationale, the only way the carbon incumbents can maintain their economic dominance is by deploying their wealth and political power to subdue the market forces, to delay and derail cheap efficient renewables and to impose a continued dependence on expensive and inefficient oil and coal, through massive economic interventions managed by their political toadies. The Koch brothers have become the masterminds of this strategy. They sit at the apex of the richest industry in the history of the planet, and control the largest privately owned oil company on Earth. Their strategic advantage in the battle over the future of our energy system includes their enormous personal wealth and the wealth and power of the companies they control. Their carefully cultivated political connections and, above all, societal inertia, fortified by $23 trillion of carbon infrastructure, that impedes America's transition to a new energy economy. While owned by the industry, that infrastructure, ironically, was primarily paid for by taxpayers. These form the carbon cartel's principal arsenals in the great civil war.
As economic forecasts for the industry have grown increasingly dire over the past decade, the carbon cartel has moved frantically to build more infrastructure including LNG facilities, refineries, coal and oil export terminals and rail terminals, in order to bind up America in 16,000 miles of new pipeline that will further shackle our country, ironbound, to an archaic and destructive fossil fuel economy long after any economic rationale for coal, oil or gas have expired. The infrastructure strategy effectively recruits bankers, pension funds and Wall Street financial houses to the side of antiquated carbon, in this civil war. The only hope for those investors to recoup their investments is if oil flows continuously through those pipelines for the next 30 years.
Dick Russell largely completed this book a month before the 2016 presidential election. Four weeks later, to his great surprise, the Horsemen described in these pages assumed the pinnacle of power. With the central goal of preserving their fossil fuel profits, they guided an inexperienced president on a course that rapidly collapsed the foundations of America's moral authority and idealism, and fundamentally altered the relationship between America and the world—including our reputation as a global force for good. Their reigning foreign policy posture was an indifference to America's traditional concerns with justice, democracy and climate; to our historic skepticism toward tyrants; and to those traditional alliances that have promoted global stability since World War II. Domestically, Trump's advisors turned their attention to dismantling the science safety net and commoditizing and monetizing every aspect of human discourse—adopting policies that will amplify the wealth of billionaires, even as they sicken our citizens and destroy our planet. The Book of Revelation described the Four Horsemen as war, conquest, pestilence and death. Donald Trump's choice, to invite a group of conscienceless oil men to govern the country, has brought such chilling metaphors to the foreground, as more than an obscure biblical reference.
In the summer of 2016, it seemed that a convoy of clown cars was transporting Donald Trump, in what would become his unlikely blitzkrieg toward the GOP nomination. I was oddly relieved. Like other Americans, I believed that Donald Trump would be an easy candidate to stop in the November General Election. More importantly, Trump didn't seem as purposefully malicious toward the future of the planet as were his principal rivals, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Rick Perry. I had known Donald Trump for many years. I had successfully sued to block him from building two golf courses in the New York upstate reservoir watershed. I knew he was no friend of the environment, but neither did he appear to be ideologically hidebound to a pro-pollution world view. Indeed, he seemed less shackled to dogma, or obligated by encumbrances than any other Republican presidential candidate. He had no obvious fealty to the oil industry. Alone among the 17 rivals for the Republican nomination, Trump had never taken money from the oil and gas tycoons. Most comforting, there seemed to be a deep gulf of enmity between Trump and the billionaire Koch brothers, the undisputed leaders of Russell's Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Taken together, Charles and David Koch, with $48 billion apiece, are the richest men on Earth, according to Forbes' latest list. (Bill Gates has $86 billion). The siblings' father, Fred Koch, had made a fortune building refineries for Hitler and Stalin and used his money to co-found the racist John Birch Society. The boys, Charles and David, have deployed their oil-and-gas fortune to bankroll an array of think-tanks and politicians opposing clean energy and remedial action on climate change.
Teddy Roosevelt observed that American democracy could never be destroyed by a foreign foe. But he warned that our defining democratic institutions would be subverted from within by "malefactors of great wealth."
Because of their singular focus and limitless wealth, I considered David and Charles Koch, rather than this orange haired GOP candidate, the greatest threat to American democracy. Politics is driven by both money and political intensity. While they have plenty of money, the Koch brothers' policy agenda—tax breaks for the rich, unregulated pollution and permanent national reliance on dirty fuels—does not make an attractive vessel for populism. In order to recruit ground troops, the Koch brothers have made themselves wizards in the alchemy of demagoguery, wielding evangelical religion, dog-whistle race baiting, and patriotism as flypaper to their cause. They have built extensive organizations to engineer a hostile takeover of our democracy by polluting corporations.
In her book Dark Money, Jayne Mayer shows how the two oil men conceived and funded the Tea Party movement, which hijacked the Republican party and drove it to the far right. In order to consolidate power over the past two decades, they worked out and financed a methodical project to take over state legislatures. Their lucre and organizing machine have helped to give right wing Republicans control of 67 of 98 legislatures—the bodies that draw up election districts. With those levers in hand, their lackeys in the various state capitals use gerrymandering, voter fraud, voter ID laws and mass voter purges, to engineer permanent Republican majorities on the state and federal level. Their Tea Party movement took over the U.S. Congress—and blocked Obama's environmental agenda with the resilience fortified by their control of the statehouses. But the biggest electoral prize the Koch brothers had yet to achieve was to have their candidate take the White House, with the power to populate and dismantle the agencies, primarily Energy, Interior and EPA, that regulate—and bedevil—the Kochs' industries. They had many willing errand boys among the Republican presidential field, and, with one notable orange-topped exception, just about all of the GOP candidates had made the pilgrimage to Wichita to genuflect and kiss the rings at Koch headquarters.
The Koch brothers claim, in their rhetoric, to embrace a theology of free market capitalism. But if you look at their feet instead of listening to the seductive noises that issue from their mouths, or the glossy pronouncements of their phony think tanks, the truth is clear; these men despise free markets. Instead, they advocate for a system of cushy socialism for the rich, and a savage, merciless, dystopian capitalism for the poor. The real purpose of the 'think tanks' they created and fund—such as the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute—is not to promote free market capitalism, but to gin up the philosophical underpinnings for a scheme of unrestrained corporate profit taking, and a destructive national addiction to carbon based fuels upon which their fortunes rely.
As discussed earlier, new renewable technologies are now so efficient that wind and solar generation and electric cars are beating their carbon-based competitors, even in the rigged markets and on slanted playing fields. Carbon's economic model is looking at the same bleak future the horse and buggy industry faced in 1903. So what do you do when your profits rely on a fading economic model? If you are the unscrupulous Koch brothers, you deploy your money as campaign contributions – a legalized form of bribery—to get your hooks into a public official who will allow you to privatize the commons, dismantle the market-place and rig the rules to give you monopoly control. Renewable energy sources and free markets pose an existential threat to the Koch's business model. So the Kochs have deployed their front group, ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—in every state, working with local legislators to create public subsidies for oil infrastructure, and to weaken support for wind and solar. The Koch brothers' purpose in purchasing our political system is to engineer monumental subsidies and market failure, which are their formulae for profit.
The Kochs' political ascendancy was facilitated by another oilman, George W. Bush. A decade ago, I wrote a best-selling book, Crimes Against Nature, detailing Bush's war against the environment. As is almost always the case, environmental catastrophe was preceded, in the Bush debacle, by the subversion of democracy. Bush landed in the White House after a stacked Supreme Court, dominated by his father's appointees, issued a partisan 4-3 decision freezing the 2000 election Florida vote count that would have shown Bush losing both the popular vote and the Electoral College. Bush thereby stole the presidency from Senator Al Gore, the greenest presidential candidate in our history.
That decision turned the White House over to two Texas oilmen, Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, who was the CEO of oil service company Halliburton and the owner of millions of dollars of Halliburton stock, which would appreciate enormously during Cheney's administration. Seventeen of the top twenty-one people in the new administration hailed from the oil patch or allied industries. Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, was on the board of Chevron, which named an oil tanker after her. His ascendancy to the Presidency was the beginning of a hostile takeover of our government by the oil industry, which would finally be completed by President Trump.
Transforming America into a petro-state was not just bad for the environment, it was a disaster for American democracy. Cheney immediately convened 90 days of secret meetings with carbon and nuclear industry CEOs, during which he invited the nation's worst polluters to rewrite environmental laws to make it easy to drill, to burn, to extract, to frack, to ship and to distribute, carbon fuel. It was an all-out victory for the carbon industry and an unconditional defeat for humanity. Even as they dismantled America's environmental laws, Bush and Cheney stocked the regulatory agencies with industry lackeys and profiteering cronies who weakened and auctioned off America's public lands and forests to their campaign contributors, at fire sale prices.
The oil and coal industries, are, by nature, authoritarian. A nation's political system generally reflects the economic organization of its principal industries. In a dynamic known as the 'resource curse,' nations dominated by carbon industries customarily tilt toward autocracy and away from democracy. When oil money merges with political power, the outcome is almost always the same: yawning gaps between rich and poor; the expansion of military, police and intelligence apparatus; the diminution of civil and human rights; the disappearance of transparency and public participation in government; the expanded popularity of torture, detention and eavesdropping; the use of nationalistic propaganda and deceit to win elections, and to justify unpopular politics; and an aggressive, bellicose and imperialistic foreign policy. Under George W. Bush, the carbon cronies quickly bent U.S. foreign and domestic policies to serve Big Oil's bottom line.
The White House lied America into an oil war that killed a million Iraqis and almost 4,500 US soldiers, and maimed tens of thousands more. Bush and Cheney cut taxes on the wealthy and charged their $4.3 trillion war on a credit card for our children to pay. Meanwhile, we lost eight critical years in the battle to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. The oilmen who helped bring Bush to power profited like princes from his policies. As a gesture of gratitude to our country, the oil companies raised gasoline prices and watched company profits soar to historic highs. Patriotism is great—so long as it pays!
But perhaps the most grievous wound to American democracy from the mayhem of the Bush presidency was the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Bush appointed two right wing corporatist U.S. Supreme Court Justices—John G. Roberts in 2005 and Samuel Alito in 2006. These men were not traditional conservatives. The only consistent thread running through their judicial decisions was the consistent elevation of corporate power. The "Citizens United" decision was the most sweeping expansion of corporate power this century. That case effectively overruled a century of corporate campaign finance restrictions that limited a corporation's ability to purchase federal political candidates. Citizen's United unleashed a tsunami of corporate cash in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, when an estimated $2 billion was spent in the race to capture the White House.
The nearly $760 million that the Koch brothers, alone, put into the national elections in 2016 is comparable to the total amount spent, historically, by either political party. Their campaign organization was nearly as formidable as the Republican party with 1,200 election operatives. Election data show that in 95% of federal elections, the candidate with the most money wins. So democracy is for sale and, predictably, the rich are buying themselves politicians, and then deploying them to reduce taxes on their class and to rid themselves of pesky regulations that protect public health and the common environment. Under this new rubric, the representatives and senators who dominate Congress can no longer be thought of as public servants. They are the indentured servants of the Koch brothers and their ilk, engaged in the mercenary enterprise of ransacking America and humanity on behalf of Big Oil. America has transitioned from the world's model democracy to a corporate kleptocracy.
So the Kochs' open disavowal of Donald Trump during the presidential campaign was a comfort to me. Charles Koch compared the Trump-Hillary race as a choice "between cancer and a heart attack." Trump, in turn, derided his Republican rivals as Koch "puppets." I was relieved by the wide and hostile rift between Trump and the Kochs. Perhaps, I thought, America was safe, for the moment, from the existential threat of having oil tycoons again control our government. So it was breathtaking how quickly president-elect Trump pivoted, against the populism that he rode to power, and into the welcoming arms of Wall Street robber barons, oil patch tycoons and flat earth oligarchs he had vilified along the way, including the despised Koch brothers. Even before inauguration day, he got busy turning our government over to the apocalyptical forces of ignorance and greed.
Consolidation of power by the oil and coal barons began immediately after the election; president-elect Trump's transition advisors emerged as an oil industry dream team. Despite the initial antipathy between Trump and the Koch brothers, once he secured the nomination, Donald Trump extended the olive branch to the flat earth oligarchs from Kansas. His choice of Indiana governor Mike Pence as running mate was the first ominous sign that the rift had healed. Governor Pence had financed his political career with a steady flow of Koch cash and had demonstrated his fealty to the Kochs by hiring Marc Short as his gubernatorial chief of staff. Short had previously been president of Freedom Partners, the Kochs' political arm. As governor, Pence made Indiana a proving ground for the radical right-wing experiment in corporate domination devised by Koch funded think-tanks.
Three days after the 2016 election, Pence displaced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to become Trump's overseer of the various agency transition teams. By that time, the writing was on the wall, and the penmanship was that of David and Charles Koch. David Koch attended Trump's election night celebration. Trump soon appointed Marc Short as his Director of Legislative Affairs, and stocked his transition team with Koch organization veterans, like Tom Pyle, Darin Selnick, and Alan Cobb, and transition team executive committee members, Rebekah Mercer and Anthony Scaramucci. According to The Wall Street Journal, an astonishing 30 - 40 percent of Trump's advisors had Koch pedigrees. These were the men and women who would shape the new president's agenda.
Trump appointed a notorious Koch toady, Myron Ebell, to supervise his EPA transition. I've watched Ebell's antics for decades. He is a professional deceiver. Ebell served as director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think-tank formerly funded by ExxonMobil and the Kochs, and staffed primarily by "experts" and operatives lately employed by Koch Industries and the Koch's web of shadowy non-profit oil industry advocacy groups. Ebell, once a staunch global warming denier, has recently retrenched; "Yes, we are causing climate change," he now admits, "But it's a good thing!" Ebell preaches that the "mild global warming that has occurred since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-nineteenth century has been largely beneficial for humanity and the biosphere. Earth is greening, food production has soared, and human longevity has increased dramatically."
Ebell's seven-person team included David Schnare, a lawyer who spent 33 years at the EPA before matriculating to institutes funded by the Kochs. Schnare made his bones as a polluter's shill by filing legal actions demanding to inspect the email inboxes of EPA administrators and climate scientists. In Trump's new era of "alternative facts," there was no one better suited to purge the agency of credulous climate change believers.
Steve Groves led the State Department's "landing team." Groves, a policy wonk at the Koch and Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation, wrote a post-election article calling for the U.S. to pull out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a prelude to refuting the Paris agreement.
The Department of Interior transition fell under the leadership of Doug Domenech, director of the Fueling Freedom Project for the Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation. That group's mission is to "explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels." Domenech knows how to make the system work for industry; during George W. Bush's presidency, he served as White House liaison and deputy chief of staff at the Interior Department, facilitating Bush's efforts to turn federal lands over to oil, gas and mining interests and to timber barons.
President Trump's transition overseer at the Department of Energy was Michael Catanzaro, a registered Koch Industries lobbyist. His successor is Thomas Pyle, former president of the Institute for Energy Research, a think-tank founded by Charles Koch. Before joining that chamber for charlatans, Pyle was Koch Industries' director of federal affairs. Pyle is also president of the American Energy Alliance, another fossil fuel front group that receives a pipeline of cash from Koch, ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy. (You'll learn much about the Peabody CEO in Chapter Seven of this book.)
Pyle mapped out "a big change" in an email to supporters in mid-November. He promised a "100-day plan" and a "200-day plan" to roll back America's clean water and climate change protections. America, he promised, will pull out of the Paris climate agreement, and EPA will jettison the dreaded "social cost of carbon" algorithm used to calculate the costs and benefits of climate change.
In December, 800 U.S. scientists and energy experts sent a letter to president-elect Trump, asking that he publicly identify global warming as a "human caused, urgent threat." They went on: "If not, you will become the only government leader in the world to deny climate science. Your position will be at odds with virtually all climate scientists, most economists, military experts, fossil fuel companies and other business leaders, and the two-thirds of Americans worried about this issue."
Trump answered this urgent plea by the world's most highly credentialed climate scientists during a Fox News interview in mid-December, assuring the audience that "nobody really knows" whether climate change is real. He said he was "studying" whether to pull America out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the hard-won treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that has been signed by 196 countries. There is little doubt about who is providing him crib-notes.
The ominous direction toward global catastrophe crystallized as Trump announced his cabinet and other key positions.
Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse; and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth." — Revelation, 6:8
In a breathtaking act of supplication to Big Oil, the new president gave his first cabinet appointment to Russell's first Horseman, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson. Tillerson has never been mistaken for an American patriot. As Exxon CEO, he often adopted company policies that were contrary to USA interests, including a lucrative deal with Russia to drill in the Arctic. When a shareholder asked Tillerson's predecessor and mentor, Lee Raymond, whether the company should be improving US refinery capacity as a matter of national security, Raymond dismissed patriotism as an absurd distraction from profits. He famously declared, "Exxon is not a US company." Tillerson's world view is dictated by his forty years of service to the selfish ideologies of a corporation that is locked in a ruinous battle against humanity and American values.
Trump's critics wondered whether his peculiar choice to hand US foreign policy over to the world's most visible and notorious oil man was a favor to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. As Exxon chief, Tillerson put aside scruples to align Exxon with the bloodthirsty tyrant, a choice that made Tillerson Putin's favorite American businessman. In 2013 Vladimir Putin personally presented Tillerson with Russia's ultimate honor to a foreigner, the Order of Friendship Award, after Tillerson signed controversial deals with the state-owned Russian oil company. In 2011, Tillerson flew to Russia to sign a $500-billion arrangement to jointly drill in the Arctic Shelf and the Black Sea, and to develop shale oil in Siberia. Tillerson's company allegedly lost around one billion dollars due to sanctions the Obama administration placed on Russia after Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Tillerson responded by directing ExxonMobil's PAC to donate $1.8 million to oil-friendly federal politicians during the 2016 election cycle, with more than 90 percent going to the Republicans, who had dutifully shielded Exxon from carbon taxes and pollution regulations. During the six election cycles when he was CEO, nine of ten dollars donated by his company's PAC went to GOP candidates.
Exxon's corporate culture is not an admirable template for American idealism. Exxon already is a petro-state, wealthier than most countries and with its own private armies and intelligence apparatus. Now the head of Exxon is running our foreign affairs, with access to the many intelligence services and the capacity to bully states who don't tow the oil line.
Waterkeeper Alliance is a clean water advocacy group which I serve as president. Waterkeeper, which works in 38 countries, has submitted a 54-page petition to the EPA, calling for the agency to enforce "bad corporate actor" rules and end all its federal contracts with ExxonMobil. The petition addresses Exxon's decades of deliberate lies; the company's campaign to deceive the public, politicians and regulators about the danger of climate change. Recently released documents prove that the sociopaths, including Tillerson, who ran Exxon knew for decades that its business activities would cause catastrophic climate change and mass death.
Putting profits before people, Exxon kept its climate change science secret, while funding professional liars and nurturing the growth of a generation of climate change deniers. Under Rex Tillerson's leadership, the company continued to push government policies that buck proven science, human welfare, national security and fundamental moral, ethical, and religious tenets. Last year, Exxon claimed as assets $330 billion in under-ground oil reserves, that include some of the dirtiest fuels on Earth. The Securities and Exchange Commission and several states attorneys' generals, led by New York's Eric Schneiderman, are currently investigating Exxon's failure to disclose to its stockholders the risks it has long known are posed to company value by the reality of global warming. According to Schneiderman, unless we are willing to write off planet earth, about two thirds of those reserves can never leave the ground. Exxon is therefore exaggerating its share value by hundreds of billions.
Tillerson has never expressed concern or even the slightest self-awareness that Exxon's business model threatens the future of humanity and life on Earth. America's largest oil company has accounted for more than three percent of global climate pollution, dating back to the mid-1800s. After years of putting Exxon's stock value ahead of humanity, will Tillerson now put America and the planet first? Tillerson's company would be severely impacted by the Paris climate accord to limit the burning of fossil fuels. His thoughts on climate change? "What good is it to save the planet as humanity [read Exxon] suffers."
In late January, Tillerson's State Department removed the three most recent annual reports about the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan from its website.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator: Scott Pruitt
"These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will…And men were scorched with great heat….And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found." — Revelation, 11:6, 16:9,20
Trump's choice to run the EPA is an unctuous acolyte of Oklahoma's factory meat and big oil barons. Scott Pruitt built his career as a patsy for polluters: Prior to Pruitt's election in 2010, the Oklahoma Attorney General's office had built a model environmental enforcement division under Kelly Hunter Foster, who is now a staff attorney for my organization, Waterkeeper Alliance. Foster had filed a dozen lawsuits against the poultry and industrial pork industries, which were polluting Oklahoma's air and waterways, sickening its citizens with effluvia of factory meat production, and putting family farmers out of business. Pruitt was the chicken industry's handpicked attorney general. Oklahoma's corporate meat barons financed Pruitt's campaign to rid themselves of Foster's lawsuits.
Once in office, Pruitt dutifully terminated Hunter Foster's unit and shelved her docket. As attorney general he never filed another environmental action. Instead Pruitt turned his office's big guns against EPA, filing a battery of federal lawsuits against the agency to challenge the Obama administration's anti-pollution and climate safeguards. These included suing the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan and another suit aimed at gutting rules on methane emissions from the oil-and-gas sector.
"He let polluters off the hook and destroyed a decade of work," recalls Hunter Foster. "He has no environmental experience and no conservation instincts. His only qualification for his new job was his fierce hatred for EPA." Since his ascension to the administrator's post, Pruitt has frozen all new permits and scientific studies and put the agency in lockdown. He has promised to lay off 3,000 of the 15,000 EPA workers and cut the agency's already anemic budget by 31 percent, more than any other agency.
Calvin Coolidge famously remarked that, "The chief business of the America people is business." Trump has made it clear that business is to be EPA's business as well. Pruitt burnished his resume for the EPA post with a major push by his mentor, Carl Icahn, a billionaire Wall Street hedge fund titan and generous Trump campaign donor. Icahn's holding company does business with the Koch brothers and TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline system. A noisome EPA had accused Icahn's Oklahoma-based oil company of violating environmental laws. Based on these qualifications, Trump appointed Icahn to vet the contenders for the top-level EPA jobs.
Pruitt also received a boost from another of the Horsemen featured in this book—Oklahoma billionaire Harold Hamm (see Chapter Six). Hamm chaired Pruitt's 2013 reelection campaign. During the 2016 presidential election, Hamm had served as candidate Trump's energy advisor, but declined the president-elect's offer to head the Department of Energy.
Pruitt also boasts a direct Koch connection; as Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt was simultaneously a director of the nonprofit Rule of Law Defense Fund, which received $175,000 in 2014 from a dark money umbrella group called Freedom Partners, the Koch network's political arm.
President Trump evidently shares Pruitt's antipathy toward the environmental agency. Upon announcing Pruitt's appointment, Trump added, "For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs."
In mid-March, the president announced that he'd ordered Pruitt to revise one of President Obama's primary climate change policies—the EPA's strict standards on tailpipe pollution from motor vehicles. "As to climate change," Trump's director of the Office of Management and Budget said at a White House briefing. "I think the president was fairly straightforward; 'We're not spending money on that anymore.'"
On March 2, Pruitt told CNBC News with his characteristic "dumb as I wanna be" glee that humans were not responsible for global warming. Pruitt was proudly jockeying EPA into position as the flagship of the new administration's anti-science crusade. The Bush administration had regarded science as a vanity of the despised liberal elite. One anonymous White House official, speaking to investigative journalist Ron Suskind, famously disparaged the liberal obsession with science-based inconvenient truths like climate change as "fact based reality." But the Trump team has immediately achieved a new dimension of unhinged, by appointing a science hating flat-earther as head of the world's premier environmental agency.
Even Christie Todd Whitman, who presided over the gutting of the EPA under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, was sickened by Pruitt's appointment. "I don't recall ever having seen an appointment of someone who is so disdainful of the agency and the science behind what the agency does," he said.
Pruitt will have help from above as he plows under the rubble of his despised agency. In late December, Trump named Carl Icahn to a new administration position created by the president: "Special Adviser on Regulatory Reform." While the administration proceeded to freeze adopting other new regulations, Icahn quickly succeeded in obtaining a special IRS rule that gives a tax break to his oil refining company, CVR energy. Icahn is simultaneously pushing for a regulatory fix that would revamp an EPA rule (the Renewable Fuel Standard) that currently makes refiners responsible for ensuring corn-based ethanol is properly mixed into gasoline. Eliminating that requirement would have saved his company more than $200 million last year. Icahn, whose $16.6 billion is a fortune larger than all the other cabinet members combined, claims immunity from such conflict-of-interest problems because he's simply an "unpaid adviser" to the administration.
Secretary of the Interior: Ryan Zinke
"….and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up….And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died….And the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." — Revelation, 8:7,8, 9:2.
My friend, Leonardo DiCaprio, a leading climate activist, gave a presentation to Trump soon after the election. He and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation president Terry Tamminen, the former Santa Monica BayKeeper and chief of California EPA under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, unveiled a plan for creating millions of jobs by encouraging the growth of clean, renewable energy. Looking at the plan approvingly, president-elect Trump told Leo that he wanted to be the 21st century Teddy Roosevelt. Leo gave him a copy of his new documentary Before the Flood describing the perils of climate change, and the president-elect promised to watch it. Afterward Leo learned that Trump's team had announced the appointment of Scott Pruitt, while they were still in the meeting. Trump had warned Leo, "There are going to be some you will consider bad appointments." But, he promised the actor, "You're really gonna like who we put in for Interior."
That environmental superhero turned out to be Ryan Zinke, a first-term Congressman from Montana who also describes himself as "a Teddy Roosevelt guy." But while Roosevelt dismantled Standard Oil, Zinke has spent his career suckling at the industry teat, gagging down $345,136 of oily money from petro interests. In the House, Zinke represented the Powder River Basin, a once edenic wilderness, transformed into a moonscape by federal coal leasing policies, championed by Zinke. In fact, in recognition of his enthusiasm as a cheerleader for coal extraction, the League of Conservation Voters awarded Zinke a three percent score. In 2008, Zinke said he believed in climate change, but has since dutifully recanted, in goose-step with the Republican Party leadership. It isn't "proven science," he now insists.
Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry
"….and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood." — Revelation, 6:12.
Modest support and research progress for wind and solar efficiency have long made the Department of Energy a bugaboo to the fossil fuel cartel. Four years ago, Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, promised to abolish the department that President Trump has now appointed him to lead. Oil and gas tycoons funded his two presidential campaigns. The CEO of Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), Kelcy Warren, the owners of Dakota Access Pipeline, donated $5 million to a pro-Perry super-PAC during the 2016 race. When Perry's run for the White House fizzled, he accepted a sinecure as a paid board member of ETP (receiving $236,820 in 2015). Warren went on to contribute $103,000 to Trump's campaign. Perry sold his shares after the election to avoid "conflict of interest." President Trump also had a personal stake in that notorious pipeline. He invested nearly $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners in 2015 and last year between $250,000 and $500,000 in Phillips 66, which owns a 25 percent stake in the catastrophic boondoggle. Perry quickly proved himself a trustworthy manager of Trump's investment by presiding over the project's resurrection.
CIA Director: Mike Pompeo
"….four beasts full of eyes before and behind." — Revelation, 4:6.
Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, an errand boy, appointed by the Koch brothers to represent their Wichita hometown in Congress, is President Trump's CIA chief. He received more campaign donations from the Kochs than any other member of Congress. Pompeo is a Tea Party shill, so enthralled by the Warfare State and so out of touch with American values, that from his seat on the House Intelligence Committee, he paid sunny homage to the CIA's brutal detention and interrogation programs. Pompeo's chief of staff, Jim Richardson, was a former Koch lobbyist. When Pompeo entered the House in 2011, his first order of business was opposing the Obama administration's plan to create a public EPA registry of greenhouse gas polluters. Later, Pompeo introduced legislation to kill tax credits for wind power, saying it should "compete on its own," an idea aggressively promoted by the Koch brothers, whose oil and coal enterprises are heavily subsidized by billions of dollars in federal taxpayer lucre. (A recent report by the International Monetary Fund calculates global energy subsidies at over $5 trillion annually, with the U.S. providing $700 billion in subsidies to Big Oil, the richest industry in the history of the planet.)
Foreign policy experts warn that close historical ties between the CIA and the oil industry have led America into its most catastrophic foreign policy disasters. Instead of serving the American people and our national historic ideals, the Agency has, since the days of Allen Dulles, a former oil company lawyer, routinely deployed its awesome power to serve the mercantile interests of oil companies and US based multinationals. Our volatile relationship with Iran began, in 1953, when the CIA overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh, that region's first democratically elected leader in four thousand years, as a favor to U.S. and British oil corporations, which derailed Mossadegh's plan to allow his people to benefit from Iran's oil resources. Catastrophic blowback from that dark episode continues to reverberate across the Mid-East today.
The Iraq War—fueled in part by U.S. eagerness to grab control of Saddam Hussein's oil fields—not only killed nearly 4,500 Americans, but continues to destabilize the entire region. The Syrian civil war and refugee disaster are largely the result of the CIA taking sides in a pipeline dispute, between Sunni and Shia, a debacle that fueled the creation of ISIS. The unseemly ties between Big Oil and the intelligence service of this country have stained our reputation, eroded our moral authority, made us the target of terrorist attacks, and led us into costly blowbacks, with surcharges in American blood, treasure and prestige, beyond calculation. At a time in our history when we should be de-coupling our foreign policy from Big Oil, we've got the oil industry's most visible tycoon since John D. Rockefeller running the State Department and an oil-man's sock puppet running the CIA.
"And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree…." — Revelation, 9:4.
During his first weeks in power, President Trump kept his promises to the carbon cartel. I watched thirty-three years of my work reduced to ruins, as the president mounted his assault on science and environmental protection. The new administration hit the ground running, announcing plans to eliminate funding for NASA's climate research programs. At EPA, president-elect Trump's transition team launched a Soviet style purge of climate change scientists, demanding a list of every employee or contractor who had attended meetings of the Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon—and all materials that were distributed or generated afterward. Trump advisors demanded that Foggy Bottom diplomats disclose monies that the State Department provided to international environmental groups (for example, as part of the Paris climate agreement, the U.S. pledged three billion dollars to a Green Climate Fund designed to help poor countries develop renewable energy and adapt to climate change) – presumably to target them for erasure.
In response to these attacks, a newly created Climate Science Legal Defense Fund published a guide for government researchers targeted for attack and censure as its government scientists worked feverishly to preserve decades of critical research.
The new president quickly signed legislation abolishing rules that forbade coal companies from filling streams and buffer zones with mining waste, putting thousands of miles of rivers and streams at risk from this formerly outlawed practice. He issued an executive order to rescind a 2015 rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands, and a directive to abolish protracted environmental reviews.
He announced measures to stop the environmental impact statement required before the Dakota Access Pipeline could be constructed, and then instructed the Army corps of Engineers to give Energy Transfer Partners an easement to forge ahead with the tragic project across Sioux lands. Trump also set out to resurrect the Keystone XL oil pipeline stopped by the Obama administration after a massive public outcry. In late March, Tillerson's State Department approved moving forward with construction. The 1,700-mile-long pipeline will propel an estimated 35 million gallons of dirty oil every single day from Alberta, Canada's Tar Sands, across American aquifers to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The Koch brothers hold close to two million acres of those tar sands, more than the combined assets in the area of ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Conoco.
The new president instructed EPA to promulgate regulations to kill Obama's hard-won Clean Power Plant rule, the law that finally restricted carbon emissions from power plants. The new administration moved to open protected federal lands for drilling and mining, and to lift a moratorium on coal leases on federal lands.
In mid-March, Trump directed the EPA to get rid of another of Obama's signature achievements – stringent fuel economy standards passed to help meet America's international commitment to cut carbon emissions. This drastic policy reversal not only makes it impossible for the United States to comply with the Paris accord, but also jeopardizes America's booming lead in the electric vehicles industry.
The next day, Trump sent a proposed budget to Congress that would slash the EPA's funding by 31 percent and lay off about one fifth of its staff. The White House will cut the climate protection budget by nearly 70 percent to $29 million. Virtually eliminated are the environmental justice program, established in 1992, and the Chesapeake Bay Program, established in 1983 to clean up the largest estuary in North America. Also on the scrap heap is the Energy Star program that has saved consumers an estimated $430 billion on their utility bills and avoided 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. President Trump's so called "apocalypse budget" guts funding to the United Nations for its climate change efforts, cuts 17 percent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's climate data program and eliminates the Sea Grant program that prepares coastal communities for storms and sea level rise. While slashing America's environmental protection, Trump moved to pump up military spending by another $54 billion.
Meantime, Scott Pruitt got busy distributing his top EPA jobs to America's most vehement climate science skeptics, including three former staffers of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who called global warming, "The greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." In his first speech to EPA employees, Pruitt scolded his new employees to improve the agency's relationship with private businesses. He omitted all mention of protecting public health or the environment. In a speech before a gathering of conservatives, Pruitt applauded the polluters who want to eliminate his agency altogether as "justified": he added, "People across the country look at the EPA the way they look at the IRS."
Pruitt, interviewed on CNBC on March 9, reassured the network that carbon emissions are not, after all, the "primary contributor" to climate change. That day, NOAA announced that the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere rose at a record pace for the second year in a row and President Trump announced his scheme to zero out NOAA's climate change research budget.
Trump and Pruitt have expressed intense hostility toward federal protection of the environment. They mean to return us to the era before Federal Environmental laws; the era before Earth Day when states were engaged in a wholesale race to the bottom to eliminate regulation to recruit filthy industries. The era when rivers caught fire and pollution killed tens of thousands of animals annually, DDT exterminated entire populations of birds and Lake Erie was declared dead. With no federal control, states will once again compete with each other to become pollution havens in exchange for a few years of pollution based prosperity.
This hijack of American democracy by oil tycoons is a suicide pact for our planet. We are already living in a science fiction nightmare when all credible scientists are saying that their former predictions on global warming were radically conservative. The cataclysms they warned would happen in a century or two are happening now. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cautions that if we conduct business as usual—our current course—our planet will experience a six-degree Celsius temperature rise by the turn of the next century. The last time that earth was six degrees warmer, crocodiles lived at the North Pole.
Today, there are over seven billion humans on the planet, few of whom will be able to adjust and survive the concomitant floods, storms, typhoons and hurricanes, intensified by climate change. Children, now alive, will suffer dystopian global upheavals beyond human experience, or the capacity of organized civilizations to endure. Our great coastal cities will be drowned by sea level rise; multitudes will starve when lands become arid and lifeless; homes and businesses will succumb to forest fires of increasing frequency; children will suffer or die from insect borne diseases such as microcephaly, spreading rapidly to formerly temperate regions of the Earth, as tropical insects multiply; millions will suffer from food shortages as crops fail due to changing climate conditions. These impacts emerge straight from The Book of Revelation, extreme weather on a biblical scale—destructive droughts, lethal superstorms, floods, fires, melting glaciers, rising seas, drowning cities, disappearing species.
Whether we recognize it or not, we are all locked in a life and death struggle with these corporations over control of both our landscapes and political sovereignty. The Kochs' corporate vision for our country would commodify not just the land, the air and the water, but also our people. Everything we value becomes expendable in their drive for corporate profits. "To greed," Seneca observed, "all nature is insufficient." That hunger will devour our people, our natural world and the other assets of our patrimony. Corporate efforts to privatize the commons are occurring in all parts of the world and it's no accident that environmental injury correlates almost perfectly with political tyranny; and those carbon tyrants would steal from us our air, our water, our wildlife, fisheries and public lands, the shared resources of our society - the commonwealth assets that provide the gravitas around which communities coalesce.
The battle against President Trump and his Horsemen is not just a battle to protect our waterways, our livelihoods, our property and our backyards. It's a struggle for our sovereignty, our values, our health and our lives. It's a battle for dignified, humane and wholesome communities. It's a defensive war against toxic and economic aggression by Big Oil and King Coal. It's a struggle to break free of the merciless tyranny of the carbon cartel and create an economic and energy system that is fair, and rooted in justice, economic independence and freedom.
If we're to leave behind a habitable world, the Horsemen need to be reined in, bridled and broken.
The earth mourns and withers,
The world pines and fades,
Both heaven and earth languish.
The land lies polluted,
Defiled by its inhabitants
Who have transgressed the laws,
Violated the ordinances,
And broken the covenant.
Therefore a curse consumes the land
And its people burn for their guilt.
— Isaiah 24:4-6
Los Angeles-based law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman filed lawsuits last week on behalf of 136 plaintiffs from across the country who allege that exposure to Monsanto's glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Three bundled complaints were filed last week in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
"We're bringing the lawsuit to address the injuries that have been caused by Roundup and glyphosate to mainly farmers and farm workers, but we think that consumers and home gardeners have also been affected," Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., a co-counsel in the lawsuit, told St. Louis Public Radio.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. at a press conference with Baum Hedlund clients outside of the courthouse in Fresno, California in January.Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman
The firm also filed another 40 cases in Alameda County, California, Superior Court, on Friday. The 40 individuals, all from California, allege that exposure to the herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The St. Louis plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death and personal injuries against defendants Monsanto, Osborn & Barr Communications, Inc. and Osborn & Barr Holdings, Inc., all of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Alameda lawsuit also seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death and personal injuries against defendants Monsanto and Wilbur Ellis Company, LLC of San Francisco, California.
More than 700 Roundup cancer claims have now been filed in state and federal courts. Kennedy estimated that claims could increase to 3,000 in the next few months.
Monsanto, which is awaiting a multi-billion dollar merger with Germany's Bayer, is facing a spate of controversy this month over its flagship product.
First, California became the first U.S. state to require the company to label Roundup as a possible carcinogen in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, also known as Proposition 65.
California Judge Rules Against Monsanto, Allows Cancer Warning on Roundup https://t.co/YxVFlGWRj4 @food_democracy @justlabelit— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1489274104.0
Then last week, a federal judge in San Francisco unsealed documents suggesting that company employees had ghostwritten scientific reports that U.S. regulators used to determine glyphosate does not cause cancer. Court files also indicated that Jess Rowland—a former senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who chaired a committee on cancer risk—worked with Monsanto to suppress reviews of glyphosate.
"Monsanto's newly released documents expose a culture corrupt enough to shock the company's most jaded critics," Kennedy said in a statement. "Those papers show sociopathic company officials ghostwriting scientific studies to conceal Roundup's risks from Monsanto's regulators and customers, including food consumers, farmers and the public."
"One wonders about the perverse morality that incentivizes executives to lie so easily and to put profits before human life," he added. "All humanity will benefit when a jury sees this scheme and gives this behemoth a new set of incentives."
Glyphosate, the most heavily used weedkiller in agricultural history, is currently used in more than 160 countries. However, a number of environmental and human health risks have been associated with its rampant use.
As Alternet wrote:
"In addition to its potential cancer-causing properties, Roundup has been linked to a host of other health issues such as ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, kidney disease, liver disease, reproductive problems and birth defects, as well as environmental impacts, such as the record decline of monarch butterflies. A 2014 study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey detected the presence of Roundup in 75 percent of air and rainfall test samples take from the Mississippi Delta, a fertile agricultural region."
Dark Sad $ Science :.Bill Nye on Glyphosate 'We Accidentally Decimated the Monarch #Butterfly Population' https://t.co/AdXdXbJNDj @ecowatch— Rachel Parent (@Rachel Parent)1466117067.0
According to a press release from Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, the lawsuits allege that Monsanto continues to proclaim to the world that Roundup creates no risks to human health or to the environment.
They also claim that Monsanto "championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies that revealed Roundup's dangers in order to prove that Roundup is safe for human use, while also ghostwriting studies and leading a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers, and the general population that Roundup was safe."
Monsanto's glyphosate woes all started when the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research (IARC) on Cancer concluded in 2015 that the chemical is a "probable carcinogen" to humans. Furthermore, the IARC said that the cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers.
EPA Panel Divided on Whether #Glyphosate Causes #Cancer https://t.co/RKIK6m8Wpq @nongmoreport @NonGMOProject @USRightToKnow @OrganicConsumer— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1482507536.0
The biotech giant refutes the classification and insists that glyphosate is safe and does not cause cancer.
"We empathize with anyone facing cancer," Monsanto spokesperson Charla Lord told St. Louis Public Radio via email. "We can also confidently say that glyphosate is not the cause. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate a carcinogen."
The IARC's classification contrasts with findings from several international agencies including the EPA and the European Chemicals Agency, which concluded earlier this month that glyphosate should not be classified as a cancer-causing substance.
Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan previously issued a tentative ruling on Jan. 27 in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al.
Judge Kapetan formalized her ruling Friday against Monsanto, which will allow California to proceed with the process of listing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65.
In January of 2016, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the State of California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) over the agency's notice of intent to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical.
OEHHA issued the notice after the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report on glyphosate, which classified the chemical as a "probable human carcinogen." The IARC report compelled OEHHA to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical and warn consumers about the possible danger associated with glyphosate exposure.
#Monsanto, California Battle Over Listing #Glyphosate as a Carcinogen https://t.co/LuFdeCpJa3 via @EcoWatch https://t.co/hsbJmitjly— GMWatch (@GMWatch)1484757369.0
Why Did Monsanto Sue the State of California?
In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 65 to address concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. Prop 65 requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
OEHHA is the administrator for the Proposition 65 program and determines in many cases whether chemicals or other substances meet the scientific and legal requirements to be placed on the Proposition 65 list. The agency uses a "Labor Code" listing mechanism, which directs the OEHHA to add chemicals or substances to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer if they meet certain classifications by the IARC.
Monsanto's lawsuit against OEHHA argued that the statutory basis underlying the agency's action to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical violates both the California and U.S. Constitutions. According to the complaint, listing glyphosate as chemical known to the state to cause cancer cedes regulatory authority to an "unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body" that isn't subject to oversight by California or the United States.
Though, according Judge Kapetan ruling:
"… the Labor Code listing mechanism does not constitute an unconstitutional delegation of authority to an outside agency, since the voters and the legislature have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed the IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.
"As Monsanto admits, the IARC's list is not created in response to the Labor Code listing mechanism or Proposition 65, and in fact IARC has stated that it disavows any policy or rulemaking role, and that it does not intend its determinations to carry the force of law."
In the months that followed, a number of interested nonparties joined the lawsuit as "intervenors," either on behalf of Monsanto or on behalf of the State of California. When a case has the potential to affect the rights of interested nonparties (individuals or organizations not named in the lawsuit), they can become intervenors, effectively joining the litigation either as a matter of right or at the court's discretion without the permission of the original litigants. Intervention simply gives nonparties that could be affected by a case's outcome a chance to be heard.
Below are the intervenors in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al.
- California Citrus Mutual
- Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA)
- California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations
- California Grain & Feed Association
- Almond Alliance of California
- Western Plant Health Association
- Center for Food Safety
- Sierra Club
- United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (AFL-CIO, CLC)
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Environmental Law Foundation
- Canadian Labor Congress
Teri McCall is one of many California residents to cheer the ruling against Monsanto. Her husband, Jack, sprayed Roundup on the family's Cambia, California farm for nearly 30 years. In September 2015, Jack went to see a doctor to treat swollen lymph nodes in his neck. That day in the hospital, he learned that the swelling was caused by anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare and aggressive version of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
California Widow Sues Monsanto Alleging Roundup Caused Her Husband’s Cancer | EcoWatch https://t.co/AVvfsrF37u https://t.co/iB7eKzyY2q— IL Right to Know GMO (@IL Right to Know GMO)1457614299.0
Three months later, Jack suffered a severe stroke due to complications with his cancer treatment. He died on Dec. 26, 2015.
In the wake of her husband's death, Teri McCall filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monsanto, alleging the company knew about the link between Roundup and cancer, but failed to warn the public about the risk.
"My husband Jack was very conscious of the dangers of chemicals and his misfortune was taking Monsanto's word that Roundup was safe," McCall said at a press conference held in January in Fresno, California, following Judge Kapetan's tentative ruling.
"I don't want to see any more unsuspecting people die from cancer because they didn't know of the danger to their health from exposure to Roundup. Glyphosate in Roundup needs to be on the list of Prop 65 chemicals that are dangerous to our health so that people can make informed decisions for themselves about the risks they are willing to take. I don't believe my husband would have been willing to take that risk," McCall said.
It's great to see democracy is alive and well in California where judges are still willing to stand up for science, even against the most powerful corporate polluters. This decision gives Californians the right to protect themselves and their families from chemical trespass.
I am representing Ms. McCall along with Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman. We are also representing 230 other plaintiffs (45 from California) who are suing Monsanto for non-Hodgkin lymphoma from exposure to Roundup, with more clients coming onboard every week.
California could become the first state to require Monsanto to label its glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, as a possible carcinogen following Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan's tentative ruling on Friday.
Monsanto's best-selling Roundup herbicide.Flickr
The tentative ruling regards the agrochemical giant's Jan. 2016 lawsuit against California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). In Sept. 2015, the OEHHA issued plans to list glyphosate as a possible cancer threat under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. The OEHHA made the decision following the France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) findings that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)" in March 2015.
In its lawsuit, Monsanto claimed that the listing was unconstitutional because the OEHHA delegated law-making authority "to an unelected and non-transparent foreign body that is not under the oversight or control of any federal or state government entity."
However, California lawyers argued in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit that the IARC's scientific determinations are "the gold standard in carcinogen identification."
According to the Associated Press, Judge Kapetan will issue a formal decision soon. OEHHA spokesman Sam Delson told the AP that state regulators are waiting for the judge's formal decision before moving forward with the warning labels. Once a chemical is listed a as probable carcinogens, the manufacturer has a year before it must attach the label, Delson added.
Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued that consumers would stop buying Roundup after seeing the labels and cause immediate financial consequences for the company.
"It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto," he said.
The company plans to challenge the ruling and insists on the safety of glyphosate, which is the most widely applied agricultural chemical in the world. Glyphosate is sprayed onto "Roundup Ready" crops that are genetically modified to resist applications of the spray.
"The agency's flawed and baseless proposal to list glyphosate under Proposition 65 not only contradicts California's own scientific assessment, but it also violates the California and U.S. constitutions," said Samuel Murphey, a Monsanto spokesman. "Monsanto will continue to challenge this unfounded proposed ruling on the basis of science and the law."
On the same day of the hearing, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman held a press conference outside of the Fresno courthouse in support of the OEHHA.
"This listing is not going to put them out of business. It's just going to warn people before they use their product that this product might cause cancer, and you better limit your use to protect yourself and to protect your families," Kennedy said at the press conference. "It's called a precautionary principal. Who wouldn't want to know that?"
"Why does this company not want these farm workers to know that this chemical may endanger them and may endanger their families," Kennedy continued. "Why did [Monsanto] hire these great lawyers to come here to shut California up and to stop California from protecting these people?"
Today I spoke at the #Farmworkers rally in Fresno https://t.co/U4hMM3uikB— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1485560920.0
"My husband Jack was very conscious of the dangers of chemicals and his misfortune was taking Monsanto's word that Roundup was safe," said Teri McCall, who believes that a warning label would have saved her husband Jack's life.
Teri McCall claims Roundup caused her husband of 40-years to develop terminal cancer after he used the herbicide on his 20-acre fruit and vegetable farm for more than 30 years.
"I don't want to see any more unsuspecting people die from cancer because they didn't know of the danger to their health from exposure to Roundup," she added. "Glyphosate in Roundup needs to be on the list of Prop 65 chemicals that are dangerous to our health so that people can make informed decisions for themselves about the risks they are willing to take. I don't believe my husband would have been willing to take that risk."
Dr. Nathan Donley, senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and a former cancer researcher, praised the judge's tentative ruling.
"California's wise decision to require labeling of the controversial pesticide Roundup to clearly state that it may cause cancer is based on the world's most reliable, transparent and science-based assessment of its active ingredient, glyphosate," he said in a statement provided to EcoWatch.
"We are pleased that the court is upholding consumers' right to make well-informed, fact-based choices about the known risks of a product before purchasing it and support California in its commitment to protecting people and the environment from dangerous toxins."
California Widow Sues Monsanto Alleging Roundup Caused Her Husband's Cancer https://t.co/VEIYpqcqgP @TrueFoodNow @GMOFreeUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1457736920.0
The Fresno judge's tentative ruling was not the only blow to Monsanto in court. The company's years-long efforts to introduce commercial GMO (genetically modified) corn was blocked by a Mexican court last week.
According to Reuters, the court upheld a late 2013 ruling that temporarily halted even pilot plots of GMO corn following a legal challenge over its effects on the environment.
As Reuters explained, "Critics say genetically modified corn plantings will contaminate age-old native varieties and that toxins designed to protect the GMO grain against pests may be linked to elevated insect mortality."
Next week, Monsanto and California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) will face off over the agency's plan to list the herbicide glyphosate as a carcinogen. The outcome of this legal battle could have major ramifications to California's long-established regulatory program.
It all started back in Sept. 2015 when the OEHHA issued a notice of intent to list the chemical as known to the state to cause cancer under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, commonly known as Proposition 65. The OEHHA determined that glyphosate met the criteria under the "Labor Code" listing mechanism, which directs the office to add a chemical or substance to the Prop 65 list of known carcinogens if it meets certain classifications by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The France-based IARC concluded that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A)" in March 2015.
California Becomes First State to Label Monsanto's Roundup as a Carcinogen http://t.co/04UWTPbcc5 @TrueFoodNow @justlabelit— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1441761909.0
Monsanto then filed a lawsuit against the OEHHA in January 2016 to prevent the listing, arguing that the Labor Code listing mechanism is unconstitutional because the office delegated law-making authority "to an unelected and non-transparent foreign body that is not under the oversight or control of any federal or state government entity."
Glyphosate happens to be the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, the world's most popular herbicide. The chemical is applied onto "Roundup Ready" crops that are genetically modified to resist applications of the spray. The agribusiness giant has long maintained the safety of their flagship product and has vehemently denied glyphosate's link to cancer and has also demanded a retraction of the IARC's report. The company's lawsuit also cited the OEHHA's own 2007 study concluding that the chemical was unlikely to cause cancer.
Monsanto Files Lawsuit to Stop California From Listing Glyphosate as Known Carcinogen https://t.co/DsTD0Ki4TG @food_democracy @TrueFoodNow— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1453603813.0
In response, the OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss Monsanto's lawsuit. The office asserted in its motion that the listing mechanism "simply provides a way for OEHHA to make the most of scarce resources." According to the motion, IARC's scientific determinations are "the gold standard in carcinogen identification," and are trusted and relied upon by state governments, the federal government and foreign governments alike.
At the upcoming Jan. 27 hearing in Fresno Superior Court, both sides will make their arguments before a judge decides whether to dismiss the case or allow it to proceed.
"Monsanto's lawsuit is significant for a number of reasons," Kevin Haroff and Marina Cassio of Marten Law wrote in a blog post. "It raises fundamental issues over how scientific health assessments can appropriately be used as the basis for governmental actions, with broad-reaching implications for both consumers and the overall economy. As a practical matter, it also challenges a key element of a unique California regulatory program that has now been in place for three full decades."
The OEHHA's Labor Code listing mechanism using IARC's classification scheme has been tested in court before. In 2013's Styrene Information & Research Center v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (SIRC v. OEHHA), the trial court and appeals court determined that the OEHHA could not just rely on the IARC's classification scheme to list a chemical as a known carcinogen in the state. Rather, the court decided that a listing must always be supported by a finding that the chemical in fact is known to the state to cause cancer. In the end, the OEHHA was required to reevaluate four listed substances and six substances under consideration for listing.
"Put another way, an IARC Group 1 or 2A classification decision could create a presumption that a chemical must be listed as a known carcinogen under Proposition 65; however, court decisions construing the application of the Labor Code listing mechanism and similar provisions suggest that at least in some circumstances the presumption should be a rebuttable one," Haroff and Cassio point out.
"This may be important to how the courts will respond to Monsanto's legal challenge to OEHHA's proposed glyphosate listing," the authors continue. "Monsanto's argument that Proposition 65 improperly delegates lawmaking power to IARC assumes that OEHHA plays no independent role in identifying chemicals known to the state to cause cancer using the Labor Code listing mechanism. OEHHA could counter that that it does play an independent role, since under SIRC v. OEHHA, it has an independent obligation to find that there is evidence sufficient to establish that a chemical is 'known to the state of California' to cause cancer."
On the same day of the hearing, environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman will hold a press conference in Fresno in support of the OEHHA. The press conference will take place outside the courthouse at Noon PST and EcoWatch will stream the event live on Facebook.
Kennedy and Michael L. Baum, senior partner at Baum Hedlund, will speak in support of the state of California's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America, will speak in support of protecting farm workers from harmful herbicides and pesticides.
Several of Baum Hedlund's and Kennedy's California Roundup cancer clients will also be speaking at the press conference.
California Widow Sues Monsanto Alleging Roundup Caused Her Husband's Cancer https://t.co/VEIYpqcqgP @TrueFoodNow @GMOFreeUSA— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1457736920.0
Since Monsanto's lawsuit was filed, a number of organizations have intervened on both sides. The organizations that support California's OEHHA include the AFL-CIO, Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Canadian Labor Congress, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Law Foundation.
The organizations supporting Monsanto include California Citrus Mutual, California Cotton Ginners & Growers Association, California Grain and Feed Association, Almond Alliance of California, Western Plant Health Association and Western Agricultural Processors Associations.
The OEHHA has received more than 9,300 written comments in response to the listing. The comments are mostly from individuals and groups supporting the proposed listing. Monsanto, chemical producers and industry groups have also submitted comments opposing the listing. The public comment period is now closed, and OEHHA has yet to take final agency action on the listing.
Closing Indian Point Reduces Risk of Nuclear Accidents
By Matthew McKinzie
New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that the two reactors at Indian Point Energy Center would close in the coming years, in large part due to safety concerns and the risk of a nuclear accident. The original 40-year operating licenses for the Indian Point Unit 2 and Unit 3 reactors both expired in the past three years, and today's announcement means they are now scheduled to close in 2020 and 2021, respectively, which will reduce the risk of a nuclear accident at the facility 24 miles north of New York City.
This is especially good news for the safety of the nearly 20 million people who live within 50 miles of the two aging reactors.
"Thanks to Governor Cuomo for his tireless and tenacious efforts to close Indian Point," Riverkeeper Vice Chairman Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. told EcoWatch.
"The agreement marks a milestone in America's historic transition from a dirty, dangerous energy system to clean, safe, wholesome, local and patriotic power supply. It is a victory for the Hudson fishery, for public safety and for the New York economy."
Located in such a densely-populated area, a severe nuclear accident at Indian Point would be a high consequence event. And over the years, numerous operational problems (tritium leaks, transformer fire and damaged reactor vessel bolts) and external threats (9/11, Hurricane Sandy, an underlying earthquake fault, and the construction of the nearby Algonquin natural gas pipeline) have called into question the safety of operating Indian Point.
Indian Point Energy Center Location MapNRDC
Today's announcement also means the electricity generation from the two reactors will be replaced with safe, renewable and truly clean energy resources like wind, solar and energy efficiency that don't pollute the air and harm our health.
Following the Fukushima accident in Japan, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report on the potential consequences of a severe nuclear accident at Indian Point. Our analysis considered two potential accident scenarios: radiation release from Indian Point on the scale of the 2011 Fukushima accident, and radiation release from Indian Point on the scale of the 1986 Chernobyl accident. NRDC's findings for these two scenarios are summarized as follows:
An accident at Indian Point Unit 3 on the scale of Fukushima Daiichi could require the sheltering or evacuation of as many as 5.6 million people due to a fallout plume blown south to the New York City metropolitan area. People in the path of the plume would be at risk for receiving a whole-body radiation dose greater than 1 rem, which for an average individual results in a 0.3 percent increase in risk of premature death from cancer. An accident of this scale would require the administration of stable iodine to more than six million people (where people would be at risk for receiving a thyroid radiation dose greater than 10 rad).
An accident at Indian Point Unit 3 approaching the scale of Chernobyl involving a full reactor core melt could put people in New York City at risk for receiving a whole-body radiation dose greater than 25 rem, resulting in a 7 percent increase in risk of premature death from cancer for an average individual. An accident of this scale would require the administration of stable iodine throughout the New York City metropolitan area, and put thousands at risk for radiation sickness in and near the Hudson Valley. If conditions sent the plume toward Manhattan, the island would be inhabitable due to radioactivity.
Final Nail in Indian Point's Coffin? https://t.co/Y2XyEpG7ur @riverkeeper @Waterkeeper @RobertKennedyJr @PAULGALLAY @greenpeaceusa #NoNukes— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1479763852.0
However, disconnecting Indian Point from the electric grid is only the beginning of the process of reactor decommissioning, which also includes the long-shuttered Unit 1, which was closed in 1974 due to defects in the stainless steel piping used to help keep the reactor cool.
To reach the important goal of restoring the environment in this piece of the Hudson Valley, the state must also develop a plan to safely manage the plant's spent nuclear fuel—rods that have been stored onsite since the plant's first unit went online in the 1960s-- while the United States continues to wait for the siting of its deep geologic repository. That step must come next.
Given Indian Point's troubled history and external threats, the decision to close the plant in the near term is the right one and will help safeguard millions of New Yorkers in the years to come.
My colleagues Kit Kennedy and Jackson Morris will be posting another blog shortly with an overview of the Indian Point closure agreement including clean energy replacement power options for New York State.
Reposted with permission from Natural Resources Defense Council.
From Noam Chomsky's epic post on his fears of the coming Trump Administration to Michael Moore's damnation of the Flint water crisis to Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s first-hand account of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, 2016 was jam-packed with news once again showing our continued disregard for the health of people and the planet.
Though there were many positive news stories last year of people, companies and governments making strides to adopt sustainable practice and transition to renewable energy sources, the world's top scientists still fear the worse as atmospheric CO2 concentrations are just above 400 parts per million, taking us closer to the "danger zone" of 2 degrees celsius increase in temperature relative to pre-industrial time.
Many people think we have already reached the tipping point, but I believe power of people can turn this around. So, here's to a 2017 where millions more people become engaged on the most important environmental issues impacting the future of our planet.
Here are EcoWatch's 20 most read posts of 2016:
Noam Chomsky: 'The Republican Party Has Become the Most Dangerous Organization in World History' via @EcoWatch: https://t.co/2F68fmwa1z— Michael E. Mann (@Michael E. Mann)1480720654.0
2. World's Largest Solar Project Would Generate Electricity 24 Hours a Day, Power 1 Million U.S. Homes
The world's largest solar project would generate electricity 24h/day & power 1 million U.S. homes. https://t.co/l0O8ONf8SA via @EcoWatch— NRDC 🌎 (@NRDC 🌎)1477150743.0
Solar Impulse Pilot: 'I Flew Over Plastic Waste As Big As a Continent' https://t.co/plZAn3qlZX @ecowatch #pollution— Blue Planet Society (@Blue Planet Society)1461768350.0
Lake Powell: Going, Going, Gone? #CORiver #ColoradoRiver https://t.co/SXFRqrAKGm @billmckibben @EcoWatch https://t.co/YucBjs8Cuy— SaveTheColoradoRiver (@SaveTheColoradoRiver)1471291613.0
5. Mark Ruffalo Delivers Solar Panels to Camp Where Thousands Are Fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline
[email protected] Delivers Solar Panels to Camp Where Hundreds Are Fighting Dakota Access Pipeline via @EcoWatch: https://t.co/KL8AwRuETJ— Leonardo DiCaprio (@Leonardo DiCaprio)1477603334.0
6. Scientists Uncover Array of Strange Animals in Cave That Has Been Sealed Off for 5.5 Million Years
Nation's Longest Bike Path Will Connect Maine to Florida https://t.co/fhvEmpIQup (via @EcoWatch @ECGreenway)— Sierra Club (@Sierra Club)1470007804.0
Scientists Are Freaking Out Over This 25-Year-Old's Solution to #Superbugs https://t.co/Laxbm4QXd3— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1474921400.0
World's Biggest Sockeye Run Shut Down as Wild Pacific Salmon Fight for Survival via @EcoWatch https://t.co/NVwCjoxcdI— Wildlife Action (@Wildlife Action)1474560829.0
Michael Moore: 10 Things They Won't Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy, But I Will https://t.co/a3lvwIwPi8 @CleanWaterMI @NRDCWater— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1454198104.0
50,000,000 Trees, 800,000 People, 24 Hours = 1 World record https://t.co/B7F2CmLUG2 via @EcoWatch @GWR #India https://t.co/FcZzEghcXv— Conservation Guide (@Conservation Guide)1468662669.0
Injection of #Fracking Wastewater Caused Kansas’ Biggest Earthquake https://t.co/XSSfMTefDV @POTUS @EPA @GinaEPA #banfracking via @EcoWatch— Frack Action (@Frack Action)1476462433.0
#Monsanto's #Glyphosate Found in California Wines, Even Wines Made With Organic Grapes https://t.co/8IkSC4EiJf via @ecowatch #health #cancer— Green Bean (@Green Bean)1459261629.0
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr: 'I'll see you at #StandingRock' https://t.co/YOs1gMR9b4 via @EcoWatch #climate #NoDAPL… https://t.co/2dZMUN2nfx— climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)1480552261.0
Unspeakable bill that must be defeated RT Federal Bill Seeks First Native American Land Grab in 100 Years @EcoWatch https://t.co/0zId8y09WK— Bianca Jagger Nicaraguense por gracia de Dios 🇳🇮 (@Bianca Jagger Nicaraguense por gracia de Dios 🇳🇮)1474409619.0
Climate Change Cartoon Goes Viral After Elon Musk, John Green Share It on Twitter https://t.co/keqkzCC0oG @TheCCoalition @carbonmeme— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1473939621.0
[email protected]: #Syria: Another #Pipeline #War https://t.co/YD2NJnpRss @MarkRuffalo @LeoDiCaprio @350 @sierraclub https://t.co/im9w66DfN3— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1456422404.0
Epic Middle East Heat Wave Is Being Compared to Weapon of Mass Destruction via @EcoWatch https://t.co/OryjBYBD6J #YEARSscience— The YEARS Project (@The YEARS Project)1471194911.0
19. Listen to Sen. Inhofe's Response to His Granddaughter Asking Him: 'Why Is It You Don't Understand Global Warming?'
Listen to Sen. Inhofe's Response to His Granddaughter Asking Him: 'Why Is It You Don't Understand Global Warming?' https://t.co/McSXXLXAKp— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1470172211.0
Chemical company Dupont Co. will pay Virginia a stunning $50 million to clean up decades of mercury pollution. The proposed settlement is the largest natural resource settlement in the state's history and the eighth largest in the nation, state and federal officials said.
"Today's settlement, the largest of its kind in Virginia history, is the culmination of a coordinated effort by countless partners at both the state and federal level," Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement. "Thanks to their hard work, Virginians and the environment will benefit from unprecedented investments in land conservation and habitat restoration. I applaud and appreciate the meticulous monitoring by our state agencies, the thorough analysis of the scientific advisory committee, and DuPont's willingness to come to the table and make this happen."
"[The settlement] ranks 8th in all of time of natural resource damage settlements across the country ... and that includes such big cases like Deep Water Horizon and Exxon Valdez," Paul Phifer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services said, according to the Associated Press.
The case dates back several decades when a former DuPont factory outside the city of Waynesboro leaked mercury—a chemical used for the plant's rayon production—into the South River
from 1929 to 1950. The pollution was finally discovered in the 1970s and DuPont has worked with federal and state officials on cleanup solutions over the years.
Still, the mercury remains persistent and has been difficult to remove. The South River is one of the area's leading tributaries so any contamination eventually flows into the Shenandoah River. According to the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, the South River Science Team found that South River and South Fork Shenandoah River fish continue to have elevated mercury concentrations some 60 years later after the DuPont plant ceased production.
Mercury is highly toxic and can travel up the food chain and can have a whole host of terrifying problems for aquatic life and humans alike. Fish consumption advisories in affected areas are in place to this day.
Alarming Levels of Mercury Contamination Found Across Western North America https://t.co/Eeb88jsjPg @Waterkeeper @foodandwater— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1474412707.0
"Over 100 miles of river and thousands of acres of floodplain and riparian habitat were impacted from the mercury," the Department of Justice said in a statement. "Some of the assessed and impacted natural resources include fish, migratory songbirds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. Recreational fishing opportunities were also impacted from the mercury."
NBC29 notes that the historic settlement would go towards wildlife habitat restoration, water quality enhancement and improvements to recreational areas.
"DuPont has agreed to provide $42.3 million in support of restoration projects in the South River and South Fork Shenandoah watersheds. The trustees will use these funds for a number of restoration projects to enhance natural resources in the region," Mike Liberati, South River project director for the DuPont Corporate Remediation Group, said in a statement.
"In keeping with its long history of cooperation with, and participation in, government initiatives, and its ongoing support of the local community, DuPont's is committed to a long-term presence in the Waynesboro area and to maintaining transparency with its citizens," Liberati continued.
The trustees, through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Commonwealth of Virginia, invite feedback on actions to restore the river and wildlife habitat and improve public lands and recreational resources. A draft restoration plan and environmental assessment (RP/EA) was also released today for a 45-day public comment period. The plan results from stakeholder meetings beginning in 2008 to determine how best to compensate the public for the injured natural resources and their uses.
By Steve Horn
Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, submitted a 54-page petition with 358 footnotes and 448 pages containing 43 exhibits to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), calling for an end of all of its federal contracts with ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was recently named U.S. Secretary of State by President-Elect Donald Trump and will likely face a contentious congressional nomination hearing due to his own and his company's ties to Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The petition centers around what Exxon knew for decades about climate change, which it studied closely in-house, while funding climate change denial efforts for decades, while also discussing the rest of its environmental track-record.
Trump Taps Exxon's Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Confirms 'Support of Big Oil and Putin' https://t.co/OA47LMjMJ1 @OpenSecretsDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481666708.0
"ExxonMobil kept its knowledge of climate change a secret while using lies to build a generation of climate change deniers. The company continues to push government policy that goes against proven science and exacerbates the greatest threat to humanity and America's national security," Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said. "American tax dollars should not be making a morally bankrupt business richer. We must cut our financial support for this outlaw corporation."
Corporate Rap Sheet
The petition itself reads like a corporate rap sheet, of sorts and could provide fodder for congressional members who have pledged to oppose—or at the very least ask tough questions—of Tillerson at his congressional confirmation hearing. This includes intricate details about what Exxon knew about climate change, as well as how it has proceeded to fund the climate denial machine.
"The propagation and funding of this misinformation, especially when viewed in the context of ExxonMobil's long history of environmental violations, provides a compelling basis for ExxonMobil's debarment," reads the petition's introduction. "In short, ExxonMobil has exhibited a pattern of behavior reflecting a lack of business integrity and honesty, which behavior has had dire consequences for the environment and society generally. As a result, it should no longer be permitted to do business with the government."
Waterkeeper maintains that EPA's legal authority to do such a thing, in this particular case, comes from the Federal Acquisition Regulation federal codes. The petition lists some examples of federal contracts being cut with corporations due to bad behavior, including the likes of Arthur Anderson and Enron and BP after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
While climate denial efforts and funding make up about two-thirds of the petition, broader environmental and ecological impacts also receive in-depth documentation in the rest of the document, as well. This includes examples of workers' safety and health being violated, air pollution, water contamination, pipeline spills, among other things.
Shale gas and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale basin also gets a mention for Exxon's subsidiary, XTO Energy, the biggest producer of oil and natural gas in the U.S.
So too do many of Exxon's refineries, chemical plants, gas plants and terminals discussed in the context of being in noncompliance with federal clean air and water regulations, according to data they collected from the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History.
Exxon, as mentioned in the petition, is currently under investigation by multiple state-level Attorneys General for allegedly misleading investors and the public about climate change and its knowledge of it.
20 Attorneys General Launch #Climate Fraud Investigation of @exxonmobil https://t.co/v7ciPEDcps via @ecowatch— DeSmogBlog (@DeSmogBlog)1460052939.0
EPA has the Power
Waterkeeper says that the Obama Administration has the legal power to get the ball rolling to cut the contract, using the tools of a legal suspension or debarment, which would halt Exxon from landing federal contracts. They also note that the company has received more than $750 million in federal contracts in 2015 alone.
"EPA has the power to restore our faith in the values and integrity of our government by ensuring American dollars go to good businesses," Todd Ommen, managing attorney for the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, said in a press release. "Now is the time to push back against this era of misinformation and move toward climate leadership built on truth and a respect for science."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.