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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.

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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.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

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.

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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.

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Monsanto has been slapped with another slew of cancer lawsuits over its most popular pesticide as the debate over the health risks of glyphosate rages on.

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.

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California is the first U.S. state to require Monsanto to label its blockbuster weed killer, Roundup, as a possible carcinogen, according to a ruling issued Friday by a California judge.

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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?"

Arturo S. Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers of America as well as several of Baum Hedlund's and Kennedy's California Roundup cancer clients also spoke a the press conference.

"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."

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."

Since 1974, when Roundup was first commercially sold, more than 1.6 billion kilograms (or 3.5 billion pounds) of glyphosate has been used in the U.S. Photo credit: Flickr

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cuomo: Indian Point Nuclear Plant to Close by 2021

Closing Indian Point Reduces Risk of Nuclear Accidents

Energy

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.

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.

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The South River in red. No fish other than trout should be eaten from these waters due to elevated mercury levels. Photo credit: South River Science Team

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.

"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.

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