Provisions in the CARES Act passed last March, gave 77 fossil fuel companies $8.2 billion in tax breaks, and their laid off workers a $1,200 stimulus check. Using SEC data, the report shows Marathon Petroleum, the biggest single beneficiary, got more than $2 billion before laying off almost 2,000 workers — about 9% of its workforce at a rate of around $1 million per laid off worker.
Five companies went bankrupt after receiving $308.7 million in tax bailouts and laid off a total of 5,683 workers. "I'm not surprised that these companies took advantage of these tax benefits, but I'm horrified by the layoffs after they got this money," said Chris Kuveke, a researcher at BailoutWatch, told The Guardian. "Last year's stimulus was about keeping the economy going, but these companies didn't use these resources to retain their workers. These are companies that are polluting the environment, increasing the deadliness of the pandemic and letting go of their workers."
As reported by BailoutWatch:
As Washington debates ending tax subsidies for fossil fuels, part of President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, fossil fuel companies are quietly reporting their employee headcounts and final tax bills for 2020. The data underscore the hypocrisy of claims that fossil fuels are a necessary engine of employment and succeed on an equal playing field in the free market.
The bailouts are the tip of a much bigger iceberg: Fossil fuels have long benefited from a trove of tax-code provisions. In the century since they emerged, the coal, oil, and gas industries' strength has reflected not market efficiencies, as defenders claim, but government largesse that far exceeds what has so far been extended to the clean energy sector.
For a deeper dive:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Wednesday it will remove more than 40 members of scientific advisory panels appointed under the previous administration in an effort to reduce the heavy influence of regulated industries over the regulatory process.
The Trump administration barred — illegally, according to critics — experts who received EPA grants from sitting on the agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), in effect elevating industry-backed voices and freezing out independent scientific experts.
Trump's EPA refused to strengthen standards on ozone, which disproportionately harms low-income communities and communities of color, on the advice of Trump-picked members of the CASAC. The CASAC also split on strengthening limits on industrial soot (also known as PM2.5) pollution despite mounting evidence it increased the risk of dying from COVID-19. An EPA spokesperson said the dismissed Trump-appointed board members were eligible to reapply if they chose to do so.
In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said, "Resetting these two scientific advisory committees will ensure the agency receives the best possible scientific insight to support our work to protect human health and the environment."
As reported by The Washington Post:
The action Wednesday is one of several steps Regan says are necessary to rebuild the scientific integrity of the EPA and restore staff morale. It comes as the White House this week launched a government-wide assessment of past political interference in science.
Regan recently, for instance, revived an EPA webpage on climate change deleted during Trump's first weeks in office. And in a memo to staff last week, he said the agency is reviewing policies that impeded science and is encouraging career employees to "bring any items of concern" to the attention of scientific integrity officials as they review Trump-era actions.
For a deeper dive:
- Federal Agencies Have Lost Hundreds of Scientists Since 2017 ... ›
- UCS Offers Science Advice for Biden Administration - EcoWatch ›
- Trump's Toxic Wake: 10 Ways the EPA Has Made Life More ... ›
- You're Fired! Trump Administration Shows Experts the Door ... ›
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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.
By Daniel Raichel
While many know Chicago as the "Second City," the old stomping grounds of Michael Jordan or Al Capone, or perhaps even still as "Hog Butcher to the World," I doubt many think of it as a home for endangered wildlife.
However, as a recent Chicago Tribune article shows, that's exactly what it is for one of our very favorite endangered pollinators—the rusty patched bumble bee.
For the better part of a decade, NRDC has fought for the rusty patched bumble bee's survival, and we are now suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the fourth time—this time, to reverse a Trump-Era decision not to designate federally protected "critical habitat" for the bee.
That's why it was particularly sweet to learn that a couple of rusty patched bumble bees were spotted foraging near the Rogers Park Metra stop, not far from the Honeybear Cafe and some of my old foraging grounds growing up.
"Rogers Park Metra Community Garden" by LN is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Although the article provides a fun "work meets life" moment for me, it also underscores the importance of our lawsuit. As Abby Shafer of the Evanston Native Bee Initiative notes, one patch of native habitat can be meaningful, but what's most needed is a network of interconnected habitat so that the bee's populations can recover and once again thrive.
By refusing to designate "critical habitat" for the bee, the Fish and Wildlife Service effectively scuttled any plan for such a federally protected habitat network—breaking the law and putting this magnificent and vulnerable bee one step closer to extinction. That's why we'll keep fighting in court until we (yet again) secure the protections that the rusty patched bumble bee deserves.
Who knows, if we're successful, maybe you'll see the rusty patched bumble bee in your neighborhood too.
"The Lurie Garden in Chicago's Millennium Park" by UGArdener is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Reposted with permission from NRDC.
Regan is one of several nominees that the Biden administration announced in December as part of a team to tackle the climate crisis. But at the EPA, Regan also faces the added challenge of rebuilding an agency still reeling from former President Donald Trump's rollbacks, as well as addressing the inequality that exposes poor and minority communities to more pollution than wealthy, white communities.
The 44-year-old Regan comes to the EPA with a long background in environmental regulation and advocacy: He worked for the EPA under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. From 2001 to 2008, he worked at the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, USA Today reported. From 2008 to 2015, he worked for the Environmental Defense Fund, then left to start his own environmental consulting firm, M. Regan and Associates.
In 2017, he served as cabinet secretary for North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality. His experience running a regulatory agency in a swing state likely helped him clinch today's confirmation with bipartisan support, as every Democrat and 16 Republicans backed his nomination, HuffPost reported.
In his hearings, Regan presented himself as a consensus builder who would listen to all sides of an issue, according to The Washington Post.
"He is immensely qualified for this position, not only in qualifications, but in his demeanor," said North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, one of the Republicans who voted for Regan, The Washington Post reported. "Too often we overlook whether a nominee has the right character to lead an organization. In this case, there's no question that Michael Regan has that character."
However, Regan is still committed to tackling climate change and helping to lift the disproportionate pollution burden faced by marginalized communities. But he also needs to rebuild an agency that lost almost 900 employees during the Trump years, HuffPost reported.
Projects that could be tackled by his EPA include reversing Trump's rollbacks, setting vehicle and power plant emission standards and cleaning up polluted areas, The Washington Post reported.
Environmental groups met Regan's appointment with overall approval.
"This is a wonderful day for our country, for the Environmental Protection Agency, and for communities nationwide who cherish clean air, clean water, and safeguarding our climate," Sierra Club Legislative Director Melinda Pierce said in a statement.
However, Regan has earned some pushback for decisions made in North Carolina. He approved permits for the controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline and approved a gas facility in Indigenous Lumbee territory without properly consulting tribal leaders.
"My belief is that he could have had a stronger environmental justice footprint," Donna Chavis, a North Carolina environmentalist and current senior fossil fuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told The Washington Post.
However, she added that Regan had succeeded in rebuilding the North Carolina agency despite budget cuts and low morale.
While Regan is the first Black man to hold the position, Lisa Jackson was the first Black American to run the EPA. She served for four years during the Obama administration.
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In 2017 the Trump administration altered the interpretation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) arguing that it only prohibited the direct hunting or killing of birds, not unintended deaths from wind turbines or oil spills, for example, EcoWatch reported at the time.
The change "overturned decades of bipartisan and international consensus and allowed industry to kill birds with impunity," Interior Spokesperson Tyler Cherry told The Associated Press.
Obama U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe warned that the change could lead to billions of bird deaths in subsequent decades, The Associated Press reported at the time.
Before Monday's reversal of this interpretation by Biden's Department of the Interior, the Trump ruling had already encountered legal challenges. In August, a New York federal judge deemed the new interpretation to be invalid.
"It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime," U.S. District Judge Valorie Caproni wrote in her decision. "That has been the letter of the law for the past century. But if the Department of the Interior has its way, many mockingbirds and other migratory birds that delight people and support ecosystems throughout the country will be killed without legal consequence."
The Trump administration moved forward despite the decision, and finalized the rollback during its last weeks in power.
However, Biden's administration delayed the new rule from taking effect and reopened it for public comments, HuffPost reported. Now that it has been jettisoned, Cherry said a replacement rule would be forthcoming.
"The department will also reconsider its interpretation of the MBTA to develop common-sense standards that can protect migratory birds and provide certainty to industry," Cherry told Courthouse News Service.
The 1918 MBTA resulted from overhunting and poaching of migratory birds, The Associated Press reported. The policy makes it illegal to pursue, hunt, kill, capture or possess migratory birds or their parts without a permit, HuffPost explained. Since the 1970s, the act has also been used to penalize companies when their actions accidentally harm birds.
For example, the act helped win a $100 million settlement from BP after the company's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico killed about 100,000 birds, The Associated Press reported.
It's estimated that around 460 million to 1.4 billion birds die every year from human-made causes, including oil pits and glass buildings. Between 2010 and 2018, civil and criminal enforcement cases against companies led to $5.8 million in fines, excluding the BP settlement. However, most of those cases did not lead to criminal prosecutions since many companies were willing to implement bird protections.
While industry groups backed the Trump rollback, they also did not oppose the Biden reversal.
"We are committed to working with the Biden administration throughout their rulemaking process in support of policies that support environmental protection while providing regulatory certainty," Amy Emmert, American Petroleum Institute senior policy advisor, told Courthouse News Service.
Conservation groups said this general atmosphere of cooperation made the Trump rollback unwarranted.
"There really had been a lot of collaboration and a fair amount of consensus about what best management practices looked like for most major industries," Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president with the Audubon Society, told The Associated Press. "There was a lot of common ground, which is why the moves from the last administration were so unnecessary."
By Brett Wilkins
Documents obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen and published Wednesday reveal how leading players in the meatpacking industry—one of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic—fought the minimal efforts imposed by the Trump administration to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in meat processing plants last spring.
As Public Citizen put it, "these docs are utterly damning."
Responding to Public Citizen's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the USDA handed over documents showing that:
- In April 2020, officials in the North American Meat Institute protested USDA's decision not to send Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors who were exposed to Covid-19 into other plants. On April 15, 2020, one NAMI official stated that "we can't start sidelining individuals at FSIS or in the industry because they may have been exposed. We all may have been exposed at this point";
- Later in April 2020, officials at the National Chicken Council complained to USDA that FSIS was asking too many questions about Covid-19 testing at poultry processing facilities, stating the "questions seem to be unnecessary."
- In May 2020, officials at animal processing giant Tyson Foods complained to USDA that the company had to "spend significant resources... each day when reporting positive team members."
- In March 2020, the Food and Beverage Issue Alliance developed guidance for industry members stating that, unless state or local governments required it, "physical (social) distancing should be a tool but not a requirement."
- Industry officials reported FSIS employees who warned their friends and families about plants with cases of Covid-19, specifically forwarding a personal Facebook post and asking USDA to take disciplinary action against the inspectors.
Adam Pulver, an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group, said in a statement that "it is heartbreaking to see the callousness of the meatpacking industry, pushing back against basic safety measures that could have saved hundreds of lives and helped contain the Covid-19 pandemic."
BREAKING: New docs we uncovered show the meatpacking industry vehemently fought COVID safety measures, arguing that… https://t.co/HTeX4A9anG— Public Citizen (@Public Citizen)1614799740.0
"While we knew that meatpacking companies did not take adequate measures to protect their workers and the communities they lived in from the threat of Covid-19, these documents show that the industry actively pushed back against the few steps the Trump administration took to try to ensure the safety of meatpacking workers and federal inspectors," Pulver added.
As Public Citizen notes, at least 45,000 coronavirus cases and 240 Covid-19 deaths have been linked to U.S. meatpacking facilities.
In September 2020, Public Citizen and American Oversight published documents also obtained via FOIA requests that showed how the USDA and the meatpacking industry worked together to downplay and disregard risks to worker health during the pandemic. The documents revealed that a leading meat industry lobby group drafted a proposed executive order that was strikingly similar to a directive issued a week later by then-President Donald Trump to keep meatpacking plants open against the orders of local health officials.
Last September's revelations were followed by a November scandal involving supervisors at a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa who placed cash bets on how many workers at the facility would contract the coronavirus. More than 1,000 employees—over a third of the plant's workforce—were infected.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By the end of Tuesday, the second day of the hunt, 82 wolves had been killed, The Associated Press reported. As of Wednesday morning, 135 had been killed, exceeding the quota, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
"Wisconsin's actions offer a tragic glimpse of a future without federal wolf protections," the Wolf Conservation Center tweeted in response.
President Donald Trump's delisting of gray wolves under the Endangered Species Act triggered the hunt. The DNR originally set a quota of 200 wolves to be killed between Feb. 22 and Feb. 28. Of the 200, 81 were allocated to the Ojibwe Tribes in accordance with treaty rights, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Hunters killed about half of the remaining 119 by Tuesday morning and 69 percent by Tuesday afternoon, The Associated Press reported. By Wednesday morning, hunters exceeded the quota by 16 wolves.
Hunters also exceeded the quota set for three of the state's hunting zones, according to DNR. They killed 33 of an 18-wolf quota in zone 2, located in the northeast; 24 of a 20-wolf quota in zone 3 located in the center; and 30 of a 17-wolf quota in southern zone 6. The hunt ended Wednesday at 10 a.m. CT in the most depleted zones and will end at 3 p.m. CT for the remaining half.
The hunt is the state's first since 2014, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. After wolves were returned to state management under Trump in January 2021, Wisconsin intended to plan a hunt for November 2021, arguing that it needed the time to study the population and consult with Native American tribes and the general public. However, pro-hunting group Hunter Nation sued the state to start the hunt earlier in the year, with a judge ruling in their favor. This past Friday, an appeals court dismissed the Wisconsin DNR's appeal, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
"The reckless slaughter of 135 wolves in just three days is appalling," said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Sound science was ignored here in favor of catering to trophy hunters who were all too eager to kill wolves even at the height of breeding season. It will take years for Wisconsin's wolf population to recover from the damage done this week. And without federal protections, this bloody spectacle could easily play out in other states."
The hunt killed about 12 percent of Wisconsin's wolves, which last numbered between 1,034 and 1,057 according to 2020 DNR data.
Other conservation groups also raised concerns about the rushed hunt. At the same time, Indigenous communities criticized the lack of consultation. The state is required by law to consult with tribes on resources management.
"This hunt is not well-thought-out, well-planned, totally inadequate consultation with the tribes," Peter David, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission wildlife biologist, told Wisconsin Public Radio. "And maybe the biggest concern of all is that this season is not so much a hunting season as it is a killing season. No justification, really, was given for what was the legitimate purpose other than killing wolves."
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By Brett Wilkins
New data released Friday revealed pigs slaughtered at plants piloting a controversial new system—which speeds production while replacing many government inspectors with slaughterhouse employees—had much higher rates of fecal and digestive matter contamination than animals processed in other plants, information that the Trump administration hid from the public while expanding the system.
The consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch said in a statement that from 2014 to 2017, pork processing plants implementing the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) on a trial basis had, on average, "nearly double the violations than comparably sized plants outside the program" and "were almost twice as likely to be cited for contamination."
According to Food & Water Watch, the plant's higher rates of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) violations were for the agency's FS-2 food safety standard for fecal matter, digestive contents, and milk.
“This new data should end this argument once and for all: Meat companies should not be left to police themselves to… https://t.co/ocjzYckRaR— Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)1613757614.0
"These substances can contain human pathogens, like potentially deadly Salmonella, which the agency has estimated is responsible for 69,000 people getting sick from eating pork each year," Food & Water Watch said. "Because of its seriousness, the agency has zero tolerance for FS-2 violations, meaning that no carcass contamination is acceptable."
"This new data should end this argument once and for all: Meat companies should not be left to police themselves to protect consumers from dirty and dangerous pork products," said Zach Corrigan, a senior attorney for Food & Water Watch, in a statement Friday.
The new revelations follow 2018 reporting—based on documents obtained by Food & Water Watch—that plants piloting the NSIS were "rife with food safety violations," including "fecal contamination, sanitation issues, and failure to remove diseased carcasses from the food chain."
Despite this, the USDA adopted the NSIS last year as part of the Trump administration's aggressive—and sometimes deadly—deregulation and privatization agenda. The NSIS is supported by the North American Meat Institute, an industry lobby group that came under fire last year after revelations that one of its draft executive orders on keeping meatpacking plants open during the coronavirus pandemic bore striking similarities to an actual directive signed by then-President Donald Trump.
Center for Food Safety staff attorney Ryan Talbott has called the NSIS' lifting of production line speed limits and partial privatization of meat inspection by replacing USDA inspectors with plant workers "a recipe for disaster."
The coronavirus pandemic—which has hit meat processing plants particularly hard—has further increased risks, including the prospect of new zoonotic diseases that could be the source of the next pandemic.
"Meatpacking is already one of the most dangerous industries for workers in America," said Deborah Berkowitz, worker safety and health program director at the National Employment Law Project, in a letter last year. "Every day, tens of thousands of hog slaughter workers make the same repetitive motions, thousands upon thousands of times a day, using saws, hooks, and knives to slaughter and break down hogs into the pork steaks that we all buy and eat."
"The scientific evidence in the record for the NSIS is clear—the faster hog slaughter workers must do their tasks, the higher the risk of injury," added Berkowitz.
In a bid to mitigate risks, a group of Democratic lawmakers last year introduced the Safe Line Speeds in Covid-19 Act, which would prohibit high-speed slaughter systems such as the NSIS from operating during the pandemic.
Last year, Food & Water Watch sued the USDA over the NSIS, calling it "a draconian reversal to the swine slaughter inspection system that has existed in the United States since 1906." Earlier this month, a federal court ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.
"Were the Biden administration to continue defending [the NSIS] in court, it would be to support exposing consumers to more pork contaminated with potentially pathogenic fecal matter and other contaminants," said Corrigan.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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The United States officially reenters the Paris agreement today, a symbolic and important step toward the aggressive action required to stem the tide of climate change.
The day also marks the merger of two of the most prominent groups formed after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the pact — We Are Still In, a coalition of states, cities and businesses, and America's Pledge on Climate Change, which tracked their progress — into the new America Is All In, which will continue to push for accelerated action.
For a deeper dive:
- Biden Reaffirms Commitment to Rejoining Paris Agreement ... ›
- World Leaders Fall Short of Meeting Paris Agreement Goal - EcoWatch ›
- Trump vs. the Paris Climate Agreement - EcoWatch ›
Emails Reveal: U.S. Officials Sided With Agrochemical Giant Bayer to Overturn Mexico's Glyphosate Ban
By Kenny Stancil
While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has given farmers in the country a 2024 deadline to stop using glyphosate, The Guardian reported Tuesday that agrochemical company Bayer, industry lobbyist CropLife America, and U.S. officials have been pressuring Mexico's government to drop its proposed ban on the carcinogenic pesticide.
The corporate and U.S.-backed attempt to coerce Mexico into maintaining its glyphosate imports past 2024 has unfolded, as journalist Carey Gillam detailed in the newspaper, "over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11 billion settlement of legal claims brought by people in the U.S. who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure" to glyphosate-based products, such as Roundup.
Roundup, one of the world's mostly widely-used herbicides, was created by Monsanto which was acquired by Bayer in 2018.
According to The Guardian, which obtained internal documents via a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), "The pressure on Mexico is similar to actions Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weed killer, but reversed course after U.S. threats about trade disruption."
In addition to instructing Mexico's farmers to stop using glyphosate by 2024, the López Obrador administration on Dec. 31, 2020 issued a "final decree" calling for "a phase-out of the planting and consumption of genetically engineered corn, which farmers often spray with glyphosate, a practice that often leaves residues of the pesticide in finished food products," the news outlet noted.
The Mexican government has characterized the restrictions as an effort to improve the nation's "food security and sovereignty" and to protect its wealth of biological as well as cultural diversity and farming communities.
Mexico's promotion of human and environmental health, however, "has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agricultural exports, especially Bayer's glyphosate products," Gillam wrote.
But Mexico’s concern for the health of its citizens has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agric… https://t.co/d81tuhqYcl— carey gillam (@carey gillam)1613482743.0
Based on its analysis of government emails from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other U.S. agencies from 2019 and 2020, The Guardian explained how the U.S., frustrated by the positions that Mexico has taken, is trying to use the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — the Trump-led free trade deal that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dubbed NAFTA 2.0 — to force Mexico to abandon its plans to ban glyphosate and phase out GMO corn.
According to The Guardian, Mexico each year imports roughly $3 billion in corn from the U.S., where 90% of corn production relies on GMO seeds.
As the newspaper reported:
One email makes a reference to staff within López Obrador's administration as "vocal anti-biotechnology activists," and another email states that Mexico's health agency (COFEPRIS) is "becoming a big time problem."
Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is "pushing" for the US to "fold this issue" into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect 1 July. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns "regarding compliance" with USMCA.
Citing discussions with CropLife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email "how we could use USMCA to work through these issues."
Nathan Donley, a biologist at CBD, told The Guardian that "we're seeing more and more how the pesticide industry uses the U.S. government to aggressively push its agenda on the international stage and quash any attempt by people in other countries to take control of their food supply."
Corporate executives in the agrochemical industry reportedly became alarmed about the López Obrador administration's position on pesticides in late 2019 when Mexican officials explained their decision to refuse imports of glyphosate from China by referring to the "precautionary principle."
Detailing a series of emails between U.S. government officials and industry executives, Gillam described how the latter told the former "that they feared restricting glyphosate would lead to limits on other pesticides and could set a precedent for other countries to do the same."
The emails also indicated worries that "Mexico may also reduce the levels of pesticide residues allowed in food," a development that industry executives warned would undermine U.S. exports of corn and soybeans to Mexico.
As Gillam wrote, CropLife president Chris Novak told U.S. officials that "'if Mexico extends the precautionary principle' to pesticide residue levels in food, '$20 billion in U.S. annual agricultural exports to Mexico will be jeopardized.'"
According to The Guardian, "It is unclear if the efforts to push Mexico to change its policy position are still underway within the new Biden administration."
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a progressive think tank working to build fair and sustainable food, farm, and trade systems, tweeted Tuesday that the USTR has a choice.
"Will they continue the pattern of doing the bidding of global biotech/seed firms like Monsanto?" asked IATP. "Or, will the USTR respect other countries' rights to protect the environment and indigenous crops? Will they recalibrate U.S. trade policy to be more transparent?"
IATP, for its part, has recommended that Katherine Tai, President Joe Biden's pick to lead the USTR office, "break with the corporate free trade model" supported by previous administrations from both major parties.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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When the Trump administration delisted gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, it triggered a Wisconsin law requiring the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to hold a wolf hunt from mid-October through February, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The DNR originally said it would wait until November 2021 to prepare a hunt, but hunting advocates sued to speed up the process, and last week a judge ordered the board to prepare a February hunt. This prompted the DNR to set a quota on Monday of 200 gray wolves that can be killed before the end of the month.
Wildlife advocates oppose the move, pointing out that the rushed hunt will take place during the wolves' breeding season.
"You remove one, you're essentially destabilizing and killing the entire pack," Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife Executive Director Melissa Smith told Public News Service. "So, we expect this to be pretty detrimental to our wolf population."
The federal delisting of wolves officially went into effect in January. In December, the DNR said it would wait until November to set a hunting quota, arguing that it needed more time to make a scientifically sound plan and consult with tribes and the public, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. In late January, the state's Natural Resources Board rejected a push from Republican lawmakers to speed up the quota, Wisconsin Public Radio reported at the time.
However, Kansas-based group Hunter Nation sued the state to start the hunt this winter. It argued that delaying the hunt violated hunters' constitutional rights, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Circuit Judge Bennett Brantmeier ruled in the group's favor. While Wisconsin is appealing this decision, the Natural Resources Board still voted Monday to authorize a February hunt.
The hunt will allow the killing of 200 wolves that aren't on tribal reservations, according to the DNR website. The hunt will last from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, and hunters can apply for a permit between Feb. 16 and Feb. 20. The state will issue 4,000 permits, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, which is twice the number that staff recommended.
The department said it based the quota on the best available science, without intending to increase or decrease the state's wolf population. However, DNR members said they would have made a more accurate decision given more time. They also did not have a chance to fully consult with tribes or gather public input.
"Was there more we would like to do? Yes," Keith Warnke, administrator of fish, wildlife and parks for the DNR, told Wisconsin Public Radio. "Are we confident and comfortable with the quota recommendation we made? I think... we would have been more confident and more comfortable had we taken more time."
There are currently 1,195 wolves in Wisconsin, according to DNR. The last time the state managed the population, it set a quota of 350 wolves in 1999 and last updated it in 2007, wildlife advocates point out. Indigenous groups also argue that wolves are sacred to their communities, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. On the other side, those who support hunting argue that wolves are a threat to livestock and rural residents. But wildlife advocates counter that hunting is not the solution to human and wolf conflicts.
"Indiscriminate killing of wolves actually increases conflicts and spreads deer disease like CWD, so the special interests like the farm bureau and sportsmen's groups are not only doing a disservice to themselves pushing an early wolf hunt but may cause the wolf to be relisted again," Northern Wisconsin resident Britt Ricci said in a Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf and Wildlife statement.
Fear of new federal protections are partly behind the push for a hunt this winter, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. The Biden administration has called for a review of the Trump administration's agency rules, including the delisting of wolves.
"And so, they want to rush and try to kill as many as they can in a short time as possible during a sensitive breeding season," Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf's Smith told Public News Service.
A new report by a commission of health experts found 22,000 deaths in 2019 were caused by Trump's failed environmental policies alone.
The report was published this week by The Lancet, an esteemed medical journal whose "wade into the politics behind health policy is highly unusual," Bloomberg Green reported. But while the journal's editor Richard Horton has faced controversy before, the study was co-authored by 33 scientists, signaling "a changing time," Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg Green.
"If you told me four years ago that scientific journals would be speaking out against Trump, I wouldn't have believed you," Goldman told Bloomberg Green. "But since then, there has been quite a shift, reflecting both the severity of what Trump did as well as the changing willingness of the scientific community to engage in policy conversations."
During his administration, Trump rolled back 84 environmental regulations, the report notes as of July 2020 – rollbacks that ultimately "hastened global warming, and despoiled national monuments and lands sacred to Native people," the scientists wrote.
Loosened restrictions on fine particulate matter air pollution was probably the main cause of the thousands of deaths, according to the report, harming communities in midwestern and southern states, where coal mining, oil drilling and natural gas extraction are prevalent. Many of these same communities have also overwhelmingly supported Trump.
Trump's exploitation of these communities gripped white, low-income and middle-income people's anger over "their deteriorating life prospects," banking on racism and xenophobia to gather support for his policies, the report said. But the "disturbing truth" is that many of Trump's policies were not radically new trends in the country's economic, health and social-political history, the report finds.
The Trump administration's policies rather accelerated a "decades-long trend of lagging life expectancy," particularly among Black and Indigenous people, impacted by lax restrictions on air pollution which are linked to health issues like asthma and pneumonia among children, heart disease and lung cancer, the scientists wrote.
In addition to outlining Trump's environmental policy, the report includes lengthy sections on the COVID-19 pandemic, immigration and racial disparities in health care. "I really think one of the accomplishments of the report is its historical truth-telling," said Dr. Mary T Bassett, a commission member and director of Harvard University's FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, according to The Guardian.
The scientists in The Lancet report also recommend various policies the Biden administration could consider. They call for anti-racist frameworks that directly compensate communities who have long been disregarded in the country, and they call for the new administration to introduce measures that address the social and environmental inequalities that "exacerbate" health inequities.
So how quickly can we expect a new tide of equitable environmental policy in a new administration?
Americans should brace themselves because it may take a while, Kevin Minoli, who served as a lawyer at the U.S Environmental Protection Agency in the Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump administrations, told The New York Times.
"It's very possible, more possible than not, that some of the Trump rules will still be in effect for a couple of years," he added.
With an entirely new administration, environmental policies could be designed to protect the communities it has long disadvantaged. Early decisions by the Biden administration to cancel the construction permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and plans to restore protections over national monuments, like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah, are promising steps forward.
But reversing much of what has been done over the past four years is a big job. Going forward, the U.S. must do so with "humility, and ambition," said John Kerry, the new White House climate envoy, according to The New York Times. "We really don't have a minute to waste."
- Report Urges Biden to Reverse Trump's Environmental Rollbacks ... ›
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- 12 Trump Attacks on the Environment Since the Election - EcoWatch ›