By Jake Johnson
President Donald Trump issued an executive order late Thursday that environmentalists warned will accelerate the corporate exploitation of oceans by relaxing regulations on and streamlining the construction of industrial offshore aquaculture facilities, which critics deride as "floating factory farms" that pump pollution and diseases into public waters.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Ben Knight
Reports that the new coronavirus is disproportionately killing African Americans in the United States are no surprise to the country's public health researchers. Numerous examples, from polluted water in Flint, Michigan, to parasites like hookworm in Alabama, have long shown that African Americans are more exposed to environmental dangers and ill-health than white Americans.
But a study into one of the most enduring of these threats — lead poisoning among children —provides a new measure of what many say is the toxic effect of systematic racism in the US.
The Danger of Being African American<p>Statistically, the increased risk of lead poisoning associated with being black persists even when you correct for all other factors, from poverty to education levels to the presence of smokers in the home, to quality of housing.</p><p>"A lot of people had been saying: 'oh black children are just more at risk because they're more likely to be poor,'" said study co-author Deniz "Dersim" Yeter, an independent academic and undergraduate nursing student in Kansas. "Yeah, poverty's a problem, but it's nothing compared to being a black child in America."</p><p>Yeter was "astounded" by the results of their three-year analysis. "I knew it was bad, but I was expecting something like a marginal increase, something statistically significant, but ... not two to six times higher," they told DW. "That is obscene."</p><p>The study includes some surprising conclusions: The social condition of being African American is a bigger risk than living in an old house. In other words, black children living in buildings built between 1950-1977 are six times more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood than white children living in a building of that era.</p><p>That date is important. The US began putting restrictions on the lead content of paint in 1977. But leaded paint was never systematically removed from old buildings, and the US Department of Housing estimates that over 3.6 million homes housing children still contain lead hazards.</p><p>"It's so bad," Yeter said. "It deteriorates, it's little pieces of dust, you inhale it, kids touch stuff, touch their mouths, absorb it. [Before the 1950s] it used to be so bad that kids would go into seizures, go to the hospital and die, because there was so much lead in their blood."</p>
The Consequences of 'Redlining'<p>The figures Yeter unearthed aren't surprising to community workers in areas where lead poisoning is just one of many health hazards that African Americans face.</p><p>"You just have look around you," said Kinzer Pointer, pastor and health campaigner in an overwhelmingly African-American community in Buffalo, New York, a city where most of the housing is older than 1978 and 40% of children tested in 2016 had an elevated blood lead level.</p><p>Buffalo is a prime example of the effects of "redlining" — the exclusion of minorities in the US from everything from insurance, to grocery stores — which offers a clue to how racism leads to poor health. </p><p>Pointer said that in the neighborhood he serves, the nearest supermarket selling fresh fruit and vegetables is over five miles away, and 60% of people don't own their own transport. "People live on fast food," he said.</p>
The 'Color-Blind' Failure<p>David Rosner, co-author of the 2014 book Lead Wars, which traces the post-war history of lead poisoning, said racism has always been part of why lead poisoning has been tolerated.</p><p>As he explained, after the war, the Lead Industries Association even tried to blame black parents for letting their children eat paint: One 1956 letter showed the LIA arguing to government that lead poisoning was a problem of "educating the parents, but most of the cases are in Negro and Puerto Rican families, and how does one tackle that job?" </p><p>With their study, Yeter wants to show that hidden, structural racism can be just as dangerous, and that "color-blind" public health screening only exacerbates the problem. </p><p>Currently, blood lead screening is recommended (by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics) when children live in old buildings or belong to a certain economic class. Yeter says not addressing race too, blinds authorities to the endemic discrimination. </p><p>"If you're ignoring black race as a leading risk factor — you're leaving so many black kids at far greater risk out of the local, state, and federal response." He added: "To act like there's no politics behind people being at risk, or what causes that, or how to solve that... it's political!"</p>
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By Derrick Z. Jackson
The Trump administration is trying mightily to gut the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the law that mandates rigorous, science-based environmental impact reviews for major infrastructure and construction projects prior to federal permitting. NEPA also reserves significant time for the public to weigh in on the impact of projects to their communities.
The loss of public input in the administration's proposed changes to NEPA has environmental justice leaders up in arms. For them, the silencing amounts to regulatory racism.
Hope in the Courts<p>There is a glimmer of hope that the U.S. courts will determine that President Trump and his industrial partners are reaching <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1062092145" target="_blank">too far</a> in the rewrite of NEPA, as it relates to environmental racism. Take the Atlantic Bridge Pipeline, which is in the public eye for its upcoming Supreme Court case on whether it can transect the hallowed federal Appalachian Trail.</p><p>The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia <a href="https://www.courthousenews.com/fourth-circuit-delivers-another-blow-to-atlantic-coast-pipeline/" target="_blank">recently vacated</a> a Virginia state permit for a compressor station along the pipeline because developer Dominion Energy did not adequately assess its environmental impact on the historic African American host town of Union Hill. The town <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/federal-court-revokes-gas-project-permit-in-win-for-historic-african-american-community/2020/01/07/76bb3538-3170-11ea-a053-dc6d944ba776_story.html" target="_blank">was founded</a> by free African Americans and formerly enslaved people. The federal courts have also sent other fossil fuel projects and Trump administration oil and gas leases back to the drawing board for their inadequate consideration of environmental and climate impacts.</p><p>"Five years ago, Dominion told us that there was going to be a compressor station in Union Hill and there was nothing we could do about it," Chad Oba, president of a Union Hill coalition protesting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline compressor, <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/477199-atlantic-coast-pipeline-loses-permit-battle-with-historically-black" target="_blank">said in The Hill.</a> "That's not fair, and it's not American. This is a win for a group of citizens who were committed to protecting their community and never ever gave up."</p><p>Such victories give hope that this is one rollback the Trump administration may not ultimately get away with. The assault on NEPA is so sweeping and blatant in its turning control of the environment over to industry, it is sure to receive a massive court challenge from environmental groups and environmental justice advocates. If communities like Union Hill refused to give up, there is no reason for anyone opposed to the rewriting of NEPA to throw in the towel, either. There is still time before the March 10 deadline for <a href="https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/01/10/2019-28106/update-to-the-regulations-implementing-the-procedural-provisions-of-the-national-environmental" target="_blank">public comment.</a></p><p>Recently, Union of Concerned Scientists colleague Adrienne Hollis interviewed Mildred McClain, an <a href="https://www.savannahnow.com/news/20200218/savannah-heads-toward-clean-energy-goal" target="_blank">environmental justice leader</a> in Savannah, Georgia, about the importance of NEPA. McClain <a href="https://blog.ucsusa.org/adrienne-hollis/conversation-with-the-nepa-ninja" target="_blank">recalled</a> how the act gave her community a voice against the dumping of nuclear waste and unchecked widening of the Savannah River for container ships.</p><p>"If it had not been for NEPA," McClain said, "the community would not have been a part of the process."</p><p>It's important to recognize that taking communities of color out of the process is a major goal in the administration's efforts to gut NEPA. When President Trump announced the rewrite, he was — by no small coincidence — flanked by a <a href="https://www.desmogblog.com/2020/01/10/fossil-fuel-interests-applaud-trump-weakening-nepa-environmental-policy" target="_blank">nearly all-white</a> phalanx of supporters as he <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-proposed-national-environmental-policy-act-regulations/" target="_blank">claimed</a> with a straight face, "We're maintaining America's world-class standards of environmental protection. We have some of the cleanest air and cleanest water on Earth. And for our country, the air is, right now, cleaner than it's been in 40 years."</p><p>For the past two generations, NEPA has offered a powerful tool for the protection of the nation's environment. If the Trump administration succeeds in ripping it apart and turning environmental reviews over to industry, we will risk the dirtiest air and water of any developed nation on Earth, cementing this nation as a hotbed of environmental racism.</p><p>The deadline for public comments on the proposed changes to NEPA closes this Tuesday. <a href="https://secure.ucsusa.org/onlineactions/5J0luZa4YkiUmcMR656c9g2?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=tw&ms=twitter" target="_blank">Submit your comment today</a>.</p>
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The affected river was St. Marys River in Decatur, which is a town of 9,500 people about 100 miles from Indianapolis.
Two environmental groups have filed suit against the U.S. Coast Guard in a Detroit federal district court, arguing that their plan to respond in the case of a Great Lakes pipeline oil spill is inadequate, The Detroit News reported on Aug. 22.
The suit is part of a larger push to shut down Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac between Lakes Huron and Michigan and comes as indigenous activists have set up camps protesting the line that could damage 400 miles of shoreline in a spill.
Less than a week before the new school year, the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) announced Wednesday it would shut off drinking water in all schools after tests at 16 turned up high levels of copper or lead, The Detroit News reported Wednesday.
The Kansas government allowed hundreds of residents in two Wichita-area neighborhoods to drink water contaminated by a cleaning chemical called perchloroethylene, also known as PCE or tetrachloroethylene, The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday.
The state discovered the tainted groundwater at a Haysville dry cleaner in 2011 but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) did not act for more than six years. KDHE did not test nearby private wells or alert residents about the contamination.
By Dan Serres
As highlighted by the article Why Does Climate Change Matter to the Columbia?, we are in the the fight of our lives to stop dirty fossil fuels and transition to clean energy. The good news? You are making a difference right now. As activists, you have a tremendous impact on greenhouse gas pollution in the Pacific Northwest. Over the past decade, you defeated the region's largest fossil fuel proposals. From stopping liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments on the Lower Columbia River, to blocking mind-blowing quantities of coal exports, to persuading Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to deny North America's largest oil train terminal, your efforts register on a global scale.
It would appear that the Trump Organization's business practices aren't any more environmentally friendly than the policies of the current president, who ran it from 1971 to 2017.
By Karl Havens
Editor's note: Two large-scale algae outbreaks in Florida are killing fish and threatening public health. Along the southwest coast, one of the longest-lasting red tide outbreaks in the state's history is affecting more than 100 miles of beaches. Meanwhile, discharges of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and polluted local runoff water from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds have caused blooms of blue-green algae in downstream estuaries on both coasts. Karl Havens, a professor at the University of Florida and director of the Florida Sea Grant Program, explains what's driving this two-pronged disaster.
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Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.