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Trump's 'Environmentally Disastrous' Budget Would Cripple EPA

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Trump's 'Environmentally Disastrous' Budget Would Cripple EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget will still be slashed by nearly a third, from $8.2 billion to $5.65 billion, under President Trump's fiscal 2018 budget proposal released Tuesday.

The EPA, which has long been targeted by the Trump administration, is the hardest hit federal agency under the new plan. Opponents say it "endangers Americans" and cripples an institution charged with protecting their health and safety.


As detailed by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, notable components of the anticipated budget include a 30 percent cut in federal grants to state and local air pollution control agencies; a 39 percent cut in EPA's Science and Technology budget; a 35 percent cut in EPA's Environmental Program and Management budget (the agency's overall operating budget); and the elimination of funding several regional programs, including restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes and Puget Sound.

The Washington Post noted that "dozens of other programs also would be zeroed out entirely, including funding for radon detection, lead risk reduction, projects along the U.S.-Mexico border and environmental justice initiatives." Additionally, less money will be allocated to enforcement of environmental crimes and climate change research.

Significantly, the budget proposes deep cuts to the EPA's Superfund program despite EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt previously saying he does not support cutting the program and listing it as one of his priorities.

The proposed budget was widely criticized by environmental groups.

"President Trump's proposed budget is economically irresponsible and environmentally disastrous," Ken Berlin, president and CEO of The Climate Reality Project, said. "The budget claims to consider 'America First,' but in fact does the opposite. It endangers Americans by eviscerating the Environmental Protection Agency, crippling the institution charged with protecting their health and safety."

Compared to the EPA, the Interior Department budget faces a smaller shave with a 11 percent cut. However, the proposal also includes measures to boost federal revenue from the oil and gas industry, most notably the sale of federal drilling leases in the 19-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

350.org policy director Jason Kowalski rebuked the White House's budget plan for prioritizing the interests of the fossil fuel industry.

"This latest budget starves the Environmental Protection Agency while stuffing the faces of fossil fuel billionaires," he said. "The American people overwhelmingly support government investments in renewable energy and environmental protections, while opposing the new coal, oil and gas extraction this budget aims to open up.

Trump's overall budget plan is seemingly hobbling federal agencies focusing on science, conservation and innovation. For instance, the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy seeing a potential 70 percent drop.

"We were disappointed to see the administration's proposal to slash programs that promote American-made clean energy." Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said.

"Clean energy research programs have been priorities of both Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses and the investments have paid off many times over," Hopper added. "We look forward to working with Congress as it drafts a budget that supports important clean energy programs that create American jobs, advance innovation and stimulate billions of dollars in private investment."

Furthermore, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the Trump budget cuts the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund by $34 million, a 64 percent reduction. The fund allows state and federal partners to recover species listed under the Endangered Species Act. The budget also reduces funding for foreign endangered species like elephants, rhinoceros and tigers by 19 percent, and reduces the funding for the listing program by 17 percent, even though 500 plants and animals are still waiting for consideration for protection.

"The Endangered Species Act is the world's foremost law for saving species, but Trump wants to gut funding to recover imperiled wildlife from the brink of extinction," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Trump squanders tens of millions in taxpayer dollars flying down to Mar-a-Lago to play golf every weekend, yet spending a similar amount to protect and recover our most endangered species is simply too much."

Meanwhile, the budget proposes an additional $1.6 billion to build 80 new miles of a wall along the southern border. According to a Center for Biological Diversity study, Trump's wall would threaten at least 93 endangered and threatened species, including jaguars, ocelots and Mexican gray wolves.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

Financial institutions in New York state will now have to consider the climate-related risks of their planning strategies. Ramy Majouji / WikiMedia Commons

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