If Trump's Nominee Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed, 'EPA Would Stand for Every Polluter's Ally'
By Elliott Negin
Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives lie to Donald Trump's claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.
"Clean air is vitally important," Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. "Clean water," he added, "crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important." And when he announced Pruitt's nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would "restore the EPA's essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe."
Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt's track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter's Ally.
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, 'Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,' to Head EPA https://t.co/BC8ZCp8qc8 @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1481287229.0
Since he took office as Oklahoma's attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.
Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That's one out of every 12 people.
The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt's home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.
Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.
No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.
Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it's a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: "For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too."
Pruitt doesn't see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule "the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen." Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.
Besides Pruitt's disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency's science-based "endangerment finding" that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA's climate work.
Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.
"The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science," Kimmell said in a press statement. "Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA's mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. ... It's this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt."
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A herdsman in the Chinese autonomous region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the bubonic plague Sunday, The New York Times reported.
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By Matt Kasson, Brian Lovett and Carolee Bull
Home gardening is having a boom year across the U.S. Whether they're growing their own food in response to pandemic shortages or just looking for a diversion, numerous aspiring gardeners have constructed their first raised beds, and seeds are flying off suppliers' shelves. Now that gardens are largely planted, much of the work for the next several months revolves around keeping them healthy.
Start With Prevention<p>Just as preventive steps like maintaining a balanced diet help keep humans healthy, home growers can take many actions to help their gardens thrive.</p><p>One key step is assessing soil fertility – the ability of soil to sustain plant growth – which can vary widely depending on your location and soil type. Low soil fertility limits food production and predisposes plants to disease and pests. University extension <a href="https://soiltesting.wvu.edu/" target="_blank">soil testing labs</a> can help evaluate the quality of garden soil and identify nutrient deficiencies and acidic soils, often at no charge.</p>
Using weed barrier landscape cloth for planting rows and mulching between rows is an effective way to suppress weeds. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
Diagnosing Problems<p>Common plant pathogens include <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/viral/introduction/Pages/PlantViruses.aspx" target="_blank">viruses</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/prokaryote/intro/Pages/Bacteria.aspx" target="_blank">bacteria</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/nematode/intro/Pages/IntroNematodes.aspx" target="_blank">nematodes</a>, <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/oomycete/introduction/Pages/IntroOomycetes.aspx#:%7E:text=The%20oomycetes%2C%20also%20known%20as,foliar%20blights%20and%20downy%20mildews." target="_blank">oomycetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/disandpath/fungalasco/intro/Pages/IntroFungi.aspx" target="_blank">fungi</a>. All of these microorganisms, especially at an early stage of infection, are too small to see. But when they proliferate, they cause changes in plants that we can recognize.</p><p>Unlike insects, which move around on six legs or on wings through the air, pathogens can move unseen and unchecked from leaf to leaf on the wind, through the soil or in droplets of water. Some microbes have even formed intimate relationships with insects and use them as vehicles to move from plant to plant, which makes these pathogens even more challenging to manage. Unfortunately, by the time some pathogens make their presence known, the damage is already done.</p><p>We recently conducted a <a href="https://twitter.com/kasson_wvu/status/1265989041725624323" target="_blank">Twitter poll</a> of gardeners nationwide to find out which culprits plagued their gardens. People named <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/aphids" target="_blank">aphids</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-vine-borer" target="_blank">squash vine borers</a>, <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/squash-bug" target="_blank">squash bugs</a> and <a href="https://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/flea-beetle" target="_blank">flea beetles</a> as the most problematic insect pests. Their most troublesome pathogens included <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/powdery-mildew" target="_blank">powdery mildew</a>, <a href="https://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/rsol/Trainingmodules/BWTomato_Module.html" target="_blank">tomato bacterial wilt</a> and <a href="https://extension.wvu.edu/lawn-gardening-pests/plant-disease/fruit-vegetable-diseases/downy-mildew" target="_blank">cucurbit downy mildew</a>.</p><p>To manage such perennial challenges, the first step is to spend time closely looking at your plants. Do you notice any insects consistently hanging around, or molds colonizing leaves or other plant parts? How about symptoms such as blight, stunting, or leaves that are yellowing, browning or wilting?</p>
This white fungal growth is an early sign of powdery mildew on a leaf of susceptible summer squash. Matt Kasson, CC BY-ND
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By Emma Charlton
The effects of climate change may more far-reaching than you think.
Hotter temperatures have been linked to a rise in energy poverty, with more people struggling to meet their energy bills from their household income, according to a new study published on ScienceDirect by researchers from Italy's Ca' Foscari University.
Value of air conditioning imports in selected OECD countries. ScienceDirect
The ‘Golden Thread’<p>The <a href="https://www.endenergypoverty.org/reports" target="_blank">Global Commission to End Energy Poverty</a> calls access to energy the "golden thread" that weaves together economic growth, human development, and environmental sustainability. And one of the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/sdg-07-affordable-and-clean-energy" target="_blank">United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals</a> is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030.</p><p>Sustainability also has a large role to play in the future of energy and failing to embed green policies in COVID-19 stimulus packages and underinvesting in green infrastructure are current risks, according to the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_COVID_19_Risks_Outlook_Special_Edition_Pages.pdf" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</p><p>In its vision for a 'Great Reset' – building a better world after the pandemic – the Forum and the IMF jointly backed the <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/06/end-fossil-fuel-subsidies-economy-imf-georgieva-great-reset-climate/" target="_blank">transition to a green economy</a> and called for an end to fossil fuel subsidies.</p>
As if the surging cases of coronavirus weren't enough for Floridians to handle, now the state's Department of Health (DOH) has confirmed that a person in the Tampa area tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, according to CBS News. The Florida DOH posted a warning to residents to remind them of the dangers of the rare single-celled amoeba that attacks brain tissue.
Scientists are urging the WHO to revisit their coronavirus guidance to focus more on airborne transmission and less on hand sanitizer and hygiene. John Lund / Photodisc / Getty Images
The World Health Organization (WHO) is holding the line on its stance that the respiratory droplets of the coronavirus fall quickly to the floor and are not infectious. Now, a group of 239 scientists is challenging that assertion, arguing that the virus is lingering in the air of indoor environments, infecting people nearby, as The New York Times reported.
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Scores of people remained stranded in southern Japan on Sunday after heavy rain the day before caused deep flooding and mudslides that left at least 34 people confirmed or presumed dead.
Care Home Inundated<p>Altogether 16 residents at an elderly care home in Kuma Village are presumed dead after the facility was flooded by water and mud.</p><p>Fifty-one other residents have been rescued by boats and taken to hospitals for treatment, officials said.</p><p>Eighteen other people elsewhere have been confirmed dead, while more than a dozen others were still missing as of Sunday afternoon.</p><p>The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said many others were still waiting to be rescued from other inundated areas.</p><p>Hitoyoshi City was also badly affected by flooding, as rains in the prefecture exceeded 100 millimeters (4 inches) per hour at their height.</p>
More Rain Forecast<p>The disaster in the Kumamoto prefecture on Kyushu island is the worst natural catastrophe since Typhoon Hagibis in October last year, which cost the lives of 90 people.</p><p>Although residents in Kumamoto prefecture were advised to evacuate their homes following the downpours on Friday evening into Saturday, many people chose not to leave for fear of contracting the coronavirus.</p><p>Officials say, however, that measures are in place at shelters to prevent the transmission of the disease.</p><p>More rain is predicted in the region, and the Japan Meteorological Agency has warned of the danger of further mudslides.</p>
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