Trump Regional EPA Pick Indicted on Ethics Charges
When it comes to the people he chooses to protect the nation's environment, President Donald Trump sure knows how to pick'em. In his brief stint at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt wracked up an impressive amount of truly bizarre scandals, including blowing thousands of taxpayer dollars on "tactical pants." Ryan Zinke, the man he put in charge of public lands,, might also be on his way out over shady dealings. Now, it emerges that the man he put in charge of the EPA's Southeastern regional office has been indicted on ethics charges in Alabama.
A grand jury in Alabama's Jefferson County indicted the regional administrator Trey Glenn, along with his business partner Scott Phillips, for ethics violations related to their attempt to prevent the EPA from cleaning up polluted sites in North Birmingham, Al.com reported Tuesday. Specifically, they worked to stop the EPA from listing the city's 35th Avenue site on its Superfund National Priorities List, Al.com further explained.
BREAKING: Alabama Ethics Commission confirms Trey Glenn, southeastern region administrator for the EPA, has been in… https://t.co/qLM8pJEba3— Lauren Walsh (@Lauren Walsh)1542130146.0
Glenn and Phillips worked with the law firm Balch & Bingham and its client Drummond Company, which the EPA had eyed as a responsible party that might have to pay for cleanup, to stop the listing. This happened while Phillips was serving as Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner. At the same time, the pair co-owned and worked together at a company called Southeast Engineering & Consulting. Alabama ethics law prohibits a lobbyist or a lobbyist's client from giving gifts to a public official, including a job. So the two are rightly in big trouble.
More on the indictments for EPA Region Administrator Trey Glenn and W Scott Phillips: https://t.co/DH8kFrTIZL— Lauren Walsh (@Lauren Walsh)1542131297.0
But the mess extends beyond these two individuals to indicate a culture of corruption at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). Alabama clean air advocacy group Gasp laid out the whole sordid history in a press release:
The indictments today arise out of efforts by Drummond Co., which owns ABC Coke in Tarrrant, Ala., to stop EPA's cleanup of contaminated soils and to avoid financial responsibility for that cleanup in predominantly African-American neighborhoods in northern Birmingham. Drummond VP David Roberson and Balch & Bingham lawyer Joel Gilbert were recently convicted and sentenced to 60 months and 30 months in prison, respectively, on federal charges of bribing former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson to oppose the EPA environmental cleanup program. Robinson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 33 months in prison.
Gasp hoped the indictments would spark much needed changes.
"These indictments today reinforce what we already know: We need reform and we need it now," Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen said in the press release. "For far too long, leaders in Alabama have put corporate profits ahead of people. We demand that corruption be rooted out and reforms enacted to protect our health and our environment and to ensure environmental justice is a reality for every single Alabamian."
Glenn has been a part of that corruption for quite some time. He served almost five years as the director of the ADEM and was investigated for ethics violations there too, The Associated Press reported.
The Alabama Ethics Commission found in 2007 that there was "probable cause" he had violated ethics law to get his job in the first place and then to take trips while he had it. A criminal investigation also looked into whether a public relations firm that represented a client with business with ADEM had paid for him to take his family to Disney World. He was cleared in the criminal case, but resigned in 2009.
As if it couldn't get any worse, Glenn is also linked to one of Birmingham's stinkiest scandals: the "poop train."
After Glenn left his position at ADEM, he went to work right away as a consultant for Green Mountain landfill.
John Archibald explained what that meant in a column reprinted by Al.com:
Green Mountain later became Big Sky landfill in north Jefferson County, which quite literally raised a stink from nearby residents in recent weeks who complained that swarms of flies and the smell of death accompanied loads of treated human sewage shipped to the landfill from New York and New Jersey.
And Glenn's relationship with the stinker stretched up until the recent past. When Glenn had to disclose all his income sources in November 2017 upon joining the EPA, it turned out he had gotten more than $5,000 from Big Sky.
As Archibald wrote, "Ain't enough scrubbing bubbles in the world to clean the stain."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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