U.S. EPA Study Shows Economic Benefits of Protecting Fish from Cooling Water Intakes Greatly Exceed Cost to Industry
Since its inception, Riverkeeper has fought to stop power plants and other industries from killing fish in cooling water intakes. Closed-cycle cooling technology has been available for decades to reduce water use and environmental impacts by upwards of 95 percent but industry has fought all the way to the Supreme Court to avoid the cost of doing the right thing.
Reacting to a 2009 Supreme Court ruling, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been slowly drafting regulations (known as the 316(b) Rule, for that section of the Clean Water Act) that would govern the use of surface waters for industrial cooling, the technology used to limit environmental impacts and is developing cost-benefit calculations to inform the technology choices.
Since proposing a weak rule in April 2011, the EPA collected more data, including a recent “stated preference survey” to gauge the value the American public places on ecosystem protection. The EPA’s survey demonstrated that the benefits of closed-cycle cooling outweigh the costs by more than three to one ($18 billion vs. $5 billion) and provide a greater net social benefit than any other options considered by the EPA.
Riverkeeper and 19 other environmental groups filed comments last week stating that in light of those new findings, and an independent expert analysis by environmental economist Frank Ackerman showing that a tough rule passes a cost-benefit test with flying colors, the EPA should require closed-cycle cooling nationwide.
As Ackerman stated, "Last year, EPA published a cost-benefit analysis of regulations–such as requirements for cooling towers–that would protect fish from cooling water intakes. That analysis contained a detailed calculation of the costs of regulation, but its estimate of the benefits of regulation contained an embarrassing number of blanks. EPA simply didn’t know, last year, how to place a monetary value on the huge reduction in fish mortality that would be achieved by building cooling towers.
This year, EPA released a nearly-complete study of the amounts that households would be willing to pay for saving huge numbers of fish. Drop these numbers into the blanks in last year’s cost-benefit analysis, and the answer is clear: public willingness to pay to protect fish is much greater than the cost of building cooling towers everywhere. This is true even under EPA’s unduly narrow use of the numbers, and even more so under a more natural interpretation of the new study."
In addition Reed Super, the lead attorney representing Riverkeeper and the 19 other environmental groups, said, "Until now, EPA has been comparing reasonably complete cost estimates against wildly incomplete estimates of benefits—often zeroing out or ignoring as much as 98 percent of the ecological benefits, which are harder to put a price tag on. For the first time, EPA is completing a sophisticated economic study that monetizes most of the benefits and, while it still undervalues aquatic resources in certain respects, EPA's analysis demonstrates that the benefits of protecting the biological integrity of our nation's waters from industrial cooling water withdrawals vastly outweigh the costs."
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As protests are taking place across our nation in response to the killing of George Floyd, we want to acknowledge the importance of this protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the years, we've aimed to be sensitive and prioritize stories that highlight the intersection between racial and environmental injustice. From our years of covering the environment, we know that too often marginalized communities around the world are disproportionately affected by environmental crises.
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Fly fishing. nextProtein
BiOceanOr's AquaREAL system. BiOceanOr
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Researchers at the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly announced yesterday that it will start a trial on a new drug designed specifically for COVID-19, a milestone in the race to stop the infectious disease, according to STAT News.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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