Friday, October 09, 2015
The latest "threat" from global warming: low birth weight
These "threats" seem to emerge almost daily. There must be thousands by now. There seems to be no bad thing that is not caused by global warming.
And the study below is typical. The authors had in fact NO information on global warming at all. What they found was that babies born in the hotter parts of Africa had lower birth weights than babies born in cooler parts of Africa. That's it! That's all they found. They tried to make it more complicated than that but that's what the report below boils down to.
So, boring though it is, I once again have to mention the first thing you learn in Statistics 101: Correlation is not causation.
What else do we know about the hotter parts of Africa? One thing could be greater parasite load. It could be the greater parasite load rather than the temperature that produced the effect. But it could be many things. That's the point of the "Correlation is causation" fallacy. Correlation can produce NO knowledge about causes. The cause could always be somewhere outside the variables considered
In a first-of-a-kind study, scientists from the University of Utah spent two years examining the relationships between fetal development and pregnant women’s exposure to low precipitation and very hot days. The research, which looked at data from 19 African countries, found that reduced rainfall and high heat resulted in newborns who weighed less than 2,500 grams, or about 5.5 pounds.
“In the very early stages of intra-uterine development, climate change has the potential to significantly impact birth outcomes,” said Kathryn Grace, assistant professor of geography at the university and lead author of the study, which appeared in Global Environmental Change. “While the severity of that impact depends on where the pregnant woman lives, in this case the developing world, we can see the potential for similar outcomes everywhere,” including in the United States.
“Women who are pregnant are more sensitive to heat stress, dehydration, etc.,” although access to air conditioners in this country “would likely reduce the exposure and the stress,” she said.
Low birth weight already is a major global public health problem, associated with a number of both short- and long-term consequences, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO estimates that up to 20 percent of all births worldwide are low birth weight, representing more than 20 million births annually.
Low birth weight infants face the potential of multiple health issues, including infections, respiratory distress, heart problems, jaundice, anemia, and chronic lung conditions. Later in life, they are at increased risk for developmental and learning disorders, such as hyperactivity and cognitive deficits.
Because of this reliance on rainfall, this makes these communities particularly sensitive to climate change
As a result, the cost of caring for these infants can be considerable — newborn intensive care unit stays, for example — posing a significant financial burden in developing countries where such services are not always available, and where societies often stigmatize physical disabilities.
“For so long, scientists and researchers have not studied the uterine environment and the quality of life of pregnant women in detail, so thinking about these things in the developing world is a fairly new facet of maternal/child health studies,” Grace said.
The developing world, and many communities throughout Africa, are dependent on rainfall for agriculture, making them especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change, she said.
“People have to grow their own food a lot of the time, to sell or to eat, and they are often reliant on rainfall with only very limited access to irrigation technologies,” Grace said. “This dependence and vulnerability is especially important for poor people because they don’t have the food stores or financial savings to cope with a failed rainy season. Because of this reliance on rainfall, this makes these communities particularly sensitive to climate change.”
This also may have an influence on water quality.
“If there’s less precipitation and more dryness, are women reliant on less clean water sources?” Grace said. “Are they drinking enough if water is scarce? We don’t know the answer to these questions but staying hydrated during pregnancy is extremely important for the placenta and the developing neonate.”
The research team included Heidi Hanson, from the university’s family and preventative medicine department; Frank Davenport and Shraddhanand Shukla, of the University of California at Santa Barbara’s climate hazards group; and Christopher Funk of the U.S. Geological Survey and the climate hazards group.
In 2013, they merged health data from Demographic and Health Surveys, part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with growing season data, and with temperature and rainfall data from a variety of sources.
Also, they collected information on growing and livelihood from USAID’s Famine Early Warning System, and precipitation data from the climate hazards group, the first time scientists have used fine-resolution precipitation and temperature data with birth statistics to determine whether and how climate affects birth weight.
The researchers examined nearly 70,000 births between 1986 and 2010, and coordinated them with seasonal rainfall and air temperatures, factoring in information about the mother and her household, such as education and whether the dwelling had electricity.
The team then calculated the average rainfall for a given month within 10 kilometers of the infant’s birth location, gathering data for each month up to one year before the baby was born, summing the values over each trimester. They did the same with temperature records, including the number of days in each birth month when the temperature exceeded 105F and 100F as the maximum daily temperature, again summing up the values over trimesters.
The researchers found that an increase of hot days higher than 100F during any trimester corresponded to a decrease in birth weight; just one such extra day during the second trimester matched a 0.9g weight drop. This same result held with an even larger effect when the temperature rose to 105 F.
Conversely, higher rainfall during any trimester was associated with larger birth weights. On average, a 10 mm rise in rain during a particular trimester corresponded to an increase of about 0.3 to 0.5 grams.
The scientists did not specifically look at the effects of high precipitation. “Mostly we looked at average precipitation,” Grace said. “Future work could be to look at high precipitation after we identified a causal link — maybe water borne illnesses are spread or food production fails as a result of flooding?
“Another thing to consider is that our sickest and or most stressed women may not survive their pregnancies or their pregnancies may end in still birth or in miscarriage,” she added. “Unfortunately, given the type of data that we have here and the stigma associated with infant and pregnancy loss, we do not have great information on these outcomes. This is definitely an area of study that I plan to pursue in the future.”
Total ignorance from the Sierra club
Sierra Club President Aaron Mair has a deep voice but a remarkably empty head. All he could do is deny the accepted evidence when Senator Ted Cruz tested his global warming certainties. It is astonishing how little he knows and how much help he needs from staff. Warmists really are not comfortable in debates, as we have often noticed. Clearly, however, Mair is an affirmative action appointee. I wonder if the Sierra Club are still happy about that in the light of the debacle below. Do they stand behind his totally uninformed and wrong comments? They invite ridicule if they do
Texas senator and Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz questioned Sierra Club President Aaron Mair in a contentious testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
But on one question in particular, Mair would not deviate from his rehearsed answer.
When asked about the 18 year pause in global warming, as documented by satellite data, Mr. Mair denied it exists. “So if the data are contrary to your testimony, would the Sierra Club issue a retraction?” Cruz asked.
“Sir, we concur with the 97 percent scientific consensus with regards to global warming,” Mair responded.
When Senator Cruz pressed the environmentalist on whether he would change his testimony should the Sierra Club obtain the publicly available data showing the “pause,” Mair would only respond, “We concur with 97 percent of the scientists that believe the anthropogenic impact of mankind with regards to global warming are true.”
Cruz then asked again if Mair was unwilling to answer the question. The Sierra Club chief replied, “We concur with the preponderance of the evidence — you’re asking me if we’ll take 3 percent over the 97 percent? Of course not.”
After a repeated back-and-forth, an exasperated Cruz concluded, “You know, Mr. Mair, I find it striking that for a policy organization that purports to focus exclusively on environmental issues, that you are not willing to tell this committee that you would issue a retraction if your testimony is objectively false under scientific data. That undermines the credibility of any organization.”
The IPCC’s Legion of Hacks and Dunces
As climateers turn their gaze toward Paris, what the warmist media won't be reporting is just how poorly qualified and error-prone many of them are. That's no mere sceptic's complaint, by the way, but the honest verdict of their fellow scientists
The basis for the Paris climate talks in December is “the science” produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The science must be good because it’s coming from the world’s top climate-type scientists, or so the story goes.
Well, the story is guff.
The IPCC scientists aren’t the best available, far from it. They’re a motley crew assembled via a typical United Nations boondoggle that stacks the scientific ranks with heavy quotas for Third Worlders, along with special consideration for females. The IPCC rules explain that the IPCC hierarchy “shall reflect balanced geographical representation with due consideration for scientific and technical requirements.”
The senior scientists draft the all-important Summaries for Policymakers (SPMs), as distinct from their thousands of back-up pages of science studies. Then politicians and bureaucrats, not the scientists, sculpt the wording on the final drafts, including the Synthesis Report.
In IPCC-Orwell speak: “The endorsement process is based on a dialogue between those who will use the report – the governments — and those who write it – the scientists.” The stenographers of the mainstream media ignore this, receiving the summary kits and chorusing, “The Science has spoken.” The best example of Summaries’ propaganda is that, while their 2013 forecasting of CO2 doom is climate-model based, no Summary includes the all-important admission from Working Group 1’s body text: that 111 of 114 model runs had over-forecasted actual temperature rises from 1998-2012.
It’s a good time for some forensic work on the IPCC processes. This very week (Oct 5-8) in Dubrovnik, IPCC members from 195 countries will vote for a new leadership cadre. The top man right now is Ismail El Gizouli, who has been serving in an acting capacity since the chair, Rajendra Pachauri, quit abruptly last February after police laid a fistful of sex-harassment charges against him. Gizouli hails from benighted Sudan, no exemplar of scientific advances but a classic outcome of the above-mentioned UN boondoggle intended to give Third Worlders a share of the climate spoils.
The five contenders for Pachauri’s job have now been joined by a sixth, Ogunlade Davidson, from that citadel of climate-science expertise, Sierra Leone.
My interest particularly is in the elections for the vice-chairs of Working Group 11 (WG2) — Impacts, Adaptation & Vulnerability. There’s now a retiring Australian vice-chair, Dr Neville Smith, and a new Australian candidate, Dr Mark Howden.
WG2, sadly, does not have a good pedigree. The InterAcademy Council’s audit of the IPCC in 2010 singled out the WG2’s 2007 Summary as containing
"many vague statements of ‘high confidence’ that are not supported sufficiently in the literature, not put into perspective, or are difficult to refute. The Committee believes that it is not appropriate to assign probabilities to such statements".
It also said many of 71 WG2 conclusions about “Future Impacts” of climate change were imprecise and unworthy of WG2’s purported “high confidence”.
Looking closely at this WG2 election brings the guff elements of the IPCC into clearer focus.
Dr Smith is Deputy Director (Research and Systems) at the audit-free Bureau of Meteorology. Like all the other IPCC bigwigs, he is yet to get his head around the 18 years and 8 months halt to global warming measured by the satellites. He also has illusions about the primacy of scientists within the IPCC, relative to politicians and apparatchiks. He told a warm-up meeting about the 5th report in 2012:
"In the IPCC it is the science and the scientists that rule. I knew that before I got into it but it is certainly evident now, having been inside the bureau for four years."
The sheltered Dr Smith apparently has never heard of the protracted cleansing process that sees government delegates of the UN member states, in secret sessions, go over the scientists’ draft Summaries for Policymakers line by line and word by word. A reasonable analogy would be a cloud of seagulls descending on the scientists’ packet of chips. The cleansing, massaging and deleting continues until every bureaucrat, diplomat and politician is in agreement about things like the required apocalyptic tone.
Pachauri, IPCC chair for the 4th and 5th reports, even admitted that “we necessarily have to ensure that the underlying report conforms to the refinements.” In other words, they make the “science” fit the political summary, not the other way around.
Who better than Harvard’s Professor Robert Stavins, a coordinating lead author in Working Group 111’s 2013 Report, and by no stretch a sceptic, to debate Dr Smith’s claim is about “the rule of science” in the IPCC?
Stavins wrote that several coordinating lead authors told him the 33-page summary approved line by line by governments should be called “the Summary BY Policymakers” not “FOR Policymakers”. He complained formally to WG 111 co-chair Ottmar Edenhofer (and he copied-in chair Pachauri), that governments had “fundamentally revised or rejected” parts of the Summary over a grueling five-day-and-night session:
"As the week progressed, I was surprised by the degree to which governments felt free to recommend and sometimes insist on detailed changes to the [Summary] text on purely political, as opposed to scientific bases…(G)overnment representatives worked to suppress text that might jeopardize their negotiating stances in international negotiations…
I fully understand that the government representatives were seeking to meet their own responsibilities toward their respective governments by upholding their countries’ interests, but in some cases this turned out to be problematic for the scientific integrity of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers.
To ask these experienced UNFCCC negotiators to approve text that critically assessed the scholarly literature on which they themselves are the interested parties, created an irreconcilable conflict of interest…"
Over the course of the two hours of the contact group deliberations, it became clear that the only way the assembled government representatives would approve text for SPM.5.2 was essentially to remove all ‘controversial’ text (that is, text that was uncomfortable for any one individual government), which meant deleting almost 75% of the text.
In more than one instance, specific examples or sentences were removed at the will of only one or two countries, because under IPCC rules, the dissent of one country is sufficient to grind the entire approval process to a halt unless and until that country can be appeased…
The process the IPCC followed resulted in a process that built political credibility by sacrificing scientific integrity."
The IPCC fourth report (2007) was no different. As one participant described it,
"This [approval process of the Summary] was an agonizing, frustrating process, as every sentence had to be wordsmithed on a screen in front of representatives of more than 100 governments, falling farther and farther beyond a realistic schedule by the hour."
Thus Dr Smith’s dictum about the “rule of science” at the IPCC is on a par with Pachauri’s past claims that all IPCC material was peer-reviewed (In the 4th Report, DONNA Laframboise found 5,587 citations were to non-peer-reviewed items, ranging from government reports to Greenpeace tracts and even press releases). Dr Smith’s would-be replacement on WG11 is Dr Mark Howden, sponsored a month ago by Greg Hunt’s Ministry for the Environment. Howden’s day job is Interim Director at the ANU Climate Change Institute, run by climate hard man Will Steffen.
This sponsoring letter was signed by Environment assistant secretary Rob Sturgiss, who’s on the IPCC “inventories” task force and is himself standing for re-election. Sturgiss tells the 195-country voting community that he’s “passionate about promoting the role of the IPCC in the development of national greenhouse gas emissions inventory reporting frameworks.” This passion-creating counting exercise is a bit tricky – only last month, a Yale study discovered there are 3 trillion CO2-sucking trees on the planet, eight times more than previously estimated. That’s some margin of error!
Getting back to Dr Howden, what are his chances in the election? As it happens, he’s designated as part of the SW Pacific region, comprising 22 countries (half of them hopelessly aid-dependent island states). Six of the eight vice-chairs have to be from a different region — Africa, South America, Europe etc. The SW Pacific slot (including Australia) is being contested by only one other candidate, Professor Joy Jacqueline Pereira from Malaysia. The loser would struggle against global competition to get one of the spare two slots.
Howden’s CV is stronger by a mile (about 400 publications vs Pereira’s 120), and he’s been milling around the IPCC circuit since 1992 (Pereira contributed only to 2014′s 5th report). But Pereira is female and the IPCC likes a bit of affirmative action: “Consideration should also be given to promoting gender balance.”
New EPA Regulation Causes Concern Even Among Democrats
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last week it was toughening the country’s rules for ground-level ozone—what’s commonly known as smog, which comes from sources such as tailpipes and smokestacks—it caught flak from environmental groups and business officials.
But when all is said and done, the people most affected financially figure to be everyday Americans, who will almost certainly pay higher prices in their utility bills and the products they buy.
“They’re going to pay more for everything that’s made in the United States, if those things continue to be made in the United States,” said Dan Kish, senior energy and regulatory policy expert at Institute for Energy Research.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made the long awaited ozone announcement early Thursday afternoon, deciding to lower the amount of ozone in the air from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.
“If someone tells you your life will change because of this, I will say it will only change for the better,” McCarthy said in a conference call with energy and environmental reporters.
Even though many came into Thursday’s announcement expecting the EPA to set a standard of 65 ppb, business groups still said the regulation will result in more burdensome and expensive changes.
On the opposite spectrum, environmental and health groups complained that the EPA should have strengthened the standard to 60 ppb.
“We know that this regulation could have been worse, but it still feels like a punch in the gut,” said Tom Riordan, CEO and president of a metals-manufacturing company based in Wisconsin that has about 2,100 employees. “Manufacturers are tough and resilient but when Washington puts politics above job creation, we still pay a price.”
“This weak-kneed action leaves children, seniors and asthmatics without the protection doctors say they need from this dangerous pollutant,” said David Baron, managing attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice.
How much will the new rule cost the average American? Business groups insist that the new regulation will be remarkably expensive.
The National Association of Manufacturers released a study in February claiming updated rules will cost the U.S. economy $1.7 trillion between 2017 and 2040. Another study compiled by NERA Economic Consulting at the request of the manufacturing group estimated that reducing ozone regulations to 65 ppb would cost the average household $830 a year.
McCarthy has dismissed those numbers as exaggerated and on Thursday said, “The National Association of Manufacturers has said a lot of things in the last 30 years … I am not looking at what other people are saying.”
The EPA has emphasized its own studies, which reported that ground-level ozone regulations at 70 ppb translate into numerous public health benefits—reducing the number of sick days and emergency room visits, for example—that would save $6.4 billion-$13 billion per year by 2025. But at the same time, when the rules were first proposed late last year, the EPA acknowledged a compliance cost of close to $3.9 billion a year by 2025.
“Obviously, this is going to cost a lot,” said Kish of IER, a group that looks to address energy and environmental issues with free-market solutions and opposed toughening the ozone standards. “If communities fail to be in compliance with this, EPA is in position to begin not allowing permits. If a factory wants to be built, they can say, ‘Sorry, we can’t give you any permits because you happen to be out of compliance.’”
A big reason for the expense? Stricter ozone regulations means factories and power plants have to install scrubbers and other technologies on smokestacks to reduce the chemicals put into the air. Scrubbers can cost tens of millions of dollars, and each degree that the ozone standard is lowered, the costs pile up.
But McCarthy said she’s confident the new rule will not be overly burdensome, and the agency “is giving states plenty of time” to meet the standard by 2025.
“The science clearly tells us that 75 ppb is not adequately protecting public health,” McCarthy said.
As for predictions that large numbers of counties across the country won’t be able to meet the goals, McCarthy said, “We can’t tell you the number exactly, but we’ve looked at modeling this issue.”
She added that EPA projections say just 14 counties outside of California will be out of attainment by 2025.
“Ultimately, the existing level of 75 [ppb] was adequate,” Kish said. “Some communities haven’t even met the 75 limit. One of the things elected officials around the country have said is, why not wait until we meet the existing limit, which we’ve been working hard on?”
George Heartwell, the mayor of Grand Rapids, Michigan, appeared on the conference call with McCarthy in support of lowering the ozone level to 70 ppb.
“I’m confident in the time allowed in this new rule we’ll be able to meet the new standard,” Heartwell said. “I strongly believe the crisis of global warming and its effects on the environment provide us with moral imperatives. We must be good stewards.”
But other elected officials have pushed back at the EPA—even those who are usually supportive of the Obama administration.
Last month, Colorado’s top two Democrats—Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet—said they were “deeply concerned” whether the Rocky Mountain State could afford to make the changes needed and echoed complaints from other high-altitude states such as New Mexico that stricter ozone standards hurt them more than states closer to sea level.
“Because of pollution that’s coming in from other Western states, from across the globe, from across wildfires in the West, we have significant parts of our state that would be non-attainment zones from the very beginning of the law,” Bennet said. “That doesn’t make any sense, it’s not going to work.”
“These are always difficult decisions,” McCarthy said. “What the Clean Air Act tells me to do is to make my best judgment based on the science … It should be no less than what I need to do and no more. In the end it’s a judgment call by the (EPA) administrator … I realized how serious this decision is. I did not base it on a popularity contest.”
When will the new rule go into effect? The EPA will designate areas in 2017. Those that don’t attain 70 ppb will have from 2020 to 2037 to meet the standard, with the deadlines varying based on the severity of their ozone pollution.
“For me, what does this mean for foregone investment?” Kish said. “People who might invest in something or want to expand something. It’s going to limit opportunities that would have otherwise been there. The hidden costs of this is often what’s hardest to determine but … they’re real, they’re palpable. People make business decisions based on this.”
Rolling back the tide of environmental overreach
By Marita Noon
The reason most often cited for the success of the nonpolitical candidates is the frustration with Washington; the sense that the system is broken. Voters feel that we have no control and that government has gone wild. Even people who don’t watch the news or closely follow politics are aware of the “overreach.” It seems that, perhaps, the messages the outsiders have been heralding on the trail has caught on.
Washington’s overreach has been rolled back — by courts and commissioners and, even, in response, the government itself. In little more than 30 days, there have been five distinct cases that you may have missed — each, a victory for responsible land use.
* Waters of the U.S. rule
First was WOTUS, or the Waters of the U.S. rule — which was scheduled for full implementation on, Friday, August 28. WOTUS attempted to greatly expand the federal government’s authority over water and land and could apply to ditches, streams, wetlands and small isolated bodies of water. Late on Thursday, August 27, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson issued a temporary injunction sought by North Dakota and 12 other states. In his decision, Erickson wrote: “Once the rule takes effect, the states will lose their sovereignty over interstate waters that will then be subject to the scope of the Clean Water Act.” Calling the rule “arbitrary and capricious,” he declared that the EPA “violated its congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the rule.”
Undaunted, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pushed back, stating that the rule only applied to the thirteen states that requested the injunction. For the remaining 37 states, the EPA is enforcing the regulation as planned. At least 10 lawsuits — including 29 states and 14 agricultural and industry organizations — have been filed in federal district court challenging the rule.
Constitutional and environmental law professor, Jonathan H. Adler, addressed WOTUS in the Washington Post, saying: “As a general matter (and as the Supreme Court has recognized) land-use control is generally beyond the scope of federal power. In this case, the district court concluded that the states were likely to succeed on the merits as the EPA had adopted an ‘exceptionally expansive’ view of its own jurisdiction under the CWA.”
Perhaps, as you’ll see, if the WOTUS deadline was a month later, the EPA may not have been so bold in its assertion that it would continue to enforce the rule. But, then again, this is the Obama EPA.
* Lesser Prairie Chicken
Once again, a federal agency has been acting “arbitrarily and capriciously.” This time, it is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). On September 2, U.S. District Judge Robert A. Junell overturned the Obama administration’s 2014 listing of the lesser prairie chicken (LPC) as a threatened species, which gave the bird protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and limited land use in five states.
Citing the “more than 180 oil and gas, pipeline, electric transmission and wind energy companies” that had enrolled in voluntary conservation plans, The Permian Basin Petroleum Association challenged the listing, as soon as it was finalized.
The FWS is required to consider the conservation plans. The court determined that FWS “did not properly consider active conservation efforts for the bird when listing it.” Junell wrote: “The Court finds FWS did conduct an analysis, however this analysis was neither ‘rigorous’ nor valid as FWS failed to consider important questions and material information necessary to make a proper evaluation.”
Addressing the LPC decision, The National Law Review, states: the “ruling raises important questions about the upcoming Service decision whether to list the greater sage-grouse under the ESA. A sage-grouse decision was due on September 30.
Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, sees that the FWS “has been illegally steam rolling states by their own secret rules.” He added: “The Obama administration has been merciless in its quest to list species — even when the science says otherwise.”
* Hydraulic Fracturing Rule
On September 30, another federal district court judge smacked down another federal agency — this time the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which, in March, issued federal fracking rules designed to spur states to follow suit (most energy-producing states already regulate fracking). BloombergBusiness states: “There are more than 100,000 wells on federal land making up 11 percent of the nation’s natural gas production and five percent of its oil.” The rule, if implemented and adopted by states, as hoped for by the administration, would magnify the impact, “potentially slowing development of oil and natural gas resources” — which is likely the goal. As a result, BloombergBusiness adds, producers “would have faced higher costs at a time when profits already are strangled by low crude prices.”
In his 54-page decision, Wyoming’s U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote: “Congress has not authorized or delegated the BLM authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing and, under our constitutional structure, it is only through congressional action that the BLM can acquire this authority.” He issued a preliminary injunction barring implementation of the rules, “finding that those suing had a good chance of winning their case and getting a permanent order barring enforcement.”
Different from the EPA’s arrogant decision to move forward with implementing WOTUS, a BLM spokeswoman, according to the Wall Street Journal, said: “While the matter is being resolved, the BLM will follow the Court’s order and will continue to process applications for permit to drill and inspect wells sites under its pre-existing regulations.”
Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs at Western Energy Alliance, a party to the lawsuit against the government, is overjoyed to finally be “getting relief from the courts regarding the regulatory overreach of the Obama administration.” She added: “We hope the BLM, EPA and other agencies that are rushing to implement even more regulations on the very businesses that create jobs will pause and actually follow the law and regulatory procedure.”
“The case will proceed to a final resolution,” BloombergBusiness reports, “probably early next year.”
* Wolf Reintroduction
Ranchers in and around New Mexico’s Gila Forest have been fighting the federal government’s plan to release “another dozen or so Mexican grey wolves.” Already, in the region, wolves since their introduction in 1998 have killed livestock, and children waiting for the school bus often do so in cages for protection. I’ve written on the sad tale several times.
On September 29, in a 7-0 vote, concerned about the impact to ranchers and elk hunters, the New Mexico Game Commission upheld an earlier decision denying the FWS permits to release Mexican wolves into federal land in southwestern New Mexico.
“Federal policy requires FWS to consult state agencies and comply with their permitting processes when releasing endangered animals from captivity,” Science Magazine reports, “even when releases are made on federal land.”
In June, according the Santa Fe New Mexican, “New Mexico Game and Fish Department Director Alexandra Sandoval rejected a federal permit for the Mexican wolf program because she said the FWS lacked a detailed plan to release up to ten captive wolves in the Gila National Forest, leaving her without enough information on what effects the predators would have on deer and elk populations.”
In response to the decision, Game Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan of Roswell, NM, said she and her colleagues could only overturn the director’s decision on the wolf permit if they found it “arbitrary and capricious.”
* Sage Grouse
This string of recent decisions may have been noticed by the Obama administration. On September 22, after years of debate, and after the LPC listing was overturned, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the sage grouse would not be listed under ESA. The Washington Post reports that “the chicken-like grouse does not meet the required standard because a collaboration of federal agencies, states, ranchers, industry and environmental groups has already begun to restore areas where it breeds.” “According to state fish and game agencies,” Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney specializing in lands, wildlife and water law, told me: “sage grouse populations have risen 63 percent over the past two springs.”
An ESA listing would “significantly limit future development.”
The ESA, Brian Seasholes, director of the endangered species program at the Reason Foundation, states: “has a well-deserved reputation for putting severe restrictions on otherwise normal and legal forms of land and resource use, such as farming and energy development.” In an op-ed in The Hill, he adds: “When a species is listed under ESA, landowners can face steep fines, penalties and land use controls that can devalue their property.”
While environmental groups see the decision as a victory for “industry and its supporters,” others, such as Utah Governor Gary Herbert — who estimated Utah would lose more than $40 billion in economic production from oil and gas if the sage grouse were listed — are still not happy.
Rather than listing the sage grouse — which would likely be overturned in court — the DOI’s BLM has released a plan to implement more than 90 land use strategies. Herbert sees that the federal government rejected the successful sage-grouse conservation plan and says the land use plans that govern use of over 60 million acres of federal land “constitute the equivalent of a listing decision outside the normal process.” He calls the plans “a significant overreach by the federal government.” Bishop agrees: “Do not be fooled. The announcement not to list the sage-grouse is a cynical ploy… With the stroke of a pen, the Obama Administration’s oppressive land management plan is the same as a listing.” The land-use restrictions have been decried as “every bit as rigid as could be expected under ESA.”
While “the West’s sage-grouse worries are far from over,” I see that, when combined with the aforementioned stories, the unwarranted decision is still welcome news. Land-use plans will be easier to revise under a new administration than removing an ESA listing. But, more importantly, I view it as a recognition that big government overreach has reached its limits.
The good news about having so many reform-minded outsiders running for president is that they are like a band of crusaders spreading the message of big government overreach far and wide. That message is, apparently, being heard. Voters are, hopefully, ready for responsible land use. The tide is being rolled back.
Montgomery County became the country’s first major locality Tuesday to ban the use of cosmetic pesticides on private lawns, concluding that the time-honored right of suburbanites to maintain pristine green, weed-free yards was superseded by a body of scientific evidence linking the widely-used products to cancer.
After three hours of sometimes emotional debate, which included members recounting their own personal and family experiences with cancer, the County Council voted 6-to-3 to impose the ban on the chemicals--all deemed safe by the EPA when used appropriately--effective at the beginning of 2018. The measure excludes agricultural land, gardens and golf courses and does not prohibit the sale of lawn pesticides within the county.
Nor is there a specific enforcement provision in the law that empowers county inspectors to scrutinize homeowners’ lawns for pesticide content. Like many county regulations, it will depend on citizen complaints. But advocates discounted the lack of regulatory teeth and said the bill will serve as a valuable tool to educate residents on organic alternatives.
The council’s action puts the county on a very short list of jurisdictions that have passed similar bills: Takoma Park, Md. and Ogunquit, Maine, an oceanside community with a year-round population of about 1,300.
“I believe we are acting in the interests of public health today,” said Council President George Leventhal (D-At-Large), the bill’s chief sponsor, who introduced the measure nearly a year ago.
Opponents of the bill, including homeowners and the lawn care and chemical industries, protested what they called an unwarranted government intrusion into a traditional homeowner right.
“I think this is a case of politics trumping science and fact,” said Karen Reardon, vice president of public affairs for RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) a national trade association for pesticide manufacturers and distributors.
Leventhal had to make a major concession to achieve a winning margin, agreeing to exempt the county’s nearly 300 athletic playing fields after opposition from the soccer community and other sports enthusiasts. The bill does, however, establish a five-field pilot program using organic products. It tasks the county’s parks department to develop a plan to make all playing fields pesticide free by 2020.
The council’s two-thirds majority vote shields the measure from veto by County Executive Isiah Leggett. He voiced concerns Tuesday about several aspects of the bill, including language that appears to mandate pesticide-free playing fields by 2020 no matter what the pilot program shows. “To me that’s troubling,” Leggett said.
The bill is a vivid example of the geographic divide in county politics, pitting a progressive, left-leaning south against more moderate areas in the center and north. Not coincidentally, three of the six votes in support of the bill came from council members who reside in Takoma Park: Marc Elrich (D-At-Large), Hans Riemer (D-At Large) and Leventhal. The southeastern Montgomery community was the center of a grassroots campaign to pass a countywide version of the bill.
Two of the bill’s three “no” votes come from the central and northern parts of the county, where many homeowners oppose the bill: Craig Rice (D-Germantown) and Sidney Katz (D-Gaithersburg).
Pesticide regulation is usually a federal and state responsibility. Earlier this year the council heard testimony from the Maryland and the federal EPA officials, who said pesticides are rigorously tested and safe when used appropriately.
But proponents argued that the government can’t be relied upon to protect citizens from toxins in the environment. They cited, among studies, a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office and the Natural Resources Defense Council, that said thousands of pesticides were approved for use without being fully tested for hazards to human health.
Advocates said it was irresponsible to wait for scientists to establish a complete causal link between pesticides and cancer, contending that the record was clear enough. They pointed to a 2012 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that said the data “demonstrates associations” between childhood pesticide exposure and cancer, along with decreased cognitive skills and other disorders. Yet the study stopped short of favoring a sweeping ban, saying that more research is needed.
That was the principal argument of Council member Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) who unsuccessfully offered a substitute bill that exempted private land from the ban.
Berliner’s version of the legislation banned pesticides on county property, near daycare centers, playgrounds and waterways. But he contended that most county residents were unprepared for a sweeping ban.
“It would be like going from zero to sixty in a nanosecond,” said Berliner, a legislator with a strong environmental record who added that he “hated” voting against the bill.
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Posted by JR at 1:35 AM