Friday, June 30, 2017

EPA chief met with Dow CEO before reversing his agency’s push to ban a harmful pesticide

So what? Any evidence that something improper occurred? Suspicion proves nothing. Pruitt continued approval for something that had been used on a large scale without problems for many years.  Big deal!

AMERICA’S top environment official has refused to ban a dangerous pesticide after meeting the CEO whose company produces it.

THE Trump administration’s top environmental official met privately with the Australian chief executive of Dow Chemical shortly before reversing his agency’s push to ban a widely used pesticide after health studies showed it can harm children’s brains.

According to records obtained by The Associated Press, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s schedule shows he met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris for about a half-hour on March 9 during a conference held at a Houston hotel.

Twenty days later, Mr Pruitt announced his decision to deny a petition to ban Dow’s chlorpyrifos pesticide from being sprayed on food, despite a review by his agency’s scientists that concluded ingesting even minuscule amounts of the chemical can interfere with the brain development of foetuses and infants.

In December, President Trump appointed 62-year-old Mr Liveris as head of an “American manufacturing council” tasked with bringing industry back to the US.

EPA released a copy of Mr Pruitt’s March meeting schedule earlier this month following several Freedom of Information Act requests.

Asked by the AP in April whether Mr Pruitt had meet with Dow executives or lobbyists before his decision, EPA spokesman J.P. Freire replied: “We have had no meetings with Dow on this topic.”

EPA did not respond this week to questions about what Mr Pruitt and Mr Liveris did discuss during their March 9 meeting, or whether the two had also met on other occasions.

Mr Liveris has close ties to the Trump administration. He heads a White House manufacturing working group, and Dow wrote a $US1 million ($1.3 million) cheque to help underwrite the president’s inaugural festivities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged Mr Pruitt to take chlorpyrifos off the market.

The group representing more than 66,000 paediatricians and paediatric surgeons said on Tuesday it is “deeply alarmed” by Mr Pruitt’s decision to allow the pesticide’s continued use.

“There is a wealth of science demonstrating the detrimental effects of chlorpyrifos exposure to developing foetuses, infants, children, and pregnant women,” the academy said in a letter to Mr Pruitt. “The risk to infant and children’s health and development is unambiguous.”

The AP reported in April that Dow is lobbying the Trump administration to “set aside” the findings of federal scientists that organophosphate pesticides, including chlorpyrifos, are also harmful to about 1800 critically threatened or endangered species.

US farmers spray more than 2.7 million kilograms of chlorpyrifos each year on citrus fruits, apples, cherries and other crops, making it one of the most widely used pesticides in the world.

First developed as a chemical weapon prior to WWII, Dow has been selling chlorpyrifos as a pesticide since the mid-1960s.

It has been blamed for sickening dozens of farmworkers in recent years. Traces have been found in waterways, threatening fish, and experts say overuse could make targeted insects immune to the pesticide.

Under pressure from federal regulators over safety concerns, Dow withdrew chlorpyrifos for use as a home insecticide in 2000. EPA also placed “no-spray” buffer zones around sensitive sites, such as schools, in 2012.

But environmental and public health groups said those proposals don’t go far enough and filed a federal lawsuit seeking a national ban on the pesticide. In October 2015, the Obama administration proposed revoking the pesticide’s use in response to a petition from the Natural Resources Defence Council and Pesticide Action Network North America.

A risk assessment memo issued in November by nine EPA scientists concluded: “There is a breadth of information available on the potential adverse neurodevelopmental effects in infants and children as a result of prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos.”


Energy Secretary: Debate on Climate Change Should Center on How Much Man Impacts Climate and What to Do About It

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Tuesday that he believes climate is changing and man is having an impact on it, but how much much effect that is and what the U.S. is going to do to affect that is up for debate.

During a White House press briefing on the president's energy policy, Perry was asked if he believes climate change is happening and that human activity has made it worse.

"Here’s what I believe -- and I’m pretty much on the record but I love getting the opportunity to talk about it again -- is the climate is changing.  Man is having an impact on it.  I’ve said that time after time. The idea that we can’t have an intellectual conversation about just what are the actual impacts," Perry said.

He pointed to former Obama administration Energy Undersecretary Steve Koonin, who has said that Obama administration officials spun scientific data to sway public opinion on climate change, as a reason why there should be a conversation about the issue.

“What you saw coming out of the press releases about climate data, climate analysis, was, I’d say, misleading, sometimes just wrong,” Koonin said, according to an April 24 article in the Daily Caller.

"I mean, as late as this last week, an undersecretary for the Obama administration, Steve Koonin -- he believes that we need to have a sit-down and have a conversation. That the data is not, from his perspective -- and obviously he was a good enough scientist to be asked by the Obama administration to come in and be an undersecretary at the DOE -- he doesn’t think that the science is settled. So why not have a conversation about that?" Perry asked.

"I mean, what is the other side?  The people who say the science is settled, it’s done -- if you don’t believe that you’re a skeptic, a Luddite.  I don’t buy that. I don’t think there is -- I mean, this is America.  Have a conversation. Let’s come out of the shadows of hiding behind your political statements and let’s talk about it. What’s wrong with that? And I’m full well -- I can be convinced, but let’s talk about it." Perry added.

"You said that you do believe that climate change is happening and you do believe that human activity is contributing to it. So the discussion you’re asking for is just what to do about it?" a reporter asked.

"Sure. Is that okay? I mean, don’t you think we ought to do that?" Perry asked.

When asked later in the briefing to clarify his stance on climate change, Perry said there needs to be a debate on how much man affects the climate and what to do about it.

"You are saying that climate change -- man has affected climate change, and that the discussion is about what we do with it, not whether or not we've affected it. So going forward, that’s resolved," a reporter asked.

"No, what I said was:  Climate is changing, always has. Man at this particular point of time is having effect on it. How much effect is what’s at debate here? And more importantly, what is the United States going to do to affect that? Are we going to sign an agreement with somebody that really doesn’t call anybody to making any changes? You look at that agreement and what China and what India are required to do and they’re nothing," Perry said about the Paris climate agreement.

"How many coal plants? Three hundred plus coal plants we built in India. So why would we sign on to an agreement that is not holding other people to account and asking us to give $3 billion? I mean, that’s the first ante, and the Trump administration said that’s nonsense. I agree with them it's nonsense," he added.

"Now, can we agree we ought to have a conversation as a people? Intellectually engaged, not screaming at each other, and not standing up in the middle of my speeches and saying you’re a climate denier, when the fact is, I just want to have a conversation about this," Perry said.

"Isn’t that what the scientists have done?" the reporter asked.

"No, they haven’t, because when you have a scientist like Steve Koonin who stands up and says the science isn’t settled yet, I can say, okay, well let’s have a conversation and get these guys together. In my Senate committee, I said let’s -- Senate hearing -- I said let’s have a conversation about the blue team and red team getting together and talking this out," Perry said.

When asked whether President Donald Trump shares Perry's view on climate change, Perry said, "I have not had that conversation with him."


Trump’s Push to Deregulate Energy Will Unleash America’s Energy Industry, Benefit All

This week, the President is scheduled to talk extensively about U.S. energy policy and the administration’s push for “energy dominance” at a time when oil giants like OPEC are looking more fragile than ever.  The President and his team are putting in place policies to continue the boom in domestic energy and turn America into an energy exporter with fewer limits and regulations on American energy production.

Early in the Trump presidency, it’s clear that some of the administration’s most significant successes have come in the form of removing harmful energy regulations. The Energy Independence Executive Order, the elimination of the Stream Protection Rule, and the extension of the National Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, are each major actions designed to combat the rampant federal overreach that average American’s have dealt with for the past eight years.

Economic growth in the U.S. is dependent on a vibrant energy infrastructure and a regulatory environment which supports businesses.  Halfway through 2017, the United States’ economy is looking strong. Job growth, employment and wage growth all show significant increases. Consumer confidence and economic optimism both jumped to nine-year highs as people are finally starting to feel some financial security.

Energy is one of the largest drivers of economic revenue in the country. It’s also one of the greatest sources of jobs. 6.4 million Americans work in the traditional energy and energy efficiency industries. These industries added 300,000 new jobs over the course of 2016 and represented approximately 14 percent of the nation’s job growth. We have a bounty of resources in America. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal account for more than 75 percent of our energy consumption. These fuels are used to support transportation and industrial projects while keeping utility prices low.

President Trump is successfully fighting back against the web of damaging regulations put in place by the Obama administration. Instead of utilizing our vast resources to bring economic prosperity to America, politicians decided to wage war on the energy industry. Over the course of Obama’s presidency, the EPA published thousands of complex regulations – The Clean Power Plan, EPA Regional Haze Goals, and EPA Emissions Standards among them – as a series of ideological barriers which worked to undermine the energy infrastructure in resource-rich states.

The Clean Power Plan, for example, would have required North Dakota to reduce its carbon dioxide emission rate by 44.9 percent, even though North Dakota is one of only 12 states that achieves all of EPA’s air quality standards for public health. Even if all industry was shut down in the state, the EPA Regional Haze goals would still be impossible to achieve.

Energy regulations are needed, but let’s be clear, none of these even make a dent in the effort to curb emissions. Its limited environmental gain for real economic pain. The Clean Power Plan, is projected to reduce global CO2 emissions by a mere 1.8 percent by 2030 and forestall global warming by 0.019 degrees Celsius over the next 83 years. This negligible difference is nowhere near worth the $39 billion price tag for consumers and businesses.

Beyond businesses, it’s the poor and the elderly that are hit the hardest.  States will see increases in energy costs. Wisconsin, for example, under the Clean Power Plan would increase the average electricity prices by nearly 20 percent. That will affect whether or not someone could heat their home or put food on the table.

The Trump administration has embraced a top down and bottom up approach designed to dismantle the government-wide architecture put in place by the Obama team who viewed virtually every action or policy through the lens of its impact on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Take the revisions to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone. The EPA under President Obama lowered the mandated standard to 70 parts per billion, and in doing so, effectively destroyed tens of thousands of jobs across the country. Areas that wouldn’t be able to meet this new standards would face the threat of “increased regulatory burdens, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and increased costs to businesses,” according to the EPA. Replacing open threats with genuine cooperation, the Trump administration has decided to work with the states so they can address their environmental responsibilities without devastating their economies. Just earlier this month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that they will extend deadlines for the 2015 Ozone area designations and “will continue to work with states to ensure they are on a path to compliance.”

During this energy week, I applaud the president for taking a stand and supporting access to affordable energy. A push for U.S. dominance in the energy space is better for the average American’s wallet and our national security interests. The Trump administration is doing something from which we all benefit– unleashing America’s energy industry.


Ocean Acidification Improves the Growth and Temperature Tolerance of Eelgrass
Paper Reviewed: Zimmerman, R.C., Hill, V.J., Jinuntuya, M., Celebi, B., Ruble, D., Smith, M., Cedeno, T. and Swingle, W.M. 2017. Experimental impacts of climate warming and ocean carbonation on eelgrass Zostera marina. Marine Ecology Progress Series 566: 1-15.

In an intriguing new paper published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, Zimmerman et al. (2017) investigate the controversial topic of ocean acidification, or as they more correctly describe it, ocean carbonation.

Writing as background for their work, the eight U.S. researchers note how numerous studies have shown that elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide not only increase terrestrial plant photosynthesis, but also enhance the productivity of aquatic ecosystems. In particular, they cite studies documenting how the dissolution of CO2 into surface waters of the world's oceans (i.e., ocean acidification or ocean carbonation) has benefited certain taxonomic groups, including nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, coccolithophores and seagrasses, the latter of which group was the focus of their present study. Concentrating specifically on eelgrass (Zostera marina), Zimmerman et al. set out "to quantify the extent to which CO2 enrichment can improve the ability of eelgrass to tolerate stressful summer temperatures." Their reason for selecting eelgrass was due to the relatively large number of CO2 enrichment studies previously performed on this macroalgal species, plus the important role it plays in "sediment stabilization and habitat provision for many ecologically and economically important invertebrates and fish."

Their experiment was conducted at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, where they pumped seawater from a nearby estuary into a series of outdoor aquaria containing eelgrass transplants. The aquaria were maintained at 5 different pH values (7.7, 7.4, 6.9, 6.5 and 6.1) for a period of 18 months (June 2013 through November 2014) by injecting CO2 into the airstream in each tank. Because this was an outdoor experiment, all treatments were exposed to natural fluctuations in total solar radiation, temperature and salinity.

Results of their study revealed that ocean carbonation increased eelgrass survival, shoot number, size, and growth. By the end of the experiment, eelgrass plants in the highest CO2 seawater treatment were some three times larger than the plants growing under ambient conditions. Visual documentation of such differences can been seen in the figure below. Elevated CO2 also stimulated leaf sugar concentration by five-fold, of which accumulation the authors say it "may be critical in regulating the flowering process in eelgrass," which rates under elevated CO2 were between 3 and 5 times higher than the 10 percent flowering rate typically observed under ambient conditions.

Another major benefit of ocean carbonation was the surprising observation that elevated CO2 mitigated the impact of warm temperatures on eelgrass growth and survival. As described by Zimmerman et al., elevated CO2 "prevent[ed] shoot losses during the warm summer when water temperature exceeded the 25°C threshold for thermal stress" and it "eliminated the lethal effects of temperature."

In light of the above, Zimmerman et al. conclude "it appears that ocean carbonation (ocean acidification) can serve as a quantitative antagonist to counter the negative impact of climate warming on eelgrass growth and survival," while adding that their findings "reinforce the emerging paradigm that eelgrass may benefit significantly from a high-CO2 world." And that is news worth reporting and celebrating!


Australia: "Green" NT government wants a free ride

They want to abandon a major source of revenue and then turn to the rest of Australia to pay their bills?? Typical Leftist irresponsibility

The Northern Territory government says Canberra is threatening to cut its share of GST further if it doesn't lift a fracking ban.

NT treasurer Nicole Manison says it's an "an absolute disgrace" that her federal counterpart Scott Morrison is attempting to bully her government into ending a temporary ban on unconventional gas exploration.

"Territorians should not be held to ransom on the future of their GST funding based on whether or not we seek fracking," she told reporters in Darwin.

On Wednesday Mr Morrison took aim at the government's moratorium, saying it had stymied investment and was holding the Territory economy back.

"The bottom line is this, Australia needs more gas and the Territory needs more jobs," he said. "And it needs to take advantage of the resource opportunities that it has here, whether it's on gas or anywhere else.This is important for the Territory's development and its future."

Mr Morrison said an upcoming Productivity Commission review of GST distribution would examine whether the formula was hurting the national economy by giving jurisdictions like the NT a "leave pass" for "not getting on and doing things".

"And should that sort of decision be rewarded by getting extra GST when you've got a state like Western Australia which has been realising their resource opportunities and has been penalised under the system for doing it?" he said. "I think it needs a fair dinkum look at it."

Labor says it won't lift a ban on the controversial gas extraction method until an independent inquiry releases its report in December, which was an election commitment.

Ms Manison is seeking infrastructure project investments from Canberra to mitigate the blow of huge GST cuts already announced in March, which make up 50 per cent of the NT's revenue.

She said in order for the NT to stop relying on handouts from the commonwealth it must diversify its economy, and can't put its pastoral, agriculture and tourism industries at risk by waving through hydraulic fracturing.



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