California A Global Leader On Climate Change

White House Agenda Not Slowing Action In Golden State

The environmental ministers of Canada and Mexico went to San Francisco last month to sign a global pact — drafted largely by California — to lower planet-warming greenhouse pollution. Gov. Jerry Brown flies to China next month to meet with climate leaders there on a campaign to curb global warming. And a battery of state lawyers is preparing to battle any attempt by Washington to weaken California’s automobile pollution emission standards.

As President Trump moves to reverse the Obama administration’s policies on climate change, California is emerging as the nation’s de facto negotiator with the world on the environment. The state is pushing back on everything from White House efforts to roll back pollution rules on tailpipes and smokestacks, to plans to withdraw or weaken the United States’ commitments under the Paris climate change accord.

climate change policy

In the process, California is not only fighting to protect its legacy of sweeping environmental protection, but also holding itself out as a model to other states — and to nations — on how to fight climate change.

“I want to do everything we can to keep America on track, keep the world on track, and lead in all the ways California has,” said Mr. Brown, who has embraced this fight as he enters what is likely to be the final stretch of a 40-year career in California government. “We’re looking to do everything we can to advance our program, regardless of whatever happens in Washington.”

Since the election, California has stood as the leading edge of the Democratic resistance to the Trump administration, on a range of issues including immigration and health care. Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton here by nearly four million votes. Every statewide elected official is a Democrat, and the party controls both houses of the Legislature by a two-thirds margin. Soon after Mr. Trump was elected, Democratic legislative leaders hired Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general, to represent California in legal fights with the administration.

But of all the battles it is waging with Washington, none have the global implications of the one over climate change.

climate change and extreme weather

The aggressive posture on the environment has set the stage for a confrontation between the Trump administration and the largest state in the nation. California has 39 million people, making it more populous than Canada and many other countries. And with an annual economic output of $2.4 trillion, the state is an economic powerhouse and has the sixth-largest economy in the world.

California’s efforts cross party lines. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, and led the state in developing the most aggressive pollution-control programs in the nation, has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s biggest Republican critics.

Mr. Trump and his advisers appear ready for the fight.

Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency chief, whom Mr. Trump has charged with rolling back Obama-era environmental policies, speaks often of his belief in the importance of federalism and states’ rights, describing Mr. Trump’s proposals as a way to lift the oppressive yoke of federal regulations and return authority to the states. But of Mr. Brown’s push to expand California’s environmental policies to the country and the world, Mr. Pruitt said, “That’s not federalism — that’s a political agenda hiding behind federalism.”

“Is it federalism to impose your policy on other states?” Mr. Pruitt asked in a recent interview in his office. “It seems to me that Mr. Brown is being the aggressor here,” he said. “But we expect the law will show this.”

In one of his earliest strikes, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in March aimed at dismantling the Clean Power Plan, President Barack Obama’s signature climate policy change. Much of the plan, which Mr. Trump denounced as a “job killer,” was drawn from environmental policies pioneered in California.

Jerry Brown California water conservation

Mr. Brown has long been an environmental advocate, including when he first served as governor in the 1970s. He has made this a central focus as he enters his final 18 months in office. In an interview, he said the president’s action was “a colossal mistake and defies science.”

“Erasing climate change may take place in Donald Trump’s mind, but nowhere else,” Mr. Brown said.

The leadership role being embraced by California goes to the heart of what has long been a central part of this state’s identity. For more than three decades, California has been at the vanguard of environmental policy, passing ambitious, first-in-the-nation legislation on pollution control and conservation that have often served as models for national and even international environmental law.

Read The Full Story at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/california-engages-world-and-fights-washington-on-climate-change.html?emc=edit_ta_20170523&nl=top-stories&nlid=59791470&ref=cta&_r=0

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. It’s also promoting sustainable, resilient and livable cities. Please contact Gary Chandler at gary@crossbow1.com to join our network.

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Green Cities, Laws & Regulations, State Government, Sustainable Cities, Urban Planning | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bloomberg Urges Leaders To Ignore Trump’s Climate Commentary

Climate Solutions Found Outside Of Washington, DC

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing foreign leaders not to follow President Trump’s lead on climate change.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Bloomberg said other countries should continue pursuing the goals laid out in the international Paris climate accord, regardless of whether Trump pulls the U.S. out of the pact, something the White House is still considering.

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” Bloomberg, who in 2014 was appointed a United Nations special envoy on climate change, told the AP.

“And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression — and help save the Paris deal.”

Michael Bloomberg climate change

 

Bloomberg and former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope are releasing a book about climate change, which he said is not a political statement but rather a way to urge citizens and policymakers to focus more on the environment.

He said there was no political motive tied to his new book, “Climate of Hope: How Cities, Businesses, and Citizens Can Save the Planet,” co-authored by former Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope.

“I’m not running for office,” Bloomberg told the Associated Press. The 75-year-old billionaire, who has championed liberal causes despite his political independence, repeatedly mulled presidential runs during his tenure as New York’s mayor.

Instead of helping to re-ignite his political career, he said the new book offered a specific policy objective: To help save an international agreement, negotiated in Paris, to reduce global carbon emissions.

The Trump administration is debating whether to abandon the pact as the president promised during his campaign. Under the agreement, the U.S. pledged that by 2025 it would reduce its annual greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels, which would be a reduction of about 1.6 billion tons.

Bloomberg said he believed the U.S. would hit that goal regardless of what Trump does because of leadership at the state level and market forces already at play in the private sector.

greenhouse gas and climate change

“Washington won’t determine the fate of our ability to meet our Paris commitment,” he said in an email Saturday to the AP. “And what a tragedy it would be if the failure to understand that led to an unraveling of the agreement. We hope this book will help to correct that wrong impression – and help save the Paris deal.”

Bloomberg already plays a significant role in shaping some of the nation’s fiercest policy debates, having invested millions of dollars in one advocacy group that pushes for stronger gun control and another that promotes liberal immigration policies. In the new book, which follows what a spokeswoman described as $80 million in donations to the Sierra Club in recent years, the New York businessman solidifies his status as a prominent climate change advocate as well.

His policy repertoire aligns him with core values of the Democratic Party, although the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned independent has no formal political affiliation.

In the interview, Bloomberg shrugged off conservatives who condemn him as a paternalistic New York elitist. He noted that policies he helped initiate in New York City – including a smoking ban and high taxes on sugary drinks – have eventually caught on elsewhere.

climate change and extreme weather

 

“My goal has been to save and improve lives,” he said. “Some ways of doing that can be controversial at first, but end up being highly popular and successful.”

Bloomberg’s book reportedly takes aim at the coal sector, of which he writes, “I don’t have much sympathy for industries whose products leave behind a trail of diseased and dead bodies … for everyone’s sake, we should aim to put them out of business.”

Bloomberg told the AP he will donate $3 million to groups that help out-of-work coal miners find jobs and distressed coal country communities revive their local economies.

He avoided condemning the Trump administration directly, however, largely casting the new president’s steps on climate change as irrelevant. The White House declined to comment when asked about Bloomberg’s statements.

“As it turns out, Trump’s election makes the book’s message – that the most important solutions lie outside of Washington – even more important and urgent,” Bloomberg said.

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Greener Cities is an initiative started by Crossbow Communications, an international consulting firm that specializes in public affairs and issue management. Write to Gary Chandler for more information gary@crossbow1.com

 

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Cities Spreading Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism With Sewage Sludge

Risk Assessments On Sewage Sludge Flawed

Thanks to flawed risk assessments, cities are spreading an unstoppable pathogen when they spread sewage sludge on land. It’s time to reclassify sewage sludge and biosolids as infectious waste and put it in landfills, not on farms, ranches, forests, golf courses, school grounds and parks. As scientists have been saying for years, sewage sludge isn’t fertilizer–it’s toxic waste, nuclear waste and infectious waste all rolled into one.

Neurodegenerative disease, including Alzheimer’s disease, is the fastest-growing cause of death in the world. It’s getting worse every day thanks to mismanagement and misinformation.

Infectious proteins known as prions are involved with most forms of neurodegenerative disease. Prion disease is known in neurology as transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Prions are a deadly and unstoppable form of protein that migrates, mutates, multiplies and kills with unparalleled efficiency. The global TSE epidemic has more to do with the prion contagion than age.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner, an American neuroscientist from the University of California at San Francisco, earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for discovering and characterizing deadly prions and prion disease. Prusiner claims that all TSEs, including Alzheimer’s disease, are caused by prions.

transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his research. According to Prusiner, TSEs are a spectrum disease. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is extremely aggressive and extremely transmissible, is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, Prusiner’s science is being ignored and we are facing a public health disaster because of the negligence.

Neurologists are just guessing when they make a diagnosis on the prion spectrum. According to neuroscientist Laura Manuelidis, at least 25 percent of Alzheimer’s diagnoses are wrong. These misdiagnoses are actually CJD, which is further up the prion spectrum. CJD, without dispute, is extremely infectious to caregivers and loved ones.

prion disease

If the patient exhibits memory problems, they are labeled with Alzheimer’s disease. If they have a movement disorder, they are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. If the person exhibits extreme symptoms of both, they are diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). It’s far from a science. Neurologists don’t know where along the spectrum the disease becomes transmissible. The entire spectrum could represent a transmissible disease. Unfortunately, neurologists are not warning these patients and their caregivers about the risks of exposure. Even those with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are not quarantined. They are sent home, where they can infect friends, family, caregivers, clinics, dental offices, restaurants and entire communities.

“There has been a resurgence of this sort of thinking, because there is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins (prions).”

A study published in the journal Nature renews concern about the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease between people. A second study released in early 2016 by the same scientist adds to the stack of evidence.

Studies confirm that people and animals dying of prion disease contaminate the environment around them with prions because prions are in the urine, feces, blood, mucus and saliva of each victim. Each victim becomes an incubator and a distributor of the Pandora-like pathogen. Victims are contagious long before they exhibit clinical symptoms.

Alzheimer's disease and wastewater reclamation

At the personal level, this is very bad news for caregivers, especially spouses, who are 600 percent more likely to contract neurodegenerative disease from patients (Duke University and Utah State University). A cough, sneeze, utensils and drinking glasses all become lethal pathways. Once an item is contaminated, it’s impossible to sterilize. The human prion is resistant to both heat and chemicals. It’s reported that prions released from people are up to a hundred thousand times more difficult to deactivate than prions from most animals. Prions are not alive, so they can’t be killed.

Wastewater treatment plants are collecting points for prions from infected humans. The sewage treatment process can’t stop prions from migrating, mutating and multiplying before being discharged into the environment where they can kill again. The bad news is that the prions are being released back into the environment and dumped openly on land. The wastewater is being reclaimed and used for irrigating crops, parks, and golf courses. It’s even being recycled as drinking water.

biosolids and prion disease

Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues confirmed the presence of prions in urine. Soto also confirmed that plants uptake prions and are infectious and deadly to those who consume the infected plants. Therefore, humans, wildlife and livestock are vulnerable to prion disease via plants grown on land treated with sewage sludge and reclaimed sewage water.

Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infectious in certain soils. Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage is dumped.

“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said.

prion research sewage sludge

“Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

Thanks to more and more people dying from TSEs, wastewater treatment systems are more contaminated with prions than ever. Wastewater treatment plants are now prion incubators and distributors. The prion problem is getting worse every day.

wastewater treatment and disease

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in municipal sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to its antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions a “contaminant of emerging concern.” Meanwhile, its outdated risk assessments are promoting a public health disaster, including the autism epidemic.

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively deactivate prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” — Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

Exposing crops and livestock to prions is a very bad idea. Plants absorb prions from the soil along with water and nutrient uptake, which makes the prions even more bioavailable and infectious to humans, wildlife and livestock.

chronic wasting disease spread by biosolids and sewage sludge

Unfortunately, the damage is real. Deer, elk, moose and reindeer are contracting an unstoppable prion disease now. In deer, the government calls prion disease chronic wasting disease. In cattle, prion disease is called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (they might as well call it what it is—transmissible spongiform encephalopathy).

Mad cow disease is the term that most of us know. The government pretends that there is a specific prion responsible for each of these diseases. The fact is that there are thousands of mutations of prions spreading in the environment and food chain now. Some kill quickly, while some are less lethal. The only thing that we need to know is that a deadly prion is a deadly prion. There is no species barrier.

mad cow disease

If prion disease is killing these animals, livestock are not immune. Beef and dairy cattle are consuming these infected crops and the infected water supplies, too. Since humans are at the top of the food chain, and since we are often downstream from these infected farms, ranches and forests, our food and water supplies are being compromised. Wind and tornadoes transport the infectious waste even further.

So, is Alzheimer’s disease transmissible? There is absolutely no evidence to the contrary. The truth is your best defense against neurodegenerative disease. It’s time to demand reforms on many levels to safeguard caregivers, family members and our food and water supplies. Despite all of the warning signs, government and industry are insisting that we waste more time, money and lives studying these issues to death. The infection is real. The body count is real. The denial is disturbing.

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Alzheimer’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, chronic wasting disease and the prion disease epidemic is an area of special expertise. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform gary@crossbow1.com.

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Wastewater Reclamation Recycles Brain Diseases

Deadly Disease Recycled By Wastewater Treatment Process

Neurodegenerative diseases are the fastest-growing causes of death around the world. The mismanagement of infectious waste is contributing to the prion disease epidemic in mammals, including humans.

Dr. Stanley Prusiner earned a Nobel Prize in 1997 for his pioneering research on deadly prions—an infectious form of protein that connects a deadly spectrum disease called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). The operative word is “transmissible.” Prions migrate, mutate, multiply and kill with unparalleled efficiency.

TSEs include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, moose and reindeer. TSE is also killing dolphins, whales and many other species of mammals. It’s the environmental equivalent of Pandora’s Box.

President Obama awarded Prusiner the National Medal of Science in 2010 to recognize the importance of his work. Unfortunately, this groundbreaking research is being ignored. This negligence is fueling a public health disaster around the world, as critical prion pathways are being ignored and mismanaged. Even the autism epidemic is related to these reckless policies.

transmissible spongiform encephalopathy

In June 2012, Prusiner confirmed that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and even ALS are prion diseases similar, if not identical, to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The primary difference being which part of the brain the disease attacks first. The other variable is that there are now an unknown number of prion mutations.

“There is now real evidence of the potential transmissibility of Alzheimer’s,” says Thomas Wiesniewski M.D. a prion and Alzheimer’s researcher at New York University School of Medicine. “In fact, this ability to transmit an abnormal conformation is probably a universal property of amyloid-forming proteins (prions).”

A new study published in the journal Nature renews concern about the transmissibility of Alzheimer’s disease between people. A second study by the same scientist in early 2016 adds to the stack of evidence.

Alzheimer's disease and wastewater reclamation

People with prion disease, including Alzheimer’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease have prions in their bodily fluids, including their urine, feces, blood, saliva and mucus. Claudio Soto, PhD, professor of neurology and director of the George and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Brain Related Illnesses at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, and his colleagues confirmed that prions are in the urine of those who have contracted prion disease–even before they exhibit clinical symptoms.

Claudio Soto prion research

The study has been published in the August 7 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The unstoppable pathogen is flushed down thousands of toilets and drains every day. If prions are unstoppable in the sterile confines of an operating room, how are they stopping prions in the high-volume, low-tech world of wastewater treatment?

Prion researcher Dr. Joel Pedersen, from the University of Wisconsin, found that prions become 680 times more infectious in certain soils. Pedersen also found that sewage treatment does not inactivate prions. Therefore, prions are lethal, mutating, migrating and multiplying everywhere sewage is dumped.

“Our results suggest that if prions enter municipal wastewater treatment systems, most of the agent would bond to sewage sludge, survive anaerobic digestion, and be present in treated biosolids,” Pedersen said.

prion research sewage sludge

“Land application of biosolids containing prions represents a route for their unintentional introduction into the environment. Our results emphasize the importance of keeping prions out of municipal wastewater treatment systems. Prions could end up in sewage treatment plants via slaughterhouses, hospitals, dental offices and mortuaries just to name a few of the pathways. The disposal of sludge represents the greatest risk of spreading prion contamination in the environment. Plus, we know that sewage sludge pathogens, pharmaceutical residue and chemical pollutants are taken up by plants and vegetables.”

Mutations of these deadly prions also are the common denominator between human forms of the disease, mad cow disease in livestock and chronic wasting disease in wildlife. Several other species of mammals, including sea mammals, also are victims of the unstoppable epidemic. Much of the carnage is being swept under the rug as the problem escalates.

mad cow disease

Although there are many causes contributing to prion disease, many people and animals are contracting it from environmental exposure (food, water and soil) and then contaminating the environment even more with their own bodily fluids. Victims of prion disease are walking time bombs. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is the most deadly form of prion disease in humans. Without dispute, it is a very contagious disease that kills rapidly. There is no cure for CJD and other forms of prion disease.

Alzheimer’s and CJD are often indistinguishable to neurologists and general practitioners. Misdiagnoses are common. It appears that CJD is caused by a more aggressive mutation of prion than Alzheimer’s, but a deadly prion is a deadly prion. There is no reason to believe that some prions behave differently than others in disease transmission and progression. There should be no difference in disease management.

Unfortunately, as more people contract these brain diseases, the more deadly wastewater streams become. Meanwhile, wastewater reuse is surging around the world in response to growing populations and dwindling water resources. Other by-products from the wastewater stream known as biosolids (sewage sludge) also are being used to fertilize crops, pastures for livestock, golf courses, playgrounds and gardens. Millions of people, including your family, are in harm’s way because wastewater treatment plants can’t stop prions.

Thanks to more and more people dying from TSEs, sewage systems are more contaminated with prions than ever. Wastewater treatment systems are now prion incubators and distributors.

wastewater treatment and disease

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed that prions are in sewage and that there has been no way to detect them or stop them. As such, the EPA has never issued guidance on prion management within wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately, the EPA’s risk assessment on sewage sludge and biosolids were prepared before the world of science knew about prions. The agency continues to cling to it’s antiquated sludge rule crafted back in the dark ages. It does, however, consider prions a “contaminant of emerging concern.” Meanwhile, it’s promoting a public health disaster.

“Since it’s unlikely that the sewage treatment process can effectively deactivate prions, adopting measures to prevent the entry of prions into the sewer system is advisable,” said the Toronto Department of Health, November 2004.

Regulators and industry are playing dumb as the body count keeps rising. It’s a deadly circle enabled by an outdated risk assessment. Modern science is being ignored.

biosolids and application fertilizer

The largest prion pathway in the world is wastewater (infectious waste) from homes, hospitals, nursing homes, slaughterhouses, dental offices and other high-risk sources. The problem is that prions are in all bodily fluids and cell tissue of millions of victims who often go undiagnosed. Their mucus, saliva, feces, and urine are flushed down millions of toilets and rinsed down sinks every day. Once inside the wastewater system, prions proceed to migrate, mutate and multiply. Reckless risk assessments enable wastewater treatment plants to spread these deadly agents far and wide. Deadly prions are building up and incubating in sewage treatment plants and then dumped openly on land as biosolids. They are swept into the air by the wind. Now, water contaminated by prions is migrating into our rivers, lakes and oceans. It’s being injected into groundwater and it’s being recycled as tap water.

I used to support wastewater reclamation and reuse projects until I realized that the risk assessments were prepared decades ago—before Dr. Prusiner characterized prions and prion disease. These microscopic protein particles have converted sewage and its by-products a public health disaster.

municipal wastewater treatment and disease

Read The Full Story About The Risks Associated With Wastewater Reclamation and Biosolids

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Crossbow Communications specializes in issue management and public affairs. Sewage mismanagement is one of our top issues. Please contact Gary Chandler to join our coalition for reform gary@crossbow1.com.

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Cities Hold Solutions To Climate Change

Cities, Citizens Tackling Issues and Opportunities

Cities around the world have multiplied their efforts to emit fewer greenhouse gases and brace for climate-change-driven natural disasters, scientists and environmentalists say.

Amid uncertainty over whether Washington will withdraw from a global accord to combat climate change, many people are increasingly pinning their hopes on cities to cut global warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Last month U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said he was keeping an open mind on whether to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. He has appointed two climate skeptics to top jobs in his administration.

greener cities conference

Below are five U.S. cities that left their mark on the fight against climate change in 2016:

Portland, Oregon

Portland made national headlines by pushing the frontiers of how municipal governments can speed up the transition from fossil fuel to clean energy. This month, the West Coast city of nearly 600,000 people said it was the first nationwide to ban the construction of new bulk fossil-fuel storage facilities on its territory.

“Now, more than ever, local community voices are needed, because the risks of not acting on climate change are just too severe,” Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said after adopting the new rules, which prohibit the construction of fossil-fuel storage facilities exceeding 2 million gallons.

Burlington, Vermont

This year, Vermont’s largest urban center put together a plan to pursue its goal of becoming a “net-zero city,” meaning it aims to consume only as much energy as it generates.

“We are doing things that other bigger cities sometimes really even aren’t thinking about yet,” said Neale Lunderville, general manager of the Burlington Electric Department, a part of the municipal government, in a telephone interview.

In 2014, Burlington, a former manufacturing town of 42,000 people, became the first U.S. city to run 100 percent on renewable energy, including wind and solar power, the Electric Department said.

San Diego, California

With a population of nearly 1.4 million people, San Diego was the largest U.S. city in 2016 to have committed to producing all its energy from renewable sources. The city, located in the drier southern part of California, has had to introduce water cuts to combat prolonged drought in the state, which has been aggravated by climate change.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has committed $130 million of a $3.4 billion budget for 2017 to funding various projects to tackle climate change, such as installing solar panels, adding bike lanes and using energy-efficient street lights.

Cleveland, Ohio

In 2016, Cleveland, on the shores of Lake Erie, made progress on what could be the country’s first freshwater offshore wind turbine installation. As part of Project Icebreaker, six turbines are to be installed eight to 10 miles off Cleveland’s shore, with the aim of meeting 10 percent of the electricity needs of 6,000 homes.

The $120 million project, the brainchild of the Cleveland Foundation, a community group, received a boost in May when the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would award $40 million to help cover the construction of the wind turbines by 2018.

Baltimore, Maryland

In a first nationally, Baltimore announced in 2016 it would beef up its disaster-preparedness plans with neighborhood centers to help the most vulnerable residents, according to Kristin Baja, climate and resilience planner for the city administration.

The centers will be fully equipped with backup electricity and fresh water, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The seaside city of more than half a million people is particularly susceptible to flooding, hurricanes and storms.

“It’s an interesting model,” Garrett Fitzgerald, an adviser for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a coalition of U.S. and Canadian cities, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “People need a place to go that they can walk to, that they know, that they trust, where they feel safe.”

Sustainable Cities News via http://www.voanews.com/a/many-look-cities-reduce-emissions-fight-climate-changes/3654526.html

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Cities Divided Over Fossil Fuel Investments

Divesting From Fossil Fuels, Investing In The Future

By James B. Stewart, New York Times

The trustees of Cooperstown, N.Y., hardly expected their village (population 1,834) to emerge as a flash point in a national debate over climate change and socially responsible investing.

But when they voted in October to divest the pension fund they oversee of all fossil fuel holdings, Cooperstown became the first community in the nation to do so — not just coal (like Stanford University), but also oil and gas.

climate change policy

Just as the divestiture movement has roiled college campuses across the country, pitting environmental activists against college endowment managers, the trustees’ decision caused a stir locally. The town treasurer and tax collector publicly opposed the move, and a village resident took to the local newspaper to suggest the trustees were indulging their personal causes at the expense of prudent portfolio management.

The issue has upset the usually tranquil village on the shores of scenic Otsego Lake, which bills itself as “America’s hometown” and is home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Talk of carbon neutrality and fiduciary duty has at least temporarily supplanted Donald J. Trump, who easily carried Otsego County.

Cooperstown “is abuzz,” said Jim Kevlin, the editor and publisher of the local newspaper, The Freeman’s Journal (founded in 1808 by James Fenimore Cooper’s father) and its companion website, allotsego.com.

“I’ve gotten into arguments with a lot of my friends,” said Louis Allstadt, a retired Exxon Mobil executive and town trustee credited with spearheading the divestiture movement (or blamed for it, depending who you ask). “Even at my weekly lunch group.”

Mr. Allstadt is emerging as something of a small-town hero in the divestiture movement, in part because he has gone full circle on the issue, from managing all of Mobil Oil’s exploration efforts in the United States, Canada and Latin America and helping oversee Mobil’s merger with Exxon during a 31-year career in the industry, to an antifracking, anti-fossil-fuel activist.

air pollution and climate change

He has owned a house near Cooperstown since 1973, which served as both a vacation getaway and home base during the years he was based overseas. He moved to the village in 2008 and, after his post-retirement conversion, gave over 150 speeches in upstate New York as part of a successful campaign to ban fracking in the state.

“It’s so much worse than the conventional drilling I was familiar with,” he said. “I started talking about how to make it safer, and inevitably someone would ask, ‘Can you make it safe?’ And basically, the answer is no.”

Mr. Allstadt ran for town trustee as an independent, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. “I wasn’t running as a ‘green,’ or anything like that,” he said. “I mostly focus on efficiency and lowering costs.” (There are two independent trustees and four Democrats, which makes Cooperstown something of an anomaly in heavily Republican Otsego County.)

Mr. Allstadt is becoming more than a local celebrity. He will be featured next week at a news conference in New York City hosted by the fossil fuel divestment advocacy group Divest-Invest Philanthropy.

“Cooperstown showed immense leadership in its decision to divest,” said Lindsay Meiman, a spokeswoman for 350.org, the environmental activist group and a supporter of Divest-Invest.

But the move sparked immediate opposition outside the environmental movement, starting with the town treasurer and tax collector, Derek Bloomfield, who argued at the trustees meeting in October that energy stocks provided valuable diversification.

“Social investment should be done with one’s own money,” he maintained, according to a report in The Freeman’s Journal, adding that in his view, “fossil fuels have done more to raise mankind out of poverty than any other development through the ages.”

“They’ve created a great threat to humanity,” Mr. Allstadt shot back.

Mr. Allstadt argued that the industry faced insurmountable obstacles in the future and fossil fuel stocks would suffer as a result. “You don’t just keep driving your car when you see a cliff ahead,” he told The Freeman’s Journal.

The discussion “got a little contentious over the historic merit of fossil fuels,” the mayor, Jeff Katz, told me this week. He and his family were drawn to Cooperstown by its baseball legacy; he has written two books on the topic, including “Split Season,” about the strike-marred 1981 baseball season.

As a former options trader in Chicago, Mr. Katz is also financially sophisticated. He and the trustees oversee a pension fund, with total assets of about $900,000, that benefits the town’s volunteer firefighters and emergency squad. Of that amount, about $140,000 was invested in an S.&.P 500 fund that included fossil fuel stocks. But last year, State Street started an exchange-traded fund that excludes fossil fuels from the S.&P. 500 (the fund’s symbol is SPYX), offering a cost-efficient way to purge fossil fuels from any portfolio.

“It’s something people believe in, and we thought it’s a positive way for the name of Cooperstown to be out there,” the mayor said. “It’s meaningful in that way. It’s not so meaningful financially. We’re not a $100 million pension fund. No one will suffer if Exxon Mobil triples in the next year.”

He added that he and the trustees didn’t realize Cooperstown would be the first community in the nation to divest itself of all fossil fuels.

But the trustees’ decision, and especially Mr. Allstadt’s comments about driving off a cliff, struck a nerve with a village resident, David Russell, who moved with his family to Cooperstown from Westchester County soon after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Mr. Russell is an asset manager who commutes to Manhattan, but he is also steeped in pension fund management as a former counsel to the New York state comptroller H. Carl McCall, who oversaw the state’s vast public retirement plan.

“It’s a very pristine place up here,” Mr. Russell told me this week. “Feelings run very high about the environment. A lot of people went crazy over fracking.”

“Lou Allstadt went from being a retired oil executive to a pied piper against fossil fuels, which is fine for him personally,” he added. “But as a trustee, you have to look at this through the lens of fiduciary duty, which means acting in the best interest of the beneficiaries. Village trustees shouldn’t be stock pickers, and they shouldn’t be injecting social issues into the decision.”

“I’d never written anything in the paper before,” Mr. Russell said, “but I felt strongly that someone had to speak up.”

So he drafted a lengthy op-ed for The Freeman’s Journal, arguing that the trustees had a duty to seek the “best risk-adjusted returns” for the fund and should be “free from any conflicts of interest or political beliefs/statements.”

Mr. Russell noted that so far this year, the SPYX fund, minus fossil fuels, had lagged the SPY fund by 16 percent.

He added that stock in the two leading firearms manufacturers — Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger — which were sold off by many pension funds after the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy, have risen 400 percent and 100 percent since then, easily outpacing broad market indexes.

Read The Full Story at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/08/business/much-ado-in-cooperstown-ny-over-vote-to-dump-fossil-fuel-stocks.html?emc=edit_tnt_20161209&nlid=59791470&tntemail0=y&_r=0

Posted in Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Green Cities, Greenhouse Gases, Investments, Local Government, Sustainable Cities | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Most People Breathing Unhealthy Air

Air Pollution An Extreme Threat To Public Health

By Mike Ives, The New York Times

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that 92 percent of people breathe what it classifies as unhealthy air, in another sign that atmospheric pollution is a significant threat to global public health.

A new report, the W.H.O.’s most comprehensive analysis so far of outdoor air quality worldwide, also said about three million deaths a year — mostly from cardiovascular, pulmonary and other noncommunicable diseases — were linked to outdoor air pollution. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths are in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific region, compared with 333,000 in Europe and the Americas, the report said.

air pollution Beijing

“When you look out through the windows in your house or apartment, you don’t see the tiny little particles that are suspended in the air, so the usual perception is that the air is clean,” Rajasekhar Balasubramanian, an air quality expert at the National University of Singapore who was not involved in the study, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“But the W.H.O. report is a clear indication that even in the absence of air pollution episodes, the concentrations of particles suspended in the air do exceed what’s considered to be acceptable from a health viewpoint,” he said.

In previous studies, the W.H.O. estimated that more than eight in 10 people in urban areas that monitored air pollution were breathing unhealthy air and that about seven million deaths a year were linked to indoor and outdoor pollution.

The new study reduced the second estimate to 6.5 million deaths. But María P. Neira, director of the W.H.O.’s Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a telephone interview that “the trends are still going in the wrong direction.”

“Somebody has to pay for those health systems to sustain the treatment and the care for those chronic patients, and this is something that countries need to balance when they make decisions about the sources of energy they are selecting or the choices they make in terms of public transport,” Dr. Neira said. “These economic costs of health have to be part of the equation.”

The W.H.O. study was conducted by dozens of scientists over 18 months and was based on data collected from satellites, air-transport models and ground monitors in more than 3,000 urban and rural locations, agency officials said Tuesday.

greenhouse gas and climate change

The agency defined unhealthy air as having concentrations of fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, above 10 micrograms per cubic meter, or 35.3 cubic feet, but it did not measure concentrations of ozone, nitrous oxide or other harmful pollutants.

The study said that major drivers of global air pollution included inefficient energy use and transportation but that nonhuman factors, such as dust storms, also played a role.

Professor Balasubramanian said it was an open question whether countries in Southeast Asia, a region that has densely packed cities and struggles to combat cross-border pollution, would choose to improve urban air quality by switching to cleaner fuels in their power plants, as Western European countries did several decades ago.

Prolonging the decisions will probably increase the health risk from air pollution, he said, because the region’s population is rising and demanding more energy.

About 300 million children in the world breathe highly toxic air, the United Nations Children’s Fund said in a new report. The vast majority of these children, about 220 million, live in South Asia, in places where air pollution is at least six times the level that the World Health Organization considers safe, Unicef said.

Air Pollution News via http://nyti.ms/2cSBoVb

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UNDP Launches Program For Green Cities

Cities A Massive Problem, Opportunity

By Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

On behalf of UNDP, welcome to the launch of the UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy. As we meet here in Quito today for the Habitat III conference, we are also celebrating the International Day for Poverty Eradication.

greener cities conference

Many of the world’s poor now live in cities where the most pressing development challenges are found. In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to ensure that the urban poor are not left behind.

The New Urban Agenda, which is due to be adopted here at Habitat III, aims to ensure that the cities of today and tomorrow offer an inclusive and sustainable future for all. The UNDP Sustainable Urbanization Strategy lays out the support which UNDP as a global development organization can provide to help achieve that.

Around our world, people are moving to cities in very large numbers.  Cities are seen as places of opportunity and hope, where hard work and determination can transform lives.

UNDP has developed its sustainable urbanization strategy to support cities to deliver on the hopes of their citizens and to implement the New Urban Agenda.  Many people in cities, particularly young people, lack work and say they currently feel excluded from opportunities. For women and girls, cities can be dangerous places where they cannot walk in safety and may risk exploitation in dangerous and demeaning jobs.  Natural disasters – including those exacerbated by climate change – and conflict and citizen insecurity can turn back the clock on hard won development gains.

UNDP’s experiences of working in towns and cities around the world have shaped this first UNDP sustainable urbanization strategy, and will guide our efforts beyond Quito.  Allow me to share three of our lessons learned:

  1. For cities to be succeed, they need to meet the needs of all their residents. Truly dynamic cities make space for all, and serve the needs of all.  Inclusivity is one of the main principles of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in which UN Member States pledged to leave no one behind. The needs and aspirations of poor and marginalized people in the world’s cities must be addressed to fulfill that ambition.
  2. Cities must be resilient to natural and man-made disasters and crises. Urban areas are now home to more than half the world’s people, and they also host most of the world’s critical infrastructure, key development assets, political institutions, and major socio-economic architecture. If disasters and crises rock cities, the spillover effects are great. In the first half of 2016 alone, natural disasters caused US$71 billion in damages worldwide, with most economic loss concentrated in cities. Political instability and conflict also have major costs.
  3. Cities are at the forefront of the battle against climate change and environmental degradation. They produce more than seventy percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and use eighty per cent of the world’s energy. How cities grow and develop in the coming decades will play a significant part in determining whether the world can live within its planetary boundaries.

climate change policy

Delivering the sustainable, inclusive, and resilient cities of the future requires that we work together in partnership, as UNDP is committed to doing. Our partnerships are diverse:

  • Here in Ecuador, we have been part of the efforts to help local communities recover and rebuild in Manabí province following the 16 April earthquake this year.
  • In Soacha, Colombia, a town close to Bogota, UNDP and UNCHR have been working together on a programme called Building Sustainable Solutions. It supports the local municipality with land registration and title, promoting economic development with the support of the private sector, and with community and institutional strengthening.
  • In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, UNDP has worked with local community groups to improve access to municipal services.
  • In Bangladesh, UNDP has supported municipal leaders to improve the livelihoods of millions of urban dwellers through our large scale Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction programme.
  • Initiatives like these, taken to scale through partnerships and strong urban leadership, will be critical to implementing the New Urban Agenda and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Helen Clark is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She also chairs the United Nations Development Group.

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New Coal Deals Threaten Paris Climate Goals

Greenhouse Gas Reductions Critical In Battle Against Climate Change

The landmark global climate change deal brokered in Paris cleared an important hurdle this week when it secured enough official support to go into effect, but experts say the biggest hurdle — signatory countries turning their emissions, clean energy and climate adaptation financing goals from mere promises into reality — still lies ahead.

Slowing down construction of coal-fired power stations will be vital to hit globally agreed climate change goals, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, said as he outlined a five-point plan to flesh out last year’s Paris agreement to reduce COemissions.

climate change policy

Speaking at a climate ministerial meeting in Washington during the bank’s annual meeting, he said there was no prospect of keeping global warming at or below 2C (3.6F) if current plans for coal-fired stations, especially those earmarked for Asia, were built.

“Many countries want to move in the right direction on climate change. We can all help to find renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions that allow them to phase out coal,” Kim said.

The World Bank president said achieving the climate change target required action in five areas. In addition to slowing down growth in coal-fired power stations, Kim said climate ambition needed to be baked into development plans for every developing country. It was important that the $90 billion of planned infrastructure spending over the next 15 years was for low-CO2 and climate-resilient investment.

He called for the ramping up of energy-efficient appliances and less use of hydrofluorocarbons, which are used in air conditioning units. “Phasing down HFCs could prevent close to half a degree of global warming by the end of the century,” he said.

Calls for the greening of finance by the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, were also strongly backed by Kim who said the sector needed to be “fit for purpose to assess climate risks and opportunities.”

greenhouse gas and climate change

Finally, Kim said poor countries needed help to adapt to climate change and to become more resilient. He added that without climate-driven development, climate change could force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, and that unless low-income countries in many parts of Africa, south Asia and the Pacific islands were helped all the gains in poverty reduction risked being lost.

Kim said countries needed more efficient water supply systems, climate-smart agriculture, early warning systems, better social protection and a reduction in disaster risk.

“It is our collective responsibility to see the Paris agreement through,” he said. “We cannot afford to lose the momentum. With each passing day, the climate challenge grows. The longest streak of record-warm months has now reached 16 – such heat has never persisted on the planet for so long. The reality is stark. We have a planet that is at serious risk, but our current response is not yet equal to the task.”

Kim said the Paris climate agreement was a “victory for multilateral action and a powerful signal from all corners of the world that there can be no turning back in the battle against climate change.”

Climate Change Update via https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/09/world-bank-jim-yong-kim-paris-climate-coal-power-emissions

Posted in Air Pollution, Carbon Offset, Climate Change, Greenhouse Gases, Renewable Energy, United Nations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tap Water Exposing Millions To Carcinogen

Chromium-6 In Hundreds Of Wells Across U.S.

In the film Erin Brockovich, the environmental crusader confronts the lawyer of a power company that polluted the tap water of Hinkley, Calif., with a carcinogenic chemical called chromium-6. When the lawyer picks up a glass of water, Brockovich says: “We had that water brought in ‘specially for you folks. Came from a well in Hinkley.”

The lawyer sets down the glass and says, “I think this meeting’s over.”

chromium-6 in drinking water

But almost 25 years after that real-life confrontation, the conflict over chromium-6 is not over. A new EWG analysis of federal data from nationwide drinking water tests shows that the compound contaminates water supplies for more than 200 million Americans in all 50 states. Yet federal regulations are stalled by a chemical industry challenge that could mean no national regulation of a chemical state scientists in California and elsewhere say causes cancer when ingested at even extraordinarily low levels.

The standoff is the latest round in a tug-of-war between scientists and advocates who want regulations based strictly on the chemical’s health hazards and industry, political and economic interests who want more relaxed rules based on the cost and feasibility of cleanup. If the industry challenge prevails, it will also extend the Environmental Protection Agency’s record, since the 1996 landmark amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, of failing to use its authority to set a national tap water safety standard for any previously unregulated chemical.

In 2008, a two-year study by the National Toxicology Program found that drinking water with chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. Based on this and other animal studies, in 2010, scientists at the respected and influential California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment concluded that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people, a conclusion affirmed by state scientists in New Jersey and North Carolina.

The California scientists set a so-called public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion in tap water, the level that would pose negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption. (A part per billion is about a drop of water in an Olympic-size swimming pool.) But in 2014, after aggressive lobbying by industry and water utilities, state regulators adopted a legal limit 500 times the public health goal. It is the only enforceable drinking water standard at either the state or federal level.

water contamination Phoenix

Spurred by a groundbreaking 2010 EWG investigation that found chromium-6 in the tap water of 31 cities and a Senate hearing prompted by the findings, the EPA ordered local water utilities to begin the first nationwide tests for the unregulated contaminant. From 2013 to 2015, utilities took more than 60,000 samples of drinking water and found chromium-6 in more than 75 percent of them. EWG’s analysis of the test data estimates that water supplies serving 218 million Americans – more than two-thirds of the population – contain more chromium-6 than the California scientists deemed safe.

The California scientists based their public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion solely on protecting people from cancer and other diseases. Public health goals are not legally enforceable, but legal limits are supposed to be set as close as possible to health goals “while considering cost and technical feasibility.” But the California Department of Public Health relied on a flawed analysis that exaggerated the cost of treatment and undervalued the benefits of stricter regulation, and adopted a legally enforceable limit of 10 parts per billion.

Even by that far-too-lax benchmark, EWG’s analysis of EPA tests shows that more than seven million Americans are served tap water from supplies that had at least one detection of chromium-6 higher than the only legal limit in the nation. Because the EPA tests covered only a fraction of the small systems and private wells that supply water to more than a third of Americans, it is highly likely that chromium-6 contamination is even more widespread.

water test EPA

According to government hypotheses, the amount posing no more than a one-in-a-million risk of cancer for people who drink it daily for 70 years. (By contrast, the state’s legal limit represents a cancer risk of 500 per million.) Comparing the public health goal to levels of contamination found in the EPA tests, EWG estimates that if left untreated, chromium-6 in tap water will cause more than 12,000 excess cases of cancer by the end of the century.

The tests found chromium-6 in almost 90 percent of the water systems sampled. Oklahoma, Arizona and California had the highest average statewide levels and the greatest shares of detections above California’s public health goal. Among major cities, Phoenix had, by far, the highest average level, at almost 400 times the California health goal, and St. Louis and Houston also had comparatively high levels.

Scientists in California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment are not alone in determining that extraordinarily low levels of chromium-6 in drinking water can cause cancer.

In 2010, New Jersey’s Drinking Water Quality Institute, a state agency comprised of scientists, utility officials and citizen experts, calculated a health-based maximum contaminant level – what California calls a public health goal – of 0.06 parts per billion, just slightly higher than California’s. This year, scientists in North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality, also drawing on the 2008 National Toxicology Program study that drove the California goal, calculated a do-not-drink level matching the New Jersey number.

But neither New Jersey nor North Carolina has set a legal limit for chromium-6 in tap water. In both states, scientists’ health-based recommendations were at odds with the decisions of politically appointed regulators.

In New Jersey, the press reported the water quality institute’s recommendation before it could be formally submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection for development of a regulation. According to former DEP planner Bill Wolfe, now an environmental advocate, this angered Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. Wolfe said Martin not only blocked submission of the recommendation, but effectively stopped the institute from meeting for four years, delaying drinking water regulations for more than a dozen chemicals.

In a statement to EWG, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said the department “vehemently disagrees with the EWG’s contention that political pressure in any way influenced the New Jersey Drinking Water Quality Institute’s consideration of an MCL for chromium-6.” The spokesman said EWG’s characterization is based on the “opinion of a single, former NJDEP employee who was last employed by the agency 12 years ago,” and that EWG’s criticism is “critically flawed – and blatantly misleading.”

In North Carolina, scientists at the Department of Environmental Quality were alarmed by levels of chromium-6 in hundreds of private wells near unlined pits where Duke Energy dumped coal ash. The scientists warned well owners not to drink water with chromium-6 levels higher than their calculations found were safe. But higher-ups at the department rescinded the do-not-drink warnings, citing the lack of federal regulation as justification for telling well owners their water met all state and federal standards.

The head of the Department of Environmental Quality, Donald R. van der Vaart, previously worked for a utility that is now part of Duke Energy. He was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke Energy for 29 years before he ran for office. After the McCrory administration issued a public statement attacking the integrity of a scientist who resisted their plan to rescind the do-not-drink warnings, state epidemiologist Dr. Megan Davies resigned, saying she “cannot work for a department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public.”

The conflict over chromium-6 regulation stems not only from the question of how much is safe, but the staggering cost of cleaning up such a widespread contaminant that is an industrial pollutant but also occurs naturally. The California Department of Public Health estimates that treating the state’s water to meet the legal limit of 10 parts per billion will cost nearly $20 million a year, so the cost of meeting the much more stringent public health goal would be far higher.

There are two main types of chromium compounds. Chromium-3, or trivalent chromium, is a naturally occurring compound and an essential human nutrient. Chromium-6 also occurs naturally, but is manufactured for use in steel making, chrome plating, manufacturing dyes and pigments, preserving leather and wood and, as in the Brockovich case, lowering the temperature of water in the cooling towers of electrical power plants. Chromium-6 is also in the ash from coal-burning power plants, which is typically dumped in unlined pits that a 2011 report by the nonprofit Earthjustice said may threaten hundreds or thousands of water supplies and private wells. And recent research has suggested that some methods of treating water supplies to remove other contaminants may actually increase levels of chromium-6.

Human studies by government and independent scientists worldwide have definitively established that breathing airborne chromium-6 particles can cause lung cancer, and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets strict limits for airborne chromium-6 in the workplace. Whether inhaled or ingested, it can also cause liver damage, reproductive problems and developmental harm. Studies have found that exposure to chromium-6 may present greater risks to certain groups, including infants and children, people who take antacids, and people with poorly functioning livers.

But because of the unsettled science – including the crucial question of how much chromium-6 the stomach converts into mostly harmless chromium-3 – the EPA has only set a drinking water limit for total chromium, the combined level for both compounds. That outdated regulation from 2001, based on skin rash concerns, is 100 parts per billion – 5,000 times California’s public health goal for chromium-6 and 10 times the state’s legal limit.

After Brockovich uncovered chromium-6 pollution in Hinkley, residents filed a class-action lawsuit that Pacific Gas and Electric Company, or PG&E, settled in 1996 for a record $333 million. The case pushed California legislators to pass a law calling for regulators to set an enforceable drinking water standard. The law set a 2004 deadline for the regulation, but it was delayed by a PG&E-backed scheme.

In 2001, as state scientists conducted a risk assessment to guide the regulation, an epidemiologist named Jay Beaumont noticed something fishy. A Chinese scientist had revised a key study of chromium-6 in drinking water, reversing his original finding of a strong link to stomach cancer. Some members of a “blue-ribbon” panel advising the state cited the revised study as evidence against a strong regulation. But when Beaumont tried to find out why the scientist had changed his mind, it turned out he was dead.

Beaumont learned that the study was rewritten not by the original author, but by consultants hired by PG&E to help defend the Brockovich case. Before the Chinese scientist died, they paid him a token amount[26] for access to his original data, manipulated it to hide the link to stomach cancer, and published the revised study in a scientific journal without disclosing their or PG&E’s involvement.

What’s more, the advisory panel included the head of the consulting firm, Dennis Paustenbach of San Francisco-based ChemRisk, who was once described in a Newark Star-Ledger investigation of his role in weakening New Jersey chromium regulations as having “rarely met a chemical he didn’t like.” A 2013 investigation by the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity found that Paustenbach and other ChemRisk employees also worked for General Electric, Lockheed Martin and Merck, all companies with liability for chromium pollution, and the Chrome Coalition, an industry lobbying group.

After his role in tampering with the Chinese study was exposed, Paustenbach resigned from the advisory panel. Beaumont and his colleagues started over, using the authentic study to guide the public health goal. In 2005, EWG obtained and published documents and emails that detailed the deception, which was also recounted in a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal. The scientific journal that published the bogus study retracted it.

In 2010, in the first-ever tests for chromium-6 in U.S. tap water, EWG found the chemical in 31 of 35 cities, with water in 25 cities containing levels above the California public health goal. The worst contamination was in Norman, Okla., where the level was 600 times the public health goal. Levels in Honolulu, Hawaii; Riverside and San Jose, Calif.; Madison, Wis.; and Tallahassee, Fla., ranged from 100 to 62 times the California health goal. Sources of the contamination are largely unknown, although Oklahoma and California have high levels of naturally occurring chromium and California has the nation’s highest concentration of industrial sites that use chromium.

EWG’s tests and a petition from environmental groups pushed the EPA to add chromium-6 to the chemicals for which local utilities must test under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act require the EPA to select up to 30 previously unregulated contaminants for testing every five years. In 20 years, the agency has ordered testing for 81 contaminants, but has moved forward on setting a regulation for just one, the rocket fuel ingredient perchlorate, and is two years behind schedule on finalizing and implementing the regulation.

For our analysis, EWG matched the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule database with the federal Safe Drinking Water Information System to obtain county and population data. Population calculations for each utility were based on EPA data, and when projected to the county or state level, EWG used the U.S. Census Bureau estimates from July 2014.

The EPA results match EWG’s 2010 tests closely, with exceptions such as Phoenix and Scottsdale, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., where the EPA tests detected significantly higher levels of chromium-6. The EPA results identify several communities where levels of chromium-6 are strikingly higher than those in the surrounding state, but determining whether this is because of industrial pollution or natural occurrences would require site-by-site investigation.

After the 2008 National Toxicology Program study found that mice and rats who drank chromium-6-laced water developed stomach and intestinal tumors, scientists in the EPA’s Integrated Risk and Information System, or IRIS, began a risk assessment, the first step toward drafting a national regulation to cap chromium-6 contamination in drinking water. They saw that the 2008 study provided clear evidence that chromium-6 is carcinogenic, and reviewed hundreds of other studies. In 2010, the EPA completed, but did not officially release, a draft risk assessment that classified oral exposure to chromium-6 as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s powerful lobbying arm, argued that before formally releasing the draft for public comment, the EPA should wait for the publication of studies funded by the Council and the Electric Power Research Institute on the biological mechanisms through which chromium-6 triggers cancer. In an April 2011 letter obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Vincent Cogliano, acting director of IRIS, responded to the chemistry lobby that “granting your request could entail a delay of unknown duration with no public discussion or review of the strong new studies that are now available.”

That’s exactly what happened.

An external review panel, which the Center for Public Integrity later found included three members who consulted for PG&E in the Brockovich case, pressured the EPA to grant the American Chemistry Council’s request. In 2012, the EPA quietly announced that the draft risk assessment will be held up until the chemical lobby’s studies are finished. EWG and other public health groups objected vociferously, not only due to the delay on chromium-6 but “the dangerous precedent suggested by delaying risk assessment activities to allow incorporation of as-yet unpublished, industry-funded research.”

The EPA’s prediction of when the risk assessment will be released for public comment has been pushed back repeatedly – from 2015 to the second quarter of 2016, and then to early 2017. When asked for an update, Cogliano wrote in an Aug. 24 email to EWG: “We expect to release a draft health assessment document in 2017, though I wouldn’t use the word ‘early.'”

Also on Aug. 24, an EPA spokesperson wrote in an email to EWG that the agency “has not made any decision regarding revising the drinking water regulations for [total] chromium or establishing regulations for hexavalent chromium.” That’s troubling, as the industry studies are expected to support the position that the EPA should do nothing at all.

The industry-funded studies are being conducted by ToxStrategies, a Texas-based science-for-hire consulting firm. The Center for Public Integrity found that a principal scientist at ToxStrategies, Mark Harris, had worked on the PG&E-funded scheme to revise the Chinese scientist’s paper linking chromium-6 to stomach cancer while at ChemRisk. The Center reported that Harris and his ToxStrategies colleague Deborah Proctor previously “were leaders in the chrome industry’s efforts to dissuade the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from setting stricter rules for airborne chromium in the workplace.”

In June, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a proposal for a daily safe dose of chromium-6 in drinking water that drew heavily on studies by Proctor and other ToxStrategies scientists. It argues that the EPA’s current legal limit for total chromium – 100 parts per billion, with no separate limit on chromium-6 – is adequate to protect public health. Joseph T. Haney Jr., the Texas state toxicologist who was the lead author of the paper, told the newsletter Inside EPA it was “a remarkable coincidence” that his calculations yielded a daily safe dose corresponding exactly to the EPA’s current regulation for total chromium.

Haney’s paper assumes there is a threshold for how much of a contaminant is harmful, and that no level of chromium-6 the EPA tests found in U.S. drinking water exceeded that amount. But the so-called linear method the EPA generally requires for mutagens – carcinogenic chemicals that cause cancer by damaging DNA, which can occur when even a single molecule enters a cell – assumes that any level of exposure carries some risk. The National Toxicology Program’s 2008 two-year study of lab animals found clear evidence that chromium-6 causes cancer, and the EPA’s 2010 draft risk assessment found that it is a powerful mutagen, so the linear method should be used to calculate cancer risk.

The ToxStrategies model rejects the EPA’s finding that chromium-6 causes cancer by damaging DNA, instead arguing that it causes hyperplasia, an increase in the number of cells, which may or may not be cancerous. It is based on a 90-day animal exposure study, in contrast to the more rigorous two-year National Toxicology Program study. It also ignores the growing body of independent research exploring the effects of small doses of carcinogens in combination with the myriad other cancer-causing chemicals Americans are exposed to daily.

If the EPA accepts the ToxStrategies threshold model, it could mean not only that chromium-6 will remain unregulated in drinking water, but also set a precedent that could undermine health protections for other carcinogenic chemicals. The EPA must reject the industry-backed effort, which is supported not by unbiased science to protect health, but by agenda-driven research to protect polluters from paying cleanup costs.

The recent conflict in North Carolina is one example of how the EPA’s failure to set enforceable national regulations is leaving Americans at risk from chromium-6 contamination. The result is not just an unsettled scientific debate, but the exposure of hundreds of millions of people to a cancer-causing chemical in their drinking water.

Cleaning up water supplies contaminated with chromium-6 will not be cheap. But the answer to high costs is not allowing exposures at unsafe levels while pretending water is safe. And the fact that some unknown level of chromium-6 contamination comes from natural sources does not negate Americans’ need to be protected from a known carcinogen.

Instead, the EPA and state regulators must set drinking water standards to protect the public, including those more susceptible to the toxic effects of chromium-6. Chromium-6 polluters must be held accountable and pay their shares of cleanup costs. The EPA and state regulators must focus on ensuring that water systems lacking the resources to meet health-protective standards have access to necessary funding, expertise and support so they can provide communities with truly safe water.

Read The Full Story At: http://www.ewg.org/research/chromium-six-found-in-us-tap-water#ref19

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