Cities Celebrate Earth Day

Cities Part Of Environmental Problems, Solutions

When Earth Day began in 1970, the dire state of cities had a lot to do with it. Urban industrialism had literally become lethal: During a particularly warm Thanksgiving weekend in 1966, the smog in New York City killed nearly 200 people.

A lot has changed in the intervening decades. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed after the first Earth Day, and the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts followed. Cities have cleaned up their air and water, and many have stepped up as forces for environmental progress. San Francisco is now striving for zero waste by 2020, and Portland, Oregon, is working toward cutting the city’s carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030.

sustainable cities

According to Kathleen Rodgers, the president of Earth Day Network, thousands of events will happen around the world this weekend in honor of Earth Day, which is officially on Sunday. They are intended to draw public attention to issues that environmentalists wrestle with year-round: climate change, habitat loss, and plastic pollution, to name a few.

But for many city dwellers, the goal is a little simpler: to engage with their communities in an Earth-friendly way and have a good time. Here are a few of the more unusual ways that American cities will be advocating for a healthy planet this weekend.If you live in Baltimore, you may have spotted Thomas Dolby driving his motorboat around the city’s harbor. “I don’t have a car, but I have a little motorboat, and I use that to get around,” Dolby told CityLab. “You’ll often see me out there on my way to Safeway to get groceries, or on my way to Fells Point to get breakfast.”

Those who don’t know Dolby from his jaunts around the Baltimore Harbor may remember the British musician’s 1982 hit, “She Blinded Me With Science.” Baltimore’s Peabody Heights Brewery has partnered with Dolby to release a new Belgian wheat ale.” Fittingly, the label will feature an image of Professor Trash Wheel, the newest googly-eyed trash-collecting device on the Inner Harbor. Proceeds from the beer will benefit the Healthy Harbor Initiative, whose goal is to make the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020. The beer will be released in Baltimore and around the region on Saturday, just in time for Earth Day.

“I think people should get enjoyment out of their harbor,” said Dolby, who is currently a professor of the arts at Johns Hopkins University. “The harbor is already a great center of gravity for Baltimore events … but it would certainly be nice if there were a beach or two.”

trees a climate change solution

There are plenty of other untraditional Earth Day celebrations happening around the country. In Milwaukee on Saturday night, REmodel Resale Fashion Boutique will host an Earth Day Fashion Show to promote recycling and refurbishing clothing. In Dallas, thousands of Tesla owners will gather on Saturday at the city’s EarthX conference to admire each other’s cars and endorse the benefits of electric vehicles. In Monterey, California, a group of divers plans to remove a dumpster’s worth of garbage from the sea. And on Sunday in Corpus Christi, Texas, there’s going to be a Plogging Party, where runners will pick up garbage while jogging through town.

“We don’t use the word ‘celebration’ inside Earth Day, though we recognize that people use Earth Day to connect with each other or do things that are cool or funny,” Rogers said. “For the most part, our work is entirely focused on getting communities to make commitments around what they’ll do for the next 365 days.”public affairs and public relations firmCrossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It 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.

Recycling Humans Via Sewage, Biosolids

Bodies Liquified, Dumped In City Sewers, Dumped On Food Crops

By Natural News

A new recycling technology has added new meaning to the phrase “you are what you eat.”

Bio-cremation liquefies the dead, then dumps their liquid remains into city sewers where solid and liquid waste are collected as sewage sludge and reclaimed wastewater to be dumped on food crops and much more. Those crops, in turn, are fed back to humans as part of the mainstream food supply.

In a shocking true story that’s part The Matrix and part Soylent Green, a company based in Smith Falls, Ontario has devised a bio-cremation system that it calls an “eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation or casket burials,” reports Canada’s CBC News. The company is called Hilton’s Aquagreen Dispositions and touts its approach to dissolving dead bodies as “eco-friendly alkaline hydrolysis.”

wastewater treatment and disease

According to CBC News, dead bodies are liquefied with a “process that blends water with an alkali solution…” The company’s website describes the body liquefaction process as follows:

Bio Cremation creates a highly controlled and sophisticated environment that uniquely combines water, alkali, heat and pressure. This process biochemically hydrolyzes the human body, leaving only bone fragments. During a typical Bio Cremation cycle, the body is reduced, bone fragments are rinsed and the remaining by-product is a sterile (but not benign) fluid.

There’s no mention of handling the mercury and other toxic heavy metals that would survive such a process, of course. Those metals would obviously end up in the city’s sewer system.

“The company came under fire in 2016 when it was revealed the liquid byproduct is then drained into the town’s sewage system,” reports CBC News.

Cities across North America — including Toronto — collect sewage into so-called “biosolids” or “biosludge,” which is trucked out of the city’s sewage treatment center and dumped on food crops in rural areas.

sewage sludge treatment and disposal

In effect, the practice of “bio-cremation” means that dead humans would be liquefied and fed to plants which are then eaten by other humans. This process is almost militantly called recycling by proponents of biosludge and bio-cremation operations. It’s all pushed under the agenda of “green living.”

On the other hand, the current practice of pumping dead bodies full of toxic chemical preservatives and burying them in cemeteries inside overpriced wooden caskets also seems insane. It makes us wonder: Why hasn’t modern civilization come up with a dignified, eco-friendly way to honor the dead without either contaminating the soil or eating their remains?

It turns out the real answer is as old as human life itself: Bury your loved ones without injecting them with toxic chemicals first, and let nature reclaim the molecules with the help of soil microbes. It requires no electricity, no pressure chamber, no added heat, no artificial chemicals, no overpriced casket and no makeup for the body. Oh yeah, it’s also the way people have handled dead bodies for nearly the entire history of human civilization.

Read The Full Story About Recycling Humans and Sewage.

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Crossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It 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.

California Communities File Suits Over Climate Change

Coastal Communities Suing Fossil Fuel Companies

Three California communities are suing 37 of the world’s largest oil, gas and coal companies for knowingly contributing to climate change.

San Mateo and Marin counties, as well as the city of Imperial Beach, have filed suit against companies like Exxon, Shell, and Chevron, which they claim produced roughly 20 percent of all greenhouse emissions between 1965 and 2015.

The communities are now seeking relief from the costs of climate change, which include rising sea levels and carbon dioxide pollution.

climate change policy

“As a low-income coastal community, we have no capacity to pay for the adaptation measures needed to protect ourselves from these impacts,” Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina said. “It is unfair to force citizens, business owners and taxpayers to fend for ourselves when the source of the problem is so clear.”

Marin County, meanwhile, argues that the effects of flooding caused by climate change will cost the community upwards of $15.5 billion (£11.9 billion) in the next 15 years alone.

The communities further claim that the companies knew about the effects of climate change for at least 50 years, but failed to act. The companies, they allege, took steps to secure their own assets, but did nothing to warn the larger community.

Previous investigations have claimed that Exxon Mobil sat on findings from one of their senior scientists about the effects of climate change, starting as early as 1977. Exxon claims they never sought to hide these findings.

A spokeswoman for Shell told The Guardian that the company believes climate change is a “complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change … not by the courts”. A spokesman for Statoil pointed out that previous, similar cases had been dismissed for being outside the scope of the judiciary.

Similar complaints have seen some success against the tobacco industry, after local governments sued cigarette manufacturers for health-related expenses. The most prominent of these claims was settled outside of court, for a substantial sum.

According to Columbia Law Professor Michael Burger, however, causation may be more difficult to prove in the case of climate change.

air pollution and climate change

“Proving that these particular emissions that came from these fossil fuel companies led to this particular level of sea level rise and contribute X amount to harms that have happened or will happen – that’s a long chain of causation,” Mr Burger told Insideclimate News.

“There are a number of significant legal hurdles,” he added.

Climate News

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Trump Sparks More Support For Climate Change Policies

U.S. President Trumped By Public Opinion, Political Support

As U.S. President Trump breaks the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement On Climate Change, grassroots support is rising up.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of people in all 50 states, support the Paris Agreement on climate change. The global climate deal, struck in late 2015, was a historic moment. Trump’s declaration to join Nicaragua and Syria outside the largely symbolic deal is also historic.

The United States Climate Alliance will carry the flag for America in Trump’s absence. The Alliance is a bipartisan group of states in the United States that are committed to upholding the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change within their borders, by achieving the U.S. goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025 and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

climate change and extreme weather

With input from all participants, the U.S. Climate Alliance will act as a forum to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.

“Those of us who understand science and feel the urgency of protecting our children’s air and water are as united as ever in confronting one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Our collective efforts to act on climate will ensure we maintain the United State’s commitment to curb carbon pollution while advancing a clean energy economy that will bring good-paying jobs to America’s workers.”

The alliance was formed on June 1, 2017, in response to the announcement earlier that day by U.S. President Donald Trump that he had decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and California Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. formed the Alliance to convene U.S. states committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.

The formation of the alliance was thereupon announced by three state governors: Jay Inslee of Washington, Andrew Cuomo of New York, and Jerry Brown of California. The association is not a legally binding treaty, but a group of state governments with similar policies regarding climate change.

Jerry Brown California water conservation

A press statement released by Inslee states that “New York, California and Washington, representing over one-fifth of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, are committed to achieving the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26–28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.” These three states are governed by the Democratic Party, although both New York’s and California’s governorship will be on the ballot in the United States gubernatorial elections, 2018. By the evening of June 1 the state governors of seven other U.S. states had agreed to maintain their states’ support for the Paris Agreement.

On June 2, Governor Dan Malloy announced that Connecticut would join the United States Climate Alliance. On the same day, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker became the first Republican governor to bring his state into the alliance. Governor Phil Scott of Vermont, another Republican, said his state would join. Governor Gina Raimondo said Rhode Island would also join. Governor Kate Brown said that Oregon would join. Governor David Y. Ige of Hawaii announced that Hawaii would also join, making them the 9th state in the Alliance.

On June 5, Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia would join the US Climate alliance. However, the Virginia Governorship is on the ballot in November of 2017. Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Governor John C Carney Jr of Delaware, and Governor Ricky Roselló of Puerto Rico also joined the alliance.

The member states, which make up 31.4 percent of the U.S. population and 36.3 perent of U.S. GDP as of 2016, emitted 18.1 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2014.

In addition, governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S said they would continue to uphold the tenets of the non-binding international agreement, according to a new consortium, We Are Still In.

Mayors, city councils, tribal groups and more progressive business leaders are responsibly stepping up to fill the leadership void. More than 1,000 state and city government officials and business and university leaders on Monday vowed to follow through on the goals outlined by the Paris climate change agreement, calling out President Donald Trump and his move last week to yank the U.S. from the landmark deal.

A coalition that includes nine U.S. states, more than 200 mayors and more than 20 Fortune 500 companies said in a so-called “letter to the international community” that it would work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

eiffel tower wind energy generator

Officially named We Are Still In the pledge has been signed by 1,370 businesses and investors (along with 9 states, 275 colleges and universities, and 178 cities and counties), and the list is still growing. Of the 1,370 businesses involved in We Are Still In, thirty-five of those are apparel brands like Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Gap, Levi’s.

Indian tribes and indigenous organizations have pledged to honor the commitments of the Paris Climate Accord in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal, as have dozens of cities and states. Hawaii became the first state to pass laws supporting the agreement as Gov. David Ige signed two bills designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Tlingit & Haida) Executive Council issued a call to action to support the Paris Climate Change Accord. They were joined by three tribes, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), among others.

“As Indigenous Peoples, we have a responsibility to protect traditional homelands which are inherently connected to our cultural languages and identities,” declared a statement issued by the Tlingit & Haida along with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Quinault Indian Nation and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

“Alaska tribal governments are living with the early but significant effects of climate change,” said council President Richard Peterson in the statement. “Our traditional knowledge learned over millennia within our aboriginal lands leaves us with no doubt that immediate action to reduce the impacts of climate change is our duty as sovereign indigenous governments. As such, we will seek to participate in the Paris Agreement.”

In response to the U.S. pullout, the indigenous leaders said they would “aggressively address climate change” in their respective homelands and communities. NCAI and NARF also said they “remain firmly committed to representing and advancing Indigenous Peoples’ interests in the ongoing process of implementing the Agreement.”

“We will work to ensure that all parties respect, promote, and consider Indigenous Peoples’ rights in all climate change actions, as is required by the Paris Agreement,” said NARF Executive Director John Echohawk in a statement.

Indigenous communities worldwide are at the forefront in feeling the effects of climate change. The Native Alaska village of Kivalina is nearly underwater, and in 2016 the Isle de Jean Charles Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw in Louisiana became the first official climate refugees when they were given $48 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to move inland.

The Quinault Indian Nation has seen the encroachment of the ocean on the Lower Village of Tahola, the tribe said in a statement, and glaciers on the Olympic Peninsula are melting.

A federal judge has denied the Trump administration’s appeal in a climate change lawsuit, paving the way for the unprecedented suit to go to trial.

global warming solution

Meanwhile, the case — Juliana v. United States — pits a group of youth climate plaintiffs against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The plaintiffs allege that the federal government, through its actions and coordination with the fossil fuel industry, have violated their constitutional right to a livable climate. It is the first climate lawsuit to rely on a version of the public trust doctrine — known as atmospheric trust — to make its case, and adds to a growing number of attempts to force climate action through the judicial branch.

The lawsuit was initially filed in August of 2015, against the Obama administration. The Obama administration, as well as three fossil fuel industry groups as intervenors, all filed motions to have the lawsuit dismissed, which was denied in November by U.S. Federal Judge Ann Aiken. In February, after President Donald Trump was sworn in, the youth plaintiffs filed notice with the court that they would be replacing Obama with Trump.

They will seek to prove that the United States government has taken action to harm their right to a livable climate. They will also argue that the government has failed to protect commonly held elements, like the atmosphere, in good condition for future generations — a legal doctrine known as the public trust. The plaintiffs will then ask for science-based climate action by the federal government.

“The more evidence we gather for our case, the more I realize how decisively we can win at trial,” Alex Loznak, a 20-year old youth plaintiff from Oregon, said in a statement. “It’s no wonder the Trump administration wants to avoid the trial by seeking an unwarranted, premature appeal. Today’s ruling brings us one step closer to trial and to winning our lawsuit.”

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Crossbow Communications is an international marketing and public affairs firm. It 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.

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.

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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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

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

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.

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