EPA Staffed With Industry Insiders

EPA Blowing Smoke On Critical Issues

By Liza Gross, Lindsey Konkel and Elizabeth Grossman, Reveal

Eleven new members of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board have a history of downplaying the health risks of secondhand smoke, air pollution and other hazards, including two who have spun science for tobacco companies, according to an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

Earlier this month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt fired all board members who currently receive EPA grants for their research, saying they cannot remain objective if they accept agency money. In replacing them, Pruitt transformed the board from a panel of the nation’s top environmental experts to one dominated by industry-funded scientists and state government officials who have fought federal regulations.

Pruitt removed 21 members of the advisory board, mostly academics, and replaced them with 16 experts with ties to industries regulated by the agency and two with no industry ties. Fourteen of the new members consult or work for the fossil fuel or chemical industries, which gave Pruitt nearly $320,000 for his campaigns in Oklahoma as a state senator and attorney general.

wastewater treatment and disease

Under the Obama administration, industry-affiliated scientists made up 40 percent of the Science Advisory Board, or 19 of its 47 members. Under President Donald Trump, 68 percent of the board, 30 of its 44 current members, now has ties to industries. That leaves 14 with no industry ties, including two Obama appointees who work for environmental groups.

The Science Advisory Board, established by Congress in 1978, helps the EPA ensure it has the best available science when crafting regulations and standards that address the nation’s drinking water, air pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems that threaten public health.

“If memberships are weighted toward viewpoints that support the agenda of the administration, then the administration is signaling that it’s not asking for advice, but for a rubber stamp,” said environmental scientist Deborah Swackhamer, who was chairwoman of the board under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“That’s a complete misuse.”

Keeping drinking water safe. Shielding vulnerable populations from air pollutants that trigger asthma and heart attacks. Protecting communities from cancer-causing chemicals. These are the EPA’s mandates. And when making key decisions about science to follow these mandates, the agency relies on panels of advisers.

The Science Advisory Board is arguably the most important panel among 22 federal advisory committees that report to the EPA. The board gives the agency advice on specific matters, such as the impacts of fracking on drinking water supplies, factors that drive algae blooms in the Great Lakes and whether the agency’s risk assessments are scientifically sound.

The board doesn’t give guidance on proposed regulations. Rather, it vets the scientific foundations on which those recommendations are built, such as how dangerous the air pollutant ozone is at certain exposures or at what dose an industrial chemical would raise the risk of cancer.

To get the best science to policymakers, the EPA long has relied on a diversity of experts and a tradition of keeping politics out of scientific deliberations. In establishing the Science Advisory Board, Congress called for experts from academia, industry, nongovernmental organizations and federal, state and tribal governments. Most board seats over the past several decades have been held by government-funded university researchers.

But in February, Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, convened a hearing called “Making EPA Great Again” to investigate what he called the EPA’s “political agenda.” Smith, a Texas Republican who disputes climate science, said Science Advisory Board experts under Obama had “become nothing more than rubber stamps who approve all of the EPA’s regulations” because they receive millions of dollars in government grants.

climate change policy

Last month, Pruitt said experts who serve on the EPA’s scientific advisory boards can’t provide objective advice if they receive agency grants. He promised an audience at The Heritage Foundation, an anti-regulatory think tank that questions climate change, that he was “going to fix that” by restoring the “independence and transparency and objectivity in regard to the scientific advice we are getting at the agency” by prohibiting scientific advisers from taking EPA grants.

In a news release, Pruitt said the new makeup of the board shows the “EPA’s commitment to science and openness to expertise from a diverse array of perspectives.”

Pruitt has required advisory board members to remain “financially independent” of the EPA, but has placed no such restrictions on scientists with ties to industry.

“To say that academics have more conflicts because they get (government) grants is turning the idea of conflict of interest on its head and is patently absurd,” said Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Center for Science and Democracy. “If a scientist working at a high level did not receive government funding, how would they have achieved that?”

A Reveal investigation shows that several new board members have a history of criticizing mainstream science to cast doubt on the health risks of commercial and industrial air pollutants and products.

One new appointee, Kimberly White, is a senior director at the American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents chemical manufacturers, including Dow Chemical Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and DuPont Co. The group for decades has fought EPA regulations on widely used chemicals linked to health effects, including flame retardants, formaldehyde, asbestos and plasticizers.

In an email to Reveal, White said that in the past, the EPA science board “lacked sufficient balance among its members, and they have missed out on valuable insight from important perspectives from industry.” She said her goal is to ensure that board recommendations “are objective and grounded in the highest quality and most relevant scientific evidence.”

The new appointees also include scientists who have served as expert witnesses for industries regulated by the EPA. Dr. Samuel Cohen, a cancer expert at the University of Nebraska, testified on DuPont’s behalf in a lawsuit holding the company liable for illnesses related to drinking water contaminated with perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical DuPont used in a West Virginia plant that made Teflon. Cohen testified that the plaintiff’s kidney cancer was caused by her obesity, not PFOA, yet an independent science panel has found a probable link between the chemical and serious health conditions, including kidney cancer.

Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.

Two of Pruitt’s new appointees helped companies defend their products or fight restrictions on secondhand smoke, and another sought more than $300,000 in tobacco industry funding but was rejected.

John Graham, dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs and founder of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, asked a top Philip Morris executive for $25,000 in 1991 to support his center, which he said had exposed “serious weaknesses in the federal government’s risk assessment process.”

Graham told the executive that he launched the center with gifts from several corporations, all with a financial interest in minimizing environmental regulations, including BP, Chevron Corp., Dow and Exxon. He ended his pitch by saying, “It is important for me to learn more about the risk-related challenges that you face.”

Graham got his $25,000 and later served as an adviser to The Advancement for Sound Science Coalition, a group created by Philip Morris to discredit an EPA report that identified secondhand smoke as a carcinogen.

Graham told Reveal in an email that he received larger amounts of funding from the EPA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to run his Harvard center.

“Since I have extensive experience with both government and industry,” he said, “I look forward to providing unbiased advice to EPA.”

He also said he worked to reduce particulate pollution while head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under President George W. Bush.

But Graham instituted an approach to risk analysis, according to a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, that challenged the scientific consensus underlying regulations on ozone, fine particulate matter and formaldehyde pollution. The EPA decided not to tighten its health standard for fine particulate matter in 2006 under Graham, rejecting the recommendations of its expert panel for the first time on ambient air pollution.

Another new board member, Louis Anthony Cox, early in his career worked for consulting firm Arthur D. Little, which contributed to the industry’s discredited effort to develop a “safer” cigarette. He later testified on behalf of Philip Morris and three other tobacco giants against a smoker’s husband who sued the companies for lying about the dangers of cigarettes.

Cox received at least $22,000 for his services from tobacco industry law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon – the same firm that helped Philip Morris create “sound science” guidelines to challenge the EPA’s listing of secondhand smoke as a carcinogen and in 2016 sued the EPA on behalf of the coal industry to prevent the agency from enforcing carbon emission reductions under its recently repealed Clean Power Plan.

In addition to his membership on the Science Advisory Board, Cox has been tapped as chairman of a separate EPA board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Cox, who runs consulting firm Cox Associates, told Reveal in an email that he’s used models to calculate the “excess risk of lung cancers caused by different smoking exposure histories” for various private- and public-sector organizations, including Philip Morris and the EPA. That work, he said, has helped him “appreciate some of the most common errors, heuristics and biases that can affect the judgments of scientists … in interpreting data.”

In addition to his work on behalf of the tobacco industry, Cox also has questioned the benefits of reducing particulate pollution in a paper sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute.

New board member Robert Phalen, who directs the Air Pollution Health Effects Laboratory at the University of California, Irvine, asked the Center for Indoor Air Research – a tobacco industry body founded to counter evidence that secondhand smoke causes cancer – to fund a grant of more than $311,000 to study “interactions among indoor aerosols.” Phalen submitted his proposal three times, but the group rejected his request in 1997, saying his hypothesis “seems implausible.”

The center was disbanded in 1998 after the tobacco companies agreed to stop sponsoring research as part of a landmark settlement of a federal lawsuit that charged the industry with conspiring to hide the dangers of smoking for decades.

In an email to Reveal, Phalen said he did not recall seeking any grants from the tobacco-funded group.

Phalen also has discounted some of the health effects of air pollution. In a 2004 report, he wrote that the risks of breathing particulate pollution “are very small and confounded by many factors.”

He told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012, “Modern air is a little too clean for optimum health.” Children’s lungs, he was quoted as saying, need to be exposed to irritants to learn how to ward them off.

But studies repeatedly have shown that children are highly susceptible to air pollution for a variety of reasons, including because they breathe more air per pound of weight, have immature immune systems and spend more time exerting themselves outdoors.

Another new board member, Stanley Young – a statistician who advises The Heartland Institute, an anti-regulatory think tank that showcases global warming deniers at its annual conference – recently has questioned evidence underlying EPA regulations on air pollutants.

Young also is an adviser to the American Council on Science and Health, which describes itself as a “pro-science consumer advocacy organization” but is funded by free-market foundations and the chemical, fossil fuel and tobacco industries and challenges evidence supporting regulations.

Young did not respond to a request for comment.

Research from around the world has reported a link between air pollutants and deaths and hospitalizations from respiratory disease and heart attacks. Young published a critique of this evidence in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, a journal known for publishing industry-friendly science.

Read The Full Story About EPA and Its Pseudoscience.

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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.

Singapore Choking On Air Pollution From Indonesia

Singapore Pays Price For Bungle In Indonesia’s Jungles

Illegal burning of Indonesian rainforest to make room for palm and paper plantations has left neighboring countries choking on smoke. Many hope the latest crisis will lead to stricter policies.

More than a month after uncontrollable wildfires were kindled in Indonesian rainforests to make room for palm and paper plantations, a blanket of smog is choking the region, including the country’s neighbors of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand.

The dense cloud of smoke has closed schools, canceled major events, grounded flights, and driven thousands of people to doctors.

Though this is regular occurrence, thanks to paper and palm oil companies that illegally burn down Indonesian rainforest to make room for farmland, this year’s fire is particularly devastating, having reached crisis levels, according to the World Resources Institute. Largely this is due to El Niño-induced drought helping the unrelenting fire spread through Sumatran peatland.

Environmental and public-health advocates from Singapore, Malaysia, and around the world have been sternly calling on the Indonesian government to strengthen its policies on forest fires, pressuring it in September to ratify a 13-year-old regional agreement on cross-border haze.

Deforestation and climate change

“Indonesia has already carried out operations for the prevention, mitigation of forest fires and haze, and recovery activities, at the national level,” the country’s parliament said in a statement. “But, to handle cross-border pollution, Indonesia and other Asian nations recognize that prevention and mitigation need to be done together,” it said.

The “together” part might be key, as Greenpeace points out that companies that own plantations on Indonesian islands are not necessarily Indonesian.

“Of course all the fires are coming from Indonesia, but Singapore is enjoying the ‘deforestation economy’ of Indonesia as a financial center,” Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesia Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International told the Times. “And there are many Malaysian palm oil companies operating in Indonesia, and Singaporean companies are there as well,” he pointed out.

Perhaps the latest bout of fires is a tipping point for the southeast-Asian countries. On Wednesday, reports the Times, Singapore’s largest grocery chain, NTUC FairPrice, stopped selling paper products sourced from one of the world’s largest paper and pulp companies: Indonesia’s Asia Pulp and Paper Group.

Singapore last month passed a bill allowing it to fine companies up to $1.6 million for causing or contributing to haze, the Guardian reported, regardless of whether they have an office in the country.

For its part, Indonesia arrested seven people last month whose companies are suspected of starting the fires. They could face 15 years in jail and heavy fines for breaking Indonesian laws that ban starting forest fires.

Air Pollution News via http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2015/1008/Why-is-Singapore-covered-in-smoke-and-what-can-be-done-about-it-video

Major US Banks Urge Global Leaders To Tackle Climate Change

Global Warming Threatens Business As Usual

Six major U.S. banks are urging world leaders to adopt a strong agreement to slash carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The coalition warned in a letter Monday that warming global temperatures and related effects, including sea level rise and severe drought, threaten to upend the global economy and jeopardize future prosperity.

trees a climate change solution

Their message targeted the heads of state and diplomats gathered in New York Monday for the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Climate change is one of the top subjects on the agenda, along with Syria’s civil war, the refugee crisis and the Iran nuclear accord. The U.N. is spearheading negotiations to forge a 195-country climate accord in Paris this December.

Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo called on negotiators to adopt policies that “recognize the cost of carbon” and help “provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs,” according to the letter published by Ceres, a sustainability advocacy organization.

The banks noted that investments in global energy, water, transportation and urban infrastructure systems are projected to total $90 trillion over the next 15 years — a sum that could include funding for low-carbon alternatives given the right policy signals, according to a 2014 report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an initiative chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

“Businesses across the spectrum are evaluating the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate,” Mary Wenzel, head of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo, said in a statement. “Strong, long-term policy frameworks can provide the business certainty needed to accelerate innovation and investment.”

climate change negotiations in Lima, Peru

The banks’ statement did not explicitly call for a price on carbon dioxide emissions, which proponents say would make it more expensive to burn coal, oil and natural gas and encourage greater investment solar and wind power, electric vehicles, biofuels and other clean energy alternatives. But some financial leaders, including the World Bank, a U.N. financial institution, have repeatedly urged policymakers to put an outright tax on carbon emissions or adopt a cap-and-trade system. China last week announced it would launch the world’s largest cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions from its steel, cement, paper and electric power sectors.

A carbon price is “the most powerful move that a government can make in the fight against climate change and the reengineering of the economy,” Rachel Kyte, a special envoy for climate change at the World Bank, said a year ago at the 2014 Climate Week NYC, an annual forum to promote the business case for a low-carbon economy.

Climate Change Solutions via http://www.ibtimes.com/six-major-us-banks-urge-global-leaders-adopt-climate-change-agreement-2116755

PricewaterhouseCoopers Predicts Climate Catastrophe Within 20 Years

Failure To Act Compounding Global Warming

With every year that passes, we’re getting further away from averting a human-caused climate disaster. That’s the key message in this year’s “Low Carbon Economy Index,” a report released by the accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.

carbon emissions and global warming
Failure to curb our carbon emissions is making global warming worse every day.

The report highlights an “unmistakable trend”: The world’s major economies are increasingly failing to do what’s needed to limit global warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels. That was the target agreed to by countries attending the United Nations’ 2009 climate summit; it represents an effort to avoid some of the most disastrous consequences of runaway warming, including food security threats, coastal inundation, extreme weather events, ecosystem shifts, and widespread species extinction.

To curtail climate change, individual countries have made a variety of pledges to reduce their share of emissions, but taken together, those promises simply aren’t enough.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “the gap between what we are doing and what we need to do has again grown, for the sixth year running.” The report adds that at current rates, we’re headed towards 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit of warming by the end of the century—twice the agreed upon rate. Here’s a breakdown of the paper’s major findings.

The study compares our current efforts to cut “carbon intensity”—measured by calculating the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per million dollars of economic activity—with what’s actually needed to rein in climate change. According to the report, the global economy needs to “decarbonize” by 6.2 percent every year until the end of the century to limit warming to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But carbon intensity fell by only 1.2 percent in 2013.

The report also found that the world is going to blow a hole in its carbon budget—the amount we can burn to keep the world from overheating beyond 3.6 degrees.

The report singles out countries that have done better than others when it comes to cutting carbon intensity. Australia, for example, tops the list of countries that have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP, mainly due to lower energy demands in a growing economy. But huge countries like the United States, Germany, and India are still adding carbon intensity, year-on-year.

Overall, PricewaterhouseCoopers paints a bleak picture of a world that’s rapidly running out of time; the required effort to curb global emissions will continue to grow each year. “The timeline is also unforgiving. The [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and others have estimated that global emissions will need to peak around 2020 to meet a 2°C [3.6 degrees F] budget,” the report says. “This means that emissions from the developed economies need to be consistently falling, and emissions from major developing countries will also have to start declining from 2020 onwards.” G20 nations, for example, will need to cut their annual energy-related emissions by one-third by 2030, and by just over half by 2050. The pressure will be on the world’s governments to come up with a solution to this enormous challenge at the much-anticipated climate talks in Paris next year.

Source: http://www.citylab.com/tech/2014/09/a-major-accounting-firm-just-ran-the-numbers-on-climate-change/379994/

Local Climate Change Laws & Policy

Environmental Regulation In Cities and Other Localities

‘This book is a useful addition to our literature on climate change law, with its focus on climate change at the local level. It examines how local governments, municipalities and city authorities address climate change through law and policy, and the problems/constraints faced in mitigation and adaptation at the local level. The 15 contributors have thoughtfully and critically analyzed the issues from intellectual as well as practical perspectives, drawing on the experiences of North America as well as the EU, China, Australia and South Africa.

Local Climate Change Law
Local Climate Change Law. The rules are changing every day.

The reader is left with deeper insights and suggestions for the way forward.’ – Irene Lin Heng Lye, National University of Singapore ‘This volume offers a thorough exploration of the challenges and opportunities for local governments in many parts of the world to mitigate and adapt to climate change.’ – Laura Watchmann, LEED AP-ND, Executive Director, NALGEP ‘As the international climate consensus is fading, the focus has shifted from the global to the local. This book is timely and ground-breaking as it frames a new subject of legal study and proves the dramatic surge of local climate action. A must-read.’ – Klaus Bosselmann, University of Auckland, New Zealand Local Climate Change Law examines the role of local government, especially within cities, in addressing climate change through legal, policy, planning and other tools.

This timely study offers a multi-jurisdictional perspective, featuring international contributors who examine both theoretical and practical dimensions of how localities are addressing climate mitigation and adaptation in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, South Africa and the United States, as well as considering the place of localities in global climate law agreements and transnational networks. Written from a multi-disciplinary perspective, this book will appeal to academics, post graduate and undergraduate students in law and political science, local and national government policy makers and politicians, as well as practising local government lawyers. Anyone with a general interest in environmental issues will also find much to interest them in this insightful study.

http://books.google.com/books?id=qpFgLPaPFmMC&pg=PA166&lpg=PA166&dq=corporate+knights+december+2011&source=bl&ots=j9btnNQLqu&sig=ucvAopXB2t7ZIaaXd61OUKkPhHs&hl=en&sa=X&ei=QnCvUZyIC8KxywGb5oHoAQ&ved=0CE0Q6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=corporate%20knights%20december%202011&f=false