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Tag: andrew wheeler

Rebuking Wheeler, EPA Workforce Resists ‘Back To Office’ Order

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Hundreds of telecommuting employees at the Environmental Protection Agency are in open revolt. Agency head Andrew R. Wheeler this week drew their ire for what they say is a deadly and racist order to return to federal buildings despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

They refused Monday to be bullied back into a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 just to buttress the president's foolish behavior. And they noted that such dangerous directives appear aimed only at the EPA, an agency whose mission Trump loathes.

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Trump’s Bass-Ackward Government Is Rule By Corporate Lobbyists

Gosh, President Donald Trump has really been busy lately: busy assailing Sen. Kamala Harris as "nasty;" busy choosing a new pandemic adviser, whose only qualification is that he praises Trump on Fox News; and busy dissing and dismantling our post offices.

But, instead of all this Trumpian political stuff, shouldn't a president be, you know, running the government? Nah ... that bores him. Besides, that's why he packed his Cabinet with all those corporate lobbyists and ideologues who've spent their lives trying to rig our government to serve the moneyed elites. Now, empowered by Trump, these special interests are our government, literally setting and running America's economic, environmental, labor, health, education, financial and other public policies. And what a job they're doing — on us!

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EPA Allows Agribusiness To Keep Using Widely Banned Poison

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Bayer, the giant German chemical company, has agreed to pay up to $400 million to U.S. farmers whose crops have been damaged by the deadly herbicide dicamba.

The poison is still being used on genetically modified crops until July 31, despite a court order that threw out the Trump EPA approval.

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To Please Coal Barons, EPA Will Roll Back Mercury Emissions Rule

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

The cost to babies whose IQs are stunted because their mothers ate mercury-laced fish while pregnant pales for EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in comparison to the costs imposed on coal-fired power plants to make their mercury-emitting plants safer.

Wheeler twisted the math for a proposed federal rule to knock out the legal justification for safer standards under Obama, claiming that “the only health benefit” to reducing mercury emissions “that the EPA could quantify and monetize” was the children’s IQ loss.

“By taking away the legal justification for the standard, they’re making it very easy for challengers to say that the standard can’t survive,” said Richard Revesz, the director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University. “The consequences are enormous, and the analysis is atrocious. You won’t find a single respectable economist who would say this is a plausible methodology.”

In March 2017, coal magnate Robert Murray, who donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration, gave the Energy Department a wish list that included rescinding or revising the mercury standard, which Murray Energy had sued to block. Wheeler is a former lobbyist, and Murray Energy was his best-paying client.

Wheeler ignored the other projected benefits of the current rule that prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, about 130,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 hospital and emergency room visits and more than 3 million days of restricted activity.

In the United States, coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions, accounting for 42 percent of emissions in 2014.

Babies and fetuses are most at risk from mercury. The results mimic cerebral palsy at the highest levels of exposure. High levels of mercury are also associated with heart disease and high blood pressure.

It’s difficult to consume the amount of fish recommended by the American Heart Association while also remaining at safe mercury levels because of high mercury levels in most fish.

Recent studies suggest that the benefits of reducing mercury emissions are much larger than those found in a 2011 analysis the Obama EPA used to justify the mercury standard. A 2016 study found that the benefits are more than $43 billion if potentially lost wages, medical costs from lowered IQs, premature deaths and nonfatal heart attacks are looked at. The estimated cost of compliance is less than $1 billion a year.

Since the mercury rule went into effect in 2012, mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants decreased by 79,000 pounds, or 86%, between 2006 and 2016 and 83,000 pounds, or 89%, from 2007 and 2017.

 

EPA Will Weaken Restrictions On Lethal Methylene Chloride

Methylene chloride — a toxic chemical found in a wide variety of paint strippers and adhesives — has killed at least 64 people since 1980.

Yet days ago, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency weakened a ban on the chemical that former President Barack Obama’s administration proposed one day before his last term expired — creating a loophole so that commercial contractors can still use products containing the deadly substance.

Of course, in a news release announcing the weakened regulation, the EPA didn’t exactly draw attention to this loophole. In fact, the release — titled “EPA Bans Consumer Sales of Methylene Chloride Paint Removers, Protecting Public” — gave the impression that the Trump administration was banning the substance altogether.

“After analyzing the health impacts and listening to affected families, EPA is taking action to stop the use of this chemical in paint removers intended for consumers,” EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the release. “Today’s decision reflects EPA’s commitment to ensure that chemicals in the retail marketplace are safe for the American public.”

Yet Wheeler did not let on that the new ban is weaker than the ban Obama’s EPA proposed.

For now, the chemical will be available for use for contractors while the EPA takes public comments on whether contractors should also be banned from using the substance.

Families of people who died from the chemical are outraged over the EPA’s decision to implement a weaker ban on the chemical.

They include Wendy Hartley, whose 21-year-old son Kevin died from the chemical in 2017 while finishing bathtubs for his family business. Hartley filed a lawsuit in January against the government for having failed to ban the substance.

“I am deeply disappointed that the EPA has decided to weaken its proposed ban on methylene chloride,” Hartley said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Getting this deadly chemical out of consumers’ hands is a step in the right direction — a step that was started by retailers nationwide. Workers who use methylene chloride will now be left unprotected and at risk of health issues or death. I will continue my fight until the EPA does its job.”

But given recent history, it’s hardly shocking that Trump’s EPA would green-light the sale of toxic chemicals.

It has, after all, weakened a ban on cancer-causing asbestos, contemplated allowing minors to handle pesticides that cause brain damage and cancer, and has refused to set limits on the levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water.

Allowing workers to continue handling a chemical that has caused dozens of deaths is simply par for the course for Trump’s EPA.

Published with permission of The American Independent. 

IMAGE: EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler.

New EPA Chief Stalls On Protecting Water Supplies

Andrew Wheeler, the former lobbyist now in charge of protecting our nation from dangerous chemicals, would get final say on whether the EPA should regulate a dangerous class of chemicals that are sometimes found in public drinking water.

The Safe Drinking Water Act, signed into law by former President Gerald Ford in 1974, is a set of regulations governing how to set safety standards for our nation’s drinking water. The law gives the EPA administrator “sole judgment” to decide if the health risks of a chemical mean it should be regulated under the act.

The chemicals, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAs, have been made since the 1940s and are valued because they can repel oil and water. The chemicals, used in products such as microwave popcorn bags and firefighting foam, may have contaminated more than 1,500 drinking water systems that serve nearly 110 million Americans.

Under Wheeler, the EPA announced that it would propose a “regulatory determination” for two types of PFAS chemicals, a move environmentalists derided as just more procrastination about deciding whether to regulate the toxic chemicals.

“Has the Trump administration so thoroughly purged EPA of scientists, and so completely stacked its management with industry lobbyists, that it can’t even decide whether to lift a finger to regulate widely-known toxic chemicals?” asked Erik Olson, senior director for health and food at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

PFAS are linked to cancer, thyroid disease and lowered immunity. At least 121 U.S. military installations have groundwater contaminated with PFAS.

The National Drinking Water Advisory Council, appointed by the EPA administrator, will also help evaluate whether PFAS should be regulated.  In May, the EPA posted a notice seeking nominations for three-year seats on the council.

The council’s new members include Alexandra Campbell-Ferrari, who co-founded a nonprofit that works on water security, and James Proctor II, the vice president and general counsel of McWane. The company was prosecuted for environmental crimes and pleaded guilty to nine felony charges of knowingly violating the Clean Water Act.

Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the White House tried to block the release of a health study about PFAS chemicals last year. The report recommended that “minimum risk level” for exposure to two PFAS chemicals should be seven to 10 times lower than the level previously recommended by the EPA.

EPA Chief, Former Uranium Lobbyist, Eases Mining Standards

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

Our nation’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is dominated by Trump appointees, is asking for suggestions about regulating a type of uranium mining after EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, who once lobbied for a uranium miner, junked more stringent mining rules.

Mining uranium could pollute groundwater our western states might later need during droughts. The way to mine uranium most used today, in situ uranium recovery, pumps an oxygen-enriched solution into the ground to dissolve uranium deposits. More chemicals are used to remove the liquid uranium.

Mining companies are supposed to repair damage from uranium mining, but Thomas Borch, an environmental chemistry professor at Colorado State University, led a study that found uranium levels in water at a Wyoming well were more than 70 times higher after mining.

Rules proposed by the EPA in 2015 would have required ISR uranium mining companies to monitor groundwater for up to 30 years. The proposed rules were revised in 2017 after opposition from mining companies.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and two fellow senators, John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), opposed the proposed EPA regulations. All three are from states with uranium mines.

Paul Goranson, the chief operating officer of Energy Fuels, said in a March 2017 interview with Platts NuclearFuel that the water quality standards in the proposed EPA regulations would be “essentially impossible to meet.”

In October, Wheeler, the acting EPA administrator who once lobbied for Energy Fuels, withdrew the proposed EPA regulations, saying the public health and environmental benefits of the proposed rules are limited.

Wheeler worked for Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting in 2017 before Trump nominated him to become deputy administrator of the EPA. Energy Fuels paid Faegre Baker Daniels $40,000 in 2017.

Law professor Richard Painter said Wheeler’s actions were legal and common.

“He’s a shill for industry,” said Painter, the former chief ethics attorney for former President George W. Bush.

Trump nominated Wheeler to succeed Scott Pruitt. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works voted 11-10 along party lines to advance his nomination.

Trump has appointed three of the five members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He named Kristine Svinicki as the chair. She has been on the commission since 2008.

David Wright ran an energy consulting business. Annie Caputo worked for Barrasso. She also is a former lobbyist for AREVA Inc., a nuclear industry products and services company. The term of Stephen Burns, the former chairman of the commission, ends in June.

Image: The McIntosh Pit in Jeffrey City, Wyo., is full of water that has a high content of radionuclides. (Photo by Irina Zhorov for Wyoming Public Media)