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- Exposure to the anti-epileptic drug valproic acid during pregnancy
- Older age of the mother or father
- High levels of air pollution during pregnancy. This association has been subjected to a systematic review and withstood scientific rigor. Genes control this association.
- Extreme illness or infection during pregnancy, including severe reactions to bacterial and viral infections (some of which can be prevented through vaccination)
- Obesity during pregnancy, premature birth, and complications during birth, likely as the result of interactions with genes
- 03/06/17--05:05: These are officially the 19 most incredible photos taken by drone
- 03/23/17--08:29: Arctic sea ice just hit a new record low in the North Pole
- Australia's colorful Great Barrier Reef is "bleaching" and turning white.
- Twenty-two percent of the coral is dead.
- Parts of the site may never recover from the damage caused by warming ocean temperatures.
- 03/29/17--09:03: 12 foods that might become extinct in your lifetime
- Some of our most beloved foods such as avocados and bananas may not be around for much longer.
- Due to climate change, wild coffee beans are anticipated to be gone by the year 2080.
- 04/02/17--10:00: Trump's EPA chief says the Paris climate agreement is a 'bad deal'
In February, t-shirt, sun-on-your-skin weather came early in states from Illinois to New York. Now, midway through March, Americans across the East Coast are trudging through snow banks in boots and parkas.
In California, dirt that had dried to a fine dust after years of drought now feels wet and Earthy underfoot. A barrage of rainstorms have caused the state's lakes and reservoirs, once dangerously low, to rise enough to threaten dams and surrounding communities.
It's been a very weird winter in the US. So much so, in fact, that it's easy to lose track of all the bizarre, historic stuff going on.
So here's a list.
At weather stations across the US, record-breaking warm temperatures defined February. In total, 11,743 daily records were set due to the winter month's strange heat.
1,151 of those daily temperature records were also monthly records, which means that they didn't just break the record for the day they happened, but for the whole month of February.
Compared to normal winter temperatures this February, nearly 70% of the US was deemed "very warm"— that is, in the top 10% of all time temperatures — according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The White House's released its proposed 2018 budget Thursday: a grindstone that would strip financial mass from agencies across the federal government in order to add $52 billion to the military.
No major sector of government is set to be ground down more than the Environmental Protection Agency.
If Congress were to enact Trump's proposal as written, the EPA would lose $2.6 billion out of its current $8.1 billion in funding — a 32.1% slash to the agency that would pay for 5% of the boost to the Department of Defense.
Here's what the EPA cuts would actually mean for people, states, and tribes all over the country.
Many local cleanups would grind to a halt
One of the most visible ways the EPA spends its money and human resources is on the Superfund Redevelopment Initiative — a massive project to clean up dangerously contaminated land and make it fit for human use again.
There are 1,337 active Superfund sites all over the country, and they aren't limited to any one kind of place or community.
The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York, where factories and sewers dumped waste for decades in the 19th and 20th Centuries, is a Superfund site. So is the old Jacobs Smelter site in Rush Valley, Utah, where heavy metals entered the soil over the course of decades of mining.
Trump's budget would cut funding for the Superfund programs 30.2%, by $330 million — taking the budget from $1.092 billion to $762 million.
According to the White House, that money would come out of "administrative costs" and inefficiencies in the program. Neither the White House nor the EPA has offered specific evidence that Superfund dollars are going to waste. Every dollar cut from the Superfund program that doesn't come out of inefficiencies would have to come out of cleanup efforts.
Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma Attorney General who now heads the agency under Trump, reportedly pushed back against this move — perhaps a harbinger of further opposition from Republican members of Congress.
Reduced Superfund funding would lead to less money flowing into many deep-red communities.
The $330 million cut from the Superfund program would pay for 0.6% of the boost to the military, however.
It would become easier for polluters to get away with breaking the rules
In addition to direct cleanup work, the EPA is responsible for writing and enforcing regulations that impact how people and industries can use resources and dump contaminants into the environment.
Trump's budget calls for a $129 million cut to the EPA's enforcement arm, dropping its funding 23.5% from $548 million to $419 million. The White House says that that cut is intended to avoid "duplication" between federal regulation enforcement and enforcement that goes on in the states.
Jim Ferraro and Chris Jensen, environmental lawyers who spoke to Business Insider in advance of the budget announcement, said that they expected the most significant impact of budget cuts at the EPA to be less enforcement of rules that are already on the books.
In 2016, for example, sewage companies have faced punishment for dumping raw sewage into rivers that run near populated areas in Indiana. A New Mexico mining company was forced to pay for cleaning up toxic waste that was infiltrating groundwater. And a Houston-based cement company was forced to pay up after dumping tons of dangerous nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from five plants into the air over Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, and Texas.
Cutting the EPA's enforcement arm would mean fewer resources going into chasing down these kinds of violations.
Speaking to the Washington Post, former EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance chief Cynthia Giles agreed:
“[More cuts] won’t just drastically reduce EPA enforcement, it will bring it to a halt,” she said. “Not only will the staff be a shadow of its former self, the inspectors, lawyers and criminal agents who would be left would be unable to do their jobs, because these cuts would zero out the already small amount of funds used to do inspections, monitor pollution and file cases.”
The EPA's budget has already shrunk by as much as 20% from its 2010 high. The further $129 million stripped from its enforcement office would pay for one-quarter of one percent (0.25%) of the military boost.
Efforts to reduce and prepare the country for the impacts of climate change would evaporate
The biggest headline-grabbing elimination in the Trump budget for the EPA is funding for the Clean Power Plan.
That's the major Obama-era initiative to set individual targets for reducing the carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in 47 states.
(Hawaii, Alaska, and Vermont are not included, because they don't have power plants of the kind regulated under the plan.)
The Clean Power Plan is a key part of existing plans to fulfill several international commitments to reduce the nation's carbon footprint. But it's not all of what Trump is proposing to cut from the agency's climate efforts.
The White House proposes cutting the "Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate
change research and partnership programs, and related efforts" to the tune of $100 million. That expansive language seems to include funds involved in the vast majority of local grants the EPA puts out.
Unlike NASA, which studies and puts out data on the physics and dynamics of climate change, or NOAA, which follows weather impacts, the EPA climate programs tend to be hyperlocal, narrow in scope, and pragmatic. They include coastal efforts to help beachside towns and cities protect themselves from rising sea levels; conservation programs to help states mitigate environmental changes that can hurt anything from crops to drinking water; funds for tribes to help them predict and adapt to changing and potentially dangerous weather conditions.
These are grants that are often measured in thousands of dollars, not millions.
The most widely-felt and immediate effect of taking all that money away would be a sudden end to efforts underway all over the country to help local communities adapt to the changing climate. Down the road, it will mean that dangerous climate effects might be less understood, because they haven't been studied in advance, and more intense, because communities haven't prepared for them.
Trump expects to save $100 million by slashing these programs, which would pay for 0.19% of the boost to military spending.
Science funding would dry up — but those cuts wouldn't just impact scientists
These budget cuts are bad news for certain scientists. But the science cuts' sharpest impacts won't be to universities or labs.
The EPA doesn't actually fund that much basic research, especially when compared to, say, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes for Health, NASA, or even the military.
When the agency does fund science, it's almost always tied to a specific cleanup effort.
For example: The Trump budget proposes to close down regional cleanup efforts, like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, which involve areas spanning multiple states. (Worth noting: Pruitt opposed the Chesapeake Bay cleanup when he was still Oklahoma AG.)
One of the largest science grants the EPA gives out is tied to the Great Lakes initiative — $10 million to a program based at Central Michigan University that employs more than 150 people to study coastal wetlands around all of the Great Lakes.
Donald Uzarski, a CMU biologist who heads the program, wrote in an email to Business Insider that the multi-state program has made first-of-its-kind discoveries about the Great Lakes ecosystem. For example, the wetlands play a critical role in regulating algae growth, which can contaminate drinking water when it gets out of hand. That information feeds into cleanup and restoration efforts at the local level.
"Many of the scientists working on this program are not only subsidizing the work from other sources of funding, but even paying for some of it out of our own pockets. It is that important," Uzarski wrote.
Without federal oversight and funding, it's not clear that the restoration initiative would survive.
"The lakes span eight states," he wrote. "No progress is made when four states go in one direction and the other four go in the opposite direction."
Cutting Uzarski's grant, which is paid out over five years and subject to strict auditing, would pay for 0.004% (four-thousandths of one percent) of the military buildup.
Cutting all of the regional cleanup programs — a $427 million savings — would pay for 0.8% of the military buildup, or eight-tenths of one percent.
Trump wants to eliminate what he calls "poorly performing" programs
The final and strangest bullet in the Trump budget outline targets more than 50 "lower priority and poorly performing" programs for complete elimination.
Examples include Energy Star, Targeted Airshed Grants, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border.
It's hard to say what unifies these programs.
In Alaska, some rural and native communities often go without clean water and sanitation — that is, it can be difficult to find water to drink that doesn't have feces in it — because they don't have indoor plumbing. The EPA's infrastructure program funds projects to build indoor plumbing. The grants tend to be small, just over $1 million on average to a community, and are audited according to strict guidelines.
In 2016, the program funded 10 projects to the tune of $20 million — up from 2015's $10 million. Cutting the program will pay for 0.04% of the boost in military spending.
Another program that Trump would eliminate is Energy Star.
Energy Star is a pretty straightforward program, and it's been around since 1992. It's not involved in any regulations; rather, companies have the option to have their products certified as energy efficient, and then mark them with a little blue Energy Star symbol to let consumers know that they've passed the optional test.
Energy Star also works with companies and government organizations to help them with energy efficiency programs — again, all optional.
The EPA estimates that in addition to preventing 2.5 billion tons of greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere, Energy Star has saved consumers $362 billion on their electric bills.
It's not immediately clear why Trump considers it lower priority or poorly performing.
Altogether, the White House estimates cutting these 50-plus programs will save $347 million, or 0.7% of the boost in military spending.
What does all of this mean?
It's important to keep in mind that a president does not have the power to turn a budget proposal into the actual federal budget all on his own.
In order to do that, Congress — including both the House and the Senate — has to get on board, or put up an alternative that Trump would be willing to sign.
With a Republican president and a Republican Congress, you might expect that the two branches wouldn't have too much trouble agreeing on basic terms. Republicans in all branches of government haven't exactly been fans of the EPA in recent years (though the agency was created under a Republican president).
The question will be how far Republican congresspeople will go to protect funding for their states and communities from a Republican White House. And, on the other side of the same coin, how much power does Trump's White House have to move through its priorities?
We'll get answers to those questions as the fight over the budget moves to Congress.
The publication of Andrew Wakefield's notorious and now discredited research on autism and vaccines in 1998 triggered a surge of worry about vaccine safety. Since then, questions about a purported connection between autism and vaccines have been asked and definitively answered: There is no link. But there are other factors linked to the development of autism that have solid scientific support.
A mountain of research has been conducted and published on a possible link between vaccines and autism, with hundreds of advocacy and scientific organizations refuting it. They also point out the public health risk of avoiding vaccinations. Yet the fear this unsubstantiated link has generated has led to the re-emergence of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and pertussis. Another consequence of the ongoing media attention paid to the issue is a misunderstanding of the real environmental risk factors associated with autism.
During the last year or so, there has been a steady drumbeat of media coverage about autism and vaccines. Politicians, celebrities, the presidential election, film festivals, and mythical conspiracies all contributed to mainstream news and media story lines on the false link between vaccines and autism. Many of them had nothing to do with real science, nor were they the result of research findings that helped families.
But during the same period, a dozen new scientific findings were published on legitimate environmental factors, including toxic chemicals, maternal infection during pregnancy, and chronic stress. These rarely made headlines, with the media spotlight remaining on the myth. Yet knowledge and understanding of these real environmental factors could lead to actual therapies or ways to prevent the debilitating symptoms of autism.
The term "environmental factor" is often misunderstood and used incorrectly. Scientists consider anything that produces a biological or behavioral response that isn't strictly due to genes to be environmental. This includes what we eat and drink, what we breathe, what touches our skin, and the like.
The term 'environmental factor' is often misunderstood and used incorrectly. Scientists consider anything that produces a biological or behavioral response that isn't strictly due to genes to be environmental. This includes what we eat and drink, what we breathe, what touches our skin, and the like.
Also worth clarifying is the difference between a "risk" and a "cause." A cause is something that makes a disease happen. Risk factors, by comparison, are things that act in concert to nudge us toward disease.
Specific criteria have been laid out to determine if something is a cause or a risk factor. So far, no single environmental factor has met the criteria for being a cause of autism. This indicates that environmental factors work together, or interact with genes, to lead to autism.
Here are a few examples of environmental factors that that have been linked to autism:
Exposure to these factors elevates a child's risk of developing autism anywhere between two and four times. An exhaustive review of these factors was just published in the Annual Review of Public Health.
A prime example of the distraction associated with the vaccine/autism myth is the role of mercury. Mercury is released into the environment, primarily by burning coal and other things that have mercury in them. Every hour, 11 pounds of mercury are released into the environment this way. As this mercury is distributed into the environment, bacteria convert it into methylmercury. This type of mercury can accumulate in food sources, such as fish, and also in our bodies. A high level of methylmercury in the body can affect brain development in children.
Another form of mercury, ethylmercury, isn't found in the environment. Instead, it is created in labs and was used in making thimerosal, a preservative in vaccines. While research has exonerated thimerosal as a risk factor for autism, it has been removed from most vaccines given to children under 6. Ethylmercury does not accumulate in the body and does not pose the same public health threat as methylmercury.
Mercury emissions from burning coal and medical waste can be reduced, which would minimize the potential harm to our children. The already strained EPA has had success doing that, but in order to continue reducing mercury in the environment, its activities need to be supported, not diminished. Mercury in the environment is not an issue one government agency, or one country, can address alone.
The media — and thus the public — have been distracted from the real threat to children and public health posed by methylmercury by groundless claims about ethylmercury in thimerosal by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and others. Plenty of outrage has sadly been misdirected.
If Kennedy, who has claimed he is going to lead a presidential panel on vaccine safety, is truly interested in helping families with autism and making all children safer, then the $100,000 reward he and actor Robert De Niro offered during a recent publicity stunt to find an autism-thimerosal link would be better spent funding scientists doing research on the real causes of autism and how best to care for individuals diagnosed with the disease. Alternatively, that money could be spent toward reducing the existing public health threat of methylmercury.
Researchers and advocacy organizations have moved on from the vaccine-autism story line to focus on issues that truly affect families, such as understanding the real causes of autism, finding ways to diagnose it earlier, developing more effective treatments, and offering better access to those treatments. With every minute wasted talking about the autism-vaccine myth and every dollar spent on researching this dead end, we are losing ground and failing families who deserve real answers on the causes of autism and more help for their loved ones.
Alycia Halladay, PhD, is the chief science officer at the Autism Science Foundation and an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Rutgers University.
Climate scientists recently got some bad news: The White House released a budget Thursday promising $100 million in cuts to NASA's Earth Science program, and another $100 million in cuts to climate programs at the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Department of Energy's Office of Science, which does some work on climate science, faces a $900 million cut. And while a full picture of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's budget hasn't appeared, the agency would lose its $73 million Sea Grant program, which supports ocean research. An earlier leak of the budget also suggested cuts to the agency's satellite program.
We haven't yet seen the details of President Donald Trump's budget vision for the National Science Foundation, but it probably isn't good news for climate science either.
If Congress passed anything remotely resembling the Trump proposal, it would get much harder for climate scientists to get the data and funding they use to do research.
But the scientists will be fine.
Climate scientist is, broadly speaking, a pretty good job. Even absent summer salaries and other assistance from federal grant funding, a typical climate researcher would still be making a more-than-decent middle class salary with good benefits — a salary not particularly closely tied to the whims of the broader economy.
Still, losing grant funding and data would make it much harder to do the basic work of climate science, which would in turn make it harder to advance or hold down a research job. Many climate scientists work directly for the federal government, in NASA or NOAA programs that could get cut, leaving them unemployed.
But these are people with advanced degrees and highly transferable skills in research and data. They'd be left with a rough road, but most of them would land on their feet sooner or later — at least more often than the typical laid-off American worker.
The real victims of Trump's climate cuts don't have PhDs
Both the media and politicians tend to frame climate funding around the dollars that go to scholars poring over satellite data. But of the $100 million in climate cuts at the EPA, not a single dollar will come from the coffers of Harvard and Yale professors.
Instead, those cuts will come from funding that goes to towns, cities, states, and tribes in order to help them anticipate and prepare for the impacts of climate change.
That means money so that Fredericktown, Missouri can protect its drinking water from droughts that keep becoming more common, funds to help New Hampshire gear up for ever-worsening winter storms, grants to build dunes and seawalls across the country to protect flood zones from rising sea levels, and research on keeping poisonous algae out of the great lakes.
If you're a PhD scientist at a research university and your town gets flooded or its drinking water poisoned, you can always teach and publish papers from an office in an academic building somewhere safer. It won't be great for your career, but you'll survive.
But if your job relies on the winter sports tourism economy around Wisconsin's melting lakes, a robust crab population in a fishery that keeps getting wiped out by toxic algae, or just driving to work on coastal roads that aren't underwater, you're likely out of luck.
Uncontrolled, unprepared-for climate change is bad for the economy. That means it's bad for a whole lot of people beyond the scientists who do climate research.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — It sounds like an idea that would warm a conservative Republican's heart: Kill funding of a regional environmental cleanup that has lasted seven years and cost the federal government more than $2 billion, with no end in sight. If states want to keep the program going, let them pick up the tab.
That is what President Donald Trump's 2018 budget plan proposes for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an ambitious push to fix problems that have long bedeviled the world's largest surface freshwater system — from invasive species to algal blooms and toxic sludge fouling tributary rivers.
During the Obama administration, the program generally got about $300 million a year. Trump's offer is zero. His spending plan released Thursday says it "returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities."
The response from Republicans in Great Lakes states: No, thanks.
"I think it makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told The Associated Press, adding that he would lobby the Trump administration and congressional leaders to put the money back.
Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan considers Great Lakes funding "very important to Michiganders, therefore we know there is strong support among Michigan's congressional delegation and we will work with them to preserve the funding," spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.
GOP lawmakers from the region also rushed out statements defending the program. It "helps protect both our environment and our economy," U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio said.
The reaction illustrates a political fact of life: Whether you consider something in the budget valuable or wasteful can depend a lot on where you're from.
And it underscores the resistance Trump may encounter to some spending cuts he is proposing for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Interior and other agencies that draw frequent attacks from congressional Republicans yet fund projects and services with support back home.
The president's spending blueprint also targets a Chesapeake Bay cleanup begun in 1983 that received $73 million last year, plus other "geographic programs." It doesn't identify them, but a proposal by the Office of Management and Budget this month called for cutting all or most funding for San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
Asked for more details, EPA released a statement saying the plan "reflects the president's priorities" and that Administrator Scott Pruitt "is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency's core mission."
The Great Lakes region includes swing states crucial to Trump's election — Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. There's also New York, Minnesota and Illinois. And Indiana, whose former governor, Mike Pence, is now Trump's vice president.
Coincidentally, the budget plan was released as about 100 Great Lakes advocates paid a yearly visit to Washington, D.C., in support of the restoration initiative. They flocked to the offices of home-state lawmakers, reminding them that Congress voted only last year to extend the program another five years.
"We are going to turn once again to our bipartisan congressional champions," said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
While Democratic lawmakers excoriated Trump's proposal — "incredibly short-sighted and reckless," said Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan — Republicans noted that former President Barack Obama at times recommended more modest reductions to the initiative, which Congress rejected.
Some also pointed out that former President George W. Bush signed initial legislation authorizing a wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup, although he sought little money for it.
The initiative has funded nearly 3,000 projects across the eight states. Among them: efforts to prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes, prevent nutrient runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms, rebuild wetlands where fish spawn and remove sediments laced with PCBs and other toxins.
Nearly all the federal grants require cost-share payments from a state, local or tribal agency, or perhaps a nonprofit organization. But Ambs said they can't afford to shoulder the burden alone.
Without federal support, "all of this restoration work would come to a halt," he said.
Contributing to this story were Associated Press reporters Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin; David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan; and Sarah Rankin in Richmond, Va.
The 2016 SkyPixel Photo Contest has recognized the most beautiful and breathtaking aerial images taken by drone from around the world.
Along with Chinese technology company DJI, aerial photography community SkyPixel held a two-month long global competition, receiving over 27,000 entries from 131 countries around the world.
A judging panel, made up of photojournalists from TIME and Condé Nast Traveler as well as prize-winning photographers, selected the winning photo as well as first, second, and third place winners in three different categories — "beauty,""360," and "drones in use."
It also awarded prizes for the most popular photos, judged by the most "likes" they received on SkyPixel.
Photo of the Year was awarded to "Fishermen close to the net," taken by Ge Zheng in Fujian Province in China. "Reflections, colors, and the unique aerial perspective create a startling composition from netting, poles, and water," according to SkyPixel.
Scroll down to see the 19 drone photos that have been named the most incredible in the world.
"Fishermen close to the net" by Ge Zheng
FIRST PRIZE, Beauty, Professional
"Exploration" by Hanbing Wang
SECOND PRIZE, Beauty, Professional
"Spillway selfie" by dixonltd_user
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The ice caps on our planet's North and South Poles are always there, though they swell and subside with the seasons.
That has been a fact of life on Earth since a time before humans stood on two legs. It's one of the first things you'd notice if you observed our planet from space.
The northern ice cap took another big step in that direction this winter. For the third cold season in a row, the Arctic ice maximum — the point when the amount of ice peaks before starting to decline as the weather warms up — was at a record low.
The 2017 maximum, which occurred on March 7, was 5.57 million square miles according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). That's 471,000 square miles — 8% — below the 1981-2010 average.
This year's maximum was also 37,000 square miles below the 2015 maximum, the previous low record, and 39,000 square miles below the 2016 maximum.
How much of a deficit is 471,000 square miles? If you start in the northeast corner of the US, the missing ice would be enough to cover Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and all but the very tip of Florida.
Scientists who study the Arctic say the northern ice cap has been exhibiting a clear trend: Each summer the ice melts to a lower extent than ever, and each winter less ice freezes to make up the loss. By the time the summer rolls around again, the melt begins from an even lower starting point.
Though there are blips and wiggles in the downward trend, of course, but the ice is clearly headed toward zero.
Fortunately, melting Arctic sea ice won't raise sea levels. The ice floats on top of water already, and when it melts the total ocean volume doesn't change. But a declining Arctic has other ill effects on whole planet (beyond the loss of a major ecosystem).
The biggest risk is the disappearance of our global temperature regulator. The Arctic ice is a big, white reflector on the top of the planet, and it bounces sunlight back into space. That keeps warming in check, and keeps the climate moderate. Without that effect, the whole climate could become more volatile.
Scientists will be watching the ice levels closely this summer to see how small the Arctic ice cap gets following the lowest winter levels in recorded history.
NEW YORK (Reuters) — Dozens of California communities have experienced recent rates of childhood lead poisoning that surpass those of Flint, Michigan, with one Fresno locale showing rates nearly three times higher, blood testing data obtained by Reuters shows.
The data shows how lead poisoning affects even a state known for its environmental advocacy, with high rates of childhood exposure found in a swath of the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles. And the figures show that, despite national strides in eliminating lead-based products, hazards remain in areas far from the Rust Belt or East Coast regions filled with old housing and legacy industry.
In one central Fresno zip code, 13.6 percent of blood tests on children under six years old came back high for lead. That compares to 5 percent across the city of Flint during its recent water contamination crisis. In all, Reuters found at least 29 Golden State neighborhoods where children had elevated lead tests at rates at least as high as in Flint.
“It’s a widespread problem and we have to get a better idea of where the sources of exposure are,” said California Assembly member Bill Quirk, who chairs the state legislature’s Committee on Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials.
(To see the Reuters interactive map of U.S. lead hotspots, click here http://reut.rs/2h55POf)
Last week, prompted in part by a December Reuters investigation pinpointing thousands of lead hotspots across the country, Quirk introduced a bill that would require blood lead screening for all California children. Now, just a fraction of the state’s children are tested.
The newest zip code-level testing data was released by the California Department of Public Health in response to a longstanding Reuters records request and adds to a limited set of numbers previously disclosed by the state. The numbers offer a partial state snapshot, covering tests conducted during 2012 – the most recent year for which information was provided – and in about one-fourth of the state’s more than 2,000 zip code areas.
Unlike other states that provided Reuters with results for all zip codes or census tracts, California withheld data from zip codes where fewer than 250 children were screened, calling such results less reliable. So, the available data – encompassing about 400,000 children tested in 546 zip codes – likely omits many neighborhoods where lead exposure remains a problem but fewer children were screened.
California’s Public Health Department said comparisons between the state’s blood lead testing results and those from other states aren’t warranted. It said the state tests children deemed at risk for lead exposure, such as those enrolled in Medicaid or living in older housing.
HOTSPOT IN FRESNO
“Testing of at-risk children, and not all children, skews California results to higher percentage of children tested showing lead exposure,” the state said.
Testing that targets at-risk children is common across much of the country, however. And, as Reuters reported last year, many at-risk children in California and other states fall through the cracks of these programs and go untested.
Blood tests can’t determine the cause of a child’s exposure, but potential sources include crumbling old paint, contaminated soil, tainted drinking water or other lead hazards.
In Fresno’s downtown 93701 zip code, nearly 14 percent of children tested had lead levels at or above 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current threshold for an elevated reading.
No level of lead exposure is safe, but children who test that high warrant a public health response, the CDC says.
Once common in household paint, gasoline and plumbing, lead is a neurotoxin that causes irreversible health impacts, including cognitive impairment and attention disorders in children.
In all, Fresno County had nine zip code areas where high lead levels among children tested were at least as common as in Flint. The Reuters article in December documented nearly 3,000 locales nationwide with poisoning rates double those found in the Michigan city along the Flint River.
The city of Fresno battles high poverty rates and problems with substandard housing, both risk factors for lead exposure. Some locals are also concerned with drinking water, after unsafe levels of lead were detected in at least 120 Fresno homes last year.
Fresno County’s lead poisoning prevention program conducts outreach across the city, and a program health educator, Leticia Berber, says exposure remains too common.
Still, she expressed surprise at the area’s high rate. “We haven’t looked at it that way compared to Flint,” Berber said.
Eight zip codes in Alameda County, which includes Oakland, had rates equal to or greater than those found in Flint. Other counties containing zip codes with high exposure rates included Los Angeles, Monterrey and Humboldt.
The exposure hotspots remain outliers. Around 2 percent of all California children tested in 2012 had lead levels at or above the federal standard, Reuters found.
Yet in the worst-affected zip codes identified statewide, more than 10 percent of children tested had an elevated lead level. In scores of others, less than 1 percent of children tested high. Three zip codes reported no high tests in 2012.
BAY AREA PLANS ACTION
In California, home inspections are required when a child's levels reach 14.5 micrograms per deciliter, the state's formal threshold for a "lead poisoning case."
State and local health departments provide services, including educational materials, to some families whose children test at or above 4.5 micrograms per deciliter. Like other states, including Michigan, California rounds its blood lead test results up or down to the nearest whole number. So, a result of 4.5 or higher meets the CDC threshold.
In its December report, Reuters tracked California lead exposure rates based on the neighborhood-level data available at the time. The report showed hotspots such as the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, where 7.6 percent of children tested high, prompting media coverage and new initiatives to protect children.
Lead exposure is common in other East Bay areas, including large parts of Oakland, and nearby Emeryville and Fremont, the new data shows.
In January, Oakland city council members introduced a resolution that would require property owners to obtain lead inspections and safety certifications before renting or selling houses and apartments built before 1978, when lead paint was banned.
Emeryville's city council this month proposed an ordinance to require proof that contractors will adhere to Environmental Protection Agency standards – including safe lead paint removal practices – before they renovate older housing.
Emeryville Vice Mayor John Bauters said paint exposure isn’t the only risk. A long history of heavy industry in the East Bay also left contaminated soil in some areas.
In the Los Angeles area, the prevalence of high blood lead tests reached 5 percent or above in at least four zip codes during 2012.
Since August, a sampling of children tested from the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Westlake, Koreatown and Pico Union revealed about 5 percent with high lead results, said Jeff Sanchez, a public health specialist at Impact Assessment, which helps Los Angeles run its lead poisoning prevention program.
“The more you look,” Sanchez said, “the more you find.”
(Reporting By Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell. Editing by Ronnie Greene.)
The Trump administration granted a presidential permit March 24 for a multibillion-dollar underground pipeline that would move Canadian oil through the US.
Called Keystone XL, the project is a new segment of the existing Keystone Pipeline system, which begins in Alberta's oil sands, sometimes called tar sands, and ends at holding tanks in Patoka, Illinois, as well as points in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.
The 1,180-mile (1,900-kilometer) XL segment, which is partially built but may ultimately cost entrepreneurs more than $10 billion, would move larger volumes of oil in less time by shortening the route and burying larger-diameter pipes.
Proponents of the pipeline say it will lessen dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs and growing domestic industry; that is, if financing, local permits, and legal challenges can be resolved. But environmental groups and many Americans — especially Native Americans — are furious about Trump's support for the project.
Former President Barack Obama canceled the Keystone XL pipeline in November 2015 with an executive order that said it wouldn't help lower gas prices or create that many jobs. He also said the pipeline's long-term contribution to climate change — possibly more than 22 billion metric tons of carbon pollution, according to Scientific American — wasn't worth the loss of America's global leadership on climate change.
"If we're going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we're going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground,"Obama said.
Neither Trump's January 2017 reversal of Obama's order nor this week's State Department permit grant mention the project's steep environmental costs, which include the potential industrialization of 54,000 square miles of Alberta wilderness.
"We're not saying the project is good or bad. We're just saying the scale and severity of what's happening in Alberta will make your spine tingle," Robert Johnson, a former Business Insider correspondent, wrote after flying over the Canadian oil sands in May 2012.
Keep scrolling to see an updated version of Johnson's photo essay, which shows the effects of Canadian oil mining — a process in which tar-laden sand is dug from the ground and the oil separated. Today that process makes up about 50% of the Keystone XL pipeline's oil, while "in situ" pumping generates the rest.
To get a look at the oil sand mines, we rented this Cessna 172, which the pilot was allowed to bring down to 1,000 feet. Through the open window we could see what really goes on in one of the most controversial places on the planet.
The Alberta oil sands are spread across more than 54,000 square miles, but we're taking a look at just a small part of it. The red line is an approximate outline of the entire deposit — the green is where we were flying.
Thousands flock here to make real money in the oil sands, where creating synthetic crude begins in the strip mine.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The INSIDER Summary:
The Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing visible from space, but its life is at risk.
Almost a quarter of the coral in the 132,974 square foot wonderland of marine life is dead, and 93% has been touched by "bleaching," a result of rising ocean temperatures.
Here's what formerly vibrant sections of the Great Barrier Reef look like today.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's largest living structures.
Unfortunately, that could change.
Rising ocean temperatures cause coral to spit out the algae living in their tissues and turn white.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Bangkok - Conservationists on Tuesday hailed the discovery of a new breeding population of tigers in Thailand as a "miraculous" victory for a sub-species nearly wiped out by poaching.
Images of some tigers including six cubs, captured by camera traps in an eastern Thai jungle throughout 2016, confirm the presence of what is only the world's second known breeding population of the endangered Indochinese tiger.
The only other growing population -- the largest in the world with about three dozen tigers -- is based in a western forest corridor in Thailand near the border with Myanmar.
"The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand's tigers is nothing short of miraculous," said John Goodrich, the tiger program director at Panthera, a wild cat preservation group that backed the survey.
The camera trap footage, which shows female tigers and their cubs traipsing through the leafy jungle, was captured with help from the anti-trafficking group Freeland and Thai park authorities.
Indochinese tigers, which are generally smaller than their Bengal and Siberian counterparts, once roamed across much of Asia.
But today only an estimated 221 remain, with the vast majority in Thailand and a handful in neighbouring Myanmar.
Aggressive poaching, weak law enforcement and habitat loss has rendered the animals all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, according to scientists.
Tiger farms around the region have also boosted the trafficking trade by propping up demand for tiger parts, which are treasured as talismans and used in traditional medicines popular in China.
Conservationists and park officials attributed Thailand's success story to a rise in counter-poaching efforts over the past few decades.
But they warned that the breeding populations remained vulnerable and would not thrive without a sustained commitment to busting poachers and taking down the lucrative trafficking trade.
The Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai forest complex, where the latest young cubs were caught on some of the 156 cameras, still hosts a only modest tiger density of 0.63 tigers per 100 square kilometres.
It is a ratio on par with some of the world's most threatened tiger habitats, according to Freeland, but still means there is a population of at least 23 of the big beasts roaming wild.
"It's crucial to continue the great progress made by the Thai government to bolster protection for tigers at the frontlines," said Kraisak Choonhavan, the group's board chairman.
"As long as the illegal trade in tigers continues, they will need protection."
It was not a very good day for environmentalists.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order designed to reverse many elements of President Barack Obama's environmental legacy.
The order seeks to scale back federal limits on greenhouse gases, eliminate regulations of the coal industry, and take climate change out of federal agencies' decision-making processes.
There is a chance the actions Trump has ordered could cause enough of a spike in US greenhouse-gas emissions to undo any mitigation efforts from the Obama era.
But that's not the only possible outcome.
As the Trump administration has already seen, presidents' ability to follow through on their agenda is limited by federal bureaucracy, the courts, Congress, and economic forces in the real world.
As federal agencies gear up to put Trump's new order into action, many of those efforts could — and probably will — meet a wave resistance from many angles (though Congress, which is controlled by a Republican majority, will probably be on board).
Here are the battles Trump's order now most likely faces.
Just by signing his name, Trump did away with numerous hallmark climate efforts of the Obama era. The most significant of these were the Climate Action Plan, the Obama administration's blueprint for mitigating the impact of climate change, and a moratorium on leases for coal companies to mine on federal land.
But many of the most consequential targets of Trump's order — like the Clean Power Plan, which limits greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants — are regulations that have already been written into the Federal Register. That means Trump can't kill them on his own.
Instead, Trump's order instructs his agencies to begin the complicated rule-making processes of repealing or replacing the existing rules.
Those processes can often take years and involve numerous contentious decisions for federal agencies.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's administrator, Scott Pruitt, will lead the effort to do away with the Clean Power Plan. As Vox's Brad Plumer points out, Pruitt and the EPA have two options: scrap states' greenhouse-gas limits entirely, or rewrite them to be much weaker.
Choices like that will most likely depend on how confident policymakers are about the second hurdle for Trump's executive order: the courts.
The court system
Every rule the EPA, the Department of the Interior, or any other sector of the executive branch puts on the books has to be justified by laws written by Congress.
When agencies run up against the limits of those laws, citizens can fight them in court.
Environmental groups like the National Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club are already up in arms about Trump's new order and are ready to deploy teams of environmental lawyers to fight these rules in court at every opportunity. (Opponents of environmental regulations, like Pruitt, used the same tactic when they thought the Obama administration overstepped its authority.)
Environmental lawyers will most likely argue that the Clean Air Act mandates that the EPA safeguard the atmosphere. So by failing to limit greenhouse gases, they'll say, Pruitt's EPA wouldn't be upholding that responsibility.
If federal judges agree with that line of reasoning, whole sections of Trump's executive order may begin to collapse.
Of all the potential roadblocks Trump's order could face, Congress is the most significant.
A law passed in the legislature has more power than any executive order, so a motivated Congress could choose to double down on the initiatives the order outlines or even write new laws limiting greenhouse-gas emissions that would make much of the order obsolete.
Because both houses of Congress are controlled by Republican majorities, however, they are unlikely to impede the implementation of Trump's order — at least before the new Congress is seated in 2019.
Even if Trump's executive order is implemented in full, there's still a question about how it would fare given the whims of the US energy economy.
Standing next to several coal miners before signing the bill, Trump said, "I made them this promise: We will put our miners back to work."
But many analysts doubt that the coal industry has much of a future in the US, no matter how many environmental regulations the federal government rolls back.
Robert Murray, the founder and CEO of Murray Energy — the US's largest privately held coal company — was in the front row for Trump's signing of the order. But he has acknowledged that lost coal-mining jobs aren't coming back.
That's because increasing natural-gas production (which is relatively cleaner and cheaper) has made coal less economically advantageous for energy producers, and rising automation in the coal industry now means a future coal boom would be unlikely to create many new jobs.
In many states, coal production is likely to continue declining with or without the Clean Power Plan. Michigan's biggest electric utility, for example, has already said it will phase out coal no matter which moves Trump makes. The company, like many across the US, is giving up on aging coal plants in favor of cheaper natural gas and some renewables.
That last point is the biggest obstacle to any effort to shift the balance of the American energy economy back toward fossil fuels. Around the world, renewables are growing faster than any other energy source, with solar outpacing every other source of energy. Solar jobs in the US have been growing 12 times as fast as the rest of the economy.
Trump's executive order does threaten environmental interests, and it could increase greenhouse gases at a moment when scientists are cautioning that even the most ambitious climate plans may not go far enough.
But there's also a possible scenario where many parts of the order get stalled in the courts or made obsolete by larger economic forces that Trump cannot reverse with the stroke of a pen.
Beijing (AFP) - China on Wednesday called on the US to honor its commitments to tackle climate change, after President Donald Trump moved to roll back American emissions targets set by his predecessor Barack Obama.
"The Paris Agreement was hard-earned. All parties of the international community, including China, had a common consensus on it," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters at a regular press briefing.
"All parties should conform to the historical trend of the time, seize the opportunity, honour their commitment, take practical and positive actions and implement the agreement."
The comments came after Trump declared the end of a "war on coal" Tuesday, signing an order to review Obama's "job-killing" climate regulations.
In a maiden trip to the Environmental Protection Agency, he ordered a review of emission limits for coal-fired power plants and eased restrictions on federal leasing for coal production.
Trump said the measures herald "a new era in American energy and production and job creation."
Environmentalists fear the steps may be a prelude to a US withdrawal from the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord and said the measures will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the US to meet its commitments under that agreement.
Curbing emissions from coal-fired power plants was a pillar of America's commitment to cut carbon emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025.
China "will honour its obligations 100 percent" regardless of whether other countries change their policies and "will not change its determination, its goals, and its measures regarding climate change", said Lu.
China is a signatory to the Paris accord, the first universal action plan for curbing global warming.
The US and China are together responsible for some 40 percent of the world's emissions, so their participation in the agreement is crucial for its success.
America's coal industry has long been in decline, with natural gas, cheap renewable energy, automation and tricky geology making the sooty fuel a less lucrative prospect.
SEE ALSO: 25 Devastating Effects Of Climate Change
CHICAGO (AP) — Environmental groups that have hired scores of new lawyers in recent months are prepared to go to court to fight a sweeping executive order from President Donald Trump that eliminates many restrictions on fossil fuel production and would roll back his predecessor's plans to curb global warming. But they said they'll take their first battle to the court of public opinion.
Advocates said they plan to work together to mobilize a public backlash against an executive order signed by Trump on Tuesday that includes initiating a review of former President Barack Obama's signature plan to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants and lifting a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. Trump, who has called global warming a "hoax" invented by the Chinese, said during his campaign that he would kill Obama's climate plans and bring back coal jobs.
Even so, "this is not what most people elected Trump to do; people support climate action," said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who said Trump's actions are short-sighted and won't bring back the jobs he promised.
The White House did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment.
While Republicans have blamed Obama-era environmental regulations for the loss of coal jobs, federal data shows that U.S. mines have been shedding jobs for decades under presidents from both parties because of automation and competition from natural gas and because of solar panels and wind turbines, which now can produce emissions-free electricity cheaper than burning coal.
But many people in coal country are counting on the jobs that Trump has promised, and industry advocates praised his orders.
"These executive actions are a welcome departure from the previous administration's strategy of making energy more expensive through costly, job-killing regulations that choked our economy," said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue.
The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the "social cost" of greenhouse gases. It will initiate a review of efforts to reduce the emission of methane in oil and natural gas production as well as a Bureau of Land Management hydraulic fracturing rule, to determine whether those reflect the president's policy priorities.
It also will rescind Obama-era executive orders and memoranda, including one that addressed climate change and national security and one that sought to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Environmentalists say clean energy would create thousands of new jobs and fear that Trump's actions will put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage to other countries that are embracing it.
But they believe efforts to revive fossil fuels ultimately will fail because many states and industries already have been embracing renewable energy and natural gas.
"Those decisions are being made at the state level and plant by plant," said Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen, who said his group is "continuing to work aggressively to retire dirty coal plants.
"Coal is not coming back," Van Noppen added. "While the president is taking big splashy action, he is actually doomed to fail."
A coalition of 16 states and the District of Columbia said they will oppose any effort by the Trump administration to withdraw the Clean Power Plan or seek dismissal of a pending legal case before a federal appeals court in Washington.
Environmental advocates also are ready to go to court on a moment's notice, and will carefully watch the administration's actions, said the NRDC's Goldston.
"The president doesn't get to simply rewrite safeguards; they have to ... prove the changes are in line with the law and science," Goldston said. "I think that's going to be a high hurdle for them."
Jeremy Symons, associate vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, said advocates will work to build support among lawmakers along with the public.
"In terms of the big picture, our strategy is simple: Shine a spotlight on what is going on and mobilize the public against these rollbacks that threaten our children's health" and the climate, he said.
The INSIDER Summary:
I’ve got some bad news to bring to light. Some of your most beloved foods may not be around for much longer. Climate change is not only making animals extinct, but it hugely impacts agriculture as well.
Savor and appreciate these foods while you still can, because they may become extinct during your lifetime.
There's a reason you pay extra for guac, it's because avocados are becoming more and more endangered. The majority of avocados consumed in the United States come from California, where a major drought is only just ending.
Avocados need about 9 gallons of water per ounce. This is nothing compared to the amount of water needed to produce some other foods, but the cost of this trendy fruit is only increasing with time.
Avocados aren’t the only food that depend on lots of water to grow. Chickpeas use a whopping 76 gallons of water for every ounce. Droughts around the world have decreased chickpea production by 40%.
Yes, you read that right. Because of climate change, wild coffee beans are anticipated to be gone by the year 2080. Rising temperatures are severely impacting areas of the world where coffee beans grow.
Savor your morning cup while it lasts because you might have to get used to tea later in life. Fear not, though, there are some benefits to not drinking coffee.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
President Trump really wants to undo Barack Obama's climate legacy.
With an executive order signed March 28, he scrapped Obama's Climate Action Plan, lifted a moratorium on coal leases on federal land, and started the long process of dismantling various other Obama-era efforts to cut US greenhouse gas emissions, including the Clean Power Plan.
Trump signed his executive order surrounded by a group of coal miners. It was a powerful image: a president who promised to remember the "forgotten man" flanked by workers from an industry he's trying to jump-start.
It's also worth asking why Trump, a president deeply interested in his popularity, is following a course of action that's highly unpopular around the country.
Earlier in March, the Yale Program on Climate Communication released a trove of data from surveys it conducted to find out what Americans actually think about climate change.
Yale mapped this data, and the visualizations show that a majority of adults think global warming is happening in every congressional district in the US — 70% of American voting-age citizens, added together.
When people were asked they support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, an even larger majority (75%) answered "yes." As the map below shows, there isn't a single congressional district where the majority of adults don't support this regulation.
Still more Americans, 82%, say they're on board with funding research into renewable energy.
Based on that information, you might think Trump's climate policies would be politically disastrous.
But there's another side to the data. Even though most Americans think climate change is a serious problem, few of them actually talk about it much.
There isn't a single congressional district in the US where a majority of adults say they discuss climate change "at least occasionally."
And while a majority (58%) of Americans think global warming will harm people in the US, 70% think it will harm "future generations" rather than their own. Only 40% seeing global warming as a danger to them personally.
So while climate change is an issue that a majority of people think the government should be addressing, very few people consider it a central problem in their lives (unlike, say, health insurance). To politicians, those stats suggest their constituents are unlikely to vote for a candidate based on his or her stance on climate.
Meanwhile, the minority that opposes climate action is well-funded and highly activated. As long as people who want action on climate change aren't talking to their representatives about it, it makes sense for someone like Trump to give that moneyed minority plenty of political gifts, and take in their support.
The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected a bid by environmental groups to ban a common pesticide used on citrus fruits, apples, cherries, and other crops.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Wednesday denied a petition to ban the agricultural pesticide chlorpyrifos, reversing a proposal by the Obama administration to ban all uses of the pesticide on food.
The decision came after a federal court ordered the agency to come to a decision by Friday.
In the decision, the EPA wrote that the question of whether it's dangerous to use chlorpyrifos on crops remained "unresolved."
EPA scientists, however, had previously determined that the chemical — which is already banned in household settings — was indeed dangerous to children and farm workers. A study at Columbia University found traces of chlorpyrifos in the umbilical chords of infants, and it found that even a small amount of exposure could have measurable impacts on a person's brain.
Environmental groups described the EPA ruling as unconscionable. But Dow Chemical, which makes the product, praised the decision. (Dow has argued that the science regarding risks associated with chlorpyrifos is inconclusive.)
The pesticide, which has been in use since 1965, has sickened dozens of farmworkers in recent years. Traces have also been found in waterways, threatening fish populations. Regulators also say overuse could make targeted insects immune to the pesticide.
US farms use more than 5 million pounds of the chemical each year — about 25% of it in California.
Pruitt, formerly the attorney general of Oklahoma, was a fierce opponent of EPA regulations in his previous role, and he worked closely with fossil-fuel industries to fight the agency's limits on pollution. His selection to lead the agency was opposed by 800 former EPA staffers.
Since taking office, Pruitt has continued to express support for limiting the scope of his agency's authority.
Obama's marquee effort to control carbon emissions from US power plants, the Clean Power Plan, is effectively dead, according to EPA chief Scott Pruitt.
The plan sought to cut emissions from power plants in 47 US states to 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. But it was stayed by the Supreme Court in February 2016, pending the results of litigation related to the regulation.
On Tuesday, the Clean Power Plan became the target of an executive order from President Trump that laid the groundwork for it to undergo a complex, time-consuming repeal process.
In a letter that Pruitt sent to governors across the US on March 30, the EPA chief wrote that states have "no obligation to spend resources" on the stayed order — adding, "the days of coercive federalism are over."
In effect, Pruitt is telling the governors that even though it could take years to take the Clean Power Plan off the books (and handle any court challenges during that process), states can treat the plan as though it's already dead and buried.
As of writing, however, the EPA has yet to change the Clean Power Plan page of the agency's website, which still expresses optimism about the plan's chances of success in court:
On February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court stayed implementation of the Clean Power Plan pending judicial review. The Court’s decision was not on the merits of the rule. EPA firmly believes the Clean Power Plan will be upheld when the merits are considered because the rule rests on strong scientific and legal foundations. For the states that choose to continue to work to cut carbon pollution from power plants and seek the agency’s guidance and assistance, EPA will continue to provide tools and support.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should continue to be "engaged" in international climate change discussions but the Paris climate change agreement is a "bad deal" for the country, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not confirm whether the United States would remain in the global climate change pact, under which nearly all countries agreed in 2015 to halt or curb their greenhouse gas emissions, even as the world's biggest emitter China reaffirmed its commitment to the agreement.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to have his first meeting with President Donald Trump on April 6-7. Xi and other Chinese officials have pledged to remain in the agreement.
"To demonstrate the leadership that we have shown on this issue with China and India and other nations is very important and discussions should ensue," Pruitt said on Fox News Sunday, "but what Paris represents is a bad deal for this country."
Last week, Trump signed an executive order rolling back former President Barack Obama's climate change policies, including the Clean Power Plan to slash carbon emissions from power plants -- a key factor in the United States' ability to meet its Paris commitments.
The executive order did not address the question of whether the United States would remain in the agreement but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week a decision would be made before the G7 summit in June.
Sources told Reuters that White House officials are getting feedback from fossil fuel companies about the pros and cons of staying in the agreement.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said last week all countries should "move with the times and "fulfill their promises and earnestly take proactive steps to jointly push the enforcement of this agreement."
Pruitt said China and India signed onto the agreement without being required to reduce emissions. Under the agreement each country has submitted a national strategy to meet its own emission reduction goals.
Asked on Sunday to clarify a statement he made last month that carbon dioxide -- emitted from fossil fuel power plants -- is not a primary contributor to climate change, Pruitt said "human activities contribute to that change in some measure."
"The real question is how much are we contributing to that and measuring that with precision," he said.