E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

SOURCE: NY Times DATE: March 26, 2020 SNIP: The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution. The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak. Issued by the E.P.A.’s top compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements. Companies are normally required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water. “In general, the E.P.A. does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the E.P.A. agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the E.P.A. upon request,” the order states. It said the agency’s focus during the outbreak would be “on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment” and said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. The memo said the compliance changes were retroactive to March 13. Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical...
Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

Trump Administration Proposes Allowing GE Crops on Thousands of Acres of National Wildlife Refuges

SOURCE: Center for Biological Diversity DATE: March 20, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has proposed to approve genetically engineered crops on national wildlife refuges throughout the southeastern United States, a step likely to increase use of glyphosate and other pesticides known to harm wildlife. The Obama administration acted in 2014 to phase out GE crops on all national wildlife refuges following a successful decade-long campaign by the Center for Food Safety and others. The Trump administration reversed that decision in 2018, prompting a lawsuit from the Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Food Safety challenging the action in September 2019. The proposal released this week opens the door to escalating uses of GE crops and harmful pesticides across the Southeastern Region of the refuge system, which includes 131 refuges in 10 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. “Only the Trump administration would aggressively promote the use of crops genetically engineered for pesticide tolerance on wildlife refuges,” said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s a no-brainer that this kind of pesticide-intensive agriculture shouldn’t be allowed on public lands that are critical to wildlife conservation and preservation of the unique ecosystems of the southeastern U.S.” National wildlife refuges are federal public lands specifically designated to protect fish and wildlife. The Southeastern Region is comprised of almost 4 million acres of refuge lands and waters that provide vital habitat for dozens of endangered species known to be imperiled by pesticide use — including bats, birds, freshwater mussels, and fish like the pallid sturgeon and Alabama cavefish. Genetically engineered corn and soy are typically designed...
Global banks ‘failing miserably’ on climate crisis by funneling trillions into fossil fuels

Global banks ‘failing miserably’ on climate crisis by funneling trillions into fossil fuels

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 18, 2020 SNIP: The world’s largest investment banks have funnelled more than £2.2tn ($2.66tn) into fossil fuels since the Paris agreement, new figures show, prompting warnings they are failing to respond to the climate crisis. The US bank JP Morgan Chase, whose economists warned that the climate crisis threatens the survival of humanity last month, has been the largest financier of fossil fuels in the four years since the agreement, providing over £220bn of financial services to extract oil, gas and coal. Analysis of the 35 leading global investment banks, by an alliance of US-based environmental groups, said that financing for the companies most aggressively expanding in new fossil fuel extraction since the Paris agreement has surged by nearly 40% in the last year. Using Bloomberg financial data and other sources to analyse loans, equity issuances and debt underwriting services from 2016 to 2019, the analysis is published on Wednesday in the Banking on Climate Change 2020 report. It has been compiled by Rainforest Action Network, BankTrack, Indigenous Environmental Network, Oil Change International, Reclaim Finance and Sierra Club. Although the last 12 months has seen many investment banks announce financing restrictions on coal, Arctic oil and gas, and tar sands extraction, the report warns that the business practices of financial institutions are not aligned with the Paris agreement. Alongside JP Morgan Chase, the US banks Wells Fargo, Citi and Bank of America dominate financing for fossil fuels, accounting for nearly a third of the £2.2tn of financial services since the Paris agreement, according to the report. The report said big banks overall have increased...
10 Years After Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spills and Accidents Are on the Rise

10 Years After Deepwater Horizon, Oil Spills and Accidents Are on the Rise

SOURCE: American Progress DATE: March 3, 2020 SNIP: On April 20, 2010, an explosion and fire on the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men and injured 17 other crew members. Over the next 87 days, an estimated 210 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, poisoning fish and wildlife, forcing the closure of beaches and fisheries, and causing billions of dollars in damage to coastal communities along the Gulf. After this catastrophic spill, the Obama administration enacted a series of reforms to improve oil rig safety—reforms that the Trump administration has since rolled back. A Center for American Progress review of government data finds that oil spills, injuries, and accidents from offshore drilling are now on the rise, threatening to erase the progress made in the 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In late 2017 and 2018, at the direction of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, the U.S. Department of the Interior began to loosen its oversight of drilling and to weaken safety standards that the Obama administration implemented in response to Deepwater Horizon. During its first months, the Trump administration placed the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)—an agency created after Deepwater Horizon to regulate offshore drilling—under the leadership of Scott Angelle, a former Louisiana secretary of natural resources who served for years on the board of an oil and gas pipeline company. During the Obama administration, Angelle helped lead the oil and gas industry’s fight against reforms to offshore drilling safety. Following Angelle’s arrival in 2017, the number of inspections and enforcement actions undertaken by BSEE declined....
Tesla gets green light from German court to chop down trees for its new Gigafactory

Tesla gets green light from German court to chop down trees for its new Gigafactory

SOURCE: CNBC DATE: February 21, 2020 SNIP: Tesla has been given the go-ahead from a German court to cut down trees [trees that are part of a forest] for its new European factory. Though it doesn’t yet have planning permission to build the so-called Gigafactory in Brandenburg, the local government agency overseeing its intended site gave it permission to clear 91 hectares of forest land. Environmental campaigners opposed to the chopping down of trees had managed to get the higher administrative court of Berlin and Brandenburg to issue an injunction to temporarily halt the preparatory work. But the court, which oversees the region in which Tesla plans on building its new plant, on Thursday decided to throw out the injunction. The decision is “final,” the court said in a statement, paving the way for the U.S. electric car giant to resume the forest clearance. The Green League activist group in Brandenburg, which is situated south-east of Berlin, had expressed anger over the environmental impact of Tesla’s European Gigafactory. But the company said it had addressed such concerns and would replant trees to cover an area “three times the factory plot.” [Common mistake: trees do not equal a...