Power Plants on Indian Reservations Get No Break on Emissions Rules

Four of the dirtiest plants, which sit on Native American soil, were expecting more lenient goals under the Clean Power Plan, but the EPA shifted gears.

By Naveena Sadasivam, Insideclimate News

The Navajo Generating Station is one of the country's dirtiest power plants. Credit: Wikipedia.

The Navajo Generating Station is one of the country’s dirtiest power plants. Credit: Wikipedia.

Four Western power plants that emit more carbon dioxide than the 20 fossil-fuel-fired plants in Massachusetts thought they would be getting a break under the Obama administration’s new carbon regulations––until the final rule ended up treating them just like all the other plants in the country.

The plants are located on Native American reservations, and under an earlier proposal, they were required to reduce emissions by less than 5 percent. But the final version of the rule, released earlier this month, has set a reduction target of about 20 percent.

A majority of the reductions are to come from two mammoth coal plants on the Navajo reservation in Arizona and New Mexico—the Navajo Generating Station and the Four Corners Power Plant. They provide power to half a million homes and have been pinpointed by the Environmental Protection Agency as a major source of pollution––and a cause for reduced visibility in the Grand Canyon.

These two plants alone emit more than 28 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, triple the emissions from facilities in Washington state, fueling a vicious cycle of drought and worsening climate change. The two other power plants are on the Fort Mojave Reservation in Arizona and the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Utah.

Environmental groups have charged  that the Navajo plants are responsible for premature deaths, hundreds of asthma attacks and hundreds of millions of dollars of annual health costs. The plants, which are owned by public utilities and the federal government, export a majority of the power out of the reservation to serve homes and businesses as far away as Las Vegas and help deliver Arizona’s share of the Colorado River water to Tucson and Phoenix. Meanwhile, a third of Navajo Nation residents remain without electricity in their homes.

IndianReservationPowerPlants1058px

Tribal leaders contend that power plants on Indian land deserve special consideration.

“The Navajo Nation is a uniquely disadvantaged people and their unique situation justified some accommodation,” Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, wrote in a letter to the EPA. He contends that the region’s underdeveloped economy, high unemployment rates and reliance on coal are the result of policies enacted by the federal government over several decades. If the coal plants decrease power production to meet emissions targets, Navajos will lose jobs and its  government will receive less revenue, he said.

Many local groups, however, disagree.

“I don’t think we need special treatment,” said Colleen Cooley of the grassroots nonprofit Diné CARE. “We should be held to the same standards as the rest of the country.” (Diné means “the people” in Navajo, and CARE is an abbreviation for Citizens Against Ruining our Environment.)

Cooley’s Diné CARE and other grassroots groups say the Navajo leaders are not serving the best interest of the community. The Navajo lands have been mined for coal and uranium for decades, Cooley said, resulting in contamination of water sources and air pollution. She said it’s time to shift to new, less damaging power sources such as wind and solar.

The Obama administration’s carbon regulations for power plants aim to reduce emissions nationwide 32 percent by 2030 from 2005 levels. In its final version of the rule, the EPA set uniform standards for all fossil-fueled power plants in the country. A coal plant on tribal land is now expected to achieve the same emissions reductions as a coal plant in Kentucky or New York, a move that the EPA sees as more equitable. The result is that coal plants on tribal lands—and in coal heavy states such as Kentucky and West Virginia—are facing much more stringent targets than they expected.

The EPA has taken special efforts to ensure that the power plant rules don’t disproportionately affect minorities, including indigenous people. Because dirty power plants often exist in low-income communities, the EPA has laid out tools to assess how changes to the operation of the plants will affect emission levels in neighborhoods nearby. The EPA will also be assessing compliance plans to ensure the regulations do not increase air pollution in those communities.

The tribes do not have an ownership stake in any of the facilities, but they are allowed to coordinate a plan to reduce emissions while minimizing the impact on their economies. Tribes that want to submit a compliance plan must first apply for treatment as a state. If the EPA doesn’t approve, or the tribes decide not to submit a plan, the EPA will impose one.

EPA Causes Massive Waste Spill, Hurting Navajo Nation

 animas river

By Daniel Davis, Townhall.com

Durango, Colorado declared a state of emergency yesterday after the EPA accidentally contaminated a local river with 3 million gallons of waste. The Animas River has turned orange, and residents living along its banks have been warned to avoid it.

The accident began Wednesday last week when EPA workers accidentally leaked a local mine, releasing concentrated minerals into a stream. The mine had been abandoned for about 10 years, and ground water had accumulated inside it. EPA workers were there to clean up the mine. Now, the mine is leaking at 500 gallons per minute. It still hasn’t been contained, though workers are treating the nearby ponds where the minerals are leaking.

The EPA has tested the polluted water and reports arsenic levels at 300 times the normal level, and lead levels at 3,500 times the normal level. Both arsenic and lead pose significant dangers to humans when highly concentrated. The local sheriff has warned local residents to stay away from the river. The contaminants move along the river fairly quickly, they will not completely pass until the mine leak is plugged.

Many people who live along the Animas River depend on private wells for their water, but those are now threatened by the river’s pollution. The EPA is sending materials to these residents so that they can test their well water for cleanness.

The water pollution has flowed straight into the territory of the Navajo Nation, a semi-autonomous reservation Native American reservation spanning parts of northern Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Utah. The spill is already threatening the livelihoods of many Navajo residents, and the nation has declared its own state of emergency. It even looks to be preparing for a lawsuit against the EPA — the Navajo Nation Commission on Emergency Management has directed the tribe’s Attorney General to assemble a legal team to address the grievances of local residents:

 

Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates told the Daily Times that residents were concerned about drinking water safety, river access, water for livestock and crops, and the possibility of compensation for failed crops. With irrigation canals shut off, many farmers are concerned about their next step, Bates said.

“If these farmers don’t get water in the next week, they’ll lose their crops,” he said.

 

The plume of orange waste has already reached three states, and is expected to reach a fourth by Wednesday. As USA Today reports:

 

Mustard-colored water flowed this week into Cement Creek, a tributary that runs through Silverton [Colorado] and into the Animas River. In New Mexico, the plume of pollution entered Aztec early Saturday morning and Farmington later that morning. Officials said they expected it to reach the Utah border on Monday and Lake Powell, in Arizona, late Wednesday.

 

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez toured the damage in Farmington, NM over the weekend. She was stunned by the disaster:

 

“The magnitude of it, you can’t even describe it,” she said, CNN affiliate KRQE reported. “It’s like when I flew over the fires, your mind sees something it’s not ready or adjusted to see.”

 

Equally stunning was the EPA’s slow response in notifying states of the disaster. New Mexico officials got their first word of the disaster from Native American officials. By the time they heard from EPA officials, it was 24 hours after the spill had begun. Gov. Martinez commented:

 

“It’s completely irresponsible for the EPA not to have informed New Mexico immediately.”

EPA to Develop Federal Clean Water Standards for Washington, if State Won’t

Courtesy Environmental Protection AgencyThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue water quality rules to uphold certain levels of fish consumption.

Courtesy Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will issue water quality rules to uphold certain levels of fish consumption.

Terri Hansen, Indian Country Today

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has told the State of Washington it intends to step in to develop a federal plan for the state’s human health water quality criteria as the state did not finalize a plan by year’s end, a deadline EPA gave the state last April.

The EPA’s rulemaking process, in part tied to the human fish consumption rate, will overlap the state’s potential timeline but preserves the EPA’s ability to propose a rule in case the state does not act in a timely manner, EPA regional administrator Dennis McLerran wrote to Department of Ecology head Maia Bellon on December 18.

Related: Toxic Waters: Consumption Advisories on Life-Giving Year-Round Fish Threaten Health

Under the federal Clean Water Act, the state must adopt standards that ensure rivers and major bodies of water are clean enough to support fish that are safe for humans to eat. Washington’s current standard assumes people eat just 6.5 grams of fish a day, or about one filet a month.

Tribal leaders with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, which represents 20 western Washington tribes, met with the EPA’s McLerran in September seeking to step in and set new water-quality rules for the state, after sending Washington Gov. Jay Inslee a letter expressing dissatisfaction with his proposed draft rule change last July.

Inslee’s draft rule would raise the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day to protect people who eat one serving of fish per day, a figure that tribal leaders accept. But it has taken the state two years to work out the new draft rule in a political push-pull between business interests and human health advocates, which have each missed their own deadlines in the process.

Tribal leaders say they are also “deeply concerned” about a proposal privately advanced by Inslee that would allow a tenfold increase in allowable cancer risk under the law. The EPA letter asks Washington to explain why a change in the state’s long-standing cancer risk protection level is necessary.

Related: Inslee Weighs Tenfold Increase in Cancer Risk for Fish Eaters

The state’s draft rule is now expected in January, but since the EPA believes it can complete a proposed federal rule by August 2015, the state is looking at a limited time period in which to finalize its rulemaking process.

If not, the EPA is prepared to move forward with rulemaking that McLerran wrote considers the best science, and includes an assessment of downstream water protection, environmental justice, federal trust responsibility, and tribal treaty rights.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/12/26/epa-develop-federal-clean-water-standards-washington-if-state-wont-158441

Tribes Want EPA Involved In Washington Clean Water Rulemaking

By Associated Press

EVERETT, Wash. — An alliance of Washington tribes says it will ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to step in and come up with new water-quality rules for the state.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission sent Gov. Jay Inslee a letter on Thursday expressing “dissatisfaction” with his proposal for updating the state’s clean water rules that are partly tied to how much fish people eat.

The Herald reports that the tribes say the proposal won’t do enough to protect tribal members. They’re also concerned about another delay.

Inslee’s plan would increase the fish consumption rate to 175 grams a day, but the tribes say that improvement is offset by other less protective changes.

An Inslee spokesman said Saturday that the governor’s office and the Department of Ecology hope to discuss Inslee’s proposal with the group.

Marysville metal caster invests $230,000 in hazardous waste reduction as part of EPA settlement

 

Agreement also includes $18,000 civil penalty for improper storage, handling and record-keeping

Source:EPA Public Affairs

(Seattle–Aug. 25, 2014)  SeaCast, Inc., a metal casting facility in Marysville, Washington, has agreed to pay The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a penalty of $18,000 to settle alleged hazardous waste violations at the company, which is located within the boundaries of the Tulalip Indian reservation.

As part of the EPA settlement, SeaCast will invest at least $230,000 to install and operate a production process “water blast” system that is expected to reduce in the amount of hazardous waste generated at the facility by 40 percent. SeaCast also agreed to implement procedures to prevent future violations of hazardous waste management requirements. 

According to Scott Downey, Manager of EPA’s hazardous waste inspection unit in Seattle, strict compliance with federal hazardous waste storage and management requirements protects people and the environment.

“SeaCast has found a way to modify its production process and reduce its reliance on caustic cleaning solutions as a part of this settlement,” said Downey. “One of the central goals of the EPA’s hazardous waste program is to conserve resources and minimize the generation of hazardous wastes, so this project fits nicely.”

EPA alleged that SeaCast:

  • Failed to maintain records of its hazardous waste determinations.
  • Stored hazardous wastes at the facility without obtaining a permit or complying with conditions applicable to hazardous waste generators. 
  • Stored hazardous waste on site for longer than 90 days, failed to maintain adequate aisle space between containers of hazardous waste, and failed to conduct required weekly inspections of hazardous waste storage areas. The company also failed to properly manage its universal waste lamps.

For more about EPA’s enforcement of federal hazardous waste laws: http://www2.epa.gov/enforcement/waste-chemical-and-cleanup-enforcement

Pollution From Columbia River Dams Must Be Disclosed

By: Associated Press; Source: OPB

 

The Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. A legal settlement requires the Army Corps of Engineers to disclose the pollution that its dams put into the river. | credit: Amelia Templeton

The Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. A legal settlement requires the Army Corps of Engineers to disclose the pollution that its dams put into the river. | credit: Amelia Templeton

 

For the first time in its history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will have to disclose the amount of pollutants its dams are sending into waterways in a groundbreaking legal settlement that could have broad implications for the Corps’ hundreds of dams nationwide.

The Corps announced in a settlement on Monday that it will immediately notify the conservation group that filed the lawsuit of any oil spills among its eight dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers in Oregon and Washington.

The Corps will also apply to the Environmental Protection Agency for pollution permits, something the Corps has never done for the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

The settlement filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, ends the year-old consolidated lawsuit by the conservation group Columbia Riverkeeper, which said the Corps violated the Clean Water Act by unmonitored, unpermitted oil discharges from the eight hydroelectric dams.

The settlement reflects the recent tack of the EPA regulating the environmental impacts of energy. The agency has recently come up with regulations of mountaintop removal for coal and fracking for oil and gas.

As part of the settlement, the Corps admits no wrongdoing, but will pay $143,000 and the consolidated cases were dismissed.

When contacted by The Associated Press, the Corps’ Northwest and national offices requested questions via email Monday and did not immediately comment on the settlement.

The settlement will allow oversight of the dams by the EPA. The agency had the authority to regulate the dams’ pollution before the settlement, but it could not compel the corps to file for a pollution permit. The Corps will also be forced to switch to a biodegradable lubricant for its dam machinery if an internal study finds that it’s financially feasible.

The Corps isn’t just a polluter, however. It’s also a regulator of pollution under the Clean Water Act. The act grants the Corps the authority to issue permits for the discharge of materials excavated from or put into U.S. waterways.

“Under the letter of the law, they have been engaged in unpermitted discharge for years,” said Melissa Powers, an environmental law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. “They should have long ago said, ‘This is how much we’re discharging. Here are the environmental impacts.’ “

Monday’s settlement will force the Corps’ hand. To discharge pollutants into waterways, the polluters must obtain permission from state and federal governments. Before the settlement, the EPA knew about the unpermitted discharges from the dams, but the Corps said in letters to state agencies that it is not accountable to the EPA.

The Corps argued in the same letters that disclosing the mechanical workings of the dam as part of an oil-discharge summary could compromise the dams’ security.

In July 2013, Columbia Riverkeeper sued and demanded to know what the Corps was sending into the water and how much of it was going in.

“When you’re not regulated under a permit, you don’t have to say what the impact (of pollution) on water was,” Powers said.

Nationally, the settlement could force all unpermitted dams to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits from the EPA.

Daniel Estrin, an environmental law professor at Pace Law School in White Plains, New York, said the settlement will make it impossible for the Corps to say that all of its pollutant-discharging dams don’t require discharge permits.

“The Corps’ acknowledgement of the need for permits in this settlement will make it difficult for other owners to successfully deny that permits are required in the face of citizen suits like the one brought (here),” Estrin said.

The eight dams affected by the settlement are the Bonneville, the John Day, The Dalles and McNary in Oregon and the Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite in Washington state.

Environmentalists will be closely watching the type of permit issued by the EPA, Powers said. A “site-specific” permit would likely include limits that the Corps would have to meet on the amount of oil discharged.

If the EPA instead issues a general permit, environmentalists would be less sanguine about its prospects, Powers said. General permits are less effective in compelling change because they are issued without specific metrics that must be met, she said.

In 2009, the EPA found a host of toxins in fish on the Columbia River, including polychlorinated biphenyl, a potentially carcinogenic synthetic that was banned for production in the U.S. in 1979.

The eight dams use turbines that have shafts and hubs filled with oil or other lubricants. The oil leaks to the surface, along with oil from drainage sumps, transformers and wickets that control water flow.

EPA awards over $756,000 to research coastal climate change impacts on Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

img_NWSwinomish_01

Source: EPA

 

(Seattle—July 23, 2014) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it is awarding over $756,000 to the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to research coastal climate impacts to traditional foods, cultural sites and tribal community health and well-being.
The combination of sea level rise, wave impacts, and shoreline development will change coastal ecosystems that support Swinomish first foods and place-based relationships, which in turn impacts community health and well-being.

The funds will be used to:
· Develop a model showing projected coastal erosion due to sea-level rise, storm surge, and wave energy through Year 2100 on the shores of the Swinomish Reservation
· Map the vulnerability of Swinomish coastal ecosystem habitats of first foods and culturally significant sites
· Support the Swinomish Climate Change Initiative
· Create educational and outreach tools for Swinomish community members and Coast Salish communities
· Assess research results and develop adaptive strategies
EPA funds research focused on tribal communities through the Science to Achieve Results program. Because many tribes rely on natural resources, it is essential for tribal-focused research to identify possible environmental health risks and the most efficient methods of avoiding or addressing these risks.

More information about the grants awarded: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/recipients.display/rfa_id/569/records_per_page/ALL

More information on Tribal Environmental Health Research: http://epa.gov/ncer/tribalresearch/

EPA To Protect Salmon Fishery By Blocking Massive Alaska Mine

A 2012 file photo of Fisherman's Terminal in Seattle bustling as ships get ready to head to Alaska for the summer fishing season. Hundreds of Northwesterners hold commercial fishing permits for Bristol Bay. | credit: Ashley Ahearn

A 2012 file photo of Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle bustling as ships get ready to head to Alaska for the summer fishing season. Hundreds of Northwesterners hold commercial fishing permits for Bristol Bay. | credit: Ashley Ahearn

 

by: Associated Press

 

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it is proposing restrictions that would essentially block development of a planned massive gold-and-copper mine near the headwaters of a world premier salmon fishery in Alaska.

The announcement came as the EPA was being sued by Pebble Limited Partnership, the group behind the proposed Pebble Mine, and the state of Alaska for allegedly exceeding its authority.

The state and Pebble Partnership, which was created to design, permit and run the mine, argue the EPA should not be able to veto the project before a mine plan is finalized and evaluated through the permitting process. Pebble has asked that a judge block the EPA from taking any additional steps, but no ruling has been made.

EPA regional administrator Dennis McLerran said the science is clear “that mining the Pebble deposit would cause irreversible damage to one of the world’s last intact salmon ecosystems. Bristol Bay’s exceptional fisheries deserve exceptional protection.”

The EPA said as part of its analysis it used plans filed by the mine’s owner, Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd., with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2011. That information indicated the Pebble deposit is likely to involve excavation of the largest open pit ever built in North America, reaching a depth that rivals that of the Grand Canyon at nearly a mile, the EPA said in its report.

The agency looked at three mine scenarios, one based on the worldwide median size deposit that contains copper-, gold- and molybdenum-bearing minerals, which was the smallest scenario analyzed, and two that it said were based on statements made by Northern Dynasty, of mine sizes of 2 billion tons and 6.5 billion tons.

The restrictions proposed by EPA are in line with the estimated impacts of the smallest scenario, including loss of at least 5 miles of streams with documented salmon or loss of 1,100 or more acres of wetlands, lakes and ponds that connect to salmon-bearing streams or tributaries of those streams.

The EPA said if the proposed restrictions were finalized, mining of the Pebble deposit would still be possible, but only if the environmental impacts were smaller than those laid out.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, who has said Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place, said he’s seen noting in the EPA document that would prevent Pebble from applying for a permit.

“Instead, it sets the ground rules for responsible development that the Pebble Partnership, or any other business, must abide by in order to mine the Pebble deposit in this critical habitat,” he said.

The EPA called its analysis conservative, focused on the use of certain waters in the region for disposal of materials associated with mining the Pebble deposit. The agency said it did not include impacts associated with build-out and operation of a mine, like roads, pipelines and housing for workers, or potential effects of accidents or mine failures.

The EPA also said the proposal is specific to the Pebble deposit, and does not affect other deposits or claims.

In 2011, the EPA, petitioned by Alaska Native tribes and others to protect Bristol Bay, initiated a review that culminated in the finding earlier this year that large-scaling mining in the Bristol Bay watershed posed significant risks to salmon and Alaska Native cultures that rely on the fish. The agency later invoked a rarely-used process through which it could ultimately restrict or prohibit development of the proposed Pebble Mine to protect the fishery.

The announcement Friday is the next step in that process. EPA plans to take public comment beginning Monday through Sept. 19 and to hold public meetings in Alaska next month. After that, McLerran would have to decide whether to withdraw the proposed action or send it to EPA headquarters for consideration.

Tom Collier, CEO of the Pebble Partnership, said while his group needed to analyze EPA’s proposal, it was outraged that the agency took this next step with litigation pending and EPA’s inspector general reviewing whether EPA followed laws, regulations and policies in developing its watershed assessment.

“We will continue to fight this unprecedented action by the Agency, and are confident we will prevail,” he said in a statement.

The Climate Guide To Governors

Thinkprogress.org

 

By Tiffany Germain, Guest Contributor and Ryan Koronowski on July 1, 2014

Climate denial runs rampant in the halls of Congress, with over 58 percent of congressional Republicans refusing to accept the reality of basic climate science. A new analysis from the CAP Action War Room reveals that half of America’s Republican governors agree with the anti-science caucus of Congress.

 

Click image to view detailed information on each state.

Click image to view detailed information on each state.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has made it clear through countless meetings with governors and state figures that the only way the new Clean Air Act regulations targeting carbon pollution will work is if the nation’s governors are on board.

Indeed, much of the progress that has already been made to address climate change and begin the switch from fossil fuels to clean energy started in the states. California has been busily implementing its cap-and-trade law, doubly approved by voters in 2010. It’s been going so well that recent auctions have sold out of permits, and its governor, Jerry Brown, is implementing the rest of the law fairly smoothly. California is so far ahead of the rest of the country that when Congress passed the Clean Air Act, it granted special authority to the Golden State so it could adopt even stronger fuel efficiency standards.

RGGI (pronounced “Reggie”) is the cap-and-trade program adopted by nine states in the northeast. Though it stalled at first, a simple correction last year lowered the cap and its last two auctions have been quite successful. This means that as those states seek to comply with the Clean Air Act regulations on power plant carbon pollution once they are finalized, it will be that much easier because their economies have already started to build in a cost of emitting carbon dioxide through RGGI. Most of their governors have taken additional steps to invest in energy efficiency and renewable power sources, but one of them, Maine Governor Paul LePage has denied the reality of climate change and stood in the way of clean energy development. Chris Christie actually pulled his state out of RGGI, and has rejected recent suggestions that rejoining the pact would be the easiest way for businesses to comply with the Clean Air Act carbon rule.

Governors who deny the science behind climate change can do significant damage to our nation’s environmental and public health protections. LePage has claimed that “scientists are divided on the subject,” when in actuality, less than 0.2 percent of published researchers reject global warming. During LePage’s tenure, he has argued that Maine could potentially benefit from the effects of climate change, vetoed legislation that would help the state prepare for extreme weather, and has attempted to dramatically reduce the states renewable energy standards to benefit large corporations. He also tried to sneak through a proposal that would exempt the state from certain anti-smog regulations, undoing protections that have been in place for almost 25 years. These views are wildly unpopular among his constituents –- a 2013 poll found that 85 percent of residents believe climate change is happening and 75 percent believe it’s the government’s responsibility to take action.

Meanwhile, Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) has reiterated time and again that he’s “not afraid” to call himself a climate change denier. Yet his home state has suffered more climate-fueled disasters than any other, with an astounding 58 climate-fueled disaster declarations since just 2011. The ongoing severe and widespread drought has directly impacted the agriculture industry, which is one of the largest in Texas. 2011 was the driest year in state history, causing a record $7.62 billion in agricultural losses.

When asked if he believes in climate change, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) replied “No.” “I have not been convinced.” Yet Florida is one of the first states that will feel the very severe impacts of climate change, as sea-level rise and severe storms threaten to wipe away popular tourist destinations along the coast. In fact, Rolling Stone reported that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has listed Miami as the number-one most vulnerable city worldwide in terms of property damage, with more than $416 billion in assets at risk to storm-related flooding and sea-level rise.

Fossil fuel interests have been funneling millions to Republican governors who are willing to block regulations that could potentially hurt their bottom line. In total, the fifteen governors who have denied climate change have taken $15,013,754 in campaign contributions from oil and gas over the course of their careers, with a large majority of that going to Gov. Perry. Republican governors who haven’t denied climate change have taken only $3,019,123. In contrast, all Democratic governors have taken a total of $1,403,940. That means that over 77 percent of all oil and gas contributions are being funneled to governors who are outspoken about their disbelief in climate science. On average, climate deniers have taken $1,072,397, while the remainder of governors have only taken an average of $126,373.

While the oil and gas industry is able to reap the benefits, local communities and taxpayers are suffering the dire long-term consequences. Combined, the states who are represented by climate deniers have suffered from 167 climate-fueled extreme weather events that required a presidential disaster declaration in 2011 and 2012. This has cost the federal government, and therefore taxpayers, almost $17 billion in cleanup costs.

Now, more than ever, governors will play a critical role in combating the impacts of climate change. While Congress has refused to move forward on any climate action plan, even voting 109 times last year alone to undermine environmental protections, some governors have pushed forward on their own. “Governors see the impacts of climate change first hand, and have a real understanding of the costs related to health, infrastructure, and their state’s economy,” said Ted Strickland, President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and former governor of Ohio.

“If the U.S. is serious about being a leader in addressing climate change and taking advantage of the economic opportunity in clean energy and energy efficiency, it is going to be because states and governors lead the way. The only way the Clean Power Plan is successful is with governors getting on board, as many already have.”

Still, many governors will not be guiding their states to lower greenhouse gas emissions because they aren’t convinced carbon pollution is a bad thing, while actively discouraging strong renewable energy industries in their states.

FDA, EPA Advise Pregnant Women, Children to Eat More Low-Mercury Fish

By Marla Cone and Brian Bienkowski,  Enviromental Health News

 

Federal officials on Tuesday June 10 announced major changes in advice to pregnant and breastfeeding women by recommending consumption of at least eight ounces of low-mercury fish per week.

It is the first time that the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have issued recommendations on the minimum amount of fish that pregnant women and children should eat. The previous advisory, issued in 2004, included only maximum amounts to protect their fetuses and young children from mercury, which can harm developing brains and reduce IQs.

“Eating fish with lower levels of mercury provides numerous health and dietary benefits,” Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s acting assistant administrator for the Office of Water, said in a statement. “This updated advice will help pregnant women and mothers make informed decisions about the right amount and right kinds of fish to eat during important times in their lives and their children’s lives.”

Under the long-awaited, proposed new guidelines, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to eat a minimum of eight ounces and no more than 12 ounces of fish with low levels of methylmercury, including shrimp, pollock, salmon, canned light tuna, tilapia, catfish and cod. That is equivalent to two or three fish servings per week. Young children, according to the advisory, also should have two or three smaller servings of low-mercury fish, or three to six ounces, per week.

RELATED: Inslee Weighs Tenfold Increase in Cancer Risk for Fish Eaters

As in the old recommendations, pregnant and nursing women and young children are advised to avoid four high-mercury fish: tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.

The agencies also reiterated their specific recommendations for limits on albacore (or white) tuna: no more than six ounces a week for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Children, they say, should eat no more than one to four ounces of albacore tuna weekly.

Advice about consumption of tuna has been highly controversial, with the fishing industry criticizing limits and health advocacy groups pushing for the FDA and EPA to add it to the list of fish to avoid.

When asked about high levels of mercury in light tuna, Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s chief scientist, said during a call to reporters on June 10 that the agencies included only four fish on the “do not eat” list because “they have consistently shown higher levels of methylmercury.”

“We will continue to look at levels of methylmercury in a variety of fish and in the future make recommendations about other fish as well,” he said.

Orange roughy and marlin also have slightly higher concentrations than most fish, added Elizabeth Southerland, EPA’s director of the Office of Science and Technology. She said the agencies are asking the public to comment on whether those fish should be added to the list of fish to avoid.

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the FDA and EPA earlier this year, saying that the 2004 advisory was out of date and that women should be advised to eat less mercury-contaminated fish. They also are seeking clearer recommendations and labels that are easier for women to understand. EPA and FDA officials on Tuesday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Environmentalists on Tuesday said they were disappointed by the proposed changes, mostly because of the lack of warning labels on canned tuna.

“Over one-third of American’s exposure to methylmercury is from tuna, because tuna are higher-mercury fish and Americans consume so much,” said Michael Bender, director of the Mercury Policy Project. “Albacore ‘white’ canned tuna generally has three times as much mercury as ‘light’ tuna.  However, Americans consume about three times as much of the light variety. Therefore, each variety—’white’ and ‘light’—contributes a staggering 16 percent of Americans’ dietary exposure.”

Representatives of the fish industry lauded the new advice, saying it “clears the water on outdated seafood guidance for pregnant and breastfeeding women.”

“FDA is working to translate years of important nutrition science into updated advice, and that’s exciting,” Jennifer McGuire of the National Fisheries Institute, which represents seafood companies including Gorton’s Inc. and Bumble Bee Foods, said in a statement. “Expectant moms and health professionals alike have been confused about seafood advice during pregnancy and FDA has begun the process of setting the record straight that fish should be a pregnancy staple.”

The advice can be confusing, since research has found both benefits and dangers to eating fish. Studies have linked pregnant women’s high mercury consumption in seafood to reduced IQs and memories and other neurological effects in their children. The findings are based on two decades of tests of school children in the Faroe Islands, who were highly exposed in the womb through their mother’s consumption of whale meat, as well as several dozen other human studies.

At the same time, research has shown that fish consumption provides vital nutrients, Omega-3 fatty acids and protein, for fetal brain growth, and that children’s IQs increase when their mothers had eaten low-mercury fish.

“We don’t think women would accrue the same benefits in terms of health and development if they were to use supplements in place of fish,” Ostroff said.

FDA officials said their analysis of data from more than 1,000 pregnant women found that 21 percent ate no fish in the previous month. Those who did ate less than the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend.

For wild fish, EPA officials warned recreational and subsistence fishers to follow all local advisories, and if there is no posted advisory, to limit consumption to six ounces per week for women, and one to three ounces for children—with the added precaution to not eat any other fish that week. (A three-ounce piece of fish is about the size of a checkbook.)

Before finalizing the rules, the two agencies plan to hold public meetings and will solicit comments for 30 days.

For the EPA’s and FDA’s specific recommendations for children and women, click here. For a list of fish that the Monterey Aquarium considers safe and sustainable, click here.

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/06/12/fda-epa-advise-pregnant-women-children-eat-more-low-mercury-fish-155264?page=0%2C2