Tag Archives: agency

Congress might allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In parts of the United Kingdom Monday morning, people woke up to a blood-red sun — a phenomenon seen around the globe this year.

The color was caused by smoke that blew in from wildfires across Portugal and Spain. Hurricane Ophelia deepened the reddish hue by dragging up dust from the Sahara.

Red skies have haunted the western U.S. recently as wildfires burned in Montana and ash rained down in Seattle. This month in Northern California, 20,000 people evacuated from massive wildfires under a red-orange sky.

Anadolu Agency / Contributor / Getty Images

On the other side of the world, wildfires burned in Siberia all summer long, covering the sun with enormous clouds of smoke and ash.

REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

To understand why this happens, you need to know a bit of optics. Sun rays contain light from the whole visible spectrum. As the sun’s white light beams into the atmosphere, it collides with molecules that diffuse some of the wavelengths. On a normal day, short wavelength colors, like purple and blue, are filtered out, making the sun look yellow.

But high concentrations of light-scattering molecules in the air (like smoke particles from a wildfire) crowd out more of those short-wavelength colors, leaving behind that hellish red color.

Since climate change makes wildfires worse, we’ll be seeing a lot more of it.

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Congress might allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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Trump promised ‘tremendous cutting’ at the EPA. We’re beginning to see what that looks like.

An AP reporter visited seven sites on Thursday, and found that all were underwater.

One site, the Highlands Acid Pit, Jason Dearen writes, was barely visible above the churning San Jacinto River, and “the air smelled bitter.” Nearby, “a pair of tall white tanks had tipped over into a heap of twisted steel.” At the San Jacinto River Waste Pits — which are full of dioxins and other hazardous substances — “the flow from the raging river washing over the toxic site was so intense it damaged an adjacent section of the Interstate 10 bridge.”

The EPA later confirmed that, using satellite imagery to check a total of 41 Superfund sites, 13 had flooded. Employees had begun inspections on Monday for damage and possible contamination, but have yet to release any findings. The agency also, bizarrely, put out a statement calling the AP’s story “incredibly misleading” and “inaccurate” — without contradicting any of its facts.

An Obama-era EPA report found Superfund sites are threatened by stronger storms, flooding, and sea-level rise. New EPA director Scott Pruitt has said he wants to double down on Superfund cleanup efforts — and that’s despite Trump’s “skinny budget” proposing significant cuts to the remediation program.

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Trump promised ‘tremendous cutting’ at the EPA. We’re beginning to see what that looks like.

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Wildfires are raging across California, too.

An AP reporter visited seven sites on Thursday, and found that all were underwater.

One site, the Highlands Acid Pit, Jason Dearen writes, was barely visible above the churning San Jacinto River, and “the air smelled bitter.” Nearby, “a pair of tall white tanks had tipped over into a heap of twisted steel.” At the San Jacinto River Waste Pits — which are full of dioxins and other hazardous substances — “the flow from the raging river washing over the toxic site was so intense it damaged an adjacent section of the Interstate 10 bridge.”

The EPA later confirmed that, using satellite imagery to check a total of 41 Superfund sites, 13 had flooded. Employees had begun inspections on Monday for damage and possible contamination, but have yet to release any findings. The agency also, bizarrely, put out a statement calling the AP’s story “incredibly misleading” and “inaccurate” — without contradicting any of its facts.

An Obama-era EPA report found Superfund sites are threatened by stronger storms, flooding, and sea-level rise. New EPA director Scott Pruitt has said he wants to double down on Superfund cleanup efforts — and that’s despite Trump’s “skinny budget” proposing significant cuts to the remediation program.

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Wildfires are raging across California, too.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit on Friday to get the agency to say how it plans to handle Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. Pruitt is now in charge of enforcing rules that he tried to unravel with numerous lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination,” Becerra said in a statement.

In April, Becerra filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request for documents tied to Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest and efforts to follow federal ethics laws. Generally, agencies must respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, though they have some wiggle room. But four months later, the EPA has yet to turn over anything.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency had twice told Becerra’s office they were working on assembling the documents. She said the lawsuit was “draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment.”

The suit from the Golden State is just part of the legal backlash Pruitt’s staring down: He’s already been sued over ozone regulations and the suspension of methane restrictions for new oil and gas wells.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

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More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi.

According to a new study from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the current presidential administration has collected fewer civil penalties and filed fewer environmental enforcement suits against polluting companies than the Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations did at the same point in office.

The analysis assesses agreements made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement cases. For abuses under laws like the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, a drop of 60 percent from the average of the other administrations. Trump’s EPA has lodged 26 environmental lawsuits compared to 31, 34, and 45 by Bush, Obama, and Clinton, respectively.

The marked decrease in enforcement likely has to do with the EPA’s deregulatory agenda. Since confirmed, administrator Scott Pruitt has systematically tried to knock out key environmental regulations, especially those created during Obama’s tenure.

The Project notes that its assessment is only of a six-month period, so future enforcement could catch Trump up to his predecessors. Or he’ll continue to look the other way.

“I’ve seen the pendulum swing,” said Bruce Buckheit, who worked in EPA enforcement under Clinton and then Bush, “but never as far as what appears to be going on today.”

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More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi.

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It’s ‘Energy Week.’ Here’s how Trump could convince America to care.

On Monday, 38 of the EPA’s research advisers found out that their terms, set to end in August, would not be renewed.

One of them is Elena Craft, a senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It creates a huge void in terms of scientific capacity,” Craft told Grist. “Systematically gutting these committees is essentially cutting off access to some of the greatest science advisers really in the world.”

The purge will leave 11 members on the Board of Scientific Counselors’ subcommittees. The latest move follows sweeping cuts to federal agencies in April. The empty seats on the EPA’s advisory board are expected to be filled with a more industry-friendly bunch.

Craft said that after the announcement, Robert Kavlock, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s research arm, told the advisers in a phone call that he expected the board to pay less attention to climate change.

The board of experts has counseled the EPA on its research programs for two decades. Last year, the board’s subcommittees recommended that the agency work on engaging with communities in its clean-air programs and investigate environmental risks from toxic chemicals. All this advice comes free of charge.

“For an agency that is slated to have its budget cut fairly significantly, cutting out all of the free labor and free help doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” Craft said.

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It’s ‘Energy Week.’ Here’s how Trump could convince America to care.

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

In seemingly choreographed lockstep with President Trump’s revelation that the U.S. would exit the Paris Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday a buyout program to begin the process of cutting its staffing levels. 

According to an internal memo from Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn (not that Mike Flynn), the EPA’s offer encourages “voluntary separations” that would cause “minimal disruption to the workforce.”

The workforce was plenty disrupted, however, by the budget proffered earlier this year by the Trump administration. It basically suggests taking a blowtorch to the agency — proposing a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of 3,200 out of the EPA’s 15,000 jobs.

The proposed buyout will cost $12 million, and will first have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The agency hopes to complete the cuts by September.

If approved, the buyouts may be popular. After Trump was elected, some EPA career staff cried, others set up rogue Twitter accounts, some quit, and others just waited anxiously for what would come next. Now we know: The newly arrived EPA honchos are sharpening their knives.

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

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Europe is going all in for batteries.

Though the official release is planned for Tuesday, leaked versions of the 2018 budget proposal show dramatic funding cuts for environmental programs — even those supported by the president’s own party.

The budget, which still needs congressional approval, would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 35 percent. It also slashes funding for cleanup programs like Superfund, but adds cash for water infrastructure.

After submitting an original budget blueprint, the Trump administration faced backlash from Democrats and environmental groups about the drastic cuts. But Republicans are wary of what President Trump might propose, too.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska, has said she opposes the elimination of programs like Energy Star and ARPA-E, which funds energy technology research. Both were cut in the draft budget. Republicans have also defended regional water programs that Trump proposed cutting.

Murkowski, along with five other Republican senators, urged Trump to set aside money for the Department of Energy’s research in a May 18 letter. “Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year,” they wrote.

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Europe is going all in for batteries.

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In 2002, the IEA Predicted Solar Was Going Nowhere. And in 2003. And 2004. And 2005…

Mother Jones

Every year the International Energy Agency publishes the World Energy Outlook, which, among other things, forecasts the growth rate of solar PV installations. The 2016 edition even included a whole “special focus” on renewable energy. Presumably this means they took an extra careful look at their solar PV forecast. Here it is:

That looks…odd, doesn’t it? Solar PV has grown at a pretty fast clip over the past decade, but the IEA assumes the growth rate will suddenly level out starting this year and then start to decline. And this is their optimistic scenario that takes into account pledges made in Paris.

What can we make of this? Auke Hoekstra provides some context:

Every single year, the IEA projects that solar is a passing fad and its growth rate will level out that year. And every single year, solar continues to grow anyway. But the next year the IEA makes the exact same forecast. It’s almost as if they have some kind of hidden agenda here.

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In 2002, the IEA Predicted Solar Was Going Nowhere. And in 2003. And 2004. And 2005…

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Macron Campaign Hit With "Massive and Coordinated" Hacking Attack

Mother Jones

<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd”>

A massive trove of documents purporting to contain thousands of emails and other files from the campaign of Emmanuel Macron—the French centrist candidate squaring off against right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen—was posted on the internet Friday afternoon. The Macron campaign says that at least some of the documents are fake. The document dump came just over a day before voting is set to begin in the final round of the election and mere hours before candidates are legally required to stop campaigning.

At about 2:35 p.m. ET, a post appeared on the 4chan online message board announcing the leak. The documents appear to include emails, internal memos, and screenshots of purported banking records.

“In this pastebin are links to torrents of emails between Macron, his team and other officials, politicians as well as original documents and photos,” the anonymous 4chan poster wrote. “This was passed on to me today so now I am giving it to you, the people. The leak is massvie and released in the hopes that the human search engine here will be able to start sifting through the contents and figure out exactly what we have here.”

The Macron campaign issued a statement Friday night saying it was the victim of a “massive and coordinated” hacking attack. That campaign said the leak included some fake documents that were intended “to sow doubt and misinformation.”

The Macron camp compared the document dump to last year’s hacking of emails associated with Hillary Clinton. The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia was responsible for the Clinton hacks. “This operation is obviously a democratic destabilization as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” the Macron statement said.

The timing of the leak is particularly noteworthy. Under French law, candidates and their campaigns cannot speak to the media or do anything in public in the 24 hours before the start of Sunday’s election. The Macron campaign’s statement was issued three minutes before the deadline.

It’s unclear when the files originally appeared on the internet. The official Twitter account for WikiLeaks—the group that released the Clinton emails last year—tweeted a link to a page where the Macron data was hosted at 1:13 p.m. ET.

“Fully analyzing the hacked documents to verify that they are genuine will take some time, but from what I’ve seen so far, it looks very serious,” said Matt Tait, a former information security specialist for the GCHQ (the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency) and CEO of Capital Alpha Security.

In February, Macron said he had evidence his campaign had “suffered repeated and multiple attacks from hackers” and that “many come from Ukraine.” At the time, the Macron campaign blamed the Russian government for the attacks, a claim the Kremlin denied. The campaign suspected the attacks were coming their way because of Macron’s tough stance on Russia. Le Pen, on the other hand, has taken a much more favorable stance toward Russia.

Earlier on Friday, according to the New York Times, the Le Pen campaign claimed in a statement that its campaign website had been the victim of “regular and targeted” attacks, and that a hacker “close to extreme-left circles” had been arrested.

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Macron Campaign Hit With "Massive and Coordinated" Hacking Attack

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