Tag Archives: protection

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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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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Trump Finally Admits He Has No Health Care Plan

Mother Jones

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President Trump has been promising a health care plan for months now. But when will we have it? Let’s roll the tape:

January 15:It’s very much formulated down to the final strokes. We haven’t put it in quite yet but we’re going to be doing it soon.”

February 5: “I would like to say by the end of the year at least the rudiments but we should have something within the year and the following year.”

February 16: “We’re doing Obamacare, we’re in the final stages. So, we will be submitting sometime in early March, mid-March.

February 27:We have come up with a solution that’s really, really, I think, very good.”

So we’ve gone from immediately to 2018 to mid-March to all done. Today, however, Politico reports that in reality, Trump has no plan at all: “His team has signaled to House Speaker Paul Ryan that they will embrace his health care bill next week, and aides hoped to get a marked-up bill ready.”

Since the House bill is apparently what we’re going to get, it’s worth repeating something I wrote a few months ago. After describing both Obamacare and Ryancare in broad strokes, I noted that their foundations were basically the same:

If you haven’t yet noticed what this all means, let me spell it out. The key parts of Obamacare and Ryan’s plan are the same. They both (a) rely on private insurance, (b) require insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, (c) encourage people to buy insurance continuously by penalizing them if they don’t, (d) provide billions of dollars in federal subsidies to make insurance affordable for low-income households, and (e) rely on Medicaid for the very poorest.

As liberals have been pointing out forever, any kind of health care plan has to have three parts:

Protection for pre-existing conditions at a reasonable price, so everyone has access to insurance.
Some kind of incentive for everyone to buy insurance, so insurance companies have plenty of healthy people to balance out the sick people.
Subsidies so that poor people can afford coverage.

Sure enough, Ryancare has all those things, just like Obamacare. There are differences in the details, but those don’t matter very much. What does matter is the difference in cost. Obamacare provides subsidies of about $100 billion per year, while Ryancare provides…something much less. We don’t know exactly how much less yet, but certainly less than half of Obamacare, maybe as little as a quarter. This is what makes Ryancare useless, not its overall structure, which is fairly workable. The working poor and the working class can only barely afford insurance even with Obamacare’s subsidies. They won’t come close with Ryancare’s.

But the rich will get a big tax cut, and the middle class will get a nice break on their health insurance. In short order, however, interstate deregulation will almost certainly lead to individual insurance becoming all but useless, and the individual insurance market will probably collapse fairly soon after that. Alternatively, it might collapse even before Ryancare goes into effect, as insurers bail out on Obamacare (why bother with it if it’s just going away soon?) and conclude that they can’t make money on Ryancare either.

See? It’s not so complicated after all. I imagine this is what Paul Ryan has wanted all along.

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Trump Finally Admits He Has No Health Care Plan

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The President Is Determined to Be Presidential

Mother Jones

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The New York Times tells us about President Trump’s TV strategy:

One West Wing official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about strategy, said the administration craved the split-screen television images of Mr. Trump at round-table discussions with business executives every few days on one side, and the vehement protesters of his administration on the other.

This sounds right. Trump seems to believe that sitting around a table with powerful business executives is “presidential.” It’s basically a child’s idea of what a president looks like. So that’s what he does. I don’t think it’s even cynical image manipulation on his part. He really does think this is what makes a president presidential.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have this:

A day before delivering a high-stakes address on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Trump will demand a budget with tens of billions of dollars in reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, according to four senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plan. Social safety net programs, aside from the big entitlement programs for retirees, would also be hit hard.

This is obviously the work of Mike Pence and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney more than it is of Trump himself, but Trump will nonetheless be the master showman selling this plan. It’s also more symbolic than anything else, but it’s symbolism that matters since it means Trump is signaling that he’s willing to go along with Paul Ryan’s feverish devotion to cutting spending on the poor. We already know that Trump is also eager to cut taxes on the rich, so it appears he and Ryan are entirely on the same page. The next few months promise to be bloody.

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The President Is Determined to Be Presidential

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US Customs Agents Just Gave Airlines the Green Light to Ignore Trump’s "Muslim Ban"

Mother Jones

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(Reuters) – U.S. Customs & Border Protection has informed U.S. airlines that they can once again board travelers who had been barred by an executive order last week, after it was blocked nationwide on Friday by a federal judge in Seattle, an airline official told Reuters.

In a conference call at around 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT), the U.S. agency told airlines to operate just as they had before the order, which temporarily had stopped refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Individuals from those states who have proper visas can now board U.S.-bound flights, and airlines are working to update their websites to reflect the change, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

(Reporting By Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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US Customs Agents Just Gave Airlines the Green Light to Ignore Trump’s "Muslim Ban"

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$1 million will buy you a hunting trip with the Trumps.

That’s according to a Reuters investigation that analyzed blood tests from state health departments and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 1,100 of those communities have lead levels four times as high as those observed in Flint.

Nationwide, the exposure could be much higher: Data was only available for 21 states, accounting for 61 percent of the U.S. population.

The CDC estimates that 2.5 percent of children across in the United States have at least slightly elevated levels of lead, which can lead to lowered IQs, developmental delays, and learning difficulties, as well as miscarriage and premature birth. The local water supply is frequently the source of lead, but some communities are additionally plagued by industrial waste, lead paint, and lead pipes.

On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump vowed to address the nation’s crumbling infrastructure — including the lead crisis — but many of his cabinet picks have a history of combating legislation that protect public health.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, sued that very agency for using the Clean Water Act to prosecute waterway polluters. According to Pruitt, the Act threatens the “property rights of the average American.” He didn’t mention their brains.

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$1 million will buy you a hunting trip with the Trumps.

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Carl Icahn, a billionaire critic of the EPA, is helping Trump shape it.

The well-known investor is reportedly one of the most influential advisers to President-elect Donald Trump as he considers candidates to run the Environmental Protection Agency.

Icahn has interviewed several candidates for the job in the last week, according to the Wall Street Journal. Icahn confirmed that one top contender is Jeff Holmstead, an assistant EPA administrator during the George W. Bush administration and who was, until a few weeks ago, a registered lobbyist for fossil-fuel companies. Other top candidates reportedly include Kathleen Hartnett White, former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general.

Icahn has more than a passing interest in the EPA. He has a controlling interest in CVR Energy, whose CEO has said that EPA regulations could cost the company an estimated $200 million this year, according to the WSJ. CVR is in the business of refining petroleum and manufacturing nitrogen fertilizer.

Trump campaigned on promises to “drain the swamp” of special interests surrounding the White House. So far, he’s shown a knack for surrounding himself with Wall Street insiders, super-wealthy investors like Icahn, and other Masters of the Universe.

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Carl Icahn, a billionaire critic of the EPA, is helping Trump shape it.

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Court’s CFPB Ruling Is Part of a Dangerous Trend

Mother Jones

Conservatives are thrilled about yesterday’s court decision regarding the CFPB. Here’s Iain Murray:

In a rare victory for the Constitution and American political tradition, the US Court of Appeals from the DC Circuit today found that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was “structurally unconstitutional.” The offending structure consists of an independent agency with a single, all-powerful executive director. The Court found that structure fell between two stools — an agency with a single head needs to be accountable to the President, while an independent agency needs to have internal checks and balances by having a multi-member commission format like the SEC and others.

This judgment echoes the arguments the Competitive Enterprise Institute and its co-plaintiffs have been making in a separate court case, where my colleague Hans Bader argued, “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s lack of checks and balances violates the Constitution’s separation of powers. Its director is like a czar. He is not accountable to anyone, and can’t be fired even if voters elect a president with different ideas about how to protect consumers.

There’s no telling if this ruling will hold up on appeal, but if it does, the CFPB director will now serve at the pleasure of the president. This means that President Trump could fire Jeopardy champion Richard Cordray and instead install Apprentice champion Omarosa to oversee America’s financial industry. Luckily, it appears we will be spared that indignity.

I don’t expect this ruling to have a big impact in real life. Basically, it means that a new president will be able to install a new CFPB director immediately instead of having to wait a year or two for the old one to finish out her term. In the long run that’s likely to have a neutral effect on party control of the bureau. As for being able to fire the director without cause, that’s mostly hemmed in by political considerations anyway.

At a practical level, then, I don’t have much heartburn over this. On a more abstract level, though, it represents a disturbing trend from conservatives. In this case, their real problem with the CFPB is that they don’t want to regulate the financial industry at all. Likewise, their problem with Obamacare is that they don’t want to provide poor people with health coverage. Their problem with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is that they hate regulations that offend their business backers.

But conservatives can’t go to court on those grounds, and there’s nothing obviously illegal or unconstitutional about any of these liberal initiatives. So instead they contrive some other hair-splitting argument. The CFPB is too independent. The individual mandate violates a shiny new constitutional doctrine custom built just for Obamacare. The Clean Power Plan uses the wrong interpretation of the word “system.” These arguments vary in their legitimacy, but that hardly matters. Their goal is not legal brilliance. Their goal is to provide conservative justices with a facade they can use to overturn liberal legislation.

And it works, because these days conservative justices treat hot button cases—and, tellingly, only hot button cases—as a way to enforce their political opinions when they can’t do so through the ballot box. This is not a healthy trend.

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Court’s CFPB Ruling Is Part of a Dangerous Trend

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Republicans Pretend They Want More Powerful Bank Oversight

Mother Jones

Oh man, this is rich. Here is wingnut Rep. Jeb Hensarling griping about the fact that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau didn’t find out about the Well Fargo scandal sooner:

“Why does it take the L.A. Times to break this story, when we’re paying federal investigators to investigate?” Hensarling recently told Fox Business Network.

“Where was the CFPB? Why did they come in so late to the game?” he continued. “They have immense powers and this is their job to enforce these basic consumer laws and it appears they were asleep at the switch.” Hensarling also has criticized regulators for the $185-million settlement with the bank, which allowed Wells Fargo to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.

If Hensarling had his way, the CFPB would be eliminated and Wells Fargo might well have escaped from the whole affair unscathed. Now he’s pretending that he thinks the CFPB is too weak. Sen. Sherrod Brown has it right:

“Hensarling reminds me of the kid who kills his parents and then wants to collect orphan benefits,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the CFPB’s biggest backers. “He’s tried to underfund it. He’s tried to undercut. He’s done all he could to block bank regulations.”

Make up your mind, Jeb. Do you want the CFPB to more powerful or less powerful? You can only have it one way.

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Republicans Pretend They Want More Powerful Bank Oversight

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Harley-Davidson is officially a clear air outlaw

Bad to the ozone

Harley-Davidson is officially a clear air outlaw

By on Aug 19, 2016Share

If you’ve ever wondered why a flock of motorcycles smells like a smog bomb made love to a junkyard, the secret is out. This week, Harley-Davidson agreed to pay $12 million in fines to the Environmental Protection Agency for evading clean air laws.

From 2008 to 2015, Harley-Davidson sold a device called a Screamin’ Eagle engine tuner (available in regular and pro variety), which allowed anyone to hack into their Hog’s emissions control software and dial it back to the simpler times of the 1950’s, when the kids were all excited about a hot new dance craze called the Twist, and America’s major cities were blanketed in a thick gray haze of Beijing-level air pollution.

As part of the settlement, Harley is required to stop making the tuners, to buy back and destroy all the ones currently for sale, and to spend $3 million on an as-yet-unspecified special project to reduce air pollution.

It’s no coincidence that Harley-Davidson was busted so soon after the Volkswagen emissions scandal, with the EPA taking a closer look at the so-called defeat devices auto companies have used to cheat emissions tests.

Odds are good that Harley’s won’t be the only wheels on the road that will be forced to clean up their act.

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Harley-Davidson is officially a clear air outlaw

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