coal fired power plants

A man with a nasty habit of suing the EPA now leads it, because why not?

Congrats, America: We now have a Senate-confirmed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) again. 

Oh, except that administrator is Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who sued the EPA multiple times over what he sees as its overly aggressive environmental regulations. Plus, he denies the mainstream scientific conclusion that human emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of global warming. 

So, there are those little caveats.

SEE ALSO: Exxon’s former CEO is now our secretary of state. So, there’s that.

Pruitt has also questioned the dangers of mercury contamination and other hazardous substances the EPA is in charge of regulating. His record is so one-sided that the Sierra Club calls him simply, “… The most dangerous EPA Administrator in the history of our country.”

Pruitt’s reputation as an agency foe eager to give states more autonomy in regulating air and water pollution, combined with the EPA transition team’s gag order of the agency, has instilled so much fear among the EPA rank-and-file that agency scientists were among the thousands of people calling their senators on Thursday urging them to vote no on the nomination, a rare step for federal employees to take. 

Pruitt, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy secretary nominee Rick Perry, all have expressed views doubting climate science findings, and each of them are in charge of agencies deeply involved with the U.S. response to the global issue.

EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

During his confirmation hearing, Pruitt said he does not quite agree with the vast majority of climate scientists whose work has shown that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. 

“I believe the ability to measure with precision the degree of human activity’s impact on the climate is subject to more debate on whether the climate is changing or whether human activity contributes to it,” he said.

“If you don’t believe in climate science, you don’t belong at the EPA,“ said May Boeve, executive director of the climate advocacy group 350.org, in a statement on Friday. 

What happens now?

Pruitt is expected to try to dismantle large parts of the EPA’s portfolio of regulations and science research put in place under prior presidents, particularly the Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants. Without that plan, the U.S. cannot live up to its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement. 

However, Trump may be poised to pull the U.S. out of that pact entirely, which would make dismantling the Clean Power Plan easier. Trump is also expected to sign executive orders as early as Friday that would begin rolling back the EPA’s climate change work, though it’s easier to order that than it is to actually accomplish it.

Remarkably, Pruitt was confirmed only hours after a judge in Oklahoma ordered the release of nearly 3,000 emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies from his time as attorney general. 

We’d like to congratulate Mr. Pruitt on his confirmation! We look forward to welcoming him to EPA.

— U.S. EPA (@EPA) February 17, 2017

Senators never got a chance to factor those into their decision-making. 

Senate Democrats tried in vain to delay the vote to allow senators to see the emails, which stemmed from a state lawsuit filed by the Center for Media and Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma. Those organizations were concerned about Pruitt’s cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry there. 

Pruitt’s backers, including mainstream Republican groups like FreedomWorks, see him as an administrator to will try to get red tape off the backs of business owners, despite studies showing that the EPA’s regulations don’t stifle job growth.

A 2014 New York Times investigation already established that Pruitt often did favors for the oil and gas industry, particularly for major donors to the Republican Attorneys General Association. These included writing letters to lawmakers and the EPA seeking regulatory changes.

In the end, Pruitt won confirmation narrowly, on a 52 to 46 vote, garnering the most "no” votes of any EPA nominee since the agency was founded in 1970. 

BONUS: NASA timelapse shows just how quickly our Arctic sea ice is disappearing

anonymous asked:

is it too late to start trying to stop the effects of climate change? what can i do to help? what is the biggest issue that is leading to global warming? would using renewable energy make a difference? and what are countries around the world doing to help?? i'm sorry to ask so much, but climate change and the earth are important issues for me!! thank you for this opportunity!

Published scientific research shows that carbon pollution from cars, power plants, deforestation, and other human activities cause climate change. Research and practice also shows that existing behaviors and technology can reduce climate change and limit the damage to nature and human well-being. The countries of the world agreed in 1997 to reduce the carbon pollution from cars, power plants, deforestation, and other human activities that causes climate change. Solar, wind, and other types of renewable energy use the natural energy of the sun and wind and produce almost no pollution. In California, USA, renewable energy now provides one-fifth of all electricity. In 2016, the amount of renewable energy capacity added around the world could replace the equivalent of 640 coal-fired power plants. You can do your part by walking, biking, taking public transit, recycling, and anything else that can reduce waste and improve energy efficiency.


5

People’s Climate March across the U.S.

Thousands of people across the U.S. are marching on President Donald Trump’s hundredth day in office to demand action on climate change.

In Washington, D.C., large crowds on Saturday made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue in sweltering heat. They planned to encircle the White House.

Organizers say about 300 other protest marches are expected around the country.

Participants in the Peoples Climate March say they’re objecting to Trump’s rollback of restrictions on mining, oil drilling and greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants, among other things. (AP)

(Photos: Mike Theiler/Reuters, Marc Piscotty/Getty Images, Astrid Riecken/Getty Images, Mary Altaffer/AP, Mike Theiler/Reuters)

See more photos from the protests on Yahoo News.

U.S. withdrawing from Paris climate agreement, Trump announces

President Trump said Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement to reduce greenhouse gases because it would cost American jobs, but he added a signature Trump condition: that he would be willing to renegotiate the agreement on more favorable terms.

“I don’t want anything to get in our way. I am fighting every day for the great people of our country.  Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” he said.

But he quickly added a caveat that the United States would also seek to re-enter the agreement — or some other treaty — on terms that were more favorable to American workers. “So were getting out, but we’ll start to negotiate, and well see if we can make a deal that’s fair,” he said.

Trump complained that other countries had attached too many conditions to their voluntary agreements to reduce carbon emissions. China, for example, said it would begin reducing emissions in 2030 — meaning they could continue to build coal-fired power plants every year until then. “In short, the agreement doesn’t eliminate coal jobs, it just takes coal jobs out of the United States and ship them to other countries,” he said.

Smoke billows from stacks as a Chinese woman walks near a coal-fired power plant in Shanxi, China. A history of heavy dependence on burning coal for energy has made the country the source of nearly a third of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, the toxic pollutants widely cited by scientists and environmentalists as the primary cause of global warming.

Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

nytimes.com
In Beijing, and Washington, a Breath of Foul Air
The Republican crusade against 50 years of environmental regulation is an attack on public health and prosperity.
By Richard Conniff

Excerpt:

The disingenuous logic of this attack on bedrock environmental law is that clean air is a costly job killer and drives manufacturers overseas. But almost all studies of offshoring have found that domestic companies move abroad for a host of other reasons — mainly lower wages, tax avoidance and easier access to international markets. The cost of environmental regulations typically ranks far down the list.

The cost to business is in any case a secondary issue, as anyone struggling to breathe on the streets of Beijing quickly discovers. The more important costs are the ones the public pays, which are deeply personal, and often permanent: Air pollution kills an estimated 4,400 people every day in China — and, even with our existing regulations, 548 people a day in the United States, according to a 2013 M.I.T. study.

Among the E.P.A. measures the Trump administration wants to roll back is the Clean Power Plan, aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants, which would shift production to gas-fired plants — and incidentally save American lives by further reducing fine particle pollution. The new fuel economy standards for the auto industry would cut gas costs for drivers and clean up the transportation sector that is now this country’s single largest polluter.

E.P.A. regulations make economic sense for two important reasons industry lobbyists (and their hired politicians) overlook when they stage their sky-is-falling complaints about cost. First, the new rules typically drive advances in technology and efficiency, making cost-effective what formerly seemed impossible. The result isn’t a job exodus; it’s a reshuffling, with productivity falling at coal-fired power plants, for instance, but rising at gas-fired power plants. Second, antipollution regulations move us away from the illogical idea that the unsuspecting public at large should pay the cost of pollution. Instead, that cost gets shifted onto the polluters themselves 

Former West Virginia Miner: We’ve Been Dumping Those Chemicals In The Water For Decades

When up to 7,500 gallons of toxic 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia, leaving 300,000 people without tap water for around a week, former miner Joe Stanley was well prepared. He hadn’t been drinking the water for years.

Stanley, 64, worked at West Virginia’s Marrowbone Coal Mine from 1981 to 1996. His employer was Massey Energy, the same company responsible for the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in 2010 that killed 29 miners and which was bought out in 2011.

Stanley says he lost his job after a conflict with management, when he, as union president, demanded an inquiry into certain chemicals that were being used in the mine. He claims that mine workers, particularly electricians and pinners, were getting sick.

Decades later, the truth is hard to determine; however, we’re more interested in his bleak outlook on pollution.

“I watched the coal industry poison our water for years. Now they’re telling us not to drink the water? We’ve been dumping this stuff into unlined ponds and into old mines for years,” he says. “This MCHM was just one of the chemicals we were told was highly toxic but that we dumped into old mine shafts and slurry ponds, and it’s been seeping into the groundwater for years.”

It sounds bad even before Stanley explains that coal mines are constantly pumped to clear ground water, aquifers, and underground streams: “As soon as we’re out of that mine it immediately fills with water. And where does it go from there? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine.”

“I haven’t drank the water here in years, and I suggest you do the same,” he says, pausing and then reiterating. “Don’t drink the water. Just don’t do it.”

There’s plenty of evidence to support Stanley’s claims.

An Environmental Protection Agency assessment last year identified 132 cases where coal-fired power plant waste has damaged rivers, streams and lakes, and 123 where it has tainted underground water sources, according to an AP investigation by Dina Cappiello and Seth Borenstein. Nearly three quarters of the 1,727 coal mines in the U.S. have not been inspected in five years to see if they are following water pollution laws, according to the same investigation, which cites these and other alarming findings about coal pollution.

Those numbers don’t even include pollution by companies in related industries, like Freedom Industries, the chemical company behind this month’s spill of coal-cleaning solvent MCHM.

Even West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has expressed uncertainty about water quality after the spill.

“It’s your decision,” Gov. Tomblin told reporters at a press conference on Monday. “If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking with this water then use bottled water. I’m not going to say absolutely, 100 percent that everything is safe. But what I can say is if you do not feel comfortable, don’t use it.”

Yet bringing up environmental concerns is a good way to make enemies in coal-dependent West Virginia, as Stanley knows.

“I’ve had threats, sure,” he says. “But I’ve got some friends and they look out for me.”

As an illustration of what he’s been up against Stanley grabs a sign that says “SAVE COAL, END THE EPA.” A campaign sign for leading local Republican Senate candidate Pat McGeehan, that kind of outlook wins a lot of votes in this region.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/mchm-is-nothing-new-in-our-water-2014-1#ixzz2rLBxOf3N

59th annual World Press Photo Contest

First place  – daily life singles:  Canadian photographer Kevin Frayer for this image of a Chinese man pulling a cart in a neighborhood next to a coal-fired power plant in Shanxi, China, on Nov. 26, 2015.