Trump makes America polluted again

It’s difficult to see how bad the Trump administration has been on the environment until you see a complete list like the NY Times has put together. It’s a list of 78 rules that have either been revoked or are in the process of being revoked. None of the rules by themselves are too terrible but put them together and you get:

All told, the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks could lead to at least 80,000 extra deaths per decade and cause respiratory problems for more than one million people, according to a separate analysis conducted by researchers from Harvard. That number, however, is likely to be “a major underestimate of the global public health impact,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health.

It might lead to an extra 8000 deaths a year, but it also might lead to higher corporate profits so who’s to say if it’s bad. Ok, I do.

Yeah, global warming is real

Donald Trump is being stupid again (or is that still) on Twitter:

Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?

And there’s no hunger in the world since I just ate lunch. Also, his government just released a report:

A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the U.S. economy by century’s end.

The report, which was mandated by Congress and made public by the White House, is notable not only for the precision of its calculations and bluntness of its conclusions, but also because its findings are directly at odds with President Donald Trump’s agenda of environmental deregulation, which he asserts will spur economic growth.

Trump has taken aggressive steps to allow more planet-warming pollution from vehicle tailpipes and power plant smokestacks, and has vowed to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, under which nearly every country in the world pledged to cut carbon emissions.

The report puts the most precise price tags to date on the cost to the U.S. economy of projected climate impacts: $141 billion from heat-related deaths, $118 billion from sea level rise and $32 billion from infrastructure damage by the end of the century, among others.

For some reason, President Trump didn’t tweet about the report. He ignores stuff that doesn’t reinforce his worldview.

Goodbye to the EPA

Science is bad for Republicans because it can show that things are true that interfere with the ability for businesses to do whatever they want, such as showing global warming is real. Therefore, they get rid of science:

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor, a senior post that was created to counsel the EPA administrator on the scientific research underpinning health and environmental regulations, according to a person familiar with the agency’s plans.

The move is the latest among several steps taken by the Trump administration that appear to have diminished the role of scientific research in policy making while the administration pursues an agenda of rolling back regulations.

Separately Tuesday, in an unusual move, the EPA placed the head of its Office of Children’s Health, Dr. Ruth Etzel, on administrative leave, while declining to give a reason for the move. Agency officials told Etzel, a respected pediatric epidemiologist, that the move was not disciplinary. As the head of an office that regularly pushed to tighten regulations on pollution, which can affect children more powerfully than adults, Etzel had clashed multiple times with Trump administration appointees who sought to loosen pollution rules.

Republicans really want to get rid of the EPA but it’s popular so instead they just get rid of it piece by piece.

Melting

The five warmest years since 1880 have taken place since 2010 so at some point the Antarctic will really start melting and that point is getting closer:

Antarctica, the planet’s largest ice sheet, lost 219 billion tons of ice annually from 2012 through 2017 – approximately triple the 73 billion ton melt rate of a decade ago, the scientists concluded. From 1992 through 1997, Antarctica lost 49 billion tons of ice annually.

Finally, the largest part of the continent, East Antarctica, has remained more stable and didn’t contribute much ice to the ocean during the period of study, the assessment says. However, in the last five years, it too has begun to lose ice, perhaps as much as 28 billion tons per year, although the uncertainty surrounding this number remains high.

Good thing it’s all a hoax according to Trump.

DeVos likes scammers more than students, Pruitt worries more about bad press than people being poisoned

You find out something terrible from the Trump administration every day. I was going to write about this story about Betsy DeVos yesterday but didn’t get around to it:

Members of a special team at the Education Department that had been investigating widespread abuses by for-profit colleges have been marginalized, reassigned or instructed to focus on other matters, according to current and former employees.

The unwinding of the team has effectively killed investigations into possibly fraudulent activities at several large for-profit colleges where top hires of Betsy DeVos, the education secretary, had previously worked.

During the final months of the Obama administration, the team had expanded to include a dozen or so lawyers and investigators who were looking into advertising, recruitment practices and job placement claims at several institutions, including DeVry Education Group.

The investigation into DeVry ground to a halt early last year. Later, in the summer, Ms. DeVos named Julian Schmoke, a former dean at DeVry, as the team’s new supervisor.

The sheer gall involved is amazing but there’s no time to dwell on it because there’s more of the same today:

Scott Pruitt’s EPA and the White House sought to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a “public relations nightmare,” newly disclosed emails reveal.

The intervention early this year — not previously disclosed — came as HHS’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was preparing to publish its assessment of a class of toxic chemicals that has contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.

The study would show that the chemicals endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe, according to the emails.

and here’s why it was blocked:

“The public, media, and Congressional reaction to these numbers is going to be huge,” one unidentified White House aide said in an email forwarded on Jan. 30 by James Herz, a political appointee who oversees environmental issues at the OMB. The email added: “The impact to EPA and [the Defense Department] is going to be extremely painful. We (DoD and EPA) cannot seem to get ATSDR to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”

Yes, they’re more concerned about the political impact than, ya know, people being poisoned.

These are horrible stories but you’re not going to hear about them too much because there will be more tomorrow and pretty every day.

The centennial of the MBTA

2018 is the hundredth year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act:

The 1918 law was enacted after several species of common birds became extinct; the Audubon Society and other organizations named 2018 the year of the bird in honor of the MBTA’s centennial.

And this is how the Trump administration celebrates it:

In an opinion issued Wednesday to federal wildlife police who enforce the rule, the Interior Department said “the take [killing] of birds resulting from an activity is not prohibited by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when the underlying purpose of that activity is not to take birds.” For example, the guidance said, a person who destroys a structure such as a barn knowing that it is full of baby owls in nests is not liable for killing them. “All that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of barn owls as its purpose,” the opinion said.

So an oil company can leave an oil waste pit uncovered and not be punished even if it kills thousands of birds per year. I guess this better be the year of the bird, because if the Trump administration has anything to say about it there won’t be nearly as many birds in the future.

Trump’s other Katrina

Not long ago, I posted about how badly things are going in Puerto Rico. It seems the Trump administration didn’t do much better in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey:

Nearly half a billion gallons of industrial wastewater mixed with storm water surged out of just one chemical plant in Baytown, east of Houston on the upper shores of Galveston Bay.

Benzene, vinyl chloride, butadiene and other known human carcinogens were among the dozens of tons of industrial toxins released into surrounding neighborhoods and waterways following Harvey’s torrential rains.

In all, reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and in the air. Most were never publicized, and in the case of two of the biggest ones, the extent or potential toxicity of the releases was initially understated.

and in some ways, the response was worse than after Katrina:

The amount of post-Harvey government testing contrasts sharply with what happened after two other major Gulf Coast hurricanes. After Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, state regulators collected 85 sediment samples to measure the contamination; more than a dozen violations were identified and cleanups were carried out, according to a state review.

In Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters ravaged New Orleans in 2005, the EPA and Louisiana officials examined about 1,800 soil samples over 10 months, EPA records showed.

“Now the response is completely different,” said Scott Frickel, an environmental sociologist formerly at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Frickel, now at Brown University, called the Harvey response “unconscionable” given Houston’s exponentially larger industrial footprint.

The state of Texas didn’t want to be trumped (sorry) by the federal government lack of action, so:

As Harvey bore down on Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration decreed that storm-related pollution would be forgiven as “acts of God.” Days later, he suspended many environmental regulations.

What, you think the state of Texas cares about its citizens?

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