People Are Angry About The Changes The EPA Announced This Week

On Thursday news broke that the Environmental Protection Agency is planning to remove its Office of the Science Advisor. The science advisor serves as a counsel to the EPA administrator to update them on scientific research focused on health and environmental regulations, and to make sure the highest quality science is integrated into the agency’s policies. The decision has not officially been made public.

President Trump took longer than usual to nominate a person to lead the Office of the Science Advisor, but eventually nominated meteorologist Kelvin Droegemeier in August. Kelvin has already gone through the Senate Confirmation process, but the latest plans by the EPA put his position in limbo.

John Konkus, a spokesman for the EPA, emailed the New York Times a statement from the current science adviser, Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, in which she said that the decision to dissolve the office would “combine offices with similar functions” and “eliminate redundancies”.

Many people took to Twitter to disagree with the proposed plans:

On Tuesday the EPA placed Dr. Ruth Etzel, the head of the EPA’s Office of Children’s Health, on administrative leave. Etzel was asked to give up her badge, keys and cellphone. The EPA has declined to comment on personal matters.

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Ruth Etzel, the head of EPA’s Office of Children’s Health, speaking in Alaska in 2016. Alaska Community Action on Toxics via YouTube / Via youtube.com

In an email obtained by BuzzFeed, Etzel said, “I appear to be the ‘fall guy’ for their plan to ‘disappear’ the office of children’s health. It had been apparent for about 5 months that the top EPA leaders were conducting ‘guerrilla warfare’ against me as the leader of OCHP, but now it’s clearly official.”

Dr. Etzel has received an abundance of support, including calls to reinstate her to her position:

Experts, such as University of California at San Francisco professor Tracey Woodruff, are also worried about the future of the Office of Children’s Health following the removal of Etzel.

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FEMA Chief Brock Long Is Facing Charges Detailing Misuse Of Government Vehicles, And People Are Mad

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long has come under fire today for using government-issued vehicles and staff on 40 trips for personal reasons. An internal investigation on Long’s trips found that the trips included a family vacation to Hawaii.

Long was also said to have been involved in a crash when riding in a government-issued vehicle, but his name was excluded from the collision report, according to people familiar with the incident.

Many people were mad, calling the actions corrupt and crooked:

While others found time to poke humor:

Today’s revelations come after the initial announcement on September 13 that Long and Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen clashed with each other over Long’s travel home to North Carolina. Long was the target of an ongoing DHS inspector general investigation into Long’s potential misuse of government vehicles when traveling to his home from Washington.

FEMA faced a lot of scrutiny in the days leading up to Hurricane Florence, and it is continuing to face it.

The US Has The Potential To Create A Carbon-Capture Network, But It Hinges On Funding By New Tax Credits

Researchers recently released an article that suggests the development of a pipeline network to enable the United States to capture, utilize, and store greater amounts of Carbon, reducing the amount of CO2 released into the environment. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper proposes a pipeline network that can transfer carbon dioxide from ethanol refineries across the American Midwest.

The article, written by Ryan W. J. Edwards and Michael A. Celia of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Princeton University, focuses on the need for government financing of their proposed project. With the government financing 50% of the pipelines, they estimate that nearly 19 million tons of carbon dioxide per year could be captured and transported at a profit.

“Without government finance, we find that a network earning commercial rates of return would not be viable,” wrote Edwards and Celia.

 

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Figure of colocated sources of CO2, existing CO2 pipelines, and potential saline storage capacities. Image by Ryan Edwards, Princeton University

The tax credit that was recently passed by Congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 initially gave the authors the motivation to propose their pipeline network, and suggest that the new tax credits are one of the most significant policies incentivizing carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS).

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented computer-model-generated scenarios that suggested that reducing carbon emissions could reduce global temperatures from rising and maintain a goal of keeping the planet’s average temperature within 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This threshold was further established in the Paris Climate Agreement.

Edwards and Celia decided to focus on ethanol biorefineries, because the excess gas produced is 99 percent carbon dioxide, and ethanol refineries in the Midwest produce 43 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

However, the construction of new pipelines has been a controversial topic for years. Fatality statistics from 2005 through 2009 state that oil pipelines are roughly 70 times as safe as oil trucks, which are more likely to be involved in car accidents, but pipeline failure poses disastrous environmental consequences. It was estimated that more than 3.1 million gallons of hazardous liquid per year were spilled from pipelines between 2008 and 2012.

Tony Iallonardo of the National Wildlife Federation told ProRepublica, “It’s inevitable that as pipelines age, as they are exposed to the elements, eventually they are going to spill. They’re ticking time bombs.”

Most notably, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying Canadian oil sands through Mayflower, Arkansas, broke and spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of Canadian crude oil onto the homes of 29 people. Reporters who covered the incident were threatened with arrest because Exxon wanted to release the daily updates covering the spill.

 

 

Due To Recent Flood Events, Coal Ash Has Escaped Into The North Carolina Landscape — What Environmental Impact Has It Had?

On Friday, floodwaters busted the Sutton Lake Dam, which is connected to Duke Energy’s L.V. Sutton Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. Environmentalists are concerned that the coal ash dump located behind the dam has escaped into the Cape Fear River.

Duke Energy had to shut down its Sutton plant on Sunday. The company claims that the coal ash hasn’t contaminated the Cape Fear River.

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Gray muck floats on the Cape Fear River near the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wiilmington N.C. Credit: Peter Harrison / Earthjustice via AP

The ash containment pit at the Sutton plant was built in 1974, and it held approximately 400,000 cubic yards of ash. The area received more than 30 inches of rain due to Hurricane Florence.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and the Cape Fear River Watch have been skeptical of Duke Energy’s claim, and are currently working on collecting data for a third-party analysis.

“Keep in mind, Duke sent their samples to their in-house lab. Until you have a third-party analysis, any analysis should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Kemp Burdette of Cape Fear River Watch.

Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group that had a boat on the river, took pictures of gray slicks in the water and they rinsed off a turtle they found caught in the muck.

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Turtle being removed from gray muck along the Cape Fear River near the L.V. Sutton Plant. Credit: Peter Harrison / Earthjustice via AP

Duke Energy recently reported that arsenic and metal concentrations in the Cape Fear River has been slightly elevated following the Sutton flooding, but noted that there was no indication of coal ash entering the river.

Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in groundwater, and it is highly toxic when in its inorganic form. Duke Energy’s study on the Cape Fear River gave a test result of 1.11 thousandths of a milligram per liter of water. Although this doesn’t come close to reaching the concentration limit set by the state, 50 thousandths of a milligram, it is still higher than normal.

The levels of metals found in the river were more manageable, at 2.2 milligrams per liter on Friday when the dam was breached. Other contaminants found in the river included selenium, chromium, oil and grease; however, Duke noted that the contamination of these chemicals was well below permitted regulatory limits.

North Carolina’s Animal Waste Problem Has Been Intensified By Recent Flood Events

North Carolina is currently handling an abundance of agriculture-related issues regarding the death of thousands of farm animals and fecal contamination of flood waters due to Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Florence made landfall on Friday, September 14, at 7:15 a.m. on Wrightsville Beach, N.C. It struck land as a Category 1 hurricane but was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm Friday evening. The National Hurricane Center warned of possible “catastrophic freshwater flooding” from Florence.

Almost 9 million hogs, 819 million chickens and 43 million turkeys are raised in North Carolina each year for the pork a poultry industry. Livestock, Dairy and Poultry comprise nearly 68 percent of cash receipts in North Carolina.

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Hogs at an industrial animal-feeding operation in North Carolina. Credit: Gerry Broome / AP

The resulting flooding from the tropical storm resulted in the death of nearly 1.7 million chickens and 5,500 hogs. The N.C. Department of Agriculture issued its mortality totals on September 18 while flooding continued.

Waste from hog and poultry facilities are stored in “lagoons” created by animal defecation being moved along a slatted floor system until it is emptied into an outdoor cesspool.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality noted that an earthen dam at a hog lagoon in Duplin County was breached by floodwaters. In total, the department has determined that 132 of the 4,000 hog-waste lagoons were compromised.

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Flooded chicken farm buildings near Trenton, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. Credit: Steve Helber / AP Photo

Elsie Herring, a resident that has a home in Wallace, North Carolina, said, “People don’t understand how nasty this hog industry is. We’re forced to live with animal waste and nobody seems to care, not even now.”

Herring has filed court documents in the past regarding an “odorous fecal and urinous mist” coming from her neighbor’s hog operation. Nearby contamination was an issue for her long before Hurricane Florence.

Although the conditions haven’t been this bad before, several breaches in hog-waste lagoons have occurred in the past. North Carolina’s Oceanview Farm had an eight-acre hog waste lagoon give way in 1995. It resulted in the release of 25 million gallons of pig feces into the New River’s tributaries.

Other breaches have occurred in the more than two decades since the Oceanview Farm breach, but no discernable change has been made to fix the issue.

The Trump Administration’s Latest Methane Rule Rollback Is Bad For Life On Earth

The Trump administration made a move on Tuesday to roll back on an Obama-era rule that was enacted to prevent the leaking, venting, and flaring of methane gas during oil and gas operations on public lands.

Not only did the Obama-era rule aim to prevent the popular greenhouse gas from being thrown into the atmosphere but it also would have reduced waste to ensure a fair return to the American taxpayers for the use of the resource.

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Natural gas is burned off near pumps in Watford City N.D. Credit: AP

 

 

The Trump administration’s Department of Interior stated that the Obama-era rules already overlapped with existing tribal land regulations.

However, the Bureau of Land Management, a department overseen by the Department of the Interior, estimated that the regulations would have eliminated 175,000 tons of methane emissions and saved state and federal governments almost $14 million in additional annual royalties.

“The flawed 2016 rule was a radical assertion of legal authority that stood in stark contrast to the longstanding understanding of Interior’s own lawyers,” said Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt.

Many tribal lands located next to oil and gas operations would be placed at a disproportionate health risk if air pollution isn’t reduced. Navajo Nation is 2 times more likely to be located within 1/2 mile of an oil and gas facility, and the Uintah-Ouray is 42 times more likely.

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Radius Data: U.S. Census. 2010. Oil and gas facility data: Oil&Gas ThreatMap Poverty Data: American Community Survey. 2016. Credit: Tribal Communities at Risk

California and New Mexico have already sued the Trump administration over the rollback

Methane is a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. It has been estimated to have risen in concentration by 150 percent since 1750 due to human activities. A majority of methane comes from the decomposition of rice paddies, swamps and cow intestines.

Methane is a hydrocarbon that has the potential to react with Flouride and Chloride in the atmosphere in a radical chain mechanism that can result in the creation of holes in the earth’s ozone layer. This damage results in an increase of skin cancers and ecological damage.

The Government Has Faced A Large Amount Of Scrutiny In The Days Preceding The Arrival Of Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence, currently labeled as a category 2 hurricane, is expected to move near or along the East coast sometime Friday. 300 miles of coastline received a hurricane warning at the beginning of the week, placing nearly 1 million people in need of evacuation.

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Photo of Hurricane Florence Credit: NPR News

North Carolina Gov. Ray Cooper released a statement to the State’s residents on Wednesday:

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also issued a warning to those on the East coast saying that it is possible their power could be out for weeks. Thursday a report was issued that approximately 12,000 North Carolina residents have lost power in the hours before the hurricane is expected to make landfall.

Despite warnings, some residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia still aren’t evacuating. In the case of South Carolina’s MacDougall Correctional Institution, the state is refusing to move inmates, regardless of the evacuation orders.

Many critics are worried that the government and FEMA might not be prepared to deal with the hurricane. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, resulting in a death count of nearly 3,000 people, FEMA expressed that it vastly underestimated how much water and food was needed to prepare for the storm.

President Trump denied claims that the government failed in handling Puerto Rico, saying that his administration was “incredibly successful” and that he thinks the government’s handling of Hurricane Maria was “one of the best jobs [that has] ever been done” in regards to hurricane relief.

Puerto Rico’s governor disagreed with the President’s assessment and released his own statement:

Not long after being asked about the government’s handling of Puerto Rico, the President took to Twitter to deny the official death count and blame Democrats for making him “look as bad as possible”:

FEMA released a detailed report assessing the agency’s response to the 2017 storm season. In this report, the agency showed that it failed to prepare for Hurricane Maria because the government hadn’t anticipated dealing with two hurricanes.

Recently, a budgeting document surfaced that showed that the Trump administration cut FEMA’s budget by $10 million and used the funds to support ICE. This has further raised questions from critics about if FEMA has the funding to properly prepare for Hurricane Florence.

Follow the link below for live updates on Hurricane Florence:

https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/hurricane-florence-live-news-coverage