Trump’s EPA administrator wants to redraw our nation’s mercury standard to benefit coal-fired power plants that belch out nearly half the nation’s mercury emissions. But the agency’s Science Advisory Board is balking.
The board, headed by Trump administration appointee Michael Honeycutt who previously opposed tougher mercury standards, told the EPA it needed to look again at how much mercury people get from fish and the harm from mercury.
“EPA should instigate a new risk assessment,” the board wrote.
Under former President Barack Obama, the EPA only looked at IQ losses in children born to mothers who ate freshwater fish caught by amateur anglers from lakes where the EPA had information on fish tissue. This excluded most of the fish eaten in our country, much of it imported or fish from the ocean.
Ellen Kurlansky, a former EPA air policy analyst, said the board recommendation isn’t clear about whether ocean fish should be included in a new assessment.
“What does that actually mean?” she asked.
The Trump EPA packed the Science Advisory Board with industry-friendly appointees like air pollution researcher Robert Phalen who said air can be “a little too clean” for children’s health and consultant Brant Ulsh who claims radiation at low doses may not be dangerous.
But even this tainted board couldn’t stomach what the Trump EPA wants to do to our planet. The board also questioned a proposed rule that would limit which wetlands and waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act and the rollback of clean car standards.
Mercury exposure at its worst can mimic cerebral palsy. When airborne mercury settles on water or land that’s often damp, microbes convert it to methylmercury which is highly toxic and becomes more concentrated as it moves up food chains to people and predators.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler twisted the math for a proposed federal rule to knock out the legal justifications for limiting mercury emissions, claiming that “the only health benefit” to reducing mercury emissions “that the EPA could quantify and monetize” was children’s IQ loss.
In March 2017, coal magnate Robert Murray, who donated $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration, gave the Energy Department a wish list that included rescinding or revising the mercury standard, which Murray Energy had sued to block. Wheeler is a former lobbyist and Murray Energy was his best-paying client.
Murray Energy, once the largest privately held coal company in the country, filed for bankruptcy in October. At least seven coal companies filed for bankruptcy in 2019.
EPA is required by law to base decisions on the “best available science.”
The Obama restrictions on mercury have worked. Mercury emissions from U.S. power plants plunged by 65% from 2015 to 2017. The standards prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths a year, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks, according to EPA estimates.
The Trump EPA also wants to quash rules on sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants which cause acid rain.
Pandemic modelers warn that Trump’s lies may increase the spread of COVID-19
Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
Epidemiologists model how an infectious disease outbreak may spread within and between communities. The computer models are based on research into past epidemics, the virulence of a pathogen,the severity of the illness it causes and various other factors. But these scientists assume that leaders will offer a coherent response to the crisis, and that people will modify their behavior appropriately. Trump, the conservative press and the Republican base are upending those assumptions.
Scientists: Trump bungled this badly
A public health expert told Salon that President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been abysmal.
"It definitely made it worse," Dr. William Haseltine told Salon when asked about Trump's reluctance to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic in January and February, when news of it first broke from China. "And his reaction was — if not the worst in the world — among the worst in the world. It was dangerous. It was spineless. It was heedless. It was self-serving."
For Trump, there’s only one victim: himself. He fears political defeat more than the deaths of millions
A photograph purporting to show Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in tears, having lost all hope over the coronavirus toll in his country, made its way around cyberspace earlier this week. It turned out the photo wasn't of Conte, but of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and he wasn't crying about losses due to coronavirus in his own country, but remembering a knife attack he suffered in 2018 during a speech he gave last year.This article first appeared in Salon.