What the Ohio train derailment teaches us about poisoning public trust
Champion of Truth
“Greater reliance on green energy also requires a stupendous increase in mineral extraction to provide the needed materials. Even if the world unquestionably possessed the mineral capacity necessary for the global energy transformation envisioned by President Joe Biden, Democrats in practice are enemies of mining. The U.S. Mining Association estimates that the country has $6.2 trillion of recoverable mineral resources like copper and zinc available for mining on millions of acres of federal, state, and private lands. Unfortunately, our labor, health, and climate regulations often make it practically impossible to profitably mine. As a result, these precious resources stay in the ground, which explains why the United States went from being the world’s No. 1 producer of minerals in 1990 to seventh place today.
Democrats committed to a green energy transition should make it a priority to reform counterproductive regulations like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and to implement other permitting reforms. Yet for the most part they won’t do so, as we saw when they helped strike down the permitting deal cut last year between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D–W.Va.).”
“One-third or so of species in the US are threatened with extinction, according to the Nature Conservancy. Think about that: One in three species could disappear for good. That includes things like owls, salamanders, fish, and plants, each of which contributes some function to ecosystems that we depend on.
Thankfully, there’s such a thing as conservation, and in the US, much of it is done by state wildlife agencies. Fish and game departments have a range of programs to monitor and manage species that include reintroducing locally extinct animals and setting regulations for hunting and fishing.
heir work, however, faces a couple of big problems.
The first is that states don’t have enough money. Roughly 80 percent of funding for state-led conservation comes from selling hunting and fishing licenses, in addition to federal excise taxes on related gear, such as guns and ammo. These activities aren’t as popular as they once were. “That results in less conservation work getting done,” Andrew Rypel, a freshwater ecologist at the University of California Davis, told Vox in August.
Another challenge is that states spend virtually all the money they do raise on managing animals that people like to hunt or fish, such as elk and trout. “At the state level, there’s been almost zero focus on non-game fish and wildlife,” Daniel Rohlf, a law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School, said in August. That leaves out many species — including, say, kinds of freshwater mussels — that play incredibly important roles in our ecosystems.
RAWA could be a fix. The bill would provide state wildlife agencies a total of $1.3 billion a year by 2026, based on the state’s size, human population, and the number of federally threatened species. RAWA also includes nearly $100 million for the nation’s Native American tribes, who own or help manage nearly 140 million acres of land in the US (equal to about 7 percent of the continental US).
One feature of RAWA that makes it so useful, according to environmental advocates, is that it requires states to protect animals that are imperiled, whether or not they’re targeted by hunters and fishers. “That’s funding that doesn’t exist right now,” Rohlf said.”
“After RAWA passed the House last summer, lawmakers turned to the bill’s tallest hurdle: the “pay-for,” a.k.a. how to cover the cost of the legislation, without having to raise the deficit.
Negotiations carried on throughout the fall, and legislators put forward a number of different proposals. In the final weeks of the congressional term, it looked as though the government would pay for RAWA by closing a tax loophole related to cryptocurrency, as E&E News’s Emma Dumain reported.
Ultimately, lawmakers couldn’t agree on the details. That’s why RAWA got cut from the omnibus bill.”
“Cooking emits about 13 percent of on-site greenhouse emissions in U.S. buildings, according to the EIA. 68 percent of emissions stem from space heating, while 19 percent comes from water heating.
Some studies, including one published by Stanford University scientists last year, examined methane leaks from gas stoves and concluded that their global warming impact could be far higher than previously believed — equivalent to the emissions of a half-million cars (Energywire, Jan. 27, 2022).
But environmentalists and public health groups most often focus on indoor air quality as the chief problem with gas stoves, rather than greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Last April, researchers at the Institute for Policy Integrity released a report calling for gas stoves to be sold with warning labels and requirements for better ventilation, while pointing to studies concluding that low-income households and people of color were more likely to live in homes with poor ventilation (Energywire, April 25, 2022).
As far back as 2010, the World Health Organization recommended that governments develop guidelines for indoor air quality — which the EPA does not do — while citing studies that linked gas stoves to increased respiratory problems in children.
Gas industry advocates have rejected any connection between health risks and use of gas stoves, at times pointing to a 2013 study based on a 47-country questionnaire that turned up no association between cooking gas and asthma.”
“touches on a real, coast-to-coast crusade by liberal city and state leaders to prohibit gas stoves and furnaces in new buildings, on the grounds that they endanger health and contribute to climate change. But the White House has disavowed enacting any such ban at the federal level. (“The president does not support banning gas stoves,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters after the issue came up repeatedly at Wednesday’s news briefing.)”
“In December, Beyer and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission to look at the health risks posed by gas stoves’ methane emissions.
Then a member of that five-person commission suggested to Bloomberg News in a story this week that a ban on new gas stoves could be one of many options to be pursued in the future. But the member, Biden nominee Richard Trumka Jr., had previously failed to get his fellow commissioners to support even regulating stoves, as POLITICO’s E&E News reported Tuesday. Instead, the commission plans to gather “public input” on stoves’ health hazards and possible solutions.
“I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so,” Chair Alexander Hoehn-Saric later said in a statement.
By then, though, the issue had escalated to culture-war level — and lawmakers unleashed a barrage of snarky comments.”
“a rising number of studies point to possible health hazards, increasing the urgency of squelch any potential federal ban.
A recently published study nabbed headlines for concluding that gas stove emissions contribute to one in eight cases of childhood asthma — likening it to the dangers posed by second-hand tobacco smoke. And a 2022 report from the American Lung Association that looked at dozens of prior studies found that gas stoves and ovens are major sources of harmful indoor air pollutants that the federal government doesn’t regulate because they occur indoors.”
“year after year, satellites that monitor changes in forest cover find the same thing: The Amazon is shrinking. Between August 1, 2018, and July 31, 2021, more than 34,000 square km (8.4 million acres) disappeared from the Brazilian Amazon. That’s an area larger than the entire nation of Belgium, and a 52 percent increase compared to the previous three years.”
“In a cattle laundering scheme, ranchers move cattle from “dirty” ranches, which contribute to deforestation, to ranches that are “clean,” with no recent forest loss. By the time those cattle arrive at slaughterhouses, the path they’ve taken is obscured, as is the damage they’ve caused.”
“Most major meatpackers and slaughterhouses — which influence the entire beef supply chain — screen the cattle they buy for deforestation. Ranchers that sell to them, known as direct suppliers, provide the location of their farms. And the meatpacking companies hire consultants to check those locations for any recent forest loss, using data collected by satellites.
But this screening process misses a lot — perhaps even the majority of deforestation in the beef supply chain — undermining the integrity of their zero-deforestation pledges.”
“according to decade-old agreements, major meatpackers in Brazil can only buy clean cattle: cows that come from land without any recent deforestation. The problem is, there are several ways to make cattle look clean, even when they’re not.
The most common way is pretty simple and takes advantage of the complex beef supply chain. A single cow could travel through as many as 10 farms before it’s ultimately killed; it might be born on one, reared on another, and fattened on a third, all before reaching a slaughterhouse.”
“slaughterhouses only tend to assess their direct suppliers, the last stop on the cow’s journey.”
“If small teams of outside researchers can pinpoint the source of forest loss along supply chains, it seems as though giant corporations should be able to as well. Remember, it has been more than 10 years since they committed to source clean cattle.
While some experts fault meatpackers for not doing more, rooting out forest loss among indirect suppliers is actually quite challenging. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, who first figured out how to do this, spent years developing computer programs to download records stored in clunky government systems. They then have to clean them up, link key bits of data together, and run the analysis.
These records are not designed to make cattle supply chains traceable, they just happen to serve that function if you know what you’re doing. “It requires a lot of computational expertise,” Brandão said. It’s not like meatpacking companies are just ignoring deforestation right in front of their eyes.”
“there isn’t a huge incentive for meatpacking companies to solve this problem in the first place, some experts say. If they choose not to buy from any ranches linked to deforestation, they’ll have a much smaller supply”
“Ultimately, to put an end to cattle laundering, meat companies would need to monitor the movement of individual cows, Gibbs said. “If we wanted to end laundering, we would need animal-level traceability,” Gibbs said. “Until we keep track of the individual animals, some level of laundering will keep happening.””
“President Joe Biden signed a bona fide international climate treaty…one that was ratified in the Senate with bipartisan support in a 69-27 vote. Twenty-one Republicans supported ratification in September, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”
“If fully implemented, the measure would avert upward of 0.5 degrees Celsius — almost 1 degree Fahrenheit — of warming by the end of the century. Keeping in mind that the Paris climate agreement aims to hold the rise in global average temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius, the Kigali Amendment would take a big step toward that goal. And it builds on one of the most successful efforts to prevent an environmental disaster in history.”
“Countries around the world convened to try to solve the problem, and in 1987, developed the Montreal Protocol. It was the first treaty to be ratified by every country in the world. Countries began to phase out CFCs entirely. And it worked. The ozone layer is on track to heal entirely. By 2065, the Montreal Protocol is estimated to have prevented 443 million skin cancer cases, 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 63 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone, according to the State Department.”
“There was an unanticipated problem as well. CFCs were replaced with another class of chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in many applications. While HFCs aren’t as damaging to the ozone layer, they are powerful greenhouse gases. The Kigali Amendment, drafted in 2016, aims to zero out HFCs as well.”
“why did so many Republicans back Kigali when they’ve criticized just about every other major international environmental agreement? Recall that many Republican lawmakers cheered when then-President Trump began the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord.
Part of the reason for Kigali’s success may be that conservative stalwarts Margaret Thatcher, a former chemist, and Ronald Reagan, a skin cancer survivor, were framers of the initial Montreal Protocol.
Another is that the amendment comes packaged with solutions. There are already climate-friendly refrigerants on the market, and appliance manufacturers are eager to deploy them. Some lawmakers see this as an opportunity to play to the US’s strengths.
“This amendment will give American manufacturers the ability to continue exporting sustainable coolants and the products that depend on them,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) in a statement. “Not only does this create tens of thousands of jobs here at home, it protects our markets from becoming a dumping ground for China’s outdated products.””