Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma Hit USA While Politicians And Agency Directors Still Deny Contribution Of Climate Change

In the aftermath of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the remaining question lingering in everyone's mind is the following:

What was the contribution of climate change to these two disastrous hurricanes which ravaged our infrastructure and led to the very unfortunate loss of life?

Now, not everyone is entertaining this exact or variants of the stated question.  With every explanation, there will exist deniers who just do not want to entertain the facts which science lay out and seem to explain certain phenomenon.  Undoubtedly, the current hurricanes are increasing in severity due to climate change.  The exact contribution from us (humans) might not be quantifiable, but that does not mean that the contribution is not real.

Furthermore, as both geographical regions in the United States start the process of rebuilding their regions, urban planners along with government employees would be well served to consider climate change in future planning efforts.  Otherwise, future storms will bring more havoc on local, state, and federal resources.  Lets review briefly what the two hurricanes brought to local, state, and federal resources - briefly - below.

Climate Change Is Not Partisan

Contrary to popular belief, climate change sees no partisan borders.  Whether a person, region, government is rich or poor, well established or new, weather patterns are what they are.  And part of the existing situation is attributed to the past.  This might seem debatable to either side.  Although, I would suggest looking at photographs of recent floods and the increase in severity of each and try to convince me that change is not on the horizon.

Hurricane Harvey did considerable damage to the Houston area.  Remember that President Trump voted to defund FEMA and Flood mapping research a few months ago.  Here is a short video from an article out of the Washington Post titled "The cruelest insult to Harvey and Irma’s victims" which sheds light onto potential issues pre-Hurricane Harvey:

After viewing the short video, I cannot help but wonder the following questions:

1) Why was Houston not equipped with stronger weather infrastructure to avoid potentially rising sea levels or handle large amounts of rain?

2) Why were so many chemical industries and oil industries allowed to locate to a 'flood plain' which amounts to a potential disaster in the event of rising sea levels or power outages?

Who allowed the build out of Houston?  Some one knows the answer to these questions.  There are city council members with information which could answer these questions.  I wonder what those city council members are thinking right now?  I wonder how many of them were displaced due to Hurricane Harvey?  I wonder how many of the original designers/builders still live in the Houston area?  Probably not many.

Unfortunately, asking such questions now makes little sense.  What does make sense is to think globally as time moves forward and the rebuilding phase commences.  As Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post article cited above, the time to think wisely is now:

This is precisely the moment when scientists at the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, NASA and other agencies ought to be laser-focused on climate change. They should study the characteristics and impacts of this season’s hurricanes to better understand what changes global warming has wrought thus far. And I’m confident they will do so — unless their work is hampered by political hacks.
Climate change never should have become a partisan issue in the first place. There is no red or blue spin on the fact that humans have burned enough fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution to increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by more than 40 percent; or that carbon dioxide traps heat; or that global land and ocean temperatures have shot up; or that Arctic ice is melting; or that sea levels are rising. These things are directly measurable and true.
Global warming cuts no slack for political affiliation — as Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Rick Scott of Florida now should humbly acknowledge.

The time is now.  Unfortunately, our energy secretary (Secretary Rick Perry) is an ardent climate change denier feels differently as shown in the following excerpt taken from a CBS news article:

"We can line up scientists on both sides of this," he told CBSN's Stephanie Sy, but "this is not the time to be having this conversation." At this moment, he said, it's time to focus on helping victims recover from the damage wrought by Harvey.
"Everyone wants to run to the climate change debate, but that is very secondary at this particular time," he said.

Energy Secretary has a track record of ignorance on climate change and pushing agendas which are counter intuitive toward the direction in which science is headed.  I wrote a blog post discussing his qualifications recently which should be read after finishing this article.  His ignorance is pretty serious considering the amount of people who are without power and those who lost their lives during Hurricane Harvey.  I am astounded to say the least and disappointed.

Another critical agency which has seen changes in funding due to our current President is the Environmental Protection Agency.  EPA Director Scott Pruitt also has a track record which prevents him from serving the nation effectively.  Therefore, as we have seen during both storms, loss of life and damage beyond repair is starting to appear.  Further, EPA Director Scott Pruitt holds the same view as Secretary Rick Perry on discussing the subject of climate change during a storm search and rescue along with recovery.  Basically, both hold the position that climate change is not directly related and can wait until a later time to come into play (or discussion).

These views might hold up under fire except that both of these Administrators are hell bent on defunding their agencies -- taking money from the public (Federal agency) and rerouting the funding to the private sector.  Both of these men are heavily backed and supported by industry.  One of the critical issues among many are the construction permitting and building licenses which are issued by these agencies.

The EPA and DOE play a large part in ensuring that corporations practice safe and reliable services through enforcing regulations set by the government.  Many residents feel like regulations are "job killers", but the reality is that the industry mantra is to profit at the cost of safety of the consumer (bluntly said).  Members of the Trump Administration refuse to discuss proactive measures -- like disaster preparedness and consumer safety.  What is more preferred is to discuss "job killing regulations".

Federal Funding Is Critical For Disasters

After two hurricanes, one would think that government officials would be willing to discuss the devastating effects of natural disasters and their potential causes.  One of which is climate change.  A contributor to say the least -- in elevating the severity of the storm -- not the main cause of course.  With the President looking to defund federal agencies, the money available to be proactive in future disasters remains limited.

Further, research into potential solutions to future storms is out of the question.  Not to mention (as I did above) the ability of the federal agency to regulate corporations to practice safety in the workplace (for workforce) and provide high quality products (consumer safety).   In order to change the current direction of the Trump Administration, the first step is to stop denying the existence of climate change and accept it -- in order to move forward.  Below are two excerpts which drive home the need to move forward and stop letting climate change become a "partisan" issue.

Here is an excerpt from the Mayor of Miami -- Tomas Regalado:

Miami’s Republican mayor called on President Donald Trump and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Friday to acknowledge that climate change is playing a role in the extreme weather that has slammed his city and the continental U.S. this summer.
Speaking from Miami’s Emergency Operations Center in downtown, where the city’s senior public safety and political authorities will ride out Category 4 Hurricane Irma this weekend, Mayor Tom├ís Regalado told the Miami Herald that he believes warming and rising seas are threatening South Florida’s immediate and long-term future.
“This is the time to talk about climate change. This is the time that the president and the EPA and whoever makes decisions needs to talk about climate change,” said Regalado, who flew back to Miami from Argentina Friday morning to be in the city during the storm. “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is. This is a truly, truly poster child for what is to come.”

On top of that realization, 'Politico Energy' tip-sheets include the following regarding the mixed views of politicians in Washington D.C. in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma:

ALL QUIET ON THE CLIMATE FRONT: Even as the double whammy of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma offers the U.S. an up-front glimpse of the types of devastation the world faces due to a warming climate, Democrats are largely holding their fire on Republicans, Pro's Emily Holden and Elana Schor report . Instead, they appear to be heeding the warnings of several of President Donald Trump's Cabinet officials that discussing climate change with large swaths of land still underwater would be insensitive. "The response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma thus far has been more muted, likely in part because of a desire to keep the focus on immediate disaster relief," said Trevor Houser, former energy adviser to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.
Democrats say there will be opportunities to explore the linkage between extreme weather and manmade climate change moving forward. "We have a lot of time to make that point, and I think we also have a lot of legislative opportunities as we look at reauthorizing flood insurance and funding the disaster relief," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse , one of staunchest climate hawks, said. Environmental advocates have hit Trump's inaction on climate change online, but have shied away from criticizing Democrats. "The truth is, I'd settle for politicians not talking about climate at all, and instead actually doing something," Bill McKibben, founder of, said.
Tone shift at the White House? Tom Bossert, Trump's homeland security adviser, told reporters Monday that the cause of both devastating hurricanes is "outside of my ability to analyze" but he acknowledged a need to bolster flood and coastal defenses threatened by rising seas and powerful storms. "We continue to take seriously the climate change, not the cause of it, but the things that we observe," he said. "What President Trump remains committed to is making sure that federal dollars aren't used to build things that will be in harm's way later or that won't be hardened against the future predictable floods that we see." While those words may offer hope to some, ME would note Trump has erased climate considerations from government processes, nixed flood standards for federal projects, withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris climate change agreement, pulled back a regulation to limit carbon dioxide from power plants and halted funding to help poor nations adapt to new weather extremes.
More money needed? Asked if the administration would put more money into agencies like FEMA and EPA, Bossert expressed openness to requesting additional funds - "We'll put money in as money is needed to address the need," he said - but added "right now we have plenty of resources to get through this."
Irma could've been even worse: Even as millions lost power during Hurricane Irma, the head of the state's largest utility said outages could've been even worse if Florida Power & Light Co. had not spent $3 billion to improve the energy grid, POLITICO Florida's Bruce Ritchie reports. "With this kind of storm what I can tell you is, we would be facing a much longer restoration" without the work, FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said Monday.

Again, the politicians are missing the big point.  The following points need to be highlighted by the news for future disasters:

1) President Trump voted to defund FEMA, which included funding research for flood plane proned areas.

2) Senators have voted "no" for disaster relief funding -- even, in some instances for their own state -- to stand on principles (i.e. no increase in debt ceiling).

These are critical issues  which affect large (hundreds of thousands) amounts of U.S. citizens still today.  Just because the rebuilding and restoration of both Texas and Florida are not covered by the national news does not mean that the geographical areas are not in serious need of assistance.  There are houses still under water and areas without power along with areas covered in toxic chemicals which the EPA refuses to acknowledge.

Here are two aftermath effects of ignoring climate change and defunding Federal Agencies along with reversing Obama era environmental regulations:

Checking in on Texas: EPA reported late Monday that 35 of the 2,238 drinking water systems affected by Harvey remain shut down, while 35 of the 1,219 wastewater treatment plants in affected countries also remain inoperable. The agency further said it had "directed potential responsible parties or has independently started collecting samples at the 43 Superfund sites to further confirm any impacts from the storm" and said additional assessments continue at two sites - San Jacinto Waste Pits and U.S. Oil Recovery. In addition, Reuters reported federal officials are cleaning up spills of oil and chemicals spilled from a dozen industrial facilities in the aftermath of Harvey.
Yikes: Water testing arranged by The New York Times from two Houston neighborhoods showed alarmingly high levels of bacteria and toxins. Tests from the Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor showed levels of E. coli at levels four times of what's considered safe, while Clayton Homes public housing development downtown showed concentrations of E. Coli more than 135 times healthy levels, as well as elevated levels of lead, arsenic and other heavy metals. The EPA said Monday that 40 of 1,219 waste treatment plants affected by Harvey were not working.


 EPA LAUNCHES PROBE INTO ARKEMA INCIDENT: Officials at EPA have requested information from Arkema to help them ascertain whether the chemical company properly followed Clean Air Act safety regulations before Hurricane Harvey. EPA asked in its letter , obtained by ME Monday, for a response from the company within 10 calendar days of receipt. Among the information sought is what the company did before the storm to prepare for potential flooding and loss of electricity, as well as the quantities of chemicals stored on site. Several chemical containers at the Crosby, Texas, facility caught fire after the hurricane deluged it with water.

Unfortunately, the actions by the EPA is only in response to the popular news coverage of the disasters brought by the two devastating Hurricanes recently.  Furthermore, the Clean Air Act which was enacted by the Obama Administration has been ignored and not enforced by the Arkema chemical plant.  Which resulted in the release of large amounts of volatile chemicals when hurricane harvey hit Texas.  EPA Director Scott Pruitt should be ashamed of himself for standing up in front of the public on television and stating the the EPA has everything under control.  With 40 waste treatment plants not working and exceedingly high levels of bacterial organisms in the water, people are at high risk of disease.

Not to mention the Superfund sites which are another source of extremely high levels of chemicals -- some of which are unknown.  The result is complete chaos brought to you by the Trump Administration.


When a nation is reversing the course of decades worth of environmental regulations enacted to protect consumers and our resources, the result is chaos.  Which is were we are at presently.  At any given time, a natural disaster can occur in this great nation and the implications of a lack of federal funding will be completely apparent.  Why do the great people of the nation believe that the President cares about their safety?  With the direction of giving money to big corporations while defunding federal agencies, you get the present situation -- a lack of preparedness.  Over time, this will get worse if nothing is changed.  The excerpts above clearly show that the issue of climate change is becoming a partisan issue when the issue should not be.

Now with the devastation caused by yet another Hurricane - Maria in Puerto Rico, the time has come to ask ourselves where we would like to be as a nation.  Currently, the crops that were destroyed are not recovered in Florida much less the newly destroyed land in Puerto Rico.  There are areas which are not being covered by the news which remain ravaged and without resources.  How prepared are you for a disaster?  How do you feel about federal funding?  Do you follow FEMA status or updates on a daily basis?  There is an app you can download to get FEMA updates on various parts of the nation where disasters are occurring and where relief is being directed.

Regardless of your position on climate change, the effects of climate change are real and noticeable.  In the future, the storms will worsen and the frequency will become greater.  Talk to your local representatives and ask them to consider climate change to be real and the need to study the effects in a given geographical area.   This is an ongoing discussion here on this site and in national news, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Local Politicians Are Leaving President Trump Behind In Continuing To Meet Paris Climate Agreements

The United Nations General Assembly has met this week in New York City (USA) to discuss a range of topics from dealing with the international refugee crisis through North Korea's ambitious threats to the world with Nuclear Weapons to the U.S. withdrawal of the Paris Climate Accord.  Earlier in the week, I wrote about the ridiculousness of the United States withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement on the notion that the President wanted to 'renegotiate terms which favor the U.S.'.  This line of reasoning makes zero sense since the greenhouse gas reductions set by each country can be altered after the first check point in four years.

Despite having the President on board, local politicians (Governors and Mayors) have taken upon themselves the responsibility to ensure that their respective regions will meet the Paris Climate Agreement limits regardless of what the White House says.  This is great news.  Back in late Summer, Governor Brown announced that a summit would be held in a year of two to discuss the next steps forward.  He signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with China - which I wrote about here.  Great progress.

Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel (of Chicago) will hold a conference this December as announced in a press release in the Chicago Sun Times:

Mayors who opted to go it alone on reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming–even after President Donald Trump rejected the Paris climate agreement–will gather in Chicago in December to share their ideas.
On Dec. 4 and Dec. 5, Chicago will host a “Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy North American Climate Summit” that brings together leaders of, what Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls the “NAFTA cities” in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Participating leaders will include: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo; Montreal’s Denis Coderre; Austin Mayor Steve Adler; Atlanta’s Kasim Reed and a host of other mayors from around the world.
Together the mayors will talk about the progress they’ve made, then celebrate the “most innovative and impactful efforts to tackle climate change” during the Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards that will coincide with the two-day Chicago summit.
“We’ll all sign our customized plans on how we’re gonna reach the Paris protocols, then make our information public…on a benchmark basis so we can show what contributions we’re making,” Emanuel said Monday during a panel discussion on the subject of climate change hosted by the New York Times.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel went onto say that two realizations made this transition possible:

First, people no longer see reducing greenhouse emissions as, what the mayor called a “threat to economic vitality.” That’s a “major shift…to where the debate was 20 years ago around Kyoto,” the mayor said.
The second change was caused by extreme weather events, including Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, along with “world events” that include “drought, refugee, migration issues in Europe,” Emanuel said.

The above excerpts are in line with other mayors and governor statements in the last few months since June when President Trump announced that he would initiate the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris Agreement.  In a blog post I wrote shortly after the announcement, governors and mayors immediately said their intentions would be not to follow suite of the President.  With the news above, action is starting in terms of conferences are being announced and formally scheduled regarding future action.  This is wonderful news.

Remember, one of the early opposition to President Trump's decision was Governor Jerry Brown of California.  In a post shortly after the U.S. decision to withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Governor Brown decided to sign a "Memorandum of Understanding" which translates to a commitment to stick to the stated (or agreed upon) limits or targets for future dates. The signed agreement is a perfect example of a politician who has done their homework and understands the simplicity and benefits of converting our demand toward a renewable future.  Remember, in an earlier post, I show letters of support for massive (trillions of dollars worth) amounts of investment for companies investing in renewable energy in the years to come.  Why not follow suite and change for the better?

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration does not understand these benefits and believes that the international community is benefiting while the U.S. is losing.  That could not be further from the truth.  Here is a video in a post from the President of the European Commission  describing President Trump's understanding of the Paris Agreement and his decision to withdrawal the U.S. from the agreement.

With the international community encouraging President Trump to stay in the Paris Agreement -- which is an agreement based on "self-imposed" greenhouse gas reductions, why would the United States not want to be part of a greater movement?  I am left without words to an extent.  If I must provide an answer -- the answer is that the President does not understand the agreement.

In closing, change is on the horizon.  The question for the reader -- you -- is what side of the change will you reside on.  Will you choose to ignore the change that is inevitable?  Or will you keep an open mind and listen to the international community?  The investment in the future will take many components from many governments.  Change will not occur overnight.  Although, certain economies (like China) are being transformed and based around renewable energy models.  Which is why each of us should be open-minded toward change and relay that same expectation to our elected politicians.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Is Dr. Michael Dourson Good For The EPA?

Over the last week, congress has held hearings to fill the position of the Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The Assistant Administrator will be in charge of chemical safety at the EPA.  Of, course, the nominee will work under the current EPA Director Scott Pruitt.  Administrator Scott Pruitt has been making headlines over the past few months while on his journey to 'roll back' all environmental regulations which were put into place by the Obama Administration.  If Dr. Dourson follows in the foot steps of Administrator Scott Pruitt, then the United States citizens have ample reason to be worried about the potentially toxic materials which might be released in the event of disasters similar to the hurricanes which recently hit the U.S. and caused significant devastation (and terrible loss of life).

In light of this potential threat as a nominee to the U.S., a quick look at the opposing arguments might be of interest to the public.  At the end of the "official letter" of opposition will be a list of the 109 organizations joining efforts to oppose Dr. Dourson's nomination.  Further, there are additional quotes which serve as explanations from various organizations.

Below is an "official letter" from over 100 organizations assembled by Safer Chemicals in opposition to Dr. Dourson's appointment:

Over​ ​100​ ​Organizations​ ​Across​ ​the​ ​US
Oppose​ ​Michael​ ​Dourson​ ​for​ ​EPA
October 3, 2017
Dear Chairman Barrasso and Ranking Member Carper:
On behalf of our millions of members and the American people, the undersigned 109 organizations urge you to stand up for our health and environment by opposing the nomination of Dr. Michael Dourson for the position of Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The job of the Assistant Administrator is to lead the office whose mission is to protect American families and the environment from the potential risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals. This position will shape the way that the United States manages its environmental and chemical programs and thus will have a significant effect on the lives of millions of Americans. In particular, the next Assistant Administrator will be responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws designed to safeguard our health from toxic chemicals. This includes the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), recently updated and amended by the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act. The new law was signed on June 22, 2016 with the intention and hope that the updated requirements would be a beacon for change in the management of toxics and chemical safety.
Implementation of the 2016 TSCA amendments is a significant and challenging task. It must be undertaken by someone who not only demonstrates through their actions and accomplishments a commitment to human and environmental health, but also by someone who is committed to implementing and enforcing the law as written without influence from the regulated industries that may have an interest in seeing the law weakened or poorly enforced. Dr. Dourson’s background indicates that he is not the person for this job.
Dr. Dourson’s work consulting for the chemical industry during the last few decades raises significant concerns. First, he has a history of serving the interests of big business and industry dating back to the inception of the non-profit he founded and directed, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). Examples of TERA’s questionable bias include:
● In 1997, Dr. Dourson was hired by the Center for Indoor Air Research, which was later disbanded by a judge who found it to be a tool to bolster the credibility of tobacco products, to produce a report on the effects of secondhand smoke, which is known to cause cancer even in people who don’t smoke. The report downplayed the effects by reporting that nonsmokers in the workplace have minimal exposures to secondhand smoke.
● In 2002, DuPont sought out Dr. Dourson’s firm TERA to recommend to West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection a “safe” level for perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical made by DuPont and linked to cancer, thyroid disease, and obesity. His firm recommended a level that, as reported in The Intercept, was “150 times higher than the maximum safety level DuPont’s own scientists had determined in 1988 —1 [part per billion] — based on internal company research showing that PFOA was toxic to both workers and lab animals.”  The EPA later conducted its own assessment which determined a level that was thousands of times more protective than TERA’s recommended level. PFOA has also contaminated rivers and drinking water in Ohio, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia and other communities around the country.
● An email revealed in The Intercept demonstrates how chemical companies hire Dr. Dourson to “bless” their dangerous chemicals: 
While everyone had a few names to offer, the common theme that emerged was that TERA (i.e. Mike Dourson) was the leading choice. TERA had “a very good reputation among the folks that are still in the business of blessing criteria,” [DuPont employee Timothy] Bingman explained, going on to describe the company’s ability to “assemble a package and then sell this to EPA, or whomever we desired.” 
-"Trump’s EPA Chemical Safety Nominee Was in the 'Business of Blessing' Pollution", The Intercept, July 21, 2017.
● In 2013 Dr. Dourson was hired by Koch Industries to produce a study that found no adverse health effects to residents in Chicago who were concerned about piling amounts of petroleum coke (petcoke) from Koch subsidiary KCBX Terminals. Dr. Dourson’s findings were based on soil studies and use of KCBX air monitors showing that petcoke soil is no different in the neighboring community than baseline levels in the rest of Chicago, and that the level of air contaminants are not likely to cause health effects. However, research by the city of Chicago and residents’ own documentation of petcoke on their properties contradicted Dr. Dourson’s findings. A class action lawsuit was ultimately settled for $1.4 million.
● Dr. Dourson also published a report in 2014 entirely funded by a polluting company to study 1,4 dioxane, one of the first ten chemicals being reviewed under the revised TSCA by the office he has been nominated to lead. PPG Industries, responsible for discharging the chemical and contaminating Ohio’s waterways, hired Dr. Dourson to publish a paper on the chemical. The paper argued for an acceptable level of 1,4 dioxane that is 1,000 times higher than EPA’s drinking water guidelines. The methodology Dr. Dourson used in his assessment of 1,4 dioxane was rejected by a panel convened by the state of Michigan.
We are not only concerned about Dr. Dourson’s ties to the chemical and tobacco industries, but by the role he played in presenting industry-biased science in a seemingly neutral manner to alleviate concerns about their products. For example, Dr. Dourson administered a website designed for parents called “Kids + Chemical Safety” that minimized the concern of chemical risks using chemical industry talking points. Another example of downplaying concerns about chemical risks includes the “Tox Topics” webpage of the Toxicology Education Foundation, led by Dourson and funded by companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil, 3M, and the chemical industry’s trade association.
The importance of this job is best defined by the imperative to protect our health. This is made clear by tragic personal stories including the West Virginia residents who lost their drinking water due to the 2014 Elk River Spill; the parents in Flint, MI worrying about the effects of the lead in their water on the IQ and brain development of their children; the farmworkers in Bakersfield, CA poisoned by chlorpyrifos; and the family of 18-year-old Jonathan Welch who died on the job from exposure to methylene chloride. Whether and how potentially dangerous chemicals enter the marketplace is a matter of life and death.  We can’t leave those decisions to someone with Dr. Dourson’s history of close ties to the chemical industry.
As organizations committed to the health of the American people, we are deeply concerned with the nomination of Dr. Dourson as the Assistant Administrator.
We need and deserve an Assistant Administrator for EPA’s toxics office who will put public health first, without favoring the industry that the office is charged with regulating. We urge you to oppose the nomination of Mr. Dourson and insist on a nominee with an unblemished record of defending the health of the American people from the hazards of
toxic chemicals.
5 Gyres
Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
As You Sow
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
Blue Green Alliance
Breast Cancer Action
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
Build A Better Planet
Cape Fear River Watch
Capital District Against Fracking
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Center for Environmental Health
Center for Health, Environment & Justice
Central California Environmental Justice
Citizens' Environmental Coalition
Clean and Healthy New York
Clean Production Action
Clean Water Action
Clean Water Action California
Clean Water Action Connecticut
Clean Water Action Massachusetts
Clean Water Action Minnesota
Coalition for Clean Air
Collaborative on Health and the
Coming Clean
Comit Civico del Valle
Communications Workers of America
Community Food and Justice Coalition
Conservation Minnesota
Conservation Voters for Idaho
Cook Inletkeeper
Del Amo Action Committee
Democracy Initiative
Ecology Center
Empire State Consumer Project
Environmental Advocates of New York
Environmental Health Strategy Center
Environmental Justice and Health Alliance
Environmental Working Group
Farmworker Association of Florida
Farmworker Justice
Food & Water Watch
Fresnans against Fracking
Friends of the Earth
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives
Grassroots Environmental Education
Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition
Green Inside and Out
Greenaction for Health and Environmental
Headwater LLC
Health Care Without Harm
Health Professionals and Allied Employees
Healthy Building Network
Healthy Legacy Coalition
Healthy Schools Network
Hillsborough Clean Investment Coalition
Hip Hop Caucus
Huntington Breast Cancer ACTION Coalition,
International Center for Technology
League of Conservation Voters
Learning Disabilities Association of America
Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia
Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois
Learning Disabilities Association of Maine
Learning Disabilities Association of New
Learning Disabilities Association of South
Learning Disabilities Association of
Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware
Los Jardines Institute
Marin City Parent Academy
Natural Resources Defense Council
NC Child
Nontoxic Certified / Made Safe
North Carolina Conservation Network
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
Oregon Environmental Council
Organize Florida
People for Clean Air & Water of Kettleman
Pesticide Action Network
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families
Safer States
San Francisco Firefighters Cancer
Prevention Foundation
Science and Environmental Health Network
Sierra Club
Stupid Cancer, Inc.
Texas Campaign for the Environment
Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy
Services (TEJAS)
The Alliance for Appalachia
The Environmental Justice Coalition for
The Institute of Neurotoxicology and
Neurological Disorders (INND)
The Progressive Hub, Saratoga
Toxic-Free Future
Toxics Action Center Campaigns
Tri-County Watchdogs
Tri-Valley CAREs
United Steelworkers
Utility Workers Union of America
Vermont Conservation Voters
Vermont Public Interest Research Group
WE ACT for Environmental Justice
West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and
Safe Jobs
Women's Voices for the Earth

And below are the quotes which express the reasons why Dr. Dourson would be a terrible nominee for the position of Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Keep in mind, the people who are quoted are part of the organizations listed above:

Why​ ​signatories​ ​oppose​ ​Michael​ ​Dourson’s​ ​nomination:
1) "Dourson has a long history of working for the interests of the chemical industry rather than for the health of communities affected by devastating pollution from these industries. This is a clear conflict of interest with the important mission of EPA to protect the environment and public health. His nomination must be rejected."
-Pamela​ ​Miller​, Executive Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics
2) "The implementation of the updated TSCA rule will have health implications for years to come.  We need a leader who will put public health first when addressing toxic chemicals and Mr. Dourson is not that leader. As nurses, we strongly oppose his nomination for Assistant Administrator."
-Katie​ ​Huffling​, Executive Director, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
4) "Dr. Dourson’s work consulting for the chemical industry during the last few decades raises significant concerns. The job of the Assistant Administrator is to lead the office whose mission is to protect American families and the environment from the potential risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals. We are sure that there are more qualified candidates for this position."
-Andrew​ ​Behar​, CEO, As You Sow
5) "Profoundly unqualified.”
-Linda​ ​Reinstein​, President, Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization
6) "Involuntary chemical exposures are linked to increased risk of breast cancer and other diseases and disorders. The OCSPP’s mission is to protect the public ‘from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals’ and ‘prevent pollution before it begins’. Mr. Dourson's industry links threaten to undermine the use of ""sound science as a compass"" in pursuit of this mission and his track record shows he will put corporate profit before public health. Protect the safety of our food, air, and personal care and other consumer products by opposing Mr. Dourson's nomination and insisting on a nominee who will stand up for public health."
-Karuna​ ​Jaggar​, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action
7) "OCSPP must be led by an individual free from any conflict of interest with the chemical industry. Based on his record, Michael Dourson is not that person."
-Jeanne​ ​Rizzo​, R.N., President and CEO, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners
8) “Dr. Dourson's ties to the chemical industry can pose a significant conflict of interest. His concerns should lie with the American people and their health and safety.”
Soledad​ ​Haren​, CEO and Founder, Build A Better Planet
9) "His history of downplaying the risks of chemicals in drinking water supplies. Testing currently shows 1,4 dioxane and several perfluorinated compounds in our *treated* drinking water."
-Kemp​ ​Burdette​, Riverkeeper, Cape Fear River Watch
10) "Corporate shill"
-Collin​ ​Thomas​, Co-Founder, Capital District Against Fracking
11) "Michael Dourson's has a history of working for the chemical and tobacco industries to minimize the health risks of their products. With the EPA poised to finalize chemical safety rules for the next generation, the stakes are too high to install a leader compromised by the industry he is nominated to regulate."
-Ansje​ ​Miller​, Director of Policy and Partnerships, Center for Environmental Health
12) "He has a strong conflict of interest because he has represented the chemical industry for years rather than the public health interests."
-Barbara​ ​Warren​, Executive Director, Citizens' Environmental Coalition
13) "We represent 50,000 Californians who want the toxics program to help drive the development and use of safer materials to protect our people, our environment, and yes, our economy!"
-Andria​ ​Ventura​, Toxics Program Manager, Clean Water Action California
14) "The Environmental Protection Agency should be that - an agency whose priority is protecting the environment, including the people who live in it, and its leadership and staff should be made up of people who embody that mission. Michael Dourson is the opposite. He has consistently worked with the chemical industry to ensure that regulations of chemicals are based on profit motives rather than environment and public health protection. He does not belong in the EPA."
-Elizabeth​ ​Saunders​, Massachusetts Director, Clean Water Action Massachusetts
15) "He has multiple conflicts of interest."
-Bill​ ​Magavern​, Policy Director, Coalition for Clean Air
16) "The American public needs someone who will put the health of all families and children before anything else. Michael Dourson is not the person for the job."
-Karen​ ​Wang​, Director, Collaborative on Health and the Environment
17) "The American People need and deserve a true champion for their health and safety in the office of the EPA, not Michael Dourson, whom the regulated industry has paid time and again to undermine safer chemical policies and regulations, advances, which if adopted, lead us to stronger public health and environmental justice outcomes for all."
-Judith​ ​Robinson​, Executive Director, Coming Clean
18) “Community Food and Justice Coalition believes we need advocates working on behalf of communities and not industry.”
-Y.​ ​Armando​ ​Nieto​, Executive Director, Community Food and Justice Coalition
19) "He's a chemical industry lackey."
-Bob​ ​Shavelson​, Inletkeeper, Cook Inletkeeper
20) "Industry ties. A person in that position should be a scientist and completely independent of any industry ties."
-Judy​ ​Braiman​, President, Empire state Consumer Project
21) "He appears to be a nominee that will put public health at risk."
-Peter​ ​M.​ ​Iwanowicz​, Executive Director, Environmental Advocates of New York
22) "Communities living on the frontlines of chemical hazards become even more susceptible to toxins when natural and human-made disasters strike. When we look at Dourson’s nomination from environmental justice and chemical security perspectives, it’s even more clear that the Trump Administration is prioritizing industry profits over health and safety."
-Michele​ ​Roberts​, Co-Director, Environmental Justice and Health Alliance
23) "Farmworkers are among the most vulnerable people in our nation today. They are chronically exposed to toxic agricultural chemicals in the work place. Michael Dourson's record of denying the science and cozying up to industry is a threat to the health and safety of farmworkers, and ultimately, to us all."
-Jeannie​ ​Economos​, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, Farmworker Association of Florida
24) “Michael Dourson is the wrong person for any leadership position at the EPA since his career has been to minimize the true dangers of toxic chemicals in the service of those who manufacture and sell them. Even if he wanted to, he would be unable to change his orientation to firm control of the dangers from these chemicals.”
-Ronald​ ​J.​ ​Martin​, Fresnans against Fracking
25) “USEPA appointees should serve to strengthen the mission of the Offices they head. The appointment of Michael Dourson will weaken OCSPP and, as his track record has demonstrated, only serve the best interests of the chemical industry.”
Ahmina​ ​Maxey​, U.S. & Canada Regional Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
26) “The EPA needs to be strengthened to protect public health and the environment from toxic pollution, not gutted to protect corporate toxic polluters.”
-Bradley​ ​Angel​, Executive Director, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice
27) "Mr. Dourson's track record suggests he is ethically compromised and inclined to represent chemical industry giants, rather than the public interest."
-Charlie​ ​Cray​, Senior Research Specialist, Greenpeace
28) "We need impartiality and scientific leadership in this position. Allowing Michael Dourson to lead this program will put profits in front of scientifically-defensible common-sense health protections.”
-Eric​ ​Uram​, Principal Consultant, Headwater LLC
29) "We are deeply concerned that Mr Dourson has no interest in upholding this office's solemn duty. His history indicates that his priority is to undermine efforts to protect American families and the environment from the potential risks of pesticides and toxic chemicals.”
-Tom​ ​Lent​, Policy Director, Healthy Building Network
30) "Michael Dourson is the wrong person for this job. He has demonstrated throughout his career that his focus is on protecting industry interests, rather than protecting human health and our environment."
-Kathleen​ ​Schuler​, Co-Director, Healthy Legacy Coalition
31) "distorts the safety of chemicals "
-Steven​ ​G.​ ​Gilbert​, Director, The Institute of Neurotoxicology and Neurological Disorders (INND)
32) "Michael Dourson has a well-documented history of underestimating or ignoring risks to children's health from toxic chemicals. It's critical that we have someone leading the office of Chemical Safety who is on the side of our children and families, not on the side of polluting chemical industries."
-Patricia​ ​Lillie​, President, Learning Disabilities Association of America
33) "Our toxic environment impacts the neurology of our citizens. This impacts the ability to learn and function on an optimum level. Therefore, Michael Dourson’s relationship with and support of the tobacco and chemical industries proves his interest is not in the health and welfare of our families but in corporations that make their money at the cost of people’s lives. As a support group for those suffering with learning disabilities and other mental health issues, we do not support his nomination.”
-Dr.​ ​Joan​ ​K.​ ​Teach​, President, Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia
34) “We must have someone who has a clear understanding of the dangers of toxins in our environment."
-Bev​ ​Johns​, President-Elect, Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois
35) “Michael Dourson has a history of supporting companies which produce and/or encourage toxic effects on our population. As a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, I worry about the future generations. We need environmental PROTECTION, not DESTRUCTION!!!!”
-Theresa​ ​Cavanaugh​, Imm. Past-President, Learning Disabilities Association of New Jersey
35) “As a member of a national LDA coalition, the Healthy Children's Project, we have campaigns that advocate for the banning of toxic chemicals in products used by infants and children that may cause learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, Autism, and other disorders. Mr. Dourson's background in the chemical industry would not be beneficial as we're trying to ban toxic chemicals, not just lower the ‘acceptable’ levels.”
-Anne​ ​Fogel​, Co-Secretary, Learning Disabilities Association of South Carolina
36) "He will not make the health of our children a priority."
-Dr.​ ​Joy​ ​S.​ ​Marsh​, State President, Learning Disabilities Association of Tennessee
37) "We need someone who will protect our most vulnerable including children, low income and communities of color.”
-Tracy​ ​Gregoire​, Healthy Children Project Coordinator, Learning Disabilities Association of Maine
38) "Dourson’s record indicates that if he’s confirmed as head of EPA’s toxics program, communities already disproportionately impacted by toxins--particularly the millions of people living near chemical facilities--will face even greater risks to their health."
-Sofia​ ​Martinez​, Co-Director, Los Jardines Institute
39) "The EPA is intended to protect the health and well-being of the general public and thus should not be staffed by people who have made a career of aligning with industry in a way that put profits ahead of people. The American people want and deserve better."
-Amy​ ​Ziff​, Founder & Executive Director, Nontoxic Certified / Made Safe
40) "Impact of pollutants on the marine environment and health of commercially fisheries is often underestimated. But we know it's really important to sustainable fisheries and ocean ecosystems. And who is responsible for this balance is really critical. Mr. Dourson's history of dismissing issues and facts tells us he is not the right choice for this job."
-Niaz​ ​Dorry​, Coordinating Director, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
41) “21st century science reveals how critical the environment is to human health. Our well-being and our economy depend upon agency leadership that understands the true value of health-protective policy. Michael Dourson has not exhibited that leadership or understanding.”
-Jennifer​ ​Coleman​, Director of Health Outreach, Oregon Environmental Council
42) "Corporate connections are inappropriate, undermine EPA's mission to protect health and the environment."
-Kristin​ ​Schafer​, Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network
43) "Sounds like he's against regulation."
-Sue​ ​Scherer​, The Progressive Hub, Saratoga
44) "Firefighters throughout the United States are faced with highly elevated rates of cancer to do toxic chemical exposures on the job. President Trump has said that he is a great supporter of first responders yet he has recommended an individual that has worked ‘hand in hand’ with the chemical industry downplaying many of the toxic chemicals that are killing firefighters. The selection of Mr. Dourson is of extreme concern for the men and women of the entire firefighting profession. We cannot let this happen!"
-Tony​ ​Stefani​, President, San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation
45) "We oppose the nomination of Dr. Dourson to lead the toxic program at EPA. This is another example of the Trump Administration having the fox protect the henhouse."
-A.​ ​Tianna​ ​Scozzaro​, Director, Gender Equity, Sierra Club
46) "The cancer community at large – 80MM Americans strong – collectively demand that toxic chemicals in our food, air, water and everyday household products be regulated for safety."
-Matthew​ ​Zachary​, Chief Executive Officer, Stupid Cancer, Inc.
47) "People who have worked for industries should not be running the government initiatives to police their former employers or clients."
-Robin​ ​Schneider​, Executive Director, Texas Campaign for the Environment
48) "Generally speaking, there exist evidence on numerous pesticides and fertilizers used for agricultural farming in mid-western states that indicate fertilizers and pesticides get into the Mississippi River, as a result of run-offs, and drain into the Gulf, creating what is referred to as a ‘Dead Zone’. The science is there to proof those chemicals are causing and extending the dead zone, yet, like in this particular situation, the person being nominated, is not one we would stand by. His past record is a reflection of what we can expect, not reliable."
-Juan​ ​Parras​, Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS)
49) "Mr. Dourson is not a good choice. He has taken public policy positions on behalf of the very industries he will be regulating. The person in this role must protect the most vulnerable, not the companies who will profit from his decisions.”
-Laurie​ ​Valeriano​, Executive Director, Toxic-Free Future
50) "Michael Dourson is a bad choice to run the toxics program because his track record of working for the chemical industry means that the fox will be guarding the henhouse when it comes to critical decisions with widespread impacts on the health of our communities."
-Sylvia​ ​Broude​, Executive Director, Toxics Action Center Campaigns
51) “Dourson's ties to the chemical and tobacco industries and his past actions in support of those industries lead us to believe he will serve them and not the public health.”
-Katherine​ ​King​, Secretary, Tri-County Watchdogs
52) "Conflict of Interest"
-Paul​ ​Mercurio​, Recording Secretary, USW
53) "Michael Dourson's support of the toxic chemical industry biases him against the public interest, intent of the law and the EPA mission, and our communities health."
-Johanna​ ​de​ ​Graffenreid​, Environmental Advocate, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG)
54) "Mr. Dourson has a history of manufacturing doubt and ignoring science. We need a leader who is willing to stand up against chemicals giants who bury facts in order to gain profit. We need a leader willing to put the health of the nation's vulnerable, our children, and our communities first."
-Erin​ ​Switalski​, Executive Director, Women's Voices for the Earth

Call up your local elected representative and express your concern for the current nominee Dr. Michael Dourson for the position of  Assistant Administrator for Toxic Substances of the Environmental Protection Agency.  There is plenty of praise for Dr. Dourson coming out of the EPA which has been high jacked by anti-environmentalist.

Friday, October 6, 2017

EPA Director Finally Realizes Reality Of Trying To Roll-Back Obama Era Clean Air Act Regulation

Early on in the Presidency of Donald Trump, massive moves with massive momentum were being directed toward rolling back the great progress on environmental legislation which President Obama put in place.  These measures (thank goodness) were implemented shortly before President Obama left office.  Shortly after President Trump took office, he sought to defund science research and roll back Obama era environmental regulations.  Fortunately, President Obama was able to set in place rules which can be altered with strict caveats.

An example of legislation which the Trump administration sought to roll back with his nominee of the EPA director Scott Pruitt was the Clean Air Act.  After assuming the directorship of the EPA, Director Scott Pruitt was on a roll to tackle these issues quickly and fiercely.  The only issue was that the EPA found itself caught up in the legal system trying to undue good environmental legislation.  Why?

I will admit, when I first heard about the potential roll-back efforts of the EPA, I was worried to say the least.  That is until, I consulted the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  The mission of the society is to advance science.  Part of that mission is to inform the public about tax payer research which is published in their weekly premiere Journal of Science.  The other part is to work in Washington D.C. to lobby for greater science consideration in the policy making process.

Early on in the administration, many scientists were worried - not just me.   As a result, AAAS organization started making videos regarding the various advocacy actions which could be taken by the public and scientists who were concerned at the current administrations efforts to block science.  You will remember back in April of this year, a "Science March" was held to convey to President Trump the importance of science in the world around us.  Here is a video of the Director of AAAS Dr. Rush Holt brief motivational speech:

This video can be found on the facebook page for AAAS organization. You might be wondering the following questions right now:

Why am I showing you the video above? 

How does that relate to the EPA directors efforts to roll back the Obama era environmental legislation?

Dr. Rush Holt previously served in Congress after teaching physics (and conducting research) at Princeton University.  I sought out videos with interviews about policy making in Congress to understand the potential threats of nominating inexperienced directors such as Scott Pruitt.  Specifically, I wanted to understand more about the following questions:

1) Was there a possibility of undoing (rolling-back) the progress which President Obama put in place while still in office?

2) If yes, how likely would the possibility be of his success in removing the regulations completely?

Through watching multiple interviews with Dr. Rush Holt, I gathered that the answers to my questions were contained in the following thought:

The only way to 'roll-back' a piece of legislation is to replace the law with a better law!

Awesome.  I was temporarily satisfied with the explanation -- if that explanation was indeed true.  According to an e-mail I received in my 'inbox' two weeks ago from 'Politico Energy' -- the statement above seems to be true regarding rolling-back environmental legislation:

PRUITT'S CARBON TIGHTROPE BALANCING ACT: Leaving the door open to rewrite the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan would help President Donald Trump's administration honor the wishes of power companies looking to avoid years of legal uncertainty but might not satisfy the demands of some conservative activists, Pro's Emily Holden reports. EPA wants to move to collect comments about whether to write a new regulation, and is likely to write a new rule given the agency would be on much shakier legal ground if it simply opted not to regulate carbon dioxide from power plants.
Any replacement rule would be unlikely to take a meaningful bite out of carbon levels and would be based on a much narrower interpretation of EPA's Clean Air Act authority. That may be enough in the interim for some conservatives who would prefer a straight withdrawal of Clean Power Plan but who wouldn't oppose a replacement rule. "Ultimately, the responsibility to fix this mess lies with the Congress, so until they act, the only thing the Administration can do is minimize the damage," said Tom Pyle, a conservative lobbyist with the American Energy Alliance who led Trump's Energy Department transition team. But the details could have political implications for Pruitt, who is widely seen as a potential candidate for the U.S. Senate in his native Oklahoma.
Most utilities assume future regulations or laws will ultimately require them to curb carbon emissions even if the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan goes down and support EPA issuing a replacement rule - albeit a much weaker one. "We think that future regulation of carbon emissions from power production is likely, and could provide additional planning certainty," Tammy Ridout, a spokeswoman with coal-heavy AEP, said. Regardless of the approach Pruitt ultimately selects, environmental groups are sure to vigorously contest his efforts in court.

According to the excerpt above, Director Scott Pruitt is realizing that either Congress needs to act to replace the law or the EPA needs to rewrite the law.  Either way, fortunately, the new version appears to have to satisfy the requirement suggested in earlier months by the Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Science - Dr. Rush Holt.  Which is that in order to repeal an old or existing piece of legislation, the new piece of legislation should be better or improved.

Therefore, the idea of rolling back legislation which protects the environment seems to be protected by laws in Congress.  Thank goodness.  Also, certain industries are complaining to the Trump Administration (amazingly enough) about the Administration's current efforts in the legal system with legislative reversals.  Companies have instituted (or invested heavily) in renewable energy changes required by the Obama Administration.  Therefore, they are questioning the need of the Trump Administration to spend so much time in court to reverse what already has forward momentum.

In closing, the overall function of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect the public from environmental hazards that might contribute to contamination of the environment.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Activist Ralph Nader Speaks Out On Lack Of Funding For Federal Agencies - Finally!

Over the course of the last several months, the Trump Administration has been trying very hard to dismantle the Federal Agencies which protect and provide much needed services (i.e. disaster relief - FEMA).  This could potentially have devastating consequences for the residents of our nation.  In the unfortunate instance of another Hurricane like Harvey or Irma, the lack of government resources could impact our ability to reconstruct our city infrastructure.  On the other hand, from a preventable measure standpoint, our ability to ensure safe drinking water and vital resources depends on corporations being in compliance with practicing safe standards along with our ability to keep track of such good compliance measures.

I have been waiting for the Activist Ralph Nader to speak up on the lack of prevention and post disaster agency infrastructure.  Finally, he weighed in on part of the issues in the newsletter below:

Big Institutions—Immunities, Impunities and Insanities
One of the first times I used the phrase “institutional insanity” was in 1973 to describe the behavior of scientist Dixy Lee Ray, chairperson of the presumed regulatory agency, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). I pointed out that her personal and academic roles were quite normal. But her running of the AEC—pressing for 1,000 nuclear plants in the U.S. by the year 2000 (there are 99 reactors left in operation now), and going easy on a deadly, taxpayer subsidized technology that was privately uninsurable, lacked a place to put its lethal radioactive wastes, a national security risk, replete with vast cost over-runs, immunities and impunities shielding culpable officials and executives, should a meltdown occur and take out a city or region (all to boil water to produce steam to make electricity)—was a case study in “institutional insanity.”
Both the AEC and its successor, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), captured by the atomic energy industry, operate this way to this day, no matter the near misses, the spills, growing corporate welfare outlays, and the inadequate maintenance of aging nuclear power plants.
Our moral and ethical codes and our civil and criminal laws were originally designed to hold individuals accountable. The kings of yore operated under a divine right of being above the laws.
With the rise and proliferation of ever more multi-tiered governmental and corporate bureaucracies, methods of immunity, impunity and secrecy were built into these structures to shield them from moral/ethical codes and laws. Increasingly, we are ruled by no-fault big corporations and their no-fault toady governments.
Some comparisons are in order. If your neighbor entrusted you with her savings and paid you a fee for doing so, you then purchased stocks for her account while you’re selling them for your account, deceiving the cheated neighbor in the process, would you escape the law? That is just some of what the Wall Street Barons did on a massive scale about ten years ago. No one was prosecuted and sent to jail for this corporate crime wave.
Suppose you hired a security person for your defense who, at the same time, wasted your money and couldn’t account for your payments because his books were unauditable. Would you keep doing business with him? Wouldn’t you demand an audit? Well on a hugely larger scale, this is the Pentagon contracting system and your tax dollars. Why not demand that the defense department stop violating federal law, as it has since 1992, and provide Congress with auditable information so that its accounting arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) can audit the notoriously porous Pentagon books.
Suppose the head of your neighborhood association kept sugar coating problems, kept lying to you, kept describing conditions that weren’t so and kept doing things that would enrich himself in conflict with his duties. Would you keep supporting him in that position? Probably not. Well, that is your President, day after day.
What if your neighbor kept dumping polluted water and solid waste pollutants on your lawn and all around your house? Would you demand that your town or city stop this contamination, or sit quietly and accept this abuse because you don’t believe in regulation? Well, Trump’s EPA wrecker, Scott Pruitt, is busily going weakening environmental protections and even taking away environmental crimes investigators and forcing them to be his personal security guard.
Let’s say your farmers’ market vendors sensed that you were very dependent on the food they provide and they proceeded to triple the prices, it’s not difficult to predict your reactions. Yet that is what the drug companies have done with many of your important medicines over the past 10 years. Yet where are the outraged demands for the government to have the power to negotiate volume discounts, facilitate generics, restrain prices for drugs rooted in your taxpayer funded research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and allow imported competition from Canada?
You get into a bus or cab and the driver regularly cheats you into paying several times more than you should pay and then covers it up. When you find out about it, all hell breaks loose next time you confront him. What about Wells Fargo bank—they knowingly created unauthorized, false credit card and auto insurance accounts, wrongly billing customers millions of times. Imagine: no criminal prosecutions yet, no wholesale resignation of the well-paid Board of Directors, and very few customers are leaving the bank. Wells Fargo keeps reporting great profits while hassling victims into settlements. What’s one takeaway? The bigger the crook, the bigger is our surrender. Too big to fail or jail!
The neighbor in charge of the rural, communal drinking water well knows it’s being contaminated by a party that was his previous employer and expects to be hired back by his old boss. Your children as well as their parents are at risk. Well, welcome to Trump’s deregulations of food, drug, auto pollution, and workplace investor safety. They’ve come from the industries’ payroll and expect to come back with a big raise.
There are just a few contrasts between individual and institutional crimes and wrongdoing and our different responses toward them. Facebook, Google and Equifax can misuse your personal information to your perceived disadvantage and they repeatedly get away with it.
The White House under Bush/Cheney can unconstitutionally ignite wars, lie to the people about the reasons, produce millions of casualties and untold destruction of innocent peoples’ homelands, get re-elected and later retire with huge speech fees without being chased by the “sheriffs.”
It is doubtful whether you would allow your hamlet’s political leaders to get away with such violent assaults, even if they wanted to do so.
If our moral/ethical/legal codes cannot reach up to the tops of these institutions on behalf of wronged, injured individuals and communities and societies, we’ll get what we’ve been getting, which is worse and worse immunities/impunities with each passing decade.
Isn’t this a fault/no fault paradox worth thinking about?

Finally, we need high-profile activists like Ralph Nader to speak out for additional funding.   Actually, in the present case, the argument could be made that a request for funds is one that is a request to keep funding levels the same as in previous years.  Ever since the President assumed the office of the Presidency, he has been hell bent on slashing funding to very important funding agencies.

The last two (and now three) natural disasters have been a visual display of the 'disregard' for which federal agencies this administration has for federal funding.  Only in the event of a public image crisis will this administration yield to more funding.  Over the past few weeks with both previous disastrous hurricanes (Irma and Harvey), his initial response has been completely flawed.  Federal funds have been flowing (supposedly) to help all of those in need of rescue and return.

Of course, the real display of truth will be displayed in the months (and years) to come as these geographical regions start the arduous process of rebuilding and growing back to normalcy.  The remainder of the nation will be able to view the response of President Trump's Administration.  He will be on the spotlight.  The news and the public should keep him accountable to the campaign promise of "Making America Great Again".

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Puerto Rico Crops Devastated By Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico has endured tremendous destruction from the past two Hurricanes -- Hurricane Irma followed by Hurricane Maria.  Arriving in my e-mail box yesterday morning from 'Politico Agriculture' was a reminder of the devastation caused by such natural disasters:

PUERTO RICO CROPS TAKE MAJOR HIT Less than a week after Hurricane Maria battered through Puerto Rico, the island lost an estimated 80 percent of its crops, according to the Agriculture Secretary Carlos Flores Ortega, The New York Times reported Sunday. The category 4 hurricane devastated the island as the commonwealth government has still not made contact with a number of the island's 78 municipalities. Millions on the island are left without cell reception to reach loved ones or electricity, which officials estimate could take months to repair. POLITICO also reports that Puerto Rico has limited representation in Washington to help its gets the aid it needs.
Plantain and coffee crops were dealt the largest blow, but all agriculture - ranging from livestock to dairy - suffered major losses. Puerto Rican agriculture department preliminary figures put the price tag at a $780 million loss in agriculture yields.
In perspective, Puerto Rico imports more than 80 percent of its food. But as The New York Times reports, those food imports will "rise drastically as local products like coffee and plantains are added to the list of Maria's staggering losses. Local staples that stocked supermarkets, school lunchrooms and even Walmart are gone."

With the majority of crops devastated by recent storms, where do residents go to get food?  Puerto Rico is not a huge island and will need a tremendous amount of aid from the United States government.  Prior to the storms, Puerto Rico was in a state of 'Bankruptcy' owing a tremendous amount of money.  The recent storms have exacerbated the devastation on top of bankruptcy.

I have a friend who is finishing up Medical School down in Puerto Rico.  I have tried to reach him.  As of writing this post, he was traveling back on a 'humanitarian' flight back to Los Angeles airport.  I will have more to report after visiting with him.

We should keep the residents of Puerto Rico in our thoughts and wish them a speedy recovery.  Our politicians should be focused on directing the resources available to help them out.  Instead of dividing the nation, we should be bringing help and resources to each resident to help establish basic services (electricity, water, trash, etc.).  We should also be reminded that food (crops) do not grow over night.  Therefore, the recovery from such a large percentage of devastation to the available land for growing crops will take time to restore.  The adverse (devastation) caused by these tremendous storms has been enormous and will continue to shed light on much needed services and infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What Are University Presidents Saying About Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Leaving Title IX ??

Last Week, the Trump Administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decided to abandon current guidelines for Title IX under which universities and schools operate in the unfortunate situation when the issue of sexual harassment arises on campus.  Many were astounded by the announcement.  Others expected such challenges based on earlier remarks by the Education Secretary.  Nonetheless, students were left wondering where 'Title IX' stands on their respective campus.  I cannot speak for all university campus presidents across the nation.  I did receive an e-mail from my boss at California State University at Northridge -- President Dianne Harrison -- regarding the position CSUN will be taking heading forward.  Here is the letter below:

To the Campus Community:
This morning, Secretary Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education's (DOE) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced its withdrawal of the guidelines reflected in OCR's 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence and the 2014 Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. Both documents played a critical role in helping colleges and universities to more effectively address campus sexual violence and support sexual assault survivors.
In recent years, and particularly since issuance of the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter, we have witnessed extraordinary strides nationwide in sexual violence prevention education, the investigation and adjudication of sexual misconduct, and ensuring a system of support for survivors. CSUN is no exception. Regardless of this new DOE action and interim guidance offered, I want to clearly communicate to our campus community that we will not waver in our commitment to Title IX and its protections. It cannot be overstated: this university will not tolerate sexual misconduct in any form, whether it is sexual harassment, sexual violence, dating violence, domestic violence or stalking.  
At CSUN, we remain steadfast in our commitment to a comprehensive and holistic approach to address sexual violence that is responsive to the needs of our campus. Our firm stance is supported by California law and CSU system policy (Executive Orders 1095, 1096 and 1097). CSUN's Title IX Office trained investigators will continue to promptly and impartially review and investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct, ensuring a fair process for all involved. Additionally, survivors and bystanders need to feel safe in coming forward, knowing that they will be supported and that they will be taken seriously. We have made this system of survivor support a shared responsibility through mandated training for all students and all employees, as well as coordinating a network of support resources, including a care advocate, who is a confidential on campus resource for survivors. 
We have resources in place to support both reporting parties and respondents throughout the process, including process advisors and dedicated counselors at University Counseling Services. (Please review the Rights and Options document for a full description of CSUN's policy prohibiting sexual misconduct, including reporting options and confidential resources. You can also find a list of activities around sexual violence prevention here).
During the DOE rulemaking process on Title IX, CSUN continues to operate under policies and procedures delineated in CSU Executive Orders and California law. As such, we have created standards and processes that are fair and protect the rights of all parties, and we have instituted serious consequences for those who are found to have violated CSUN policy. 
Sexual misconduct has no place at CSUN. Greater accountability in the form of firm and measured responses to a range of misconduct has helped to build trust in our campuswide efforts to end campus sexual assault. We remain committed to this endeavor. Please join me with renewed resolve to protect and preserve the safety, well-being and respect for all students, faculty and staff here at CSUN.

Dianne F. Harrison, Ph.D.

Readers may recall Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's September 7th (2017) speech announcing the withdrawal of the previous administration's guidelines.  One statement that resides in my mind from that speech is the following:

"...If everything is harassment, then nothing is..." 

This was in regard for the need to narrow down a more "precise definition of sexual harassment.  That is scary to say the least.  Each individual has different boundaries and is entitled to speak out when an injustice has occurred.  The speech on September 7th is yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to weaken the progress which was made under the Obama Administration which called for greater protection of each individuals rights.

No solution is perfect, although, with each step of the way, one would hope that progress has been made.  The current attempt by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to repeal the current guidelines is mismanaged and yet another sign of her lack of experience.

Hopefully, the future holds greater protection for students in education environments.  I am proud that my boss -- CSUN President Dianne Harrison is standing tall and continuing to protect students rights to access to help in the event of an unfortunate harassment on campus.  Let us continue to respect each other while advancing our knowledge on campus.  Last but not least, I will leave you with the message (e-mail) that the Chancellor Timothy White of the entire California State University system sent to all of the employees from all 23 campuses throughout California:

Today's Dear Colleague Letter from the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) withdraws federal guidance about sexual violence provided by that office in 2011 and 2014. The letter states that it will implement new sexual misconduct guidance through a rulemaking process that includes public comment. The CSU will be strong participants in that process to ensure our values are represented at the table.
As we wait for OCR's process to unfold, I assure you CSU's existing policies will continue to protect our students and employees, and provide a fair process to all. Our comprehensive policies comply with federal and state laws and regulations -- and remain in full force and effect. Today's letter from the OCR does not change CSU's approach because compassion and fairness to all parties is a bedrock of our existing policies. At the same time, the CSU continually reviews its policies to ensure that processes are informed by lessons learned through experience and the wisdom of experts and community stakeholders. 
As we continue to pursue this important work, we will not be deterred from our commitment to safety, fairness, compassion and equal opportunity for every member of our university community, which is and always will be, our highest priority. I am grateful for everyone's hard work and dedication in combatting sexual violence on campuses.
Timothy P. White, Chancellor

As Chancellor Timothy White says, we will wait to see what change is on the horizon.  In the meantime, lets respect one another to our best ability.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Republicans Endorse Carbon Tax For Climate Change? Wow

Traditionally, the Republican party has taken a public stance as climate deniers.  Not so much as complete climate change deniers, just that climate change could possibly be happening but do not know the source or the rate of occurrence is the routine stance.  Recently, Republican Congressman Lindsey Graham endorsed a carbon tax as stated in the excerpt from 'Politico Energy' below:

BABY STEPS FOR CLIMATE HAWKS: Sens. Lindsey Graham and Sheldon Whitehouse are working together on a carbon tax bill, the South Carolina Republican told a conference in Connecticut on Tuesday, according to Time . "I believe that the greenhouse effect is real, that CO2 emissions generated by man is creating our greenhouse gas effect that traps heat, and the planet is warming," said Graham. "A price on carbon-that's the way to go in my view." He pledged to discuss the idea with the White House. Whitehouse, in response, tweeted: "Lots of work to do, but this is a good step."

These are inspiring words from Senator Lindsey Graham.  Politicians might act like a 'pendulum' when discussing climate change.  I am alright with that intermittent commitment to climate change to appease their constituents.  Why?

Because I believe that scientists need to do a better job of contributing to the reality of climate change to the public.  Also, we live in a democracy.  If the public would like to spend their tax-payer money on 'so-called' higher priorities then so be it.  Although, with the severity of the recent storms of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, the writing is on the wall.

A few months ago, I wrote a short blog post about Congress reviewing President Trump's FY 2018 budget.  Specifically, I mentioned the instance where a Republican Congressman tried to remove the words "climate change" completely out of the Department of Defenses budget.  Fortunately, by a wide margin, the remaining Republicans and Democrats voted against the amendment.  That was another 'baby step'.

Each of these announcements are 'baby steps' toward the eventual "public acceptance" and "persuasion" by the important politicians -- i.e. Republicans (mainly) who typically deny climate change in "public"(i.e. in front of the cameras) to please their constituents while accepting climate change as real in private.  These acts show that now, more than ever, each scientist needs to do their part to join the conversation and educate or discuss the adverse effects of climate change along with the need to change our habits toward sustainable living.

Collectively, politicians and educators can change the system.  Lets join together and make some change for the better.  Recently, Democrats have asked the EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to clarify his intentions of holding a 'climate debate' which is illegal according to government protocols.  You can read about the inquiry in a recent post I wrote.  This is good news.  The Congress is starting to collectively come down on the misguided direction that President Trump's administration is taking us in trying to reverse environmental regulations set by the previous administration.  Environmental regulations that even big corporations have accepted and made changes to their infrastructure to accommodate (some have) a renewable energy future.

Instead of arguing in the aftermath of devastating Hurricanes like Harvey about the responsibility of chemical spills and fires along with resources, lets invest in resources and regulations which keep us safe and lead to a more sustainable environment (using renewable energy).  The excerpt above seems to indicate that we are headed in the right direction at the moment.