The Deregulation Machine

    Source Steve Halama

    Where Do I Get My Facts?

    Most Americans support protecting the environment. 74% say the country should do what it takes to preserve the Earth. But in order to make that happen, we need to vote politicians into office who will actually do something.

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    The Deregulation Machine

    What's Going On?

    In the past month the Trump Administration released an environmental impact statement that acknowledges the worst case scenario of climate change — human-caused climate change will cause the world to warm by 4°C by the end of the century. (Remember, the goal is to limit warming to 1.5°C, and the difference between 1.5°C and 4°C is HUGE). Our government has accepted the problem. You would think this is a step in the right direction. But rather than responding by buckling down and finding solutions, the report declares the planet's fate as sealed. In other words — we're screwed, so no point in trying to fix it.

    The report argues that environmental regulation rollbacks will have very little effect on the overall fate of the planet (what about the thousands of premature deaths?), so let the deregulation train roll on.

    Here are just a few regulations that the Trump administration has decided to get rid of this week:

    Mercury: Mercury is a powerful neurotoxin, especially to children and infants. The Trump Administration wants to reevaluate the limit placed on how much mercury (in addition to arsenic and acid gases) coal plants can release during its operation.

    HFCs: The EPA announced a plan to get rid of a rule that phases out the use of hydrofluorocarbons in refrigerants. HFCs are a powerful greenhouse gas, 10,000 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Luckily, banning HFCs is a bipartisan issue.

    The Office of the Science Advisor: The EPA decided to get rid of the Office of the Science Advisor (OSA) this week, an office that coordinates and standardizes the way the EPA does science, making sure that the agency has a clear understanding of the relevant science. The EPA will have less access to scientific advice, making it easier to for the agency to politicize science.

    Children’s Health Protection: The EPA also placed its head of the Office of Children’s Health Protection on administrative leave. It is also rolling back environmental policies meant to protect children.

    Why You Should Care

    Experts debate the exact number of premature deaths that will be caused by all of the environmental deregulation, but air pollution alone kills millions of people globally each year. Emissions regulations have measurable benefits for human health and we need policies that acknowledge this, regardless of the future fate of the planet.

    What's Killing Killer Whales?

    What’s Going On?

    Animal under threat this week — orcas (killer whales). PCBs are a class of chemicals that until 1970 were used to make plastics, paints, adhesive, and other industrial materials. In 1979, the EPA banned their use due to numerous studies linking them to cancer, liver damage, and birth defects in humans and animals. At that point, 3 billions pounds were already out in the world - in the soil, air and water, by way of landfills or spills. Even since its ban, PCBs have been accumulating in the environment and ending up in the food supply of orcas. Chemical accumulation in a food chain always hits the top predator the worst, and orcas sit squarely at the top — PCBs end up in phytoplankton, zooplankton eat phytoplankton, smaller fish eat zooplankton, seals eat fish, and orcas eat seals, as higher levels of PCBs compound at every step.

    More than half of the 19 orca populations studied by researchers are threatened by high levels of PCBs, and face potential extinction. Some researchers estimate that half the world’s orcas living in the most contaminated areas will disappear in the next 30-50 years — those with the lowest population sizes live near areas with the highest historic uses of PCB.

    Why You Should Care

    We’ve failed at removing harmful chemicals from the environment and removing PCBs will take global efforts. It is estimated that 80% of the global stocks of PCBs still need to be destroyed. This is only one of the many threats facing killer whales — noise pollution, lack of food and other chemicals also threaten population levels.

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