Science is Under Attack in the U. S. Government

by Duane Nichols on July 22, 2017

I’m a scientist. I’m blowing the whistle on the Trump administration.

Letter to the Editor by Joel Clement, Washington Post, July 19, 2017

NOTE: Joel Clement was director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the U.S. Interior Department until last week. He is now a senior adviser at the department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

I am not a member of the deep state. I am not big government.

I am a scientist, a policy expert, a civil servant and a worried citizen. Reluctantly, as of today, I am also a whistleblower on an administration that chooses silence over science.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to work for the Interior Department, where, among other things, I’ve helped endangered communities in Alaska prepare for and adapt to a changing climate. But on June 15, I was one of about 50 senior department employees who received letters informing us of involuntary reassignments. Citing a need to “improve talent development, mission delivery and collaboration,” the letter informed me that I was reassigned to an unrelated job in the accounting office that collects royalty checks from fossil fuel companies.

I am not an accountant — but you don’t have to be one to see that the administration’s excuse for a reassignment such as mine doesn’t add up. A few days after my reassignment, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before Congress that the department would use reassignments as part of its effort to eliminate employees; the only reasonable inference from that testimony is that he expects people to quit in response to undesirable transfers. Some of my colleagues are being relocated across the country, at taxpayer expense, to serve in equally ill-fitting jobs.

I believe I was retaliated against for speaking out publicly about the dangers that climate change poses to Alaska Native communities. During the months preceding my reassignment, I raised the issue with White House officials, senior Interior officials and the international community, most recently at a U.N. conference in June. It is clear to me that the administration was so uncomfortable with this work, and my disclosures, that I was reassigned with the intent to coerce me into leaving the federal government.

On Wednesday, I filed two forms — a complaint and a disclosure of information — with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. I filed the disclosure because eliminating my role coordinating federal engagement and leaving my former position empty exacerbate the already significant threat to the health and the safety of certain Alaska Native communities. I filed the complaint because the Trump administration clearly retaliated against me for raising awareness of this danger. Our country values the safety of our citizens, and federal employees who disclose threats to health and safety are protected from reprisal by the Whistleblower Protection Act and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.

Removing a civil servant from his area of expertise and putting him in a job where he’s not needed and his experience is not relevant is a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars. Much more distressing, though, is what this charade means for American livelihoods. The Alaska Native villages of Kivalina, Shishmaref and Shaktoolik are perilously close to melting into the Arctic Ocean. In a region that is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, the land upon which citizens’ homes and schools stand is newly vulnerable to storms, floods and waves. As permafrost melts and protective sea ice recedes, these Alaska Native villages are one superstorm from being washed away, displacing hundreds of Americans and potentially costing lives. The members of these communities could soon become refugees in their own country.

Alaska’s elected officials know climate change presents a real risk to these communities. Gov. Bill Walker (I) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R) have been sounding the alarm and scrambling for resources to help these villages. But to stave off a life-threatening situation, Alaska needs the help of a fully engaged federal government. Washington cannot turn its back.

While I have given small amounts to Democratic candidates in the past, I have no problem whatsoever working for a Republican administration. I believe that every president, regardless of party, has the right and responsibility to implement his policies. But that is not what is happening here. Putting citizens in harm’s way isn’t the president’s right. Silencing civil servants, stifling science, squandering taxpayer money and spurning communities in the face of imminent danger have never made America great.

Now that I have filed with the Office of Special Counsel, it is my hope that it will do a thorough investigation into the Interior Department’s actions. Our country protects those who seek to inform others about dangers to American lives. The threat to these Alaska Native communities is not theoretical. This is not a policy debate. Retaliation against me for those disclosures is unlawful.

Let’s be honest: The Trump administration didn’t think my years of science and policy experience were better suited to accounts receivable. It sidelined me in the hope that I would be quiet or quit. Born and raised in Maine, I was taught to work hard and speak truth to power. Trump and Zinke might kick me out of my office, but they can’t keep me from speaking out. They might refuse to respond to the reality of climate change, but their abuse of power cannot go unanswered.

Read more:

David Rank: Why I resigned from the Foreign Service after 27 years

Letters to the Editor: Interior Department cuts represent an assault on our public lands

Jacquelyn Gill: The ‘war on science’ doesn’t just hurt scientists. It hurts everyone.

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Our EARTH is Becoming a Plastic Planet

by Duane Nichols on July 21, 2017

Discarded plastic accumulating at an alarming rate

A Plastic Planet: Enought to Bury Manhattan Two Miles Deep

From an Article by Julie Cohen, UCSB Current, July 19, 2017

Industrial ecologist Roland Geyer measures the production, use and fate of all the plastics ever made, including synthetic fibers. Since the large-scale production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, humans have created more than 8 billion metric tons of plastic.

More than 8 billion metric tons. That’s the amount of plastic humans have created since the large-scale production of synthetic materials began in the early 1950s. It’s enough to cover the entire country of Argentina, and most of the material now resides in landfills or in the natural environment.

Such are the findings of a new study led by University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) industrial ecologist Roland Geyer. The research, which appears in the journal Science Advances, provides the first global analysis of the production, use and fate of all plastics ever made, including synthetic fibers.

“We cannot continue with business as usual unless we want a planet that is literally covered in plastic,” said lead author Geyer, an associate professor at UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. “This paper delivers hard data not only for how much plastic we’ve made over the years but also its composition and the amount and kind of additives that plastic contains. I hope this information will be used by policymakers to improve end-of-life management strategies for plastics.”

Geyer and his team compiled production statistics for resins, fibers and additives from a variety of industry sources and synthesized them according to type and consuming sector. They found that global production of plastic resins and fibers increased from 2 million metric tons in 1950 to more than 400 million metric tons in 2015, outgrowing most other man-made materials. Notable exceptions are steel and cement. While these materials are used primarily for construction, the largest market for plastics is packaging, which is used once and then discarded.

“Roughly half of all the steel we make goes into construction, so it will have decades of use; plastic is the opposite,” Geyer said. “Half of all plastics become waste after four or fewer years of use.”

And the pace of plastic production shows no signs of slowing. Of the total amount of plastic resins and fibers produced from 1950 to 2015, roughly half was produced in the last 13 years.

“What we are trying to do is to create the foundation for sustainable materials management,” Geyer added. “Put simply, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and so we think policy discussions will be more informed and fact-based now that we have these numbers.”

The researchers also found that by 2015, humans had produced 6.3 billon tons of plastic waste. Of that total, only 9 percent was recycled; 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current trends continue, Geyer noted, roughly 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste — weighing more than 36,000 Empire State Buildings — will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050.

“Most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, so the plastic waste humans have generated could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years,” said co-author Jenna Jambeck, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Georgia. “Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices.”

Two years ago, the same research team published a study in the journal Science that measured the magnitude of plastic waste going into the ocean. They found that of the 275 million metric tons of plastic waste generated in 2010, an estimated 8 million entered the world’s oceans. That study calculated the annual amount of plastic waste by using solid waste generation data; the new research instead uses plastic production data.

“Even with two very different methods, we got virtually the same waste number — 275 million metric tons — for 2010, which suggests that the numbers are quite robust,” Geyer said.

“There are people alive today who remember a world without plastics,” Jambeck said. “But plastics have become so ubiquitous that you can’t go anywhere without finding plastic waste in our environment, including our oceans.”

The investigators are quick to caution that they do not seek to eliminate plastic from the marketplace but rather advocate a more critical examination of plastic use.

“There are areas where plastics are indispensable, such as the medical industry,” said co-author Kara Lavender Law, a research professor at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. “But I do think we need to take a careful look at our use of plastics and ask if it makes sense.”

See also: Plastic pollution risks ‘near permanent contamination of natural environment’

Plastics on banks of Anacostia River in DC

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DAPL Under Review at Missouri River Crossing

July 20, 2017

Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL) environmental study may take months From an Article by Blake Nicholson, Houston Chronicle (Associated Press), July 18, 2017 BISMARCK, N.D. – Additional environmental review of the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline is likely to take the rest of the year to complete, U.S. officials said in court documents in which they [...]

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Part 2. The True Price of Power — Coal & Natural Gas

July 19, 2017

Coal & Natural Gas and the True Price of Power, Part 2 From a Report by Glynis Board, Ohio Valley ReSource, WFPL – NPR, July 17, 2017 ‘Where Paradise Lay‘ Coal is showing its age. The average age of coal plants in the U.S. today is about 40 years and for the past couple of [...]

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Part 1. The True Price of Power — Coal & Natural Gas

July 18, 2017

Paradise Cost: Coal, Natural Gas, And The True Price Of Power, Part 1 From a Report by Glynis Board, Ohio Valley ReSource, WFPL – NPR, July 17, 2017 Thanks to singer-songwriter John Prine, Paradise Fossil Plant might be the only coal-fired power plant that has a household name. “Paradise,” Prine’s 1971 ballad, drew on boyhood [...]

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Outdoor Chapel Now Blocking Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline in PA

July 17, 2017

Nuns to dedicate outdoor chapel built in the path of proposed pipeline From an Article by Amanda Watts and Paige Levin, CNN, July 8, 2017 An open-air chapel set up by Catholic nuns to block construction of a natural gas pipeline in Pennsylvania will be dedicated Sunday on a spot directly in the pipeline’s proposed [...]

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Fracking is Ill Advised in Wayne National Forest (Ohio River Valley)

July 16, 2017

Government Violating Own Laws to Pave Way for Fracking Plan in Ohio’s Only National Forest From an Article of the Center for Biological Diversity, EcoWatch.com, July 6, 2017 Conservation groups Wednesday expanded a lawsuit challenging a U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management plan to permit fracking in Ohio’s only national forest. The groups [...]

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FERC Investigating Misbehavior of Rover Pipeline in Ohio

July 15, 2017

Feds investigating Ohio pipeline over ‘misstatements’ From an Article by Timothy Cama, The Hill Newsletter, July 14, 2017 Federal officials are investigating the developer building a controversial natural gas pipeline over alleged “misstatements” regarding its construction in Ohio. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) staff said in a Thursday notice that they preliminarily determined that Energy [...]

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Wind Mills Bring Balance to Energy Projects in West Virginia

July 14, 2017

Appalachian Power looks to acquire planned wind power projects, one in WV From an Article by Max Garland, Charleston Gazette-Mail, July 5, 2017 Appalachian Power is continuing its shift toward renewable energy, as the electric utility announced Wednesday it is seeking approval to acquire two wind power facilities under development. One of these projects, the [...]

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Antarctica Is Melting — The Larsen C Ice Shelf Collapse Is Just the Beginning

July 13, 2017

The massive iceberg that broke off the Larsen C Ice Shelf may be a harbinger of a continent-wide collapse that would swamp coastal cities around the world. Special Feature of National Geographic Magazine by David Fox, July 12, 2017 +++ (This story appears in the July 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. It was first [...]

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