The “Extinction Rebellion” is wide-spread demanding action to prevent climate change

Trump is embracing climate destruction

Essay by Katrina vanden Heuvel, Washington Post, May 21, 2019

VIDEO: ‘We don’t have any choice’: Protesters participate in Earth Day demonstrations (Extinction Rebellion, the group behind the ongoing demonstrations in London, has mobilized thousands across the globe to protest climate change)

Amid the daily infamies of Donald Trump’s presidency, his greatest dereliction of duty is his decision not to confront but to accelerate the greatest threat facing this country: the clear, present and growing danger of catastrophic climate change.

Trump is called a climate denier. He is actually a warrior for climate calamity. In many ways, Trump is the first president of the climate catastrophe era. We’ve already witnessed the undeniable first terrors: the fires that erased Paradise, Calif., in a day, the storms that savaged Houston and Puerto Rico, floods in the Midwest, droughts that forced millions to migrate from what used to be called the Fertile Crescent. In the face of this and more, Trump has chosen to go all in on the side of this direct security threat to our people, our country and our world.

Last week in Hackberry, La., Trump celebrated his collusion with the furies that threaten us, hailing the United States as the “energy superpower of the world.” Trump’s speech consisted of his stale stew of lies, exaggerations, boasts and insults, claiming credit for transformations that began long before his presidency, and scorning alternative views and opponents. Yet in the midst, he made it clear: He is proud to contribute to the horrors that now threaten us.

The reality is no longer in dispute by anyone willing to be honest about the science. We are on a path that has already begun to take casualties and rack up staggering costs. A recent U.N. report warns of the extinction of a million species — and the imperiling of humanity itself — in the next few decades.

The conservative scientific consensus is that we have about 12 years to transform how we produce energy to avoid unimaginable destruction. Continuing the current course will cost trillions over the next decades (more than the Green New Deal) and, more importantly, displace hundreds of millions in forced migrations, and spread disease, starvation and death at levels far beyond any war yet witnessed. No wall Trump succeeds in building would be able to deal with the 140 million climate refugees that the World Bank predicts by mid-century.

In Louisiana, Trump bragged that “American energy independence” would make our nation “wealthier” and “safer.” “We have an America First energy policy,” he brayed. “We don’t need anybody. And we don’t need to be ripped off by the rest of the world, either, because those days are over.” He boasted about getting out of the Paris climate accord, “replacing the EPA,” torpedoing President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, “unlocking” the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico, and more.

And, of course, Trump repeated his mockery of the Green New Deal, calling it a “hoax, like the hoax I just went through.” He continued, “We will never let radical activists, special interests, and out-of-control bureaucrats wreck our economy, eliminate our jobs, or destroy your future.” In fact, that is exactly what Trump is doing. Lining up with the radical fossil-fuel activists and special interests, installing energy lobbyists and lawyers into government, and empowering them to make decisions that will — if not reversed rapidly in the next years — “wreck our economy, eliminate our jobs, [and] destroy your future,” to say nothing of your children’s lives and possibilities.

The stakes could not be higher. As Bill McKibben, the climate expert who first warned of the climate change threat 30 years ago, noted, “The problem with climate change is that it’s a timed test. If you don’t solve it fast, then you don’t solve it. No one’s got a plan for refreezing the Arctic once it’s melted. … We’re not playing for stopping climate change. We’re playing — maybe — for being able to slow it down to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.” And we are facing an opposition led by a president throwing in with powerful fossil-fuel interests and corporations that have pumped millions into disinformation and deception, and corrupted politics and politicians to preserve their profits while posing a direct threat to our lives.

The betrayal of Trump and the Republican Party is self-evident. Sadly, the leadership of the Democratic Party has also been AWOL, as have too many voices in media, particularly television. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), former vice president Joe Biden and too many other Democrats mistakenly seem to think that the best response to extremism is moderation. Rather than seeking a mandate for the change we need immediately, they choose to woo a mythic center with modest reforms.

Biden promises only to return to the Paris accord, a policy that might have been promising in the late 1980s, but simply represents inadequate moral signaling now.

In the end, as McKibben writes, the fossil fuel interests and their collaborators like Trump will lose this battle. Already insurance companies are refusing to guarantee against losses that are coming to coastal properties and elsewhere. The only question — and it is fundamental — is how long it takes for the climate destroyers to lose and how much damage is done in the interim. This is why Trump’s collusion is his greatest dereliction of duty.

The change we need will come — as it usually does — from independent citizen movements calling our compromised and corrupted leaders to account.

It’s the Extinction Rebellion that brought traffic to a crawl in London last month. It’s millions of children walking out of school. It’s the young activists of the Sunrise Movement vowing to force Democratic presidential contenders to take a position on the Green New Deal — and demanding that this debate be at the center of the next presidential election. These efforts would be amplified if the media stepped up with heightened urgency to report on the climate crisis and on the growing movements to address it. Toward that end, the Nation magazine, which I edit, and the Columbia Journalism Review are launching a new project — Covering Climate Now — to bring journalists together to try to find ways to dramatically improve media coverage of the climate crisis and its solutions.

Fifty years from now, McKibben says, we are going to run the world on sun and wind. The only question is whether the world will be completely broken, or whether we will have acted in time to avoid the worst. Trump has committed his administration to buttress the immensely rich and powerful fossil-fuel interests in accelerating the worst. Now we will see who has the courage and the conviction to stop them.

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Coal-fired power plants generate fine particulate pollution

E.P.A. Plans to Get Thousands of Deaths Off the Books by Changing Its Math

From an Article by Lisa Friedman, New York Times, May 20, 2019

Photo: The Hunter power plant in Castle Dale, Utah, which burns an estimated 4.5 million tons of coal a year.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency plans to change the way it calculates the health risks of air pollution, a shift that would make it easier to roll back a key climate change rule because it would result in far fewer predicted deaths from pollution, according to five people with knowledge of the agency’s plans.

The E.P.A. had originally forecast that eliminating the Obama-era rule, the Clean Power Plan, and replacing it with a new measure would have resulted in an additional 1,400 premature deaths per year. The new analytical model would significantly reduce that number and would most likely be used by the Trump administration to defend further rollbacks of air pollution rules if it is formally adopted.

The proposed shift is the latest example of the Trump administration downgrading the estimates of environmental harm from pollution in regulations. In this case, the proposed methodology would assume there is little or no health benefit to making the air any cleaner than what the law requires. Many experts said that approach was not scientifically sound and that, in the real world, there are no safe levels of the fine particulate pollution associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

Fine particulate matter — the tiny, deadly particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream — is linked to heart attacks, strokes and respiratory disease.

The five people familiar with the plan, all current or former E.P.A. officials, said the new modeling method would appear in the agency’s analysis of the final version of the replacement regulation, known as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which is expected to be made public in June.

Asked on Monday whether the new method would be included in the agency’s final analysis of the rule, William L. Wehrum, the E.P.A. air quality chief, said only that the final version would include multiple analytical approaches in an effort to be transparent. He said the agency had made no formal change to its methodology.

“It’s a very important issue, and it’s an issue where there has been a lot of debate over what the right approach is,” Mr. Wehrum said.

The E.P.A., when making major regulatory changes, is normally expected to demonstrate that society will see more benefits than costs from the change. Experts said that, while benefits would appear on paper in this case, the change actually disregards potential dangers to public health.

“Particulate matter is extremely harmful and it leads to a large number of premature deaths,” said Richard L. Revesz, an expert in environmental law at New York University. He called the expected change a “monumental departure” from the approach both Republican and Democratic E.P.A. leaders have used over the past several decades and predicted that it would lay the groundwork for weakening more environmental regulations.

“It could be an enormously significant impact,” Mr. Revesz said.

The Obama administration had sought to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Power Plan by pushing utilities to switch away from coal and instead use natural gas or renewable energy to generate electricity. The Obama plan would also have what is known as a co-benefit: levels of fine particulate matter would fall.

The Trump administration has moved to repeal the Obama-era planand replace it with the Affordable Clean Energy rule, which would slightly improve the efficiency of coal plants. It would also allow older coal plants to remain in operation longer and result in an increase of particulate matter.

Particulate matter comes in various sizes. The greatest health risk comes from what is known as PM 2.5, the range of fine particles that are less than 2.5 microns in diameter. That is about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair.

The E.P.A. has set the safety threshold for PM 2.5 at a yearly average of 12 micrograms per cubic meter. While individual days vary, with some higher, an annual average at or below that level, known as the particulate matter standard, is considered safe. However, the agency still weighs health hazards that occur in the safe range when it analyzes new regulations.

Industry has long questioned that system. After all, fossil fuel advocates ask, why should the E.P.A. search for health dangers, and, ultimately, impose costs on industry, in situations where air is officially considered safe?

Mr. Wehrum, who worked as a lawyer and lobbyist for chemical manufacturers and fossil fuel businesses before moving to the E.P.A., echoed that position in two interviews. He noted that, in some regulations, the benefits of reduced particulate matter have been estimated to total in the range of $40 billion.

“How in the world can you get $30 or $40 billion of benefit to public health when most of that is attributable to reductions in areas that already meet a health-based standard,” he said. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Mr. Wehrum acknowledged that the administration was considering a handful of analyses that would reduce the prediction of 1,400 premature deaths as a result of the measure.

He called the attention given to that initial forecast “unfortunate” and said the agency had included the figure in its analysis to show the varied results that can be achieved based on different assumptions.

Mr. Wehrum said the analyses the agency is conducting “illuminate the issue” of particulate matter and the question of what level is acceptable for the purposes of policymaking. He said new approaches would allow for public debate to move ahead and that any new methods would be subject to peer review if they became the agency’s primary tool for measuring health risks.

“This isn’t just something I’m cooking up here in my fifth-floor office in Washington,” Mr. Wehrum said.

Roger O. McClellan, who has served on E.P.A. advisory boards and as president of the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology, an industry-financed research center, said that the data for health risks below the particulate matter standard was weak and that he did not accept the argument that agencies must calculate risk “down to the first molecule of exposure.”

“These kinds of approaches — that every molecule, every ionization, carries with it an associated calculable health risk — are just misleading,” Mr. McClellan said.
To put the matter in perspective, most scientists say particulate matter standards are like speed limits. On many highways, a limit of 65 miles per hour is considered reasonable to protect public safety. But that doesn’t mean the risk of an accident disappears at 55 m.p.h., or even 25.

Jonathan M. Samet, a pulmonary disease specialist who is dean of the Colorado School of Public Health, said the most recent studies showed negative health effects well below the 12-microgram standard. “It’s not a hard stop where we can say ‘below that, air is safe.’ That would not be supported by the scientific evidence,” Dr. Samet said. “It would be very nice for public health if things worked that way, but they don’t seem to.”

Daniel S. Greenbaum, president of the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit research organization that is funded by the E.P.A. and industry groups, acknowledged there was uncertainty around the effects of fine particulate matter exposure below the standard.
He said it was reasonable of the Trump administration to study the issue, but he questioned moving ahead with a new system before those studies are in. “To move away from the way this has been done without the benefit of this full scientific peer review is unfortunate,” he said.

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Tree Sitting Continues in Opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP)

May 22, 2019

Pipeline opponents continue supporting last-remaining tree-sit in Montgomery County, VA — Protesters stand their ground, rotating through Yellow Finch tree-sits From an Article by Tommy Lopez, WSLS News 10, Roanoke, May 20, 2019 MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. – Some opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline are still sitting high up in the trees in protest, blocking [...]

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Fayette County PA Judge Orders Stop to Frack Waste Leachate into Monongahela River

May 21, 2019

Judge shuts down waste water pipe from Westmoreland landfill to Belle Vernon sewage plant From an Article by Don Hopey & David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 17, 2019 Fayette County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Leskinen has ordered the Westmoreland Sanitary Landfill in Rostraver to stop piping toxic runoff contaminated by shale gas drilling and [...]

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U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Ask to Reject ACP Second Permit Application

May 20, 2019

Court of appeals asked to reject 2nd pipeline permit From an Article of The Recorder, May 16, 2019 RICHMOND – The U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 9 heard environmentalists again ask the three-judge panel to stop a proposed shale gas pipeline’s construction through the Alleghenies due to the presence of an endangered [...]

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Global Climate Impacts of Plastics Very Pervasive Over Lifecycle

May 19, 2019

Plastics Threaten Global Climate at a Massive Scale During Each Point of Lifecycle, Report Finds From an Article by Madison Dapcevich, EcoWatch.com, May 17, 2019 Plastic pollution across the globe is suffocating our planet and driving Earth toward catastrophic climatic conditions if not curbed significantly and immediately, according to a new report by the Center [...]

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“An Act of God” is Blamed for Pipeline Explosion Last September in Southwestern Penna.

May 18, 2019

EdgeMarc files for bankruptcy and blames Energy Transfer explosion; Energy Transfer says it was ‘an act of God’ From an Article by Anya Litvak, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, May 16, 2019 The early morning fireball that burst from the seams of Energy Transfer’s Revolution pipeline in September has surfaced as the central character in the bankruptcy [...]

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Significant Erosion & Sediment Violations Logged on Mountain Valley Pipeline

May 17, 2019

Mountain Valley agrees to pay $266,000 for pollution problems in W.Va. From an Article by Laurence Hammack, Roanoke Times, May 14, 2019 Developers of the Mountain Valley Pipeline have agreed to pay a fine of nearly $266,000 for violating environmental regulations in West Virginia. The agreement, outlined in a consent order from the West Virginia [...]

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Need for MVP Pipeline Inspections Evident in Summers County, WV

May 16, 2019

MVP Playing a Game with West Virginians and the Environment From Neal Laferriere, Summers County Resident, May 13, 2019 I want to share an experience with you. We are in the northern end of Summers County, WV. Our property and the surrounding properties are currently experiencing the extensive disturbance that comes with the Mountain Valley [...]

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“Life as We Know It” — Then Later: “No Life to Know the Difference”

May 15, 2019

Plant and animal species are disappearing faster than at any time in recorded history. We know who is to blame. By The Editorial Board, New York Times, May 11, 2019 • Our planet has suffered five mass extinctions, the last of which occurred about 66 million years ago, when a giant asteroid believed to have [...]

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