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News from Ground Control: Planet Trump (March 31)

Friday, March 31, 2017

It wasn’t a good week for the environment or human health. First, the Trump administration announced its decision to pull out of the Clean Power Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and then it scrapped the Environmental Protection Agency’s planned ban of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos.

President Trump stayed true to his campaign promise to abandon the Clean Power Plan, despite estimations that the plan would prevent 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 childhood asthma attacks nationwide by 2030.

“Shamefully, the brunt of the harm from this foolish retreat from science and reason will be borne by our children,” EWG President Ken Cook said of Trump’s rollback of the nation’s signature climate change initiative.

On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency no longer planned to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos – a chemical with long-documented ties to harming children’s brains and nervous systems.

"We're seeing what happens when President Trump gives an unqualified political hatchet man license to disregard reams of evidence from dedicated scientists," Cook said of the EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision. "Under President Trump and Scott Pruitt, the EPA is fast becoming an agency in the business of safeguarding the profits of pesticide companies and the rest of the chemical industry, not human health.”

Here are several of this past week’s deep dives on these and other developments.

The Washington Post, Brady Dennis (March 29, 2017) EPA Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Own Analysis, Declined to Ban Pesticide Despite Health Concerns

Environmental activists were incensed Wednesday, saying that Pruitt had ignored substantial evidence of potential harms.

“The chance to prevent brain damage in children was a low bar for most of Scott Pruitt’s predecessors, but it apparently just wasn’t persuasive enough for an administrator who isn’t sure if banning lead from gasoline was a good idea,” Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook said in a statement. “Instead, in one of his first major decisions as head of the EPA, like a toddler running toward his parents, Pruitt leaped into the warm and waiting arms of the pesticide industry.”

CNN, Susan Scutti (March 30, 2017) EPA Won’t Ban Pesticide Chlorpyrifos; Is it Safe?

"We've banned pesticides before, and farmers have turned to safer alternatives. The notion that we should continue to use a pesticide linked to autism because it's needed to feed the world is an outrageous, ridiculous statement," said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization.

Faber said Dow Agrosciences itself makes safer alternatives, which Dow confirmed.

Faber explained that the EPA needs to show that there's a reasonable certainty of no harm under certain conditions of use, such as the equipment worn by agricultural workers and the amount applied to crops.

"Under the law, if there isn't sufficient science to demonstrate safety, then EPA is obligated to ban the pesticide," Faber said. "That's why a number of similar pesticides, what are called organophosphate pesticides, are no longer in use in the US."

The EPA concluded that chlorpyrifos was not safe for use in residential settings, and the science has only gotten stronger, he said. Ultimately, the agency's risk assessment indicated that "chlorpyrifos posed significant risks to children, even at very low exposures," he added.

"There's simply no way EPA could reach any conclusion other than it should no longer be used on food crops," Faber said. "What's outrageous about Scott Pruitt's decision is that the science is so strong, so overwhelming, that chlorpyrifos causes neurological problems.

"In the short run, there are a list of fruits and vegetables that consumers should avoid or when possible choose organic again because even low levels of exposure have been linked to neurological problems in children," said Faber.

International Business Times, Denisse Moreno (March 30, 2017) What is Chlorpyrifos? EPA's Scott Pruitt Decides Not to Ban Pesticide Said to Harm Children's Brains

Recently, more than 63,000 people signed a petition from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Just Label It and the Food Revolution Network asking Pruitt to ban the pesticide.

Nonprofit organizations expressed their disappointment in Pruitt’s decision to deny the petition.

“Pruitt and the Trump administration’s decision ignored overwhelming evidence that even small amounts of chlorpyrifos can damage parts of the brain that control language, memory, behavior and emotion,” said the nonprofit EWG in a statement. “Multiple independent studies have documented that exposure to chlorpyrifos impairs children's IQs, and EPA scientists' assessments of those studies concluded that levels of the pesticide found on food and in drinking water are unsafe.”

Patch, Cody Fenwick (March 28, 2017) President Trump Signs 'Energy Independence' Order, Targeting Carbon Regulations

"The rollback of the Clean Power Plan not only imperils the planet's future climate but will have life-and-death consequences for millions of Americans here and now," said EWG President Ken Cook.

He also took aim at Scott Pruitt, Trump's Environmental Protection Agency administrator and long-time critic of the agency.

"Scott Pruitt, who lacks a fifth-grader's understanding of what's causing global warming, says the Paris climate treaty was a 'bad deal,'" Cook said. "But the bad deal is what America's getting from this administration. This decision to vacate the U.S. commitment to combat climate change is the latest evidence that this administration doesn't have a clue about what's needed to keep Americans – and the world – safe and healthy."

The Verge, Alessandra Potenza (March 28, 2017) Trump Trades the Planet for a Few Coal Jobs in a Doomed Industry

“The rollback of the Clean Power Plan not only imperils the planet's future climate but will have life-and-death consequences for millions of Americans here and now,” Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “Shamefully, the brunt of the harm from this foolish retreat from science and reason will be borne by our children.”


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