Another Industry-Funded Lobbyist Tapped by Trump?

From a video wherein Ms. White discusses the “benefits” of carbon pollution.

By: Keith Gaby, Senior Communications Director – Climate, Health, and Political Affairs

For the top White House environmental position, Director of the Council on Environmental Quality, President Trump is considering Kathleen Hartnett White. She’s a registered lobbyist, and is currently with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an advocacy group funded in large part by the energy industry. She seems to have spent most of her time there spreading “alternative facts” on air pollution and climate change.

As my colleague Jeremy Symons wrote when White was considered to lead EPA, she has long been a critic of the EPA’s efforts to reduce toxic air pollution such as soot and mercury. In a 2016 op-ed for The Hill she attacked the agency for pursuing standards to reduce air pollution from fossil fuels.

Continuing a pattern

Unfortunately, this appointment would be part of a pattern. Nearly one-fourth of all Trump administration officials who deal with environmental regulations had connections to energy companies, according to a new study. This is on top of an energy and environment cabinet that represents a single point of view: big energy companies.

Few of the officials seems to have relevant experience or knowledge beyond that. For instance, at the Environmental Protection Agency, only 2 of 11 appointees have germane experience in the primary mission of the agency. Seven had connections to the fossil fuel industry, which EPA regulates.

Rejecting consensus science

Ms. White, a former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, told Rolling Stone, “We’re not a democracy if science dictates what our rules are.” In a 2012 report targeting EPA’s efforts to reduce the fine particle air pollution that exacerbates lung disease and asthma, she lamented that political appointees must weigh the views of what she called “mandarins brandishing their scientific credentials.”

In The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, she called CO2 “the gas that makes life possible on the earth and naturally fertilizes plant growth….Whether emitted from the human use of fossil fuels or as a natural (and necessary) gas in the atmosphere surrounding the earth, carbon dioxide has none of the attributes of a pollutant.”

She is apparently not a fan of the scientists at NASA, the National Academies of Science, and all major American scientific organizations.

Siding with big engery interests over public health

The reviews of her work from some Texans have not been friendly. The Dallas Morning News called her “an apologist for polluters,” saying she’d been “consistently siding with business interests instead of protecting public health. Ms. White worked to set a low bar as she lobbied for lax ozone standards and pushed through an inadequate anti-pollution plan.”

If we are to protect clean air and water, and keep pace in a world moving toward cleaner energy, we need leaders who are looking forward. Right now, with the environmental positions in the cabinet only representing one voice, we risk damaging America’s future. And the addition of Kathleen Harnett White would add ignorance to injury.

Photo source: Texas Public Policy Foundation

This post originally appeared on our EDF Voices blog

Read more

Out of the Darkness Comes a LightRemembering that horrific…


One of the many pens of animals at the farm in Franklinville NY. Far right is Matilda and Zepha- one of the mothers we took in, is close as always.


Nectar, Kaley and Adel in their new barn with 24 hour a day access to outside. You cannot beat this.


Twin brothers Jack and Bob Barker will never know fear and were born into peace and love- the way they should all live.


Vera Jo dive bombs


A very happy family. left to right: Zepha and her daughter Laurie and twin Cindy frolicking in the grass with Izzy, Bob Barker and Bob’s mom Daniella


The babies born to the mothers who suffered loss after loss of their lambs, can finally have these babies live with them forever.


Goat boys who had never been outside in their life, spent the first months terrified to leave their barn. Thankfully you can see they got over this.


Ducks, who were surviving on eating trash and the bodies of the dead, now are enjoying the Farm Sanctuary life.

Out of the Darkness Comes a Light

Remembering that horrific

Franklinville

farm operation in Cattaraugus County, NY, is not difficult

but it is still hard. It is hard because it is painful to think that the beautiful beings we now know so well came from this hell on earth.

It is hard because these loving, caring, and kind individuals were living in darkness — some never seeing the light, feeling the sun, or touching the earth for years on end.

image

Matilda, whose original rescuers took her babies away, was suffering from horrible mastitis, emaciation and exhaustion. Now. at Farm Sanctuary, she is happy and thriving.  

image

All of the animals living in the barns were living in darkness with no opportunities to venture into the sun or fresh air. 

It is hard because these fragile, gentle creatures went without care

− some without shelter in the dead of winter.

image

The geese were left outside without shelter in the dead of winter, but mud season was actually worse.  Due to improper housing, and living in areas with multiple deceased animals, the girls arrived with a rare and very difficult to treat parasite. 

It is hard because mothers, who we know love their children, had to see them taken away to be sold for food, and then were forced to reproduce and create more children to love and lose.

image

From a birthing pen, where baby after baby is taken, Izzy and Daniella had their next babies at our sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. These babies, as you can see, are as big as mom and still with their family.  

So we remember. We cry for those who never had a chance to get out

− for the hundreds who died on that farm. We feel pain for the babies sold for lamb as their mothers were forced to let them go.

image

When we arrived to pick up the sheep and goats, many were being removed or had been removed by local farmers.  We could only take some of the remaining animals.  Gabby, above back left, was one who made it to Farm Sanctuary. 

We remember those who were left to survive in barns so filthy that humans were not allowed to enter without respirators; where our eyes and throats burned from the ammonia in the air. 

image

Beeley Pippin, before and after.  Arriving dirty, emaciated, and in poor feather condition, this girl has made a huge change for the better. 

But we also celebrate. We celebrate because those who are at sanctuary are feeling the earth, soaking up the sun, protected by shelter, able to live with their loved ones, and seen as someone, not something. We celebrate because we know them as the individual beings that they are

not as products of the meat, egg, and dairy industries

image

Gabby, seen in the photo above where she was penned since being born, now enjoying freedom and love. 

And we celebrate because their stories will be told over and over again, so that future generations will know that these animals’ lives were worth living.  

Read more

Scientists Question Risks of Using Oilfield Wastewater on Food Crops

By Dan Mueller

The engineers and scientists who study the oil and gas industry’s wastewater know the term “beneficial reuse” well. It’s the seldom-used technique of taking wastewater produced from an oil or gas well, treating it, and then using it for other purposes — like watering crops (including organic crops) or feeding livestock.  It’s a rare practice that drought-stricken areas like California have used for a number of years, although little is known about associated health or safety risks since, usually, about 98% of wastewater is injected into disposal wells deep underground. However, as demands for water increase, and concerns about disposal wells (which have been linked to earthquakes) rise, beneficial reuse is being considered as a viable option.

But just because we can use wastewater for other purposes – does that mean we should?

Scientists researching these issues still have a lot of questions. Our recent article in World Water: Water Reuse & Desalination—a publication of the Water Environment Federation highlights some of the biggest knowledge gaps we still need to address in order to confidently answer that question.

A couple of the largest questions needing answers: what is in this wastewater and could it be toxic?

The oil and gas industry’s wastewater contains a vast assortment of chemicals – including constituents that are pumped into a well, chemicals already present in the fossil fuel formation, and constituents that are formed when these chemicals mix. There is not a true count of how many chemicals may be in the water (another huge question to be answered), but a review of the national chemical disclosure database FracFocus and other literature identifies more than 1,600 different chemicals potentially present.

Some advocates for beneficial reuse argue we know enough to safely treat and use the wastewater for crop irrigation. But the unfortunate reality is that our current scientific methods can only detect about a quarter of those 1,600 chemicals. And we know even less about how toxic they may be – critical toxicity information is available for less than 20% of these chemicals.

Even of the small group of chemicals in which detection methods do exist – they don’t always work. Oil and gas wastewater is extremely salty, in some cases 10 times saltier than the ocean, and testing technologies don’t always perform in such high salt content. Meaning we don’t even know how to adequately detect potentially toxic chemicals.

This kick starts a chain reaction of other unknowns. Without accurate testing, we can’t know what chemicals we could be exposed to or how toxic those chemicals might be, which means we can’t be sure that current treatment processes are effective or regulatory programs adequately protective.

Even in California where the practice of using treated oil and gas wastewater for irrigating crops has been done for years, this practice is being looked at more closely. Last year The Central Regional Water Quality Control Board convened a panel of experts  to  examine the potential adverse impacts of beneficial reuse.  The panel’s work is still ongoing, but a report authored by some of the panelists raised a number of viable concerns.

EDF is leading a number of efforts to expand the needed science. Last year we held a series of workshops with experts from across the country to assess how we can use existing technologies and tools to help narrow some of these knowledge gaps, and as a result have spurred a number of new research projects, including some we are leading to improve current wastewater testing methods.

We’re making progress, but we still have a way to go. Before policy makers start green-lighting an increase in beneficial reuse, we need to honestly acknowledge what is known, what is not,  what is of concern, and give science time to provide some answers.

Read more

How Do We Know That Humans Are Causing Climate Change? These Nine Lines of Evidence

By Ilissa Ocko

While most Americans acknowledge that climate change is happening, some are still unsure about the causes.

They are often labeled “climate skeptics,” but that label can cause confusion or even anger.

Isn’t the nature of science to be skeptical? Isn’t it good to question everything?

Yes, but —

Here’s what is getting lost in the conversation:

Scientists have been asking these questions for nearly 200 years. The scientific community has been studying these questions for so long that collectively they have amassed an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to a clear conclusion.

A similar situation is smoking and cancer. Nowadays, no one questions the link between smoking and cancer, because the science was settled in the 1960s after more than 50 years of research. The questions have been asked and answered with indisputable evidence.

We can think of the state of human activities and climate change as no different than smoking and cancer. In fact, we are statistically more confident that humans cause climate change than that smoking causes cancer.

Our confidence comes from the culmination of over a century of research by tens of thousands of scientists at hundreds of institutions in more than a hundred nations.

So what is the evidence?

The research falls into nine independently-studied but physically-related lines of evidence, that build to the overall clear conclusion that humans are the main cause of climate change:

  1. Simple chemistry that when we burn carbon-based materials, carbon dioxide (CO2) is emitted (research beginning in 1900s)
  2. Basic accounting of what we burn, and therefore how much CO2 we emit (data collection beginning in 1970s)
  3. Measuring CO2 in the atmosphere to find that it is indeed increasing (measurements beginning in 1950s)
  4. Chemical analysis of the atmospheric CO2 that reveals the increase is coming from burning fossil fuels (research beginning in 1950s)
  5. Basic physics that shows us that CO2 absorbs heat (research beginning in 1820s)
  6. Monitoring climate conditions to find that recent warming of the Earth is correlated to and follows rising CO2 emissions (research beginning in 1930s)
  7. Ruling out natural factors that can influence climate like the Sun and ocean cycles (research beginning in 1830s)
  8. Employing computer models to run experiments of natural vs. human-influenced “simulated Earths” (research beginning in 1960s)
  9. Consensus among scientists that consider all previous lines of evidence and make their own conclusions (polling beginning in 1990s)

(You can also see these nine lines of evidence illustrated in the graphic below)

Skeptics sometimes point to the last two supporting lines of evidence as weaknesses. They’re not. But even if you choose to doubt them, it is really the first seven that, combined, point to human activities as the only explanation of rising global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and the subsequent climate changes (such as ice melt and sea level rise) that have occurred due to this global warming.

The science is settled, and the sooner we accept this, the sooner we can work together towards addressing the problems caused by climate change – and towards a better future for us all.

 

Read more