Flooding from sea level rise threatens over 300,000 US coastal homes – study

The Guardian

Flooding from sea level rise threatens over 300,000 US coastal homes – study

Climate change study predicts ‘staggering impact’ of swelling oceans on coastal communities within next 30 years

Oliver Milman, in New York        June 18, 2018

Oceanfront homes in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Houses on the US coastline could risk being flooded every two weeks. Photograph: Alamy

Sea level rise driven by climate change is set to pose an existential crisis to many US coastal communities, with new research finding that as many as 311,000 homes face being flooded every two weeks within the next 30 years.

The swelling oceans are forecast repeatedly to soak coastal residences collectively worth $120 billion by 2045 if greenhouse gas emissions are not severely curtailed, experts warn. This will potentially inflict a huge financial and emotional toll on the half a million Americans who live in the properties at risk of having their basements, backyards, garages or living rooms inundated every other week.

“The impact could well be staggering,” said Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “This level of flooding would be a tipping point where people in these communities would think it’s unsustainable.

“Even homes along the Gulf coast that are elevated would be affected, as they’d have to drive through salt water to get to work or face their kids’ school being cut off. You can imagine people walking away from mortgages, away from their homes.”

Video:  Sea level rise: Miami and Atlantic City fight to stay above water

The UCS used federal data from a high sea level rise scenario projected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and combined it with property data from the online real estate company Zillow to quantify the level of risk across the lower 48 states.

Under this scenario, where planet-warming emissions are barely constrained and the seas rise by about 6.5ft globally by the end of the century, 311,000 homes along the US coastline would face flooding on average 26 times a year within the next 30 years – a typical lifespan for a new mortgage.

The losses would multiply by the end of the century, with the research warning that as many as 2.4m homes, worth around a trillion dollars, could be put at risk. Low-lying states would be particularly prone, with a million homes in Florida, 250,000 homes in New Jersey and 143,000 homes in New York at risk of chronic flooding by 2100.

“Unfortunately, many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality.”

This persistent flooding is likely to rattle the housing market by lowering property prices and making mortgages untenable in certain areas. Flood insurance premiums could rise sharply, with people faced with the choice of increasing clean-up costs or retreating to higher ground inland.

“Unfortunately, in the years ahead many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality,” said Rachel Cleetus, an economist and climate policy director at UCS. “In contrast with previous housing market crashes, values of properties chronically inundated due to sea level rise are unlikely to recover and will only continue to go further underwater, literally and figuratively.”

The report does not factor in future technological advances that could ameliorate the impact of rising seas, although the US would be starting from a relatively low base compared with some countries given that it does not have a national sea level rise plan. And the current Trump administration has moved to erase the looming issue from consideration for federally funded infrastructure.

Miami mayor: ‘People on the waterfront won’t be able to stay unless they are very wealthy.’ Photograph: Hoberman Collection/UIG via Getty Images

The oceans are rising by about 3mm a year due to the thermal expansion of seawater that’s warming because of the burning of fossil fuels by humans. The melting of massive glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica is also pushing up the seas – Nasa announced last week that the amount of ice lost annually from Antarctica has tripled since 2012 to an enormous 241bn tons a year.

This slowly unfolding scenario is set to pose wrenching choices for many in the US. Previous research has suggested that about 13 million Americans may have to move due to sea level rise by the end of the century, with landlocked states such as Arizona and Wyoming set for a population surge.

“My flood insurance bill just went up by $100 this year, it went up $100 the year before,” said Philip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami. “People on the waterfront won’t be able to stay unless they are very wealthy. This isn’t a risk, it’s inevitable.

“Miami is a beautiful and interesting place to live – I’m looking at a lizard on my windowsill right now. But people will face a cost to live here that will creep up and up. At some point they will have to make a rational economic decision and they may relocate. Some people will make the trade-off to live here. Some won’t.”

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Climate Change May Already Be Hitting the Housing Market


Climate Change May Already Be Hitting the Housing Market

By Christopher Flavelle and Allison McCartney      June 18, 2018

Even as President Donald Trump downplays the importance of climate change, there are signs that Americans may be taking it more seriously—at least when it comes to buying a house.

Between 2007 and 2017, average home prices in areas facing the lowest risk of flooding, hurricanes and wildfires have far outpaced those with the greatest risk, according to figures compiled for Bloomberg News by Attom Data Solutions, a curator of national property data. Homes in areas most exposed to flood and hurricane risk were worth less last year, on average, than a decade earlier.

Average home price appreciation by flood risk

Attom Data looked at the annual change in home prices and sales across 3,397 cities around the country, then divided those cities into five groups based on their exposure to various types of natural disasters. What they found suggests the threats of climate change are beginning to register.

On average, home prices across the cities analyzed by Attom Data increased 7.3 percent between 2007 and 2017. That figure masks deep drops in vulnerable areas.

“Natural disaster risk is certainly not the only factor consumers are considering when buying a home,” said Daren Blomquist, Attom Data’s senior vice president for communications. But he said the figures provide “some evidence real estate consumers are responding to natural disaster risk, albeit somewhat erratically.”

Average home price appreciation by hurricane surge risk

The data suggest the relationship between climate risk and home prices isn’t always a straight line. That’s because home buyers have to weigh the risk of disasters against the so-called amenity value of living near water or at the edge of the forest, according to Carolyn Kousky, director for policy research for the Risk Management and Decision Processes Center at the Wharton School.

“It’s probably very likely that people are starting to have a greater awareness of disaster risk,” Kousky said. “The tricky part is that some of the riskiest areas are also such high amenities.”

For example, home values in Key Biscayne, Florida were 19 percent higher in 2017 than in 2007, despite the island’s flood risk. Homes in Aromas, California, which Attom Data classifies as a very high wildfire risk, increased 43 percent over the same period. Both areas offer natural beauty that buyers have apparently concluded is worth the danger.

But the data suggest those areas are becoming the exception.

Average home price appreciation by wildfire risk level

Another string of disasters might speed the process. Jesse Keenan, who teaches at Harvard University and focuses on the interaction between climate change and the housing market, said that connection is increasing as more Americans live through storms, floods or wildfires.

“People have actually observed these phenomena,” Keenan said. “There’s been a lot of recent experience.”

Asaf Bernstein, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who has studied the drop in home prices associated with sea-level rise, said it’s not surprising that home values would be affected by other types of climate risk.

“It’s not a question of if,” Bernstein said. “It’s a question of when.”

Trade war jeopardizes China’s huge investment in creation of new ‘cancer alley’ in Appalachia


Trade war jeopardizes China’s huge investment in creation of new ‘cancer alley’ in Appalachia

Industrial build-out in West Virginia would have massive environmental impacts.

Mark Hand      June 18, 2018

Environmental activists fear massive investments in petrochemical and energy facilities could turn part of Appalachia into a new “cancer alley” like the one in Louisiana along the Mississippi river. Credit: Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images

Doubts are growing about a Chinese company’s planned investment in a suite of natural gas-related projects in West Virginia due to the Trump administration’s intensification of a trade war between the United States and China.

From the day the agreement was announced last fall, skepticism has surrounded the issue of whether state-owned China Energy Investment Corp. would follow through on its planned $83 billion investment in energy infrastructure in West Virginia. The cost and scope of the project — known as the Appalachian Storage Hub — would be unprecedented.

The massive project would include natural gas liquids storage, a major intersection of pipelines, and a petrochemical refinery row. Environmental groups have expressed concern that the construction of natural gas liquids and petrochemical processing plants could contaminate air and water resources.

The escalating trade war between the United States and China is causing further uncertainty about the agreement. Global stock prices fell Monday as investors reacted to the decision last week by the United States to target an additional $50 billion in China-made goods for new tariffs.

Brian Anderson, director of the Energy Institute at West Virginia University, has previously touted the positive impact of the China Energy investment. Anderson said two months ago that the agreement with the Chinese company could be coming along at the perfect time. But on Monday, Anderson adjusted his expectations, telling an energy industry conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that the trade war “has put this project in jeopardy.”

Another potentially ominous sign for the project is the decision by the chief executive of China Energy to cancel plans to speak at this week’s conference — the Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction Conference — as the war of words between the two countries on trade issues heated up. The CEO, who reports to the president of China, reportedly cited the trade war as the reason for canceling his trip to the conference.

If trade relations between the United States and China improve and China Energy ultimately carries out its end of the deal, environmental groups are concerned that the state of West Virginia will not be able to properly oversee the potential damage caused by the construction and operation of the energy and petrochemical facilities.

West Virginia has a long history of favoring coal industry profits over the environment and public health. The state is showing the same deference to the natural gas industry, which has grown into a powerful business force in the state over the past 10 years.

The scale of industrialization that would come from the $83 billion investment would be a “big burden” on the state Department of Environmental Protection that does not have adequate resources to enforce regulations on existing coal and natural gas industry operations, according to Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

Natural gas investments are happening at such a rapid pace in the state that “mistakes are being made and damage is being done” by state environmental officials in a similar fashion to how they failed to adequately monitor the coal industry, Rosser told ThinkProgress.

Appalachia’s struggling coal communities find hope in transition to clean energy

The Appalachian Storage Hub took a major step forward last November as part of a U.S. trade mission to China attended by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. During Trump’s visit to China, China Energy announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding to invest $83.7 billion in the planned storage hub over 20 years. For comparison, West Virginia’s gross domestic product in 2016 was $72.9 billion.

If it is developed, the hub would bring a massive buildup of the petrochemical industry along the Ohio River from southwestern Pennsylvania to Huntington, West Virginia. It would stretch into surrounding counties with a spur from down the Kanawha River from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to Charleston, West Virginia.

Environmental groups fear the region could become another “cancer alley,” similar to the buildup of petrochemical facilities in Louisiana along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“Petrochemicals, pipelines, and plastics are not a plus for the Ohio Valley. We are threatening the future of generations to come if we buy into this promise of short-term economic gains instead of realizing the disastrous long-term effects that will occur,” the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, a nonprofit group based in Huntington, said in an alert issued last Thursday.

West Virginia is undergoing political upheaval that also could impact the agreement. Last week, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) forced Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher to resign over his handling of a flood relief program. Thrasher was the top state official who traveled to China last November as part of the trade delegation.

A once thriving coal town has turned toxic, and citizens are desperate for help

Furthermore, a potential conflict of interest has emerged as part of the $83 billion investment. At least one member of West Virginia’s negotiating team was also negotiating on behalf of his private company when he traveled to China last fall to negotiate the deal, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported last Friday. The corporate executive, Steven Hedrick, is CEO of Appalachia Development Group LLC and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center.

Appalachia Development Group has been seeking a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Appalachian Storage Hub project. The state Commerce Department paid for Hedrick’s travel for the China negotiations. The state found out that Hedrick asked China Energy officials to specifically target some of their investment in his company’s natural gas storage hub.

Rosser, head of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said she believes the state will have “big-time regrets” if it does not implement necessary safeguards that will protect the environment and public health from the massive industrial build-out.

An abundant harvest from Punta Mona, Costa Rica

EcoWatch shared a live video.
June 18, 2018

An abundant harvest live from Costa Rica with Stephen Brooks.

We are live here at Punta Mona and want to share an abundant harvest with all of you!

We are live here at Punta Mona and want to share an abundant harvest with all of you!

Posted by Stephen Brooks on Monday, June 18, 2018

Western United States will run out of water in the the next 20-30 years


June 17, 2018

Water experts predict that essential food producing areas in the Western United States will run out of water in the the next 20-30 years due to climate change. #YEARSproject #ClimateFacts #WorldWaterDay

Climate Facts: U.S. Drought

Water experts predict that essential food producing areas in the Western United States will run out of water in the the next 20-30 years due to climate change. #YEARSproject #ClimateFacts #WorldWaterDay

Posted by DeSmogBlog on Sunday, June 17, 2018

He’s dying of cancer. Now, he’s the first patient to go to trial to argue Roundup made him sick


He’s dying of cancer. Now, he’s the first patient to go to trial to argue Roundup made him sick

By Holly Yan      June 17, 2018

Monsanto says Roundup is safe and can’t be linked to individual cancer cases.

(CNN) On bad days, Dewayne Johnson is too crippled to speak. Lesions often cover as much as 80% of his body.

Doctors have said they didn’t expect him to live to see this day. But Monday marks a milestone: Johnson, 46, is the first of hundreds of cancer patients to see his case against agrochemical giant Monsanto go to trial.

Johnson, a former school groundskeeper, regularly used Roundup and claims it gave him cancer.

CNN reported last year that more than 800 patients were suing Monsanto, claiming its popular weed killer, Roundup, gave them cancer.

Since then, hundreds more non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients have made similar claims, Johnson’s attorney, Timothy Litzenburg, said. He now represents “more than 2,000 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma sufferers who used Roundup extensively,” he said.

Johnson, a father of two in California’s Bay Area, applied Roundup weed killer 20 to 30 times per year while working as a pest manager for a county school system, his attorney said.

Johnson’s case is the first to go to trial because, his doctors claim in court filings, he is nearing death. And in California, dying plaintiffs can be granted expedited trials.

And there’s a lot riding on this case, which could set a legal precedent for thousands of cases to follow.

Report on Roundup ingredient in dispute

The big questions at stake are whether Roundup can cause cancer and, if so, whether Monsanto failed to warn consumers about the product’s cancer risk.

Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped company

In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said the key ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

“For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” the report states.

“The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

But Monsanto long has maintained that Roundup does not cause cancer, and that the IARC report is greatly outnumbered by studies saying glyphosate is safe.

“We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause.” Monsanto Vice President Scott Partridge

“More than 800 scientific studies, the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the National Institutes of Health and regulators around the world have concluded that glyphosate is safe for use and does not cause cancer,” Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of strategy, said in a statement.

“We have empathy for anyone suffering from cancer, but the scientific evidence clearly shows that glyphosate was not the cause. We look forward to presenting this evidence to the court.”

Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said regulatory authorities help ensure Roundup is safe.

“The safety of each labeled use of a pesticide formulation must be evaluated and approved by regulatory authorities before it is authorized for sale,” she has said.

The National Pesticide Information Center — a cooperative between Oregon State University and the EPA — said studies on cancer rates in humans “have provided conflicting results on whether the use of glyphosate containing products is associated with cancer.”

Many more cases to follow

Johnson’s case — and hundreds of similar cases against Monsanto — have been filed in various state courts, Litzenburg said. Many other cases have been filed in federal multidistrict litigation, or MDL.

                                                             Johnson had lesions on most of his body, a doctor said.

MDL is a procedure similar to class-action, in that it consolidates pre-trial proceedings for the sake of efficiency. But unlike a class-action lawsuit, each case within an MDL gets its own trial — with its own outcome.

In other words, one MDL plaintiff might get a large settlement, while another plaintiff might get nothing.

It’s not clear when future state or MDL trials will begin. One advantage of filing in state court — as Johnson did — instead of through MDL is that state courts might produce an outcome faster.

And in Johnson’s case, time is critical.

“Mr. Johnson is angry and is the most safety-oriented person I know,” his attorney said. “Right now, he is the bravest dude in America. Whatever happens with the trial and his health, his sons get to know that.”

CNN’s Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

Rich Alaskan donor gave $250K to Trump after EPA reversed decision on Pebble Mine

ABC News

Rich Alaskan donor gave $250K to Trump after EPA reversed decision on Pebble Mine

By Stephanie Ebbs     June 16, 2018

Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News/MCT via Getty Images

A wealthy activist who has funded efforts to block a proposed mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay donated $250,000 to President Donald Trump‘s re-election effort six weeks after the administration abruptly decided to prevent the mine from moving forward.

The move to block the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay from moving forward seems to diverge from a trend in policy under the leadership of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt — seen as one of President Donald Trump’s most productive cabinet members in moving to undo environmental regulations put in place under the Obama administration. During the Trump presidency, the EPA in 2017 had previously allowed the mine to move forward.

The EPA said the change in course was because the environmental risk was too great and announced on January 26 that the mine would not immediately move forward.

Robert Gillam made his second and largest donation to Trump Victory Fund just weeks later, donating $250,000 on March 9, according to FEC filings.

Gillam has previously spent as much as $2.5 million to block the Pebble Mine from moving forward in Alaska’s fertile fishing ground called the Bristol Bay. He has been advocating against the mine since 2005, according to an Alaska state report. He declined to comment for this story.

Robert B. Gillam, CEO of McKinley Capital.

Gillam has previously donated to the Republican National Committee, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Republican campaigns in Alaska.

He went to Wharton with Trump and met with him at Mar-a-Lago the weekend before he made a $250,000 donation to the president’s Victory Fund, according to a report in E&E News. Gillam owns a fishing lodge in the area, according to public meeting records, and has said that the mine would hurt the local salmon population.

Last November he wrote in an editorial that the mine project was “doomed.”

“For more than a decade, I have taken on the battle against the Pebble Mine, because, more than any other development proposal in our state’s history, it threatens to forfeit to foreign mining companies an invaluable part of our heritage, something Alaskans cannot afford to lose -— and will never stop defending —- Bristol Bay; the last great salmon fishery on the planet,” Gillam wrote in the opinion piece in a local newspaper.

The Pebble Mine project was blocked by the Obama administration in 2014, citing harm to the environment that the EPA said would be caused by mining in the area. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed that decision in May 2017 and allowed the permitting process to move forward as well as accept public comments on the process.

In late January, the EPA abruptly slowed the project again, saying the agency has “serious concerns” about the risk mining could pose to fishing operations and local residents around Bristol Bay. The agency didn’t go so far as to block the mine completely but said the permit application “must clear a high bar” and provide information on how the mine will impact the surrounding area.

The company behind the Pebble Mine project announced in May that a major partner ended their agreement to support the mine, adding more uncertainty to the future of the project.

ABC News’ Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

Depression-era program could help farmers in trade war

CNBC – Politics

Depression-era program could help farmers in trade war but still won’t make them ‘whole,’ says former USDA secretary

A Depression-era program could help farmers in the trade war with China, according to Dan Glickman, who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.

Glickman said other options also could be used within the agriculture agency but still won’t make farmers “whole.”

On Friday, China announced tariffs on $34 billion worth of American products, including soybeans, corn, wheat, beef, dairy products and sorghum.

Jeff Daniels        June 15, 2018

        Getty Images. Soybean farmers in Mississippi County, Arkansas.

Although President Donald Trump has offered to make it up to farmers in a trade war, there’s no way to fully cushion all the potential losses that producers could suffer if there’s a significant reduction in soybeans and other exports, according to a former agriculture secretary.

On Friday, China announced a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of American products, including soybeans, corn, wheat, beef, dairy products and sorghum. It followed the White House earlier in the day announcing plans to impose tariffs on more than 800 Chinese imports worth approximately $34 billion.

Earlier this year, Trump spoke about escalating trade tensions with China and said his administration essentially had the backs of farmers and would “make it up to them” and that in the end they “will be better off than they ever were.”

Many of the farm products targeted by the Chinese are grown in states where Trump received strong support during the 2016 presidential election. The latest tariffs announced by Beijing are set to take effect July 6.

   Former Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.  Bill Clark | Roll Call | Getty Images

“This is very worrisome for American agriculture generally,” said Dan Glickman, who served during the Clinton administration as agriculture secretary. “The business model of agriculture is an export business model, particularly for the program crops such as wheat, corn, cotton, rice and especially soybeans.”

Glickman also said there could be fallout for GOP lawmakers from the Trump administration’s actions on trade. He said farmers and rural communities are likely to feel the pain if there is a significant decline in agricultural exports.

Even with trade tensions threatening American agricultural exports, some farmers remain steadfast in their support for Trump.

“President Trump and the administration have the best interests of America in mind,” said Joe Steinkamp, a soybean, corn and wheat grower near Evansville, Indiana. “They’re trying to do their best and say they’re going to take care of farmers — and we appreciate that.”

According to Glickman, there are several statutes available to the U.S. Department of Agriculture that could be used to help farmers, including programs through the Commodity Credit Corp. The CCC, a federal agency set up during the Great Depression, could potentially buy surplus farm products and support growers.

“This [CCC] is the part of the USDA that has almost unlimited amount of funds to sometimes make up the difference in farm prices,” said Glickman. “Sometimes they can buy commodities for school meal programs or for other hunger programs.”

Glickman, who now is executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, said other options available include purchasing programs tied to food humanitarian relief for famines and natural disasters that also are part of USDA.

Regardless, the former U.S. congressman and Clinton administration official said it’s “doubtful that farmers can be made ‘whole’ for all economic losses resulting from a trade war impacting American ag exports. It leaves farmers in an unstable, vulnerable position.”

Glickman said the trade war with China and other countries “involves great risk because, from a macro perspective, about 40 percent of American agricultural products are for export.”

Overall, U.S. agricultural exports to China represent almost $20 billion annually for American farmers.

The U.S. exports about $14 billion worth of soybeans to China, according to the USDA. China buys roughly half of the U.S. soybean exports, and roughly one in three rows of soybeans grown on the nation’s farms goes to the world’s second-largest economy, according to the American Soybean Association.

China also is the world’s largest cotton consumer and ranks as the second-largest buyer of American cotton, with one out of every five bales headed there.

The latest round of tariffs by Beijing follows retaliatory action taken in April by the Chinese against other agricultural products. Effective April 2, China imposed new tariffs of up to 25 percent on U.S. pork, nuts, wine and fresh fruit. The move was in response to the White House earlier announcing a 25 percent duty on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports.

At the same time, Mexico this month announced retaliatory tariffs of 20 percent on U.S. pork exports in response to the Trump administration’s duties on imported steel and aluminum products. They also targeted apples and potatoes with 20 percent duties as well as tariffs of 20 to 25 percent on some dairy products and bourbon.

Earlier this year, Trump instructed U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “to use his broad authority to implement a plan to protect our farmers and agricultural interests,” according to a statement issued in April. But little in the way of details have been offered of any specific plans.

“It’s not probably very smart in these kind of things to lay all your cards on the table about what you’re going to do,” Perdue told reporters in April.

Still, Glickman said he has “a lot of confidence in the current agriculture secretary, Perdue, that he’s going to use all of his authorities available to him. But there’s only so much he can do.”

Glickman said there’s also uncertainty out there for farmers when considering other tariffs U.S. trading partners can impose on U.S. agricultural products. “We’re most vulnerable in retaliation on agriculture, because that’s the one area where exports are more critically important than almost any segment of the American economy,” he said.

Enraged farmers and lawmakers confront Pruitt during Heartland tour


Enraged farmers and lawmakers confront Pruitt during Heartland tour

Rural workers slammed White House favoritism of fossil fuels.

E.A. Crunden     June 15, 2018

Ethanol Plant in Rosholt, South Dakota. Credit: Myloupe/UIG via Getty Images

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt is facing a torrent of accusations and anger as he tours through the U.S. heartland. Farmers and Midwestern politicians are accusing the official of prioritizing fossil fuel industries over the interests of the region, which has served as a reliable base for President Trump.

Touring through states including Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota this week, Pruitt came under fire repeatedly by constituents for reasons unrelated to his lengthy list of scandals. The subject of at least a dozen federal investigations relating to financial and ethics decisions, Pruitt encountered questions of a very different variety in the Midwest.

“To be honest, Administrator Pruitt, we’re mad as hell,” Kansas farmer Dennis McNich told Pruitt earlier this week. “Today, the American farmer is struggling to make ends meet and our industry is on the cusp of financial ruin in many areas of the country.”

Oil, gas, and coal have seen a favorable reception under the Trump administration, which has rolled back Obama-era initiatives and regulations in favor of fossil fuels. While those moves are in line with the president’s conservative base, farming states argue they’ve come at a cost.

At the center of that contention is ethanol, a crucial source of income for corn-producing states. Under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), oil refiners are required to blend ethanol and biodiesel with petroleum, a requirement the corn industry welcomes and the oil industry has repeatedly lobbied against.

China hits U.S. farmers where it hurts after White House trade threats

Small refineries are sometimes granted waivers in order to avoid outsized costs under the RFS. But under Pruitt, the EPA has granted a number of controversial waivers, including one to Oklahoma billionaire Carl Icahn. That trend sparked a request from 13 Midwestern senators, including Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), demanding that the EPA cease issuing such waivers.

That hasn’t happened and farmers are angry. “We ain’t going to be played for a sucker. And that’s what they’re trying to do,” Grassley told the New York Times this week.

His comments came after fellow Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst (R) called Pruitt “about as swampy as you get.” A number of other rural Republican lawmakers have similarly slammed Pruitt over seeming favoritism towards oil and gas over corn and agriculture.

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is embarrassing President Trump,” reads one ad currently running in the region and backed by the conservative American Future Fund, which is based in Iowa and receives funding from at least one wealthy ethanol producer.

Iowa is not among the states on Pruitt’s agenda this week, but the administrator received an earful in the areas he did visit.

“My personal opinion is farmers are demanding accountability and I think that Mr. Pruitt probably is a dead man walking,” Dane Hicks, the GOP chairman for Anderson County, Kansas, told Politico.  “I can’t imagine he rebounds from this in any way to salvage his position. I would expect his resignation soon.”

Kansas Corn Growers Association President Ken McCauley had similarly harsh words. McCauley blasted Pruitt for coming to Kansas to “take a few photos with smiling farmers and tell the President that corn farmers are okay with his actions” rather than addressing the region’s needs.

“When you look at what EPA is doing, they are most definitely picking winners and losers and right now, ethanol is the loser,” McCauley said. He went on to add that the “EPA’s attacks on ethanol don’t just hurt plants like EKAE, they hurt farmers, rural communities, and American consumers who benefit from ethanol with lower prices and cleaner air.”

As trade war rhetoric grows, Appalachia and the Heartland fear backlash

Displeasure with Pruitt runs deep, but farmers aren’t completely satisfied with Trump either. Ongoing trade feuding between the Trump administration and a number of key trading partners, including Mexico, Canada, China, and the European Union, has sparked retaliatory tariffs predominately targeting the Midwest and the South. One particular source of contention is soybeans, a major export for the region. Responding to aggressive trade threats from Trump, China hit out at U.S. soybeans, threatening a 25 percent tariff and infuriating U.S. farmers in the process.

Trump has also failed to remove gasoline restrictions that limit ethanol amounts, despite promising farmers he would do so. Pruitt has said he supports lifting that restriction, but farmers have expressed frustration and skepticism.

“Agriculture is not very happy with Mr. Pruitt at this point,” said David Fremark, whose family grows and sells products including corn and soybeans in South Dakota.

“He’s done some good things, but this far and away overshadows everything he’s done,” Fremark said.

Pruitt’s visit to Nebraska on Thursday marked his final stop during the tour. It was not immediately clear to what extent the resounding criticism the administrator faced throughout the week would factor into future policy decisions or whether it would hinder his standing with the president.

India facing its worst water shortage in history, report says


India facing its worst water shortage in history, report says

By Swati Gupta      June 15, 2018

Indian women fetch water from a pit in the bed of Lokpal Sagar Lake in Madhya Pradesh.

Story Highlights

Six hundred million people are dealing with high to extreme water shortage

“We have 4% of the global water and 16% of the global population,” an expert notes

(CNN)India is facing its worst water shortage in history. Six hundred million people are dealing with high to extreme water shortage, according to a report by Niti Aayog, a policy think tank for the Indian government.

The report states that an average of 200,000 Indian lives are lost every year due to inadequate supply or contamination of water.

Sustainable water development has seen slow progress in India in recent years. Though 80% of the country’s states have water conservation legislation, bad data management and nonexistent pricing of water have kept the country from making significant change, the report states.

Poor irrigation techniques and severe contamination of groundwater have brought India to the edge of this crisis.

India is predominantly an agricultural country, with 80% of its water used for irrigation, the report says. The irrigation practices followed by farmers are inefficient at best.

Cape Town rejoices as rain falls on drought-stricken city

“Policies like several states giving free electricity to farmers or giving financial support for groundwater extraction — borewells and tube wells — results in uncontrolled exploitation and wastage of resource,” said Suresh Rohilla, director of urban water management at the Centre for Science and Environment.

Drip irrigation, which is a method to provide an exact amount of water directly to the root of the plant, has seen few customers. The implementation is costly for the average farmer, and state government provides limited support, said Samrat Basak, director for urban water at the World Resources Institute.

“Primarily, water is not valued in India. It is very cheap in India. People think it is free,” Basak added.

According to the report, three-quarters of the Indian population is affected by contaminated water, and 20% of the country’s disease is thought to directly correlate.

India does not have an adequate number of sewage treatment plants, so untreated urban wastewater is often added to water flowing downstream — the same contaminated water used in rural areas for drinking, according to the report.

Twenty-one major Indian cities are estimated to run out of groundwater by 2020 — just two years away.

Indian residents wait to collect drinking water in Shimla as the city faces water shortage.

One hundred million people, including those in the large cities of Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad, will be living in zero groundwater cities, according to the report.

“People think that if they own the land, they own the water. India as a country extracts the highest amount of groundwater in the world,” Basak said.

As India develops and grows to support its 1.3 billion people, the country is on the brink of an inescapable crisis.

Some states have shown a marked improvement in water quality standards during the past year.

“There have been time to time policies and programs launched by central and state governments,” Rohilla said. However, the government has not shown that it is serious enough to translate its goals into reality,” he added.

Authorities have launched better water management practices and legislation for the protection and restoration of water bodies, the report says.

The initiative to release this report is a step in the right direction, Basak said.

State governments have control over water-related policies, and the lack of legislation for groundwater extraction and the inability to price water for every home due to political constraints has led to a paralysis in the formation of a sustainable framework.

Cities have seen a return to the use of water tankers due to a lack of groundwater and in turn no water being supplied to the taps in people’s homes.

At a single tap at the back of the tanker, hundreds of people line up with cans and containers to get a few liters every day.

“We have 4% of the global water and 16% of the global population. The minute you bring this statistic into the equation, there is a non-rocket-science understanding of how this has happened,” Basak said.