Trump Is a ‘Blowhard,’ ‘I Don’t Like Him’ and I Voted for Hillary, George Bush Says in New Book


Trump Is a ‘Blowhard,’ ‘I Don’t Like Him’ and I Voted for Hillary, George Bush Says in New Book

Greg Price, Newsweek        November 4, 2017 Is a ‘Blowhard,’ ‘I Don’t Like Him’ and I Voted for Hillary, George Bush Says in New Book

Update | Both former President Bushes had choice words for current President Donald Trump in a new book scheduled to be published later this month, with the elder Bush reportedly calling the billionaire commander-in-chief a “blowhard” and flatly stating he does not “like” him.

Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush, the 41st and 43rd top executives respectively, spoke to author Mark K. Updegrove for the book “The Last Republicans.” It detailed the relationship between the father-and-son presidents and how they were fretful of what Trump had done to the Republican Party.

Furthermore, both ex-presidents admitted they did not vote for Trump. The elder Bush pulled the lever for Democrat Hillary Clinton while the younger told Updegrove he voted for “none of the above.”

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“I don’t like him,” George Bush said in May 2016 according to a The New York Times on Saturday. “I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.

Trump, who started his first trip to Asia as president on Friday, shot back in a statement that the Iraq War was “one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American history,” and challenged both Bushes legacies and effect on the GOP.

“If one Presidential candidate can disassemble a political party, it speaks volumes about how strong a legacy its past to presidents really had,” the statement to CNN on Saturday read. “And that begins with the Iraq war, one of the greatest foreign policy mistakes in American History. President Trump remains focused on keeping his promises to the American people by bringing back jobs, promoting America First foreign policy and standing up for the forgotten men and women of our great country.”

George W. Bush took umbrage with Trump’s divisive brand of political machinery, a common accusation the current president faced along the campaign trail as throughout his first year in office.

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“You can either exploit the anger, incite it,” he said, “or you can come up with ideas to deal with it.”

Trump ran as an anti-establishment Republican, made famous by his “drain the swamp” promise and slogan, and the younger Bush president admitted his brother and former GOP presidential candidate Jeb “didn’t fit with the mood.”

“If you’re angry with the powers that be you’re angry with the so-called establishment, “Bush said, “and there’s nothing more established than having a father and brother that have been president.”

The comments were striking since former U.S. presidents traditionally avoid criticism of the White House incumbent but Donald Trump’s ascension changed that tradition.

The Bushes also made a not-so-veiled statement following President Trump’s comments in the wake of the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, protest in August.

“America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms,” their joint statement read, according to CNN. “As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights,” they said in a joint written statement on Wednesday. “We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”

The book will be published Nov. 14.

This story was updated to include President Trump’s response to the Bushes comments.

State should end discussion, take action on Line 5 Pipeline

Detroit Free Press

State should end discussion, take action on Line 5

Dave Dempsey Published        November 4, 2017

(Photo: Ellen Creager/Detroit Free Press)

When the police pulls a resident over for going 100 mph in a 55-mph zone, they don’t cluck their tongues — they click their ticket books.

But when Michigan’s state government catches Enbridge Energy putting the Great Lakes at risk by failing again to disclose dangerous conditions on its Line 5 oil pipelines in the Mackinac Straits, the response is paralysis. The state has again caught Enbridge ignoring its legal obligation to be a proper steward of the submerged land that the state allows the company to occupy with its pipeline.

But all we’re hearing out of Lansing, and particularly Attorney General Bill Schuette is an expression of disappointment.

The difference between strict enforcement of laws against individuals and giving an oil transport giant chance after chance to meet its fundamental responsibility not to harm public waters is as stark as the difference between a single speeding motorist and a catastrophic oil spill fouling the drinking water source for millions.

The accumulation of studies, evidence of pipeline delamination and bends in June, and now exposed metal with likely corrosion, signals a dangerously flawed and ultimately incurable pair of sunken pipelines.

It’s time for our state government to stop treating the 1963 Constitution, statutes, and common law that protect our lakes as nice but meaningless environmental policy statements and start treating them as the duty the people through the Constitution and our courts have mandated.  More than ever, it’s time to shut down Line 5.

Dave Dempsey, Senior Advisor, FLOW, Traverse City

The world is warming even faster than expected. Trump isn’t going to act. The rest of us need to step up

Los Angeles Times  Editorial

The world is warming even faster than expected. Trump isn’t going to act. The rest of us need to step up coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, in Juliette, Ga. on June 3. (Branden Camp / Associated Press)

By The Times Editorial Board, Contact Reporter     November 4, 2017

The global climate is in trouble, worsening faster than experts believed only two years ago, and ambitious international steps to address the problem have been insufficient thus far. In December 2015, nearly every nation on earth committed themselves to the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a concerted effort to limit the rise in global temperature to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But scientists now say that threshold is too high — the line must be held at 1.5 degrees to prevent the climate change that’s already underway from becoming catastrophic.

Representatives of the nations that signed the Paris agreement meet this week at a United Nations climate conference in Bonn to take stock of where the world is right now, and of individual nations’ efforts to curtail emissions. The Trump administration is sending a career diplomat to the conference (which also will be attended by Gov. Jerry Brown, a key figure in organizing sub-national efforts to reduce emissions) even though President Trump has begun the process of withdrawing from the pact, possibly the single most dangerous step he has taken. While the U.S. government’s policy is to move backward — Trump wants to burn more fossil fuel, not less — state and local governments, other countries around the world and international corporations are all moving forward.

But the plans on the table are not enough. The United Nation’s own Emissions Gap Report released Oct. 31 found that “the gap between the reductions needed and the national pledges made in Paris is alarmingly high,” and that emissions must be throttled back even further. Nations also could help by pursuing reforestation programs, developing carbon storage technologies and adopting smarter agricultural and wetlands-management policies. Given the UN’s latest findings, attendees at the Bonn convention must come up with a strategy for accelerating global efforts to reduce emissions and ensure that the world reaches net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

If the president won’t lead on climate change, Congress must.

Even that may not suffice. A new report by the World Meteorological Organization concluded that carbon dioxide increased in the atmosphere at record speed last year and has reached a level not seen in more than 3 million years. At that time, the average atmospheric temperature was 3 degrees Celsius warmer than today, which melted glaciers in Greenland and the Antarctic and pushed sea levels at least 30 feet higher than they are now.

Currently, scientists are predicting sea-level rise in terms of feet, not inches, which would inundate coastlines, destroy infrastructure worldwide and displace tens of millions of people. We’re already seeing increased storm strength, more frequent flooding and deeper droughts, all ascribed to global warming.

More troubling is that last year’s increase came despite a global slowdown in the burning of fossil fuels. Some scientists fear we may be reaching a “feedback loop” in which warmer air in the Arctic thaws permafrost, which releases trapped methane (and carbon dioxide), which in turn feeds the rise in the air temperature. Others, relying on historic comparisons to previous warming cycles, think that the risk from tundra emissions might not be significant, but that increased rainfall in the tropics, which leads to microbial processes that release methane, could be. In either scenario, it will be crucial to offset the increases by reducing the amount of methane released from such human activities as drilling, cattle ranching and rice farming.

Individual actions are important too. One person’s carbon footprint is small, but in a country of 326 million people and a global population of 7.4 billion, individual actions add up quickly.

Still, strong policies by major emitting nations — the U.S. is second on that list behind China — are the best hope to arrest the rise in global temperatures. And that’s a difficult political lift, particularly in a country led by a man who believes climate change is a hoax. Fortunately, a majority of Americans accept the science Trump and some of his appointees so rigorously rebuff. Climate change was woefully underplayed in the last election cycle, and it needs to be made a major part of the 2018 congressional elections. If the president won’t lead on this issue, Congress must. The world is changing, and we need to do much, much more to limit the most devastating effects, from rising seas to fiercer storms to extended droughts. We created this mess, and became a wealthy nation in the process. We have both a moral and existential duty to act, and to act quickly.

US report contradicts Trump team: Warming mostly man-made

McClatchy D.C. Bureau

US report contradicts Trump team: Warming mostly man-made

AP Science Writer               November 03, 2017 – In this Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 file photo, water from Roanoke Sound pounds the Virginia Dare Trail in Manteo, N.C., as Tropical Storm Hermine passes the Outer Banks. A massive U.S. report released Friday, Nov. 3, 2017, concludes the evidence of global warming is stronger than ever and that more than 90 percent of it has been caused by humans. Since 1900, the reports said Earth has warmed by 1.8 degrees 1 degree Celsius) and seas have risen by 8 inches.

Washington: A massive U.S. report concludes the evidence of global warming is stronger than ever, contradicting a favorite talking point of top Trump administration officials, who downplay humans’ role in climate change.

The report released Friday is one of two scientific assessments required every four years. A draft showing how warming affects the U.S. was also published.

Despite fears by some scientists and environmental advocates, David Fahey of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several authors said there was no political interference or censoring of the 477-page final report.

“A lot of what we’ve been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think,” said Robert Kopp of Rutgers University, one of dozens of scientists inside and outside the government who wrote the reports.

Since 1900, Earth has warmed by 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) and seas have risen by 8 inches. Heat waves, downpours and wildfires have become frequent.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt have repeatedly said carbon dioxide isn’t the primary contributor to global warming.

It’s “extremely likely” — meaning with 95 to 100 percent certainty — that global warming is man-made, mostly from the spewing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, scientists concluded.

“Over the last century, there are no convincing alternative explanations,” the report said.

Scientists calculated that human contribution to warming since 1950 is between 92 percent and 123 percent. It’s more than 100 percent on one end, because some natural forces — such as volcanoes and orbital cycle — are working to cool Earth, but are being overwhelmed by the effects of greenhouse gases, said study co-author Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech.

“This period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization,” she said.

For the first time, scientists highlighted a dozen “tipping points” of potential dangers that could happen from warming, things that Hayhoe said “keep me up at night.”

They include the slowing down of the giant Atlantic Ocean circulation system that could dramatically warp weather worldwide, much stronger El Ninos, major decreases in ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, which would spike sea level rise, and massive release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost that could turbo-charge warming.

Researchers did not provide an estimate of how likely tipping points would occur, but “there is certainly some chance of some of these things happening,” Fahey said.

The report also documented how different climate change-caused events can interact in a complex way to make life worse such as the California wildfires and Superstorm Sandy five years ago.

The world’s oceans are under a “triple threat” — the water is getting warmer, more acidic and seeing a drop in oxygen levels, Hayhoe said.

In a 1,504-page draft report on the impacts of climate change, scientists detailed dozens of ways global warming is already affecting parts of the U.S.

Scientists said global warming is already sickening, injuring and killing Americans with changes to weather, food, air, water and diseases. And it’s expected to get worse, hurting the economy, wildlife and energy supply.

“Risks range from the inconvenient, such as increasing high tide flooding along the East Coast related to sea level rise, to … the forced relocation of coastal communities in Alaska and along the Gulf Coast,” the draft report said.

Outside experts said the reports are the most up-to-date summary of climate science.

“It shows that if anything the findings of scientists have become more dire” since 2013, said University of California, Berkeley climate scientist Zeke Hausfather, who wasn’t part of the work.


Engadget: Federal report says humans are the cause of climate change

Mallory Locklear, Engadget         November 4, 2017 

Today, over a dozen federal agencies released the Climate Science Special Report, which is a product of the National Climate Assessment — a Congressionally mandated review that takes place every four years. In it, hundreds of scientists from dozens of government agencies and academic institutions present evidence that supports the existence of a human-caused warming planet and all of the consequences that come with it. “This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report stated. “For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence.”

The special report notes that each of the last three years have set temperature highs and that global temperature averages have risen by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 115 years. It also warns that weather disasters like hurricanes and floods that have cost the US $1.1 trillion since 1980 could become more commonplace if action isn’t taken to reduce our emissions. “The frequency and intensity of extreme high temperature events are virtually certain to increase in the future as global temperature increases (high confidence). Extreme precipitation events will very likely continue to increase in frequency and intensity throughout most of the world (high confidence),” said the report.

Also noted, was the importance of reducing emissions for any hope of curtailing the negative outcomes of climate change. “The magnitude of climate change beyond the next few decades will depend primarily on the amount of greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) emitted globally. Without major reductions in emissions, the increase in annual average global temperature relative to pre-industrial times could reach 9°F (5°C) or more by the end of this century,” the report stated.

The report released today — an exhaustive compilation of research totaling over 600 pages and peer reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences — is just the first of two. A second, longer volume detailing the regional impacts of climate change is not yet finalized, but is open for public comment and will soon undergo peer review. Somewhat surprisingly, today’s report was approved by the White House even though the Trump administration has repeatedly worked against efforts to combat climate change including removing the US from the Paris Accord, placing a climate change denier at the helm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and nominating one to lead NASA. Under the Trump presidency, the EPA has stopped researchers from speaking about climate change and deleted climate change information from its website while the Department of Agriculture has pressed its staff to not refer to climate change in their communications.

In regards to the report released today, Penn State University geo-scientist Richard Alley told NPR, “This is good, solid climate science. This has been reviewed so many times in so many ways, and it’s taking what we know from … a couple of centuries of climate science and applying it to the U.S.” Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University told the New York Times, “This new report simply confirms what we already knew. Human-caused climate change isn’t just a theory, it’s reality. Whether we’re talking about unprecedented heat waves, increasingly destructive hurricanes, epic drought and inundation of our coastal cities, the impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are upon us. That’s the consensus of our best scientists, as laid bare by this latest report.”

Read the full Climate Science Special Report here. Climate Change Special Report

GOP’s ‘Cruel and Unusual’ Tax Plan Cuts Wind Forecast in Half


GOP’s ‘Cruel and Unusual’ Tax Plan Cuts Wind Forecast in Half

By Brian Eckhouse           November 3, 2017

From Climate Changed

  • Wind industry would add 19 gigawatts under plan, BNEF says
  • Republican Senator Grassley supports wind tax credit Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

House Republicans’ proposed tax-reform plan would slice wind development in half, according to a forecast Friday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The London-based research group had expected the U.S. to add 38 gigawatts of new wind power through 2020. Based on the proposal released Thursday, that figure would fall to 19 gigawatts because it slashes a key federal subsidy.

The plan would cut the federal production tax credit for wind power by about a third, from $24 per megawatt-hour in 2017 dollars to $15 per megawatt-hour. It would also change the requirements to qualify for the subsidy, which is already scheduled to be phased out.

“The wind industry was ramping up for its final push under the credit,” Alex Morgan, a New York-based analyst at BNEF, said in an interview Friday. “This would diminish those boom years.”

Here’s how: the Republican proposal wouldn’t allow projects to qualify for the full credit unless they can demonstrate “a continuous program of construction,” from the end of last year through completion.

Under the current rules, developers are eligible to claim the full credit through 2020 if they spent at least 5 percent of total project costs before the end of last year — even if physical construction was months, or even years, away.

Buying turbines before the end of 2016 was a popular way to capture the credit. About 41 gigawatts qualified for the full credit through buying turbines or equipment in 2016 alone, although many weren’t expected to be completed until 2020, according to Morgan. Much of that equipment has been warehoused.

The proposal may face resistance from fellow Republicans like Chuck Grassley, the powerful senator from wind-rich Iowa, who supports the production tax credits.

“This isn’t set in stone,” Morgan said. “Maybe it’ll be edited out by Monday.”

But the proposal surprised the industry. Developers had expected the tax credit would be preserved, given the phase out agreed to just two years ago.

And then there’s this: unlike solar power, wind power is most robust in Republican strongholds like Texas and the Plains.

“Some Republicans don’t realize that 80 percent of benefits of wind power is going to Republican areas of the country — and to Republican voters,” said Mike Garland, chief executive officer of Pattern Energy Group Inc. and Pattern Energy Group LP, which together own 2.2 gigawatts of U.S. power. “It’s cruel and unusual punishment to go after one energy sector.”

How Monsanto Captured the EPA (And Twisted Science) To Keep Glyphosate on the Market

How Monsanto Captured the EPA (And Twisted Science) To Keep Glyphosate on the Market

Special Investigation:    Since 1973, Monsanto has cited dubious science, like tests on the uteri of male mice, and the EPA has let much of it slide.

Valerie Brown and Elizabeth Grossman     November 1, 2017
Illustrations by Jean-Luc Bonifay 

In April 2014, a small grassroots group called Moms Across America announced that it had tested 10 breast milk samples for glyphosate, and found the chemical in three of them. Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide and the primary ingredient of Roundup. Although the levels of glyphosate found by Moms Across America were below the safety limits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set for drinking water and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set for food, the results caused a stir on social media.

The Moms Across America testing was not part of any formal scientific study, but Monsanto—the owner of the Roundup trademark and the premier glyphosate manufacturer—jumped to defend its most profitable pesticide based on a new study that found no glyphosate in breast milk. But this research, purported to be “independent,” was actually backed by the corporation itself.

“Anybody who finds out about this is not going to trust a chemical company over a mom, even if [that mom] is a stranger,” says Moms Across America founder Zen Honeycutt. “A mother’s only special interest is the well-being of her family and her community.” Honeycutt says she has been sharply criticized for the breast milk project because it was not a formal scientific study. But she says her intention was “to find out whether or not glyphosate was getting in our breast milk, and if it was, to have further scientific studies conducted and therefore to provoke a movement so that policies would be changed.”

Everyone is exposed to glyphosate: Residues of the herbicide are found in both fresh and processed foods, and in drinking water nationwide. More and more research suggests that glyphosate exposure can lead to numerous health issues, ranging from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and kidney damage to disruption of gut bacteria and improper hormone functioning.

The Moms Across America episode fits a pattern that has emerged since 1974, when the EPA first registered glyphosate for use: When questions have been raised about the chemical’s safety, Monsanto has ensured that the answers serve its financial interests, rather than scientific accuracy and transparency. Our two-year investigation found incontrovertible evidence that Monsanto has exerted deep influence over EPA decisions since glyphosate first came on the market—via Roundup—more than 40 years ago.

We have closely examined the publicly available archive of EPA documents from the earliest days of the agency’s consideration of glyphosate. Significant portions of the relevant documents have either been partially redacted or omitted entirely. But this archived material reveals that EPA staff scientists, who found much of the data submitted by Monsanto unacceptable, did place great weight upon a 1983 mouse study that showed glyphosate was carcinogenic.

In April 2015, in the wake of news that the Department of Health and Human Services was going to examine glyphosate, Dan Jenkins, a Monsanto executive, reported to his colleagues that Jess Rowland, a deputy director in the EPA Office of Pesticide Programs, had told him, “If I can kill this, I should get a medal.”

Yet their interpretation was subsequently reversed by EPA upper management and advisory boards, apparently under pressure from Monsanto. In years to come, that pivotal 1983 mouse study would be buried under layers of misleading analysis to obscure its meaning. Today, the EPA and Monsanto continue to cite that study as evidence that glyphosate poses no public health risk, even though the study’s actual evidence indicates otherwise.

Meanwhile, the EPA has overlooked a growing body of research suggesting glyphosate is dangerous. In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans” based on multiple peer-reviewed studies published since 2001. But the EPA has not changed its classification. Instead, the agency issued a rebuttal in September 2016 that said its scientists “did not agree with IARC”—and cited that 1983 mouse study as evidence of non-carcinogenicity.

Controversy continues to swirl around EPA management’s cozy relationship with Monsanto. The agency’s Office of Inspector General, an independent oversight body, is currently investigating whether a former deputy director in the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Jess Rowland, colluded with Monsanto to “kill” a Department of Health and Human Services investigation into glyphosate prompted by the release of the IARC report. On April 28, 2015, Dan Jenkins, a Monsanto regulatory affairs manager, emailed his colleagues that Rowland had told him, “If I can kill this, I should get a medal.”

In the meantime, people across the country are suing Monsanto, alleging that their health problems and the deaths of their loved ones are connected to glyphosate. At least 1,100 such cases are wending their way through state courts, and an additional 240 through federal courts.

To understand how we got to this point, we must examine how this four-decade-old dam of selective interpretation and industry interference—that is now leaking badly—was methodically assembled.

Glyphosate use explodes 

In 1974, 1.4 million pounds of glyphosate were sprayed across U.S. farm and ranchland. By 2014, 276 million pounds were applied. Glyphosate use began to mushroom in the 1990s when the USDA approved Monsanto’s request to market corn, soy and cotton seeds that had been genetically engineered to resist Roundup.

In the United States, the EPA has registered glyphosate for use on more than 100 crops, including wheat, rice, oats, barley and alfalfa. In California alone in 2015, more than 11 million pounds of glyphosate were used on crops, including almonds, avocados, cantaloupes, oranges, grapes and pistachios. In the wake of the IARC classification, this past March, California labeled glyphosate a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65 program, which requires businesses to notify consumers of carcinogenic chemicals in their products. Monsanto has fought this in court but so far has not prevailed.

Glyphosate is used worldwide, in more than 160 countries. In 2015, Monsanto’s sales of pesticides reportedly brought in $4.76 billion—much of it fueled by the sales of glyphosate used on fields planted with the company’s glyphosate-resistant GMO seeds like Roundup Ready Soybeans.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly measures Americans’ blood and urine for more than 200 industrial chemicals (including pesticides), glyphosate is not among those tracked. The USDA has declined to test for glyphosate in food products, but the FDA recently restarted its program monitoring glyphosate in food, although its data is not yet available.

In the absence of good government data, various nongovernmental organizations have commissioned testing of food for the herbicide’s residues. The most recent such testing, by Food Democracy Now, found glyphosate in Honey Nut Cheerios, Ritz crackers, Oreos, Doritos and Lay’s potato chips. Previous European tests have found residues in bread and beer.

Monsanto writes the regulations 

In the 1970s, the pesticide landscape was far different from today’s. Many more very toxic compounds were on the market, including toxaphene (banned in 1990), endrin (banned in 1986) and chlordane (banned in 1988). In contrast, glyphosate appeared to be nontoxic. Regulators assumed that because glyphosate worked on a metabolic pathway found only in plants, it would be harmless to humans.

The EPA was only four years old when glyphosate entered the market in 1974, and the agency was faced with a large collection of chemicals to review. At the time, protocols for toxicology testing were relatively fluid, and it took the EPA until 1986 to finalize its guidelines. Yet the EPA’s analysis of glyphosate still relies heavily on the initial data.

The earliest example we have found of Monsanto attempting to reduce the perception of glyphosate toxicity is from May 1973, the year before glyphosate was registered. That was when biologist Robert D. Coberly at the EPA’s Toxicology Branch (TB) Registration Division recommended that, due to the herbicide’s tendency to cause eye irritation, the word “Danger” should appear on the label of a Roundup formulation Monsanto was seeking to register.

In November 1973, Monsanto senior staffer L.H. Hannah wrote a letter to the EPA that—as TB staff described in a memo to the Registration Division—“protested our recommendation” that “Danger” appear on the product label. The TB staff wrote that Monsanto suggested the eye irritation observed in the testing was caused by “a secondary infection in previously irritated eyes,” rather than the herbicide. EPA staff were reluctant to back down, but Monsanto persisted. The entire correspondence is not available, but in January 1976 Monsanto asked to have the “signal” word on the label changed from “Danger” to “Caution.” In June 1976, the EPA agreed to Monsanto’s request.

Garbage in, garbage out 

Throughout the 1970s, EPA staff repeatedly raised red flags about the inadequacy of testing data that Monsanto was submitting in support of glyphosate’s original registration. For example, in an August 1978 memo, TB scientist Krystyna Locke raised concerns about a Monsanto study in which the scientists from the contract lab had failed to record what happened in the experiment. Locke quoted Monsanto scientist Robert Roudabush, who defended the study this way: “The scientific integrity of a study should not be doubted because of the inability to observe all primary recording of data.” In other words, the EPA should not be concerned by the absence of data. It should simply trust the study’s conclusions.

The EPA’s Locke also pointed out that it is “difficult not to doubt the scientific integrity of a study when the [lab] stated that it took specimens from the uteri (of male rabbits).” (A male rabbit does not have a uterus.)

This is only the most egregious example of the unreliable data made available to the EPA during its original regulatory review in the 1970s. Many other EPA memos we examined detail incomplete or otherwise unacceptable toxicology screening tests.

Conversely, one apparently valid study has been the target of major attempts to discredit it by both EPA management and Big Ag. In 1983, the EPA was continuing to examine glyphosate toxicity data supplied by Monsanto in anticipation of the registration review that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) requires for each pesticide at least every 15 years. As part of that process, Monsanto submitted to the EPA a two-year mouse feeding study—a study that has since become a thorn in Monsanto’s side and a drag on the EPA’s push to find glyphosate benign. Its history merits close scrutiny.

The mouse study was conducted for Monsanto by a commercial lab called Bio/Dynamics, but the results of the research were neither peer-reviewed nor made publicly available. Bio/Dynamics studied 200 mice: 50 unexposed control mice and three groups of 50 mice exposed to three different doses of glyphosate. Four of the exposed mice—one at the middle dose and three at the highest dose—developed kidney tumors called adenomas, which tend to be initially benign but can transform into cancers.

Staff toxicologists, pathologists and statisticians in the TB provided the first interpretation of these results. On March 4, 1985, an ad hoc committee of these scientists reported that based on this mouse study, glyphosate was carcinogenic, or a “Class C” substance. They did not question the 1983 study’s structure or reported data. EPA staff toxicologist William Dykstra, in an April 3, 1985, memo, stated unequivocally, “Glyphosate was oncogenic in male mice causing renal tubule adenomas, a rare tumor, in a dose-related manner.”

Outside experts 

The TB scientists recommended further expert analysis, so in the fall of 1985 Monsanto recruited four outside pathologists to review the original tissue slides from the 1983 study and—eventually—fresh slides taken from the same animals used in that original study. In a March 11, 1986, memo, Dykstra reported on the results of this review: One of the outside pathologists, Marvin Kuschner, saw a tumor in the control group of mice like those found in the exposed groups. Based on this finding, the EPA decided to discount the entire study on the grounds that if an unexposed control mouse had a tumor, the tumors in the exposed mice were “not compound-related.” Subsequent evaluation of the same evidence by other pathologists found no evidence of a tumor in the control mouse, but the seeds of doubt had already been sown. As late as 2016 the EPA still mentioned the tumor in the control mouse, although it was not there.

Dissatisfied with the first outside experts’ verdict, the EPA asked another five outside pathologists to look at the mouse tissue slides from that study. According to a March 1, 1986, memo from EPA Hazard Evaluation Division toxicologist D. Stephen Saunders, these experts decided that “the incidences of renal tubular-cell neoplasms in this study are not compound-related”—in other words, that the kidney tumors were not related to glyphosate exposure.

Throughout this process, the EPA was riddled with internal dissent. In February 1985, TB statistician Herbert Lacayo wrote an impassioned memo regarding the 1983 mouse study. He concluded that without glyphosate exposure, the odds of seeing the kidney tumors noted in the study were about 156 to 1.

“Under such circumstances a prudent person would reject the Monsanto assumption that glyphosate dosing has no effect on kidney tumor production,” wrote Lacayo. “Our viewpoint is one of protecting the public health when we see suspicious data. It is not our job to protect registrants from false positives.”

PassÉ Toxicology 

Monsanto’s interests were protected by a toxicological tenet that held sway at the time: the linear dose-response. This assumes that the greater the dose of a toxic substance, the greater the effects, and vice versa, often phrased as “the dose makes the poison.” Under this assumption, a carcinogenicity test would be expected to show tumor size or tumor numbers increasing in linear relation to increased exposure to the carcinogen. In the mouse study, tumor numbers followed this pattern, which the TB noted was an indication that the tumors were glyphosate-related. But the largest tumor was found in one of the middle-dose mice. Pathologist Robert A. Squire, a member of the first outside group consulted, wrote in a September 1985 letter to Monsanto, “This would be highly unlikely if the tumors were compound-related.” Thus, even though the tumor numbers followed a linear dose-response, the tumor size of the middle-dose mouse presented an opportunity to discount glyphosate’s effects as non-linear and therefore nonexistent.

In some circumstances, the linear dose-response reasoning makes sense, but the science of chemical health effects has advanced considerably since the 1980s. It is now generally accepted among academic researchers that non-linear dose-responses—responses in which low levels of exposure may produce more significant effects than high levels and responses in which effects at high doses sometimes plateau or tail off—often occur.

None of the regulatory studies of glyphosate considers the possibility of non-linear dose-responses. The registration documents submitted by Monsanto show that when glyphosate testing data did not conform to the linear dose-response model, the company’s hired scientists and the EPA’s consultants concluded that adverse effects found in exposed animals were not caused by glyphosate. But this outdated approach underlines why glyphosate’s toxicity should be revisited using modern concepts and methods.

After a decade of EPA staff scientists repeatedly flagging inconsistencies, mistakes and questionable scientific interpretations in Monsanto’s data, one might expect the EPA to require rigorous new studies. Instead, the agency continued to invite outside experts to review the data, as though it was determined to ask the same question until it got the answer it was looking for.

Don’t like the answer? Ask again. 

In early 1986, the EPA called in yet more outside experts—namely, the agency’s FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel. The seven-member panel included the head of biochemical toxicology and pathobiology at the Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT). This institute was founded by chemical manufacturers and funded by organizations and companies that included the American Chemistry Council (an industry group that boasts Monsanto as a member), and pesticide manufacturers BASF, Bayer and Dow Chemical. The panel also included a consultant who had worked for the ChemAgro Corporation (later part of Bayer’s agricultural division) before founding her own consultancy.

The FIFRA panel felt that calling glyphosate carcinogenic was going too far and suggested downgrading its classification to D, “not classified.”

Biostatistician Christopher Portier, formerly a director of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) says the agency should have stuck with the TB ad hoc committee’s original interpretation. Of the FIFRA panel, he says, “I have no clue how they got there.”

At the same time, according to a February 1985 summary memo by Stephen L. Saunders, based on the panel’s advice, “The Agency has determined that the existing mouse study does not provide sufficient evidence for a resolution of this issue. Therefore, a repeat mouse study is required.”

Despite the EPA’s requests for a clarifying experiment, Monsanto apparently refused. Monsanto’s registration director George B. Fuller protested vigorously in an Oct. 5, 1988, letter to the director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, Edwin F. Tinsworth. “[There is] no relevant scientific or regulatory justification for repeating the glyphosate mouse oncogenicity study,” Fuller wrote. “We feel that to do so would not be an appropriate use of either the Agency’s or Monsanto’s resources.” In a 1988 meeting, the company again pressed the EPA to give up on the repeat mouse study requirement. The EPA backed down.

To our knowledge, the original 1983 mouse-feeding carcinogenicity study was never repeated.

What is clear from available EPA internal records is that when test results suggest toxicity, EPA management—as opposed to EPA staff scientists—consistently gives Monsanto and its testing laboratories the benefit of the doubt. They defer to Monsanto’s preferred conclusions instead of requiring the development of additional evidence that would clarify the questions regarding glyphosate’s carcinogenicity. The documents we have examined indicate that the EPA may have asked for—or intended to enforce a requirement for—better data, but we have seen nothing to show that the agency ever did so. The EPA did not respond to our request for comment.

Despite these omissions and questions, in June 1991, the EPA announced that it was downgrading glyphosate from a “Class D”—“not classifiable” substance—to a “Class E” substance—“one that shows evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans—based on the lack of convincing evidence in adequate studies.” (Note that this implies adequate studies might still provide convincing evidence.)

IARC awakens regulators 

After the EPA reregistered glyphosate in 1993, the agency’s investigation of glyphosate’s potential health effects became more or less dormant until controversy erupted when the World Health Organization’s IARC concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” That in turn prompted the EPA to develop its Fall 2016 “Glyphosate Issue Paper.” This document references the 1983 mouse study as a linchpin in its conclusion that glyphosate is not a human carcinogen. Referring to the 1983 study, the EPA wrote, “The additional pathological and statistical evaluations concluded that the renal tumors in male mice were not compound-related.”

For its part, Monsanto called the IARC review “flawed” and accused the IARC committee of cherry-picking and overlooking data. Monsanto demanded the report’s retraction.

In an 1985 memo, an EPA Toxicology Branch statistician wrote, “Our viewpoint is one of protecting the public health when we see suspicious data. It is not our job to protect registrants from false positives.”

In a September 27 email to In These Times, Monsanto spokesperson Charla Lord stressed that IARC is not a regulatory agency and that “no regulatory agency in the world has concluded glyphosate is a carcinogen.” As noted above, however, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Health Hazard Assessment has done so.

The IARC controversy and the EPA’s second re-registration process for glyphosate, which began in 2009, have triggered a salvo of scientific journal articles and comments from the agricultural industry. This includes an entire toxicology journal issue devoted to articles (all financed by Monsanto) asserting glyphosate safety and casting doubt on contrary results. The apparent goal of these comments and articles is to discredit the IARC decision and to influence the EPA’s re-registration process.

Judging by the stance of the EPA’s “Glyphosate Issue Paper,” the campaign has succeeded. The EPA has not commissioned or conducted any of its own studies to examine glyphosate’s potential health effects; rather, the EPA document relies on non-public industry research and industry-financed reviews. It ignores the significant body of peer-reviewed literature not only on the chemical’s carcinogenic effects, but also on glyphosate’s harmful effects on fetal development, hormonal balance, gut bacteria and ecological balance.

Indeed, the industry reviews are not simply convenient collations of relevant literature for the EPA—the agency appears to rely on the interpretations and conclusions of the industry-financed scientists as well, in some cases without seeing the original studies. In comments submitted to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel on Nov. 3, 2016, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Jennifer Sass stated:

NRDC strongly disagrees with EPA’s dismissal or reduced weighting of many of the positive studies, and its higher weighting of guideline studies which are most often the industry-sponsored studies generated to support regulatory approval. NRDC is especially concerned that EPA relied on a review article—particularly one sponsored by the industries whose products are the target of this risk assessment—instead of the original studies.

John DeSesso, a principal with the chemical consultancy Exponent, insists the studies and reviews the EPA relied on are solid. “Certainly they relied on those studies, but they happen to be the better studies that are out there,” DeSesso says. “I understand people saying of course it came out a certain way because Monsanto paid for it.” He adds, “If it went to the EPA, they don’t have the people to do it or the time to do it themselves. So they’re looking for people staying in the middle of the road and let the data tell the story.”

Yet two facts remain: First, the EPA failed to consider the large body of peer-reviewed science on glyphosate currently available. Second, neither the public nor the scientific community has access to the original study data from Monsanto upon which the EPA bases its claims of glyphosate’s safety.

Safe as mother’s milk 

In July 2015, five months after IARC concluded that glyphosate was carcinogenic, Monsanto reacted publicly to Moms Across America’s 2014 breast milk survey. The company’s response to this small nonprofit organization parallels its lobbying of a federal agency over the last 40 years, demonstrating that it will seek to discredit all opposition no matter how small. It aggressively and publicly sowed doubt as it manipulated the science behind the scenes.

The first public salvo against Moms Across America came in a July 2015 press release from Washington State University (WSU). WSU biology professor Michelle McGuire was quoted as saying, “The Moms Across America study flat out got it wrong.” The release, which is no longer available at the WSU web site, explained that yet-to-be-published research by McGuire and her colleagues showed that glyphosate “does not accumulate in mother’s milk.” The WSU release described McGuire’s results as “independently verified by an accredited outside organization.” These assertions turned out to be false.

When asked about the study at the time, McGuire, WSU and Monsanto all said the study was conducted independently. Yet the press release noted that the study’s milk samples were tested at Monsanto’s laboratories in St. Louis, as well as by Covance, Inc. (The company was formerly named Hazleton, which was doing toxicology testing for Monsanto as early as 1979.) When we queried about this in July 2015, McGuire and Monsanto explained that Monsanto had developed the test method used to measure glyphosate in human milk.

Asked why the company had developed the test method, Monsanto explained via email that McGuire’s study had, in fact, been conducted in response to Moms Across America’s test results. The Monsanto spokesman wrote: “After the Moms Across America results were posted, Monsanto consulted with the researchers about the data. We all determined that the most appropriate way to address the issues was to conduct another analysis using an analytical methodology that was validated to be precise and specific for the detection of glyphosate in human milk.”

In a September 25 Biology Fortified, Inc. YouTube video, McGuire said the study had “a conflict of interest that needed to be managed really, really carefully.” As the most specific example of such careful management, she said that in order to “make sure we had an independent or third-party lab analyze the samples,” the samples were shipped “directly to Covance so it was not like we were going through Monsanto.”

Given the close ties between Covance and Monsanto, and Monsanto’s role in devising the study and developing the analytical method, McGuire’s description of the analysis as “independent” is something of a stretch.

In March 2016, the WSU study was published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study’s acknowledgements detail extensive support from Monsanto:

Three of the study’s nine authors are listed as Monsanto employees.

Research “gifts” of $10,000 are disclosed from Monsanto to McGuire and her co-author (and husband) Mark McGuire, in addition to the study costs for which Monsanto reimbursed the McGuires.

The study’s biological sample testing (milk and urine) was paid for by Monsanto, and the company was involved in other aspects of the study design and assay development.

Curiously, even though the authors included Michelle and Mark McGuire, the study footnotes also say that “the authors reported no funding received for this study” and that authors not employed by Monsanto reported no conflicts of interest related to the study.

Further undermining claims of the study’s independence is the fact that the journal that published McGuire’s study is copyrighted to the American Society of Nutrition, of which Monsanto—along with numerous other agricultural and food manufacturing corporations—is a “sustaining partner.” Michelle McGuire is listed in her university bio as an American Society of Nutrition spokesperson.

Phil Weller, a WSU spokesperson, says university scientists like McGuire “are encouraged to collaborate with researchers working in industry” and “to design their studies in such a way that any sort of bias that might be involved does not influence their results.”

Back to the Future 

When glyphosate was first registered, it no doubt appeared benign compared to very toxic compounds that had been used as pesticides for decades. But glyphosate usage has ballooned beyond all expectations and, more than four decades later, we have no clear understanding of the consequences of this increased exposure on humans and the environment.

The EPA’s regulatory record on glyphosate is compromised by missing, incomplete, hidden, redacted, lost and otherwise faulty information. The EPA relies on data, most of which is unpublished, that is supplied by the manufacturer, interpreted by the industry and not publicly available. Consequently, a decisive and transparent assessment of glyphosate’s toxicity is impossible. The EPA has never wavered from its decision to dismiss and minimize the 1983 mouse study, which appears to be valid. The agency has never attempted to replicate the study in order to clarify its results—perhaps because it feared that such evidence would demonstrate that glyphosate was indeed a carcinogen. Furthermore, it’s a pattern the agency continues to follow, discounting later studies using similar arguments and research supplied by industry that have not undergone independent analysis.

Neither the public nor the scientific community has access to the original study data from Monsanto upon which the EPA bases its claims of glyphosate’s safety.

“I gave [the EPA] the benefit of the doubt in 1986,” says Portier. “I don’t give them the benefit of the doubt in 2017.”

Glyphosate is a clear case of “regulatory capture” by a corporation acting in its own financial interest while serious questions about public health remain in limbo.

The record suggests that in 44 years—through eight presidential administrations—EPA management has never attempted to correct the problem. Indeed, the pesticide industry touts its forward-looking, modern technologies as it strives to keep its own research in the closet, and relies on questionable assumptions and outdated methods in regulatory toxicology.

The only way to establish a scientific basis for evaluating glyphosate’s safety, as a group of 14 scientists suggested in 2016, would be to make proprietary industrial studies public, put them up against the peer-reviewed literature and conduct new studies by researchers independent of corporate interests—in other words, force some daylight between regulators and the regulated.

As an independent, nonprofit publication, IN THESE TIMES depends on support from readers like you. Donate or subscribe to help fund independent journalism.

Valerie Brown  is a journalist specializing in environmental health, climate change and microbiology. In 2009 she was honored by the Society of Environmental Journalists for her writing on epigenetics.

Elizabeth Grossman  was an award-winning journalist specializing in science and environmental issues. She was the author of Chasing Molecules, High Tech Trash and other books. To the great sorrow of her colleagues and friends, Grossman died in July of ovarian cancer.

Ohio Court Overturns Law Preventing Cities From Voting on Anti-Fracking Measures


Ohio Court Overturns Law Preventing Cities From Voting on Anti-Fracking Measures

By Simon Davis-Cohen              November 1, 2017 Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, Ohio State Office Building, is home to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Credit: Sixflashphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0

In a slight break with previous state policies that have encouraged fracking activity and new pipelines, the Ohio Supreme Court recently struck down a controversial provision restricting citizen efforts to vote locally on these and other issues through the ballot initiative process.

Getting Out (of) the Vote

The state Supreme Court ruling, which came on October 19, is a departure from earlier rulings that prevented residents* from placing county charters and a city ordinance to ban fracking from appearing on ballots. In 2015 the network had expanded beyond municipal ballot initiatives to include new county charters to elevate rights of local residents and ecosystems. Fossil fuel-friendly Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted responded by claiming he possessed “unfettered authority” to remove the county charters from the ballot, regardless of whether they gathered enough signatures.

Central to Husted’s argument was an assertion that local residents do not have the power to vote on laws that challenge the state’s supremacy. Since 2015, Husted, Husted-appointed county boards of elections, and the Ohio Supreme Court have removed a total of 10 proposed fracking-related county charters from Ohio ballots.

To justify keeping the charters off the ballot, the Ohio Supreme Court developed a legal rationale that gave Husted and his boards of elections broad discretion to use what proved to be unpredictible technicalities to prevent all 10 from being voted on, despite petitioners gathering the needed signatures. However, that legal approach was not applied to municipal ballot initiatives, which continued to be proposed, voted on, and in some cases passed.

But at the end of 2016, HB463 passed in a lame duck legislative session and allowed unelected boards of elections to remove municipal initiatives from ballots as well. The bill also granted boards of elections similar unilateral power to strike proposed county charters, freeing them from having to rely on revolving technical arguments.

Taking Initiative

Apparently unfazed by the new law, this year local community groups* advanced county charters in Athens and Medina counties and ballot initiatives for the cities of Bowling Green and Youngstown. These efforts all included “Community Bills of Rights,” which would outlaw fracking, injection wells, and related infrastructure for producing and transporting natural gas in their respective counties and cities.

Bowling Green’s ballot initiative, which threatens to complicate the development of the nearby NEXUS natural gas pipeline, proposes an amendment to an existing city charter. Although the NEXUS pipeline is not slated to pass through the city itself, the ordinance would bar the pipeline from a piece of farmland owned by the city, which is key to the pipeline’s proposed route.

All of the ballot initiatives gathered the required number of signatures to get on the ballot. And all but Bowling Green’s initiative were opposed and removed by their boards of elections, whom Secretary Husted had appointed. However, Bowling Green’s board voted to allow the people to vote first.

Then came the legal challenges. After hearing appeals, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against the two county charters and the Youngstown initiative. But in each of the rulings the court avoided weighing in on the constitutionality of HB463, instead relying on technical arguments to keep the initiatives off the ballot.

The Ballot’s in Your Court

But then the court ruled on the Bowling Green initiative.

Because Bowling Green’s board of elections ruled to allow a vote, in this case it was the board of elections — rather than citizen-petitioners — defending the local ballot process and arguing that HB463 was unconstitutional.

The issue was only brought to the state Supreme Court after a private individual appealed the board’s decision to allow voting to take place. (The challenge was defended by a law firm that last year wrote briefs for the American Petroleum Institute and Affiliated Construction Trades Ohio Foundation to defend the practice of keeping anti-fracking initiatives off local ballots.)

In a 4-3 decision, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down and ruled unconstitutional the section of HB463 that applied to municipal ballot initiatives, but not county charters. The ruling leaves unanswered how future proposed county charters will be treated. And because of how long the court took to make its decision, according to Terry Lodge, an attorney who represented the petitioners in all the cases, there is no time for Youngstown to use the ruling to return its previously removed initiative to this November’s ballot. That means Bowling Green’s “Citizens Right to a Healthy Environment and Livable Climate” initiative will be the only one in Ohio up for a vote in 2017.

Should it pass, as a similar effort did in the nearby City of Waterville last year, Nexus Gas Transmission, LLC may face yet another challenge from local communities as it attempts to build its pipeline across this stretch of northwestern Ohio.

Still, petitioners face an uphill battle from Bowling Green officials. “Our city [officials are] coming out so vehemently against [the ordinance],” local petitioner Lisa Kochheiser told DeSmog. Kochheiser also shared with DeSmog emails she obtained through a freedom of information request, showing Bowling Green’s mayor and law director knew about the proposed pipeline route — which passes within 700 feet of the Bowling Green regional drinking water treatment plant — two years before the public did. In addition, when the pipeline company filed a lawsuit to invoke eminent domain against individuals and local governments “holding out” access to their land in early October, Bowling Green’s law director quickly granted the company access to the disputed piece of farmland. Lodge wonders if the city “would even lift a finger to enforce [the ordinance]” if it passes.

The campaign is on in Bowling Green, but the numerous legal hoops that delayed the campaign until two and half weeks before the election means petitioners were “late coming out of the gate,” according to Kochheiser.

Update 11/2/17: This was corrected to clarify that local community groups, not the Ohio Community Rights Network, which works to support groups working on these issues, were advancing ballot initiatives.

Exxon Refinery Catches Fire Day After Government Settles Over Pollution From Other Gulf Plants


Exxon Refinery Catches Fire Day After Government Settles Over Pollution From Other Gulf Plants

By Julie Dermansky            November 1, 2017 morning skies Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were alight from a fire that started around 2:30 a.m. at an ExxonMobil refinery. The blaze, though contained before the sun came up, is a reminder to the surrounding community of yet another danger of living next to refineries and chemical plants.

Exxon’s refinery is located along the stretch of Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans known as “Cancer Alley” due to the high number of chemical plants and refineries — and illnesses possibly connected to emissions — along the river’s banks.

Exxon issued a statement to CBS affiliate WAFB while the fire smoldered, saying the community was not impacted by emissions from the refinery fire and that air quality readings were “below detectable limits.”

Mary Lee Orr, executive director of The Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN), questions the possibility of making such a determination so fast. Her group has been working with Cancer Alley communities, helping to reduce their exposure to pollution from the area’s oil and petrochemical industry.

Exxon’s Baton Rouge refinery is adjacent to one of the company’s eight facilities named in a settlement reached with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) and announced October 31.

Last year LEAN filed a lawsuit against Exxon chemical facility in Baton Rouge, next to the refinery that caught on fire Wednesday. That suit alleges the facility has been violating the Clean Air Act by failing to report pollution releases correctly. Lisa Jordan, director of Tulane University’s Environmental Legal Clinic and representing LEAN in this case, said it is too early to say how the recent agreement between the federal government and Exxon will impact their own case. Jordan said LEAN’s case encompasses a broader range of issues than those in the one recently settled. at ExxonMobil Beaumont, Texas, facility after Hurricane Harvey.

According to the DOJ, the settlement “resolves allegations that ExxonMobil violated the Clean Air Act by failing to properly operate and monitor industrial flares at their petrochemical facilities, which resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollution.”

It requires Exxon to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce air pollution from 26 industrial flares at five facilities in Texas and three in Louisiana, at a cost of about $300 million. In addition, the company must pay a civil penalty of $2.5 million.

Some environmental groups have described the fines as a slap on the wrist, but LEAN’S technical adviser Wilma Subra believes the settlement is substantial. “The amount of money to be spent on air pollution improvements is a positive step in the right direction,” she told me.
Flare at ExxonMobil Beaumont, Texas, facility after Hurricane Harvey.

However, Subra is concerned that the air pollution monitoring devices in the agreement will only monitor benzene, which is known to cause cancer. In her view, Exxon should be required to monitor a whole host of other potentially harmful chemicals it is emitting.

The instances of pollution cited in the recently settled suit do not include emissions from any of Exxon’s Texas facilities affected by Hurricane Harvey. Subra pointed out that the pollution incidents at Texas refineries and chemical facilities following the hurricane show that industry has no method for controlling pollution when hurricanes hit, something she hopes industry will change soon.
Flare at Exxon’s Baytown, Texas, refinery following Hurricane Harvey.

Exxon’s Baytown, Texas, operation was among the eight industrial facilities included in the recent settlement. It was also one of the plants that reported pollution releases due to Hurricane Harvey. In this case, the refinery’s roof sank due to the storm’s heavy rains, which resulted in the release of hazardous gases — including volatile organic compounds and benzene above permitted levels, according to The New York Times.

Orr also sees the agreement between Exxon and the Trump administration as a positive step toward protecting Cancer Alley communities. But “sadly, in the short term, the agreement won’t help the community,” she told me. “It will take time to implement the new pollution reduction devices.”

And though EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stated that “this agreement shows, EPA is dedicated to partnering with states to address critical environmental issues and improving compliance in the regulated community to prevent future violations of the law,” the agency under Trump has been racing to undo its previous work. Recently Pruitt announced a measure to repeal former President Barack Obama’s EPA policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, a plan Trump’s EPA has concluded would have substantial health benefits.

Furthermore, a list of potential names for the agency’s Science Advisory Board and Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee includes a sizable increase in industry representatives and consultants, as reported by the Intercept. On that  list are two scientists who have worked for Exxon, indicating the oil and gas giant could have greater influence over EPA science and policies in the future.

Main image: ExxonMobil’s refinery and chemical plant in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2011. Credit: All photos by Julie Dermansky

Falling Oil Demand May Eliminate a Quarter of the World’s Refining Capacity


Falling Oil Demand May Eliminate a Quarter of the World’s Refining Capacity

by Leon Kaye, Climate & Environment         November 3, 2017 oil refinery in Ontario, Canada      Image credit: Jeff S. PhotoArt/Flickr

In what is often called a “2⁰C world,” falling demand for oil means that a quarter of the world’s refining capacity may soon not be necessary.

At least, that is the assessment offered by Carbon Tracker, a London-based think tank that studies the impact of the global energy transition on capital markets. The group partnered with the Danish pension fund PKA and Swedish pension fund AP7 on this report, Margin Call: Refining Capacity in a 2⁰C World.

Carbon Tracker’s researchers analyzed 492 refineries, which combined account for 94 percent of the world’s total oil capacity. The think tank says its study is likely the first analysis that gauges how the energy sector would perform as governments and companies scramble to meet international objectives to limit climate change to 2°C by ramping up investments in clean energy and technology.

Earlier this year, Carbon Tracker issued a study saying that electric vehicles (EVs) and solar could displace oil and coal by as soon as 2020. And therein lies why oil companies face long-term threats to their business: Carbon Tracker’s staff concluded that oil companies may be grossly underestimating the rapid growth and scale of electric vehicles, which could comprise one-third of the global transportation market by 2035.

The global oil and gas industry has long been bullish on its future prospects, due largely to expected growth in emerging economic powerhouses such as China and India. But the specter of Asian megacities rife with polluting fossil fuel-powered cars has recently been displaced by an altered vision of cities still suffering from even more traffic in the future – but largely due to electric cars.

Hence the problem of stranded assets that oil companies’ refineries could face in the coming years. Generally, refineries account for about 25 percent of the assets on oil companies’ ledgers. These facilities are valued at tens of billions of dollars and are critical to these energy companies’ profitability. But Carbon Tracker’s 2˚C scenario modelling found that over the next two decades, many of these companies’ profits could crater. Total and Eni are the oil companies most exposed, as they could suffer a 70 to 80 percent drop in their refineries’ earnings as worldwide demand decreases. Shell and Chevron also could face a decline ranging from 60 to 70 percent; ExxonMobil and BP could see their earnings fall by as much as half by 2035.

So despite a growing global middle class and population growth, Carbon Tracker insists the convergence of EVs and renewables means that oil companies are most likely beyond their halcyon days. Under this 2˚C scenario, this group’s researchers conclude there is plenty of capacity to meet future energy demands. Furthermore, Carbon Tracker warns investors that overall and with few exceptions, the world has no need to add additional refinery capacity.

Andrew Grant, a senior analyst at Carbon Tracker who co-authored the report, envisions many energy companies leaving this market in the years ahead. “Many players will exit the market rather than hemorrhage cash. Investors should beware that the risk of wasting capital extends to all new investments, including expansions or upgrades to existing facilities,” said Grant.

No Mr Trump, You’re Disrespecting The Flag

BBC Sport

Osi and Jason’s passionate defence of NFL players’ right to protest is well worth watching.

Osi and Jason's passionate defence of NFL players' right to protest is well worth watching.

Posted by BBC Sport on Wednesday, September 27, 2017