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At Trump’s EPA, Less Science and More Industry

April 4, 2017, 6:00 AM EDT April 4, 2017, 9:56 AM EDT
  • GOP lawmakers are changing role of research in rule making
  • EPA advisory boards would include industry representatives

Congress and the Trump administration are planning sweeping changes in how science is used to govern public health.

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President Donald Trump has vowed to flatten regulatory hurdles for American business, and Congress’s proposed EPA rules for science would make commerce easier.

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The bills “really pull the rug out from under the independence of the scientific process,” said Thomas Burke, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and former EPA adviser. “We’re going to turn back the clock on public health. This is the most devastating blow I’ve ever seen.”

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That was Smith’s rationale for the Honest Act, which the House passed 228-194 on Wednesday. It would bar the EPA from creating any regulation based on data that’s not publicly available or can’t be replicated.

The law would mean eliminating studies that cite epidemiological research, such as the one that led to the banning of the pesticide DDT, which was shown to cause cancer in humans and deadly effects in birds like bald eagles. Leaded gasoline was also taken off the market due to epidemiological research, which exposed its link to brain damage in children.

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A day after the House approved the Honest Act, the EPA Science Advisory Board Act passed 229-193, allowing industry representatives to serve without special permission, while excluding scientists whose research receives EPA funding. Doing that would prevent extreme views, according to its sponsor, Oklahoma Republican Representative Frank Lucas.

The bill “makes it easier for industry representatives with conflicts of interest to serve on advisory boards at the EPA while making it harder for scientific experts, all while slowing the regulatory process,” Johnson said in a statement.




Most Americans Oppose Climate Science Cuts

Fifty-nine percent of voters want the U.S. to do more to address global warming

The vast majority of voters do not support the deep cuts to climate science funding now being proposed in Washington, a new poll has found.

Three-quarters of voters think it is a bad idea to cut money for climate research, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released yesterday. Sixty-five percent say they believe climate change is caused by human activity, which the majority of scientists in the field concluded years ago, but American politicians have been slow to accept.

Meanwhile, the number of voters who say they are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about climate change has increased to 76 percent, up from 66 percent in December 2015.

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Meanwhile, the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have proposed cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in climate change research. The cuts are spread across U.S. EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the Department of Energy, and others.

Some GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who chairs the House Science Committee, have said federal climate science has become too politicized. Smith has proposed eliminating federal money for NASA earth-observing missions and restraining the role of science in EPA policymaking.

“We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney recently told reporters about climate science. “We consider that to be a waste of your money.”



from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news atwww.eenews.net


GOP’s hostility to science mostly about money

Not to worry. President Donald Trump has told us that climate change is merely a hoax invented by the Chinese. (It’s not clear what the Chinese would gain from such a ploy.) And to prove that he hasn’t the slightest interest in the warnings of climate scientists, he has gone briskly about the business of dismantling the regulations President Barack Obama painstakingly put into place to try to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Once upon a time, Republicans considered themselves a party of ideas, of vision, of rational decision-making. They employed reason and lauded fact. They embraced scientific discovery. Not anymore.

Among the most worrisome trends — and there are many — seen in modern-day Republicans is their repudiation of science. The party has become a redoubt of fact-free propaganda, asinine conspiracy theories and foolish assumptions. There may be a significant group among them who still believe in scientific discovery, but they are largely silent, content to allow the flat-earthers lead the way.

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Meanwhile, so far, Trump has failed to fill important scientific posts in his administration. He has, however, signaled an aggressive turn against scientific evidence. During the transition, for example, Trump’s team requested the names of Energy Department staffers who had worked on climate change. To their credit, higher-ups in the department declined to honor the request.

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Since the 1970s, fossil-fuel companies and other pollution-producing industries have invested heavily in campaigns to cast doubt on the science of climate change. Titans of those industries, such as Charles and David Koch, also have invested heavily in politicians who would do their bidding — which means allowing certain industries to pillage and pollute as they like.




A climate of lies: Denialism goes wider, and weirder, as Trump amplifies Republican mendacity

Climate-change denialists were already terrible, but they’ve grown bolder and more bizarre in the age of Trump

Perhaps the best way to understand the presidency of Donald Trump is to recognize that he’s building on and advancing the already advanced authoritarian tendencies of the Republican Party. Nowhere is this more obvious than when it comes to climate change denial.  Even before Trump was elected, a whopping 84 percent of the conservative Republicans polled by Pew Research refused to accept that climate change is real and caused by human activity, and even 65 percent of the moderate Republicans surveyed rejected the facts.

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On Wednesday Rep. Lamar Smith, the climate-change denialist who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, ridiculed one of the foremost peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world, Science.

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But with Trump in the White House, it’s no surprise that other Republicans feel emboldened in their dishonesty, denying not just scientific data or research but even their own words. Denying something he’s been caught saying on tape is a common habit of Trump, after all.

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To the authoritarian, “truth” does not flow from empirical or verifiable reality but instead is determined by those whom the authoritarians deems to be the proper leaders. (Usually a self-appointed designation.) Reality is what Smith or Trump or whatever Republican demagogue says it is, not your videotapes or scientific evidence.

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Take, for instance, this amazing story from Pennsylvania, where state Sen. Scott Wagner — who likes to say “Donald Trump is a visionary and he’s a leader” and who is hoping to be the Republican nominee for governor — got downright trippy with the climate-change denial, according to NPR’s StateImpact:

“I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year – you know, the rotation of the earth,” Wagner said in an event organized for county commissioners opposed to natural gas drilling regulations. “We’re moving closer to the sun.”

That bears no relationship to reality. In fact, the Earth’s orbit (which is what Wagner probably meant by “rotation”) is literally what keeps it from plummeting toward the Sun. But that’s just centuries-old knowledge, demonstrated through mathematics and observation, so not relevant in our age of Trumpism.

“We have more people,” Wagner added, continuing his imaginative foray into science. “You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can.”




GOP-backed measures seek to rein in science used at EPA (Update)

February 8, 2017 by Michael Biesecker

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A separate measure would revamp the makeup EPA’s Science Advisory Board. Republicans say the board has been historically stocked with scientists who receive federal research grants, which they allege presents an improper conflict of interest.

“In recent years SAB experts have become nothing more than rubberstamps who approve all of the EPA’s regulations,” Smith said. “Simple changes, such as eliminating conflicts of interests, adding more balanced perspectives and being more transparent can go a long way to restoring the agency’s credibility.”

Democrats suggested the Republicans are seeking to stock the board with scientists paid by industries regulated by EPA.

Former Democratic Congressman Rush Holt, a physicist who is CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, warned that politicians should refrain from meddling.

“Scientists—whether in industry, academia, or the government—must have confidence that they can conduct their work in an atmosphere free of intimidation or undue influence,” said Holt, who testified at the invitation of the committee’s Democrats. “Policymakers should never dictate the conclusions of a scientific study, and they should base policy on a review of relevant research.”





Republican culture of irrationality supports Trump’s lies, manipulations

By Advocate-Messenger

Published 7:50 am Saturday, April 1, 2017


Contributing columnist

The dishonesty of the Trump presidency endangers our nation in two ways. First, Trump continues to be what he’s been all his adult life: a serial liar. As a result, he is quickly losing credibility at home and abroad. Second, as evidenced by his administrative appointees and proposed budget cuts, he is suppressing information about, and planning for, the global instability threatened by climate change. These two behaviors are supported by a culture of irrationality embedded in the Republican base.

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In its potential for catastrophic harm, Trump’s worst lie is his repeated claim that climate change is a “hoax.” He knows better. In 2009, Trump and his children signed an open letter in the New York Times to President Obama saying “We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change … Please allow us, the United States of America, to serve in modeling the change necessary to protect humanity and our planet.” As recently as the spring of 2016, Trump applied to the Irish government and to the Clare County Council for permission to build a seawall to protect his golf course from “global warming and its effects.”

Trump’s recently announced budget would cut climate change research and preventive programs throughout the federal government, including a 31-percent reduction at the EPA. As Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, made clear at a press conference on March 16: “Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the President was fairly straightforward — we’re not spending money on that anymore; we consider that to be a waste of your money.”

This is irrational. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in a statement (AAAS) cosigned by 17 other scientific organizations, has said that at least 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that “climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”

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The Mercers, Trump mega-donors, back group that casts doubt on climate science

March 27

The atmosphere was buoyant at a conference held by the conservative Heartland Institute last week at a downtown Washington hotel, where speakers denounced climate science as rigged and jubilantly touted deep cuts President Trump is seeking to make to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Front and center during the two-day gathering were New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, Republican mega-donors who with their former political adviser Stephen K. Bannon helped finance an alternative media ecosystem that amplified Trump’s populist themes during last year’s campaign.

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Half a dozen Trump transition officials and administration advisers attended the gathering, including Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who headed Trump’s EPA transition team.

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Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said Heartland “has a long history of promoting ‘alternative facts’ about climate change as well as crank climate denialist theories that are far out of the mainstream scientific consensus.”

Kimmell said the fact that key Trump administration officials are embracing some of their theories is alarming.

“It is distressing to see us going backwards on basic climate science,” he said.

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Several organizations that have received funding from the Mercer foundation helped sponsor the Heartland conference, including the Media Research Center, the Heritage Foundation and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, a small group based in Bellevue, Wash., whose vice president once vowed to “destroy environmentalists by taking their money and their members.”

The gathering drew about 300 people to the Grand Hyatt, whose corridors buzzed with chatter about carbon levels and “fake” climate science. A man marketing the film “Climate Hustle” bore a sign that read, “Hello, My Name is Al Gore.”

The overarching theme of the two-day gathering: that fossil fuels and elevated levels of carbon dioxide actually benefit human health, the environment and regional stability.





March For Science Warns that Without Truth and Transparency, Authoritarianism Can Take Over

Posted April 12, 2017

Alarmed by the anti-science stance of the Trump administration – in sync with many Republican Party leaders in Congress and across the country – scientists and their allies have organized the March For Science, which will take place on Earth Day, April 22 in Washington, D.C., and over 400 other major cities across the U.S. and abroad. Organizers of the action say their mission is to: “Unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”

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Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Dr. Sarah Evanega, director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, who talks about the principles and objectives of the April 22 March For Science. [Rush transcript]

DR. SARAH EVANEGA: It’s an unprecedented time, certainly truth itself is under threat and that really threatens the very tenets of democracy. Science, one could argue, and democracy go hand in hand because truth is essential for reason to debate and democracy – without truth and transparency, and the methods inherent to science, democracy is debased and potentially, a creeping authoritarianism can take over.

So, it is a challenge, and it comes at a time where we have unprecedented challenges. Never before have we needed science and innovation in light of the challenges we face around climate change and global food insecurity and so, this sort of threat to science comes at a time when we need science and we need fuel innovation more now than ever.

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EPA busy scuttling rules, planning cutbacks, amid pro-business shift

Updated on April 16, 2017 at 10:22 AM Posted on April 16, 2017 at 6:30 AM

But to really get a feel for the pro-industry revolution underway inside the nation’s primary environmental watchdog, go to West, a town of 2,800 in sun-baked Texas. A 2013 explosion at a fertilizer plant flattened parts of the city, killing 15 people — 10 of them firefighters — and injuring 200 others. The volunteers had no idea that the tons of ammonium nitrate stored on site could explode.

The blast registered 2.1 on the Richter scale.

In response, the EPA early this year adopted new rules requiring plant owners to disclose the presence of dangerous chemicals to the locals and coordinate with emergency responders. The chemical industry objected, saying it was too expensive and potentially dangerous to force that kind of disclosure.

Late last month, with the Trump administration in charge, the EPA ditched the rule.  “We want to prevent regulation created for the sake of regulation by the previous administration,” said Scott Pruitt, the agency’s new director.



BLM ‘priority’ list pushes drilling, wall — leaked docs