EPA Failing America

Just over a year ago, Scott Pruitt resigned as chair of the Environmental Protection Agency. Many Americans were relieved. Not only was he involved in some ethical scandals–remember his $43,000 soundproof booth?–he managed to reverse decades of EPA action.
As CNN said, “Pruitt moved aggressively to scale back Obama-era moves on climate change, automobile pollution standards and other industrial pollutants.”
But former White House climate adviser Paul Bledsoe saw Andrew Wheeler, the 20-year Washington insider in line for Pruitt’s position, as a greater danger.
Apparently, Bledsoe was prophetic. One year after Wheeler’s appointment Elliott Negan of the Union of Concerned Scientists writes that Wheeler had been the “driving force” behind many of President Trump’s 80 attacks on science.
Negan listed the 10 “more egregious” changes in an article for the Independent Media Institute. He concluded that, by the EPA’s own accounting, “millions of Americans will be drinking filthier water and breathing dirtier air, and more will suffer from serious diseases.”
In most of the country the changes will occur bit by bit and we won’t be sure they cause any one  illness; we’ll just see the overall statistics change–as with storms and global warming.
Three items on Negan’s list seem echoes of a distant past–coal ash, formaldehyde, and asbestos.
Apparently, coal-fired power plants dump coal ash containing arsenic, chromium, lead and mercury into more than 1000 giant, unlined pits. A 2015 rule required companies to monitor these coal ash ponds; over 90 percent of them reported  “unsafe levels of toxic contaminants.”
So the EPA has given states the right to set different standards and extended deadlines for stopping the pollution. A pending proposal would allow unlimited dumping of coal ash–no pits, just acres of ash spread on dirt within feet of the groundwater.
A little arsenic, a little lead, a smattering of mercury seems okay to the current administration–they’re in someone else’s neighborhood.
Formaldehyde, however, isn’t limited geographically. An “off-gas” is produced by cigarettes, embalming fluid, plywood, particle board, paints, and floor finishes. In small doses, it causes eyes to water. In 1985 the EPA identified it as “probable human carcinogen”associated with fairly rare cancers of the throat and sinuses.
But studies in 2009 and 2010 showed a positive correlation between formaldehyde exposure and leukemia. In 2016 the EPA formulated new rules for formaldehyde presence, but they didn’t become official.
Wheeler told Congress that further review of the EPA report labeling formaldehyde a carcinogen is needed because the science may now be out-of-date.
Meanwhile, 34,000 new cases of throat and sinus cancers and leukemia are diagnosed each year–and the EPA has set strict formaldehyde standards for buildings constructed for the agency.
And, somehow asbestos–not manufactured in the U.S. since 2002–is still found throughout the country. Negan says 55 nations have banned, but the U.S. still imports asbestos for use in items such as auto brakes, roofing, vinyl floor tiles, and cement pipes.
A new, “stricter” rule says that manufacturers may continue to use asbestos with EPA approval.
Negan adds, “One of the deadliest known carcinogens, asbestos kills nearly 40,000 Americans annually, mainly from lung cancer.”
I guess Trump supporters are happy that the President has kept his promises and cut regulations.  Perhaps his administration’s practices have led to production increases and greater incomes for shareholders and executives.
But the price is health and lives.
You can read Negan’s seven other “decimated EPA protections” at https://truthout.org/articles/10-ways-andrew-wheeler-has-decimated-epa-protections-in-just-one-year/.
“For continued information on the EPA Rule and its connection to asbestos use in the United States visit here.”
Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

Idaho politics: Incompetence continued

by Judy Ferro

I’m sure many Idaho civil servants do their best every day to make government services function and to make our state a better place.  I know many legislators, school board members, and city and county commissioners work for the common good and take pride in their accomplishments.

Still, there are enough muckups out there to suggest a serious shortage of competent leadership.  (In less politically correct terms: we’ve got some corrupt and/or stupid management.)

The latest news about the Idaho Transportation Department is a good example.

Last November the ITD failed to have an asbestos survey done before it demolished a state building in Priest River.  The building, according to the Spokesman Review, was in the center of town and less than a block from a junior high school.  Citizens complained to the Environmental Protection Agency, which found the debris included materials containing “up to 55 percent asbestos.”

Now dozens of workmen and parents are worrying and watching for symptoms of asbestos-caused illnesses.   And Idaho taxpayers are paying a $52,000 fine.

But mistakes happen, right?  Building demolition may not be the Transportation Department’s forte’.

But this wasn’t the first time.  Just a year ago the ITD was fined $57,000 for improperly demolishing an asbestos-laden building in Rigby.

So someone in the department knowingly exposed workmen, citizens and young children to airborne asbestos.  (Asbestos in sealed areas is not a serious risk until disturbed.)

It brings new perspective to the Canyon County Commissioners’ failure to ask why special funds were special; at least they didn’t hurt anyone.

And the state’s broadband fiasco has mainly damaged taxpayers’ pockets.  Some officials didn’t recognize a problem with long-term contracts even though technology has been getting faster and cheaper for 30 years.  And someone assumed the Feds wouldn’t mind the state’s illegal omission of the lowest qualified bidder.   And someone did authorize renewing the contract early even though the Feds had stopped paying.

So the state is being sued for services provided but a court has ruled we can’t legally pay—and our share of the legal bills is pressing the million dollar mark.

Still, no one has been physically or emotionally hurt.  That’s not true of all the emerging problems.

An 11th John Doe has come forth with an account of sexual abuse at the juvenile detention facility in Nampa.  The failure of leadership and oversight in that facility has been tragic for too many at-risk kids.

And a U.S. District Court judge is investigating possible deception by Idaho prison officials.  In 2011 and 2012 the court sent an examiner to the Idaho State Correctional Institution.  Now, inmates, supported by former employees, claim that prison officials purposely deceived the examiner by tampering with medical records, hiding problem inmates, and concealing use of “dry cells.”

Judge David Carter was particularly interested in the “dry cells”—rooms without sinks, mattresses, or any toilet except for a grate in the floor.  Apparently, when the examiner wasn’t around, prisoners were sometimes housed there for a week or longer.

Colleen Zahn, an Idaho deputy attorney general, dismissed the testimony of former corrections employees as colored by a dislike for their former boss.

In other words, there was a breakdown in leadership.  Employees walked away from good-paying jobs with more complaints about the administration’s conduct than the inmates’?

Is all this happening on the Republicans’ watch?   Yes.

Could we have the same problems if Democrats were in charge?  Possibly.

                In a viable two-party system people who are in-the-know can cry foul when they see a problem without losing all their allies. Idaho might try that again.