fresh voices from the front lines of change








Leo Gerard

The Koch Brothers’ New Look

There’s a new Koch organization in town. Instead of trying to buy politicians to do the bidding of billionaires, as Charles and David Koch have historically done, their rebranded network now says they will support community groups trying to cure the miseries of eons – everything from poverty to addiction. Billionaire Charles Koch says the mission is this: "We must stand together to help every person rise." There's just one problem: grants from the Kochs come with significant strings attached. When the Kochs gave illions to Florida State for its economics department, they demanded the right to approve who was hired by the university, to annually review their work and to withdraw funding if dissatisfied. The Kochs donated approximately $150 million to 300 colleges and universities between 2005 and 2015, gifts they frequently specified must support economics and law schools fostering unfettered free-market capitalism. Here’s the thing: Maybe it’s nice that some billionaires are willing to give. But billionaires’ 'gifts' too often bear self-dealing strings. And the rich must be properly taxed so that the nation can afford to pave its roads, send its youngsters to affordable, properly government-supported technical schools and colleges, and restore its once-great middle class. American workers want autonomy, not charity, to help every person rise.

Trump Attacks Climate Science

Trump administration hardens its attack on climate science. NYT: "In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change. And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests. parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels. The attack on science is underway throughout the government. In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously."

EPA Rewrites Air Pollution Rules

EPA Plans to Rewrite Costs and Benefits of Anti-Pollution Rules. Bloomberg: "The Trump administration is planning to write new rules for how it weighs the human costs and benefits of environmental regulations, a move that could make it harder for future presidents to stiffen limits on pollution and combat climate change. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler directed top agency officials to develop the changes, casting them as necessary to eliminate inconsistencies in assessing regulations. Environmentalists say the agency is altering its math to shrink estimates of how many lives are saved by rules governing clean air, chemicals and water contamination. The formal rulemaking initiative builds on other efforts by President Donald Trump’s EPA to discount the health benefits of environmental regulations and limit what scientific research that can be used to justify them. Because it would take the form of federal rulemaking that could be finished during Trump’s first term the changes could bind future administrations until they could be rewritten. The efforts are part of a systematic effort to downplay how much clean air rules help save lives."

EPA OKs Rocket Fuel In Drinking Water

EPA plan on rocket fuel in drinking water will make you sick. NRDC: "The Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposed standard to limit perchlorate in drinking water that will gravely threaten public health. The agency’s plan comes after a decade of delay and a lawsuit by NRDC compelling it to set a standard. Perchlorate, a toxic chemical that is a component of rocket fuel, has been detected in the drinking water systems that serve up to 16.6 millions Americans. Even at low levels, it can present serious health risks to children and pregnant women. This is enough to make you sick—literally. As a result, millions of Americans will be at risk of exposure to dangerous levels of this toxic chemical in their drinking water. Fetuses and infants are especially vulnerable to harm from perchlorate. EPA has more than tripled the amount of perchlorate it now recommends allowing in water. Scientists recommend a limit that is 10 to more than 50 times lower than what the agency is proposing. This is another Trump administration gift to polluters and water utilities that have lobbied to be off the hook for cleaning up the problem."

EPA Shifts Environmental Enforcement To States

Trump's EPA shifts more environmental enforcement to states: 'They're going to do absolutely nothing'. Chicago Tribune: "Around the country, the EPA under Trump is delegating a widening range of public health and environmental enforcement to states, saying local officials know best how to deal with local problems. Critics contend federal regulators are making a dangerous retreat on enforcement that puts people and the environment at greater risk. One administration initiative would give states more authority over emissions from coal-fired power plants. Another would remove federal protections for millions of miles of waterways and wetlands. Some states and counties say the EPA is also failing to act against threats from industrial polluters, including growing water contamination from a widely used class of nonstick industrial compounds. Michigan, New Jersey and some other states say they are tackling EPA-size challenges — like setting limits for the contaminants in drinking water — while appealing to the real EPA to act. In Houston's oil and gas hub, local officials and residents say a lax EPA response to toxic spills during Hurricane Harvey left the public in the dark about health threats and handicapped efforts to hold companies responsible for cleaning up. Nationwide, EPA inspections, evaluations and enforcement actions have fallen sharply over the past two years, some to the lowest points in decades, or in history."

'Green Wave' Rises In European Elections

In show of demand for climate action, Green Parties surge in EU elections. Common Dreams: "Underscoring the growing demand for bold climate action that has found expression in global youth-led strikes, marches, and civil disobedience over the past year, Green parties across Europe had their strongest-ever EU parliamentary election performance after running on a platform of transformative environmental change. As The Guardian reported, the 'Greens' surge was strongest in Germany, where Die Grünen finished second behind Angela Merkel's center-right CDU with almost 21 percent of the vote, according to provisional estimates—nearly double their 2014 total.' Projections Sunday indicated that, overall, Greens secured 71 seats in the European Parliament—up from 52 seats five years ago. According to exit polling, the Greens' surge was bolstered by strong support from young voters."

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