Given all the horrible other news, these merely awful items may seem a bit tame but nonetheless, I’ll just start at the end of the list, and go on. In 2011, the National Park Service (NPS) started a program to reduce single use water bottles in national parks called nefariously the “Green Parks Plan” which included additional recycling facilities and banning the sale in some parks, and a May 2017 study showed that it was effective in reducing plastic waste in parks. “Annual savings of 1.32M – 2.01M water bottles/year demonstrates the program has significant positive environmental benefits that encompass the entire life cycle of DPWB [Disposable Plastic Water Bottle]. . . . The policy further demonstrates the commitment of the NPS to environmental stewardship, to reducing the environmental footprint of the NPS, and to the concept of sustainability.” So of course in September 2017 the T administration ended the plan and the ban—who needs a clean park when you can have free enterprise? I mean the Green Parks Plan goals were clearly outrageously insufficient: “GHG savings of 93-141 MTCO2e/year”, eliminating “276-419 cubic yards of landfill per year” and the most egregious “Visitors who bring or purchase refillable water bottles and refill them at a water bottle filling station are directly engaging and participating in park sustainability efforts.” You can find the full report at the National Park System website.
And Zinke’s “review” of national monuments was another sham, although no actions have been taken yet, the writing is on the wall for the T administration to roll back protections on public lands where oil and gas companies want to drill, miners want to mine, and timber companies want to cut down trees. At risk on land are sacred sites in Utah in both a very new monument (Bears Ears) and one established back in 1996 (Grand Staircase-Escalante); a forest in New England (Katahdin), and another very new monument in Nevada (Gold Butte). And even other monuments that aren’t mentioned in the “review” are still at risk of rollbacks either to their boundaries or to the protections they now have from commercial exploitation. Contrary to what you may have read in some of the news stories, these national monuments are still open public lands available for hiking and even off-road vehicles and grazing. The primary limitations are on mining, oil and gas extraction, logging, and disposal (which means selling off our public lands to private interests).
And don’t forget the ocean monuments! The US territory includes a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and several earlier presidents have used this fact to protect large areas of the ocean as national monuments, including along the east coast in the Atlantic (Northeast Canyons and Seamounts) and many areas in the Pacific Ocean. These monuments restrict commercial fishing and are critical for allowing depleted fish populations a safe place to rebound and are a haven for marine mammals and sea birds. So of course the T administration is looking to reduce them… Zinke is now recommending rolling back the primary protections from commercial fishing in two monuments in the Pacific (Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll). And regardless of any of the recommendations, T himself could also take action on other monuments – but many states and environmental groups are gearing up to fight back—hopefully we can hold the line on these critical public lands protections until we can get changes at the white house.
Maybe you thought the EPA was there to protect us from toxic chemicals like Dow Chemical’s Chlorpyrifos? I mean the word “protection” is right there in the middle of their name? But no, under Pruitt, this agency seems to just be a rubber stamp for the chemical industry. There are plenty of scientific studies showing that Chlorpyrifos is dangerous, and is known to cause brain damage in children among other things. This stuff is widely used and probably in all of our systems now– around 5 million pounds of chlorpyrifos are used in the US every year on crops including corn, peanuts, plums and wheat. A University of California at Berkeley study found that 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested had detectable levels of chlorpyrifos. This led the EPA back in 2016 (under a different administration of course), to propose a plan to ban use of the pesticide on food crops. But shortly after Scott Pruitt took the EPA for the T administration, he announced a reversal of this recommendation and allowed the continued use of the pesticide. A favor for their buddies at Dow perhaps? Besides the usual campaign contributions, Dow was one of three companies that donated $1 million to the T inauguration, wonder if that endeared them to Pruitt? And in California, farm workers and communities directly affected are calling for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, state legislators and Gov. Brown to step-up and regulate chlorpyrifos if the EPA won’t – favorite slogan “If Pruitt won’t do it, Brown must take it down.”
And at last to the beginning of the list, we have the ongoing saga of a highly toxic and drift-prone pesticide, dicamba which is paired with Monsanto’s most recent GMO soybean and cotton seeds that are genetically altered to resist the pesticide. In January 2017, the T administration’s EPA broadened the approval for Monsanto’s “XtendiMax” pesticide which uses weed-killer known as dicamba – now it can also be used for direct application on crops. Dicamba is a pesticide which had already been causing problems and is linked to increased cancer and birth defects . The decision greenlighted a more than tenfold increase in use of the toxic pesticide which is known to have a tendency to drift into neighboring fields—and if that farmer doesn’t have the GMO seeds, it kills their crops! And this new approval was even after dicambra drift had triggered hundreds of reports of damage that have spurred complaints in at least 10 states (Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) and multiple lawsuits against Monsanto from neighboring farmers and environmental groups . Let’s face it, the dicamba “crisis” was predictable and it’s only going to get worse as Monsanto predicts that annual dicamba use on soybeans and cotton will jump from less than 1 million pounds just a few years ago to more than 25 million over the next three to four years.