EPA won’t approve warning labels for Roundup chemical
The Trump administration has instructed companies not to warn customers about products that contain glyphosate, a move aimed at California as it fights one of the world’s largest agriculture companies about the potentially cancer-causing chemical.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will no longer approve labels warning glyphosate is known to cause cancer. The chemical is marketed as a weed killer by Monsanto under the brand Roundup.
California requires warning labels on glyphosate products because the International Agency for Research on Cancer has said it is “probably carcinogenic.”
The EPA disagrees, saying its research shows the chemical poses no risks to public health.
“It is irresponsible to require labels on products that are inaccurate when EPA knows the product does not pose a cancer risk,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy.”
California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, approved by voters in 1986, requires the government to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, as determined by a variety of outside groups that include the EPA and IARC. The law also requires companies to warn customers about those chemicals.
California regulators have twice concluded glyphosate did not pose a cancer risk for drinking water. But in 2015, the IARC classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic,” triggering a warning label under California law. Monsanto sued, and last year a federal judge blocked California from enforcing the warning label until the lawsuit is resolved.
Federal law regulates how pesticides are used and how they are labeled. States are often allowed to impose their own requirements, but they can’t be weaker than the federal law, according to Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
Hartl said it is unusual for the EPA to tell a state it can’t go beyond the federal requirements.
“It’s a little bit sad the EPA is the biggest cheerleader and defender of glyphosate,” Hartl said. “It’s the Environmental Protection Agency, not the pesticide protection agency.”
In a letter to companies explaining its decision, Michael L. Goodis, director of EPA’s registration division in its Office of Pesticide Programs, said the agency considers labels warning glyphosate to cause cancer to “constitute a false and misleading statement,” which is prohibited by federal law.
EPA scientists ordered to allow Alaska mine to move forward; could endanger wildlife
In a major environmental reversal, EPA scientists have been ordered to get out of the way of a massive, controversial copper and gold mine slated for a highly sensitive area in Alaska.
The order may have originated from the President himself.
The meeting took place on the tarmac during an Air Force One stopover June 26. Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a pro-mining, pro-business, anti-EPA governor, met with Donald Trump for nearly a half-hour.
Dunleavy has been pushing for approval of a massive gold and copper mine known as the Pebble Mine, planned for Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, home to the breeding grounds for one fo the world’s largest and most pristine sockeye salmon fisheries.
After his meeting on Air Force One, Dunleavy said, “He (Trump) really believes in the opportunities here in Alaska and he’s doing everything he can to help us on our mining concerns.”
Inside EPA sources now tell CNN the very next day, June 27, top EPA officials in Washington held an internal video conference with Seattle, and told staff the EPA was removing a special protection for Bristol Bay, and, in essence, clearing the way for what could be one fo the largest open-pit mines in the world.
That internal announcement was a “total shock” to top EPA scientists, sources told CNN, because their environmental concerns were overruled by Trump political appointees at EPA headquarters in Washington.
Bristol Bay and its tributaries are regarded as one of the world’s most important salmon fisheries, roughly half the world’s sockeye salmon come from there.
It’s been protected since 2014, when after three years of study, the Obama-era EPA used a rare provision of the Clean Water Act — to basically veto any mining that could pose a threat.
“EPA scientists writing a mine ‘would result in complete loss of fish habitat’ that was ‘irreversible.’ It’s mindboggling that it’s still being considered at all,” said Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA administrator.
Todd Whitman is a Republican, former New Jersey governor, and under President George W. Bush, ran the EPA. She has joined several other former EPA chiefs to publically oppose the mine.
“The potential damage is overwhelming,” she said. “The opposition to it up there is amazing and everywhere. I mean, this was a huge, the potential of over 80 miles of streams, thousands of acres, could be damaged from this project.”
This is the second time during the Trump administration the political appointees at the EPA have decided to remove special protections for Bristol Bay to pave the way for this huge mine.
In 2017, President Trump’s first EPA administrator, scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt, canceled the protections after a private meeting with the mine company’s CEO.
After a report exposed the meeting and the lack of scientific debate behind the reversal, Pruitt backed down and put the protections back in place.
Now, another private meeting, this time with the president himself, has led to yet another win for the mine, and the removal of environmental protections for this pristine watershed.
“One of the most troubling things about this administration, I mean there are a lot of things that trouble me, but on the environmental side is this disregard of science,” Todd Whitman said. “They’re gutting science across the agencies, across the departments, across the government.”
If the order is followed through with, Todd Whitman sees a number of lawsuits possibly being filed.
“Environmental groups, native Alaskans, you’ll have a host of lawsuits, I’m convinced,” she said…
At EPA headquarters, Andrew Wheeler, the former coal company lobbyist who now runs the agency, has a tie to Pebble Mine, too. He has recused himself from decision making on the project because his former law firm represents the mine.
EPA scientists said political and business favors are driving decision making.
One top EPA official said, “We were told to get out of the way and just make it happen.”
The EPA said the Obama-era protections were outdated and the mine still has to go through the approval process.
When asked about the internal EPA meeting on June 27, at first, the EPA denied it happened, but when presented with evidence, they admitted the meeting took place.
Sources said the meeting is when officials told scientists the decision had been made and their work was not needed.