Musician playing in empty Beijing square, mouth and nose covered to protect against the pollution

The GOP’s disHONEST Act against the EPA

Yesterday, the House passed the Honest and Open New EPA Science, or HONEST, Act. Tortured use of acronym aside, this Act is anything but honest.

The GOP claims the act is to force the EPA to provide the raw data behind all of its decisions. However, the primary reason for the Act is to inhibit regulations based, in part, on confidential or proprietary raw data. The Act’s inspiration came from research published in 1993 and known as the Harvard Six Cities Study.

To summarize the Six Cities Study, the research found that people in cities with dirty air were dying sooner than people living in cities with clean air.

This research formed the basis for many of the EPA’s Clean Air Act regulations related to particulate matter. If you can clearly see the skyline of LA now, and breathe its air without a facial mask, thank the authors of the Six Cities Study.

Industries have sought to undermine the science of the Studies since the 1993 publication. To do so, they’ve demanded all the raw data behind the studies, including enough personal medical information to expose the identity of the study participants. As lead researcher, Douglas Dockery, noted in testimony in front of Congress in 1997:

… because it had promised study participants confidentiality, Harvard couldn’t share the raw data from its federally funded Six Cities study.

Is this type of raw data necessary? No.

If study conclusions and medical advancements can only be made from studies where subject identities are exposed, we’d all still be chewing tree bark in order to alleviate our pain.

Congress is still after this data at the behest of industry. In 2013, Representative Smith tried to subpoena the data from the EPA. When the request went unfulfilled, in large part because the EPA didn’t control the raw data, the House passed the first of the HONEST acts. It has attempted to pass the same or similar bill every year since.

Several medical associations, including the American Lung Association, National Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association wrote a letter to Representative Smith expressing their concern about the HONEST bill and its companion, the  EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017. In it, they wrote:

This legislation would limit the kinds of scientific data EPA can use as it develops policy to protect the American public from environmental exposures and permit violation of patient confidentiality. If enacted, the legislation would:

  • Allow the EPA administrator to release confidential patient information to third parties, including industry;
  • Bolster industry’s flawed arguments to discredit research that documents the adverse health effects of environmental pollution; and
  • Impose new standards for the publication and distribution of scientific research that go beyond the robust, existing requirements of many scientific journals.

They further state:

Science, developed by the respected men and women scientists at colleges and universities across the United States, has always been the foundation of the nation’s environmental policy. EPA’s science-based decision-making process has saved lives and led to dramatic improvements in the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the earth we share. All Americans have benefited from the research based scientific advice that scientists have provided to EPA.

The HONEST Act—not as honest as its sponsor claim—now goes to the Senate. The Senate has not moved on previous iterations of the bill because of a threatened Presidential veto. Unfortunately, we no longer have this protection, as Trump has signaled there is no polluting bill he won’t embrace.

Thankfully, the filibuster is still in place in the Senate, and I fully expect Democrats to exercise it on our behalf. All Democrats…this is one bill where no one gets a pass.

Photo courtesy of DaiLou CC BY 2.0 



Finding Truth

According to, triangulation is:

The location of an unknown point, as in navigation, by the formation of a triangle having the unknown point and two known points as the vertices.

When I studied history in college I had a professor tell me that the only way to discover the truth behind an event is to read three completely different interpretations of the same event. Somewhere in the middle of all these interpretations, you’ll find the truth.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to only listen to one viewpoint, one interpretation.  Listening to those who are like-minded and speak with one voice is less disruptive than seeking the truth.


They… are watching you

Today, Trump is likely to sign the latest in Congressional Review Act bills, this one to overturn a new FCC rule that would force ISPs to get permission from users to collect and share personal information.

The Senate was the first to toss the privacy rule, followed by the House. The vote was along party lines. Kudos to the Democrats for looking out for us, but the party-line Republican vote was a little surprising considering the number of libertarians among the Republicans. Libertarians have a real thing for privacy. I expect Rand Paul will have some explaining to do the next time he runs for re-election.

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Laura Dern in Jurassic Park

Write! Write!

There’s a scene in Jurassic Park where the character played by Laura Dern, having just escaped being raptor kibble, sees her close friend (played by Sam Neill) in the distance. She softly shouts out through gritted teeth, “Run! Run!” She’s not telling Neill to run; she’s telling herself to run.

She’s not telling Neill to run; she’s telling herself to run.

Critics have panned the scene, accusing Dern of overacting. I thought it was a good scene, and the acting was appropriate to the context.

Here is a person who has just barely escaped from a large, intelligent, and scary reptile who had recently munched down a park employee, leaving only the grisly remains of his arm. When she sees her friend, who represents both familiarity and safety, she wants nothing more than to run to him. She wants to run so badly, she’s actually incapable of running. She has to tell herself to “Run!” to break through the paralysis before she can manage to limp to Neill. In the scene, she demonstrates what can happen when we’re overcome with such a strong desire to do something, we’re incapable of doing anything.

I look at my dormant websites and I think of all the things I want to write. There are so many things I want to write about, and I want to write about them so badly that I find myself frozen, just like Laura Dern … but without ravening beasts at my back.

The Trump Presidency, his cabinet, the environment, technology, climate, animals and their welfare, people, life…there is so much going on nowadays, so many topics that interest me, so much I want to say that I find myself not being able to say a damn thing. Instead, I fuss, and I plan, and I research, and tweet/Facebook and then I fuss some more. I’ve fussed over my site for weeks without writing one single word to it.

So here I am, Laura Dern-like, crouched at my laptop with hordes of ideas breathing down my neck, telling myself to “Write! Write!”

If for a time I limp instead of leap, at least it’s better than silence.

Donald Trump at rally

Groups Challenge Trump’s Terminator two-fer order

NRDC, The Communication Workers of America, and Public Citizen just filed a lawsuit against Trump’s infamous “two-fer” rule. This is the rule I’ve designated the Terminator Rule.

From the lawsuit:

To repeal two regulations for the purpose of adopting one new one, based solely on a directive to impose zero net costs and without any consideration of benefits, is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and not in accordance with law, for at least three reasons.

First, no governing statute authorizes any agency to withhold a regulation intended to address identified harms to public safety, health, or other statutory objectives on the basis of an arbitrary upper limit on total costs (for fiscal year 2017, a limit of $0) that regulations may impose on regulated entities or the economy. Second, the Executive Order forces agencies to repeal regulations that they have already determined, through notice-and-comment rulemaking, advance the purposes of the underlying statutes, and forces the agencies to do so for the sole purpose of eliminating costs that the underlying statutes do not direct be eliminated. Third, no governing statute authorizes an agency to base its actions on a decisionmaking criterion of zero net cost across multiple regulations.

The Terminator rule is nonsensical in the extreme and violates all administrative procedure and law when it comes to forming regulations and rules. To instruct agencies to only include costs, not benefits, virtually cripples the federal government.

I have to wonder at this time if Trump even has access to lawyers. If so, where did they get their law degrees? Trump University?

I’ll be following this case on PACER.

Photo by Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0

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