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March 12th, 2014

The Weakest Link: Problems and Perils of Linking Carbon Markets

pollution tradingBy Elizabeth Nussbaumer

Using carbon markets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is nothing new and hardly effective. However, despite the absence of significant emissions reductions from cap-and-trade initiatives and the all-but-complete collapse of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), supporters of carbon markets now want to begin linking markets together.

This idea is backed by claims that doing so will increase economic efficiency and allow emissions reductions to happen at a lower cost, but combining many broken pieces does not make an effective whole. In reality, linking provides a way to allow pollution at the lowest cost to polluters.

In January, California and Quebec officially linked their carbon markets. The reasoning behind linking argues that it will allow polluters to purchase emissions reductions credits at the lowest price ­­­— if credits cost less in Quebec, polluters in California can purchase credits on Quebec’s market, ultimately making polluting more affordable. Read the full article…

March 11th, 2014

A Secret Trade Deal is Threatening Our Safety

 

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By Jim Walsh

Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This controversial trade deal has been negotiated mostly behind closed doors, and the text of the agreement was only recently made available to Congress. Even now that the text is available, members of Congress still have to jump through a few hoops to gain access. Over 600 multinational corporations have been made “special advisors” for the purpose of assisting our trade representatives draft the deal, and everything we know about the contents of the TPP is from leaks.

Inside the trade deal, known as the TPP, is a provision that will allow companies to challenge — as illegal trade barriers — any government policies that purportedly infringe on corporate profits.  In short, a corporation could sue federal, state and local governments if it believes that a law or regulation will negatively impact its bottom line. This is scary in all sorts of ways.

Companies could challenge local laws that prohibit or delay the environmentally dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) for natural gas. Already a company incorporated in Delaware is challenging Quebec’s fracking moratorium under a similar investment provision under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Read the full article…

Caught Between a Watershed and a Marketplace

By Fred Tutman, Patuxent Riverkeeper

For the life of me I cannot understand why anybody serious about reducing or stopping the degradation of our nation’s waters would consider that trading pollution is a realistic way to do so. So far, the only regulated interests that have expressed interest in trading pollution on my local river are those that cannot meet their current pollution caps, and so they would like to simply pay more money to keep on polluting. While some refer to it as cap-and-trade, we’d be more accurate calling it trade-and-pay.

In a variation of the same approach, there are a few such interests that have managed to acquire surplus capacity to discharge into a waterway and so they hope to get paid to sell their surplus capacity to somebody else who can use it. For the years I have been sounding the alarm about the evils of trading, at least some environmentalists have argued that it is pointless to oppose this because the “train has already left the station.” But, isn’t the point to reduce pollution, not make sure everybody pollutes up to their regulated limits?

Even if the math and the concept of market incentives like trading somehow make sense to you in the context of conservation, then how about moral problems? How does it square with basic fairness that somebody can pollute in one place and then compensate for it elsewhere with cash? The answer is that it is outrageous, and deferring pollution onto others is a recipe for fundamental injustice. Consequently, those with the most attractive “marketplaces” will get the very best environmental quality money can buy. Everyone else will get only trades as the gap between environmental haves and have-nots will just get wider. Read the full article…

How the FDA’s Voluntary Guidance Fails to Curb Antibiotic Misuse in Livestock

Click to enlarge.

By Sarah Borron

Last December, FDA released voluntary guidance to industry (GFI #213) that would limit certain nontherapeutic uses of what the agency deems “medically important” antibiotics in livestock and put those drugs under the guidance of a veterinarian. Currently, many antibiotics are available for livestock producers to use for nontherapeutic reasons and without veterinary oversight. FDA’s action to curb these uses is long overdue.

But that guidance comes with a catch. It only limits the use of medically important antibiotics for promoting faster growth in livestock. Giving livestock low doses of antibiotics necessary to treat human illnesses to make the animals grow faster – all the while creating antibiotic-resistant bacteria in those livestock – is a pretty terrible use of an important resource. However, the FDA guidance still permits low doses of antibiotics to be given to healthy animals as disease prevention. Whether for growth promotion or disease prevention, the result is the same: this practice is creating more bacteria resistant to antibiotics that we need to protect human health.

Food &Water Watch analyzed FDA’s list of over 400 antibiotic drug products affected by GFI #213 to find out just how much overlap exists between growth promotion uses, which are being limited, and prevention uses, which remain unchecked. Each drug has a list of “label indications,” or reasons the drug can be used in certain conditions. Using FDA’s search function and also reading each label, we identified overlapping indications that demonstrate significant loopholes in GFI #213. Read the full article…

March 10th, 2014

The Backroom Out Front in Annapolis

By Mitch Jones

It was slick business as usual last week in the Maryland Environmental Matters Committee. If you blinked, you might have missed your chance to count the votes on HB 409.  

On Friday, March 7, a bill that would have banned the treatment, storage, discharge and disposal of fracking wastewater or “flow back” in Maryland was up for a vote in the committee. The bill was sponsored by Del. Shane Robinson and had 33 additional cosponsors, including eight members of the committee. Yet, even with that level of support, leadership dismissed the bill as if it were an unserious piece of legislation.

The legislation is necessary because the state’s wastewater facilities are not equipped to handle or process many of the chemicals that would turn up in fracking fluid, so the bill was designed to protect Maryland’s wastewater systems from fracking associated risks. And while there is currently no fracking wastewater coming into Maryland, fracking wastewater was treated in Baltimore in 2010 and there is no law in place to prevent this happening again when there’s a new administration in 2015. Read the full article…

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On the Brink of Irrelevancy: Is the Honeymoon Over for FDA and AquaBounty?

By Tim Schwab

AquaBounty GE Salmon and the FDAIn 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put forward a shockingly favorable regulatory review on AquaBounty Technologies’ genetically engineered salmon, offering preliminary determinations that the fish are healthy, of little threat to the environment and safe to eat.  

The scientific community skewered the agency’s far-reaching, short-sighted determinations, while hundreds of thousands of consumers stated clearly they wouldn’t eat the slow-growing, sickly, escape-prone fish.

Here we are in 2014 and, as the world turns, it increasingly turns against AquaBounty’s GMO salmon. Many of the nation’s largest conventional grocers—including Kroger, Safety, Target, HEB, Aldi, Giant Eagle, Meijer, Marsh, and dozens of others—have said they aren’t planning on selling AquaBounty’s GMO salmon even if the FDA does approve it.   

This means that even if FDA were to approve GMO salmon today, by the time the first fillets hit the stores (AquaBounty says 2016), there very well may not be a single retail outlet willing to stock GMO salmon. And polls show again and again and again that consumers will avoid GMO fish if they can, though that depends on whether FDA requires labeling.  Read the full article…

Stop the U.S. Approval of “Agent Orange” Crops

Tell the USDA you care about your food.

What the U.S. does matters to our food. Protect what we eat from Agent Orange.

URGENT: March 11 Deadline for Comments: This is our last chance to stop the U.S. approval of “Agent Orange” crops. Act now.

You know that nasty chemical we heard about from the Vietnam War — Agent Orange? The one that caused so many health problems and birth defects?

If Dow has its way, one of the harsh chemicals in Agent Orange will be sprayed in massive amounts all over the U.S. and on crops bound for Europe.

Dow, a chemical and biotech competitor to Monsanto, has genetically engineered corn and soybeans so that the plants can withstand the application of the chemical 2,4-D, half of the notorious Agent Orange chemical cocktail.

Unfortunately, this nasty chemical is already being used in industrial agriculture, despite its proven detriment to health and the environment. Studies show that 2,4-D messes with your hormones, damages your nervous system, lowers your immunity to illnesses and causes reproductive problems. If these GMO corn and soy crops are approved, more and more agriculture operations in the U.S. will use 2,4-D. This will cause up to a 25-fold increase in the amount sprayed on fields, increasing our exposure and creating more pollution that harms people and animals.

Read the full article…

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March 7th, 2014

Natural Gas is Not a Geopolitical Bargaining Chip

By Wenonah Hauter 

In the battle over the future of U.S. energy policy, the oil and gas industry has presented many bogus justifications for pursuing fracking. Playing on the public’s genuine patriotism, energy independence is trotted out as the most compelling argument.  This rings even more hollow in the current debate about using natural gas as a bargaining chip in the crisis unfolding in the Ukraine

The Obama administration is considering sending fracked gas overseas in what the New York Times recently described as a “lever against Russia” in the escalating tensions in Eastern Europe. This move is clearly a result of influence pedaling by energy companies—an industry so money-grubbing that even tragic geopolitical events are fodder for increasing profits. 

Companies like ExxonMobile should not control U.S. foreign policy, and we should not sacrifice communities across the United States for illusory policy objectives that are really about increasing market share for a few energy giants. It is irresponsible to push for more fracking—a process that dramatically increases methane emissions in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Inserting natural gas into the narrative about the imploding situation in the Ukraine will only lead to more global instability, and in the long run, undermine any national security goals that proponents claim will be achieved.

By this time, our leaders should know that allowing outdated, polluting fossil fuels guide our foreign policy strategies is a bankrupt one.  Pressure on the Obama administration to allow exports of natural gas to commence demonstrates the cynical willingness of the industry to use an international calamity to achieve its long-term policy goals. The arguments in favor of export demonstrate the dishonesty of the oil and gas industry’s claims that fracked gas is the key to U.S. energy independence.

We’re not standing for this, and neither should you. Please join us in telling the Obama administration that we cannot let the escalating crisis in Ukraine become an excuse for more fracking in the United States. 

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Supermarket Stranglehold: Albertsons Takeover Bid for Safeway

Food & Water Watch report advises local governments to seek better solutions.By Patrick Woodall

This week, the Albertsons supermarket chain announced it was buying the Safeway supermarket chain, which would be one of the largest grocery store mergers in 25 years. The combined chains would be the third largest grocery retailer (after Walmart and Kroger) with more than $58 billion in sales from more than 2,400 stores all across the United States. Albertsons operates the Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Starmarket, United Supermarket and Amigo stores as well as the namesake Albertsons stores. Safeway stores include Vons, Pavilions, Tom Thumb and Randalls.

The $9.4 billion merger is being financed by Albertsons’ owner, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. You know the company is neighborly because it is named after the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell. The supermarkets claim the merger is needed to cope with both big box stores like Walmart as well as new grocery delivery companies, including internet grocers. The companies also claim the merger will save consumers money and improve the quality and freshness of the products the stores offer. This seems unlikely. Any cost savings from the merger are more likely to be pocketed by Cerberus than passed onto consumers in the form of lower prices.

The Federal Trade Commission should block this merger. The combined supermarket would operate in more than 100 metropolitan areas and overlap in more than 40 according to a preliminary Food & Water Watch analysis. In some places, the merger will join two of the top local supermarket chains, which means that consumers will have fewer store choices and face rising prices as the supermarket stranglehold tightens further. Read the full article…

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March 6th, 2014

Rick Berman Strikes Again With Environmental Policy Alliance

By Darcey Rakestraw

He’s been called an “arch-enemy of do-gooders” by 60 Minutes. Thanks to his orchestration of massive corporate PR campaigns using “deceptive corporate front groups” to discredit public interest efforts, he’s earned the nickname “Dr. Evil.”

And now, thanks to our outsized effectiveness in relation to our relatively small budget, he’s targeting us.

We’re honored to be called one of the “Big Green Radicals” by notorious corporate lobbyist Rick Berman through his apparent latest astroturf operation, the Environmental Policy Alliance, a “project of the Center for Organizational Research Education”. Ever heard of it? We hadn’t either. After doing a bit of digging, we found out that the Center for Organizational Research Education was recently known as the Center for Consumer Freedom led by the head of Berman & Co.—Rick Berman.

If you’ve never heard of Rick Berman, he earned his reputation in Washington, D.C. for spreading attacks on advocates through the Center for Consumer Freedom, which was funded initially through a sizable grant from Phillip-Morris. Other funders of Center for Consumer Freedom have included Monsanto, Cargill, Tysons Foods and various fast food restaurants. Sites like BermanExposed.org and Sourcewatch have helped reveal several other industry-funded front groups led by Berman.

It appears he’s now doing the same sort of work to discredit advocates for environmental protections. Who exactly is behind the effort? We don’t know but we’re pretty sure we’ll hear from them again.

If you’re interested in standing with us Big Green Radicals—if you support our mission to keep corporations accountable and to force government to do its job to regulate the industries that profit from our essential resources—then you can make a donation to Food & Water Watch today. After all, as Mr. Berman’s new organization implies, we’re getting the job done.

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