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Respect Your Elders

U.S. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced yesterday that the Bush administration put the “citizen” back in “senior citizen” by ending its practice of devaluing the lives of older people when calculating the costs and benefits of environmental regulations. Nicknamed the “senior discount,” the highly controversial computational method involved valuing the lives of those older than 65 at 37 percent less than the lives of younger people. Unsurprisingly, news of the practice enraged older citizens and environmentalists alike — a major factor in axing the policy, according to Whitman, who said the EPA had never actually used it to make policy …

The Secondhand Ticks Us Off

The dangers of secondhand smoke are well documented — but what about secondhand pesticide? A new report by the same name contends that pesticides and herbicides drifting off of agricultural lands endanger the health of hundreds of thousands of Californians. The report, issued today by Pesticide Action Network North America, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, and Pesticide Education Center, criticized the lack of careful monitoring and strict controls on pesticides and herbicides, and reserved especially strong words for molinate, an herbicide frequently used by rice farmers. The California Rice Commission and the state Department of Pesticide Regulation called the report …

The Yellow Haze of Texas

Meanwhile, the state of Texas is plagued by its own air-quality issues — and the state House and Senate are at loggerheads over what to do about it. On Monday, the Senate passed a bill to fund the Texas Emissions Reductions Program, the key component of a federally mandated state anti-smog plan. The bill would raise some $150 million per year for pollution control by raising fees on vehicle title transfers, while a House version would raise roughly the same amount by taxing bulk diesel shipments. When the House and Senate get together to draft a final version, though, a …

No Cruise Control

Within 24 hours of Friday’s start of the 2003 cruise season, a ship owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines dumped more than 40 tons of raw sewage into the waters off the coast of Washington state. It’s unclear whether the discharge from the Norwegian Sun was illegal, but the cruise line acknowledged that it violated company policy. The dumping came on the heels of months of disagreement among environmentalists, the Port of Seattle, and other government authorities over notification procedures for discharging waste. Currently, reporting is not mandatory as a condition of docking in the port, a situation environmentalists heavily criticize. …

Let’s Get Chemical

In a trailblazing effort to mitigate the dangerous effects of toxic substances on human and environmental health, the European Commission has proposed strict new standards for chemical production. Currently, those chemicals that were in use before the E.U. was established in 1981 are not subject to the same registration and testing standards as new substances. Under the new proposal, any company manufacturing, importing, or using any chemical would have to prove its safety by registering and testing it; chemicals that did not pass the safety standards would be banned. The commission estimates that the law would affect some 30,000 chemicals …

The Farmer and the Smell

The U.S. EPA could offer large industrial livestock farms amnesty from the federal Clean Air Act and Superfund laws, according to people involved in agency-industry talks. Rather than enforce the laws, the EPA would monitor pollution levels at roughly 30 large hog and chicken operations, a plan environmentalists and former enforcement officials say is far too lenient — so lenient than local environmental regulators pulled out of the talks in protest. Huge livestock farms can spew foul odors and fecal dust into the air, as well as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane from open-air cesspools. After the EPA began bringing …

Mexi-can’t

The U.S. Department of Energy acted illegally when it found that two Mexican power plants would not have a significant impact on the air and water quality in the border region between northwestern Mexico and Southern California, a federal judge in San Diego ruled yesterday. That ruling calls into question the legitimacy of U.S. permits granted to the power companies to build cross-border transmission lines and could prevent the plants from exporting electricity to California this summer as planned. It could also bode ill for plans by energy companies to build as many as 20 other power plants in Mexico …

Low Riders

The average fuel efficiency of the nation’s cars and trucks hit a 22-year low of 20.4 miles per gallon during the 2002 model year, the U.S. EPA announced last week. That statistic stands in stark contrast to significant improvements in other automotive areas: Since 1981, average horsepower has increased 93 percent and average acceleration (as measured in the time it takes to go from zero to 60 miles per hour) has improved 29 percent. Environmentalists saw the report as a sign that fuel economy will not improve until the government mandates it, something the current administration is loath to do. …

Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza, Environmental Defense

Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza is policy director for the Los Angeles Environmental Justice Project Office of Environmental Defense. Her work focuses on greening the built environment, increasing green space in L.A.’s urban core, and ensuring transportation equity for the working poor. Monday, 5 May 2003 LOS ANGELES, Calif. Monday mornings are rough, especially when you’re trying to be healthy and kick caffeine. Truly awake or not, my first task is to check my calendar. On the Los Angeles environmental front, that means lots of meetings to coordinate campaigns and share information with local partners or my Environmental Defense colleagues. Yes, you …

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