Ranking member Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., delivers opening remarks during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee oversight hearing to examine the Environmental Protection Agency, Wednesday, May 20, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Should we trust EPA?

On Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it won't protect.

Actually, what EPA announced was that it won't regulate perchlorate, a toxic chemical compound found in rocket fuel that contaminates water and has been linked to fetal and infant brain damage.

But this is more than just not regulating. The decision was widely expected after The New York Times reported last month that the agency's administrator had decided to effectively defy a court order that required EPA to establish a safe drinking-water standard for the chemical by the end of June.

But there is EPA insult added to the injury: In addition to not regulating, the agency "overturned" the underlying scientific finding that declared perchlorate a serious health risk for five million to 16 million people in the United States, writes The Times.

You know. It's just science. Overturn it. Toss it in the trash.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, previously a coal and anti-climate change lobbyist, blasphemed in a statement: "Today's decision is built on science and local success stories and fulfills President Trump's promise to pare back burdensome 'one-size-fits-all' overregulation for the American people. State and local water systems are effectively and efficiently managing levels of perchlorate. Our state partners deserve credit for their leadership on protecting public health in their communities, not unnecessary federal intervention."

Hint: In 2011 the Obama administration issued a finding that perchlorate posed such a serious health risk when discharged into drinking water that it required regulation, setting off a fierce lobbying effort by defense contractors to block restrictions on using the contaminant. The American Academy of Pediatrics, which had told the EPA that perchlorate can cause a significant drop in the I.Q. of newborns, had urged the "strongest possible" limits on the contaminant.

Here's another hint: This is the same EPA that said Tennessee's $8.1 million "free" COVID-19 sock masks — treated with a pesticide — are safe.



Is State COVID-19 policy safe enough?

The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday cancelled its 43rd annual Tennessee Safety & Health Conference.

Why? The email members received is self-explanatory: "We regret to inform you that the 2020 Tennessee Safety and Health Conference has been cancelled. The cancellation is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and related issues/concerns. We hope that you make plans to join us in 2021 ..."

Think about for this for a moment. The state organization, charged in part with "improving occupational safety and health through enforcement of the general industry, construction and agricultural occupational safety and health standards in workplaces," won't meet for its near-sacred, three-day annual safety and health conference in mid-August at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville because of Tennessee's ongoing struggle with the novel coronavirus.

You know, the virus outbreak that state and county officials have told us is so well under control that we're several weeks into our "reopening" and plans are moving full steam ahead toward our kids returning to school and college in the fall.

Wondering if we might be overreacting, we reached out to Chattanooga's Mike Mallen, who has practiced environmental, health and safety, and related catastrophic response law for 32 years. He said we were not and added his disappointment because the conference is always one of the most useful and instructive events health and safety professionals can attend. Then he added:

"If these dedicated professionals and regulators have determined that conducting an in-person conference is not advisable and potentially unsafe, then I think the rest of Tennessee state government should stand up and take careful notice of that important conclusion. It certainly got my attention."

It gets ours, too.

When our state's very best safety and health professionals make a decision like this because of exposure concerns, the public and especially our governor probably ought to look more closely at our current public COVID-19 policy.


Got to love those right-wing slip-ups

Whoops! A right-wing messaging campaign to divide white environmentalists and communities of color had a little slip-up recently.

"It was an audacious messaging campaign: White environmentalists are hurting black communities by pushing radical climate policies that would strip them of fossil fuel jobs," wrote E&E News on Thursday. E&E News focuses on energy and the environment.

The email sent to journalists by CRC Advisors urged that we look at how green groups pushing the Green New Deal were "claiming solidarity" with black protesters while "backing policies which would hurt minority communities."

The story pitch, sent at the height of national protests over systemic racism earlier this month, offered to connect journalists with black conservatives who oppose the Green New Deal, a sweeping jobs program advanced by progressive lawmakers who champion environmental justice issues.

But the email ended with this revealing tagline.

"If you would rather not receive future communications from Chevron, let us know by clicking here."

Chevron, a high-profile client of CRC Advisors, denied to E&E any involvement in the messaging campaign. CRC said it was "in effect, a clerical error."