EPA withdraws toxicity assessment of PFAS contaminant, citing political interference
Chemical & Engineering News – February 10
Citing a January 27 presidential directive on scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this Tuesday that it is reconsidering a toxicity assessment for perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS) that the agency released on January 19 during the last hours of the Trump Administration. PFBS is part of a family of environmentally persistent chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), many of which are toxic, and has been detected widely in drinking water, wastewater, and food packaging, according to the EPA. The assessment had expressed a safe daily dose for long-term exposure to PFBS as a range, whereas previous EPA toxicity assessments had established the reference dose as a single value after peer review and public comment. The decision to reconsider the assessment came as part of EPA’s scrutiny of a package of actions on PFAS released on January 19 that it found to have been “compromised by political interference.”
Amazon again ordered to stop selling illegal pesticides online
Associated Press – February 9
The EPA announced this Tuesday that, for the third time in three years, its Seattle office issued a “stop-sale” order requiring Amazon to prevent sales on its platform of an additional 70 potentially dangerous or ineffective unregistered pesticides and pesticide devices that were promoted with illegal and misleading claims, including multiple products that claimed to protect against viruses. This latest order identifies products marketed as household and pool cleansers, bracelets purporting to repel mosquitoes and a range of appliances claiming to kill or neutralize viruses. The EPA previously claimed that Amazon committed about 4,000 violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act between 2013 and 2018 by allowing third-party vendors to sell and distribute products not evaluated by the agency. Amazon settled those claims for $1.2 million and committed to monitoring illegal pesticides more closely and removing them from its online marketplace.
Youth climate plaintiffs eye Supreme Court after defeat at Ninth Circuit
Bloomberg Law – February 10
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this Wednesday declined to rehear Juliana v. United States, also known as the kids’ climate case. The decision is another loss for the plaintiffs on their high-stakes claims that the government is violating their constitutional rights to a safe climate system. The young plaintiffs had asked for a second chance after a three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit dismissed their case in early 2020, holding that the court lacks the power to grant the primary relief they sought: a broad plan to reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have vowed to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. Environmental lawyers and scholars last year cautioned that putting the case before the conservative-leaning Supreme Court could invite the justices to narrow the scope of constitutional standing to sue, thereby making it more difficult for plaintiffs to pursue other types of environmental claims, including climate change-related claims.
Federal court pauses litigation over California’s vehicle emissions standards
The Hill – February 8
At the request of the Biden administration, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. on Monday agreed to pause litigation challenging a Trump administration rule that revoked California’s authority to set its own vehicle emissions standards. The “One National Program Rule” (Rule) adopted by the Trump administration gave the federal government the sole authority to set emissions standards, and revoked the authority of California and 13 other states to impose stricter vehicle emissions standards. Following the Biden administration’s request for the stay, a group representing several automakers that had previously intervened in the case to support the Rule said in a statement last week that it would withdraw from the case “in order to unify the auto industry behind a single national program, with ambitious, achievable standards.” General Motors also previously withdrew from the case shortly after President Biden’s election.
Environmental groups file appeal to stop 469-home development near Newark wetlands
The Mercury News – February 8
Environmental groups are appealing a December 24, 2020 decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch that would allow a controversial 469-unit housing development at the edge of Newark’s wetlands to go forward. Judge Roesch dismissed the challenge to the development, in which the petitioners argued that the city of Newark “failed to consider the dramatically increased sea-level rise projections of recent years,” according to a statement from the groups issued Monday.
San Diego County declares Tijuana River Valley sewage flow a public health crisis
KPBS – February 9
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to declare a public health crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, as sewage-tainted water continues to flow into the U.S. The resolution declares the situation a public health crisis, requiring the county to take action. Supervisor Joel Anderson suggested the county also ask the Biden administration to work with Mexico to help solve the issue, as it impacts both sides of the border. Federal officials have proposed spending up to $300 million on pollution control projects aimed at slowing the flow of cross-border sewage, but it remains unclear when those projects will begin.