Carbon lobby: Business leaders from some of the largest corporations in the U.S. lobbied Congress last week, urging action on climate change. Officials from Microsoft, Nike, Pepsi, eBay, Exelon, and Tesla, among many others, held meetings with lawmakers and made their plea for carbon pricing at private roundtable discussions. Some told Marianne Lavelle of InsideClimate News that they know getting a climate bill signed into law by President Trump is nearly impossible, but they hoped to persuade lawmakers who could outlast him of the urgency of the matter. The lobbying group of 75 business leaders included representatives from major oil producers ExxonMobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell, propelled in part by international pressure for climate action. “For those businesses,” Miranda Green and Alex Gangitano of The Hill write, “a carbon tax allowing the continued use of fossil fuels is preferable to progressive plans that seek to put tougher regulations in place or move away from using oil and gas altogether.” Not all carbon tax plans are created equal. Lavelle breaks down the difference between an industry-backed plan to tax carbon and a bipartisan bill supported by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. One difference: Both plans would curb pollution from burning coal, but the industry-backed plan is weaker on transportation-related emissions and aims to curb state authority to take stronger action on climate, such as imposing stricter vehicle pollution controls.
- Also: Lisa Song of ProPublica, with help from Paula Moura, took a long, hard look at whether paying for forest preservation is an effective way to offset carbon emissions and found those carbon credits amounted to little more than “a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO₂.” –– The New York Times reports on President Trump’s dramatic efforts to undermine the basic science on which climate policy is built.
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Relief for the bees: The Environmental Protection Agency has barred 12 pesticide products from the U.S. market because they contain a compounds thought to harm honeybees. The decision to pull the pesticides that contain a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Food Safety, years of litigation, and a settlement agreement in which the makers of those pesticides agreed to have their products taken from the shelves and the agency was required to analyze the effects of neonicotinoids on endangered species. “Certainly we have a ways to go,” George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety told Dino Grandoni of The Washington Post. “But it’s an important first step in acknowledging the harm they cause.”
- Also: A federal judge overseeing some 900 lawsuits filed by people who say the herbicide Roundup caused their cancer has appointed Kenneth Feinberg as a mediator to attempt a settlement with parent company Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year. Feinberg has handled some of the nation’s largest and highest-profile mediation talks, including over the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and following the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010. –– Some farmers are worried that the high-dollar judgments against Roundup will cause them to lose a key tool for weed-control. Others see hope in weed-killing robots, Sam Bloch of The New Food Economy writes.
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Buckle up and go: Chevy is introducing an option meant to appeal to parents of teen drivers that will alert those using specific key fobs to put their seatbelt on, if they haven’t already. As of 2017, only 59 percent of high school students said they always wear a seatbelt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Chevy option will alert the driver for 20 seconds, during which time the vehicle can’t be shifted into gear. After that, it will operate normally. That may sound just like a slightly more annoying version of a standard seatbelt warning. But Camila Domonoske of NPR writes that an industry-funded research institute found Chevy’s new system improved seatbelt use by 16 percent compared with a noise-only alert.
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Prison sentence in asbestos case: Stephan Schmidheiny, who was the majority shareholder in Italian asbestos company Eternit Genova, has been sentenced to four years in prison for the deaths of two former workers at a plant near Turin. The Swiss billionaire previously was sentenced to 16 years for causing the deaths of nearly 3,000 people exposed to asbestos at four plants in Italy, but the Italian Supreme Court invalidated that decision, saying the case violated the statute of limitations. Asbestos-related illnesses can take decades to develop and the prosecutor in the latest manslaughter case said he hopes the conviction is a “first step” toward decisions that are “more attentive to victims.” Schmidheiny’s attorneys have said they plan to appeal, according to reports by Forbes and the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation.
- Also: Custom Rubber Products of Houston faces proposed penalties of $530,392 for exposing workers to life-threatening injuries by failing to guard machinery. OSHA had cited the company for very similar violations five years ago, after a machine operator’s arms were crushed and investigators discovered that workers also had been seriously injured in two previous incidents. OSHA has put the company on its “severe violator” list. –– Champion Modular Inc., a producer of modular homes, faces proposed penalties of $687,650 for failing to properly guard machines and other violations, after a worker at its Strattanville, Pennsylvania facility suffered an amputation. –– J&J Snackfoods of Pennsauken, New Jersey, has agreed to pay a $152,934 penalty, hire a full-time corporate safety director, and conduct employee training after federal investigators found widespread and repeated machine hazard violations.
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Temp trials: Well over half of Google’s workers around the globe are contractors or temporary workers, and they receive lower pay, fewer benefits, and less protection from workplace abuses. It’s a trend in the tech industry, and one industry expert told The New York Times that it is creating “a caste system within companies.”
- Also: New York horse racing trainer Chad Brown has been ordered to pay back wages and damages to dozens of workers plus penalties, all totaling more than $1.6 million, to resolve violations of a federal visa program for temporary foreign workers. The violations included failing to pay promised wages and overtime, failing to reimburse travel costs as required, and misrepresenting the job and conditions, such as the availability of affordable housing.
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Radioactive legacy: The massive concrete dome on Runit Island that covers tens of thousands of cubic meters of contaminated material, collected after U.S. hydrogen bomb tests near the Marshall Islands, wasn’t meant as a permanent solution when it was set in place in 1980. Yet, the dome remains, vulnerable to rising seas. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said last week that the “coffin” is a danger. The Los Angeles Times reports that researchers documented high levels of radiation in giant clams nearby. During a presentation in Majuro, the island nation’s capital, Terry Hamilton, a nuclear physicist with the U.S. Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said the dome is leaking contaminated groundwater into the nearby lagoon and into the ocean, but the radiation found in the clams is linked instead to the initial weapons testing, not to the vulnerability of the dome. That’s an argument local officials found dubious, pointing to evidence that the dome rises and falls with the tide, with water flowing in and out.
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Fracking facade: Fordham University law student Elliot Fink argues in a journal article that laws protecting trade secrets have allowed oil and gas producers to hide from the public the fracking chemicals they are using and that ultimately may end up contaminating drinking water.
Big boost for gun sanctuaries: Dozens of county sheriffs in New Mexico have said they won’t enforce state gun control laws and have declared their jurisdictions to be “Second Amendment sanctuaries.” The movement has been copied in other states by officials opposed to new gun laws. The NRA played a prominent role in pushing the sanctuary movement, drafting op-eds for sheriffs to sign, recruiting officials to participate and helping to draft a sanctuary declaration, according to a report from Brady, a gun-control advocacy group that obtained public records from New Mexico, including e-mails between the NRA and the state sheriffs association.