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High Stakes as Trump Administration Rebuffs Automakers’ Appeal in Showdown on Fuel Economy Standards

Car makers’ plea:  The White House is moving forward with a plan to roll back vehicle emission standards, despite a last-minute appeal from car manufacturers asking the Trump administration and California to work together to create a more moderate policy. The state had set fuel standards that were stricter than federal requirements before essentially syncing state rules with the ones put in place by the Obama administration. The Trump administration wants to eliminate California’s long-standing authority to set its own emission standards. The state is vowing to block the move and has sued , accusing the administration of ”willfully withholding” information on how it justifies the rollback. Automakers say the administration has gone too far in relaxing the Obama-era rules. They sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom and to President Trump saying that a protracted legal battle would create potentially “untenable” instability in the market. But some analysts suggested the last-ditch effort by the car companies was a ploy. “This seems like a bit of theater — automakers likely never expected 11th-hour negotiations to resume anyway, but can now try to claim credit for trying,” Shannon Baker-Branstetter, a transportation policy advocate for Consumer Reports, told Anna M. Phillips of the Los Angeles Times. It was the car makers, she notes, who asked for a rollback to begin with.

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Big and beyond carbon: Michael Bloomberg has pledged $500 million to a campaign aimed at closing all 241 remaining coal-powered plants in the United States by 2030, Lisa Friedman of The New York Times reports. The Beyond Carbon campaign plans to influence state politics, bypassing Washington and countering President Trump’s promise to bring coal back, and to focus instead on electing state and local officials who favor aggressive renewable energy development, and on lobbying public utility commissions and city councils. The campaign may also put pressure on 2020 presidential candidates to detail more specific climate action plans.

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Lucrative service: Some board members of the National Rifle Association have been paid for consulting services or for selling ammunition or other products to the organization, with some receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars. The payments raise questions about whether the board charged with overseeing the nonprofit’s finances was hindered by conflicts of interest, according to tax experts interviewed during an investigation by The Washington Post. News of the payments comes as the NRA is facing intense pressure over spending by CEO Wayne LaPierre and the millions paid to its former public relations agency, Ackerman McQueen. And The Trace reports that the NRA did not disclose, as required, the $180,000 or more that its foundation contributed to a charity called Youth for Tomorrow, which provides services for children with psychological and behavioral problems. LaPierre’s wife, Susan LaPierre, was that group’s board president.

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Such a waste: France is taking aim at a major source of waste: the $900 million worth of unsold consumer goods that get dumped each year. The country plans to ban the routine practice of tossing perfectly good products to free up warehouse space or to avoid a market flood that would lower prices, Palko Karasz of The New York Times reports. “It is waste that defies reason,” said Prime Minister Édouard Philippe.

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Juul lab: E-cigarette giant Juul will contribute $7.5 million to a research center at Meharry Medical College that will study the effects of e-cigarettes, CBS News reports. Juul’s marketing tactics are seen as a major factor in an epidemic of young e-cigarette users. The pledge to Meharry comes just after The New York Times reported that the company has been aggressively – and often unsuccessfully – trying to recruit researchers to test the health impacts of e-cigarettes, as its 2022 deadline approaches for submitting products for approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Juul has been rebranding itself in recent months as a company focused on smoking cessation. Dr. James Hildreth, president of Meharry, a historically black college, said that smoking has disproportionately harmed African American people. “Our goal is to help set a new course for education, prevention and policy surrounding the use of tobacco and e-cigarettes,” he said in a press release.

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Burn hazard: The Department of Labor has cited metal smelting giant ASARCO for failing to protect workers after three people were severely burned on the job at the company’s Hayden, Arizona, plant. The workers were injured by an arc flash produced by an explosion when a breaker was inserted into a 4,160-volt switchgear. The company failed to provide a briefing before work began on the switchgear, failed to make sure the breaker was inoperable before the work began and failed to make sure the workers wore protective gear, according to a press release. The company faces proposed penalties of $278,456.

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Science under review: White House officials blocked written testimony to House lawmakers by a State Department intelligence agency about ways in which climate change could be catastrophic for human society, The Washington Post reports. The officials said the testimony of Rod Schoonover, who works in the Office of the Geographer and Global Issues, was not objective and did not “jibe” with the administration’s stance, though it cited work by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Even as evidence mounts that the climate crisis could become a national security risk for the U.S., President Trump has been steadfast in his refusal to accept those warnings. “I believe that there’s a change in weather, and I think it changes both ways,” he told Piers Morgan during a television interview on his recent visit to London.

  • Also: At the first meeting in a year of the EPA’s board of science advisers, Administrator Andrew Wheeler promised to “do better” in communicating with them. Some board members were unpersuaded, Marianne Lavelle of InsideClimate News reports.

Chelsea Conaboy is a FairWarning contributor and freelance writer and editor specializing in health care. Find more of her work at chelseaconaboy.com.