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SUMMER 2020

’ NATURE SVOICE For the 3 million Members and online activists of the Natural Resources Defense Council

IN THIS ISSUE

Hatch Canyon, Utah, proposed for leasing by the Trump administration

COVID-19 Doesn’t Stop Trump Attacks Trophy Hunting Council Disbands Under Pressure NRDC Fights to Restrict Use of Bee-Killing Pesticides Trump Administration Targets Utah Monuments

NRDC works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.


Victory

TWENTY YEARS IN THE MAKING

In a huge win for public health, Corteva (formerly part of Dow Chemical) has announced it will stop producing chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide especially harmful to children. The decision marks a watershed moment in NRDC’s 20-year fight to get chlorpyrifos out of our food and water supply. The chemical is known to harm the developing brains and nervous systems of children and those who face increased exposure, like farmworkers. NRDC and our partners will continue to fight for a federal ban on chlorpyrifos in court.

Victory

DANGEROUS PIPELINE STOPPED

Facing opposition from NRDC and our partners, Williams—one of the companies backing the notorious Constitution Pipeline—has canceled the project. The proposed fracked gas pipeline would have threatened dozens of communities and hundreds of waterways along its 124-mile route from Pennsylvania to New York, while driving more climate-destroying pollution. The project’s demise means that the region won’t be shackled to fracked gas for decades to come, moving it that much closer to a clean energy future.

Victory

COURT SIDES WITH SCIENCE

In a victory for good governance and scientific­ integrity, a federal court has sided with NRDC and struck down a 2017 EPA policy, engineered by ex-administrator Scott Pruitt, to ban large numbers of scientists from sitting on the agency’s advisory boards. Pruitt’s directive barred scientists who had received EPA grants from serving as advisors but didn’t apply those same rules to those who had received money from industry. This move was an attempt to replace some of the nation’s top experts with industry insiders, thereby weakening the role of science in protecting the public from harmful chemicals and pollution.

C OV E R A RT I C L E

COVID-19 DOESN’T STOP TRUMP ATTACKS

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t the very moment our nation was waking up to the most dan­gerous public health emer­ gency in generations, the Trump admin­ istration began drastically rolling back pro­tec­tions for our air, water, climate, and health. “Like most people, we at NRDC were adapting to stay-at-home orders,” says NRDC President and CEO Gina McCarthy. “But our staff of 700 responded swiftly as the Trump administration took advantage of this crisis to hand out favors to some of America’s biggest polluters.” Mere days after the United States re­­corded its first COVID-19 death, Trump’s EPA announced a scheme that would greatly re­­strict the agency’s use of the best avail­able sci­ence when pro­tecting our air, water, and health. The same day our na­­tion reached the grim mile­stone of hav­ing the most confirmed cases in the world, the EPA opened the door for dirty in­­dustries such as chem­ical factories, oil and gas operations, and coal plants to stop monitoring and reporting pollution

without penalty. A disproportionate number of such industrial facilities are sited next to low-income com­ munities and communities of color, which now stand to suffer even more. NRDC and our partners fired back, challenging the EPA’s non-enforcement policy in federal court. The Trump admin­istra­tion also finalized its sweeping rollback of clean car standards. The move will dramatically increase air pollution, respiratory diseases, and climate-wrecking carbon emissions. NRDC is determined to make sure the illegal rollback does not hold up in court. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Manage­ment is readying plans to throw open vast stretches of public land in Utah’s red­rock country to fossil-fuel develop­ ment (see story on next page). And as we go to press, the EPA is reportedly set to release a rule undermin­ ing federal standards for mercury, lead, and other toxic pol­lution from power plants—protections that save more than 10,000 lives every year. “This is an

absolute abomination,” says McCarthy. “Our nation must do better, and NRDC is going to fight this in court to make sure we do.” To date, NRDC has sued the Trump administration 108 times and prevailed in more than 90 percent of the cases resolved.

S P E C I A L R E P O RT

Trophy Hunting Council Disbands Under Pressure The environmental campaigns and victories featured in Nature’s Voice are all made possible through your generous support. NRDC.ORG/GIVE

In a big win for lions, giraffes, and other struggling wildlife around the world, the Trump administration has disbanded its deceptively named International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), which was composed almost entirely of trophy hunters and gun advocates. The move came after NRDC, Democracy Forward, and other allies sued Trump’s Interior Department for flagrantly violating the law when it formed the coun­cil. Federal law requires such advisory committees to be balanced and in the public interest. “The IWCC was stacked almost exclusively with individuals who had a vested interest in making it easier to hunt and kill imperiled species

and import their heads, hides, tusks, feet, and other body parts into the United States,” says Elly Pepper, NRDC’s deputy director for international wildlife conservation. Rather than continue to attempt to defend the IWCC in court, the Trump administration threw in the towel. As the admin­istration’s lawyers told the court: “The council will not meet or conduct any business again, it can no longer be renewed, and there is no plan to establish another committee with a similar mission or scope in the future.” NRDC will continue fighting in court to ensure that the Interior Department can’t rely on any of the counAfrican elephants cil’s tainted work going forward.

HATCH CANYON © RAY BLOXHAM/SUWA; ELEPHANTS © TUI DE ROY/MINDEN PICTURES

G O O D N EWS


CA M PA I G N U P DAT E

NRDC RAMPS UP FIGHT TO RESTRICT USE OF BEE-KILLING PESTICIDES

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“Increasingly, science is showing that neonics are a major player in the broader biodiversity crisis. They are all over the environment.”

Clockwise from top left: Bumblebee on milkweed flower; the eastern bluebird, which depends on insects as an important food source; fruit and vegetables at an outdoor market; tractor spraying pesticide in an orchard

As the EPA moves toward finalizing its review of neonics, NRDC is escalating a full-throated campaign to counter the outsize influence of the agrochemical giants. We are currently battling the agency in federal court to ban dozens of neonic products that are killing bees and endangering wild­life. And we’re prepared to launch new legal challenges if the EPA proceeds with the approval of more dangerous neonic pesticides. Restrictions on neonic use can’t come soon enough. Last year U.S. beekeepers reported losing

more than 40 percent of their honeybee colonies. A new study released in March from researchers at Imperial College London adds to the already over­ whelming evidence that neonics harm bees in a va­ riety of insidious ways. In this case, scientists found the brains of baby bees developed abnormally when they were exposed to imidacloprid, one of the most widely used neonics in the United States, and that as adults, those bees suffered “significantly im­ paired learning ability.” This supports past studies

that have found exposure to neonics appears to in­ terfere with such vital activities as a bee’s ability to forage for food or find its way back to its hive. But for all the focus on the dangers neonics pose to the survival of bees—and to the security of our food supply, which depends on pol­lination for one in every three bites of food we take—the over­use of these neurotoxic chem­icals also appears to be wreaking havoc far beyond America’s beehives. “Increasingly, science is showing that neonics are a major player in the broader biodiversity crisis,” says Lucas Rhoads, staff attorney with NRDC’s Pollinator Initiative. “Neonics are highly toxic, persistent, and all over the environ­ment. They’ve been linked not only to harms to native pollinators and insects but also to fish, birds, bats, aquatic ecosystems, and other wildlife as well as widespread soil and water contamination.” Neonics have been implicated in declines of in­ sect-eating birds, for example. And federal and state water testing over the past 15 years in New York has frequently detected imida­cloprid in sur­face waters. Recent testing on Long Island found the chemical in roughly 30 per­cent of samples, making it one of the most commonly detected pesticides in the densely [Continued on next page.]

BEE © DON JOHNSTON/ALAMY; EASTERN BLUEBIRD © R. C. BENNETT/SHUTTERSTOCK; PRODUCE © DREAMSTIME; TRACTOR © 123RF

ake no mistake: NRDC Mem­bers are pas­ sionate about saving America’s bees. That commitment was on full dis­play recently as tens of thousands of Members inundated the EPA with messages of protest after the agency signaled it would not take serious action to stop the chemical assault that is wiping out bees and other vital polli­ nators. U.S. beekeepers continue to report near-re­ cord annual losses of bee colonies, and there is growing scientific evidence that the same class of toxic pes­ti­cides that is helping fuel the bee crisis poses alarming risks for human health as well. At issue is the runaway proliferation of neonicoti­ noid pesticides, also known as neo­nics. Since their introduction in the mid-1990s by agrochemical gi­ ants such as Bayer, neonics have come to dominate Big Ag in America. Nearly all the corn seed planted in this country is treated with these chemicals, for example, as are the majority of soy and cotton seeds. Today American agriculture is nearly 50 times more harmful to bees and other insect life than it was 25 years ago, a drastic change over­ whelmingly driven by the deluge of neonics. Yet even as scientific evidence has con­tinued to mount concerning the dangers neo­nics pose to bees and other wildlife, the EPA has been slow to con­ duct its federally mandated review of the chemicals. When the agency did finally release its preliminary findings and recommendations for public comment earlier this year, it fell far short of the dramatic ac­ tion experts say is necessary to protect bees and other pollinators from further devastation. “Shockingly, the EPA acknowledges that it previ­ ously underestimated the risks neonics pose, not only to bees and other insects but to birds, mammals, and even human health,” says NRDC Senior Scientist Jennifer Sass. “Yet unlike its sister agencies in the E.U. and Canada, its response is woefully inadequate and offers only baby steps to address this serious threat.” The European Union approved a ban on all outdoor uses of three major neonics in 2018, and Canadian authorities have proposed a similar ban.


Tell Morgan Stanley: Drop the Pebble Mine

populated area. An over­whelm­ing 90 percent of those detections exceeded the EPA’s long-term expo­ sure benchmark for harm to aquatic invertebrates; more than 37 percent exceeded that benchmark by 10 times or more. “The collapse of honeybee colonies may turn out to be the canary in the coal mine, as we’re seeing more and more evidence that neonics could be dis­ rupting a host of ecosystems,” says Rhoads. “At the same time, human health experts have also been raising red flags about the chemicals’ potential harm to people,” he adds, pointing to research that suggests troubling links between unintentional hu­ man exposures to neonics and elevated risk of de­ velopmental or neurological damage, including malforma­tions of the developing heart and brain. The rising tide of evidence of the dangers of ne­ onics has spurred vanguard lawmakers in two states to take action. Refusing to wait for the EPA, legisla­ tors in New York have introduced a bill that would impose a five-year moratorium on the outdoor use of the chemicals, while in New Jersey, the State Senate recently passed what would be the strongest neonics bill in the nation to date. NRDC has been on the ground in both state capitals rallying support for the bills, which could be models for similar leg­ islation in statehouses across the country. “We’ll continue fighting in and out of court to save America’s bees,” says Rhoads. TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/savebees

An arched rock formation in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Trump Administration Targets Utah Monuments The battle rages on to save Utah’s spectacular redrock country from being overrun by President Trump’s extreme fossil fuel agenda. The Trump administration is barreling ahead with plans to open vast stretches of pristine land to drilling and min­ing within the previously established boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The move comes as NRDC and our allies continue to fight in court to restore vital protections to these mag­nificent lands and reverse Trump’s illegal attempt to slash the size of both monuments—by approximately 85 percent and 50 percent, respectively.

NRDC is calling on investment giant Morgan Stanley to publicly dissociate itself from Northern Dynasty Minerals, the Canadian mining company behind the disastrous Pebble Mine. The colossal open-pit mega-mine at the pristine headwaters of Alaska’s Bristol Bay would threaten the greatest wild salmon runs in the world and the communities that depend on them. Morgan Stanley has positioned itself as a leader in environmental and socially responsible investing. “The global zeitgeist has shifted,” the company proclaims on its website, “with more people embracing the tenet that what is good for the planet is good for all of us, raising sustainability as the new imperative for good business, corporate stewardship and economic growth.” Agreed! But how to square that aspirational message with the fact that Morgan Stanley has served as the agent for the purchase of millions of shares of stock in Northern Dynasty and the Pebble Mine?

The administration is also poised to auction off oil and gas leases across more than 150,000 acres of western land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, including sites that would—alarmingly—bring drilling within a half mile of such iconic natural treasures as Arches and Canyonlands National Park. And this comes even as the price of oil has plummeted in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Trump administration is rushing to auction off our public lands at fire sale prices, no matter what the cost to taxpayers and our environment,” says Sharon Buccino, NRDC director of lands. “It’s unconscionable, and we aim to stop it.”

NRDC Sues to Phase Out Inefficient Bulbs

An LED and an incandescent light bulb

NRDC and our partners have sued the Department of Energy over its refusal to roll out energy-saving standards for common household light bulbs. Set to go into effect on January 1, 2020, the standards would have phased out wasteful incandescent and halogen bulbs—which emit most of their energy as heat rather than light—and made efficient, longer-lasting, and increasingly affordable LED bulbs the norm. Though many countries have already made the switch, some 1.5 billion sockets across the United States still contain an incandescent or halogen bulb. In a separate, earlier

attack, the agency also rolled back the inclusion of certain kinds of specialty bulbs, such as flame-shaped and reflector models, from the standards altogether, a decision that was met by another NRDC lawsuit. The stakes are high: The latest standards would spare the climate 38 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution and save U.S. households an average of $100 annually. “The Trump administration wants to keep light bulbs stuck in the 19th century,” says NRDC energy efficiency expert Noah Horowitz, “but American consumers and the climate will be the ones to pay the price.”

Copper River in Alaska’s Bristol Bay wilderness

“Morgan Stanley needs to walk its talk,” says NRDC Western Director Joel Reynolds. “We’re hopeful that once they understand how reckless, destructive, and unpopular the Pebble Mine is, they will join the numerous other investors and backers who’ve seen the project for the losing gamble it is and walk away.” TAKE ACTION

nrdc.org/stoppebble

LIGHT BULB © RAMIL GIBADULLIN/DREAMSTIME; GRAND STAIRCASE-ESCALANTE © ISTOCK; COPPER RIVER © RYAN PETERSON

[Continued from previous page.]


N R D C VO I C E S

Climate change is the defining issue of our era, so shouldn’t it get more screen time? That’s the idea behind NRDC’s blockbuster new project, Rewrite the Future, a partnership with creative professionals in the entertainment industry that seeks to reach mainstream audiences with more climate change stories in movies and on television. “Climate change is a major threat to our way of life, and I believe that NRDC is the best organization to drive solutions,” says Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The

Emmy Award–winning actor and NRDC Trustee was on hand to help launch Rewrite the Future at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where she participated along with NRDC’s president, Gina McCarthy, in one of a series of thought-provoking panel discussions organized in collaboration with Entertainment Weekly. Other discussions in the series featured a range of talented directors, producers, actors, and writers, including Alec Baldwin, Ron Howard, Eva Longoria, and Julie Taymor.

Central to the premise behind Rewrite the Future is the incomparable power of television and movies—of storytelling in popular media—to shape public opinion and spur action. Hollywood has had a profound impact in shifting attitudes on issues such as gender and racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, corporate abuse of power, and other environmental and public health concerns (think Erin Brockovich, Silkwood, and Avatar). The idea is to bring that power to bear on the increasingly urgent fight to avert the worst-case conse­quences of climate change, and to do so in a way that moves beyond the dire warnings of climate scientists to connect with audiences on a deeper level. “Scientists can communicate facts about climate change, and that’s important. But facts don’t ignite emotions the way good films and TV can,” says Daniel Hinerfeld, NRDC’s director of content partnerships, who is spearheading the project. “We want to broaden our audience and touch people in a different way that may change their behavior and attitudes, because let’s face it: When it comes to climate change, we have the facts. What we need is a massive shift toward action.”

There’s a Deadly Link Between Air Pollution and COVID-19 Gina McCarthy NRDC president

Breathing dirty air makes people more likely to die from COVID-19, a nationwide study from Harvard has found. This isn’t politics. It’s science. Air pollution aggravates problems like lung disease and heart troubles, which can weaken a patient’s ability to survive the corona­virus. As a result, death rates from COVID-19 are 15 percent higher for people who live in areas with even slightly­ more air pollution than for those in places with cleaner air. The study confirms what we have long known: Pollution kills. But it is not an equal-opportunity killer. It harms the most vulnerable—people of color and low-income communities that are more often impacted by highways, power plants, refineries, and other sources of pollution.

Amid the global pandemic we’re struggling to contain, we have an ongoing health crisis caused by pollution that’s making the coronavirus more deadly for some people. “The majority of the preexisting conditions that increase the risk of death for COVID-19 are the same diseases that are affected by longterm exposure to air pollution,” the study concludes. It underscores “the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health.” Unfortunately, the Trump administration has been taking us in exactly the wrong direction. It is working to prevent scientific research like the Harvard study from guiding federal agencies in developing commonsense pollution safeguards. The

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Sea turtle

administration is also trying to roll back measures meant to clean up the pollution from our cars, trucks, and dirty power plants. Finally, the administration has declared that, during the current crisis, companies no longer have to monitor and report on certain kinds of pollution, such as industrial smokestack emissions, and that the EPA would not enforce such reporting as required under existing environmental law. It’s madness to use a public health crisis to justify a policy that further threatens public health. NRDC is standing up to these reckless attacks. We demand better from our elected officials. And we will make sure our laws are enforced, not ignored, for the sake of people’s health.

GINA MCCARTHY AND JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS KIM RAFF/GETTY IMAGES FOR NRDC; FERNS © ISTOCK; GINA MCCARTHY ALEX SPACHER/NRDC; SEA TURTLE © MEAGHAN SKINNER/GETTY;

NRDC Teams Up With Hollywood for Climate Storytelling Initiative

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