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Environmental groups are teaming up with The New Republic and Gizmodo to host a presidential climate summit after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) refused to hold a climate debate despite calls from progressive groups. The four-hour discussion will be held on Sept. 23 in New York City during Climate Week NYC. It will be moderated by Errol Louis, a political commentator for CNN and NY1, and event co-planners, Emily Atkin from The New Republic and Brian Kahn from Gizmodo. The events sponsors include Earthjustice, an environmental legal group, the League of Conservation Voters and Columbia University’s Earth Institute. The official invites, with the date, went out Thursday alongside the public announcement, Atkin told The Hill.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Thursday approved a request from a private company to provide discounted cybersecurity services to political campaigns, saying it did not violate campaign finance rules. The decision came in response to a request from Area 1 Security, a California-based company, to offer cybersecurity services to federal political candidates and political committees at discounted rates. The FEC, which has jurisdiction over campaign finance for presidential and congressional elections, decided the arrangement did not violate campaign contribution rules because the company offers similar discounted services to nonpolitical clients as well. The decision allows the company to sell anti-phishing services to federal candidates and political committees for as little as $1,337 per year, according to the FEC.
A federal regulator set up after the financial crisis to be a watchdog over the financial industry is shifting its mission from enforcement to consumer education. Under the leadership of Kathy Kraninger, a Trump appointee who took over the agency seven months ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has increased its focus on financial literacy. The CFPB continues to boost spending on consumer education and engagement this year, after raising such spending by 76% during the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2018, to $77.8 million, nearly twice the level from two years earlier when Obama officials still ran the bureau. The shift was apparent when the CFPB showcased its work under Ms. Kraninger in June, leading with a program it created to help consumers build emergency savings called “Start Small, Save Up.” The CFPB also plans to roll out soon a saving “boot camp,” a series of videos and booklets to teach consumers how to save, CFPB officials said.
When it comes to crystal-clean air and water, the administration has knocked off 50 key environmental rules, including Obama administration rules to reduce coal power plants’ pollution, increase car fuel efficiency and define which bodies are subject to the Clean Water Act. And the regulatory rollback is far from over; another 30 anti-environmental actions remain in progress. Harvard University scientists estimate that the removal of these regulations will result in tens of thousands of premature deaths annually, as well as lost work and school days and destruction of property. Worst of all, the administration has turned its back on the most vulnerable, thwarting enforcement by dropping environmental inspections to their lowest number and referring the fewest environmental crimes cases to the Justice Department since 2001. The dirty dealing doesn’t stop there. As for clean-energy innovation, Trump has killed off climate science and clean-energy programs, placed tariffs on imported solar panels, proposed loosening energy conservation standards for consumer products and removed the United States from the Paris climate accord. The president mocked wind power, laughably claiming turbines cause cancer (actually, Mr. President, toxic pollution does that). The only thing he hasn’t managed to extirpate is the market success of renewable energy, the source of all those clean energy jobs he “created,” which has happened despite the president’s actions, not because of them.
Rising sea levels and an abnormal El Niño weather pattern mean 2019 will break annual flooding records, federal scientists predicted in a report released Wednesday. The report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) predicts that 40 places in the country will experience higher than normal rates of so-called "sunny day" flooding this year. “Annual flood records are expected to be broken again next year and for years and decades to come from [sea-level] rise,” the report reads. “Flooding that decades ago usually happened only during a powerful or localized storm can now happen when a steady breeze or a change in coastal current overlaps with a high tide.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday reintroduced legislation in the Senate that would require public companies to disclose climate-related risks they are exposed to. The Climate Risk Disclosure Act would direct the Securities and Exchange Commission, in consultation with climate experts at other federal agencies, to issue rules within the next year requiring companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel assets and its risk management strategies related to the climate crisis. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.).
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday said that Facebook’s proposed cryptocurrency project poses “serious concerns” and warned the company against a “sprint toward implementation.” Testifying before lawmakers on Wednesday, the Fed chairman raised questions about how Facebook’s Project Libra could affect “privacy, money laundering, consumer protection and financial stability.” “It cannot go forward without there being broad satisfaction with the way the company has addressed” those concerns, Powell told the House Financial Services Committee. “All of those things will need to be addressed very thoroughly and carefully.”
American consumers are idiots. At least, that’s the message sent by a new law recently implemented by the Mississippi state government. The new rule went into effect earlier this month and makes it illegal for companies that sell vegetable-based meat substitutes such as veggie burgers to label their products as “burgers” or use otherwise meat-like descriptors. This means that the words “hotdog” or “burger” can only be used for actual meat products. This new law passed in the name of consumer protection: an effort to protect Mississippians from deceptive, fraudulent labeling of fake meat products. In reality, it’s an unnecessary law that insults the intelligence of consumers and breeds corruption to protect big industry incumbents. The push for this rule is a sign of Big Beef’s desperation. New innovations in meatless products have incumbents scared, such as the new Impossible Burger that supposedly tastes just like meat but doesn’t involve nearly the same level of carbon emissions or animal abuses. They should be: Meatless products can over time, hopefully, replace much of our reliance on old-school beef products and help us fight climate change and other forms of pollution. The meat industry could innovate. They could find ways to lower prices, increase flavor, or reduce environmental impact or concerns about cruelty. But they've opted instead for the alternative: regulate.
Five regulatory agencies have tightened the standards for exemption from a key post-crisis regulation known as the Volcker rule, ending larger banks’ hopes that they may have been able to escape compliance originally meant for “community” banks. Despite comments from trade groups and lawmakers that large banks should get a break from the regulation, the agencies said Tuesday that they were “not persuaded” by the argument that double negatives in the law extended to banks as large as U.S. Bancorp (USB) and PNC Financial Services (PNC). The Volcker rule prohibits banks from short-term proprietary trading of securities, derivatives, and commodities, and was enacted into law as part of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory framework in 2010. Last year, a new law ordered federal regulators to relieve community banks of the rule if they had under $10 billion in total assets and less than 5% of their assets in trading assets and liabilities. But in December, Yahoo Finance reported that some double negatives in that law may have left the door open for an alternative interpretation that would also extend that relief to banks well above $10 billion as long as they had relatively small holdings of trading assets and liabilities. The final rule from the five government agencies with jurisdiction over the Volcker rule — the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission — likely puts an end to the debate and codifies the interpretation that no banks above $10 billion will get the exemption. Although the large banks could launch a lawsuit against the regulatory agencies challenging this interpretation, it is unclear if any banks would be willing to mount such an effort.
Troubled by the 2004 heat-related death of a New Mexico farmworker, Rep. Raúl Grijalva is introducing a bill Wednesday that would require the federal government to set workplace rules on heat exposure and treating employees who may have endured too much. The issue has special relevance in Arizona, where triple-digit heat is a regular occurrence, and as temperatures are expected to continue rising due to climate change, Grijalva, D-Ariz., said. "Soaring temperatures already plague Arizona’s workforce, and conditions will only worsen as climate change contributes to more extreme heat conditions," he said in a statement. The Arizona Democrat, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, told his House colleagues the issue is "deeply personal" after hearing of the death of Asuncion Valdivia, who had a fatal stroke after picking grapes for 10 straight hours in 105-degree temperatures. "He fell over, unconscious. Instead of calling an ambulance, his employer told his son to drive Mr. Valdivia home," Grijalva wrote. "On his way home, the father starting foaming at the mouth and died of heat stroke. A son had to witness his father die a preventable death at the age of 53. This death was completely avoidable, yet his story is not unique." The Asuncion Valdivia Heat Illness and Fatality Prevention Act would set federal heat standards that ensure the safety and health of workers.
Three Democratic lawmakers are raising concerns about the state of coastal U.S. oil and gas pipelines. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.), Alan Lowenthal (Calif.) and Joe Cunningham (S.C.) on Tuesday asked the Government Accountability Office to examine the Department of Interior’s ability to “ensure the integrity of older oil and gas pipeline infrastructure in federal offshore waters, and the increasing risk of leaks caused but hurricanes, corrosion, accidental damage, or other factors.”
Cyber incidents in the U.S. led to an estimated loss of $45 billion in 2018, according to a report released Tuesday by the Internet Society’s Online Trust Alliance (OTA). OTA’s Cyber Incident and Breach Trends report found that the financial impact of ransomware cyberattacks rose by 60 percent, while financial losses from the compromise of business emails doubled and cryptojacking incidents more than tripled from the year before. The report looked at the financial fallout from about 2 million cyber incidents including record exposures, ransomware attacks, data breaches and others.
On Monday, just hours after one of the heaviest downpours ever recorded in the nation’s capital, President Trump gave a speech on “America’s environmental leadership.” It was a surreal moment in what is increasingly a surreal era of human history. As unprecedented climate disasters continue to harm us and our neighbors, Trump painted a picture of an alternate reality in which he is not one of the main driving forces on the planet to undermine progress on the most important issue we face. As Trump was speaking, the atmosphere over the Washington, D.C., area contained a near-record amount of moisture, as shown by data from a weather balloon the National Weather Service launched Monday morning. Earlier in the day, a month’s worth of rain fell in an hour across the D.C. metro area — a 1-in-200-year event, assuming a stable climate. (Last year, a similar 1-in-100-year downpour also hit D.C. in July.) Meandering creeks transformed into raging rivers in minutes. Waterfalls appeared in Metro stations. The White House itself began to flood, with images of a pool of water in the basement widely circulating on social media.
Two dozen governors from across the country, including two Republicans and governors of four states that voted for President Trump in 2016, are set to urge his administration on Tuesday to halt one of his biggest climate policy rollbacks: the weakening of federal clean car rules. The governors will also call on Mr. Trump to honor California’s legal right to write its own clean air rules, something the administration has said it is set to challenge, according to a draft statement by the governors.
Two major health organizations on Monday sued the Trump administration over its rollback of an Obama-era rule on power plant emissions. The American Lung Association and the American Public Health Association are challenging President Trump’s newly unveiled American Clean Energy (ACE) rule, the administration’s replacement for the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan. Critics have widely panned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump for introducing a rule opponents say will do little to reduce pollution from power plants.
Consumer advocates are pushing for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to come down hard on YouTube’s handling of children’s privacy as regulators approach a potential settlement with the video-sharing site. The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) released a letter on Monday they sent to the FTC last week, urging the commission to force YouTube to separate children’s videos from the rest of the platform in order to crack down on illegal data collection on younger viewers. Jeffrey Chester, CDD’s executive director, told The Hill that he became “alarmed” when FTC commissioners asked about a potential remedy that would allow YouTube content creators to simply flag content on their platform that is directed at children in order to make sure advertisers comply with federal children’s privacy laws. That approach is not enough for critics of YouTube and its parent Google, who want the company to shoulder the responsibility for protecting children's privacy on the platform.
Facebook's audacious vision for creating its own global currency is at risk of being shredded on Capitol Hill, where the social media giant's attempt to educate skeptical policymakers is doing anything but calming nerves. Democrats led by House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and backed by a coalition of watchdog groups are warning that Facebook must put its Libra digital currency on hold so lawmakers and regulators can consider whether it's a new threat to consumers and the global economy.
A coalition of environmental groups pushed back Monday against a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule that could restrict access to public records. The new EPA rule, the details of which were first reported by The Hill, allows the administrator and other political appointees to review all materials requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process.
Donald Trump is set to hail his administration’s “environmental leadership” on Monday in a speech in which he is expected to declare the US a world leader on the issue. But since taking office two and a half years ago, the US president has been at the helm of an administration that has pursued numerous cuts in environmental protections and last year saw a rise in greenhouse gases of 3.4% – the biggest rise in emissions since 2010. He has also regularly publicly aired his doubts over the existence of climate change – previously calling it a “hoax”, suggesting that the climate could “change back again” and falsely claiming it was a phenomenon invented by China. A report by the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University’s school of law published in March said the Trump administration had “set its sights on watering down or outright repealing a half-dozen health and environmental rules critical to the health and welfare of all Americans as well as the planet.” Here are five of the biggest environmental setbacks under Trump.
Industry is working diligently to defeat any regulatory efforts to phase out hydrogen fluoride. The American Chemistry Council, a trade association that represents major hydrogen fluoride producers like Honeywell, sponsors dubious, previously unknown grass-roots organizations like “Californians for a Sustainable Economy” that advocate for continued use of hydrogen fluoride to produce gasoline and argue that any restriction will cause refinery closures, job losses and higher gas prices. Voting on party lines in Southern California last month, a Republican-controlled committee of air pollution regulators narrowly defeated a community-supported effort to phase out hydrogen fluoride from two of the state’s refineries in populated areas near Los Angeles. At the federal level, industry lobbyists from groups like the American Chemistry Council and the American Petroleum Institute were among those pushing President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of scrapping Obama-era environmental rules that finally would have required oil refineries to evaluate using safer technologies. If enacted, the E.P.A.’s May 2018 Reconsideration Rule will turn the clock back years on the agency’s process safety regulations, squarely putting short-term corporate profits ahead of public safety. Even modest regulatory improvements — like requiring facilities to have third-party safety audits and to investigate the root causes of their own chemical accidents and near misses — stand to be repealed. The E.P.A. should be moving in the opposite direction. Recently enacted toxic chemical legislation, as well as the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, give the agency ample authority to restrict or prohibit unduly hazardous chemicals in industry. That is particularly important with chemicals like hydrogen fluoride that are widely and unnecessarily used in urban areas and can be replaced with safer substitutes. Millions of Americans will be safer if the E.P.A. takes positive action. If the it fails to do so, Congress must intervene.
The most effective way to fight global warming is to plant lots of trees, a study says. A trillion of them, maybe more. And there’s enough room, Swiss scientists say. Even with existing cities and farmland, there’s enough space for new trees to cover 3.5 million square miles (9 million square kilometers), they reported in Thursday’s journal Science . That area is roughly the size of the United States. The study calculated that over the decades, those new trees could suck up nearly 830 billion tons (750 billion metric tons) of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That’s about as much carbon pollution as humans have spewed in the past 25 years. Much of that benefit will come quickly because trees remove more carbon from the air when they are younger, the study authors said. The potential for removing the most carbon is in the tropics.
Cities and states are leading the crackdown on using facial recognition as lawmakers in Congress struggle to find a path to address concerns over the emerging technology. Privacy and civil rights advocates have castigated facial recognition as overly invasive and potentially discriminatory. But with Washington appearing slow to act, critics are now targeting their efforts at the state and local level, where they believe legislation to restrict the technology can move faster and tougher action is likelier. Their campaign has been bolstered by a series of wins in recent weeks. San Francisco last month became the first city to ban local government agencies from using facial recognition technology, followed last week by Somerville, Mass.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled online retail giant Amazon can be held liable for the products sold by third-party sellers on its platform. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that customers can sue Amazon when they buy defective products from its platform, even if Amazon did not make those products. The decision could leave Amazon vulnerable to a slew of lawsuits. The case before the appeals court, though, involved a plaintiff who was in Pennsylvania, and the appeals court carefully noted that it was finding Amazon liable under that state's strict product liability laws. Amazon has argued that it does not count as a "seller" because it merely provides the platform, but the appeals court on Wednesday said it disagrees. "Amazon ... plays a large role in the actual sales process," Circuit Judge Jane Richards Roth, a Reagan appointee, wrote in the opinion. "This includes receiving customer shipping information, processing customer payments, relaying funds and information to third-party vendors, and collecting the fees it charges for providing these services."
Dozens of consumer advocacy groups are asking lawmakers and regulators to put a halt to Facebook’s plans to launch a cryptocurrency over concerns ranging from privacy issues to national sovereignty. The broad coalition sent letters on Tuesday to congressional committees and regulatory agencies calling for them to impose a moratorium on Facebook’s Libra project “until the profound questions raised by the proposal are addressed.” “The U.S. regulatory system is not prepared to address these questions. Nor are the regulatory systems of other nations or international institutions,” the groups wrote in the letter. “All of us believe the risks posed by Facebook’s proposal are too great to allow the plan to proceed with so many unanswered questions.” Among the 33 groups that signed the letter are Public Citizen, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Economic Policy Institute and the Center for Digital Democracy.
A group of Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee is calling on Facebook to halt its plan to develop a cryptocurrency-based payments platform. The lawmakers, whose panel will hold a hearing later this month on Facebook’s Project Libra, wrote a letter to company executives Tuesday expressing concerns with the cryptocurrency’s security and oversight while stressing the need to protect users' privacy and thwart hackers. “If products and services like these are left improperly regulated and without sufficient oversight, they could pose systemic risks that endanger U.S. and global financial stability. These vulnerabilities could be exploited and obscured by bad actors, as other cryptocurrencies, exchanges, and wallets have been in the past,” the lawmakers wrote.