Overnight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use

Overnight Energy: Gillibrand offers bill to ban pesticide from school lunches | Interior secretary met tribal lawyer tied to Zinke casino dispute | Critics say EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use
© Greg Nash

GILLIBRAND BILL WOULD BAN HARMFUL PESTICIDE FROM SCHOOL MEALS: Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSenate panel clears controversial Trump court pick Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Harris proposes keeping schools open for 10 hours a day MORE (N.Y.), one of the Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, introduced a bill Wednesday that would restrict schools from serving meals that include fruits and vegetables sprayed with chlorpyrifos.

Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that is widely used on crops such as apples, oranges, strawberries, corn and wheat, though studies have linked it to developmental disabilities in children.

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The Safe School Meals for Kids Act would restrict schools from purchasing or serving any food that contains any amount of detectable chlorpyrifos.

"As a mother of two young sons, it's alarming that the food in school meals could contain even a trace of a chemical that could harm students' development and ability to learn," Gillibrand, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement.

"The food that students eat should be safe and nutritious, and I urge my colleagues to pass this bill to help protect children from this toxic pesticide."

A long, contentious debate: The chemical's use on foods has had a long, embattled history in the U.S. Studies have shown that the herbicide is linked to alterations in brain structure and cognition, and that children are especially susceptible.

In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) barred the use of the chemical residentially, but it has resisted banning it outright.

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ordered the EPA to remove chlorpyrifos from use within 60 days of an August ruling, ending what would have been a decade long fight by health advocates to ban the substance. However, the Trump administration appealed that ruling.

Read more here.

 

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CRITICS SAY NEW EPA RULE COULD REINTRODUCE ASBESTOS USE: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday announced a new rule they say will limit the use of asbestos in the U.S., but critics, including some of the agency's own staff, describe it as a half measure that could reintroduce some asbestos products to the market.

The EPA said the new rule closes a loophole from a 30-year-old law that prevented the agency from restricting the sale of certain asbestos products.

"Today, we are following the laws Congress gave us to close the door on certain asbestos products to prevent them from returning to the marketplace without EPA's review," Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a release, referring to a 2016 law that gave the EPA the power to prohibit asbestos.

But many argue the review process itself could reopen the door to 15 uses of the substance while questioning why the agency didn't outright ban asbestos.

Under the new rule, manufacturers must notify and seek approval from the EPA before resuming use of asbestos in certain cases.

Reaction: "To think that any company would willingly attempt to resurrect these 15 obsolete asbestos uses is ludicrous. That EPA would enable it is unconscionable," the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, which was founded by asbestos victims, wrote in a statement.

Asbestos is currently not banned by the federal government, although the once widely used substance is now almost never used in ways that would expose people to it. Officials have known for decades that asbestos causes illnesses like lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis.

"This new rule makes it more difficult for industry to resume some abandoned uses of asbestos, but that is a half step at best," Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, wrote in a press release. An outright ban "is the only way the public can trust industry will never again be able to use this dangerous material that has literally killed tens of thousands of Americans."

Questions within the agency: EPA career staff also questioned why the agency stopped short of a ban when the rule was being developed in the spring of last year.

"This new approach allows asbestos-containing products that are not currently used to be used in the future," Mark Seltzer, an attorney in the EPA's enforcement office, told his colleagues in emails first reported on by The New York Times last August. "Many manufacturers have stopped using asbestos in their products but would be allowed to through this."

Sharon Cooperstein from the EPA's policy office said in one of the emails that senior officials have "provided the workgroup no clear explanation of why the new approach is preferable" to broader restrictions.

EPA pushes back: The EPA responded to earlier criticism of the rule saying it was inaccurately being portrayed as opening the floodgates to asbestos.

We've got more on the controversy here.

 

INTERIOR CHIEF MET TRIBAL LAWYER ATTACHED TO ZINKE CASINO DISPUTE: Interior Secretary David Bernhardt met with a lawyer linked to a political scandal that in part led to the exit of his predecessor Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Overnight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule MORE, according to internal documents first reported on by The Guardian Wednesday.

Bernhardt, in April 2018, met with Marc Kasowitz, legal counsel for the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation, according to Bernhardt's daily summary cards. The meeting was not divulged in his public calendars.

The Schaghticoke Tribal Nation had sued to prevent the construction of a casino that was to be run by two other Indian tribes.

Interior initially indicated it would approve construction, but Zinke later ruled against that decision.

Interior Spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort said the meeting between Kasowitz and Bernhardt last year was unrelated to the tribal casino and instead was about the Schaghticoke's desire for federal recognition status.

A letter provided by Interior to The Hill dated May 22, 2018, shows a communication between Chief Richard Velky of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation to Bernhardt asking him to "right this wrong" and reinstate tribal recognition.

"The purpose of the meeting with Kasowitz was to discuss Schaghticoke, a Connecticut state recognized Native - American tribe," Vander Voort said in a statement.

Velky told The Guardian the meeting with Bernhardt was about a different matter entirely -- an unrelated state-level lawsuit.

Zinke's resignation came after the Interior Department's Office of the Inspector General investigated Zinke's decision to block two tribes, the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot, from building the Connecticut casino. It reportedly referred the matter to the Justice Department to investigate Zinke for lying. The episode played a key role in the secretary's departure in January.

Read more on the controversy here.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

- #MeToo moment for Anadarko's Denver office, Bloomberg reports

- Colorado governor signs sweeping oil and gas bill into law, The Longmont Times reports

-WILD Act will spark wildlife conservation innovation, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) writes in The Jackson Hole News and Guide

-New leader of Canada's Alberta province chips away at Trudeau's green plan, Reuters reports

-Environmentalists cite report on Florida oil spills as bid to ban fracking stalls, the Miami Herald reports

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Stories from Wednesday...

-Ocasio-Cortez releases 'Green New Deal' short film

-Warren presses top general on climate change

-Critics say new EPA rule could reintroduce asbestos use

-Interior secretary met with tribal lawyer attached to Zinke casino dispute

-Ocasio-Cortez knocks Republican over Kentucky trip: 'GOP thought they could catch us with a bluff'

-Guinness will stop using plastic rings and wrap on multipacks

-Gillibrand introduces bill to ban harmful pesticide from school lunch

-Flight attendant association warns climate change is increasing dangerous air turbulence

-Pope FrancisPope FrancisCatholic priest was correct to deny communion to Joe Biden — here's why Amazon Catholic bishops call for church to allow married men to be ordained Louisiana GOP bring in big names to block Democratic governor MORE to teenage climate activist: 'Continue' your fight

-Inslee calls on DNC to hold debate focused on climate change