Overnight Energy: Dems look to bypass EPA with asbestos ban | California moves to ban brain-damaging pesticide | Researchers tout new plastic as 'Holy Grail' of recycling

Overnight Energy: Dems look to bypass EPA with asbestos ban | California moves to ban brain-damaging pesticide | Researchers tout new plastic as 'Holy Grail' of recycling
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DEMS WANT FASTER ACTION ON ASBESTOS BAN: House Democrats hope to sidestep the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a bill that would ban asbestos within a year.

In a Wednesday hearing before the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, Democrats grilled EPA chemical staff on why the agency hasn't taken more restrictive actions on the harmful substance three years after passing a law to give the agency more authority to regulate dangerous chemicals.

"I wish today's hearing wasn't necessary and this bill wasn't necessary, but asbestos is still being imported into the U.S. and still being used in this country, and still killing about 40,000 Americans every year," said committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneCBO: Pelosi bill to lower drug prices saves Medicare 5 billion Trump official declines to testify on trade protections for tech platforms Hillicon Valley: New York AG meets with feds over Facebook probe | Trump trade official asked to testify on protections for tech giants | PayPal drops out of Libra cryptocurrency project MORE (D-N.J.).

The EPA has been under heavy criticism for its latest action on asbestos, something the agency argues will limit the use of asbestos in the U.S. but critics say could reintroduce some asbestos products to the market.

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The agency has resisted calls to ban the cancer-causing substance outright, even against the wishes of some of its staff, arguing it must continue to go through its risk evaluation process, even if lengthier than some might prefer.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that senior EPA officials ignored the advice of scientists and lawyers in restricting rather than banning asbestos.

"Rather than allow for (even with restrictions) any new uses for asbestos, E.P.A. should seek to ban all new uses of asbestos because the extreme harm from this chemical substance outweighs any benefit -- and because there are adequate alternatives to asbestos," staff members wrote in a memo from August.

The memo alarmed subcommittee Chairman Paul TonkoPaul David TonkoOvernight Energy: Trump tweets he's revoking California's tailpipe waiver | Move comes as Trump visits state | California prepares for court fight | Climate activist Greta Thunberg urges lawmakers to listen to scientists Democrats hold first hearing in push for clean energy by 2050 Democrats ramp up calls to investigate NOAA MORE (D-N.Y.).

"Based on some of these communications it seems clear that numerous EPA career staff believe the agency is not fully pursuing efforts to reduce asbestos exposure, and I hope these expert voices have a role as the process moves forward," he said.

More here on the controversy.

 

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CALIFORNIA BANS CONTROVERSIAL PESTICIDE: California, the nation's top agricultural state, banned a common pesticide Wednesday, citing research showing it hinders brain development in children.

Chlorpyrifos, known on the market as Lorsban, is sprayed on a wide variety of crops including corn and cranberries, and farmers often call it a last line of defense against certain insects.

The chemical was initially targeted for phase-out by the Obama administration after U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) scientists recommended a ban on the pesticide in 2016. But that decision was reversed under the Trump administration, and the agency has delayed taking further action, leaving bans in state hands.

States taking the lead: California's action comes from the state's top environmental agency, though state lawmakers are also considering a ban by legislation.

The agency argued the ban was needed "to prevent the significant harm this pesticide causes children, farm workers and vulnerable communities," according to a statement.

Scientists worry chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin, affects the human nervous system much like it attacks those of insects. The pesticide has been linked to learning and memory issues and prolonged nerve and muscle stimulation.

States are increasingly taking action to ban chlorpyrifos as the EPA delays action. Hawaii and New York have already banned use of the pesticide on food.

How we got here: The EPA banned household use of chlorpyrifos in 2000 due to its risks for children, and scientists recommended a full ban on the pesticide in 2016. But President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff MORE's former EPA administrator, Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittSierra Club sues EPA over claim that climate change 'is 50 to 75 years out' EPA on 'forever chemicals': Let them drink polluted water EPA moving ahead with science transparency rule by 'early next year' MORE, ignored that advice, leaving the department in a long legal battle over the substance.

In August, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the agency 60 days to implement a ban, but the Department of Justice asked the court to reconsider. In April, the court instead gave the agency 90 days to determine whether it would allow the chemical to be used on crops.

Read more here.

 

I'VE GOT JUST ONE WORD FOR YOU... PLASTICS: The Department of Energy's scientists announced this week that they have designed a plastic that can be recycled over and over again.

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wrote in Nature Chemistry that they had designed a new plastic, called polydiketoenamine or PDK, that could be disassembled down to the molecular level and reassembled into different shapes, textures or colors multiple times.

Modern-day plastics are reinforced with chemicals to make them more resilient and often end up making the material more difficult to fully recycle.

"Light yet sturdy, plastic is great – until you no longer need it. Because plastics contain various additives, like dyes, fillers, or flame retardants, very few plastics can be recycled without loss in performance or aesthetics," the lab said in a statement.

Why this is a breakthrough: Even the most recyclable plastic is only being recycled at a rate of 20 percent to 30 percent, while the rest ends up in incinerators or landfills, researchers said.

Plastic that can be broken down gets mixed in with other plastics with different textures and compositions, described as a "hodgepodge of chopped-up plastics," making it hard to predict which properties will be inherited.

This unknown has prevented what many consider to be the "Holy Grail of recycling," the researchers said in the statement.

Read more on the new plastic here.

 

ON TAP TOMORROW:

On Thursday, Energy Secretary Rick PerryJames (Rick) Richard PerryOvernight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate Rick Perry doesn't know if he'll comply with congressional subpoena Mulvaney helped organize controversial Ukraine meeting MORE will defend his budget before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while the Committee on Homeland Security discusses how to improve FEMA contracting after past disasters.

House Natural Resources subcommittee will look at an update to mining laws from... [checks notes]... 1872, while another looks at creating wildfire resilient communities.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Colorado legislature passes restrictions on PFASs in firefighting foams, Chemical Watch reports.

China is dawdling on carbon trading, Bloomberg reports.

Britain goes a week without coal for first time in over a century, we report.

 

ICYMI:

Stories from Wednesday...

Researchers develop plastic that they are calling the 'Holy Grail' of recycling

Dems look to bypass EPA with asbestos ban

Trump tweets -- and Dems pull two bills from floor

California moves to ban brain-damaging pesticide as EPA resists court action

Britain goes a week without coal for first time in over a century