2,4-D crops rubberstamped

(Bad news for Iowa farmers who grow vegetables and fruits (including vineyards), or who raise livestock on chemical-free pastures. Bleeding Heartland user black desert nomad covered some of the potential risks here. Even for conventional corn and beans farmers, the approach rubber-stamped by the EPA and USDA is likely to exacerbate the "superweed" problem over time. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

It's official. EPA and USDA have both evaluated Dow Chemical's new  line of 2,4-D-resistant seeds, Enlist — and have approved both the seeds  and the accompanying pesticide formulation for market.

This is a turning point, not just for grain production but for food  production in the U.S. and internationally. The introduction of Enlist  corn and soybeans, and the widespread adoption of this new seed line,  will have pervasive impacts on farmer livelihoods, public health and  control of our food system.

 

This is a decision that our regulators should not have taken lightly.  And yet, it seems they did. Both USDA and EPA set up an intentionally  narrow scope for evaluating the potential harms posed by 2,4-D resistant  crops — one that ignored the biggest problems and held up irrelevant  factors as evidence of safety.

As small farmers brace for the impact of pesticide drift that will  hit with the introduction of Enlist crops, it is time for us to look  forward. It's time to demand a regulatory system that takes a rigorous  approach to pesticides and genetically engineered crops, one that values  small farmers as much as industrial agriculture — and public health as  much as corporate profit.

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Three ways the EPA carbon emissions plan will benefit Iowa, plus Iowa political reaction

Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out a proposed rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The full text of the rule and several short fact sheets are available on the EPA’s website. Click here to read EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s speech about the new policy. This fact sheet makes the short and sweet case for targeting power plants, “the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S.” The new policy goal is to “cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent from 2005 levels” by the year 2030. Other associated benefits: cutting levels of soot and smog in the air by over 25 percent in 2030, and saving money and lives through reducing air pollution. In fact, the EPA estimates $7 in health benefits for every dollar spent to implement the new policy.

While some in the environmental community were hoping for more aggressive carbon reduction targets, the new rule would be a big step in the right direction. For too long, elected officials in Iowa and nationally have ignored evidence that we need to address climate change. Furthermore, coal’s “assault on human health” is immense and under-appreciated.

Iowa political reaction to yesterday’s news was mostly disappointing but not surprising. I’ve enclosed noteworthy comments at the end of this post. But first, let’s examine three reasons Iowans should embrace the EPA’s new rule.  

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Senate confirms Labor, EPA nominees: How Harkin and Grassley voted

The U.S. Senate confirmed two cabinet nominees today who had waited since March for an up or down vote in the chamber. The nominations moved forward thanks to a deal negotiated earlier this week. Six Republicans joined the whole Democratic caucus to pass a cloture motion ending debate on the nomination of Thomas Perez for Secretary of Labor by 60 votes to 40 (roll call). Shortly thereafter, senators confirmed Perez on a straight party-line vote of 54 to 46. Mike Memoli reported that the “Senate Historian can’t find another example” of a cabinet nominee being confirmed on a strict party-line vote. Iowa’s Democratic Senator Tom Harkin voted for cloture and confirmation; Republican Chuck Grassley voted against Perez both times. He did not support the deal designed to reduce filibusters on executive branch nominations.

Later today, senators passed a cloture motion ending debate on Gina McCarthy’s nomination to lead the Environmental Protection Agency by a more comfortable 69 to 31 margin. McCarthy was then confirmed by 59 votes to 40. Again, Harkin supported McCarthy, while Grassley voted against both cloture and her confirmation.

I will update this post if I see any comment from Iowa’s senators on the new cabinet members.

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Harkin and Grassley on the latest Senate confirmations and filibuster deal

Democrats in the U.S. Senate came closer than ever this week to stopping Republicans from forcing a supermajority vote on executive branch nominees. An informal deal deterred Democrats from changing Senate rules by simple majority vote and cleared the path for a handful of President Barack Obama’s nominees to go forward. However, more struggles over confirmations seem likely in the future.

Iowa’s Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley could hardly be further apart on the process by which the Senate gives its “advice and consent.”  

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Obama cabinet update: Napolitano out, two nominees still in limbo

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will leave President Barack Obama’s cabinet to become president of the University of California system, the administration announced Friday. Nanette Asimov wrote a good account of the challenges she’ll face in her new position. Napolitano was rumored to have wanted Attorney General Eric Holder’s job during Obama’s second term. The White House hasn’t announced her replacement yet, but Juliet Eilperin and Aaron Blake speculated about sixteen possible candidates. Half the names on that wide-raging list were unfamiliar to me. I hope Obama doesn’t tap either former Senator Joe Lieberman or former Representative Jane Harman.

Meanwhile, two highly qualified people nominated for cabinet positions in March have yet to receive up or down votes in the full Senate. Fox News Latino reported on July 12 that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will try to get a confirmation vote on Thomas Perez for secretary of labor this week. Perez faces strong opposition among Senate Republicans. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda is lobbying hard for his confirmation; that group’s leader and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus have criticized the president “for not appointing more Hispanics to his administration.”

I haven’t seen any details about a confirmation vote for Gina McCarthy, Obama’s nominee as chief administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. I’ve been pessimistic about her chances, but Darren Goode reported for Politico earlier this month that McCarthy “seems likely” to win confirmation, thanks to a few Republicans who may not like the president’s environmental agenda, but “have traditionally opposed filibustering presidential nominees.” His word in God’s ear, as the Yiddish proverb goes. Goode’s piece also noted that McCarthy has faced “a record delay for a nominee to head EPA” and that Bob Perciasepe has now served as acting EPA administrator for an unprecedented amount of time in the EPA’s 40-year history. The Senate has never rejected a president’s choice for that cabinet position.

Any comments on the Obama administration are welcome in this thread.

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Obama cabinet update: several confirmed but two nominees in trouble

It’s been a while since Bleeding Heartland covered the status of President Barack Obama’s cabinet nominees. Within the last week, senators have confirmed three nominees with little controversy. However, Republicans appear determined to block two highly-qualified appointees: Thomas Perez and Gina McCarthy.

Details on recent cabinet confirmation votes are after the jump, along with background on the latest to be confirmed, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  

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