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Alliance for the Great Lakes: Lyman Welch, 312-445-9739
Clean Water Action: Jennifer Peters, 202-895-0420 x 109 | Michael Kelly, 202-393-5449 Earthjustice: Jared Saylor, 202-745-5213
Environmental Integrity Project: Jennifer Duggan, 802-225-6774
Environmental Law and Policy Center: Manny Gonzales, 312-795-3706
Labadie Environmental Organization: Patricia Schuba, 636-402-8460
Prairie Rivers Network: Traci Barkley, 217-344-2371
Sierra Club: Trey Pollard, 202-495-3058
Waterkeeper Alliance: Donna Lisenby, 704-277-6055
Power plants, particularly coal-burning power plants, are the largest polluters of our nation's waters, discharging more than 5 billion pounds of toxic contaminants into the nation's rivers, lakes, and streams every year - more than the next nine top-polluting industries combined. In April EPA proposed a long-overdue update to Clean Water Act standards for power plants - the first update since 1982. The public comment period for
EPA's Proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Steam Electric Power Generating Point Source Category closes today. More than 165,000 Americans have supported the strongest possible standards to protect water from power plants' toxic pollution.
All summer, environmental and clean water groups, including Clean Water Action, Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, Waterkeeper Alliance, and Sierra Club, have mobilized people across the country - at rallies, public hearings, and in face-to-face meetings - to support a strong rule.
Americans are speaking out because, as EPA's own data reveal, more than half of all toxic water pollution in the country comes from power plants, making them the number one source of toxic water pollution in the United States. These discharges have degraded 399 water bodies around the country that provide drinking water to local communities, and 40% of coal plants discharge within 5 miles of a drinking water intake.
"Americans are frustrated that power plants have been able to treat our water like their own private sewer for so long," said Lynn Thorp, National Campaigns Director for Clean Water Action. "They want to see EPA put drinking water first by adopting common sense standards."
"Unless the EPA acts, this problem is only going to get worse as more and more power plants resort to dumping toxics in our water. By the agency's own estimate, 30% more contaminated wastewater will be pumped into lakes and streams over the next 15 years. They acknowledge the problem, so now they should act, by following the established law of the Clean Water Act that the public overwhelmingly supports," says Dalal Aboulhosn, Senior Washington Representative for the Sierra Club.
EPA found that readily available, affordable technologies can be used to virtually eliminate toxic pollution from power plants, but this will only happen if EPA selects the strongest possible standards.
Under heavy pressure from the industry, EPA's proposal says that it prefers to select a cheaper option that falls short of what the Clean Water Act requires.
"For 30 years, power plants have had polluted our waters with toxic chemicals, even though there are laws on the books that require the industry to clean up its act," said Thom Cmar, an attorney with Earthjustice.
"Americans have spoken and they overwhelmingly support strong protections from this pollution. The EPA must take this opportunity to finally right this wrong and clean up the nation's biggest water polluters."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., president of Waterkeeper Alliance said, "Allowing coal polluters to fill our rivers and lakes with this witches brew of toxic chemicals threatens public health and diminishes quality of life for Americans. The Clean Water Act is one of our nation's greatest achievements, but forty years after this critical legislation was passed, the coal industry is still polluting with impunity, thanks to a loophole no other industry has enjoyed."
The human health impacts from this pollution are serious. The EPA estimates that: nearly 140,000 people per year experience increased cancer risk due to arsenic in fish from coal plants, nearly 13,000 children under the age of seven each year have reduced IQs because of lead in fish they eat, and almost 2,000 children are born with lower IQs because of mercury in fish their mothers have eaten.
"The strongest power plant rules are especially important to protect the Great Lakes where mercury is the primary cause of fish consumption advisories," said Lyman Welch, Water Quality Program Director for Alliance for the Great Lakes.
Comments from the public urging strong EPA action have been overwhelming: It's time for EPA to end this power plant water pollution.
"It is time to hold the coal industry accountable for cleaning up this pollution. Americans deserve - and the law demands - commonsense safeguards that protect downstream communities and our watersheds from dangerous heavy metals," said Jennifer Duggan, managing attorney, Environmental
Integrity Project. "Affordable treatment technologies are available to eliminate toxic discharges for power plants and are already in use at some plants. There is no excuse for further delay."
"This proves what we already knew—when it comes to gun violence, Gov. DeSantis puts 'political optics' before public safety," said one Florida gun control advocate.
The campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—a strident supporter of loosening gun regulations—tried to ban firearms at an election night event in Tampa last year and blame the city for the policy, The Washington Post said in a report published Friday that had critics on both sides of the political aisle calling the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential candidate a hypocrite.
According to the Post, DeSantis' campaign sought to prohibit guns from the governor's reelection victory party at the Tampa Convention Center, a city-run venue, last November 8, while suggesting city officials claim responsibility for the ban.
The Post obtained an October 8 email from Chase Finch, the convention center's safety and security manager, saying that "DeSantis/his campaign will not tell their attendees they are not permitted to carry because of the political optics."
"DeSantis caters to an extremist, MAGA Republican base by pushing permitless carry while having the privilege to keep those same armed extremists at a distance."
Finch explained that the request for the city to shoulder blame was due to "Republicans largely being in support of 2A," a reference to the Second Amendment."
"Basically it sounds like they want us to say it's our policy to disallow firearms within the event space if anyone asks," he added, drawing a response from city administrator Nicole Travis stressing that "we are not saying anything about concealed carry."
"That is the responsibility of the renter," Travis said. "We follow state statute that permits concealed carry."
Responding to the Post report, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, tweeted that "the level of hypocrisy here is just astounding."
\u201cChickenshit FL Gov. DeSantis wanted guns banned at his election night party in Tampa but wanted city, not his office, to be named responsible for the prohibition so he could still lay claim to avidly supportIng gun rights. GOP hypocrisy is congenital. https://t.co/0tU30BFWPr\u201d— Meteor_Blades (@Meteor_Blades) 1676129126
Fred Guttenberg—an activist whose daughter Jaime Guttenberg was one of 17 students and staff shot dead during the February 14, 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—said DeSantis "is a fraud and he should be treated that way."
"The tough guy act covers for a small, weak, and weird man," he tweeted. "His decision to be OK with others being at risk of gun violence but not him and to try and cover that up? WEAK!"
Shannon Watts, founder of the gun control advocacy group Moms Demand Action, wrote on Twitter that "the hypocrisy of 'the dangers of unregulated guns for thee but not for me' is next-level."
"DeSantis caters to an extremist, MAGA Republican base by pushing permitless carry while having the privilege to keep those same armed extremists at a distance," she added. "DeSantis is reportedly forcing attendees at his events to go through metal detectors and he's also refusing to attend events unless guns are banned. Yet he's simultaneously pushing for permitless carry to strip gun safety requirements. Safety for him, violence for everyone else."
Under a Republican-authored bill backed by DeSantis, Florida would become the 26th state to allow people to carry concealed loaded guns without permits. There are currently around 2.6 million concealed carry permits in the state, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
\u201cRon DeSantis wanted guns banned from his victory celebration at the city-run Tampa Convention Center & wanted the city to take responsibility for the ban. He protects himself while working to make Floridians less safe with his permitless carry legislation. https://t.co/lzrZSWITFM\u201d— Newtown Action Alliance (@Newtown Action Alliance) 1676124117
The election night party wasn't the only time DeSantis' campaign has tried to keep guns out of events attended by the governor.
Alachua County GOP Chair Tim Marden told the Post that he skipped a DeSantis fundraiser last October because the governor was insisting upon having metal detectors at the event—outside of which a gun rights protester was arrested.
"In my thinking, it was a little hypocritical to have this measure in place for law-abiding citizens at a time when a lot of folks in the gun community will condemn a Democratic politician for having a security force," Marden said.
Luis Valdes, Florida state director of Gun Owners of America, told the Post that "DeSantis continually pays lip service to the Second Amendment as he positions himself for a nationwide run, and yet what I am seeing as a constituent of his and as a Floridian is that his events are gun-free zones."
"His primary rivals will clean his clock on guns," he added.
At the polar opposite of the gun control issue, Florida Moms Demand Action volunteer Wendy Malloy told the Tampa Bay Times that "this proves what we already knew—when it comes to gun violence, Gov. DeSantis puts 'political optics' before public safety."
"Our lawmakers should stand up to Gov. DeSantis' hypocrisy and reject permitless carry," she added.
The call from congressional lawmakers comes amid a surge in child labor violations—and as Republican state lawmakers seek to roll back over a century of child labor protections.
A group of 33 Democratic lawmakers on Friday implored the U.S. Labor Department "to take immediate action to rid Hyundai's supply chain of child labor and hold those responsible to the fullest extent of the law" after a Reuters investigation revealed that dozens of kids as young as 12 years old—most of them Central American migrants—were working in Southeastern factories supplying the Korean auto giant.
Last July, Reuters began investigating allegations of children working on the factory floor at Hyundai subsidiary SMART Alabama LLC's metal stamping plant in Luverne after a 13-year-old Guatemalan girl who worked there temporarily went missing. Reporters Joshua Schneyer, Mica Rosenberg, and Kristina Cooke reported that children, the youngest of whom were 12 years old, worked at the plant, which supplies parts for vehicles manufactured at Hyundai's flagship U.S. factory in Montgomery.
Reuters subsequently found dozens of children working in at least four major suppliers to Kia and Hyundai—its parent company—in Alabama and Georgia. After a Labor Department probe found that one of the suppliers, SL Alabama LLC, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act by engaging in "oppressive child labor," the agency obtained a federal court order to stop the firm from illegally employing 13-, 14,- and 15-year-old workers.
"Clearly, there is a systemic effort within the Hyundai supply chain to recruit child labor from abroad, undermining workers in other parts of the U.S. auto industry."
"New reports allege additional automotive parts suppliers for Hyundai, mainly in Alabama, are also suspected of child labor violations," the 33 congressional Democrats wrote in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh led by Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.) decrying the "abhorrent" crimes.
"Many of these children are immigrants recruited from Central America, working under fake names in dangerous conditions in manufacturing plants, some driving forklifts and operating welding equipment, and receiving serious workplace injuries," the lawmakers wrote.
The letter continued:
According to reports, children are actively recruited from Central America and employed through third-party staffing agencies in an attempt to cover up these disturbing activities [and] when adult workers in the plants tried to raise concerns about children working there, they were ignored. This is shocking, disturbing, and has no place in the U.S.
Earlier this year, Hyundai publicly committed to severing ties with its suppliers in its U.S. supply chain that were found to use child labor. We are concerned that Hyundai, at DOL's suggestion, reversed course on this commitment and will not cut ties with its Alabama suppliers that use child labor. Clearly, there is a systemic effort within the Hyundai supply chain to recruit child labor from abroad, undermining workers in other parts of the U.S. auto industry. And it must be addressed immediately.
Hyundai said in a statement that the company "agrees that child labor is entirely unacceptable," but that it was "disappointed" the lawmakers' letter did not mention the "comprehensive actions we have taken in collaboration with the Department of Labor to address the allegations of underage workers at certain suppliers."
Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala), who did not sign the letter, toldReuters earlier this week that she has repeatedly discussed the child labor issue with Hyundai officials, and that she has "made clear that the use of child labor is abhorrent and unacceptable, and that there must be accountability."
Last year, attorneys representing Lea Reis, a California woman, filed a class-action lawsuit against Hyundai on behalf of Hyundai owners and lessees "seeking to stop and prevent" the company's "illegal use of child labor."
SMART Alabama LLC is also the target of a class-action lawsuit alleging the company "cheated the United States immigration system" to employ adult Mexican immigrants, who worked "horrendously long hours" for a fraction of the pay of U.S. workers.
The lawmakers' letter comes as Republican-led state legislatures work to roll back child labor protections, even as the Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division reported a 37% surge in child labor violations in 2022. These included 688 minors found to be working in hazardous occupations.
"It's just crazy to me that we are re-litigating a lot of things that seem to have been settled 100, 120, or 140 years ago."
In addition to Hyundai and Kia, child labor violations have recently been exposed at major companies in the U.S. including Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS, Chipotle, Dunkin' Donuts, and McDonalds, as well as at a host of smaller businesses.
Yet, in Iowa—to name but one example—Republican state lawmakers want to change child labor laws so teens as young as 14 could work in previously prohibited and dangerous jobs including mining, logging, and animal slaughtering.
"It's just crazy to me that we are re-litigating a lot of things that seem to have been settled 100, 120, or 140 years ago," Charlie Wishman, president of the Iowa AFL-CIO—which opposes the GOP bill—toldThe Guardian.
"All of these protections have been put in place for a reason," Wishman added. "Child labor law is there to make sure that kids are working in age-appropriate work activities or occupations that are appropriate for their age. We think this is a rewrite of our child labor laws in Iowa that [is] going way, way, way too far and has the potential to put kids in dangerous situations."
The Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which Sanders is a member, said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's election "has given hope to democratic and progressive movements around the world."
Ahead of his first White House meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met Friday with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said topics of discussion included the far-right threat, combatting the climate and environmental emergencies, and supporting workers.
"I enjoyed a productive meeting this morning with President Lula of Brazil and his cabinet," Sanders said in a statement. "Our countries share many challenges, including the threat of right-wing authoritarians who seek to undermine democratic institutions in both countries."
"I am very impressed that in his short visit to the United States, Lula chose to speak to the AFL-CIO," he added. "In that regard, we discussed ways to build an economy that serves all people, not just the wealthy and large corporations. We also discussed ways to advance workers' rights and build strong unions."
\u201cA pleasure to welcome @LulaOficial to Washington. We discussed the importance of defending democracy, advancing workers\u2019 rights, and increasing environmental and climate cooperation around the world.\u201d— Bernie Sanders (@Bernie Sanders) 1676048745
Unlike his predecessor, Lula understands the enormous threat that climate change poses to our planet. We discussed ideas of how to increase international cooperation to preserve the environment for future generations. Scientists tell us that deforestation will have a devastating impact on climate change and the planet, and it is imperative that the United States work with Brazil and other countries to protect the Amazon.
If ever there was a time for international solidarity on these shared challenges, this is it. My hope and expectation is that the United States and Brazil will build a stronger partnership to address these crises.
Da Silva said on Twitter that he "had the pleasure" of meeting Sanders, who was an outspoken advocate for his release after the former president—he also served from 2003-2010—was imprisoned on what critics called politically motivated corruption charges in 2018.
"We talked about democracy, the trade union movement, and better rights and jobs for workers," da Silva added.
Three other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus—Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—also met with da Silva.
\u201cIt was an incredible honor to meet with Brazilian President @LulaOficial and @USProgressives members @RepAOC and @RepRoKhanna. \n\nPresident Lula\u2019s election has given hope to democratic and progressive movements around the world. \ud83e\uddf5\u201d— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1676062547
"It was an honor to meet with President Lula da Silva this morning, whose election has given hope to democratic and progressive movements around the world," the caucus said in a statement. "We had a productive discussion on our shared commitments to environmental, social, and economic justice."
"We also discussed opportunities to deepen U.S.-Brazilian cooperation in the fight against authoritarianism, strengthen relationships between legislators of the two countries, and a shared agenda for economic justice and freedom that can combat the appeals of right-wing extremism," the statement said.
Later Friday, da Silva met with Biden as part of a reboot of U.S.-Brazilian relations following the right-wing presidencies of Donald Trump and Bolsonaro, the so-called "Trump of the Tropics."
Last month, Bolsonaro—who has been in the United States since just before da Silva's inauguration—applied for a six-month tourist visa as his legal woes, including an investigation of his role in the January 8 insurrection, mount.
WATCH LIVE: Biden meets with Brazil's President Lula da Silva to discuss climate, democracywww.youtube.com
At an afternoon press conference in the White House's Oval Office, da Silva told Biden through a translator that "the United States and the rest of the world can count on Brazil in the fight for democracy and the fight for the preservation of the Amazon rainforest."
Biden said that "we have to continue to stand up for democracy and our democratic values that form the core of our strength," while asserting the two presidents were on "the same page" about the climate emergency.
"Lula, he has everything on the table right now to be a democratic champion, given what happened in Brazil over the past month and a half," Thiago de Aragão, a senior associate of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, toldPBS NewsHour, referring to the January 8 attack by Bolsonaro supporters on the country's Congress, Supreme Court, and presidential palace in a failed bid to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
"So, having seen Biden in a similar situation during January 6, this is something that they can together focus on," he added.