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Today, the Washington Post reported that, in addition to passing a tax bill containing enormous giveaways to the oil and gas industry, Congressional Republicans quietly gave yet another gift to Big Oil when they allowed a tax on oil companies that funded federal oil-spill response efforts to expire.
In response, Athan Manuel, Director of the Sierra Club's Lands Protection Program, issued the following statement:
"If Donald Trump and Republicans wanted to inflict the most possible damage on coastal communities, they wouldn't be behaving any differently. By gutting spill response funds at the same time the Trump administration is attempting to dramatically expand offshore drilling off America's coasts and weakening safety regulations, Congressional Republicans are creating a catastrophe waiting to happen along our coasts, all to serve their true constituents: the fossil fuel industry."
The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone's right to a healthy world.(415) 977-5500
"For too long, EPA has allowed pesticide-coated seeds to jeopardize threatened and endangered species across the country," said one advocate.
Two public health groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, demanding that the agency close a regulatory loophole that has allowed insecticide-coated seeds to proliferate across 150 million acres of cropland in the United States.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, which pertains to seeds coated in neonicotinoids, often called neonics.
The EPA has long failed to regulate neonics, denying a rulemaking petition filed by CFS in 2017 which asked them to close the loophole which allows neonic-coated seeds to be used to grow corn, soy, and other crops across the country.
The agency only regulates pesticides that are directly sprayed on crops, allowing companies to continue using the coatings.
The EPA ignored CFS's petition until 2021, when the group sued to force a response, only to have the petition denied. PANNA joined CFS in the new lawsuit on Thursday, arguing that the denial was unlawful.
"Despite knowing the ongoing grave harms caused by coated seeds, EPA has still unlawfully refused to close the loophole allowing them to escape any regulation," said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. "That decision is as unlawful as it is irresponsible. EPA is supposed to protect these species and habitats, not enable their peril, and we are asking the court to tell the agency to do its job."
Toxic neonicotinoids can cause paralysis and death in crucial pollinators including bees and butterflies.
"Ingesting one of these seeds can cause serious harm or death to a songbird," said CFS on social media.
\u201cWe join @pesticideaction to sue the @EPA for failing to close a loophole that has allowed insecticide-coated seeds to proliferate across 150 million acres of US crop land (unregulated) causing widespread harm to essential pollinators like birds and bees, beneficial insects, and\u2026\u201d— Center for Food Safety (@Center for Food Safety) 1685670031
"For too long, EPA has allowed pesticide-coated seeds to jeopardize threatened and endangered species across the country," said Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at PANNA. "EPA must close the regulatory loophole for toxic pesticide-coated seeds to prevent further harm to wildlife, ecosystems, and people."
The head of the major U.S. military contractor said the Pentagon top-line in the debt ceiling deal is "as good an outcome as our industry or our company could ask for at this point."
The head of the top weapons contractor in the United States said Thursday that he's happy with the debt ceiling agreement negotiated by the congressional Republicans and the Biden White House, a deal that proposes a military budget increase while imposing two years of caps on other discretionary federal spending—impacting funding for education, housing, and more.
James Taiclet, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, said at a conference that the bill now awaiting President Joe Biden's signature is "as good an outcome as our industry or our company could ask for at this point," noting that it calls for "3% growth for two years in defense where other areas of the budget are being reduced."
"I think we're in a real strong position at this point," said Taiclet, adding that "there's sufficient funding in the president's budget."
Biden's $886 billion military spending request for fiscal year 2024—a $28 increase over current levels—is the topline military budget number set by the debt ceiling legislation, though war hawks in both parties are already exploring ways to dump even more money into the Pentagon's overflowing coffers.
If finalized in the appropriations process, military outlays will account for close to 56% of the U.S. federal government's total discretionary spending in fiscal year 2024, Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project noted Thursday.
"This represents a massive shift of resources away from domestic programs and toward the military: the already-gargantuan military budget will increase by $28 billion (3.3%), while domestic spending will take a cut of $63 billion (8.2%)," Koshgarian wrote. "Cuts to many domestic programs will need to go deeper, because domestic spending includes veterans' programs, which are protected from cuts in the current deal."
"The only reason there’s a budget deal at all right now is because House Republicans threatened to tank the economy by refusing to allow the U.S. to pay its bills unless they got cuts for programs they don't like," she added. "They succeeded, and as others have shown, the people to pay the price will be the poorest and most down on their luck. Worse, the current deal could set a new precedent for more of the same: unnecessary military increases while domestic programs are slashed."
Lockheed Martin, one of the contractors that has been price-gouging the Department of Defense for years, is poised to be one of the top beneficiaries of the larger Pentagon budget—much of which will likely wind up benefiting private companies.
As Responsible Statecraft's Eli Clifton reported Thursday, Lockheed "received 73 percent of its net sales from the U.S. government in 2022 and invested $13 million in lobbying the federal government."
"Their lobbyists heavily focus their efforts on the defense budget," Clifton added, citing OpenSecrets.
William Hartung, senior research fellow at Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said Friday that the newly passed debt limit deal "unnecessarily privileges the Pentagon over other essential programs."
"There's no reason to exclude the Pentagon from the budget freeze," he added. "Congress should push the current proposed military spending total of $886 billion back to FY2023 levels in the appropriations process that will play out over the course of this year."
"I wonder how it feels to have a group of people challenge your pay and worth," said one labor leader sarcastically.
Television writers who have been on strike for a month applauded a vote at Netflix's annual shareholder meeting on Thursday in which the streaming company's investors rejected an executive pay package that critics said exemplified the greed of Hollywood CEOs and their unfair treatment of the workers behind their lucrative content.
A majority of the shareholders voted against a pay package for executives including co-CEOs Greg Peters and Ted Sarandos as well as Netflix co-founder and board chair Reed Hastings.
Under the proposed pay package, Sarandos would earn up to $40 million in base salary, a bonus, and stock options, while Peters would take home $34.6 million.
"I wonder how it feels to have a group of people challenge your pay and worth,"
tweeted labor leader Lindsay Dougherty sardonically. Dougherty is secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 399 and represents more than 6,000 TV and film workers.
Meredith Stiehm, president of the Western branch of the Writers Guild of America (WGA), noted in the union's letter to studio executives last week that the shareholders were also asked to give retroactive approval to the company's 2022 CEO pay package, which amounted to $166 million.
"While investors have long taken issue with Netflix's executive pay, the compensation structure is even more egregious against the backdrop of the strike," wrote Stiehm, noting that in contrast to the executives' annual pay, "the proposed improvements the WGA currently has on the table would cost Netflix an estimated $68 million per year."
Thursday's vote was non-binding, and could be overturned by the company's board of directors, but writer Jelena Woehr tweeted that shareholders' rejection of Netflix's pay structure could ultimately pressure TV studios to meet the demands of the WGA, including higher residual pay and better compensation for writers who are hired before a show has been given a greenlight for production.
\u201cThis is a fairly mild action but if they get mad enough about watching their shares lose value, activist investors can start causing a lot more trouble, and I suspect by fall they will\u2026\u201d— Yell in a Strike (@Yell in a Strike) 1685661537
The WGA West noted that executive pay packages rarely fail to get approval from shareholders.
\u201cInstead, this money paid the top Netflix execs who are creating risk for the company and shareholders by not offering writers a fair deal. 3/6\u201d— Writers Guild of America West (@Writers Guild of America West) 1685659853
"Shareholders should send a message to Comcast that if the company could afford to spend $130 million on executive compensation last year," she wrote, "it can afford to pay the estimated $34 million per year that writers are asking for in contract improvements and put an end to this disruptive strike."