Trump rolls back Obama-era emission standards

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Trump administration proposed new rules Tuesday aimed at rolling back coal emissions standards established by former President Barack Obama in a bid to curb climate change.

In a statement announcing the proposed new rules, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) called Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan "overly prescriptive and burdensome."

The Supreme Court stayed the rule in 2016 following legal action from multiple Republican state attorneys general and industry advocacy groups.

President Donald Trump's alternative, which is known as the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, "empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation," the EPA said.

The plan lifts some restrictions on coal-fired power plants, shifting emissions regulations to states.

Opponents of the move have warned that the changes would likely hike U.S. carbon emissions, but Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new rule "would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council was unswayed, saying "The world’s on fire and the Trump administration wants to make it worse."

“This Dirty Power Plan is riddled with gimmicks and giveaways. It would mean more climate-changing pollution from power plants. That’s a recipe for climate disaster," council President Rhea Suh said in a statement.

Trump has long derided what he and Republican call a "war on coal" fueled in part by Obama's plan. But the growing shift away from coal is also based on the declining costs associated with cleaner alternatives such as natural gas, wind and solar power.

In addition to shifting emissions regulation to states, Trumps plan allows states to ease regulations for power plants that are in need of upgrades.

Trump is expected to tout the plan during a rally in West Virginia Tuesday evening. The state has long relied heavily on the coal in its mountains to fuel economic activity.

Tuesday's roll-out begins a public comment period before the rule is finalized.

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US: Scandal-ridden head of EPA quits

By Safvan Allahverdi

WASHINGTON (AA) – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, who gained notoriety for his lavish spending, ethical lapses and controversial management decisions, resigned Thursday.

The announcement came from President Donald Trump, who said on Twitter that he had accepted Pruitt's resignation.

"I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency, Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this," Trump said in a tweet.

Trump also announced that the agency's deputy administrator, former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, will become its acting chief.

"The Senate confirmed Deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, will on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA. I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright!" he added.

Pruitt has come under heavy criticism for his involvement in numerous scandals since his appointment.

He has been accused of spending excessive amounts of taxpayer dollars while traveling abroad, with media reports last year claiming he spent nearly $68,000 in taxpayer money traveling first class and staying in expensive hotels, over $40,000 for a soundproof booth for his office as well as $830,000 for round-the-clock security in his first three months in office.

Additionally, he was accused of using two secret EPA email addresses and having a chief of security who had heated confrontations with EPA officials who criticized Pruitt’s lavish spending.

He also allegedly asked aides to do personal favors for him and his family, including helping his wife find work.

Amazon fined $1.2 million for illegal pesticide sales

By Barry Eitel

SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Thursday that it would fine Amazon $1.2 million for allowing third-party businesses to sell illegal pesticides on its platform.

The EPA said that Amazon committed almost 4,000 violations of laws prohibiting the sale of certain pesticides in the U.S. Amazon noted that companies were able to sell the pesticides through its website. Many of those pesticides were intentionally mislabeled and imported from other countries.

Amazon agreed to remove any illegal pesticides available for sale on its website and promised to monitor sellers more rigorously.

“This agreement will dramatically reduce the online sale of illegal pesticides, which pose serious threats to public health in communities across America,” Chris Hladick, an EPA administrator, said in a statement.

“Amazon is committed to closely monitoring and removing illegal pesticides from its website, and the EPA will continue to work hard to ensure these harmful products never reach the marketplace.”

Federal authorities began investigating Amazon in 2014 for violating the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide, and Fungicide Act that bans certain pesticides. The EPA said that many of the banned pesticides involved in the investigation are common in Asia. Some of the products were given non-specific names like “Miraculous Insecticide Chalk” and “Green Leaf Powder Fly Killing Bait.”

The investigation included the EPA purchasing the barred pesticides from Amazon and inspecting an Amazon facility in Kentucky.

The company agreed to reach out to customers who bought the illegal pesticides between 2013 and 2016. Amazon refunded the customers their money, a total of $130,000, and urged customers to destroy the products.

“Regulatory compliance is a top priority at Amazon,” the company said in a statement. “Third-party sellers are required to comply with all relevant laws and regulations when listing items for sale on Amazon. When sellers don’t comply with our terms, we work quickly to take action on behalf of customers.”

ANALYSIS – After Trump’s Paris snub China’s hard climate task

By Selin Calik Muhasilovic

ISTANBUL (AA) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has led to global debates from multiple perspectives. While his decision continues to have implications for the U.S. domestic politics and global networks, China became the center of attention after the EU decided to strengthen cooperation with China on climate change. Experts are discussing whether the U.S. pushed China towards a global “isolation” or a global “leadership” through Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

– Myron Ebell’s impact

Stating that the U.S. gross national product will decrease to nearly $2.5 trillion within 10 years if they fully abide by the agreement, Trump kept arguing at every opportunity that this would damage the U.S. economy. However, this withdrawal decision is based on political reasons as well as economic concerns.

By declaring that he would pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump aimed to exercise control over business leaders, public segments sensitive to environmental issues and, in particular, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in charge of all international agreements and pacts, and who believed, along with a number of other officials, that it would be more prudent to stay in the Paris Climate Agreement to be able to retain leverage over any future decisions. But President Trump acted on the advice of a small team led by his adviser Stephen Bannon, the EPA’s (United States Environmental Protection Agency) President Scott Pruit and the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (CEI) Director Myron Ebell, thereby preferring to be in the same league as the likes of Syria and Nicaragua which also did not sign this climate agreement.

Especially Ebell, with the power he has as head of the CEI — a policy center advocating withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, had direct and indirect influence on changing the political and environmental direction of the U.S. Following reports that Trump was on the horns of a dilemma whether to keep his promises he made during the election campaign to withdraw from the agreement, Ebell, through the CEI, spread a video of the president promising withdrawal from international environmental pacts, whereby he managed to get support from Trump voters and influenced Trump’s ultimate decision. Ebell had recommended Trump to abolish Obama’s orders on curbing climate change and regulating carbon emissions during the transitional period of six months. All these incidents indicate that Trump followed Ebell’s advice after he took office.

On the other hand, Ebell, notorious for incessantly seeking to influence environmental policies, had written that Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” was “illegal” a few months before the Paris Climate Agreement was concluded in 2015. That’s why he had been called “an environmental villain” and severely criticized by environmental activists.

– Enhanced EU-China cooperation

Right after Trump declared his decision, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Donald Tusk of the European Council confirmed that they would continue to abide by the Paris Climate Agreement, also announcing their intention to deepen cooperation between China and the EU against climate change. It was also decided at this bilateral meeting that a ministerial meeting be held in September. Thus, Beijing and Brussels took the first serious step following Washington’s decision of withdrawing from the pact.

European Union countries are generally willing to lead the global efforts to reduce carbon emissions together with China. This is clearly understood from the fact that the EU agrees to give 10 million euros to China, which aims to support the EU Emissions Trading System with its own program.

This bilateral meeting of Beijing and Brussels indicates that Brussels has given up on Washington about the Paris Climate Agreement and is serious about turning towards China. Moreover, the EU and China, which have been cooperating on climate change within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol for over 10 years, demonstrate through these recent meetings that their bilateral involvement in the issue has deepened.

– China: A global climate leader?

After Trump’s decision accelerated steps for cooperation between the EU and China on climate change, people began to discuss whether China can be a global leader on this issue. China had previously become a hot topic of discussion in the same context when the U.S. withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is now faced with yet another debate about global leadership.

Experts state that China can swiftly move toward environmental leadership on the world stage. An article published in the New York Times last week, which considers “the decision as the greatest strategic gift to the Chinese, who are eager to fill the void that Washington is leaving around the world”, seems to prove the actuality of these debates. Apart from EU leaders, there are those in the U.S. advocating that China should be encouraged to be the global leader on environment. For example, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry “challenged China to take serious steps and fill the void created by the U.S.” on climate change.

But all these developments bring a number of questions to mind: Can leadership on climate change really be a strategic gift? Does Beijing really want this leadership? And above all, does it deserve this?

China is making investments to meet the conditions of the Paris Climate Agreement and to reduce its responsibility in climate change as the biggest carbon emitter in the world with 29 percent. For example, it surpassed Europe and the U.S. by investing $78.3 billion on renewable energy in 2016. In addition, China is the world leader in terms of its renewable electricity sources as well. However, while shutting down power plants running on coal, particularly in well-off coastal cities sensitive to pollution, it is increasing the number of its facilities that produce chemicals from coal. There are currently 46 coal-to-chemical plants in operation. After the construction of another 22 plants is completed, 193 million metric tons will have been added to China’s carbon emission annually, which was only 10 million metric tons in 2016. Moreover, Xinhua, the official press agency of China, published a report last week stating that 14,000 plants in northern China fail to meet environmental standards.

Some analysts are aware that Chinese industry has been gaining momentum with its increasing carbon emissions despite making investments to curb climate change. Stating that “Chinese leadership on climate” is not yet realistic, they argue that it is too early to ascribe such a global leadership to China. Also, while Chinese President Xi Jinping trusts his own country as a rising power with standards and institutions to sustain globalism, he does not make mention of leadership on climate in his remarks. This shows his prudence about the issue.

To conclude, it is clear that “Trump’s isolationist foreign policies” and his trends have a positive impact on China’s global initiatives. Whereas Trump aims at inward-looking policies with his slogan “America First”, China attempts to integrate its national interests with its outward-looking goals. If these two trends continue, China can extend its sphere of influence by filling the void created by the U.S. while Trump’s policies would only serve to limit the global influence of the U.S. However, Chinese success in the long run depends on how hard it will struggle to assume authority through its own efforts rather than waiting for the EU or some other official bodies to vest it with the necessary powers.

Trump’ın EPA Başkanı onaylandı

WASHINGTON (AA) – ABD Senatosu, Başkan Donald Trump’ın Çevre Koruma Ajansı (EPA) Başkanlığına seçtiği Scott Pruitt’in adaylığını, Demokratların muhalefetine rağmen onayladı.

Pruitt’in geçmişte dava açtığı EPA’ye başkanlık etmesi, Senato’da yapılan oylamada 46’ya karşı 52 oyla kabul edildi.

Oklahoma eyaleti Başsavcısı Pruitt’in enerji şirketleriyle yakın ilişkilerini, fosil yakıtlara desteğini ve EPA’ya açtığı davaları eleştirmek için kürsüyü saatlerce işgal eden Demokratların oylamayı geciktirme çabaları sonuç vermedi. Demokratlar, dün gece Oklahoma Bölge Hakimi’nin iki yıldır süren bir dava kapmasında, Pruitt’in petrol, doğalgaz ve kömür şirketleriyle yaptığı yazışmalarını, Medya ve Demokrasi Merkezi’ne beyan etme emri nedeniyle ümitlenmişlerdi.

Buna karşın, Cumhuriyetçiler çoğunluğa sahip olmalarının avantajıyla Demokratların muhalefetini aşarak, oylamayı gerçekleştirmeyi başardı. Pruitt’in adaylığının kabul edilmesiyle sonuçlanan oylama, Demokratlar ve çevre örgütleri için hayal kırıklığı yaratırken, Cumhuriyetçiler bir zafer daha kazanmış oldu.

Geçmişte EPA’ya yetki sınırlarını aştığı gerekçesiyle dava açan Pruitt, iklim değişikliğinin insanların neden olduğu çevre kirliliğinden kaynaklandığına inanmıyor. Pruitt’in, Donald Trump’ın petrol, doğalgaz ve kömür sektörlerinde üretimi artırma vaatlerine, çevresel regülasyonları iptal ederek destek vereceği belirtiliyor.

Avrupa’dan Sancaktepe Belediyesine 6 ödül

LONDRA (AA) – İstanbul’daki Sancaktepe Belediyesi, gayrimenkul sektörünün en prestijli ödülleri olarak kabul edilen Avrupa Gayrimenkul Ödülleri’nin (EPA) sahibi oldu.

İngiltere’nin başkenti Londra’da, Avrupa’nın en iyi gayrimenkul projelerinin seçildiği ödül töreninde Sancaktepe Belediyesi’nin “Necmettin Erbakan Külliyesi” projesi Kamu Hizmet Binası Mimari Ödülü ve Kamu Hizmet Binası İmar/Geliştirme Ödülü, “Yeni Belediye Hizmet Binası” projesi Kamu Hizmet Binası Mimari Ödülü ve Kamu Hizmet Binası İmar/Geliştirme Ödülü ve “Şehit Furkan Doğan Gençlik Merkezi” projesi de Aktivite Binası İç Mimari Ödülü ile Kamu Hizmet Binası İç Mimari Ödülü olmak üzere, belediye toplamda 6 ödüle layık görüldü.

Ödüllere ilişkin yaptığı açıklamada, Avrupa’nın en prestijli gayrimenkul ödüllerinde, 6 ödüle layık görülmenin mutluluğu ile haklı gururunu yaşadığını belirten Sancaktepe Belediye Başkanı İsmail Erdem, “Avrupa’nın her noktasından yenilikçi ve alanında öne çıkan projelerin değerlendirildiği bu ödül töreninde Avrupa Gayrimenkul Ödülleri jürisinin çalışmalarımızı takdir ederek bizi 6 ödüle birden layık bulmalarından dolayı çok memnunuz. Sancaktepemiz için aldığımız her ödül bizler için ayrı bir mutluluk, gurur ve motivasyon kaynağı olacak. Bu anlamda ödüllerimizi tüm Türkiye ile paylaşıyoruz.” ifadelerini kullandı.

Dünyanın en prestijli gayrimenkul ödüllerinden olan EPA, gayrimenkul endüstrisini prestij ve mükemmeliyetle buluşturmak ve bu alanda uluslararası standardın oluşmasına öncülük etmek amacıyla 1995 yılından bu yana düzenleniyor. Avrupa’daki ticari ve konut alanında yapılan projelere verilen EPA ödülleri, çeşitli kategorilerde en fazla puan alan projelere Uluslararası Gayrimenkul Ödülleri’ne (International Property Awards) katılma şansı da sunuyor.