eco-briefs

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BOULDER MAYOR TO VISIT VATICAN 

Boulder Mayor Matthew Appelbaum was hand selected to attend a Vatican conference on two issues the Pope says are related emergencies: climate change and human trafficking.

The event calls on mayors and local authorities to apply moral pressure on the United Nations to set goals for sustainable development and to consider human trafficking a crime against humanity, according to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Their description of the conference states: “Global warming is one of the causes of poverty and forced migration, which are breeding grounds for human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and organ trafficking.”

Appelbaum is among a group of 17 mayors from the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance who were invited to the two-day conference starting July 21 titled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change: The Commitment of the Cities.”

“The City of Boulder’s leadership on climate change is globally recognized, and earned us a spot at this important meeting,” Appelbaum said in a press release. “We have an opportunity to share our community’s commitment to serious climate change initiatives in the presence of Pope Francis, who has already called on the world to find ways to address the climate crisis and its connections to human environments.”

The conference follows the Pope’s June 18 encyclical Laudato Si, in which he declared climate change a principal problem for everyone living on Earth.

“The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he wrote.

— Mollie Putzig

PREVENTING MERCURY POLLUTION DEEMED TOO COSTLY 

The Supreme Court overthrew the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to limit coal-fired power plant mercury emissions June 29, saying it’s too expensive.

The EPA argued that limiting mercury emissions was “appropriate and necessary” — the conditions required for imposing Clean Air Act regulations — because current regulations don’t eliminate mercury’s environmental and health risks.

“It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits,” wrote Justice Anton Scalia.

EPA estimated the rule would cost $9.6 billion annually, with $4 to $6 million per year in benefits. It was this vast financial gap that prompted the 5-4 vote mandating that EPA reconsider their proposed regulations.

There are additional benefits that come with mercury limits like removing particulate matter and sulfur dioxide from power plant emissions. EPA valued these benefits at between $37 and $90 billion per year. But because those savings are side effects of the main purpose of the rule, to limit mercury, the court decided that the rule itself did not pass a cost-benefit analysis.

Justice Elena Kagan disagreed with the decision, writing “The Agency acted well within its authority in declining to consider costs at the opening bell of the regulatory process given that it would do so in every round thereafter.”

The rule wasn’t scraped entirely by the court’s decision, but the EPA will need to go back and either do a formal cost-benefit analysis or include ancillary benefits when declaring the rule “appropriate and necessary.”

— Mollie Putzig

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