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Glowing review / October 10, 2018
I keep saying to anyone who will listen that the Trump presidency is a cancer on America. Now the Associated Press has the goods: “Experts say Trump’s EPA is moving to loosen radiation limits,” Oct. 3, 2018:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The EPA is pursuing rule changes that experts say would weaken the way radiation exposure is regulated, turning to scientific outliers who argue that a bit of radiation damage is actually good for you — like a little bit of sunlight.

The government’s current, decades-old guidance says that any exposure to harmful radiation is a cancer risk. And critics say the proposed change could lead to higher levels of exposure for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release.

The Trump administration already has targeted a range of other regulations on toxins and pollutants, including coal power plant emissions and car exhaust, that it sees as costly and burdensome for businesses. Supporters of the EPA’s proposal argue the government’s current model that there is no safe level of radiation — the so-called linear no-threshold model — forces unnecessary spending for handling exposure in accidents, at nuclear plants, in medical centers and at other sites.

At issue is Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule on transparency in science.

Let’s see if we can summarize the AP’s somewhat wonky article and place it in the broader context of what the Trump White House has accomplished so far on the irradiation front — that is, “for workers at nuclear installations and oil and gas drilling sites, medical workers doing X-rays and CT scans, people living next to Superfund sites and any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release,” as the AP puts it.

The takeaway here should require little explanation: “Any members of the public who one day might find themselves exposed to a radiation release” includes everyone in this newspaper’s primary coverage area.

To continue:

» The EPA is proposing to change its long-standing transparency rule, which would have the effect of discarding legitimate scientific research on the health effects of exposure to radioactivity — all in service to the cause of loosening regulation of enterprises that by their very nature create low-level radiation emissions. In proposing the rule change, the agency cited the views of a University of Massachusetts toxicologist, Edward Calabrese, who according to the AP has argued that “weakening limits on radiation exposure would save billions of dollars and have a positive impact on human health.”

» Independent of these EPA regulatory efforts, the Trump Justice Department provided key backing for Virginia Uranium’s lawsuit to overturn the state’s longstanding ban on uranium mining. After failing at every other level of the federal courts system, Virginia Uranium was able to convince four justices on the U.S. Supreme Court to grant an appeal of its case before the full court. Oral arguments are slated Nov. 5. A decision by justices is expected sometime next year.

» To add insult upon injury, the Trump Administration is looking to slap tariffs on imported uranium, which would have the effect of bolstering a moribund domestic industry for yellowcake mining. Opponents of the Coles Hill project in Pittsylvania County have long taken the comforting view that even if Virginia Uranium were to somehow overcome the various legal hurdles standing before it, the underlying business of mining uranium in the U.S. is so bad that nothing will ever come of the company’s endeavors. Can we continue to wallow in such assurances with the Trump Commerce Department doing its level best to distort the fundamentals of commodity markets and throw U.S. mining companies a lifeline?

This week, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. With that, a potential deadlock on Virginia Uranium’s appeal by an eight-member court now becomes Southside Virginia’s moment of truth. Now, it’s certainly true that just because four justices agreed to hear Virginia Uranium’s appeal, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the court has made up its mind on a final ruling. But consider the history here: the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc has shown itself to be consistently hostile to environmental regulation and indeed, the entire notion that federal agencies should be allowed to promulgate regulations above and beyond what Congress explicitly mandates. (Congress is in no position to write complicated rules governing entire sectors of the economy even if members were so inclined.) Virginia Uranium’s lawsuit is a strange bird insofar as it aims to strip the State of Virginia of its authority to ban uranium mining and kick the question to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a federal agency. Everything about the case seems to fly in the face of the conservative doctrine of federalism, which asserts the supremacy of state interests over federal authority. But if the matter is so clear-cut, why did four justices decide to take on the case?

What the “But state’s rights!” crowd either doesn’t understand or refuses to acknowledge is that federalism is merely a jurisprudential means to an end, the end being to free corporate interests from any meaningful regulation whatsoever. We’ll see if it matters one iota in the case of Virginia Uranium v. Warren whether the controlling authority is the federal bureaucracy or state government. My guess — and I will be very, very happy to be wrong here — is that preferred corporate interests like mining companies will reign supreme, and a 5-4 conservative majority court will find all kinds of inventive ways to decimate the regulatory state, at all levels, that has long served to keep bad actors on the American landscape at bay. I’ll be surprised if America doesn’t soon find itself living in the Era of Invented Law: brought to you by Federalist Society-approved judges who put ideology (and the interests of big-dollar donors to the Republican Party) ahead of legal precedent, longstanding Constitutional interpretation, the popular will of the people, and other such trifles. Like I said, I’d love to wrong about this stuff, especially as it pertains to uranium mining in Southside Virginia. We’ll see if I am.

And what about our newly-minted Associate Justice, the elite product of America’s best schools, who along the way somehow developed a decided bent towards falsehoods and nasty partisanship — together, the polar opposite of what we’ve always understood to be “judicial temperament”? Here’s what America’s most notorious socialist publication, Forbes magazine, has to say on a key aspect of the judge’s record: “Kavanaugh Threatens To Become A Potent Anti-Environment Justice,” by contributor Charles Tiefer:

Judge Brett Kavanaugh has kept his views obscured on several subjects raised in his nomination hearings. However, his current court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, handles many environment cases. Judge Kavanaugh’s key opinions on the subject show an anti-environment frame of mind. By that is meant that in cases pitting environmental protection against corporate or property rights, he tilts the scales of justice against the environment. As Professor Livermore commented in Scotusblog, “we can expect that a Kavanaugh confirmation would usher in a court that is considerably less sympathetic to environmental protections.” Kavanaugh made this clear in a case which subsequently went to the Supreme Court, where even the conservatives found him too extreme.

Now, I know all the polling shows that only a sliver of the American populace prioritizes environmental issues in their voting decisions, and fair enough: When your household finances are solid as a tub of Jello and the bills from the hospital never seem to stop coming, worrying about stuff like the linear no-threshold model for radiation exposure can seem like a bit of a luxury. But in our case, there is a looming radiological disaster situated 30 miles upriver that, if the worst ever came to pass, would radically devalue your property, stigmatize the entire community and supercharge what is already a higher-than-normal cancer exposure risk in Southside Virginia. Stakes like that ought to focus the collective mind. So what should we make up our minds to do?

If Virginia’s ban on uranium mining is overturned, the Coles Hill project becomes a federal issue overnight. That begs the question of who you want representing the area in Congress: A Republican ally and lackey for Donald Trump? Or a Democrat who will provide a meaningful check rather than roll over to the White House’s wishes? In the 5th District race between Leslie Cockburn and Denver Riggleman, only one candidate — Cockburn — has unequivocally pledged to fight uranium mining in Virginia. Riggleman has been oddly quiet on the issue, although he has promised to join the Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative extremists known to never question the profit-making rights of whomever is contributing to their re-election campaigns. Late to jump into the Congressional contest, Riggleman is running his campaign off corporate PAC donations, while Cockburn has refused to accept money from PAC donors. You tell me which of the two candidates is most likely to protect the rights of individuals over corporations.

And what again, pray tell, is the appeal of President Donald J. Trump? Oh, right: our Twitter-obsessive Commander-in-Chief tells it straight-up, the tender feelings of liberal snowflakes be damned. Never mind the fact that man is a lifelong fraud; he didn’t create his supposed billion-dollar empire so much as he had it gifted to him by his father, as a New York Times investigation on Trump’s business past made abundantly clear when the 13,000 word piece was published last week. (It’s a long read but well worth the effort.) Frauds, alas, have a long history of success in America, all built around their peculiar talent for telling people exactly what they want to hear. And apparently these days, a lot people crave a president who is willing to tell entire groups to take a long walk off a short bridge, in insulting tones no less. But what happens when you find yourself a member of a group that’s supposed to take the walk — and the fall? It was none other than Brett Kavanaugh who said “what comes around goes around.” On that note, Southside Virginia could find itself on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s bad faith and policy cruelty sooner than we ever imagined.

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