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The financial benefits of the EPA data Trump doesn’t want you to know about

Making EPA data easily accessible to the private sector plays a significant role in many billion-dollar industries, from renewable energy to auto manufacturing

For more than 25 years, Walter Hang has helped local governments, engineers and homeowners make sense of hazardous waste. To do that, he digs into the enormous data vault maintained by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and pinpoints information that is useful for his clients to assess the health and financial risks from nearby industrial properties and toxic waste sites.

Hang, who runs Toxics Targeting, now fears this trove of knowledge will become more difficult to access as the EPAs newly minted chief, Scott Pruitt, begins a broad rollback of regulations and shrinks the agencys staff. President Trump has vowed to weaken the EPA, contending that its rules for protecting public health stifle business development. The Trump administration has already eliminated or buried some information on EPA websites and moved to muzzle agency employees.

What Trump doesnt acknowledge is that EPA data isnt just an enforcement tool. The agency employs more scientists than any other government agency except Nasa. Decades of work by those scientists have generated valuable information about air and water pollution, chemical toxicity and hazardous waste cleanup. This information has enabled businesses to develop new products and services and create jobs in the process.

No one has estimated the financial benefits of making EPA data easily accessible to the private sector. But anecdotal evidence shows it plays a significant role in many billion-dollar industries, from lending and real estate to renewable energy development and auto designs and manufacturing. For example, chemical companies use the data to come up with less toxic compounds for dyeing textiles.

Banks wont loan money to a property developer without ensuring that the land is free of contamination, which can be an expensive liability. They rely on pollution data from the EPA, says Hang, who compiles the information into reports for companies in real estate development and transaction.

We are trying to make sure we get as much data as we can, and were trying to make sure we dont have data gaps, Hang says.

Hang isnt alone in worrying about access. Several campaigns, carried out mostly by university professors and students, to download and secure EPA data have sprung up since the November election. One of the first of such efforts began not in the US but in Canada. Matt Price, a history professor at the University of Toronto, helped organize guerrilla archiving events in December. Offering free pizza and coffee, these events recruited a small army of volunteers who began downloading EPA data to secure servers.

Price says he and his colleagues sprang into action after experiencing their own war on science by former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, a conservative who slashed funding for science and ended important environmental monitoring projects. Price and others stepped up to preserve Canadian environmental data during that crisis.

We probably focused immediately on the EPA because of the extremely hostile language that came out of the Trump campaign around the EPA, says Price. We have put a kind of faith in the state as the long term guarantor of the integrity of scientific data. I think that faith may be misplaced.

Many companies rely on the agencys data to build products that tackle some of the biggest health and environmental problems. They sign research and development agreements with the EPA, which provides technical assistance in return for a share of any sales a company generates as a result.

EPA had 97 such contracts active in 2015, which yielded $232,318 in royalties for the agency. The previous year, 129 contracts produced royalties of $438,786.

Aclima, a San Francisco company that develops air-quality sensors and software, is working with the EPA to improve the devices sensitivity in detecting pollution. EPA air pollution data, gathered for decades at a regional scale, serves as an important reference and quality check for the company. Aclima has partnered with Google to collect air quality data by putting its mobile sensors on the StreetView cars that Google uses to create its maps. It plans to offer the resulting data to the public later this year.

Aclima CEO Davida Herzl says the EPAs air pollution data plays a foundational role in everything the company does. Anytime we lose information that is important to public health, that is a concern, Herzl says. It would be a massive blow to the business community in ways that arent always discussed. Innovation and private sector research is happening on top of that foundation of science that EPA has been developing for over 30 years now.

Even businesses that are set to benefit from Trumps plan to loosen environmental regulations are worried about losing access to EPA data, which they need for complying with state or local laws and for their own internal accounting of efficiency and performance, says Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Center for Science and Democracy, a program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The American Gas Association, which represents natural gas distribution utilities, recently notified members to download any EPA data they need in case it is removed from the agencys website. Pam Lacey, the associations chief regulatory counsel, says gas utilities use EPA data and other online resources to track methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. The data shows distributors have cut methane emissions by 74% since 1990.

They continue to do more work and theyd like to be able to keep the data that demonstrates what theyve done and what theyre doing on an ongoing basis, Lacey says. Also, some companies have their own internal goals for sustainability, and they would want to use that official EPA data.

None of the EPA data has been restricted or eliminated yet, say the scientists involved in the data backup campaigns, but they arent taking any chances. Their concern stretches beyond protecting existing EPA data, however. Major budget cuts, if implemented, means the agency may be unable to collect new data.

EPA officials within the Trump administration did not respond to a request for comment.

Their goal is to defund programs that gather data, says Jared Blumenfeld, former administrator of EPA Region 9 (California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii), who left the agency in May 2016. Its much, much harder in a digital age to get rid of data. Its a lot easier to not fund science so you dont have the data in the first place.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/mar/15/epa-data-trump-benefits


The Art of the Deal by Donald J Trump with Tony Schwartz digested read

A timely reissue of the business tycoon/president-elects collected entrepreneurial advice from 1987 is redacted by John Crace

I dont do it for the money. Ive got more money than Ill ever need. Some of it yours. Lets face it, you dont file for bankruptcy six times if youre planning on paying your dues. The key to making the best deal is to let others take the hit. I do it because I can. If you can get away with losing over $1bn on a deal, youd have to be a schmuck not to. Theres no way that Donald J Trump is ever going to let himself be one of those deadbeat Americans with no hope and no prospects. No sir. And thats why were shamelessly republishing this load of tosh from 1987. Heres a diary of a typical Trump week.

Monday 9am. Call my broker, Alan Greenberg, to buy $25m worth of stock in Holiday Inns. I sense its undervalued. As we speak, its value increases to $30m. My cock goes hard and I decide to sell.

Tuesday 3pm. Try to evict Carly Simon and Mia Farrow from their rent-controlled apartments, but both want to play hardball. Their loss. When you do battle with the Trumpster, theres only one winner.

Wednesday 1pm. Lunch with Ivana. Try to grope her pussy. Probably not the best time to tell her about Melania.

Thursday 5pm. Some kid at the door says hes my son. Tell him to come back when hes made his first $10m.

Friday 10am. The banks foreclose on Trump Taj Mahal casino putting thousands of people out of work. But at least I come away with $50m. My cock goes hard again.

My style of dealing is quite straightforward: 1) Get as much as you can for yourself; 2) Theres always somebody stupider than you out there; 3) Any attention is better than none; 4) Promise people the Earth even if you know you can never deliver; 5) Get yourself a top haircut.

The most important influence on me when I was growing up was my father, Fred Trump. He taught me everything I needed to know about making money. If he had a fault, it was that he was not narcissistic enough. Fred never named a tower after himself. He also wasted too much time buying properties for deadbeats. If theres one thing Ive learned from real estate, its that poor people on zero-hours contracts just dont know how to look after themselves.

My first deal in Cincinnati taught me that lesson. Having persuaded the banks to lend me the money, I put the day-to-day management of the rebuild in charge of a man I knew to be a conman. I figured he would con the contractors far more than he would con me, so I would end up ahead on the deal. No flies on the Don! Though I was glad to sell the houses off for a $10m profit before the market crashed.

In 1974, I moved into the New York property market when I bought the Commodore Hotel near Grand Central Station. It was rundown and operating at a loss and everyone thought it was a turkey, but I could immediately see its potential. As usual, I was proved 100% right and made $280m in an afternoon after renaming the hotel Trump Plaza.

I then built Trump Tower after buying a department store whose owner didnt understand its true worth. That project taught me that most politicians are just in the game for themselves. Its a mentality I just cant understand. With Trump Tower, I was determined to build as big as possible and the results speak for themselves. I have my own apartment on the top three floors and employ some limey called Nigel Farage as my lift attendant. It could be worse. I could have had Piers Morgan working for me. Can you believe that man? I met him once for five minutes on a reality game show and he hasnt stopped going on about it ever since. The guy must have nearly as big a personality disorder as me.

After Trump Tower came Trump Castle, Trump Palace, Trump Island, Trump White House and Trump Great Wall of Trump. Basically, it was the same deal every time. I was fabulously brilliant and made a huge amount of money for myself while everybody else lost big time. I was living the American dream. Bankrupt one day, rich the next. But my biggest success is the 120-storey Trump Toilet that can flush every Muslim, Mexican and gay back into the sewers where they belong. It might even come in useful for this book.

Digested read, digested: The American nightmare.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/20/the-art-of-the-deal-by-donald-j-trump-with-tony-schwartz-digested-read


Burning Man buys 3,800-acre ranch is it about to build a year-round festival?

Festival organizers purchased a 3,800-acre property in Nevada for $6.5m, but usually the city is built then burned as a statement about impermanence

Burning Man, a hedonistic 10-day festival in the Nevada desert, has bought a massive property where it plans to build a year-round location.

Festival organizers announced today theyve closed on a deal on Fly Ranch, a 3,800-acre property in Washoe County, Nevada, for $6.5m, half what owner Sam Jasick asked for a few years ago (he has since passed away, and his son Todd was more interested in closing the sale). At recent Burning Man festivals, organizers said they were taking potential investors on tours including well-known burners and technologists SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and Airbnb executive and Burning Man board member Chip Conley. None have confirmed involvement in the Fly Ranch deal.

For the longtime Burning Man community its a controversial decision: the premise of Burning Man is that its a city built and then broken and burned at the end of the festival as a statement about impermanence.

Fly Ranch will involve year-round infrastructure. The Burning Man organizers, who in 2012 created a not-for-profit group in part to make this purchase feasible, explained their decision to make the temporary festival permanent.

Those who have been deeply affected by a Burning Man event or experience have often asked, How can we bring this beyond the event? How can we make this really matter? And we too have wondered, What would it mean to have a year-round location beyond the playa? What if we had a place to experiment with and apply the Ten Principles 365 days a year, in addition to the one-week event?

Organizers called the purchase the next step in the grand experiment that is Burning Man.

In early plans for the land, Burning Man architect Rod Garrett wrote in a lengthy proposal that at Fly Ranch: Employees and affiliates may build on a Homestead basis, or rent or buy into the Village community at the projects north end.

Fly Ranch has 640 acres of wetland and dozens of hot and cold spring-water pools. A small flat area would serve as a new campground, while the Fly Geyser, the result of drilling in 1964, releases a constant stream of water that shoots five feet into the air. Burning Man is usually held in Nevadas Black Rock Desert, but has a long history with the Fly Ranch, briefly moving there in 1997 after someone died during the festival the year before.

The first Burning Man was held on a beach in San Francisco in 1986, but when co-founder Larry Harvey and his friends tried to burn a wooden effigy of a man it would not burn. Police eventually broke up the beach party, but a tradition was born. Since then, Burning Man has become an enormous, established festival with 70,000 attendees last year and multiple offshoots around the world.

For Silicon Valley, its a crucial annual gathering. Elon Musk has said you cant understand Silicon Valley unless youve been to Burning Man. As tech wealth has grown, technologists are building themselves increasingly luxurious camps and arriving regularly by private plane, which has led to class tension during the event.

For now Burning Mans not saying much more about it other than that the Fly Ranch location is under construction and Burners should not try to visit the ranch. Note: Do not try to visit Fly Ranch during Burning Man 2016. Seriously.

Burning Man co-founder Will Roger said a few years ago that he wanted to build a utopia people could live in year-round: What interests me is the experiment in a permanent community.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/jun/10/burning-man-festival-permanent-location-nevada-desert


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