On Resources & Environment

EPA’s Top Leaders Stymied Research Unit, Report Finds

An Environmental Protection Agency research unit tasked with evaluating chemicals’ health risks has had its work hindered by the agency’s top leadership, according to a government watchdog. The unit, known as the Integrated Risk Information System, or IRIS, is responsible for identifying dangers from chemicals in products such as paint and pesticides, and releasing assessments of their potential threats to human health.

Chemical-Safety Board Is Cutting Back Under Trump

WASHINGTON—Three days after a Sunoco pipeline in Texas caught fire during welding work in 2016, a tiny government agency called the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board dispatched a team to investigate. But its findings about the incident—in which seven workers suffered severe burns—are shaping up differently under President Trump than under President Obama, according to people familiar with the agency under both administrations.

EPA Wants New Rules to Rely Solely on Public Data

WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency plans to restrict research used in developing regulations, the agency said Tuesday, a change that could affect rules governing everything from household products to power-plant emissions. The proposal follows years of complaints by conservatives that regulations such as emissions restrictions under the Obama administration sometimes went beyond what science could prove. The new proposal would exclude the many research studies that don’t make their

Nigeria's oil fires stoke claims of villagers to spoils

KEGBARA DERE, Nigeria -- The fire burned strong for 45 days and 45 nights, blanketing the village with ash and torching the young cassava plants in Ada Baniba's field. As she weeded, the flames flared out of the leaking oil pipeline behind her. It wasn't that no one could put the fire out. It was that no one would _ not the oil company that owned the pipeline, not the government and not the villagers breathing the fumes. The tale of Kegbara Dere's fire shows just how desperate the long-neglected communities of Nigeria's oil-rich river delta have become.

Human-Population Boom Remains Largest Threat to Africa’s Lions in Wake of Cecil’s Killing

NAIROBI, Kenya—The killing of a lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe has sparked world-wide outrage, but the largest threat to Africa’s big cats is a human-population boom that is shrinking the animal’s habitat and posing worrying questions about its future in the wild. The wild African lion population has declined 42% over 21 years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, to fewer than 20,000 lions. The African lion...

EPA Chief Calls for Narrowing Scope of Clean-Water Rule

WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal Tuesday that reduces the number of federally protected bodies of water compared with an Obama-era rule it seeks to replace. EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the rule will give states needed flexibility in managing their streams and wetlands and provides greater certainty to Americans about when permits are needed, while reining in what he described as the overreach of the Obama administration.

Obama Promises Africa a New Partnership

U.S. President Barack Obama looked to reset his Africa policy Sunday, in a speech promising a new partnership that moved beyond aid to supporting democracy and access to electricity for a continent edging into an era of fewer conflicts and broader prosperity. In what advisers billed as the signature speech in a weeklong tour, Mr. Obama committed to deeper engagement with Africa after a first term that saw him spend only one day on...

US pushes to finish Afghan dam as challenges mount

KAJAKI, Afghanistan (AP) — In the approaching twilight of its war in Afghanistan, the U.S. is forging ahead with a giant infrastructure project long criticized as too costly in both blood and money. It's a $500 million effort to refurbish the massive Kajaki dam and hydro-electric power system with an extensive network of power lines and transmission substations. It is supposed to bring electricity to 332,000 people in southern Afghanistan, increase crop yields and build up a cohort of trained A

Chinese mine in Afghanistan threatens ancient find

MES AYNAK, AFGHANISTAN - It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress. She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins. The mine is the centerpiece of

Different kind of power struggle in Kandahar

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – About 90 factories sit vacant in the economic capital of southern Afghanistan. They could fight militants in a way no army could, employing thousands of people and giving them a reason to shun the Taliban. A lack of reliable electricity is what’s keeping the factories silent and useless in the fight against the insurgency. And it’s the insurgency, in large part, that’s keeping them that way. The dilemma is the same throughout Afghanistan’s ungoverned south, where NATO is gearing up for a major offensive: Development is needed to wrest people away from militants, but fighting regularly thwarts such projects - wasting millions in the process.

Lead from old car batteries poisons Senegalese town

THIAROYE-SUR-MER, Senegal — First, it took the animals. Goats fell silent and refused to stand up. Chickens died in handfuls, then en masse. Street dogs disappeared. Then it took the children. Toddlers stopped talking and their legs gave out. Women birthed stillborns. Infants withered and died. Some said the houses were cursed. Others said the families were cursed. The mysterious illness killed 18 children in this town on the fringes of Dakar, Senegal's capital, before anyone in the outside world noticed. When they did - when the TV news aired parents' angry pleas for an investigation, when the doctors ordered more tests, when the West sent health experts - they did not find malaria, or polio or AIDS, or any of the diseases that kill the poor of Africa. They found lead.

Nigerian oil country: Where'd the traffic go?

The normally congested streets of Nigeria's oil capital were amazingly free of cars during this morning's rush hour. I've spent much of the my past two days in this city stuck in traffic jams, so I asked my driver why we were able to speed down a nearly open expressway at 9 a.m. His answer? "No fuel for the cars." Port Harcourt is a hub for drilling operations by oil majors like Shell, ExxonMobil and Italy's Agip, but the city itself experiences regular fuel shortages.

Liberia faces violence as it tries to rein in rubber wealth

MONROVIA, LIBERIA — Little that's worth anything makes it out of Liberia's war-racked ports these days — except rubber. Three years after a ruinous civil war bankrolled by stolen timber and diamonds, rubber is the first commodity to return to the export market. But the slow and violence-marred reform of the rubber sector shows how challenging it will be to restore trade and manage Liberia's resources. Abandoned rubber plantations have had to be wrested from former militiamen. Bandits still sneak onto plantations and tap trees, wielding the acid used to coagulate the natural latex as a weapon against those who try to stop them.