Beekeepers sue EPA Over Sulfoxaflor

 A beekeepers advocacy group, the  Pollinator Stewardship Council, has filed suit against the EPA in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for removing restrictions on use of  sulfoxaflor, an insecticide known to weaken and/or destroy honeybee colonies. Excerpts follow from a Sept 12 NY Times piece by Christine Hauser:

That chemical…  is absorbed into plants, where it can be ingested by pollinating bees. When the bees return to the hive, they can transfer the chemical to the colony. This affects the bees’ ability to breed and survive according to studies cited by Earthjustice, whose lawyer Gregory C. Loarie is representing the petitioners…

The first applications for the use of sulfoxaflor came to the agency in 2010 from the agriculture chemical company Dow AgroSciences, now called Corteva Agriscience, to register three products containing the chemical. After a period of public comment, the E.P.A. approved its use in 2013.

But the Pollinator Stewardship Council, an advocacy organization that documents the effects of pesticides on pollinating insects, and others in the industry petitioned for a review of that decision. In 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned it, saying the agency had not provided “substantial evidence” of the chemical’s effects on bees, and ordered further studies.

The EPA again approved its use —but not for application on flowering plants that attract pollinators. Then…

On July 12 of this year, however, the agency announced it had removed the restrictions and approved other uses for the insecticide, calling it “an effective tool to control challenging pests with fewer environmental impacts.”

The decision “shows the agency’s commitment to making decisions that are based on sound science,” Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, the assistant administrator for the E.P.A.’s office of chemical safety and pollution prevention, said in the announcement.

The Trump administration has been rolling back environmental regulations it sees as burdensome to the fossil fuel industry and other big businesses. In some cases, agencies have skipped key steps in the process, like notifying the public and asking for comment.

The Punitive Side of ‘Wellness’ Programs

The Scourge of Worker Wellness Programs” by Laura Solow in the New Republic September 2 is a real eye-opener.  Here’s an excerpt:

A 2018 survey by the Kaiser Foundation found that 82 percent of large companies (those with more than 200 employees) and 53 percent of small companies have an option for some kind of wellness program. Some, like Go365, are obviously punitive, levying up to thousands of dollars in fines on workers who refuse to participate in wellness campaigns or fail to meet certain biometric measures of health. Others have more nebulous “incentives”—a gift card, say, or a discount on gym membership. The line between punishment and incentive, however, is thin. If a worker gets a gym reimbursement for working out six times a month, doesn’t that translate to a material punishment for those with physical disabilities, those who are overworked, and those who simply would prefer not to?

Though management typically peddles wellness programs to workers as generous perks, they are actually a way for employers to save money. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows employers to “incentivize” participation in wellness programs; the savings come through guidelines that, until recently, allowed employers to tie 30 percent of premiums for individuals and 50 percent for smokers to participation in those programs. This effectively amounts to a fine, sometimes thousands of dollars steep, for those who don’t participate.

Thanks to Steve Robinson, MD, for forwarding.

Hospitals want a cut 

…of any government funding allocated in response to the opioid epidemic. Lobbying on the industry’s behalf are John Kasich, a former governor of Ohio, and E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University (and president of Ohio State, and former husband of pro-cannabis memoirist Constance Gee). Here’s the gist of an op-ed they co-signed in the New York Times Sept. 17:

“While the 1998 tobacco settlement is considered a landmark case in that corporations had to account for the impact their product had on society as a whole and public health care programs in particular, there was one missing component: Hospitals and front line providers were not part of the settlement. Those essential caregivers did not receive funds for the uncompensated care they had to provide as a result of tobacco use.

“And in a more recent example of hospitals being overlooked: The federal government recently allocated $2 billion in emergency funds to states and municipalities to help fight the opioid crisis — yet hospitals will receive none of these federal funds.

“Hospital emergency rooms are often the first stop for patients with opioid use disorder…”