The Washington Post - 13.08.2019

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lows local economies to thrive,”
Barrasso said.
Conservationists took the op-
posite view, decrying the changes
as a major rollback of the stron-
gest wildlife conservation law in
the world, credited with saving
dozens of species of flowers, in-
sects and animals.
“They’re trying to make it diffi-
cult, if not impossible, to protect
unoccupied habitat,” said Rebec-
ca Riley, legal director for nature
programs at the Natural Resourc-
es Defense Council. “We know
climate change is going to force
animals to move to new habitats.”
For example, she said, the west-
ern snowy plover that nests on
the coast is being affected by sea
level rise. “As the sea rises, it will
need to move inland. If we can’t
protect those areas because it’s
not occupied today, that habitat
might not be there when they
need it,” Riley said.
Some lawmakers also opposed
the changes.
“Today, the Trump administra-
tion issued regulations that take a
wrecking ball to one of our oldest
and most effective environmental
laws, the Endangered Species
Act,” Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
said in a statement. “As we have
seen time and time again, no
environmental protection — no
matter how effective or popular —
is safe from this administration.”
Speaking during a telephone
news conference, Healey said the
new rules “continue the Trump
administration’s agenda to ben-
efit oil and gas... and allow the
federal government to ignore the
devastating impacts of climate
change, ignore the U.N. biodiver-
sity report and the alarming crisis
facing a million species.
“These changes violate the pur-
pose of the Endangered Species
Act,” Healey added, “and sounds
like the plan of a cartoon villain
and not the president of the Unit-
ed States.”

by an existing law that needs to be
Republicans have argued that
recovering listed species takes too
long. Of more than 1,900 listed
since 1973, only 47 have been
recovered. About 1,200 animal
and 700 plant species are now
listed, according to the Environ-
mental Protection Agency.
Eighteen species, including the
American wolverine and Taiwan-
ese humpback dolphin, are under
consideration for an endangered
or threatened listing. An addi-
tional 18 are under consideration
for delisting because their popu-
lations grew.
“We must modernize the En-
dangered Species Act in a way
that empowers states, promotes
the recovery of species, and al-

makers and conservationists not-
ed that it could stir up opposition
to proposals to rescue fragile pop-
“There is no reason to do this
except to deliberately inflame
public opposition to the species
or to the act as a whole,” said Bob
Dreher, a vice president for con-
servation at Defenders of Wild-
A Republican senator who has
fought in the past to change the
act applauded the administra-
tion’s efforts.
“The Trump administration is
taking important steps to make
the Endangered Species Act work
better for people and wildlife,”
said Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.).
“These final rules are a good start,
but the administration is limited

opening it up for oil and gas
exploration or other forms of de-
Another rule change stripped
away language that said a secre-
tary “shall make a [listing] deter-
mination solely on the basis of the
best scientific and commercial
information regarding a species’
status,” regardless of its costs.
By removing that sentence, the
administration allows the interi-
or and commerce secretaries to
consider the economic impact of
a listing. Potential threats to busi-
ness opportunities and other
costs can now be factored by the
government and shared with the
Administration officials said
those considerations will not af-
fect listing decisions, but law-

of species to human activity and
showed how those losses are un-
dermining food and water secu-
rity, along with human health.
More plants and animals are
threatened with extinction now
than at any other period in hu-
man history, the report said.
Only Congress can change an
act, but rule revisions reflect an
administration’s interpretation
of a law and how it should be
applied. The 1973 Endangered
Species Act passed unanimously
in the Senate and by an over-
whelming margin in the House.
Under the administration’s
new rules, it would have been
nearly impossible to designate
the polar bear as threatened in
2010 because of the loss of sea ice
in the Arctic, one of the fastest-
warming areas in the world.
Nearly 200,000 square miles of
barrier islands in Alaska were
listed as critical habitat.
Officials relied on climate mod-
els to predict how warming would
affect the polar bear habitat more
than 80 years into the future. The
new rules call such predictions
into doubt and said officials can
now determine effects only in
what it described, vaguely, as the
“foreseeable future.”
“When you start reaching out
to 70 or 80 years” to project
climate effects on the planet and
wildlife, the amount of certainty
about what could happen “starts
to degrade significantly,” said
Gary Frazer, assistant director for
endangered species at Fish and
Wildlife, a division of the Interior
The new rules also limit the
area of land that can be protected
to help species recover and sur-
vive. Land that plants and ani-
mals occupy is now set aside for
their protection, in addition to
areas that they once lived in or
might need in the future.
Under the new rules, critical
habitat that is not currently occu-
pied might not be protected,

ing the regulatory burden on the
American public, without sacri-
ficing our species’ protection and
recovery goals,” Commerce Secre-
tary Wilbur Ross said in a state-
ment. “These changes were sub-
ject to a robust, transparent pub-
lic process, during which we re-
ceived significant public input
that helped us finalize these
The rules will affect future list-
ing decisions, officials said, and
are not retroactive. They will go
into effect 30 days after being
published in the Federal Register.
Within hours of Monday’s an-
nouncement, the state attorneys
general of California and Massa-
chusetts joined a conservation
group, Defenders of Wildlife, in
declaring the changes illegal and
vowing to challenge them in
“You can anticipate that we will
see many states join this action,”
said Maura Healey, attorney gen-
eral of Massachusetts. “The way
this was done was illegal under
federal laws, and this is an admin-
istration that needs to be held
Jamie Rappaport Clark, who
led the Fish and Wildlife Service
during the Clinton administra-
tion, said the people who have
spent careers trying to recover
and protect the nation’s endan-
gered species find the Trump ad-
ministration’s move “devastat-
“There is nothing biologically
positive about the rules,” she said.
“We will argue that they are ille-
In May, a U.N. report on world
biodiversity found that 1 million
plant and animal species are on
the verge of extinction, with
alarming implications for human
The report, written by seven
experts from universities around
the world, directly linked the loss



New Jersey’s largest city began
handing out cases of bottled wa-
ter Monday to residents with lead
water service lines, more than
two years after it began wrestling
with high levels of lead in its tap
“I understand people’s frustra-
tion,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka
(D) said in an interview, adding
that he has a lead line at his home
and that he and his pregnant wife
have been using one of the tens of
thousands of water filters the city
began distributing last fall.
“This is a very serious matter
to me. We don’t take this lightly
at all,” he said, adding, “Am I
worried? Yeah, I am worried. And
we are going to do what we can to
get to the bottom of this.”
Baraka’s comments came after
the latest twist in Newark’s long-
running water problem. Tests in
recent days showed that the wa-
ter filters the city provided to
residents might not be adequate-
ly blocking lead, according to
federal and local officials.
The findings prompted Peter
Lopez, the Environmental Pro-
tection Agency’s regional admin-
istrator who oversees New Jersey,
to write to Baraka and New
Jersey’s top environmental offi-
cial Friday, saying it was “essen-
tial” that officials warn residents
of the findings and begin provid-

ing bottled water “as soon as
possible” to people whose homes
have lead service lines.
On Saturday, Baraka held a
news conference to inform resi-
dents about the failed filters. He
urged pregnant women and chil-
dren under 6, in particular, to
avoid using water from their taps
for drinking or food preparation
“until we figure out what the hell
is going on.”
“The results of these tests leave
us with many questions, and we
must expand our testing to un-
derstand what is happening,” Ba-
raka said, adding that officials
are also working with the filter
manufacturer, Pur, to determine
why two of three home filters
that were tested failed. Since
October, the city has distributed
roughly 40,000 filters. Baraka
also said the city will continue to
provide water testing for resi-
dents and free blood tests for
children under 6.
On Sunday, Baraka and Gov.
Phil Murphy (D) announced four
locations where residents could
begin picking up bottled water —
paid for by the state, for now —
while officials expand testing of
filters. Residents qualify for the
free bottled water if they have
lead service lines, use city-pro-
vided filters, and live in the part
of the city considered most at-
risk for water problems.
At least 30 Newark schools had
their drinking fountains shut off

in March 2016 after tests re-
vealed high lead levels, and stu-
dents and staff were provided
bottled water. In 2017, Newark
exceeded the federal “action lev-
el” of 15 parts per billion of lead
during testing of residential
Newark officials insisted the
water was safe and that the key
problem lay in thousands of
aging lead service lines that carry
water from city mains to homes.
“The city’s water is not contami-
nated with lead,” the head of
Newark’s water department said
in a statement last summer, ac-
cusing activists of making a “false

comparison” with the water cri-
sis in Flint, Mich.
Baraka also has rejected com-
parisons to Flint, saying Newark
officials have taken the required
steps to try to fix its water quality
violations, have kept the public
notified and have worked to help
homeowners replace their lead
service lines.
Still, in a notable shift last fall,
the city began handing out filters
and announced it would alter its
water treatment.
In an open letter to President
Trump last year requesting help,
Baraka estimated that it would
take $70 million to replace lead

lines — a massive expense for a
city that has long struggled with
Even low levels of lead expo-
sure can cause lasting damage to
the developing brains and ner-
vous systems of young children.
The law requires that if a
certain number of homes tested
in a city exceed the federal limit, a
utility must take remedial steps
to improve its corrosion controls
— and begin replacing lead pipes.
Last month marked the fifth
consecutive time in two years
that Newark’s mandated water
testing exceeded federal limits
for lead.
An ongoing lawsuit against the
city, brought by a group of school-
teachers and the environmental
advocacy group Natural Resourc-
es Defense Council, has been
pushing for a citywide distribu-
tion of bottled water since Au-
gust 2018.
“We’re glad that EPA is finally
weighing in after at least two
years of this lead health problem
being clear,” said Erik Olson,
health and environment pro-
gram director at the NRDC.
“While the EPA proposal to re-
quire bottled water for some
residents in Newark is a good
first step, we don’t know whether
this would be just a temporary
measure, and many thousands of
other residents of the city still
will not be protected by this
partial action.”

On Monday, the commissioner
of New Jersey’s Department of
Environmental Protection, Cath-
erine McCabe, wrote to the EPA
asking for more help. She said
state and local officials relied on
the EPA’s assurances that the
filters Newark handed out to
residents were reliable. She also
warned that the city and state
“have limited emergency water
supplies and financial resources,
and we do not yet know how long
we will be able to provide bottled
“Given the concerns EPA has
here, we hope that EPA will offer
assistance promptly,” wrote Mc-
Cabe, an EPA veteran.
News that the water filters
handed out by the city might not
be working caused frustration
among some residents.
“I was beginning to trust the
[city-provided] filters for cook-
ing. And now I’m being told the
filter may not be working? I feel
so lost and confused,” said Shaki-
ma Thomas, who lives in New-
ark’s West Ward with her 5-year-
old son.
“For far too long, Newark has
tiptoed around a comprehensive
response to their lead-in-water
crisis,” said Mona Hanna-Attisha,
the Michigan pediatrician who
helped bring to light the severity
of Flint’s water crisis. “Newark is
what keeps me up at night now.”

Newark begins giving residents bottled water amid ongoing lead problems

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, left, has rejected comparisons to Flint,
Mich., saying the city has taken steps to try to fix the problems.

Trump administration takes final steps to weaken 1973 law protecting wildlife

The Endangered Species Act is credited with saving the grizzly bear and dozens of species of flowers,
insects and large animals. Conservationists are decrying new changes as an assault on the law.


las vegas — As Sen. Ron Wyden
(D-Ore.) toured the Voting Village
on Friday at Def Con, the world’s
hacker conference extraordi-
naire, a roomful of hackers ap-
plied their skills to voting equip-
ment in an enthusiastic effort to
comply with the instructions they
had been given: “Please break
Armed with lock-pick kits to
crack into locked hardware, Eth-
ernet cables and inquiring minds,
they had come for a rare chance to
interrogate the machines that
conduct U.S. democracy. By laying
siege to electronic poll books and
ballot printers, the friendly hack-
ers aimed to expose weaknesses
that could be exploited by less
friendly hands looking to inter-
fere in elections.
Wyden nodded along as Harri
Hursti, the founder of Nordic In-
novation Labs and one of the
event’s organizers, explained that
almost all of the machines in the
room were still used in elections
across the United States, despite
having well-known vulnerabili-
ties that have been more or less
ignored by the companies that sell

them. Many had Internet connec-
tions, Hursti said, a weakness that
savvy attackers could abuse in
several ways.
Wyden shook his head in dis-
“We need paper ballots, guys,”
Wyden said.
After Wyden walked away, a
few hackers exchanged confused
expressions before figuring out
who he was.
“I wasn’t expecting to see any
senators here,” one said with a
In three years since its incep-
tion, Def Con’s Voting Village —
and the conference at large — has
become a destination not only for
hackers but for lawmakers and
members of the intelligence com-
munity trying to understand the
flaws in the election system that
allowed Russian hackers to inter-
vene in the 2016 election and that
could be exploited again in 2020.
This year’s programming in-
volved hacking voting equipment
as well as panels with election
officials and security experts, a
demonstration of a $10 million
experimental voting system from
the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency, and a

“part speed-dating, part group
therapy” session where state and
local election officials gathered
with hackers to hash out challeng-
es of securing elections.
Participants spoke often of the
need for thorough auditing of
election results, increased fund-
ing and improved transparency
from vendors. The call for paper
ballots was a common refrain. At
the time of the 2018 midterm elec-
tions, Delaware, Georgia, Louisi-
ana, New Jersey and South Caro-
lina had no auditable paper trails.
“Election officials across the
country as we speak are buying
election systems that will be out of
date the moment they open the
box,” Wyden said in the Voting
Village’s keynote speech. “It’s the
election security equivalent of
putting our military out there to
go up against superpowers with a
House Democrats have intro-
duced two bills that would require
paper records to back up voting
machines, mandate post-election
audits and set security standards
for election technology vendors.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell (R-Ky.) has repeatedly
blocked votes on the bills, saying

election security is the province of
the states.
Last month, the Senate Intelli-
gence Committee — of which
Wyden is a member — released a
report detailing how Russian
hackers probably targeted all 50
states between 2014 and 2017. Al-
though the report did not find
evidence that Russian actors tam-
pered with vote tallies on Election
Day, the committee said that
hackers “exploited the seams” be-
tween federal and state authori-
ties and that states weren’t suffi-
ciently prepared to handle such
an attack.
Local election officials at Def
Con echoed these concerns. Joel
Miller, an election auditor in Linn
County, Iowa, and a repeat Def
Con attendee, said he has had to
file Freedom of Information Act
requests and a Help America Vote
Act complaint to try to get an-
swers about security failures in
the state’s voter registration sys-
tem from Iowa’s secretary of state.
Russian hackers attempted to in-
filtrate the system in 2016, and
while an overhaul of the 14-year-
old system is impending, officials
have said it will not be replaced
before 2020.

“We don’t know what’s going on
with the system,” Miller said. “I’m
a former IT director, and I know
more about what I don’t know, but
that’s almost worse than if I didn’t
have a tech background. I’m
aware there’s more threats out
there than we can handle.”
A spokesman for Iowa Secre-
tary of State Paul D. Pate defended
the security of the state’s systems
and noted that Pate’s chief of staff
also attended Def Con this year.
“Iowa’s system is secure and we
work every day to ensure it re-
mains secure,” the spokesman,
Kevin Hall, said in an emailed
The Voting Village has faced
extreme pushback in the past
from voting equipment compa-
nies and government officials,
who have argued that the free-for-
all environment at Def Con
doesn’t replicate the realities of
security on Election Day. The Na-
tional Association of Secretaries
of State condemned the exercise
as “unrealistic” last year, and Elec-
tion Systems & Software, one of
the major voting machine ven-
dors, sent a letter to its customers
making the same argument.
“Physical security measures

make it extremely unlikely that an
unauthorized person, or a person
with malicious intent, could ever
access a voting machine,” ES&S
wrote last year.
The company did not immedi-
ately respond to requests for com-
ment about this year’s event.
Hursti said that vendors have
used legal threats to “create a
chilling effect” on research of
their equipment, and that they
were “actively trying to shoot the
messengers” rather than reckon
with the weaknesses in their
products. That lack of coopera-
tion has left organizers to search
for machinery to use at the Voting
Village: Some was rescued from a
warehouse where the roof col-
lapsed, while others were snagged
in government surplus auctions
or on eBay, Hursti said.
The first primary votes of the
2020 election will be cast in the
Iowa caucuses in just a few
months, but it’s impossible to
patch the gaping security holes in
U.S. election security by then or
even by Election Day, Hursti said.
“Everyone claiming we can fix
this by 2020 is giving a false sense
of security,” Hursti said.

At Def Con, hackers and lawmakers examine holes in U.S. election security

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