EPA finalizes lead contamination rule

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday finalized the first update of regulations of lead in drinking water in 30 years, a move it said strengthens federal rules but that environmental critics say is a missed opportunity to carry out the kind of regulatory overhaul needed to ensure safety.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the final rule at a virtual news conference alongside the mayor of Flint, Michigan, Sheldon Neeley, saying it strengthened “every aspect” of the existing regulation and would protect children and communities from lead exposure.

“For the first time in nearly 30 years, this action incorporates best practices and strengthens every aspect of the rule, including closing loopholes, accelerating the real world pace of lead service line replacement, and ensuring that lead pipes will be replaced in their entirety,” Wheeler said in a statement.

The update of the lead and copper rule was a response to the 2014 Flint water crisis, when the predominantly Black city of 100,000 switched its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River to save money, unleashing water contamination that led to elevated lead levels in children’s blood.

The rule would require utilities to notify customers of high lead concentrations within 24 hours of detection – down from 30 days – and require testing for lead in elementary schools and childcare facilities for the first time. It would also require water systems to identify and notify the public about the locations of lead service lines.

But environmental groups criticized the final rule for failing to speed up the replacement of lead pipes, a requirement they say is crucial to protect communities’ drinking water.

The final rule says that in communities where high lead levels are found, utilities must replace 3% of lead water lines compared with the previous requirement of 7%.

“If you have the chance to make the first major revisions in 30 years, you need to really solve this problem. The EPA should speed up replacements of lead pipes, not slow them down,” said Suzanne Novak, an attorney for Earthjustice.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Researchers find elevated radiation near U.S. fracking sites

(Reuters) – Radiation levels downwind of U.S. hydraulic fracturing drilling sites tend to be significantly higher than background levels, posing a potential health risk to nearby residents, according to a study by Harvard researchers released on Tuesday.

The study, published in the journal Nature, adds to controversy over the drilling method known as fracking, which has helped the United States become the world’s biggest oil and gas producer over the past decade but which environmentalists say threatens water and air.

President Donald Trump supports fracking because of its economic benefits, and his Democratic rival Joe Biden has promised to continue to allow it if elected even though he aims to impose an ambitious plan to fight climate change.

Areas within 20 kilometers (12 miles) downwind of 100 fracking wells tend to have radiation levels that are about 7% above normal background levels, according to the study, which examined thousands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s radiation monitor readings nationwide from 2011 to 2017.

The study showed readings can go much higher in areas closer to drill sites, or in areas with higher concentrations of drill sites.

“The increases are not extremely dangerous, but could raise certain health risks to people living nearby,” said the study’s lead author, Petros Koutrakis.

Radioactive particles can be inhaled and increase the risk of lung cancer.

Koutrakis said the source of the radiation is likely naturally-occurring radioactive material brought up to the surface in drilling waste fluids during fracking, a process that pumps water underground to break up shale formations.

The study found the biggest increases in radiation levels near drill sites in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio that have higher concentrations of naturally occurring radioactive material beneath the surface, and lower readings in places like Texas and New Mexico that have less.

It also found less pronounced increases in particle radiation levels near conventional drilling operations.

Koutrakis said further study was needed to determine whether the radiation was being released during the drilling process, or from wastewater storage nearby.

“Our hope is that once we understand the source more clearly, there will be engineering methods to control this,” he said.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Trump EPA sides with farmers over refiners in biofuel waiver decision

By Stephanie Kelly

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Trump administration said on Monday it rejected scores of requests from U.S. oil refiners for waivers that would have retroactively spared them from their obligation to blend biofuels like ethanol into their fuel, delivering a win for farmers and a blow to the oil industry just ahead of the November presidential election.

Reuters had reported last week that U.S. President Donald Trump, under the advice of his allies in the Midwest, ordered his Environmental Protection Agency to deny the waivers because they had become a lightning rod of controversy in the Farm Belt, an important political constituency.

“This decision follows President Trump’s promise to promote domestic biofuel production, support our nation’s farmers, and in turn strengthen our energy independence,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement announcing the agency was denying 54 applications that the Department of Energy had reviewed.

Refiners say the waivers are crucial for reducing regulatory costs for small fuel producers and keeping them in business, but the corn lobby argues the exemptions undermine demand for corn-based ethanol at a time farmers are already suffering from the impacts of a trade war with China.

CONTENTION LAW

Under the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard, refiners must blend some 15 billion gallons of ethanol into their gasoline each year or buy tradable credits from those that do. Small refiners have also been able to seek an exemption if they can prove financial harm from the requirements.

The Trump administration has roughly quadrupled the number of exemptions given out to refiners in a trend that had angered the biofuel industry.

In January, an appeals court handling a case initiated by the biofuel industry cast a cloud of doubt over the EPA’s waiver program, ruling that waivers granted to small refineries after 2010 should only be approved as extensions. Most recipients of waivers in recent years have not continuously received them.

That triggered a wave of requests for retroactive relief by refiners seeking to comply with the court decision. Since March, 17 small refineries in 14 states submitted 68 petitions, Wheeler said in a memo. The Department of Energy, which advises EPA on the waiver requests, had transmitted its findings on 54 of the petitions.

“(T)hese small refineries did not demonstrate disproportionate economic hardship from compliance with the RFS program for those RFS compliance years,” Wheeler said.

It is unclear what will happen to refining facilities that had benefited from waivers in recent years that are non-compliant with the court’s ruling. But sources told Reuters the administration may seek to offer them another form of financial relief to compensate.

It was also not immediately clear how this would affect 28 pending waiver applications for 2019 and three pending applications for 2020.

The Trump administration’s decision on Monday is a major victory for biofuel advocates in the long-standing battle between the deep-pocketed Corn and Oil lobbies.

“This is outstanding news for biofuels producers, farmers, and RFS integrity,” said Iowa Renewable Fuels Association Executive Director Monte Shaw. “With gap year waivers denied, the number of refiners eligible to even apply for – let alone receive – an RFS exemption going forward is reduced to single digits.”

Some in the oil industry criticized the decision. “EPA has turned a blind eye to merchant refineries and their workers in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas,” said the Fueling American Jobs Coalition, a group that includes union workers and independent refiners.

Trump over the weekend also tweeted that he would allow states to permit fuel retailers to use their current pumps to sell gasoline with higher blends of ethanol, or E15, a move that could help lift ethanol sales.

“Today’s announcements will help provide more certainty to our biofuel producers, who have for too-long been yanked around by the EPA, and help increase access to E15, which drives up demand for corn and ethanol,” said Iowa Senator Joni Ernst.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Dan Grebler and Marguerita Choy)

EPA approves a virus-killing coating for American Airlines, studies use by schools

By Tracy Rucinski

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday it has granted emergency approval for American Airlines to use a disinfectant against the coronavirus on certain surfaces that lasts for up to seven days, and is studying whether it could be effective in places like schools.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said at a news briefing that SurfaceWise2, made by Allied BioScience Inc, is the first long-lasting product approved by the agency to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.

American Airlines will begin spraying its airplane cabins with the disinfectant in its home base of Texas after the state filed the request for emergency approval. The carrier hopes to eventually use it across its entire fleet, including its American Eagle regional partners.

The spray does not eliminate the need for cleaning, officials said.

Southwest Airlines, also based in Texas, has been using a two-step process in its cabins that involves an EPA-approved disinfectant spray followed by a separate antimicrobial spray that coats surfaces for at least 30 days.

Reuters first reported on Sunday emergency approval of SurfaceWise2 for use by American and by Texas-based Total Orthopedics Sports & Spine’s two clinics for up to a year.

Airlines have rolled out deeper cleaning and disinfecting of airplanes and airport facilities in an effort to convince people that it is safe to resume flying during the pandemic.

(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Berkrot)

Trump executive order to boost U.S. drug manufacturing: Navarro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday will sign an executive order aimed at boosting American drug manufacturing and lowering drug prices, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said as the administration continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The order, first reported by USA Today, “establishes Buy American rules for government agencies, strips away regulatory barriers to domestic pharmaceutical manufacturing, and catalyzes the Advanced Manufacturing technologies needed to keep drug prices low,” Navarro tweeted.

It will allow the Department of Health and Human Services to use a 1950 law to procure certain “essential” medicines and other equipment from U.S. companies, although it does not list specific products, USA Today reported, citing the White House.

The order also directs the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to give priority status to U.S. drug ingredient manufacturers during their regulatory review process, and addresses counterfeit medicines sold by third-party sellers, according to the report.

So far, more than 157,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19 – about 1,000 each day – with 4.8 million known COVID-19 cases.

Trump is expected to sign the order later on Thursday, USA Today said. The Republican president is scheduled to travel to Ohio to visit a Whirlpool manufacturing plant and hold a fundraiser for his re-election campaign before traveling to his New Jersey golf resort for the weekend, according to the White House.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. EPA proposing first-ever airplane emissions standards

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday announced it was proposing the first U.S. emissions standards for commercial aircraft.

In 2016, the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) agreed on global airplane emissions standards aimed at makers of small and large planes, including Airbus SE and Boeing Co, which both backed the standards.

The EPA-proposed regulation seeks to align the United States with the ICAO standards, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “We are implementing the ICAO recommendations, ICAO standards,” Wheeler told reporters.

The proposal would apply to new type designs as of January 2020 and to in-production airplanes or those with amended type certificates starting in 2028. They would not apply to airplanes currently in use.

Aircraft account for 12% of all U.S. transportation greenhouse gas emissions and 3% of total such U.S. emissions. They are the largest source of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions not subject to standards.

Wheeler said it was critical the U.S. adopt the standards, because countries could ban U.S.-assembled airplanes if they do not meet ICAO standards.

EPA is expected to finalize the rules next spring. The Federal Aviation Administration will then issue separate rules to enforce the standards.

Some environmentalists argue the ICAO rules and EPA did not go far enough.

Clare Lakewood, climate legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said Wednesday, “this toothless proposal does nothing to meaningfully address the serious problem of airplanes’ planet-warming pollution.” She noted EPA was not estimating any emissions reductions as a result of the proposal.

Wheeler said the proposal is based on “where the technology is today … You can’t really set the standard that can’t be met.”

Boeing said the EPA proposal “is a major step forward for protecting the environment and supporting sustainable growth of commercial aviation and the United States economy.”

Airlines for America, a trade group, said the rules will help U.S. airlines “achieve carbon neutral growth in the near term and to cut net carbon emissions in half in 2050 relative to 2005 levels.”

Under President Barack Obama, the EPA in 2016 declared aircraft emissions posed a public health danger. In January, environmental groups filed a notice of intent to sue EPA for failing to regulate aircraft emissions.

(Reporting by David Shepardson. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Nick Zieminski)

Exclusive: Lonza expects EPA approval coming ‘very soon’ to make COVID-killing claims for disinfectants on surfaces

By Siddharth Cavale and Richa Naidu

(Reuters) – Lonza Group AG is in the “last step” of discussions with U.S. regulators for approval to claim that its formulation is effective in killing the novel Coronavirus on surfaces, an executive at the pharmaceutical and chemical giant told Reuters.

Earlier this week, Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc became the first company to win the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval to market two of its Lysol disinfectant sprays as household COVID-19 killers.

Reuters previously reported that Reckitt had procured a strain of the virus from an independent lab, for testing. The EPA’s approval allows Reckitt to claim that Lysol can kill the novel coronavirus, or the SARS-CoV-2, on surfaces.

Ernesto Lippert, Lonza’s vice president of strategic development and advocacy, told Reuters Thursday that it, too, obtained a strain of SARS-CoV-2 and had tested a range of its formulations in approved EPA labs. He said data shows that the products could indeed kill SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces.

“We are probably be going to be the second one after Reckitt Benckiser to have a range of our products with the actual claim against SARS-CoV-2,” Lippert said, adding that Lonza is in the “last step” of the process and that “EPA’s approval is going to be very soon.”

Reuters could not independently verify Lonza’s discussions with the EPA or the timing on a possible decision by the agency.

An EPA spokesperson said on Friday Lonza was one of several companies to have submitted laboratory data against SARS-CoV-2, but declined to elaborate on the approval timeline.

Lonza is one of a few big chemical companies, along with U.S.-based Stepan Co and Pilot Chemicals, which own chemical formulations that go into many household products. The formulations typically have been pre-tested and EPA- approved for use against a variety of pathogens. Lonza’s current clients include 3M and the maker of Pine Glo kitchen and bathroom cleaner.

The EPA in March issued new guidelines, allowing hundreds of smaller companies to quickly gain regulatory approval without subjecting their products to time-consuming testing.

Applicants with data showing their products are effective against “non-enveloped” viruses won expedited approval to market their products as potentially effective against SARS-CoV-2. The EPA considers “non-enveloped” viruses to be harder-to-kill than even SARS-CoV-2, which is an “enveloped” virus.

That easing of the rules coupled with the licensing means companies can go through an accelerated EPA vetting process than the previous time frame of six months to one year for approval.

Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a statement late March that the move would allow the EPA to better protect public health by assuring the availability of surface disinfectants to use against the novel coronavirus.

“Supplemental registration is by far the easiest and quickest mechanism to get a product into the market,” said regulatory consultant Kevin Kutcel. “You just send a notification to the EPA and you can immediately get into the marketplace very, very quickly.”

Lonza’s Lippert said the company had a more than 110% spike in supplemental registrations of its formulations in the second quarter compared to the first quarter of the year. It also is currently reviewing 62 applications to license its formulas, most of which already are EPA-approved as effective against “non-enveloped” viruses.

“Normally regulators are pretty dogmatic about these things – they insist on all the testing and are pretty rigid,” said Michael Reynen, the former research head of Procter & Gamble’s surface care business in parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “But now the situation out there is pretty desperate.”

Consumer demand for cleaning and disinfecting products continues to soar.

“The Pope couldn’t have bought a bottle of Lysol last week if he wanted to, and now because of the EPA’s approval [of Lysol] it’ll be even harder,” said Josh Bloom, director of chemical and pharmaceutical sciences at consumer advocacy group American Council of Science and Health (ACSH).

Over the past five months, the EPA has approved nearly 750 products that license formulations as potentially effective against COVID, according to a list compiled by the American Chemistry Council trade group.

In late February, the list had only about 100 products, almost all from Lysol and Clorox. By June, the ACC list was comprised mostly of other brands licensing formulations from primary registrants Lonza, Pilot and Stepan, according to a Reuters analysis.

Stepan and Pilot were not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru and Richa Naidu in Chicago; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Edward Tobin)

Monsanto, BASF weed killers strain U.S. states with crop damage complaints

Monsanto's research farm is pictured near Carman, Manitoba, Canada on August 3, 2017.

By Tom Polansek

CHICAGO (Reuters) – U.S. farmers have overwhelmed state governments with thousands of complaints about crop damage linked to new versions of weed killers, threatening future sales by manufacturers Monsanto Co and BASF.

Monsanto is banking on weed killers using a chemical known as dicamba – and seeds engineered to resist it – to dominate soybean production in the United States, the world’s second-largest exporter.

The United States has faced a weed-killer crisis this year caused by the new formulations of dicamba-based herbicides, which farmers and weed experts say have harmed crops because they evaporate and drift away from where they are applied.

Monsanto and BASF say the herbicides are safe when properly applied. They need to convince regulators after the flood of complaints to state agriculture departments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last year approved use of the weed killers on dicamba-resistant crops during the summer growing season. Previously, farmers used dicamba to kill weeds before they planted seeds, and not while the crops were growing.

However, the EPA approved such use only until Nov. 9, 2018, because “extraordinary precautions” are needed to prevent dicamba products from tainting vulnerable crops, a spokesman told Reuters in a statement last week. The agency wanted to be able to step in if there were problems, he said.

Next year, the EPA will determine whether to extend its approval by reviewing damage complaints and consulting with state and industry experts. States are separately considering new restrictions on usage for 2018.

Major soybean-growing states, including Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois, each received roughly four years’ worth of complaints about possible pesticide damage to crops this year due to dicamba use, state regulators said.

Now agriculture officials face long backlogs of cases to investigate, which are driving up costs for lab tests and overtime. Several states had to reassign employees to handle the load.

“We don’t have the staff to be able to handle 400 investigations in a year plus do all the other required work,” said Paul Bailey, director of the Plant Industries division of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

In Missouri, farmers filed about 310 complaints over suspected dicamba damage, on top of the roughly 80 complaints about pesticides the state receives in a typical year, he said.

Nationwide, states launched 2,708 investigations into dicamba-related plant injury by Oct. 15, according to data compiled by the University of Missouri.

States investigate such complaints to determine whether applicators followed the rules for using chemicals. Those found to have violated regulations can be fined.

Monsanto has said that U.S. farmers spraying this past summer failed to follow detailed instructions of up to 4,550 words printed on labels.

The companies will change usage instructions in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the past summer’s problems.

“With significant adoption and a lot of interest in this new technology, we recognize that many states have received a number of reports of potential off-target application of dicamba in 2017,” Monsanto spokeswoman Charla Lord said last month.

 

PHOTOGRAPHING DAMAGED SOYBEANS

State investigators try to visit fields within days after farmers report possible damage to take photos before signs of injury, such as cupped leaves on soybean plants hit by dicamba, disappear. They question farmers and the people who applied the herbicide, and often gather samples from plants to test.

In Arkansas, farmers filed about 985 complaints associated with dicamba, the most of any state. Investigators are probing about 1,200 total complaints involving pesticide use, which includes weed killers, said Terry Walker, director of the Arkansas State Plant Board.

Arkansas delayed inspections of animal feed and allowed overtime to handle the dicamba cases, which is not normal practice, Walker said. He was unable to provide a cost estimate for dealing with the complaints.

Among the farmers who reported damage was Reed Storey, who said he wanted to ensure state officials knew dicamba caused damage even when users follow the instructions.

“I’m calling strictly to let y’all know that we have an issue with this product,” Storey, who spoke last month, said he told Arkansas regulators.

Illinois received about 421 total pesticide complaints, the most since at least 1989, said Warren Goetsch, acting chief of the Bureau of Environmental Programs at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. That includes at least 245 complaints associated with dicamba, which could take until next year to finish investigating, he said.

“It’s frustrating I think for us that we’re as behind as we are,” Goetsch said.

 

MONSANTO’S BIG BET

Monsanto is betting on dicamba-tolerant soybeans to replace those that withstand glyphosate, an herbicide used for decades but which is becoming less effective as weeds develop resistance. The company aims for its dicamba-resistant seeds to account for half the U.S. soybeans planted by 2019.

Monsanto, which is in the process of being acquired by Bayer AG  for $63.5 billion, said it plans to open a call center to help customers use dicamba next year and is talking with states about the product.

Monsanto’s net sales increased $1.1 billion, or 8 percent, in fiscal year 2017 due partly to increased sales of its dicamba-resistant soybean seeds.

The company and BASF already face several lawsuits from farmers alleging damage to plants from dicamba used by neighbors.

 

ANALYZING PLANT SAMPLES

The EPA provides grants to states that help fund investigations into pesticide damage and this year offered 35 states extra assistance analyzing plant samples for dicamba, according to the agency.

Minnesota and Illinois turned to the EPA for help, with the latter saying the federal agency has better equipment to detect low levels of dicamba.

In Iowa, the state’s laboratory bureau received 515 samples to test this year, up 35 percent, as dicamba use helped drive up the total number of pesticide complaints to 270 from a typical range of 70 to 120, according to the state. Each test costs up to $9.

“We are really anxious to flip the page and look ahead to 2018 and try to figure out the things that can be done to improve the situation,” said Mike Naig, deputy secretary of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

 

(Reporting by Tom Polansek; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Matthew Lewis)

 

US Coast Guard, EPA cleaning up a dozen Texas chemical spills after Harvey

Vehicles sit amid leaked fuel mixed in with flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in the parking lot of Motiva Enterprises LLC in Port Arthur, Texas, U.S. August 31, 2017.

By Emily Flitter

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency are working with Texas state regulators to clean up oil and chemicals spilled from a dozen industrial facilities after flooding from Hurricane Harvey, authorities said.

The spills came from oil refineries, fuel terminals and other businesses, but EPA spokeswoman Terri White said it was not possible to provide an estimate for the amounts spilled.

“Initial reports were based on observation,” White said. “Some spills were already being cleaned up by the time EPA or other officials arrived to assess them and others had already migrated offsite.”

Refineries owned by Valero Energy Corp in Houston, Motiva Inc in Port Arthur, and Exxon Mobile Corp in Baytown, were among the facilities that had reported spills, according to White. Representatives for those companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Officials also reported spills at Kinder Morgan Inc’s Pasadena fuel storage terminal and at an oil terminal in Texas City owned by NuStar Energy LP.

Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Lexey Long said on Monday the company reported a spill of 500 barrels of gasoline on Aug. 27. Workers covered the spill with a foam blanket and set up a barrier to keep the public away.

“The spill has been fully remediated,” she said.

NuStar representatives had no immediate comment.

Two wastewater treatment plants – Integrity Golden Triangle Marine Services of Port Arthur and San Jacinto River and Rail in Beaumont – also appeared on the list of spill response locations that EPA provided to Reuters.

San Jacinto River and Rail said it spilled a “foamy emulsion” when floodwaters overtopped the berms around its facility.

“Some is on our property and some is on adjacent property which has already been cleaned up,” said spokesman Dennis Winkler. “We do not expect a long-term environmental impact. We do not expect there will be any air impact or health impacts.”

Representatives from Integrity Golden Triangle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The liquid spills come in addition to more than a million pounds of toxic emissions above legal limits that spewed from industrial facilities following Harvey, according to reports from companies filed with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality.

The EPA and other authorities had warned people affected by the flood that waters could contain bacteria and toxic chemicals, but have said little yet about the specific origins or quantities of substances.

Residents in Baytown, where houses sit along the Houston Ship Channel next to several major refineries and chemical plants, said they were concerned about the impact of the spills and releases on health.

“I’m against the sword and the wall, what can I do?” said Carlos Caban, one of the residents, whose son had taken pictures of contaminated-looking floodwaters in nearby refinery site.

Several residents reported seeing a metallic sheen on water flowing near the plants during the heaviest flooding, posting videos to YouTube.

 

(Reporting By Emily Flitter; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Jonathan Oatis)

 

U.S. government scientists go ‘rogue’ in defiance of Trump

national park in south dakota

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Employees from more than a dozen U.S. government agencies have established a network of unofficial “rogue” Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

Seizing on Trump’s favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts – borrowing names and logos of their agencies – to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.

“Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS,” one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService. “You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!”

The @RogueNASA account displayed an introductory disclaimer describing it as “The unofficial ‘Resistance’ team of NASA. Not an official NASA account.” It beckoned readers to follow its feed “for science and climate news and facts. REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS.”

The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump’s inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee re-tweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump’s swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.

Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.

The restrictions have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change skeptic, is out to squelch federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.

The resistance movement gained steam on Tuesday when a series of climate change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.

A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post public safety and park information only, and to avoid national policy issues.

Within hours, unofficial “resistance” or “rogue” Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked, the list growing to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.

An account dubbed @ungaggedEPA invited followers to visit its feeds of “ungagged news, links, tips and conversation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unable to tell you,” adding that it was “Not directly affiliated with @EPA.”

U.S. environmental employees were soon joined by similar “alternative” Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Weather Service. Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.

An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS also emerged (a reference to one of Trump’s more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants) to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.

Because the Twitter feeds were set up and posted to anonymously as private accounts, they are beyond the control of the government.

(By Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)