Scott Pruitt Leaves G7 Climate Meeting More Than A Day Early

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt left a weekend meeting of the Group of Seven more than a day early, according to several media reports.

Pruitt traveled to Italy alongside six top environment officials from the other G7 countries and participated in the opening session about climate action on Sunday before heading back to the United States for a cabinet meeting several hours later. His acting assistant administrator, Davide Russo, will attend the rest of the meeting in his place.

During his brief visit, Pruitt had time to meet several of his counterparts, including a stint rolling out pasta and eating prosciutto with Italy?s Minister of Environment Gian Luca Galletti. He also spoke about measure to improve air quality with Japan?s Environment Minister, Koichi Yamamoto.

The Associated Press notes Pruitt was told by his counterparts they were disappointed by President Donald Trump?s controversial decision last month to withdraw from the landmark Paris climate accord.

In a statement to Reuters, Pruitt stressed the need to move forward on environmental action following the announcement.

?I believe engaging in international discussion is of the utmost importance to the United States when it comes to environmental issues,? Pruitt said in the statement.

Pruitt, a longtime foe of the EPA before he took over the helm (he sued the agency 13 times), was instrumental in the president?s decision to exit the accord. He has long rejected the scientific consensus surrounding climate change and earlier this year called America?s Paris pledges ?just a bad deal.?

Prior to his appointment by Trump, the former Oklahoma attorney general also maintained close ties with the fossil fuel industry. Emails published in February show Pruitt worked alongside oil and gas companies to challenge environmental regulations and, at times, even used his official letterhead to file a complaint for an energy group.

Following the White House?s decision to withdraw from Paris, local government officials and businesses have been drawing up their own plans to tackle climate change. Earlier this month, a coalition of 61 mayors promises to meet commitments under the accord and California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a deal to work on the issue with China, regardless of Trump?s plans.

Erik Solheim, the head of the UN?s Environment Program, called on the United States to lead global action on climate change, despite the Trump administration?s ongoing assault on environmental regulations.

?We are all looking for American leadership,? Solheim said, according to Bloomberg. ?We need American leadership on climate, trade and peace. If the White House is not providing that leadership, we will find that leadership in other places. Europe is now more united than ever.?

HuffPost has reached out to the EPA for comment.

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Judge Rejects $2.4 Million Fine For Oil Company Over Blast That Killed 7

A state appeals judge has rejected a $2.4 million dollar fine for an oil company after a refinery explosion killed seven workers.

State officials imposed the fine on Texas company Tesoro in October 2010, over a blast in Anacortes, Washington, that occurred April that year. It was the largest workplace-safety fine in Washington state history, local NPR member station KUOW reports.

But late last week, Judge Mark Jaffe of the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals overturned the fine, saying the state had not shown that the deadly explosion was Tesoro?s fault. The company had been appealing the fine for years ? though it did pay millions of dollars to the families of the victims.

The local news website,, reports that Jaffe?s ruling must still be approved by the board.

The explosion occurred at the Tesoro?s Anacortes refinery when a heat exchanger ruptured. The rupture released extremely hot hydrogen and naphtha, which ignited. The ensuing explosion was so intense that many people felt a shock wave across the nearby Fidalgo Bay, and a huge fireball shot into the sky over the refinery, the Seattle Times reported at the time. (The outlet?s report was published before the final death toll.)

Seven workers ? Daniel Aldridge, Matt Bowen, Matt Gumbel, Darrin Hoines, Lew Janz, Kathryn Powell and Donna Van Dreumel ? died from injuries sustained in the blast, according to KUOW.

The state?s Department of Labor and Industries accused Tesoro of dozens of violations that contributed to the explosion, and these alleged violations led to officials handing down the $2.4 million fine.

?Our position has been that had Tesoro conducted the appropriate and required testing, they would have found the cracking that led to the rupture,? department spokesman Hector Castro told Reuters in 2011.

But Judge Jaffe wrote in his ruling on Thursday that the state was ?unable to really articulate what Tesoro did or did not do to cause the explosion.?

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries, however, is not the only group that has blamed the company for the disaster.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board said in 2011 that Tesoro inadequately maintained the heat exchanger that exploded, Reuters reported at the time.
The CSB released its final report on the catastrophe in 2014, citing a ?substandard safety culture at Tesoro, which led to a complacent attitude toward flammable leaks and occasional fires over the year.?

The company has repeatedly asserted it was not at fault for the explosion and that its heat exchanger maintenance was in line with industry standards and regulations.

Tesoro spokesman Matt Gill told that the company supported Judge Jaffe?s decision.

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Southwest’s First Black Pilot Retires With A Tear-Jerking Sendoff

A 64-year-old Southwest Airlines pilot retired yesterday after nearly 37 years with the airline, and his celebration above is sincerely moving. 

When he started at age 25, Louis Freeman was Southwest?s first black pilot, though he didn?t know it at the time. He later became the first black chief pilot at any major U.S. airline, paving the way for pilots of color in an industry where minorities are scarce.

?It never occurred to me, but when I got here I was the only pilot of color ? it didn?t take long to figure out,? he told the Associated Press. ?I put a whole lot of pressure on myself because I had to get it right. I had to be perfect because I wanted them to hire more of us.?

Freeman is clearly beloved at the airline, where he mentored plenty of younger pilots. Five of them turned up at the gate for Freeman?s final flight from Dallas to Chicago on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reports. 

For his last trip, Freeman flew a plane full of friends along with his wife, son and Champagne for his passengers. The former Air Force pilot landed to a water cannon salute. 

Congratulations, Captain Lou!

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