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House seeks to limit toxic human-made chemicals in drinking water

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday approved a bill setting deadlines for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement drinking water regulations for so-called forever chemicals.

Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly called PFAS, are widely used, human-made compounds that are found in manufacturing and consumer products like Scotchguard, flame-resistant materials, nonstick cooking surfaces and firefighting foam used on military bases since the 1940s. They have been found in water wells throughout California and thousands of water sources across the country.

The bill approved Wednesday by a vote of 241-182 orders the EPA to designate two PFAS compounds as hazardous air and water pollutants, and set drinking water regulations for their use within two years of the bill becoming law. For years the agency has only established a non-enforceable health advisory level on the compounds in drinking water.

It also gives the EPA four years to set regulations for the discharge of the chemicals in industrial runoff and wastewater, and gives the agency five years to set standards for the use of the thousands of other PFAS compounds.

The bill requires cleanup of PFAS-contaminated sites and reimburses local water agencies for their efforts to reduce the amount of PFAS in drinking water.

The compounds don’t break down in nature and build up the human body. A number of studies and investigations have tied the two compounds that would be designated as hazardous pollutants to cancer and other serious illnesses in recent years.

—Los Angeles Times

Judge releases video, photos in Whitmer kidnap plot

DETROIT — Video and photos released Wednesday show a Delaware man charged in a kidnapping plot of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer carrying a "boogaloo" flag and training with a semi-automatic assault rifle at a Wisconsin field training exercise.

A separate screenshot shows electronic messages exchanged between Delaware defendant Barry Croft and an individual that featured a photo of a highway bridge near Whitmer's vacation home that Croft and others allegedly planned to blow up.

The images and video were released to The Detroit News Wednesday after the newspaper and several other outlets petitioned Western District Magistrate Judge Sally Berens to give the media access to the images, which were used during Croft's Jan. 13 bond hearing.

Croft's attorney had opposed releasing the evidence on the premise that it would taint a jury pool at his October trial. With the trial just months out, there was no compelling reason to release the items prior to trial, Croft's attorney, Joshua Blanchard, told Berens.

"Because of the high-profile nature of the proceeding and significant media attention it has received, releasing the exhibits before their admission at trial poses a risk of tainting the jury pool," Blanchard wrote in opposition to the release.

Andrew Pauwels, representing The News at June hearing on the matter, said the actual audio and video paint a more complete picture of the factors influencing Croft's actions and the court's bond denial.

—The Detroit News

Trial for ex-Columbus cop in shooting of Andre Hill unlikely this year


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Defense attorneys for Adam Coy, a former Columbus police officer charged with murder in the December shooting death of Andre Hill, are seeking a change of venue for his trial.

They learned Wednesday that the judge assigned to the case isn't ready to rule on their motion, in which they argue that pretrial publicity will make it "impossible" to seat an impartial jury in Franklin County.

Common Pleas Judge Stephen L. McIntosh said he will review the motion, filed three weeks ago by attorneys Mark Collins and Kaitlyn Stephens, and the response filed last week by Assistant Ohio Attorney General Anthony Pierson, who is prosecuting the case, before issuing a written decision.

How soon the trial will occur remains undecided, although it seems unlikely that it will be held this year.

McIntosh conducted a brief hearing Wednesday morning to get an update on the progress of the case from both sides.

Coy, who is free on a $1 million bond, stood between his attorneys during the hearing, but did not speak.

The judge set the next status hearing for Oct. 4, when he hopes he and the attorneys can agree on a firm trial date. Collins said after the hearing that a trial almost certainly will not occur until sometime in 2022.

Because court operations slowed to a crawl during the pandemic, there is a backlog of unresolved criminal cases, and defendants who are in jail awaiting trial must get priority.

US extends travel restrictions at Canada, Mexico borders

The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed at land and ferry crossings for at least another month as the pandemic continues to pose a threat to “human life or national interests,” federal officials said Wednesday.

Any movement between the U.S. and its neighbors will be limited to “essential travel” only until Aug. 21, the Department of Homeland Security said in a draft notice set to be published Thursday. The restrictions have been in place since March 2020, when the deadly outbreak officially became a global pandemic.

The announcement comes just a day after Canada said it would finally allow fully vaccinated travelers, including Americans, to visit the country for the first time in more than a year. The air travel ban is set to be lifted on Aug. 9 for U.S. citizens and permanent residents and Sept. 7 for those from other countries.

But officials in the U.S., Canada and Mexico have “mutually determined” that non-essential travel at their land and ferry crossings “poses additional risk of transmission and spread of the virus associated with COVID-19 and places the populace of both nations at increased risk of contracting the virus,” according to the DHS notice.

The agency said sustained transmission of the virus and the risk of new variants would also place its staff in each port of entry at risk of contracting COVID-19.

—New York Daily News