Molly Redden

Molly Redden

Reporter

Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

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Molly Redden is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. Previously, she worked for The New Republic, covering energy and the environment and politics, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Her work has also appeared in Salon, Washington City Paper, and Slate. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and watching too much television. She tweets at @mtredden.

The EPA's Bold New Agenda

| Mon Dec. 2, 2013 9:45 AM EST

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its to-do list for 2014, in the form of its annual regulatory agenda. And it calls for tackling some controversial environmental questions that Congress has been unable to resolve, including how to limit carbon emissions from existing power plants and whether energy companies should be required to disclose the chemicals they inject into the ground during fracking. While the plan has some gaps—Bloomberg BNA has pointed out it's noticeably silent on coal ash, a toxic coal-burning byproduct that has been responsible for several recent environmental disasters—it could have far-reaching environmental benefits. Below is a summary of the EPA's biggest goals in the new year.

Carbon caps for power plants

Between now and September 2014 the EPA aims to finalize its rules for capping greenhouse gas emissions from existing natural gas and coal-fired plants, which together produce a whopping 40 percent of the United States' carbon emissions and one-third of its heat-trapping gases. Controlling smokestacks emissions is critical to addressing climate change, but carbon legislation is a non-starter, even in the Democratically controlled Senate. The EPA rules are bound to be challenged in court and they'll invariable fuel allegations that Obama—and his vulnerable Democratic allies on Capitol Hill—are waging a war on coal. But, presuming they survive, they could be historic.

While the caps for existing plants have yet to take shape, the White House recently called for limiting new coal-fired plants to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour—60 percent less than the average coal-powered plant releases—and gas-power plants to 1,000 pounds.

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Judge Agrees to Resentence Rapist Who Got No Prison Time

| Wed Nov. 27, 2013 1:02 PM EST

Following a national outcry, the Alabama judge who sentenced Austin Smith Clem to probation and no prison time for three rape convictions has agreed to reconsider the sentence. The judge, James Woodroof, filed an order Tuesday indicating his intention to resentence Clem. Brian Jones, the district attorney for Limestone County, in north central Alabama, had previously appealed the sentence as too lenient.

In September, a Limestone County jury found Clem, 25, guilty of raping Courtney Andrews, a teenage acquaintance and his then-neighbor, three times—twice when she was 14, and again when was she was 18. Clem's defense attorney did not call any witnesses at trial. After less than two hours of deliberation, the jury returned guilty verdicts against Clem on one count of first-degree rape and two counts of second-degree rape.

On November 13, Woodroof ruled that Clem would be punished by serving two years in a program aimed at nonviolent criminals and three years of probation.

Clem's victim, now 20, said she was "livid" when she first heard the verdict. Her case has since received national attention. On Sunday, she appeared on MSNBC, where she told Melissa Harris-Perry, "I need for him to be in prison. I’m not going to feel safe other than that."

FDA Reviewing Evidence That Morning-After Pill Doesn't Work in Women Weighing Over 176 Pounds

| Mon Nov. 25, 2013 5:44 PM EST

Monday morning, Mother Jones reported that the European manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B, also known as the morning-after pill, will warn women that the drug is completely ineffective in women weighing more than 176 pounds, and begins to lose effectiveness in women weighing more than 165 pounds. HRA Pharma, which makes the European drug, Norlevo, asked European regulators for permission to change the drug's labeling after reviewing its own clinical data and scientific research from 2011 which showed emergency contraceptives are prone to fail in women with higher body mass indexes.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has responded to this story, telling Mother Jones that FDA officials are weighing whether pharmaceutical companies that sell similar emergency contraceptive pills in the US must change their labeling. Many popular morning-after pills sold in the US—including one-pill emergency contraceptives Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way, as well as a number of generic two-pill emergency contraceptives—are chemically identical to Norlevo, which also uses the chemical compound levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy after sex. 

"The FDA is currently reviewing the available and related scientific information on this issue, including the publication upon which the Norlevo labeling change was based," FDA spokeswoman Erica Jefferson writes in an email. "The agency will then determine what, if any, labeling changes to approved emergency contraceptives are warranted."

Jefferson declined to say when the FDA began its review. If FDA officials feel they have sufficient data to justify a change to product information, the FDA can order companies to update their labels. Jefferson adds that US drug companies have a legal obligation to alert the FDA if new information makes their existing labeling inaccurate.

4 Climate Policies We're Thankful For

| Mon Nov. 25, 2013 7:00 AM EST

Hang in there, buddy.

Unless it's immediately proceeded by the word "no," the phrase "good news" rarely appears these days in stories about climate change. But in a year in which we found out that our oceans may rise this century by as much as three feet and that atmospheric carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in nearly a million years, there were still some bright spots. And in preparation for Thanksgiving, we've compiled a list of four environmental developments for which you can give thanks. You can see even more on Twitter by searching the hashtag #ClimateThanks.

1. The US and the World Bank will avoid financing coal-fired power plants abroad.

Burning coal is among the dirtiest ways to produce energy and quickest ways to accelerate climate change. So this July, when the World Bank announced that it would limit funding for new coal-burning plants to "rare circumstances" where countries have "no feasible alternatives," green advocates were thrilled. At the same time, the global development giant also reversed its opposition to hydroelectric power, which many environmental activists had pushed as an alternative to cheap energy from coal. Last month, based on an announcement President Obama made in June, the United States Treasury Department also ceased financing any new coal projects abroad except in cases where coal was the only viable option for bringing power to poor regions. The US and World Bank decisions only affect coal projects that use public financing; around the world, many are built with private money. But a Treasury official told the New York Times that the Obama administration felt "that if public financing points the way, it will then facilitate private investment."

2. The White House will push carbon limits for new and existing power plants.

Natural gas and coal-fired power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the United States' carbon emissions and one-third of its greenhouse gas emissions. The country can't address climate change without regulating this sector of the economy. In his June speech at Georgetown University, President Obama announced that for the first time ever, the Environmental Protection Agency will propose rules to cap carbon emissions from existing power plants. His administration also pushed forward a rule to limit pollution from new power plants, which had stalled last year. If the EPA finalizes the rule and it's upheld in court, it would limit new coal-fired plants to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour—the average coal power plant releases 1,800 pounds—and new gas power plants to 1,000 pounds. Obama said the rules were necessary for the US to meet its pledge to bring greenhouse gas emissions down by 17 percent—or below 2005 levels—by the year 2020.

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