Nel's New Day

July 11, 2019

DDT’s Failures—Citizenship Question, Environment

“We are not backing down,” Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) announced in the Rose Garden yesterday when he backed down from putting a citizenship question into the 2020 census. This morning, he declared that he would sign an executive order to include the question, despite the Supreme Court and three lower courts ruling against it. This afternoon, he issued an executive order requiring federal departments to provide records about resident noncitizens to the Commerce Department, an action easily done without one of his “executive orders.” Although the monthly American Community Survey, which asks the citizen question, is sent to about one percent of the population each year, but this data cannot be used for legislative and congressional redistricting.

Earlier this week, the DOJ tried to trade out its legal team to argue the case, a first for the DOJ. The judge rejected a new team, calling the request “patently deficient” because the government had provided “no reasons, let alone ’satisfactory reasons,’ for the substitution of counsel.” He required the government to show that replacing the team won’t add further delay to the suit and mandated each of the 11 lawyers now on the case to submit a signed and sworn affidavit giving “satisfactory reasons” for the request. The plaintiffs also have a pending motion to sanction the government for false testimony for the motivation behind the question. New York Attorney General Letitia James said:

“Despite the president attempting to fire his lawyers, this is not an episode of The Apprentice.”

AG Bill Barr, DDT’s fixer, gave an impressive speech declaring victory for DDT after they both backed down. Barr said that they would win if they kept fighting but that they had too little time.  DDT’s “victory” means taking the option that he rejected over a year ago. Earlier this week, Barr had said that he had a way to put the question on the census forms but wouldn’t tell anyone. Before the House leaves for its August recess, members plan to vote to hold both AG William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with subpoenas tied to the citizenship question.

DDT’s kerfuffle about the citizenship question eclipsed today’s social media summit with conservative online commentators to complain about what they perceive as censorship from big tech companies. DDT tweeted that topics will be “the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies.” Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were not invited. DDT’s goal was to distract the media and his supporters from his and his Labor Secretary Alex Acosta’s involvement in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex-trafficking scandal. At his meeting in the East Room, DDT attacked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rather than Joe Biden, indicating that he sees Warren as a greater opponent than Biden.

A few special guests DDT invited to his “troll party”:

James O’Keefe, who doctors videos to embarrass progressives including faking negative accounts of ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and Medicaid, got caught trying to pull a sting on Washington Post’s reporting about child molester Roy Moore during his last run for U.S. Senate.

Carpe Donktum publishes doctored videos to support DDT that sometimes cause him to be blocked from Twitter.  

Ali Alexander (aka Akbar) tried to start a racist birther-like campaign by tweeting that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is not an “American Black,” a post quote-tweeted by Donald Trump, Jr. Alexander’s earlier Twitter ban this year came after he lied to followers about buying bitcoin, ammo, and guns because of a non-existent impending civil war.

Jim Hoft created the blog Gateway Pundit with such falsehoods as Hillary Clinton having a serious gum disease, E. Jean Carroll getting her DDT rape allegation for Law & Order, and Parkland shooting survivors being “crisis actors.”

Tim Pool claims to support progressive causes and policies but promotes right-wing rumors.

Benny Johnson, once a BuzzFeed writer, moved up the conspiracy chain to Daily Caller to complete DDT obsession after a series of plagiarism accusations.

Minds, an “anti-Facebook” and “Crypto social network,” rewards contributors in bitcoins, giving haven to violent neo-Nazi groups such as Atomwaffen, which has been linked to several murders in the U.S., and Feuerkrieg Division, which has made death threats against tech CEOs and politicians. Those two groups were banned, but other white supremacist accounts remain.

Bill Mitchell, a promoter of the bizarre conspiracy movement QAnon, tells his radio show listener that “Q is trying to do is motivate and encourage the base” by opposing media coverage critical of Trump.  

Michael Morrison was recently suspended from Twitter for closely copying Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter account in what he called a parody.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), under ethics charges for threatening witness Michael Cohen, praised Infowars, castigated the “deep state,” and introduced a resolution to force investigator Robert Mueller to resign.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) blocked a bill requiring political campaigns to report offers of foreign assistance to the FBI. DDT has already said he would welcome negative information about opponents in the 2020 election. Accepting help from a foreign entity or power is already illegal, but the bill would mandate reporting any offers. Blackburn said that mandatory reporting would pose an “overbroad” burden. At a recent conference, Israeli government minister Gilad Erdan bragged that Israel was responsible for laws in 27 U.S. states that blocked free speech supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign targeting Israel. Russia isn’t the only country controlling U.S. elections.

Plus a few more GOP members of Congress and Cabinet members. Despite DDT’s refusal to include the major tech companies, he must have faith in them. His campaign spent over $5 million on Facebook ads just this year.

DDT declared himself an environmental president this week came after polls showed him week in this area with millennials and suburban women. He repeated his bizarre statement that forest fires can be blocked by cleaning “dirty floors.” Yet he allowed timber companies to cut more trees, usually the big, more fire-resistant trees while leaving combustible piles of low-value tinder that exacerbate forest fires and bragged about “being good stewards of our public land,” reducing carbon emissions, and promoting the “cleanest air” and “crystal clean” water. In truth, DDT opened up public lands to drilling, signed off on the biggest rollback of federal land protection, and lifted a moratorium on new coal mining leases on public lands. The EPA is rolling back clean-water regulation of pollution in streams and wetlands, and DDT proposed opening up the U.S. coastline to offshore oil and gas drilling. Carbon emissions have declined in the U.S. but only half that of a dozen other country. DDT falsely cited the high cost of the Dems’ Green New Deal, not yet determined, and omitted the 3.1 percent increase in 2018 when taking credit for the decline in carbn emissions since 2000. DDT left out the part that he pushes coal plants that increase carbon dioxide emissions. Joining DDT for his speech were two Cabinet secretaries, former lobbyists for the coal and oil industries who oversee energy and environment issues.

Shortly before the speech, Washington, DC floods [left] from rain shut down part of a nearby subway station and created pools of water in the White House basement. New Orleans [right] faces an unprecedented problem, possibly worse than the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, with the Mississippi River at record flooding, 16 feet instead of the usual six to eight feet in midsummer. Tropical Storm Barry, the season’s first tropical system, could cause a storm surge of two to three feet at the river mouth for a crest of 20 feet, not seen since February 1950 and 2.3 feet short of the April 1922 record. Evacuations of almost 200 offshore oil facilities has cut off more than half the region’s oil output. An EPA report had warned of effects from the climate crisis, but DDT buried the information.

DDT’s White House pastor preaches that environmentalism is radical and foolish, because God put natural resources on earth for people to use up. EPA director Andrew Wheeler took credit for falling air pollution from 1970 to cover up the 3.1 percent increase in carbon emissions in 2018. DDT called himself “a believer in solar energy,” but he put huge tariffs on solar panels in 2018, eliminating thousands of solar installation jobs, and made deep cuts in solar funding. Although claiming credit for fighting Florida’s toxic algae problem, he failed to allocate sufficient funds to restore the Everglades and reduce polluted water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

The one subject DDT left out of his speech on the environment? Climate change—or as it’s now called, climate crisis. He might want to reconsider this omission. He’s unpopular on a number of key issues such as health care, gun violence, foreign policy, immigration, and abortion, but his bottom rating—29 percent approval—is for his handling of climate change. In only one issue, the economy, is he over 50 percent approval—at 51 percent.

April 21, 2019

Earth Day 2019

Tomorrow is the 49th anniversary for a global event in 193 countries. Although hundreds of millions work to save the planet every day, April 22 is set aside as a day of action. As the Earth Day website explains:

“People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.”

Last year’s theme was to End Plastic Pollution. One goal was to reduce the annual use of 500 million plastic straws in just the United States. In July 2018, Seattle became the biggest city in the U.S. to ban plastic straws, and Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by 2020. McDonald will ban plastic straws at UK and Ireland restaurants, and the 1,000 U.S. locations of  the food service company Bon Appétit Management will follow suit. Thanks to a Girls Scout, Alaska Airlines was the first airline to phase out plastic straws and stirrers. Shelby O’Neil created Jr Ocean Guardians for her 2017 Girl Scout USA Gold Award Project to share her passion in saving oceans and marine life for the future. Other airlines–American, Delta, and United–are following Alaska’s lead.

Getting rid of straws may have seemed a minor task because they comprise only 0.025 percent of the eight million tons of plastic going into the ocean each year. But it’s a simple beginning. From there, governments are decreasing the use of single-use plastic bags for shopping by adding fees for them or replacing them with paper bags. The town where I live passed an ordinance to do this a few days ago. Kroger is just one major company doing away with plastic bags for its shoppers. Using reusable shopping bags can drastically cut down on the one trillion plastic bags used world-wide every year.

Another reduction in plastic is to reuse water bottles instead of single-use ones. One person using a refillable water bottle can save an average of 170 bottles each year. And the single-use bottles have poisonous chemicals that aren’t present in glass or stainless steel reusable bottles.

Other ways to avoid plastic use is to pack food in glass containers, avoid snack foods with excess packaging, and skip plastic flatware. Hopefully, restaurants where you eat will use cardboard for takeout food instead of plastic. Buying products in cardboard containers will cut down on single-use plastics.

A particularly vicious form of plastic comes into microbeads used in most cosmetic items. UK has joined other countries in banning the product that is killing marine life who mistake the tiny particles for food. Ethique Beauty became plastic free in 2012, preventing three million bottles, jars, and tubes being sold and aiming for ten million by 2025. The United States has banned microbeads only in rinse-off cosmetics.

Founded in Bandon (OR), the Washed Ashore project creates sculptures from plastic materials washed up on beaches. It has a traveling art exhibit to create an awareness about the world’s growing plastic pollution problems.

Another 30 ways to recycle stuff.

Last year’s Earth Day theme to reduce plastic proliferation set progress into motion, and activists will begin work on this year’s theme, “Protect Our Species” which are rapidly disappearing from climate change, deforestation, poaching, pollution, pesticides/herbicides, and consumption.

One species that people might want to protect is that of humans. Because of the huge corporation Monsanto, people are getting cancer from its pesticides that contain glysophates. Products from popular foods for children–breakfast cereal, snack bars, and from popular companies such as Quaker, Kellogg, and General Mills–to “adult beverages” of wine and beer contain the cancer-causing chemical. To sell its genetically-modified seeds for plants that won’t be damaged by glysophates, Monsanto engineered varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, and more crops. Over 90% of all soybeans and over 70% of all corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, and the majority of these plants are tolerant to glyphosates. Originally people assumed that these crops were safe for human, but studies–not those paid for by Monsanto–show them to be endocrine disruptors causing birth defects, reproductive impairment, and DNA damage.

Another way to save the planet is to saving marine animals which might slow climate change because they store carbon in their bodies; their carbon-rich waste products sink into the ocean to fertilize and protect marine plants. Sea stars are just one of the marine species rapidly dying off. [Photo by Sue Hardesty]

On its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day network is organizing a “Great Global Clean Up,” which it hopes to be the largest environmental volunteer event in history. The goal is to remove billions of pieces of rubbish from streets, beaches, rivers,and parks, and is being launched across US cities in 2019. With its SOLVE project, Oregon is already ahead of the project. Founded 50 years ago in 1969 by Gov. Tom McCall, the goal of reducing and cleaning up litter and vandalism throughout the state expanded in 1984 to the first statewide citizen Beach Cleanup in the nation, an event that has spread to all 50 states and 100 other countries. The Oregon beach cleanup now takes place twice a year.

To celebrate Earth Day–every day, every year–hold yourself accountable and vow to save the planet for the future. [Photos: The Moon – Sue Hardesty; The Ocean – Ann Hubard]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 16, 2019

Past, Future of a Fishing Village

The Port of Newport in Oregon oversees Yaquina Bay, an area that is home to research ships from NOAA after its Pacific marine operations relocated from Lake Union (WA), the Hatfield Marine Science Center which is operated by Oregon State University, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Residents have struggled to keep the water clean for these facilities, however, as businesses have tried to take over in the 21st century.

In 2005, a company from the United Arab Emirates wanted to recycle huge ships in this large bay, commonly known as “ship breaking,” by removing all hazardous wastes and then cutting the ships into pieces that are then sold as scrap metal. These ships were anchored in a California bay because the government no longer needed them. Because of the danger from polluting the bay, the community stopped the venture to keep the Hatfield facility and the Oregon Aquarium safe. Business people were upset with the loss because the ship breaking promised as many as 125 jobs within two years.

Yaquina Bay had been selected for the project because Oregon’s environmental regulations are more lax than those in California. Ships in Newport wouldn’t even be in drydock to destroy invasive species as they are in other areas such as Texas. After sitting in California for another four years, the government sent the ships to Texas for dismantling.

The next proposed venture for the Yaquina Bay came after a bond measure in 2010 with the $28 million restructuring of the Newport International Terminal that would provide about 40 jobs. By 2013, the Port had contracted to bring logs to the small town of Newport, about one truck every 20 minutes on the winding road from Corvallis and down through residential areas to the terminal, so that raw logs could be shipped overseas to China.

Between the time of the passing of the bond for the terminal reconstruction and the Port’s contract to bring logs through Newport, the Port won a bid to become the new home for NOAA’s new Marine Operations Center-Pacific Facility. NOAA built a $38 million facility with a pier long enough for five large ships and arranged for the relocation of at least 175 high-paying jobs to Newport.

Newport residents continued to express concerns about foreign ships bringing invasive species in its ballast, toxic issues from debarking the logs before they were shipped, and threats that large fishing ships could no longer dock at the Newport International Terminal. As many as 15 fishing vessels moor at the terminal at the same time during peak fishing activity November 1 to January 10 and April 1 to May 15 because the port has no other place with shore power and other services for these large vessels. After improvements to the terminal, for example, Fred Yeck brought his 124-foot trawler F/V Sea Dawn back to Newport. With Newport the top commercial fishing port on the West Coast, the industry pours hundreds of millions of dollars into the economy.

The contract for the logging shipments was canceled, but another problem arose in the past few months: conservative legislators from eastern Oregon took on the longshore group’s cause to take local leadership from the Port and put it into the hands of state government. The local newspaper News-Times printed opposing viewpoints about the proposed legislation, HB 2284. Members of the longshore organization wrote about HB 2284 turning Newport into “a vital part of the economic engine for the mid-coastal area” and making promises of “expanded family wage jobs, expanded business growth.”

Robert Smith, owner of the F/V Raven, pointed out that lobbyist for the bill lives in “the valley” (a term for the I-5 corridor 50 miles inland) and may not be aware of the economic activity in the port—NOAA, Hatfield, OSU, Rogue Brewery, the aquarium, and the facility from OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). As Smith wrote, the marine research, including wave and wind energy development, generates millions of dollars and expected to create hundreds of jobs. He provided much more information about more reasons for preserving local leadership of the Port.

Newport (OR) is well on the way to become the premier research center of the West Coast comparable to Woods Hole. A short-sighted shift to focusing on shipping logs, which takes manufacturing jobs out of the United States, destroys the future of Newport and its potential for more living-wage employment.

As the state battles the question of whether the Port of Newport should lose its local leadership—and possibly its existing marine benefits—go back in time in Sue Hardesty’s history of the Newport International Terminal:

Among the many things I love about living on Oregon’s Yaquina Bay are the bits of history platted about on its edges or used in ways it was never meant to be—for example, the huge ship propeller stationed outside our Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. My interest, however, is not so much in the propeller (although it is beautiful) as it is in the SS CW Pasley ship [below right] to which it was once attached. This ship was named after Sir Charles William Pasley (1780-1861), a British military engineer who wrote textbooks and experimented with improving concrete. McCloskey and Company built the Pasley, one of a fleet of 24 concrete ships, under a wartime emergency program near the end of World War II. The decks and hulls were made entirely of concrete with six-inch-thick walls reinforced with rebar.

The second concrete-hulled vessel purchased by the port was the SS Joseph Aspdin, named for a Brit who received a patent for “Portland” cement made from limestone on the English Channel. The Aspdin is remembered as “the ship that committed suicide.” She broke loose of its moorings in the dark of night, left Yaquina Bay, went aground, and sank

In 1948, the Pasley and the SS Francois Hennebique, named after a French stonemason who pioneered in reinforced concrete, were floated into place to build a wharf at McLean Point on the south side of Yaquina Bay and sunk by blasting holes in their sides and bottoms. Over time the Pasley shifted and rolled toward the bay, and structural failure caused cracks in the hull. Oil leaks polluting the bay finally closed the wharf in 2001.

 

I watched the renovation of the terminal that began in 2010. The Pasley was refloated and dismantled and the Hennebique partially dismantled. Much of the Hennebique hull still remains under the terminal, and I can see the bow on the edge of the tarmac where fishing boats are serviced. The cement from the hulls was ground up and reused as paving material and the metal rebar recycled. The new terminal opened for business in August 2013.

Back in 1942, McCloskey had received a federal contract in 1942 to build the fleet of concrete ships because steel was scarce. All 24 ships were built at an incredible rate of speed, with the first one launched within a month, and named after pioneers in the science and development of concrete. In addition to the ones in Yaquina Bay, two ships were sunk as blockships in the Allied invasion of Normandy, and nine more were sunk as breakwaters for a ferry landing at Kiptopeke, Virginia. Seven are still afloat in a giant breakwater on the Powell River in Canada to protect the logging pond of the Powell River Company pulp and paper mill in BC, Canada.

The future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115) is floated from the dock for the first time during its October 2015 christening at Bath Iron Works.

At 420 feet, the SS Peralta is the largest—and oldest—concrete ship afloat and comprises part of the Powell River breakwater with eight other concrete ships that McCloskey built. Originally an oil tanker built during World War I, the Peralta was converted to a sardine cannery in Alaska in 1924. Twenty-four years later, she was taken to Antioch (CA) where she served for another ten years before moving to Canada with nine World War II concrete ships.

April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 9:51 PM
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Visual Earth Day 2018 may have the greatest resistance to the destruction of the planet since its inception almost a half century ago in 1970. The current federal promotion of business over environment and the elimination of regulations that protect air, land, and water have resulted in a giant backlash both within the courts and among individual efforts. In lawsuits, the people are winning in many areas as environmental groups fight against agribusiness food, pesticides, and genetically modified foods. In a tragic event, LGBTQ and environmental rights activist David Buckel died after he set himself on fire on April 20, 2018 to demonstrate how people are destroying the planet. He wrote:

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result—my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

People power in 2018:

A Louisiana water protector locked herself into a cement-filled barrel placed in the trench of a horizontal directional drill to block construction of the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

People in Maryland blocked construction before a tractor blockade intended to prevent building a compressor station to bring fracked gas from the Mid-Atlantic to the Dominion export terminal.

A busload of Lancaster (PA) protesters took a 12-foot-long piece of pipeline into a corporate meeting room, singing songs and chanting, asking “How does it feel to be invaded?”

Protesters built a small longhouse to block the main entrance to the corporate headquarters in a Bellevue (WA) energy company.

People protested California’s Gov. Jerry Brown about fracking when he spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Hundreds of people protested Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf about his pro-fracking policies.

Protests are stopping pipeline investments in Canada and drastically slowing down the transportation of tar sands and fracked gas.

Tree-sits in West Virginia are increasing to prevent the Mountain Valley pipeline for fracked gas that will destroy trees and the habitat.

Cities are no longer divesting in banks that fund fossil fuel projects because of protests.

Washington activists defeated the largest oil-train terminal in the nation.

HSBC, the biggest bank in the world, will no longer fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic, tar sands projects, or most coal projects.

Groups and individuals are suing corporations and the federal government are facing lawsuits from individuals, organizations and state and local governments over climate change and environmental degradation.

ExxonMobil is facing a number of lawsuits because the company misled the public and polluted decades after it knew about climate risks and failing to stop investigations into its actions.

Twenty-one young people are allowed to go to trial against the federal government about its environmental destruction after a trial court and the 9th Circuit Court allowed them to continue.

A court ruled that the EPA violated the Civil Rights Act following decades of inaction after complaints; hundreds more complaints about environmental racism face the EPA.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case about whether the U.S. must obey treaties with indigenous people. 

Edmonston, a working-class Maryland town with a median income of $19,000, developed a green town, turning empty lots into community gardens, adding rain barrels, and adding permeable pavement, solar panels, fruit trees for food, and native plant landscapes with leaves collected by the city and composted.

People in Brooklyn reclaimed land, beginning with a vacant lot turned into an almost 2-acre community space with garden beds, an outdoor movie screening area, a pumpkin patch, and an educational production and research farm and transforming over 200 sites. [Data on vacant lots in the city and help for people to reclaim them.]

Wind farming is creating jobs in red states like Texas.

Beyond Extreme Energy is hold a Crack the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory System) protest to increase pressure on the agency that supports fossil fuel and nuclear industries; the protest is at the same time as the Poor People’s Campaign beginning on Mother’s Day to spend 40 days educating the population about links between the environmental crisis with economic inequality, racism, and other issues.

Daniel Webb, 36, has kept all of his plastic—4,490 items with just 8 biodegradable and 93 percent single-use—to make a mural with them.

The Solar Foundation mapped solar jobs, the fastest source of new energy, by congressional district as solar is the fastest growing source of new energy.

Beginning on May 1, the Popular Resistance School, an eight-week course, teaches how movements grow, build power, and succeed and explains the role people can play in the movement. You can sign up here.

 

Make every day Earth Day. You can save the planet!

April 4, 2018

Scott Pruitt – Is He the Next To Go?

With more bad news about the Stormy Daniels’ and Russian scandals, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) needs another distraction. Firing his EPA secretary might be the solution, especially since Scott Pruitt is causing a number of scandals on his own. Pruitt came into the job lying at his confirmation hearings about private emails and then taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from taxpayers for massive security expenses although no one can track serious threats; and construction needs to hide away from his staff. DDT kept him on because he was following DDT’s direction by polluting the nation and killing people with dirty air and water which saved money for DDT’s business friends; and high costs for personal and business travel, sometimes first class, because he is afraid of his constituents. He spent $120,000 to attend the G7 climate conference with seven aides and several security staff where he went to only one meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to postpone Pruitt’s hearings until thousands of emails were released. The day after his confirmation, the emails showed Pruitt’s collusion with the fossil fuel industry bribing him to falsify information supporting fracking. Thousands of concealed emails were released the day after his confirmation showing the his collusion with the fossil fuel industry that bribed him to build cases in favor of fracking companies and electric utilities.

In the last eight months of 2017, 770 EPA employees left the agency. Pruitt is so paranoid that employees may not take notes at meetings or talk about environmental issues. His security cost $830,000 for the first three months, the secret phone booth was $42,000, and special locks were $6,000 each. At the same time, the EPA budget dropped by over 30 percent in one year.

Pruitt’s latest scandal, however, is something that DDT may not be able to bear because it won’t go away. Pruitt’s expensive trip to Morocco regarding liquid nitrogen gas exports last December, something that has nothing to do with the EPA, caused great interest in the media when journalists found that he got a condo rental for $50 per night—when he stayed in—in an area that usually costs up to $5,000 a month for rentals. Pruitt’s renter is the wife of energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart who not only may receive an LNG deal for Pruitt’s cheap rent but also was awarded a huge pipeline expansion for Enbridge although EPA had previously fined the company $61 million for a 2010 pipeline disaster sending “hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and other waterways,” according to the New York Times. The fine was the second largest in almost half a century just behind that for the Deepwater Horizon tragedy.  

The most recent scandal about Pruitt surrounds Millan Hupp, the 26-year-old staff member with the 33-percent raise who spent both office and personal hours in an extensive search for a house for Pruitt. Her work on this project constitutes a violation of federal rules that prevents federal officials from asking subordinates to do personal tasks. The White House refused to approve huge salary increases for both Hupp and another staffer, so Pruitt employed them under the Safe Drinking Water Act, permitting Pruitt to hire up to 30 people without White House or congressional approval. These employees do not have to sign ethics pledges about lobbying activities and other conflicts of interest. Pruitt signed off on their employment, but he denied it in a Fox interview today.

The Fox network, usually easy on Pruitt, was more harsh today. Asked about the additional $84,000 in salary for just two staffers, Pruitt said he knew nothing about it until this week. Interview Ed Henry said, “You run the agency. You don’t know who did this?” Until now, Pruitt managed the media by catering to conservative outlets and avoids environmental reporters. By withholding information, such as his schedule, Pruitt he kept out of trouble, especially because he threatens reporters with police removal at his events.

Pruitt began his first year running the EPA by vastly shrinking the agency and trying to destroy any regulations. Because he stopped enforcing civil penalties for companies breaking limits for hazardous chemicals, the amount of fines dropped drastically, about one-fifth of President Obama’s last year.

Pruitt has damaged children’s health and neurodevelopment by returning banned pesticides into the food supply, weakening standards to toxic metals, allowing corporations to release pollutants that increase asthma, permitting implementation of chemicals even if they can be dangerous, and closing an office that tests the effects of chemical exposure.

Pruitt’s drastic attempts to repeal the Clean Power Plan is opposed by a diverse population of coal miners, Missouri grandparents, and Wyoming healthcare workers.

A way for Pruitt to restrict environmental regulations is his proposed policy that all raw data must be made public, and that means personal health information that people want kept private if they participate in studies. Pruitt’s policy will result in narrow, incomplete research. He also ruled that scientists receiving EPA grants may not serve on the agency’s advisory board which blocks expertise about current science. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year.

Pruitt told agency scientists that they cannot speak about climate change. Over 200 scientists left the agency last year. He replaced half the members on a key scientific review board that determines the quality of research.

Last week, Pruitt sent all employees his eight approved talking points about climate change stating that the level of human impact on changing climate is “subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” It added “clear gaps” about the role of human activity “and what we can do about it.”

The EPA programs on climate adaptation and the one that studies effects of chemical exposure on children have been closed, and Pruitt recommends no funding for ones that deal with rising seas and warming temperatures. He also erased climate change from websites.

Pruitt is saving utilities from $31 million and $100 million annually by eliminating rules that tightened restrictions on disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants. The toxic heavy metals seep into the groundwater, and living with a mile of a storage pond causes a greater health threat than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Coal ash is the second greatest toxic pollution threat in the U.S.

Pruitt eliminated the policy requiring polluters such as factories and power plants to be designated “major source” after they emit more than 10 tons of hazardous materials or 25 tons of combined dangerous materials in a given year.

Pruitt’s hires are highly questionable. Albert Kelly, banned from working in the banking sector for life, gets $172,000 from the EPA as senior adviser. He has no experience, but he loaned Pruitt money to buy a home and a minor league baseball team when he was an Oklahoma banker. Superviser for superfund cleanups, Kelly has had—and may still have—stocks in Phillips 66, one of the major polluters. Staffers at the EPA also have permission to keep their political consulting side jobs.

Pruitt suggested that global warming—which is causing floods, drought, famine, and war—might be helpful. He also said, “Science should not be something that’s just thrown about to try to dictate policy in Washington, D.C.”

Pruitt has been useful to DDT’s interest in big business and may save his job that way. This past week, he rolled back gas emissions regulations and just signed an executive order giving himself authority to determine regulations near streams, ponds, and wetlands, determining any possible negative environmental effects for projects such a coal refineries and power plants.

In 2016, Pruitt said, “I believe that Donald Trump in the White House will be more abusive to the constitution than Barack Obama and that’s saying a lot.” Pruitt became complicit in DDT’s crimes, but he may be on his way out. Asked about Pruitt yesterday, DDT said, “I hope he’s going to great.”

(If you’re not disgusted yet, Google Scott Pruitt. There’s a lot more, including his history while in Oklahoma.)

April 20, 2017

Join the March for Science

The GOP War on Science is not new, but it gained massive traction with the election of a Republican president and Congress with the possibility of a totally Republican Supreme Court. The idea that science is vital to protecting humanity through effective decision-making is now passé among federal government leaders with the mighty dollar—or billions of them—leading the way. Draconian budget cuts to the EPA, National Institutes of Health, NOAA, NASA, and BLM aren’t enough to satisfy these people; all that funding is going to nuclear weapons and the military. In addition, leadership is muzzling people, attacking evidence, and erasing information about climate change from websites.

This coming Saturday is the 47th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970. Instead of sitting by and letting conservatives destroy the planet, scientists are coming out of their labs and research areas for the March for Science. The main one is in the U.S. capital, but 200 organizations are planning another 500 marches around the world—all kicking off a week of action culminating in the People’s Climate March on April 29. According to the March for Science website, organizers are “advocating for evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

The March’s Facebook page is 850,000 strong with information about people, posters, slogans, science and “misinformation” that the anti-science Heartland Institute sends to schools and science teachers. The March’s participants vary from a neuroscientist marching “for the thousands of people suffering from spinal cord injury” to SF fans marching “because you can’t have science fiction without science!”

One segment of the marchers is protesting the current policy regarding drug use in the United States overturning gains in the last eight years for an evidence-based drug policy. Throughout the nation’s history, drug laws have criminalized minorities: opium laws in the 1800s targeting Chinese immigrants, marijuana laws directed toward Hispanics in the early 1900s, and then crack laws of the 1980s disproportionately incarcerating black men. Research shows that drug prohibition contributes to worse health and higher mortality rates among drug users while growing an illicit drug market. Targeting minorities negatively affects family and social support and eliminates economic opportunity.

Fear-based drug control tactics fail to provide information in their efforts to terrify policymakers and the public in opposition to success for drug control demonstrated in other countries that expand treatment access and decriminalize drugs. The current administration ignores research on these successes for a racial “law and order” position, always a failure.

According to the federal government, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, the highest level of “potential for abuse” and no medical value. It is considered more dangerous than meth, opium, or cocaine. With cannabis in this category, medical researchers are helpless to examine studies from other countries that refute the U.S. position. Across the nation, this one “drug” is legal in 28 states for medical purposes and in another eight states for recreational use. Its popularity has caused companies to develop synthetic “look alike” drugs that increase the chance of overdoses and other negative side effects.

Earth Day’s goal, 47 years ago and now, is to mobilize people around environmental issues. The first march of 20 million people led to the Environmental Protection Agency, created by GOP President Richard Nixon, and vital environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Earth Day revolution began at a time of dangerous air pollution, rivers on fire, genetic changes in wildlife, and children with diseases and birth defects in the United States. Last year the nation signed the Paris Climate Agreement with 174 other countries.

After Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) appointed a climate-change denier for EPA Secretary, he signed a directive to reverse President Obama’s progress toward slowing down climate change. DDT’s goal is to promote oil, coal, and natural gas over all other objectives at a time when fossil fuel companies are switching to renewable energy sources. The order mandates suspension, revision, or rescinding any policies that “burden” the production of domestic energy resources, including nuclear power. Gone are the order to consider climate change in environmental reviews, including locations of oil drilling, and the one to factor in the potential economic damage from climate change. DDT’s order also removes the moratorium on new coal leases on federal land and remove regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Fracking companies will also not be required to seal off waste water in storage tanks and to disclose chemicals they pump underground. Methane emissions from oil and gas operations no longer need to be reduced.

Other DDT “climate crimes” include his reinstatement of two pipelines (at a profit to himself), allowing lead ammunition on federal lands and waters, ordering the EPA to reconsider car emissions requirements, and all his appointments.

Scott Pruitt, DDT’s EPA Secretary, set the new “tone” in his speech a week ago at a coal mine that was fined for contaminating waterways with toxic materials. His “back to basics” agenda devolves oversight of clean air and water in exchange for jobs in industries such as coal, oil, and gas. The new direction is support of the coal industry. The company owing that mine had almost entirely divested itself of West Virginia coal mines and is looking for buyers for this last one to be completely out of the business.

According to the EPA website:

Our mission is to protect human health and the environment.

 

EPA’s purpose is to ensure that:

  • all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
  • national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information;
  • federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively;
  • environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • all parts of society — communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments — have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.

Demographics – Electric power generation and fuels, Q4 2016

In addition to Prutt failing to meet his agency’s mission and purpose, he claimed that ending regulations will boost the economy and create jobs. Last month, however, the Institute for Policy Integrity released a study showing that environmental regulations have essentially no effect on the employment rate in the long term. The government would be better economically to support jobs in renewable energy as shown by the chart on the right

A four-year EPA review shows that three pesticides–chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion–“pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied.” Dow Chemical claimed that these substances are safe, and Pruitt sided with Dow against his own agency in the case of chlorpyrifos and is poised to agree with Dow on the other toxic substances. Dow gave DDT $1 million for his inauguration, and the company’s CEO is a presidential adviser.

When questioned during his confirmation hearings, Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified that “science tells us that the climate is changing, and that human activity, in some manner, impacts that change.” After his confirmation, the agency’s staff was told to never use phrases “climate change,” “emissions reduction,” and “Paris agreement” because these terms would cause a “visceral reaction.” Instead, DOE employees are to use words such as “jobs” and “infrastructure.”

New banners for the Bureau of Land Management demonstrate the shift from environmental concerns to coal. The image of two hikers looking over a magnificent vista of green mountains capped by snow has been replaced by these banners:

 

Can’t march? You can participate through livestreaming Washington, D.C.’s event from Democracy Now starting at 10:00 am ET.

 

May 28, 2016

Environmental Hope for Movement from the Right

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 10:03 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Is it possible that the political pendulum in the United States is swinging away from the ultra-right side back to the central? There are a few pieces of hope in the fight against ag-gag laws, Monsanto, and big corporations.

Thanks to conservative lawmakers and a ruling by U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, Idaho taxpayers are stuck with paying $250,000 in legal fees for its unconstitutional “ag-gag” law. The law’s intent was to prevent people from filming the inhumane animal abuse on big agricultural farms. Idaho was the most recent state in the trend to outlaw undercover investigations, and the first to suffer the overturn of its law because of the 1st and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. An appeal for the Idaho ruling would go to the usually liberal 9th Circuit of Appeals.

The far-right group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), created by the Koch brothers, drafted a model bill so that conservative lawmakers could take it back to their legislation. These laws maintained that photographing the animal abuse was not only illegal but those convicted were listed on a “terrorist registry.”

Twenty-six states introduced these bills, and seven of them passed it into law. Because Idaho’s law was overturned on federal constitutional grounds, the ruling will most likely set a strong precedent for legal ag-gag challenges throughout the nation.

On the national level, agribusiness lobbyists have persuaded House Republicans to include an exemption of agricultural commodity groups from the Freedom of Information Act requests in its 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations bill.

Wyoming’s law made it illegal to collect data, outside of city boundaries, on all lands public, private or federal. “Data collection” means “take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.” Warned that the law might be unconstitutional, lawmakers amended it this spring to just private lands where anyone in Wyoming, whether resident or visitor, who takes a photo of a polluted stream to report it to any agency can get a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. The law is now in the courts.

The worst state law may be in North Carolina: it covers not only agricultural business but also all other workplaces in the state. According to the law, people secretly taping abuses of people in nursing homes, daycare centers, hospitals, group homes, medical practices, charter and private schools, veterans’ facilities, etc. can be sued for bad publicity and required to pay a fine of $5,000 each day that the person gathers and/or records information without the business owners’ authorization. The law exempts people who directly report abuses to owners or state authorities, but the information cannot be legally disseminated to the public. The law is being challenged, perhaps successfully. The Idaho judge wrote that activists who pose as employees to gain access to farming operations  “actually advance core First Amendment values by exposing misconduct to the public eye and facilitating dialogue on issues of considerable public interest.”

On the national level, agribusiness lobbyists have persuaded House Republicans to include an exemption of agricultural commodity groups from the Freedom of Information Act requests in its 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations bill.

Animals are not the only ones abused in agribusiness. Poultry industry workers are “routinely denied breaks to use the bathroom” in corporate efforts to optimize the speed of production. According to a new study, people avoid drinking liquids for long periods of time and wear diapers at work so that they can “urinate and defecate while standing on the line.” and “wear diapers to work.” Processing companies include Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, and Perdue. The industry is also trying to increase the regulation of 140 birds per minute by another 35 birds per minute. OSHA mandates employee access to bathrooms, but some of them are forced to wait for over an hour to be relieved or not have any relief at all.

In the world of chemical pollution, Monsanto has been assessed $46.5 million in damages by a St. Louis jury because of the company’s negligence in handling toxic and carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs. PCBs were used to insulate electronics decades ago, and Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound from 1935 until 1977. Even after Monsanto learned about the product’s dangers, long before it was banned in 1979, the company told the public that PCBs were safe and continued to sell the compounds.

Lawsuits are piling up against Monsanto, the most recent from Long Beach (CA), the eighth city to sue the biotech behemoth after Portland (OR), Seattle, Spokane, Berkeley, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland. These cases are pending. Long Beach’s federal lawsuit states that Monsanto knew for decades that PCBs are “widely contaminating all natural resources and living organisms” including marine life, plants, animals, birds and humans.” The complaint also stated:

“PCBs regularly leach, leak, off-gas, and escape their intended applications, causing runoff during naturally occurring storm and rain events, after being released into the environment. The runoff originates from multiple sources and industries and enters Long Beach Waters with stormwater and other runoff.”

GOP lawmakers are trying to protect Monsanto with the “Monsanto Rider” in the Toxic Substances Control Act reauthorization bill that would give the chemical giant permanent immunity from liability for injuries caused by PCBs.

The conservative World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released a report stating that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, probably causes cancer in humans. After WHO’s announcement, California plans to add glyphosate to its list of carcinogenic chemicals. Other bad news for Monsanto came from a 2014 Sri Lankan study showing a possible link between glyphosate and chronic kidney disease that killed thousands of farm workers in Central America. Monsanto not only produces Roundup but also adds the herbicide to its genetically modified seeds that cover the United States. Latvia and Greece have joined other European countries to reject GMOs.

In March, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a House bill that would have prevented all states from having GMO labeling laws. Almost 90% of people in the U.S. want GMO food to be labeled, but the agrichemical industry returned to the Senate with its zombie bill to pass the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act to nullify state labeling efforts. Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Dow, Kraft, Bayer, and ConAgra are among the top ten donors spending over $100 million to defeat GMO ballot initiatives in California, Washington, Oregon, and California.

A year ago Monsanto agreed to pay $600,000 for its failures to report the release of severe toxic chemicals from its Idaho plant between the years 2006 and 2009. The cost won’t be a problem for Monsanto: the company reporter $1.5 billion in profit during just 2013.

Voters in tiny Hood County (OR), population 22,675, scored a huge victory over Nestle, another international corporation  worth over $247 billion. The battle started eight years ago when the gigantic company tried to buy water rights to Oxbow Springs in a state sometimes suffering from drought. Protesting environmental groups were joined by four Indian tribes by claiming treaty rights and raising concerns about future salmon populations. The ballot measure crafted by Nestle’s opposition banning commercial water operations in the county passed with 70 percent of the vote in the May 17, 2016 primary election.

Nestle’s lure was 50 jobs at $10 per hour with no benefits; the company spent $105,000 fighting the initiative. If Nestle had won, it would have paid less than residents for the water. Julia Degraw, Northwest organizer for Food and Water Watch, said, “This is absolutely the first time a county has passed this kind of ballot measure prohibiting commercial water bottles. It really defines what is possible for communities who are serious about protecting their water.”

The town of Cascade Locks, population 1,148 and an unemployment of 19 percent, passed the measure by 58 percent. Nestle targets economically depressed areas to make billions of dollars in profit and leaves the area with environmental, infrastructure, and other costs.

May 13, 2016

Hopeful Environmental News

 

GOP presumptive heir has campaigned on the position that he will let his advisors tell him what to do, and his newest advisor in helping him draft energy policy is climate change skeptic and drilling advocate Rep. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota, a major oil drilling state. Cramer stated that his white paper will show the dangers of burdensome taxes and over-regulation. Trump will present these ideas at an energy summit in Bismarck (ND) later this month. According to Cramer, the earth is cooling, not warming.

While Trump’s train chugs on, environmentalists have recently received good news.

Methane gas: The EPA announced new rules to significantly reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities as well as those undergoing modifications. It’s a first step in this area because the direction, finalized later this year, is only for these wells on federal lands and not for existing ones. The regulations will cover only 25 percent of the oil and gas equipment. Methane gas worsens smog, asthma iin children, and cardiovascular disease while increasing premature death.

Fracking: The industry has suffered a $4.2 million jury award over alleged groundwater contamination from fracking. Cabot Oil and Gas Co. is supposed to give the money to families in Dimock (PA). Popular support for fracking is also shrinking to 36 percent of people in the nation last March from 40 percent the prior March. Federal regulators are also working on new environmental rules for the industry that has experienced a long price slump. The oil and gas industry is under much greater scrutiny that at the beginning of its boom ten years ago.

Renewable energy: Last Sunday morning Germany got 90 percent of its electricity demand from renewable power. Obviously, this doesn’t happen all the time: the country averages 30 percent of the country’s power from solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass. Yet that average is over 230 percent higher than in the United States that gets only 13 percent of its electricity from these energy sources. At the fourth-largest economy in the world, Germany’s $3.7 trillion GDP is higher than any European country or US state. As clean energy grew in Germany so did its economy. The country, with about as much sunshine as Alaska, outpaces the U.S. in solar although the U.S. has four times the population of Germany. German individuals drive the “energy transition” because the government opened the market to utilities, businesses, and homeowners. In contrast, the U.S. restricts clean energy through high taxes and fees on its installation and use, much of these restrictions from control on solar energy by fossil-fuel owning Koch brothers. Florida is just one example.

Coal terminals: A five-year struggle between coal and Native Americans has resulted in denial of federal permits for the biggest proposed coal terminal in North America at Cherry Point (WA). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the project would violate the nation’s treaty obligations to protect Lummi fisheries and ancestral lands. The project would have overloaded the capacity of BNSF railways by adding 16 trains per day and increase the possibility of rail collisions by 22 percent through Cowlitz County and Washington. The increase in train activity would cause road delays at between four to six crossings. The company behind the project, Millennium Bulk Terminals, is still hoping to have a terminal at Longview (WA), but it had to pull its proposal when it was discovered that the company planned to ship 60 million tons of coal annual instead of the 5.7 million tons on the applications. Since Millennium applied for permits in 2012, Arch Coal, a minority shareholder, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

New clean electric generation in the United States: Last year, wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015. The other third was natural gas fueled by natural gas. It was the second year that U.S. investment in renewable energy outpaced that of fossil fuels. The cost of emissions-free wind energy, the cheapest energy source, has dropped by two-thirds in the last six years. Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas—home states to GOP lawmakers fighting the curtailment of climate-warming carbon emissions—benefited the most from clean energy. In the past ten years, coal has dropped from providing half the nation’s electricity to one-third, and large banks will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants. U.S. coal mines not employ only 56,700 people down from a peak of times that many employees; solar employs more than 210,000 workers, and wind energy has another 77,000 employees.

This week, the EPA issued a report that Monsanto’s Roundup, made with glyphosate, doesn’t cause cancer, but it pulled the report, marked FINAL, with the excuse that they weren’t finished. The question is whether they were being pressured by business because evidence is growing that the product is carcinogenic, as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the product.  Four Nebraska farmers agree with WHO and are suing Monsanto, claiming that its project gave them non-Hodkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto made $4.8 billion from Roundup sales last year, and more than 85 million pounds of glyphosate was applied to U.S. crops in 2007, more than double the 85 million pounds in 2001. Glyphosate is applied to “Roundup-ready” crops that are genetically modified to resist it and used on more than 100 varieties of crops in commercial agriculture. The complaint states:

 “Glyphosate is found in rivers, streams, and groundwater in agricultural areas where Roundup is used. It has been found in food, the urine of exposed persons, and in the urine of urban dwellers without direct contact with glyphosate.”

Last year California was the first state to label Roundup as a carcinogen, and Monsanto sued the state to fight this designation. Cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers, including lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The farmers’ lawsuit isn’t the first: Monsanto faces at least 700 lawsuits against Monsanto or Monsanto-related entities regarding cancer caused by PCBs that the company manufactured until the late 1970s. California federal judge Vince Chhabria has also refused to dismiss a lawsuit about Monsanto’s causing cancer with Roundup.

More and more media sources no longer have journalists but instead rely on press releases from companies who benefit from lying about science. Even most existing journalists aren’t well enough trained in science to spot misinformation.  In an attempt to disseminate accurate scientific information, a group of scientists are now fact-checking scientific information in the media through a new project called Climate Feedback. They started on a small scale over a year ago and are now crowdfunding $30,000 to build the project’s capacity with new weekly feedbacks. Associate Editor Daniel Nethery said:

“Several aspects of the online media environment make it particularly conducive to the spread of misinformation. In the race to attract the most clicks, editorial standards may suffer, qualified journalists who carry out rigorous research may become cost-ineffective, and eye-catching headlines — ‘click bait’ — can trump more sober reporting of the facts.”

Nethery and co-founder Emmanuel Vincent plan to hire a dedicated editor and encourage accurate science writing through a Scientific Trust Tracker to guide readers sources with “journalists with integrity.” An example of their work can be found in their analysis of James Taylor’s article in Forbes, “2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record.”

Climate Feedback will need a lot more money in this election cycle!

April 23, 2016

Oregon Media Has No Comment about Radioactive Leaks

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 8:18 PM
Tags: ,

Hanford nuclear site, about half the size of Rhode Island, was built during World War II by DuPont as an experimental large-scale plutonium production reactor. GE took over after the war and then closed down most of the reactors within the next two decades. For almost 30 years, the U.S. government has tried to clean up the radioactive mess with little success. With two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste by volume, the site remains the most contaminated nuclear site in the nation and has cost $2 billion a year for cleanup, one-third of fed’s national budget for this purpose in the entire country. Throughout the almost three decades of planned cleanup, the site continues to leak.

Hanford nuclear site_0

The most recent disaster was last Sunday when one of the 28 underground tanks holding radioactive materials leaked over eight inches of toxic waste between its inner and outer walls. That tank has been leaking for the past five years but never to that extent. Washington state’s Department of Ecology and the U.S. Department of Energy said that it wasn’t any problem, but former worker Mike Geffre, who first found that the tank was failing in 2011, disagrees.

“This is catastrophic. This is probably the biggest event ever to happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the savior of all saviors [to hold waste safely from people and the environment].”

The 2011 leak wasn’t acknowledged or announced for at least a year, and this time the government is saying that the rupture is “anticipated.” But the tank’s outer shell lacks an exhaust or filtration system to keep dangerous gases from polluting the air, and workers are ordered to wear full respiratory safety gear. The hazards “went up by a factor of 10,” according to Geffre, and employees weren’t warned that something like this might happen. Geffre said the government waited for a year to act on his warnings in 2011. Talking about the new leaks, he said, “It’s an example of a culture at Hanford of ‘We don’t have problems here. We’re doing just fine.’ Which is a total lie.”

No one knows if the three other double-shell tanks with the same design as the leaking tank are having the same problem with widening cracks—or if the government would reveal the problem because of the way that they hide the information five years ago. Columbia Riverkeepers, an Oregon-based advocacy organization, pointed out that the tanks, built almost 80 years ago weren’t made to hold waste for decades. The leaking tank is just one of 28 double-shell tanks. Hanford has a total of 177 underground tanks.

The original cracks in the compromised tank may have been enlarged by attempts to pump waste out of it. Pumping began three weeks ago after Washington state petitioned the federal government to do something about the damaged structure. Crews were removing waste from the tank because mixed radioactive and chemical waste had previously leaked into the secondary containment area. It’s possible that the pressure change has “blown out” the weakened wall, putting waste even closer to the nearby Columbia River.

In the same statement that the DOE released about “no indications that waste has reached the environment and … no threat to the public at this time,” the agency admitted that the tank is “too dangerous” to send workers to inspect the full scope of the damage. Further doubt may be generated by the lawsuit that workers filed earlier against the government to seek protection for workers at the Hanford site “from exposure to toxic vapors released from Hanford’s high-level nuclear waste tanks.” The lawsuit states poor management has caused some employees to suffer brain damage, nervous system disorders, and lung diseases resulting from the poor management of the facility. Problems continue, according to the lawsuit because “[officials] don’t have the monitoring equipment in place, they don’t have enough people to do the monitoring, and worst of all, Hanford officials have made it repeatedly clear that they don’t think there is a problem.”

Nuclear engineer Walter Tamasaitis worked for URS Corp for 44 years but was reassigned to a basement office in 2009 after he warned people about the safety design issues at Hanford. Federal investigators supported his concerns, but he was fired in 2013. It was a warning to anyone else who might complain about how the cleanup at Hanford was operated. Hanford has 8,000 workers.

The government had planned a waste treatment plant at Hanford by 2022, but late last year, they pushed its startup to 2039. The plan was to change 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge into solid glass. In 2014, a review showed that the partially built plant had 362 “significant design vulnerabilities,” including seals that could melt and ventilation systems that might not be able to contain radioactive gases. The original plan was to turn out six metric tons of vitrified high-level waste and 30 tons of vitrified low-level waste. At that rate, the job would be finished by 2059. Revised plans pushed the completion date to nearly the end of the 21st century. DOE proposed removing waste from single-shell tanks through 2024 and building new double-wall tanks—that are now failing.

The DOE may have expected the disaster, but removal work is on hold until the situation is evaluated and a plan created to recover the leaked material. The Hanford site, located on the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon, is only 230 miles for Portland (OR), but the media has reported nothing about the leaks. The Portland area has a population of almost 2.4 million people, almost 60 percent of Oregon’s population of 3.97 million.

The Oregonian, once the largest newspaper in the state of Oregon, has nothing to say about the current dangers at Hanford.

April 22, 2016

Earth Day 2016 – Keep What We Have, Make It Better

[Once again, thanks to Ann Hubard for the photographs, showing the benefits of Oregonians because we still have public land.]

Multinomah FallsEarth Day turned 46 today, and I went looking for some good news. These five items from Julia Whittey:

The huge drop of toxic PCBs and related contaminants in polar bears on the island of Svalbard shows that international agreements to ban PCBs are showing some success. As polar bears go, there go humans.

Wildlife preserves in Russia and China for highly rare Amur leopards show that the countries are working together to save endangered species.

Fog in WallowasForty individual projects and nine larger projects received almost one-half billion dollars since last November—the greatest amount of funding that it has provided. One is a proposal to protect at least 5 percent of Brazil’s ocean territory through marine protected areas, and another is a project to investigate the potential of creating ‘blue forest’ preserves in the ocean for the storage of carbon by mangrove and coral ecosystems.

Southern right whales, extinct from ancestral calving grounds off New Zealand for over a century, are finding their way home. Before the whaling industry, 30,000 whales lived in that area.

The  Arabian Oryx, thought to be extinct in the wild since 1973, has moved up to “vulnerable” since captive breeding efforts through Operation Oryx.

Ortho, a gigantic pesticide manufacturer, is stopping the use of neonicotinoids, known for killing honey bees. Europe banned these pesticides in 2013, and Ontario was the first North American region to ban them last year.

For the first time in a half century, greenhouse gas emissions are staying static while the economy grows.

For the first time in U.S. history, solar power increased more in generating capacity than natural gas. Over 29 percent of all new power capacity came from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in 2015, a 17 percent increase over 2014.

 

Mountain in WAArch Coal, one of the biggest in the U.S., will abandoned plans to build the biggest new coal mine in the U.S.,  the proposed Otter Creek coal mine, after Indigenous activists, ranchers, and landowners asked for prevention of permits. In Reno, no one showed up to bid at the federal oil and gas auctions. And in Oregon, the federal government denied an application for the proposed Jordan Cove Liquefied Natural Gas terminal at Coos Bay. FERC said that there was no need for the project that takes fracked gas from Canada through a proposed pipeline before it is shipped out of the country.

Today’s Earth Day will also be known as the anniversary for the 170 world leaders who gathered at the UN to sign the Paris Agreement, bringing the nations together to tackle climate change. Countries have already been building programs to increase clean energy and stop the pollution. To take effect, 55 percent of the countries representing 55 percent of global emissions must ratify the deal. Both the U.S. and China, together representing 40 percent of global emissions, signed today.

An extra one: The earth’s protected areas cover eight million square miles of land and sea, over twice the size of Canada. Maps and charts since 1872 here.

Tom McCall PreserveUnfortunately, that number may shrink if the Republicans get their way. After the Bundy tribe threatened federal officials in Nevada a few years ago and occupied a bird sanctuary in Oregon last winter, more GOP legislators are talking about privatizing public land. If they don’t want to go that far, they want to log, drill, mine, bulldoze, and develop that lands available for everyone.

Federal land is used for camping, hiking, climbing, fishing, bird watching, rafting, bicycling, and just plain enjoying with over 600 million visits a year. In just 2011, federal lands provided two million jobs and $385 billion in economic development. National forests provide water—generally clean and pure—to 60 million people. Public land cuts down on pollution because it lacks industry and produces oxygen while removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. I live next to the most beautiful beaches in the United States because they are not privately owned. Anyone can walk or run along the Pacific Ocean in Oregon, unlike in California which sells its beaches.

The land in the West has never been “private” land. The federal government took it from Native Americans, not the ranchers who claim that they should “take it back.” The Homestead Act gave away some of this land, but much of it was set aside as national forests and parks.

It’s not “we the people” who think that the public lands should be put into private hands; it’s the corporations and industries such as the Koch brothers and Exxon Mobile—the companies that own the GOP lawmakers. In their attempt to take over private lands, the Koch brothers directly funded the group that occupied an Oregon bird sanctuary earlier this year.

BeachThe move toward privatizing comes from federal government haters in Congress trying to turn federal lands over to the states because they would supposedly be the best to manage them. Of course, they would have to pay for the management, including paying for jobs, firefighting, roads, etc. Complaints about not having access to public land would vastly increase if these were managed by the states instead of the federal government. Many Western states don’t consider state lands to be “public” and thus make them off limits to recreation, trapping, and firewood cutting. Ranchers and farmers would lose grazing rights and federal water.

Former GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s top energy priority was to “work with Congress to ensure that states and tribes—and not the federal government—have the primary role in oversight of energy development within their borders.” He meant selling, transferring, or privatizing U.S. private lands and energy resources—and waive environmental protections. The RNC has officially endorsed efforts to force U.S. public lands to state ownership, and last year the Senate passed a budget proposal that would do just that. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) has a group of House members, the Federal Land Action Group, with the goal of determining “the best congressional action needed to return these [federal] lands back to the rightful owners.”  The Koch brothers’ conservative network is lobbying Western state legislatures to demand state ownership of national forests and other public lands. Their supporters are anti-government activists, white supremacists, militias, and other extremist groups whose ideas are dribbling into the Tea Party that some people consider “mainstream” instead of fringe groups.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is aligned with Cliven Bundy and the land grab movement. No longer a presidential candidate, he’ll still be in the U.S. Senate and will surely continue to push legislation for the loss of federal lands. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), proud of his connection with the conservative ALEC, is right up there with Paul and will remain as senator or be president. As Ohio governor, John Kasich opened state parks to oil and gas drilling before reversing his position three years later because the state lacked “the policies in place yet to properly do it.” In a little over a century, the GOP has changed from the conservation party of Teddy Roosevelt to the takeover party that gives only to corporations and the wealthy.

Then states will sell the land that the federal government “gives” them. New Mexico has sold over one-third of its original 13 million acres, Nevada has just 3,000 acres left from its 2.7 million, Idaho sold 1.2 million acres, and Colorado and Arizona each sold off 1.7 million acres.

Earth Day is a time to appreciate what we have and fight for keeping it—and making it better!

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