Nel's New Day

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.

 

March 5, 2014

Water Shortage from Conservative Waste

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:46 PM
Tags: , , , ,

When 300,000 people in West Virginia couldn’t use any of their water supplies except for flushing toilets, their dilemma hit headlines day after day. The crisis in Ukraine came along, and the news media turned in unison to another big story. Today, one of the nation’s largest coal producers agreed to pay a $27.5-million fine and spend $200 million to reduce illegal toxic discharges into hundreds of waterways across five Appalachian states. This fine is the largest thus far for violating water pollution permits, but the information will appear on the back pages of the paper if at all.

The violations covered the years between 2006 and 2013 when Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and dozens of subsidiaries exceeded the permits up to 35 times over 6,000 instances. Alpha bought the company from Massey in 2011 after it was fined $20 million in 2008 for other pollution violations. Both companies discharged contaminants such as heavy metals from almost 800 outfall pipes directly in water sources such as rivers, streams, and tributaries.

West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky will get half the fine while the remainder goes to the federal government. It appears that Virginia and Tennessee get nothing.

The settlement for pollution from mines and processing plants comes nearly two months after the spill of a coal-cleaning chemical near Charleston (WV) closed down businesses, schools, and other facilities throughout the area when the only usable water for over 300,000 people had to be shipped in. That disaster was followed by polluted water in North Carolina’s Dan River after the rupture of a pipe underneath a coal ash impoundment at a Duke Energy Power plant. Two weeks after the 82,000 tons of coal ash went into the river, officials found a second Duke pipe leaking water with very high levels of arsenic. How long, no one knows. Danville (VA) gets its drinking water from the Dan River.

North Carolina regulators are a large part of the state’s pollution problem: last year they stopped three Clean Water Act lawsuits which would have forced Duke to clean up its toxic coal ash pits. The state’s offer to handle enforcement at all of Duke’s 31 coal ash storage ponds protected the company from further lawsuits. Gov. Pat McCrory worked for Duke for 30 years, and the company donated at least $1.1 million of his campaign. A former state regulator has said that he told her not to fine or cite polluters.

While the country focused on the Dan River disaster, coal slurry spilled into a West Virginia creek that leads to the Kanawha River. The mix of solid and liquid waste contains the same chemical that spilled a month earlier. Unnerved by the loss of usable water in their state, West Virginia inspectors started an unofficial inventory of above-ground storage tanks that could impact drinking water and located over 1,600 of them in the state thus far. These could be subject to new rules if protective legislation ever passes. 

Until now, the EPA has been almost helpless to save the water of the nation. A federal court vacated the agency’s attempts to regulate the pollution from mountaintop coal mines, and there are no federal limits on chemicals piped from coal waste sites into water sources. Five years after a spill from a Tennessee coal ash pond covered 300 acres, the EPA still has no rules governing coal ash disposal.

A February district court ruling may help the EPA—at least a little bit—when it threw out a Bush decision that had eliminated a decades-old policy protecting streams from the spoils of mountaintop mining. The word “spoil” refers to the broken rock coming from drilling, blasting, or bulldozing mountaintops that is moved to valleys and streams. A few days before Bush left office, his administration removed the buffer zone around streams to keep the toxic spoil from waterways. The Interior Department admitted that it didn’t consider the Endangered Species Act impacts when it made the 2008 decision to allow pollutants in the streams.

If coal advocates in the House pass a bill applying the Bush buffer zone to all states, the EPA won’t be able to protect water sources from “spoil. Even with Bush’s buffer zones overturned, regulators refuse to enforce the earlier buffer zone.  Other bills, both federal and state such as the Tennessee bill to outlaw mountaintop removal, could help the EPA.  Last year, the EPA also got a boost from the ruling that it could veto “dredge and fill” permits. The EPA’s rejection of a permit stopped one of the largest mountaintop removal mines in West Virginia history.

The EPA is also entering the fray of fracking. Although it cannot regulate most of the chemicals used in the process—the majority of them unknown—it has been allowed since 2005 to control, but not stop, the use of diesel in the process. Until mid-February, it had not done so, but it is now requiring permits for the use of diesel. At the same time that frackers insisted that they did not use diesel, they denounced the new EPA direction. The EPA also claims to be developing regulations about fracking on public lands.

While corporations like Duke Energy cost taxpayers in cleanup costs, they pay no taxes. A five-year study showed that 26 of these companies paid no federal corporate income taxes. During that time, Duke made a profit of over $9 billion but received $299 million in tax rebates while paying zero taxes.

Last Friday, the governor of West Virginia lifted the emergency, don’t-use-the-water order after 50 days of deprivation. Yet residents still smell the licorice odor that alerted them to the chemical in the first place. After 50 days, there is no more free drinking water, and many people are paying hundreds of dollars for the water necessary to flush the pipes. This is in just one area of the United States. In other areas, pipelines make water resources unusable, and fracking uses 3 to 8 million gallons of water per day that can’t be reused, even if the wells don’t further pollute groundwater.

The lack of water is a world-wide problem. Since 1990, half the rivers in China have disappeared; considering the greed of many leaders in the U.S., people may be willing to sell them our water, leaving us without necessary resources. This would be the mentality of people who believe “we have enough regulations,” as House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said after the recent West Virginia water debacle.

The United States is one of the countries that is overpumping its aquifers. The Ogallala Aquifer that supplies the central area of the United States that provides much of our food will be gone “in our lifetime,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kansas is taking excessive water out of the High Plains Aquifer for corn and beef: 30 percent of the groundwater is gone, and another 39 percent will disappear in another 50 years with the current trend. Most of the rivers and creeks have dried up after 60 years of pumping.

Even chickens are polluting the nation’s waters. Maryland produces 1.5 billion pounds of poultry waste that goes into the Chesapeake Bay. Yet Gov. Martin O’Malley refuses to allow a $.05 tax per chicken to clean up their mess.

At this time, the majority of the world’s population lives within 31 miles of an endangered water source. Trade policies give corporations the right to claim “ownership” of water. By 2030, global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent.

Right now, naysayers will claim that the drought in California is over and that the plentiful snowfall across the United States proves that we will have no water shortage. They’ll turn back to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) thundering speeches about the weakness of President Obama’s leadership. These people won’t pay for their waste; their grandchildren will.

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