Nel's New Day

May 27, 2018

U.S. Minorities Fight for Constitutional Rights

The calamitous and chaotic foreign affairs creating a debacle during the past week have pushed disastrous decisions of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) into the background. One of the worst is DDT’s new “gag rule” that prevents federal funds from any institution that mentions abortion. https://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/trump-pushing-domestic-gag-rule-stop-some-doctors-discussing-abortion-nyt?src=newsletter1092354  Until now, the “gag rule” by the federal government has been for only foreign women, but DDT plans to withdraw any federal family planning funds if healthcare workers indicates abortion as an alternative to pregnancy. The man making this decision is so ignorant about health that he doesn’t know the difference between HIV and HPV, even after Microsoft founder Bill Gates explained it to him—twice. (HIV is the virus that causes the disease known as AIDS, and HPV is the human papillomavirus causing genital warts and cancer.)

As DDT plans to put high tariffs on car imports, he forgets that some of these are “Made in the USA.” Foreign automobile companies employ people in Southern “right-to-work” states because car manufacturing is cheaper there than in their own countries. As usual, the battle is between hardline trade adviser Peter Navarro and his opponents, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow and Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett. DDT is on his customary pattern of intimidating people and distracting the media from his personal problems.

Minimum wages in Mexico are part of the NAFTA negotiations. Imported cars to the U.S. are tariff-free if 62.5 percent of the content comes from North America, but DDT wants to make that 75 percent and then require 40 percent of a car to be made by works earning at least $16 per hour. The question is whether U.S. workers would get $16 hourly wage too, especially because 21 states use the federal $7.25 minimum wage.

DDT is making Europe the leader in international carbon monitoring by canceling the NASA greenhouse gas monitoring program. Supporting 65 projects, the program costs $10 a year—about three of DDT’s weekends in Mar-a-Lago.

The DOJ has removed language about press freedom and racial gerrymandering from its manual of policy priorities. The first changes in over two decades removed the section called “Need for Free Press and Public Trial” which included “the right of the people in a constitutional democracy to have access to information about the conduct of law enforcement officers, prosecutors and courts, consistent with the individual rights of the accused.” Employees are now required to report “any contact with a member of the media about a DOJ matter.” This section was also removed:

“The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find…that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.”

Fox has put the press for sale. Donald Trump Jr.’s new girlfriend is Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle who sells Jr.’s daddy, the man in the Oval Office.

DDT is investigating the possibility of using a Korean War-era law to support coal and nuclear industries. The Defense Production Act of 1950 allows a president to nationalize private industry to guarantee resources during wars or after disasters and classifies energy as a “strategic and critical material.” Taxpayers will pay the bill. In his bid for re-election, blue-dog Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is asking that the statute be invoked for the “security of our nation.” If he is successful in creating a manufactured crisis, pro-coal politicians can make customers pay for profits and shareholder values of failing coal companies and owners of nuclear fleets. (I think it’s called a “bailout.”)

Israeli lawmakers have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the authority to declare war with only the defense minister’s approval. DDT is surely paying attention with the possibility that he will get the same authority.

Transgender prisoners are more accessible to sexual abuse, assault, death and all forms of discrimination after DDT ordered the Bureau of Prisons to assign housing by “biological sex.” Guidance on medical care and hormone therapy now includes the word “necessary.” New DDT/VP Mike Pence orders conflict with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, signed into law by George W. Bush.

The NFL has ruled that football players cannot kneel on the field although they can stay in the locker room during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In addition to the First Amendment violations of this ruling, several states “have laws that bar private employers from retaliating against employees because of their political activity,” according to law professor Eugene Volokh. In 1934, a German football team was banned from playing because it wouldn’t give the Nazi salute. In 2017, 19 state legislatures considered bills to make protesting illegal; three of the states passed these into law.

DDT’s signature on a resolution repealing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s auto-lending guidance revokes protection for minority customers from predatory practices. For the first time, Congress used the Congressional Review Act to pass a resolution revoking a federal agency’s informal guidance. The resolution also prevents any protection in the future. Minority customers frequently suffer from higher dealer markups than white customers with similar credit profiles.

White House staff must use cell phones with security features, but DDT refuses any cellphone that cannot easily be hacked. DDT criticizes Hillary Clinton’s private email service, but at least six of his officials follow her practice. GOP House members continue to investigate Hillary Clinton’s secure email server.

DDT insisted that dumping chemicals into clean water will keep “clean, clean water … the cleanest,” but a report proved him wrong, leaving  big companies and the Defense Department liable to huge clean-up costs and reevaluation of water system safety. EPA Scott Pruitt announced the results of the report after three months of concealing the problem of water contaminants, but reporters were banned from attendance. One reporter was shoved out the door, but the information still got into the media.

Most of southeast Wisconsin has been exempted from any federal limits on lung-damaging smog pollution as a favor to Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign centering on his new Foxconn Technology Group factory. Pruitt overruled his agency to stop requirements making improvements in Foxconn’s electronics plant just north of the Illinois border. Pruitt also added to Chicago’s unhealthy pollution problems by reducing the list of counties with dirty air in Illinois and Indiana. Walker blames Chicago for the bad air in Wisconsin.

Water is a concern for DDT appointee Brenda Burman, head of the Bureau of Reclamation that manages the water in the western U.S. The lack of runoff from the Rocky Mountains into the Colorado River, just 42 percent of normal, continues a 19-year dry spell that ranks as the driest on record for the Southwest, part of a drought that also covers the United States. The Colorado River provides drinking water for 40 million people and waters millions of acres of farmland. Arizona may get a 20-percent cut in water allotment by 2020. Burman didn’t say “climate change,” but she’s worried.

CBS News’ Lesley Stahl said DDT told her why he attacked the press:

“You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”

In DDT’s continuing “LieGate” to discredit organizations—pollsters, law enforcement officials, courts, Congressional Budget Office, etc.—he ranted about the New York Times reporting that “’a senior White House official,’ who doesn’t exist” said that a meeting with Kim Jong-Un on June 12 was impossible because of “lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” On Thursday, that official, ordered to be called a “senior White House official,” briefed dozens of reporters in person and on a conference call about DDT’s cancellation of the meeting. DDT’s false accusation led reporters to circulate videos of Matt Pottinger delivering the message that DDT denies. The man who DDT said “doesn’t exist” overseas Asian affairs in the U.S. National Security Council.

Rudy Giuliani, DDT’s lawyer, has admitted that DDT’s “spygate” is a con to keep him from being impeached. On last Sunday’s CNN State of the Union, he said that it’s for “public opinion” and to “defend the president” by making people “question the legitimacy of [the Mueller investigation].”

After DDT’s wife spent five days in the hospital for a procedure that usually requires just an overnight stay, he welcomed his wife home by misspelling her name as “Melanie.” At least he didn’t make that mistake on Mother’s Day. DDT praised his late immigrant mother as “incredible” but made no mention of his current immigrant wife and mother of his youngest son. Even DDT’s son Donald Trump Jr. complimented his wife, who he is divorcing. We’ll see what Melania says about Barron’s father.

Three mobile billboards with art by Michael D’Antuono circled the Capitol earlier in May. Tourists interviewed for a media documenting the artist’s caravan agreed with his message, that people need to worry more about protecting democracy and less about covering up DDT’s offenses. Respondents may have been thinking about DDT’s removal of the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, voting rights, price equality, reproductive rights, clean water–or any water while DDT lies incessantly about his dishonest behavior.

April 9, 2016

Nestle in Oregon = Possible Water Shortages

Filed under: Privatization — trp2011 @ 7:34 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The media’s obsession with the current—and on-going—presidential election process, you may have missed World Water Day on March 22 to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. One huge company, Nestle, is contributing to the lack of fresh water in the world as it bottles ground water and leaves people already in poverty with the filthy remains. For example, when the company dug a deep well in the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, the water level sank over 200 feet from its original 100 feet. Children can either drink the dirty water or use bottled water—that their families can’t afford to buy. Every day more children die from drinking dirty water than AIDS, war, traffic accidents and malaria put together.

a.gorgeNot satisfied with plundering foreign countries and other parts of the U.S., Nestle wants Oregon’s water. The Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland (OR), is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Millions of tourists visit its scenic wonders, including the largest number of waterfalls in the country. Just 200 yards from Mt. Hood National Forest’s northern boundary, Oxbow Springs flows out of the ground into the Herman Creek watershed, known for its exemplary trail system. Herman Creek also provides refuge for threatened steelhead and salmon.

A. waterfallIn the past eight years, Oxbow Springs has gained fame as the public water source where Nestle wants to bottle over 100 million gallons of water each year. In exchange for depleting the state’s water and 200 daily semi-truck trips through the small town of Cascade Locks, Nestle has promised “up to” 50 jobs each paying about $10 per hour. They seemed fairly close to success after Ted Kulongoski, governor in 2010, ordered the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to permanently transfer its water right, with no public interest assessment, to the huge corporation for .2 cents per gallon—less than the cost for residents.

In a David versus Goliath battle, some Oregonians decided to fight back. Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs tribal members protested the deal, and Anna Mae Leonard, 57, held a five-day hunger strike in Cascade Locks last August. She said that the state’s deal between the state and the town violates the Treaty of 1855 between the U.S. and the Four Columbia River Tribes giving Senior Water Rights to the tribes. The tribes of the Gorge depend on selling salmon caught in the town of Cascade Locks for their economy.

In the past few months, Hood River County residents have gathered enough signatures for a ballot measure to prohibit commercial bottling operations in the county, and current governor, Kate Brown, asked ODFW and Oregon Water Resources Department to withdraw applications and go back to a direct water exchange requiring a more robust public interest review. She cited the “historic drought Oregon faced this year” as a reason for greater public involvement.

The battle is heating up as the May 17 election nears. The ballot measure proposes blocking the Nestle plant by banning any water bottling operation producing 1,000 gallons or more a day. Nestle plans to package 11 times that much in each hour. Nestle supporters have established a political group called Coalition for a Strong Gorge Economy. While both sides await the election, state water officials are reviewing the applications Nestle needs to access Oxbow’s water. That process could take several more years.

Although some people watching the current rainfall might assume that the drought in Oregon is over, much of the water for the state comes from the snowpack, historically bad last year and the worst for the Mt. Hood snowpack since it began gathering information in 1980. The year 2015 marks the fourth consecutive year of drought for the U.S. West, causing water shortages and huge wildfires—the greatest level of devastation seen only in six other years since 1960.

Even Washington state’s Queets rain forest, which usually receives an annual rainfall of over 200 inches, burned last year. Lack of snowpack from the warm winter (14 percent of usual) combined with an exceedingly hot, dry spring caused the biggest fire since the park was established over 100 years ago by Theodore Roosevelt. The natural fire cycle in this forest is about 500 to 800 years, but three fires have occurred in just the past 50 years, each one progressively worse. The fire that covered four square miles for almost six months wasn’t extinguished until after a heavy rainfall from a series of storms.

Nestle has been sourcing its water from the San Bernardino National Forest without a permit for the past 27 years. Forced to apply for another permit, they can keep plundering California by paying an annual fee of $524. California cannot find out how much water Nestle is taking out of the state because the company does not have to divulge this information.

The eight states with the most severe to exceptional drought conditions directly affecting approximately over 50 million people of the United States are Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and South Carolina. In California, 46 percent of the land area is in a state of exceptional drought conditions. A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reported:

 “Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years.”

People in other states are indirectly affected from reduced food supplies. The Great Plains states rely on groundwater while the West needs surface water, hopefully replenished by spring thaw of the snowpack levels. Even western Gulf Coast region states experiencing severe flooding during the wet season of May, June, and July such as Texas had no rain since, putting them quickly back into drought.

The effects of climate change caused the worst drought on record in Syria between 2006 and 2011, creating instability for farmers and threatening the country’s food supply. Syria’s lack of water started from poor management 40 years ago and resulted in the current problem of refugees. This paper shows the link between climate change and the rise of ISIS.

According to the U.S. Department of Defense–funded Strauss Center project on Climate Change and African Political Stability, increasing events of floods and drought have turned agricultural land into desert, and heat waves are killing crops and farm animals.  The forced migration to cities will stress already unstable governments and create the same sort of chaos as exists in Syria.  The global emphasis, including within the United States, on corporate agriculture practices such as Monsanto and Syngenta relies on vast amounts of energy, water and fossil fuel based synthetic pesticides. This model of agriculture uses 80 percent of the world’s arable land and 70 percent of the world’s water while contributing more to climate change than organic farming does.

Nestle’s solution to global water issues is privatization of water sources. The jobs that they create lure people into giving them water-well privileges and tax breaks over private citizens. Nestle, which takes almost one billion gallons from water-starved California and more water from suburban Michigan well-water leaves the public to suffer any shortages. The company’s chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes that “access to water is not a public right.” Nor a human right.

nestle-subsidiaries

Nestle is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company with over 8,000 brands, 447 factories, 333,000 employees, and operations in 194 countries. Twenty nine of their brands have sales of over $1 billion a year, and in total, they have over 8,000 brands. In addition to creating water shortages, the company uses slaves and children for labor around the world.

Water shortage has many reasons other than climate change: fracking, oil disasters, mining waste, industrial agriculture pollution, disposal of drugs, etc. Bottling water is still an important piece of the picture. This year people think that Oregon has plenty of water, but climate change—and Nestle—may change that. And your state may be next. Water should be a right; people shouldn’t be forced to purchase it because of corporate control.

[Thanks to Ann Hubard for photographs]

May 22, 2015

California’s Oil Spill, Drought–A Predictor

As California suffers from the fifth year of the worst drought in 1200 years, Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency after a faulty oil pipeline spilled a minimum of 105,000 gallons of the crude on a pristine beach north of Santa Barbara. The black sludge was pouring through the pipeline at 84,000 gallons an hour before the 24-inch pipeline diverted the oil down a storm drain and into the ocean for several hours.

The disaster, barely a week after the Obama Administration gave conditional approval for drilling the Arctic Ocean, caused closure of local fisheries and local beaches as well as killing wildlife before moving out into the ocean. There, the oil badly damages vulnerable creatures such as mussels, barnacles and other shellfish that cannot leave the area because they are connected to the seafloor and rocks. The oil seeking into the sediment, reefs, and beaches will smother organisms in a formerly pristine eco-system and can never be cleaned out.

The owner has been issued 176 safety and maintenance infractions for the Plains All American Pipeline in the past nine years, more than three times the national average. County officials require that all pipelines have an automatic shutdown valve, but a 1988 court ruling allowed the pipeline’s former owners to not use one because it could trigger false alarms. The company’s infractions of pump failure, equipment malfunction, pipeline corrosion, and operator error has spilled more than 864,300 gallons of hazardous liquid and caused over $32 million in property damage. Corrosion was determined the cause in roughly 90 of those accidents, and failures in materials, welds and other equipment were cited more than 80 times.

Offshore oil production is prohibited in California waters since 1969, but the state waters end at three nautical miles offshore. Beyond that boundary, oil drilling is extensive as shown by the green boxes on the map.

ExxonMobileLasFlores-638x477 With almost 18,000 miles of pipe networks in several states, the Plains reported $43 billion in revenue last year and $878 million in profit last year. Of the over 1,700 pipeline operators, only four companies reported more infractions than Plains Pipeline. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued Plains in 2010 over a series of 10 oil spills in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Accused of spilling 273,420 gallons of crude oil, some of it into rivers. the company firm agreed to $3.25 million in fines and $41 million to upgrade its pipelines. Last year, a Plains pipeline sprayed about 10,000 gallons of oil over businesses in Atwater Village, an L.A. neighborhood.

Because the pipeline lacked any automatic shutdown valve, the disaster wasn’t discovered until a woman walking on the beach reported the smell of oil. No one knew how long the pipeline had been leaking, and the pipeline wasn’t shut down for another three hours. Santa Barbara is the site of the third-worst U.S. oil spills in January 1969 that led to then-President Richard Nixon signing the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969. He established the Environmental Protection Agency the next year and oversaw the passage of the Clean Water Act passed in 1972 and the Endangered Species Act in 1973. It was the 1969 oil disaster that led to Earth Day.

citizens cleaningAlthough most photos of the cleanup show workers in protective gear, people living nearby started the process because of the delay in sending anyone to clean up the beach.  Photos of the damage are available here. Warning: they will literally sicken you.

Last year, Louisiana GOP Reps. Vance McAllister and John Fleming recommended repairing oil pipelines with plastic garbage sacks and duct tape. In a House Subcommittee hearing, McAllister, who had worked in the oil industry, described the repair as “innovative.” He praised the person for using “Glad, not those crappy off-brand garbage bags.”  McAllister was not long for the House of Representatives because he was caught having an affair with a staffer, the wife of his friend. Fleming is still in the House, most recently voting to prevent abortions for fetuses who will not have a planet in adulthood.

While oil destroys life near Santa Barbara, other part of the fossil fuel industry is taking and contaminating the little water left in the drought-ridden state of California. Although the water-intensive fracking process doesn’t use as much water as agriculture, which uses 80 percent of the state’s supply, the highly-toxic wastewater from fracking may be leaching into the state’s aquifers and destroying the little drinking water remaining.

Chevron is making money off this wastewater by selling the toxic fluid back to farmers, putting industrial solvents and other chemicals into the crops. California now has a law mandating water testing for fracking chemicals, but the corporations have oversight. Independent testing of recycled irrigation water has uncovered large quantities of acetone and methylene chloride, both toxic to humans. Spilling these chemicals into the water would shut down gas stations, but corporations have no penalties. Chemicals in the water also permanently damages the soil. Rain water would filter out the salts, but the drought may get worse.

With two emergency situations—the drought and now the oil spill—California is facing a third. The increased number of fires thus far this year will only grow by June, and August will see even more severe conflagrations. Rains before April were short and limited, and the rains stop in April. Dry plants such as chaparral and eucalyptus literally explode, and the state suppression of fires has made conditions worse from the buildup of tinder. Heavy population in the state forces California to fight fires rather than let them burn their natural course.

The one GOP presidential candidate in the current race, Carly Fiorina, blames the environmentalists for the drought for “failing to create any new canals or waterways in decades.” Conservatives refuse to recognize the consequences of climate change, the loss of underground aquifers, and the destructive results of the greedy oil industry corporations.

Anyone who thinks that the problems of water and oil are only California issues are wrong. Forty million people depend on the Colorado River for drinking water. Untold millions more will see the price of food increase as water for agriculture disappears in an area that provides two-thirds of the U.S. winter vegetable production. Climate change has meant less snowmelt in the Rockies, and a 14-year drought in the Southwest cut down on the Colorado River’s flow. Reservoirs are at less than half their capacities. Lake Mead is at its lowest level since it was created in the 1930s, down from near capacity in 2000. Lake Powell is in the same condition. Between 2004 and 2013, people tapped underground water equivalent to 1.5 full Lake Meads. In just nine years, an essentially nonrenewable resource was badly depleted.

In the early 21st century, at last 14 percent of the people in the United States are food insecure. With the current conservative philosophy promoting income inequality, that percentage will only increase. And with the conservative indifference regarding water use, this century will see the same number of people being water insecure, going to bed thirsty as well as hungry. California is simply the canary in the coal mine.

October 1, 2014

Advice for Climate Deniers

Filed under: Climate change — trp2011 @ 10:06 PM
Tags: , , ,

People who live elsewhere in the world sometimes tend to think that people in the Northwest are pretty wacko. Fairly liberal politics, environmentally concerned, bicycle-riding, etc. With climate change—that many of us who live here believe—this area may be the only safe place left in the United States. The following map shows the issues that the rests of the country will have.

USmap1slrheatwavewithhurricanesheatwave

Red: Vulnerable low-lying coastal areas as sea-level rises 1-2 feet during the next 85 years.

Yellow: Less water availability for agriculture and other uses by 2015 as the Southwest gets less precipitation and rising temperatures cause increasing evaporation.

Orange: Worsening intensive hurricanes that also cause increased storm surge damage along the coast and heavy precipitation/flooding in the interior.

Purple: Killer heat waves as the continent interior heats up.

Green dots: Increased flowing near major rivers draining western mountains.

Conclusions about the Northwest:

  • Temperatures will rise more slowly than most of the nation due to the Pacific Ocean (see below)
  • We will have plenty of precipitation, although the amount falling as snow will decline (will fall as rain instead). But we can deal with that by building more reservoir and dam capacity (and some folks on the eastern slopes of the Cascades have proposed to do exactly that).
  • The Pacific Ocean will keep heat waves in check and we don’t get hurricanes.
  • Sea level rise is less of a problem for us due to our substantial terrain and the general elevation rise of our shorelines. Furthermore, some of our land is actually RISING relatively to the sea level because we are still recovering from the last ice age (the heavy ice sheets pushed the land down and now it is still rebounding).
  • There is no indication that our major storms…cyclone-based winds (like the Columbus Day Storm)… will increase under global warming.
  • Increased precipitation may produce more flooding, but that will be limited to river valleys and can be planned for with better river management and zoning.

Although 97 percent of the scientists believe in human-created climate change, only 3 percent of Republicans in Congress believe this—an exactly reverse statistics. Of the general population, 37 percent deny human-made climate change. In order to maintain their fantasies, Ted Alvarez has developed different reasons for the colors in the map above.

Red: Places where candy will grow on trees because of adaptation. The orange groves of Florida will become chocolate groves and migrate up the coast.

Yellow: Areas where state and local governments are more likely to enforce three-day work weeks.

Orange: Christmas every day—although they will be wetter, windier, and more hurricaney.

Purple: Great cellphone coverage with no more dropped calls—blazing-fast downloads except in underground bunkers and heat hovels.

Green dots: Awful floods that should be avoided.

Advice from Alvarez: “STAY AWAY FROM THE WHITE AREAS…. These people lord over newcomers with weird cherries, fresh seafood, and nuclear coffee. The bookstores make your feet hurt. You’ll never be dry again. At least 85 of their 2,675 beers are too hoppy. They play Nirvana in the Seattle airport every. damn. day. Animals.

As someone who lives in the Northwest, I say, Follow Ted’s advice! Especially the 97 percent of the Republicans in Congress.

February 19, 2014

Fracking = Earthquakes?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:53 PM
Tags: , , ,

Imagine living in a state that has 103 earthquakes in one weekend. That was the case in Oklahoma last weekend. Yesterday, Oklahoma had 39 earthquakes over 2.5 in magnitude with many others below that. Each year saw between 0 and 11 earthquakes of at least 2.0 in Oklahoma between 1990 and 2008; that number grew to 49 in 2009 and 180 in 2010. Yesterday there were more than three dozen in just a day. A chart of five years shows the exponential growth, with 780 earthquakes in under two months this year. And that was before the 39 yesterday.

maddow_earthquakes_ spiike

What’s the difference during the past few years? Even doubters are beginning to believe that fracking–underground explosions to free oil and gas–and the resulting waste-water disposal may be the cause. They might want to note that the growing number of earthquakes near the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport stopped a few years ago when the facility shut down fracking wells on the airport property.

These are fracking experiences across the nation:

  • Arkansas: two couples are suing two companies for causing earthquakes that damaged their homes by fracking. The complaint states that “Arkansas experienced almost as many earthquakes in years following disposal well activity than it did in the previous twenty years collectively.”
  • California: The federal government approved three new fracking jobs off the state’s shores despite concerns from state coastal regulators who can stop fracking in federal waters at least three miles offshore if the work threatens water quality closer to shore. U.S. government permits treat fracking like oil drilling.
  • Florida: This may be the latest state to have whole-sale fracking: a company has applied for a permit to frack in the middle of the Florida panthers’ Everglades habitat. The EPA will hold a hearing on the permit on March 11. Collier Resources Company owns mineral rights in 800,000 acres in the wilderness. In addition to southwest Florida, fracking companies are looking at the northwest part of the state. Although two bills before the legislature would require companies to divulge what chemicals are being used, the measures do not ask for disclosure of the amount or concentration of the chemical.
  • Kansas:  Gov. Sam Brownback has assigned a committee to study the possibility that fracking is the cause of a recent increase of earthquakes in the state. Kansas was one of five states least likely to experience earthquake damage until the state experienced a spate of tremors last fall, culminating in a 3.8 quake on December 16, 2014 near the Kansas-Oklahoma border. 
  • North Dakota:  Last week, an oil well leaked fluid and spewed oil. No one knows what chemicals are in the water because fracking companies are not required to release this information.  There is no report about whether the well is under control almost a week later.
  • Ohio: After state lawmakers approved fracking and drilling in state parks, Gov. John Kasich and state regulators began to make plans for this extraction. Allies include Halliburton, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and America’s Natural Gas Alliance.  Update on 2/20/14: Kasich has stated that he doesn’t support fracking in state parks after all. Series of events in Ohio:

*Kasich opened up state parks and forests to fracking.

* Kasich’s team met to discuss a marketing plan to promote fracking on public lands.

* Kasich’s spokesperson said the governor’s office didn’t know about the plan.

* Kasich’s spokesperson concedes the governor’s office did know about the plan.
* Kasich announces he’s not for fracking in state parks and forests after all.
 Democrats have called for an investigation into Kasich’s actions.
  • Pennsylvania: On February 11, a Chevron natural gas well exploded in Greene County, killing one person and injuring another. Chevron’s fracking well exploded, killing one person and injuring another. A massive blaze caused by the explosion spread to another well and burned for over a week, sending smoke and noxious fumes across the community. Referring to the disaster as an “incident,” Chevron gave each householder a gift certificate for a large pizza, hoping that this mollify them. Certificates expire in less than three months.

The fracking companies wield great power. Since October 21, one Pennsylvania opponent, 63-year-old Vera Scroggins, is legally barred from 312.5 square miles that Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation owns or leases. That means she cannot go to the county hospital, animal shelter, recycling center, shops, and lake shore. Cabot was not required to identify or map lands of its drilling leases. Her peaceful and legal protests included taking Yoko Ono to frack sites to elevate public concerns about fracking.

  • Texas: Although the EPA dropped an inquiry last year into a claim of contaminated water in Parker County, the agency relied on tests done by the driller. Independent research from Texas Duke University has discovered high levels of methane in the county’s wells, exceeding the federal minimum safety level.

In the Barnett Shale area, the small town of Azle is fighting back against the fracking and waste-water disposal that has resulted in cracked foundations, sinkholes, and reduced property values after over 30 earthquakes have hit the area in the past three months. Dissatisfied with response from the state, a busload of residents went to Austin to a meeting of the Texas Railroad Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator.

U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Dr. William Ellsworth tried to claim correlation but not causation. He noted last summer than that rate of quakes of 3.0 and over in the central and eastern U.S. had multiplied to about 100 a year during 2010 to 2013 and coincided with the increase in fracking. A shutdown of disposal wells has ended the earthquakes.

Most of the current fracking in the U.S. occurs in areas suffering the greatest from drought, usually Colorado and Texas. Water use for almost 40,000 wells from January 2011 to March 2013 was 97 billion gallons of water. California has called on Gov. Jerry Brown to suspend fracking during the state’s record-breaking drought.

More than property values are at risk because of fracking proximity. A study released in early February shows that children born within a 10-mile radius of fracking sites have a greater chance of having congenital heart defects (CHD). The research studied 124,842 rural Colorado births from 1996 to 2009. In Colorado, 26 percent of the over 47,000 oil and gas wells are within 150 to 1000 feet of a home or other building for human occupancy. Researchers reported that their analysis was restrict to rural towns of under 50,000 with less potential for other pollution sources such as traffic, congestion, and industry.

According to the study:

“Studies in Colorado, Texas, Wyoming and Oklahoma have demonstrated that natural gas development (NGD) results in emission of volatile organic compounds, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons from either the well itself or from associated drilling processes or related infrastructure, i.e., drilling muds, hydraulic fracturing fluids, tanks containing waste water and liquid hydrocarbons, diesel engines, compressor stations, dehydrators and pipelines.

“Some of these pollutants [e.g., toluene, xylenes, and benzene] are suspected teratogens or mutagens and are known to cross the placenta, raising the possibility of fetal exposure to these and other pollutants resulting from NGD. Currently, there are few studies on the effects of air pollution or NGD on birth outcomes.”

In Pennsylvania, a study shows that proximity to fracking wells has a correlation with lower birth weight. Water pollution does not seem to be related; researchers are wondering about the air pollution of fracking as a potential cause. Over 15 million people in the United States live within one mile of a fracking well.

There is at least one recent victory. In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court ruled 4-2 in December that the zoning provisions of Act 13 are unconstitutional. The 2012 act amended an existing Oil and Gas Act by destroying local zoning control over fracking and other oil and gas drilling. Companies could frack 24 hours a day anywhere they wanted.

Thanks to the court decision, state municipalities can use the same land use authority over fracking that they do for all other industrial activities. The beauty of the decision is that the court wrote that people have the “right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” It keeps the state legislature from imposing new zoning laws surrounding fracking. Other states have a number of home rule cases similar to this; Pennsylvania has set a precedent.

Vera Scroggins is appealing her banishment from her community. Maybe she will win too.

January 7, 2014

Cold Brings Out Climate Change Crazies

This year the media has concentrated on the weather as subzero temperatures swept across many parts of the nation, and conservative pundits have responded with glee:

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bulls*** has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”—Donald Trump

“Global warming my gluteus maximus.”—Sarah Palin

“I would love to see Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Hillary sitting outside on the 50 yard line of Green Bay the whole game, and then afterwards do a presentation for us all on global warming.”—Rush Limbaugh

“We’re looking at global cooling, forget this global warming.”—Stuart Varney, Fox Business

These people all have one thing in common: they aren’t scientists. In contrast, scientist Jeff Masters said this:

“As the Earth gets warmer and more moisture gets absorbed into the atmosphere, we are steadily loading the dice in favor of more extreme storms in all seasons, capable of causing greater impacts on society. If the climate continues to warm, we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where it’s too warm for it to snow heavily.”

Science writer Chris Mooney also pointed out that  “scientists … stuck in the ice” got trapped after ice broke off of a glacier. Mother Jones added that record lows in the U.S. are happening at the same time that the temperature is about 120 degrees in Australia.

Mark Fischetti, senior editor at Scientific American gave a brief explanation of the current “Polar Vortex”:

“More and more Arctic sea ice is melting during summer months. The more ice that melts, the more the Arctic Ocean warms. The ocean radiates much of that excess heat back to the atmosphere in winter, which disrupts the polar vortex. Data taken over the past decade indicate that when a lot of Arctic sea ice disappears in the summer, the vortex has a tendency to weaken over the subsequent winter.”

If you talk to an uneducated climate change denier, here is some information, starting with the difference between climate and weather–two different things.

Weather: the state of the earth’s atmosphere at a specific time, usually referring to day-to-day temperature and precipitation in a specific area over a short period of time.

Climate: trends in atmospheric conditions over a long period of time in a more generalized area.

Weather changes according to seasons because the Earth’s position toward the sun changes. The angle of sunlight changes because the Earth revolves around the sun. The Roman Catholic church condemned Galileo in 1633 for his position on the sun being the center of our universe and didn’t apologize until 21 years ago—to show you how slowly education comes to the people.

In the summer, the angle is more direct than in the winter. In the colder season the ground isn’t as warm because the heat is spread out and there are fewer hours of sunlight. The weather is bitterly cold in many parts of the United States right now because an Arctic-chilled air mass headed south. When a high pressure system weakens the polar jet stream, air goes from high pressure to low pressure. Heat causes storms, and more heat causes more energy to be distributed by the storm.

Drunk Jet-Stream-300x225Bioanthropologist Greg Laden pointed out that while the Arctic air heads south, the North Pole is “relatively warm.”  The cold has not expanded; it’s just taking an “excursion.” Jennifer Francis explained that global warming is causing the influx of extreme cold. She compared the wavy pattern of the jet stream to a “drunk walking along.” Less drastic changes in temperatures between northern and southern climates caused weakened west-to-east winds and thus the “drunk” jet stream. Alaska is warmer at this time, perhaps leading to Palin’s comment. The United Kingdom is suffering from extreme cold while Scandinavia is have a warm winter.

Francis pointed out that climate change will cause this pattern to be more and more common with “wild, unusual temperatures of both sides, both warmer and colder.”

Self-appointed climate authority Newt Gingrich doesn’t deny global warming, but he likes the idea. He cites his experiences as looking at exhibits of “Antarctic dinosaurs,” and the “glacial moraine” to explain that life was “just fine” at that time. David Kreutzer of the conservative Heritage Foundation agreed that scientists think that climate change is caused by humans, but he, too, doesn’t see any problem with a much warmer planet.

Gingrich has company from the Koch brothers’ sponsored ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In a workshop last summer, Joseph Bast, president  of Heartland, told conservative state legislators that there is “no global warming trend” but if it were to get hotter, global warming “would be beneficial to the natural world and to human civilization.” Global warming, according to Bast, would help you live longer. Bast’s proof is that the amount of CO2 has increased during the past century at the same time that the average human lifespan has lengthened. A dropout from the University of Chicago, Bast majored in economics.

As Graham Wayne explained on SkepticalScience.com, however, hotter average temperatures cause problems with the water supply for agriculture, increased ocean acidity causing an unstable food chain, sea level rise, etc. The belief that warmer winters would mean fewer deaths fails to take into consideration the increased number of deaths from increased heat, about five times as many as prevented with warmer winters. Warmer climate also encourages disease-bearing insects such as mosquitoes to migrate; malaria is currently showing up in more and more places.

One serious problem of climate change is shown in California by the severe drought of 2013 when the jet stream tracked far north of normal over the eastern Pacific for the entire year. The warmer than normal air and higher than normal pressure pushed the usual West Coast storms toward Alaska while it brought cool air to the central and eastern United States. Ducks happily splashed during December in Siberia’s ice-free River Yenisei while California reservoirs dried up.

Instead of its average annual 30 inches of rain, Santa Cruz got 4.78 for all of 2013, a drop from the previous record low of 11.85 inches. Snowpacks are 20 percent of normal at the end of the year. There is no apparent end to the California drought. Scientists tie the bizarre jet stream pattern to very warm oceans and the distribution of heat in them. Another possibility is the accelerated trade winds and ocean currents from fresh water provided by melting Antarctica glaciers.

The enhanced greenhouse effect is, and will, cause serious problems for the planet. Greenhouse effect: the sun’s visible light (radiation) heats the ground; the heated ground releases the heat back into the atmosphere as infrared radiation. Greenhouses gases trap the heat and send it back to the ground, meaning that the energy coming in is faster than the energy going out. Too much of these greenhouse gases means that the globe will get very hot very quickly.

Venus and Earth are almost the same size and have the same amount of CO2; most of the Earth’s CO2 is caught in rocks, however, while most of CO2 on Venus is in its atmosphere. Earth’s atmosphere contains .004% of CO2 while the atmosphere of Venus is made up of 96.5% of CO2. The average temperature of Earth is 59 degrees Fahrenheit, and the average temperature of Venus is 872 degrees Fahrenheit. As greenhouse gases like CO2 increase, the temperature increases.

Greenhouse gasses

Scientists predict that the planet will heat up by over 7 degrees by 2100 if the emissions of greenhouse gases are not cut. A warming planet means fewer clouds, reflecting less light back into space. Professor Steven Sherwood said about the higher temperature:

“It would make life difficult, if not impossible, in much of the tropics, and would guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet and some of the Antarctic ice sheet. Climate skeptics like to criticize climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect. But what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by the models which predict less warming, not those that predict more.”

Although the average of global air temperatures has not rapidly increased since 1998, the heat continues to be trapped by greenhouse gases with over 90 percent disappearing into the oceans. The temporary cushion for the planet has been the oceans, but this will not continue. The “pause” may also result from the lack of temperature readings from polar regions, where warming is greatest, according to a study last November.

Newt Gingrich asked, “What kind of hubris does it take to say, ‘I know exactly what this planet’s temperature ought to be and I’m gonna manage it to that effect’?” Even the Bible assigned the stewardship of our planet to humans. Doing nothing is failing in our responsibility.

As usual, Jon Stewart makes far more sense on his comedy show, The Daily Show, than the conservative politicians and pundits.

Climate change and global warming are supported by 29,000 scientists in almost 12,000 peer-reviewed papers. Ninety-seven percent of scientists believe in human-caused climate change. If even 29 doctors told me I had a brain tumor, I’d pay attention to their diagnosis. My question is why the conservatives weren’t talking about global warming during the extreme heat suffered by much of the United States 18 months ago.

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