Published: Sunday 23 December 2012
Results of the study, which Congress requested EPA to complete, are expected to be released in a draft for public and peer review in 2014.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today provided an update on its ongoing national study currently underway to better understand any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources.

According to an EPA press release:

Results of the study, which Congress requested EPA to complete, are expected to be released in a draft for public and peer review in 2014. The update provided today outlines work currently underway, including the status of research projects that will inform the final study. It is important to note that while this progress report outlines the framework for the final study, it does not draw conclusions about the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources, which ...

Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
Now, as commercial crops wilt in the dry heat and winds rip the dust loose from American prairies, questions are mounting about whether the EPA should continue to grant exemptions going forward.

Federal officials have given energy and mining companies permission to pollute aquifers in more than 1,500 places across the country, releasing toxic material into underground reservoirs that help supply more than half of the nation's drinking water.

In many cases, the Environmental Protection Agency has granted these so-called aquifer exemptions in Western states now stricken by drought and increasingly desperate for water.

 

EPA records show that portions of at least 100 drinking water aquifers have been written off because exemptions have allowed them to be used as dumping grounds.

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Published: Friday 30 November 2012
“The agency’s order temporarily bars new contracting with the oil giant by all federal agencies, although it does not interrupt existing government contracts, including the many large ones it has with the military.”

 

The Environmental Protection Agency imposed a new penalty for wrongdoing against the BP oil company on Nov. 28, but it may fall heavily on the Defense Department, an unflaggingly loyal client that has kept buying fuel from BP since the company’s errors caused its well to disgorge nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The agency’s order temporarily bars new contracting with the oil giant by all federal agencies, although it does not interrupt existing government contracts, including the many large ones it has with the military. It also leaves the door open for BP to prove that it has reformed itself enough to requalify for federal contracts at some point in the future.

But the Pentagon might find itself scrambling if the ban is prolonged, since BP has been the military’s principal single fuel supplier for years and collected billions of dollars for fuel used by U.S. forces in the Middle East and elsewhere, a practice that drew criticism from lawmakers on Capitol Hill and others.

“When someone recklessly crashes a car, their license and keys are taken away,” Rep. Ed Markey (Mass.), the senior Democrat on the Natural Resources committee, said in a prepared statement yesterday. “Suspending BP’s access to contracts with our government is the right thing to do.”

EPA acted two weeks after the corporation entered guilty pleas in federal court to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, related to the spill. It was not a speedy decision, however, since EPA employees began considering a contracting ban years ago in response to a BP oil spill in 2006 and a refinery explosion in 2005.

“Do we want to do business with this foreign corporation, which has a horrendous record of chronically violating U.S. law?” former EPA attorney Jeanne Pascal told The Washington Post in 2010. ...

Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
The sanction, however, has been years in the making.

 

When the Obama administration temporarily banned BP from federal contracts Wednesday, it pointed to BP's "lack of business integrity" and conduct relating to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.

The sanction, however, has been years in the making.

 

BP has been criminally convicted in four previous cases — including a 

Published: Wednesday 28 November 2012
“Over the past 10 years, BP has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and been implicated in four separate instances of criminal misconduct that could have prompted this far more serious action.”

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency are considering whether to bar BP from receiving government contracts, a move that would ultimately cost the company billions in revenue and could end its drilling in federally controlled oil fields.

Over the past 10 years, BP has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and been implicated in four separate instances of criminal misconduct that could have prompted this far more serious action. Until now, the company's executives and their lawyers have fended off such a penalty by promising that BP would change its ways.

That strategy may no longer work.

Days ago, in an unannounced move, the EPA suspended negotiations with the petroleum giant over whether it would be barred from federal contracts because of the environmental crimes it committed before the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Officials said they are putting the talks on hold until they learn more about the British company's responsibility for the plume of oil that is spreading across the Gulf.

The EPA said in a statement that, according to its regulations, it can consider banning BP from future contracts after weighing "the frequency and pattern of the incidents, corporate attitude both before and after the incidents, changes in policies, procedures, and practices."

Several former senior EPA debarment attorneys and people close to the BP investigation told ProPublica that means the agency will re-evaluate BP and examine whether the latest incident in the Gulf is evidence of an institutional problem inside BP, a precursor to the action called debarment.

Federal law allows agencies to suspend or bar from government contracts companies that engage in fraudulent, reckless or criminal conduct. The sanctions can be applied to a single facility or an entire corporation. Government agencies have the power to forbid a company to collect any ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“Polluters like Duke Energy, Southern Company, and Arch coal are paying Holmstead’s bills.”

 

As I waited inside for Mr. Holmstead to step on stage, members of Greenpeace’s Climate Crime Unit stood outside handing out WANTED posters of both Holmstead and chief oil lobbyist Jack Gerard of the American Petroleum Institute, who was also present.

Jeff Holmstead, who is often quoted in newspapers as a former Air and Radiation Administrator for the George W. Bush Environmental Protection Agency or a “partner” (read: lobbyist) at Bracewell & Giuliani’s corporate law firm here in DC, is rarely credited as an influence peddler for some of the most notorious polluters in the country.

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Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“As part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the company will pay $4.5 billion in what is the largest fine ever levied on a corporation in the United States.”

 

BP agreed to plead guilty today to charges of manslaughter, environmental crimes, and lying to Congress in connection with the 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, which killed 11 workers and sent as much as 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

As part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the company will pay $4.5 billion in what is the largest fine ever levied on a corporation in the United States.

The charges against the company stem from BP engineers' decision to ignore a critically important pressure test on the Macondo well structure that could have prevented the deadly blowout and explosion, and for misrepresenting the amount of oil leaking from the open well head after the mammoth drilling rig sank in nearly 5,000 feet of water.

In a separate and unexpected set of charges, three BP managers were indicted for their roles in operating the rig and for misrepresenting facts to Congress, marking the first time that any senior BP personnel have been criminally charged for their roles in the disaster.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Justice, Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine — the highest-ranking BP supervisors on board the Deepwater Horizon at the time of the accident — have been charged with gross negligence in their oversight of the safety tests being conducted on the Macondo well the night of the disaster.

Kaluza and Vidrine "observed clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well," the statement said, and then "chose not to take obvious and appropriate steps to prevent the blowout."

Each man has been charged with 11 counts of manslaughter, 11 ...

Published: Monday 12 November 2012
“The dangers of coal ash are well documented. And the decision to allow this sludge to remain in the Kingston River, which is the result of poor decision-making during past environmental catastrophes, shows why it is of utmost importance to prevent future spills.”

Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end. 

But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.

Reports say that as much as 500,000 cubic yards of coal ash sludge remain in the Kingston River, a result of the 2008 dam rupture that released the coal ash from the processing plant.  According to the EPA and TVA, it's perfectly fine to allow those contaminants to remain in the river.  As the EPA puts it, dredging up the remaining coal ash would actually release even more pollutants into the water – including contaminants left over from previous industrial accidents and Department of Energy projects. 

To put it more succinctly:  The “leave it lie” mindset occurred in the past, making it impossible to clean up current spills without disturbing previous contaminants that weren’t cleaned.  Pollution ...

Published: Sunday 28 October 2012
“Since a major new push began in 2005, the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) partnership estimates that, through 2011, its actions have brought down gas flaring by 20 percent, eliminating around 274 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.”

An international coalition led by the World Bank is calling for state-backed and private oil producers to reduce “gas flaring” by an additional 30 percent over the next five years, saying that doing so would be equivalent to taking 60 million cars off of the roads.

Analysts widely characterized the goal as both ambitious and significant, though it follows on an apparent leveling out in flaring reductions in recent years.

Since a major new push began in 2005, the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction (GGFR) partnership estimates that, through 2011, its actions have brought down gas flaring by 20 percent, eliminating around 274 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

But according to the GGFR – a coalition of 20 major oil companies and 19 countries – which started a two-day high-level meeting in London on Wednesday, both the economic and environmental impacts of gas flaring require far greater reductions.

“A 30 percent cut in five years is a realistic goal,” Rachel Kyte, the World Bank’s vice-president for sustainable development, said in a statement Wednesday. “Given the need for energy in so many countries – one in five people on the planet are without electricity – we need to raise our ambition. We simply cannot afford to waste this gas anymore.”

Oil producers resort to flaring when gas, a by-product of oil, is brought up to the surface but cannot easily be repurposed for consumers. Instead, producers simply burn off the product, the value of which the World Bank, based here in Washington, puts at some 50 billion dollars a year.

The total amount of gas estimated to have been flared last year, about five trillion cubic ...

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
“The nation’s new expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India is now calling upon the Indian government to enact a 10 year ban on all GMO crop field trials for the next 10 years.”

 

It has been a devastating month for Monsanto as nations around the globe continue to enact bans and restraints on the company’s genetically modified crop varieties. India, the same country that hit Monsanto with ‘biopiracy’ charges for patenting life on the planet, is the latest nation to take a stand. The nation’s new expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India is now calling upon the Indian government to enact a 10 year ban on all GMO crop field trials for the next 10 years.

The new law would forbid any biotech agencies from testing their latest GMO crops on India’s soil, therefore preventing the serious issue of contamination and environmental damage. Contamination that is much more than an unlikely but problematic scenario. Monsanto has been caught in the past contaminating even organic seed varieties, and has gone as far as to plant their experimental crops before the USDA allowed them to. Thankfully, the organic farmers were able to catch the contamination before it spread.

If the contamination was not caught, however, it could have gone anywhere and compromised the very genetic integrity of non-GMO farming grounds. It is for this reason that many companies outside of the United States generally dislike purchasing from U.S. farmers, as they sometimes contain even trace levels of GMO contaminants. More and more we receive reports of farmers being completely cut off from other nations after being found to contain trace levels of GMO contamination.

India is looking to stop this before it becomes much of an issue. At least ...

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“Although farmers did reduce Roundup Ready use by 2 percent between 1996 and 1999, herbicide use resurged with a vengeance thereafter.”

 

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) require more pesticide use on crops, say the authors of a 16-year study published in Environmental Sciences Europe. According to the researchers, 527 million pounds of a toxic herbicide have inundated farmlands since 1996. What’s more, this abhorrent amount is much greater than that promised by Monsanto, which claims that GM crops require smaller doses of herbicides like the company’s best-selling Roundup Ready.

This study found, however, that although farmers did reduce Roundup Ready use by 2 percent between 1996 and 1999, herbicide use resurged with a vengeance thereafter. This was a result of the emergence of “superweeds” that resist herbicides, requiring farmers to use more of it with each application.

Herbicide and Pesticide Use Damage Humans, Environment

These “superweeds” have become resistant to glyphosate, a chemical found in Roundup Ready. Rootworms, too, may be becoming resistant according to ongoing research by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Additionally, a recent French study by the University of Caen found glyphosate and herbicides like Roundup to be actively toxic to human cells—findings which led to Russia’s suspension of Monsanto crop imports. Earth Open Source, a nonprofit organization with volunteers as well as several international scientists and researchers, has linked glyphosate with birth defects. Worse (but predictable) is that in 1993 Monsanto ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.”

 

With the quadrennial presidential election extravaganza reaching its peak, it’s useful to ask how the political campaigns are dealing with the most crucial issues we face. The simple answer is: badly, or not at all. If so, some important questions arise: why, and what can we do about it?

There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.

The former is regularly on the front pages. On Sept. 19, for example, Justin Gillis reported in The New York Times that the melting of Arctic sea ice had ended for the year, “but not before demolishing the previous record – and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.”

The melting is much faster than predicted by sophisticated computer models and the most recent U.N. report on global warming. New data indicate that summer ice might be gone by 2020, with severe consequences. Previous estimates had summer ice disappearing by 2050.

“But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions,” Gillis writes. “To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil” – that is, to accelerate the catastrophe.

This reaction demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril.

That’s hardly all. A new study from the Climate Vulnerability Monitor has found that “climate change caused by global warming is slowing down world economic output by 1.6 percent a year and will lead to a doubling of costs in the next two decades.” ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
Contrary to Obama’s rosy claim, it reveals that from the start, his administration was “determined to use OIRA as the leading edge of its political efforts to placate big business in an effort to neutralize its attacks on the Administration...”

Forget ALEC--at least for the moment.  For although ALEC represents a frightening degree of collusion between industry and government, there is a more insidious entity that erodes the system from within, gutting regulations and leaving no trace.  It's called OIRA (pronounced “O-EYE-ra”).  Though many well-informed people have never even heard of the agency, the familiar EPA, FDA, and OSHA are all beholden to its decisions, which are secret and thus unaccountable.

Until recently, the head of OIRA (Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) was legal scholar Cass Sunstein, a professor at the Law Schools of both Harvard and the University of Chicago; his wife is Obama's Special Assistant at the National Security Council, Samantha Power, who has famously promoted armed intervention as a solution to humanitarian conflicts, and savaged Hillary Clinton's penchant for deceit. 

As Sunstein left the agency on August 3, his performance earned acclaim from both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President Obama, with the latter offering fulsome praise and gratitude: his chief regulator had shown that it was “possible to support economic growth without sacrificing health, safety and the environment... his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come.”

 

How did Sunstein achieve this near-miracle of compromise?  According to Mr. Obama, it resulted from his “tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis...” 

 

But the real fruits of the approach that Obama so admires were in evidence last November, when the Center for Progressive Reform issued a devastating report on OIRA's ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
“Occupy the Debates is concerned about the anti-democratic restrictive nature of the debates and about the lack of connection between what will be discussed in the debates and what the people actually care about.”

On October 3, 2012, the first presidential debate will be held in Denver, Colorado and a people's dialogue will be held at the same time to provide broader perspectives. The live-streamed event (details below) will provide an opportunity for the public to discuss how to solve the pressing challenges of the nation.

The presidential debate is being produced, as it has since the mid-1980’s, by the corporate and partisan Commission for Presidential Debates (CPD) and only the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates will be permitted to debate. George Farah, Executive Director of Open Debates, said, "The Commission on Presidential Debates undermines our democracy. Because of the Commission's subservience to the Republican and Democratic campaigns, the presidential debates are structured to accommodate the wishes of risk-averse candidates, not voters."

Occupy the Debates is concerned about the anti-democratic restrictive nature of the debates and about the lack of ...

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
Thousands of polluted properties remain despite $1.5 billion in federal help.

 

In Oak Creek, Wis., a fence slashed with holes surrounds a barren 300-acre complex of buckling former factories where the soil and groundwater are polluted with arsenic and other chemicals.

Asbestos sprayed for almost six miles from a shuttered textile mill in Sprague, Connecticut when children trying to free a canoe set it on fire.

A toxic cocktail of volatile organic compounds, petroleum, hydrocarbons and metals lies along the banks of Massachusetts’s Malden River.

Despite about $1.5 billion in federal grants and loans doled out by theEnvironmental Protection Agency over 19 years, hundreds of thousands of abandoned and polluted properties known as “brownfields” continue to mar ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“The waste – the byproduct of oil and gas drilling – was described in regulatory documents as a benign mixture of salt and water.”

 

On a cold, overcast afternoon in January 2003, two tanker trucks backed up to an injection well site in a pasture outside Rosharon, Texas. There, under a steel shed, they began to unload thousands of gallons of wastewater for burial deep beneath the earth.

The waste – the byproduct of oil and gas drilling – was described in regulatory documents as a benign mixture of salt and water. But as the liquid rushed from the trucks, it released a billowing vapor of far more volatile materials, including benzene and other flammable hydrocarbons.

The truck engines, left to idle by their drivers, sucked the fumes from the air, revving into a high-pitched whine. Before anyone could react, one of the trucks backfired, releasing a spark that ignited the invisible cloud.

Fifteen-foot-high flames enveloped the steel shed and tankers. Two workers died, and four were rushed to the hospital with burns over much of their bodies. A third worker died six weeks later.

What happened that day at Rosharon was the result of a significant breakdown in the nation’s efforts to regulate the handling of toxic waste, a ProPublica investigation shows.

The site at Rosharon is what is known as a “Class 2” well. Such wells are subject to looser rules and less scrutiny than others designed for hazardous materials. Had the chemicals the workers were disposing of that day come from a factory or a refinery, it would have been illegal to pour them into that well. But regulatory concessions won by the energy industry over the last three decades made it legal to dump similar substances into the Rosharon site – as long as they came from drilling.

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
Five big signs we are headed toward privatization.

With the breakdown of the private financial industry, and with the decision by corporations to stop meeting their tax responsibilities, and with the dramatic surge in tax haven abuse, less tax revenue is available to state and local governments. Deprived of funding, governments are forced to consider privatization schemes to balance their budgets. But any such scheme comes with adversity and pain. 

The futility of diverting public funds into the hands of profitseekers has been well-documented. Here are a few of the gathering curses of privatization. 

1. Public treasures sold off for short-term budget ...

Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
Whether corporate political money shouts or whispers, it still corrupts.

 

Not only does corporate political money shout, scream, bellow, and bay in our elections, but afterwards it quietly slips into the back rooms of power to talk softly about payback.

Meet Exelon Corporation, America's biggest electric utility, owner of our country's largest array of nuclear power plants, and among the largest donors to Barack Obama's political career. One Exelon board member alone has raised more than $500,000 for Obama and is tight enough with him to get into the occasional presidential basketball game. Also, Obama's top political operative, David Axelrod, has been an Exelon consultant. Overall, Chicago-based Exelon is so connected that it boasts of being “the president's utility.”

This is a story of how corporate cash buys long-term relationships that then produce quiet access to the inner chambers of government, resulting in corporate favors. Last year, for example, the EPA was developing a new rule affecting how nuclear plants use water. Exelon executives and lobbyists got extraordinary access to top White House officials — far more meetings and at a higher level than other utilities got, and certainly more attention than environmental groups received. Then in March 2011, just days after Exelon lobbyists met with their Oval Office buddies, the EPA official in charge of drafting the rule was called to the White House and instructed to rewrite major sections to fit Exelon's needs. Since then, ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
“If a spill or blowout happened tomorrow in the Gulf of Mexico, or any U.S. water for that matter, any dispersant that is used would not necessarily be safe for the waters, ecosystems, response workers or nearby communities.”

A coalition of conservation, wildlife and public health groups in the Gulf region and in Alaska filed a citizen suit under the provisions of the Federal Clean Water Act on Aug. 6 to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a rule on chemical oil dispersants. EPA’s current rules—which during the 2010 Gulf oil disaster failed to ensure that dispersants would be used safely—do not fulfill the requirements mandated by the Clean Water Act.

“We’re disappointed that the agency doesn’t seem to understand the widespread public urgency to initiate this rule making process,” said Jill Mastrototaro, Sierra Club Gulf Coast Protection campaign director. “If a spill or blowout happened tomorrow in the Gulf of Mexico, or any U.S. water for that matter, any dispersant that is used would not necessarily be safe for the waters, ecosystems, response workers or nearby communities.”

During the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, nearly 2 million gallons of chemical dispersants were dumped into Gulf waters with little knowledge or research into the chemicals’ toxic impacts. Currently, regulations dictating dispersants eligible for use in oil spills require minimal toxicity testing and no threshold for safety.

More than 5,000 petitions have been sent by residents across the Gulf Coast region urging the U.S. EPA to use its authority to initiate comprehensive testing of oil dispersants and to create regulations that include safety criteria and identify acceptable waters and quantities for use. But the U.S. EPA still has not created a new rule that will ensure that dispersants will be used safely in the next disaster.

“We sent EPA a notice of intent ...

Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“With a nonviolent direct action camp that started July 27, 2012 in East Texas, grassroots opponents are working on a construction project of their own: Tar Sands Blockade, a coalition of landowners, community members, students, and others dedicated to stopping the pipeline through direct action.”

Just when it seemed that the Keystone XL pipeline was on hold, TransCanada Corp. segmented the project and the U.S. government fast-tracked the environmental review process. This allows TransCanada to begin construction on the southern part of the Keystone XL this summer.

With a nonviolent direct action camp that started July 27, 2012 in East Texas, grassroots opponents are working on a construction project of their own: Tar Sands Blockade, a coalition of landowners, community members, students, and others dedicated to stopping the pipeline through direct action.

Building in Segments to Get around Opposition 

The Keystone XL pipeline was originally proposed as a single line that went from Alberta to Texas. However, in February, TransCanada announced that the southern part of the Keystone XL had been reconceived as a separate pipeline called the Gulf Coast Project.

TransCanada spokesperson David Dodson characterizes the Gulf Coast pipeline as important for the energy security of the United States. According to Dodson, domestic producers “do not have access to enough pipeline capacity to move the production to the large refining market along the U.S. Gulf Coast.”

In March, U.S. President Barack Obama expedited the review process for pipelines going from Oklahoma to Texas. “In part due to rising domestic production, more oil is flowing in than can flow out, creating a bottleneck that is dampening incentives for new production while restricting oil from reaching state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast,” reads the president's March 22 memo. In a whopping 86-word sentence, the president goes on to explain that all agencies are to “coordinate and expedite their reviews, consultations, and other processes as necessary to ...

Published: Friday 3 August 2012
“Shell is getting ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, an ecosystem staggeringly rich in life of every sort, and while it’s not yet quite a done deal, the prospect should certainly focus our minds.”

 

 

When you go to the mountains, you go to the mountains.  When it’s the desert, it’s the desert.  When it’s the ocean, though, we generally say that we’re going “to the beach.”  Land is our element, not the waters of our world, and that is an unmistakable advantage for any oil company that wants to drill in pristine waters.

Take Shell Oil.  Recently, the company’s drill ship, the fabulously named Noble Discoverer, went adrift and almost grounded in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  That should be considered an omen for a distinctly star-crossed venture to come.  Unfortunately, few of us are paying the slightest attention.

Shell is getting ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, an ecosystem staggeringly rich in life of every sort, and while it’s not yet quite a done deal, the prospect should certainly focus our minds.  But first, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the mind-boggling richness of the life still in our oceans.

Last month began with a once-in-a-lifetime sighting in Monterey Bay, California, startlingly close to shore, of blue whales.  Those gigantic mammals can measure up to 100 feet, head-to-tail, and weigh nearly 200 tons -- the largest animal by weight ever to have lived on this planet. Yes, even heavier than dinosaurs. The biggest of them, Amphicoelias fragillimus, is estimated to have weighed 122 tons, while the largest blue whale came in at a whopping 195 tons.

The recent Monterey Bay sighting is being called “the most phenomenal showing of the endangered mammals in recent history.” On July 5th ...

Published: Wednesday 1 August 2012
“The Shell project in the Arctic, originally slated to start this month, has faced numerous setbacks in its operations.”

Many environmental groups are concerned over a possible extension of drilling expeditions in the Arctic, as oil companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, are set to begin drilling in the region as early as this week.

Shell is planning to open three exploratory wells in Alaska: One in the Chukchi Sea off the state’s northwestern coast, and two in the Beaufort Sea off the northern coast, after delays in production caused by a myriad of factors, including warm weather and production lapses.

An extension of a drilling window would allow the company to drill in the Arctic past the previously agreed-upon deadline of Sep. 24 in the Chukchi Sea, and the end of October in the Beaufort Sea.

Some environmental activists, however, say that the extension of the drilling window is no more than an attempt to make up for lost time.

“It would be really disturbing attempt to move the goal posts,” Travis Nichols, a media officer at Greenpeace, said to IPS. “They haven’t been able to get their fleet in order. They want to change the rules to get the administration to cater to their needs.”

The Shell project in the Arctic, originally slated to start this month, has faced numerous setbacks in its operations.

In June, a Shell drilling-rig, named the Noble Discoverer, did not meet Environmental Protection Agency emission standards, because its generator engines contained higher-than-allowed amounts of nitrous oxide and ammonia.

Earlier this month, the ship, anchored in Alaska’s Dutch Harbor, drifted off its moorings and came within 100 feet of reaching the shore.

“They clearly cannot ensure safety in the Arctic,” Dan Howells, deputy campaigns director at Greenpeace, said in a statement. According to Howells, by extending the drilling window, it “is inviting major catastrophe in one of the ...

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
“Starting off with a trial within the nation’s borders, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized Teagasc to plant the GMO crops throughout a two hectare land plot.”

 

In a monumental move that signifies the truly terminal state of the international food supply, Ireland’s government officials have given the green light to begin genetically modifying the iconic potato. Met with severe resistance from both citizens, watchdog organizations, and political figures, the decision allows for the genetically modified potatoes to be planted within Ireland by the Irish food development authority Teagasc.

Starting off with a trial within the nation’s borders, Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has authorized Teagasc to plant the GMO crops throughout a two hectare land plot. While supports continue to assert that the relatively small size makes the process ‘safe,’ experts from within the Emerald Isle say otherwise. In response to the idea that starting the trial with a ‘small’ land plot is safe, The Organic Trust in Dublin explains that once you unleash genetically modified seeds into the environment, the consequences that may follow do not depend on how many acres of land is modified — only the fact that genetically modified seeds have been planted.

Spokesperson Gavin Lynch stated:

It is only a two hectare trial, but that’s like saying you’re only a little bit pregnant, there are no grey areas with GM…. Organic Trust calls on Teagasc not to act on the approval granted but to adhere to the wishes of the vast majority of Irish citizens not to pollute our precious land. Not one single solitary benefit will accrue to Ireland as a result of this trial. So why it is going ahead?”

The above stated is a valid question ...

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
ALEC’s meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls “model bills.”

 

 

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt toEPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions,ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of theALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner toALEC, will ...

Published: Sunday 8 July 2012
The biotech industry may outdo us in funding ability, but we as consumers still outnumber them.

Brazil, the second-largest producer of genetically modified (GM) crops (after the U.S.), is the latest country to take a stand against biotech giant Monsanto, which could end up handing over at least $2 billion as a result.

A war has been waging against Monsanto in Brazil for nearly a decade, virtually ever since the country legalized farming of GM crops in 2005.

Since then, Monsanto has been charging Brazilian farmers double – once for their seeds, and again when they sell their crops.

Farmers Have Had Enough With Monsanto’s Royalty Taxes and Penalties

In case you’re wondering how Monsanto has risen to the ranks of a superpower, a major reason is their patent on GM seeds, like the GM soya seeds in Brazil, which account for nearly 85 percent of the country’s total soybean crop. Each GM seed is patented and sold under exclusive rights.

Therefore, farmers must purchase the GM seeds every year, because saving seeds (which has long been the traditional way) is considered to be patent infringement. Anyone who does save GM seeds must pay a license fee to actually re-sow them.

But that’s not all.

In Brazil, Monsanto has charged farmers a 2 percent royalty fee on all of their Roundup Ready sales since 2005! And, they test all of the soy seeds marketed as “non-GM” to be sure they don’t contain any Monsanto seeds. If they are found to contain the patented seeds, the farmer is penalized close to 3 percent of his sales!

The issue with the latter penalty is that GM soy is very hard to contain, and often contaminates nearby fields. So farmers are forced to pay a penalty for having their fields contaminated with GM crops, through no fault of their own – and likely against their wishes entirely!

For years now, farmers have been taking Monsanto to court over their excessive fees and taxes, and in 2009, a group of farmers sued the company, claiming the ...

Published: Sunday 8 July 2012
“There are two main regulations related to coal-fired power plants that the EPA has instituted in the last year: Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and New Source Performance Standards (CO2 Limits).”

If you've watched any cable news show in the last year, chances are you've probably seen one or a thousand ads from the fossil fuel industry attacking regulations and/or trying to paint their products as necessary for prosperity. If nothing else, the sheer volume of primetime advertisements makes one thing strikingly apparent: the fossil fuel industry has a LOT of money.

Recently, I saw yet another one of these ads--this one from a coal industry front group called "America's Power"--and another thing struck me: They really think that with enough money, with enough serious looking actors, and enough repetition, they can make Americans believe (or forget) anything. My fear is that they may be right.

This short 30-second spot is a great example of the dirty energy industry's strategy of deceit. Let's take a look and then deconstruct it point by point:

Transcript:

We're hearing a lot about fairness from this administration.

But is it fair for their EPA to increase what Americans pay for electricity, by imposing expensive new regulations on coal?

With all the pain at the pump, now is the time to act before those who can least afford it feel even greater pain, at the plug.

Coal: It's affordable, abundant, and ours. Learn what you can do at AmericasPower.org.

[Clean Coal. Now is the time.]

"We're hearing a lot about fairness from this administration."

The sinister voice tells us that we're hearing a lot about fairness from the administration, but we can tell from the sinister voice that we aren't supposed to believe the administration really cares about fairness. No, it is much more, sinister than that. But just ...

Published: Tuesday 3 July 2012
Reduction in C02 is enough to give people some hope that perhaps humanity will not continue to send the environment into a doomsday scenario.

 

According to a recent report by the International Energy Agency, the U.S. has seen the greatest reduction in carbon dioxide pollution within the past six years in comparison to any other country, even as global carbon dioxide pollution has reached record highs.

“CO2 emissions in the United States in 2011 fell by 92 Mt (million tonnes), or 1.7%, primarily due to ongoing switching from coal to natural gas in power generation and an exceptionally mild winter, which reduced the demand for space heating,” the IEA writes on its website.

“US emissions have now fallen by 430 Mt (7.7%) since 2006, the largest reduction of all countries or regions. This development has arisen from lower oil use in the transport sector (linked to efficiency improvements, higher oil prices and the economic downturn which has cut vehicle miles travelled) and a substantial shift from coal to gas in the power sector,” the IEA states.

 

It is enough to ...

Published: Friday 29 June 2012
Amazingly, western corn rootworms have virtually no problem gobbling up Monsanto’s modified maize crop, as they have developed a serious resistance to the very crops designed to kill them.

 

 

What will be the end of Monsanto? Could it be lawsuits, new legislation, or perhaps even a tiny insect that is less than 0.10 mm in length. A new report reveals that rootworms may ultimately be what ends Monsanto’s crops, despite the biotech giant’s rampant success within the United States legislative system. Amazingly, western corn rootworms have virtually no problem gobbling up Monsanto’s modified maize crop, as they have developed a serious resistance to the very crops designed to kill them. So much so that these little critters are outpacing Monsanto’s top scientists.

To make matters worse for the company, the resistant rootworms are maturing earlier than expected this year. And with the enhanced growth has come enhanced birth rates, with the bug’s larvae hatching the earliest in decades. Monsanto, of course, is absolutely defenseless against the resistant rootworms which have adapted to their biopesticide known as Bt. At least 8 populations of insects have developed resistance, with 2 populations resistant to Bt sprays and at least 6 species resistant to Bt crops as a whole. The answer? Use even more intelligence-crushing pesticides.

Rootworms, Nature Overcome Monsanto’s GMO Crops

It is for this reason that the EPA has warned in the past that Monsanto’s crops will soon be ravaged by the insects. In their report on the subject, the EPA states:

“Monsanto’s program for monitoring suspected cases of resistance is ‘inadequate’”.

The statements have been reinforced by another group of concerned scientists. A body of 22 academic corn experts voiced serious concerns over GMO crop failures back in March, warning that a collapse of the GMO corn industry may soon follow — a particularly mighty ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
We’re joined by environmentalist, educator, and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org as he discusses climate and the environment.

With extreme weather fueling wildfires in Colorado and record rainfall in Florida, the Obama administration has moved closer to approving construction of the southern section of the Keystone XL pipeline. We’re joined by environmentalist, educator and author Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. "Today is one of those days when you understand what the early parts of the global warming era are going to look like," McKibben says. "For the first time in history, we managed to get the fourth tropical storm of the year before July. ... These are the most destructive fires in Colorado history, and they come after the warmest weather ever recorded there. ... This is what it looks like as the planet begins — and I underline 'begins' — to warm. Nothing that happened [at the United Nations Rio+20 summit] will even begin to slow down that trajectory."

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: And we end today’s show looking at corporate money in the environment, as Florida is lashed by drenching rains and the worst wildfires in Colorado’s history continue to rage. We’re joined by Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 25 June 2012
When answers finally arrived — the fungicide was Switch 62.5WG, a chemical that can irritate the eyes and skin — Banda-Rodriguez had already left Arkansas to follow the season to Virginia and ultimately returned to Mexico.

 

Laboring in the blackberry fields of central Arkansas, the 18-year-old Mexican immigrant suddenly turned ill. Her nose began to bleed, her skin developed a rash, and she vomited.

The doctor told her it was most likely flu or bacterial infection, but farmworker Tania Banda-Rodriguez suspected pesticides. Under federal law, growers must promptly report the chemicals they spray.

It took the worker, and a Tennessee legal services lawyer helping her, six months to learn precisely what chemical doused those blackberry fields. The company ignored her requests for the information. The Arkansas State Plant Board initially refused to provide records to her lawyer, saying it didn’t respond to out-of-state requests. An Arkansas inspector, dispatched after the complaint, didn’t initially discern what pesticides were used the day the worker became ill, records show.

When answers finally arrived — the fungicide was Switch 62.5WG, a chemical that can irritate the eyes and skin — Banda-Rodriguez had already left Arkansas to follow the season to Virginia and ultimately returned to Mexico. She never learned whether the pesticide sickened her.

The episode is as telling a snapshot today as it was six years ago for one of America’s most grueling and lowest-paying vocations. Pesticides can endanger farmworkers, but thin layers of government protect them and no one knows the full scope of the environmental perils in the fields.

The Environmental Protection Agency administers a Worker Protection Standard meant to regulate pesticides and protect workers and handlers. Yet the agency maintains no comprehensive database to track pesticide exposure incidents nationwide.

In 1993, the Government Accountability Office (then called the General Accounting Office) warned that the ...

Published: Sunday 24 June 2012
“The American public pays the price in the form of illnesses, higher health costs and more than 10,000 deaths annually.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council condemned eight coal-burning utility companies Tuesday for flouting the Clean Air Act and spending millions to lobby against pollution controls.

In a report, the NRDC detailed how the companies have poured money into blocking or delaying clean air protections. The American public pays the price in the form of illnesses, higher health costs and more than 10,000 deaths annually, the environmental group said.

The report was released on the eve of a Senate vote on a resolution by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to nullify an Environmental Protection Agency rule aimed at reducing emissions of mercury and other air toxics from power plants.

“The ‘Gang of Eight’ utilities are putting their profits over protecting kids and communities from deadly, dangerous air pollution,” Pete Altman, the NRDC’s climate and clean air campaign director, said during a news teleconference. “The health and welfare of millions of Americans, including children, who are most vulnerable to air pollution, hang in the balance.”

The utilities pinpointed by the NRDC are AEP, Ameren, DTE Energy, Energy Future Holdings, FirstEnergy, GenOn, PPL and Southern Company. They are based in Ohio, Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The report uses 2011 emissions data from each of the utilities’ power plants, as reported to the EPA, to calculate health and economic impacts. An analysis done for the NRDC by consulting firm MSB Energy Associates Inc. estimates a toll of 10,400 deaths, 65,000 asthma attacks, 6,600 hospital visits, 3.4 million lost workdays, and $78 billion in total costs to the U.S. economy in 2011.

John Walke, clean air director at the NRDC, said the group acknowledges that companies are making an effort to reduce pollution.  At the same time, however, they are filing ...

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation’s drinking water.

Over the past several decades, U.S. industries have injected more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic liquid deep into the earth, using broad expanses of the nation's geology as an invisible dumping ground.

No company would be allowed to pour such dangerous chemicals into the rivers or onto the soil. But until recently, scientists and environmental officials have assumed that deep layers of rock beneath the earth would safely entomb the waste for millennia.

There are growing signs they were mistaken.

Records from disparate corners of the United States show that wells drilled to bury this waste deep beneath the ground have repeatedly leaked, sending dangerous chemicals and waste gurgling to the surface or, on occasion, seeping into shallow aquifers that store a significant portion of the nation's drinking water.

In 2010, contaminants from such a well bubbled up in a west Los Angeles dog park. Within the past three years, similar fountains of oil and gas drilling waste have appeared in Oklahoma and Louisiana. In South Florida, 20 of the nation's most stringently regulated disposal wells failed in the early 1990s, releasing partly treated sewage into aquifers that may one day be needed to supply Miami's drinking water.

There are more than injection wells nationwide, more than 150,000 of which shoot industrial fluids thousands of feet below the surface. Scientists and federal regulators acknowledge they do not know how many of the sites are leaking.

Federal officials and many geologists insist that the risks posed by all this dumping are minimal. Accidents are uncommon, they say, and groundwater reserves — from which most Americans get their drinking water — remain safe and far exceed any plausible threat posed by injecting toxic chemicals into the ground.

But in interviews, several key experts acknowledged that the idea that injection is safe rests on science that has not kept pace with ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Forty-eight Democratic Senators and 5 Republican colleagues voted against Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) Congressional Review Act resolution, S.J. Res 37, which would have blocked the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Forty-one Republicans and 5 Democrats voted for it to stop the mercury protections.”

Today the Senate rejected another attempt to block vitally important public health safeguards. Forty-eight Democratic Senators and 5 Republican colleagues voted against Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) Congressional Review Act resolution, S.J. Res 37, which would have blocked the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard. Forty-one Republicans and 5 Democrats voted for it to stop the mercury protections.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standard, or MATS, was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency in December 2011. It would require steep reductions of mercury, lead, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants, the largest domestic source of mercury emissions in the United States. These plants spew 53,510 pounds of mercury into the air each year. Mercury and other airborne toxics are linked to birth defects, brain damage, learning disabilities, cancer, and other serious ailments.

The 46 Senators who voted in favor of blocking these important health protections received over $14 million in direct campaign donations from the coal and utility industries throughout their congressional careers. The senators who voted against the resolution received just $4 million, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Senators who opposed mercury safeguards received an average of $313,000 in contributions, while supporters of protections received ...

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
Congress had moved quickly to pass bills on water safety and bioterrorism, and the EPA thought it was “on the right track” to pass a bill on chemical security as well.

Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency chief under George W. Bush, urged the EPA Tuesday to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to impose stricter safety standards on American chemical facilities vulnerable to accidents or terrorist attacks.

“I cannot understand why we have not seen some action when the consequences of something happening are so potentially devastating,” Whitman said in a teleconference that included representatives of labor and environmental groups.  

As Bush’s EPA administrator, Whitman was prepared to unveil a proposal requiring chemical plants to use safer processes in the months after 9/11. Under the Clean Air Act’s general duty clause, Whitman said, the EPA had the authority to require hazard reduction at facilities at risk of catastrophic chemical releases.

But the plan was scuttled by the White House, which maintained that chemical hazards could be better addressed by legislation, Whitman said. Congress had moved quickly to pass bills on water safety and bioterrorism, and the EPA thought it was “on the right track” to pass a bill on chemical security as well.

Bob Bostock, Whitman’s homeland security adviser at the time, said EPA officials expected litigation from the chemical industry if it used the general duty clause. “It wasn’t so much that we were afraid we’d lose the litigation,” Bostock said. “We didn’t want to be tied up in litigation for years and years, leaving this unaddressed.”

Legislation never came. Now, Whitman and others are pressing the EPA to act on its own. In March, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council wrote a 

Published: Tuesday 12 June 2012
“The civil penalty against SABIC Innovative Plastics, announced May 31, targets leak detection and repair failings that resulted in hundreds of tons of hazardous air pollutant releases every year, the federal agency said.”

 

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a $1 million fine against a global plastics producer for alleged Clean Air Act violations at its plants in two small, polluted communities seven hours apart in Alabama and Indiana.

The civil penalty against SABIC Innovative Plastics, announced May 31, targets leak detection and repair failings that resulted in hundreds of tons of hazardous air pollutant releases every year, the federal agency said.

SABIC, a global producer of polymers and thermoplastics, is a top employer in the two towns involved: Burkville, a rural community best known for hosting Alabama’s annual Okra Festival, and Mount Vernon, a town of just under 6,700 nestled in the southernmost tip of Indiana.

The EPA’s 15-count complaint said SABIC skirted Clean Air Act rules on monitoring and repairing equipment leaks, complying with chemical plant regulations and reporting known violations. SABIC agreed to the penalty to settle the case.

The Mount Vernon plant recently won several environmental awards. In 2011, the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable recognized it with a Most Valuable Pollution Prevention award. This April, the plant won three Responsible Care Energy Efficiency Awards from the American Chemistry Council.

SABIC said in a news release at the time that such recognition demonstrates its commitment to “minimize environmental impact while strengthening operational excellence.”

Now, SABIC must reform its monitoring practices, replace valves, reengineer emission controls and invest in an environmental project to control hazardous air emissions. The upgrades will cost the ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
But perhaps most interesting is the fifteen months he spent from November 6, 2003 through January 26, 2005 as President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator — a period over which he supported many of the environmental protection efforts Romney has railed against through the campaign.

Mike Leavitt, the man Mitt Romney has tapped to head his transition should he win this November, has held a wide array of public-sector jobs including Governor of Utah and Secretary of Health and Human Services. But perhaps most interesting is the fifteen months he spent from November 6, 2003 through January 26, 2005 as President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator — a period over which he supported many of the environmental protection efforts Romney has railed against through the campaign.

 

Romney’s official campaign website has a prominent section on government regulations entitled “Obama’s Failure,” which blasts the EPA ...

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
“The AMA will reportedly be considering the proposals on June 17th, during its annual meeting, but the long list of individuals and organizations behind the push for labeling does not stop there.”

Despite the facade put in place by Monsanto that virtually all mainstream medical organizations believe there is no difference between traditional and genetically modified organisms, even the American Medical Association (AMA) may soon support the labeling of GMOs through federal legislation or regulation. In an attempt to accelerate the process towards the direct labeling of GMOs, the Indiana State Medical Association and Illinois State Medical Society have both introduced resolutions to the AMA on the subject. The resolutions, which stem from these prominent mainstream entities, urge the AMA to back labeling initiatives.

The AMA will reportedly be considering the proposals on June 17th, during its annual meeting. What’s more, the long list of individuals and organizations behind the push for labeling does not stop there. The resolutions submitted to the AMA are backed by a multitude of researchers and physicians, including Dr. Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist and past vice-chair of the Council on Responsible Genetics. In response to the secretive nature of GMOs and the subsequent lack of real knowledge on their wide scale effects, Dr. Herbert stated:

“Tracking the millions of people with vulnerable immune systems and their reaction to novel proteins and virus fragments in genetically engineered food is impossible without food labeling.”

Labeling of GMOs Gains ...

Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012
“Not only are we seeing rapid emergence of super-weeds resistant to glyphosate, courtesy of Roundup Ready crops, we now also have evidence of emerging Bt-resistant insects.”

A new generation of insect larvae is eating the roots of genetically engineered corn intended to be resistant to such pests.  The failure of Monsanto's genetically modified Bt corn could be the most serious threat ever to a genetically modified crop in the U.S.

And the economic impact could be huge. Billions of dollars are at stake, as Bt corn accounts for 65 percent of all corn grown in the US.

The strain of corn, engineered to kill the larvae of beetles, such as the corn rootworm, contains a gene copied from an insect-killing bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. 

But even though a scientific advisory panel warned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the threat of insects developing resistance was high, Monsanto argued that the steps necessary to prevent such an occurrence -- which would have entailed less of the corn being planted -- were an unnecessary precaution, and the EPA naively agreed.

According to a recent NPR report:

"The scientists who called for caution now are saying 'I told you so,' because there are signs that a new strain of resistant rootworms is emerging...[A] committee of experts at the EPA is now recommending that biotech companies put into action, for the first time, a 'remedial action plan' aimed at stopping the spread of such resistant insects ...

The EPA's experts also are suggesting that the agency reconsider its approval of a new kind of rootworm-killing corn, which Monsanto calls SmartStax. This new version of Bt corn includes two different Bt genes that are supposed to kill the rootworm in different ways. This should help prevent resistance from emerging, and ...

Published: Friday 25 May 2012
“The studies, conducted in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, all pointed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals used widely in U.S. corn production, as likely contributors to colony collapse disorder.”

Newly published scientific evidence is bolstering calls for greater regulation of some of the world’s most widely used pesticides and genetically modified crops. 

Earlier this year, three independent studies linked agricultural insecticides to colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that leads honeybees to abandon their hives. 

Beekeepers have reported alarming losses in their hives over the last six years. The USDA reports the loss in the United States was about 30 percent in the winter of 2010-2011. 

Bees are crucial pollinators in the ecosystem. Their loss also impacts the estimated $15 billion worth of fruit and vegetable crops that are pollinated by bees in the United States. 

The studies, conducted in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, all pointed to neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals used widely in U.S. corn production, as likely contributors to colony collapse disorder. The findings challenged the EPA’s position—based on studies by Bayer CropScience, a major producer of the neonicotinoid clothianidin—that bees are only exposed to small, benign amounts of these insecticides.

The new studies found that bees are exposed to potentially lethal amounts of neonicotinoids in pollen and in dust churned up by farm equipment. They also found that exposure to neonicotinoids can reduce the number of queen bees and disorient worker bees. 

An alliance of beekeepers and environmental groups filed a petition on March 21 asking the EPA to block the use of clothianidin in agricultural fields until the EPA conducts a sound scientific review of the chemicals.

Meanwhile, farm chemicals and the biotech industry have come under fire for the problem of pest resistance. Some weeds and bugs have become less susceptible or immune to the chemicals or biotechnology used to control them. 

In March, national experts on corn pests published a letter to the EPA ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
“It appears the reason for the unprecedented move to maintain Monsanto’s deeply-rooted foothold in France has to do with the fact that the United States and other nations are continually pushing Monsanto’s agenda — even going as far as to threaten military-styled trade wars to those who oppose the company.”

Just after France legislators and officials moved to ban Monsanto’s genetically modified strain of GMO maize over environmental and health concerns, the European Union has decided to step in and re-secure Monsanto’s presence in the country — against the very will of the nation itself. This should come as no surprise when considering the fact that the United States ambassador to France, a business partner to George W. Bush, stated back in 2007 that nations who did not accept Monsanto’s GMO crops will be ‘penalized’. In fact, ambassador Craig Stapleton went as far as to say that the nations should be threatened with military-styled trade wars.

That’s right, it appears the reason for the unprecedented move to maintain Monsanto’s deeply-rooted foothold in France has to do with the fact that the United States and other nations are continually pushing Monsanto’s agenda — even going as far as to threaten military-styled trade wars to those who oppose the company. Monsanto has major connections with political heads that have actually threatened trade wars against nations opposed to GMOs on record. As I reported back in January, WikiLeaks cables surfaced revealing startling information concerning Monsanto’s deep involvement with back-end politics.

One of the most telling details involves a statement made by Craig Stapleton, in which he said:

READ FULL POST 19 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 13 May 2012
“The first question that jumps out for those who have researched this subject with any degree of thoroughness is how this recent report fails to reconcile with previous studies performed by the EPA.”

Quite incredibly, the EPA issued a positive report on May 1, 2012 regarding the safety and toxicity of various dispersants used in the BP Gulf Oil Spill. Included in this assessment was the use of Corexit.

This report “indicated that all eight dispersants had roughly the same toxicity, and all fell into the “practically non-toxic” or “slightly toxic” category. Scientists found that none of the eight dispersants displayed endocrine-disrupting activity of “biological significance.” The same report went on to say that “dispersant-oil mixtures were generally no more toxic to the aquatic test species than oil alone.”

The first question that jumps out for those who have researched this subject with any degree of thoroughness is how this recent report fails to reconcile with previous studies performed by the EPA. Here is some test data retrieved from the EPA website that was posted previous to the BP Gulf Oil Spill.

“The dispersant (Corexit 9500) and dispersed oil have demonstrated the following levels of toxicity per the EPA website link that follows:

  • (1) 10.72 parts per million (ppm) of oil alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.
  • (2) 25.20 parts per million of dispersant (Corexit 9500) alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.
  • (3) 2.61 parts per million of dispersed oil (Corexit-laden) alone will kill 50% of the fish test species in a normal aquatic environment within 96 hours.”

This data diverges from the recent report to such a significant degree that the results which were just posted at the EPA.GOV website under the title of “The BP Oil Spill: Responsive Science Supports Emergency Response” must be seriously scrutinized.

What is the buying public to make of such conflicting data? Those who have medical conditions ...

Published: Friday 11 May 2012
“ALEC has faced backlash recently for its role in crafting Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws. Now the organization is taking the same secretive approach to kill renewable energy development across the country.”

Today, behind closed doors in Charlotte, North Carolina, legislators from 15 states will meet with the oil and gas industry to discuss so-called “model legislation” as part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The result could be laws that handicap renewable energy targets — while creating loopholes for fossil fuels, written directly by the oil and gas industry itself.

ALEC has faced backlash recently for its role in crafting Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws. Now the organization is taking the same secretive approach to kill renewable energy development across the country.

Oil and gas corporations have a very strong role in politics through groups like Americans For Prosperity, American Petroleum Institute, and, of course, ALEC. Four of the largest oil and gas corporations and two of the most profitable U.S. corporations overall, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and BP, sit on ALEC’s task forces. And so today, according to documents posted by Common Cause, representatives from these and other energy groups will discuss potential legislation that would undermine clean energy standards and ...

Published: Tuesday 8 May 2012
“The proposed rule will modernize our management of well stimulation activities– including hydraulic fracturing – to make sure that fracturing operations conducted on public and Indian lands follow common-sense industry best practices.”

Last week’s media coverage of the Obama administration’s newly-proposed fracking rules focused so heavily on how drilling companies would have to disclose the chemicals they use that it largely overlooked the toughest provisions: Drillers would be required to test the physical integrity of their wells, and more water would be protected from drilling. Since many wells fail because the cement and casings crack, the new tests could prevent dangerous leakages.

 

One major limitation: Although widely understood as “national” guidelines, the draft rules would in fact only apply to a sliver of the nation’s natural gas supply. That’s because they would apply to mineral rights managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which means areas beneath most BLM and tribal land, but scarcely any U.S. Forest Service, private or state-owned lands – where most drilling occurs. Industry has criticized the proposed rules as too restrictive.

 

The draft rules would require companies to conduct “mechanical integrity tests.” These include pressure tests to make sure that the well can withstand the highly pressurized fluid used for fracking. Ensuring that wells are properly sealed is considered critical for preventing water and ground contamination.

 

The proposed rules also expand the scope of water protected from drilling to include not just fresh water but all “usable water” – meaning lower quality water used for agriculture and construction, as well as water that can be treated to make potable. Currently, only water with up to 5,000 parts per million of total dissolved solids is protected by the BLM. The new rules would expand that definition to include water with up to 10,000 parts per million, which matches the EPA’s definition for an underground source of drinking ...

Published: Wednesday 25 April 2012
“A state inspector has repeatedly noted a ‘blue haze’ coming from some of the plant’s smokestacks that could indicate the presence of acetaldehyde.”

In the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa, concerns about a corn processing plant that belches smoke and ash over the South End neighborhood have festered for years.

On Monday, those living in the plant’s shadow took a step that, until recently, would have seemed unlikely at best: They sued the plant’s owner, Grain Processing Corp. — a vital piece of the town’s economy and a political force in Iowa.

For years, the lawsuit alleges, residents have put up with constant pollution that has damaged their property and affected their health.  The Center for Public Integrity detailed the persistent haze hanging over the community and the company’s long history of run-ins with regulators as part of its “Poisoned Places” series with NPR last year.

“We’ve reached a tipping point in Muscatine,” said Tony Buzbee, a Houston lawyer with a history of winning high-profile environmental cases who has agreed to represent the residents. “I think that you’re going to see hundreds and hundreds of people who have the courage to stand up and say, ‘We’re in the right, and we’re not going to take it anymore.’ ”

Buzbee joins Jim Larew, who was general counsel to former Gov. Chet Culver, and Des Moines lawyer Andrew Hope in representing the residents, who are seeking to make the case a class action that anyone living within three miles of the plant could join.

The petition filed Monday, Buzbee said, is “just the tip of the iceberg.”  He plans to file hundreds more cases. “It’s going to cost a lot of ...

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“The USDA has failed to require tests of how 2,4-D herbicide and Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide interact synergistically in the environment and in humans.”

You can help to hold the USDA and Dow Chemical accountable simply by posting your comments on the official public record of Dow Chemical’s petition with the USDA to approve their 2,4-D herbicide resistant GMO crops (remember that 2,4-D herbicide is half of the recipe for Agent Orange).

The USDA is required to respond to all UNIQUE comments publicly. Therefore, it is essential that you write your own message in addition to using any of the issues listed below. It’s also important to note that comments close April 27th, so make sure to get them in today. It’s simple to do, and you can view the list of issues and links below. Simply go to the USDA website to leave your comments and take action!

Here is a list of issues concerning the new dangerous 2,4-D herbicide resistant crops and source links that we encourage you to use, along with your own message, in your comments to the USDA:

Effects on human health:

  • I am demanding a full Environmental Impact Statement on these crops because they can affect human health.
  • What are the cumulative effects for these crops and the increase in 2,4-D herbicide usage?
  • EPA documents show that 2,4-D herbicide is the seventh largest source of dioxin in the US.

Pollution of the environment:

  • EPA documents reveal that 2,4-D agricultural runoff has polluted groundwater across the US. Dioxin has a half-life of more than 100 years when leached into soil and embedded in water systems. Additionally, ...
Published: Monday 16 April 2012
“Greenpeace estimates that the law covers only a third of the U.S. facilities that could have catastrophic chemical releases.”

Wading into a decade-old controversy, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman has urged current EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to close loopholes in a 2006 chemical security law “before a tragedy of historic proportions occurs.”

Whitman, who led the EPA under George W. Bush, suggests the agency use its authority to seal gaps in Department of Homeland Security rules adopted in 2007, according to her April 3 letter to Jackson, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

Those rules are “extremely limited,” Whitman wrote, barring DHS from requiring industry to take specific measures to prevent accidental or terrorism-related toxic releases. The rules, she wrote, exempt “thousands of chemical facilities, including all water treatment plants and hundreds of other potentially high-risk facilities, such as refineries located on navigable waters.”

The EPA has the power to regulate chemical security under 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, Whitman noted, writing that that the act’s “general duty” clause “obligates chemical facilities handling the most dangerous chemicals to prevent potentially catastrophic releases to surrounding communities.

“Facilities with the largest quantities … should assess their operations to identify safer cost-effective processes that will reduce or eliminate hazards in the event of a terrorist attack or accident,” Whitman wrote. “This has never been required and today hundreds of these facilities continue to put millions of Americans at risk.”

According to

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
Monsanto agreed to pay up to $93 million in a class-action lawsuit brought by the residents of Nitro, West Virginia, for dioxin exposure from accidents and pollution at an herbicide plant that operated in their town from 1929 to 2004.

2,4-D and the dioxin pollution it creates are too dangerous to allow, period, but in the hands of bad actors like Monsanto and Dow Chemical the dangers increase exponentially. What's the Environmental Protection Agency doing? Helping cover-up the chemical companies' crimes!


In February, Monsanto agreed to pay up to $93 million in a class-action lawsuit brought by the residents of Nitro, West Virginia, for dioxin exposure from accidents and pollution at an herbicide plant that operated in their town from 1929 to 2004. 

That may seem like justice, but it is actually the result of Monsanto's extraordinary efforts to hide the truth, evade criminal prosecution and avoid legal responsibility. 

A brief criminal fraud investigation conducted (and quickly aborted) by the EPA revealed that Monsanto used a disaster at their Nitro, WV, plant to manufacture "evidence" that dioxin exposure produced a skin condition called chloracne, but was not responsible for neurological health effects or cancers such as Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. 

These conclusions were repeatedly utilized by EPA and the Veterans Administration to deny help to citizens exposed to dioxin, if these persons did not exhibit chloracne.

The EPA knew the truth about Monsanto's dioxin crimes, but it decided to hide it. Why? It would have affected us all. EPA's brief criminal investigation of Monsanto included evidence that Monsanto knowingly contaminated Lysol with dioxin, even as the product was being marketed for cleaning babies' toys.

Here are the details of this jaw-dropping and ...

Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
This election season will likely be marked by more extreme weather events, more massive loss of life, and billions of dollars in damages.

The Pentagon knows it. The world’s largest insurers know it. Now, governments may be overthrown because of it. It is climate change, and it is real. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last month was the hottest March on record for the United States since 1895, when records were first kept, with average temperatures of 8.6 degrees F above average. More than 15,000 March high-temperature records were broken nationally. Drought, wildfires, tornadoes and other extreme weather events are already plaguing the country.

Across the world in the Maldives, rising sea levels continue to threaten this Indian Ocean archipelago. It is the world’s lowest-lying nation, on average only 1.3 meters above sea level. The plight of the Maldives gained global prominence when its young president, the first-ever democratically elected there, Mohamed Nasheed, became one of the world’s leading voices against climate change, especially in the lead-up to the 2009 U.N. climate-change summit in Copenhagen. Nasheed held a ministerial meeting underwater, with his cabinet in scuba gear, to illustrate the potential disaster.

In February, Nasheed was ousted from his presidency at gunpoint. The Obama administration, through State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, said of the coup d’etat, “This was handled constitutionally.” When I spoke to Nasheed last month, he told me: “It was really shocking and deeply disturbing that the United States government so instantly recognized the former dictatorship coming back again. ... The European governments have not recognized the new regime in ...

Published: Saturday 7 April 2012
“As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved.”

Environmental groups sued the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court Thursday over the EPA’s failure to regulate disposal of toxic coal ash.

“Politics and pressure from corporate lobbyists are delaying much needed health protections from coal ash,” Lisa Evans, a lawyer with Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, said in a statement. “As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved. The EPA must set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace.”

Coal ash is the collective term for the solid remnants left over from the burning of coal at more than 500 power plants nationwide. It contains compounds such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury, which have been linked to cancer, birth defects, gastrointestinal illnesses, and reproductive problems.

2009 investigation by the Center for Public Integrity revealed the havoc that coal ash has wreaked near ponds, landfills, and pits where it is dumped. Even the EPA has identified 63 “proven or potential damage cases” in 23 states where coal ash has tainted groundwater or otherwise harmed the environment. But critics say no meaningful federal regulations have been put in place.

The issue gained renewed attention after a dam holding billions of gallons of coal ash collapsed in eastern Tennessee in December 2008, destroying houses and water supplies and dirtying a river. Following the spill, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson pledged to set federal standards.

The EPA 

Published: Sunday 1 April 2012
“Rule, targeting new power plants, could move nation away from coal”

In a rule that could discourage reliance on coal for energy, the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

The proposal would “move our nation into an era of American energy that is cleaner and cheaper,” EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said in a conference call with reporters.

Opponents say the rule would make it almost impossible to build new coal-fired power plants and could cause some plants to close. “Unfortunately, the EPA continues to ignore the real impact their rules will have on American families and businesses by driving up energy prices and destroying jobs,” the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity said in a statement.

The rule is the result of a long process that wound through the U.S. Supreme Court. Five years ago, the court decreed that the EPA had authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Two years later, the agency formally found that emissions of such gases contributed to climate change and threatened public health.

Currently there are no national limits on greenhouse gas emissions, and the proposal would affect only new power plants, exempting those already in existence.

This January, the EPA for the first time released data on emissions of greenhouse gases at specific facilities. Power plants were by far the largest source.

Jackson said the proposal is in line with what the industry is already doing — shifting toward cheap natural gas being produced domestically. A boom has driven down natural gas prices, but Jackson said the agency had taken into account what might happen if those prices eventually rise.  “The price of natural gas has to rise dramatically … for the economics of this rule — which are very, very good — to ...

Published: Saturday 31 March 2012
The Department of Justice prosecution is one piece of a larger federal crackdown targeting dumping on the high seas, a form of pollution that taints global waterways and is drawing increased scrutiny.

When a U.S. Coast Guard inspector boarded the M/T Chem Faros, a 21,145-gross-ton cargo ship that pulled into port in Morehead City, N.C., an oiler with the engine crew quietly handed him a note.

"GOOD MORNING SIR, I WOULD LIKE TO LET YOU KNOW THIS SHIP DISCHARGING BILGE ILEGALLY USING BY MAGIC PIPE,” the note said. “IF YOU WANT TO KNOW ILLEGAL PIPE THERE IN WORKSHOP FIVE METERS LONG WITH RUBBER.”

The crewman’s hand-scrawled note, passed that March day two years ago, triggered an inquiry that unmasked a wave of high-seas pollution and phony recordkeeping as the ship ferried cargo in Asia and the U.S. The crew had used the so-called magic pipe to divert oily waste overboard at least 10 times in six months. Eleven days before the inspection, the chief engineer ordered 13,200 gallons of oil-contaminated waste dumped into the ocean.

READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
Coal today accounts for about 40 percent of electric power generation, down from 45 percent in 2010.

The Obama administration's proposal this week to put the first limits on greenhouse gases from new power plants probably will mean that no new coal-fired U.S. plants will be built after this year, but that won't slash coal use anytime soon.

The rules require future power plants to keep their emissions of heat-trapping gases under a limit. Most natural gas plants would meet the standard easily, but coal-fired plants would have to reduce emissions by about half. The equipment to capture and store those emissions underground isn't commercially viable.

"This is not a sudden death for the coal industry by any means," said David Pumphrey of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a center-right research center. "I think there are a lot of people out there who are going to make sure it doesn't work that way. But it says the future of coal is limited and probably isn't going to grow more than it is now."

Coal today accounts for about 40 percent of electric power generation, down from 45 percent in 2010. The Energy Department's latest forecast figures that it will remain roughly the same through 2035. Part of that forecast saw new coal use increasing slowly after 2015. But that calculation was made before the Environmental Protection Agency announced the proposal for new plants Tuesday.

Kevin Book, the managing director for research at Clear View Energy Partners, said coal probably would retain its place as the biggest source of electricity in 2035, but barely. It remains to be seen whether natural gas surpasses coal or state laws continue to support an increase in renewable energy, he said.

It's also likely that some older coal plants will be kept around longer than originally intended, Book said. "If you can't build more, you'll love the ones you have a lot longer."

"I think the intent in the rule is to make the future of coal extremely ...

Published: Thursday 29 March 2012
“Federal agency says company skirted air pollution rules for years.”

For years, people living in the Mississippi River town of Muscatine, Iowa, have complained about the ash and smoke blowing into their neighborhood from a corn processing plant. State regulators have brought enforcement cases against the company, but the town’s South End neighborhood remains under a haze.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stepped in, alleging years of violations of air pollution rules at the plant owned by Grain Processing Corp. The letter issued to the company, known as GPC, doesn’t impose penalties, but puts it on notice that the EPA is considering an enforcement case.

GPC spokesman Janet Sichterman said company officials are reviewing the notice and “aren’t in a position to make a comment on it now.”

The action comes as the company is battling the Iowa attorney general, who has alleged separate violations of air and water pollution rules in a lawsuit. A group of citizens, calling themselves Clean Air Muscatine, has filed a petition to intervene in that case, saying the state’s previous actions against GPC have failed to protect people living near the facility.

The plant, which processes corn into ethanol, beverage alcohol and corn syrups and starches, was highlighted last year in the Center for Public Integrity series “Poisoned Places.” In 2010, the facility released more lead — a toxic metal that can damage the nervous system — ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
The nation’s utilities have been moving toward natural gas to fuel new plants anyway, since the use of hydraulic fracturing has greatly expanded the nation’s gas supply and prices are down.

The Environmental Protection Agency took a historic step on Tuesday in the fight against climate change, proposing the first limits of greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

The new rule likely would make new coal-fired power plants too expensive after this year. It wouldn't apply to some 15 power plants that are expected to break ground in the next 12 months. After that, however, coal-fired plants would have to capture and store some of their carbon dioxide emissions, a practice that's currently so costly that it isn't in commercial use anywhere.

Natural gas plants belch only about half the emissions of coal plants and would not need any additional equipment to meet the new standard. The nation's utilities have been moving toward natural gas to fuel new plants anyway, since the use of hydraulic fracturing has greatly expanded the nation's gas supply and prices are down.

This is the first time that the United States has ever proposed any limits on greenhouse gases from industrial sources. Republicans in Congress and their business allies vowed to fight the EPA rule as hostile to abundant coal and too costly. Environmentalists and health groups cheered it.

Scientists have amassed a huge body of evidence and documented research showing that these gases in the atmosphere, mostly from ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“If a small group can take down their office for a day from some mild protests, a few hundred thousand can take down the entire company — permanently.”

While proposed government regulation, previous legal action, and the threat of agricultural collapse does not seem to affect Monsanto’s daily operations, it appears protesters can and do. Dozens of protesters disrupted Monsanto’s California office in Davis, an area close to Sacramento, through vocal activism and calls to shut down the biotech giant with deep known ties into the United States government. Braving the rain, the dozens of protesters — not thousands — were successful in shutting down the entire office for the day.

The response to the activism presented by the protesters highlights just how powerful of a voice even just a few individuals have. If even a small group of anti-Monsanto grassroots activists can pause the entire business operations of a Monsanto corporation hub for the day, imagine what thousands or millions of concerned citizens could ...

Published: Tuesday 20 March 2012
“Despite current Pentagon budgets that have hovered at the highest levels since World War II and 13 years of steady growth, the administration’s latest plans would only reduce spending at the Department of Defense by 1.6% in inflation-adjusted dollars over the next five years.”

 

 

If you’ve been fretting about faltering math education and falling test scores here in the United States, you should be worried based on this campaign season of Republican math.  When it comes to the American military, the leading Republican presidential candidates evidently only learned to add and multiply, never subtract or divide.

Advocates of Pentagon reform have criticized President Obama for his timid approach to reducing military spending.  Despite current Pentagon budgets that have hovered at the highest levels since World War II and 13 years of steady growth, the administration’s latest plans would only reduce spending at the Department of Defense by 1.6% in inflation-adjusted dollars over the next five years.

Still, compared to his main Republican opponents, Obama is a T. rex of budget slashers.  After all, despite their stated commitment to reducing the deficit (while cutting taxes on the rich yet more), the Republican contenders are intent on raising Pentagon spending dramatically.  Mitt Romney has staked out the “high ground” in the latest round of Republican math with a proposal to 

Published: Monday 19 March 2012
“Methane can enter the atmosphere when gas is stored or transported, but it's particularly a concern with shale gas production during flowback — when fracking fluids, water and gases flow out of a well after drilling but before the gas is put into pipelines.”

As natural gas production in the United States hits an all-time high, a major unanswered question looms: What does growing hydraulic fracturing mean for climate change?

The Obama administration lists natural gas as one of the "clean energy sources" it wants to expand.  When burned, natural gas emits about half the heat-trapping carbon dioxide as coal.  Yet natural gas production can result in releases of methane into the atmosphere.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Methane can enter the atmosphere when gas is stored or transported, but it's particularly a concern with shale gas production during flow back — when fracking fluids, water, and gases flow out of a well after drilling but before the gas is put into pipelines.

Companies often burn or capture the methane during flow back.  How extensively or effectively that's done overall, however, isn't clear.

The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of U.S. methane emissions, accounting for about 40 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.  Industry says that figure is inflated, because equipment is widely used to keep methane from entering the air.

It's generally agreed, however, that there isn't good data on how much methane is entering the atmosphere from natural gas operations.

"Even small leaks can wind up undoing most of the global warming benefit we think we're getting when we substitute natural gas for coal," said Mark Brownstein, who leads the natural gas and oil team at the Environmental Defense Fund.

"We can continue to debate what the leak rates are.  Or let's get the data and let's fix the leaks and move on," he said.

EDF plans to work with Southwestern Energy, Shell, and other energy companies involved in natural gas production to measure methane ...

Published: Sunday 18 March 2012
“The experts are worried about the lack of protection presented by GMO crops against rootworms.”

A group of scientists is calling for major federal action in order to deal with the threat posed by Monsanto’s GMO crops, now petitioning the EPA to address the issue head on.  The groups of 22 academic corn experts are drawing attention to the immense failure of Monsanto’s genetically modified corn, which is developing mutated and resistant insects as a result of its widespread usage.  Corn is critical not only as a food staple, but is heavily used in ethanol production, animal feed, and much more.  As GM corn becomes the norm, currently taking over 94 percent of the supply, these scientists are seriously concerned about the future of corn production.

Joseph Spencer is one outspoken member of the group, a corn entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, part of the University of Illinois.  Spencer states that what is happening is no surprise, instead it is something that needs to be addressed.  Warning the EPA over the dangers, the experts sent a letter on March 5th to the agency explaining their worries regarding long-term corn production prospects in light of GMO crops failures.  Specifically, the experts are worried about the lack of protection presented by GMO crops against rootworms.

 

The EPA has already acknowledged that Monsanto’s GMO crops are creating resistant rootworms, which are now ravaging the GMO crops as they mutate to the bio pesticide used known as Bacillus thuringiensis (BT).  The EPA found ...

Published: Thursday 15 March 2012
“The evidence that Monsanto’s biopesticide and Roundup alike are disrupting both nature and human safety is clear, yet little is being done about it.”

Monsanto’s ‘biopesticide’ known as Bt is not only developing mutated insects and requiring excessive pesticide use, but new findings show that it is also killing human kidney cells — even in low doses. Amazingly, Monsanto’s superweed-breeding Roundup also has the same effect. Scientists have demonstrated in new research that the Bt pesticide, in addition to Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, exhibit direct toxicity to human cells. The findings add to the long list of hazardous effects presented by Monsanto’s genetically modified creations.

These dangerous Bt crops currently engulf 39% of globally cultivated GMO crops, and Monsanto does not seem to be slowing down on their campaign to expand usage. Led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a French scientist from the University of Caen, Séralini and his team are no strangers to the toxic effects of both Bt and glyphosate — the main component used in Roundup. Previously, Séralini and a group of other scientists found that Roundup is linked to infertility, killing testicular cells in rats. The report stated that within 1 to 48 hours of exposure, testicular cells of the mature rats were either damaged or killed.

At only 100 parts per million (ppm), Monsanto’s biopesticide lead to cell death. Furthermore, they found that Roundup at 57.2ppm  killed half of the cell population – 200 times below agricultural use.  This is concerning as researchers have previously detected ...

Published: Sunday 4 March 2012
“Green America, in conjunction with various social justice and environmental groups, has nominated nine large corporations and organizations for the dubious distinction: Bank of America, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Chevron, Hershey, KFC/Yum! Brands, Monsanto, Southern Company, Verizon, and Walmart.”

With April Fool's Day a month away, the nonprofit Green America is launching its annual "Corporate Fools' balloting today on Facebook to name the U.S. company with the worst corporate practices. The winner will be determined by votes from the general public as tallied at https://www.facebook.com/Greenamerica?sk=app_202235566550600Green America, in conjunction with various social justice and environmental groups, has nominated nine large corporations and organizations for the dubious distinction: Bank of America, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Chevron, Hershey, KFC/Yum! Brands, Monsanto, Southern Company, Verizon, and Walmart. The companies were nominated for the poor records on the environment and/or social justice practices.

 

Details on the nominees include the following:
READ FULL POST 12 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 4 March 2012
“The tentative deal, announced late Friday, does not address state lawsuits and federal claims under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, which could cost BP as much as $21 billion more.”

BP’s announcement that it will pay $7.8 billion to compensate thousands of Gulf Coast residents harmed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster ends one chapter of legal wrangling over the 2010 oil spill, but leaves other, potentially far more expensive, issues unresolved.

The tentative deal, announced late Friday, does not address state lawsuits and federal claims under the Clean Water Act and Oil Pollution Act, which could cost BP as much as $21 billion more. It has little to do with efforts to assess the extent of environmental damage and to pay for them; that will come later. And BP could still face criminal charges related to the oil spill and be barred from receiving federal contracts.The payout agreed to Friday is BP’s best estimate of what it will cost to meet outstanding claims, but is not capped and could wind up being higher. As of now, though, the amount is significantly less than many had expected and does not appear to require BP to spend any money that it had not already agreed to pay. The settlement will come out of a $20 billion fund set aside in June 2010 by BP at the behest of President Obama to cover claims from disaster victims. The settlement amounts to less than one-third of BP’s 2011 profits, which were nearly $26 billion.

Published: Wednesday 29 February 2012
“The USDA instead continues to not only go against public interest, but recklessly endanger the public with unacceptable and outright ludicrous policies that threaten your health on a routine basis.”

Despite being tasked to defend public health, the USDA instead continues to not only go against public interest, but recklessly endanger the public with unacceptable and outright ludicrous policies that threaten your health on a routine basis. Perhaps most compelling is the fact that not only does the USDA allow for the widespread use of GMO crops, which have been pinpointed by scientific research as harmful to your health, but the USDA has now announced that they will be extraditing the approval process for these genetically modified creations.

What’s more, the organization actually said that one major hurdle they had to face when speeding up the regulation process — which cuts the regulatory time period in which GMO crops are studied for safety in half — was public interest. Does this sound like an organization that actually cares about your health? Here are 4 proofs that the USDA cares more about securing corporate profits than your health.

1. USDA Chooses Monsanto Sales Over Public Safety

Could it be possible that the USDA is actually turning a blind eye to the known adverse effects of Monsanto’s GMO crops, such as organ damage, in order to secure Monsanto’s growth and subsequent sales? In the original Bloomberg report announcing that the USDA was giving a ‘special’ speed review for Monsanto’s future crops, experts explained that the move was to secure the financial future of Monsanto — not to help farmers, citizens, or the United ...

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012
“Monsanto has now set a precedent for settling claims, and hopefully some good attorneys will seize the opportunity in order to hold Monsanto accountable.”

Monsanto tentatively agreed to a $93 million settlement with some residents of Nitro, West Virginia. Nitro is a small town that got its name from manufacturing explosives during WWI.  It was also the site of a Monsanto chemical plant that manufactured 2,4,5-T herbicide that was half of the Agent Orange recipe. Herbicide 2,4,5-T was contaminated with the caustic by-product dioxin. This settlement may open the floodgates to successfully suing Monsanto for its poison.

Nitro Settlement

Herbicide 2,4,5-T was phased out in the late 1970′s. Dioxin is the most dangerous chemical known and has a 100 year half-life when leached into soil or embedded in water systems. The Veteran’s Administration recognizes and pays out on Agent Orange injury claims that include cancer, birth defects in children of exposed victims, leukemia, liver disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and chloracne.

Despite an explosion in the Nitro plant in 1949, not a single penny has been paid to residents of Nitro for dioxin injuries, per an attorney that worked on a previous dioxin case. After 7 years of litigation, and on the heels of the EPA releasing part of its dioxin assessment report,  Monsanto has made a tentative agreement to settle a class action suit with some Nitro residents for a total of $93 million.  Here are the proposed settlement figures:

  • Medical Testing:  $21 Million
  • Additional Screening:  $63 Million
  • Cleanup of 4500 homes:  $9 Million

Bloomberg

Published: Monday 27 February 2012
“GRA’s special report has been forwarded to Congress in advance of BP’s upcoming trial and has also been submitted to the appropriate federal, state and county authorities, plaintiff attorneys, and environmental and health advocacy groups who have a stake in the outcome of the trial.”

 

Gulf Rescue Alliance (GRA) has just sent a briefing package to the Attorney Generals of Alabama and Louisiana which presents evidence they believe has never seen the light of day concerning the how and why of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster and subsequent release of toxic oil into the Gulf—oil that is still gushing from various seabed fractures and fissures.

The evidence provided therein clearly indicates:

  • The unmentioned existence of a 3rd Macondo well (the real source of the explosion, DWH sinking and ensuing oil spill).
  •  The current condition of this well being such that it can never be properly capped.
  • The compromised condition of the seabed floor being such that there are multiple unnatural sources of gushers continuing to pour into the Gulf, with Corexit dispersant still suppressing its visibility.
  • That the highly publicized capped well (Well A) never occurred as reported, and in fact was an abandoned well, hence it was never the source of the millions of gallons released into the Gulf.

GRA’s special report (a comprehensive compilation of research released by insiders and experts through confidential internet sources) has been forwarded to Congress in advance of BP’s upcoming trial on Monday, February 27th in New Orleans, LA.  Entitled 

Published: Sunday 12 February 2012
An analysis of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) from Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Media Director Steven Capozzola...

I've talked with many domestic U.S. manufacturers over the past decade or so-- mostly small and mid-sized manufacturers (the backbone of America's industrial base). 

One particular manufacturer whom I knew well was the president of a family-owned company that produced printed circuit boards.  His firm had been around since the dawn of the computer age, manufacturing circuit boards for both commercial and military applications.

He used to tell me all the time that his workers and his factory were incredibly efficient and productive.  He would say, "I can compete with anybody in the world...But what's killing me is China's currency peg."

What he meant was that, because China deliberately undervalues its currency (in violation of world trade law), its manufacturers can export goods at an artificially reduced price.  Essentially, my friend's firm was competing against the full resources of the ...

Published: Monday 6 February 2012
“GOP lawmakers are howling to overturn the EPA’s mercury regulations.”

Why do the Republicans in Congress hate unborn babies?

Yeah, I know they profess to love the unborn. They even consider them to be "persons" from the very moment of conception.

Yet, whose interest do you think these same politicos have chosen to protect when it comes to regulating an especially nasty industrial toxin that threatens unborn babies?

That nasty substance is mercury, a neurotoxin that spews into our air from old, coal-burning electric power plants. This toxic mercury lands in water, where it's turned into methylmercury, which builds up in fish. Many pregnant women unwittingly eat these contaminated fish, and the methylmercury messes terribly with the emerging nervous systems of their fetuses, producing babies with impaired IQs who are unable to think and learn as they should.

 

After 20 years of delay forced by lobbyists for utilities, ...

Published: Tuesday 31 January 2012
“The disaster of the Gulf was only a matter of time. Now, we are being told to trust government officials once again, when they knowingly allow nonscientific personnel to make scientific decisions.”

This is a recycled piece that is still pertinent.  IN light of the situation described below there is no time to write a new piece. 

In a provocative demonstration against the tar sands, clean energy advocates poured “oil” onto a female model draped with the Canadian flag on Parliament Hill. Those pouring the oil were dressed as executives of TransCanada, the company proposing to build the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will run from the Alberta tar sands to the US Gulf Coast.

 

TransCanada, the Keystone XL Pipeline and Koch Industries

As the race to develop domestically produced fuels hits a fevered pitch, especially as a reaction to the tensions in the Middle East, politicians from the president on down are seeking a “magic pill” that will solve our energy problems. President Obama promised a “green revolution,” with hints at promising wind and solar energy sources during the campaign, but has now done one of his famous backtracks as he pushes the idea of “clean coal.” One of the alleged “clean coal” sources his administration has placed under serious consideration is “bituminous coal” (aka “unconventional petroleum deposit’), or simply put … “tar sands.” Tar sands are plentiful in the US and Canada, but environmentally treacherous to mine and transport – yet, this is the “green energy” the Obama administration has leaned toward – with heavy prodding from its most threatening political enemy, Koch Industries – disputed founders of the Tea Party movement.

 

TransCanada and Koch Industries 

Project developer TransCanada seeks approval from US government agencies to ...

Published: Friday 27 January 2012
Found in everything from baby bottles to paper receipts, BPA has raised public concern.

Despite growing fears over the health effects of a chemical found in many baby bottles and a host of other products, federal regulators have done little to protect the public, according to a new report from a nonprofit research group.

The agencies’ plodding action on Bisphenol-A, known as BPA, despite a stream of research pointing to serious risks, doesn’t bode well for attempts to address related chemicals that may pose similar dangers but haven’t been studied as much, the report’s lead author said.

“The sluggishness of the agencies means that there’s continued exposure in the meantime and a kind of flying-blind mentality,” said Noah Sachs, a law professor at the University of Richmond and an author of the report for the Center for Progressive Reform, which focuses on public health regulations.

Recent studies point to BPA’s ability to interfere with the body’s hormone system, potentially leading to a variety of health problems, including damage to the reproductive system and the brain, particularly in children. Eleven states have banned the chemical’s use in certain products, typically baby bottles and other children’s goods; Canada, China and the European Union have similar restrictions.

Published: Saturday 21 January 2012
According to the statement, the EPA plans to test the water supplies in 60 additional homes for hazardous substances.

First, the earth around the rural town of Dimock, Pa., was cracked open as gas drillersused fracking to tap the vast energy supplies of the Marcellus Shale.

Then, in  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Saturday 14 January 2012
Industry and green groups have split over the DEC’s proposed regulations, with drillers saying they are too restrictive and environmentalists contending they don’t go far enough.

New York's emerging plan to regulate natural gas drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale needs to go further to safeguard drinking water, environmentally sensitive areas and gas industry workers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has informed state officials.

The EPA's comments, in a series of letters this week to the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, are significant because they suggest ...

Published: Wednesday 11 January 2012
In Tonawanda, N.Y., a small town outside of Buffalo, citizens used buckets and hand-held vacuums to test the air after dozens of residents suffered ailments that they attributed to emissions from an aging plant that produces coke for smelting iron. They found levels of benzene – a chemical associated with blood disorders, infertility, and cancer, especially leukemia.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has unveiled its analysis of the 2010 Toxics Release Inventory, a database containing information on the disposal or release of 650 potentially dangerous chemicals used by almost 21,000 facilities. Though there were some increases between 2009 and 2010, it found that releases of these chemicals have generally decreased, with the total down 30 percent since 2001.

But, as the EPA acknowledged, the database provides only a snapshot of the pollution produced by American industry. “Users of TRI data should be aware that…it does not cover all toxic chemicals or all sectors of the U.S. economy,” the analysis warned. “Furthermore, the quantities of chemicals reported to TRI are self-reported by facilities and are often estimates.”

These estimates in some cases dramatically understate the extent of pollution, as the Center for Public Integrity and NPR reported in the Poisoned Places series, an investigation of lax Clean Air Act enforcement.

In Tonawanda, N.Y., a small town outside of Buffalo, citizens used buckets and hand-held vacuums to test the air after dozens of ...

Published: Thursday 22 December 2011
“Under the Clean Air Act, many other sources of air pollution have been cleaned up, but power plants were so important to the economy that they long had a pass.”

Unveiling a historic rule, the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday announced the first national requirement for the nation's coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other toxic pollutants.

The landmark ruling took more than 20 years for EPA to finish. Under the Clean Air Act, many other sources of air pollution have been cleaned up, but power plants were so important to the economy that they long had a pass.

About 60 percent of the nation's plants, however, already comply with the new requirement because of state rules. The remaining 40 percent are a major source of pollution, producing more than half the mercury emissions in the country, the EPA said. The ruling will require coal-fired power plants to add pollution control equipment or close. Many plants already scheduled to close are 50 years or older.

EPA estimated that the new requirement will prevent as many as 11,000 deaths, 4,700 heart attacks and 130,000 cases of childhood asthma each year.

"This is a great victory for public health, especially for the health of our children," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in an announcement ceremony at Children's National Medical Center.

Mercury harms the nervous systems of fetuses and young children, reducing their ability to think and learn as they grow up. Other toxic pollutants from the plants have been linked to cancer and other diseases. Soot, or particle pollution, can cause heart and lung diseases.

"The dirty, soot-spewing coal plant will soon become a relic of the past — a dirty industrial dinosaur," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the watchdog group Clean Air Watch. "Today's action ensures that the cleanup of coal-fired power plants will be the signature clean-air achievement of the Obama administration."

EPA estimates that it will cost companies $9.6 billion to comply. It said the health benefits would ...

Published: Wednesday 14 December 2011
The agency’s dysfunctional Office of Civil Rights sits on complaints for years.

Three years into Lisa Jackson’s tenure as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than a dozen formal complaints alleging air pollution is disproportionately harming low-income, minority communities remain unresolved. Each of these complaints has languished — in some instances, for more than a decade — in the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights despite Jackson’s stated commitment to environmental justice.

“We must include environmental justice principles in all of our decisions … especially with regard to children,” Jackson wrote in a January 2010 memo outlining the agency’s top priorities.

But EPA documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News and interviews with activists and residents reveal that the administrator’s words have brought little relief to underprivileged communities overburdened with pollution.

OCR — whose leader reports directly to Jackson — has in its files a total of 38 unresolved complaints dating to July 1994, according to a list published 

Published: Friday 9 December 2011
To confirm their findings, EPA investigators drilled two water monitoring wells to 1,000 feet.

In a first, federal environment officials today scientifically linked underground water pollution with hydraulic fracturing, concluding that contaminants found in central Wyoming were likely caused by the gas drilling process.

The findings by the Environmental Protection Agency come partway through a separate national study by the agency to determine whether fracking presents a risk to water resources.

In the 121-page draft report released today, EPA officials said that the contamination near the town of Pavillion, Wyo., 

Published: Friday 25 November 2011
“OEHHA shall report the state of its existing data and its present risk assessment, if any, of the short- and long-term health effects of pepper spray to the Department of Justice and the Legislature.”

The widespread police use of pepper spray, dramatically portrayed at UC Davis on November 18, has continued for over a decade without the health risk assessment required by state law, according to the acting director of the California agency charged with evaluating such health hazards.

“We never completed a risk assessment,” said George Alexeeff, acting director of the California EPA’s Office of Health Hazard Assessment, in an email.

The pepper spraying of eleven UC Davis students is a startling visual revelation of a pattern repeated over two decades: the widespread use of a potent chemical compound to subdue political protesters, prison inmates and inner city youths, in spite of numerous warnings by health officials of potentially life-threatening effects. The Davis episode shows that pepper spray has become a weapon of choice even for University of California police.

Perhaps the globally televised spectacle of UC Davis students being sprayed while sitting in a peaceful protest will open a window to the similar treatment of thousands of others rarely mentioned by mainstream media.

In 1992, the California Attorney General’s office supported law enforcement and manufacturer lobbyists in obtaining a three-year trial of Oleoresin Capsicum, or pepper-spray, provided that studies confirmed a lack of significant health impacts. Shortly after, the Attorney General authorized the sale of pepper spray for personal protection, also before health studies were completed.

When I left the California state legislature in 2001, the studies still had not been completed. The AG at the time was Dan Lungren, now a Republican member of the California Congressional delegation. The chief advocate for the personal purchase of pepper spray was then-Assemblyperson Jackie Speier, who also went to Congress, and who fought for the right of women to be armed with pepper spray.

Fifteen years after they were required, the health ...

Published: Sunday 20 November 2011
“‘Whose streets? Our streets,’ they chanted as they marched.”

 

The Occupy Wall Street movement — looking to show staying power after losing prime real estate in various cities — got a boost of support across the country Thursday from labor and progressive organizations in what union organizers said is the most visible sign that they're working with the activists to press for change.

In New York, where the movement began and where protesters find themselves grappling with their next move after police removed them from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, thousands took to the streets, protesting at the New York Stock Exchange, in the subways and along the Brooklyn Bridge.

"Whose streets? Our streets," they chanted as they marched.

With police looking to disperse the Occupy encampments in several cities and polls suggest a dampening of enthusiasm among the American public, the movement sought to show its force Thursday with mass protests in cities across the country.

The protests in New York City — coming two days after police moved in to break up the encampment here — sparked at least 175 arrests and injuries to several police officers.

Unions that already have offered legal help, food and shower facilities in some cities coordinated events in more than a dozen cities Thursday with Occupy activists, calling on ...

Published: Friday 18 November 2011
“Unions that already have offered legal help, food and shower facilities in some cities coordinated events in more than a dozen cities Thursday with Occupy activists, calling on big banks to pay up to boost the slumping economy.”

The Occupy Wall Street movement — looking to show staying power after losing prime real estate in various cities — got a boost of support across the country Thursday from labor and progressive organizations in what union organizers said is the most visible sign that they're working with the activists to press for change.

In New York, where the movement began and where protesters find themselves grappling with their next move after police removed them from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park, thousands took to the streets, protesting at the New York Stock Exchange, in the subways and along the Brooklyn Bridge.

"Whose streets? Our streets," they chanted as they marched.

With police looking to disperse the Occupy encampments in several cities and polls suggest a dampening of enthusiasm among the American public, the movement sought to show its force Thursday with mass protests in cities across the country.

The protests in New York City — coming two days after police moved in to break up the encampment here — sparked at least 175 arrests and injuries to several police officers.

Unions that already have offered legal help, food and shower facilities in some cities coordinated events in more than a dozen cities Thursday with Occupy activists, calling on big banks to pay up to boost the slumping economy.

In Washington, protesters strolled from an encampment they've inhabited for weeks near the downtown business district to the Key Bridge in Georgetown, joined by union and MoveOn.org liberal activists.

The protests Thursday in many cities included bridges as a backdrop — mirroring President Barack Obama's call for Congress to boost the economy by spending money on public projects. Indeed, the Washington protesters appeared at the same bridge where Obama appeared earlier this month to press Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs package, which calls for spending billions on road ...

Published: Thursday 3 November 2011
“We cannot allow the Koch brothers’ so-called ‘American dream’ to continue to be our national nightmare.”

The very name of a Washington conservative conference this weekend is the height of subterfuge. It's called the "Defending the American Dream" conference, which is not about defending the actual American dreams of most Americans (the focus of our own "Take Back the American Dream" conference), sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, which is not an organization that promotes what is needed for broad American prosperity.

This actually is the latest effort by the billionaire Koch brothers, founders and key funders of Americans for Prosperity, and their corporate and political allies to hijack our democracy and pillage our economy. It's their attempt to perpetuate an American nightmare of continued income inequality and a government held hostage to the whims of elites. It is thus a perfect target for the latest Occupy-style protest.

The Other 98% and Health Care for America Now are sponsoring a "Koch Brothers Guerrilla Drive-In" Friday evening at the Washington Convention Center, where the conference is being held. ...

Published: Friday 28 October 2011
“Polluters routinely walk away from the ground they poison and expect taxpayers to clean up after them.”

What if rising sea levels are yet another measure of inequality? What if the degradation of our planet’s life-support systems -- its atmosphere, oceans, and biosphere -- goes hand in hand with the accumulation of wealth, power, and control by that corrupt and greedy 1% we are hearing about from Zuccotti Park?  What if the assault on America’s middle class and the assault on the environment are one and the same?

Money Rules: It’s not hard for me to understand how environmental quality and economic inequality came to be joined at the hip.  In all my years as a grassroots organizer dealing with the tragic impact of degraded environments on public health, it was always the same: someone got rich and someone got sick.

In the struggles that I was involved in to curb polluters and safeguard public health, those who wanted curbs, accountability, and precautions were always outspent several times over by those who wanted no restrictions on their effluents.  We dug into our own pockets for postage money, they had expense accounts.  We made flyers to slip under the windshield wipers of parked cars, they bought ads on television.  We took time off from jobs to visit legislators, only to discover that they had gone to lunch with fulltime lobbyists.

Naturally, the barons of the chemical and ...

Published: Tuesday 18 October 2011
GOP presidential hopeful’s statement on EPA as a jobs-killer holds no water.

Rick Perry said he would “create another 250,000 jobs by getting the EPA out of the way” of natural gas drilling. But the EPA isn’t currently in the way: The very study on which Perry relies assumes that all of those jobs will result if current regulations are not changed.

In a speech  at a steel plant in Pittsburgh on Oct. 14, the Texas governor outlined a sweeping plan to create over a million jobs by increasing American energy production. The plan involves opening up numerous areas currently off-limits to oil and gas exploration, and repealing regulations he said are hampering domestic production of fossil fuels.

The full potential for American energy production can only be realized, he said, “if environmental bureaucrats are told to stand down.”

Calling natural gas a “game-changer” in U.S. energy production, Perry cited regulation of hydraulic fracturing as an example of government overreach. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is the process of extracting natural gas from underground shale formations. Spurred by technological advancements, the Department of Energy  projects shale gas will comprise over 20 percent of the total U.S. gas supply by 2020.

With the Marcellus Shale deposits in the northeast U.S. poised to be the largest producing gas field in the U.S., they have come under intense national focus. Gas companies see huge potential for production and profits and ...

Published: Monday 10 October 2011
“Led by Valero Energy Corp., at least 16 huge refiners are trying to poke a lucrative loophole into Texas tax laws.”

When is it not enough to have too much? Apparently, when you're a giant oil corporation.

Big Oil's avaricious honchos are always searching for another dime they can slip into their corporate pockets, no matter whom it hurts. A crude example of their ceaseless money grab is presently unfolding in Texas.

Led by Valero Energy Corp., one of the nation’s largest petro-dealers, at least 16 huge refiners are trying to poke a lucrative loophole into the state’s tax laws. Since 2007, these refiners have been required by the EPA to help cut the deadly air pollution spewing from America’s vehicles by installing “hydrotreater” equipment that removes toxic sulfur dioxide from the gasoline they sell.

They did — but they’re petulantly demanding a retroactive refund on property taxes they’ve paid since then on the hydrotreaters, claiming that any industrial equipment that reduces on-site pollution is tax-exempt. Nice try, but the professional staff of the state environmental agency points out that this reduction in air pollution doesn’t occur on-site, but in people’s cars. Indeed, the air around the refineries is actually more toxic now, because the corporations are simply burning off the sulfur dioxide they remove from the gasoline.

However, Valero appealed to the agency’s political appointees, all named by Texas’ ...

Published: Sunday 9 October 2011
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) blasted the media for providing fair coverage to the Occupy Wall Street protests. “They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone.”

Speaking with right-wing radio show host Laura Ingraham on Friday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, blasted the media for providing fair coverage to the Occupy Wall Street protests. “They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone,” he said.

King also explained that he is “old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy.” He added, “We can’t allow that to happen.”

King is right that the 99 Percent Movement, with “occupation” actions from Sacramento to New York City and beyond, mirrors the broad-based protest movements of the 1960s. Back then, millions of American engaged in street protests which eventually led to the end of legal racial segregation, the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other successful programs to reduce the level of poverty and human ...

Published: Wednesday 28 September 2011
“Here is the other message that is being sent out loud and clear to the rest of us: America is for oil and coal.”

 

Last week big oil/big coal sent a not-subtle message to the country’s investment community: if you back companies or technologies that compete with us we will crush you. Our media/political machine will accuse you of every crime in the book. Your picture will be plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country looking like you are on the FBI’s “Most Wanted List.” We will haul you before Congress and grill you like a tri-tip on national television. The evening news will speculate that you should be in prison.

Here is the other message that is being sent out loud and clear to the rest of us: America is for oil and coal. If you want alternatives let China do it.

Extending To Everything

Here is what the conservative propaganda machine does. It sets a narrative, pounds out a drumbeat on that narrative, and then every news event is twisted to leach the lesson of the narrative. The oil-backed right had been on an anti-green kick for some time. In The Phony Solyndra Solar Scandal I gave some examples -- just a taste -- of this narrative development:

 

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 27 September 2011
Ortiz, who along with many others among these migrant workers sends about $100 home to Mexico every month to support elderly parents, works under conditions in these fields that replicate medieval serfdom and at times descend into outright slavery.

It is 6 a.m. in the parking lot outside the La Fiesta supermarket in Immokalee, Fla. Rodrigo Ortiz, a 26-year-old farmworker, waits forlornly in the half light for work in the tomato fields. White-painted school buses with logos such as “P. Cardenas Harvesting” are slowly filling with fieldworkers. Knots of men and a few women, speaking softly in Spanish and Creole, are clustered on the asphalt or seated at a few picnic tables waiting for crew leaders to herd them onto the buses, some of which will travel two hours to fields. Roosters are crowing as the first light of dawn rises over the cacophony. Men shovel ice into 10-gallon plastic containers from an ice maker next to the supermarket, which opens at 3:30 a.m. to sell tacos and other food to the workers. The containers—which they lug to pickup trucks—provide water for the pickers in the sweltering, humid fields where temperatures soar to 90 degrees and above.

Ortiz, a short man in a tattered baseball cap and soiled black pants that are too long and spill over the tops of his worn canvas sneakers, is not fortunate this day. By 7 a.m. the last buses leave without him. He heads back to the overcrowded trailer he shares with several other men. There are always workers left behind at these predawn pickup sites where hundreds congregate in the hopes of getting work. Nearly 90 percent of the workers are young, single immigrant men, and at least half lack proper documents or authorization to work in the United States.

Harvesting tomatoes is an endeavor that comes with erratic and unpredictable hours, weeks with overtime and weeks with little to do and no guarantees about wages. Once it starts to rain, workers are packed back onto the buses and sent home, their workday abruptly at an end. Ortiz and the other laborers congregate at the pickup points every morning never sure if there will be work. And ...

Published: Saturday 24 September 2011
Trying to separate fact from fiction at the GOP debate in Orlando

Nine Republican presidential candidates debated for two hours in Orlando, Fla., and they served up more exaggerations and falsehoods — about Obama, each other, and even Thomas Jefferson.

  • Perry claimed Romney supports Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative. In fact, while Romney has praised some of the program’s goals, he said those kinds of issues ought to be handled at the state level, not federal.
  • Romney falsely accused Obama of saying “nothing about the Palestinians launching rockets into Israel” during a 2009 speech to the United Nations. In fact, Obama said those who suffer include “the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night.”
  • Perry falsely claimed Romney had once written that “Romneycare” is “exactly what the American people needed.” Romney never wrote that. On the contrary, he said after he signed the bill that “certain aspects” of the state’s law might work “better in some states than others.”
  • Bachmann quoted Thomas Jefferson in defense of her previous assertion that separation of church and state is a “myth.” But the 1802 letter she cited is the very one in which Jefferson said the First Amendment erects “a wall of separation between Church & State.”
  • Perry said the U.S.-Mexico border needs more “boots on the ground” to stop illegal immigration, and claimed that “the federal government has not engaged in this at all.” In fact, the number of border security agents has more than doubled over the last decade.
  • Cain said the EPA has “gone wild” and will regulate “dust” as of Jan. 1. But there’s no new dust regulation set to go into effect on that day, and EPA says it ...
Published: Thursday 22 September 2011
We asked experts, and most told us that while there is relatively little scholarship on the issue, the evidence so far is that the overall effect on jobs is minimal.

It’s become a mantra on Capitol Hill and a rallying cry for industry groups: Get rid of the job-killing regulations. In recent days, with nearly every one of the GOP presidential candidates  READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 17 September 2011
Current law allows oil and gas companies not to report toxic emissions and hazardous waste released by all but their largest facilities, excluding hundreds of thousands of wells and small plants.

On a summer evening in June 2005, Susan Wallace-Babb went out into a neighbor's field near her ranch in Western Colorado to close an irrigation ditch. She parked down the rutted double-track, stepped out of her truck into the low-slung sun, took a deep breath, and collapsed, unconscious.

A natural gas well and a pair of fuel storage tanks sat less than a half-mile away. Later, after Wallace-Babb came to and sought answers, a sheriff's deputy told her that a tank full of gas condensate -- liquid hydrocarbons gathered from the production process -- had overflowed into another tank. The fumes must have drifted toward the field where she was working, he suggested.

READ FULL POST 9 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 10 September 2011
Among the stretches of truth: Texas has reduced emissions as Perry described, but most of those reductions were required under the federal Clean Air Act.

When Mitt Romney and Rick Perry thumped their chests over their job-creation records as governor during the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, they left the bad parts out.

Yes, employment has grown by more than 1 million since Perry took office in Texas. But a lot of those jobs are not well paid.

True, unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent when Romney was Massachusetts governor. But the state's employment growth was among the nation's worst.

A look at some of the claims in the debate, and how they compare with the facts:

___

PERRY: "Ninety-five percent of all the jobs that we've created have been above minimum wage."

THE FACTS: To support the claim, the Perry campaign provided federal statistics for December 2010 showing only 5.3 percent of all jobs in Texas pay the minimum wage.

But those figures represent all workers, not just the new jobs, for which data are unavailable. And that does not account for low-wage jobs that may be barely above the minimum wage. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, 51 percent of all Texas workers make less than $33,000 a year. Only 30 percent make more than $50,000 a year. Nationally, Texas ranked 34th in median household income from 2007 to 2009.

About 9.5 percent of Texas hourly workers, excluding those who are paid salaries, earn the minimum wage or less, tying Mississippi for the highest percentage in the nation.

___

READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 9 September 2011
The documents do not reveal how—or whether—federal officials explicitly weighed the competing goals of ensuring New Yorkers’ safety and projecting an image of a city and nation unbowed

In the dark and uncertain days after Sept. 11, 2001, the sight of thousands of shaken New Yorkers returning to their apartments, offices and schools in Lower Manhattan seemed to signal a larger return to normalcy.

Now new documents have emerged showing that federal officials in Washington and New York went further than was previously known to downplay concerns about health risks, misrepresenting or concealing information that ultimately might have protected thousands of people from the contaminated air at ground zero.

In one instance, a warning that people should not report to work ...

Published: Sunday 4 September 2011
“Obama said in a short written statement that he'd decided against making the smog rule stronger because it would put too big a burden on business in a tough economic time.”

President Barack Obama sided with business interests against the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday and ordered a sudden halt to a plan to toughen the Bush administration's limits on smog.

The smog rule was a top priority for the EPA and health and environmental groups because dirty air has been shown to contribute to early death, heart attacks and lung problems, including bronchitis and asthma.

It was one of 10 regulations targeted this week for elimination by House of Representatives Republican leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, but Obama beat him to it.

The EPA tightened the standard for ozone, the main component in smog, during the Bush administration in 2008. However, the agency's scientific advisory board unanimously advised that the new standard wasn't strong enough.

Obama said in a short written statement that he'd decided against making the smog rule stronger because it would put too big a burden on business in a tough economic time. He added that his commitment to protect public health and the environment was "unwavering" and that his administration "will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made."

Minutes after the statement came out, the president's supporters and opponents alike attacked it.

Republicans said scrapping the smog rule was the right thing to do, but they hammered Obama anyway. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the decision "highlights the devastating impact on jobs that has been created by this administration's regulatory overreach."

"It appears that the president's vision has finally cleared and he is realizing that Washington regulations have real effects on Main Street," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. He said the smog decision was "a step in the right direction," but that it was "just the tip of the ...

Published: Sunday 4 September 2011
The move to block the ozone rules may make sense politically, since it defuses an issue on which Republicans were prepared to hammer Obama and the Democrats all year, but as a matter of public policy, however, it’s wrong

Republicans are trying to sell the false premise that protecting the environment inevitably means sacrificing jobs. President Obama should denounce this snake oil for what it is — rather than appear to accept it.

The GOP presidential candidates are in remarkable agreement on two articles of faith: The human imagination, apparently, is incapable of conjuring any circumstance under which any tax may ever be raised. And the Environmental Protection Agency is a sinister laboratory where Birkenstock-shod evildoers conjure regulations purposefully designed to rob Americans of their God-given jobs.

 

Actually, I’m being somewhat unfair to Mitt Romney, who tempers his EPA-bashing with the admission that he supports the agency “in much of its mission.” When he was governor of Massachusetts, Romney favored initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, perhaps even a regional cap-and-trade system. He doesn’t bring this up much on the campaign trail, but his opponents do.

The other contenders range from anti-EPA all the way to . . . well, to Michele Bachmann’s pledge to abolish the agency. Bachmann told an Iowa crowd last month that if she is elected president, “I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation. It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington.”

At the GOP debate in New Hampshire, Bachmann added that “there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the Job-Killing Organization of America.” Newt Gingrich agrees that the EPA — established in 1970 by that noted tree-hugger, Richard Nixon — should ...

Published: Saturday 3 September 2011
President Obama kills costly environmental proposals ahead of next week’s Congressional session

President Barack Obama on Friday scrapped his administration's controversial plans to tighten smog rules, bowing to the demands of congressional Republicans and some business leaders.

Obama overruled the Environmental Protection Agency and directed administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the proposed regulation to reduce concentrations of smog's main ingredient, in part because of the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and uncertainty for businesses at a time of rampant uncertainty about an unsteady economy.

The announcement came shortly after a new government report on private sector employment showed that businesses essentially added no new jobs last month — and that the jobless rate remained stuck at a historically high 9.1 percent.

The withdrawal of the proposed regulation marks the latest in a string of retreats by Obama in the face of Republican opposition. Last December, he shelved, at least until the end of 2012, his insistence that Bush-era tax cuts should no longer apply to the wealthy. Earlier this year he avoided a government shutdown by agreeing to Republican demands for budget cuts. And this summer he acceded to more than a $1 trillion in spending reductions, with more to come, as the price for an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had muted praise for the White House, saying that withdrawal of the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles that are blocking business growth.

"But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats' agenda of tax hikes, more government 'stimulus' spending, and increased regulations, which are all making ...

Published: Wednesday 24 August 2011
“Koch argues that tough restrictions on petrochemicals aren’t necessary because there hasn’t been a terrorist attack here since 9/11.”

Koch Industries, a leader of industry resistance to proposed post-9/11 anti-terrorism safeguards at petrochemical plants, owns 56 facilities using hazardous chemicals that put 4.8 million Americans who live nearby at risk.

Schools, homes, hospitals, office parks, churches, recreation areas, nursing homes and daycare facilities dot the properties that surround the Koch plants.

In the government’s “worst case” scenarios, the millions working or living near the plants could be threatened by explosions, chemical spills or clouds of deadly gas, federal records show. Among the hazardous chemicals stored and used at Koch sites are formaldehyde, chlorine, anhydrous ammonia and hydrogen fluoride.

Koch’s own reports to the U.S. government were reviewed by iWatch News. The records, known as risk management plans, are maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency. Access is strictly controlled: members of the press and public can only examine 10 plans per month, under the watchful eye of EPA officials.

A decade after the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, Koch insists that its neighbors are safe, and are adequately protected by federal and state regulations.

All chemical firms are “vulnerable to human error, acts of nature, theft and sabotage,” Koch acknowledges. “It is impossible to completely eliminate every threat.”

But “chemicals are at the heart of many of our businesses,” the firm says, in a section titled “Chemical Safety” on Koch’s website. “The ones used in our facilities are handled with care and by trained professionals.”

The Kansas-based conglomerate vows that it “places compliance and ...

Published: Tuesday 23 August 2011
Settlement details raft of risks to thousands of schoolchildren, from hazardous waste to arsenic in the water and asbestos in heating systems

Children of the nation’s military personnel aren’t the only students who have reason to worry about decrepit, sometimes hazardous conditions at their schools. Hundreds of Native American children attend schools that haven’t properly disposed of hazardous waste, haven’t contained asbestos in heating systems, and whose water systems exceed the maximum allowable level for arsenic in tap water – conditions barred under federal environmental laws.

As part of a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior has agreed to pay a $234,844 civil penalty after inspectors found a raft of alleged violations of federal waste, water, air, toxics and community right-to-know laws involving 72 schools and 27 water systems on or near the lands of 60 different tribes around the country. The settlement affects 160 schools in almost every part of the country (the full list is on page 84 of this consent agreement).

The EPA discovered the violations between 2008 and 2010 while conducting inspections at 100 schools overseen by the Interior Department’s Office of Indian Affairs. Under the settlement, Interior will be required to undergo audits to check for environmental compliance at the schools, and the settlement money must be used in part to correct violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act.

“Children are ...

Published: Saturday 20 August 2011
“Why developing the tarsands has been called “world's most destructive project.””

What does it mean to live in an energy sacrifice zone? For many First Nations of Canada, it means that the land and water your families have lived on for generations is no longer safe. Nearly every major oil company in the world is participating in making the homelands of indigenous peoples unsafe by investing in the Athabascan tar sands.

In what is called by the Environmental Defense Fund the “world’s most destructive project,” an area the size of Florida is slated for various forms of mining. Locked up in sand, clay, and bitumen, tar sands oil is one of the hardest to mine and refine and is also one of the dirtiest: extracting it creates three times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. Mining the tar sands means not only deforestation but also the creation of massive lagoons filled with toxic wastewater. These ponds are leaking 11 million liters of toxic water each day and by 2012 are expected to leak 72 million liters a day.

The project’s carbon footprint is global. Mining the tar sands requires special equipment that is manufactured in Korea, shipped across the ocean, and barged through Portland, Oregon, up the Columbia and Snake Rivers through the Nez Perce reservation and on to Idaho. The current plan is to haul it on massive trucks to northern Alberta. American highways have never seen trucks of this size, and the haul will require major modifications to roadways along the way.

Oil giant TransCanada hopes to expand the project even further by building a pipeline that will pump dirty oil from northern Alberta, across the headwaters of major rivers, and down to the Gulf of Mexico where special refineries exist to handle the lower-grade oil. The pipeline, named Keystone XL, is expected to actually raise gas prices in the states it crosses because the refined oil will have to be shipped back up from the Gulf. This rise will be the equivalent of a “$4-billion-a-year tax on oil we already get from ...

Published: Friday 19 August 2011
Tea Party Brings Environmental Meltdown to America

For Tea Party zealots it is impossible to utter, hear, read or write the words “freedom” and “liberty” too many times.  And of course to them the antithesis of freedom and liberty is the federal government, which they swear they will “take back.”  For them, taking back the government means restoring the freedom to not be able to afford health care, restoring the freedom to be unemployed without any unemployment insurance,  restoring the freedom to lose your home to mortgage fraud and your pension to criminal wall street bankers.  That doesn’t sound much like a “Party” to me, that sounds more like a nightmare.

Even though many of their devotees don’t realize it themselves, what the Tea Party Nightmare is actually selling is not freedom for you, but more freedom for corporate America to deny your freedom.   And this year no freedom is more important to the Tea Party Nightmare than the freedom for corporations to make you sick by polluting our air and water.  Every Republican presidential candidate and virtually every Republican Congressperson has joined the Tea Party Nightmare chorus in ranting against the EPA, and not just the EPA regulating greenhouse gases, but against everything the EPA does.  Michelle Bachmann, the Tea Party Nightmare’s charmingly oblivious and truly frightening presidential pin up girl, proudly wants to abolish the EPA.  Not to be out done, pistol packin’ Rick Perry sounds like he wants to torture everyone who works there and shoot it with his gun before he abolishes it. 

The 1979 movie China Syndrome brought to life the danger of a nuclear reactor melt down.  Within weeks the first of real life melt downs occurred at Three Mile Island, then Chernobyl, then Fukushima.   China is now in total environmental “melt down”, a new version of the China Syndrome if you will.  ...

Published: Sunday 7 August 2011
Yes, you and your family are going to take a quite hit for the Koch Brothers team.

Three Slashing Pigs by Khalil Bendib

While the train wreck of the phony debt ceiling crisis occupied the media and voters for much of the last several weeks, public health and the environment were quietly being mugged in the back alley on Capital Hill by a ruthless gang of Tea Party Congressmen armed by a cabal of dirty energy corporations, chief among them Koch Industries. But this mugging will have permanent consequences for all Americans, including diminished quality of life, more cancer causing contamination of your water, dirtier air, poorer health, shorter life spans, and higher medical bills. Yes, you and your family are going to take a quite hit for the Koch Brothers team. But it will provide more billions in profits for these Titans of fossil fuel which is their noble contribution to “shared sacrifice.”

Multiple tactics and weapons are being used in this mugging. Contradicting every study that’s ever been done, the Tea Party gang started labeling the EPA, and its enforcement of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, “job killing” to persuade voters there was something sinister about environmental protection. Then they started their legislative machinations, like attaching dozens of “are you kidding me?” riders to the appropriations bill that funds the EPA.

Those riders include such gems as allowing uranium mining on the door step of the Grand Canyon, with the likelihood of contaminating the lower Colorado River and the drinking water for 30 million people. Mind you that right now the federal government is spending a billion dollars to clean up 50 year old uranium tailings near that same Colorado River at Moab, Utah. Other riders are as deranged and senseless as blocking the tougher fuel standards the Obama ...

Published: Saturday 6 August 2011
"Lack of specific data makes program's celebrated benefits tough to measure."

Two presidential administrations have tried to lower the carbon footprint left by hundreds of thousands of computers used by the federal government.  Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both issued executive orders requiring agencies to adopt “green IT” practices – such as reducing the number of printouts and curbing energy consumption by relying on central servers rather than desktops.

Yet nobody, not even officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has a mission of safeguarding the environment, can tell exactly how well the government is doing – the result of a failure to set up reliable ways of measuring the impact of the initiatives, the Government Accountability Office has found .

The GAO, the investigatory arm of Congress, concluded from a sampling of six agencies that the government has adopted “sustainable and more environmentally friendly“ practices – but has little way to gauge progress.

“Even with the potential of green IT, the effectiveness of agencies’ efforts cannot be measured,” the GAO said.

Minimizing government’s impact on the environment can lead to substantial savings. In 2009, one study estimated that federal employees waste more than $440 million each year on unnecessary printing, the GAO noted.

The Environmental Protection Agency, one of the agencies reviewed by the GAO, has promoted ‘green IT ’ efforts in both the public and private sector, and highlights the issue on its official Website. But the EPA and the five other ...

Published: Wednesday 27 July 2011
"WSJ Op-ed Claims It Is Not "Even Clear" A Stricter Standard Is "Necessary Or Desirable."

Conservative media claim stricter standards for ground-level ozone, the primary component of smog, are unreasonable and unnecessary. In fact, EPA is strengthening the standards because health experts, including the scientific panel that advised the Bush administration, have said that the standards set in 2008 are not sufficient to protect the public.

Conservative Media Claim Stricter Ozone Standards Are Unnecessary

WSJ Op-ed Claims It Is Not "Even Clear" A Stricter Standard Is "Necessary Or Desirable." In aWall Street Journal op-ed, John Engler, the President of the Business Roundtable, asserted: "There's nothing reasonable or balanced about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to tighten national air-quality standards for ozone emissions at this time." Calling for the EPA to delay rulemaking until 2013, Engler added: "There is no reason to rush through new standards before it is even clear they are necessary or desirable. [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/11]

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