There’s no denying the importance of coal in America.
The combustible black rock provides about 40% of the United States’ electricity and plays a vital role in the economy of places like West Virginia.
But there’s also no getting around the major health and environmental problems caused by both coal mining and coal burning.
This is kind of precious. So what happens when a village council in Alaska wants a mining project to go forward but the EPA report comes back pointing out the negative environmental consequences? The council goes out and hires their own expert to rebut the claims.
So they hired Dr. Donald Macalady, professor emeritus of chemistry and geochemistry at the Colorado School of Mines, and the school’s previous director of the Center for Environmental Risk for the job.
Only one problem, the good Dr’s own study predicted even more dire consequences.
Macalady’s report said the mine would likely eliminate the salmon spawning runs “in a large portion of the area’s watersheds,” and that this “elimination will be essentially irreversible.”
But here’s where it gets really good, the Village council president just assumed that their cherry picked expert from the School of Mines would naturally greenlight the project, so she sent his report to the EPA without reading it. So what does the village council do when they finally realize the study doesn’t say what they wanted it to say, ask for it back of course.
The Iliamna Village Council has asked to rescind an analysis it submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that backs up conclusions by the federal agency about the potentially negative impacts of large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay region.
Macalady’s review was accompanied by a letter from the village council president, Lorene Anelon, dated June 29, in which she expressed frustration with the EPA process.
Days later, she submitted a council resolution, dated July 2, rescinding the review and directing it not be made part of the official record as the council’s position. The resolution says the council “inadvertently” sent in written testimony signed by Anelon and that Anelon hired Macalady “without full authority of the Council” to submit testimony for the EPA comment period.
Sadly for Anelon and the corrupt village council, the EPA called “no take backs.”
The comments were among the thousands submitted on the EPA assessment that can be read online. The EPA, in a statement Tuesday, said comments made to the public comment docket cannot be retrieved once submitted. Policy dictates that to make changes, people must submit another comment referring to their previous comment correcting any errors and/or re-stating their position or opinion, EPA said.
Though not relevant to the story, rumor has it the EPA also called “shotgun” and “not it.” Then just for lulz:
June 30 was the deadline for comments on the EPA’s revised assessment, which found construction of a large-scale mine near the headwaters of a world-premier salmon fishery could have major impacts on streams and wetlands even without a mishap. A final report is expected later this year and could affect permitting decisions for the proposed Pebble Mine project.
So not only did the futile attempted retraction come too late, the council ran out of time to send in any revision to their comments. They have to live with the Macalady’s report being their only scientific input.
Too bad, so sad. It’s getting to the point where you can’t reliably trust industry shills to shill for industry. Illustrating this I’ll just close with one more section from Macalady’s report:
Macalady, in his review, said build-out from the mine “will change forever the cultural and social environment of the region. Additional development is a possibility, but it is difficult to imagine what would be the economic basis for this development. Fisheries will probably be gone, sporting activities that are attractive to wilderness lovers will be very limited due to mining damages to the landscape. Economic survival in the post-mining environment could be much more difficult than it is at present.”
Since the start of the New Year the GOP has had such a laser focus on fiscal matters that they’ve had time to introduce or advance the following anti-science bills in state legislatures:
When I left the GOP in 2009 I had a choice - I could have remained an (I)ndependent, but it’s exactly this type of anti-science bullshit that forced me to register Democrat rather than to take non stand on important science issues.
With the new legislative session beginning in most states around the country, this is the time that we see creationist bills crop up all over the place. Colorado has one (HB 13-1089), disguised, as many of them are, as a bill to boost “academic freedom” — but only about subjects where they think the textbooks and the scientific consensus are wrong.
The bill creates an “Academic Freedom Act” (act) for both K-12 public schools and institutions of higher education in the state of Colorado (act). The provisions of the acts direct teachers to create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that the bill just happens to require “academic freedom” on those ideas on which they think the scientists have it completely wrong. Because if they were actually interested in “academic freedom” and wanting students to “intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions,” wouldn’t that apply to all scientific questions?
UPDATE: A welcome news bulletin from Phil Plait, Colorado bill is “DOA”
Where’s the beef, climate deniers?
Cargill will idle its Plainview, Texas beef processing plant due to a tight cattle supply brought on by years of drought in the region.
The US cattle herd is at its lowest level since 1952, Cargill said. Increased feed costs resulting from the prolonged drought, combined with herd liquidations by cattle ranchers, are severely challenging the beef industry, said John Keating, president of Cargill Beef.
The plant, which employs about 2,000 people, will close February 1. The company’s remaining beef processing plants in the region, in Friona, Texas; Dodge City, Kan.; and Fort Morgan, Colo., will receive cattle that were previously destined for processing at Plainview, Cargill said. The company’s regional beef facilities in Fresno, Calif.; Milwaukee, Wis.; and Wyalusing, Pa., as well as its beef plant in Schuyler, Neb., and two plants in Canada are unaffected.
The company will provide laid-off workers with support as well as assistance finding and filling open positions at other Cargill locations or with other employers. The United Food and Commercial Workers Local Union 540, which represents more than 1,800 workers at the plant, is urging Cargill to ensure employees who are relocated to other plants are not brought on as new hires and will keep their benefits and eligibility for their pension.
Cargill is among a number of agribusiness-related companies impacted by drought in Texas, southern Plain states and the Midwest.
The emerald ash borer has killed 100 million ash trees since arriving in North America over 10 years ago. Now, mortality rates for people living in affected communities are increasing as well:
The blight was first detected in June 2002, when the trees in Canton, Michigan, got sick. The culprit, the emerald ash borer, had arrived from overseas, and it rapidly spread — a literal bug — across state and national lines to Ohio, Minnesota, Ontario. It popped up in more distant, seemingly random locations as infested trees were unwittingly shipped beyond the Midwest.
Within four years of first becoming infested, the ash trees die — over 100 million since the plague began. In some cases, their death has an immediate impact, as they fall on cars, houses, and people. In the long term, their disappearance means parks and neighborhoods, once tree-lined, are now bare.
Something else, less readily apparent, may have happened as well. When the U.S. Forest Service looked at mortality rates in counties affected by the emerald ash borer, they found increased mortality rates. Specifically, more people were dying of cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness — the first and third most common causes of death in the U.S. As the infestation took over in each of these places, the connection to poor health strengthened.
In a literal sense, of course, the absence of trees would mean the near absence of oxygen — on the most basic level, we cannot survive without them. We know, too, that trees act as a natural filter, cleaning the air from pollutants, with measurable effects in urban areas. The Forest Service put a 3.8 billion dollar value on the air pollution annually removed by urban trees. In Washington D.C., trees remove nitrogen dioxide to an extent equivalent to taking 274,000 cars off the traffic-packed beltway, saving an estimated $51 million in annual pollution-related health care costs.
Drought expands to cover nearly 63% of the Lower 48; wildfires consume 2 million acres
The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the hottest July and the hottest month on record for the nation. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936 when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F. The warm July temperatures contributed to a record-warm first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.
July 2012 State Ranks - Temperature
Precipitation totals were mixed during July, with the contiguous U.S. as a whole being drier than average. The nationally averaged precipitation total of 2.57 inches was 0.19 inch below average. Near-record dry conditions were present for the middle of the nation, with the drought footprint expanding to cover nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Note: link to “State of the Climate” will expire next month as it will be replaced with the month of August.
Climate Highlights — July
• The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average, marking the warmest July and all-time warmest month on record for the nation in a period of record that dates back to 1895. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936, when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4°F.
• Warmer-than-average conditions engulfed much of the contiguous U.S. during July, with the largest temperature departures from the 20th century average occurring across much of the Plains states, through the Midwest, and along the Eastern Seaboard. Virginia had its warmest July on record, with a statewide temperature 4.0°F above average. In total, 32 states had July temperatures among its ten warmest, with seven states having their second warmest July on record.
Senator Harry Reid on climate change, clean energy, and climate change deniers.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid welcomes industry experts, clean energy innovators, academics, public officials and others to Las Vegas for the National Clean Energy Summit 5.0.
Recently The New York Times published my op-ed ‘How Liberals Win,’ in which I argued that throughout American history, liberal advancements have been mainly achieved with corporate support, and not without. For example, FDR needed corporations to establish basic workplace standards. LBJ needed them to spark a wave of environmental regulation. And Obama needed them to win health care, stimulus, Wall Street reform, higher fuel-efficiency standards, and stronger food-safety rules.
But as you surely know, I was not able to include a cap on carbon emissions on that list. And it might look at first glance that the failure of ‘cap-and-trade’ legislation, which had a multitude of corporate compromises that made environmentalists cringe to varying degrees, debunks my case.
Soon after the bill was left for dead in the Senate, 350.org’s Bill McKibben declared, ‘So now we know what we didn’t before: making nice doesn’t work. It was worth a try, and I’m completely serious when I say I’m grateful they made the effort, but it didn’t even come close to working. So we better try something else … we’re going to need a movement, the one thing we haven’t had.’
Since then, McKibben has moved the environmental community to focus on blocking fossil-fuel projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline instead of building broad coalitions, which has left out previously supportive unions as well as corporations. And Naomi Klein, in a cover piece for The Nation, took McKibben’s logic several steps further and argued that the environmental movement should merge with the Occupy movement and declare capitalism itself the enemy of the climate.
Bill Scher is the executive editor at LiberalOasis.
Crowding, lots of trash and notices slapped on every pole and tree are only a few of the environmental problems facing the Ultra-Orthodox community. Bnei Brak hopes that ‘Benny’ will convince the next generation to embrace a green approach
In 2011, the city of Bnei Brak saved some NIS 800,000 in dumping fees through a project urging residents to separate small waste and drink containers, figures presented Tuesday at a conference devoted to examining environmental issues in the haredi sector show.
The Bnei Brak Municipality took advantage of the conference to present its environmental activity and PR campaign, which is designed around the character of “Benny” – a haredi amalgam who takes care of the environment.
Benny – created by the Agas ad agency - wears green clothes and is designed to influence the younger generation toward a greener lifestyle.
“The goal was to make Benny ‘all-haredi,’ someone everyone will love – hassidim, Lithuanians, young Shasnikim… the entire religious community,” the Bnei Brak Municipality explains.
The conference was also introduced to new environmental ideas and technologies in use in Bnei Brak, such as “buried bins” – trash cans whose tops are slightly higher than the ground but are mostly underground. According to the city, this approach takes up considerably less space – one buried bin can hold as much as 7 to 8 1,100-liter trash receptacles.
Another green tactic unveiled at the conference, and one that suits a uniquely haredi demand, is the “recycling bulletin board.” Since notices were being flung up on every electric police and tree anyway, the city hopes that by making the sides of recycling bins kosher for notices, fewer pirate placards will be put up on other surfaces.
General issues regarding the Ultra-Orthodox population and environmental sensitivity were also discussed at the conference: a higher number of residents per household, which creates more waste; as well as lower environmental awareness and less green activism than in other sectors.
In spite of this being a very positive article, the very first comment at YNet calls for ethnic cleansing.