Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
There’s a new analysis of the Gulf oil spill that makes plain the reasons for it are, as many of us said, systemic. Not an accident, not a once-in-a-lifetime concatenation of incompetence, faulty equipment, and mismanagement, no, the direct result of BAU. The report calls for massive new regulation of the oil industry. The reason I know this will not happen is that Harry Reid promises to get right on it. QED.
I keep hoping somebody somewhere is going to hold the Emperor’s feet to the fire, and I thought maybe the G-8 conference on global warming would be the place. Host Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and a fire-breather when it comes to the environment, started out pushing Bush harder – a lot harder – than our home-grown Bubble Boy is used to. She was dead-set on specific commitments: actual numbers attached to real targets with specific end-dates. No more of these vague “voluntary” agreements from the US – the biggest polluter on the planet – that leave corporations free to spew as much poison into the air as they feel like without consequences or any kind of realistic plan to reduce harmful emissions in, like, this century.
Alas, it was not to be. Bush wanted the spotlight moved away from the US and onto the next two biggest polluters, China and India, and he got what he wanted by making another vague promise to “enter negotiations” before – get this – 2009.
The United States agreed Thursday to “consider seriously” a European plan to combat global warming by cutting in half worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, averting a trans-Atlantic deadlock at a meeting here of the world’s richest industrial nations.
The compromise, worked out in tough negotiations between the United States and Germany, also endorses President Bush’s recent proposal to bring together the world’s largest emitting countries, including China and India, to set their own national goals for reducing emissions.
The agreement reached Thursday does not include a mandatory 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050, a key provision sought by Chancellor Angela Merkel, nor does it commit the United States or Russia to specific reductions.
Coming from the man who has made a million promises in the past 6 years and kept two of them – tax cuts and the permanent occupation of Iraq – this one is worth nothing. Less than nothing. Bush, complaining of a convenient tummy ache, wasn’t even there for the announcement.
“Why am I bothering you with this?” you may ask.
TOKYO – Archaeologists digging in western Japan have excavated what they believe to be the oldest remains of a melon ever found, an official said Friday.
Based on a radiocarbon analysis, researchers estimate the half-rounded piece of fruit to be about 2,100 years old, said Shuji Yamazaki, a local official in the city of Moriyama.
The remains are believed to be the oldest of a melon that still has flesh on the rind, Yamazaki said. Previously, the oldest such find was believed to be remains found in China that date back to the fourth century A.D., according to local media reports.
The melon might have been so well-preserved because it was in a vacuum-packed state in a wet layer below the ground, an environment hostile to microorganisms that might otherwise have broken down the remains, Yamazaki said.
Read that last paragraph again. Those are the conditions under which we store hundreds of millions of tons of our garbage in landfills across the country.
The Roberts Court yesterday handed the Bush Administration one victory and one defeat, and the victory may turn out to be Pyrrhic.
The SCOTUS won’t be hearing a suit filed by almost 400 Gitmo prisoners trying to restore the legal rights taken away from them by Bush and the Republican Congress.
The court decision was a significant victory for President Bush, who has asserted for nearly six years that the fate of hundreds of detainees, held without charges as alleged terrorists at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, should be determined by secret military tribunals. The decision leaves intact, at least for now, a measure passed at the administration’s urging last year when Congress still was in Republican hands that denies Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to such habeas corpus petitions.
This despite the fact that the Court has ruled not once but twice in the last three years that the detainees have the right to petition the courts to “contest their detention”. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, that didn’t take long.
Thousands of students, workers and environmentalists protesting President Bush’s arrival here Thursday shut down a road in a central business district, and some clashed with helmet-wearing riot police who fired tear gas and beat demonstrators.
The boisterous rally and the sharp police response presaged a potentially volatile visit for the president, who landed here in the evening for a six-day tour through Latin America, his longest since taking office. Protesters also gathered Thursday in Colombia and Mexico, two later stops on Bush’s itinerary, and organizers expect tens of thousands at a demonstration in Buenos Aires on Friday.
Before his plane had even set down on the tarmac, they were gathering. Six thousand of them, and that’s only the beginning. Expressions of deep disgust were everywhere.
There’s nothing like hitting the corporatocracy in the pocketbook for making them pay attention or moderate their greed. A coalition of environmentalists is doing just that by going after banks and convincing them not to finance new coal power plants.
A new front in the fight to slow down global warming follows trails of money, not wisps of polluting chemicals, straight to the doorsteps of banks.A coalition of environmental groups, including Boston-based Ceres , is demanding that banks reject loan requests for projects that emit high rates of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. The groups say they have won commitments from more than a dozen banks in the last few weeks to turn away from supporting coal-fired electric plants.
This initiative is coming from the insane proposal of a Texas (naturally) utility called TXU to build 11 – count ‘em, eleven – new coal-burning plants which, together, will spew some 78 Billion tons of carbon monoxide a year into the air and all over the central Texas plains. Read the rest of this entry »
HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY — Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology
Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”
These people are out of control.
The Carson National Forest in New Mexico is home to alpine meadows, ’200 species of birds and 60 types of mammals, including one of the state’s largest elk herds’, and is located right next door to the largest Boy Scout wilderness camp in the country. But all of that is less important to the Bush Admin than the fact that a Texas energy corporation that has given $2.3 million to Republican candidates and political action committees.
CARSON NATIONAL FOREST, N.M. — Overriding the opposition of the U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico state officials, a White House energy task force has interceded on behalf of Houston-based El Paso Corp. in its two-year effort to explore for natural gas in a remote part of a national forest next door to America’s largest Boy Scout camp.Forest Service officials discouraged efforts to drill in the Valle Vidal at least three times since the agency acquired the land in 1982, citing concerns about water pollution, wildlife and recreation if a large-scale energy project were approved.
But last week, the agency took the first step toward approving the giant energy company’s proposal to tap into 40,000 acres of alpine meadows in the Carson National Forest. The agency released a report that forecast a high probability of recovering gas from the area and laid out a scenario in which 500 wells could be drilled on the forest’s east side.
The Forest Service’s action has sparked angry opposition from many groups and officials, including New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat who was U.S. secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration. Such disputes are increasingly commonplace in Rocky Mountain states as critics of Bush administration energy policies accuse the White House of repeatedly targeting some of the most cherished wild places for development.
What, the ‘cowboy rancher’? How can that be? Hey, money talks, the environment walks.
[W]hen the Forest Service, in consultation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, rejected El Paso Corp.’s request in 2002, the company appealed to the administration.”In this environment, we need new natural gas supplies more than ever,” wrote El Paso’s federal government affairs director to Robert W. Middleton, the director of the White House Task Force on Energy Project Streamlining. “We believe that the Valle Vidal Unit could be a vital new source of such supply. Consequently, we would very much appreciate anything you could do to help move this process forward in a timely manner.”
Copies of correspondence made available to The Times show that after El Paso representatives met with Middleton, he instructed the Forest Service to revisit the project.
According to Forest Service staffers at the agency’s Taos office, the [WH Council on Environmental Quality energy] task force began making calls almost every week, beginning in 2003, to inquire about the progress of the Valle Vidal project.”The task force came down through the channels. The change was based on ‘Let’s see what we can do for El Paso Energy,’ ” said Benjamin Romero, public affairs officer for Carson National Forest.
“The overall thought was they are forcing us into expediting it,” said another staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Joanna Prokup, New Mexico’s secretary of energy, minerals and natural resources, said the task force’s message to the Forest Service left little room for interpretation. “El Paso called [Washington] D.C., D.C. called the Forest Service. They’ve put it on the fast track.”
Prokup, whose agency oversees oil and gas operations in the state, opposes any drilling in the Valle Vidal, “both personally and professionally,” she said.
Tough luck, Joanna. The fix is in: a Bush Buddy and major contributor wants the US govt to give him 40,000 acres worth of national forest to turn into ‘an industrial landscape of roads, power lines, pipelines, wells, generators, compressors and waste-water ponds’? Well, he’s going to get it and that’s that. $$$2.3Mil$$$ gets you some consideration, you know. I guess that’s the going price for national forests in the Bush Admin. The country’s for sale to the corporations, didn’t you know that? Especially Texas corporations, most especially Texas energy corporations, and mostest especially of all, Texas energy corporations that contribute over $2Mil to Junior and the GOP. What’s 40,000 acres of pristine wilderness and a little ol’ Boy Scout camp compared to that? Get real.
Oil and gas are important, BIG BUCKS, get it? So the elk and the Boy Scouts can damn well go someplace else (until we decide there’s oil or gas there as well, in which case a few more measly $$Millions$$ will change hands and then they’ll have to move out of there, too). You people just can’t get your priorities straight, can you? It’s simple. All you gotta remember is this:
PROFITS FIRST! Everything else comes last…if at all. You better explain that to the Boy Scouts, because all that hooey they’re feeding them over there in Philmont–
Berger, the former Philmont Ranch staffer, described the Valle Vidal as a vivid outdoor classroom. He said that at a certain point on each backpacking trip, group leaders teach campers the Wilderness Pledge.”We tell them, ‘With a right comes a responsibility.’ With the right to use the land comes a responsibility to protect it.
–is giving them the total wrong idea about values in Bush America, completely bass-ackwards. The only responsibility anybody has to America is to make money, and it don’t much matter who pays the price as long as it’s not the corporations. ‘Get rich however you can or get the hell out of the way of the people who are’, that’s what you should be teaching them. That’s the American Way, and it’s about time they learned that.
Seattle is having a tough day, computer-wise. Blogger wouldn’t let him log into his account for some reason, and then his computer crashed. So I’m posting this for him, one of the many small duties of a edituh. Let us pray his troubles are temporary….
OK, so there aren’t any tigers in the Pacific Northwest, but there are plenty of lions and bears. And apparently they live closer to us than we realize.
Most people know that when suburban sprawl meets a semi-wild area, encounters between humans and wildlife go up. The standard explanation is that we’re entering their territory and although that’s true, it’s only part of the story. The flip side is that when wild animals learn about the benefits that come from living in close proximity to humans – basically food – they move closer.
In a recent study, grizzly bears in Montana were tagged with GPS collars that make hourly recordings of the bears’ locations. After a year the researcher retrieves the collars, downloads the bears’ last year of travels, and collars another group of helpful bears:
For a long time, the daily movements of grizzlies were shrouded in mystery. Known to biologists as Ursus arctos horribilis, grizzlies are notoriously difficult to track by day and nearly impossible to follow at night. Mr. Servheen’s bear-tracking maps are changing that. They have already yielded one surprising tidbit: America’s largest, smartest predators may be closer than many people think.For years, retired forester Bud Moore, along with many of the other 900 residents of the lush Swan Valley, believed that grizzly bears spent spring and fall in the valley and summers up in the mountains eating huckleberries. Then he saw the maps showing that the bears while away the summers in the valley, bedding down near humans.
One female grizzly spent the last couple of summers nestling in the woods just behind Mr. Moore’s house. That might upset some people, but not him. “For me, living anywhere else is just kind of a watered-down experience,” says Mr. Moore, 86 years old. “Those bears are big enough to keep your adrenaline up. You are just a little more alive than you would be.”
Over the past decade, this area’s human population has increased 20%. To Mr. Servheen, the bear-tracking maps suggest that grizzlies are responding by doing what deer, coyotes, wolves, cougars and the smaller, less dangerous black bears do where human habitation and nature converge. They are learning to live among people while keeping a lower profile. Increasingly, grizzlies are doing most of their feeding and socializing at night.
David Baron has written a book describing the same phenomenon with mountain lions in California and Colorado. Many of these lions live almost in people’s back yards.
It’s a nice phenomenon in many ways, but of course it can lead to problems – like dying. My step brother worries about his two young children after seeing lions (bears too, but just black bears) very near his house in rural Oregon.
This topic is on my mind after hearing a local radio show. You can listen to it on line.
OK, enough writing. I’m off to transfer my canister of bear spray from my wilderness backpack to our back porch.
After taking a beating over politicizing science for ideological reasons and to make things easier for corporate polluters and despoilers of the environment, the Bushies have come up with a whole new tactic: The EPA simply isn’t going to ask what the science might be if they don’t think they’ll like the answer.
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration made it easier Thursday for the government to approve pesticides used by farmers and homeowners, saying it no longer would require the Environmental Protection Agency to first consult other federal agencies to determine whether a product could harm endangered species.The change, supported by growers and pesticide manufacturers, affects federal regulations for carrying out the Endangered Species Act, a law that protects about 1,200 threatened animals and plants.
Environmentalists said the streamlined process would strip away protections for those species.
The law has been successfully used by environmental groups in a recent lawsuit seeking to mitigate the effects of pesticides on salmon in the Pacific Northwest. A federal judge found that the EPA had failed to abide by a requirement that it consult with federal wildlife agencies over the potential harm from pesticides.
Under the new process, expected to take effect in a few months, the EPA will conduct its own scientific evaluation. The agency will be required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies only if its internal evaluation deems that a pesticide is likely to have an adverse effect on endangered species. (emphasis added)
OK, so the EPA, which is implementing the change at the behest of the industry, is going to do its own ‘internal evaluation’, minus the science involved, which they will ‘evaluate’ based on…what? Industry claims?
‘So, Bob, what does Monsanto think? I mean, they developed this pesticide. Is it safe to use around animals?’
‘Of course it is, Bill. We tested it and it’s safe as houses. Sign here.’
‘Well, can I see the test results?’
“No can do, Bill. Proprietary rights, exclusionary, you understand. Just sign the damn waiver, I’m late for my 9am tee-off at the club.’
‘Maybe I should ask Fish & Game–’
‘What are you, a Commie? Why do you hate American business, Bill? We’re trying to make a buck here, what’s so wrong about that that you think you have to check every little piddling detail? Anyway, what’s a few dead birds here or there, there’s millions of the damn things. Wake me up every morning at the crack of dawn, the little bastards. We’ll be better off without ‘em. Now sign or tell Junior he can forget the $200K for his next campaign.’
‘Oh, well, when you put it that way….’
Yessiree. ‘BushCo: We’re a Friend of Science–When Science is a Friend to Us. If It Ain’t, Screw It.’
Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior during the 60′s and generally considered to be the best of the last 50 years, is none too thrilled with what Junior’s pervasive pandering to the oil industry is doing to his native West.
SANTA FE, N.M. — A crucial struggle over land stewardship is taking place south of my home on the Greater Otero Mesa, a 1.2-million-acre stretch of grassland that looks pretty much the way it did when Coronado explored the region almost 500 years ago. As much as half of Otero Mesa still qualifies for protection under the landmark 1964 Wilderness Act, which was enacted when I headed the Interior Department under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. This law prevents industrial development on designated federal land “retaining its primeval character and influence.”But the Bush administration, determined to ransack public lands for the last meager pockets of petroleum, has turned my old department into a servile, single-minded adjunct of the Energy Department. It is intent on opening Otero Mesa and other wild lands to oil and gas exploration under the guise of reducing our ever-growing dependency on imported oil.
Here in New Mexico, where citizens cherish sublime landscapes, the administration’s attack on the mesa is a heated issue. Gov. Bill Richardson has been joined by lawmakers, environmental groups and thousands of citizens in opposing drilling on Otero.
This crusade is part of a wave of public resentment across the West over the dark chapter that President Bush and his aides are writing in the history of the American conservation movement. From California to Colorado, Montana to Arizona, drill rigs pockmark the West’s wild places, licensed by a White House that views opening of the nation’s last untrammeled country to private development as a prime economic priority.
The real Bush Doctrine seems to be: If it don’t make a profit for one of my cronies, it’s useless. The BA doesn’t recognize any social good except in the piling up of private profits, and it doesn’t seem to matter what gets ruined or who dies in the process. America and its people are just resources to be exploited by the oligarchs and corporations until there’s nothing left to exploit, and then what? One more Bushian term and we’re likely to find out.
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD
Grab the chain saws, rev up the bulldozers, open the federal Treasury to subsidize construction of more logging roads.
The Bush administration has made its decision on continuing former President Clinton’s protection of millions of acres of roadless areas in national forests. It prefers not to.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman tried to disguise her profligate giveaway of environmental protection, wildlife habitat and federal authority as promoting greater cooperation. Fine idea, but there’s reason to worry about her definition of cooperation.
Veneman said she wanted to settle lawsuits. That follows the administration’s pattern of taking a fall when it faces anti-environmental court actions.
In an absurd twist, the new policy would leave it to governors, whose states have frequently abused their own lands, to decide whether to ask for federal land to be protected. Governors do not own federal lands; all Americans do.
Under the administration, only governors who want new logging roads should expect their views to be respected. Witness what happened in Oregon’s Klamath-Siskiyou region where the Forest Service just approved a huge timber sale, much of it in a roadless area despite pleas from Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
As he promises, Gov. Gary Locke should seek protection for all the roadless areas in national forests here if the rule is finalized before he leaves office. But, as Locke recognizes, the administration’s policy is a sellout of the public interest.
And they didn’t even get a decent price.
Timber industry lobbyist and agri-business legal mouthpiece Ann Veneman also happens to be the Agriculture Secretary. Veneman, who never saw a check to corporate greed she could support or a corporate proposal to appropriate publicly-owned resources that she couldn’t, is going to turn 60 million acres of previously protected land over to the the timber industry.
The Bush administration said yesterday it plans to overturn a Clinton-era rule that made nearly 60 million acres of national forest off-limits to road-building and logging, setting aside one of the most sweeping land preservation measures in decades.Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman proposed replacing the Clinton rule with a policy that would allow governors to petition the federal government if they wished to keep certain areas roadless. She said this approach would encourage cooperation between state and federal officials and end the litigation that has dogged Clinton’s “roadless” rule since its inception.
The litigation of which she speaks, making it sound as if it’s those nasty, tree-hugging. prosperity-hating, anti-American, spotted-owl-loving, snail-darter-protecting environmentalists again, actually turns out to have been the work of a timber industry that is incapable of taking ‘No’ for an answer.
Western states and timber companies had challenged the roadless rule in six courts after Clinton put it in place before leaving office in January 2001. The regulation prohibited development in areas spanning more than 5,000 acres, accounting for nearly a third of the national forests. Twelve Western states are home to 97 percent of all roadless areas, some of which provide drinking water to local communities as well as wildlife habitat.The Bush administration had left the roadless prohibitions on the books but had not actively defended them in court, arguing that the rule was flawed because it did not take the needs of state and local communities into account.
As always, we must translate for the Post. ‘The needs of state and local communities’ means ‘the greed of the state and local corporations who own the political process’; ‘taking into account’ means ‘kissing their asses and doing whatever they tell us to do’. It’s simple once you get the hang of it; if you want to know what they really mean, simply reverse everything they say. Up is Down, Black is White, Day is Night, Greed is Efficiency, Public is Private, and Yours is Theirs.
Timber organizations hailed yesterday’s announcement, saying the Clinton administration had excluded them from the process when it drafted the rule.
Poor babies. So Veneman, who felt sorry for them I guess, made it up to them by letting them write this one. How thoughtful of her. How sweet of her. How obedient to her slave masters of her. The WaPo did finally get around to quoting somebody who was less than thrilled with this sale.
“It’s another case of the Bush administration having happy talk on the environment, but it’s basically rape and pillage,” said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold, who has defended the rule in Idaho, Wyoming and D.C. courts.
If there were any honesty in govt (a forlorn hope if ever there was one), ‘Rape and Pillage’ would be the Bush/Cheney ’04 campaign slogan. It’s the translation into real English of ‘Peace and Prosperity’.
In what may be one of the most ironic, not to mention hypocritical, twists in an Admin that seems to specialize in them, EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt, the man who changed the New Source Review regulations so that power plants could continue to use the old equipment responsible for polluting our air, had the balls to issue warnings to cities and towns about how dirty their air is.
On April 15, the Environmental Protection Agency will release a list of about 500 counties that violate or contribute to violations of ground-level ozone, more than double the number listed under older standards. Ground-level ozone, which is odorless and invisible, is a major component of smog on hot summer days. Prolonged exposure causes the equivalent of sunburn to the lungs.
And it’s not too hard to figure out why Leavitt has allowed himself to be so concerned when emissions of mercury and sulfer dioxide from power plants don’t bother him: that was a Federal problem; this is a local problem.
Many states and locales are reviewing strategies that would intimately affect how people live — from cutting speed limits by 5 miles per hour, to discouraging house painting during summer months, to giving tax breaks to businesses that encourage telecommuting.”It will underscore vividly that almost all of our activities during the day directly or indirectly contribute to air pollution and smog levels,” said William Becker, the executive director of the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials.
So, see? All those nasty power plant emissions full of poisons and heavy metals and such aren’t really a problem and don’t need to be regulated. The real source of air pollution is all those damn houses you paint in the summertime! Sheesh, will you people knock it off? And while you’re at it, there’s a couple other things we want you to do:
School districts have pushed the start of the academic year after the hottest parts of August, in part to reduce the need for air-conditioning and the pollution from electricity generation that produces it. Schools also are organizing students to walk to and from school in groups with parental chaperons to cut back on cars using the roads and idling in front of schools.Some companies are asking employees to bring lunch or eat in company cafeterias to cut down on traffic during the hottest part of the day. Some businesses are discouraging use of drive-through lanes, asking customers to park and come inside.
Yessir, that oughta do it. Then we won’t have to ever bother about those power plants again and the energy industry won’t ever have to spend another dime on wasteful, pointless items like filters and smokestack-scrubbers. Way to identify the true culprits, Mr Leavitt–schools and housepainters and long lines at the drive-thru. That was some detective work.
(PS–Really, read the Bruce Barcott piece [the first link]. It’s long and it’ll probably piss you off, but it’s some of the best environmental reporting the NYT has done in years, and it’s important stuiff to know.)