Category Archives: EPA

You Dare Punish BP? BP Sue!

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that British Petroleum, fresh from their sterling response to their destruction of the Gulf of Mexico by pumping oil all into it – and over it and under it and next to it and… – namely, “God did it, not us, so how come we have to pay?”, is suing the US for refusing to give it more chances to spill just as much oil in other places, too.

BP sued the U.S. government on Monday over its decision to bar the British oil giant from new federal contracts to supply fuel and other services following the company’s agreement to plead guilty to manslaughter and obstruction charges in connection with the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.

The company said in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Houston that the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to suspend the company from such contracts and its continued enforcement of that order is arbitrary, capricious and “an abuse of discretion.”

“Abuse of discretion”. That’s, like, if your boss rapes you at a company party but then he apologizes afterward, it’s an “abuse of discretion” to report him to the police anyway because he’s, like, totally sorry, dude, so it’s completely unfair to hold him responsible just because he, you know, did it. Continue reading

SCOTUS Score: One and One

The Roberts Court yesterday handed the Bush Administration one victory and one defeat, and the victory may turn out to be Pyrrhic.

1. Detainee Suit Rejected

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”. Continue reading

BushScience: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

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.’

The Age of Irony

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.)

EPA Abandons Enforcement, Employees Resign in Protest

The extent to which the Bush Admin’s EPA is anti-environmental may be deduced from a splash of recent resignations. While an EPA spokeswoman claimed that the resignations were insignificant because there were only a few of them–

Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the agency, said of the departures, “This is an office of several hundred employees — and to have one political appointee and two career employees leave is not indicative of unrest or departmentwide frustration.”

–look at who they were:

**Rich Bondi, the assistant director of the enforcement division, who said, “The rug was pulled out from under us. You look around and say, `What contribution can I continue to make here?’ and it was limited.”

**JP Suarez, the head of the enforcement division.

**Bruce Buckheit, the head of air enforcement division, after “the E.P.A. announced… that it was going to suspend investigations into utilities after the administration loosened the sections of the Clean Air Act that govern aging coal-burning power plants.”

These latest resignations join previous ones, including:

**”Eric Schaeffer, the former head of civil enforcement, resigned in spring 2002 with a scathing letter criticizing the administration’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act.”

and

**Sylvia K. Lowrance, the acting assistant administrator for enforcement and a career enforcement official, who retired in August 2002.

“‘We will see more resignations in the future as the administration fails to enforce environmental laws,’ Ms. Lowrance said.”

The people who are quitting are overwhelmingly from the enforcement division, and three of those key people have openly said it was because of the Bush Admin’s refusal to enforce environmental laws and their willingness to undercut compliance deals that had already been worked out, and worked out over several years of negotiation.

Mr. Buckheit is considered a driving force behind the agency’s pursuit of utilities that started in the Clinton administration.”It is a huge loss for clean air enforcement as Bruce was one of the most energetic and passionate Clean Air lawyers in the country,” said Peter Lehner, the head of environmental litigation for the New York attorney general’s office, which has joined in several of the lawsuits against power plants.

The suits used a once-obscure provision of the Clean Air Act, known as new source review, which says that power plants, refineries and other industrial boilers had to install pollution controls if they modernized in ways that increased emissions generally. But “routine maintenance was exempt.” The power companies protested the suits, saying the Clinton administration was misinterpreting the law.

Nonetheless, Mr. Buckheit had reached agreements with some electric companies, including Virginia Electric Power and Cinergy, by 2000. Many other negotiations stalled, however, after the Bush administration came into office.

…Last summer, Virginia Electric Power, now known as Dominion Power, completed an agreement to install $1.2 billion in pollution controls.

One of the more interesting statements in the article refers to Cheney’s energy committee:

Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force urged the administration to study industry complaints about federal enforcement actions.

It was after that “suggestion” that the EPA changed the rules and began to drop their lawsuits.

In the same vein, David Neiwert at Orcinus notes Rep. Pete McCluskey (one of the last remaining moderate Republicans) has written an op-ed piece on the systematic destruction of the Endangered Species Act by the WH:

The act has been remarkably effective. Peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, American alligators and many other species, once on the verge of disappearing, were aided by the law and now thrive. Still-protected species — black-footed ferrets, California condors and manatees among them — would almost certainly be extinct if not for this law. Just last month, I was privileged to see a pair of young condors circling in the Santa Lucia Mountains below Carmel. Twenty years ago, there were no wild condors in California.Now, however, the administration and its congressional allies are in a pitched battle against the act. The administration has moved to exempt the military from the law.

I once was in the Marine Corps. We do not need to drive species to extinction at Camp Pendleton or Guantanamo Bay or Hunter Liggett to keep our armed forces adequately trained and prepared for combat.

The administration has stopped designating “critical habitat” for listed species except under court order. It has stopped adding to the list of threatened and endangered species unless ordered to do so by a judge. It has moved to exempt the Forest Service from abiding by the law on the pretext of fire prevention. It is working to weaken the requirement that endangered species be protected from pesticides.

And that list barely scratches the surface. The assault on the law is widespread and relentless.

The administration and its comrades in arms argue that the law is ineffective, expensive and in need of drastic overhaul. In truth, they are acting as agents for the timber industry, the mining industry, land developers, big agriculture and other economic interests that sometimes find their profits slightly decreased in the short run by the need to obey this law.

The assault on our environment spear-headed by industries that don’t like to see “their profits slightly decreased in the short run by the need to obey this law” has resulted in a capture of the Bush EPA so complete that they might as well own it.

Somehow I don’t think that protecting the environment is the same thing as protecting an industry’s right to exploit it for their own gain, but maybe I’m wrong.