Archive for the ‘environment’ Category
Coverage of environmental issues may include climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and resource depletion etc.
If I had a garden of my own, and didn’t live in urban squalor, I’d plant as many native milkweeds as I could: I find them a beautiful plant, plus I love the majesty of the Monarch Butterfly. Also yet another Monsanto product with devastating effects on our planet…
In recent years amateur conservationists have sought to replenish drastic declines in milkweed, the only plant female monarchs lay eggs on. But the most widely available milkweed for planting, the scientists say, is an exotic species called tropical milkweed — not the native species with which the butterflies evolved. That may lead to unseasonal breeding, putting monarchs at higher risk of disease and reproductive failure.
But in the Midwest, which produces half of Mexico’s wintering monarchs, the scores of wild milkweed species among grasslands and farms are fast disappearing.
Nearly 60 percent of native Midwestern milkweeds vanished between 1999 and 2009, the biologists Karen Oberhauser and John Pleasants reported in 2012 in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity. The loss coincided with increased applications of the weedkiller Roundup on expanded plantings of corn and soybeans genetically altered to tolerate the herbicide. Meanwhile, monarch reproduction in the Midwest dropped more than 80 percent, as did populations in Mexico.
With the loss of native milkweeds that die in the fall, monarchs are encountering tropical milkweeds that are still thriving.
“There’s this huge groundswell of people planting tropical milkweed, and we don’t know what it’s doing to the butterflies,” said Francis X. Villablanca, a biology professor at California Polytechnic University. “We’re all in a rush to figure it out.”
Dr. Altizer fears that when monarchs encounter lush foliage in the fall, they may become confused, start breeding and stop migrating.
“It’s sad, because people think planting milkweed will help,” she said. “But when milkweed is available during the winter, it changes the butterfly’s behavior.”
Butterfly enthusiasts shouldn’t feel bad for planting tropical milkweed, monarch researchers say. But they should cut the plants back in fall and winter. Or even better, replace them with natives. There are native plant societies across the country that can offer advice.
(click here to continue reading For the Monarch Butterfly, a Long Road Back – NYTimes.com.)
Fragile Planet, Handle With Care.
How simply ridiculous. Was this an ALEC bill? A Koch Industry bill? Which industrial baron insisted upon this travesty?
the House on Tuesday quietly passed a bill that environmentalists say would hamper the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to use the best scientific information when crafting regulations to protect public health and the environment.
The House voted 229-191 to pass H.R. 1422, which would change the rules for appointing members to the Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group that gives scientific advice to the EPA Administrator.
Also called the Science Advisory Board Reform Act, the bill would make it easier for scientists with financial ties to corporations to serve on the SAB, prohibit independent scientists from talking about their own research on the board, and make it more difficult for scientists who have applied for grants from the EPA to join the board. The purpose of the bill, according to Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), is to increase transparency and accountability to the EPA’s scientific advisors. Burgess said on the floor Tuesday that the board “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” With this bill, Burgess said the inclusion of industry interests would erase “any appearance of impropriety on the board.”
But scientists, environmental groups, and health experts have said that the bill compromises the scientific independence of the SAB, and makes it harder for the Board to do its job, thereby increasing the amount of time it takes to implement EPA regulations.
“The supposed intent [of the bill] is to improve the process of selecting advisors, but in reality, the bill would allow the board to be stacked with industry representatives, while making it more difficult for academics to serve,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) on the House floor on Tuesday. “It benefits no one but the industry, and it harms public health.”
(click here to continue reading House Passes Bill That Makes It Harder For Scientists To Advise The EPA | ThinkProgress.)
not to mention there is also HR 4012, the so-called “Secret Science” Reform Act, which is another effort to destroy the EPA, or at least delay it from doing its job:
Under HR 4012, some of the best real-world public health research, which relies on patient data like hospital admissions, would be excluded from consideration because personal data could not, and should not, be made public. Demanding public release of full raw data the agency cannot legally disclose is simply a way to accuse the agency of hiding something when it has nothing to hide. What matters is not raw data but the studies based on these data, which have gone through the scientific process, including rigorous peer review, safeguards to protect the privacy of study participants, and careful review to make sure there’s no manipulation for political or financial gain.
As many politicians have taken pains to point out, they are not scientists, so they should listen to scientific advice instead of making spurious demands for unanalyzed data.
HR 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act, sponsored by vocal EPA adversary Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, would similarly erect pointless roadblocks for the agency. The Science Advisory Board, composed of some of our nation’s best independent scientists, exists not to advocate any particular policy, but to evaluate whether the best science was used in agency decisions. This bill would make it easier for experts with ties to corporations affected by new rules to serve on the SAB while excluding independent scientists from talking about their own research.
In other words, academic scientists who know the most about a subject can’t weigh in, but experts paid by corporations who want to block regulations can.
(click here to continue reading Congress Must Block These Attacks on Independent Science | Commentary : Roll Call Opinion.)
Rep.Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) writes:
Over the past few years, the Republican party has engaged in an unrelenting partisan attack on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They have harassed the administrator, attempted to delay every new regulation, questioned the integrity of academic and EPA scientists, and sided with industrial polluters over the American people. Later this week, the Republican Majority in the House will continue this assault by considering H.R. 4012 and H.R. 1422.
H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Act of 2014, is an insidious attack on the EPA’s ability to use the best science to protect the health of Americans and the environment. Republicans will claim that H.R. 4012 increases EPA’s transparency, but in reality it is an attempt to prevent EPA from using the best science to protect public health and the environment. This bill would prohibit EPA from relying on scientific studies that involve personal health information or other data that is legally protected from public disclosure.
Any effort to limit the scope of science that can be considered by EPA does not strengthen scientific integrity, but instead undermines it. It would also increase the likelihood of litigation because EPA’s actions would be based on inadequate and incomplete science, leaving any regulation open to legal challenges which would delay the implementation of important public health protections. The true intent of H.R. 4012 is to delay EPA action because that is what industrial polluters want. H.R. 4012 is not only bad for public health, but it is also bad for the taxpayer. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill as reported would cost American taxpayers as much as $1 billion dollars over four years.
(click here to continue reading Another attack on the EPA and public health | TheHill.)
So happy that 18% of the electorate is able to set pollution policy for the entire nation. I mean, who would want clean air or water? Or lakes and streams one could actually fish in? No, much better to destroy our planet and wait for The Rapture…1Footnotes:
- I’m being sarcastic, in case this is not obvious. You cannot see my smirk after all [↩]
You’d think the Koch Industries lackeys in Congress would understand declarations of war, but maybe not since this is more of a “talking” war instead of a “bombing brown-skinned people” kind of war.
As the U.S. Senate prepares to vote this week on a bill to force approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which the House of Representatives already passed on Friday, American Indian groups who would be directly impacted by the tar sands project are converging on Washington D.C. to voice their opposition.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, whose territory in South Dakota lies along the proposed route of the pipeline, released a statement last week calling Congressional approval of the project an “act of war against our people.”
In a call with reporters on Monday, President Cyril Scott of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe vowed to fight back should the pipeline win government approval.
“Did I declare war on the Keystone XL pipeline? Hell yeah, I did,” said Scott. “I pledge my life to stop these people from harming our children and grandchildren and way of life. They will not cross our treaty lands. We have so much to lose here.”
Scott arrives in D.C. on Tuesday and plans to “rattle the doors” on Capitol Hill ahead of the evening vote. He said he hopes to draw special attention to the fact that the pipeline would cross one of North America’s largest fresh water sources, an aquifer that provides water for a full quarter of the nation’s farmland.
“I’m going to talk to every senator and anybody who will talk to me,” he said. “I will tell them, ‘It’s not a matter of if the pipeline will contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer, but when. And if you contaminate the aquifer, we can’t drink, we can’t grow crops. Where are we going to get our water, from Congress?’”
Besides the environmental threat of the pipeline, which Scott called an “atrocity against all humans,” the Rosebud Sioux say the U.S. government has not met its treaty obligations to ask the tribe for approval of projects that cross their territory. “The U.S. government does not consult us,” he said, noting that concerns brought to the Department of Interior and to the Department of State have been so far ignored. “We have a sovereign nation. We have our own constitution and laws here. But they violated my people’s treaty rights once again.”
(click here to continue reading American Indian Tribe Calls Keystone XL Vote An ‘Act Of War’ | ThinkProgress.)
and from the Summit County Voice:
Of course the U.S. government has hardly ever taken Native American concerns seriously, so it would be a surprise if that happened now, but Rosebud Sioux (Sicangu Lakota Oyate) Tribal President Scott said his nation has yet to be properly consulted on the project, which would cross through tribal land. Concerns brought to the Department of Interior and to the Department of State have yet to be addressed, he said in a statement.
“The House has now signed our death warrants and the death warrants of our children and grandchildren,” Scott said. “We are outraged at the lack of intergovernmental cooperation. We are a sovereign nation and we are not being treated as such. We will close our reservation borders to Keystone XL. Authorizing Keystone XL is an act of war against our people,” he said.
In February of this year, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and other members of the Great Sioux Nation adopted tribal resolutions opposing the Keystone XL project.
“The Lakota people have always been stewards of this land,” Scott said. “We feel it is imperative that we provide safe and responsible alternative energy resources not only to tribal members but to non-tribal members as well. We need to stop focusing and investing in risky fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline. We need to start remembering that the earth is our mother and stop polluting her and start taking steps to preserve the land, water, and our grandchildren’s future.”
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, along with several other South Dakota Tribes, are unified in opposition to risky and dangerous fossil fuel projects like TransCanada’s Keystone XL. The proposed route of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline crosses directly through Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) Treaty lands as defined by both the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaties and within the current exterior boundaries of the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
(click here to continue reading Environment: South Dakota Native Americans describe House vote on Keystone XL pipeline as an ‘act of war’ | Summit County Citizens Voice.)
From Wikipedia’s entry on the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie:
The Treaty of Fort Laramie (also called the Sioux Treaty of 1868) was an agreement between the United States and the Oglala, Miniconjou, and Brulé bands of Lakota people, Yanktonai Dakota, and Arapaho Nation signed on April 29, 1868 at Fort Laramie in the Wyoming Territory, guaranteeing to the Lakota ownership of the Black Hills, and further land and hunting rights in South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. The Powder River Country was to be henceforth closed to all whites. The treaty ended Red Cloud’s War.
In the treaty, the U.S. included all Ponca lands in the Great Sioux Reservation. Conflict between the Ponca and the Sioux/Lakota, who now claimed the land as their own by U.S. law, forced the U.S. to remove the Ponca from their own ancestral lands in Nebraska to poor land in Oklahoma.
The treaty includes an article intended to “ensure the civilization” of the Lakota, financial incentives for them to farm land and become competitive, and stipulations that minors should be provided with an “English education” at a “mission building.” To this end the U.S. government included in the treaty that white teachers, blacksmiths, a farmer, a miller, a carpenter, an engineer and a government agent should take up residence within the reservation.
Repeated violations of the otherwise exclusive rights to the land by gold prospectors led to the Black Hills War. Migrant workers seeking gold had crossed the reservation borders, in violation of the treaty. Indians had assaulted these gold prospectors, in violation of the treaty, and war ensued.
(click here to continue reading Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
–updated with a comment by Meteor Blades of Daily Kos
The splitting up of the Great Sioux Nation is a violation of the 1851 and 1868 treaties, something the Lakota have been battling since before Custer got his comeuppance. The pipeline crosses lots of the territory covered in those treaties:
Inside the blue line is the original 1868 Treaty land for the Sioux (the 1851 Treaty allocated somewhat more).
The Black Hills were taken in 1877, the same year Crazy Horse surrendered and was soon killed in captivity. 1889 and 1910 losses were due to allotments. You can see what happened: All those dark dots in the southern part of South Dakota are allotments still owned by individual Sioux. All the light spaces are land ceded as “surplus” after allotment, bought by the federal government from the tribes or sold off by individual Indians to non-Indians after the expiration of the period during which the land could not be sold.
It was just another of the land rip-offs. The General Allotment Act reduced Indian land from 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million acres by 1934 when allotment ended.
Don’t tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.
by Meteor Blades
(click here to continue reading Congress Commits an Act of War Against the Great Sioux Nation.)
Great, just great. I guess this is why the Koch Industry was so concerned about Chicago’s attempt to ban petcoke from being stored in the city.
Highly anticipated rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing in Illinois are to be unveiled Friday.
Once the rules go into effect, Illinois hopes to become the center of the next oil boom. Fracking, which involves injecting fluids and chemicals at high volumes to crack open shale rock and unleash oil and natural gas, could bring bring jobs to a struggling southern Illinois economy. Ilinois also is counting on tax revenue on extracted oil and gas to fatten state and county coffers.
A year ago a draft version of the proposed rules proved controversial, drawing about 30,000 comments, mostly from anti-fracking groups who sought to delay the law from taking effect.
Environmental groups claimed the proposed rules written by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources had undermined key provisions of state law dealing with containment of fracking liquids, fines for drillers who violated rules, and emergency situations.
(click here to continue reading Fracking rules to be unveiled Friday – Chicago Tribune.)
and to jog your memory a bit, from last spring:
We’ve had enough petcoke surprises lately in Chicago. Fortunately, the Illinois Pollution Control Board prevented another one last week.
The first surprises were mountains of petcoke — or petroleum coke — that grew as tall as five stories last summer near the Calumet River. The petcoke was generated by an Indiana refinery, and it was transported for storage to Chicago. People who live in the area said the powdery, black dust swirled off the mounds and coated their homes, along with any meals they were barbecuing outside.
In December, Chicago drafted new regulations governing the storage of petcoke, which is a refinery byproduct. Then, on Jan. 13, Gov. Pat Quinn announced his own emergency administrative rules. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency filed the rules late on Jan. 16, and comments were due by Jan 21 at noon. Because the intervening Monday was a holiday, that left just one full business day for research and comments.
Many businesses that have nothing to do with petcoke found some surprises in the rules that they thought would hurt their operations. Some environmentalists, while pleased something was being done, thought the rules didn’t go far enough.
(click here to continue reading For petcoke solutions, look to how state handles fracking – Chicago Sun-Times.)
Let’s rape and pillage our state’s environment so that a few can make profits. Whoo hoo! Earthquakes as a bonus!
Gee, Rahm, did you think that nobody would notice this? Not a good way to win re-election, environmentalists are motivated voters, with long memories…
Faced with public outrage about gritty black dust blowing through Chicago’s Southeast Side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel talked of forcing towering mounds of petroleum coke out of Chicago and outlawing new piles with costly regulations.
But the fine print of a zoning ordinance unveiled Tuesday by the Emanuel administration opens the door for greater use of the high-sulfur, high-carbon refinery byproduct in the city.
Under changes outlined at a hearing of the City Council’s powerful zoning committee, companies would be allowed to store and burn petroleum coke in Chicago if “consumed onsite as part of a manufacturing process.” The special exemption also would allow companies to burn stockpiles of coal.
KCBX Terminals, a company controlled by industrialists Charles and David Koch, already is defending a lawsuit filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan that accuses the company of violating air pollution laws at its facility off Burley Avenue between 108th and 111th streets. Another Madigan lawsuit urges a Cook County judge to cite KCBX for violating water quality and open dumping laws by failing to prevent petcoke and coal from washing into the Calumet River at its 100th Street storage terminal.
A separate state order required Beemsterboer Slag Co. to remove petcoke and coal from its 106th Street storage terminal.
KCBX has a contract to store petcoke generated by the BP refinery just over the Indiana border in Whiting. To process more heavy Canadian tar sands oil, BP recently completed an overhaul of the refinery that will more than triple its output of petcoke to 2.2 million tons a year – a figure Emanuel has frequently cited when vowing to crack down on the dusty piles.
“It’s unfortunate the city is undercutting the mayor’s very clear statements,” said Henry Henderson, a former Chicago environment commissioner who heads the Midwest office of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is a retreat.”
(click here to continue reading Chicago Tribune – Emanuel ordinance grants exemption for petcoke.)
I wonder if there were any Koch-Dollars involved? Sounds suspiciously like there was some back channels being worked here by somebody…
Yesterday, a hearing on Chicago’s proposed ordinance to ban new and expanded petroleum coke operations gave us a good example of why this town often deserves its international reputation for political shenanigans.
The City Council’s Zoning Committee had set a hearing to move on the ordinance that would significantly restrict transportation, disposal and use of petroleum coke in our communities. Based on weeks of discussions with the City authorities, and the stated goals of the Mayor, everyone thought they were coming to a hearing in the City Council’s zoning committee to weigh in on new rules on the handling and usage of the ashy oil refining waste (as well as coal) which has appeared in massive mounds on the Southeast Side.
But instead, John Pope, sponsor of the ordinance and Alderman of the 10th Ward where the piles reside, tried to pull a switcheroo.
But the Alderman’s new version eliminates the prohibition on petcoke and coal users. That means big facilities that burn the stuff, like cement manufacturers and dirty energy producers, are free to open and expand across many city districts.
Given recent maneuvering in the area, it is likely that he has a couple of users clearly in mind: a cement plant and the formerly aborted Leucadia coal gasification plant.
(click here to continue reading Chicago Petcoke: Alderman’s Shameful Switcheroo Undercuts His Neighbors, the Mayor and the Entire City | Henry Henderson.)
and this tidbit is troubling:
And it opens the door to expansion of the blight. While the oil refining waste has largely been seen along the banks of the Calumet River on the Southeast Side, it is important to remember that there are plenty of other potential destinations in town. In our testimony at the hearing, my colleague Meleah Geertsma noted that under current law, facilities in almost any of Chicago’s “Planned Manufacturing Districts” have the right to bring big piles of petcoke and coal. The City has 15 of these zones, which include places like the Clybourn Corridor, Goose Island, the Chicago/Halsted Corridor, Pilsen and West Pullman.
But now, after the recent passage of a bill that would allow for the construction of what could be the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, Wisconsin’s admirable history of environmental stewardship is under attack.
The mine, to be built by Gogebic Taconite (GTac), owned by the coal magnate Chris Cline, would be in the Penokee Hills, in the state’s far north — part of a vast, water-rich ecosystem that President John F. Kennedy described in 1963, in a speech he delivered in the area, as “a central and significant portion of the freshwater assets of this country.”
The $1.5 billion mine would initially be close to four miles long, up to a half-mile wide and nearly 1,000 feet deep, but it could be extended as long as 21 miles. In its footprint lie the headwaters of the Bad River, which flows into Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world and by far the cleanest of the Great Lakes. Six miles downstream from the site is the reservation of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, whose livelihood is threatened by the mine.
To facilitate the construction of the mine and the company’s promise of 700 long-term jobs, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation last year granting GTac astonishing latitude. The new law allows the company to fill in pristine streams and ponds with mine waste. It eliminates a public hearing that had been mandated before the issuing of a permit, which required the company to testify, under oath, that the project had complied with all environmental standards. It allows GTac to pay taxes solely on profit, not on the amount of ore removed, raising the possibility that the communities affected by the mine’s impact on the area’s roads and schools would receive only token compensation.
(click here to continue reading The Fight for Wisconsin’s Soul – NYTimes.com.)
and, as always, follow the money:
According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a campaign-finance watchdog, GTac executives and other mine supporters have donated a total of $15 million to Governor Walker and Republican legislators, outspending the mine’s opponents by more than 600 to 1.
If Governor Scott Walker does in fact run for President, this issue will not play well in the minds of most. Even many Republicans don’t want to turn our great country into a wasteland worse than Mordor. It’s hard to go hunting or fishing knee deep in mining slag and asbestos…
Special interests that back loosening mining regulations for a Florida company that wants to dig an open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin have contributed $15.6 million to the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Governor Scott Walker who are likely to approve mining permit changes in the coming months.
The Democracy Campaign review also found the campaign contributions made by mining deregulation interests swamped those of mining deregulation opponents – environmental groups – by a ratio of $610 to $1. Environmental groups which oppose the Republican mining proposal introduced in mid-January contributed only $25,544 to legislators between 2010 and June 2012 and to the governor between 2010 and April 23, 2012.
Support for a nearly identical GOP proposal last session to reduce groundwater, wetland, waste rock disposal and other environment laws for iron ore mining and impose deadlines on the state to review mine proposals so companies can get permits faster was led by manufacturing, construction, business, banking, transportation and four other special interests, according to state lobbying records.
This array of powerful special interests support mining deregulation because they will benefit from the short- and long-term construction and operation of Gogebic Taconite’s proposed mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Gogebic Taconite is a Wisconsin-based subsidiary of the Cline Group which controls large coal mining operations in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio.
Walker, who has campaigned around the state to gin up support for changing rules to attract mining projects, received $11.34 million from 2010 through April 23, 2012 from interests that support mining deregulation (Table 1) including $67,068 from the prospective mine’s owner, Christopher Cline, his employees and other mining industry executives. During the same period, Walker received only $650 from environmental groups.
(click here to continue reading Mine Backers Drill With Big Cash To Ease Regulations | Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.)
Jon Hilkevitch of the Chicago Tribune reports:
The Divvy bike-share service, less than two months old, surpassed the 150,000-trip mark Friday, according to CDOT. About 5,000 annual Divvy members are enrolled, at $75 each, and more than 37,000 24-hour passes have been sold, at $7 each.
More than 458,000 total miles have been logged on individual trips since the service was introduced June 28, and the trips have averaged roughly 18 minutes each in recent days as more docking stations have opened, according to city transportation data.
Also, the three-speed bikes painted “Chicago blue” have logged more than 11,000 miles a day in recent days this month, with some weekend days exceeding 25,000 miles, the data show, based on the start and end points for each trip.
The service, dubbed Divvy to reflect the divide-and-share nature of bike-sharing, is not designed or priced for users to hog the bikes on leisurely, hourslong trips. Customers are supposed to use the bikes for 30 minutes or less on each ride. Riders get unlimited trips lasting up to a half-hour; after that, overtime fees are charged.
While on the one hand calling the public response to the Divvy program “beyond expectations,” city officials have set a high bar for ultimate success.
(click here to continue reading Divvy bike-sharing program, almost 2 months old, getting in gear, data show – chicagotribune.com.)
I signed my company up for Divvy Bike membership about two weeks ago, wanting to wait until the opening night jitters were worked out, and have been using the bikes for short trips around my office. I’ve taken more than ten rides so far, experiencing only one incident of faulty station – but a Divvy Bikes employee was on hand and took my bike to a different location for me. Also once the station I was planning to use didn’t have any bikes in it, but the next station was less than 2 blocks away. One other minor issue I encountered was that the amount of force you have to use when docking a bike surprised me, and at first I couldn’t get the bike to dock, but eventually a fellow Divvy-rider did it for me. I returned to favor to another rider the next day.
I own a bike of my own, but having a Divvy bike membership encourages brief bike rides; times where I might have taken a cab, or walked, instead I’ll jump on a Divvy bike. Of course, it’s summer right now, and Chicago has been having a beautifully mild season, the real test will be in mid-January. I’d also like to be able to travel farther, this will be possible when more stations are installed. Currently only 160 out of a planned 400 are active, less than half.
Regardless, I’m happy to support the idea of more bikes in Chicago. More bikes on the road means less cars, in general, and also encourages the government to install more bike lanes, which encourages more bikers, and so on.
Merits further attention, especially if replicated in other states besides Georgia…
“The Tea Party has formed an unholy alliance with the left,” Debbie Dooley recalls a panicked member of Georgia’s big energy lobby lamenting. Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t deny the charges. In fact, she is set this Tuesday to celebrate the official launch of the Green Tea Coalition – the same “unholy alliance” of right and left grassroots that has big oil interests reeling.
“It’s an unholy alliance because they see it as a threat to them,” Dooley said, speaking ahead of the launch. “In the past, the elites on both the right and the left got away with it. On the right, they’d say, ‘This person’s on the left. Stay away from them,’ On the left, they’d say, ‘They’re radical, they’re the Tea Party. Stay away from them.’ “But we got through all that bull, got to know each other, and started working together,” she said.
(click here to continue reading Launch of Green Tea Coalition Drives a Wedge Through Georgia’s Tea Party.)
especially because the core truth is that groups like the Koch Brothers do not have the country’s best interest at heart, only in protecting their own financial positions. If they could manipulate working and middle class people into supporting laws that only benefit the 1%, then that is money well spent, for the 1%.
The danger was that conservatives – whose politics have traditionally aligned with the interests of corporate America – would take some of the ideas brewing in the teapot too far. Conservative Americans had begun to wholly embrace the idea that there was such a thing as “crony capitalism,” that certain powerful industries didn’t need to be subsidized for under-performing, or bailed out for failing, and that local and individual autonomy was more important than maintaining the profit structures of big industries.
Those ideas, taken to their logical conclusions, might have led to a conservative revolution that would have severely crippled the power of industries like Koch and Southern Company. The Koch plan, then, was to jump into the fray: a corporate entity hidden among the throngs of one of the largest political movements in decades. On the fertile ground of an emergent movement, Koch would sow their genetically modified seeds of ideology. The idea was to tweak the message of the Tea Party just enough to reroute the movement’s trajectory in such a way that, far from being the bad guys, industrialists could cast themselves as the victims and even allies of average Americans.
“We don’t need taxpayer funded government subsidies and renewable energy mandates,” AFP Georgia wrote in a statement on the Georgia solar plan. “The government has spent $14 billion since 2009 propping up renewable energy projects. They wouldn’t have to do that if the technology was more market ready.”
See? AFP is on the side of the people, standing up against big government subsidies for technology that may not even be ready for prime time. The fact that solar even requires government subsidies proves it isn’t ready, so they claim.
But just don’t expect AFP to apply the same standard to Koch-style industries. Between 1994 and 2009, U.S. oil and gas industries amassed nearly $450 billion in subsidies, compared to a relatively paltry $6 billion for renewable energy over the same period.
And don’t expect AFP to rail against Southern Company’s $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee for its new nuclear projects, either – despite its being the same type of loan granted to solar power company Solyndra, which AFP spent over $8 million to defame between 2011 to 2012.
A new thing for the media to fixate on…
The nation is heading toward the worst outbreak of West Nile disease in the 13 years that the virus has been on this continent, federal health authorities said Wednesday.
But it is still unclear where and how far cases will spread. Dallas declared an emergency last week, and West Nile deaths have been concentrated in Texas and a few nearby states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma, as well as South Dakota.
So far this year, there have been 1,118 cases and 41 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Lyle R. Petersen, director of the agency’s division of vector-borne diseases, said Wednesday in a telephone news conference.
“That’s the highest number of cases ever reported to the C.D.C. by the third week of August,” he added. “And cases are trending upward.”
Only about one infection in 150 becomes serious enough for the patient to need hospitalization — usually when the virus gets into the brain and spinal cord. But 10 percent of those hospitalized die, and other patients are left paralyzed, comatose or with serious mental problems. A recent study by doctors in Houston found kidney disease high among survivors.
There is no vaccine, and no drug that specifically targets the virus, so health authorities advise people to avoid getting bitten.
(click here to continue reading West Nile Outbreak Shaping Up as Worst Ever in U.S., Authorities Say – NYTimes.com.)
The numbers may be small, but death is pretty serious, especially since there is no vaccine for West Nile. Illinois is gearing up as well:
The mosquito responsible for the West Nile virus flourished during the summer’s record heat and drought. Now, officials are concerned about emerging signs that a widespread outbreak may be on the horizon in Illinois.
Updated figures from the state Department of Public Health show extremely high numbers of the Culex pipiens species have tested positive for the disease — 71 percent in DuPage County and nearly 60 percent in Cook, the health department reported.
Although the 27 cases of West Nile virus in Illinois don’t represent a particularly high number, experts start to get anxious when just 10 percent of samples of virus-carrying mosquitoes test positive.
The reason, said Linn Haramis, program manager of vector control for the health department, is that history suggests that the 10 percent infection rate is a strong indicator the percentage is going to accelerate rapidly over the summer.
The rate of Culex pipiens mosquitoes statewide that had the West Nile virus stood at 25 percent Tuesday, Haramis said. Last year, that percentage was 8 percent, he added.
(click here to continue reading West Nile: Banner year for West Nile – chicagotribune.com.)
and it appears to be a mostly unremarked side effect of global planet change:
Mosquito activity is highly weather-sensitive. Cooler temperatures and heavy rain reduce the number of Culex pipiens, experts said. Downpours can wash away larvae growing in places such as catch basins and gutters. That didn’t happen this summer.
But high temperatures allowed the virus to replicate quicker, building to dangerous levels inside the mosquito, which infect people through its saliva, experts said.
Even the warmer winter may have helped. The mild weather then and in the early spring, combined with the hot summer, might have fostered conditions favorable to spread the virus, according to CDC officials.
“It’s a banner year for West Nile,” said Richard Pollack, a public health entomologist with the Harvard School of Public Health. “Not such a good year for people.”
Cases usually flare in the summer because the illness is most often transmitted from infected birds to people by mosquitoes.
Wear long sleeve clothing when walking in dusk and evening, avoid pools of standing water, and make sure your last will and testament is current. What more can you do?
More on the global change aspect from Scientific American:
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there have been over 1100 reported cases of West Nile virus disease in the US this year, including 42 deaths. If these numbers seem high, they are – in fact, it’s the highest number of reported cases since West Nile was first detected in the US in 1999, and West Nile season has just begun. Given that the peak of West Nile epidemics generally occurs in mid August, and it takes a few weeks for people to fall ill, the CDC expects that number to rise dramatically. But why now?
Though the CDC doesn’t have an official response to that question, the director of the CDC’s Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Division said that ‘unusually warm weather’ may be to blame. So far, 2012 is the hottest year on record in the United States according to the National Climatic Data Center, with record-breaking temperatures and drought a national norm. It’s likely no coincidence that some of the states hit hardest by West Nile are also feeling the brunt of the heat. More than half of cases have been reported from Texas alone, where the scorching heat has left only 12% of the state drought-free. Fifteen heat records were broken in Texas just last week on August 13th.
The heat waves, droughts and other weather events are the direct effects of climate change say leading scientists. As NASA researcher James Hansen explained in a recent Washington Post editorial, “our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.” He says that the European heat wave of 2003, the Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year are all the repercussions of climate change. Confidently, he adds that “once the data are gathered in a few weeks’ time, it’s likely that the same will be true for the extremely hot summer the United States is suffering through right now.”
The fact that the worst US West Nile epidemic in history happens to be occurring during what will likely prove to be the hottest summer on record doesn’t surprise epidemiologists. They have been predicting the effects of climate change on West Nile for over a decade. If they’re right, the US is only headed for worse epidemics.
While the CDC is hesitant to blame this year’s West Nile outbreak on climate change directly, the science is clear. Record-breaking incidences of West Nile are strongly linked to global climate patterns and the direct effects of carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change isn’t just going to screw with the environment, it will continue to have devastating public health implications. In addition to better mosquito control and virus surveillance, we need to focus our efforts on reducing and reversing climate change if we want to protect our health and our well-being.
(click here to continue reading Is Climate Change To Blame For This Year’s West Nile Outbreak? | Science Sushi, Scientific American Blog Network.)
I moved to Chicago in 1994, and the heat-wave of 1995 surprised me. I was used to living in extreme heat in Austin, several of my cheap apartments didn’t have air conditioning. But Chicago was not culturally or politically prepared to deal with the heat of that summer. This year’s heat-wave was taken a lot more seriously by city officials, as Eric Klinenberg reports:
the most visible human drama of climate change is happening in cities. Cities are not merely the population centers where dense concentrations of people are trapped and exposed during dangerous weather events. They are also “heat islands,” whose asphalt, brick, concrete and steel attract the heat while pollution from automobiles, factories and air-conditioners traps it. City dwellers experience elevated heat at all hours, but the difference matters most at night, when the failure of high temperatures to fall deprives them of natural relief. For the most vulnerable people, these “high lows” can be the difference between life and death.
Americans began to take urban heat seriously after 1995, when a record-breaking heat wave — three days of triple-digit heat — baked Chicago. Ordinarily, heat waves fail to produce the kind of spectacular imagery we see in other disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods. Heat doesn’t generate much property damage, nor does it reveal its force to the camera or naked eye. Heat waves are invisible killers of old, poor and other mostly invisible people. Until the summer of 1995, medical examiners and media outlets often neglected to report heat-related deaths altogether.
But the great Chicago heat wave changed things. It caused so much suffering that at one point nearly half the city’s emergency rooms closed their doors to new patients. Hospitals were not the only institutions stretched beyond capacity by the heat. Streets buckled. Trains derailed. The power grid failed. Water pressure diminished. Ambulances were delayed.
There were “water wars” in poor neighborhoods, where city workers cracked down on residents who opened fire hydrants for relief. There were surreal scenes at City Hall, where members of the mayor’s staff declined to declare a heat emergency, forgot to implement their extreme heat plan and refused to bring in additional ambulances and paramedics.
And there was Mayor Richard M. Daley, telling reporters: “It’s hot. It’s very hot. But let’s not blow it out of proportion,” while the morgue ran out of bays and the medical examiner had to call in a fleet of refrigerated trucks to handle the load. When the temperatures finally broke, 739 Chicagoans had died as a result of the heat wave.
Chicago learned from the disaster, and today it is a national leader in planning for the next acute heat emergency. The city compiles a list of old, isolated and vulnerable residents, and public workers contact them when dangerous weather arrives. City officials and community organizations promote awareness and encourage residents to check in on one another. The local news media treat heat waves as true public health hazards. Everyone knows how perilous the new climate can be.
Unfortunately, Chicago keeps getting reminders. In the early July heat wave, despite its improved emergency response system, Chicago reported more heat deaths than any other city or state. And this week the Union of Concerned Scientists released “Heat in the Heartland,(PDF)” a study that reports an increased incidence of dangerous hot weather throughout the Midwest in the past 60 years, including elevated evening temperatures and more heat waves lasting three days or longer. Along with Chicago, the report singles out St. Louis, Detroit, Minneapolis and Cincinnati as being at risk, but also cites public health research predicting more heat waves in towns and cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast.
(click here to continue reading Is It Hot Enough for Ya? – NYTimes.com.)
Rising temperatures are not just a concern for the future. Dangerously hot weather is already occurring more frequently in the Midwest than it did 60 years ago.
The report, Heat in the Heartland: 60 Years of Warming in the Midwest, presents an original analysis of weather data for five major urban areas — Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis, and St. Louis — as well as five smaller nearby cities.
The results from the analysis are clear: Hot summer weather and heat waves have been increasing in cities in the nation’s heartland over the last six decades on average. The report documents this trend, explores its health implications, and looks at what the largest cities are doing to adapt to these changes and protect their residents.
High temperatures can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion, and deadly heat stroke. Very hot weather can also aggravate existing medical conditions such as diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and heart disease.
Urban populations, the elderly, children, and people with impaired health and limited mobility are particularly susceptible to heat-related illness and death.
Now if only someone could come up with a good (non-financial) reason for the Tea Party and other GOP factions to support a national policy dealing with climate change…
Good job by the Trib: doing actual journalism, getting results.
Since the Tribune published its “Playing With Fire” series, momentum has been building for stricter oversight of flame retardants and other toxic chemicals.
The newspaper’s investigation documented a deceptive campaign by industry that distorted science, created a phony consumer watchdog group to stoke the fear of fire and organized an association of top fire officials to advocate for greater use of flame retardants in furniture and electronics.
Promoted as lifesavers, flame retardants added to furniture cushions actually provide no meaningful protection from fires, according to federal researchers and independent scientists. Some of the most widely used chemicals are linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.
“Your series was an eye-opener,” said Joseph Erdman, legislative director for the New York Senate Committee on Environmental Conservation. “We hope other people around the state and nation read it.”
The committee has revived legislation targeting a chemical known as chlorinated tris, or TDCPP, that was voluntarily taken out of children’s pajamas more than three decades ago after studies found it could cause cancer. Recent tests have found that chlorinated tris now is commonly added to strollers, highchairs, rockers, diaper-changing pads and other baby products.
(click here to continue reading Momentum builds for stronger oversight of flame retardants – chicagotribune.com.)
Kudos to Tribune reporters Michael Hawthorne, Sam Roe, Patricia Callahan; keep up the pressure, and perhaps something good will come of this…
Any corporation that donates money to the anti-planet, anti-humanity hateful organization the Heartland Institute, is on my shite list. There is no excuse to support them.
Along with tobacco giants Altria and Reynolds America, and drug firms GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Eli Lilley, major corporations have given over $1.1m in the past two years to the institute, and are planning to give another $705,000 this year.
Some of the companies included on Heartland’s list of donors were surprising. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation, has vigorously promoted clean energy in a number of speeches, and his charitable foundation works on helping farmers in the developing world, who will be badly affected by climate change.
But Heartland claims in a fundraising document to have received $59,908 from Microsoft in 2011.
A spokeswoman for GSK said the $50,000 the company donated in the last two years was for a healthcare initiative. She could not comment on whether GSK would be working with Heartland in the future.
General Motors Foundation, which is committed to social responsibility, has also made modest donations to Heartland, contributing $15,000 in 2010 and 2011.
Diageo, the drinks company which owns Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker and Baileys, said its funding of Heartland was now under review. It gave $10,000 over the last two years, according to the leaked papers, and was projected to give another $10,000 this year.
(click here to continue reading Climate science attack machine took donations from major corporations | Environment | The Guardian.)
I don’t buy the excuse that some of what the Heartland Institute does is ok, and is worthy of corporate sponsorship. I wouldn’t excuse a crack dealer who happened to purchase neighborhood kids a pair of shoes either – the main business is still selling crack, just like the Heartland Institute’s main business is denying climate change.
Some other corporate sponsors I recognize, and now despise:
- Anheuser-Busch Companies
- Bayer Corporation
- Eli Lilly
- Farmers’ Insurance (Zurich)
- Marathon Petroleum
- Nationwide Insurance
- Nucor Corp.
- PepsiCo, Inc.
- State Farm
- Time Warner Cable
- and of course, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
I wonder why Maria Pappas is tied in so closely to the scum at the Heartland Insitute? I’ve voted for her in the past, but would have to reconsider that in the future. She’s probably about to switch parties in any case, and join the Tea Baggers.
Heartland also planned to spend $210,000 to help Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas tour the nation to speak about municipal debt, according to one document. Pappas lost to Barack Obama in the 2004 Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat. Pappas confirmed this in a phone interview, saying what Heartland was doing was exposing a “financial tsunami” of municipal debt.
(click here to continue reading INFLUENCE GAME: Leaks show group’s climate efforts.)
from the DeSmogBlog documents:
We [Heartland Institute] have tried in the past to host half-day (or shorter) programs in state capitals, with mixed success. We plan for eight such events in 2012, with some of them perhaps using Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas as a draw…
Maria Pappas, Cook County (IL) Treasurer, has discovered that municipalities and other taxing districts in Cook County are much deeper in debt than is widely understood, or even understood by elected officials in Cook County. She has documented a looming financial crisis, driven largely by employee pension and health care promises, that could have catastrophic results for residents and businesses in the county. She warns that other counties in the U.S. are probably facing similar disasters. She’s eager to speak out on the issue not only in Illinois, but nationwide.
Heartland has agreed to work with Treasurer Pappas’s staff and other allies on three things:
(a) a research and publishing effort that results in one or more Heartland Policy Studies that factcheck, report, and interpret the Treasurers’ findings,
(b) a national communications campaign consisting of distribution of the studies, news releases, op-eds, and other promotional activities, and
(c) a national speaking tour featuring Treasurer Pappas, perhaps with events in state capitals held in conjunction with our allies in a dozen or half-dozen states. We anticipate that this project will cost about $210,000. The anonymous donor has pledged $105,000 toward this project. We are circulating a proposal to potential donors.
We don’t yet know exactly what Ms. Pappas and her buddies were going to say, but odds are it won’t be a liberal position. In the same document (PDF), Heartland also plans to:
- circumvent the FDA and get drugs approved without study
- continue to spread lies about climate change, and fund scientists without morals to do so
- Operation Angry Beaver – support incumbent Governor Scott Walker in his bid to avoid recall in Wisconsin
- Push for more “Charter” schools
- Outreach to the 1 Percenters in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and other bankers, and libertarian-friendly financiers
- Get their anti-climate change agenda taught in K-12 school systems
- Push for more hydraulic Fracking
and others. None of these projects are for the betterment of humanity, just for enrichment of the few. Sad to note that a member of the Democratic Party and the current Cook County Treasurer is a fellow traveller with the Heartland Institute.
If you hadn’t heard of the faux-non profit Heartland Institute before today, they are dedicated to destroying our planet, and making money while doing so.
The blog DeSmogBlog has the actual documents, and says:
Internal Heartland Institute strategy and funding documents obtained by DeSmogBlog expose the heart of the climate denial machine – its current plans, many of its funders, and details that confirm what DeSmogBlog and others have reported for years. The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more.
We are releasing the entire trove of documents now to allow crowd-sourcing of the material. Here are a few quick highlights, stay tuned for much more.
The Guardian U.K. has been all over the story, publishing several articles already, including:
The inner workings of a libertarian thinktank working to discredit the established science on climate change have been exposed by a leak of confidential documents detailing its strategy and fundraising networks.
DeSmogBlog, which broke the story, said it had received the confidential documents from an “insider” at the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago. The blog monitors industry efforts to discredit climate science.
The scheme includes spending $100,000 for spreading the message in K-12 schools that “the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science”, the documents said.
(click here to continue reading Leak exposes how Heartland Institute works to undermine climate science | Environment | guardian.co.uk.)
The NYT reports:
Although best-known nationally for its attacks on climate science, Heartland styles itself as a libertarian organization with interests in a wide range of public-policy issues. The documents say that it expects to raise $7.7 million this year.
The documents raise questions about whether the group has undertaken partisan political activities, a potential violation of federal tax law governing nonprofit groups. For instance, the documents outline “Operation Angry Badger,” a plan to spend $612,000 to influence the outcome of recall elections and related fights this year in Wisconsin over the role of public-sector unions.
Tax lawyers said Wednesday that tax-exempt groups were allowed to undertake some types of lobbying and political education, but that because they are subsidized by taxpayers, they are prohibited from direct involvement in political campaigns.
The documents also show that the group has received money from some of the nation’s largest corporations, including several that have long favored action to combat climate change.
The documents typically say that those donations were earmarked for projects unrelated to climate change, like publishing right-leaning newsletters on drug and technology policy. Nonetheless, several of the companies hastened on Wednesday to disassociate themselves from the organization’s climate stance.
…A spokesman for Microsoft, another listed donor, said that the company believes that “climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate worldwide action.” The company is shown in the documents as having contributed $59,908 last year to a Heartland technology newsletter. But the Microsoft spokesman, Mark Murray, said the gift was not a cash contribution but rather the value of free software, which Microsoft gives to thousands of nonprofit groups.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Heartland documents was what they did not contain: evidence of contributions from the major publicly traded oil companies, long suspected by environmentalists of secretly financing efforts to undermine climate science.
But oil interests were nonetheless represented. The documents say that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation contributed $25,000 last year and was expected to contribute $200,000 this year. Mr. Koch is one of two brothers who have been prominent supporters of libertarian causes as well as other charitable endeavors. They control Koch Industries, one of the country’s largest private companies and a major oil refiner.
The documents suggest that Heartland has spent several million dollars in the past five years in its efforts to undermine climate science, much of that coming from a person referred to repeatedly in the documents as “the Anonymous Donor.” A guessing game erupted Wednesday about who that might be.
(click here to continue reading In Heartland Institute Leak, a Plan to Discredit Climate Teaching – NYTimes.com.)
David Atkins remembers that the Heartland Institute was behind the endless promotion of stolen emails:
Ummmm…wasn’t this the same organization that eagerly promoted the so-called “Climategate” non-story based on misleading, selectively quoted, stolen emails?
Karma is a glorious thing. The Heartland Institute is one of the most pernicious organizations in the country, crafting meticulously detailed booklets of ready-made policies and talking points made available for free to candidates of both parties for races as minor as State Assembly.
If you’re a free-market Objectivist Republican, there’s no need whatsoever to have any independent thoughts about even the smallest matter of public policy. The Heartland Institute will do it all for you, all while spending millions to influence school curricula toward more corporate-friendly rewriting of science and history.
And despite doing their best to ensure a hellish future and possible extinction for the human and millions of other species on this planet just to further enrich a few fat cats, Heartland is threatening to sue anyone who quotes their internal memos. Yeah, good luck with that, buckos. I suspect this is just the beginning.
(click here to continue reading Hullabaloo.)
I am curious to which corporations donate to this toxic organization. More on that later…
Hmm, 100 jobs versus the air quality for over 9,000,000 other people (and maybe more – I’m just counting the Chicagoland area). How is that even a debate? And land-use? Again, not really a debate except by debating societies…
While many environmentalists are cheering the closing, it raises new environmental and land-use challenges. It will also be an economic blow to Hammond, and to about 100 employees…Similar situations are playing out nationwide as aging coal plants close, including a Dominion plant in Salem, Mass.; six Midwestern and Eastern coal plants owned by FirstEnergy Corp.; and, potentially, the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago in coming years.
Lower natural gas prices from the increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas deposits have made it much less profitable to produce electricity from coal. This is especially true for facilities like State Line and the Chicago coal plants, which sell electricity on a highly competitive short-term wholesale market rather than through long-term contracts.
“These companies bought coal plants based on certain assumptions about the price of natural gas,” said William Boyd, a professor of energy law at the University of Colorado. “Shale gas turned their world upside down, and retrofitting old coal plants to meet new environmental regulations doesn’t make sense anymore.”
Some coal plants elsewhere in the country have been retrofitted to burn natural gas. But Dominion and Midwest Generation, which owns the Chicago plants, said converting would be too expensive.
Doug McFarlan, a spokesman for Midwest Generation, said, “We will continue to evaluate numerous factors — including the capital expenditures required to comply with environmental regulations and market conditions that impact our ability to recover costs — in making decisions about future investments in any of our power generating units.”
Dominion had planned to close State Line in 2014, but last summer the company said the plant would be shut down by March.
Environmental advocates have long said the sooner the better, since medical studies link emissions from coal plants to higher rates of asthma attacks, cardiac disease and premature death among surrounding residents.
(click here to continue reading Closing of State Line Power Station, on Illinois-Indiana Border, Is Expected to Leave Problems Behind – NYTimes.com.)