B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Coverage of environmental issues may include climate change, pollution, environmental degradation, and resource depletion etc.

Los Angeles, City of Water

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A Vacuous Dream
A Vacuous Dream, Manhattan Beach, CA.

Wild! So there is hope that our upcoming Water War won’t be as dire. Well, maybe the Water War will get delayed long enough for the rising ocean to make it moot anyway…

LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population. As a character in “Chinatown,” the noirish 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson that churns through the city’s water history, puts it, “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.”

Recently, however, Los Angeles has reduced its reliance on outside sources of water. It has become, of all things, a leader in sustainable water management, a pioneer in big-city use of cost-effective, environmentally beneficial water conservation, collection and reuse technologies. Some combination of these techniques is the most plausible path to survival for all the cities of the water-depleted West.

One sign of Los Angeles’s earnestness is its success in conservation: The city now consumes less water than it did in 1970, while its population has grown by more than a third, to 3.9 million people from 2.8 million. Two projects — a nine-acre water-treating wetland constructed in a former bus maintenance yard and a water management plan devised for a flood-prone district of 80,000 people — won awards this year from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. The city itself won one of the first water sustainability awards given by the U.S. Water Alliance, in 2011.

(click here to continue reading Los Angeles, City of Water – NYTimes.com.)

We're Going To Find Out
We’re Going To Find Out…

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Republican Attorneys General

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The Dark Doesn't Hide It
The Dark Doesn’t Hide It.

Here are real world consequences of removing all vestiges of restraint of corporate purchase of elected officials, only partially hidden corruption. We are getting the best politicians money can buy, in other words, with the obvious point being it isn’t our money, but corporate dollars that have all the buying power.

The letter to the Environmental Protection Agency from Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma carried a blunt accusation: Federal regulators were grossly overestimating the amount of air pollution caused by energy companies drilling new natural gas wells in his state.

But Mr. Pruitt left out one critical point. The three-page letter was written by lawyers for Devon Energy, one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies, and was delivered to him by Devon’s chief of lobbying.

The email exchange from October 2011, obtained through an open-records request, offers a hint of the unprecedented, secretive alliance that Mr. Pruitt and other Republican attorneys general have formed with some of the nation’s top energy producers to push back against the Obama regulatory agenda, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

Attorneys general in at least a dozen states are working with energy companies and other corporate interests, which in turn are providing them with record amounts of money for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Cheap for corporations, $16,000,000 isn’t very much when gutting environmental law is the end result. Remember your high school history books and how indignant the outrage was when discussing the Teapot Dome Scandal? Well, this is a gazillion or two times worse…

Unconventional Solutions
Unconventional Solutions…

Here’s a brief refresher of the Teapot Dome Scandal via Wikipedia:

In the early 20th century, the U.S. Navy largely converted from coal to oil fuel. To ensure the Navy would always have enough fuel available, several oil-producing areas were designated as Naval Oil Reserves by President Taft. In 1921, President Harding issued an executive order that transferred control of Teapot Dome Oil Field in Natrona County, Wyoming, and the Elk Hills and Buena Vista Oil Fields in Kern County, California from the Navy Department to the Department of the Interior. This was not implemented until 1922, when Interior Secretary Fall persuaded Navy Secretary Edwin C. Denby to transfer control.

Later in 1922, Albert Fall leased the oil production rights at Teapot Dome to Harry F. Sinclair of Mammoth Oil, a subsidiary of Sinclair Oil Corporation. He also leased the Elk Hills reserve to Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company. Both leases were issued without competitive bidding. This manner of leasing was legal under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.

The lease terms were very favorable to the oil companies, which secretly made Fall a rich man. Fall had received a no-interest loan from Doheny of $100,000 (about $1.32 million today) in November 1921. He received other gifts from Doheny and Sinclair totaling about $404,000 (about $5.34 million today). It was this money changing hands that was illegal, not the leases. Fall attempted to keep his actions secret, but the sudden improvement in his standard of living prompted speculation.

(click here to continue reading Teapot Dome scandal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

Discarded Cautions
Discarded Cautions.

Sound familiar? Except in this case, the public isn’t outraged, or even well informed that elected officials are getting paid off in such a brazen manner. 

Out of public view, corporate representatives and attorneys general are coordinating legal strategy and other efforts to fight federal regulations, according to a review of thousands of emails and court documents and dozens of interviews.

“When you use a public office, pretty shamelessly, to vouch for a private party with substantial financial interest without the disclosure of the true authorship, that is a dangerous practice,” said David B. Frohnmayer, a Republican who served a decade as attorney general in Oregon. “The puppeteer behind the stage is pulling strings, and you can’t see. I don’t like that. And when it is exposed, it makes you feel used.”

For Mr. Pruitt, the benefits have been clear. Lobbyists and company officials have been notably solicitous, helping him raise his profile as president for two years of the Republican Attorneys General Association, a post he used to help start what he and allies called the Rule of Law campaign, which was intended to push back against Washington.

(click here to continue reading Energy Firms in Secretive Alliance With Attorneys General – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 7th, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight Waiting To Kill Us By Exploding

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You Go Your Way And I'll Go Mine
You Go Your Way And I’ll Go Mine.

Big Government, saving you from an oil tanker blowing up in your neighborhood. What a travesty! Shut it down!

While the existence of this virtual pipeline is obvious to its neighbors—trains are visible from homes, the local commuter rail station, a park and a popular jogging trail—it is officially secret. Delaware Safety and Homeland Security officials contend that publicizing any information about the oil trains parked there would “reveal the State’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks,” according to a letter to The Wall Street Journal.

Finding the locations of oil-filled trains remains difficult, even in states that don’t consider the information top secret. There are no federal or state rules requiring public notice despite several fiery accidents involving oil trains, including one in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, that killed 47 people.

The desire for secrecy seems wrongheaded to some experts. “If you don’t share this information, how are people supposed to know what they are supposed to do when another Lac-Mégantic happens?” asked Denise Krepp, a consultant and former senior counsel to the congressional Homeland Security Committee.

She said more firefighting equipment and training was needed urgently. “We are not prepared,” she said.

In May, federal regulators ordered railroads to tell states about the counties traversed by trains carrying combustible crude oil from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota so local first responders could be notified.

The Journal submitted open-records requests to all 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia and received at least some information from all but 14: Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

Mapping data received from the disclosing states, the Journal found a lot of other cities in the same situation as Newark. On its way to refiners on the East Coast and along the Gulf of Mexico, oil often sits in tank cars in railroad yards outside Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Penn., and passes through Cleveland, Chicago, Albany, Seattle and a dozen other cities.

(click here to continue reading Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight – WSJ.)

I’ve been looking for a while to take a photo of one of these oil tankers in Illinois, but haven’t found one yet. Do you have a photo?

The Bakken crude contains a lot of butane, making it volatile but useful for mixing with heavier oils or as a refined byproduct, said refinery manager José Dominguez. On a recent afternoon, the refinery was running mostly Bakken oil, along with some diluted crude from Canadian oil sands and a ship’s worth of light sweet oil from Basra, Iraq.

When Norfolk Southern began routing crude trains through Newark, it didn’t notify the local emergency officials. Last March, a year after trains started turning up, Fire Chief A.J. Schall sat down with officials from the railroad and refinery to discuss the crude shipments.

“It shows a lack of communication,” he said. By the summer, Norfolk Southern and PBF paid for Mr. Schall and another local fire chief to fly to Colorado and attend a three-day class on crude-by-rail trains.

(click here to continue reading Oil Trains Hide in Plain Sight – WSJ.)

Ok, problem solved, just fly local officials to Colorado, and give them a cannabis stipend… 

Oh, and in case it isn’t clear, I’m a liberal who believes government is frequently the solution to our nation’s problems which puts me radically at odds to the flame throwers like Ted “Calgary” Cruz who want to shut the government down because they are opposed to some policy or other.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

December 4th, 2014 at 12:38 am

Drought-hit Sao Paulo Has Sixty Days Of Water Left

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What Have We Done Wrong?
What Have We Done Wrong?

Wow, that’s crazy! Brazil is suffering through its worse drought in 80 years, but politics has impeded practical action being taken. Sound familiar? When are the water wars going to start getting violent in the US? Ten years? Five years? Twenty years?  

São Paulo, Brazil’s drought-hit megacity of 20 million, has about two months of guaranteed water supply remaining as it taps into the second of three emergency reserves, officials say.

The city began using its second so-called “technical reserve” 10 days ago to prevent a water crisis after reservoirs reached critically low levels last month.

This is the first time the state has resorted to using the reserves, experts say.

“If we take into account the same pattern of water extraction and rainfall that we’ve seen so far this month – and it’s been raining less than half of the average – we can say the (reserve) will last up to 60 days,” said Marussia Whately, a water resources specialist at environmental NGO Instituto Socioambiental.

But an expected increase in water usage during the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s holidays could easily reduce the time the reserve will last, she added.

After that period, there is no certainty over the water supply available to Brazil’s wealthiest city and financial center, Whately said.

A presidential election in October, which pitted the governing Workers Party (PT) against the opposition Social Democracy Party (PSDB), led São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin of the PSDB to delay taking action on the water shortage – such as ordering mandatory rationing – for fear of losing votes during his reelection campaign, experts say.


(click here to continue reading Drought-hit Sao Paulo may ‘get water from mud’: TRFN | Reuters.)

I’ve been watching the planet’s upcoming water crisis for many years, even before this blog existed, and other than desalinization becoming cheaper, or the vast oil/gas pipeline network being repurposed to carry water, there haven’t been many solutions proferred.  The next century will be interesting, in the sense of the (pseudo) Chinese proverb, “May You  Live In Interesting Times1

Looking Down Katie's Well
Looking Down Katie’s Well.

Dom Phillips writes in the Washington Post:

But critics say the state government, which controls the water company, played down the crisis because of October’s elections, in which the state’s governor, Geraldo Alckmin, was reelected. Critics say SABESP has failed to keep the population properly informed and to introduce enough effective measures to reduce consumption.

“It is not just the lack of water, which is critical, it is also not knowing how to manage the crisis,” said Carlos de Oliveira of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute in São Paulo. The institute only recently received key maps outlining the worst-hit areas — but they did not feature streets, just gradients. “Instead of supplying information, SABESP blames the consumer,” he said.

The water company said there is no rationing or rotating of the water supply — just nightly reductions in pressure to cut losses. Nobody believes it.

“There is rationing,” said Paulo Santos, manager of the elegant Condomínio Louvre building in São Paulo’s center, which has 320 apartments and 45 shops. Water is cut off most nights, starting about 10 p.m., Santos said. He maintains supply by keeping a 12,000-gallon tank full and is installing tanks to capture rainfall on a roof. “The residents are worried. They keep asking about the water,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)

Can You Show Me A Dream That's Better Than Mine?
Can You Show Me A Dream That’s Better Than Mine?

And more details from Bloomberg:

Brazil’s Jaguari reservoir has fallen to its lowest level ever, laying bare measurement posts that jut from exposed earth like a line of dominoes. The nation’s two biggest cities are fighting for what little water is left.

Sao Paulo state leaders want to tap Jaguari, which feeds Rio de Janeiro’s main source. Rio state officials say they shouldn’t suffer for others’ mismanagement. Supreme Court judges have summoned the parties to Brasilia for a mediation session this week.

The standoff in a nation with more water resources than any other country in the world portends further conflicts as the planet grows increasingly urban. One in three of the world’s 100 biggest cities is under water stress, according to The Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based nonprofit.

“It’s unusual in that it’s two very large cities facing what could be a new, permanent conflict over the allocation of water,” said Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a research organization in Oakland, California. “It’s a wake-up call that even places we think of as water-rich have to learn to do a better job of managing what’s ultimately a scarce resource. Nature doesn’t always cooperate with us.”

While Rio has so far remained mostly unaffected by the country’s worst drought in eight decades, that’s not the case for its neighbor to the south. More than half the Paulistas in a Datafolha poll last month said they had been without water at least once in the previous 30 days.

(click here to continue reading Water War Amid Brazil Drought Leads to Fight Over Puddles – Bloomberg.)

As The Evening Sky Grew Dark
As The Evening Sky Grew Dark…

Man-made destruction is at least partly to blame, of course

Antonio Nobre, a researcher at Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research and its National Institute for Amazonian Research, wrote in an e-mail that deforestation might be connected to the drought.

In October, Nobre published a scientific assessment report, which argued that clear-cutting has altered the Amazon forest’s climate — as evidenced by droughts in 2005 and 2010. The forest functions as a “biotic pump,” it said, channeling moisture down to São Paulo via “aerial rivers” that bounce off the Andes wall.

(click here to continue reading Taps run dry in São Paulo drought, but water company barely shrugs – The Washington Post.)

  1. The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁为太平犬,莫做乱世人” (níng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luànshì rén) which conveys the sense that it is “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man in times of war.” []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 30th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Republicans As Party Of Pollution

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West Wind Blowing Ill - Redux
West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux

Funny to think just a few decades ago, Republicans were, for the most part, interested in breathing non-polluted air, fishing in non-polluted streams, and so on. Contrast that to the current Republicans who would like nothing better than to kill the planet tomorrow in order to wring profits from Earth today…

Of course, polluters will defend their right to pollute, but why can they count on Republican support? When and why did the Republican Party become the party of pollution?

For it wasn’t always thus. The Clean Air Act of 1970, the legal basis for the Obama administration’s environmental actions, passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 73 to 0, and was signed into law by Richard Nixon. (I’ve heard veterans of the E.P.A. describe the Nixon years as a golden age.) A major amendment of the law, which among other things made possible the cap-and-trade system that limits acid rain, was signed in 1990 by former President George H.W. Bush.

But that was then. Today’s Republican Party is putting a conspiracy theorist who views climate science as a “gigantic hoax” in charge of the Senate’s environment committee. And this isn’t an isolated case. Pollution has become a deeply divisive partisan issue.

And the reason pollution has become partisan is that Republicans have moved right. A generation ago, it turns out, environment wasn’t a partisan issue: according to Pew Research, in 1992 an overwhelming majority in both parties favored stricter laws and regulation. Since then, Democratic views haven’t changed, but Republican support for environmental protection has collapsed.

(click here to continue reading Pollution and Politics – NYTimes.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a long-delayed environmental regulation to curb emissions of ozone, a smog-causing pollutant linked to asthma, heart disease and premature death.

The sweeping regulation, which are aimed at smog caused by power plants and factories across the country, particularly in the Midwest, is the latest in a series of Environmental Protection Agency controls on air pollution that wafts from smokestacks and tailpipes. Such regulations, released under the authority of the Clean Air Act, have become a hallmark of President Obama’s administration.

Environmentalists and public health advocates have praised the E.P.A. rules as a powerful environmental legacy. Republicans, manufacturers and the fossil fuel industry have sharply criticized them as an example of costly government overreach. The National Association of Manufacturers has called the proposal “the most expensive regulation ever.”

(click here to continue reading E.P.A. Ozone Rules Divide Industry and Environmentalists – NYTimes.com.)

Paul Krugman thinks the shift to become the Party of Pollution has occurred mostly because the GOP is the proud party of the 1%.

And environmental protection is, in part, a class issue, even if we don’t usually think of it that way. Everyone breathes the same air, so the benefits of pollution control are more or less evenly spread across the population. But ownership of, say, stock in coal companies is concentrated in a few, wealthy hands. Even if the costs of pollution control are passed on in the form of higher prices, the rich are different from you and me. They spend a lot more money, and, therefore, bear a higher share of the costs.

In the case of the new ozone plan, the E.P.A.’s analysis suggests that, for the average American, the benefits would be more than twice the costs. But that doesn’t necessarily matter to the nonaverage American driving one party’s priorities. On ozone, as with almost everything these days, it’s all about inequality.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 28th, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with ,

For the Monarch Butterfly, a Long Road Back

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Frostpocket Monarch Butterfly
Frostpocket Monarch Butterfly

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.)

Green-flowered Milkweed in Yurtistan
Green-flowered Milkweed in Yurtistan

Without Warning
Without Warning

Swarming Horde
Swarming Horde

Written by Seth Anderson

November 23rd, 2014 at 11:54 am

Posted in environment,science

Tagged with ,

House Passes Bill That Makes It Harder For Scientists To Advise The EPA

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 Fragile Handle With Care

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.)

Meagre Results for Lost Souls
Meagre Results for Lost Souls

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.)

So Easily Misunderstood
So Easily Misunderstood

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.)

I Know Deep Down You Are Not To Blame
I Know Deep Down You Are Not To Blame

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…1

  1. I’m being sarcastic, in case this is not obvious. You cannot see my smirk after all []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 20th, 2014 at 10:37 am

Rosebud Sioux Tribe Calls Keystone XL Vote An Act Of War

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Skies of Much Oblige
Skies of Much Oblige

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.)

Moving in Circles - Velvia 100F
Moving in Circles – Velvia 100F

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.)

Dreams of the Lattice Work
Dreams of the Lattice Work

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[1] 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.)


Sioux Reservation map

Sioux Reservation map

–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.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 18th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Fracking rules to be unveiled for Illinois

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Motion is Life
Motion is Life

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!

Written by Seth Anderson

August 28th, 2014 at 8:22 am

Emanuel ordinance grants exemption for petcoke

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Mayor Emanuel
Mayor Emanuel

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.)

Presidential Towers with a Benjamin
Presidential Towers with a Benjamin

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.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 3rd, 2014 at 4:59 am

Penokee Hills, Bad River to Be Destroyed By Scott Walker and His Team of Trolls

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Watershed Polapan Blue
Watershed Polapan Blue

Wisconsin voters, here is your reward for electing Scott Walker: the upcoming destruction of Penokee Hills and the Bad River. Gee, thanks…

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.

Your tears are wasted
Your tears are wasted

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.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 31st, 2014 at 8:42 am

Divvy Bike-sharing Program Off To A Good Start

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Yayyy, got my DivvyBikes key today
Yayyy, got my DivvyBikes key today

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.)

You Always Have Options
You Always Have Options

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. 

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2013 at 9:16 am

Launch of Green Tea Coalition Drives a Wedge Through Georgia’s Tea Party

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Morning profits
Morning profits

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.)

Confessions I See Through To the End
Confessions I See Through To the End

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.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 13th, 2013 at 9:36 am

West Nile Outbreak Shaping Up as Worst Ever in US

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Couldn't Get Ahead
Couldn’t Get Ahead

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.)

But What Shall We?
But What Shall We?

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.

T Drummond - Discarded
T Drummond – Discarded

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?

Scatter while ye may
Scatter while ye may

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.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 23rd, 2012 at 9:12 am

Climate Change and Cities

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99 in the Shade
99 in the Shade

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.)

Help Me Make It Through The Night
Help Me Make It Through The Night

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.

(click here to continue reading Heat in the Heartland: The Growing Health Risks of Heat Waves and Hot Summer Weather in the Midwest (2012) | Union of Concerned Scientists.)

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…

Written by Seth Anderson

August 5th, 2012 at 8:21 am