B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘EPA’ tag

America’s Future Is A Future of Failing Infrastructure

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Like An Approaching Train
Like An Approaching Train…

America needs the political willpower to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and soon. Tax cuts for the wealthy don’t help when you need to replace lead pipes serving drinking water, nor do tax breaks for wealthy corporations help rebuild bridges about to collapse.

The L-pocalypse is coming, the early effects of the L-pocalypse is here. The New York City subway train is the most direct route between Brooklyn and Manhattan, servicing some 300,000 people every day. News recently leaked that the city’s transit authority, the MTA, is considering shutting the train down as early as 2017 for between one and three years to repair floodwater damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. That prospect understandably has many of those who live, work, or own businesses in north Brooklyn quite upset; Thursday’s meeting of the “L Train Coalition” at Brooklyn Bowl made clear that the dialogue between concerned citizens, elected leaders, and the MTA is going to be contentious, at best.

The upcoming plight of a gentrified neighborhood in New York City is mainly a local story, sure, but as infrastructure crumbles around the United States, pollution worsens, and as climate change brings us ever-increasing and severe natural disasters, cities around the country are going to be faced with very expensive problems for which there are no good solutions.

Surely, similar town hall meetings are playing out around the country, where residents are upset that, through a combination of underfunding, tax cuts, climate change, and simple aging, services that are taken for granted such as functioning roads, subway systems, and lead-free drinking water are no longer a given.

(click here to continue reading Williamsburg’s Angry Town Hall Meetings Are the Future of Failing Infrastructure | Motherboard.)

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky
A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

and in microcosm: the water infrastructure of Flint, MI:

Poor political decisions caused the crisis, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if the lead pipes weren’t there to begin with. The current solution is a stopgap—spiking the water supply with an anticorrosive chemical. But if the powers that be want to eliminate the risk completely, they will ultimately have to replace all the lead plumbing. A September estimate, only recently released by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, puts the cost of replacing all the lead pipes in Flint at $60 million. And the project will take 15 years.

The basic challenge: dig up several thousand miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies. Oh, for Pete’s sake. People can only take bottled water baths for so long. “I don’t understand, are they only going to fix four pipes a day?” says Harold Harrington, business manager of Flint’s plumber’s union, the United Association Local 370. He says with the right kind of investment, the city—or state, or whoever ends up taking responsibility—could move a lot faster.

Most of the corroded pipes in Flint—20,000 to 25,000 in total—are what is known as service lines. These are one inch in diameter, and connect homes to the larger, main pipes running under the middles of streets. (The mains are cast iron.) Because Flint is in Michigan, and Michigan is a very cold place, the service lines have to be buried about three and a half feet deep, below the frost line. “But most of the main pipes are between five to seven feet deep, so the service lines are at a similar depth,” says Martin Kaufman, a geographer at the University of Michigan-Flint. So that’s the basic challenge: dig up several hundred miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies.

Before calling in the backhoes, somebody needs to figure out where all those pipes are buried. Not just which houses they’re in, either. Remember, the pipes are an inch wide, and buried under roads, sidewalks, and front lawns, beneath lattices of cables, fiber optic wires, and gas lines. Digging in the wrong place would be both dangerous and expensive. Kaufman is one of those in charge of figuring out where all the lead pipes are buried, but the pipelayers of yore didn’t do him many favors. “The recordkeeping of the city is not very good,” he says. “They kept information on three by five index cards, a lot of which are smeared.” The only definite way to check if a pipe is lead or not is to scrape the pipe’s interior as it comes into the house. “If the residue is gray and nonmagnetic, it is lead,” he says.

Replacing a typical service line takes three people. “You need an operator to run the equipment, one guy hand digging to make sure you don’t get into any other utilities, and another guy getting the floor busted out in the basement,” says Harrington. As long as they don’t run into any problems, the whole job should take the team about half a day. Harrington estimates that he could reasonably call in about 20 such teams to work full time until the job is done. Assuming the rate is forty pipes a day, roughly 249 days a year (nights and weekends, y’all), the Flint plumber’s militia could bang the job out in just over two years.

Harrington says digging up and replacing a forty foot length of lead pipe costs around $3,000. This does not take into account externalities like repaving streets and sidewalks, fixing any damage done to the home, and resodding lawns. Multiply $3,000 by 20,000 pipes and you get $60 million dollars—which suggests that the figure quoted in Michigan governor Snyder’s email is probably a lowball.

(click here to continue reading Here’s How Hard It Will Be to Unpoison Flint’s Water | WIRED.)

Water Pumping Station
Water Pumping Station

How many communities in America need new water lines? Nobody is quite sure, but it is a lot. 

It’s a problem that’s much bigger than Flint: there are millions of lead pipes all across America, putting children at risk of stunted growth, brain damage and a lifetime of diminished potential. Just this week, residents of Sebring, a town of 8,000 in rural Ohio, were told not to touch their tap water out of lead fears similar to Flint’s.

“This is a situation that has the potential to occur in however many places around the country there are lead pipes,” Jerry Paulson, emeritus professor of pediatrics and environmental health at George Washington University, said in an interview. “Unless and until those pipes are removed, those communities are at some degree of risk.”

Roughly 10 million American homes and buildings receive water from service lines that are at least partially lead, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Service lines are the pipes connecting water mains to people’s houses. Lead ones are mostly found in the Midwest and Northeast.

Despite the life-altering consequences of lead poisoning, there is no national plan to get rid of those pipes. A top reason for continuing to use lead service lines instead of immediately digging them up is that utilities can treat water so it forms a coating on the interior of the pipes — a corrosion barrier that helps prevent lead particles from dislodging and traveling to your faucet. But if the water chemistry changes, the corrosion controls can fail. 

(click here to continue reading Lots Of Cities Have The Same Lead Pipes That Poisoned Flint.)

What Infrastructure Crisis?
What Infrastructure Crisis?

In the old, can-do America, both political parties would agree that fixing dilapidated infrastructure would be a good national goal, and would seek consensus on how to ramp up the work force and financing for the project. In the sad, tired America of the 21st C.E., seemingly only Bernie Sanders even brings the topic up. Consider all the good paying jobs, in communities all around the country, that would benefit from fixing roads, bridges, sewer lines, power grids, water lines, bullet trains, and so on and so forth. Why is it a partisan struggle to even discuss the future? Sure, we are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, or even more, but so what? Do Wall Street corporations and the oil industry really need more tax breaks to remain in business? 

Written by Seth Anderson

January 29th, 2016 at 7:18 pm

Posted in government

Tagged with , ,

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

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 ,

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

Footnotes:
  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

West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux was uploaded to Flickr

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another view of the now defunct Fisk Generating Plant spewing mercury and what-not over our fair city…

embiggen by clicking
http://flic.kr/p/nHbMFp

I took West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux on January 14, 2012 at 05:44PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on June 16, 2014 at 02:59PM

Written by eggplant

June 17th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

A Crusade Against Toxic Couches

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Can't See the Couch For the Forest
Can’t See the Couch For the Forest

Yes, your couch, and chairs, and bed, and so on, is probably contributing to your mortality, and the ill health of your family and friends as well. The sad part is that the EPA is so toothless it cannot stop this travesty from happening. Occasionally, the EPA can regulate some toxic chemical, after enough people die from it, but never before.

Kudos to Dr. Arlene Blum for her diligence bringing the topic to our attention. Now the question is, what are we going to do about it? 

Heather Stapleton, a Duke University chemist who conducted many of the best-known studies of flame retardants, notes that foam is full of air. “So every time somebody sits on it,” she says, “all the air that’s in the foam gets expelled into the environment.” Studies have found that young children, who often play on the floor and put toys in their mouths, can have three times the levels of flame retardants in their blood as their parents. Flame retardants can also pass from mother to child through the placenta and through breast milk.

The effects of that exposure may be hard to detect in individual children, but scientists can see them when they look across the population. Researchers from the Center for Children’s Environmental Health, at Columbia University, measured a class of flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, in the umbilical-cord blood of 210 New York women and then followed their children’s neurological development over time. They found that those with the highest levels of prenatal exposure to flame retardants scored an average of five points lower on I.Q. tests than the children with lower exposures, an impact similar to the effect of lead exposure in early life. “If you’re a kid who is at the low end of the I.Q. spectrum, five points can make the difference between being in a special-ed class or being able to graduate from high school,” says Julie Herbstman, the study’s author.

There are many flame retardants in use, the components of which are often closely held trade secrets. Some of the older ones, like the PBDEs, have been the subject of thousands of studies and have since been taken off the market (although many of us still have them in our furniture). Newer ones like Chemtura’s Firemaster 550 are just starting to be analyzed, even though it is now one of the most commonly used flame retardants in furniture.

Logic would suggest that any new chemical used in consumer products be demonstrably safer than a compound it replaces, particularly one taken off the market for reasons related to human health. But of the 84,000 industrial chemicals registered for use in the United States, only about 200 have been evaluated for human safety by the Environmental Protection Agency. That’s because industrial chemicals are presumed safe unless proved otherwise, under the 1976 federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

When evidence begins to mount that a chemical endangers human health, manufacturers tend to withdraw it from the market and replace it with something whose effects — and often its ingredients — are unknown. The makeup of the flame retardant Firemaster 550, for instance, is considered a proprietary trade secret. At a recent conference, Stapleton discussed a small, unpublished study in which she fed female rats low doses of Firemaster 550. The exposed mothers’ offspring gained more weight, demonstrated more anxiety, hit puberty earlier and had abnormal reproductive cycles when compared with unexposed offspring — all signs that the chemical disrupts the endocrine system.

(click here to continue reading Arlene Blum’s Crusade Against Toxic Couches – NYTimes.com.)

the sad thing is: the fire retardant doesn’t even really help in a real-world fire:

That, after all, is the reason TB 117 exists — to keep people from dying when their couch catches on fire. “Deaths caused by furniture fires dropped from 1,400 in 1980 to 600 in 2004; a 57 percent reduction,” Chemtura wrote in response to my questions.

Three years ago, Blum contacted Babrauskas1 and invited him to attend a keynote address she was giving at a scientific meeting in Seattle. Afterward, they went on a hike. By the time the day was over, he had become her most potent ally in the battle against TB 117. It turned out that Babrauskas felt his study results had been distorted. He used a lot of flame retardants, he says, far more than anyone would ever put in a piece of furniture sold to consumers. “What I did not realize would happen is that the industry would take that data and try to misapply it to fire retardants in general,” he says.

In Babrauskas’s view, TB 117 is ineffective in preventing fires. The problem, he argues, is that the standard is based on applying a small flame to a bare piece of foam — a situation unlikely to happen in real life. “If you take a cigarette lighter and put it on a chair,” he says, “there’s no naked foam visible on that chair unless you live in a horrendous pigsty where people have torn apart their furniture.” In real life, before the flame gets to the foam, it has to ignite the fabric. Once the fabric catches fire, it becomes a sheet of flame that can easily overwhelm the fire-suppression properties of treated foam. In tests, TB 117 compliant chairs catch fire just as easily as ones that aren’t compliant — and they burn just as hot. “This is not speculation,” he says. “There were two series of tests that prove what I’m saying is correct.”

Before Blum met Babrauskas, the conventional wisdom was that the clash over flame retardants was a conflict between two competing public interests — the need to protect people from furniture fires and the need to protect them from toxic chemicals. But the more Blum studied the safety benefits of flame retardants, the more elusive their benefits seemed to be.

and the lobbyists for the chemical industries took a page from the tobacco companies, and dug in for a long battle against consumers, and health in the name of profits:

California Senate Bill 147, which would have directed the Bureau of Home Furnishings to develop fire-safety standards for furniture that does not require flame retardants, something along the lines of a yet-to-be-adopted federal standard developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that tests whether furniture ignites when exposed to a smoldering cigarette. (Focusing on the entire piece of furniture, rather than the foam, allows manufacturers to use nonchemical solutions like barriers and less-flammable fabrics.) The bill had what seemed like a bulletproof array of supporters — dozens of organizations representing health officers, firefighters, furniture makers and environmental groups. Only three people spoke against it; all three had been compensated by Citizens for Fire Safety. One witness was David Heimbach, a burn doctor at the University of Washington who told a moving story about a 7-week-old baby girl he treated the year before. The baby’s mother had placed a candle in her crib, he said, and the candle fell over, igniting a pillow.

“She ultimately died after about three weeks of pain and misery in the hospital,” he told the senators. He asked them to do “anything to stop little children from being burned.”

But it seems there was no such baby, no such candle and no such pillow. Reporters working for The Chicago Tribune, which published a four-part investigation of the flame-retardant industry in May, could find no record of any infant who matched Heimbach’s description. Heimbach’s lawyer, Deborah Drooz, says that he changed the details of the story to protect patient identity. (The Tribune reporters did find a baby that died in a fire caused by an overloaded electrical outlet — circumstances that have little to do with flame retardants.) In the end, eight of the nine committee members voted against the bill. Those eight had received a total of $105,500 from chemical companies since 2007.

(click here to continue reading Arlene Blum’s Crusade Against Toxic Couches – NYTimes.com.)

Any Questions?
Any Questions?

Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this summer:

The world’s leading manufacturers of flame retardants faced scathing criticism Tuesday from U.S. senators angered by what they called the industry’s misuse of science, misleading testimony and creation of a phony consumer group that stoked the public’s fear of house fires.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, pointedly asked one chemical company official: “Don’t you owe people an apology?”

The Tribune series, published in May, revealed how the tobacco and chemical industries engaged in a deceptive, decades-long campaign to promote the use of flame-retardant chemicals in household furniture, electronics, baby products and other goods.

Those efforts have helped load American homes with pounds of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility. A typical American baby is born with the highest recorded concentrations of flame retardants among infants in the world.

(click here to continue reading Flame retardants: Chemical companies face Senate criticism over flame retardants – Chicago Tribune.)

scathing criticism, and yet nothing substantive has happened yet.

“Generations of Americans have been asked to tolerate exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in their furniture in the name of fire safety,” Senator Dick Durbin said when he led a hearing on the chemicals in July. At the same hearing, James J. Jones, an administrator with the E.P.A., cited flame retardants as “a clear illustration” of all that is wrong with the Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law that governs the use of chemicals. Several states, including New York, have proposed bans on chlorinated Tris. (So far unsuccessfully, for the most part.)

Abandon All Chairs Ye Who Enter
Abandon All Chairs Ye Who Enter

Patricia Callahan and Sam Roe reported even earlier:

Dr. Heimbach’s passionate testimony about the baby’s death made the long-term health concerns about flame retardants voiced by doctors, environmentalists and even firefighters sound abstract and petty.

But there was a problem with his testimony: It wasn’t true.

Records show there was no dangerous pillow or candle fire. The baby he described didn’t exist.

Neither did the 9-week-old patient who Heimbach told California legislators died in a candle fire in 2009. Nor did the 6-week-old patient who he told Alaska lawmakers was fatally burned in her crib in 2010.

Heimbach is not just a prominent burn doctor. He is a star witness for the manufacturers of flame retardants.

His testimony, the Tribune found, is part of a decades-long campaign of deception that has loaded the furniture and electronics in American homes with pounds of toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.

The tactics started with Big Tobacco, which wanted to shift focus away from cigarettes as the cause of fire deaths, and continued as chemical companies worked to preserve a lucrative market for their products, according to a Tribune review of thousands of government, scientific and internal industry documents.

(click here to continue reading Chemical manufacturers rely on fear to push flame retardant furniture standards – chicagotribune.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. fire-safety scientist named Vytenis Babrauskas, who is considered a leading authority on furniture flammability []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 9th, 2012 at 10:40 am

Posted in government,health,science

Tagged with ,

EPA Regulations Will Create Jobs!

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Homage to George L. Kelling

Homage to George L. Kelling

Speaking of green jobs, and of the moronic statement that EPA regulations will “cost jobs” that is the GOP mantra so compelling even Obama chants it in unison with the Koch Brothers and their Republican Party employees, Paul Krugman writes:

As some of us keep trying to point out, the United States is in a liquidity trap: private spending is inadequate to achieve full employment, and with short-term interest rates close to zero, conventional monetary policy is exhausted.

This puts us in a world of topsy-turvy, in which many of the usual rules of economics cease to hold. Thrift leads to lower investment; wage cuts reduce employment; even higher productivity can be a bad thing. And the broken windows fallacy ceases to be a fallacy: something that forces firms to replace capital, even if that something seemingly makes them poorer, can stimulate spending and raise employment. Indeed, in the absence of effective policy, that’s how recovery eventually happens: as Keynes put it, a slump goes on until “the shortage of capital through use, decay and obsolescence” gets firms spending again to replace their plant and equipment.

And now you can see why tighter ozone regulation would actually have created jobs: it would have forced firms to spend on upgrading or replacing equipment, helping to boost demand. Yes, it would have cost money — but that’s the point! And with corporations sitting on lots of idle cash, the money spent would not, to any significant extent, come at the expense of other investment.

More broadly, if you’re going to do environmental investments — things that are worth doing even in flush times — it’s hard to think of a better time to do them than when the resources needed to make those investments would otherwise have been idle.

(click here to continue reading Broken Windows, Ozone, and Jobs – NYTimes.com.)

Seems so obvious to me, and others, that I wonder what else is going on. Perhaps the rumors of Koch Brothers investing in Obama’s 2012 campaign are true, or maybe they’ve told him they’ll sit on the sideline instead of investing billions to defeat Obama. Or else Obama is just getting horrible, horrible advice from his staff…

Written by Seth Anderson

September 5th, 2011 at 8:42 am

Posted in environment,politics

Tagged with , ,

Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Change Bush Pollution Policy

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Stack for Fisk Generating Station
Stack for Fisk Generating Station

Such a cynical strategy: screw the liberals, because when it gets down to two candidates, and one is a Tea Bagger Know-Nothing, who are liberals going to vote for? Of course, that was Al Gore’s strategy too, and he lost1

Obama better be careful, if all the liberal enthusiasm is drained away, voter turnout will be anemic, and he won’t be reelected.

WASHINGTON — President Obama abandoned a contentious new air pollution rule on Friday, buoying business interests that had lobbied heavily against it, angering environmentalists who called the move a betrayal and unnerving his own top environmental regulators.

The president rejected a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency that would have significantly reduced emissions of smog-causing chemicals, saying that it would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.

Business groups and Republicans in Congress had complained that meeting the new standard, which governs emissions of so-called ground-level ozone, would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs.

 

(click here to continue reading Obama Administration Abandons Plan to Tighten Air-Quality Rules – NYTimes.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

And I know Obama was never a very strong supporter of the environment2, but I reject this argument. Pollution controls are not going to cost jobs any more than lowering taxes on the rich is going to create jobs.

If the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute is applauding your actions, you are doing it wrong.

Reaction from environmental advocates ranged from disappointment to fury, with several noting that in just the past month the administration had tentatively approved drilling in the Arctic, given an environmental green light to the 1,700-mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas and opened 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.
Daniel J. Weiss, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said, “Today’s announcement from the White House that they will retreat from implementing the much-needed — and long-overdue — ozone pollution standard is deeply disappointing and grants an item on Big Oil’s wish list at the expense of the health of children, seniors and the infirm.” The center is a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Bill McKibben, an activist leading a two-week White House protest against the pipeline project which has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, said that the latest move was “flabbergasting.”
“Somehow we need to get back the president we thought we elected in 2008,” he said.
Cass R. Sunstein, who leads the White House office that reviews all major regulations, said he was carefully scrutinizing proposed rules across the government to ensure that they are cost efficient and based on the best current science. He said in a letter to Ms. Jackson that the studies on which the E.P.A.’s proposed rule is based were completed in 2006 and that new assessments were already under way.

The issue had become a flashpoint between the administration and Republicans in Congress, who held up the proposed ozone rule as a test of the White House’s commitment to regulatory reform and job creation. Imposing the new rule before the 2012 election would have created political problems for the administration and for Democrats nationwide seeking election in a brittle economy.

Leaders of major business groups — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute and the Business Roundtable — met with Ms. Jackson and with top White House officials this summer seeking to moderate, delay or kill the rule. They told William M. Daley, the White House chief of staff, that the rule would be very costly to industry and would hurt Mr. Obama’s chances for a second term.

Green Zone
Green Zone

Environmental activists can barely contain their fury at Obama’s craven actions:

John D. Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group based in New York, likened the ozone decision to a “bomb being dropped.”
Mr. Walke and representatives of other environmental groups saw the president’s actions as brazen political sellouts to business interests and the Republican Party, which regards environmental regulations as job killers and a brick wall to economic recovery.

…the president could face political repercussions in subtler but nevertheless corrosive ways: from losing volunteer enthusiasm to tying up his allies in fights with him instead of with his enemies. “Energy from part of the base will now be directed at communicating with the White House and not with the public about the administration’s record,” said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group with close ties to the White House.

Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, who does extensive work on public perception and the environment, said the real threat to the president’s reputation stemming from the ozone decision went far beyond environmentalists.

“It could play into an emerging narrative in his own party that he is caving too quickly to Republican pressure,” Dr. Leiserowitz said. “It is a dangerous narrative in your own base because it cuts down on enthusiasm and it is a narrative that his opponents will pick up on.”

In fact, it is a lesson that some environmental groups have already learned, and they are preparing to act accordingly.

“I think that two-plus years into Obama’s presidency is more than enough time for him to have established a clear weak record,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been battling the president on endangered species.

“The environmental movement needs to keep piling the pressure on and realizing playing nicey-nice won’t work,” Mr. Suckling said, adding that more public actions and lawsuits are the way to get Mr. Obama’s attention.

(click here to continue reading Obama’s Retreat on Ozone Standards Angers Environmentalists – NYTimes.com.)

Footnotes:
  1. well, Gore actually won, but not by as much as if he had campaigned as a liberal instead of a DNC acolyte, and thus Bush was able to finess a victory with the help of the Supreme Court []
  2. with the exception of maybe from spring to fall of 2008 []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 3rd, 2011 at 1:07 pm

House Republicans Versus Environmental Protection

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A Spy in the House of Sky
A Spy in the House of Sky

GOP assholes taking advantage of the distracted country to attempt to sneak in an eviseration of everything protecting the environment from corporate rape and pillage. A paint-by-the-numbers definition of what Naomi Klein called the Shock Doctrine, aka disaster capitalism…

With the nation’s attention diverted by the drama over the debt ceiling, Republicans in the House of Representatives are loading up an appropriations bill with 39 ways — and counting — to significantly curtail environmental regulation.

One would prevent the Bureau of Land Management from designating new wilderness areas for preservation. Another would severely restrict the Department of Interior’s ability to police mountaintop-removal mining. And then there is the call to allow new uranium prospecting near Grand Canyon National Park.

But Democrats argue that the policy prescriptions are proof that Republicans are determined to undo clean air and water protections established 40 years ago.

Many of these new restrictions, they point out, were proposed in the budget debate earlier this year and failed. They are back, the Democrats say, because Republicans are doing the bidding of industry and oil companies.

“The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, excoriating the proposal on the floor.

Environmental regulations and the E.P.A. have been the bane of Tea Party Republicans almost from the start. Although particularly outraged by efforts to monitor carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas linked to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, freshmen Republicans have tried to rein in the E.P.A. across the board — including proposals to take away its ability to decide if coal ash can be designated as a toxic material and to prevent it from clarifying rules enforcing the Clean Water Act.

Conservatives have been adding amendments at a furious pace. Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, counted more than 70 anti-environmental amendments filed as of Wednesday morning and was monitoring for more.

But Mr. Goldston of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that although most of the policy attachments would never become law, the Republican appropriations flurry was still unnerving — and could pose more reason for concern in coming months. ”We are then going to be in a situation again where the Senate and president face the question of whether they are willing to shut down the government or appease a motley group in the House over a spending bill,” he said. “No one knows how that plays out.”

(click here to continue reading House Republicans Try to Roll Back Environmental Rules – NYTimes.com.)

For a complete list of the proposed riders, click here

Written by Seth Anderson

July 31st, 2011 at 8:51 am

Posted in Business,environment,politics

Tagged with , ,

Bush Administration Prevented Regulation of Perchlorate In Drinking Water

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Mendenhall Glacier Melt Off

Mendenhall Glacier Melt Off

Simply and unequivocally criminal. Disgustingly craven, and a lot more besides. We wrote about this travesty back in November, 2008.

The EPA’s controversial 2008 decision not to regulate a drinking water contaminant long connected to impaired brain development and decreased learning capability in infants had more to do with the interests of the Bush administration than with scientific findings regarding its safety, according to a report (146 page PDF) released Tuesday by a congressional watchdog agency, the LA Times reports.

Perchlorate is a toxin in rocket fuel and fireworks, is present in most states’ drinking water, lettuce and milk, and is found in high concentrations near current and former military bases as a byproduct of weapons testing. The E.P.A. currently says it could be contaminating the public wells supplying anywhere from 5 million to 17 million Americans. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to look into the EPA’s evaluation of the known thyroid-disturbant, and found that the path to the no-regulation decision “used a process and scientific analyses that were atypical, lacked transparency, and limited the agency’s independence in developing and communicating scientific findings.”

Instead of the EPA’s usual process—which begins with creating a work group of “professional staff with relevant expertise from across the agency”—the Agency placed a “less inclusive, small group of high-level officials” in charge of the deliberations.

These high-level members included officials who answered directly to the White House, from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture. NASA and the Department of Defense were part of the board as well.

Not included in the work group was the Office of Children’s Health Protection, a bureau essentially created for this purpose, despite the EPA’s conclusion of the risk perchlorate poses to pregnant women and children. The chemical can inhibit iodide uptake, causing increased the risk of neurodevelopmental impairment in fetuses of pregnant women, and contribute to developmental delays and decreased learning capability in infants and children, according to the report.

“Everyone who’s paying attention knows that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is acutely tuned-in to the political signals coming from the White House – so tuned-in that his conversations with the executive branch have become a form of highly privileged state secret,” Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope told NBC in 2008.

 

The GAO report also found significant flaws in the actual testing process. The work group chose to use data from a 2005 National Academy of Sciences report, which was based primarily on the results of a single two-week clinical study which did not include infants or children younger than six years old.

 

(click here to continue reading Bush Administration, Not Science, Prevented Regulation of Toxin In Drinking Water | TPMMuckraker.)

No Dumping - Drains to Creek
No Dumping – Drains to Creek

Luckily, the Obama administration is a huge improvement in this area at least, and reversed this Bush era mistake last February.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 13th, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Obama administration seeks stricter limits on mercury pollution

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Tales of the Towering Dead

The smart energy companies are already upgrading their smokestacks – making them more efficient, more modern, better for their investors – but the old guard will fight innovation every step of the way, even if it means reducing life expectancy of humans on earth…

the Obama administration is pushing stringent limits that by 2015 would force every power plant in the nation to capture 90 percent of the mercury in the coal it burns, a standard many plants already are meeting. The proposed rule also would impose tougher limits on lung- and heart-damaging soot and other “air toxics,” including arsenic and chromium.

On Tuesday, industry lawyers, environmental groups and public health advocates will converge in Chicago for a daylong hearing on the administration’s proposal, which has prompted an intense lobbying effort from some power companies that are trying to delay or kill the rule.

Echoing claims made during past debates about antipollution measures, opponents say tough national standards on mercury and other toxic air pollution will force dozens of coal plants to shut down, costing jobs and making the nation’s electrical grid less reliable.

But some power companies already have moved to clean up their coal plants. And supporters note that recent power auctions guarantee there will be enough electricity to meet demand for years after the rule takes effect, even if some older plants are shuttered.

“It is disappointing, irresponsible and coldhearted for the power companies that are operating these plants not to make the sensible, relatively easy and inexpensive changes the (Environmental Protection Agency) is requesting,” said Mary Gade, a Chicago lawyer who served as President George W. Bush’s regional EPA administrator.

Coal-fired power plants are the biggest man-made source of mercury contamination, one of the last kinds of pollution to be targeted for limits under the federal Clean Air Act. Uncontrolled for years, the pollution is so pervasive that Illinois and 43 other states advise people, especially women of childbearing age and young children, to avoid or limit eating certain types of fish because they often are contaminated with high levels of the toxic metal.

(click here to continue reading Air pollution: Obama administration seeks stricter limits on mercury pollution from power plants – chicagotribune.com.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 24th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Obama EPA orders cleanup of the Chicago River

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Intrepid Explorers

Awesome news, actually. Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel will have a good way to start helping the City of Chicago improve…

Michael Hawthorne reports:

The Obama administration is ordering an ambitious cleanup of the Chicago River, a dramatic step toward improving an urban waterway treated for more than a century as little more than an industrialized sewage canal.

In a letter obtained Wednesday by the Tribune (PDF), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency demands that stretches of the river must be clean enough for “recreation in and on the water,” a legal term for recreational activities including swimming and canoeing. The order also applies to two connected waterways, the Cal-Sag Channel and Little Calumet River.

If state officials fail to adopt more stringent water quality standards, the “EPA will promptly do so itself” by invoking its authority under the federal Clean Water Act, the agency’s top water official told Lisa Bonnett, interim director of the Illinois EPA.

“A decade of investments in walkways, boat ramps and parks have provided people with access to the water,” Susan Hedman, the U.S. EPA’s regional administrator, said in a statement. “And now we need to make sure the water is safe.”

Federal officials have been suggesting the river improvements for more than a year but took more aggressive action because they believed state regulators haven’t gone far enough. Complying with the order likely will require more expensive sewer bills in Chicago and the Cook County suburbs, where homeowners and businesses pay among the nation’s lowest costs for treating human and industrial waste.

The nine-page order goes far beyond standards adopted last year by the Illinois Pollution Control Board, a state rule-making panel. The state’s plan limits disease-causing bacteria in the river, but only to a point considered safe enough for paddlers and boaters who briefly fall into the water.

What the Obama administration is envisioning sets the bar higher. As a result, two of the Chicago-area’s massive sewage-treatment plants would need to be overhauled to disinfect partially treated human and industrial waste that churns endlessly into the waterways. Chicago is the only major U.S. city that skips that important germ-killing step. Until now, the river and its connected waterways have been exempt from the toughest provisions of the Clean Water Act because it was long assumed that people wouldn’t want to come near the fetid channels.

(click here to continue reading Water pollution: Obama EPA orders dramatic cleanup of the Chicago River – chicagotribune.com.)

A few photos of the Chicago River. More here

Herd of Kayaks

Looking For a Piece of Something - EPP

Kayaking after the War

Paddling Down the Chicago River

Chicago River at Dusk

crazy race

Chicago River Taxi is Yellow

 

You Can Spend Your Whole Life

Chicago River Scene Velvia

Summer of George

 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 12th, 2011 at 10:54 am

GOP Wins Deep Cuts in Environment Spending, Earth Loses

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Petty Sacrifices

Yes, the GOP won, in the short term. But I’d argue we all lose if the air we breathe is tainted with toxicity, if the water we drink is full of carcinogens, if the soil our food is grown is destroyed with heavy metals, or worse. So I wouldn’t want to start doing a jig in celebration. I’d rather mourn that so-called conservatives have no interest in conserving the only planet we have.

In negotiating the budget deal that averted a government shutdown, Democrats and the White House claimed a big victory in preventing Republicans from blocking a set of environmental regulations. But as details of the compromise became known Tuesday, it was clear Republicans had won deep reductions in spending at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the deal headed to House and Senate votes by the end of this week, the EPA’s 2011 budget would be reduced by 16% from 2010 spending, taking it to $8.7 billion.

That reflects the kind of tradeoffs each side made in the negotiations over the bill. The legislation doesn’t include most of the policy provisions that Republicans proposed to block funding for key administration priorities on health care, the environment and other issues. But Republicans found Democrats moving more than halfway in the compromise over how much to cut spending in the $1.05 trillion bill for the remaining six months of the 2011 fiscal year.

The EPA was also a major focus of both parties. The deal didn’t include a Republican-backed measure that would have stripped the agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases and other pollutants. But the bill cuts $1.6 billion from the agency.

“The Obama administration has dumped money into the EPA over the past two years, and what the American people have seen as a result is a slew of new regulations pouring out of the agency,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho). Mr. Simpson, chairman of the Interior subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, helped fashion the EPA cut in the spending deal.

On Mr. Obama’s watch, the EPA’s budget has risen sharply, to $10.3 billion in the 2010 fiscal year, after years in which its funding hovered between $7.5 billion and $7.7 billion.

Most of the EPA cuts will reduce aid to help states implement health and environmental-protection laws. Mr. Obama had proposed cutting those programs, but only by about $200 million.

“These federal cuts make our job to provide a clean environment that much harder,” said R. Steven Brown, the agency’s executive director, who said the practical effect would be to derail roughly $1 billion in improvements to sewage-treatment and drinking-water plants.

The deal also cuts by $149 million, or 33%, a federal fund for buying land for environmental purposes. Programs related to climate change would be cut by $49 million, or 13%.

The position of the president’s special adviser on climate change would be eliminated.

(click here to continue reading GOP Wins Deep Cuts in Environment Spending – WSJ.com.)

Sickening. The EPA is already short-staffed and underfunded; intentionally gutted so as to not be able to enforce existing regulations. Now big businesses will have even less of a fear of being cited for destroying the environment. Again, we all lose.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 13th, 2011 at 11:23 am

Posted in environment,government

Tagged with ,

The Man With the Snow Job

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Visitors on Snowy Streets

Proving once again that Illinois elected a moron for our Senator, Mark Kirk blamed Al Gore’s divorce for the lack of climate change bill in Congress. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to me either.

Gail Collins writes, in part:

Al Gore, on the phone between plane flights Wednesday, of course, pointed to global warming. “Here’s a basic fact,” he said. “There is about 4 percent more water vapor in the atmosphere today than there was in 1970.” That extra water, he said, is because of warmer oceans and warmer air, and is returning to earth as extra-heavy rain and snow.

Remind me again why we aren’t fighting global warming? It’s win-win. Even if all the hordes of scientists are wrong in believing that human beings are causing climate change, the remedies would still be good for the environment and for energy independence.

…We could blame President Obama for doing health care reform instead of global warming, but Congress is even more afraid of the energy lobby than the insurance companies. The president seems to be planning to do what he can by regulation. That prospect makes Republicans so angry that they’re introducing legislation to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using its powers under the Clean Air Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Obviously, there is nothing more nefarious than having the agency in charge of protecting the environment use the clean air law to keep harmful gases out of the atmosphere.

The Senate sponsor is James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who recently claimed that the supercold winter proves that theories about global warming are “an intellectual fraud.” We could blame Senator Inhofe, but he really isn’t all that satisfactory a villain. It’d sort of be like blaming nuclear proliferation on gophers.

Another opponent of E.P.A. action, Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois, used to be aligned with the environmentalists — until he left his moderate House district to run in a Republican Senate primary and abruptly switched positions. Defending himself in a recent interview with Greenwire, Kirk claimed that there was no longer real support for a climate change bill because of “the personal and political collapse of Vice President Gore.”

In other words, environmental warrior Al Gore is responsible for the weather, as well as the pathetic wimpiness of Mark Kirk.

(click here to continue reading The Man With the Snow Job – NYTimes.com.)

Really? Facts are facts, but because someone who popularized the fact went through a public divorce, the facts don’t matter anymore? Lame.

Written by Seth Anderson

February 3rd, 2011 at 11:31 am

Posted in environment

Tagged with , ,

Coal Tar Toxic, EPA Indifferent

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Everything Is Political

If only there was some regulatory agency that protected the interests of people and the environment…

Michael Hawthorne of the Trib writes:

If a company dumped the black goop behind a factory, it would violate all sorts of environmental laws and face an expensive hazardous-waste cleanup.

But playgrounds, parking lots and driveways in many communities are coated every spring and summer with coal tar, a toxic byproduct of steelmaking that contains high levels of chemicals linked to cancer and other health problems.

Nearly two decades after industry pressured the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to exempt coal tar-based pavement sealants from anti-pollution laws, a growing number of government and academic studies are questioning the safety of the widely used products. Research shows that the tar steadily wears off and crumbles into contaminated dust that is tracked into houses and washed into lakes.

In Lake in the Hills, a fast-growing McHenry County suburb about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey found that driveway dust was contaminated with extremely high levels of benzo(a)pyrene, one of the most toxic chemicals in coal tar. The amount was 5,300 times higher than the level that triggers an EPA Superfund cleanup at polluted industrial sites.

(click to continue reading New doubts cast on safety of common driveway sealant – Chicago Tribune.)

…because profits for industry always seem to trump petty health concerns as far as the EPA is concerned:

Despite the EPA’s long-standing worries about the chemicals, industry successfully lobbied to exempt coal tar pavement sealants when the agency tightened hazardous-waste rules for coke ovens during the early 1990s. The little-noticed change made it easier for manufacturers to keep selling the products, which can contain as much as 30 percent coal tar by weight.

Agency spokesmen declined to make anyone available to discuss the exemption, but said in a statement there are no plans to revise it. “EPA regulations allow for the legitimate recycling of coal tar under certain specified parameters,” the statement said.

Scientists started to track the movement of coal tar sealants into homes and lakes about a decade ago, after pinpointing the source of alarmingly high levels of PAHs in Barton Springs, a popular swimming hole in Austin, the Texas capital. Tom Bashara, an environmental investigator, noticed that pollution hotspots in a creek flowing into the pool were near parking lots coated with coal tar.

In Austin, the scientists also found that dust inside apartments next to parking lots coated with coal tar was 25 times more contaminated than the dust in units next to lots coated with asphalt or left unsealed. Young children could be the most vulnerable to exposure, the researchers concluded, because they play on or near floors where dust collects.

Sick kids? Who cares? Got to ensure quarterly profit margins increase…

Side note, home testing sounds fairly easy:

Q. Is there a test to check if I have coal tar sealant on my driveway?

A. A definitive test is expensive, but officials in Austin, Texas, came up with an alternative. Use a screwdriver or razor blade to scrape off a small amount of pavement sealant and place it in a glass vial filled with mineral spirits. Seal the vial, shake it and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. If the liquid is dark and coffee-colored, the sealant likely is asphalt-based. If it looks like amber-colored tea and remains more clear, assume it’s coal tar-based.

The only definitive way to tell is by checking the CAS number on the product’s material safety data sheet, usually available online or from contractors. The CAS number for coal tar is 65996-93-2.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 18th, 2011 at 11:52 am