B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘pollution’ tag

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

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

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

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

Long Awaited Closing of State Line Power Station

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Midwest Generation Fisk Station
Midwest Generation Fisk Station

Hmm, 100 jobs versus the air quality for over 9,000,000 other people (and maybe more – I’m just counting the Chicagoland area). How is that even a debate? And land-use? Again, not really a debate except by debating societies…

While many environmentalists are cheering the closing, it raises new environmental and land-use challenges. It will also be an economic blow to Hammond, and to about 100 employees…Similar situations are playing out nationwide as aging coal plants close, including a Dominion plant in Salem, Mass.; six Midwestern and Eastern coal plants owned by FirstEnergy Corp.; and, potentially, the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago in coming years.

Lower natural gas prices from the increase in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale gas deposits have made it much less profitable to produce electricity from coal. This is especially true for facilities like State Line and the Chicago coal plants, which sell electricity on a highly competitive short-term wholesale market rather than through long-term contracts.

“These companies bought coal plants based on certain assumptions about the price of natural gas,” said William Boyd, a professor of energy law at the University of Colorado. “Shale gas turned their world upside down, and retrofitting old coal plants to meet new environmental regulations doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Some coal plants elsewhere in the country have been retrofitted to burn natural gas. But Dominion and Midwest Generation, which owns the Chicago plants, said converting would be too expensive.

Doug McFarlan, a spokesman for Midwest Generation, said, “We will continue to evaluate numerous factors — including the capital expenditures required to comply with environmental regulations and market conditions that impact our ability to recover costs — in making decisions about future investments in any of our power generating units.”

Dominion had planned to close State Line in 2014, but last summer the company said the plant would be shut down by March.

Environmental advocates have long said the sooner the better, since medical studies link emissions from coal plants to higher rates of asthma attacks, cardiac disease and premature death among surrounding residents.

(click here to continue reading Closing of State Line Power Station, on Illinois-Indiana Border, Is Expected to Leave Problems Behind – NYTimes.com.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 15th, 2012 at 7:58 am

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

Yummy Cadmium-Tainted Rice From China

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Rice, Steam and Wine

Well, possibly. I wonder what percentage of U.S. rice is imported from China these days?

Move aside, melamine. Cadmium-tainted rice might be China’s new scare of the season.

In a recent study, researchers from the Nanjing Agricultural University found 10 to 60 percent of the rice sold in markets in six regions contained cadmium, a heavy metal associated with high blood pressure, fluid accumulation in the lungs and a potentially fatal softening of the bones.

In some samples, the cadmium level was found to be equal to five times of the legal maximum, the researchers said.

A China Daily report on the discovery is careful to include caveats.

For one thing, the report says, the pollution is confined to a few, mostly southern, regions. For another, the samples were taken in 2007 and 2008, according to the findings, originally published in Century Weekly magazine.

(click here to continue reading China’s Newest Food Scare? Cadmium-Tainted Rice – China Real Time Report – WSJ.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Food and Drink,health

Tagged with , ,

Chicago coal plants blamed for cancer, premature deaths

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Everything If You Want Things

I wouldn’t want to live near this plant, despite what apologists like to claim. Being able to see the plume is bad enough.

The Clean Air Task Force, a national nonprofit atmospheric pollution task force, estimated that 27 people died prematurely in 2010 because of emissions from Crawford. The task force said the annual mortality rate attributed to Crawford ranges from 25 to 75 persons.

Nearby Fisk plant in Little Village saw 15 premature deaths in 2010, the task force estimated. In Cook County there were 150 premature deaths and nearly 3,000 heart attacks attributable to existing power plants, the group said.

Both the Crawford and Fisk plants are owned by Chicago-based Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International.

“We do not believe our plants have any health effects,” said Susan Olavarria, director of governmental affairs and communications at Edison International. “We look at every complaint and we take them very seriously.”

(click to continue reading South Side coal plants blamed for cancer, premature deaths | News | Chicago Journal.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

January 21st, 2011 at 1:34 pm

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

What’s in Your Water

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If you are curious what toxic chemicals are in your water, the New York Times took the data from the Environmental Working Group and turned it into a slick little database. Click through, and check out your community:

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Examine whether contaminants in your water supply met two standards: the legal limits established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the typically stricter health guidelines. The data was collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, who shared it with The Times.

(click to continue reading What’s in Your Water – Interactive Feature – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

December 20th, 2010 at 10:09 am

Posted in environment,health

Tagged with , ,

hexavalent chromium found in drinking water in Chicago and elsewhere

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Tracing Patterns in the Air

[Lake Michigan, near Green Bay, WI]

Hexavalent chromium1 found in drinking water in Chicago and elsewhere, and yet the EPA refuses to add it to their list of toxins to pay attention to. Criminal oversight, if you ask me.

Michael Hawthorne writes, in part:

The cancer-causing metal made infamous by the movie “Erin Brockovich” is turning up in tap water from Chicago and more than two dozen other cities, according to a new study that urges federal regulators to adopt tougher standards.

Even though scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Toxicology Program have linked the ingestion of hexavalent chromium to cancer, the EPA doesn’t require Chicago or other cities to test for the toxic metal. Nor does the EPA limit the dangerous form of chromium in drinking water.

To take a snapshot of what is flowing through taps across the nation, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based research and advocacy organization, hired an independent laboratory that found the metal in treated drinking water from 31 cities. The amount in Lake Michigan water pumped to 7 million people in Chicago and its suburbs was 0.18 parts per billion, three times higher than a safety limit California officials proposed last year.

A handful of other cities were significantly above the proposed California limit, including Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; Riverside, Calif.; and Madison, Wis., according to a report to be released Monday. Levels in Milwaukee water were the same as in Chicago.

(click to continue reading Pollution: Dangerous form of chromium found in drinking water in Chicago, other cities – chicagotribune.com.)

We’ve used a reverse osmosis water filter for many years, I hope it filters out hexavalent chromium. Seems like it does

A Screaming Comes Across the Sky

So what is the main cause of this pollutant? Besides a lax, underfunded EPA that is? Industry, of course. Industry that spends millions of dollars defeating regulations that would at least mitigate some of this contamination.

Last year alone, records show, the U.S. Steel and Arcelor Mittal mills dumped a combined 3,100 pounds of chromium into Lake Michigan and its tributaries, less than 9 miles away from Chicago’s water-intake crib off 68th Street. (The federal Toxics Release Inventory doesn’t require industry to report specific types of the metal, but chromium-6 and chromium-3 convert into the other form and back in the environment.)

Indiana officials once sought to relax limits on chromium discharges from U.S. Steel’s massive Gary Works, the largest industrial polluter on the Great Lakes.…Industry has fought for years to block tougher federal and state limits on chromium, which has contaminated drinking water supplies across the country. The award-winning movie “Erin Brockovich” dramatizes one of the most high-profile cases: a miles-long plume of hexavalent chromium dumped by a utility in rural Hinkley, Calif., that led to a $333 million legal settlement over illnesses and cancers.

Update:

If you are curious what specific toxic chemicals are in your water, the New York Times took the data from the Environmental Working Group and turned it into a slick little database. Click through, and check out your community:

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Examine whether contaminants in your water supply met two standards: the legal limits established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the typically stricter health guidelines. The data was collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, who shared it with The Times.

(click to continue reading What’s in Your Water – Interactive Feature – The New York Times.)

Footnotes:
  1. aka chromium-6, a clear cause in stomach cancers []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 19th, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Tests Confirm Spreading Oil Plumes in the Gulf

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Despite BP’s near-constant denial, these massive plumes of oil are spreading below the surface of the Gulf. Can we all just say in unison, BP sucks!

Was There Anything I Could Do?

The government and university researchers confirmed Tuesday that plumes of dispersed oil were spreading far below the ocean surface from the leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico, raising fresh concern about the potential impact of the spill on sea life.

The tests, the first detailed chemical analyses of water from the deep sea, show that some of the most toxic components of the oil are not necessarily rising to the surface where they can evaporate, as would be expected in a shallow oil leak. Instead, they are drifting through deep water in plumes or layers that stretch as far as 50 miles from the leaking well.

As a rule, the toxic compounds are present at exceedingly low concentrations, the tests found, as would be expected given that they are being diluted in an immense volume of seawater.

“It’s pretty clear that the oil that has been released is becoming more and more dilute,” Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in an interview. “That does not mean it’s unimportant — far from it. The total amount of oil out there is likely very large, and we have yet to understand the full impact of all that hydrocarbon on the gulf ecosystem.”

BP’s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, continued to insist Wednesday morning on the “Today” show on NBC that no underwater oil plumes in “large concentrations” have been detected from the spill, saying that it “may be down to how you define what a plume is here.”

But scientists outside the government noted that the plumes appeared to be so large that organisms might be bathed in them for extended periods, possibly long enough to kill eggs or embryos. They said this possibility added greater urgency to the effort to figure out exactly how sea life was being affected, work that remains in its infancy six weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

(click to continue reading Tests Confirm Spreading Oil Plumes in the Gulf – NYTimes.com.)

Nancy Snow writes:

Get Really Close to Another Human Being This Life Time

Hey friends, try this search term “BP Sucks” and see what you find.

Those good folks at British Petroleum don’t want us to miss out on the company’s herculean efforts to clean up the Gulf of Mexico.

That’s why you can find all the BP-sponsored advertising links when you type in more innocuous Google search terms like “oil spill” or “oil spill cleanup.” You’ll find friendly come-ons prominently displayed at the top of your search page with phrases like “Learn more about how BP is helping.”

Seems the company finally got a clue, hmm, over six weeks in, that this might just be a PR debacle of supersize proportions for BP.

I don’t know what Google charges to buy frequency and recency placement in favorable advertising. I do know that it’s a fundamental principle of strategic communication in targeted messaging. When you are hungry, McDonald’s wants you thinking burgers and fries. And when you’re thinking oil spill, BP wants you to click on its version of the story first and keep coming back for more news about how BP is helping.

(click to continue reading Nancy Snow: Google This! BP Sucks, Just Not Enough Oil.)

More from Justin Gillis’ story:

Those readings suggest that a large plume, probably consisting of hydrocarbons from the leak, stretches through the deep ocean for at least 15 miles west of the gushing oil well, Dr. Joye said. The top of the plume is about 3,600 feet below the sea surface; the plume is three miles wide and as thick as 1,500 feet in spots, she said.

The University of South Florida researchers found an even larger plume stretching northeast of the oil well, with the hydrocarbons separated into two distinct layers in the ocean. One layer is about 1,200 feet below the surface, and the other is 3,000 feet deep, the scientists said.

The government’s confirmation of subsea oil plumes is significant in part because BP, the oil company responsible for the leak, had denied that such plumes existed, and NOAA itself had previously been cautious in interpreting the preliminary results from Dr. Joye’s group.

“The oil is on the surface,” Tony Hayward, BP’s chief executive, said last week. “There aren’t any plumes.”

Written by Seth Anderson

June 9th, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Posted in environment,News-esque

Tagged with ,

BP Oil Spill Animations

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For your depressing news of the day, take a look at this animated simulation of possible oil spill dispersal. Frack me!

This animation shows one scenario of how oil released at the location of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico may move in the upper 65 feet of the ocean. This is not a forecast, but rather, it illustrates a likely dispersal pathway of the oil for roughly four months following the spill. It assumes oil spilling continuously from April 20 to June 20. The colors represent a dilution factor ranging from red (most concentrated) to beige (most diluted).  The dilution factor does not attempt to estimate the actual barrels of oil at any spot; rather, it depicts how much of the total oil from the source that will be carried elsewhere by ocean currents.

For example, areas showing a dilution factor of 0.01 would have one-hundredth the concentration of oil present at the spill site. The animation is based on a computer model simulation, using a virtual dye, that assumes weather and current conditions similar to those that occur in a typical year. It is one of a set of six scenarios released today that simulate possible pathways the oil might take under a variety of oceanic conditions. Each of the six scenarios shows the same overall movement of oil through the Gulf to the Atlantic and up the East Coast. However, the timing and fine-scale details differ, depending on the details of the ocean currents in the Gulf. (Visualization by Tim Scheitlin and Mary Haley, NCAR; based on model simulations.)

(click to continue reading Oil Spill Animations | UCAR.)

[Download  high resolution video]

Written by Seth Anderson

June 4th, 2010 at 11:08 am

Posted in environment

Tagged with , ,