The Trump administration on Thursday will finalize a rule to strip away environmental protections for streams, wetlands and other water bodies, handing a victory to farmers, fossil fuel producers and real estate developers who said Obama-era rules had shackled them with onerous and unnecessary burdens.
From Day 1 of his administration, President Trump vowed to repeal President Barack Obama’s “Waters of the United States” regulation, which had frustrated rural landowners. His new rule, which will be implemented in the coming weeks, is the latest step in the Trump administration’s push to repeal or weaken nearly 100 environmental rules and laws, loosening or eliminating rules on climate change, clean air, chemical pollution, coal mining, oil drilling and endangered species protections.
What an asshole. And I would hazard a guess that the “farmers” discussed here are not small hard-scrabble salt-of-the-earth types, but agribusinesses with hundreds of thousands of acreage, and they want to be free to pollute all of our water without regard to consequence. You’d think some outdoorsman types would object to the destruction of lakes and rivers, I guess they are too swept up in deregulation fever to care.
Researchers say air pollution may increase risk of autism. Two studies concluded there may be a link, but more research is needed.
Two new studies have found an association between relatively low levels of air pollution and children’s risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
One study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, studied 132,000 births in Vancouver, Canada, from 2004 to 2009. Researchers concluded there was a link between exposure to nitric oxide from car exhaust during pregnancy and greater incidence of childhood ASD.
The second study, published in Environmental Epidemiology, observed more than 15,000 infants born in Denmark between 1989 and 2013. It found that air pollution exposure during the first months of life and later was also associated with ASD.
“The study showed a small increase in autism for infants exposed before birth to one of the pollutants: nitric oxide. While it’s a small increase, if large populations are exposed, it could still affect many children,” Lynn Singer, PhD, professor of population and quantitative health sciences, pediatrics, psychiatry, and psychology at the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told Healthline.
If the Democrats were smart, they would hammer this talking point over and over, despite it not being scientifically proven (yet). Take a page from the GOP/NRA playbook, and link the EPA’s (original) mission of clean air for everyone vs. pollution created by coal/chemical plants being encouraged to pollute so as to make more profits. Say it a million times, say it unprompted. Say the Trump admin is knowingly causing autism by their deregulatory fever, etc.
Earlier this month, after a three-month probe, the investigators from the US Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board concluded that a faulty valve at the plant caused the explosion. The board plans to issue recommendations that aim to prevent such an accident from happening again at a refinery.
But despite the warm welcome in Superior—and wide recognition of its expertise in chemical plant disasters—this small, independent federal agency is teetering on the brink of elimination.
The Trump administration has twice in its budgets attempted to shut down the Chemical Safety Board; so far, Congress has rejected the attempts. For the 2019 fiscal year, both the House and Senate have proposed restoring full funding.
But the assaults appear to be taking a toll. Hostility from the Trump administration and disarray from its efforts to eliminate the agency follow years of leadership turmoil and high turnover that started during the Obama administration. In 2015, its chairman, who was embroiled in a congressional investigation into poor management, resigned under pressure—yet leadership problems remain.
Combined, these problems threaten to cripple the agency’s investigations of chemical plant disasters
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
I’m being sarcastic, in case this is not obvious. You cannot see my smirk after all [↩]
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
…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.