Category Archives: EPA

Elections Have Consequences

Call me biased but there are some issues that I firmly believe are better in Democratic hands than Republican ones. And I put the environment at the top of that list.

If you want clean air, water, soil and all the rest, Democrats are your people. Sure, we have disagreements and we’re not perfect; BernieBros purists will be happy to point out Democrats who are okay with fracking, or others who believe in “clean coal.” These are complicated issues and there are some tough choices and all the rest. But by and large, Democrats are the ones who are reliable defenders of the environment. Republicans are the ones who harp on about “red tape” and “regulations” harming jobs, who peddle fantasies about the “free hand of the market” driving polluters out of business and who constantly harp on about dismantling the EPA.

So excuse me for being a little puzzled by the people of Benton County, TN who have lately been wondering how their landfill all of a sudden started accepting hazardous waste, which appears to be a health issue for those living nearby. I’ll tell you how that happened: you overwhelming voted for Republicans at every level of government, and those people don’t give a shit about your water and air, that’s how.

Or to put it another way:

Obtaining a state permit to establish a new landfill requires public notice and disclosure about the types of waste that will be deposited so communities can discuss, debate or even intervene to stop a landfill before it starts. Once a landfill has gotten its initial permit, however, landfill owners and waste generators in Tennessee can privately petition the state to accept additional and potentially hazardous materials.

[…]

Camden Mayor Roger Pafford said no one from TDEC informed city officials that their town was now home to a hazardous waste landfill. The omission was particularly galling to city officials because the leachate – or wastewater – pipe carrying hazardous waste from the landfill flows directly above a city drinking water main.

Well, that’s bad news. So is it okay for private industries to “privately petition the state to accept additional and potentially hazardous materials” and not tell anyone what’s going on? I certainly don’t think so. But remember, our wonderful “moderate” non-crazy Gov. Haslam is the one who removed consumer representatives from the Underground Storage Tank and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board. So that might be one reason why you didn’t know about the toxic sludge now buried in your backyards.

And to add insult to injury, these folks are now hoping the EPA can help them get to the bottom of this mess. They’ve actually requested that the Environmental Protection Agency investigate this.

Excuse me a moment.

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Okay, I’m back now.

Have y’all seen the bill Republicans filed in Congress to eliminate the EPA? That is literally what the bill says:

The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018.

And that’s it. So, Benton County, good luck with that! Even if that bill fails, have you seen the order of the President (the guy you voted for overwhelmingly) to dismantle the EPA’s clean water rule? Or his proposal to slash the EPA’s budget by a whopping 25% so we can build more nukes? I mean, you voted for it, bigly, so certainly you’re aware of the Trump mandate that EPA data and studies undergo a political review before being released to the public?

You knew about this right? Right?

So do you seriously think a Trump-era EPA has the time, money, or political mojo to go after Haslam cronies in the solid waste business? Pardon me again:

{{ HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA }}

And do you really think that Congressman Marsha Blackburn, who wants to fold the EPA into a cubby in a corner of the Dept. of Energy — and yet another politician you’ve voted for, repeatedly, by like 75% — is going to give a rats’ ass about your drinking water?

And let’s see how much Gov. Haslam, who also has your undying electoral love and devotion, cares. He’s in the midst of actually increasing the amount of toxic sludge flowing into landfills that people previously thought were for orange peels and other household waste:

TDEC is moving forward with efforts to speed up the special waste approval process. TDEC officials last month told members of the Underground Storage Tank and Solid Waste Disposal Control Board – the oversight board of members appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam – they were creating an online submission portal that will allow TDEC officials to approve requests for disposal. Haslam four years ago reconstituted the board to remove consumer representatives.

So I really want to know why you idiots keep reflexively pulling the lever for Republicans when you’re worried about safe drinking water and complaining about the loss of land values because of the burning sensation when you jump in the swimming pool and the pH levels that are “off the charts.”

When will you people wake up and realize that your Republican representatives at the state and federal level do not respect you or care about you? They use gays, God and abortion to sucker you into voting for them, then they ignore you the rest of the time. They cut government to the size where it’s useless when you need it, but hey: you bought every BS line they sold you about “big government,” so you have only yourselves to blame.

And okay fine, go ahead and join the Sierra Club now as a last resort, while you try to tell yourself that you’re “not an environmentalist.” We’re all environmentalists, asshole. Poisoned air and water don’t care about your party affiliation. This stuff affects all of us, regardless.

Honestly, I don’t get it, folks.

16 Comments

Filed under 2016 Presidential Election, elections, environment, EPA, Tennessee

How You Know Your Empire Has Died

[UPDATE]:

Here’s the audio clip:

————————-

This discussion between Ali Velshi and Stephen Leeb on Al Jazeera America yesterday was the smartest five minutes I’ve heard on TV news in a long time. The segment was about the new carbon pollution proposals the EPA just unveiled, the same proposals causing aneurisms in right-wing “Drill Here, Drill Now” land (sorry, bear with me guys: for some reason I can’t get the audio clip to post, so here’s the transcript. And you’re gonna have to take my word for this until I can figure out how to post audio, which I believe involves me making a purchase of some kind, possibly more storage) (Got the link posted, I was right, I needed to buy something. The things I do for you guys):

AV: Joining us to tell us more is Stephen Leeb, founder and research chairman of the Leeb Group. Now Stephen, you and I have talked for years about cleaner energy, you‘re an expert on the energy field and somebody who embraces a cleaner environment. My guess is that you would like this, but I’ve heard rumblings that you don’t think this is a good idea?

SL: Well Ali, it’s not that I don’t think it’s a good idea, I think it’s a day late, a dollar short, and maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s way too little. What we need in this country is something nationwide, something like the interstate highway system. Something like a smart grid that runs across the country. I mean for me the key here in reading it was that it’s up to the individual states. That just doesn’t cut it. We have a grid in this country that in some.. there are cases in which our grid is more than a century old.

AV: This is our electrical grid.

SL: This is our electrical grid! I mean the only reason people can’t hack it is that one state doesn’t talk to another state! That’s the only advantage I can see to having a grid this old. We could create so many jobs by following China’s example. Build out a smart grid. Then you can have all these energy sources — gas, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal…

AV: Everything feeds in.

SL: Everything feeds in. Right now the Chinese are eating our lunch. I mean there was an item about a week ago in the Financial Times. EDF, a massive French utility, is building an electric plant that will supply 7% of British electricity. Massive! Except they didn’t have the skill sets. Who did they turn to? Not us! The Chinese. Who now has the fastest way of transmitting voltage from one part of the country to the other part of a country? The Chinese! We need to get our act together, Ali, if we’re really going to do something. Yes, I mean, I applaud any efforts to cut down emissions, to use new fuels and we may even get more solar and more wind because ….

AL: And that’s starting to happen. But in Europe it was the cap.. I hear you on how this can be unwieldly with the states but the concept of a cap-and-trade system and an exchange has worked out for Europe.

SL: It can work out yes, but it’s not going to be the solution unless you have a grid that can accommodate it across the country. Eventually you run into trouble. And I’m not even talking about the troubles that you see when you write down the amount of shale oil in this country by 60%, which we did the other day. All of a sudden the Monterey has 4% of what we originally thought.

AV: Right, across the country we are finding in these wells where we thought there was more oil and in some cases natural gas, there’s less.

SL: And it could be much less or maybe there’s more, I mean, you can always hope. But right now we’re becoming more and more dependent on the Marcellus. And you’re starting to see very rapid decline rates there. We need something Ali, I mean we were able to do it 30-40 years ago, interstate highway system, man to the moon…

AV: We don’t have the will to do anything on a national level, particularly something that would cost billions and billions of dollars.

SL: But create billions and billions of jobs! I mean, we somehow equate investment with spending, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Investment in an electrical grid, is not spending, it’s not wasteful. It’s creating something that will benefit all of us, our children, etc.

AV: Give me a sense, because we’ve had some Republicans come out and say this will increase energy costs for the average family in this country where the middle class is struggling. What is the net result on electrical prices out of this?

SL: You know, my guess is the net result is electrical prices go up because the guts of our electrical system right now is still hydrocarbons, and they’re not getting more plentiful. They’re getting scarcer, despite the shale revolution. They are. We’re not going to ever become energy independent, at most maybe we’ll be able to produce 11 million barrels of oil. We may have a little gas to export but basically we’re still going to be relying on outside sources. So regardless, it’s going to up. We need cleaner, renewable, new sources of energy in order to counteract that and this legislation or these proposals — they’re not legislation, not by a long shot — they just don’t go anywhere near far enough to getting us to that goal. I mean I hate to say this but we should take a page out of what the Chinese are doing. I mean look…

AV: There’s no question, they are well ahead of us when it comes to electricity.

SL: And look at their economy? They’re spending all of this money but last I heard their economy is still growing at 7 and a half percent a year. One of the reasons is all the money they’re spending on infrastructure. Let’s do the same thing!

AV: From your lips to their ears, Stephen! Good to see you …

This is what makes me nuts. The idea that we’ve lost touch with what is an “investment” and what is “spending,” when the hell did we decide we can no longer “invest” in America? Now it’s all just “pork” or whatever. The Democrats can’t even get ahead of the damn meme.

You know that America is no longer a global superpower when we can no longer do The Big Things. The saddest thing is, we can’t do these Big Things not because we don’t have the money or the know-how or the military might, but simply because we don’t have the will. This is how empires die, people.

The last “big” thing we did was invade Iraq and Afghanistan. And we did it, not because we forged consensus and compromised and came together as a nation to do it, but because one faction bulldozed their way over anyone who so much as asked the question, why? They used every tool in the toolbox — fear, flag-waving, you name it — to get their way.

The fact that the Left is completely unable to muster the same amount of national will on something clearly more in the country’s interest than invading an oil-rich country in the Middle East is, to me, the single biggest threat to America’s future.

Damn depressing, folks.

12 Comments

Filed under Ali Velshi, carbon offsets, China, climate change, environment, EPA

Clean Coal Strikes Again

Looks like another coal slurry mess polluting a river in Tennessee:

Coal mining waste has tainted several miles of the New River in East Tennessee in violation of a permit held by Premium Coal at a plant in Devonia, TN, according to state information.

The release of a fine, grayish-black material that results when separating coal from shale and rock is estimated to have lasted 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Jan. 2.

The state was not notified at the time, as required, said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Environment said.

Of course not! The glorious free hand of the market was supposed to fix the problem! Oppressive government agencies like the Tennessee Dept. of Environment & Conservation just get in the way of the natural order of things!

TDEC says slurry was found seven miles downstream, while the activist group Community eMpowerment says black water was seen 40 miles downstream from the coal processing plant. Just keep repeating: coal is cheap! And clean! And cheap!

And since we’re talking about “clean” coal, I’ve been wanting to update folks on the cleanup from our last big coal slurry disaster, the devastating 2008 Kingston Coal Ash spill, which dumped 1.1 billion (that’s with a “b”) gallons of toxic coal ash sludge into the Emory and Clinch Rivers, obliterating everything in its way (including homes). The cleanup involved hauling the toxic goop over 300 miles away to a landfill in Alabama, which just so happens to be located in Alabama’s poorest county. It’s also, surprise surprise, a predominantly African-American county. While landfill operators touted the 30 jobs and $3 million in “host fees” Perry County would receive, I wrote at the time that this placed the community in the untenable position of choosing between poverty and poison.

I wrote then:

And if taking this coal ash waste were such a great thing, well, we’ve got some landfills here in Tennessee, in counties that could use those jobs and that money. Gotta ask yourself why we’re shipping it out of state to begin with.

Well, it appears the residents of Perry County, AL asked that same question and have filed a civil right lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management:

The complaint charges ADEM with violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funds. ADEM receives millions of dollars in financial assistance from the EPA each year.

[…]

The population of Perry County is over 68 percent African-American, and over 35 percent falls below the poverty line, making it Alabama’s poorest county. The landfill is located near Uniontown, Ala., a community where 88 percent of residents are African-American and almost half live in poverty. The population in the census blocks surrounding the landfill range from 87 to 100 percent African-American (click on map for larger version).

The landfill sits only 100 feet from the front porches of some residents, who say they have experienced frequent foul odors, upset appetite, respiratory problems, headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. They also complain that fugitive dust from the facility has contaminated their homes, porches, vehicles, laundry and plantings.

This is how the “free hand of the market” works in America. Coal is cheap, we tell ourselves, and it fuels our glorious lifestyle, and government support of clean technology like wind and solar is socialism. And then when the inevitable disaster strikes, we make our poorest citizens suffer the longterm consequences. Oh right, and be sure to tell these poor people living with radioactive, arsenic -laden coal sludge that their health problems are just proof of how irresponsible they are. Any notion they had of getting some kind of access to the world’s best healthcare is just more crazy socialism talk.

Anyone who can’t see how all of these issues are connected is simply lying to themselves. And who is going to solve this problem? The man from Bain Capital who fired thousands so his company could be more profitable? The intellectual policy wonk who is allergic to drama?

No. It’s our problem. We caused it. We are the ones who demanded “cheap” electricity, so we’ll just ignore the costs on things like healthcare, blame the people who are suffering, remind ourselves we’re a Christian nation, drop a check in the collection plate on Sunday and call it a day.

How much longer can we operate like this? Not much, I’m afraid.

Wake up, America.

4 Comments

Filed under ash spill, clean coal, eco-justice, environment, EPA, racism, Tennessee

Privatize Gains, Socialize Losses

Today the EPA has officially (as in, scientifically) linked the chemicals used in hydraulic fracking with contaminated drinking water and explosive bathwater in Wyoming.

Residents began complaining of fouled water near Pavillion in the mid-1990s, and the problems appeared to get worse around 2004. Several residents complained that their well water turned brown shortly after gas wells were fracked nearby, and, for a time, gas companies operating in the area supplied replacement drinking water to residents.

Beginning in 2008, the EPA took water samples from resident’s drinking water wells, finding hydrocarbons and traces of contaminants that seemed like they could be related to fracking. In 2010, another round of sampling confirmed the contamination, and the EPA, along with federal health officials, cautioned residents not to drink their water and to ventilate their homes when they bathed because the methane in the water could cause an explosion.

To confirm their findings, EPA investigators drilled two water monitoring wells to 1,000 feet. The agency released data from these test wells in November that confirmed high levels of carcinogenic chemicals such as benzene, and a chemical compound called 2 Butoxyethanol, which is known to be used in fracking.

Still, the EPA had not drawn conclusions based on the tests and took pains to separate its groundwater investigation in Wyoming from the national controversy around hydraulic fracturing. Agriculture, drilling, and old pollution from waste pits left by the oil and gas industry were all considered possible causes of the contamination.

In the report released today, the EPA said that pollution from 33 abandoned oil and gas waste pits – which are the subject of a separate cleanup program – are indeed responsible for some degree of shallow groundwater pollution in the area. Those pits may be the source of contamination affecting at least 42 private water wells in Pavillion. But the pits could not be blamed for contamination detected in the water monitoring wells 1,000 feet underground.

That contamination, the agency concluded, had to have been caused by fracking.

Of course, a spokesman for Pavillion wells owner EnCana claims “the science remains inconclusive…” Of course they do! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before! No one can definitively say that smoking causes lung cancer! That a diet drenched in high fructose corn syrup would lead to obesity! That human activity is responsible for climate change! Jury’s still out on all of this stuff! Sure, we can put men on the Moon and eradicate whole classes of diseases but when it comes to stuff that’s inconvenient for some folks, the science isn’t there yet!

So let’s just wait another 10 or 15 years (keep in mind, people started complaining about this stuff back in the ’90s), ignoring all of those earthquakes while discrediting the EPA study. Along the way be sure to buy off a few scientists, bully a few politicians, and when the cancers start appearing and the livestock starts dying, EnCana will be long gone, either out of business or purchased by some Vulture Capitalists who broke it into so many pieces, good luck finding a deep pocket to pay for cleanup and damages. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses: it’s the American way!

Oh, and be sure to remind everyone, ad nauseum, how cheap natural gas is! Thanks for playing, America!

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Filed under energy production, environment, EPA

>All Of Those Leaky Offshore Oil Wells

>Well this is just peachy. AP has discovered the Gulf of Mexico is littered with over 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells, some dating back to the 1940s. None are being monitored to determine if they are leaking which, considering the age of some of these wells, they undoubtedly are.

I wrote about one such well three weeks ago. Taylor Energy’s Ocean Saratoga rig has been leaking 10 miles off the Louisiana coast since Hurricane Ivan hit back in 2004! (Remember when John McCain said hurricanes don’t affect offshore oil rigs? Yeah, me too.)

The Ocean Saratoga leak has been small — an estimated 14 gallons a day — but over six years it’s created a 10-mile-long oil slick captured on satellite. Worse, Taylor Energy says they’ve been working all this time to plug the leak. Okay, I’m going to call bullshit on that. Six years, people? You can’t stop a small oil leak after six years? If that’s the case, then things look pretty dim for BP’s gusher. Excuse me for saying this, but I don’t think the folks at Taylor Energy are trying very hard.

Anyway, I’m not surprised that the AP has uncovered leaky oil and gas wells going back decades. I’m not surprised that this is suddenly a news story. But I am surprised that people in the industry whose business it is to know about such things have basically kept quiet about it. I’m disturbed that the Interior Dept. has not conducted inspections, nor did it mandate that the oil industry do so. I’m tired of us ignoring things until a major disaster occurs, at which point we pass some legislation which inevitably is ignored.

I’m not surprised, but I’m very, very bothered by this:

Regulations for temporarily abandoned wells require oil companies to present plans to reuse or permanently plug such wells within a year, but the AP found that the rule is routinely circumvented, and that more than 1,000 wells have lingered in that unfinished condition for more than a decade. About three-quarters of temporarily abandoned wells have been left in that status for more than a year, and many since the 1950s and 1960s — even though sealing procedures for temporary abandonment are not as stringent as those for permanent closures.

As a forceful reminder of the potential harm, the well beneath BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig was being sealed with cement for temporary abandonment when it blew April 20, leading to one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history. BP alone has abandoned about 600 wells in the Gulf, according to government data.

(Before we go any further, let me say the very first thing on the agenda for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation & Enforcement (formerly MMS) should be an immediate and thorough assessment of all abandoned oil wells.)

There seems to be a pattern here. After the Kingston coal sludge disaster, we learned about more leaky TVA coal sludge ponds. But what was done about it?

The EPA has spent the past year assessing coal ash containment facilities. Last month they announced two options for dealing with coal ash, one regulating it as “special waste” and one treating it as “non-hazardous” which means basically keeping things exactly the way they are:

The EPA itself admits that under its weaker option, many states will not adopt strict federal guidelines and that approximately 50% of the coal ash generated in the U.S. will continue to be managed under state programs that do not require basic disposal safeguards.

I wonder which option the coal industry and electrical utilities support?

It cannot be stated often enough or loudly enough: there is a cost to our inaction and denial. We simply can no longer afford to put the needs of the energy industry above the needs of everyone and everything else. We can no longer tolerate one industry riding roughshod over everyone and everything else.

We cannot allow Big Oil and King Coal to dictate the health of the water we drink and the air we breathe, to destroy an entire fishing industry for which we have no alternative. Oil and coal are important to our economy right now, that’s a fact of life. But they are transient. Guess what: we have alternatives to oil and coal. We don’t have alternatives for clean air and water.

My message to Big Oil and Big Coal is a simple one: you’re selfish, greedy and irresponsible. Sorry guys, but you know it’s true. You’re important, but we do have alternatives. On top of which, your business depends on a finite resource. God stopped making dinosaurs a few million years ago. So if you want to keep playing on our playground, quit being bullies.

Learn to share.

10 Comments

Filed under Big Oil, clean coal, energy production, EPA, Gulf oil spill

>Upside Down

>Nearly two weeks ago Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski defeated a bill that would increase BP’s liability cap to clean up the mess it made in the Gulf of Mexico. Her stated reasons (looking out for the oil industry’s “little guys”: all together now, awwwwwww!) were completely bogus, as I explained in my post here. It was basically a big fat kiss to the multinational corporations which keep Alaska’s economy running. Why not just say it and be done with it? You’re not fooling anyone.

And now Murkowski has another gift for her friends at Big Oil: it’s called the Murkowski Resolution. This would basically gut the Clean Air Act by making it illegal for the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Yes, you read that right. The Clean Air Act would no longer allow the EPA to regulate the crap that keeps our air from being clean.

While you’re trying to wrap your head around that legislative oxymoron, here’s another one for you: The Murkowski Resolution will come up for a vote on June 10 and three of the Democratic Party’s worst offenders are supporting it:

Murkowski’s resolution would need 51 votes to clear the chamber. She already has 41 co-sponsors, including three Democrats: Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Well, isn’t that special. These three names are familiar burrs in progressive knickers, and I would just love to see them squirm on this one. Especially Lincoln, who is facing a tough primary race.

The timing on this should be lost on no one. The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert has an excellent commentary about the Gulf oil spill in this week’s issue. She takes us back to 1969 and the twin environmental disasters of the Santa Barbara oil spill and burning of the Cuyahoga River:

By the end of the year, Congress had passed the National Environmental Policy Act, known by the acronym NEPA, which requires federal agencies to file impact statements for all actions that could have a significant ecological effect. The following spring, millions of people took to the streets for Earth Day, and by the second anniversary of the spill President Richard Nixon had created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed into law the Clean Air Act.

For you young kids who don’t remember: Nixon was a Republican.

So now it’s 40 years later, we have a Democrat in the White House and we’re battling an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that, as Kolbert writes, “makes the Santa Barbara spill look like a puddle.”

We’ve had coal miners die in West Virginia and Kentucky, and we’ve had 1.1 billion gallons of coal sludge cover 300 acres of Roane County, Tennessee. And instead of a massive call to action to stop our polluting ways, we have Republicans and a handful of Democrats voting to gut the Clean Air Act and tie the EPA’s hands on regulating air pollutants.

Crazy.

I really hope everyone gets on the phone and calls their senators about this, pronto. Because if this Murkowski Resolution passes in the wake of a massive oil spill, then what that’s going to tell Washington and the rest of the world is that we really just don’t give a crap about the planet.

3 Comments

Filed under Clean Air, environment, EPA, Gulf oil spill

>All In The Family

>Apparently what’s most important to BP in this oil spill disaster is helping out their corporate cronies, not trying to minimize the toxic soup brewing in the Gulf:

BP PLC continues to stockpile and deploy oil-dispersing chemicals manufactured by a company with which it shares close ties, even though other U.S. EPA-approved alternatives have been shown to be far less toxic and, in some cases, nearly twice as effective.

[…]

So far, BP has told federal agencies that it has applied more than 400,000 gallons of a dispersant sold under the trade name Corexit and manufactured by Nalco Co., a company that was once part of Exxon Mobil Corp. and whose current leadership includes executives at both BP and Exxon. And another 805,000 gallons of Corexit are on order, the company said, with the possibility that hundreds of thousands of more gallons may be needed if the well continues spewing oil for weeks or months.

But according to EPA data, Corexit ranks far above dispersants made by competitors in toxicity and far below them in effectiveness in handling southern Louisiana crude.

Well, that’s unfortunate. But let’s find out more about Corexit:

Critics say Nalco, a joint partnership with Exxon Chemical that was spun off in the 1990s, boasts oil-industry insiders on its board of directors and among its executives, including an 11-year board member at BP and a top Exxon executive who spent 43 years with the oil giant.

“It’s a chemical that the oil industry makes to sell to itself, basically,” said Richard Charter, a senior policy adviser for Defenders of Wildlife.

Well that’s certainly nice. So they make money when they drill oil and they make money when they spill it. Neat.

Of course, I’m concerned about the toxicity of this chemical, and the fact that more effective alternatives exist. It’s not just toxic to wildlife, but humans, too. Workers involved with the ExxonValdez cleanup had severe health problems some link to the toxic dispersants.

Meanwhile:

EPA has not taken a stance on whether one dispersant should be used over another, leaving that up to BP. All the company is required to do is to choose an EPA-approved chemical, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told reporters yesterday during a conference call aimed at addressing questions about dispersants being used in efforts to contain the Gulf spill.

Our regular responsibilities say, if it’s on the list and they want to use it, then they are preauthorized to do so,” Jackson said.

”Regular responsibilities”? ”Regular”?! Excuse me but there is nothing “regular” about this oil spill. We need some fucking leadership here, people. The spill is bad enough, but we’re compounding the situation with hundreds of thousands of gallons of chemical compounds we’re piling on top of the oil. We’re basically poisoning the ocean food supply, destroying the economy of the coastal region, which let me add Lisa Jackson still refers to quaintly as a “way of life.” No, it’s not a way of life. It’s our FOOD.

They don’t get it.

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Filed under environment, EPA, Gulf oil spill

Hello, EPA? Tennessee Calling

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard:

Tennessee Congressmen Zach Wamp and Lincoln Davis are hoping to bail out TVA by asking for a $25 million federal welfare package to subsidize cleanup of the agency’s recent toxic ash spill.

The two congressmen want the money to come from President Obama’s stimulus package, a Rooseveltian public projects scheme designed to beef up the economy. But while bailouts are all the rage these days–and the congressmen are only trying to help TVA customers, who’ll pick up the tab for the agency’s negligence–the move looks suspiciously like pork. Simply having the feds pick up the tab won’t create any new jobs.

I’ll ignore Kotz’ ridiculous assertion that all federal spending is somehow “welfare” or “pork.” What I don’t get is why the Kingston coal ash site is not eligible for Superfund emergency response funds. That’s what the fund is for: to cleanup after emergencies,

such as fires, train derailments, and floods, involving the release of hazardous substances.

I also don’t understand this letter I received from Sen. Bob Corker:

I have talked directly with Roane County Mayor Mike Farmer and TVA CEO Tom Kilgore and assured all involved that I will support appropriate measures at the federal level, however I am opposed to spending federal taxpayer money to support cleanup efforts at Kingston. There’s been an effort through the years to cause TVA to be a self-standing entity, to have a corporate-like board and to run independently.  I think when we start seeking federal dollars to deal with TVA, we start a process of unwinding something that took several years to put in place. In meetings with TVA though, I have asked for and received assurance from them that they will make every effort possible to limit the burden on TVA ratepayers and ensure that those affected by this incident are taken care of and their homes, property, and livelihoods restored.

Oh, well, I’m sure that everything will be okay, then.

I don’t know what TVA’s “ self-standing,” “corporate-like” structure has to do with the need to protect the environment and the health of those who depend on the air, water and soil in the affected area. Superfund does not distinguish between toxic pollution caused by “corporate” or “government” entities. Tennessee’s Superfund sites include both.

I admit to being a little out of the loop on the current status of the Superfund. Originally the guiding principal of the Superfund was “the polluter pays.” I know over the years some of the country’s biggest polluters have tried to roll back the Superfund legislation, and I recall the tax on toxic chemicals which partially funded the program was eliminated back in the ‘90s. I read that the fund is now paid for out of government appropriations, instead of the “polluter pays” rule that had been the program’s hallmark. I’m sure eight years of an industry-friendly EPA under the mismanagement of tools like Stephen Johnson hasn’t helped. But the program is still in existence.

Why can’t the people of East Tennessee make use of it? Why are our representatives in Congress not working with the EPA to ensure this happens?

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Filed under ash spill, EPA, TVA

>Poison Ponds Everywhere & No One Minding The Store

>Thanks, “clean coal”! Apparently the clean coal propagandists and their de-regulating, anti-environmental minions in Washington have left hundreds of potential coal sludge disasters all across the country. Count me not shocked.

Reports the New York Times on today’s front page:

The coal ash pond that ruptured and sent a billion gallons of toxic sludge across 300 acres of East Tennessee last month was only one of more than 1,300 similar dumps across the United States — most of them unregulated and unmonitored — that contain billions more gallons of fly ash and other byproducts of burning coal.

Like the one in Tennessee, most of these dumps, which reach up to 1,500 acres, contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a threat to water supplies and human health. Yet they are not subject to any federal regulation, which experts say could have prevented the spill, and there is little monitoring of their effects on the surrounding environment.

In fact, coal ash is used throughout the country for construction fill, mine reclamation and other “beneficial uses.” In 2007, according to a coal industry estimate, 50 tons of fly ash even went to agricultural uses, like improving soil’s ability to hold water, despite a 1999 E.P.A. warning about high levels of arsenic. The industry has promoted the reuse of coal combustion products because of the growing amount of them being produced each year — 131 million tons in 2007, up from less than 90 million tons in 1990.

I don’t understand why the EPA keeps issuing all of these warnings about the dangerous toxicity of coal ash, and these warnings are ignored or downplayed in the face of industry and political pressure.

Look, people, this isn’t hard. Facts are facts, science is science. If the science shows dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste is bad for the soil, air and water that people use, then quit doing it. And by all means, don’t peddle this toxic sludge as some kind of new miracle fertilizer. That’s the kind of shit they pull in China.

Now we get to the meat of the matter:

The amount of coal ash has ballooned in part because of increased demand for electricity, but more because air pollution controls have improved. Contaminants and waste products that once spewed through the coal plants’ smokestacks are increasingly captured in the form of solid waste, held in huge piles in 46 states, near cities like Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa, Fla., and on the shores of Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.

I’ve said this from day one: “clean coal” is a farce. You can put scrubbers on smokestacks, but that just means the waste comes in a different form. You cannot repeal the laws of thermodynamics. You do not “create” energy, you can only change its form, and when you do that there is always, always, always a waste product. Whether you change that waste product from belching smoke and acid rain to toxic sludge, it’s still a hazard and still needs to be handled carefully.

This is environmental science 101.

Something else that bears remembering is that coal ash is radioactive. I’d love to know why we are spreading this stuff around on agricultural fields and construction sites.

Someone at the EPA needs to be doing their job and digging into this stuff. Clearly the EPA bows too easily to political and industry pressure in general. The Bush years have been the worst as far as gutting the EPA is concerned, but this stuff has gone on in other administrations, too.

We need a huge sea change in this country, one which puts the health and well-being of people over the profits of industry, one which acts like responisble adults not greedy children who think they can eat ice cream and cupcakes and not feel sick afterwards.

It’s time to grow up, America.

Comments Off on >Poison Ponds Everywhere & No One Minding The Store

Filed under ash spill, clean coal, energy production, environment, EPA

>Don’t Breathe The Air, Either

>A half hour ago this popped up on Twitter’s coal ash thread:

TVA sez toxin levels in H2O are now back down to what TDEC consistently finds in their well water samplings (“acceptable levels”)

Given that the EPA has said folks using well water would be advised not to, I wouldn’t be listening to TVA right now, people. But that’s just me.

And while you’re at it, try not to breathe the air, either. Ash spill live-blogger LifeOnSwanPond reports:

The Ash is drying… and it’s not all wet anymore.  Still no answers to the exact content of the ash….

This is a HUGE concern.  Large amounts of dry ash & even a calm breeze moves these lightweight particles around.  They settle on everything.  We are breathing them.

Yes you are. And I would say, don’t. If you can help it, don’t.

It goes without saying that this stuff is toxic. Even if they tell you it’s safe, it’s not. Remember the lessons of 9/11:

Within days of the World Trade Center collapse, someone ordered Environmental Protection Agency administrators to tell New Yorkers the air was safe. Reopen Wall Street, and bring back its thousands of workers. Reopen Stuyvesant High School, which Orkin’s son attended. Ignore Brooklyn, where residents like her vacuumed inches-deep white ash from their windowsills. No matter that private tests showed the air remained full of lead, asbestos, mercury, benzene. No matter that, according to documents forced out of the EPA by a Freedom of Information request, the agency’s own tests agreed that the air in Lower Manhattan—who wanted to bother with Brooklyn?—wasn’t fit to breathe.

Even without testing, anyone could see the billowing cloud of debris released when the 110-story twin towers came crashing down. Dust from the Trade Center hung in the air for weeks. Putrid fires burned for three months.

“Any half-wit knew it was hell after 9-11,” Orkin says. She has been pressing the EPA to test for and clean up toxic dust in her Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, across the East River from ground zero and smack in the plume’s path. After tests revealed high levels of asbestos in her home, she paid thousands of dollars for a full abatement, which included ripping up the carpets. Her World Trade Center Environmental Organization website, wtceo.org, is devoted to the 9-11 fallout and replete with aerial photos and satellite images of the plume.

I’d say we’re looking at a similar situation. Given that the TVA’s own admitted first priority was clearing the railroad tracks “because that’s how they get the coal into the plant,” I’d say the health and well-being of a few local residents is not exactly high on their radar right now.

But what do I know.

This just popped up on Twitter’s coal ash thread:

TVA says they want to hydro mulch the coal waste from helicopters (planting grass seed) to prevent airborne particulates.

This tells me TVA is concerned about the ash too, even though they won’t say so openly, and won’t tell anyone what’s in it. But make no mistake, the stuff is toxic and should not be breathed. Keep it out of your home, if at all possible. Stay indoors if you must stay in the area.

At least, that’s what I would do, if it were me.

Comments Off on >Don’t Breathe The Air, Either

Filed under ash spill, Clean Air, clean coal, environment, EPA, TVA