"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
- Old Testament, Genesis 1:1
Sightings from The Catbird Seat
~ o ~
April 10, 2008
U.N. says markets are to blame
for world food crisis
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Global investment funds and the weak dollar are largely to blame for high world food prices, a senior official of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization said on Thursday.
"The crisis is a speculative attack and it will last," said Jose Graziano, the UN food and farm organization's regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean.
"This is not a conspiracy theory," he said.
Across the globe foods from bread to milk have become more expensive and in some countries helped fuel inflation. High prices for rice, beans and other food staples provoked food riots in Haiti this week.
"The lack of confidence in the (U.S.) dollar has led investment funds to look for higher returns in commodities ... first metals and then foods," Graziano told a news conference in the capital.
Investors have speculated in commodities including wheat, corn and rice because stocks in recent years have been drawn down by rising demand in emerging markets and supply shortages due to adverse climate in key producer nations, Graziano said.
"Speculative attacks become possible when you have low reserves," Graziano said.
Stocks of some food crops have fallen to their lowest levels in three decades, according to Brazilian farm experts.
Brasilia will host an FAO conference next week, which will focus on food shortages in Haiti, biofuels and small farms.
The FAO will in next week's meeting propose initiatives to help combat the current global food shortage, including incentives for small farmers.
Brazil is one of the world's leading food exporters.
* * * * *
FLYING PIGS, TAMIFLU AND FACTORY FARMS
* * * * *
April 5, 2008
Food riots turn deadly in Haiti
At least four people were killed and 20 wounded when demonstrations against rising food prices turned into riots in southern Haiti, officials say.
Reports say scores of people went on the rampage in the town of Les Cayes, blocking roads, looting shops and shooting at UN peacekeepers.
The UN said its personnel had opened fire at some of the armed protesters.
For two days running, parts of Haiti have been erupting into violence triggered by the soaring cost of food.
The prices of rice, beans and fruit have gone up by 50% in the last year.
Earlier this week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon issued a report saying that the food crisis threatened the Caribbean nation's fragile security.
September 2, 2007
Pope to youth: Save planet
'before it is too late'
Pontiff speaks to up to half-a-million
at Church's 'eco-friendly' youth rally
LORETO, Italy - Pope Benedict, leading the Catholic Church’s first “eco-friendly” youth rally, on Sunday told up to half a million people that world leaders must make courageous decisions to save the planet “before it is too late.”
“A decisive ’yes’ is needed in decisions to safeguard creation as well as a strong commitment to reverse tendencies that risk leading to irreversible situations of degradation,” the 80-year old Pope said in his homily.
Intentionally wearing green vestments, he spoke to a vast crowd of mostly young people sprawled over a massive hillside near the Adriatic city of Loreto on the day Italy’s Catholic Church marks it annual Save Creation Day.
More than 300,000 of them had slept on blankets and in tents or prayed during the night. Organizers said they were joined by some 200,000 more people who arrived from throughout Italy on Sunday morning.
“New generations will be entrusted with the future of the planet, which bears clear signs of a type of development that has not always protected nature’s delicate equilibriums,” the Pope said, speaking to the crowd from a massive white stage.
'Alliance between man and earth'
Making one of his strongest environmental appeals to date Benedict said: “Courageous choices that can re-create a strong alliance between man and earth must be made before it is too late.”
The two-day rally the Pope closed with a Sunday morning mass was the first environmentally friendly youth rally, a break from past gatherings that left tonnes of garbage and scars on the earth.
A participants’ kit included backpacks made of recyclable material, a flashlight operated by a crank instead of batteries, and color-coded trash bags so their personal garbage could be easily recycled. Meals were served on biodegradable plates.
Tens of thousands of prayer books for Sunday’s mass were printed on recycled paper and an adequate number of trees would be planted to compensate for the carbon produced at the event, many in areas of southern Italy devastated by recent brushfires.
Under Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, the Vatican has become progressively “green.” It has installed photovoltaic cells on buildings to produce electricity and hosted a scientific conference to discuss the ramifications of global warming and climate change.
Last month Benedict said the human race must listen to “the voice of the Earth” or risk destroying its very existence.
Loreto is famous in the Catholic world for the “holy house of the Madonna” a small stone structure purported to be where Mary grew up in the Holy Land and where she was told by an angel she would give birth to Jesus although a virgin.
According to popular legend, it was “flown” by angels from the Holy Land in the 13th century to save it from Muslim armies.
April 2, 2007
Court rules against Bush
in global warming case
By James Vicini, Reuters
WASHINGTON - In a stinging defeat for the Bush administration, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that U.S. environmental officials have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming.
By a 5-4 vote, the nation's highest court told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change.
The high court ruled that such greenhouse gases from motor vehicles fall within the law's definition of an air pollutant.
The ruling in one of the most important environmental cases to reach the Supreme Court marked the first high court decision in a case involving global warming.
President George W. Bush has opposed mandatory controls on greenhouse gases as harmful to the U.S. economy, and the administration instead has called for voluntary programs.
In 2003, the EPA refused to regulate the emissions, saying it lacked the power to do so. Even if it had the power, the EPA said it would be unwise to do it and would impair Bush's ability to negotiate with developing nations to cut emissions.
The states and environmental groups that brought the lawsuit hailed the ruling.
"As a result of today's landmark ruling, EPA can no longer hide behind the fiction that it lacks any regulatory authority to address the problem of global warming," Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said.
Greenhouse gases occur naturally and also are emitted by cars, trucks and factories into the atmosphere. They can trap heat close to Earth's surface like the glass walls of a greenhouse.
Such emissions have risen steeply in the past century and many scientists see a connection between the rise, an increase in global average temperatures and a related increase in extreme weather, wildfires, melting glaciers and other damage to the environment.
Democrats in Congress predicted the ruling could add pressure on lawmakers to push forward with first-ever caps on carbon dioxide emissions. The United States is the world's biggest emitter of such gases.
The ruling also could make it easier for California and 13 other states to put in place mandatory emission caps, officials in that state said.
Writing for the court majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said the EPA's decision in 2003 was "arbitrary, capricious or otherwise not in accordance with law."
In sending the case back for further proceedings, Stevens said the EPA could avoid regulation only if it determined that the gases do not contribute to climate change or if it provided a reasonable explanation.
Stevens said the EPA could not avoid its legal obligation by noting the scientific uncertainty surrounding some features of climate change and concluding it would be better not to regulate at this time.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said of the ruling, "We're going to have to take a look and analyze it and see where we go from there."
The EPA said the administration was committed to reducing greenhouse gases and it was "reviewing the court's decision to determine the appropriate course of action."
The court's four most conservative members -- Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both Bush appointees, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- dissented. They said the environmental groups and the states lacked the legal right to bring the lawsuit in the first place.
"No matter how important the underlying policy issues at stake, this court has no business substituting its own desired outcome for the reasoned judgment of the responsible agency," Scalia wrote.
February 13, 2007
Corporate Laggards on
Global Warming Named
By ALAN ZIBEL, Forbes (AP)
Shareholder activists named 10 U.S. companies as the top laggards in their industries in responding to global warming, arguing they have failed to plan for the possibility of new greenhouse gas regulations that could cost them money.
A list to be released Tuesday by Ceres, an environmental investment group, criticizes energy firms such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips, and even retailer Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., accusing them of failing to adequately address the industrial causes - and consequences - of climate change.
Oil and gas producers and utilities emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that gets trapped in the atmosphere and, most scientists believe, contributes to global warming.
Ceres says the companies on its list are either not adequately prepared for possible new restrictions on carbon emissions, or not planning for how changing weather patterns and rising sea levels might affect their operations.
The effort to spotlight these companies comes as a growing number of businesses and politicians are calling for a national policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Some investors are even starting to speak out against corporate proponents of carbon constraints.
The Free Enterprise Action Fund, a mutual fund based in Potomac, Md., has placed a resolution before General Electric Co. shareholders, criticizing that company for advocating limits on greenhouse gases and arguing that those regulations would harm economic growth and demand for GE products.
Ceres' effort is backed by religious and socially responsible investors, municipal pension funds in New York, Connecticut and North Carolina and a major union.
"We're trying to push these companies as much as possible to just look at what I view (as) very fundamental issues of profitability," said Richard Moore, North Carolina's state treasurer, who manages more than $70 billion in public pension funds and government debt.
According to Ceres, the number of shareholder resolutions filed with U.S. companies on global warming issues has grown from 25 in 2004 to 42 filed this year. Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, said the resolutions are "not about theatrics at annual meetings," but about concern for long-term business prospects.
Also named on the list were coal producer Massey Energy Co., insurance firm ACE Ltd. and utility TXU Corp.
TXU was criticized by the investors' group for its proposal to build 11 new coal-fired power plants in Texas.
Lisa Singleton, a spokeswoman for TXU, said her company is working to develop cleaner energy technologies. "We believe strongly that technology will be the solution," she said.
Companies outside the energy industry such as Bed Bath & Beyond also made the list because, they have been "unresponsive" to requests that they make public their emission reduction and energy efficiency goals, the activist shareholders said.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
May 27, 2002
Research Shows that Tiny Pollutants
Have Global Reach, Effect
By Andrew Bridges, Associated Press
~ ~ ~
"We live in a small world. We breathe each other's air."
- Thomas Cahill, University of California
LOS ANGELES - Atop Hawaii's Mauna Loa, thrust 13,677 feet into the sky, one would expect nothing but the freshest air, save the occasional gaseous burp from the volcano.
But environmental-monitoring stations crowding the peak find arsenic, copper and zinc that was kicked into the atmosphere five to 10 days earlier from smelting in China, thousands of miles away.
When industrial pollution first showed up at Mauna Loa a few years ago, scientists were startled. Now, after intense study, they know that the pollution that dirties the world's largest cities affects the whole Earth.
"It turns out Hawaii is more like a suburb of Beijing," said Thomas Cahill, a University of California, Davis, atmospheric scientist.
Along the West Coast, a campaign to measure the pollutants as they make landfall after bridging the Pacific ends this month.
Since April, scientists have used data gathered on the ground and from an airplane flying along the coast to measure aerosol pollutants that waft eastward each spring, carried by the prevailing winds.
For the United States, China is a major source. For Europe, it's the United States, and likewise down the line, complicating the blame game.
Scientists previously supposed only greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide were so global in reach and effect. They now understand that the microscopic, suspended particles of pollutants - generally called aerosols by atmospheric scientists - also wrap the globe, even if they persist for just hours before settling to the ground.
This class of pollutants includes soot, salts, dust and other byproducts of the burning of fossil fuels and vegetation. . . .
During their time aloft, the particles affect everything from global warming to human mortality to the rainfall that ultimately scrubs them from the sky....
SCIENTISTS LONG THOUGHT AEROSOLS WERE DAY-TRIPPERS, settling close to their point of origin. . . . But, beginning in the 1950s, scientists began noticing layers of haze in places like the Arctic, far from any significant source of pollution. The haze suggested aerosols were capable of traveling jet-setter distances.
Now, armed with satellites, airplanes, balloons, and ship- and land-based observatories, scientists track with accuracy the pollutants and the winds that carry them.
"If there's anything we've learned over the years, it's there is a lot of long-range transport up there that no one was ever aware of," said Ken Rahn, a professor of oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.
Large storms can hoist a plume of particles high enough to hook up with the jet stream. Once high enough, dust from the Sahara or smoke from big fires "can easily travel halfway across the globe," said Yoram Kaufman, a scientist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration....
The problem isn't just with China. Aerosols have been tracked from the Sahara to the Caribbean, from Ontario to Rhode Island, and from Germany to Sweden. Within them travel toxic metals, nutrients, viruses and fungi.
"We live in a small world. We breathe each other's air," Cahill said.
Nor is the problem new: Pollutants generated by the smelting of ores by the Greeks and Romans show up today, more than 2,000 years later, in trace amounts in ice cores drilled from Greenland.
"These dust plumes don't go away right away. They can be carried over great distances and are forcing people to take a global perspective on pollution," said Barry Huebert, a professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii.
The tiny aerosol particles make for spectacular sunsets, but they also pose a serious health hazard, as they can lodge deep in the lungs, contributing to increased mortality.
Aerosols also harm agriculture by blocking portions of the spectrum of light from the sun, effectively starving crops like wheat and rice of the energy they need to grow.
The biggest worry, and the one least understood, is the effect aerosols have on weather and climate.
Some aerosols can cool the planet by literally shading it from the sun. Others can warm it by absorbing and trapping the sun's heat.
Aerosols "are clearly right at the center of some important climatic issues," Huebert said.
~ ~ ~
For more on the GLOBAL EFFECTS of POLITICS on POLLUTION, GO TO > > > The World Trade Organization
March 7, 2002
IT'S EVERYONE'S AIR, MR. BUSH!
An editorial in The Los Angeles Times
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's conclusion, more than a decade ago, that breathing someone else's cigarette smoke can cause cancer galvanized support for passage of tough anti-smoking laws and nationwide. Let's hope a new study forging a clear link between exposure to soot and lung cancer also prompts swift political action, the most significant of which would be a reversal by President Bush of his administration's unhealthy effort to weaken air quality rules.
The study, released Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, finds that breathing air containing microscopic particles of soot or dust over a long period greatly increases the risk of dying of lung cancer or other lung or heart diseases. Many city residents who inhale air laden with these particles face a risk of developing fatal lung cancer similar to the risk faced by those living with a smoker.
Earlier studies have hinted at this link. But this latest research, a team effort led by George D. Thurston of the New York University School of Medicine, is far more compelling because it follows a large sample - 500,000 individuals - over a long period, 16 years.
The tiny particles swirling over American cities have long bedeviled air quality officials. They come from diesel trucks and buses, farm equipment, power plant smoke-stacks, dust blowing off unpaved roads and portable generators.
Invisible to the naked eye, these specks can float in the air for weeks and bypass the body's defenses to lodge deep in the lungs....
In 1999, the EPA adopted tougher standards for diesel engines, requiring that they spew far fewer particles. But those rules don't take effect until 2007. In the meantime, the Bush administration is trying to block rules that require utilities to tighten pollution controls when they modernize power plants....
Lung cancer is often hideously painful and sometimes as terrifying as drowning, as lungs eaten away by renegade tumors strain for a taste of oxygen they're no longer able to process.
The latest study argues powerfully for redouble federal action to control this cause of disease, not for cutting corporate polluters more regulatory slack.
September 25, 2002
GROUPS DEMAND THAT BUSH OUST #2
AT INTERIOR OVER ETHICS VIOLATIONS
RELEASE DOCUMENTS REVEALING J. STEVEN GRILES
INVOLVED IN DECISIONS BENEFITING
ENERGY COMPANIES THAT WERE HIS CLIENTS
Washington, D.C. - Friends of the Earth and the Citizens Coal Council today called on President Bush to fire J. Steven Griles, a former energy lobbyist who is now Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department, for violating his ethics agreement.
The groups cited calendars they obtained under the Freedom of Information Act showing that Griles met with his former energy company clients and worked on particular issues that benefit them, as reported in a page-one story in today's Washington Post.
Griles was a lobbyist for over 40 coal, oil, gas and electric companies and trade associations before President Bush named him to the Interior post.
Griles sold his lobbying firm and signed a recusal agreement pledging that while at Interior he would not be involved in "any particular matter involving specific parties in which any of my former clients is or represents a party."
In May 2002, Friends of the Earth caught Griles violating his recusal agreement after he attempted to pressure the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to change its analysis criticizing a coal bed methane project in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana.
Before his appointment to the Interior Department, Griles worked as a lobbyist on behalf of several coal bed methane companies involved in drilling gas wells on public lands in the basin.
"Once again we've caught Griles lobbying and meeting with his corporate polluter buddies and violating his ethics agreement," said Kristen Sykes, Interior Department Watchdog for Friends of the Earth. "President Bush should clean up the dirty corporate influence at the Interior Department by firing Griles immediately."
Doyle Coakley, Chairman of the Citizens Coal Council and a resident of West Virginia, said:
"Griles is another example of a backroom dealer in the Bush administration who thumbs his nose at the public trust and helps greedy coal companies damage the environment. The president must get rid of people who have conflicts of interest. We deserve honest government, not government by and for the big energy companies."
In the 1990s, Griles represented several coal mining interests including Arch Coal, the National Mining Association and Pittston Coal Company. Many of these companies are clients of National Environmental Strategies, which bought out J. Steven Griles and Associates and retained Griles as a vice principal and lobbyist. The firm is paying Griles $284,000 a year over the next four years for the sale of his client base.
DETAILS OF GRILES MEETINGS WITH ENERGY COMPANIES
The calendars that Friends of the Earth and the Citizens Coal Council obtained show that from July 27, 2001, to February 20, 2002, Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Steven Griles:
> Met at least seven times with his former clients, including the National Mining Association and the Edison Electric Institute, and at least once with his former lobbying firm, National Environmental Strategies.
> Met at least 15 times with either companies that belong to the National Mining Association or with administration officials to discuss issues concerning those members; including nine meetings with or about Peabody Energy and two meetings with the West Virginia Coal Association, a proponent of mountaintop removal mining,
> Met at least 16 times with former industry clients and administration officials to discuss the rollback of air pollution standards for power plants, oil refineries and industrial boilers. Discussions included the New Source Review rule, pending air pollution legislation and issues such as mercury.
> Met at least 12 times with administration officials and coal companies to discuss mountaintop removal strip mining. In May, the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA issued a major rule that weakened the Clean Water Act rules. The new rule legalizes the longstanding practice of mountain top removal mines that dump millions of tons of mining waste into streams. A federal judge, however, has blocked this rule from taking effect at coal mines in Kentucky and West Virginia.
The Deputy Secretary assists the Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in the discharge of Secretarial duties and serves as Acting Secretary in the absence of the Secretary. With the exception of certain matters reserved by the Secretary, the Deputy Secretary has the full authority of the Secretary....
Friends of the Earth - Campaigns
See also: Corby Robertson ; Peabody Energy
November 2, 2002
Two File Whistleblower
Suits Against State
Regulators say natural-resources cabinet interfered
By Mark Pitsch, The Courier-Journal
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Two state landfill regulators filed whistleblower lawsuits last month, saying "political interference" prompted the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet to remand and reassign them.
In separate suits against the state, Guy F. "Jeff" Vansant, an engineer, and David A. Jackson, a geologist, say they were removed in May from reviewing the construction of an extension to Ford Branch Landfill in Pike County because of engineering concerns they raised about the project. That action was followed by a written reprimand.
The lawsuits contend the interference "constituted potential threat to the public health or safety of the citizens of the Commonwealth if not properly addressed."
Vansant and Jackson also allege that the cabinet's reorganization of the Division of Waste Management was designed to keep them from vigorously inspecting landfills around the state . . .
Vansant declined to comment. But in an Aug. 29, 2002, memo to then-cabinet Secretary James Bickford, Vansant said:
"I am frankly appalled, and extremely disappointed, to receive a reprimand for essentially providing important, and critically needed, technical information to a taxpayer owned, regulated facility. It appears that a few preferred consulting firms and their owners may be capable of receiving more 'customer service' than are some local government and county officials, whose facilities they design."...
The project was overseen by Summit Engineering Inc. of Pikeville. Jack Sykes, Summit president, did not return telephone calls yesterday.
Robert Padgett, the cabinet's environmental control supervisor who reprimanded Vansant and Jackson and ordered them off the Ford Branch job, said Summit officials and some Pike County government officials told the cabinet they were unhappy with its oversight of the project because of conflicting advice from cabinet employees....
The Pike County Fiscal Court hired Summit Engineering in the mid-1990s to oversee the design and construction of the landfill in Meta, at a price tag of more than $3 million, said Mike Lyons, Pike County's solid-waste coordinator....
Construction has taken place in phases....
Before the state gave its approval to the latest phase - and before garbage was dumped into it - heavy rain and snow in January caused ground water to build up between the ground and a synthetic liner used as a barrier, Lyons said.
Lyons said underground drains built at the site were too small to handle the ground water after the heavy precipitation.
Summit; its contractor, Hardaway Construction of Nashville, Tenn.; the Natural Resources cabinet; and Pike County officials met to come up with a solution.
Padgett said Vansant and Jackson were recommending one method of repairing the landfill after the leak while a third cabinet inspector, Merle Watson, recommended another method.
Vansant, Jackson and Watson were prohibited for working on the landfill because of the dispute and higher-ranking cabinet officials took over, Pladgett said....
(Catbird: A tip of the Catbird's wing to Guy Vasant and David Jackson for your courage and integrity!)
See also: The Silence of the Whistleblowers
March 7, 2002
Army Official Fired After
Criticizing Budget Cuts
WASHINGTON - The assistant secretary of the Army, former Mississippi Rep. Mike Parker, was fired yesterday after he criticized the Bush administration's proposed spending cuts for Army Corps of Engineers water projects, members of Congress said.
The Defense Department issued a brief statement saying Parker had resigned....
"Apparently he was asked to resign," said Rep. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a member of the House Appropriations Committee's energy and water development subcommittee that oversees the corps' budget....
Secretary of the Army Thomas White was directed over the weekend to seek Parker's dismissal, said a congressional official....
In his budget submission last month, Bush proposed cutting the Corps of Engineers' budget by 10 percent to $4.175 billion, excluding federal retirees' pensions and benefits. The corps had requested more than $6 billion.
At a hearing before the Senate Budget Committee last week, Parker said the cuts would require the corps to cancel $190 million in already contracted projects providing 4,500 jobs....
See also: The Silence of the Whistleblowers
March 1, 2002
Key EPA Official Quits, Claims White House Undermines Effort
Review interfering with clean-air task, civil servant says
WASHINGTON - The chief of the Environmental Protection Agency's civil enforcement office has resigned, complaining the White House is undermining anti-pollution efforts at power plants that violate clean air laws.
Eric Schaeffer, a lawyer at the EPA for a dozen years dating from the first Bush administration, said in a letter to EPA Administrator Christie Whitman that the White House "seems determined to weaken the rules we are trying to enforce."
An EPA spokesman disagreed with many of the assertions made by Schaeffer, a career civil servant, and said the Bush administration "remains committed to enforcement ... in a major way" against polluters. . . .
Schaeffer said in the letter, submitted Wednesday, that he had been frustrated especially by the administration's review of the EPA's push to require power plants, many of which are fired by coal, to augment pollution controls when they make significant improvements or expansions that result in more pollution.
Reached at his home yesterday, Schaeffer said the problems he outlined in his resignation letter "reflect the views of just about all the civil servants working in enforcement" at the EPA.
"This is the kind of thing you can't say when you're in government, and it is something I really feel needs to be said," he added.
In his letter, Schaeffer lamented to impact that the White House review of the so-called "new source review" rule has had on lawsuits filed against a dozen utilities. The suits alleged the plants violated the Clean Air Act by not putting in additional pollution controls when making plant changes.
Settlements with two of the companies resulted in major reductions of pollution.
Two other utilities tentatively agreed to settle but refused to sign agreements because of the White House review, Schaeffer said.
Noting in the letter that the power plants targeted by the EPA release 5 million tons of acid rain-causing sulfur dioxide and 2 million tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide, he said: "Fifteen months ago it looked as though our lawsuits were going to shrink these dismal statistics, ... yet today, we seem about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory."
He said the changes being considered by the administration "would turn narrow exemptions (allowed to power plant operators) into larger loopholes that would allow (older) plants to be continually rebuilt and emissions to increase without modern pollution controls."
Tom FitzGerald, executive director of the Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental activism group, said the Bush administration's review of the EPA's enforcement action could harm Kentuckians - even though state power plants are not subject to the action.
"Whether the plant is located here or not, we are located in the same air-shed," FitzGerald said, citing plants in neighboring states, "It is a regional issue. A lot of the pollution we deal with in Jefferson County comes from across-the-border coal-fired plants."
He said the administration's delay "is a direct affront to the people of the Eastern half of the country, particularly those with respiratory problems and those with children who have respiratory problems." . . .
The Administration's Cozy Relationship
with Big Corporate Interests
Is the GAO right to worry about undue corporate influence? Consider this statement from Mike Smith, assistant secretary for fossil fuels at the Department of Energy, who recently told an audience in Charleston that, "The biggest challenge is going to be how to best utilize taxpayer dollars to the benefit of industry." (Charleston Gazette, January 31, 2002).
After the release last year of the President's National Energy Policy, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) created an implementation plan of more than 40 tasks focused on speeding up energy development and reducing environmental safeguards. Meanwhile in Utah, the state director for the BLM, sent out a memo to field offices saying that wilderness reviews and compliance with environmental laws were creating backlogs of oil and gas leases and permits and dictating that oil and gas development must be their No. 1 priority. (BLM memo, January 4, 2002).
These statements are indications of the cozy relationship the Bush Administration has with big oil, gas, and coal companies. In fact, the highest-ranking officials responsible for the protection of the nation's parks, forests, monuments and wilderness areas, come not from a science or conservation background. Rather, they stepped out of their jobs as lobbyists for the mining, coal, and oil industries to take control of the nation's public lands and waters.
Gale Norton, secretary of interior, is a former lobbyist for NL Industries, a chemical company that has had several Superfund sites.
J. Steven Griles, deputy secretary of Interior, is a former lobbyist for the oil and coal industries.
Rebecca Watson, assistant secretary for lands and minerals management, Department of Interior, spent most of her career as a lawyer representing mining, logging, and energy interests.
Mark Rey, undersecretary for natural resources and the environment, Department of Agriculture, was vice president of the timber industry's American Forest and Paper Association.
James Connaughton, head of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, is a former lobbyist for various mining companies and the Chemical Manufacturers Association.
Camden Toohey, special assistant for Alaska at the Department of Interior, was executive director of Arctic Power, the primary lobbying organization pushing for drilling in the Arctic Refuge.
Wilderness Society :: Big Oil's Energy Plan 2002 - The ...
From When Corporations Rule the World, by David C. Korten:
MAKING MONEY, GROWING POORER
The World Wide Fund for Nature has compiled a Living Planet Index that shows a drop of 30 percent in the health of the living wealth of earth's forests and waters over a single generation from 1970 to 1995. When the index reaches zero, bacteria and cockroaches may still be here but there will be few humans around to marvel at how much money we have left behind in our bank accounts.
A joint study released in September 2000 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Bank, and the World Resources Institute assesses five ecosystem types (agricultural, coastal, forest, freshwater, and grasslands) in relation to five ecosystem services (food and fiber production, water quantity, air quality, biodiversity, and carbon storage). It found that sixteen of the twenty-five eco-system/service combinations had declining trends.
Only one - food and fiber production by forest ecosystems - presented a positive trend, which was due to expanding industrial forest monocropping at the expense of species diversity.
These declines are all a consequence of human economic activity. Bio-invasion, the second greatest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss, now threatens some 20 percent of the world's endangered vertebrate species. It is a direct result of the introduction, through expanded trade, of exotic invasive species into ecosystems that have no defenses against them.
By 1995 we had already learned a lot about the costs to humanity of the reckless chemical and radioactive contamination of our soils and waters. Yet only in 1996, when Theo Colborn and her research team published Our Stolen Future, did the public become aware of the full implications of the 70,000 synthetic chemicals now dispersed in the human environment.
Thousands of these chemicals mimic the action of hormones in humans and other living creatures and are responsible for declining sperm counts, reproductive failures, a high incidence of deformities in frogs, fish, and birds, and the impaired intellectual and behavioral development of human children.
A newly recognized hazard of the nuclear era is the use of depleted uranium (DU), a waste product of the nuclear arms and energy industries that is used to harden military munitions. When used in combat the uranium in the round ignites on impact and combines with oxygen to form a cloud of uranium dust that is persistent and highly toxic to those who breathe or ingest it, causing disability and/or death.
From 300 to 800 tons of DU munitions were fired in Iraq and northern Kuwait during the Gulf War leaving vast areas contaminated with the deadly toxic material with a radioactive half-life of 4 to 5 billion years - the present age of the earth.
DU has become a prime suspect as a source of the Gulf War Syndrome that afflicts as many as 90,000 of the 697,000 U.S. troops who served in the Gulf, even though the military steadfastly denies any possible link. Similar munitions were used by NATO troops in Kosovo, posing a considerable risk not only to NATO troops, but to the returning refugees who will suffer the consequences for generations to come. The continued production and use of such munitions reveals the extent to which a narrow focus on the immediate utility of a technology can result in a callous disregard of the longer-term consequences.
Two new pollution threats have come to public attention since 1995: electromagnetic radiation and transgenic organisms.
Health authorities have noted recent sharp increases in asthma, sleep disorders, hypertension, tinnitis, memory loss, and influenza and flu-like illnesses.
The increase began in the United States in November 1996, at the same time that digital cell phones service was first introduced into a number of U.S. cities. Pulsed radio-frequency and microwave radiation levels have since increased bu up to 100,000-fold in some large cities. The 1996 Telecommunications Act mandated universal wireless services and banned state and local governments from regulating transmission facilities on environmental grounds....
The rapid and wide-scale commercialization and dissemination of transgenic organisms is also a post-1995 phenomenon. Conventional plant breeding, which involves selective cross breeding between plants of the same or closely related species, stimulates natural processes.
Genetically engineered plants are by contrast commonly transgenic, meaning they are created by moving genetic material across nature's carefully erected species barriers and inserting them into the cells of a wholly alien species, even crossing the boundaries between bacteria, plants, and animals. Bacterial genes may be inserted into corn or fish genes into tomatoes.
Harmful as they are, at least nuclear and chemical wastes do not self-reproduce. Transgenic organisms do.
They also mutate and interact with other species - and once released into the environment they may prove impossible to recall or isolate.
Under pressure to rapidly achieve dominant market positions, biotech companies have rushed transgenic organisms to the market with minimal testing, government oversight, or regard for potential health and environmental consequences. By 1999, 100 million acres were planted in transgenic crops, primarily in the United States, Argentina, and Canada.
Faced with a growing public outcry from citizen groups alerted to biotech corporations playing Russian roulette for profit with the living systems of the planet, seven major biotech corporations formed the Council for Biotechnology Information to carry out a $50 million public relations campaign to assure the public that their products are both beneficial and harmless.
~ ~ ~
Rapidly expanding technological frontiers now give humanity god-like capacities to manipulate the basic building blocks of matter, life, and the electromagnetic spectrum. Corporations with billions of dollars at stake insist that they should be allowed to move ahead with commercializing and disseminating products based on these technologies until others provide conclusive proof that they are harmful.
But our understanding of the implications of such technologies for our own bodies and the earth's living systems remains minuscule. We are like a child with a box of matches sitting next to an open container of gasoline, armed only with the knowledge that striking a match will produce a pretty flame.
The consequences of letting corporations make for us such basic decisions about altering the chemical, electromagnetic, and genetic environment of the planet - in some instances permanently and irreversibly - purely on the basis of what is possible and profitable at the moment is becoming increasingly foolhardy....
For more on genetically modified organisms, GO TO > > > The Biotech Birds
January 9, 2002
Northeast States Oppose
Relaxed Air Standards
Six attorneys general threaten to sue if emissions are eased
By Shannon McCaffrey, Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is considering relaxing clean-air standards for power plants, which environmentalists and Northeastern states strongly oppose and the energy industry favors.
Attorneys general from six Northeastern states traveled to Washington yesterday to warn that they will sue if the Clean Air Act is weakened.
"We will absolutely go to court to forestall these new rules and regulations," said New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
Northeastern states say they are victims of Midwest power plant emissions that drift east on prevailing winds, polluting the air and water and exacerbating health problems such as asthma. . . .
The Energy Department released a report recently that found Clean Air Act requirements for carbon dioxide emissions from power plants would cost companies billions of dollars and add to energy costs.
In the spring, the Bush administration began re-evaluating requirements that power companies upgrade their plants when they put in place more stringent pollution controls.
The attorneys general said one of the most alarming revisions being considered by the administration involves changing the definition of routine maintenance so that it would allow massive overhauls but not require more pollution controls.
The attorneys general also complained they have been left out of discussions on the issue while energy lobbyists - some with close ties with the administration - have been allowed in.
Among those lobbyists is former Montana Governor Marc Racicot, recently tapped by President Bush to take over the Republican National Committee.
Additionally, Bush's point man on energy policy is Vice President Dick Cheney, the former chief executive of Halliburton Co., a Dallas-based oil company.
In addition to Spitzer, attorneys general from Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island were in Washington.
Attorneys general from Massachusetts, Maine and New Jersey submitted statements of support.
Northeastern states already have sued 11 power plants in the Midwest, alleging they are not complying with Clean Air Act requirements.
January 9, 2002
Study Links Birth Defects,
Chlorinated Drinking Water
WASHINGTON - Millions of Americans have been drinking tap water contaminated with chemical byproducts from chlorine that are far more than what studies suggest may be safe for pregnant women, two environmental groups say.
Chlorine is commonly used to disinfect drinking water. When it is added to water that contains organic matter such as runoff from farms or lawns, however, it can form compounds such as chloroform that can cause illness.
The study released yesterday by the Environmental Working Group and Public Interest Research Groups identified areas that may have increased health risks including miscarriage, neural tube defects and reduced fetal growth from women drinking chlorination by-products.
"By failing to clean up rivers and reservoirs that provide drinking water for hundreds of millions of Americans, EPA and the Congress have forced water utilities to chlorinate water that is contaminated with animal waste, sewage, fertilizer, algae and sediment," the report says.
However, C.T. Howlett Jr., executive director of the Chlorine Chemistry Council, said government agencies found no compelling link between reproductive hazards and chlorinated water.
He said chlorine has been added to drinking water for more than a century, and that the study "may unnecessarily alarm the public and, in particular, pregnant women, about risks that are not supported by scientific evidence."
A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency had no immediate comment. One expert on environmental health cautioned that the link between the byproducts and pregnancy risks is suggestive, not conclusive.
January 22, 2002
More money sought for wildlife refuges
By Paul Glader, Associated Press
FREMONT, Calif. - Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced a proposed $56.5 million increase yesterday for the National Wildlife Refuge System, an 18 percent boost needed to cover maintenance and renovation of aging facilities.
"It certainly looks like the refuse system needs a sustained effort to improve the resources," Norton said while touring the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge would receive $1.1 million under the proposed budget that starts Oct. 1. . . .
Some Republicans and Democrats in Congress last year urged hundreds of millions more for refuges.
Norton's announcement came less than a week after she concluded that oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska would not compromise America's international treaty obligations to protect the refuge's polar bears....
For much more on Gale Norton, GO TO > > > The Bureau of Indian Affairs; HUD; The Peregrine Fund
January 27, 2002
Plaintiffs Seek Compensation for Decades of PCB Pollution
By Kevin Sack, The New York Times
ANNISTON, Ala. - These days Edgar Stroud grows his collard greens in 5-gallon buckets filled with soil bought from Wal-Mart.
He has do so ever since a man from the Environmental Protection Agency tested the dirt in his garden two years ago.
"Do you eat stuff out of this garden?" Stroud said the man asked, somewhat ominously.
"Yes," Stroud answered.
"Well, I wouldn't," Stroud said the man advised.
As is the case across west Anniston, Ala., Stroud's garden is laced with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, presumably from the plant three blocks away where the Monsanto Co. produced the suspected carcinogen for nearly four decades.
During each of those years, St. Louis-based Monsanto flushed tens of thousands of PCBs and other toxic wastes into Snow Creek, through long-established neighborhoods and into Choccolocco Creek.
More than 45 tons of PCBs, a highly efficient industrial insulator, were discharged in 1969 alone, according to company documents. Monsanto also deposited millions of pounds of PCBs in a hillside landfill just above the plant.
Thirty miles away, in Gadsden, Ala., a jury is hearing a lawsuit filed by Stroud and more than 3,500 other plaintiffs who contend that Monsanto and its chemical division, Solutia Inc., should compensate them for reduced property values, emotional distress and, in some cases, health problems related to the PCB contamination.
It is one of at least four major Anniston-related lawsuits against Monsanto and Solutia that have been filed by a total of 25,000 plaintiffs. Two of the cases have already been settled, for a combined $80 million. . . .
In the first two weeks of testimony, the plaintiffs' lawyers have established through Monsanto memoranda that the company was aware of the level of its discharges and that it at least partly understood the risks as early as the mid-1960s, if not earlier. But it did not begin improving pollution controls until 1970, a year before it stopped making PCBs in Anniston.
The company continued to produce PCBs elsewhere until 1977, two years before the federal government banned them.
A witness for the plaintiffs testified on Thursday that PCB levels in the blood of many plaintiffs were elevated. The 16 plaintiffs in the first phase of the trial had average PCB levels of 46 parts per billion, 27 times the national norm, said Dr. Ian Nisbet, a Massachusetts toxicologist and a consultant for the plaintiffs.
"This is by far the most contaminated community - as indicated by the levels in their blood - that I've ever encountered," Nesbit said.
Because science remains murky on the health effects of PCBs on humans, those plaintiffs who maintain they have been personally injured by Monsanto may have difficulty proving their cases. But Anniston is rife with anecdotes about high and persistent cancer rates, particularly about children who developed tumors after frolicking in and around Snow Creek.
Lawyers for Monsanto and Solutia said they could not discuss the case because of an order imposed by Laird. But in the past, they have maintained that the companies acted fairly in dealing with the city, that they spent more than $40 million on environmental testing and cleanup and that PCB contamination cannot be definitively linked to long-term health problems.
"We would all rather live in a pristine world," said Jere White, a lawyer for Monsanto and Solutia, in his opening argument two weeks ago.
"We are all going to be exposed to things on a daily basis. Our bodies can deal with it."...
PRAY FOR ALABAMA
March 28, 2002
Incinerator neighbors to
receive safety gear
Alabama will abandon attempt to block Army nerve-agent burning
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The federal government will pay for gas mask-like safety gear for thousands of Alabama residents who live near an incinerator where the Army will burn deadly nerve agents, officials said yesterday.
As many as 35,000 people in eastern Alabama could receive the protective hoods and training. The Federal Emergency Management Agency said many details had to be worked out and that no money would be released until the state provides a plan for purchasing and maintaining the hoods, and for training in their use.
The deal laid the groundwork for what could be the first mass distribution of such safety gear to civilians on U.S. soil.
Gov. Don Siegelman's office said the hoods would be distributed under an agreement reached in Siegelman's lawsuit over the chemical weapons incinerator at the Anniston Army Depot, but FEMA denied the agreement was linked to the lawsuit.
Similar chemical agents are stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot near Richmond, Ky., and at Indiana's Newport Chemical Depot north of Terre Haute.
In return for the government's pledge to provide $7 million for the gear and training in Alabama, the state will withdraw its request that a judge block the opening of the incinerator, Siegelman spokesman Rip Andrews said. Siegelman filed suit last month to halt operation of the$1 billion incinerator.
The protective hoods, which function like gas masks but are larger and simpler to use, would be given to people who live nearest the incinerator.
The money would also be used to purchase gear for as many as 500 police officers, firefighters and emergency management workers who would respond to any accident at the incinerator, said Mike Burney, emergency management director for Calhoun County, Ala.
An estimated 75,000 people live within about nine miles of the incinerator, situated about 60 miles east of Birmingham.
"Even a small accident could be catastrophic," Burney said.
(Catbird: Not to mention a terrorist attack.)
While the military has destroyed aging nerve agents at incinerators in the Pacific and the Utah desert, the Anniston installation is the first to be located in a populated area.
The Army plans to begin test burns of nerve gas in September.
* * *
September 15, 2002
Arms incinerator scares Alabamans
Army to destroy chemical weapons in county of 116,000
The New York Times
ANNISTON, Ala. - Some nights, Samuel Robinson sits by himself and counts the windows in his home.
It could get in here, he thinks.
It could get in there.
Any place a breath of air could creep in, he says, so could a tiny amount of the poison gas that the nearby chemical weapons incinerator is to begin burning next month, after years of delay, cost overruns and safety concerns.
Robinson, 74, lives just a few miles from the Anniston Army Depot, where stockpiles of deadly nerve gas and mustard gas await incineration in a $1 billion plant.
The Anniston Army Depot houses 9 percent of the nation's chemical weapons stockpile, which, under a global treaty that bans such weapons, is supposed to be destroyed by 2004. But unlike other incinerators on Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean and at Tooele, Utah, in the Great Salt Lake Desert, the weapons bunkers in northern Alabama are surrounded by schools, day-care centers, churches and homes.
The Army's scientists say that when the burning starts, at 2,700 degrees, 2,254 tons of the most inhuman weapons ever devised will be rendered little more dangerous than water vapor. Most of the chemical are 40 years old or older and have become obsolete because age has caused the chemicals to deteriorate and because the necessary guns and launching platforms no longer exist.
It will take seven years to erase the stockpile, the Army says. It insists that the risk to the incinerator's neighbors is minimal to nonexistent.
But similar Army efforts elsewhere, while avoiding disaster, have been marred by mechanical foul-ups and human error, and some health experts, environmentalists and residents say it is madness to burn weapons of mass destruction in a county of 116,000 people.
Michael Abrams, a spokesman for the Anniston Chemical Agent Disposal, said, "It is unrealistic to live in fear, or assume that the entire community is on the edge of Armageddon."
But Peter deFur, a toxicologist and biologist with Virginia Commonwealth University who has researched other incinerators and their health effects, said:
"Even if you have a low probability of something going wrong, if you operate long enough, hard enough and fast enough, then chances are, something is going to get out."
February 4, 2002
CHEMICAL'S CLIMB UP FOOD CHAIN CONCERNS ENVIRONMENTALISTS
By Matt Crenson, Associated Press
A chemical flame retardant used in foam furniture padding is accumulating so rapidly in the breast milk of nursing mothers that environmentalists and some scientists want the chemical banned.
While no one is calling for mothers to stop nursing, little is known about the toxic nature of polybrominated diphenyl ether, commonly known by the acronym PBDE.
Early studies using mice have required PBDE doses 1 million times the highest level of human exposure to bring about observable health effects. Yet in other ways the chemical poses some of the same dangers as PCBs and DDT. Those two chemicals were banned in the United States decades ago for their myriad detrimental effects.
One form of PBDE will be banned next year in Europe, where the law requires proof of safety before a new agent can be used in the environment. U.S. law requires proof of harm or risk before a chemical is banned.
But the chemical industry argues that more research is needed before banning something that protects lives. Chemical producers say there is no evidence that it will ever reach harmful levels, while its benefits as a flame retardant are well known.
Adding the chemical to foam furniture padding, television casings and other plastics reduces by 45 percent the risk of death and injury due to fire, the chemical manufacturers say.
"We're not talking about aesthetics. People use brominated flame retardants because they save lives," said Robert Campbell, a spokesman for Great Lakes Chemical Corp., in West Lafayette, Ind.
Like other chemicals, PBDE is a persistent organic pollutant. Such pollutants can remain in the environment for years without breaking down. Some of these pollutants have such an affinity for fat that they build up in the bodies of animals and humans from before birth until death.
"It seem that PBDEs are an important - but generally unrecognized - persistent organic pollutant in the United States," Robert Hale, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, and five colleagues wrote in the journal Nature.
Persistent organic pollutants are so difficult to purge from the environment that 25 years after being banned, trace amounts of PCBs can still be measured in human blood. Waterways such as New York's Hudson River and Wisconsin's Fox River are being dredged at costs running into the hundreds of millions to rid them of PCB contamination. In many waters, anglers are warned not to eat the fish or to limit their consumption.
"There is an enormous need to act quickly when there is a problem with a chemical that is not only toxic but is persistent and accumulates, because it will continue to get worse before it gets better," said physician Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council....
"At this point all bets are open in terms of how it's getting into the environment," said Hale....
He has hypothesized that discarded furniture is a major source. Whenever anybody tosses out an old sofa, he explained, nature goes to work. Water and sunlight break the foam into crumbling pieces that eventually are ground to dust. Insects have also been observed munching away at the material. From those humble beginnings the chemical travels up the food chain to humans.
Hale has found PBDEs virtually everywhere he has looked: In a small river along the North Carolina-Virginia border, he found fish with the highest levels of the chemical ever recorded in an animal.
He has also collected sewage sludge samples from four states, all with high concentrations of the chemical.
Scientists in Sweden first documented the increase of the chemical in humans. For 30 years, Sweden has taken samples of breast milk of nursing mothers to track exposure to dioxin, PCBs and other pollutants that accumulate in body fat. The United States has no similar program.
In 1998, Swedish scientists reported that levels of PBDE in breast milk had increased 40-fold since 1972.
Since the Swedish discovery, the chemical has been found in Swedish pike, Virginia catfish and North Sea cod. Seals, moose and reindeer all carry the chemical in their body fat and like humans transmit it to their nursing young. PBDE has even been found in the blubber of sperm whales in the Arctic Ocean.
Even more alarming to environmentalists was the revelation in December by the journal Environmental Science & Technology that North American mothers have breast-milk PBDE levels at least 40 times the highest concentrations found in Sweden.
"It's humongously high," said Mehran Alaee, a Canadian government scientist who compiled the North American data. "If you let it go like this, it will reach a point sooner or later that it will cause some damage to the environment."
Where that point lies, nobody knows. Researchers simply have not collected the information they need to determine how much PBDE is harmful.
"What we have seen in our developmental neurotoxicity studies ... is that PBDEs can be as toxic as the PCBs," said Per Eriksson, a toxicologist at Uppsala University in Sweden.
Ericksson's experiments have shown that one large dose of PBDE delivered early in a mouse's life can cause permanent brain damage....
But those experiments involve relatively large amounts of PBDE given to animals over a short time. Nobody really knows how lower doses delivered over decades will affect humans. . . .
Great Lakes Chemical has chosen to continue producing its PBDE products for the time being.
"If things turn out that the levels that are going to get into the environment are problematic, we'll do the right thing," Campbell said.
February 24, 2002
SUPERFUND ACCOUNT NEARLY
OUT OF MONEY
Bush administration looks to prioritize selected cleanup sites
by Kathaarine Q. Seelye, The New York Times
WASHINGTON - Faced with dwindling reserves in the huge account that gave the Superfund waste cleanup program its name, the Bush administration has decided to target fewer sites for restoration and to shift the bulk of the costs from industry to taxpayers.
The administration says that it is dealing with much bigger and more complex sites, if fewer of them, and that deciding how to pay for the program is up to Congress.
For years Congress has failed to reach agreement on reauthorizing the tax on industry that used to be the source of money for the Superfund, which was founded in 1980 under the slogan, "The polluter pays."
The trust fund used the special corporate taxes to clean up contamination at so-called "orphan sites," or those where the responsible party could not be identified or could not pay, as well as for recalcitrant companies and emergency action.
The trust fund has been used to clean up about 30 percent of the 1,551 sites on the Environmental Protection Agency's national priority list, with corporations themselves paying to clean up the other 70 percent. Most companies prefer to pay for their own cleanup because they can do it for less than the government, which can charge the companies three times the cost, plus penalties.
But the trust fund is running out of money.
Under pressure from the chemical and oil industries, Congress let the corporate taxes expire in 1995. Without them, the trust fund dwindled, from a high of $3.8 billion in 1996 to a projected $28 million next year.
President Bush did not reauthorize the taxes last year in his first budget, and his proposed budget for 2003 explicitly states that he will not do so.
Chemical and oil companies as other businesses had long complained that the taxes were burdensome, costing them collectively $4 million a day or more than $1 billion a year. They also complained that the Superfund program was slow, overly stringent and badly managed and had unfair liability rules.
Still, the taxes were reauthorized under President Ronald Reagan and again under Bush's father. They expired in 1995, and while President Bill Clinton sought to have them reinstated, the House, by then under Republican control, refused.
The Bush administration's declaration that it will not reauthorize the taxes will substantially shift the costs of maintaining the Superfund trust fund to taxpayers.
In 1994, taxpayers paid $250 million for Superfund cleanups, or about 21 percent of the $1.2 billion fund, with corporate taxes paying $950 million, or about 83 percent.
In 1999, taxpayers paid $350 million and since then have paid about 50 percent of the cost. Bush proposes that taxpayers pay $700 million, or more than 50 percent of the $1.3 billion fund, in 2003.
The fund itself will provide about $600 million in 2003. Even though the tax has not been collected since 1995, the fund has reserves because the EPA has recovered costs from corporation and collected interest. But that amount is vanishing.
By 2004, all the money will come from taxpayers....
November 6, 2001
Risk to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge intensifies following terrorist attacks
Washington, D.C., USA: In the wake of the September terrorist attacks on the USA, several members of the US Senate have opportunistically tried to advance energy legislation that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Pro-drilling senators threatened to amend crucial defense and national security legislation, but backed down after most senators objected to their tactic. Supporters of drilling in the refuge, however, made it clear that they would force a debate on an energy bill before the end of the year.
The refuge is the "crown jewel" of the US system of national refuges, a vast and remote wilderness in northeastern Alaska included among the WWF Global 200 Ecoregions.* The WWF-US board directors have responded to the senator's tactics by issuing a statement rebuking the actions of the drilling supporters:
"As a nation, we hold only 3 percent of the world's reserves of oil, yet we consume almost 25 percent of the world's daily production. As long as this is the case, we will remain dependent on world oil markets, and we will pay the world price for oil, whether it is produced domestically or abroad. The safest and fastest way to increase our energy security is to improve the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks, homes, factories, and offices, and to increase the role of renewable non-petroleum sources of energy in our economy."
"We urge the Senate to consider carefully the long-term implications of these energy policy issues as part of an orderly process of the consideration of energy matters, rather than in midst of the present crisis."
Provoked by the Senate's reluctance to speed up the energy bill process, President Bush publicly urged the Senate to consider the issue as a matter of national security. "The less dependent we are on foreign sources of crude oil, the more secure we are at home," Bush said....
Currently, trillions of cubic feet of gas from the North Slope is either flared at the well site or reinjected into the ground because low prices have made it uneconomical to move the product to markets.
When gas prices started climbing earlier this year, representatives from three companies which produce North Slope oil - Exxon, BP, and Phillips Petroleum ---- appeared before Congress to express their support for a gas pipeline from Alaska.
"If we need to tap into the resources of Alaska," Daschle says, "let's do it with this [gas] pipeline." Senator Daschle has repeatedly argued against opening the wildlife refuge to petroleum development, calling it "the most sensitive part of Alaska."
He cites U.S. government estimates that oil from the refuge would not flow to markets for at least ten years.
Alaska's senior Senator Ted Stevens, an outspoken proponent of drilling for oil in the wildlife refuge, acknowledged that there are not enough votes in the Senate to open the area at this time.
"It will take another national tragedy of some kind to convince the public and thus the U.S. Senate of the need to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," Stevens said one month to the day after the September 11th terrorist attacks.
It is not certain when the Senate will debate an energy bill or vote on the fate of the Arctic Refuge. What is certain: If this issue is not resolved this year, proponents of drilling will continue to press for consideration when Congress returns to Washington in January.
For further information contact:
Randall D. Snodgrass
Director, Government Relations
World Wildlife Fund-US
Ph: + 001 (202) 778-9680
* More information about the WWF Global 200 Ecoregions programme is available at: www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld.
February 24, 2002
BUSH SAYS ARCTIC DRILLING
NEEDED FOR SECURITY, JOBS
WASHINGTON - President Bush renewed his campaign to open a arctic refuge to oil exploration, contending that drilling is essential to national security and job creation.
In his weekly radio address yesterday, Bush said the plan is vital to his goal of making the United States less dependent on foreign energy sources. He also wants to promote energy efficiency, develop wind and solar power, build fuel-efficient vehicles and combat pollution.
(CATBIRD CATCALL: What he DIDN'T SAY is how much of his ENERGY PLAN was written by ENRON.)
His bid to overturn the 1980 ban on drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge remains the most contested element of his energy plan. It probably will face a filibuster from senators who say the drilling would damage the environment.
Debate in the Senate on an energy bill was expected to begin this week. The House version, passed in the summer, permits drilling in a 1.5 million-acre section of the refuge.
Bush contends the drilling can move ahead with minimal environmental harm, and he says there is little choice.
"Conservation technology and renewables are important. Yet they alone cannot solve our energy problems," he said in the radio address. "We must also reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of oil by encouraging safe and clean exploration at home."
The president, who just returned from six days in Asia, began his trip with a stop in Anchorage, Alaska. He said he found support for a "balanced, comprehensive and aggressive energy plan" that includes further developing Alaska's oil reserves.
"Alaskans know firsthand that modern technology allows us to bring oil to the surface cleanly and safely, while protecting our environment and wildlife," Bush said....
"We all remember the blackouts and the sky-high energy bills of recent summers," he said. "I urge Congress to protect consumers from these wild swings in energy prices for the future." . . .
Here's something else that Alaskans know firsthand, but Bush did NOT mention...
March 31, 2000
US SENATORS ASK FOR ACCESS TO ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
From Project Underground
Protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the US state of Alaska and the livelihood of the Gwich'in peoples are being threatened by the efforts of Alaskan politicians to open the Refuge up to oil drilling. Using national discontent with high oil prices as an excuse, Republican senators from Alaska are asking the US government to consider giving oil companies access to the coastal plain for long term oil development.
The 1.5 million-acre (3.7 million hectare) Wildlife Refuge is located on the North Slope of Alaska near already heavily industrialized Prudhoe Bay. The area is home to caribou, polar bears, musk oxen, swans, and countless other species.
It is also home to the Gwich'in peoples, whose name means "people of the caribou," who have lived in and around the area of the Refuge for 20,000 years. They depend on the caribou for food and shelter, and as a link to their traditional way of life. The Gwich'in are a population of 7,000, with nearly fifteen villages and small towns scattered across northeast Alaska and northwest Canada.
Alaskan Senators Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens, backed by 31 Republicans and three Democrats, introduced a bill into Congress earlier this month to "authorize environmentally responsive oil development on a small part" of the Refuge.
Murkowski, who is also chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, tried every angle to convince the government that opening up the Refuge was a good idea. He went on to say that discouraging domestic production only increases pressures on more sensitive areas, such as the Colombian rainforest - a clear reference to the threat that oil development poses for the U'wa of Colombia.
"The Gwich'in Steering Committee opposes Murkowski's legislation to open the coastal plain Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil development,"" said Donna Carroll, Administrative Director for the Gwich'in Steering Committee.
"We oppose the development of oil drilling in the refuge because it is the only calving area for the Porcupine Caribou, which we have relied on for thousands of years. We want to continue our way of life and continue to use the caribou for food and clothing."
The Gwich'in Steering Committee was established "to protect our people, caribou, land, air and water." It is composed of eight tribal members, four from Alaska and four from Canada, and its mission is, "to establish Gwich'in cultural survival as a major issue in the debate over oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
The Committee points out that in the past 30 years, Exxon, Arco, British Petroleum, and other multinational oil conglomerates have turned 800 square miles (2,000 square kilometers) of Alaska's North Slope into an industrialized oil field maze, that includes 500 miles (804 kilometers) of roads and pipelines, more than 150 drilling pads, 1,400 production wells with numerous pumping stations, and three jet airports.
"Their record of environmental abuse ranges from the largest oil disaster in American history to the daily despoiling of Alaska's land. The devastating 11-million-gallon (50 million liter) Exxon Valdez oil spill befouled 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometer) of shoreline along Prince William Sound, an area as vast as the distance from Massachusetts to North Carolina," says a Gwich'in Steering Committee fact-sheet.
The politicians and oil companies who want to open the Wildlife Refuge claim that it is nothing but a wasteland. In fact, it is a fragile ecosystem that supports numerous species and is a stop-off point for thousands of migratory birds from all over the world. Every link in the food chain is critical, and any impact on this area is felt for a long period of time.
"The oil will impact my peoples and who they are,"" said Sarah James, spokesperson for the Porcupine Caribou Issues and the Gwich'in peoples. "
"We are the Caribou people and it [the Wildlife Refuge] is the birthplace not only for us and for the caribou, it's the birthplace for many other animals including the polar bear on the coast and the wolf in the mountains. Between those places is a whole ecosystem that still works. It needs to be protected.
"What's going on today is because gas prices are up. Once they go back down they [the oil companies] are going to get both - low gas prices and the Wildlife Refuge. They're not going to be able to drill for the next 20 years. It's not going to solve anything right away. They say that they have all of this high technology and that they will leave only a small imprint. We believe that any kind of disturbance will affect it.
"They still need to use a lot of water and a lot of gravel, this will change many things. There is no technology that will move the gravel without impact. There is no water up there. It is a wetland, and once there is a spill, it will seep into the tundra and there is no technology in the world to clean that up.
"The oil is going to be exported anyway and there's not enough oil there to save our nation. It's just a way of exercising their power. To let us know who is in control."
The bill is being rushed through Congress by Senate Republicans and projected profits from drilling in the Refuge are being used to balance the national budget. There are currently two alternate bills in the House and Senate pushing for protection of the Refuge.
"We are proof that peoples do have power," said Sarah James.
"We're fighting this issue with grassroots organizations and without money. They just can't admit that peoples do have power. We have to stay on top of things because they have money and time. We have to stay united and not compromise. We have to act now to save the Wildlife Refuge."
SOURCE: Pers. Comm. Gwich'in Steering Committee in Alaska; "The Gwich'in of Alaska and Canada", by Artic Circle, http://arcticcircle.uconn.edu; "Senators Propose Opening Arctic Wilderness to Oil Drilling", by Cat Lazaroff, Environment News Service, March 8, 2000.
March 2, 2002
By Paul Krugman, New York Times
ACCORDING to my calculations, my work space occupies only a few square inches of my office floor. You may find this implausible, but I'm using a well-accepted methodology, that is, among supporters of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Last week, Interior Secretary Gale Norton repeated the standard response to concerns about extensive oil development in one of America's last wild places: "The impact will be limited to just 2,000 out of 1.9 million acres of the refuge."
That number comes from the House version of the Bush-Cheney energy plan, which promises that "surface acreage covered by production and support facilities" will not exceed 2,000 acres.
It's a reassuring picture: a tiny enclave of development, practically lost in the Arctic vastness.
But that picture is a fraud.
Development will not be limited to a small enclave. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, oil in ANWR is scattered in many separate pools, so drilling rigs would be spread all across the costal plain. The roads linking those rigs are not part of the 2,000 acres: they're not "production and support facilities."
And "surface acreage covered" is very narrowly defined: If a pipeline snakes across the terrain on a series of posts, only the ground on which those posts rest counts: bare ground under the pipeline isn't considered "covered."
Now you see how I work in such a small space. By those definitions, my "impact" is limited to floor areas that literally have stuff resting on them: the bottoms of the legs on my desk and chair, and the soles of my shoes. The rest of my office floor is pristine wilderness.
There's a lesson here that goes well beyond the impact of oil drilling on caribou.
Deceptive advertising pervades the administration's effort to sell the nation on its drill-and-burn energy strategy. . . .
Remember that this latest push to open up ANWR for drilling follows on the heels of an attempt to portray a plan to do nothing much about global warming as a major policy initiative. What else has the administration said about its energy plans that isn't true?
Top of the list, surely, is the claim that drilling in ANWR is a national security issue, the key to ending our dependence on imported oil.
In fact, the Energy Information Administration's preferred scenario says that even a decade after development begins, ANWR will produce only between 600,000 and 900,000 barrels of oil a day - a small fraction of the 11 million barrels we currently import.
Then there's the absurd claim that ANWR drilling will create hundreds of jobs - a claim based on a decade-old study by, you guessed it, the oil industry's trade association.
But the most nefarious aspect of the administration's energy propaganda is its persistent effort to link energy shortages to environmentalism - an effort that, it's now clear, has often been consciously dishonest.
For example, last spring Dick Cheney lamented the fact that the United States hadn't built any new oil refineries since the 1970s, linking that lack of construction to environmental restrictions.
I wrote a column last May pointing out that environmentalism had nothing to do with it, that refineries hadn't been built because the industry had excess capacity.
What I didn't know was that several weeks earlier staffers at the Environmental Protection Agency had written a scathing critique of Cheney's draft energy report, making exactly the same point....
For now, it's possible for diligent citizens to cut through these deceptions - for example, you can read on the Web what the U.S. Geological Survey actually has to say about oil reserves in the Arctic.
But I keep wondering when the administration will shut down those Web sites. After all, under Attorney General John Ashcroft's new rules, agencies are no longer instructed to release information whenever possible; they are supposed to refuse requests to release information whenever there is a legal basis for doing so.
And honest assessments of oil reserves in environmentally sensitive locations might be useful to terrorists - you never know.
Indiana Student Public Interest Research Group
The Dirty Four
The Case Against Letting BP Amoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Phillips Petroleum Drill in the Arctic Refuge
"Ninety- five percent of Alaska's most promising oil-bearing lands are already open for development, but it is imperative that we continue to protect the wildlife, fish, and the wilderness that make up the rest of this invaluable part of our American heritage."
-- former President Jimmy Carter
Oil drilling and development are not compatible with the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This fragile and pristine region simply can not withstand the pollution and pressures associated with oil and gas exploration and production.
The oil and gas industry is one of the dirtiest and most destructive industries on the planet. Onshore or offshore, in the United States or abroad, in Alaska or the lower 48, the environmental track record of the oil industry is a dirty one.
But despite this record of pollution, President George W. Bush, Interior Secretary Gale Norton, and their allies in Congress support opening up the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge - America's Arctic - for oil drilling.
Pressure to drill in the Arctic is also coming from the oil and gas industry.
On November 7, 2000, BP Amoco's Chief Executive Sir John Browne announced that "BP is interested in exploring Alaska's [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] if Bush wins the White House."
ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Phillips Petroleum would also like to get their hands on the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.
But these four companies - the Dirty Four - have an extensive track record of spills and pollution, ranging from the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history - the 11 million gallon Exxon Valdez oil spill - to a 9,700 gallon oil spill on February 20, 2001 caused by BP Amoco in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the area to the west of the Refuge and the starting point for the Trans Alaska Pipeline system (TAPS).
An industry with a track record of spills, leaks, and habitat destruction should not be allowed access to the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.
The track record of the Dirty Four refutes the notion that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would only leave a small "footprint." In addition to the Exxon Valdez and the recent BP Amoco spills in Prudhoe Bay, the Dirty Four are responsible for a numbingly long list of accidents, including:
>> BP Amoco, despite impressive environmental rhetoric, has their own list of shame. On Sept. 23, 1999, BP Amoco pled guilty to a federal felony connected to illegal dumping of hazardous waste at their Endicott Oil Field near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. As part of a plea agreement BP Amoco agreed to pay $22 million in criminal and civil penalties. In 1995, the BP subcontractor working the Endicott Field was found guilty of illegally injecting hazardous waste back into the groundwater. The subcontractor was ordered to pay a $15 million fine for violating the Clean Water Act.
>> On July 24, 2000, BP Amoco launched a new public relations campaign claiming that the company was " Beyond Petroleum." The same day they made the announcement, the company agreed to pay $10 million in penalties for environmental and pollution violations discovered by the EPA.
>> BP is responsible for the second largest oil spill in California history, a 400,000 gallon spill that covered twenty square miles near Huntington Beach, in 1991.
>> Phillips Petroleum is responsible for two lethal explosions in Pasadena, Texas that killed more than 20 people.
>> The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accused Exxon of nearly 200 violations of the Clean Air Act, and demanded $4.7 million in fines, in 1998 alone.
>> In August 1998, Exxon and Tosco agreed to pay $4.8 million in damages and for environmental restoration after discharging selenium, a carcinogen, into San Francisco Bay. Chevron has paid more than $70 million in fines, settlements, and penalties stemming from environmental violations.
>> The President of Chevron U.S.A. appeared in federal court in May 1992 to plead guilty to 65 violations of the Clean Water Act and pay $8 million in fines, for illegal discharges from the company's offshore oil- and gas-production platform "Grace" off the California Coast.
>> In the last 25 years there have been at least 36 spills, leaks, blowouts, or illegal discharges from Chevron oil fields, drilling rigs, or pipelines, including a spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Overall, the Dirty Four have been ordered to pay close to $1 billion in fines, penalties and settlements. BP Amoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Phillips Petroleum are responsible for more than 150 spills over the past ten years. They have demonstrated their inability to provide safe working conditions with over 40 deaths from explosions or accidents, and their disregard for community health is just as egregious.
Finally, the Dirty Four are responsible for over 100 Superfund sites.
And this "footprint" of spills and accidents would not be confined to a small tract of land. The Interior Department estimated that 12,500 acres of the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge would be directly impacted by a web of roads, drill pads, processing facilities and airports extending over hundreds of square miles, hardly a compact area.
A recent US Geological Survey study concluded that the potential resources are located in many small accumulations in complex geological formation, instead of in one giant field like Prudhoe Bay, further debunking the myth that drilling in the Refuge as being compatible with the current ecosystem.
Industrialization of Alaska's North Slope has already had significant consequences for the environment. Prudhoe Bay is now one of the world''s largest industrial complexes, with more than 1,500 miles of roads and pipelines and thousands of acres of industrial facilities. Development at Prudhoe Bay has permanently altered more than 400 square miles of formerly pristine wilderness.
Juxtapose the destruction associated with oil and gas drilling with the fragile ecosystem of America''s Arctic. Because of the very short summer growing season, extreme cold, nutrient-poor soils, and permafrost, vegetation grows very slowly. Any physical disturbance, from tractor tire tracks to large oil spills, can scar the land for decades.
Oil exploration and drilling would turn the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into a sprawling industrial complex and would destroy wilderness, yet it would do virtually nothing to ease our energy problems. Five years ago Congress lifted the export ban on oil shipped through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system, allowing oil from Prudhoe Bay to be exported to Asia. How does that help our national security?
The chances of finding commercially recoverable amounts of oil in the coastal plain appear remote. The latest U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment of the coastal plain, released in May 1998, estimates that there are only 3.4 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil in the coastal plain. At current rates of consumption that's less than six months, or 157 days worth of oil from the coastal plain. Any oil thought to be in the Refuge would probably take at least 10 to 12 years to reach American consumers.
A national energy policy that emphasizes energy efficiency and promotes renewable energy would help preserve sensitive areas like the Arctic Refuge, produce clean energy, slow global warming, reduce pollution, and create jobs.
Instead of allowing oil and gas drilling in America's Arctic, the U.S. should increase fuel economy in all new cars to 39 miles per gallon within the next ten years, promote programs that provide tax credits to individuals who buy clean and efficient advanced-technology vehicles employing hybrid gasoline-electric drive, and mandate that SUVs meet the same clean air standards as passenger cars. Putting these solutions in place would save far more oil than what is estimated to lie beneath the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge.
This report, part of the PIRGs' Arctic Wilderness campaign, shows that BP Amoco, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Phillips Petroleum have an abysmal track record when it comes to environmental stewardship. The report documents spills, explosions, and various degrees of poor corporate citizenship.
More importantly, it documents behavior and corporate activity incompatible with an area as pristine, unique, and vital as the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Indiana Public Interest Research Group
DON'T ALLOW BIG OIL TO DRILL IN THE ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the
crown jewel of America's refuge system.
From Arctic National Wildlife Refuse website: http://www.defenders.org/
Tucked away in the state's remote northeast corner, this 19.6- million-acre wildlife sanctuary is an awe-inspiring natural wonder: A sweeping expanse of tundra studded with marshes and lagoons and laced with rivers dramatically situated between the rugged foothills of the Brooks Range and the wide, icy waters of the Beaufort Sea. This pristine place is under threat by an oil industry that sees not its beauty, but its profit-making potential.
The oil companies have their sights on the biological heart of the refuge, its Arctic Ocean coastal plain, an area critical to the survival of many birds and mammals. About 160 bird species, including species that visit each of the lower 48 states, find breeding, nesting or resting places on the coastal plain.
The plain is the most important on-shore denning area in the United States for polar bears. It is the principal calving ground of the 130,000-strong migratory Porcupine caribou herd, the second largest caribou herd in the United States and a key source of food, clothing and medicine for the Gwich'in Indians, one of the world's few remaining subsistence cultures.
Grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, arctic foxes, whales and other species also thrive in the region. The 1980 law that created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge also closed 1.5 million acres of the coastal plain to gas and oil exploration unless specifically authorized by Congress.
More than 90 percent of the coastal lands west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have already been opened to drilling, with many documented negative effects on wildlife and habitat.
Despite claims by the big oil companies that they can drill and have drilled responsibly on Alaska's North Slope, spills are commonplace. At the Prudhoe Bay oilfield , just 60 miles west of the refuge, reportable spills of oil products and hazardous substances happen every day and are compounded by the noise and air pollution industrialization brings. Shortly after drilling started in this area, the central arctic caribou herd shifted its calving grounds away from development, resulting in the use of lower quality habitats.
Oil contamination from leaks in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, during transfer to tankers, and from tanker accidents occurs frequently, too, most notably in 1989 when more than 10 million gallons of crude oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez into Prince William Sound. This spill contributed to the deaths of more than 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and nearly two dozen whales, and continues to affect widlife populations today.
Biologists are also concerned about the long-term environmental effects of the millions of gallons of waste from oil and gas operations disposed of in open pits, injected into the subsurface, frozen into the permafrost and discharged directly into the air and water.
Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could be particularly disastrous for wildlife because the area targeted includes some of the refuge's most critical and sensitive habitat.
Biologists project that the birthrate of the Porcupine caribou may fall by 40 percent if drilling is allowed. They also believe seismic exploration could disturb denning polar bears and cause them to abandon their cubs to die. Even small spills would be disastrous for seals and other marine mammals found along the refuge coastline because oil and chemicals from spills tend to accumulate within the air holes used by these animals. And disturbances of any duration could have population-wide impacts on snow geese, trumpeter swans, arctic terns and the other migratory birds that visit the refuge to feed and breed.
If oil exploration goes forward, we will not see a drop of oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for 10 years, and the extra supply will not lower the price of oil.
Developing an oil-producing operation is a lengthy and expensive process and is only feasible when oil prices are high. The OPEC nations control the price of oil and would quickly cut world supply to offset any influx of Alaskan oil. There is no guarantee oil from the refuge would ever reach American consumers because Alaska''s congressional delegates are strongly pushing to resume selling Alaskan oil to China, Korea, Japan and other foreign countries , a practice that was halted during recent oil company mergers.
Despite the environmental and economic facts, President George W. Bush and his Big Oil allies are intent on opening the coastal plain to drilling.
Remember, the law that created the refuge left Congress with the power to open it to drilling. For years, whenever the political climate has been favorable, pro-drilling advocates have pushed for legislation to open the refuge. The odds are now overwhelmingly in their favor.
Big Oil's contributions to political campaigns have won them new allies in the White House and on Capitol Hill. The Bush administration has made opening the refuge a cornerstone of its energy policy and chosen energy and interior secretaries who share his will to drill. The pressure is on to try every legislative maneuver from stand-alone legislation to slipping a drilling rider onto some completely unrelated, must-pass bill.
The threat to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the nation's last unspoiled major arctic ecosystem, has never been greater.
Please write to BP-Amoco, the huge multinational conglomerate leading the charge to drill in the refuge, and the other Big Oil companies. BP Amoco (which recently merged with Arco) and Phillips Petroleum Company control about 80% of the oil production in the Arctic region. Let them know you don't want the refuge desecrated by drilling.
Take Action Now !
Big Oil already has most of Alaska's North Slope.
Don't let them have it all.
* * *
And, who owns "BIG OIL" in Alaska ? ? ?
Top Institutional Holders (as of 12/31/01):
1) State St. Global Advisors, 2) Fidelity Mgmt & Research, 3) Alliance Capital Mgmt, 4) UBS Warburg, 5) State Farm Investment, 6) Wachovia Asset Mgmt, 7) Fleet investment, 8) Smith Barney Asset Mgmt, 9) AIM Capital Mgmt, 10) Banc of America, 11) Morgan Stanley, 12) Barrow Hanley, Mewhinney & Strauss, 13) JP Morgan Fleming, 14) Fayez Sarofim, 15) Northern Trust
Top Institutional Holders (as of 12/31/01):
1) Alliance Capital Mgmt, 2) Capital Research & Mgmt, 3) Davis Selected Advisers, 4) Barclays Global Investors (Committee of 300), 5) Primecap Mgmt, 6) Dodge & Cox, 7) Darrow Hanley, 8) State St Advisors, 9) Fidelity Mgmt & Research, 10) Vanguard Group, 11) Rorer Asset, 12) Institutional Capital, 13) Wellington Mgmt, 14) Iridian Asset, 15) Equinox Capital
* * *
And Alliance Capital Mgmt happens to be (coincidentally) ...
THE NO. 1 INVESTOR IN ENRON!
AND JUST WHO OWNS ENRON?
As of Sept 30, 2001, the top institutional holders were:
#1 - Alliance Capital Mgmt with 42,939,048 shares;
#2 - Janus Capital Mgmt with 41,361,200 shares;
#3 - Putnam Investment Mgmt (Marsh & McLennan) with 23,122,100 shares;
#4 - Barclays Global Investors (Committee of 300) with 23,047,196 shares; and
#5 - Fidelity Mgmt & Research with 20,790,452 shares.
The remaining of the top 15 investors included: Smith Barney; State St. Global Advisors; Aim Mgmt; Vanguard Group; Morgan Stanley ; Northern Trust; Deutsche Bankers Trust; Massachusetts Financial Service; Presdner Rcm; CS First Boston Investment. . . .
* * *
And just WHO owns
ALLIANCE CAPITAL MANAGEMENT?
As of Sept 30, 2001, the top institutional holders were:
#1 - General Electric Co.
#2 - Citigroup
#3 - Pfizer
#4 - Tyco Int'l
#5 - AOL - Time Warner
#6 - Microsoft
#7 - MBNA Corp
#8 - American International Group
#9 - Kohl's Corp
#10 - AT&T Wireless
#11 - Bank of America
#12 - The Home Depot
#13 - Comcast Corp
#14 - Liberty Media Corp
#15 - Schering Plough
$3.5 billion a year
excerpted from the book
Take the Rich Off Welfare
by Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was visibly angry. He was about to sign away federal land containing $68 million in gold for a total price of $540, but he had no choice. The best he could do was hold a news conference that featured a giant gift-wrapped box, and call the deal "a massive rip-off of the taxpayers."
Babbitt's hands were tied by a law that had been passed 123 years earlier, in the ultra-corrupt administration of Ulysses S. Grant. Called the Mining Law of 1872, it was originally designed to encourage settlement of the West.
The Law of '72 allows anyone-including foreign corporations-to search for minerals on public lands and, when they find them, to "patent" the mineral rights at the 1872 price- which is never more than $5 an acre! (Patenting means the company gets to use the land as long as it's mining it.) More than 3.2 million acres-an area almost the size of Connecticut-have been given away at these ridiculous prices.
A Canadian mining company called American Barrick is in the process of extracting more than $10 billion in gold - $83 3/4 billion so far-from land in Nevada it paid $5,190 for. The Chevron and Manville corporations hope to lay their hands on about $4 billion worth of platinum and palladium; to patent the Montana acre where the minerals are found, they'll pay about $10,000.
Royalties? We don't pay no stinkin' royalties.
Since 1872, about $245 billion worth of minerals have been mined from public lands. And how much has our government collected in royalties? Absolutely nothing. Royalties aren't mentioned in the Law of '72, nor in any mining law since.
If a conservative 8% royalty rate had been charged on that $245 billion, we'd be almost $20 billion richer. And at that same 8% rate, the $33/4 billion in minerals that are currently being pulled out of public lands each year would earn the Treasury about $300 million a year.
A moratorium on mining claims has been declared while Congress tries to decide what to do about the Law of '72 (it's survived many challenges before, but maybe this time we'll be able to drive a golden stake through its heart). Of the approximately $34 billion in proven mineral reserves still left on public lands, 46% were in the process of being claimed when the moratorium went into effect.
But wait-there's more
The worst thing about the Law of '72 is that it doesn't require companies to clean up after themselves when they're done mining and return the patented land.
Right now we're looking at cleanup costs of $32 to $72 billion for abandoned mines on public lands. Let's split the difference and say the cleanup costs $52 billion. If the cleanup takes twenty years, that will amount to $2.6 billion a year.
As if the Law of '72 weren't enough, mining companies enjoy a number of other tax write-offs. The reclamation deduction allows them to begin deducting the eventual closing costs of a mine as soon as it's opened, instead of when those costs actually occur. Needless to say, there's no requirement that the money the reclamation deduction saves the mining companies be set aside in a trust fund for the eventual reclamation of the mine. Eliminating this deduction would earn the Treasury about $40 million a year.
Mining companies can deduct 85% of the projected costs of exploring for certain minerals (finding the site, determining the quantity and quality of the minerals on it, and digging of shafts and tunnels) in the first year of mining, rather than over the life of the mine. And they can treat the sale of coal and iron as capital gains rather than as ordinary income.
These two tax loopholes cost us $135 million a year, but since they're already included in the totals for the accelerated depreciation and capital gains chapters, we won't count them again here.
The percentage depletion allowance
Finally, there's the percentage depletion allowance, another ancient law that's still on the books. It lets mining companies take a set percentage of the gross income they derive from a mine off their taxable incomes, and continue to do that for as long as that mine is producing. (Presumably this compensates them for the fact that they're depleting their source of income by mining it. Or did you think that the money they make selling the minerals was supposed to do that?)
The percentage depletion allowance varies depending on what's being mined; it ranges from 10% for clay, sand and gravel to 22% for uranium, sulphur and lead. (Note that some of the most toxic substances have the highest allowances.)
Just as with its twin, the oil depletion allowance, this tax break can end up being worth many times what it cost to dig the mine. When mining companies end up making more money from a tax write-off than they've invested in the mine, that means we've invested more in their mine than they have. Eliminating this allowance would save us $560 million a year.
Let's add things up.
+ Royalty-free mining runs $300 million a year.
+ Not requiring miners to clean up after themselves costs about $2.6 billion a year.
+ The reclamation deduction runs $40 million a year and the percentage depletion allowance $560 million.
That comes to a total of $3.5 billion a year!
- Courtesy Third World Traveler ( http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/ )
From ... and the truth shall set you free , by David Icke:
The Club of Rome and The Environmental Movement
THE CLUB OF ROME was created by meetings at the Rockefeller family's private estate at Bellagio in Italy. It was, and is, the Club of Rome's role to issue propaganda about the environmental crisis and use this to justify the centralisation of power (problem-reaction-solution) and the suppression of industrial development in both the West and the so called Third World.
It is also another "justification" for population control (eugenics)....
It was under the influence and guidance of the Club of Rome and its 'data' that another report was produced which has had a fundamental effect on the acceleration of 'environmentalism'. This was the study ordered by the Trilateral Commission-controlled Carter administration.
On July 24th 1980, in the last months of the Carter presidency, his secretary of state, Edmund Muskie (TC, CFR), presented the Global 2000 Report to the President. It painted a global picture of overpopulation, resource and food shortages, and environmental dangers which, it estimated, would cause the deaths of at least 170 million people up to the year 2000.
This was followed six months later by another report, Global Future: A Time To Act, the work of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. This called for a series of measures to respond to the crisis set out in Global 2000 and at the top of the list of responses was ... population control through sterilisation and other means.
Both reports called for, in effect, the restriction of scientific development and technological transfer to developing countries and soon these policies were being lauded around the world.
Cyrus Vance (TC, CFR, Bilderberg, Committee of 300), Carter's secretary of state before Muskie, chaired the Committee for the Year 2000 for this purpose. ... In his first official speech at the United Nations in 1977, Vance rejected calls from developing countries for changes to the International Monetary Fund and the unfairness of the economic system, and instead he suggested a "... new world order based on environmentalism".
I would have some confidence in the problems and solutions presented by the Club of Rome and these two US reports if the people behind them were not the very same politicians, bankers, industrialists, and academics who support and promote the policies of the Elite-controlled International Monetary Fund (IMF), Bank of International Settlements, and World Bank, which in turn, are responsible for the death, starvation, and suffering of billions of people across the planet.
One of the architects of the Global 2000 Report was Robert McNamara (TC, CFR, Bilderberg), a former president of the World Bank, the policies of which have wreaked environmental and human genocide in the Third World!
I would have more confidence if these 'environmental messiahs' were not the same people who suppress the introduction of known techniques, such as free energy technology, which could in a few years replace today's fossil-fuel-burning environmental carnage.
I differ from those who say there is no environmental crisis and that the whole thing is a propaganda creation. I think we are inflicting appalling wounds to Planet Earth and if we go on as we are there will be serious consequences, indeed there already are.
What I feel, however, is that these wounds are being knowingly inflicted by the Elite, and no doubt in certain areas, exaggerated for propaganda purposes to create yet another global problem-reaction-solution scenario.
If those behind all this really cared about the environment and the lives of those who suffer so terribly from the present system, they would be releasing the suppressed technologies which would dramatically reduce the damage which is being wreaked upon the Earth.
Reports like Global 2000, Global Future, and those produced by the Elite/Club of Rome, base their findings on what they call 'current trends'. But what are 'current trends'? They are only the result of the current policies of the Elite manipulators. Change the policies and you change both the 'trends' and the recommendations on how to react to the 'trends'.
The rape of the Third World environment creates dependency by billions of people on the Elite-controlled economic system, as their ability to live sustainably without outside 'support' is destroyed. Environmental damage is therefore terrible for the mass of humanity, but an excellent tool for the Elite's ambitions. Change these policies and change the 'trends', and you make irrelevant the 'solutions' suggested in Club of Rome reports. . . .
Most environmentalists are genuinely campaigning for what they believe to be right, but there are some who are knowingly working to the New World Order agenda and I must say I am less than convinced when I hear people like Al Gore (CFR), the vice president to Bill Clinton (TC,CFR, Bil), being presented as an 'environmentalist'. I would take his concern for the environment and humanity a little more seriously if he had not been one of the Democrats who voted with George Bush's Republicans in favour of the war in the Gulf in 1991, and had his environmental policies not come straight off the pages of Club of Rome and Global 2000 reports.
I was an environmental campaigner throughout the 1980s and became a national spokesman for the British Green Party, so I can see how many of the responses of the environmental movement resulted from the Club of Rome Global 2000 approach to both problems and solutions. I am still an environmental campaigner, but now form a much, much wider perspective and I can appreciate how the 'green movement' is being manipulated to promote the New World Order.
When, for instance, the green movement presents wind power and wave power as alternative forms of energy to fossil fuels, this so lacks credibility that there appears to be no choice but to continue to exploit the planet and create pollution. This is helping to obscure the fact that free energy technology exists. I can also see today how the pressure for population control is, and always has been, promoted by the Elite to justify a policy of eugenics....
What is clear is that the use of environmentalism to justify centralised control continues apace. Working to this end alongside the Club of Rome is the United Nations. In February 1972, an advertisement sponsored by the Rockefeller/CFR-controlled World Association of World Federalists appeared in the Humanist, a magazine of the American Humanist (this-world-is-all-there-is) Association. Note the use of words like problems and solutions. It said:
"World Federalists believe that the environmental crisis facing Planet Earth is a global problem and therefore calls for a 'global' solution - a worldwide United Nations Environmental Agency with the power to make decisions stick. WAWF has submitted a proposal for just such an agency to be considered at the 1972 UN Environmental Conference to be held in Stockholm." . . .
The troops were being gathered for the battle. It was a battle to persuade the public that there was a global environmental problem in need of a global - centralised - solution....
There had obviously been a mobilisation by the Elite to speak with the same voice and also to use those environmentalists - by no means all - who don't know they are being manipulated. David Rockefeller (Committee of 300), Henry Kissinger (Committee of 300), François Mitterand (Committee of 300), Willy Brandt (Committee of 300), Mikhail Gorbachev, and so many more all parroted the party line on the environment, which, put succinctly, was global crisis - global solution....
The secret government network has so many members in the media that there is never a problem finding support for its maneuverings from that direction. There are environmental problems, most of them due to Elite policies, but be very careful before you accept the propaganda of the environmental centralisers.
It's your mind they are after. . . .
# # #
A CLOSER LOOK AT SOME NASTY GLOBAL POLLUTERS
BP Amoco - In case you didn't know, BP stands for BRITISH PETROLEUM.
From Multex Investor:
BP p.l.c. produces & markets crude oil & petroleum products worldwide, is engaged in exploration and field development throughout the world, and is engaged in the manufacture and sale of petroleum-based chemical products....
* * *
Who are some of the birds
that 'direct' BP p.l.c.?
From Multex Investor, February 7, 2002:
Sutherland, Peter D., (54) Co-Chairman of the Board.
Peter Sutherland rejoined BP's board in 1995 having previously been a non-executive director from 1990 to 1993. He was appointed chairman of BP in May 1997. He is chairman and managing director of Goldman Sachs International and is a non-executive director of Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson, Investor AB and The Royal Bank of Scotland.
Buchanan, John G. (57) Chief Financial Officer, Director
John Buchanan has been chief financial officer and was appointed an executive director of BP in 1996. He is a non-executive director of Boots and a member of the UK Accounting Standards Board.
Hanratty, Judith C., (57) Secretary
Judith Hanratty joined BP in London in 1986 and was appointed company secretary in October 1994. Miss Hanratty reports to the non-executive Chairman and is not part of executive management. She provides senior governance and legal counsel to the Board. She is a member of the Competition Commission, the Takeover Panel, the Council of Lloyd's of London and of the Lloyd's Market Board. A barrister, she is also a governor of the College of Law.
Browne, John, (53) Group Chief Executive, Director
Sir John Browne was appointed an executive director of BP in 1991 and group chief executive in 1995. He is a non-executive director of Goldman Sachs Group and Intel Corporation, a trustee of the British Museum and a member of the supervisory board of DaimlerChrysler. He is also vice president and a member of the board of the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum.
Chase, Rodney F., (57) Deputy Group Chief Executive, Director
Rodney Chase has been deputy group chief executive and was appointed an executive director of BP in 1992. He is a non-executive director of Diageo and the BOC Group.
Gibson-Smith, Chris S., (55) Executive Director of Policies and Technology, Director
Chris Gibson-Smith has been executive director of policies and technology and was appointed an executive director of BP in 1997. He is a non-executive director of Lloyds TSB.
Grote, Byron E., (52) Chief Executive - Chemicals, Director
Byron Grote has been chief executive of chemicals and was appointed an executive director of BP Amoco in August 2000. From 1998 until May 2000 he was vice chairman of the UK Government's Public Services Productivity Panel.
Olver, Richard L., (54) Chief Executive of Exploration and Production, Director
Dick Olver has been chief executive of exploration and production and was appointed an executive director of BP in January 1998. He is a non-executive director of Reuters Group.
Block, Ruth S., (70) Director
Ruth Block joined Amoco's board in 1986. She retired as executive vice president and chief insurance officer of The Equitable in 1987. She is a non-executive director of Ecolab and 35 Alliance Capital Mutual Funds.
Bryan, John H., (64) Director
John Bryan joined Amoco's board in 1982. He is chairman and chief executive officer of Sara Lee Corporation and a non-executive director of Bank One Corporation, General Motors Corporation and Goldman Sachs.
Davis, Jr., Erroll B., (56) Director
Erroll B Davis, Jr. joined Amoco's board in 1991. He is president and chief executive officer of Alliant Energy. He is a non-executive director of PPG Industries and a member of the American Society of Corporate Executives, Association of Edison Illuminating Companies, the Wisconsin Association of Manufacturers and Commerce, the Iowa Business Council, the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute. He is also a trustee of Carnegie Mellon University.
Ferris, Richard J., (64) Director
Richard Ferris joined Amoco's board in 1981. He retired as co-chairman of Doubletree Corporation in 1997. He is a non-executive director of The Proctor & Gamble Company.
Knight, Charles F., (65) Director
Charles Knight joined BP's board in 1987. He is chairman and chief executive officer of Emerson Electric and is a non-executive director of Anheuser-Busch, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, SBC Communications and IBM.
Maljers, Floris A., (67) Director
Floris Maljers joined Amoco's board in 1994. He is a member of the supervisory boards of SHV Holding, Vendex N.V. and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. He is chairman of the supervisory board of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University.
Massey, Walter E., (62) Director
Walter Massey rejoined Amoco's board in 1993 having previously been a director from 1983 to 1991. He is president of Morehouse College and is a non-executive director of Motorola, Bank of America, McDonald's Corporation, the Mellon Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund.
Miles, H. Michael P., (64) Director
Michael Miles joined BP's board in 1994. He is chairman of Johnson Matthey and a non-executive director of ING Baring Holdings and Baldour Beatty.
Nicholson, Robin, (66) Director
Sir Robin Nicholson joined BP's board in 1987. He is a non-executive director of Rolls-Royce and served as a member of the UK Government's Council for Science and Technology from its inception in 1993 until 2000.
Prosser, Ian, (53) Deputy Chairman of the Board
Sir Ian Prosser joined BP's board in 1997 and was appointed deputy chairman in February 1999. He is chairman of Bass, a non-executive director of GlaxoSmithKline and a vice president of the Council of the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association.
Wilson, Michael H., (63) Director
Michael Wilson joined Amoco's board in 1993. He is chairman and chief executive officer of RT Capital Management and a non-executive director of Manufacturers Life Insurance Company.
Wilson, Robert, (57) Director
Sir Robert Wilson joined BP's board in July 1998. He is chairman of Rio Tinto and a non-executive director of Diageo.
Wright, Lord, (69) Director
Lord Wright joined BP's board in 1991, having been Permanent Under-Secretary and Head of the UK Diplomatic Service. He was a non-executive director of De La Rue until July 2000. . . .
See also: Sinopec
Citigroup, Inc. - The world's biggest vampire nest.
From FOREST CONSERVATION NEWS TODAY:
DEFORESTATION IN INDONESIA
July 30, 2001
OVERVIEW & COMMENTARY, by Forests.org
Rainforest Action Network and others have launched a major campaign against Citigroup - the largest U.S. financial institution. Citigroup is an international leader in the financing of destructive oil and gas, mining, and commercial logging operations.
In Indonesia, Citigroup has been a major funder of companies engaged in oil palm and paper pulp production, leading to massive deforestation of these globally critical rainforest ecosystems. If the World's rainforests are to be conserved it is important that rainforest activists go beyond railing against globalization in general, and hold corporations responsible for such specific instances of ecological misdeeds.
Holding Citigroup, Boise Cascade, ExxonMobil (Esso) and others responsible for activities that threaten the world's forests, climate and other ecosystems is an excellent eco-activist strategy. . . .
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One of Citi's top business partners in the region is Indonesia's most infamous palm oil company, London Sumatra (Lon Sum).
Lon Sum has been implicated in illegal logging and human rights violations, and is suspected of being among the palm plantation companies that deliberately and illegally set fires in Indonesia in 1997.
The devastating fires destroyed vast areas of rainforest, which the government then allocated to forest corporations. Many of these companies sought the increased operating area in order to pay off debt to foreign investors, such as Citi. Overall, palm oil plantations have claimed nearly eight million acres of native forest in Indonesia, and every year close to one million additional acres of forest are targeted for conversion.
Pulp and paper operations are another key factor in the decimation of Indonesia's forests. Citi is a top investor in Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of Indonesia's largest pulp and paper operators. Since the late 1980s, foreign investment in Indonesia's pulp and paper sector has grown by 700 percent. The increase in pulp and paper processing has far outpaced the development of sustainably managed pulpwood plantations, resulting in the widespread destruction of natural forests. APP has reportedly expanded its processing operations in order to resolve outstanding debts with foreign creditors.
Indonesia harbors 10 percent of the world's remaining old growth forests. An estimated 72 percent of the country's original frontier forest has already been destroyed. Today, the destruction continues unabated, posing an increasing threat to the country's indigenous peoples, who face displacement from their traditional forest territories.
The forestry sector also poses a grave danger to Indonesia's wildlife, including tigers, elephants, rhinos, and the endangered orangutan, which is found only in the remaining intact forests of Borneo and Sumatra. The orangutan population has declined by 50 percent in the last decade, primarily due to destruction of its forest habitat, up to 80 percent of which has been lost in the past twenty years. Less than twenty-five thousand orangutans now remain in the wild.
Both Lon Sum's and APP's operations threaten habitat that is critical to the orangutan's survival. . . .
For more on Citigroup, GO TO > > > Vampires in the City
Corby Robertson - Texas coal and oil baron, and friend of Bush administration.
January 3, 2003
By Daniel Fisher, Forbes Magazine
Corby Robertson inherited a piece of one of the great Texas oil fortunes. He has built an even bigger one on coal.
In the depths of the energy price collapse of the mid-1980s Corbin (Corby) Robertson Jr. risked just about everything he owned to buy a billion tons of coal in the ground. This was no minor gamble. Robertson's grandfather, the legendary Texas wildcatter Hugh Roy Cullen, had discovered the giant Tom O'Conner Field in south Texas in 1932.
Robertson's father, who married one of Cullen's four daughters, Wilhelmina, helped turn the family's Quintana Petroleum into a $1 billion empire. Now Robertson was betting his entire stake on coal, a dirty fuel that was supposed to be eclipsed by oil and natural gas long ago. "I bet the ranch and all the cows on it," says Robertson, now 55. " I even hocked the Tom O'Conner Field."
Clever bet. For although coal was under attack by environmentalists then, as now, for generating acid rain and other pollutants, Robertson knew it was going to be a key fuel for a long time to come. Coal still accounts for 49% of electricity generation, little changed from a decade ago.
Robertson sits atop the largest private hoard in the nation--21 billion tons of reserves he has quietly amassed over three decades. That supply, second only to Uncle Sam's 92 billion tons, could fuel the entire U.S. demand for 20 years.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Robertson is that he literally never touches coal--and hasn't for years. His mostly private limited partnerships essentially are leases of his reserves to coal operators that pay him a combination of fixed annual fees and royalties that averaged $1.63 per ton in 2001. If a mining operation goes bust, Robertson keeps the coal and most of the equipment--and leases the mine to somebody else.
Robertson's black-lump adventure began in 1969 after he graduated from the University of Texas, where the 6-foot-1-inch linebacker was an All-American football player and captain of the Cotton Bowl-winning 1968 team. Robertson's father was concerned about dwindling U.S. oil and gas reserves, which were making it more difficult for independents like Quintana to compete. He sent his son to investigate the Preece property, a 12,500-acre coalfield in Kentucky.
Robertson recommended buying it for $2.5 million. Then the fun began. Forgotten Civil War-era tunnels riddled the area, and costs spiraled out of control. Robertson says he got a "lucky break" when the miners went on strike.
"We were mining coal for $7 a ton and selling it for $5.80," he recalls. Humbled by his brief sojourn as a coal miner, he turned over his equipment to an experienced operator and retreated to the more predictable--and insulated--business of collecting a royalty on every ton that came out of his ground.
He has stuck to that plan ever since, buying CSX Coal Properties in a $122 million leveraged buyout in 1986 and then paying Burlington Resources (NYSE:BR - News) $80 million in 1992 for 20 billion tons scattered across Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, Illinois and Washington. Last year he took in $36.4 million in royalties, with half of it dropping to the bottom line.
This year Robertson folded about 1 billion tons of his reserves into a partnership with Arch Coal (NYSE:ACI - News), the nation's number two producer behind Peabody Energy (NYSE:BTU).
Natural Resource Partners (NYSE:NRP - News) raised about $90 million in October selling a 19% stake to the public in the form of units with a 10.5% dividend yield. Robertson kept 58% of the partnership for himself and is the majority general partner.
Natural Resource Partners plans to take advantage of the same financial alchemy as energy partnerships such as Kinder Morgan Energy Partners....
Coal miners like Arch and Peabody Energy tend to trade at four to five times cash flow. Natural Resource Partners, even with a hefty 10.5% yield, is trading at the equivalent of nine times cash flow. So it can buy royalty streams from coal mining companies (most collect royalties from reserves as well as mining their own coal) at five to seven times cash flow and still boost returns to its own unit holders.
At least that is the plan. One of the big sellers will be Robertson himself. He admits it's a conflict to be selling coal to a partnership he controls, but he has installed an independent director, oil patch veteran David Carmichael, to approve the price and terms. "When you've got this much coal, you're not living for any one deal," Robertson says.
A bigger problem, shared by the entire coal industry, is keeping the environmentalists at bay.
Some of Robertson's West Virginia coal operations are appealing a potentially crippling ruling by a federal court there banning a popular form of mining in which entire mountaintops are removed and deposited in nearby valleys. (Unlike oil companies, coal concerns tend to own both the surface and mineral rights to property.)
"These guys are absentee landowners, and they tie up all the land so local citizens can't use it," complains Joseph Lovett, executive director for the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.
Robertson is an ideal target. He has close ties to the Bush Administration and says he submitted suggestions to Vice President Dick Cheney, although he never met with the man personally, during the now-infamous sessions to draft the Bush energy policy.
Moreover, much of the coal he bought from Burlington is low-quality lignite, a brownish fuel one step removed from peat, which can't be transported because it tends to spontaneously combust. It must be burned in power plants at the mouth of the mine, yet environmentalists will oppose any expansion in coal-fired lignite plants.
"If you're buying stock in a company that is banking its future on coal, you might be making a very expensive mistake," warns Daniel Becker, director of global warming and energy policy at the Sierra Club.
Robertson seems above it all. Even after installing the most advanced pollution-control equipment, he says, lignite plants can generate power at the equivalent of about $2.50 per million Btu. Gas is at $5 and there are growing questions about supplies in once-promising regions such as the Gulf of Mexico.
"Can Congress put coal out of business?" asks Robertson, with a mellow Texas drawl. "Sure, but I don't think the politicians will leave the lights out for long."
For more on the Quintana Petroleum and Bush Buddies, Roy and Helen Cullen, GO TO > > > The Sinking of the Ehime Maru
Dupont - DuPont is a global research and technology-based life sciences, materials and energy company.
DuPont is a global research and technology-based life sciences, materials and energy company.
DuPont serves worldwide markets including food and nutrition; health care; agriculture; fashion and apparel; home and construction; electronics; transportation and energy. Unfortunately, the influence of corporate profits outweighs just about any consideration for the care of our environment.
Visit http://www.companyethics.com for other sucks sites.
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April 12, 2002
Nail Salon Dangers
20/20 Finds Salons Still Using Dangerous Adhesive
---- Carol Webb's nails were her pride and joy: long, strong and beautiful.
"That was my jewel. I mean, I loved my nails," she says.
But then, like millions of other women, she decided to try an artificial alternative that promised nails that could be longer, stronger and more hard-wearing than natural nails: acrylic nails.
She visited a salon in Roanoke, Va., that was offering a full set of acrylic nails at a discount price.
Within two days, she says, she started feeling pain and pressure under her fingernails, along with some numbness. She had the acrylics removed, but then, to her horror, watched as her own nails started to turn black and come off in layers.
Webb was one of many women who had an adverse reaction to an adhesive that many nail salons use as a cheap alternative to safer nail treatments, despite a decades-old warning from the Food and Drug Administration that it is "a poisonous and deleterious substance that should not be used in fingernail preparations."
The substance, methyl methacrylate, known as MMA, makes an inexpensive adhesive that bonds very strongly and dries quickly. However, in some women it can cause adverse skin reactions wherever the nails touch, and damage or destroy nailbeds, sometimes permanently. The substance can cause nerve damage and exacerbate allergies in some women, according to Dr. Shelley Sekula Rodriguez, a Texas dermatologist who is a consultant for ABCNEWS.
The FDA first issued its warning about MMA in 1974, and most salons and manufacturers switched to adhesives containing ethyl methacrylate, or EMA, a substance that is safer than MMA but costs several times as much.
Today, six years later, Webb's nails are still short stumps that doctors say will never grow back. Ashamed to show her nails in public, she regrets the day she decided to try the salon's offer. "When you go cheap, that's what you get," she says. "And I shouldn't have done that."
Webb is now suing the salon. The salon's owners deny any responsibility.
To see whether salons are still using MMA, 20/20 investigated eight salons in Dallas, taking samples of the liquid they were using to make acrylic nails and paying to have them analyzed.
The results were alarming: The samples from all eight of the Dallas salons contained extremely high levels of MMA. In a similar test last year, 20/20 found that 14 out of 26 salons in Phoenix, Boston, Houston and Dallas were using MMA.
When confronted with the results, most of the Dallas salon owners claimed never to have heard of MMA. Inspectors from the Texas Cosmetology Commission, which regulates nail salons in the state, say that is unlikely, since manicurists are taught about MMA in the courses required to get a license.
Some of the salon owners blamed their suppliers, saying they did not know what was in the adhesive they were buying. But 20/20 tested a bottle of the adhesive from the supplier used by most of the Dallas salons, and found no trace of MMA.
Health officials believe that many nail salons buy the inexpensive MMA on the black market and transfer it to bottles purporting to contain the more expensive, safe adhesive....
Compiled for ABCNEWS by Nancy King, a licensed nail technician and independent industry consultant who has served as an expert witness in lawsuits against salons accused of using MMA-based products.
Copyright © 2002 ABC News Internet Ventures.
* * *
December 29, 1998
Chemical Giant Dupont Faces Cover-Up Charges
DuPont Faces Costly Jury Trial Over Evidence Growers
press RICO claims against chemical giant
By Mary Hladky, Florida Daily
Ten growers have been given court approval to press racketeering charges against chemical giant DuPont for allegedly withholding, covering up or destroying evidence that its fungicide Benlate ruined crops.
While numerous suits filed nationwide in the past two years allege that DuPont engaged in racketeering, Miami-Dade Judge Amy Steele Donner apparently is the first to rule that the issue can be decided by a jury.
The importance of the two Dec. 15 decisions, which deny DuPont's request to dismiss the case, goes beyond forcing a large corporation to defend itself against allegations of criminal activity, including fraud, perjury, and witness and evidence tampering. A pattern of such activity would violate the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Under the state's civil racketeering law, if growers prevail at trial they will be able to obtain triple whatever monetary damages a jury awards.
Miami lawyer Harley Tropin, who represents the 10 growers in Florida and Costa Rica,
has not set a dollar amount he is seeking, but said it will
be in the tens of millions. "DuPont has filed motions to dismiss the case on every conceivable grounds," Tropin said. "We are delighted Judge Donner has sifted through all that and found that DuPont has to defend its conduct before a jury." . . .
The racketeering suit against DuPont, which also alleges negligence, fraud and breach of warranty, is a civil action. While the criminal racketeering law is better known, similar evidence is presented in civil and criminal cases. The difference is the standard of proof; in a civil case a plaintiff need only convince jurors with a preponderance of the evidence, rather than the more stringent criminal law standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Donner ruled on Oct. 28 that DuPont must turn over to the growers' attorneys thousands of pages of internal documents that the company unsuccessfully argued were confidential and protected by attorney-client privilege. Those documents, which are expected to bolster growers' contentions that DuPont knew it had a defective product but withheld that information, are to be turned over to Tropin in mid-January, and will be part of the evidence presented at the racketeering trial.
DuPont has paid out an estimated $1 billion on some 1,400 claims since 1990 that the fungicide Benlate 50 DF destroyed crops. Most of the suits had been settled or concluded by trial until growers began returning to court two years ago, asserting that they were entitled to more money because they learned only after their cases concluded that DuPont had committed far more extensive wrongdoing by withholding or destroying evidence.
Although DuPont recalled Benlate in 1991, the company has consistently argued its product was not defective and did not cause crop losses. Company spokesman Mike Ricciuto was not available Monday for comment on Donner's rulings. The setbacks for DuPont come on the heels of a recent legal victory. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this month dismissed claims that DuPont defrauded growers into settling earlier lawsuits for less than they deserved.
The appeals court concluded that the growers, as mandated by federal rules of civil procedure, did not return settlement proceeds before suing anew. Another problem for growers was that they had signed agreements releasing DuPont and its attorneys from "any and all liability" as part of their settlements....
The 11th Circuit threw out a $115 million discovery abuse sanction against DuPont in 1996 for procedural reasons, but suggested a federal prosecutor should investigate. Accordingly, a Macon, Ga., federal judge in November ordered a criminal investigation of DuPont for possible obstruction of justice.
The Supreme Court of Hawaii recently upheld a finding that Benlate was defective, as well as a $1.5 million sanction against DuPont for withholding test data.
For more, GO TO > > > The Deadly Brew at DuPont
Enron - You know about the financial crimes - now take a peek at their crimes against nature and humanity.
November 27, 1997
Enron: The Global Gospel of Gas
From Project Underground ( http://www.moles.org/ )
Just before dawn on June 3, 1997, police forcibly entered the home of several women in Veldur, a fishing village in western state of Maharashtra, India dragged the women into waiting police vans, beating them with sticks. The only "crime" committed by these women was to lead a peaceful protest against a massive new natural gas plant being built for a Houston-based company named Enron.
An investigative team from Amnesty International found that a number of the women subsequently sustained injures, including bruising, abrasions and lacerations on arms and legs. Several hundred other peaceful protestors have been arrested and temporarily detained by Indian police since December 96, according to the report.
Gas goes global
In recent years natural gas has been heralded as the transition fuel for a sustainable future by environmental policy pundits and big business alike. Enron is the largest supplier of this so-called alternative fuel in the United States through the huge network of pipelines that it owns. Today the company is spreading the gospel of gas throughout the world as it builds new pipelines and power plants in countries ranging from Brazil to India, from Mozambique to the Philippines, but the service has proven to be neither just nor sustainable.
In countries like Argentina, Kuwait and Mozambique, the company has been dogged by allegations that it used political influence in United States to help win contracts for the company. In countries like India and the Philippines, Enron has been accused of charging excessive prices for its services.
Today Enron is also under fire for the potential major environmental and social impacts of a massive new pipeline project that will link natural gas fields in Bolivia and Peru to the megacities of southern Brazil like Sao Paulo. The pipelines are expected to open up pristine forest areas in the Amazon to unsustainable development that will drastically alter the livelihoods of local indigenous communities such as the Ayereo, the Chiquitano, and the Izozeno indigenous peoples in and the Guarani Nandeva in Brazil. Proposed extensions into Peru will affect the Machiguenga indigenous peoples as well as uncontacted tribes like the Nahua and the Kugapakori.
Here in the United States Enron has also been the subject of criticism. For example activists point out that Enron has used powerful friends in government to rewrite laws on the energy futures markets (a major source of company income) so that these markets are now exempt from federal government oversight as well as from fraud laws. Meanwhile the company has been forced to revise a natural gas power plant projects in Boston because of the environmental impact on local water.
Below are some more detailed examples of the impact of this natural gas giant on communities in the last few years:
Village protests in India
In early 1995, Enron and its partners began clearing ground 160 kilometers south of Bombay on 600 hectares of porous red rock and shrub covered hills that make up the volcanic outcrop overlooking the Arabian sea on the southwest coast of India. Their planned 2,015 megawatt plant, a $2.8 billion project, is the largest single foreign investment in India.
Since then local villagers and fisherfolk have protested on a number of occasions against the potential effect of the power plant on the local population and the environment. The villagers claim that effluent from the power plant will destroy the fragile environment that they depend on.
One of the most recent protests, held on May 15, was broken up by force. "The police and Special Reserve Police personnel stationed at the project site lathi-charged (lathi is the Hindi word for stick) and dragged women protestors by their hair into waiting police vans. Many women protestors also reported that they were roughed up and manhandled by the police and their dresses and sarees (a traditional Indian women's dress) were torn in the process," says the Amnesty report.
Local police apparently then decided to launch a pre-emptive strike against the activists. On the morning of June 3 they stormed Veldur. One woman, Sugandha Vasudev Bhalekar -- a 24 year old housewife who was three months pregnant at the time of her arrest on 3 June -- testified to the Judicial Magistrate, on 9 June:
"At around 5 in the morning when I was in the bathroom, several male police with batons in their hands forcibly entered the house and started beating members of (my) family who were asleep. ..... Being terrified, I told them from inside the bathroom that I was taking a bath and that I would come out after wearing my clothes. I asked them to call for women police in the meantime and to ask them to wait near the door. But without paying any attention to my requests, the policemen forcibly opened the door and dragged me out of the house into the police van parked on the road. (While dragging me) the police kept beating me on my back with batons. The humiliation meted out to the other members of my family was similar to the way I was humiliated. .. ... my one and a half year old daughter held on to me but the police kicked her away." Reports indicate that she was targeted for attack by the police because husband, Baba Bhalekar, was a known leader of the protests.
Of the 26 women arrested, 25 were held in one room of 150 square feet with a washing area and toilet at one end and steel mesh at the other, overlooked by a constable. According to the PUCL team who visited the police lock-up on 7 June: "There was no light or fan ..... The entire room stank". Amnesty International says that the conditions in the Chiplun police station lock-up amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
The police raid has not stopped local protests. In August 1997, a local group called the Akhil Maharashtra Machhimar Kriti Samiti (AMMKS) vowed to keep up the protests until the Enron project is canceled.
Rainforests threatened in Brazil
In the summer of 1997 the Bolivian and Brazilian president inaugurated construction of a $2 billion 3,200 kilometer long natural gas pipeline. The pipeline will begin in Santa Cruz, at the eastern foot of the Bolivian Andes, and end in the teeming megapolis of Sao Paulo in southern Brazil.
Planners are thinking of extending the Bolivian section further west into the central Peruvian Amazon to the Camisea area where Shell is drilling for gas in the Urabamba valley.
Enron is a major stakeholder in this project together with El Paso natural gas, BHP, British Gas and Tenneco. The pipeline was commissioned by Petrobras of Brazil and Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) of Bolivia and is projected to eventually supply 30 million cubic meters of gas a day to the power hungry population centres of Brazil's eastern seaboard.
Two state associations of municipalities -- in Sao Paulo and Mato Grosso -- issued a joint resolution in June condemning the project planners for not talking to them about potential environmental and social impacts of the project. The two municipal associations were also upset that the project is exempt from local and state revenue collection.
Environmental groups in Brazil like the Defense of Pantanal Association and the Brazilian Institute of Cultural Heritage have also expressed concern over the project while unions in both countries have expressed anger over the private sector role in the project.
If the project goes ahead, construction crews are expected to clear a 30 metre wide paths in Bolivia to lay 540 kilometres of pipeline along the border of the subtropical dry forest of Gran Chaco park, through the Izozog, Chiquitos and Utoquis swamps as well as the Santa Cruz la Vieja Park.
Across the border in Brazil, a 20 metre wide path will be cleared to lay another 2,315 kilometres of new pipeline through the Pantanal in Mato Grosso do sul, the largest wetlands in the world and the mountainous Aparrados of the Serra in the state of Rio Grande do Sul which have high erosion potential.
In the south-eastern Brazilian states of Santa Catarina and Sao Paulo, the pipeline will pass through the Mata Atlantica forest reserve, the Ibitinga and Corumbatati protected areas as well as the Ipanema national forest.
The project will pass the territories of the Ayereo, the Chiquitano, and the Izozeno indigenous peoples in Bolivia while it may impact several indigenous communities in Brazil such as the Guarani Nandeva, a semi-nomadic group that depends on fishing, hunting and subsistence farming.
Political payoffs in the United States
In this country Enron has traditionally been a major supporter of the Republican party. Ken Lay, the chief executive of Enron, hosted the Republican national convention in Houston in 1992. After George Bush, the incumbent president, lost the 1992 election, Enron started to pump money into Democratic coffers such as Lloyd Bentsen, another Texan, and Clinton's first treasury. In one Senate election campaign, the Democrat received more than $14,000 from Enron. According to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics, the amount is the second highest paid out by Enron to a political campaign.
Bentsen quit his job as Treasury Secretary at the end of 1994 and was succeeded by Robert Rubin, who worked closely with Enron when he was co-chair of Goldman Sachs investment bank. Clinton first hired Rubin to head his National Economic Council. Soon afterwards, Rubin wrote on Goldman Sachs stationery to former clients, including Enron, saying he "looked forward to continuing to work with you in my new capacity."
After this ethical lapse, Rubin filed a White House financial disclosure form that listed Enron among the names of 42 former clients with whom he had had "significant contact." Rubin pledged to recuse himself from any government dealings affecting these former clients for one year, a period that has since lapsed.
Enron's lobbying clout was demonstrated in its attempts to deregulate the energy futures markets that enhance its profits. Enron was one of nine energy companies that asked the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in November 1992 to exempt energy derivative contracts from federal government oversight as well as from fraud laws. The request was made right after Bill Clinton won the U.S. presidential election at a time when the political composition of the board was likely to change soon. The five-member commission is made up of three members from the ruling party and two from the majority party.
The deregulatory push was advanced by Wendy Gramm, the CFTC chair, who authorized the commission staff to begin the lengthy rule-making process required when a federal agency makes a major policy decision. Gramm, a former senior staff member of the Reagan White House, resigned as chair of the commission on January 21, 1993, as Clinton took office. Wendy Gramm is the wife of Phil Gramm, the ultra-conservative Republican Senator from Texas.
Five weeks after Gramm resigned, she was appointed to Enron's board of directors, just as the commission voted two to one to deregulate the energy derivative contracts business. President Clinton had yet to appoint anyone to the two vacant seats on the CFTC board; the commissioners who embraced deregulation were Gramm allies appointed during the Bush administration.
The regulatory exemption for energy futures was made retroactive to 1974 - when the CFTC was created - to remove any potential legal challenges to past energy contracts. The exemption from fraud legislation that the industry wanted was dropped in response to objections in Congress. Gramm and Lay say there is no connection between the CFTC decision and Gramm's appointment to Enron's board.
Enron has also been under fire for the environmental impact of its activities at a company power plant in Boston. Each day, for six weeks in the summer of 1995, a million litres of water were trucked to the plant just outside Boston to prevent the Charles river from shrinking to less than half its normal flow as a result of plant operations.
War bounty from Kuwait
In the early 1990s Enron bid for a contract to rebuild Shuaiba North, a 400-megawatt power plant that supplied 5 percent of Kuwait's electricity before it was bombed during the 1991 Gulf war, according to journalist Seymour Hersh.
Hersh wrote in a 1993 New Yorker magazine article that Enron's price for supplying the power is 11 cents a kilowatt hour. The rival bid put forward by the German company Deutsche Babcock was six cents, while the state-subsidized rate is half-a-cent a kilowatt hour.
Despite the large price difference, Hersh noted that Enron's bid received favorable consideration after help arrived from former US president George Bush, a good friend of Enron founder and chief executive Kenneth Lay. Lay, raised funds for Bush's 1992 re-election bid and hosted the reception committee for the Republican National Convention that year.
In 1993 Bush visited Kuwait along with former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. At the time Baker, former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher, as well as Thomas Kelly, the director of operations for Bush's Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf war, were on payroll working for Enron.
Hersh says in his New Yorker article that Baker, along with the former president's two youngest sons, Neil and Marvin, remained in Kuwait after Bush left to promote the Enron bid to rebuild Shuaiba with the Kuwaiti utility ministry. Their efforts apparently paid off initially. Hersh's sources told him that Enron's Kuwaiti business partners in the bid to rebuild Shuaiba had "obviously been hand picked" by the Kuwaiti prime minister. Enron calls the New Yorker article "completely incorrect." The company now says it has abandoned the project in Kuwait.
Uncle Sam's heavy hand
In Mozambique, the Philippines and Argentina, Enron has been accused of putting pressure on the local authorities through powerful figures in the United States government.
In November 1995 Enron signed an agreement to build a 900-kilometre long gas pipeline from Mozambique to South Africa to develop the Pande gas field, in southern Mozambique, which has an estimated two trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves. Enron beat Sasol, the South African state petroleum processing company, for the bid. The month that Enron signed the contract the Houston Chronicle carried a detailed report alleging that Anthony Lake, President Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Embassy in Maputo, put pressure on the Mozambican government to sign with Enron. "Enron was forever playing games with us and the embassy forever threatening to withdraw aid. Everyone was saying that we would not sign the deal because I wanted a percentage, when all I wanted was a better deal for the state," says John Kachamila, Mozambique's natural resources minister and the leader in the negotiations, told the Chronicle.
In 1993 Enron won a contract to build a 105-megawatt, diesel-fired power plant in the Philippines that critics said would cost the Philippine National Power Corporation (NPC) eight cents a kilowatt hour - 20 percent more than NPC charged consumers. The controversy led to resignations in 1993 of all seven members of the NPC board.
The Bush children have also come in for criticism in Argentina for their role in an Enron bid to construct a pipeline from Argentina to Chile. George W. Bush, the governor of Texas and a son of the former president, called Rodolfo Terragno, the Argentine cabinet minister in charge of public works under then-President Raul Alfonsin, to ask him to give Enron the contract. Terragno reported this pressure tactic to the press causing the project to come under some scrutiny. Nevertheless the contract ended up being awarded to Enron under the current President, Carlos Menem, shortly after he was publicly seen socialising with Bush.
GREENWASHING OF GAS
An ad by Enron corporation shows an eagle soaring above forests, rivers and mountains. The caption reads: "Isn't it wonderful natural gas is invisible so the rest of nature never will be?"
Natural gas is not clean -- it has a major greenhouse impact that approaches that of coal and oil. Its extraction and transmission also poses serious threats to life and the environment.
The combustion of natural gas causes almost no sulphur dioxide emissions. Nor does it create the kind of fine ash that contributes to the respiratory problems experienced by residents areas where coal is burned.
However, the impact of natural gas on the global climate is rarely discussed. In theory, natural gas produces about half as much greenhouse gases as coal and two-thirds that of petroleum because it has a lower carbon content and thus produces less carbon dioxide - the primary greenhouse gas - when burnt.
However, natural gas is 90 % methane. Methane has a greenhouse impact estimated at least 20 times greater than that of the carbon dioxide. If even a minute quantity of methane leaks before it is burned, it could completely offset the benefit of switching to the supposedly cleaner fuel.
The question is how much gas leaks through the system. Charles Kolb, of Aerodyne Research of Massachusetts says that the latest measurements published by his groups of researchers leads him to estimate that between 1 - 2 % of natural gas pumped through the United States distribution system leaks into the atmosphere.
If correct, the Aerodyne figures on leakage would push the greenhouse impact of natural gas to a range between 62 and 78 %of coal and between 80 and 90 % of petroleum.
Add on top of that the amount of methane that is directly vented during the drilling, transport, and refining stages of gas production and gas could actually end up having more of an impact on climate change than coal and oil.
In addition, the US has the most modern gas distribution system in the world. Millions of miles of older, corroding pipes are currently in use in places like Russia and China, and throughout the developing world.
The leaks are worse for vehicles. Studies of natural gas- powered vehicles by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1990 show that two out of three had a greater greenhouse impact than petrol-burning vehicles.
In addition, most natural gas-powered cars created more nitrogen oxides, a primary ingredient of smog, than petrol-burning vehicles. The EPA figures are probably low because losses of methane and other gases at the production site were left out of the calculations.
Finally, the local impacts of drilling for natural gas are virtually the same as drilling for oil.
Each well produces 1,500 to 2,000 tons of toxic drilling muds and cuttings, and millions of gallons of formation waters are produced and discharged every day. These wastes can include toxic material like arsenic, lead and radium-226. Drilling wastes in the Gulf of Mexico have smothered ocean-bottom life to help create a 5,000-square-km. "dead zone."
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Write to Ken Lay to tell him to cancel the Dhabol Natural Gas Project.
Send letters to
Chief Executive Officer
1400 Smith Street
Houston TX 77002-7369
(U-h-h, too late now.)
For more, GO TO > > > The Story of Enron
Peabody Energy - The nation's number one coal energy producer.
November 9, 2002
Power Plant Finding
Changed After Intervention
By James Bruggers, The Courier-Journal
Park agency dropped claim facility would pollute air near cave
The National Park Service's reversal of its finding that a proposed power plant near Mammoth Cave National Park would dirty the air came after an unusual high-level involvement from the Bush administration, according to documents released this week by plant opponents
The Documents, which include e-mail messages and other correspondence, show that Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, and National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella were personally involved in deliberations that led the U.S. Interior Department to accept Peabody Energy's analysis that its Thoroughbred Generating Station in Muhlenberg County would not add to already hazy skies at the national park.
An earlier park service determination, also based on Peabody analysis, had found the opposite.
Lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has pushed for strict requirements to ensure that the coal-fired power plant is as environmentally clean as possible, obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The documents show that the White House Task Force on Energy Streamlining, which is charged with helping completion of energy-related permits to check on where the National Park Service stood on the Peabody decision.
David McIntosh, an attorney fro the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council, said the documents also show park service chief Mainella pressured he staff to compromise with Peabody.
Mainella "ordered career officials at the park service to...back down from the fact-based finding they had made and reach a compromise with the company," McIntosh said....
Kentucy regulators last month issued a proposed final air-quality permit for the plant - two 750-megawatt generating units fueled by up to 6 million tons of Kentucky coal next year....
The park service referred all questions about the matter to Christine Shaver, chief of the agency's air resources division, who acknowledged that Mainella had encouraged her staff to find a "win-"win" solution in the Peabody case.
Shaver said Mainella's involvement was not unusual, but acknowledged that involvement from the White House and from the second in command at the Interior Department was....
St. Louis-based Peabody says the Thoroughbred plant, to be built reclaimed strip-mine land, will create 2,500 temporary construction jobs and 450 permanent jobs and inject $100 million annually into Kentucky's economy....
Under the Clean Air Act, many national parks - including Mammoth Cave - are supposed to have the cleanest air in the country. The act gives the park service and other agencies, notably the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the right to consult with the company to be certain the power plant will follow all federal environmental laws.
Smog and haze are special concerns at Mammoth Cave. Two studies released in September - one by the park service and the other by the National Parks Conservation Association - concluded that visibility at the 53,000-acre Mammoth Cave was the worst of any national park....
The documents also show that:
>> Griles, second in command at the Interior Department and a former coal and energy lobbyist, met with an unnamed Peabody representative on Sept. 7, 2001, and that Griles subsequently wrote a memo to Mainella, asking for an update on the Peabody case.
Interior Department spokesman John Wright said Griles helped the "two sides" come together and say, "Let's work it out."...
>> Last year, Mammoth Cave park superintendent Ron Switzer forwarded a Dec. 3, 2001 e-mail from a U.S. Department of Energy official to three other park service employees, and included his comment atop: "Looks like Peabody is putting more fuel on the fire at the White House. Any advice about a conference call or do you want me to brave this one alone?"
The government removed the energy official's original e-mail.
>> A park service memo summarizing an Aug. 8, 2002, meeting involving Mainella, park service officials and Peabody officials said, "Peabody's purpose" was "to get Fran (Mainella) to retract the adverse impact finding."
It went on the say, "Fran made it very clear that we need to work together to resolve this issue; she does not want to follow through with keeping the adverse impact finding."
Sinopec - A China-based oil company, with key investors: ExxonMobil, BP Amoco, and Royal Dutch Shell.
March 27, 2001
Chinese corruption probe targets Sinopec executive
American City Business Journals
DALLAS -- Six months after China-based oil company Sinopec made a $3.5 billion offering to foreign investors, a top executive has been suspended and is under investigation on corruption allegations related to "economic problems," The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
Among the key investors in the company, also known as China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., is Irving-based ExxonMobil Corp., BP Amoco P.L.C. and Royal Dutch Shell Group.
The Journal said their combined investment in the IPO of the Chinese oil venture exceeded $1.8 billion.
The Journal quoted a spokesman with Sinopec as saying 59-year-old Han Qingzhi, the general manager of wholly owned subsidiary Sinopec Sales Co., was relieved of his duties more than a week ago.
The company official did not elaborate on the focus of the investigation, which reportedly has drawn the attention of Chinese government graft inspectors.
The top official of Hubei Xinghua Co., another Sinopec subsidiary, was given a suspended death sentence last year for embezzling $600,000 from the oil company, The Journal reported. . . .
W. R. Grace - A company with a severe case of asbestosis.
November 19, 1999
While people are dying, government agencies pass buck
By ANDREW SCHNEIDER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT
© 1999 Seattle Post-Intelligencer. All rights reserved.
LIBBY, Mont. -- They all say somebody should do something.
City, county, state and federal officials agree that someone should follow up. Inquire. Ask questions about the hundreds of people from Libby who have either died or been diagnosed with fatal diseases after being exposed to tremolite asbestos from a vermiculite mine.
Somebody, they say, should investigate disturbing indications that Libby may still be at risk.
But every official and every agency has a reason why, so far, they have not been that somebody.
Medical records, death certificates, doctors in five states and the miners or their survivors say at least 192 have died and at least 375 more have asbestosis or cancers from the lethal, microscopic fibers.
Most of them contracted the terminal diseases years ago, when the mine spewed more than two tons of asbestos a day into the air, six days a week, in a fine white dust that settled over the mountainside and often carried into the town of Libby.
But Libby's nightmare did not end when the W.R. Grace Co. closed the mine in 1990.
For one thing, asbestos-related diseases take a long time to develop, so cases from earlier exposure will continue to crop up for decades.
But now, as more and more cases are being diagnosed in this little northwest Montana mountain town, some townspeople are finding questions none of the government agencies has dared to seek answers for:
Are the tons of asbestos debris from the mine still killing people?
Are people being exposed today, breathing in death sentences that will be carried out halfway into the next century, after decades of agonizing illness?
Are there dangerous levels of asbestos in the air, in the ground, in the waters of the Kootenai River?
Are the children and grandchildren of the sick and dying, who never saw the mine in operation, going to die from its legacy?
The mine on Zonolite Mountain is dormant, its buildings dismantled. The stacks that poured out so much dust are gone. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has already given Grace back $400,000 of its $467,242 reclamation bond. The bond, which the state called "woefully inadequate" 25 years ago, was supposed to cover the costs of restoring the property to an environmentally safe level if the company had gone belly up.
The state says Grace spread yellow sweet clover and grass seed and planted 150 pine seedlings on each acre of the mine it reclaimed. Some have taken hold along the top of the mountain. But only a scant stubble covers the pinkish waste of the tailings pile, where thousands of tons of mine waste and asbestos dust were dumped. A web of gullies has eroded the pile.
"Natural landslides occur on the slopes in the area indicating the unstable nature of the vermiculite materials," the state wrote in a June 10 report.
The state admits that "the site would not meet reclamation standards that exist today." The tailing pile would have to be covered with clean soil. But the state says it is confident that "no asbestos is blowing off the hill."
The state's confidence may be misplaced.
This month, the Post-Intelligencer had two labs certified by the Environmental Protection Agency test soil collected from five locations along Rainy Creek Road. The road, once the main access to the mine, is now used by elk hunters, huckleberry and mushroom pickers, and others seeking access to the Kootenai National Forest land surrounding the mine.
Tremolite asbestos fibers were found in four of the samples. All were higher than the levels considered safe by EPA and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. One sample, taken at the curve on Rainy Creek Road, where youngsters from town often party, was more than four times above the action levels.
Using a vacuum air monitor, an air sample was also taken and analyzed. Again, much higher-than-acceptable levels of asbestos were found.
"More sophisticated testing would have to be done, but the levels (found in the P-I samples) indicate that if it were a workplace, the workers picking huckleberries in that area would have to wear a respirator and a protective suit," said Armina Nolan, who works for the EPA in Seattle and was the region's former asbestos coordinator.
Michael Watson, EPA's senior toxicologist in the Northwest's Region 10, said the "matter warrants a thorough examination. There appear to be big-time environmental pollutants up there . . . The levels could be far more than the average person should be exposed to."
When asked whether hazards remained on the mine site, a W.R. Grace spokesman said the company did not have "an in-house reclamation expert" who could answer the question.
'He doesn't want to know'
Shane Whitmarsh says he just doesn't like sitting in doctors' offices.
"That's not it," said his wife, Gina. "He just doesn't want to know if something's wrong."
Her strapping, 34-year-old husband, a logger, has had pneumonia three times in a year. "That's a bad sign that something is wrong with his lungs," Gina said.
"He's never worked at the mine, so he thinks he's safe. There are several other people here in their 30s who think they have chest problems, but don't want to talk about it."
Shane shrugs off talk of his own health, saying, "Once you've got asbestosis, there's nothing you can do about it."
He pauses, then slams his fist on a coffee shop table. "It's our kids that I'm worried about."
Carson is 5. Darby, 10.
"That old vermiculite is all over this town. Has anyone checked to see what happened to the asbestos that's part of it? Are our kids safe?"
'The state would tell us'
Tony Berget, the mayor of Libby since 1996, agrees there is vermiculite all over the town.
"You can see it sparkle," the mayor said. "It was used as fill. It covered the old ball parks, most of the town put it in their gardens. It's used as insulation in most of the houses.
"We know what happened in the old days, the miners coming home covered with white dust. But I don't think there's anything to worry about now.
"If there was a problem, I'm sure the county or the state people would have told us. They haven't given us any information so I'm sure there's not a problem."
Tony Berget desperately wants that to be true.
He adds: "I'm sure the county has tested for it, but they haven't found anything."
But Kendra Lund, who does environmental testing for Lincoln County, said she hasn't done any testing for asbestos "for years."
"We don't have the facilities to test for asbestos fibers. These are not county issues, but state responsibilities."
Dr. Brad Black, the part-time county health officer, said, "We're a very small health department with a very frugal budget. If there was anything wrong the state would tell us."
"The governor Marc Racicot is from Libby," Berget said.
"If there were a problem, he'd tell us."
But the state has not done anything, and some state workers are concerned and frustrated. Patrick Plantenberg, acting mining supervisor at Montana's Department of Environmental Quality, said: "We keep hearing about all these people from Libby who are sick or have died, but no one that I know of from the state has any real information. Whenever I hear something, I call these people who are supposed to deal with it, but nothing has ever been followed up on."
Fred Ramsey, an epidemiologist for the Montana Health Department, added: "Apparently, the state has not designated anybody. It sounds like the asbestos problem in Libby may have fallen between the crack of 'whose territory is it?' "
Tom Ellerhoff, an administrator for DEQ, said, "We have lots of entities who could get involved and help determine what's happening in Libby," and he ticks off an alphabet soup of state and federal agencies.
"The question becomes, who has the authority to do something? The problem is that there hasn't been a murmur, let alone a public outcry, over what's happening up there. It's unfortunate but someone has to raise the issue, make it a hot topic, draw attention to it," said Ellerhoff. "That's the way to get the state Legislature and the Congress to demand action and raise money for the studies that should be done up there."
The federal government seems equally unsure of who has the duty to help Libby.
John Wardell, the coordinator of EPA's operation in Montana, initially responded to the P-I's questions about Libby by saying: "A lot of folks are saying EPA should do this or that, but not one of them, the town, the county or the state, has written us a letter or called and asked for our help. We cannot go out there unless we're invited."
Berget, the mayor, admitted he'd never called the EPA, but added, "This is not a big secret. They should know about it.
"Where is the EPA? It is their job to determine whether there is a hazard in this town. They are on our backs all the time, making people dig up old fuel tanks, after companies that drain stuff into the river. Why aren't they out here? We'd welcome someone looking at the issue."
After repeated queries, EPA's Wardell reconsidered his answer. He said this week that "based on concerns raised" by the P-I, the EPA would investigate the situation in Libby.
'I hate to die'
At 67, Carrie Detrick looks a lot better than she feels. She and her husband, Bob, both have asbestosis. "I never worked at the mine," Carrie Detrick said. "I just got it by living around here. It's all over the town." She leans on a shovel in her garden, freshly tilled by a friend. The black soil sparkles with pieces of vermiculite.
"Almost all the gardens in Libby have Zonolite in them. We haven't used it for years, but it's still there," she said, nudging a sparkle with her shoe.
At night, she sits up in a chair "because it's almost impossible to breathe if I lie down."
"I hate to die. I really do," she said, her voice dropping to a whisper.
"I have a great-grandchild and six grandchildren and I want to watch them grow up. But I won't."
She's worried about the health of her grandchildren and the other children in Libby.
"Vermiculite is all over the place. Not just in the gardens. It's in the roofs and walls of the houses. You can see it along the river banks and on the roads and the old playgrounds. I don't want my kids to get it. I don't want them to die from that stuff.
"I can accept it if these deaths end with my generation, but what if it's ticking away in our children?"
She's going to try to persuade her two sons, ages 42 and 48, to get tested.
"They're afraid of finding out, but I think they have to know."
She says most of the town just doesn't want to know.
"We all played in the piles as kids. I can't understand why the government doesn't do anything and why the newspaper doesn't print a word. It's like it's a dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about."
A startling paradox
It's not as if the EPA doesn't know there are problems at Libby. In September 1994, Grace was fined and paid $510,000 for improperly dismantling some of the asbestos-covered equipment at the old mine. The penalty, one of largest Clean Air Act settlements in the country, "sends a clear message that violations of the asbestos regulations will not be tolerated," said Lois Schiffer, an acting assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department.
EPA officials said that during the demolition, asbestos was released into the air that could have been inhaled by anyone downwind.
It is a startling paradox: The government took immediate action because of the improper removal of some pipes and vats wrapped with asbestos insulation, but has done nothing to evaluate whether the millions of tons of asbestos-laced waste remaining at the mine and the widespread vermiculite waste in town present a current hazard.
The EPA made an effort in 1992 to investigate contamination of the same road where the P-I took its sample. Ron Rutherford, then chief of the EPA's enforcement and compliance section in Region 8's Denver headquarters, asked EPA lawyers in Washington whether the road could be cleaned.
"Since the tailings (on the road) are a product of vermiculite mining, not asbestos mining, the tailings do not meet the definition of asbestos tailings," said the headquarters in refusing the request.
Rutherford, who is now senior enforcement coordinator, says Washington's decision left him no choice.
"We found that we had no regulatory authority to do anything. These regulations have not always made the most sense," he said.
"On the one hand we talk about how a single fiber of asbestos is not safe and can cause cancer down the road. But on the other hand, we don't regulate a lot of asbestos. It's just frustrating.
"Responsibility and authority are two different things. I would hope that we have responsibility for it but it's not clear to me that we have any authority. It's the way the environmental laws are written. Ask Congress.
"I don't doubt for a moment that there's asbestos in the air."
'No way to live'
Kathy Tennison lives in a house her father built. It's warm, well-insulated with Zonolite, which was sold to the folks in town at a discount during the heyday of the mine.
She worked for Grace doing assays. She has asbestosis, as does her former husband. She now works with AIDS patients in a mental-health clinic.
"I worry about the asbestos in this house, but I can't afford to move," she said.
"We stuffed as much new stuff as we could into the wall and ceiling, but I'm terrified about my daughter getting it," Kathy Tennison said.
Salisha, 18, beautiful and wide-eyed, leans against a wall, under a light switch covered with tape to keep the insulation from coming out.
She worries because her mother often has a hard time breathing. She's also frightened about her future.
"I think about it a lot, I worry that one day I won't be able to breathe," Salisha said.
She shakes her head. "Having to carry around a tank of oxygen, just to stay alive, is no way to live. No way at all."
Dr. Black, the county health officer, said, "My real concern is about the risks to those people who have the insulation from up the hill in their homes," but added, "I'm assuming that the risk of asbestos contamination was well-studied years ago."
But neither the county nor the state knows of any such studies, and there is no indication in the Grace documents reviewed by the P-I that the company ever studied what was in the walls and ceilings of Libby's old homes.
Water pollution concerns
Other hazards may flow from Zonolite Mountain.
For most of the 70-year history of the mine, the asbestos and vermiculite dust that could be captured, that didn't soar up the stacks and into the wind, was dumped into the tailing pile.
The amount of asbestos going to the tailing pile increased dramatically in the '70s, when Grace shut down the dust-belching dry mill and switched to a wet process. Much of the estimated 5,000 to 9,000 pounds a day of lethal fibers that used to go into the air was being captured and dumped over the hill with the rest of the vermiculite tailing.
A 1981 internal audit of the mine by Grace acknowledged that the tailing pond, where runoff from the tailing pile was collected, was a storage basin for a "significant amount" of asbestos dust, "up to 40 percent." The auditors questioned whether this constituted "hazardous waste storage which would require federal licensing."
There is no indication in any of the thousands of pages of Grace documents reviewed by the P-I that the matter was ever dealt with.
But this fall, DEQ's Plantenberg found mention of the asbestos in the water while reviewing the reclamation bond for the mine, and he became concerned.
"Historically, they dumped tailings into that drainage and the whole drainage system is filled with tailings all the way down to the Kootenai River," he said.
"Next spring, if the spillway is full, we expect we are going to get a lot of asbestos going down Rainy Creek into the Kootenai, and I see that as a big issue here."
Asked whether the asbestos in the Kootenai presented yet another health problem for the town, he said he did not know.
"There is a water-quality standard so there must be health concerns," Plantenberg said, then added, "If there is a problem with contamination to air or water from that site, I'm sure we would go after W.R. Grace because the current land owners haven't done anything."
The company sold the mine in 1994 to two local loggers and a former Grace vice president.
'The damn stuff is still here'
A Grace internal memo reported in April of 1965 that company air monitoring detected levels of asbestos "in downtown Libby on many dry days." An EPA inspection team reported the same thing in a 1982 report.
Les Skramstad gingerly shuffles over the muddy field where Libby's kids used to play ball. He pauses at a pile of dirt scraped into the corner of the plot, stoops over and plucks up a glittering bit of soil. Then another. And one more.
"This is what frightens me," he said, watching the sun bounce off the vermiculite in his open palm. "This stuff was here for years and most of our kids played on it. The damn stuff is still here and no one seems to care."
About 200 yards away from the old pitcher's mound are half a dozen buildings and storage sheds that Grace used to process, package and ship bags of expanded vermiculite. There was also an experimental laboratory where they tried to turn Zonolite into everything from cattle feed to high-rising bread, and the tremolite asbestos into anything they could sell.
"After the scientists were done with their experiments, we'd just shovel that stuff out on the ground and make room for the next batch. These fields were piled with it," said Skramstad, who stops, squeezes his eyes shut and struggles to catch his breath.
He, his wife, Norita, and the two oldest of their five children have asbestosis or cancer of the lungs. The Skramstads were the first to go to trial against Grace, and they won.
But his doctor tells him he has only a few more years to live.
He accepts it with a shrug.
"Nothing can undo the disease we've got. We're all going to die from it. But I'm going to spend every minute I've got left trying to get people here to get serious about what's still on the ground, in the water and the air," Skramstad said.
Not far from the railroad tracks, next to the old shipping building, a half-dozen weathered bags of Grace's product are stacked atop an old wooden pallet. One of the bags is split. The others are still covered in heavy paper. The printing is faded but can still be read: "WARNING: Vermiculite Concentrate. Over-exposure to airborne fibers can cause a risk of cancer."
Grace knew there was the potential for trouble at the site.
In a 1981 inspection report, Grace's company auditors said that the town facility should be "secured by fencing since it is adjacent to a public ball playing field."
It was never done.
A metal-roofed building a softball toss away from the ball field was where Grace stored tall piles of vermiculite.
Mel Burnett, who owns the lumber yard that's there today, points to ropes still hanging from the rafters where the town's children used to swing and slide into the piles.
"I know that stuff is all over the place, but what am I supposed to do? Close down?" he asks with obvious frustration. "That stuff is hazardous, but so is not eating."
Skramstad said, "The politicians in this town don't want to wake up to the problem. . . . They say it's just some health problems left over from the old mine." He stares at the vermiculite he clutches in his hand.
"Death sentences are not just health problems."
What legacy for kids?
D.C. Orr worked as an excavator at the mine off and on for eight years. He is not sick, but several of his family members are.
He says the danger has been covered up.
"It's all suppressed. Those who don't have the disease don't want to talk about it or think about it.
"What's got to be remembered is that stuff lasts forever. You've got to wonder what kind of legacy we've left for our kids."
Butch Hurlbert was a steelworker and a rodeo roper. But not anymore.
After three years of working at the mine, he was about to hop on a treadmill for a cardiac test during a routine physical for a new job when the doctor who'd just examined him came running up waving an X-ray and told him to get off the machine.
"He told me, 'You've got cancer and you've got it bad,' " Hurlbert recalls.
The retired cowboy said he's angry about the way the "government types ... have covered up and downplayed the whole problem. That whole town should be tested, if they care about their kids, every square inch."
Understandably, the sick people have little patience for excuses.
"If the government says there is nothing wrong here, they're crazy," Carrie Detrick said.
"I'm going to die. Let the government come to my funeral if they need proof."...
# # #
FOR MORE POLLUTER NESTS, GO TO > > >
ALL GOD’S CREATURES
BIRDS ON THE POWER LINES
THE DEADLY BREW AT DUPONT
THE DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS OF DOW CHEMICAL
DOWN ON THE FACTORY FARM
SONGS OF THE DRUG VULTURES
THE BIOTECH BIRDS
THE NUCLEAR NESTS
THE STORY OF ENRON
THE VULTURES ON YUCCA MOUNTAIN
UNCLE SAM’S GUINEA PIGS
VULTURES IN THE DOLE PINEAPPLE FIELDS
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
THE WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
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Last update August 9, 2009, by The Catbird