Archive for the ‘Environmental’ Category

Its springtime and a young mans fancy is supposed to turn to the women. I guess I am not young anymore as mine has turned to gardening and making the yard look nicer with new plantings and rearranging previous plantings. I have been very slack on the vegetable garden and haven’t planted yet as I have been having a lot of bad days or too worn out from the little bit it takes to plant a few flowers. It takes very little in the way of digging to have me huffing and puffing in pain and even less if I am bending over to pull weeds. Lucky I have help from my sister in law. She is amazing in the yard with her flowers. There is always something blooming from early spring until the end of summer here in the yard. Its a lot of work but it is worth it when you look back and see the fruits of your labor. All of us can have a little bit of mother earth surrounding us even if you do not have a yard as large as ours. Even a small house plant can be the tonic you need to feel closer to nature. I would urge everyone to try raising something you would be surprised at the satisfaction you will receive when something you have tended to with your own hands blooms or brings forth fruit.

On Wednesday The Department of the Interior head -Dirk Kempthorne- declared the polar bear a threatened species. Saying polar bears must be protected because of the decline in Arctic sea ice from global warming. He cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses. Reflecting the views of the White House he [Secretary Kempthorne] stated that it would be “inappropriate” to use the protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, saying, “the Endangered Species Act was never meant to regulate global climate change.”

Its not like they were in any hurry to place them on the endangered list. They were facing a court order from a lawsuit won by environmentalists on the 29th of April that said they [The Department of the Interior] had until May 15th to do something. As usual any of the departments under the Bush administration drag their heels and fight tooth and nail to not do anything to help the environment.

The North Atlantic Right Whale – so named by whalers of days bygone – is the most critically endangered species on the planet with less than 350 left alive. Man hunted this spectacular animal into the brink of extinction and even though it is protected by the Endangered Species Act, is still in serious trouble. One problem that has been a serious problem for years is they are often surprised and badly injured or killed by large commercial shipping going too fast in the waters they prefer. Marine biologists and NOAA have been trying to get a speed limit of 10 knots imposed on these waters. Since 1989 there have been at least 19 known deaths that are believed to have been caused by large ships. I know 19 doesn’t sound like a large number but when there are so few of these animals left and then taking into consideration the time required for them to reach maturity and able to breed.

An attempt to protect them by making all large ships slow down a little in their areas has languished for over a year partially because the office of the Vice President questions the conclusions of the governments own scientists. Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif released documents yesterday that questioned why White House officials have raised baseless objections over the data gathered by government scientists who have been studying this problem for years. “I question why White House economic advisers are apparently conducting their own research on right whales and why the vice president’s staff is challenging the conclusions of the government’s scientific experts,” Waxman wrote. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed the White House interference in a wide range of areas from regulating toxic chemicals to climate change and protecting endangered species.

The Senate holds a hearing today in its Environment Committee to review the process that has changed the way the EPA is able to screen chemicals for cancer and other health risks. The undermining of the EPA’s ability to determine health issues by the Bush administration has increased the steps required before the EPA can stop the use of certain chemicals by years in some cases. They have decreased the ability to determine health dangers by letting non scientists have a bigger – sometimes secret – role in a chemicals determination. They have doubled the number of steps required and have risk assessments way behind, sometimes by years. Extensive involvement by the White House and EPA managers has eroded the independence of the EPA scientists who determine the health risks posed by chemicals. Multiple government agencies -who could be affected by the findings – are now allowed to participate at every step of the investigation into the chemicals they use. If the EPA were to find against them or their contractors they would face serious restrictions and cleanup requirements. “By law the EPA must protect our families from dangerous chemicals,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the Senate committee’s chairman. “Instead, they’re protecting the chemical companies.” Hopefully she and the other Senators can get to the bottom of this and get the EPA back on track and not being run by people with a vested interest in the outcomes of investigations.

I no longer keep up with professional baseball or any pro sport any longer as it makes me sick to see the way these over paid players act. But I am not going to get off on a tirade about the public spectacle that baseball has been going through with all the steroid and allegations of steroid use and who knows what else. As I understand it the expanded the leagues by two teams one of which is the Washington Nationals. For opening day the first pitch was thrown out by President Bush who had been exercising his throwing arm on the south lawn in anticipation of the opening pitch. A sign of the times and dissent amongst common Americans was the reception he garnered as he strode to the pitchers mound. He was greeted with throngs of boo’s and cat calls. Not exactly what he had anticipated or hoped for. No he was boo’ed. I don’t think a President has ever been treated like that at a public gathering before. They were booing because the war and occupation of Iraq has taken over a million Iraqi lives and sent 4,000 U.S. soldiers and marines to their graves. They were booing Bush because of the loss of millions of jobs, with nearly two million people facing foreclosure of their homes. They were booing because of the massive secret spying campaign against the American people and the violation of First Amendment rights and other criminal acts. Our representatives in Congress should listen to the voice of the people. There is a valid point being made that we are viewed as war mongers and war criminals abroad and it should be investigated and stopped if necessary.

Well it has been nearly a full year since the Environmental Protection Agency was ordered by the Supreme Court to determine whether greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles should be regulated. EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson (a Bush appointee) is apparently following the Bush administrations stance that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and has opposed mandatory limits even in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.

Tuesday in front of the Senate Appropriations environment subcommittee Johnson was grilled by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif who repeatedly asked him [Johnson] “Is anyone working on this at the present time, Mr. Johnson?” she asked. “How many members of your staff are currently working on this?” “I don’t know the answer to that,” Johnson replied. She then remarked that it was strange that the EPA chief “can’t give me a number (of people engaged) on something that is a Supreme Court finding.”

Myself I feel it is only par for the course for an administration that is dedicated to raping and pillaging the country as a whole. They have no concern for anything or anyone except their friends in big industry. I don’t know how long it will take to dig our way out of the tremendous hole they have dug for us the country.

??? You remember that last week the Congress once again passed an energy bill giving tax incentives for wind, solar and other renewable fuels. Well right on cue the big oil lackeys in the Senate are howling bloody murder over the loss of tax incentives to the big oil companies. Last year they passed a almost identical bill that was threatened by veto and the Senate caved right in. Of course it doesn’t take much caving in when big oil has donated so much to some Senators. Plus we have their [big oil] best buddy in the White House. It’s not like he really cares about what is good for the country or its citizens. I knew right away how deeply he felt for the citizens in the country when he was so fast in getting to the gulf coast after Katrina. It’s not like he didn’t fly over it after he finished his vacation at the ranch. Probably even had the pilot tip the wingtip over a little in Air Force One so he could see the destruction a little better.

??? Anyhow about the energy bill. It is funded the same way – pay as you go – and that payment is the dropping of 17 billion dollars in tax credits for big oil. New investments in clean, non-fossil-fuel energy sources – need help until they become competitive with older, dirtier energy sources. It’s not like the oil companies need these tax breaks. They are rolling in money, posting the largest corporate earnings ever. The five biggest producers only made 145 billion in profits last year. If those arguments are not enough, we offer the Senate some words from the decider himself [President Bush]. In a 2005 address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Mr. Bush spoke forcefully of the need for an energy strategy that looked to the long term and emphasized conservation and renewable fuels. Of the oil and gas industry, he said pointedly: ?I will tell you with $55 oil we don?t need incentives to the oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives. What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent.? Even the most dim witted Senator should be able to see that a country that uses 20% of the worlds oil but only has 3% of its reserves can not drill its way to energy independence.

My question would be – If that was true at $55 a barrel, why is not it even more valid and urgent at $100 a barrel?

??? With the price of oil above $100 a barrel, Congress is again taking action to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and support the domestic production of renewable energy. The House of Representatives passed legislation this week that would repeal some $18 billion in tax breaks for big energy companies. “The American taxpayer should not be subsidizing oil and gas companies during times of record profits and record prices at the pump,” Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said last week when he introduced the energy tax package.

??? The legislation includes tax credits to promote renewable energy production. Renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, ethanol, and biofuels will be promoted by these tax credits. The legislation would also give consumers a $4,000 tax credit for buying plug-in hybrid vehicles, extend the tax credits for installing certain energy-efficient appliances and increases tax breaks for gas stations that install pumps for dispensing alternative fuels.

You may remember that I wrote on a very similar bill introduced and passed by the House of Representatives that met strong opposition from the Senate. Perhaps there are more Senators on the “Big Oil” payroll than in the House. The House once again has the right idea, that is best for the country, but look for the Senate to fight it tooth and nail. And even if it does pass the Senate it may be met by a Presidential veto as the White House stance was opposed to it before so I doubt he has changed his mind and decided to do what is best for the country instead of what is best for him and his “friends” in the oil industry.

It has been nearly nineteen years since the disaster of the Exxon Valdez running aground and dumping eleven million gallons of crude oil into the then pristine, Prince William Sound. The spill covered twelve hundred miles of coastline with the crude oil. Oil that stuck to everything, killing off untold thousands of marine animals and birds. The damages inflicted then still have not fully recovered.

Cordova itself, 45 miles from Bligh Reef [what the Valdez hit], was not directly touched by the slick. But its economy and citizens were devastated by the loss of so many jobs. The town depended heavily upon commercial fishing that was ruined by the insidious crude. Salmon have started to rebound, but the numbers of Harlequin ducks and sea otters are still well below pre-spill levels.

To the casual observer, the sound?s stunning beauty has been restored, but an estimated 85 tons of crude linger, according to a federal study released last year. At the Prince William Sound Science Center jars of oil-stained rocks and sand that are sill being dug up can be examined.

Amidst this backdrop Exxon is fighting tooth and nail to get out of paying punitive damages to the local citizens. In 1994, an Anchorage jury awarded victims $5 billion in punitive damages. That amount has since been cut in half by other courts on appeals by Exxon Mobil. Now it is going in front of the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear why Exxon feels it should not have to pay the damages at all. Almost 33,000 plaintiffs – including commercial fishermen, Alaska Natives, landowners, businesses and local governments – could see the $2.5 billion judgment taken away by the high court. It is not like they can not afford to pay. They just posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company ever – 40.6 billion dollars. Lets wait and see how the court handles this. Hopefully they will do the right thing and not bow to corporate demands.

??? Terrible news for the wolves in Greater Yellowstone and the Northern Rockies. This past Thursday the Bush/Cheney Administration stripped these amazing animals of vital federal protections, officially opening the door to the shooting, trapping, and killing of up to 1,200 wolves.

??? That is approximately 80% of all the wolves in that region. That is outrageous. They are supposed to be federally protected animals and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted them under authority of the Bush Administration. This is a potentially devastating blow to the wolves in that area. There could be as few as 300 left in the wild. The herds of deer and elk – they are trying to protect – are made stronger by the wolves that follow the herds – killing the weak, sick and injured.

??? Idaho officials want to use aerial gunning to kill wolves in their state. Wyoming agencies have left the door open to the use of traps and poison to eliminate wolves. And officials in both states – and Montana – have proposed wolf hunts.

??? As I wrote last month, federal officials already made it easier to kill wolves while they were still protected under the Endangered Species Act. Now they’re taking the final step, and eliminating these federal protections altogether. You can help with their legal defense by visiting Save Americas Wolves and making a donation.

??? You can also call or write your congress man or woman and tell them to get on board with the PAW Act. Right now they are trying to let it die in committee. The only way the wolves will be saved is if you and I make an outcry for them. It is the squeaky wheel that greased first.