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Job Bonanza: Drill the Whales

5:10 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

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The present right wing obsession with EPA as the enemy has created a number of ugly sights.   Some of them are the destroyed landscape that fracking has produced.   The other is the political faction that will promote the most obvious lies to excuse decrying the population that prefers scenery to fumes.    It’s almost funny to watch the results, here with Rand Paul insisting that asthma is the result of clean air, and pollution its cure.

Long, long ago and far, far away, the land we’re now fracking had lots of space and scenery, and, as schoolchildren, the now-aging population sang about ‘purple mountains’ majesty’  without a sneer about tree hugging.   Along came the family car with its network of highways, and we started to ruin it.

When the auto industry was young, it was necessary to choose the fuel that all of us would use to power the new mode of transportation.   Whale oil was getting a bit shaky, vegetable oil interfered with food production, but beneath the earth there was this slimy waste product nobody wanted, it was cheap because it was a nuisance.

Texans knew of the oil that lay beneath the ground in the state for decades, but this was often seen more as a problem than a benefit because it hindered the digging of water wells. Rancher W. T. Waggoner, who later became an influential oil businessman, struck oil while drilling for water in 1902, and was quoted as saying “I wanted water, and they got me oil. I tell you I was mad, mad clean through. We needed water for ourselves and for our cattle to drink.”[21]

The auto manufacturers tooled up to use fossil fuels.   On the side, oil drilling became another boom, and wells obliterated whole communities as people discovered that instead of dirt farming, they could drill in their dirt. Read the rest of this entry →

Do You Trust Your Skies to Texas Oversight?

6:50 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Nuclear facility in VT

(Picture courtesy of Greenpeace photostream, flickr.)

If you are okay with believing regulators in Texas are able to ward off nuclear accidents, just sit there.   If not, you might want to file your take on that prospect with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As I posted yesterday, the Loan Star State is already home to nuclear waste.  Regulators are fine with putting the health of the public in the hands of profit oriented businesses with no record of responsibility for natural resources or public safety.

Those regulators are currently trying to shut EPA out of the state so industry has a free hand with the air in Texas.   There is a nuclear power generator now in their care that will soon be permitted to increase capacity to four.

…CPS Energy, TEPCO, and potentially the Japanese government itself, were among investors lined up to fund expansion of the South Texas Project nuclear complex near Bay City. A partnership between NRG Energy, Toshiba, and federal contractor Shaw Group (in charge of maintenance at STP), were preparing to construct two advanced boiling water reactors (ABWR) at the South Texas Project nuclear complex where CPS already owns 40 percent of STP reactors 1 and 2. CPS Energy planned to invest 7.6 percent in proposed reactors 3 and 4, but the utility said on March 21 that it had indefinitely postponed talks with reactor owner NRG Energy.

“Terminating discussions with NRG allows us to devote more resources in pursuit of the other options,” said CPS Energy President and CEO Doyle Beneby. “When the development of STP 3 and 4 moves forward again, our present ownership interest will remain unchanged.”

In the meantime, San Antonio will continue drawing a large portion of its energy from STP’s 1 and 2 reactors. Those facilities, which came online in 1988 and 1989, also happen to be up for a 20-year renewal by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Without the renewal, the reactors would close in 2027 and 2028. April 1 is the deadline for the public to tell the NRC how it feels about the renewal, which, oddly enough, won’t take place for another 20 years.

The ongoing disaster in Japan has served as a sinister backdrop to consideration of construction by the powers that put together the Fukushima facility.  Radioactivity from the accident there has been detected in Boston.

For many years, the State of Texas has fought back against safety regulations of all sort.   This is not the kind of approach that should be addressing the new problems we now are seeing play out for nuclear power generation.

Our planet’s future depends on the action we take, or fail to take, today.   What we are seeing play out now is the result of believing assurances that are more related to profit taking than to safety systems and their effectiveness.   We can’t take a chance on believing the promises of those who’ve shown those promises mean only that they want us to fall for them again, and again.

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play – in the Nuclear Waste

7:55 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Comanche Peak glows,from flickr, Zack Hollandsworth

Sometimes it is a pain being right.

Last week I was expressing a big worry about the fact that the Texas breed of anti-environment regulation was involved in operations of nuclear facilities.   Now I find out that there’s worse than that, we have a growing nuclear dump in the Loan Star State.   It’s run by the usual suspects.

The Texas billionaire and corporate raider (ed: Harold Simmons) is opening a nuclear waste dump in West Texas, despite objections from environmentalists and the state’s own experts. One of the Lone Star State’s largest donors to Republican causes, Simmons expects his that privately-owned site will become the nation’s most sought after radioactive waste repository.

(snip)

Only Vermont had a deal to dispose of its nuclear waste in Texas, so Simmons began lobbying to amend the nearly 20-year-old compact with the Green Mountain State to allow other states to also send their radioactive waste to the WCS site.

The decision to alter the compact rested with the seven members of the obscure Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission, six of whom had been appointed by Gov. Perry, one of the largest recipients of Simmons’ campaign cash…. Any state can now petition the commission to have its radioactive waste buried in Texas.

The ground water is often in the form of aquifers here, vast lakes that are located underground.   The ground water mingles in with the runoff, of course, but in applying for permits to load up on nuclear waste, Simmons insisted there was no danger of contamination.   No environmental studies showed that to be so.  The studies cited are geologic and years of oil exploration.   No examples have been provided.

Members of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality resigned rather than issue this permit.

There is no end of justification for depradations that endanger the people of Texas, as long as it results in profit for a small number of ‘entrepreneurs’.   The main chances involved in seeking to make a killing in this state are whether you can get enough monetary impetus behind an influential enough office holder.

Savagely, that ‘making a killing’ here doesn’t necessarily mean a cash bottom line.  The public is just another impediment to the business interests in the state.

As Tom Lehrer told us some decades back;

Oh we will all fry together when we fry.
We’ll be french fried potatoes by and by.
There will be no more misery
When the world is our rotisserie,
Yes, we will all fry together when we fry.

Nuclear Waste Isn’t Something We Can Trust To Texas Politicians

2:22 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Comanche Peak glows,from flickr, Zack Hollandsworth

Among all the stories coming at us out of the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan comes one that is really frightening.   It seems as if yet another nuclear facility is in the works that would be managed by the Loan Star State.   From the folks whose idea of generating power is to have the most freedom available to pollute, this is insanity.

The government in Texas has declared itself  firmly on the side of attracting business by fighting down any regulation, but it has most particularly devoted itself to polluting the environment.  In recent history, Texas has taken on the EPA in the courts in order to maintain its ‘business friendly’ dirt.

As I pointed out in recent months, the ongoing suit against EPA is just another way the state tries to throw off protections its citizens should have.

Now we are assured by our Rep. Joe Barton, famed for apologizing to BP for having their deepwater rig leak into our gulf, assuring us that nuclear power is great stuff and only wackos who selfishly clean the air for their own breathing purposes would oppose it.

“I think our new reactor designs are very safe,” said Congressman Joe Barton.

(snip)

Still, spent fuel storage needs to change.

“That is an issue,” Barton said during a tour of the Comanche Peak plant. “And quite frankly, that’s a fault of the federal government. You shouldn’t have to store your fuel rods on site. We should have an operating repository.”

That silly old federal government that inconveniences business like all get out, that’s the one that ought to be slurping up the spent fuel in Barton’s and his kindred spirits’ opinion.   With 2,200 spent fuel rods in storage south of Fort Worth, at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant,  it might begin to occur to local officials that early retirement might be attractive right about now.

We have an outstandingly anti-public interest government here in Texas, but most local jurisdictions have at least a smattering of that sort.  These are the very officials charged with safety systems and their maintenance.

Nuclear power is not safe as long as the very officials that show mostly laughable amounts of common sense are in charge.

Trying Really Hard to Foul Your Air

6:59 am in Economy, Environment by Ruth Calvo

Pollution affects Your world.

Picture courtesy of the daily green.

The state of Texas received a welcome setback in its ongoing campaign to violate standards of air quality set to protect our health.  As usual, the state’s Attorney General fronted for Governor Perry in filing to keep EPA from enforcement of standards that have been reached for public protection.   The court appealed to, in the District of Columbia, has declared that the public good ranks above Texas’ need for acting out.

Texas lost a third round Wednesday in its legal fight to halt federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Wednesday denied Texas’ request to block a program that regulates the largest sources of emissions. A three-judge panel wrote that Texas didn’t satisfy “the stringent standards” required to stay the regulation.

(snip)

“This ensures that our efforts to enact modest, common-sense steps to address carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act … will proceed in the state of Texas just as they are proceeding across the nation,” the EPA said in a prepared statement.

The governor has reached a level of distinction for the obvious misuse of public funds to fight against their own interests.  Frivolous lawsuits are no problem in Perry’s universe, as they are styled as the fight against ‘job-killing’ legislation.

Job killers seem to include all measures that protect the people whose taxes are used to fight against them.  Industry continues funneling massive campaign funds into TX officials’ pockets in return for their misuse of public funds.  The only purpose served, by constant bombardment of public interests, is actually that of attracting polluters into state officials’ contributor ranks.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

EPA Keeps Working on Clean Air Despite Texas

10:13 am in Environment by Ruth Calvo

Cement plant's noxious fumes.

Pollution in Midlothian, TX.  Picture courtesy of Environmental News Service.

In a move that cuts through a lot of continuing rhetoric, a.k.a. Hot Dirty Air, the EPA today has announced it will take over the function that the state of Texas has abrogated, of protecting citizens from pollution.   The government in TX has increasingly fought against national air quality standards, and refused to put them into effect, thus polluting not only its own air but that of surrounding areas.

That the TX standards continue to harm its citizens is not safe for the country, and it has proved necessary for the federal government to provide services that Austin’s recidivist element will not.

The Environmental Protection Agency will announce today that it will seize authority from Texas for awarding clean-air permits because the state has refused to implement federal greenhouse-gas regulations.

The announcement was expected for months, as Texas officials, led by Gov. Rick Perry, sued the EPA over the greenhouse rule and its legal basis for regulating such emissions. Even so, the notion of federal officials deciding how some 167 industrial facilities in Texas must comply with the rule is sure to spark new recriminations between Austin and Washington.

(snip)

Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request by Texas and other litigants to halt the greenhouse-gas rules. The court ruled that Texas and the other plaintiffs didn’t prove that significant economic harm would result from the regulation.

The insistence of right wing officials, who continually violate standards that protect U.S. citizens, that air in their state will be polluted so that businesses can profit at public expense cannot be tolerated in contravention of national law.

It would be nice if we could be confident that state authorities in TX would agree that its citizens deserve the government to serve them instead of profit oriented corporate welfare. Nice, but hardly likely, given the continuing defiance of those officials of the Rule of Law.

Big Downside to Fracking: Flammable Water

4:42 am in Energy, Environment, Government, State Government, Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Fracking makes tapwater flame up.

(At right: Picture from Texas news outlet WOAITV.)

The ground water many rural households depend on has been affected by the practice of “fracking” that jets chemicals into earth layers containing oil for the purpose of extracting the oil.  It’s common knowledge out here in Texas, where incidents of rural households exploding or at least finding they can ignite water coming out of the kitchen tap have been reported for many years.’

Now the oil companies are beginning the practice in the east, and that practice has alarmed people who have recourse to a working legal system.  As a result, states that have public service orientation are shutting down companies that endanger their citizens.

Environmentalists, joined by some congressional Democrats, have pushed for federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act. That would reverse an exemption granted by congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush in 2005. Halliburton Co. was the main company lobbying on fracturing at the time, and some call the exemption the “Halliburton loophole.”

Environmentalists applauded EPA’s actions, agreeing that Texas has shown the insufficiency of state regulation of oil and gas production.

“This is an example of why federal regulations for oil and gas operations are so important,” said Amy Mall of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The EPA found that drinking water may be substantially endangered with the presence of cancer-causing benzene and other contaminants, yet Texas state authorities did not respond to citizen complaints and had no plans to do so.”

When oil companies discovered they could buy off the regulators in Texas, they evidently thought the practice would work just fine in other places as well.   Hopefully, citizens used to protections will fight back and protect themselves.  It would be just great if those protections would spread, even out here to long victimized residents in a state that has been for sale to the highest bidder for much too long.

Unamerican Air Pollution Remains SOP; Texas Spills On

11:03 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

With its usual disregard for the protection of its citizens, Texas has filed suit against the EPA for its rejection of the state’s polluting practices. The continuing issuance of permits to befoul the air has kept the state out of compliance with federal standards that protect citizens from disease-bearing pollutants. That just makes business/state government mad.

The EPA has sought in the usual ways to encourage and guide the state, but in its usual bravado that insists only by despoiling the natural resources can Texas promote business, this state administration under Gov. (Don’t Succeed, Secede) Perry stands strong for dirty air.

In the latest turn in the ongoing battle between state and federal air-pollution regulators, Texas’s attorney general filed a legal challenge on Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA’s rejection of Texas’ permitting program for large industrial plants last month constituted "improper overreach by the federal government," according to the release from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office.
(snip)
The EPA has said that Texas’ system of "flexible" permits — in which an industrial plant must meet an overall pollution limit but does not set caps on individual units within the plant — does not accord with the requirements in federal law. More than 120 plants are affected.

The state of Texas has led red states in its violation of generally accepted standards of failure to protect the public. It also leads in the amount of taxpayer dollars it siphons into state projects. In 2008 and 2009, federal funds were more than 30% of total funding for all state spending. With this level of sucking the public teat, the state officials are well able to hold their breath until they turn blue when it’s a matter of federal law.

Big Coal And Oil Want Clean Air Stopped

9:00 am in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

The Tar Ball Lobby is hard at work. Today, the Senate is considering a move to keep the EPA from preventing air pollution. Sponsored by Sen Murkowski of AK, who recently successfully kept the cap on damages caused by their mistakes for Big Oil, the measure would strip the administration of its power to protect public citizens from depredations of Big Oil and Coal.

No surprise, one of the arguments includes the threat to jobs if we actually protect the public. Again, no surprise, Sen. Blanche Lincoln makes a really big deal of protecting jobs, never mind public interests in protecting the environment. Those tax breaks that have worked so well before are a big factor in job creation with the right wing, that substitutes subsidies for energy alternative research by… you guessed it, Big Oil and Coal, touted by all the opponents of EPA enforcement.

Read the rest of this entry →

Perry Passin’ Em off at the Head

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by Ruth Calvo

Down in the Loan Star State, the governor got a big boost in his latest run for office by proclaiming that states’ rights were his bailiwick and the federal takeover of the sorts of thieves that were stealing us blind was nothing but socialistikness running amuck. Now the EPA has given him another way to defy laws that protect the public, by refusing to allow Koch Industries to continue polluting the air against federal laws. You probably guessed by now the Gov. Perry gets boodles of campaign cash from the polluters, most especially Koch?

As soon as the Obama Administration came into power, the EPA began warning Texas that its "flexible" approach was not in compliance with federal law. The first shot in the battle was fired on May 25, when the EPA stepped in and said it would determine if an operating permit should be granted for the Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi. The refinery is owned by Koch Industries, the Kansas-based consortium whose political action committee has funded several conservative causes. The Koch family gave Perry $50,000 for his campaign fight with Hutchison.

Read the rest of this entry →