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Thursday, April 26, 2012

State Officials In Alabama Close Gulf Shrimping After Scientists Find Severe Deformities

From Washingtonsblog.com 4-26-12

Eyeless Shrimp and Other Grotesque Deformities In Gulf Seafood Cause Alabama to “Temporarily” Shut Down Shrimping

After scientists and fishermen have found severe deformities in a substantial percentage of Gulf seafood, the State of Alabama has moved to shut down shrimping.
WERC-FM local news reports:
Some area waters along the Gulf Coast will close to shrimping starting today.  The areas closed are all waters in the Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay, areas of Bon Secour, Wolf Bay, and Little Lagoon.  The closure comes after scientists found smaller than average population of shrimp and lesions. They say the plan to test the water and will continue to run samples until the waters are re-opened.  There is no set time when the waters will be open for shrimping again
Local ABC affiliate WEAR TV reports:
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has temporarily closed some local waterways to shrimping.  The waters were closed to shrimping on Monday.
The areas include all waters in the Mississippi Sound, Mobile Bay, areas of Bon Secour, Wolf Bay, and Little Lagoon.
The closure is in response to routine shrimp sampling that indicated the average size were smaller than 68 head-on shrimp per pound.  Meaning biologists found smaller than average shrimp in the waters causing the temporary closure.  They will continue to take samples in these areas and determine any modifications to the closures.
And we’d like to clarify that the closures were not due to lesions being found on shrimp as we reported earlier this weekend and Monday morning.
However, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (“ADCNR”) has previously pretended that shrimp closures were due to size – and not oil.
For example, on May 20, 2010 – a month after the Gulf oil spill started – ADCNR’s website said:
Closed all inside waters to shrimping. This closure is a seasonal closure due to shrimp size. Closure was not related to oil spill.
H/t: Stuart Smith.
P.S.--We can thank deregulation, BP oil, Cheney's Haliburton, and the Bush administration for its incompetent presidency for letting such deep sea drilling to go forward without adequate oversight, and accountability.

Nuclear Powder Keg in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania

Armstrong radiation report cites years of 'large' releases

April 26, 2012 by Rich Lord from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
An expert's report on shuttered nuclear fuels plants in Armstrong County provides new detail on allegations that operators Babcock & Wilcox Co. and Atlantic Richfield Co. knew about worst-in-the-nation releases of radioactive materials that spanned decades, but opted not to do enough to protect neighbors from cancer-causing dust.
The 37-page report by Harvard University Radiation Safety Officer Joseph P. Ring, who teaches at Harvard and the University of Massachusetts, was filed late Tuesday in a series of federal lawsuits against the companies by about 90 cancer victims. Mr. Ring found "numerous large-scale releases of ionizing radiation into the neighboring environment" during the operating lives of the plants in Apollo and Parks Township, which spanned 1958 through 1984, adding up to "the largest quantity ... of any nuclear facility in the United States."
The effects continue to bedevil the Armstrong County communities.
"A lot of people have lost not only their entire savings but their homes," due to the health effects and loss of property value caused by the plants, said Patricia Ameno, of Leechburg, who sued the companies in a previous round of litigation and spoke Wednesday. "Their families have been torn apart by illnesses and deaths."
Mr. Ring wrote that the trouble began with the construction of the Apollo plant, which opened in 1958 as a research facility for uranium enrichment and became a production facility for uranium fuel. The building was never sealed off from the outside environment, and internal ventilation systems were "outdated and inappropriately designed," he wrote.
Coupled with the fact that it "should never have been located in a residential neighborhood," he wrote, the design flaws resulted in dramatic radiation exposure.
A 1963 fire at the Apollo plant, he wrote, exposed the lungs of people nearby to radiation doses from 2 to 280 times then-permissible levels. In 1967, according to internal documents quoted by Mr. Ring, "during incinerator operation the airborne concentration outside the Apollo plant averages 4,000 times the maximum allowable."
A 1968 internal memo quoted by Mr. Ring said the plant's "exhaust system needs re-engineered. ... Changing filters does not solve the problem, most often the condition is worse after a filter has been changed."
The Atomic Energy Commission and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sometimes cited the facilities for violations, but the problems persisted. A 1969 memo by top officials of the operating company acknowledged that discharges of liquids from the plant "might produce undesirable environmental effects" and could prompt a government crackdown.
A top official in 1974 viewed memos on the facility and wrote that if they were accurate, "we are guilty of gross irresponsibility in continuing to operate our uranium facilities." He threatened to shut them down, but the company didn't stop making highly enriched uranium there until 1978, and it ended all production in 1984, according to documents quoted by Mr. Ring.
Apollo used state and federal grants to clean up the site, with most of the work done in 2009 and 2010 and state approvals granted in 2011.
"We are in the process of putting an access road which will hopefully entice some kind of interested party or business to develop it," borough manager Lori Weig-Tamasy said. Because of past contamination, it can't be used for housing, retail or parks, she said.
She said officials have "a very deep desire to see that property developed for the good of the community, for the good of the taxpayers of the community who suffered the loss of a viable business."
The 85-acre Parks facility made plutonium fuel and highly enriched uranium, and it was built farther from residences. That site also has been the subject of a lengthy cleanup effort.
A prior lawsuit against Babcock & Wilcox and Atlantic Richfield ended with an $80 million settlement for cancers and losses of property value suffered by more than 300 plaintiffs.
The current lawsuits, filed in 2010 by workers and neighbors of the plants, are being handled by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gary L. Lancaster. Plaintiffs' attorneys Pittsburgh-based Goldberg, Persky & White and South Carolina-based Motley Rice LLC filed Mr. Ring's report along with four other expert opinions on the spread of radioactive agents through the communities, and the links between such materials and cancer.
A spokesman for Babcock & Wilcox said the company had not yet reviewed Mr. Ring's report.
"I grew up less than 100 feet across the street from the plant," said Ms. Ameno, 60, a retired military employee who added that she has been through uterine cancer and two surgeries for brain tumors, and has another brain tumor.
"I saw the town I grew up in ... disintegrating, just like the bricks on that plant," she said. "What did they conceivably gain by siting this here?"
She said she helped connect the current plaintiffs with their attorneys, and has lobbied for better laws and enforcement. She calls what the companies did "criminal -- plain, outright criminal."
She also faults the regulators who allowed the plants to operate. "While [the companies] pulled the trigger, the government drove the getaway car."
Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.
P.S. Do we need MORE deregulation in the United States, let alone, Pennsylvania? Remember, Tom Corrupt-bett failed to prosecute Allen Shipman over his numerous toxic waste dumpings when he was PA Attorney General. Corrupt-bett loves deregulation!!

As SEC investigation begins, Chesapeake ends executive's controversial loan program

From Pittsburgh Post Gazette  April 26, 2012 By Erich Schwartzel / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chesapeake Energy said today it was ending a controversial investment program that allowed its top executive to borrow and mortgage against personal stakes in his company's wells.
The announcement was made just hours before word came that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the program.
The program, called the Founders Well Participation Program, had afforded Chesapeake chief executive officer Aubrey McClendon a 2.5 percent stake in each well his company drills. The program has allowed Mr. McClendon's compensation to skyrocket to the highest of nearly any CEO across any industry, but came under scrutiny in recent weeks when it was reporting he was taking loans and mortgages out against those personal stakes.
The existence of the loans -- first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette -- drew the ire of shareholders who said the borrowings weren't explicitly disclosed.
Analysts in recent weeks have called for Mr. McClendon's resignation, at least five shareholder lawsuits have been filed and company stock has fallen and taken more than $1 billion in market value with it.
Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy is the second-largest producer of natural gas and has moved quickly to establish dominance in the Marcellus Shale region. The mortgages under scrutiny have been taken out against property in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Mr. McClendon's total borrowings is believed to have exceeded $1 billion.
The company claims the mortgages are an everyday practice. Although the mortgages are not disclosed to the landowners whose property it concerns, notification of them is filed in local courthouses.
The Chesapeake board first said directors were "fully aware" of Mr. McClendon's dealings, but today said it had never approved the mortgages.
Reuters reported today that the SEC had opened an informal inquiry into the Founders Well program from the federal agency's Fort Worth offices.
The inquiry is the first step toward launching a full investigation.
Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.

Marcellus Shale Drillers and Frackers Effect West Virginia

W.Va. Sen. Rockefeller hearing on shale gas development focuses on road safety

From the Pittsburgh Post gazette--Pipeline

FAIRMONT, W.Va. -- The brief testimony of a West Virginia sheriff Wednesday was enough to put the Marcellus Shale industry on the defensive as Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., probed companies on who is driving the heavy trucks that dominate his state's roadways.
Marshall County Sheriff John Gruzinskas said he oversees a staff strapped by investigations into driving problems that have come with out-of-state drivers trying to navigate West Virginia's winding, one-lane roads.
"They go through people's yards. They tear up people's fences," said Mr. Gruzinskas, speaking at a field hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Mr. Rockefeller chairs the committee.
A majority of the 11 testimonies delivered came from industry boosters, but Mr. Gruzinskas's detailing of disruptions -- such as elderly drivers being run off the road -- became a referendum on who is behind the wheel.
More seemed to be at stake than the well-being of Marshall County drivers.
West Virginia lost a high-profile competition for a Shell Oil Co. facility last month to Pennsylvania, and company concerns over the state's infrastructure were cited as a reason. The state, meanwhile, sits above just the kind of lucrative gas that could attract other petrochemical facilities and the jobs and investment that come with them.
Mr. Rockefeller's committee focuses on infrastructure issues such as roads and pipelines, but it was Mr. Gruzinskas's testimony of shale drivers who don't care about West Virginia that most concerned the senator.
Mr. Gruzinskas likened the Marcellus boom to an "invasion" for his county and said the torn-up roadways have forced him to increase his maintenance budget to pay for flat tires and ripped-out exhausts on his patrol cars. It also proves difficult to track down offending drivers when all of the suspects look like big white trucks, he said.
Once an aggressive driver is found, companies typically work with law enforcement to pay fines and repave the road, sometimes applying thicker asphalt than the state usually does, said Paul Maddox, secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Everyone seemed to agree that navigating West Virginia's winding roads is an art. Mr. Gruzinskas pointed to subcontractors with out-of-state employees unfamiliar with the roads as part of the problem, saying they have a disdain for a state that is not theirs.
Mr. Rockefeller seized on that point, asking Randy Albert, chief operating officer of gas operations at Consol Energy, why his Cecil, Pa.-based company didn't use subcontractors who employ native drivers.
Subcontractors are chosen based on who submits the lowest bid, and Consol and other companies cannot mandate who their subcontractors employ, said Mr. Albert.
"You know what? I think you can," said Mr. Rockefeller. Choosing not to work with a company is one kind of mandate, he said.
The hearing also served as a team huddle for West Virginia officials still disappointed over the news that Shell Oil Co. had chosen a site near Monaca, Pa., to build a massive ethane cracker facility that will process shale gas.
When Shell decided not to locate the plant in West Virginia, U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said company officials told him that the problems lie in his state's "rail, river and roads."
More petrochemical facilities of a similar size are expected to be built throughout the Appalachian region, but Mr. Rockefeller said he's not currently talking to any companies about sites in West Virginia.
The state's concentration of "wet" gas that comes out of the ground loaded with hydrocarbons positions it as a likely place for petrochemical plants that can process those hydrocarbons. Global energy markets are aligning in the state's favor.
During the testimony, natural gas prices traded below $2, a symbolic milestone on the commodity's precipitous price drop to record lows. Hydrocarbons, however, trade more closely with oil and have become a better bet for gas firms deciding where to put the rigs.
Erich Schwartzel: eschwartzel@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PA Rep. T. Mark Mustio Supports Act 13

Friday, 13 April 2012 11:11
Written by Amy Friedenberger

Pennsylvania’s new natural gas law takes effect Saturday, which has some doctors concerned because they still aren’t clear on the medical provisions.

Some doctors are saying the new law places a “gag” on them, while the law’s proponents argue that there isn’t anything in the law hindering their practice, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Pennsylvania law says companies must disclose the chemicals used in fracking fluids to health professionals who request them in order to diagnose or treat a patient who they believe to have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision also requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement saying they won’t disclose that information to anyone else. But that's as far as explanation goes for the health professionals.

Doctors aren’t sure whether they can tell their colleagues about the chemicals, or even if they can disclose the name of the chemical to their patients.

The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke to some doctors and experts about the new law:

Adam M. Finkel, who directs the University of Pennsylvania's Program on Regulation, called the bill an 
"ominous piece of work."

From his initial reading, Finkel, who headed rule-making at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration, said that "it's really not at all clear" what a physician could tell a patient. If "not much" is the answer, "obviously, as a regulator and public health advocate, I would be appalled."

The head of the Pennsylvania Medical Society and the medical director of the Poison Control Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia expressed similar concerns.

The law, known as Act 13, "retains some of the worst aspects of industry secrecy about proprietary hydrofracking chemicals while making unethical demands on physicians," wrote Bernard Goldstein, emeritus professor in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and a colleague in an analysis.

However, Gov. Corbett's top energy official, Patrick Henderson, said that the law "specifically provides for medical professionals to access confidential and proprietary information in a timely manner" and that nothing prohibits "free sharing of information with the patient, other health professionals providing care to the patient, and the health-care regulators."

Here is Rep. T. Mark Mustio's voting record:


More on Rep. T. Mark Mustio:

"As for the new state drilling law, Mustio said while he sees no reason to override local ordinances when it comes to regulating drilling for natural gas, he stressed there is a need "to be sensitive" and to ensure a safe water supply. A Commonwealth Court judge recently issued a preliminary injunction temporarily preventing the state from usurping local control of development."

[Remember folks, Mustio voted with Gov. Tom Corrupt-bett on restricting local control, while he continues to say that he "sees no reason to override local ordinances." Mustio, once again, does his double-speak act for the public.]

Then Mustio says in the article:

"It's the law and I'm here to support the law," Mustio said of Act 13.

Even though our medical community is very concerned about the Act and how it places a Gag-like order on doctors in regards to the effects of Fracking chemical poisoning on their patients and the sharing of that information, nevertheless, Rep. T. Mark Mustio supports the law.

By the way, Greg Parks received the necessary number of votes in the PA primary election to place him on the November ballot to oppose the Republican winner of District 37's state senate race, Mr. Raja.

Here is Greg Parks' website:


Mustio will run against (D) Mark Scappe, of Moon Township, for the PA House seat, in the November election.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ALEC’s Vision of Pre-Empting EPA Coal Ash Regulations Passes the House

From Truth-out.com 4-24-12 By Sara Jerving, PR Watch | Report

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment on April 18 to the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012 (HR 4348) that would effectively pre-empt the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating coal ash, the waste from coal burning plants, as a hazardous waste. About 140 million tons of coal ash are produced by power plants in the United States each year. There are about 1,000 active coal ash storage sites across the country.

According to the EPA, the ash contains concentrations of arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and other metals, but the coal industry has claimed there is less mercury in the ash than in a fluorescent light bulb. However, the EPA found in 2010 that the cancer risk from arsenic near some unlined coal ash ponds was one in 50 -- 2,000 times the agency’s regulatory goal. Additionally, researchers from the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, and Sierra Club have documented water contamination from coal ash sites in 186 locations. The new bill would strip the EPA’s authority to regulate the ash and hand it over to the states.  

The coal industry and its allies have been pushing several levers to stop the EPA from regulating coal ash, including passing resolutions through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Along with its coal ash provisions, the transportation bill, which is intended to extend highway and transit funding through September, includes measures that would advance the controversial trans-Canada Keystone XL pipeline.

Devastating Coal Ash Spill Raises Alarm

Attention to the hazards of coal ash has grown since a devastating spill in eastern Tennessee in 2008, where a Tennessee Valley Authority storage pond poured more than 1.1 billion gallons of ash onto some 300 acres of nearby land, contaminating rivers, destroying homes and accumulating up to six feet of liquid-ash sludge in some areas. The disaster was five times larger, by some measures, than the BP oil spill and more than 100 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Since then, the EPA affirmed that toxins in the ash can seep into the ground and reach drinking water sources. The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) recently found that groundwater at 33 coal ash waste sites across the country were contaminated with levels of toxins that may violate a federal dumping ban. Beyond groundwater, residents living near plants complain that coal ash pollutes the air they and their children breath and coats their cars and homes. 

According to a CNN in-depth report, which documents the health impacts experienced by a community that lives near a coal plant, over the past 30 years, several studies have found coal ash more radioactive than the waste from nuclear power plants.

The EPA Slow to Regulate

The EPA has been evaluating over the past two years whether to regulate this material as hazardous waste but has yet to make a ruling. In hopes of hastening the regulatory process, a coalition of environmental groups filed a federal lawsuit on April 5, urging a judge to compel the EPA to make a ruling on the substance. Coal ash is currently considered a municipal solid waste, in the same ranking as household trash, despite its documented hazards.

“As we clean up the smokestacks of power plants, we can’t just shift the pollution from air to water and think the problem is solved. The EPA must set strong, federally enforceable safeguards against this toxic menace,” Lisa Evans, a lawyer with Earthjustice, said in a statement. 

The agency received some 450,000 public comments in response to its 2010 hearings and public comment period on the issue. 

The House bill’s provision to turn the issue of coal ash over to the states was introduced by West Virginia Republican Representative David McKinley. According to Open Secrets, McKinley's top campaign donors are from the coal industry.

ALEC's Resolution on Coal Ash Echoes McKinley's Bill in Thwarting the EPA

ALEC, a controversial group that brings together corporate lobbyists and elected officials to vote behind closed doors to approve "model"  legislation, has been advocating against federal efforts to address coal ash. As described in ALEC’s EPA "Train Wreck" publication, ALEC passed a resolution--available through CMD's ALECexposed.org--in early 2010 that supports a decade-old "EPA determination that coal combustion residuals do not warrant federal regulation as hazardous waste and concludes that states are best positioned to serve as the principal regulatory authority for CCRs as non-hazardous waste.”

As reported by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) as part of its ALECexposed project, House Majority Leader and ALEC alumnus Eric Cantor has pushed ALEC's federal agenda, including opposition to coal ash regulation, as part of an effort to weaken the EPA. CMD has also reported on the heavy funding of ALEC alumni like Cantor and Speaker of the House John Boehner by corporate members of ALEC.  (And, Common Cause also noted that Cantor recently received ALEC's highest award, but failed to report the value of this gift from ALEC in his ethics filings.) 

Opposition to EPA regulation of coal ash has also been on the agenda of several ALEC meetings. This resolution is among a host of ALEC initiatives aimed at environmental deregulation, which also includes efforts to prevent the EPA from regulating CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act.

One of ALEC's major corporate underwriters is Peabody Energy, the largest private-sector coal company in the world. In 2010, the company sold 246 million tons of coal and had total revenue of $6.9 billion. Peabody Coal has a seat on ALEC's corporate board (its "Private Enterprise Board").  Peabody also received ALEC's Private Sector Member of the Year Award in 2011. In addition, Peabody served as a "Chairman" level sponsor of ALEC’s 2011 Annual Conference, which in 2010, equated to $50,000. Peabody has not only bankrolled ALEC's operations, but it has also contributed to ALEC's so-called "scholarship" funds in the past, which pays for the travel expenses of legislators to attend ALEC conferences, where they rub elbows with Peabody execs and vote behind closed doors with corporate lobbyists. 

ALEC, and McKinley, claim that federal regulation of coal ash as a hazardous waste would impede job growth.  The industry wants carte blanche to dispose of contaminated coal ash in consumer products like kitchen materials, cement, and bowling balls. These claims do not account for the potential job creation accompanied with exploration into green alternatives. 
Opponents to the House bill, and implicitly to the ALEC resolution, call it one of the biggest giveaways to the coal industry in decades:

 “[It's] an outrageous giveaway to the utilities that treat a toxic waste with the same environmental requirements that we treat household garbage," said Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

We cannot afford to vote the corporate oligarchs back into the Senate and House again. They are selling off the laws to their corporate benefactors, while destroying the nation for their own greed, AT OUR EXPENSE!!