Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our House

David's Parrot © Robert Sommers
Some interesting items on the environmental front:

The Republicans have passed a bill in the house to kill a regulation that doesn't exist!

The bill, bans farm dust regulation, a regulation that the federal government has never proposed. The bill passed the House Thursday, sailing through easily on a party-line vote of 268 to 150.

The measure, dubbed the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011, was sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from writing a rule that would require farmers to take onerous steps to control dust from their land.

But the EPA has said repeatedly that no such rule is in the works. They review ambient air pollution standards every five years, as required by law, and make recommendations on whether or not to tighten standards at that point.

From HuffPo:
"We have spent an entire day debating about a bill that does not address an existing problem," said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.).
"This entire session of Congress has felt to many of us like a trip into Alice's Wonderland," said DeGette. "To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat, 'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad. ... You must be mad or you wouldn't have come here.' Sadly for the American people, H.R. 1633 simply underscores the 'madness' of this body right now."
Republicans countered that although no rule was proposed, they worried that someone might file a lawsuit someday to to regulate farm dust.
"We know that many of the environmental decisions in America today are made by individuals and groups that file lawsuits," said Rep. Ed. Whitfield (R-Ky.). "That's exactly what we're afraid is going to happen in this instance."
An early version of the bill would have allowed the inclusion of rural power plants and incinerators in the definition of sources of particulates exempt from regulation. Language was added to leave out such sources, but the measure still would bar from regulation things like open pit mines and asbestos mines. An amendment that would have required mines to remain under regulation failed.
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Inconclusive by design?

In other news, the United States Navy is dismissing a cancer link between its activities on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico and a cancer rate for inhabitants that is 27% higher than mainland Puerto Rico. U.S. officials maintain in the new report that the scientific data presented about island health problems was inadequate, limited and flawed, making it "difficult and uncertain" to interpret findings regarding chronic diseases. The report said elevated levels of certain chemicals in people's bodies could be attributed to causes other than military activity.

The report does warn that some areas of the former bombing range still present a risk. "Recently collected data ... demonstrate the remaining potential for localized contamination, which, if people frequented those areas, could be of health concern," it stated. The Navy has said its forces accidentally fired 263 rounds of ammunition tipped with depleted uranium on the Vieques range in 1999, violating federal law.

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The EPA has announced a draft finding for the first time that fracking, a controversial method for gas and oil drilling, may be responsible for groundwater pollution. The EPA's found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found low levels hydrocarbons in their wells.

Samples taken from two deep water-monitoring wells near a gas field in Pavillion showed synthetic chemicals such as glycols and alcohols “consistent with gas production and hydraulic-fracturing fluids,” the agency said today in an e- mailed statement.

The oil and gas industry, along with their Senatorial cohort Jim Inhofe, immediately had a conniption. The self professed scientist Inhofe says that the report was "not based on sound science but rather on political science."

Today’s draft findings are specific to Pavillion, where fracking is occurring “in and below the drinking-water aquifer” and close to water wells, the agency said. The findings will be submitted to an independent scientific review panel.

“Given the area’s complex geology and the proximity of drinking water wells to ground water contamination, EPA is concerned about the movement of contaminants within the aquifer and the safety of drinking-water wells over time,” the agency said.

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The United States Geological Survey has released a report that links a series of earthquakes in Oklahoma last January to a fracking operation underway there.

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Environmental racism in Dickson, Tennessee.

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U.S. batteries toxify Mexico.

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I poach this cartoon from Barbara Finwall.

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