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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Outrage part two

Governor Bobby Jindal - (R)  Louisiana
Daisy's Dead Air has done some interesting homework on the sex scandal currently being swept under the rug at Bob Jones University. Daisy has parleyed an excellent blog into a radio career and stardom in South Carolina.
From the NYT: GREENVILLE, S.C. — For decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners.
Union Tribune, of all papers, ran a good investigative piece this week, on nursing home abuses and the utter failure of the state bureaucracy to regulate or punish them.

Bobbie Jindal knows who butters his bread. Louisiana has lost 1800 square miles of coastal marshes. But don't even think about holding anyone accountable.
"The new maps document a disturbing trend Louisianans have witnessed for years. The state has lost more than 1,800 square miles of its coastal marshes – an area larger than the size of Rhode Island – since the 1930s, due to sealing off the Mississippi River with levees to protect towns, natural subsidence and thousands of miles of transport canals carved out by oil and gas companies.
In another rare move, a New Orleans area flood control board filed a lawsuit last year against 97 oil and gas companies, claiming they should fund billions of dollars in coastal restoration projects for their role in wetlands loss. Similar lawsuits by Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes followed. Only a fraction of a $50 billion, 50-year state plan to restore the coast has been funded.
The move to make oil and gas companies liable has been fought by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, who refused to re-appoint members of the flood control board involved in the suit. Garret Graves, Jindal's coastal chief, didn't return several requests for comment."
Of course in Louisiana, the state and federal agencies won't even look for offshore oil spills. That work must unfortunately be borne by volunteers.
“We don’t have people whose job it is to go out looking for spills; we rely on people to report things,” said Gregory Langley, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which says its mission is to protect public health, safety and welfare “while considering sound policies regarding employment and economic development.”
The state Department of Natural Resources has 12 inspectors who check wells along the coast for compliance with regulations, a spokesman said. Though those checks are conducted without notice, the industry is so large that the department’s goal is to inspect each one every three years.
 According to a consortium report, the companies that filed 2,093 spill reports from October 2010 through September 2011 estimated the total pollution at about 250,000 gallons. The SkyTruth evaluation put the figure between 1.5 and 2.2 million gallons.
“We have problems with non-reporting, but also with under-reporting,” Manthos said. “They’re operating pretty much on the honor system out there. The Coast Guard has limited resources. If the amount is small, they are less likely to go out and take a look.
Remember the leak in West Virginia? No, not the new one, the one from last month, Freedom Industries, the company that went bankrupt right away? Well, the principals have a little bit of a sordid past. Hey, who hasn't had a cocaine indictment?

Speaking of the new leak, it appears that the regulators think it's much ado about nothing.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday in what officials were calling a "significant spill" from a Patriot Coal processing facility.
Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.
"This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River," said Secretary Randy Huffman of the state Department of Environmental Protection. "This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill."
"When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out."
Earlier in the day, Jimmy Gianato, director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said he didn't have a lot of details on the incident but was under the impression it wasn't that serious.
"I don't think there's really anything to it," Gianato said. "It turned out to be much of nothing."
The spill occurred at Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle operation.

Could they have been testing for the wrong chemical at the site of the new spill?
For most of the day, the DEP was operating under the assumption that MCHM, the chemical that contaminated the drinking water of 300,000 West Virginians last month, was included in the spilled slurry. Huffman said that they learned late in the day that the facility had stopped using MCHM just a few weeks ago, so a different coal-cleaning chemical was involved.
Huffman said that the new chemical was polypropylene glycol, although he also referred to it as polyethylene glycol. He said that that chemical is such a small part of the slurry that they don't believe it, specifically, will have an impact.
Huffman said they had been testing for MCHM, but will now have to change their testing protocols.
Residents near the spill had complained of MCHM's telltale licorice odor, but Huffman said that the odor was from a tank of MCHM that the company was moving off site.
Oddly, in Patriot's statement the company mentioned testing for MCHM in Fields Creek.
"Recent testing initiated by the Kanawha Eagle mining complex confirmed that the level of MCHM is far below the 1 part per million screening level set by the Centers for Disease Control and in most instances was non-detectable," Orf wrote. "We will continue to work with the Department of Environmental Protection regarding the containment and cleanup activities."
This is at least the third slurry incident since 2010 at the Kanawha Eagle cite (sic). In late November, black water was discharged into South Hollow Stream, and ended up in Fields Creek. The company was fined $663.
In October of 2010, there was a slurry line break that discharged into Spicelick and Joes Creek, impacting about 3 miles of stream. The company was fined $22,400.
On Tuesday, Huffman said fines alone were not enough of a deterrent to prevent spills.
"A some point companies will just pay. We have to do more than that, we can't just send them a bill and say you have to pay this to continue operating, there have to be fundamental changes made at a facility that's had multiple incidents," Huffman said. "Maybe there needs to be a top down review of all their processes. Maybe there's a cultural change within that company that needs to take place that has more of an emphasis on safety, environmental controls, things like that."
OSM investigators also found that other strategies -- including settlement agreements with mine operators and federal criminal prosecution -- don't always work in stopping future blackwater spills.
"It appears that the consequences for violating the law, even when the violations are intentional, willful and blatant, are not significant enough to be a deterrent," the OSM report said.Residents of W. Virginia affected by the first spill are getting a funny licorice taste in their water and still are apprehensive about drinking it, although some regulators think that it is safe.
North Carolina has its own problems. The recent spill into the Dan River has upset a sweetheart deal that the State had with Duke Energy. The Governor, Pat McCrory, is a 28 year employee of the firm and has stacked the government environmental agency with ex employees.
"My administration is the first in North Carolina history to take legal action against the utility regarding coal ash ponds," McCrory said, following a private meeting with company officials. "We have been moving on this issue since the beginning of my term and will continue to do so."The environmentalists suggest his administration's real goal has been to shield the governor's former employer from far more severe and expensive penalties it might face if the cases ever made it to a federal courtroom.Amy Adams was a regional director at the state environmental agency in charge of enforcing surface water standards for 21 North Carolina counties before she resigned in protest last November. A nine-year veteran of the agency, she said she was directed in her last months to help polluters meet compliance standards, rather than issue violations or fines."We have a governor right now that has very close ties to Duke, the state's largest polluter and a major political contributor to his campaigns," said Adams, who now works for the environmental group Appalachian Voices. "Under the new administration, North Carolina has changed the definition of who its customer is from the public and the natural resources it is supposed to protect to the industries it regulates. There's been a huge push away from environmental protection and toward promoting economic growth."Since his unsuccessful first campaign for governor in 2008, campaign finance reports show Duke Energy, its political action committee, executives and their immediate families have donated at least $1.1 million to McCrory's campaign and affiliated groups that spent on TV ads, mailings and events to support him.
The North Carolina fiasco has been one mixup after another, intentional or not. The state reported faulty numbers and was found to have made its tests far downstream of the spill. And it turns out that they allowed the Duke lab to conduct the chemical testing. No wonder the people are scared.
DURHAM, N.C. – North Carolina environmental regulators acknowledged Sunday that they had erroneously reported results of early toxic tests in the Dan River after a huge coal ash spill, specifically, that arsenic was within safe levels.The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it had incorrectly reported that results of water samples taken Feb. 3 were within state standards for arsenic, a toxic heavy metal. In fact, the agency said, two samples exceeded the standard of 10 micrograms per liter.“We made an honest mistake while interpreting the results,’’ Tom Reeder, director of the agency’s Division of Water Resources, said in a statement Sunday afternoon.The leak at a retired Duke Energy power plant dumped up to 82,000 tons of ash into the river in North Carolina and Virginia. It was reported Feb. 2.Tests of samples collected since Feb. 3 have found arsenic levels within the state standard, and those levels have continued to drop, the statement said. The department has recommended that people “avoid prolonged direct contact’’ with the Dan River in the spill area until further notice.“The bottom line remains that we are concerned for the long-term health of the Dan River,’’ Reeder said. “We will continue to test the water in the river as we assess the spill’s impact and determine the most appropriate ways to clean up the river. We are in this for the long haul.’’The state had said Friday that it had earlier found levels of arsenic, copper, iron and aluminum above state standards for surface water quality. The state failed to note that it was correcting the arsenic levels inaccurately reported the previous Monday.Environmental groups have criticized the state and Duke Energy, the giant utility responsible for the spill at the company’s retired coal-fired plant on the Dan River in Eden, N.C., near the Virginia border. One group, Waterkeeper Alliance, says its tests of water samples have found levels of arsenic, lead, chromium and other heavy metals that far exceed safety standards for humans or wildlife.Environmentalists have criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for working closely with Duke on spill response and water sampling. The agency sued the utility in August for improper discharge of coal ash from containment basins at 14 Duke-owned plants, including the Dan River facility.
 The Washington Post reports evidence that North Carolina's move may be a shield for the big contributor:
The state agency has blocked the citizen lawsuits by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority under the federal act to take enforcement action. After negotiating with Duke, the state proposed settlements where the nation’s largest electricity provider pays modest fines but is under no requirement to actually clean up its coal ash ponds.
His appointee to oversee the state environmental department, Raleigh businessman John Skvarla, describes his agency’s role as being a “partner” to those it regulates, whom he refers to as “customers.”
“That is why we have been able to turn DENR from North Carolina’s No. 1 obstacle of resistance into a customer-friendly juggernaut
in such a short time,” Skvarla wrote in a letter to the editor of the News & Observer of Raleigh, published in December. “People in the private sector pour their hearts and souls into their work; instead of crushing their dreams, they now have a state government that treats them as partners.
What have we learned today, kids? If you are a betting man in a contest between ethics, environment and money, take the money play every time.

And from Huffpo. This income inequality business is so bad that even the rich are getting screwed by the superrich.

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