While XL Pipeline Stalls, Gas Fracking Comes Under Closer Scrutiny for Contaminated Aquifer

According to Credo and a host of other environmental organizations, “The State Department and Obama Administration announced today that they will re-evaluate the route of the Keystone XL pipeline, and restart their environmental assessment, which take until at least the beginning of 2013 to complete.” So the new XL pipeline is stalled—for now. But in another email I received from Pro Publica, the EPA found a fracking compound in a Wyoming aquifer in an area plagued by citizen’s complaints their water was contaminated.
ProPublica’s article stated:

The Pavillion area [in Wyoming] has been drilled extensively for natural gas over the last two decades and is home to hundreds of gas wells. Residents have alleged for nearly a decade [1] that the drilling — and hydraulic fracturing in particular — has caused their water to turn black and smell like gasoline. Some residents say they suffer neurological impairment [5], loss of smell, and nerve pain they associate with exposure to pollutants.
The gas industry — led by the Canadian company EnCana, which owns the wells in Pavillion — has denied that its activities are responsible for the contamination. EnCana has, however, supplied drinking water to residents.

This information is based on raw sampling data but the article went on to say:

The chemical compounds the EPA detected are consistent with those produced from drilling processes, including one — a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) — widely used in the process of hydraulic fracturing. The agency said it had not found contaminants such as nitrates and fertilizers that would have signaled that agricultural activities were to blame.
The wells also contained benzene at 50 times the level that is considered safe for people, as well as phenols — another dangerous human carcinogen — acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.

I would say the people in that area and other fracking areas across the U.S. have a “legitimate” complaint now. This discovery will certainly open a big can of worms for the fracking industry.

READ THE WHOLE STORY at ProPublica’s website:
. http://www.propublica.org/article/epa-finds-fracking-compound-in-wyoming-aquifer.

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Weather Wake Up Call for U.S. as Congress Keeps Pushing for More Fossil Fuel Energy

I know I’m not the only one linking greenhouse gas emissions to global climate change to all the horrendously bad weather pummeling the U.S. lately. The east coast is still without power from Hurricane Irene. A new hurricane Katia is churning up in the Atlantic along with a new tropical storm promising to drop a huge amount of rainfall on New Orleans again missing Texas for relief from the record drought there.

At the same time, it’s been a busy 24 hours for earthquake activity in the U.S. In the late morning hours today, 3 earthquakes hit Alaska’s Aleutian Island area. One was 6.8 that triggered a tsunami warning for the U.S. western coastline between 7:30 and 8:00 am while another 4.2 earthquake shook the Los Angeles area yesterday at 1:47 in the afternoon. If we look at the world map for earthquakes there was substantial seismic activity from the southern hemisphere along Australia north to the ring of fire areas of the Indian Ocean arcing around the pacific basin up to Alaska.

Worldwide earthquakes with M4.5+ located by USGS and Contributing Agencies.
(Earthquakes with M2.5+ within the United States and adjacent areas.)

If all of this challenging weather isn’t a wake up call to get moving on sustainable alternatives, then our reps in Congress and some presidential candidates pushing the filthy tar sands project that will ultimately burn 6X dirtier than usual and hawking our substantial caches of coal are representing Big Oil/Gas/Coal and not our health and welfare.

There is no denying the entire world is suffering from increasingly greater extremes of weather with summers at record highs and winters with increasing precipitation in the form of snow in places like Florida. But politics, at least in the U.S. continues to polarize viewpoints about global climate on behalf of Big Energy Industries, using jobs vs. environment as a ploy to divide U.S. citizens once again. Divide and conquer is not just a saying—it works. Because while were fighting/arguing climate change points with each other, congress is passing anti-environmental laws right under our noses. These laws are a direct affront to our clean air, water, and the EPA that is in place for our safety and welfare and have less to do with jobs than deregulation. Think about it. Jobs can be created in many industries. New jobs in new industries would be nice expanding all sorts of related jobs in engineering, science, and the technical fields for a new generation looking to the future not fearing it. On the other hand, once Mother Nature turns on us that’s it.

Are we absolutely positive human activity is not affecting climate change because I’m seeing videos of huge cesspools of plastic gyres growing in size in our oceans? Just because we can’t see pollution is no assurance it’s not there.

So as Mother Nature bears down on our east coast, the gulf, and rumbles the west coast to Alaska, maybe we should forget politics entangled with enormous lobbyist activity from the wealthiest of industries Big Oil/Gas/Coal. Maybe we should use some good ole street smarts believing what we see and experience because what we’re experiencing is advancing global climate change whether it’s politically correct to believe it or not.

To those that continue to follow a political line concerning global climate change that diss the idea that man’s pollution is a catalyst for the horrendous weather we’re experiencing, than why not apply the same 1% principle as we did to enter a war with Iraq that half our citizens never wanted. Former VP Cheney’s one percent principle as applied to global climate change would read like this:

If there is even a 1% chance that human activity such as greenhouse gas emissions is causing accelerated global climate change, then it is our duty to do all that we can to stop that activity for the welfare of mankind everywhere.

There is little argument against this principle because while deniers claim science can’t prove greenhouse gas emissions cause climate change, deniers can’t prove those greenhouse gas emission aren’t causing a problem either. This principle covers the bases. If was good enough for the U.S. to wage war in a country that had nothing to do with the U.S. terrorist attacks or WMD’s, than it’s good enough to save citizens of this country from the devastation Mother Nature can cause that can far exceed any war. Because while we were battered with fear tactics for almost a decade regarding terrorism, no one has stepped forward to churn the same fear for the wrath of Mother Nature when we can clearly see that she is indeed our greatest threat. Attacks by her are happening along our coastlines all at once right now and fewer dollars to recover from it. There may be more, increasingly worse weather if we fail to act.

http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/

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Sweltering Heat Worldwide as U.S. House Tacks Anti-Environmental Riders to Budget Bills.

Headlines from around the globe show nothing but sweltering heat.

 From the NOAA website:

 Heatwave sweeps across the U.S.

http://www.noaa.gov/heat/index.html

Europe’s heat wave hit earlier in June this year:

Heat wave has Europe Sweltering

http://www.torontosun.com/2011/06/28/heatwave-has-europe-sweltering

 Europe hit record highs just last year along with Russia!

 Record-Breaking 2010 Eastern European/Russian Heatwave

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110318091141.htm

As of today an estimated 10 million people already need humanitarian aid in eastern Africa but extreme drought conditions along the borders of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia are exacerbating the situation.

Somalia drought forces more people into displacement camps

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2011/jun/28/somalia-drought-appeal-in-pictures

After suffering a tsunami, Japan hasn’t been spared. The final days of June in Japan were 6 degrees higher than the 30 year average:

Japan struggles to cope with heatwave, with 26 dead of heatstroke

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8645326/Japan-struggles-to-cope-with-heatwave-with-26-dead-of-heatstroke.html

Drought continues in SW Australia where rainfall in some places is at all time record lows:

Long-term dry conditions continue in southwest WA

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/drought/drought.shtml

 And the cool weather of Northern Canada—not so much:

Heat scorches Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2011/07/17/cda-weather-heat.html

But instead of posting headline after headline across the earth, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a worldwide heat map:

http://www.climatehotmap.org/

One would think that in light of what the world is experiencing as far as climate change that our government would heed Mother Nature but new corporate lackeys in the House persist in adding anti-environmental riders to budget bills.

Most Anti-Environment House of Representatives in History Tries to Do More Damage

According to Frances Beinecke, of NRDC, and a barrage of email from my environmental charities our new U.S. House of Representatives is the worst on record for assaulting clean air, water, and our public lands.

Tea Party leaders in the House have dramatically stepped up their assault on America’s environmental and public health safeguards. Last week alone they used about 50 floor votes and more than 30 policy riders on spending bills to undermine the protections that keep our air safe, our water clean, and our public lands intact.

Another barrage of anti-environment bills is on its way. The upcoming debate in the full House on funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department will likely feature votes on even more policy riders designed to prevent the government from upholding basic environmental standards.

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/fbeinecke/most_anti-environment_house_of.html

Clean water is specifically under attack by new house member (R) Ohio, Bob Gibbs according to the NY Times. He thinks there may be too many clean water regulations. Bob is a former hog farmer. An enlightening read from a former post of mine relative to the hog industry, particularly CAFOS, applies here. Smithfield Foods polluted waterways clear to the ocean with runoff from their hog industry. So we see where Bob the former hog farmer might be coming from. And reading what Bob had to say in an excerpt in the NY Times, it’s all about money first, pollution later.

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2006/12/spreading-pig-poo-who-knew/

http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/05/03/03greenwire-anti-environmental-house-freshman-leads-charge-98149.html

The problem is that Bob isn’t alone. It looks like there may be complicity among state’s leaders with the idea that water has too many regulations. Just the other morning I caught that little ticker on GMA that stated several states have failed to report clean water violations? Hmmm. Found the story by the AP on Yahoo.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Feds-in-dark-about-some-apf-2889953000.html?x=0&.v=1

My guess is that some of the under-reporting by states is due to problems with fracking for natural gas. Fracking is a drilling process that wastes millions of gallons of clean water to blast each well with enough pressure  to fracture dense shale to release natural gas. The water mixes with gases and chemicals and is toxic. This practice has been blamed for spoiling residential water wells due to leaching from the fractures. The process pollutes nearby streams and water areas also. Exxon claims they recycle some of the water but “some” isn’t all and when we’re dealing with millions of gallons of water in exchange for a fossil gas—it’s unconscienceable. Children die from lack of water everyday.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=13353997

Besides compromising or possibly depleting our clean water supplies, fracking and drilling are costing us our public lands leased to the oil/gas industry. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for leases for drilling/fracking.

Ah, so now it’s clear why all those pesky WILD MUSTANG HORSES had to go. Thirty year-old laws protecting those horses were just brushed aside while helicopters were used for roundups into overcrowded conditions.  We were told wild mustangs were too numerous and destroying precious grasslands. But the BLM is leasing our public lands right from under us while we’re occupied with the economy. That land will never be the same.

http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/info/newsroom/2011/march/energy_publiclands_teleconf.html

http://wilderness.org/content/wild-lands-under-attack-budget-2011

The idea that it’s OK to keep forging ahead with filthy fossil fuel  as long as the fuel is our own is ludicrous and at least a decade old, a decade out of touch with the environment. By using fossil fuel we’re affecting other natural resources in the worst way.  We’re invading areas that we hold dear, tainting both water and land, and destroying animal/plant life in the process. We can’t drink natural gas or oil and that’s basically the tradeoff.  Without water we die. Without gas/oil –we’re inconvenienced. The U.S. House doesn’t have life’s best interests at all.

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About the EPA Lawsuit Against DTE

On August 5, 2010, the U.S. EPA sued DTE Energy, seeking to halt an EXPANSION to a coal-fired electric plant that the government says will worsen air pollution in Michigan. The lawsuit alleges DTE made major modifications in March 2010 to Unit 2 at its Monroe Power Plant without first obtaining necessary approvals. The $30 million overhaul was made without installing, as required under the New Source Review (NSR) requirements of the Clean Air Act, the best available technology to minimize emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides — pollutants that harm human health by contributing to heart attacks, breathing problems, and other health, the suit alleges. The lawsuit alleges the Monroe plant is already the largest individual source of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions in the state and “this modification resulted in significant net emission increases.”

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Monroe_Power_Plant#August_2010:_EPA_sues_DTE_over_plant
_modifications
.

Freep.com stated:

The government said DTE conducted a $65-million overhaul of Monroe Unit 2, one of four generators at the facility, earlier this year without obtaining the necessary pollution permits or installing the best pollution controls. As a result, large amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide will be released into the air, the agency said in the suit. It asked U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman to enjoin DTE from operating Unit 2 until it complies with the Clean Air Act and fine the firm up to $37,500 per day for violations.

http://www.freep.com/article/20100806/BUSINESS06/8060312/EPA-sues-DTE-to-stop-a-generator#ixzz0w1utbiyX.

According to Michigan Messenger: “The EPA suit charges that in March of this year DTE began a months-long project to refurbish the boilers in use at the plant since the 70s. The EPA says that the boiler replacements amount to a major overhaul that cost about $65 million and was “unpredicted” in the life of the plant.”

http://michiganmessenger.com/40655/epa-files-federal-lawsuit-against-dte-energy

Part of the alleged problem with the Monroe Plant expansion stems from the same thing I blogged about back in April, 08. I complained that Michigan had lax CO2 laws. Back then Michigan would still issue a permit to a utility company to expand or build a new coal fired plant if it met requirements to capture a percentage of pollutants in its existing plant. My complaint was that pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and CO2 were all lumped together as pollutants. To get around the permitting process all a coal plant needed to do was lower their sulfur and NOX emissions. My words:”Why the rush to put scrubbers on coal plants now if not to apply for permits, and before the rules change?” Considering the Monroe plant was completed in 1974 and scrubber technology was around since the 70’s one has to wonder. It appears the installation of the scrubbers at such a late date on an old plant was an attempt to grandfather the legal right to keep emitting CO2 before new pollutions controls for coalburners went into effect in 2009.

The Sierra Club came to the same conclusion, “Weak regulations and expected federal limits on the emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide have led to a rush to get coal plants approved in Michigan now, even though the state won’t need any additional electric generating capacity for many years.”

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2008/04/dte-indicates-no-growth-in-demand-for-electricity-in-michigan-through-2012/.

http://www.michigan.sierraclub.org/issues/cleanenergy/coalfired
powerplants.html
.

The grandfather rights to pollute may not be ironclad. New rules apply and first off is a problem with retrofitting older plants. Based on an analysis of EPA data, the study finds:

The nation’s power plants are dirty as well as old — and that those two characteristics tend to go hand in hand. Two-thirds of the nation’s fossil-fuel-generated electricity comes from plants built before 1980. At the same time, those older facilities produced 73% of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The report found that for each year older a coal generator is on average, it created 0.001 more tons of CO2 for each Megawatt-hour of electricity it produced in 2007.

http://www.southernstudies.org/2009/12/aging-coal-plants-take-a-heavy-environmental-toll.html.

Another problem is proving need for more electricity before expanding or building a new coal burner. The state’s Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) is allowed to determine this thanks to our House of Reps. The MI Senate proposed a bill to block that right by the DNRE. The permit for denial of the Bay City project is an example that there is no need for more electricity in MI. The project is now on hold due to lack of electricity need. DTE’s own research revealed no increase in electricity supply through 2012. But other studies put it at a much later date considering loss of population in Michigan. A report by a state agency says there will be no new demand for electricity in Michigan until 2022.

http://michiganmessenger.com/38269/consumers-energy-puts-new-coal-plant-on-hold.

http://quitcoal.com/.

There is also the stated problem of not using the best available technology (BACT) to minimize emissions of sulfur and nitrogen dioxide as part of the requirements of the Clean Air Act. DTE claims the scrubbers are top notch, however, they evidently do not fall within the standards set by the top 12% of coalburners in its class. An article on Financial Times/ft.com:

The legal instrument for this is the Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) provisions of the CAA. Essentially, they will require coal utilities to reduce their emissions of hazardous pollutants, as defined by the EPA, to the levels achieved by the best 12 per cent of plants in their class. Once an industry rule comes down, each “source”, or plant, has three years, with one year of allowed extensions, to bring their emission levels down to the standard.

The Michigan Messenger reported: “Monroe’s unit 2 emitted 27,320 tons of sulfur and 8,205 tons of nitrogen oxide just last year and predicts that by 2013, unit 2 will emit 33,816 tons of SO2 and 14,494 tons of NOX.”

Monroe Power Plant began operating two flue gas desulfurization systems, the first in June and the second in November 2009. DTE Energy said the scrubbers reduce Unit 3’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 97 percent and mercury emissions by 80 to 90 percent. Unit 4 had similar reductions when the first FGD began operating. Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology was also installed on three of the plant’s generating units, reportedly reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 90 percent. Two more scrubbers and a fourth SCR will be installed at the plant. Allowed to escape–3% of sulfur, 10% nitrogen dioxide, and 10-20% mercury.

It’s a math ratio problem. Increased output by the new expansion results in an increased amount of pollution that is allowed to escape. So 23-33% worth of pollutants overall will be escaping indefinately if the grandfather clause stands. The biggest caveat is that the CO2 is not scrubbed at all. It is just flying freely at an increased rate. This explains why the EXPANSION will worsen air pollution in Michigan.

A Grist article explains the grandfathering, the math ratio, etc., quite well:

http://www.grist.org/article/The-coming-legal-fight-/.

The Michigan Messenger article continued:

S02 and NOX can combine with other elements in the air to form particulate matter known as PM 2.5. These pollutants cause harm to human health and the environment once emitted into the air, including premature death, heart attacks and lung problems.

EPA has long warned that DTE was operating its coal plants without required pollution control equipment.
In a July 24, 2009 Notice of Violation, EPA told DTE that it was failing to meet Clean Air Act regulations at its Monroe plant, and at plants in St. Clair, River Rouge, Belle River and Trenton Channel.

‘Unless restrained by an order of this Court,’ EPA charged in its complaint against DTE, ‘these and similar violations of the Act will continue.’

Finally, Michigan’s DNRE also has the right to determine if there are viable alternative sources to the electricity generated by the coal plant.

These criteria have been used to deny permits to both the Holland and Rogers City proposed coal burners. DTE will have to defend its grandfathering. DTE asserted it didn’t need permits. According to detnews.com, DTE did not seek necessary approvals and “mailed a notification letter to the state of Michigan the day before starting the project.”

DTE also asserts the Monroe Plant is among the cleanest when there are plenty of studies that place it in the top 20 dirty plants in the country like sciencedaily.com. Our air quality in Monroe doesn’t reflect a clean plant either especially when it had no scrubbers for close to 40 years. If the plant is indeed among the dirtiest and the scrubbers aren’t up to par, it may have to revamp the plant.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dbcd2e08-80b9-11df-be5a-00144feabdc0.html.
http://ncseonline.org/nle/crsreports/air/air-22.cfm.

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2009/04/us-cities-recent-air-quality-reports%e2%80%94not-good/.

DTE cautions that the down time will cost customers. I complained in Feb. 08 about passing costs along—”I [] predicted that the utility companies would continue too long on their same course and then whine about the cost to reverse things and comply with new clean air policy. How soon before we hear the sob stories? So predictable. When companies have a big lobby, they throw all foresight to the wind. They don’t need to stay on the ball. They pay to change the play instead. And the taxpayer bears the brunt.”

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2008/02/us-court-of-appeals-gets-tough-on-epa-and-mercury-pollution/.

Customers should not bear the brunt. DTE’s union members authorized a strike just last year: “The union called for the strike authorization citing ‘out of control executive pay, profits at the expense of the consumers and bad faith bargaining.’” This sounds like the bulk of wealthy corporations with big profits that fail to create jobs but look to cut the little guy even more. Crainsdetroit.com reported:

Jim Harrison, Local 223 president, told union members DTE is trying to take its workers retirement while the company posts financial gains.

DTE is attempting to raise health care costs to union members, cut or eliminate health care coverage to retirees, and strip employment security for Local 223 workers, the union said.

‘DTE is posting huge profits. It only had to share its success with its union workers,’ Harrison said in a statement.

Some sort of settlement was reached between workers and DTE.

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20100602/FREE/100609951#.

Michigan imports most of its coal at a high price. A study by Union of Concerned Scientists ranked states relative to importing coal and compared with other states, Michigan:

Imported the 5th most in net weight: 36 million tons

Spent the 7th most on net imports: $1.36 billion that went outside of the state

Is the 9th most dependent on net imports as a share of total power use:
60 percent

http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/clean_energy/Burning-Coal-Burning-Cash_full-report.pdf.

And building or even expanding a plant that is unnecessary because electricity demand has dropped in MI ends up costing us plenty for nothing both moneywise and to our health.

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2010/08/06/coal-fired-plants-in-trouble-with-federal-state-governments/.

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EPA Claims Dispersant Used in Gulf Is No More Toxic Than Oil

The Boston Globe reported: “A new federal study of chemical dispersants used to break up oil in the Gulf of Mexico shows that when mixed with oil, the dispersant is no more toxic to aquatic life than oil alone.” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson stated: “Officials know that use of dispersants presents environmental trade-offs.” Forbes reported: “New testing Shows Corexit No More Toxic Than Alternatives. That [it] was similar to the toxicity of seven other dispersants pre-approved for combating oil spills. Previously, the EPA had said Corexit 9500A was among the most toxic chemicals and had ordered BP to find a less toxic…” Fox Business: “The U.S. EPA said Monday the dispersant used to break up oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is no more toxic to two types of sea life than other dispersants, the latest testing to reverse previous findings that the chemical was among the most toxic.”

So now we’ve heard the doomsday reports about dispersants particularly Corexit that I posted yesterday and the more reassuring reports today from the EPA that centered around Corexit 9500A that it is no more harmful than oil. But there is Corexit 9500A and 9527. This early report by the EPA appears to be a sidestep that omits Corexit 9527 and is relative only to a very short-term study of Corexit 9500A.

All of these articles say that Corexit 9500A was used in the gulf spill. Whereas the CDC article from yesterday’s blog stated: “COREXIT ® 9500 and 9527 are the two types of dispersants currently being used on the Mississippi Canyon Oil Spill.” A Washington Post article confirms that both were indeed used. According to a NYT article Corexit 9527 has 2 butoxyethanol but Corexit 9500A does not. However, the same article said, “Nalco [the manufacturer] had previously declined to identify the third hazardous substance in the 9500 formula, but EPA’s website reveals it to be dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, a detergent and common ingredient in laxatives.” That didn’t sound good so I looked it up on pesticideinfo.org, “Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate causes severe eye irritation, skin irritation, and ingestion causes diarrhea, intestinal bloating, cramps, and nausea in humans. Cytotoxic effects on liver cells in tissue culture have been observed.” Further toxicity reports were either not listed or contained a question mark.

After reading all of this, I don’t think anyone has a good grasp on anything especially long term. The claim is that Corexit had been available (stockpiled) for quite some time. What I don’t understand is why there haven’t been long-term studies done by now?

Dr. Chris Pincetich stated on open.salon.com: “EPA toxicity testing only uses a 96-hour timeframe. What this means, he explains, is that if something takes two weeks to die, the chemical that caused the death is still classified as “non-lethal” for the purposes of EPA testing.” This latest EPA report is admittedly short-term even if the EPA began an intensive study of Corexit when it was first dispersed.

This is another video on open.salon.com from a gulf toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw, a first hand witness to the affects of the dispersant:

Both Dr. Pincetich and Dr. Shaw explained:

[Corexit] basically disrupts the natural ability of oil to bond with itself. Oil bilipid layers, next to each other, are the very basis of life. Each of us is made out of cells. Those cells are nothing more than an oil layer, surrounding our DNA, surrounding our protiens and RNA and all the other molecules talking to each other. You put in a chemical that directly disrupts that basic biological structure and you are putting yourself at risk from umpteen effects.

I dug around enough to know that “we don’t know” what the long-term affects will be of the dispersants used especially for all species existing in the gulf necessary for a healthy bioecological system. It’s down to a wish and a prayer. What is evident is that there is a much greater need for regulatory oversight of industry in the U.S. The foxes watching the henhouses has always been a classic adage for good reason—the fox looks out for the fox and always will.

http://open.salon.com/blog/kent_pitman/2010/07/10/serious_
safety_questions_raised_about_corexit
.

http://views.washingtonpost.com/climate-change/post-carbon/2010/05/epa_demands_less_toxic_dispersant.html.

http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33310.

http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2010/08/03/
dispersants_no_more_toxic_than_oil_epa_says/

http://billionaires.forbes.com/article/0fkKehs43Mdde?q=BP+p.l.c..

http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2010/08/02/epa-new-testing-shows-corexit-toxic-alternatives/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+foxbusiness%2Findustrials+%28Internal+-+Industrials+-+Text%29.

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Murkowski Bill Defeated

The Murkowski bill meant to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate green house gases failed in the senate today 53/47. According to grist.org, “Every one of the Senate’s 41 Republicans — including ‘moderates’ considered possible ‘Yes’ votes for climate legislation — voted in favor of it, along with six Democrats: Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Ben Nelson (N.D.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.).”

The idea behind not only this bill but one introduced by Jay Rockefeller earlier is to put authority to regulate greenhouse gases in the hands of congress not in the hands of what many referred to as an “unregulated agency” regarding the EPA. Imagine the lobbyists that will be unleashed? As far as the EPA being an unregulated agency, yahoo.answers.com states:

The EPA is an independent agency, but in practical real terms the Agency must answer to Congress, the President, the nation. Congress funds the programs, and the Agency must be responsive to congressional inquiries, and the laws they establish. The political appointees are responsive to the President. Also, OMB (office of mgt and budget) is a player in the mix.

If the push to get regulating away from the EPA and in the hands of congress succeeds before the end of the year, (the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions in January of 2011), more than likely the the cap and trade program will be implemented by congress and it will be forever before polluting industry gets around to reducing their emissions. Example, the acid rain program is a cap and trade program that caps emissions for SO2 and NOx. Phase 1 began in 95. Phase 2 in 2000. SO2 scrubbers are just now being installed in coalburners? Many in congress believe that cap and trade is a good enough incentive to curb emissions quickly—not so much.

And according to the Grist, The cap-and-trade system in the climate bill is run by the EPA, as a title under the Clean Air Act . So we’re back to the EPA again anyway.

Read more about it:

http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2010/06/08/the-murkowski-bill-does-sen-jay-rockfeller-want-to-be-on-record-protesting-climate-science/.

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/102161-rockefeller-to-join-gop-to-vote-against-epa-climate-rules.

http://www.epa.gov/airmarkets/progsregs/arp/index.html.

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Murkowski Bill Written by Coal Lobby Comes Up for a Vote Tomorrow

While the entire country is focused primarily on the disaster in the Gulf, there needs to be an even bigger heads up for the coal industry that claimed 29 lives earlier this year because they are about to pull a fast one in Congress tomorrow, June 10th. The Murkowski Bill that would attempt to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate carbon pollution and hold polluters accountable is up for a vote in the Senate. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska admitted that coal lobbyists wrote this bill. I wrote a blog not long ago that this bill needs to die as fast as it hits the Senate floor. Here we are not months from the largest mining disaster in 40 years, an investigation as to cause not able to proceed because the mine that took the 29 is still terribly polluted with dangerous gas, and Massey Energy scrutinized by the Justice Department for possible “willful criminal activity,” and there is very little if any mention in the media about the consequences of this bill if it passes.

Many citizens in this country look for BP to be held accountable for all of the problems it has caused in the Gulf. And President Obama is trying to keep the limits of accountability open-ended meaning “no caps” on paying up for disasters like the gulf in the future. Yet the Murkowski Bill will strip the EPA of doing just that to the coal industry and any industry that pollutes the air with carbon emissions. The EPA is directed by the Clean Air Act to regulate any pollution it considers detrimental to the health and well being of the citizens of the U.S. The Clean Air Act has been this way for years, yet Senator Murkowski has reduced it to “back door politics.” Where are these newfound interpretations of standing law coming from—the coal industry?

As far as Massey’s involvement in possible willful criminal activity as reported in an article on Daily Finance’s website, it’s looking mighty suspicious. Besides Daily Finance’s article, I read an article on insurancejournal.com that investigators interviewing employees about the incident have run into problems. At least 4 employees didn’t show up for their appointments claiming they forgot or had to work unexpectedly. Of course Massey knows nothing about it.

With 29 people dead and the incident still unaccounted for, this is exceptionally suspicious timing for the Murkowski bill to hit the Senate floor. Looks like it was completely planned. While all eyes are on the oil industry pollution; BIG COAL gets their day in the Senate with little fanfare. Shame on the media for not keeping this extremely important bill in the forefront.

I have to add that I would have published this sooner, but every time I attempt to do research and write a blog about the coal industry I have security threats on my PC. I spent yesterday evening scanning and repairing my registry. There is still time to voice your concern about this bill.

Contact your Senators today to KILL THE MURKOWSKI BILL as fast as it hits the Senate floor and protect our Clean Air Act for our future health!
http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2010/06/02/110325.htm

http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/massey-justice-probe-coal-mine-deaths/19478608/?sem=1&ncid=searchnew00000005&s_kwcid=TC|11069|massey%20investigation||S||5351761716.

http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2010/05/clean-air-under-attack-bill-written-by-lobbyists-may-come-up-for-vote-this-week/.

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Oil Spill Sensationalism

Since footage of the underwater oil leak was released, I think the sensationalism about it in the mainstream media is waaaaay out of control to the point it will hurt tourism far more than necessary. Many, many beaches that have not as of yet been impacted by the spill are already empty as are some seafood establishments. For instance, a few days ago it was reported that tar balls had washed up on a Florida beach. Those few tar balls had nothing to do with the spill. If anyone wants to get a much clearer, calmer, intelligent overview of what is and has been happening watch PBS News Hour in the evening. PBS has a dedicated page on the Oil Spill and has also been monitoring reported amounts of spillage on a timeline with a meter updating those estimates by the second:

Following PBS’s meter are several other outside estimates. Looking at those, it’s easy to see that no one knows for sure how much is actually leaking. In a PBS interview with Bob Dudley of BP on the 19th, Dudley stated that an enormous amount of gas is still coming out of the pipe. He was pretty clear that it was unusual. He described it, very succinctly, as being the same as shaking up a can of pop and then opening it. If all the spray could be captured then perhaps one would get a good idea of how much liquid exploded out otherwise it’s anyone’s guess. So it appeared to me this morning, the morning after the release of the video, that the media jumped to the conclusion that all that spewed out of that pipe is a gush of oil when in fact it’s still a fizzy explosion of oil and gas happening. One would also assume then that the most reliable source for the amount of oil spillage would be relative to the amount being siphoned, but then again that siphoning may be sans the gas and a more direct flow from the well itself than what is actually exploding out of the pipe into the ocean. Watch the interview with Dudley at the link below. He explains things very well, and then a video of the leak from ABC news, while thinking of the shaken soda scenario. That is indeed what’s happening:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/jan-june10/bp2_05-19.html.

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There are also a lot of accusations going around that the government has allowed BP to make all the decisions, which is not true. The U.S. coast guard has been involved from day one alongside BP. The finger pointing now about using a toxic dispersant called “Corexit” is a really a big “right back atcha” to another of our government agencies, the EPA. Since our EPA still approves Corexit as a dispersant and our EPA gave BP the thumbs up to use a dispersant on the source of the spill, BP used Corexit because they have a big stockpile of it. Now BP’s getting a big “STOP THAT” while assumptions that Corexit was used to hide what’s really down are running rampant.

I think Corexit should not have been used by BP, since it is British Petroleum and Great Britain stopped the use of Corexit for environmental reasons and BP knows it, but the EPA should not have this on its “OK to use” list either. Why the use of Corexit then? Well, funny thing, according to Mother Jones website, “Corexit 9500 and Corexit(R) EC9527A—[are] compounds created by an Illinois-based company called Nalco. [] In 1994, Nalco and Exxon’s chemical division, Exxon Chemical Company, formed a joint venture focusing on oil and gas products like the dispersants in use in the Gulf. Daniel Sanders, and a vice president, Steve Taylor, both came from Exxon. So that’s pretty much why Corexit is floating around with the oil. The EPA ok’d dispersants. Corexit was on the EPA’s approved list, BP had stockpiles of it. It’s out there now, some 600,000 gallons of it.

http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/05/epa-bp-dispersants.

As far as masking the spill, dispersants whether safe or not do as they are defined, they break up the oil like Dawn detergent does with greasy dishes. So I imagine the plumes are like the diluted floating grease we see in dishwater, they are not solid oil. The oil needs to be broken down at this point, because there is no stopping it. The oil has reached the grassy marshes/wetlands along Louisiana’s coast. Breaking the oil down will help natural microbes to break it down farther and faster. It’s sweet crude without a lot of sulfur as I said in another blog, which helps. However, knowing Corexit was toxic was a big, big mistake the EPA shares with BP. Watch the video about Corexit and read the Examiner article that says we’ve known for 20 years that it should not be used.

http://www.examiner.com/x-4002-Green-Living-Examiner~y2010m5d21-Oil-dispersant-Corexit-known-to-be-toxic-20-years-ago-videos.

I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the current video of the leak or the one I first saw when this happened. Why the sudden excitement and escalation to 100,000 barrels of spillage a day by some? 100,000 barrels per day amounts to a little over a barrel per second, or 69 barrels per minute. It’s a 19.5 inch pipe. I have a round side table next to my couch exactly the same size. I stood and looked at it and can’t imagine that size of an opening spewing a barrel a second under water pressure at a depth of over a mile without some enormous thrust that would seem to want to blow the hole open even larger if it was that great. Fact is “the 19.5-inch pipe’s opening was narrowed by about 30% in the accident, plus the flow has been reduced by 10% from a broken drill pipe inside the riser. About half of the flow coming from the pipe is natural gas, not oil,” according to BP, (the shaken soda can scenario again). Also in the article on marketwatch.com, “The U.S. government set up a Flow Rate Technical Team to develop a more precise estimate of the flow. Agencies involved in the project include the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Minerals Management Service, the Energy Department and the U.S. Geological Survey. The team’s mandate is to produce a report by close of business on Saturday,” May 22nd. So we’ll see. My husband the plumber said the amount discharged depends on the thrust and he thinks it might be what I said before that this is the mother lode of wells that’s feeding others, some sort of back pressure happening to give one well this much thrust. Just my thought.

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bp-says-study-due-saturday-on-size-of-gulf-spill-2010-05-21.

The more I research this, the more I see that governmental agencies share the blame for big, big missteps in this disaster for the sake of industry. Many things remain the same as the last administration and have not yet been fixed. When Sec’y of Interior Salazar took the hot seat in Congress the other day he pointed fingers back at Congress for not changing the laws. Excuse me but if a person is appointed a job overseeing an agency in a new administration, one that is far more environmentally friendly than the last administration that basically deregulated industry to the point the foxes were watching the henhouse, one would think that a good perusal of procedures/laws pertaining to that agency and a subsequent housecleaning would be in order first. Salazar should have had a list of suggested changes for congress. Instead, to many of us he has proved to be just an extension of the old administration much more so than the new. Nothing seems to have changed in the Department of the Interior until perhaps now (fingers crossed). And the EPA that was once ridden with polluting industry employees in the past should have done likewise to purge itself or we’re simply not progressing in the best interests of our world and everything in it.

While I’m on the subject of government agencies, where was the quick response from the Army Corp of Engineers to OK permits to dredge and recreate the barrier islands that once existed along Louisiana’s shoreline? Governor Bobby Jindal’s proposal for a 350 million dollar dredging plan along Louisiana’s delicate coastline has been on hold waiting for approval by Army Corp of Engineers with Billy Nungesser, Plaquemines Parish president beseeching ACE on the news to hurry and OK the plan. The plan would create a shoal of sand that runs parallel to the shoreline to hold back the slick of oil at the surface protecting the wildlife refuge. Nungesser said the oil reached the edge of the marsh and if it got any farther in there would be no getting it out, so the dredge plan was urgent.

So far I’ve found nothing about that approval yet. So much for urgent.

http://www.dredgingtoday.com/2010/05/21/oil-spill-dredging-waits-for-approval-usa/.

http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/louisiana-marshes-will-pose-challenges-for-gulf-oil-spill-cleanup/19485841.

On the bright side, the well may be shut down as early as next week when BP will attempt to plug it up again. I’m just wondering how that’s going to work with all the gas thrust still coming out. Could there be a bigger explosion of the sea floor itself? We’ll see about that too.

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The Coal Lobby Intensifies

There was a congressional hearing on April 14th about the future of coal in a “new energy age.” Considering the recent mining disaster and 60 serious safety violations found in a short time afterward, one would think the coal industry would at very least layback for a while. We don’t expect coal would give up the fight but they could acknowledge the need to find a cleaner way of doing business in the near future possibly without coal if carbon sequestering doesn’t pan out. We expect they would invest in an alternative just in case. Even a straggler like Exxon Mobil finally invested in algae fuels. Smart move. They understand fuel. But according to oilprice.com, “Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, accused Congress and regulators of conducting a ‘war on coal’ by imposing tougher limits on carbon emissions. He criticized the Environmental Protection Agency’s ‘endangerment finding’ about carbon dioxide emissions, which enable the regulator to take action without legislation.” Basically, they whined instead.

The 4 coal industry representatives present were admonished for “resisting measures to reduce carbon emissions and were compared to auto executives who ignored the need for change until it was too late.” I don’t remember our auto industry claiming “a war on American autos” though and they have to tow the line with emission standards set by the EPA. Instead of whining, American automakers progressed and fast. Ford didn’t borrow any money and still bumped it up a notch because competition was doing the same. That turned out well for them. It really isn’t a fair playing field to expect our auto industry to literally change overnight and not other polluting industries, which are far worse. Also, our utilities industry always threatens to pass the costs on to us whenever they get taxed or have to make changes. Just look at the commercials about taxes and oil. We don’t have the luxury of buying elsewhere like we do with cars. It’s not a free market in that sense.

Unlike the auto industry, the coal industry got a reprieve for a year from the likes of the EPA. That’s one year to lobby, wage a media blitz about coal, and continue the propaganda campaign that they’ve been accused of since the mid 2000’s. And oh that campaign money will go far here to insure the right people are in place to assist in stripping the EPA of its power to enforce the Clean Air Act on coal.

And that’s what some in the coal industry really want, to disprove the endangerment finding, the big stall. Gotta laugh at just how long they want to stall. The coal reps stated the industry wants Congress to forgo any further restrictions while it “develops carbon capture and sequestration technology, which is an untested technology and a minimum of 15 to 20 years away.” Are you kidding me, wait 15-20 years before putting restrictions on coal emissions when it’s the largest source of pollution?

The coal industry was reminded in the meeting that new power plants were powered by wind and no new coal plants have broke ground. The coal reps were warned that the rest of the energy world was moving to a lower-carbon future and the coal industry headed for an “inexorable decline.”

The coal industry vowed to fight of course. They have some hurdles to overcome, “On April 17, 2009, the [EPA] Administrator signed proposed endangerment and cause or contribute findings for greenhouse gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. EPA held a 60-day public comment period, which ended June 23, 2009, and received over 380,000 public comments. These included both written comments as well as testimony at two public hearings in Arlington, Virginia and Seattle, Washington. EPA carefully reviewed, considered, and incorporated public comments and has now issued these final findings which pave the way for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.”

That’s a lot of comments to overcome and the period open for discussion is closed. But Big Coal has enough lobby power to reopen the discussion. Senator Markey remarked, “While the rest of the energy world is already moving to a lower-carbon future, people wonder whether the coal industry is stuck in another time.”

We’ll see how this plays out. The coal lobby has made the biggest dent in their favor in the senate energy bill. Since coal is the biggest polluter that doesn’t say much for the bill.
http://www.oilprice.com/article-us-coal-industry-fights-climate-legislation-at-congressional-hearing-279.html.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2011623423
_apusmineexplosion.html
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Clean coal lobbying blitz: http://www.publicintegrity.org/investigations/climate_change/articles/
entry/1280
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About the EPA and comments: http://www.animallawcoalition.com/farm-animals/article/1128
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Texas, the Biggest U.S. Polluter, Challenges EPA/Clean Air Act

Texas produces 35% of our entire nation’s toxic emissions and doesn’t want to change. So Texas has just challenged the EPA relative to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. From what I’ve read it’s state’s rights versus federal according to Texas governor Rick Perry. He claims Texas is doing a fine job of monitoring emissions and getting them under control, and for the EPA to suddenly come down on Texas will cost the state jobs and the involved industries millions that will be passed down to the consumer. He and others also “site ‘scientifically flawed studies’ as their basis for challenging the agency’s decision.” Sorry climate change aside, CO2, SO2, and other greenhouse gases have been found to be detrimental to respiratory health by our own government agency. This challenge is nothing but a stall.

The Dallas Morning News website reported that the other challengers are “the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank and conservative advocacy outfit; the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an organized group of climate-change skeptics; and the Science and Environmental Policy Act, which has challenged the United Nations over findings that buttressed previous climate-change treaties. Greenwire says in its story yesterday that Freedomworks, the advocacy group headed by former Rep. Dick Armey of Denton County, is also involved in the challenge.”

http://energyandenvironmentblog.dallasnews.com/archives/tceq/.

Let’s look at the assertions the governor made. Is Texas doing a fine job of taking care of its pollution? Well not so much. According to an article on Center for Public Integrity’s website, Texas has been caught doing a lot of dirty stuff to their citizens for years.

In October, 2003, in the space of three hours, while the 94,000-plus inhabitants of Tyler slept nearby, Martin Lake [Steam Electric Station] pumped more than 150,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide into the East Texas air. The pollution was more than eight times the plant’s hourly emissions limits under federal regulations. Sulfur dioxide air pollution, as environmentalists, regulators, and TXU officials have known for many years, helps trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases.

After the October 2003 event, TXU reported the emissions overage to TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality). But a comparison between EPA and TCEQ records shows that the company gave a far lower emissions figure to state officials than the smokestack monitor registered.

Hmmm. They lied. The same article continued:

[]A three-month review of federal and state records by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit journalism organization, suggests [the above wasn’t a one time incident]. The review, encompassing 25 million data entries spanning 10 years, shows that between 1997 and 2006, TXU’s coal-fired plants exceeded federal sulfur dioxide emission limits nearly 650 times, spewing more than 1.3 million pounds of excess sulfur dioxide into the Texas air.

Read what the USGS, a government agency, has to say about excesses of SO2, CO2, and hydrogen fluoride relative to volcanic eruptions and regardless of climate change:

The volcanic gases that pose the greatest potential hazard to people, animals, agriculture, and property are sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen fluoride. Locally, sulfur dioxide gas can lead to acid rain and air pollution downwind from a volcano. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a colorless gas with a pungent odor that irritates skin and the tissues and mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and throat. Sulfur dioxide chiefly affects upper respiratory tract and bronchi. The World Health Organization recommends a concentration of no greater than 0.5 ppm over 24 hours for maximum exposure. A concentration of 6-12 ppm can cause immediate irritation of the nose and throat; 20 ppm can cause eye irritation; 10,000 ppm will irritate moist skin within minutes.

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TXU went over 8 times the hourly emissions limit for the Martin Lake plant

The Center for Public Integrity website also stated: “Childhood asthma affected about 3 percent of the population in the 1960s, but that figure has climbed above 9 percent, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. In Fort Worth, a 2003 city health department survey found that asthma rates here were more than double the statewide average, and even higher for children.”

Governor Rick is wrong. Texas is not doing a good job of self regulation. Self regulation is nothing better than the fox guarding the henhouse because industry has no ethics anymore. For instance: “TXU was by no means the only polluter given a free pass by TCEQ. The records gathered by the Center show that, again and again in Texas, air quality enforcement came at the point of a citizen lawsuit, not from the agency.” Texas needs regulations from a higher place because I don’t think things are about to change in the near future in Texas:

As the largest energy provider in Texas, TXU has established an exceptional degree of influence in the Texas statehouse, through a network of high-profile lobbyists and political connections.

In spring 2007 when legislation to increase public oversight over the TXU buyout process was pending in the Senate, TXU and its buyers unleashed a powerhouse lobbying team including former state legislators Curtis Seidlits, Jr., Rudy Garza, Eddie Cavazos, Paul Sadler, and Stan Schlueter, and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk.

According to Texans for Public Justice, TXU and two investor groups spent approximately $17 million during the 2007 Texas legislative session on lobbyists, advertising, food and beverages, entertainment and gifts – including sending 2,400 tacos to legislators and their aides on the first day of the session.

http://www.publicintegrity.org/projects/entry/363/.

There you have it, polluters spending millions to keep polluting, and whining at the same time that it will cost them millions to curb it. Again, what is known as “scrubbers” for coalburners were around in the 60’s. These scrubbers don’t do a thing for CO2 but do reduce SO2 emissions. And there was a Clean Coal Technology Program launched by the DOE in 1986.

It was a cost-shared effort by government and industry to demonstrate innovative coal-burning processes at a series of full-scale facilities around the country and was expected to finance more than $5 billion in projects before it was completed later in the decade. Under the program, the federal government provided up to 50 percent of the total cost of the demonstration projects. In the first two rounds of solicitation for proposals, the DOE selected 29 projects for funding. In the second round, held in the summer of 1988, seven of the 16 successful proposals involved the use of both wet and dry scrubber systems.

Where was TXU? It obviously didn’t take advantage of that program. I think I read somewhere that now it costs around 650 million dollars on average to put scrubbers on coalburners. It’s industry’s problem for not moving faster on behalf of the health and safety of citizens. Does a little over a half billion dollars constitute hardship for big industry that nets billions per quarter?

http://www.allbusiness.com/professional-scientific/scientific-research-development/120873-1.html.

Analysts like Al Armendariz, a chemical engineering professor at Southern Methodist University who is an expert on air pollution and an environmental advocate, said smaller and older facilities could face hefty costs, but major companies won’t feel a thing.

“They’ll say, ‘Look, if we have to spend half a million dollars to re-permit, big deal.’ They probably spend more than that on toiletries for those facilities,” he said, noting that even multimillion-dollar expenses would be a “one-time capital blip” for major companies. Armendariz also said he doubts industry claims that consumers could feel any pain.

http://www.allbusiness.com/professional-scientific/scientific-research-development/120873-1.html.

Al might doubt consumers will feel the pain, but it looks like in Texas and everywhere else the cards are already stacked against the average citizen’s health concerns. As for taxes, have you noticed all the petro commercials airing lately using the fear card…”Prices for consumers will go up. Consumers will be taxed more if the big bad government cracks down on industry pollution and tries to further alternatives.” Industry is already on the move to make Al eat his words.

Taxes and our health and well being should not be pitted against each other like a threat. We’ve been plied with fear for a decade. Consumers should not bear the expense to finance the changes polluting industries will have to make in the future to “clean up” because they failed to make them long ago when it would have been far less expensive. Likewise the consumer should not bear the guilt of any of the health problems that could have been avoided especially in children. Gotta laugh at that one since TXU, the governor of Texas, and anyone else who challenged the EPA obviously feels no remorse for anyone suffering respiratory illnesses at their hands. After all they provided jobs where workers could breathe a toxic brew everyday.

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