Solyndra a Model of Why the U.S. Won’t Be a Contender in the New World Order

Going green has lost quite a bit if traction in the U.S. because of some really outrageous spin and it would appear the oil/gas industry and their lackey’s in congress to be the culprits. Despite the fact we can see climate change with our own eyes, and that some of the giants in the oil industry admitted greenhouse gas contributes to climate change, we’re heading toward more fossil fuel production with gas fracking and tar sands oil at the top of the list. Friends of fossil fuel have jumped on the Solyndra bandwagon of failure as some sort of omen that green start-ups are too risky, and therefore, unworthy business models in the U.S. during a time of renewed “drill and frack” mentality. But Solyndra is a model of a much more ominous nature. Solyndra’s failure is not due to an innovation that had no place in the market, or mishandling of funds, or was too costly compared to the competition, or because it was a vehicle of some underhanded exchange of money for political gain. While conspiracies abound around the name “Solyndra” the biggest problem Solyndra had to overcome was CHINA, one of the four new and fastest growing world economies. No the U.S. is not on that short list.  We’ll never make it at all if we continue on the path of fossil fuel for energy and stall moving forward quickly with green innovation.

Don’t get me wrong. China is indeed destined to get most of that tar sand oil from Canada, and so it is in the big fossil fuel burning category of nations. But China also continues to be a mixed bag for its energy sources and moving more and more quickly into the green foray. China recently emerged as KING of solar panel producers exporting its solar panel wares worldwide in numbers far greater than its competitors. But how did this happen you say and so quickly? And how come a company like Solyndra that barely came out of the ground went under so quickly? Surely there was a market for solar just look at China.

Just about all the reporting relative to Solyndra from ABC, to Fox, to numerous websites has been false and totally out of context, the main one being that it is Obama’s baby. Truth is Solyndra began in 2005 with a sound standing in the field of solar panels. Solyndra was the leader in innovation for solar. While standard solar panels look like flat screen monitors and utilize costly silicon in their photovoltaics (sun’s energy converted to direct current), Solyndra’s solar panels sported a tubular design that didn’t utilize silicon chips at all.

Solyndra’s solar panels are made up of 40 individual modules, wired in parallel for high current, which capture sunlight across a 360-degree photovoltaic surface capable of converting direct, diffuse and reflected sunlight into electricity. Using innovative cylindrical copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS modules) and thin-film technology, Solyndra systems are designed to be able to provide the lowest system installation costs on a per watt basis for the commercial rooftop market. More than 1000 Solyndra systems are installed around the world, representing nearly 100 Megawatts.

Lightweight: Low Distributed Load of 2.8 lbs. per Square Foot

Designed to Last for More than 25 Years

Easier and Cheaper Installation

Superior Wind Performance: Ideal for Windy Locations

Greater and More Effective Rooftop Coverage

Design Keeps Panels and Roofs Cooler

http://www.solyndra.com/technology-products/

From 2005 to late 2009, Solyndra panels were in the ballpark cost wise with standard solar panel manufacturers. Solyndra’s  founder  Dr. Christian Gronet earned a Ph.D. in semiconductor processing and a bachelor of science degree in Materials Science from Stanford University and was Vice President and General Manager of the Transistor, Capacitor and Gate product group at Applied Materials for 11 years. http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=54334387&privcapId=33681528.   According to their website, “Applied Materials is the global leader in providing innovative equipment, services, and software to the semiconductor, flat panel display, and solar photovoltaic industries. http://www.appliedmaterials.com/.

Solyndra had no problem raising over $78 million in venture capital quickly. From Climate Progress and verified by the DOE: “Solyndra raises its first round of venture financing worth $10.6 million from CMEA Capital, Redpoint Ventures, and U.S. Venture Partners. In October, Argonaut Venture Capital, an investment arm of George Kaiser, invests $17 million into Solyndra. Madrone Capital Partners, an investment arm of the Walton family, invests $7 million. Those investments are part of a $78.2 million fund.”

Funding came from the Right, the Left, and everywhere in between.

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/09/13/317594/timeline-bush-administration-solyndra-loan-guarantee/

At about the same time Solyndra began, the Bush Administration’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 was initiated. Section 1703 seemed an ideal match for a company like Solyndra as follows: “Section 1703 of Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy to support innovative clean energy technologies that are typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks.” https://lpo.energy.gov/?page_id=39. The emphasis here is on the word “risk.”

In 2006, Solyndra applied for a DOE loan under Section 1703. Late 2007 the loan program was funded and Solyndra was on the list for a loan. According to Energy Sec’y Sam Bodman at that time: “The Energy Department had received 143 pre-applications for the guarantees and narrowed the list down to 16 finalists — including Solyndra.” Why was Solyndra mentioned that way, as if singled out? According to WashingtonMonthly.com, “Bush’s Energy Department apparently adjusted its regulations to make sure that Solyndra would be eligible for the guarantees. It hadn’t originally contemplated including the photovoltaic-panel manufacturing that Solyndra did but changed the regulation before it was finalized. The only project that benefited was Solyndra’s.” Hmmm—heavy Republican investors or what? The Bush Administration, as I often blogged about back then, was not exactly green by any stretch of the word. However, it was late 2007 and 2008 meant a new presidential race. Being able to tout investment in alternative energy might appeal to some independent voters. Whatever the case, this loan program and its admittance of Solyndra on the list was a decision made during the Bush Administration.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal/2011_09/solyndras_republican_paternity032460.php

By 2008, Solyndra planned on building 2 new facilities in the U.S., and private investment in Solyndra reached an accumulated $450 million. It still looked like a great venture. Prices for silicon remained high and Solyndra’s costs were still competitive. But by late 2008, the loan still hadn’t been approved. According to themoderatevoice.com:

January 2009: In an effort to show it has done something to support renewable energy, the Bush Administration tries to take Solyndra before a DOE credit review committee before President Obama is inaugurated. The committee, consisting of career civil servants with financial expertise, remands the loan back to DOE “without prejudice” because it wasn’t ready for conditional commitment.

March 2009: The same credit committee approves the strengthened loan application. The deal passes on to DOE’s credit review board. Career staff (not political appointees) within the DOE issue a conditional commitment setting out terms for a guarantee.

Once taxpayer money was involved, the Obama administration was reluctant to let Solyndra fail.

http://themoderatevoice.com/122532/solyndra-and-bush/

Cleantechnica.com reported:

June 2009: As more silicon production facilities come online while demand for PV (photovoltaics) wavers due to the economic slowdown, silicon prices start to drop. Meanwhile, the Chinese begin rapidly scaling domestic manufacturing and set a path toward dramatic, unforeseen cost reductions in PV. Between June of 2009 and August of 2011, PV (photovoltaic) prices drop more than 50%.

http://cleantechnica.com/2011/09/15/solyndra-advanced-by-bush-for-2-years-solyndra-timeline/

Some reports suggested that President Obama was warned several times via email that the deal was risky. On the contrary, Media Matters stated:

There was no email to Obama that the deal wasn’t ready for prime time relative to financial risk. Instead Email Concerned Timing Of Announcement, Not The Merit Of The Loan Guarantee.[] The email argued that ‘This deal is NOT ready for prime time’ because there were more steps to be completed before the loan guarantee could be finalized — namely, OMB had to review the credit rating and Solyndra needed to raise an additional $200 million in private capital. [House Energy and Commerce Republicans,9/14/11]

The merit of the loan guarantee lies with the OMB or Office of Management and Budget.

  • OMB reviews and must approve credit subsidy cost estimates for all loan and loan guarantee programs, including the credit subsidy cost estimates generated by DOE for the Title XVII program, to ensure that costs are accounted for appropriately.
  • OMB assesses cost estimates on a loan-by-loan basis because the Title XVII program provides relatively large-dollar guarantees and because their characteristics, terms, and risks vary greatly from project to project.
  • OMB delegates the modeling of credit subsidy costs to agencies, and issues implementing guidance to ensure consistent and accurate estimates of cost.
  • OMB works closely with agencies to create or revise credit subsidy models for new programs or programs issuing their first loans or loan guarantees, such as the Title XVII program in 2009,
  • Based on these models, OMB reviews and exercises final approval authority over credit subsidy costs to ensure that the costs of direct loans and loan guarantees are presented, and reflect estimated risks, consistently across Federal agencies so that taxpayer funds are invested in a prudent and effective fashion.
  • The final decision on whether to issue the loan or guarantee rests with the agency implementing the applicable program – DOE in the case of Title XVII.

http://mediamatters.org/research/201109190020.

By September 2009 Solyndra raised the money, an additional $219 million dollars and the $535 million loan from the DOE went through. Around one billion dollars had been invested in Solyndra, the bigger portion coming from the private investment sector. The Walton’s (the Wal-Mart family) Madrone Capital Partners and the Kaiser Foundation’s Argonaut Venture Capital, the Right and Left money respectively, being the biggest investors.

At this point, early 2010, China trumped everyone in the solar game “dump[ing] $30 billion into its solar industry. That is a lot of money for infrastructure as well as research and development. There is little doubt that the companies making solar panels in China benefited from the money.” http://www.solarcompanies.com/news/china-and-united-states-to-enter-trade-war-on-solar-panels

However, China did so in violation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which prohibits government subsidies for corporations/businesses that plan to export. To do so allows that country to possibly corner the worldwide market in any segment, which China has done with solar panels. The thinking goes this way. A corporation is limited in growth if all its goods and services remain in the country. In the U.S., a corporation is limited by the fact that we only have 300 million people and consumers are only going to buy so many goods/services over a period of time. But if that same corporation decides to export—the sky is the limit. So for any government to heavily subsidize a corporation that also plans to export, tips the playing field badly on competition that can’t possibly keep up. Since China has over 3 times our population the playing field is already tipped to say the least. The $30 billion dollar Chinese “illegal” dump into the solar industry was a death knell for Solyndra. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/09/business/global/09trade.html?pagewanted=all

It’s not unforeseen or unusual that from December 2010 through February 2011, the two largest private investors, DOE, and Solyndra “negotiated the terms and conditions of an agreement to restructure the Solyndra loan guarantee. Throughout this process, DOE consulted with OMB about the proposed terms and conditions of this arrangement.” NY Times: Experts Said DOE’s Decision To Restructure “Is Routine In The Commercial World.” From a September 16, New York Times article

By the end of February 2011,

  • Both Argonaut and Madrone added a combined $69 million in emergency funds to Solyndra.
  • DOE agreed to extend the term of Solyndra’s loan guarantee from seven to 10 years, and to postpone the first repayment installment by one year, from 2012 to 2013.
  • In addition, the agreement provided that, in the event of the company’s liquidation before 2013, the investors have the senior secured position with respect to the first $75 million recovered. In this case, it is not the full $75 million but rather the $69 million in emergency funds as stated, “The two firms gave the company a total of $69 million in emergency loans. The loans are the only portion of their investments that have repayment priority above the U.S. government. [Associated Press,9/16/11].
  • DOE has the second senior secured position with respect to the next $150 million recovered in liquidation. This is taxpayer money
  • If Solyndra had not liquidated or declared bankruptcy by 2013, the investors would have lost their senior secured position to DOE. [House Energy and Commerce Committee, 9/12/11]

Media Matters further stated that the decision to fund Solyndra, which in turn built brand new state of the art facilities, is in much better shape to garner more when they liquidate. “DOE determined, as part of the restructuring, that the facility would be more valuable, even in the event of a future liquidation, once complete.” He went on to say that “DOE determined that restructuring the loan guarantee gave the U.S. taxpayer the best chance of being repaid”

http://mediamatters.org/research/201109190020

So there you have it. Advanced solar technology like Solyndra had a foothold in the industry when it began 7 years ago, but failed during the slow, slow process of funding during which time a giant like China decided to dump an “unforeseen” 30 billion into the solar panel industry in a very short time. Did they know about Solyndra? China’s panels are ho hum standard cheap, nowhere near the innovation of Solyndra. It’s a shame we have segments of our population that scream about government helping new industry get a start when our competition does it all the time. It’s not socialism by any stretch, especially when it’s about energy and infrastructure. It’s investment in the U.S. future if we’re going to compete with the likes of China, India, Russia, or Brazil—the top 4 economic powers now. Government certainly needs to rethink  trade agreements too now that we know how China plans to play the game.

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Scandals at Dept. of Interior Past and Still Present

My husband is usually pretty up on news. He reads all the different papers at work during break. When I ask him if he heard about just about anything, he usually has. So I was a little surprised yesterday when he came home ranting about the scandal at Minerals Management Service like it was all new. He evidently didn’t remember as vividly as I did that MMS was already investigated by Interior Department Inspector General back in 2008 for sex, drugs, boozing, and gifts. That was too juicy a story to forget. At that time, recommendations were made to then Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne. Here are those recommendations back in 2008:

(RIK is “Royalty in Kind” or practicing business with more than regulating the oil industry by the MMS).

1. Take appropriate administrative corrective action.

Some very serious misconduct is identified in these reports. While the OIG generally does not take a position concerning what administrative corrective action might be appropriate in any given matter, in this instance there may be significant enough misconduct to warrant removal for some individuals. Given the unwillingness of some to acknowledge their conduct as improper, the subjects of our reports should be carefully considered for a lifetime ban from working in the RIK program. Ya think? Maybe stay away from government altogether.

2. Develop an enhanced ethics program designed specifically for the RIK program.

Given the RIK culture, and enhanced ethics program must be designed for RIK, including, but not limited to, 1) an explicit prohibition against acceptance of any gifts or gratuities from industry, regardless of value; 2) a robust training program to include written certification by employees that they know and understand the ethics requirements by which they are bound; and 3) an augmented MMS Ethics Office.

3. Develop a clear, strict Code of Conduct for the RIK program.

A fundamental Code of Conduct with clear obligations, prohibitions, and consequences appears to be necessary to repair the culture of misconduct in the RIK program. This code should include a clear prohibition against outside employment with the oil and gas industry or consultants to that industry. Given the considerable financial responsibilities involved, MMS should also consider implementing a Random Drug Testing program specifically for RIK.

4. Consider changing the reporting structure of RIK.

The management reporting structure of the RIK program must be seriously reconsidered. Given the challenges that will be faced in rebuilding this program, it seems imperative that RIK have management oversight in immediate proximity, not some 1,500 miles away in Washington, DC.

http://www.eenews.net/public/25/12376/features/documents
/2008/09/10/document_pm_02.pdf
.

We don’t really think Kempthorne did anything about this at the end of 2008 do we? He was right in step with the Bush/Cheney administration, and they were all exiting shortly thereafter. Back then the NY Times stated: “It seemed inevitable that bad things would happen when President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney packed the top posts at the Department of the Interior with lobbyists who had spent their careers representing the very industries they were now being asked to regulate.” But the scandals go back even farther in the Interior Department when Gale Norton was in charge. Then Interior Department Deputy Secretary, and mining lobbyist, J. Steven Griles pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the Abramoff scandal.

Remember Griles? Gale Norton was the head of the Department of the Interior at the time. Under Norton was Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles. Further down the line was Sue Ellen Wooldridge Deputy Chief of Staff to Norton. Griles was the highest-ranking member of the administration to be targeted for corruption. He resigned and went to work for, of all things, Conoco Phillips as a lobbyist. Meanwhile, Norton promoted Sue Ellen to Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources despite the fact she was grilled about her relationship with Griles during the Interior’s investigation of him. Senator Ron Wyden asked her about this in writing. She didn’t answer the question honestly even when her new position would actually oversee the department’s ethics office watching Griles while they were living together in a condo in Virginia!

At the time, an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found another love nest between Griles and Wooldridge with a third party, Conoco Phillips. It seems Conoco Phillips VP Donald Duncan, Griles, and Woodridge chipped in together to buy a million dollar plus beach vacation house in South Carolina. Duncan owned 50%, with Griles and Wooldridge pitching in 25% each. The house was purchased before Wooldridge allowed Conoco Phillips to postpone a half billion-dollar pollution cleanup. This was the most unethical love triangle in government yet. Wooldridge resigned. Gale Norton resigned. And Griles pleaded guilty.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/14/AR2007021401913.html.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/opinion/12fri1.html.

A 2008 article on thinkprogress.org also described the Interior Dept. as “Scandal-Clad” and also a bunch of thieves. The IG previously found that the Department under-collected billions of dollars of revenue owed the U.S. taxpayer from oil companies that produce and sell oil and gas from public lands and waters. Government workers ‘routinely failed to seek out legal advice on complicated deals and that the agency used outdated computers and a $150 million software program that resulted in royalty money going uncollected.’”

So we had a Federal Department that routinely bilked the U.S. taxpayer out of money. I don’t think things have changed much. Where was Salazar that he didn’t see the recommendations given his predecessor and why was the MMS still functioning as usual with regulators also the money collectors? Surely Salazar knew of the reports of scandal within the MMS. They were in the Washington Post and all over. But current Sec’y of Interior Salazar continues to point fingers at Congress and elsewhere.

There isn’t an environmentalist around that likes Salazar. He’s a reminder that little has changed at the Department of Interior, until now. And it’s a little late.

http://pr.thinkprogress.org/2008/09/pr20080912.

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Heart Wrenching True Essay About Death of the Calico Colt

I just read a heart-wrenching essay that gets to the center of the BLM’s inhumane and dogged treatment of our heritage, the wild mustang horses of our west. These horses were once protected by federal law, the 1971 Wild and Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Unfortunately that law was loosed during the Bush/Cheney regime. Our horses have been under merciless attack every since to the point they’ve been killed in droves in the most heinous way.

THE ESSAY by Ginger Kathrens is posted on the Cloud Foundation’s website.

The Death of the Calico Colt January 2010

He was wild and free, roaming the vast expanses of the rugged Calico Mountains with his mother and father and the other members of his family. This would be his first winter, a time when life slowed down for all the wild ones—the elegant pronghorn he watched on the distant horizon, the tiny pygmy rabbits that foraged in the sage brush undergrowth and darted into their dens when he tried to touch them, the fat sage grouse that were some of his favorites. When he was just days old, he heard their strange, booming sounds and saw the males strutting and displaying for a mate. When he wandered toward them, it was his father who gently guided him home. His mother softly nickered to him. She smelled of sweet sage and invited him to nurse.

Then, one day while his mother and father and the others in his family were quietly foraging, conserving their energy in the growing cold, he saw his father jerk his head up. Ears forward, the stallion watched and listened and the colt did too, mimicking his father. The colt could hear a rumbling drone. In the distance, he could see something flying toward them. It was even bigger than the majestic golden eagles that soared over his home. It came closer and closer, dropping low over the sage. The drone grew into an ear-shattering roar. His family began to run and he followed, galloping beside his mother where he would be safe. Mile after mile the menacing, giant bird chased them. His legs ached and he wanted to rest, but he could not leave his mother. He kept running, struggling to keep up. Fear gripped the Calico colt.

Then he saw a horse in front of his father and it too began to run. Safety must be ahead. His family followed the stranger and suddenly they were trapped inside walls of steel. His father tried to jump over the wall but it was too high. There were two legged animals running at them with long sticks and something white that fluttered madly. Suddenly, he was separated from his mother when a two-legged moved between them, striking out at him with the frightening stick and the fluttering bag. He was driven into another corral. When he whinnied for his mother, she answered. He raced around the corral calling for her, but found his feet were too sore to run anymore and he stopped. He could hear his father calling and he knew the proud stallion had been separated too. The colt answered him. He could see his mother through the bars of his cage and this gave him strength and hope.

Days passed. It was cold and there was no place to get out of the wind. In his home, his mother would have led the band below a rocky outcrop that blocked the wind. The colt began to fear he would never again smell the sweet sage of her breath or taste the warm milk she offered to him. His feet, so sore, became worse. Shooting pains darted through his whole body when he tried to walk so he moved as little as possible, hobbling a few steps to eat the plants the two-leggeds had thrown on the ground for them. One frigid morning, the two leggeds came and drove him into a truck with others that were his age. The pain was constant now and when the truck moved out, he stayed on his feet but the pain riveted him with every jolt and bump. He called for his mother, but there was no answer. Would he ever see his parents again?

Hours passed and the truck moved onto smoother ground and it turned into a place where he could hear the calls of his kind. He whinnied as loud as he could, but the answering voices were unfamiliar. The two-leggeds drove the colt from the truck into a bigger cage and he struggled to keep up with the other foals. Some of them were limping too. His eyes scanned the horizon, looking for something familiar but the flat horizon looked nothing like the land of his birth. Days went by and he spent hours laying in the dirt, the pain growing. He could feel something happening to his feet. His once strong, dark hooves were beginning to separate from the bone designed to hold them fast. He laid flat and closed his eyes, imagining the home and family he feared he would never see again. The two leggeds walked toward him. He wanted to jump up and dash away but he could not. Over the next few days he grew too tired to move at all. The wind howled and as it began to snow, he closed his eyes for the last time and dreamed of his family. Then two leggeds came again and killed the Calico Colt.

In death, the lively spirit of the Calico Colt was released to roam free once more. He has returned home to his family and the land of his dreams. He is not just a statistic. Neither he nor what he symbolizes will ever be forgotten.

(Ginger Kathrens is a filmmaker, author, and founder of The Cloud Foundation, dedicated to preserving our mustangs on public lands. The Foundation is calling for a stop to the roundups that are robbing public lands of our legendary, native wild equids—the very embodiment of freedom for many Americans. The Calico colt is only one of many who have died as a result of the ongoing roundups this year alone. Find out what
you can do at www.thecloudfoundation.org.

The helicopters of the BLM literally ran the hooves off this little colt exposing nothing but bone. Taxpayers paid for this action! I couldn’t sleep last night for having read this and have already contacted everyone screaming about the injustice and am signing petitions wherever I can find them. One of the petitions from Front Range Equine Rescue calling for an investigation of these murders by Senators Jeff Bingaman, Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Representative Nick Rahall, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee was too far too kind and civil. I signed the petitions, but I also wrote a hateful letter to the BLM because they don’t deserve decorum after what they’ve done. They deserve to be treated as criminals. Congress knows perfectly well what’s up with this issue because they are scrambling to get the ROAM, Restore Our American Mustangs ACT through and signed, while we still have horses left.

Everyone involved in this BLM movement to rid America of horses so cattle can take over the land should be dismissed. I just did a blog whereby the Center for Biological Diversity named and commented on Earth’s life support systems of which one of them was LAND USE. It stated, “Half the world’s tropical rainforests are gone and large areas of grasslands once open to wildlife are now fenced in for livestock ranching. According to Rockström, the expansion of agriculture is the major driver behind loss of ecosystem services and threatens to both exacerbate climate change and damage the freshwater cycle.” Cattle is the culprit for overgrazing. Where’s the science at the BLM that allows fencing across our plains for cattle in extreme numbers?

The BLM has been heinously inhumane and are operating under the guise of their own brand of science. The claim that these horses are overgrazing the plains when the cattle outnumber them 200 to 1 is the biggest crock, and absolute lie I’ve heard yet! A dimwit can see what’s overgrazing our plains and the Rancher’s and Cattlemen Association should be held equally accountable as the BLM for these actions since it’s pretty clear from whom the BLM gets their direction.

After reading the essay yourself and understanding the villitude of the BLM’s crimes please call, write, or email the following for an investigation of the BLM immediately and to stop all roundups in the interim.

Senator Jeff Bingaman: http://bingaman.senate.gov/contact/.

Representative Nick Rahall: http://www.rahall.house.gov/.

Contact Senator’s Levin and Stabenow to quickly pass S1579, the ROAM Act to protect what remains of our stately equine heritage, and back any investigation of the BLM relative to our horses.

http://levin.senate.gov/contact/.
http://stabenow.senate.gov/email.cfm.

Goto: http://www.frontrangeequinerescue.org/ and sign the petition for an investigation of the BLM. The horses need a voice!

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Contaminated Tap Water for Millions of Americans

 The New York Times reported early last week that millions of Americans drink dirty water and not just dirty dirt but higher than allowable concentrations of arsenic, uranium, and sewage. Arsenic struck a bell with me and then I read on. The contaminants in the water are linked to millions of illnesses across the country annually. The contamination persisted for years in some instances, totally overlooked by the EPA. Then I read that most of these violations occurred during the last half of the Bush Administration. Ahhh, I see.

I had a field day writing about the EPA under Bush. One of my blogs was about the Bush Administration’s environmental record review. In the article on ENS that I referenced, it stated: “In one of its first official acts, the Bush EPA announced that it was suspending the newly strengthened standard for arsenic in tap water.” This was straight out of the Gov’t Accountability Office. The rest of what was uncovered by the GAO wasn’t too pretty either:

  • EPA political officials worked with the White House and the Pentagon to undermine the process for evaluating toxic chemical risks.
  • EPA has decided that it will not set a health standard for the toxic rocket fuel perchlorate in our drinking water, even though EPA data show that up to 16.6 million people are exposed to unsafe levels
  • EPA has severely weakened its Office of Children’s Health Protection and largely ignored its Children’s Health Advisory Committee.
  • Despite the president’s campaign promise to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, the White House reversed course and rejected actions to control global warming pollution.
  • The EPA story is the same for soot, smog, and lead standards – all weaker than its own scientists recommended.
  • Over the last seven years, the pace of Superfund cleanups has dropped by about 50 percent compared to the last seven years of the prior administration, from about 80 cleanups per year to 40 or less.

And now we’re seeing the results of the above. Too bad this news is but a blip on a timeline of news that includes Tiger Woods infidelity. With 49,000,000 drinking unsafe water that has already been linked illness, one would think the media would keep it in our faces and remind us of what happened in the previous administration that’s come back to haunt/hurt us now.  But bad drinking water has been pretty much overshadowed.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held the Bush Administration’s environmental record review where these bad moves were uncovered back in September 2008. No Republicans showed up after Senator Inhofe, former chair of that committee, boycotted the meeting and urged two witnesses not to appear. I said in that blog: “It’s only a matter of time hopefully that we find out just how much environmental damage the Bush administration did. It affects our health and the future of our children.” Well here are the results in the New York Times.

 It’s interesting that it was Senator Inhofe that boycotted that environmental hearing. He  is after all the biggest skeptic of global warming that has consistently battled against moving forward environmentally. Seems he was incorrect about our drinking water, and on the wrong side of a lot of things for the health and welfare of Americans according to the GAO’s findings. And then simply didn’t show up for the review. Why should we believe him about global warming because he has our back? Yea right.

 Read Bush’s environmental review blog: http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2008/09/bush-administrations-environmental-record-review/.

The recent New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/business/energy-environment/08water.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=tap+water+&st=nyt.

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Inorganic Mercury Accumulates in the Blood

Inorganic mercury has been found in the blood of 1/3 of women, according to a new analysis of government data for more than 6,000 American women. Older women have higher levels indicating that mercury accumulates in the blood over time. Great, just great.

Dan Laks, a neuroscience researcher at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles stated: “My study found compelling evidence that inorganic mercury deposition within the human body is a cumulative process, increasing with age and overall in the population over time.” He also said, “”My findings also suggest a rise in risks for disease associated with mercury over time.”

And not surprisingly during the Bush administration concentrations of mercury in whatever we ingest rose rapidly. Laks reported, “The overall population average of blood inorganic mercury concentration also increased significantly from 1999-2006.” Between 2005 and 2006 30% of women had mercury in their blood compared to 2% in a study done from 1999 to 2000. There’s nothing like a good dose of deregulation in industry to get a positive rise in pollution is there?

The article on ENS website mentions chronic diseases associated with mercury to include autism.

Read the whole article: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/sep2009/2009-09-01-092.asp.

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Forty Million Acres of National Forest Get a Reprieve While Our Biggest Rainforest Gets the Ax and We’re Paying for It.

Thanks to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals 40 million acres of national forest get a reprieve from the ax. According to an Earthjustice e-mail, the court stated: “The watered-down roadless policy put forth by the Bush administration was illegal and reinstated the original 2001 Roadless Rule throughout the country except for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest and Idaho.” Why not the Tongass? Well that’s an interesting story.

In 2002 Alaska Growth Capital in partnership with Alaska’s Forestry Service set up a program to help rural communities in Alaska. Federal funding was leveraged to help produce a variety of forest–based goods and services to meet domestic and international needs. This program also granted loans for business start-ups. Steve Seley secured an $800,000 loan and put up $800,000 of his own money for his company’s (Pacific Log and Lumber) sawmill on Gravina Island in the Tongass. http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:8LQDo7Unq4MJ:www.fs.fed.us/r10/spf/publications/spf_2002AccompReport
_finalbyUntalaso_090503.pdf+who+is+Steve+Seley+related+to+in+government%3F&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
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An odd place to plan on making money since the Tongass was protected by the roadless rule in 2002.

In 2003, Bush decided to exempt the Tongass National Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule in the late afternoon, the day before Christmas. http://www.nativeforest.org/action_alerts/archive/wildlands_1_13_04.htm .
That’s a little curious. He also announced that he planned to allow the governors of the lower 48 states to have the last say so as to what is protected by the Roadless Rule. In short, he effectively repealed the Roadless Rule by relinguishing Federal Power over NATIONAL parks. What does a state have any business deciding what happens in a NATIONAL PARK? National parks go over state lines, and are therefore shared by other states. That would be like Michigan deciding everything to do with the Great Lakes just because we have the most shoreline.

By 2006, Steve Seley’s business, all of 23 people, was in trouble. A timber sale that was supposed to happen did not happen yet. http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/373461/gravina_island_mill
_owner_hardened_by_hardship/index.html
. But a little farther on in the year, the U.S. Forest Service signed an agreement with Alaska that assures Seley’s company will get the timber sales agreement in exchange for biological data of the Tongass area. Alaska and the USFS stated: “‘This is a cooperative agreement that accomplishes two things: to provide a timber supply, and to collectively share state data on all biological information gathered and collected with the Forest Service to help rewrite the Tongass Land Management Plan,’ said Michael Menge, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources. Oh I’m sure they would love to rewrite the plan and open up a heck of a lot more of Tongass National Park to useless logging. One of the Forest Service’s sticking points in offering sales, according to industry and state officials, is the rewrite of the plan.” http://www.alaskajournal.com/stories/020506/hom_20060205005.shtml.
In the same Alaska Journal article it was noted: “Gov. Frank Murkowski’s chief of staff, Jim Clark, who was the former chief lobbyist and attorney for the Alaska Logging Association, signed the memorandums for the state, and that Jack Phelps, special projects manager for the state, is the former executive director of the Alaska Forest Association.” We can see that the state of Alaska relative to this agreement was pretty much represented by the logging industry. So we can basically say that the logging industry cut a deal with the U.S. Forestry Service to give timber sales to the logging industry while they collect biological data of the habitat in and around the Tongass. Isn’t that a little backward?

Usually data like this is collected in order to understand what and how many species and/or ecosystems will be impacted by the logging business. To log first and study the impact during or afterward is ridiculous. And do you think it’s ethical to allow members of the logging business to be the ones to collect data in the first place that might possibly influence decisions made by the USFS in the future relative to the Tongass? The data might be a little skewed in the lumber industry’s favor.

Well, I guess we’ll see because our Secy. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack agreed to a new plan using taxpayer dollars to allow logging in the Tongass basically so that Steve Seley and others like him can stay afloat. So our taxpayer dollars are financing logging that is not really needed so that small businesses in rural areas of Alaska can stay working? http://www.examiner.com/x-13344-Wildlife-Conservation-Examiner~y2009m7d27-Obama-administration-clearcutting-Tongass-National-Forest-with-taxpayer-money. A sweet deal for Steve, but why was it we didn’t bail out the auto industry? Citizens of Alaska have the 5th highest median income of all the states.

Surely keeping the Tongass in an unprotected state for 6 years to ultimately allow unnecessary logging to take place in our largest U.S. temperate rainforest is not about Steve Seley. He’s the door that just opened. The data collected about environmental impacts will more than likely be watered down in the logging industry’s favor and slowly we will destroy a rainforest for no good reason than to give someone a job. For all that I read and there is much in the articles just cited here, the Tongass area lumber cannot compete with others between the quality of wood, and the shipping distance. As taxpayers we should not be happy about this.

As the Chicago Examiner asked: Why should we care about protecting Tongass National Forest from logging?

For one, this ancient, vital forest ecosystem belongs to all Americans. It’s our own 17 million acre lush, cool shaded rainforest. It is supposed to exist for all Americans for all time, not as a quick cash-cow for a few greedy businesses. There are endangered wildlife
like the Alexander Archipelago Islands Wolf, which exists nowhere else on earth, and black-tailed deer, grizzly bears, wolverines, black bears, timber wolves and bald eagles.

But oh, that’s right, Alaska aerial kills wolves and bears like they are rodents. We’re not going to get a lot of empathy for these critters out of the logging industry.

Finally this is a shady, cool, forest canopy. If it’s destroyed the area will dry out. There is a likelihood that the dried mosses, and needles could ignite no differently than down here.

Americans, the environment, the wildlife and their habitat are being swindled on this one. There is more natural resource wealth in the Tongass National Forest than will be made on lumber sales. Call your congress people before the door opens too wide on this one. It’s a real travesty.

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Visible Signs of Oil from Exxon Valdez Spill Still Found on Beaches

World Wildlife Foundation’s newsletter “Focus” reported that scientists are still finding visible signs of oil from the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill. It’s been 20 years! You might be thinking, “But how many oil spills are there, really?” The list of oil spills from 1967 to 1991 on NOAA’s website is extensive considering they only list significant spills. The criteria are 100,000 gallons or more for international spills, and 10,000 gallons or more spills happening in the U.S. The chart of oil spills from the NOAA is in barrels. There are 42 gallons in a barrel. http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/book_shelf/26_spilldb.pdf.

The 25 years between 67 and 91 saw a lot of oil go into our oceans. Luckily, the past 20 years has seen a decrease in tanker spills worldwide. The Exxon Valdez was so horrible; the attention caused a marked improvement in reducing accident rates for oil tankers. Unfortunately, the concern wasn’t so much for the environment or wildlife as it was for the financial liabilities from a spill. A shame, since we know quite well that oil companies do indeed recover financially. We know what big oil’s net earnings are these days. The irony is that wildlife and the environment doesn’t seem to recover quickly at all, or ever for that matter.

Thirteen hundred miles of Alaskan coastline was spoiled from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Communities and fisheries were ruined. Four thousand otters died and at least one population of orca whales has yet to recover. Local livelihoods were destroyed, and many wildlife and fish populations are still depleted, while Alaska’s economy lost millions, according to the same newsletter.

It’s good to know we learned from that spill. Tanker spillage is drastically down but we haven’t licked the problem altogether. The same environmental research information from a consulting firm that reported tanker oil spills are way down, also said that pipelines have taken up the slack. It stated: “Since 1985, U.S. pipelines have spilled more oil than tankers and barges combined. Since 1991, pipelines have annually spilled 37 times as much as tankers. The change in the proportion U.S. pipeline spillage is largely due to the fact that since 1990, pipelines transport more oil across more miles than water carriers.” And that infrastructure is old and getting older. Luckily, we’re spilling less and less over the past two decades, but as the report went on to say:

While the statistics show encouraging downward trends, there is no room for complacency. An ill-timed oil spill that occurs in a sensitive location, regardless of spill size, can cause devastating damage to natural environments, property, and business, and, occasionally, to human lives. Aging pipeline and facility infrastructures,
as well as aging vessel fleets, may be ticking time bombs, especially as they become subjected to increasing oil throughput and transport in future years. Increased international attention to tanker safety has had a positive influence that is sorely needed in other vessel categories and for non-vessel sources, particularly pipelines.

Oil is a leaky business both on land and sea. We’re faced with more oil exploration in the sensitive areas spoken about here. In 2007, Bush lifted a longstanding executive ban on off shore oil leasing in Bristol Bay, Alaska. According to WWF’s newsletter, Bristol Bay is known as America’s fish basket that contributes $2.2 billion to the economy annually. It is near the Bering Sea, “which produces nearly half of America’s wild seafood.” Do you like seafood? Consider Gulf shrimp also, since the recent Senate version of the energy bill includes more oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. We’re messing with our food supply when we go for the crude. We endanger wild life, and the economy of the regions at risk for “oil spillage.” Right now the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia vacated Bush’s plans for oil leasing in Bristol Bay. Help keep it that way. Contact your representatives and tell them to limit oil drilling, especially in areas that have long been protected FOR GOOD REASON. Besides, we only have 3% of the world’s oil supply, and use 25%. This horse is not going to win the race this time. The math dictates we must find replacements for our energy needs or forever be dependent on nations that, well, just don’t like us.

http://www.environmental-research.com/publications/pdf/spill_statistics/paper4.pdf

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Center for Disease Control May Have Mislead Public About Lead Poisoning from Tap Water

 

 

Washington D.C. experienced extremely high levels of lead contamination in the tap water from 2001-2004. It was high enough to be classified as “hazardous waste.” Yet a 2004 CDC report stated that the contamination ‘might have contributed a small increase in blood lead levels,’ as reported by salon.com. One problem with this understatement is that other cities across the country used it as evidence everything was fine. There it is again, the idea our health can be measured in ppm (parts per million).

 

But the main problem with this report is that it was missing thousands of test results. The CDC of course says only low level test results were lost. Suuuuuure. In 2007, the CDC learned that many young D.C. children had been poisoned by drinking water and suffered ill effects. The CDC still did not alert local health authorities or gov’t. agencies that control lead in water like the EPA or Housing and Urban Development. Questions regarding the CDC’s complicity in failing to report serious health hazards to the public have surfaced.

 

The main concern is for fetuses and babies exposed to the lead. One D.C. parent has filed a $200 million lawsuit against the D.C. water company claiming the lead in the water “poisoned his twin sons as infants, causing them to have ongoing learning and behavioral problems. The D.C. Inspector General is investigating the reasons behind the apparently conflicting results of the two CDC reports.”  

 

Read the rest of the story. There is a pretty disturbing pattern emerging from gov’t. agencies in the past administration that either withheld, lost, or altered reports relative to the health and good of the American public.

 

http://www.salon.com/env/feature/2009/04/10/cdc_lead_report/?source=newsletter

 

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Stricter Mercury Rules on the Way

An appeal was filed last year in the Supreme Court when a U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia threw out the EPA’s cap and trade program for mercury, and the court told the EPA how they “erred by taking power plants off the list of hazardous pollution sources when it issued its Clean Air Mercury Rule” that advocated the cap and trade program. The court then gave the EPA two years to develop mercury emissions standards for existing power plants. http://www.blogsmonroe.com/world/2008/02/us-court-of-appeals-gets-tough-on-epa-and-mercury-pollution/

Well, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider the appeal Monday. The court’s decision not to hear the case this time around “invalidates the U.S. EPA’s so-called Clean Air Mercury Rule, which would have allowed dangerous levels of mercury pollution to persist under a weak cap-and-trade program that would not have taken full effect until after 2020,” according to an article on ENS website.

The article went on to say, “The Supreme Court also granted the Obama administration’s request, made two weeks ago, to drop the Bush administration appeal.” So the idea of cap and trade for mercury is pretty much a dead dog. To top it all off, Lisa Jackson as the newly appointed EPA Administrator promises to move quickly to develop stricter mercury standards for power plants—uh, oh.

Let’s see how clean coal can get, LOL.

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2009/2009-02-24-093.asp

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Three New U.S. Marine National Monuments Established

 

After eight long years of more hits on the environment and animals than not, president Bush officially designated three different U.S.marine national monuments

covering a combined 200,000 square miles of ocean for preservation.  

 

Mariana’s Trench Marine National Monument. This trench is five times longer than the Grand Canyon and the deepest area of the earth. It is home to underwater volcanoes and thermal vents. The Marianas are located north of Guam, SE of Japan, and west of the Marshall Islands.

Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument south and west of Hawaii. This monument will help preserve irreplaceable trees, grasses, and birds from near the equator to monk seals, sea turtles, whales and coral reefs. 

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument an island east of American Samoa is home to giant clams, reef sharks, and an abundance of beautiful rose-colored corals—Rose Atoll.

 

There won’t be any oil drills in these areas at least. No “resource destruction or extraction, waste dumping, or commercial fishing,” will be allowed, according to an Environmental New Service article. The areas will be free passage areas however, and allow research and recreation.

 

This couldn’t happen at a better time because it was reported this evening on the news that the Great Barrier Reef off of Australia is showing the biggest decline in its coral ecosystem in 400 years!

 

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2009/2009-01-06-02.asp

 

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