Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Scientific Activist: explains how British PM candidates are different from US pols: Sneak Attack on Enviroment!

The Scientific Activist: Reporting from the Crossroads of Science and Politics: Environmental Popularity Contest

In England, candidates for Prime Minister are jostling for the position of the greenest candidate -- just amazing! The Conservative Party candidate, David Cameron, spoke to a reporter for the Independent, to tell about going to view melting icebergs in Norway with World Wildlife Federation representatives. He wanted the voting public to know how seriously he was taking climate change and how much he would work on fixing the issue, though it was a topic to outlast any single Prime Minister's term. Meanwhile, the Labour candidate, Gordon Brown, accuses Cameron of being a johnny-come-lately to environmental issues and just paying lip service to the issues, which Labour, naturally, owns.

This is fascinating to watch, from a country in which the politicians pussy-foot around environmental issues as if they were very sensitive land mines. The Democrats don't manage to sound as environmentally outspoken as the Conservative candidate in Britain does. Ever since Ronald Reagan, people in the U.S. have been afraid to be labeled either Liberals or Environmentalists. Fooey!

That is the sort of lily-livered political hacks that lead us into situations where we have laws allowing companies to buy the right to pollute with regular smog (see for example, Pennsylvania's trade in Nitrous Oxide regulation from June 6, 2000, at 65 FR 35840-35842,codified at 40 CFR Part 52)

The level of NOX required would be established from a
1990 baseline emissions level.

[[Page 35841]]

2. The reduction would vary by location, or zone,
and would be implemented in two phases utilizing a
region wide trading program.


EPA is publishing this rule without prior proposal
because the Agency views this as a noncontroversial
amendment and anticipates no adverse comment. ...

... but they are also considering trading with mercury emissions! Fortunately (perhaps!), the industry organization seems to see little benefit a trading market for mercury emissions and seems to prefer simply reducing emissions. Link to EMA Both of these air pollutants can travel thousands of miles from the point of origin before falling to the ground or water to poison the land, water and foodstuffs.

We also have pesticides allowed in our country that are banned in Europe because they are known carcinogens and neuropathogens. See, for example, the study done on Minnesota children showing high levels of a number of pesticides in first morning urine, regardless of pesticide use in the household, pointing to use of pesticides including malathion in their diets. Link to MN child Study. See also, this study of 1,400 New York City breast cancer victims showing a strong correlation to dichloro-ethylene, a breakdown product of common pesticides:

In this population of New York City women, breast cancer was strongly associated with DDE in serum but not with PCBs. Implications: These findings suggest that environmental chemical contamination with organochlorine residues may be an important etiologic factor in breast cancer. Given the widespread dissemination of organochlorine insecticides in the environment and the food chain, the implications are far-reaching for public health intervention worldwide.

[J Natl Cancer Inst 85: 648–652, 1993] J. Natl Cancer Inst. See also, Aldrin and Dieldrin: A Review of Research on Production, Environmental Deposition, and Fate, Bioaccumulation, Toxicology, and Epidemiology in the United States,, J. Lisa Jorgenson, in 109 Environmental Health Perspectives 113-139, March 2001 link. Well, we wouldn't want to harm business, would we?

Not our American government! (See 40 FR parts 63 and 65, amending regulations reached after settling with the Sierra Club in 2003, requiring public information on hazardous air pollutant released during shart-ups, shutdowns or malfunctions of factories and other polluters. These changes come in final regulations announced April 20, 2006 at FR Page 20446, just in time for Earth Day:

... SSM [that is, Start-up, shutdown and malfunction]plans serve a purpose different from that
of compliance plans (see discussion below) and do not include
the components described above that are required in
compliance plans. Thus, EPA's position that SSM plans are not
compliance plans is reasonable.

Plans available to the public will have
confidential business information removed.
Startup, shutdown, and malfunction plans are
similar to the risk management plans prepared
under section 112(r) to prevent accidental
releases of HAP [that is, hazardous
air pollutants; government agencies are very
prone to acronyms!]
and may likely contain
information that is protected as CBI
[that is, confidental business information] or that may be sensitive from a security
standpoint. For these reasons, many
facilities are reluctant to provide the
details of their plans and permitting
authorities are reluctant to request
them except when necessary. While these
plans may be redacted prior to public
release to remove CBI, this imposes
additional burden on both the facilities
and the permitting agencies. Thus we
believe the limitation we are imposing
in the final rule strikes a reasonable
balance between the public's right to
know, protection against acts of terrorism,
and protection of a facility's CBI.

Did you read that the way I did?! The EPA is rearranging things so that if a factory or other polluting industry releases a hazardous material into the air during a shutdown or startup or malfunction they don't have to tell anybody! It's just a little matter, and not even the EPA needs to know! Not the neighbors, nobody downwind, not anybody who might need to take precautions. Because the information might accidentally involve some secret business information that might also help terrorists? Gee. I am outraged.

We have failed to sign on the Kyoto Accords or do anything meaningful to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, during the last two decades, knowing that the climate change was underway, we passed laws allowing a special exemption from regulations requiring new passenger cars to meet fuel efficiency targets so that SUVs could become the most popular selling, high-polluting, fuel hogs in America. (See, a very handy comments sent to the National Transportation Secretary in response to proposed regulation changes to 49 CFR part 523.4 in May, 2004 link; interesting contrast to the current comments of our President regarding American addiction to imported oil. Are we a great country or what?

I am pretty sure the image is Photochopped, but it pretty well sums up what happens when you mess with Mother Nature.

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