FERC accused of failing to address pipelines’ impacts

South Texas faces the prospect of 3 of these offshore LNG terminals off its pristine, environmentally sensitive coast if FERC holds true to its history

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – is (supposedly) an independent tasked with regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. According to its own website, it reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects.

Among FERC’s responsibilities, it:

  • Ensures the safe operation and reliability of proposed and operating LNG terminals and
  • Oversees environmental matters related to natural gas and hydroelectricity projects and other matters

However, according to a news report, “the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has rejected only two pipelines over the last 30 years out of the hundreds proposed, according to an investigation that paints the regulatory body as particularly cozy with the industry it oversees.”

For anyone involved in managing statistics, the truth will out – numbers don’t lie.

“Between mid-2010 and 2016, large energy companies scheduled at least 93 meetings with FERC officials, compared with the 17 meetings scheduled with environmental and public-interest groups, according to emails and official calendars.”

Here in South Texas, we’re facing the possibility – more likely probability – of 3 offshore LNG terminals off the coast of Brownsville. FERC will be reviewing these applications & considering the public comments they’ve received before determining whether or not to approve these applications.

Approving them would spell disaster for pristine, environmentally sensitive ecosystems in the area and potentially put large numbers of people at risk, should there ever be a leak or explosion, which the industry is well-known for having.

But with such a dark, almost rubber stamping history to go by, it doesn’t seem like there’s much light at the end of this tunnel for the citizens of South Texas, or for the endangered species that call this area home.

Time will tell but we shouldn’t hold our breath, hoping that this self-proclaimed quasi judiciary agency will do the “right” thing. Do you suppose it would help to wish on a lucky star instead?

Genetically-engineered pork – coming to stores near you?

GMO Salmon - FDA approvedI find it horrifically fascinating that government agencies such as the USDA, tasked with protecting consumers from any serious health issues contained in our food supply, should be in favor of genetically modified food sources. Yet evidence is growing that some of our organic foods contain GE ingredients (oddly allowed by the USDA) and now that august agency has taken a further step down this potentially hazardous path.

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More shenanigance with California State Parks revealed

Hendy Wood State Park, one of 70 California state parks “saved” today by Governor Jerry Brown

Today Governor Jerry Brown announced that $20 million of the $54 million recently “discovered” would be allotted towards California’s state parks. A real reprieve for the 70 parks on the list to be closed and a relief to many Californians.

But… there’s more to the story going on behind the scenes.

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Plastic Bottle Ban in National Parks: Common sense or Controversy

Editor’s note:  This article was originally published several weeks ago on SierraClubGreenHome.com.  It includes some useful information you might appreciate.

Grand Canyon National Park could soon ban plastic water bottles (photo by Moyan Brenn)

One culprit is causing nearly a third of the waste in our national parks. It’s something you might grab for a long hike, or camping, or washing down a meal cooked over the campfire. It comes in a convenient yet remarkably wasteful package, and it’s become an unlikely source of controversy. That culprit is bottled water.

Shawn Norton, who works on climate change and sustainability issues for the National Park Service, says in a January 2010 internal memo that banning disposable bottles would reduce waste, cut recycling costs, and save electricity. In fact, if just 15 parks (including Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Death Valley and Grand Teton) banned bottled water, the savings could be 18 million kilowatt hours per year!

For more on the impact and controversy of banning plastic bottles in our national parks, see http://bit.ly/zqryKc.

Senate fails to take on climate change legislation

Party lines seem more important to US Senators than climate change

In what can only be seen as a major failure on the part of our country’s top politicians to put the welfare of their constituents ahead of their own interests, the U.S. Senate has allowed a majority of its members to block that august body from taking up a comprehensive  clean energy and climate change bill.

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Australia sets deadline for Japan to stop killing whales

Whale 1Australia has stepped up in the quest to stop Japanese whaling practices.

Australia’s Prime Minister Rudd has set a November deadline for Japan to cease its whaling program – done, Japan says, in the name of “research” – which slaughters hundreds of whales in the waters of Antarctica. If Japan disregards this warning, Rudd says “we will initiate court action before the commencement of the whaling season in November 2010.”

Rudd’s notice came the day before the arrival of Japan’s Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada. It’s anticipated that whaling will be a key component of the meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith this weekend.

WhalingThough whaling is conducted in international waters, it’s usually done in close proximity to Australia’s maritime rescue zone and Canberra considers it a whale sanctuary.

According to a report by Don Rothwell, international law professor at the Australian National University who was commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2005 to explore Australia’s legal options in its fight to end whaling, Australia could request the courts grant an immediate injunction requiring Japan to stop whaling.

The courts would likely grant the injunction, which would remain in place until the matter was resolved. This would at least temporarily stop Japanese whaling, though it’s unclear if the Japanese whalers would honor the injunction.

Meanwhile the Sea Shepherd and its crew continue to clash with Japanese whalers in their attempts to halt the whale killings.

A Pesticide by any other name

North Face shoesThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on what retailers can claim their products can do, especially if they supposedly do something that’s healthy.

They’ve filed suit against San Leandro, California  based VF Corporation for the alleged sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides through their outdoor gear and apparal retail company, The North Face.

The issue centers around over 70 styles of footwear that have an AgION silver treated footbed. The North Face sold these with claims that the footwear would prevent disease-causing bacteria. Their claims included:

•    AgION antimicrobial silver agent inhibits  growth of disease-causing bacteria
•    Prevents bacterial and fungal growth
•    Continuous release of antimicrobial  agents

Making these claims, says the EPA, is a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and are unsubstantiated public health claims regarding unregistered products, and their ability to control germs and pathogens.

“The EPA takes very seriously its responsibility to enforce against companies that sell products with unsubstantiated antimicrobial properties,” said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the Communities and Ecosystems Division in EPA’s Pacific Southwest region.  “Unverified public health claims can lead people to believe they are protected from disease-causing organisms when, in fact, they may not be.”

The North Face has since ceased making these claims, removing them from their website, and have revised their product packaging.

The EPA considers products that kill or repel bacteria or germs to be pesticides which then must be registered with the EPA prior to distribution or sale.  Until a pesticide has been tested to show that it will not pose an unreasonable risk when used according to the directions, they won’t register it. Registered products have an EPA registration number printed on product labels.

The North Face’s parent company now faces nearly $1million in federal fines for making these unsubstantiated claims.

Association asks pharmaceutical companies to pay for medical disposal

medicationsThe National Association of Counties has asked pharmaceutical companies to be financial responsible for disposing of unwanted medicines.

The  group would like Big Pharma to handle the expense of taking back prescription and over-the-counter drugs without relying on state or local government funding.

The association says leftover drugs – over-the-counter and perscription – may play a roll in drug abuse and accidental poisonings. It’s documented that improperly disposed of medications contribute to ground and surface water contamination.

“Like Europe and Canada, the United States can develop programs to cover the costs of collecting, transporting and disposing of these medicines. It´s imperative we do so,” said Bill Sheehan, executive director of the Product Policy Institute.

Now let’s see what Big Pharma has to say about it. The “right thing to do” doesn’t often factor in with them.

Environment "1", Santa Barbara Oil Project "0"

santa-barbara-coastlineThe California State Assembly atypically has stopped an “end run”, preventing the Tranquillon Oil & Gas Project off the coast of Santa Barbara.

The California State Lands Commission denied the Tranquillon Oil & Gas project in a 2-1 vote  in January.  Special budget legislation was then proposed that would have allowed the California Director of Finance to effectively override the State Lands Commission’s decision.

The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental organizations joined together to fight this, especially concerned that such tactics would establish a precedent that controversial decisions of the agency could potentially be reversed through legislative tricks.

For more details, go to www.nottheanswer.org.

Army Corps. to take environmental goals in stride

army-corps-of-engineersThe Army Corps of Engineers – famous for creating gigantic “solutions” that have seriously negative environmetnal impacts – will soon be getting some new guidelines.

The White House is rewriting standards for federal water projects, expanding the 26-year-old rules that guide the Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to consider environmental and social goals as well as economic ones.

In a recent Federal Register notice, Christine Glunz, spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said “The administration is considering expanding the scope of the principles and guidelines to cover all federal agencies that undertake water resource projects.”

Though not yet naming which other agencies would fall under the umbrella of new guidelines, it’s likely the list would include the U.S. EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Agriculture and Interior departments. Agencies that deal indirectly with water issues, such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Transportation Department, could also be included.

Glunz said Terry Breyman, a corps official working at CEQ, will spearhead the effort.

Environmentalists are encouraged by the annoucement, but water industry groups aren’t happy.

“If they feel the scope of revising the principles and guidelines ought to be broadened, we would happily support that,” said Howard Marlowe, a lobbyist on coastal issues. “It’s just that’s not what the [2007] law says. We don’t think CEQ has the authority to hijack that process and make that decision on its own.”

As with any bureacratic machination, it’s best to take a “wait and see” attitude.