intro to union show
Ray Seamans Awake the State - recorded
Cris Costelllo - Water
Drew Martin - Palm Beach County Water Board
Leah Barber-Heinz - recorded
Mindi Fetterman - update
1. Hey c'mon home - all is forgiven
Japan said on Monday it would lift an evacuation order on an area around the failed Fukushima nuclear power plant for the first time since it was hit by a tsunami and earthquake in 2011, allowing some residents to return home despite radiation concerns.
The government was expected to announce the order on April 1. About 300 residents in Tamura city will be allowed to return to their homes about 20 kilometres west of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, but city officials were not sure how many of them would.
“Lifting the evacuation order on April 1 is desirable,” Tamura Mayor Yukei Tomitsuka said earlier this month.
More than 130,000 residents were forced to leave their homes since the country’s worst nuclear disaster, according to local officials, and many are not willing to return to live in the area.
Tokyo established a no-go zone within a 20-kilometre radius soon after the plant suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011.
Despite decontamination efforts, levels of radiation have not changed much because of radioactive contamination in mountains and forests in the region, local activist Setsuko Kuroda said.
“From the beginning, the central and local governments wanted to make evacuees go back to areas where levels of radiation are high,” Mr. Kuroda said.
The government is expected to allow up to 30,000 residents to return to their homes in the current no-go zone over the next two years.
1.a. WATER CLEANING HALTED
Jiji Press The troubled radioactive water cleanup system at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was hit by a new problem Wednesday, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
An alarm went off at about 12:20 p.m. warning of a problem in one of the three lines of the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), TEPCO officials said.
The system is designed to remove most radioactive material from water used to cool damaged reactors at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.
After the alarm sounded, a pump for sending tainted water into equipment where radioactive materials are observed stopped working. The halted line was one of two in test operation.
With the third line still suspended, ALPS has only one that is currently active. The daily water treatment capacity is 250 tons per line.
ALPS is crucial to TEPCO’s efforts to clean up ever-increasing amounts of radioactive water, but it has encountered a series of problems. The two lines were being test-operated to ensure uninterrupted operations.
TEPCO plans to expand its total ALPS capacity to dispose of 340,000 tons of radioactive water now held in temporary storage tanks as well as large amounts of tainted water in the basements of reactor and other buildings by March 2015.
1.b. Health risk or not? Cesium levels high in hundreds of Fukushima reservoirs
February 25, 2014
By SHINICHI FUJIWARA/ Staff Writer
FUKUSHIMA--Very high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium have been detected in the mud of hundreds of reservoirs used to irrigate farmland in Fukushima Prefecture, where agriculture is a key industry.
The finding comes as prefectural authorities continue to try to assuage public concerns of contaminated food following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant three years ago.
A joint survey by the prefectural government and a branch office of the farm ministry found that the levels exceed 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of soil in 576 reservoirs. In 14 of those cases, the level tops 100,000 becquerels.
The central government says that reservoirs, many of which are located in residential areas, are not covered by its decontamination program.
The survey covered 1,939 reservoirs, or slightly more than half of the 3,730 in Fukushima Prefecture for agricultural use.
Prefectural authorities, fearing that contaminated mud from the reservoirs may reach farmland and create a health hazard for residents, is asking the central government to remove the waste.
Contaminated soil exceeding 8,000 becquerels corresponds to designated waste that must be removed at the central government's initiative.
According to the Environment Ministry, the amount of waste that exceeds 100,000 becquerels accounts for one-2,000th or less of all the debris produced as a result of decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture.
The prefectural government and the Tohoku Regional Agricultural Administration Office of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries examined the mud of 1,939 of the reservoirs from February 2012 to last December. It was the first such survey to be done.
Officials said 108 of the 576 contaminated reservoirs are in zones where residents were evacuated due to the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
The remaining 468 reservoirs are located outside the evacuation order zones and still supplying water to rice paddies and other farmland. Those areas are mainly located in the central part of the prefecture, including the cities of Fukushima and Date.
Of the 14 reservoirs where cesium contamination exceeds 100,000 becquerels, nine are located in evacuation order zones. The remaining five are situated outside those areas. The highest contamination level of 390,000 becquerels was detected in the Ominamisaku reservoir in the town of Futaba, which is in an evacuation order zone.
Officials with the prefectural government’s farmland management section said cesium that was discharged from the nuclear plant immediately after the accident attached to dust in the air and fell to the reservoirs along with the rain. Cesium that ended up on surrounding mountains was washed down into the reservoirs along with earth and sand, they added.
“As reservoirs are shaped like earthenware mortars, it is easy for earth and sand to accumulate,” said an official of the section. “Because of that, contaminated soil in surrounding areas often ends up in the reservoirs, making their contamination levels high.”
In some of the reservoirs where cesium measurements were high, officials noted that water levels were lower in summer and, as a result, the mud was exposed to the elements. In those instances, the exposed mud posed a health hazard to residents.
However, the Environment Ministry says it has no plans to dredge the reservoirs to remove the contaminated mud.
“Radiation levels in the air (around the reservoirs) are not high enough to have an adverse effect on the health of residents,” said a ministry official in charge of decontamination work.
An official of the farm ministry’s disaster preparedness section stated: “The Environment Ministry is in charge of decontamination work. As such, we do not have any plans to decontaminate the mud in those reservoirs.”
The official made clear that the farm ministry’s job is only to provide information on the contamination levels of those reservoirs to the Environment Ministry.
The central government can order Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to pay the costs of decontamination work based on the special measures law to deal with contamination caused by radioactive materials.
But if the farm ministry removed the mud from the reservoirs, the work would not be covered by funding for decontamination. As a result, the central government--not TEPCO--could be obliged to shoulder the costs.
According to calculations by the prefectural government’s farmland management section, the cost to decontaminate all of the reservoirs, including transportation of the waste to temporary storage sites, would be 15.4 billion yen ($154 million).
The central government has earmarked 260 billion yen for decontamination work in the budget for fiscal 2014 that starts in April.
“The decontamination of the reservoirs can be accomplished with less than one-tenth of the central government’s budget for decontamination work,” said Kazuaki Kikuchi, head of the farmland management section. “If the central government provides the amount to us (Fukushima prefectural government), we can do the decontamination works instead.”
Of the five reservoirs with cesium levels exceeding 100,000 becquerels in areas other than evacuation order zones, the mud in the Myotoishi reservoir in the Takagi district of Motomiya, some 55 kilometers west of the stricken Fukushima plant, had the highest contamination at 370,000 becquerels.
The reservoir sits in the central part of a 200,000-square-meter hilltop residential area with 392 households and a senior high school.
Cesium levels in the reservoir water are so low as to be beyond detection. The water is used to irrigate rice paddies and other farmland at the foot of the hill.
Rice farmer Tokuo Nemoto, 65, uses water from the reservoir to irrigate his 3,000 square meters of land under cultivation. Cesium levels in the rice he harvested after the nuclear accident are negligible.
Even so, Nemoto is worried.
“Our family has been using the reservoir since the days of my grandfather. If it becomes impossible to use it, I will not be able to cultivate rice,” he said with a downcast look.
Kiyoshi Ishii, 71, who lives near the reservoir and is head of the local community association, was unable to hide his anger.
“If the reservoir dries up and the dirt in the mud rises into the air, we will not be able to remain here. Does the administration have any intention to do something to prevent that from happening?”
According to Eisaku Shiratani, a researcher with the National Institute for Rural Engineering of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, the contamination is a pressing issue.
Shiratani, who is knowledgeable about water-related issue, noted that soil will accumulate at the bottom of reservoirs over time with the result that water depth becomes shallower. This carries the heightened risk of the soil becoming exposed to the air if water levels drop due to scant rainfall.
“The government should remove highly contaminated mud in reservoirs in residential areas as soon as possible,” he said.
1.c. “Horrible medical mystery… alarming rate of birth defects” in Washington
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent: Yakima Valley, Washington, a horrible medical mystery has unfolded — An alarming rate of birth defects. Sara Barron, a nurse in the region and was the first to report cases of anencephaly, babies born with much of their brain and skull missing.
Barron: “I was just stunned. 3 in a couple month period of time, that’s unheard of, and they’re such tragic, terrible outcomes.”
Cohen: Barron’s shocking discovery prompted an investigation by the state health department, which showed that in 3 counties, in a 3 year period, there were 23 cases of anencephaly, a rate 4 times the national average. [...]
Mandy Stahre, Washington State Health Department epidemiologist: “We have not found an answer, and that’s the very frustrating part because this is such a devastating diagnosis for a woman to have.” [...]
Cohen: The state hasn’t spoken to any of the families who had the babies with birth defects. Not a single one. [...] that outrages Andrea Jackman [...]
Andrea Jackman, baby born with spina bifida: “Nobody’s asked me anything. [...] What are you researching if you haven’t physically called the families to find out? What are you researching? [...] If it just happened to one person it could be random, but the fact that there’s so many different people that it’s happened to, there’s gotta be something that you can pinpoint that caused this.” [...]
Stahre: “We’re still trying to find what may be causing these. Were still investigating this. We’re not ruling anything out at this point [...] We’re considering just about everything at this point. [...] I don’t think [pregnant women should be worried].”
Cohen: But nurse Sara Barron isn’t so sure.
Barron: “I think it’s very scary. I think there’s absolutely something going on that needs to be investigated more thoroughly.”
CNN, Mar. 1, 2014: In her 30-year career as a nurse, Sara Barron had seen only two babies with anencephaly [...] in 2012, while working at a hospital in rural Washington state, she saw two cases in two months. [...] a birth defect that’s always fatal. [...] Was [the dad] exposed to any toxic chemicals? [...] Department of Health plans to report how many babies were born with neural tube defects in 2013. [...] “We’re still investigating this,” [Stahre] says. “This is nowhere near finished.”
Tri-City Herald, Feb. 27, 2014: A genetic counselor in Yakima said she’s reported ["8 or 9"] additional cases of anencephaly and spina bifida since January 2013.
See also: "Worrisome" spike in deadly birth defects around leaking U.S. nuclear site -- Officials claim "it could be a complete coincidence" -- No news reports mention it's by the most contaminated area in Western Hemisphere #Hanford
2. Carper writes PSC about questionable water bills
By Rusty Marks
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County officials want answers about water bills residents say were too high to have been accurate following last month's chemical leak.
County Commission President Kent Carper sent a letter to the state Public Service Commission asking about the bills, tabulated during the water emergency following the Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated drinking water for 300,000 state residents.
Carper said county officials have gotten several complaints from residents saying they can't possibly have used as much water as West Virginia American Water's billing department said they did during the month-long crisis.
"Apparently there are a lot of them," Carper said. "We got one [Friday] from someone who turned their water completely off and got a $300 bill."
Many West Virginia American Water customers were surprised after they got their first water bill following the chemical spill, when water customers were told not to drink, bathe or cook with their tap water. Many residents were surprised to see bills that were the same or more than the previous month, even though they were only using water to flush their toilets or weren't using the water at all.
Carper sent a letter to the Public Service Commission on Feb. 12 asking about the apparent discrepancies.
"The Kanawha County Commission has been approached by citizens asking for help in regards to their recent water bill from West Virginia American Water," Carper wrote.
"These citizens came to the commission office with their December and January water bill; they were exactly the same," Carper told the PSC. "Both stated 'actual reading' and show the same amount of water usage for both months.
"Their question to me was: 'How is this possible? We could not use the water in January except to flush the toilet,' and I must say I have to agree with them." Carper asked PSC officials to investigate the billings.
When Kanawha County residents first began to question the water bills, water company spokeswoman Laura Jordan said the water bills would have included the water people used to flush their water lines. She also said January water usage might have been higher than usual because many people left water dripping during an extreme cold spell to keep their pipes from freezing.
3. Chemical spill a 'wakeup call', poll finds
By Ken Ward Jr. Staff writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians view the January chemical spill on the Elk River as a "wake-up call" that the state needs a different approach to environmental protection, according to a new public opinion poll conducted for the Sierra Club.
Seventy-three percent of voters polled agreed West Virginia has paid too little attention to addressing threats to air and water, and that the Elk River spill should change that, according to the survey.
Voters of all ages, education levels, incomes and political persuasions agreed, with particularly high agreement -- 82 percent -- among seniors.
"This spill has been a wake-up call for the voters and they want it to be a wake-up call for the politicians," said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research Associates, which conducted the poll.
Conducted from Feb. 4 to Feb. 7, the survey questioned 504 registered voters in West Virginia. The results of the full sample have a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
Among other things, the survey found most West Virginians polled do not believe the Freedom Industries spill is an isolated incident. Seven out of 10 voters said serious incidents like the spill would occur unless preventative action is taken.
The survey found West Virginians are concerned about the effect regulations can have on jobs, with 59 percent agreeing regulations could result in companies cutting jobs.
Still, 62 percent of those surveyed said they would be more likely to support a candidate who favors strong regulations and enforcement, more than twice the 30 percent who said they would support a candidate who believes that more regulations will only hurt jobs and the state's economy.
Nearly 9 out of 10 residents expressed concern about the spill, including 44 percent of those polled who said they are "extremely concerned" about it.
More than two-thirds of those polled said stronger regulations and better enforcement of existing regulations would have prevented the spill. Fifty-seven percent said federal and state agencies should have stronger standards to prevent future such incidents.
Sixty-one percent of those polled said the coal industry and other corporate lobbyists have too much power, and 58 percent said it was time for elected officials to "stop letting coal industry lobbyists call the shots."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.
4. Team claims 'significant progress' on MCHM studies
By Ken Ward Jr. Staff writer
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Tomblin administration consultants said Friday they have made "significant progress" on a program to test homes and evaluate state and federal health standards used in the wake of January's leak of the chemical Crude MCHM into the Elk River water supply that serves 300,00 West Virginians.
Experts who are coordinating the West Virginia Testing Assessment Project (WVTAP), said they've hired scientists who will evaluate the odor threshold for the chemical and re-examine the concentrations at which state officials said the water was acceptable to drink.
Andrew Whelton, a University of South Alabama engineer, said his team has also completed water testing at 10 homes as part of a pilot project that will help in the design of a much broader water-sampling program across the region.
"We need to do this rapidly," Whelton said. "The people of West Virginia need answers now."
Whelton was subcontracted by Corona Environmental Consulting, the firm hired by Tomblin's Bureau for Public Health to study the leak's impacts and address continued public concerns about the water's safety that continue more than a month after a do-not-use order was lifted.
On Friday morning, Whelton and Corona Environmental President Jeff Rosen held a briefing to update the media and the public on their work since being hired by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last week.
Whelton said that his team has tested hot and cold water from kitchens and bathrooms in 10 homes and also has interviewed residents and examined home plumbing systems.
Some results of the work have begun to come in, but Whelton said his team won't be making those results public until it has reviewed them and ensured the accuracy of the data.
Whelton and Rosen both said they are committed to a transparent process and to operate independently of the state Bureau for Public Health, but said they want to be sure any information released is accurate and presented with enough context for the public to understand the findings.
Part of the WVTAP project will focus on understanding how chemicals from the leak interact with home plumbing systems, to determine if any of the chemicals chemically bonded with piping materials, leaving some of the contamination inside people's homes.
Whelton said state officials made mistakes in their response to the chemical leak, but blamed those mistakes on the lack of any clear national plan for how to handle this sort of drinking water contamination.
"Because there was no blueprint for how to respond to a situation like this, there were a lot of missteps," Whelton said. "This work should have been done 10 years ago."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.
5. WVA AT GEN joins Chesapeake Suit
Strangely, Republican state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is fighting federal efforts to save Chesapeake Bay from pollution. Without any public announcement, Morrisey quietly joined other conservatives around America by filing a U.S. Appeals Court brief against limits on toxic runoff into rivers feeding the bay.
6. Senator Manchin - says: "Wake Up West Virginia"
Sen Joe Manchin says :Dealing with the chemical leak that occurred in the Elk River in January, Manchin said West Virginia has to use this opportunity to fix the state’s water system.
“The water system, we can fix it,” he said. “This is a great opportunity. We were vulnerable and didn’t even know it.”
Manchin said he had no idea that one inlet was serving 300,000 customers with water.
“Not one person died and not one person came down with a critical illness,” he said.
In making sure a leak like this doesn’t happen again, Manchin suggested that the state take inventory on its water systems and backup systems.
“This is a great wakeup call for us,” he said. “We should accept it as that and move forward.”
7. RESIDENTS PLEA WITH LEGISLATORS for Protection of Landfill laws
CHARLESTON — An emotional Mary Rahall nearly lost her voice as she spoke to the House Committee on the Judiciary Monday evening. In the end, though, her plea came through loud and clear.
“Don’t fail us,” she said. “Protect me. Protect our babies and our kids.”
Rahall has lived in Lochgelly 14 years. She said she and her husband decided to move back to West Virginia because it would be a good place to raise their three children.
Now, though, Rahall questions that decision because she says waste from hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, is being brought to a sediment pond near her Fayette County home and then injected into a well she believes is near the source of drinking water for area families.
“How do I stay in my community?” she asked.
She was one of nearly 20 speakers who asked the legislative committee to maintain West Virginia’s landfill laws the way they were written about 20 years ago, instead of passing a bill that will allow waste from Marcellus shale well sites to be entombed in public landfills.
Rahall said she was shocked to learn the company that hauls the waste was granted another injection well permit just two weeks ago by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“I don’t feel like I can trust the West Virginia DEP,” she said.
Greenbrier County’s Glenn Singer, a candidate for the House of Delegates in 2012, said he assumed oil and gas companies are operating at a profit and could thus shoulder the cost of storing the leftover drill cuttings and fracking fluids themselves.
“What problems will the public inherit?” Singer asked. “Should the public pay to find that out?”
He said storing the waste was “part of the cost of doing business.”
Singer said some drill cuttings have been dumped in Greenbrier County’s landfill, which is above the water intake for the country’s 2011 Coolest Small Town. Heavy rains have caused some failure at the landfill and the fluids to leak into the Greenbrier River.
“I’ve consumed this water, just like all the citizens of Lewisburg,” Singer said.
His appeal to the legislature: “We want clean water.”
The Greenbrier County Landfill was fined more than $11,000 for the leakage; however, the DEP did not specify that the “distinctly visible solids in the river” were from a source directly connected to the oil and gas industry.
Other speakers during the evening asked the committee to ensure the water’s safety by making oil and gas drillers store potentially radioactive drill cuttings and fracking fluids in safe landfill cells that they create instead of using up public landfill space, which may not be adequate to store the quantity nor the constitution of the substances.
Charleston attorney Thornton Cooper said he’d worked on the original legislation for landfills in the 1990s. Now, he said, this bill “guts” those laws because it bypasses local control of landfills.
“I’m amazed it’s even being sponsored,” Cooper said. “It’s a wrecking ball that would undo a major amount of work.”
Several speakers drew a comparison to the recent chemical spill that deprived Elk River watershed residents of using their tap water for more than a week. Some people in the area are still not drinking the water they pay for every month.
Charlie Burd, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association, alone spoke in favor of the bill. He said the industry had created 7,000 new jobs in the state.
“IOGA’s members have an interest in the availability of environmentally protective disposal options for drill cuttings and associated waste,” Burd said.
He said the bill offers companies those options because the state’s landfill laws are among the strongest in the country.
“Disposal of these materials in commercial landfills will assure that these materials are handled in a highly regulated and environmentally positive manner,” Burd said.
The bill was not on Tuesday’s Judiciary Committee agenda.
8. Radiation from Japan's leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant has reached waters offshore Canada, researchers said today at the annual American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu.
Is the Fukushima radiation spreading far, and is there any way to tell if it's actually from Japan?
Two radioactive cesium isotopes, cesium-134 and cesium-137, have been detected offshore of Vancouver, British Columbia, researchers said at a news conference. The detected concentrations are much lower than the Canadian safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water, said John Smith, a research scientist at Canada's Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.
Tests conducted at U.S. beaches indicate that Fukushima radioactivity has not yet reached Washington, California or Hawaii, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass.
9. UK - "Journalism is Terrorism" - from INTERCEPT
The UK Government expressly argued that the release of the Snowden documents (which the free world calls “award-winning journalism“) is actually tantamount to “terrorism”, the same theory now being used by the Egyptian military regime to prosecute Al Jazeera journalists as terrorists. Congratulations to the UK government on the illustrious company it is once again keeping. British officials have also repeatedly threatened criminal prosecution of everyone involved in this reporting, including Guardian journalists and editors.
Equating journalism with terrorism has a long and storied tradition. Indeed, as Jon Schwarz has documented, the U.S. Government has frequently denounced nations for doing exactly this. Just last April, Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine dramatically informed the public that many repressive, terrible nations actually “misuse terrorism laws to prosecute and imprison journalists.” When visiting Ethiopia in 2012, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns publicly disclosed that in meetings with that nation’s officials, the United States “express[ed] our concern that the application of anti-terrorism laws can sometimes undermine freedom of expression and independent media.” The same year, the State Department reported that Burundi was prosecuting a journalist under terrorism laws.
It should surprise nobody that the UK is not merely included in, but is one of the leaders of, this group of nations which regularly wages war on basic press freedoms. In the 1970s, British journalist Duncan Campbell was criminally prosecuted for the crime of reporting on the mere existence of the GCHQ, while fellow journalist Mark Hosenball, now of Reuters, was forced to leave the country. The monarchy has no constitutional guarantee of a free press. The UK government routinely threatens newspapers with all sorts of sanctions for national security reporting it dislikes. Its Official Secrets Act makes it incredibly easy to prosecute journalists and others for disclosing anything which political officials want to keep secret. For that reason, it was able to force the Guardian to destroy its own computers containing Snowden material precisely because the paper’s editors knew that British courts would slavishly defer to any requests made by the GCHQ to shut down the paper’s reporting.
10. NSA target wiki leaks and anyone who visited
In a statement, the NSA declined to comment on the documents or its targeting of activist groups, noting only that the agency “provides numerous opportunities and forums for their analysts to explore hypothetical or actual circumstances to gain appropriate advice on the exercise of their authorities within the Constitution and the law, and to share that advice appropriately.”
But the entry aimed at WikiLeaks comes from credentialed officials within the intelligence community. In an interview in Hong Kong last June, Edward Snowden made clear that the only NSA officials empowered to write such entries are those “with top-secret clearance and public key infrastructure certificates” – a kind of digital ID card enabling unique access to certain parts of the agency’s system. What’s more, Snowden added, the entries are “peer reviewed” – and every edit made is recorded by the system.
The U.S. launched its pressure campaign against WikiLeaks less than a week after the group began publishing the Afghanistan war logs on July 25, 2010. At the time, top U.S. national security officials accused WikiLeaks of having “blood” on its hands. But several months later, McClatchy reported that “U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date that the documents led to anyone’s death.”
The government targeting of WikiLeaks nonetheless continued. In April 2011, Salon reported that a grand jury in Virginia was actively investigating both the group and Assange on possible criminal charges under espionage statutes relating to the publication of classified documents. And in August of 2012, the Sydney Morning Herald, citing secret Australian diplomatic cables, reported that “Australian diplomats have no doubt the United States is still gunning for Julian Assange” and that “Australia’s diplomatic service takes seriously the likelihood that Assange will eventually be extradited to the US on charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining leaked US military and diplomatic documents.”
Bringing criminal charges against WikiLeaks or Assange for publishing classified documents would be highly controversial – especially since the group partnered with newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times to make the war logs public. “The biggest challenge to the press today is the threatened prosecution of WikiLeaks, and it’s absolutely frightening,” James Goodale, who served as chief counsel of the Times during its battle to publish The Pentagon Papers, told the Columbia Journalism Review last March. “If you go after the WikiLeaks criminally, you go after the Times. That’s the criminalization of the whole process.”
11. How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, deceive and Destroy Reputations
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.
Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.”
By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.
To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums.
12. California Senator Introduces GMO Food Labeling Bill
By John Dieke, EcoNews / 26 February 14
Prop. 37, which also would have blocked GE foods from being labeled "natural," was defeated, with 51-49 by voters. A similar piece of legislation in Washington, Initiative 522, was also defeated. And, with the help of a powerful food industry lobby spending millions to protect GE foods, many state legislatures have rejected GE labeling bills.
Now, California Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa) has breathed new life into the controversy by introducing Senate Bill 1381, which would require GE food labeling, reports Food Safety News.
Evans' bill is simpler than Prop. 37, according to the Center for Food Safety, which has supported GE labeling initiatives in several states. However, SB 1381 is different from Prop. 37 in how it will either be passed or rejected by the California legislature instead of going before voters.
If approved, the bill would mandate that GE food be labeled appropriately; however, but food containing only some GE ingredients could be labeled "Produced with Genetic Engineering" or "Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering."
The bill will not penalize businesses that fail to label GE foods if less than 1 percent of the ingredients in packaged food is genetically engineered or if the producer didn't know they were using—or didn't intend to use—GE foods, according to Food Safety News.
The bill provides protections for retail owners who weren't aware they were selling mislabeled food, and it also blocks legal action against farmers. Action against unknowing retailers and farmers was a concern surrounding Prop. 37, even among those who may have otherwise supported GE labeling.
SB 1381 also does not include a provision that would prohibit GE food from being labeled "natural."
The bill's official text cited many justifications. They include:
Protecting California's organic agriculture sector, which has the largest organic farm-gate sales in the country;
Consumer protection from unintended allergens;
Consumers' ability to support more environmentally friendly farming;
Protecting wild salmon fishermen in case FDA approves AquaBounty's GE salmon;
Polls indicating that more than 90 percent of the American public wants to know if their food was genetically engineered;
The often-cited public "right to know" justification, to support informed purchasing decisions.
A major argument against SB 1381 is that a slim majority of "Golden State" voters already rejected GE labeling, which could influence how legislators view the bill.
Warning Labels Coming to a Soda Can Near You?
Apart from the GE fight, a state lawmaker and medical experts introduced legislation earlier this month that would require sugary drinks sold in California to display health warning labels similar to those found on cigarette packs, reports the Los Angeles Times.
State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) and the California Medical Association said the bill is necessary in light of research that links sugary drink consumption to the unprecedented spike in diabetes, obesity and tooth decay cases.
"When the science is this conclusive, the State of California has a responsibility to take steps to protect consumers," Monning told the Los Angeles Times. "As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices."
If SB 1000 were to pass, warning labels would appear on the front of all cans and bottles of soda and fruit drinks containing added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces.
The proposed label would include the following: "STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes and tooth decay."
13. Cooling tubes at FPL St. Lucie nuke plant show significant wear
Yet another Florida nuclear plant may be in trouble.
More than 3,700 tubes that help cool a nuclear reactor at Florida Power & Light's St. Lucie facility exhibit wear. Most other similar plants have between zero and a few hundred.
Worst case: A tube bursts and spews radioactive fluid. That's what happened at the San Onofre plant in California two years ago. The plant shut down forever because it would have cost too much to fix.
FPL says its plant is safe, the rate of wear is slowing and its customers' multibillion-dollar investment in the plant is not in jeopardy.
"The bottom line is, these components are functioning within their requirements, and if they weren't they would be removed from service," said Michael Waldron, an FPL spokesman.
FPL is so confident in St. Lucie's condition that it boosted the plant's power. The utility acknowledged that will aggravate wear on the tubes, located inside steam generators.
Critics say that's like pressing hard on the accelerator, even when you know the car has worn brakes.
"The damn thing is grinding down," said Daniel Hirsch, a University of California at Santa Cruz nuclear policy lecturer. "They must be terrified internally. They've got steam generators that are now just falling apart."
Nuclear power plants are like very expensive tea kettles. The reactor heats water. The steam generator turns hot water to steam, which powers a turbine, which makes electricity.
The steam generator also uses its thousands of alloy tubes to cool water, which is pumped back to cool the reactor. In that sense, the steam generators are a safety device.
"The tubes need to be very thin to transfer heat, and they need to be very strong to prevent a meltdown," said Hirsch, who reviewed the tube problems at San Onofre and St. Lucie. "Steam generators are really critical to safety. It's not a feature you want to play with."
FPL, the state's largest electric utility, brought the St. Lucie 2 plant online in 1983, about 50 miles north of West Palm Beach.
In 2007, FPL installed two new steam generators for $140 million, intending them to last until the plant's license expires in 2043. Each generator contained about 9,000 tubes, which are 50 to 70 feet long.
In 2009, FPL shut down the reactor for routine refueling. An inspection found that the tubes were banging against the stainless steel antivibration bars, leaving dents and wear spots.
More than 2,000 tubes showed some wear in 5,855 separate places. (A tube can be worn in multiple spots.)
At that time — this was three years before San Onofre — it was by far the most wear found at the 20 or so similar plants with new generators, according to filings with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Salem 2 plant in New Jersey had 1,567 wear indications when first inspected, but no other plant had more than a few hundred. The typical plant had fewer than 20.
Aging steam generators near the end of their useful lives can develop significant tube wear, but to sustain thousands of wear indications just a couple of years after installation is unusual.
"St. Lucie is the outlier of all the active plants," said Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer and frequent critic of the nuclear industry.
FPL turned the plant back on, telling the NRC in a subsequent report that the tube wear was within allowable levels. Federal regulators agreed that the plant was safe to operate, though they noted that the number of wear indications was "much greater" than in other steam generators of similar age.
In 2011, FPL again shut down the reactor and inspected the tubes. The wear had spread.
Affected tubes: 2,978, up 46 percent from 2009.
Worn spots: 8,825, up 51 percent.
On Jan. 31, 2012, a "high radiation alarm'' went off at the San Onofre 3 plant south of Los Angeles.
A tube inside a steam generator had burst, belching irradiated fluid into the containment building. No one was hurt.
The plant went into "rapid power reduction" and shut down, according to NRC documents.
San Onofre 3 had received two new steam generators less than a year earlier. After the leak, inspectors found 1,806 tubes worn in 10,284 places. They also found an unusually high number of worn tubes at the nearby San Onofre 2 plant.
The burst tube had rubbed against another tube, which may explain why it wore out so fast. But, as at St. Lucie, much of the wear to the tubes appeared at the antivibration bars.
Plant owner Southern California Edison concluded that a design change in the Mitsubishi-made steam generators contributed to the wear.
They lacked what are called stay cylinders. The space taken up by stay cylinders was replaced with more tubes, which helped increase the plant's power.
St. Lucie 2's new steam generators also lack a stay cylinder, though they were made by AREVA, a French company.
To deal with the wear problem, Southern California Edison considered reducing power by up to 40 percent or replacing the almost new steam generators, at a cost of $1 billion or more.
Ultimately, the utility decided closing the plants was the best alternative.
A few months after the San Onofre leak, FPL inspected the St. Lucie plant. Again, the problem had spread. More than 3,745 tubes showed wear in 11,518 places, almost 1,250 more than at San Onofre 3.
In answers to questions from the Tampa Bay Times, the NRC said the plant has no safety issues and operates within established guidelines. That includes holding up under "postulated accident conditions."
FPL insisted St. Lucie should not be linked to San Onofre from either a safety or financial standpoint.
"From an engineering perspective,'' said Waldron, the FPL spokesman, ''you can neither make a comparison, nor can you assume an outcome because the two systems are so different.''
Southern California Edison, however, found plenty of similarities.
In its analysis of what happened at San Onofre, the company called St. Lucie "the next closest plant with a high number of wear indications."
"Although a different (steam generator) design, the (antivibration bars) serve the same design function," Edison wrote in its April 2, 2012, analysis. "So St. Lucie was used to determine similarities and potential actions."
During hearings, Edison repeatedly pointed to St. Lucie as having the same problem, said Hirsch and Gundersen.
"I think the comparison is dead on," Gundersen said. "All of the failure modes except for (tubes hitting each other) are identical. When the same problem popped at the two San Onofre plants, it suddenly became a cluster."
• • •
Ultimately it's not the number of instances of wear but the depth of wear that matters most.
Think of it this way: If hundreds of roof shingles all show minor wear, the home remains dry. But if a hole wears right through to the attic, water leaks into the living room every time it rains.
Inspectors measure the depth in percentages. One percent is very shallow; 100 percent equals a burst tube. The tube walls are 0.043 inches thick, about as thick as a compact disc.
Speaking generally, Michel J. Pettigrew, principal research engineer for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., said most tube wear stays shallow and doesn't develop into anything significant.
"It is the wear indications greater than 20 percent of tube wall that are significant," he said. "These should be monitored closely."
When it closed, San Onofre 3 had 2,519 wear spots at least 20 percent deep into a tube wall. When last inspected in 2012, the St. Lucie plant had 1,920, the Times analysis found.
As for the deepest wear, FPL can correctly argue that San Onofre was in far worse shape. More than 280 wear spots showed at least 50 percent wear. At St. Lucie there were none.
When a wear spot reaches 40 percent deep, federal regulations require a utility to plug the tube. Plugging eliminates the possibility of a tube bursting but also renders the tube useless. Plug too many and the plant can't produce as much power.
FPL had plugged only about 155 tubes as of the last inspection, far less than the 807 at San Onofre 3.
But St. Lucie's tubes are still in use, and some are still wearing down. The last inspection found 480 wear spots at least 30 percent deep, and 139 of those were at least 35 percent deep.
While not as severe as San Onofre, the depth of wear at St. Lucie exceeds other plants with replaced steam generators.
For instance, neither of the two plants at the Joseph M. Farley complex in Alabama had plugged any tubes as of their 2011 and 2012 reports. Same for Diablo Canyon 1 in California. Beaver Valley 1 in Pennsylvania and Comanche Peak 1 in Texas had plugged just one tube since the new steam generators began operating.
The last inspection of units 1 and 2 at the South Texas Project didn't find a single wear spot due to antivibration bars, even though the steam generators are several years older than the ones at St. Lucie.
"We have not had any issues at all," said Buddy Eller, a spokesman for South Texas.
In its response to the Times, FPL pointed to the big difference in the number of tubes with deep wear as a reason why its nuclear plant will be fine in the long run. The tubes at San Onofre 3 wore out in less than a year, while St. Lucie's replacement steam generators have been running for seven years and the wear still is not as advanced, the company said.
FPL also emphasized that the wear at the St. Lucie plant is mostly contained to areas around the antivibration bars. There is none of the rapid tube-to-tube wear like at San Onofre.
Waldron, the FPL spokesman, said these numbers are not alarming.
"We have very detailed, sophisticated engineering analysis that allow us to predict the rate of wear, and we are actually seeing the rate of wear slow significantly,'' he said.
• • •
For the last 16 months, however, St. Lucie's tubes have been under more stress.
Near the end of 2012, FPL completed a $1.2 billion project to boost the power from both St. Lucie reactors by almost 12 percent. The more power the plant puts out, the harder the tubes work to do the dual job of creating steam and cooling the reactor.
FPL estimated the additional power could increase the rate of tube wear by up to 24 percent, according to an NRC review dated Jan. 27.
Joey Ledford, an NRC spokesman, said regulators reviewed the impact of the increased power at St. Lucie. They determined that FPL would only be allowed to "operate their steam generators if they could maintain tube integrity for the period of time between inspections."
"The reference to 24 percent is more representative of an upper limit for potential wear during post-uprate operation and is not a prediction of the actual wear rate," Ledford said.
But Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, compared the power uprate to playing roulette.
"That would seem to be a gamble," he said. “I don't want (a leak) to be the indication I have a problem."
• • •
So what happens next?
In March, FPL will shut down the reactor and inspect the plant's steam generator tubes for the first time since November 2012.
The plant likely will have more tube wear. How much more will determine the next step.
If the additional tube wear is minor, FPL might simply fire up the reactor and take another look in about 18 months.
If the damage is substantially worse, FPL might have to plug a lot more tubes. Individual tubes could be fixed in some cases, though that is time consuming, can keep the plant offline longer and doesn't always stop the problem.
At some point, the company might feel compelled to lower the plant's power output to ease the pressure on the remaining tubes or consider the drastic step of replacing the generators again.
All of those options cost money.
A prolonged outage or lowering the power output would raise concerns over spending $1.2 billion of customers' money on the power uprate in the first place.
It would also add to the state's grim track record recently with nuclear plants. Last year, Duke Energy permanently closed the Crystal River nuclear plant long crippled after a botched repair job. Duke also announced it would not move forward with the planned Levy County nuclear complex. Duke's customers are on the hook for about $3 billion related to the two failed projects.
FPL rejects any suggestion that its plant should be part of that conversation.
"Two things are for certain,'' Waldron said. "The investment we have made in (upgrading St. Lucie) will benefit FPL customers for decades, and the plant continues to operate to the highest safety standards. To suggest otherwise is patently untrue."
Nonetheless, there are those who suggest otherwise.
"I'd have to agree that every steam generator has dents," Gundersen said. "But the magnitude of what is going on at St. Lucie is off the charts. These guys are a hundred times worse than the industry average."
Ivan Penn can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2332.
In 2012, a tube inside a steam generator at the San Onofre 3 nuclear plant burst, releasing radioactive steam. An inspection showed that hundreds of the tubes inside the generator had developed thousands of dents, or what the industry calls "wear indications." Last year, the San Onofre plant closed forever. A Tampa Bay Times analysis has found that the St. Lucie 2 nuclear plant also has significant tube wear. By some measures, St. Lucie 2 was already showing more wear during the last inspection in November 2012 than San Onofre 3 was when it closed.
* Both St. Lucie 2 and San Onofre 3 installed two new steam generators with about 9,000 tubes per generator. The generators were made by two different companies but they operate in much the same manner. Some tubes are worn in more than one place, which explains why the number of wear indications is much higher than the number of affected tubes.
Sources: FPL and Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Growing problem: The story of one tube
The tube in row 80, column 103 of one of the steam generators at St. Lucie shows how the wear is getting worse.
In March 2009, the tube showed wear at five locations. The depths were:
1. 6 percent through the tube
2. 6 percent
3. 8 percent
4. 15 percent
5. 17 percent
In April 2011, the number of wear indications on the tube had grown from five to six and they were all deeper.
1. 15 percent
2. 16 percent
3. 16 percent
4. 29 percent
5. 24 percent
6. 11 percent
By November 2012, the six wear indications were again all deeper.
1. 20 percent
2. 20 percent
3. 21 percent
4. 33 percent
5. 26 percent
6. 17 percent
RALEIGH, N.C. — Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.
“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”
From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”
But when the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in early February, those big changes were suddenly playing out in a different light. Federal prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into the spill and the relations between Duke and regulators at the environmental agency.
The spill, which coated the river bottom 70 miles downstream and threatened drinking water and aquatic life, drew attention to a deal that the environmental department’s new leadership reached with Duke last year over pollution from coal ash ponds. It included a minimal fine but no order that Duke remove the ash — the waste from burning coal to generate electricity — from its leaky, unlined ponds. Environmental groups said the arrangement protected a powerful utility rather than the environment or the public.
Facing increasing scrutiny and criticism, the department said late Friday that the company would be cited for two formal notices of violating environmental standards in connection with the spill. It is not clear what fines or other penalties could result.
"These are violations of state and federal law, and we are holding the utility accountable,” said the state environmental secretary, John E. Skvarla III.
Asked for comment, a spokeswoman said Duke will respond to the state.
Current and former state regulators said the watchdog agency, once among the most aggressive in the Southeast, has been transformed under Gov. Pat McCrory into a weak sentry that plays down science, has abandoned its regulatory role and suffers from politicized decision-making.
The episode is a huge embarrassment for Mr. McCrory, who worked at Duke Energy for 28 years and is a former mayor of Charlotte, where the company is based. And it has become another point of contention in North Carolina, where Republicans who took control of the General Assembly in 2011 and the governor’s mansion last year have passed sweeping laws in line with conservative principles. They have affected voting rights and unemployment benefits, as well as what Republicans called “job-killing” environmental regulations, which have received less notice.
Critics say the accident, the third-largest coal ash spill on record, is inextricably linked to the state’s new environmental politics and reflects an enforcement agency led by a secretary who suggested that oil was a renewable resource and an assistant secretary who, as a state lawmaker, drew a bull’s-eye on a window in his office framing the environmental agency’s headquarters.
“They’re terrified,” said John Dorney, a retired supervisor who keeps in touch with many current employees. “Now these people have to take a deep breath and say, ‘I know what the rules require, but what does the political process want me to do?’ ”
Duke has apologized for the spill and says it is now committed to cleaning up some of its 32 coal ash ponds across the state. The company has also been subpoenaed in the federal investigation.
A spokesman for Mr. McCrory said the governor had no role in the state’s proposed settlement with Duke. On Tuesday, amid continuing concerns about the threat of future spills, he took a tougher stance than in the past, writing to Duke’s chief executive that he wanted the waste ponds, some sprawling over many acres, to be moved away from the state’s waterways.
The environmental agency’s embattled secretary, Mr. Skvarla, a McCrory appointee, pushed back last week on criticism of last year’s deal, under which the $50 billion company was fined only $99,111 for leaks from ponds at two power plants. The accusation that his department “and Duke Energy got together and made some smoky back-room deal with a nominal fine is simply not true,” Mr. Skvarla told reporters.
The fine was determined by a formula in the law, he said. The agency reached a settlement that allowed Duke to study its coal ash ponds, rather than immediately remove the slurry of ash and water, because it wanted to avoid being tied up in court for years, he said. “Our goal is to clean up coal ash,” Mr. Skvarla added. “Our goal is to protect the environment.”
But current and former agency employees said the treatment of Duke was typical of the pro-industry bias now in place under Governor McCrory, Mr. Skvarla and the General Assembly.
Last year, the environment agency’s budget for water pollution programs was cut by 10.2 percent, a bipartisan commission that approves regulations was reorganized to include only Republican appointees, and the governor vastly expanded the number of agency employees exempt from civil service protections, to 179 from 24.
The effect, said midlevel supervisors who now serve at the pleasure of the governor, is that they are hesitant to crack down on polluters who might complain to Mr. Skvarla or a lawmaker, at the risk of their jobs. Several spoke anonymously out of fear of being fired.
“They want to have a hammer to come down on anybody who hinders developers by enforcing regulations,” said a supervisor whose department is supposed to regulate businesses under laws devised to protect water quality. “We’re scared to death to say no to anyone anymore.”
A second supervisor, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “A lot of us never considered ourselves political creatures. What’s happened here has really blown us out of the water. People speak in hushed tones in the hallway to each other. We go offsite to talk. It’s totally changed the culture of this organization.”
Mr. Skvarla said in an interview that he was “speechless” to hear such a sentiment, adding, “I think we have taken politics out of this agency.”
He added: “When I was hired by Governor McCrory, he said, ‘I want you to do two things: I want you to protect the environment, and I want you to help us grow this economy. We have to help people through the regulatory maze.’ ”
Susan Wilson, an environmental engineer who inspected storm-water runoff at factories and subdivisions, quit last year after her duties were transferred to another department with little expertise in the subject. She said the bureaucratic shuffle was meant to satisfy developers.
She and others said they were told to stop writing Notices of Violation to polluters, which can prompt fines, and instead to issue a Notice of Deficiency, which she likened to a state trooper giving a warning instead of a speeding ticket.
“I was asked directly by members of my staff, ‘Do we even do enforcements anymore?’ ” said Ms. Adams, who wrote an opinion column about the agency’s “soul-crushing takeover” for The News & Observer of Raleigh after she resigned.
Ms. Adams, who now works for Appalachian Voices, an environmental group in Boone, N.C., said that since the Dan River spill, the state agency has engaged in “revisionist history” about its regulation of Duke Energy.
The agency took action against Duke only after environmental groups filed notice that they intended to sue the utility to clean up the ash waste at power plants near Asheville and Mount Holly, N.C. The longtime practice of dumping ash waste in ponds became a major concern after a catastrophic failure of one in Tennessee in 2008, which is costing $1.2 billion to clean up.
Under the federal Clean Water Act, citizen groups may sue polluters if state regulators do not do their job. But the law also allows states to intervene and take over the lawsuits, which is what the Department of Environment and Natural Resources did last year. Environmentalists say the state offered a favorable deal to Duke and blocked their lawsuits, which could have forced Duke to relocate the ash to lined pits away from drinking water.
“They did a behind-closed-doors settlement with the lawbreaker, and it requires no cleanup of one ounce of pollution or movement of one ounce of ash,” said Frank Holleman, a senior lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which sued on behalf of environmental groups. “The state has been a barrier at every turn.”
Mr. Skvarla, the agency secretary, said the deal the state reached with Duke in July was a more practical fix to the leaky ash ponds than what environmentalists sought. “Their only acceptable remedy was, dig ’em up, move them to lined landfills and cover them,” he said. “We’re talking 14 facilities and 32 coal ash ponds. I can assure you it’s not that simple.”
The size of the Feb. 2 spill has been revised down from early estimates. As the federal Fish and Wildlife Service monitors the river water for long-term harm to fish and mollusks, attention is turning to a federal court in Raleigh, where employees of Duke and the environmental agency are to appear before a grand jury on March 18.
Meanwhile, the agency has reversed its earlier positions on Duke and coal ash cleanup. On Feb. 10, eight days after the spill, the agency withdrew its deal with Duke. This week, it said it might order the remaining ash at the Dan River site, in Eden, N.C., to be moved and stored in a lined landfill — what environmentalists had sought all along.
15. Louisiana saltmines, sinkhole
“When you look at Louisiana, there’s just this maze of all of these industries,” said Wilma Subra, a chemist and MacArthur fellow, who has supported Bayou Corne residents in their efforts to fight for their homes. “All of the drilling and production, the pipelines, and now the export. There’s almost not a spot you could put your finger down on a map and say ‘this spot is not being impacted by the oil and gas industry in Louisiana.’”
Along the coast, the canals dug for the pipelines have brought saltwater into freshwater marshes, contributing to the coastal erosion that sees Louisiana lose a football field of land off its coast every 45 minutes. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has lost an amount of land equivalent to the size of Delaware.
In Bayou Corne, the ground under their feet contains a salt dome, and local industry has drilled down to extract brine used in chemical processing. The wall collapsed in a salt cavern, located a mile beneath the earth, sediment rushed in, and the land on the surface started sinking, swallowing entire trees in seconds. The hole is now 25 acres across and 750 feet deep, and continues to grow. But more dangerous than the sinking land is what is rising up – millions of cubic feet of gases floating on the aquifer under people’s homes and migrating to the surface.
The residents of Bayou Corne fear they will face the same fate as the neighboring town of Grand Bayou, now empty after a methane leak from a well owned by a Dow Chemical facility forced a permanent evacuation. Residents also speak of Lake Peigneur, about 45 minutes away. A 1980 sinkhole there is still causing problems for residents, who complain of gas rising up near their homes.
The EPA Hearing is scheduled for MARCH 11.
SAVE THE DATE!
Golden Gate Community Center Auditorium,
4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, FL 34116
We need you and all of Florida to join us to create critical mass; how many show up will determine what the EPA does. Save our water and our Everglades from dirty drilling.
To speak or submit comments, email Mcmanus.Fred@epa.gov
Oil drilling is more than an environmental issue. It is a human rights issue. Extreme extraction violates the most basic of all human rights – access to clean water and clean air.
The drilling we’re trying to stop is only 1000 feet from homes in the Big Cypress Swamp watershed, a critical recharge area in the western Everglades. Each well is permitted to use 5 million gallons of water per month. Unlike agricultural water, the drilling water cannot be recycled or reused; it is toxic and must be injected into the boulder zone. Given the worldwide water scarcity and annual water restrictions in South Florida, it is criminal to permit the oil industry to destroy so much fresh water. Imagine thousands of wells on this 115,000-acre parcel, and even more, since Collier Resources just leased another 350,000 acres of mineral rights for seismic testing. Just as the pumping of aquifers in Florida has dried up natural springs, and in Texas, entire cities, so too, the oil industry’s pumping of our aquifer threatens to dry up nearby wells and wetlands, including the Fakahatchee, Picayune, and Corkscrew.
This new type of drilling that includes acid fracking could easily destroy the entire 30-year, 13-billion dollar Everglades Restoration Project. Drilling is thus a major threat to our water: our drinking water, beaches, estuaries, rivers, wetlands, Gulf, Everglades, Florida Bay, and Keys—all of which are vital to our economy, wildlife, and to the people who call Florida home.
Florida is still suffering from the worst oil disaster on record. We know that accidents happen. Over time, pipes leak. Injected fluids, surface. And, as the BP disaster shows, even cement casings fail. Because it only takes one incident to taint or even ruin a community’s aquifer, drilling is not in the public interest.
Our water and our Everglades are far more valuable than even a major oil play. They're our life-blood, fueling everything from agriculture to our multi-billion dollar tourist industry. The Everglades is also a national treasure, on par with the Grand Canyon. Extreme extraction isn’t safe. Not here. Not anywhere. Ask Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia.
Now is the time to preserve our air and our water that keeps us alive. Now is the time to create a sustainable future.
So join us, March 11, in Naples and bring as many people as you can. This is an URGENT REQUEST. The federal EPA is flying in for a hearing that could decide the fate of Florida water and open the door to Everglades drilling. We need to act fast and get big. It’s time to show just how strong and far reaching opposition is to Everglades drilling. We need you at the hearing to say “NO” to the injection well. March 11. Clean water not dirty drilling. See you in Naples!
EPA INFORMATIONAL MEETING (4-6PM) and EPA PUBLIC HEARING (6:30-8:30PM).
Come and go as you please.
We will be there the entire time.
Please note that the EPA has also invited the FDEP, FWC, and the Dan A. Hughes, Co.
It’s enough to just show up, especially for the hearing from 6:30-8:30pm.
But if you’d like to speak, email requests to McManus.Fred@epa.gov Fred McManus, Chief, Ground Water and UIC Sections.
The official notice:
Naples Daily News
PUBLIC NOTICE U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Water Protection Division - Safe Drinking Water Branch 61 Forsyth Street, S.W. Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960 (404) 562-9385 Public Notice Number FL14UIC001 January 7, 2014 NOTICE OF AN INFORMATIONAL MEETING AND PUBLIC HEARING FOR PROPOSED ISSUANCE OF UNDERGROUND INJECTION CONTROL PERMIT The purpose of this notice is to announce that the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4 is holding an INFORMATIONAL MEETING and PUBLIC HEARING on the proposed issuance of an Underground Injection Control (UIC) permit under the authority of Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (40 C.F.R.) at Parts 124, 144, 146, and 147 to: Dan A. Hughes Company, L.P. 208 East Houston Street Beeville, Texas 78102 for The conversion, operation, plugging and abandonment of the injection well, Collier #22-5 SWDW, that is subject to Permit FLI0047 and is located in: Sunniland Oil Field Collier County, Florida Section-Township-Range 22-49S-28E 1,959' FSL x 950' FWL The purpose of the informational meeting is to inform the public regarding the EPA permitting process, provide information concerning the construction and operating requirements for Class II injection wells and answer related questions. The hearing will allow the public an opportunity to make oral statements and/or present written comments and other information concerning the proposed permit. All information received by the EPA during the public hearing will be included in the administrative record. WHEN: Tuesday, March 11, 2014, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for Informational Meeting Tuesday, March 11, 2014, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. for Public Hearing WHERE: Golden Gate Community Center Auditorium 4701 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples, Florida 34116-6901 Requests to make oral statements and/or present written comments and other information may be mailed to Fred McManus, Chief, Ground Water and UIC Section, Safe Drinking Water Branch, Water Protection Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, 61 Forsyth Street, S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960. On August 6, 2013, the EPA issued a public notice of its Intent to Issue UIC Permit Number FLI0047 to Dan A. Hughes Company, L.P. During the thirty (30) day comment period, numerous interested persons requested a public hearing on the proposed permit. In accordance with 40 C.F.R. 124.12(a)(1)(2), the Director shall hold a public hearing whenever he finds, on the basis of requests, a significant degree of public interest. The Director may also hold a public hearing at his discretion, whenever, for instance, such a hearing might clarify one or more issues involved in the permitting decision. Based on the responses and questions received by the EPA, we have decided to conduct an informational meeting and public hearing on the proposed permit. After consideration of all timely written comments, the requirements and policies in the Safe Drinking Water Act and appropriate regulations, and after consideration of all comments, statements and data presented during the public hearing, the EPA Regional Administrator or his designee will make final determinations regarding permit issuance. If the final determination is made to issue the permit, the EPA Regional Administrator or his designee will so notify all persons who objected to the permit issuance or participated in the public hearing. If the final determination is substantially changed, including a determination not to issue the permit, the EPA Regional Administrator or his designee will issue a public notice indicating the revised determinations. Within thirty (30) days after the Regional Administrator serves notice of the above final permit decision, any person who provided comments or participated in the public hearing, may petition the Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) to review the permit decision or any condition therein. Any person, who failed to provide comments/statements/data or failed to participate in the public hearing, may petition for administrative review only to the extent of the changes from the proposed permit issuance. Additional information regarding administrative review is available in 40 C.F.R. 124.19 or by contacting Ms. Wilda Cobb of the Office of Environmental Accountability at the above address or telephone number (404) 562 9530. Technical information regarding the permit review is available by contacting Mr. James Ferreira of the Ground Water and UIC Section at (404) 562-9399. A petition to the EAB under 40 C.F.R. 124.19 is a prerequisite to the seeking of judicial review of the final permit decision. The administrative record for this permit, which includes the statement of basis, all comments from the public comment period and all data submitted by the applicant, is located at the EPA, Region 4's offices, 61 Forsyth Street., S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960; the record can be reviewed between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. Copies will be provided at a cost of 20 cents per page. Please bring the foregoing to the attention of anyone who may be interested in this matter. January 19, 2014 No. 2007835
17. Russian parliament approves use of armed forces in Ukraine
18. Students to Obama: If You Won't Lead on Climate Action, We Will
By Jon Queally, Common Dreams
01 March 14
XL Dissent protest this weekend at White House could be largest youth-led civil disobedience action in a generation
ore than a thousand students from over 200 colleges and universities are descending on Washington, D.C. this weekend to deliver a stern message to a president they are not yet convinced is listening to dire warnings about climate change, the destructive impacts of a completed Keystone XL pipeline, and the fossil fuel paradigm overall.
And just to be sure President Obama cannot easily ignore their demand that he prove himself serious about tackling global warming and ending the nation's obsessive reliance on coal, oil, and gas - over 300 of those traveling to the nation's capitol have vowed to put their bodies on the line Sunday, participating in what they say will be the largest student-led civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation.
In his efforts to combat climate change, Michael Greenberg, a 20-year-old sophomore at Columbia University, told Common Dreams he has "lobbied, fundraised, petitioned, written letters to the editor, and organized his peers." But now, he says, he's ready to go further. "What we face is a crisis," said Greenberg, "which is why I will be getting arrested for the first time in my life this weekend."
Like Greenberg, other student organizers for the weekend summit and protest - which they're calling XL Dissent - told Common Dreams that this weekend's action is neither the beginning nor the end of their involvement in the climate justice movement. For them, however, the specific moment is an important time for them (and others) to increase the pressure on Obama as he enters what appears to be the final stretch of his decision-making process on approving or rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Earlier this week, Obama told the nation's governors that they could expect a final decision on the pipeline within "a couple of months." The official public comment period on the State Department's overall assessment of the project ends next week on Friday, March 7.
"Our message to President Obama is that if he is serious about acting on climate, he will block the Keystone XL Pipeline," said Aly Johnson-Kurts, 20, of Smith College. If the president won't stop it, she added, "people power will."
The students also agree that their activism - both on their respective campuses and this weekend at the White House - goes beyond a singular focus on Keystone XL, saying their concerns go deeper than just one pipeline or one presidential decision.
"This protest is about so much more than just one pipeline," said Greenberg. "For me XL Dissent is about young people standing together and engaging in a bold act of civil disobedience, and through this, demonstrating our commitment to making this world a more humane, peaceful, and inclusive place to live."
And Matthew Goodrich from Bowdoin College in Maine told Common Dreams: "The protest shows how serious the youth of the nation are about holding President Obama accountable on his promise to not betray future generations - our generation - by dooming the planet to climate change."
For Johnson-Kurts, the student-led protest is also about standing in solidarity with others in the U.S., Canada, and around the world who are fighting for environmental justice in the places they live. Citing First Nations, those living near refineries, ranchers and farmers along the proposed pipeline route, and all those fighting tar sands expansion in various frontline communities, she says XL Dissent is "about turning up the heat on Obama to live up to his promises to protect us from a future of environmental catastrophe, as these people are already experiencing."
Though all the students that spoke with Common Dreams acknowledged that Keystone XL has been a galvanizing symbol of the climate movement over the last few years, they say the pipeline is not the sole focus of their own work on the issue of climate change. All three have been involved in the student-led divestment movement at their own schools, urging administrators and trustees to withdraw endowments investments from fossil fuel-related companies and industries.
"Rejecting the pipeline is an important step, but stopping Keystone on its own will not solve climate change," acknowledged Greenberg.
And Goodrich added, "Obama needs to protect human lives, not oil profits. Climate change was not the change we voted for."
As they made their way towards Washington on Friday, older members of the climate justice movement - more veteran organizers with groups like Sierra Club and 350.org - were cheering them on in anticipation of the weekend.
"All Americans deserve to live safe and healthy lives that aren't shadowed by worsening superstorms, droughts, floods, and wildfires brought on by dirty fossil fuels," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune in a statement in which he offered the XL Dissent students and participants his organization's full support.
It's America's youth and student-aged adults, declared Brune, "who have the greatest stake in the Keystone XL tar sands decision."
Jamie Henn, a co-founder of 350.org, writing for Common Dreams on Friday, reflected: "I've had the chance to talk with some of the students involved in XL Dissent and the thing that continues to strike me is how level-headed and pragmatic they are. They're risking arrest this weekend not because they're wild-eyed radicals, but because they agree [...] that power responds to a demand, and that getting that demand heard often requires working outside traditional channels."
The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, continued Henn, is more than an environmental issue, but a test of character. "The young people taking part in XL Dissent are demonstrating theirs," he wrote. "Now, it's time for the President to show his."
As for the students and their relationship to the only president they've known as young adults: It seems they are, in fact, reclaiming some of the "hope" they offered over to Obama, and putting it back in themselves.
"Our generation is going to be stuck with the reality of decisions made now about whether to invest in destruction or the future," said Johnson-Kurts. "We are realizing we cannot sit idly by, or we will not have a future to fight for."
19. On the Meaning of Journalistic Independence
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
01 March 14
This morning, I see that some people are quite abuzz about a new Pando article "revealing" that the foundation of Pierre Omidyar, the publisher of First Look Media which publishes The Intercept, gave several hundred thousand dollars to a Ukraininan "pro-democracy" organization opposed to the ruling regime. This, apparently, is some sort of scandal that must be immediately addressed not only by Omidyar, but also by every journalist who works at First Look. That several whole hours elapsed since the article was published on late Friday afternoon without my commenting is, for some, indicative of disturbing stonewalling.
I just learned of this article about 30 minutes ago, which is why I'm addressing it "only" now (I apologize for not continuously monitoring Twitter at all times, including the weekend). I have not spoken to Pierre or anyone at First Look - or, for that matter, anyone else in the world - about any of this, and am speaking only for myself here. To be honest, I barely know what it is that I'm supposed to boldly come forth and address, so I'll do my best to make a few points about this specific article but also make some general points about journalistic independence that I do actually think are important:
(1) The Pando article adopts the tone of bold investigative journalism that intrepidly dug deep into secret materials and uncovered a "shocking" bombshell ("Step out of the shadows…. Pierre Omidyar"). But as I just discovered with literally 5 minutes of Googling, the Omidyar Network's support for the Ukrainian group in question, Centre UA, has long been publicly known: because the Omidyar Network announced the investment at the time in a press release and then explained it on its website.
In a September 15, 2011 press release, the Omidyar Network "announced today its intent to grant up to $3M to six leading organizations focused on advancing government transparency and accountability" including "Centre UA (Ukraine)". The Network then devoted an entire page of its website (entitled "New Citizen (Centre UA)") to touting the investment and explaining its rationale and purpose (the group, claims the Network, "seeks to enable citizen participation in national and regional politics by amplifying the voices of Ukrainian citizens and promoting open and accountable government").
I think it's perfectly valid for journalists to investigate the financial dealings of corporations and billionaires who fund media outlets, whether it be those who fund or own Pando, First Look, MSNBC, Fox News, The Washington Post or any other. And it's certainly reasonable to have concerns and objections about the funding of organizations that are devoted to regime change in other countries: I certainly have those myself. But the Omidyar Network doesn't exactly seem ashamed of these donations, and they definitely don't seem to be hiding them, given that they trumpeted them in their own press releases and web pages.
(2) Can someone please succinctly explain why this is a scandal that needs to be addressed, particularly by First Look journalists? That's a genuine request. Wasn't it just 72 hours ago that the widespread, mainstream view in the west (not one that I shared) was that there was a profound moral obligation to stand up and support the brave and noble Ukrainian opposition forces as they fight to be liberated from the brutal and repressive regime imposed on them by Vladimir Putin's puppet? When did it suddenly become shameful in those same circles to support those very same opposition forces?
In fact, I've been accused more times than I can count - including by a former NSA employee and a Eurasia Foundation spokesman - of being a Putin shill for not supporting the Ukrainian opposition and not denouncing Russian involvement there (by which they mean I've not written anything on this topic). Now we seem to have the exact opposite premise: that the real evil is supporting the opposition in Ukraine and any journalist who works at First Look - including ones who are repeatedly called criminals by top U.S. officials for publishing top secret government documents; or who risk their lives to go around the world publicizing the devastation wrought by America's Dirty Wars and its dirty and lawless private contractors; or who have led the journalistic attack on the banks that own and control the government - are now tools of neo-liberal, CIA-cooperating imperialism which seeks to undermine Putin by secretly engineering the Ukrainian revolution. To call all of that innuendo muddled and incoherent is to be generous.
(3) Despite its being publicly disclosed, I was not previously aware that the Omidyar Network donated to this Ukrainian group. That's because, prior to creating The Intercept with Laura Poitras and Jermey Scahill, I did not research Omidyar's political views or donations. That's because his political views and donations are of no special interest to me - any more than I cared about the political views of the family that owns and funds Salon (about which I know literally nothing, despite having worked there for almost 6 years), or any more than I cared about the political views of those who control the Guardian Trust.
There's a very simple reason for that: they have no effect whatsoever on my journalism or the journalism of The Intercept. That's because we are guaranteed full editorial freedom and journalistic independence. The Omidyar Network's political views or activities - or those of anyone else - have no effect whatsoever on what we report, how we report it, or what we say.
The author of the Pando article seems to understand this point quite well when it comes to excusing himself from working for a media outlet funded by national-security-state-supporting tech billionaires whose views he claims to find "repugnant":
It is a problem we all have to contend with—PandoDaily's 18-plus investors include a gaggle of Silicon Valley billionaires like Marc Andreessen (who serves on the board of eBay, chaired by Pierre Omidyar) and Peter Thiel (whose politics I've investigated [GG: before working for a media outlet he funded] and described as repugnant.)
So he acknowledges the truly repellent politics of those who fund the media outlet where he does his journalism: Andreessen, a Romney supporter, has become one of the NSA's most devoted defenders, while the company owned by Paypal founder Thiel, Palantir Technologies, works extensively with the CIA and got caught scheming against journalists, WikiLeaks supporters and Chamber of Commerce critics. But he obviously believes those repellent views and activities do not reflect on him or his journalism. Indeed, any of you who are approvingly citing the Pando article are implicitly saying the same thing: namely, that media outlets funded by government-supporting tech moguls with repugnant histories can produce important journalism, including reporting on other tech moguls.
More generally, you're endorsing the point that the political ideology of those who fund media outlets, no matter how much you dislike that ideology, does not mean that hard-hitting investigative journalism is precluded or that the journalism reflects the views of those who fund it. Anyone who thinks that The Intercept is or will be some sort of mouthpiece for U.S. foreign policy goals is invited to review the journalism we've produced in the 20 days we've existed.
Now, if you want to take the position that people should not work at organizations funded by oligarchs, or that journalism is inherently corrupted if funded by rich people with bad political views, then I hope you apply that consistently. Groups like the ACLU, Media Matters, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a whole slew of left-wing groups have been funded for years by billionaire George Soros and his foundations despite a long history of funding of and profiting from all sorts of capitalism projects anathema to the left, including Ukrainian pro-democracy groups (the same Pando writer previously claimed without evidence that the ACLU received a $20 million donation from the Koch Brothers). Or, as Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts put it:
Are Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow responsible for all the bad acts of Comcast, which owns MSNBC, or is their journalism impugned by those bad acts? Was WikiLeaks infected with Vladimir Putin's sins, as some argued, because Julian Assange's show appeared on RT? Or go ahead and apply those questions to virtually every large media organization or advocacy group you like, which needs substantial funding, which in turn requires that they seek and obtain that funding from very rich people who undoubtedly have political views and activities you find repellent.
That journalistic outlets fail to hold accountable large governmental and corporate entities is a common complaint. It's one I share. It's possible to do great journalism in discrete, isolated cases without much funding and by working alone, but it's virtually impossible to do sustained, broad-scale investigative journalism aimed at large and powerful entities without such funding. As I've learned quite well over the last eight months, you need teams of journalists, and editors, and lawyers, and experts, and travel and technology budgets, and a whole slew of other tools that require serious funding. The same is true for large-scale activism.
That funding, by definition, is going to come from people rich enough to provide it. And such people are almost certainly going to have views and activities that you find objectionable. If you want to take the position that this should never be done, that's fine: just be sure to apply it consistently to the media outlets and groups you really like.
But for me, the issue is not - and for a long time has not been - the political views of those who fund journalism. Journalists should be judged by the journalism they produce, not by those who fund the outlets where they do it. The real issue is whether they demand and obtain editorial freedom. We have. But ultimately, the only thing that matters is the journalism we or any other media outlets produce.
(4) Typical for this particular writer, the Pando article is filled with factual inaccuracies, including one extremely serious one:
Of the many problems that poses, none is more serious than the fact that Omidyar now has the only two people with exclusive access to the complete Snowden NSA cache, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Somehow, the same billionaire who co-financed the "coup" in Ukraine with USAID, also has exclusive access to the NSA secrets—and very few in the independent media dare voice a skeptical word about it. [emphasis added]
Let's leave to the side the laughable hyperbole that Omidyar is now the mastermind who has secretly engineered the Ukrainian uprising. Let's also leave to the side a vital fact that people like this Pando writer steadfastly ignore: that there are numerous media entities in possession of tens of thousands of Snowden documents, including The Guardian, Bart Gellman/The Washington Post, The New York Times, and ProPublica, rendering absurd any conspiracy theories that Omidyar can control which documents are or are not published.
The real falsehood here is that Omidyar himself has any access, let alone "exclusive access", to "the NSA secrets." This is nothing short of a fabrication. The writer of this article just made that up.
The only Snowden documents Omidyar has ever seen are the ones that have been published as part of stories in media outlets around the world. He has no possession of those documents and no access to them. He has never sought or received access to those documents. He has played no role whatsoever in deciding which ones will be reported. He obviously plays no role in deciding which documents all those other news outlets will report. Other than generally conveying that there is much reporting left to be done on these documents - something I've publicly said many times - I don't believe I've ever even had a single discussion with him about a single document in the archive.
We've continued to report on those documents with media outlets around the world - in the last month alone, I reported on numerous documents with NBC, while Laura did the same with The New York Times - and will continue to report on them at The Intercept with full editorial independence. But the claim that he has obtained possession of, or even access to, the archive (in full or in part) is an outright falsehood.
Other inaccuracies pervade the article. Marcy Wheeler, whose comments were prominently featured, complained rather vehemently and at length that the article wildly misrepresented what she said.
(5) I have a long history of condemning U.S. government interference in the governance of other countries, and of the accompanying jingoistic moral narrative that this interference is intended to engender Freedom and Democracy rather than the promotion of U.S. interests. I have equal scorn for those who feign opposition to Russian interference in the sovereignty of other countries while continuing to support all sorts of U.S. interference of exactly that sort. I know little about the specific Ukrainian group at issue here - do any of you touting this article know anything about them? - and I certainly don't trust this writer to convey anything accurately.
But what I do know is that I would never temper, limit, suppress or change my views for anyone's benefit - as anyone I've worked with will be happy to tell you - and my views on such interference in other countries isn't going to remotely change no matter the actual facts here. I also know that I'm free to express those views without the slightest fear. And I have zero doubt that that's true of every other writer at The Intercept. That's what journalistic independence means.