May It Please The Court
Quote of the Day - There are things that go boom in the night.
Watch Where You Walk - It Could Blow UpHere's sneak peek at a sobering set of facts: removing unexploded munitions and hazardous waste found so far on 15 million acres of closed U.S. military ranges could take up to 330 years at the current rate of spending, according to congressional auditors.
There are 39 million acres in all where unexploded munitions could be.
In a not-yet released report to members of Congress, the Government Accounting Office said the Department of Defense has not yet assessed three-fifths of the 2,307 potentially contaminated sites identified as of September 2002 and has finished cleaning up only one percent of them.
Some of these areas have already been redeveloped for homes and parks. Boom!
But there could be many more sites with contamination, according to the GAO. Though the Navy and Air Force examined their sites, the Army had only looked at 14 percent of its installations, or 105 ranges, as of last year, the GAO said.
If you're wondering whether you live or work on one of these sites, you can look at the list.
As if you didn't feel good about it already, an anonymous government source said the Army plans to add another 500 sites to the list.
What's there? The biggest contaminants that have been found are TNT, RDXand HMX explosives, perchlorate used in rocket fuels and white phosphorus. TNT and RDX are possible human carcinogens; HMX causes potential liver and central nervous system damage, animal studies suggest; perchlorate can cause thyroid disorders; white phosphorus can damage reproductivity, the liver, heart and kidney.
Make sure you click on the HMX link - it's a web site created by a 10th grader as part of his science project.
The Army Corps of Engineers is in charge of the cleanup. They just don't have enough money to finish the cleanup anytime soon.
Things are so bad that even the detailed assessment of these sites won't be finished until 2012.
An Uncharacteristic Rant - Way Too Many AdsAren't there enough ads already? I flew back from a client meeting this afternoon on America West, and after we had gotten through the standard safety speeches, demonstrations and did-your-mother-send-you out-with-holes-in-your-underwear checks, I settled in.
In coach, next to a burly guy who felt he needed part of my seat until I invited him to move over and leave an empty seat between us.
Then to be interrupted by the captain who had his pitch to make and thank-you-very-much-for-flying-with-us-today jingle.
Only to be greeted by the cackling stewardess' voice who promptly reminded me that my tray back should be in the upright and locked position for takeoff, that the captain hadn't yet turned off the fasten seat belt light and that because the flight was so short there would be an abbreviated cabin service this afternoon, thank you very much.
Then the guy in the middle showed up, bigger than both me and the guy by the window, and no empty seats elsewhere.
At least the airlines are making money with full flights.
Apparently, though, things have gotten so bad that they now have to sell more ads. On the plane.
You'll never guess where.
On the top of the tray tables when they're folded down. Mine encouraged me to watch the History Channel's new mini-series, The Barbarians are Coming.
I won't have to though. He was seated next to me for the hour-long flight. I already saw that movie and got that T-shirt.
Clean Fleet Rules May Likely Go Down in FlamesThe Supreme Court heard arguments on one of several other big environmental cases yesterday. Engine Manufacturers Association v. South Coast Air Quality Management District is a dispute between - well the names say it all.
The EMA, together with the Western States Petroleum Association (and several other organizations) sued the SCAQMD over the District's rules that new commercial vehicles have to meet specific emissions standards. The 1190 series of rules (see one set of rules that encompass light and medium duty vehicles here). That last link also features a list of certified car engines, so you can see whether your car complies.
Just be glad you don't own a fleet if your car's not there.
These so-called "Clean fleet rules" mandate use of engines that have lower emissions to improve air quality. The rules require fleet owners to purchase low-emission or alternative-fuel vehicles.
The various trade associations argue that District's Clean fleet rules require engine manufacturers to create a "third car." The rules require vehicle to meet the specific regulations in Southern California (as opposed to Northern California, and the rest of the country), and are the strictest rules for vehicles. See the EMA brief and Chamber of Commerce brief, too.
The Western States Petroleum Association likely wants its members to be able to sell more fuel.
Even the Department of Justice filed a brief against the SCAQMD. Several environmental organizations filed a brief in support of the District.
Much is a stake, such as the SCAQMD's right to regulate emissions standards. So far, the District has won twice - once in Federal District Court, and once before the Ninth Circuit.
All indications are, however, for reversal. That result is not surprising given that the Ninth Circuit's reversal rate, as noted by the Curmudgeonly Clerk.
Everybody's got something to say on this case, and there are so many comments that I can only give you a smattering: the WSPA, SCAQMD, the District's lawyers, the Federalism project, the Diesel Technology Forum, and even TomPaine.com.
All of us here know it, but the LA air basin is the worst in the country. Looks like it may stay that way a while longer.
Another Snowmobile Defeat in YellowstoneThere are not as many snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park this year, as I've noted here several times before. Snowmobilers wanted more access, and environmentalists wanted less snowmobiles in the Park, arguing that they caused unnecessary pollution.
U.S. District Court Judge Emmett Sullivan invalidated Bush's plans and ordered the National Park Service to go back to Clinton-era numbers of authorized winter machines. Sullivan sided with the Fund for Animals and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. Snowmobilers are obviously not happy.
Neither are the State of Wyoming, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and the Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Commission, an advocacy group for motorized recreation, who have filed appeals. Also, the Department of Interior has filed notice of its intent to appeal.
In another setback yesterday, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals refused to stay Judge Sullivan's decision pending the outcome of the appeals. Click here for a copy of the decision.
Snowmobiles are still out of bounds in the Park.
Florida Polluted Water Has Nationwide EffectWhere do you put polluted water? If you're the South Florida Water Management District, you dump it in the Everglades ecosystem. The SFWMD acknowledges that the water it pumps (at the rate of 423,000 gallons per minute) into the Everglades is polluted, but it claims it has nowhere else to put it.
Makes sense, doesn't it?
The pump sits on a more than 90-mile long levy system that serves as the border between the Everglades and suburbs stretching from West Palm Beach to Miami-Dade County. To the south is the 666-acre reservation where many of the 500-member Miccosukee Indian tribe live.
To add insult to injury, the water is polluting 189,000 acres of land the state leased to the tribe and promised to keep in its natural state.
Runoff from yards, agricultural and industrial areas contains fertilizers that have high levels of phosphates. The pollution changes the water chemistry, killing some native plants and allowing other nonnative plants - such as cattails - to thrive.
Chief William Buffalo Tiger first noticed large quantities of snakes dying when the pumping started in 1957. My calculator doesn't have enough decimals to do the math to determine how many gallons have been pumped since then.
The Miccosukees and an environmental group, Friends of the Everglades, sued the water management district in 1998 under the Clean Water Act. They argued that water managers need a federal permit to pump polluted water into the Everglades, where it would not otherwise flow.
The United States Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case tomorrow. The outcome will have far-reaching effects, going far enough to cause water agencies to treat polluted storm water runoff before rerouting it.
In California, that could mean billions to treat storm water before it hits the ocean. Ironically, Florida and the federal government are embarking on a 30-year, $8.4 billion project to restore the natural water flow through the Everglades.
The SFWMD plans to treat the water being pumped first. Good thinking, but a little late.
$200,000 for SUV GraffitiSometimes you just have to wonder why. Despite whatever validity there may or may not be, these tactics don't fit with society's laws.
According to an AP article published today, three men aged 18 to 20 plead guilty to vandalizing more than 25 sport utility vehicles, construction equipment and building sites near Richmond, Virginia. The claim to have acted on behalf of a radical environmental group, the Earth Liberation Front.
The men have been ordered to repay $200,000. Guess the protest didn't go all that well.
Measure H is for High, not Hereditary GeneticsYa gotta love California. Out here on the left coast, we're just a bunch of wierdniks. Mendocino County will vote on March 2 (fittingly Dr. Seuss' birthday) whether to approve a first-in-the-nation ballot measure that would prohibit genetically modified plants and animals from being raised or kept in the county.
Ironically, products that are genetically engineered will still be allowed to be sold on store shelves. This contradiction could only happen in the county where the largest cash crop is marijuana, and the first county in the country to decriminalize marijuana.
It only makes sense here, where the district attorney is a Libertarian who served time in prison on tax charges and its sheriff is an outspoken proponent of medicinal marijuana.
It's become a bit of a battle. Proponents have a Measure H website, and the California Plant Health Association sued to get the language changed in Measure H, but lost.
Any county that legalizes marijuana is bound to disapprove of genetically altered plants. The people there must think the only things that should be altered are their minds, not their food. Get the whole store here.
Farm-raised Salmon Allegedly High in Dioxin & PCB PollutantsFarm-raised salmon have 1.88 ppb (parts per billion) of PCBs and dixons compared to 0.17 ppb for wild salmon. It generally costs $4-5 for a pound of farm salmon, and $15 for wild salmon, according to this Associated Press article.
The Food & Drug Administration does not set safe levels for these contaminants. Beyond not eating farm-raised salmon, there appears to be an easy fix: stop using feed that contains these high levels of pollutants, according to the Environmental Working Group.
The study, published in Science magazine (free, but time-consuming registration required just to review the abstract) indicates that feed is the source of the pollutants. But, you've got to love the internet. The Pew Charitable Trusts, which funded the study, published the entire study on its site.
Despite the findings, the FDA said the levels of pollutants found in salmon are too low for serious concern. The agency urged Americans not to let the new research frighten them into a diet change.
"We are certainly not telling people not to eat fish. ... We're telling them to eat less farmed salmon," said David Carpenter of the University at Albany, N.Y., who tested 700 salmon from around the world.
I don't like salmon, and now I've got an even better reason to avoid it - well, at least the farm-raised stuff, even if it is colored pink. But that assumption may not be the entire story. There's a completely different perspective offered by the Free Market Project.