Archive for October, 2009

Happy Hallo-Weenie – From Dirty Coal

October 30th, 2009 No comments

Why are national “environmental groups” supporting new coal power plants and so called  “clean coal technology”?

Senate Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer

Senate Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer

I refer to Senate testimony yesterday by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in support of the so called “clean coal technology” incentives in the Kerry Senate global warming bill:

Here’s the testimony of NRDC:

“If we decide to do it, the U.S. and the world could build and operate new coal plants so that their CO2 is returned to the ground rather than polluting the atmosphere. S. 1733 contains a comprehensive approach to make this happen in the U.S.... We also recommend that proposed section 122 (a) specifically state that the regulations promulgated by the Administrator will apply at a minimum to hydrocarbon reservoirs and deep saline formations.”

NRDC supports “new coal plants” in the US? WTF!

Here’s the testimony of corporate market tool promoting EDF:

“After taking stock of the macroeconomic evidence, I then hone in on two particular areas that could make major contributions to achieving our goals: energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage. (Carbon capture and storage, or “CCS,” means capturing carbon dioxide at power plants or factories and pumping it into underground geological formations for long-term storage.) Each of these areas can dramatically reduce emissions while creating jobs and establishing American technological leadership.”

EDF’s embrace of market tools has become a fetish – the means now justify the ends in EDF’s corporate worldview.

coal power -

Reliant Energy - Portland Coal Plant, Pa.

According to Senate Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), the new so called “clean coal technology” provisions would:

o The Chairman’s Mark includes new provisions to stimulate development of commercial-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technologies
o The bonus allowance program is modified to allow for advanced payments of bonus allowances for early actors with a requirement that funded projects will achieve at least a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
o The Chairman’s Mark includes provisions that require coal fired power plants to meet emissions performance standards once sufficient commercial-scale CCS technology has been deployed, while also ensuring timely reductions in global warming pollution from coal plants.

It’s no surprise that the Democratic Party is in the pocket of Big Coal.

Even Al Gore pulled his punch on the coal industry’s big lie that there’s such a thing as “clean coal” – calling it a lie equivalent to safe cigarettes – by allowing a bogus exemption for coal burning with “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) (which NRDC now admits is “disposal” technology, or CCD – “carbon capture and disposal“)

Despite the recent rejection of a $5 billion new coal plant with CCS proposed in Linden, NJ, according to Peter Montague, the Kerry bill would provide huge taxpayer giveaways:

According to this summary of Senator John Kerry’s bill, S. 1733, as
the bill is written, PurGen would be eligible for a “bonus allowance”
(a cash payment from taxpayers) of $96 per ton of CO2 buried, plus
another $10 per ton if they start operating before 2017. PurGen plans
to start operating in 2015. So if PurGen meets its startup date, it
will be eligible for a federal subsidy of $106 per ton of CO2 buried,
assuming Kerry’s bill passes House and Senate.

Because PurGen plans to bury 10 million tons of CO2 per year, their
annual subsidy would be $1.06 billion each year. Over a 50-year
period, their subsidy would total $53 billion.

CCS would perpetuate the coal energy economy and is a huge technological boondoggle. It has no place in the mix of policy tools to fight global warming.

Both Al Gore and world renowned NASA scientist  Dr. James Hansen have called for civil disobedience to shut down coal plants and end mountain top removal coal mining practices.

There are faster, cheaper, cleaner and more job producing solutions to the global warming crisis – efficiency and renewables.

The last thing we need are so called “environmental groups” cheerleading for a false technological magic bullet.

the answer is blowin' in the wind

the answer is blowin' in the wind - Columbia River Plateau, Oregon

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EPA School Air Toxics Data Misleading

October 29th, 2009 No comments
Paulsboro High School - Valero refinery and chemical plant in background. Note direction of plume from stack - pollution is being blown directly toward schoo. I could strongly smell volatile organci chemicals. After just 15 minutes shooting these pictures, I was nauseasous and had a headache and dry scratchy throat, pl

Paulsboro High School - Valero refinery and Air Products chemical plant in background. Note the direction of plume from stack - pollution is being blown directly toward school. I could strongly smell volatile organic chemicals. After just 15 minutes shooting these pictures, I was nauseous and had a headache and dry scratchy throat.


Senate Envrionment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) questions EPA Administrator Jackson at confirtmation hearings about kid's exposure to toxics at school, as documentd by USA Today series.

Senate Envrionment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) questions Lisa Jackson at EPA confirmation hearing about kid's exposure to toxics at school, as documented by USA Today series.

EPA today released interim air toxics monitoring results at two NJ schools participating in a new national program that is monitoring air quality around 63 schools in 22 states

The new EPA  program was a response to major investigative reports by the Houston Chronicle (“In Harm’s Way”) and USA Today (“Toxic Air and America’s Schools”) that documented serious health threats due to exposure to toxic air pollutants, particularly to children from chemical plants and refineries located close to schools (read this for background) and (this for Senator Boxer’s commitment at EPA Administrator Jackson’s confirmation hearing)

The initial NJ results are misleading.

Valero refinery emits toxic air pollutants, just feet upwind from Paulsboro high school

Valero refinery emits toxic air pollutants, just feet upwind from Paulsboro high school

First off, if you read the EPA press release below, you wouldn’t know that the NJ schools (Paulsboro High School and Mabel Holmes Middle School in Elizabeth) are located very close to and virtually surrounded by chemical plants and refineries that emit thousands of pounds of volatile organic toxic air pollutants to the local air.

Second, if you looked at the initial sample results, you might conclude that everything is OK – , until you realize that EPA sampled mostly for heavy metals, not volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) and chemicals emitted by the chemical plants and refineries. Those VOC pollutants are “yet to be monitored” according to EPA. EPA sampled for

Antimony (Nanograms/cubic meter) 2000 4.08
Arsenic (Nanograms/cubic meter) 150 .71
Beryllium (Nanograms/cubic meter) 20 .06
Cadmium (Nanograms/cubic meter) 30 .15
Cobalt (Nanograms/cubic meter) 100 .27
Formaldehyde (Micrograms/cubic meter) 50 3.23207 2.96171 5.05088
Manganese (Nanograms/cubic meter) 500 8.51
Mercury (Nanograms/cubic meter) 3000 .02
Propionaldehyde (Micrograms/cubic meter) 80 .38742 .43971 .65125

This is especially troubling, because not only do these results mislead the public by creating a false appearance that there is no problem, but the results will be used by EPA “to help determine next steps, which could include more monitoring, if needed”.

That’s right – EPA could say that based on these results, there is no problem and no further sampling, permit modification, or enforcement to reduce pollution are required.

Air Products chemical plant just feet away from Paulsboro High School. Prevailing westerly winds blow toxic pollution from this plant directly into school.

Air Products chemical plant just feet away from Paulsboro High School. Prevailing westerly winds blow toxic pollution from this plant directly into school.

The lies and excuses have already been framed to spin this data.

First, the oil and chemical industries are suggesting that the risk are negligible and the sources of pollutants are mobile sources – cars and trucks. We doubt the EPA sampling protocol will be able to distinguish between sources, so EPA is not challenging this lie. Worse, these facilities are issued permits under the Clean Air Act, so EPA knows exactly what hazardous air pollutants are being emitted by those facilities. These hazardous air pollutants should have been targeted and the first ones sampled, not metals. Second, EPA – as per below press release – will stress chronic long term exposure risks to downplay the risks of any high level local VOC results.

We Await the VOC monitoring.


I just looked at the full list of EPA monitored pollutants at schools. EPA is monitoring for just 3 VOC’s! This is a pathetic whitewash – the Clean Air Act regulates 187 chemicals as hazardous air pollutants – check out EPA’s June 2009 National ambient air toxics data and statewide NJ cancer risks here).

As I suspected, the few pollutants EPA is monitoring all involve naturally occurring sources of pollution, or are related to vehicle exhaust or mobile sources. This seems designed to allow the chemical & oil industries to make the argument that industry emissions are not the problem and to point the finger at mobile sources and naturally occurring sources. EPA could have considered the hazardous air pollutants emitted by nearby refinery and chemical plants (in EPA air permit data), and then designed a monitoring scheme that included those pollutants. That way, EPA would have a solid scientific basis to modify air permits to force facilities to reduce their emissions, based on impacts to nearby schools. But EPA DID NOT DO THIS! What a sham! Check out the EPA short list of VOC’s


Paulsboro HS can be seen in background. Rail cars store extraordianrily toxic chemciclas neaby. AIr Products plant on left. Note plume of emissions from stack on far left. The wind is blowing right towards high school.

Paulsboro HS can be seen in background (center). Rail cars store extraordinarily toxic chemicals nearby (right). Air Products plant (left). Note plume of emissions from stack on far left. The wind is blowing it towards high school.

Here’s today’s EPA press release:

Who's celebrating?

Who's celebrating?

The first results from ongoing air toxics monitoring at two New Jersey schools and one New York school are now available on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Web site. A total of four schools in EPA’s Region 2 were selected as part of the agency’s national Schools Air Toxics Initiative. The initiative, which is monitoring 63 schools in 22 states, will help EPA and the states learn if long-term exposure to toxics in the outdoor air poses health concerns for school children and staff.

Outdoor air at the schools is being monitored for 60 days, and air quality monitors will collect at least 10 daily samples during the sampling period. EPA will use this information to help determine next steps, which could include more monitoring, if needed. Results are posted at

Today, EPA is posting data for Olean Middle School in Olean, New York, Mabel Homes Middle School in Elizabeth, N.J. and Paulsboro High School in Paulsboro, N.J. The fourth school, IS 143 in Manhattan, New York, had its first data posted previously and it is also available at the web site.  The Agency is monitoring the air around these schools for several contaminants associated with industrial and mobile sources such as cars, trucks and airplanes.

Did Big Oil design EPA school sampling program?

Did Big Oil design EPA school sampling program?

Early sampling at all the schools show that levels of air toxics are below levels of short-term concern. EPA scientists warn against drawing conclusions at this point since the project is designed to show if long-term, not short-term, exposure poses health risks to school children and staff. Once monitoring is complete, the full set of results from all of the schools will be evaluated for potential health concerns from long-term exposure to these pollutants. EPA will post this analysis to the Web once it is complete.

To learn more about EPA’s efforts to study outdoor air near schools, visit:

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If There Is a God, Thank Her for Chris Hedges

October 26th, 2009 No comments

Chris Hedges is a writer – his books and columns probe decadence, war, fascism, and cynicism and devastate the moral conscience. He writes a weekly column that appears on Monday’s at Below is today’s superb column (printed in its entirety without permission, but I doubt he’ll sue me for it).   Thank you Mr. Hedges. How did everyone else miss the perverse cynicism of linking the Pentagon’s war budget to a hate crimes bill?

War Is a Hate Crime

Posted on Oct 26, 2009
AP / Rafiq Maqbool

A U.S. soldier walks in the snow at an outpost near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

By Chris Hedges

Violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is wrong. So is violence against people in Afghanistan and Iraq. But in the bizarre culture of identity politics, there are no alliances among the oppressed. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first major federal civil rights law protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, passed last week, was attached to a $680-billion measure outlining the Pentagon’s budget, which includes $130 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Democratic majority in Congress, under the cover of protecting some innocents, authorized massive acts of violence against other innocents.

It was a clever piece of marketing. It blunted debate about new funding for war. And behind the closed doors of the caucus rooms, the Democratic leadership told Blue Dog Democrats, who are squeamish about defending gays or lesbians from hate crimes, that they could justify the vote as support for the war. They told liberal Democrats, who are squeamish about unlimited funding for war, that they could defend the vote as a step forward in the battle for civil rights. Gender equality groups, by selfishly narrowing their concern to themselves, participated in the dirty game.

“Every thinking person wants to take a stand against hate crimes, but isn’t war the most offensive of hate crimes?” asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who did not vote for the bill, when I spoke to him by phone. “To have people have to make a choice, or contemplate the hierarchy of hate crimes, is cynical. I don’t vote to fund wars. If you are opposed to war, you don’t vote to authorize or appropriate money. Congress, historically and constitutionally, has the power to fund or defund a war. The more Congress participates in authorizing spending for war, the more likely it is that we will be there for a long, long time. This reflects an even larger question. All the attention is paid to what President Obama is going to do right now with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan. The truth is the Democratic Congress could have ended the war when it took control just after 2006. We were given control of the Congress by the American people in November 2006 specifically to end the war. It did not happen. The funding continues. And while the attention is on the president, Congress clearly has the authority at any time to stop the funding. And yet it doesn’t. Worse yet, it finds other ways to garner votes for bills that authorize funding for war. The spending juggernaut moves forward, a companion to the inconscient force of war itself.”

The brutality of Matthew Shepard’s killers, who beat him to death for being gay, is a product of a culture that glorifies violence and sadism. It is the product of a militarized culture. We have more police, prisons, inmates, spies, mercenaries, weapons and troops than any other nation on Earth. Our military, which swallows half of the federal budget, is enormously popular—as if it is not part of government. The military values of hyper-masculinity, blind obedience and violence are an electric current that run through reality television and trash-talk programs where contestants endure pain while they betray and manipulate those around them in a ruthless world of competition. Friendship and compassion are banished.

This hyper-masculinity is at the core of pornography with its fusion of violence and eroticism, as well as its physical and emotional degradation of women. It is an expression of the corporate state where human beings are reduced to commodities and companies have become proto-fascist enclaves devoted to maximizing profit. Militarism crushes the capacity for moral autonomy and difference. It isolates us from each other. It has its logical fruition in Abu Ghraib, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our lack of compassion for our homeless, our poor, our mentally ill, our unemployed, our sick, and yes, our gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens.

Klaus Theweleit in his two volumes entitled “Male Fantasies,” which draw on the bitter alienation of demobilized veterans in Germany following the end of World War I, argues that a militarized culture attacks all that is culturally defined as the feminine, including love, gentleness, compassion and acceptance of difference. It sees any sexual ambiguity as a threat to male “hardness” and the clearly defined roles required by the militarized state. The continued support for our permanent war economy, the continued elevation of military values as the highest good, sustains the perverted ethic, rigid social roles and emotional numbness that Theweleit explored. It is a moral cancer that ensures there will be more Matthew Shepards.

Fascism, Theweleit argued, is not so much a form of government or a particular structuring of the economy or a system, but the creation of potent slogans and symbols that form a kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service of destruction. The “core of all fascist propaganda is a battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure,” Theweleit wrote. And our culture, while it disdains the name of fascism, embraces its dark ethic.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, interviewed in 2003 by Charlie Rose, spoke in this sexualized language of violence to justify the war in Iraq, a moment preserved on YouTube (see video below):

“What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying, ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ ” Friedman said. “ ‘You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna let it grow? Well, suck on this.’ That, Charlie, was what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.”

This is the kind of twisted logic the killers of Matthew Shepard would understand.

The philosopher Theodor Adorno wrote, in words gay activists should have heeded, that exclusive preoccupation with personal concerns and indifference to the suffering of others beyond the self-identified group made fascism and the Holocaust possible.

“The inability to identify with others was unquestionably the most important psychological condition for the fact that something like Auschwitz could have occurred in the midst of more or less civilized and innocent people,” Adorno wrote. “What is called fellow traveling was primarily business interest: one pursues one’s own advantage before all else, and simply not to endanger oneself, does not talk too much. That is a general law of the status quo. The silence under the terror was only its consequence. The coldness of the societal monad, the isolated competitor, was the precondition, as indifference to the fate of others, for the fact that only very few people reacted. The torturers know this, and they put it to test ever anew.”

Chris Hedges, whose column is published on Truthdig every Monday, spent two decades as a foreign reporter covering wars in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. He has written nine books, including “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle” (2009) and “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning” (2003).

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A Green New Deal for the People of Linden

October 25th, 2009 No comments
Aerial View (Looking Northwest) of DuPont and GAF Plants DuPont Plant In Foreground Along Arthur Kill GAF Plant Slightly West of DuPont Plant Photo:  EPA 1974

Aerial View (Looking Northwest) of DuPont and GAF Plants DuPont Plant In Foreground Along Arthur Kill GAF Plant Slightly West of DuPont Plant Photo: EPA 1974

The people of Linden gained a major victory last week in City Council’s rejection of a proposed redevelopment deal for the toxic Dupont site along the Arthur Kill. The deal called for construction of a $5 billion coal power plant, Orwellianly known as “PurGen”.

(you can watch my testimony here).

Community activists and environmental groups formed a coalition – “Stop Purgen“-  that mobilized strong local opposition, which successfully pressured Council to kill the deal in a 7-4 vote last week. Linden is a heavily burdened environmental justice community (see this for successful EJ petition to DEP:

  • The petition submitted by residents of Linden on behalf of the Tremley Point Alliance expressed concerns about protection and preservation of area wetlands, the lack of public participation and rising asthma rates in the city of Linden. One survey conducted by a Linden based community group found that there was a large number of school age children in Linden who suffer from asthma. The petition was submitted by workers and residents from Tremley Point, a highly industrialized section of Linden. The petition was filed by 170 residents and workers from Linden.

Labor groups pressed hard for the PurGen project for the jobs it would create.

With the defeat of the PurGen coal and dirty DuPont deal, the time is ripe for the environmental coalition to seize the initiative and propose a cleanup and redevelopment plan for the site that benefits the community, produces tax revenues, jobs, and reduces pollution.

Here it is:

1. Demand that DEP enforce State cleanup laws and force Dupont to cleanup the site.

The Dupont site and surrounding Tremley Point are highly contaminated and Dupont has dragged its feet for years on cleanup. If Dupont continues to drag its feet, DEP is authorized to conduct the cleanup themselves and recover “treble damages”, or 3 TIMES the costs of cleanup from Dupont. This is significant leverage to bring Dupont to the table and force a cleanup.

DEP recently took strong enforcement action against the City of Linden. DEP enforcement drove an Administrative Consent Order  (ACO) with the City to force closure and cleanup of the Linden landfill (see here). Dupont has not been subject to DEP  enforcement but deserves the same enforcement rigor that the City recevied. DEP should issue a Spill Act Directive to compel an enforceable  cleanup timetable, with stiff penalties levied against Dupont for failure to perform.

2. Leverage eminent domain powers to benefit the community, not developers

Local governments in NJ have not been reluctant to use eminent domain powers to take land for the benefit of developers. So, if DEP and/or Dupont are reluctant to proceed and cleanup the site, use eminent domain powers to acquire the site.

3. Finance the plan with Natural Resource Damage settlements.

In July 2005, DEP Commisioner Bradley Campbell cut a sweetheart deal with Dupont to settle hundreds of millions of dollars of “Natural Resource Damage” (NRD) claims at 8 Dupont facilities in NJ, including the Linden site. (see this for details). That deal was not only an unconscionable giveaway to Dupont, but the people of Linden received no economic benefits, dispite having suffered from Dupont’s toxic pollution for decades.

In June of 2007, Lisa Jackson’s DEP filed new NRD lawsuits against 120 polluters, including the old GAF site (now known as ISP) which is adjacent to the Dupont site, and the Bayway refinery (see this for list of 120 facilities and links to individual NRD lawsuit complaints).

This time around, the people of Linden deserve the lion’s share of the NRD settlement proceeds. (Here is link to the GAF/ISP NRD lawsuit) (and here is a link to the Exxon Bayway NRD lawsuit)

Funding for cleanup and redevelopment would be provided from settlement of State Natural Resource Damage (NRD) lawsuits against Bayway refinery and ISP. Those suits could be settled rapidly for millions of dollars.

It is imperative that Linden receives a large portion of the NRD lawsuit settlements because:

a)  Brad Campbell’s DEP negotiated a 2005 sweetheart NRD settlement deal with Dupont for pennies on the dollar and Linden received none of the money;

b) Linden residents have suffered from the toxic pollution from Bayway and Dupont sites for decades

4. Form a municipal power authority and redevelop the site with solar panels.

The solar construction will produce good local jobs and ongoing energy revenues to reduce property taxes. Construction could be financed with a portion of the proceeds from the NRD lawsuits.

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It’s A Beautiful Day – Don’t Let It Slip Away

October 24th, 2009 No comments
Carteret Waterfront Park - kids enjoy a day of fishing

Carteret Waterfront Park - kids enjoy a day of fishing

Carteret man catched 36 inch striper in Arthur Kill

Carteret man caught a 36 inch striped bass in Arthur Kill

kids enjot excitement of a big fish

kids enjoy excitement of a big fish

Young women sing at Princeton chapel wedding today (It's a Beautiful Day - the inspiration for this post)

Young women sing at Princeton wedding today (It's a Beautiful Day - the inspiration for this post)

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