Monthly Archives: May 2011

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5/31/2011 NRDC Would You Like Cancer-causing or Brain-poisoning Pollution With That Electricity?

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Staff Blog by Pete Altman: Hundreds of people have said no to toxic pollution from power plants near them by attending U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearings. The last one is today in Atlanta — if you can’t make it, support the EPA’s proposals to make power companies cut the amount of mercury, arsenic, chromium, acid gases & other nasty stuff they release into the air by TAKING ACTION: http://b/ Next time you flip on the light switch, how would you respond if a little voice asked you “Thanks for your order. Would you like cancer with your electricity? How about some brain-poison?” Weird question, right? Unfortunately, power companies are one of the biggest toxic polluters in the US, dumping millions of pounds of cancer-causing, brain-poisoning toxins like arsenic and mercury into the air each year. The toxins are found in the coal that is burned to supply about ½ of our nation’s electricity.

This week, hundreds of people have shown up to hearings in Philadelphia and Chicago organized by the US Environmental Protection Agency to say “no thanks” to toxic pollution from power plants, and support the EPA’s proposals to make power companies reduce the amount of mercury, arsenic, chromium, acid gases and other nasty stuff they release into the air.

(To let the EPA know you support reducing toxic pollution from power plants, take action here.)

As the Associated Press explained,

Several hundred people, from environmentalists and physicians to mothers and fishermen, testified before a panel of federal environmental officials on Tuesday to urge the passage of proposed new standards to limit the amount of air pollution that coal-fired power plants can release into the atmosphere.”

One those physicians was Dr. Kevin Osterhoudt, medical director of the poison control center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who said

Young children are uniquely vulnerable to the toxic effects of environmental poisons such as mercury and arsenic. These compounds are especially dangerous to the developing brain and nervous system.

Some of the speakers pulled no punches. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported,

Rabbi Daniel Swartz leaned toward the microphone at Tuesday’s hearing on proposed federal rules to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

By allowing emissions to continue, “we have, in effect, subsidized the poisoning of fetuses and children,” the Scranton rabbi said.

In Chicago, a similar scene unfolded, as the Chicago Tribune reported, with supporters of limiting toxic air pollution coming out in force, as noted by Chicago radio station WBEZ:

Midwesterners who testified at a public hearing in Chicago Tuesday afternoon were overwhelmingly in favor of the proposed EPA plan.”

One of those speaking in Chicago was NRDC’s Shannon Fisk, who focused on the critical need for EPA to act swiftly to reduce toxic pollution, saying,

[Some] in industry are pushing EPA to delay …my question to these agents of delay is how much is enough. How many lives are they willing to sacrifice in order to have even more time to install pollution controls that have been available for decades?”

Polling shows that throughout the nation, Americans strongly support reducing toxic air pollution from industrials sources. A February 2011 survey by Public Policy Polling revealed that 66% of Americans support “requiring stricter limits on the amount of toxic chemicals such as mercury lead and arsenic that coal power plants and other industrial facilities release.”

The EPA’s final hearing on the toxics rules is in Atlanta today. But going to a hearing isn’t the only way for concerned citizens to weigh in.

If you’d like to say “no thanks” to cancer-causing and brain-poisoning toxins from power plants, send a comment directly to the EPA in support of the toxics proposals by using our quick and easy action page.

5/29/2011 guardian.co.uk home Ailing UN climate talks jolted by record surge in greenhouse gases

Ailing UN climate talks jolted by record surge in greenhouse gases. Lord Stern talks of ‘wake-up call’ for governments meeting in Bonn next week with no sign of an agreement to succeed Kyoto. The record leap in global greenhouse gas emissions last year has thrown the spotlight on the world’s only concerted attempt to stem the tide of global warming – the United Nations climate negotiations. Next week, governments will convene in Bonn, Germany, for the latest round of more than 20 years of tortuous talks, aimed at forging a binding international agreement on climate change which so far has eluded them. Little is expected of the meeting, a staging post on the road to a bigger conference in Durban, South Africa, in December. But the data from the International Energy Agency (IEA) should shock even the most jaded of negotiators.

“I hope these estimates provide a wake-up call to governments,” said Lord Stern, a London School of Economics professor and author of the landmark review on the economics of climate change. “Progress in international discussions since the modest successes [at the last UN meeting] in Cancún last December has been slow.”

Tom Burke, founding director of green thinktank E3G and a veteran environmental campaigner, is even more forthright. “Be frightened – be very frightened,” he said. “This rise in emissions underlines the urgency [of tackling climate change]. The politicians had better come back on this very fast, or we are all in trouble.”

The contrast between the snail’s pace of negotiations and the rapid rise in emissions catalogued by the International Energy Agency could scarcely be more marked. The Bonn and Durban meetings are widely expected to produce only a few clarifications of countries’ emissions targets – already deemed inadequate by campaigners – and some detailed wording of the rules on issues such as forestry and carbon trading.

Yet the jump in carbon dioxide emissions comes less than 18 months after the climate change summit at Copenhagen, which was billed as the most important international meeting since the second world war but produced only a partial agreement and failed to set out a path to a binding treaty.

Another small step was taken at Cancún, when emissions-cutting targets were firmed up and financial commitments from rich to poor fleshed out, though the cash has yet to hit the streets.

“This is clearly an incremental process,” said Chris Huhne, the energy and climate change secretary. “But the steps forward at Cancún showed that the UN framework convention on climate change is capable of progress.”

According to the IEA, the problem the UN process is seeking to address is growing faster than anyone predicted. If emissions this year rise at the same pace as last year, the world will exceed 32 gigatonnes of Co2 in energy-related emissions alone in a single year. This is the level the IEA had expected emissions to reach by 2020, indicating that the growth of CO2 emissions has been much quicker than expected.

Unless these rises can be turned to reductions within a few years, the world will soon be well beyond what scientists say is the limit of safety.

Stern, chair of the Grantham research institute on climate change and the environment at the LSE, said: “If we are to give ourselves a 50% chance of avoiding a warming of more than 2C, and radically cut the risk of a 4 degrees rise, global annual emissions will need to peak within the next 10 years and then fall steadily, at least halving by 2050.”

Even the worst economic recession in 80 years failed to make a lasting dent in emissions. “The global downturn bought us only a very temporary and now vanishing breathing space and the need for significant cuts in emissions remains urgent,” Stern added. “The window of opportunity to meet the 2 degrees target is closing, and further delay risks closing it altogether. The challenge is not simply to meet the targets agreed at Cancún but to raise our ambition from there.”

While warnings grow louder, analysts say politicians are turning off. Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA, said governments have lost interest. “The significance of climate change in international policy debate is much less pronounced than it was a few years ago,” he said. “It’s difficult to say that the wind is blowing in the right direction.”

This gloomy assessment was borne out at last week’s summit of the G8 group of leading industrialised nations in Deauville, a two-hour train ride from the IEA’s offices in Paris, where hopes that world leaders would discuss climate issues were dashed. Russia, Japan and Canada reportedly told the meeting they would refuse to join a second round of carbon cuts under the Kyoto protocol. Greenpeace accused leaders of “gambling with our future”.

Some participants remain optimistic. “The key success criteria [in Bonn and Durban] are whether we can start to deliver the Cancún agreements, as well as make progress on the difficult political issues not resolved there, such as the legal form [of any future agreement] and the level of ambition of emission reduction pledges,” said Huhne.

At Bonn, a sticking point is whether there will be a second phase to the Kyoto protocol, the 1997 pact in which developed countries agreed to cut their emissions by about 5% by 2012. While the EU is on track to meet its commitments, other countries are not and some – including the US, which opposes Kyoto – would prefer to discuss a replacement. Developing countries refuse to countenance this, insisting Kyoto must continue as the prerequisite for continuing talks.

To an outside observer, this argument over the legal status of a 1997 agreement that has never been enforced, has been rejected by the US and that puts no obligations on the world’s biggest emitter and second biggest economy, China, may seem arcane. But this debate has been the bread-and-butter of the UN talks.

Since Copenhagen, some countries have suggested another approach may work better – agreement among key countries that would bypass objectors, for instance, or a “bottom-up” approach where countries invest in renewable energy to cut emissions. All such attempts have been rejected by developing nations and green groups, who say only an international treaty will deliver accountability.

Huhne believes the UN negotiations can still deliver. “The UK has no intention of letting up in its efforts to get a legally binding agreement,” he said.

Britain’s adoption of ambitious carbon targets for the mid-2020s, as well as pushing the EU to take a tougher line on emissions, “shows we are serious about meeting the climate challenge, not just arguing for it.”

There are signs of progress among emerging economies. Stern said. “China is now really focused on this issue [of emissions] via its five-year plan published in March, covering 2011-2015, and the country hopes to learn enough in the next five years to exceed and perhaps tighten its Cancún target for 2020.”

Stern says the key to progress is to see tackling emissions as an economic growth opportunity, rather than a curb. “All countries, particularly in the rich world, should now be taking still stronger action to tackle climate change and to embark on the transition to low-carbon economic growth. This will be a new energy-industrial revolution and full of creativity and innovation and great benefits beyond simply cutting the risks from climate change. We can see its beginnings – it is time to accelerate.”

5/29/2011 guardian.co.uk home Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink

guardian.co.uk home Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink. Exclusive: Record rise, despite recession, means 2C target almost out of reach. BY Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent. Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year, to the highest carbon output in history, putting hopes of holding global warming to safe levels all but out of reach, according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency. The shock rise means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially “dangerous climate change” – is likely to be just “a nice Utopia”, according to Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA. It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions, contrary to some predictions. Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA regarded as the gold standard for emissions data.

“I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions,” Birol told the Guardian. “It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say.”

Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the influential Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006, warned that if the pattern continued, the results would be dire. “These figures indicate that [emissions] are now close to being back on a ‘business as usual’ path. According to the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s] projections, such a path … would mean around a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100,” he said.

“Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict. That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.”

Birol said disaster could yet be averted, if governments heed the warning. “If we have bold, decisive and urgent action, very soon, we still have a chance of succeeding,” he said.

The IEA has calculated that if the world is to escape the most damaging effects of global warming, annual energy-related emissions should be no more than 32Gt by 2020. If this year’s emissions rise by as much as they did in 2010, that limit will be exceeded nine years ahead of schedule, making it all but impossible to hold warming to a manageable degree.

Emissions from energy fell slightly between 2008 and 2009, from 29.3Gt to 29Gt, due to the financial crisis. A small rise was predicted for 2010 as economies recovered, but the scale of the increase has shocked the IEA. “I was expecting a rebound, but not such a strong one,” said Birol, who is widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on emissions.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said time was running out. “This news should shock the world. Yet even now politicians in each of the great powers are eyeing up extraordinary and risky ways to extract the world’s last remaining reserves of fossil fuels – even from under the melting ice of the Arctic. You don’t put out a fire with gasoline. It will now be up to us to stop them.”

Most of the rise – about three-quarters – has come from developing countries, as rapidly emerging economies have weathered the financial crisis and the recession that has gripped most of the developed world.

But he added that, while the emissions data was bad enough news, there were other factors that made it even less likely that the world would meet its greenhouse gas targets.

• About 80% of the power stations likely to be in use in 2020 are either already built or under construction, the IEA found. Most of these are fossil fuel power stations unlikely to be taken out of service early, so they will continue to pour out carbon – possibly into the mid-century. The emissions from these stations amount to about 11.2Gt, out of a total of 13.7Gt from the electricity sector. These “locked-in” emissions mean savings must be found elsewhere.

“It means the room for manoeuvre is shrinking,” warned Birol.

• Another factor that suggests emissions will continue their climb is the crisis in the nuclear power industry. Following the tsunami damage at Fukushima, Japan and Germany have called a halt to their reactor programmes, and other countries are reconsidering nuclear power.

“People may not like nuclear, but it is one of the major technologies for generating electricity without carbon dioxide,” said Birol. The gap left by scaling back the world’s nuclear ambitions is unlikely to be filled entirely by renewable energy, meaning an increased reliance on fossil fuels.

• Added to that, the United Nations-led negotiations on a new global treaty on climate change have stalled. “The significance of climate change in international policy debates is much less pronounced than it was a few years ago,” said Birol.

He urged governments to take action urgently. “This should be a wake-up call. A chance [of staying below 2 degrees] would be if we had a legally binding international agreement or major moves on clean energy technologies, energy efficiency and other technologies.”

Governments are to meet next week in Bonn for the next round of the UN talks, but little progress is expected.

Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said the global emissions figures showed that the link between rising GDP and rising emissions had not been broken. “The only people who will be surprised by this are people who have not been reading the situation properly,” he said.

Forthcoming research led by Sir David will show the west has only managed to reduce emissions by relying on imports from countries such as China.

Another telling message from the IEA’s estimates is the relatively small effect that the recession – the worst since the 1930s – had on emissions. Initially, the agency had hoped the resulting reduction in emissions could be maintained, helping to give the world a “breathing space” and set countries on a low-carbon path. The new estimates suggest that opportunity may have been missed.

5/31/2011 Please Tell US EPA to Protect Our Health from Toxic Pollutants

Join me in supporting this cause! Petition: Protect Our Health from Toxic Pollutants Click the play button to sign this petition. Dear Administrator Jackson, Every year, power plants release more than 386,000 tons of toxic air pollutants into the air we breathe. These emissions — which aren’t subject to any federal limits to protect our health and safety — impose a heavy burden on Americans in the form of cancer, heart and lung disease, and thousands of premature deaths every year. The technology to reduce these costly emissions is available and affordable, and I strongly support the EPA’s Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which will make our air safer to breathe by requiring that power plants use these proven methods of pollution control to limit their harmful emissions. [Your comments will be inserted here.] In the coming months, I urge you to resist any efforts to weaken or delay your recent proposal to limit power plants’ emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic, dioxin, acid gases and other toxic pollutants. The power plant industry has already used its financial and political influence to avoid these important health protections for more than two decades. We cannot wait any longer.

Power plants pump more mercury into our air than all other big industrial polluters combined. Mercury pollution damages aquatic ecosystems and contaminates fish species that many Americans rely on for recreation and nourishment. Pregnant women and young children are most at risk: mercury exposure can lead to birth defects and learning disabilities and can also irreparably impact a young child’s ability to talk, think, read, write and learn. It is critically important that we protect these vulnerable members of our society from harm.

The Power Plant Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths every year and spare many more Americans the physical and financial costs associated with illnesses brought on by breathing dirty air. These benefits to our society should be non-negotiable, considering especially that they outweigh the costs to polluters by as much as 13-to-1.

Thank you for taking this long-overdue step to protect our right to breathe clean air.

Sincerely,
[Your name here]

5/30/2011 New York Times, Germany to Halt Nuclear Power Production by 2022

Germany to Halt Nuclear Power Production by 2022 By JUDY DEMPSEY and JACK EWING, New York Times, May 30, 2011 BERLIN — The German government agreed on Monday morning to phase out nuclear power by 2022 in a move that could have far reaching consequences for Europe’s largest economy. “It’s definite,” Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said after marathon talks held at the chancellery. “The latest end of the last three nuclear plants is 2022.” The government said the country’s oldest nuclear power plants will remain permanently closed. Seven plants were shut down in March after the in Japan and one plant had been taken off the grid earlier. The government intends to phase out the remaining nine plants according to their age with the older facilities shutting down over the next few years and the newest ones by in 2022.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been trying to cope with a sharp shift in public attitudes toward nuclear power since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami was reacting to a report submitted Monday by the so-called Ethics Commission for Secure Energy. “We want the electricity of the future to be safe, but also to remain reliable and affordable,” she said in a statement on the government Web site.

Plans to withdraw from nuclear energy are likely to be popular with the German public — the reactors had already been scheduled to be taken out of service by 2036 in the face of widespread aversion to nuclear power — but will be greeted apprehensively by German manufacturers, who fear that the cost of energy could rise.

On Friday, state environment ministers agreed that the seven older nuclear power plants, that were taken out of service after the Japanese disaster, should remain shut down. The commission endorsed that recommendation, and said the other 10 plants should be phased out gradually.

However, in a report Friday that illustrated a national debate that is likely to ensue, the federal agency that regulates the power industry said that without the seven plants Germany could have trouble coping with a failure in some part of the national power grid. The shutdown “brings networks to the limit of capacity,” the Federal Network Agency said.

The report submitted Monday to Ms. Merkel said the commission was “firmly convinced that an exit from nuclear energy can be achieved within a decade.”

Germany must make a binding national commitment, the commission said in a 48-page report. “Only a clearly delineated goal can provide the necessary planning and investment security,” the commission said.

“The exit is necessary, and is recommended, in order to rule out the risks of nuclear power,” the commission said. “It is possible, because there are less risky alternatives.”

The commission added that “the exit should be designed so as not to endanger the competitiveness of industry and the economy.”

It identified wind, solar, water as alternatives, as well as geothermal energy and so-called biomass energy from waste, as alternative power sources.

Judy Dempsey reported from Berlin, and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt.

Dirty Energy Money

Oil Change International Dirty Energy Money: Please check out the link: Dirty Energy Money is an interactive tool that tracks the flow of contributions to US Congress. Find out which companies are pumping their dirty money into politics and which politicians are receiving it. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) got $252,360 from coal and oil. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) got $450,872 from oil and coal. Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ01) got $17,300.

5/20/2011 AP: Navajo coal plant focus of congressional hearing

5/20/2011 Navajo coal plant focus of congressional hearing by FELICIA FONSECA, Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — The fate of a coal-fired power plant that provides hundreds of jobs to American Indians, yet spews tons of emissions that cloud the view at the Grand Canyon and other parks, is uncertain. The Navajo Generating Station in Page serves as an economic engine that ensures water and power demands are met in major metropolitan areas. Conservationists see it as a health and environmental hazard and want to wean the plant off its reliance to coal in favor of renewable energy. A factor in whether the more than 40-year-old plant survives is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates power plants on tribal lands. The agency is deciding whether to issue pollution controls this summer for the plant, which is one of the biggest sources of nitrogen oxide emissions in the country.

“Our job is to decide, ‘Are the parks adequately protected?'” said Colleen McKaughan, associate director of the EPA’s air division in San Francisco. “And if they’re not, does the facility need additional pollution controls?”

The role of the plant also has become the focus of a congressional hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C., that came at the request of Republican Reps. Trent Franks and Paul Gosar, who represent the Hopi and Navajo tribes, respectively. They say requiring pollution controls would force the plant to close and devastate the tribal communities that rely on the jobs and revenue from coal that feeds the plant.

“This is a way to highlight the impact that it is having and the lack of commonsense that’s being adjudicated when we’re talking about coal-fired plants,” Gosar said.

Environmentalists see the hearing as a coordinated attack on the EPA and say the plant’s owners are creating unnecessary alarm with their doom-and-gloom predictions over the EPA’s actions.

Nitrogen oxide is only a small part of the issue, and the future could bring regulations for mercury and carbon dioxide, said Vernon Masayesva, a Hopi and director of the Black Mesa Trust.

“We should not put our energies into fighting over a visibility issue,” said Masayesva, who’s scheduled to testify Tuesday. “In doing so, we’re dividing the Navajo people.”

The 2,250-megawatt power plant began producing electricity in 1974 and is supplied by coal from Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine. Some 1,000 people are employed at the power plant and mine combined, with the majority being American Indians.

The plant’s owners are trying to stave off the EPA’s proposals to give themselves more time to secure lease extensions and right-of-way grants that begin expiring in 2019.

They contend that a $45 million upgrade of the three 750-megawatt units at the plant, which will include burners that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 40 percent, or 14,000 tons per year, should be sufficient to help clear up the haze at the Grand Canyon. Further upgrades could cost $1.1 billion, they say.

“That puts the owners in a situation where we’re being asked to make a significant investment with a lot of uncertainty over whether the plant would be able to operate long enough to recover that investment,” said Glen Reeves, manager of power generation for the Salt River Project, which operates the plant. “That’s the tenuous situation we’re in.”

The EPA must consider the best available retrofit technology, or BART, for reducing such emissions, which are expensive selective catalytic converters. If the EPA goes that route, it would set the plant’s owners on a timeline to install the pollution controls.

“We’re definitely for the most stringent air quality measures that can be had,” said Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club. “That’s what BART stands for.”

For some, the current situation brings back memories of the Mohave Generating Station, which shut down in 2006 because it needed pollution-control upgrades to comply with a 199 Clean Air Act settlement, a new water supply and pipeline upgrades costing $1.1 billion.

But SRP officials say the effects of shutting down Navajo Generating Station would have a farther reach. The power plant provides energy to deliver water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix through a series of canals.

Those interested in what becomes of Navajo Generating Station began meeting in January in an effort to come to an agreement on its future. The plan was to give the EPA a proposal by March that the agency could consider in making a decision on pollution controls, but that didn’t happen.

At least one Navajo environmental group pulled out of the discussions because it said the talks were a tactic to keep the power plant running and stall the EPA’s actions. Similar groups are pushing a 10-year transition to renewable energy.

“That’s a win-win right there,” Masayesva said.

The plant’s owners have said they would support a study to see if that’s feasible.

Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/business/article/Navajo-coal-plant-focus-of-congressional-hearing-1388913.php#ixzz1N0AfS0lI

Read more: http://www.ctpost.com/business/article/Navajo-coal-plant-focus-of-congressional-hearing-1388913.php#ixzz1N0AWlt7V

Send your friends e-postcards – Celebrate Endangered Species Day

Celebrate Endangered Species Day Five years ago the U.S. Senate set aside the third Friday of May to promote the conservation of wildlife, fish and plants threatened with extinction. This year the Senate is once again in unanimous support of the holiday, and May 20 — today — is it. So drop your regular-Friday routine for two minutes and send your friends e-postcards reminding them that species everywhere, from the flashy greater sage grouse to the warty boreal toad, are in trouble — and that if we all pull together, we can save them. The Center for Biological Diversity and its supporters (you) have already put a long list of needy plants and animals on the road to recovery, but there’s always more work to be done.

After you’re finished sending postcards, take another few minutes to take action. The Center has an online Take Action page where you can sign up for email alerts, find out about local events, share actions, learn about people working for conservation across the country and get tips on other things you can do to help save species. (And don’t forget to share our Take Action page on Facebook, so everyone you know can see what you’re doing to help and join in.)

You and your friends can help offline, too, through activities like attending public meetings, organizing events, writing to your local newspaper — and just spreading the word about how important it is to safeguard rare species and the last wild places they call home.

So go ahead and celebrate Endangered Species Day right: Give yourself a pat on the back for all you’ve done so far, then keep on doing it.

Go to the Center’s website to learn more about our campaigns to save the species in the postcards below: the Hawaiian monk seal, boreal toad, piping plover and sage grouse.

Click on an image to send an Endangered Species Day postcard.

5/18/2011 Petition shines a light-Navajos ask feds to intervene against Nuclear Regulatory Commission

5/18/2011 Gallup Independent: Petition shines a light – Navajo asks feds to intervene against NRC By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – In Diné Indian Country in northwestern New Mexico, suffering is measured in milligrams per liter, millirems, and picocuries – units that measure radiation exposures, according to a petition filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining. Eric Jantz, lead attorney on the New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s uranium cases, and Larry King of Churchrock – site of the largest nuclear disaster in U.S. history – held a press conference Monday at the National Press Club in Washington to discuss the petition filed Friday asking the Human Rights Commission to intervene with the United States to stop uranium mining within the Navajo Nation. After 16 years of fighting, the Law Center has exhausted all legal remedies to overturn the mining license granted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Hydro Resources Inc., or HRI.

“I hope that the United States, which holds itself under the beacon of human rights internationally, is going to observe its international human rights obligations at home,” Jantz said Monday afternoon. The petition alleges human rights violations against the United States based on the NRC’s licensing of uranium mining operations in Crownpoint and Churchrock.

“This petition is important because it’s the first time that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ever been taken to task for its lax regulations, and it’s also the first time that any group has petitioned based on the human rights aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle – in this case, the first step in the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium mining,” Jantz said.

“We’ve alleged human rights violations of right to life, right to health, and right to cultural integrity on behalf of our clients. We hope that this petition is going to shine an international spotlight on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States’ nuclear energy policy and at the same time, keep the uranium mining from going forward in our client’s communities,” he said.

Mat Lueras, vice president of Corporate Development for Uranium Resources Inc., parent company of HRI, said, “Uranium Resources stands behind our permits and licenses issued by a variety of federal and state regulatory bodies and are confident in our technology and people.

“We are dedicated to the welfare of the communities we operate in. We are committed to the safety of our employees, supporting the communities in which we operate and protecting the environment. We operate well within the boundaries of the rules and regulations that are required of us.”

King, a member of ENDAUM’s board of directors, said the NRC never should have given HRI a license for an in-situ leach mining operation in Crownpoint. “Why would the NRC approve a license to have a company go and destroy a community’s sole drinking water aquifer? It just does not make any sense. In the Southwest where rainfall is very scarce, every drop of water is very precious to us. We need to preserve every drop, not only for our generation, but for future generations to come so that they can enjoy what we’re enjoying today.”

The petition cites a 2003 article by Carl Markstrom and Perry Charley regarding Dine cultural attitudes toward uranium.

“In the Diné world view, uranium represents a parable of how to live in harmony with one’s environment. Uranium is seen as the antithesis of corn pollen, a central and sacred substance in Diné culture, which is used to bless the lives of Diné people. Dine Tradition says:

“The Dineh (the people) emerged from the third world into the fourth and present world and were given a choice. They were told to choose between two yellow powders. One was yellow dust from the rocks, and the other was corn pollen. The Dineh chose corn pollen, and the gods nodded in assent. They also issued a warning. Having chosen the corn pollen, the Navajo [people] were to leave the yellow dust in the ground. If it was ever removed, it would bring evil,” the article states.

Recent studies have found a strong association between living in proximity to uranium mines and negative health outcomes. The federally funded, community-based DiNEH Project – an ongoing population-based study – is examining the link between high rates of kidney disease among Navajos in Eastern Navajo Agency and exposure to uranium and other heavy metals from abandoned uranium mines. The study has found a statistically significant increase in the risk for kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune disease in Diné living within a half mile of abandoned uranium mines, the petition states.

Jantz alleges that the United States, by virtue of the authority exercised by the NRC, has failed to protect conditions that promote the petitioners’ right to health by ignoring the impacts of ongoing environmental contamination from past uranium mining and milling while continuing to license uranium mining projects which will lead to further contamination.

For example, on July 16, 1979, the tailings dam at the United Nuclear Corp. uranium mill in Churchrock broke and released 93 million gallons of radioactive liquid into the Rio Puerco, which runs through King’s land where his family’s cattle ranch is located. Radioactive waste in the bed and banks of the river has yet to be cleaned up.

If HRI is allowed to proceed with mining in Section 17 – home to three families, including King’s – under terms of the license issued by the NRC, HRI may forcibly remove them or restrict grazing, agriculture, and cultural activities such as plant gathering during mining operations, according to the petition.

“It’s a pure human rights violation,” King said.

5/16/2011 Gallup Independent: For Navajo, suffering measured in radiation exposures

5/16/2011 Gallup Independent: For Navajo, suffering measured in radiation exposures  By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau:  WINDOW ROCK – In Diné Indian Country in northwestern New Mexico, suffering is measured in milligrams per liter, millirems, and picocuries – units that measure radiation exposures, according to a petition filed with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining.   Eric Jantz, lead attorney on the New Mexico Environmental Law Center’s uranium cases, and Larry King of Churchrock – site of the largest nuclear disaster in U.S. history – held a press conference Monday at the National Press Club in Washington to discuss the petition filed Friday asking the Human Rights Commission to intervene with the United States to stop uranium mining within the Navajo Nation.

After 16 years of fighting, the Law Center has exhausted all legal remedies to overturn the mining license granted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Hydro Resources Inc., or HRI.

“I hope that the United States, which holds itself under the beacon of human rights internationally, is going to observe its international human rights obligations at home,” Jantz said Monday afternoon. The petition alleges human rights violations against the United States based on the NRC’s licensing of uranium mining operations in Crownpoint and Churchrock.

“This petition is important because it’s the first time that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ever been taken to task for its lax regulations, and it’s also the first time that any group has petitioned based on the human rights aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle – in this case, the first step in the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium mining,” Jantz said.

“We’ve alleged human rights violations of right to life, right to health, and right to cultural integrity on behalf of our clients. We hope that this petition is going to shine an international spotlight on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States’ nuclear energy policy and at the same time, keep the uranium mining from going forward in our client’s communities,” he said.

Mat Lueras, vice president of Corporate Development for Uranium Resources Inc., parent company of HRI, said, “Uranium Resources stands behind our permits and licenses issued by a variety of federal and state regulatory bodies and are confident in our technology and people.

“We are dedicated to the welfare of the communities we operate in. We are committed to the safety of our employees, supporting the communities in which we operate and protecting the environment. We operate well within the boundaries of the rules and regulations that are required of us.”

King, a member of ENDAUM’s board of directors, said the NRC never should have given HRI a license for an in-situ leach mining operation in Crownpoint. “Why would the NRC approve a license to have a company go and destroy a community’s sole drinking water aquifer? It just does not make any sense. In the Southwest where rainfall is very scarce, every drop of water is very precious to us. We need to preserve every drop, not only for our generation, but for future generations to come so that they can enjoy what we’re enjoying today.”

The petition cites a 2003 article by Carl Markstrom and Perry Charley regarding Dine cultural attitudes toward uranium.

“In the Diné world view, uranium represents a parable of how to live in harmony with one’s environment. Uranium is seen as the antithesis of corn pollen, a central and sacred substance in Diné culture, which is used to bless the lives of Diné people. Dine Tradition says:

“The Dineh (the people) emerged from the third world into the fourth and present world and were given a choice. They were told to choose between two yellow powders. One was yellow dust from the rocks, and the other was corn pollen. The Dineh chose corn pollen, and the gods nodded in assent. They also issued a warning. Having chosen the corn pollen, the Navajo [people] were to leave the yellow dust in the ground. If it was ever removed, it would bring evil,” the article states.

Recent studies have found a strong association between living in proximity to uranium mines and negative health outcomes. The federally funded, community-based DiNEH Project – an ongoing population-based study – is examining the link between high rates of kidney disease among Navajos in Eastern Navajo Agency and exposure to uranium and other heavy metals from abandoned uranium mines. The study has found a statistically significant increase in the risk for kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune disease in Diné living within a half mile of abandoned uranium mines, the petition states.

Jantz alleges that the United States, by virtue of the authority exercised by the NRC, has failed to protect conditions that promote the petitioners’ right to health by ignoring the impacts of ongoing environmental contamination from past uranium mining and milling while continuing to license uranium mining projects which will lead to further contamination.

For example, on July 16, 1979, the tailings dam at the United Nuclear Corp. uranium mill in Churchrock broke and released 93 million gallons of radioactive liquid into the Rio Puerco, which runs through King’s land where his family’s cattle ranch is located. Radioactive waste in the bed and banks of the river has yet to be cleaned up.

If HRI is allowed to proceed with mining in Section 17 – home to three families, including King’s – under terms of the license issued by the NRC, HRI may forcibly remove them or restrict grazing, agriculture, and cultural activities such as plant gathering during mining operations, according to the petition.

“It’s a pure human rights violation,” King said.