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5/15/2011 Washington Examiner: Critics blast report on Grand Canyon uranium mining

Washington Examiner, Published on Washington Examiner ( . Critics blast report on Grand Canyon uranium mining: Conservation groups and officials in a northern Arizona county say there are serious flaws in a new federal analysis of the risks and benefits of uranium mining near the Grand Canyon. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors questioned the report’s conclusion that mining will employ hundreds of people and support thousands indirectly. The Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council and the Grand Canyon Trust agree. The conservationists also worry that water quality could be affected. These groups all support putting federal land bordering the Grand Canyon off-limits to new uranium mines for 20 years. That would still allow perhaps 11 existing mines but end new exploration that could permit more than 700 sites to be explored. Their opinions were contained in responses to an environmental study obtained by the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.

These questions have growing significance because a 2-year-old moratorium on new uranium mining issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar expires in mid-July, opening the door for mining exploration to resume across about 1 million acres.

An Interior spokeswoman said she did not know when Salazar might make a decision on the issue.

Representatives in Washington County, Utah, are already on record saying they want the federal government to allow more uranium mining. They say it would not cause environmental damage and could bring billions of dollars to the area’s economy.

Representatives from the mining industry also say it would have little environmental impact.

The conservation groups disagree.

“The problem with this area is that there are more unknowns than knowns — especially north of the canyon, there is a huge area where the science has not been done to determine how groundwater is moving,” said Alicyn Gitlin, of the Sierra Club.

She cited the drinking water for the Grand Canyon, which is supplied by a spring on the northern side of the canyon.

When snow melts on the North Rim most years, the water quality in the springs gets cloudy, raising an evident connection between events on the surface and water quality.

Projections on how much the ore could be worth into the future appear volatile, and determining who benefits from the industry is problematic, economic development consultant Richard Merritt wrote to the Interior Department on behalf of the Grand Canyon Trust.

“… inaccuracies in modeling the economic impact of the withdrawal … cause us to seriously question the veracity of the final conclusions …” Merritt wrote.

Federal agencies also didn’t adequately weigh the risks of lasting aquifer contamination related to uranium mining, the four conservation groups wrote.

“(The analysis) avoids discussion of the monumental tasks and hundreds of millions or billions of dollars required to clean up deep aquifer contamination, assuming it is even possible. Commenting organizations raised this issue in scoping. Neither the federal government nor industry can guarantee that uranium mining would not deplete or contaminate aquifers,” they stated.

In an April letter, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors asked that a lot of federal land in Coconino County be put off-limits to uranium mining. They raised concerns about the impacts to tourism and questions about cleanup in case of an ore truck overturning.

The county cited “hot spots” of radioactivity at former mines.

The board contended that uranium jobs were possibly counted multiple times, but that tourism revenues might be undercounted, and raised complaints that monitoring for radioactive materials along haul routes into Fredonia, Flagstaff, Page and Cameron wouldn’t be adequate.

“There is entirely too much risk, too many unknowns and too many identified impacts to justify threatening one of the most important U.S. landmarks and one of the most world-renowned national parks to justify the relatively small economic benefit associated with mining of uranium in the Grand Canyon region,” the supervisors stated.

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers and Mother Earth

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers and Mother Earth

5/7/2011 Gallup Independent: Government damage control? 'Geronimo no bin Laden' Furor grows over use of code name for stealth operation

Government damage control? ‘Geronimo no bin Laden’ Furor grows over use of code name for stealth operation 5/7/2011 By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Whether the name “Geronimo” was given to the covert operation to take down Osama bin Laden or was used for America’s No. 1 enemy himself is of little significance to most Native Americans. The fact that the link was used at all in the operation to kill the al-Qaida leader undermines the military service of Native Americans, many say. “Geronimo is no bin Laden,” White Mountain Apache Chairman Ronnie Lupe said. “Geronimo was a well-trained medicine man, and he was a kind man. But when we were invaded by terrorists back in the 1800s here in our country in the state of Arizona, he stood his ground against terrorists for a very long time. He was the first one to be recognized as a terrorist fighter across the United States.” Lupe believes Geronimo is “the greatest man that ever lived in the Southwest.” Lupe was born and raised in Cibecue, Ariz., where Geronimo once visited back in the early 1800s. During the Korean conflict, Lupe ended up on the front line with Item Company, 3rd Batallion, 1st Marine Regiment, he said. Native Americans from many other Indian tribes across the country fought also.

“They stood and defended the United States American flag, the American people, on foreign shores in many countries throughout the world. Still today, some of our kids and grandkids are over there, wearing the uniform proudly of the United States of America in various armed forces.”

Lupe said they do not appreciate Geronimo’s name being connected to bin Laden. “However it was used, we feel that we have been disgraced as an Indian nation.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., chaired a hearing Thursday afternoon before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs regarding “Stolen Identities: The Impact of Racist Stereotypes on Indigenous People.” Udall substituted for Sen. Daniel Aakaka, D-Hawaii, who had a minor accident at home and could not attend.

“In the last couple of days most of us in this room have heard the news reports on the association of ‘Geronimo’ being used as a code word associated with the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden. It goes without saying that all of us feel a tremendous sense of relief and pride toward our military personnel, intelligence community, and commander in chief – both past and present – for accomplishing this mission,” Udall said.

Native Americans historically have the highest per capita rate of military service of any ethnic group. “Tens of thousands of Native Americans serve in our military today, defending their homeland, just as Geronimo did,” Udall said. He recognized Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, who attended the hearing. “Ben and I both know that 11 Navajos have died in military service since 9/11.”

Udall said his office has tried to get clarification about the code name from the Department of Defense, but that protocol prohibits the release of information regarding operation names. “As a result, the details of how Geronimo’s name was used are unclear,” he said. “I find the association of Geronimo with bin Laden to be highly inappropriate and culturally insensitive.”

Former Navajo Nation Chairman Peter MacDonald, a Navajo Code Talker during World War II, said his wife Wanda received a call from Udall’s office Tuesday. “They told her they read the Gallup Independent article and they were concerned about that, and they were doing some of their own investigation,” MacDonald said.

The Independent ran an article in which MacDonald demanded an apology from the United States for what he considered a major affront to First Americans everywhere.

“What they told her was that bin Laden was not called Geronimo; he was called ‘Jackpot,’ and the mission was ‘Geronimo.’ So they said media messed up and they started referring to bin Laden as Geronimo. But I noticed that in a lot of the other media, ABC came out with another explanation. The UK Telegraph said the code word apparently was used because of Geronimo’s ability to avoid capture.” Regardless, MacDonald said, “A lot of Native Americans across the country now are outraged and saying everything I said.”

Shelly issued a statement saying that as the leader of the largest Indian nation in America, “I am appalled and disappointed that United States military leaders would dishonor the legacy of war leader Geronimo and the Apache tribes,” as well as all Native American servicemen and women and the Nation’s own code talkers.

To assign the operation code name “Geronimo” to America’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, is “dehumanizing, unethical and perpetrates international ignorance toward every Native American living in the United States today,” Shelly said. “The Navajo Nation respects the Apache tribes as having some of the fiercest warriors and the finest light cavalry the world has ever known.” He called on President Obama and the Pentagon to change the operation code name immediately.

Suzan Shown Harjo, president of The Morning Star Institute – a national Native rights organization – and a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma, said that as Native Americans were absorbing the news about bin Laden, they also learned of the code name.

“Shortly thereafter, various spin cycles began, attempting to convince us that we hadn’t heard or read what we heard and read – Geronimo stood for the operation to get bin Laden, not for the terrorist himself; Geronimo was used because he was hard to track or capture; Geronimo was the code name because the military picks obscure things the enemy would not know,” Harjo said. But, she added, “Geronimo was picked for the same reason that the term ‘Indian Country’ is still used to mean ‘enemy territory.’

“My father was a World War II hero in the storied Thunderbird Division, the 45th Infantry Division. … My dad was not an enemy when he helped win World War II or when his legs were almost shot off at Monte Cassino (Italy). He was not an enemy when he served in Allied Forces Southern Europe with NATO. He was an ally. … Our history is very complicated, but this is our country in a way that it is no one else’s country, because no one brought any land here with them. This will always be our country, and so when we’re slurred in public in this way, we all take offense.”

Charlene Teters of the Spokane Tribe who works at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, said her two nephews fought in Iraq and in Afghanistan. “Is it possible at this moment of national triumph, that the deepest insult was not delivered upon al-Qaida abroad, but to a small population here at home? … When the United States uses these terms and symbols, it goes against its greatest honor.”

Arizona Sen. Albert Hale, D-2nd District, sent a letter May 4 to Obama, stating that the use of Geronimo’s name “is an outrage. … I implore you to immediately apologize on national television to the Native American nations and their peoples. Your words have been of unity and healing past wrongs. This is a wrong that demands immediate words of healing.”

5/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Plan offered to streamline conspiracy cases Prosecutor will drop most criminal charges, file civil complaints

Plan offered to streamline conspiracy cases – Prosecutor will drop most criminal charges, file civil complaints By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent, 5/3/2011: WINDOW ROCK – Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran on Monday filed with the Supreme Court a proposed plan for proceedings with the upcoming conspiracy prosecutions of delegates from the 21st and 22nd Navajo Nation Council regarding the expenditure of approximately $33 million in discretionary funds. In an effort to streamline the process, with the concurrence of Window Rock District Court Judge Carol Perry, Balaran has proposed to withdraw the outstanding criminal complaints, without prejudice, against all but a few of the defendants. In place, he has proposed to file a series of civil complaints demanding restitution of funds, “whether stolen from the discretionary fund account; from the ‘Charitable Contribution’ account – the Council’s new slush fund; from the Tribal Account Fund; from the Eyeglass Fund; from the money advanced to former delegates under the liberal ‘travel’ program which was never reimbursed; and from those funds spent surreptitiously on legal fees,” he stated.

He will ask the district court to freeze the assets of those members of the 21st Council where it can be demonstrated that not only did they steal a considerable amount of public funds, but where it can be established that those assets are at risk of being hidden, fraudulently conveyed or dissipated.

He urged the Supreme Court to allow Judge Perry to take sole charge of the cases after they have been converted from the criminal to the civil arena, and to appoint another judge to assume her criminal docket.

Balaran said he intends to use search warrants to seize documents from the offices of the Attorney General, Controller, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the President and former president. For the past year, formal requests for the documents have been rebuffed, he said, and he is concerned that many of the relevant documents will end up “inadvertently” missing. “This scenario has repeated on several occasions.”

In its March 1 decision of Acothley v. Perry, The Supreme Court ordered the conspiracy trials to be consolidated and the district courts and the special prosecutor to confer and come up with a plan for adjudication of the multi-defendant trials. The court also ordered the special prosecutor to seek the assistance of attorneys and advocates from the office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief Prosecutor to carry out the court’s request, as well as federal assistance.

“The court’s directives have, for the most part, been ignored,” Balaran stated, adding that he has been challenged in his attempts to follow the court’s directives, primarily as the result of certain individuals and institutions refusing to discharge their obligations.

In the Special Division’s Jan. 6, 2010, order, the special prosecutor was assigned to investigate the Navajo Nation’s business ventures with OnSat Network Communications Inc., to explore the Nation’s relationship with BCDS, or Biochemical Decontamination Systems Inc., and at the behest of the attorney general, to look into allegations challenging Council’s spending of $33 million in discretionary funds over the course of five years.

The scope was expanded, again at the behest of the attorney general, to include investigation of the use of funds allocated to the tribal ranch program and the expenditure of discretionary funds by the office of the former president/vice president and the former speaker of the Navajo Nation Council.

During the course of his investigation, Balaran said he uncovered a systemic pattern of financial improprieties on the part of the Nation’s most senior officials that resulted in the loss, theft or misuse of millions of dollars both in federal and tribal funds and more than $1.5 billion in federal grants. He further uncovered a practice of accounting irregularities that include the false reporting of receipts, collections, deposits and disbursements of federal, state and Navajo tribal funds dating back more than 10 years.

In response, Balaran said, the Special Division again expanded his jurisdiction to include investigation of the Office of the Controller and its subsidiaries, and to prosecute any violation of Navajo, federal and state financial laws.

He noted that Council’s initial suggestion to retain a special prosecutor was not initiated by their outrage at a possible breach of Navajo appropriation protocols, but by a desire to expose malfeasance on the part of former President Joe Shirley Jr. and force his departure from office.

The special prosecutor’s investigation initially revealed the misappropriation of a minor amount of discretionary monies and lack of adherence to policies regulating their expenditure, he said, but further inquiry “revealed a wholesale effort by 21st Council members to convert these emergency funds to their own use.”

“Even more troublesome was the discovery that both Attorneys General Louis Denetsosie and Harrison Tsosie violated numerous federal and Navajo statutes by surreptitiously entering into contracts with no fewer than two law firms – neither of whom hired attorneys licensed to practice before the Navajo courts – to defend the former president and his chief of staff against the special prosecutor’s investigation as defined by the Special Division,” Balaran stated.

He also alleged that Controller Mark Grant was responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in federal grants while similarly violating dozens of federal rules and regulations.

“These issues are raised not merely to demonstrate that theft, fraud and incompetence inform practically every financial transaction in the Nation, but to underscore that this evidence will necessarily arise during the trials of many of the delegates,” Balaran stated. He said he has gathered the necessary evidence to file 259 complaints against 78 delegates.

While the Supreme Court instructed Balaran and the district courts to confer on a plan for trying the multi-defendant conspiracy trials, only four out of 10 courts responded to Balaran’s invitation, he said. In addition, despite the Supreme Court’s order that he request help from the Office of the Attorney General, “the OAG did not simply ignore the court’s order, it went to great pains not to comply,” Balaran said. Only the chief prosecutor “expressed a genuine willingness to assist,” however, her office is overwhelmed by a full docket of cases, he said.

Previous attempts to seek assistance from various members of the Office of the Attorney General also were refused, according to Balaran. “Those that explained their rationale cited their fear of retaliation, expressed their concern at being terminated and losing much-needed benefits, or of finding themselves jobless without the ability to support a family.” In any “bilagaana” court, an attorney violating an order from any trial court would face severe sanctions, including suspension and disbarment, he noted.

At the court’s urging, Balaran said he traveled on several occasions to Washington to confer with the acting attorney general at the Department of the Interior, which has given the Nation close to $1.5 billion, but that office could promise no immediate action. He also attempted to contact U.S. attorneys for the states of New Mexico and Arizona but was unable to speak directly with either of them. As a result, he submitted his plan Monday to the Supreme Court to streamline prosecution of the cases.

5/1/2011 Boston Globe: A nuclear cautionary tale turns 25

A nuclear cautionary tale turns 25. By Katharine Whittemore Globe Correspondent / May 1, 2011 “They’re safer than samovars!” Soviet propagandists once crowed about the country’s nuclear power plants. “We could build one on Red Square.” That’s how things rolled before Chernobyl, recalls Arkady Filin. And as one of 600,000 “liquidators,” or cleanup workers, sent in after the April 26, 1986, disaster — who dropped, from helicopters, tons of sand and lead atop the molten core, then built a concrete sarcophagus over the reactor and plowed under countless acres of radioactive topsoil, all the while soaking up immense doses themselves — he’s realistic (Chekhovian?) about what happened.  “People who weren’t there are always curious,” says Filin, who appears in a gut-punching oral history called “Voices from Chernobyl’’ by Svetlana Alexievich (Dalkey Archive, 1997). But “it’s impossible to live constantly in fear,” he adds. “[A] person can’t do it, so a little time goes by and normal human life resumes.” A little time has gone by, but lately normal life feels not so normal. We are thinking hard about nuclear power again, in rising panic about radiation contamination. It’s all a terrible coincidence, isn’t it? This spring marks the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe — just as the severity of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant gets rated at the highest level. The level, that is, of Chernobyl.

Many (including President Obama) still plug for nuclear power amid our falling stores of fossil fuels, but trust me, it’s hard to go there after you read about the event that brought Ukraine and Belarus to its knees. Then again, the genie’s out of the bottle; the European Nuclear Society currently lists 442 power plants in 30 countries. Five are operating right here in New England. Are they all safe as samovars? As long as there is human error (see: Chernobyl, Three Mile Island), you have to say no. As long as there are natural disasters (see: earthquakes, Japan), no again.

So let’s brave the Chernobyl literature, and see what it really means to live with a calamity. I chose to focus on titles published after 1991, when the Soviet Union fell. That’s because later authors had access to declassified material and could craft a fuller story. The best of these is 1993’s “Ablaze: The Story of the Heroes and Victims of Chernobyl’’ by Piers Paul Read (Random House). Read, the author of “Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors,’’ is a robust narrator who provides unblinking, abundant context from the Soviet archives and his own interviews. His chronicle of the dying victims in Hospital No. 6 in Moscow left me utterly shaken.

Read also parses the factors of the accident and stresses that the fault must be spread broadly. Workers were paid bonuses to finish the reactor ahead of schedule, and thus took shortcuts. Equipment and materials were often substandard. The Communist Party, broke and on its last legs, forced the men to also build hay storage facilities, distracting them from their first priority. It’s the tragic trifecta: hubris, error, scarcity.

“Chernobyl is the catastrophe of the Russian mind-set,” explains historian Aleksandr Revalskiy in “Voices from Chernobyl.’’ Maybe, but you must honor the sacrificial heroics of those same Russians. If the workers and liquidators hadn’t sacrificed their health and their lives by shoveling burning graphite into pits and fixing valves in radiation-laced water, the scourge might have spread to all of Europe. “Voices’’ teems with piteous details: how thousands of the 200,000 residents, just before evacuation, wrote their names on fences, houses, asphalt. How one of the hunters hired to shoot radiation-exposed dogs and cats (the fear was they’d stray outside the contaminated zone) says, “[I]t’s better to kill from far away so your eyes don’t meet.”

There may be few dogs or cats left in what has become Europe’s largest de facto nature sanctuary. But in the 30-kilometer Chernobyl Zone of Alienation around the plant, there are eagles, bears, moose, lynx, storks, wild boars, and more. Surprisingly, it turns out that humans are a greater threat to animals than cesium and strontium. With us gone, nature thrives, as you learn from Mary Mycio’s eerily gripping “Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl’’ (Joseph Henry, 2005).

But aren’t there six-eyed mutants or something? Actually, no, though animal reproduction rates are lower. And pine trees grow out like bushes, rather than up. Mycio, a Ukrainian-American biologist, also tells us about the 3,000-plus workers (all part-time, it’s the law) who maintain the zone. They’re able to be here because much of the radiation-contaminated material has since been buried. In fact, shockingly, tourists can now visit certain areas. And in 300 years, your descendants can move back to the inner 30-kilometer region. As for The Ten, as the 10-kilometer hot spot by the reactor is called, people can live there one day too. In 24,110 years.

Katharine Whittemore is a freelance writer based in Northampton. She can be reached at
© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

4/27/2011 US EPA Water News Release (HQ): Obama Administration Affirms Comprehensive Commitment to Clean Water

Please submit comments. The draft guidance from U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is open for 60 days of public comment, will protect waters that many communities depend upon for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected from pollution under the Clean Water Act. 4/27/2011 US EPA Water News Release (HQ): Obama Administration Affirms Comprehensive Commitment to Clean Water CONTACTS: (CEQ) Taryn Tuss, 202-456-6998 (EPA) 202-564-6794; (USDA) 202-720-4623 (DOI) Kendra Barkoff, 202-208-6416 (DOA) Moira Kelley, 703-614-3992 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Obama Administration Affirms Comprehensive Commitment to Clean Water WASHINGTON – Recognizing the importance of clean water and healthy watersheds to our economy, environment and communities, the Obama administration released a national clean water framework today that showcases its comprehensive commitment to protecting the health of America’s waters. The framework emphasizes the importance of partnerships and coordination with states, local communities, stakeholders and the public to protect public health and water quality, and promote the nation’s energy and economic security.

For nearly 40 years, the Clean Water Act, along with other important federal measures, has been a cornerstone of our effort to ensure that Americans have clean and healthy waters. The administration’s framework outlines a series of actions underway and planned across federal agencies to ensure the integrity of the waters Americans rely on every day for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and that support farming, recreation, tourism and economic growth. It includes draft federal guidance to clarify which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act nationwide; innovative partnerships and programs to improve water quality and water efficiency; and initiatives to revitalize communities and economies by restoring rivers and critical watersheds.

“Clean water and healthy waterways are vital to the health and vibrancy of our communities and the strength of our economy,” said Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “Working with our partners across communities, governments and sectors, we are taking comprehensive action to ensure Americans have the clean and healthy waters they need and deserve.”

”The steps we’re outlining today will be instrumental to protecting the waters of the United States, and ensuring that the vital natural resources our communities depend on for their health and their economy are safeguarded for generations to come,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “After four decades of progress on clean water, there is still work to be done to address unfinished business and tackle new threats to our waters. American families and businesses are counting on us to maintain and improve the rivers, lakes, streams and other waters that support thousands of communities and millions of jobs across the country.”

“Healthy rivers and clean waters are fundamental to our economy, our health, and our way of life,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “With growing pressures on our natural systems, we must work to secure cleaner, safer, and more reliable water supplies for our communities.”

“As our nation’s foremost conservationists, farmers, ranchers and forest owners have a values system rooted in rural America that recognizes we cannot continue to take from the land without giving something back,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “At USDA, we are working with farmers, ranchers and forest owners to conserve land, plant stream buffers for cleaner water, and install other conservation practices. We also will continue to invest in rural water and community facility projects that help small towns ensure their citizens have access to safe and reliable drinking water. The draft Clean Water Act guidance released today reflects USDA’s work with our federal partners by maintaining existing exemptions for ongoing agricultural and forestry activities, thereby providing farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with certainty that current agricultural and forestry activities can continue.”

“The Army is very proud of our ecosystem restoration efforts across the nation,” said Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. “The proposed joint EPA and Army guidance will clarify Clean Water Act jurisdiction and help the Corps and its partner agencies protect important aquatic resources and watersheds that communities rely on for their quality of life and essential services.”

Clean water provides critical health, economic and livability benefits to American communities. Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has kept billions of pounds of pollution out of American waters, doubling the number of waters that meet safety standards for swimming and fishing. Despite the dramatic progress in restoring the health of the nation’s waters, an estimated one-third of American waters still do not meet the swimmable and fishable standards of the Clean Water Act. Additionally, new pollution and development challenges threaten to erode our gains, and demand innovative and strong action in partnership with federal agencies, states, and the public to ensure clean and healthy water for American families, businesses, and communities.

The Obama administration is safeguarding clean water by: Promoting Innovative Partnerships. Federal agencies are partnering with states, tribes, local governments and diverse stakeholders on innovative approaches to restore urban waters, promote sustainable water supplies, and develop new incentives for farmers to protect clean water.

Enhancing Communities and Economies by Restoring Important Water Bodies: The Obama administration is dedicating unprecedented attention to restoring iconic places like the Chesapeake Bay, California Bay-Delta, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico and Everglades, investing in action and helping states, local governments and stakeholders find pollution control solutions that are tailored to their specific needs.

Innovating for More Water Efficient Communities: The administration is working with policymakers, consumers, farmers and businesses to save water – and save money – through 21st century water management policies and technology.

Ensuring Clean Water to Protect Public Health: The Obama administration is aggressively pursuing new ways to protect public health by reducing contaminants in Americans’ drinking water. We are updating drinking water standards, protecting drinking water sources, modernizing the tools available to communities to meet their clean water requirements, and providing affordable clean water services in rural communities.

Enhancing Use and Enjoyment of our Waters: The administration is promoting stewardship of America’s waters through innovative programs and partnerships. These efforts include expanding access to waterways for recreation, protecting rural landscapes, and promoting public access to private lands for hunting, fishing and other recreational activities.

Updating the Nation’s Water Policies: The administration is strengthening protection of America’s waters and American communities. We are modernizing water resources guidelines, and updating federal guidance on where the Clean Water Act applies nationwide. The draft guidance will protect waters that many communities depend upon for drinking, swimming, and fishing, and provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected from pollution under the Clean Water Act. The guidance is open for 60 days of public comment to all allow all stakeholders to provide input and feedback before it is finalized.

Supporting Science to Solve Water Problems: The administration is using the latest science and research to improve water policies and programs and identify and address emerging pollution challenges.

More information and to read the Obama administration’s clean water framework:


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4/18/2011 U.N. Prepares to Debate Whether 'Mother Earth' Deserves Human Rights Status

U.N. Prepares to Debate Whether ‘Mother Earth’ Deserves Human Rights Status By Jonathan Wachtel, Published April 18, 2011, | United Nations diplomats on Wednesday will set aside pressing issues of international peace and security to devote an entire day debating the rights of “Mother Earth.” A bloc of mostly socialist governments lead by Bolivia have put the issue on the General Assembly agenda to discuss the creation of a U.N. treaty that would grant the same rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Mother Nature. Treaty supporters want the establishment of legal systems to maintain balance between human rights and what they perceive as the inalienable rights of other members of the Earth community — plants, animals, and terrain.

Communities and environmental activists would be given more legal power to monitor and control industries and development to ensure harmony between humans and nature. Though the United States and other Western governments are supportive of sustainable development, some see the upcoming event, “Harmony with Nature,” as political grandstanding — an attempt to blame environmental degradation and climate change on capitalism.

“The concept ‘Mother Earth’ is not universally accepted,” said a spokesman from the British Mission to the U.N. about Bolivia’s proposal. “In general, our view is that we should focus on tackling important sustainable development issues through existing channels and processes.”

The General Assembly two years ago passed a Bolivia-led resolution proclaiming April 22 as “International Mother Earth Day.” The measure was endorsed by all 192 member states. But Bolivian President Evo Morales envisioned much more, vowing in a speech to U.N. delegates that a global movement had begun to lay “out a Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.”

Morales, who repeatedly says “the central enemy of Mother Earth is capitalism,” called for creating a charter that defends the right to life for all living things. Morales, who was named World Hero of Mother Earth by the General Assembly, has since made great strides in his campaign.

In January, Bolivia became the world’s first nation to grant the natural environment equal rights to humans. Bolivia’s Law of Mother Earth is heavily influenced by the spiritual indigenous Andean world outlook that revolves around the earth deity Pachamama, roughly translated to Mother Earth.

The Bolivian law establishes 11 rights for nature that include: the right to life and to exist; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered; the right to have nature’s processes free from human alteration. The law also establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth to act as an ombudsman, which will ensure nature is “not being affected my mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities.”

Emboldened by this triumph, Morales’ goal is to emulate his domestic achievement as a U.N. treaty. In a 2008 address to a U.N. forum on indigenous people, he said the first step in saving the Earth is to “eradicate capitalism” and to force wealthy industrialized countries to “pay their environmental debt.” Morales presented 10 points, or Evo’s Ten Commandments, as they are affectionately called by devotees, to save the planet.

Among them is a call to end the capitalist system, and a world without imperialism or colonialism. Respect for Mother Earth is Commandment 6. U.N. critics slammed the decision to devote an entire day debating Mother Earth legislation as not only a waste of time and resources, but a major blunder.

“The UN is a one-act show,” said U.N. watchdog Anne Bayefsky, of Eye on the U.N., in which “Western democracies are responsible for the world’s ills and developing countries are perpetual victims.”

Bayefsky said the General Assembly’s focus on Mother Earth distracts from more pressing issues and problems at the U.N.

“The rights of inanimate objects violated by developed countries are considered a useful focal point this month,” she said, adding that, “Syria is scheduled to be elected next month to the U.N.’s top “human” rights body, and Iran is on the U.N.’s top women’s rights body.” Syria is one of the sponsors of the “Mother Earth” treaty.

Bolivia’s ambassador to the U.N., Pablo Solon, who will represent Morales at the debate and ‘expert’ panel discussions at U.N. headquarters, said, “Presently many environmentally harmful human activities are completely legal,” including those that cause climate change.

“If legal systems recognized the rights of other-than-human beings,” he says, such as mountains, rivers, forests and animals, “courts and tribunals could deal with the fundamental issues of environmental contamination.”

It is not clear if Bolivia’s new tough environmental laws will actually go as far as to protect life forms like insects, but the legislation does include all living creatures.

Read more:

April 21, 2011 Request regarding the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Power Plant Disaster

April 21, 2011  Prime Minister Naoto Kan Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo), Sunao Tsuboi, Chair, Sumiteru Taniguchi, Chair, Terumi Tanaka, Secretary General:   Request regarding the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Power Plant Disaster As survivors of the atomic bombs which wreaked unprecedented devastation on humanity, we Hibakusha now expect much of the Japanese Government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) as they make efforts for recovery from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster and to aid those affected.  While a triple disaster on such a scale does indeed occur only rarely, from our experiences we are anxious that current efforts are focused on immediate measures, while comprehensive policies are being delayed and crucial aspects neglected.

We atomic bomb survivors continue to suffer in all parts of our bodies, hearts and lives from the effects of our experiences 66 years ago and since. We have accumulated achievements as a movement calling for assistance for Hibakusha. In this capacity, we call for necessary emergency measures to be taken for the survivors of the recent disaster.

Based on our own experiences, we make the following recommendations.

We call on the Japanese Government and TEPCO to accept these with sincerity and take steps for their implementation.

1. To issue all survivors and evacuees of the earthquake, tsunami and  radiation leaks with Disaster Victim Certificates.

At the time of the atomic bombings, authorities including the police made exhausting efforts to issue Disaster Victim Certificates. These were extremely effective afterwards in confirming that the holder was a survivor of the bombings.

As time passes and survivors become more dispersed, activities to confirm the victims become more difficult.

The certificates issued in this case should include a section for information about the situation of experiencing the disaster (including people whose whereabouts is unknown) and movements after the disaster.

We expect the Government to implement sufficient policies for relief and recovery, and call for all efforts to be made for initial measures, with an understanding of the overall damage and situation as a prerequisite.

2. To issue all victims of the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident with a health monitoring book, and the state to take responsibility to conduct regular medical checks at least annually.

We Hibakusha are still suffering even after 66 years.

Radiation disease caused by nuclear fallout rarely occurs within the short-term; most cases occur after a considerable amount of time. The Government and TEPCO must take responsibility for long-term policies including life-long regular health checks and medical measures.

Furthermore, we call for health monitoring books to also be issued to all workers who are now risking their lives to work inside the nuclear power plant upon TEPCO’s orders.

The Government and TEPCO must bear the responsibility to take full measures for those people in the nearby areas who were issued with evacuation orders or voluntary evacuation advisories. Measures must be taken assuming the worst case scenario.

3. Until the lives and medical care of the survivors can be properly secured, the evacuation centres where survivors are sheltering must not be closed. Policies must also be made to care for children orphaned by the disaster.

Having seen many children orphaned by the atomic bombs and the war rendered homeless, we are deeply anxious that the recent disaster could also create more orphans. We call for particular consideration to be made for policies to care for children.

4. To provide accurate information regarding the damage caused by radiation, to ease anxiety of citizens and to eradicate harmful rumours and discrimination against survivors.

5. To make a major transformation of energy and electricity policy from reliance on nuclear energy to research, development and use of renewable energy.

In the immediate future, we call for maximum measures to be made to ensure the safety of existing nuclear power plants, while protecting the three principles of the peaceful use of nuclear energy (independent, democratic, made public) and assuming the worst case scenario.

6. To learn from the severity of this nuclear power plant disaster and make progress towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. To cease the concept of protecting Japan through military means, and change to a policy of peace and security that gives the highest priority to diplomacy, aiming for the co-existence of humanity and based on Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

7. TEPCO to take full responsibility for the nuclear power plant accident, and give compensation for the damage it caused.

* This document was submitted to the Prime Minister, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry; Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

4/10/2011 Bolivia enshrines natural world's rights with equal status for Mother Earth Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation

Bolivia enshrines natural world’s rights with equal status for Mother Earth Law of Mother Earth expected to prompt radical new conservation and social measures in South American nation John Vidal in La Paz, Sunday 10 April 2011 18.17 BST:  John Vidal reports from La Paz where Bolivians are living with the effects of climate change every day Link to this video Bolivia is set to pass the world’s first laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. The Law of Mother Earth, now agreed by politicians and grassroots social groups, redefines the country’s rich mineral deposits as “blessings” and is expected to lead to radical new conservation and social measures to reduce pollution and control industry.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered.

Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

“It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all”, said Vice-President Alvaro García Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

The law, which is part of a complete restructuring of the Bolivian legal system following a change of constitution in 2009, has been heavily influenced by a resurgent indigenous Andean spiritual world view which places the environment and the earth deity known as the Pachamama at the centre of all life. Humans are considered equal to all other entities.

But the abstract new laws are not expected to stop industry in its tracks. While it is not clear yet what actual protection the new rights will give in court to bugs, insects and ecosystems, the government is expected to establish a ministry of mother earth and to appoint an ombudsman. It is also committed to giving communities new legal powers to monitor and control polluting industries.

Bolivia has long suffered from serious environmental problems from the mining of tin, silver, gold and other raw materials. “Existing laws are not strong enough,” said Undarico Pinto, leader of the 3.5m-strong Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, the biggest social movement, who helped draft the law. “It will make industry more transparent. It will allow people to regulate industry at national, regional and local levels.”

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Bolivia’s traditional indigenous respect for the Pachamama was vital to prevent climate change. “Our grandparents taught us that we belong to a big family of plants and animals. We believe that everything in the planet forms part of a big family. We indigenous people can contribute to solving the energy, climate, food and financial crises with our values,” he said.

Little opposition is expected to the law being passed because President Evo Morales’s ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism, enjoys a comfortable majority in both houses of parliament.

However, the government must tread a fine line between increased regulation of companies and giving way to the powerful social movements who have pressed for the law. Bolivia earns $500m (£305m) a year from mining companies which provides nearly one third of the country’s foreign currency.

In the indigenous philosophy, the Pachamama is a living being. The draft of the new law states: “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

Ecuador, which also has powerful indigenous groups, has changed its constitution to give nature “the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution”. However, the abstract rights have not led to new laws or stopped oil companies from destroying some of the most biologically rich areas of the Amazon.

Coping with climate change: Bolivia is struggling to cope with rising temperatures, melting glaciers and more extreme weather events including more frequent floods, droughts, frosts and mudslides.

Research by glaciologist Edson Ramirez of San Andres University in the capital city, La Paz, suggests temperatures have been rising steadily for 60 years and started to accelerate in 1979. They are now on course to rise a further 3.5-4C over the next 100 years. This would turn much of Bolivia into a desert.

Most glaciers below 5,000m are expected to disappear completely within 20 years, leaving Bolivia with a much smaller ice cap. Scientists say this will lead to a crisis in farming and water shortages in cities such as La Paz and El Alto.

Evo Morales, Latin America’s first indigenous president, has become an outspoken critic in the UN of industrialised countries which are not prepared to hold temperatures to a 1C rise.

4/20/2011 Gallup Independent article: Delegate concerned about cleanup of Highway 160 site

Delegate concerned about cleanup of Highway 160 site, By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent, 4/20/2011, WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency has selected a contractor to begin cleanup of the “Highway 160 Site” in Tuba City and will host a Radiation Awareness Workshop next week at To’Nanees’Dizi Chapter House to educate the public, according to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Joshua Lavar Butler. “Area residents need to be reassured that the cleanup and transport of radioactive material is done in an effective and efficient manner without causing further harm to the surrounding area. During the summer it’s windy, and anyone downwind could be affected,” Butler, who represents To’Nanees’ Dizi, said.

“It is vitally important federal and tribal officials begin educating and notifying people of concerns for safety and activities associated with this cleanup. I will continue to keep our people informed and will urge the agencies involved to take all safety precautions to ensure it is done in a manner to protect the health of our people and of our environment,” he said.

The Radiation Awareness Workshop will be held 8 a.m.-5 p.m. April 27-28, with three sessions April 27 for the general public, and two more in-depth sessions April 28 for emergency and public safety personnel, according to Butler.

The Highway 160 Site is located about 5 miles east of Tuba City along Arizona Highway 160. It is directly north of the former Rare Metals uranium mill owned by El Paso Natural Gas and managed by U.S. Department of Energy’s Legacy Management.

According to an October 2010 statement of work, the Highway 160 site was discovered by Navajo EPA in 2003. The agency conducted radiological and soil analysis the following May and released a final report in September 2004. The site was found to have high radiological readings, including a finding of more than 1 million counts per minute.

In 2006 and 2007, Navajo EPA contracted William Walker of Walker & Associates, Inc., to conduct further site investigation. Walker found evidence that linked the contamination to Rare Metals, including ceramic tumblers and Normandy pebbles possibly used in the mill processing operation. Radiological levels ranged from 400 counts per minute to more than 10,000 counts per minute.

Analysis was performed on 47 soil samples and Walker released a final report in 2007 identifying radiological concerns that are affecting the immediate environment as well as health and safety concerns for humans, animals and plants. Groundwater at the Highway 160 site has not been characterized, according to Navajo EPA.

Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy Shingoitewa, who lives in the Upper Village of Moenkopi, is concerned, according to Butler. The Highway 160 Site is in close proximity not only to Rare Metals – where DOE has been treating contaminated groundwater for nearly a decade – but also another site known as the Tuba City Open Dump, where radioactive contamination also was found.

“There is some radioactive contamination that is showing up in a plume that is coming off the Tuba City Open Dump,” Shingoitewa said. “The plume is also moving into the drinking water, so both the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation are working as partners very closely to make sure that the open dump site will be cleaned up.”

The Highway 160 Site is within the customary use area of a family who used the area to graze their livestock. In late 2007, El Paso provided further surveys of the site and confirmed the presence of buried debris up to 13 feet deep. El Paso fenced nearly 8 acres of the 16-acre site and applied a polymer cover to prevent windblown contamination.

Stephen B. Etsitty, who has been executive director of Navajo EPA since 2003 and was confirmed again Wednesday by Council, said they fought DOE for years for recognition of the site, and finally in Fiscal Year 2009 received congressional authority and a $5 million appropriation through DOE to clean up the site. DOE will keep $500,000 of that amount for oversight of the project. “It will be a clean closure,” Etsitty said, meaning that all contaminated soil will be removed and transported away from the Navajo Nation to an approved disposal facility.

Cassandra Bloedel of Navajo EPA, in an exit interview in January with the 21st Council’s Resources Committee, said the waste will be removed this year, possibly by August, and transported on state highways for final disposal at the “Cheney Cell,” about 12 miles southeast of Grand Junction, Colo.