Category Archives: Government Accountability

5/14/2011 US EPA Superfund meeting

It is almost time for Saturday, 5/14 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meeting at Moenkopi Legacy Inn to discuss the status of abandoned uranium mine screenings in the western agency of the Navajo Nation and safe drinking water issues.

4/26/2011 Grist: Climate Change Climate legislation advances in 16 major countries

4/26/2011 Grist: Climate Change Climate legislation advances in 16 major countries by Jake Schmidt Default badge avatar for Jake Schmidt A new study [PDF] released by GLOBE international — a coalition of legislators from around the world — found that “climate change is featuring prominently on the legislative agenda across the 16 major economies.” The study, conducted by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics, documents the kinds of actions that countries are taking at home to reduce their emissions. While it doesn’t tell us the impact of those measures, it does show a growing commitment of countries to change their laws, policies, and regulations to address their carbon pollution. This is a focus that recently emerged at the global warming negotiations when developed and developing countries presented details on the actions they are taking to meet their commitments to reduce emissions. These are the kinds of actions that are essential to addressing global warming as we ultimately need countries acting, not just saying they’ll act.

While not intended to be a full list of all the measures that a country is taking — they don’t include state/provincial measures — the report does provide a good glimpse into the actions in these 16 countries (the report provides good details for each country). The countries documented are the biggest emitting countries and collectively account for over 70 percent of the world’s emissions, so the actions that they take at home are crucial to solving this challenge. Here is a quick summary of the types of actions that these countries are taking and the coverage of those actions:

international climate legislation As the report [PDF] notes:

This activity suggests that the difficult talks in Copenhagen, and the subsequent slow progress in the formal negotiations, has not diminished countries’ appetite for developing climate change legislation, perhaps recognizing that many of the actions required to reduce emissions and to adapt to a changing climate, are directly in the national interest.

This is a very positive development, as countries are now motivated by self-interest to act. The global negotiations put a spotlight on this action and reinforce the need for countries to come prepared with commitments and actions. In the lead-in to Copenhagen, countries knew that the spotlight would be on them, so they needed to come prepared with real commitments to address their carbon pollution.

In the lead-in to the next annual high-level global warming negotiations in Durban, South Africa, let’s hope that countries don’t lose sight of what ultimately matters: what actions countries are taking at home and what kind of impacts are those actions having in reducing carbon pollution.

They’ll have another chance in Durban this December, and then in June 2012 when world leaders meet at the Rio+20 Earth Summit to take further steps to deploy clean energy, improve their energy efficiency, and reduce deforestation emissions. I hope they take advantage of these opportunities. The spotlight will be on them.

I’m the international climate policy director at Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). I blog regularly on international climate change issues and the negotiations on NRDC’s Switchboard. And I twitter at:

Happy Mother's Day to all Mothers and Mother Earth

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers and Mother Earth

5/5/2011 Public News Service: Arizonans Call for Canyon Mining Moratorium

Public News Service: Arizonans Call for Canyon Mining Moratorium PHOENIX, Ariz. – Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including 36 Arizona groups, have weighed in to support a federal proposal for a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on 1 million acres near Grand Canyon National Park. A public comment period has just ended. The Obama administration is expected to decide the issue in the next few weeks. Lynn Hamilton is the executive director of Grand Canyon River Guides, a nonprofit group of professional river guides and individuals who love the Grand Canyon. She warns that runoff from existing uranium mines has already polluted several rivers, creeks and springs within the national park. “It’s really alarming for people to feel like the areas that they’re visiting and recreating in, which they consider to be wilderness areas, are tainted in this way.”

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and 62 other members of Congress have sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging him to approve the proposed 20-year moratorium. Several local governments and Native American tribal governments have also endorsed the proposed mining ban. The industry maintains that modern mining techniques prevent environmental damage.

Hamilton says Native Americans living in northern Arizona have been especially hard-hit by water pollution resulting from uranium mining.

“It’s really a deadly history. Many Native Americans have died from drinking tainted water or from using that water to sustain their livestock and crops when it’s contaminated.”

Hamilton also expresses concern about the potential effect on tourism from uranium mining claims that are “right on the doorstep” of the Grand Canyon.

“This is an area that draws 5 million visitors each year. It contributes almost $700 million annually to the regional economy.”

Grand Canyon tourism supports some 12,000 full-time jobs, she adds.

5/5/2011 Navajo Times: Balaran: Senior officials part of 'systemic' abuse

5/5/2011 Navajo Times: Balaran: Senior officials part of ‘systemic’ abuse by By Bill Donovan Special to the Times: The $2 million or so that Navajo Nation Council delegates allegedly stole from their discretionary funds is only the tip of the iceberg, according to a court document filed Monday by Special Prosecutor Alan Balaran. In a proposed revision of his prosecution plan submitted to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court, Balaran stated, “During the course of his investigation, the special prosecutor 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.”

Accounting irregularities related to the misuse of money date back 10 years and include false reporting of receipts, collections, deposits and disbursements, he stated. Federal, state and tribal money is involved.

Balaran originally was hired by the Council to look into allegations of impropriety in connection with then President Joe Shirley Jr. and the contracts for OnSat and BCDS, two business deals that cost the tribe millions and ended in failure.

A special court panel set up to oversee his operations expanded Balaran’s authority on Jan. 6 to look into the Council discretionary funds and based on what he then uncovered, further expanded his mandate to look into all aspects of tribal finances.

What he found, according to Monday’s document, is epic corruption and mismanagement by some of the highest officials in the tribal government.

Balaran singled out the tribe’s controller, Mark Grant, for his role in allowing tribal funds to be misused.

“Putting aside for the moment that Mr. Grant, by all accounts, displays a remarkable lack of knowledge concerning anything related to tribal finances, the controller was singularly responsible for the loss of billions of dollars in federal grants while simultaneously violating dozens of federal rules and regulations,” Balaran wrote.

“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.”

Attempts to get hold of Grant for comment on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Grant did not return phone calls, and kept the Navajo Times on hold for over 20 minutes on one call before an assistant said it was time to free up the phone line and disconnected the call.

Balaran asserted that Grant also “played a role designed to ensure the special prosecutor was not paid,” but lays major blame for this problem at the feet of the tribe’s attorney generals, past and present.

Balaran stated that former Attorney General Louis Denetsosie and his top assistant, current Attorney General 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.”

Balaran said he has records showing that while Denetsosie and Tsosie paid those lawyers more than $250,000, “they simultaneously refused to compensate the special prosecutor and his staff on the plank that there were no available funds.”

Tsosie was on travel according to his staff and could not be reached for comment. Denetsosie, who reportedly has gone into private practice since stepping down in January, could not be located.

In addition to encountering repeated problems getting tribal officials to turn over documents, Balaran told the high court that its directives on case planning and other procedural matters are being widely flouted by lower courts and the attorney general’s office.

Only four of the 10 district courts responded to his invitation to meet and discuss how to ensure all the defendants get speedy trials.

He also said members of the attorney general’s office have told him they fear retaliation, including the loss of their jobs, if they help him, despite the Supreme Court directive to do so.

Citing the court’s order to the attorney general and chief prosecutor’s office to assist the special prosecutor, Balaran said, “From all accounts, this … caused panic among the members of the office of the Attorney General who met in emergency session the very next morning” to decide how to fight the order.

“In this instance, the OAG did not simply ignore the court’s order, it went to great pains not to comply,” Balaran said.

He singled out Chief Prosecutor Bernadine Martin as an exception, writing, “In stark opposition to the recalcitrance demonstrated by her colleagues at OAG, the chief prosecutor expressed a genuine willingness to assist.”

Balaran expressed surprise that no one has been penalized for ignoring the Supreme Court’s orders. He said in most off-reservation courts an attorney who refused to comply with a direct order from a court would face severe sanctions including suspension and disbarment.

“… the special prosecutor must profess he has never heard of so many jurists demonstrat(ing) a similar irreverence toward an appellate court. On the Navajo Nation, it appears that, irrespective of the court issuing the order, orders are complied with at the convenience of the attorney,” Balaran wrote.

Balaran said “in response to this court’s urging,” he reported the misuse of federal and state money to the proper authorities, including the acting attorney general for the U.S. Interior Department, but that agency “faces its own financial constraints and could promise no immediate action.”

He also tried to contact the U.S. attorneys for New Mexico and Arizona to report his findings, he told the Supreme Court, but so far hasn’t been able to speak directly with either one.

5/4/2011 – 306,000 Comments submitted today in support of 1-million-acre protection of the Grand Canyon

5/4/2011 – Forgotten People just learned, a total of 306,000 comments were submitted in support of Alternative B (full 1-million-acre protection), which is nothing short of historic. Great work Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and the People!
Grand Canyon Uranium Mining PSA
Please take action by May 4th to protect the Grand Canyon! Narrated by Craig Childs and directed by James Q Martin, this short video makes a compelling case for the Obama administration’s proposal to protect 1 million acres of public land surrounding…,

Save the Grand Canyon from uranium mining
Posted on April 30, 2011 by forgottenpeople

Uranium mining rips up huge tracts of land to extract radioactive material for use in nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants.1 For the past two years, the Grand Canyon has been protected from these ravages. But now, the temporary mining moratorium is set to expire. The Grand Canyon’s fragile ecosystem, stunning beauty, and vital water supply are threatened by 1,100 new mining claims that have been filed within five miles of this priceless “crown jewel.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering a 20-year ban on mining to protect the Grand Canyon’s entire one-million acre watershed. But there are other proposals on the table, and industry lobbyists are encouraging BLM to open the floodgates for the uranium mining rush. It’s essential that we urge the BLM to protect the Grand Canyon.

Tell the Bureau of Land Management: Ban uranium mining at the Grand Canyon. Submit a public comment now. The high price of uranium makes its extraction extremely lucrative for mining companies, but shockingly, the practice is regulated by the antiquated 1872 Mining Law which has no environmental standards to limit the devastation and radioactive damage that results to wildlife, soil, ground and surface water. In fact, the law actually makes exploitative mining a priority over all other uses of public lands. The legacy of mining in the Grand Canyon and has already wrought lasting damage to surrounding areas and tribal communities, who have banned mining on all their lands…. Read More