Toyota

Since the Dilly, Dally, Delay & Stall Law Firms are adding their billable hours, the Toyota U.S.A. and Route 44 Toyota posts have been separated here:

Route 44 Toyota Sold Me A Lemon



Monday, May 30, 2011

Massey Energy Guilty: West Virginia Probe Finds Coal Giant Systemically Failed to Comply with Law

Video and transcript available on link:

Massey Energy Guilty: West Virginia Probe Finds Coal Giant Systemically Failed to Comply with Law

An independent state probe in West Virginia concludes that mining giant, Massey Energy, was responsible for the April 2010 explosion that killed 29 underground coal mining workers. It echoes preliminary findings by federal investigators earlier this year that Massey repeatedly violated federal rules on ventilation and minimizing coal dust to reduce the risk of explosion, and rejects Massey’s claim that a burst of gas from a hole in the mine floor was at fault. The report also notes Massey’s strong political influence, which it uses "to attempt to control West Virginia’s political system" and regulatory bodies. We speak with J. Davitt McAteer, who oversaw the probe and is a former top federal mine safety official. [includes rush transcript]

Guest:

J. Davitt McAteer, lead author of the “Upper Big Branch Report,” which investigates the April 5, 2010, coal mining accident at a Massey Energy mine in West Virgina. He was formerly the assistant secretary of the Mine Safety and Health Administration in the Clinton administration. He is now vice president of Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.


The Fight over Coal Mining is a “Fight About Democracy”: New Documentary with Robert Kennedy, Jr. Chronicles Campaign to Halt Mountaintop Removal


ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR.: I’ve been involved in the industry, in the coal industry in West Virginia, on and off for 27 years. I was invited down about three or four years ago by the local group at Coal Mountain to help them in their battle to save this last mountain, as Bill says.

Massey Coal is the third largest coal company in the country, but it is by far the biggest practitioner of mountaintop removal mining. Over the past decade, they have leveled an area of the Appalachians the size of Delaware, 1.4 million acres. They’ve cut down 500 of the biggest mountains in the state. And they’ve buried, as Bill said, thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

They have to break the law to do this. They cannot survive in the marketplace without violating the law. They violate labor laws. They violate health and safety laws. And by their own records, they’ve had some 67,000 violations of just one of the environmental statutes. But they’re in violation of many, many other environmental statutes. Last year, I debated Don Blankenship in West Virginia in front of a statewide audience, a televised debate. And I asked him during the debate, "Is it possible for you to do your job without breaking the law?" And he said, "No, it is not." So this is a criminal enterprise, even by his own estimation.

As Bill says, you know, one of the things that they always say in West Virginia is, "Well, coal brings jobs and prosperity to the state." But this is one of the things that my father explained to me when I was 14 years old and he was fighting strip mining in Appalachia. He said, "This ought to be the richest state in the union because of the huge resources they have in West Virginia. But it’s the 49th poorest population, because the benefits of coal do not help the people of the state of West Virginia."

And if you look at the way that Massey operates, Massey doesn’t want to hire—it won’t hire unions. Its whole business plan has been to break the United Mine Workers, which it succeeded in doing in the state. When I was a little kid, there was 151,000 coal miners in West Virginia taking coal out of tunnels in the ground. Today there are fewer than 18,000 left in the state, and most of them aren’t unionized, because the strip industry isn’t, because Massey broke the unions. They’re taking more coal out of West Virginia than they were in 1968, but the money is not staying in the state for salaries or pensions or reinvestment in the community. It goes straight up to Wall Street. Ninety-five percent of the coal in West Virginia is owned by out-of-state interests. And Massey doesn’t like to hire—it won’t hire union labor, but not only that, it doesn’t like to hire people who have a union culture. So it won’t hire, if it can help it, West Virginians. So it advertises in Myrtle Beach, in the Atlanta Constitution, in USA Today, to bring people into the state. They work on these sites, cutting down the mountain. It takes about six years for them to cut down a mountain, and then they move someplace else.

They buy up the communities. They’ve bought up dozens and dozens of communities. They board up the houses. They make the people sign contracts saying that they’ll never come back within 20 miles of that community. And they empty the landscapes of people. So then, when they come to us and say, "Well, we’re bringing prosperity in West Virginia," what we say to them is, "Why is it that the places with the most coal in the state are the places with the poorest people? How can you bring prosperity to a community when you’re emptying the community?"

Well, this film is about a group of people in West Virginia who said, "We’re not leaving. We’re going to stay here. We’re going to protect our mountains." And they climbed up trees and built tree houses. They confronted the industry. They walked—they demonstrated in front of—they walked into the governor’s office. They had public demonstrations.

You know, one of the things that—one of the reasons that I’m interested in what’s happened in West Virginia and that Bill really got interested in doing the film here is that it’s not just about the destruction of the environment. It’s about the subversion of democracy. And wherever you see widespread environmental injury, you’re also going to see the subversion of democracy. And West Virginia is really the template for that dynamic. You’ll see the destruction of the public process at the local level, where people no longer have a say in the allocation of the public trust, the resources of the commons. You’ll see the destruction of transparency in government. You’ll see the capture of the agencies that are supposed to protect Americans from pollution. They become—in West Virginia, the West Virginia DEP has become the sock puppet for the industry that it’s supposed to regulate. You’ll see the widespread corruption of public officials, which you’ve also seen. Virtually every relevant public official in the state of West Virginia is now an indentured servant for the coal industry. And you’ll also see the destruction of the press and the role of the fourth estate. And again, in West Virginia you see the press largely blind, holding a blind eye to this wholesale destruction of the landscapes and to the people whose lives are being destroyed in this process that’s making a few people rich by systematically impoverishing virtually everybody else in the state.



The Last Mountain

MSHA Failed to Watchdog Deviant Mine Company

MSHA Failed to Watchdog Deviant Mine Company
Today, the Governor’s Independent Investigation Panel submitted to the governor of West Virginia its report on the Upper Big Branch (UBB) mine disaster that killed 29 men in April 2010. Liz Borkowski at The Pump Handle blog has a detailed summary. Be sure to read it, especially if you’re going to bypass the 126-page report.

From a regulatory perspective, the bottom-line is this: Massey Energy, the owner of UBB, was a scofflaw – a repeat violator of critical safety standards; but for a variety of reasons, some explicable and some inexplicable, nothing was done to halt the company’s chronically dangerous practices at the Upper Big Branch mine. At a more visceral level, the transgressions and events leading up to and surrounding the disaster are a blow to human dignity.

MSHA clearly could have done more, according to the governor’s report: “Despite MSHA’s considerable authority and resources, its collective knowledge and experience, the disaster at the Upper Big Branch mine is proof positive that the agency failed its duty as the watchdog for coal miners.” In the year leading up to the disaster, the UBB mine was sending all the signs that it was about to be a big problem:

Inspectors spent 1,854 hours at the mine in 2009, nearly twice the time as in 2007. During 2009, they wrote 515 citations and orders for safety violations, including 48 withdrawal orders for repeated significant and substantial (S&S) violations. The monetary penalties proposed for violations in 2009 and early 2010 totaled nearly $1.1 million.
But MSHA didn’t exercise elements of its regulatory authority. The agency’s inability to place UBB, or any mine, on its pattern of violations list has been well documented. The governor’s report also points out that MSHA chose not to use its power to declare “flagrant” violations at UBB, which come with a $220,000 fine.

The agency also failed “to see the entire picture” and “to connect the dots of the many potentially catastrophic failures taking place at the mine,” the report says. As a result, MSHA lost sight of its most important goal: prevention. “Enforcement aimed at prevention is what Congress envisioned for MSHA when it passed the federal Mine Law,” the report reminds us.

Of course, Massey wasn’t making it easy. The company has years of experience gaming the system. It routinely appeals violations and generally gives MSHA the legal runaround. The governor’s report relays this tale: “Massey’s Vice President for Safety Elizabeth Chamberlin reportedly took a violation written by an inspector, looked at her people and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll litigate it away.’ ”

I feel obligated to highlight one other element of the report, summarized by Borkowski:

Autopsies on 24 of the victims, ranging in age from 25 to 61, found that 17 of them (71%) had coal workers' pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease. Five of them had less than 10 years of coal mining experience. The current limits on coal mine dust, put in place in 1973, were intended to be sufficient to prevent CWP, but have apparently not succeeded in eliminating this irreversible respiratory disease.


Even if the explosion at UBB hadn’t occurred, holes in the regulatory safety net were going to jeopardize these men’s lives anyway. This is no way to treat humankind.

Liz Borkowski's summary is worth reading:

The "Failure of Basic Coal Mine Safety Practices" that Killed 29 Miners


The report references a study by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University's School of Communications; it found that Massey Energy had the worst fatality record among US coal companies from 2000 to 2010. During that time, 54 workers were killed in Massey mines, including the UBB victims. The company had an average of one fatality per 17.5 million tons of coal produced -- compared to one fatality per 296 million tons at Peabody energy, the top US coal producer. The AU team calculated that between 2000 and 2010, Massey was cited for 62,923 violations, and 25,612 of those were "significant and substantial." MSHA proposed $49.9 million in fines for these violations -- although, as the GIIP notes, the company made a habit of contesting proposed penalties, and so far has paid only one-third of the penalties proposed for violations at UBB between 2000 and 2009.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Nuclear Energy Scam

If Big Corporations didn't own the US government, would we pursue the path that Germany is on? Would the U.S. be enlightened enough to recognize that the only sensible path is renewables that are cost effective when compared to Nuclear Energy with all of its subsidies and loan guarantees funded by Americans?


NEW ALERT FOR FUKUSHIMA IN JAPAN DUE TO TYPHOON SONGDA

(AGI) After the consequences of the 11 of March earthquake and of the tsunami, the radiation leaks and the overheating of the reactors' core, a new alarm has been set off for the crippled Fukushima Daiichi 1 nuclear plant. Typhoon 'Songda' is approaching from the Filippines, where it caused at least 2 casualites and thousands of displaced people. The typhoon is heading with winds averaging 216 Km/h (around 135 mph) .

Typhoon Strengthens, May Hit Fukushima Nuke Plant
By Aaron Sheldrick and Tsuyoshi Inajima

Bloomberg

Typhoon Songda strengthened to a supertyphoon after battering the Philippines and headed for Japan on a track that may pass over the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant by May 30, a U.S. monitoring center said.

Songda’s winds increased to 241 kilometers (150 miles) per hour from 213 kph yesterday, the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center said on its website. The storm’s eye was about 240 kilometers east of Aparri in the Philippines at 8 a.m. today, the center said. Songda was moving northwest at 19 kph and is forecast to turn to the northeast and cross the island of Okinawa by 9 p.m. local time tomorrow before heading for Honshu.

The center’s forecast graphic includes a possible path over Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, which has been spewing radiation since March 11 when an earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. Three of six reactor buildings have no roof after explosions blew them off, exposing spent fuel pools and containment chambers that are leaking.

The U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center classifies storms as supertyphoons when their maximum sustain winds reach at least 150 miles per hour, according to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.



Power outages, downed communication lines knocked out most radiation monitoring systems in disaster areas
Kyodo
Most radiation monitoring systems in Fukushima, Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures broke down temporarily after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, preventing local authorities from gauging the ensuing nuclear crisis, prefectural officials said.

Monitoring systems in other prefectures with nuclear power plants also face similar risks of a breakdown, requiring an urgent review, analysts say.

Twenty-two of the 23 round-the-clock radiation monitors installed around the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and at the nearby Fukushima No. 2 nuclear complex stopped sending data to the prefectural monitoring center about three hours after the quake, officials said.

While some monitors were broken by the magnitude 9.0 temblor or were washed away by tsunami, infrastructure disruptions such as downed communication lines and electricity outages were the major causes of the breakdown, one official said.

Although some of the monitors are equipped with satellite links as a backup, they also failed to send data, most likely because their antennas were damaged in the disaster, the officials said.

In Miyagi Prefecture, where the Onagawa nuclear power plant is located, four out of seven monitors broke down after being hit by tsunami.

The remaining three — which were positioned in high places — were able to transmit data through backup satellite connections, but the function was lost about five hours after the quake, officials said.

In Ibaraki, more than 40 monitors are set around the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant and nearby nuclear facilities. Emergency batteries activated amid power outages but their power ran out about 20 hours later, halting monitoring for three hours until electricity was restored in the area.

"It is a general rule that radiation levels near the facilities are always monitored. It is a problem that all the equipment broke down," said an official of the prefecture's radiation monitoring center.


Massive nationwide protests call for an immediate end to nuclear energy

More than 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets in 20 cities across Germany on Saturday to call for a rapid end to nuclear power, even as a government-sponsored national commission is expected to recommend that Berlin abolish nuclear energy within a decade.

The Ethics Commission is set to announce the results of its final report on Germany's energy future, calling for nuclear power to be phased out by 2021.

Rainer BrĂ¼derle, head of the Free Democrats parliamentary group, called for certain conditions to be met before nuclear energy was phased out. BrĂ¼derle said the power grid for renewable energy needed to be expanded.

"If we don't accelerate the expansion of the grid for renewable energy, then we will ultimately fail in the end," he said.



Currently, only four of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants are operational. Chancellor Merkel ordered eight to be shutdown pending review while five more were shutdown for routine maintenance.

On Sunday, Merkel's coalition government will meet to agree on a timetable for the shutdown of Germany's nuclear plants.

Stop Oil Speculation Now

"With the summer vacation season beginning this Memorial Day weekend, gas prices are hovering around $4 a gallon. Experts blame excessive speculation for up to 40 percent of the price of oil. Last year's Wall Street reform law ordered federal commodity regulators to clamp down. Bernie accused the trading commission of breaking a law after a disappointing meeting with the chairman."



Saturday, May 28, 2011

If you can't see it, does that mean it isn't there?

Note this:

Fukushima's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company [TEPCO], has confirmed that fuel at Unit One melted BEFORE the arrival of the March 11 tsunami.

This site offers updated information and resources about this nuclear catastrophe:

Is Fukushima Now Ten Chernobyls Into the Sea?
By Harvey Wasserman, Common Dreams

New readings show levels of radioisotopes found up to 30 kilometers offshore from the on-going crisis at Fukushima are ten times higher than those measured in the Baltic and Black Seas during Chernobyl.

"When it comes to the oceans, says Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceonographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, "the impact of Fukushima exceeds Chernobyl."

The news comes amidst a tsunami of devastating revelations about the Fukushima disaster and the crumbling future of atomic power, along with a critical Senate funding vote today:

Fukushima's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, has confirmed that fuel at Unit One melted BEFORE the arrival of the March 11 tsunami.
READ MORE

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Japanese Chernobyl

As the Corporate Media, with its short attention span and sound byte reporting turned its attention to such pressing news as the "Groper" Arnold Schwarzenegger getting caught with his pants down, yet again, out of the spot light is the nuclear disaster taking place in Japan.


The U.S. Nuclear Industry went into high gear immediately following the Japanese disaster, representing the energy source as safe and perpetuating their propaganda. Oh?


Friends insist it's safe and ignore [from Nuclear]:

Since 2005, new U.S. reactors (if any) have been 100+% subsidized--yet they couldn't raise a cent of private capital, because they have no business case. They cost 2-3 times as much as new windpower, and by the time you could build a reactor, it couldn't even beat solar power. Competitive renewables, cogeneration, and efficient use can displace all U.S. coal power more than 23 times over--leaving ample room to replace nuclear power's half-as-big-as-coal contribution too--but we need to do it just once. Yet the nuclear industry demands ever more lavish subsidies, and its lobbyists hold all other energy efforts hostage for tens of billions in added ransom, with no limit.

Consider this -- Nuclear Energy costs

$7,500 per kilowatt to build


That’s more than double the capital costs for solar power and three and a half times the cost for wind.

the most heavily subsidized industry in the energy sector.

In 2005, Congress handed the nuclear power industry $13 billion in federal aid, and two years later went on to approve an additional $20.5 billion in loan guarantees, making U.S. taxpayers the cosigners on loans for new nuclear projects -- half of which are expected to end in defaults.

Wind is already more competitive than electricity generated from new nuclear and coal-fired power plants.




Americans are outraged at the sudden knowledge that Dirty Oil is so heavily subsidized and given tax breaks on the pretext of 'We Need....' Why are we footing the bill for the Nuclear Industry if it's so competitive?


This highlights the importance of the Public Broadcasting System in its presentation of important news, not reduced to a 30 second sound byte:


Re-evaluating The Fukushima Nuclear Situation

Two months since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, workers are finally getting in-person looks at the inside of the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. Ed Lyman of the Union of Concerned Scientists gives an update on efforts to bring the damaged reactors to a "cold shutdown."

IRA FLATOW, host:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. It's been a little over two months since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan wrecked the Fukushima nuclear power station, releasing enough radiation to have analysts comparing it to Chernobyl.

Only very recently have workers been able to get in-person views of some parts of the damaged reactors there. What are they seeing inside? And how is that new information changing the plan for how to respond to the unprecedented situation?

Joining me now is Ed Lyman. He's been tracking developments at the power plant. He's a senior scientist with the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Mr. ED LYMAN (Union of Concerned Scientists): Thank you.

FLATOW: You know, it's almost as if this story has dropped off the radar screen here in the States.

Mr. LYMAN: Yes, well, that is the trend. You know, if things aren't blowing up every day, then people tend to forget. But the situation is still pretty serious.

FLATOW: How serious is it? Give us an update on where we stand now with it.

Mr. LYMAN: Well, the update is that the authorities have learned what a lot of people pretty much have figured all along, that in three reactors the nuclear fuel has completely melted and is now sitting at the bottom of the steel reactor vessels, and that is actually probably going to complicate the ability to stabilize the situation further.

FLATOW: Well, what about the cooling situation? Are they able to keep it cool?

Mr. LYMAN: They are providing cooling, but they haven't yet brought these cores to what they call cold shutdown, which is bringing them below the boiling point of water. And as a result, they're cooling by continuing to dump water into the reactor vessels.

That's boiling off the steam. It's condensing as contaminated water, and it's ending up in the basements of these buildings and still leaking, probably, into the groundwater and into the sea. So they don't have a stable closed(ph) circuit to maintain cooling at this point.

FLATOW: Does that mean that the melted core is stable itself, it's not melting through, the China syndrome, as we used to call it?

Mr. LYMAN: Well, it does appear that way. It looks like they were able to stabilize the situation before these cores actually melted through completely the steel vessel. In that case it would have dropped down to the floor of the containment building and potentially eaten through the containment.

So the situation isn't as bad as it could have been, but the vessels are believed to be leaking. There are holes in them, and there are also holes in the containment building. So anything you put in is still finding its way out.

FLATOW: So you're basically, by pouring water in and it flushing out, you're just basically flushing radioactive material to the outside.

Mr. LYMAN: That does seem to be the consequence there. They're washing huge quantities of radioactive water into the basements of the buildings, and that's causing an enormous cleanup problem they're going to have to face for a long time to come.

FLATOW: And so is there a plan, or is it is it what?

Mr. LYMAN: Well, the original plan would be to flood the containment buildings with water. They knew that the vessels weren't completely full. That's the steel vessel within the containment. But they didn't realize they were completely empty, which means that there are holes probably at the bottom.

So the original plan was to flood the containment buildings and try to cover the cores that way, but since the containment buildings also all seem to be leaking, their new plan is to build a system which would extract the water that's leaking out of the containment buildings, run it through filters, clean it up and put it back in the reactor. So they're going to have to siphon off all the contaminated water it's collecting in the basements.

FLATOW: Is that sort of like building a moat around it and pumping out the water as it leaks out or how?

Mr. LYMAN: They'll have to build a new piping system with pumps that will, you know, draw the water out of these buildings.

FLATOW: So we're talking about something that's going to take many months, and in all that time the radioactivity will continue to leak out.

Mr. LYMAN: Yes, unfortunately, that seems to be the situation. Their estimate is to have the reactors in cold shutdown within six to nine months. That's probably an optimistic assessment, but to deal with all the radioactivity that's already gotten into the environment and to actually stabilize the cores, package the materials safely and eventually decontaminate the site, that's -you're talking about decades.

FLATOW: And as far as those holding pots, are they in a different situation or basically in the same situation?

Mr. LYMAN: Well, they've managed to stabilize the leaks that they know about. They've used a mineral called zeolite, which absorbs certain radioactive isotopes to try to soak up some of the radiation and keep it from spilling into the environment.

But there's already been a lot that's been released, both in the water and also in the air. So there's also contamination of ground farmland, tens of miles downwind from the site.

FLATOW: Would it be fair, then, at this point - I know when the accident first happened, people were comparing it to Three Mile Island. Have we moved over to a Chernobyl comparison?

Mr. LYMAN: Yeah, I mean, I don't think the comparison's that useful. This is definitely a very, very severe event. It's led to a massive amount of radiation released into the environment and a cleanup problem that's going to take decades.

I think it's, you know, qualititatively speaking, as bad as Chernobyl.

FLATOW: And how are the Japanese taking this?

Mr. LYMAN: The Japanese are reacting with a lot of concern. Japan - nuclear power was a big part of Japan's energy strategy for hundreds of years. They wanted to build a new fleet of reactors called fast breeder reactors, use plutonium fuel. It was really part of their self-identity, is having a big nuclear power program.

And this has caused a shock to the system that's really turned public opinion around. It's led the government to require the shutdown of other plants that are in seismically active areas. And I think it's causing a real reconsideration of nuclear power in Japan.

FLATOW: So things will just stay at the status quo until they're able to change that, whenever that may be?

Mr. LYMAN: Yes, I mean, they've identified eight areas that they need to address, not only cooling the reactors and the spent fuel pools but stabilizing the site in the event of further seismic events or tsunamis.

They need to improve the situation of the workers at the site. That's very important because the working conditions have been terrible, not just because of the radiation levels but also basic human needs.

And they also need to build covers around the reactors and to deal with contaminated topsoil. You know, it's just a whole laundry list of chores there, and making slow progress. But it's - there was no playbook for how to deal with this type of situation. So they're making things up as they go along.

FLATOW: All right, Ed, thanks for checking in with us.

Mr. LYMAN: Thank you.

FLATOW: Ed Lyman, he's been tracking the developments at the Fukushima nuclear reactor. He is a senior scientist with the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.





Nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled
The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant says radioactive water may now be leaking from a wastewater storage facility on site. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, told reporters Thursday that nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled. The latest leak was discovered amid efforts to transfer highly contaminated water from the number 2 and number 3 reactors to an improvised storage facility. TEPCO says the water level in the facility had dropped nearly two inches in just 20 hours, suggesting a leak.



New Leak Suspected at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant

In what may be yet another setback, the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant says radioactive water may now be leaking from a wastewater storage facility on site.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, told reporters Thursday that nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled out, raising further concerns about the utility's ability to handle the worst nuclear crises since Chernobyl.

The latest leak was discovered amid efforts to transfer highly contaminated water from the number 2 and number 3 reactors to an improvised storage facility. TEPCO says the water level in the facility had dropped nearly two inches in just 20 hours, suggesting a leak.

The utility has been pumping massive amounts of water in an effort to cool three of Fukushima's reactors, a process TEPCO has said would be completed in three months. Large leaks have already been reported in reactors 1 and 2, and news of this latest leak is yet another setback in the effort to stabilize the reactors.

More than two months after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami killed about 240,000 people and crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi, TEPCO is struggling to bring the plant under control. Earlier this week, the company said all 3 reactors had gone into a state of "meltdown" within 3 days of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, confirming what nuclear experts have suspected.

The melted fuel remains covered in water, and temperatures inside the containment vessel are below dangerous levels, officials said. But failure to disclose such information sooner, has outraged critics who say the utility and the Japanese government have responded too slowly.

At a press conference Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano denied accusations of a "cover-up," but admitted the government needed to take seriously "the criticism that we haven't done enough to provide and circulate information."

Environmental group Greenpeace says the radioactive leaks are taking a toll on marine life. New data released by the group shows high levels of contamination in fish, shellfish, and seaweed samples taken 12 miles off the coast of the Fukushima plant.

Analysis by laboratories in France and Belgium found high levels of radioactive iodine and radioactive cesium in seafood, according to Greenpeace. Contamination levels were highest in seaweed samples, which contained radiation 50 times higher than official limits.

"Our data shows that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant," said Greenpeace Radiation Expert Jan Van Putte. "Radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life."

The International Atomic Energy has launched its own investigation into the nuclear crises. A team of 20 IAEA experts arrived in Tokyo Monday on a fact-finding mission, where they plan to visit the Fukushima plant.

'The Last Mountain': Appalachia vs. Big Coal

Interesting video offered by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who has actively opposed mountaintop removal for more than 20 years:

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., NBC Washington
Robert Kennedy Jr. introduces a new film, "The Last Mountain," which illustrates the fight to save the last great Appalachian mountain from "mountaintop removal." A giant coal mining corporation is pushing to blow it up using a devastating strip-mining practice which has destroyed entire landscapes. The Coal River mountain community is fighting to preserve the mountain and build a wind farm on its ridges instead. "The Last Mountain" turns a light on the battle being played out in America between energy needs and environmental and public health concerns.



'The Last Mountain': Appalachia vs. Big Coal
Janet Donovan
Actor Woody Harrelson was a surprise guest at D.C. premiere of "The Last Mountain" at E Street Cinema, also attended by Sens. Dennis Kucinich and Barbara Boxer, Director Bill Haney, and Bobby Kennedy Jr. who speaks out on West Virginia's struggle.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

THE KOCHS TAKE ONE ON THE CHIN

Jim Hightower, one of the first casualties of Karl Rove's Dirty Tricks Tactics, had this to say about the Koch Brothers [Remember, Koch ? Remember their opposition to clean wind power off the coast of Cape Cod?]:

THE KOCHS TAKE ONE ON THE CHIN
Posted by Jim Hightower

It's always good to see a corporate bully get popped right in the snout by those it's bullying – and what bully is more deserving of a comeuppance that Koch Industries?

This $100 billion-a-year conglomerate routinely runs roughshod over everything from the environment to worker rights. Likewise, the two Koch brothers who run it are narcissistic right-wing extremists who feel entitled to throw their multibillion-dollar fortunes at America's historic democratic structures, hoping to knock them down and erect their own corporate plutocracy over our democracy.

But along came a little David to rock Goliath. Last December, a merry band of tricksters called Youth for Climate Truth spoofed Koch Industries with a fake press release that appeared to be from the conglomerate itself. In essence, the release declared that the Kochs' had seen the error of their ways in opposing efforts to regulate global warming emissions and were becoming environmentalists.

It was a harmless joke, but bullies don't like anyone laughing at them – so the grumpy billionaires unleashed their pack of snarling lawyers on the spoofing youngsters. They demanded the activists' names and hurled an intimidating lawsuit at them, claiming everything from financial harm to trademark infringement. The message was clear: mess with us and we'll bury you in legal costs.

That's when Public Citizen stepped in. This longtime champion of the rights of the little guy has a group of top-notch lawyers, and they went head to head with the Kochites in federal court. They requested that Judge Dale Kimball quash the subpoenas, protect the spoofers' identities, and dismiss Koch's lawsuit. On May 9th, the judge said yes to all three requests.

The Kochs are still bullies, but it sure feels good to see them knocked down a peg.

"Judge dismisses lawsuit against activists who spoofed Koch Industries," http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/583709/judge_dismisses_lawsuit_against_activists_who_spoofed_koch_industries/ , May 10, 2011.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May: Asthma Awareness Month



Our Health Isn't A Cost of Doing Business

Coal-fired power plants—the nation's worst air polluters—aren't required to limit their emissions of pollutants that can cause cancer, asthma and other serious health problems. As a result, children suffer asthma attacks and thousands of our citizens die premature deaths every year. Power plants are also the biggest mercury polluters. If moms-to-be are exposed to this potent neurotoxicant, it puts their babies at risk of birth defects and learning disabilities.

But our health is unimportant to the coal-fired power industry and its allies in Washington, D.C., which is why they've fought tirelessly against reasonable limits on the toxic pollution they generate.

After years of work by Earthjustice and supporters like you, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finally preparing to clean this dirty industry up. Please take a moment to tell the EPA that you support limits on power plants' toxic air pollution.

The health protections that the EPA recently proposed will reduce emissions of cancer-causing metals such as arsenic, chromium and nickel. And each year, the protections will save the lives of as many as 17,000 people and prevent 11,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital and emergency rooms visits, and 120,000 asthma attacks.

We aren't willing to sacrifice our health so that the rich coal-fired power industry can rake in higher profits. The technology to reduce air pollution that harms our health and the health of our children is readily available and affordable.

Help protect everyone's right to breathe clean air. Tell the EPA to issue strong health protections against coal-fired power plants' toxic air emissions!


Please send the email below to 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.

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.


Anyone who has ever suffered from respiratory problems knows how devastating Dirty Air can be. It's time to move forward to improve air quality and the health of Americans.

Thanks for all you do.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where are the Commissioners?

Since ratepayers are getting porked for expensive travel, where's the rest of the Commission?

Did they approve these expenses? Is anyone asking?

We miss out on millions of dollars in energy grant money, yet are funding expensive trips?

At times like these, I sure miss Jim Butler!

Middleboro utility chairman racks up $12K in travel expenses
Gas & Electric official’s expenses have accrued over past eight months

By Alice C. Elwell
Enterprise correspondent
MIDDLEBORO —
The chairman of Middleboro Gas & Electric’s board of directors has racked up $12,000 in ratepayer-funded travel expenses over the past eight months, including luxury hotel accommodations, laundry and maid service, according to the town-owned utility’s recently released financial documents.

The travel expenses of Donald R. Triner Sr. came to light as part of a broad release of public records from the utility last month. Those documents include the company’s budget, which had been requested by the finance committee, and the contracts of employees, which had been requested by the town treasurer/collector and town clerk.

Triner’s travel costs run large and small. They include:

A five-day conference in San Diego in July. Hotel and airfare cost $3,895, and a rental car cost $479.

A September 2010 conference in Phoenix where Triner was reimbursed $3 for coffee and a newspaper, $4 for a magazine and $55 to “Paul the Chauffeur.”

$26 for breakfast and $37 for laundry during a January stay at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort and Spa in Fort Myers, Fla. Accommodations ran $237 a night. The hotel bill of $1,838.99 was charged to Mrs. Betty Triner, with a note at the bottom that rewards points would be credited to her account.

$1,500 for a stay at the St. Gregory hotel during a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. in February. The bill included $215 in maid service and tips.

The $12,000 total does not include Triner’s most recent trips to conferences in Washington, D.C.

Triner said his attendance at such conferences across the country benefit the utility and the customer. Topics discussed include climate change, pipeline safety, legislation on energy and natural gas and low-income energy assistance.

“All these things we work on to help lower rates,” Triner said. “The more networking you do with other utilities across the United States, the more you get to see what other utilities are doing.”

Former selectman Lincoln D. Andrews said that justification only goes so far.

“There comes a point of diminishing returns,” Andrews said.

Taunton’s municipal lighting plant has had a moratorium on travel for the past year and a half, spokeswoman Cynthia Argus said.

“It was our way of keeping ahead on the expenditures,” she said. “We were looking for a way to trim. A moratorium on travel seemed an obvious way to trim costs.”

Taunton’s residential cost for electricity is 11 cents per kilowatt hour – five cents cheaper than Middleboro’s.

Triner was elected to the commission in 2003 and brings with him 32 years in the gas industry.

Suzanne Dube, a member of the Finance Committee, has reviewed the utility’s public records and last week gave her colleagues a report on the utility’s spending practices and policies.

“I am pleased that this process has initiated conversation within the entire community,” she said. “A collaborative, inclusive approach is the key to facilitating a dialog that will yield positive outcomes which are mutually beneficially to all.”

Copyright 2011 The Enterprise. Some rights reserved

Read more: http://www.enterprisenews.com/features/x1934472809/Middleboro-utility-chairman-racks-up-12K-in-travel-expenses#ixzz1LCQ83brm

Can't breath?

When we talk about flawed energy policy, global warming and energy consumption, sometimes we forget that Diry Coal is a major contributor.

This fact filled report about AIR is worth the review --


5 Facts About Air Pollution
When the American Lung Association publishes its annual report card, the lists of worst-polluted cities always grab the headlines. But, wait, there's more...


The American Lung Association has released lists of the nation’s most polluted cities in its annual State of the Air report this week. This year’s findings show that improvements have been made in the areas of ozone (smog) and particle pollution (soot) thanks to the Clean Air Act. Still, it’s not all good news with the report finding that half of the United States population—154.5 million people—live in counties that have unhealthful levels of either ozone or particle pollution at times throughout the year. To ensure air pollution continues its decline year after year, the American Lung Association and other watchdogs say Congress needs to cease efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act and strip funding from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Here are some other striking facts from the report:

Coal-Fired Power Plants Aren't Healthy
According to the American Lung Association, one huge problem that needs correcting are the over 440 coal-fired plants in 46 states that are the largest contributors to air pollution: soot that causes lung diseases; sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause smog and acid rain; and mercury that contaminates fish (not to mention carbon dioxide that fuels climate change).