The Greene Report is a compilation of environmental stories written by Linda Greene. This week's edition includes:
- Great Lakes action on nuclear reactor risks
- Activists halt operations at mountaintop removal coal mine
- Dow requests approval for GE soy resistant to 2,4-D
- EPA stalling on bee die-offs
- Pennsylvania to shut down one of biggest U.S. coal ash ponds
- Establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
- U.S. clean-up of Agent Orange-contaminated Vietnam
- Hazards of “green” household cleaners
- Nigerian oil spill near Exxon operations
- Ukrainian environmentalist murdered
Read The Greene Report archive on The Bloomington Alternative.
Great Lakes action on nuclear reactor risks
According to the Aug. 17 Beyond Nuclear Bulletin, Beyond Nuclear is helping spearhead a coalition to close two compromised nuclear power plants in the Great Lakes area. FirstEnergy’s David-Besse plant in Ohio has cracks, and Entergy’s Palisades plant in Michigan has leaks. Both are in danger of melting down and becoming Fukushima-like nuclear catastrophes on the shores of the Great Lakes.
“U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, standing with Beyond Nuclear at Davis-Besse, and citing [the organization’s] FOIA request revelations, has now demanded an investigation into NRC wrongdoing regarding the agency's rushed reactor restart approval near Toledo,” the bulletin says. "At Palisades near Kalamazoo, suffering crises and scandals on almost a daily basis, it has just come to light that former NRC Chairman Jaczko was being kept in the dark – about radioactive water leaks into the control room – by his own agency staff, not to mention the nuclear utility, as much as were concerned environmentalists and local residents."
For years U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., has tried to call attention to wrongdoing at the Palisades plant.
Activists halt operations at mountaintop removal coal mine
A group of 80-100 activists in West Virginia succeeded in halting operations at the Hobet 45 mountaintop removal coal mine, the country’s largest such mine, for a few hours on July 27. Some 20 activists were arrested.
About 75 other activists took part in a rally at a nearby state forest, where 97-year-old former West Virginia Congressperson Ken Heckler gave a supportive speech. State troopers wouldn’t allow others into the forest to take part.
A few hundred pro-coal supporters harassed the activists.
Whereas coal miners are concerned about keeping their jobs with the coal industry, the anti-coal activists insist that miners be trained in reclamation and in supporting West Virginia’s burgeoning tourist industry.
The protest succeeded in achieving its intended goal, but Radical Action for Mountain Peoples’ Survival, which organized the action, is now having to raise $500,000 in bail money for the arrested activists.
Dow requests approval for GE soy resistant to 2,4-D
2,4-D is an active ingredient in Agent Orange, contaminated with dioxins and responsible for long-term environmental harm and serious health problems in the Vietnamese and Vietnam vets. Birth defects and cancer (particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) are two of the many health effects of 2,4-D, according to an email from the Center for Food Safety.
According to EPA, 2,4-D is the seventh biggest source of dioxins in the U.S. This group of chemicals accumulates in animal fat and accumulates as it rises in the food chain.
Dow is trying to obtain USDA approval for its genetically engineered soy, which is resistant to 2,4-D. Meanwhile, Dow is also trying to obtain approval for its 2,4-D-resistant, genetically engineered corn.
Urge USDA to reject Dow’s plan for 2,4-D- resistant soy by going to the Center for Food Safety's website.
EPA stalling on bee die-offs
EPA is refusing to take quick action on bee die-offs, according to an email from the Pesticide Action Network.
In March, with a lot of public support, PAN filed an “emergency citizen petition” to try to convince EPA to take action, whereas the agency intends not to take action until 2018. Further, EPA is letting the pesticide clothianidin, which is toxic to bees, stay on the market illegally even though there’s no legitimate scientific evidence supporting its continued use.
“In June,” the email says, “[PAN] submitted tens of thousands of … signatures to the Agency in support of that petition. We urged them to take seriously the unprecedented decline of pollinators, and the contribution of neonicotinoid pesticides to that decline, by declaring that these losses constitute an 'imminent hazard.' They recently declined to do so.”
To press EPA to take quick action on bees, go to the PAN website.
Pennsylvania to shut down one of biggest U.S. coal ash ponds
The Little Blue Run coal ash pond, just south of the Ohio River near the West Virginia border in southwestern Pennsylvania, has begun to be closed, according to National Geographic.
“Neighbors recall promises that the eerie azure lake known as 'Little Blue' would be made into a recreational jewel, complete with swimming, bike trails, and sailboats,” the post says.
EPA, meanwhile has been dragging its feet deciding whether coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous waste.
Coal plants in the U.S. produce 140 tons of coal ash per year.
“Little Blue Run's operator, FirstEnergy, an electricity company based in Akron, Ohio, agreed to develop a plan to shut down the facility in a consent decree filed July 27 in federal court,” the post says. "The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) characterized its agreement with FirstEnergy as a proactive move, to ensure the site "will not create an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment."
Establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge
On Aug. 15 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the establishment of the Hackmatack National Wildlife Refuge on the Illinois-Wisconsin border between Chicago and Milwaukee, 100 miles from the former city, according to openlands.org.
Hackmatack eventually will become 11,000 acres of prairies, streams, wetland and forests and is the first refuge in the region.
The refuge is expected to bring economic, educational, environmental and recreational benefits to the area.
“A variety of conservation tools,” the post says, “will be used in the final creation of the refuge, including outright purchase of land from willing sellers; agreements with landowners, known as easements, that protect the conservation value of the land; and private stewardship agreements aimed at creating contiguous natural corridors.”
Hackmatack is located in McHenry County in Illinois and Walworth County in Wisconsin and is a short drive for the 12 million people who reside in and around Chicago, Madison, Milwaukee and Rockford.
U.S. clean-up of Agent Orange-contaminated Vietnam
More than 40 years after contaminating Vietnam with the dioxin-laced defoliant Agent Orange, the U.S. has begun a clean-up of a small section of the area, according to the Daily Mail.
The cleanup is confined to the 47-acre site of a former U.S. air base in Danang, central Vietnam, near the city’s commercial airport and a Vietnamese military base.
Dioxins are associated with cancer, birth defects, reproductive problems and other ailments. Vietnam claims more than 150,000 children have been born with birth defects from being exposed to the chemicals in utero.
Since 2007, the post says, the U.S. “has given about $60 million for environmental restoration and social services in Vietnam, but this is its first direct involvement in cleaning up dioxin, which has seeped into Vietnam's soil and watersheds for generations.”
The U.S. has not undertaken the clean-up out of the goodness of its heart but for political reasons: “The remediation begins as Vietnam and the U.S. forge closer ties to boost trade and counter China's rising influence in the disputed South China Sea that's believed rich in oil and natural resources,” the post says.
Hazards of “green” household cleaners
The Environmental Working Group has gone through a lot, including calling companies and investigating their websites, to find out what ingredients are in common household cleaners, according to an Aug. 6 EWG email. The results are a new database, to be released in September, with more than 2,000 household cleaners ranked by the hazards of their ingredients.
“[EWG’s] analysis found some startling facts. Many products contain ingredients known to cause asthma or are contaminated with carcinogens. And, maybe even worse than that, lots of products provide little to no ingredient information – leaving you in the dark about what you think is cleaning your home.
"'Green’ products aren't necessarily any better. Many of them boast of using ingredients made from plants rather than petroleum – but there's little or no safety data for some plant-based ingredients. A truly green product should pose few risks to your health and to the environment – and be transparent about what's in it.”
As a preview of the database, EWG is offering the “EWG Cleaners Hall of Shame,” a short list of some of the worst household cleaners on the market, available at the EWG website.
Nigerian oil spill near Exxon operations
An oil spill has been found along the coast of southern Nigeria near where ExxonMobil has oil-drilling facilities, according to the South Africa Times. Why the spill occurred and its size remain unknown so far.
This spill is far from the first in Nigeria, Africa’s chief oil producer. “Its oil-producing Niger Delta region as been contaminated by decades of pollution,” according to the post.
The location of the spill is in southern Nigeria, along the shorelines of Ibeno, in Akwa Ibom state.
“Community residents and fishermen reported sighting oil along the Atlantic coastline in Ibeno, an oil community where Exxon has facilities,” the post says. "Exxon also has offshore operations in the area."
Residents of the area collected crude oil near Orobiri village at the Atlantic Ocean within days of the spill. Residents said they had seen oil deposits along the coast.
Ukrainian environmentalist murdered
Only four days after holding a new conference at which he warned against the health hazards of “recycling” 180 tons of radioactive and chemically toxic waste from the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe exclusion zone in the city of Kryvyi Rih, in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine, Volodymyr Goncharenko, aged 57, was beaten to death, according to the ejolt website.
Goncharenko, who was chair of the Social Movement of Ukraine: For the Rights of Citizens to Environmental Security, had documented that over the past several years, scavengers had extracted 6 million metric tons of radioactive scrap metal from Chernobyl that was later smelted at Ukrainian metallurgical combines and “recycled” into new consumer products.
The post says, “While in theory each metallurgical combine should be equipped with radiation-monitoring equipment to check all incoming scrap, financial shortfalls have meant this was rarely the case. In 2007 Ukraine ranked eighth in global steel production and steel is Ukraine’s leading export. One can only guess how much radioactive scrap metal has ended up in exported steel.”
Goncharenko was also outspoken about the poor quality controls on drinking water and about Ukraine’s serious health problems.
“We collaborated with Volodymyr for 15 years in professional and public areas," said Pavlo Khazan, a well-known Ukrainian green politician. "The Ukrainian Green Party has no doubt that the murder was linked to his professional activities.”
Linda Greene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.