let’s make a deal

A critical component glaring by its absence — the component of personal action, in this case driving — as experienced westbound on I-10 sign in San Antonio.

The same day I first passed this declaration of impending New World Order (it’s been spreading totalitarian creeps for a good week now), I pulled into a fuel depot behind Mr. Monster Truck Jr. According to rear-window stenciling, the truck’s name was “Zero Tolerance.” A Grim Reaper dared motorists come hither and whither.

Though unintentional in the first case, and only implied in the second, our cultural celebration of retributive punishment, to the detriment of justice in many cases, is frightening. How close in spirit some of our most fervent flag wavers become to the “extremists” our military intelligence is so diligently trying to reprogram in distant lands.

Not new thoughts. No. But another explanation, perhaps, of why we tolerate the despoiling of our lands and waters. Working with living systems implicates us as partners in the web of interdependence, rather than masters.

But on with the parade…

A McAllen Monitor report that went national via AP, tells us that the infamous Donna canal is getting frisked again.

The most dangerous segment of the main canal south of Donna is a 90-degree turn just north of Military Highway.

That is the closest two state departments and two federal agencies have come in 15 years to pinpointing the hotbed of cancer-causing toxins in the seven-mile channel.

But no one knows exactly where the poison is coming from – or worse, how many of the contaminated fish have been eaten since the federal government first found the toxins in 1993.

“People have continued to fish there and it’s not enforced,” said Valmichael Leos, a remedial project manager with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “Our concerns are long-term health effects of people.”

In 15 years, study after study has shown that fish in the Donna main canal and reservoir contain hazardous levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a chemical that was used in the production of electrical transmitters, plastics and paints until it was banned in 1977.

So, 15 years after the toxics were first spotted there is still no money for a plan much less an actual cleanup.

Read on:

The EPA is waiting on a congressional appropriation to start investigating the area to figure out how to clean it up.

Agency spokesman Dave Bary said he couldn’t say when the site would receive funding for cleanup.

And no one really knows how long that remediation will take.

“Some things are complicated and it takes a while to find a solution,” the EPA’s Leos said. “It is not uncommon for sites to take years and years to clean up.”

The beloved EPA was in other news this week, looking down the long end of (yet) another lawsuit over greenhouse gases.

Opens the NYTimes article:

Twelve states, including New York, are suing the Environmental Protection Agency over greenhouse gas emissions from oil refineries.

The lawsuit, led by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, accuses the agency of violating the federal Clean Air Act by refusing to issue standards, known as new source performance standards, for controlling the emissions.

“The E.P.A.’s refusal to control pollution from oil refineries is the latest example of the Bush administration’s do-nothing policy on global warming,” Mr. Cuomo said in a news release. “Oil refineries contribute substantially to global warming, posing grave threats to New York’s environment, health and economy.”

So, who’s in on this maneuver?

California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Two cities, New York and Washington, also signed on.

Texas, with more operating refineries than any other state (26 of 146, second only to California’s 21) predictably kept its distance.

(You hurricane leery? Just want to know where all those Texas behemoths resides? Check this slideshow.)

Then, here’s this oddball: The Goliad County Commissioners want to treat uranium mining company UEC to an ice tea and a rocker. Doesn’t mean they’re letting their lawsuit over toxifying their groundwater slide. Or does it?

From the Victoria Advocate:

GOLIAD – County commissioner Ted Long wants more dialogue between the Goliad County commissioners court and Uranium Energy Corp.

“I want to extend an olive branch. I want to open the lines of communication,” said Long, who represents Precinct 4. “There are a lot of half-truths being spread around. I think we need to give them the opportunity to tell us what they can do for Goliad County.”

Sounds a lot like code for a new football field and golfing links to me. Towns have been won over to worse for less.

Meanwhile, looks like you’ll be filing written comments on this one if you aren’t down for a drive over the New Mex state line.

From Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has scheduled public meetings in New Mexico, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska about the draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement for In-Situ Leach Uranium Milling Facilities (draft GEIS).  The public meetings will begin on Monday, August 25 and continue until September 25.

The NRC has created four regions within the western United States for generic analysis.  The NRC, with the cooperation of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, released the draft GEIS in late July.

The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) requires that the NRC evaluate the environmental impacts associated with the construction, operation, and decommissioning of existing and proposed in-situ leach (ISL) facilities.

Licensing of such operations is the responsibility of the NRC in those states covered by the GEIS. The federal agency states that nearly 75 percent of any of the new license applications submitted over the next two to three years will be for ISL operations.  They hope to incorporate the generic analysis into reviews of the environmental impacts at specific sites within the four regions.

ISL mining allows for the injection of chemical liquids into the aquifer in order to destabilize radioactive and other toxic minerals.  The solution of uranium-rich groundwater is then pumped to the surface, where the mining company removes as much uranium and other heavy metals as is financially feasible.  The remaining solution is re-injected into the aquifer, where it can contaminate groundwater.

The chemical reaction between the injected chemicals and the natural ore causes irreversible changes in the geochemistry that can also result in long-term and untreatable contamination.  For more than 30 years, companies have been mining using ISL methods.  But no company has ever been able to reclaim groundwater to pre-mining conditions.  In fact, the only way that companies have ever been able to meet permit requirements is for groundwater restoration regulations to be relaxed by regulators, as has happened repeatedly in Texas and Wyoming.

One of the main concerns with the document is that it is inadequate to meet NEPA requirements. For example, the analysis of the impacts to water resources is insufficient.  Critical information has been omitted and the information that has been included is not fully analyzed.

Eric Jantz, of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said, “The scope of the GEIS is artificially limited and ends up being so constrained to be almost meaningless.  For example, the NRC decided that analyzing cumulative impacts of new ISL mining combined with contamination from historic uranium mining and milling is outside the scope of the draft GEIS.  As a result of this and other significant shortcomings, community organizations need additional time to gather information about the technical issues in order to adequately and intelligently comment on the GEIS.”

All of the meetings will be held from 7 to 9:30 pm.  There will be an opportunity for informal discussions with NRC staff between 6 and 7 pm.  The NRC recommends that those wishing to make public comment to pre-register at least seven days before the meeting by calling 1-800-368-5642, extension 7843.

Written comments will be accepted until October 7, 2008 and may be submitted to NRCREP.Resource@nrc.gov.

[yeah. i didn’t shoot that majestic golf pic. came from some crap rental site. find rentals, maybe?]

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