Our Common Good
Off The Cliff And Into Deep Water? Cutting Clean Air And Clean Water Programs Could Incur Heavy Costs By Climate Guest BloggerDec 2012

barrywone-blog:

by Peter Lehner, via NRDC’s Switchboard

The health cost of power plant pollution is an estimated $100 billion each year, nationwide, when people get sick or die from breathing dirty air. When polluted water makes swimmers sick, the additional public health costs in just two southern California counties has been estimated at$21 to $51 million each year.

In addition to being harmful to our health, pollution is a serious drag on the economy. As Congress attempts to negotiate this country off the edge of the fiscal cliff, it needs to maintain and strengthen the programs that protect our health by keeping pollution out of our air and water. Gutting programs that cut power plant pollution and keep sewage out of our waters will only end up imposing bigger costs down the road.

Congress has already cut programs that help keep our water clean; deeper cuts to these programs would deal a serious blow to the health and prosperity of communities where clean water is not only a source of recreation but a means of economic sustenance. When a beach on Lake Michigan is closed because the water is too polluted for swimmers, it can cost the local economy as much as $37,000 each day.

If your local beach doesn’t have the funding to monitor bacteria levels, and the local sewage plant can’t get a loan to upgrade its facilities, and climate change is inducing more frequent and heavier rainstorms that overload sewer systems, you have a recipe for an outbreak of waterborne illness–and untold health costs. When federal support for certain clean water programs falls short, municipalities have to rely on local sources of funding to meet their clean water obligations. The burden falls on local taxpayers instead.

Entire story.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering examining a potential link between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and drinking water contamination.

The lawmakers sent a letter to Sebelius Friday stating that such a study could stymie job growth if not properly executed. They expressed concern in the letter that naturally occurring substances in groundwater could be improperly labeled as contaminants.

“Despite the significant growth of natural gas development, we are greatly concerned that the scientific objectivity of the Department of Health and Human Services is being subverted and countless jobs could be in jeopardy,” the lawmakers said.

Signatories included House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.); Rep. Ed Whitfield (Ky.), the committee’s Energy and Power subcommittee chairman; Rep. Joe Pitts (Pa.), the committee’s Health subcommittee chairman; Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.), the committee’s Environment and the Economy subcommittee chairman; and past committee chairman Rep. Joe Barton (Texas).

Guess we shouldn’t study cancers because curing them could hurt cancer treatment jobs.

No need to study how people have gotten sick from contaminated foods because that might cost someone a job.

What else should we stop studying because discovering a health risk could cost jobs?

earthfix:

EarthFix has also covered this issue in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a variety of other water quality issues as part of the Clean Water: The Next Act series.

Many years ago I worked on a civil litigation matter involving a waste water treatment plant for a large city.  A new technology failed and the plant was dumping almost raw sewage back into a lake - and facing steep EPA fines while they tried to figure out how to fix the problem. 

I will never forget an afternoon spent with some of the engineers and science folks where I first heard about their nightmares revolving around how to remove all the different drugs people were taking and then pissing into the system.  It was before some of the anomalies in fish and frogs were reported as possibly tied to sewage plant discharge and the first time I had actually considered that situation and realized that like it or not, we are probably all on drugs. 

The stubborn drought that has gripped the Midwest for much of the year has left the Mighty Mississippi critically low — and it will become even lower if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presses ahead with plans to reduce the flow from a Missouri River dam.

Mississippi River interests fear the reduced flow will force a halt to barge traffic at the river’s midpoint. They warn the economic fallout will be enormous, potentially forcing job cuts, raising fuel costs and pinching the nation’s food supply.

"This could be a major, major impact at crisis level," said Debra Colbert, senior vice president of the Waterways Council, a public policy organization representing ports and shipping companies. "It is an economic crisis that is going to ripple across the nation at a time when we’re trying to focus on recovery."

[…]

Trade groups for river interests are asking Barack Obama’s administration for a presidential declaration that would force the corps to maintain the existing Missouri River flow and expedite removal of the rock formations.

Without the declaration, Farhat said there’s little the corps can do, given the congressional mandate, to work on behalf of the Missouri River basin.

As someone who gets water to my property from the Missouri River, this is a concerning issue.  States below us were draining the aquifer we used to rely on faster than it could refill and all our wells started pumping sand.  Wells would be drilled deeper and work until the acquirer dropped deeper.  So pipelines across the state brought the Missouri River water to us.

I love that this morning I look out my window and see a bit of snow, but we are still in extreme drought.  The last time we got a little rain, it soaked into the soil so fast, no mud was ever made.  Years ago, I jokingly predicted that clean water would eventually become the new gold standard.  Not laughing at that idea now.

Environmentalists’ discovery of thousands of false pollution reports at dozens of coal mines in eastern Kentucky has prompted a Kentucky court to allow, for the first time, citizens and groups to intervene in a Clean Water Act enforcement case brought by the state.

A coalition of public interest groups and citizens Friday filed the historic settlement with International Coal Group, Inc. and the state Energy and Environment Cabinet in Franklin County Circuit Court.

“We know that to create a better future for eastern Kentucky, we have to have water that is safe to drink and a more diverse economy,” said Ted Withrow, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “This agreement gives us the right, as Kentuckians, to know what’s in our water and to work to restore and maintain its quality.”

If approved by Judge Phillip Shepherd, the settlement will cover thousands of water pollution violations and years of false reporting by the company and insufficient enforcement by the state.

The crux of the settlement is a requirement for ongoing third-party auditing of International Coal Group’s water pollution monitoring and reporting to ensure the company submits accurate data to the state in the future.

With the assurance that the money will go directly to fund general water quality improvements and water monitoring programs in eastern Kentucky, the citizens and environmental groups agreed to accept civil penalties originally assessed by the Energy and Environment Cabinet against ICG for years of false reporting of pollution discharges, although the penalties are only a fraction of the maximum allowed by the Clean Water Act.

nbcnews:

Water shortages ahead for most states as drought lingers
(Photo: Tony Gutierrez  /  AP)
KANSAS CITY — The worst drought in more than half a century baked more than two thirds of the continental United States this summer and its harsh effects continue to plague the parched cities and towns of the Great Plains.
Ask the 94,000 people of San Angelo, Texas, who are running out of water. Fast.
The city — once known as “the oasis” of dry west Texas — now says it only has enough water supplies to last one more year. On Oct. 16, it will enforce its highest level of emergency measures to save its water supply.
That first-ever “Drought Level III” declaration will ban any watering of lawns, golf courses and gardens, forbid fresh water use for swimming pools and close commercial car washes.
The city will also push up usage fees aiming to cut water use by at least 30 percent as it awaits a new water pipeline now under construction. The pipeline will not be available for use until mid-2013 or later.
Protests from local businesses has prompted the city to consider some exceptions but those may be temporary, officials say.
“We need to get back to meeting just basic needs,” said Will Wilde, water utilities director for San Angelo. “We don’t want to put people out of business. It may come to that if conditions get extreme in the future. Do you want to keep a green lawn or do you want water to drink?”
Despite recent rains, the drought continues to expand, with severe or worse drought affecting 83.80 percent of the High Plains region, up from 82.81 percent the prior week, according to the weekly Drought Monitor on Thursday.
More than half of Texas is having a drought that is rated severe or worse, and more than 95 percent of Oklahoma is rated as experiencing the more serious category of extreme drought.
Read the complete story.

nbcnews:

Water shortages ahead for most states as drought lingers

(Photo: Tony Gutierrez  /  AP)

The worst drought in more than half a century baked more than two thirds of the continental United States this summer and its harsh effects continue to plague the parched cities and towns of the Great Plains.

Ask the 94,000 people of San Angelo, Texas, who are running out of water. Fast.

The city — once known as “the oasis” of dry west Texas — now says it only has enough water supplies to last one more year. On Oct. 16, it will enforce its highest level of emergency measures to save its water supply.

That first-ever “Drought Level III” declaration will ban any watering of lawns, golf courses and gardens, forbid fresh water use for swimming pools and close commercial car washes.

The city will also push up usage fees aiming to cut water use by at least 30 percent as it awaits a new water pipeline now under construction. The pipeline will not be available for use until mid-2013 or later.

Protests from local businesses has prompted the city to consider some exceptions but those may be temporary, officials say.

“We need to get back to meeting just basic needs,” said Will Wilde, water utilities director for San Angelo. “We don’t want to put people out of business. It may come to that if conditions get extreme in the future. Do you want to keep a green lawn or do you want water to drink?”

Despite recent rains, the drought continues to expand, with severe or worse drought affecting 83.80 percent of the High Plains region, up from 82.81 percent the prior week, according to the weekly Drought Monitor on Thursday.

More than half of Texas is having a drought that is rated severe or worse, and more than 95 percent of Oklahoma is rated as experiencing the more serious category of extreme drought.

Read the complete story.

mothernaturenetwork:

Melting Himalayas highlight water scarcityThe region’s glaciers cross eight countries and are the source of drinking water, irrigation and hydroelectric power for roughly 1.5 billion people.

mothernaturenetwork:

Melting Himalayas highlight water scarcity
The region’s glaciers cross eight countries and are the source of drinking water, irrigation and hydroelectric power for roughly 1.5 billion people.

theseaflower:

sustainable-sam:

New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood

Reblogging this again because New Zealand just granted a river the rights of personhood people. 

theseaflower:

sustainable-sam:

New Zealand Grants a River the Rights of Personhood

Reblogging this again because New Zealand just granted a river the rights of personhood people. 

South Dakota officials on Monday urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to halt plans to charge for water taken from the six Missouri River reservoirs in the Dakotas and Montana, saying the proposal is unfair and violates states’ rights to manage the water.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard argued that upstream states have the right to manage the river’s natural flows, or water that would flow through the system without the reservoirs. States should continue to have authority to manage that water by granting water rights to users, he wrote in a letter read at a Corps of Engineers hearing in Pierre.

The corps’ plan also appears to propose requiring contracts and payments from users who take water from the reservoirs, while people downstream of the dams would not pay anything while benefiting from flood control, water supplies and electricity generated by the dams, the governor said.

"Requiring upstream states to pay the entire cost with people in the downstream states enjoying these benefits at no cost is not equitable," Daugaard wrote.

The Corps of Engineers has proposed a storage fee system that would designate some water in the reservoirs as surplus because it has not been used for purposes authorized when the dams were built.

Municipal and industrial users would have to enter into contracts to purchase the water. They now only need to get an easement from the corps to install an intake, and the state issues a water right.

The charges would not take effect unless the corps passes a rule to do so, a process that could take 18 months.

The corps has already said temporary, no-cost permits to tap surplus water from North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea will be issued to oil drillers and other industrial users until a national policy is developed to determine how much, if anything, to charge.

[…]

Attorney General Marty Jackley said the corps plan would violate federal laws that recognize states’ rights to control water uses. He has said South Dakota will challenge the proposal in court if the corps goes ahead with the plan.

"While it is neither just nor legal for the corps to demand that we receive permission to use water that naturally flows through our state, it borders on insult to demand that we pay for it," Jackley said in a letter he read at the hearing.

However, Larry Janis, the corps official in charge of the project, said two federal laws require the corps to make contracts with those who use water for municipal and industrial and impose a fee for using the water. The corps is looking at a rule that would apply nationally, he said.

[…]

The corps is taking written public comments on the proposal until Sept. 10. Daugaard asked the agency to extend the comment period another 60 days because South Dakota has to review reports on four reservoirs.

Daugaard said the corps has no authority to charge fees for existing city and industrial uses of water because they use less than the natural flows through the river.

In addition, South Dakota was promised extensive irrigation would be developed to offset the more than 500,000 acres of land that was flooded when the dams were built, but only 3 percent of that irrigation has actually been developed, the governor said.

"To impose all reservoir operation and maintenance costs on upstream states along adds insult to that injury," Daugaard wrote.

[…]

Kevin Keckler, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, said Sioux tribes hold senior water rights to the Missouri River and oppose the corps plan to charge for water. The corps manages the water in the Missouri river but does not own it, he said.

"How can they sell something they don’t own?" Keckler said.

Years ago wells providing water for much of the west-central part of the state started pumping sand.  Wells were deepened and provided water a few more years and then started pumping sand again.  The Aquifers - including the Ogallala - were not refilling at the north end, as quickly as golf courses, swimming pools, agriculture and people to the south were flushing it out.  So water lines started being laid across the state to bring water from the Missouri River to us.  A lot of the tribal elders on the Rosebud Reservation spoke up to express concern about giving up wells, saying that one day, they could be charged for water and eventually the price might be too high.  They feared future generations of Lakota losing more land as a result of some negotiation that could not yet be imagined.  Listening to news reports on this meeting last night, those elder’s voices came back to me.  This part just pisses me off:

The corps has already said temporary, no-cost permits to tap surplus water from North Dakota’s Lake Sakakawea will be issued to oil drillers and other industrial users

The world is depleting underground water reserves faster than they can be replenished due to over-exploitation, according to scientists in Canada and the Netherlands.

positive-press-daily:

Rachel’s legacy: Year after girl’s death, mom goes to Africa to honor her clean-water wish

All Rachel Beckwith wanted for her ninth birthday was for people less fortunate than her to be able to have clean water to drink. Now, a year after Rachel’s death, her mother is traveling to Africa to see firsthand how her daughter’s wish has come true for thousands of people she never met.
Samantha Paul, of Bellevue, Wash., accompanied by her church pastor and others, is traveling to the Tigray region of Ethiopia to visit the communities that now have access to clean water because of Rachel’s wish.
“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the actual wells where the people, because of Rachel, are going to be able to have clean water,” Paul said in a telephone interview Thursday, “seeing other 9-year-old children and their moms knowing that they’re going to have a 10th, 11th and 12th birthday and so on because of Rachel’s heart.”Rachel, the girl with a big smile and giving spirit, wanted to raise $300 by her ninth birthday on June 12, 2011, for charity: water, a New York-based nonprofit that works to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. She started her online campaign after hearing Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, speak at her church, EastLake Community Church in Bothell, Wash. Instead of birthday gifts, Rachel asked that people donate to the charity.
Rachel fell a little bit short of her goal by the time she turned nine. A few weeks later, on July 20, 2011, Rachel, her younger sister Sienna and their mother were in a car on Interstate 90 east of Seattle when a semitrailer jackknifed into a logging truck, sending logs spilling onto the highway. In the ensuing chain reaction, the semi rear-ended Paul’s car, critically injuring Rachel, who was in the backseat. She was taken off life support and died at a Seattle hospital on July 23, 2011.
Word of Rachel’s birthday wish spread quickly after her death and her story was picked up by national news outlets including NBC News, The New York Times and CNN. Donations to charity: water in her name — some from strangers across the world — took off. In just a few weeks, pledges for the Rachel’s Wish campaign topped $1.2 million.
The money is going to projects that will bring clean drinking water to 60,000 people in Ethiopia, according to charity: water.

positive-press-daily:

Rachel’s legacy: Year after girl’s death, mom goes to Africa to honor her clean-water wish

All Rachel Beckwith wanted for her ninth birthday was for people less fortunate than her to be able to have clean water to drink. Now, a year after Rachel’s death, her mother is traveling to Africa to see firsthand how her daughter’s wish has come true for thousands of people she never met.

Samantha Paul, of Bellevue, Wash., accompanied by her church pastor and others, is traveling to the Tigray region of Ethiopia to visit the communities that now have access to clean water because of Rachel’s wish.

“The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is seeing the actual wells where the people, because of Rachel, are going to be able to have clean water,” Paul said in a telephone interview Thursday, “seeing other 9-year-old children and their moms knowing that they’re going to have a 10th, 11th and 12th birthday and so on because of Rachel’s heart.”

Rachel, the girl with a big smile and giving spirit, wanted to raise $300 by her ninth birthday on June 12, 2011, for charity: water, a New York-based nonprofit that works to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. She started her online campaign after hearing Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, speak at her church, EastLake Community Church in Bothell, Wash. Instead of birthday gifts, Rachel asked that people donate to the charity.

Rachel fell a little bit short of her goal by the time she turned nine. A few weeks later, on July 20, 2011, Rachel, her younger sister Sienna and their mother were in a car on Interstate 90 east of Seattle when a semitrailer jackknifed into a logging truck, sending logs spilling onto the highway. In the ensuing chain reaction, the semi rear-ended Paul’s car, critically injuring Rachel, who was in the backseat. She was taken off life support and died at a Seattle hospital on July 23, 2011.

Word of Rachel’s birthday wish spread quickly after her death and her story was picked up by national news outlets including NBC News, The New York Times and CNN. Donations to charity: water in her name — some from strangers across the world — took off. In just a few weeks, pledges for the Rachel’s Wish campaign topped $1.2 million.

The money is going to projects that will bring clean drinking water to 60,000 people in Ethiopia, according to charity: water.

accuweather:

Corn Disaster: Rain Coming, But Not Enough
Additional corn crop failures are likely, due to too little rain and too much heat through the middle of August.

accuweather:

Corn Disaster: Rain Coming, But Not Enough

Additional corn crop failures are likely, due to too little rain and too much heat through the middle of August.

SarahLee: This should make you angry - for so many reasons.  I’ve got to add the following snippet from the article:

Now, that photo of Makayla Urias is a photograph of a naked child, a child exactly as naked as nine-year-old Kim Phuc was when, forty years ago, an Associated Press photographer snapped a picture of her, while she was running and crying from American napalm. You’ve probably seen that photo. It’s iconic. The photographer got a Pulitzer prize for taking it.

Yesterday, on the other hand, Maria was told that she would not be allowed to show that photo. It was not appropriate. She had the blessing of the child’s parents, but Republicans on the subcommittee alerted the capitol police (according to Spencer Pederson, a spokesman for GOP panel members), and after the hearing, the capitol police took Maria aside for questioning about “child pornography.”

Now, this is just what it was, and no more. Coalfield activists like Maria face threats, intimidation, and vandalism regularly; she’s received verbal threats to her life, her children have been harassed at school, “wanted” posters of Gunnoe have appeared in local convenience stores, and so forth. This is a strong lady, and I suspect I’m not wrong to say that it’s far from the worst of the shit she’s faced for daring to be strong in a part of the country where Coal is King. It was just the kind of insulting humiliation that it was meant to be. Coal-friendly congresspeople were using the resources at their disposal to harass someone who had the nerve to speak out against the industry they shill for, to try to intimidate someone like Maria who speaks for (and is) one of the people that industry poisons.

But it’s pretty clarifying, don’t you think? The real obscenity is that people drink that water, that they have no choice but to bathe in it, and to bathe their children in it. You know that, and I know that. But if a massive surface mining operation in the vicinity of your house poisons your water table, and if your well water runs brown with coal sludge and heavy metal particulate, well, that’s just the cost of doing business in America, a cost that will be paid by the Appalachians who only live there. It’s regrettable, at best. You can’t call the police and the state doesn’t want to know. And if you dare to take a picture of child’s exposure to that poison, if you have the nerve to walk into the halls of Congress and show them the obscenity that is a child that must wash herself with poison every day, they will call you a child pornographer. They will call the police.

Rich Abitz, a geochemist, explains the process: Uranium deposits occur naturally in aquifers throughout the Southwest. Left undisturbed, those deposits are basically harmless. But when mined, uranium and other heavy metals that attach to it are broken up and released into the aquifer. Even though the metals are extracted, the process “releases a number of contaminants that destroy the water quality,” Abitz says. Those include toxins such as arsenic and radium. “Once the mining commences, you would not want to drink that water.”

Usually, the Navajo Nation would have authority over a project that affects its water supply. But in this case, the 160-acre parcel Hydro Resources wants to bore into is private land, even though the region is home to a Navajo community and surrounding land is tribal.

Since the Navajo Nation doesn’t have jurisdiction over the land, the anti-uranium mining group and the law center have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to revisit Hydro Resources’ permit. A month ago, the EPA agreed.

This battle has been waged for years, slowly winding its way through bureaucracy. It started in 1994, when concerned people formed Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining after finding out about the company’s plans.

In order for Hydro Resources to mine, the company needed three things: a permit from the EPA, a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a state permit. By the time the group learned of the project, Hydro Resources had all three. The Environmental Law Center first approached the nuclear commission in 1995 and asked that the license be overturned. The case lasted until 2010, when that request was denied.

The EPA is revisiting its decision to grant Hydro Resources a permit, but there’s still no timeframe for a ruling. In the meantime, King has started a campaign on Change.org that asks people to sign a petition to prevent the mining. Up since the first week of April, it’s already accrued more than 10,300 signatures. The goal is 20,000.

“Being in the Southwest, and being where every drop of water is precious—and where water is sacred, too—we need to preserve the water not only for ourselves but for future generations,” says King. “Without water, there is nothing.”