US UpdatePublished by MAC on 2007-03-23
23rd March 2007
Arsenic and mercury emissions from Nevada mining may be poisoning people and wildlife - but the US environmental protection agency (EPA) is refusing to investigate the latest allegations.What is the EPA's justification for this dereliction of duty? The agency says it "does not have reason to believe the environmental health risks or safety risks addressed by this action present a disproportionate risk to children." In the face of such circular argumentation, residents of Crescent Valley - especially Western Shoshone - continue to suffer from nausea, diarrhea and headaches, without knowing whether these are connected with arsenic ingestion. Last year, concerns were also expressed that mining in Nevada was also causing unacceptably high levels of airbourne mercury to fall on neighbouring states and possibly within Nevada itself. A new study has confirmed these risks but - once again - the EPA has said it sees no need to carry out further studies to test the emissions. The biggest mining companies operating in Crescent Valley are Canada's Barrick-Placer and UK Rio Tinto (through its 100%-owned Kennecott); and, in Nevada as a whole, Newmont Mining.
A US court has ruled that county governments can ban maintain their bans on t he use of cyanide in gold mining; while a judge has blocked four"mountaintop mining" permits given to Massey Energy.It sounds good on paper but yet another behest by industry to cut back on US carbon dioxide emissions is certainly not going to see the culprits cutting off their noses to spite their own faces. For example, Merrill Lynch's World Mining Trust plc invests in the world's major coal producers (Peabody, Rio Tinto, BHPBilliton, Anglo American, Xstrata).
Encouraging even more coal exploitation is the unproven assumption that its carbon content can and will be safely buried, is part of the strategy.
A number of prominent environmental groups in the US have started doing deals with US energy utilities and their financial backers to limit their building of coal-fired plants . Now the Sierra Club (no slouch when it comes criticising mining projects) has endorsed a new coal-fired power station. Its owner isn't even promising to reduce its use of coal, but intends instead to use so-called "carbon offsets" (which many critics would claim are actually nothing of the kind).
At least one environmental group has broken ranks with this growing consensus. Last week, Rainforest Action Network (RAB) published and advertisement in the New York Times calling on JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch to halt all their investments in coal. (see photo below).
Further material has been offered to the American public that the Bush regime deliberately suppressed evidence which didn't concur with its policy to deny the true extent of negative climate change.
The most reviled chairman of any mining company anywhere - James Moffett of Freeport - has secured the chairmanship of what is now the world's biggest publicly-listed copper company, after the finally-concluded merger between Freeport and Phelps Dodge.
Moffett once notoriously claimed that the massive environmental degradation, caused by dumping more wastes into a river/estuarine system than any other mining operation on the planet, was the equivalent of "me pissing in the Arafura sea."
Freeport and its partner Rio Tinto have, through their operations in West Papua, committed just about every crime in the book
And now the primo genitur of these crimes and disasters takes the helm over operations in the US, Chile, Peru, DR Congo and elsewhere.
Finally, we offer our Spanish readers an account of the highly dubious relationship between senator Al Gore and zinc mining in his home state of Tennessee.
Judge blocks mountaintop removal permits
By Ken Ward Jr. - Staff writer, Gazette-Mail
23rd March 2007
A federal judge late Friday blocked four Massey Energy mountaintop removal mines, in a ruling that could have broad effects on West Virginia's coal industry.
U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers ruled that the federal Army Corps of Engineers did not properly review the potential impacts of the four permits. The judge rescinded the permits and sent them back to the corps for a new review.
"At a minimum, the corps must examine and then explain how this added destruction of headwaters streams, in view of the significant loss of streams in the watershed, will not result in a significant impact on the environment," Chambers wrote in an 89-page ruling released after business hours on Friday evening.
The lawsuit directly affects permits for Massey's Camp Branch, Republic No. 2, Laxare, and Black Castle mines in Southern West Virginia, according to court records.
Chambers ruled just as Massey subsidiary Aracoma Coal was preparing to begin operations at the Camp Branch mine, as an agreement with environmental groups to hold off until the judge ruled was expiring on Friday.
In mountaintop removal, coal operators blast off entire hilltops to uncover valuable, low-sulfur coal reserves. Leftover dirt and rock is dumped into nearby valleys, burying streams.
Between 1985 and 2001, more than 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams were buried or otherwise damaged by mountaintop removal, according to a federal government study. Without additional restrictions, the May 2003 study projected, a total of 2,200 square miles of Appalachian forests will be eliminated.
Over the last seven years, two federal judges in West Virginia have issued rulings to more tightly regulate mountaintop removal. Those rulings, by the late Judge Charles H. Haden II and Judge Joseph R. Goodwin, were both overturned by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
The case before Chambers is a follow-up suit to Goodwin's ruling, which blocked the corps from reviewing valley fill proposals through a streamlined "general permit" process.
With their new case, the environmentalists argue that the corps was wrong to approve mining operations through more detailed "individual permit" reviews.
In October, the judge heard about 32 hours of testimony over six days in the case filed by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Coal River Mountain Watch.
Environmental group lawyers argue that the corps should be forced to conduct a lengthy study, called an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, on Clean Water Act "individual permits" for each and every mountaintop removal mine proposal.
Chambers was expected to rule specifically on the four Massey permits, but his decision could likely have a much broader impact on the state's coal industry, setting rules for future permit reviews by the corps.
Key to the case is whether the corps properly examined if valley fills create significant adverse environmental impacts, and if the agency spelled out a well-reasoned decision on that issue in its permit approval documents.
Nevada Town Needs Act of Congress to Learn Blood Arsenic LevelsBy Lisa J. Wolf CRESCENT VALLEY, Nevada, March 20, 2007 (ENS) - The community of Crescent Valley in Eureka County, with a population of 470 residents, has a drinking water arsenic level of 15 parts per billion, ppb, according to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection. This level is five ppb above the 2006 federal Safe Drinking Water Standard and since Eureka County presently has no exemption to this standard, it seems the county is not in compliance with the federal and state arsenic rules. Eureka County is not alone - 26 arsenic exemption applications remain pending, including water systems in Lander and Elko counties, until the State Environmental Commission meets again this fall to consider these applications. There are those in the mining and ranching community of Crescent Valley who are concerned about the effects of arsenic on themselves, their children, and senior citizens. They wish to find out their arsenic levels and to determine whether their current health problems are due to arsenic poisoning. People are wondering whether their nausea, diarrhea and headaches are linked to arsenic ingestion and what kinds of diseases the elderly could be exhibiting that are linked to arsenic. But to get a comprehensive assessment and survey of the population's arsenic levels and health by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, will literally require Congressional intervention. Although the 2001 report "EPA Rule National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; Arsenic and Clarifications to Compliance and New Source Contaminants Monitoring" shows that the agency agreed with the National Research Council that studies of subpopulations such as children, teenagers, pregnant and nursing women and the elderly have been inadequate, the EPA has not commissioned or contracted out such studies. Tulbir Bakshi of the National Research Council, NRC, said the council has called on the EPA for additional studies of arsenic on sub-populations, but until they receive a contract from the EPA, the NRC cannot move forward. Bakshi said, "Call your senators," to get Congress to require the EPA to contract new arsenic health studies. The EPA has declared itself not subject to "Executive Order 13045: Protection of Children from Environmental Health Risks and Safety Risks." The agency states that this is because it "does not have reason to believe the environmental health risks or safety risks addressed by this action present a disproportionate risk to children." The EPA permits states to grant exemptions to the arsenic standard based on a determination that such a "variance will not result in an unreasonable risk to health (URTH) to the public served by the public water system." However, as subpopulation studies have been deemed necessary and have not been performed, how the EPA can offer such an assurance to the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, the Nevada Environmental Commission, municipalities, the residents of Crescent Valley and the general public is unclear. The EPA itself states on the back of its CD, "Interactive Workshop on Arsenic Removal From Drinking Water," that "Studies have linked long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver, and prostate. Non-cancer effects of ingesting arsenic include cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological and endocrine (e.g., diabetes) effects. Short term exposure to high doses of arsenic can cause other adverse health effects." The EPA specifies that the public must be notified of the health risks regarding arsenic in their water system. After the new federal arsenic Safe Drinking Water Standard became effective on January 23, 2006, water providers "must provide public notification to consumers for any violations." Ask people in Crescent Valley the last time they were notified about arsenic in their drinking water or that they currently have no exemption, and they cannot remember. To access federal and state monies, Eureka County Public Works Director Ron Damele plans to use all nine years of possible exemptions before remediating Crescent Valley water. He has not done cost analysis of treatment options since costs will change in nine years. However, Bryan Swain of WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development in New Mexico, which is part of the Arsenic Water Technology Partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, recommended visiting "our website at http://www.arsenicpartners.org" to use the CoAsT decision tool. Swain said the tool "will guide your water managers through a process and provide some suggestions for solution to your arsenic levels and associated costs." The Arsenic Water Technology Partnership program, supported with $7 million in congressional appropriations through the Department of Energy's Office of Science, moves technologies from bench-scale to demonstration. It enables water utilities, particularly those serving small, rural communities and Indian tribes, to implement the most cost-effective solutions to arsenic treatment needs. Even the 36 Nevada water systems that received the first exemptions to the federal arsenic standard are required by the Nevada State Environmental Commission to "investigate and secure, to the extent that funds are available, all sources of financial assistance by July 23, 2007." They must also "complete an evaluation of compliance alternatives, including retaining the services of an engineer and conducting pilot testing as needed." These 36 water systems must "select a final compliance option by January 23, 2008," although small systems serving populations of less than 3,000 may qualify for "an extension to this exemption if the system demonstrates significant progress during this three year period." Had Eureka County have received an exemption, it would be required to complete these steps. Some people in Crescent Valley are buying bottled water or installing water filters at home to avoid arsenic. A point-of-use filter that addresses arsenic is available at Home Depot in Elko for approximately $300, an expense seniors and low-income families can ill-afford. Some Crescent Valley people remain unaware of the arsenic in their drinking water. The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection is hosting a videoconference water workshop on Friday, March 30 from 9 to noon. It will include an "overview of the latest technologies used for the removal of arsenic from drinking water supplies" including a "discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the technologies." Viewing is available in Crescent Valley at the elementary school and a viewing site is being arranged for the town of Eureka. For information contact Crystal Montecinos at 775-240-1396, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Symptoms of Arsenic Poisoning The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, ATSDR, describes symptoms of arsenic poisoning that include severe abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and bloody diarrhea; cardiovascular and respiratory effects including low blood pressure, shock, congestive heart failure, and swelling and/or fluid accumulation in the lungs and respiratory failure. Symptoms of fluid accumulation in the lungs, known as pulmonary edema, include difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, excessive sweating, anxiety and pale skin. If left untreated, pulmonary edema can lead to coma and even death due to inadequate oxygen supply. Arsenic ingestion can cause neurologic effects including light-headedness, headache, weakness, lethargy, delirium, pain in the the peripheral nervous system, brain disorders, convulsions, coma, and narrowing of blood vessels in the legs and sometimes in the arms, restricting blood flow and causing pain. In severe cases, gangrene may develop, requiring amputation of the limb. Arsenic ingestion causes liver and kidney problems such as elevated liver enzymes, blood in the urine, smaller than normal elimination of urine compared to the amount of fluid consumed, increased protein in the urine, and death of cells in the kidney. Effects on the blood include low white, red and platelet blood counts. Horizontal lines of discoloration known as Mees' lines can appear on fingernails and toenails due to arsenic poisoning. Skin lesions may appear. Darkening of skin or nails and thickening of the skin are delayed hallmarks of chronic arsenic exposure. The classic appearance of dark brown patches with scattered pale spots is sometimes described as "raindrops on a dusty road." Anemia often accompanies skin lesions in patients chronically poisoned by arsenic; and lung cancer and skin cancer are serious long-term concerns in cases of chronic arsenic exposure.
According to the ATSDR, arsenic toxicity can be determined by urine and hair analysis, blood and nerve testing.
Las Vegas Sun EDITORIAL
17th Feb 2007Study raises questions about state allowing mining companies to monitor themselves According to a story by the Las Vegas Sun on Wednesday, mercury levels outside four of the 10 mines tested were five times higher than the amount of mercury that occurs in the environment naturally. Levels at three other mines were significantly higher than that - including readings taken a mile away from one mine that showed mercury levels at twice the federal limits for toxic exposure. Mercury levels were at or below naturally occurring thresholds at the three remaining mines. Mercury is released during gold refining. The study released this week was done by a UNR natural resource and environmental science professor using a relatively inexpensive, off-the-shelf mercury analyzer - a model that has received high accuracy marks from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Sun's Lisa Mascaro reports. Readings were taken outside the gates of the mines, in parking lots and on access roads. However, the study also monitored mercury levels near active leach heaps, which are not measured under state requirements. Levels there were, in some cases, 12 times higher than naturally occurring levels, the Sun reports. Conservationists say mercury emissions have poisoned fish and waterfowl in Idaho and Utah - toxins that also could settle in Nevada. The UNR report shows downwind concentrations are higher than those upwind from the mines and recommends that mine leach heaps, tailings and rock dumps also be tested. Last March the Nevada Environmental Commission required that mines monitor and test for airborne mercury emissions and report their findings to the state annually. At the time, Nevada regulators and mining industry officials told the Sun that no link had been proved between Nevada's mines and mercury levels in neighboring states. However, that doesn't mean there is no link, Nevada Environmental Protection Division Administrator Leo Drozdoff also said at the time, adding that "much more research needs to be done." In a March editorial, the Sun called for the state to conduct such research. While this latest UNR study isn't as comprehensive as what we would like to see from the state, it does suggest that mercury levels are far higher than what has been reported and are emitted into the environment in other parts of the mining process that currently are not tested.
Dante Pistone of the Nevada environmental protection division told the Sun that the state doesn't see a need to require more frequent and varied testing of mercury emissions. Clearly, the UNR study suggests that the opposite may be true. State environmental protection officials should be taking the mercury contamination risk more seriously and studying it more closely.
Court: Cyanide Can Be Banned In Gold Mining
by Jon Sarche, AP Writer
22nd March 2007
(Associated Press) DENVER Colorado counties have the authority to ban the use of cyanide in gold mining, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
A three-judge panel upheld Summit County's rule against the technique, rejecting a challenge by the Colorado Mining Association.
The ruling means similar bans can remain in place in Conejos, Costilla, Gilpin and Gunnison counties, said Colin Henderson, president of the Alliance for Responsible Mining, which joined Summit County in defending the ban.
He said other counties are also considering bans.
Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, said the group has not yet decided whether to appeal. He said he believed the judges' reasoning was wrong.
Sanderson said only one mine in Colorado -- the Cripple Creek & Victor in Teller County -- uses cyanide-mining technology to extract gold.
The Summit County commissioners had enacted the ban in June 2004, citing extensive pollution downstream of the Summitville and Battle Mountain mines in south-central Colorado. The county also set standards for the use of other chemicals.
The mining association sued, and a trial judge ruled in August 2005 that the state Mined Land Reclamation Act takes precedence over any county or local standards for restoring mining-damaged land.
Summit County and the alliance appealed, saying the ruling was too broad. The appeals court agreed.
In a 2-1 decision, the appeals panel ruled the Mined Land Reclamation Act takes precedence over any county or local rules but said Summit County's ban on cyanide had nothing to do with land reclamation.
"Had the General Assembly intended expressly to pre-empt areas of mining other than performance standards for mined land reclamation activities, we assume it would have done so," the majority opinion said.
The ruling said the county's cyanide ban was not prohibited because state law requires mines to comply with local land use and zoning regulations.
The appeals panel upheld the trial judge's conclusion that the state law pre-empted the county's ban on other chemicals or hazardous materials.
In a dissent, Judge Arthur Roy concluded that Summit County regulations on both cyanide and other chemicals were pre-empted by state law.
Sanderson said he agreed with Roy's contention that mining is a matter of statewide concern so mine operators should be regulated uniformly, rather than with a patchwork of local rules.
"In effect the court has offered a rationale that is a self-contradiction: Counties may prohibit the use of chemicals but not regulate their use if and when the mining operation is approved," Sanderson said.
Henderson said other counties had been waiting for the appeals court ruling to decide whether to try to pass similar bans.
Henderson lives near the Alamosa River, which was severely polluted by discharge from the Summitville gold mine, now a Superfund site.
"What we found is that when we provide our experiences of living downstream of open-pit cyanide gold mines and our take on the facts of its history in Colorado and the West, Republicans and Democrats on the county level and people in Colorado do not want this kind of mining," Henderson said. "It's a failed technology."
Kansas City Power & Light to Offset Carbon From New Coal Unit
KANSAS CITY, Missouri, (ENS)
20th March 2007
Two environmental groups said today they will drop legal action against a new Midwest coal-fired power plant after the utility building the plant agreed to offset its greenhouse gas emissions by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The Sierra Club and the Concerned Citizens of Platte County have agreed with Kansas City Power & Light, KCP&L, on a set of measures that will resolve four appeals pending before the courts.
KCP&L agreed to pursue offsets for all of the global warming emissions from the 850 megawatt Iatan 2 coal unit located near Weston, Missouri, which the company expects to open in 2010.
The company agreed to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy and cut pollution from its existing Iatan 1 and La Cygne plants to improve air quality in the Greater Kansas City metro area.
Full implementation of agreement will require either enabling legislative policy or regulatory approval.
"This agreement is a win for our climate, for the environment, and for the residents of the Kansas City area," said Carl Pope, Sierra Club executive director. "It is the latest sign that smart energy solutions like wind power and energy efficiency are gathering steam."
Bill Downey, president and CEO of KCP&L said the agreement "reflects the ongoing atmosphere of collaboration we established in developing the CEP, and proactively resolves differences. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to secure a long-term energy supply for Kansas City while improving air quality."
The most significant element of the agreement is the unprecedented commitment by KCP&L to pursue the offset of carbon emissions from its proposed Iatan 2 generating station,
The estimated six million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions from the Iatan 2 generating unit will be offset by adding 400 megawatts of wind power; 300 MW of energy efficiency; and a yet to be determined combination of wind, efficiency, or the closing, altering, re-powering or efficiency improvements at any of its generating units.
These proposed offsets will be partly implemented by 2010 and fully implemented by 2012.
The parties also agreed to work together on a series of regulatory and legislative initiatives to achieve an overall reduction in KCP&L's carbon dioxide emissions of 20 percent by 2020.
Within the next year, KCP&L will also work with the Sierra Club to study options, including retiring, re-powering or upgrading its Montrose power plant.
Finally, KCP&L will fund several community projects including, recommendations of the Kansas City Climate Protection Committee targeting global warming reduction measures; additional monitoring of soot and smog pollution; and an upgrade to the drinking water infrastructure in Weston.
KCP&L will also file for approval of a net metering program within six months. Net metering allows a utility's customers to generate small amounts of electricity from rooftop solar panels or a small wind turbine and sell excess energy back to the utility.
Susan Brown, chairperson for Concerned Citizens of Platte County said, "The renewable energy investments in this agreement can revitalize the region's manufacturing economy and offer rural landowners a new source of steady income from wind turbines located on their property. The large investment in energy efficiency will also help everyone use less energy, reducing emissions and saving consumers and businesses money each month."
Investors Urge US Congress for Rules Slashing CO2
20th March 2007
NEW YORK - Institutional investors joined a corporate chorus seeking to sink money into clean energy markets and called Monday for US Congress to pass rules slashing output of gases linked to global warming.
The investors, including Merrill Lynch and Calpers, the largest US public pension fund -- which together manage nearly US$4 trillion in assets -- called on Congress to pass legislation aimed to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases 60 to 90 percent under 1990 levels by 2050.
"To tap American ingenuity and drive business to a leadership position in the low-carbon future, we need regulations to enable the markets to deploy capital and spur innovation," Fred Buenrostro, chief executive officer at Calpers, said in a statement ahead of the announcement in Washington Monday.
The investors were joined by chemical, energy, and insurance companies including DuPont Co., PG&E Corp., Allianz and BP America, a division of British oil major BP Plc.
"Allianz SE believes it is essential to put a price tag on carbon, thereby enabling market mechanisms to drive emissions reductions and climate protection," said Joachim Faber, a member of the company's board of management, in a statement.
They said such cuts on a global level on the smokestack and tailpipe emissions could avoid worst-case scenarios of global warming. A draft UN report said cuts in emissions could mute the worst effects such as water shortages for billions of people or declining crop yields that could mean hunger for millions. That report will be released on April 6.
CAP AND TRADE
The group, organized by Ceres, a coalition of investors and environmentalists based in Boston, said national mandatory market-based solutions, such as a cap and trade system, should be introduced to cut emissions "wherever possible."
Cap and trade markets, initiated by the United States on pollutants that cause acid rain, set a mandatory baseline, in which companies that cut emissions under the target can sell credits to ones that do not cut emissions under the target.
Companies can also earn credits by investing in clean energy projects, like wind or solar power, or methane reductions at coal mines.
The European Union set up such a market in 2005 to meet its members' obligations under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Billions of dollars' worth of credits have traded.
Monday's group also called for the US Securities and Exchange Commission to clarify which companies should disclose risks of climate change to their investors in regular reports. It urged Congress to pass energy and transport policies that would allow research, development and deployment of clean technologies.
President George W. Bush opposes mandatory caps on heat-trapping gases and pulled the country, the world's top CO2 emitter, out of the Kyoto pact in 2001.
Change could be nearing however, as top 2008 presidential contenders from both parties favor a mandatory greenhouse gas plan. Efforts to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases have also moved up Congress' list of priorities since Democrats regained control last November.
A large low-carbon investment could be capturing and burying carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, from coal-burning power plants.
That technology, which is not yet commercially available, would allow continued heavy reliance on vast US sources of coal. It would require huge investments that could raise consumer power bills by 20 percent, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study said last week.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
House Panel Investigates Bush's Climate Science Manipulations
By J.R. Pegg
WASHINGTON DC, (ENS)
20th March 2007
White House documents released Monday by a House committee offer further evidence that Bush administration officials with no scientific training edited federal scientific reports to inflate uncertainty about humanity's role in global warming.
The documents are part of an ongoing investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform into alleged political interference with climate science and federal scientists by the Bush administration.
"Our goal in this investigation is to understand what role the White House actually played," Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said at Monday's hearing. "It would be a serious abuse if senior White House officials deliberately tried to defuse calls for action by ensuring that the public heard a distorted message about the risks of climate change."Congressman Henry Waxman of California describes himself as a longtime defender of the environment. Today he introduced the Safe Climate Act of 2007, which sets binding emissions targets for greenhouse gases.
Waxman said the eight boxes of documents turned over by the Bush administration thus far suggest there "may have been a concerted effort directed by the White House to mislead the public about the dangers of global warming."
Much of the hearing focused on edits to federal reports by Philip Cooney, an oil industry lobbyist who served as chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, CEQ, from 2001-2005.
Documents released by the committee show Cooney and other administration officials made at least 181 edits to the administration's strategic plan for the climate change science program to exaggerate or emphasize scientific uncertainties, as well as 113 edits to downplay the importance of humanity's role in global warming.
In addition, White House documents show similar editing by Cooney and other administration officials to a U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency report on the health of the environment and an annual state of the planet report submitted to Congress.
Cooney, who resigned in June 2005 following reports of his controversial editing by the "New York Times," defended his actions before the committee."I had the authority and responsibility to make recommendations to the documents in question, under an established interagency review process," said Cooney, a lawyer who now works for ExxonMobil.
Cooney said he relied largely on the findings of the 2001 report on climate science by National Academy of Sciences to "align these communications" with administration policy.
"I offered my comments in good faith reliance on what I understood to be the most authoritative and current states of scientific knowledge," Cooney told the panel.
Cooney's actions were intended to "sow confusion regarding the link between climate change and human activity," said Representative Peter Welch, a Vermont Democrat.
Representative John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, called Cooney "a spin doctor" and raised concerns about his close ties to the oil industry.
Cooney joined the CEQ after for more than a decade as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, API, an organization that has cast doubt on the human role in climate change.
The role Cooney played at API and at the White House "seem virtually identical," Waxman said. "In both places, you seem to seed doubt on global warming," he told Cooney.Democrats also questioned a memo between Cooney and an aide in Vice President Dick Cheney's office that suggests an administration strategy to promote a study partially funded by API that questioned the link between global warming and greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. The study, published in the journal "Climate Research" in 2001, was widely refuted by climate scientists and half the editorial board of the journal resigned in protest over its publication.
The communication between the CEQ and Cheney's office indicates an attempt to incorporate the study into federal reports, said Waxman.
"This sounds like a play right out of the petroleum institute's playbook," he said.
CEQ Chairman James Connaughton rejected Waxman's characterization of the administration's actions and called the investigation of Cooney's edits "misguided."
For the documents in question "there was actually massive agreement on more than 99 percent" of the text, Connaughton told the committee. "[This] is much ado about a very small amount of qualification."
Republicans on the panel spent most of their time grilling Dr. James Hansen, a prominent climate scientist who has criticized the Bush administration for interfering with climate scientists.
Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, says political appointees tried to stop him from speaking to the media after he delivered a lecture in late 2005 that urged rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to slow global warming."We've developed this politicization of science," Hansen said. "Public affairs offices should be staffed by professionals, not political appointees, or they become offices of propaganda."
"I shouldn't be required to parrot some company line," Hansen told the committee. "I should give the best information I have."
Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican, said Hansen is "regularly the toast of the town" and is hardly having trouble getting his message out to the public.
Issa questioned Hansen's motivations, noting that he supported 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and also received a $250,000 prize from the Heinz Foundation in 2001.
The Heinz Awards are given annually to honor individuals working in areas important to the late Senator John Heinz, a Pennsylvania Republican, and are awarded by Heinz's widow, Teresa Heinz, who is now married to Kerry.
"His political activism is well-defined," Issa said of Hansen, adding that the climate scientist "clearly dislikes" the Bush administration."
Issa's comments drew a rebuke from Waxman. "I think you are smearing Dr. Hansen's reputation," Waxman said. "I think you are being unfair to him."
Hansen noted that he is a registered Independent, adding that he would have voted for Senator John McCain in 2004 if the Arizona Republican had run for president.
Issa and other Republicans also questioned Hansen for previously equating the administration's efforts to control information echoed Nazi Germany.
Hansen has raised specific concerns about political appointees insisting they be allowed to review requests for interviews and monitor conversations with reporters, among other restrictions.
"Do you think Nazi Germany would have let you get away with ignoring these restrictions?" asked Mark Souder, an Indiana Republican.
Souder said the policy conclusions with regard to climate change have serious political overtones and consequences, adding that elected officials thus "do have some rights."
Hansen said he regretted the Nazi Germany comment, but defended his position on the administration's tactics.
"When you tell scientists they can't speak … it doesn't ring true, it is not the American way and it was not constitutional," Hansen said.
"I do not specify policy - I do try to make clear the science that is relevant to policy … and some of the implications of global warming for policy," Hansen added. "We cannot burn all the fossil fuels without producing a radically different planet."
Freeport-McMoRan completes Phelps Dodge takeover
19th March 2007
New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE: FCX) has completed its US$26bn acquisition of Phoenix-based miner Phelps Dodge (NYSE: PD), Freeport said in a statement Monday.The merger has created the world's largest publicly traded copper-producing company, displacing Grupo México (BMV: GMEXICOB).
Under the terms of the transaction, Phelps shareholders received US$88 in cash and 0.67 of a Freeport share for a total value of US$129/share based on the price of Freeport common stock on March 16. The cash portion of the deal adds up to US$18bn, according to the statement.
Richard C Adkerson and James R Moffett are to stay on as CEO and chairman respectively, Freeport said.
Phelps Dodge president and COO Timothy R Snider will become the COO of the merged company, while Phelps CEO Steven Whisler and CFO Ramiro Peru are to step down.
After the close of the merger Freeport launched a public offering for 35mn common shares and 10mn preferred shares at US$100/share to aid in repaying the expense of the acquisition, according to a separate Freeport statement.
Phelps' South American copper operations include its 53.6% owned Cerro Verde mine in Peru, as well as its 80% owned Candelaria/Ojos del Salado mine and 51% owned El Abra mine, both in Chile.
Freeport owns the giant Grasberg copper-gold mine in Indonesia and also copper operations in Spain.
Chilean state-owned Codelco has the rest of El Abra while Japan's Sumitomo holds minority stakes in Candelaria and Cerro Verde, in the latter case along with Peru's Buenaventura (NYSE: BVN).
9 de Marzo de 2007
El oscarizado ex vicepresidente de EEUU, Albert Arnold Al Gore, por su documental-denuncia sobre el calentamiento global, Una verdad incómoda, es propietario de un complejo minero en Carthage (Tennessee). Fue adquirido por su padre, el también senador, en 1973. Hasta 1998 no se hicieron los primeros estudios sobre las emisiones tóxicas de las minas de metal. La cuenca a la que pertenece, Gordonsville-Cumberland, emitió 1,8 millones de kilos de vertidos tóxicos al aire y el agua entre 1998 y 2003. Vertidos en los canales hídricos y emisiones tóxicas son los potenciales peligros. Lo ha relatado este domingo el diario The Tennessean.
(Libertad Digital) "Explotar minas no es sinónimo de ser verde, ¿no crees?". Se pregunta John Mullins, un vecino de Cookeville. En 1973, el ex senador de EEUU, Albert Al Gore padre adquirió los terrenos y los derechos de explotación de una cuenca minera de zinc. Después se lo cedió a su hijo de 25 años de edad y su nuera previo pago de 140.000 dólares. En las tres décadas de explotación, se estima que Al Gore se ha embolsado más de 500.000dólares en concepto de arrendamiento de sus derechos de explotación. Eso es al menos lo que relata el diario The Tennessean en su edición de domingo, como ha adelantado Barcepundit.
Después de cuatro años de inactividad, Strategic Resource Acquistion, una compañía canadiense, se ha hecho con los derechos de explotación y piensa reanudar la actividad bajo el nombre de MidTennesse Zinc. Lo hará a finales de este año. La compañía canadiense asegura al diario The Tennessean que la mina ha producido 2.600 millones libras (unidad de medida anglosajona) de zinc y estima en 26 millones de toneladas el material metálico restante. Lo que le augura una larga vida.
The Tennessean saluda los beneficios que la apertura del complejo minero traerá a la región. Empleará a unas 250 personas. Una cifra nada detestable en un depresivo "rural Tennessee Medio". Otra inyección económica es la que "los explotadores de las minas pagan a los residentes, como Al Gore, que poseen las tierras adyacentes a la mina y gravan el acceso al zinc bajo su feudo".
Riesgos de contaminación
Estos son los beneficios de la explotación minera a los que el ex vicepresidente viene accediendo desde hace por lo menos 30 años. Pero existen ciertos riesgos. Cierto es que no se puede acusar a Al Gore de haber dañado seriamente el medio ambiente. Pero cierto es también que existen riesgos con las emisiones tóxicas de la explotación de metal y las descargas en los canales hídricos.
Fue en 1998 cuando apareció el primer estudio sobre las emisiones tóxicas de la explotación de zinc firmado por The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). En el quinquenio 1998-2003; se registraron 724.800 kilos de sustancias tóxicas en el aire, el agua y la tierra del complejo de minas interconectadas en Carthage conocido como Gordonsville Min and Mill y 1,1 millones de kilos en Cumberland, también incluida en el área; según un informe de EPA. En total, más de 1,8 millones de kilos de vertidos durante el periodo.
En 2002, Gordonsville-Cumberland minas ocupó el puesto vigésimo segundo en el ranking de las minas de metal. El mismo Al Gore reconoce que los niveles de 2002 pusieron a la mina las más "sucias" de Estados Unidos. En 2004, en Clarksville la planta intermedia donde se procesa el metal de las cuencas mineras de la zona emitió más de 11,7 millones de kilos de polución.
Respecto a los peligros hídricos, en 2003 un informe titulado: Tennesse Source Water Assessment Report aseguraba que la mitad de los recursos de agua del estado estaba bajo una "alta susceptibilidad" de contaminación. En 2006, expertos de medio ambiente denunciaban en un estudio que Tennessee necesitaba una aproximación más ajustada a la realidad sobre el grado de salubridad de las aguas subterráneas.
Todos estos peligros potenciales parecen incompatibles con quien se considera un agitador de conciencias y un promotor ejemplarizante del buen hacer medioambiental. Eso es al menos lo que perciben algunos vecinos de Carthage. "Gore no camina el camino", dicen.