MAC: Mines and Communities

US Update

Published by MAC on 2006-06-29

US Update

29th June 2006

The Bush regime is facing a massive knock-down, as the US Supreme Court consents to hear a multi-party case against its pro-corporate polices on global greenhouse gas emissions.

Massey Coal- the country's leading practitioner of "mountaintop mining" is charged with violations following landslides and flooding in West Virginia.

Doe Run - under heavy indictment in Peru - has been sued by a Missouri landholding corporation for alleged violations of federal environmental laws at and near its mining operations in Reynolds County.

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Global Warming Case


27th June 2006

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it is prepared to wade into the global warming debate and consider a lawsuit that aims to require the federal government to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

The court's decision was hailed by a coalition of states and environmental groups who have long battled for mandatory federal regulation of emissions linked to global warming and who argue the Bush administration's voluntary measures are illegal.

"The Bush administration has continually tried to say that it is not their job to fight global warming," said David Bookbinder, senior attorney for the Sierra Club. "In fact, they have both the legal and moral responsibility to tackle global warming pollution."

The case in question stretches back to 1999, when environmentalists filed a petition calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set motor vehicle emission standards for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Passenger cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles account for more than 20 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

In August of 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) denied the petition on the grounds that the Clean Air Act does not give the agency authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases "for climate change purposes."

The EPA added that it had determined that setting greenhouse gas emission standards for motor vehicles "is not appropriate at this time."

The environmental groups, joined by a dozen states and three cities, challenged that decision. In July 2005 the federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit voted 2-1 upholding the EPA's position.

After the full bench of the appellate court requested to hear the case, the plaintiffs filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court will hear the case during its fall term, which begins in October.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, whose state is one of the 12 involved in the case, said the Supreme Court "will now have an opportunity to address the most significant environmental issue of our generation."

Neither the EPA nor the White House provided comment on the Supreme Court's announcement.

The decision to hear the case sets up a legal showdown over President George W. Bush's controversial position on global warming and his apparent reversal on the issue of regulating carbon dioxide.

As a presidential candidate in 2000, Bush expressed support for regulation of the greenhouse gas, but once elected quickly backed away from that position and withdrew support for the Kyoto Protocol.

Instead, Bush has pursued voluntary agreements with industry to cut the greenhouse gas intensity - the ratio of the ratio of emissions to economic output.

The White House argues that mandatory reductions would harm the economy and does not consider carbon dioxide a pollutant. The plaintiffs believe that the environmental and economic threats from climate change merit aggressive action by the federal government.

The Clean Air Act gives the EPA ample authority to regulate any air pollutant that threatens human health, they argue, and carbon dioxide - as the leading greenhouse gas linked to global warming - clearly fits into that category.

"Delay has serious potential consequences," the petition states. "Given that air pollutants associated with climate change are accumulating in the atmosphere at an alarming rate, the window of opportunity in which we can mitigate the dangers of climate change is rapidly closing."

In addition, the coalition of states and environmental groups contend that legal precedent precludes the agency from refusing to regulate greenhouse gases because of opposition on policy grounds.

"Today's Supreme Court action offers a ray of hope in the fight against global warming," said Earthjustice managing attorney David Baron. "We hope the Justices will render a decision that requires EPA to follow the Clean Air Act and protect our communities and our planet from these damaging pollutants."

In addition to Massachusetts, the states challenging EPA's decision are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

U.S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Up Again in 2005


29th June 2006

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels increased by 0.1 percent in 2005, from 5,903 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2004 to 5,909 MMTCO2 in 2005, according to preliminary estimates released Wednesday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistical agency within the Department of Energy.

The 2005 emissions increase was the third smallest during the 1990 to 2005 period, exceeding only the emissions declines recorded in 1991 and 2001.

While the economy grew by 3.5 percent between 2004 and 2005, energy demand fell by 0.5 percent. The inflation-adjusted price of motor gasoline rose 19 percent, and the price of residential natural gas rose 16 percent. These price increases in oil and gas helped contribute to the overall drop in energy demand.

Total U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions have grown by 18.4 percent between 1990 and 2005. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions account for over 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

At the energy-sector level, preliminary data indicate that: Carbon dioxide emissions in the residential sector increased by 3.2 percent in 2005, mainly from increases in the residential demand for electricity.

Emissions from the commercial sector increased by 1.9 percent in 2005, also due mainly to increased electricity demand. Industrial emissions fell by 3.3 percent in 2005 as the U.S. economy continued to move away from heavy manufacturing and as petroleum and natural gas prices rose.

Transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions, which account for about a third of total carbon dioxide emissions, increased by 0.2 percent in 2005. Emissions related to gasoline demand decreased by 0.4 percent, emissions related to diesel fuel grew by 1.0 percent and jet fuel emissions decreased by 0.5 percent.

U.S. carbon dioxide intensity (energy-related carbon dioxide emissions per unit of economic output) fell by 3.3 percent in 2005.

From 1990 to 2005, the carbon dioxide intensity of the economy fell by 24.3 percent.

By 2004 (the latest year of data for all greenhouse gases), carbon dioxide intensity had fallen by 21.8 percent and emissions of total greenhouse gases per dollar of GDP had fallen by 23.4 percent.

The 3.3-percent drop in carbon dioxide intensity of the economy in 2005 is greater than the average reduction of 1.8 percent per year experienced since 1990.

EIA will continue to refine its estimates of 2005 carbon dioxide emissions as more complete energy data become available. A full inventory of 2005 emissions of all greenhouse gases will be available in November using revised energy data and providing a further analysis of trends. The preliminary estimates are on EIA's website at:

Suit says Doe Run tainted area near lead mine


28th June 2006

Lead-mining giant Doe Run Co. has been criticized by environmentalists for lead pollution from mines and industrial facilities on two continents. Now the company has a new sort of foe: a savvy Missouri landowner who has the concerns of an environmentalist.

The landowner, Leo Drey, has done business for decades with lead companies and the forestry industry in Missouri. Yet, Drey and his wife, Kay Drey, also have turned their wealth as owners of Missouri forestlands into a force for an array of environmental causes.

On Friday, Nadist LLC, a company controlled by Leo Drey, filed a lawsuit in federal court in St. Louis claiming that Doe Run has contaminated Nadist land near a lead mine in southern Missouri with toxic metals. The facility is the Sweetwater Mine and Mill in Reynolds County.

Nadist claims that Missouri Department of Natural Resources testing of soil found high levels of lead and other toxic heavy metals on Doe Run property and in local creeks. It also claims Nadist's own testing found lead contamination on Nadist property.

Nadist also says Doe Run has operated without permits required by state and federal law.

What's more, Nadist suggests that Doe Run has created the potential for an environmental disaster. The suit says Doe Run has for 30 years operated a dam that initially was intended for use only five years. The dam is holding back a large waste pond, and its failure "would release a toxic stew that would likely cover thousands of acres with a poisonous sheen," the suit says.

The suit says the problems are "consistent with Doe Run's environmental mismanagement," ranging from a lead smelter in Herculaneum to another smelter in Peru, where authorities have said 99.9 percent of children up to age 6 have high levels of lead in their blood.

Doe Run spokeswoman Barb Shepard noted that the area is an operating mine site, which the company acquired after it bought another business in 1998.

"We have not received any notices of violation, which is what you would expect if it was an issue," she said.

As for Nadist's claims that state testing found lead in concentrations as high as 60,000 parts per million on Nadist property, she said, "I don't know if that's accurate."

She also rebuffed Nadist's claims about the dam. "All of our properties and dams are permitted and inspected," she said.

The suit, which claims Doe Run has violated federal environmental laws, seeks unspecified monetary penalties as well as a court order requiring Doe Run to remedy the damage to Nadist's property.

It is not the first time Drey has tangled with a mining company in court. In the 1980s, Drey sued Kennecott Copper, which at the time owned Ozark Lead, over a lease dispute, said Hugh Law, an attorney for Nadist. The outcome was that Blair Creek in Shannon County was removed from the lease, and the land was later protected, Law said.

"Mr. Drey believes that good environmental practices are good business," Law said.

In their environmental endeavors, the Dreys have created a foundation that holds 137,000 acres of land and supports an array of educational and environmental programs, Law said. They also gave land and easements along banks of the Jack's Fork and Current rivers to the National Park Service, which preserves them for public enjoyment.

Landholder threatens to nix Doe Run lease; Suit accuses company of violating environmental laws.

Associated Press

27th June 2006

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A Missouri landholding corporation that leases mining rights to the Doe Run Co. has filed a federal lawsuit against Doe Run, alleging violations of federal environmental laws at and near mining operations in Reynolds County.

Nadist LLC, based in St. Louis, said in the suit filed Friday in federal court in St. Louis that it will terminate the lease with Doe Run for mining rights at Sweetwater Mine and Mill unless the company addresses such problems as lack of permits and accumulation of waste.

The suit seeks unspecified damages but said it is mostly concerned that Doe Run clean up at the mining site and adjoining properties. The suit says that testing of soil, air and water samples shows they are contaminated with lead, zinc, arsenic and other heavy metals at unacceptable concentrations.

Runoff into two creeks has contaminated the Ozark aquifer, the local source of drinking water, the suit said.

"The object of the lawsuit is to have the court ask Doe Run to clean up the land, where there were serious and alarming levels of contamination found by DNR and EPA," said Hugh Law, attorney for Nadist. "We look forward to them recognizing their responsibilities."

Doe Run spokeswoman Barb Shepard said yesterday that the company was surprised by the lawsuit, believing it had 60 days from receipt of a June 19 letter from Nadist to negotiate a resolution to the landholding corporation's concerns.

"The letter was a notice to sue unless Doe Run 'cures the violations,' " Shepherd said. "There was no opportunity to enter into a discussion, to understand the issue. They've chosen to file a lawsuit, so we'll work through the process."

Law said that's a technical issue that a judge will decide.

"It's our position we're entitled to proceed with less notice," he said.

In a letter on May 3, 2005, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the extent of contamination at the Sweetwater Mine site would qualify it for placement on the National Priorities List for hazardous waste cleanup. That would put it among those with highest priority for remediation.

The 7,700-acre site near Ellington, in southern Missouri's lead belt, includes a lead and zinc mine, mill and 592-acre tailings pond.

Regional EPA officials in Kansas City, Kan., said Doe Run has agreed to a lead cleanup in the town of Viburnum, near Sweetwater Mine, and is one of five mining companies cleaning up roads used to haul ore.

Massey Indicted

CHARLESTON, West Virginia, (ENS)

26th June 2006

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection today issued notices of violation to coal companies in three counties after torrential rain caused landslides, washouts and flooding that closed roads and and contaminated waterways.

One notice of violation was issued to Aracoma Coal Company, a Massey Energy operation, after a mud slide today entirely blocked Route 17 and most of Dingess Run near Ethel in Logan County.

Aracoma Coal has had crews on the scene since noon working to clear the road and the stream. No injuries were reported, says Lalena Price, spokesperson with the Department of Environmental Protection.

Heavy rain has caused a sediment pond to brim over and wash material and muddy water into the Birch River in Nicholas County. ICG Coal Company crews were nearing the completion of reclaiming a valley fill between Boggs and Big Ditch Lake when the washout occurred Sunday.

Price says an imminent harm cessation order has been issued to the company.

In Mingo County, a blackwater spill that began on Sunday was exacerbated by heavy rains today causing further discoloration of Pigeon Creek. The spill occurred while employees of Delbarton Mining, a Massey Energy operation, constructed an under drain for a refuse area.

An imminent harm cessation order has been issued to the company.

Heavy rains caused major flooding Sunday in Pennsylvania, Delaware and along Maryland's Eastern Shore, washing out roads and forcing some residents to evacuate their homes. No deaths or injuries were reported.

In Maryland, four to five feet of water was reported in parts of northern Dorchester and southern Caroline County, state Emergency Management Agency spokesman Jeff Welsh said. At least 20 roads in Dorchester County were closed, and a large section of Route 307 was washed out down to the gravel, said the Maryland State Police.

Low-laying areas of Federalsburg, a southern Caroline County town of about 2,600 people, were flooded Sunday morning and about 45 people voluntarily evacuated, Police Chief Donald Nagel said. A state of emergency was declared in the city. In the southwest Delaware town of Seaford, cars were floating in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Up to 15 people were evacuated from their homes, city spokeswoman Amy Walls said.

In western Pennsylvania, flash floods triggered by heavy rainfall prompted a state of emergency in parts of Armstrong County.

The basements of 100 to 200 homes in Ford City and nearby areas were flooded and some residents had to be evacuated, said Randy Brozenick, director of the county's public safety department.

Rain over the mid-Atlantic states is expected to continue due to Atlantic moisture being swept inland by a disturbance that has swirled from the Bahamas into Florida and Georgia plus a stalled front over the Appalachians.

Nevada Senator Slashes Nuclear Waste Dump Budget for 2007


29th June 2006

U.S. Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who serves as Senate minority leader, has again sliced the budget for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository to a level far below what proponents had hoped for.

Reid is the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, which today approved a bill that would provide $494 million for the Yucca Mountain project in fiscal year 2007 - slightly less than this year's $500 million budget.

President George W. Bush and Congress have both approved the Yucca Mountain site, but Nevada legislators at all levels of government oppose the facility which is supposed to accept 77,000 tons of the nation's high level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and defense sites.

President Bush had asked for $50 million more for Yucca Mtn. than the amount in the Senate bill, and the Department of Energy estimates it would need twice as much to keep the project on schedule.

"The Yucca Mountain nuke dump has been riddled with scientific, health, and safety problems from the beginning," said Reid. "I don't believe the dump will ever open. I think anything spent on Yucca is a waste of money, so I'm pleased we were able to keep the funding levels low, although it's a shame we're throwing any good taxpayer money after bad."

Ten million of the $494 million budget for next year would be used for a different project - a plan to create interim storage sites outside of Nevada.

The measure contains language instructing the Department of Energy to work with states that have nuclear reactors to identify the need for, and location of, interim storage sites within those states or regions. Nuclear waste could be stored at those sites for 25 years.

The bill upholds the conditions of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which specifies that no interim storage can be placed in Nevada.

"My goal is on-site, dry cask storage of nuclear waste," said Reid. "While this bill does not fully accomplish that personal goal of mine, it is a significant step in the right direction."

"This measure will give us time to study the problem of nuclear waste and work towards a solution that is safe and viable, Reid said. "It's a good bipartisan compromise."

The FY '07 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill also requires a General Accounting Office audit of the Yucca Mountain budget money. The audit would ensure that all appropriated money is spent in accordance with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The full Committee is expected to approve the Senate bill Thursday. Reid has kept the project's budget at the same level for three years now, without even increases to offset inflation.

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