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Tue, 2011-11-01 14:21Farron Cousins
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New Lake Michigan Coal Ash Spill Raises Old Concerns

On Monday, a bluff surrounding a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based power plant collapsed, sending a cascade of debris and coal ash waste from the power plant into Lake Michigan. No injuries were reported by We Energies, the company who owns the power plant, but the environmental assessment will likely be less optimistic. We Energies, a subsidiary of Wisconsin Energy Corporation (NYSE: WEC), has confirmed that the debris that made it into the river likely contained coal ash.

As of Monday afternoon, a “fuel sheen” appeared on the surface of Lake Michigan as a result of the bluff collapse. Cleanup crews from Clean Harbor were contracted by We Energies to help contain the spread of the sheen, and will be deploying about 1,500 feet of boom to help contain the waste on the surface. Shortly after the accident, residents living up to a mile away from the site along the lake were already reporting debris washing onshore.

As we have reported extensively in the past, coal ash contains countless toxic substances, including mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, and cadmium. It has also been reported to be more radioactive as nuclear waste. In spite of these findings, the EPA has yet to issue any firm stance on whether or not coal ash will be regulated as a “toxic waste,” partly due to the fact that the coal industry has unleashed a cadre of lobbyists to Washington to fight to protect their coal ash interests.

The EPA’s delay in issuing a ruling on coal ash has allowed the Republican-controlled Congress to gain the upper hand on the issue. In early fall 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would prohibit the EPA from regulating coal ash, and preventing them from classifying the substance as “hazardous.” Instead of EPA regulations, the bill would allow states to issue their own standards on coal ash and prevent any federal standards.

Sat, 2011-10-22 22:14Farron Cousins
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Harry Reid to Hillary Clinton: Drop Keystone XL Pipeline Plan

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have gained a new ally in the fight to prevent this disastrous oil boondoggle from moving forward: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV).

Earlier this month, Sen. Reid sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to abandon the pipeline and instead focus on renewable energy. The Washington Post provided an excerpt of Reid’s letter to Clinton:

The proponents of this pipeline would be wiser to invest instead in job-creating clean energy projects, like renewable power, energy efficiency or advanced vehicles and fuels that would employ thousands of people in the United States rather than increasing our dependency on unsustainable supplies of dirty and polluting oil that could easily be exported.

This is the first time that Reid has publicly addressed the Keystone XL issue, and that signals a very powerful friend to the opponents of the pipeline. Already, some labor unions and Democratic lawmakers have thrown their support in favor of the pipeline, maintaining that the project would create much-needed jobs, despite evidence to the contrary.

Earlier this month, Congressman Henry Waxman (D–CA) called on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate the Koch brothers' interests in the Keystone XL pipeline, as the majority of the members on the Energy Committee have received campaign contributions from Koch Industries and its employees.


The fact that Reid chose to single out Clinton on the issue shows that he is paying attention to the issue very closely. DeSmogBlog has put together some excellent pieces detailing Clinton’s ties to the lobbyists pushing the pipeline.

Tue, 2011-10-18 11:37Farron Cousins
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New Jersey Environmental Group Targets Anti-Environment Legislators With New Ad Campaign

Environment New Jersey has announced an aggressive new online advertising campaign to hold so-called “environment-friendly” state representatives accountable for their anti-environmental voting records. At issue are three representatives’ votes regarding a bill that would delay the clean up of toxic waste sites.

From Environment New Jersey’s press release:

The House of Representatives approved the “TRAIN” Act, which would indefinitely delay the clean-up of toxic power plant pollution; another bill (H.R. 2681) that prevents clean air standards that lower mercury and other toxic air pollution from cement plants; and a bill (H.R. 2250) that would prevents standards to reduce toxic pollution from industrial incinerators and boilers at power plants.


The “TRAIN” Act alone, if passed, could result in 139,500 lives lost due to smog, soot, and toxic air pollution. In New Jersey, it could result in over 3,200 lives lost due to air pollution. The health benefits delivered by the incinerator and boiler standards are as high as $54 billion annually, and the health benefits from cement standards will be as high as $18 billion annually.

All of these bills were voted on the heels of an Environment New Jersey report, “Danger in the Air,” that found New Jersey’s air to be some of the smoggiest in the country. The findings included that the North Jersey metropolitan area, including New York and Connecticut, ranked as the 5th smoggiest metropolitan area in the country this past summer.

The three state congressmen specifically targeted by the ads are Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7), Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-2) and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11). All three men claim to be friends of the environment, or at least boast of a moderate record on environmental issues, but their votes for the TRAIN Act prove otherwise.

Wed, 2011-10-12 15:39Farron Cousins
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Robert Bryce – The Media’s Industry-Funded Go-To Guy

Robert Bryce, a fellow at the dirty industry-funded Manhattan Institute, is under increasing scrutiny as media outlets continue to use him as an “expert” on energy issues without disclosing his ties to the energy industry. DeSmogBlog’s Brendan DeMelle has written several pieces on Bryce’s connections to the industry, as well as how media outlets, including the New York Times, continue to allow Bryce to write op-eds on energy issues that are laden with fallacies without disclosing his conflict of interest.

From Brendan’s previous reports on Bryce’s New York Times piece:

Bryce penned an op-ed attacking renewable energy while promoting nuclear and fracked shale gas, with no disclosure in his byline about the Manhattan Institute’s fossil fuel clients. I offered Bryce's piece as an example in order to formally seek answers about the disclosure policy at the Times and whether it was adequate in light of the failure to disclose Bryce’s dirty energy backing.

Now Media Matters has done a fantastic job of detailing the numerous media outlets that are allowing the industry hack Bryce to pen his agenda-driven drivel, as well as uncovering where his group's funding is coming from:

Wed, 2011-10-05 17:30Farron Cousins
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New Federal Report Says Gulf of Mexico Cleanup Needed “Urgently”

A preliminary report released Wednesday by the federal Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force says that cleanup is needed for the Gulf of Mexico “urgently,” in order to protect the environmental and economical status of the Gulf.

The task force was established by President Obama after the oil disaster in the Gulf last summer, and is set to deliver a final report on the status of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a restoration strategy for Gulf Coast states to implement in order to save the region. The goals set forward by the task force include conserving habitats along the Gulf Coast, improving water quality, protecting coastal resources, and enhancing the resilience of coastal communities.

Sun, 2011-10-02 12:06Farron Cousins
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Oil Lobbyists Targeting “Super Committee”

As the so-called “Super Committee” works to figure out how to trim $1.2 trillion from the U.S. government’s federal deficit, the dirty energy industry has their lobbyists working overtime to make sure that their billions of dollars in annual subsidies aren’t among the items on the chopping block.

The Super Committee only has until Thanksgiving to submit their proposals to President Obama. And not being ones to miss an opportunity, members on the committee have scheduled dozens of personal fundraisers for their campaigns before that deadline hits. And many of the companies who fear that their subsidies could be cut will be in attendance. After all, the lobbyist blitz contains more than 180 former staffers of members of the Super Committee, so access is not an issue, and no introductions will be necessary.

The New York Times lays out the issue as follows:
  

Hundreds of lobbyists, including many former Congressional officials and frequent campaign contributors, are making their cases to the committee members.

Ethanol fuel producers, oil companies, corporate jet owners and many other businesses want the committee to guard their own special tax breaks.

“Everybody’s at risk,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, “and so everyone’s going to be out there lobbying.”

With the lobbying, of course, come valuable campaign contributions. Despite calls from watchdog groups to suspend their fund-raising, most committee members are continuing to raise money from many of the same industries affected by their work.
 

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