Thursday, February 27, 2014

ExxonMobil chief executive sues to stop fracking, citing concerns over property value of his home near fracking site

This article shows that a corporate executive, whose company uses force and attacks people across the USA to suffer fracking the toxic fall-out of fracking operations, is himself admitting that there are problems with fracking operations, at least when it comes to the value of his own personal property. The response that most people get by petroleum corporation executives when complaining about fracking near their homes is, "It's a free country, you can just sell your property and move".

"ExxonMobil chief, neighbors sue over fracking concerns"
2014-02-27 from "AFP" newswire []:
ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson has been a zealous advocate of the US shale boom and the controversial use of "fracking," but not when it hits too close to home.
Tillerson and his neighbors are suing to block the construction of a 160-foot-tall (78.8-meter-) water tower, to be used in part for hydraulic fracturing, near his $5 million ranch in Bartonville, outside Dallas, according to a complaint filed in a Texas court.
The tower, which now is partially built, "will create a constant and unbearable nuisance to those that live next to it," according to the suit.
Some of the water will be used in hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" for shale oil and gas, resulting in truck use that will cause "noise nuisance and traffic hazards," said the complaint.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction against the tower's construction rather than financial damages.
"Even though the damages might compensate them for their diminished property values, damages cannot compensate fully for the substantial interference with Plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their land."
"These are luxury properties worth multiple millions of dollars," said the complaint.
"Each of the homeowners built or purchased their homes in Bartonville to live in an upscale community free of industrial properties, tall buildings and other structures that might devalue their properties and adversely impact the rural lifestyle they sought to enjoy."
Tillerson, who is also is chairman and president of the largest US oil company, is one of six plaintiffs in the case. The first plaintiff listed is former Republican House Majority Leader Richard Armey, whose property is worth in excess of $2 million.
The suit comes as Exxon and other leading energy companies press on with campaigns to promote fracking around the US in spite of opposition from critics who cite environmental damage and health concerns.
Jim Leggieri, general manager of Bartonville Water, told AFP not all of the water will be used for fracking, which drives pressurized liquids into rocks to create fissures that release gas and oil.
"We are building a new elevator tower to serve citizens in the area," Leggieri said, with some of the water intended to go to 6,000 homes in the area as well as to farms.
The suit exaggerates the impact of the trucks, which are "not as loud as they say," he added.
Tillerson and the other plaintiffs have appealed a lower court's ruling in favor of the water tower project. A decision on the appeal is expected in June or July.

Richmond City's residents battle against criminal pollution practices of Chevron

"California city wages war against 'environmental racism' "
2014-02-27 by Michael Okwu & Jason Motlagh for "Al Jazeera America" []:
RICHMOND, Calif. – On Aug. 6, 2012, Courtney Cummings and her family were in their front yard when a massive fire erupted just six blocks away.
“There was a big boom,” she said. “I got really scared. I saw this big fireball go in the air and we all took off running into the house.”
The fire was at the Chevron refinery, and the smoke and toxic fallout sent more than 15,000 Richmond residents to the hospital with respiratory problems []. Many residents insist that the 2012 fire is emblematic of a willful negligence that dates back decades, at the expense of the low-income minorities who can’t afford to leave.
But the 2007 election of a Green Party mayor has energized residents against their city’s largest employer and taxpayer, and turned Richmond into one of America’s environmental battlegrounds. It’s a muddy fight; health impacts are hard to trace with certainty, and the underlying issue has enormous stakes: How responsible are corporations to the communities that build up around them?

The medical costs -
Just across the bay from San Francisco’s glittering tech boom, Richmond is tethered to heavy industry, strewn with petrochemical containers and crisscrossed by train tracks. About 80 percent of people living within a mile of the Chevron refinery are people of color, and a quarter of them live below the poverty line, according to a 2009 report [link] (.pdf).
After the 2012 fire, investigators discovered that severe pipe corrosion caused a rupture that sparked the blaze. They also found that Chevron's own inspectors had repeatedly warned the company to replace the aging pipes. Chevron agreed last fall to pay $2 million and pleaded no contest to six charges, including failing to protect employees from potential harm [].
Chevron refused America Tonight’s repeated requests for an interview, but in an emailed statement, spokesperson Melissa Ritchie said the company has worked more than 1.9 million hours to improve refinery safety since the 2012 fire. She added that Chevron has provided about $10 million to cover medical costs of affected residents, and recently installed a community air monitoring station that can be checked online [].
"We applaud any sincere efforts by Chevron or anyone else that wants to do the right thing,” said Henry Clark, director of the West County Toxics Coalition, an environmental justice group that works on behalf of minorities. “But that doesn't mean that we give Chevron a blanket approval to continue to increase the pollution.” (Photo: Henry Clark)

The oil giant next door -
Across the street from Clark's office sits the North Richmond Center for Health. It was funded with a settlement from Richmond-based General Chemical, following another major industrial fire in 1993 that filled the air with sulphuric acid [].
“I've developed severe allergies, asthma, lung problems,” said Peggy Polk, one of many senior patients here. “Sometimes I come outside and the air is so thick, it takes my breath away. I have to go in and do a breathing treatment.”
Though Richmond's childhood asthma rates are twice the national average, it's not fair to connect them to the Chevron refinery alone, said John Balmes, an environmental health sciences expert at the University of California-Berkeley, who studies the impact of air pollution in the Bay Area. Highway traffic and other industrial operations play a part, he said.
"Nevertheless, kids in Richmond do have an increased risk of developing asthma, and events like the Chevron fire could be an important exacerbating effect,” he said.
But divining the real impact is complicated, he added, because the community here is largely low-income and of color – an already vulnerable population when it comes to health.

Battling big oil -
Cummings, a Native American single mother of two, has lived in Richmond for 30 years. The entire family has breathing problems that require them to use inhalers.
“I like it here. Richmond is my home. And at the same time there are other cities where there's not a Chevron in your backyard spewing 24/7 toxins into the air and nobody [is] communicating with you,” she said. "This sediment is going into our bodies and was going into my children, who have no protection except me. That's what makes me sad."
But Cummings said they're not leaving – and neither is Chevron. The company has operated its 2,900-acre Richmond facility for more than 100 years. Its presence is felt everywhere, from the hulking storage tanks that dot the hillside to the billboards that line the streets.
Critics say that the company invests very little in Richmond, while its toxic emissions and headline-grabbing accidents take their toll on the population.
“I think it was 1991 where there was an explosion at the processing units that sent black clouds of toxic smoke over this community,” Clark recalled. “A lot of people have moved out, not only because of the issues related to Chevron, but crime and the lack of investment in the area."
Clark recognizes that Chevron creates jobs and a tax base, but believes the company has a greater responsibility to the community it pollutes.
"We get the childhood asthma, the cancer and health problems and Chevron and the other workers get the profits,” he said. “They laugh all the way to the bank and we crawl all the way to the graveyard burying our people."
"It's a case of environmental injustice. It's a case of environmental racism,” Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin told America Tonight. “We see how Chevron operates in Nigeria. We see how Chevron operates in Ecuador. They disregard communities that they feel aren't organized enough or aren't empowered enough to fight back."
In 2004, McLaughlin became the first ever Green Party candidate to win a seat on Richmond’s city council. In 2007, she drew national headlines by becoming America’s only big-city Green Party mayor. Some saw her victory as a political aberration; for others, it was a clear referendum against Chevron.
Last summer, the city council, led by McLaughlin, unanimously voted to sue Chevron for "years of neglect, lax oversight and corporate indifference to safety inspection and repairs.”
“Chevron doesn't care ... The representatives and the executive management of Chevron is, of course, very clear that profits come first, McLaughlin said. “In fact they have been charged with criminal charges and they admitted to them."
She called Chevron “a big, bad oil company.”
“When we push back, we’re fighting for our lives,” she said. “We are fighting for our dignity as a community that has a right to health and well-being."
Chevron dismissed the lawsuit as a waste of city resources and "yet another example of failed leadership."
But McLaughlin made an appeal to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the federal agency tasked with investigation industrial chemical accidents. In December, the Richmond City Council got a shot in the arm from the CSB, which blamed Chevron for what it judged to be a preventable incident.
“In the case of the Chevron refinery fire, the reactive system of regulation simply did not work to prevent what was ultimately a preventable accident,” CSB Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board created an animation of what went wrong with the 2012 refinery fire in Richmond []:

The CSB went on to recommend sweeping reforms that would compel refinery operators across California to be more proactive in addressing potential risks, with greater input from workers and local government. The petroleum industry slammed the proposal as adding unnecessary confusion. Chevron said transitioning to the new system would in fact “detract” from safety and lead to more accidents.
Then, in an unusual twist, the CSB refused in January to adopt the centerpiece recommendation made by its own staff []. The two board members who voted against it said the plan needed more study. The board’s chairman called it “a clearly mature, already well-studied” proposal, and the vote “a missed opportunity to promote fundamental change” and “kicking the can down the road.”
"We thought it would pass,” said McLaughlin. “It's a proactive rather than reactive model of safety, so it was a disappointment.”
With McLaughlin’s term up in November, there are concerns that the hard-won momentum to hold the company accountable may be lost.
“I know for a fact that Chevron will put more money than ever into this year's electoral season,” the mayor said. “In 2012, they put $1.2 million into campaigns to attack our candidates. I know that they will be working harder than ever to try and turn us back. But so will we. I am up for the fight. We cannot go backward."
Since the Chevron fire, Cummings has moved further away from the refinery. But the trauma of that dark day still lingers, and it has moved her to speak up.
“When Chevron happened, the explosion, I was like, ‘Do I take my girls and leave? Do we finally say enough and go back home?’ But we didn't,” she said. "Because, I have a real big problem when people try to take my voice."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Western North America contaminated with Cesium-134 released from Fukushima reactor meltdown

“How Radioactive is Our Ocean?” []

"Canada Water Tests Positive For Fukushima Cesium-134"
2014-02-25 by Sandy Dechert []:
Bad news from the annual American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu. Researchers there announced today that radioactive isotopes from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when three reactors melted down after the March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake and subsequent mega-tsunami, have finally reached the West Coast [].
John Smith, a research scientist at Canada’s Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, told the AGU meeting that since 2011 he and colleagues had measured a radioactive plume from nuclear complex at ocean monitoring stations west of Vancouver. Fukushima’s radiation reached Canada before the US on the powerful Kuroshio Current. It’s predicted to flow south and then circle back to Hawaii.
There is some good news, though. The two radioactive cesium isotopes found in Canada (cesium-134 and cesium-137) are far below the nation’s safety limit, at least for now. In Scientific American, Becky Oskin points out: “The U.S. safety limit for cesium levels in drinking water is about 28 Becquerels, the number of radioactive decay events per second, per gallon (or 7,400 Becquerels per cubic meter). For comparison, uncontaminated seawater contains only a few Becquerels per cubic meter of cesium.”
The Fukushima cesium radiation is expected to peak in about two years. The nuclear accident also released other radioactive isotopes, such as iodine-131.
Bahar Gholipour of LiveScience elaborates on the significance of the discovery []: “Some of the radioactive elements released in the accident, such as cesium-134, have a short half-life; they decay to half their original amount within two years. However, cesium-137, which has a half-life of more than 30 years, continues to be a source of radiation.”
“The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima,” Smith said. Cesium-137, which remains in the environment for decades, is still present in the Pacific from nuclear weapons tests and nuclear power plant discharges.
Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Woods Hole, Mass., says that tests on eight U.S. beaches indicate that the Fukushima radiation has not yet reached Washington, California, or Hawaii, although leftover cesium-137 levels at U.S. beaches were 1.3 to 1.7 Becquerels per cubic meter. His team is now awaiting results from a February 2014 sampling trip.
Two competing models have predicted that Fukushima radiation will begin to arrive on the West Coast about now []. Both expect it to peak in 2016. They differ by a factor of 10 in predicted peak concentration of cesium, but both estimates are well below the highest level in the Baltic Sea after Chernobyl.
Convinced that even low levels of contamination should be monitored, Buessler launched a website called “How Radioactive is Our Ocean?” [] in January. The site allows scientists and officials to propose and fund new sampling locations along the West Coast. The public is invited to donate for analysis of existing water samples.
In a similar effort we reported last month, Steven L. Manley of Cal State at Long Beach and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Kai Vetter have set up monitoring off the state’s coast throughout 2013 to determine the extent of radioactive contamination in the state’s extensive nearshore kelp forest [].
Meanwhile, back in Japan, radioactive water continues to escape from the Fukushima site []. The Tokyo Electric Power Company had denied leakage until last August, when the evidence became undeniable. TEPCO reported a new leak just last week.
It’s also ironic that this news comes at a time when residents of the Fukushima area are being allowed to return to their homes, TEPCO has just stopped the fuel removal operation at Reactor Unit 4, and Japanese politics is heating up about whether or not to recommit to nuclear power.

California Scientists study radioactive water along the coast

Fukushima disaster times 10, [link], radioactive seawater from Fukushima's coast reached California's coast over a year ago.

"Fukushima radiation could reach Pacific coast by April"
2014-02-25 by David Perlman from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not yet reached ocean waters along the Pacific coast, but low levels of radioactive cesium from the stricken Japanese power plant could arrive by April, scientists reported Monday.
The report came even as some Internet sites continue claiming that dangerously radioactive ocean water from Fukushima is showing up along California beaches - reports that have been denied by health officials and scientists since they first surfaced more than a month ago.
Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, Mass., reported that four coastal monitoring sites in California and Washington have detected no traces of radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant destruction - "not yet," he said during a telephone press briefing.
The briefing took place in Honolulu during a meeting of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences section. The meeting is being held with scientists from both sides of the Pacific to discuss problems caused anywhere in the Pacific by the offshore earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 16, 2011.
Buesseler said no federal or international agencies are monitoring ocean waters from Fukushima on this side of the Pacific, so he has organized volunteer monitors at 16 sites along the California and Washington coasts and two in Hawaii to collect seawater in 20-liter specialized plastic containers and ship them by UPS to his Woods Hole laboratory.
Two specific radioactive isotopes of the element cesium are formed in nuclear accidents, he explained.
One is cesium-137, whose radioactivity decays very slowly - its half-life is 30 years - while the other is cesium-134, which decays rapidly with a two-year half-life. So while cesium-137 is still detectable in the world's oceans from old nuclear-weapons tests, any traces of cesium-134 that are detected by monitoring instruments could only have come from the Fukushima nuclear accident, Buesseler said.
According to a widely accepted model of the oceans' circulation patterns, traces of the plume of radioactive seawater from Fukushima should be detectable along the Pacific coast in April.
"We need to know the real levels of radiation coming at us," said Bing Dong, a retired accountant and self-described activist at Point Reyes Station who has volunteered to collect ocean samples for Buesseler's project. "There's so much disinformation out there, and we really need actual data."
Roger Gilbert, a physician and radiation oncologist who collected water at Fort Bragg along the Mendocino County coast, said he got involved in Buesseler's monitoring project because he is concerned "over fear-mongering on the Internet about allegedly high levels of Fukushima radiation in California's coastal waters."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tesoro Golden Eagle refinery banned Federal safety agency from investigating criminal workplace safety violations

"Tesoro bars federal safety agency from East Bay refinery; Tesoro to pay fine for air-quality violations"
2014-02-21 by Jaxon Van Derbeken for "The San Francisco Chronicle" []:
In a 2010 file photo, the Tesoro Golden Eagle refinery spews black smoke from it's smokestacks as they burn as a result of a power outage. (Photo: Lacy Atkins, The Chronicle)
(02-21) 07:51 PST PACHECO -- In an unprecedented challenge, Tesoro Corp. has barred federal authorities from going inside its refinery near Martinez to investigate an incident in which two workers were burned by acid spewing from a broken pipe, The Chronicle has learned.
State officials ordered a partial shutdown of the Golden Eagle Refinery following the Feb. 12 incident after inspectors with California's workplace safety agency found numerous suspected safety violations, state officials said.
The investigators with Cal/OSHA went to the plant at 150 Solano Way in the unincorporated community of Pacheco when a pipe containing sulfuric acid burst, spraying the two workers in the face with the caustic chemical. The two were flown by helicopter to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where they were treated for first- and second-degree burns and released later that day.
On Feb. 18, Cal/OSHA ordered Tesoro to shut down the section of the refinery where the pipe was located until the company reviews its operations, shows how it protects workers against acid spills and conducts refresher training. The unit adds octane boosters to refined gasoline.

Probe blocked -
Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, the lead federal agency in major chemical-plant accidents, showed up a day after the incident and gained access to the refinery grounds. However, Tesoro has rebuffed federal investigators' subsequent requests to return to the refinery, agency officials said Thursday.
Tesoro officials said the Feb. 12 incident was minor and did not qualify under the rules for a federal investigation.
Safety board officials could not recall another refinery or chemical plant on U.S. soil that has challenged the board's authority since its inception in 1998.
"It's rather unique," said Dan Horowitz, the federal agency's managing director, "because our authority is very broad. We not only investigate incidents, but we can investigate hazards even where there has not been a release."

Feds' job -
The Tesoro incident, Horowitz said, falls squarely into the agency's jurisdiction.
"This is a hazardous unit - it released a hazardous substance, (and) those workers were seriously impacted," Horowitz said. "This is not the sort of accident that should be occurring, a loss of containment involving a hazardous substance. This is exactly the sort of incident that regulatory systems are designed to prevent. We need to find out why this happened."
He said the Chemical Safety Board has subpoenaed Tesoro to turn over documents about the unit's operations and answer questions related to the accident by March 7.
Tesoro, based in San Antonio, downplayed the incident and said it was not satisfied the federal board had the right to intervene.
Elizabeth Watters, a company spokeswoman, described the incident as a "minor chemical release" that left the two workers with "minor chemical burns."
"We were surprised when the Chemical Safety Board notified the company that the agency intended to deploy a team to investigate, as the (board) is not charged with investigating a personal safety incident that did not result in serious injuries or substantial property damage," Watters said.

Chevron precedent -
Horowitz noted that Chevron allowed safety board investigators into its Richmond refinery to investigate an August 2012 fire, even though it resulted in no major injuries to workers. The board eventually found that Chevron had ignored workers' warnings about widespread corrosion at the plant.
The Chemical Safety Board's interest in Tesoro's operations heightened in April 2010, when an explosion at the company's Anacortes, Wash., refinery killed seven workers. In a draft report issued last month, the federal board said Tesoro had a lax approach to safety, which had led to "catastrophic consequences."
Tesoro required "proof of danger" before it would make safety improvements, the agency said in the report.
Don Holmstrom, head of the board's Western regional office of investigations, said the latest probe will focus on safety culture as well.
"We think there are some serious safety issues that need further examination," he said. "We need to examine how strong their safety culture is."

Working with state -
Watters said the company takes "all incidents seriously" and was cooperating with Cal/OSHA's probe, "as it is clearly within their jurisdiction to investigate."
The Feb. 12 incident was not the first one involving acid at the Tesoro plant, officials said.
In November, a worker suffered facial burns when he was sprayed with sulfuric acid from a pipe that had been leaking and had been clamped as a makeshift repair.
The workers burned in the latest incident were wearing standard protective gear, but Tesoro had not issued them the specialized equipment required by law to protect their face and body from acid burns, Holmstrom said.
Workers at the refinery told state investigators that they were "afraid" to operate the unit where the spill occurred because acid leaks occur "all the time," according to a Cal/OSHA report. They said the pipes carrying the caustic fluid are dangerously thin.
They said the pipe that failed Feb. 12 broke again just four days later, Cal/OSHA said. Pipe-fitters were working on the unit and "the piping came apart in the exact same spot it did during the accident," the state report said.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mount Shasta freshwater spring attacked by private corporation

the Common Law dictates that the sources for fresh water is to be shared by residents, and is not to be bought or sold to private corporations or any other type of business which does not work for the public interest (even then, public corporations should not monopolize a water source if this action is detrimental to the quality of life of the people reliant on the water source).

"Crystal Geyser, small town locked in bitter water fight"
2014-02-19 by Peter Fimrite from "San Francisco Chronicle" []:
MOUNT SHASTA, Siskiyou County - The clean freshwater that squeezes out of the crags and burbles up into springs and creeks around Mount Shasta is cherished far and wide as a curative natural serum for every ailment short of hurt feelings.
That may explain why the mineral-rich water is now a source of so much pain in the picturesque city of Mount Shasta, at the base of the Siskiyou County volcano.
To the dismay of residents, Crystal Geyser recently came to town hoping to turn a profit. The Calistoga-based purveyor of water and juice wants to tap a local aquifer known as Big Spring, bottle the water and sell it.
The move has infuriated environmentalists, local American Indian tribes and residents of this city of 3,394, whose interest in the resource borders on the spiritual.
Opponents claim the bottling operation could suck wells dry and deplete the aquifer, which fills Siskiyou County rivers and streams and feeds the headwaters of the Sacramento River. Huge quantities of chemicals, juice and other runoff could overwhelm the wastewater treatment plant, which is barely big enough now for the locals, according to opponents.

Citizens group's fears -
"It's serious, even more serious than we originally thought," said Vicki Gold, a member of the citizens group We Advocate Through Environmental Review, or WATER.
Gold's group says county officials are rubber-stamping an environmentally risky project without requiring an environmental impact report or getting assurances from Crystal Geyser that it won't ramp up water usage over time. This, she said, at a time when California is facing a potentially historic drought.
"This is the same aquifer that the homeowners who live nearby share," Gold said. "There is no environmental impact review, no restrictions on groundwater extraction and Crystal Geyser has carte blanche in terms of traffic and to build as many buildings as they want."
Doug MacLean, the chief executive officer for Crystal Geyser, said the WATER concerns are overblown. The plant the company will use, he said, was built by Coca-Cola to bottle water for Dannon and was vetted and permitted before the soft drink giant closed it four years ago.
"Our usage will be roughly half of what the Coke/Dannon plant was using, and they had no problems," MacLean said. "This is a very, very abundant water source. The amount we use will be very insignificant relative to the amount available."
The water fight is important because the area around 14,179-foot Mount Shasta is the source of much of California's drinking water. Melted glacier water and runoff from storms flows into a labyrinth of lava tubes and underground channels snaking through the mountainous region.
The cold, mineral-rich water filters through the porous soil and burbles up into numerous creeks, springs and tributaries of the Sacramento, McCloud and Klamath rivers. Much of it is captured behind 602-foot-tall Shasta Dam, which is part of the Central Valley Project, a huge federal system that provides water for fish, irrigation, drinking water and hydropower.
Crystal Geyser paid $5 million in October for the 145,000-square-foot bottling plant, which was once the site of a cedar lumber mill and is zoned for heavy industrial use. The operation, which is on 266 acres, was abandoned by Coca-Cola in 2010 when the soda company stopped selling spring water.

Company's plans -
The facility, which is under county jurisdiction but would have to use city services, must do approximately $10 million in waste disposal system upgrades before it can open in 2015. Crystal Geyser has obtained a $3 million federal grant for the work, which it is matching, MacLean said.
He said the initial plan is to have a single bottling line, which would use an average of 115,000 gallons of water a day to make mineral water, juice, flavored tea and mint drinks. A second line would be opened in five to seven years, bumping up water use to an average of 217,000 gallons, with a maximum of 365,000 gallons a day. Coca-Cola used 250,000 to 300,000 gallons a day, he said.
MacLean said the company will eventually phase out its Calistoga and Bakersfield plants and move its entire operation to Siskiyou County.
Greg Plucker, the Siskiyou community development director, said Crystal Geyser did not need county approval because bottling is a permitted use and his department does not have the authority to require an environmental review because an EIR was done when the facility was built.

Economic impact -
The bottling plant could do wonders for the economy of the former lumber region, which now relies mostly on tourism, said Michael Kobseff, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
"It will help the county and city, it will put people to work and it may bring people in to add to the workforce," Kobseff said. "Siskiyou County is the 14th most economically stressed county in the nation. We need family-wage-paying jobs year round, not unlike we had when we had mills in operation, but we lost that some time ago and never recovered."
Opponents, including the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, are skeptical given previous battles over water use. Residents of the nearby town of McCloud waged a bitter battle with Nestle Waters several years ago after the company proposed a 1 million-square-foot bottling facility. The plan then was to siphon 1,250 gallons per minute from tributaries feeding into the McCloud River, also an important feeder for Shasta Reservoir.
Nestle was forced to pull out in 2008 after sustained community resistance and a threat by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown to sue unless the county first evaluated the effects of global warming on the future water supply.

Environmental review push -
Gold and her cohorts say county officials can require an environmental review of truck traffic and electrical, water and wastewater usage. Instead, she said, county officials are relying on "best-case scenario" estimates that can easily be flouted once the plant is up and running.
The lack of oversight is a reflection of a county overseen by supervisors who recently voted 4-1 to pursue secession because they don't like state regulations, particularly the California Environmental Quality Act, critics said.
"You have a resource-rich county and you have no regulation ... during a drought," Gold said. "It's all about jobs. What the county is saying, essentially, is that any dirty industry can come to the most pristine area that everyone in the state is dependent on."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Caltrans is out of step with the times, says independent study. Write a letter today to add your voice for redwoods and wetlands!

Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters Wetlands Alert, Feb. 17, 2014:
Sometimes—if you keep broadcasting your message logically, accurately and persistently, the echo comes back to you when you hear those in decision-making capacities using the same words.
Please write to Brian Kelley, Secretary, Calif. State Transportation Agency, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, Chair, State Senate Transportation Committee, with cc to Gov. Jerry Brown (addresses below)
Caltrans is seriously out of step with the times, with the needs of the state of California, and with the ecological imperative. We have been voicing this for a long time, and now an independent study has come to that same conclusion. The Report, the SSTI Assessment and Recommendations, authored by the State Smart Transportation Initiative and just released in January 2014, finds that Caltrans is stuck in a car-centric culture, looking to build bigger, faster highways at a time we are facing rising gas prices, dwindling petroleum resources and catastrophic climate crisis.
It seems a no-brainer to put taxpayer dollars into innovative alternatives and infrastructure repair rather than highway construction, but Caltrans seems to have its’ head in the sand. Among other changes, the Initiative recommends modernization of Caltrans culture and strategies, and suggests a focus on transportation projects that encourage “more dense development rather than freeway-enabled sprawl”.
Three Caltrans projects on California’s North Coast stand as examples of this “stuck-in-the-past” project planning:
* The Willits Bypass
* The highway “realignment” through Richardson Grove State Park
* A highway project planned in Del Norte County, in the wild Smith River ecosystem.
We ask that you to write to these decision-makers and representatives and urge them to act immediately to halt and reassess these Caltrans projects before more irreversible ecological harm takes place.  You can use the sample letter, extract from it, or compose your own. Additional informational resources are at the end of this alert.

Email addresses of those we suggest you write letters to are here.
* Brian Kelley, Secretary, Calif. State Transportation Agency <>;
* Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, Chair, State Senate Transportation Committee <>;
* Gov. Jerry Brown <>
You can find your own State representatives by going to []

Sample Letter to
Sec’y Brian Kelley, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier,  and Gov. Jerry Brown and your State Representative:
I urge you to respond to the findings in the State Smart Transportation Initiative Report: SSTI Assessment and Recommendations, which found Caltrans to be “out of step with the times, and with the needs of the state of California”  Further, I urge a halt and reassessment of  three particularly egregious Caltrans projects either under way or on line to begin in order to prevent irreversible damage to rare environmental habitats and values in Northern California.
The Report, as you know, found that Caltrans has not adjusted to changing times and values, and is stuck in a car and highway culture where faster and bigger meant better. Three Caltrans projects on California’s North Coast stand as examples of this “stuck-in-the-past” project planning:  
The Willits Bypass is draining 90 acres of precious wetlands for a giant interchange made for a four-lane freeway, when what Caltrans is building is a two-lane Bypass on Highway 101.  The argument for the need for the Bypass is based on traffic studies from decades ago.
The highway “realignment” through Richardson Grove State Park will seriously threaten mammoth ancient redwood trees for the benefit of larger trucks, which already travel the highway through exemptions. Incredibly, Caltrans argues there will be “no significant impact” to the old growth redwoods when they use jack-hammer type shovels to excavate around their roots.
A highway project planned for the northern-most area of California poses significant threats to the old growth redwood forests and salmon streams there in Del Norte County, and the wild Smith River ecosystem.
Given that we already have a fast interstate—Highway 5—up the middle of California, these projects are unnecessary, expensive and carry with them devastating environmental impacts. It is time to put the brakes on Caltrans!
Richardson Grove and the Del Norte projects are at a critical juncture because ground has not been broken, and the Willits Bypass can be downsized to plans already approved and save significant wetlands and money.
The opportunity is before you. The truth in the report has been acknowledged by your Transportation Departments. The Report should be used to evaluate future projects, but the potential irremediable harm of current projects cannot be underestimated.
I strongly urge you to take decisive action before more serious and irreversible damage is done to California’s precious redwoods, wetlands and other rare ecosystems by Caltrans projects that are not only out of step with the times and needs of communities in Northern California, but are expensive, water-wasting, unnecessary and unpopular with the people of California.
Thank you for your prompt action on these issues.
Your Name & email (Please send us a copy of your letter at

Further info:
* SSTI independent Report on Caltrans (there is an 8-page executive summary at the beginning of this voluminous report): []
* AP/CBS story: []
* Editorial in 2-3-14 SF Chronicle: []

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Study of 2011 Japan Tsunami debris across Pacific gives insight into Fukushima's radioactive water flow across ocean

Fukushima disaster times 10, [link], radioactive seawater from Fukushima's coast reached California's coast over a year ago.

"What has happened to the tsunami debris from Japan?"
2014-02-16 from []
This story is based on materials provided by University of Hawaii ‑ SOEST []. The details can be read at "Story Of Marine Debris From The 2011 Tsunami In Japan In Model Simulations And Observational Reports" by J. Hafner, and N. Maximenko [].
Manoa HI -
The amount of debris in the ocean is growing exponentially, becoming more and more hazardous and harmful to marine life and therefore to our ocean food source. Measuring and tracking the movements of such debris are still in their infancy. The driftage generated by the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan gave scientists a unique chance to learn about the effects of the ocean and wind on floating materials as they move across the North Pacific Ocean.
Many oyster buoys from Japan, such as the one here that washed up on Kauai, began to arrive on the windward shores of the Hawaiian Islands in October, 2012. (Image courtesy Carl Berg and Surfider Foundation Kauai Volunteers.)

The amount of debris in the ocean is growing exponentially, becoming more and more hazardous and harmful to marine life and therefore also to our ocean food source. Measuring and tracking the movements of such debris are still in their infancy. The driftage generated by the tragic 2011 tsunami in Japan gave scientists Nikolai Maximenko and Jan Hafner a unique chance to learn about the effects of the ocean and wind on floating materials as they move across the North Pacific Ocean.
Shortly after the tsunami struck, Maximenko and Hafner used the IPRC Ocean Drift Model to predict where the debris from the tsunami would go. Their computer model is based on trajectories of real satellite-tracked drifting buoys and satellite-measured winds.
The model has now been charting the possible paths of the tsunami driftage for nearly 3 years. The scientists have made a major improvement to the initial model: it now accommodates objects of different shapes and buoyancies that expose different amounts of surface to the wind and travel at different speeds and different trajectories. The model therefore now includes different levels of wind-forcing, simulating the movement of different types of floating debris.
No formal marine debris observing systems exist to verify the model simulations. The model paths for tsunami debris, however, agree with reports of such debris washing up on the shores of Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and the Hawaiian Islands, as well as with observations by sailors crossing the North Pacific.
The first physical evidence of tsunami driftage far from the coasts of Japan, for example, came in September 2011 from the Russian sail training ship Pallada.
The captain had been forewarned that the ship might run into a tsunami debris field on its voyage from Honolulu to Vladivostok. Sailors, alerted and on the lookout, sighted much debris just northwest of Midway, and picked up a little fishing boat later confirmed lost in the tsunami.
The model predicted both the timing and the type of material that has washed up along windward shores of Hawaii: the first tsunami driftage came in August - September 2012, about 1 0.5 years after the tragedy. These were very buoyant pieces, for example, oyster buoys, crates, small fishing boats like the one picked up by Pallada, and parts of small refrigerators.
Then 2 0.5 years after the tsunami, materials sitting lower in the water and less buoyant than the previous driftage arrived: poles and beams with mortise and tenon features. Experts on lumber, who have analyzed cross-cuts of several of these wood pieces, agree that it is Sugi, a species of cypress endemic to Japan. One piece of wood is of very old timber and must have been cut 100 or more years ago.
The IPRC Ocean Drift Model has recently shown to be useful in another dramatic event at sea: validating the El Salvadoran castaway's ordeal. In January 2014, Jose Salvador Alvarenga washed ashore in the Marshall Islands after enduring a 13-month journey from the shores of southern Mexico.
The paths of floating objects in the IPRC Ocean Drift model, driven with the currents and wind conditions, lend strong support to this rather improbable odyssey.

Treasure Island residential homes contain radioactive objects in shallow soil

"Is Treasure Island toxic? Residents' worries grow"
2014-02-16 by Marisa Lagos for "The San Francisco Chronicle" []:
Kathryn Lundgren points next to a spot where a hole had been dug and a radioactive dial removed the week before on Monday, February 3, 2014 on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

Kathryn Lundgren shows a canister from a dug-up spot. Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle

Treasure Island resident Kathryn Lundgren has been concerned for several years about the effects of contamination at the former Navy base on her family's health.
But when a group of Navy contractors dug a small radioactive fragment out of her front yard last month, Lundgren became angry and scared. The fragment, a metal disc the size of a dime, was detected during radiation scans conducted in November but wasn't dug up until the end of January. The Navy didn't give a reason for the delay.
During that time, Lundgren attended two meetings where city, state and federal officials repeatedly assured residents that the island is safe and that the scans were merely precautionary measures. It wasn't the first time radioactive fragments have been found near her home - another two were dug up last spring.
The disc found in January is just the latest in a string of radiological revelations by state and federal officials in charge of cleaning up the former military base, which will eventually be transferred to the city of San Francisco and redeveloped. The Navy believes the radiation is left over from the decontamination of radioactive ships and from dials, gauges and deck markers left behind from a time when the miliary used radioactive paint to make things glow in the dark.
Residents and others familiar with the contamination issues at Treasure Island say the discoveries - combined with other toxics known to pollute the island's soil since before residents were moved there in 1999 - raise questions about whether San Francisco should have moved people there in the first place, before the island was clean, and whether it should have allowed them to live there during the cleanup.
While government agencies have repeatedly determined that the radiation and other toxics don't pose a health risk, residents say they have not been kept up to date on the cleanup and don't trust the safety declarations.
Lundgren, who has repeatedly told city, state and federal officials she is concerned for her family's and neighbors' safety, said she is shocked that no one has contacted her or her neighbors to explain what was found last month.
She is ready to move.
"I have sat in meetings since they obviously knew it was there, and they looked me dead in the face and told me there was no way we would be around (radiation)," said Lundgren, who has lived on the island since 2006. "The place where they found that device, because it's by the kitchen window, I used to keep the window open and the kids would sit out there and do math and chalk and art. ... I am so angry. If I hadn't been home, who would have told me?"

Find not 'significant' -
Bob Beck, development manager for the Treasure Island Development Authority - the city agency overseeing the island - said he was informed of the Jan. 29 discovery six days later, but has no plans to inform residents in the area individually because the object was not deemed "significant" by the Navy. Beck said the city will talk about the object at the next meeting of the Restoration Advisory Board - a group made up of residents and government officials - on Tuesday. Both he and Navy officials said they regularly update the public at these meetings, which are often sparsely attended. Navy spokesman Lee Saunders also noted in a written statement that thousands of pages of cleanup records are available to the public on Treasure Island or at the San Francisco Main Library.
Beck said the Navy identified three "elevated" radiation readings during its recent round of scans, but all were low compared with some of the tests conducted earlier in 2013. He said the city doesn't want to scare people by telling them about every radiological discovery if it's not deemed a health risk by experts.
"The items detected and excavated were concluded not to be significant. Do we saturate the people with information about this stuff - 'We found something, but never mind'?" he asked.
Supervisor Jane Kim, whose district includes Treasure Island, said she believes the island is safe, but agrees that authorities have at times been "terrible" at communicating with residents. Kim said communication has improved over the past year. As an example of that progress, Kim cited two separate meetings, facilitated by professional mediators, last spring and in December.
"I think when you are the expert ... there is a level of insensitivity you have to the average layperson; and people's fears, especially when you have kids, are totally legitimate," she said. "I don't think their questions and concerns have always been addressed the way they want them to be."
In a city where the safety of fake grass playfields became a major source of debate and a city agency is in part dedicated to helping consumers steer away from toxic products, it's surprising that there's not more alarm on the part of city officials, Lundgren said. She and many residents say their families, and kids in particular, are suffering from health issues they cannot explain, and worry they will develop medical problems later in life.
All of Lundgren's children - ages 13, 16 and 17 - have developed chronic health conditions in recent years, she said, including lupus-like symptoms in her middle daughter, Praise. Her husband, Eric, went into heart failure in 2006, she said, after attempting to put down Astroturf in their backyard to keep the dust from getting inside.
Lundgren said authorities keep assuring residents they are taking every precaution to ensure residents' safety, but do not come clean about new discoveries until they are forced to by observant residents or media reports.
"When do I get to use precaution for my family? When am I going to be informed enough so that I can be proactive for my kids?" she asked. "I just think they are not going to tell us the truth - they are absolutely going to stick to their story - and every time we catch them on something they are either deadly silent or want to evade the question entirely."
Lundgren hasn't always felt this way. For years, she, like many of her neighbors, felt blessed to have the opportunity to live in such a spot.
Treasure Island - with its sweeping views of the bay, Marin and San Francisco; its small-town feel; and its affordable three- and four-bedroom rental homes - is an anomaly in the Bay Area. When it became available, the city jumped at the opportunity to relocate people there.
Starting in 1999, under Mayor Willie Brown, the city began leasing about 1,000 housing units on the island and adjacent Yerba Buena Island to about 2,000 Bay Area residents - about one-third of them formerly homeless or otherwise low-income people who qualified for below-market-rate housing, and another third families with children. The plan was to house people in the existing buildings, then redevelop the land.

Lagging cleanup -
But Navy cleanup efforts have taken longer than anticipated, in part because of the unexpected discoveries of radiological materials, starting in 2007 and continuing into this year. State health officials have raised questions about whether there are other, unknown sources of contamination. Among the places where elevated radiation levels were discovered was the soil under a playground in the housing area. That playground remains open, because the state determined in 2012 that there was no exposure risk, said Saunders.
Last March, radioactive fragments and soil with elevated radiation levels were discovered in five separate places in the housing area - including the two fragments near Lundgren's home. Contact with one of the fragments, health officials wrote, could cause "radiation burns, hair loss and possible ulceration."
Radiation under the 93-acre housing is not the only potential health risk. Before residents moved in, the Navy and city knew that the land under the island's housing area, known as Site 12, was a former waste disposal site and that many of the half-century-old homes contain lead paint and asbestos. Not long after residents were moved there, the Navy also discovered that parts of the housing area had been used as a burn pit after the Golden Gate International Exposition, the 1939-40 world's fair for which the island was built.

Digging banned -
From the beginning, lease agreements have barred residents from digging in their yards or altering the landscaping because of the arsenic, pesticides, lead, PCBs and other chemicals on a long list of known toxic materials left over in the dirt from the Navy's trash pit under portions of the housing area. But some residents said that prohibition wasn't made clear to them, and public health experts say it's ridiculous to expect children not to play in the dirt. "You can tell people not to dig in the garden, but kids dig - they do a lot of hand-to-mouth activity," said Rachel Morello-Frosch, director of UC Berkeley's public health program.
Beck said the city believes it has been clear about those restrictions but wants to "start doing more" ongoing notifications on the issue. Lundgren, for example, is worried that her kids may have dug up something potentially dangerous when they were younger. Praise, her 16-year-old daughter, recently told her that she and her two siblings used to save items they found in the dirt near their house. The family has been searching their home to make sure they aren't still around.
Morello-Frosch also raised questions about having vulnerable people, such as children, living near cleanup work, since soil and dust can easily move around "and remediation activity itself could be leading to short-term exposure."
Over the years, the California Department of Public Health has also raised concerns about soil removal, saying the Navy has not always taken precautions to prevent the spread of contamination or to make sure the soil it's moving doesn't contain radiation. In 2011, one of the Navy's contractors was told it had violated radiation and contamination laws by failing to properly document transportation of radioactive materials off the island.

Concern about kids -
"Fencing it off doesn't keep soil from moving ... and to assume that residents adjacent to sites where soil is being remediated aren't being exposed isn't so clear. The question is how much," Morello-Frosch said. "To do that right next to where kids play and people are living is not a great idea."
Beck said the Navy has been extremely careful to monitor air quality during cleanup work and that the concerns raised by state health officials are evidence that the regulatory system is working as it should.
"One of the reasons the cleanup has taken as long as it should is before the Navy does anything they need to prepare very detailed work plans to address the measures they are taking to control dust," he said, adding that the city "does rely on parents and households" to make sure kids aren't playing in the dirt.
Not everyone has been reassured, however. The Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco had concerns about having kids near a cleanup site and in November decided to shutter its Treasure Island center until the work is over. Until its closure, the center was next to a fenced-off area plastered with contamination signs that for months was covered with piles of dirt topped with green dust-control spray. Nearby is another plot of deep pits filled with water. Across the way are a playground and several playfields that are packed on weekends; nearby are a church and day care center, which remain open.
Saul Bloom, whose nonprofit Arc Ecology conducts environmental research and helps communities deal with pollution, said he's become increasingly alarmed at the situation on the island. He sat on the committee that advised the city when it was considering moving people onto Treasure Island in the 1990s and said the island was thought to be far less contaminated at the time.
As the extent of contamination - radiological and otherwise - has become more evident, and the uses of Treasure Island increased, his concern has grown, he said. Now, thousands of people attend concerts and sporting and other events there every year, go to the wineries that have set up shop, and visit the yacht club and dozens of other businesses located on the island. He wouldn't let his kids play there, he said.
"It became clear to me that any reasonable person would begin to question the degree to which the property is safe, given the broad-based uses," Bloom said. "All restraint was lost in terms of how they are using the facility."
Saunders, the Navy spokesman, said the Navy "has been supportive of the city of San Francisco's request to continue its leasing program with the first priority of ensuring protection of human health and the environment."
Bloom said he's also concerned about the lack of any sort of watchdog agency, noting that the city has a vested interest in moving development of the property forward as quickly as possible - and protecting itself legally. Residents, particularly low-income families, have nowhere else to go, he said, and the city has refused to conduct any sort of health risk assessment on the residents, saying that the population isn't big enough.

Regulators' attitude -
Lenny Siegel of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight - which promotes public oversight of environmental cleanups - said it's not unusual for regulators to downplay potential health risks.
"The tendency among regulatory agencies is to assure people," said Siegel, who has not been involved in the Treasure Island cleanup. "A lot of regulators err on the side of too much reassurance ... and regulators fight over what needs to be cleaned up, but people have a right to make their own risk management decisions and need to be informed so they can make those decisions."
Siegel said he would think twice before living - or playing - somewhere with that type of soil contamination, because dust can blow anywhere.
"It sounds to me like they moved people out there too quickly. ... It probably has to do with the frustration of how long it takes to make a base OK for use," he said.
Beck, however, insisted that the city's first priority is the safety of the public.
"All the information we have ... is that it is safe to be here and to live here," he said. "Certainly we, the city, would not want to keep people in conditions we feel are unsafe. ... There's no upside to putting people at risk."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Modoc fish in Oregon no longer endangered, recovered, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

"Feds: Small Ore., Calif. fish no longer endangered"
2014-02-12 by JEFF BARNARD for "Associated Press" newswire []:
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows a Modoc sucker, found only in desert creeks of southern Oregon and Northern California. The service has proposed taking the tiny fish off the endangered species list, saying it has recovered enough to no longer need protection. Recovery efforts have focused on stopping overgrazing on public and private lands and fencing livestock out of creeks. Photo: U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service, AP

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A small fish found in desert creeks of Southern Oregon and Northern California has recovered enough to get off the endangered species list, federal biologists said Wednesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the Modoc sucker no longer is in danger of extinction, after nearly 30 years of recovery efforts.
The Modoc sucker is the second fish in two weeks proposed for delisting. It was listed in 1985 due to loss of habitat. Recovery efforts have focused on working with landowners, both private and public, to reduce overgrazing and fence livestock out of streams. The proposal goes through a 60-day public comment period before a final decision.
"The Endangered Species Act has not only helped prevent the Modoc sucker from going extinct, it has also promoted its recovery to the point that today, we believe that federal protections are no longer needed," Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement. "Although this fish is small in stature, its recovery is a big victory in our efforts to preserve our natural heritage."
The action comes as Republicans in Congress are trying to change the Endangered Species Act to limit lawsuits and give states more power.
The Modoc sucker grows to about 7 inches long, and can live up to five years. It is found only in the Pit River drainage in the high desert country of Modoc and Lassen counties in California, and the Goose Lake subbasin in Lake County in Oregon.
When it was listed as endangered in 1985, the Modoc sucker could be found only in seven streams covering 12.9 miles. Today, it can be found in 12 streams covering 42.5 miles, Fish and Wildlife said.
Like the Oregon chub proposed for delisting last week, the Modoc sucker inhabits a small geographic area, with limited economic conflicts.
That is in stark contrast to two other species of endangered sucker at the center of a longstanding fight over water in the nearby Klamath Basin. The Lost River sucker and snortnosed sucker have declined as livestock grazing, draining marshlands to create farmland, and irrigation withdrawals to feed a major federal irrigation project damaged habitat and water quality in Upper Klamath Lake and its tributaries. After years of habitat improvement projects and occasional irrigation shutoffs, the fish continue to struggle.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Hundreds of Thousands demand action over neonicotinoid pesticides

"More Than a Half Million People Demand Home Depot and Lowe’s Stop Selling Bee-Killing Pesticides;
Thousands participate in bee swarm actions across the country in the week of Valentine's Day"
2014-02-10 by Stacy Malkan, Eric Dyson, Paul Towers from "Friends of the Earth", and "Pesticide Action Network" []
WASHINGTON - This week, over 27,000 people coast-to-coast are swarming Lowe’s and Home Depot stores to support the bees that pollinate our flowers for Valentine’s Day. In a coalition effort called the Bee Week of Action, Friends of the Earth and allies are delivering more than half a million petition signatures and Valentines asking these retailers to “show bees some love” by taking pesticides shown to harm and kill bees -- and garden plants treated with these pesticides -- off their shelves.
Friends of the Earth U.S. is partnering with Beelieve, Beyond Pesticides, Beyond Toxics, Center for Food Safety, CREDO Mobilize, Friends of the Earth Canada, Northwest Center for Pesticide Alternatives, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, SumOfUs and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation to turn out activists across the country, including in larger actions in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Boston area, and Eugene, Ore.
This national week of action is a part of the “” campaign that is calling on retailers to stop selling neonicotinoids -- the most widely used class of pesticides in the world -- due to a growing body of science indicating that the pesticides are a key factor in recent global bee deaths.
Bees and other pollinators, essential for the two-thirds of the food crops humans eat everyday, are dwindling worldwide. Last year, U.S. beekeepers reported losing 40-100 percent of their hives, and they are likely facing another winter of historic bee die-offs.
A groundbreaking pilot study released last summer found that many bee-friendly garden plants sold at Home Depot and Lowe’s contained neonicotinoid pesticides with no warning to consumers [].
“Home Depot and Lowe’s need to show bees some love and stop poisoning them with bee-killing pesticides. We’re calling on these stores to help solve the bee crisis by immediately removing neonicotinoid pesticides and home garden plants that are treated with these harmful chemicals from their shelves,” said Lisa Archer, director of the food and technology program at Friends of the Earth U.S.
The European Union’s two-year ban on the most widely used neonics went into effect in December. In January, the European Food Safety Authority cited evidence that two neonicotinoids, acetamiprid and imadacloprid, “may affect the developing human nervous system” of children, and they recommended further restricting their use. The UK’s top garden retailers, including Homebase, B&Q and Wickes, have voluntarily stopped selling neonicotinoids.
More than half a million Americans have signed petitions demanding that Lowe’s and Home Depot immediately stop selling off-the-shelf neonicotinoid insecticides for home garden use. Friends of the Earth U.S. and allies have also asked Home Depot and Lowe’s to stop selling plants pre-treated with the pesticides, make third-party certified organic starts and plants available, and educate customers on their policies to protect bees and other pollinators.
“We must take immediate action to address the bee crisis. Europe has banned bee-harming pesticides, retailers in the UK are refusing to sell them, and it’s time for Home Depot and Lowe’s to come to the table and make a serious commitment to stop selling products that are killing bees before the spring planting season begins,” said Archer. “In the meantime, gardeners should start their plants from untreated seeds or choose organic plants for their gardens.”
In response to revelations that home garden plants sold in their stores contain neonicotinoids, Home Depot said they would look into the matter and be in touch with environmental groups. They have yet to respond to requests for a meeting. Lowe’s has not made any public statements or responded to meeting requests.
The EPA has delayed action on neonicotinoid pesticides until 2018, despite growing evidence that neonics are a key factor in bee declines, and more than a million public comments urging swift protection for bees. In 2013, U.S. Representatives John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the “Saving American’s Pollinators Act,” which seeks to suspend the use of neonics on bee-attractive plants until EPA reviews all of the available data, including field studies.