Weekly Mulch: Coal Ash in Our Stockings

Editor’s Note: Due to the holidays, the Weekly Mulch will appear on Thursday afternoon both this week and next week. We’ll resume regular Friday morning posts in 2011.

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

It’s the naughty children who get coal in their stockings, and it seems like Americans must have been naughty this year. Because across the country, we’re awash with coal, carcinogens, and other toxins. And our government is not doing to much to change that.

Waste not

After the massive coal ash spill in Tennessee two years ago, the EPA began working on more stringent regulation of the waste, a byproduct of coal mining. But, as Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones, the industry has been pressuring the administration to adopts weaker regulations than it could.

“Two years after the largest toxic spill in the nation’s history, there is still no regulation of deadly coal ash dumps—nor is there clear direction from EPA on the timing or content of a final rule,” Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel for Earthjustice, told Sheppard.  “For the communities enduring damage from aging ponds and leaking landfills, time has run out. There is no reason on earth that their health should be compromised by such an easily avoidable harm.”

What’s in the water?

Coal ash is one of those pollutants that clearly poses a problem. It looks dangerous. But not all pollutants are so obviously dangerous. This week, for instance, the Environmental Working Group, an environmental health non-profit group, released a report showing that much of the country’s tap water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, with levels high enough to pose a risk to human health.

“Exposure in tap water has been linked to cancers of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract in both animals and people,” Rebecca Sutton, a scientist for the Environmental Working Group, wrote at AlterNet. Thirty-one of the 35 cities that the group examined had dangerously high levels of the contaminants in the tap water.

How did this happen? As Sarah Parsons explains at Change.org, “The reason so much chromium-6 winds up in tap water is that industries spew it into waterways, utilities fail to test for the substance, and the EPA doesn’t regulate it in drinking water.”

What the EPA does do, Parsons reports, is limit the total chromium in drinking water, “the combined amount of hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium.” She explains, “The problem is that trivalent chromium is actually good for you—in fact, it’s necessary for metabolism. Hexavalent chromium, on the other hand, is a noxious carcinogen.”

Moving forward

These prevalent toxins are just two reminders that, for all their successes in recent decades, environmentalists still have much work ahead of them. How should they approach that work? Earth Island Journal’s Jason Mark, considering lessons from the 1980s-era environmental leaders, who focused on moving toward the center and working within the confines of D.C. politics, offers this thought: “The new leaders of 2010 say what we need is less focused group messaging and inside-the-Beltway maneuverings, and more heartfelt spirit and energy directed encouraged at the grassroots. I hope their instincts are right. Because at this point I don’t think we can wait another 25 years to figure this stuff out.”

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Rally Against Mountaintop Removal in DC This Weekend

(crossposted on FDL Seminal)

I have lived in West Virginia my entire life. In this beautiful mountainous state, one economic horse drives the economy: Coal. Coal mines employ many people in West Virginia, and across Appalachia, and are a crucial part to the region’s economic sustainability. It is coal that employs the people and powers the country, and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

-A little bit of background is necessary-

Most can probably remember the horrible Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster earlier this year in Raleigh County, WV. The devastating catastrophe left many dead, and federal investigators searching for answers to the root causes of the explosion. Now I’ve done my fair share of blasting Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship (Massey Energy is one of the largest coal companies in the country) on the Seminal, but it has been completely necessary. The negligence with which his mines are handled have cost the lives of several miners. This is only one of many unfortunate consequences brought on by coal mining in the region known as Appalachia.

Mountaintop Removal Mining (MTR) is a cheaper and more efficient way of mining coal, and works exactly like it sounds. Mountains, quite literally, have the tops blown off of them in order to expedite the coal mining process and make it more efficient. The mental image itself does quite a lot to illustrate the horrible effects it has on the mountains. Where once beautiful rolling hills full of plush green forest stood, now appears as leveled off dirt "quarry-like" areas of surface mining.  . . .

Appalachia Rising is an event which is starting to catch on in the national scene. Here’s a piece of pertinent info mentioned on their website (AppalachiaRising.org)

Appalachia Rising, an event which will take place in Washington DC, September 25-27, 2010 is a national response to the poisoning of America’s water supply, the destruction of Appalachia’s mountains, head water source streams, and communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia. Appalachia Rising strives to unite coalfield residents, grass roots groups, individuals, and national organizations to call for the abolition of mountaintop removal coal mining and demand that America’s water be protected from all forms of surface mining.

An important group that makes things like Appalachia Rising happen, and that bring MTR awareness to the people of Appalachia, is a foundation called The Keepers of the Mountain. The Keepers of the Mountain was created to help fund the efforts of "preserving and fostering the culture of mountains" and to help educate people about MTR by a man named Larry Gibson. Gibson lives next to Kayford Mountain, located in the southern part of West Virginia. He has been forced to watch the destruction of Kayford Mountain for several years, due to MTR mining on the mountain.

The destruction of these mountains comes at a price, not only aesthetically, but to the toll taken on the people who live near the sites. Many health related problems have come as a result of coal ash, and coal slurries etc. that make their way into the surrounding towns and cities near an MTR site.

Perhaps one of the worst ramifications, as described on ilovemountains.org, is that of sludge dams.

Sludge dams represent the greatest threat to nearby communities of any of the impacts of coal mining. Impoundments are notoriously leaky, contaminating drinking water supplies in many communities, and are also known to fail completely. A sludge dam breach in Martin County, KY, in 2000, sent more than 300 million gallons of toxic coal sludge into tributaries of the Big Sandy, causing what the EPA called, “The biggest environmental disaster ever east of the Mississippi.”

I hope those who read this don’t just write it off as something that they need not care about. The issue of Mountaintop Removal Mining is one that destorys communities, permanently effects the health of thousands, and eradicates the beautiful mountains that make Appalachia what it is.

If you’re around DC this weekend, take a trip to Capitol Hill and see what these people have to say. Appalachia Rising will be a great event, although I will not be able to attend it. To raise awareness for something so dire, action must be taken directly to where it will get publicity. The people of Appalachia need the help of not just others from around the country, but of the lawmakers in Washington as a whole to stop this catastrophe.

Weekly Pulse: Anti-Masturbation Crusader Christine O’Donnell is Master of Her Domain

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christine O’Donnell is master of her domain. The deeply conservative Tea Party darling won the Republican senate nomination in Delaware last night with a stunning upset of establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle.

O’Donnell rose to prominence as an anti-masturbation crusader in the 1990s. Jillian Rayfield of Talking Points Memo has video of O’Donnell’s 1996 appearance on MTV’s series “Sex in the Nineties” in which she and her colleagues from the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth Ministry. (SALT) O’Donnell warns teens that masturbation is adultery that will undermine their future marital sex lives: “You’re going to be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks.

Lest you think the anti-masturbation ministry was a youthful indiscretion, O’Donnell was still listed as the contact person for SALT on a web directory last updated in 2009. Christina Bellantoni of TPMDC reports that O’Donnell remained an outspoken social conservative on the campaign trail.

Blessing in disguise?

Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones sees O’Donnell’s victory as a potential blessing in disguise for Democrats:

Ultimately, though, the biggest benefactor of an O’Donnell victory could be the Democratic Party, as she has a significantly weaker shot against the likely Democratic contender, lawyer and county executive Chris Coons. [...] If the GOP loses Delaware, it could completely blow its chance at getting enough seats for a Senate majority.

Adele Stan of AlterNet reports that, as of 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was still locked in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne for the Republican Senate nomination. Does Ayotte’s name sound familiar? That’s probably because she made a name for herself as the anti-abortion Attorney General behind Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Beth Saunders reports for RH Reality Check.

If either of these Republican nominee proves too extreme for the voters of New Hampshire, the Democrats could pick up the senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

Urban coal pollution is deadly

In other health news, Michelle Chen reports in Colorlines that coal pollution will kill 13,000 Americans this year, mostly in urban areas:

According to the study, fine particle pollution linked to the coal industry is “expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.” The estimated death toll clusters in certain industrial cities, namely New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., affirming other research showing the racial and economic implications of these urban health impacts.

The bright side is that fewer people are projected to die of coal-related illnesses this year compared to last year. It’s not clear whether we have tougher regulation to thank, or the economic slowdown, or both.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Anti-Masturbation Crusader Christine O’Donnell is Master of Her Domain

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christine O’Donnell is master of her domain. The deeply conservative Tea Party darling won the Republican senate nomination in Delaware last night with a stunning upset of establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle.

O’Donnell rose to prominence as an anti-masturbation crusader in the 1990s. Jillian Rayfield of Talking Points Memo has video of O’Donnell’s 1996 appearance on MTV’s series “Sex in the Nineties” in which she and her colleagues from the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth Ministry. (SALT) O’Donnell warns teens that masturbation is adultery that will undermine their future marital sex lives: “You’re going to be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks.

Lest you think the anti-masturbation ministry was a youthful indiscretion, O’Donnell was still listed as the contact person for SALT on a web directory last updated in 2009. Christina Bellantoni of TPMDC reports that O’Donnell remained an outspoken social conservative on the campaign trail.

Blessing in disguise?

Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones sees O’Donnell’s victory as a potential blessing in disguise for Democrats:

Ultimately, though, the biggest benefactor of an O’Donnell victory could be the Democratic Party, as she has a significantly weaker shot against the likely Democratic contender, lawyer and county executive Chris Coons. [...] If the GOP loses Delaware, it could completely blow its chance at getting enough seats for a Senate majority.

Adele Stan of AlterNet reports that, as of 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was still locked in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne for the Republican Senate nomination. Does Ayotte’s name sound familiar? That’s probably because she made a name for herself as the anti-abortion Attorney General behind Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Beth Saunders reports for RH Reality Check.

If either of these Republican nominee proves too extreme for the voters of New Hampshire, the Democrats could pick up the senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

Urban coal pollution is deadly

In other health news, Michelle Chen reports in Colorlines that coal pollution will kill 13,000 Americans this year, mostly in urban areas:

According to the study, fine particle pollution linked to the coal industry is “expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.” The estimated death toll clusters in certain industrial cities, namely New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., affirming other research showing the racial and economic implications of these urban health impacts.

The bright side is that fewer people are projected to die of coal-related illnesses this year compared to last year. It’s not clear whether we have tougher regulation to thank, or the economic slowdown, or both.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Pulse: Anti-Masturbation Crusader Christine O’Donnell is Master of Her Domain

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Christine O’Donnell is master of her domain. The deeply conservative Tea Party darling won the Republican senate nomination in Delaware last night with a stunning upset of establishment favorite Rep. Mike Castle.

O’Donnell rose to prominence as an anti-masturbation crusader in the 1990s. Jillian Rayfield of Talking Points Memo has video of O’Donnell’s 1996 appearance on MTV’s series “Sex in the Nineties” in which she and her colleagues from the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth Ministry. (SALT) O’Donnell warns teens that masturbation is adultery that will undermine their future marital sex lives: “You’re going to be pleasing each other, and if he already knows what pleases him and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?” she asks.

Lest you think the anti-masturbation ministry was a youthful indiscretion, O’Donnell was still listed as the contact person for SALT on a web directory last updated in 2009. Christina Bellantoni of TPMDC reports that O’Donnell remained an outspoken social conservative on the campaign trail.

Blessing in disguise?

Suzi Khimm of Mother Jones sees O’Donnell’s victory as a potential blessing in disguise for Democrats:

Ultimately, though, the biggest benefactor of an O’Donnell victory could be the Democratic Party, as she has a significantly weaker shot against the likely Democratic contender, lawyer and county executive Chris Coons. [...] If the GOP loses Delaware, it could completely blow its chance at getting enough seats for a Senate majority.

Adele Stan of AlterNet reports that, as of 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning, former New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte was still locked in a dead heat with Tea Party favorite Ovide Lamontagne for the Republican Senate nomination. Does Ayotte’s name sound familiar? That’s probably because she made a name for herself as the anti-abortion Attorney General behind Ayotte vs. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Beth Saunders reports for RH Reality Check.

If either of these Republican nominee proves too extreme for the voters of New Hampshire, the Democrats could pick up the senate seat being vacated by Republican Judd Gregg.

Urban coal pollution is deadly

In other health news, Michelle Chen reports in Colorlines that coal pollution will kill 13,000 Americans this year, mostly in urban areas:

According to the study, fine particle pollution linked to the coal industry is “expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.” The estimated death toll clusters in certain industrial cities, namely New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., affirming other research showing the racial and economic implications of these urban health impacts.

The bright side is that fewer people are projected to die of coal-related illnesses this year compared to last year. It’s not clear whether we have tougher regulation to thank, or the economic slowdown, or both.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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