This note came from Dave Cooper, whose Mountaintop Removal Road Show made its way to Iowa along the way. There is no stauncher ally in advocating against mountaintop removal coal mining. Dave will be missed, but the work will go on.
Friends of the Appalachian Mountains,
After 9 years of traveling across America on the Mountaintop Removal Road Show, and after giving over 875 slide show presentations in 26 states to student, church and community groups about the destruction of the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia caused by mountaintop removal coal mining, I have decided to stop.
I was able to speak to tens of thousands of people over the past nine years – mostly college students – and I distributed nearly 4,000 free copies of my mountaintop removal DVD to students, teachers, public libraries and elected officials. I tabled at countless fairs and festivals, and distributed thousands of pamphlets and brochures about mountaintop removal. I mailed a monthly newsletter to over 25,000 people to keep them informed about important news and upcoming events. On the Mountain Justice You Tube channel that I created, I have gotten over 600,000 views. And images from my website have been featured in dozens of books, including several textbooks for school children.
I was fortunate to have many wonderful traveling companions with me on the road, but I will always remember fondly the time that I spent traveling with the late Larry Gibson and Judy Bonds. To all of the other folks who ever traveled with me, or helped set up speaking engagements, or hosted me in your home or fed me over the past nine years, I offer my sincere gratitude. It’s been a blast.
Doing the road show for nine years as an unpaid volunteer has had many rewards and I have made so many good friends, but it has also been mentally, physically and financially taxing. I have slept in cars, tents, parking lots, spare bedrooms, and way too many cheap motels. There have also been a few bedbugs. But your kindness and generosity over the years has kept me going.
I believe that we have successfully made mountaintop removal coal mining a well-known national issue. There have been countless books, magazine articles and films – and a really cool poster – made about the topic, and the state of the campaign against mountaintop removal is healthy. National environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Rainforest Action Network have pumped major energy, resources, legal expertise and funding into the campaign. The use of direct action that was the hallmark of Mountain Justice in the early days has now spread to the anti-fracking and the tar sands campaigns. And students across America continue to organize and pressure their administrations to shut down their coal plants and switch to clean energy on their campuses.
We haven’t stopped MTR yet, but the tide has turned: The percentage of America’s electricity generated by burning coal has now dropped from 50 percent to well below 40 percent. We have gone from a time when Vice President Cheney proposed building “one new power plant per week, every week, for the next twenty years” to a time when coal fired power plants are shutting down all over America. I hope it isn’t too late.
Other folks are still traveling and speaking – most notably Eric Blevins and the good folks at Mountain Keepers. If you would like to have a speaker from Appalachia come and speak to your student group, on your campus or at your church or community group, contact the Keepers of the Mountains by going to their website. This is Larry Gibson’s organization and I encourage you to support it with a donation. Eric Blevins was my stalwart travel partner for many years and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am still staying involved with the mountaintop removal issue by hosting students on Alternative Spring Breaks in eastern Kentucky. We have put together a great program that teaches students about coal and mountaintop removal, respect for the music, history, people and culture of Appalachia, and appreciation for the beauty of the mountains. We also do community service projects – planting trees on an abandoned strip mine site and weatherizing the homes of low-income residents to help reduce their electricity consumption.
In March we hosted three weeks of student groups from Northeastern University, St’ John Fisher College, Nazareth College, Drew University, University of Connecticut, University of Baltimore, UNC-Greensboro, and Harvard. We were fortunate to have some really great students this year. In May we will host Xavier University, then later in the year we will host the Gap Semester program for incoming students at Elon University, and also a group from Brandeis University.
You can read more and see some pics from our alternative spring break program here. We provide safe, clean indoor lodging, with all meals and a full week of activities. Trips are available year-round.
Right now I am planning the third annual Whippoorwill Festival – Skills for Earth-Friendly Living. This is a four day outdoor festival (Thursday – Sunday July 11-14) near Berea KY, that offers over 75 earth-friendly workshops, plus music and dancing in the evenings. You are invited!
Registration is now live for the 2013 festival, so I hope to see you there!
The Mountaintop Removal Road Show
And Still, in Iowa, just up the Road, and over the Hill, conveniently kept outta our moral sight, sits the Halo at Palo still glowing, still Glowing, still GLOWING…
SHUT DOWN the nuclear reactor at Palo!
March 11, 2013
“WE CAN AND MUST BAN NUCLEAR ARMS AND POWER….
AND MEDICINE?” Corinne Carey
…As health researcher Joe Mangano puts it: “Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately.” …
Published on Monday, March 11, 2013 by Common Dreams: Fukushima’s Fallout Is Already Harming Our Children
by Harvey Wasserman
Thyroid abnormalities have now been confirmed among tens of thousands of children downwind from Fukushima. They are the first clear sign of an unfolding radioactive tragedy that demands this industry be buried forever.
Two years after Fukushima exploded, three still-smoldering reactors remind us that the nuclear power industry epeatedly told the world this could never happen.
And 72 years after the nuclear weapons industry began creating them, untold quantities of deadly wastes still leak at Hanford and at commercial reactor sites around the world, with no solution in sight.
Radiation can be slow to cause cancer, taking decades to kill.
But children can suffer quickly. Their cells grow faster than adults’. Their smaller bodies are more vulnerable. With the embryo and fetus, there can never be a “safe” dose of radiation. NO dose of radiation is too small to have a human impact.
Last month the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey acknowledged a horrifying plague of thyroid abnormalities, thus far afflicting more than forty percent of the children studied.
The survey sample was 94,975. So some 38,000 children are already cursed with likely health problems…that we know of.
A thyroid abnormality can severely impact a wide range of developmental realities, including physical and mental growth. Cancer is a likely outcome.
This is the tenth such study conducted by the prefecture. As would be expected downwind from a disaster like Fukushima, the spread of abnormalities has been increasing over time. So has the proportion of children with nodules that are equal to or larger than 5.1 mm. The number of cysts has also been increasing.
And the government has revealed that three cases of thyroid cancer have already been diagnosed in the area. All have been subjected to surgery.
Fukushima’s airborne fallout came to our west coast within a week of the catastrophe. It’s a virtual certainty American children are being affected. As health researcher Joe Mangano puts it: “Reports of rising numbers of West Coast infants with under-active thyroid glands after Fukushima suggest that Americans may have been harmed by Fukushima fallout. Studies, especially of the youngest, must proceed immediately.”
Untold billions of gallons of unmonitored liquid poisons have poured into the Pacific. Contaminated trash has carried across the ocean (yet the US has ceased monitoring wild-caught Pacific fish for radiation).
Worldwide, atomic energy is in rapid decline for obvious economic reasons. In Germany and elsewhere, Solartopian technologies—wind, solar, bio-fuels, efficiency—are outstripping nukes and fossil fuels in price, speed to install, job creation, environmental impact, reliability and safety.
No one has yet measured the global warming impacts of the massive explosions and heat releases at Fukushima (or at Chernobyl, where the human death toll has been estimated in excess of a million).
The nuclear fuel cycle—from mining to milling to enrichment to transportation to waste management—creates substantial greenhouse gases. The reactors themselves convert ore to gargantuan quantities of heat that warm the planet directly, wrecking our weather patterns in ways that have never been fully assessed.
Even in the shadow of Fukushima, the industry peddles a “new generation” of magical reactors to somehow avoid all previous disasters. Though they don’t yet exist, they will be “too cheap to meter,” will “never explode” and will generate “radiation that is good for you.”
But atomic energy is human history’s most expensive technological failure, defined by what seems to be a terminal reverse learning curve. After more than a half-century to get it right, the industry has most recently poked holes in the head of a reactor in Florida, and installed $700 million steam generators it knew to be faulty in two more in California. It now wants to open San Onofre Unit Two at a 70% level, essentially to see what happens. Some 8 million people live within a 50-mile radius.
This from an increasingly dangerous industry that has brought us four “impossible” explosions—one at Chernobyl, three at Fukushima—clearly with more yet to come. Its radiation has spewed for decades. Its wastes have no place on this planet.
The ultimate death toll among Fukushima’s victims may be inescapable. But the industry that’s harming them is not.
Those thyroid-damaged children bring us yet another tragic warning: There’s just one atomic reactor from which our energy can safely come.
Two years after Fukushima, it is still 93 million miles away—but more ready than ever to safely, cleanly and cheaply power our planet.
Harvey Wasserman’s Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at www.progressiveradionetwork.com, and he
edits www.nukefree.org. Harvey Wasserman’s History of the US and Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth are
at www.harveywasserman.com along with Passions of the PotSmoking Patriots by “Thomas Paine.” He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including How the GOP Stole America’s 2004 Election, at www.freepress.org.
A friend from the fight against the coal-fired power plants in Waterloo and Marshalltown sent a note about mining companies wanting to move into Iowa to extract silica sand for hydraulic fracturing. There is a lot of silica sand laying in the Driftless Area of Iowa, and the growing presence of hydraulic fracturing in the country has created a significant demand for the product. Mining companies want into Iowa to extract what is being called “frac sand.”
The Allamakee County Board of Supervisors declared an 18 month moratorium on frac sand mining to study the matter. The exploration and mining is ongoing in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, although this week, a bill declaring a one-year moratorium on new frac sand mines passed the Minnesota state senate. It seems, at least for the moment, there will be no new coal plants in Iowa, and no new nuclear power plants, so is the fight against silica sand mining the next environmental challenge?
The Allamakee County Protectors is a group of concerned Iowans leading the fight against frac sand mining in the state of Iowa. Check out their web site www.allamakeecountyprotectors.com to learn more about the group and their concerns. They scheduled a lobby day at the Iowa State House on Thursday, March 14.
The Iowa discussion about hydraulic fracturing is inevitable. There are limited regulations in Iowa for exploration and development of natural gas using this method, and the early debate over frac sand is a part of it. Stay tuned.
“Maybe we ought to start thinking and acting like we’re in a crisis. Do you know why I think we ought to start thinking and acting like we’re in a crisis? Because we’re in a crisis! This is a crisis right now! It’s happening! It’s an ecological crisis — worldwide. It’s an economic crisis — worldwide. It’s a social justice crisis — worldwide.
“But I don’t want you to get freaked out about it,” he continued, combining the hellfire of an old-time fundamentalist preacher with the radical vision of a 1930’s Dust Bowl agitator and the deadly logic of the skilled lawyer that he once was. “The reality is that there are a series of interlocking, connected crises coming down. The urgency of this moment cannot be overemphasized. But don’t get too freaked out because I want to remind you that in the Chinese language where they use symbols for words, the symbol for crisis is also the symbol for another word: opportunity. I submit to you that as scary as this is, it is also providing us an opportunity to transform how our social, political and economic institutions operate. We actually have it within our power to recreate the world.”
From there he launched into a mesmerizing educational tour de force, defining first the concept of legal personhood, carefully noting, “Legal personhood means the ability to assert rights, the ability to assert rights under law. I hope you see immediately that legal personhood is not a legal technicality. The question of who gets to assert rights in any society is important. Let’s be really explicit. The ability to assert rights has been at the core of every social movement in this country, from the abolition of slavery to women’s suffrage to the trade union movement to the civil rights movement. It matters.”
Move to Amend goes to the heart of this. In asserting that corporations — under the guise of corporate personhood — had the right to free speech, and that the right to spend unlimited money was a form of speech, the Supreme Court, in its 2010 Citizens United decision, struck down campaign financing restrictions across the board, ruling that restricting corporate contributions to political campaigns was unconstitutional since it would restrict their rights as “persons.” Move to Amend is going for the throat: “We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United and other related cases, and move to amend our Constitution to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”
Click here to read the entire article.
The kerfuffle over the e-mail from the Iowa Board of Regents President Pro Tempore Bruce Rastetter to University of Iowa President Sally Mason regarding statements Professor Jerry Schnoor made about water used in production of ethanol immediately went to DEFCON 2. Like many media feeding frenzies, the energy may be misguided.
Rastetter wrote Mason, “the industry would appreciate being able to provide factual information so this professor isn’t uninformed; is there a way to accomplish that, thanks Bruce.”
The Daily Iowan quoted Senator Brian Quirmbach’s response, “the board of regents is supposed to be a buffer against political interference in academic freedom, not the vehicle for it. What is even more important, he seems to be using his position on the board of regents to work through the power structure. If I could imagine myself in the situation, and the president of the university and a member of the board of regents wants to put pressure on my research— that’s a lot of pressure and that’s inappropriate.”
I don’t know Professor Schnoor, but have heard him speak and know some of his work. He doesn’t just make stuff up. There was likely a better way for one of the regents to approach him, but in a world of peer-reviewed science, to which Schnoor is a party, whatever point the biofuels industry might want to make about the matter would be subject to the same process of peer review. One hopes that truth will out through a peer reviewed scientific approach, regardless of the abrasiveness of Mr. Rastetter.
There are more egregious examples of the Republican war on science than the Rastetter-Mason exchange, if it is serious enough to merit such appellation.
When I met Dr. Julie Gerberding, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a lecture in Ohio, she was asked about the redaction of her testimony before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing Oct. 23, 2007. She explained the process by which White House Office of Management and Budget and Council on Environmental Quality redacted, or censored her prepared remarks. Click here for a comparison between the original and redacted versions. The Rastetter e-mail is an Iowa-lite version of infringement on academic freedom, and definitely not censorship as Dr. Gerberding experienced. Rastetter was not “Iowa nice.”
What is the lesson to be learned? Elections matter. It is no surprise governor Terry Branstad appointed Bruce Rastetter to the board of regents. While some have called for Rastetter’s resignation, don’t look for it to happen under Branstad. The remedy for Rastetter and his ilk is electing a governor who does not put industry insiders on the board of regents and other appointed positions. The rest of the kerfuffle? Save the noise for something that matters more.
The Iowa Environmental Council cordially invites members and supporters to our 2013 Environmental Lobby Day at the statehouse.
This year’s event will be especially memorable because members of the Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) Alliance and the Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy (IWLL) Coalition are also planning to turn out in large numbers to support clean water and a healthy Iowa Environment. (The Council is a member of both groups.)
WHERE: First floor rotunda, Iowa State Capitol building, Des Moines
WHEN: Tuesday, February 26, 2012, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (We’re planning a short press conference for mid-morning; the exact time will be announced soon.)
Commit to attend Lobby Day in person and we’ll send you updates about the event by e-mail!
Environmental Lobby Day is your chance to join with a broad coalition of Iowans to talk with your elected representatives in person about why protecting Iowa’s air, water, and land really matters. We encourage all friends of Iowa’s environment to join us in person for this event.
You are welcome to drop in any time throughout the day, but we will hold a short press conference at 11:00 a.m. that we encourage you to attend.
Supporters of clean water are encouraged to wear blue for this event.
8:00 a.m. Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy will hold a briefing on the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund in the Wallace Building Auditorium.
Following that, supporters will walk across Grand Avenue to the statehouse to meet with legislators. Iowa Environmental Council member and partner organizations will have table displays in the Rotunda.
11:00 a.m. The Iowa Environmental Council will hold a brief press conference highlighting our key legislative priorities.
Never lobbied before? No problem. Iowa Environmental Council staff will be on hand throughout the day to support you, and you’ll be able to pick up a handy guide to the Council’s legislative priorities to help you decide what you’d like to talk about. It also never hurts to bring a friend to join you as you chat with legislators.
Can’t travel to Des Moines? This is the perfect time to join our Action Alert Network. On February 26, we’ll e-mail you a link to contact your legislators via e-mail. It’s a great way to participate from wherever you live. And as an Action Alert Volunteer, you’ll be ready to speak out to decision-makers on a variety of environmental issues right when it matters most.
DES MOINES, Iowa– On Jan. 22, the Sierra Club and Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy Company announced a landmark settlement that requires the Iowa utility to phase out coal burning at seven coal-fired boilers, clean up another two coal-fired boilers and build a large solar installation at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. The announcement also pushes the total amount of coal generation retired or announced to retire since 2010 to over 50,000 megawatts, almost one-sixth of the nation’s coal fleet.
In 2012, the Sierra Club notified MidAmerican that it was violating the federal Clean Air Act at its Walter Scott, Riverside and George Neal coal plants, by emitting more pollution than allowed by its permits. Today’s settlement filed in federal court in Iowa resolves those allegations. According to the Clean Air Task Force air pollution from these three plants contributes to 45 deaths and 760 asthma attacks annually.
“Clean air, clean water and a booming clean energy economy are part of an Iowa legacy that I am proud to leave for my children and grandchildren,” said Pam Mackey Taylor, Chapter Energy Chair of the Sierra Club in Iowa. “Coal’s days are numbered here in Iowa. Pollution from MidAmerican’s coal-fired power plants causes major health problems in communities across Iowa. Retiring units at these coal plants and installing vital pollution controls at the remaining units will help Iowans breathe easier.”
The comment period for Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy has been extended for two weeks until Jan. 18, according to the Des Moines Register. By extending the comment period, the best interests of Iowans will be served. One hopes the strategy will improve Iowa’s waterways and reduce our impact on hypoxia zones in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the seriousness of the problem, delaying action, particularly on non-point source runoff, is unacceptable. To date, more than 350 comments have been submitted on the plan.
Readers are encouraged to get involved by watching the video, reading the documents and publicly commenting on the matter. Click here to visit the home page for the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy and get involved.
I continue to encourage readers to make formal comments on Iowa’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy before Jan. 4.
The impact of Gulf of Mexico hypoxia zones that are created from agricultural runoff has been grievous enough to activate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force. The problem asks for a solution, and the federal government has jurisdiction.
The strategy currently open for comments is the Iowa part of a response to the Gulf Hypoxia Action Plan. As indicated elsewhere, Iowa is the second of twelve states to develop a strategy, and the executive branch developed the current documents in isolation from public discourse, with significant input from the Iowa Farm Bureau.
The response period, sandwiched between the 2012 general election and the beginning of the 85th Iowa General Assembly, seems designed to minimize public and legislative comments. Activist groups, like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement the Environmental Working Group, and the Iowa Policy Project have begun to weigh in, but unless a citizen has been following the issue for a number of years, comments on the plan are difficult to develop with a reasoned approach.
What has bothered me about Governor Branstad’s strategy is it’s similarity to the way the George W. Bush administration removed the climate crisis from its agenda. According to former Vice President Al Gore,
“we now know that during the first weeks of the administration, Vice President Cheney began meeting with his infamous Energy Task Force and secretly advised lobbyists for polluters that the White House would take no action on global warming. He then asked for their help in designing a totally meaningless ‘voluntary’ program.”
This voluntary program was meant to be cover for the president as he dismantled the Kyoto accord and other environmental regulations. Substitute “Gov. Branstad” for “Vice President Cheney,” the “Iowa Farm Bureau” for “infamous Energy Task Force,” “nutrient runoff” for “global warming” in the quoted text, and the parallels are compelling.
While a dash of cynicism is reflected in my views, it is important to develop a reasoned response to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. Even the most strident opponents to regulating water quality understand that if the voluntary strategy is unsuccessful, the EPA will step in and they don’t want that.
I am nowhere near being finished reading all the documentation, but the framework of my response would include the following elements:
- Doing nothing about agricultural runoff of nitrogen and phosphorous is unacceptable. The creation of hypoxia zones in the Gulf of Mexico must be mitigated to protect marine life that is important both to our economy and to the well-being of the oceans. Iowa is a significant contributor to hypoxia zones.
- That the strategy seeks to get the “biggest bang for the buck” by including some of the largest wastewater treatment facilities is a red herring. As someone who helped manage a rural wastewater treatment plant, in our operation, we had no budget for voluntary measures. We made sure our output complied with regulations, but financially we were not in a position to do anything more than ask our customers to reduce input of phosphorous containing detergents and use backyard composting to dispose of kitchen waste. Any program to control nutrient runoff from wastewater treatment plants should include changes in existing regulations.
- While it is true, as Farm Bureau spokespeople have indicated, there is a diversity of geographic and topological considerations, the Pareto principle should be applied to agricultural runoff. Getting bogged down in diversity cannot be a substitute for timely action.
- We are kidding ourselves if we do not believe that the substantial amount of farm field drainage tile in Iowa is a primary contributor to chemical runoff. Even today, farm fields near my home are installing new drainage tile, increasing the potential for chemical runoff. Any nutrient reduction strategy has to deal with the twofold issue of drainage tile and potential regulation of its use, and planting cover crops that help keep nitrogen in the soil rather than leaching to a tile.
- The comment period should be extended to enable the input of the Iowa legislature.
Whether Iowa can get beyond the hyperbole and powerful interest group concerns in its nutrient reduction strategy is an open question. Solving the problem of hypoxia zones is too important to eschew a reasoned approach and there is room for a voluntary aspect to solutions. We must try everything we can think of the solve the problem, and there is a role for regulation.
To learn more and make comments on Iowa’s Nutrient reduction Strategy, follow this link.
Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m., Boulders Conference Center, Denison.
Dec. 19, 10 a.m., South Ballroom, Memorial Union, Iowa State University, Ames.
Dec. 21, 10 a.m. Ramada Waterloo/Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, Waterloo.
Rep. Chuck Isenhart of Dubuque had previously called for an extension of the 45 day comment period until Feb. 4, to allow the legislature and the Watershed Planning Advisory Council to weigh in but there has been no response to the request from either Iowa Department of Natural Resources Director Chuck Gipp or Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. As it stands today, the comment period ends Jan. 4, 2013.
At their annual meeting in Des Moines, Dec. 4 and 5, the Iowa Farm Bureau presented on the Nutrient Reduction Strategy. President Craig Hill said, “Farm Bureau is committed to making Iowa nutrient reduction strategy a success.” Farm Bureau urged members to read the documents and comment on the strategy, sharing the conservation practices members already adopted and some they are considering adopting in the future.
This week, the Environmental Working Group released a report titled, “Murky Waters: Farm Pollution Stalls Cleanup of Iowa Streams,” by Craig Cox and Andrew Hug. According to the report, “forty years after the Clean Water Act became law, the data are clear: Iowa’s rivers and streams are still murky. The pollution that continues to degrade them has become a case study on the consequences of the most serious flaw in this historic and otherwise effective federal law: It does little or nothing to address agricultural pollution.” The report suggests the distinction between point source and non-point source in the nutrient reduction strategy released in November is less important than that agricultural polluters do something to mitigate nutrient runoff. The Farm Bureau was quick to respond to this report.
It is time for Iowans who care about the runoff that creates hypoxia zones in the Gulf of Mexico to consider the Nutrient Reduction Strategy and weigh in. To learn more, click here. To read my previous posts, click here and here.