Saturday, May 30, 2009

Burn the Bed Nets & Spray DDT in Africa

The clinical drug experiment being conducted in Africa to address malaria is admirable. The clinical trial is being conducted in seven African countries and is being sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline PLC and the Parth Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), a charitable group funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. If we had Gates' money, we would spray DDT until the mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite were eliminated. Then we would end the spraying. It worked in the United States and it could prevent millions of deaths each year. Then the vaccine would be even more effective. If the Gates kids had been at risk they would have sprayed too. Malaria is the leading cause of death of infants and children in Africa.

We get apoplectic every time we hear about using bed nets to prevent malaria too. Or spraying a little insecticide 'in the house' to keep the mosquitoes away. Please. Americans would not go for these ridiculous 'solutions' for one minute. Neither should Africans. If outsiders want to help, work to eliminate the malaria carrying mosquitoes completely and then cease or significantly reduce the use of DDT. Bed nets are poor substitutes for the effective and efficient use of DDT to save lives. Bill & Melinda Gates should not worry about what the politically correct will think about them. Children are dying while they fund bed nets. (WSJ, 5/30/09)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

EJ Needed in House Energy CO2 Allowance Allocation

AAEA is recommending a fifth item to the four consumer protection provisions in the climate bill that just passed out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee [See Green text below]. Half of the aid (7.5%) for low, moderate-income families could go to protect communities from environmental injustice.

1) Protection from Electricity Price Increases: The electricity sector will receive 35% of the allowances, representing 90% of current utility emissions. Local electric distribution companies, whose rates are regulated by the states, will receive 30% of the allowances, which they must use to protect consumers from electricity price increases. Merchant coal and long-term power purchase agreements will receive 5% of the allowances. These allowances will be distributed according to a formula recommended by the utility industry and will phase out over a five-year period from 2026 through 2030.

2) Protection from Natural Gas Price Increases: Local natural gas distribution companies, whose rates are regulated by the states, will receive 9% of allowances, which they must use to protect consumers from natural gas price increases. These allowances will phase out over a five-year period from 2026 through 2030.

3) Protection from Home Heating Oil Price Increases: States will receive 1.5% of allowances for programs to benefit users of home heating oil and propane. These allowances will phase out over a five-year period from 2026 through 2030.

4) Protection of Low- and Moderate-Income Households: 15% of allowances will be auctioned each year and the proceeds of these allowances will be distributed to low- and moderate-income families to protect them from other energy cost increases. These allowances will be distributed through tax credits, direct payments, and electronic benefit payments and will not phase out.

Full House Energy & Commerce Committee Allowance Allocation Proposal
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
5) Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to address the racial 'Hot Spots' issue. These allowances would come from a special reserve, similar to the current Acid Rain Program Renewable Energy and Conservation Reserve, when the initial allowance allocation is made. They would be awarded to utilities and others that undertake environmental justice practices and programs designed to mitigate local pollution, increase the installation of pollution control equipment, promote community education and enhance health-related activities. [Full Description]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Black Chamber of Commerce Climate Study Released

The National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) released a new study that determines the potential economic impacts of the federal cap-and-trade system outlined in the bill. Compiled by CRA International, the analysis determines that by 2030 the law would:

1) reduce national GDP roughly $350 billion below the baseline level;

2) cut net employment by 2.5 million jobs (even after accounting for new "green" jobs); and

3) reduce earnings for the average U.S. worker by $390 per year.

NBCC President and CEO Harry Alford, left, said the findings add to a growing body of evidence that demonstrates cap-and-trade would make American consumers poorer and the products they buy more expensive. He added the NBCC study finds there will be little, if any, environmental impact to justify the high price U.S. families will have to pay, since the trading system will deliver virtually negligible changes in global CO2 emissions so long as developing nations such as China and India don't buy in.

AAEA supports cap & trade but agrees with NBCC that China and India need to be participants in any global climate change program.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the Environment & Energy

Judge Sonia Sotomayor, left, wrote an opinion in Riverkeeper v. EPA, 475 F.3d 83 (2d Cir. 2007), that the EPA was not permitted to engage in a cost-benefit analysis to determine “best technology available”; instead, it could consider cost only to determine “what technology can be ‘reasonably borne’ by the industry” and whether the proposed technology was “cost-effective” - which, she concluded, requires the EPA in turn to determine whether the technology at issue is “a less expensive technology that achieves essentially the same results” as the best technology that the industry could reasonably bear.

The case was a challenge to an EPA rule regulating cooling-water intake structures at power plants. To minimize the adverse impact on aquatic life (which could otherwise be trapped against the intake structure or, if small enough, sucked into the pipes themselves), the Clean Water Act requires the intake structures to use the “best technology available,” without specifying what factors the EPA should consider in determining what constitutes the “best technology available.”

Judge Sotomayor explained:

“assuming the EPA has determined that power plants governed by the Phase II Rule can reasonably bear the price of technology that saves between 100-105 fish, the EPA, given a choice between a technology that costs $100 to save 99-101 fish and one that costs $150 to save 100-103 fish. . . could appropriately choose the cheaper technology on cost-effectiveness grounds.”
On this issue, Sotomayor remanded to the EPA, finding it “unclear” how the EPA had arrived at its conclusions and, in particular, whether the EPA had improperly weighed costs and benefits.

Sotomayor also held that the EPA could not consider restoration measures - such as restocking fish to compensate for fish killed by an intake system - when determining the best technology available for a particular power plant. Sotomayor wrote that “[r]estoration measures are not part of the location, design, construction, or capacity of cooling water intake structures, and a rule permitting compliance with the statute through restoration measures allows facilities to avoid adopting any cooling water intake structure technology at all, in contravention of the Act’s clear language as well as its technology-forcing principle.” Finally, Sotomayor also determined that, at a minimum, EPA’s determination that the CWA provision at issue applies to existing and new facilities was a reasonable interpretation of the statute.

The industry plaintiffs filed petitions for certiorari, which the Supreme Court granted in April 2008 to review the cost-benefit issue. AAEA attended the December 2, 2008 Oral Arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court. By a vote of 6-3, the Court reversed. In an opinion by Justice Scalia, the majority deemed “[i]t . . . eminently reasonable to conclude that” the CWA’s silence with regard to determining the best technology available “is meant to convey nothing more than a refusal to tie the agency’s hands as to whether cost-benefit analysis should be used, and if so to what degree.” [Source: Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) Blog], (Photo: Pace University)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TVA Must Cease Shipments of Fly Ash Sludge Immediately

Some of the more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash that spilled from an impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston power plant in eastern Tennessee last December is making its way to landfills in poor and black communities in Alabama and Georgia. TVA is sending the spilled coal ash waste from Tennessee to landfills in in Taylor County, Georgia and Perry County, Alabama.

AAEA is recommending that TVA should reprocess this sludge on site for reuse of the fly ash to produce concrete.

The choice of these communities for disposal of the waste raises environmental justice concerns, since almost 41% of Taylor County’s population is African-American and more than 24% of its residents live in poverty, while Alabama’s Perry County is 69% African-American with more than 32% of its population in poverty, according to the latest census data. Residents had no voice in the decision-making process, given that there was no opportunity for public comment. (Grist)

Monday, May 18, 2009

NBCC Climate Change Ambassador Maurice Stone

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) Energy Committee Chair Maurice R. Stone, left, who just finished the first ever Climate Change Summit course administrated by Vice President Al Gore, is now a certified Climate Change Ambassador. With that distinction Maurice will give 20+ workshops on the status and future of Climate Change. Those holding events should contact NBCC for bookings. His inaugural event will be on June 4 at the World Conference of Mayors summit in Jackson, Mississippi.

Maurice Stone is CEO of National Clean Fuels (NACF). NACF projects include vertically integrated technologies aimed at delivering energy savings, renewable fuels and clean fuel technologies to its clients. In addition, the company aims to implement projects that reduce dependence on foreign oil while delivering environmentally friendly products to consumers.

Mr. Stone earned his B.S. degree in electrical engineering, with a minor in Finance from Memphis State University in 1981. He also received training, certifications, and diplomas in Finance, Marketing, and Business Administration from IBM’s Corporate Training School (Endicott, NY; Cambridge, MA; and Irving, TX) in 1982.

Joint Center Expands Commission on Climate Change

The head of the NAACP and four leading energy and corporate executives have joined the Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. The newest members of the Commission, which was founded last year by the Joint Center to increase African Americans’ understanding of climate change and to advance their perspectives in critical policy discussions, are:


1) Benjamin T. Jealous, President and Chief Executive Officer of the NAACP,

2) Calvin G. Butler, Esq., Vice President of State Legislative and Government Affairs, ComEd, Inc,

3) Milton Carroll, Chairman of the Board, CenterPoint Energy, Inc.,

4) Carolyn L. Green, Vice President for Health, Environment, and Safety, Sunoco, Inc, and

5) Dr. Esther Silver-Parker, Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs, Wal-Mart, Inc.

They join 13 other members of the Commission, which is comprised of leading experts representing government, health, industry, civil rights, academia, labor, consumer protection and environmental protection.

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies is one of the nation’s leading research and public policy institutions and they primarily focus on issues of particular concern to African Americans and other people of color.

July 29, 2008 Press Conference

More

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Does D.C. Backyard Chicken Ban Apply to The White House?

AAEA wants to know. According to the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the District does not permit backyard chickens. We disagree with this ban on the possession of backyard chickens and believe that President and First Lady Obama should push the District to lift this ban. The Obamas are early risers anyway and a rooster call would not disturb any nearby residents. Is the early morning rooster call the main motivation for the ban? If so, that is a flimsy reason to practice backyard bias against the possession of these magnificient birds.

Moreover, the first family could demonstrate their commitment to backyard chickens by putting a small chicken coop in their 1,100-square-foot vegetable garden at The White House. We do not believe the DCRA regulations apply to The White House. And even if they do, how would DCRA enforce a ban on backyard chickens at The White House? Would DCRA send in a team to seize the chickens?

The Park Service already removed the raccoons from The White House lawn. We are now concerned that any possible incursion by groundhogs or moles could be met with similar resistance. The Obamas could have an upscale chicken coop constructed in their garden [see photo at left, courtesy: Tatertots and Jello]. We are sure the first family would enjoy those fresh eggs. (WashPost, 5/14/09)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Robert Stanton Appointed Deputy Assist Sec of Interior

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, right, today appointed former National Park Service Director Robert G. Stanton, left, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management, and Budget. Secretary Salazar said:

“Since beginning his career as a National Park Service ranger 47 years ago, Bob Stanton has dedicated his life to improving the conservation and management of our treasured landscapes and national icons. The Department of the Interior will benefit greatly from his vast experience, extraordinary management skill, and dedication to our public lands.”
Concluding a long career with the National Park Service, Stanton served as the agency’s director from 1997 to 2001. As director, he oversaw major planning and resource preservation programs at the White House, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Gettysburg, and other national parks and inaugurated and oversaw the National Resource Challenge, a plan to revise and expand the agency’s natural resource programs. Since 2001, he has served as an executive professor at Texas A&M University and a visiting professor at both Howard University and Yale University. He also has provided consulting services to the National Resources Council of America on increasing cultural diversity in conservation organizations and programs. From 1988-1997, Stanton served as the regional director of the Park Service’s National Capital Region, which includes 40 national park units in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and surrounding states.

Stanton is a graduate of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas and has received honorary doctorate degrees from Texas A&M, Unity College, Southern University, and Huston-Tillotson.

Legislation For Creating Green Jobs in Gulf Coast Recovery

The newly introduced Bipartisan Gulf Coast Civic Works Act of 2009 (HR 2269) (GCCW Act) promotes infrastructure, training, comprehensive flood protection and energy efficiency. The Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign, a diverse national partnership of community, environmental, faith-based, human rights and student organizations, applauds the introduction of this bipartisan legislation to rebuild more equitable and resilient communities across the areas still recovering from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The GCCW Act would create 100,000 “green” living wage jobs and training opportunities for Gulf Coast residents and displaced people to rebuild critical infrastructure, restore natural flood protection and increase energy efficiency. This important legislation allows the federal government to partner directly with local leaders and non-profits to address remaining recovery challenges while building resilience to climate change, mitigating the effects of future deadly storms and confronting poverty. It also addresses the challenges faced by internally displaced, elderly, disabled, women, low income, immigrant and minority communities.

Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina, our nation’s largest natural disaster, America’s Gulf Coast remains a domestic human rights crisis. As we approach the 2009 Hurricane Season beginning June 1st, levees remain vulnerable, tens of thousands of people have not been able to return home, schools, hospitals and transportation infrastructure remains damaged, and residents continue to struggle for access to affordable housing and living wage jobs.

The GCCW Act will efficiently allocate funds for job creation and infrastructure development, two significant recovery needs, by avoiding layers of governmental red tape and dispersing funds directly to the entities, regardless of sector, which are ready to do the work. The legislation will establish a pilot project not just for rebuilding the Gulf Coast from the 2005 hurricane season, but will also provide a community driven recovery plan for any and every part of America where natural or other disasters occur. Passing HR 2269 would be a bold stand for the basic human rights of displaced and low-income Gulf Coast residents, including the right to participate in the recovery, the right to return home with dignity and safety, and the right to decent work opportunities

HR 2269 was introduced in the U.S. House yesterday afternoon by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA), Rodney Alexander (LA), Joseph Cao (LA), Charlie Melancon (LA), Gene Taylor (MS), Bennie Thompson (MS), John Conyers (MI), Barbara Lee (CA), John Lewis (GA), Peter Stark (CA), and Charlie Rangel (NY).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lisa P. Jackson: Super Cool in a Global Warming World

PRESIDENT'S CORNER

By Norris McDonald

It's official. We are big fans of the new EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. We've had a chance to look her over from her confirmation hearing to recent budget and stimulus package hearings. And our verdict is in: Lisa P. Jackson is not only super cool, but super smart. And to top that off she's nice and approachable too. Not everybody in this town thinks that just anybody can walk up and talk to them. But in Jackson we're talking megastar with a heart. President Obama is cool, but Administrator Jackson, dare we say it, could be cooler. Sorry Mr. President, but your EPA administrator is every bit as cool as you.

Her performance before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at her confirmation hearing was the preview. I sat there thinking, "who is this woman and why has this talent been kept out of the limelight for so long?" Well Administrator Jackson is out there now. And the world had better get ready because she's just getting warmed up. Her command of facts, figures, policy and science is astounding. And she's not afraid to take questions from the public. I figured she would give her speech at the recent EPA budget briefing and leave like her predecessor, but she stayed and answered questions. Her answer to my question was precise, as were her answers to other questions. Okay, enough before the cynics start whining and describing this praise as 'green nosing.' But aint nothing [double negative intentional] wrong with acknowledging talent when you see it. And I see it clearly in our nation's environmental chief.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Global Warming Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve

AAEA believes climate change legislation and regulation will need to address environmental justice concerns related to the perception that emission trading programs cause disproportionate pollution from older, dirtier plants to negatively impact low-income and minority communities. There is also widespread belief that global warming and climate change will disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. Some environmental justice groups oppose cap-and-trade programs.

AAEA is recommending an Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to address the racial 'Hot Spots' issue. These allowances would come from a special reserve, similar to the current Acid Rain Program Renewable Energy and Conservation Reserve, when the initial allowance allocation is made. They would be awarded to utilities, automakers and others that undertake environmental justice practices and programs designed to mitigate or prevent price shocks, increase the installation of pollution control equipment, promote community education and enhance health-related activities. Utilities and automakers could choose to work with organizations and businesses that conduct environmental justice activities related to climate change mitigation and reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

AAEA has been registered in the EPA Acid Rain Program for years.

The EJAR program will leverage allowances and resources to promote environmental justice practices and projects designed to:

Increase the installation of pollution control equipment,
Promote community education and
Enhance health-related activities.

EPA could alert businesses, mayors, states, civil rights groups, environmental justice organizations, Congress and the general public about innovative methods for participating in this program, enhancing electricity production, auto emissions reductions and protecting constituent communities.

Allowances are fully marketable commodities. Once allocated, allowances may be bought, sold, traded, or banked for use in future years. Allowances may not be used for compliance prior to the calendar year for which they are allocated.

Participation in the EJAR will clearly show that a utility or automaker is exceeding emission compliance. Significant participation in the EJAR will indicate that utilities, automakers and others are not Hot Spot plants or disproportionate emissions contributors to vulnerable communities.

Monday, May 11, 2009

H.R. 2187 - The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act‏

UPDATE: Today (Thursday, May 14), the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2187 by a vote of 275 to 155. AAEA supported the bill. Now let's get it passed in the Senate.

ESTIMATES of Local Spending

Districts across the country would receive billions of dollars to modernize, upgrade, repair and green America’s schools under legislation approved on May 6 by the House Education and Labor Committee. By a vote of 31 to 14, the Committee passed H.R. 2187, the 21st Century Green High Performing Public School Facilities Act, which would make critical investments to provide more students with modern, healthier, more environmentally-friendly classrooms. It would also support hundreds of thousands of new construction jobs and invest more than half a billion dollars for school facility improvements in the Gulf Coast, where many schools still face considerable damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“For too long, students and teachers have suffered in school buildings that are literally crumbling, posing direct threats to their safety, health and learning,” said U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the Committee. “This legislation presents us with a vital opportunity to help boost student achievement, enhance teachers’ effectiveness, and create good jobs that transition us toward a clean energy economy – all at once.”
For years, schools have been hundreds of billions of dollars short of what it would take to bring them into good condition. In 2009, the American Civil Society of Engineers gave U.S. schools a “D” on its national infrastructure report card. According to a recent report by the American Federation of Teachers, it would cost almost $255 billion to fully renovate and repair all the schools in the country. Congress recently endorsed this type of investment by enacting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allows school districts to use funds they receive under the state fiscal stabilization fund for school modernization, renovation and repair projects.

H.R. 2187 would authorize $6.4 billion for school renovation and modernization projects for fiscal year 2010, and would ensure that school districts quickly receive funds for projects that improve schools’ teaching and learning climates, health and safety, and energy efficiency. To further encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools, the legislation would require a percentage of funds be used for school improvement projects that meet widely recognized green building standards. It would require that 100 percent of the funds go toward green projects by 2015 – the final year of funding under the bill. The legislation would also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and help improve local economies. According to calculations by the Economic Policy Institute, the legislation would support 136,000 jobs. Recent studies also show that school quality has a direct, positive impact on residential property values and can improve a community’s ability to attract businesses and workers.

Fact Sheet

Bill Markup

[Source: Committee Press Release]

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mercury Removal in Coal-Fired Power Plants

Activated carbon injection is currently recognized as the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) by the EPA for mercury removal from flue gas in coal-fired power plants. While the capital costs of carbon injection are relatively low, the operating costs associated with activated carbon remain relatively high.

One recent discovery was that halogenated sorbents can significantly reduce the cost of carbon treatment in flue gas streams. Elemental mercury is more difficult to capture on activated carbon than oxidized forms of mercury.

While the use of halogenated sorbents has been a significant breakthrough, there are still significant opportunities ahead to reduce the cost of carbon treatment in this application. These opportunities include technologies to recycle the carbon and further reduce the amount of carbon used, improving sorbent performance in high sulfur dioxide (SO2) applications and developing cement-friendly sorbents that minimize the effect of the carbon being present in the fly ash. (More)

(Pollution Engineering, January 2007, Calgon Carbon Corporation)

Friday, May 08, 2009

South Africa Elects New President

Jacob Zuma, 67, was elected President of South Africa on April 22 and will be sworn in on April 10. He is South Africa's fourth democratic president. He will be accompanied by his three wives and will take the oath of office at the seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Zuma was elected president by parliament, after his African National Congress (ANC) swept general elections two weeks ago. A polygamist with 19 children, Zuma embraces his Zulu tradition.

Nothing Better To Do Than Pick On Juanita D. Miller?

The Washington Post, in an article entitled, "WSSC Board Member Exceeds Colleagues in Spending by Far," displays a classic example of the fourth estate abusing its power. With trillions going out to salvage the consequences of real greed, the Post decides to rag a utility board member over a few thousand dollars, which all seemed to be justified expenses (well the Harvard conference was a bit high). But the point is that clearly this paper does not have enough for its reporters to do if they spent time on this story. It is a 'hit piece' plain and simple with absolutely no redeeming value to public discourse. We have real questions about such 4th estate behavior when they use their vast power to bludgeon public servants over the equivalent of nothing.

Juanita D. Miller, left, is a longstanding public servant. To drag her name through the mud over 'Bernie Madoff' tips' is beyond the pale. And frankly we cannot help but point out that these little jewels over pennies are oftentimes aimed at black people. Okay go ahead and scream if you like, but we can think of many such examples. The new EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson does not get this kind of ink and she is responsible for the distribution of a $10 billion budget - - something around $6 billion going to water infrastructure improvements. The WSSC budget is one billion dollars and The Washington Post is comparing who spent more lunch money among the commission board. No wonder newspapers are having trouble staying in business.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Nuclear Power Industry Disappoints Just Like the Environmental Movement

PRESIDENT'S CORNER
By Norris McDonald

The nuclear energy industry has taken the same trajectory as the environmental movement in terms of post-1970s effectiveness. The environmental movement peaked in 1985 in the middle of President Ronald Reagan's two terms. They went from rabbit hole paper filled offices around Capitol Hill to K Street offices that looked just like the corporations they accused of polluting the environment. Today you can't tell the difference between The Nature Conservancy offices and those of ExxonMobile. Now there is not anything necessarily wrong with going upscale. In fact, we just located on K Street ourselves. But the environmental groups lost their way after about 1989 and the 1990 Earth Day revival did not rejuvenate the movement. In fact, two newbie enviros declared the movement dead after the 1990s. I would say that it was arrogance that led to the demise of the environmental movement. Their elitist operations and policy positions ran out of steam after the major environmental laws were passed. They were left to count their money and be salvaged by the global warming issue.

The commercial nuclear energy industry was at their height in 2005 two decades after the height of the environmental movement. The nuclear power industry had almost everything it wanted in terms of streamlined regulations and government subsidies. It has even more now but the great renaissance that was being proclaimed is now in great doubt, even with every possible constraint to new building being removed. But Wall Street went south and the price tag for a new nuclear plant has the industry scratching its head about who will get a license and announce a new build first. It is ironic that the same global warming issue that salvaged the environmental movement is the same issue that 'keeps hope alive' for the nuclear power industry. Yet arrogance seeped into the nuclear power industry over the past four years or so, just as it did in the environmental movement in the mid 1980s. Our personal gripe is, just as it was and is with the elitist environmental movement, how they treat 'the least of these.' It is an indicator of how they will be treated by society at large.

President Obama Offering Settlement To Black Farmers

Today President Obama announced his plans to include settlement funds for black farmers in the FY 2010 budget to bring closure to their long-standing lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The president said:

"This is an issue I worked on in the Senate, and I'm pleased that we are now able to close this chapter in the agency's history and move on. My hope is that the farmers and their families who were denied access to USDA loans and programs will be made whole and will have the chance to
rebuild their lives and their businesses."
President Obama with Black Farmers Assoc Pres John Boyd

In 1999, the USDA entered into a consent agreement with black farmers in which the agency agreed to pay farmers for past discrimination in lending and other USDA programs. Thousands of claims have been adjudicated, but thousands of other claims were not considered on their merits because problems with the notification and claims process hindered some farmers' ability to participate. To deal with the remaining claims, Congress provided these farmers another avenue for restitution in the 2008 Farm Bill. For those who have claims that were not considered on the merits because the claim was found not to be timely, the 2008 Farm Bill provided the right to file a new claim in federal court. The total amount offered by the federal government, $1.25 billion, includes $100 million that served as a "place holder" in Section 14012 of the Farm Bill.

This announcement comes on the heels of a memorandum released two weeks ago by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack detailing an aggressive plan to promote civil rights and equal access at USDA. The memo announced the following:

The temporary suspension of all foreclosures within the Farm Service Agency's farm loan program, which will not only aid farmers facing economic hardship but will also provide the opportunity to review the loan granting process for possible discriminatory conduct; the creation of a Task force to conduct a review of a sample of program civil rights complaints that have been processed or that are currently being processed - the complaints and inquiries total over 14,000, including over 3,000 that have not been processed; and Granting greater authority to USDA's Office of Civil Rights.

The Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights will collaborate with the other agencies to develop and implement a proposal for data collection across USDA, make sure all complaints are incorporated as part of one data system; and develop USDA policy and training to ensure that all complaints are received and dealt with in a consistent manner within a specific timeframe. The full text of the memo.

National Harbor Gas Station Proposal

National Harbor developer Milt Peterson wants to build a gas station at the top of the hill on the front side of National Harbor just off of Indian Head Highway. Locals are dug in and will oppose it with every bone in their bodies. They see it as an insult to the original vision of that locale, which was originally supposed to house office buildings that would support upscale restaurant lunch business. Most restaurants need a strong lunch business, in addition to dinner crowds, to make a profit and to stay in business. The only other gasoline service station is just below Rivertowne, which Peterson also owns, but it is out of the way and in a, how shall we put it, less than upscale area in Oxon Hill.

Peterson spokesperson/attorney Andre Gingles recently faced the pubic and was given an earful. Our guess is that this will be an uphill battle. There isn't a gasoline island anywhere near this location and some fear it could become an East Coast stop for trucks and cars from major Interstate Highway 95. Something like two percent of America's commerce passes across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which is near National Harbor. The proposal to put something like 18 gasoline pumps and a convenience store at the site is controversial. We have no idea where the local government officials will come down on this issue. But although National Harbor is Prince George's County's Times Square and Hollywood Walk of Fame combined, we sense deep seated opposition to the gasoline station proposal.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

AES Sparrows Point LNG Water Permit Denied By State

Maryland has denied the water permit for a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Sparrows Point in Baltimore County. The denial is due to insufficient information about the project’s affect on wetlands, waterways and water quality. The Maryland Department of the Environment denied the project its water quality certification, a necessary component for construction to begin on Virginia-based AES Corporation’s LNG terminal. AES has the right to seek review of the state’s decision through civil action filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

AAEA does not have a position on the terminal, but is working with Turner Station to mitigate negative environmental consequences on this local minority community. However, we have been extremely disappointed in how AES has treated this community.

MDE will reconsider its decision if AES provides all of the necessary information and completes the consultation requirements. State and local officials have opposed the project since AES announced its plans in 2006. The state has made several unsuccessful attempts to derail it with legislation that would either ban the project from environmentally sensitive areas or from within five miles of residences, but only federal regulators have the authority to site LNG terminals.

MDE’s concerns include the company’s plans to dredge 3.7 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments material from the Baltimore harbor to be processed and sold. MDE said the company has not signed a contract with any firm to purchase the material, and there is no certainty that the material will be sold. The possibility remains that the processed dredged material will be stockpiled at the terminal, which does not have adequate space or pollution control measures for the large volume of material that would be stockpiled. Dredging a 118-acre area about 45 feet deep would allow the company’s tankers to turn around in the basin next to the terminal.

MDE believes dredging deeper than 30 feet in the harbor would create the potential for 33 percent of the total water volume to be depleted of oxygen, eliminating a habitat for aquatic life. AES has proposed building the facility on the site of the former Bethlehem Steel shipyard, where ships would unload the super-chilled liquefied natural gas. Several rare, threatened and endangered species, including sea turtles, sea whales and the Maryland darter, could be affected by the dredging and stream crossings that AES has proposed, according to MDE.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted preliminary approval to the project in January, but development will not begin until AES meets the 169 requirements laid out by the agency. (Maryland Daily Record, 4/4/09)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Juliet Eilperin Continues Excluding Blacks When She Can

Juliet Eilperin, left, the environmental reporter for The Washington Post, hates to quote black people and doesn't to the extent she can. She will not unless it is absolutely unavoidable. Sometimes she simply cannot get around quoting EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. It must drive her crazy when she has to do so. And of course, sometimes President Barack Obama has to be quoted. We took such joy from seeing Eilperin having no choice but to quote Adminstrator Jackson when President Obama appointed her as administrator. Now Eil is back up to her old tricks. Thank God for blogs so we can point out this sort of thing in the 21st Century. The fourth estate is ill served by this brand of discriminatory journalism. President Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus should be aware of this reporter's history and know that she is continuing with her bias. See link to The Washington Post article that is the object of our scorn at the link at the end of this article.

In an article about utilities dumping pollution into the environment via water instead of air, Eil managed to avoid quoting the EPA adminstrator AND the black chairwoman of the committee responsible for oversight of a responsible congressional committee. [We covered the hearing too] Eil quoted Eric Schaeffer, former head of EPA's enforcement division during the Clinton administration, instead of Administrator Jackson, left. Okay you say, we with the racial prefix are being overly sensitive as the Negro is sometimes inclined, but then she quotes panelist Conrad Dan Volz, who directs the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Healthy Environments and Communities, instead of House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee Water Resources and Environment Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, right. Well not quoting Administrator Jackson, who is black, might have seemed like an overisight, but also ignoring the chair of the committee Johnson, who is also black, shows a clear motivation when combined with Eil's history of not quoting blacks. Our final proof is that she even quoted the top Republican on Johnson's subcommittee, John Boozman (Ark), and Eil really dislikes Republicans and conservatives.

We are still angry that she, nor her exclusionist former associate D'Vera Cohn, never quoted environmentalist legend Damu Smith during his 15 years at Greenpeace, and his death would not have been covered in The Washington Post if nonenvironmental reporter Darryl Fears had not covered it. (Wash Post, 5/1/09)