Saturday, October 22, 2016

REPORT: EPA Delayed Helping Flint Fix Lead-Tainted Water

by  Michael Bastasch

EPA had the legal authority to intervene in the Flint, Mich., water crisis months months before it actually did, according to a report by the agency’s inspector general.

EPA IG Arthur Elkins said, “the EPA’s Region 5 had the authority and sufficient information to issue an emergency order to protect Flint residents from lead-contaminated water” under the Safe Drinking Water Act as early as June 2015.

“However, we found that EPA’s Region 5 did not issue an emergency order because the region saw the state’s actions as a jurisdictional bar,” Elkins said in a podcast, summarizing his investigation into EPA’s handling of the Flint water crisis. “In other words, people at the federal agency believed they were unable to do anything because the state was already taking action.”

The IG’s report found EPA could have intervened to ameliorate Flint’s water problems months before. The IG’s office said the agency can intervene “if the state action is not protecting the public from the contaminants in a timely fashion.”

Michigan officials admitted the problem in November 2015 after months of denying anything was wrong with Flint’s water. EPA officials had known for months Flint’s water had elevated lead levels before state officials admitted any wrongdoing.

EPA issued an emergency order over Flint’s water in January 2016 — but only after news reports came out showing EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman downplayed findings that Flint’s water was tainted.

...The EPA IG’s findings reflect those of the Flint Water Advisory Task Force from earlier this year. The task force criticized EPA for not acting fast enough to fix the problem.

“EPA failed to properly exercise its authority prior to January 2016. EPA’s conduct casts doubt on its willingness to aggressively pursue enforcement (in the absence of widespread public outrage),” the task force found.

Ag leaders band together to protect farmers, ranchers

As the 2015 fiscal year officially ended Oct. 1 for the federal government, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture John Block spoke of pros and cons about the future of the agriculture industry. "In these times of low farm prices, it is encouraging to see farm associations and leaders stepping up to protect our farmers and ranchers," he said. The CEOs of CropLife America, the National Corn Growers Association, and the American Soybean Association became a powerful ag industry leadership team, including the American Farm Bureau, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, and many more, Block said. "The leaders met with policy representatives of both Trump and Clinton campaigns," he said. "Farm leaders of different crops and different priorities spoke in unison. Stop the regulatory overreach. Trade is important to us. We need labor to pick the strawberries. Regardless of who gets elected as President our industry needs to be heard." According to Block's email, the Ag CEO council of leaders has also been meeting with Secretary Tom Vilsack. They have argued that the Obama administration (and the EPA) has been too quick to regulate, that it has ignored sound science, forced new rules on states and rewritten the definition of waters of the U. S., and more. Block and six other former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture have urged Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. "We have seen and experienced the value of other trade agreements that we have supported," Block told me over lunch during the annual National Association of Farm Broadcasters convention in Kansas City, Missouri, last year...more

Ethanol mandate for 2017 nears finalization

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said Thursday that it received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the final volume mandate for fuel refiners to blend ethanol and other biofuels into traditional oil-based fuels like gasoline. The OMB review is the final step before the EPA can formally make the volume mandates final. It is required by law to establish the mandate by Nov. 30 of each year, but it has rarely met that deadline in recent years. The EPA proposed in May to require that 18.8 billion gallons of biofuels be blended into the fuel supply in 2017, up to 14.8 billion gallons of which can be basic, corn-based ethanol. The proposed level was higher than the expected ethanol production volume for 2016 but still lower than the amount that Congress asked the EPA to set when it wrote the renewable fuel standard in 2007. The agency used a waiver provision written into the law to propose the level...more

HSUS’s “Future of Food” Looks Bleak, Bacon-less

The weekend before last the Humane Society kicked off its “Future of Food “conference in Washington D.C. The event was held in a large hotel ballroom and promised to revolutionize the way you think about food. We, of course, went so that we could report back on what we observed. The excitement was palpable as guests arrived early to receive their HSUS goody bag as well as partake in a cocktail hour before the main event of Friday night: Keynote speaker Peter Singer. The excitement for Mr. Singer was quite noticeable as the largely affluent guests sipped their cocktails and discussed what this could mean for the “Future of Food.” For those who don’t know who Singer is, he is the author of Animal Liberation, a bible of sorts for those in the animal liberation movement, which seeks to end the moral and legal distinction between humans and animals. HSUS’s choice of Singer as their keynote speaker, is just another indication of their march towards a complete moratorium on modern animal agriculture. The calling out of heretics continued during Day 2 as speaker after speaker laid out their condemnation of those who hadn’t completely abdicated their preference for meat-based protein. Several speakers like Susie Weintraub of Compass Group echoed Mr. Singer’s vision of a meatless world by suggesting a plan to “start with the progressive open minded people and then bring it into the mainstream. Begin it with meatless Monday and eventually let it morph into getting us all off meat.” Weintraub even offered a more technological alternative to getting people to eat a meat alternative (“meat” grown in a lab with no animal products) by suggesting that they “push it into the supply chain and you don’t even tell people that it is a clean meat, basically grown in a lab.”...more

Beef from Brazil to soon arrive in United States

Several news sources recently reported that two Brazilian meat companies have sent fresh beef to the United States. According to Reuters News Service, Brazilian meatpacker Marfrig Global Foods SA announced in mid-September that it had shipped its first cargo of fresh beef to the United States. JBS SA, whose U.S. branch, JBS, is one of the largest meatpackers in this country, sent a container of beef to the United States the next day, according to the Reuters story. The United States had banned fresh beef from Brazil since 1999 until August 1 of this year when the USDA announced that its Food Safety and Inspection Service had approved a rule to allow Brazil to ship 64,800 tonnes of fresh beef per year to the U.S. duty free. In return, the U.S. can export beef and beef products to that country. A JBS spokesman said in the Reuters story that even when the duty-free limit is reached, the company will still profit from beef exports to the United States. “When the quota is over, deals will still be made on a regular basis,” Miguel Gularte said. He then explained that prices might need to be adjusted to account for the 26.4 percent tax to be charged. “The official, who is in charge of meatpacker JBS SA’s division for the trade bloc formed by Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, believes the United States will be among the five key markets for Brazilian fresh beef as soon as 2017,” the story reported. JBS, Minerva and Marfrig are on the list of eligible plants certified to export meat from Brazil to the United States, Schwartz said. According to USDA, Brazil is home to almost three times as many cattle as the United States, and has about two-thirds the number of people as the U.S. The three main cattle organizations in the United States, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers of America and the United States Cattlemen’s Association have all voiced opposition to the rule to allow fresh beef from Brazil, citing serious concern over Foot and Mouth Disease...more

Friday, October 21, 2016

Study raises hopes for a Castner Range National Monument (El Paso)

Under a crystal blue sky Thursday morning, naturalists and elected officials came together to celebrate what makes Castner Range worthy of national monument status. With the brown, layered rocks of the lower slopes of the Franklin Mountains in the backdrop, the Frontera Land Alliance, the El Paso Community Foundation and the Franklin Mountain Wilderness Coalition introduced the first comprehensive study of the archaeological and historical sites in Castner Range. The findings include extensive collections of petroglyphs, remnants of failed tin mining operations and small stone structures and pottery. "This is the last of the open spaces in El Paso," said Elia Perez, who authored the study. "Let's be honest: The West Side is gone, so this is all we have left. The West Side had a whole bunch of archaeology, but because it's private property they can do with the land pretty much what they want." The hope is that President Barack Obama will designate Castner Range as a national monument. In 2014 under the Antiquities Act of 1906, he designated the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County. Castner Range is 7,081 acres of land that goes from the northeast quadrant of the Franklin Mountains to the far west, almost to the top of North Franklin, the tallest peak of the Franklin Mountains, which is about 7,192 feet above sea level. The western boundary of Castner Range is the eastern boundary of Franklin Mountains State Park. "The efforts to preserve Castner Range, all 7,000 acres of it, is at its strongest point," said U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso. "We have over 30,000 El Pasoans who have written letters to the president asking that he preserve it."...more

Also see  El Pasoans continue to push for national monument designation

Industry Groups: Administration Ignoring Legal Process on Dakota Access

Twenty-two industry groups criticized the Obama administration’s temporary block on construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline in a letter made public on Friday. In September, the administration called for a pause in construction on federal land as it reconsiders its process of soliciting input from Native American tribes. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe opposes the pipeline for environmental and historical reasons. The temporary ban, after the Army Corps of Engineers had previously approved the project, was a decision “to effectively ignore the rule of law in an attempt to halt infrastructure development,” the letter says. “The previous decisions now being ‘reconsidered’ were properly considered and made through a fair and thorough process on which the company and others are entitled to rely,” the letter says. “In our ‘nation of laws,’ when an established legal process is complete, it is just that — complete.”...more

Jury deliberates in Malheur standoff case, as land use questions linger

As the jury began deliberating Thursday in Portland, residents of the region were left wrestling with the political and economic questions central to the Malheur occupation saga – particularly whether the federal government, which owns a majority of the land in Oregon and other western states, should cede more control of these forests and grazing pastures back to the states. Ammon Bundy, who led the ranchers to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, was merely protesting what he considered tyrannical federal land-management policies, argued his defense attorney, Marcus Mumford. Last year, some 37 bills favoring local land control were introduced in 11 state legislatures. Assistant US Attorney Ethan Knight, arguing for the prosecution, said Mr. Bundy had broken the law and armed the wildlife refuge as a type of "fortress" from which he pressed a political agenda. Mumford contended that his client was defending freedom. "You are the heart and lungs of liberty," Mumford told jurors during a nearly four-hour-long presentation. "Only you can make clear that Mr. Bundy is not a conspirator and none of these men and women are conspirators." While the ranchers may be imperfect messengers, they highlighted the point that poverty in the west has been rising even as it has fallen in the south – a message that could garner public support, as the Monitor's Patrik Jonsson reported in January:
... the plight of poor, mostly white Americans languishing under the thumb of federal land managers provides a poignant insight into recent economic trends as well as a centuries-old fight over land use in the west, one which could, some say, provide these Western range riders common cause with other groups of marginalized Americans.
The prospect that the occupiers might find a sympathetic audience grew, some observers said, when law enforcement shot and killed LaVoy Finicum, an Arizona rancher who had previously promised not to surrender without a fight, as he reached inside his jacket after police stopped one of the group's vehicles. "The risk here is that you had people who were basically perceived by the public as clowns, and now an incident like this can shift that perception and give them what they wanted, which is the status of martyr and victim," Michael German, a former FBI agent who infiltrated white supremacist groups in the 1990s and is now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, told the Monitor in January. Mumford, the defense attorney, cited evidence that nine government informants were present at the refuge during the occupation, providing information to federal law enforcement while also influencing the course of events. He argued that federal officials were trying to manipulate both the occupiers and public perception...more

Wolf attacks frustrate Fort Klamath rancher

A Fort Klamath rancher who had four steers killed by wolves in less than three weeks is frustrated by the lack of protections for cattle, especially in the Wood River Valley. “This valley, with so many cattle, is going to be like a smorgasbord for the wolves. They’ll take the animals that put up the least resistance,” worries Bill Nicholson, third-generation owner of the Nicholson Ranch, where the deaths, verified by state Fish and Game biologists as wolf kills, took place. The most recent confirmation was received Thursday from Roblyn Brown, Oregon State Department of Fish and Wildlife acting wolf program coordinator, for a steer believed to have been killed either Sunday or Monday night. Its partially eaten carcass was found Wednesday after Butch Wampler, who oversees the ranch’s cattle, spotted large numbers of circling crows and rode to the scene. In addition, a steer that had been attacked by a wolf several days earlier died of its injuries either late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. “You feel helpless when you don’t have a means of protecting your animals,” Nicholson said, referring to the status of wolves. During the spring and summer, upward of 35,000 head of cattle are trucked to the Wood River Valley to graze on the nutrient-rich grasslands. Most have been trucked out of the area to winter grazing areas, predominately in far northern California. The Nicholson Ranch, pastures about 1,300 cattle from DeTar, a ranch in Dixon, Calif., each summer. Nicholson said there are still about 300 to 400 steers on his ranch and estimates about 5,000 cows, calves and yearlings are still in the enclosed valley. While the focus has been on the wolf killing, Nicholson said a potentially more serious problem stems from stress caused by the attacks, noting, “You’re losing a lot of pounds with the stress. Cattlemen estimate the average steer will gain about 3 to 4 pounds a day feeding on irrigated pasture known for its nutritious blend of sedges, rushes, grasses, forbes and clover. Because of the presence of wolves, Nicholson and Wampler said that instead of bedding down over relatively wide areas, cattle have been bunched up in groups, often standing. “The stress on the herd is another factor, and probably more costly,” Nicholson said, noting stress impacts weight gains and could reduce values for leased lands. Nicholson was told that wolves repeatedly bite cattle, which causes them to hemorrhage, go into shock and then die. “They can be still alive but the wolf eats them until they die,” he said. “They (wolves) go right inside to the chest cavity and the first thing they eat are the heart and the lungs.” “It’s death by a thousand bites,” Collom said of deaths caused by wolves, which typically relentlessly bite soft tissue areas...more

Most popular Halloween treat by state? Contentious candy corn

Candy corn lovers, you're not alone. In a survey of more than 40,000 people around the USA to determine the most popular Halloween candies, candy corn claimed the top honors in the most number of states. Oregon, Wyoming, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina all picked the polarizing treat as their favorite candy. Elizabeth Scherle, co-founder and president of Influenster, the website that surveyed its users to determine the top candies by state, said candy corn's victory surprised her. "It’s such a divisive candy that many people love to love or love to hate during trick-or-treat season — I guess it has more lovers than we thought," she said. Other top treats included Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat and Butterfinger — the only candies to receive votes in all 50 states. Scherle advised folks to stock up on Reese's classic peanut butter candy since it got the most total votes across the USA. The Hershey's brand also won big, taking the top spot in 10 states with its iconic candies including Hershey's Kisses, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Almond Joy, Whopper Malted Milk Balls, Twizzlers and Jolly Rancher. A full list of the winners by state:...more

Delays possible in Sardine Canyon as ranchers move 7,000 sheep

Motorists driving through Sardine Canyon Friday morning may encounter delays, as ranchers move a herd of sheep through a part of the canyon to a winter pasture. Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Lee Perry said the ranchers will be moving the heard along the highway from Mantua into Brigham City. It’s expected to begin around 8:30 a.m. along the southbound lanes of US-89/91. Troopers will be in the canyon warning motorists to watch for ranchers and the sheep. Perry said moving the sheep through the canyon will last about an hour and should primarily only slow traffic heading south. The sheep will then be herded through Brigham City, to a pasture in Corrine. Perry said it is quite a site to see, as the herd of about 7000 sheep, is herded through the canyon.  LINK

Horse mutilated in Sioux County

The North Dakota Stockmen's Association and the Sioux County Sheriff's Department responded to a report of a horse shot and "mutilated." Julie Ellingson, executive director of the association, said investigators found the animal sliced from its shoulder to its nose, with the hide pulled back and its head skinned. The horse, valued at $3,000, was killed in the same pasture where other animals have been attacked over the past couple of weeks. The same rancher has had two animals injured and five killed, and 30 others have gone missing. Another rancher in the area has reported several bison killed...more

Jury completes day one of deliberations in Oregon refuge trial

A federal court jury completed its first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict on Thursday in the trial of six men and a woman charged with conspiracy for their roles in the armed takeover of a U.S. Wildlife center in Oregon earlier this year. The 12-member panel was expected to return to U.S. District Court in Portland on Monday to resume deliberations. The trial is dark on Friday. The occupiers say they acted out of solidarity for two Oregon ranchers they believed were unfairly punished in an arson case, and to protest their larger grievance against federal control over millions of acres of public land in the West. Bundy and others, including his brother and co-defendant Ryan Bundy, cast the takeover as a legitimate and patriotic act of civil disobedience. The government has countered that the defendants engaged in a lawless scheme to seize federal property by armed force. Prosecutors also argued that defendants' own claims that they sought to confiscate the refuge under an obscure doctrine of property law called "adverse possession" was itself an admission they were conspiring to prevent federal employees from returning to their jobs...more

Refuge occupier to jurors: ‘Stand for freedom’

National wildlife refuge occupier Ryan Bundy twice referenced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during his closing argument Wednesday, and he told jurors to “stand for freedom” and find him not guilty. Bundy, 43, is among seven defendants being tried on a charge of conspiring to impede federal workers from doing their jobs during last winter’s occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Thursday, capping a six-week trial. Acting as his own attorney, Bundy quoted the civil rights leader at the beginning and toward the end of his hourlong argument, saying injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Bundy said that explains why he joined the protest in support of two ranchers he believes were wrongly imprisoned. He said federal government overreach not only put ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond behind bars, it imperils the economies of places such as Harney County, where the Hammond ranch and the refuge are located. He said the county — nearly 10 times the size of Rhode Island — has gone from a jewel to “the biggest weed patch in the country,” and it’s because the federal government controls most of the land and restricts logging and ranching. AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1727

Here's a pretty one by Gene Autry:  Rainbow On The Rio Colorado.  The tune was recorded in Hollywood on Feb. 24, 1942.