Saturday, October 22, 2016
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.
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
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
Friday, October 21, 2016
Also see El Pasoans continue to push for national monument designation
Also see El Pasoans continue to push for national monument designation
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
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
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
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
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
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