Fire Earth

Earth is fighting to stay alive. Mass dieoffs, triggered by anthropogenic assault and fallout of planetary defense systems offsetting the impact, could begin anytime!

Posts Tagged ‘National Environmental Policy Act’

Gulf Oil Disaster: Why Obama Was Slighted

Posted by feww on May 6, 2010

BP Granted ‘Categorical Exclusion’ From Enviro Safety

When Our Reader Called Obama: A Serious Self-Hater, Google Promptly Buried The Reasons!

Had the U.S. regulators NOT exempted BP drilling in the GoM from a detailed environmental impact analysis, the deadly explosion and ensuing oil spill disaster might have been averted.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) granted BP exploration a “categorical exclusion” from a full environmental impact analysis, which is a basic requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act, “according to documents made available by the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group,” said a report.

A shrimp boat takes part in a cleaning operation for oil leaked from the Deepwater Horizon wellhead, east of the mouth of the Mississippi river, near the coast of Louisiana, May 5, 2010.  Credit: Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace/Handout via REUTERS

BP’s project was promptly approved in April 2009 by the MMS, the U.S. Interior Department branch that is responsible for managing fossil fuels and all other resources on the outer continental shelf.

“Kieran Suckling, the environmental group’s executive director, said the incident showed the Obama administration’s support for increased offshore drilling had obscured Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s pledge to reform the MMS.” he report said.

“Instead of protecting the public interest by conducting environmental reviews, his agency rubber-stamped BP’s drilling plan, just as it does hundreds of others every year in the Gulf of Mexico,” Suckling said.

“The Obama administration has recognized that there should be more oversight of how agencies use categorical exclusions,” an official at the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), a White House agencysaid.

“That is why CEQ issued draft guidance in February 2010, that addresses the need for monitoring the use of categorical exclusions to ensure that they are being applied in a way that meets their intent.”

MMS has since admitted that up to 400 exploration projects in the Gulf have been granted categorical exclusions!

Corruption, Sex, Cocaine

BP could have demanded the first-born babies of every third family along the coast line and the MMS would have probably accommodated.

“Speaking of the MMS, ProPublica reminded us that it recently faced a scandal when an investigation discovered ‘a culture of ethical failure’ at the agency. The report found that some MMS officials ‘frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.’ Another recent investigation found that MMS has withheld data from its own staff involved in environmental analyses and that ‘some of its own scientists have alleged that their findings have been suppressed’ – an allegation which the Department of Interior ‘generally agrees’ with,” said a report.

Just How Much Damage?

About 40 percent of the lower 48 states’ annual commercial fishing is caught in the Gulf Coast, a report says, which is worth $2.4 billion to Louisiana alone. “Right at the beginning of the shrimping season, losses are at least $8 million a day. [A] professor of socioeconomics at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University, says the region’s catch is expected to fall by hundreds of millions of pounds, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.”

72-hour Trajectory Map of the BP DWH Oil Spill

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Cumulative Trajectory Map

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Just how terrible is BP’s legacy of pollution in the U.S.?

BP was responsible for the largest oil spill to-date on Alaska’s North Slope, writes Craig Welch of Seattle Times, and “faced criminal charges for intentionally dumping hazardous waste near Prudhoe Bay and was excoriated by Congress for a string of oil-pipeline leaks on the tundra.”

“BP’s policies are as rusty as its pipelines. I’m even more concerned about BP’s corporate culture of seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues. And this comes from a company that prides itself in their ads on protecting the environment. Shame. Shame. Shame.” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, told BP executives during a heated September 2006 hearing,  Welch reported.

Where Next?

BP technicians, welders and seamen have constructed 98-ton 40x24x14 feet steel monstrosity called a “dome” or “chamber” which they intend to lower over the ruptured undersea oil well which has been gushing tremendous volumes of  crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The barge carrying the massive metal box, painted in morbid white, arrived at the source of the oil spill about 65km (410 miles) off the Louisiana coast earlier today. The oil giant intends to lower the metal box some 1.5km below the sea surface, place it on the ruptured wellhead and then pump the oil out through a pipe placed on top of the box. Will it work? BP says they have never tried it at that depth!

Meanwhile, drilling has already begun for a relief well (May 2), BP reported, but it could take up to three months, before it can be tested.

PORT FOURCHON, La. – Crewmen aboard the motor vessel Joe Griffin guide a cofferdam onto the deck as the ship prepares to depart Wild Well Control, May 5, 2010. The chamber was designed to contain the oil discharge, that was a result of the Deepwater Horizon incident, before it reaches the surface. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Kelley.
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Posted in Center for Biological Diversity, gulf of mexico oil leak, Gulf of Mexico oil Spill, U.S. Department of the Interior | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Mountaintop Removal: Satellite Images

Posted by feww on March 3, 2010

Dreaming of a Flat Earth!

Mountaintop removal is a major violation of nature with deadly consequences—Fire-Earth

“There has been a global, 30-year increase in surface mining, which is now the dominant driver of land-use change in the central Appalachian ecoregion of the United States. One major form of such mining, mountaintop mining with valley fills, is widespread throughout eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia. Upper elevation forests are cleared and stripped of topsoil, and explosives are used to break up rocks to access buried coal. Excess rock (mine ‘spoil’) is pushed into adjacent valleys, where it buries existing streams.” Mountaintop Mining Consequences, M. A. Palmer et al.

Growth of Mountaintop Removal, West Virginia, 1984-2009

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(0.73 MB, JPEG)             acquired September 17, 1984

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(683 KB, JPEG)                            acquired June 2, 2009

ohio valley env coalition
Closeup: Mountaintop removal. Photo by Vivian Stockman; source: OVEC; flyover courtesy SouthWings. [Original caption: What does it say about human nature that we allow this kind of destruction to go on?]

The following is a recent feature article by NASA Earth Observatory :

Mountaintop Mining, West Virginia

Below the densely forested slopes of southern West Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains is a layer cake of thin coal seams. To uncover this coal profitably, mining companies engineer large—sometimes very large—surface mines. This time-series of images of a surface mine in Boone County, West Virginia, illustrates why this controversial mining method is also called “mountaintop removal.”

Based on data from NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite, these natural-color (photo-like) images document the growth of the Hobet mine as it moves from ridge to ridge between 1984 to 2009. The natural landscape of the area is dark green, forested mountains, creased by streams and indented by hollows. The active mining areas appear off-white, while areas being reclaimed with vegetation appear light green. A pipeline roughly bisects the images from north to south. The town of Madison, lower right, lies along the banks of the Coal River.

In 1984, the mining operation is limited to a relatively small area west of the Coal River. The mine first expands along mountaintops to the southwest, tracing an oak-leaf-shaped outline around the hollows of Big Horse Creek and continuing in an unbroken line across the ridges to the southwest. Between 1991 and 1992, the mine moves north, and the impact of one of the most controversial aspects of mountaintop mining—rock and earth dams called valley fills—becomes evident.

The law requires coal operators to try to restore the land to its approximate original shape, but the rock debris generally can’t be securely piled as high or graded as steeply as the original mountaintop. There is always too much rock left over, and coal companies dispose of it by building valley fills in hollows, gullies, and streams. Between 1991 and 1992, this leveling and filling in of the topography becomes noticeable as the mine expands northward across a stream valley called Stanley Fork.

The most dramatic valley fill that appears in the series, however, is what appears to be the near-complete filling of Connelly Branch from its source to its mouth at the Mud River between 1996 and 2000. Since 2004, the mine has expanded from the Connelly Branch area to the mountaintops north of the Mud River. Significant changes are apparent to the ridges and valleys feeding into Berry Branch by 2009. Over the 25-year period, the disturbed area grew to more than 10,000 acres (15.6 square miles).

According to a report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly 40 percent of the year-round and seasonal streams in the Mud River watershed upstream of and including Connelly Branch had been filled or approved for filling through 1998. In 2009, the EPA intervened in the approval of a permit to further expand the Hobet mine into the Berry Branch area and worked with mine operators to minimize the disturbance and to reduce the number and size of valley fills.

Still, some scientists argue that current regulations and mitigation strategies are inadequate. After doing a survey of research on mountaintop mining and valley fills, the scientists concluded that the impacts on stream and groundwater quality, biodiversity, and forest productivity were “pervasive and irreversible” and that current strategies for mitigation and restoration were not compensating for the degradation.

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Posted in coal energy, Kentucky, surface mining, valley fills, West Virginia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »