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Koch Industries Lobbying Aggressively To Allow Safety Loopholes At Chemical Sites At Risk Of Terrorist Attacks

One of the largest private companies in the country, Koch Industries, is fighting tooth and nail against regulations aimed at protecting the United States from a terrorist attack on chemical plants, according to a new report. Since 9/11, homeland security officials have worked to establish rules for top chemical producers to ensure that major American plants identify vulnerabilities and shore up potential risks. However, the safety rules are costly, and as Greenpeace reveals in a study released today, Koch has used its influence in Congress to loosen enforcement on its own sprawling network of chemical facilities.

There are two bills that deal with industrial chemical safety standards and terrorism prevention. One bill, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standard (CFATS), will “exempt most facilities and actually prohibit the authority of Department of Homeland Security to require safer processes.” Another bill, the Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act (CCFASA), closes security loopholes and provides authorities the power to enforce the law on chemical manufacturers. Koch has pushed for an extension of CFATS and has unambiguously lobbied to kill the CCFASA bill.

John Aloysius Farrell, Ben Wieder and Evan Bush, reporters for iWatch News, have covered the issue and note the proximity of Koch’s most dangerous facilities to large population centers:

– An Invista chemical plant in LaPorte, Texas, where a spill and vaporization of formaldehyde could threaten almost 1.9 million potential victims within 25 miles.
– A Georgia-Pacific plant in Camas, Wash., where a chlorine spill and gas cloud could endanger 840,000 people within 14 miles.
– A Flint Hills refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, where 350,000 people living within 22 miles would be threatened by a hydrogen fluoride spill and vaporization.
– And a Koch Nitrogen plant in East Alton, Ill., where 290,000 people live within 11 miles, and face the potential danger of a poisonous anhydrous ammonia cloud.

Koch’s campaign donations appear closely aligned with their anti-terrorism prevention lobbying. For instance, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA), the lead author of the flawed CFATS extension, blocked amendments to the bill that would “require facilities to asses their ability to convert to safer chemical processes, close regulatory loopholes, and involve non-management level workers in the chemical security process.” Lungren has accepted over $22,000 from Koch-related campaign donations.

By: Lee Fang, Think Progress, August 24, 2011

August 25, 2011 Posted by | 911, Campaign Financing, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Energy, Environment, GOP, Ground Zero, Homeland Security, Ideologues, Ideology, Koch Brothers, National Security, Nuclear Power Plants, Politics, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Man Versus Wild–What Japan’s Disaster Can Teach Us About American Politics

The earthquake and potential nuclear catastrophe in Japan have brought home a set of questions that have haunted philosophers for hundreds of years—and have played an important role in American politics for over a century. They have to do with the relationship between humanity and nature—not nature as “the outdoors,” but as the obdurate bio-geo-physiochemical reality in which human beings and other animals dwell. To what extent does nature set limits on human possibilities? And to what extent can human beings overcome these limits?

The past million years or so provide much evidence that humanity can overcome natural limits, including the seasons, the alternation of night and day, infertile soil and swamps, gravity (think of airplanes), and infectious disease. But every once in a while, an earthquake, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, the exhaustion of precious metals, a huge forest fire, or the spread of a mysterious disease can bring home the limits that nature sets on humanity. Politicians don’t debate issues in these terms, but that doesn’t mean that these questions aren’t stirring beneath their platitudes.

In the United States, concern about the limits of nature used to be primarily a Republican priority. Theodore Roosevelt, of course, made conservation a governmental concern. But Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon also made their marks as conservationists—in Nixon’s case, as the president who presided over the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats, and liberal Democrats, were more associated with a kind of can-do/anything-is-possible Americanism that aimed for everything from going to the moon to eradicating poverty.

But the political parties and ideologies have reversed dramatically on these issues. Republicans and conservatives have become not just less concerned than Democrats and liberals about the limits that nature puts on humanity; they insist, for the most part, that these limits don’t exist. They are in denial—whether about the availability of petroleum or the danger of global warming; and their denial imperils not just America’s future, but that of the world.

The big switch between the parties happened in the early 1970s, in response to increasingly serious air and water pollution, and to the first of several energy crises that saw the demand for oil exceed the supply. One of the first prominent politicians to respond to these twin crises was California Governor Jerry Brown, who proclaimed an “era of limits.” Brown’s crusade for clean air and alternative energy was taken up by Jimmy Carter during his presidency, and by the environmental movements, which had been associated as much with Republicans as Democrats, but which became increasingly supportive of the Democratic Party, eventually endorsing and helping fund liberal Democratic candidates.

During the ‘70s, the key figure in transforming the Republican outlook on nature was Ronald Reagan. In his 1980 campaign, Reagan criticized Carter’s measures to limit energy consumption and to finance alternative fuel sources. He blamed rising oil prices entirely on the restrictions that Carter had placed on the market. He denied that a problem of pollution existed—“air pollution has been substantially controlled,” he declared during a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio.

Once in office, Reagan put a foe of conservation, James Watt, in charge of the Interior Department; a critic of environmental protection, Anne Gorsuch, at the Environmental Protection Agency; and he cut the research and development budget for alternative energy by 86 percent. Under Carter, the United States had become the world leader in alternative energy. By the time Reagan left office, the country was beginning to lag behind Western Europe and Japan. Reagan didn’t try to overcome the limits that nature was placing on economic growth; he wished them away.

Reagan’s successors have followed his lead. Their “solution” to the prospect of a global shortage in oil is “drill, baby drill.” Their solution to global warming is to deny that it exists and to kill off measures such as high-speed rail that might reduce pollution and oil use. As my colleague Jonathan Chait has noted, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously rejected an amendment that said that “Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that ‘warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.'”

The Republicans, it should be noted, didn’t just deny that human activities are contributing to global warming, but that global warming itself exists—a position that is completely outside the realm of scientific belief. It doesn’t qualify as argument, but as delusion.

Yet during the last year, we’ve seen two disasters that show the price humanity can pay for harboring illusions about the workings of nature. First was the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred in early 2010. Yes, it occurred due to lax regulation from the Department of Interior and a rush to profit by BP and Halliburton. But the reason behind the failure of the Interior Department to regulate, and the failure of BP to heed the dangers of a spill, was a belief that nature would not exact revenge. It was a refusal to take the limits set by nature seriously.

The Japanese, of course, cannot be blamed for the calamity that has befallen them. Lacking domestic access to oil, they relied on nuclear power, and they built their reactors to withstand the largest earthquakes and tsunamis—though they didn’t count on both happening simultaneously. Yet what happened in Japan shows vividly that millions of years after humans began inhabiting the earth, nature is still a force to be reckoned with, and it still imposes limits on the decisions we make as a society. Will Republicans come to understand that? Or will they continue to believe that the only limits worth acknowledging are those that government puts on the bank accounts of their corporate sponsors?

By: John B. Judis, Senior Editor, The New Republic, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Climate Change, Disasters, Economy, Energy, Environment, Global Warming, Ideologues, Japan, Nuclear Power Plants, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Right’s Criticism of Obama On Japan And The Budget Ring Hollow

President Obama’s not acting as a leader. That’s what the right will tell you. On Saturday, the president talked about women’s history month and the need for women to receive the same on the dollar as a man. (Note to self: we obviously haven’t come a long way baby, Gloria Steinem better keep that bra handy to be burned again). And then, the president had the audacity to go golfing! And select his picks for the NCAA tournament! The shame of it!

Those on the right will argue that the president is not leading this nation, nor his Congress because he didn’t speak on the budget, hasn’t presented himself before Congress on the budget and didn’t address Japan or Libya in his Saturday radio address. And of course, how dare he take a day off during all of this that is going on in the world! 

 What they won’t tell you is how that radio address is usually prerecorded, often days before. What they won’t tell you is how the president met with Democratic leaders in the Senate regarding the budget last week. What they won’t tell you is that just 24 hours before this radio address, the president spoke of Japan and of Libya. What they won’t tell you is how the United States has sent money, resources, and our Navy, arguably the best in the world, to assist Japan at this time. What they won’t tell you is how the president has a leader in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is discussing along with our allies internationally, the U.N. and NATO our next steps in Libya; which even a Republican Senator, Richard Lugar, stated we must approach very cautiously or we end up in a longterm military problem in Libya, which we clearly can’t afford being involved in two wars already.

What does the right want from this man? If the president had spoken about Japan on Saturday as well as Friday would that have stopped their nuclear power plants from having four explosions, two fires, and leaking radiation at 400 times the level a human should be exposed to it? Would he have stopped the 140,000 people in a 20 mile radius who were told to stay home, work, please don’t go outside? Maybe if he had spoken about Japan a few weeks ago he could have single handedly stopped the earthquake and tsunami, right!?!! And of course, speaking about Libya, he could stop the madman at the helm, their leader, their dictator!?!

Nah, he can’t do that. He’s just the president folks; although with the enormous responsibilities the right lay upon his shoulders you’d think he was God; who I am told, took the seventh day off. The question is, did he go golfing?

By: Leslie Marshall, U.S. News and World Report, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Democrats, Disasters, Economy, GOP, Ideologues, Japan, Libya, Nuclear Power Plants, Obama, Politics, Qaddafi, Republicans, Right Wing, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Precautions Should Limit Health Problems From Nuclear Plant’s Radiation

Worsening conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan have raised fears that people will be harmed by radiation. But experts say that in terms of public health, the Japanese have already taken precautions that should prevent the accident from becoming another Chernobyl, even if additional radiation is released.

The Japanese government has evacuated people closest to the plant, told others to stay indoors and distributed the drug potassium iodide to protect the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.

The great tragedy of Chernobyl was an epidemic of thyroid cancer among people exposed to the radiation as children — more than 6,000 cases so far, with more expected for many years to come. There is no reason for it to be repeated in Japan.

The epidemic in Chernobyl was preventable and would probably not have happened if people had been told to stop drinking locally produced milk, which was by far the most important source of radiation. Cows ate grass contaminated by fallout from the reactors and secreted radioactive iodine in their milk.

The thyroid gland needs iodine and readily takes in the radioactive form, which can cause cancer. Children are especially vulnerable. Potassium iodide pills are meant to flood the thyroid with ordinary iodine in the hope that it will prevent the gland from taking in the radioactive type. The drug may be unnecessary if people avoid drinking the milk, but for most people, there is no harm in taking it. And if radioactive iodine has already started building up in the thyroid, the pills can help get rid of it, said Dr. Richard J. Vetter, a professor emeritus of biophysics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“It will always help if you’re within a month or so of the exposure,” Dr. Vetter said. “The later it is, the less it helps.”

If the pills are in short supply and have to be rationed, he said, they should go first to children and pregnant women. But taking the drug does not make it safe to stay near a reactor that is emitting radiation, he said. People still must evacuate.

Apart from the increase in thyroid cancer, “there is no evidence of a major public health impact attributable to radiation exposure two decades after the accident” at Chernobyl, in part because of the evacuation efforts, according to a recent United Nations report.

There are several ways to tell if someone has been exposed to radiation. A Geiger counter will detect radioactivity outside the body, on clothing, hair and skin. People found to be contaminated should be advised to undress and take a shower, and their clothing should be discarded as hazardous waste, Dr. Vetter said.

Another device, a sodium iodide detector, can be held an inch or so from the neck to check for radioactive iodine in the thyroid gland; if it detects any, the person may be given iodide pills.

In photographs from Japan, health workers appear to be screening members of the public with both Geiger counters and sodium iodide detectors.

If there is a suspicion that someone has been exposed to a large dose of radiation, the first test that doctors are likely to perform is a complete blood count, Dr. Vetter said. Abnormalities in the count — fewer white cells than would be expected, for example — can show up within a day or so, and give a ballpark estimate of how bad the exposure was.

“In Japan, it’s very unlikely that a member of the public would get a dose of radiation that would result in a decrease in any blood cells,” Dr. Vetter said. “If anyone got that kind of dose, it’s likely people who are working in the nuclear plants themselves.”

People with significantly lowered blood counts from radiation can be given drugs to stimulate their bone marrow to make more blood cells. Those drugs were not available in 1986, when a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, blew up. Other drugs can be used to help rid the body of certain radioactive isotopes. But if the exposure was so high that the drugs do not help, people may need to be treated in the hospital — put into isolation and given antibiotics to protect them from infection, and possibly blood transfusions as well. A bone marrow transplant may be a last resort, but, Dr. Vetter said, “the patient is in real trouble at that point.”

Crops can be contaminated by fallout, which can cling to surface of plants at first and later be taken up by their roots.

Radioactive iodine has a half-life of only eight days — the time it takes for half of it to decay or disappear — so most of it is gone within about two months. But radioactive forms of the particulate cesium persist much longer, and in the regions affected by Chernobyl, they are still the main threats to human health and will be for decades.

Wild mushrooms, berries and animals have been found to be contaminated with cesium in areas contaminated by Chernobyl, and that is expected to last for decades. Lakes and freshwater fish may also be contaminated, but experts say ocean fish are less of a worry because the contaminants are more dispersed and diluted in the ocean than in lakes.

By: Denise Grady, The New York Times, March 15, 2011

March 16, 2011 Posted by | Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, Nuclear Power Plants, Public Health, Radiation Exposure | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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