The first Earth Day, 39 years ago today, was a godsend for a country mired in war and riven by racial, political and cultural issues. Arriving suddenly—as a gift whose time had come—it offered folks something to unite around: the idea of an entire planet, our home, in peril.
The Latest On: Water
One of the many dirty little secrets about oil shale is that it will take huge amounts of energy to turn rock into a product we can put in our cars and trucks. That's because the currently proposed technology for producing oil shale involves using what amounts to glorified curling irons underground, heating them up to hundreds of degrees and melting the "kerogen" into something that can be sucked out of the ground and could be refined into a useable product.
Salmon in the Sacramento River, which produces most of the king salmon caught in California and Oregon, are struggling. As a result, for the second time in two years, the Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to ban almost all ocean salmon fishing off California in 2009.
There's good news: Major portions of the Sacramento River are still undammed and can produce salmon once again.
The blaring headline to the San Francisco Chronicle April 3 was all about our continuing drought and upcoming water rationing. This is not exactly news -- we've been warned for months.
What I wrestle with is how to spread the hardship fairly. The remedy the utility company will impose is across-the-board reductions of 15 percent or more. No hosing down your driveway. No washing your car more than so often.
But what about us noble citizens who already conserve like crazy?
On February 17, Earthjustice called on Congress to introduce and pass legislation that would fix a glaring loophole punched in the Clean Water Act during the Bush years. The Supreme Court, with Bush administration backing, held that only "navigable" waterways could enjoy protections of this law.
In the final witness panel, Tom Kilgore, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, said that they have posted information on their website.
But as mentioned earlier by Harriman resident Sarah McCoin, many of the residents simply don’t have ready access to the internet and to TVA’s website. Much like if a tree falls in the forest one wonders if it makes a sound, if there is information available on health impacts that doesn’t actually get to the residents who are most affected, does it really serve to protect?
Today's congressional hearing on the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill from last December in Harriman, TN, started out with opening remarks from Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who said that it’s been "nearly a decade" since this committee held oversight hearings on the Tennessee Valley Authority. She also said the committee maybe plans to continue TVA oversight now every 30 to 60 days.
Minority committee leader Rep. John Boozman from Arkansas said, "New laws will not replace homes…and family treasures," but bet they will certainly do much to make sure that others who live near these coal ash sites don't have to lose their homes or valuable family treasures and heirlooms in another preventable spill.
Rep. Lincoln Davis, whose district is where the TVA spill happened, offered strong words for the committee, saying, "My constituents and the land they live on must be made whole again."
The Republicans seem to be pushing their talking points aggressively: while this particular spill is bad, this doesn't mean coal is bad and there shouldn't be talk of stopping coal burning. It seems like they're not quite able to see the forest for the trees, and despite the nature of this hearing (to find out what went wrong and how it can be prevented) some members just can't resist a small shot at those groups fighting for a cleaner environment.
Sarah McCoin, a Harriman, TN, resident said: "Harriman is now a toxic wasteland, and we urge that guidelines and laws are in place to make sure that this never happens again... residents are scared if they are being exposed... we are a community that hunts fishes and swims in the rivers and we need to be ensured that it is safe to be in the river... Harriman is home to people who rely on the fish for their meals... too many residents are experiencing respiratory problems... we desperately need to have testing for our community to find out if our children are being poisoned…we have been neglected. There are people who have been satisfied but there are many are not."
Strong words from someone who is living in and near this tragedy. Committee is on a break now for a floor vote. More to come later.