Sunday, September 18, 2005

Work To Save Planet Earth

Natures Bounty by Severin Roesen

The truth is where the truth is, and it's sometimes in the candy store.

---Bob Dylan

I played the wrong wrong notes.

---Thelonious Monk

The path up and down is one and the same.


There are some people in the United States whose faith is shaken in private initiatives to confront various challenges to continued life on this great globe. The news these last few days has been particularly daunting. We need to go through it, and I hope this entry will be helpful to establish your focus in the coming week at least.

Let's begin with the exhaustive chronicle of the Katrina disaster to the Gulf Coast assembled by on Friday. The group already has edited the timeline twice as additions and corrections have been offered, including one from FEMA. They begin with warnings about the Lake Pontchartrain levees from FEMA itself in July of 2004. Bookmark this one for future reference~~~

Then we have some Federal responses from a couple of sides. First is an article Friday in the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger that reports an email has circulated within the Department of Justice. The message requests various US attorneys' offices to forward information of any lawsuits by environmental groups that may have interfered with the work of the Army Corps of Engineers around New Orleans. Let's see, wasn't the buzzword around DC the "blame game" last week? The second move was reported Thursday in the Washington Post, as Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma announced new legislation he is proposing to suspend the authority of the EPA for the Katrina cleanup. Inhofe is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which group just had concluded a briefing with the administrator of the EPA who had asked that no waivers be applied. Reaction was swift~~~

"Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., the committee's senior non-Republican, said Johnson told the committee 'that current environmental laws and regulations do not stand in the way of EPA's response to Hurricane Katrina.
'"'Based on the administrator's response, I am opposed to a blanket waiver for environmental laws,' Jeffords said. 'If adopted, this waiver could undermine public health protections. We should be focusing our energy on protecting the health and safety of people impacted by this hurricane, not paving the way for environmental abuse.'
"Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said he would fight Inhofe's 'sweeping, unnecessary and ill-conceived' plan, and any attempt to attach it to a bill authorizing relief from Katrina. He said it could allow EPA to put off telling Congress of any waivers for up to two weeks afterward. A provision also says the EPA can seek an extension to continue issuing waivers after the 120 days laid out in the bill.
"Environmentalists also denounced the emerging proposal. 'Here comes the mother of all environmental rollbacks,' said Frank O'Donnell, president of the Clean Air Watch advocacy group. 'This could become a blank check for big polluters. It would also be a terrible precedent.'"

Also on Friday came a headline in The Sacramento Bee (California) that read "Greenhouse-Gas Suit Tossed Out By Judge." is requiring free registration to its site now, so I'll post this whole article for the time being~~~

California, 7 other states had sought emission limits on power plants.By Chris Bowman -- Bee Staff WriterPublished 2:15 am PDT Friday, September 16, 2005Story appeared on Page A3 of The Bee

California's pioneering lawsuit to cap global warming gases from coal-fired power plants as distant as Kentucky and Florida was tossed out of federal court Thursday on jurisdictional grounds.

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska in Manhattan ruled that the case brought by state Attorney General Bill Lockyer and prosecutors for seven other states and New York City raised sweeping questions of public policy best resolved by Congress and the president, not the courts.

At issue were emissions of carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas that alters the Earth's temperature, and the nation's highest emitters of the gas - old coal-fired power plants, mainly in the Midwest and the South.

Lockyer and an attorney for a companion complaint brought by three Northeast land conservancies said they would appeal the decision.

The plaintiffs - including Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and New York - sought a court order requiring the nation's top five power producers to cut carbon dioxide emissions every year for at least a decade, by an amount to be determined later by the court.

The electric power industry argued that the technology to capture these gases in the plant doesn't exist, at least not at affordable prices

In her ruling, Preska said the plaintiffs sought "to impose by judicial fiat" limits on carbon dioxide emissions that Congress and President Bush explicitly refused to mandate.

"These actions present non-justiciable political questions that are consigned to the political branches, not the judiciary," Preska concluded.

Lockyer said the opposite is true.

"When Congress has not taken action on a pressing environmental issue, states have the right to take legal action to protect themselves," Lockyer said in a press release responding to the dismissal.

"We filed this lawsuit because global warming poses a serious threat to our environment, our public health, and our economy. We must act now, not later, to combat this threat."

Attorneys for the targeted power companies said they were not surprised by the dismissal.

"We were curious why we were included in the first place," said Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for American Electric Power Co. of Columbus, Ohio.

"We were doing much of what they were seeking through voluntary reductions of carbon dioxide."

The other four companies named in the suit were Southern Co., Xcel Energy, Cinergy Corp. and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The companies own about 175 plants in 20 states that together emit about 652 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, roughly 25 percent of the carbon dioxide from power plants in the nation, according to the suit.

About the writer:The Bee's Chris Bowman can be reached at (916) 321-1069 or © The Sacramento Bee

And all of this comes on top of a most disheartening report Friday by the Science Editor for the UK's Independent Online Edition. Here we read a consensus that global warming now is "past the point of no return." Analysis and evidence is presented in the article of a vicious cycle that has begun in the melting of Arctic sea ice. If you want a refreshment course on what that means, here's the link~~~

At this point, I certainly wish I had some comfort to offer. I think the best we all can do is spread the word of these developments and enter into discussion with those who doubt the reports and who have opposing views. In this country it is clear there are many people whose heads just are in the sand---and I do mean sand.


jazzolog said...

Democrats savage Justice Department over apparent attempt to blame environmentalists for flood
09/17/2005 @ 1:19 pm

An email message which suggested the Bush Justice Department was looking to blame environmentalists for a break in the New Orleans levee and the ensuing flood has sparked vehement responses among the Democratic caucus in Congress, RAW STORY has learned.

One congressman, ranking House Judiciary Democrat John Conyers (D-MI), penned a stiff letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding answers.

In the email, obtained by the Mississippi-based Clarion-Ledger, the Justice Department wrote: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) fired off this statement to RAW STORY.

“If the President is sincere when he says he accepts responsibility for the abysmal federal response to Hurricane Katrina, he should instruct his Justice Department to stop trying to smear environmentalists by blaming them for the government's failure to shore up the levee system in Louisiana," the California Democrat said.

"This smacks of a political witch hunt," Boxer added. "Instead of pathetic attempts to pass the buck by blaming groups who are looking out for the health and well-being of Americans, the Bush Administration should marshal the Justice Department to stand up for the victims against the con artists and U.S. taxpayers from unscrupulous contractors."

Conyers said the email, if true, results in a "diversion of time and resources" and "political, rather than an attempt to pursue a legitimate law enforcement goal or objective."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement to the Washington Post in Saturday papers that the Bush administration "should be ashamed of themselves" if they are seeking to blame environmental groups for the flooding and its bungled aftermath.

"The slow recovery had little to do with the levees and everything to do with bad decisions in the immediate aftermath of the storm," Schumer said.

Conyers' letter follows.

The Honorable Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General of the United States
U. S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Mr. Attorney General:

Today I learned that according to an article in the Clarion-Ledger that your office has sent an email to U.S. Attorney's Offices asking "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

If this is true, I am concerned that the motivation may be perceived as political, rather than an attempt to pursue a legitimate law enforcement goal or objective, which should be the Department's primary goal. This diversion of time and resources would seem particularly problematic given the difficulties the affected U.S. Attorneys offices have no doubt had in responding to Hurricane Katrina, and the incredibly heavy workloads they must be facing. As a result, I would appreciate your responding to the following questions:

Did your office circulate this or a similar e-mail? If so, to which offices was the e-mail circulated?

What caused your office to circulate the e-mail, and what personnel both inside and outside the Department were involved in the matter?

Did you set a deadline for a response? Have you received any responses yet? Please forward to my office any responses you have received or receive in the future.

Please estimate the cost - both out-of-pocket, and lost person hours - to both consider and circulate this request and for the various U.S. Attorney offices to respond?

What safeguards, if any, did you interpose to insure that a responding to this e-mail did not displace any legitimate law enforcement priorities of the applicable offices?
Has the Department ever sought information regarding previous litigation activity in connection with any other natural disaster other than Hurricane Katrina? If so, please provide my office with a description of such requests. I would appreciate receiving a full or partial response to this letter at your earliest possible convenience, and by no later than September 23, 2005 in any event. Please forward your response to my Judiciary Committee Minority Office, 2142 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515.


John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member
House Judiciary Committee

cc: The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., The Honorable William E. Moschella

jazzolog said...

Royal Couple "Tuck In To Organic Fare"
At least that's how the BBC captioned one of its photos of Charles and Camilla sitting down to lunch at a San Francisco middle school, where the kids grow and prepare their own food as part of the curriculum. O bliss, o rapture! How do I get a job there?

There was not much coverage in the States, outside California, of their visit to the state this week. The Chronicle this morning gives us a lovely story of the visit to the school and Charles' environmental speech that evening~~~
A green day by the bay for royals
Couple see organic garden in Berkeley; attend events in S.F.
- Julian Guthrie, Karola Saekel and Jesse Hamlin, Chronicle Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 8, 2005

England's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, may have left verdant Inverness to come to San Francisco, but on Monday the royal couple found promising pockets of green on a cool gray day.
Charles and Camilla, who arrived in San Francisco late Sunday afternoon after a weekend visiting with organic farmers in Marin County, spent Monday as they'd spent Saturday and Sunday.

They talked agriculture, food and the environment.

The day began at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, where the prince and his wife of seven months, the Duchess of Cornwall, toured the 1-acre teaching garden founded in 1994 by renowned chef Alice Waters, who runs Chez Panisse restaurant. The garden and adjacent kitchen at Martin Luther King Middle School are an integral part of the school's academic curriculum. And, the schoolyard is the model for Waters' ambitious plan to bring organic food and farming to all schoolchildren in Berkeley.

Charles and Camilla, on their first trip to the United States as a married couple, were met at the Edible Schoolyard by an array of notables, including California's first lady, Maria Shriver; Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates; Berkeley school Superintendent Michele Lawrence; Berkeley school board President Nancy Riddle; and San Francisco and California Chief of Protocol Charlotte Mailliard Shultz.

Across the street, a crowd of about 500 spectators mostly cheered the arrival of the royal motorcade.

The couple started their hourlong visit with a stop at the garden's outdoor wood-burning oven, where students offered up a freshly baked pizza of cheese, potato, onion and rosemary. All of the produce toppings had been planted and harvested by students.

While November may not be the ideal time to visit a garden, the prince, who has been farming organically at his Highgrove estate since 1985, appeared moved by what he saw. The garden was still green with herbs, vegetables and flowers. A small bouquet was harvested and handed to a smiling Camilla.

The royals also sampled soup made on the premises. The soup was made from squash, chard, carrots and garlic. The garlic, taken from braids hanging on a wall, had been picked over the summer, braided and dried for a winter's worth of soups and stews. The decorative braids were labeled by variety: Nootka Rose, Spanish Raja, and Breath Buster, to name a few.

"There is a really good scent in here," the duchess said as she entered the kitchen.

Charles and Camilla chatted easily with the 40 or so students and asked questions that reflected a familiarity with organic farming. Charles took an interest in the school's compost pile, and listened attentively as students pointed out the various breeds of chickens that produce a dozen or so eggs a day.

Waters, who led the royals on the tour, said students at the school are ethnically diverse and represent a dizzying array of languages.

When one student complimented Charles on his accent, the prince shot back, "I like yours too."

Waters, who met Charles at a sustainable food conference in Italy in 2004, said the prince brings unparalleled legitimacy to the movement.

"They totally get it," Waters said of the couple.

After leaving the school, the prince and duchess boarded a Coast Guard ship and headed to San Francisco's Ferry Building, where hundreds of people cheered their arrival. They were greeted by Mayor Gavin Newsom and the rousing lyrics of "California, Here We Come."

Charles and Camilla were dressed in outfits that were a similar shade of blue. A press secretary described the hue as "Air Force blue." Charles wore a tie given to him on his last visit to the Bay Area nearly 30 years ago. It was a blue and gold UC Berkeley tie. His suit was by his Saville Row tailor, Turnbull & Asser, and his shoes by John Lobb. Camilla's wool crepe dressing coat was by British designer Roy Allen.

Charles spoke to a group of some 300 business and civic leaders who share an interest in safeguarding the environment.

The occasion marked the West Coast launch of Charles' "Business & Environment Programme," established in Britain in 1994. It was the only major speech Charles gave while on the final leg of his U.S. visit, which began on Tuesday in New York and traveled to Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.

Charles began the talk by saying he and his wife were happy to be in San Francisco. He referred to Camilla as, "My darling wife."

Charles spoke fluidly and at times ventured away from the prepared text of the speech.

"I'm so glad you still have the wonderfully evocative sounds of the trams," Charles said, referring to the streetcars. He lamented the fact that England did away with its trams some time ago.

He said he set up his Business and Environment Programme specifically to challenge business leaders around the globe to understand and engage in environmental and social issues.

After citing statistics and anecdotes highlighting global warming and climate change, Charles said, "We simply can't go on as we are. Somehow we have to find the courage to reassert the once commonplace belief that human beings have a duty to act as the stewards of creation."

Charles received enthusiastic applause at many points throughout his 15-minute speech.

He said that it is time to stop debating the reality of global warming and globalization and start thinking about what to do to improve conditions.

"We have to accept that globalization comes at an alarming price for the future," he said. "That price may be paid in terms of displaced rural communities ... and the destruction of social and cultural systems built up over many centuries."

In closing he said, "The environmental crisis we face is another situation in which I believe the United States could use its power and influence to help create ... a sense of purpose around environmental stewardship."

Long after the prince and duchess had left the Ferry Building, local vendors were taking stock of the royal visit.

Steven McCarthy, manager of Prather Ranch Meat Company, showed off photos of Charles and Camilla surveying the goods.

"We talked about British pigs," McCarthy said, readjusting his cowboy hat as he leaned against the counter. "Prince Charles told me that it's very good to see people do organic farming, especially with meat.

"It was clear he knew what he was talking about. It was like one farmer talking to another."

The royal couple planned on having a few hours to themselves before heading to a black-tie dinner at the new M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, where they dined on a fancy organic meal whipped up by Waters and her Chez Panisse crew in the company of about 25 local corporate big shots -- among them discount brokerage king Charles Schwab and Yahoo cofounder Jerry Yang.

The royal couple swept into the museum in the pouring rain with attendants holding brollies over their heads. The British press, penned under a white tent separated from their American colleagues, shouted, "Sir, sir, sir!" and "Ma'am, ma'am, please!"

Once safely inside the museum courtyard, the royals turned around and obliged the press with smiles.

They were quickly followed in short order by Newsom and his estranged wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.

"I think the prince will be very impressed" with the new museum, the mayor said.

Some of the British scribes were apparently impressed by Guilfoyle Newsom, resplendent in a hot black sleeveless gown. "Really good," said one of them.
©2005 San Francisco Chronicle

The Associated Press carried an OK report you can read at CBS News~~~

and this is the BBC coverage~~~