In Montana, No “Rigged” Arrangement with ExxonMobil
There’s a new entry on the list of famous upsets—David Slays Goliath, Jack Topples Giant, Red Sox Sweep Yanks. And now—Little Guys Beat Big Oil.
Beginning in 2008, ExxonMobil and officials from Montana and Idaho secretly planned the shipment of more than 200 massive truckloads of oil-field processing equipment along some of the country's most scenic roads on their way to Alberta's tar-sands project. Each “Big Rig” assigned to travel these winding, narrow roads would be larger than the Statue of Liberty—220-feet long, 28-feet high, 26-feet wide and weighing 330 tons. The planned route included National Scenic Highway 12 along Idaho's Lochsa River and Montana's equally beautiful Highway 200 along the Big Blackfoot River.
The public first became aware of the agreement late last year when crews inexplicably began installing ultra-tall poles at hundreds of power-line crossings along these highways. At that point Montana's Department of Transportation (MDOT) fast-tracked the issuance of permits for these trucks, based on an environmental assessment produced by Exxon that, not surprisingly, found no environmental risks in the project. Despite MDOT's public-comment website crashing and being disabled for more than a week when it was swamped by the public's enormous uproar, MDOT Director Jim Lynch refused to extend the public review process beyond 30 days. He then announced that approximately 8,000 citizen-protest letters that had been presented in a form suggested by Natural Resources Defense Council would only count as a single protest.
The deck was clearly stacked and final approval seemed inevitable. Still, a number of local environmental groups, including Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper, rallied together and convinced Missoula County, which lies in the middle of the proposed route, to lead a lawsuit against MDOT for its hastened, sloppy review process. Timing was crucial. The suit was filed on April 11, 2011, as the first mega-load was creeping up Idaho's Lochsa valley, just a few miles from the Montana border on the top of Lolo Pass. A temporary restraining-order halted that load, and on July 19, what had seemed an impossible dream began to be realized when the court issued a preliminary injunction against MDOT and ExxonMobil, determining that the state had failed to consider seriously the environmental impacts of the project.
Recognizing the long delays and formidable costs it faced in continuing the fight, ExxonMobil announced plans in early August to reconfigure the loads into smaller units that could travel on interstate highways. A further vindication for the plaintiffs came one week later when Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer demanded MDOT Director Lynch’s resignation.
Meanwhile, high up on Lolo Pass, that first mega-load has sat quietly on a siding, the company being unable to secure a permit to move it in either direction. It has become Montanans’ 220-foot long monument to the power of the people over Big Oil.
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Reprinted with permission from Waterkeeper Magazine. To read the winter issue of the Waterkeeper Magazine, click here.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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