Pipeline Backed by Pruitt’s Oil Lobbyist Landlord Approved While EPA Chief Was Receiving Sweetheart Rent
By Jake Johnson
As U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief and reigning number one seed in the "worst Trump cabinet member" bracket Scott Pruitt attempts to beat back accusations that he violated ethics rules by renting a room from the wife of powerful energy lobbyist J. Steven Hart, the New York Times revealed late Monday that Pruitt approved a massive pipeline project supported by Hart's firm at the same time he had access to what critics argue was an unusually low-priced rental.
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By Whitney Webb
Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory—which rarely garners much attention from the national media—has received widespread coverage which has focused on the Trump administration's slow response to the disaster.
The situation in Puerto Rico is undoubtedly dire, as many struggle without power and access to basic necessities for more than a week after the storm struck. In addition, the Trump administration's response has been notably lackluster in several regards, which has brought renewed scrutiny to its attitudes and performance.
By Whitney Webb
Amid statewide efforts to clean up the aftermath left by the historic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, the Pentagon announced last week that it had dispatched C-130H Sprayers from the Air Force Reserve's 910th Airlift Wing in order to "assist with recovery efforts in eastern Texas." However, these "recovery efforts" have little to do with rebuilding damaged structures or with the resettlement of evacuees. Instead, they are set to spray chemicals in order to help "control pest insect populations," which they allege pose a "health risk to rescue workers and residents of Houston."
The agrochemical and seed giant Monsanto, one of the world's most controversial corporations, is attempting to take down a World Health Organization (WHO) agency that in 2015 linked the Monsanto product glyphosate to an increased risk of cancer in humans. That year, the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that the widely used herbicide is "probably carcinogenic to humans."
The decision was a major blow to Monsanto as its most popular product, Roundup, is glyphosate-based. Following the IARC's decision, the European Union began to consider banning the product altogether, potentially depriving Monsanto of a significant stream of revenue. Monsanto, which is seeking the EU's renewal of the chemical's license for the next 10 years, is now also fighting a high-profile court case attempting to bring IARC's 2015 decision—as well as the agency itself—under scrutiny.
Ever since the dangerous consequences of natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing—popularly known as "fracking"—entered the national consciousness, the small town of Dimock, Pennsylvania has arguably been "ground zero" for water contamination caused by the controversial practice.
Now Cabot Oil & Gas, the massive energy company responsible for numerous fracking wells near Dimock, is suing one of the town's residents for $5 million, claiming that his efforts to "attract media attention" to the pollution of his water well have "harmed" the company. According to the lawsuit, Dimock resident Ray Kemble's actions breached an earlier 2012 settlement that was part of an ongoing federal class action lawsuit over the town's water quality. Kemble has stated that Cabot's fracking turned his groundwater "black, like mud, [with] a strong chemical odor."
By Redacted Tonight
The "Oil to School" pipeline, the fossil-fuel industry's effort to pour pro-petrol propaganda into K-12 classrooms, is more widespread and pernicious than previously thought, a new investigation has shown.
Big oil can exploit the fact that schools are underfunded, and provide resources and then take the opportunity to write the resources which somehow manage to omit the dangers of climate change and pollution.
Thirteen Louisiana residents who live in the shadow of one of the most toxic factories in the country recently filed a lawsuit against the facility's co-owners, DuPont and Denka, in an attempt to stop or reduce the production of an air pollutant linked to serious health problems, including cancer.
The plaintiffs are currently seeking approval from a local judge to file a class action lawsuit that would allow anyone who has lived, worked or attended school within a defined boundary around the plant over the past five years to take legal action against the plant's owners.
By Brandi Buchman
Accusing the state school of violating public records law, a group of George Mason University students and alumni brought a lawsuit to shed light on the support it gets from billionaire energy tycoons Charles and David Koch.
Augustus Thomson, a current undergraduate, filed the complaint on May 26 with the student-led group Transparent GMU, saying they have been waiting nearly two months for a response to their request for records on the school's contribution and gift records from 2008 to 2012.
By Whitney Webb
Last week, mainstream media outlets gave minimal attention to the news that the U.S. Naval station in Virginia Beach had spilled an estimated 94,000 gallons of jet fuel into a nearby waterway, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.
By Carey Wedler
The Guardian reported last Tuesday that Lulu, the full-grown whale who died, "was a member of the UK's last resident pod and a postmortem also showed she had never produced a calf. The pollutants, called PCBs, are known to cause infertility and these latest findings add to strong evidence that the pod is doomed to extinction."
No one person encapsulates the enduring legacy of the "robber barons" of the Industrial Age quite like David Rockefeller. Rockefeller, who died Monday at the age of 101, was the last surviving grandson of John D. Rockefeller, the oil tycoon who became America's first billionaire and the patriarch of what would become one of the most powerful and wealthiest families in American history. David Rockefeller, an undeniable product of American nobility, lived his entire life in the echelons of U.S. society, becoming symbolic of the elite who often direct public policy to a much greater extent than many realize, albeit often from the shadows.
By Whitney Webb
While media attention has largely drifted away from the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the years since the disaster, a recent and disturbing development has once again made Fukushima difficult if not impossible to ignore.
On Feb. 2, Tokyo Electric Power Company or TEPCO, quietly released a statement regarding the discovery of a hole measuring 2 meters in diameter within the metal grating at the bottom of the containment vessel in the plant's No. 2 reactor.
Though news of this hole is indeed concerning, even more shocking was the associated jump in radiation detected in the area. According to estimates taken at the time of the hole's discovery, radiation inside the reactor was found to have reached 530 sieverts per hour, a massive increase compared to the 73 sieverts per hour recorded after the disaster. To put these figures in perspective, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's maximum amount of radiation exposure permitted for astronauts over their entire lifetime is 1 sievert.
Human exposure to 5 sieverts would kill half of those exposed within a month, while 10 sieverts would prove fatal to nearly all exposed within a matter of weeks. An official with Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences told the Japan Times that medical professionals with the organization had never even considered working with such high levels of radiation.
A nearly 1-square-meter hole is seen in a walkway in the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. It is thought that the heat of the melted nuclear fuel caused the walkway to give way.TEPCO
TEPCO initially tried to counter public fears by stating that most of the reactor's nuclear fuel remained in the containment vessel despite the hole. However, on Feb. 3, TEPCO spokesman Yuichi Okamura was quoted as saying that "it's highly possible that melted fuel leaked through." At the time, TEPCO said that it would send a robot into the area to survey the full extent of the damage in order to definitively determine whether fuel had leaked outside of the reactor into the surrounding environment.
The first robot, deployed on Feb. 16, was unable to conduct any meaningful measurements, as the extreme conditions within the reactor forced operators to abandon it within the containment vessel. The "scorpion" robot, manufactured by Toshiba, was meant to record images of the reactor's interior and collect accurate—instead of estimated—data on the levels of radiation within. Within three hours of deployment, the device stopped responding to operators despite its stated ability to withstand high levels of radiation. TEPCO has not commented on its new plans to gauge the damage recently uncovered in the reactor in the wake of the robot's malfunction.
When a second robot was sent to investigate, it also failed.
One of the World's Worst Nuclear Disasters Grows Even worse
Despite a lack of widespread media coverage and TEPCO's reassurances that things are under control, there is concern that the nuclear disaster at Fukushima—already one of the worst nuclear disasters in human history—is quickly growing even worse.
PBS News reported last year that more than 80 percent of of the radioactivity from the three damaged reactors was released into the Pacific Ocean, as 300 tons of radioactive water have leaked from the reactors every day since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the plant in 2011.
The Pacific Ocean may have diluted much of the radiation, due to its massive volume, yet radiation and debris from the disaster has been detected along the western coast of Canada and the U.S. Traces of Fukushima radiation were first detected in early 2015, when trace amounts of cesium-134 and cesium-137 appeared in samples collected near Vancouver Island. Then, in December of last year, researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution detected seaborne cesium-134 along the Oregon coast.
Though no link between the presence of radiation has been officially established, fisheries along the entire western coast of North America have been collapsing. Last month, the U.S. secretary of commerce reported on the failure of nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington—all due to "unexpected" yet steep declines in fish populations.
While scientists and government authorities alike are "stumped" as to the cause, fish caught along the West Coast have showed high increases in the levels of cesium for years—as far back as 2014. Researchers have maintained that fish, however, are still "safe" to eat despite the fact that at least one group of doctors agrees that there is "no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources, period."
The Japanese government, TEPCO and mainstream media continue to insist that this massive release of radiation into the environment has had no effect on human or environmental health. However, thyroid cancer rates have soared in Japan, with 131 children developing thyroid cancer in the six years since the disaster. That total is equivalent to about 600 thyroid cancer cases per million children, while the child thyroid cancer rate elsewhere is about one or two children per million per year.
Thyroid Cancer in Children Increases 30-Fold in Fukushima, New Study Says http://t.co/9g36dF6v52 @nukereaction @mark_lynas— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1445031637.0
Despite the marked increase in cancer rates, TEPCO and the Japanese government insist that Fukushima radiation is "unlikely" to result in a greater incidence of cancer cases. However, exposure to Iodine-131, the main radionuclide released into the air and water during the meltdown, is known to increase human risk of thyroid cancer and is the most clearly defined environmental factor associated with thyroid tumors, suggesting that a correlation between radiation and exposure likely exists.
This latest breach in one of the plant's damaged reactors as well as TEPCO's inability to even properly gauge the extent of the damage suggests that we have yet to see the full devastating potential of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.
By Joe Catron
As completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline remains on standby after the Army Corps of Engineers announced on Dec. 5 that it would not authorize the development company to drill under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, similar projects continue to encroach on indigenous communities across the U.S.
Standing Rock Celebrates as Army Corps Denies Key Permit, Halts Project https://t.co/2gR870B9Em @FoEAustralia @OhioEnviro— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480976409.0
"There are probably 20 or so pipelines being protested in various ways at any given time, and they affect many more reservations and traditional homelands than that," Aaron Carapella, a Cherokee cartographer in Warner, Oklahoma, told MintPress News.
Carapella recently designed a map showing how pipelines under development in the U.S. cross dozens of indigenous territories, many of which are the sites of contemporary Native communities.
"There are tens of thousands of existing pipelines throughout the land, so I chose to focus on those projects that are not quite completed, that are being resisted or that are only in proposal stages," he said.
No Resistance Equals Always Losing
Carapella, whose maps illustrate the past and present indigenous presence in the Americas, combined them with new information from various sources.
"I used the government's own proposed pipelines lists and maps, as well as activist and tribal websites, and overlaid them onto my existing map," he said.
He added that a task of this nature is difficult to complete.
"I need to include more pipelines on my map, like Comanche Trail and Pecos, both of [which] are being protested," he said.
"There is one running through a remote part of the Navajo Nation at the Chuska Mountains that is being protested, as well as several across the Great Lakes."
But he hopes that his project will help to magnify the scale of a continental conflict between Native communities and pipeline projects that, when it breaks into the headlines, is usually framed as a singular issue at a particular location.
"We won some victories and lost some good causes, but no resistance equals always losing, so resistance is necessary," he said.
"Campaigns to get out the word are necessary."
Endangering the Water of Millions
In one little-remarked struggle, the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, a small community nestled among the Ramapo Mountains chain of the Appalachians in northern New Jersey and southern New York, face the looming threat of the Pilgrim Pipeline.
Members of the Ramapough Lunaap demonstrate during the Clean Energy March in Philadelphia on July 24.Mark Dixon / Flickr
"The Pilgrim Pipeline is another of the many needless pipelines running through the Lunaape homeland which is endangering the water of millions, while it appears to be criminally circumventing federal law," Ramapough Lunaape Chief Dwaine Perry told MintPress.
The Ramapough Lunaape have long been the targets of outside attention, ranging from innocent curiosity to racist invective, due to their traditional life—seemingly paradoxical to some—centered 25 miles from New York City amid the suburbs of New Jersey.
Despite the long record of Lunaape contact with European settlers, dating to Giovanni da Verrazzano's 1524 voyage into the Hudson River, the Ramapugh Lunaapes' relative isolation throughout much of colonial and U.S. history lent the group an air of mystery, with their very existence more likely to be mentioned as legend than fact until the 20th century.
A map of the controversial 178-mile-long parallel Pilgrim pipelines proposed for New York's Hudson Valley/Northern New Jersey. FracTracker Alliance
"Is this logical, you ask yourself, that here so close to Times Square, several thousand people like these live and have their being?" an irate local historian wrote in 1941.
"No it isn't logical at all, it's 150 years and across the world."
They Bribed, Threatened, Even Murdered
Over the ensuing decades, the harsh logic of a surging industrial economy would reach deep into the Ramapough Lunaapes' mountain enclaves.
Most destructively, Mafia-controlled haulers operating on behalf of the Ford Motor Company's nearby Mahwah Assembly plant dumped millions of gallons of toxic paint sludge before the facility closed in 1980.
"An analysis of public records and interviews with truckers who hauled Ford's waste shows mob-controlled contractors dumped anywhere they could get away with it," an investigative report by NorthJersey.com found in 2009.
"They bribed, threatened, even murdered to maintain control of Ford's trash."
Ford's lucrative contracts sparked clashes between rival mobsters that at times turned deadly.
In a notorious incident that spurred a rare federal investigation of the Mafia's stranglehold on industrial waste disposal, Genovese crime family figure Joseph "Joey Surprise" Feola "was lured to a garage in 1965 and strangled as a favor to the notorious godfather Carlo Gambino," NorthJersey.com reported.
"His offense? Stealing the Mahwah stop"—located in the heart of Ramapough Lunaape territory—"from a Gambino-controlled company."
Government at all Levels
Despite this momentary attention, the regional news portal also found that "[g]overnment at all levels shares the blame" for Ford's colluding with the mob and poisoning the Ramapough Lunaape and other communities near the plant.
"For years, it allowed mobsters to turn New Jersey into a toxic dumping ground."
Toxic Legacy, an investigative series conducted by the Bergen Record in 2005, explored the deadly effects of Ford's deposits in the old Ringwood Mines landfill site on the surrounding Ramapough Lunaape.
The newspaper's soil tests found levels of lead, arsenic and xylenes at more than 100 times the recommended maximums, while nearby levels of both health disorders, ranging from nosebleeds to cancer, and learning disabilities had skyrocketed.
Their hands forced by the specter of a possible Ford bankruptcy, 633 individual plaintiffs accepted one-time payouts between $4,368 and $34,594 each.
"It's probably a vacation for a CEO for a week with his family," lead plaintiff Wayne Mann told NorthJersey.com.
"A healthy family."
The Very Same Watershed
Steeled by the legacy of Ford, today the Ramapough Lunaape confront the threat of Pilgrim.
A proposed 178-mile, double-barreled pipeline, project would run from Albany, New York, to Linden, New Jersey, transporting Bakken crude oil south and refined petroleum products north.
"We are adamantly opposed to any pipeline that has no internal market and endangers all of our water, including one of only seven sole source aquifers in the United States," Perry said.
In July, the Ramapough Lunaape mobilized to Philadelphia, where more than 100 helped to lead the March for a Clean Energy Revolution during the Democratic National Convention.
"Pilgrim is proposing to cut through the very same watershed lands where Ford dumped paint sludge into the shafts of the abandoned iron mines once worked by our ancestors," Perry wrote at the time.
"Learning from our long history of struggle against the toxic effects of environmental injustice, we are now organizing with the broader community to stop Pilgrim's dirty pipelines before they're built."
We Need Help Now
The word 'Hate' was scrawled, along with other hateful graffiti, on the sacred home of the Ramapough Lunaape.Chief Dwaine Perry
In recent months, the Ramapough Lunaape have joined their struggle with that of the Sioux water protectors at Standing Rock, even offering the Split Rock Sweetwater Camp as a smaller reflection of the massive gatherings blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline half a continent away.
Perry calls it a "site that we have been using for Native American ceremony for over a quarter of a century, and have invited all to enjoy the land and to share in our culture."
"Currently, the prayers of Split Rock have been directed toward Standing Rock."
But like Standing Rock, the camp is surrounded by threats.
"Recently the Split Rock Sweetwater Camp has come under a great deal of duress, both from the local Polo Club community, of whom we are the largest landowners, and the Mahwah municipality, in an apparent push to deny us the right to open air prayer and the right to assembly," Perry said.
He added that opposition has come not only from local police and other public bodies, but also racist vigilantes.
"We have had swastikas and the word 'hate' drawn on our sacred home, and an eleven-car police raid on two of the land guardians for charging their phone."
While the backlash against indigenous self-determination that has included attack dogs, concussion grenades, pepper spray and water cannons in North Dakota takes different forms in New Jersey, it nevertheless seems familiar.
Perry has appealed online for supporters to gather at the site on Friday, when he says it faces the threat of "eviction" by police, days after Mahwah officials warned in a letter that use of the indigenous land as a "place of public assembly" requires zoning approval from the local government.
"In effect Split Rock Sweetwater is now under the same kind of duress as Standing Rock," Perry told MintPress.
"We need help now, legal and tangible, to help us keep and occupy our own land through this threat."
Resist One Pipeline at a Time
As similar struggles develop across the U.S., the effects of the unprecedented Native mobilization at Standing Rock and its overwhelming public support remain to be seen.
By all accounts, Dakota Access garnered such massive opposition not because of the development's exceptionality, but rather its familiarity.
And with a historic, if provisional, victory under its belt, many expect a burgeoning indigenous movement to intensify its resistance to similar projects elsewhere.
"This is an ongoing problem, and we are probably going to have to resist one pipeline at a time for many decades to come, and maybe longer," Carapella, the cartographer, said.
"This is one victory in a very long battle, a battle that has gone on for 500 years," he added of the permit denial at Standing Rock.
"We are very aware of the next steps forward."
Cherokee cartographer Aaron Carapella's map of pipeline development of tribal lands:
Reposted with permission from our media associate MintPress News.