IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Big Oil's big subsidies survive the Senate; Federal investigators find "deviant practices" by Massey Energy; Faulty equipment at Japanese nuke plant also installed at US nuke plants; PLUS: It's the End of the World as we know it! So drive safely! ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): NOAA scientists see 'unprecedented' ocean changes; US weather disasters are the 'new normal'; Are environmental regulations really 'job killers'?; 100% solar plane makes another successful flight; Hauling icebergs to deserts; CA hybrid owners to lose carpool lane privileges; Exposing babies to carcinogenic flame-retardants; Big fines for PA 'fracking' violations; Deforestation in Brazil escalates; Where has MT's water gone?; TX drinking water shows radioactive contamination; MS River flood making Gulf Dead Zone much worse; Bringing solar to the masses at Lowe's; Climate denier's retracted report exposes workings of the Denial Industry; Climate change deniers now like birthers ... PLUS: Is climate sanity the kiss of death for Republican presidential candidates? ...
STORIES DISCUSSED IN TODAY'S 'GREEN NEWS REPORT'...
- Federal Investigators Find "Deviant Practices" by Massey Energy:
- Comprehensive Coverage at the Charleston Gazette's Coal Tattoo
- McAteer team's investigation report blames Upper Big Branch Mine (Coal Tattoo):
Disaster on 'deviant practices' and Massey Energy culture that focused on coal production at the expense of miners' safety
The bottom line in McAteer's report:
The explosion was the result of failures of basic safety systems identified and codified to protect the lives of miners.
The disaster at Upper Big Branch was man-made and could have been prevented.
- Massey Energy Caused Blast, Report Says (Mother Jones):
"Something bad is going to happen," Gary Quarles, a worker inside Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, told at least three people on Easter weekend last year. Large parts of the mine had filled with water, impeding the flow of air that would normally remove dangerous accumulations of methane. And there wasn't enough crew and functioning equipment to tamp down clouds of explosive coal dust. As workers returned to the mine on April 5th, some of them commented that it was stuffy and miserably hot inside. At around 3 p.m. that afternoon, a massive explosion ripped through the shaft and killed 29 men-the worst mining accident in 40 years.
- McAteer report: Faking safety examinations, disabling methane monitors widespread at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine (Coal Tattoo)
- Mine Owner's Negligence Led to Blast, Study Finds (NY Times) [emphasis added]:
The report, issued Thursday by an independent team appointed by the former West Virginia governor, Joe Manchin III, and led by the former federal mine safety chief Davitt McAteer, echoed preliminary findings by federal officials that the blast could have been prevented if Massey had observed minimal safety standards.
"The story of Upper Big Branch is a cautionary tale of hubris," the report concluded.
- Report Details Miners' Last Moments (Wall St. Journal)
- Big Oil's Big Subsidies Survive the Senate:
- Vote to hike taxes on oil fails in Senate, 52-48; Dems vow to revive it (The Hill):
Two Republicans - Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins - voted for the motion, while three Democrats - Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) --- broke ranks and voted against the motion.
- Pay to Play: Oil subsidy vote was all about the money (Mother Nature Network)
Those who voted to keep tax subsidies in place for Big Oil got five times as much money from industry as those who voted the other way.
- Sen. Alexander: Forget 'Big Oil,' cut tax breaks for 'Big Wind' (The Hill)
- The Senate GOP's Plan to Shield Big Oil From Suits (Mother Jones):
The measure would deem the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, located in New Orleans, the "exclusive venue" for all civil suits dealing with energy projects in the Gulf. That's a problem because the court is stocked with judges who have financial holdings or other ties to the oil and gas industry.
- >Since 1990, Speculators More Than Doubled Their Share Of Oil Futures Market (Wonk Room)
- McClatchy analysis: Speculation explains more about oil prices than anything else: Feel like you're being robbed every time you fill the gas tank? Not sure who to blame? Try Wall Street. (McClatchy)
- The facts of Big Oil's tax loopholes and windfall profits (Climate Progress)
- API Chief Economist Admits Taxes On Oil Industry Can Create Millions Of Jobs (Wonk Room)
- How Forking Over Money to Big Oil Affects the Average Taxpayer (NRDC)
- Senate Finance Committee Awash in Campaign Cash from Big Oil: Republicans take in 4x the oil money as Democrats (PriceOfOil.org)
- Experts Debunk Conservative Media's Defense of Tax Breaks For Big Oil With False Claim About Gas Prices (Media Matters.org):
Severin Borenstein, co-director of U.C. Berkeley's Center for the Study of Energy Markets: "Gasoline prices are a function of world oil prices and refining margins. The oil companies are quick to point out that they are not to blame for oil prices because the price is set in the world market, or which they are a small share. That is all true. But one implication of that is that the incremental change in production that might result from changing oil subsidies will have no impact on world oil prices, and therefore no impact on gasoline prices."
- The Truth about Rising Gasoline Prices (Union of Concerned Scientists)
- Rush Attempts To Explain Why Tax Breaks For Big Oil Do Not Constitute Subsidies (Media Matters.org)
- Exxon Pays a Lower Effective Tax Rate than the Average American
- Op-Ed: Senate Gives Big Oil Another Free Pass (Public Citizen):
It is worth noting that many of the same senators who tonight voted to defend billions of dollars in Big Oil perks have voted to cut critical services to the elderly and school children. Is this what they mean by “compassionate conservatism”?
- Big Oil's Big Expansion of Domestic Drilling Fails, Too:
- Senate rejects GOP bill to expand, speed up offshore drilling (The Hill) [emphasis added]:
The Senate on Wednesday rejected Republican-backed legislation intended to speed up and expand offshore oil and gas drilling.
Republicans needed 60 votes for the measure to proceed.
Every Senate Democrat voted against the motion to proceed along with five Republicans: Sens. Jim DeMint (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and David Vitter (La.).
In addition, it would require the Interior Department to approve or deny offshore drilling permit applications within 60 days of filing, or the permits would be automatically approved.
- Oil Lobby Contributions To House Members Yield Results (Huffington Post Green) [emphasis added]:
In the month leading up to an early May vote over whether to expand oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and open the coastal waters of Virginia for exploration, three of the nation's top oil companies made donations through their political action committees to 26 House lawmakers.
All but one of those lawmakers, including five Democrats, ended up supporting the oil-industry-backed bill. The 26th lawmaker, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), abstained.
- Senate Rejects GOP Oil Drilling Plan (CNN)
- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Dismisses Complaints on Drilling Permits (New Orleans Times-Picayune)
- Salazar Outlines Specific Legislative Priorities for Oil, Gas (Oil & Gas Journal)
- New Deep-Water Project Wins OK (Houston Chronicle)
- UPDATE on Japan's Nuclear Nightmare: Japan, US Warned of Faulty Ventilation Systems That Led To Explosions:
- U.S. Was Warned on Vents Before Failure at Japan's Plant (NY Times):
Five years before the crucial emergency vents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were disabled by an accident they were supposed to help handle, engineers at a reactor in Minnesota warned American regulators about that very problem.
- Quake Took Out Fukushima Cooling System Before Tsunami (New Scientist)
- Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers (NY Times)
- Despite problems, NRC says US nuke plants safe (AP):
The problems included emergency pumps that were missing or did not work, or equipment that was stored in areas that could be vulnerable to earthquakes or floods, said Eliot Brenner, an NRC spokesman.
The NRC issued a rare "red finding," its most severe citation, against the Tennessee Valley Authority, which runs the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant near Athens, Ala. Regulators said a stuck valve could have caused an emergency cooling system to fail.
- America's Nuclear Nightmare:
The U.S. has 31 reactors just like Japan's - but regulators are ignoring the risks and boosting industry profits (Rolling Stone)
- The End Of The World As We Know It on May 21st, 2011?
- Is May 21st the end of the world? (Chicago Tribune):
It's just about the biggest, boldest prediction anyone could make. But the 89 year old minister behind the May 21st doomsday campaign says he has no doubt that the world is ending in two days.
Believers of this biblical prediction have quit their jobs to prepare for the world's end. Skeptics say it's just another bogus prophecy.
'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...
- NOAA chief warns of rapid onset of ‘unprecedented’ changes in oceans (ClimateWire):
A combination of climate change, overfishing, pollution and other threats is changing the world’s oceans at an “unprecedented” rate, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.
- U.S. Weather Extremes Show "New Normal" Climate (Reuters) [emphasis added]:
Heavy rains, deep snowfalls, monster floods and killing droughts are signs of a "new normal" of extreme U.S. weather events fueled by climate change, scientists and government planners said on Wednesday.
"It's a new normal and I really do think that global weirding is the best way to describe what we're seeing," climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University told reporters.
- 'Job killers' that aren't (LA Times):
The California Chamber of Commerce routinely denounces bills that protect workers, consumers and the environment as job killers. But when the bills become law, there's no economic catastrophe.
- CA Hybrid Owners Look to Extend Carpool Privilege (NY Times)
- Solar Plane Makes Maiden International Flight: A solar energy plane made the world's first international flight powered by the sun on Friday to show the potential for pollution-free air travel. (Reuters)
- Hauling Icebergs From the Poles to Slake Globe's Growing Thirst (NY Times)
- Rockabye Baby, in the Flame Retardant Foam (Mother Jones):
Children are still coming into contact with a carcinogenic chemical eliminated from pajamas 30 years ago-through mattresses, high chairs, and car seats, among other baby products still on the market today. Eighty percent of the products tested contained flame-retardant chemicals, according to research published today in Environmental Science & Technology, meaning that wee ones are still surrounded by substances long ago deemed too dangerous.
- Pennsylvania regulators fine natural-gas giant Chesapeake Energy $1.1 million for contaminating well water (AP)
- Brazil deforestation escalates as nation debates easing forest code (Yale 360)
- Where has Montana's Water Gone?: An old compact may not be enough to keep the Tongue River from running dry. (High Country News)
- Texas Drinking Water Makes Pipes & Plumbing Radioactive (KHOU 11 News):
Radiation has contaminated the underground pipes, water tanks, and plumbing that provide drinking water for much of Central Texas and the famed Texas Hill Country, according to concerned city officials in the region who have tested the pipes with Geiger counters.
- Farm Runoff in MS River Flood Fuels Dead Zone in Gulf: A dead zone --- already the size of the state of New Jersey --- is growing in the Gulf of Mexico, fueled by nutrient runoff from the swollen Mississippi River. (PBS Newshour's The Rundown)
- Sungevity partners with Lowe's to bring solar to the public (Grist):
The solar company Sungevity will partner with Lowe's Home Improvement stores to help customers install solar systems. That's a great indicator of where the industry is going.
- Climate Skeptic's Debunked Report Exposes How the Denial Industry Works (Treehugger)
- USA Today: Climate science deniers are now like birthers (Grist):
In a must-read editorial, USA Today compared climate science deniers to "the 'birthers' who continue to challenge President Obama's American citizenship --- a vocal minority that refuses to accept overwhelming evidence."
Snap! Or whatever sound is made when a house of cards collapses.
- Is climate sanity the kiss of death for Republican presidential candidates? (Grist)
- Massey Energy Caused Blast, Report Says (Mother Jones):