The Greene Report is a compilation of environmental stories written by Linda Greene for the Alternative and WFHB Community Radio's EcoReport. This week's edition includes:
Read The Greene Report archive on The Bloomington Alternative.
Environmental movement losing due to strategic failings
The environmental movement is losing its battles, and a new report called Cultivating the Grassroots places the blame on the strategies of environmental funders.
The report says the movement hasn't won any "significant policy changes at the federal level in the United States since the 1980s" because funders have favored top-down strategies and have neglected to support the grassroots, which is the backbone of large-scale change. Environmental funders spent $10 billion between 2000 and 2009.
Environmental funders mainly support large, centralized environmental organizations instead of the small, community-based groups that are most critically affected by environmental destruction. Organizations with annual budgets greater than $5 million constitute only 2 percent of the environmental groups, but they receive more than 50 percent of all environmental grants and donations.
The report argues that the current environmental funding strategy is failing and that the movement will continue to languish if it doesn't target its funding at communities most affected by environmental degradation. "Our funding strategy is misaligned with the great perils our planet and environment face," the report says.
Instead of funding community-based groups to foster ideas, strategies and political support for real change, environmental donors have given money to lobbying campaigns in Washington, D.C. -- for example, the failed inside-the-beltway campaign in 2009-2010 to pass "cap-and-trade" legislation to decrease global warming.
The large, centralized environmental groups base their requests for environmental change on rational appeals, expecting lawmakers confronted with the evidence to do the right thing, but this strategy hasn't worked because "a vocal, organized, sustained grassroots base is vital to achieving sustained change," the report asserts, and because the grassroots base is floundering for lack of funding.
Westinghouse pushes nukes, despite acknowledged hurdles
Despite receiving final approval on two more American nuclear power plantslast week, the head of Westinghouse Electric Co. said, before he resigned on April 3, the nuclear energy industry still faces strong headwinds from international concerns and domestic competition, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Its proponents claim that the industry is undergoing a "renaissance."
Two factors are causing problems for the industry: global public reaction to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, and descending natural gas prices. Gas prices are at their lowest level in a decade, revealing natural gas to be a cheaper alternative for electricity and decreasing the demand for nuclear power, said Jim Ferland, who was to become the president and CEO of Westinghouse on April 1.
"Ferland is taking over a company seen as a leading player in domestic production," Erich Schwartzel wrote on HispanicBusiness.com on March 28.
Westinghouse, infamous for its massive dumping of PCBs in the Bloomington area, is "seen as a leading player in domestic nuclear production," Schwartzel said.
In December Westinghouse became the first corporation to receive approval to build new U.S. power plants since the Three Mile Accident in 1979.
The company's power plants planned for Georgia have received final approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The company expected to receive final approval for its two South Carolina plants on March 30.
Monsanto voted biggest "Corporate Fool" with worst business practices in 2012
Monsanto has won Green America's online contest as the premier "Corporate Fool" of the year. The agricultural and chemical giant came in first, followed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Chevron.
Monsanto won hands-down for its toxic legacy, which includes Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs (Westinghouse dumped Monsanto's brand at six Superfund sites in Bloomington and Monroe and Owen counties), massive aerial spraying of Round-Up as a drug war tactic, and unlabeled and hazardous genetically engineered crops. Monsanto's corporate actions damage human health and the environment, destabilize the climate and put small farmers out of business.
The company continues to promote genetically modified crops in the developing world, deliberately locking farmers into cycles of debt and dependence on chemical crop inputs.
To "honor" Monsanto as the nation's biggest corporate fool, Green America made a donation in the name of Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant to Navdanya, an organization in India that works with small farmers to promote seed sovereignty, fair trade and sustainable agriculture.
Pesticides responsible for killing bees
Bees and other pollinators are dying off at catastrophic rates.
On March 22 the Pesticide Action Network, beekeepers and other groups jointly filed a legal petition calling on EPA to suspend registration of Bayer's pesticide clothianidin, which is toxic to bees.
The network also delivered more than a million signatures from people around the world urging the agency to take action to protect honey bees from neonicotinoid pesticides before it's too late.
Commercial beekeepers lost an average of 36 percent of their hives last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Honey bees pollinate one in every three bites of our food. As an indicator species, they serve as sentinels that human beings ignore at their peril. More and more new science has shown that neonicotinoid pesticides damage bees' health. Although those pesticides are not the only cause, they and other pesticides act synergistically to make bees ill.
Although the pesticides are not the sole cause of Colony Collapse Disease, they are proven to make bees sick. At least one of the pesticides is being marketed illegally.
Congress can take action by pressuring EPA to ban clothianidin. The weight of the evidence shows that banning those pesticides is critical to bees' survival.
Salmon dying off in Lake Huron, Lake Michigan
Salmon have nearly all died off in Lake Huron, and scientists worry that those in Lake Michigan will suffer the same fate.
Salmon in the Great Lakes are a product of human activity. They were brought in from the Pacific Ocean.
"Keeping the salmon population in balance with the food supply is a challenge these days," according to Peter Payette, writing in The Environment Report.
All salmon in the Great Lakes were born in tanks -- that is, until 2002, when scientists found that 80 percent of the salmon were born in the wild. The salmon overpopulated, ran out of food and died off in Lake Huron unexpectedly rapidly.
The salmon adapted to rivers in Georgian Bay. Though the state of Michigan was releasing about 3 million salmon into Lake Huron, some 14 million wild ones born in Georgian Bay became invasive and used up the food supply.
Recently researchers have become suspicious of the Straits of Mackinac, which connect the two lakes. Fish traverse the straits, and it appears that they're entering Lake Michigan from Huron that way, making the trip to feed in Lake Michigan.
According to Rick Clark, a researcher at Michigan State University, if millions of wild salmon are traveling from Lake Huron to Lake Michigan, the salmon industry in Lake Michigan could come to an end, as happened in Lake Huron.
A fisheries biologist at the Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, Mark Ebener, is skeptical. He says that if there were that many wild salmon coming out of Lake Huron and taking up residence in Lake Michigan, we would observe "substantially better fisheries than what we see. .. .They're not going to make a beeline for Georgian Bay into Lake Michigan."
Ebener insists that it would require centuries for the salmon to develop such a specific migration pattern.
Lake Michigan's managers worry about that possibility and are unsure how to protect Michigan's famous salmon industry.
1,000 antinuclear activists march in Vermont
Antinuclear activists took to the streets around the country on March 22.
More than 1,000 people marched in Vermont, and two affinity support groups were arrested in White Plains, N.Y., and New Orleans. Seven activists were arrested after occupying the New Orleans headquarters of Entergy, owner of the Vermont Yankee reactor, which had been scheduled to close on March 21. Five activists were arrested at Entergy's White Plains offices, and 130 were arrested in Vermont. All the activists were eventually released.
Even though the Vermont government had decided to shut down the reactor, Entergy and the federal government overruled its decision. The plant, which has the same design as the four defunct GE Mark I boiling water reactors in Fukushima Daiichi, Japan, continues to operate. More demonstrations took place on March 24 as part of a national day of solidarity with Vermonters calling for Vermont Yankee to be shut down.
Meanwhile, on March 24 Flying Pigs, Homer Simpson, Humpty Dumpty, King Kong and Wiley the Chihuahua appeared at the Davis-Besse reactor in Oak Harbor, Ohio, in solidarity with Vermont in its resistance to the federal actions preventing the shutdown of the Vermont Yankee.
The protests are part of Beyond Nuclear's national Freeze our Fukushimas campaign to shut down all 23 Mark I reactors in the United States. Updates on the campaign are published frequently at Beyond Nuclear.
Six finalists vie for Indianapolis Prize
Six animal-conservation leaders from around the globe are finalists for the 2012 Indianapolis Prize, a $100,000 biennial award for outstanding achievements on behalf of endangered or at-risk species.
The finalists all have doctorates in various fields. They are Steven Amstrup of Polar Bears International, Markus Borner of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, Rodney Jackson of the Snow Leopard Conservancy, Carl Jones of the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, Russell Mittermeier of Conservation International and Patricia Wright of the institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments.
"These conservationists' long-standing commitment and die-hard perseverance to protect endangered species and their environments embodies the mission of the Indianapolis Prize. We are honored to recognize their effort," said Indianapolis Prize Chair Myrta Pulliam, as reported by the Environment News Service.
The Indianapolis Prize was initiated in 2004 by the Indianapolis Zoo as part of its mission to empower people and communities to advance animal conservation.
A major Indiana polluter the actions of which endanger wildlife, Eli Lilly & Co., has provided funding for the prize since its initiation. Another such polluter, Cummins Inc., is hosting a gala event for the winner on Sept. 19, 2012, in Indianapolis.
Besides the $100,000 award, the winner will receive the Lilly Medal, "an original work of art that signifies the winner's contributions to conserving some of the world's most threatened animals," according to the news service.
All previous Indianapolis Prizes were awarded to men. One of this year's finalists is a woman.
Indiana Recycling Coalition holds 23rd annual meeting
The Indiana Recycling Coalition's 23rd Annual Conference and Exhibition will take place on May 9-11 at the Wyndham West Hotel in Indianapolis.
The event is an opportunity to learn, network and have fun with Indiana's recycling leaders and industry stakeholders from across North America.
The coalition's event is Indiana's premier waste reduction and recycling event, featuring exhibitors from around the country involved in all aspects of waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting.
The first stop in the 2012 conference and exhibition, on May 9, will be the Wishard Slow Food Garden at White River State Park to learn about composting, urban farming and sustainability efforts at the new Wishard Hospital. The next venue will be Lucas Oil Stadium to see recycling efforts on a large scale. Last, Strategic Materials will discuss glass recycling and display its glass-processing facility.
Registration and the exhibition come next, and in the evening conference participants will attend a reception at Lilly's Recreation Center, just south of downtown Indianapolis. That wooded facility is a 255-acre certified wildlife part.
May 10 will bring the year 2011 in review from coalition board president Mark Lecher.
Next will be a plenary session, Economic Impact of Recycling in Indiana.
Breakout sessions will follow. They will be composed of Lightning Round: Innovations in Recycling, and Recycled Products, Construction and Demolition.
The afternoon breakout sessions will focus on Food Waste Composting and Planning a Community Event.
Early in the morning of May 11 breakout sessions will be held on community partnership and educator's roundtable, and news for solid waste management districts.
Late morning breakout sessions will consist of Public Space and Special Event Recycling, and Pharmaceutical Recycling.
Former treatment plant operator plea bargains for polluting
On March 26 Daniel R. Olson, a Merrillville resident and former operator and superintendent of a regional wastewater treatment plant for about 10 years, chose to enter a plea agreement. He pled guilty to making false statements and tampering with monitoring methods, according to a story in the Northwest Indiana Times The plea agreement was filed in a Hammond federal court.
Olson managed the J.B. Gifford Wastewater Treatment Plant in Michigan City for 10 years and could face a maximum of two years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
"The plea agreement comes about a week after prosecutors filed felony information charging Olson with three counts relating to federal Clean Water Act violations," Thompson wrote. "According to federal law, pollutants can be discharged into water sources only if the discharge is permitted and the pollutants are within regulated limits."
"According to court documents, Olson signed and submitted false reports to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management [IDEM] to hide that the plant had bypassed certain steps in the water treatment process. Documents state this pattern continued from 2006 to 2010 at the plant, which discharges water about 1.8 miles upstream of Lake Michigan in Trail Creek.
"'I did this in order to conceal a violation of the terms and conditions set forth in the permit,' Olson stated in his plea agreement.'"
In the plea agreement Olson acknowledged tampering with E. coli monitoring over eight years and ordering employees to postpone taking E. coli samples until the levels of the organism fell "within the plant's permit guidelines," Thompson wrote.
A hearing on Olson's plea deal took place April 5 in the courtroom of Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen.
According to commentator Richard Van Frank, writing in an email on March 27, the case raises several questions:
1. Were the plant's discharges the cause of the beach closures because of the presence of E. coli?
2. How did the authorities catch Olson, and why so late?
3. Are the current testing and inspection systems sufficient?
4. Did anyone take enforcement actions against Michigan City?
Another commenter, Sisan MiHalo, attempted, in a March 27 email, to answer those questions:
1. "It's possible but impossible to prove."
2. Michigan City's new mayor, Ron Meer, who had once worked at the sanitary district, was a whistleblower in the case.
3. Currently Mike Kuss, previously an inspector for IDEM, is superintendent of the plant. Testing and inspection requirements are stipulated in the plant's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. "At the same time, we all have to recognize many sanitary systems in many municipalities are ever-aging," MiHalo wrote.
4. "Since there is a criminal investigation underway, enforcement actions are not as easily undertaken. Some of us have been assured, however, that that does not mean actions aren't ever taken or that EPA and DOJ are not notified of any situations. When a criminal investigation is underway, DOJ is in the driver's seat while IDEM still continues its inspections."
EPA administrator in Paris for OECD meeting
On March 28 the EPA announced that administrator Lisa Jackson arrived in Paris with a U.S. delegation to meet with environmental leaders from more than 40 nations and discuss the agency's international efforts toward urban sustainability.
During the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Environment Policy Committee's ministerial meeting, Jackson will represent the United States in discussions on the upcoming Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and talk about ways the environmental committee can support the global conference's efforts.
EPA claims to have a long history of international collaboration on a wide range of global environmental issues. In recent years EPA's bilateral and multilateral partnerships, the agency says, have increased efforts to address environmental and governance challenges.
EPA says it's furthering its mission to protect the environment, in collaboration with other countries through the OECD, by ensuring national security, facilitating commerce, addressing climate change and promoting sustainable development.
Lyn Kaatz Chary has a different take on the EPA's glowing announcement. Chary is founder and director of the Indiana Toxics Action Project. A resident of Northwest Indiana, she has a doctorate in public health and more than 25 years' experience working on toxics and human health.
"I happen to think a lot of Lisa Jackson," Chary said in an email on March 28, "and am glad she will be participating in this meeting, but let's not fall too far into the glories promoted [by the EPA]."
Chary pointed out that the U.S. "has one of the worst records in the world on the regulation and use of toxic chemicals and has tried every way possible to derail international toxics policy negotiations and agreements, beginning witih REACH[,]..." the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical Substances. The law took effect on June 1, 2007.
Chary said the United States' attempts to "derail" regulations and agreements includes its action with regard to the Stockholm Treaty on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The U.S. hasn't signed either REACH or the Stockholm Treaty, "but [has] done everything it its power to undermine [them]."
Linda Greene can be reached at email@example.com.