Hawk Haiku

Hawk soars in the sky

As we watch branches whiten

She alights for now.

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Disaster! – John Withington

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Disaster!

A History of Earthquakes, Floods, Plagues, and Other Catastrophes

John Withington

Genre: Nature

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: February 16, 2010

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC


A comprehensive catalog of the most devastating and deadly events—natural or man-made—in human history.   If you follow the news it can seem like injury, sickness, and death are now constant, inescapable occurrences that threaten us every second of every day. But such catastrophic events—as terrible and frightening as they are—have been happening for as long as mankind has walked the Earth . . . and even before.   From ancient volcanoes and floods to epidemics of cholera and smallpox to Hitler’s and Stalin’s mass killings in the twentieth century, humanity’s continued existence has always seemed perilous. This volume offers a unique perspective on our modern fears by revealing how dangerous our world has always been—with examples such as: • the Black Death that killed over seventy-five million people in the 1300s; • the 1883 volcanic eruption on Krakatoa; • the Irish Potato Famine; • the 1970 cyclone in Bangladesh; • and the long-ago volcano in Sumatra that may have wiped out as much as 99% of the world population. With this catalog of calamity, readers will be engrossed, enlightened, and relieved to realize that despite all the disasters that have befallen humanity, we are still here. John Withington is the author of The Disastrous History of London and produces television documentaries. He lives in London.  

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Disaster! – John Withington

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What the Eyes Don’t See – Mona Hanna-Attisha

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What the Eyes Don’t See

A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City

Mona Hanna-Attisha

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


The dramatic story of the Flint water crisis, told “with the gripping intrigue of a Grisham thriller” ( O: The Oprah Magazine )—an inspiring tale of scientific resistance by a relentless physician who stood up to power. Flint was already a troubled city in 2014 when the state of Michigan—in the name of austerity—shifted the source of its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Soon after, citizens began complaining about the water that flowed from their taps—but officials rebuffed them, insisting that the water was fine. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, took state officials at their word and encouraged the parents and children in her care to continue drinking the water—after all, it was American tap water, blessed with the state’s seal of approval. But a conversation at a cookout with an old friend, leaked documents from a rogue environmental inspector, and the activism of a concerned mother raised red flags about lead—a neurotoxin whose irreversible effects fall most heavily on children. Even as circumstantial evidence mounted and protests grew, Dr. Mona knew that the only thing that could stop the lead poisoning was undeniable proof— and that to get it, she’d have to enter the fight of her life.  What the Eyes Don’t See is the inspiring story of how Dr. Mona—accompanied by an idiosyncratic team of researchers, parents, friends, and community leaders—proved that Flint’s kids were exposed to lead and then fought her own government and a brutal backlash to expose that truth to the world. Paced like a scientific thriller, this book shows how misguided austerity policies, the withdrawal of democratic government, and callous bureaucratic indifference placed an entire city at risk. And at the center of the story is Dr. Mona herself—an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice.  What the Eyes Don’t See is a riveting, beautifully rendered account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope, the story of a city on the ropes that came together to fight for justice, self-determination, and the right to build a better world for their—and all of our—children. “Flint is a public health disaster. But it was Dr. Mona, this caring, tough pediatrician turned detective, who cracked the case.”—Rachel Maddow   “It’s one thing to point out a problem. It is another thing altogether to step up and work to fix it. Mona Hanna-Attisha is a true American hero.”—Erin Brockovich 

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What the Eyes Don’t See – Mona Hanna-Attisha

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Exxon says climate lawsuits violate its right to free speech. Seriously.

Just a short time ago, it seemed like Exxon might finally be forced to reckon with the harm it had inflicted through the digging up, selling, and burning of fossil fuels.

A wave of cities led by San Francisco and Oakland filed suit against Exxon and other major polluters last year, alleging that the companies had purposefully misled the public about the effects of climate change in order to keep profits high. In March, a federal judge handed the California cities a small win: the chance to publicly debate polluters in court about their role in denying climate science.

But if we’ve learned anything from the way the tobacco industry rapidly went on the offensive when it was accused of peddling cancer sticks, it’s that getting industry to fess up to its wrongdoings is easier said than done. And Exxon, it seems, will do anything to shift the blame from its own shoulders, even if that means spinning an entirely new narrative around who the real victim is.

After the California cities filed suit, Exxon brought a petition before the Texas 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals claiming the lawsuits were part of a conspiracy intended to waylay the company’s right to free speech and force it to change its position on climate change. Yes, you read that correctly. Exxon argued that the cities were trying to make the company agree to a number of truths about climate change, which, in effect, violated Exxon’s First Amendment rights to say whatever the hell it wants about climate change.

Yeah, sounds crazy! But the Texas judge, R.H. Wallace Jr., bought the argument and handed Exxon a victory in April. That means the company can now grill California city officials about whether the climate suits, from the Bay to New York City, have been one big conspiracy to violate the company’s right to free speech.

Michael Burger, Executive Director of Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, doesn’t think Exxon’s free speech argument holds up under scrutiny. Exxon already tried a similar tactic in a New York court. Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who recently resigned after four women accused him of sexual assault, started investigating the company over climate change in 2015. Exxon’s lawyers argued Schneiderman tried to “silence and intimidate one side of the public policy debate on how to address climate change” by launching the probe.

The New York judge dismissed the case this year. When Exxon tried to edit, or “amend,” its original complaint, the judge denied the amendment “as futile,” which is a fancy way of saying the judge kicked Exxon in the gnads. The fact that Exxon already tried and failed to invoke its First Amendment rights doesn’t bode well for the company’s latest attempt in California. “The idea that these lawsuits could infringe on First Amendment rights is, as the judge in New York said, implausible,” Burger says.

So, while the Texas judge gave Exxon a small window of opportunity to question California officials about the alleged “conspiracy,” Burger says that doesn’t mean it’ll turn into a full-blown court case. California has already appealed Judge Wallace Jr.’s decision.

The First Amendment claim isn’t an entirely new invention — big companies have asserted such claims before, says Peter Lehner, former chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s office. But Exxon’s argument that the climate lawsuits are a big conspiracy, he says, is based on “flimsy ground.”

First of all, attorneys general communicate with each other often. And second of all, he says, “If the company is lying to their shareholders and to their consumers, then that is fraud.” It all comes back to the underlying issue: If California can prove Exxon knew about climate change and lied to the public about it, the company probably won’t be able to get out of an investigation by crying free speech. Why? Because the First Amendment doesn’t protect liars!

As for why Exxon might be pulling out the flawed free speech argument again, Burger raises one possibility: “It may well be that Exxon is threatening to bring a lawsuit in an effort to intimidate those [California] officials or enact some form of retribution.”

A major oil company acting like a huge bully? Nah, doesn’t sound like good ol’ Exxon. Psyche!

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Exxon says climate lawsuits violate its right to free speech. Seriously.

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Even Scott Pruitt’s friends have given up on him

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt may still be clinging to his job despite his ever-expanding list of controversies, but his inner circle of allies is shrinking fast.

Since April, seven key EPA staffers have resigned, four of whom had once worked for him or were longtime friends he brought to the EPA from Oklahoma. And while not directly affiliated with the EPA, Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who has been a key ally of Pruitt’s, recently revealed some cracks in his support. On Wednesday, when Fox News personality Laura Ingraham observed that Pruitt was “hurting the president”and it was time for him to go, Inhofe replied,“I’ve seen these things. They upset me as much as they upset you, and I think something needs to happen to change that.” He suggested that one solution “would be for him to leave that job,” and that the deputy EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler “might be a good swap.”

Inhofe’s connection to Pruitt runs deep. His former chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, became Pruitt’s chief of staff and reportedly wanted to quit the agency, according to an E&E report in early April. So far, he has remained in his position, and the House oversight committee plans to interview him as part of its investigation into Pruitt’s conduct. Four of his former EPA colleagues who have since left have also been asked to appear before the committee.

A turning point in staff loyalty may have occurred in April, when news broke that Pruitt had rented a $50-a-night condo co-owned by an energy lobbyist for six months. After that, a series of stories about his questionable behavior appeared, and one by one, his formerly loyal staff began to exit the EPA.

Here they are:

Samantha Dravis: One of Pruitt’s first and closest advisers, she worked for the EPA Office of Policy and was often seen by his side. She knew Pruitt from her days as general counsel to the Republican Attorneys General Association and president of its affiliate dark-money group Rule of Law Defense Fund, both of which Pruitt chaired during his time as Oklahoma attorney general. On April 20, she officially left the EPA for the private sector after taking a three-month leave from the agency between November and January. Unnamed agency officials told CBS and the Washington Post that her decision had nothing to do with the bombardment of news that came days later about Pruitt renting a condo from the lobbyist and approving inappropriate pay raises for two staffers.

Albert “Kell” Kelly: Two weeks after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation fined Kelly for his alleged involvement in a loan that hadn’t received FDIC approval, Scott Pruitt hired his old friend “Kell” at the EPA in 2017 to lead the Superfund Task Force. The former banker’s company had issued three mortgages to the Pruitts and provided a loan to finance Pruitt’s stake for co-ownership of a minor league baseball team, according to an investigation by the Intercept. Kelly, seen as a close confidante of his EPA boss, left the agency in early May (on the same day as another official, Pasquale Perrotta). In a statement, Pruitt praised the “tremendous impact” Kelly had on the Superfund program, which Pruitt has singled out as his personal achievement, adding, “Kell Kelly’s service at EPA will be sorely missed.”

Pasquale Perrotta: Pruitt’s head of security, Perrotta, quit the agency on the same day as Kelly, accelerating his retirement after serving under four EPA administrators. Perrotta came under fire for helping to enable Pruitt’s expansive spending, signing off on regular first-class flights that Pruitt had justified as necessary because of security concerns. The EPA hired Perrotta’s business partner at his private security firm, Sequoia Security Group, for security sweeps when Pruitt arrived.

Liz Bowman: A four-year veteran of the chemical lobby American Chemistry Council, Bowman arrived at the EPA to run its communications team. During Pruitt’s tenure, the press shop has shut out reporters who cover the EPA from events while turning to conservative media to create an echo chamber amplifying Pruitt’s message. Bowman sent her resignation letter as the chief spokesperson for the agency on April 30 and, in early May, assumed her position to handle communications for Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa. Just after her resignation letter, the Atlantic reported that a communications staffer had been reportedly shopping negative stories about another Cabinet member, the Department of Interior’s Ryan Zinke.

John Konkus: Konkus was second-in-command in the press shop, and his departure was announced on May 4, making him the fourth staffer to leave that week. Last year, the aide was tasked with cutting contracts from the Obama years, and reportedly combed through grants and contracts looking for the phrase “climate change.” True to his communications roots, on his LinkedIn page, Konkus frames this experience in a positive light: “Completely reformed the $4B/annual grant award and solicitation process at the agency to adhere to the new EPA strategic plan and better reflect the policies of the Trump Administration.” He also sparked a minor controversy for receiving an ethics waiver to work as a Republican political consultant while at the EPA. A former field office director in Florida for Trump’s presidential campaign, Konkus is headed to another federal agency — this time, the Small Business Administration, where he will be in charge of communications.

Sarah Greenwalt: Another Oklahoma aide from when Pruitt worked as state attorney general, Greenwalt, a senior counsel, announced her departure in early June. She was one of the two aides who received a 53 percent raise from Pruitt, who used the Safe Drinking Water Act to approve the raises after the White House rejected them. She is leaving to become an attorney for the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Commission.

Millan Hupp: Once an employee of Pruitt’s in Oklahoma, Hupp came to the EPA to do his scheduling. She was one of the five staffers interviewed by the House oversight committee for her involvement in finding Pruitt a used Trump hotel mattress and housing with the energy lobbyist, which Democrats say violates federal law forbidding Pruitt from using EPA staff and resources for private gain. The Atlantic quoted an anonymous staffer saying she left because she was “tired of being thrown under the bus by Pruitt.” Hupp was one of the two staffers to receive a raise unauthorized by the White House from Pruitt. Her sister Sydney Hupp also worked at the agency and left last year. She helped Pruitt’s wife, Marlyn, set up a meeting with Chick-fil-A in an unsuccessful bid to own a franchise. She may not have a franchise, but she was responsible for yet another possible violation of federal law.

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Even Scott Pruitt’s friends have given up on him

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Rising seas could wipe out $1 trillion worth of U.S. homes and businesses

Some 2.4 million American homes and businesses worth more than $1 trillion are at risk of “chronic inundation” by the end of the century, according to a report out Monday. That’s about 15 percent of all U.S. coastal real estate, or roughly as much built infrastructure as Houston and Los Angeles combined.

The sweeping new study from the Union of Concerned Scientists is the most comprehensive analysis of the risks posed by sea level rise to the United States coastal economy. Taken in context with the lack of action to match the scale of the problem, it describes a country plowing headlong into a flood-driven financial crisis of enormous scale.

“In contrast with previous housing market crashes, values of properties chronically inundated due to sea level rise are unlikely to recover and will only continue to go further underwater, literally and figuratively,” said Rachel Cleetus, an economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a report co-author, in a statement. “Many coastal communities will face declining property values as risk perceptions catch up with reality.”

The report defines chronic inundation as 26 flood events per year, or roughly one every other week — enough to “make normal routines impossible” and render the properties essentially worthless. It builds on the group’s previous work to identify the risk of chronic flooding under a sea-level-rise scenario of two meters (6.6 feet) by 2100. Using data from Zillow for every property in every coastal zip code in the lower 48, the results of this week’s report are at once familiar and surprising. (Here’s the interactive map where you can plug in your zip code).

It’s probably no surprise that Miami Beach is the community most at risk nationwide. More than $6 billion could be wiped out by 2045 (within the lifespan of current mortgages). That’s more than 10 percent of the city’s property value. (All amounts are in 2017 dollars).

A more surprising result: New Jersey is the state with the most to lose over the same time frame, eclipsing Florida. In Wildwood, Ocean City, and Long Beach, more than $10 billion is at risk.

In about two percent of all coastal zip codes, rising waters could soon eliminate more than half of property tax revenue. For these communities, like Crisfield, Maryland and parts of Newport Beach, California, sea level rise is an immediate existential threat — city services would have to shutter with such a catastrophic budget shortfall.

Looking further ahead — under the high sea level rise scenario to 2100 — a quarter of Boston would be underwater. Vulnerable barrier islands, like Miami Beach and Galveston, Texas, would be largely uninhabitable. Nationwide, more than $12 billion in property tax revenue would be lost.

The study estimates that Long Island, New York would experience floods at the scale of Hurricane Sandy more than two dozen times a year. The longer the world waits to significantly cut emissions, and the more bad news we discover about the inherent instability of the vast Antarctic ice sheets, the more likely this scenario becomes.

Though the costs and scale of this looming disaster are staggering, it’s important to remember that the catastrophe will hit some people much harder than others. Academics and climate activists have been talking about this for a long time, but local governments have struggled to prepare for a more watery future.

“While wealthier homeowners may risk losing more of their net wealth cumulatively, less-wealthy ones are in jeopardy of losing a greater percentage of what they own,” Cleetus said. “Homes often represent a larger share of total assets for elderly or low-income residents.” For some, taking a $100,000 loss could be a life-shattering blow; for others it’s a temporary setback.

The futurist Alex Steffen calls this situation a “brittleness bubble,” and it’s characteristic of slow-onset but predictable problems like climate change. When the brittleness bubble breaks, those without means — the economically poor, those from marginalized groups — will be forced to abandon their homes and ways of life.

“The risks we face grow with inaction,” Steffen recently wrote. “So, too, do the losses we can expect.”

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Rising seas could wipe out $1 trillion worth of U.S. homes and businesses

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Here are the carbon pricing battles to watch right now

Massachusetts, Washington state, and the District of Columbia have a decent shot this year at passing the first law that looks anything like a carbon tax.

While 81 percent of economists say that a carbon tax or cap-and-trade policy is the most effective way to cut carbon pollution, state legislatures haven’t been so easy to convince. Carbon tax proposals keep crashing and burning, even in reliably blue states like Washington and Oregon.

The only state to put an economy-wide cap on carbon emissions is California, where a cap-and-trade program began more than a decade ago. Now, the concept of a carbon fee is gaining popularity. The strategy ensures that funds go straight to a designated purpose, rather than being collected and used by the government like a more general tax.

There’s some trepidation about passing a carbon price because there aren’t many examples out there, says Jamie DeMarco, state-level carbon pricing coordinator at the grassroots advocacy organization Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “Legislatures are hesitant to be the first one to enact a policy,” he says.

Will the second half of 2018 bring better luck for state-level climate action? Here are the three efforts to watch.

Massachusetts

On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan carbon pricing bill as part of a larger energy package. Now the bill is heading to the state House, where its fate is uncertain.

Its language around the carbon price is “pretty light on the details,” says DeMarco. Technically, the legislation calls for something called a “market-based compliance mechanism” (yawn). DeMarco anticipates that the state would implement a carbon fee if the legislation passes, but says that the language is vague enough to allow for a cap-and-trade system instead. The Massachusetts governor would determine most of the details of how it works, as Benjamin Storrow reports.

If the House fails to pass the carbon pricing portion of the energy bill, DeMarco says, it’s still possible that the provision could get added back in when negotiating the final version with the Senate.

Washington, D.C.

Another carbon fee is brewing in the country’s capital. D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh is expected to introduce a bill in July. Her initial proposal outlined in May calls for a $10 fee per metric ton on carbon pollution that would increase to $100 per ton by 2038.

Some environmental advocates say that Cheh’s proposal doesn’t go far enough toward meeting the city’s climate goals. A coalition called Put A Price on It D.C. put forth an alternate plan that starts at $20 per ton and increases to $150 by 2032. The group also argues for a rebate program that would return the majority of the revenue to D.C. residents.

We’ll wait and see if Cheh takes their advice. With D.C.’s overwhelmingly progressive city council, DeMarco says a carbon fee proposal would have a decent chance of passing.

Washington state

After a carbon tax fizzled out in the Washington legislature in March, the state is getting another chance. If Initiative 1631 gathers 260,000 signatures, voters will be deciding on the so-called “fee on pollution” this November.

The ballot measure calls for a $15 charge on each metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted in Washington starting in 2020, with the price rising $2 each year until the state meets its climate goals. The money raised would go toward investing in clean energy, protecting natural resources, and helping communities prepare for wildfires and sea-level rise.

Washington isn’t the only state that’s trying to pass a carbon price after recent failures. DeMarco says that Maryland, Oregon, Vermont, and Utah are all places to watch in 2019. New Jersey is a likely newcomer to the carbon pricing game next year, too.

The ultimate goal for environmental advocates, though, is a national carbon price. Flannery Winchester, communications coordinator at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, says that these state-level carbon proposals are putting pressure on Congress come up with a countrywide solution. After all, a patchwork system that charges different prices for carbon across the country could be logistically challenging for businesses.

“Whatever roadblocks come up,” she says, “the big value is that they’re all really loud signals to Congress to move on a national carbon price.”

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Here are the carbon pricing battles to watch right now

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30 Ways to Keep Celebrating Earth Day (Even After It’s Over!)

On?April 22, 1970, close to?50 years ago, millions of people?took to the streets to protest the effects?of industrial development on quality of life. At the time, smog, decline in biodiversity and the pollution of everything from air to drinking water were of utmost concern, in part due to frequent, unregulated use of heavy pesticides and other pollutants.

In response,?President Nixon and the United States Congress created the?Environmental Protection Agency and, subsequently, passed the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act ? two efforts that have?been instrumental in managing the human impacts of industrialized living.

Whether these policies will hold up is a different story. Today, the Trump Administration is still working on pulling the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, while simultaneously rolling back a number of additional efforts such as the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.?Does the idea of this get you heated? Here are 30 ways you can personally keep the spirit of Earth Day?alive, even after April has?passed!

30 Ways to Keep Celebrating Earth Day

1. Plant a tree.

2. Commit to shopping secondhand as much as possible.

3. Set up your recycling so it’s easy to use.

4. Start commuting by bike.

5. Go meat free.

6. Run a charity 5K.

7. Save scrap materials and create something new.

8. Go for a hike nearby.

9. Purchase a?credit through a carbon offset program.

10. Build a birdhouse.

11. Recycle electronic waste (it’s the fastest growing waste stream in the world).

12. Host a clothes swap.

13. Set up a barrel for rainwater collection.

14.?Don’t drive if you can reasonably walk there instead.

15.?Install a low-flow shower head.

16.?Fix broken things instead of tossing. Not skilled? Call in experts from Taskrabbit.

17. Get something growing ? preferably perennials.

18.?Volunteer your time with an eco club or state park.

19. Participate in a collaborative sharing service like yerdle, B-Cycle or Airbnb.

20.?Watch this video.

21. Take some pressure off the grid and go?solar.

22. Build a vermicomposter like this one.

23. Plan a picnic.

24. Break your plastic bag habit and start using reusable totes (for real this time).

25. Create beneficial spaces for local wildlife.

26. Organize a small trash clean-up with friends.

27. Watch a documentary that interests you.

28. Plant one thing that can be eaten by your family. Herb garden anyone?

29. Turn off the lights and eat by candlelight instead.

30. Make a family pact to go greener!

Did you celebrate Earth Day back in 1970? What was it like??If not, how do you personally advocate for the planet?

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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30 Ways to Keep Celebrating Earth Day (Even After It’s Over!)

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Leaked letter: Kinder Morgan broke rules for months during Trans Mountain Pipeline construction

This story was originally published by Canada’s National Observer and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Kinder Morgan put fish, porpoises, sea lions and other marine life in danger during recent construction work near an oil terminal in Vancouver, says a leaked federal letter that warns the company could face prosecution for its violations.

The letter from the federal Fisheries and Oceans Department (DFO) notes that the company also went months without filing mandatory monitoring reports to the government and First Nations before federal officials noticed the Texas company was breaking the rules.

The department sent the warning to an executive at the company’s Canadian unit, Trans Mountain, in a letter dated June 6, 2018, and obtained by National Observer. That was just days after the Trudeau government announced a deal to take over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project and buy many of Kinder Morgan’s Canadian assets for 4.5 billion Canadian dollars ($3.4 billion).

It has prompted environmental lawyer Eugene Kung to raise this question: “Down the line, if the feds become the owner, what does it look like for them to prosecute themselves?”

Letter identifies four violations

The letter contrasts with recent assurances by the federal government that its officials have kept a close eye on the company and taken adequate measures through a “world-leading” plan to ensure that the Trans Mountain west coast pipeline and tanker expansion project will proceed without damaging the environment or public safety.

The Trudeau government approved the expansion project in November 2016, prompting fierce opposition from several affected First Nations and communities along its proposed route. But at the time, the government said that it was also imposing 157 conditions on Kinder Morgan, as recommended by the federal energy regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), to ensure that the project would be safe. These conditions included requiring the company to obtain more than 1,000 federal, provincial, and municipal permits required for different stages of the construction.

The fisheries department gave Trans Mountain permission to begin some expansion work on its Westridge Marine Terminal on Sept. 8, 2017, provided that it meet a number of safety and environmental conditions. Noncompliance would contravene a major Canadian environmental law, the federal Fisheries Act, that is used to protect bodies of water inhabited by marine species.

The warning letter identifies four different violations related to pile driving during expansion work on the Burrard Inlet in the metro Vancouver region near the Kinder Morgan terminal between January and May 2018. The company exceeded safe underwater noise limits for such marine species as the harbor porpoise and the Steller sea lion as it proceeded with the pile driving activity, according to a separate email sent by the federal department to members of an Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee that was set up to keep tabs on the project.

The letter also noted that the company failed to file required construction monitoring reports to the federal department and members of the special committee, including First Nations representatives, for three consecutive months, from January to March. The department said in the letter, sent to Trans Mountain vice president David Safari, that it only noticed that Trans Mountain wasn’t filing its mandatory reports after email correspondence with the company on April 26, 2018.

“By way of this letter, we are therefore providing you with a written warning for having contravened the Fisheries Act, particularly for having carried on works, undertakings and activities without complying with the conditions prescribed by the Minister under … this Act,” said the four-page letter, signed by Tracey Sandgathe, a regional manager from the department’s fisheries protection program.

“Please note that this warning letter does not exclude prosecution under the Fisheries Act in respect of this project in the event of future instances of non-compliance.”

The letter also said that the department had reviewed noise monitoring records in April, noting that construction work exceeded an underwater noise threshold for injury to finfish on six separate occasions during impact pile driving on April 3, 2018. Each time Trans Mountain exceeded the limit, the monitoring records indicated that it attempted to reduce noise levels without any success, the letter said.

“Despite adjusting the mitigation measures after each of the six separate exceedances of the underwater noise threshold, the noise threshold continued to be exceeded after each subsequent attempt,” Sandgathe wrote in the letter. “Despite failing to reduce noise levels to below the threshold, Trans Mountain nonetheless resumed pile driving after each exceedance.”

DFO reviewed the violations while government and company officials were criticizing land defenders and water protecters who wanted construction activity halted and risked arrest for violating a B.C. Supreme Court injunction requested by lawyers for Kinder Morgan.

The email shared with members of the advisory committee said that the department based the letter on a review of construction reports and follow-up with Trans Mountain between April 3 and May 29, the latter being the date that the government announced that it was making an offer to buy the project for 4.5 billion Canadian dollars.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other government officials have said that Canada is a country based on the “rule of law” — warning opponents, including the B.C. government, that they have no authority to stop the oil and tanker expansion project since it was approved by the federal government and falls under its jurisdiction.

More than 200 people have been arrested for violating the injunction near the terminal on Burnaby Mountain, and thousands more have pledged to do whatever it takes to stop the Trans Mountain expansion.

‘Part of a pattern’

The Trudeau government made its offer to buy the project after the company threatened to abandon the expansion due to uncertainty caused by fierce opposition in British Columbia. Trudeau has said that the project is critical to Canada’s economy since it would enable producers in Alberta’s oil sands to bypass their main customer in the United States and find new markets in Asia.

Trudeau also told National Observer in an interview last February that the project was helping to ensure support from Alberta, home to the world’s third largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, for a national climate change plan. Opponents say that the Trans Mountain expansion is too risky and would push Canada’s international climate change goals out of reach.

Under the deal, Safari, the vice president who received the warning letter, and Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson, would each receive bonuses of 1.5 million Canadian dollars ($1.1 million) if they remain in their current positions, after the sale is completed, until July 2020.

Kung, a lawyer from West Coast Environmental Law, a firm providing advice to one of the First Nations affected by the project — the Tsleil-Waututh — noted that this isn’t the first time Kinder Morgan has been caught breaking the rules.

Last fall, the federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, ordered the company to stop using anti-spawning mats in streams inhabited by fish, after it had started to do this work without authorization.

“It’s part of a pattern that we’ve observed and sadly not all that surprising about Kinder Morgan not being able to even meet the minimal requirements that were the result of the NEB process and here’s another example of them violating the conditions and essentially having very little consequences, which is what DFO is saying,” Kung said in a phone interview.

DFO didn’t immediately respond to questions about the warning letter. Trans Mountain told National Observer in a statement that it is “committed to compliance with its environmental and regulatory obligations,” and “aggressively implementing measures to avoid future non-compliance.”

The company also said it was engaging with DFO “directly, transparently and collaboratively through ongoing site inspections, information request exchanges and required reporting.”

“The Trans Mountain process for responding to underwater noise exceedances is designed to protect marine life. In the case described in the April monitoring report, it is key to note that each exceedance resulted in an immediate response by Trans Mountain. In each instance, pile driving was stopped, the situation was assessed and further mitigation was undertaken.”

The company also said it “recognized and reported exceedances of the thresholds and followed a mitigation plan which included providing the occurrence details, mitigative actions taken and results in the reports and responses to Information Requests from DFO.”

Regarding the missing reports, Trans Mountain said it started sending them after they were told the committee wasn’t receiving them, but it didn’t explain why it had failed to send these reports in the first place.

Last summer, the company had said it was taking an “innovative approach” to reducing noise from pile driving, by using special noise shrouds “to cover the hammers that drive piles into the ocean floor” for the new terminal.

“The shrouds, which are about two stories tall and wide enough to hold a medium-sized SUV, dampen the sound of hammer impact by 65 to 95 percent,” Trans Mountain said on its website on July 6, 2017.

The project’s director for the Lower Mainland region, Randy Brake, said on the website that this technique had been used in other ports around the world, but that it would be the first time it was being used for a piling project in the Vancouver Port.

Several months later, some local residents living near the terminal in Burnaby said that the pile driving was shaking their homes and causing small tremors, Burnaby Now reported on March 7, 2018. One resident even told the local publication that the noise and vibrations were enough to wake him up on a Saturday morning in his home on a hill, about 700 meters above the terminal.

“You could literally feel it through the bed and obviously through the walls. You put your ear or your hand up to the wall, and literally you can feel it,” the local resident, Aaron Keogh, told Burnaby Now. “The further concern from that is what effect will weeks of ongoing activity like that … have on the structures — basically the houses and such —  surrounding the area?”

Trans Mountain declined to respond to a question about whether the “noise shrouds” had worked as it had anticipated.

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Leaked letter: Kinder Morgan broke rules for months during Trans Mountain Pipeline construction

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – Elisabeth Tova Bailey

READ GREEN WITH E-BOOKS

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating
Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: August 24, 2010

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.


In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Tova Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail. While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater understanding of her own place in the world. Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, offering a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world can illuminate our own human existence, while providing an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – Elisabeth Tova Bailey

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Where Did the Aztecs Get Their Turquoise?

New analysis shows the blue-green mineral found in Aztec art was likely mined in Mexico, not the American Southwest as previously believed

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Where Did the Aztecs Get Their Turquoise?

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