Tag Archives: department

Kirstjen Nielsen and Brock Long visited Puerto Rico, and it was really weird

Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, and Brock Long, head of FEMA, went on tour in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Friday. Their mission, nearly a year after Hurricane Maria devastated both territories? To “meet with and thank Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel working on hurricane recovery and preparedness efforts,” according to a news release.

Local media on the islands reported that Long and Nielsen aren’t making themselves available to press during their visits and are limiting public appearances. But we sure got a sense of what’s happening on social media:

Twitter quickly responded to Nielsen’s tweet with a chorus of “too little, too late.”

Last month, FEMA — which is part of Department of Homeland Security — released a report admitting to some of its blunders during the response to Hurricane Maria. That included not having enough qualified staff, food, water, or other supplies on hand to deal with the disaster.

Outrage over the federal response to Maria is still simmering. Now it’s compounded by the frustration of Maria survivors — some of who still face uncertain housing prospects, even as we go deeper into this year’s hurricane season. After several extensions, FEMA plans to end its transitional shelter assistance again at the end of the month, but advocates say that a longer-term plan to help people get back into homes is needed.

And because tossing out paper towels just isn’t enough these days, Nielsen spent time handing out school supplies to children in San Juan before visiting a school in St. Croix.

Nielsen has been facing a lot of kid-related criticism lately. Her department forcibly separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border, lost track of who belongs with who, and has now missed deadlines to reunite them. Some members of Congress, including Senators Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris, have called for her to leave office over the policy.

So, of course, photos of Nielsen handing out backpacks on DHS’ Twitter account didn’t sit well with everyone.

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Kirstjen Nielsen and Brock Long visited Puerto Rico, and it was really weird

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Lab 257 – Michael C. Carroll

READ GREEN WITH E-BOOKS

Lab 257

The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory

Michael C. Carroll

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: October 13, 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins e-books

Seller: HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS


Strictly off limits to the public, Plum Island is home to virginal beaches, cliffs, forests, ponds — and the deadliest germs that have ever roamed the planet. Lab 257 blows the lid off the stunning true nature and checkered history of Plum Island. It shows that the seemingly bucolic island in the shadow of New York City is a ticking biological time bomb that none of us can safely ignore. Based on declassified government documents, in-depth interviews, and access to Plum Island itself, this is an eye-opening, suspenseful account of a federal government germ laboratory gone terribly wrong. For the first time, Lab 257 takes you deep inside this secret world and presents startling revelations on virus outbreaks, biological meltdowns, infected workers, the periodic flushing of contaminated raw sewage into area waters, and the insidious connections between Plum Island, Lyme disease, and the deadly West Nile virus. The book also probes what's in store for Plum Island's new owner, the Department of Homeland Security, in this age of bioterrorism. Lab 257 is a call to action for those concerned with protecting present and future generations from preventable biological catastrophes.

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Lab 257 – Michael C. Carroll

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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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Scott Pruitt’s vision of a ‘lean’ EPA includes spending a lot of money on himself

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the new “Office of Continuous Improvement” on Monday. The purpose of the office, he says, is “to make sure, as we do our work here, that we set real goals and we track those goals and show real improvement.”

The OCI isn’t about improving air quality, Americans’ health, or EPA transparency, though. Rather, it concerns — hold on to your seats! — improving productivity and cutting waste at the department.

The office expands the agency’s “lean management system” established under the Obama administration.

While “lean” is an apt description of the current state of the EPA, which has cut half a billion dollars from its budget over the past two years and brought staff numbers down to Reagan-era levels, it’s the opposite of Pruitt’s own spending habits. Since his very first day as administrator, bodyguards (who don’t come cheap) have been watching him 24/7. That’s not to mention Pruitt’s pricey private flight habit and $43,000 soundproof phone booth, all on the taxpayer dime.

Some EPA employees aren’t excited about the new office.

“The Office of Continuous Improvement sounds like it’s straight out of 1984,” one staffer told Buzzfeed Science reporter Zahra Hirji.

It’s unlikely that Pruitt’s message about boosting productivity will drown out the numerous scandals coming out about him. He’ll face a tough audience on Wednesday, when he’ll appear in front of the Senate appropriations subcommittee. If it goes anything like his recent hearings in front of the House, we’re in for a treat.

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Scott Pruitt’s vision of a ‘lean’ EPA includes spending a lot of money on himself

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We might know where Trump has been getting some of his wacky ideas

Ever wonder who’s behind President Trump’s backward energy policies? The Heartland Institute, a libertarian, climate-denying think tank, seems to be taking credit. Experts from the Koch- and Exxon-funded group took a victory lap after Trump praised “clean, beautiful coal” in Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

“One of the most thrilling aspects of the speech was the total absence of climate change hysteria,” Heartland’s Science Director Jay Lehr said in a statement issued in response to the speech. While Trump mentioned that the nation had “endured floods, and fires, and storms,” he didn’t note climate change — the factor that fanned their flames.

Lehr’s gushing over the president approached the point of satire: “After watching it a second time, I could not find a single sentence I would have changed.”

That’s not too surprising, considering that the White House had reached out to the group a few weeks earlier to ask if they “had other suggestions” for the speech, according to Heartland President Tim Huelskamp.

“The Heartland Institute has been advising many in the administration on climate and energy policy, so we were certainly encouraged and excited the president promoted his pro-energy, pro-America vision in his State of the Union Address,” Huelskamp said in the statement.

Soon after Trump was elected, the Heartland Institute laid out a climate and energy wish list. The administration has already fully or partially accomplished eight of those 13 goals. Some of the policy recommendations: Withdraw from the Paris Agreement, approve the Keystone XL pipeline, roll back air pollution rules, and end “conflicts of interest” on scientific review boards (i.e., bar expert scientists from advisory panels).

Many of the Trump administration’s actions over the past year — even just the past day — align with Heartland’s wish list. On Wednesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally suspended an Obama-era rule to clean up our streams and waters. (No. 6 on Heartland’s list: “Withdraw implementation of the Waters of the U.S. rule.”)

Heartland isn’t the only group out there with these kind of goals. In October, the Sierra Club obtained emails showing that Peabody Energy, a major coal company, provided input to the Energy Department on a study about how to help coal plants. And last month, the New York Times reported that the administration had already accomplished most of the 16 items on the environmental rollback wish list by coal baron Robert Murray, a longtime Trump supporter.

And even though The Heartland Institute has gotten more than it ever hoped for, it yearns for even more: It wants to stop subsidies for wind and power, shrink more national monuments, and, you know, end the entire EPA.

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We might know where Trump has been getting some of his wacky ideas

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Here’s the State of the Union address you didn’t hear about.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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Here’s the State of the Union address you didn’t hear about.

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California is taking the great plastic straw battle to a new level.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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California is taking the great plastic straw battle to a new level.

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While one Washington ignores climate change, the other, rainier one is killing it.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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While one Washington ignores climate change, the other, rainier one is killing it.

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FEMA said it was ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico, but now it isn’t.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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FEMA said it was ending food and water aid to Puerto Rico, but now it isn’t.

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New Jersey’s new governor is bringing back cap-and-trade.

On Monday, newly minted Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state carbon trading program that aims to reduce greenhouse gases from the power sector.

New Jersey’s former governor (and bona fide bully) Chris Christie had pulled the state out in 2011, saying the initiative increased the tax burden for utilities and failed to adequately reduce greenhouse gases. Murphy said that Christie’s decision to withdraw had cost the state $279 million in revenue.

The state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities will begin drawing up a game plan to re-enter the pact.

Nine eastern states already participate in RGGI: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Now, New Jersey is joining the fray, and Virginia may soon follow.

“With this executive order, New Jersey takes the first step toward restoring our place as a leader in the green economy,” Murphy said. Jersey shore knows what it’s doing!

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New Jersey’s new governor is bringing back cap-and-trade.

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