Canada trusts Oil Patch Boys to clean up their messes – NOT!

Companies operating major crude oil pipelines in Canada will be required to have C$1 billion available to fund clean ups from any spills, the Canadian government said on Wednesday.

Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, also announced new fines that will soon come into force for companies and individuals that violate environmental laws. The fines will range from C$25,000 to a maximum of C$100,000.

Oliver was speaking in British Columbia, where the provincial government is insisting on world-class oil-spill and clean-up systems as one of the conditions for approving the construction of Enbridge Inc’s contentious C$6 billion Northern Gate way pipeline project.

“British Columbia’s government is conducting its own review of pipeline safety, and we are working with them,” said Oliver. “These federal measures being announced today are a major contribution to the combined efforts of both levels of government on this issue.”

Other measures unveiled on Wednesday included steps to ensure that the emergency and environmental plans of companies are publicly available and enshrining in law the “polluter pays” principal, which is currently only implicit…

Earlier in June it raised the liability for oil spill clean ups off the country’s east and Arctic coasts to C$1 billion from C$30 million and the liability for nuclear-plant operators to C$1 billion from C$75 million.

Stephen Harper and his conservative government may be ideological lowlifes; but, they’re not entirely clueless about trusting fossil fuel conglomerates. They want funds escrowed to cover the environmental disasters oil barons are capable of dropping into a country.

National Grid report challenges UK wind energy critics

Squirreled away beneath a recent Telegraph report on the subtleties of badger-culling in the UK was this intriguing morsel of wind energy news, which would seem to challenge the idea that intermittent energy sources such as wind play havoc with grid management. For the 23,700 gigawatt-hours of electrical energy generated by wind in the UK between April 2011 and September 2012, only 22 GWh of electrical energy from fossil fuels “was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow,” it reports. Gizmag contacted the UK National Grid to find out the details.

The Telegraph’s figures come from National Grid Head of Energy Strategy and Policy, Richard Smith, speaking at the Hay Festival between May 23 and Jun 2. Gizmag has learned that he was drawing from a National Grid document sent to the Scottish Parliament in response to its own report of Nov 23 2012, entitled Report on the achievability of the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets.

…The report shows the energy provided by the National Grid’s Short Term Operating Reserve, and how much of that was due to wind energy output being lower than forecast. Of the 246 GWh provided by the Reserve for the same period, 22 GWh are thought to be due to the wind not blowing as forecast.

In other words, for every 1,000 GWh of wind energy generated in that 18-month period, less than 1 GWh was required to meet shortfalls due to the wind not blowing as expected. “As expected” may be the crucial words missing from the Telegraph’s summary. What about the energy required when the wind isn’t blowing, when you know it isn’t going to blow, you may well ask? But, similar to the classic falling tree scenario, is a GWh of energy truly “lost” if you weren’t expecting to generate it in the first place? At the very least, the National Grid’s figures would seem to challenge the notion that wind energy throws the grid into significant disarray

Nice to see that someone’s done a study that answers one of the perpetual whines from folks still afraid that alternative energy systems are the product of the AntiChrist.

I can’t comprehend someone who worries about running out of wind in Scotland. 🙂

SCOTUS finally strikes down Defense of Marriage Act

In a breakthrough legal victory, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. In a 5-4 ruling, the court majority said the anti-gay law is discriminatory: “DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.”

The decision was written by Justice Kennedy, who was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan…

First Update: The full ruling is online here (pdf)…

Second Update: From the ruling: DOMA is “unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”

Third Update: Pete Williams’ initial read suggests this ruling is “broad” enough that marriage-equality proponents “to attack laws in other states.”

Fourth Update: Some of the reach of the ruling will depend on a deeper analysis of the decision itself, but keep in mind that the end of DOMA will have significant consequences. The Defense Department, for example, ended DADT, but could not apply equal benefits to gay servicemembers because of this law. Now that it’s been struck down, it’s no longer an issue.

Fifth Update: It’s worth clarifying that the DOMA ruling does not extend marriage equality to all 50 states, but rather, as Amy Howe explained on Scotusblog, that “same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment under federal law– with regard to, for example, income taxes and Social Security benefits.”

Sixth Update: The other major Supreme Court case on gay rights was a challenge to California’s Prop 8. In this case, Chief Justice John Roberts and the court majority punted on procedural grounds, saying the defendants lacked the standing needed to defend the case in court. The full ruling is online here (pdf).

I’ve editorialized elsewhere about the number of times I still get to say, OVERDUE. Our Supreme Court is still essentially a Republican Supreme Court – often dominated by the inherent racism, class loyalty and bigotry of corporate America, tempered slightly by one or another of these four cowards worrying more about what history books will say about him than his buddies at the country club.

The decision is overdue and welcome. Civil rights for all Americans is a vision held by some of the framers of our Constitution who paid the groundwork during our fight to free ourselves from colonial England. Let us all celebrate.

Texas abortion bill stopped by brave women who occupy state legislature – UPDATED

There have been dramatic scenes in Texas after a bill that threatened to close every abortion clinic in the state was overturned just hours after it was passed.

The law was initially approved by the Republican-controlled senate after a day of extraordinary scenes during which Democrats were accused of attempting to filibuster the bill by embarking on a marathon speech to run the debate out of time.

But Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhust has now reversed his decision after acknowledging Republicans missed the deadline to pass the vote after protesters reportedly shouted them down during the final 15 minutes before the vote deadline.

Republicans insisted they had started voting before the midnight deadline and passed the bill in time. But computer records of the voting were checked and revealed they were out of time.

The new law would have banned abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy and demanded that clinics upgrade their facilities and be reclassified as ‘ambulatory surgical centres’.

The bill also demanded doctors performing abortions must be granted the right to admit patients to their clinic first by a hospital within 30 miles of the premises…

Speaking before the vote, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said: “If this passes, abortion would be virtually banned in the state of Texas, and many women could be forced to resort to dangerous and unsafe measures.”

During the debate women’s rights supporters had screamed protests from the public gallery while in the hall outside the Senate chamber, hundreds more protesters wearing orange T-shirts queued for a seat.

In dramatic scenes Democrat Wendy Davis was accused of filibustering after she began speaking against the bill at 11:18am and was only halted at 10:03pm, less than two hours before the midnight deadline, after three complaints from Republicans.

Senate rules dictate speakers must stay on topic and remain standing without physical support or breaks for meals or to use the bathroom…

Governor Dewhust eventually halted the speech after determining Ms Davis had strayed off topic when she talked about a sonogram bill passed in 2011.

Texas’ miserable bible-thumping governor, Rick Perry, called this special session of the state legislature just to pass the latest attack by Republican political hacks on women’s rights. He didn’t count on women throughout Texas spontaneously marching upon the Republican-controlled state legislature to do everything they could to impede passage of the bill.

Republicans tried everything in their trick bag to stop Wendy Davis. They ruled she was out of order when one of her fellow Democrats helped her put on a back brace to ease the pain of standing, trying to school the ignoranuses before her.

Meanwhile the visitors’ gallery filled with women from all over the state. Lines snaked out to the street of women clamoring to get in to speak out against this reactionary and patriarchal law. And when Ms. Davis was finally forced to relinquish the podium, the mass of women began to shout out individually and collectively from the gallery.

The tumult forced delay after delay until the Republicans were finally defeated by the clock.

UPDATE: These rat-bastard Republicans actually tried to change the time stamp on the voting record printout to save their miserable anti-women law. They were confronted with a side-by-side comparison of the attempted fraud – posted on Twitter.

http://tinyurl.com/q3qcjxq

Fossil fuel particulates, air pollutants linked to autism

Women in the U.S. exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were up to twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in areas with low pollution, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health. It is the first large national study to examine links between autism and air pollution across the U.S…

Exposure to diesel particulates, lead, manganese, mercury, methylene chloride and other pollutants are known to affect brain function and to affect the developing baby. Two previous studies found associations between exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and autism in children, but those studies looked at data in just three locations in the U.S.

The researchers examined data from Nurses’ Health Study II, a long-term study based at Brigham and Women’s Hospital involving 116,430 nurses that began in 1989. Among that group, the authors studied 325 women who had a child with autism and 22,000 women who had a child without the disorder. They looked at associations between autism and levels of pollutants at the time and place of birth. They used air pollution data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to estimate women’s exposure to pollutants while pregnant. They also adjusted for the influence of factors such as income, education, and smoking during pregnancy.

The results showed that women who lived in the 20% of locations with the highest levels of diesel particulates or mercury in the air were twice as likely to have a child with autism as those who lived in the 20% of areas with the lowest levels.

Other types of air pollution—lead, manganese, methylene chloride, and combined metal exposure—were associated with higher autism risk as well. Women who lived in the 20% of locations with the highest levels of these pollutants were about 50% more likely to have a child with autism than those who lived in the 20% of areas with the lowest concentrations.

Most pollutants were associated with autism more strongly in boys than girls. However, since there were few girls with autism in the study, the authors said this finding should be examined further.

This doesn’t suggest the association means air pollution causes autism directly. There is a contributory link. Research samples from both mothers and babies will be analyzed over time to see exactly which chemicals are involved.

Though air pollution has diminished since the Clean Air Act there is an enormous task remaining to get to truly healthful air chemistry. Know-nothings, Tea Party-types and other butt-kissers of the Oil Patch Boys will try their darndest to impede or roll back measures taken. Even though they offer the potential for a longer healthier life for their own kids and grandkids.