A Giant Step Forward in the Flint, Michigan, Water Crisis

From Rhea Suh, President NRDC


Unless you’re a Republican, nowadays

❝ For once, I am excited to report that there is good news on the Flint water crisis front. The pipes at the heart of the disaster are going to be replaced. For the first time in the three years since this Michigan city’s water was turned to poison, Flint’s citizens have a guarantee that the resources are in place to replace its estimated 18,000 lead pipes. And for the first time, they know when the pipes will be gone.

Let’s be clear, Flint is not fixed. But things are going to get better.

❝ This did not happen because of the city, state, or federal governments that failed them. It happened because brave people in Flint stood up for their neighbors. They went to court. One of the genius parts of American environmental protections are the citizen suit provisions in our major environmental laws. When the government fails to protect its citizens, we are all empowered to go to court and force the government to do its job.

❝ That happened in Flint. After the city and state trashed the drinking water infrastructure through a series of mistakes and errors, we joined with the Concerned Pastors for Social Action and Flint resident Melissa Mays to petition the federal government to use its emergency powers to help the beleaguered city. They refused. So, along with ACLU Michigan, we sued the city and state. The Safe Drinking Water Act also has provisions for citizens to enforce drinking water rules. Though there have only been a handful of these kinds of cases filed under the act, we all thought Flint seemed like a textbook situation for this type of case…

And today, that suit comes to the end with a settlement that guarantees that in three years, the lead pipes will be replaced. It guarantees that the state kicks in $67 million to help fix the mistakes, along with tens of millions more from federal sources…

❝ …But for today, let’s just celebrate good news for Flint. A city that deserves far more of it in the years to come.

I’ll second that emotion. RTFA for more details, past and present. Rhea Suh is too politely politic to trash-talk the conservatives, mostly in the Republican Party – and some Democrats deserve their share of condemnation for foot-dragging.

Too many folks hold elective office who consider budgets and balance sheets more important than the lives of the human beings they represent.

New Yorkers get a nuclear New Year’s present

❝ Entergy Corp. has reached an agreement with New York officials to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant in 2021, bringing an end to a long-running dispute over the future of the reactors located just 25 miles north of New York City.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had pushed for years to close Indian Point because of what he says are radioactive risks it poses to the city. The company agreed to the shutdown as the plant struggled to compete with lower-cost energy sources, including natural gas and renewable energy. The closure completes Entergy’s exit from its merchant power business…

❝ Five nuclear plants have shut in the U.S. in the past five years with about 20 gigawatts of capacity expected to retire by 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Cuomo has supported measures that would keep reactors in upstate New York operating despite lower power prices. Workers will get access to retraining, according to the statement…

Entergy will take a non-cash impairment charge of $1.5 billion after tax in the fourth quarter of 2016. In addition, the company said it will record additional charges of about $180 million related to severance and other employee expenses through 2021…

❝ Meanwhile, environmental groups praised the landmark deal led by Riverkeeper, which has filed legal challenges to Indian Point and was part of the negotiations with the state and Entergy.

Ordinary folks keeping to their principles, willing to commit to the long fight against one of the most entrenched segments of American capitalism – get themselves a victory.

You know, living in a society generally governed by ideologues maintained in office by an ignorant electorate, it’s easy to let cynicism overwhelm the optimism derived from science, a liberal knowledge base and confidence in history’s advances. Best to get the word out and about when a long hard struggle heads into a win.

Victory for the Standing Rock Tribe

❝ …“Today, the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will not be granting the easement to cross Lake Oahe for the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline,” Standing Rock Sioux Tribal chairman Dave Archambault II said…“Instead, the Corps will be undertaking an environmental impact statement to look at possible alternative routes.

“We wholeheartedly support the decision of the administration and commend with the utmost gratitude the courage it took on the part of President Obama, the Army Corps, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior to take steps to correct the course of history and to do the right thing.”

“It took tremendous courage to take a new approach to our nation-to-nation relationship, and we will be forever grateful,” he said…

❝ Since August, thousands of demonstrators have camped at the Standing Rock site to stand with Native Americans in opposing the 1,172-mile long pipeline, which is designed to carry 20 million gallons of oil across the Midwest every day.

Tribe members and environmentalists feared damage to local water supplies and the desecration of sacred land…

The tribe successfully mobilized national support, with demonstrators marching in Washington DC and elsewhere to pressure the government to abandon the construction.

❝ Sunday’s decision represents a huge win for the local tribe and their supporters, as well as a dramatic shift in the reaction of authorities, who had previously ordered all demonstrators to leave the campsite by Monday…

❝ Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also welcomed the announcement:

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-5-31-36-pm

❝ “I’m just thankful that there were some leaders in the federal government who have realized that something is not right even though it’s legal,” Archambault told MSNBC.

“I would say that it’s over,” he said.

I’m glad this was resolved before we move into populist foolishness. It should be difficult for Emperor Trump to overturn a decision like this one. Though, like any other fossil fuel flunky, no doubt he will try his best.

Microsoft wins milestone appeal over US wanting to snoop offshore email

A federal appeals court…said the U.S. government cannot force Microsoft Corp and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States.

The 3-0 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan is a defeat for the U.S. Department of Justice and a victory for privacy advocates and for technology companies offering cloud computing and other services around the world.

Circuit Judge Susan Carney said communications held by U.S. service providers on servers outside the United States are beyond the reach of domestic search warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 federal law.

“Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially,” she wrote. “The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests.”

The case has attracted strong interest from the technology and media sectors, amid concern that giving prosecutors expansive power to collect data outside the country could make it harder for U.S. companies to compete there.

Dozens of companies, organizations and individuals filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s appeal, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Amazon.com, Apple, Cisco Systems, CNN, Fox News Network, Gannett and Verizon…

Judge Carney said limiting the reach of warrants serves “the interest of comity” that normally governs cross-border criminal investigations.

She said that comity is also reflected in treaties between the United States and all European Union countries, including Ireland, to assist each other in such probes.

It’s like the stupidity that passes for legal reason over most “religious freedoms”. You decide what you want for an outcome and then search till you can find articles or junk research to suit your convictions. Regardless of logic or science. This is what political lawyers do in so many cases involving privacy and free speech.

Constitutional protections be damned. If they can find some out-of-date regulation that can be torturously interpreted to validate the result they want – Bingo, make it so!

Oregon ballot measure to block Nestlé water bottling plant succeeds

Hood River County voters have said yes to a measure that would effectively block Nestlé Waters’ plan to bottle water in Cascade Locks by banning large water bottling operations in the county.

Final returns showed the measure winning with 68.8 percent of the vote…

Nestlé for seven years has sought a way to bottle water from Oxbow Springs, which gurgles out of hillside just outside the Columbia River Gorge town of Cascade Locks.

The company hopes to build a $50 million bottling plant at the town’s port, where 100 million gallons annually of Oxbow Springs water would be bottled under the Arrowhead brand. Additional Cascade Locks municipal water would be sold under the company’s Pure Life brand.

But the plan has faced opposition from the start, despite widespread support among the town’s leadership. Measure 14-55 was the latest wave of backlash in a yearslong battle…

Critics oppose Nestle on environmental and ideological grounds. Some argue against the waste inherent in selling water in plastic bottles, while others say Nestlé’s plan amounts to privatizing a public resource for corporate profits…

It’s unclear what the election loss means for Nestlé. Aurora del Val, leader of the Local Water Alliance, which sponsored the ballot measure, said she expects Nestle to sue. DeGraw expressed confidence that the measure is legally-defensible.

“It was written knowing full well we were going up against he world’s biggest multinational food and beverage company,” she said.

One old-fashioned American feature of the fight is that it united Left and Right over an environmental issue. Time was Conservatives could be counted for values including conservation, quality of life. Too many years under the thumb of corporate control drew Republican voters away from respecting virtue in nature and good health.

Looks like Oregon voters have rediscovered some of that mutual imperative.

Fed court orders Idaho to pay $250K attorney fees in ‘ag-gag’ case — First Amendment still rules


Click to enlarge

A federal court has ordered the state of Idaho to pay $249,875 in attorney fees and costs to the groups that sued over the state’s “ag-gag” law, the law passed by the state Legislature making it a crime to surreptitiously videotape agricultural operations. Idaho lawmakers approved the law in 2014 after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of cows being abused at a southern Idaho dairy filmed in 2012 unfairly hurt their business. The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, which showed workers at Bettencourt Dairy beating, stomping and otherwise abusing cows in 2012.

A federal judge overturned the law, ruling that it violated the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the law’s “primary purpose is to protect agricultural facility owners by, in effect, suppressing speech critical of animal-agriculture practices.” He ruled that evidence indicated the law was “intended to silence animal welfare activists, or other whistleblowers who seek to publish speech critical of the agricultural production industry.”

The state appealed, but lost.

Over and over again, elected officials – federal, state and local – waste time and taxpayer dollar$ defending corporate interests. Not on the basis of legitimate needs; but, profits and protectionism.

Always nice to see a victory that defends the rights of the people over corporate/political corruption.

Sadiq Khan – the first Muslim to head a major European capitol


#YesWeKhan

Labour’s Sadiq Khan has been elected mayor of London, becoming the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital city following a campaign that was dominated by his opponent’s negative tactics.

Khan beat his Conservative rival Zac Goldsmith by an astonishing 65% to 35% in an election marked by an unexpectedly high turnout. The final confirmed result was delayed until the early hours of Saturday morning because of discrepancies with a small number of votes…

Khan used his victory speech to call for greater unity in London following a divisive campaign: “Fear does not make us safer, it only makes us weaker and the politics of fear is simply not welcome in our city.”

The result means Khan, who repeatedly emphasised his background as the son of an immigrant bus driver, ends eight years of Tory control of the UK’s capital city…Khan, the MP for Tooting, will now resign his parliamentary seat and take over City Hall from Boris Johnson, who has already returned to Westminster. In the process he will become the most powerful Labour politician currently holding elected office in the UK, although he faces a challenge to secure extra money for the capital from the Conservative-controlled government…

Despite the importance of the office, the campaign will mainly be remembered for Goldsmith’s tactics…by the end he became synonymous with attacks on Khan’s alleged connections with Islamist extremists, his decision to target different ethnic groups with warnings about what Labour would do to their finances, and dog whistle campaigning.

Although the candidate appeared at times uncomfortable with the decision to focus so much on personal attacks on Khan, prompting suggestions he was simply receiving bad advice, other London Conservatives queued up to personally blame Goldsmith for the result before it had even been announced…Even Goldsmith’s own sister criticised the campaign in tweets on Friday night.

Of course, if Republicans were to win the White House, the new mayor of London would not be allowed to visit the United States. He won out over bigots in London. Now, we must do the same in the United States.

Pic of the day

Froome on his way to a 2nd win
Click to enlargeLaurent Cipriani/AP

Clouds are reflected in a car window as Chris Froome, wearing the leader’s yellow jersey, leads the pack during the 19th stage of the Tour de France. Froome won his second Tour last week.

Bravo!

Lloyd hat-trick inspires U.S. Women to World Cup victory


Click to enlargeReuters/Michael Chow

The United States won the Women’s World Cup for the third time, crushing Japan 5-2 on Sunday with striker Carli Lloyd scoring the tournament’s fastest ever hat-trick, including a spectacular goal from the half-way line.

The American captain struck three times inside 16 minutes as the U.S. stormed into an unexpected and unsurmountable 4-0 lead over their shell-shocked opponents.

Japan, winners four years ago, were utterly stunned as the U.S’s deadly finishing ensured they added to their 1991 and 1999 titles, and became the first nation to win the Cup three times…

No team had ever scored more than two goals in a Women’s World Cup final but the brilliant Lloyd went one better all by herself — and within just 16 minutes…

And got her the Golden Ball for the tournament.

Japan restored a little bit of pride in the 27th minute when Yuki Ogimi turned Julie Johnston in the area and fired past Hope Solo to make it 4-1.

The Japanese have been widely praised for their short-passing game but it was an old-fashioned route that brought them, temporarily, back into the game early in the second half.

Aya Miyami’s long free-kick into the box was aimed at Sawa and Johnston rose for the ball but could only deflect a header past a helpless Solo.

The glimmer of hope flickered for just two minutes, however, when a U.S. corner fell to Morgan Brian beyond the far post and she did well to find Tobin Heath, who confidently fired home to make it 5-2 and effectively end Japan’s hope of a comeback.

Bravo! The US Women’s team proved their worth, demonstrated that a nation that still hasn’t grown to full participation in the world’s most popular sport can grow through school programs and amateur leagues to play at the best professional level.