Tag: environment

OK, This Promise was Kept

Joe Biden has shutdown the Keystone XL pipeline:

One of President Biden’s first acts upon taking office was to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, the long-debated project to transport crude from Canada’s oil sands to the United States.

But Canadian officials, notably in Alberta, the province where the pipeline originates, are not giving up so fast.

The nearly 1,200-mile Keystone XL was intended to carry crude oil from Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing network to deliver the crude to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

In canceling the pipeline, Mr. Biden took some of his first steps toward reversing the legacy of the Trump administration, which revived the project after it was rejected by President Barack Obama in 2015.


Elections have consequences.

Michigan brings two charges against former governor for Flint case

Well, I was wrong yesterday when I predicted that former Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder would be charged with obstruction of justice

I was wrong.

Snyder was hit with two counts of “Willful Neglect of Duty,” a misdemeanor.

Here is the statute, § 750.478:

When any duty is or shall be enjoined by law upon any public officer, or upon any person holding any public trust or employment, every willful neglect to perform such duty, where no special provision shall have been made for the punishment of such delinquency, constitutes a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

This case is just plain weird, with indictments for felonies, a dismissal of those charges, and now this. 

I do not know how this will end, but I expect to be disappointed.

About Fucking Time

Rick Snyder, former governor of Michigan, as well as his senior staff, will be criminally charged over his role in the poisoning of the water in Flint

The specifics of the charges are not known at this time, so my guess is that we are looking at an obstruction of justice and the like:

Former Michigan governor Rick Snyder, his health director and other ex-officials have been told they’re being charged after a new investigation of the Flint water scandal, which devastated the majority Black city with lead-contaminated water and was blamed for a deadly outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014-15, the Associated Press has learned.

Two people with knowledge of the planned prosecution told the AP on Tuesday that the attorney general’s office has informed defense lawyers about indictments in Flint and told them to expect initial court appearances soon. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The AP could not determine the nature of the charges against Snyder, former health department director Nick Lyon and others who were in the Snyder administration. The attorney general’s office declined to comment on details of the ongoing investigation. Spokeswoman Courtney Covington Watkins said investigators were “working diligently” and “will share more as soon as we’re in a position to do so”.

Snyder’s attorney didn’t return calls seeking comment.

I have no direct knowledge as to the course of the investigations, or the prosecutions, but if Snyder were charged with something like taking bribes over the water pipeline, or some other explicit corruption, I think that other people would have been prosecuted, and have cut deals, before Snyder was charged.

The Timber Industry Lies

A study of logging shows that logging does not prevent wildfires.

The argument has always been that private, and more heavily logged, forests are less prone to wildfires.

An extensive study has shown this to be false:

As thousands of Oregon homes burned to rubble last month, the state’s politicians joined the timber industry in blaming worsening wildfires on the lack of logging.


In the decades since government restrictions reduced logging on federal lands, the timber industry has promoted the idea that private lands are less prone to wildfires, saying that forests thick with trees fuel bigger, more destructive blazes. But an analysis by OPB and ProPublica shows last month’s fires burned as intensely on private forests with large-scale logging operations as they did, on average, on federal lands that cut fewer trees.

In fact, private lands that were clear-cut in the past five years, with thousands of trees removed at once, burned slightly hotter than federal lands, on average. On public lands, areas that were logged within the past five years burned with the same intensity as those that hadn’t been cut, according to the analysis.

“The belief people have is that somehow or another we can thin our way to low-intensity fire that will be easy to suppress, easy to contain, easy to control. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Jack Cohen, a retired U.S. Forest Service scientist who pioneered research on how homes catch fire.

The timber industry has sought to frame logging as the alternative to catastrophic wildfires through advertising, legislative lobbying and attempts to undermine research that has shown forests burn more severely under industrial management, according to documents obtained by OPB, The Oregonian/OregonLive and ProPublica.


“That kind of management clearly didn’t provide community protection,” said Dunn, who spent eight years as a wildland firefighter. He now studies fire behavior and risk for Oregon State University and the Forest Service.

In 2018, Dunn co-authored a study with Humboldt State University’s Harold Zald that found the 2013 Douglas Complex Fire in southern Oregon burned 30% more severely on private industrial timber plantations than on federal forestlands.

The way to protect forest from catastrophic wildfires is more fires, whether naturally occurring or prescribed burns, period, full stop. 

The movement for thinning is timber industry propaganda.

I’ve Seen This Play Before, and I Know Who Will Prevail

Do not pick a fight with this guy

It appears that the Mayor of Danbury, Connecticut is VERY angry about a recent bit that John Oliver did on juries.

Specifically, he’s angry that John Oliver had the throw-away line, “F%$# Danbury,” when he was discussing disparities in jury selections, and highlighted specific circumstances in Hartford and New Britain, Connecticut where the residents of those cities (about ⅔ of the minority population in those judicial districts) were excluded.

The Mayor of Danbury will not allow this to stand, and so will rename the local sewage treatment plant after the comedian, because, and this is a quote, “Why? Because it’s full of crap just like you, John.”

I get that the Mayor of Danbury is offended, but I’ve seen what Oliver did to killer coal baron Bob Murray (Also here), and you ain’t gonna win this fight.

Picking a fight with John Oliver is like wrestling with a pig, you both get dirty, and the pig loves:

Officials in Danbury, Connecticut, say they will name their sewage plant after the comedian John Oliver, in retaliation for an expletive-filled rant about the city on his HBO show.

Mayor Mark Boughton announced the move on his Facebook page.

“We are going to rename it the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant,” the Republican mayor said. “Why? Because it’s full of crap just like you, John.”

In a recent episode of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the British-born comic explored racial disparities in the jury selection process, citing problems in Hartford and New Britain.

“If you’re going to forget a town in Connecticut,” he said, “why not forget Danbury? Because, and this is true, f%$# Danbury!”

Noting Danbury’s “charming railway museum” and its “historic Hearthstone Castle”, he said: “Danbury, Connecticut can eat my whole ass.”

Oliver added that he knew “exactly three things about Danbury. USA Today ranked it the second-best city to live in 2015, it was once the center of the American hat industry and if you’re from there, you have a standing invite to come get a thrashing from John Oliver, children included, f%$# you.”

(%$# Mine)

I know very little about Danbury.  I’ve never been there, even when I was living in Connecticut, though I might have driven through it on the way to New York City, but I do know this:  Don’t pick a fight with John Oliver.

You have introduced yourself as a world of hurt.

We are Living in a Movie Script

On the bright side, it’s The Princess Bride, complete with Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S aka Swamp Rats).

The down side, is that it looks like other movie scripts are showing themselves as well, things like A Clockwork Orange, The Terminator, 12 Monkeys, Blade Runner, Death Race 2000, Gattaca, the whole sequence of Mad Max, Brazil, The Handmaiden’s Tale, and, of course, Idiocracy.

Giant Swamp Rats are appearing in Kraus Baker Park in Texas and residents of the area fear that they may contaminate the water and destroy the ecosystem. They are massive in size and are apparently feeding alongside the ducks. One video posted shows exactly how invasive they have been.

The problem now is that they are looking for funding to deal with the issue. California and Louisiana are already calling for millions from the U.S. government in order to deal with their own swamp rat populations.

Female Nutria can have babies starting from the age of 4-6 months old and they can produce up to three litters a year. Each litter can have anywhere from 2-13 young. These rats eat 25% of their bodyweight everyday. Since they are alongside a water source they are fearing that they will contaminate it with parasites.

Wildlife experts are asking the community not to feed them in hopes that they will leave the area naturally. If worst comes to worst however they may have to resort to more drastic measures to hopefully relocate them.

I am so done with 2020.

H/t Sharon* for the link.

If you want to suggest other movies that mirror this time, feel free to comment.

*Love of my life, light of the cosmos, she who must be obeyed, my wife.

Nature Cannot Be Fooled

The good little Neoliberals in Chile decided to increase forestation and offset carbon emissions by paying loggers to plant forests.

This program achieved none of its goals:

A multi-decade state program to subsidize tree planting in one of South America’s wealthiest nations led to a loss of biodiversity and did little to increase the forests’ capacity to capture greenhouse gases.

Chile’s plantation forests more than doubled between 1986 and 2011, while native forests shrunk by 13%, according to a new report by U.S. and Chilean academics. The country subsidized tree planting while its forestry sector boomed over that period.

Yet the environmental benefits are not as clear. Subsidies accelerated biodiversity losses in Chile as plantations often focus on one or two profitable tree species, the report said. While forest area expanded by more than 100% between 1986 and 2011, the carbon stored in vegetation increased by just 1.98% during that period.

“Our simulations indicate that plantation subsidies accelerated biodiversity losses in Chile by encouraging the expansion of plantations into more biodiverse forests,” researchers said in the paper published inNature Susainability on Monday. Chile’s case “provides several cautionary lessons,” according to Robert Heilmayr at the University of California Santa Barbara, Cristian Echeverria at Universidad de Concepcion in Chile and Eric F. Lambin at Stanford University.

This has happened time and time again:  Attempts to enlist the profit motives to achieve a public good generate profits, but little in the way of public good.

The title is taken from Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman’s comment in the appendix that he authored for the report on the space shuttle Challenger destruction:

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

Professor Pangloss is Usually Wrong

Andrew McAfee, a “technologist” at MIT, wrote a book, More From Less showing that the US use of natural resources has declined even as its GDP has increased, implying that growth can continue unencumbered without any economic cost.

The problem with this is that his book studiously ignores the raw materials that go into imported goods, which refutes the hypothesis:

Scientists are increasingly concerned about the impact that excess industrial activity is having on our planet’s ecosystems. Our pursuit of perpetual economic growth is driving ever-increasing levels of material extraction, which is causing a wide range of ecological problems: deforestation, soil depletion, habitat loss, and species extinction. The crisis has become so severe that last year more than 11,000 scientists from over 150 countries published an article calling on governments to shift toward “post-growth” economic models, focusing on human well-being and ecological stability rather than constant expansion.

But some figures have rejected this idea and are rallying around a different narrative altogether. In a book published last October titled More From Less, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-based technologist Andrew McAfee argues that we can continue to grow global GDP indefinitely while reducing our ecological impact at the same time—and all without any structural, much less revolutionary, changes to the economy or society.

At the core of McAfee’s argument is his analysis of the U.S. economy. He claims that U.S. consumption of resources has remained steady or even declined since the 1980s, while GDP has continued to rise. In other words, the United States is “dematerializing,” thanks to increasingly efficient technology and a shift toward services. The same thing has been happening in other high-income nations, he says. This proves “green growth” can be achieved; rich countries are showing the way, and the rest of the world should follow suit.


There’s only one problem: McAfee’s argument is based on a fundamental accounting error. McAfee uses data on domestic material consumption, which tallies up the resources that a nation extracts and consumes each year. But this metric ignores a crucial piece of the puzzle. While it includes the imported goods a country consumes, it does not include the resources involved in extracting, producing, and transporting those goods. Because the United States and other rich countries have offshored so much of their production to poorer countries over the past 40 years, that side of resource use has been conveniently shifted off their books.


OK, This Is Real End of the World Stuff

Changes in ocean circulation may have caused a shift in Atlantic Ocean ecosystems not seen for the past 10,000 years, new analysis of deep-sea fossils has revealed.

This is the striking finding of a new study led by a research group I am part of at UCL, funded by the ATLAS project and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The shift has likely already led to political tensions as fish migrate to colder waters.


To challenge this point of view, we had to look for places where seabed fossils not only covered the industrial era in detail, but also stretched back many thousands of years. And we found the right patch of seabed just south of Iceland, where a major deep sea current causes sediment to pile up in huge quantities.


One of the simplest ways of working out what the ocean was like in the past is to count the different species of tiny fossil plankton that can be found in such sediments. Different species like to live in different conditions.

We looked at a type called foraminifera, which have shells of calcium carbonate. Identifying them is easy to do using a microscope and small paintbrush, which we use when handling the fossils so they don’t get crushed.


The effects of the unusual circulation can be found across the North Atlantic. Just south of Iceland, a reduction in the numbers of cold-water plankton species and an increase in the numbers of warm-water species shows that warm waters have replaced cold, nutrient-rich waters.

If the Atlantic Conveyor current shuts down abruptly, we are going to see sh%$# going down that is going to make the 10 Plagues of Egypt look like a an episode of The Partridge Family.

Never Let an Opportunity for Looting Pass

In this case, the disposable plastic bag industry is trying to use the Covid-19 pandemic to overturn plastic bag bans, because, if you are going to die anyway, why not make sure that the rest of the world resembles a landfill:

They are “petri dishes for bacteria and carriers of harmful pathogens,” read one warning from a plastics industry group. They are “virus-laden.”

The group’s target? The reusable shopping bags that countless of Americans increasingly use instead of disposable plastic bags.

The plastic bag industry, battered by a wave of bans nationwide, is using the coronavirus crisis to try to block laws prohibiting single-use plastic. “We simply don’t want millions of Americans bringing germ-filled reusable bags into retail establishments putting the public and workers at risk,” an industry campaign that goes by the name Bag the Ban warned on Tuesday, quoting a Boston Herald column outlining some of the group’s talking points.

The Plastics Industry Association is also lobbying to quash plastic bag bans. Last week, it sent a letter to the United States Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the department publicly declare that banning single-use plastics during a pandemic is a health threat.

F%$# them with Cheney’s dick.

Not Only Choking the World, Making the World Glow in the Dark.

I am referring, of course, to the the oil and gas industry, which has taken to spreading highly radioactive well waste water on roads, and selling it as a deicer.

Seriously, energy companies exceed my imagination for rat-f%$#ery:


One day in 2017, Peter pulled up to an injection well in Cambridge, Ohio. A worker walked around his truck with a hand-held radiation detector, he says, and told him he was carrying one of the “hottest loads” he’d ever seen. It was the first time Peter had heard any mention of the brine being radioactive.

The Earth’s crust is in fact peppered with radioactive elements that concentrate deep underground in oil-and-gas-bearing layers. This radioactivity is often pulled to the surface when oil and gas is extracted — carried largely in the brine.………

Through a grassroots network of Ohio activists, Peter was able to transfer 11 samples of brine to the Center for Environmental Research and Education at Duquesne University, which had them tested in a lab at the University of Pittsburgh. The results were striking.

Radium, typically the most abundant radionuclide in brine, is often measured in picocuries per liter of substance and is so dangerous it’s subject to tight restrictions even at hazardous-waste sites. The most common isotopes are radium-226 and radium-228, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires industrial discharges to remain below 60 for each. Four of Peter’s samples registered combined radium levels above 3,500, and one was more than 8,500.


Peter’s samples are just a drop in the bucket. Oil fields across the country — from the Bakken in North Dakota to the Permian in Texas — have been found to produce brine that is highly radioactive. “All oil-field workers,” says Fairlie, “are radiation workers.” But they don’t necessarily know it.


Tanks, filters, pumps, pipes, hoses, and trucks that brine touches can all become contaminated, with the radium building up into hardened “scale,” concentrating to as high as 400,000 picocuries per gram. With fracking — which involves sending pressurized fluid deep underground to break up layers of shale — there is dirt and shattered rock, called drill cuttings, that can also be radioactive. But brine can be radioactive whether it comes from a fracked or conventional well; the levels vary depending on the geological formation, not drilling method. Colorado and Wyoming seem to have lower radioactive signatures, while the Marcellus shale, underlying Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New York, has tested the highest. Radium in its brine can average around 9,300 picocuries per liter, but has been recorded as high as 28,500. “If I had a beaker of that on my desk and accidentally dropped it on the floor, they would shut the place down,” says Yuri Gorby, a microbiologist who spent 15 years studying radioactivity with the Department of Energy. “And if I dumped it down the sink, I could go to jail.”


In an investigation involving hundreds of interviews with scientists, environmentalists, regulators, and workers, Rolling Stone found a sweeping arc of contamination — oil-and-gas waste spilled, spread, and dumped across America, posing under-studied risks to the environment, the public, and especially the industry’s own employees. There is little public awareness of this enormous waste stream, the disposal of which could present dangers at every step — from being transported along America’s highways in unmarked trucks; handled by workers who are often misinformed and underprotected; leaked into waterways; and stored in dumps that are not equipped to contain the toxicity. Brine has even been used in commercial products sold at hardware stores and is spread on local roads as a de-icer.


he levels of radium in Louisiana oil pipes had registered as much as 20,000 times the limits set by the EPA for topsoil at uranium-mill waste sites. Templet found that workers who were cleaning oil-field piping were being coated in radioactive dust and breathing it in. One man they tested had radioactivity all over his clothes, his car, his front steps, and even on his newborn baby. The industry was also spewing waste into coastal waterways, and radioactivity was shown to accumulate in oysters. Pipes still laden with radioactivity were donated by the industry and reused to build community playgrounds. Templet sent inspectors with Geiger counters across southern Louisiana. One witnessed a kid sitting on a fence made from piping so radioactive they were set to receive a full year’s radiation dose in an hour. “People thought getting these pipes for free from the oil industry was such a great deal,” says Templet, “but essentially the oil companies were just getting rid of their waste.”

Oh, yeah, the oil companies are literally disposing of radioactive waste on playgrounds.

This is a complete mind f%$#.

Radioactive oil-and-gas waste is purposely spread on roadways around the country. The industry pawns off brine — offering it for free — on rural townships that use the salty solution as a winter de-icer and, in the summertime, as a dust tamper on unpaved roads.


“There is nothing to remediate it with,” says Avner Vengosh, a Duke University geochemist. “The high radioactivity in the soil at some of these sites will stay forever.” Radium-226 has a half-life of 1,600 years. The level of uptake into agricultural crops grown in contaminated soil is unknown because it hasn’t been adequately studied.


But the new buzzword in the oil-and-gas industry is “beneficial use” — transforming oil-and-gas waste into commercial products, like pool salts and home de-icers. In June 2017, an official with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources entered a Lowe’s Home Center in Akron and purchased a turquoise jug of a liquid de-icer called AquaSalina, which is made with brine from conventional wells. Used for home patios, sidewalks, and driveways — “Safe for Environment & Pets,” the label touts — AquaSalina was found by a state lab to contain radium at levels as high as 2,491 picocuries per liter. Stolz, the Duquesne scientist, also had the product tested and found radium levels registered about 1,140 picocuries per liter.


Mansbery said that he tested for heavy metals and saw “no red flags.” Asked if he tested for radioactive elements, he stated, “We test as required by the state law and regulatory agencies.”

Mr. Mansbery needs to be in jail, so do a lot of other people who are a part of this atrocity.

Maybe Cleaning up the Air?

This is interesting, but it begs the question, “Doesn’t it work everywhere? If so, why not clean up ALL the air?”

Also, how does this effect adults breathing our polluted air?

An emergency situation that turned out to be mostly a false alarm led a lot of schools in Los Angeles to install air filters, and something strange happened: Test scores went up. By a lot. And the gains were sustained in the subsequent year rather than fading away.

That’s what NYU’s Michael Gilraine finds in a new working paper titled “Air Filters, Pollution, and Student Achievement” that looks at the surprising consequences of the Aliso Canyon gas leak in 2015.

The impact of the air filters is strikingly large given what a simple change we’re talking about. The school district didn’t reengineer the school buildings or make dramatic education reforms; they just installed $700 commercially available filters that you could plug into any room in the country. But it’s consistent with a growing literature on the cognitive impact of air pollution, which finds that everyone from chess players to baseball umpires to workers in a pear-packing factory suffer deteriorations in performance when the air is more polluted.

If Gilraine’s result holds up to further scrutiny, he will have identified what’s probably the single most cost-effective education policy intervention — one that should have particularly large benefits for low-income children.

Another way that our society craps on the poor.

Even the air they breath hurts them.

Oh Snap!

Donald Trump’s stacked environmental science review panel just reported that the White House’s rollback of environmental regulations lacks proper justification:

A top panel of government-appointed scientists, many of them hand-selected by the Trump administration, said on Tuesday that three of President Trump’s most far-reaching and scrutinized proposals to weaken major environmental regulations are at odds with established science.

Draft letters posted online Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Scientific Advisory Board, which is responsible for evaluating the scientific integrity of the agency’s regulations, took aim at the Trump administration’s rewrite of an Obama-era regulation of waterways, an Obama-era effort to curb planet-warming vehicle tailpipe emissions and a plan to limit scientific data that can be used to draft health regulations.

In each case, the 41 scientists on a board — many of whom were appointed by Trump administration officials to replace scientists named by the Obama administration — found the regulatory changes flew in the face of science.


Legal experts said the advisory body’s opinion could undermine the Trump administration’s rollbacks in the courts. “The courts basically say if you’re going to ignore the advice of your own experts you have to have really good reasons for that,” said Patrick Parenteau, a professor of law with the Vermont Law School. “And not just policy reasons but reasons that go to the merits of what the critiques are saying.”

Many scientists on the advisory board were selected by Trump administration officials early in the administration, as President Trump sought to move forward with an aggressive agenda of weakening environmental regulations. During the first year of the Trump administration, more than a quarter of the academic scientists on the panel departed or were dismissed, and many were replaced by scientists with industry ties who were perceived as likely to be more friendly to the industries that the E.P.A. regulates.

This crew can’t even set up a biased jury right.

It’s both pathetic and reassuring.

Is Anyone Surprised by This?

Because I see the news that the Keystone Pipeline just had an oil spill of almost ½ million gallons to be profoundly unsurprising.

Trans Canada (or whatever the f%$# they are called these days) has a long history of spills and poor safety practices:

Approximately 383,000 gallons of crude oil have spilled into a North Dakota wetland this week in the latest leak from the Keystone Pipeline, further fueling long-standing opposition to plans for the pipeline network’s extension.

With about half an Olympic swimming pool’s worth of oil covering roughly half an acre, the leak is among the largest in the state, said Karl Rockeman, who directs the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality’s division of water quality. But the spill does not appear to pose an immediate threat to public health, he added, as people do not live nearby and the wetland is not a source of drinking water.

For environmental groups, though, the leak was further evidence that Canada-based pipeline owner TC Energy should not be allowed to build the controversial Keystone XL addition, which would stretch more than 1,000 miles from Alberta into the United States. The Trump administration approved the plan in 2017 after years of protests, but the project was blocked by a federal judge who called for further study on environmental impacts.

“With each one of these major spills that happens on the Keystone pipeline system, it becomes clearer and clearer that this is not safe,” said Doug Hayes, an attorney leading the Sierra Club’s work on Keystone XL. Critics worry about a similar mishap contaminating one of the hundreds of waterways along Keystone XL’s expected path, he said.

Trudeau Wins in Canada, But Will Lead a Minority Government

Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party looks set to win 156 in Canada’s house of commons, significantly better than the the 121 currently netted by the conservatives.

He’ll need support from the progressive NDP (~25 seats, down from 39) and the Quebecois BQ (~30 seats up from 10) to form a coalition government.

One hopes that what are likely to be his new coalition partners can successfully push to move Canada away from the extraction economy.

Trudeau has been the tar sands industry and the TransCanada Corporation’s bitch in his last term.

Live in Obedient Fear, Citizen

The Oregon Titan Fusion Center, a federally funded anti-terrorism center, was used to track peaceful environmental protesters.

This is not a surprise.  Repurposing resources in this way is pretty much baked into the whole “Fusion Center” concept, and we already know that law enforcement in Oregon is pro white supremacist and anti-environmentalist:

A federally sponsored anti-terrorism fusion center in Oregon assisted a taskforce monitoring protest groups organizing against a fossil fuel infrastructure project in the state, according to documents obtained by the Guardian.

The Oregon Titan Fusion Center – part of a network set up to monitor terrorist activities – disseminated information gathered by that taskforce, and shared information provided by private security attached to the gas project with some of the task force members.

Observers, including the American Civil Liberties Union, argue these efforts break Oregon law.


The national network of fusion centers were created in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as focal points for cooperation and information sharing between federal, state and local agencies in detecting and responding to terrorist and criminal activities. In 2018 the House homeland security committee counted 79 fusion centers around the country.

In its own materials, the Titan Fusion Center is described as “a collaborative effort of state and federal law enforcement agencies”, focused on “terrorism, organized crime and gang-related criminal activity”.

The center also says that it “may retain protected information that is based on a level of suspicion that is less than ‘reasonable suspicion’, such as tips and leads or suspicious activity report (SAR) information”.

National fusion center materials say that they “receive information from a variety of sources, including suspicious activity reporting (SAR) information from stakeholders within their jurisdictions, as well as federal information and intelligence”.

The center also says that it “will not seek or retain information about an individual or organization solely on the basis of their religious, political, racial, or social views or activities; their participation in a particular non-criminal organization or lawful event”.

The center states that its activities are governed by Oregon statutes that prevent the gathering of “information about the political, religious or social views, associations or activities of any individual, group, association, organization, corporation, business or partnership unless such information directly relates to an investigation of criminal activities”.

But it is precisely such statutes that observers like the ACLU of Oregon say that SWOJTF, and the fusion center, are breaking.

Kelly Simon, an ACLU of Oregon staff attorney, said: “These communications are just more evidence of the Coos county sheriff’s and Titan Fusion Center’s utter disregard for the bedrock principle of freedom of expression and of Oregon’s anti-profiling laws”.

It should be noted that the , “Titan Fusion Center’s utter disregard for the bedrock principle of freedom of expression and of Oregon’s anti-profiling laws,” is a feature, and not a bug of the program.

Whenever efforts like this are initiated, law enforcement uses them to avoid the legal and constitutional restrictions on how they do their jobs.

This is a fact that is frequently ignored when such programs are drawn up.

A Good Start, US Forest Service Smackdown Edition

A judge has ruled that the US Forest Service erred in granting a mining permit, upending decades of policy by the agency, which has literally operated on the assumption that it has no basis do deny a mining claim in almost all circumstances.

Basically, the ruling says that while there is an affirmative right for miners to mine a claim where there is valuable minerals (Gold, Silver, Platinum, Uranium, Tungsten, etc.) on public land, but that if you are dumping millions of tons of tailings on a part of your claim, you are tacitly admitting that there are no valuable minerals under that portion of your claim.

As a matter of law and common sense, this seems to be correct.

Clearly, this will be appealed, and clearly it is clear that the Trump administration, and the Forest Service:

For decades, the U.S. Forest Service has said it can’t say “no” to a mine on its land.

Now, the recent federal court ruling overturning approval of the Rosemont Mine on service land near Tucson will make it harder for the Forest Service to say “yes.”

Legal experts say U.S. District Judge James Soto’s July 31 ruling, if upheld in higher courts, will have national repercussions.


The ruling could chill the hard-rock mining industry that has lived under a generally favorable legal climate since Congress passed the 1872 Mining Law to encourage mineral exploration of public lands.

Mining industry lawyers say the ruling usurps the role of government agencies in making such decisions, could bring chaos to federal mining reviews and will add more delays in permitting to an industry already having some of the longest permit times for new mines in the Western world.

Environmental law professors say the ruling is well-grounded factually and could end a century-old practice by mining companies of skirting or dodging federal law by dumping mining wastes on federal lands without proper reviews.


Soto’s order is “likely the most significant federal court decision on federal mining law in several decades,” mining industry lawyers James Allen and Michael Ford of the Phoenix-based law firm Snell and Wilmer wrote in an online article.


In the meantime, the ruling, if upheld, would make opening a big new mine in the United States on public lands very hard, said Leshy, professor emeritus at the University of California-Hastings College of Law.


Soto overturned the Forest Service’s approval of the mine, which would create 500 full-time jobs at high wages and 2,500 construction jobs, but would disturb 3,653 acres of national forest.

Rosemont also would disturb and desecrate 33 ancient Native American burial grounds containing or likely containing human remains of ancestors of the Tohono O’Odham, Pascua Yaqui and Hopi tribes, the judge wrote, as he ruled on two lawsuits, filed by four environmental groups and the other by the three tribes.

The opponents’ lawsuits successfully argued that only public lands directly above valuable mineral deposits are covered by the federal 1872 Mining Law’s definition of mining rights.

The judge found that the Forest Service had erred in approving Rosemont without determining the validity of the mining claims on 2,447 acres of public land where Hudbay Minerals Inc. wants to dump the mine’s waste rock and tailings.

To prove validity under the 1872 law, Soto wrote, Hudbay would have had to show that the land contained valuable mineral deposits, which he said the company had failed to do.


Soto’s ruling effectively holds that the feds cannot say “yes” to a proposal to dump mine tailings on invalid mining claims, said Mark Squillace, a University of Colorado law professor. Mining claims can only be used to extract the minerals located there, he said.

“Since dumping tailings on the claims could make it difficult or almost impossible to develop the claims going forward, Rosemont seems to be admitting that the claims do not contain valuable minerals and thus are not valid claims,” Squillace said.


Since the 1872 Mining Law passed, mining companies have legally dealt with their need to dispose of waste rock and tailings in two ways.

They have placed them, as Hudbay wants to do, on federal land on which they have filed “unpatented” mining claims, on which they don’t own the land but own its mineral rights.

Or, they have created what are known as mill sites to let them put wastes on those lands. That doesn’t require proof of a valuable mineral deposit but is limited to 5 acres per mining claim.

Legal experts on both sides of the issue say the use of unpatented claim land for mine wastes without a check on their validity has survived largely unchallenged until now.


The exceptions would occur when a mining company wants to operate on land where the service has already forbidden mining; when someone applies to “patent” a claim by getting it as their property; and when the service determines that a company’s proposed land use isn’t related to mining.

Nearly seven years later, in the final Rosemont environmental impact statement, the service said that putting waste rock and tailings on forest land is considered to be connected to mining under federal rules.


Soto’s ruling bought into Huckelberry’s arguments, saying Rosemont’s proposal to bury its unpatented claim land with waste “was a powerful indication that there was not a valuable mineral deposit underneath that land.”

Geological studies and maps indicate primarily common sand, stone and gravel lie beneath the land: “This does not constitute a valuable mineral,” Soto wrote.

He noted that the Forest Service and Hudbay cited two federal laws passed a half-century apart that say mining can’t be prohibited on federal lands. One, the Multiple Use Act of 1955, also prohibits interfering with “reasonably incidental mining activities” on federal lands, which Rosemont says its waste disposal would be.

But those laws only protect mining activities permitted under the 1872 Mining Law, which isn’t the case for Rosemont’s dumping tailings and waste rock on non-valid claimed land, the judge wrote.


Attorney Jensen’s view is what former Interior Solicitor Leshy said he expects will be the industry and government’s arguments during an appeal.

“It’s basically saying, the government can stick its head in the sand and not look at the obvious, and the courts should not intervene to stop it. It’s kind of a ‘prosecutorial discretion’ argument — the government gets to decide when and whether to challenge the validity of mining claims,” he said.

But although the government gets a good deal of deference, it can’t act “arbitrarily and capriciously,” said Leshy, citing a phrase from Soto’s ruling.

“It is arbitrary and capricious for the government to close its eyes to the plain facts in front of it — these mining claims used for tailings piles do not have minerals that can be profitably mined and are therefore invalid, and that means the company does not have a right to use them for that purpose.”

Here is hoping that this ruling survives appeal.

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Whey*

A UK dairy in Yorkshire has signed an agreement with a local biogas plant to supply it with a by-product of cheese-making that would be turned into thermal power to heat homes in the area.

The Wensleydale Creamery, which produces the Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese, makes 4,000 tons of cheese every year at its dairy in Hawes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

The company has struck a deal with specialist environment fund manager Iona Capital, under which an Iona biogas plant will produce more than 10,000 MWh of energy per year from whey—a by-product of cheese making, Wensleydale Creamery said on Monday.

Under the deal, Wensleydale Creamery will provide Iona Capital’s Leeming Biogas plant in North Yorkshire with leftover whey from the process of cheese making. The plant will process and turn the whey into “green gas” via anaerobic digestion that will produce thermal power sufficient to heat 800 homes a year.


“Once we have converted the cheese by-product supplied by Wensleydale into sustainable green gas, we can feed what’s left at the end of the process onto neighbouring farmland to improve local topsoil quality. This shows the real impact of the circular economy and the part intelligent investment can play in reducing our CO2 emissions,” Mike Dunn, co-founder of Iona, said in a statement.

This is the right thing to do, but mostly, I’m here for the puns.

*Yes, I am posting this just for that pun.

I Weep for the Tortoises

Notwithstanding a section of their constitution banning foreign military bases, Ecuador is allowing the US to set up a base in Galapagos:

Ecuador has agreed to allow US military planes to operate from an airport on the Galapagos Islands, reports say.

US aircraft will be able to use San Cristobal airport, Ecuador’s defence minister Oswaldo Jarrin has been quoted as saying.

They will “fight drug trafficking” under a deal with Ecuador’s government, Mr Jarrin said.

The reported deal has prompted concerns over the potential impact on the environment and Ecuador’s sovereignty.


Legislators in Ecuador’s parliament have called on Mr Jarrin and environment minister Marcelo Mata to explain the scope of co-operation with the US in the islands.

They have asked them to elaborate on proposals to extend the runway at San Cristobal airport, daily El Universo reports.

Lawmaker Marcela Cevallos said the plan would be alarming for conservationists, it reported.

Opposition congressman Carlos Viteri said the agreement with the US was “unacceptable” and should be prohibited if “it intends to cede an inch of Ecuadorian territory”.

Under Article 5 of Ecuador’s constitution, the country is “a territory of peace” and the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed”.

Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa also reacted angrily, tweeting (in Spanish) that the island was “not an aircraft carrier” for the Americans.

Mr Jarrin assured critics that “there will be no permanence of anyone” on the island.

He said any modifications to the airfield would be paid for by the US, Telesur reported.

So, the US will pay to modify airfield, potentially destroying hundreds of acres of habitat on San Cristobal, but it’s not a base.

This is manifest destiny Monroe Doctrine bullsh%$.

Stupid Judge Tricks

I approve of the US Court of Appeals of the 4th circuit’s opinion revoking the permit of a pipeline that crosses the Appalachian Trail, but I’m less sanguine of their invoking Dr. Seuss:

A federal appeals court has thrown out a power company’s permit to build a natural gas pipeline across two national forests and the Appalachian Trail – and slammed the U.S. Forest Service for granting the approvals in the first place.

In a decision filed Thursday by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., a three-judge panel declared the U.S. Forest Service “abdicated its responsibility to preserve national forest resources” when it issued permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and a right of way across the Appalachian Trail.

“This conclusion,” they wrote in a unanimous judgment, “is particularly informed by the Forest Service’s serious environmental concerns that were suddenly, and mysteriously, assuaged in time to meet a private pipeline company’s deadlines.”

The judges cited Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax: “We trust the United States Forest Service to ‘speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.'”

(emphasis mine)

Seriously, Dr. Seuss?

I know that the law is sometimes dry, but the judges are overcompensating here.