Saturday, May 07, 2005


The Bush administration yesterday overturned one of the most significant land conservation measures of the Clinton presidency: a ban on road building, logging and development on 58.5 million acres of national forests. The move could open large areas of pristine land to industry. The "roadless rule" affects 31 percent of all national forestland, mostly in Alaska and the West - an area about one-third the size of Texas. President Clinton put the far-reaching land-conservation initiative in place during the final days of his administration.

Though 38 states have some areas of national forests without roads, 97 percent of the land at issue is in 12 Western states. The U.S. Forest Service manages about 191 million acres of forests and grasslands. The new rule gives governors 18 months to propose to the Agriculture Department which national forestland should be left untouched and which should be opened for other uses. If governors propose no changes in the way the national forests in their states are currently used, or their proposals for changes are rejected by Washington, roadless areas could be opened immediately for development unless specifically protected by 10-year forest plans.

Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey said the goal is to "afford protection to roadless areas in the right way." Efforts dating back 40 years failed, he said, because they ignored the views of state officials and local residents about how national forestland should be used and invited lengthy lawsuits.



Environmentalists filed a challenge with the NAFTA Commission for Environmental Cooperation on Tuesday against a U.S. liquefied natural gas import terminal planned off Mexico's Pacific coast, within sight of San Diego. Greenpeace Mexico and six other U.S. and Mexican organizations accused Mexico of failing to fully evaluate the possible impact of the plant near Baja California's Coronado Island on an endangered seabird known as Xantus' murrelet. "The Commission for Environmental Cooperation should consider this complaint, because this is a species of bird that migrates and involves all three (NAFTA) countries," Arturo Moreno of Greenpeace Mexico told reporters in Mexico City. Isla Coronado is home to the largest known colony of the small black-and-white seabird, and Moreno said it could be harmed by the lights, activity and chlorinated water discharges at a plant located just 600 yards from the island's shore, which is 8 miles off the coast of Tijuana, and just south of the international border. The bird's population is estimated to be less than 10,000, with more than half of that nesting at Isla Coronado.

The other groups filing the complaint include the American Bird Conservancy, the Los Angeles Audubon Society and the Pacific Environment and Resource Center. The environmental commission, based in Montreal, Canada, was created under the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada. While the commission has the power to carry out an investigation of whether member countries have failed to enforce their environmental rules, it cannot make recommendations or order them to comply.

Moreno claims oil companies are treating Baja California as their "backyard," with gas plants and electrical power plants located in Mexico that mainly serve the California market. U.S. energy giant ChevronTexaco Corp. already has the main federal approvals necessary for the proposed terminal at the uninhabited Isla Coronado.

Greenpeace says Mexico's Environment Department failed to gather sufficient scientific information about impacts on the birds and failed to properly catalog plants and wildlife at the islands.

More here


Reporting on air quality has improved, but not by nearly as much as air quality itself. The American Lung Association's annual State of the Air report has also improved, but not by nearly as much as air quality reporting. Despite unprecedented gains in air quality during the last two years, State of the Air continues to exaggerate air pollution levels and health risks. And despite a few positive headlines about air pollution trends, journalists continue to parrot ALA's claims with little or no critical review of their veracity. We still have a long way to go before activists' and journalists' claims match air quality reality.

Recent air quality improvements are extraordinary. Days exceeding EPA's tough new 8-hour ozone standard dropped more than 50 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2004, even though 2003 was itself a record year. Forty-four percent of ozone monitoring locations violated the standard as of the end of 2003, but only 31 percent as of the end of 2004. Both are huge improvements over the 1970s, when 80 percent of monitors violated the 8-hour standard.

The 2003 and 2004 ozone improvements were partially due to cool, wet weather. Nevertheless, other years have had weather unfavorable to ozone formation, but none have had ozone levels anywhere near as low as 2004. Ongoing declines in ozone-forming pollution are the main reason for the long-term downward trend. Four of the last five years were the four lowest ozone years since national monitoring began in the mid 1970s, suggesting that something more than random weather variations explains recent air quality improvements.

Levels of fine particulates (PM2.5) are also at record lows. Annual-average PM2.5 levels declined more than 14 percent between 1999 and 2004, and 45 percent between 1981 and 2004. Thirty-three percent of U.S. monitoring locations violated federal PM2.5 standards in 2001, but only 15 percent as of the end of 2004. Once again, both are huge improvements over the 80 percent violation rate during the early 1980s.

Readers of State of the Air don't learn any of this. The report doesn't say a word about 2004's pollution levels. Air quality progress receives a quick mention, but without any of the specific or quantitative details that would show the extraordinary magnitude of the improvements. Providing these details would undermine much of the impact of ALA's report, which likely explains the omission.

These air pollution improvements occurred despite large increases energy use and a doubling of total miles driven by motor vehicles since 1980. The story of the last hundred years has been more people, more highways, more cars, more energy, more wealth.and less air pollution. Ever improving technology has allowed us to have far cleaner air without the need to restrict people's choices about where and how to live, work, and travel.

ALA also exaggerates the amount of pollution in the air. State of the Air claims 152 million Americans, more than half the population, lives in areas that violate federal air pollution standards. In reality, fewer than half this number of people live in areas that violate federal pollution standards. Here's how ALA fudges the numbers: First, if even one pollution monitor in a county violates a pollution standard, ALA counts everyone in the county as breathing air that violates the standard. For example, 99 percent of San Diegans live in areas that comply with EPA's 8-hour ozone standard. Only one rural area violates the standard, but ALA counts all 3 million people in the county as breathing air that violates the standard. This is not an isolated example. More than 90 percent of people in Cook (Chicago) and Maricopa (Phoenix) counties live in areas that comply with the 8-hour ozone standard, and even in Los Angeles County 60 percent of people live in areas that comply with the standard. These four counties alone are home to more than 21 million people, and ALA wrongly counts more than 16 million of them as breathing air that violates EPA's ozone standards. A similar over count can happen for particulate levels. Only one of Allegheny (Pittsburgh) County's dozen PM2.5 monitors violates EPA's 24-hour PM2.5 standard......

Despite ALA's exaggerations, tens of millions of Americans really do live in areas that exceed EPA's health standards for ozone, PM2.5 or both. ALA creates the impression that everyone living in areas that exceed EPA's standards is suffering serious health damage or even death. In reality, EPA's pollution standards have become so stringent that exceeding them has few implications for people's health.....

Even activists' own studies sometimes suggest air pollution is having a small effect on people's health. A study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that a 75 percent reduction in U.S. power plant pollution would reduce the incidence of serious respiratory and cardiovascular health effects by 0.4 to 1.6 percent. And even this study ignores the fact that high concentrations of ammonium sulfate, the type of particulate matter from power plants, have been shown to have no health effects in studies with human volunteers, including studies with elderly asthmatics.....

Polls continue to show that most Americans believe air pollution has stayed the same or worsened over the last decade, will worsen in the future, and is a widespread and serious threat to health even at current, historically low levels. All of these beliefs are false. We can't expect ALA to make State of the Air correspond with reality, for reality is too benign to meet ALA's needs. But we should expect more from journalists and editors. It's time for the Fourth Estate to treat environmental activists with the same skepticism appropriate for other interested parties in environmental debates.

More here


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Comments? Email me here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


No comments: