air & water pollution

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Trump EPA spoiled this Virgin island

The residents of St. Croix are living with a ticking time-bomb:

The idled plant on St. Croix, formerly known as the Limetree Bay refinery, experienced a series of accidents over the course of last year that spewed noxious fumes and showered oil droplets onto nearby homes, sending some residents to emergency rooms. Now deteriorating conditions at the massive facility, which was sold in a bankruptcy auction in December, pose a major test of the Biden administration’s commitment to environmental justice.

In September, the EPA conducted an inspection of the refinery and observed “significant corrosion” of equipment including valves, pipes and pressure relief devices, the agency said in a letter sent to the owners’ lawyers Oct. 13 and made public this week.

This facility was originally constructed over 50 years ago, and has been shut down several times for various reasons. But the Trump administration's negligent approach to environmental stewardship created an opportunity to squeeze more dollars out of it:

Chemours hit with $200,000 in fines for continuing to discharge PFAS

Either do or do not; there is no try:

North Carolina environmental regulators have penalized Chemours nearly $200,000 for failing to meet terms of a consent order and violations related to the construction and installation of required measures to treat residual “forever chemicals” at the company’s Fayetteville Works plant.

In 2017, the Department of Environmental Quality ordered Chemours to stop discharging its wastewater into the river, but residual PFAS have continued to escape from the outfall and groundwater seeps on the company’s property.

It's long past time we reassess our approach to permitting discharges into our creeks & rivers. Somebody once asked me (a 12 year-old, no less) why we let chemical companies build their facilities right on the edge of our rivers, and I was forced to tell this child the truth: so they could more easily dispose of their wastewater. Coal plants need to be close to water resources because they use it for steam and for cooling purposes. But chemical plants? Nope. They don't have such needs. For decades they have used rivers as a convenient (and cheap) method for getting rid of their toxic wastes, and we have allowed them to do that. Shame on us. Here's a breakdown of the fines assessed:

Justice is (finally) coming for Flint residents

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Water is the source of life, or death:

After a criminal investigation that stretched close to two years, prosecutors in Michigan on Thursday announced 41 counts — 34 felonies and seven misdemeanors — against nine officials who once worked in the highest echelons of state government.

Prosecutors said the officials failed to protect the safety and health of the residents of Flint, who were sickened by increased levels of lead and by Legionnaires' disease after the city’s water supply was switched to the Flint River in April of 2014. At least nine people died of Legionnaires’ in the Flint region from June of 2014 through October of 2015; two of the officials on Thursday were charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The Flint River was already nasty decades before Michigan officials decided to make the switch. They knew it, and so did everybody else. But they did it anyway:

Is Biogas a net positive or negative?

In which we put anaerobic digesters on trial:

North Carolina’s Division of Air Quality wants to hear from people in Duplin and Sampson counties about a proposed biogas facility. It’s called Align RNG. It’s a partnership between Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods. The project involves converting manure from 19 local hog farms into renewable energy.

“The methane product that is created, it gets inserted into this natural gas pipeline that’s then used for commercial and residential use,” said Zaynab Nasif, spokesperson for the NCDAQ.

This is one of those issues that has the environmental community split into opposing camps, with each side making some pretty solid arguments. I will endeavor to cover those equally, which means I'll probably piss everybody off. We'll start with taking a look at the science involved:

Trump will go down in history as the anti-environment President

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Endangering the health of citizens and ecosystems alike:

The bulk of the rollbacks identified by the Times have been carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, which has weakened Obama-era limits on planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and from cars and trucks; removed protections from more than half the nation's wetlands; and withdrawn the legal justification for restricting mercury emissions from power plants.

At the same time, the Interior Department has worked to open up more land for oil and gas leasing by limiting wildlife protections and weakening environmental requirements for projects.

Before we get into the details of Trump's transgressions against the environment, here's another angle to consider: NC's Republican Legislative leaders pushed hard to restrict DENR (now DEQ) from enacting rules that were tougher that EPA guidelines, arguing the Federal rules were "more than enough" to protect our air and water. But have you seen those Republicans taking any steps to counter all these Trump rollbacks? That's a rhetorical question, because of course not. They simply don't care about the environment, clean water, breathable air, etc. Not on their radar, period. Back to Trump:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Andrew Wheeler just might be an idiot

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Asking Chemours to make a newer, safer forever chemical:

Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said on Monday the Chemours Co. chemical plant near Fayetteville should switch production to a newer, less dangerous form of the controversial PFAS chemical.

The roundtable is being held by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. The meeting includes several local elected officials, a Cumberland County deputy manager, and members of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) were invited, officials said later Monday.

Guess what, Einstein? GenX is the newer and supposedly safer chemical. It was developed to replace C8, after DuPont lost a massive lawsuit related to the contamination of the Ohio River and the poisoning of local residents:

MVP Southgate pipeline has key permit denied by NC DEQ

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Fantastic news for Alamance and Rockingham Counties:

nother natural gas pipeline in North Carolina has been derailed, at least temporarily, as the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has denied a water quality permit for the MVP Southgate project that would route through Rockingham and Alamance counties.

In a letter released this afternoon, Division of Water Resources Director Danny Smith wrote, “Due to uncertainty surrounding the completion of the MVP Mainline project,” it has determined that “work on the Southgate extension could lead to unnecessary water quality impacts and disturbance of the environment in North Carolina.”

This project has been flying under the radar of most North Carolina areas, since it is a relatively short spur compared to the now defunct ACP. But it is a very real (and frightening) issue for many of us in Alamance County. The "landmen" have been poking around on people's properties since last year, and some property owners have been taken to court for not allowing those trespassers access:

Trump threatens to Veto HR 535 PFAS regulatory bill

Breaking his own promise to control these chemicals:

The Trump administration threatened to veto H.R. 535, the PFAS Action Act, which would set deadlines for EPA to reduce ongoing PFAS releases and set a drinking water standard for two notorious PFAS chemicals. Last February, David Ross, the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water, pledged to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate environment panel, that “by the end of this year,” the agency “will propose a regulatory determination, which is the next step in the Safe Drinking Water Act process” for establishing an enforceable legal limit.

But although the EPA has sent a regulatory determination to the White House, administration officials have blocked efforts to require drinking water utilities to filter PFAS from tap water.

It's an election year, so you'll have to excuse me for moving politics to the forefront of this conversation. But this issue is in the top five of things that directly affect North Carolinians, and those voters need to know just how little Trump cares about the health and well-being of their families. Every day that passes in the absence of EPA oversight is a gift to polluters like Chemours, and a curse to the rest of the state. But it isn't just a NC problem, some 100 million Americans may be dealing with these chemicals in their drinking water:

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