July 6, 2011
This week s Exxon pipeline leak of 42,000 gallons of oil into Montana s famed Yellowstone River demonstrates just how quickly inadequate regulations translate into real harm to western waters, and the communities and businesses that rely on them.
The Environmental Protection Agency is currently taking public comments on new guidelines that will determine which western waterways are considered waters of the U.S. and therefore protected under the Clean Water Act.
Some recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have muddied the water, and these guidance documents will go a long way towards clarifying this important issue.
The EPA estimates that more than 117 million Americans get their drinking water from public supplies fed in whole or in part by intermittent or ephemeral streams vulnerable to pollution thanks to current confusion.
By Nick Magel
July 5, 2011
[UPDATE with Press Release] Costco s Facebook page is flooded with messages from their customers asking Costo to sign on to the No Dirty Gold Campaign s Golden Rules . Here are a few from just the last hour:
"What does it cost in human health and conditions to save a few dollars on your gold jewelry? Think of the profits when you can proudly boast Fair Trade?? Walmart cheated-- Here's your edge." - Facebook user
"It is deplorable to support human rights violations. I will not shop for Jewelery at Costo until such time as it signs on to the No Dirty Gold Campaigns Golden Rules. I will not renew my membership unless Costco takes this action" - Facebook user
Costco, show me you care about human rights, ending child labor, and protecting the environment. Sign the Golden Rules! And then--here's where it gets tricky--FOLLOW THEM. (We'll find out if you don't.)" - Facebook user
By Nick Magel
July 5, 2011
A few weeks ago I blogged about Aymara communities ongoing struggle to stop a major silver mine near Lake Titicaca (map of site). These communities had been protesting the permitting of this major silver mine from the Canadian mining company Bear Creek for months. Fearing the continued pollution of their water sources and the threat of contamination of the sacred Andean lake, the protests were escalated in mid-May when 10,000 s of people converged in Puno. These protestors proceeded to blockade the major transportation and trade route to Bolivia to highlight communities' demands and illustrate their determination to protect their right to self-determination and the environment.
The protests were lifted to enable the presidential runoff election to take place in the region in early June. This suspension was no doubt a smart strategic move, because Humala the eventual winner of the election was a popular choice in the community because of his voiced commitment to prioritize healthy communities over irresponsible mining.
By Gwen Lachelt
July 1, 2011
Your vehicle may run on diesel fuel, but would you put it in your drinking water?
Thanks to Lisa Sumi, our crackerjack science and research advisor, we submitted hard-hitting comments to the EPA this week as part of the agency s process to develop permitting requirements for companies that use diesel in hydraulic fracturing ( fracking ) operations.
In 2005, Congress exempted fracking operations from regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act unless fracking fluids contain diesel. Companies are supposed to receive authorization from the EPA if they plan to use diesel in fracturing fluids. But, guess what? Even though a Congressional investigation revealed that companies are using diesel in at least 19 states, no company has ever sought permission to use diesel. They just do it.
What s so bad about diesel fuel? Diesel contains benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. In some cases, companies are fracking directly into underground sources of drinking water (USDWs). Using industry data, the EPA reports that even in cases where the smallest amounts of diesel were injected, the benzene levels exceeded water quality standards.
Bottom line? EPA must require full disclosure of chemicals used in fracturing operations, prohibit injection of diesel fuels into USDWs and refuse to permit any fracking where benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEXs) exceed drinking water standards.
July 1, 2011
Thank you to Blue Nile!
It s that time of the year when the wild salmon are making their annual epic journey from the ocean up into the headwaters of Alaska s Bristol Bay to spawn. It s an amazing force of nature on average some 40 million salmon strong! And, it s the economic engine for the region - supplying some 50% of the world s commercial supply of wild sockeye salmon!
No wonder there s so much support for protecting this sustainable salmon fishery, and the communities and hardworking commercial fishermen who rely on it, against the proposed Pebble mine. The Pebble gold and copper mine, proposed by UK-based Anglo American, would dispose of up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste in the Bristol Bay Fishery Reserve.
Responsible jewelers across the company have lined up in support of Bristol Bay protection, pledging not to source gold from the Pebble mine, should it be developed. The most recent signatory is on-line jeweler Blue Nile Inc. It joins over 50 other jewelers in making this commitment towards responsible gold sourcing. Check out the full list of jewelers at http://www.ourbristolbay.com/pledge-signee.html
We thank them for it. And, 40 million salmon do too!