Wednesday, January 19, 2011


By Boutris Wittfogel
The State Water Resources Control Board recently offered a surreal clinical demonstration of the body's collective Kryptonic aversion to upholding laws designed to protect drinking water.  At issue is a provision of the California Water Code so plainly defined in statute it is known throughout the  water world as the Mandatory Minimum Penalty law.  Read the State Water Resources Control Board's own report about how mandatory the Mandatory Minimum Penalty law is.

Here’s a brief snippet from that report:  In 2000, new legislation (Senate Bill 709) required that certain permit violations under the Water Code be subject to mandatory minimum penalties (MMPs).  While the State Water Resources Control Board and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (collectively Water Boards) did assess MMPs as a result of the new legislation, the 2007 Water Boards’ Enforcement Report showed that 7,880 violations (from Jan. 1, 2000 through Dec. 31, 2007) did not received a penalty at or above the mandatory minimum amount.  If a local police agency had this record of law enforcement they would be under investigation by the FBI.

Three years later, the regional boards and the state board still avoid enforcing Water Code section 13385 and imposing the “mandatory” penalties. Read more ....

Breaking news: EPA vetoes Spruce Mine permit

January 13, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr.

Word is just coming down that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has vetoed the largest single mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history.

The move is part of an Obama administration crackdown aimed at reducing the effects of mountaintop removal coal-mining on the environment and on coalfield communities in Appalachian — impacts that scientists are increasingly finding to be pervasive and irreversible.

The final EPA decision document withdrawing the Clean Water Act Section 404 permit is available hereEPA has also now posted some appendices to that document, including a response to comments.
EPA officials this morning were alerting West Virginia’s congressional delegation to their action, and undoubtedly preparing for a huge backlash from the mining industry and its friends among coalfield political leaders.

In making its decision to veto the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ approval of the 2,300-acre mine proposed for the Blair area of Logan County, EPA noted that it reviewed more than 50,000 public comments and held a major public hearing in West Virginia. EPA officials said their agency is “acting under the law and using the best science available to protect water quality, wildlife and Appalachian communities who rely on clean waters for drinking, fishing and swimming.”

Peter S. Silva, EPA’s assistant administrator for water, said:

The proposed Spruce No. 1 Mine would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend. Coal and coal mining are part of our nation’s energy future, and EPA has worked with companies to design mining operations that adequately protect our nation’s water. We have responsibility under the law to protect water quality and safeguard the people who rely on clean water.
The agency also said:
EPA’s final determination on the Spruce Mine comes after discussions with the company spanning more than a year failed to produce an agreement that would lead to a significant decrease in impacts to the environment and Appalachian communities. The action prevents the mine from disposing the waste into streams unless the company identifies an alternative mining design that would avoid irreversible damage to water quality and meets the requirements of the law. Despite EPA’s willingness to consider alternatives, Mingo Logan did not offer any new proposed mining configurations in response to EPA’s Recommended Determination.
In addition, EPA argued:
EPA believes that companies can design their operations to make them more sustainable and compliant with the law. Last year, EPA worked closely with a mining company in West Virginia to eliminate nearly 50 percent of their water impacts and reduce contamination while at the same time increasing their coal production. These are the kinds of success stories that can be achieved through collaboration and willingness to reduce the impact on mining pollution on our waters. Those changes helped permanently protect local waters, maximize coal recovery and reduce costs for the operators.

Readers will recall that the Obama EPA began looking more closely at the Spruce Mine in September 2009.  But debate over the proposed operation dates back to the late 1990s, when then-U.S. District Judge Charles H. Haden II issued an injunction that blocked the mine, which then was proposed for more than 3,000 acres. After the Haden ruling, the company reduced the size of its proposal and the operation underwent much more intense scrutiny, in the form of a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement by the Corps of Engineers, which approved the new mining configuration in January 2007.

EPA began the veto process in October 2009 and issued in March 2010 a preliminary determination that the mine would cause unacceptable impacts. EPA held a public hearing in May 2010, and EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin issued the formal recommended veto in October 2010.
In today’s announcement, EPA outlined these concerns that the proposed mining operation would have:

– Disposed of 110 million cubic yards of coal mine waste into streams.
— Buried more than six miles of high-quality streams in Logan County, West Virginia with millions of tons of mining waste from the dynamiting of more than 2,200 acres of mountains and forestlands.
— Buried more than 35,000 feet of high-quality streams under mining waste, which will eliminate all fish, small invertebrates, salamanders, and other wildlife that live in them.
— Polluted downstream waters as a result of burying these streams, which will lead to unhealthy levels of salinity and toxic levels of selenium that turn fresh water into salty water. The resulting waste that then fills valleys and streams can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and streams.
— Caused downstream watershed degradation that will kill wildlife, impact birdlife, reduce habitat value, and increase susceptibility to toxic algal blooms.
— Inadequately mitigated for the mine’s environmental impacts by not replacing streams being buried, and attempting to use stormwater ditches as compensation for natural stream losses.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Supreme Court Terminated Governor’s Last-Ditch Petition to Sell State Properties

Patrick Porgans
Planetary Solutionaries
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his campaign supporters received a major setback Dec. 28, when the California Supreme Court’s Acting Chief Justice Patricia Benke ruled against his petition and plan to complete the sale of 11 state office properties before leaving office.
The court’s ruling was a correct one. Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to sell 11 of the state’s iconic properties – including the Ronald Reagan building in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Civic Center – supposedly was to help pay off a portion of the State’s multi-billion dollar deficit and increasing debt load.
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