Search this blog
- Fluorinated chemicals: What kind of study?
- Worker deaths up again in U.S.
- Good news, bad news for imperiled fish species
- National health study sought on fluorinated chemicals
- Storms, chemical safety and appeals courts
Obama EPA administrator Lisa Jackson isn’t commenting on allegations that, while head of New Jersey’s environmental agency, she tried to suppress a major report on the health effects of the toxic chemical PFOA.
But, EPA attorneys are talking about their concerns that a former general counsel for America’s Top Superfund polluter isn’t the right person to run the U.S. Department of Justice’s environmental division.
President Barack Obama’s nomination of Ignacia Moreno is moving quietly through the confirmation process, with hearings expected to begin in the next few weeks. But ProPublica’s Joaquin Sapien interviewed six EPA attorneys who questioned whether Moreno is right for the post.
As ProPublica reported:
Moreno has worked for the environment division before, during the Clinton administration. But her most recent job — as environmental counsel for General Electric — has raised eyebrows among Environmental Protection Agency attorneys. Before Moreno worked for GE, she spent five years defending other companies in pollution-related lawsuits.
For decades, the EPA has clashed with GE over the many toxic waste sites the company has been linked to through the Superfund program. For the past two years, Moreno has defended GE in some of these cases. Now, if her nomination is confirmed, she will be one of the government’s top enforcement lawyers for the Superfund program and other environmental laws.
Times -Â and wallets -Â areÂ tight as ever.Â Still, West VirginiaÂ families will have to shell out even more money this fall when college studentsÂ head back to campus. Â
Officials atÂ 12 of the state’sÂ public collegesÂ and universities –Â allÂ offering at least someÂ four-year degrees –Â have increased tuition and fees for the 2009-2010 academic year, according toÂ data released by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
Four schools – Concord, Glenville State, West Liberty and WVU-Parkersburg – increased tuition costs byÂ at least 8.6 percentÂ for resident undergraduates.
By comparison, Fairmont State and West Virginia StateÂ hiked tuition costs by 3.08 and 3.99Â percent, respectively,Â for resident undergraduates. Still, a year’s tuition and fees atÂ Fairmont State, atÂ $4,952,Â costs more than four of the otherÂ schools. Concord, at $4,974 a year, is the exception.
For resident undergraduates, West Virginia University begs the highestÂ yearly tuition, at $5,304Â per year, while WVU-Parkersburg and WVU’s Potomac State College,Â at $2,845 and $2,886, willÂ cost the least per year. The latter twoÂ schools offer a mix ofÂ associate’s and bachelor’s degrees with someÂ two-year and some four-year programs.
Officials at bothÂ WVU and Marshall, who raised tuition 4 percent and 6.90 percent, respectively, were criticized forÂ announcing theirÂ tuition increases so late in the spring.Â
West Virginia’s senior U.S. Senator, Robert C. Byrd, quizzed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano earlier this week about chemical plant safety, in the wake of the congressional hearings and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigation at Bayer CropScience in Institute.
According to a MetroNews story,Â wanted to clear up questions about overlapping jurisdiction among various federal agencies, including EPA, OSHA, the CSB and the Coast Guard:
“During the months since the explosion we learned that no one federal agency is responsible for the safety of chemical plants,” Byrd said. “That leaves you and me with the classic Washington question, who is in charge here?”
The senior senator asked Secretary Napolitano to look into the situation and see if there’s a better way for the federal government to secure chemical facilities and investigate accidents.
A U.S. Chemical Safety Board map shows that areas and populations forced the shelter in place by the August 2008 Bayer explosion and fire.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller had already issued one statement about the congressional investigation on the Bayer CropScience explosion and fire. It was issued prior to the hearing, and included in the hearing record.
But the West Virginia Democrat was apparently pretty upset by what he heard during the hearing. Rockefeller’s office issued another statement this morning. Here it is:
â€œThese findings are an outrage. I was expecting bad news, but this is far worse than I could have imagined and very disturbing,â€ said Senator Rockefeller, who submitted testimony at the hearing. â€œBayer Chemical Company owes all West Virginia families a clear explanation for this explosion, the response, and any potential hazards, and should cooperate fully with this investigation. We must make sure this never happens again.â€
An overhead view showing the proximity of the 37,000-pound MIC storage tank (the day tank) to the Methomyl residue treater, which exploded. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board.
Two members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation submitted statements for the record of yesterday’s House subcommittee hearing on the Bayer CropScience Institute plant explosion. And a third member of the delegation issued a press release later commenting on the hearing. None of West Virginia’s representatives are on the committee, so they did not get to ask questions.
I didn’t include those statements in the print edition story we published this morning, in large part because the story was already pretty long. So here’s what they had to say …
Sen. Robert C. Byrd:
The answer appears to be yes, and no.
Two political science professors have analyzed legalized gambling revenue and public spending in West Virginina in the most recent issue of “The West Virginia Public Affairs Reporter,” published by theÂ Institute for Public Affairs at WVU’s Politial Science Department.
In their report, “Counting the Chips: The Policy Consequences of Legalized Gambling in West Virginia”, professors Patrick A. Pierce and Richard A. Brisbin Jr., found:
— State and local governments have certainly become more dependent legalized gambling revenue. West Virginia received $25.4 million in gambling revenue in 1991, compared to $639.2 million in 2007.
— Municipal and county governments began receiving legalized gambling revenue in2003, when it amounted to $3.4 million. In 2007, cities and counties received $7.8 million.
Legalized gambling makes a small contribution to relatively low-wage job creation in the state.
— Social costs and problem gambling are difficult to measure, but an earlier study found that problem and pathological gambling was three to four times as common among people living closer than 50 miles from a casino compared to those living farther away. Practically every West Virginian lives within 50 miles of a video lottery outlet and five of the 10 largest cities are within 50 miles of a racetrack with electronic gaming.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller is urging the U.S. Coast Guard not to allow Bayer CropScience to abuse maritime transportation security regulations to hide information about the August 2008 explosion that killed two workers at the company’s Institute plant.
Rockfeller, D-W.Va., sent a letter today to Admiral Thad W. Allen, commander of the Coast Guard, outlining his concerns about the ongoing push by Bayer to use Coast Guard homeland security rules to block release of information from a federal Chemical Safety Board probe of the deadly blast.
On Tuesday, the day before state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Albright was laid to rest in Parkersburg, I got an unsolicited e-mail from a public relations flak in northern Virginia, judging from the 703 area code on her phone number. The e-mail offered to put me in touch with “a West Virginia legal expert on the type of jurist Governor Manchin should select to fill the high court vacancy.”
Curious as to who would have hired a p.r. firm regarding Albright’s replacement, I called CRC Public Relations and asked who their client is, and they told me: the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that, according to Wikipedia.org, at least, advocates a strict originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Philosophically, I was told, the Society’s 40,000 or so members believe in judicial restraint over what they see as judicial activism, or, as the Society’s Web site says, that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”
All three of the local lawyers quoted in the e-mail — Blair Gardner, Luke Lafferre and Robert Ryan — are members. In fact, “Booter” Ryan is one of two attorneys listed on the group’s site as contacts for the West Virginia chapter.
(Astute readers will note that Gardner’s bio on Jackson Kelly’s Web site doesn’t say that he is a member. I called him and asked him, and he confirmed his association with the Society.)