Sunday, September 11, 2005

Beijing Blogging....and the environment...

Where I'm staying in Beijing, well, it's certainly China, but on the whole I'd rather be in Shanghai. Beijing's air is noticably dirty even at 3 in the morning; which is to say it smells like an industrial city. I've yet to see the the Mao body.

That said, the media availability here is, shall we say, interesting. If you can read this, I can post to my blog but it seems that is hard to get to.

OTOH, I can read Mossback Culture. I guess they don't think his words are going to undermine the stability of the present government anytime soon.

OTOH, I have no problem reading Kos, so maybe it's just a server thing. Little Green Footballs? No problemo.

Two items appeared side by side in the Japan Times yesterday. I don't know whether you were able to see in America, a juxtaposition of articles which has the same theme... First item:

Three Superfund toxic waste sites in and around New Orleans were flooded by Hurricane Katrina and one remains underwater, Environmental Protection Agency officials said yesterday, adding that they will soon start investigating whether hazardous materials are leaching into the environment.

Although the agency is focused on conducting search-and-rescue missions and taking floodwater samples from the city at large rather than from waste sites, officials have begun to monitor the potential danger. The Agriculture Street Landfill in New Orleans, where city residents dumped their trash for decades, is still underwater. In the nearby suburbs, the Bayou Bonfouca site in Slidell, La., and the Madisonville Creosote Works site also sustained flooding.

Local environmental activists, who are concerned that two Superfund sites in neighboring Mississippi may also have sustained water damage, said federal authorities are not moving fast enough to assess the public health threat.

The uncertainties surrounding how the storm affected hazardous waste sites -- EPA administrator Steve Johnson said his agency had yet to determine if any of their protective shields had been degraded -- highlights the challenges facing any future cleanup. The Gulf Coast has long been a magnet for chemical plants and waste dumps, some of which shut down after becoming too contaminated in recent years.

Second item:

The federal government yesterday approved a $3.1 billion plan by a private corporation to store tens of thousands of tons of highlyradioactive nuclear waste on a Native American reservation in Utah, potentially removing a major obstacle to the nuclear industry's ambitions for renewed growth.

The move paves the way for the industry to circumvent a lengthy political stalemate over a proposed public nuclear waste storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada and could rid dozens of overcrowded nuclear plants around the country of the need to store radioactive products that will remain dangerous for centuries...

The decision by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to grant a license for the facility cemented a pact made nearly a decade ago between strange bedfellows: utility behemoths that wanted to get tons of radioactive waste off their hands and an obscure Native American tribe that was willing to offer its land in exchange for a still-undisclosed sum of money.

While public waste storage plans such as Yucca Mountain have been plagued by political maneuvering and not-in-my-back yard fights in Congress, Private Fuel Storage, the company that will build the new facility, successfully argued that its agreement was between a private corporation and a sovereign tribe and therefore not subject to the same degree of public review. Environmental groups and the state of Utah have tried repeatedly to intervene but have failed...

The terms of the company's arrangement with the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians have not been disclosed. Silberg said that was proprietary business information.

"If I were storing canisters of rock for someone else, you would not necessarily have the right to get that information," he said. Storing nuclear waste is no different except when it comes to safety issues, he added, and those have involved lengthy public deliberations and thousands of pages of documents.

Let's review the bidding here: Aside from all the brouhaha about he levees, Superfund sites have made New Orleans a city-sized toxic waste dump, thanks to years of neglect and underfunding...and the same folks who didn't want corporations to take responsibility for toxic waste now tell us that it's a private matter, not subject to review (does that include regulatory review?) for storing nuclear waste.

Does anybody else see a "making the same mistakes and expecting different results" scenario or is it just me?

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