chicago march & mountain boom

As my story on energy, climate, and misery winds its way to the printers this week, I am stung by how many things keep getting worse. The pace of carbon dioxide emissions increasing over last decade’s; scientists slack-jawed at the potential carbon-fueled demise of our oceans, and the son-of-a-Bush that just won’t quit his apparent pact to run the living earth into the ground for the sake of profits.

In my story, I get into Bush’s early pledge to invest in “clean” coal technology in my story for the Current, and I mention the mountain-top removal cataclysm that has since hit Appalachia, but I didn’t have to space (or inclination? I was covering a lot of ground) to bring the story up to the minute after I stumbled a couple hours ago over this sick little gem from posted by Grist.

The Bush administration is about to ease restrictions on mountaintop-removal mining, making it easier — and legal — for companies to dump mine waste in streams. Since 1983, dumping mine waste within 100 feet of streams has been illegal, but many mining companies have done so anyway due to a combination of lax enforcement and varying interpretations of the law. The Bush admin’s proposed rule change, which will become final after 30 days of public comment, would still require miners to observe the 100-foot stream-buffer rule unless, of course, they don’t want to and can “show why avoidance is not possible.” Some 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have already been buried by massive amounts of mine waste from mountaintop removal in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The Interior Department suggests the rule change will be “slightly positive” for the environment since it requires mining companies to minimize debris that’s disposed of outside the mined area, but environmentalists derided the change. “Its only purpose is to expedite mining without regard to environmental damage,” said Ed Hopkins of the Sierra Club.

Already 500 names mountains have fallen, smothering creeks and streams below, and toxifying communities across Appalachia. Whichever candidate takes hold of the White House will have their job cut out for them cleaning this mess up.

Check out iLoveMountains.org’s use of Google Earth to chronicle the on-going atrocity with a National Memorial for the Mountains. Go ahead, just pick a mountain.

You can lean more about all this at Appalachian Voices.

Meanwhile, many of you may have missed this Chicago rally against Excelon’s planned nuke plants outside Victoria. I know I did. When’s the next bus ride, people?

Anyway, the Trib gave it a photo blog mention, but I haven’t found much else on it beyond the the group’s press release.

Texans in Chicago to Tell Exelon: ‘Don’t Mess with Texas Water’

Group marches at Exelon headquarters to oppose proposed nuclear reactors near Victoria, Texas

Chicago, IL (October 16, 2008) — Members of Texans for a Sound Energy Policy Alliance (TSEPA) today rallied outside the Chicago headquarters of Exelon Nuclear to personally voice opposition to proposed nuclear reactors in Victoria County, Texas.

Approximately 50 people representing TSEPA carried signs reading “Don’t Mess with Texas Water” and “No Thirsty Nukes” to spotlight the group’s position that a thirsty nuclear power plant is not the best use of the region’s limited water resources. The group fears the negative impact of this proposed plant to the environment, future economic development and overall quality of life along the Guadalupe River will be felt for generations.

“In Texas, water is a resource you fight for,” said Jason Huber, a 32-year-old farmer and rancher from Victoria County who traveled to Chicago for the rally with his father David. “You have a multi-billion dollar corporate giant making a decision that will have a huge impact on our region for generations to come. We traveled here to make sure Exelon knows we don’t want this plant. We simply don’t have enough water.”

Exelon Nuclear formally submitted an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September seeking to build and operate a nuclear plant on an 11,500-acre tract of land in Victoria County. However, many questions surrounding the project have continued to go unanswered by the company.

In addition to concerns about a limited water supply, Exelon’s track record in Illinois regarding tritium leaks into the local groundwater from its Braidwood facility has sparked questions.

“Exelon’s record in Illinois is clear. We don’t want a Braidwood, Texas,” said Janice Hill, a 71-year-old retired Victoria resident. A proposed water line from the nuclear plant site to a nearby reservoir would run under Hill’s property. “We want to tell Exelon — don’t mess with our water.”

Many communities along the Guadalupe River Basin in central and south Texas have expressed concern about the impact the proposed reactor near Victoria will have on their water supply as well as the long-term effect it will have downstream on the bay, wetlands, estuaries, fish and endangered whooping cranes. In 2002, the Guadalupe River was designated as one of the nation’s “Top Ten Most Endangered Rivers” by the non-profit organization American Rivers.

Exelon Nuclear has reserved 75,000 acre feet of water per year at the reactor — more than seven times the amount of water the entire City of Victoria uses annually. Exelon’s water rights will be priority to the City. As a result, the plant would still get water in the event of a drought.

“Exelon is going to use our water then ship most of the electricity somewhere else for their profit,” said Victoria County’s David Huber. “I don’t want our river and our aquifer destroyed. We don’t need to take that chance.”

TSEPA’s mission is to support a Texas energy supply policy that is reasonable, sustainable and environmentally sound. The main goal is to ensure the process of approving the proposed nuclear power plant is not rushed or secretive. Along with seeking public opinion and community participation in the process, TSEPA has retained engineers, hydrologists, attorneys, and economic and environmental consultants to conduct independent studies to answer questions and highlight any problems that may be identified.

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