Environmental Must-Reads – March 11, 2013


Depression And Anxiety Could Be Fukushima’s Lasting Legacy

Two years ago today, an earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of people living near the plant were forced to flee. The World Health Organization recently predicted a very small rise in cancer risk from radioactive material that was released. For the nuclear refugees, though, anxiety and depression could be the more persistent hazard. Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel traveled to Fukushima prefecture and met victims of the accident to see how they are coping. He sent Shots this report.

Fukushima Nuclear Cleanup Bogged Down in Bureaucracy, Could Take Decades

On the second anniversary of the disaster, victims of Japan’s nuclear meltdown are still struggling to reclaim their lives, even as authorities admit the cleanup could take 40 years, Lennox Samuels reports from Fukushima.

Fukushima School in Limbo, Two Years After Nuclear Disaster

Michie Niikawa struggles to define her role as school principal.

Two years since taking over at Ukedo Elementary School in the town of Namie, the 54-year-old has yet to welcome her first class of students, greet teachers, or visit classrooms.

Most days, she works in a cramped corner on the second floor of a prefabricated structure that houses city hall, 50 miles from the town.

Inside Fukushima’s abandoned towns, two years on – in pictures

Amid growing dissatisfaction with the slow pace of recovery, Japan marks the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing and has displaced more than 300,000. Towns in the surrounding area remain abandoned, even those outside the nuclear disaster exclusion zone, too contaminated by radiation for residents to return for more than short visits

Fukushima Toxic Waste Swells as Japan Marks March 11 Disaster

Every morning, 3,000 cleanup workers at the Fukushima disaster site don hooded hazard suits, air-filtered face masks and multiple glove layers. Most of the gear is radioactive waste by day’s end.

Multiply those cast-offs by the 730 days since a tsunami wrecked the Dai-Ichi nuclear station two years ago and the trash could fill six Olympic swimming pools. The tens of thousands of waste bags stored in shielded containers illustrate the dilemma of dealing with a nuclear accident: Everything that touches it becomes toxic.

Hope from Fukushima

As we mark the second memorial of the March 11, 2011 triple disaster, we see tragedy, but also hope in Japan.

While people mourn for the mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and children that were lost in the earthquake and tsunami, many of those that fled the natural disaster have been able to return home and rebuild their lives and communities as best they can.

Two Years After Fukushima, Japan Worries About the Next Big Quake

When the Big One hits Tokyo, experts warn, the impact will be catastrophic.

In January 2012, the respected Earthquake Research Institute, at the University of Tokyo, reported there’s a 70% chance a 7.0-magnitude or higher quake will strike Japan’s capital by 2016. Such an event, the scientists said, could mean a death toll of up to 11,000 people and $1 trillion in damages on the world’s third-largest economy.

Jaime Plym and Maurice Enis say Fukushima meltdown made them sick

U.S. Navy veterans Jaime Plym and Maurice Enis are part of a growing group of sailors who blame the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown for making them sick.

In March 2011, Plym and Enis were among the 5,000 sailors on board the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, both quartermasters whose job was to plot their ship’s course.

Japan’s cleanup of radiation, other toxins from tsunami and nuclear fiasco anything but clean

Two years after the triple calamities of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster ravaged Japan’s northeastern Pacific coast, debris containing asbestos, lead, PCBs _ and perhaps most worrying _ radioactive waste due to the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant looms as a threat for the region.

Fukushima radiation fight an uphill task

On the second anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the nightmarish task of cleanup is just about beginning. Experts working on the site say that it may take 30 to 40 years to just clean up the Daiichi nuclear plant. How long it will take to clean the 20 km radius prohibited zone around the plant is anybody’s guess

Fukushima government deleted radiation data gathered shortly after nuclear disaster

An apparent blunder of the Fukushima Prefectural Government came to light over the weekend when it was discovered that it wrote over the radiation data it obtained at an evacuation center near the Fukushima nuclear plant in the wee hours of the morning on March 12, 2011—just hours after the disaster broke. The incident was not reported to the national government, in deviation of usual operating standards.

Fukushima disaster: Long road to nuclear clean-up

Unfortunately a look inside the Fukushima plant suggests otherwise.

I was part of a group taken in to the Fukushima plant last week, only the second time foreign TV journalists have been allowed in since the disaster two year ago. Very little that we saw in our brief two-hour tour was reassuring.

Our first stop was reactor building number four. This place was potentially the most worrying.

From Oiled Shores to the Courtroom: NPR’s Debbie Elliott on the BP Oil Spill

Debbie Elliott is NPR’s national correspondent based in Alabama. She has covered the 2010 BP oil spill, and its aftermath, since the beginning.

Reporting in Terrebone Parish in 2010, Elliott met the Chauvin family that had been shrimpers for five generations before the disaster. Now covering the trial over BP’s liability for the spill, Elliott tells WRKF’s Ashley Westerman that family story is one that has stuck with her.

BP warns investors of rising costs from Gulf oil spill

BP is warning investors that the price tag will be “significantly higher” than it initially estimated for its multibillion-dollar settlement with businesses and residents who claim that the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cost them money.

Testimony sheds light on how much BP knew about dangers facing Deepwater crew

The first two weeks of the BP civil trial has mostly been a rehash of what we learned more than two years ago: That a series of cost- and time-saving decisions by BP led to the catastrophic blowout of its deepwater well and the deaths of 11 rig workers.

But little nuggets of evidence released this week — some from the witness stand, but mostly through old deposition testimony — shed new light on just how much BP employees in Houston knew about the dangers the Deepwater Horizon rig crew was facing.

EPA Accused Of Blocking Scientific Advancement of Corexit In BP Cleanup

International (OSEI), through the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Conference group, issued a press release this week saying that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) effectively blocked or otherwise delayed scientific advancement in the cleanup of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil disaster by refusing to acknowledge the toxicity of the oil dispersant Corexit.

After Watching Shell, Statoil Considers Walking Away From Arctic Offshore Leases

One key reason for Statoil’s reluctance to rush into Arctic offshore operations is the cost involved. Shell has spent approximately $5 billion on equipment and preparations, only to see its state of the art oil spill response equipment “crushed like a beer can” in a routine test off Puget Sound. And both of the company’s specialized Arctic drilling rigs were so badly damaged in accidents last year that Shell will tow them to Asia for substantial repairs — delaying its own exploration plans until at least 2014.

Erin Brockovich visits sinkhole site

Relief is a word frequently heard around the Assumption Parish sinkhole, but as Bayou Corne residents will tell you, it’s not a word they use to describe their attitudes. But now the now 8-and-a half acre sinkhole has caught the attention of California based environmentalist Erin Brockovich.

Erin Brockovich advises Assumption Parish residents on sinkhole issue

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich says Assumption Parish residents whose homes are threatened by a huge sinkhole should sue the owners of a failed salt dome cavern believed to have caused the sinkhole.

No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy.

I HOPE the president turns down the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Who wants the U.S. to facilitate the dirtiest extraction of the dirtiest crude from tar sands in Canada’s far north?) But I don’t think he will. So I hope that Bill McKibben and his 350.org coalition go crazy. I’m talking chain-themselves-to-the-White-
House-fence-stop-traffic-at-the-Capitol kind of crazy, because I think if we all make enough noise about this, we might be able to trade a lousy Keystone pipeline for some really good systemic responses to climate change. We don’t get such an opportunity often — namely, a second-term Democratic president who is under heavy pressure to approve a pipeline to create some jobs but who also has a green base that he can’t ignore. So cue up the protests, and pay no attention to people counseling rational and mature behavior. We need the president to be able to say to the G.O.P. oil lobby, “I’m going to approve this, but it will kill me with my base. Sasha and Malia won’t even be talking to me, so I’ve got to get something really big in return.”

California Bills Seek More Disclosure, Oversight Of Fracking

The growing concern over hydraulic fracturing, the technology that has led to an oil and gas boom in many parts of the country, has caught the attention of California lawmakers as companies seek to expand production in the San Joaquin Valley oil fields.

At least eight bills proposing to regulate or tax the industry’s expansion are under consideration in this year’s legislative session. They include proposals that would require disclosure of the ingredients used in fracking, which uses a high-pressure blast of water and chemicals to release oil from deep rock formations, and ensure that drilling companies have adequate plans for handling wastewater and monitoring groundwater.

Cause of off-color, fetid water eludes Pa. town

What causes clear, fresh country well water to turn orange or black, or smell so bad that it’s undrinkable?

Residents of a western Pennsylvania community have been trying for more than a year to get that question answered in their quest to get clean water back.

Fracking opponents seek 2-year ban in Illinois

When sponsors unveiled a proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing drilling in Illinois three weeks ago, they were surrounded by supporters from industry and environmental groups.

Legislative sponsors said the measure, if passed, would be the strictest in the nation — a model for other states to follow.

Fracking the Farm Part 1: Shale Gas Drilling Divides PA Organic Community

In June 2012, the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) asked the governor and legislature of the Commonwealth to place a moratorium on unconventional gas extraction. Like NOFA-NY, they asked that hydrofracking be halted until studies could determine that the industrialized drilling practice will not harm farms, the food they produce and the people who eat that food.

Fracking the Farm Part 2: Losing Dairy to Drilling

When Carol French signed a gas lease she never dreamed that half a dozen years later she’d be warning other farmers to think twice. French, a dairy farmer in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, lives in the midst of the drill zone. The last time she counted, there were nine active wells located within a mile of her farm.

Hickenlooper Not the Only Government Official Trying to Frack Colorado

Over the past few weeks, Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper has gotten a lot of negative attention. First, for telling a U.S. Senate committee that he drank Halliburton’s frack fluid and second, for threatening to sue the City of Fort Collins for its ban on fracking.

But Hickenlooper isn’t the only government official trying to frack Colorado.

Groups to Protest Collaborative ‘Fracking’ Model

After years of clashing over the drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” the oil industry and environmentalists have achieved something extraordinary in Illinois: They sat down together to draft regulations both sides could live with.

If approved by lawmakers, participants say, the rules would be the nation’s strictest.

But some environmental groups still say the regulations are “simply inadequate” and plan to lobby Tuesday in Springfield for a two-year moratorium on the industry.

Across US, Health Concerns Vie with Fracking Profits

Peter “Pete” Seeger is a 93-year old U.S. folk legend who resides in Wappinger Falls in southern New York. He can be spotted occasionally on the traffic-heavy Route 9, flanked by world peace signs and armed with a banjo.

Seeger is famous for his protest songs – which tackle topics ranging from U.S. wars abroad to environmental degradation at home.

Last month, Seeger signed a letter – along with hundreds of health professionals and local organisations – addressed to Governor Andrew Cuomo, encouraging him to take into account “any and all public health impacts before deciding whether or not to allow fracking in New York”.

Fracking opponents attempt to hijack Delaware River Basin Commission

A large crowd of environmental activists swarmed into a meeting of the Delaware River Basin Commission here last week and attempted to force the body to halt a pipeline project in northern New Jersey that would move gas from fracking projects in Pennsylvania.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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