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Environmental Degradation


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Immunologist Sir Macfarlane Burnet, Nobel prize winner and first winner of the ‘Australian of the Year’ award, urges the Australian government to develop biological and chemical weapons to use against Indonesia and other countries of Southeast Asia. In 1998, Canberra historian Philip Dorling will obtaim a declassified 1947 report from the Australian National Archives which reveals that in his advisory role on biological warfare, Burnet had recommended development of biological and chemical weapons to target food crops and spread infectious diseases in the “overpopulated” tropical countries of Southeast Asia. “Specifically to the Australian situation, the most effective counter-offensive to threatened invasion by overpopulated Asiatic countries would be directed towards the destruction by biological or chemical means of tropical food crops and the dissemination of infectious disease capable of spreading in tropical but not under Australian conditions,” Burnet writes. (Nicholson 3/10/2002)

A number of small, loosely affiliated “ecoterrorist” groups begin to form, mostly in California and West Coast areas of the United States, though their operations are evident throughout the nation. Some of the more prominent groups include: the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976); Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997); and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC—see 1998). Generally, the groups’ ideology embraces the concept of using property damage to hinder or stop the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the environment. These organizations usually target the operations of companies in related industries, or sometimes terrorize executives and employees of these firms. The companies usually targeted include automobile dealerships, housing developments, forestry companies, corporate and university-based medical research laboratories, restaurants, and fur farms. As of 2005, no one will have been injured in these attacks, though the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will predict that the steady escalation of violence from the groups may result in injury or even death. The groups will cause millions of dollars in damage to property and items, usually through arson, bombings, and vandalism. The “ecoterrorist” groups tend to be small, and made up of environmental and animal rights activists on the “fringes” of the mainstream movements who have become frustrated with the slow pace of change. Some members are also affiliated with one or another of the various “anarchist” groups. The ADL will contrast the typical “ecoterrorist” group with racist and white supremacist groups, noting that their organizational structure tends to be extremely egalitarian and sometimes almost nonexistent: “Unlike racial hate groups with established hierarchies and membership requirements, for example, an activist can become a member of the ecoterror movement simply by carrying out an illegal action on its behalf.” (Anti-Defamation League 2005) The term “ecoterrorism” does not gain widespread usage until after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will note that “members of Congress, conservative commentators, and the FBI [will join] in a chorus decrying the acts as ‘ecoterrorism.’” Charles Muscoplat, the dean of agriculture at the University of Minnesota—a targeted site—says: “These are clearly terroristic acts. Someone could get hurt or killed in a big fire like we had.” ALF spokesman David Barbarash (see 1998) says in response: “I mean, what was the Boston Tea Party if not a massive act of property destruction?… Property damage is a legitimate political tool called economic sabotage, and it’s meant to attack businesses and corporations who are profiting from the exploitation, murder, and torture of either humans or animals, or the planet.… [T]o call those acts terrorism is ludicrous.” (Beirich and Moser 9/2002)

Oil spilled into the Persian Gulf is set afire.Oil spilled into the Persian Gulf is set afire. [Source: Clean Tech]Iraq releases millions of gallons of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, in retaliation for US and coalition forces’ attacks (see January 16, 1991 and After). The oil release causes massive environmental damage throughout the Gulf and to its coastlines. (PBS Frontline 1/9/1996; American Forces Press Service 8/8/2000)

A study commissioned by the EPA, “Evaluation of Three Cleaning Methods for Removing Asbestos from Carpet,” finds that available methods of asbestos removal from carpets and upholstery are incapable of effectively removing the fibers. “The wet cleaning method reduced the level of asbestos contamination in the carpet by approximately 60 percent, whereas neither dry cleaning method had any notable effect on the asbestos level,” the report says. (Environmental Protection Agency 1993; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

Thomas Mosser.Thomas Mosser. [Source: Washington Post]In North Caldwell, New Jersey, advertising executive Thomas Mosser opens a package mailed to his home. Mosser is in his kitchen. His family is in another part of the house; they are preparing to go buy a Christmas tree. When Mosser opens the package, it explodes, tearing his torso open and spilling his entrails onto the kitchen floor. As his horrified wife attempts to staunch the flow with a baby blanket, Mosser dies. Months later, the “Unabomber,” later identified as Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski (see April 3, 1996), takes responsibility for the bombing, claiming that Mosser was targeted for the public relations work his firm did for Exxon; in a letter to the New York Times, Kaczynski will reference the wreck of the oil tanker Exxon Valdez and the subsequent massive oil spill as justification for Mosser’s murder (see April 24, 1995). (BBC 11/12/1987; Thomas and Weiser 4/13/1996; Washington Post 1998; Washington Post 5/5/1998) Friends and co-workers are initially perplexed by Mosser’s murder. “We’re all perplexed,” says Kathy Hyett, who worked with Mosser at Burson-Marstellar. “Why? Why?” Some of his colleagues wonder, presciently as it turns out, if any of the clients of Mosser’s firms might have triggered the attack. A college friend of Mosser’s, John Hanchette, says, “The idea of Tom’s death this way is so foreign to me that I thought, ‘It must be another Tom Mosser.’” (Elliott 12/13/1994) Mosser is a senior executive at Young & Rubicam Inc., the parent company of public relations firm Burson-Marstellar, one of New York’s most successful PR agencies. Kaczynski will write that Burson-Marstellar represents everything that is wrong with corporate America. In his letter, Kaczynski will write, “We blew up Thomas Mosser last December because he was a Burston-Marsteller executive.” (Kaczynski misrepresents himself as one of a group of anarchists he calls “FC,” later found to stand for “Freedom Club.”) Kaczynski will blame Burson-Marstellar for helping Exxon “clean up its public image” after the Exxon Valdez oil spill and, more broadly, for “manipulating people’s attitudes.” The firm has received negative publicity, largely in the more radical environmental press, and has been listed in articles in “No Sweat News” and “Earth First!” as representing a number of firms that are involved in damaging the environment. The Earth First! (see 1980 and After) article blames Burson-Marstellar and other PR firms for attempting to make the public believe that there is no serious environmental crisis. (Thomas and Weiser 4/13/1996; Booth 1/23/1998) Burson-Marstellar will deny any involvement with Exxon during the Valdez crisis, though Exxon later asked the firm to critique the way its officials had handled the case. (Thomas and Weiser 4/13/1996; Booth 1/23/1998) Kaczynski, who misspells Burson-Marstellar in the same way that it was misspelled in the Earth First! Journal article, did not know that Earth First!‘s information was incorrect; as the firm will claim, Burson-Marstellar never worked for Exxon to clean up the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Southern Poverty Law Center will observe, “Thanks to incorrect information from EarthFirst!, Mosser was killed for something his company never did.” (Beirich and Moser 9/2002) After Kaczynski’s arrest, Jake Kreilik of the Native Forest Network will say, “It is obvious if you read the Unabomber’s manifesto that there is a heavy emphasis against technology and a lot of the other things that Earth First Journal focuses on in terms of the radical end of environmental politics.” Burston-Marstellar has been the focus of pro-environmental protests in the last several months, a fact of which Kaczynski may have been aware. (MacFarquhar 4/8/1996)

A study of the health effects of vermiculite mining, a mineral which is sometimes found with asbestos (as in the case of the vermiculite mine in Libby, Montana (see November 18, 1999)), finds that soils with an asbestos level of only 0.001 percent can result in air concentrations of 0.01 fibers per milliliter (f/mL), if disturbed. This exceeds the EPA cancer risk level of 0.000004 f/mL, the typical background levels of asbestos in outdoor air of 0.000002 f/mL, and the typical background levels in indoor air of 0.000003 f/mL (PCM). (Addison-Lynch 6/1995; Jenkins 3/11/2002 pdf file; Agency for Toxic Substances And Disease Registry 10/9/2003)

The EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) discover more than 1,100 homes in Jackson County, Mississippi that were sprayed with methyl parathion illegally by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The EPA designates the homes as Superfund sites and oversees a $50 million cleanup. More than 1,600 people will be relocated during the cleanup. (Environmental Protection Agency 9/11/1998; Rubin et al. 12/2002; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

The EPA designates more than 98 homes in the Chicago area as a Superfund site. The homes had been illegally sprayed with the pesticide methyl parathion by Reuben Brown, an unlicensed exterminator. The homes are decontaminated at a cost of around $7.5 million. (Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5 9/30/1999 pdf file; Rubin et al. 12/2002; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

Frederick Seitz, a former tobacco company scientist and former National Academy of Sciences president, writes and circulates a letter asking scientists to sign a petition calling upon the US government to reject the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was authored by an obscure group by the name of “Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine.” (Seitz 1998) Seitz includes in his letter a report arguing that carbon dioxide emissions do not pose a threat to the global climate. The report—which is not peer reviewed—is formatted to look like an article from the esteemed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The organizers of the petition will claim that some 17,000 scientists signed the petition. But it is subsequently discovered that few credentialed climate scientists added their signature to the list. Moreover, the petition contains the names of several fictional characters. The magazine Scientific American analyzes a random sampling of the signers and concludes that only about one percent of the petition signatories claiming to have a Ph.D. in a climate-related field actually do. And in a highly unusual move, the National Academy of Sciences issues a statement disavowing Seitz’s petition and disassociating the academy from the PNAS-formatted paper. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 16 pdf file)

ExxonMobil disperses roughly $16 million to organizations that are challenging the scientific consensus view that greenhouse gases are causing global warming. For many of the organizations, ExxonMobil is their single largest corporate donor, often providing more than 10 percent of their annual budgets. A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists will find that “[v]irtually all of them publish and publicize the work of a nearly identical group of spokespeople, including scientists who misrepresent peer-reviewed climate findings and confuse the public’s understanding of global warming. Most of these organizations also include these same individuals as board members or scientific advisers.” After the Bush administration withdraws from the Kyoto Protocol (see March 27, 2001), the oil company steps up its support for these organizations. Some of the ExxonMobil-funded groups tell the New York Times that the increase is a response to the rising level of public interest in the issue. “Firefighters’ budgets go up when fires go up,” explains Fred L. Smith, head of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Explaining ExxonMobil’s support for these organizations, company spokesman Tom Cirigliano says: “We want to support organizations that are trying to broaden the debate on an issue that is so important to all of us. There is this whole issue that no one should question the science of global climate change. That is ludicrous. That’s the kind of dark-ages thinking that gets you in a lot of trouble.” (Lee 5/28/2003; Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 10-11 pdf file) The following is a list of some of the organizations funded by ExxonMobil:
bullet American Enterprise Institute (AEI) - AEI receives $1,625,000 from ExxonMobil between and 1998 and 2005. During this period, it plays host to a number of climate contrarians. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 31 pdf file)
bullet American Legislative Exchange Council - In 2005, ExxonMobil grants $241,500 to this organization. Its website features a non-peer-reviewed paper by climate contrarian Patrick Michaels. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 12, 31 pdf file)
bullet Center for Science and Public Policy - Started at the beginning of 2003, this one-man operation receives $232,000 from ExxonMobil. The organization helps bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. (Lee 5/28/2003)
bullet Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow - Between 2004 and 2005, this organization receives $215,000 from ExxonMobil. Its advisory panel includes Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Roger Bate, Sherwood Idso, Patrick Michaels, and Frederick Seitz, all of whom are affiliated with other ExxonMobil-funded organizations. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 12 pdf file)
bullet Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) - Founded in 1984 to fight government regulation on business, CEI started receiving large grants from ExxonMobil after Myron Ebell moved there from Frontiers of Freedom in 1999. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 12 pdf file) CEI, along with another ExxonMobil-supported enterprise, the Cooler Heads Coalition, runs the website GlobalWarming.Org, which is part of an effort to “dispel the myths of global warming by exposing flawed economic, scientific, and risk analysis.” Between 2000 and 2003, the CEI receives $1,380,000, or 16 percent of the total funds donated by Exxon during that period. (Mother Jones 5/2005; Mooney 5/2005)
bullet Frontiers of Freedom - The organization receives $230,000 from Exxon in 2002 and $40,000 in 2001. It has an annual budge of about $700,000. (Lee 5/28/2003)
bullet George C. Marshall Institute - The institute is known primarily for its work advocating a “Star Wars” missile defense program. Between 1998 and 2005, Exxon-Mobil grants $630,000 to the Marshall Institute primarily to underwrite the institute’s climate change effort. William O’Keefe, the organization’s CEO, once worked as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Petroleum Institute. He has also served on the board of directors of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another global warming skeptic organization, and is chairman emeritus of the Global Climate Coalition. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 12 pdf file)
bullet Heartland Institute - In 2005, this organization receives $119,000 from ExxonMobil. Its website offers articles by the same scientists promoted by other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 12 pdf file)
bullet Tech Central Station - TCS is a web-based organization that provides news, commentary, and analysis focusing on the societal tensions and strains that are concomitant with historical change. TCS proclaims itself as a strong believer of the “material power of free markets, open societies, and individual human ingenuity to raise living standards and improve lives.” Until 2006, the website is operated by a public relations firm called the DCI Group, which is a registered ExxonMobil lobbying firm. In 2003 TCS receives $95,000 from ExxonMobil to be used for “climate change support.” TCS contributors on the global warming issue include the same group of people that is promoted by several of the other ExxonMobil-funded global warming skeptic organizations. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 13 pdf file) In 2006, TCS will pay the public relations firm Medialink Worldwide to produce a video news release that challenges the view that global warming has increased the intensity of hurricanes. The piece is later shown on a Mississippi television station and presented as a regular news report (see June 2006).

ExxonMobil begins funding the Washington, DC-based organization Frontiers of Freedom. The organization, founded in 1996 by former Senator Malcolm Wallop to promote property rights and critique environmental regulations, will use ExxonMobil’s money to participate in an effort (see April 1998) to discredit the scientific consensus that rising global temperatures are being caused by the increase of greenhouse gases. One of the group’s staff members is Myron Ebell, an outspoken global warming skeptic. By 2005, ExxonMobil will have provided $857,000 in funds to Frontiers of Freedom. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 11 pdf file)

ExxonMobil helps create the Global Climate Science Team (GCST), a small task force that is charged with discrediting the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are warming the planet. Members of the task force include ExxonMobil’s senior environmental lobbyist, Randy Randol; the American Petroleum Institute’s public relations representative, Joe Walker; and Steven Milloy, who heads a nonprofit organization called the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition. (American Petroleum Institute 4/1998; Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 11 pdf file) Milloy’s organization had been secretly formed in 1993 by tobacco giant Philip Morris with the goal of creating uncertainty about the health hazards posed by secondhand smoke. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 11 pdf file)

The Global Climate Science Team drafts a memo outlining a plan to invest millions of dollars in an effort to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol and discredit the scientific consensus opinion that greenhouse gases are causing the planet to warm. The draft plan, titled “Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan,” concedes that opposition to the protocol is not shared by the public. “There has been little, if any, public resistance or pressure applied to Congress to reject the treaty, except by those ‘inside the Beltway’ with vested interests,” it notes. A key component of the plan would be to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours on Congress, the media, and other key audiences.” To do this, they would “recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that trap the sun’s heat near Earth,” the New York Times reports. They would look to recruit scientists “who do not have a long history of visibility and/or participation in the climate change debate,” the memo says. According to the plan, “Victory will be achieved when… recognition of uncertainty becomes part of the ‘conventional wisdom.’” One method the institute would employ to measure the plan’s progress would be to count the number of news reports that express uncertainty about the issue of global warming. People involved in devising the strategy included Jeffrey Salmon of the George C. Marshall Institute; Steven Milloy, who later becomes a columnist; David Rothbard of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, which has received $252,000 from ExxonMobil; Myron Ebell of Frontiers of Freedom, also funded with money ($612,000) from the oil giant; and ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol. Representatives of the Exxon Corporation, the Chevron Corporation, and the Southern Company, were also involved. (American Petroleum Institute 4/1998; Cushman 4/26/1998; Mooney 5/2005)

Nature publishes a study by climate scientists Raymond Bradley, Michael Mann, and Malcolm Hughes concluding that the last few decades were warmer than any comparable time period in the last 1,000 years. Their study shows that the pace of warming was most dramatic during the last century. The authors identified the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as the dominant factor in the observed increase in global temperatures. (Mann, Bradley, and Hughes 4/23/1998 pdf file; Davidson 6/23/2006)

The New York Times prints a lengthy interview with Craig Rosebraugh, who serves as an unofficial spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997). Rosebraugh, who claims to sympathize with the group even though knowing little about it, has spent weeks sending out statements and press releases on behalf of the ELF after the recent firebombing of a Vail, Colorado, ski resort (see October 19, 1998). Rosebraugh, who was contacted by unidentified ELF members about the Vail fires, says the ELF takes credit for the incident, and defends it by saying the resort has caused extensive damage to the area’s lynx habitats and a planned expansion would all but destroy those habitats. “They don’t want this to be seen like an act of terrorism,” he recently told a reporter on behalf of ELF. “They instead want this to be seen as an act of love for the environment.” The firebombing was not an instance of so-called “ecoterrorism,” he told another reporter: “To me, Vail expanding into lynx habitat is ecoterrorism.” Many mainstream groups such as the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have condemned the Vail firebombing; Jonathan Staufer of the Colorado group Ancient Forest Rescue, who has been working to stop the Vail resort’s proposed expansion, says: “It marginalized all the enviromentalists in Colorado who have been fighting it. I can’t condemn it more completely.” Rosebraugh became active in extreme environmental movements in June 1997, when he was contacted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and asked to be its “aboveground” spokesperson. Since then, he has formed a group called the Liberation Collective, which he says is intended to bring the ELF, ALF, and other “direct action” groups together to make common cause (see 1996 and After). Lieutenant Jeff Howard of the Oregon State Police says of the two groups, “If the truth be known, there are members that are probably members of both groups.” Because of the decentralized, “cell” structure of both ELF and ALF, federal investigators have had difficulty determining even the most basic facts about the two organizations. Recently, Rosebraugh said of the federal investigations into ELF, ALF, and the Vail firebombing: “This is a very hot topic not only for the media, but most important it’s a hot topic for the FBI and government agencies. The FBI just had a big meeting on animal rights terrorism. So there’s obviously going to be a big crackdown soon. It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen but you can only look at history, and history shows that there is going to be a lot of pressure and my feeling is the best way to act is to resist.” (Sullivan 12/20/1998)

Three days after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on asbestos contamination of homes in Libby, Montana (see November 18, 1999), the EPA dispatches an emergency response team to conduct tests to determine the level of asbestos contamination. For decades, local, state and federal agencies had ignored the known hazards at the Libby mine. (Schneider 2/2/2000; Schneider 9/15/2000) Twenty-three of the 73 outdoor air samples the EPA team will take at various locations in Libby are found to contain elevated levels of tremolite—a type of asbestos that is extremely carcinogenic due to its needle-like and sharply pointed fibers which easily penetrate the lining of the lungs. (Schneider 2/2/2000) Random air sampling inside the homes of Libby residents reveals that 11 to 23 percent of the selected homes have detectable levels of asbestos. The average level of asbestos inside Libby homes is found to be 0.0024 fibers per milliliter (f/mL), which exceeds many times the EPA cancer risk level of 0.000004 f/mL. (Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the Oregon offices of the Boise Cascade Corporation, a paper manufacturer. A statement from ELF activists says the group started the fire with four buckets of diesel fuel and a kitchen timer. Boise Cascade has “ravaged the forests of the Pacific Northwest,” the group claims. The ELF statement comes with a similar statement from the Liberation Collective, which brings together environmental and animal rights activist groups under a common rubric. Liberation Collective spokesman Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) says he receives “anonymous communications” from ELF and other groups. “I just pass that information along to the press and public,” he says. The Liberation Collective describes ELF as “an underground environmental organization that uses economic sabotage to end the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment and its inhabitants.” Because ELF, which is classified as a domestic terrorism organization, has taken credit for the blaze, the FBI will head up the investigation. (New York Times 12/31/1999)

Craig Rosebraugh, the public spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), launches an official Web site for ELF along with Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) member Darren Thurston. Rosebraugh writes that the site is intended to “educate both the general public and the media on the ELF and actions that the group has taken in defense of the earth.” After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the site proclaims: “In light of the events on September 11, my country has told me that I should not cooperate with terrorists. I therefore am refusing to cooperate with members of Congress who are some of the most extreme terrorists in history.” Rosebraugh will echo these words in February 2002 when, after resigning his position when his house is raided by federal agents, he is compelled to testify before a House subcommittee. He does, however, answer some written questions; asked if he fears an ELF action might one day kill someone, Rosebraugh responds: “No. I am more concerned with massive numbers of people dying at the hands of greedy capitalists if such actions are not taken.” (Beirich and Moser 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League 2005)

Jeff “Free” Luers.Jeff “Free” Luers. [Source: Free Jeff Luers (.org)]Two Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activists, Jeff “Free” Luers and Craig “Critter” Marshall, firebomb a car dealership in Eugene, Oregon, destroying 36 sport utility vehicles (SUVs). Luers will be convicted and sentenced to over 22 years in prison; Marshall will receive over five years. Luers and Marshall will become two of the most well-known jailed “ecoterrorists” (see 1970s), and will be the subject of intensive public efforts to gain their release. “Failure to support our prisoners is tantamount to sanctioning repression by the state,” an ELF statement will proclaim. ELF and other environmental, anarchist, and animal rights organizations will solicit funds for their legal representation, create Web sites to garner publicity, and organize concerts on their behalf. Both ELF and a Eugene organization called Green Anarchy label Luers and Marshal “prisoners of war.” (Anti-Defamation League 2005; Moran 12/18/2009)

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), joined by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), files suit against the US government alleging that the 2000 National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change (USNA) is not a government product and therefore the government cannot legally distribute it. The USNA report was produced by the National Assessment Synthesis Team, an advisory committee chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act. The report provided a detailed overview of the consequences of climate change and mechanisms for adaptation. According to CEI, the report used flawed computer models and presented historical climate data without including the data’s error margins. The suit will ultimately be settled when the Bush administration takes office. The Bush White House will agree that the USNA should not be treated as a product of the US government or serve as the basis for any federal policies, positions, or rules. After the settlement, references to this report will repeatedly be removed by Bush officials from future government reports. (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file)

On his last day in office as governor of Texas, George W. Bush leaves the following environmental legacy, according to a report by Republicans for Environmental Protection (REP):
bullet Number 1 state in the US for manufacturing plant emissions of toxic and ozone-causing chemicals;
bullet Number 1 state in the US in the discharge of carcinogens harmful to the brain and central nervous system of small children;
bullet Number 1 state in the US for releasing industrial airborne toxins;
bullet Number 1 state in the US for the number of hazardous waste incinerators;
bullet Number 1 state in the US in producing cancer-causing benzene and vinyl chloride;
bullet Number 1 state in the US for violating clean water discharge standards;
bullet Number 1 state in the US for releasing toxic waste into underground wells.
A third of Texas’s rivers are so polluted that they are unfit for recreational use. And during Bush’s terms as governor, Houston passed Los Angeles as the city with the worst air quality in the US. The REP cannot find a single initiative from Bush during his tenure that sought to improve the state’s air or water. (Carter 2004, pp. 128-129)

Three teenagers affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) environmental activist group burn down luxury housing units under construction on Long Island, New York. ELF activists take credit for two more fires in the area, along with numerous acts of vandalism, including breaking windows and painting “Meat is Murder” on a McDonald’s corporate office. Suffolk County Detective Charles Dohrenwend says: “We have to devote a lot of energy to this thing because these people are not going away. They are dangerous.” The Long Island housing units are set ablaze with crude, homemade explosive devices at about 6 a.m. No one is injured in the fire. Three houses are damaged by fire and smoke; a fourth has the words “ELF,” “Stop Urban Sprawl,” “If you build it we will burn it,” and “Burn the rich” spray-painted on exterior walls in red paint. Damage is estimated at $35,000 to $40,000. An ELF press release will be sent out the next day claiming that the fires are “an early New Year’s gift to Long Island’s environment destroyers,” and saying ELF is trying to cost “the rich sprawl corporations” enough to force them to stop. ELF has long said that “urban sprawl” causes widespread damage to wildlife habitats and natural features. Local environmentalists condemn the arson, but say overdevelopment of Long Island was still a valid concern, as developers of new housing projects vie for limited open space on which to build. Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society says: “The reaction of these terrorists is wrong. But they are not wrong about the fact of overdevelopment of Long Island. Just because they are behaving like terrorists doesn’t mean we are not overbuilt.” The ELF press release also says that the arson is done in support for a local animal rights activist, Andrew Stepanian, who was recently convicted of throwing a brick through the display windows of a fur store in Huntington. Two months later, three teenagers, Matthew Rammelkamp, George Mashkow, and Jared McIntyre, will plead guilty to setting the fires, and will agree to cooperate with federal authorities investigating ELF. Rammelkamp will say he learned of the site from the ELF Web site. According to Rammelkamp’s testimony, he “obtained and received information from the ELF Web site and used that information in furtherance of that conspiracy. I and others then reported, by press release, those acts.” It is unclear if Rammelkamp, Mashkow, and McIntyre are active members of ELF (which has virtually no hierarchical organizational structure and no official membership lists), independent sympathizers, or merely used the ELF information as an excuse to commit arson. It is common practice for ELF and other such organizations (see 1970s) to post “target” listings on Web sites and, when someone burns or vandalizes those targets, to post news of the actions on the sites. Thomas Liotti, Rammelkamp’s lawyer, will say: “I think these kids had the best of intentions. In no way are they involved in any organized, national ELF effort.… This is a little bit McCarthyesque. What organizations are terrorist organizations? Can 16-year-old kids be charged in federal court?… I don’t think the federal government should be involved in this case. To me, it is nothing more than an arson case, and [Rammelkamp] should be afforded youthful-offender treatment in state court.” Mashkow’s lawyer, Charles C. Russo, will say: “I am not representing an environmental activist. I am representing a 17-year-old misguided kid who basically made the monumental mistake in his life.” Russo will say that Mashkow does not claim membership in ELF and is remorseful for his participation. (Baker 1/3/2001; Barry and Baker 1/8/2001; Baker 2/14/2001; Baker 2/15/2001; Anti-Defamation League 2005)

An unnamed NOAA scientist attempts to generate media attention for a recently published paper that used a comparison of climate models and empirical data to approximate the influence of human activities on ocean temperatures. However the media advisory is repeatedly downgraded by NOAA officials until it is eventually canceled. In an interview with the Government Accountability Project, the scientist later says that publishing such news became increasingly difficult after the Bush administration took office. (Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file)

On his first day in office, President Bush has his chief of staff, Andrew Card, issue directives to every executive department with authority over environmental issues, and orders them to immediately put on hold dozens of regulations passed by the Clinton administration. The Clinton regulations include lowering arsenic levels in drinking water; reducing the release of raw sewage into rivers and streams; setting limits on logging, drilling, and mining on public lands; increasing energy efficiency standards; and banning snowmobiles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. (Carter 2004, pp. 127)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001; Wu 1/22/2001)

Jana Goldman, the public affairs officer at NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) division, writes in an email to a scientist from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), “If you get any press requests for IPCC please bump them to public affairs before you agree to an interview.” [Emphasis in original] Her mention of “IPCC” is a reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recently released third assessment report, which found “new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” (see January 22, 2001) Responding to Goldman’s request, the scientist writes, “It seems cumbersome at best. If this policy is implemented, it will greatly cut-down on NOAA scientist interviews.” (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file)

Peabody Energy logo.Peabody Energy logo. [Source: BNet (.com)]Ira F. Engelhardt and Fred Palmer, the CEO and vice president of Peabody Energy, meet with Andrew Lundquist, the director of Vice President Cheney’s energy task force (the National Energy Policy Development Group—see May 16, 2001). Also at the meeting are Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey. Peabody, the world’s largest coal company, is preparing a stock offering. The task force’s coal policy recommendations will directly impact the stock market’s response to Peabody’s IPO. The task force releases its recommendations (see May 16, 2001) less than a week before Peabody releases its stock offering on May 21. In part because the energy policy strongly emphasizes the use of coal, Peabody raises $420 million by going public—$60 million more than stock analysts predicted. Authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein will write, “The task force was, in effect, flogging a stock offering.” (Dubose and Bernstein 2006, pp. 17-18)

President George Bush, following the lead of Vice President Dick Cheney, prepares to renege on his campaign promise to cap carbon dioxide emissions (see September 29, 2000, March 8, 2001, and March 13, 2001). The promise is later described by authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein as “the environmental centerpiece of [his] presidential campaign.” Christine Todd Whitman, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, later says on CNN, “George Bush was very clear during the course of the campaign that he believed in a multipollutant strategy, and that includes CO2.” Initially, Bush stood by his pledge even as House Republicans Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Joe Barton (R-TX) attacked it as being bad for business. But on March 1, Cheney receives a personal note from energy lobbyist and veteran Republican operative Haley Barbour, headed “Regarding Cheney Energy Policy & Co.” The note reads in part: “A moment of truth is arriving in the form of a decision whether this administration’s policy will be to regulate and/or tax CO2 as a pollutant.… Demurring on the issue of whether the CO2 idea is eco-extremism, we must ask, do environmental initiatives, which would greatly exacerbate the energy problems, trump good energy policy, which the country has lacked for eight years?” Cheney moves quickly to respond to Barbour’s concerns. (Dubose and Bernstein 2006, pp. 19)

A White House team drafts a memo to John Bridgeland, President Bush’s domestic policy adviser, arguing that Bush should renege on his campaign promise to impose limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. The memo cites a December 2000 Energy Department analysis which said that implementing CO2 restrictions would undermine the economy. The memo suggests that Bush acknowledge rising global temperatures, but state that “any specific policy proposals or approaches aimed at addressing global warming must await further scientific inquiry.” Not a single person on the team is a scientist. The recommendation ignores a March 7 memo written by climate experts at the Environmental Protection Agency urging the president to keep his pledge. In their memo, the EPA scientists said the Energy Department analysis was flawed. It noted that the study “was based on assumptions that do not apply” and “inflates the costs of achieving carbon dioxide reductions.” The White House team that recommends breaking the campaign pledge is made up of Cesar Conda, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; Andrew Lundquist, the White House energy policy director, who later becomes an energy lobbyist; Kyle E. McSlarrow, deputy secretary of energy and former chairman of Dan Quayle’s 2000 presidential campaign; Robert C. McNally Jr., an energy and economic analyst who later becomes an investment banker; Karen Knutson, a deputy on energy policy and former Republican Senate aide; and Marcus Peacock, an analyst on science and energy issues with the Office of Management and Budget. (Revkin 10/19/2004)

An angry and embarrassed Christine Todd Whitman, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), storms into a breakfast meeting with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, waving a letter signed by four Republican senators—Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Larry Craig (R-ID), Jesse Helms (R-NC), and Pat Roberts (R-KS). The letter says that President Bush will soon withdraw the US from the Kyoto Accords (see March 27, 2001), even though Whitman has been telling the press Bush is committed to a “multipollutant” strategy of reducing CO2 and other emissions. Worse, Bush is going to renege on his promise to reduce C02 emissions (see September 29, 2000). O’Neill, who is until now unaware of the backchannel discussions about the administration’s environmental policy, is suspicious of the tone and language of the letter, which was faxed from Hagel’s office two days before. It sounds, he later writes, as if it came “right out of Dick Cheney’s mouth” (see March 1, 2001). O’Neill will later learn that Hagel and Cheney had been working for days to reverse Bush’s course on carbon dioxide caps, and in the process undermine Whitman (see March 8, 2001 and March 13, 2001). (Dubose and Bernstein 2006, pp. 19-20)

Disturbed by President Bush’s impending reversal of his pledge to cap carbon dioxide emissions (see September 29, 2000), Environmental Protection Agency head Christine Todd Whitman meets with Bush to attempt to change his mind. But Bush cuts her off: “Christine, I’ve already made my decision.” He says he has written a letter to Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE—see March 13, 2001). Notably, as Whitman is leaving the Oval Office, she sees Vice President Cheney pick up the letter to Hagel from a secretary (see March 8, 2001). That same day, Cheney meets with Hagel and then addresses the Senate Republican Conference, announcing to that body that the administration no longer supports carbon dioxide caps. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill later calls Cheney’s actions “a clean kill,” reminiscent of the bureaucratic manipulations Cheney had become so good at during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Authors Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein sum up Cheney’s modus operandi: “No fingerprints. No accountability. Cheney collaborated with four senators who were working against White House policy, then persuaded the president to join them.” (Dubose and Bernstein 2006, pp. 20)

EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman tells reporters that the Bush administration has “no interest in implementing” the Kyoto Protocol. (BBC 3/28/2001; Heilprin 3/28/2001; Environmental News Network 3/28/2001; CBS News 3/28/2001; CNN 3/29/2001) The treaty would require 39 industrialized nations to cut emissions of six greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride—to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The US would be required to reduce its emissions by about 7 percent. The protocol will not go into effect until it has been ratified by countries that were responsible for at least 55 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 1990. (BBC 3/29/2001; BBC 9/29/2001) The United States is the world’s largest polluter and therefore its refusal to support the treaty represents a significant setback. In 1990, the US was responsible for 36.1 percent of greenhouse emissions. (BBC 6/4/2004) The Bush administration complains that the treaty would harm US economic interests and that it unfairly puts too much of the burden on industrialized nations while not seeking to limit pollution from developing nations. (BBC 3/29/2001)

Some commentators react swiftly and angrily to the US’s abrupt withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocols (see March 27, 2001). “China can’t accept any attempt to violate the principles of the convention and eliminate the protocol,” says a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “It is totally groundless to refuse the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on the excuse that developing countries such as China have not shouldered their responsibility.” British journalist Charles Secrett shows how responsible the US is for the environmental depredations Kyoto attempts to repair: “The US, with 5 percent of the world’s population, emits almost a quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide, the main climate-changing gas. It promised to cut emissions by 7 percent over 1990 levels by 2012 at the latest, but its emissions in fact rose by more than 10 percent between 1990 and 2000. Bush’s campaign for the US presidency was backed by major oil giants, including Exxon, which also led the campaign in the US against the Kyoto treaty.” Fellow British journalist Ed Vulliamy adds: “The story behind the singular determination of Bush to fly in the face of world opinion, the sentiments of most Americans, and even many in his own government reveals adherence to ideological rigor and a payment of debts to the business interests that helped him to the White House—above all, oil and coal. Oil runs through every sinew and vein of the Bush administration; rarely, if ever, has a Western government been so intimately entwined with a single industry.” (Carter 2004, pp. 270-271)

Former Reagan-era Interior Secretary James Watt, who once bragged that under his regime “We will mine more, drill more, cut more timber,” tells a reporter, “Everything [Vice President Dick] Cheney’s saying, everything the president’s saying, they’re saying exactly what we were saying 20 years ago, precisely. Twenty years later, it sounds like they’ve just dusted off the old work.” (Kennedy 8/3/2004)

Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), writes a press release on a paper he has written on global warming that will soon be published in the prestigious Geophysical Research Letters. But a few days after submitting the press release, NOAA press officer Jana Goldman informs him that the release has been rejected. The reason provided by NOAA is that since the journal will be sending out its own press release, there is no need for NOAA to do one as well. Wetherald doesn’t buy it. According to Wetherald, NOAA would not be duplicating efforts because while the journal’s press release will be written in technical jargon, the NOAA release he drafted is written in language that is more accessible to the public. (MacPherson 10/1/2006)

The journal Science publishes a study suggesting that a major factor in rising ocean temperatures is likely “the increase of anthropogenic gases in Earth’s atmosphere.” The study’s conclusions are based on analysis of historical ocean data pertaining to the latter half of the twentieth century. These findings are supported by results that were produced by an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. (Levitus et al. 2001 pdf file)

Tom Delworth, a scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tries to generate media attention for a paper (see April 13, 2001) he co-authored on the influence of human activities on the warming of the oceans. A media advisory and press conference about the paper is scheduled, but is repeatedly degraded until it is ultimately canceled. (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 32 pdf file)

President Bush signs Executive Order 13211. It is a verbatim copy of a “suggested” order sent in March by American Petroleum Institute official James Ford (see March 20, 2001). The executive order, enigmatically titled “Actions Concerning Regulations That Significantly Affect Energy Supply, Distribution, or Use,” exempts certain industry actions from federal review. (White House 5/22/2001; Dubose and Bernstein 2006, pp. 17)

A scene from the UW Horticulture Center fire.A scene from the UW Horticulture Center fire. [Source: Associated Press]Two college students set off a firebomb at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture that causes $7 million in damages. No one is injured in the blast, caused by several time-delayed fire bombs. Lacey Phillabaum and Jennifer Kolar are affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), which will take credit for the bombing. ELF’s plan was to target genetically-engineered poplar trees at the center, but the bomb also destroys other research projects, including wetlands restoration and endangered stickweed plants. Since 2000, ELF has targeted companies and government facilities involved in genetic engineering; a professor involved in the poplar project, Toby Bradshaw, received timber-industry funding for the research. ELF’s statement after the bombing calls the genetically engineered poplars “an ecological nightmare” for the diversity of native forests. Bradshaw will say that most of the damage he suffered was to his office; a greenhouse containing some 80 genetically-engineered poplars survives unscathed. “The truth is that we’re dealing with a bunch of misinformed… folks who don’t understand the research that was being carried out,” Bradshaw will say. “Even though I was the target, I am the one who was least affected.” Of charges that his “mutant” trees would damage the environment, Bradshaw says his work will almost certainly never “see the outside of a greenhouse.” The UW bombing is one of two planned for the day of May 21; a second bombing also occurs at a Clatskanie, Oregon, poplar farm owned by a timber firm, claiming two buildings and a dozen vehicles. Five years later, Phillabaum and Kolar will plead guilty to participating in the firebombing and other, lesser charges in return for their cooperation in a federal investigation into attacks mounted by ELF and its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). US Attorney John McKay will say, “These violent acts of destruction are not a valid form of political speech.” Both will receive significantly smaller prison terms than they may have received had they gone to trial and been convicted of all counts. Three other ELF members were at the scene: William C. Rodgers, a longtime ELF activist who will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in 2005 (see October 19, 1998); Justin Solondz, who helped assemble the bombs and is now a fugitive; and Briana Waters, who has been indicted for serving as a lookout for the UW bombing. (Murphy 6/9/2001; Bernton and Clarridge 10/5/2006)

Larisa E. Dobriansky, deputy assistant secretary for national energy policy at the Department of Energy, meets with ExxonMobil lobbyist Randy Randol and the Global Climate Coalition, a group formed to oppose restrictions on greenhouse gases. Members of the coalition include ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute. In the notes she prepared for the meeting, she wrote, “POTUS [President Bush] rejected Kyoto, in part, based on input from you.” (Mooney 5/2005)

The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” (Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council 2001; CBS News 6/19/2003; Jackson 6/20/2003)

A Klamath River farmer and prospective voter.A Klamath River farmer and prospective voter. [Source: Sierra Times]Interior Department official Sue Ellen Woodbridge is contacted, to her surprise and initial disbelief, by Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney is concerned with a situation developing in Oregon, a battleground electoral state that the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign had lost by less than half a percentage point in November 2000. Drought-stricken ranchers and farmers—largely Republican in makeup—are clamoring for the irrigation water they need to keep their croplands and pastures green. (Becker and Gellman 6/27/2007) The farmers and ranchers of the area are key to the re-election of Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). (Bacher 7/16/2007) But federal biologists say that the Endangered Species Act gives the government no choice: if the water is released, two imperiled species of fish will be gravely impacted. Both science and the law are on the side of the fish, but Cheney steps in, apparently more out of political concerns for Oregon than for the farmers and ranchers. According to Cheney’s aides, he first looks for a way around the law. According to an Oregon congressman who lobbies for the farmers, when Cheney finds no way to circumvent the law, he instead attacks the science protecting the fish (see April 2002). The government eventually declares, in spite of all scientific evidence, that the water release and subsequent draining of the Klamath River basin will not harm the fish. Instead, the water release causes the largest fish kill in modern Western history (see September 2002). Cheney’s role in the fish kill will not be revealed until 2007. (Becker and Gellman 6/27/2007) After the Washington Post reveals Cheney’s role in the fish kill, the House will open hearings on Cheney’s activities (see June 27-28, 2007).

Governor Mike Foster (R-LA) endorses the Coast 2050 plan (see December 1998) to spend $14 billion over a 20 to 30-year period to rebuild Louisiana’s coastal wetlands as a means of protecting the mainland from the full destructive force of a major hurricane. (Scully 4/26/2002)

According to one unnamed EPA scientist, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) requests that the EPA make subtle language changes to a brochure on climate change. The EPA refuses to implement the changes and prints the brochures without CEQ approval. The EPA is reportedly not permitted to distribute the brochures and as a result they remain boxed up in a warehouse. (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 60 pdf file)

An environmental health study, the largest in US history, finds that as many as 30 percent of the 5,590 adult residents tested in Libby, Montana have lung abnormalities (see November 21, 1999). This figure is as much as 150 times greater than what is normal for people with no known asbestos exposure. All of the tested adults had at one time worked or lived in Libby before the W.R. Grace Co. vermiculite mine closed in 1990. (Smith 8/24/2000)

The Bush administration blocks the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from making any announcement about vermiculite and related problems in towns where it was mined. Vermiculite is dangerous because one of the substances it contains, tremolite, itself contains lethal levels of asbestos fiber and has killed or seriously sickened thousands of inhabitants of Libby, Montana, one of the towns where it was mined. EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman visits Libby at this time, although the vermiculite mine there was shut down in 1990. However, the problem is not confined to Libby; according to EPA records, over 16 billion tons of vermiculite have been shipped to 750 fertilizer and insulation manufacturers throughout the US, and the EPA estimates that between 15 million and 35 million US homes have been insulated with this toxic material. The EPA is thus confronted with an enormously grave problem. After the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks the story in late 2002 based on a leak from an unnamed whistleblower, former EPA chief William Ruckelshaus calls the actions of the White House “wrong, unconscionable.” The story becomes even more important when the reason for the White House block becomes known. Vice President Dick Cheney, the former CEO of Halliburton, is pressuring Congress to pass legislation that would absolve companies of any legal liability for claims arising from asbestos exposure. Halliburton itself is facing a tremendous number of asbestos liability claims. (Dean 2004, pp. 162-163)

During the first 25 days of the rescue/recovery effort at the World Trade Center site, 800 policemen are provided with only paper masks. Printed on each of the masks is a disclaimer stating: “Warning, this mask does not protect your lungs.” (Davidsdottir 6/5/2002)

The World Trade Center twin towers collapse—the south tower at 9:59 a.m. and the north tower half an hour later at 10:28 a.m. (CNN 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; New York Times 9/12/2001; Washington Post 9/12/2001; MSNBC 9/22/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002) The collapses create huge dust clouds that roll through the streets of Lower Manhattan, breaking windows and forcing dust and debris into the interior of surrounding buildings.
Composition of dust - Chemicals and materials present in the billowing clouds include pulverized plaster, paint, foam, glass fibers and fragments, fiberglass, cement, vermiculite (used as a fire retardant instead of asbestos), chrysotile asbestos, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans, pesticides, phthalate esters, brominated diphenyl ethers, cotton fibers and lint, tarry and charred wood, soot, rubber, paper and plastic. (Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Online 9/15/2001; Palmer 11/4/2001; Lioy et al. 7/2002; US Geological Survey 10/2002 pdf file) The dust has an extremely high pH. (US Geological Survey 11/27/2001; Schneider 2/10/2002)
Distribution of dust and debris - The debris will be distributed very unevenly throughout the city because of their varying weights. Dusts containing relatively heavy components, such as pulverized concrete and glass, will settle near the World Trade Center, whereas dust containing lighter components, like asbestos, will fall to the ground in greater relative concentrations at a further distance. Heavy metals—including zinc, strontium, lead and aluminum—will also be deposited a relatively large distance away from the disaster site. (Lioy et al. 7/2002; US Geological Survey 10/2002 pdf file; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)
Composition of smoke/debris plume - Combustible materials buried in the rubble of the towers provides fuel for a fire that will burn until December. Many of the materials are made of substances that when burned release highly toxic fumes. According to Thomas Cahill, a professor of physics and engineering, “The debris pile acted like a chemical factory. It cooked together the components and the buildings and their contents, including enormous numbers of computers, and gave off gases of toxic metals, acids, and organics for at least six weeks.” (BBC 9/10/2003; Wulfhorst 9/11/2003)
bullet The two towers contained as many as 50,000 personal computers, each containing small amounts of mercury and about 4 lbs of lead. The towers also contained roughly 300 mainframe computers. (Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman 2/2002 pdf file; Kupferman 2003 pdf file)
bullet Thousands of fluorescent lamps in the buildings contained mercury. (Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman 2/2002 pdf file; Kupferman 2003 pdf file)
bullet Thousands of chairs and other office furniture contained chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers, which pose dangers similar to PCBs. (Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman 2/2002 pdf file)
bullet Several of the WTC’s tenants are known to have had toxic materials on site. For example, there was a Secret Service shooting range that kept millions of rounds of lead ammunition on hand. And a US Customs lab had in its inventory thousands of pounds of arsenic, lead, mercury, chromium, and other toxic substances. (Kupferman 2003 pdf file)
bullet Other products in the buildings included synthetic fabrics, plastics, laminates, the di-electric fluids that encase electrical cables, capacitors, electrical cable insulation and transformers. The toxins resulting from the combustion of these materials include toxic lead, volatile organic compounds, dioxins (see December 27, 2002), mercury, nickel, vandium, sulphur, PAHs, PCBs and furans. (Nordgren, Goldstein, and Izeman 2/2002 pdf file)
Distribution of smoke/debris plume - The aerosol plume will move from the WTC site in Lower Manhattan directly over Brooklyn where it will drop much of its toxic debris, contaminating the neighborhoods of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Park Slope and beyond. New York City Council member David Yassky, who is in Brooklyn campaigning on this day, will later recount in an interview with Newsday, “There was a film of dust on everything—on cars, stores, everywhere in Brooklyn Heights. If you were there, as I was, you saw several hours of debris rain down on your neighborhood.” (Garrett 8/23/2002; Garrett 9/30/2002)

Scientists who work for the US Geological Survey watch the World Trade Center towers collapse on their television sets. “We sat at home, watched that gray-white cloud roll over Lower Manhattan, and knew damned well that the dust was going to hurt a lot of people,” Gregg Swayze, a USGS geophysicist, will later tell the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I knew we had the best technology in the world to determine precisely what was in that dust.” (Schneider 2/10/2002) Swayze and other USGS scientists quickly get to work making arrangements to use USGS and NASA equipment to determine the composition of the dust clouds (see September 12, 2001).

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urges New Yorkers to stay at home and orders the evacuation of the area south of Canal Street. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/12/2001)

The 47-story WTC Building 7 collapses. It housed New York City’s emergency command center, offices of the FBI, CIA, and various commercial offices. The collapse of the building buries an electrical substation containing more than 130,000 gallons of oil from transformers and high-voltage lines—most of which contain low levels of hazardous PCBs—that provides fuel for a fire that will burn for more than three months contaminating the city’s air with a number of toxins including dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and other polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; Hang 11/26/2001; Williams 11/27/2001; Gonzalez 11/29/2001; Shwartz 12/5/2001; Gerrard 12/26/2001; Alexander's Gas & Oil Connections 1/9/2002; Kupferman 2003 pdf file)

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani urges New Yorkers to stay home the following day. (CNN 9/12/2001)

New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says in an interview with CNN’s Larry King: “The Health Department has done tests and at this point it is not a concern. So far, all the tests we have done do not show undue amounts of asbestos or any particular chemical agent that you have to be concerned about.” (CNN 9/11/2001)

During a conference call, EPA Region 8 offers Region 2 free use of 30 to 40 electron microscopes, along with analysts, to test bulk dust samples in New York City. (Jenkins 3/11/2002 pdf file) EPA Region 8 has a contract with EMSL Laboratories for the microscopes, which they are using to evaluate soils at the Libby, Montana cleanup site (see (August 2001)). Region 8 says they can get twelve of the scopes to Manhattan the next day. But William Muszynski, Region 2’s Acting Administrator, rejects the offer in less than polite terms. “We don’t want you fucking cowboys here,” Muszynski is later alleged to have said. “The best thing they could do is transfer you to Alaska.” (Jenkins 3/11/2002 pdf file; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) Instead, the EPA and other federal and city government agencies will use the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) testing method (see November 20, 1990) to test for the presence of asbestos fibers. (Schneider 2/28/2001; Schneider 1/14/2002)

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) begins monitoring ambient outdoor air for asbestos. (New York City Department of Health 9/12/2001) Couriers transport the air samples to laboratories, which immediately analyze them and obtain results within hours. (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file) The samples are tested using the outdated polarized light microscopy (PLM) technology (see September 12, 2001). (Kupferman 2003 pdf file)

Roger Clark, the astrophysicist who heads the US Geological Survey (USGS)‘s portion of the AVIRIS program in Denver, contacts Robert Green, head of the AVIRIS program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. (The AVIRIS, or Airborne Visible Infrared Spectrometer, is a remote-sensing unit used by NASA to determine the chemical composition of a planet’s surface and atmosphere by analyzing the infrared signatures of minerals that are reflected from the ground and comparing them with the unique peaks and curves of the signatures of thousands of minerals and materials in the USGS database. (Schneider 2/10/2002) AVIRIS has been used before to scan Superfund toxic sites to map hot spots of harmful substances.) (Revkin 9/17/2002) He asks Green for NASA permission to use the AVIRIS over New York City and parts of New Jersey to determine the chemical composition of the dust and debris resulting from the collapse of the World Trade Center. (Schneider 2/10/2002) NASA gives the go-ahead on September 13 (see September 13, 2001).

Barbara Rubin, a resident of Lower Manhattan, emails the EPA asking the agency specific questions about air quality in New York City. Rubin explains in her email that she suffers from severe asthma. She asks:
bullet “What are the parameters of the hot zone and the warm zone geographically?”
bullet “What are the current particulate matter concentrations being found right now in Manhattan versus outlying areas. How does it compare with previous counts?”
bullet “Does the sampling separately analyze primary versus secondary particulate concentrations of PM [particulate] in the air? What results have been found?”
bullet “Is anything known about what chemicals are bound to the soot and dust from such sources as the burning jet fuel, smoldering furnishings, plastics, electrical wire, fiberglass etc.?”
bullet “With regard to health issues, does the EPA have any guidelines about recommending such protections as particulate masks when PM is in excess of certain levels? As you know, the use of bronchodilators to relieve asthmatic symptoms just leaves lung tissue open for deeper invasions by more allergens and foreign bodies (PM). The resulting inflammation requires steroids and the cycle just repeats itself.” The EPA’s response directs her to the agency’s website, which does not contain the answers to her questions. (Environmental Protection Agency 10/6/2001)

The City of New York hires LZA Associates and Thornton-Tomasetti Engineers to put together a team of engineers and contractors to inspect the World Trade Center and surrounding structures in order to help ensure the safety of rescue workers. (Powell 11/2001)

Tina Kreisher, a spokeswoman for the EPA, says, “At the moment, we really don’t detect any real danger.” (James 9/13/2001; Chowka 9/15/2001)

The City of New York samples air at Centre and Chambers St. (7 blocks Northeast of Ground Zero perimeter, east of Broadway) and Spruce and Gold St. (7 to 8 blocks Northeast of Ground Zero perimeter, east of Broadway). Both of these sites are upwind from the World Trade Center disaster site. TEM tests reveal that these air samples have high levels of asbestos fibers suspended in the air—123.73 s/mm2 at Centre and Chambers St., and 157.48 s/mm2 at Spruce and Gold St. (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file) Neither the City of New York nor the EPA will warn residents about these alarming asbestos levels. When the city publishes results of its polarized light microscopy (PLM) tests on October 24 (see October 24, 2001), it does not include these sampling results, or even mention that tests were performed at this location. Similarly, when it publishes the results of the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests on its website in early 2002 (see Early 2002), this data is again left out. However, this data is given to the State of New York on November 13 (see November 13, 2001). Cate Jenkins, a senior chemist in the EPA’s Hazardous Waste Identification Division, will later suggest that the omission was intentional in order to obscure the fact that contamination was occurring considerably north of Ground Zero. (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file) The City of New York will not return to these locations to conduct additional monitoring so there is no additional data on contamination in these locations. (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file)

EPA Region 2 decides that it will use a benchmark of 1 percent in determining whether the asbestos level found in outdoor dust samples collected in and around the WTC site constitutes a “level of concern.” The figure apparently derives from the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) (see April 18, 1989), which defines products containing more than 1 percent asbestos by weight as “asbestos-containing materials” (ACM). The NESHAP one percent definition is not based on safety, but rather is the detection limit of the Polarized Light Method (PLM) for determining asbestos levels (see August 23, 1996 and see November 20, 1990). The EPA will be heavily criticized for selecting this percentage as its “level of concern” benchmark. Critics will argue:
bullet The one percent value is arbitrary because it is not based on safety. Furthermore, it was meant to be applied only to solid asbestos-containing products that do not release emissions (like dust).
bullet As the EPA has previously acknowledged, there is no safe exposure level to asbestos (see April 25, 1986) (see April 18, 1989).
bullet Measuring dust by percentage weight does not allow one to accurately assess the risk to public health because it does not determine the number of asbestos structures in a given area. For example, a sidewalk coated with 4 inches of dust containing .5 percent asbestos is much more of a health risk than a tablespoon’s worth of dust on the ground containing 2 percent asbestos because the former obviously has many more structures of asbestos. A person walking on the street would inhale more asbestos fibers walking through the 4 inches of asbestos-contaminated dust than stepping on just the tablespoon’s worth. (Jenkins 6/9/2002 pdf file) In fact, the EPA has previously acknowledged in an official statement to the public that levels “of 1 percent or less could present a risk where there is enough activity to stir up soil and cause asbestos fibers to become airborne” (see June 18, 2001). Additionally, a study in 1995 on the health effects of vermiculite found that soils with an asbestos level of only 0.001 percent can result in air concentrations of 0.01 fibers per milliliter, which exceeds many times the EPA cancer risk level of 0.000004 f/mL (see 1995) that corresponds to a cancer risk factor of 10

Samples from water runoff into the Hudson and East Rivers indicate elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, asbestos and metals. (Environmental Protection Agency 10/3/2001)

According to documents that the City of New York later provides to New York State, between eighteen and fifty-two percent of New York City’s transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests (see November 20, 1990) performed during this period indicate asbestos levels of over 70 structures/sq. millimeter (s/mm2). Many of these high test results are based on air samples taken several blocks from Ground Zero. (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file) This figure is similar to the one that Walter E. Mugdan, the Regional Counsel for EPA Region 2, will provide in a speech to the New York Bar Association in January 2002. “Around 35 percent of the samples of bulk dust taken in Lower Manhattan in the first few days after the collapse exceeded the 1 percent level,” he will say.

The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) dictates the content of EPA press releases to the EPA’s Public Information Officer in a series of emails. “100 percent of what CEQ added was added: 100 percent of what CEQ deleted was deleted,” an internal EPA investigation will later report. (Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)

The EPA assigns the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with the task of ensuring that Lower Manhattan homes and businesses are safe for re-occupation. The EPA is bound by the National Contingency Plan (NCP) to see that the City of New York adheres to, and enforces, all EPA standards (see 1972). (US Code, Vol. 40, sec. 300; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) The city, in turn, will leave the job of testing and cleanup to the building owners and residents themselves. Neither the city nor the EPA will inform them of the federal regulations that govern asbestos testing and abatement. Instead, the City’s health department will provide residents, landlords, and building owners with a tip sheet consisting of instructions “for people reoccupying commercial buildings and residences” that is completely wrong (see September 16, 2001) (see September 17, 2001). (Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler 4/12/2002 pdf file; Carlton 5/9/2002 pdf file)

New York City construction firms begin cleaning up debris at the World Trade Center site that was strewn over a 12-block area. (Chartock 9/12/2001)

Robert Green, head of the AVIRIS program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, informs Roger Clark, the astrophysicist who heads the US Geological Survey (USGS)‘s portion of the AVIRIS program in Denver, that NASA will permit the USGS team to use AVIRIS in an attempt to determine the chemical composition of the dust and debris that resulted from the collapse of the World Trade Center (see September 12, 2001). The crew will mount the unit to a de Havilland Twin Otter prop plane owned by NASA, which will make several passes over the WTC and surrounding area. “The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy… signed off on the flight. And the Air Force [has] agreed not to shoot the Twin Otter down,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch will later report. (Schneider 2/10/2002)

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announces that the EPA is monitoring levels of airborne contaminants in and around the area of Manhattan. She says that samples so far are “reassuring about potential exposure of rescue crews and the public to environmental contaminants.” The tests “found either no asbestos or very low levels of asbestos.” In Brooklyn, which is directly in the WTC smoke plume’s path (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 10:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), she says that “levels of lead, asbestos and volatile organic compounds in air samples… were not detectable or not of concern.” (Environmental Protection Agency 9/13/2001) However, her statements contradict results from transmission electron microscopy (TEM) tests that were conducted the previous day (see (September 12, 2001)).

The New York City Department of Health (DOH) issues its second alert since the fall of the towers. The update, titled, “Terrorist Attack at the World Trade Center in New York City: Medical and Public Health Issues of Urgent Concern,” warns the Manhattan public: “Asbestos was used in the construction of the World Trade Center. Tests performed indicate that asbestos may be present in an area marked by Worth St. to the North, Centre and Nassau Sts. to the East, and Exchange and Thames Sts. to the South.” (New York City Department of Health 9/13/2001) The DOH report goes on to say that the “health risk posed by a single exposure of short duration is very low” and that the “risk to persons who have not been present in the affected area following the disaster is also thought to be extremely low.” (New York City Department of Health 9/13/2001)

EPA administrator Christie Whitman recommends that New Yorkers who evacuated their homes after the collapse of the World Trade Center “vacuum everything, including air conditioning filters, and wipe all surfaces with a damp cloth,” Newsweek reports. (Lyman 9/14/2001; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) The recommendation is made despite two studies completed for the EPA in 1993 demonstrating that HEPA vacuums do not effectively remove asbestos from carpets and upholstery (see 1993) and that vacuuming actually increases asbestos levels in the air during use (see 1993).

Phillip Landrigan, chairman of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and a leading expert on occupational diseases, tells the Minnesota Star Tribune that acute exposure to dust and soot could cause bronchitis, eye injuries and asthma-like breathing difficulties in the short term. Landrigan says that workers who inhale the dust increase their risk of developing life-threatening asbestos-related lung diseases, like mesothelioma, an incurable cancer. (Star Tribune (Minneapolis) 9/14/2001)

A fact sheet issued by the New York City Department of Health states that dust and ash from the WTC collapse contains “trace amounts of asbestos” and denies that short term exposure poses a health risk. “Based on the asbestos test results received thus far, the general public’s risk for any short or long term adverse health affects are extremely low,” the notice claims. (New York City Department of Health 9/22/2001)

EPA Region 2 hires an industrial hygienist to test the lobby of its building at 290 Broadway St. for the presence of asbestos. The building is located 6 blocks northeast of the World Trade Center site. Some of the settled dust samples collected with a micro-vac and analyzed using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) reveal the presence of chrysotile asbestos. Light microscope tests are also used to analyze the dust, but these tests turn up negative. (Jenkins 3/11/2002 pdf file; Kupferman 2003 pdf file; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) Air monitoring also reveals the presence of asbestos:
bullet 20 s/mm (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file)
bullet 20 s/mm (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file)
bullet 60 s/mm (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file)
bullet 60 s/mm (Environmental Protection Agency 7/15/2004 pdf file) The discovery of asbestos at the building prompts EPA Region 2 to have the building professionally abated. (Jenkins 3/11/2002 pdf file; Kupferman 2003 pdf file; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) The EPA later states that micro-vac collection of dust samples (one of the preferred methods of obtaining samples) and TEM testing are not necessary for schools and residences in Lower Manhattan. At 105 Duane Street, the EPA will even discount results obtained by micro-vac collection and TEM tests when they contradict the agency’s own results (see December 3, 2001). (Office of US Congressman Jerrold Nadler 4/12/2002 pdf file; Carlton 5/9/2002 pdf file; Kupferman 2003 pdf file)

EPA spokeswoman Bonnie Bellow says, “There’s nothing at this point that indicates that business can’t resume” in the Wall Street area on Monday as scheduled. (Fagin 9/15/2001 pdf file)

Rainstorms in New York City produce run-off with “elevated PCB and dioxin levels.” (Environmental Protection Agency 9/21/2001)

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection recommends in a memo to building owners in Lower Manhattan that they use the polarized light microscopy (PLM) method to determine the asbestos contamination level in their buildings instead of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) which is far more accurate (see November 20, 1990). (Carlton 5/9/2002 pdf file)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world…. A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001; CBS News 6/19/2003; Jackson 6/20/2003)

ExxonMobil awards a $232,000 grant to Frontiers of Freedom to help launch a new branch organization called the Center for Science and Public Policy. The one-man operation will help bring scientists to Capitol Hill to testify on global warming and the health effects of mercury. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 11 pdf file)

Dr. Cate Jenkins writes a memorandum comparing the data from a major asbestos-contaminated site in Libby, Montana—where the EPA tested and cleaned homes (see (August 2001)) —to that of the WTC disaster site where the EPA has so far refused to take responsibility for the abatement of private residences. She argues that Lower Manhattan should be designated a Superfund site, as was Libby, Montana (see December 20, 2001), in order to reduce the public’s exposure to harmful substances such as asbestos, fiberglass, fine particulates, mercury and lead. Superfund designation would shift the financial burden from individual citizens to the government. In the memo, she also summarizes the calculated cancer risks for people occupying Lower Manhattan buildings. (Jenkins 1/11/2002 pdf file)

David Walker, comptroller of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and a Ronald Reagan appointee, files a lawsuit to compel Vice President Dick Cheney and his office to reveal the names of the private businessmen and organizational officials that his energy task force (see January 29, 2001) met with to craft the Bush administration’s energy policies (see May 8, 2001). This is the first time since its creation in 1920 that the GAO has been forced to file suit to compel another government agency to follow the law and cooperate with its requests. (Dean 2004, pp. 78-79) In a statement, Walker writes: “This is the first time that GAO has filed suit against a federal official in connection with a records access issue. We take this step reluctantly. Nevertheless, given GAO’s responsibility to Congress and the American people, we have no other choice. Our repeated attempts to reach a reasonable accommodation on this matter have not been successful. Now that the matter has been submitted to the judicial branch, we are hopeful that the litigation will be resolved expeditiously. (General Accounting Office 2/22/2002 pdf file)
'Fundamental Questions' about Governmental 'Checks and Balances' - Former Nixon White House counsel John Dean will write in 2004: “This was, to say the least, a high-stakes lawsuit. It raised fundamental questions about the very nature of our system of checks and balances. If the GAO could not get the information it requested, then there was a black hole in the federal firmament—a no-man’s land where a president and vice president could go free from Congressional oversight.” By random selection, the case lands in the court of Judge John Bates, a career Justice Department lawyer who once worked for the Whitewater investigative team led by Kenneth Starr, and had just recently been appointed to the bench by President Bush. The choice of Bates will prove critical to the verdict of the case. (Dean 2004, pp. 78-79)
Schlafly: Secrecy a 'Mistake' - Conservative commentator and activist Phyllis Schlafly will write in 2002: “[T]he public wants to know how our energy policy was developed. When information is kept secret, the natural inference is that there must be something the administration is very eager to hide. While private businesses and households can be selective about what they tell the world, the American people are not willing to accord the same privacy to public officials paid by the taxpayers. Regardless of the legal veil woven over the energy policy meetings, Cheney’s secrecy is a political mistake.” (Schlafly 3/6/2002)

Michael Kelly, a federal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heads a team for the National Marine Fisheries Service which is charged with reviewing the Bureau of Reclamation’s 10-year plan for allocating the Klamath River’s water. The team completes a report concluding that the Bureau’s plan would jeopardize the coho salmon, which are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The report makes its way to lawyers at the Justice Department who reject Kelly’s findings and order him to rewrite his biological opinion. Two weeks later, Kelly submits a new report reaffirming the team’s earlier findings, but supported by more scientific and detailed legal analysis. The recommendations are again rejected. Against the team’s advice, the Bureau of Land management will approve lower water levels for the Klamath River, based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences, which Kelly refuses to endorse. “Obviously someone at a higher level order the service to accept this new plan,” Kelly will observe. The decision will lead to the death of 33,000 salmon and steelhead trout (see September 2002). (Associated Press 5/20/2004)

The EPA’s regional office in New York announces that the agency will assume responsibility for testing and cleaning residences south of Canal, Allen, and Pike Streets in Manhattan for asbestos contamination—if requested by the resident. The EPA claims the decision was made in order to calm residents’ fears, and that decontamination is not necessary. “While the scientific data about any immediate health risks from indoor air is very reassuring, people should not have to live with uncertainty about their futures,” says Jane Kenny, EPA regional administrator. “There is no emergency here.” (Carlton 5/9/2002 pdf file; Gittrich 5/9/2002 pdf file) Similarly, Mary Mears, spokeswoman for Region II of the EPA, states, “This is to assuage concerns from residents in Lower Manhattan who continue to have concerns over air in their apartments.” (United Press International 5/9/2002)
Criticisms of the EPA's volunteer cleanup program -
bullet The EPA does not include other areas like Brooklyn, which was in the direct path of the September 11 smoke plume (see September 12, 2001), or Chinatown, whose residents have also complained of ailments they attribute to WTC contamination. (Casimir 5/20/2002 pdf file; Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file)
bullet The EPA does not acknowledge that there is a public health emergency
bullet The program is voluntary.
bullet The EPA program targets asbestos, although the agency will also randomly test for other toxins to determine if additional measures should be taken. “We will test for asbestos in air. This is the substance of greatest concern, and air is the pathway of exposure. By cleaning up the dust, many other substances will also be removed,” an EPA public notice explains. (Environmental Protection Agency 8/4/2003) However according to Cate Jenkins, “too few homes [are sampled] to have any statistical power to establish that these substances are not occurring elsewhere.” (Jenkins 7/4/2003 pdf file) A panel of experts convened by the EPA in October will agree, and suggest that the EPA conduct tests for additional toxins (see Mid-October 2002).
bullet The program is limited to private residences. Office buildings, the common areas of apartment buildings, stores and restaurants are not eligible for the program. (New York Daily News 10/29/2002)
bullet Only apartments which appear upon visual inspection to be contaminated will qualify for cleaning. (Lustgarten 8/15/2003)
bullet The plan does not require that all apartments in a building be evacuated and cleaned—just those whose residents have filed requests. Consequently, recontamination and cross-contamination will occur from ventilation systems connecting cleaned and uncleaned apartments and from dust tracked in on residents’ shoes and clothing. (Lustgarten 8/15/2003)

Responding to a reporter’s question about global warming, President Bush, referring to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) acknowledging that human activity is contributing to the Earth’s warming, says, “I read the report put out by a—put out by the bureaucracy.” He adds: “I do not support the Kyoto treaty. The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy, and I don’t accept that. I accept the alternative we put out, that we can grow our economy and, at the same time, through technologies, improve our environment.” (US President 6/10/2002, pp. 957 pdf file)

Erica Van Coverden, a public affairs officer at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), distributes an agency-wide email informing staff that all requests for interviews must first be screened by her and her colleague Jana Goldman. “NOAA Public Affairs has requested that for the time being, all media inquiries and interviews be cleared by NOAA PA (myself and Jana) BEFORE they are granted,” she writes. “This applies to any topics that may be of national interest (which covers most of our research)…” [Emphasis in original]. A few weeks earlier, NOAA released its 2002 hurricane season outlook, predicting “above-normal levels of storm activity.” (Maassarani 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file)

Environmental Defense, a New York-based advocacy group, publishes a report concluding that a fifth of all carbon dioxide emissions in the US come from cars and light trucks. The group also found that after decades of steady decline, since 1990, those emissions have begun to increase, dramatically. The study blames the increase on the higher number of light trucks, sport-utility vehicles, and minivans that are on the road. (Pianin 7/31/2002)

More than 33,000 spawning salmon and steelhead trout die in the lower Klamath River due to the rivers abnormally low water level (see November 18, 2003). The fish succumb to “gill rot” which spreads rampantly among the fish as a result of warm water temperatures caused by the river’s shallow waters. The lower water-level is a result of the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to cut the river’s flow to 750 cubic-feet per second and divert the remaining water to farmers for irrigation. The decision was made against the recommendations of two reports by a team of government biologists (see April 2002). (Paskus 6/23/2003; Associated Press 5/20/2004)

In an email exchange between Richard Wetherald, a research meteorologist at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), and NOAA public affairs staffer Jana Goldman, Wetherald complains that the Department of Commerce appears to be turning down press releases that have to do with global warming issues. In the following exchange, Wetherald refers to a study he recently co-authored (see October 5, 2002) on the potential impact global warming might have on soil moisture and run-off rates. In his email, he writes, “I have not bothered to write a draft NOAA press release since the last time it was turned down by the Dept. of Commerce (see (April 2001)). Apparently at that time, greenhouse or global warming papers were considered to be the literary equivalent of ‘persona non grata’ by the current administration. I assume that this is still the case? I don’t want to waste both of our times if it is. Anyway, here is the summary for your information. Please let me know if this policy has changed.” Goldman replies: “What I think I may do is pass the abstract along downtown and see what they think. I agree with you, the attitude seems to have changed regarding climate change, but let’s also avoid doing unnecessary work if it’s not going to go anywhere.” Wetherald says in response: “That sounds like a sensible idea. If by some miracle, you can use it as a NOAA press release, this would be fine as long as it contains the basic conclusions in the summary that I sent. I will certainly help out if it comes to that…” Goldman then writes: “I sent the abstract down to see if it would fly—if so, we would have to draft a release, but at least we would know that it would go through and our work would not be in vain.” (Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project 1/30/2007, pp. 31-33 pdf file)

The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. (Wetherald and Manabe 2002)

William Myers, the Interior Department’s solicitor general—and a former lobbyist for ranchers—announces to members of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association (NCA) that the Bush administration intends to limit environmental reviews and make it easier for ranchers to graze livestock on public lands. He also says that the Department of Interior is seeking ways to prevent federal laws like the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act from restricting grazing on public lands (see December 5, 2003). (Sonner 11/16/2002) “We should not be using the Endangered Species Act… as a land management tool. It is not there as a tool for zoning on federal lands,” Myers says. His comments are well received by the NCA. John Falen, a former president of the organization, tells the Associated Press, “Bill’s our friend. It’s been a long time since we had a friend in the solicitor’s office.” (Sonner 11/16/2002)

On the day before Thanksgiving, the Bush administration releases proposed rule changes that would lead to increased logging of federal forests for commercial or recreational activities by giving local forest managers the authority to open up the forests to development without requiring environmental impact assessments and without specific standards to maintain local fish and wildlife populations. Administration officials claim the changes are needed because existing rules—approved by the Clinton administration two months before Bush took office—are unclear, in addition to being costly and difficult to implement. Critics charge the changes are aimed at pleasing the timber industry at the expense of forest ecosystems. The proposed changes would affect roughly 192 million acres of US forests and grasslands. (McClure 11/27/2002; CBS News 11/27/2002) The proposal closely follows the timber industry’s wish list—a “coincidence” according to the Forest Service. (Native Forest Network 11/27/2002 pdf file)

Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman, and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairman James L. Connaughton meet with President Bush to discuss the implementation of the administration’s “Healthy Forest Initiative.” After the meeting, they announce proposed changes that would expedite the approval of “fuels treatment” projects (forest thinning) by weakening the review process and restricting public input. (US Department of Interior 12/11/2002; Lindlaw 12/11/2002) Critics say the changes would make it easier for the timber industry to cut the larger, more fire resistant trees, making the forests more vulnerable to wildfires. They also charge that the proposed rules would allow logging interests to override local concerns. (Natural Resources Defense Council 12/11/2002) Mike Francis, a forest specialist with the Wilderness Society, commenting on the proposed rule changes, tells the Associated Press, “Those are nothing more than administration’s typical desires to cut the public out of forest decisions. This administration doesn’t like what the public wants to do with their forests.” (Lindlaw 12/11/2002)

The Environmental Protection Agency announces the final rule on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). (Environmental Protection Agency 2/12/2003) One of its provisions allows factory farms to dump unlimited amounts of raw animal waste on the land. The resulting runoff will pollute waterways, killing fish and spreading disease. The rule also limits corporate liability for environmental damage and allows factory farms to devise their own permit conditions. (Natural Resources Defense Council 12/16/2002)

The Bush administration outlines a seven-point plan “clarifying” federal guidelines on preventing wetlands loss. This reinterpretation of existing rules weakens protections for wetlands by focusing on the ecological quality of new wetlands that replace destroyed wetlands in developed areas instead of requiring acre-for-acre replacement. (Associated Press 12/27/2002)

The number of beach closings and health safety advisories increases 51 percent over the year 2002 at US oceans and Great Lakes, according to an annual survey conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). In fact, 2003 is the worst year ever recorded by the organization since it began monitoring US shorelines fourteen years ago. Eighty-eight percent of the closings are due to high levels of bacteria indicative of human and animal waste. “We know that the high bacteria levels that cause most closings and advisories come from two sources—inadequately treated sewage and contaminated stormwater,” says Nancy Stoner, director of NRDC’s Clean Water Project. “We have a major water system breakdown across the country, and local, state and federal authorities need to wake up and fix it.” (Pegg 8/6/2004 Sources: NRDC Annual Report - Testing the Waters 2004)

The Forest Service proposes a new rule that would create three new categories of timber sales exempt from National Environmental Policy Act requirements for environmental review and public input. The three new “categorical exclusions”—exemptions meant for activities that do not effect the environment—would apply to (1) “Low-impact silvicultural treatments involving harvest of live trees”; (2) “Harvest of dead/dying trees”; and (3) “Harvest of live, dead, or dying trees necessary to control insect and disease.” Though the Forest Service states that these activities do not have a significant effect on the environment, the rule would allow the constructions of roads through federally protected forests up to half a mile long. It would apply to more than 150 pending logging projects. (Wilderness Society n.d.; US Forest Service 1/3/2003 pdf file; Perks 4/2004, pp. 17-18 pdf file)

Assistant Secretary of the Interior Craig Manson writes to the State of Montana and withdraws a December 2002 environmental impact assessment conducted by National Park Service scientists which had concluded that the emissions from a proposed 780-megawatt coal-fired Roundup Power Plant would negatively affect visibility and air quality at Yellowstone National Park, located 112 miles away from the plant’s proposed site. Manson, a former Sacramento judge, claims that “weather events” had skewed the results of the study. (National Parks Magazine 3/2003; PEER 3/16/2003; McMillion 10/31/2003; Perks 4/2004, pp. 28 pdf file)

A review article by scientists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas on global warming is published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Research. In their article, the two astrophysicists review the work of several scientists and argue that the twentieth century was not the warmest century during the last 1,000 years. (Soon and Baliunas 2003) Their article is promoted widely by organizations and individuals funded by ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005) (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 14 pdf file) as well as by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who says the paper is proof that natural variability, not human activity, is the “overwhelming factor” influencing climate change. (US Congress 7/28/2003) But after the paper is published, three of journal’s editors—including incoming editor-in-chief Hans von Storch—quit in protest. Storch, explaining his resignation, calls the paper “flawed” because “the conclusions are not supported by the evidence presented in the paper.” He adds that he suspects “some of the skeptics had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.” (Monastersky 9/5/2003) Additionally, 13 of the scientists cited in the paper publish a rebuttal saying that Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research in the paper. (Ammann et al. 2003 pdf file; American Geophysical Union 7/7/2003)

After publishing their heavily criticized article on global warming, Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas quickly cultivate relationships with at least nine organizations whose climate change work is underwritten by ExxonMobil. Among her other affiliations, Baliunas becomes a board member and senior scientist at the Marshall Institute, a scientific adviser to the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy, an advisory board member of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and a contributing scientist to the online forum Tech Central Station. Soon will be the chief scientific researcher for the Center for Science and Public Policy, a senior scientist at the George C. Marshall Institute, as well as a contributor to the Heartland Institute. (Union of Concerned Scientists 2007, pp. 15, 34-35 pdf file)

A 50-page internal EPA report, written by the agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance, finds that the agency has done a poor job enforcing federal water pollution regulations. The study, which looks at about 6,600 industrial installations and wastewater treatment plants between 1999 and 2001, concludes that at any one time a quarter of all large industrial plants and water-treatment facilities are violating federal law. But only a fraction of these are ever held accountable. Furthermore, the office reports, 50 percent of the serious offenders exceed hazardous substance limits by over 100 percent and 13 percent exceed the limits by 1,000 percent. In 2001, the EPA took action against no more than 15 percent of the facilities judged to be out of compliance with water pollution rules. Less than half of these resulted in fines averaging about $6,000. (Gugliotta and Pianin 6/6/2003; Reuters 6/10/2003; Kerr 6/11/2003)

The Bush administration seeks exemptions from the Montreal Protocol on behalf of 54 US companies and trade groups. The international agreement seeks to phase-out the pesticide methyl bromide—an odorless fumigant that is a major ozone depletor—by 2005. (Natural Resources Defense Council 2/7/2003; Panna 2/7/2003; Marquis 2/7/2004) The administration’s request cites a loophole in the protocol which allows countries to seek exemptions for “critical uses,” as long as they do not represent more than 30 percent of their baseline production level. But the Bush administration’s request amounts to 39 percent. (Natural Resources Defense Council 2/7/2003; Panna 2/7/2003; Marquis 2/7/2004) The businesses applying for the exemptions, primarily farmers and food producers, would be permitted to use up to 21.9 million pounds of methyl bromide for the year 2005 (see (February 28, 2004)). (Marquis 2/7/2004)

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