Wyoming plagued by big-city problem: smog
People put up with a lot of pollution. But why? It’s not necessary. It’s not efficient. It’s preferred. We trim, blend, and append two 2011 articles from (1) Associated Press, Mar 8, on gas by Mead Gruver, and (2) Weekly Wastebasket, Mar 18 (v. XVI No. 11) on nuclear by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
by Mead Gruver and by Taxpayers for Common Sense
Wyoming plagued by big-city problem: smog
Folks who live near the gas fields in the western part of Wyoming are complaining of watery eyes, shortness of breath, and bloody noses. Ozone levels are high because of a boom in natural gas drilling.
Gas drilling also means the Cowboy State's unemployment rate is 6.4%. And lawmakers are projecting a budget surplus of more than $1 billion over the coming year in this state of a half-million people.
"They're trading off health for profit. It's outrageous. We're not a Third World country," said Elaine Crumpley, a retired science teacher who lives just outside Pinedale.
In the Upper Green River Basin, at least one daycare center called off outdoor recess and state officials have urged the elderly, children, and people with respiratory conditions to avoid strenuous or extended activity outdoors.
Two days last week, ozone levels in the gas-rich basin rose above the highest levels recorded in the biggest US cities last year. Preliminary data show ozone levels last Wednesday got as high as 124 parts per billion. That's two-thirds higher than the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum healthy limit of 75 parts per billion and above the worst day in Los Angeles all last year, 114 parts per billion.
High levels of ozone happen in the Upper Green River Basin only during the winter. They result from a combination of gas industry emissions, snow on the ground, bright sunshine, and temperature inversions, in which cool air near the ground is trapped by a layer of warmer air. Pollution builds up during the day and becomes visible above the horizon as a thin layer of brown smudge -- smog -- by midafternoon.
It's not the kind of smog that clouds and chokes the air at ground level. Even so, people have noticed that details of nearby mountains don't appear as razor-sharp as they used to.
The gas industry has drilled hundreds of wells in the basin over the past decade and made the basin one of the top gas-producing areas in the US.
Drilling of new wells, routine maintenance, and gas-field equipment release substances that contribute to ozone pollution, including volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.
Gas industry officials say they are curbing smog by reducing truck traffic and switching to drilling rigs with pollution control equipment.
Keith Guille, spokesman for the Department of Environmental Quality, said his agency has seen the companies’ plans for controlling pollution. "They are good. However, we haven't been able to prevent these exceedances."
To see the whole article, click here .
JJS: If they haven’t been able to prevent “exceedances”, how can he call the plans good? How can he expect people to have much faith in government, which is supposed to defend rights, including one’s right to clean air? Instead, not only does government fail to defend one’s right to a healthy environment, politicians give public money to polluters.
The crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan has created a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill. Lobbyists for the nuclear industry are walking the halls and hosting closed-door sessions for staff to squelch any concerns that what is happening in Fukushima could happen at US reactors of the same design.
Nuclear power in the United States has always operated with a strange dichotomy: the profits are private, but the risks and liability are born by the public. The nuclear industry is one of the most heavily subsidized energy sectors and has been since its development in the 1940s. One practically incalculable subsidy is the Price Anderson Act, which is the federal (read -- taxpayer) assumption of liability in the event of a catastrophic accident.
Like offshore oil drilling, the nuclear industry has a cap on what it has to pay in the event of a major accident. And as we saw with the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf, the true cost of restoring the surrounding environment after an accident can cost far more than what the company can pay.
Taxpayers prop-up the nuclear industry in many ways [here are just a few]. Government picks up the tab:
* if there are delays or bankruptcy of companies trying to build a nuclear reactor;
* if there is a delay because regulators raise a safety, security or financial concern; and
* by guaranteeing loans, making credit cheaper for nukes and pricier for everyone else.
Last year the Department of Energy awarded its first guarantee to Southern Company in Georgia. Next in line is a project in South Texas that is to be partially financed by Japanese-based Toshiba.
For years, the nuclear industry has been lobbying Congress to maintain friends in the right places. In addition to keeping the regulatory wheels greased, this helps them increase and maintain their subsidies.
At the end of the day, whether you support nuclear power or not, subsidizing and thereby artificially lessening nuclear power's risks is just plain fiscally irresponsible. If private lenders find the risks too great, then the technology will rightfully stall. Taxpayers should not be asked to shoulder this burden any longer.
JJS: Big Business in bed with Big Government makes for a big mess. There are plenty of ways to generate heat and light without also radiating ourselves or polluting our atmosphere. If the dirty and dangerous power sources had to pay for the damage they do, then the clean and safe ways could compete in the market place.
It’s hard for alternative power to compete in the “halls of justice” because they lack clout. That is, they’re not as profitable, because they don’t get the “rents”. Oil is over $100 per barrel; sunlight is free. Huge pipelines and power plants depend on a power grid covering a region -- a monopoly that lets power suppliers raise their rates. On the other hand, solar panels can cover one roof, methane digesters can service one farm. By being more efficient, the “green” ways are less profitable, and hence have less wherewithal for persuading politicians.
Against such entrenched opposition, how can you push reform? The same way progress has ever been made. Make yourself heard, by standing together with others of like mind. Organize!
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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