Jan 152015
 

Each year, miners use millions of gallons of cyanide to extract metals such as gold, copper and zinc from rock and ore. Hundreds of tons of cyanide are sometimes needed at a single site to carry out this process. Using the open-pit method, ore is piled into pits and sprayed with cyanide to separate metal from rock. These cyanide ponds often result in leakage or spillage which may contaminate surrounding watersheds. Other methods immerse ore into cyanide-filled tanks which are less prone to releases. However, just one teaspoon of a 2% cyanide solution can kill a person while smaller doses can kill wildlife and fish. Since 1970, it is estimated that accidents by our hard-rock mining industry have resulted in billions of gallons of cyanide being leaked and spilled into the environment. Often, local hazardous waste laws do not regulate the use of such large amounts of this highly toxic substance. Advocates claim the use, transport and disposal of millions of gallons of cyanide hold disastrous potential for many American communities. Such accidents have destroyed entire river ecosystems in Idaho, Montana and Colorado when this deadly chemical breeched containment. Since 1990, releases of cyanide from mining accidents have most often occurred from tailings-dam mishaps (76%), followed by pipeline failures (18%) and transportation accidents (6%). Critics claim there is no way to ensure the safe use of cyanide in mining. They also claim there are alternatives to cyanide which are available, such as the non-toxic cost-effective Haber Gold Process.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current cyanide mining policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to increase safety regulations for the use, storage, transportation and disposal of cyanide used in hard-rock mining operations

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to prohibit the use of cyanide in hard-rock mining operations

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Although most of our miners operate heavy machinery and work in dangerous environments, underground miners face more health and safety challenges than do surface miners. These dangers may include inadequate ventilation, structural collapse, coal dust inhalation, and methane and dust explosions. Methane, released during the coal extraction process, is one of the most daunting mine safety concerns. This gas can explode in concentrations as small as 5%. West Virginia’s 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, which took the lives of 29 Americans, is thought to have been caused by such an explosion. Safety procedures dictate that, should an explosion occur, miners must escape to safety rooms which contain several days of emergency supplies and rations. Most, but not all, modern mines have extensive safety procedures, health standards and worker education and training programs designed to reduce the incidence and severity of mining accidents. These programs have led to safety improvements in both underground and open pit mining operations.

Pending Legislation:

S.805 & H.R.1373 – Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current mine safety policy and wish to defeat S.805 & H.R.1373

I support authorizing independent investigations of mine accidents involving 3 or more deaths; improving compliance of mine safety and health laws; requiring mine owners to maintain records of purchases of rock dust (to counter coal dust combustibility); empowering miners to raise safety concerns; allowing immediate family members of victims of every mine disaster to name a representative to participate in government investigations of those disasters; improving safety equipment and miner training; enacting criminal penalties of 5 years imprisonment for retaliation against miners (or their families) who exercise their rights; requiring the Mine Safety Health Administration to develop a staffing succession plan to ensure that it retains sufficient numbers of trained personnel, and wish to pass S.805 & H.R.1373

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Mountaintop removal (MTR) mining, sometimes called strip mining, is a surface mining method which removes a mountain’s summit to expose its coal deposits beneath. Since it began in 1970, MTR mining has become the most common method of coal mining in our Appalachian region which includes West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. In this process, mountaintops are first cleared of forest, vegetation and topsoil. Powerful explosives are then used to blast as much as 800 feet off the top of a mountain. Huge mechanical shovels, called draglines, are used to dig through the layer of rock to access the coal seam. Excess rock and soil is hauled away on trucks and usually deposited into adjacent valleys. Huge amounts of chemically-treated water are used to wash the extracted coal to prepare it for market. The resulting waste water is laden with coal dust, carcinogenic chemicals and harmful metals such as mercury and arsenic. This toxic slurry mix often migrates into the water supplies upon which residents depended. Although mining companies are required to restore these mountaintops when finished, advocates say these measures are often inadequate, saying these sites remain infertile long after miners have left. MTR mining is relatively inexpensive since it requires a much smaller workforce than conventional mining, but it is very costly in terms of human and environmental damage. Opponents say MTR mining is responsible for annihilating ecosystems, polluting waterways and causing great harm to the Appalachian people. Many studies have shown that compared to their peers, these Americans suffer more than a 50% higher rate of cancers and more than a 40% higher rate of birth defects from contaminated water and airborne dust and toxins produced by MTR mining. The monetary public health costs associated with this human tragedy are estimated to be at least $75 billion each year. Critics say this method of mining would not be as nearly profitable if companies were held responsible for polluting the air, water and lands of these American communities.

Pending Legislation:

H.R.526 – ACHE Act

I oppose reforming current mountaintop removal mining policy and wish to defeat H.R.526

I support conducting or supporting comprehensive studies on the health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining on individuals in the communities of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia; publishing a determination of whether such mining presents any health risks to individuals in those communities; prohibiting issuance of an authorization for any mountaintop removal coal mining project (or expansion) until and unless a determination that such mining does not present any health risk to individuals in the surrounding communities; imposing requirements for continuous monitoring of air, noise, and water pollution and frequent monitoring of soil until a determination by the Secretary of Health and Human Services is made, and wish to pass H.R.526

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Aquatic ecosystems are bodies of water that support communities of marine or freshwater organisms dependent upon each other and their environment. Human development, encroachment and pollution have damaged more than 70% of our nation’s rivers and streams -some of them severely. Nearly 40% of our nation’s rivers and streams do not meet standards for swimming safety or fishing sustainability. Non-point source pollution such as soil erosion from logging, oil runoff from urban streets, acid mine drainage and nutrients from farm fertilizers are blamed for some of the destruction to our streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, islands, wetlands, beaches and vernal pools. Healthy aquatic ecosystems greatly benefit us by filtering pollutants from our water supply and reducing the strength of storms, hurricanes and flooding. They also provide countless recreational opportunities for millions of Americans. Advocates say that in order for these degraded ecosystems to regain their functionality they must be returned to their original condition -or as close to it as possible.

Pending Legislation: none

I oppose reforming current aquatic habitat policy

I support establishing a National Clean and Safe Water Fund for the EPA to carry out water quality projects including: wetland protection and restoration projects; contaminated sediment projects; drinking water source protection projects; land acquisition projects for water quality protection, and wish to identify a legislator who will reintroduce S.1539 – National Clean and Safe Water Fund Act of 2003 (108th Congress 2003-2004)

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Arsenic is a chemical element that occurs in many minerals such as sulfur and metals. As such, groundwater contains much higher concentrations of arsenic than surface water. Unfortunately, as groundwater depth increases, so does the amount of arsenic. It is known that arsenic from drinking water can cause hypertension, diabetes and skin, lung, kidney and bladder cancers. The developing nervous systems of small children are particularly vulnerable to arsenic. About 80% of our public water systems serve less than 4,000 people. Since many of these small communities depend on wells for drinking water, this natural contaminant is harming these Americans most. Until relatively recently, the amount of arsenic we allowed in our drinking water was 50 parts per billion (ppb). After studies revealed this 1942 standard would cause bladder and lung cancers, the Clinton and Bush administrations reduced arsenic limits to 10ppb, as recommended by the World Health Organization. However, the maximum safe contaminant level for arsenic continues to be debated. Health advocates say that an even stricter standard of 5ppb is needed. They say a 10ppb arsenic standard will still cause 30 deaths per 10,000 people, well above the EPA’s acceptable death rate of 1 in 1 million. In 2004, New Jersey adopted this 5ppb standard. Opponents claim implementing a stricter arsenic standard will do more harm than good. They claim the financial burden of forcing this standard on 20,000 small American communities will keep them from funding other important services.

Due to being grown in soil and water, scientists have long known that rice is good at absorbing inorganic arsenic, mercury, tungsten and other metals. And if water is reduced during growth, rice absorbs toxic cadmium instead of these metals. Advocates say that even low levels of arsenic can affect health. Rice is somewhat unique among plants in that it stores metals in its grain rather than its leaf. Brown rice has the highest levels of this contaminant because arsenic accumulates in its bran and husk, which are removed during the processing of white rice. Arsenic studies have raised concerns we may be getting too much of this known carcinogen in everyday foods such as cereal, baby food, noodles and even some juices and beer. Scientists are now researching ways to block rice’s metal-absorbing properties, some attempting to genetically engineer rice to filter out these metals. Advocates are particularly concerned about the amount of rice that is typically consumed by infants. They are calling on the FDA to set federal standards for arsenic in rice and other foods containing rice.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current arsenic policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to mandate a 5ppb arsenic standard for all drinking water supplies

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Fish or animals that are accidentally caught in commercial fishing operations are called bycatch. These dead or dying creatures are usually discarded overboard. Fisheries now throw away more than 20% of all the fish they catch. This translates into more than 2 billion tons of edible fish and drowned animals each year. It has recently been reported that 9 American fisheries, which produce just 7% of the fish sold here, are responsible for more than half of America’s bycatch. Some of these companies throw away as much as 66% of their catch, wasting this precious ocean resource. Fishing bycatch often includes young sharks, striped bass, swordfish, lingcod and halibut as well as animals such as dolphins, whales and seabirds. Marine advocates say the loss of young fish greatly limits the ability of a species to breed successfully. Bycatch often results from long-line and drag-net fishing methods and wastes food that tuna, salmon, sea lions and others depend upon for survival. It is estimated that about 1,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises drown each day after becoming entangled in nets and other fishing gear. Nearly 20% of all shark species are facing extinction from inadvertent long-line capture and as many as 250,000 unwanted loggerhead and leatherback turtles are also killed this way each year. Advocates say these commercial fishing practices are not sustainable and that we are endangering the health of our oceans.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current bycatch fishing policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to reduce fishing bycatch and prohibiting fisheries from wasting more than 20% of their catch, with enforcement provided by onboard observers and sharply escalating penalties for repeat offenders

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Our nation’s water treatment plants treat sewage and wastewater for safe release, and treat drinking water to ensure it is safe for consumption. In some places these two water treatment facilities are located in proximity to one another, their efficiency plainly interdependent. In 2004, there were 21,604 publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants in operation. Advocates claim many of these industrial-scale facilities are operating at capacity or past their expected lifespan. They say most of these plants were constructed when technology was relatively primitive, water was abundant, and people and pollution were not. It is estimated we need to spend about $1 trillion on rebuilding our water purification and wastewater treatment plants over the next 25 years in order to keep up with our needs. Advocates warn that failure to do so will likely have dire effects on the safety of our water supply, saying this critical infrastructure has been neglected far too long.

Pending legislation:

S.335 – Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current water treatment policy and wish to defeat S.335

I support authorizing the EPA to make direct loans to an entity that owns or operates a water treatment works that serves the general public, including a municipal, tribal, or regional separate storm sewer system management agencies; authorizing entities to carry out activities for an eligible project that includes: a capital project to construct, replace, or rehabilitate a treatment works or community water system, to reduce energy consumption needs of a treatment works or a community water system, to increase water efficiency, reduce the demand for water, or reduce the demand for treatment works or community water system capacity, to manage or control storm water, to re-use municipal wastewater, or to increase drinking water source protection; and an associated non-capital project that promotes the use of environmentally sustainable projects, including utility-backed storm water and water efficiency retrofit programs, and wish to pass s.335

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Illegal, unregulated or unreported (IUU) fishing now accounts for about 20% of all marine fish caught and at least a quarter of all fish caught. IUU fishing includes catching undersized fish, fishing in closed waters or taking more fish than allowed. Most coastal nations have exclusive economic zones in which offshore fishing is prohibited. International agreements also prohibit the fishing of protected species on the high seas. However, advocates say there is little enforcement or punishment for illegal fishing. Much of the damage to fisheries is caused by fleets of large international commercial fishing trawlers. Advocates say most of these large fishing operations abide by the law. That said, many others fish without licenses, use illegal fishing gear, conceal their identities and fail to report catches. Fishing fleets now use modern technology to pursue and catch fish in virtually every part of every ocean. These fleets offload their catch onto large processing vessels which process, freeze and transport huge quantities of fish, allowing trawlers to continue fishing nearly non-stop. Some now call commercial fishing operations “the last buffalo hunt,” with too many fishing boats chasing a dwindling number of fish which have no place to hide. Many millions of people throughout the world depend on fisheries for employment, sustenance and recreation. Advocates say that if there is to be enough fish for current and future generations, everyone involved in fishing must help conserve and manage the world’s fisheries at sustainable levels.

Pending Legislation:

S.269 – International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act

H.R.69 – Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current illegal fishing policy and wish to defeat S.269 & H.R.69

I support reducing illegal fishing by directing the Coast Guard to enforce laws concerning fisheries and fish products by: providing additional authority for searches, inspections, shipment detentions, arrests and subpoenas; identifying vessels, vessel owners, and nations that are engaged or have been engaged during the preceding three years in illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing, or that have violated related conservation and management measures; taking appropriate action against such vessels and vessel owners in accordance with U.S. and international law; establishing an interagency International Fisheries Enforcement Task Force, through the National Marine Fisheries Service, to investigate illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing activity and trafficking and to enforce the provisions of this Act, and wish to pass S.269 & H.R.69

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Wetlands are usually coastal areas mostly covered by water that support plant and animal species adapted for life in saturated soils. These areas include swamps, marshes and bogs. In addition to providing wildlife habitat, wetlands help control flooding, filter pollutants from water and help absorb the energy of hurricanes coming ashore. Wetlands also provide essential spawning, feeding and nursery areas for three-fourths of the fish caught by our commercial fishing industry. When our Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, there were about 220 million wetland acres. Only about 100 million acres now remain. It is estimated that about 40,000 acres of coastal wetlands are disappearing each year. The coastal wetland areas located in our Atlantic and Gulf States are the most threatened by development and pollution. These fragile ecosystems are frequently damaged by offshore oil drilling operations and pollution deposited by rivers. Increasing land values are also encouraging development in, or near, these wetland areas.

Pending Legislation:

S.741 & H.R.2208 – North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act of 2013

I oppose reforming current wetland conservation policy and wish to defeat H.R.2208

I support amending the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to extend through 2017 the authorization of appropriations for allocations to carry out approved wetlands conservation projects and wish to pass S.741 & H.R.2208

 Posted by at 12:00 am
Jan 152015
 

Carbon dioxide gas, released into the air by the burning of fossil fuels, is largely responsible for the greenhouse effect and resulting climate change. Carbon Sinks are areas that sequester, or absorb and store carbon dioxide, removing it from the air. Oceans, soils and vegetation are mediums for such storage. Forests are thought to be the most efficient and beneficial carbon sinks since they replace carbon dioxide with oxygen. Some believe carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, or geosequestration, is a man-made version of nature’s carbon sinks. This theoretical process employs modern technology to capture carbon dioxide gas from large polluters such as factories and power plants. It then envisions transporting this gas by pipeline or ship to depleted oil and gas wells or underground saline formations where it is compressed it into a liquid and injected deep underground. It is necessary to transport CO2 gas to distant locations is because power plants are often located near coal deposits which are unsuitable for carbon storage. Some say CCS technology could be an important tool for reducing greenhouse gas and the need to curb our use of fossil fuels. Opponents say CCS technology is expensive, risky, untested and unlikely to work well. They claim a new generation of modern coal gasified power plants, needed for the CCS process, will require 25% of the plant’s total power output just to keep operating. Once the CO2 arrives at its destination, it must be compressed before being injected into the ground. Including transport, this step consumes an additional 20% of the energy yielded by burning coal in the first place. Not included in these expenses are the costs of equipment, infrastructure and drilling new injection wells should we run out of old oil wells. Also, after being filled and capped, many of these wells will then need to be indefinitely monitored to detect dangerous CO2 leaks that could, under certain conditions, be lethal to humans and animals living nearby. Since 2010, Mississippi has been building the $5.6 billion Kemper County facility which is trying to deploy CCS technology. This facility, initially estimated to cost $2.4 billion, is designed to capture 65% of its CO2 emissions but has been beset with long delays and cost-increases. Critics say CCS technology has not been proven on an industrial scale and that many in industry and government don’t think it will work. They claim carbon capture and storage is being used to divert focus and funding away from the development of cleaner burning fuels, where these funds would be better spent. Kemper County has received at least $500 million in federal aid.

Pending Legislation: None

I oppose reforming current carbon capture and storage policy

I support identifying a legislator who will sponsor a bill to establish an industry-government pilot project to assess the feasibility of carbon capture and storage technology

 Posted by at 12:00 am