Do you ever think about the vastness of space? Or do you ponder if the universe never ends and is expanding for eternity? On a more personal level, perhaps Earth will be destroyed by an exploding star one day. Maybe you worry about such things, but here on Earth there are known threats, namely the Hanford Superfund Site that will be a problem for possibly 24,100 years, which is the half-life of Plutonium contained on the site, the source of Plutonium used to make the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki that ended World War II. And the Hanford site is filled with Plutonium, which is buried in 177 storage tanks within sight of the Columbia River.Continue reading “Hanford Superfund Site, Part 2: Worry About It for 24,100 Years”
Every American realizes, or should realize, Trump made every effort to destroy the environment during his infamous term as president. From Scott Pruitt, the first Administrator of the EPA under Trump, who called withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, “courageous,” to Andrew Wheeler, second Administrator of the EPA and former coal lobbyist, both wrought so much damage to the environment that the majority of new Administrator Michael Regan’s job will be cleaning up the damage done by the previous administration. In short, the Biden Administration’s priorities will be addressing massive pollution issues, working on climate change, and handling environmental justice issues.Continue reading “Bigger Than a Texas-sized Mess: Can the EPA Recover From Trump?”
Washington (GGM) Analysis | February 12, 2020 by Michael Wells
Drinking poisonous water leads to cancer and other things that will kill you. Everyone knows that, but what if you do not know you are drinking water contaminated with poison? Surely such a thing cannot happen. Laws and regulations exist, and the government protects people. Unless the government knew about the poisonous water and covered it up for decades. If you doubt this, then ask the possibly one-million people who drank the poisonous water surrounding the Camp LeJeune superfund site. Or at least you can ask the ones who were not killed.Continue reading “Don’t Drink Poisonous Water | The Shocking Hack”
With the world in the grip of a pandemic, everyone wants something to make life less troublesome. Plastic bags make carrying things much easier. More items can be carried, which means you can avoid going back to your car in the rain or marching through the snow to retrieve that one last item. If only it were so simple. If only we did not have to worry about the environment.
On March 1, 2020, New York state’s ban on plastic bags became law. This means any entity authorized to collect sales taxes cannot distribute plastic bags. Failure to follow this law subjects the entity to up to a fine of up to five-hundred dollars per incident. The State of New York created the ban for good reason. Prior to the ban, New York State produced on average twenty-three billion bags per year, which filled already overflowing landfills, snagged recycling sorters, and wreaked havoc with birds to name just a few problems.
New York is not the only state that passed such a ban. Eight other states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Vermont) have passed similar laws.
Of course, not all states have such rules, and these states still produce millions of plastic bags. It does raise the question: can lawsuits force other states to ban plastic bags?
Maybe. It is probably a state by state process unless Congress passes a statute under, for example, the Interstate Commerce Clause, that says plastic bags somehow affect interstate commerce. That may sound far fetched, but it is not. The Interstate Commerce Clause allowed Congress to pass much of the civil rights legislation, and it is quite a big stick to bludgeon states into submission. Whether Congress wants to take this up remains doubtful.
In states that have the plastic bans, the bans are not absolute. New York has some restrictions. Most notably restaurants that offer takeout food, which in the age of COVID-19, can create many plastic bags, are exempt. Although it is likely not “an exception that swallows the rule,” this limitation still creates a problem when so many more people are getting takeout and likely will for the foreseeable future as virus numbers explode.
But what about other plastic or rubber?
Rubber glove use during the pandemic harms the environment, and there is no end in sight. While banning plastic bags everywhere will help, it will not solve all issues. It should still be done, however.
More needs to be done because bags are not the only problem:
While plastic bags certainly make things easier to carry, their burdens to the environment certainly outweigh their benefits. The extent to which lawsuits or Congressional action will limit their use remains unknown. People should count on neither. It really is about personal choices, which must also be made with respect to other items people use. Over time it can all add up to pollution, death, and, as we have seen with COVID-19, a pandemic.
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On November 7, 2020, Joe Biden unofficially became the President-Elect, and Kamala Harris unofficially became the Vice President-Elect. Normally the losing candidate, in this case Donald Trump, accepts defeat and contacts the winner to congratulate him or her. Not Donald Trump. He made unsubstantiated claims of “voter fraud,” and then he never backed down. This likely surprised very few as Trump claimed back in 2016 the election was rigged, and he claimed it was rigged again in 2020. What is troubling, however, is most of his party, led by stalwarts such as Senators Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, continue to argue Trump has every right to challenge the election results. And these fears became more real when on November 9th Attorney General William Barr opened up a probe into “voter irregularities” without alleging any evidence. It all smacks of hyper partisanship, and it raises the question as to whether an Electoral College coup is afoot.
Every four years the Electoral College meets in December. Each state’s electors then vote for the candidate who prevailed in the presidential race in their respective state. This is how it almost always happens. Different states certify their elections on different dates, but the Electoral College meets on December 14, 2020 and votes.
This year Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada proved decisive. Nevada certifies its election on November 16th. Michigan and Pennsylvania certify their elections on November 23rd.
All legal challenges must be filed by December 8th, the so-called “Safe Harbor” date. In other words, challenges cannot be lodged after that date. It should be noted all challenges filed by Donald Trump’s campaign have been dismissed thus far. One filing was improperly filed and therefore rejected.
This is a short summary of the legal process involved. In all likelihood, everything will run smoothly, and Joe Biden will be declared, officially at least, the President-Elect.
This does not answer the question as to whether Trump’s supporters, both elected and otherwise, will accept the results of the election. Quite frankly, it does not matter if they accept the results.
Recent rhetoric from supporters has sounded alarm bells such as Senator’s McConnell’s statement that Trump was “100% within his rights to challenge the results of the election.”
On November 10th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said:
Conservative commentator Bill Kristol responded, “Be alarmed,” in response to this troubling statement. And he is right.
Perhaps the best quote as to the vagueness and lack of substance of “voter fraud” came from Senator Lindsey Graham, who said: “And we will continue, in spite of my democratic colleagues protestations, we’re going to find someone accountable for something, when it comes to crossfire hurricane.”
Legally, the important dates to keep in mind are:
- December 8th “Safe Harbor” deadline (no lawsuits after this date).
- December 14th Electoral College meets and votes (it is over after this date).
Are there conspiracy theories out there? Yes. Could there be violence? Yes. Sadly, violence is always possible in America, but legally speaking not much will happen. The Electoral College will meet December 14th, and Joe Biden will officially become President-Elect. Again, this all assumes we do not fall into lawlessness and utter chaos. If we do, the law will not matter.
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Washington (GGM) Analysis | November 4, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01
Former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump are locked in a tight battle for the presidency, which may come down to Pennsylvania. Big coal and facking employ many people in Pennsylvania, and, understandably, fracking is a huge issue. All the votes have been cast and are being counted, but the Pennsylvania race (and possibly the presidency) may come down to the issue of fracking. The two candidates’ positions are more similar than you may think.
Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is a technique for extracting oil and natural gas by firing pressurized liquid into the Earth’s crust. Trump has long supported the practice and has even signed an Executive Order to protect fracking. Biden’s position has been to say he will not ban fracking, but that he will look towards alternative fuel sources, perhaps in an effort to win key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio (which he appears to have lost). One indication of how important this issue is in Pennsylvania can be gleaned from Vice Presidential Kamala Harris’s October 6, 2020 tweet:
While Biden and Harris must appeal to the Green New Deal part of the Democratic Party, they must also win key states such as Pennsylvania, which rely heavily on fracking. To what extent this is just politics, remains to be seen, but, given what appears to be a Repulican Senate, legislation to ban or limit fracking does not appear possible. This means this dangerous practice will continue.
According to an article from Euronews, fracking poses a number of environmental hazards:
- Methane leaks occur frequently to the tune of one million tons in Pennsylvania per year. The industry only reported 64,000 tons.
- Methane and other gasses released through fracking are a problem because they trap twenty-five more times heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.
- Fracking pollutes the groundwater supply, which can cause cancer.
From a legal standpoint, the pollution issues pose millions in liability for companies that are not careful. Quite frankly, even if these companies are careful, the risk is quite high. Although not the result of fracking, Flynt, Michigan is a cautionary tale as to what happens when drinking water is contaminated.
Fracking does supply jobs, upwards of ten million nationally, but, if Biden wins, his energy plan will likely aim to rejoin the Paris Agreement. It is unclear whether fracking as it stands in the United States would violate or otherwise cause problems with the agreement.
Biden has said he opposes fracking on public lands, but it is unclear what exactly this means. Even if Biden were to oppose fracking altogether, it is unlikely he could get a bill limiting or banning it to pass the Senate due to the Republican majority.
Fracking’s future remains uncertain in the United States, but it does appear it is not going anywhere anytime soon even after the votes are counted and a victor declared.
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Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 16, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01
On October 14, 2020, Trump Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, told Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) she could not say whether climate change exists because it is a “politically contentious issue.” She also confessed to Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) she has no firm view on climate change. A skeptic might ask what her view on climate change has to do with cases that might come before her when she sits on the Supreme Court. Quite a bit, actually, especially in light of the lawsuits filed by a number of States’ Attorneys General against Exxon in the past few years.
The New York State Supreme Court in 2019 considered whether Exxon lied to investors about the company’s contribution to climate change and thus violated securities law. The Court ruled in Exxon’s favor, according to NPR, stating there was no evidence Exxon hid evidence of climate change.
This should signal alarm bells across the globe. Climate change exists, and of course the oil companies knew and know about it. It is the greatest danger any of us will face in our lifetimes.
Moreover, when juxtaposed with Barrett’s testimony, that she could not comment on climate change even to acknowledge it exists, it does not bode well for the environment. Given the lawsuits against Exxon and other energy giants, it stands to reason that climate change is a major legal issue.
Barrett claimed she is not a scientist, but one does not need to be a scientist to accept climate change as a fact. And, if it is accepted as a fact, then that certainly affects how she would consider a case.
It is entirely possible (likely even) that, if Biden prevails, the Justice Department will pursue these climate change cases, thereby forcing Barrett to rule on this issue.
Hypothetically speaking, assume the previous New York case made it to the Supreme Court, and at the heart of the case was whether an oil company was committing fraud by hiding climate change from investors. If Barrett were to believe climate change does not exist or was unsure it existed, then her view of fraud would be very different. Then she might rule in favor of the oil giant thus allowing them to continue to pollute, destroy the environment, and unleash a further parade of horribles, possibly another COVID-19 type pandemic.
Again, this is just speculation, but is it not all speculation as to what kinds of cases Barrett will hear? It is a question or probability. She will hear cases about abortion, birth control, searches and seizures, voting rights, climate change, and myriad other issues none of us ever hear about. In all likelihood, she will hear a case on climate change and likely very soon.
In fact, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota against Exxon, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute, in the Spring of 2020, alleging the fossil fuel industry knew the damage these fossil fuels would cause the environment.
The cases are coming. It is only a matter of time before a case goes before the Supreme Court.
Climate change affects everyone on the planet, and it is a problem that everyone will need to work together to solve. We can do our part such as reducing our carbon footprint and also by planting trees. But we also need to be able to count on a nominee to the Supreme Court to accept this established science because, if she does not, what hope do any of us ever have that climate change will ever get under control?
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