Monday, July 10, 2017

Polluting the political environment

I was reminded this morning that today is the last day of the public comment period on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Enbridge Energy's Proposed Line 3 Pipeline Project as I intermittently listened to MPR's discussion on the topic. At one point a spokesperson for Enbridge went on about how much the company is spending to minimize the impacts of pipeline spills. I was NOT IMPRESSED. Those expenditures become a cost of doing business [see Conclusions esp.]. As the linked paper notes:
First, despite regulatory oversight, better equipment and more training, a leak, spill or other “reportable incident” is almost certain to occur. Therefore, a pipeline operator should prepare for that occurrence, before it occurs , by having a spill response plan in place, training its employees what to do (and perhaps more importantly, what NOT to d o) and who to call when a spill happens , and making sure their insurance will adequately cover the cost of the spill and cleanup.
why risk oil spills in places like this?
why risk oil spills in places like this?
Photo by J. Harrington

What I want to know, and I believe regulatory agencies should be more rigorous in demanding, is information about how safe, spill-free operations relate to employee and management compensation. Looked at from another perspective, who gets fired if there's neglect or an accident and how does that relate to cost containment? Who looses bonuses to spills? I don't recall ever seeing any of these considerations included in an EIS, and yet they are fundamental to a corporate climate of respect for the environment that is more than corporate-speak lip service. Perhaps these questions and concerns can still be injected into the final EIS process or the Certificate of Need process.

Yesterday, on a similar theme, I learned that the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance [IRMA] and ResponsibleSteel™ "announced a strategic partnership, to serve the interests of purchasers seeking consistency in the responsible sourcing of iron and steel throughout their supply chains." I wonder how many of the operations at Minnesota's Iron Range will be active members of ResponsibleSteel™, just as I wonder if the PolyMet and Twin Metals or other sulfide ore mining operations, should they ever get their mining permits, will be lead entities in the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance.

how many mining jobs would you trade for this lake?
how many mining jobs would you trade for this lake?
Photo by J. Harrington

Of course, at the rate that Minnesota's congressional delegation is trying to wipe out current environmental and taxpayer protections in favor of proposed mining operations, why should mining corporations follow the rules or even bother to set a good example. Corporate purchases of politicians is becoming, has become, a fatal flaw in America's experiment in democracy. Remember that the next time a politician of either major party runs expensive ads asking for your vote or trashing their opponent. We're headed toward the best government corporate profits can buy. Do we know if IRMA is just a form of corporate "greenwash?" Could we trust our politicians to find out? And why are so few talking about these themes these days. We need to move beyond symptoms to root causes.

The Sloop Clearwater Lyrics


Pete Seeger


I was sitting on my front porch as I watched the river rot,
Thinking about the sturgeon that are gone but not forgot
And the buffalo an restless underneath the prairie sod
And the smoke stacked up to heaven so's it hid the face of God

There were soldiers marching by my door and a tap upon my phone
And a freeway inching toward me that would someday eat my home
And the smokestacks hid a sunset that would never come again
When they brought the Sloop Clearwater a-sailing 'round the bend.

The captain had a mustache that was fourteen inches long
And the shanty master paced the deck a-roaring out a song
And the man who held the tiller wore his hair down to his knees
And a hundred tons of canvas billowed out into the breeze.

But Redwood trees are crashing down out on the Western coast
And an angry shadowy army follows Crazy Horse's ghost
And the eagle's nest's as barren as the mountain lion's den
On the day the Sloop Clearwater came sailing 'round the bend.

The ship cut through the sewage lying on the river's face
And the sloop docked in the garbage that was all around the place
And the crew struck up a hornpipe and the boots rang on the wood
And the sound fell on the river and the river found it good.

But there's lightening in the Asian sky and thunder in the slums
You can hear the Indians tuning up their long forgotten drums
Children clap their hands and laugh as men are killing men
On the day the Sloop Clearwater came a-sailing 'round the bend.

I said you people all are fools to laugh and sing and shout
When your ship's so deep in liquid shit it never will get out
When children cry from hunger and grown men get mean from shame
And a war rages in every heart and the very ground's in flame.

You sail your dirty river and you sing your little songs
You dance your pretty dances and recite your petty wrongs
Don't you know that Abiyoyo's making footprints in the fen
While you bring your Sloop Clearwater a-sailing 'round the bend.

The crew just laughed and danced some more and the beads began to fling
And beards were lifted to the skies as the crew began to sing
A black man rose upon the deck and he preached a sermon there
And a crewman capered on the mast like a dancing grizzly bear.

I said you people all are fools but I guess I am one too
And it seems the guns went quiet then and the river all was new
The smoke clouds cleared and I almost wept to see the skies again
As they brought that Sloop Clearwater a-sailing 'round the bend.

The mountains rang as children laughed and women raised a song
The bison thundered down the plains a hundred thousand strong
The Ghost Dance tent was raised again and the Lion wandered free
And the rivers ran like silver from the mountains to the sea.

There was love and joy and brotherhood and peace the world around
There was life and paint and energy and trees and taste and sound
And Abiyoyo danced a solemn waltz out in the fen
When they brought the Sloop Clearwater a-sailing 'round the bend.

Now the sloop is gone and once again I watch the river rot
And someone feels the skyfire and another hugs the shot
And the heart of man is angry and the land of man is mad
And the air of man chokes on itself and the rivers all are sad.

We war against each other and we fight with our own souls
And we've killed off every river and our blood is icy cold
But a spark of joy jumps in my breast as I remember when
They brought that Sloop Clearwater a-sailing 'round the bend


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