Posts Tagged ‘wetlands’

Trump Imposes Gag Order on Government Environmental Scientists

January 28, 2017

The Republican party since the 1980s, if not before, has a bitter hatred of environmentalism and loathes just about any and all laws, movements or protests to protect Earth’s precious natural resources, and the creatures with whom we share our beautiful world. Now Trump’s taken it to its latest development.

In this video, The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian discuss Trump’s imposition of a legal ban gagging members of the Environmental Protection Agency from releasing details of their work to the general public. Trump has also frozen official funding, so that the Agency may only publish its results and findings if these meet the official, ideological approval of his administration.

Uygur and Kasparian point out that this is intended to keep people ignorant, powerless and deprived of decent science education before Trump’s government. They also point out that this action by the Orange Dictator shows without question that the Republicans are anti-science. It doesn’t matter whether individual Republican voters support Trump’s policy, or they merely have to go along with it because they agree with his others reforms. The Republicans are anti-science, and they should now own it.

They also make the point that in any jobs that may actually be brought back to America through these bans, Americans will be fighting for scraps. The jobs in the petrochemical sectors drilling for oil, which the attacks on the EPA are designed to protect, will not be such to give Americans the standard of living they want. It would make far greater sense for the government to begin investigating in renewables – a whole new industry. At the moment, even the Chinese are beating America in investment and research into renewable energy, because, says Uygur, ‘the Chinese are smart’. But there’s no reasons why America shouldn’t be no. 1 in renewable energy. They’ve got enough sun in Arizona and wind in Chicago, the notorious ‘windy city’.

The Young Turks here are right. This is all about protecting the Republican party’s corporate backers in the petrochemical industry, like the Koch brothers. These two have financed a slew of fake astroturf ‘Green’ organisations and campaigned against genuine climate science produced by independent university laboratories. Koch money has been poured into Unis and state coffers instead to produce very politicised labs that have been set up to deny that climate change is occurring, and that drilling for oil is having a harmful effect on the local landscape of the US. This is despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, such as vast stretches of Louisiana wetland now made little more than one vast oil bog. Or the fact that there were over 300 spills from the oil pipelines crisscrossing America last year. The Kochs and their dollars try to keep facts like these well-hidden from the voters and the folks that have to live with the results of their environmental pillage.

And whatever the Republicans do, the Tories are nearly always bound to follow. The Republicans have heavily embraced fracking, and so have the Tories and their Lib Dem enablers. So you can bet that at this moment, Theresa May, members of her cabinet, or perhaps the members of some Tory think tank somewhere, is looking at these gagging laws, and wondering how something similar can be introduced over here.

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Flooding Somerset for the Frackers?

February 13, 2014

somerset village and fracking plant montage

Image from the Guardian article ‘Fracking the Nation: the Dash for Gas beneath rural Britain’ from 28 June 2013. The picture is captioned ‘From this to this … ? The village of Compton Martin in Somerset, left, and a Cuadrilla shale gas drilling rig near Blackpool’.

In my first post attacking Cameron for his lies about the floods in Somerset, I received this comment from Amnesiaclinic

The DM found the 2008 document put out by the EA to comply with the EU directive on habitats. There is also the trojan horse of Agenda 21 stalking in the shadows. The general idea is that areas are left to go back to nature (costs less) without letting the locals in on what has been decided. So dredging and pumping, very expensive are out as they are expensive and unnatural. So I say stop all the flood defences for london – far too expensive and let them sink or swim.
Also, there were lake villages in Somerset with houses on stilts – that might be useful! Plus coming together as communities and buying up all the EA equipment and doing it themselves.

People are very angry as they have seen this coming.

Other commenters concurred. Kathrynd posted this comment, pointing to an article from the Central Somerset Gazette

Barry is probably spot on. http://www.centralsomersetgazette.co.uk/Somerset-flooding-EU-plan/story-20556464-detail/story.html.

This links to an article reporting the arguments by Richard North, who runs the Defence of the Realm and EU Referendum blogs. North argued that there was a deliberate policy by the Environment Agency to allow increased flooding in Somerset and elsewhere as a form of flood management. This was intended not just to replace flood defences, but also to replace intensive farming with new, and diverse forms of managing the countryside. Part of this was the intention that part of Somerset’s wetlands should be allowed to regenerate naturally and revert to the wild. This new environment was to be termed ‘washland’.

The policy was first proposed at an EU meeting in Warsaw in 2003. This seems to have influenced a Defra document, published the next year in 2004, entitled Making Space for Water, setting out the same policy. On page 23 the document acknowledged that the same issues were being discussed in the EU. The EU’s policy was published in a COM final (2004) 472. The policy then became European law under directive 2007/60/EC of 23rd October 2007. This stated in recital 14 that as well as preparation, protection and prevention, river management should also be conducted “with a view to giving rivers more space, they should consider where possible the maintenance and/or restoration of floodplains, as well as measures to prevent and reduce damage to human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity”.

North then goes on to make the following points

Just so that there should be no doubts as to where the policy thrust law, DG Environment in 2011 issued a note, stressing that flood risk management “should work with nature, rather than against it”, building up the “green infrastructure” and thus offering a “triple-win” which included restoration (i.e., flooding) of the floodplain.

By then, the Environment Agency needed no encouragement. In its March 2008 plan it had decided that, “providing a robust economic case for maintenance works on the Somerset Levels and Moors remains a challenge” (p.131).

We believe, the Agency said, that “it is appropriate to look again at the benefits derived from our work, particularly focussing more on the infrastructure and the environmental benefits, which previous studies have probably [been] underestimated”.

We have, they said, “international obligations to maintain and enhance the habitats and species in the Somerset Levels and Moors, and it is within this context that all decisions have to be made”.

And, with that, they were “doubtful that all the pumping stations on the Somerset Levels and Moors are required for flood risk management purposes. Many pumping stations are relatively old and in some cases difficult to maintain. It is necessary to decide which ones are necessary particularly in the context of redistributing water”.

Of six policy options, the Agency thus adopted the sixth, to: “Take action to increase the frequency of flooding to deliver benefits locally or elsewhere, which may constitute an overall flood risk reduction”. This policy option, they said, “involves a strategic increase in flooding in allocated areas” (p.141). The Levels were to be allowed to flood, as a matter of deliberate policy.

North is obviously a Eurosceptic, highly critical of the Green movement and its environmental policies in Somerset. However, there is another possibility why the floods have been allowed to occur, quite apart from environmental concerns: fracking.

Owen Williams suggested this in his comment

I don’t suppose I’m the only one thinking about the coincidence that the Somerset Levels sit on top of a large Shale Gas deposit, am I? Can it really be pure coincidence that the Levels have been allowed to flood so severely – and it has been allowed, the EU edict more or less confirms it – just as the Fracking industry rears its head in the UK? I’m not saying that the Government deliberately flooded the Levels – no man can control the weather – but that they knew that the Levels would eventually flood with such severity as they have, and that they seem too well-prepared to exploit the opportunity.

What happens next will be as simple as it will be brutal to the people who live on these flood plains: the Government will make the requisite level of noise about helping these poor souls, while actually doing nothing at all; this will be to first encourage them to leave of their own accord, before setting up a buyout scheme to relieve people of their property and ‘help them to move on’; the people will only be offered a mere fraction of what their land or property is actually worth in its damaged state. And then, finally, the Government will issue a Compulsory Buyout Order to forcibly grab the land, and take action to remove those who can’t or won’t leave on their own. They’ll then quietly auction off the rights to commence the fracking process on the land, in return for a share of the profits, all of which will line their own coffers, rather than go into the public purse.

In short, the Somerset Levels will become an industrialised disaster area poisoned beyond repair by fracking, and the people who’ve lived there for however many generations will be unjustly displaced and robbed of their livelihoods with no-where to turn. The Government will continue to sit pretty above “commoners’ problems” as it always does, and Big Industry will continue to profit off the backs of people’s misery.

Meanwhile, down on earth, everyone else loses everything horribly, through no fault of their own.

What a pleasant country we live in. ¬_¬

When I replied to Owen, I thought it was unlikely that this was a deliberate policy, but found it quite credible that the fracking industry would move in after the area’s population had been cleared out due to the disaster.

Now I’m inclined to believe that Owen’s right, and that there may indeed be a definite policy at work here.

I was talking to a friend yesterday, and she recalled reading an article in either 2003 or 2007 – she couldn’t remember which – in which it was stated that the affected areas in Somerset should be abandoned to flooding so that fracking should begin. This confirms what Owen said in his comment.

Now without any documents to prove this, it’s all just hearsay and speculation. The memory does play tricks on people, though not as often as it appears to affect members of the Coalition, who regularly deny having said or done anything that conflicts with their policies. However, as the picture at the top of this post shows, there is a campaign to begin fracking in Somerset. This has provoked angry opposition from local people, concerned about the possible effect on the environment and drinking water.

The proposed fracking fields at the moment are in the Mendips, as shown in the map below

coalfield_licences

This covers a long list of communities and villages in Bristol, Bath and north-east Somerset. A list of them can be found at this website here: http://somersetfrackgate.blogspot.co.uk/p/coalbed-methane.html. Proposed sites for fracking include Keynsham, a small town between Bath and Bristol and the hometown of the comedian Russell Howard, and near Chew Valley Lake, a local reservoir in the Whitchurch and Chew Magna area just down the road from South Bristol. Among the groups campaigning against fracking in this part of Somerset are Frackfree Somerset, based in Saltford and Keynsham.

Frackfree Somerset.

Fracking, almost needless to say, has the backing of David Cameron and the government. More sinisterly, the Somerset County Gazette reported in its 27th January 2014 issue that the government was considering reforming the trespass laws so that fracking companies can drill under people’s homes without their permission. This contradicts the Conservative stance on both sides of the Atlantic that, apart from big business, the stand for the property rights of the small businessman and ordinary people. Remember all that stuff Margaret Thatcher used to say about small businesses and how she remembered living above the shop when she was small? I also remember Clint Eastwood stating that part of the ideology of the Western was having your own land. This disproves it. The Conservatives stand only for the property rights of big business. Like the corrupt cattle barons fought in Westerns by the likes of John Wayne, they’re quite prepared to use any and all means to force others off their property so that they can move in.

BBC News this morning reported that some of the victims of the Somerset floods wish the government to buy their properties at market rates. I don’t know if this will happen or not, though I’m sure that the government will buy their land, and then start to develop it. And it’ll be interesting to see if this includes fracking.