Tag Archive: Clean Water Act

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Alaska Dispatch.

Gold miners near Chicken cry foul over ‘heavy-handed’ EPA raids

Sean Doogan

September 3, 2013

When agents with the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force surged out of the wilderness around the remote community of Chicken wearing body armor and jackets emblazoned with POLICE in big, bold letters, local placer miners didn’t quite know what to think.

Did it really take eight armed men and a squad-size display of paramilitary force to check for dirty water? Some of the miners, who run small businesses, say they felt intimidated.

Others wonder if the actions of the agents put everyone at risk. When your family business involves collecting gold far from nowhere, unusual behavior can be taken as a sign someone might be trying to stage a robbery. How is a remote placer miner to know the people in the jackets saying POLICE really are police?

Miners suggest it might have been better all around if officials had just shown up at the door — as they used to do — and said they wanted to check the water.

Lots of Federal land in Alaska

Alaska’s vast Interior, which sprawls to the Canadian border, has been the site of federal-local distrust in the past. It was near this area, 130 miles northwest of Chicken, that National Park Service rangers pointed shotguns at, then tackled and arrested a septuagenarian, for not stopping his boat in midstream of the Yukon River in the fall of 2010. Jim Wilde, 70 years old at the time, had been ordered to prepare to be boarded for a safety inspection.

Wilde didn’t much like that demand. He swore at park rangers and then headed for shore and a meeting on Terra Firma. Wilde was arrested and taken to the jail in Fairbanks, more than 100 miles away. He was later tried and found guilty by a federal magistrate for failing to comply with a lawful order from federal agents.

The state of Alaska, as a whole, can be a place of deeply-rooted mistrust between locals and the agents who try to enforce federal rules.

Alaska has more federally owned and managed land than any other U.S. state. More than 65 percent of its land is under some sort of federal control.  A multitude of federal parks, preserves and wilderness areas are patrolled by agents from more than a dozen U.S. agencies. Many of the people in rural parts of the state, which are either under federal control or border federally-managed areas, have more contact with federal officers than they do with representatives from the state.

Surprised by armed group of officers

Miners from the Chicken area — a gold mining town of just 17 full-time residents and dozens of seasonal miners off the Taylor Highway, between Tok and the Canadian border — said that during the third week of August they were surprised by groups of four to eight armed officers, who swarmed onto their mining claims with little or no warning.

The officers were armed and wearing body armor. They were part of the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task Force and were there to check for violations of section 404 of the Clean Water Act, according to several miners who were contacted by the group. Section 404 governs water discharges into rivers, streams, lakes and oceans.

The task force’s methods are now being questioned by the miners as well as the Alaska congressional delegation.

“Imagine coming up to your diggings, only to see agents swarming over it like ants, wearing full body armor, with jackets that say POLICE emblazoned on them, and all packing side arms,” said C.R. “Dick” Hammond, a Chicken gold miner who got a visit from the task force.

“How would you have felt?” Hammond asked. “You would be wondering, ‘My God, what have I done now?’”

Hammond and other Chicken area miners aren’t alone in wondering what they have done now. Both Alaska U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have inquired into the task force’s actions. Congressman Don Young is also looking into it. They have been having a difficult time getting straight answers from the EPA.

Rampant drug and human trafficking?

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BP settles criminal charges for $4 billion in spill; supervisors indicted on manslaughter

Steven Mufson
The Washington Post
bp oil spill

© Reuters

BP has agreed to a plead guilty to 14 criminal counts, including manslaughter, and will pay $4 billion over five years in a settlement with the Justice Department over the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the company and Justice Department announced Thursday.

In addition, the London-based oil giant will pay $525 million over three years to settle claims with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which said the company concealed information from investors.

“This marks both the single largest criminal fine – more than $1.25 billion – and the single largest total criminal resolution… in the history of the United States,” Attorney General Eric Holder said during a news conference in New Orleans. “I hope this sends a clear message to those who would engage in this wanton misconduct that there will be a penalty paid.”

Holder also announced a separate 23-count criminal indictment – including charges of seaman’s and involuntary manslaughter – against the two top-ranking BP supervisors on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig where a blowout occurred April 20, 2010, sinking the rig and killing 11 workers.

Holder also announced an indictment against David Rainey, a BP vice president, for hiding information from Congress and lying to law enforcement officials about the rate at which oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Make no mistake: While the company is guilty, individuals committed these crimes,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer, head of the criminal division. Of the two rig supervisors, Breuer said: “In the face of glaring red flags indicating that the well was not secure, both men allegedly failed to take appropriate action to prevent the blowout.”

BP said it would increase its existing $38.1 billion charge against earnings for the spill by $3.85 billion.

The criminal settlement does not cover federal civil claims, including Clean Water Act claims, federal and state claims of damages to natural resources or private civil claims. Settling those would probably cost BP billions of dollars more, and the company said it is “prepared to vigorously defend itself against remaining civil claims.”

But the settlement resolves a variety of criminal charges. BP agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts of misconduct or neglect of ships’ officers relating to the loss of 11 lives on the drilling rig that caught fire and sank; one misdemeanor count under the Clean Water Act; one misdemeanor count under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; and one felony count of obstruction of Congress. BP said that the last of those is related to misreporting to a member of Congress the rate at which oil was gushing into the gulf.

The settlement is subject to U.S. federal court approval.

“All of us at BP deeply regret the tragic loss of life caused by the Deepwater Horizon accident as well as the impact of the spill on the Gulf coast region,” Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said in a statement before Holder’s announcement. “From the outset, we stepped up by responding to the spill, paying legitimate claims and funding restoration efforts in the Gulf. We apologize for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions.”

“We believe this resolution is in the best interest of BP and its shareholders,” Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s chairman, said in the statement. “It removes two significant legal risks and allows us to vigorously defend the company against the remaining civil claims.”

The criminal plea could complicate BP’s efforts to contain the cost of civil claims, but the company said 13 of the 14 criminal charges “are based on the negligent misinterpretation of the negative pressure test conducted on board the Deepwater Horizon.” BP said that it “acknowledged this misinterpretation more than two years ago” and insisted that the agreement today “is consistent with BP’s position in the ongoing civil litigation that this was an accident resulting from multiple causes, involving multiple parties, as found by other official investigations.”

“It’s obviously not cheap. A $4 billion settlement is pricey for anyone, even a company this size,” said Pavel Molchanov, an oil analyst at the investment firm Raymond James. But, he said, “it’s a positive step” from an investor’s point of view. “By eliminating the criminal overhang, the inference is that BP can afford to be more aggressive in dealing with the civil claims,” he said. “They no longer have to fear the criminal stick.”

At 3 pm, BP shares were up about 0.2 percent to $40.37.

BP said that the $4 billion settlement with the Justice Department includes $1.256 billion in criminal fines, $2.394 billion to be paid to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and $350 million to be paid to the National Academy of Sciences.

“The fines and penalties that the Justice Department has demanded BP pay are appropriate for such a massive disaster,” Rep. Edward J. Markey, the senior Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “People died, BP lied to Congress, and millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf. This steep cost to BP will provide the Gulf coast some of the funds needed to restore the region, and will hopefully deliver some comfort and closure to the families and businesses affected by the spill.”

It was unclear how BP’s plea would affect its ability to bid on contracts to supply fuel to the U.S. military. BP has been a major supplier of fuel to the Pentagon in the past. But analysts expect that it will not impair the company’s ability to lease areas of the Gulf of Mexico or explore for oil and gas there. The company said that it “has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement. BP will continue to work cooperatively with the debarment authority.”

Under the terms of the plea agreement, BP has also agreed to to further “enhance” the safety of drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico. These steps relate to BP’s risk management, including third-party auditing and verification, training, and well control equipment and processes such as blowout preventers and cementing. In addition, BP has agreed to several initiatives with academia and regulators to develop new technologies related to deepwater drilling safety.

The agreement also provides for the appointment of two monitors, both with terms of four years. A process safety monitor will review, evaluate and provide recommendations for the improvement of BP’s process safety and risk management procedures concerning deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. An ethics monitor will review and provide recommendations for the improvement of BP’s code of conduct and its enforcement, the company said.

So far BP has spent $14 billion responding to and cleaning up the spill. It has also paid out $9 billion mostly to individuals and businesses. Additional private civil claims are being pursued in a separate lawsuit in a New Orleans federal court, where a settlement that BP estimates will cost $7.8 billion is being finalized.

The BP settlement with the Justice Department is not expected to cover other companies involved in the April 20, 2010 accident, including rig owner and operator TransOcean and cement contractor Halliburton.

Staff writer Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

EPA in huge power grab to control all ditches and gullies on private land


(NaturalNews) As the federal Leviathan becomes ever larger and all-powerful, its Executive Branch tentacles reach further and further into the American fabric as it seeks to exert authority and control over more and more of our lives.

The latest power-mad grab can be attributed to the not-so-illustrious Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is using (misusing, actually) the Clean Water Act (CWA) to control all ditches, gullies and other ephemeral areas by trying to say they are navigable waterways. Sure – like the ditch in front of your home can support barge traffic or a U.S. Navy warship.

Lawmakers who oppose the grab said the ridiculous “waterways” claim made by the EPA are temporary sites at best, created by rain or melting snow, but if controlled would prohibit private property owners from utilizing their own land for raising crops, grazing livestock or any number of other uses.

“Never in the history of the CWA has federal regulation defined ditches and other upland features as ‘waters of the United States,” Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., the ranking committee member, and Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, said in a recent statement.


West Nile found in bird in central Illinois

The Associated Press

Posted Jun 19, 2012 @ 04:32 PM


The Illinois Department of Public Health says the first bird found to be infected by West Nile in central Illinois this year was discovered last week in Champaign.

The News-Gazette newspaper in Champaign reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/Mt72Ts) the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District found the body of the crow June 12. The health district’s Jeff Blackford says the crow tested positive for the virus.

The Department of Public Health says West Nile has also been found this year in a bird found in Cook County and in mosquitoes in DuPage and Cook counties. No human infections have been reported in Illinois so far this year.

The state warned that high temperatures this week could lead to an increase in West Nile’s spread.

 West Nile virus shows up month early in Fort Collins area

Written by
Coloradoan staff

Prevent West Nile virus infection

• Use a mosquito repellent that has been proven to be effective against West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. Products that contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (with active ingredient PMD, or p-menthane diol) or IR3535 are good choices.
• Use mosquito netting over baby carriers and strollers.
• Keep exposed skin covered or use a repellent when out at prime culex mosquito-biting hours, between dusk and dawn.
• Use a powerful fan while sitting on your deck or patio to keep mosquitoes away.
• Drain standing water in your yard or garden
• Add mosquito-eating minnows or mosquito “dunks” to ornamental ponds with still water.
• Keep window screens repaired.
For more tips on what you can do to prevent West Nile virus, or on repellent use, visit larimer.org/health/cd/westnile.

Mosquitos have tested positive for West Nile virus for the first time this season in Larimer County, a month earlier than typical.

The mosquitoes came from a trap collected June 5 in southeast Fort Collins, near Timberline and Carpenter roads, according to officials at the Larimer County health department.

The health department says the early appearance of infected mosquitoes in Larimer, Weld and Delta counties means there could be more human infections.

Culex mosquitoes, which carry West Nile virus, increase in number as temperatures rise, according to the health department. Human infections can occur without symptoms, can cause mild or severe illness or can lead to chronic disability or death. At increased risk of serious illness are people older than 50, solid organ transplant recipients, and people with weakened immune systems.

Prevent West Nile virus infection

• Use a mosquito repellent that has been proven to be effective against West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes. Products that contain DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (with active ingredient PMD, or p-menthane diol) or IR3535 are good choices.
• Use mosquito netting over baby carriers and strollers.
• Keep exposed skin covered or use a repellent when out at prime culex mosquito-biting hours, between dusk and dawn.
• Use a powerful fan while sitting on your deck or patio to keep mosquitoes away.
• Drain standing water in your yard or garden
• Add mosquito-eating minnows or mosquito “dunks” to ornamental ponds with still water.
• Keep window screens repaired.
For more tips on what you can do to prevent West Nile virus, or on repellent use, visit larimer.org/health/cd/westnile.

By Frank Heinz
|  Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012  |  Updated 2:37 PM CDT
DCHHS Confirms Human West Nile Case

Getty Images

Officials advise all residents to clear their property of standing water. Dallas County to continue spraying in areas where active pools have been found.

Dallas County Health and Human Services says the first human case of West Nile virus has surfaced in Dallas County.

The victim lives in Richardson near U.S. 75 and Belt Line Road.

West Nile is commonly transmitted via mosquitoes. Most people who contract West Nile virus will suffer flu-like symptoms, though the severity of the virus can vary from person to person.

“Severe West Nile infections can cause neurological complications such as encephalitis. Milder symptoms include fever, headache and muscle aches,” according to DCHSS.

On Wednesday, Richardson said they will extend spraying in the city based on positive mosquito pools and the human case of West Nile.

“We had planned to spray in the neighborhood around U.S. 75 and Belt Line Road later this week, but we’re also expanding our efforts to other parts of the community where the virus has been found in mosquito traps,” said Bill Alsup, director of the Richardson Health Department.

Dallas County has been spraying for mosquitoes in areas where testing of mosquito pools has shown the virus to be present. On Wednesday night, the county will spray in the Highland Park area. On Friday and Saturday spraying will take place in Singing Hills, between E. Ledbetter, University Hills, Camp Wisdom and Lancaster, and in part of Oak Cliff bound by Morrell, Marsalis, Illinois and Southerland avenues.

While the insecticide is considered safe, residents are advised to stay indoors during spraying.

In all, 17 pools have tested positive for the virus. See a map here. A rainy spring has proved to be a hardy breeding ground for mosquitoes. North Texans are encouraged to remove all standing water from their property so that mosquitoes have fewer places to lay their eggs.  To take a virtual tour on how to safeguard your property, visit the Texas A&M University website here.

According to DCHHS director Zach Thompson, the number of mosquito pools found this season is “very alarming.”

While this case is the first of the year for Dallas County, it is not the first human case of the year.  Last month, human cases of West Nile were confirmed in Denton and Parker counties. The Denton County victim lived in an unincorporated, southern part of the county while the Parker County victim lived on the Parker/Tarrant county line.

NBC 5’s Ken Kalthoff contributed to this report.

Numer of West Nile Virus Infected Mosquitoes Skyrocket Local

Published on Jun 14, 2012 by

Five Times As Many Infected Mosquitoes Currently Detected Compared To This Time Last Year

70-Year-Old Tests Positive For First Case Of West Nile This

Published on Jun 18, 2012 by

A 70-year old woman tests positive for the first case of West Nile Virus in Kern County, the first in the state this year.




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West Nile Virus
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The Map





Puerto Rico


US Virgin Islands

US Virgin
Washington Washington Washington Montana Maine Maine North Dakota South Dakota Wyoming Wisconsin Wisconsin Idaho Vermont Minnesota Oregon New Hampshire Iowa Massachusetts Massachusetts Massachusetts Nebraska New York New York New York New York Pennsylvania Connecticut Rhode Island Rhode Island Rhode Island New Jersey Indiana Nevada Utah California California California California California Ohio Illinois District of Columbia Delaware West Virginia Maryland Maryland Maryland Maryland Colorado Kentucky Kentucky Kansas Virginia Virginia Virginia Missouri Arizona Oklahoma North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina Tennessee Texas Texas Texas Texas Texas Texas New Mexico Alabama Mississippi Georgia Georgia South Carolina South Carolina Arkansas Louisiana Louisiana Louisiana Louisiana Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Florida Michigan Michigan Michigan Michigan Michigan
Map Scalebar 1000000 m
Cumulative 2012 Data as of 3 am, Jun 19, 2012
These data are provisional and may be revised or adjusted in the future.
California 1
Texas 1
Cumulative Total Entire Country: 2
Map Legend
* Data demonstrates local jurisdiction of residence and not necessarily the locale where the infection was acquired.
** States and counties in yellow are those in which virus activity has been reported historically, but no positive test results have been reported or no surveillance has occurred this year.