environmental cleanup

Despite massive Gulf oil spill, offshore oil drilling starts soon in the Arctic Ocean

If you thought BP's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill would give the oil companies some pause about offshore drilling, you were sadly mistaken. Armed with a just-issued appellate court ruling against environmentalists and Alaskan native tribes, Shell is pushing briskly ahead with plans to launch exploratory drilling off the north coast of Alaska in matter of weeks.

Yes, just as BP's Deepwater Horizon spill is revealed to be on course to outdo the nation's worst oil spill, Alaska's Exxon Valdez, another oil company wants to open up vast swaths off the the 49th state's coast for drilling. These are the same waters that produce the nation's largest fish catch.

Recall that, as we recounted not long ago, government auditors have established that the U.S. Minerals Management Service scientists were ordered to do a shoddy job analyzing environmental risks of this new drilling campaign in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of the Arctic Ocean.

Recall also -- and we're having trouble understanding why this isn't coming up more right about now -- that it wasn't that long ago that Minerals Management Service officials literally were having sex and snorting cocaine with the oil-company execs their agency was supposed to be regulating. In a novel, this would not be believeable. But it happened.

So now that we've covered the institutional background behind this Alaskan oil-drilling adventure, let's consider it in light of the Gulf spill.  

State breezes past beryllium risks in stimulus rush to hire for Hanford cleanup

Fellow nonprofit journalism center ProPublica produced this insightful report about how the state of Washington is brushing past the insidious and sometimes lethal risks of beryllium contamination during its stimulus-funded stampede to hire workers to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The report by David Epstein and Krista Kjellman Schmidt shows that the effects are more than just workplace statistics.  They have a human face.

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The costly toxic legacy of the industrial age

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The largest environmental bankruptcy settlement in U.S. history will pump more than $800 million into the Pacific Northwest to cleanup up tons of lead and arsenic wastes near Everett, Tacaoma and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

"With this settlement we are in a much stronger position to assure that people's children and grandchildren have a cleaner place to play and grow up," said Dan Opalski, deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Northwest.

In the Puget Sound region, the waste came from smelters near Tacoma and Everett operated for more than 100 years by Asarco and its predecessors, and financed by industrialists including the Rockefellers and Guggenheims, extracting lead, arsenic, zinc and copper from sites around the country. The smelters spewed pollution into the air, that deposited contaminated soil around homes, schools, playgrounds and parks in the region.

Everett will receive nearly $45 million in clean up funds, which will go towards evaluating and cleaning up about 600 homes in the north part of the city, the Everett Herald reports.