Clean Energy Transition is Happening Now

Letter to the Editor by Ed Smith, Safe Energy Director

Printed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 14, 2015

Peabody to slash 250 jobs, including 50 in St. Louis" (June 9) underscores the fact that while some continue to deny the scientific reality of climate change, the economic realities show us that Missouri can no longer afford to be in a state of denial about global climate change.

Clearly the U.S. and the world is moving toward a clean, safe and reliable energy economy that will depend much more on renewables than on polluting fossil fuels like coal. This shift is improving public health by decreasing our dependency on dirty fossil fuels, while helping Missouri prevent a dangerously warming future filled with massive floods like in 2011 and massive droughts like in 2012, where all 114 counties were declared disaster areas by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Our homes, livelihood and infrastructure are at stake, and the good news is we have the tools and technology to respond now.

The costs of warming that are already being felt will hit future generations with much more devastating force unless we take responsible action today. That’s why Sen. Claire McCaskill needs to protect the Environmental Protection Agency from legislative attacks while it implements the Clean Power Plan, which for the first time will limit the emission of carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.

 

MCE Comments: Landfill Company Failing to Protect Public

To DNR: Public Safety Must Be the Highest Priority at the West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill

Earlier this summer Republic Services, the owner of a landfill in north St. Louis County where an underground fire continues to advance toward decades-old radioactive nuclear weapons waste that lies 1,000 feet away, submitted an amended plan to address the fire to the Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources.  The Missouri Coalition for the Environment submitted comments Wednesday, August 28,criticizing the Republic Services plan as inadequate to protect public health and safety. MCE further requested that Republic Services  be removed from the decision making about actions to be taken in this growing emergency and reiterated its call for the complete and careful removal of the radioactive wastes from the West Lake Landfill.

The West Lake Landfill is a superfund site containing radioactive nuclear weapons waste from the Manhattan project, as well as hazardous industrial wastes. For more information on the site's history click here.

Read MCE's August comment letter here.

Read Republic's 8-14 Revised Contingency Plan here on the MDNR's West Lake/Bridgeton Landfill Reports page under Archives/Weekly Reports submitted by Republic Services for Bridgeton Landfill. (The document is large and slow to open.)

 

Expert Robert Alvarez: Superfund Wrong for West Lake Landfill

OutNow

November 21, 2013

 

Corps of Engineers Program Needed for Nuclear Weapons Wastes


St. Louis, MO – Robert Alvarez, senior advisor in the Department of Energy under President Clinton, released a report on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not properly evaluated the risks of the West Lake Landfill and why the Army Corps of Engineers is best suited to address the issue moving forward.


“This is not your ordinary landfill,” said Robert Alvarez. “Leaving radioactive wastes at West Lake has turned it into a de facto nuclear weapons wastes dump, which would violate all modern day guidelines for proper disposal of radioactive wastes.”


The Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) under the Corps of Engineers was specifically designed to remediate radioactive wastes related to the United States nuclear weapons program. The radioactive wastes at the West Lake Landfill were a product of nuclear weapons work by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in downtown St. Louis, beginning in 1942. The Corps is remediating every site in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, except the West Lake Landfill.


“It is reasonable that people want the federal program specifically designed to address the legacy of nuclear weapons radioactive wastes be put in charge of the nuclear weapons radioactive wastes at the West Lake Landfill,” said Ed Smith of the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “The time is now for our federally elected officials to put the Corps of Engineers in charge of West Lake.”

 

Read the latest on West Lake Landfill from nuclear weapons waste expert, Robert Alverez.


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MCE Applauds Federally Elected Officials’ Support for Corps of Engineers at the Radioactive West Lake Landfill

St. Louis, MO – Senator Blunt, Senator McCaskill, Congressman Clay and Congresswoman Wagner sent a letter on February 28, 2014, to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7. The letter requested:

  • That the EPA contract directly with the Army Corps of Engineers to handle any and all remediation needed at the site.
  • That the Corps be involved with the development of the EPA’s forthcoming Record of Decision.

Public reaction to the letter on the West Lake Landfill Facebook Page has been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s now up to EPA Region 7 to give the community and its elected officials what we want, and that is the involvement of the Corps of Engineers,” said Ed Smith with the Missouri Coalition for the Environment. “The Corps has a positive track record at sites around St. Louis contaminated with the same radioactive wastes as those illegally dumped at the West Lake Landfill in 1973.”

MCE applauds the request from federally elected officials. MCE continues to support the Corps of Engineers being officially put in charge at the site.

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Corps Lawsuit May 2014

Environmental Groups Sue Army Corps of Engineers

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Last Thursday, May 22nd, MCE and 5 other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Upper Mississipp River System. The suit challenges the Corps' reliance on an outdated Environmental Impact Statement for its operation and maintenance (O & M) activities on the River designed to maintain the system's 9-foot navigation channel.

This lawsuit does not seek to halt navigation on the Upper Mississippi River Navigation System.  Rather, it seeks to compel the Corps to re-examine the methods it is using to maintain the navigation system so that it can develop and implement less environmentally destructive operation and maintenance (O&M) actions.  Alternative O&M actions that would cause less damage to the environment exist, including:  use of alternative water level management regimes that mimic the system’s natural hydrologic regime; and reconnecting portions of the river channel to its floodplain and backwaters.

As part of this suit we are seeking to enjoin construction of new river training structures until the Corps completes the required environmental review.  While these structures promote self-scouring of the navigation channel, extensive peer-reviewed science shows that they have increased flood heights in the middle Mississippi River by 10 to 15 feet, creating very real threats to public safety.  Construction of new river training structures will add to the already significant risk to river communities and navigation can readily continue without the construction of new structures. Removing or modifying targeted river training structures could significantly improve public safety by reducing flood heights during major floods. 

The National Wildlife Federation and many partner groups have worked for years to try to convince the Corps to voluntarily carry out the requested environmental review, to adopt a moratorium on the construction of new river training structures pending completion of the review, and to initiate a National Academy of Sciences study on the effect of river training structures.  We are filing now because the Corps is poised to construct major new complexes of river training structures in areas that are particularly vulnerable to flooding. 

Levee District Commissioners from 5 different Illinois Levee Districts, the Shawnee School District (Illinois), the Shawnee Valley Water District (Illinois), and the Wolf Lake Sanitary Corporation (Illinois) have also called on the Corps to adopt a moratorium on the construction of new river training structures and to initiate a National Academy of Sciences study on the effect of river training structures.

Click here to read the complaint.

 

Middle Mississippi River Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014

New levee threatens wildlife habitat and public safety

Washington, D.C.- American Rivers named the Middle Mississippi River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2014 today, shining a national spotlight on the threat a new levee at the New Madrid Floodway poses to wildlife habitat and downstream flood safety. “The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are at a critical tipping point,” said Eileen Fretz of American Rivers. “Cutting off the Mississippi River’s connection with its floodplain would destroy critical fish and wildlife habitat and put communities at greater risk of flooding. The project is completely at odds with modern floodplain management.”

NewMadridFloodwayFigure 3. The Swollen Mississippi River backs up through the gap into the New Madrid Floodway. The St Johns Bayou gravity gate through the set-back levee is at the left. (Photo by David Conrad)

The Middle Mississippi is threatened by a proposal by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cut off the last connection between the Mississippi River and its natural backwater habitat in the State of Missouri. The Corps proposes constructing a new 1,500 foot levee across the gap at the bottom of the New Madrid Floodway. In addition to allowing the river to sustain vital habitat, the floodway serves as a “relief valve” allowing floodwaters to spread out on the floodplain instead of threatening downstream communities like Cairo, IL.

“The levee closure project is an unjustified handout to a small group of landowners who farm within this essential floodway. Its completion would only serve to benefit their bottom line, while making it politically harder to operate the floodway during an inevitable future flood,” according to Brad Walker, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Rivers and Sustainability Director.

American Rivers and its partners called on the Army Corps of Engineers to abandon the New Madrid Levee project, and urged the Environmental Protection Agency to veto the project if the Corps continues to move it forward.

The Mississippi River once experienced seasonal floods that spread out over its floodplain, creating a mosaic of backwaters, wetlands, and sloughs. These periodic floods were the driving force behind robust and diverse ecosystems that were home to an amazing array of fish, birds, and wildlife. The Missouri “bootheel”, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, was once one of the nation’s largest and richest wetland areas.

The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.

America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2014

#1 San Joaquin River (California) Threat: Water diversions, dams, and levees

#2 Upper Colorado River (Colorado) Threat: Water diversions

#3 Middle Mississippi River (Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky) Threat: Outdated Flood Management

#4 Gila River (New Mexico) Threat: New water diversions

#5 San Francisquito Creek (California) Threat: Dam

#6 South Fork Edisto River (South Carolina) Threat: Excessive water withdrawals

#7 White River (Colorado) Threat: Oil and gas drilling

#8 White River (Washington) Threat: Outdated dam and fish passage facilities

#9 Haw River (North Carolina) Threat: Polluted runoff

#10 Clearwater/Lochsa Rivers (Idaho) Threat: Industrialization of a Wild and Scenic River corridor

For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Officials Tell EPA: Call the Corps on West Lake Landfill

Senator Blunt, Senator McCaskill, Congressman Clay and Congresswoman Wagner, representing constituents in the St. Louis region, have sent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 Administrator Karl Brooks a letter asking EPA to contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the West Lake Landfill.

The letter states: "The St. Louis Corps' handling of similar radiologically impacted material at the St. Louis Downtown Site, the St. Louis Airport Site and Vicinity Properties, Latty Avenue and the Madison Site has been a well-documented success. Given the Corps' expertise in this area, and the local community's faith in the Corps' FUSRAP mission, we request that the EPA consider contracting directly with the Corps to handle any and all remediation needed at the site. Additionally, we believe that it would also be beneficial for the Agency to contract with the Corps to conduct the ongoing review of the Record of Decision to determine the appropriate long-term remediation."

Community members reacted enthusiastically on the West Lake Landfill Facebook page:

"WE ALL have come together and are putting a capital U in the Unity part of CommUnity!! Not ONE but ALL FOUR federally elected officials have signed this letter! This is a huge stepping stone, and its time to show a great big heartfelt THANK YOU to all four elected officials!"

See the entire letter here:

2014-02-28-MOFederalDelegationLettertoEPA-WestLakeImage

Nuclear Reactor Fuel Storage Poses Huge Risks

New Study Shows Even a Small Nuclear Reactor Pool Fire Could Displace 4.1 Million People; Make More than 9,000 Square Miles Uninhabitable

34 Groups Urge Nuclear Agency to Suspend Relicensing And Address Safety & Costs

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 18, 2014 – New information from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) showing that even a small nuclear reactor pool fire could render 9,400 square miles uninhabitable and displace 4.1 million Americans on a long-term basis are among the factors causing 34 environment organizations to file a petition with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to hold off on additional reactor licensing.

In addition to the NRC’s new data on risks, the groups also pointed out that the Commission has concluded spent reactor fuel could be transferred out of high-density storage pools (where the fire risk is the greatest) in a cost-effective manner.

The groups pointed to the findings of an unpublicized NRC study of spent fuel storage at Peach Bottom, a reactor in Pennsylvania. This investigation showed that if even a small fraction of the inventory of a Peach Bottom reactor pool were released to the environment in a severe spent fuel pool accident, an average area of 9,400 square miles (24,300 square kilometers -or about 97 miles square) would be rendered uninhabitable for decades, displacing as many as 4.1 million people.

As the groups point out in their petition, the NRC has never before acknowledged such dire pool fire risks in its reactor licensing decisions. The information undermines the NRC’s conclusion in prior environmental studies for reactor licensing and re-licensing that the impacts of spent fuel storage during reactor operation are insignificant.

Ameren's Callaway 1 nuclear reactor in central Missouri (about 88 miles west of St. Louis as the crow flies) is tied with the Wolf Creek nuclear reactor in Kansas for the most spent fuel assemblies in a fuel pool among single unit pressurized water reactors. Both reactors have 2,636 spent fuel assemblies in onsite pools.

Ameren has not announced plans, as far as the Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) is aware, to move spent fuel assemblies to dry cask storage while Callaway 1 is expected to run out of room in the pools by 2019. The Callaway 1 nuclear reactor's current operating license ends in 2024 and Ameren is seeking an addition 20 year license extension from the NRC. MCE is legally challenging the license extension.

In the Peach Bottom study, the NRC also revealed for the first time that the costs of transferring spent fuel out of risky high-density storage pools could be economically feasible, given the enormous damage that a pool fire could cause. Additionally, the NRC concluded for the first time that the likelihood of spent fuel pool fires could be affected by reactor accidents, and committed to study the problem.

The groups are requesting that the NRC conduct a new environmental impact study that incorporates the new and significant information generated as part of the post-Fukushima investigation into the risks of severe accidents in the reactor pools where spent fuel is stored. They contend that, in the meantime, the NRC should suspend all reactor licensing and re-licensing decisions.  

Diane Curran, an attorney with Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg, L.L.P., and Mindy Goldstein, director of the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory University, are filing the petition on behalf of the groups.

Curran said, “If a pool fire accident occurs such as was studied in the Peach Bottom case study, the resulting widespread contamination and displacement of people could have enormous socioeconomic impacts, matching or exceeding the devastating effects of the Fukushima accident on Japanese society.”

The NRC has concluded that the “safety” benefit of reducing the density of spent fuel in storage pools would not be great enough to justify an order requiring all operating reactor licensees to thin out their pools. But the NRC focused on the risk of cancer, which is only one effect of a pool fire.   The groups contend that NRC must protect not only public health and safety but the environment as well. The environment includes a host of broader values, such as ecological health and socioeconomic well-being. The Fukushima accident illustrates the fact that land contamination and dislocation of people can have enormous effects on society and the environment, regardless of the number of deaths or cancers.

The 34 groups filing the petition are: Alliance to Halt Fermi 3, Beyond Nuclear, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Center for a Sustainable Coast, Citizens Allied for Safe Energy, Citizens’ Environmental Coalition, Don’t Waste Michigan, Ecology Party of Florida, Friends of the Coast, Friends of the Earth, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions, Green State Solutions, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, NC WARN, National Parks Conservation Association, Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force, New England Coalition, No Nukes Pennsylvania, Northwest Environmental Advocates, Nuclear Energy Information Service, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Nuclear Watch South, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Public Citizen, Promoting Health and Sustainable Energy, Radiation and Public Health Project, Riverkeeper, SEED Coalition, San Clemente Green, San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Snake River Alliance, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Vista 360.

A copy of the petition can be found here.

Ameren Missouri applied for a license extension of the Callaway 1 nuclear reactor in December 2011. See: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operating/licensing/renewal/applications/callaway.html


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Missouri Adopts ‘Historic’ Clean Water Protections

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                          

November 7, 2013

 

Clean Water Commission Adopts

Long Overdue Water Quality Standards

 

(Jefferson City) ­ Wednesday, the Missouri Clean Water Commission approved water quality standards that bring the state closer to compliance with the most basic provisions of federal clean water laws. The Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE), a nonprofit, state-based environmental watchdog group, applauds the progress the new rules represent.

 

“Although far from perfect, it is good to see Missouri move forward on this critical structural deficiency in our implementation of the Clean Water Act for our waters. After years of allowing Missouri’s streams, rivers and lakes to deteriorate, the standards approved today move our state down the right path for clean water,” said Lorin Crandall, Clean Water Director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

 

The standards extend protections to 90,000 previously excluded miles of Missouri rivers and streams that flow through parks, neighborhoods, forests, and fields; as well as thousands of lakes. These are protections that were promised in the 1972 Clean Water Act to help ensure that fish can thrive and people can swim in the waters of our state.

“Missourians deserve the benefits of the ‘fishable/swimmable’ designations,” said Crandall. “These are basic requirements of the Clean Water Act which includes the goal: to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters using science. It took decades, two lawsuits, and hundreds of meetings to get these standards.”

 

Stakeholders recognize the rule is not perfect.

 

“While a step in the right direction, this action still leaves more than 50,000 miles of rivers and streams, hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands, and uncounted numbers of lakes still without their legal protections,” Crandall said. “The number of potential off-ramps and exemptions will also require our attention for years to come.”

The standards passed today must still obtain approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which can accept, reject and modify them in order to ensure their compliance with federal law.

 

Todd Parnell, Chair of the Clean Water Commission, described today’s rulemaking as ‘historic.’

 

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For background on the issue see here.

USGS Releases Study on Dead Zone Pollutants

Special thanks to Susan Heathcote with Iowa Environmental Council for this Summary.

 

An interesting report was released yesterday by the US Geological Survey about the long-term trends in nitrate levels in the Mississippi River and major tributaries.  The study looked at nitrate trends over the period 2000 – 2010.

Overall nitrate concentrations increased 12% at the outlet of the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico.  There is some good news and bad news here.  The nitrate concentration trends shows a decrease in both the Illinois River (21%) and Iowa River (10%).  These decreases were offset by large increases in the upper Mississippi above Clinton, Iowa (29%) and the Missouri River (43%).  The nitrate concentrations in the Ohio River are the lowest of the major tributaries and have remained relatively constant over the past 30 years. 

Also interesting is that USGS found that nitrate increased at low stream flows throughout the basin, except for the Ohio and Illinois Rivers.  The report suggests that increases during low flow are likely dominated by point sources from wastewater treatment plants and groundwater recharge of legacy nitrate from past practices on the land that may take years to move through the subsurface to the Mississippi River.  Because of the lag time for groundwater recharge, it might take many years to see water quality improvements in the Mississippi River and Gulf.

See press release http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=3715#.UnKBqZko4cA

The full report is available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2013/5169/

 

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