History, Latest Post, Marijuana-Cannabis-Hemp

In Praise of Hemp


legalize-marijuana-leaf-red-white-blue-flag-300x300

by Jim Prues / September 29th, 2010

Hemp use predates the Agrarian Age, as hemp fibers have been found in pottery in China and Taiwan dating to 7,000 years ago. The classical Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 480 BC) reported that the inhabitants of Scythia would often inhale the vapours of hemp smoke, both as ritual and for their own pleasurable recreation. So presumably the Scythians were the first recorded stoners.

 

In Europe, hemp growing and production became quite popular during the Medieval Age, having disseminated in that direction along with much of the technology of the Arabic Golden Age in Northern Africa. In Europe hemp seeds were used for food and oils, the leaves for teas and the stalks for fibres, including rope, clothes, sails and paper. Estimates put the number of Europeans actively involved in hemp growing and production in the 15th and 16th century at well over 50%.

Hemp has a strong historical influence on every continent, with varied cultural and religious traditions. Many African spiritual practices involve consuming hemp smoke to enhance awareness and generate visions like the Dagga ‘cults’.

The Spaniards brought hemp to the Western Hemisphere and cultivated it in Chile starting about 1545. However, in May 1607, “hempe” was among the crops Gabriel Archer observed being cultivated by the natives at the main Powhatan village, where Richmond, Virginia is now  situated; and in 1613, 

Samuell Argall reported wild hemp “better than that in England” growing along the shores of the upper Potomac. As early as 1619, the first Virginia House of Burgesses passed an Act requiring all planters in Virginia to sow “both English and Indian” hemp on their plantations. The Puritans are first known to have cultivated hemp in New England in 1645.

In more modern times, hemp was a popular crop in antibellum Kentucky and other southern states. It was commonly used for a variety of products, most notably the paper on which the U.S. Constitution was written. Several of our founding fathers were hemp farmers.

All this changed with William Randoph Hearst, who began demonizing hemp in order to leverage his great tracks of forest for paper production instead of needing to buy hemp from other farmers. His effort to demonize the plant was also instigated by his racism, as many hispanics and blacks used hemp for recreation. The word, marijuana, is the hispanic term for that form of hemp which has psychoactive ingredients.

There are several varieties of hemp, most of which have very little THC [tetra-hydro-cannabanoid], the mind-effecting component. For most of U.S. history, the distinction was well-understood and laws reflected that awareness. Like so many with the power of media, however, Mr. Hearst did his best to cloud that distinction, as he was against hemp in any form. Indeed, industrial hemp was referred to as ‘ditchweed’, while hemp for medicinal or recreations purposes has come to be known as marijuana.

An analogy would be poppies, where you have the breadseed poppy seeds that can be found on bread or rolls, in contrast to the opium poppies grown to create morphine and heroin.

As reference, the timber and lumber industries, textile and petro-chemical industries are the most influential in keeping hemp illegal. As usual, we can follow the money. Then for pot there’s the pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol lobby and all those anti-drug agencies with self-preservation interests. We learn much from understanding these connections.

With this background, let’s consider how hemp might again play a pivotal role in our culture.

Assuming access to air and water, our most regular needs are for food and energy. In the World4 culture, these needs, at least for the industrialized world, are met through global corporations like ADM, Monsanto, BP and Exxon. And of course, hemp is illegal to grow in much of the industrialized world and particularly the United States.

But as noted above, hemp is easily grown with little required in the way of fertilizer or pesticides. As such, hemp typifies a sustainably-oriented plant. Corn, by comparison, requires heavy doses of fertilizer, especially nitrogen, and requires a good deal of pesticide use, with Roundup often used to kill weeds, and genetically modified corn seed that is resistant to the effects of Roundup. With the vast expanses of corn grown in this country, it should be no surprise that the runoff from these chemicals has created a huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. And let us not forget that our tax dollars subsidize these efforts through farm and energy subsidies.

With hemp, we have a low-impact, high-yield crop that can be used for a variety of uses. The stalks and fiber can used for composites that can be a wood substitute in an array of products. They can also be processed to create ethanol. They can be burned as a carbon-neutral resource, since the carbon they release is but the carbon the plant ingested during it’s life. Durable, light-weight, and strong, it’s difficult to imagine all the uses for industrial hemp were we to focus on designing and building hemp-based products.

With hemp oil we have another energy-rich resource, which can be used in cooking, as lamp oil and as a medicinal, as its high concentration of essential fatty acids is great for the skin and overall health.

Hemp seed can be used as a food as well. The roasted seeds are crunchy, they can be used in soups and casseroles, mixed with cereals or other foods. They’re highly nutritious, have a good deal of protein and again, are positive-impact environmentally.

Hemp has remediation properties too. It absorbs heavy metals in the soil, reducing their toxicity and harmful environment effects. There are vast expanses of hemp in the area of the Chernobyl nuclear accident for just that reason.

Hemp can be grown successfully in nearly every state in these United States. One can imagine a culture where locally produced hemp provides a good portion of the energy, food and product needs for our communities. This methodology would provide employment in both production and processing of the plant. It would reduce the environmental damage caused by our overused, subsidized corn. [Corn syrup is a cheap, low grade sugar that’s in a ton of processed foods.] Re-integrating hemp into our culture is just good, common sense.

And then there’s marijuana. The heathen devil-weed [a term coined by Heart’s yellow press] was blamed for all sorts of bad behavior as part of the demonization process. But as usual, someone who smokes pot and acts badly likely acts badly anyway, with marijuana as the straw man. Marijuana reduces aggressive behavior, unlike alcohol. This slander against the singular most influential plant in human history is but one example of the dysfunctionality of our culture.

Weed does indeed have psychotropic properties of note. Being stoned has a curious effect on the mind. Most say it tends to enhance whatever we feeling or experiencing at the time, offering a heightened experience of music or games or food [the proverbial munchies]. It is often used as a mind-quieting agent as well, as the stream of thoughts so constant to most of us becomes less pressing in a marijuana state of mind. In our fear-ridden, highly-stressed culture that alone could be of great value.

It’s worth noting that marijuana has not been placed as the medical cause in a single death in this country. Compare that with alcohol, tobacco, or the host of concoctions the pharmaceutical industry markets to us constantly. Mary Jane is decidedly benign.

As a medicinal, hemp oil has the afore mentioned essential fatty acids that are very effective for skin issues like excema and when ingested enhances body health. Medical marijuana is much in the news these days, being legal in California and a handful of other states. It’s value in alleviating the worst effect of cancer treatments,  chronic back ache and other issues is well-documented. Imagine if our culture actually encouraged research on medical marijuana. Not likely when the legal drug cartel we call the pharmaceutical industry has so much influence in government.

Proposition 19 is a measure on the ballot in California this fall that makes hemp legal. It merits our support for all the reasons indicated in this writing. Perhaps with this ballot measure passing we can begin to reverse the foolishness that has withheld leveraging this marvelous plant for the last 100 years.

Perhaps one of the most beneficial characteristics of this renewable resource is that the hemp plant can be used in its entirety, and that a streamlined life-cycle assessment yields positive impacts on the environment throughout the growth, harvest, and production stages. The industrial hemp plant offers a wide variety of high performance applications through the many aspects of community design, and will help strengthen our local economy, return power back to our local agricultural industry, and restore the environment as it grows. – Scott Blossom

Well said, Mister Blossom. Perhaps this fall [in California Ballot Measure Prop 19] we’ll begin to see a return to sanity in our policies toward this marvelous and versatile plant. And wouldn’t it be just swell to see this happen in the wider context of a return to localism. Very World Five – dude.

Jim Prues is the founder of World 5.0, a new cultural operating system based on peace and love. He can be reached at jim@world5.org. Read other articles by Jim, or visit Jim’s website.

CONTINUE READING…

Latest Post, Louisville, Save Our Land!

Owner of Old Louisville Pesticide Plant Prepares to Sell


Black Leaf property owner gives Courier-Journal exclusive look inside a property that triggered the state’s biggest ever urban environmental cleanup.

 

Image result for BLACK LEAF PROPERTY LOUISVILLE KY

Image result for BLACK LEAF PROPERTY LOUISVILLE KY

By JAMES BRUGGERS, The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Metal roofing has collapsed.

Trees are growing tall inside buildings. Walls are heavily tagged with graffiti.

And trespassers have set up makeshift camping or lounge areas among the arsenic and long-banned pesticides, having hauled in several couches in recent months – one of them with two small toy dolls left on the cushions.

It’s now about seven years into what Kentucky officials have called their largest urban environmental cleanup, and property owner Tony Young, on a rare tour of what he calls the Louisville Industrial Park, says: “I need to speak my piece. If I don’t do it now, I won’t have any chance.”

The 29-acre property, known by regulators as the Black Leaf site for a tobacco-based pesticide once made there, is scheduled for a foreclosure sale on Friday.

After long-banned pesticides like DDT and other dangerous chemicals or heavy metals were found in the soil, Young said he became unable to pay the $20,000 monthly mortgage he owed to First Capital Bank of Kentucky. He also owes the city nearly $1 million in back property taxes and the Metropolitan Sewer District $200,000 for several years of unpaid drainage fees. But as Young this week faces the loss of the property he’s owned since 1999, he is taking steps to recover financially while he promotes his plan to develop affordable housing for western Louisville.

Young last week sued his bank, a bank holding company, and ExxonMobil, claiming in a U.S. District Court filing that businesses have entered into “a secret deal” that cut him out and could cost him more than $20 million. He said he believes a new business cooperating with the bank and ExxonMobil intend to buy the property in a process that will wipe away the liabilities for the new owner and will allow ExxonMobil’s plan to proceed.

But that plan, he contends, would require a lesser degree of cleanup than his, which would need to meet more stringent standards for residential development.

“I am going to get my money back, one way or the other,” Young told the Courier-Journal. But if the ExxonMobil plan wins the day, “it screws all the community” by leaving chemicals behind and not meeting demand for affordable housing, he added.

Still, his plan does not appear to be going anywhere.

Exxon plan favored

The state of Kentucky instead is casting its provisional blessing on an alternative proposal backed by the giant oil company, Occidental Chemical Corp., and Grief Inc. to get the property ready for recycling it into future industrial or commercial businesses, with the less extensive cleanup that would require. Each of those companies inherited liability for past pollution, state officials have said.

City officials see the foreclosure sale as potentially removing a logjam by getting the property into the hands of a business with the financial ability to bring economic development to the blighted property – and to remove a festering eyesore and safety hazard just two miles from downtown in one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

Park Hill, where the property is located, is one of the crime-riddled communities Louisville Metro Police are focusing extra enforcement efforts in this year, along with Victory Park, Russell, Smoketown, Shawnee, Russell and Shelby Park

Theresa Zawacki, a senior policy adviser for Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development arm, said it is hard to predict the outcome of the foreclosure sale. But she said she expects more than one bidder on the property, now that businesses with liability for the pollution are ready to begin remediation. Friday’s sale is “another step in that process,” she said.

It’s large and directly served by rail, and suitable for industrial purposes, she said. “When things like this come up, there is typically a lot of interest,” she added.

Already, the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teamed up to remove contaminated soil from dozens of homes near the industrial site.

But the Courier-Journal in 2016 reported that Kentucky Division of Waste Management officials had said they could not under state law force a full cleanup to residential standards inside the property. This week, a spokesman for the waste management division, John Mura, said state officials have accepted the technical portions of the ExxonMobil plan “with the caveat that Exxon must be able to demonstrate property access and the ability to place an environmental covenant on the property if necessary.

“To date, Exxon has not demonstrated that ability.”

He said state officials hope the Young lawsuit “does not further delay the restart of remedial work that could begin soon after the property access and ownership issues are resolved.”

Security concerns

Exxon has played a key role in working with the state on a remediation plan.

“ExxonMobil seeks access to the property to meet its environmental and regulatory obligations,” said Todd Spitler, company spokesman. “We continue to work under the direction of (Kentucky regulators) to develop and implement a remedy for this site that is protective of human health and the environment.”

A First Capital Bank of Kentucky representative did not return a request for comment.

Some of the chemicals found on the property have been measured at hundreds to thousands of times higher than state officials consider safe.

Young granted the Courier-Journal its first tour of the property on Monday, where he sought to make a case for his position. He portrayed himself as a man looking out for a neighborhood troubled by drugs and violence. He said he feels his bank, Exxon and state officials turned against him. “I’ve tried my best. I’ve cooperated with the state,” he said.

The Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental group, also supports cleanup to residential standards, said its director, attorney Tom FitzGerald.

That would best help to “redress a burden that the neighbors have borne for entirely too long, and to provide for the broadest range of future uses,” he said. Leaving polluted soils in place shifts costs to the next generation, he said, adding “it may be legal, but it does not make it just or moral.”

Metro Councilman David James, who represents the area, had also been pressing for a cleanup that would do what Young was seeking – allow for residential development.

James said Tuesday he has not yet heard from the state environmental agency on Black Leaf cleanup requirements and is frustrated that a problem discovered in 2010 remains unsolved.

“I would like to have had it resolved five years ago,” he said.

James also said he was concerned to hear that trespassers or squatters may have set up camps by bringing in couches. He said he did not see any of that several months ago on a visit to the property. “It makes it difficult for police because they don’t have access to it,” said James, a former police officer. “It’s private.”

He also said he may need to “find out why Mr. Young is not doing more to prevent people from coming onto the property he owns – like hiring private security.”

For his part, Young said the property is too large to keep everyone out.

James also said he was not aware of any discussions between Young and the city to bring low-income housing to the property. “At this point, Mr. Young has financial interests in the property and is looking for a way to cover his interests,” James said.

Young said he had been working with the nonprofit Housing Partnership Inc., on the low-income housing plan. The partnership has ties to the city – Mayor Greg Fischer is a board member – and several years ago looked into whether a several-hundred unit affordable housing plan was economically feasible prior to the discovery of the contaminated soils.

That kind of contamination “stops development in their tracks,” said Mike Hynes, president of the partnership.

Last year Hynes reiterated his partnership’s interest in the property for low-income housing if the environmental problems could be worked out. But Hynes said: “The property has to be safe for people to live there.”

Details lacking

Young said his cleanup plan, which he said has been rejected, would have piled a lot of contaminated soils in berms, where it would be permanently entombed.

But he also offered no details on its costs.

When the Courier-Journal on Monday requested details on the two cleanup plans from the state, Mura told the Courier-Journal to submit a request for documents under the Kentucky Open Records law because the matter was now in litigation.

The state, however, is not part of that litigation, and the Courier-Journal is still waiting for a response to the records.

For his part, Young tells a story of how what he thought would be a good, $1.9 million investment has turned into a nightmare that’s cost him dearly. He said he had the property checked out by environmental consultants – a bank requirement – before purchasing it, and they found none of the problems that state officials later discovered.

“I tried to do something good here,” he said. “I am still trying to do something good.”

CONTINUE READING…

Latest Post

Legendary pot grower Johnny Boone, leader of Kentucky’s ‘Cornbread Mafia,’ back in U.S.


636270046066628711-boone.jpg

John “Johnny” Boone, the leader of Kentucky’s “Cornbread Mafia,” once the nation’s largest domestic marijuana producing organization, is back in the United States after eight years on the lam.

Boone, who was once featured on “America’s Most Wanted,” was apprehended in Canada in December 2016 and was ordered detained Wednesday after appearing in U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vermont, about 90 miles south of Montreal.

He had been extradited to the U.S. and will be transported to Louisville soon, according to Kraig LaPorte, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Burlington. Wendy McCormick, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Louisville, said it could be a week or two before he is flown to Louisville on a U.S. Marshal Service flight.

Boone, 73, a legendary figure in central Kentucky, faces charges on a 2008 indictment that accused him of growing and distributing marijuana on his farm in Springfield, where more than 2,400 marijuana plants allegedly were found by Kentucky State Police and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The government is also trying to force him to forfeit cash, vehicles, a handgun and an AR-15 rifle.

He fled after a warrant was issued for his arrest, and he faces up to life in prison if convicted.

►EARLIER COVERAGE: ‘Cornbread Mafia’ fugitive in court

Federal prosecutors in Vermont requested his detention, saying he faces a long prison term and at age 73 has a strong incentive to flee. The motion also noted that he’d lived illegally in Canada for eight years, “which alone renders him a flight risk.”

The Cornbread Mafia, a group of mostly Kentuckians, pooled their money, machinery, knowledge and labor to produce $350 million in pot seized in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, prosecutors said in 1989.

The organization operated on isolated farms in nine Midwestern states, some of which were guarded by bears and lions, and by workers described by the government as a “paramilitary force.” Boone’s exploits were the subject of a book, “Cornbread Mafia: A Homegrown Syndicate’s Code Of Silence And The Biggest Marijuana Bust In American History,” by Kentucky freelance writer James Higdon.

U.S. Attorney Joe Whittle said in 1989 that marijuana had been seized at 29 sites, including 25 farms outside Kentucky. Sixty-four Kentucky residents were charged, 49 of whom lived in Marion County.

The detention motion says Boone’s criminal history extends to 1969 and includes a 1985 conviction for marijuana possession with intention to distribute, for which he was sentenced to five years, and another conviction for unlawful manufacture of 1,000 plants or more, for which he was sentenced to 20 years and paroled in 1999.

Reporter Andrew Wolfson can be reached at (502) 582-7189 or awolfson@courier-journal.com.

CONTINUE READING…

Latest Post

Donald Trump Jr. bagged bull elk on Kentucky hunting trip


Donald Trump Jr. at his father’s estate in Bedford, N.Y., Feb. 25, 2017. The president’s once-wayward eldest son has embraced his new role in business and politics on his terms. (George Etheredge/The New York Times)

By Fernando Alfonso III

falfonso@herald-leader.com

Donald Trump Jr. is an experienced hunter who has stalked elephants in Zimbabwe, pheasants in Hungary and, as of January, elk in Kentucky.

On Jan. 14, Trump used a bow and arrow to kill a bull elk on private property in Martin County, said Mark Marraccini, communications director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. Marraccini said he believes Trump’s elk weighed about 700 pounds.

“It doesn’t really matter what you’re hunting, if you’re an archer, that’s a higher skill level than using a rifle. He made this kill with a bow and was probably 30 yards away,” Marraccini said. “To get close enough to make a kill with a bow, there’s a lot of skill involved in that.”

Trump was able to procure a hunting tag quickly thanks to the unique relationship the department has with certain private landowners, Marraccini said. There are about 40 of these landowner-cooperator tags in Kentucky.

“Say you’re a big coal company or a big power company and you own 40,000 acres of land. The department has entered into an agreement with some of those landowners that for every 5,000 acres that they will deed over to us to be used for public recreation year round, we would let them have one elk tag, and they can use that tag anyway they want,” Marraccini said.

For the rest of the public, obtaining a hunting tag takes luck.

In 2016, there were about 75,000 applications for elk hunting licenses in Kentucky put into a lottery. Nine hundred ten licenses were granted. The license drawing is random, Marraccini said.

This December marks the 20-year anniversary of Kentucky bringing seven elk into the state to establish a population, Marraccini said.

Marraccini said he has put his name into the lottery for an elk tag every year since 2001 and has never been chosen.

Fernando Alfonso III: 859-231-1324, @fernalfonso

CONTINUE READING…

Latest Post

Kentucky on verge of lifting nuclear moratorium


Image result for kentucky nuclear waste site

James Bruggers , @jbruggers 10:23 a.m. ET March 8, 2017

Nuclear critic says no nuclear power plants will likely come to Kentucky any time soon because of their costs

A bill that would overturn a three-decade-old law that effectively bars construction of nuclear power plants in Kentucky is on the verge of passing the General Assembly and being sent to Gov. Matt Bevin for his signature.

Senate Bill 11 would get rid of a mandate that any nuclear power plants have access to a permanent disposal facility for their radioactive wastes, which can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years. They’d only have to have a plan to manage those wastes.

Already successfully through the Senate, Sen. Danny Carroll‘s bill passed a House committee on Tuesday and was sent to the House floor for a vote, where one of its long-time critics, Kentucky Resources Council director Tom FitzGerald, said he expects it will pass.

“We’ve had 15 years of arguing over this,” FitzGerald said Wednesday, observing that his organization withdrew its opposition this year as new wording was added to make sure all costs of nuclear energy would be weighed before allowing any plants to be constructed in Kentucky.

He said there was little chance of a nuclear plant being built in Kentucky anytime soon because they cannot compete economically with other forms of energy such as natural gas, scrubbed coal or renewables.

►MORE:  Bevin, 18 states, call for EPA to back off

Still, Carroll, a Paducah Republican, whose district includes a former nuclear fuel factory in Paducah, said Kentucky needs to be ready to diversify its energy portfolio.

In a news release, he said that U.S. energy demand is expected to increase. “That means the United States will need many new power plants of all types to meet the increased demand and replace older facilities that are retired. To ensure a diverse portfolio, many of these new power plants will have to be nuclear,” he said.

FitzGerarld said it’s more likely that the bill might allow the Paducah facility — which will be in a cleanup mode for many decades — to attract some additional research and development money to Kentucky.

Despite spending billions of dollars over two decades, the U.S. government failed to open a permanent disposal facility for high-level nuclear waste at its Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

Reach reporter James Bruggers at 502-582-4645 or at jbruggers@courier-journal.com.

CONTINUE READING…

Status

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Republican 3-0)
Status: Engrossed on March 2 2017 – 50% progression
Action: 2017-03-07 – reported favorably, 1st reading, to Calendar
Text: Latest bill text (Draft #2) [PDF]

Summary

Amend KRS 278.600 to require that nuclear power facilities have a plan for the storage of nuclear waste rather than a means of permanent disposal and to add definitions of “storage,” “low-level nuclear waste,” and “mixed nuclear waste”; amend KRS 278.610 to allow certification if the facility and its plans for waste storage are approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; eliminate the requirement that the facility have a plan for disposal of high-level nuclear waste; eliminate the requirement that cost of waste disposal be known; eliminate the requirement that the facility have adequate capacity to contain waste; give the Public Service Commission authority to hire a consultant to perform duties relating to nuclear facility certification; prohibit construction of low-level nuclear waste disposal sites in Kentucky except as provided in KRS 211.852; direct the Energy and Environment Cabinet to review regulations required for permitting nuclear facilities and report to LRC; repeal KRS 278.605, relating to construction of nuclear power facilities.

CONTINUE TO SB11 …

Latest Post, Water

America’s hidden water affordability crisis


leaky-faucet

 

By Ciara O’Rourke on Mar 5, 2017 6:00 am

When Elizabeth Mack wondered about a future in which Americans wouldn’t be able to pay for water, a couple of colleagues waved her off. “Don’t be ridiculous,” they said. But the idea niggled at Mack, an assistant professor at the Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences at Michigan State University. And in January, in an article published in the science journal PLOS ONE, she asked a new question: Is there a burgeoning water affordability crisis in the United States?

Mack, along with research assistant Sarah Wrase, determined that if water rates increase at projected amounts over the next five years, the percentage of households that can’t pay their water bills could triple from 11.9 percent to more than a third. Nearly 14 million households nationwide already struggle to afford water services. An additional 27.18 million — or 8.5 percent of the country’s population — could soon face the same challenges.

“I don’t think we think about this, about what it would mean to not have running water,” Mack told Fusion. Of course, some Americans have experienced it. Water affordability is becoming an increasingly critical issue in cities across the country, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, and Detroit. In Philadelphia, an estimated four out of 10 water accounts are past due. Atlanta and Seattle have some of the highest water rates in the country. And in Detroit, a campaign to cut off delinquent residents has stopped water and sewage service for 50,000 households since 2014. It’s a reality Mack thinks Americans in other parts of the country could face.

“Any place with shrinking city characteristics, any city where we have a hollowing out of a downtown core that used to be quite vibrant” could be in trouble, she said. That’s the case in Detroit, where a declining population has left fewer households to shoulder the costs of water services.

The cost of replacing water systems built around World War II are projected at more than $1 trillion over the next 25 years across the country. Prices will be even higher if cities tap private companies to provide water services because they tend to charge higher rates than public providers. A majority of Americans get their water from public providers, but in Atlanta, where the privatization of water services in part drove up water expenses, the service costs $325.52 per month. Households must make at least about $87,000 for that to be affordable.

Because public utilities can only charge customers as much money as it takes to recoup their costs, Mack said, it can be harder for them to finance new infrastructure — but their rates also tend to be lower than private providers that don’t have the same constraints. Still, a 2014 report by Corporate Accountability International and Public Services International Research Unit questioned whether it’s appropriate to tap private companies to shore up infrastructure projects. “No matter how the private sector frames its intentions, its priority is market development over community development, profit maximization over the public interest,” the report states.

Other drivers behind rising water prices include increasingly rigorous water quality standards, said Laura Feinstein, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank based in Oakland. As federal laws are updated to reflect new contaminants, water utilities have to spend more money to treat the water to keep it safe for consumers. Extreme weather events associated with climate change, such as droughts and floods, are also expensive for the systems to manage.

But there are ways for both providers and people to curb costs, she said. As utilities look for new water sources to accommodate population growth, they can turn to storm water capture or gray water reuse instead of costlier dams, reservoirs, and desalination plants. And utilities should be mindful that per capita water use doesn’t necessarily increase as populations do thanks to more efficient appliances and cultural shifts among residents who might water their lawns less.

“In reality, per person water use just keeps going down over time, at least in California,” Feinstein said.

Some utilities have worked to develop effective bill discount programs to focus their efficiency programs on lower-income customers. Offering a rebate for a low-flush toilet, for example, is only an option for people who can already pay for a big investment like that, Feinstein said. But giving customers a discount upfront makes it more affordable.

Water affordability is already a serious challenge for low-income people in the United States, Feinstein said. In one study that looked at a sample of communities in California, the institute found that about 5 percent of households had incomes under $10,000 and were spending around 5 percent of their income on water.

In California, at least, laws restraining public utilities from hiking rates higher than the cost of recovery can also hamper efforts to offer discounts to low-income customers, Feinstein said, “because they can’t charge more affluent customers a little more in order to fund low-income discounts.”

For people already living in poverty — 40 percent of the population in Detroit — any increase in a water cost will strain a family’s finances, said Randy Block, director of the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network. He and others in the faith community are trying to raise money to help needy residents pay for water. He thinks water should be recognized as a human right in Michigan just as the United Nations General Assembly defined it in 2010. He likened the city shutting off water for delinquent customers to a war on poverty, and he believes similar skirmishes will play out across the country as income inequality grows.

“Detroit is the canary in a coal mine,” Block said.

Mark Fancher, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan, said unaffordable water has been a “pretty massive problem” in Detroit for 10–15 years. The practical result of shut-offs, he said, is residents relocating. While there are hardship extensions for residents who have fallen behind on their bills but are also suffering from a serious medical condition, according to Fancher, the system could be a lot better: Residents often don’t know about it, or their applications are denied. Other times, they might receive bills for water they didn’t use or not get the bills at all, he said.

“The argument has been made that an affordability plan for the city of Detroit would be a really helpful thing for the struggling utility,” Fancher said. “Because even though people who take advantage of it may not be paying full market rate for water, they’ll be paying more than nothing, which will at least bring in some significant amount of money that right now they’re not getting at all.”

He questioned how seriously the city is interested in water affordability. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department did not respond to questions about water affordability and shut-offs in the city, but The Detroit News reported last month that officials expect a new rate structure that rewards low water use will reduce the burden on low-income residents. In turn, said Marcus Hudson, the department’s chief financial officer, their probability of paying will increase.

Mack thinks that governments, utilities, and consumers will need to work together to solve the growing problem of water affordability.

“How can we fix this infrastructure and how can we finance it together?” she said. She cautions against alarmist responses to her study, which, she said, “is not meant to be an activist piece.” Rather, she said her research highlights a quiet water crisis that many Americans are aware of in developing countries but don’t consider in the United States. She doesn’t think anyone appreciates the scope of infrastructure problems here and, she said, Americans should be watching Detroit warily.

“I would hazard a guess that most people don’t know how much water they use,” she said. “I’d encourage them to do some self-education.”

Feinstein is agnostic on whether it’s an increasing problem. The article, leaning on the Environmental Protection Agency’s average consumption estimates, assumes the average household uses 12,000 gallons per month. “That might be more than people really need to meet their basic needs,” she said.

But she agrees that water affordability is a problem. Other countries, such as France, Australia, and South Africa have better programs in place to make sure low-income residents can pay for water, Feinstein said. She thinks California is leading the way with legislation that calls for the State Water Resources Control Board to study how to develop low-income assistance rates statewide. As far as she knows, it would be the first such program of its kind if it’s implemented but, she said, it should be nationwide.

“When people don’t have access to the water that they need, it compromises their health. It means they end up having to make choices between paying for things like medical care and paying for food and paying for water,” Feinstein said. “Water is essential for life. People should be able to get the water they need a price they can afford it.”

CONTINUE READING…

Latest Post

This is the story of the FDA’s persecution of Samuel Girod.


When Government Fails In Kentucky

By Sally Oh on March 1, 2017 | Comments 2 | Affiliate Disclosure

Here’s a video explaining the entire thing, transcript with links below.

Let’s be clear about a couple of pertinent facts:

1. The FDA made up arbitrary rules, then accused Sam of breaking those rules.

2. There are no victims. Samuel Girod has hurt no one.

3. FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs kill 1 person every 19 minutes. Merck’s FDA-approved Vioxx killed over 68,000 people. Nobody in Big Pharma goes to jail. They pay out billions in fines (after making billions in profits.) No companies close, nobody goes to jail. Nobody. Even after killing and harming 100s of thousands of people.

4. Sam Girod and his products have hurt no one.

The Story of the FDA v Samuel Girod

Samuel Girod and his family have been making and selling 3 all-natural herbal products for nearly 20 years. In all those…

View original post 427 more words

HEALTH, Latest Post

In chaotic scene, Rand Paul demands to see the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal bill


By Lauren Fox and Phil Mattingly, CNN

Updated 3:25 PM ET, Thu March 2, 2017

Rand Paul 3.2.17

Senator demands to see ‘secret’ Obamacare bill 01:59

Story highlights
  • Some House Republicans were being granted a chance to review an Obamacare repeal draft
  • GOP leadership has taken a new level of caution with their Obamacare legislation

(CNN)  Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul marched to the House side of the Capitol Thursday morning, knocked on a locked door and demanded to see a copy of the House’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he believed was being kept under lock and key.

Aides in the room told the senator — before dozens of reporters in a crowded hallway — that there was no bill to see. In fact, it wasn’t the room where GOP members of the Energy and Commerce Committee were told to meet with staff to review the current draft of their bill at all. But that did little to dissuade Paul, openly critical to the House Republican leadership’s preferred path on the process, from making his underlying point.

“This should be an open and transparent process,” Paul said. “This is being presented as if it were a national secret, as if this was a plot to invade another country, as if this were national security. That’s wrong.”

    Paul ventured to the House Thursday afternoon after reports surfaced that House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee were being granted an opportunity to review the current draft of the Obamacare repeal legislation and ask questions behind closed doors.

    Opposed to the House legislation’s principles, Paul said he wanted to see the bill himself even though he didn’t serve on the committee.

    “I’m not allowed to read the working product so I can comment on it?” he said.

    Outside the small House office, the chaotic scene continued with a handful of Democrats demanding they, too, see the legislation, which aides continued to say was not even in the room. Two Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, asked aides if the bill was ready, only to be rebuffed.

    “I want to see the bill. I want to read the bill,” New York Democrat Paul Tonko said, noting that as far as he knew, Republicans were still planning to move forward with a markup on the legislation next week.

    At one point, the GOP staff allowed Hoyer, Rep. Joe Kennedy and a dozen or so reporters into the room to inspect it themselves. It was, in fact, bill-less.

    Hoyer proceeded to hold an impromptu news conference near a bust of President Abraham Lincoln a few feet away from the misidentified room. He then held an imaginary conversation with the 16th president about what Hoyer said was the poor state of the Republican Party.

    Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, downplayed perceptions of secrecy in a statement Thursday.

    “Reports that the Energy and Commerce Committee is doing anything other than the regular process of keeping its members up to speed on latest developments in its jurisdictions are false. Simply put, Energy and Commerce majority members and staff are continuing to discuss and refine draft legislative language on issues under our committee’s jurisdiction.”

    Leadership has taken a new level of caution with Obamacare repeal and replace reconciliation drafts after a leaked version of the bill in progress was circulated to news outlets last week.

    House aides told CNN that the review process was simply part of regular procedure of giving their members an opportunity to review the current draft and ask committee staff questions. The committee — along with a second panel responsible for the repeal legislation — is tentatively shooting to consider their respective pieces of legislation as soon as next week.

    The leaked draft — which aides say was outdated — drew condemnations from conservatives who pledged to oppose any final bill and set off a new round of internal divisions that threatened to endanger the repeal process before it even gets off the ground.

    CONTINUE READING AND TO VIDEO…

    Latest Post

    Kentucky Regulators, Industry Reps Privately Rewrote Coal Ash Rules


    By Erica Peterson

    https://i2.wp.com/wfpl.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Mill_Creek2.jpg

    Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has finalized a controversial plan to let the state’s utilities virtually self-regulate the storing of hazardous coal ash near power plants.

    As details about the plan emerged over the past few weeks, Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely defended the rules and the process, saying it included “full public participation.”

    But documents obtained by WFPL News show the process was far from public and instead included more than a year of backroom meetings — under both former Gov. Steve Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin — with representatives of the utility industry. During that time, documents show the regulations were significantly revised and weakened.

    When regulators began meeting with representatives of the utility industry in September 2015, the regulations they had drafted (left) were extensive. By the time they submitted the drafts to the Legislative Research Commission in October 2016 (right), the regulations were weakened.

    Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, who has spent more than 44 years working in the state, and oftentimes on workgroups with members of industry and regulators to craft regulations, said to his knowledge, such one-sided input from industry is unprecedented in recent years.

    “I think it’s unconscionable, and I think it does not reflect well on how little value [the regulators] place on public involvement in the development of regulations that are intended to protect the public,” FitzGerald said.

    Representatives from the Energy and Environment Cabinet declined an interview request. In response to emailed questions, spokesman John Mura defended the cabinet’s regulatory process.

    “As a part of the pre-KRS 13A deliberative process of regulation development, it is common for the state to informally discuss regulatory matters with the regulated sector that are directly impacted by those regulations,” Mura wrote.

    He also pointed to a public comment period and a public hearing held in November 2016. After public comments were received, the agency made minor changes to the rule.

    Dangers of Coal Ash

    Coal ash — also called “coal combustion residuals,” or CCR — is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity. It’s often stored in dry landfills or wet ponds, or recycled into products like concrete or wall boards.

    But it also contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic. And environmental advocates say that’s why it’s so important there’s adequate state and federal oversight over coal ash disposal.

    “Coal ash is a toxic substance that if handled incorrectly can take human lives, can make people sick, can ruin the environment, lakes, rivers, streams, permanently,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.

    In the past decade, there have been two high-profile instances — in Kingston, Tennesee and Eden, North Carolina — where large-scale coal ash spills have contaminated miles of rivers and land. But there have also been numerous other cases where there have been smaller amounts of pollution, where coal ash has caused air problems or has leached chemicals into groundwater.

    Kentucky Division of Waste Management geologist Todd Hendricks mentioned a few of those instances in public comments he made about the cabinet’s proposed coal ash rule:

    “Analysis of groundwater and leachate from CCR units in Kentucky has shown elevated levels of heavy metals, sulfate, boron, and other contaminants. One facility is conducting groundwater corrective action for contamination of karst springs with arsenic leaching from an inactive surface impoundment. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated groundwater per day are captured and pumped to the active surface impoundment for dilution and discharge through a permitted outfall. At another facility, state laboratory analysis of one recent sample of fluid (presumably leachate) flowing from the toe of a closed CCR landfill showed 9.81 mg/L of arsenic, which is 981 times the maximum contaminant level (MCL).”

    Coal ash wasn’t regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency until 2015. But with the publication of the first-ever federal coal ash rules in the Federal Register, the EPA set out new standards designed to be incorporated into states’ existing regulatory framework.

    And that’s when the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet began working on the state’s version of the regulations.

    Emails Show Industry-State Meetings

    By its own admission, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management spent more than 1,600 hours working on the regulation in 2015, under former governor Steve Beshear.

    On Sept. 3, 2015, regulators sat down with representatives from Kentucky’s utility industry. They screened a PowerPoint presentation on the current draft version of the rules. And on the 12th slide, regulators told the utility representatives that their facilities would no longer be able to qualify for a program called a “permit-by-rule” for coal ash sites. Instead, they would have to stop accepting coal ash into their landfills and ponds by Oct. 19, 2015, or get a permit for disposal.

    That wasn’t the last meeting between regulators and industry representatives to discuss the coal ash rules. Emails obtained through an open records request show they met in person at least three more times — in October 2015, and April and June 2016.

    State regulators shared drafts of the regulations with Tom Shaw, the environmental director of Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and Jack Bender, the attorney representing the Utility Information Exchange of Kentucky, an industry group. And both men sent regulators UIEK’s comments on the proposals multiple times, months before the agency took comments from the public.

    Bender declined a request for additional comment, and Shaw didn’t respond to a voicemail message.

    When regulators went into that meeting on Sept. 3, 2015, the draft CCR rules were extensive. They covered groundwater monitoring, inspections, technical specifications for recycling coal ash and plans for closing facilities.

    But by the time the draft regulations were released to the public in October 2016, they didn’t contain any of those specifics. And the regulations proposed regulating the electric utilities with a “permit-by-rule” — the very mechanism that the state declared it would not use during that September meeting.

    Oversight Steps for Coal Ash Removed

    In the proposal released to the public in October, electric utilities wouldn’t have to apply with the state for a permit to build a landfill or pond for coal ash. Instead, the state determined the utilities would have a “permit-by-rule” and could begin constructing coal ash units without prior permitting or review by state regulators.

    Right now, utilities building coal ash units need a permit from the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. The process sometimes takes years and involves professional engineers, geologists and environmental technicians. Often permits are also needed from the Kentucky Division of Water.

    Under the new proposal, those wouldn’t be necessary.

    The state’s approach has been modified somewhat in the final version to a “registered permit-by-rule.” This means utilities will have to register before they begin construction of landfills or ponds, but there will still not be a rigorous permitting process.

    “It’s the Wild West, basically,” FitzGerald said. “You get to characterize [the project] on your own, if you do at all, you get to manage it at the location you decide, you get to control the design, the construction, the operation, the closure, the post-closure. And the only time the state is going to become involved is after you screw up. If they find out about it.”

    FitzGerald said skipping a rigorous permit review process — where the utility and regulators work together to design the project — could pose myriad problems.

    If groundwater monitors aren’t put in the correct locations, they might not detect water pollution. Sensitive ecological or historical sites — like Wentworth Cave on Louisville Gas and Electric’s Trimble County property — could be buried under coal ash forever.

    Or, in the most extreme cases, an engineering error could lead to structural flaws in a project and result in a catastrophic coal ash spill.

    Cabinet spokesman Mura wrote in an email that the state’s end product is an attempt to comply with the federal rules.

    “It was the Obama EPA, after a lengthy regulation development process, that promulgated an industry self-implementing program with no permitting program and with the public/state involvement process done via posting of information on industry website(s),” Mura said.

    The EPA’s rules were self-implementing but intended to be incorporated into a state’s existing framework. More recently, Congress approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which directs states to work the new federal standards into existing permitting programs.

    Legal Challenges Possible

    It’s not illegal for regulators to consult with industry representatives before a draft regulation is released for public comment.

    Instead, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet routinely seeks input from so-called stakeholders early in the process. But usually that input includes people on different sides of the issue — not just industry representatives but also people from environmental groups, landowners and others with a stake in how the regulations play out,

    FitzGerald said that kind of approach — where all sides are engaged early on in the process — ensures that when the regulations are released for public comment, multiple perspectives have been taken into account.

    “It is far preferable and I think much more productive and you get a much more responsible work product when you have input from all of the stakeholders,” he said. “And yet in this case, the input came solely from the regulated industry. And the result was a serial weakening of a responsible approach into one that I think is the most irresponsible approach I have seen in my 44 years of working on these issues on behalf of the public.”

    Before the rule is finalized, it will need approval from two legislative committees. FitzGerald said if it wins approval, he might consider seeking judicial review.

    CONTINUE READING AND TO AUDIO!

    Latest Post, Marijuana-Cannabis-Hemp

    Sen. Morgan McGarvey Hosting Public Mtg RE: Medical Marijuana (KY) on February 18th in Louisville, Kentucky


    _JE_b292

     

     

    Senator Morgan McGarvey Hosting 2/18 Public Meeting

    Legalize Kentucky Supporters:

    Sen. McGarvey filed a bill to allow medical marijuana in last year’s Legislative session and is expected to do so again this year. We need to get a huge crowd to attend this Saturday to thank him for his past support, and show him there are still many supporters of this important issue!

    Here is the information: 

    Senator Morgan McGarvey

    Public Meeting

    10 AM

    Saturday, February 18

    Douglass Community Center

    2305 Douglass Blvd