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Chesa-piqued

Saying that chemical contamination in the city's water supply led to miscarriages and infant deaths, 25 women have sued Chesapeake, Va., and almost 170 more plan to do so. According to a growing number of studies, the chlorine commonly used to purify drinking water can cause birth defects and miscarriages when it mixes with organic matter, such as fertilizer in surface water. In what has become a test case for the nation, the Chesapeake women are arguing that the city did not adequately warn them when toxins in their tap water reached harmful proportions -- sometimes almost 10 times higher …

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Rhode Island Lead

A Superior Court judge in Rhode Island paved the way for a landmark lawsuit earlier this week when he gave state Attorney Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) permission to sue manufacturers of lead-based paint. The paint industry had attempted to derail the trial by calling for every one of an estimated 300,000 owners of lead-painted homes to be codefendants. In a triumph that was hailed by anti-lead activists around the country, the judge disagreed, and Whitehouse is expected to go to court within six months. Paint companies maintain that they will win the case by showing that childhood lead poisoning is …

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Taking on the erosive cycle of contemporary politics

Every day I try to protect my children from problems I didn't create and cannot solve alone. I spread cream on their skin to shield them from the ultraviolet radiation that sneaks through our thinning ozone layer. I try to feed them food free of pesticides and hormones, but I know their bodies are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals every day, despite my efforts. I give money and time to environmental initiatives and help care for a few hundred acres of land. Tread lightly on the bike path of life. I do what I can, but really keeping …

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Cano Worms

The Bush administration has asked for $98 million to help protect Colombia's Cano Limon oil pipeline from attacks by leftist guerrillas. The pipeline, which is owned by Occidental Petroleum, supplies crude oil to the U.S. and has the capacity to pump 240,000 barrels a day. But constant attacks -- 13 so far this year -- have reduced its flow to a trickle. More than 2.5 million barrels of Cano Limon crude (roughly 10 times the amount spilled by the ExxonValdez) have leaked into Colombia's rivers and onto rangelands in the last 15 years, sickening people and poisoning water sources and …

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H-2-Oh-boy!

Utility companies can be sued for violating safe drinking water standards, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided on Monday. The decision is significant because it allows thousands of victims of polluted water to seek financial compensation from the private and public utilities that pipe tap water into homes; in the past, victims mostly targeted the industries responsible for contaminating the water. In the case heard by the court, some 2,500 people living near a Superfund site in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley argued that they became sick -- in some cases with cancer -- after drinking water containing toxic chemicals. …

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Norton Hears a Hoot

The Bush administration will ask Congress for $100 million to fund a program to encourage joint conservation efforts between private and public landowners. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who is announcing the program today in Pennsylvania, called the "Cooperative Conservation Initiative" an effort to "empower a new generation of citizen-conservationists." Under the initiative, the government will dole out money for conservation projects when there are matching in-kind or financial contributions; the exact details of the budget will be revealed next week. Some environmentalists are skeptical: The executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, said the program sounded like it was …

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Shark Skin Suit

Last summer, they were are our worst enemy; now they need a best friend. We're talking about sharks, of course. The much-maligned beach marauders are now the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this week against the U.S. government by environmental organizations. The National Audubon Society, Earthjustice, and the Ocean Conservancy claim the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to prevent overfishing and rebuild coastal shark populations. The lawsuit also accuses the NMFS of caving to commercial pressure by suspending limits on catching sharks. The animals are becoming increasingly popular menu items, with the result that their numbers are falling …

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Basin and Strange

The Bush administration gave the first indication yesterday of how it would work to resolve the water wars in the Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California border -- and enviros immediately warned that the administration was kowtowing to farmers while giving short shrift to endangered fish. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has proposed that area farmers receive nearly a full supply of irrigation water over the next decade, with the option of selling some water back to the government to help fish. The plan must still be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service …

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Mess Transit

As perhaps the most famous national park in the United States, the Grand Canyon occupies an equally vast space in our national psyche as in our national landscape. Unfortunately, it is also our national bottleneck. Each year, 5 million people flock to the park, leaving 6,000 cars to battle for 2,400 parking spaces every day during the summer. Park officials have recognized the problem for decades, and for a while, a proposed solution -- a Grand Canyon light rail system -- was steaming ahead. But that was before the White House changed hands and a coterie of Republicans froze the …

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