Department of Justice
New Orleans-based power giant Entergy is in hot water following revelations that its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant has leaked radioactive contamination to the environment — and its trouble isn’t limited to Vermont. The Mississippi State Attorney General is also taking aim at the company, questioning Entergy’s recent transfer of more than $1 billion from its […]
Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design. Federal regulators have expressed serious safety concerns about the design for 14 of the nation’s 25 proposed new nuclear reactors, raising questions about the future of what the industry calls its “renaissance.” The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced last month that Westinghouse failed to demonstrate that the building designed to shield its […]
Today the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, overturned a federal judge's 2007 ruling to require greater environmental review of permits for mountaintop removal in West Virginia.
The decision, while devastating for Appalachia's mountain communities and waterways, should be no shocker; this was the fourth time in eight years that the 4th Circuit Court has thrown out federal court rulings that sought to tighten mountaintop removal standards in West Virginia.
The 2-1 majority opinion was written by Clinton-appointee Roger L. Gregory, the first African American justice to be named to the 4th Circuit Court. Gregory wrote:
In making this determination, we must first appreciate the statutory tightrope that the Corps walks in its permitting decisions. In passing the CWA, Congress aimed "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." 33 U.S.C. Â§ 1251(a) (2000). But, in passing SMCRA, Congress sought to "strike a balance between protection of the environment and agricultural productivity and the Nation's need for coal as an essential source of energy." 30 U.S.C. Â§ 1202(f)(2000).
As the dissenting voice, Judge M. Blane Michael from West Virginia concluded:
Today's decision will have far-reaching consequences for the environment of Appalachia. It is not disputed that the impact of filling valleys and headwater streams is irreversible or that headwater streams provide crucial ecosystem functions. Further, the cumulative effects of the permitted fill activities on local streams and watersheds are considerable. By failing to require the Corps to undertake a meaningful assessment of the functions of the aquatic resources being destroyed and by allowing the Corps to proceed instead with a one-to-one mitigation that takes no account of lost stream function, this court risks significant harm to the affected watersheds and water resources.
Back in November, the EPA Environmental Appeals Board voted to stop new coal plants cold. But as the NYT reported Friday, “Officials weighing federal applications by utilities to build new coal-fired power plants cannot consider their greenhouse gas output, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency ruled late Thursday.” (Note to self: Keep repeating, “January […]
Way back in March 2006, BP pipelines ruptured and dumped tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil all over the Alaskan tundra. It was the biggest oil spill since the Exxon-Valdez. There was a criminal investigation. And then … there wasn’t. What happened? Seattle’s King 5 has broken the story: Scott West, a top […]
Way back in March, Brazilian beef-packing behemoth JBS finished an extraordinary lunge into the U.S. market, having snapped up Swift, National Beef Packing, and the beef assets of Smithfield — the nation’s third-, fourth- and fifth-biggest beef packers. If the deals were approved by U.S. antitrust authorities — and nothing in recent history suggested they […]
When Monsanto buys into a market, they buy in big. In 2005, Monsanto's seed/genetic trait holdings were primarily in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. That year, they purchased Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed company (see And We Have the Seed) specializing in seed for vegetable field crops. Now their takeover of the vegetable seed sector continues, as they have announced the intent to purchase the Dutch breeding and seed company, De Ruiter Seeds.
Are federal authorities finally taking the idea that a few companies shouldn't be allowed to dominate the food system seriously?
Well, the Federal Trade Commission recently blocked Whole Foods from gobbling up rival natural foods marketer Wild Oats. Congratulations to the FTC for busting up the natural-foods trust!
But even combined, Whole Foods and Wild Oats would account for only 15 percent of natural-foods sales. Meanwhile, Smithfield Foods alone now controls 30 percent of the pork market after acquiring Premium Standard Farms a month ago -- a deal that the Department of Justice waved on. In fact, our food production system is full of examples of market concentration that make the Whole Foods/Wild Oats tie-up look like small (organic, heirloom) potatoes.
Given such brazen inconsistencies, Congress needs to step in and give the executive branch some direction when applying antitrust theory to food companies. Adding a Competition Title to the Farm Bill would do just that.
File this under Predictable but Depressing: Environmental enforcement efforts by U.S. EPA and the Justice Department have plummeted over the last five years, resulting in a 38 percent decline in criminal fines and a 25 percent drop in civil penalties, according to a new report [PDF] from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project. (You need a […]