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All activities related to making WAPA responsive to Virgin Islanders

The EPA is, finally, taking Protection of Coral Seriously

This past week the EPA was here, on island, in-force to collect issues and concerns from residents/citizens on how bad the Coral is? and what, we thought, was causing it?

 

Oddly enough, most people who stood up and spoke thought the Coral was, primarily, being damaged by run-off from the land.  This just goes to show how effectively our Waste Management Authority has hidden the extent of their criminal dumping of many hundreds of millions or perhaps, billions of gallons of raw, untreated sewage into our coastal water over the past 40 years. The EPA has had VIWMA in Federal Court over continuing dumping of raw, untreated sewage into our Coastal Waters since 1984; that’s 29 years.  This dumping of raw sewage is a felony under the Clean Water Act.  Guess what?  No one in Waster Management has been cited for contempt; no one has gone to jail and no one has been fired.  The EPA has allowed Waste Management to pollute, and continue to pollute without consequences for nearly 30 years.  This is disgusting and must stop.

 

Raw Sewage is the primary cause of Coral disease; the Coral (and Turtle Grass) can’t move out of the way like fish and turtles.  This raw sewage is full of nitrates which are one of the most deadly chemicals in the marine eco-system.  According the EPA’s own website, Nitrates are being tested in St Croix, but not in St Thomas or St John.  Why not?  The sewage is also full of bacteria and more-and-more people are getting staph infections from going swimming; these include anti-biotic resistant strains called MRSA and Flesh-Eating Bacteria.

 

If you have, or have had, one of these infections, send us an email (dave@greenervi.org).  We will keep your name confidential, but want to report to the EPA on the scope of the problem in the US Virgin Islands.  This is important; tell your friends.

 

The EPA put recycling and composting on its agenda three years ago.  In that time, the EPA has had many successes in Puerto Rico, but none here in the Virgin Islands.  Why?  Incompetent leadership in VIWMA!  Ms. Cornwall had been the Director of Waste Management for 26 years; remember Waste Management has been continuously in-court for the past 29 years for dumping raw sewage.  Ms. Cornwall should be fired without pension and should be wearing an Orange Jumpsuit.  What’s it going to take? A medical emergency?

 

Speaking of a medical emergency?  Does Waste Management test the water quality before and after dumping raw sewage?  If not, why not?  Perhaps, its DPNR.  Where can we, the people, go to get the results of that water quality testing?  Why are the testing results not available on a website?  Can it be that DPNR and Waste Management and WAPA do not want us to know the water quality testing results?  EPA, what about you?  Do your job and get our coastal water quality and air tested, and, insist on transparently releasing the results where people can get to them.

 

Ok.  The EPA has, finally, seen the light and, now, wants to do everything possible to save the remaining coral that we have.  They have sent people down here to find out how really bad it is.  They are seeing, first-hand, how corrupt CZM, DPNR, VIWMA, and WAPA are.  They are also getting an idea how ineffectual their own EPA people are here in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  This also applies to the NOAA people as well.  These people have allowed the dumping of raw sewage to continue for three decades; what was the penalty?  Fines, just fines, but no change in behavior.  All the while, the EPA could have asked the Federal Judge to hold Waste Management in contempt or they could have put Waste Management Leaders in jail.  Why didn’t they do something after 5 years, or 10, or even 20?  What is wrong with our government? It is supposed to protect us, not make us sick.

 

This have gotten so bad that the EPA is going to lead a Federal Inter-Agency Task Force to clean-up our waters and address the many pollution issues we have.  This is wonderful news; the Federal Bureaucracy has noticed us and has decided we need a clean-up.  Fine.  I call for the Privatization of VIWMA and WAPA.  Both of these organizations refuse to tell us, the people, what their salaries are, their pensions and other benefits.  Both of them pollute our air, water and coral.  Both of them are unaccountable.  They must both be put into receivership or made private or both.  A Chief Financial Officer (CFO) needs to be appointed to review/cancel their contracts and other arrangements.

 

For those who are concerned about our Coral Reefs, the EPA is distributing a new document, published in April 2012, called, “Field Manual for Coral Reef Assessments”.   It is in PDF format and here is the link on our website.  Alternatively, here is a link to the EPA website.

 

Dave Maxwell, GreenerVI

The Significance of NOAA’s Recent Proposal to Protect 66 Coral Species

December 20, 2012

by Megan Herzog

 

NOAA Coral 1

credit: NOAA Photo Library

 

Citing threats associated with climate change, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) proposed on December 7, 2012 to list 66 coral species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), and to reclassify two already-listed Caribbean coral species from “threatened” to “endangered.”  According to NOAA Fisheries, this was “the most complex listing process NOAA has ever undertaken.”  NOAA’s coral listing proposal is monumental for several reasons, including the scope of the scientific review, the unprecedented application of the ESA to marine invertebrates, and the federal government’s continued recognition of the adverse impacts of climate change on marine species.  If finalized, the coral listings could provide significant tools for marine conservation and climate adaptation.

 

This post begins with quick facts about corals, followed by a review of the process that led to the proposed coral listings; a brief summary of the proposal; the reasons why these proposed listings are particularly monumental; and a discussion of what the listings might mean for corals, marine conservation, and climate change adaptation.

 

Quick Facts About Corals

 

 

The Long Path to the Proposed Coral Listings

 

 

NOAA’s proposed listing is the result of the efforts of the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit environmental organization particularly active in seeking ESA protections for climate-imperiled species [full disclosure: I worked at the Center as a law student several years ago].  The Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with NOAA Fisheries over three years ago to list 83 coral species under the ESA.  Here’s an excerpt from the 2009 petition (p. 2):

“The world’s corals and coral reef ecosystems are in crisis. Nearly 20% of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost, and approximately one-third of all zooxanthellate reefbuilding coral species is at risk of extinction . . . .  According to coral scientists, “reefs are likely to be the first major planetary-scale ecosystem to collapse in the face of climate changes now in progress”. [Citations omitted.]“

Notably, all coral species named in the Center’s petition are already designated as threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (“IUCN”) and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (“CITES”), a voluntary international agreement signed by almost all countries—including the United States—to prevent the cross-border trade of endangered and threatened species.

In February 2010, NOAA made a so-called “90-day finding,” agreeing to review the status of 82 of the 83 candidate coral species included in the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition.  NOAA established a Biological Review Team (i.e., a group of federal government scientists with expertise in corals) to compile the best available scientific and commercial data in order to evaluate the extinction risk each candidate species faces.  Progress stalled, however.  The Center for Biological Diversity filed three notices of intent to sue the agency.  Finally, in 2011, as part of a stipulated settlement agreement approved by the federal District Court for the Northern District of California, NOAA agreed to submit a proposal regarding the 82 coral species by the end of 2012.

In April 2012, the Biological Review Team finally released a Status Review Report, which concluded that most of the evaluated species were “more likely than not” to go extinct by 2100 as a result of climate change impacts, barring any dramatic shifts in policy or technology.  On November 30th, in compliance with the court-ordered deadline, and based on the Status Review Report, NOAA announced its proposed decision to list 66 coral species and to reclassify elkhorn and staghorn corals from “threatened” to “endangered.”  (NOAA found that listing was not warranted for the other 16 coral species.)  The full proposal was published on December 7th at 50 C.F.R. pts. 223 & 224.

 

The Listing Proposal

 

Of the 66 coral species proposed for ESA protections, 59 are located in the Pacific Ocean (off the coasts of Hawaii, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and U.S. Pacific Island Remote Area) and 7 are located in the Atlantic/Caribbean Ocean (off the coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico, Navassa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  The species can also be found in 83 other countries.  Twelve species would be listed as endangered, and 54 would be listed as threatened.  The full list of corals proposed for ESA listing can be found on the NOAA Fisheries website.  In its proposal, NOAA identified 19 threats to corals, including ocean acidification and coral bleaching.

NOAA Coral 2

Example of coral bleaching (Credit: NOAA Photo Library)

 

Ocean acidification is a phenomenon resulting from the ocean’s absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).  Each year, the ocean absorbs an estimated one-quarter of the CO2 we emit into the atmosphere from activities like driving a car.  This absorption leads to shifts in the ocean’s chemical balance that cause the ocean to grow less alkaline (from pH 8.2 to 8.1).  Yes, this can also be phrased as “more acidic” but it will be a long time before seawater can be classified as an acid with a pH below 7.  Strikingly, the acidity of the ocean has increased by approximately 30 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and the ocean is predicted to be 150 percent more acidic by 2100.  A more acidic ocean, with a higher concentration of free hydrogen ions (H+), means a shift from solid calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in favor of dissolved bicarbonate (HCO3).  Calcium carbonate is an essential building block for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms at the base of the food chain (e.g., oysters, clams, corals, and some plankton).  The decreased carbonate (CO32-) availability stresses calcifying organisms, making them more vulnerable to other stressors and endangering the entire marine food web.

 

Coral bleaching increases the frequency and severity of coral disease outbreaks.  As the temperature of the ocean rises, corals become stressed and expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues.  The algae expulsion causes the coral to turn white and appear “bleached.”  Bleached corals are not dead, but they are severely weakened and more susceptible to death.  You may recall the major coral bleaching event that occurred in 2005, when the United States lost half of its Caribbean coral reef population.  On a large scale, bleaching can result in fishery and ecosystem collapses.

 

Three Reasons Why NOAA’s Recent Coral Listing Proposal is Monumental

 

1) Invertebrate species like corals historically have received little attention under the ESA.  Prior to the Center for Biological Diversity’s petition, the possibility of listing numerous corals under the ESA was barely on NOAA’s radar.  Of the 82 candidate coral species, only one species (Montipora dilatata) was even previously identified by NOAA Fisheries as a Species of Concern (“Species of Concern” is an ESA designation given to species about which federal agencies have some concerns, but more data is needed about the species’ status and threats to support a listing).

Invertebrates generally, and marine invertebrates in particular, receive comparatively little conservation attention.  Indeed, out of the more than 1.2 million invertebrate species that exist on the planet (insects, spiders, shellfish, crabs, octopus, snails, etc.), only 226 species are listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA (or <0.02 percent).  In comparison, 393 of the 50,000 or so known vertebrate species are listed (about 2 percent).  Put another way, vertebrates receive more than one hundred times the protection invertebrates receive.  Although vertebrates comprise only about 3 percent of the earth’s species, they represent a whopping 64 percent of ESA listings.

It is not terribly surprising that vertebrates are listed in disproportionately larger numbers than invertebrates like corals.   Furry, big-eyed, “megafauna” (think Pandas) tend to capture the public’s imagination more than gooey, prickly, spineless things (do you even know what an arthropod is?  Hint: they make up three-quarters of all animals on the planet.).  Although the ESA “Definitions” section explicitly states that the Act applies to any “mollusk, crustacean, arthropod or other invertebrate,” it is clear from the structure of the Act that the Act is an easier fit for terrestrial vertebrates like bald eagles and grizzly bears than corals.

The proposed coral listings represent a dramatic and unprecedented increase in attention to invertebrate conservation.  In fact, if NOAA ultimately decides to list all 66 coral species, the total number of ESA-listed invertebrates will increase by a third.  And because only 4 marine invertebrate species are currently protected under the ESA (elkhorn and staghorn corals plus 2 abalone species), the total number of ESA-listed marine invertebrates will increase almost 2000 percent.  In other words, NOAA’s proposal is big news for marine invertebrate conservation.

 

2) The corals are the latest example in a growing trend of climate-imperiled species listings.  NOAA’s proposal is also big news for climate-imperiled species conservation.  Few species currently are protected under the ESA because of climate change impacts.  Two of those species are elkhorn and staghorn corals—further noteworthy because they are the only two coral species currently listed under the ESA.  Elkhorn and staghorn corals were the first species to gain ESA protections based on global warming impacts.  Another climate-imperiled listed species is the polar bear, which was listed as threatened in 2008 due to its shrinking sea-ice habitat.  Notably, the polar bear, elkhorn, and staghorn listings are also examples of successful Center for Biological Diversity petitions (see here, here and here) and ensuing legal battles.  In the cases of several other listed species, such as some Florida butterfly species, the atlantic sturgeon, and the loggerhead sea turtle, federal agencies named climate change and/or sea-level rise as a factor contributing to the listing.  There are likely additional examples.  Overall the number of species listed explicitly because of climate change is still a small, but growing.

The listing trend suggests that greater numbers of climate-imperiled species may become candidates for ESA protections in the coming years.  Providing species with domestic legal protections based on the global problem of climate change is a significant policy trend for the United States, especially when contrasted with the federal government’s failure to enact greenhouse gas emission mitigation laws in response to the same global challenges.  It should be further noted that, to date, comparatively few terrestrial climate-imperiled species have yet received ESA attention (polar bears are classified as marine mammals); but this may change as terrestrial climate change impacts grow more dramatic and are increasingly documented.

 

3) The scope and complexity of the scientific review was exceptional.  NOAA’s status review of 82 coral species is by far the largest, most complex review NOAA has ever undertaken.  The second largest species review took place in the 1990s, when NOAA’s Biological Review Teams reviewed the status of all West Coast anadromous salmon species—representing 30 total species.  The salmon review resulted in NOAA listing 24 additional salmon and steelhead trout populations under the ESA, but even that massive effort pales in comparison to NOAA’s current proposal to list almost three times as many coral species.

NOAA’s coral species review is unprecedented not only because of its scope but also because of the distinct challenges involved in assessing the abundance of a species (i.e., the total number of species in a given area) when the species is both clonal and colonial.   Coral are clonal, meaning they can reproduce asexually by splitting into fragments, each of which develops into a clone of the original coral.  Coral are also colonial, meaning they build colonies through reproduction.  A coral colony can survive even if a portion of the colony dies.  Deciding how to measure coral abundance thus presented the Review Team with some challenging questions.  For the purposes of determining abundance, are genetically identical corals “distinct” individuals?  Or is an entire coral colony better understood as an individual? Identification was complicated by the fact that, even if a coral species can be identified on the ground, it is often difficult to distinguish between separate coral colonies.

Partially as a result of these complications, and further compounded by the fact that corals have complex life-cycles that are difficult to monitor in marine environments, abundance baseline and trend data essentially was non-existent for most of the corals NOAA examined (see Status Review Report at p. xxxiii).  As NOAA noted in its proposed rule (pp. 17-18), abundance estimates only existed for a few of the 82 candidate coral species, and much of the abundance data NOAA could obtain evaluated coral cover only at the genus (versus species) level.  NOAA therefore had to evaluate corals’ extinction risk against a backdrop of high scientific uncertainty. (For an account of how NOAA managed to calculate coral abundance given various scientific and practical limitations, see Status Review Report at chs. 2.1, 6-7).

The resulting proposal is thus a significant example of agency decision-making against the backdrop of a high level of scientific uncertainty.  Notably, this is exactly the type of decision-making that will be increasingly required in a climate-impacted world.   Given that climate change impacts are only predicted to increase, combined with the fact that climate change impacts are sweeping and broadly impact all species and ecosystems, it is likely that federal agencies will continue to face similar review challenges.  NOAA’s coral review likely is only the first of many large-scale ESA reviews that federal agencies will be required to undertake in a climate-impacted world.  Like the coral review, future climate-impacted species reviews may also concern species for which we have little baseline abundance data, which have received comparatively little scientific attention in the past, and which may not be easy fits for ESA procedures as currently applied and interpreted.

 

What ESA Protections for Coral Could Mean

 

NOAA Coral 3

Credit: NOAA Photo Library

 

Before discussing the proposal’s broader potential impacts, it is helpful to review the next steps in the listing process.  Before making a final listing determination, NOAA will seek comments on its proposal from the public (e.g., scientists, industry, and any other concerned parties) and other government agencies.  (You can submit written comments online via www.regulations.gov, entering the code: NOAA-NMFS-2010-0036).  NOAA plans to finalize the listings by December 2013.   Once a species is listed, the ESA allows NOAA to designate certain geographical areas that are essential to the species’ conservation as critical habitat, and identify regulations necessary for the species’ conservation.

NOAA also may develop a recovery plan to put the listed species on the path to recovery.  NOAA additionally is required to consult with other agencies whose actions may jeopardize the species’ existence; before another federal agency can take any action that may adversely affect a listed species, such as issuing a permit or authorizing funding, ESA § 7 requires the agency to obtain a biological opinion that such action is “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any threatened or endangered species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat.”  Additionally, NOAA may issue permits for activities that might incidentally cause a take of an endangered species (under the ESA § 9, taking means “”to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”)  Commercial activity involving an endangered species is forbidden, and NOAA may extend these protections to threatened species, as well.

 

If the 66 coral species are listed, what could we expect?

 

1) Critical habitat designations for the corals could be very large.   If the critical habitat designated for the other three climate-imperiled marine species already listed under the ESA is any indication, critical habitat designations for 66 coral species could amount to thousands or even tens of thousands of square miles of ocean.  The polar bear listing coincided with the largest critical habitat designation in history: 187,000 square miles of Alaska are protected.  Elkhorn and staghorn corals benefit from a smaller, but still significant critical habitat designation of 3000 square miles of marine habitat.

NOAA has been swift to offer assurances that listing coral species under the ESA likely will not prohibit fishing, diving, or other marine activities.  NOAA also reminded the public in a recent press release that any critical habitat designations would take into account potential impacts on the fishing and shipping industries, in keeping with President Obama’s directive against burdensome regulations:

“Earlier this year, the President directed that any potential future designations of critical habitat carefully consider all public comments on relevant science and economic impact, including those that suggest methods for minimizing regulatory burdens. Therefore, any potential future critical habitat designation in connection with today’s proposed listing will include a full analysis of economic impact, including impact on jobs, and to the extent permitted by law, adopt the least burdensome means . . . . NOAA will work with stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts of possible future action on the economy and jobs and, in particular, on construction, fishing, farming, shipping, and other important sectors [emphasis added].”

Still, in combination with the ESA’s section 7 “jeopardy” clause, any coral critical habitat designations could be quite powerful. Which brings us to the next point….

 

2) The ESA’s “jeopardy” clause could have broad implications for water pollution, coastal construction, and more. As discussed above, ESA § 4 critical habitat designations represent one of the meatier ESA protections when combined with the section 7 “jeopardy” provision.  Under ESA § 7, federal agencies must consult with NOAA Fisheries prior to taking any action that may “result in the destruction or adverse modification of” critical habitat, and NOAA Fisheries may suggest reasonable alternatives to mitigate the action’s impacts.  As Ryan Kelly of the Center for Ocean Solutions argued in his paper Spineless Wonders (19 Penn State Envtl. L.R. 1 (2011)):

“[I]f marine species’ critical habitat includes the water itself, as it logically must, section 7 consultation promises both to become more analytically complex (given the upstream-downstream dynamic) and further reaching, impacting a larger number of federal actions along the coast. Some of the many routine federal agency actions could constitute an adverse modification include approving and issuing water quality standards under the [Clean Water Act (CWA)] (and perhaps NPDES permits), drilling/ mineral extraction, dredging/filling under section 404 of the CWA, and the management of commercial fishing under the Magnusson-Stevens Act [citations omitted].”

In a recent press statement, Miyoko Sakashita of the Center for Biological Diversity noted that the federal government ultimately could use the corals listings to protect corals from overfishing.  According to Sakashita, “Other local threats that need attention include water pollution, dredging, or coastal construction that impacts coral habitat.”

So far, elkhorn and staghorn corals’ critical habitat has not presented notable controversies; but, as Kelly suggests, this is most likely because federal agencies “have not yet appreciated that they are subject to the requirement.”  In the future, marine conservation advocates could harness critical coral habitat as a tool to obtain additional protections for marine and coastal environments.

 

3) NOAA’s traditional interpretation of “take” may be challengedKelly notes that the larvae of marine invertebrates present some interesting questions in the context of ESA “take” provisions: “[B]ecause each adult animal may produce billions of nearly microscopic, translucent larvae that float for hundreds or thousands of kilometers . . . . could a person be subject to civil and criminal penalties for unwittingly killing a handful of nearly invisible larvae during a day at the beach?”  Kelly recognizes this as an extreme hypothetical; but the underlying tension remains: ESA “take” prohibitions are an uneasy fit for corals.  If the 66 coral species are listed, NOAA ultimately may enact regulations specific to their protection.

As NOAA continues to list greater numbers of climate-imperiled marine animals under the ESA, it will be interesting to see how all of these challenges play out.  In the meantime, National Geographic has posted beautiful photos of some of the candidate corals.  We can be grateful that the devastating effects of ocean acidification and coral bleaching are receiving increased regulatory attention.

 

[Post updated on: December 21, 2012; thank you to University of Maine School of Law Professor Dave Owen for providing valuable contributions regarding the status of climate-imperiled species listings.]

 

Privatization of VIWMA and WAPA

From: Susan Wolterbeek [mailto:susanremy@vipowernet.net]
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2013 4:38 PM
To: ‘Enck, Judith’
Cc: ‘Mark Lichtenstein’; ‘Pabst, Douglas’
Subject: An interim solution
Importance: High

 

Dear Judith:

 

Thank you for our lengthy conversation Tuesday. Since the EPA does not want to get involved in Receivership, I have two concepts which will achieve our immediate goals of learning the true conditions of our air, land and coastal waters, and then formulating a plan to protect people and coral.

 

Until now, despite court orders and requests by the EPA, VIWMA and DPNR are still not telling citizens the truth about the dumping of raw sewage and turning over water test data, etc., as well as air quality data.  DPNR often will not post sewage warnings on impaired beaches, because, according to Jamal Nielson of DPNR, “the hotels don’t like them to post about sewage”.  The non-compliance reports filed are never complete, and sometimes are missing altogether. We only know this when the illegal dumping is caught and reported by our newspapers, and there are no non-compliance reports for those dates. We who live here do not know where it is safe to swim, fish, snorkel. We do not know what to say to our islands’ visitors.

 

EPA FUNDED DATA GATHERER/WATCH DOG/LIASION

 

        As you know, we at GreenerVI.org have been working for the past 3 years to stop our local utilities from polluting VI coastal waters. Here is the plan: The EPA funds a project, starting immediately, for GreenerVI.org to gather and publish relevant data from DPNR, VIWMA, WAPA, EPA, NOAA etc. in regard to the environment. In a letter to our Governor and the Senate, the EPA asks the local agencies to comply with GreenerVI requests for information. In this way, we can review prior Court Orders and verify that VIWMA and WAPA are in compliance, according to their own documents. We can see what is being measured in water tests, and what is not.

 

According to the EPA, http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/guidance/cwa/305b/upload/1998_05_07_305b_96report_vi.pdf,  for example, DPNR does not test for “phosphorus, nitrogen, and suspended solids” in St. Thomas or St. John, yet those tests are critical to coral, as well as people. GreenerVI.org will publish air and water quality results, and have a comprehensive, interactive website, so that members of the public, as well as agencies, will all have a voice, and get answers for once!  In this way we can be a liaison to the people, sharing information. I know that thousands of us will volunteer our time, energy, tools and money to help clean up our islands, if given the chance. Dave Maxwell had the top level clearance in Intelligence at the Pentagon before he retired. He will manage the information and the website. I am a former NYC prosecutor and attorney for the State of NH, and will review and report on all legal issues and prepare documents and reports.

 

This EPA funded project will enable the people of the VI to finally be given the information they are legally entitled to know, and this will help us all to unite in our quest to help preserve our natural resources.

 

 

  1. We need to know where it is not safe for people to go in the water, particularly for babies, the elderly and those of compromised health.
  2. We need to learn the present condition of the remaining coral and turtle grass.
  3.  We need the polluting to be stopped by VIWMA and WAPA, and by the cruise ships blowing their stacks-especially Oasis of the Seas.
  4. We need to start a plan for the mountain of Red Mud in St. Croix-there is a company which can recycle the commercial arsenic, etc., and all the other poisons, with a by- product of water resistant/waterproof bricks to be used for building materials.

 

 

Judith, if you would also ask the CDC to inquire as to water- born infections treated in the USVI for the past 3 years, then we will have a much better idea of what is going on in our territorial waters. A friend of mine was being treated for a staph infection in the ER-along with 6 others at the same time. There are many people who have been in danger of losing their limbs due to staph infections, especially MRSA and flesh eating bacteria. We need to know the truth, and the CDC will respond to the EPA, but not to us.

 

The other idea worth exploring, particularly if you are meeting with the Governor, is to see if he will CONSENT TO PRIVATIZATION OF WAPA AND VIWMA- This would enable Mark Lichtenstein and Sue Parten to go full steam ahead with all of their plans, and allow NREL and DOI to develop the best solution for our energy needs, as quickly and efficiently as possible. The key is that the selection of the contractors, engineers, etc., is not in the hands of the local government.  I earnestly believe that if the EPA makes clear to the Governor that this will enable the VI to get our utilities to stop polluting and crippling us with costs, that he will agree. With such a Consent Agreement, we can save our coral, as well as our health and economy.

 

I look forward to seeing you on Monday, Judith, and meeting with Doug on Wednesday. Cheers, Susan

WAPA Spewing Sticky Soot; Polluting our Air, Water and Corals

12-5-10 WAPA spewing sticky soot

Pledge for Prospective Senators

Dear Editor, VI DailyNews,

                        I hope that all is well with you. GreenerVI.org is now 4,966 strong, with new people signing up every day. I sent you a copy of my letter to the head of NOAA, and it would be great if you could possibly get it into the paper tomorrow, because it affects every Virgin Islander and every business and endangered species here.

 

We are going around to prospective Senators today, as they campaign, and we are asking them to sign this simple pledge:

 

 

 

 

 

We, the prospective Senators of the 30th VI Legislature pledge to uphold the law and demand immediate transparency in VIWMA and WAPA studies, reports, salaries and all documents which legally should be made available to the public and our news agencies. We pledge to make VIWMA stop dumping raw, untreated sewage into our coastal waters and make WAPA more energy efficient, lowering our costs. We pledge to work together, now, with federal agencies and GreenerVI.org, (which has 4,966 citizens), to protect the environment in which we live.

 

Dated: November 6, 2012

Signed:

 

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

___________________________

 

WAPA Polluting our Air, Water and Coral

This an example of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) polluting our Air, Water and Coral. This is a violation of the US Clean Water Act, the US Clean Air Act and the US Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, this is just one of many violations that happen relatively frequently.

Wapa1

Thick, Dark Smoke from WAPA; Polluting our Air, Water and Coral

 

 

Wapa2

More WAPA pollution of our Air, Water and Coral

 

 

 

WAPA LEAC Rates Go UP Nearly 25 Percent

WAPA director knows LEAC hikes hurt, says they’re necessary

By KAREN HOLLISH (Daily News Staff)
Published: March 24, 2011

ST. THOMAS – The V.I. Water and Power Authority knows the impending power bill spikes may hurt those who are on fixed incomes or struggling to run businesses, executive director Hugo Hodge Jr. said Wednesday.

But Hodge said increases to the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause, which the V.I. Public Services Commission approved about midnight Wednesday morning, were necessary because of sharply rising oil costs.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” Hodge said.

Starting April 1, ratepayers’ electricity bills will increase by 23.3 percent. This means the average residential customer – defined as someone who uses 500 kilowatt hours a month – will see an increase of about $39.15, Hodge said.

At the same time, ratepayers’ water bills will decrease by about 6 percent. The bill of the average residential customer, considered to be someone who uses about 2,400 gallons per month, should decrease by about $4.35, Hodge said.

The LEAC rates passed by the PSC differed just slightly from those for which WAPA petitioned, the PSC said.

The LEAC is how WAPA recoups the cost of fuel oil directly from the consumer.

Asked Wednesday if he expects the LEAC to go up again on July 1, Hodge would not say yes or no. He said most projections for the next few years show the price of Brent crude oil will go as high as $120 a gallon before it goes go back down to under $100. Hodge said this up-and-down trend is expected to continue before the super-high prices stick.

“We have got to get off complete dependency on oil prior to this thing going through the roof and staying there,” Hodge said.

Hodge said WAPA is pursuing ways to wean itself from using oil. WAPA is studying a possible utility interconnection with Puerto Rico, the potential for wind power systems and the logistics of converting the biggest generators on St. Thomas and St. Croix to run on oil and natural gas, Hodge said.

During Tuesday’s meeting, some PSC members asked WAPA if it consumes more oil than necessary.

“The issue here is efficiency,” PSC member Sirri Hamad said. “Can you tell us how efficient WAPA is?”

Hodge countered that the issue is not solely efficiency.

“The issue here is more the cost of oil,” Hodge said.

Hodge went on to say that ongoing renovations to the Randolph Harley Power Plant on St. Thomas will be finished within 9 to 12 months, after which the plant’s overall efficiency is expected to improve.

– Contact reporter Karen Hollish at 774-8772 ext. 304 or e-mail khollish@dailynews.vi.

Federal Partnership Needed in Virgin Islands

April 22, 2010

Adam Warren

Director

VI Renewable Energy Pilot Project

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

1617 Cole Blvd.
Golden, CO 80401-3305
Adam.Warren@nrel.gov

Joseph McDermott

Acting Director Liaison

Office of Insular Affairs – Policy & Liaison Division
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240

Joseph_McDermott@ios.doi.gov

Steve Meyers

Partnerships and Communications

NOAA Fisheries Service

1315 East West Highway

Silver Spring, Maryland 20910

steve.meyers@noaa.gov

Gentlemen:

I write to you as a stateside attorney and an environmental citizen’s advocate on St. Thomas.  It was a pleasure to speak with all of you in regard to the VI Renewable Energy Pilot Project, the current waste and energy challenges we face in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the need to form a partnership with citizens, environmentalists and federal and local agencies to address these challenges together.

As you can see by the attached articles in the Virgin Islands Daily News, the VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) had a series of equipment breakdowns which resulted in dumping 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage per day over Long Reef in St. Croix from January 17 to mid-March.  The main station in St. Thomas, Cancryn, “has been without a working pump for close to nine months, Cornwall said.”   The landfill in St. Croix was scheduled to close years ago, and St. Thomas is not far behind. Clearly, VIWMA needs help, with a comprehensive approach toward both solid waste and wastewater treatment. These major Territorial issues are in addition to our energy woes, which you are already familiar with.

Understandably, the VI Senate is all the more pressed to find a solution to our landfill and wastewater problems as well as our energy issues.  Alpine and our local government, unilaterally, without citizen knowledge or involvement, entered into an agreement in 2009 for a waste to energy concept which is fueled primarily by petroleum coke and oil, and refuse derived fuel (rdf). Many factors are not addressed by Alpine, such as, for example, the horrendous toll on the environment from heavy metal and CO2 emissions. If we do not lower our CO2 emissions, all the remaining coral in the world will die.

There has been a vehement outcry of collective opposition to the Alpine plan by citizens and environmentalists, from both an economic and an environmental perspective. Many town and community meetings have been held, dozens and dozens of Letters to the Editor have been published, Testimony has been given before the VI Senate, and several environmentalists have devoted themselves full-time to researching and educating the rest of us as to the facts and the issues involved. I prepared a brief analysis for the Senate.  Please see the attached letter to Senator Malone which discusses the Alpine plan and how it is counter to the goals of EDIN and our Country’s and Territory’s pledge to decrease our reliance on oil-based solutions.

A portion of the Alpine plan was voted down by the VI Senate in March, 2010, but Alpine is modifying their proposal and will be submitting it to the VI Legislature within 2-4 weeks, according to VIWMA.  According to the VI Daily News, the new Alpine plan would only burn petroleum coke in an emergency. Yet that means that rather than building a straight rtf plant, they would be building a plant for an untried technology, (burning rtf and petroleum coke), just for an emergency situation. That is not logical from an economic aspect, unless they plan to have many emergencies. The previous plan called for burning up to 4,600 hours of oil a year, with the petroleum coke and rtf.  An oil-based solution, even with rtf, is not the best solution, and would tie us to the volatile oil market for at least 20 years, right when everyone has agreed in EDIN that we will be the pilot for renewable energy.

China and India are burning petroleum coke, and having a very negative impact on the world’s atmosphere.  Our federal agencies cannot do anything about those jurisdictions, but you gentlemen can make all the difference by helping our Territory to say no to Alpine, and instead, working together,  put great minds to the task of coming up with a comprehensive waste management system, and hopefully a waste to energy system using AC Plasma Gasification.

We citizens and environmentalists have been consulting with a Professional Engineer in Waste Management who is preparing a solid waste strategy/plan now, to submit to the VI Senate for their careful consideration as an alternative to the Alpine proposal. The concept is to address all of the USVI solid waste issues, to develop a comprehensive plan which is economical and environmentally responsible. By representatives of all concerned focused together, with transparency, we will be able to implement the plan much more efficiently, without collective energy focused on objections and lawsuits.  Further, since all federal and local agencies would be involved in the process from the outset, the permitting and approvals would be more streamlined.

Alpine’s waste to energy plan would tie the territory to using petroleum coke, oil or both for at least the next 20 years. Thus, this issue involves not only the EPA, but all the federal agencies who are committed to the success of the EDIN VI Renewable Energy Pilot Project. Further, the high CO2 and heavy metal emissions, in addition to other hazardous materials, affect the islands and coastal waters which are the responsibility of NOAA and FWS.  If all these federal agencies are helping us Virgin Islanders and our government to shoulder the collective responsibility for the success of this waste to energy project, we will succeed.

Our solid waste strategy/plan includes the consideration of alternating current (AC) plasma gasification, which would be a far more economical, environmentally green waste to energy system.  Since AC plasma gasification is cutting edge technology, it should be of great interest to the federal agencies involved in the VI Pilot Project. We will forward these documents to you as soon as they are submitted.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

cc: Judith Enck, EPA Administrator, Region II

Miyoko Sakashita, Esq. Center for Biological Diversity

Your Island, Your Health – St Croix

 

Your Island, Your Health

Every single one of us requires air and water for survival. Without air to breathe we would not last but a few minutes. Without water to drink our bodies dry up, our organs systems fail and we die. If air and water are essential for our immediate survival, it makes sense that clear air and water are desirable. We can even go a step further and say that clean air and water are essential for health and a decent quality of life. You don’t have to be an expert to know the value of clean air and water- invaluable. This is not rocket science.

If you think that there is more than enough clean air out there so we can afford to get some dirty, think again. If you think that there is more than enough clean water out there, so we can afford to pollute some of it think again.

Right now most of us drink water that we buy in little plastic bottles that are filling up landfills because we don’t trust that our water supply is safe enough to drink. Right now the incidence of asthma, respiratory diseases, cancer, and allergies appears to be abnormally and curiously high in neighborhoods downwind of power plants and oil refineries.

What do we say to industry when we are told that burning petroleum coke aka “dirty coal” to incinerate municipal trash won’t kill us. According to the November 2009 report from Physicians for Social Responsibility, coal pollutants affect all major body systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of death, namely heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory disease thusly compounding the major public health challenges of our time. Coal combustion releases a combination of toxic chemicals into the environment such as sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, heavy metals including mercury and nickel, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health and the health of our entire ecosystem. In other words, we are working seriously hard to poison ourselves and the entire planet—piece by piece.

Heavy metals, such as lead, nickel, and mercury, poison key enzyme systems of the body and are known to cause a host of degenerative, age related diseases. Our bodies cannot effectively eliminate these heavy metals, so they accumulate over our lifetime. When we are young and healthy most of us handle this toxic stress by hiding the toxins within our cells, but eventually the cells become overburdened and the toxicity spills out and begins to affect the entire body and we get sick. Sickness starts slowly and insidiously with age-related conditions such as hypertension and hyperlipidemia, or we may feel tired for no good reason. In later years metal toxicity may show itself in disease states that can end our lives, including heart disease and cancer, or degenerative brain diseases like senility and Alzheimer’s.

What do we say to industry experts when they tell us, “don’t worry, we’ll burn your trash and everything will be just fine,” as plastics, pesticides, and household chemicals which are all mixed up in our municipal waste release poisonous gases from incinerator smoke stacks.

While the experts tell us, don’t worry about that dirty air, “we’ll wash and scrub it before it is released”, a New York Times article in October of this past year reports, “even as a growing number of coal burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many are creating another problem, water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste. Much power plant waste once went into the sky, but because of toughened air pollution laws, it now often goes into lakes and rivers or into landfills that have leaked into nearby groundwater, say regulators and environmentalists.

What do we say as organic pollutants filter into our ground water and acid rain falls and collects in our cisterns? This is the water that we shower with and give to our plants. These are the toxins that become part of our fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds that we then eat. To put it simply, that little bit of dirty air and water is now a part of your body. You are now the reservoir of environmental pollutants and toxins. Now you need some serious detox.

How do we measure how much dirty air and polluted water and toxic food we can tolerate before the risks outweigh the “benefits”? You don’t have to be an expert to figure that out, it’s not rocket science. Look around at your friends and family, look at yourself.

On this small island in the Caribbean where we supposedly have lots of clean air and water look at the incidence of asthma, respiratory diseases, cancer, heart disease, and elevated cholesterol in your friends and loved ones. Remember the lobster that you put in the pot and then put on a slow flame. That lobster heated up so slowly that it did not notice the heat till it was dead. So, who wants to be a cooked lobster?

For those of us who are not industry experts, lets review the facts. A corporate entity has convinced us to pay them to solve our solid waste problem and give us the added benefit of a little electricity to the tune of 2 – 3 billion dollars, yes, billion. The direct cost to ratepayers: over $3 billion not including environmental, health, and socioeconomic costs.

The experts plan to solve our problem by purchasing and using pet coke, a waste derived from refining crude oil to burn the trash from our land fills and create PRDF, pelletized refuse derived fuel, which they will then burn to create a relatively small amount of electricity. A lot of burning going on and we know what burning dirty coal does to air and water quality.

In this whole process they will also create 379,000 tons per year of toxic waste, fly ash, which we will then have to pay and beg to have carted off the island or more than likely the fly ash will stay on to create a hazardous landfill. We still have a big red mountain of toxic waste somewhere off the highway after umpteen years. I thought we were supposed to be getting rid of our landfills not creating more of them.

We are told that we must approve this preposterous proposition now, otherwise we will have to pay fines to the Federal Government for failure to close our landfills, and further more nobody can afford to pay their water and power bills. We are being asked to create Frankenstein to kill a skunk, but after the skunk is dead we will be left with a creation that will cost us dearly—not just us but our generations to come.

Let us be aware that in addition to $3 billion dollars we will be paying with our health and quality of life for our children and us. According to a new RAND Corporation report, elevated air pollution levels in California which has some of the most stringent air quality controls in the country, resulted in more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care between 2005 and 2007.

We will be paying with loss of property values. We will be paying with loss of our economic marketing strategy of ecotourism. Who wants to visit an island paradise with smokestacks in your face? Who wants to be downwind, and who knows which way the wind will blow?

Why are we going backward with old dirty fuels on the advise of corporate entities whose sole purpose is to make a profit? Have we forgotten the executives of Wall Street and the Banking Industry? Have we forgotten Sir. Allen Stanford and his duping of the entire island state of Antigua and its impact on us here on St. Croix? Do we really think that corporate America cares for our health and well being?

Here is a new plan. Let’s call in the real experts. While the rest of the world is moving forward with recycling, green technology, and renewable energy like wind and solar, we are creating a giant technology that is taking us back to the past. We must realize that we cannot continue to befoul our air and water, ourselves, and the very earth that allows us to live and breathe and have our being, without consequences.

Let’s call in the real experts to offer us new, clean, and affordable technology that will support our health and prosperity now, and for our generations. Let’s put solar panels on every roof and wind turbines where the wind blows. That will cut everyone’s energy costs significantly. When the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine there is geothermal from Nevis, and possibly St. Thomas.

Let’s upgrade VIWAPA and make it more efficient and reliable. Let’s recycle our waste and sell it for a profit. For 3 billion dollars, I am confident that we could do that and more. With 3 billion dollars we could fix a lot of problems, instead of paying through the nose to create more.

So what do you say when industry experts want to sell you a bill of goods? Say thanks, but no thanks, we have better ideas. This is not rocket science. It is common sense. Let’s start using a little bit of it.

Let us understand that we can no longer trust that industry experts care about our health, and well being, and prosperity ahead of their bottom line—profit. We can no longer afford to separate our morality from our business ventures. We can no longer afford to shoot ourselves in the feet.

As the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “ an individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” We are that humanity. Lets wake up and take action to stop the madness.

Cheryl Wade, MD, FACS

WAPA schedules meeting to discuss reports of management pay raises

By KAREN HOLLISH (Daily News Staff)
Published: March 1, 2011

The V.I. Water and Power Authority board on Monday scheduled an “emergency meeting” for this morning to deal with reports that it authorized management raises during its executive session last Friday.

WAPA Executive Director Hugo Hodge Jr. would not comment on the matter Monday, despite scathing statements released Sunday by Gov. John deJongh Jr. and V.I. Senate Majority leader Celestino White Sr.

Hodge said Monday that he would make a statement today about the issue of pay raises for WAPA management.

DeJongh, who flew to Washington, D.C., this weekend to attend the National Governors Association meeting, issued a statement Sunday saying there was “no rationalization” for WAPA management to receive pay increases in the current economy.

“After all that has been said and written about the dimensions of our economic and budgetary crisis, and after I had written to the WAPA board chairwoman and executive director seeking their best efforts in reducing the costs of government and of services to our people, it would be most unwise for the WAPA governing board to permit any in this community to believe that they would take such an action until the present crisis has been resolved,” deJongh said.

White also had harsh words in response to reports about a pay increase.

“This is callous disregard for the economic situation of the Virgin Islands and the sacrifices that Gov. John P. deJongh, Jr. has asked our people to make,” White said. “While Rome burned, Nero fiddled. While people sit in darkness and cannot buy food or medicine, WAPA officials line their pockets.”

WAPA spokeswoman Cassandra Dunn said the board told her of only two action items that arose during Friday’s executive session: The board decided to partner with the V.I. Public Finance Authority on its broadband-expansion project, and the board authorized staff to conduct performance reviews for managers and confidential employees, Dunn said.

Raises sometimes do arise out of performance reviews, but they are not guaranteed to take place, Dunn said.

Neither Hodge nor Dunn would confirm or deny Monday that the WAPA board agreed Friday to give pay raises to WAPA managers, nor would they elaborate on or answer questions about the issue.

As for what exactly took place inside Friday’s closed session, Dunn said she was not included and does not know.

“There’ll be clarity tomorrow,” Dunn said Monday afternoon, referring to today’s meeting. “We’ll all find out everything tomorrow.”

The only order of business on the agenda for the meeting today is an executive session about “personnel matters.”

Under V.I. Code subsection 254, government boards may not convene into executive session to discuss general personnel policies, such as the need for systemwide performance reviews.

Personnel matters are only suitable for executive session discussions if their disclosure would “constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” according to V.I. Code subsection 254(b)(1).

– Contact reporter Karen Hollish at 774-8772 ext. 304 or e-mail khollish@dailynews.vi.

Read more: http://virginislandsdailynews.com/news/wapa-schedules-meeting-to-discuss-reports-of-management-pay-raises-1.1112010#ixzz1FTwMQD6k

WAPA Spewing Heavy Pollution into Our Air

 

 

 

This is an example photo of the heavy, sticky soot being spewed into our environment by WAPA in St Thomas on December 5th, 2010.

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