Environmental planet earth news briefs, including legislation approved in 1986, California's efforts to curb chemical waste, regulating salmon fishing, and a bill to attack the problem of acid rain.
Environmental Planet Earth News
Congress ended 1986 with a flurry of activity just prior to
the elections, and many of the bills considered at the last
minute were environmental. Of greatest concern were
reauthorization of the Clean Water Act and the Superfund.
They passed Congress comfortably—in fact, the House and
Senate both unanimously approved the water bill.
But the White House wasn't quite so enthusiastic. President
Reagan did reluctantly sign the Superfund bill, which
replenishes the fund used to clean up abandoned toxic waste
dumps to the tune of $8.5 billion. He didn't like the price
tag but was persuaded by fellow Republicans that a veto
would be very costly at the polls.
But $18 billion for the Clean Water Act renewal was more
than the president could swallow. He sat on the bill until
Congress had adjourned and the elections were history. Then
he vetoed it.
Congressional sponsors reintroduced the Clean Water Act as
their first order of business when they returned in
January. Its progress bears watching.
Other Legislation Approved in 1986
The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in Oregon and
Washington, a top priority of environmental groups for more
than a decade, finally made it through.
Offshore oil leasing was banned in California until at
Four rivers were designated as wild and scenic: Cache la
Poudre in Colorado, Black Creek in Mississippi, Saline
Bayou in Louisiana, and the Horse pasture near MOTHER's
home in North Carolina.
The sale of 82,000 acres of oil shale bearing lands in
Colorado to three energy companies for $2.50 per acre was
Drilling for steam on the boundaries o Yellowstone, Lassen,
Mount Ranier, and other parks and public lands was
restricted until strict guarantees are in place to protect
geysers and other natural features from adverse effects.
One State's Efforts
California voters approved a sweeping new law aimed at
curbing chemical waste problems. It does the following:
- Increases fines for "midnight dumping".
- Requires the governor to compile a list of chemicals "known by the state
to cause cancer".
- Forbids any private company with more
than 10 employees from discharging any of the chemicals on
the governor's list into fresh waters in the state.
- Requires these companies to notify the public of any
exposure to the chemicals and the possible consequences
(the cigarette pack warning writ large).
- Allows any
individual to sue any polluter suspected of violating the
discharge restrictions of the law whether he or she is
personally harmed or not—and to keep 25% of any civil or
criminal penalties assessed against the defendant.
The law goes into effect in stages over the next year and a
half. Proponents have offered to help adapt it for use in
other states. Anyone interested in further details should
write to Carl Pope, Sierra Club, San Francisco, CA.
Updates; Odds and Ends
The state of Washington's Department of Ecology has
responded favorably to a request from the Sierra Club Legal
Defense Fund to regulate salmon farming. The DOE
has imposed a moratorium on permits for new pens and has
commissioned an extensive study of the environmental impact
of the 20-some pens now operating.
The Court of Appeals in San Francisco has upheld a ban
imposed last year on placer mining in Alaskan national
parks until the Park Service can come up with
regulations that will protect streams adequately.
The Park Service has issued regulations to control small
planes and helicopters that are disturbing the serenity of
the Grand Canyon, but environmentalists have
denounced the regs as inadequate.
The situation on the D'Arbonne National Wildlife
Refuge (see Econotes, MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 102) has improved somewhat
with an agreement by the gas-drilling company to keep its
equipment away from habitat needed by the endangered
Book of the Bi-month
The Sacred Paw: The Bear in Nature, Myth, and
Literature by Paul Shepard and Barry Sanders (Viking,
1986, $17.95) is an enthralling collection of fact and myth
about the eight (yes, only eight) species of bears
worldwide. One startling assertion: In many surprising
ways, the bear is more like man than the more closely
related primates are. Highly recommended.
Keep an Eye Out This Year
Look for a widely supported bill to attack the problem of
The Price-Anderson Act, which limits operators' liability
in the event of a nuclear power plant accident, is up for
renewal. Antinuclear activists have long considered this to
be an Achilles' heel of the nuclear power industry.
Revision of the country's coal and onshore oil and gas
leasing laws is expected.
Editor's Note: Tom Turner, a writer and editor who's
worked in the environmental field for 17 years, is with the
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, an independent
environmental law firm that represents many organizations
across the country. It is supported principally by private
donations. For more information, write Sierra Club
Legal Defense Fund, San Francisco, CA.