Seeing the Round Corners

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December 15, 2020

The revelations concerning the 2020 Presidential Election have been reprehensible. For those who love this country and are proud to be Americans, there just seems to be no way to describe how despicable the criminal acts are perpetrated by elected officials in the November presidential election.

Today’s column from this writer’s archives (August 2007) is one demonstrative of just how deceptive things were way back then. It is sad to say, elected officials have added insult to injury as revelations of criminal acts continue.

The final question asked in the 2007 column must be asked again:  “Can you trust our government?

TRUST OUR GOVERNMENT??                                           August 10, 2007
Earlier this year, a federal judge in San Francisco overturned controversial Bush administration environmental rules. For the time being at least, the ruling by United States District Judge Phyllis Hamilton prevents national forest managers from approving logging and other commercial projects without conducting lengthy environmental reviews. The environmental rules apply to 192 million acres of national forests, and stops logging and mining in the national parks.

 In and of itself, the ruling was a “godsend” in at least slowing the Bush administration’s destructive environmental policies, but Judge Hamilton’s basis for the ruling is what nears almost earth-shattering proportions: “The government failed to adequately consider the effects the rules would have on the environment and neglected to gather public comments on the issue.”

On the heels of that ruling, Senator Ken Salazar, D-Colorado, took the unusual step of placing a Senate “hold” on the administration’s nominee to be Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) because the BLM refused to grant Governor Ritter’s request for a delay in drilling on the Roan Plateau – a delay sought to give the state time to review the proposed leasing/drilling program (much to the loud objection of the Moffat County Commissioners who were downright giddy at the prospect of so many millions of dollars flowing into county coffers). Last Friday, the BLM caved to Salazar’s demand and agreed to a four-month delay.

While time seems to dim prior administrations, President Bush will most likely go down in history as showing the least understanding and regard for destructive environmental policies. The Bush administration quickly reversed the “roadless” rule adopted during the last days of President Clinton’s administration. Though considered controversial at the time, the “Clinton rule” protected large areas of undeveloped national forests.

Still in federal court, President Bush’s reversal of the Clinton “roadless rule” was overturned by a federal court, only to be appealed by the Bush administration (keeping oh so many lawyers busy for long beyond the distant future).  

The petition submitted on roadless areas of the state during former Governor Bill Owens’s second administration is also under scrutiny by Governor Ritter. The Governor makes the case that the majority of public comments were in favor of protecting roadless areas, but he did not go so far as to suggest repeal of the Owens-era petition and return to the rule established during the final days of the Clinton administration.

Returning to Judge Hamilton’s basis for her ruling raises this frightening question: From a historical perspective and over time, how often is it the case that the government has “failed to adequately consider the effects the rules [or its actions] would have on the environment and neglected to gather public comment on the issue?” Or for that matter, the effect on its citizens (also known as human beings)!

As reminders, the pesticide DDT was touted as one of the most incredible breakthroughs to come out of World War II – even wallpaper was manufactured containing DDT at one time.  (DDT was banned on June 14 1972, and the ban became effective January 1, 1973.) What of the horrendous effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans which some are still fighting? After all this time, the Institute of Medicine recently issued a report indicating Agent Orange and other herbicides used in Vietnam might cause high blood pressure. The Department of Veterans Affairs now has 60 days to decide if it will allow full benefits coverage for high blood pressure.

Does the government adequately consider the effects its rules or actions have on the environment and the people on the face of this earth? The answer to that question would be a resounding NO when recalling the disastrous Rocky Flats Plant, or in the case of the tainted water wells on the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina recently brought to the public’s attention by Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina.

Dole introduced legislation seeking to force military officials to directly notify more than one million Marines and military families who used water from wells contaminated with trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene (solvents used for degreasing and dry cleaning) between 1957 and the mid 1980’s when the wells were closed.

The source of these chemicals was industrial activity and hazardous waste on the military base itself, and unbelievably, an off-base neighboring dry cleaners.

Trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene are not to be taken lightly (they are REALLY nasty), and credible medical studies have identified them as causing leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, birth defects and other cancers. Residents and military personnel were told in 1985 about “minute traces” of the chemicals in the wells even though the Marine Corps knew at that time the level was 200 times what is considered safe by today’s regulations.

One would have to conclude that the federal government was and is well aware of the impact of drinking and bathing in such chemically contaminated water, so why the delaying tactics to prevent or delay notifications?

Of course, the “delay and let die” tactics are nothing new for the United States federal government. In August of 2006, a federal appellate court in Washington, D. C. denied the claims of “atomic veterans” (military personnel openly exposed to radiation while on duty). As has been the case of Rocky Flats workers, “atomic veterans” had to meet extreme levels of proof of exposure to radiation – that they were “present at a radioactive site and contracted a radiation-related illness or exposed to a cancer-causing radiation level.”

One of the victim rejected by the2006 court ruling actually walked the streets of Nagasaki, Japan after the bombinh while on duty, and upon return to the United States, worked at a radiation-contaminated site in Nevada (remember the Cold War testing years?).

The Colorado Federal District Court’s Report on the Federal District Special Grand Jury 89-2 January 24, 1992, was finally released some years back after incredible legal wrangling at the highest level. Now retired Sherman Finesilver, the Federal judge in charge of the grand jury at the time, first approved a redacted version of the Grand Jury report in January of 1993. The complete report was released at a later date, and warrants more than one column (maybe at a later date).

At this time, there’s enough blame to go around several times over for the debacle of Rocky Flats, but for this week’s column, a few significant quotes from the report will reveal the level of criminal conduct certain agencies of our government are capable of. DOE hereinafter refers to the Department of Energy.

“When agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raided the Plant on June 6, 1989, they found compelling evidence that hazardous wastes and radioactive mixed wastes had been illegally stored, treated, and disposed of (‘STD’) at the Plant in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act [(‘RSCA’)]. These agents also discovered violations of the Clean Water Act and other environmental statutes through a variety of continuing acts, including the illegal discharge of pollutants, hazardous materials, and radioactive matter into the Platte River, Woman Creek, and the drinking water supplies for the Cities of Broomfield and Westminster, Colorado. These agents also uncovered a culture of criminal misconduct, which used illegal means to achieve corporate bonuses.”

“Although the Grand Jury heard testimony that radioactive material had been released from the Plant into drinking water supplies of various urban users and downstream agricultural users, the Grand Jury was advised that it could not indict Rockwell or DOE officials for endangering the public in this manner. The Grand Jury. was specifically advised by an Assistant U.S. Attorney that the United States Supreme Court had determined in Train v. COPRIG, 426 US. 1 that no Federal law (specifically the Clean Water Act) prohibits the DOE, Rockwell or EG&G from dumping radioactive waste or other radioactive material directly into Standley Lake, the Great Western Reservoir, the South Platte, or any other river or tributary in the United States. Consequently, to the extent to which evidence was presented to the Grand Jury concerning the release of radioactive material into such waters, it could not be the subject of a criminal prosecution and such evidence is not discussed further herein.”

“The headquarters offices of DOE and EPA in Washington D. C. have been involved directly or indirectly in the negotiation of each of the three environmental Federal Facility Compliance Agreements for the Plant. These agreements were signed respectively in July of 1986, September of 1989 and May of 1991.”

“During the negotiation of the 1991 Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement, DOE employees at the regional and national levels insisted that DOE would not sign a compliance agreement, which contained any enforcement penalties for noncompliance with RCRA and other environmental laws. Throughout these negotiations, DOE implied that EG&G would resign as the operator of the Plant if the Agreement contained any such penalties. Consequently, when EPA’s Denver Regional Administrator refused in the spring of 1991 to sign a proposed agreement for the Plant because it lacked any stipulated penalties for noncompliance, EPA’s national Deputy Administrator relieved the Regional Administrator of responsibility for approving the Agreement.”

“The 1991 Federal Facilities Compliance Agreement for the Plant contains no deadlines by which the Plant must be operated in compliance with the law. Likewise, the 1991 Agreement lacks any civil penalties or enforcement mechanisms if DOE and EG&G fail to remedy the environmental noncompliance problems at the Plant.”

And so, the question bears repeating, “Can you trust our government?”

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