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E-M:/ weenies

Citizens Environment Alliance of southwestern Ontario & southeast Michigan
275 Oak Avenue, Windsor, Ontario, N9A 5E5
phone: 519-973-1116
fax: 519-973-8360

February 14, 2005

It's Weenie Time!

Five Weenies in 2005

Here is the Citizens Environment Alliance official list of weenie nominees for 2004/2005:

1. The Sarnia Chemical Valley
2. Dow Chemical Inc.
3. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
4. US President George W. Bush and associates
5. Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada

Weenie Award attendees will determine who is the biggest weenie of all. "Although each nominee is a weenie in their own right, only one can receive the weenie award," said CEA Researcher Derek Coronado.

Also recognized for their environmental contributions are the Enviro-Achievers for 2004/2005. Quite different from the weenies, these awards recognize positive contributions made by individuals and/or groups in our region. This year's recipients are:

1. WATCH (Wallaceburg Advisory Team for a Cleaner Habitat) - For raising public awareness of, and for efforts to hold the chemical industry accountable for, environmental infractions in the St. Clair River region.
2. HEAT (Hamtramck Environmental Action Team) - For their ongoing and successful campaign against the last medical waste incinerator in Michigan.
3. John H. Hartig, Refuge Manager Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge - For lifelong commitment to the remediation and improvement of the Detroit River ecosystem.

7:00pm, Wednesday, February 16th
Mackenzie Hall, 3277 Sandwich Street
Windsor, Ontario

So come on out to recognize and celebrate the positive contributions that are being made in our communities, and stay to boo, jeer and heckle your favourite weenie to victory!

Music by Windsor's own Teach Yourself Piano to follow.

Contact:        Derek Coronado, Research and Policy Coordinator:        519-973-1116

1. The Sarnia Chemical Valley - the corporate facilities located in or near Sarnia, Ontario that continually discharge air and water contaminants.  Last year we nominated Royal Polymers Inc. for the Weenie as a result of its spills of Vinyl Chloride into the St. Clair River.  We have had other nominees from the Sarnia chemical valley that have appeared on the nomination list from time to time.   

Recently additional spills into the ambient air and St. Clair River, including a suspected spill from Dow Chemical Canada Inc. and a spill at the Imperial Oil refinery, and public pressure prompted the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to send in its environmental SWAT team.  For most of 2004, the Ministry conducted an inspection sweep of industrial facilities in the Sarnia area.

Last month the Ministry revealed that its SWAT team had issued Provincial Officer Orders to more than 30 facilities, including Nova Chemicals, BP Canada Energy Resources Company and Ontario Power Generation's Lambton Power Station.  The inspection revealed non-compliance with a wide range of requirements, including air emissions without a Certificate of Approval (C of A), failure to comply with existing Certificate of Approval and non-compliance with industrial sewage discharge C of A.

The offences are relatively minor, but are widespread.  Some companies may face prosecution as a result of the inspection.  However, the systemic problems remain and were noted in the recent Industrial Pollution Action Team report.  Spills are a cause for serious concern, but outdated regulatory limits and associated "in compliance" emissions to air and water represent a more serious and ongoing risk particularly to communities that are exposed to the emissions repeatedly and for extended periods of time.

2. Dow Chemical Inc.  Dioxin, a persistent and highly toxic chemical has been recently discovered in the flood plain for at least 22 miles downstream from Dow Chemical's global headquarters in Midland, Michigan.

This massive contamination came to light when citizens learned through FOIA that high levels of dioxin had been found downstream from Dow's manufacturing facility. Subsequent testing confirmed that the watershed and flood plain downriver from Dow's headquarters are contaminated with elevated levels of dioxin. Levels range from background to more than 7,200 ppt (parts per trillion). The state residential cleanup standard is 90 ppt. High levels have been found in public use areas and parks.

Dow is also deserving of a Weenie for refusing to assume responsibility for the persistent, long-term effects of the chemical spill at one of its factories in Bhopal, India on Dec. 3, 1984, considered the worst industrial disaster in world history.
The factory, owned by Union Carbide -- which was purchased by Dow Chemicals in 2001 -- leaked massive amounts of toxic gases over the city. Some 8,000 people living nearby died during the first few days after the incident, although the death toll eventually rose to over 20,000.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has demanded that Dow assume responsibility for the consequences of the spill and release the medical reports on the toxicity of the leaked gases.

3. Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - The Alliance is a trade association of the U.S. units of nine car and light truck manufacturers, including BMW Group, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Porsche, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Controlling CO2 emissions from personal vehicles is vital to controlling enhanced global warming, yet this stands as a completely unmet challenge in Canada and the United States.  In fact, new fleet average CO2 emission rates are rising.  Cars and trucks produce 12% of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from SUVs and trucks have grown 88% since 1990.

Automobile manufacturers have lobbied and litigated against recent progressive environmental legislation.  The manufacturers worry that the legislation would set precedents, making it easier for other jurisdictions in North America to pass similar legislation.  Specifically, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have filed suit to stop California legislation that would limit CO2 emissions of automobiles.

In Canada, in 2000, the government asked industry to reduce emissions by improving average fuel economy by 25%. Present standards were established in 1985. The government hopes this move will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 megatonnes in 2010, as part of its 2002 Kyoto plan.  Secret negotiations have been underway way since 2000 and progress has been so slow that Environment Minister Dion set a deadline of February 16th to reach an agreement or the government will consider other options.

For stalling, stonewalling, threatening, using misinformation and doing anything to avoid meeting its responsibilities to Canadians and the environment the auto-industry deserves a Weenie.

4. George W. Bush and associates - Returning for another shot at the Weenie.  Citizens of our part of the Great Lakes Basin are frequently downwind of air pollution generated throughout the United States.

In April 2003, Generators for Clean Air (GCA), a coalition of eight power plant companies, reviewed the first version of the Bush administration's air pollution plan  ("Clear Skies") and requested "essential" changes to undermine the bill's already lax cleanup provisions. A comparison of this previously undisclosed industry wish list and the version of the administration's air pollution legislation currently before Congress shows that the utilities succeeded in significantly weakening the bill.

The members of GCA -- Ameren (St. Louis), American Electric Power (Columbus, Ohio), Cinergy (Cincinnati), DTE Energy (Detroit), PacifiCorp (Portland, Oregon), TransAlta (Calgary), Wisconsin Energy (Milwaukee), and Xcel Energy (Minneapolis) -- were able to:

UNDERMINE STATES' ABILITY TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM UPWIND POLLUTERS: The Bush administration's original air pollution legislation in 2002 (Senate bill 485) would have weakened the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to help downwind states combat power plant pollution from upwind states. The bill would have prohibited the agency from regulating upwind power plants unless it first determined that regulating those plants would be as cost-effective as regulating pollution from all other upwind sources (including cars and off-road vehicles) -- a nearly impossible analytical task. The bill also would have shielded the power industry, prohibiting EPA from further regulating upwind power plants before 2012.

These impediments to cleanup did not satisfy the utilities, however. Seeking more certainty that its members would not be regulated further, GCA requested an even more burdensome cost-effectiveness analysis and a three-year extension of the prohibition on new regulation.

The companies got what they wanted: The latest version of the administration bill would greatly expand the list of sources EPA must study before regulating power plants, and would prohibit further regulation until 2015. This would cripple downwind states' ability to protect their residents from power plant pollution and force them to wait until 2015 before taking action against out-of-state polluters.

"GRANDFATHER" THE DIRTIEST PLANTS: The Bush administration's original legislation would have required EPA to distribute some pollution "allowances," or rights to pollute, through an elaborate auction system. This market mechanism would have created incentives for the least efficient plants to undertake the most significant cleanup efforts to avoid paying more for allowances. But GCA complained that such an auction would "increase" polluting power plants' "compliance costs unnecessarily."

Again, the companies got what they wanted: The current bill does not include the auction provision. Instead, pollution allowances would be allocated according to how much fuel plants burned and how much pollution they emitted in the past, giving less efficient plants more (free) allowances, and eliminating any incentive to clean up.

RELAX MERCURY CONTROLS: The first administration bill would have required power plants to take steps to reduce their mercury emissions; they would not be able to get "credit" for mercury emissions reductions resulting from other cleanup efforts. This sensible requirement would have created incentives for power plants to make further, cost-effective mercury emissions reductions. But GCA wanted the bill to give its members "credit for early mercury reductions," including so-called "co-benefit reductions" that result entirely from unrelated activities at a plant, such as cutting emissions of other pollutants.

The companies got what they wanted: The latest version of the bill would allow power plants to count early and co-benefit reductions of mercury, including those otherwise required by state law or achieved incidentally from federally required cutbacks for other pollutants. GCA succeeded in weakening and delaying the bill's mercury control requirements, guaranteeing that the bill's mercury reductions would occur much later than advertised by the administration.

GET TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES FOR POLLUTING: Under the Bush administration's first legislative version, the proceeds from sales of emissions allowances would go into the U.S. Treasury -- that is, back to the taxpayers. But GCA labeled that use of the funds "a new tax on energy."

Again, the companies got what they wanted: The latest bill would send the money right back to the polluters by creating a largely unregulated Department of Energy account to fund industry efforts to develop pollution control technologies. In sum, it would pay industry to comply with preexisting laws -- at taxpayers' expense.

5. Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Transport Canada - For failing to show leadership by developing a comprehensive transportation strategy that would lessen demand for road infrastructure.

In the border area their primary focus is to complete plans for another private border crossing.  In conjunction with the Binational Planning Group the ministries are focused on increasing the supply of road infrastructure not on demand-side management or the reduction of on-road vehicles.

There are two factors in this weenie nomination that are particularly important.  First the ministries have dismissed travel demand management (reducing cross-border road traffic) alternatives and alternative transport options such as public transit, rail and marine traffic as either inadequate or "not consistent with governmental planning objectives."  The principles of sustainable transportation apparently carry little weight when there are millions of dollars to be made in constructing new roads and road-based border crossings.

Second the environmental impacts and costs of accommodating more than a 100% increase in border traffic by 2030 in this area are not seriously considered.  It is assumed that all environmental impacts will be assessed and relegated to the background by the legal environmental assessment process.  This is also a clear indication of how weak the environmental assessment process is in Canada and the United States.

Contact:        Derek Coronado, Research and Policy Coordinator:        519-973-1116