Environmental Prosecutor Wins Case Against Justice Department
By Jim Crabtree
"CLEVELAND, Ohio, May 10, 2002 (ENS) - For the first time a federal
prosecutor has won a case against the Department of Justice for
harassment stemming from attempts to prosecute environmental crimes.
In a decision Thursday, a U.S. Department of Labor Court ruled that
the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot retaliate against its own
prosecutors for investigating crimes."
Number of low oxygen "dead zones" in the world's coastal waters has
doubled from 50 to 100 since 1995 due to fertilizers in farm runoff
fueling the overproduction of algae.
"The Black and Baltic Seas and the Gulf of Mexico top the list of
water bodies suffering from a low-oxygen condition known as hypoxia.
Unfortunately, the list is getting longer. The condition typically
follows the overproduction of algae [an algae bloom]. When the algae
die, they sink to the seafloor, where bacteria consume them. But
these bacteria use up oxygen - and so carve out hypoxic or low-oxygen
zones that choke fish and other organisms. It's a natural process,
but human activity - mainly fertilizers in farm runoff - stimulate
the overproduction of algae, leading to the development of new
For more than a decade Robert Diaz, a marine biologist at the
Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has been mapping the world's
hypoxic zones. He says the number of hypoxic zones on his map has
doubled since 1995, from 50 to about 100. "[S]ome of these are new to
hypoxia in the last five, six years and some of them are just zones
that have just recently been studied because hypoxia is becoming more
and more a factor in a lot of environmental assessments. ... But our
conclusion is that while more attention is being paid by the
scientific community - so that makes the number go up - there
actually are more systems that have gone hypoxic for the first time."
The "dead" zones concentrate on the ocean floor and strangle bottom-
dwelling fish and other creatures. And low sea-floor oxygen levels
can also alter species diversity throughout the ecosystem, for
example, by forcing out some bottom-dwelling fish.
Diaz has studied what happens after a hypoxic summer in the Gulf of
Mexico. "You can go there in the middle of winter and collect
organisms from the bottom - sample the bottom sediments - and you
will see that something is wrong: that the species composition isn't
what it should be for a good, healthy, shallow continental shelf
muddy bottom. So the longterm signature of hypoxia is left in the
fauna. And this is a factor that you can see all over the globe...."
Bush Administration Approves Most Damaging Change to Clean Water Act
"On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 57 members of the House of
Representatives, led by Frank Pallone (D-NJ), sent a letter to
Administrator Whitman conveying their "strong opposition" to the
proposed rule. "This rule change is a clear attempt to legalize the
destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, where coal
companies literally blow the tops off of mountains and dump the waste
into nearby valleys and streams," stated the House letter.
In March, a dozen senior House Republicans led by Representative
Chris Shays (R-CT) also wrote to President Bush, urging him to
reconsider "this ill-advised and dangerous rulemaking" to allow waste
disposal in waters.
"The bipartisan opposition to this waste dumping rule has been
significant and growing as Senators and Representatives have learned
about the threat it poses to waters in their districts," said
Mulhern. "While this rule is being motivated by the administration's
desire to legalize the illegal waste dumping practices of the coal
industry, its effects will be nationwide. Every stream, wetland,
river, and lake in the country will be placed at risk of becoming a
dumping ground for mining waste, construction debris, even garbage." "
NASA to View Interaction of Earth's Water and Climate