Jim Morris

Four years after oil company’s criminal conviction for pollution, still no sentencing

Almost four years ago, a federal jury convicted Citgo Petroleum Corp. of two criminal violations of the Clean Air Act, having found that the company’s refinery in Corpus Christi, Texas, afflicted a nearby community with toxic air pollution.

For nearly a decade, the jury found, emissions of benzene and other hazardous chemicals — from two hulking, uncovered tanks — regularly swept into a mostly poor, minority neighborhood known as Hillcrest. 

Suzie Canales, advocate for residents in Corpus Christi’s Hillcrest neighborhood, wonders how criminal violations of the Clean Air Act can be a victimless crime. Behind her is a refinery operated by Citgo, convicted in 2007 in connection with pollution that afflicted the community. Citgo still hasn’t been sentenced. Jim Morris / iWatch News

 

That was in June 2007. To the dismay of the refinery’s neighbors, Citgo still hasn’t been sentenced — a delay legal scholars say is unusual. A Citgo lawyer blames federal prosecutors for the delay.

The judge in the case recently held that the residents — who blamed a variety of health problems on the tank emissions — didn’t qualify as crime victims because the government failed to prove their ailments were directly tied to the pollution.

Some in Hillcrest wonder when, or if, Citgo will ever be punished.

Read the full story

145 scientists in 22 countries say: We’re worried about health effects of fire retardants

A published statement by 145 scientists from 22 countries expresses new worries about the health effects of flame retardants used in mattresses, furniture, electronics, and other consumer products, while also questioning the chemicals’ efficacy.

The statement, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal, says that brominated and chlorinated flame retardants have been found in the bodies of both humans and wildlife, linger in the environment and can travel great distances. While toxicity information is lacking, studies have linked the compounds to cancer, birth defects and other serious health problems, the scientists say, even though “their overall benefit in improving fire safety has not been proven.”

In fact, according to the statement, the chemicals, when burned, can “increase the release of carbon monoxide, toxic gases and soot which are the cause of most fire deaths and injuries.” They “leach continuously” out of finished products and accumulate in indoor air.

 

Full story…

More evidence that Obama isn’t the ‘transparency president’

Under President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, the White House Office of Management and Budget became known as the place where promising new regulations died behind closed doors. So opaque was its review process that a research and advocacy group called OMB Watch materialized in 1983 to “lift the veil of secrecy.”

Ten years later, unhappy with the lack of transparency, President Bill Clinton signed an executive order (Executive Order 12866), which sought to “restore the integrity and legitimacy of regulatory review and oversight [and] make the process more accessible and open to the public.”

Seventeen years after that, the question persists: Is the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which reviews rules proposed by federal agencies, following Clinton’s order?

No, says Rena Steinzor, a law professor at the University of Maryland and president of the Center for Progressive Reform(more)

 

 

More at Center for Public Integrity

 

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Report: Toxic chemicals in the environment are killing people

In a new report, the President’s Cancer Panel emphatically reinforced what public health officials and activists have been saying for decades: Toxic chemicals in the environment are killing people.

Scolding regulators for taking a reactionary rather than a precautionary approach, the panel, attached to the National Institutes of Health, noted that only a few hundred of the 80,000 chemicals used in the United States have been tested for safety. In 2009, the panel said, about 1.5 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer and 562,000 died of the disease. “The incidence of some cancers, including some most common among children, is increasing for unexplained reasons,” the panel reported on Thursday, and environmental exposures may be to blame.

Among the panel’s findings:

  • Chemical regulation has been hampered by weak laws, undue industry influence, excessively complex rules and uneven enforcement. (more)

 

more here at PaperTrail blog

Government database of bad doctors blocks public from seeing names

In the mid-1980s, incompetent and negligent doctors were moving freely between states, with state licensing boards and hospitals largely oblivious to lawsuits or disciplinary actions in other locations that might have flagged bad providers.

In response, Congress passed the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, which created the National Practitioner Data Bank, a repository of information that includes malpractice payments, license revocations and loss of clinical privileges for physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and other professionals.

Members of the public can access statistical portions of the NPDB. Thanks to lobbying by the American Medical Association, however, the law blocks public users from pulling up histories of individual doctors or other health care professionals. (more)