Pennsylvania Observer

A blog for progressive people in Pennsylvania. Greens, Democrats and others who want to comment on current news items in the Keystone State.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Biggest missed story of 2004: PA #1 in Cancer Hazards

Biggest Missed Story of 2004: Pennsylvania #1 in Cancer Hazards from Manufacturing.

It’s easy to complain about the corporate media. They have missed many of the biggest corporate crimes, and are in the midst of missing the possible theft of the presidency. So it’s no surprise that no one in Pennsylvania wrote about the Commonwealth’s top ranking in cancer risks from manufacturers.

The ranking is issued annually based on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI is a report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on the self-reporting of emissions of certain chemicals by manufacturers across the United States. The list of chemicals is determined by EPA, based on known or suspected harms to human beings. These are chemicals that are legally dumped into our air, water and soil, despite their known toxicity. It is important to note that the numbers are based on self-reporting, and do not account for illegal dumping. These numbers are therefore an absolute minimum of what may actually be happening and not an accurate accounting of the hazards.

The entire database of releases is made available each year to the media and elected officials. Yet each year the release is met with profound silence. Local media ignore the story because in a capitalist economy, they often are beholden to the largest polluters on the list who may be their advertisers. Local elected officials ignore the TRI because they don’t want the public to know just how bad things are in their communities.

This past year was no exception. The TRI figures this year got no mention in the mainstream media in Pennsylvania. However, this year the dearth of coverage was even more outrageous because the Keystone State ranked number one in cancer risks posed by the release of these toxins. PA had 380,000,000 pounds of “Benzene-equivalents,” which far exceeded the number two state, Nevada (320,000,000). The cancer risk score is the “reported releases to air and water of TRI carcinogens, weighted by a risk score that accounts for differences in toxicity and exposure potential (pounds of benzene-equivalents).,” according to Environmental Defense.

Rank
State
Pounds of
Benzene-equivalents
1.
PENNSYLVANIA
380,000,000
2.
NEVADA
320,000,000
3.
ARIZONA
270,000,000
4.
INDIANA
250,000,000
5.
WEST VIRGINIA
250,000,000
6.
OHIO
220,000,000
7.
VIRGINIA
220,000,000
8.
ALABAMA
210,000,000
9.
KENTUCKY
200,000,000
10.
TENNESSEE
170,000,000
11.
TEXAS
160,000,000
12.
MISSOURI
150,000,000
PA’s ranking is primarily because it has 11 of the top 100 counties with the most cancer risk. Indiana County had the most cancer risk with 70,000,000 pounds of benzene-equivalents. That amount equals the 22nd state (Idaho).

Rank in PA(National Rank)
County
Pounds of Benzene-
equivalents
1. (10)
INDIANA
70,000,000
2. (11)
GREENE
63,000,000
3. (20)
BEAVER
45,000,000
4. (34)
ARMSTRONG
35,000,000
5. (44)
YORK
25,000,000
6. (45)
ALLEGHENY
24,000,000
7. (54)
MONTOUR
22,000,000
8. (60)
LAWRENCE
19,000,000
9. (69)
CLEARFIELD
16,000,000
10. (77)
WASHINGTON
15,000,000
11. (84)
DELAWARE
13,000,000
12.
SNYDER
8,500,000
13.
VENANGO
7,100,000
14.
BERKS
5,800,000
15.
CAMBRIA
3,800,000
16.
BLAIR
2,000,000
17.
SCHUYLKILL
1,600,000
18.
CHESTER
1,100,000
19.
WESTMORELAND
1,100,000
20.
BUTLER
720,000
21.
CUMBERLAND
610,000
22.
SOMERSET
500,000
23.
ERIE
480,000
24.
FRANKLIN
290,000
25.
MONTGOMERY
280,000
26.
LANCASTER
230,000
27.
MERCER
190,000
28.
CENTRE
180,000
29.
NORTHAMPTON
130,000
30.
LACKAWANNA
100,000
31.
PHILADELPHIA
88,000
32.
LUZERNE
68,000
33.
NORTHUMBERLAND
62,000
34.
ELK
54,000
35.
WARREN
52,000
36.
LYCOMING
49,000
37.
MCKEAN
46,000
38.
DAUPHIN
42,000
39.
MONROE
39,000
40.
CARBON
36,000
41.
ADAMS
35,000
42.
LEHIGH
33,000
43.
TIOGA
31,000
44.
MIFFLIN
30,000
45.
CLINTON
27,000
46.
LEBANON
16,000
47.
JEFFERSON
14,000
48.
CLARION
12,000
49.
BUCKS
8,600
50.
CRAWFORD
6,000
51.
BRADFORD
2,300
52.
BEDFORD
1,600
53.
POTTER
1,400
54.
JUNIATA
1,300
55.
WYOMING
990
56.
COLUMBIA
640
57.
CAMERON
450
58.
HUNTINGDON
420
59.
UNION
150
60.
FULTON
1

So who is releasing these toxins? The Observer is not afraid to name names. The biggest contributors to PA’s cancer risk score are the following:

POLLUTING FACILITY
MUNICIPALITY
POUNDS OF BENZENE-EQUIVALENTS
ALLEGHENY ENERGY INC. HATFIELD POWER STATION
MASONTOWN
63,000,000
RELIANT ENERGY KEYSTONE POWER PLANT
SHELOCTA
29,000,000
BRUCE MANSFIELD
SHIPPINGPORT
28,000,000
RELIANT ENERGY CONEMAUGH POWER PLANT
NEW FLORENCE
26,000,000
PPL BRUNNER ISLAND STEAM ELECTRIC STATION
YORK HAVEN
24,000,000
PPL MONTOUR STEAM ELECTRIC STATION
DANVILLE
22,000,000
ZINC CORP. OF AMERICA MONACA SMELTER
MONACA
16,000,000
RELIANT ENERGY SHAWVILLE STATION
SHAWVILLE
16,000,000
GE CO. BRIDGEVILLE GLASS PLANT
BRIDGEVILLE
13,000,000
EXELON GENERATING CO. EDDYSTONE GENERATING STATION
EDDYSTONE
13,000,000
RELIANT ENERGY INC. ELRAMA POWER PLANT
ELRAMA
12,000,000
INTERNATIONAL METALS RECLAMATION CO. INC. (INMETCO)
ELLWOOD CITY
12,000,000
CHESWICK POWER PLANT
CHESWICK
11,000,000
SUNBURY GENERATION L.L.C.
SHAMOKIN DAM
8,500,000
NEW CASTLE POWER PLANT
WEST PITTSBURG
6,900,000
PG&E SCRUBGRASS GENERATING PLANT
KENNERDELL
5,900,000
ALLEGHENY ENERGY INC. ARMSTRONG POWER STATION
KITTANNING
5,500,000
EXIDE CORP. READING SMELTER DIV.
READING
2,700,000
EBENSBURG POWER CO.
EBENSBURG
2,600,000
CARPENTER TECH. CORP.
READING
2,500,000

It needs to be emphasized again that these companies are doing nothing illegal. The toxins are known dangers, but there is no law that prohibits their being dumped into our environment. The EPA only requires that the polluters self-report (no inspections to verify the numbers, by the way) how much they dump on us.
(All numbers are based on EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory and Environmental Defense’s calculations of risk. Numbers come from the 2002 TRI report, the most recent report. The Observer will provide updates as EPA releases the 2003 figures in the next few months.)

And the winner is...

And the Winner Is… I
s it a surprise to anyone? Little Ricky Santorum is the hands-down winner of the First Pennsylvania Observer Grinch of the Year Award. There are lots of people and groups who could win this award in any other state, but there are only a handful of locations that have someone as nasty and hypocritically self-righteous as Santorum. Our readers, proving their intelligence and wisdom, gave Santorum 34 of 80 votes or 42%. Here are the final results:
Choices (Votes) %
Lois Murphy and the Democratic Leadership. For trying to subvert democracy by getting Green Dorothy Schieber and Reform Party Presidential nominee Ralph Nader off the ballot. (4) 5.00%
Ed Rendell. PA's chief corporate booster. Raising taxes on workers, cutting benefits for the poor, promoting corporate welfare. (3) 3.75%
Republican Leadership of the General Assembly. They don't like Ed Rendell, so they pettily dismissed any idea that came out of the corner office simply to spite the Guv. Pretty childish and ultimately destructive to the future of the Commonwealth. (14) 17.50%
Rick Santorum. Need we say more? (34) 42.50%
Mark Scott is the Republican Berks County Commissioner who has proposed an Almost-Final Solution to his idea of the county's biggest problem--too many poor and dark-skinned people. His solution is to tear down low-income housing and stop providing services that attract "those people" to Berks County. (7) 8.75%
Arlen Specter. For losing his spine. He gave in to the far right to get the Judiciary Committee chair. Can you say Chief Justice Scalia? (1) 1.25%
Wal-Mart. Driving local retailers out of business, forcing US manufacturers to purchase only from slave-wage Chinese companies, busting unions... (17) 21.25%

Top Political Books of 2004

Top Political Books of 2004. In our humble opinion, there were five great political books that everyone should have read last year. But it’s not too late. Unlike many of the pop political books, these are just as relevant as we begin the new year.

Cornel West’s Democracy Matters (Penguin Books) is the most profound book on democracy in the post 9/11 period. West takes on the American empire as antithetical to its lofty, but never reached ideals. Like West’s seminal Race Matters, Democracy Matters makes frequent use of history to make its points, and it makes them better than any American academic writing today. West weaves in American literature, especially Toni Morrison and Herman Melville, to try to turn down the professorial tone of his writing, and he mostly succeeds. He also tries to employ music, though less successfully.

West seems to be an academic who wants to be a poet. Arundhati Roy, on the other hand, is a poet who aspires to be an academic. Roy is perhaps the most inspirational writer in the growing global democracy movement. Her essays flow lyrically, even when being acerbic. Her most recent essay is Public Power in the Age of Empire (Seven Stories Press), a brief 54 page critique of empire, and also of those who claim to oppose it. It is a call to action—real action. “Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars,” write Roy. “Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of empire that are strung across the globe.”

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is one of those volumes on our bookshelves that we proudly display to make sure people know our politics. We need to take it off the shelf every once in a while to remind us of the struggle for democracy and human rights that has gone on for centuries in this country. Zinn, working with Anthony Arnove, has produced an essential companion to A People’s History. Voices of a People’s History of the United States (Seven Stories Press) is a compilation of scores of important documents, speeches and essays from some of the most important voices that are typically omitted from our history books. Zinn, in the introduction, says “I wanted labor history, which has been the battleground, decade after decade, century after century, of an ongoing fight for human dignity, to come to the fore. And I wanted my readers to experience how at key moments in history some of the bravest and most effective political acts were the sounds of the human voice itself… To omit or minimize these voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations. I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of color, or women—once they organize and protest and create movements—have a voice no government can suppress.”

Had the Democrats read Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Metropolitan Books) instead of listening to its DLC-dominated leadership, we might not be preparing to mourn the re-ascendance of Bush II. Franks’ insightful look at his home state’s idiosyncrasies is essential for anyone wanting to do any kind of political, labor or community organizing in the so-called Red States. Frank asks why so many poor and middle class white people in the red States vote against their economic self-interests even as their communities are destroyed and their personal economic situation deteriorates. He exposes the right’s successful scheme to distract people from economic issues with so-called “values.” He shows how the right manipulates voters with threats that never seem to go away, even when their people are in power. It’s a great analysis, with lots of amusing anecdotes, but its one weakness is overwhelming. It never explains how to counter the rights strategy.

The last book on our list is full of intrigue, stories of adventure, violent battles for survival and dominance, steamy sex. Well, the sex is between lobsters, but it’s still intriguing. Trevor Carson’s The Secret Life of Lobsters: How Fishermen and Scientists Are Unraveling the Mysteries of Our Favorite Crustacean (Harper Collins) is not technically a political book, but it does have political implications. It touches on animal rights, the environment, the role of science in public policy, balancing the needs of workers with the protection of the environment. And it does it all in a way that makes you want to read it all in one sitting. The most intriguing, quirky, fun book of the year.