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Inside the System

April 20, 2007 | Page 10

STORIES BELOW:
Putting polluters' interests first
Abstinence-only runs into reality
Heard it through the grapevine

Putting polluters' interests first

DOES THE P in "EPA" stand for "pretend?"

Thanks to recent changes in the Environmental Protection Agency's system for reporting the release of toxic chemicals, U.S. residents will get to live next to millions of pounds of new chemical waste this year.

The revisions implemented by the EPA sharply raised the threshold where companies must report how much toxic material they release or dispose of. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), data about nearly 600,000 pounds of chemicals that would have been released under the old rules will now be exempt.

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) has been operating for the past 20 years and requires approximately 23,000 facilities across the country to reveal how they handle waste--which has allowed community groups and states to hold polluters responsible for damaging impacts on the environment.

But the new regulations, issued in December, raise the threshold that triggers detailed reporting on releases of most chemicals covered by the TRI, from 500 to 2,000 pounds per year. Facilities that don't reach the threshold could just list basic information identifying the chemicals released.

The EPA says that the change will affect less than 1 percent of all waste tracked by the TRI nationwide--and is designed to offer polluters "burden relief" by reducing the time and money spent on complying with environmental regulations.

But according to the EWG, in California alone, at least 274 waste-management facilities will benefit from the change, including 52 that would no longer be required to report any details of how they handle toxic waste--including an estimated 12,000 pounds of benzene, a cancer-causing agent, and more than 26,000 pounds of toluene, which has been linked to neurological disorders.

The change, according to EWG Vice President Bill Walker, will be "a real blow to the rights of Americans to know what toxic chemicals are being used or released to their neighborhoods."
-- The New Standard, April 12, 2007

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Abstinence-only runs into reality

NEWS FLASH: Telling kids not to have sex doesn't work. And now, even Congress knows it.

According to a study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not. In addition, those who attended one of the four abstinence classes that were reviewed reported having similar numbers of sexual partners as those who did not attend the classes. And they first had sex at about the same age as other students.

The federal government now spends about $176 million annually on abstinence-until-marriage education.

Not surprisingly, Bush administration officials cautioned against drawing sweeping conclusions from the study, saying the programs reviewed were flawed because they were some of the first established after Congress overhauled welfare laws in 1996.

Instead of questioning whether abstinence-only education works, administration officials said the real problem is that there isn't enough abstinence education--and that the "abstinence message" should be reinforced in subsequent years to truly affect behavior.

"This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines," said Harry Wilson, the commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families. "You can't expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth's high school career."
-- Associated Press, April 13, 2007

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Heard it through the grapevine

"WE HAVE different sensitivities, and at different times, we are going to come to different decisions, and I think that is best left up to the states."
-- Republican presidential contender Rudolph Giuliani, on why he believes the Confederate flag is a "local issue"

"IT MIGHT be good to start with somebody who is willing to take three big [bombs] and drop one on Mecca, one on Jeddah, and one on...Riyadh."
-- Now-fired disc jockey Don Imus, in February, on why he favors Giuliani

"RATHER THAN go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks.'"
-- Retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, one of at least three generals to turn down White House offers of a U.S. war "czar" position

"I THINK for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire. Once we got to Baghdad, what would we do? Who would we put in power? What kind of government would we have? Would it be a Sunni government, a Shia government, a Kurdish government? Would it be secular along lines of the Baath Party? Would it be fundamentalist Islamic? I do not think the United States wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties and accept responsibility of trying to govern Iraq. I think it makes no sense at all."
-- Then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, April 7, 1991

"THE SOLUTION to Iraq--an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself--is more than a military mission. Precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad."
-- George W. Bush

"SOME CALL this civil war; others call it emergency--I call it pure evil."
-- Bush

"I'M a strong proponent of the restoration of the wetlands, for a lot of reasons. There's a practical reason, though, when it comes to hurricanes: The stronger the wetlands, the more likely the damage of the hurricane."
-- Bush

"THIS IS the most mishandled, artificial, self-created mess that I can remember in the years...I've been active in public life."
-- Newt Gingrich, on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' involvement in firing eight federal prosecutors

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