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#63 -- Micah's Mission, 8-Nov-2006

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Rachel's Precaution Reporter #63

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, November 8, 2006..........Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Table of Contents...

Advancing Precaution in Georgia: Micah's Mission
"In Georgia, government officials continue to calculate and approve
allowable levels of pollution, even for substances such as TCE that
probably cause cancer and numerous other serious health impacts. But
community activists have taken the precautionary principle into their
own hands, and they are on the verge of success."
Physicians Demand Precaution in Europe's New Chemicals Policy
The leading British medical journal 'The Lancet' calls for the EU's
draft REACH regulation to protect unborn children against possible
brain-development disorders caused by industrial chemicals.
Exposure To Chemicals May Harm Young Brains
Researchers warn that the developing brain is more susceptible to
the effects of toxic chemicals than an adult brain and any
interference could have permanent consequences. They call for a
precautionary approach and say strict regulations should be enforced
for any substance which is shown to have a toxic effect.
Green Chemistry on the Legislative Agenda in California
Green chemistry is advancing in California -- perhaps even in the
legislature.
The Green Commissioner and the Hog Lot
In Winona, Minnesota, the local Chamber of Commerce was very much
in favor of expanded hog "production" for "jobs". They discounted the
arguments of the organic inspector -- including the idea of the
precautionary principle. They urged the citizens to only consider the
animal confinement operation as a source of beneficial fertilizer. As
for those incredibly noxious fumes, well that would be just a small
price for prosperity.

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From: Center for Public Environmental Oversight, Nov. 4, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ADVANCING PRECAUTION IN GEORGIA: MICAH'S MISSION

By Lenny Siegel lsiegel@cpeo.org

[To download the following article as a 3-page, 1 MB formatted DOC
file with photos, go to http://www.cpeo.org/pubs/Athens.doc.]

On September 23, 2006 I visited Athens, Georgia. My host was Jill
McElheney, founder of Micah's Mission, a faith-based ministry to
improve childhood and adolescent health. McElheney began her work
several years ago when her son Jarrett, now 12, was diagnosed with
acute lymphocytic leukemia. Jarrett has recovered, but his mother has
continued her children's environmental health mission throughout
northeast Georgia. She has worked closely with some of the residents
of Pittard Road, a street in Winterville with above average incidences
of cancer.

McElheney has been monitoring potential vapor intrusion sites in her
area. She drove me through her former neigborhood, where her son was
diagnosed with cancer. It is now an under-construction housing
development, where new homes are being built above a carbon
tetrachloride plume. The contamination appears to emanate from a
nearby grain elevator site or an adjacent petroleum pipeline facility.
The chemical had been used as a fumigant and metal degreaser. She had
contacted the state environmental protection division because she knew
of no special attention being given to protect future residents from
carbon tet vapors. The state is now working with the developer on a
vapor barrier plan.

But the main focus of my visit was Nakanishi Manufacturing
Corporation's ball-bearing plant in Winterville. Nakanishi is not a
brownfield. There is no reported groundwater plume. But it is
Georgia's largest reported source of trichloroethylene (TCE)
emissions, accounting for almost half the state's total. In fact, it's
one of the top dozen TCE emitters in the country, releasing more than
100,000 pounds of the substance into the atmosphere each year. The
company uses TCE as a degreaser.

This site illustrates that communities are not just concerned about
vapor intrusion and indoor air. They care about exposures, wherever
they occur. Nakanishi's modern-looking facility is within a half mile
of Coile Middle School, the New Grove Baptist Church, a Baby Boutique
business, and a number of homes. The Pittard Road community is about a
mile away. Activists, concerned that TCE emissions might be
responsible for cancers and other diseases in the area, have
challenged Nakanishi's air permit application at public meetings,
petitioning all the way to the EPA Administrator in Washington, DC.
In September 2005 about 50 people marched in protest outside the
plant.

State officials approved the permit, concluding that TCE exposures
would not exceed the 5 microgram per cubic meter state standard, based
upon modeling. But McElheney and residents were not convinced. They
prevailed upon the nearby University of Georgia to collect actual air
samples, indoors and out. Under the direction of toxicology professor
Jeff Fisher, a nationally regarded TCE expert, university students
took samples throughout the area.

Fisher's students found that the average indoor air reading exceeded 1
microgram per cubic meter, and that the average outdoor level fell
just under 1 microgram per cubic meter. Peak findings, indoors and
out, approached 5 micrograms per cubic meter. While the results show
compliance with Georgia's air regulations, the ambient air
concentrations of TCE are among the highest in the U.S.

There is growing evidence that official standards, such as Georgia's 5
micrograms per cubic meter level, are not fully protective of
susceptible populations. And in much of the country, manufacturers
have eliminated their use of TCE. Nakanishi officials, however, have
contended that substitution was impractical.

Finally, though, in early November, Nakanishi sought state permission
to install machinery that uses an alternative solvent, Isopar L. If
the new technology meets production specifications, the company may
phase out its TCE use.

In Georgia, government officials continue to calculate and approve
allowable levels of pollution, even for substances such as TCE that
probably cause cancer and numerous other serious health impacts. But
community activists have taken the precautionary principle into their
own hands, and they are on the verge of success.

=============

Lenny Siegel is Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight,
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041; Voice: 650-961-8918
or 650-969-1545; Fax: 650/961-8918.

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From: EurActiv, Nov. 8, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

MEDICS STORM INTO EU CHEMICALS DEBATE

RELATED

Chemicals Policy review (REACH)

Biomonitoring in health & environment policy-making

Background:

The EU's draft REACH law on chemical safety enters Parliament for a
crucial second reading on 12 December 2006. It will then need approval
by the EU Council of Ministers before it becomes law.

REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals)
proposes that manufacturers and importers of chemicals produce health
and safety tests for around 30,000 of the 100,000 substances currently
on the EU market. The screening process would be spread over an 11-
year period, starting with chemicals produced or imported in high
volumes.

Issues:

Exposure to industrial chemicals such as pesticides and solvents could
cause neurodevelopment disorders in one in every six children,
according to an article published today (8 November) by 'The
Lancet', a leading peer-reviewed medical journal.

But the author of the article, Dr Philippe Grandjean, told EurActiv
that the EU's draft REACH regulation would fail properly to address
the issue. The bill is scheduled to be voted in Parliament in December
with possible final adoption before the end of the year.

"REACH is incomplete because it does not take neurodevelopmental
disorders into account," said Grandjean, who works at the department
of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark.

Brain disorders that Grandjean says could be caused by chemicals
include autism, learning disabilities, sensory defects, mental
retardation and abnormal muscle tone disorder (cerebral palsy).

Grandjean said preventive measures are currently hampered by the high
level of proof required before chemicals are regulated. Recognition of
risk and subsequent prevention programmes are often successful but
were initiated "only after substantial delays", he said.

And, according to Grandjean, such delays call for a new precautionary
approach that recognises "the unique vulnerability of the developing
brain" when testing and controlling chemicals.

There are 201 chemicals that are known to be toxic to brain
development. However, Grandjean says that "the number of chemicals
that can cause neurotoxicity in laboratory studies probably exceeds
1,000".

"Of the chemicals most commonly used in commerce, fewer than half have
been subjected to even token laboratory testing. The few substances
proven to be toxic to human neurodevelopment should therefore be
viewed as the tip of a very large iceberg."

"Perhaps [EU lawmakers] could include a sentence to extend REACH to
developmental neurotoxicity," said Grandjean. "The problem is serious
enough to get started."

The Lancet paper singled out 201 chemicals known to cause clinical
neurotoxic effects in adults but which Grandjean said "can damage
children's developing brain at much lower levels". These include
metals and inorganic compounds, organic solvents and pesticides.

Positions:

The European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) said it agreed that
chemicals "can create certain risk to human health as it was shown
with some pesticides, with asbestos or arsenic".

But it argues that the chemicals are often found at levels so low that
it is impossible to tell whether they pose a threat or not. "There is
no convincing evidence that exposure to environmental levels of
synthetic chemicals are an important cause of cancer or other
diseases," CEFIC said. Moreover, it points out that "children are
leading healthier lives than at any time in history", partly thanks to
chemicals.

Answering the critics, Dr Grandjean admitted that "our understanding
of these neurodevelopmental disorders is largely unknown" and that
further research is needed to explore direct causal links between
exposure and illness. But he says that "the problem is serious enough
to get started".

"This is a typical case where the precautionary principle should
apply," said Grandjean.

Latest & next steps:

12 December 2006: Parliament expected to vote on REACH (second
reading). It then needs to be approved by the EU Council of Minister
before it becomes law. If the Council does not approve the
Parliament's position in second reading in full, a special
conciliation committee will be convened to iron out remaining
divergences. This would be a last-resort scenario as, in theory,
conciliation committees' decisions could result in the whole
legislation being dropped if divergences persist.

Links

EU official documents

Commission (DG Enterprise): The new EU chemicals legislation --
REACH


Commission (DG Environment): REACH

Commission (DG Environment): Q&A on REACH

Commission (DG Environment): Fact sheet: REACH -- a new chemicals
policy for the EU


EU Actors positions

European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC): Position on biomonitoring
and human health


European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC): Position on Children
Health & Environment


The Lancet: Press release -- A precautionary approach should be taken
to protect pregnant women and children against industrial chemicals

(8 Nov. 2006)

The Lancet: Full article -- Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial
chemicals
(8 Nov. 2006)

Copyright EurActiv 2000-2005

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From: Reuters, Nov. 7, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS MAY HARM YOUNG BRAINS

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) -- Exposure to industrial chemicals in the womb or
early in life can impair brain development but only a handful are
controlled to protect children, researchers said on Wednesday.

There is also a lack of research and testing to identify which
chemicals cause the most harm or how they should be regulated, they
added.

"Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled with
the purpose of protecting children," said Philippe Grandjean of
Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts and the
University of Southern Denmark.

"The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain
are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the fetus or a small
child," he added.

In a review published online by The Lancet medical journal,
Grandjean and Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine
in New York identified 202 industrial chemicals known to be toxic to
the human brain.

They suggested millions of children worldwide may have been harmed by
toxic chemicals and may suffer learning disabilities and developmental
disorders. But only substances such as lead, methylmercury and
polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) have been sufficiently studied and
regulated.

"Chemicals that can interfere with brain function -- that are toxic to
the brain -- should be considered toxic also to the developing brain,"
Grandjean told Reuters.

"We should protect developing brains from exposure to these
substances. We also need to examine industrial chemicals for these
kinds of effects because it is not being done systematically," he
added.

The researchers warned the developing brain is more susceptible to the
effects of toxic chemicals than an adult brain and any interference
could have permanent consequences.

They called for a precautionary approach and said strict regulations
should be enforced for any substance which is shown to have a toxic
effect.

Professor Mark Hanson, of Southampton University in England, described
the review as a timely report which will stir up debate and generate
more research.

"There is no need to panic, but we can't ignore this possible
problem," he said in a statement. "And of course it's no accident that
the populations in which development and education are challenged in
other ways... in poor parts of the developing world, are also the
areas in which such pollutants are abundant."

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From: Capitol Weekly (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov. 2, 2006
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ENVIRONMENTAL PREVIEW: GREEN CHEMISTRY

By Malcolm Maclachlan

After a landmark victory on greenhouse-gas emissions last year,
environmental groups and lawmakers are gearing up for a new round of
major legislative battles.

A number of wild cards that will have to be accounted for as next
year's fights shape up, most notable being the fate of the bonds, and
whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will embrace environmental
legislation the way he has this year. Nevertheless, there is
widespread agreement among people on all sides of the debate over what
some of the dominant issues are likely to be next year.

The main event: green chemicals

In terms of paradigm-shifting legislation, the early money is on a
package of bills being prepared by Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto,
that would change how the chemical industry is regulated. Simitian
chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Simitian said that he and his staff still are working out many of the
particulars of their "green chemistry" legislation. However, he did
say that it would likely rely on the "precautionary principle." This
standard, widely cited in the global-warming debate, states that if an
action has a significant potential to cause widespread harm, the
burden is on producers to show that it is safe, rather than on critics
to prove that it is harmful.

"It's a big hill to climb," Simitian said. "The struggle will be to
bring the industrial concerns into the conversation."

Not surprisingly, this is an idea that has the chemical industry
nervous. Robert Lucas, a lobbyist for the California Council for
Environmental and Economic Balance, said that this legislation has the
potential to open a Pandora's box of overreaching regulation and
litigation. He also worried that legislation may hurt the industry by
banning entire classes of chemicals without good reason. "The costs
need to be commensurate with the risks," Lucas said. "They need to be
real risks as opposed to assumed risks."

"From our perspective, we're still trying to get a handle on what they
might be suggesting," said Tim Shestek, California lobbyist for the
American Chemistry Council. "Clearly it's going to be at the forefront
of policy discussions next year."

Shestek said the federal government is working on the issue. He
pointed to HR 1215, the Green Chemistry Research and Development Act
of 2005. This bill, which has passed the House but not the Senate,
would allot $102 million over four years for research into greener
alternatives to hazardous chemicals. He also identified AB 289 as what
he saw as a positive approach to the issue. This bill, by
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, was signed by the governor this
past session. It authorizes the California Environmental Protection
Agency to start a review of chemicals in use in California and comes
up with testing standards.

These approaches are not enough, countered Michael Wilson, a research
scientist at the UC Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental
Health. The United States is falling behind Europe and Asia in
chemical regulation, he said, in ways that will hurt not only the
health of Americans, but also the competitiveness of American
business--and federal inaction is a big part of the reason why.

A report authored by Wilson, "Green Chemistry in California," on
behalf of Simitian's committee, is a big part of what got this ball
rolling. Wilson has testified on the issue numerous times, including
last summer in both the Capitol and in the U.S. Senate.

Wilson said that the United States could become a "dumping ground" for
chemicals that are barred in other countries. The Chinese, he said,
are shipping wood products to the United States with formaldehyde
concentrations that they would not permit for domestic use. Meanwhile,
the United States has had little in the way of reform since the 1979
Toxic Substances Control Act. The last major U.S. effort in this area,
to ban asbestos, was unsuccessful.

Ultimately, he said, this weakens U.S. business by leaving our
manufacturers dependent on older, more toxic, petrochemical-based
formulations that are becoming obsolete elsewhere. The European Union,
meanwhile, has spent the last five years working on the Registration,
Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, a framework for regulation
of chemicals in the European Union. This program could lead to the EU
banning up to 2,000 known harmful chemicals, Wilson said, and spur
European producers toward finding commercially viable safer
alternatives.

A California program, he said, could piggyback on this effort by
calling on American chemical producers to hand over the same data they
would have to prepare in order to sell their products in Europe.

"The burden has been on the government to prove a public risk," Wilson
said. "But the producers aren't under any obligation to provide the
information the government needs to build its case."

While the specifics of Simitian's package remain to be seen, there
does seem to be widespread agreement that it could be costly.
Environmentalists see much of this cost being borne by industry.

"It's really difficult to see how they couldn't be," said Rachel
Gibson, health advocate at Environment California, one of the main
environmental groups working with Simitian on the issue. "Right now,
they're getting a free ride being able to sell their chemicals with
little attention to health or safety."

The undercard: water

Toilets or dams? That may sound like a strange choice, but Democrats
and Republicans are advocating two very different ideas about how to
address their state's worsening water situation.

Rather than a single package of legislation, issues over water use
probably will break down into many separate battles. But what they
appear to have in common is that Republicans will push to increase
supply while Democrats will urge conservation.

This could result in a series of seemingly mundane fights. For
instance, Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, has said that he will
reintroduce a version of his low-flow toilets' legislation.

This past session, Laird sponsored AB 2496 to move the sate from a
standard of 1.6 gallon toilets to 1.3 gallons; it was flushed by the
governor. But Laird is coming back because the change could save the
state eight billion gallons of water a year, according to his staff
analyst. This is approximately equal to the amount of bottled water
Americans consume each year.

Laird plans to bring back the bill, with some changes designed to
appease plumbers and toilet manufacturers. While AB 2496 called for
new toilets to be phased in between 2009 and 2011, the new bill could
include a more forgiving time frame.

Meanwhile, GOP legislators have a list of several dams and reservoirs
they would like built, possibly as part of an overhaul of the state's
water system, if voters approve the water bonds. They're also seeking
to head off ongoing efforts to drain the immense Hetch Hetchy
reservoir. Numerous Central Valley Republican legislative candidates
have made new storage an issue in their campaigns. Rep. John
Doolittle, R-Roseville, has been pushing hard for the Auburn Dam
project.

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From: CounterPunch, Nov. 1, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

THE GREEN COMMISSIONER AND THE HOG LOT

Green Stench in Minnesota

By Mike Knapp

Southeastern Minnesota is beautiful country, with rolling hills along
the Mississippi River. The largest city in the area is Winona, which
has a population of about 30,000 with two universities and a technical
college. Spreading out west of the river are hundreds of farms, an
increasing number of which are organic.

Agribusiness interests have much bigger plans for the area. Throughout
the decade, there has been a steady stream of farmers who wish to
expand their livestock operations. In 2001, under pressure from such
forces to maximize production, the Winona County Commissioners
increased the number of animals routinely permitted on a farm to a
limit of 1500 animal units -- which is equivalent to either 1100 dairy
cows or 5000 swine. The County Board may still deny a Conditional Use
Permit for operations below this limit, but its decision must be based
on evidence and specific, science-based reasoning.

The size of farms and their stewardship of the land became a major
issue of debate in Winona County. Many people favored smaller farms
and organic agriculture. But the Minnesota Legislature authorized
state assistance to counties who embrace industrial-scale agriculture.
Administered by the Department of Agriculture, the effort was
deceptively called the Livestock Friendly Counties Program. Most
prominently, the program only assists counties that have no limit to
the allowable size of livestock feedlots. In 2004, the legislature
even considered a bill that would entirely remove local permitting
authority over feedlots. The measure failed, but the battle continued.

Dwayne Voegeli burst on the scene in 2002 as a Green candidate for the
Winona County Commission. Voegeli had a background as a social studies
teacher at the local high school. He was endorsed by the Winona County
Green Party and widely praised in the two local newspapers as a man
who valued both ecology and democracy. His public endorsements
included letters from Kevin Rafferty, Julie Prondzinski, Clay and
Cherisa Templeton, Richie Swanson, Joyce Ford, Lorraine Redig, Dean
Lanz, Michael Sersch, Marci Hitz, Betty Darby, Monica De Grazia, Sarah
Dixen, and Jenny Shanahan.

During his campaign for office, Voegeli himself made a number of
statements that seemed to offer opposition to factory farms. Just
before the primary, Voegeli was interviewed by the Winona Daily News,
and according to the reporter he was "concerned about wells being
contaminated with nitrates" and said that he "favors the county
controlling large feed lots." He offered similar views just before the
general election, when the same reporter wrote, "Being the fourth
generation raised on a Wisconsin farm, Voegeli wants to fight
pollution while supporting family farms."

Three years later, something had changed.

In 2005, Sauer Family Farms petitioned Winona County for a permit to
increase the number of hogs raised on their farm near Lewiston. Chris
Sauer and his brother, Jason already had one of the largest livestock
farms in the county, with 1,500 hogs split between two locations. But
that wasn't enough for them. They wanted to consolidate and expand
their operation -- increasing it to 2,100 hogs on one farm. The crux
of the proposal would be a giant concrete pit, under two hog barns,
that would hold almost one million gallons of manure.

Sauer argued that the proposal would increase the benefits of natural
fertilizer for their 1,700 acres of row crops. He explained, "We're
only trying to be more efficient." Kay Peterson countered that
"efficiency" was not necessarily a virtue. She pointed to the folly of
efficiently concentrating a million gallons of manure on land right
above a trout stream.

Other neighbors of the Sauer farm also voiced strong objection to the
proposal. At a four-hour public hearing described as "contentious" by
the reporter for the Winona Daily News, Jim Gurley challenged the
notion that the scale of the Sauer Family Farm fit the character of
the surrounding countryside. Gurley said, "He may call it a family
farm, but the numbers make it an industrial operation."

Jim Riddle, an organic inspector and the immediate past chairman of
the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, pointed out that the hogs
were being raised for Tyson Foods, Inc. -- a corporation that proudly
identifies itself as the "world's largest processor and marketer of
chicken, beef, and pork, the second-largest food company in the
Fortune 500, and a member of the S&P 500." The goal of Tyson's
Horizontal Integration is to make the corporation the "largest
provider of protein products on the planet." Riddle argued that if the
Sauer Conditional Use Permit were approved, it would set a precedent
for land use in Winona County.

The Winona newspapers published passionate letters and a guest
editorial about the ecological risk and the injustice of supporting
agribusiness at the expense of the community. The debate raged for
weeks. The position of the local Chamber of Commerce was that the
surrounding community should have no right to limit the size of an
industrial operation on private land. The editorial board of the
Winona Daily News argued that bigger farms were necessary and not a
matter of choice.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Voegeli wrote a warm, fuzzy letter about how
great it was for people to "share their thoughts" in public debate. He
was particularly impressed by how poised and articulate the president
of the local Chamber of Commerce was. He wrote, "Last night's meeting
was a great day for local democracy in Winona County."

Two weeks later, Dwayne Voegeli cast the deciding vote in favor of the
feedlot. He was the only member of the Green Party among the five
members of the commission. The newspaper reported:

The permit was approved on the swing vote of Commissioner Dwayne
Voegeli .

Commissioners Duane Bell and Jerry Heim voted against the permit. Bell
cited health concerns and said he has never received so many calls on
an issue. Heim said he had received calls "running 10 to one against."
But as downwinder Susan Sommers noted a few days later, the majority
on the County Board decided that supporting large business growth was
more important than ecology or human health. Commissioner Voegeli
tried to cover his tracks with the promise of "electrostatic
biocurtain" mitigation technology -- one of the conditions of approval
that were described in the official proceedings of the meeting.
Neighbors of the feedlot later found such promises easy to ridicule
when their backyard air still smelled like hog farts.

In stark contrast, the editorial board of the Winona Daily News
specifically praised Voegeli for his "politically courageous" support
for the fetid feedlot and mammoth manure pit:

It is a good decision, and we have Commissioner Dwayne Voegeli to
thank for it .

In his life away from the county board, Voegeli is a teacher, but that
Tuesday morning he taught a civics lesson that those who serve at all
levels of government would do well to attend to.

Well done, Dwayne.

The social studies teacher had developed some important friends, and
the party had only just begun.

* * *

Eight months later, Smith Family Farms sought to expand part of their
agribusiness that extends across 37 different farms in three counties,
totaling more than 6,000 acres. They raise 4,000 hogs and 200 dairy
cows in concentrated warehouses, similar to other factory farms. They
applied for a permit to increase one particular feedlot to 2,400 hogs
in Wiscoy Township. The proposal was for two hog barns and two manure
pits -- each holding 500,000 gallons.

Before the Winona County Planning and Zoning Commission had considered
the permit, 41 citizens of Wiscoy Township unanimously adopted a
resolution in opposition to the feedlot at their annual township
meeting in March. The theme of the resolution was the substantial risk
of the proposed operation to the health of nearby residents and to the
surrounding environment. Another resolution was also unanimously
passed to consider a temporary moratorium on all permits for new or
expanded "confinement operations with more than 300 animal units."

A week later, Jim Riddle provided both Winona newspapers with a
detailed argument against the conditional use permit. His first point
was that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had already found
excess fecal coliform bacteria in nearby Money Creek. Fecal coliform
itself is not pathogenic, but it is an indicator species for the
presence of dangerous pathogens that cause diseases such as typhoid
fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis or dysentery.

Riddle explained that if the county were to authorize new sources of
animal waste into a watershed that was already identified as polluted,
that would be a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Furthermore,
Money Creek happens to be a designated trout stream, according to the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The potential of chronic
leaks or catastrophic spills of hog manure would put this fish habitat
into further jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the local Chamber of Commerce was very much in favor of
expanded hog "production" for "jobs". They discounted the arguments of
the organic inspector -- including the idea of the precautionary
principle. They urged the citizens to only consider the animal
confinement operation as a source of beneficial fertilizer. As for
those incredibly noxious fumes, well that would be just a small price
for prosperity.

In the end, the decision came down to the five people on the county
commission. Two were quickly against the application, while two were
strongly in favor of it. Only the chairman of the committee was
undecided. He publicly waffled and delayed. The committee met two
extra times before they finally decided.

Once again, Dwayne Voegeli, the representative of the Green Party cast
the deciding vote in favor of a larger lagoon of manure.

Three months later, Voegeli supported a third feedlot. This time it
was for 1300 dairy cows, with a pit holding 5.7 million gallons of
manure. Despite its enormity, there was little vocal opposition to the
feedlot, and the vote on the commission was unanimous. Voegeli joked,
"I guess we just like cows more than pigs." Perhaps the citizens had
been metaphorically beaten into submission by the futility of trying
to reason with a majority of their elected representatives --
including the one with the "Green" label.

Writing for the antithesis of green ideology, the President of the
Winona Chamber of Commerce chirped, "Good call Commissioner!"

==============

Mike Knapp lives in Minnesota. He can be reached through his website:
Knappster.

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Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we
believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary
principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle --
please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Editors:
Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org

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:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Rachel's Precaution Reporter #63 "Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World" Wednesday, November 8, 2006..........Printer-friendly version www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here. ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Table of Contents...

Advancing Precaution in Georgia: Micah's Mission
"In Georgia, government officials continue to calculate and approve
allowable levels of pollution, even for substances such as TCE that
probably cause cancer and numerous other serious health impacts. But
community activists have taken the precautionary principle into their
own hands, and they are on the verge of success."
Physicians Demand Precaution in Europe's New Chemicals Policy
The leading British medical journal 'The Lancet' calls for the EU's
draft REACH regulation to protect unborn children against possible
brain-development disorders caused by industrial chemicals.
Exposure To Chemicals May Harm Young Brains
Researchers warn that the developing brain is more susceptible to
the effects of toxic chemicals than an adult brain and any
interference could have permanent consequences. They call for a
precautionary approach and say strict regulations should be enforced
for any substance which is shown to have a toxic effect.
Green Chemistry on the Legislative Agenda in California
Green chemistry is advancing in California -- perhaps even in the
legislature.
The Green Commissioner and the Hog Lot
In Winona, Minnesota, the local Chamber of Commerce was very much
in favor of expanded hog "production" for "jobs". They discounted the
arguments of the organic inspector -- including the idea of the
precautionary principle. They urged the citizens to only consider the
animal confinement operation as a source of beneficial fertilizer. As
for those incredibly noxious fumes, well that would be just a small
price for prosperity.

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From: Center for Public Environmental Oversight, Nov. 4, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ADVANCING PRECAUTION IN GEORGIA: MICAH'S MISSION

By Lenny Siegel lsiegel@cpeo.org

[To download the following article as a 3-page, 1 MB formatted DOC
file with photos, go to http://www.cpeo.org/pubs/Athens.doc.]

On September 23, 2006 I visited Athens, Georgia. My host was Jill
McElheney, founder of Micah's Mission, a faith-based ministry to
improve childhood and adolescent health. McElheney began her work
several years ago when her son Jarrett, now 12, was diagnosed with
acute lymphocytic leukemia. Jarrett has recovered, but his mother has
continued her children's environmental health mission throughout
northeast Georgia. She has worked closely with some of the residents
of Pittard Road, a street in Winterville with above average incidences
of cancer.

McElheney has been monitoring potential vapor intrusion sites in her
area. She drove me through her former neigborhood, where her son was
diagnosed with cancer. It is now an under-construction housing
development, where new homes are being built above a carbon
tetrachloride plume. The contamination appears to emanate from a
nearby grain elevator site or an adjacent petroleum pipeline facility.
The chemical had been used as a fumigant and metal degreaser. She had
contacted the state environmental protection division because she knew
of no special attention being given to protect future residents from
carbon tet vapors. The state is now working with the developer on a
vapor barrier plan.

But the main focus of my visit was Nakanishi Manufacturing
Corporation's ball-bearing plant in Winterville. Nakanishi is not a
brownfield. There is no reported groundwater plume. But it is
Georgia's largest reported source of trichloroethylene (TCE)
emissions, accounting for almost half the state's total. In fact, it's
one of the top dozen TCE emitters in the country, releasing more than
100,000 pounds of the substance into the atmosphere each year. The
company uses TCE as a degreaser.

This site illustrates that communities are not just concerned about
vapor intrusion and indoor air. They care about exposures, wherever
they occur. Nakanishi's modern-looking facility is within a half mile
of Coile Middle School, the New Grove Baptist Church, a Baby Boutique
business, and a number of homes. The Pittard Road community is about a
mile away. Activists, concerned that TCE emissions might be
responsible for cancers and other diseases in the area, have
challenged Nakanishi's air permit application at public meetings,
petitioning all the way to the EPA Administrator in Washington, DC.
In September 2005 about 50 people marched in protest outside the
plant.

State officials approved the permit, concluding that TCE exposures
would not exceed the 5 microgram per cubic meter state standard, based
upon modeling. But McElheney and residents were not convinced. They
prevailed upon the nearby University of Georgia to collect actual air
samples, indoors and out. Under the direction of toxicology professor
Jeff Fisher, a nationally regarded TCE expert, university students
took samples throughout the area.

Fisher's students found that the average indoor air reading exceeded 1
microgram per cubic meter, and that the average outdoor level fell
just under 1 microgram per cubic meter. Peak findings, indoors and
out, approached 5 micrograms per cubic meter. While the results show
compliance with Georgia's air regulations, the ambient air
concentrations of TCE are among the highest in the U.S.

There is growing evidence that official standards, such as Georgia's 5
micrograms per cubic meter level, are not fully protective of
susceptible populations. And in much of the country, manufacturers
have eliminated their use of TCE. Nakanishi officials, however, have
contended that substitution was impractical.

Finally, though, in early November, Nakanishi sought state permission
to install machinery that uses an alternative solvent, Isopar L. If
the new technology meets production specifications, the company may
phase out its TCE use.

In Georgia, government officials continue to calculate and approve
allowable levels of pollution, even for substances such as TCE that
probably cause cancer and numerous other serious health impacts. But
community activists have taken the precautionary principle into their
own hands, and they are on the verge of success.

=============

Lenny Siegel is Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight,
c/o PSC, 278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041; Voice: 650-961-8918
or 650-969-1545; Fax: 650/961-8918.

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From: EurActiv, Nov. 8, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

MEDICS STORM INTO EU CHEMICALS DEBATE

RELATED

Chemicals Policy review (REACH)

Biomonitoring in health & environment policy-making

Background:

The EU's draft REACH law on chemical safety enters Parliament for a
crucial second reading on 12 December 2006. It will then need approval
by the EU Council of Ministers before it becomes law.

REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals)
proposes that manufacturers and importers of chemicals produce health
and safety tests for around 30,000 of the 100,000 substances currently
on the EU market. The screening process would be spread over an 11-
year period, starting with chemicals produced or imported in high
volumes.

Issues:

Exposure to industrial chemicals such as pesticides and solvents could
cause neurodevelopment disorders in one in every six children,
according to an article published today (8 November) by 'The
Lancet', a leading peer-reviewed medical journal.

But the author of the article, Dr Philippe Grandjean, told EurActiv
that the EU's draft REACH regulation would fail properly to address
the issue. The bill is scheduled to be voted in Parliament in December
with possible final adoption before the end of the year.

"REACH is incomplete because it does not take neurodevelopmental
disorders into account," said Grandjean, who works at the department
of environmental medicine at the University of Southern Denmark.

Brain disorders that Grandjean says could be caused by chemicals
include autism, learning disabilities, sensory defects, mental
retardation and abnormal muscle tone disorder (cerebral palsy).

Grandjean said preventive measures are currently hampered by the high
level of proof required before chemicals are regulated. Recognition of
risk and subsequent prevention programmes are often successful but
were initiated "only after substantial delays", he said.

And, according to Grandjean, such delays call for a new precautionary
approach that recognises "the unique vulnerability of the developing
brain" when testing and controlling chemicals.

There are 201 chemicals that are known to be toxic to brain
development. However, Grandjean says that "the number of chemicals
that can cause neurotoxicity in laboratory studies probably exceeds
1,000".

"Of the chemicals most commonly used in commerce, fewer than half have
been subjected to even token laboratory testing. The few substances
proven to be toxic to human neurodevelopment should therefore be
viewed as the tip of a very large iceberg."

"Perhaps [EU lawmakers] could include a sentence to extend REACH to
developmental neurotoxicity," said Grandjean. "The problem is serious
enough to get started."

The Lancet paper singled out 201 chemicals known to cause clinical
neurotoxic effects in adults but which Grandjean said "can damage
children's developing brain at much lower levels". These include
metals and inorganic compounds, organic solvents and pesticides.

Positions:

The European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC) said it agreed that
chemicals "can create certain risk to human health as it was shown
with some pesticides, with asbestos or arsenic".

But it argues that the chemicals are often found at levels so low that
it is impossible to tell whether they pose a threat or not. "There is
no convincing evidence that exposure to environmental levels of
synthetic chemicals are an important cause of cancer or other
diseases," CEFIC said. Moreover, it points out that "children are
leading healthier lives than at any time in history", partly thanks to
chemicals.

Answering the critics, Dr Grandjean admitted that "our understanding
of these neurodevelopmental disorders is largely unknown" and that
further research is needed to explore direct causal links between
exposure and illness. But he says that "the problem is serious enough
to get started".

"This is a typical case where the precautionary principle should
apply," said Grandjean.

Latest & next steps:

12 December 2006: Parliament expected to vote on REACH (second
reading). It then needs to be approved by the EU Council of Minister
before it becomes law. If the Council does not approve the
Parliament's position in second reading in full, a special
conciliation committee will be convened to iron out remaining
divergences. This would be a last-resort scenario as, in theory,
conciliation committees' decisions could result in the whole
legislation being dropped if divergences persist.

Links

EU official documents

Commission (DG Enterprise): The new EU chemicals legislation --
REACH


Commission (DG Environment): REACH

Commission (DG Environment): Q&A on REACH

Commission (DG Environment): Fact sheet: REACH -- a new chemicals
policy for the EU


EU Actors positions

European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC): Position on biomonitoring
and human health


European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC): Position on Children
Health & Environment


The Lancet: Press release -- A precautionary approach should be taken
to protect pregnant women and children against industrial chemicals

(8 Nov. 2006)

The Lancet: Full article -- Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial
chemicals
(8 Nov. 2006)

Copyright EurActiv 2000-2005

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From: Reuters, Nov. 7, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

EXPOSURE TO CHEMICALS MAY HARM YOUNG BRAINS

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON (Reuters) -- Exposure to industrial chemicals in the womb or
early in life can impair brain development but only a handful are
controlled to protect children, researchers said on Wednesday.

There is also a lack of research and testing to identify which
chemicals cause the most harm or how they should be regulated, they
added.

"Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled with
the purpose of protecting children," said Philippe Grandjean of
Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts and the
University of Southern Denmark.

"The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain
are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the fetus or a small
child," he added.

In a review published online by The Lancet medical journal,
Grandjean and Philip Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine
in New York identified 202 industrial chemicals known to be toxic to
the human brain.

They suggested millions of children worldwide may have been harmed by
toxic chemicals and may suffer learning disabilities and developmental
disorders. But only substances such as lead, methylmercury and
polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) have been sufficiently studied and
regulated.

"Chemicals that can interfere with brain function -- that are toxic to
the brain -- should be considered toxic also to the developing brain,"
Grandjean told Reuters.

"We should protect developing brains from exposure to these
substances. We also need to examine industrial chemicals for these
kinds of effects because it is not being done systematically," he
added.

The researchers warned the developing brain is more susceptible to the
effects of toxic chemicals than an adult brain and any interference
could have permanent consequences.

They called for a precautionary approach and said strict regulations
should be enforced for any substance which is shown to have a toxic
effect.

Professor Mark Hanson, of Southampton University in England, described
the review as a timely report which will stir up debate and generate
more research.

"There is no need to panic, but we can't ignore this possible
problem," he said in a statement. "And of course it's no accident that
the populations in which development and education are challenged in
other ways... in poor parts of the developing world, are also the
areas in which such pollutants are abundant."

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From: Capitol Weekly (Sacramento, Calif.), Nov. 2, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

ENVIRONMENTAL PREVIEW: GREEN CHEMISTRY

By Malcolm Maclachlan

After a landmark victory on greenhouse-gas emissions last year,
environmental groups and lawmakers are gearing up for a new round of
major legislative battles.

A number of wild cards that will have to be accounted for as next
year's fights shape up, most notable being the fate of the bonds, and
whether Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will embrace environmental
legislation the way he has this year. Nevertheless, there is
widespread agreement among people on all sides of the debate over what
some of the dominant issues are likely to be next year.

The main event: green chemicals

In terms of paradigm-shifting legislation, the early money is on a
package of bills being prepared by Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto,
that would change how the chemical industry is regulated. Simitian
chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.

Simitian said that he and his staff still are working out many of the
particulars of their "green chemistry" legislation. However, he did
say that it would likely rely on the "precautionary principle." This
standard, widely cited in the global-warming debate, states that if an
action has a significant potential to cause widespread harm, the
burden is on producers to show that it is safe, rather than on critics
to prove that it is harmful.

"It's a big hill to climb," Simitian said. "The struggle will be to
bring the industrial concerns into the conversation."

Not surprisingly, this is an idea that has the chemical industry
nervous. Robert Lucas, a lobbyist for the California Council for
Environmental and Economic Balance, said that this legislation has the
potential to open a Pandora's box of overreaching regulation and
litigation. He also worried that legislation may hurt the industry by
banning entire classes of chemicals without good reason. "The costs
need to be commensurate with the risks," Lucas said. "They need to be
real risks as opposed to assumed risks."

"From our perspective, we're still trying to get a handle on what they
might be suggesting," said Tim Shestek, California lobbyist for the
American Chemistry Council. "Clearly it's going to be at the forefront
of policy discussions next year."

Shestek said the federal government is working on the issue. He
pointed to HR 1215, the Green Chemistry Research and Development Act
of 2005. This bill, which has passed the House but not the Senate,
would allot $102 million over four years for research into greener
alternatives to hazardous chemicals. He also identified AB 289 as what
he saw as a positive approach to the issue. This bill, by
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, was signed by the governor this
past session. It authorizes the California Environmental Protection
Agency to start a review of chemicals in use in California and comes
up with testing standards.

These approaches are not enough, countered Michael Wilson, a research
scientist at the UC Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental
Health. The United States is falling behind Europe and Asia in
chemical regulation, he said, in ways that will hurt not only the
health of Americans, but also the competitiveness of American
business--and federal inaction is a big part of the reason why.

A report authored by Wilson, "Green Chemistry in California," on
behalf of Simitian's committee, is a big part of what got this ball
rolling. Wilson has testified on the issue numerous times, including
last summer in both the Capitol and in the U.S. Senate.

Wilson said that the United States could become a "dumping ground" for
chemicals that are barred in other countries. The Chinese, he said,
are shipping wood products to the United States with formaldehyde
concentrations that they would not permit for domestic use. Meanwhile,
the United States has had little in the way of reform since the 1979
Toxic Substances Control Act. The last major U.S. effort in this area,
to ban asbestos, was unsuccessful.

Ultimately, he said, this weakens U.S. business by leaving our
manufacturers dependent on older, more toxic, petrochemical-based
formulations that are becoming obsolete elsewhere. The European Union,
meanwhile, has spent the last five years working on the Registration,
Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, a framework for regulation
of chemicals in the European Union. This program could lead to the EU
banning up to 2,000 known harmful chemicals, Wilson said, and spur
European producers toward finding commercially viable safer
alternatives.

A California program, he said, could piggyback on this effort by
calling on American chemical producers to hand over the same data they
would have to prepare in order to sell their products in Europe.

"The burden has been on the government to prove a public risk," Wilson
said. "But the producers aren't under any obligation to provide the
information the government needs to build its case."

While the specifics of Simitian's package remain to be seen, there
does seem to be widespread agreement that it could be costly.
Environmentalists see much of this cost being borne by industry.

"It's really difficult to see how they couldn't be," said Rachel
Gibson, health advocate at Environment California, one of the main
environmental groups working with Simitian on the issue. "Right now,
they're getting a free ride being able to sell their chemicals with
little attention to health or safety."

The undercard: water

Toilets or dams? That may sound like a strange choice, but Democrats
and Republicans are advocating two very different ideas about how to
address their state's worsening water situation.

Rather than a single package of legislation, issues over water use
probably will break down into many separate battles. But what they
appear to have in common is that Republicans will push to increase
supply while Democrats will urge conservation.

This could result in a series of seemingly mundane fights. For
instance, Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, has said that he will
reintroduce a version of his low-flow toilets' legislation.

This past session, Laird sponsored AB 2496 to move the sate from a
standard of 1.6 gallon toilets to 1.3 gallons; it was flushed by the
governor. But Laird is coming back because the change could save the
state eight billion gallons of water a year, according to his staff
analyst. This is approximately equal to the amount of bottled water
Americans consume each year.

Laird plans to bring back the bill, with some changes designed to
appease plumbers and toilet manufacturers. While AB 2496 called for
new toilets to be phased in between 2009 and 2011, the new bill could
include a more forgiving time frame.

Meanwhile, GOP legislators have a list of several dams and reservoirs
they would like built, possibly as part of an overhaul of the state's
water system, if voters approve the water bonds. They're also seeking
to head off ongoing efforts to drain the immense Hetch Hetchy
reservoir. Numerous Central Valley Republican legislative candidates
have made new storage an issue in their campaigns. Rep. John
Doolittle, R-Roseville, has been pushing hard for the Auburn Dam
project.

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From: CounterPunch, Nov. 1, 2006
[Printer-friendly version]

THE GREEN COMMISSIONER AND THE HOG LOT

Green Stench in Minnesota

By Mike Knapp

Southeastern Minnesota is beautiful country, with rolling hills along
the Mississippi River. The largest city in the area is Winona, which
has a population of about 30,000 with two universities and a technical
college. Spreading out west of the river are hundreds of farms, an
increasing number of which are organic.

Agribusiness interests have much bigger plans for the area. Throughout
the decade, there has been a steady stream of farmers who wish to
expand their livestock operations. In 2001, under pressure from such
forces to maximize production, the Winona County Commissioners
increased the number of animals routinely permitted on a farm to a
limit of 1500 animal units -- which is equivalent to either 1100 dairy
cows or 5000 swine. The County Board may still deny a Conditional Use
Permit for operations below this limit, but its decision must be based
on evidence and specific, science-based reasoning.

The size of farms and their stewardship of the land became a major
issue of debate in Winona County. Many people favored smaller farms
and organic agriculture. But the Minnesota Legislature authorized
state assistance to counties who embrace industrial-scale agriculture.
Administered by the Department of Agriculture, the effort was
deceptively called the Livestock Friendly Counties Program. Most
prominently, the program only assists counties that have no limit to
the allowable size of livestock feedlots. In 2004, the legislature
even considered a bill that would entirely remove local permitting
authority over feedlots. The measure failed, but the battle continued.

Dwayne Voegeli burst on the scene in 2002 as a Green candidate for the
Winona County Commission. Voegeli had a background as a social studies
teacher at the local high school. He was endorsed by the Winona County
Green Party and widely praised in the two local newspapers as a man
who valued both ecology and democracy. His public endorsements
included letters from Kevin Rafferty, Julie Prondzinski, Clay and
Cherisa Templeton, Richie Swanson, Joyce Ford, Lorraine Redig, Dean
Lanz, Michael Sersch, Marci Hitz, Betty Darby, Monica De Grazia, Sarah
Dixen, and Jenny Shanahan.

During his campaign for office, Voegeli himself made a number of
statements that seemed to offer opposition to factory farms. Just
before the primary, Voegeli was interviewed by the Winona Daily News,
and according to the reporter he was "concerned about wells being
contaminated with nitrates" and said that he "favors the county
controlling large feed lots." He offered similar views just before the
general election, when the same reporter wrote, "Being the fourth
generation raised on a Wisconsin farm, Voegeli wants to fight
pollution while supporting family farms."

Three years later, something had changed.

In 2005, Sauer Family Farms petitioned Winona County for a permit to
increase the number of hogs raised on their farm near Lewiston. Chris
Sauer and his brother, Jason already had one of the largest livestock
farms in the county, with 1,500 hogs split between two locations. But
that wasn't enough for them. They wanted to consolidate and expand
their operation -- increasing it to 2,100 hogs on one farm. The crux
of the proposal would be a giant concrete pit, under two hog barns,
that would hold almost one million gallons of manure.

Sauer argued that the proposal would increase the benefits of natural
fertilizer for their 1,700 acres of row crops. He explained, "We're
only trying to be more efficient." Kay Peterson countered that
"efficiency" was not necessarily a virtue. She pointed to the folly of
efficiently concentrating a million gallons of manure on land right
above a trout stream.

Other neighbors of the Sauer farm also voiced strong objection to the
proposal. At a four-hour public hearing described as "contentious" by
the reporter for the Winona Daily News, Jim Gurley challenged the
notion that the scale of the Sauer Family Farm fit the character of
the surrounding countryside. Gurley said, "He may call it a family
farm, but the numbers make it an industrial operation."

Jim Riddle, an organic inspector and the immediate past chairman of
the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, pointed out that the hogs
were being raised for Tyson Foods, Inc. -- a corporation that proudly
identifies itself as the "world's largest processor and marketer of
chicken, beef, and pork, the second-largest food company in the
Fortune 500, and a member of the S&P 500." The goal of Tyson's
Horizontal Integration is to make the corporation the "largest
provider of protein products on the planet." Riddle argued that if the
Sauer Conditional Use Permit were approved, it would set a precedent
for land use in Winona County.

The Winona newspapers published passionate letters and a guest
editorial about the ecological risk and the injustice of supporting
agribusiness at the expense of the community. The debate raged for
weeks. The position of the local Chamber of Commerce was that the
surrounding community should have no right to limit the size of an
industrial operation on private land. The editorial board of the
Winona Daily News argued that bigger farms were necessary and not a
matter of choice.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Voegeli wrote a warm, fuzzy letter about how
great it was for people to "share their thoughts" in public debate. He
was particularly impressed by how poised and articulate the president
of the local Chamber of Commerce was. He wrote, "Last night's meeting
was a great day for local democracy in Winona County."

Two weeks later, Dwayne Voegeli cast the deciding vote in favor of the
feedlot. He was the only member of the Green Party among the five
members of the commission. The newspaper reported:

The permit was approved on the swing vote of Commissioner Dwayne
Voegeli .

Commissioners Duane Bell and Jerry Heim voted against the permit. Bell
cited health concerns and said he has never received so many calls on
an issue. Heim said he had received calls "running 10 to one against."
But as downwinder Susan Sommers noted a few days later, the majority
on the County Board decided that supporting large business growth was
more important than ecology or human health. Commissioner Voegeli
tried to cover his tracks with the promise of "electrostatic
biocurtain" mitigation technology -- one of the conditions of approval
that were described in the official proceedings of the meeting.
Neighbors of the feedlot later found such promises easy to ridicule
when their backyard air still smelled like hog farts.

In stark contrast, the editorial board of the Winona Daily News
specifically praised Voegeli for his "politically courageous" support
for the fetid feedlot and mammoth manure pit:

It is a good decision, and we have Commissioner Dwayne Voegeli to
thank for it .

In his life away from the county board, Voegeli is a teacher, but that
Tuesday morning he taught a civics lesson that those who serve at all
levels of government would do well to attend to.

Well done, Dwayne.

The social studies teacher had developed some important friends, and
the party had only just begun.

* * *

Eight months later, Smith Family Farms sought to expand part of their
agribusiness that extends across 37 different farms in three counties,
totaling more than 6,000 acres. They raise 4,000 hogs and 200 dairy
cows in concentrated warehouses, similar to other factory farms. They
applied for a permit to increase one particular feedlot to 2,400 hogs
in Wiscoy Township. The proposal was for two hog barns and two manure
pits -- each holding 500,000 gallons.

Before the Winona County Planning and Zoning Commission had considered
the permit, 41 citizens of Wiscoy Township unanimously adopted a
resolution in opposition to the feedlot at their annual township
meeting in March. The theme of the resolution was the substantial risk
of the proposed operation to the health of nearby residents and to the
surrounding environment. Another resolution was also unanimously
passed to consider a temporary moratorium on all permits for new or
expanded "confinement operations with more than 300 animal units."

A week later, Jim Riddle provided both Winona newspapers with a
detailed argument against the conditional use permit. His first point
was that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had already found
excess fecal coliform bacteria in nearby Money Creek. Fecal coliform
itself is not pathogenic, but it is an indicator species for the
presence of dangerous pathogens that cause diseases such as typhoid
fever, hepatitis, gastroenteritis or dysentery.

Riddle explained that if the county were to authorize new sources of
animal waste into a watershed that was already identified as polluted,
that would be a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. Furthermore,
Money Creek happens to be a designated trout stream, according to the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The potential of chronic
leaks or catastrophic spills of hog manure would put this fish habitat
into further jeopardy.

Meanwhile, the local Chamber of Commerce was very much in favor of
expanded hog "production" for "jobs". They discounted the arguments of
the organic inspector -- including the idea of the precautionary
principle. They urged the citizens to only consider the animal
confinement operation as a source of beneficial fertilizer. As for
those incredibly noxious fumes, well that would be just a small price
for prosperity.

In the end, the decision came down to the five people on the county
commission. Two were quickly against the application, while two were
strongly in favor of it. Only the chairman of the committee was
undecided. He publicly waffled and delayed. The committee met two
extra times before they finally decided.

Once again, Dwayne Voegeli, the representative of the Green Party cast
the deciding vote in favor of a larger lagoon of manure.

Three months later, Voegeli supported a third feedlot. This time it
was for 1300 dairy cows, with a pit holding 5.7 million gallons of
manure. Despite its enormity, there was little vocal opposition to the
feedlot, and the vote on the commission was unanimous. Voegeli joked,
"I guess we just like cows more than pigs." Perhaps the citizens had
been metaphorically beaten into submission by the futility of trying
to reason with a majority of their elected representatives --
including the one with the "Green" label.

Writing for the antithesis of green ideology, the President of the
Winona Chamber of Commerce chirped, "Good call Commissioner!"

==============

Mike Knapp lives in Minnesota. He can be reached through his website:
Knappster.

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Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we
believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary
principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle --
please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

Editors:
Peter Montague - peter@rachel.org
Tim Montague - tim@rachel.org

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