The veteran newsman also notes that the local papers he and his grandson have read along the way have given the health care debate front-page coverage while tucking the Trump-Russia affair farther back. There’s one more sign, Democrats, that health care is the primary issue on which you can win in 2018.
I don’t think Trump hears anyone other than Jared and Steve feeding him lines and Melania telling him when she’ll let him hold her hand. But maybe I’m wrong: maybe Trump is listening to South Dakotans who don’t want to risk releasing radioactive materials into our water supply.
After a massive showing of interest at recent Black Hills uranium mine hearings, the EPA announced an extension of its comment period on water permits until June 19, for the proposed reopening of activity in Custer and Fall River county underground aquifer supplies.
With more than 700 people attending, 212 testified at the hearings in Rapid City, Hot Springs and Edgemont held May 8-11 and at the hearing in Valentine, NE, on April 27. Out of all the speakers, 197 expressed opposition to the proposed in situ leach, or ISL, mine and mill [Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2017.05.26].
EPA is taking comment by mail, fax, and e-mail:
Mail: Valois Shea, U.S. EPA Region 8, Mail Code: 8WP-SUI, 1595 Wynkoop Street, Denver, CO. 80202-1129
If Rep. Noem can praise Trump for canceling an engineering project based on citizen concerns about radiation, then she should be shouting for Trump’s attention to the Azarga uranium mining application and the vocal resistance from her anti-nuclear constituents. Of course, it’s possible that if Trump notices at all the Azarga issue, he’ll listen to Azarga, which, like Team Trump, has numerous connections to Russia and the former Soviet Union.
The newest Dakota Free Press podcast is ready for your ears! In Episode #12, incumbent Aberdeen City Council candidate Dennis “Mike” Olson tells all about the fundamental role water plays in developing our city. Olson also talks about his experience in code enforcement, his satisfaction with the city manager and department heads, and his views on the public library and Aberdeen’s ability to welcome new folks to town.
But first, Spencer Dobson and I discuss his smashing trip to the Hills, the Deep Borehole Field Test, new U.S. House candidate Eric Terrell, election nerd news, and raw milk!
Below are resources for this week’s conversation. If you like what you hear, ring that Blog Tip Jarand help us fill the Internet with more great South Dakota podcasts!
Nancy Haigh, “Borehole Project Pulled,” Philip Pioneer Review, 2017.05.24. (A site in Haakon County north of Philip was one of four sites around the nation the Department of Energy was considering for the Deep Borehole Field Test.)
DFP five-part series on Deep Borehole Field Test, from presentation and interviews in Redfield, SD, April 2016.
I testified on May 8 at the EPA’s hearing in opposition to a proposal to allow a Chinese company to drill 8 bore holes in the Black Hills on behalf of the Sierra Club. The drilling would occur in Custer and Fall River Counties. I want to share my testimony with you along with some extra thoughts that have occurred to me since then.
“EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. We are here today to discuss allowing a foreign-owned corporation to mine for uranium and to drill eight bore holes.
“There are already over 15,000 abandoned uranium mines in 15 Western states. 75% of these are on federal and tribal lands. 10 million people live within 50 miles of an abandoned uranium mine. No existing federal law requires the cleanup of these hazardous waste sites. Most of these abandoned uranium mines where established under the general mining law of 1872 and remain dangerously radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
“The public health threat they pose grows greater the longer they are left abandoned. This threat to our health is invisible. It seeps into our water. It contaminates our livestock. It is carried in the wind for hundreds of miles and there is no dose of radiation that is harmless.
“Listen to these good people here today and work to clean up every abandoned uranium mine in the nation before considering a new one.”
I believe Judge Sutton and the EPA staff are sincerely concerned about sound environmental practices but they are part of a larger system controlled by corporations and billionaires and the politicians they support with large campaign donations. The appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator makes the situation more problematic.
Let us hope for common sense in this decision but that seems to be a very rare commodity these days [Mark Winegar, e-mail to Dakota Free Press, 2017.05.10].
Whoo-hoo—the newest Dakota Free Press podcast heads to the farm to interview school board member Brian Sharp, who is running for reëlection. Sharp is the only active farmer on the school board, and he says that unique ag perspective is important in a school district that serves a large ag community outside of Aberdeen city limits and that will offer vocational agriculture classes for the first time at its A-TEC Academy next fall.
But first, Spencer and I talk about bad abortion politics causing more women to die in Texas, a Chinese company applying to dig for uranium and dump toxic water in the Black Hills, and Republicans pretending to be “inclusive.” We also talk about what we’ve learned (and what Donald Trump hasn’t) from Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Below are resources for this week’s conversation. If you like what you hear, ring that Blog Tip Jar and help us fill the Internet with more great South Dakota podcasts!
When I toured the site of Azarga’s (then Powertech’s) proposed uranium mining site north of Edgemont in 2014, the project leaders told me that their in-situ recovery mining processes do not threaten the health of Black Hills water supplies or residents. Landowner and Powertech consultant Mark Hollenbeck said ISR processes leave less radium in the wastewater they reïnject into the ground than the water has when it comes up in the mining process. Water injected back into the Madison aquifer beneath his land moves through the sandstone at seven feet per year, meaning any contaminants that slipped through Azarga/Powertech’s wastewater treatment processes would move one mile in 750 years. Powertech CEO Richard Clement (who is still in a top slot at Azarga) also rejected claims that Powertech would build a big processing plant in anticipation of handling business from other uranium mining companies; Clement said his company was the only one looking at mining the Black Hills for uranium.
This argument appears to tack toward the strong opposition that has surfaced from numerous quarters to the Deep Borehole Field Test. Opposition to what seems like a pretty cool geological engineering project, proposed first in Clark County and now in Haakon County, has revolved around concerns that the Department of Energy project would bring nuclear waste to South Dakota, despite assurances from project leaders at every turn that the Deep Borehole Field Test is a field test and would not involve any nuclear waste. Those concerns persuaded a nearly unanimous Legislature to pass House Bill 1071 this year, which will require the Legislature to approve any deposits of “containment, disposal, or deposit of high level and nuclear fuel cycle wastes, defense wastes, nuclear wastes, radioactive substances, or radioactively contaminated materials.” (Note that HB 1071 may or may not apply to whatever Azarga would pump down its boreholes: CRM refers to “radioactive toxic waste” but not necessarily “high level” radioactive waste.)
The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment on the two draft permits it wants to issue to foreign corporation Azarga/Powertech to shoot water into the southern Black Hills to bring uranium to the surface. The EPA held a public meeting in Valentine last Thursday; they’ll hold meetings around the Black Hills next week:
Monday-Tuesday, May 8-9, 2017 from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (with a break from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), Best Western Ramkota Hotel, 2111 North Lacrosse Street, Rapid City.
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (with a break from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), Mueller Center, 801 South 6th Street, Hot Springs.
Thursday, May 11, 2017 from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (with a break from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), St. James Catholic Church, 310 3rd Avenue, Edgemont.
Accomplishment—as in, something she accomplished, made happen.
When I brought U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to view the damage firsthand in November 2013, it was clear that we had the tools to combat the pine beetle, but we weren’t able to apply them on a large enough scale. Reforms on the federal level were needed [Noem, 2017.04.11].
I’m feeling post hoc ergo propter hoc coming on….
Months later, we saw those reforms become law through provisions I helped write and fought to include in the 2014 Farm Bill [Noem, 2017.04.11].
Good thing Noem dilly-dallied for a year-plus on the Farm Bill she was supposed to get done in 2012 so she could include pine beetle measures in the delayed final product in 2014.
When the legislation passed, we were able to cut through environmental red tape, get boots on the ground faster, and allow the Forest Service to work on the scale this epidemic required. Around one million acres of the Black Hills National Forest benefited from the provisions. Additionally, we were able to prioritize the funding needed to help beat the beetle, which brings us to today [Noem, 2017.04.11].
Translation: Government spent more money, and that’s good!
Note also the code: a million acres “benefited”… but does that mean exclusively “got rid of pine beetles”?
While the epidemic has technically ended, years of damage have turned much of the Black Hills into a tinder box. Additional efforts are needed to restore this National Forest and ensure it is resilient toward such threats in the future [Noem, 2017.04.11].
We are fortunate to have so many dedicated foresters working in the Black Hills throughout this time. I’m proud to have been able to score some victories in support of their efforts and I remain dedicated to protecting the Black Hills [Noem, 2017.04.11].
The mountain pine beetle is a native species to the Black Hills. The first recorded epidemic in the Black Hills occurred from the late 1890s through the early 1900s. Epidemics also occurred in the 1930s, 1940s, 1960s, and 1970s, each lasting 8-13 years. This most recent epidemic may have been the worst and lasted for the past 20 years [Mark Watson, “BH Nat. Forest: Pine Beetle Epidemic Is Over,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2017.04.01].
The recent pine beetle infestation lasted at least three years longer than past infestations before the first action Noem says she took in 2013. Even with her action, this round of pine beetles lasted twice as long as average. If that’s a victory, I’d hate to see what a Kristi Noem defeat looks like.
Dakota Free Press Podcast Episode #5 is up and ready for your earbuds! This week, Spencer Dobson and I talk March for Science, pine beetles, online privacy, and anti-Muslim hysteria. Then Spencer interviews local criminology professor Courtney Waid-Lindberg about the death penalty, drug policy, and more criminal justice issues. Have a listen… and if you enjoy the show, help us do more by ringing the Dakota Free Press Tip Jar!
Scott Jacobson, public affairs officer for the Black Hills National Forest, said there are some hot pockets of beetle activity, including near Deadwood, the northwest corner of the forest, and areas southeast of Custer, but overall the forest is in “good shape” [Mark Watson, “BH Nat. Forest: Pine Beetle Epidemic Is Over,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2017.04.01].
The U.S. Forest Service says, “Approximately 2,100 acres in the Black Hills N.F and vicinity experienced trees fading from mountain pine beetles and associated Ips engraver beetles, compared to 15,000 acres in 2015.”
As a native species, the mountain pine beetle has always been a part of the Black Hills forest ecosystem, with periodic epidemics. The first recorded epidemic in the Black Hills occurred from the late 1890s through the early 1900s. Epidemics also occurred in the 1930s, 1940s, 1960s and 1970s, each lasting 8-13 years [USDA: Forest Service, press release, 2017.03.31].
Nieman Timber’s Paul Pierson says the beetles took out a lot of trees that would have died anyway:
However, he pointed out areas that were too far infested to save, especially in the Central Hills, in the Deerfield Lake and Whitetail Peak areas.
“There is still green forest left behind there, but there are a lot of dead trees on the ground down there,” he said.
Pierson said those areas won’t return to the same condition in our lifetimes; however, it is important to remember that those stands were in an unhealthy state. “They were never going to last forever in an overstocked pine forest,” Pierson said [Watson, 2017.04.01].