December/January Issue of the Planet Kansas
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: Reality or Illusion
Call for 2 Yr Hog Moritorium Craig Volland
Buffalo River Trail Backpack Jeff Pierce
Wildlife Wins Out Diane Stewart
Is the World Worth Saving? John Kurmann
War Terry Shistar
Surface Transportation-21st Century Wayne Sangster
Sierra Club Defeats Fast Track Craig Volland
Kansas River Study Crunch Time T. J. Hittle
KS Congress Sent Radioactive Waste Charles Benjamin
Kanza Newza Tom Thompson
SEC Tries to Stop Activists Jim Horlacher
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Tallgrass Prairie Preserve: Reality or Illusion?
By Charles Benjamin
After decades of effort by the environmental community and others who love the Kansas prairie, Federal legislation has been passed which made the 10,894-acre Z-Bar Ranch in the Flint Hills of Chase County, Kansas, a part of the National Park System. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve was established by Congress on November 12, 1996 to preserve, protect, and interpret for the public an example of tallgrass prairie ecosystem and to interpret the historic and cultural values represented on the property. This was a hard won victory for preservation that we all can be proud of, however, vigilance continues to be necessary.
The Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is the only unit in the National Park System dedicated to the natural and cultural history of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. It is operated by a joint agreement, in a unique public/private partnership, by the National Park Service and National Park Trust, a private organization. The National Park Trust owns the property, and entered into an intensively stocked grazing lease with National Farms. National Farms is well known in the Flint Hills and has a bad reputation with local Flint Hills ranchers as well as with environmentalists. This large out-of-state corporation is buying out large tracts of Kansas rangelands and many are clearly overgrazed. With this poor record in managing native prairie pastures can natural diversity be protected?
Currently a National Park Service General Management Plan Planning Team is deciding how the new Tallgrass Prairie Preserve will be managed. Public opinion is an important part of this team planning process, and public opinion will very much influence the future of the new preserve. Some people are soliciting the Park Service to see that the prairie preserve will become a glorified cattle pasture and others invision a native prairie showcasing the untamed grasslands mingled with buffalo, elk and prairie chickens, where unique plant species flourish and the native culture is displayed. The public comment period has not ended with the "open house" meetings. The Park Service Office in Cottonwood Falls will continue to receive comments for at least the next year. Expressing a vision for the preserve at this time is important in helping to establish parameters for the planning process. We have time and should continue to participate in that process.
An advisory committee to the aforementioned planning team has been recently appointed and announced. Of the three seats on this committee delegated for environmental/history, only one environmental person was selected. It is of great concern that Bill Haw from National Farms has taken a position on this advisory committee. Because National Farms, as pasture lessee, is making a profit grazing cattle on this piece of Kansas prairie intended for public enjoyment, it is hard not to believe that their priorities are in having it continue as a large cattle pasture. While differing views are necessary on the committee, this strong financial bias seems inappropriate and self-serving rather than in the public interest.
Intensively grazed cattle pasture or natural tallgrass prairie? Individuals must express their views. Letters are much more effective from a personal perspective rather than representing any organization.
If you wish to describe to the Park Service Planning Team what you want to see as a visitor at Tallgrass Preserve, OR If you wish to tell the National Park Service why you feel it is inappropriate to have a representative of National Farms on the advisory committee, write to:
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
National Park Service Office
PO Box 585
Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845
If you have questions or personal comments to National Park Trust about their selection of a lessee, write to:
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
National Park Trust
1776 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
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Petition Drive Calls For 2 Year Moratorium On Hog Factories
By Craig Volland
A statewide petition drive has been initiated by western Kansas citizens asking the State Legislature for a two-year moratorium on the permitting of new hog factories over about 2500 head in size. The petition also sets basic guidelines for strict new regulation of hog feeding facilities including elimination of the odor problem, zero leakage from lagoons, tighter control of waste application and dead animal disposal, protections for taxpayers when facilities are closed, and an economic feasibility study. Finally the petition asks the legislature to close any loopholes that might allow out-of-state corporations like Murphy Farms to skirt prohibitions on corporate farming voted by individual counties.
The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club is supporting the drive and a copy of the petition is enclosed in this Planet Kansas for your convenience. Please gather as many signatures as you can before the Legislature gets going in January and mail to the designated address.
Meanwhile the voters of Meade County, Ks. rejected corporate hog farming on Nov. 12 by a vote of 701 to 424. The vote is considered advisory. This vote is particularly interesting because Meade is one of only two counties in Kansas that earlier voted in favor of corporate hog farming, and it is home to the second largest producer in the state, Dekalb Swine Breeders. Dekalb has 150,000 head. In another advisory election on Nov. 11, 59% of voters in Greeley County voted to repeal an ordinance approving corporate hog farming in that county. On Nov. 4th, in a binding election, Ness County voted 929 to 339 to prohibit corporate hog farming. A proposal by Murphy Farms was at issue in that election. Murphy may choose to claim the family farm exemption as they did after losing the Hodgeman County vote in April of this year. Hence the need for the petition drive and the legal defense fund announced in our last issue of Planet Kansas.
We the undersigned citizens of Kansas, believe that existing regulations and setbacks for large hog confinement operations, (1) have failed to prevent the deterioration of the quality of life of many Kansas citizens, (2) do not adequately protect our streams and drinking water aquifers, and (3) do not ensure the proper utilization of wastes. Therefore we hereby request that the State Legislature declare a two (2) year moratorium on the granting of new permits or expansion of any (1000 hog units or larger) hog feeding operations. During that time an economic and environmental feasibility study can be completed for county information. The existing hog feeding operations can be used in the study. Those permitted but not in operation will utilize the latest and best technology for odor control and water contamination control (can also be used in the study), plus proper disposal of dead animals, fly control, and guaranteed relief from clean-up and closure costs to taxpayers upon vacating of premises. During this period we request that regulations be strengthened to achieve the following:
as close as possible to elimination of the odor problem (more than 80%).
0 leakage from pits, lagoons and back-up systems.
extensive manure management plans and monitoring by the Kansas Department of Health & Environment
guaranteed relief from clean-up and closure costs from taxpayers on evacuation.
We request the State Legislature authorize the funding to pay for the feasibility studies, and the inspection and monitoring costs (during the study period) as the problem applies to all the people in the State. We request that the State close any loopholes that allow out of state corporations to masquerade as a family farm. We request the Legislature appropriate funds to the Department of Health and Environment to periodically monitor all hog confinement systems over 1000 animal units and to provide an 800 number for information on each instillation.
Check ( X ) if registered SIGNATURE NAME (PRINT) ADDRESS + ZIP COUNTY
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RETURN ALL SIGNED PETITIONS TO: Lee Messenger, 535 Donna, Garden City, KS 67846
For Information call Lee: (Home) 316-275-4050 (leave message) (Work) 316-276-8217
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Buffalo River Trail Backpack
Steel Creek to Kyles Landing - 10/24-26/1997
By Jeff Pierce - Kanza Group Outings Chair
The weekend of 10/24/97 brought five hardy souls to northwest Arkansas to hike a section of the Buffalo River Trail and enjoy the fall foliage. Despite high hopes for breathtaking scenery and beautiful photographs, we battled rain, fog, cold, thunderstorms, and even snow flurries. We hiked some tough, rain-slickened hills with heavy backpacks. The leaves were near their peak, but due to limited visibility the dramatic views we had hoped for were shrouded in fog.
A miserable trip? Glad you stayed home? Fortunately, our rain clouds were lined with silver. Friday evening was beautiful, with a clear star-filled sky. At sunset we watched elk graze in the fields near the Ponca low water bridge. Meteors shot across the night sky and the Milky Way was clearly visible in the absence of light pollution. There were no crowds to fight or telephones to answer. The companionship was unequalled, as I have come to expect on Sierra Club outings. Everyone we encountered along the trail was friendly and helpful. We made new acquaintances and renewed old ones. Despite the weather difficulties, good humor prevailed during the entire trip. Saturdays campfire seemed especially cheerful after our long hike. And we got a chance to sample the best omelets and homemade pies in the Ozarks on our way home Sunday. I even found a place to buy handmade flutes, tuned to the key of G.
Far from being a washout, this was a trip to remember. The images on the cameras lens may have disappointed, but the images formed in the minds of the participants will be far more enduring and meaningful. Keep this in mind the next time you consider an outing and the weather reports are not encouraging. There is much more to a Sierra Club trip than scenery and fair weather. See you on an upcoming outing.
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Wildlife Wins Out
By Diane Stewart
This past fall, the Kanza Group learned that the Johnson County Park & Recreation District Board of Commissioners was considering several proposals to upgrade and enlarge the public golf course that borders Shawnee Mission Park. One expansion proposal would have destroyed nearly ten percent of the park! We opposed this on the grounds that it would have resulted in the destruction of valuable wildlife habitat and reduced natural greenspace. Due to the topography, we were concerned that silting of the lake might occur during the construction phase. Also, lawn chemicals from the new golf course might run into the lake and threaten aquatic life. Overall, it was simply a bad idea.
We view Shawnee Mission Park as a unique area that should be protected as a wildlife sanctuary. This natural greenspace is rich in biodiversity, and near and dear to peoples' hearts as development steadily encroaches upon it. Therefore, we put together a campaign to convince the Park & Rec Board to vote against the expansion plans. Many members attended a public hearing where nearly 150 people showed up to state their opposition. Although a few golfers spoke up, most people told the Board to leave the park alone.
We networked with other folks and encouraged people to write or call the Board members. We sent out a flyer to all the Sierra Club members in Johnson County and got a great response. The District Board was overwhelmed with faxes and phone calls. Luckily, we received assistance from two reporters at The Kansas City Star who covered the story and helped spread the word.
On October 15th, the District Board voted against expanding the golf course. We were pleased with their decision and believe the process worked. It was also gratifying to see so many people get involved and speak up for wildlife and the park. We thank everyone who participated, and hope that this will encourage more activists to get involved in future debates. This public land issue really struck a spark with a lot of people. Weeks later, people are still sending letters to the editor and calling me to say how much the park means to them.
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Is the world worth saving?
By John Kurmann
Okay, so we've been tinkering around with our "environmental problems" for roughly 35 years now. I think it's high time someone asked the question, so I will:
Is the world worth saving?
Why does the question need to be asked? Because we're already answering it, by our actions (or, rather, our lack of action), with a resounding "No!" -- but we're pretending we're not.
But I'd better step back a moment and try to answer another question:
Does the world need us to save it?
First, let me clarify a point. When I use the word "world," I mean the world with humans in it, not the biosphere itself. The biosphere will almost certainly go on whether we're here or not. My concern now is for humanity, and for the other creatures we're taking with us as we destroy the world.
I don't pretend to be a scientist. I'm not qualified to make an expert assessment about the state of the world, so I'll defer to the folks who are.
In 1992, the National Academy of Scientists of the United States and the Royal Society of London released an unprecedented joint statement entitled Population Growth, Resource Consumption, and a Sustainable World. This passage comes from the introduction:
"If current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity on the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world."
And this, from the Conclusions section:
"The future of our planet is in the balance. Sustainable development can be achieved, but only if irreversible degradation of the environment can be halted in time. The next 30 years may be crucial."
More, this time from the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, released by the Union of Concerned Scientists that same year:
"If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know."
Could the scientists be too pessimistic? Sure, there's much we still don't even understand about the earth, so we can't hope to know exactly what will happen as we run roughshod across it. If sober, measured scientists are talking apocalyptically, though, we would be insane not to listen.
Problem is, that's exactly what we're doing -- not listening. Oh, sure, we've passed some laws, written some regulations, convened some expensive global conferences, and made a lot of impressive-sounding speeches over the last 35 years. Recycling bins and "greenspeak" have become commonplace. None of this has any hope of saving the world, though.
And those are just the biggies.
So I say it's time we either put up or shut up. We should either get down to the wonderful work of saving the world, or we should quit fooling ourselves and go out in a last binge of miserable excess.
If we decide on the binge, though, we'd best take a bit of time to start making up excuses to give our children and grandchildren when we hand over a devastated world to them. I doubt "our dog ate the planet" will fly.
And, if we decide to save the world, then the question becomes, Can we? Can we live as part of the community of life?
Sure we can. Humans have done so for millions of years. We've only been trying to conquer the place for ten thousand, give or take a few, and, even then, it's only been one culture -- ours -- doing so. We are not the whole story of the human species -- we are not humanity.
There are other cultures, other peoples, still in the world who are quite happy to live as part of the community of life. We've wiped out most of them, but not quite all. There is much we could learn from them, if we decide we want to live.
What will it take? Really, it all comes down to one thing, and only one. We have to give up the idea that the world is human property, deeded to us by whatever creative force you happen to believe in. Shatter that myth -- and a myth it is -- and everything else is possible.
All we have to do is change our minds.
John is a member of the Thomas Hart Benton Group of the Sierra Club and founder of Rethinking the World (816-753-6081, PO Box 45798, Kansas City MO 64171,
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by Terry Shistar
I am writing this after having spent a weekend rereading Daniel Quinns Ishmaelthat being provoked by my having just finished Providence, his response to questions about how he came to write the earlier book.
Ishmael, in case you havent read it (and every member of the Sierra Club should read it), tells the story of one mans short-lived relationship with his teacher. The student answers an ad from a teacher seeking students who want to save the world.
It is probably crucial to tell you that the teacher, Ishmael, is a gorilla who spent some time pondering the problem of captivity. Ishmael believes that the world is captive by forces that are leading us to destruction, and that the first step in freeing us is to find the bars that hold us in. I dont believe that I could explain it in fewer words than Quinns novel, so I wont try. However, part of the solution is that humanityor rather the dominant culture today that Ishmael calls "takers" ("those who have taken the rule of the world into their own hands")--is at war with the world.
What does it mean to be "at war with the world"? It means that rather than taking from the world what we need and protecting ourselves from predators that would eat us, we try to separate ourselves from the world, to kill off anything that might compete with us and control everything that might be of use to us.
Reading Providence and Ishmael isnt all I did last weekend. One of the other things I did was spend an afternoon at the convention of the Alliance for Democracy, where Jim Hightower was speaking. The Alliance for Democracy is a grassroots movement whose mission is, "to free all people from corporate domination of politics, economics, the environment, culture, and information; to establish true democracy; and to create a just society with a sustainable equitable economy." The convention was held in Kansas, Im told, because Kansas was a hotbed of populism, and the Alliance considers itself a rebirth of the populist movement.
Jim Hightower is proud of being an agitator. After serving two terms as a remarkable Agriculture Commissioner for the state of Texas, he has returned to outside agitating, which he does through radio broadcasts (in Kansas, on stations WIBW Topeka 580, KLEY Wellington 1130, KKLE Winfield 1550, and KKFI Kansas City 90.1), his newsletter The Hightower Lowdown, and travelling around the country speaking.
Hightower also spoke about a wara class war. This is a war we arent supposed to talk about because there arent supposed to be classes in America--at least classes that are distinct enough to be at war with each other. Its interesting to me that the way people supposedly interact economically in this country is modeled after the way we are supposed to interact ecologically with other species. In other words, there is free market competition out there, where the fittest survive and the undeserving go under.
But thats not whats going on of course. Just as the "takers" are waging ecological war with the rest of the world, the premier takers, corporations, are waging economic war with the rest of the people of the world. The same signs that Ishmael pointed out in our war with nature are evident in the economy. Corporations eliminate competition and claim control of the resources. And they do this by setting themselves apart from the rest of the world. The rules dont apply to them. As Hightower points out, they talk about "the economy" as if it is something separate from us. The class war they have been waging is documented not only by populist agitators like Hightower, but also by Republican analysts such as Kevin Phillips.
One observation I would like to make about these two wars is that to some extent, they are the same war. I say "to some extent" because strictly speaking, the war between the takers and the rest of the world goes back much further than corporations. Quinn finds it in Genesis. However, if you arent on the winning side of the war corporations are waging against the rest of humanity, you probably are at best a pawn in the war that the takers are waging against the world. And, therefore, you might as well switch sides.
I think that this is what the Alliance for Democracy is doing. They see that the war on the environment is also a war on the poor, the working class, and, increasingly, the "middle" class. Who lives near factories? Who performs dangerous work with hazardous chemicals? Who eats fish from polluted rivers because they need it to survive? Who is most affected by a system that cannot provide adequate health care to those who dont work for large corporations?
And perhaps more than any other group, the wars both target the worlds remaining indigenous peoples. These are the groups that Ishmael calls "leavers" ("those who leave the rule of the world in the hands of the gods".) They are hurt most because they dont kill off their competitors. They depend on the world to supply their resources abundantly enough that when they take their share, there will still be more. I think that living as we do in a place that is not very far from the time when "leaver" peoples could make a living here, we can imagine how that living has been lost. Indigenous peoples are a target of the takers war on the world because they are part of the world from which takers have separated themselves. They are a target of the corporate war on people because there are still a few resources designated for their use which are not in corporate hands.
What does it mean to "switch sides" in the war the takers are waging on the world? It means that we recognize that we are part of the world and subject to the same laws that govern other species. Furthermore, it means that we recognize that Homo sapiens has no special place in the world. We are not the endpoint or goal of evolution. The world is not here for us to use as we want.
Those statements, which might seem pretty commonplace to an ecologist, actually have some pretty profound and radical ethical consequences. If Homo sapiens have no special role in the world and the world is not here for us to use, as we want, then what right do we have to exterminate ANY other species? What right do we have to take the earths resources for ourselves?
Well, one might argue, the right comes from the fact that we can. Isnt that what every species does? No, its not. Although we often use the "war" metaphor in describing nature, a wolf does not kill any animal that might eat its prey, as we exterminate pests in our fields and predators in our rangeland. And there is a reason. If a species acts the way we act, it not only kills other species, it kills itself.
Quinn believes it is a mistake to equate the takers war on the world with corporate plunder or any other single abuse. He is right. In the overall scheme of things, the world will only be saved by changing peoples minds. However, the Alliance for Democracy is also right because the corporate structure provides the most effective means of waging war on the world.
For further reading:
Daniel Quinns Ishmael, Providence, The Story of B. Jim Hightower, Theres Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.
Peter Montague, Rachels Environmental Health Weekly, available electronically from firstname.lastname@example.org Discussions of Quinns work at www.ishmael.com and www.b-network.com.
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Surface Transportation In The 21st Century
Cars, Gasoline, and Fuel Cells
by Wayne Sangster
[First, as a parenthetical note to our last installment, 1997 is the century mark for subways in the U.S., the first system having opened in Boston in 1897 (I had the pleasure of riding it recently from and to the airport). The first system in the world was in London, powered by steam locomotives; in spite of the sulfurous fumes they emitted it carried 9,500,000 passengers in its first year after it opened in 1863.]
Now shifting gears and going to automobiles (no pun intended) we have to acknowledge that they are here to stay and public transit can never be enough. Some recent developments in the future of powering autos have been announced. The internal combustion engine is really a Rube Goldberg device, a statement with which anyone who has attempted to work on them will agree. All the valves, switches, tubes, wires, pistons, crankshafts, etc. make for a very complex mechanism. And automobiles have another complicated piece of machinery -- the transmission.
Fuel cells and electric motors offer a simpler approach. A fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and water. A major problem in making a major transition to their use is finding a source of hydrogen. Hydrogen can be manufactured from solar photovoltaic or solar thermal power plants, but this will require developing a major infrastructure to support a changeover that will take decades to accomplish. Also on-board storage of hydrogen is a problem because of its very light weight (its energy density is much lower than that of gasoline). It must either be stored at high pressure in tanks or as a metal hydride.
A major development has been made in Boston by the Arthur D. Little Co. with the development of a fuel cell that runs on gasoline. After five years' work they have found a way to extract hydrogen from gasoline (that trick had eluded chemists heretofore because carbon and hydrogen molecules are more tightly bound in gasoline than in other hydrocarbons). This means that motorists could continue to drive into gas stations to fuel up. This extraction process still produces carbon dioxide, as when gasoline is burned, but because of the greater efficiency of the fuel cell carbon emissions would be reduced by 50 to 70 percent as compared to conventional cars. Eliminating carbon dioxide entirely from a car's exhaust should still be the ultimate goal, but this new technology could buy time to make the transition. The fuel efficiency of autos would be doubled by this new system (80-mpg cars are within reach), thereby drastically reducing our demands on foreign oil. Electric cars running on conventional batteries would not be attractive if this technology is developed because of their limited range and weight.
Remaining challenges for fuel cells operating on gasoline-derived hydrogen are cost, getting the system smaller to fit under the hood, and developing more power than the laboratory model. Even mass produced the technology would cost $30,000 a car, compared with $3,000 for fuel systems on conventional cars. However, Chrysler expects to have a prototype car using the technology in less than two years and hopes to cut costs enough to have commercial production before 2010. Each of the Big Three automakers -- Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors -- has aggressive fuel cell research underway. Toyota Co. and Daimler-Benz unveiled cars powered by fuel cells at the Frankfurt, Germany, auto show earlier this year. The latter company hopes to have 100,000 Mercedes autos available with fuel cells by 2004.
A fuel cell is a sandwich of two plates, each thinner than a computer disk, with channels, separated by thin membranes. Hydrogen circulating through one membrane and oxygen circulating through the other membrane combine in an electrochemical reaction that produces electricity with water as a byproduct. The electricity then powers electric motors that propel the car without the need for a transmission. This is similar to the way modern railroad locomotives work; they have large electric motors which run on electricity produced by a diesel engine connected to a generator or alternator.
Widespread use of this technology would of course be a big step in reducing global-warming-producing greenhouse gas emissions. Experience with fuel cells would be very beneficial in making the ultimate transition to solar hydrogen energy. How this scenario will play out exactly cannot be foreseen because future technological developments are unpredictable. Even if cars are made less polluting with no dependence on fossil fuels, better public transportation still should be sought because of the parking spaces and highways so many autos require. The "Asphalt Nation," and increasingly "Asphalt World," cannot go on laying down more and more asphalt or concrete indefinitely into the future. Indeed, Doug Henwood, writing in the Left Business Observer asks, "And another question -- is the dazzling growth experience of Asia in the last 30-40 years, a record that has no match in the history of capitalism, ecologically sustainable?... Could human life be sustained were Chinese to start consuming and driving at American rates early in the next millenium?"
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Sierra Club Coalition Defeat Fast Track
By Craig Volland
Working with a broad coalition of family farmers, religious groups, labor unions and populist conservatives, the Sierra Club helped defeat Fast Track approval privileges for the Administration's trade deals. Fast Track would have prevented meaningful debate in Congress on complicated trade proposals such as the expansion of NAFTA and the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. Fast Track forces Congress to vote up or down without the ability to make amendments. Aside from the undemocratic nature of Fast Track, the basic problem is that NAFTA and agreements negotiated under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO) give precedence to the rights of investors, mainly transnational corporations, over the rights of workers, protection of the environment and our national sovereignty.
Free trade ideologues are in a state of shock over this challenge to their authority, and angry wailing has begun in the editorial pages of every major newspaper. Rather than address the basic flaws in U. S. trade policy they are trying to blame their defeat on the domination of the Democratic Party by labor unions. Actually the Republicans control the U. S. House of Representatives, and they could not deliver the votes of a third of their membership for Fast Track.
Populist conservative Republicans are concerned about our chronic trade deficit and about subjecting our laws to disapproval by secret tribunals at the WTO. They also recognize that the continuing loss of America's high paying jobs on a tilted playing field will eventually weaken the country. Religious groups are concerned that benefits of international trade are being grabbed off by third world elites, and little trickles down to the poor in those countries. Thus it's about far more than the perceived power of U. S. labor unions. The sooner the big money boys recognize this the sooner we'll make real progress in trade between nations.
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Kansas River Study Crunch Time
by T.J. Hittle
Kansas River Recreation Study - Crunch Time!!
"When the Study is presented, the Legislature accepts, then the (US Army) Corps (of Engineers) will use this as a basis for issuing further permits." It is crunch time at the next few Kansas River Recreation Study meetings. This is the five state agency study mandated by the 1996 Kansas Legislature.
The report is due to the Kansas Legislature "on or before January 12, 1998." That is the good news. The bad news is that key decisions are being made as you are reading this that will forever impact the Kansas River. I wish I could say that these decisions were going to favorably impact recreation in Kansas over the entire river corridor.
I can positively say that, contrary to what many of us have been told over the past few months, the "baby is being divided", biblically speaking. The study is picking up break neck speeds towards the end and is also picking up the accompanying key recommendations that will forever impact the Kansas River. If this sounds a little extreme, then consider this statement made by one of the key agency representatives at the last meeting, held Friday, November 7th, in Topeka at the Kansas Dept. of Commerce & Housing (KDOCH). "When the Study is presented, the Legislature accepts, then the (US Army) Corps (of Engineers) will use this as a basis for issuing further permits." Yes folks, this is the "clear signal" that the Corps has been looking for in order to move ahead with future decisions regarding mineral extraction in the Kansas River streambed. Remember the dredging permits that have been on hold. If the study divides the baby in such a way to allow "dual use" in their "Priority Recreation Designations" and "Framework for future" resource management, then we can expect to see continued commercial development and mineral extraction occur on most previously unmined (that is undredged) sections of the Kansas River.
What sections are at stake? According to a recent Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) study on off river (pit mine) sites, there are 74 suitable locations on the entire 170 river miles. Of these, 49 are located on the upper Kaw, between Junction City and Topeka. There is only one river dredge operating on that section, just a few miles upstream of Topeka. Therefore, only 25 off river (pit mine) sites are available in the lower Kaw, from Topeka to Kansas City. The KGS reps, Lawrence Brady and the KGS resident sand expert, Dave Grisafe, favor mineral extraction on everything except the extreme upper ends of the Kansas River. "Dual use" seems to be the favored term for continued river degradation by sand dredging in the Kansas River streambed.
The economics of river recreation is also part of the study. It appears that potential direct economic impacts of river recreation could easily exceed $2.7 million. Although this far exceeds the direct economic impacts of sand extraction in the Kansas River streambed, you can look to the KGS to be touting some much larger figures at the next meeting than has been discussed to date.
The Kansas River Land Owner Survey results are also due to the study committee at the next meeting, tentatively schedule for Monday, November 24, at 2:00 at the KDOCH offices at 700 Harrison Ave. 13th floor, Topeka, KS. This is being done by a KSU researcher, Dr. Morgan. Remember Dr. Morgan? This is the same guy that did the Prairie Spirit Rails to Trails Landowner study. Enough said.
Recommendations for continued resource management of the Kansas River are also being made at the next several meetings. This will be the group that will make future management decisions on the Kansas River. One of the proposed existing management groups that this task may fall to is the Kansas / Lower Republican Basin Advisory committee. Who represents public recreation and natural resource interests in that group? Ive attended some of those meetings too. No one!! Of course, the USA Corps will also be making decisions too at the Federal level.
Folks, the public groups representing recreational and sound natural resource interests were mighty small at the last meeting. You are reading a synopsis from the ONLY person attending the November 13th Kansas River Recreation Study meeting from the aforementioned group. Of course, the Kansas Aggregate producers were well represented. One person just isnt going to carry much clout. We need some turnout, especially at the KGS end of the committee table, where their goal is to further "mineral extraction" in the Kansas River streambed.
Was there anything positive that resonated from these discussions? Yes, Paul Liechti, from the Kansas Biological Survey sounded a clear note. "Why is the Kansas River so good for recreation"? In my mind I also added, Why are the many natural resource groups in Kansas working so hard to save the Kansas River from further degradation? Pauls answer was "sand" of course. This is what makes the Kansas River such a vital link in the ecological system of the Kansas River.
What can be done? Is this a lost battle? NO!! Can we swing enough votes in the study committee to make a difference? YES! You can write or call any of the five state agencies involved. You can attend some of the next few meetings. If you believe that you CANNOT support new sand dredging and industrial development in the Kansas River streambed between Wamego, KS. and Kansas City, then we desperately need your support. We could also use your support on November 24th.
Your letters to any of the five state agency secretaries and/or directors would also be welcome. These agencies are: The Kansas Biological Survey, the Kansas Geological Survey, the Kansas Water Office, the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks, and the Kansas Dept. of Commerce and Housing (lead agency). Your comments could also be directed to:
Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer - Secretary KDOCH
Kansas Dept. of Commerce & Housing
13th floor - 700 Harrison St.
Topeka, KS 66603
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Kansas Congressmen Vote to Send Radioactive Waste Through Kansas
by Charles Benjamin, legislative coordinator
The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that will send thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste through Kansas, by way of truck and train, to a temporary storage site in Nevada. By the year 2002 spent fuel rods from the nations 109 nuclear power plants will be shipped to Nevada through Johnson County, Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and Hays at the rate of one to four shipments a year. By the year 2030, according to the Nevada Nuclear Waster Project Office, an estimated 2,347 casks of high-level nuclear material could travel through Kansas on Interstate 70. An estimated 3,321 casks would be shipped on the Union Pacific rail line and 180 casks over the former Southern Pacific track. Another 624 casks would pass by Kansas City on the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail lines.
Each cask would carry shielded loads of uranium, equivalent to as much as 200 times the radiation released by the Hiroshima bomb. Kansas Representatives Jerry Moran, Jim Ryun and Vince Snowbarger were among the 166 co-sponsors of the legislation. Kansas Senators Roberts and Brownback as well as Kansas Representative Tiahrt voted for the legislation. The bills supporters say that nuclear power plants across the country are running out of storage space and are being forced to store massive quantities of waste in above-ground casks, sometimes in areas unsuitable for long-term storage.
In Kansas, the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant, which opened in 1985, is expected to run out of space in its underground containment pools around 2005, according the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. Critics of the plan point to the inability of local and state emergency management officials to handle a serious accident, such as the train accident on Union Pacific tracks near Rossville this past July, if such an accident involved the release of highly radioactive materials to the environment.
Other critics, including the Nevada Congressional delegation, fear that a "temporary" storage site might become permanent without proper evaluation. Although President Clinton is expected to veto the legislation there appears to be sufficient support for the proposal to ensure enough votes to override a presidential veto.
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by Tom Thompson, Kanza Group Chair
A Peculiar thing happened to one of our members in October. A former Chair of the Kanza Group, Dan Fuller, married a Thomas Hart Benton Group activist, Donna Clark, on October 18 in, where else, Peculiar, Missouri. Dan served as Chair for a number of years and is frequently seen on Sierra Club outings. Our best wishes go to Dan and Donna. Hopefully we will continue seeing them at Sierra Club functions.
Please look in this edition of the Planet for Group and Chapter Executive Committee ballots. The people you elect help to drive the efforts of the Sierra Club on the state and local levels. The Sierra Club is about being active. Please show your support by filling out your ballot and mailing it. If you have questions about candidates, phone numbers of current committee members are listed elsewhere in the Planet including those who are not up for election.
Coming up in December and January lots of fun is planned. The General meeting in December showcases you and your vacation slides. Start today to get them together so they don't get mixed in with your Holiday slides. This is a great time every year so I hope to see you then.
Also plan for the Annual Winter Festival. On January 31 it is important that Kanza Group members come with potluck dishes ready to share. My taste buds are all ready and waiting. Diane Stewart is setting up this bash which also includes the presentation of various environmental awards. So come with an appetite, a dish and anything else Martha, I mean Diane Stewart tells us.
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SEC Tries To Stop Activists - And What You Can Do About It
by Jim Horlacher
The future of shareholder activist rights is in jeopardy and we need your help. As you know, when we buy shares of a corporations stock (either directly or via a mutual fund), we become owners of that corporation. With that ownership comes the rights and privileges to express our concerns about that corporation through "shareholder resolutions" and shareholder votes. Without shareholder resolutions we would not have seen positive corporate actions that have addressed issues such as the environment, apartheid, and discrimination.
We all know examples of multinational corporations that are financing and influencing politicians who in turn relax regulations that impact the environment, workers and society. The one place that holds corporations legally accountable to individual's concerns is shareholder resolutions, often called shareholder activism. Without shareholder resolutions, many corporations would not be adhering to many environmental rules and regulations. This right is now being challenged by the corporations.
If we do not oppose the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) new proposed rules (entitled "S7-25-97"), the ability of most shareholders to participate in shareholder resolutions will be destroyed, especially smaller shareholders which make up most of the population of savers and investors.
Letters need to be written to the following people:
450 5th Street, NW, Washington DC 20549
520 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510
309 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510
If you agree that this is another corporate ploy to avoid accountability, please send letters to these individuals and also to your local congressperson and senator to let them know that you feel this is a terrible move by the SEC.
A sample letter follows. Additional information and samples letters are also available at the web site of the Social Investment Forum, the industry trade group of social investment professionals, at http://www.socialinvest.org/sec.
Dear Chairman Levitt,
I am writing to voice my strenuous objection to the SEC's new proposed rules (S&-25-97). If adopted, these rules will all but destroy the rights of American shareholders.
Please use all of your power to stop these proposed rules from going forward. American shareholders are counting on you to safeguard our rights as shareholders and therefore corporate owners. Don't let these proposed rules be another set of regulations from Washington that favor big business over individual investors and savers.
Today's shareholder process is a responsible and reasonable approach. It starts a process of dialogue between concerned shareholders (OWNERS of corporations via stock) and company management to find real solutions to real problems. The process as it stands today is an important tool for protecting my financial interests as a stockowner. It is also an important marketplace mechanism for promoting corporate accountability.
Shareholders have enormous financial interest in addressing the diverse issues raised through the shareholder process. When companies fail to address corporate governance, community social impact or environmental impact problems, then shareholders suffer. Corporate mismanagement of these issues can seriously affect a company's reputation and therefore the company's bottom line.
I applaud the SEC for revising its Cracker Barrel decision, BUT the new SEC rules have retained and even strengthened the anti-shareholder fine print of the original decision. Please do your best to reverse the Cracker Barrel decision that was very bad for shareholder rights, but don't let the rest of the proposed rules go forward. Don't take away shareholder rights! Please leave a legacy of upholding the rights of All-American shareholders, not just corporate management. Stop the proposed rules from going forward.
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