April/May 1999 Issue of the Planet Kansas
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Sierra Club Joins KNRC in Potential
Clean Water Act Lawsuit, by Charles Benjamin
Adam Werbach, Keynote at Earth Day '99 Celebration, by Andrea Repinsky, KU Environs
Sunflower/Oz - Are we cleaning up or being cleaned out?, by Marc Mason
Nancy Kassebaum: Tallgrass Blunder or Plunder?, by Steve Baru, Kansas Chapter Chair
A Little of Your Time Can Make a BIG Difference, by Steve Hassler
Trains, Lanes, Planes, and Octanes: Th!nk, an electric car with a future?, by Wayne Sangster
SolTech: The Trade Show of the Solar Energy Industries Association comes to Kansas City
Flint Hills Group Opposes Manhattan Wal-Mart, by Jim Sherow & J. Scott Smith
Book Review: In Search of the Antichrist -- The Story of B, by Cindy Berger
Alternative Energy in Kansas?!, by Daniel J. Thalmann
Water & Toxics -- Matters of Life and Death, by Terry Shistar
Not Tom's Tips, by Tom Thompson
Kanza Newza, by Tom Thompson
March 6 Food System Symposium a Big Success, by Craig Volland
Demand Prominent Labeling of Irradiated Food, by Craig Volland
Sierra Club Joins KNRC in Potential Clean Water Act Lawsuit
By Charles Benjamin, Attorney at Law and Legislative Coordinator
On Wednesday, March 24, 1999 the Sierra Club and Kansas Natural Resource Council (KNRC) sent a "60-day notice" to Carol Browner, the administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the intent of Sierra Club and KNRC to file a citizens suit, under the Clean Water Act, against EPA. Sierra Club and KNRC believe that EPA has failed to exercise its mandatory duty to promptly prepare, publish and promulgate water quality standards for Kansas to correct the deficient water quality standards submitted by the State of Kansas to EPA.
The federal Clean Water Act requires that a review of water quality standards be undertaken by states every three years. Only once, in the 27-year history of the Clean Water Act, has a "triennial review" ever been completed in Kansas - in 1987. This abysmal record of compliance with the Clean Water Act has resulted in Kansas having some of the dirtiest water in the United States. As Kansans, and members of the Sierra Club, we want the United States Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the Clean Water Act. Because Kansas has failed to submit water quality standards that maintain water quality and eliminate pollution, the EPA is required to promptly issue those standards. However, The EPA has failed to do so. We have no other remedy than to go to federal court and seek to compel the EPA to do its duty under the law. Those who continue to use our rivers, streams and lakes as sewers and dumping grounds for toxic pollution are on notice that we Kansans who care about what is in our water will no longer tolerate being put at risk. The actions we undertake today are for our families and for our future.
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Adam Werbach, Keynote at Earth Day '99 Celebration
By Andrea Repinsky, KU Environs
This April, Earth Day will be restored to the size and splendor that it deserves. The organizers are excited to present Adam Werbach, the previous 22-year old president of the national Sierra Club, as keynote speaker of the celebration planned for April 24 in Lawrence's South Park (the 1200 block of Mass St.) from 12-6PM.
Other local speakers will include Cynthia Annett, Jorge Soberon, Dan Thalmann, Bruce Plenk, Wildcare, and others. Also, the winners of the Earth Day poster contest will be recognized. Fun, educational, and FREE activities will be offered for the enjoyment of all ages and dispositions.
Top-notch entertainment will be provided by Casey Neill, a passionate environmentalist who has been building a multi-generational following and is earning an international reputation for relevant and inspiring acoustic music. Also appearing are local artists Celia Shaklett, a favorite local musician; Loose Cannon, a brass band whose music defies sitting still; and Lydia, Roya, and Shaheena, the finest belly dancers this side of the Kaw River.
In addition, information tables and displays will be set up by various area organizations, an environmental education area will provide activities for families and children, and local businesses will offer concessions.
Earth Day activities continue into the next day with the Earth Day Bike Ride. The casual ride (not a race!) will begin at Broken Arrow Park, Lawrence at 10 AM on Sunday, April 25. Riders have an option of a 40-mile or 25-mile route. The $15 entry fee includes lunch and a T-shirt, and the proceeds go towards scholarships for Environmental Studies students at the University of Kansas.
The celebration is being organized by a coalition of Lawrence area organizations, including KU Environs, Environmental Studies Student Association, and Students for Wildcare. Contact Environs at (785) 864-7325 or email@example.com for more information. Opportunities for sponsorship and/or participation might still be available if you call soon!
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Sunflower/Oz - Are we cleaning up or being cleaned out?
By Marc Mason
The Chapter Executive Committee voted to oppose the proposed disposal of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant near De Soto, Kansas, in rural Johnson County. We believe that the federal government understated the environmental impacts of the intended reuse of the property by The Wonderful World of Oz theme park and did not consider all reasonable alternatives to this disposal.
The Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant is situated on a broad north-south trending ridge bordered by three north-flowing creeks---Kill Creek and Spoon Creek to the east, and Captain Creek to the west. Part of the flat to gently rolling landscape that typifies northeastern Kansas, the majority of the twelve square mile Sunflower site is open, undisturbed grassland. Much of the grassland is currently leased for the grazing of domestic animals and there are small areas of managed prairie making a comeback. The Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetland Inventory maps show numerous small isolated wetlands on the site. There is forest habitat along the east and west sides of the property, intermingled with some freshwater wetlands. Aquatic environment also is present offering the most diverse habitats at Sunflower. Nearly 120 vertebrates and 400 species of vascular plants have been identified at Sunflower. The richest habitat is the combined forested and aquatic environment along the streams.
Acquired by the United States Army in 1941, by buying out a half dozen farms, the property is 9,065 acres in size. Through World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, the plant was operated in various stages of capacity. It has been idle since 1992 and the Army plans to dispose of it this spring. During its sixty-year career, Sunflower produced munitions and missile propellants. There are more than fifty hazardous waste dumps on the property and the exact extent of their contamination has never been determined. The United States Army is obligated to clean up the hazardous wastes, consisting primarily of asbestos, nitrates (in high explosives), heavy metals, chromates, PCBs and Dioxins. However, under a recently passed federal law the Army is allowed to transfer the land without remediation to another government entity, provided that the states governor accepts the transfer.
The State of Kansas is in the process of accepting Sunflower from the Federal government and making provisions for the propertys cleanup. In return for mitigation of the hazardous waste on the site and with promises to transfer some of the land back to various local and state entities, the State of Kansas is planning to transfer the publicly owned site to private developers, and provide them with the funds to build The Wonderful World of Oz theme park. The Wonderful World of Oz promoter, Skip Palmer, met with the Kanza Groups Conservation Committee and shared his vision with us. The plan is for a high tech amusement park, a twenty-seven-hole golf course, a resort hotel, an RV park and some commercial and light industrial development on about two thousand acres at the very front (and least contaminated part of the site).
The drawings Mr. Palmer brought with him were beautiful, and he promised lots of green space. In fact, this first phase of his development shares a common border with Johnson Countys Kill Creek Park. Mr. Palmer and his group have promised over $200 million in additional revenues to the Kansas City area and some seven thousand jobs, almost over night. He plans to open the facility in 2002. In merely three years the area near De Soto will have been transformed from a quiet, rural area into the equivalent of a city of twenty thousand visitors and employees daily.
With passage of House Bill 2166, by the Kansas Senate, Kansans are expected to provide the seed capital, in all, over $325 million dollars in subsidies for this development which will lie halfway between Kansas City and Lawrence. Nearly twenty miles beyond the current urban fringe, this is a massive, government sponsored leapfrog development project. It will immediately stress K-10, already the most heavily used highway in the region, beyond its current capacity. Arterial roadway improvements, promised to have been held in check by CARNP, will now be demanded. Estimates include up to 36,000 additional automobiles daily at this site. The South Lawrence Trafficway, the 21st Century Parkway and every other road builders dream will instantly become necessity. Sleepy De Soto, growing at the countys already fast pace of two percent per year, will become the regions next Branson, effectively quadrupling in population overnight. Traffic problems, automobile and stationary emissions and wastewater disposal problems will become critical.
Sewers will need to be constructed, run-off water will need to be contained due to the hundreds of additional acres of pavement, and Kill Creek, Captains Creek and Spoon Creek will be devastated. Bridge, road and other heavy construction will leave them resembling little more than open sewers that leave their banks in heavy rains and dump their noxious loads into the Kansas River just upstream from Johnson Countys main drinking water intake. Automobile emissions will further increase the number of "red" ozone days during peak summer periods in the region. De Soto and the K-10 corridor will be rapidly littered with fast food franchises, convenience stores, motels, gas stations and strip malls. In the mean time thousands of children will be entertained or spend their summers working at an amusement park, literally surrounded by the hazardous waste removal processes scheduled to last for fifteen years.
Or perhaps not.
Perhaps we could put the land to its highest and best use. Perhaps we could let the Army carry out the remediation at its own slow pace (the Army would have the place restored in 25 years). Perhaps the entire site could be kept in public hands, with small parcels transferred to the state and local entities that have requested them, only after the restoration process has been completed in each parcel. Perhaps we could establish a twelve square mile green space and preserve it as public land, forever protected from intrusive and unnecessary development.
Johnson County is after all one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. There is no demand in this region for several thousand minimum wage jobs and no one to fill them if they were created. Perhaps we could use twelve square miles of protected green space so much more than a couple dozen extra drive-through franchises.
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Nancy Kassebaum: Tallgrass Blunder or Plunder?
By Steve Baru, Kansas Chapter Chair
The Tallgrass Prairie National Park is about to be stolen from Kansas. Youve never heard of this National Park? Maybe you know it as the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Chase County near Cottonwood Falls, Kansas. Dont confuse the two as one because this preserve is no national park dedicated to the rare and remaining Tallgrass Prairie. Instead its a monument to political games, and this one is called Smoke and Mirrors. This game was dreamed up by former Senator Nancy Kassebaum to cover up her thievery of a rare Kansas jewel. Nancy Kassebaum stole from Kansas what was to be our first and only national park, a park dedicated to the remnants of the tallgrass prairie that once carpeted a vast region of the plains, a park unique in the national park system.
How did this thievery happen right under our Kansas noses? The year was 1988; the scene was Washington, D.C.; the place was the U.S. House of Representatives. Kansas Congressmen Dan Glickman and Jim Slattery successfully ushered in legislation, co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats to create in our state this unique national park. This legislation was easily approved in the House of Representatives. Then it was up to the U. S. Senate to complete the last step and make this dream become reality. Numerous phones calls and visitations to key senators proved that the votes in favor were there. All that was needed was for a Kansas Senator to introduce the bill. It wouldnt be Bob Dole because of his close tries to the Kansas Farm Bureau, so the focus and hope rested on Senator K.
However, she refused to introduce the bill; she too had close ties to the Kansas farm Bureau. She had been the recipient of requests from many Kansans to help us get our park. In order not to disappoint her constituents after her refusal had killed our states National Park, she set up a thinly disguised commission to determine the future of this property, the Z-Bar Ranch. This was an old political trick that allowed her to appear one way to the public in Kansas while acting the opposite way in Washington, D.C.
Those appointed to the commission were mainly from the agriculture groups that opposed the national park. Many years, much smoke and even more mirrors later, there is nothing left of the original idea, but instead we have a small insignificant preserve that is about to not even do that. This anti-national park commission is about to recommend that the "preserve" preserve pasture lands and showcase the working cattle ranch. There is nothing rare about pasture, and the Kansas rancher of Chase County is definitely not endangered.
There are numerous problems with the forthcoming recommendation for this pasture preserve, but they all pale with the real problem: The original intent was for a major national park of Kansas prairie, unlike any in existence then and today.
I call on former Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum one last time, to stop and prevent the last nail to be driven into the coffin of the Tallgrass Prairie National Park. Senator K., please use your influence on this commission to preserve the original concept to protect this rare jewel of prairie that Kansas is so fortunate to have, and to meet our responsibility to protect this for the world and for all time. Dont let this prairie be turned into pasture and lost forever.
I suggest that the caring public write letters to Nancy Kassebaum, 801 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington D.C., 20004.
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A Little of Your Time Can Make a BIG Difference
by Steve Hassler
Perhaps you've just joined the Sierra Club. Perhaps you have been a member for a while but have not been able to make it to a meeting or an outing. Perhaps the meetings and outings are scheduled when you have to be at work. No matter what the reason, if you would like to find ways to become more involved with the club, we would certainly like to help.
The broad range of our activities generates many opportunities for members to be involved outside of regularly scheduled meetings & outings. We have some very dedicated volunteers on our Executive Committee, our other committees, and at our events. Trouble is, they're ALL THE SAME PEOPLE! We need some "biodiversity" in our committees and in our volunteer group. Too often, the dedicated Executive Committee members try to do it all themselves. Don't let them get away with it!
You don't have to devote all your leisure time -- a couple of hours every month or two among 100 people would really give us the volunteer base to tackle more issues and activities that we lay aside now. Some of the things we're looking for help on include:
Let me reiterate that you don't have to be able to devote X hours a week. If you can help just once a year, that's better than not at all. You'll meet others who share at least one of your interests, and get a warm feeling that only comes from knowing that your help allowed one Executive Committee member to get some badly needed sleep.
If you are in the Kanza Group and would like to get involved, please call me, Steve Hassler, at (913) 599-6028, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Southwind Group members (Wichita) should contact Gary Wright, (316) 683-1554,or email@example.com . In Lawrence, call Carol Holstead at (785) 832-2721. Elsewhere in the state, call one of the Chapter Membership Co-Chairs: John Verbanic, at (913) 962-1180, or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Greg Bryant, (913) 544-7735, email@example.com.
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Trains, Lanes, Planes, and Octanes:
Th!nk, an electric car with a future?
by Wayne Sangster
At the 1999 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January the Ford Motor Company announced that it is buying a 51 percent share in a Norwegian company called PIVCO (Personal Independent Vehicle Co.), which for the past eight years has been developing a small (two person) electric car named Th!nk. PIVCO expects to start production at a facility outside Oslo this fall. Th!nk is a cute little bug of a car which is 9 feet, 10 inches long (less than two-thirds the length of a Ford Contour, which at 15 feet, 4 inches is considered a compact car). The body is constructed of thermoplastic on a steel and aluminum frame, making it very lightweight (about 2,000 pounds).
Th!nk has no emissions coming directly from the car, but if the electricity used to charge it (it takes 4 to 6 hours) is generated at a coal-fired power plant there are still emissions somewhere (but of course Johnson Countians would rather have that pollution in Linn County, for example -- what the Linn Countians think of that I dont know). With regard to carbon dioxide emissions contributing to global warming it doesnt make much difference whether the energy source is coal at a power plant or gasoline for an internal combustion engine. But if electricity from wind or solar sources becomes commonplace, a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions could be realized.
For the past two years about 45 prototypes of Th!nk have been participating in a pilot project launched by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) in the San Francisco area. BART constructed three train stations where it located electric cars for selected business workers to use to get between the train and their offices. Special charging stations and parking spaces were made available. This pilot project was very successful and BART is seeking to make it permanent.
If the commuter rail project in Johnson County becomes a reality, a similar arrangement could be made for workers in downtown Kansas City, since Union Station is some distance from most offices. Also, it could be a means for workers to get between rail stations and their homes. Th!nk is scheduled to be launched on the U.S. market next year. The 1999 models are equipped with driver and passenger air bags. What would happen if a Th!nk (even with air bags) was involved in an accident with a vehicle the size of a Ford Expedition, for example, is something to consider. Th!nk is designed to meet the strict new European standards which went into effect in 1998. It has had comprehensive collision, mechanical strength, and environmental and endurance testing. Th!nk met all safety regulations by comfortable margins. It has a low center of gravity with excellent road-handling qualities.
Th!nks top speed is about 55 mph (that would help prevent it from being the cause of an accident) and its range is 50 to 60 miles. Its size makes it very appropriate for city driving and parking. The water-cooled nickel-cadmium battery is located in a separate steel case underneath the car. The battery will store 12 kWh of energy and can be charged in 4 to 6 hours, costing about $1 for a full charge. With gasoline at around $1 a gallon, the energy expense would be equivalent to a conventional car getting 50 to 60 mpg -- not bad!
Th!nk began as an idea in the head of Lars Ringdal, the father of PIVCOs founder, Jan Otto Ringdal, during the energy crisis in 1973. The elder Ringdal owned a plastic factory and came up with the proposal to use plastic to construct a lightweight car. But then Norway became a giant oil nation and environmental concerns about emissions were not as prominent as today. The younger Ringdal dusted off the idea in 1990-91. With the burgeoning of the numbers of cars (the size of the world fleet has doubled since 1975 and has increased more than nine fold in the last half of this century) energy is not the only factor to consider. Space is also important, especially for parking, which is at a premium in city centers and shopping malls. Garages which will barely contain an Expedition would shelter a Th!nk with plenty of room left to store other things like an old-fashioned push lawn mower (yes, they WILL cut grass).
The deal with Ford has alleviated cash flow problems that PIVCO has had while developing the car. The company with its 40 employees can continue. Ford, which has just introduced the Excursion (which is even larger than the Expedition), will have passenger vehicles at both extremes in size and environmental friendliness. Lets hope for the sake of our planet that Th!nk becomes a rip-roaring success and that in time Excursions are exorcised from Fords showroom roster for lack of buyers.
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the Trade Show of the Solar Energy Industries Association comes to Kansas City
April 17th-21st, 1999 at the Hyatt Crown Center
Workshops - $95
Solar Hot Water Workshop: Saturday, April 17, 9 to 5
Solar Electric Workshop: Sunday, April 18, 9 to 5
Exhibit Area - free & open to the public
Monday, April 19, noon to 7 pm
Tuesday, April 20, 10 am to 7 pm
Wednesday, April 21, 9 am to noon
Updated information is available at www.SEIA.com.
For more information, contact:
Bill Roush, Solar Electric Systems of Kansas City, Inc.
13700 W. 108th St., Lenexa, KS 66215
(Voice) 913-338-1939, (Fax) 913-469-5522
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Flint Hills Group Opposes Manhattan Wal-Mart
By Jim Sherow, Chair and J. Scott Smith, Conservation Chair
This fall the Flint Hills Sierra Group became involved in efforts to prevent a Wal-Mart super center from going up on the west of Manhattan, Kansas. The Wal-Mart proposal calls for the creation of a 153,000 square-foot, 24 hour a day combined retail-grocery store that is over one-half the size of the current downtown Manhattan Mall. The proposal places the store directly adjacent to several neighborhoods and a "nature park" called Warner Memorial Park. The deleterious environmental, social, and economic effects are numerous, among which number water runoff problems to Wildcat Creek (which flows into the Kansas River), increased traffic through an area that has poor means to handle it, and light pollution. Although the city planning staff has termed this as infill development, it has all the makings of classic sprawl (see http://www.sierraclub.org/transportation/sprawl/). At the moment, the opponents to the proposal have been able to raise the issue to a high level of public visibility, and the issue is quickly becoming one about uncontrolled growth, and city sprawl. City commissioner elections are this April, and the issue is becoming politicized, too.
After two long public hearings the planning board has tabled Wal-Mart's proposal, and has charged them and its attorney to make substantial revisions to their plans. They are to negotiate these changes with the city planning staff and the neighborhood residents directly affected by the proposal. The ultimate decision for this proposal will have great ramifications here both in ecological and social terms.
Also, the city contracted a study of its park system, and charged the consultants to devise a long-term plan for the city. The report seems to prioritize the building of an indoor recreation center and pool. The report does strongly recommend the hiring of a naturalist, something this group and the Audubon Society have been advocating for quite some time. But there is a danger that the recommendation for a naturalist, along with better maintenance of the nature parks in town, the creation of green spaces, the building of a nature center, and the completion of the bike routes through the city, will get lost in the push for the indoor recreation facility. Of course there are issues about how such a plan will be financed, too. All of this calls for some active responses and suggestions from our group.
For more information about any of these issues, or how one might get involved, please call any of the Flint Hills executive committee officers listed here in Planet Kansas.
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In Search of the Antichrist
The Story of B (book review)
By Cindy Berger
Following the publication of his provocative novel Ishmael, Daniel Quinn recognized that some of his ideas had not gotten through to the public. To clarify his message, he wrote another novel, The Story of B.
This insightful novel begins with Roman Catholic priest Jared Osborne receiving an assignment from his superiors. He is to investigate an American who has been spreading inflammatory ideas throughout Europe. Because people are listening to him, this man is considered highly dangerous by the Church, and Father Osborne is directed to determine if he could possibly be the Antichrist.
What seems like a laughable assignment to Father Osborne soon turns into the most amazing journey of his life. Time and time again he sits mesmerized listening to a speaker who is called simply "B". Everything he says is not only true, but also brilliantly obvious. Father Osborne soon loses his objectivity when he is drawn into a small circle of Bs intimate followers and personally guided by B through his extraordinary teachings.
The lessons begin with a look at humanitys "prehistory", which our culture dismisses as unimportant. B points out that a great number of cultures existed successfully on this planet for millions of years until 10,000 years ago. At that time, one culture (ours) abandoned their hunting-gathering lifestyle in favor of totalitarian agriculture. This method of agriculture, which we still use today, single-mindedly pursues the production of human food and the extermination of anything that interferes.
B notes that although this new lifestyle proved to be more laborious than the old nomadic way, it gave us one great advantage over all other cultures. It made us powerful because we had control over the food supply. The result was that we were able to convert or eliminate nearly all other cultures of the world.
Power wasnt the only side effect of switching to totalitarian agriculture. B reveals that our new lifestyle produced food surpluses, fueling our tremendous population growth. Increase the Food Supply of a Species and Its Population Will Increase. With 6 billion people on this planet, we can see that this fundamental rule applies to all species with no exception.
B points out that we can easily see the signs of distress caused by our culture. War, crime, corruption, rebellion, famine, plague, slavery, genocide, and economic collapse are all too common in our overcrowded culture, but are nowhere to be found among Indigenous people. He warns that we are living unsustainably and after only 10,000 years, are at the brink of extinction.
What seems a hopeless situation ends on a hopeful note. B concludes his teachings with a look at religion, the highest expression of a cultures vision. Our cultures religions teach us that humans are fundamentally flawed and in need of salvation, therefore, we can do nothing except strive for a happy afterlife. B notes that Indigenous cultures have a very different outlook. They perceive the world as a sacred place, and recognize that humans have a place in this world. Indigenous people know that our culture is flawed, not humanity. The good news is that changing our culture is something we can do here and now.
What begins as a fact-finding mission in The Story of B ends with Father Osborne renouncing his priesthood and espousing Bs heretical vision. He understands that B wants to save the world, not save souls, and that makes him a true Antichrist, a great danger to all salvationist religions.
It is Daniel Quinns hope that each reader of The Story of B will "become the message" and spread the word. With the Earths population expected to reach 12 billion within the next 35 years, now is the time for a new cultural vision. If you have an earnest desire to save the world, read The Story of B and journey to the point of no return. Warning: Your vision may change, fundamentally and permanently.
(Interested in learning more?? Check out www.ishmael.com, or join the "friends of Ishmael" discussion group -- contact John Kurmann at (816) 753-6081 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Alternative Energy in Kansas?!
By Daniel J. Thalmann
Construction has begun on a brand-new, $2 million, alternative energy demonstration project in Kansas. Western Resources, Inc. (WRI) is constructing a wind turbine demonstration project 4-5 miles north of the Kansas River at their Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Mary's, Kansas. The project will use two 750 kW Enron Z-750 wind turbines to test the reliability of this type of alternative energy in Kansas, and also to test the market demand for green power.
Western Resources has taken many steps to measure all impacts that this project will have. They have established baseline data of the wildlife and plants present before the first access road in the area was built, and will use that data as a measure against the change over time of plant and animal species after this project is completed. WRI owns 10,000 acres on that property, much of which has constructed lakes and wetlands for wildlife. The turbines will be located on the NE quadrant of the property, using the energy plant as a buffer from the wetlands on the other side of the plant. This will limit problems of waterfowl coming into contact with the turbines. Western Resources is funding an ongoing study on this project's effects on avian life.
One issue that has arisen in California with wind turbines is the effect they have on birds of prey. These birds of prey tend to use the same ridgelines that had rows of wind turbines. These rows of turbines tended to have small blades that turned at such high RPM's that birds did not detect the blades and were often killed upon impact with the fan blades. The modern turbines that WRI will be using are 165' tall, with a rotor diameter of 50 m. The three blades of the fan will rotate at a rate of 30 RPM's. This slower rate will allow birds a better chance of seeing the blades and thereby avoiding them. The fan will be connected to an enclosed tube tower to avoid the possibility of birds nesting on an old-style, open framework tower. WRI has also consulted with biologists on the geographic placement of the turbines to avoid areas that might be frequented by birds. All of this work will be part of a feasibility study for Western Resources or any other organization looking at the possibilities of using wind power in Kansas.
The project has an estimated completion date of around mid-May. When completed, the turbines are projected to produce between 3.8 and 4 million kilowatt-hours per year. This would provide energy for an average of just over 400 houses. This power could be offered up as a premium option for consumers who would like to pay more for green energy. Western Resources has not decided if and when they will offer this possibility, nor do they know what energy market they will offer it in. If successful, there is a possibility of expanding this project to include more turbines. Kansas is considered to have the 3rd most potential for wind energy development in the nation. Once complete, WRI hopes to construct a nearby public viewing area and educational kiosk for the project. Western Resources is willing to give tours to organizations interested in learning more about the project.
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Water and Toxics:
Matters of Life and Death
By Terry Shistar
Today I want to talk about the failure of an environmental policy paradigm--the risk assessment paradigm. In 1984, then EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus said, "Needless to say, EPA's primary mission is the reduction of risk, whether to public health or the environment." In 1984, he did need to say it because it wasn't obvious. Today, however, it seems obvious that we should attack the largest risks first, and to do that we first need to measure the risks.
Our history of managing the risks associated with the use of pesticides and other toxic chemicals has been a series of failures. At first, the prevailing theory was that every poison had a threshold dose below that it is safe and above which it causes problems.
There have always been problems with the threshold theory because even toxic chemicals that exhibit a threshold in a healthy individual may not have a safe dose for all people--young and old, healthy and sick--in the population. But the threshold theory totally failed to deal with cancer and genetic mutations. Most chemicals that cause cancer and mutations have no safe dose--every tiny exposure increases our likelihood of getting cancer. So the approach that Ruckelshaus inaugurated in 1984 was a process of "managing" risks to "acceptable" levels.
EPA's record at managing exposures to carcinogens is abominable--and I'll get back to that. But now we have become aware that toxic chemicals have yet another way of injuring us, which presents a fatal problem for risk assessment. The process that EPA calls "quantitative risk assessment" depends on giving high doses of chemicals to experimental animals and estimating the effects a low doses based on models that predict that the number of cancers will be proportional to the dose.
A growing number of chemicals have been identified as endocrine disrupters. That is, they act like, augment, or interfere with hormones in our bodies. Hormones do not have a "monotonically increasing dose response function". That is, large doses don't always result in greater effects than lower doses. Sometimes the effects are higher or qualitatively different at lower doses. Lou Guillette of the University of Florida showed that 100% of alligator eggs exposed to 100 parts per billion atrazine experienced sex reversal, while none of the alligators eggs exposed to 1000 parts per billion did. Similarly, when University of Missouri researcher Fred vom Saal exposed mice to varying doses of diethylstilbestrol (DES, a synthetic estrogen), he found that prostate gland size increased, then decreased again. Endocrine disrupting chemicals typically cause this kind of response, and the dose-response relationship is not easily extrapolated from one species to another. More importantly, the timing of the dose is as important as its magnitude in determining the effects, since many of the longest lasting impacts of endocrine disrupters are the result of their interference with development.
So theoretically, at least, the risk assessment paradigm is fatally flawed. How have we seen the real world effects of this flawed paradigm?
First of all, the threshold effects have not been prevented. Many pesticides are neurotoxins. EPA supposedly regulates them to reduce their residues on foods to "safe" levels. However, a recent study by Consumers Union showed that children may be legally exposed to residues of a single pesticide on a single portion of a single food that are up to 250 times the "safe" levels. What are the symptoms of this exposure? The effects of a single large dose include headache, restlessness, irritability, impaired ability to concentrate, depersonalization, and more severe symptoms, including death at high doses. Chronic exposure is associated with anxiety, uneasiness, insomnia, sleep walking, listlessness, drowsiness, mental confusion, depression, and inability to get along with family and friends. Do these symptoms sound familiar?
Next, our exposure to carcinogenic pesticides is also increasing. Some of the pesticides that are applied to foods end up in our water supplies. The Environmental Working Group asked volunteers in several states, including Kansas, to collect tap water samples. They found that atrazine concentrations in Kansas City were 6.6 times the "acceptable" cancer risk. These drinking water exposures are in addition to pesticides in foods and other carcinogens in the environment. Those "other carcinogens" can add up. EPA is in the process of performing a cumulative risk analysis. The cumulative analysis for air toxics alone (which do not include pesticides) showed that no census tract in the country had an "acceptable" level of risk from these air toxics alone.
Finally, we are also beginning to see the effects of endocrine disrupters in the rising rates of breast, prostate, testicular cancers; decreasing sperm counts; and genital abnormalities. There is also good evidence that the sex ratio is changing, and girls are reaching puberty earlier.
All of this failed environmental policy is undertaken in pursuit of a flawed public policy goal. That goal is the continuation of toxic means of production under the assumption that we "need" to accept these risks. For example, we assume that we "need" to accept the risks of chemical-intensive agriculture in order to feed the world. In fact, we are producing food surpluses that feed the population explosion. Do we "need" to produce more consumer goods so everyone can have a higher standard of living, or are we producing more for the diminishing proportion of the population that can afford more and more new "stuff"? And even if by producing all this stuff we were to succeed in increasing the material standard of living of most of the world's human population, would this improve their true quality of life? Is it more "stuff" that people need to have happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives?
Your food buying habits are one way that you can have an impact. EPA suggests that you can reduce your risk by washing and peeling produce. This ignores the substantial risk from residues in animal products and processed foods, as well as from pesticides that are translocated throughout the plant. The "wash and peel" strategy doesn't cut it--you can't wash your milk or peel your Cheerios. Buying organic, especially from local organic growers you know, decreases your risk from food residues and also reduces risk from secondary impacts such as runoff from treated fields.
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Not Tom's Tips
by Tom Thompson
I didn't get this written in time for the last "Planet Kansas" but I did this time. If you remember I requested that individuals send me any creative habits they had that would make us all more efficient and environmental.
The title infers that any of the tips I use will be someone elses tips. Perhaps because of my political nature I'll have to say I didn't really mean that. Not that political types never say what they mean but they often, perhaps, don't mean what they say...or something like that. Anyway I do have a tip of my own.
Well they aren't just mine but rather they are habits of Mary and mine. That's it, they aren't my tips they are Mary's. So I did mean what I said. Didn't I?
Mary (and I) a couple years ago were looking for something effective to wrap food in to go into the deep freeze. We did not like paying for all those freezer bags. Every time we eat cereal there is this great bag that holds the cereal. The cereal companies pay big bucks to make them in such a way that they keep the cereal fresh. We open them carefully, eat the cereal, and then use the cereal bags to wrap everything from meat to cake. They seem to work well, fight freezer burn, and allow us to reuse one more thing.
I did get one response from the last article. Jamini Arcell from Olathe sent me a whole list of ideas. Below are a few of them. Please, I'm still looking for ideas to share. Send them to Tom Thompson, 5001 Rock Creek Lane, Mission, KS 66205 or FAX to (913) 236-9161 or e-mail to email@example.com.
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by Tom Thompson, Kanza Group Chair
The winter is about over even though in many ways it seems to have just begun. Of course when you read this you will probably be planting cool weather plants.
The Winter Festival was at the very end of January. Those in attendance all learned about the Heart Forrest and ate a wonderful pot luck meal. A new added attraction, the silent auction, was a huge success and added to the nights activities. Thanks to those who made bids, the Kanza Group made about $900 which will go a long way to help us be environmental advocates.
Several awards were also given out. Diane Stewart and Craig Wolfe were awarded Rutherford "RB" Hayes Awards for the unending sacrifices they make on behalf of the environment. County Commissioners David Wysong and Annabeth Surbaugh each were given awards for their environmental efforts in Johnson County.
The Executive Committee elections resulted in some new faces to add new ideas to Kanza Group leadership. Marc Mason, Andrew Kolosseus and Cindy Berger became the newest Excom members joining John Horn who was appointed late last year. Their ideas and enthusiasm are welcome additions.
Volunteers are needed. We will be embarking on new efforts to add to our membership and encourage involvement. Please note the regular meeting and Conservation Committee meeting dates found in the last few pages of the Planet Kansas and attend them. When you aren't going to those, go on one of the great outings also listed. Call me at (913) 236-9161 if you want to get involved.
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March 6 Food System Symposium a Big Success
By Craig Volland
It was standing room only at the "Reclaiming Our Food System from the Corporate Giants Symposium" on March 6 in Overland Park, Ks. The event was co-sponsored by the Southern Plains Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club and the Kansas City Food Circle. Interest in the quality and safety of our food supply and the welfare of farm animals appears to be very high. Attendance by the general public was also very good at the Farmers Exhibition at the same site. More than 30 farmers and coops representing 55 farmers within 130 miles of the Kansas City metro area staffed tables and took orders for organically grown fruits and vegetables and free range, natural meats. The theme of the exhibition was "Pull the Plug on Factory Farms."
The Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club wishes to thank those members who assisted in the event including Diane Stewart, Cindy Berger, Andrew Kolosseus, Naomi and Dirk Durant, John Verbanic, Jim Horlacher, Linda Meisinger, Craig Wolfe, Tom Thompson, Steve Baru, Steve Hassler and Marc Mason. In addition we want to thank Donna Clark, Thomas Hart Benton Group Chair, and other Ozark Chapter members who spread the word on the Missouri side and Karen Uhlenhuth and our friends at Audubon, and, of course, Exhibition coordinator, Toni Gunther and the Food Circle folks.
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Demand Prominent Labeling of Irradiated Food
By Craig Volland
Instead of demanding that the industrial food industry clean up its act, the FDA recently approved irradiation of essentially all foods including fruits and vegetables. Irradiation is the bombardment of food by ionizing radiation in special facilities that obtain nuclear source materials from purveyors of military and medical waste. "Ionizing" means that molecules are broken up into component ions. This effectively kills pathogenic organisms but also breaks apart some molecules of food and anything on the food. Coming back together in random ways, these ions may form new compounds. Accordingly irradiated meat may have an unusual odor, taste and color. Even some meat industry officials are not sure they want to invest in this expensive technology as opposed to other alternatives such as steam sterilization.
Nonetheless the FDA wants to remove all current labeling requirements and possibly substitute more innocuous terms such as "cold pasteurization" or "electronic pasteurization" to reduce the current high levels of public resistance to the process. We urge you to contact the FDA immediately and demand prominent labeling including the use of the terms "irradiation" or "irradiated" and the use of the "radura" symbol. It is completely unethical to impose irradiation on people who don't want it in order to protect factory farms and highly automated processing facilities from the consequences of their business practices. Please use the address and subject line below. Deadline is May 18.
Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305) Food and Drug Administration 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061 Rockville, Md. 20852, Re: Docket # 98N-1038, "Irradiation in the Production, Processing, and Handling of Food"
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