Jan. 16, 2014: Mining rules, fossil fuels, Israel human rights violations

Posted Jan. 15, 2014, at 1:30 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 15, 2014, at 1:52 p.m.

Reasonable protection

I was in Colorado this summer when torrential rainfall caused massive mudslides. The amount of rainfall also caused tailing ponds — or what recent Maine rule changes call “wet waste management units” — to overflow. The toxic liquid covered and poisoned large tracts of land that are now contaminated and unusable.

Given the flooding Maine has experienced now two weekends in a row, when frozen land cannot take up the excess water and fields are like skating rinks, we should all have deep concerns about mining operations that can permit waste to be held in perpetuity.

The irresponsibility of members of the Maine Board of (note that it is not “for”) Environmental Protection, which has unanimously voted to further weaken protection regarding mining, moves me to suggest that every board member who voted to weaken protection be required to live within a mile of these “units” — with their families — so they can experience the level of protection they have handed to the land and the people of Maine.

It seems that forcing decision-makers to bear the effects of their work will be the only means to guarantee that Mainers receive reasonable, rather than merely legal, protection of their environment — and their lives.

Heidi Brugger

Freedom

Fossil fuels

A gentleman from Lincoln wrote a letter recently questioning the carbon debt incurred through the manufacture of wind turbines. While presented as somewhat of a “straw man,” he raises a good question: What is the environmental cost of wind turbines, particularly with regard to carbon emissions?

A number of groups have performed “life cycle analyses” for different energy generation techniques. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is one source for such information. I also consulted a paper titled “ Life Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Coal-Fired Electricity Generation” in the Journal of Industrial Ecology.

Upstream processes (such as raw material extraction, all manufacturing, transportation), operations (fuel use, maintenance) and downstream processes (waste disposal, plant decommissioning, habitat rehabilitation) are considered. A huge effort has gone into “harmonization” to make sure that decision makers can compare apples to apples.

NREL provides a good summary of results. While each technology has a range of results, the numbers are quite telling. On average, wind, hydroelectric, solar and nuclear energy are each responsible for about 10 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of energy generated. Coal is responsible for about 1,000 grams carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. Other sources show natural gas responsible for more than 400 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour.

It is quite clear that renewable technologies and nuclear are many times less harmful than burning fossil fuels.

Frank John

Brooklin

Upholding freedom

The Jan. 9 BDN OpEd by two Bowdoin students urging their college’s involvement in the academic boycott of Israel repeats the same tired arguments that have failed to persuade the leaders of American colleges and universities to join this crusade. As a member for more than 40 years of the American Studies Association, I voted against its boycott and deeply regret that the resolution passed.

The fact that the Bowdoin students, like their counterparts in not just the United States but also Canada and England, single out Israel as allegedly being the worst country in the world in terms of human rights violations, speaks for itself. It reflects a hatred of Israel and of Judaism that pervades most of these boycotts. Their real, if unacknowledged, agenda is not a change in Israel’s policies toward Palestinians — a position held by many Jews and non-Jews alike who still love Israel overall — but Israel’s outright disappearance.

Those naive enough to take seriously the pleas of students like these who studiously ignore the plight of millions of others in North Korea, Sudan and South Sudan, and other outright dictatorships cannot be accorded respect. Try out such nonsensical arguments in a college classroom or in a college debate and see what happens. I commend Bowdoin’s President Barry Mills for upholding the crucial value of academic freedom that has helped to make his institution so highly esteemed.

Howard Segal

Professor of History

University of Maine

Orono

Two priorities

Just two numbers out of an article today clarified the priorities guiding the LePage administration’s actions regarding assistance to the neediest people in Maine. Mario Moretto reported that:

1. $807 million would fund the expansion of Medicaid in Maine for 10 years.

2. $925,000 was paid to a consultant to study Maine’s welfare system. That is more than enough to have funded one year of the Medicaid expansion.

Waste in government is a problem. If only the present administration could see the wasteful consequences of its actions in this regard.

Mary H. Montville

Old Town

Vote health coverage

It is not only that 69,500 Maine residents, including children, will have no health coverage but the effect on the fragile Maine economy that concerns me if MaineCare coverage is not expanded.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy estimates that the LePage administration, by turning down the $1 billion in federal Affordable Care Act funds to cover the 69,500 MaineCare eligible Mainers, will miss the opportunity for positive influences on our economy.

Here are 10 positive economic outcomes from expanding MaineCare:

1. Taking the $250 million federal dollars each year will stimulate more than $350 million in economic activity annually.

2. It will create more than 3,100 jobs here in Maine.

3. It will generate $16 million to $18 million in state and local tax revenue annually.

4. The federal government pays 100 percent of the costs for three years and only slightly less afterward, and the state can opt out at any time.

5. If we do not take the money, Maine federal taxpayers will be paying for other states’ Medicaid recipients.

6. It helps create a competitive business environment as reducing ranks of uninsured reduces health insurance cost-shifts to businesses’ health insurance premiums.

7. It improves productivity of Maine workers as their chronic illnesses can be treated.

8. Rural Maine benefits even more than urban Maine, as the percentage of MaineCare-eligible populations is greater.

9. It will slow the growth of health insurance costs for everyone, as the current costs from the uninsured are being paid for by the insureds’ premiums.

10. It will also prevent ACA tax penalties to employers if some of their employees are covered under expanded MaineCare.

Please vote for true economic growth, Sens. Brian Langley and Ed Youngblood.

Cary Huggins

Orland

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