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One Shot Left | Monbiot

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 25th November 2008

George Bush is behaving like a furious defaulter whose home is about to be repossessed. Smashing the porcelain, ripping the doors off their hinges, he is determined that there will be nothing worth owning by the time the bastards kick him out. His midnight regulations, opening America’s wilderness to logging and mining, trashing pollution controls, tearing up conservation laws, will do almost as much damage in the last 60 days of his presidency as he achieved in the foregoing 3000(1).

His backers – among them the nastiest pollutocrats in America – are calling in their favours. But this last binge of vandalism is also the Bush presidency reduced to its essentials. Destruction is not an accidental product of its ideology. Destruction is the ideology. Neoconservatism is power expressed by showing that you can reduce any part of the world to rubble.

If it is now too late to prevent runaway climate change, the Bush team must carry much of the blame. His wilful trashing of the Middle Climate – the interlude of benign temperatures which allowed human civilisation to flourish – makes the mass murder he engineered in Iraq only the second of his crimes against humanity. Bush has waged his war on science with the same obtuse determination with which he has waged his war on terror.

Is it too late? To say so is to make it true. To suggest that there is nothing that can now be done is to ensure that nothing is done. But even a resolute optimist like me finds hope ever harder to summon. A new summary of the science published since last year’s Intergovernmental Panel report suggests that – almost a century ahead of schedule – the critical climate processes might have begun(2).

Just a year ago the Intergovernmental Panel warned that the Arctic’s “late-summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century … in some models.”(3) But, as the new report by the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) shows, climate scientists are now predicting the end of late-summer sea ice within three to seven years. The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth.

Forget the sodding polar bears: this is about all of us. As the ice disappears, the region becomes darker, which means that it absorbs more heat. A recent paper published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the extra warming caused by disappearing sea ice penetrates 1500km inland, covering almost the entire region of continuous permafrost(4). Arctic permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the entire global atmosphere(5). It remains safe for as long as the ground stays frozen. But the melting has begun. Methane gushers are now gassing out of some places with such force that they keep the water open in Arctic lakes, through the winter(6).

The effects of melting permafrost are not incorporated into any global climate models. Runaway warming in the Arctic alone could flip the entire planet into a new climatic state. The Middle Climate could collapse faster and sooner than the grimmest forecasts proposed.

Barack Obama’s speech to the US climate summit last week was an astonishing development(7). It shows that, in this respect at least, there really is a prospect of profound political change in America. But while he described a workable plan for dealing with the problem perceived by the Earth Summit of 1992, the measures he proposes are now hopelessly out of date. The science has moved on. The events the Earth Summit and the Kyoto process were supposed to have prevented are already beginning. Thanks to the wrecking tactics of Bush the elder, Clinton (and Gore) and Bush the younger, steady, sensible programmes of the kind that Obama proposes are now irrelevant. As the PIRC report suggests, the years of sabotage and procrastination have left us with only one remaining shot: a crash programme of total energy replacement.

A paper by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research shows that if we are to give ourselves a roughly even chance(8,9) of preventing more than two degrees of warming, global emissions from energy must peak by 2015 and decline by between six and eight per cent per year from 2020 to 2040, leading to a complete decarbonisation of the global economy soon after 2050(10). Even this programme would work only if some optimistic assumptions about the response of the biosphere hold true. Delivering a high chance of preventing two degrees of warming would mean cutting global emissions by over 8% a year.

Is this possible? Is this acceptable? The Tyndall paper points out that annual emission reductions greater than one per cent have “been associated only with economic recession or upheaval.” When the Soviet Union collapsed, they fell by some 5% a year. But you can answer these questions only by considering the alternatives. The trajectory both Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have proposed – an 80% cut by 2050 – means reducing emissions by an average of 2% a year. This programme, the figures in the Tyndall paper suggest, is likely to commit the world to at least four or five degrees of warming(11), which means the likely collapse of human civilisation across much of the planet. Is this acceptable?

The costs of a total energy replacement and conservation plan would be astronomical, the speed improbable. But the governments of the rich nations have already deployed a scheme like this for another purpose. A survey by the broadcasting network CNBC suggests that the US federal government has now spent $4.2 trillion in response to the financial crisis, more than the total spending on World War Two when adjusted for inflation(12). Do we want to be remembered as the generation that saved the banks and let the biosphere collapse?

This approach is challenged by the American thinker Sharon Astyk. In an interesting new essay, she points out that replacing the world’s energy infrastructure involves “an enormous front-load of fossil fuels”, which are required to manufacture wind turbines, electric cars, new grid connections, insulation and all the rest(13). This could push us past the climate tipping point. Instead, she proposes, we must ask people “to make short term, radical sacrifices”, cutting our energy consumption by 50%, with little technological assistance, in five years. There are two problems: the first is that all previous attempts show that relying on voluntary abstinence does not work. The second is that a 10% annual cut in energy consumption while the infrastructure remains mostly unchanged means a 10% annual cut in total consumption: a deeper depression than the modern world has ever experienced. No political system – even an absolute monarchy – could survive an economic collapse on this scale.

She is right about the risks of a technological green new deal, but these are risks we have to take. Astyk’s proposals travel far into the realm of wishful thinking. Even the technological solution I favour inhabits the distant margins of possibility.

Can we do it? Search me. Reviewing the new evidence, I have to admit that we might have left it too late. But there is another question I can answer more easily. Can we afford not to try? No we can’t.

www.monbiot.com

Polluters liable, even if they follow the rules, top court says

Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service

Published: Thursday, November 20, 2008

OTTAWA – Industrial polluters can be forced to pay damages if they excessively annoy nearby residents, even if companies comply with regulations governing emissions, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday in a decision that stresses environmental protection.

The unanimous judgment ends a long-standing battle between St. Lawrence Cement and people who lived near the plant in Beauport, Que., until it shut down in 1997.

The residents launched a class-action suit against the plant in 1993, complaining that its operation spewed residue on their homes, land, and cars, along with an ensuing odour and noise that devalued their properties.

The key issue in the Supreme Court ruling was whether companies in Quebec can be found civilly liable, even if they are not strictly at fault for the inflicted damage because they followed regulatory standards on maintaining equipment.

Although the case was confined to interpretation of the Quebec Civil Code, the court noted that no-fault liability is also found in common law that is used in all other provinces.

“What is more, such a scheme is consistent with general policy considerations, such as the objective of environmental protection and the application of the polluter-pay principle,” justices Marie Deschamps and Louis LeBel wrote in the 6-0 decision.

The court said that the test for civil fault is whether the pollution violates a standard of conduct of a reasonable person.

Environmental groups hailed the decision as a “massive victory” that will empower citizens to challenge environmental annoyances.

“The result is that future environmental nuisance claims will be more easily proven under a no-fault regime, and polluters will have even more incentive to clean up their act to avoid being sued by their neighbours,” said Will Amos, a lawyer for the University of Ottawa Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic.

The decision upholds a ruling in the Quebec Superior Court, which absolved St. Lawrence Cement of wrongdoing, but nonetheless found the company liable for excessive disturbance and ordered it to pay about $15 million in damages to the residents.

The Quebec Court of Appeal rejected the lower court’s finding that a company can be found liable in the absence of fault. But the appeal court found St. Lawrence Cement guilty of wrongdoing in its compliance with environmental laws.

The appeal court also limited the scope of class-action suits by restricting damages to homeowners, and excluding tenants and family members from claims – a ruling that the Supreme Court rejected.

St. Lawrence Cement, based in Concord, Ont., said Thursday in a statement that the recognition of a no-fault liability scheme in Quebec could have “far reaching implications” for Canadian industry.

“SLC does acknowledge that, despite using state-of-the-art equipment to manage dust and consistently complying with all regulatory requirements, there was annoyance to our neighbours from the operation of the plant,” the statement said.

Court evidence showed that the cement plant, responding to ongoing complaints, spent $8 million between 1991 and 1995 on new dust collectors for its kilns.

The company continues to operate in more than 50 Canadian communities, employing about 3,000 people and generating annual revenue of more than $1.5 billion.

http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=0826ef18-35a7-4bc6-9122-168361b62a39

NEW STUDY | Benefits of Meeting Clean Air Standards

red-car-exhaust

California Loses $28 Billion Yearly Due to Health Effects of Pollution. By Louis Sahagun, LATimes, November 13, 2008. “The California economy loses about $28 billion annually due to premature deaths and illnesses linked to ozone and particulates spewed from hundreds of locations in the South Coast and San Joaquin air basins, according to findings [Benefits of Meeting Clean Air Standards, PDF, 108 pp, executive summary, PDF, 8 pp] released Wednesday by a Cal State Fullerton research team. Most of those costs… are connected to roughly 3,000 smog-related deaths each year, but additional factors include work and school absences, emergency room visits, and asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, said team leader Jane Hall, a professor of economics and co-director of the university’s Institute for Economics and Environmental Studies.”

California economy loses $28 billion yearly to health effects of pollution

VIDEO:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pollute13-2008nov13,0,3895359.story

Most of the losses are attributable to 3,000 annual deaths, a Cal State Fullerton study says. The study underscores the economic benefits of meeting federal air quality standards.

Louis Sahagun


November 13, 2008

The California economy loses about $28 billion annually due to premature deaths and illnesses linked to ozone and particulates spewed from hundreds of locations in the South Coast and San Joaquin air basins, according to findings released Wednesday by a Cal State Fullerton research team.

Most of those costs, about $25 billion, are connected to roughly 3,000 smog-related deaths each year, but additional factors include work and school absences, emergency room visits, and asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, said team leader Jane Hall, a professor of economics and co-director of the university’s Institute for Economics and Environment Studies.

The study underscores the economic benefits of meeting federal air quality standards at a time when lawmakers and regulators are struggling with California’s commitment to protecting public health in a weak economy.

The $90,000 study does not propose any particular action. But in an interview, Hall said, “We are going to pay for it one way or the other. Either we pay to fix the problem or we pay in loss of life and poor health. . . . This study adds another piece to the puzzle as the public and policy-makers try to understand where do we go from here.”

The California Air Resources Board is scheduled to vote Dec. 11 on whether to adopt broader rules that would force more than 1 million heavy-duty diesel truckers to install filters or upgrade their engines. Truckers and agribusiness have argued against stricter regulation, saying it is too expensive for them to invest in clean vehicles at a time of economic uncertainty.

Mary Nichols, chairman of the air resources board, said the findings will “be useful to all of us. Our board members hear on a regular basis from constituents who are concerned about the costs of regulations, and seldom hear from people concerned about their health because they are collectively and individually not as well organized.”

In the meantime, the two regions continue to pay a steep price for generating air pollution ranked among the worst in the country. In the South Coast basin, that cost is about $1,250 per person per year, which translates into a total of about $22 billion in savings if emissions came into compliance with federal standards, Hall said. In the San Joaquin air basin, the cost is about $1,600 per person per year, or about $6 billion in savings if the standards were met.

The savings would come from about 3,800 fewer premature deaths among those age 30 and older; 1.2 million fewer days of school absences; 2 million fewer days of respiratory problems in children; 467,000 fewer lost days of work and 2,700 fewer hospital admissions, according to the study.

The study noted that attaining the federal standard for exposure to particulates would save more lives than lowering the number of motor vehicle fatalities to zero in most of the regions examined.

The hardest hit were fast-growing communities in Kern and Fresno counties, where 100% of the population was exposed to particulate concentrations above the average federal standard from 2005 to 2007. High rates of exposure were also found in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where diesel soot is blown by prevailing winds and then trapped by four mountain ranges.

Considered the most lethal form of air pollution, microscopic particulates expelled from tailpipes, factory smoke stacks, diesel trucks and equipment can penetrate through the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Exposure to these fine particles has been linked to severe asthma, cancer and premature deaths from heart and lung disease.

“In the South Coast basin, an average 64% of the population is exposed to health-endangering annual averages of particulates,” Hall said, “and in the most populated county — Los Angeles — it is 75%.

“In most years, the South Coast and San Joaquin basins vie with the Houston, Texas, area for the worst air pollution trophy, but this year we took it back,” she said. “That’s not a prize you want to be handed. Essentially, imported T-shirts and tennis shoes are being hauled to Omaha and the big-rig diesel pollution stays here.”

Nidia Bautista, community engagement director for the Coalition for Clean Air, described the findings as “staggering, and a reminder that health is too often the trade-off when it comes to cleaning the air.”

Angelo Logan, spokesman for the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, put it another way: “At a time when government is handing out economic stimulus packages, we could use an economic relief package to help us deal with environmental impacts on our health, families and pocketbooks.”

Hall agreed. “This is a drain that could be spent in far better ways,” she said.

REPORT | Effects of industrial air pollution on the respiratory health of children

kill-the-fumes


Courtesy of International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
Originally published Sep. 2008

Full Report:effects-of-industrial-air-pollution-on-the-respiratory-health-of-children

There is growing concern regarding to the possible effects of air pollution on respiratory health of children in Eleme industrial area of Port-Harcourt Nigeria. A total of 250 children were sampled from six primary schools with pre-nursery facilities for a period of 18 months. Subjects were divided into two zones (A and B), monitored and examined on weekly basis. The effects of four criteria pollutants (nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide) on the respiratory health of the children were examined with reference to symptoms and diseases such as cough, cold, bronchitis, sinusitis and phlegm. Data were obtained from surveys of socioeconomic status of parents of subjects, three air monitoring stations and on-the-spot measurements of these pollutants and their association with symptoms and diseases analyzed. Results showed that there was a strong association between air pollution and symptoms and diseases among children. The effect was strongest among children below 2 years of age (adjusted OR = 3.5, 95%, CI 1.7-8.3) in the highly polluted zone than in the less polluted area. The higher the age of children, the lesser the susceptibility to these pollutants. These general results constitute a starting point for further research on long-term exposure to industrial air pollution and call for an urgent enforcement of regulatory standards to protect the most vulnerable groups in most of the growing metropolises of the country.

http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachArticle.aspx?cid=19294&codi=38643&loginemail=elle-provocateur@sympatico.ca&logincode=187521

Drive-thrus are bad for you, city argues

Vaughan

November 06, 2008 08:26 PM

Bank drive-thru approved, but sparks debate about merits
By: Caroline Grech

If you like to get your coffee or do your banking at a drive-thru, you might have to change your ways if some Vaughan councillors get their way.

An application by York Major Holdings Inc. and Metrus Properties to build a bank with a drive- thru sparked debate amongst councillors about the need for drive-thrus.

While council approved the application in the end, the ensuing debate provided insight into how Vaughan might look in the future.

The approved proposal would see a bank with a drive-thru built at Major Mackenzie Drive and Dufferin Street.

But some councillors don’t want to see more drive-thrus in the city.

“It’s a bank. Drive-thrus are not critical. I prefer that a drive-thru not be allowed at this corner,” Councillor Alan Shefman said.

If Vaughan is looking now at a plan to make the city more sustainable, drive-thrus don’t fit the bill, Mr. Shefman argued.

He wasn’t alone. Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio called for a hold on drive-thrus in new projects.

“Drive-thrus are harmful to your health. You’re forced to sit in your car and breath in fumes from other cars,” Ms Frustaglio said.

Councillor Peter Meffe also heaped criticism on drive-thrus, but offered the idea that the drive-thru might only operate when the bank was closed.

“It isn’t more convenient. These things (drive-thrus) are hindering human contact. They’re making us worse people. I can’t support it,” Mr. Meffe said.

But before council got too far ahead with ideas to ban drive-thrus, planning commissioner John Zipay issued a cautionary tone on the issue.

“The zoning bylaw permits certain places to have drive-thrus. This council could not put a temporary ban on them. You would have to change the bylaw,” Mr. Zipay said.

He also noted the area where the bank would be located is not a pedestrian area, but one that people travel around in their cars.

Mr. Zipay warned councillors that any decision on drive-thrus has to be consistent.

“It has to be done on a comprehensive basis. You can’t say one type of business can have drive-thrus but not another,” he said, adding it was a revelation to him that this might be on the table.

But some councillors had no problem with the bank drive-thru proposal.

“To say no to this application would be inappropriate because it is allowed. I can’t support the change right here,” Regional Councillor Mario Ferri said.

Council approved the application, but Ms Frustaglio requested a report to deal with the issue of drive-thrus for the next committee of the whole meeting.

http://www.georginaadvocate.com/News/Vaughan/article/83947

Mike Ivey’s Business Beat: DQ drive-through sails through

Mike Ivey —  11/12/2008 11:07 am

The last time Madison was arguing over drive-through windows at fast-food restaurants, it turned into a national brouhaha fed by Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report.

This time it barely hit the local radar screen.

I’m talking about the approval last week of a new Dairy Queen “Chill & Grill” at 1513 Lake Point Drive as part of the ongoing redevelopment of a neighborhood once considered so dicey, the city changed its name.

The DQ will help anchor a $1.8 million, two-building office and retail project at 1526 W. Broadway on the southeast side.

City officials have been working for years to improve the area formerly known as Broadway-Simpson, which Ald. Tim Bruer once said had the most “drug-infested and decayed apartment buildings in the city.”

But things have turned around over the last decade, helped in large part by the Community Development Authority’s Monona Shores-Waunona Woods redevelopment. That $15 million effort included tearing down the worst buildings, refurbishing others and converting three dozen rental townhouses into owner-occupied condos.

The private sector has also stepped up, with local businessmen Scott and Jim Norton opening the Cranberry Creek Restaurant, which has benefited from the hungry lunch crowd coming across the street from the giant WPS Insurance complex.

With Cranberry Creek apparently on solid footing, the Nortons have now turned their attention to the Broadway Station project a few hundred yards west.

But before breaking ground, they needed a conditional use permit for a drive-through service window for a DQ. The franchise said it wouldn’t locate there without a drive-through, a move developers said would kill the entire project.

The Nortons took their case before the Madison Plan Commission last week, which got an earful from several condo owners who said they feared a DQ with drive-up service would bring more traffic into the area. They also warned about “gang graffiti” and “too many kids running around,” suggesting that tensions in the racially mixed neighborhood remain.

In the end, however, the commission sided with several longtime Lake Point residents who said having a DQ not only provides families a place for ice cream but might also provide some jobs to needy teenagers.

“I see the DQ as an economic development tool,” says Patrick DePula, past president of the Waunona Woods condo association and a former Dane County Board supervisor. “Plus, I’ve got a 7-month old, and it’s kind of a pain to get them in and out of the car each time you want to grab something from a fast-food place.”

Absent, ironically, from the proceedings was Plan Commission member Eric Sundquist, whose remark about rethinking the drive-through windows in light of concerns over automobile idling and global climate change put Madison in the spotlight for a day back in May.

Sundquist’s comments, which appeared here in the June 25 Business Beat column, were sent to the Drudge Report Web site via WIBA’s own Vicki McKenna. The Drudge feature then caught the attention of radio commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Limbaugh used the story to warn his listeners that liberals and Barack Obama are prepared to revoke American’s right to burn as much fossil fuel as they wish.

Now, I guess we’ll see if Rush was right.

http://www.madison.com/tct/business/313884

Tim Hortons Refuses to be Environmentally Responsible … As Per Usual

tims-collection1
PACKAGING

Tim Hortons gets a reprieve on new waste rules

Coffee chain and fast-food outlets reach a compromise with the city, but grocery retailers and bottled-water makers are not included

JENNIFER LEWINGTON AND JEFF GRAY

Bert Marotte

November 13, 2008

Tim Hortons and other fast-food outlets yesterday won a five-month reprieve – but grocery retailers and bottled-water makers did not – from tough city proposals to reduce consumer packaging waste.

In a compromise struck during a 10-hour debate, the public works committee unanimously agreed to more talks with Tim Hortons and its competitors – but only until April, 2009 – to find a recycling solution for disposable coffee and hot-drink cups that now go to landfill.

“This allows industry and leaders like Tim Hortons to sit down with the city on how we are actually going to reduce the volume of garbage going into our garbage dumps,” said committee chairman Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38 Scarborough Centre.) “How do we get 365 million coffee cups out of the garbage stream and into the recycling stream?”

But by a vote of 4-2, the committee rebuffed moves to delay other proposals in a report by the city’s solid-waste department, including a 10-cent discount for consumers who avoid using a plastic bag at the checkout counter. The committee also held to a proposed ban on bottled water at civic centres, effective immediately, and at city facilities in three years.

After the vote, which heads to council for debate in early December, a spokeswoman for grocery retailers expressed dismay they had won no relief.

“I hope saner minds will prevail,” said Kim McKinnon, Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors. “What they’ve done here is cause a huge economic burden on the grocery retailers … consumers will feel the multimillion-dollar impact.”

Nick Javor, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons, expressed relief at the committee vote, but did not commit to specific actions.

“We have to go back and do more work,” he said.

The original staff report – which at the insistence of Mayor David Miller avoided calls for new taxes – won praise from environmentalists and universal opposition from industry. The report called on the fast-food industry to develop reusable take-out containers by 2010, and also switch to all-recyclable disposable take-out containers by the end of next year. (The city will start accepting polystyrene foam and plastic bags in blue bins in December.)

The plastics and food-industry groups repeated warnings yesterday that the city plan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to business, and ultimately to consumers. City officials maintain the financial impact would be small. Industry groups also warned of possible legal action.

Stephanie Jones, the Ontario vice-president of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the 20-cent discount for customers who bring their own mugs was “punitive” and would leave the coffee shops – especially small mom-and-pop operations – out-of-pocket.

“Where is the city’s research? I personally went to Costco, and if I buy a sleeve of 12-ounce paper cups and a package of lids, I pay just over 10 cents [per cup],” she said.

According to a report by city bureaucrats, hot-drink cups with a sleeve and a plastic lid range in cost from 13 cents to 27 cents. Tim Hortons already offers a bring-your-own-mug discount, but only 10 cents.

The city says Tim Hortons’ current coffees cups are unrecyclable because the plastic lids contaminate the paper recycling stream. The coffee giant refused yesterday to help pay for the estimated $3-million in new sorting equipment needed to process the cups.

Mr. Javor said Tim Hortons would support the city if it approached the province to seek funding for the new equipment. Yesterday’s compromise includes a recommendation that the city ask the province for the financial help.

As of yesterday, Mr. Javor’s name now appears in the city’s lobbyist registry. The Globe and Mail reported on Tuesday that, despite meeting with city councillors last week, Mr. Javor did not appear in the city’s on-line lobbyist registry that tracks contact with city officials.

Lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke would not comment if she is still investigating any possible breach of the rules by Mr. Javor. A conviction for a first offence could mean a fine of up to $25,000, but Ms. Gehrke says she is taking a lenient approach as industry adjusts to the rules.

Saving the planet

Some recent moves by other jurisdictions:

PLASTIC/PAPER

SHOPPING BAGS

Seattle: A 20-cent-a-bag “green fee” on plastic and paper bags, set for Jan. 1, is on hold pending the outcome of a referendum later next year.

San Francisco: It was the first city in the U.S. to impose a ban on plastic shopping bags, followed by Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore.

Ireland: A tax on plastic grocery bags, the equivalent of 34 cents a bag, was imposed in 2002, prompting a 90-per-cent drop in use.

Vancouver: A ban is under consideration, after Metro Vancouver (22 area municipalities) decided to work to discourage use of disposable bags.

BOTTLED WATER

Seattle: A mayor’s executive order banned city departments from buying bottled water, effective this month.

Metro Vancouver: It launched a campaign in September to encourage tap water use over bottled water, with a goal to reduce consumption 20 per cent by 2010.

Charlottetown: It was the first city in the country to ban bottled water from municipal facilities, in 2007. In August, London, Ont., imposed a similar ban. Vancouver and Kitchener-Waterloo are considering bans.

FOOD AND BEVERAGES

Seattle: A ban on polystyrene foam takeout containers comes into effect Jan. 1.

San Francisco: Disposable takeout containers must be biodegradable or suitable for compost or recycling.

Turner Valley, Alta.: In April, became the first municipality in Canada to ban polystyrene in food packaging, such as foam cups.

Jennifer Lewington and

Bert Marotte

Tim Hortons | Lobbying against Environment | Conundrum

INFLUENCING CITY HALL

City watchdog set to probe coffee giant over lobbying

Firm’s spokesman argues he’s on city registry

Toronto’s lobbyist watchdog is investigating whether doughnut chain Tim Hortons – battling the city over a proposed environmental ban on its coffee cups – is following city hall’s new rules as the firm tries to influence councillors.

Lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke, who oversees the online registry that tracks meetings between lobbyists and city officials, said yesterday she will investigate why Nick Javor, Tim Hortons senior vice-president of corporate affairs, does not appear on the city’s list as a registered lobbyist.

Ms. Gehrke, who said she is exercising leniency as the registry is still getting established, said a report in The Globe and Mail on Saturday that Mr. Javor was meeting with city councillors prompted her to look into the matter: “That was my first inkling that there was lobbying going on.”

In a brief interview in a corridor of councillors’ offices yesterday, Mr. Javor said his staff had told him he was a registered lobbyist and that he would look into the problem.

Tim Hortons has also hired consultant Kim Wright of lobbying firm Sussex Strategy Group – accompanying Mr. Javor yesterday – to help make its case against plans to force the chain to switch to coffee cups that the city’s recycling system can handle and to mandate a 20-cent discount for customers with their own mugs.

Ms. Wright is listed as a registered lobbyist for Tim Hortons, but her entry on the city’s website as of yesterday afternoon did not detail with whom she has met on the doughnut chain’s behalf.

Lobbyists have three business days after a meeting to update an entry. But Ms. Wright said that last Monday, she actually submitted a list of four councillors, all members of the works committee set to debate the recycling issue tomorrow. She said she didn’t know why the registry had not updated.

Ms. Wright also said the rules were unfair, since non-profit environmental groups are exempt.

The lobbyist registrar said it was “quite possible” that the fact the website was taken down Monday and part of Tuesday for a software update was the reason Ms. Wright’s entry was not updated.

Under the city’s complex rules, the question of whether Mr. Javor needs to be registered as a lobbyist could hinge on whether he attends meetings only as Ms. Wright’s client. According to Ms. Gehrke, if Mr. Javor was actively lobbying during these meetings, he should be registered as well.

But Mr. Javor has also had at least one phone conversation with a city councillor on his own. Councillor Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12, York South-Weston) said yesterday that he returned a call from Mr. Javor on Friday about the issue.

Mr. Javor also met with Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) – the works committee chairman pushing for the coffee-cup changes – and Councillor Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) about a month ago, Mr. De Baeremaeker said, adding that he had assumed Mr. Javor was registered.

The new lobbyist registry website, which has been years in the making and was bogged down by delays and confusion as council slashed its budget, is the first of its kind run by a Canadian municipality. It was called for in the inquiry into the city’s MFP computer-leasing scandal. Bernie Morton, another lobbyist with Ms. Wright’s firm, actually helped city officials draft the rules.

Under the city’s lobbying rules, a representative of a corporation who tries to influence city officials without registering and properly disclosing the names of the officials being approached could face a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted for a first offence.

Meanwhile, three city councillors – Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) and Mr. Minnan-Wong – said they would push to have the works committee refer the city’s controversial packaging crackdown back to city staff in order to continue talks with the industry and draft a compromise.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081111.wtrash11/BNStory/National/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20081111.wtrash11

A New RWDI Report as Commissioned by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

This was discovered while reading a new report on Ontario’s Undervalued Water: 2007/08 Annual Report – Getting to K(No)w

Here is a report (full report is attached) presented to Gord Miller, Ontario Environmental Commissioner:

“Predicting Air Quality at Street Level – A State-of-Science Review Study – 08 April 2008 Project # W08-5129A.”

eco-2008-2008-air-quality-at-street-level-in-ontario

Guess who was contracted to do the report?  RWDI.  The same consulting group that has been waving their paper all over Canada for the TDL group (Tim Hortons) in defence of idling in drive-thrus.

Is this not the greatest contradiction one has ever seen?  From the report:

Air Quality Monitoring and Reporting in Ontario – Fostering a False Sense of Security (p. 57)

In Ontario, air pollution is a public health crisis, with thousands of premature deaths attributed to air pollution each year. To help the public reduce or modify their exposure to poor air quality, the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) monitors and provides regular updates on regional ambient air quality through its on-line Air Quality Index (AQI) (see http://www.airqualityontario.com). MOE’s 40 monitoring stations measure six key air pollutants known to be harmful to human health, including ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

Unfortunately, Ontarians who rely on the government’s AQI may be lulled into a false sense of security about the quality of the air they breathe. MOE’s monitoring stations are intentionally located away from local sources of pollutants in order to provide representative information about regional average exposure to air pollutants; while MOE’s data is useful for predicting air quality on a regional scale, it does not provide information about local – “street-level” – air quality at any given location.  Current reporting of air quality by MOE based on the AQI may lead Ontarians to believe that air quality on the streets is better than it actually is.

To illustrate this concern, in the summer of 2007 the ECO asked air quality experts to monitor the air quality at street-level at a variety of locations across Ontario. The results revealed that levels of particulate matter were consistently higher at street-level sampling locations than at MOE’s equivalent AQI monitoring stations. For example, while street-level samples collected in downtown Toronto recorded concentrations of particulate matter equivalent to the AQI’s “very poor” category, MOE’s Toronto downtown AQI station reported air quality to be “good” at that time.

The ECO sees a pressing need to overhaul Ontario’s outdated and inadequate air quality monitoring and reporting program to ensure that Ontarians have the information about air quality they need to make informed decisions.

From the report:
1. INTRODUCTION

Poor air quality can cause a number of adverse health effects in humans. As summarized by Toronto Public Health (TPH, 2004), short-term exposure to pollutants commonly found in urban air can cause increases in respiratory symptoms, infections, emergency room and hospital admissions, and even premature death in some cases. Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause chronic health diseases, reduce life expectancy, and increase the risk of lung cancer (TPH, 2004; Pope, 2004; and Halton Region, 2007).

For many years, both the Canadian Federal and Ontario Provincial governments have had programs in place to advise the public of air pollution episodes. These programs make use of both air quality measurements and computer-generated forecasts. For cost reasons, air quality measurement networks tend to be limited to a small number of monitoring stations in any urban area, all located away from major local emission sources, in places such as city parks. Measurements from these sites give information on the regional average exposure to air pollutants. Similarly, computer-generated forecasts are typically resolved at horizontal scales of several kilometres, because of limitations in computing power, and only provide information on regional average exposure.

These measurement and forecast systems have proven useful to advise the public about large scale smog events, but do not deal with public exposure to pollutants at a local or street level. Large numbers of people in urban centres are exposed, at least for parts of their day, to air pollution at street level where vehicle emissions may be trapped in the canyon created by large buildings on either side. As such, the exposure to pollutants at street level is typically very different from the regional average exposure measured at monitoring stations and predicted by computer models.

Due to the human, environmental and economic costs associated with poor air quality, the Environment Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) is interested in knowing how the current air quality forecasting programs in Ontario and the rest of Canada compare to those of other jurisdictions and to the state-of-the-science, in terms of representing the true air pollution exposure of urban populations. This information will allow the ECO to assess whether these programs are adequate for informing the public concerning exposure to poor air quality in Ontario.

To assist with this initiative, the ECO retained RWDI AIR Inc. to perform the following tasks.

• Review and summarize current air quality forecasting and ambient monitoring initiatives being implemented by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Environment Canada. Also, research and briefly summarize operational air quality forecasting and ambient monitoring initiatives used in other national and international jurisdictions.

• Review and summarize the current state-of-the-science for systems designed to predict air pollutant concentrations at street level, to gain an appreciation for what is currently possible and where the science is headed in the future. Predicting Air Quality at Street Level – A State-of-Science Review Study – 08 April 2008 Page 2 Project # W08-5129A

• Prepare a ‘Lay Language’ report (this report). Although the report contains some technical content, the focus is on presenting the information in brief and general terms.

• At a workshop with the ECO, present the findings from this study and explore the approaches being used in Ontario (and Canada as a whole) in light of operational modelling and monitoring initiatives in other jurisdictions and the current state-of-the science. Incorporate into a final report the key issues discussed during the workshop and a list of recommendations for “next steps’.

http://www.eco.on.ca/eng/index.php/pubs/eco-publications/2007-08-AR.php