On the News With Thom Hartmann: We’re Still Seeing the Effects of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill 25 Years Later, and More

In today’s On the News segment: It’s been a quarter of a century since the Exxon Valdez spill, and fewer than half of the fish and wildlife populations in that area are listed today as recovered; a bipartisan coalition requested a renewal of the wind energy tax credit last week; it could be an entire year before the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico reopens for business; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of science and green news …

You need to know this. Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. The media stopped reporting on that disaster decades ago, but that doesn’t mean that the damage has been repaired. On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska. That tanker spilled millions of gallons of oil along 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline. It killed millions of birds, fish, and marine mammals, and it devastated one of our world’s most pristine environments. At that time, it was the worst oil spill in our nation’s history. Twenty-five years later, oil from that spill is still there – still mixed in to beach sediment and still poisoning the water, land, and wildlife. It’s been a quarter of a century since the Exxon Valdez spill, and less than half of the fish and wildlife populations in that area are listed today as recovered. Our own government says that some species, like the AT1 orca pod has “no hope for recovery” and “will likely become extinct.” However, instead of learning our lesson, and ending our addiction to fossil fuels, we blamed that spill on a single drunken ship captain and went right on drilling, shipping, and burning this toxic sludge. And, since then, our “drill, baby, drill” policy has led to numerous other oil-related disasters, including the massive BP blowout in the Gulf. Twenty-five years out, we’re still seeing the effects of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, and we’ll still be feeling the effects of the Gulf disaster two-and-a-half decades from now. And, it seems like every week we hear about another massive oil-related disaster. Our oil-drilling policy is like the definition of insanity – we keep drilling and drilling, and foolishly thinking that it won’t have the same disastrous result. Exxon Valdez destroyed at least one species. The BP blowout in the Gulf will likely mean the end for a few more. If we keep this up, it’s only a matter of time before the human species is the next to disappear. For the future of our planet – and our species – we’ve got to make the switch to green energy.

If we’re ever going to end our addiction to fossil fuels, it’s going to take a lot of renewable energy. Thankfully, there’s a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress working to help make that possible. Last week, 120 members of the House and at least 24 US Senators signed a letter to finance committee leaders in both houses, and requested a renewal of the wind energy tax credit. That extension was supposed to take place back in December, but Congress allowed it to expire, and renewable energy advocates have been fighting to get it renewed ever since. The production tax credit helps wind energy producers invest in new technology and expand production capabilities. It has helped reduce the cost of wind energy, which dropped 43 percent in the last four years, and it’s helped wind energy rise to become the fifth-largest power source in the US. It’s unacceptable that Big Oil rakes in billions in tax benefits, while clean energy providers have to fight for meager tax breaks. Our nation should be investing in renewable technology, and creating good-paying green energy jobs. Hopefully, this bipartisan coalition keeps pushing to restore the wind energy tax credits, and keeps fighting for a cleaner, greener energy future.

According to RadCast.org, it could be an entire year before the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico reopens for business. Officials continue to say that the release of radioactive material at that plant poses no threat to human health, yet they also admit that they don’t know exactly what happened there. They believe that back on Valentine’s Day, a cave-in at the plant damaged some of the canisters holding radioactive waste. Don Hancock of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program said the reopen date is “unknowable,” until they can determine exactly what happened, how long decontamination will take, and how another accident can be prevented. In the meantime, officials in New Mexico are rethinking a plan to expand operations at that plant. State regulators had previously issued a temporary permit to build two new storage vaults at WIPP, but they just revoked that permit. At a recent press conference, New Mexico’s Environmental Secretary Ryan Flynn said, “We need to proceed with caution and assess any additional risks posed to either workers or the public.” Nuclear advocates point to an incident-free 15-year history at the Carlsbad plant to claim that the site is safe. What they don’t say is that all it takes in one major accident to make that area completely uninhabitable for human life. No form of nuclear energy or weapon is worth that type risk. Check out RadCast.org for all the latest updates on WIPP, and all your other nuclear news.

And finally… Willie Nelson has a long history of fighting for the people of rural America, and his latest project is another example of his amazing work. Nelson has released a new music video to highlight the devastating effects of mountaintop removal coal mining. In the video, the country music legend sings “America the Beautiful” over images of the Appalachian Mountains and the beautiful environment being destroyed by mountaintop mining. Despite the dangers of this controversial process, and the countless communities that it has destroyed, Congress has allowed coal companies to have free rein to blast off the tops of mountains, and dump toxic pollution into the streams and rivers of Appalachia. In fact, rather than reigning in this destructive process, just last week the House of Representatives voted to make it easier for these companies to dump their waste and continue destroying the Appalachian Mountains. We can’t go back and fix the 500 mountains that coal companies have already destroyed, and scientists say that the ecological damage is irreversible. But, we can stand with Willie Nelson and demand this process comes to an immediate end. To find out how, go to MusicSavesMountains.org.

And that’s the way it is for the week of March 31, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.