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A2. Green Unionism

LAUSD Faces Federal, State, & County Pesticide Violations

PEER - Wed, 05/08/2024 - 06:30

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 8, 2024
CONTACT
Jeff Ruch jruch@peer.org (510) 213-7028

 

LAUSD Faces Federal, State, & County Pesticide Violations School District Hobbles Independent Pesticide Oversight Committee Function

 

Washington, DC — In the past year, the Los Angeles Unified School District has been hit with a wide range of pesticide violations from federal, state, and county authorities.  At the same time, LAUSD officials are hampering the operations of its nationally regarded oversight committee, according to documents posted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The recent enforcement actions against the second largest K-12 school district in the nation, which covers 710 square miles, including most of the city of L.A. along with all or portions of 25 cities and unincorporated areas of L.A. County, cover a range of malfeasance:

  • A February 2, 2024 Notice of Warning from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for using an unapproved rodenticide as ground squirrel bait on several campuses;
  • A December 12, 2023 citation and fine from the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Los Angeles County Agricultural Commissioner for “failure to ensure that pesticide handlers are trained properly” and
  • A wide-ranging May 17, 2023 investigation by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, which found four violations, including one for lapses in the district’s Respiratory Protection Program for workers.

“These citations indicate that the safety of LAUSD students and staff may be at risk from unauthorized pesticides applied without notice by improperly trained technicians, among other problems,” commented Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, “This is a time when the LAUSD’s pesticide program appears to need more oversight, not less.”

As these enforcement actions mounted, LAUSD administrators are taking steps to defang its 15-member Integrated Pest Management Committee, which is chartered to provide oversight to its pesticide program. Among LAUSD obstructions include –

  • Failure to fill three vacancies on the 15-member Committee including the slot reserved for a physician; and preventing the Committee from meeting, claiming that unspecified “certain conditions” have not been met.
  • Declining to report which pesticides are being used at what locations. For example, LAUSD claimed that no pesticides had been used in the month of December despite several reports of infestation.
  • LAUSD has created an internal “Ad Hoc Committee” to replace the current Committee.

“There is cause for concern that LAUSD is trying to get rid of this independent oversight committee altogether,” added Ruch, noting that the Committee was created as a reform 25 years ago in response to parental concerns about pesticide use in the district.  “Rather than retreating to a bureaucratic bunker, this should be a time for LAUSD to return to the commitments of parental involvement and independent oversight that had made it a national model for school pesticide program management.”

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See the L.A. County citation

Read the California Department of Pesticide Regulation notice

Look at the U.S. EPA warning

Examine attempts to prevent Committee meetings

Count the Committee vacancies as of March 2024

View December report of “No Pesticides Used”

Note emergence of “Ad Hoc Committee”

The post LAUSD Faces Federal, State, & County Pesticide Violations appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

USDA silences scientists after USRTK interview requests

PEER - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 12:12

Two scientists who sought permission to speak with U.S. Right to Know were silenced last month by officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Jeff Ruch, Pacific director of the nonprofit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said that the First Amendment rights of government scientists are under attack. Ruch pointed out that policies to silence the speech of scientists are spreading to other agencies that oversee critical public health functions, including the Centers for Disease Control.

New rules for several federal agencies, including the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health and Human Services, are as restrictive as those that have been imposed on USDA scientists.

Read the PEER Story…

The post USDA silences scientists after USRTK interview requests appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Myth busters 2. Was it really hotter in the Medieval Warm Period?

Greener Jobs Alliance - Sun, 05/05/2024 - 02:29

Myth busters 2. Was it really hotter in the Medieval Warm Period?

Woman clothed in sun – original image from rawpixel-id-14246134

As we move into a period in which the powers that be will be retreating and retrenching on climate policy, we can expect discredited arguments and factoids to be churned out with dreary regularity; so that anyone who does not want to confront the realities we face has a set of one liners to trot out to deflect thought and effort.

This series of blogs is aimed at giving workers and activists the information we need to debunk these claims if a workmate, friend or relative comes out with one of them.

Many denialist arguments rest aggressively asserted half truths on the sorts of information most of us will vaguely remember from secondary school science lessons, with a rhetorical torque that’s just enough to create an element of doubt, as long as no one checks.

Here is an example from a recent leaflet that is fairly characteristic of the genre.

“The World is not “heating up” rapidly

  1. As climate scientist Tim Ball’s chart below shows, current temperature levels are far from exceptional. Temperatures were higher in the Medieval Warm period – without the current level of emissions. Temperatures were also higher in the 1940s. There is no cause for panic!
  2. By excluding the Medieval Warm Period, Michael Mann’s alarmist “hockey stick” chart has fraudulently covered up evidence against man made global warming. Temperatures have hardly changed since 1998, but Mann’s chart shows a spike anyway. This is a blatant attempt to support the climate alarmists’ narrative and create fear.

All of the statements in these two paragraphs are untrue.

Global temperatures are rising rapidly and the eight years leading up to 2023 were the hottest on record

This graph shows how rapidly they have risen in recent decades, how far above 1998 and the 1940s they now are, and how fast this trajectory is increasing.

Hold onto your hats for 2025, and beyond.

Temperatures in the 1940s were lower than they are today. Indeed, there was a mid century drop in the otherwise rising trend throughout the rest of the 20th Century that lasted until 1970. Other deniers have argued that this shows that carbon emissions cannot be the cause of a global temperature rise. 

That mid century dip, and the relentless rise since, can be seen here.

Graph from New Scientist

In an article from 2007 New Scientist explains the countervailing factors behind this drop, most of them the result of human activity, but also natural factors. The essential point is that the deniers tend to put forward one factor at a time without taking into account how it reacts with other factors, and often get these wrong too because their aim is not to get at the truth but to obscure itT.

The mid-century cooling appears to have been largely due to a high concentration of sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere, emitted by industrial activities and volcanic eruptions. Sulphate aerosols have a cooling effect on the climate be cause they scatter light from the Sun, reflecting its energy back out into space.

The rise in sulphate aerosols was largely due to the increase in industrial activities at the end of the second world war. In addition, the large eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 produced aerosols which cooled the lower atmosphere by about 0.5°C, while solar activity levelled off after increasing at the beginning of the century

The clean air acts introduced in Europe and North America reduced emissions of sulphate aerosols. As levels fell in the atmosphere, their cooling effect was soon outweighed by the warming effect of the steadily rising levels of greenhouse gases. The mid-century cooling can be seen in this NASA/GISS animation, which shows temperature variation from the annual mean for the period from 1880 through 2006. The warmest temperatures are in red.

They go on to note that Climate models that take into account only natural factors, such as solar activity and volcanic eruptions, do not reproduce 20th century temperatures very well. If, however, the models include human emissions, including greenhouse gases and aerosols, they accurately reproduce the 1940 to 1970 dip in temperatures.

This notes the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions, which has had significant impacts at times in human history, like the “year without a Summer” in 1816 after a massive eruption of Mount Tambora, which temporarily reduced global temperatures by between 0.4C and 0.7C. They also note the impact of solar activity, which deniers often argue is the sole cause of global temperature variations. For example the leaflet we are looking at argues

The sun drives the climate, not human activity

The climate has always changed, from the ice ages to the Medieval Warm Period. Temperatures on Planet Earth are determined by a complex set of solar cycles. Human impact is insignificant by comparison.

Again, we have this assertion that solar cycles NOT human activity have an impact on climate. In fact BOTH do. As do volcanic eruptions and factors like variations in the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. All these factors interact.

The variations in Earth’s orbit are cyclical, are known as Milankovitch cycles) take place over tens of thousands of years and have been the fundamental drivers of Ice Ages and periods that have been far hotter than today. That can be explored here. That is not an explanation for our current period of rapidly increasing temperatures.

These orbital cycles should not be confused with the cycles of solar activity in the Sun itself, which are far shorter, but don’t explain the current sharp temperature increases either. As NASA notes “We know subtle changes in Earth’s orbit around the Sun are responsible for the comings and goings of the past ice ages. But the warming we’ve seen over the last few decades is too rapid to be linked to changes in Earth’s orbit, and too large to be caused by solar activity.” In fact “the current scientific consensus is that long and short-term variations in solar activity play only a very small role in Earth’s climate. Warming from increased levels of human-produced greenhouse gases is actually many times stronger than any effects due to recent variations in solar activity. Exactly the opposite of what the deniers claim (with no evidence). 

The evidence in fact shows that For more than 40 years, satellites have observed the Sun’s energy output, which has gone up or down by less than 0.1 percent during that period. Since 1750, the warming driven by greenhouse gases coming from the human burning of fossil fuels is over 270 times greater than the slight extra warming coming from the Sun itself over that same time interval.

Turning reality on its head, another denialist argument is this one.

Higher air and ocean temperatures lead to higher CO2 levels

There is indeed a proven correlation between temperatures and CO2 levels in the atmosphere – but its the opposite of what we are being told: 500 – 800 years after warm periods, oceans warm up and expel some of the CO2 they are holding into the air. This means the higher atmosphere CO2 levels of the last 100 years are an after – effect of the Medieval warm period. CO2 changes follow temperature changes, they don’t cause them.

The core irrationality is in the last four words. The “proven correlation” between CO2 concentrations and temperature only works in one direction it seems. This is simplistic linear thinking.  What they seem to have missed is that at the end of the Ice Age there was no industrial human activity that was pouring quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere well above anything that could be created by natural causes. Now there is. As the NOAA notes “The annual rate of increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over the past 60 years is about 100 times faster than previous natural increases, such as those that occurred at the end of the last ice age 11,000-17,000 years ago.” 

Yet, the denialists expect us to believe that this has been done with no impact whatsoever. The rise in emissions has increased especially in the last seven decades from 6 billion tonnes in 1950, to 20 billion tonnes in 1990 to 35 billion tonnes in 2024 (From Our World in Data). This has increased the concentration of CO2 from 280 parts per million in 1750 to 419 parts per million now. This graph shows the correlation between the increasing emissions and the atmospheric concentration as about as exact as you could reasonably expect.

But, what about that Medieval Warm Period?

An awful lot of weight is being put on some pretty thin ice here.

As we can see here, Global average temperatures were not actually that warm in the Medieval Warm Period, and were well below what we have already reached today. Looks like a hockey stick to me.

By RCraig09 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

It is perhaps characteristically Global North centric that a period of warmer temperatures in the North Atlantic resulting from a combination of solar activity, decreased volcanic activity and shifts in ocean circulation patterns bringing warmer water into the North Atlantic (famously allowing the Vikings to settle in Greenland) are falsely taken as a global phenomena.

But, even in the Northern Hemisphere, we are already above where we were then and heading up fast. The speed with which the ice shelf on Greenland is melting is testament to that.

This can be explored more fully here.

To summarise,

  1. Short term solar activity has a limited impact on climate change and assessment of recent solar cycles shows no relation between it and the overall trajectory of rising temperatures, as solar radiation has decreased somewhat in the last 40 years.
  2. Orbital cycles have a massive impact, but these take place on a much larger timescale than the current rapid shift, tens to hundreds of thousands of years, not decades and a couple of centuries, so do not explain it. In fact, according to NASA, “”If there were no human influences on climate, scientists say Earth’s current orbital positions within the Milankovitch cycles predict our planet should be cooling, not warming, continuing a long-term cooling trend that began 6,000 years ago.
  3. Volcanic activity can, and  does, have a short sharp downward impact. Air pollution also has a downward impact on a longer term basis, so, neither of these would explain why temperatures are rising, but do explain dips in the rising curve.
  4. This curve is, however, consistent with the current rising curve of greenhouse gas emissions.

The post Myth busters 2. Was it really hotter in the Medieval Warm Period? first appeared on Greener Jobs Alliance.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Maine’s Sears Island Causeway Permit Probed

PEER - Thu, 05/02/2024 - 06:30

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 2, 2024
CONTACT
Kyla Bennett [PEER] kbennett@peer.org, (508) 230-9933
Stephen Miller [IIT] stevemiller.island@gmail.com, (207) 734-6907

 

Maine’s Sears Island Causeway Permit Probed Possible Missing Culvert Could Be a Permit Violation

 

Washington, DC — A 40-year-old permit is under scrutiny and may be yet another fly in the ointment for plans to develop Sears Island into a logistical hub for future floating offshore wind facilities, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and Islesboro Islands Trust (IIT). The permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) authorizing the Maine Department of Transportation (MEDOT) to build a “bridge” connecting Sears Island to the mainland was premised upon it including a two-foot diameter culvert, but that culvert may never have been constructed.

The purpose of the culvert was to allow water to flow between Stockton Harbor and Long Cove. However, no such culvert is visible today, and environmental damage from the lack of tidal exchange was noted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other federal agencies as far back as 1995. As a result, the causeway itself – the island’s only land access – may be vulnerable to a new legal challenge. A successful challenge could further complicate plans to transform Sears Island into a wind farm support hub.

A letter sent today by PEER and IIT to both the Corps, which issued the permit to MEDOT back in 1984, and the U.S. Coast Guard, asks for proof that the culvert was constructed as required by the permit. The letter reveals that –

  • A reporter claimed in 1988 that the culvert was never constructed;
  • A video from this spring shows no evidence of the culvert; and
  • Even if the culvert was installed, it is not functioning as envisioned, and the resulting significant environmental damage must be addressed.

In its ultimately unsuccessful attempts in the 1990s to develop Sears Island into an industrial port facility, MEDOT was unable to overcome the combined opposition of the EPA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service. Those federal resource agencies determined that the causeway directly destroyed 3.7 acres of marine shellfish habitat, and this impact was exacerbated by the lack of tidal flow. It is unlikely that a solid-fill causeway would be permitted today.

“Legally, MEDOT may not reap benefits if it violated this permit,” stated New England PEER Director Kyla Bennett, an attorney and scientist formerly with EPA who was part of the permit review and the enforcement actions that prevented MEDOT from turning Sears Island into a port in the 1990s. “We need to know if the culvert was ever constructed, and if so, why it never functioned properly.”

“If the Sears Island causeway was not built according to the terms of the long-ago issued permit, the State of Maine must remedy the harm caused by these many years of tidal restriction,” said Stephen Miller, Executive Director of Islesboro Islands Trust. “If true, this adds to the long list of failures by the State of Maine to properly account for the environment when pursuing development of Sears Island.”

PEER and IIT are part of a coalition of groups considering litigation to stop the development of Sears Island. The groups point to the availability of an already developed expandable facility at nearby Mack Point, a site that does not carry the heavy environmental baggage attached to Sears Island.

###

Read PEER and IIT letter to Coast Guard and Army Corps 

Walk the Causeway 

Revisit Sears Island tangled legal history

The post Maine’s Sears Island Causeway Permit Probed appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

COMMENTARY | New Integrity Policies Exhibit Old Problems

PEER - Thu, 05/02/2024 - 03:04
New Integrity Policies Exhibit Old Problems

Days after his inauguration, President Biden directed all federal agencies to strengthen their scientific integrity policies to Trump-proof federal science and thereby “restore public trust” in government. It has not gone well.

More than three years later, no new policies have been ratified. None of the eight draft policies that have emerged offer any discernible improvements. Most are fluffy declarations with little substance.

For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft policy promises to “expeditiously draft necessary procedures including those on addressing scientific integrity concerns, addressing DSOs [Differing Scientific Opinions], and others such as clearance of scientific product as needed.” Disturbingly, these are the same issues for which EPA has been promising to draft rules since it first adopted a policy back in 2012.

This astounding lack of progress means EPA –

  • Has yet to conduct a formal investigation of a single allegation of scientific misconduct during the Obama, Trump, and Biden years because it lacks a protocol for doing so;
  • Still has no fixed procedure for clearing research for publication, thus scientists remain unable to push back against suppression or alteration of scientific findings; and
  • Encourages scientists to file Dissenting Scientific Opinions but offers no protection if that scientist experiences reprisal for doing so.

One disquieting aspect of these draft policies is their differences in what scientists may say or write. Three prohibit scientists from “making or publishing statements that could be construed as being judgments of, or recommendations on [their own] or any other Federal Government policy.” This stunning gag rule has no place in a scientific integrity policy as it could be used to stifle research due to its policy implications.

By contrast, two drafts limit this restriction to when a scientist is “speaking or writing on behalf of” the agency. Fortunately, three other drafts do not contain this restraint at all.

There is no reason why a scientist in any agency should be prohibited from discussing the policy implications of their research, and there is no reason why different agencies should have different rules on this topic.

The common theme of these efforts is that they appear crafted to serve bureaucratic self-interest, not the scientific enterprise. PEER is leading a coalition seeking to strengthen these policies or at least not make the situation worse, but it is like trying to sculpt molasses.

Jeff Ruch is the former Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and now serves as its Pacific Director.


The post COMMENTARY | New Integrity Policies Exhibit Old Problems appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Mythbuster 1. “Phew! What a scorcher!” Overheating is good for you?

Greener Jobs Alliance - Wed, 05/01/2024 - 02:07

Mythbuster 1. “Phew! What a scorcher!” Overheating is good for you?

Image by G.C. from Pixabay

As we move into a period in which the powers that be will be retreating and retrenching on climate policy, we can expect discredited arguments and factoids to be churned out with dreary regularity; so that anyone who does not want to confront the realities we face has a set of one liners to trot out to deflect thought and effort.

This series of blogs is aimed at giving workers and activists the information we need to debunk these claims if a workmate, friend or relative comes out with one of them.

These arguments will be useful in the context of “Phew! What a scorcher!” and “Hotter than Morocco!” headlines in the tabloids. For those who can absorb anecdotes more easily than statistics, a useful question is, “Have you noticed how, until a few years ago, every time we had a heatwave people used to go out and sunbathe, but now, have you noticed how people go out and sit in the shade under the trees because the heat is becoming uncomfortable?”

A recently distributed leaflet, very glossy but with no publisher acknowledged, makes the claim that Humans thrive in warm climates straight after arguing that the world is not heating up; stating Humans have always thrived in warm climates. Even if the world were warming, warmth is by no means a threat, ice ages ARE. Every year many more people die in the colder winter months, even in the UK, see ONS data”.

The key word here is “warm”. We are already getting well beyond that. Here’s some examples, with thanks to Simon Erskine for compiling them.

  • Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a national disaster amid a prolonged drought that has destroyed about half the country’s maize crop, BBC News reports. He joins neighbouring nations in southern Africa, Zambia and Malawi, both of which have recently declared similar states of emergency, the article adds.
  • “Unprecedented” temperatures are being reached across south-east Asia, including in parts of VietnamThailandand Myanmar, according to the Guardian. It points to lengthy spells of dry weather in Indonesia driving up rice prices and fears that coral is under threat in Thailand due to high water temperatures. The newspaper says the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has “attributed the scorching weather to human-induced climate change, as well as the El Niño event, which brings hotter, drier conditions to the region”.
  • In Santiago, Chile, an 11-day heatwave has ended, becoming “the longest in history,”according to Raúl Cordero, a climatologist at the University of Santiago, La Tercera reports.
  • The UKmay face water shortages and hosepipe bans this summer, despite recording record-breaking rainfall over the past 18 months, the Times reports. The i newspaper notes that the UK population has increased by 10 million over the past three decades, while “climate change has put pressure on existing reserves”.The Guardian reports that the Environment Agency released a report last week, which “predicts a growing shortfall of water in coming years, leading to a deficit of almost 5bn litres of water a day by 2050”. The National Farmers Union has warned that flooding and other extreme weather linked to climate change will undermine UK food production, BBC News reports. The article says this comes after “record-breaking rain over the past few months”, which “has left fields of crops under water and livestock’s health at risk”.
  • Russiaand Kazakhstanhave ordered more than 100,000 people to evacuate after melting snow swelled rivers beyond bursting point, leading to the worst flooding in the area for at least 70 years, reports Reuters.
  • The United Arab Emirateshas been hit by an intense storm, with the country experiencing its heaviest rains in 75 years, according to meteorological authorities, reports the Financial Times. Almost 6 inches (152mm) of rain fell on the capital Dubai on Tuesday, a year and a half’s worth of rain in a single day, causing travel disruptions, reports the Independent. In related news, the death toll from flooding in Pakistan has risen to 63, the Associated Press reports.
  • The deadly heatwave that hit West Africaand the Sahelover recent weeks would have been “impossible” without human-induced climate change, scientists have said, reports BBC News. Temperatures in Mali soared to above 48C, with one hospital linking hundreds of deaths to the extreme heat, it continues. Researchers found that human activities such as burning fossil fuels made temperatures up to 1.4C hotter than normal, the article adds. On 3 April, temperatures hit 48.5C in the south-western city of Kayes in Mali, with intense heat continuing for more than five days and nights, giving no time for vulnerable people to recover, reports the Guardian.
  • The “unprecedented”warming of the oceansover the past year has had widespread repercussions on marine life, an EU environment chief has warned, reports the Financial Times. This includes impacting already dwindling native fish species such as Baltic Sea Cod, the European commissioner for the environment, oceans and fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said, citing the migration of the cod towards colder waters near Russia and Norway as an example of the impact on biodiversity of rising temperatures, it adds.
  • The past 10 months have all set new all-time monthly global temperature records, with April 2024 on track to extend this streak to 11, wrote Dr Zeke Hausfather in his latest quarterly “state of the climate” report for Carbon Brief. The graph at the end of this email shows monthly temperatures over 1940-2024, plotted with respect to a 1850-1900 baseline. Based on the year so far and the current El Niño forecast, Carbon Brief estimates that global temperatures in 2024 are likely to average out at around 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
  • The Independent reports that a “punishing heatwave”has forced the government in Bangladesh to shut schools for 33 million children “as the country battles the hottest April in three decades”. The Guardian has an article with the headline, “Wave of exceptionally hot weather scorches south and south-east Asia”. It says millions of people across the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh and India are facing dangerous temperatures as the hottest months of the year are made worse by El Niño.
  • Mexico: Drought spreads to almost 80% of the country; there are 10 states with 100% of municipalities affected.
  • As Indiaheads to polls amid 45C heat, fears mount over voters’ safety. Bloomberg columnist David Fickling asks: “How can India hold elections when it’s too hot to vote?”
  • The Washington Post carries a feature headlined: Earth’s record hot streak might be a sign of a new climate era.”It says Nasa’s Dr Gavin Schmidt indicates that what happens in the next few months…could indicate whether Earth’s climate has undergone a fundamental shift – a quantum leap in warming that is confounding climate models and stoking ever more dangerous weather extremes”.

Now that this is the trend, unions are developing stronger guidelines for working in extreme heat. This is a serious matter as some right-wing

TUC guidelines are here. Individual unions will also have their own polices. Joint guidelines for the education sector are here.

The post Mythbuster 1. “Phew! What a scorcher!” Overheating is good for you? first appeared on Greener Jobs Alliance.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Letter to BLM Director and Attorney General – BLM’s FOIA Backlog -4-30-2024 (PDF)

PEER - Tue, 04/30/2024 - 14:03

DESCRIPTION: Letter to BLM Director Stone Manning and Attorney General Garland Requesting to Meet Regarding BLM’s Backlog of FOIA Requests
TO: Director Tracy Stone Manning, Bureau of Land Management, and Attorney General Merrick Garland
FROM: PEER, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch, WildEarth Guardians, Sage Steppe Wild
DATE: April 30, 2024
TAGS: BLM, DOI, FOIA, good governance

 

 

 

 

The post Letter to BLM Director and Attorney General – BLM’s FOIA Backlog -4-30-2024 (PDF) appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

State and federal officials are endangering wildlife, misusing federal grants for logging

PEER - Tue, 04/30/2024 - 09:12

Senior managers at both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should be held  to account for allowing the misuse of federal grants to facilitate logging in Minnesota’s wildlife management areas and aquatic management areas.

In 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife performed a field review/site inspection of some wildlife management areas in Minnesota.  The agency did not release their report — and  continued to provide grant funding. The DNR continued to award logging contracts.

The report — acquired by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, in 2023 — found the DNR claimed approximately $1.4 million in program income from timber sales under the Pittman-Robertson grant. But selling timber without regard to habitat disregards the spirit of the law, and pretending that doing so reduces the cost of the grant to taxpayers is misleading, at best.

Read the PEER Story…

The post State and federal officials are endangering wildlife, misusing federal grants for logging appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Through the Siege, Around the Army

Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - Tue, 04/30/2024 - 08:54

By land and by sea, global mutual aid and solidarity work is rising to the occasion to meet another existential threat to humanity’s continued existence: war and genocide.  

In every disaster, mutual aid and solidarity are how people survive. The disaster of war is no exception. Every atrocity, filling up international news headlines and social media feeds alike, has been answered by persistent humanity; a groundswell of collective care and support. A flotilla nears, medical solidarity convoys carry in mutual aid medics, food is shared, doors are opened, organizers leverage legal aid, financial support, and amplify call outs through dense and vast community networks, and fluid solidarity efforts teach hope and communal responsibility.  


The Freedom Flotilla has been stalled but not stopped as the maritime convoy has its sights still set on Gaza, compass undeterred, to transport in thousands of tons of humanitarian aid. The fleet has been stripped of vessel flags, yet another example of how strong-arm tactics, barricades and petty, fabricated technicalities are used to block aid, part of a larger strategy of using starvation as a weapon of war. But this is by far not the worst repression the Freedom Flotilla has experienced. In 2010, Israeli naval commandos raided the vessels in international waters from speedboats and helicopters, killing ten civilians on board and confiscating the ships and their humanitarian cargo. The Freedom Flotilla, then and now, pledges to find a way to part the waters and continue sailing aid to the besieged strip.

A message from Dr Mahmoud Abu Nujaila, with Doctors Without Borders before the hospital he worked at was bombed. It reads, “Whoever stays until the end will tell the story. We did what we could. Remember us.”

In Kaddish for the Soul of Judaism, Amanda Gelender asks, “Gaza is starving, can she eat at our Seder? Can you jump on the tracks before this train arrives at Bergen-Belsen?” The whole world is responding, “Yes”. Seven brave souls with World Central Kitchen were killed for doing just this, which is only the most well-known and blatant example of the targeting of aid workers in Gaza. Groups like the Jewish Center for Nonviolence, the International Solidarity Movement, and Community Peacemaker Teams regularly prevent the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians through providing nonviolent protective presence in threatened communities. Even in Israeli society, liberatory mutual aid projects are blossoming, becoming a shelter that can never be destroyed, such as Culture of Solidarity, which shares food and other essentials with Palestinians and Tayyush, whose participants put their bodies on the line to prevent ethnic cleansing alongside their international and Palestinian friends.

A constellation of organizing and multi-layered mutual aid relationship building throughout Egypt has welcomed Palestinian refugees and facilitated convoy after convoy of humanitarian aid to breach the Rafah border crossing and help circulate aid through the Gaza Strip. Although Mutual Aid Disaster Relief has been a primarily U.S. based disaster relief network, due to the failure of the international community, including international aid agencies to get adequate aid to the Palestinian people of Gaza, and international institutions’ complicity with Israeli genocidal acts, and building on the strong relationships and connections our volunteers have nurtured with Palestinians, we are coordinating with autonomous, grassroots organizers on the ground in Palestine and Egypt to get aid convoys through the Rafah crossing, an effort you can support here

Another way to support financially is by giving to Palestinian families directly. A Guide to Evacuating Gazans Through Rafah Crossing spells out the steps to escape, an expensive process. Many fundraisers for Palestinian families to afford this and other emergency expenses are circulating organically through social media. If you want to help in this way but don’t know where to start, Project Watermelon has consolidated many of these fundraisers into a helpful spreadsheet

Regardless of how long a particular autonomous zone exists for, or if it is eventually violently crushed, the spirit of freedom cannot be extinguished. If those in power are able to temporary suppress and clear an autonomous zone, whether a university occupation or a whole region like Gaza, it simply spreads the spirit of it far and wide, each person – a seed, a living embodiment of the spirit of liberation in that place – is scattered to the winds and manifests its longing for freedom anew in different contexts, under a different sky, seeking liberation from every river to every sea, through any siege and around every army.

Under the rubble of the world’s bombed humanity, Palestinians and those in solidarity with Palestinians, are teaching the world how to survive disaster. We are listening, and hope you will too.

PEERMail | Let’s Heal Our Degraded Public Lands Now!

PEER - Tue, 04/30/2024 - 06:00

Let’s Heal Our Degraded Public Lands Now!

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a rule designed to elevate the importance of conservation on the 245 million acres of land it manages.

This rule is part of a suite of new rules, recently completed or nearing completion soon, that will alter the way public lands are managed for conservation and energy purposes. We hope you will take a moment to read our take – both good and bad – on this new rule here

Also, I want to let you know that in the next month, PEER will release the results of our in-depth analysis of the health of BLM lands. We will also step up our efforts to push BLM to operate in a more transparent manner and ensure that agency staff have the resources to do their jobs.
 
We are delighted that some progress is being made, but much work remains to be done. 

Thank you for joining us in these efforts. Onward!

Tim Whitehouse
Executive Director

Park Service Archeological Scandal Surfaces

PEER is shining a light on a multi-year investigation against National Park Service archeologists for extensive financial and ethical improprieties over the trafficking of Native American remains. Read more >>

PEER Lawsuit Reveals Abuse Report

A Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by PEER has revealed extensive efforts to cover up abuse of students and staff at a university in Kansas run by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. Read more >>

EPA’s Seresto Decision is Harmful to Your Health

By law, writes Dr. Kyla Bennett, PEER’s Science Policy Director, the EPA is responsible for ensuring that all pesticides, including flea and tick products, sold in the United States do not cause unreasonable adverse effects when used according to label directions. In the case of Seresto Flea Collars, EPA has been grossly derelict in this basic duty. Read more >>

The post PEERMail | Let’s Heal Our Degraded Public Lands Now! appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

‘This is Chernobyl’: Texas ranchers say ‘forever chemicals’ in waste-based fertilizers ruined their land

PEER - Mon, 04/29/2024 - 13:42

Ranchers here say their cattle, fish and horses are dying and getting sick because of a fertilizer spread on nearby farmland. Rancher Tony Coleman’s cattle roam 300 acres just outside Grandview. He said what was found on his land has turned it toxic.

Late last year, he contacted Johnson County Constable Detective Dana Ames. She headed out to the ranch to check it out.

She recently presented her findings to the Johnson County Commissioners Court. “The contamination that has occurred on our victims’ properties is pervasive,” she told commissioners in her presentation. This is what she and scientists with a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, say happened. It all started at the facility used by the city of Fort Worth to treat its wastewater.

Read the PEER Story…

The post ‘This is Chernobyl’: Texas ranchers say ‘forever chemicals’ in waste-based fertilizers ruined their land appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Report reveals ‘dysfunction’ at Haskell University. We owe the past — and future — much more.

PEER - Sun, 04/28/2024 - 14:03

Haskell, a boarding school known for its harsh conditions and stern discipline, is now the Haskell Indian Nations University. It is a federal facility and the only university of its kind. Operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, it is the Harvard of Native American education — and, according to a recently released investigative report, a campus that fails to act on reports of sexual abuse, lacks institutional control to prevent theft and other abuses, and is unresponsive to student complaints.

“The question is what the hell is going on at BIE,” Jeff Ruch, a director at the nonprofit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, told me. “From what I can tell, they’ve invested far more energy in trying to hide the report than acting on it.”

Read the PEER Story…

The post Report reveals ‘dysfunction’ at Haskell University. We owe the past — and future — much more. appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

COMMENTARY | What will BLM’s new Public Lands Rule Mean for Conservation?

PEER - Fri, 04/26/2024 - 12:00
What will BLM’s new Public Lands Rule Mean for Conservation?

Last week, the Department of the Interior announced a final rule designed to elevate conservation to equal status with traditional energy development, resource extraction, and grazing agenda on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The rule has garnered widespread praise from conservation groups and threats of lawsuits from those opposed to the rule. What does the rule say, and what is our take on it?

Well, as usual, our position is a bit nuanced.

Since 1976, when Congress mandated that BLM take a multi-use approach to land management, BLM has minimized the value conservation, healthy wildlife populations, and outdoor recreation in its land management decisions and has failed to adequately address climate change in its planning and on-the-ground management decisions.

The final rule, known as the Public Lands Rule, is designed to address these shortcomings by:

  • Directing BLM to use Land Health Standards to manage lands for landscape health. The rule instructs BLM to access, evaluate, and determine if all 245 million acres of land it manages meet land health standards. Prior to this rule, BLM only used these standards to assess the health of lands managed for livestock grazing, or about 155 million acres. Now, BLM will use land health standards to determine whether the land health is appropriate for the use—that is, make management decisions to achieve and maintain healthy lands.
  • Setting up a process for issuing restoration and mitigation leases. The rule sets up a process for the agency to issue restoration and mitigation leases for entities seeking to restore public lands or mitigate reasonably foreseeable impacts of authorized activities. Issuing conservation leases will be a completely new BLM program. Individuals, businesses, non-governmental organizations, tribal governments, conservation districts, and state fish and wildlife agencies will be eligible to apply for and receive leases.
  • Prioritizing the designation and management of ACECs. The rule provides greater details about how BLM will prioritize the designation and protection of Areas of Critical Environmental Concerns (ACECs). ACECs are areas where special management is needed to protect important historical, cultural, or scenic values or to protect fish and wildlife or other natural resources.

The rule’s ultimate success is not guaranteed. Rather, it will depend on whether BLM has the resources to implement it and the willingness to challenge entrenched economic interests.

The rule has many positive aspects. We are excited that it seeks to strengthen and expand ACECs. We are seeing real progress on the ground. The BLM is already aiming to conserve about 2.2 million acres through the use of ACECs. That is a good thing and a much needed change at BLM.

We are also pleased to see that BLM is requiring the use of native seeds when “designing and implementing “ restoration projects. This is a much-needed change, especially considering that in 2020, only about 1/8 of the grasses and 1/4 of the forbs that BLM purchased for its warehouses were native source identified seeds.

Here are a few of these obstacles and concerns we have about the rule:

  • BLM is significantly underfunded, understaffed, and not transparent.

It is unlikely that BLM will be able to take on all the new work required by this new without cutting corners. Historically, BLM is one of the most understaffed land management agencies. For example, in 2022, BLM had only 4.18 employees for every 100,000 acres of land to manage, while National Parks had a whopping 24.57 employees for every 100,000 acres of land. Yet, BLM lands are managed for far more complex multiple uses, including grazing, mining, oil and gas drilling, and recreation use, than are most Park Service lands. At the same time, BLM is getting thinner, with only 10,242 employees in 2022 compared to 10,356 in 2015.

These resource constraints are evident in BLM’s program to assess the health of the grazing lands it manages. Without a massive influx of funds and greater transparency, we question how BLM can expand its use of land health standards when it is doing a poor job on its current land health program.

For example, BLM data collected by PEER and recently updated on our website shows that at the end of 2023, 50% percent of the lands assessed, or 56,751,890 million acres, do not meet BLM’s own land health standards and that over 36 million acres of the 155 million acres of rangeland have yet even to be assessed. These findings are just one indication that BLM lacks the staff and resources to assess the land health of 100 million additional acres and manage a new nationwide conservation and mitigation leasing program meaningfully.

  • Economic interests hold great sway at BLM.

BLM’s dominant management culture is resistant to change and often lacks the political will to take substantial actions to address land health failures on the lands it manages. The oil and gas, mining, and grazing interests hold great political power in Congress and the states where BLM operates. In addition to these traditional sources of political power, the renewable energy industry is also looking to BLM lands for major solar, wind, and utility transmission buildouts. Whether BLM is able to elevate the role of conservation in its decision-making will depend on the support of senior leaders, Congressional backers, and the public supporting these changes over the long term.

We do have cause for concern. In the preamble to the proposed rule, for example, BLM states, “Lands have become increasingly degraded through the appearance of invasive species, prolonged drought, and habitat fragmentation.” Nowhere does it mention that one of the main causes of the degradation of land quality on BLM lands is livestock grazing. For BLM to improve the quality of land it manages and better address climate impacts, it will need to address the role cattle and sheep grazing play in the destruction of these lands.

  • A new leasing program brings BLM into uncharted territory.

Another concern is that the rule creates mechanisms to allow the leasing of public lands for conservation and mitigation purposes. As previously mentioned, we doubt whether BLM has the resources to manage a new leasing program properly. In addition, we believe that conservation programs on public lands should be run and managed by the BLM.

When BLM leases public land, it gives “privileges,” or a quasi-property right, to an outside entity. This individual, corporation, or government entity then controls many aspects of the land’s use. One concern is that extractive and polluting industries with significant climate impacts, like oil and gas development, may attempt to legitimize their businesses with “offsets” on public lands. This could result in the federal government greenlighting additional projects generated on public lands leased by third parties or on land held by private parties.

Another concern is that the public may have little opportunity to weigh in on conservation leases. For example, in 2023, BLM renewed the majority of its grazing leases for another ten years without the opportunity for public comment. There are no clear rules for public input into these new types of leases, which concerns us.

Conservation clearly needs a boost at BLM. However, this rule is neither a panacea for conservation nor the end of business as usual for the BLM. Politically connected entities will continue to work to ensure public lands are managed to their benefit while BLM struggles with complicated mission and serious resource constraints. Our goal at PEER is to make sure, in light of these changes, that BLM, in fact, elevates the importance of conservation in its work, its staff are supported, and BLM operates in a more transparent manner.

 

Chandra Rosenthal is the Director of PEER’s Rocky Mountain Office located in Denver, Colorado.

The post COMMENTARY | What will BLM’s new Public Lands Rule Mean for Conservation? appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Kansas senator calls for oversight reform following Haskell University report

PEER - Thu, 04/25/2024 - 13:22

Kansas Senator Jerry Moran is calling for changes to the oversight of Native American educational institutions.

Sen. Moran sent a letter to the Department of the Interior upon the release of a report detailing the lack of safeguards against sexual assault, misconduct by leadership, and improper treatment of employees at Haskell Indian Nations University.

The report, released through litigation by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, shows the Bureau of Indian Education investigated several allegations against the University’s administrators.

Read the PEER Story…

The post Kansas senator calls for oversight reform following Haskell University report appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes Suite of Standards to Reduce Pollution from Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

April 25, 2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact
Milagros R. Elia
Program Manager, Climate and Clean Energy Advocacy
Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
milagros@envirn.org
914.455.1165

Biden-Harris Administration Finalizes Suite of Standards to Reduce Pollution from Fossil Fuel-Fired Power Plants

[Washington, D.C] – Today the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a suite of power plant standards to cut health harming pollution from power plants. This suite of rules include an updated Mercury and Air Toxic Standards and new standards to reduce carbon emissions from new gas-fired power plants and existing coal-fired power plants

The suite of rules include:

  • A final rule for existing coal-fired and new natural gas-fired power plants that would ensure that all coal-fired plants that plan to run in the long-term and all new baseload gas-fired plants control 90 percent of their carbon pollution.  
  • A final rule strengthening and updating the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for coal-fired power plants, tightening the emissions standard for toxic metals by 67 percent and a 70 percent reduction in the emissions standard for mercury from existing lignite-fired sources.  
  • A final rule to reduce pollutants discharged through wastewater from coal-fired power plants by more than 660 million pounds per year, ensuring cleaner water for affected communities, including communities with environmental justice concerns that are disproportionately impacted. 

In response to the announcement today, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments’ Executive Director Katie Huffling, DNP, RN, CNM, FAAN issued the following statement:

“The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments applauds the EPA in following through on the commitment made by the Biden-Harris Administration to provide communities throughout the US with cleaner air and water by reducing toxic air pollution from power plants. These rules are also a vital step in reducing carbon pollution that drives climate change and puts the US on a path to meet our emissions reduction targets. 

“Nurses recognize the significant health benefits that will result from reducing carbon pollution from existing coal and new gas-fired power plants. Today’s action will result in reductions, in 2035 alone, of approximately: 1,200 avoided premature deaths; 870 avoided hospital and emergency room visits; 1,900 avoided cases of asthma onset; 360,000 avoided cases of asthma symptoms; 48,000 avoided school absence days; and 57,000 lost workdays. These benefits help our kids succeed at school and families thrive. 

“Additionally, over time, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for power plants will create $300 million in health benefits and $130 million in climate benefits.” 

### 

The Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments is the only national nursing organization focused solely on the intersection of health and the environment. The mission of the Alliance is to promote healthy people and healthy environments by educating and leading the nursing profession, advancing research, incorporating evidence-based practice, and influencing policy. http://enviRN.org

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

COMMENTARY | EPA’s Seresto Decision is Harmful to Your Pet

PEER - Thu, 04/25/2024 - 11:52
EPA’s Seresto Decision is Harmful to Your Pet

Back in 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the popular Seresto pet collar to control fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests. Almost immediately, EPA started receiving “incident reports” from the manufacturer (in this case, from Bayer, one of the largest – and most infamous – pharma and biomedical companies in the world, which sold its animal health line to Elanco in 2020).

These reports did not just trickle in – they flooded in. By 2022, EPA had received more than 100,000 incident reports about the collars, including 2,500 pet deaths. These reports included several hundred human health events with stricken pet owners calling into poison centers.

While most of the incidents with dogs and cats involved skin effects, such as rashes, more than one-third involved multiple organ systems, such as convulsions, muscle tremors, and loss of control of bodily movements. Other reported effects included lethargy, abnormal behavior, excessive grooming and vocalization, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia.

Based on its review of U.S. incidents and toxicology studies, Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency concluded that the collar posed too great a risk to pets and their owners to be sold in Canada. Canada took that action in 2016.

By contrast, EPA did nothing.

EPA could have ordered the Seresto collars off the market, as Canada did, but it made no move to do so even as its own analysis of incidents concluded that of all flea and tick products in EPA’s Incident Data System, “Seresto ranked #1 by a wide margin.”  EPA was also aware that the incidents reported to the manufacturer significantly underestimated the scope and number of actual adverse impacts on both pets and humans.

Finally, in 2023, under pressure from threatened legal action by NGOs, a scathing Congressional investigation, and a new probe its own Inspector General (IG), EPA undertook a new review of Seresto pet collar-related incident reports.

However, this 2023 review concluded that Seresto pet collars meet EPA standards and would remain on the market. This time around, EPA took some steps, but they were minimal, such as adding label warnings on adverse effects along with instructions to remove the collar if they occur. It also required the manufacturer to include more information in its incident reports to EPA. These were all actions to which the manufacturer did not object.

The subsequent IG report was quite critical, taking EPA to task for its continuing lax approach and recommended that, as a first step, EPA make “written determinations on whether the Seresto pet collar poses unreasonable adverse effects in pets, [including] an explanation of how the Office of Pesticide Programs came to its determinations.” Further, the IG recommended that EPA solicit and reply to “public comment by placing these documents in the applicable registration review dockets.”

In response, EPA told its Inspector General to go pound sand:

“As this was not a registration review action, OPP did not follow the procedural steps of the registration review process, nor did it place the documents in the registration review docket or make them available for public comment…Overall, OPP determined that, with the mitigation measures, the use of these collars would meet EPA’s standards of no unreasonable adverse effects under FIFRA [the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act].”

The IG dryly noted that “the Agency did not provide a detailed rationale for this statement, nor did it provide any support for the allowance of an equivalent alternative to a registration review under FIFRA.”  However, the IG has no power to force implementation of its recommendations, no matter how outrageous EPA’s conduct is.

By law, EPA is responsible for ensuring that all pesticides, including flea and tick products, sold in the United States do not cause unreasonable adverse effects when used according to label directions. In this instance, EPA has been grossly derelict in this basic duty.

Unfortunately, this blatant disregard is common in EPA decision-making about pesticide approvals or in conducting risk assessments for new chemicals. EPA exhibits unmistakable regulatory capture by the pesticide and chemical industries.

In this arena, the agency acts in the public interest only when compelled to by litigation. A seismic change in its basic posture is long overdue because we cannot continue to let it keep poisoning us – and our pets.

 

Kyla Bennett is PEER’s Director of Science Policy and the Director of PEER’s New England/Mid-Atlantic field office. She is a scientist and attorney formerly with U.S. EPA.

The post COMMENTARY | EPA’s Seresto Decision is Harmful to Your Pet appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Westfield weighs PFAS concerns in considering a new synthetic field; vote is Tuesday

PEER - Mon, 04/22/2024 - 12:42

“Forever chemicals” might be lurking again in Westfield, this time behind a proposed synthetic turf field for Westfield High School, a renovation that many in the community say is decades overdue.

City councilors are set to vote Tuesday on whether to approve new athletic fields at Westfield High School, to be funded from a $11.1 million bond from Westfield Gas & Electric. While many are in favor of the proposal, some worry about environmental concerns of adding more PFAS chemicals to Westfield’s waterways.

Dr. Kyla Bennett is the director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, director of science policy at PEER and has 10 years experience working at the Environmental Protection Agency. She said she has tested dozens of artificial turf fields, and that PFAS-free fields do not exist yet.

Read the PEER Story…

The post Westfield weighs PFAS concerns in considering a new synthetic field; vote is Tuesday appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

Report on Abuse of Indian Students Finally Surfaces

PEER - Mon, 04/22/2024 - 06:10

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, April 22, 2024
CONTACT
Jeff Ruch jruch@peer.org (510) 213-7028
Laura Dumais ldumais@peer.org (202) 792-1277

 

Report on Abuse of Indian Students Finally Surfaces Lawsuit Pried Haskell School Probe Out of Bureau of Indian Education

 

Washington, DC — An investigative report confirming allegations by current and former students and staff of sexual abuse, bullying, and absence of institutional control at a federally-run university for Native American students has finally seen the light of day. Obtained in litigation by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the report also documents non-responsiveness by Interior Department officials to student reports of sexual assaults, physical abuse, and other misconduct by both school officials and students.

Located in Lawrence, Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) is operated by the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). According to the investigative report, numerous student allegations arising from its athletic department relayed to the school president, BIE Director, and even the Assistant Secretary of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs “did not get a response or any indication their issues would be addressed.”

Interior’s Office of Inspector General also declined to look into the students’ complaints and instead recommended that BIE do its own review. BIE assigned four Human Resources staff to form a “Board of Investigation,” which started conducting interviews in June 2022 and produced an Investigative Report dated January 23, 2023.

That report’s scathing assessment of the schools’ response to numerous reports by students of sexual assaults by other students and inappropriate touching by a staff member stated –

  • “HINU staff appear to take minimal actions when students make allegations of sexual assault… Student Services does not believe it is their responsibility to notify law enforcement (Local Police) when a student reports a sexual assault because they are considered adults.”
  • “HINU does not follow-up with victims to check on their well-being after a sexual assault has occurred.”
  • “HINU procedures regarding sexual assault are insufficient and places the safety of the students at risk.”

“This report catalogs a litany of appalling acts of institutional indifference to the welfare of its students by a federal educational institution,” stated Pacific PEER Director Jeff Ruch, who first requested a copy of the report a year ago on April 20, 2023. “Even worse, this report has not even been officially acknowledged, let alone prompted the adoption of any reforms.”

In addition to ignoring student reports of bullying, harassment, and blackballing, the report also examined claims about widespread equipment theft but concluded “there is no mechanism in place to track … and no policy requiring athletic gear and equipment to be tracked,” adding that “The Athletic Department is in disarray, has little to no effective processes and procedures and cannot be considered secure if staff aren’t held accountable for security practices.”

Roughly a month after PEER filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for a copy of the report, BIE rejected the request on the grounds that releasing it would violate “the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act, which provides for the confidentiality of informants making reports of abused Indian children.”  PEER promptly appealed that denial on the grounds that the cited statute had nothing to do with the situation at Haskell. After that appeal failed to generate a response, PEER filed a FOIA lawsuit on July 28, 2023 to compel its production.

In November 2023, BIE produced a completely different report and then informed the Assistant U.S. Attorney representing the agency in the FOIA suit that the report PEER sought “is not completed, and therefore is outside of the scope of the request and litigation. We expect that investigation to be completed by January 1, 2024.”

In fact, the requested report had been completed nearly a year earlier. PEER pushed back against BIE’s attempt to switch reports, providing statements from interviewed students that the report BIE had produced was not the investigation in which they had participated, as well as documents showing that the requested report had been received by BIE in January 2023. This month, BIE ended the charade and coughed up the requested report.

“Given the contents of this report, no wonder BIE officialdom went to great lengths to hide it,” added Ruch. “Here the coverup not only compounds the original crime but also points to deep dysfunction within Bureau of Indian Education leadership well beyond Haskell University.”

###

Read the redacted Investigation Report 

See BIE initial refusal to release the report

View agency attempt to switch reports 

Compare PEER pushback 

Learn about Haskell Indian Nations University

The post Report on Abuse of Indian Students Finally Surfaces appeared first on PEER.org.

Categories: A2. Green Unionism

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