08/1999 News Briefs

Published August 1, 1999

Canadian Firm Sues U.S. over Ban on MTBE

Methanex Corp. of Vancouver, British Columbia has filed a $970 million lawsuit against the United States because California has banned the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether.

Chapter 11 of the NAFTA treaty allows suits against the governments of Canada, the United States, and Mexico to be filed by companies claiming they lost business for reasons not related to normal commerce.

California Governor Gray Davis banned MTBE’s use after studies by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found the additive to be a water pollutant. The National Research Council recently determined that oxygenate additives, including MTBE, are of little value in reducing air pollution, their intended purpose. Bills are moving through the U.S. House and Senate to ban MTBE use nationwide.

Superfund or Superfraud?

Nearly $6 of every $10 of Superfund money is used for purposes other than toxic materials cleanup, according to a report issued by the nonpartisan General Accounting Office. The majority of all Superfund money, the GAO found, goes to overhead expenses, including salaries for managers and secretaries, rent, and laboratory work. The GAO also found that the percentage of money spent on cleanup has been steadily declining for several years.

Greenpeace Rebuffed in Canada

The anti-development organization Greenpeace has been denied charitable organization status by Revenue Canada. The Canadian taxing body said Greenpeace’s activities had “no public benefit,” and determined that its lobbying to close industries could throw people “into poverty.”

Vaclav Klaus: Environmentalism Worse than Socialism

“Environmentalism, with its ‘Earth First!’ arguments, represents a Leviathan Two … a menace which may become even more dangerous than the old socialism,” Vaclav Klaus, former prime minister of the Czech Republic, told Heritage Foundation members in Philadelphia. “Its supporters are victims of an old doctrine that the more complex the world is, the more government intervention, regulation, and control it requires.”

Too Early to Worry about Butterflies

While anti-development forces are pressuring the Clinton-Gore administration to ban the growing of genetically altered Bt corn following a Cornell University study that hints the corn may be lethal to monarch butterflies, researchers say wait. John Losey, the study’s author said, “Our study was conducted in the laboratory and, while it raises some questions, it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions about the risk to monarch populations in the field based solely on these initial results.”

Nature Not to Blame for Natural Disasters

“Disasters by Design”–a five-year, $750,000 National Science Foundation research project involving a team of 132 experts–has concluded that extreme natural disasters are made even more destructive by people’s decisions to live or work in vulnerable locations. The study team was led by Dennis Mileti of the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The report urges community leaders to “design future disasters” for their communities, actually setting the number of deaths and injuries and dollar losses they are willing to accept–and take responsibility for–as the result of the most extreme disasters their community could face during the next 100 to 200 years.

The report is available from Joseph Henry Press, an imprint of the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20418; or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309063604/html/.

U.S. Appeals Rejection of Air Quality Standards

Washington–Tribune News Services reports that the Justice Department has asked a full appeals court on reconsider a three-judge panel’s decision overturning federal air pollution regulations for smog and soot. The panel said in a 2-1 decision in May that EPA lacked authority to impose the tougher smog standards and improperly issued new standards for soot. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia must now consider whether to uphold its panel’s decision or reverse it. The Clinton-Gore administration may still appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, EPA officials said.

New Land-grab Coming

The Clinton-Gore administration plans to name millions of additional acres as national monuments, according to reports received by Environment News as we go to press. The administration used the “national monument” tactic in September 1996 to put the Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah off limits to development. More next issue.

In the meantime, you can find a list of all 102 national monuments established by Presidential Proclamation at www.blm.gov/nhp/news/alerts/Monuments.html, and President Clinton’s Proclamation with respect to Grand Staircase-Escalante at http://www.blm.gov/nhp/news/alerts/EscalanteOverview.html.