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GAO Hiding Crucial Documents from the Public While Calling for More Transparency in BLM Coal Leases | DeSmogBlog

GAO Hiding Crucial Documents from the Public While Calling for More Transparency in BLM Coal Leases | DeSmogBlog.

Fri, 2014-02-07 12:21BEN JERVEY

Ben Jervey's picture

GAO Hiding Crucial Documents from the Public While Calling for More Transparency in BLM Coal Leases

On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office released a much-anticipated report about the Bureau of Land Management’s coal leasing program, revealing it has stiffed taxpayers over $200 million.

The GAO blames a lack of competition in the bidding process, reliance on outdated and incomplete methods to determine “fair market value” of the coal reserves, a disregard of coal exports and their impact on fair valuation, and a blatant lack of transparency in the leasing program.

Senator Edward Markey, who had requested the GAO investigation in 2012 while he still served in the House, responded immediately to the report’s findings. The GAO didn’t address specifics on how much public revenue might have been lost by mismanaged leases and auctions.

Senator Markey explained that based on an examination of the report and other coal leasing documents that were not made public, his staff figured that the the BLM could have earned at least $200 million more for the American public if managed properly.

Unfortunately, the coal leasing documents investigated by Markey’s staff aren’t available to the public, which the GAO claims is because of the inclusion of private business information. According to Ned Griffith of the GAO, the information in the report was labeled “sensitive but unclassified” by the Interior Department.

In other words, even though one of the major findings of the GAO report was a troubling lack of transparency, the office itself is shielding from public view these detailed documents about coal leases on public lands.

In a statement introducing the report to his colleagues and constituents, Sen. Markey expressed frustration with the lack of transparency:

“As part of its investigation, the GAO released two reports to me, one that is public and one that is not able to be made public. GAO kept one of these reports non-public because the Interior Department believes that the proprietary information contained in the non-public report could harm the integrity of future lease sales. I believe that increased transparency with these coal lease sales would increase the integrity of the process, not lessen it.

“Based on my staff’s examination of the materials, I believe that using appropriate market calculations and assumptions in some recent coal lease sales could potentially have yielded $200 million more for the American people, and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars more.

It would be very helpful for the American people to be able to review this information. But even if that is not possible because of concerns about proprietary information, Senators should be able to review this information and debate it in order to ensure that taxpayers are protected.

Perhaps confused, National Mining Association vice president Luke Popovich called on Markey to be more transparent with his calculations. “Where’s the data?” Popovich said. “If we’re seeking greater transparency from the (government), we ought to be seeking greater transparency from everyone making claims.”

Sen. Markey publicly called upon the GAO to release all of the data and information in that second, non-public report.

The GAO report is just the latest in a lengthening line of troubles for the BLM coal leasing program. In July, the Department of Interior’s own Inspector General condemned the program, releasing a highly critical report that documented a number of flaws in the BLM’s Coal Management Program. The Inspector General report said that the BLM’s programs “put the government at risk of not receiving the full value for coal leases.”

Then, later in the Summer, the BLM twice hosted auctions that failed to yield a single sale.

Responding to the GAO report, an Interior Department spokesperson said in a statement that the BLM has “has already begun implementing a number of reforms designed to…ensure that the program is obtaining a fair return to the public for Federal coal resources.”

It remains to be seen if Senator Markey will succeed in shining sunlight on the “sensitive but unclassified” documents, allowing other legislatures and the American public to see what is happening to our publicly-owned coal reserves.

Critics: EPA’s Negligent Policies Are Causing Honeybees to Die – Susanne Posel | Susanne Posel

Critics: EPA’s Negligent Policies Are Causing Honeybees to Die – Susanne Posel | Susanne Posel.

Susanne Posel 
Occupy Corporatism
December 23, 2013

Honeybees are dying and it looks like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible because of a system called “conditional registration” that expedites the process of getting pesticides to market.

Experts maintain that this lackadaisical formula has allowed dangerous chemicals to be sold to the public and used in commercial operations that have caused massive deaths of honeybee colonies and placed agriculture as a whole under constant threat.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states : “Insecticides conditionally registered in the early 2000s have been blamed for impairing honeybees’ immune systems; in the past five years, the honeybee population has declined 20 to 30 percent each year.”

The Government Accountability Office (GOA) found that the EPA has confused a “record-keeping system for tracking pesticides” that has contributed to the dangers to our ecosystem and the health of millions of Americans.

Problems with missing data while programs pushed through deadly chemicals to be purchased by the public under the guse of being safe has become normal at the EPA.

Although the EPA claims to have begun taking steps to correct these loopholes, they still assert that as long as the manufacturer of the pesticide follows the rules, there is not “unreasonable risk to the environment” and “the use of pesticide[s] is in the public interest” – not to mention the financial interest of producers of pesticides.

An estimated 16,000 pesticides are currently registered with the EPA.

No centralization of power and a lack of monitoring have resulted in handwritten notes and decisions based on memory being entered into files as legitimate documentation.

Earlier this year, researchers at Emory University and the University of California have studied bumblebees in Colorado and discovered that the most devastated impact is felt in the plants that are dying because of lack of pollination.

At a laboratory in Crested Butte, Colorado, Berry Brosi and Heather Briggs were assisted by numerous assistants who analyzed how species of bumblebees and utilized algorithms to assert that if other surviving species of bumblebees were to “pick up the slack”. Plant life would be able to recover.

It appears that bumblebees discriminated against a specific species of flower; the purple wildflower called Delphinium barbeyi (a type of larkspur).

Species of plant life have been in decline because of the sudden lack of bees worldwide.

In 2011, the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) released a report thatidentified an estimated “dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution, may be behind the emerging decline of bee colonies across many parts of the globe.”

In the report, several key issues were mentioned:

• Viral fungal pathogens were destroying the bee colonies
• Migration of bees globally was observed
• Globalization of trade impacted bees
• Speices of plants are dying
• “Systemic insecticides” were causing toxicity in bees
• Climate change is disturbing flowering times
• Climate change is causing less quality pollen to be produced by flowers

A team of researchers at the Washington State University (WSU) have imported bee sperm from the European honeybee for storage and future fertilization.

Scientists want to fertilize American queen bees with European bee sperm to genetically engineer bees that are more resilient to a mysterious condition that coerces worker bees to abandon their hives to die.

The theory is that with this genetic manipulation, stronger bees can be created that will lead to healthier American insects.

The sperm that is not used in these experiments will be frozen for future use.

 

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