One of the leading environmental groups is traveling the country criticizing the Bush Administration’s environmental policies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
One of the leading environmental groups is traveling the country criticizing the Bush
Administration’s environmental policies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham
The Sierra Club has been at odds with President Bush’s approach to the environment from the
start. Now, during this election year, the Sierra Club’s Executive Director is touring the country,
taking the concerns to anyone who’ll listen. Carl Pope recently visited the Great Lakes region.
There, he complained about the Bush administration’s loosening of mercury restrictions, its
exemption of factory feedlots from the Clean Water Act and a proposal to allow cities to blend
raw sewage with rainwater during big storms and release it into streams and lakes.
“It doesn’t make any sense to allow people to contaminate the waters and then spend a lot of
money a decade later, cleaning it up. It’s much cheaper to keep contamination out of the Great
The Bush administration says rather than cleaning pollution at any cost, its environmental policies
consider the financial cost versus the benefit to the environment.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Keeping track of polluters in a country as large as Canada poses a serious challenge. Truckloads of hazardous waste cross the border with the U.S. every day, logging companies work near protected wildlife, and smoke from factories fills the air; but the Canadian government has a new weapon in the fight against polluters. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports on Canada’s growing team of environmental spies:
Keeping track of polluters in a country as large as Canada poses a serious challenge. Truckloads
of hazardous waste cross the border with the U.S. every day. Logging companies work near
protected wildlife. And smoke from factories fills the air. But the Canadian government has a
new weapon in the fight against polluters. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly
reports on Canada’s growing team of environmental spies:
“We’re just coming up to this facility on the right-hand side here now.”
Brad May slows down and scans the area surrounding a squat concrete building. It’s owned by a
company that was once under suspicion for illegal dumping. We’ve come here so that May can give
a sense of what happens when he places a company under
“As you can see, its a fairly old factory in a fairly industrial area in the north of Toronto
involved in the recycling and reconditioning of containers used for paints and coatings and
lubricants and that sort of thing.”
May pulls into a nearby driveway obscured by weeds. As he sips a cup of coffee, he looks like a
typical investigator – right down to the khaki uniform. The guy in the back seat, however,
probably wouldn’t get a second look. He’s wearing jeans and
a plaid shirt. And he lets May do most of the talking. His name is Mark Pomeroy. And, not
surprisingly, he’s the spy. Out on surveillance, he doesn’t have much to say. But he does point
out an 18-wheeler that’s
parked a shipping container in front of the building.
“You’ll notice here you have a container and the container has various bunch of
numbers on it. That’s very good information. What shipping line did it arrive from, who’s hauling
it as far as the carrier is concerned and you can find out if the items they’re receiving would
indeed be something we’d be interested in looking at as far as a potential violation is
Pomeroy searches for trends in industries where there’s an incentive to pollute.
For instance, if the price of pork drops, he’ll watch for hog farmers looking for a cheap way to
dump their manure, or mechanics might be offering great deals on freon, a highly regulated
chemical that’s used in
old air conditioners. That could prompt a visit to some local garages in search of illegal
imports. A lot of times, Pomeroy teams up with customs officers, the police and
Environment Canada investigators.
He says his job is different than that of a typical officer. He tries to anticipate the next
wave of environmental crime.
“Whereas they might focus on one specific case, intelligence would look at that and say, you’re
dealing with this type of a problem, is that prevalent with these types of companies…which in turn would say, okay inspections, don’t just
focus on this particular company. Look at A,B,C,D companies also.”
Here in his office, Pomeroy locks the door before he settles into a comfortable chair.
There’s a bit of a James Bond feeling here.
Secrecy is highly valued.
There’s even white noise piped throughout the building, to reduce the chance of being overheard.
As he talks about whistleblowers and anonymous tips, it’s clear that Pomeroy loves his job.
“I like law enforcement. I find it kind of a stimulating challenge to see somebody who thinks
they’re so smart that they’re doing this and they’re getting away with it, and it’s very gratifying to
actually go after that type of a person, exposing them and if it’s a violation, prosecuting
Pomeroy is one of six environmental spies in Canada and part of the only environmental
intelligence unit in the world.
The unit was created in 1998 to improve enforcement of the new laws enacted under the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
It’s a big job, but for Pomeroy, the best part is when he’s working in the field.
He cultivates informants – looking for internal whistle blowers and unhappy competitors. And
he’ll trail suspicious cars and conduct drive-bys on companies to gather information. Pomeroy
says his main goal is to find the big fish operating in the shadows of an industry.
“The big thing for an intelligence officer is to look at the unknown community. Are there people out there
who have never come forward and gone through the process of registering with us or gone
through the licensing or noticing permits? It’s up to me to see if they are actually out there
are they circumventing our regulations.”
But Pomeroy has been hampered by the fact that he’s the only environmental spy in the province
That’s soon to change. He’ll be joined by a second spy as Environment Canada doubles the size
of its intelligence unit.
That’s welcome news for environmentalists like Jerry DeMarco. He’s the managing lawyer with
the Sierra Legal Defense Fund. And his group argues that the Canadian government is not
enforcing its own environmental laws.
The group filed a complaint under the North American Free Trade Agreement. And an internal
government report backed up their claims.
DeMarco says the new officers are arriving at a crucial time.
“They need more resources for two distinct reasons. One is they haven’t had enough to enforce
the laws that do exist and also there’s been the passage of several new laws and regulations in
past few years that also require enforcement staff.”
For instance, Canada is adding new chemicals to its list of toxic substances. That’ll mean more
work for the investigators who track them.
Mark Pomeroy acknowledges it’s still a fledgling operation. And he’s spending much of his time
building trust – with industry sources, law enforcement, and even environmental groups,
but he’s confident that trust will translate into valuable information – which will make it
for companies that continue to break the law.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Canadians are being asked to take public transportation and turn down the heat as Canada prepares to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. From Ottawa, the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly has more:
Canadians are being asked to take public transportation and turn down the heat as Canada
prepares to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. From Ottawa, Karen Kelly has
Each Canadian is being asked to reduce personal greenhouse gas emissions by 20-percent
over the next decade to help Canada meet its Kyoto target.
It will require Canada as a whole to reduce its emissions by about a third.
To help meet that goal, the government will provide incentives for Canadians to buy
more fuel-efficient cars and to better insulate their homes.
Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal says Canada needs everyone’s participation.
“This is a very small step to a very long journey and we have to make sure we get
everybody engaged at all levels – consumers, government, industry.”
The federal government plans to ratify the accord by the end of year.
But it faces tough opposition from industry and the provinces.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Before the terrorist attacks on the U.S., environmental groups were often critical of the Bush Administration’s policies. But since September 11th, most of the environmental organizations have erased all traces of criticism of the White House. Some politicians, though, see opportunities to push through energy policies in the name of national security – policies that could damage the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Before the terrorist attacks on the U.S., environmental groups were often critical of the Bush Administration’s policies. But, since September 11th, most of the environmental organizations have erased all traces of criticism of the White House. Some politicians, though, see opportunities to push through energy policies in the name of national security, policies that could damage the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
If you’d visited the Sierra Club Internet web site before September eleventh, or that of the Natural Resources Defense Council, or any of a dozen or more major environmental groups’ sites, you likely would have seen sometimes harsh criticism of the Bush Administration’s energy policies, environmental policies, and a host of other complaints the groups had against the White House. Some environmental groups were also running TV ads attacking the Bush Administration’s policies. But, after the terrorist attacks, the ads were pulled and many of the environmental groups removed those criticisms from their web sites in the name of national unity.
Joe Davis is editor of a tip sheet compiled for environmental journalists. He’s watched as most environmental groups have stifled their criticism since the attacks.
“I think everybody’s waiting just to see, you know, what’s going to happen in the next few days and weeks. And, of course, environmental groups are, for the most part, as patriotic as everybody else and people do understand that national unity is important.”
Some journalists have questioned whether the environmental groups are backing down from their positions or merely lying low for a little while. The environmental groups aren’t saying much. But behind the scenes, there’s concern that environmental protection will get trampled in the name of national security.
Meanwhile, some politicians have seen opportunities in the wake of the tragedy. Immediately after the attacks, the Alaska congressional delegation began pushing harder for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The members said such drilling would reduce America’s dependence on oil from the Middle East. They were admonished, though, for being opportunists in the wake of tragedy. The Alaska politicians quickly backed off and took the fight for drilling behind the scenes.
Outside of Washington, it’s a different story. Some state politicians have become even more vocal in their support of oil and gas exploration. Just before the terrorist attacks, Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission lifted a moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas under the Great Lakes. The Michigan Legislature could still step in to block any such drilling. But some of the lawmakers say because of the terrorist attacks, Michigan should drill. Dale Shugars is a Republican State Senator who supports drilling under the lakes.
“With the sustained war that we’re going to be going into, I think it’s very important from a national security point of view that the country be more independent for oil and gas.”
Environmentalists in Michigan are appalled that Senator Shugars and some of their colleagues are taking that tact. James Clift is the policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. He says the reserves under the lakes are so miniscule they’ll have next to no effect on the nation’s energy security and using the terrorist attacks to justify drilling under the Great Lakes is wrong.
“We do not believe that the unfortunate incident of the terrorist attack has changed anything as far as energy policy in the United States. The same conditions that applied before apply afterwards. And, even more so, I believe, is the importance for energy conservation. The United States only has four percent of the world’s reserves of oil and gas. Using those reserves up faster isn’t going to make the United States any more secure.”
But Senator Shugars thinks it is naïve to believe using less fuel will be enough. He says now that we’re at war with terrorists, it’s important to drill for fuel for the military and needs at home.
“It’s a fact that we’re going to be having a war against terrorism for a long time and I think that if one is going to look at a national energy policy, it has to include increasing supply and definitely – definitely has to be environmentally sensitive.”
Senator Shugars and others using the terrorist attacks to justify the energy and environmental policies that they want might be walking a tight rope. History shows Americans tend to frown on opportunism during times of national crisis. Environmental journalist Joe Davis says if politicians and energy industry leaders do use that approach, it could backfire. Especially since environmental groups are being quiet for the sake of a united patriotic front.
“Any party who tries to make short-term advantage out of a national crisis like this, I think, is very quickly going to be perceived as being exactly what it is: opportunistic. I don’t think the environmentalists will lay low forever and I don’t think they’re alone in questioning these things.”
But for now, most of the environmentalists are not saying much – at least publicly – about their opposition to the government’s energy and environmental policies. At least not until the nation begins to get past the shock of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.