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Some Words Of
Praise for Janet Reno

After the mass killings of the Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas,
I lined up with the more outspoken critics of former U. S. Attorney
General Janet Reno.

Since those erratic first days of her tenure, Reno's blunders remained so consistent, I never thought I would find myself writing words of praise. But, because I believe she did something for the Earth during her tenure, here they are.

Reno teamed up with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and filed lawsuits against seven of the largest utility companies in the nation. The government claimed that these and other power companies have been skirting the Clean Air Act of 1970 and deliberately spewing deadly hydrocarbons from their plants into the air. Unfortunately, the new Bush Administration seems to be siding with the electric companies on issues like this, and we might expect these badly needed lawsuits to get swept under some bureaucratic rug.

(Unfortunately, everything accomplished during the Clinton Administration has been thrown out the window by current emperor George W. Bush, but at least Reno tried.)

The government's case at the time claimed that American Electric Power Co., Cinergy Corp., FirstEnergy Corp., Illinova Corp., Southern Co., TECO Energy Inc. and Southern Indiana Gas & Electric have been upgrading their coal-fired plants but not installing pollution controls as required by the Clean Air Act.

There were 32 electric plants involved in this litigation. They are located in Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

What is shocking about this case is the amount of pollution the plants are reportedly producing. Mike Casey, vice president for public affairs at Environmental Working Group, said that since 1992 the plants named in this case alone have emitted the equivalent of the smog produced by 6.8 million cars. And statements by both Reno and Carol M. Browner, EPA Administrator at the time, suggest that these suits mark only the tip of the iceberg.

Browner said these were only the "first complaints" in one of the largest investigations in EPA history. She said the investigation was "launched two years ago" and was still ongoing.

Small wonder that our air is getting so filled with toxins we can no longer get a good clean breath. You can see the brown haze everywhere, even in the remote deserts of the world. More and more people are suffering from chronic lung diseases ranging from emphysema to asthma. And global warming is producing drastic and possibly deadly changes to our weather and our environment.

My praise goes out to both Janet Reno and the staff of the Environmental Protection Agency for taking this dramatic step. Because of its late timing, it was even then regarded as a last ditch effort to stop some of the worst offenders, not only of the law, but the rights of all people who would like a future on this planet.

The sad thing is that new people are in charge that don't seem to care and time is running out. And this litigation, because of its complexities, promised at best to be a long and costly fight that could go on for years. It might have surpassed the records set by the government's ongoing fight against the tobacco industry.

The power companies responded to the charges. It appears that they are willing to fight this case to the end. They claim the upgrading at the plants was "maintenance," legally allowed by the Clean Air Act because the plants were operating before the act went into effect. I suspect that they also dumped a lot of money into the Bush campaign.

Just to give you a feel for the way the wheels of our country's legal system grind, consider this. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in May voted in a split ruling to uphold an earlier lower court decision to overturn tougher air pollution regulations imposed by the EPA in 1997. That case now is headed for the U. S. Supreme Court, where a decision may still be months, if not years away. Thus, an attempt to install more teeth in the Clean Air Act is on hold indefinitely.

Browner declared at the time that her agency "will continue to pursue all available actions to secure cleaner air for the American People."

It appears very clear that pursuing this problem through legal channels is going to be frustratingly slow and cumbersome, and because the act apparently has some flaws, there is no assurance that a court will rule against the wayward power companies. Even though the discharge from the plants is killing us, the court may find that the electric plants are operating within the law. What they are doing may, indeed, be legal, even if it is not ethical. The cause of high profits may again overpower the desire of the masses to ever get another good breath of air.

Whether legally right or wrong, the power companies must be taken to task for what they are doing to our world. They are a large part of the cause of the ecological disaster occurring around us.

As our environment dies, so does our world. Scientists don't like to say this because it makes them appear to be alarmists. But it is common knowledge among biologists and others who study these things that our planet is showing extreme signs of entering what they are calling a "mass extinction." This is not just species of plants and animals, but of the human race. If they are right, many of you who read these words may live to see catastrophic events that destroy the life of every living thing on this planet, including your own.

The burning of hydrocarbons has always been the wrong way to produce energy for human consumption. But trees, coal and oil have been so abundant, and the use of these substances so profitable, the powerful energy monopolies have successfully prevented the development of alternative energy systems.

That we have overpopulated this planet is a second deadly factor in shaping our future. Too many people are putting extreme demands on all of the resources. The planet is quickly running out of its ability to provide the food, air, water and energy to keep everybody alive. The world population recently hit the 6 billion mark and is expected to escalate to 9 billion within the next few years.

While many people are still burying their heads in the sand and saying we don't have a problem, there are too many signs that scream out the truth. The world's environment is in serious trouble.

The signs of global warming, mostly from hydrocarbon emissions, are clear enough that the nations of the world have been holding yearly meetings in an attempt to come to an agreement over what to do about it. The latest meeting was last month in Bonn, Germany.

What are the signs?

As I already mentioned, there is the clear visible appearance of the brown haze always hovering in the sky around us. We also have extreme changes in weather patterns, super storms that are more destructive than any remembered in history, dying marine and animal life all over the world, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and the movement of diseases, once known only in the tropics, to more temperate areas. Frogs are deformed. Butterflies are disappearing. The lions in Africa and the deer in the United States are suffering from tuberculosis. This dread disease is spreading not only among the wild animals, but the domestic animals and humans. Livestock on farms around the world are developing "mad cow disease," which some people believe also can be passed on to humans. Most of us now drink bottled water from the store because the water from our taps is considered unsafe.

If these things aren't enough to scare you into doing something to save your hides, folks, then you are all brain dead.

The solution is to shut off all of the factories. Park our cars. Stop using electric energy. And stop having babies. We must do this immediately or face a deadly future.

Janet Reno and the EPA were doing the right thing in filing litigation against the power plants. The problem is they were too late and the new administration doesn't seem to think an air problem exists. We might have had a chance if we had used the energy that went into the fight against the tobacco companies and started this litigation years ago.